♫ NO AUDIO THIS WEEK♫
SHE HAS DONE A BEAUTIFUL THING
Key Verse 11:6
“I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Last week, S. Joseph delivered a message worthy of regard on the end of the age. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Mk: 13:31. Previous to this, Jesus and his disciples were at the temple where Jesus called attention to a poor old widow who offered her last two coins to live on as an offering to God. After pondering her fate, she sacrificially gave all, with an absolute attitude toward God, thus setting the standard of selfless giving. She was one of the few individuals who left an impression on Jesus. No sooner had this happened then Jesus and his disciples left the temple. Upon reaching the streets of the temple, one of Jesus’ disciples gazed upon the magnificence of the temple walls and how imposing its stones were. He should have pondered the widows offering and her history making faith. But he was a man whose hopes were still anchored in this world. So Jesus gave his disciples a shocking preview of human history to open their eyes to the true reality. He taught them that all things must come to an end, that someday human history will count for nothing. Therefore what is most important is to serve God’s history and to build up God’s history. They were not to be caught up in the futility of human history which will ultimately come to an end. They ought to follow the example of this widow and make history as she did, and even impressing God, not being so concerned with the fading luster of the things in this world.
Surely the teaching Jesus gave on the end of the age must have left a lasting impression on the disciples, at least for a couple of days or as long as memory would serve. Soon afterward they forgot Jesus teaching and were drawn back into the world and its events. In time, short or long, another historical event took place right in front of their eyes; an event of epic proportion which they ought to take notice of by a woman who made history, a woman who impressed Jesus by her actions. What was it that she did which was considered significant in shaping God’s history? Jesus even declared, “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (v9) Now, even after two thousand years, her story is still being told in the hope that those who carefully regard her story, embracing its teaching might too learn how to impress God by doing a beautiful thing to Jesus. In this way they too can try and shape history in this generation.
Look at verses 1 and 2. “Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. But not during the Feast, “they said” or the people may riot.” At this time, Jesus ministry was nearing its end. He would soon surrender his life to those who would flog him and crucify him until his lifeless body hung limp on the cross. It was no surprise to Jesus that this would be done to him. In fact, this was the very purpose for which he came, to surrender his life for the ransom of all sinners who would believe. He would suffer betrayal in just two more days. His enemy’s had not been so aggressive initially in their confrontation, but now they were much different. They were plotting his death and waiting for an opportune time to arrest him and do to him all that their wicked hearts schemed to do. Jesus did not go into hiding as one might think. Rather he boldly continued doing the work his Father appointed him to do. That work was mainly preaching the gospel and making known the coming of the Kingdom of God. Most of the remaining work was aimed at preparing his disciples to eventually take over the gospel work that Jesus had come to establish. And in what time remained, Jesus made it his task to go out searching for those whose faith had become monumental in the accounts of gospel history. Those in the ranks of faith mentioned included the centurion who said, “Just say the word and, and my servant would be healed.” (Mt. 8:8) Or even one humble woman who said to Jesus, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table.” At this historical moment is when this woman who never said a word but resolutely sought out Jesus, poured out her blessing and whose actions spoke louder than words could ever say. Jesus did not want his disciples to miss any part of this deep act of love and true worship that she had toward Jesus. In two short days, Jesus would perish, but none the less, he took precious time to greet this woman, making sure that what she did would not be discounted by his disciples but impressed upon their minds and hearts as a lesson for all time.
Read verse 3. “While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” Simon, who was now hosting had once been a leper. His appearance was disfigured with ugly sores and a rotten stench which could not be ignored. Once he had been a living dead man, who was condemned to live in isolation away from normal human contact. He could not enjoy ordinary life like everyone else. His once beloved family members were aghast at his horrific appearance as they ran away in the other direction. He was heartbroken to see his children cry and scream at the appearance of their living-dead father who gradually was slipping towards the grave. What could he do but mourn his lonely existence and all of the people he felt that he had let down in his life as a condemned man. But somehow, by the immeasurable grace of God, Simon had received the life-giving touch of Jesus, and was healed of his leprosy. Simon was no longer an abhorrent creature of fate, but a man with clean new skin like a baby. A gift from God. He had returned home to live with his family. His children wrapped their arms around him and would not let go. “Daddy, I love you!” And Simon had never forgotten the grace of Jesus in his life. Ever since Jesus healed him, Simon woke up every morning, knelt down on his knees and gave thanks to God for his restored life. He prayed to be one who would not easily forget the grace of God in his life, which many are prone to do. He prayed to always remember the leper whom he was and what Jesus had done to bring life back into his heart. Then, in hopeful expectation, Simon would anticipate that day when Jesus would once again visit his home town so that he might show his love and gratitude for what Jesus had done for him. Now, Jesus was at Simons house eating dinner and Simons gratitude was flowing outward from the brim of his heart.
