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Monday, March 31, 2014

Mary Anoints Jesus for Burial -- John 12:1-7


          The woman in John is identified as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Again, Mary is at the feet of Jesus. And again, Martha is serving. Previously Lazarus was dead and raised to new, resurrected life by Jesus. Now Lazarus is eating at table with Jesus and learning of Him with the other disciples. He is a believer since Jesus raised him from the dead. Martha and Mary believed in Jesus before their brother Lazarus.
        Previously, Mary was at the feet of Jesus learning from Him. A teacher of the Word would sit on a pillow on the floor, or on a couch, the ground or a low chair and His disciples would sit at His feet on the ground or mats around Him. Mary sat at Jesus' feet meaning she was a disciple who hungered and thirsted for the knowledge of God's Word. As I said in previous teachings, it was unusual for a woman to be a disciple (student) of a Rabbi (Teacher of the Word) since according to the Older Testament scriptures only men were taught the Torah. Women were to care for the home and the children. But Jesus includes everyone even women and children.
          Here in John, Mary is again at Jesus' feet going beyond the offering of the common hospitality of the day. The feet of a Rabbi who traveled from village to village would get dusty and dirty in the desert terrain of Israel through his open sandals. To sit at the feet of a teacher would be to sit at the most humble part of His body and attire – that which touched the dust of the earth. Again, Mary is drinking up the words and wisdom of Jesus, but she is also preparing Him for burial.  Mary heard and understood His previous revelation to His disciples about His soon death. She had wept at the death of her brother Lazarus, but here she will not weep. Instead she will show Jesus her extravagant love and devotion. Jesus time on earth is short, so Mary wants to let Jesus know how much she loves Him, and that she has accepted what is about to happen to Him. Mary knew according to scriptures in the Older Testament that the Savior would suffer and die. This was affirmed by Jesus' own words. Jesus' male disciples didn't want to believe that He would die, but Mary knew and understood. She also knew that He would be resurrected.
         The sinful woman in Luke was in need of salvation and forgiveness, but Mary is a faithful, worshiping lover of Jesus. The sinful woman in Luke could be Mary Magdalene whom Jesus had delivered from seven demons. (Luke 8:22) In the anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary, He is surrounded by those who love Him--Martha, Mary, Lazarus and His disciples.  But soon a crowd would gather to see not only Jesus, but also Lazarus whom He raised from the dead.   In Matthew, Mark and Luke, He is in the house of a leper and a Pharisee with onlookers. These did not love Him but were curious about Him and were even trying to find a reason to kill Him. But here in John, Jesus comes to a dinner given in His honor by those who love Him. Mary is a member of the household who invited Jesus to dinner. 
           This anointing of Jesus by Mary in John took place six days before the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. In Matthew 26 and Mark 7, the anointing by the woman was two days before the Feast of Passover. In Luke 7, it doesn't reveal when this anointing took place but it was earlier in His ministry. So, there must have been more than one anointing by perhaps two different women -- Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany. In every instance of a woman anointing Jesus, He is pleased by the love and gratitude of the repentant sinner and the love and devotion of a faithful, loving believer.
          Many Jews were coming to faith in Jesus because He resurrected Lazarus from the dead. This was a great testimony of the power of Jesus over death and was the reason that the scribes and Pharisees wanted to kill Lazarus too.  If they could get rid of the witness, they could stop the Jews from believing in Jesus.  There are no recorded words of Lazarus in the Bible. His life was His testimony as Mary's actions were a testimony.


