Bible Study Lessons - Message Transcript:
I wanted to do something a little bit different, you know, a little deviation from the norm of Matts's Sunday live stream talks. So I have taken this week's story from Mark's gospel, and I've merged it with the story from John's Gospel to create a complete narrative. Read through it and write down what sticks out to you
It was the start of the Jewish holiday, a seven-day period known as the feast of the unleavened bread, as a celebration that happens every year. And it kind of culminates in the Passover, which is a time to remember the Exodus, the freeing of slaves from Egypt, and the supernatural protection around their families.
And Jesus and his disciples were at Bethany, which was a town near Jerusalem, just at the foot of the Mount of Olives. When this feast, this celebration had started. And they had been invited by Simon the leper to come and enjoy his hospitality and eat with them. And they all sat at his table, alongside friends, such as Lazarus, because he was there. Now, they may have talked to Lazarus about what it was like to be raised from the dead, something that Jesus did a few weeks earlier. Or maybe they talked to Simon, who would have now not been a leper, because that he wouldn't have been able to host the party and be a leper. So maybe they talk to him about, about getting healed, and was he healed by Jesus? I think it probably was more than likely, that's why had the celebration there.
The conversation, you know, I think would have been intimate, you know, the kinds you get from those that have sort of journeyed through challenges, and, and sort of struggle together the, you know, the struggles of life, the challenges of life, the victories of life.
And their conversation around that table was very, very different to the conversation that was happening on the other side back into Jerusalem. It was a conversation between the religious leaders, the chief priests, and the scribes. And for the first time, really, they were united around a common vision, or should I say it was a common enemy? It was no longer Rome, it was Jesus. Jesus, the healer was a thorn in their flesh, he had called out their hypocrisy, way too many times. So these religious men now started to sort of resort to trickery, and to lies. They wanted him dead, regardless of the cost to their own personal souls, regardless of the rules they taught and believed in. You see, this was too important to them. They knew that Jesus was in Bethany eating at Simon's house, Simon, the leper, the outcast, the unclean, one who had been healed, yet another reason to kill Jesus. But Jesus wasn't enough. Their thirst for blood was growing, and it was as strong as strong could be, as they talked and spurred each other on in their evil acts. They plot expanded to kill Lazarus too, he had become too much of a celebrity people went to Bethany just to see Lazarus, this man that Jesus had raised from the dead. And when Lazarus told his story, a great many Jews believed in Jesus, and that had to be stopped too. Two men that night, were added to a hitlist. As the self appointed models of righteousness set around their table, plots were formed. Its as if Jesus could sense the scheming the evil that was growing and coming for him. It was troubling him. The day was rapidly approaching, and he knew it. I can see him looking at the people around the table, his friends, as they ate, and they laughed. Jesus had tried in the past to talk to them about what was going to happen, but they didn't understand it. No one could. It was utter foolishness to their ears. Lazarus' sister, Mary, also, seemed to sense that something was not right. She and her sister Martha had been busy serving the food. With Martha, especially taking pride in hosting well, it was what Martha did. Last time Jesus was eating with their family, Mary had taken some time to sit at the feet of Jesus, and just listen to him teach. And Martha, of course, got all kinds of indignant about this. Her desire was for all things prim and proper. But that meant Mary was needed to help serve a minister to the guest, not kind of usurp this honoured position of a disciple at Jesus's feet. A woman should never do that, especially her sister.
