Our study this Sunday will start chapter 14 in Mark. We’ll be reading the first 11 verses. We are now just a few days out from Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. The religious leadership want Jesus out of the way, but in their reasoning, they’ll have to wait until Passover is finished, because they don’t want to cause an uproar. Interesting that despite their planning…Jesus is still crucified over the Passover weekend. What does that tell us about who’s really in charge here?
The text tells us that Jesus is staying at the house of a guy named Simon the Leper. Talk about sorry nick-names. Many believe this was a man who had been healed from leprosy by Jesus, and was now a follower of Him. I think that’s reasonable, but we do want to keep in mind that some scholars question the translation, and there is a possibility that it should read Simon the “potter”. I’m not a language scholar, so I’ll stay out of that debate.
John’s parallel accountof this event tells us that the woman who comes to Jesus is Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead just before He came into Jerusalem. She lived in Bethany too. Both accounts say that Mary broke open an alabaster flask, or jar of very expensive perfume, and poured it on his head and feet.
John’s account has Judas doing some quick calculations about the cost, which equates to about a year’s wages in that time. Judas did this quick economics lesson to accuse her, but I’m glad he did it because it gives us a good point of reference to understand what this gesture meant.
When she was accused, she was accused (by Judas, according to John 12) of being wasteful. Yet Jesus says she “did a good work for ME”….what do you suppose Jesus means by that? The description of what she does isn’t always what comes to mind when I think of work. Jesus also says “She has done what she could.” Jesus is very pleased with her actions. He defends her, and promises that what she has done will be immortalized, taught synonymously with the gospel. Wow.
Obviously, we live in a different culture, so some things are hard to understand in this. Pouring oil on a guy’s head wouldn’t go over quite so well in our culture (at least since the 1950’s). In that day and place, taking baths wasn’t something a person had the opportunity to do as often as we do. People would quickly develop a certain odoriferousness (funk) about them. So, this sort of thing was a welcome way to put a sheen on the hair and diffuse the funk.
But, Jesus associated it with his burial. All along Jesus has been warning His disciples that He’s going to be betrayed, handed over to the gentiles, and murdered. Do you think Mary is the only one who really heard HIm? Is it possible she is anticipating His death, or is Jesus steering this somewhere? What would Jesus be doing, if He were tying her activity here to His approaching death?
What other observations do you draw from this passage? What do we learn from her “work” about our daily lives that we live here and now?
What contrasts do we draw from Judas’ behavior immediately following this event?
See yer’ Sundee.