Mary Got It! Mary Knew!
Joh 12:1-16:1 GW Six days before Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany. Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back to life, lived there. (2) Dinner was prepared for Jesus in Bethany. Martha served the dinner, and Lazarus was one of the people eating with Jesus. (3) Mary took a bottle of very expensive perfume made from pure nard and poured it on Jesus' feet. Then she dried his feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the house. (4) One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray him, asked, (5) "Why wasn't this perfume sold for a high price and the money given to the poor?" (6) (Judas didn't say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the moneybag and carried the contributions.) (7) Jesus said to Judas, "Leave her alone! She has done this to prepare me for the day I will be placed in a tomb. (8) You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me with you." (9) A large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was in Bethany. So they went there not only to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back to life. (10) The chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too. (11) Lazarus was the reason why many people were leaving the Jews and believing in Jesus. (12) On the next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. (13) So they took palm branches and went to meet him. They were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel!" (14) Jesus obtained a donkey and sat on it, as Scripture says: (15) "Don't be afraid, people of Zion! Your king is coming. He is riding on a donkey's colt." (16) At first Jesus' disciples didn't know what these prophecies meant. However, when Jesus was glorified, the disciples remembered that these prophecies had been written about him. The disciples remembered that they had taken part in fulfilling the prophecies.
Itís Palm Sunday. The Lenten season is winding down. Today the church celebrates the day that marked the ďbeginning of the endĒ of the natural life of Jesus. I want to editorialize just a little before we begin today.
I donít mind commemorating these special events in the life of Jesus. In fact I cherish them. What bugs me about these events on the Christian calendar is they are not even close to the days that they actually occurred.
Whatís sad about that, is it would not be difficult for us to commemorate these events on the days they actually occurred, Passover is a permanent fixture on the Jewish calendar. So how difficult could it be to celebrate Palm Sunday, the week before Passover?
Have you ever considered why we celebrate Easter when we do? First of all, how many of you know that Easter is the derivative of the name of a pagan goddess?
This goddess (read that demon) was known as e-o-s-t-r-e in ancient Anglo Saxon, Astarte in Babylonian, or Ishtar in Arabic. This goddess is known as earth mother, goddess of fertility and queen of heaven. Her day was celebrated throughout the Roman Empire on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the first day of Spring.
So Easter can come as early as March 22nd or as late as April 25th. And isnít it nice that every year, we celebrate the day of our Lordís resurrection in conjunction with the pagan salute to mother earth. Does that make sense to you? Does that seem right to you?
I know we are not to judge others concerning holy days and worship days, but that cuts both ways. What if a church would decide to commemorate these holidays associated with the passion of Christ during the time frame that they actually occurred. Wouldnít that make more sense to you?
This is what the Orthodox church does. They always celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover. The Jewish Passover date never changes, it is always on the 14th day of the first month on the Jewish calendar which is Nisan.
Since our calendar doesnít jive with the Jewish calendar, the holiday would still change from year to year, but it would more accurately reflect the actual days of our Lordís Passion. I think the Orthodox church has it right and I believe we should follow suit.
All right, Iím done editorializing. Letís look at the text. The Lutheran commentator Lenski sets the scene as follows. On Friday morning the 8th of Nisan, Jesus left the home of Zacchaeus in Jericho and arrived in Bethany that afternoon.
The Sabbath would begin at sunset Friday evening. And Jesus spent it with his beloved friends and disciples. After sunset on Saturday, the meal was prepared and look who was there for the meal. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and the disciples. According to the other gospel accounts they were in the home of Simon, a leper whom Jesus had healed.
How sweet this time must have been for our Lord....... Jesus was with the people He loved. His disciples, the grateful Simon, Mary, Martha (and the maybe not so grateful Lazarus...why did you call me back from Abrahamís bosom, it was so nice there!) Jesus loved these people in a special way and John makes no bones about it.
John 11:5 Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus.
And donít miss the familiarity of the scene. Look what Marthaís doing! Sheís serving dinner again, only this time notice she is not complaining. And where do we find Mary again? At her Lordís feet. But instead of learning she is demonstrating what had to be, one of the most rewarding things that ever happened in Jesusí ministry on this earth.