          John focused upon Mary's love, humility, respect and honor for Jesus. The mutual love between Mary and Jesus was of the heart given freely and willingly through choice.  Mary saw her unworthiness next to His worthiness. Mary will respond to Jesus in love, not as a legal obligation. Love is God and Jesus' motivation. It must also be a believer's motivation. Mary gave Jesus pure worship because it was from her heart. Love is priceless, and it can only be given away not demanded. Jesus showed us this on the cross of suffering when he willingly and completely paid the price of the sin of the whole world because of His love. Jesus' love also came from a full, abundant, overflowing heart just like Mary.  He gave His all for mankind.
       The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was about to take place. He must be anointed for burial. Jesus was prepared for burial before He died on the cross by Mary and the sinful woman. He was prepared for burial after His death by Joseph of Arimathea, who was on the Sanhedrin Council but had become a follower of Jesus, and Nicodemus who was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin Council. (see John 3:1)  Mary, the mother of Jesus and two other women also brought spices to the tomb to prepare Jesus' body for burial.  So Jesus was anointed by males and females, Jews and Gentiles. Not all Pharisees were against Jesus. There were a faithful few who did believe in Him.
          Jesus was always welcomed in the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
       Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3 Mary's perfume oil was of the highest grade and in the most costly container – alabaster. An alabaster box was white and was chiseled and carved into a jar of beauty. White always symbolizes purity/righteousness. Mary poured about 12 ounces of perfume over Jesus' feet. Some of her anointing oil would run down onto the earth floor. This time, there is no mention of Mary breaking the alabaster jar. She merely removed the seal and poured it all over the feet of the Savior she loved, and wiped His feet with her hair. Mary was fully absorbed with Jesus and her love for Him. The fragrance of Mary's costly oil was in the house on the One who is God's sweet fragrance to humanity. Mary didn't count the cost. Nothing was too costly for the One she loved. Mary wanted to show her love for Jesus while He was still alive. When hatred was all around Jesus, Mary poured out her most valuable possession upon the One she loves. Mary paid no attention to those around her.
        Mary's hair was her glory covering. Women didn't let down their hair except for their husband in biblical times. Mary was giving her heart, her best gift and her glory to her spiritual Husband Jesus. Jesus had shown Mary the depth of His love, grace, power and authority in the raising of her brother from death. She would now show the depth of her love for Jesus by anointing Him for burial with her most precious gift. Mary was a cheerful giver from her heart!
          Here there is no mention of washing His feet. Mary wiped His anointed feet with pure oil and her hair. Mary gave her glory (symbolized by her hair) to Jesus. Jesus poured out the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon all who believe in Him on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The anointing of the Holy Spirit flows down from the Father and the Son to earth, just as Mary's anointing oil on Jesus' feet flowed down to the earth under Him.
          Like Mary, we are all to come to Jesus with all that we are. He pours His costly oil – the Holy Spirit and His sweet, sacrificial fragrance into our broken vessels until His sweet fragrance in us begins to come out to others. If we try to fill ourselves with sex, drugs, alcohol, possessions, people and things, we will be empty. We can waste our time on satisfying the desires of our flesh and come up empty. There is a place in every heart that can only be filled by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
          Mary understood some things that the others didn't. Only Jesus understood what Mary was doing.
         Mary's oil was worth almost a year's wage. John 12:5. The sinful woman who anointed Jesus in Luke was a 500 denarii debtor, but Mary is a 300 denarii loving and faithful worshiper. 500 is the number of great grace, and 300 is the number of the faithful, prepared remnant who are full of the water of the Anointed Word. God had Gideon reduce his army to 300 men who lapped up the water (the Anointed Word). It was these 300 men who defeated the enemy of God's people.


           Jesus wants us to give His sweet fragrance in us to Him, the poor in spirit and the physically poor every day of the year. Love is the foundation of service! Love and charity can only be shown to the living not the dead. Mary showed her love and devotion to Jesus while He was still on earth. Other women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus when He was dead, but Mary anointed Him while He was still alive. She would not have another chance before He died on the cross. Mary did not give Jesus a gift that cost her nothing. She gave her very best. The most costly gift we can give Jesus is our heart, our love, our anointing and our life. Our anointing comes from Jesus, so we must give it back to Him to use as He pleases. When we give our life, our heart and our anointing to Jesus, He is glorified in it. Mary's costly perfume was still inferior to Jesus, as our anointing and life is inferior to Jesus. Jesus' love for Mary empowered her to become an instrument of His love to others. Mary's extravagant love and anointing drew the attention of all toward Jesus—even His enemies.
           Mary gave her glory to Jesus and He glorified her by defending and commending her action and immortalizing it. Jesus said that her act of love will be a blessing and a testimony throughout the world wherever the gospel is preached. The world will call our love and work for Christ a waste, but Jesus treasures it.  Mary anointed Jesus once, but Jesus anointed the memory of her and her sacrificial act of love forever. Jesus will never forget any act of love done for Him and His Kingdom.
          The story of Mary's love for Jesus will empower others to be instruments of Christ's love wherever the gospel is preached. Those who are grounded in His love will pour out His love on the poor in spirit. In every account of a woman anointing Jesus, the woman gave all she had to His body. God will use the weak things of this world to confound the wise.
           Mary's faith, love and devotion to the Lord is the highest example of what God desires in believers. Love can never give Jesus too much. We can do good works and give to the poor and still not have the heart of Jesus. Judas is a perfect example of this.


