Are you Mary or Judas?
And I’m going to invite you to turn to Mark 14 as we get to the last couple of chapters of the series that we’ve been going together with on the Genius of Jesus in the gospel of Mark. The series desiring to know Christ as he wants to make himself known in our lives. One of the things I just want to point out as we’d get ready to dive into this text is the sacred opportunity it is just to read God’s Word and not just don’t want to say that like I’m some kind of pious religious, “sacred opportunity, but I really want us to see how important this is because truth is the catalyst for life change.
If I say something to you this morning, like if I asked you the question, what does your family stand for? What’s your identity? What are the values that you shape yourself around as a family? If you draw a blank as to what that is, I would encourage you to get into God’s Word. Grab some of the epistles, some of the shorter books in the New Testament. Read about some of the relational interaction that’s encouraged in those epistles and find an identity for your family to shape itself around. Starting with Christ as that foundation and how that plays an interaction in our lives. But truth becomes the catalyst for life change. And we know we discover that truth in God’s word.
So what we’re embarking on together as something that has the opportunity to transform our hearts as we hear the word and we let it speak to our lives. We give God the freedom to work it out in us. So Mark 14 is an important passage for us to be able to look at together today.
And if you’ve been with us for this series, you know where we’re at and where we’re heading. I mean, you know, if you’re in the gospel where it’s going, we’re heading to the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. In Mark chapter 14, Jesus is going through the whole scenario of going into Jerusalem, presenting himself as the sacrifice. And even in Mark chapter 13 we saw last week, he brings comfort to the disciples. Knowing that life’s gonna bring some turmoil. Jesus is going to be crucified. That’s going to be difficult for them to experience. After his crucifixion they’re going to be facing persecution again, that’s difficult to experience.
But we endure those things as a body of believers. We endure the trials and tribulations that life offers because we know we have a hope that endures beyond all of those things. Some of the comfort I’ve found in living a life for Christ and some of the promises Jesus gave us that will storm down the Gates of hell, they will not prevail, Matthew 28:19. That he’s with us always until the end of the age. Jesus’ presence is always with us and in the end we see the victory in Christ.
Which ultimately gives us hope in circumstances. That circumstances will pass, but we win in Jesus. In Mark chapter 13 Jesus sort of strips that back for his followers. He wants them to see the end goal. All great leaders operate from the end goal in mind. That the reason that we’re here this morning, we desire for lives and hearts to be transformed in Jesus because we experienced ultimate victory in him. The most important thing that we can engage in today is worship, to allow God to have our hearts as he created it for his purpose.
Mark 13 he lays that out. And then in Mark 14 Jesus spends these final moments of intimacy with his disciples. This doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail in Mark chapter 14 but if you want to read about the intimate moments Jesus spends with his disciples, John chapter 13 to 17 are the last six hours of Christ’s life that he has with his genuine followers, the 12 that pursue him. And actually one of them is going to betray him. But I think it’s the most in depth teaching that Jesus gives to his disciples are found within those chapters.
And that’s what we’re going to unpack this morning as we look at what Jesus shares within the context of this story. But you remember in Mark chapter 13 Jesus, he went around and he shared with the religious leaders starting at the end of chapter 11 and 12 he answered their questions and so well that it just silenced them and he, and he shares the goodness of who he is and clears out the temple and it upsets the religious leaders.
So Mark chapter 14 starts this way. Now the Passover and unleavened bread, were two days away. And the chief priest and the scribes were seeking how to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. They wanted to sneak into his life some way where it would go unnoticed in order to kill him. It says in verse two for they were saying not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.
So the religious leaders are ready to take Jesus’s life and they want to sneak into it because they know that Jesus has a large following and they don’t want to upset people. And in the midst of recognizing that Jesus is about to go to the cross, Mark then shares a story about a lady he doesn’t name. This story in Mark 14:3 is also in Matthew 26 it’s in John 12. The interesting thing is when Mark shares this story, he doesn’t share it in chronological order.