Mary was demonstrating that she got it! Jesus had been trying to tell His disciples for a long time but they refused to believe it. Jesus had told them in Galilee:
Mat 16:21 GW From that time on Jesus began to inform his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem. There he would have to suffer a lot because of the leaders, chief priests, and scribes. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be brought back to life.
But the disciples were always so busy wondering about their own little kingdoms and how they would fit into the coming kingdom that they never listened to what their Master was saying. Not Mary. She was never concerned about little kingdoms. She was the one who sat at Jesus feet and listened.
She took in everything He had to say, and she was the only one who put two and two together and knew that He was on His way to Jerusalem to be killed. And because she knew His time on earth was short and that she may not have an opportunity to anoint His body before His burial, she did it now.
And she did it extravagantly because she knew of His extravagant love for her. How extravagant?
Well, first of all the perfume was worth 300 days wages. Let me put that in dollars and cents for you. If you earned 20,000 dollars a year, this perfume wouldíve set you back over 16,000 dollars. Of course, wages then and wages now are a little different but we still cannot deny that this was expensive stuff.
You donít splash this stuff on like aftershave, at best you put a little dab here or there. But look what she did. According to the other gospel accounts, she poured the whole bottle on our Lordís head and His feet. Symbolically covering Him head to toe! Thatís extravagant. That kind of treatment can only be reserved for a King....... Mary knew! She got it!
Then she does something almost unthinkable. She letís her hair down in public. No self-respecting Jewish woman would do that. Only the women of ill-repute would do such a thing, but in so doing she says to the Lord, ďI am a sinner, a person of ill-repute. I am not worthy of Your love. Thatís extravagant humility! Mary knew! She got it!
When Matthew recorded this incident in Bethany He included these words:
Mat 26:13 GW I can guarantee this truth: Wherever this Good News is spoken in the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her."
This extravagant show of love and humility before her Master would be inked forever into the Word of God. because Mary knew. Mary got it! She understood the Kingship of Jesus Christ and the humility needed to enter into His kingdom.....Do you?
SO we have this wonderful time for Jesus. Basking in the love and familiarity of friends. The whole house filled with the sweet smell of Maryís expensive perfume and the sweet fragrance of Christian fellowship.
Then Judas pipes up, ďhow come all this money was wasted on perfume, we couldíve use that money to meet the needs of the poor!Ē And as so often is the case, as we read in the other accounts of this incident, the other disciples, encouraged by Judasí statement pipe in as well.
ďYea, how come?Ē
In Markís account they went so far as to say some very unkind things to her. Oh these men were so spiritual, Iím sure they were expecting Jesus to pat them on the back for such a grand idea! ďLetís give the money to the poor, thatís the spiritual thing to do!Ē
We hear their echoes in the church even today. Why did you spend so much money on that altar decoration? Why did you buy this for the church, why did you buy that? You couldíve given that money to the poor!
And Jesus reply also echoes through the ages. ďLeave these extravagant benefactors alone!Ē You donít know their heart! You make a big pretense over taking care of the poor with someone elseís money, but how are you doing with your own money, with your own heart, when the rubber hits the road?
Listen, just watch the Maryís of this world. Yes they may be extravagant when it comes to adorning the church, but they are also extravagant with the poor. They just donít go around making a big noise about it!
Face it, the most extravagant person in the world could not satisfy the demands of poverty. There will always be poor people. So if a benevolent person wishes to give to the poor and adorn the church proper, then leave them alone.
Well, I bet you couldíve heard a pin drop in that room. The partyís over! Thanks a lot Judas! Thanks for ruining the moment. But you know what? Iím no better than he and I suspect each of you have had similar thoughts as you judged the extravagance of others.
I know, early on in my Christian walk, I have almost quoted Judas word for word in inappropriate conversations concerning extravagant benefactors who adorn the church. The point is you and I donít know the heart of the giver, so put a sock in it.
