What was the feast of the Passover for? Unleavened bread?
Why might the scribes and priests choose this time to kill Jesus?
Why in stealth?
How were lepers generally treated in that culture?
How did Jesus treat them?
How could they “recline” at the table?
What happened while they were visiting?
Was perfume commonplace then like it is now? What is the significance that this was very expensive perfume?
What can we learn about the leady through this event?
What we can learn about Jesus?
What can we learn about the other people there through their reaction?
How much is 300 denarii?
What lessons can you learn from this passage?
How can we show similar love and affection for Christ?
What can we give to Him?
Luke 10:27 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
1 John 4:19 – We love because He first loved us.
Matthew 6:24 – You cannot serve God and money.
2 Corinthians 9:7 – Give not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.
Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.
Proverbs 19:17 – Being generous to the poor.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. We learned about the Feast of the Passover (sometimes called the Feast of Unleavened Bread) in our study of Exodus. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt and had finally been freed after more than four hundred years of oppression. Through great power and miracles, God brought them out of Egypt. They left Egypt in such a hurry that they could not even wait for the bread to rise. Thus, they took unleavened (no yeast) bread. Since then this Passover feast commemorated their liberation from Egypt though God’s great miracles and the unleavened bread was a reminder of how they left that land in haste.
2. The chief priests and scribes sought to kill Jesus – This is not new news. For much of the book of Mark we can see their hatred for Jesus intensifying. They were already hoping to kill Jesus for a long time. Only now we see that they are not willing to wait much longer, wanting to finish him off before He grew any more popular. While they looked down on the common people, they also feared them because they were not always easy to control. Because many of the common people believed in Jesus they were afraid of the backlash if they just arrested Jesus publicly. Thus they sought to capture Jesus in secret. It is a reminder that sin loves the dark and many times the motivation for doing something in secret is a bad one.
3. Jesus was visiting with friends in Bethany – The picture we get of Jesus is very different than the picture of the priests and scribes. Uneasy and fearful, they schemed and plotted in secret. Jesus, on the other hand, was out in the open. Even though He knew the day of His death was near, He still is at peace spending His last days in the company of many of those closest to Him. This passage says he was “reclining at the table.” The image is a very relaxing one. Although Jesus would die soon, He didn’t let it affect Him. He didn’t go into the bedroom and sulk. He didn’t waste His time on self-pity. He wasn’t brooding. Throughout His life we see that He is a “people person,” giving of His time and energy to help others. He continues in this habit right up until the very end.
4. Jesus associated with outcasts – Jesus was not at the home of Simon the silversmith, Simon the noble, or Simon the quarterback. He was at the home of Simon the leper. Lepers were outcasts in society. When you saw them on the street, you would turn the other way. And yet Jesus had likely healed this leper. Even though others may have avoided Simon even after healing, Jesus had valued him when he was sick and when he was healthy. Why? He was created in the image of God like each of us. His soul had inherent value. Jesus loved him regardless of what he looked like. How do you treat people that are different? Do you avoid certain people? Look down on others? Or do you love all, even the ugly and unlovable?
5. The woman – We know that perfume in those days was a luxury item, even much more so than it is today. Perfume was rare. Factories didn’t crank it out by the ton. Ingredients were hard to come by and it was hand-made. What was the perfume originally intended for? We really don’t know, but it is safe to assume that it would have been saved for the most special of occasions, such as a wedding. In the passage, people conclude that it could have been sold for 300 denarii. That is roughly what a well paid worker would have made in an entire year. This was no small gift! It is interesting to consider this gift in comparison with the widow’s gift in the last chapter. While one gift was tiny and the other huge in numeric value, both touched Christ’s heart and were deeply valued by Him. What can we learn from this woman?
A. We should give our very best to Christ – She did not hold back. This perfume was probably being saved by her for a very special event. And to her, this was the perfect event. Jesus was special. In fact, He was more important to her than anything else in her life and was worthy of this kingly gift because in fact He is the King of Kings. What is Christ worth to you? He is the King of Kings. We should give our very best to Him without holding back. This means sacrificial giving, giving that costs us. But as we learned from the widow in the last chapter it is not only about the amount. It is about the heart. Both the widow and this lady had the right heart attitude. They loved Christ from their heart and showed this love through action.
B. She had tunnel vision when serving Christ –Some might have expected to receive praise after such a costly and selfless gift. But she was scolded rather than praised. While we can’t see for sure what she was thinking at the time, she didn’t seem to care what other people thought, but only cared what Jesus thought. Our goal should also be to please God rather than man. Many worldly people will say were are foolish for serving Christ. But don’t listen to them. Would you rather some random people think you are foolish or the Creator of the universe think you are foolish?
C. She was radical in her service to Christ – This lady went far above and beyond the call of duty to show her love to Christ. It seems illogical to “waste” such an amount of money on this anointing that would wear off in a short period of time. But actually it is the most logical thing in the world. The chief end of man is to glorify God. That is what she was doing. She was doing what she was created to do. Christ has the highest position in the universe and He therefore deserves the best that we have. To the world this is radical. But in this case, radical is the right response. Anything less is insufficient.
6. The people scolded her – We don’t know who these people are. It is likely that since they were in Bethany it was some of Jesus’ disciples. To a certain extent they were being logical. They were counting out in their minds how many poor people could be helped with this. But they missed the point that Jesus, the Son of God was right in front of them. There is no better use of that money than to give it to Christ. Think to what Jesus was about to go through. He was about to suffer a gruesome death, separation from the Father, and taking the punishment of sin for the past, present, and future. Is it too much to give Him such comfort and encouragement before He faced that darkest hour alone?
7. Jesus commended her – Jesus’ response tells us all we need to know about her decision. He commends her because she made the right decision. Other people scolded her, but Jesus praised her. Which is better, to please people or to please Christ?
Application: Each of us will surely face situations where we have to choose pleasing people or pleasing God. We cannot always do both. What will you choose?
8. Jesus’ view of the poor – Some look at these verses and wonder how Jesus could so easily dismiss the poor. But notice that Jesus never says you should not give to the poor and in fact implies that it is good to look out for them. His own life demonstrated this. While the religious leaders looked down on the low and out, Jesus always cared for them and gave them time when no one else would. Throughout the Bible we see many verses about caring for the poor and we should do it. But Jesus’ point is that He Himself would be with them for only a very short time. He was preparing to die for the sins of the world, so she was not remiss in showing her love and affection to Him directly. For the married couples, imagine that your parents come from far away for a short visit. You may put their needs first above your wife/husband since you don’t see them often. That might mean making food that your parents like that your spouse does not. Or it might mean doing activities that they enjoy, but your spouse doesn’t. You do this not because you do not care for your spouse anymore, but because there is a limited time to show your love to your parents and you want to capitalize on it. Then after they leave, you may do something special for your spouse. This is kind of what is going on in this passage, except the relationship with Christ is the most important and fundament one. The brevity of His time on earth only highlights that more.
9. Prepare my body for burial – It is unlikely the woman intended to do this. More likely she intended to “anoint” Him like kings were anointed, showing her belief that He was the King of Israel and the Messiah. But Jesus applied this to His upcoming burial as a foreshadow of what was going to happen.
10. Wherever the gospel is preached, what this woman has done will be spoken of in memory of her – This is true. Even now almost 2000 years later, we remember this woman and her excellent example of sacrificial giving.
Application: What are you going to do about it? What do you need to do to apply the lessons we have learned today? What do you need to do in response to Christ’s Lordship? What can you do better to treat Him like the King of Kings?