When you read this story in John 12 I believe it’s in chronological order, but Mark actually shares this story in Mark 14. He shares this story relating to the upper room, but this story actually took place several days before Jesus is in the upper room. In fact, I think it took place before Jesus’ triumphal entry on the back of the donkey into Jerusalem.
So it’s several days before this event, but Mark places it here in this story and I think Mark’s interest isn’t to share a chronological story, but he has a different purpose in mind. I’m going to share that with you in just a moment, but I want to look at the context of the beauty of this story. This person isn’t named in Mark 14, but in Mark 12 she is, and the person’s name is Mary. Mary is the sister of Martha and and the sister of Lazarus.
You see the story in John chapter 11 Jesus resurrects Lazarus from the grave. And then in John chapter 12 Mary comes in and she conducts this in the life of Jesus that’s written in Mark 14. This is what it says, Mark 14:3, While Jesus was in Bethany, the home of Simon the leper, reclining at the table there came a woman with an alabaster vial, a very costly perfume of pure Nard and she broke the vial and she poured it over his head.
The story starts off, I love that Jesus is in the home of a leper because this is what’s been demonstrated throughout his life. In the religious context of Jesus’ day, this individual would have been considered unclean and so to go into the home of an individual that would have been considered unclean would have made you unclean and unable to participate in the Passover. But we learned about Jesus is that Jesus is so pure that nothing takes away from him, but he makes all things new in himself because of his power.
So Christ is in the home of a leper and this lady comes in with this alabaster vail and she pours it over his head. Now Mark doesn’t tell us this, but the gospel of Matthew gives us a little more detail. But this vial that Martha pours on Jesus’ head, contained this perfume that was worth 300 denarii. In the time of Jesus’ day a denarii was considered a day’s wages. And so if you think about 300 denarii, if an individual working worked six days a week and took one day off that this was literally a year’s salary. This was an extravagant gift to pour onto Jesus. Why would she go to such an extreme?
You know, when it comes to the life of people living every day, we recognize in our lives we make time for the things that are important to us. We sacrifice even for those things. When we see life in this world, I think as people, sometimes even if it’s a momentary life or it’s just something that is exciting, that draws us into an excited life, that we’re attracted to life.
We want to belong to something that matters or is significant to us. No matter if it may or may not be important to someone else. There’s something about it that draws us to the significance of what’s taking place. In the life of Mary conducting this act towards Jesus, she is gladly, joyfully demonstrating a value upon Christ. Perhaps Jesus hasn’t had demonstrated to this point. Why such an extravagant gift? That was exactly the question of the disciples as they witnessed what Mary was doing.
It says in verse four, but some were indignantly remarking to one another. Why is this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might’ve been sold for over 300 denarii and the money given to the poor and they were scolding her, and there you have the price.
Mary, why are you doing this? Don’t you know, there’s so many better options with your time and this resources that you could’ve been doing? And here we have in this story, this beautiful display of worship and worth being placed on Christ and that you see in the same story, these individuals that might’ve been considered godly or good, the ones that spent the closest time with Jesus, that have seen the most amount of miracles that Christ is performed, and they’re the ones challenging Mary in the sacrifice. When it says “but”, perhaps they’re acting like a big one.
And it says, some of them were indignantly remarking. And this idea of indignantly remarking carries the thought of snorting like horses. You’ve been in those conversations have you? You get to do something and someone gives their opinion. That’s what they’re doing. They’re looking at their situation, they’re just snorting at her, trying to make these godly objections. No sir, they’re not really giving anything towards a solution. They just get to stand back and give all the objections to this. I could do a better, I’ll tell you all of my opinions on this. Mary, here she is giving this display of love worshiping in a genuine heart and these individuals that are supposed to be these godly influences are just snorting like horses.
John 12:6 when he shares the story, gets a little more specific and lets us know that it’s Judas that’s leading this charge. It says in verse six now he said this not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief and he had the money box and he used to pilfer for what was put into it. And so while Judas’ motivation on the outside may look godly, the reality is that his heart is wicked. And you read a story like this and I think it becomes very easy to become judgmental about the actions of Judas taking place in this story.
