Title: What do you seek?
Text: Mark 14.1-11
Introduction: Note where we are in the story:
1st: The next three weeks will focus on Preparation. Jesus is being ‘prepared’ for what lies ahead of him. His preparation for burial – that is, he is going to die. Next, The meal we call the Last Supper, another reminder of his death – and a call to remember his death until he returns. And then comes the betrayal. We’re so close to the end because all that is left are the mock trials, the crucifixion, and His resurrection. Easter is upon us.
2nd: Our story, the first story in what I’ve entitled Preparation, is bookended with a typical Markan Sandwich: Two separate stories with a common theme that bookend another story that is related to them. Here, the bookends deal with the desire of the Religious Leadership to arrest and kill Jesus (v1) and a disciple who is tired of how things are going and is ready to hand him over to his enemies for the right price (v11). The middle story – our focus, is the story of how a woman comes and anoints Jesus’ body for burial.
Note how all three stories relate to his impending death. (1) The religious leadership wants him dead; (2) Jesus says this woman’s actions are to anoint his body for burial (v8); (3) Judas is ready to make that happen by betraying him into their hands.
Based on this information, I’ve outlined my message into three movements or scenes:
- An Evil Plot
- An Extravagant Gift
- An Embittered Betrayal
I. Scene 1: An Evil Plot (1-2)
exp.: The 1st item on Mark’s agenda is to give us a time reference. Mark doesn’t do this too often in his book; rd 14.1; 2 days before the Passover.
Have you ever wondered why Easter is different each year? Like, why isn’t it the 3rd Sunday in April or whatever? – Well, from what I understand, Easter is set to coincide with the Jewish Passover. Be watching for that in the News this year, as we move closer to Easter.
Dating: Passover is at the 1st full moon after the Vernal Equinox (around March 21st) – which marks Spring. This year, March’s full moon is on the 17th of March, too soon. The next full moon after that date is April 16th – Saturday. So, Easter is April 17th, a Sunday.
V 1 tells us it was two days before Passover (Exodus 12) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
This is important because the crowds have swelled in Jerusalem way beyond their normal numbers. 2nd, some of our theology is informed by this event. Paul helps us here by telling us that Jesus is our Passover Lamb. So, the timing here is important. Mark wants us to know what time it is. It is time for the Passover Lamb to be sacrificed and to pay the penalty for the sins of the people.
V1 continues to tell us that the religious leaders were seeking… “Were seeking” is an imperfect verb – which indicates a repeated action in the past; Mark has told us of three such incidents in the past (3.6; 11.18; 12.12); their goal was twofold:
- to ‘arrest’ him by stealth
- to ‘kill’ him. Lit.: in deceit to arrest and kill him. The word deceit means to bait or to lure.
The reason they chose not to do this at this particular time is given in v2 (rd v2): because they didn’t want to upset the crowds of people gathered for the Passover; they feared the people who loved Jesus and saw him as a man of God.
t.s.: So, be clear here: this is their goal and has been for some time; however, they’re not going to do this dastardly deed at this time. Nonetheless, life is continuing as normal. There is so much going on and these guys are busy during this time of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. There are services to be conducted. People, people, people are everywhere. And though these guys are making plans and think they’ll act on their own accord when the timing is right, God has other plans.
Transition: You might see this next part of the story as a “meanwhile, back at the ranch” kind of scenario. Let’s pick up there in v 3… I call this section…
II. Scene 2: A Extravagant Gift (3-9)
exp.: Meanwhile; rd v 3; at the house of Simon the Leper; the truth is, we don’t know who Simon is. There is a lot of speculation, but no one today really knows. Some say he is Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ father. Others say he was a leper whom Jesus healed. Folks like to imagine him being the 10th leper who returned to say thank you to Jesus. The truth is…we just don’t know. I’m guessing that Mark’s readers know who he was. But for us, it doesn’t really matter.
So, Jesus is at this man’s house when in walks a woman. The other Gospels which tell this story, tell us that she was a woman of ill repute. A prostitute, maybe? We don’t really know her sinful behavior. My guess is that, like with who Simon is, we don’t really need to know.
