Text: Mark 14:1-11
Title: An Unforgettable Woman
Theme: As followers of Jesus Christ, we learn to sacrifice our best for Him.
38 years after his death, C.S. Lewis' Chronicle of Narnia are still selling strong and have now become a major movie released by Hollywood . Most children, including adults, growing up in the west have read this series. US News and World Report called C.S.Lewis as God's story teller; and indeed he was a good one. Lewis has become an unforgettable man. He appears to be bigger in death than he was alive. Why is he so popular? In yesterday's newspaper, a local professor wrote that in each person, is a desire to search for the good, true and beautiful. This is what millions of readers have discovered in Lewis' numerous writings; something that is true, good and beautiful.
The story we read this morning, is about an unforgettable woman. 2000 years after her death, she is still being talked about. Why? Because she did something beautiful in the eyes of Jesus Christ, the son of God. So, what did she do that even to this day she is still being remembered? What can we learn from her so that our desire for something good, true and beautiful can be satisfied?
First, let's find out what happened, where, when and who. Combining the three Gospels: Matthew, Mark and John, this is what we know. This event occurred in the town of Bethany , 3 days before Jesus was crucified. Jesus and his disciples were in the house of Simon the leper. He must have been healed from leprosy. Also present in the house were Lazarus who was raised from the dead by Jesus and his sisters Martha and Mary. Mary is the one Mark referred to as the woman with the expensive perfume. Among the disciples, Judas was the more vocal, voicing his objection to Mary's behavior.
While they were sitting at the table, Mary came in. She broke the bottle and poured the perfume over Jesus' head. Several by standers immediately did some calculation and determined the price of the perfume. It was 300 denarii; about a laborer's one year's salary; enough to feed about 300 poor families for one day. Seeing this, some of them immediately criticized her sharply for her wastefulness. Jesus came to her defense and said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Let's explore why in Jesus' eyes this act was beautiful?
I. Adoration and devotion expressed from one's heart.
When the bystanders saw the expensive perfume poured on Jesus, they thought it was not practical, it was a waste. It could have been used to feed the poor. Instead, Jesus gladly accepted this woman's offer of the expensive perfume. It was offered from her heart. She expressed her love and devotion for Christ by giving him the perfume; by giving him something from her heart. When we give something to God from our heart, it is beautiful.
What do these things have in common? Are they practical? No. You want to throw them away? No. Why? Because these are our children's art works. It was from their hearts and we treasure them very much. They are in our treasure box or photo albums and we have kept them for many years.
What do you think is in Jesus'' treasure box? Obviously, this perfume, and also the two coins from the widow who put them in the offering box. Then the glass of water. You see, he treasures those things that we give to him from our heart. People may consider it as impractical or waste, but not to Jesus.
In this Advent season we prepare and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. On the bulletin board near the entrance, are these words: Happy Birthday Jesus. What would you give him as expression of your adoration and devotion to him?
For those who are more artistically oriented, you can paint a picture, it doesn't have to be a Jesus picture, and offer to him. Or you can write a poem, a song. They don't have to be masterpieces, but they are from your heart. He would treasure them very much. Or we can perform an act of kindness to someone. Call or write to someone that you have not communicated with for sometime. Think of someone who is in need, a gift card, a check will be very timely.
Jesus treasures these things when we do them from our hearts. To him, these are beautiful things.
I also would like to point out an irony here. The disciples concluded that using the perfume this way was a waste, but should be used on the poor. And you know what, the person who was standing in front of them; right before their eyes was the really poor man. He gave up his glory in heaven and came to live among men. He had no place to put his pillow. He associated with the poor and the outcast. He was their friend. He was the poor man par excellence. And yet the disciples missed him.
II. Adoration and devotion expressed by giving our best to Christ.
Another reason for Jesus'' calling the woman's act a beautiful thing is found in Vs.8, “”She has done what she could.” She has done her best. She has given Christ all she had. You know how much was this perfume? 300 denarii; a laborer's one year salary. It is like 10 ounces of this perfume; about $20,000. This is all you have and you pour it over Jesus. It is like another incident recorded in Mark 12:41. A widow placed two coins that is one penny in the offering box. And Jesus said, “ Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box." 44 "For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” How much was one penny? 1/64 of a denari. If I make $64 a day, and you only have $1, but you put this in the offering box. Interestingly, both these incidents are about money. Our hearts follow our money. The widow did a beautiful thing because she gave all she had to Jesus. Mary did a beautiful thing because she had done her utmost. She had given her best to Christ. She sacrificed what she had for Jesus.
How about us? Financially are we giving our best to Christ? We are not talking how much in dollar amount, but what is it compared to what we receive as salary? The scripture teaches that 1/10 of what we have belongs to God. Are we giving 10% of what we receive every month to God? Or are we giving him what is left?