I think the intentions in sharing this portion of the story is not for us to become judgmental of Judas. All of us create t-shirts. We’re all against Judas or something like that. That’s not the purpose that he’s sharing this story. I think the reason he’s sharing this story is because there is a worship war that takes place in all of us. A little bit of Mary and Judas is represented in every heart that’s present in the building today. I’m sorry, just hear more about Mary than Judas. I didn’t call you Judas, you’re Mary.,
But this worship war takes place in our lives. Let me just give you an example. One of the, one of the things that we have coming up as a church, October 7th this is a shameless plug, by the way, if you didn’t get this fall festival to go towards the ministries that we support in India. Lepers, slum schools and girls in an orphanage. We take girls out of slums where they could have literally been sold into slavery and sex trafficking and we helped them come to this orphanage, get an education and then they go from a place of desperation, hopelessness to a place of hope. They find the worth in Christ and they have an opportunity to live out their lives and proclaiming the goodness of who Jesus is. Because of the demonstration of God’s people gathering around them to support them. Beautiful thing coming up October 7th to do that. And so if you want to know more, you can look at the bulletins and I’ll share an announcement at the end.
But here’s the reality. Some of those girls, had they not been swept up and brought into a place of love and care, they could have lived lives that would’ve just been devastating. Lives that would have been so difficult. It would just break your heart to even hear their stories. Hearing some of their stories being rescued at a young age, still knowing what they’ve gone through still breaks the heart.
The truth is, when you look in America today, the statistics say that pornography is rampant. Some statistics say as high as 90% of college males view pornography regularly. What I’m saying is with one mouth we can say what wonderful things we’re going to do. And then in the same breath, turn around and conduct ourselves in a manner that supports the very thing that destroys the life of these young girls. Hypocrisy.
And so when you read the story of Mary, the beauty of what’s taking place here, and you hear the response of Judas and the disciples in such a contrary nature towards Jesus, it just reminds us of the importance of what it means to worship God in truth and allow our hearts in these moments looking at God’s word to be shaped the way Jesus desires to transform us.
Because there’s a piece of all of us within the context of the story. I love what Jesus does here. Jesus said, leave her alone. Why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to me. Notice the word Me there is capitalized. When Jesus describes the act of this woman, this word, good that he used, some translations use the word precious, some use beautiful. It’s all correct in the original languages as to what it represents. But Jesus is just painting this picture of how special this moment is. It’s for your heart to gravitate.
You know when you read these stories in the Bible, so we’ve gone through Mark, we’ve seen so many different interactions of Jesus with people. Some people rejected Jesus. Some people embrace Jesus. But all of these stories are to reach your heart to provoke a response. We as people, we love stories. It’s why you go to the movies. Whether it’s to laugh at one or to cry with one or pretend like you’re a superhero with one, whatever. To see it unfold. We love to watch how that transpires.
In the gospels, the way that they’re written. It’s known that your heart interacts with a story and so it tells us stories of life and individuals, but it identifies the significance of Jesus most of all so that you are provoked and responsive worship to what’s taking place here in the life of Mary. Jesus, in this story is pointing out, again, just how beautiful this is.
One of the other things that is happening here that’s so I think important is you look at the life of Christ, his whole life was about serving and serving. Finally, out of all these stories that have taken place about Jesus serving you finally see someone else responding.
We look at the cross of Christ at the end of his life, it’s Mary, Mary Magdalen. Mary, Jesus’ mother, it’s the women that are at the cross. It’s an act of devotion and love. Finally, Jesus is saying, now someone is serving me. Why would Mary go through such an extravagant display of love?
Jesus then says again, for you always have the poor with you and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you do not always have me. Now Jesus is not trying to downplay the poor and supporting people is important and being a light for Christ in this world around those that have needs. It’s important. I think the place that God calls us to worship him is demonstrating the life of others. We love others and in our love for others that displays a worship to God because we love God and we love people.
It’s why Jesus says the greatest commandments, love God, love others. It’s why 1 John 4 tells us, if you say you love God but do not love others, the love of the Father is not in you. And so the ultimate display of your love for God is displayed in your love for others. And I don’t think Jesus is trying to downplay the love for others, but rather what he’s trying to do in this verse is and meaning and context for the reason why we love others.