I think this is wonderful. Let’s talk about us for a moment. I think it’s easier to talk about me because I know myself. But this morning, I’d rather talk about you. You’re a Sinner. I’m a sinner. My guess is that you’re a sinner like her. Maybe your sin is different than her sin, but it is still embarrassing just the same.
Ill.: Your Daily Joe, a cartoon that appears daily in the Baptist Press, this week posted a cartoon of a grandfather looking at Romans 1 with his grandson. His grandson was wearing a Mississippi State shirt and looks to be college age. The grandfather has a hand on his grandson’s shoulder and they’re both standing over an open Bible as if they were reading this together. The Grandfather says to the grandson: Wickedness, depravity, fools, impurities. Son, these do not apply only to the worst people, but to the best.
Maybe that’s why Mark doesn’t tell us what her sin is because it really doesn’t matter…because we’re all sinners in need of forgiveness!
So, Jesus is reclining at the dinner table (3) when she comes up to him and breaks an alabaster flask of perfume – a very costly perfume (5). As this is taking place, Jesus looks at her. And he sees something totally different than these guys see, who are in the same room, and observing the same action.
You know the funny thing is that we oftentimes only see the physical. Too often we’re pinned into a scenario that overtakes us in the physical realm. Physically, this should be upsetting:
- She is a woman. That’s a big no-no.
- She is a ‘sinful’ woman. Jesus, a man of God shouldn’t be consorting with such people.
Ill.: One morning, while on my way to class at UMHB – an 8 am class – I was singing a song I had been working on about being a servant and a witness to a lost world. I loved the chorus and was working on getting it right. Oh, how I wanted to sing a song that moved people to want to be more like Christ to those in need. When all of the sudden, this woman jumped out in front of my vehicle. I slammed on the brakes to keep from hitting her. She begged me to help her. Her face was bleeding and bruised. Someone had beaten her severely. Her clothes were nice but tattered from the fray.
I let her in and drove away. As we talked, I found out her pimp had beat her up. I’d love to tell the whole story to you this morning, but for now, let me just say I was so afraid. Not of her pimp! But, I was afraid of the Christians who knew me that they might see me driving around so early in the morning with a prostitute in my car!
You’re probably not thinking bad of me, because I’m telling you the story. But, would most of you not judge me if you had seen me? First, have you ever noticed that “women of the night” dress differently than most of the women who go to church here? She was young, probably about my age (early 20’s).
Yes, I wanted to help her – and I did. Lisa and I were dirt poor, and we didn’t have money. But I tell you this story not because I’m proud, but because I look back on that time and wish I wouldn’t have been so worried about the Christians I might have been seen by – But instead, I would have had all of my attention on her and her needs. I wish I could be telling this story about a young woman who gave her life to Christ.
App.: you see, you and I, we just can’t get past the physical aspects of our lives rd v4-5.
- The flask she has is a very expensive heirloom. It would be something that took years to make – probably passed down from family and would have possibly been her dowry…that is, if she were to marry.
- Its value would have been in the range of what a normal person makes in a year: a year’s wages. Let that sink in! Identify how much you make in a year. Apply that figure to this flask!
- It’s broken and spilled out on Christ.
These guys are thinking: What a waste! A year’s wages! BTW: That’s what prodigal means – to lavishly waste something of great value.
And they scold her! You see that in v 5;
Earlier, I said it is funny…I say funny… I don’t mean ‘ha-ha’ funny, but rather ironic. You and I would probably do the same because you and I are trapped in cultural and social dimensions that we filter our experiences through. But not Jesus!
Man, to be able to see what’s going on in the spiritual realm; to not get trapped in the physical all the time. Rd v 6; And then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter; rd v 7; wow! They don’t know this, but the reader has a little insight from v. 1-2 and v 10-11; Jesus has but a couple of days left. Then, he’ll be gone. Rd v 8; burial! This must be so confusing for those listening in. And then, Jesus lets us in on a little more… rd v 9; whenever the Gospel is proclaimed!
ill.: the word Gospel means good news. Good news. Everything we’ve been reading about is good news. The deceit of the religious leaders: good news. The frustration of disciples at the extravagant waste of this sinful woman: good news. Burial means death: also, good news.