Well, the party is over anyway, as you can see in v9 the Paparazzi have arrived. ďHurry, hurry, step right up, get a snapshot of the man who raised the stinking corpse of Lazarus from the grave. Hurry, hurry, get a glimpse of the man who was dead for four days and is now alive, Hurry, hurry!
Perhaps Iím being overly harsh with them. After all we read that this miracle was causing many to leave the Jews and to hitch there wagon to Jesus. This mass exodus was greatly disturbing to the Jews. And now we read that they were even plotting to kill Lazarus.
Have you ever considered the absurdity of this plot. Lazarus was dead for 4 days! Jesus brought him back to life. Hey, letís kill this Lazarus so Jesus can do it again! Letís kill them both so He can do it again!
The whole purpose of raising Lazarus from the dead was to demonstrate that Jesus had power over life and death. He said in John 11:25, right before He raised him,
ď I am the One who brings people back to life, and I am life itself. Those who believe in Me will live even if they die.Ē
Then to back up this statement, He calls the dead Lazarus out of the grave. There was no denying His power over death and yet the Jewish rulers mustíve thought He got lucky or was doing it with mirrors, and so they plot to kill Him.
On the next day word spreads that Jesus is coming to Jerusalem, so the gathered Passover crowd well aware of His miraculous raising of Lazarus come out to meet Him. He has a crowd following Him and a crowd lining the road to greet Him.
The Jerusalem crowd has grabbed fronds from palm trees. These fronds were a symbol of life and salvation and so they cry Hossana! Which means, ďsave nowí Oh this was an exciting time. We could liken it to a sporting event or a political convention. ď4 more years! 4 more years! A returning victorious state championship basketball team. Weíre #1! Weíre #1!
Hosanna! Save us now! ďBlessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel!Ē
And with these words, there is no mistake about who these people thought Jesus was. He was the Messiah! He had power over life and death! Look at all the miracles! Look how He had raised Lazarus! Save us now from the Roman yoke O blessed Messiah! Set up your kingdom now! Hosanna Hosanna!
How fickle people can be. How easy to unhitch their wagon from one star to another. Because in a matter of days these same people would clamor for His crucifixon.
Shortly after Jesus had been cruelly whipped, and His face had been slapped and roughed up, and a crown of thorns and a purple robe had been mockingly placed on Him. He was brought before many of these same people and He was a sorry sight.
And as soon as the Jewish leaders saw Him, they shouted Crucify Him! Crucify Him! And just as Judas remark concerning the perfume sounded like a good idea to the other disciples, the suggestion from the leaders also sounded like a good idea to the throng. And the waving of fronds were replaced with clenched fists as the people chime in.
But donít be too hard on them. Look what the Romans had done to Jesus. See His pathetic countenance before them.
Itís one thing to be riding into town, unscathed on a donkey amidst the praises of people, but look at Him now! How could a real Messiah allow this to happen to Himself. Obviously He is not the real deal.
Their attitude is best summed up by their remarks when they saw Jesus on the cross.
Mat 27:42 GW "He saved others, but he can't save himself. So he's Israel's king! Let him come down from the cross now, and we'll believe him. Give us one more Lazarus stunt, and thatís the problem with miracles...eventually you run out of them and you have to simply rely on faith.
On Sunday, He fit their picture of what a Messiah should be, and by Friday He no longer fit that picture.
Oh people. What does your picture of the Messiah look like?
Does He only look good to you when times are going good? Does he seem powerless to you when you are going through the wringer? Are you ready to give Him up and turn back to the things of this world for help and comfort?
What do you look to hitch your wagon to when you donít like the ride? Sadly, I think thatís what most of us do.
And most of us wouldíve been in that crowd doing the exact same thing! Hosanna! One moment. Crucify Him! The next. But where we really need to be is with Mary at His feet. We need to be there with our hair undone, crying, ďO Lord I am a person of ill-repute, have mercy on me O great and glorious King!
Mary got it! Mary knew! And she got it because she made it a practice to sit quietly before the Lord, with no agenda of her own. She just sat and listened and heeded what her Lord had to say. Maybe you and I need to come more often to the place where Mary had come.
A place of true humility before our great and glorious King!