So It Begins

November 15, 2021

Mark 14:1–11
1 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
I think it’s fantastic that we’re coming to this point in Mark’s Gospel as we’re approaching Christmas.  I want to encourage you to do a little extra reading today.  Reach chapters 14-16 in one sitting and try and soak in the narrative.  Take note of the people and their response to Jesus in these chapters.  Some of them are plotting, others are arguing, some weeping, some panicking but all are drawn into this moment when God is going to fulfill His upper story promises.  This is it; it is the moment when God is renewing, forgiving, and freeing and it all happens in the terrible and yet beautiful death of Jesus.  Try to keep all of this in mind as we move towards Christmas because this is what Jesus, born on Christmas Day, was born to do.
And the passion of it all begins here.
From this point forward, the focus is on Jesus’ coming crucifixion.  The verses record the woman’s anointing of Jesus which are also recorded in Matthew’s and John’s Gospels as well.  This unnamed woman is an outsider who does an amazing thing for Jesus by anointing Him with this incredibly expensive perfume. 
She is not identified, but her actions were utterly shocking, first because she breaches cultural etiquette.  Usually, women were excluded from Jewish male fellowship, but this woman deliberately enters that fellowship.  Second, it’s shocking because of what she does with the ointment or perfume.  This ointment is incredibly costly, more than 300 denarii.  To put it in perspective for you, one denarii was about a day’s wages which means that the ointment cost about a year’s wages for the average person.  This is no small action on the part of this woman and the woman’s actions quickly grabbed the attention of the disciples, some of whom complained.
What we have in this woman’s action is an incredible expression of faith and devotion to Jesus.  Perhaps she had come to know more of Jesus' identity than any other person around the table.  She acted in complete love and devotion which is emphasized in this passage by the breaking of the jar that contained the ointment.  In doing so, the woman demonstrates that her gift was total because the jar could never be used again.  She stood in contrast to the disciples who were still not grasping the totality of Jesus and what He was doing.  Apparently, they still hadn’t fully accepted that Jesus meant what He said when He told them about His impending death at the beginning of the chapter.
Speaking of which, the beginning of the chapter catches us off guard.  The crucifixion of Jesus is suddenly thrust into view.  Mark lets us drop in on the plotting of the religious leaders.  Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has challenged their power and position and the crowds have been drawn to Jesus and His teachings about the kingdom of God that is open to even the sinners, tax-collectors, and prostitutes.
Here we’re reminded again that most of the religious leaders don’t, even for one minute, regard Jesus as a prophet, let alone consider that Jesus might possibly be the Messiah.  All they care about is maintaining the status quo and they are working to find any way to rid themselves of Jesus.
It’s interesting to see the different responses between the religious leaders, the disciples, and the woman in this passage.  How they are reacting begs us to consider our own relationship with Jesus.  Where do we stand?  Do we stand willing to give everything to honor and glorify Jesus?  Are we holding back when it comes to following, trusting, and responding to Jesus with our whole heart?  Or are we completely opposed to Jesus and refuse to accept His offer of renewal and new life in God’s kingdom?
As we read through these next couple of chapters move closer to Christmas, let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Let’s remember that this is what Jesus was born to accomplish.  If we can do that, then who knows what kind of extravagance our faith might come to express in the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead as grow in our love for the one that was given and sent into the world.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers!


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