app.: That’s the advantage of seeing into the spiritual realm! It changes everything! We buried Diana Pfeiffer yesterday. Oh, that we could see with spiritual eyes!
t.s.: Well, we know from other gospels that Judas is the one who was most upset. And, from our story, his frustration spills over into life and he acts. Unable to see that God is at work here, he takes matters into his own hands. And, I call this…
III. Scene 3: An Embittered Betrayal (10-11)
exp.: rd v 10; lit.: give over; The context tells us that frustration takes over from the waste of this extravagant gift. Judas has had enough. What we learn in the other Gospels is that he’s chairman of the finance committee! He carries the money bag. For three years he has walked with Jesus and there is no sign that Jesus intends to be the Messiah that Judas has been expecting. So, for a small sum (isn’t it odd that it all comes down to finances again), Judas agrees to betray his friend.
Transition: So the stage is set. Jesus is being set up. In this story, a sinister group of religious leaders delays plans to capture and kill Jesus. They don’t want to act on their desire to arrest and kill Jesus in front of the people.
You see, they think they’re laying out plans to do away with Jesus. I sincerely believe they think they’re doing God’s will. Little do they understand, that they really are pawns being moved by the mighty hand of God. And though they think they’ll wait – God has other plans.
Then, there is this Sinful Woman who makes her way onto the scene of a dinner party. Man, oh man, she is out of place. Women aren’t supposed to be mixing it up with men. She, however, thinks she is showing a display of her gratitude for Jesus. In her heart of hearts, that is what she is up to…but Jesus lets us in on what God is doing. She’s anointing his body for burial. She is exercising her will but accomplishing God’s will.
Judas thinks he is … well, I don’t really know what is going on in the head of Judas! He’s obviously frustrated at how things have turned out. He’s followed Christ for three years with the hopes that this really is the Messiah of God. So, he takes matters into his own hands – so he thinks. Maybe he is forcing the hand of Jesus, trying to press him to defend himself and forcefully take over Jerusalem. Maybe Jesus will then become king and things can happen the way Judas thinks they’re supposed to go. Or, maybe he has flipped sides. If you think about it, he is accomplishing the will of God, too – unbeknownst to him.
Conclusion: You see, in all of this, God is working out his plan…his perfect plan. And he’s using all of these people in his play…His Story.
As I look at this story with all of these people acting on their own accord, thinking they’re doing something according to their own plans, I realize that in all of their ‘doing’ they really have no idea what God is up to or that God is even up to something.
Application: I’d like to close with some questions for reflection:
- Do you know that God is up to something in your life? I have no idea what some of you are enduring right now. But can I encourage you to not see your life through the physical realm (like these guys did), but instead, to trust that God is at work in the Spiritual Realm just out of sight. My guess is that God is up to something absolutely incredible in your life that will bring Glory and Honor to himself through your circumstances. I think of Henry Blackabee’s Words: Don’t just do something, stand there!
- Why? Because you don’t want to work against God. 1st of all, you’ll fail! 2nd, I’m sure you want to be on the right side.
- Consider others – their lives. Is God bringing them into your life for you to serve them, to share with them?
- Do you worry too much about what others think or about what others do – and not enough about what God thinks or what God is doing?
- The Chief Priests and Scribes worried about what the people thought.
- The Disciples worried too much about this woman’s wastefulness.
- Judas appears to be concerned with how he thinks things should be going.
- As I view my own life in retrospect, I think I’m more like the religious leaders than the disciples: I’m worried about what people will think. What about you…
- Jesus doesn’t appear to be worried about any of it.
- What are you searching for? Our story is bookended with this one word: They were seeking and he was seeking. So, let me ask you again? What are you searching for?
- For the religious leaders, they were seeking to save their power over the people.
- For those listed in v 3-9, they were seeking financial gain, upset over this lavish waste poured out on Christ.
- Is it money or is it power, or is it more like what Judas appears to be going through? Can I encourage you to focus in on this ‘sinful’ woman? She is seeking to be with Christ. She takes what would be considered her future and destroys it – pouring it out on Christ.
- So, I’ll ask you one more time. Think deeply now: What are you searching for?