Not just money, how about our time? Let's first take a look at our time with the Lord. Very often I hear people say, by the time I open the Bible, I am so tired and fall asleep after reading 2 or 3 verses. Or I am so busy, I just don't have the time for Bible reading and praying. It sounds like we have let other things become our priority. We give our best time to work and even our family. And if we have any time left, then we give it to God. We give our leftovers to him. This is certainly not what we could do best, right? I want to ask you to seriously think about your relationship with God. Is it so important that you will give the best of your day to Him?
Moreover, there is our life. In the last several years, we hear much talk about early retirement among the professionals. Since professionals occupy a high percentage in the NA Chinese churches, everyone wants to tap into this resource. So we hear individuals taking early retirements, going to seminary and preparing themselves for different kinds of ministries. I think this is very good, it is pleasing to God. But I can't help but think, are there people that God has called into full time ministry when we are younger? We'd tell Him that we were not ready. We had to make sure there was enough money for our family, children's college education, or paying off the mortgage, then we would go into ministry. It sounds like that after we have taken care of my family and finance, then we will come and follow Him. Very often by the time we take early retirement, our health may not be as good as we were 20 years younger. Our energy level is getting lower. We are giving our leftovers to God.
Dear brothers and sisters, I want to encourage us to give our best to God. If he calls you now into full time ministry, don't wait till your timing is right. God knows when the right time is. When we give our best, when we do what we could, it is a beautiful thing.
III. Adoration and devotion expressed by having faith in Jesus Christ.
So, what motivated the woman to give her best to Jesus? Mark really did not tell us. But Jesus pointed out in vs. 8, “ She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” From our study of Mark, by now, Jesus had already told his disciples 3 times about his death and resurrection; but they didn't understand. Here, Mary seemed to understand. She took Jesus words seriously, knowing and believing that he would die soon. So by pouring the perfume over Jesus was her way of preparing Jesus body for burial.
Jesus then continued on and said, 14:9, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” What praise and words of affirmation. There is more. Jesus recognized that Mary's act is a symbol of his death and burial, but he did not stop here. “Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world….” What is the gospel? Jesus was God became man. He died and on the third day he rose from the dead. There is death and resurrection. Mary understood it right that Jesus would die as a ransom for many. But Jesus added that he would overcome death and rose from the dead 3 days later. This is the gospel message.
What Mary did was beautiful. It was beautiful because she understood Jesus'' teaching and had faith in Him. Jesus was pleased with her great faith in him.
We can give our best to Him, but it is also important, if not more important is to have faith in Jesus. Believe in his teachings; they are God's words, therefore they are true. Nowadays, it is so easy for us to pick and choose what we want to believe. We memorize and highlight Jesus'' words that he will give us what we ask. But we forget or ignore his words that we are to obey his commandments and abide in him always. We remember his teaching about abundant life and interpret it as prosperity, wealth and health, but stay away from teachings that if we follow him, we are to take up our cross and follow him and die to our sinful nature, We like the gifts God gives to his children, but we don't necessarily like the giver Himself.
To have faith in Jesus and believe in the totality of his teaching is a beautiful thing.
We are attracted to things that are good, true and beautiful. This is one reason for the success of Lewis' writing. Mary was an unforgettable person because she gave to Jesus what she held close in her heart, she gave her best to him and she took his teachings seriously and believed in him. Mary sacrificed what she had for Jesus and he called this a beautiful thing.
In the gospel of Mark, we are not told of Mary's identity. We only know her as a certain woman. Can you guess why?. If Mark focused on Mary, then we can easily say, “Since I am not Mary, I can't do this.” By not telling us who she is, then this woman could be anyone. It could be you, it could be me. You and I can be like this woman, by believing in Jesus in his totality, we give him our best.
This story about Mary is sandwiched between another story. It is about how the religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus. And at the end, Judas decided to go to the religious leaders and betrayed Jesus for 20 pieces of silver. We also notice that Mark did not tell us the motive behind Judas' betrayal of Jesus. All we know is that Judas sacrificed Jesus and received earthly rewards. If greed was his motive, then we can say, no, I am not a greedy person so this will never happen to me. I will never betray Christ. If it was disappointment in Jesus for not being the physical messiah to overturn the Roman government, we can say, no, I am a very positive person, I don't get disappointed easily. If it was for power that Judas betrayed, we can say, no, I never have a taste for power. So, this will not happen to me. But by leaving the motive hidden from his readers, Mark was trying to say, this could happen to anyone. Anyone of us can find ourselves in situations where we would sacrifice Jesus or his teachings for personal rewards. It could be monetary, or face or popularity.
So, do you want to be like this woman, who sacrificed all she had for Jesus Christ. Or do you want to be like Judas, who sacrificed Jesus for personal gain?
Welcome to HCC's' Sermon archive directory. We are working to merge our archives to our current website @ hcchome.org
Please report any issues to the HCC main office or staff. Thank you.