Was it whilst Mary said Jesus's feet or watch while she sort of watched her brother stumble out of the tomb with his burial bandages still on? What is it then that she made the decision to give to Jesus her very best in the future? That moment isn't clear. But what is clear to Mary is this moment, looking around at the people around the table, listening to the conversations, seeing what's happening, and maybe sensing in Simon's house, that something was wrong for Jesus. Now for hundreds of years at feasts, just like this olive oil was used to anoint the heads of guests. But in this moment, olive oil was not enough. It would not be the best that she had to give. The moment required her best, she knew that. So Mary took a flask, which was made of alabaster and broke the long thin neck, and she immediately smells the beautiful fragrance that comes from the oil of spikenard. There was no going back now, it could only be used once. And this expensive oil was a testament to their wealth as a family. It was the best oil that she had. She goes to Jesus and pours it over his head and his feet and anoints him. The rest of the disciples stop talking amongst themselves as they heard the jar break, and they started to smell this amazing fragrance. But the silence didn't last long as they started to murmur amongst themselves. Some of them instantly become indignant and angry. "That oil costs a year salary!" exclaimed Simon son, Judas. "Why was it not sold? The money should have been given to the poor!", he shouted. Mary could feel everyone looking at her, she could hear their anger, and she starts to retreat in. And I can almost see Jesus shifted his seat as a criticism is hailed at Mary. He hears what they say. And you know what, there's even a reasonable question in the midst of it. But he also knew the heart of the critic. He knew Judas. And I kind of see him standing between Mary and the disciples, especially Judas, and looking Judas right in the eye, as he says, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me, for you have the poor with you always. And whenever you wish, you may do them good. But me, you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint my body for burial." You know what? That shirts up all of the men in the room in an instant. But that's not enough for Jesus. He feels so strongly about this. He follows it up with an incredible statement. "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her,
So that's the story! Okay. So as you can tell, I just took some pieces of Scripture and just tried to unpack a little bit of what's going on. Just painting the picture. But what stuck out to you? What spoke to you? I'd love to know in the comments, write it in the comments. And as you're busy writing, I'm going to play some videos of what other people have sent to me what sticks out to them.
Mark's gospel is the shortest of all the Gospels, and it often provides graphic eyewitness details more than any of the others. Mark reported that some were indignant and almost abusive. Yet the woman's gift was both an act of love and an act of faith. In a sense, you know, it's also a confession of futility. It says she poured perfume on the body beforehand, to prepare for burial. Nothing could alter the tragic course of events that must take place. But in love and faith. She did what she could do for Jesus. Often we feel deeply frustrated by our inability to help those we love. If we could only we would change so much. The agony of someone we love, going through a divorce, the uncertainty of another's unemployment, the anxiety of yet another illness. Don't get locked into what you can't do. Perhaps one reason the beautiful thing this woman did for Jesus should be remembered for should encourage us. Heartbroken, she could do no more. She did what she could. And it was a beautiful thing. Let's do whatever we can for others out of love, and through hurting for them. And hearing that maybe we can't do anymore. Jesus's defense of the woman of Bethany assures me that when we do what we can we do enough.
Mary's, sensed the sacrifice. She sacrificed regardless of others opinions, and what they think of her. She was willing to give up this perfume which represented her high status, her wealth, and her family's wealth, because she knew the importance of who she was sacrificing to. And it just kind of made me question like, how often do we make sacrifices for those around us? Who is important to us, or what is important to us that we are willing to sacrifice for? Because often I don't think we are willing to make sacrifices. But she sacrificed regardless of what others would think, because she knew the importance of Jesus, who she was sacrificing to. I know for me when my friends sacrifice their time for me, or my sisters give up something they're playing with so that I can play with it. It means a lot. And it shows me that they love me. This perfume was her like status, her wealth. It represents her riches. Yet, she gave it up for the sake of love. Are we willing to do that? I think in our workplaces, in our schools, and there will always be situations where we may not want to stand up or we may not want to sacrifice and give up a status. And give up what people think of us. But sometimes we need to act like Jesus do and act in the cause of justice.
The thing that sticks out to me about this story is gifts. The story talks about Mary and her brother Lazarus. Imagine Mary's grief when Lazarus dies, but also her tears of joy, and her overwhelming emotion when Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead. That's the first gift in this story. How can you ever repay someone who brings life back to someone you love? The second gift is given by Mary. she expresses her love and gratitude to Jesus through an extravagant gift of expensive, fragrant oil. The story says it was worth about a years salary. So imagine spending 10s of 1000s of pounds on a bottle of oil. That seems pretty crazy, doesn't it? But Mary pours it over Jesus's feet, knowing that it would make her seen. She knows that everyone else will notice because the beautiful smell. But her gratitude for what Jesus had done was greater than her concern and fear of what other people might think. Then Jesus explains the significance of the oil. Without Mary knowing it, her actions have spoken of what was going to happen to Jesus. Jesus says in the story, she has come to anoint my body for burial. Her actions reveal this third gift that Jesus would give up his life that he would give himself these three gifts. They're not about human values. When we give a gift, we think about what the other person might want. But we also think about how we would look, we would think about is our gift too cheap, or is it too expensive? How much did they spend on us when they bought us a gift? How much should we spend back? So that's our human way of thinking about gifts. But this story talks about something much, much deeper. It's God's value system of love.