Because the value of your life is determined not in you yourself, but the value of your life is found outside of you. And the significance of who you are and the worth that you carry in this world has everything to do with the demonstration of Jesus giving his own life for you. He put the bounty on your head. He’s demonstrating in the conduct of his actions in this world by dying on the cross, the value for who you are as a human being created in his image.
So we don’t just go love people for the sake of loving people, but we love people because of the glory of God that’s been made known in the lives of people being made in his image as Christ has also died for you. And so that provides the premise for the actions that we carry in this world.
Jesus is saying to us, don’t ignore that opportunity. But rather, embrace the transformation in the worship that you have in Christ. That’s why Jesus uses this word Me, and it’s capitalized in English because in the Greek text it is emphatic. Jesus is demonstrating his authority in this passage. His kingship, his position. Now it’s time, Jesus saying, and all this service for me to put my foot down and just say, recognize who I am, because that becomes the foundation of worship.
That’s why the most important thing you can do right now, rather than judging Judas, look in your own heart and see if what rests within that is the actions of Mary. In this past week, if your family just examined your life as you lived out in front of them, would your kids say, my mom loves Jesus? I’ve seen it. My dad loves Jesus. He didn’t just say about words then just drag us to church on Sunday and that was it. They really love Jesus. They prayed for me. And they pour that offering. They read God’s word with me. They tell me how important Jesus is to them and how Jesus has shaped their life and why they love because Jesus has showed them how to love.
That’s what Mary is doing. And I love her attitude. Because sometimes I don’t think this story would have existed if Jesus did this in the American culture. Mary comes in and she makes this offering and then she hears this horse snorts how do you think that would’ve played out in America? I think it probably would have gone something like this. People come in, they hear were snorts. Mary’s just says, hold on a second, Jesus. I’m going to tell Peter, James and John like it is, and then after I give them the rant, I’m going to get on social media to tell them how I get on the rant so I can justify my behavior before my friends. I can be like, they can get on that media and be like, Oh girlfriend, it is okay. Those guys are just … your behavior is completely alright, you can act like a rear end because they were butts.
Where is that verse? There’s no justification for that. In fact if you think there is, I will tell you this. I don’t think I’m arguing with you, remember your Mary’s not Judas. We’re not fighting each other today with that. But 1 Peter 2. Go read 1 Peter 2 this week. Spend time just concerning the question, God, how do you want me to respond when adversity arises? I love what Mary did. She just worshiped. Snorting horses are not going to deter her. I mean freak out, but it’s not going to destroy her.
I was a little kid one time, this is a tangent, but I was seven years old. My uncle had a horse, had a baby. I thought it’d be cool to jump the fence and go pet the baby. Then I realized, this horse has a mommy. I’m going to tell the mommy, congrats. And I turned around and mom is running at me a hundred miles an hour. I started running for the fence horse snorts all behind me. Next thing it steps on my foot and I go tumbling. I lay down the ground, the horses behind it comes down, just smashes right on the chest. It could’ve killed me. Horses freaked me out.
Not Mary. She knows where her heart is. She’s a worshiper. She knows the significance that Jesus has in her life and she displays it. And so Jesus emphatically reminds the disciples. Maybe it’s even for us this morning to say, guys there’s Me. There’s Me. Do you see the value and meaning of who I am?
Theologians have debated as to what’s taking place here. Mary takes this vial, this year’s worth salary, my word, that is a sacrifice. And she pours on Jesus’ head. Mary isn’t wealthy, dumping this on Jesus’ head. When she’s pouring this on Jesus’ head, theologians have asked what exactly is happening here? And they’d come up with four conclusions is why this could have happened and what this might mean.
The first they just said, this is not real deep here, but they’re like, because people smell bad. You’re about to have some dinner, you smell bad, got some kind of date to go on, you just pour some oil on your head and you smell a little better. In this culture they didn’t have deodorant. So from time to time, maybe you didn’t always get a bath, especially with the disciples around you smell like fish. It’s time to pour some oil on your head. It could have happened.
