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Worship versus Waste – Matthew 26:1-16

14 Dec

spikenard-anointing-feet-of-JesusMatthew 26:1-16 (ESV)
1  When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,
2  “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
3  Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,
4  and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
5  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Matthew does not claim to give us a chronological account of the events of the last week. At this point he inserted a flashback to describe the feast in Bethany and the beautiful act that Mary performed.

The religious leaders were meeting to plot against Jesus, but His friends were meeting to show their love and devotion to Him. Also, by joining these two accounts, Matthew showed the connection between Mary’s worship and Judas’ betrayal.

It was after the feast in Bethany that Judas went to the priests and offered his help Mark 14:10-11 (ESV)
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.

The feast at Bethany took place “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1) in the house of Simon the leper. Apparently he had been healed by the Lord Jesus. There were at least seventeen people at this dinner: Simon, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus, and the 12 Apostles. True to her character as the “doer” in the family, Martha did the serving

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
38  Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
39  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
40  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
41  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
42  but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary (v. 7).

6  Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,
7  a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.

The three key persons in this event are Mary, Judas, and Jesus. Only John identifies this woman as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. She is found only three times in the Gospels, and in each instance she is at the feet of Jesus.

She sat at His feet and listened to the Word: Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
38  Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
39  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
40  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
41  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
42  but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

She came to His feet in sorrow after the death of Lazarus John 11:28-32 (ESV)
28  When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.
30  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.
31  When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
32  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

She worshiped at His feet when she anointed Him with the ointment (our study today). Mary was a deeply spiritual woman. She found at His feet her blessing, she brought to His feet her burdens, and she gave at His feet her best.

When we combine the Gospel records, we learn that she anointed both His head and His feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. A woman’s hair is her glory (1 Cor. 11:15). She surrendered her glory to the Lord and worshiped Him with the precious gift that she brought. It was an act of love and devotion that brought fragrance to the whole house.

Because she had listened to His word, Mary knew that soon Jesus would die and be buried. She also knew that His body would not need the traditional care given to the dead because His body would not see corruption. Instead of anointing His body after His death, she did so before His death. It was an act of faith and love.

Judas (vv. 8-9). 8  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

The disciples did not know the true character of Judas. His criticism of Mary sounded so “spiritual” that they joined him in attacking her. We know the real reason Judas wanted the ointment sold: The money would go into the treasury and he would be able to use it: John 12:6 (ESV) 6  He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.).

Notice that every time Mary sought to do something for Jesus, she was misunderstood:

  • Her sister Martha misunderstood her when Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear Him teach the Word.
  • Judas and the other disciples misunderstood her when she anointed Jesus.
  • Her friends and neighbors misunderstood her when she came out of the house to meet Jesus after Lazarus had been buried John 11:28-31 (ESV) 28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
    29  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.
    30  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.
    31  When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

When we give Jesus Christ first place in our lives, we can expect to be misunderstood and criticized by those who claim to follow Him.

Jesus (vv. 10-16). 10  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.
11  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
12  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.
13  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

He immediately came to the defense of Mary, for He always protects His own. He rebuked Judas and the other disciples and praised Mary for her loving act of devotion. Nothing given to Jesus in love is ever wasted.

Her act of worship not only brought joy to the heart of Jesus and fragrance to the house, but also blessing to the whole world. Her devotion encourages us to love and serve Christ with our very best. Such service brings blessings to others that perhaps we will know nothing about until we see Him.

Jesus did not criticize the disciples because they were concerned about the poor. He was concerned about the poor, and we should be too. He was cautioning them against missing their opportunity to worship Him. They would always have opportunities to help the poor. But they would not always have the opportunity to worship at His feet and prepare Him for burial.

Whatever the answer to the question of identification, the story is indeed what Jesus called it—the story of a lovely thing; and in it are enshrined certain very precious truths.

It shows us love’s extravagance. The woman took the most precious thing she had and poured it out on Jesus. Jewish women were very fond of perfume; and often they carried a little alabaster phial of it round their necks. Such perfume was very valuable.

Both Mark and John make the disciples say that this perfume could have been sold for three hundred denarii (Mk 14:5; Jn 12:5); which means that this phial of perfume represented very nearly a whole year’s wages for a working man. Or we may think of it this way. When Jesus and his disciples were discussing how the multitude were to be fed, Philip’s answer was that two hundred denarii would scarcely be enough to feed them. This phial of perfume, therefore, cost as much as it would take to feed a crowd of five thousand people.

It was something as precious as that which this woman gave to Jesus, and she gave it because it was the most precious thing she had. Love never calculates; love never thinks how little it can decently give; love’s one desire is to give to the uttermost limits; and, when it has given all it has to give, it still thinks the gift too little.

It shows us that there are times when the commonsense view of things fails. On this occasion the voice of common sense said, “What waste!” and no doubt it was right. But there is a world of difference between the economics of common sense and the economics of love.

Common sense obeys the dictates of prudence; but love obeys the dictates of the heart. There is in life a large place for common sense; but there are times when only love’s extravagance can meet love’s demands. A gift is never really a gift when we can easily afford it; a gift truly becomes a gift only when there is sacrifice behind it, and when we give far more than we can afford.

It shows us that certain things must be done when the opportunity arises, or they can never be done at all. The disciples were anxious to help the poor; but the Rabbis themselves said, “God allows the poor to be with us always, that the opportunities for doing good may never fail.”

There are some things which we can do at any time; there are some things which can be done only once; and to miss the opportunity to do them then is to miss the opportunity for ever. Often we are moved by some generous impulse, and do not act upon it; and all the chances are that the circumstances, the person, the time, and the impulse, will never return. For so many of us the tragedy is that life is the history of the lost opportunities to do the lovely thing.

It tells us that the fragrance of a lovely deed lasts forever. There are so few lovely things that one shines like a light in a dark world. At the end of Jesus’ life there was so much bitterness, so much treachery, so much intrigue, so much tragedy that this story shines like an oasis of light in a darkening world. In this world there are few greater things that a man may do than leave the memory of a lovely deed.

Matthew 26:14-16 (ESV)
14  Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests
15  and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.
16  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him

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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Sermon

 

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