This sermon was preached at the IGH Family Service, Sunday 17 November 2013
Two main incidents in this passage:
- Regarding the plans of the death of Christ
- The Incident relating to the perfume
There are actually two plans that are mentioned, but they are in complete contradiction to each other.
The first is the Lord Jesus talking about His forthcoming crucifixion on the passover day celebration.
The second plan or conversation takes place in the palace of the high priest, and they are also talking about the death of Christ, their strategy and the politics of the decision. They are definite his death should not happen on the passover as it could lead to a riot among the people.
So there was two planning meetings but with contradictory objectives.
We know what the outcome was, and it was the plan and purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is just one example of the accuracy and authority of the entire Bible. When Christ did die on the passover there were many prophecies that came true. If we look at the Scriptures there are hundred of prophecies - some that are hundreds of years old and all came to pass. You must do something with that fact.
The passover was enormously significant. It signified the redemption of Israel by God through the sacrificial blood of the lamb. That first passover night in Egypt (Ex 12:1-28) the Israelites literally sheltered under the blood of the lamb that had been daubed on their door lintels.
This is hugely significant; The Passover celebration in Jerusalem was all about remembering when they used to be bondmen under Egypt. Remembrance and thanksgiving was the reason they killed their Pascal lambs. This was the same time as when Christ died, the ultimate sacrificial lamb. This is important because the ultimate lamb game Himself for the remission of sins of everyone, Jew and gentile alike.
Think of Gods purpose and plan for the world and for you in giving his Son to die on a cross (John 3:16, Rom 5:6-10).
The Perfume Incident
Jesus was in a place called Bethany outside Jerusalem. The other Gospel records have this incident too so we can fill in the gaps of Matthews testimony (John 12:1-8, Mark 14:3-90). It was in the house of Simon the leper. Perhaps he had been healed earlier by Christ as John 12:2 says that the meal was in honour of Christ.
Mary comes with an alabaster jar of perfume (Matt 26:7) and pours it on the head of Jesus as He is reclining at the table. Mary’s brother Lazarus had died and had been raised form the dead and we are told that he was there too (John 12:2). What was in Mary’s mind? What does the perfume represent?
This was her honouring of Christ. This was not some second rate offering - it was very expensive, perhaps the equivalent of one years wages. She gave it all to Christ in honour of who He was. It was not second rate, shabby, cheap or the leftovers of her life. She gave Jesus the best because she thought He was worth it.
This is a challenge for us. Have I / have you ever honoured Christ in this way consciously? I will give the best to Him: as the Hymn writer says "all that I have I lay at the feet of the wonderful Saviour who loves me" (Wonderful Grace, John Pantry). We are all guilty taking things for granted in our lives and this includes the Grace and Mercy of the Lord Jesus.
Think about people who are special to you. If you are a follower of Christ He should be pre-eminent above all others. Do you honour Christ like you should honour Him?
Second point. This passage tells us Mary had insight and she realized completely what was going on. Why is her comprehension so much more than the others? Every time we read of Mary she seems to be at the feet of Christ and she listens to what He says, so she understands why He has come and what He was going to do.
She had grasped what nobody else had grasped. Mary realised what the plan was and what was going to happen. She knew what Jesus had to do, that He was going to sacrifice Himself because of His love for a fallen humanity.
Jesus is the supreme King, He is ultimate royalty yet it was He who sacrificed Himself. He sacrificed Himself not for a happy nation, not for the sake of loved ones, nor for family and friends but for rebellious sinners such as ourselves. Mary got this, so the anointing is her way of saying 'thank you', her way of showing gratitude. After all she realised she was a sinner herself and she needed a Saviour.
What about our degrees of insight and understanding of Christ's death? Do you reflect on how much has He gave for you, how much He loved you?
We see in Matt 26:10 that the Lord appreciated Mary's gesture. It wasn't some random event to Him. The disciples didn't understand - they thought it was inappropriate. They were scandalized and critical of what Mary had done (Matt 26:9).
If we look at John's gospel account we read that it was Judas that started the whispering campaign in the disciples (Matt 26:8, John 12:5-6). Judas complaint sounded pious and morally upright, but it wasn't. Judas motivation was to put the money into the bag so he could dip his fingers into it.
People can be so pious sometimes, but their motives are shady.
Jesus knew about Mary and her motives, He knew about Judas and his motives and He knows us and our motives, Psalm 51:6. Put away the sham, the pretense.
In Matt 26:10, Jesus tells the disciples to leave Mary alone for what she had done was a beautiful thing. What about you? Maybe it was the way you sang a song or something you said, or even the way you look that is beautiful. Mary was beautiful because she is appreciated the plan and the majesty of Christ, and He appreciated that.
The Lord looks down on all of our lives (Psalm 14:2) so it is important how we respond and react to Him - does He say ‘here is something beautiful’ about you? Here is someone pouring out their heart in true honour and worship to Me?
Mary knew the Lord Jesus was not going to be in Bethany again so she would not have another opportunity to anoint Him again.
Her act of devotion seemed to harden the heart of Judas and was the catalyst for his betrayal.
In Matt 26:14 we read of the shady back room dealings in the palace of the high priest. Contrast the cost of the perfume to Mary to the 30 pieces of silver offered to Judas (Matt 26:15). We read in Ex 21:32 that 30 pieces of silver was the cost of a slave gored by an ox.
Both Judas and Mary grasped their opportunities but what a difference in estimation. It all comes down to how much we esteem Jesus. How much do you value the Saviour? 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us the blood of Christ is precious, more precious than perishable gold or silver.
Is Christ precious to you? Respond favorably to Him like Mary did.
What about Matt 26:13? It was more important to Mary what Christ thought about her than the popularity of the moment. Why don't you take the take the wider view like Mary? Yes there may well be people who will criticize you and you may not be popular. That is nothing to what Christ thinks of you. Mary is now in the Bible and what the Lord says in Matt 26:13 is fulfilled today in a sense.
If Christ thinks that you do beautiful things that is the main thing. Trust and appreciate Him and give Him your all, lay it at His feet in an offering like Mary. That decision will have wonderful eternal implications for you as it did for her.