The other thing is the type of gift that he’s given us is one that you would give to a dignitary, a King. You give expensive gifts to people that are worth those gifts. And so Mary in offering this as acknowledging the kingship of Jesus. Some have even suggested that what she’s doing is anointing Jesus also as a priest. I don’t completely buy that text because it says in verse eight, she has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burial.
When you read this word anointing in scripture, don’t assume it means the same as every time the word anointing is used. There’s actually several Greek words for the word anointing. Sometimes the word anointed means medicinal use, for medicinal purposes. James talks about anointing people for healing and that word is actually in a medicinal anointing. There’s, there’s another word for anointing. It’s used for charisma or the Spirit of God when the Spirit of God sets you apart for good works. And then there’s this word for anointing, which literally just means perfume.
It’s not used that much in the New Testament, but it says she put perfume on Jesus’ body before it is buried. And what Jesus is acknowledging here I think is the primary point that Jesus wants us to understand about what’s taking place. And that Mary’s recognizing what Jesus is about to do with her, with his life for her, and that’s why she’s responding with love towards him. His life’s about to become a sacrifice and she’s anointing his body for burial.
It says in this passage, she’s done what she could. When God looks at your life, he’s not going to judge you for what you don’t have. He’s looking for the faithfulness and demonstration of love of what you do have. With Mary who knows how this moment unfolded. I doubt she had much time to prepare for the arrival of Jesus, but in her mind she just thought, man, I want to love Jesus. Maybe this could even be my last moments with Jesus. How can I in these final moments, just demonstrate to him how much I love? And all of that she had.
That’s why she had in that moment she used. So then it says this in verse nine which is a beautiful statement of her worship. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done also be spoken of in memory of her. Her display has just made a ripple effect throughout history. How incredible it is to think.
I know that today this type of scenario is not going to play out. I doubt someone’s going to come to your house and you’re gonna dump a whole perfume on their head, at least out of love anyway. If you think that is, don’t do that. Sometimes the Bible tells us narrative stories, not so that you go out and do exactly what it says.
But you think about your life here. Maybe God might not have a story that’s told beyond several generations after your life. But maybe as we work together as a church, there can be a ripple effect in our community. One of the beautiful things I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of years of our churches existence, is people in our valley have come to recognize our church.
For a while it’s just been a scary place to look at. But over time we’ve worked on this facility, we’ve had people come in and thank us. We’ve actually had people drop flowers off of appreciation. I don’t know if I should share this with you, but when this place was a bar, there were people killed out here. This place did not have a good reputation. But to see what’s coming in this valley and they’ve even had opportunity in this valley to interact with different pastors and they’ll come to me and let me know because what our church does beyond these walls, how we interact in community events and stuff, the reputation that we are building with the lives of people around us, how beautiful it is. They might not know you by name, but there’s a ripple effect taking place.
Jesus is sharing the story about Mary Magdalene and then it gets to the story of the upper room. I remember I told you in the beginning that this story of Mary Magdalene, it’s out of context from the rest of the passage. This didn’t happen in chronological events. In Mark the stories being shared for reasons I’ll tell you in a minute, but when you look at the story of Mary, then all of a sudden the upper room, you get the story of Jesus.
You start to find out the disciples are running away from Christ, and you sort of asked the question, well maybe because of all the negative things are about to happen, the Lord want to give us just a nice positive story, but we have to read all this bad stuff by all his followers. Not a bad thought, but I was still don’t think it’s the point of this passage. But nonetheless you get to the story of the upper room.
I’ll share the point in just a moment, but you just get the story of the upper room. You guys might be familiar with this picture, Leonardo da Vinci. The famous Italian painter took him a few years to paint this picture, an important picture, and I’m going to totally ruin it for you. I appreciate it as art, historical art it is really good. But if you look at this story to help you understand what it looked like at the final supper with Jesus, it is completely wrong.