Many lepers of today have been touched by the healing hand of Jesus but yet how easily they forget. They do not remember who they were and how the Savior brought them back from the doom of a condemned life. They have forgotten the compassion of Jesus and who they once were. It is not easy to remember who we were and remain in thankfulness of heart for what Jesus has done. Lepers, when they had been made whole again, easily forget the hand that touched them and in pride despise those who reached out and touched their leprous lives. Usually they become twice as vile as they had been before. But Simon had not forgotten the hand that touched him and had brought him back to a life among the living. Usually an important man’s house is heavily guarded and the servants are not eager to allow anyone into the house who has not been invited to come in. But look at verse three again. “A woman of ill repute had been allowed to pass through the front door and make her way all the way to where the guests were reclining. She was a woman of questionable character yet nobody stopped her to ask who she was, or what she was carrying into Simons house. Perhaps, Simon in his gratitude to Jesus, had left his house open for anyone who was in need, especially in need of the grace of God. Perhaps he thought, who am I to keep anyone away from the grace of God in coming to Jesus. He in his heart, in his deep love for Jesus had been a man who welcomed anyone into his home and heart that was in search of the Savior. Blessed is the man or woman who never forgot the leper they had been, nor the grace of God in their lives. Blessed is the man or woman whose lives and hearts and homes are a welcome to sinners in need of the Saviors compassion. How unthankful are those who so easily forget the compassion that once touched them and are too quick to look down on others in need of healing who are far better lepers then they have become.
Who was this unknown woman who was allowed to come into Simon’s house without any questions asked about her presence? Mark does not mention anything about her in his gospel, or her background. But if she is the same woman mentioned in another gospel account, she may have been a notoriously sinful woman. This reputation was not at all desirable for any woman. She was a woman who gave herself freely to men in exchange for cheap love or money. Since she was a woman of ill repute reveals to us that she no longer was mindful about what others thought or said about her and lived her life in any way she wanted too. Perhaps she had thoughts of changing her life and character since deep down inside she really did not want to live this way. But in truth, even if she wanted to reform, it was impossible to do so since sin keeps the person coming for more, being trapped inwardly. It has been said: “Sin always takes us a little farther than we wanted to go. Sin always makes us stay a little longer than we wanted to stay. And sin always makes us pay a little more than we wanted to pay.” This nameless woman had been caught. She had gone farther then she had anticipated and stayed in her sin longer than she had intended too, and was now paying the price more than she had intended to pay in the first place. Now there was no way out and her life had been bound up in a lot of bad choices. But even now she had choices she could make. She could either go on sinning in helplessness or go to Jesus, the alternative.
When she considered her choices she was wise enough to take the alternative and follow Jesus. This step to follow Jesus was not so easy. There were doubts that were not easy for others to overcome. She did not remain stuck in this quandary but decided to venture outside of her doubts and take the path of faith that led to Jesus. There were fears that others were not willing to brave. But she decided to put her fears aside and venture into something daring. There were obstacles but she made up her mind to continue on resolving that obstacles were no hindrance and opportunities aught be pursued. So she tossed fear to the wind as she went. So, Jesus was at the house of a man she had known. How could she enter this house since she was a woman of notorious character, who ought to be shunned? But she went in. She was surprised there were no hindrances and the servants opened the door and let her in. She anticipated bursting in to find her way to Jesus, but for some reason no one stopped her. Very quietly and with determined footsteps she made her way towards Jesus being very cautious of the dinner guests. Now he had been in her gaze, as he sat reclining with the other guests. In this opportune moment with Jesus, she cut off the neck of the perfume bottle and began to pour it generously on his head. The scent was so fragrant that it caught the attention of everyone in the room. Who could not but take notice of the ceremony that was taking place upon this pouring of perfume on Jesus. Who could say anything while she carefully poured out this treasure mingled with her tears on Jesus head and body.
