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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Anointing of Jesus -- Mark 14

         In Mark 14, Jesus is sitting at table at the home of Simon the Leper as He was in Matthew. Mark also says that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was two days away. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law were looking for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him. However, they didn't want to do it during the Feast because the feasts were holy and any violence may cause a riot. So time was running out for them to do their evil deed. Passover became the day of Jesus' death. The Law required that the male of every Jewish household bring a lamb without spot or blemish to the temple to be slaughtered for the sin of the household. The Perfect Passover Lamb died on that day at the exact hour that the lambs were being slain in the Temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law for all both Jews and Gentiles.
         A woman came into the room full of men carrying her white, cherished alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. In Greek, the jar is “alabastron.” It was white, translucent gypsum carved in many shapes and sizes. The ancients thought that alabaster was the best material to preserve ointments. Women sometimes wore a small alabaster jar filled with perfume around their necks. It was the symbol of purity. The family of a woman ready to marry would purchase this alabaster jar and fill it with sweet ointment. The size and the quality of the perfume would depend upon the wealth of the family. This jar of perfume would be part of the young woman's dowry. When a man asked the woman to marry, she would break the alabaster jar and pour the precious oil on her husband-to-be's head showing him honor and respect as head of their household.
          Mark says that this woman's perfume was made of pure nard indicating its expense. Pure nard is the scent of kings.  She will use her costly perfume on her Divine Husband and King of Kings.  Alabaster jars of sweet perfume were sealed to preserve the precious ointment. The seal had to be broken for the oil to pour out. Had the sealed jar of precious anointing oil not been broken, no one would have smelled its sweet aroma.
          Jesus was broken for us so the sweet anointing of the Holy Spirit could be poured out. Here in Mark, the writer emphasizes that the woman “broke the box and poured it on His head.” v3 When the white alabaster box was broken, the sweet oil of anointing flowed out. Jesus, God's precious and costly gift to humanity, had His righteous body broken for us. His sacrificial death on the cross was a sweet fragrance to the Father. In the Song of Songs, which is about a Shepherd who becomes a King wooing His Bride into a relationship with Him and eventually marriage, it says that the fragrance of her king's perfumes are pleasing and his name is like perfume poured out. (Song of Songs 1:3) Then in 1:12, the king's bride-to-be says, “While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.” The story of the Shulamite woman and King Solomon is a picture of King Jesus and the mystical love between a female sinner who would eventually become His Bride. The Shulamite woman started out dark and rough, but her Shepherd-King has wooed and guided her into a bride full of His sweet fragrance. Nard is also spoken of in the Song of Songs as one of the sweet spices that made her King fragrant. (Song of Songs 4:13-14) The mystical love of the Godhead empowers us to become instruments of that love also. This unnamed woman in Mark is pouring out her sweet fragrance on her King as He is seated at the table.
       The Bible says that we are “jars of clay.” (1 Corinthians 4:7) God wants our jars of clay (flesh body and heart) to become a pure vessel full of the sweet fragrance of Christ. No one can smell the sweet fragrance of Christ in us until we allow the Godhead to break our will so we will walk in the precious anointing of the Holy Spirit and the sweet fragrance of Christ. As we willingly allow this, the sweet fragrance of Christ -- His love and His sacrificial life – will flow out of us to others. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15: But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Any sacrificial act we do out of love for Jesus and others is everlasting just as His sacrificial act of love for us is everlasting. As Jesus became a Living Sacrifice for us, He wants us to become a living sacrifice for Him.
        Some of those present in self-righteous indignation criticized the pouring out of this precious oil upon Jesus saying it was a waste. (Mark 14:4-5) Nothing that we do for Jesus/God is a waste! Some of those present said that the costly perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. This sounds good and sounds religious, but Jesus defends her so-called "waste."  This woman is displaying her love and devotion to Jesus. Her love was pure and sincere, therefore her gift and action was pure and sincere. This woman never spoke a word. Her actions did all of the talking. Pure love and worship can only come from a heart that loves the Lord, not out of fear, guilt or demand. The Law demanded, but grace comes through love. This woman poured out her love to Jesus by giving Him her most precious and best gift. God loves a cheerful giver. The Law demands a tithe, but grace wants giving to Jesus and others to come from a heart of love -- freely and willingly. This woman's worship was sacrificial and selfless. What others had to say didn't affect her. She kept on worshiping Jesus. What the others saw as waste, Jesus saw as love and worship, and He honored her.
        Jesus told her critics to leave her alone and don't bother her. “She has done a beautiful thing to me......She did what she could. She poured perfume on My body beforehand to prepare for My burial.” vv6, 8 This woman couldn't stop what was about to happen to Jesus on the cross, but she could give Him her love and most precious gift that was reserved for her husband-to-be and anoint Him for burial.
        Jesus wants us to willingly pour out our body, soul and spirit to Him in love and worship. The indignant one – Satan -- will always attempt to stop those who are pouring out their soul to Jesus. We can waste our time and our lives satisfying the desires of our flesh at the expense of loving, worshiping and honoring Jesus. The cost of loving and following Jesus is not cheap.  Jesus gave His all to humanity at the cross of suffering out of love.  He wants us to give our all to Him out of love.
         In Mark, Jesus is being recognized as High Priest, the Passover Lamb and the Unleavened Bread of heaven.

                               (Next week:  Luke)

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