On the night when Jesus betrayed, he goes up the upper room and he has this intimate moment with his disciples. And so, Jesus, if you’re doing this at night, first of all, I’ll tell you that the window behind you needs to be dark. And when you look out the window, it’s more of an Italian landscape. I don’t know what that is, the Swiss Alps or something in the background. I don’t even know what mountains are in Italy. So mountains are there, not Jerusalem. That’s not a picture of Jerusalem.
You look at the table, it’s full of fish and leaven. The bread at the Passover they ate lamb and unleavened bread. And you guys know this, this is just common when you go out to eat, if you’ve got kids, mom, dad, on one side, crazy kids on the other. I wanna sit on my side and have just sanity, peaceful, nice eating. You nutsos sit on the other side. Just don’t bother the people behind you. There’s no way these disciples are like, we all want to be so close to Jesus, we’ll all eat on the same side of the table.
That did not happen. Nor were they sitting at a table that was on legs. Nor did they sit upright. So this isn’t necessarily an accurate picture. Probably a more accurate picture would be this. Tables at this time would have been more in a U shape. Jesus wouldn’t have sat in the middle of the table. He would’ve sat on one end of the U on the side. This was the place where the seat of honor was also picked. Judas would have sat in the seat of honor. And this table didn’t have large legs. In fact, they would have laid down on these pillows on their left hand side, would have reached up to the table with the right hand side in order to eat from it and their legs would have hung out from the table.
This is why in John chapter 13 when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he could easily get to their feet. It wasn’t because they were under some tablecloths somewhere. It’s because their feet were laying out and Jesus took the role of the servant, went around and wash their feet.
When you read this story transpiring between the three gospels, John 13, Matthew 26, Mark 14. You see within the story, Jesus says that one of them is going to betray them. Peter motions to John who’s sitting right beside Jesus. The reason Peter motions to John is because he’s sitting on the complete opposite side of the room. So I hear Jesus said, someone’s going to betray him. John, what’s he talking about? And then John leans back and ask Jesus the question. You may be wondering, it says in the story that John leans on Jesus’s chest. I don’t know about you when you eat, but ain’t nobody doing that to me. I gotta get my elbow. I just got out of prison. You all those, I’m getting this down and no one’s messing with me. I inhale food. There’s no break in me, once it goes, the faster I eat, the more I can get in I’ve found.
But John leans back into Jesus and we understand the setup around this table. It makes sense because John would’ve been leading on his side. His back would have been to Jesus. And he leaned over his shoulder right onto Christ. He’s saying, Hey Peter is acting crazy over there. He wants to know, who betrayed you?
It’s interesting when you read how that story plays itself out. It says in Mark 14, as they were reclining at the table and eating with Jesus, truly, I say to you that one of you will betray me. One of you is eating with me. They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, surely not I. Some of the texts like Mark 26, gives a little bit further and says, Lord, is it I? They are really torn by the thought that they could do this to Jesus, so they asked, Lord, is it I? All the disciples asking the question, Lord is it I?
Except for Judas. You know what Judas asked? Judas didn’t say, Lord. He just said, Rabbi. Interesting there’s a uniqueness to his question that’s different from the rest.
If you take that thought a little bit further, if you read the gospels and what you find is Jesus has personal interaction with all his disciples. There’s some kind of deep interaction with Jesus or some conversion story, but you know, there’s never any of that with Judas. There is no personal statement of his faith in Christ and his desire to surrender his life to Christ and the kingdom. He’s just there for what he gains. In fact, it told us in the gospel of John 12:6, that Judas just wanted to pilfer from the money box.
So maybe that leads us to ask the question, why do you worship? Is it just because of what you get?
Is it because of who he is? If you think of the strength of Jesus in these final moments? And we know Jesus hung on the cross and he said, Father, forgive them. But even on the night when he’s being betrayed and he who his betrayer is, his grace runs so deep. His betrayer sits beside him, he washes his feet. His betrayer sits in the seat of honor and he washes his feet.
