By Lisa Thayer
We begin Chapter 14 with Jesus and His disciples at the home of Simon the Leper. Jesus must have healed Simon, although we don’t read it here. Simon would have lived in the tombs and not in Bethany because a leper was considered unclean. So we can assume Jesus healed him and now in his gratitude he has invited Jesus and the followers of Jesus into his home to share a meal.
In verses 3, we read that Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anoints Jesus’ head with very expensive perfume. Anointing is not something we are accustomed to in Western culture. But in the Eastern culture, every great somebody gets anointed. In the Old Testament they anointed their kings, their priests, and their prophets. It was something done out of love and exultation. We in the West find it strange for a man to be anointed with perfume – it would be unmanly for us, but not to them. It is a beautiful and precious ritual.
This perfume Mary uses to anoint Jesus is worth one year’s wage for a man. When we first met Mary, she simply sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Jesus teach. She didn’t spend much time preparing for the needs of all of His followers, she left that to her sister Martha. Mary owes Jesus so much. Jesus raised her brother Lazarus from the dead. She seemed to recognize the eternal life He had to offer. She also seemed to understand, better than even the disciples, why Jesus was going to die. So this anointing was for Jesus – something beautiful and precious she had to offer Him in return. Love is extravagant isn’t it?
Judas, the only Judean (the only cultured and educated one), the elected treasurer of the group, sees this as an outlandish and unbelievable act. And the other disciples join him in his observation of this wasted performance and ridicule Mary by saying that this perfume could have been sold for a year’s wages and given to the poor.
Jesus tells them to leave her alone because she has done a beautiful thing. Jesus had told the disciples three times already that He would die. “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial” (v. 8b). And Jesus tells them that she will be remembered whenever the gospel is preached. (v. 9). Jesus praises her for her unselfish act of worship. The essence of worshiping Christ is to regard Him with the utmost love, respect and devotion, and to be willing to sacrifice to Him what is most precious.
In verse 12, Jesus sends two disciples to go and prepare for the Passover. It doesn’t tell us here in Mark, but in Luke 22:8 we find out He sent Peter and John. Who does Jesus tell them they will meet? A man carrying a jar of water. I discovered that men of that time did not carry jars or jugs of water, the women did, so it would be obvious for Peter and John to notice this man. And they were to “Follow him.” I found this passage very interesting as it appears that Peter and John are preparing something for Jesus, but really, it’s Jesus who has prepared it all. He had taken care of all the details. All Peter and John had to do was to “Follow him.”
This unknown man, who will be easily recognizable, has a house and a room, already prepared. We don’t ever find out who this man is. He’s just a humble, plain ole man, never to be exalted, never named, but loves the Lord.
I have to admit, I have found myself like Elijah at times, feeling like ‘I’m the only one.’ Do you remember that? In 1 Kings 19:14, Elijah complained that he thought he was the only one left. But what did God tell him? “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” What about Paul when he was discouraged in Corinth? Corinth was full of heathens. Paul had just come from Athens where they scoffed and laughed at him. What does Jesus tell Paul? “…I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:10)
Do you ever feel discouraged because no one seems to listen to you? Maybe you are not being noticed for your change in lifestyle now that you are a Christian. And you simply feel all alone…
Back to the upper room. Where do the disciples return after Jesus is crucified? They gather in this upper room. Where does Jesus appear to the disciples? In this upper room. Where does Jesus appear to Thomas after he doubted Jesus’ resurrection? In this upper room. Where does the Holy Spirit come to the disciples? The upper room. This humble, unnamed man, whom Jesus prepared to be ready for all of these events, must have loved Jesus extravagantly to give out of what he had over and over.
Have you ever noticed that when you find the rejection of Christ, it is among those who are the prominent? But what about those people who chose to live among the unreached? They humbly go about their lives just talking about Jesus to their neighbors. They are unelected. They are very humble and unassuming. Unknown. They are those willing to give out of what they have and share the grace of God with those around them. They are devoted to the Word of God and offer hospitality to their neighbors.
Am I lost in the service I do for Christ? Can I let go of what it will cost me to serve Him? Can I give out of my wealth? Is my love and devotion ready to welcome Jesus at any moment? Am I humble enough to follow the fragrance of Jesus? Am I willing to be unknown for my service?