          Jesus is with those who love Him—Martha, Mary, Lazarus and His disciples, but the devil is there too working through Judas. Judas criticized Mary for pouring her perfume worth a year's wage over Jesus' feet. Judas thought the precious, costly ointment was wasted! Nothing we give or do out of our love for Jesus is ever a waste. Judas had just witnessed a beautiful act of love and called it a waste. Judas has spent 3 ½ years with Jesus and still he did not know His heart or understand a heart that loves Jesus so much. His greed and selfishness blinded Judas from knowing Jesus as Mary did.
         Judas objected to Mary's action saying, “Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” John 12:5 Judas tried to hide his greed and love of money through benevolence, but Jesus knew his heart.  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. V7  Judas pretended to care for the poor. Judas stole from the money box for his own use and pleasure. Judas loved money. The Bible says we cannot serve both God and mammon (money).  Judas will soon do the unthinkable and betray Jesus for money. Satan will work through the heart of one of Jesus' own to betray Him. The serpent is always lurking to see who he can work through. Judas had no love for Christ or the poor. His love of money ruled Judas' heart.
          Jesus responded to Judas' criticism, “Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” John 12:5 Mary saved her best for last!  Mary's precious oil was for Jesus alone. God is always concerned for the poor. Jesus quoted a portion of Deuteronomy 15:11 in response to Judas. “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” This was a command, but Mary gave out of love for Jesus not out of a “legal obligation.” Judas was still under the Law that commands giving to the poor, but Judas will take the money for himself. Yes, there will always be the poor on earth, but Jesus will soon die on the cross, be resurrected and ascend to the Father. He will not always be with them in person.
          Mary kissed the feet of Jesus, but Judas kissed His face in betrayal. Proverbs 10:7: The memory of the righteous will be a blessing, but the name of the wicked will not. The women who anointed Jesus for burial are written in the Book of Life – the Bible.
         Mary's sacrificial gift was an open display of the love in her heart for Jesus. She will be able to give to the poor later but now she will give to the One who will soon suffer and die for her sins. The way to provide hope for the poor is to be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. Judas missed this. The sweet fragrance of Mary's perfume will permeate the air as Jesus is led to the slaughter. With every lash of the whip, that sweet smell of Mary's precious oil will be in the air for all to smell. When the crown of thorns is placed upon His head, that sweet fragrance will fill the air. When the nails are put in His hands and feet, Mary's costly oil will emanate from His body. Mary's costly, sacrificial gift of love will will go forth from the One who sacrificed all in order to save all.
           What type of scent do you bring to the Body of Christ?


         The Law excluded women from service in the temple, but Jesus included them. Women were very much involved in the ministry of Jesus. The women who loved Jesus remained with Him to the end. They were at the crucifixion, the tomb and Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus in His resurrected body. These loyal women who loved Jesus to the end represent the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ is no longer preparing Jesus for burial, but instead is preparing herself for His coming again and for the wedding supper of the lamb. The Bride of Christ is made up of both males and females, Jews and Gentiles, young and old who love and are faithful to Jesus to the end.


            In the very next chapter of John, Jesus washes His disciples' feet.  As Mary showed the extent of her love for Jesus by anointing His feet with her precious oil, Jesus will show the extent of His love for His own by washing their feet.  John 13:1b:  Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love by taking the lowest position of a servant and washing their dirtiest part -- their feet.  Jesus will do in the "natural" what He will do in the "supernatural."  In the spiritual, Jesus will cleanse them of all sin by shedding His blood on the cross.  Then, He will continually cleanse by the washing of the water of the Word and the Holy Spirit.  We are continually touching the dirt of the earth and falling into sin, so we must allow Jesus to continually cleanse us.  
          Jesus is in an intimate setting with His twelve chosen disciples.  They are sharing the Last Supper with Him.  Jesus will die in less than 24 hours on the day and hour that the spotless lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple in fulfillment of this requirement of the Law.  
           Washing the feet of a guest was considered a lowly task done by a servant in the house. A servant would wash the feet of a guest if he was a close friend or of equal stature. Jesus is equal to no human and yet He will act as a humble servant and wash the feet of His disciples, including Judas.  Simon didn't wash Jesus' feet when He was an honored guest in his home. Most times, a person would be given a basin of water and would wash their own feet. Jesus will, by example, show His disciples that those who want to be great in the Kingdom of heaven must serve all with the proper spirit of humble service.  Jesus laid aside His position to serve the others.  We are to follow His example.  Don't think that any service for Jesus or others is too menial. Jesus' physical act will become a spiritual act after He has died, is resurrected and ascends to the Father.  He will then pour out the water of His Holy Spirit to continually cleanse us of sin. He wants us to wash ourselves and sometimes wash others when we fall into sin.  As Man, Jesus served to even death.  He poured out His life for all of humanity.  

           Jesus is teaching His disciples by His example.  He wants those who love and serve Him to do the same.   Walking in the feet of Jesus is the greatest testimony our life can give Him.

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