The Bible even tells us that he dips bread in the cup and He shares it with Judas, which is again a display of honor. And for three years Jesus walked life with Judas. And yet Judas is going to fulfill exactly what the beginning of chapter 14 says. The religious leaders want to figure out by stealth how to take Jesus because of the crowds. And Judas just becomes that avenue. When Judas leaves this table and he goes to the religious leaders to say, “I know how you can get Jesus where other people won’t know,” the price Judas receives for turning Jesus in his 30 pieces of silver, which is the price you pay for a slave during the time of Christ. A display of what Judas thought of Jesus.
As Judas leaves Jesus then does something I think very intimate, very important, and very significant for the church. He partakes of communion at the Passover. Something we going to do here in a minute, but this is what he says while they were eating, he took some bread and after a blessing he broke it and gave it to them and said, this is my body. Take it.
They’re having a Passover meal. Jesus is now instituting communion through the new covenant that we partake up today and he’s saying this Passover meal that you’ve been celebrating for almost 2000 years was an ultimate display of me and what I would fulfill in giving my life for you. This is my body which is being broken for you. Take it. And when he had taken a cup and given thanks, he gave it to them and they all drank from it, and he said to them, this is my body of the new covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I’ll never drink of the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Now here’s something beautiful about what Jesus is doing. Not only is he taking the Passover celebration and demonstrating how he is that ultimate example, he’s also connecting a ceremony that would be comparative to the marriage celebration of two individuals that were, I would say in our culture, engaged. But it’s a little bit deeper than an engagement. In Jesus’ day, when a groom wanted to be married to a bride, or a young man was interested in a woman, he would go to the father. And he would discuss with the father a dowery to pay to make that woman his wife.
In Jesus’ day, a lady could be worth, I don’t know, a couple of camels or some cats. I don’t know. I want to institute a new culture for us this morning. Guys, if you’ve got some girls before you marry them off, I would say rather than the camel maybe work for a car or something like that, but that’s the equivalent of what they’re doing in Jesus’ day. They’re trying to come up with an agreement to the dowery to pay for the life of the bride.
Do you know what it was? Jesus’ live. He’s literally paying the dowery of his life for you. And when the payment was agreed upon, the groom and the bride would drink communion together to show that covenant had been made. And the groom would leave in order to prepare a place for his bride and they would be married
So that that ceremony, they weren’t married yet, which is why I refer to it as an engagement, but they were looking forward to that marriage ceremony because the groom had agreed to the dowry and had to pay in order for them to be married.
But do you know in that culture, if the groom were to die before that ceremony was ever conducted, she would be considered a widow. So communion becomes that symbol of two people giving their lives for one another. Jesus in the upper room with his disciples. I give my life for you and in that love, through that dowery, you give your life to me. What a beautiful picture that is.
Today when we celebrate communion, that display continues to be made known in our lives as we look to Jesus. But it still leaves me this with this question. Why did Mark take the story of Mary out of its natural chronological progression and insert the story before the last supper? Why would he do that?
When you see the context of Mark chapter 14 one of the things that you recognize is that it is always talking about preparation of death. Mary is anointing Jesus’ body for death. Jesus talks about his betrayal that leads to his death. Jesus shares the new covenant communion, which is centered upon death. The dowery paid for us.
But here’s the point. I think the story is setting the stage for how the gospels transpire and I think what it’s communicating to us is how sacrifice brings life. You think the greatest picture of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice bringing life and you think of a story here of Mary making a tremendous sacrifice in this cultural context. And how it says in verse nine that the world in the gospel, those that hear the gospel reclaim, will hear the story of Mary because her sacrifice is just communicating the beauty of life.
The story is saying to us, sacrifice brings life. And I think when you see the story of Mark unfolding, Jesus in this as culminating for his disciples, still what it means to follow him. If you remember I told you in Mark 8:34 that that was such a pinnacle verse in the context of Mark, because this becomes the place where Jesus was declaring his kingdom, he was demonstrating his kingdom, he was invited to his kingdom. And then he says in Mark 8:34 what it truly means to be a follower of him.
Jesus said this, if anyone wishes to come unto me, he must deny himself. Take up his cross and follow me. He who wishes to keep his life, we’ll lose it. But he who loses his life for my sake will find it. And now at the end of the story, Jesus is about to die. We see that culminating statement made through Mary’s sacrifice and Jesus talking about communion. That there is life in sacrifice.
When you think about this, here’s where the story becomes real. Jesus calls you to take up your cross. You ask the question, Christians, are you willing to do that? Has your life displayed that? Because here’s the truth. You can lay your life down, but you can’t crucify yourself. When you look at Jesus’ life, the Bible tells us he willingly laid himself down, but the crowd crucified Him.
What I’m saying is when we talk about taking up your cross as believers it comes in the recognition that in laying down our lives, we’re not the ones to do the crucifixion. That comes from without ourselves
In the life of a believer it is so easy when you know you’re being maligned, when you know someone’s making it difficult for me, you’ve got a bunch of horses around snorting, it becomes easy to just pull yourself off that cross and get down and be like, let me tell you something. And defend yourself. And live it out for your glory.
But what Jesus is calling us to in this passage is much bigger than our glory. It’s a relationship that runs deeper than that in him. We’ve seen ultimately as he laid his life down for us, that we can lay our lives down for him. And in that sacrifice brings life, glory to God and truthfully intimacy for the believer.
When you talk about taking up your cross, that’s not just a popular phrase. It’s one that often rests on the tongue of Christians, but it’s to recognize that your crucifixion will come outside of yourself. And when that difficult moment comes, whose glory do you stand for? Jesus or your own?
1 Peter 2, wrestled with that in our lives, but God calls us to is to allow that sacrifice to be for him. There’s a statement by John Jowett that says, this ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing. But isn’t that the display of devotion of your love for Jesus, that the world sees that love for Christ and they’re compelled to respond. It’s because of Jesus’ love for us, that we’re compelled to love him. And in turn, people love him in response to our love demonstrated to Jesus.
God uses you. Just like Mary in Mark 14:9 that the world would share the story. And so the question becomes when people look at your story, as your story goes to this world as it’s lived out, when people are left looking at your life, what would they say mattered?
I’m going to close with this. When it comes to making your life a sacrifice, one of the things I just want to point out is a sacrifice isn’t just a one and done thing. It could be. For some Christians it is. But a sacrifice really isn’t a one and done thing because the Bible calls you to be a living sacrifice, which means every day there is a worship war happening in your soul and you have opportunity to lay yourself down or not.
What do you lay yourself down for? What will your life in the culmination speak to this world? When I was a, um, kid, wild and broken, I can remember I’d go to my grandfather’s house from an early age up until I had my own car and didn’t care what happened at that point. I remember my grandpa would always sit in this chair in the middle of the living room and there would be lots of grandkids going around just nuts. A bunch of hillbilly hoodlums.
My grandfather, he had two incredible gifts that he showed me. One is that an old man can fall asleep anywhere at any time for any reason. You just watched that magic take place. And the other one was that he loved Jesus. Because every day I knew I could find my grandfather’s sitting at that chair, reading His Word, pouring out this life as perfume before Christ. He loved Jesus.
Later in life when I came to know Jesus and I’m kind of at that moment where I’m like, okay, now what? One of the things I had to go back to was the example my grandfather had in just spending time with Jesus. And when he died, my mom handed me something that is important to me. It was this notebook of these letters that he had journaled of his time that he spent in that chair with Jesus. And when my mom gave me that notebook one of the first places I turned to was the story at the end of Jesus’s life. And one of the things that he said about Jesus as he was getting ready to go to the cross, he remarked of all the interactions people have with Christ as he went to the cross and he said how close people were to the cross. But man, how far they were from the cross.
It’s incredible that you could go through a story like this as we’ve unfolded over the series of the summer on the gospel of Mark. And I don’t know how, but your hearts still not be provoked to worship. But the encouragement in the story of Mary in chapter 14 is just to say this: sacrifice brings life.
When people around you see the value in love that you carry for Jesus, what an impact that makes in the world around you. So the question is, what would they say? I don’t ask it to guilt you. I don’t want you to walk out and be like, man, I am messing it up. But just to say this, man, I agree and I want to walk with Him. God, let me be a living sacrifice.