Why did she do such a thing? This gospel of Mark does not mention why? Her actions speak louder than words. This perfume was invaluable. It was like pouring out her money to survive for a whole year. Who knows how hard she worked to acquire this expensive perfume, but now for all to see it was trickling to the floor beneath Jesus feet. Why this seeming waste of this precious perfume? Why did she do it? She must have loved Jesus with all of her heart, mind, soul and strength as one who loves and worships God. She must have seen in Jesus the grace of God that came to set her free from sin and shame. She must have believed that no matter how much of a spiritual leper she had been, there was room in the Saviors heart for someone like her, to love and to heal. She must have believed that God had not given up on her but had sent his One and Only Son to rescue her from her life trapped by her sinful habits that wouldn’t go away. She must have longed to be forgiven by Jesus, free from her burden of sin. She longed to begin a new life with Jesus. The fact that she poured out her life-savings on Jesus shows that she valued Jesus and his forgiveness more than her life savings. Now she trusted God with her life and particularly now that her life-savings lay trickling on the floor.
She deeply believed that there is no one greater in life worth and worthy of her love than Jesus. So she remained there quietly pouring out her precious perfume until she had poured out its precious very last drop. In the quiet place of her heart this woman confessed the outpouring of her soul. Lord, forgive me a sinner. Lord, nothing I have is worthy of you; nothing is truly enough to say, I love you. But here is my heart, here is my life. Take them as I pour them out on you in gratitude for your grace. She was a woman who made history. Her actions were of historical proportion. What she did was beautiful.
Read verses 4 and 5. “Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ‘Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.’ And they rebuked her harshly!” It is amazing how they so quickly laid claim of the perfume on behalf of the poor. The poor are a social problem that has been in the world since the beginning of humanity. Surely they are important, but they are not priority of life. As long as there is sin and greed and the love of money in this world, the poor will ever be among us. Who can entirely solve the problem of the poor? Solving this problem of the poor will never come to pass until the coming of the kingdom of God. Meanwhile the poor must learn that they have something much greater for them in this life then having food, that is their human dignity. Human dignity will remain in the soul, kept to ones self, even if the stomach remains empty. If the heart and soul are empty, then what remains of life is futile. While the poor need to learn there is something more important than the stomach, and more important than the comforts of life, those who help the poor as these men with Jesus proclaimed, must learn that the poor cannot be satisfied with only bread. The soul of man needs much more than a piece of bread to be happy. It would take the disciples much time until they could understand this woman who knew quite well what satisfies the soul. She found what is most important of life. She found, without a doubt, that human dignity begins when the soul rests in God and draws its strength from Jesus, the sustainer of all life.
Upon understanding Jesus ministry we know the heart of Christian faith is not rooted in feeding the poor. It is not getting rich or getting ahead in the world. The heart of Christian faith is not good deeds, trying to win God’s approval by tipping the scales. The heart of the Christian is having Jesus and serving his cause. When we have Jesus, then we will be eager to feed the poor. But having Jesus, and serving Jesus is and his gospel is the priority of life. This woman could make history because she valued Jesus and his gospel and his forgiveness and his grace more than a life savings, more than anything else in life. She was a woman who made history since she pointed out the priority of life.
Many say that they are Christians, but their priorities show otherwise. To them, everything else is a priority and then comes Jesus. They claim to love and serve him while all the while Jesus work remains only in the background of their lives. But this woman did actions that spoke volumes revealing her heart towards Jesus. Actions prove what words cannot. They remain only words without content. When we make Jesus the priority of our lives, the gospel work is made naturally, history is made naturally, influence is made naturally.
Read verse 8 again. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.” Jesus said, “She did what she could.” In this way she made history. She became a part of gospel history, sharing in Jesus suffering, suffering for world salvation in her own capacity. She made Jesus her priority and what she did was not a waste, but a part of Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. Read Verse 9. “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel in preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Through this, Jesus had great vision that the gospel would be preached, not only in Jerusalem, but throughout the whole world. She set down the standard of what is most important for people who have been touched by the love and grace of Jesus. The standard was set that a forgiven man or woman freed from sin must put Jesus first, trusting God with their life and future. Surely God will accomplish this through his grace in a forgiven sinners life. She was a woman of beauty in the eyes of God. Yet there are some who continue in vile and ugly behavior even after being touched by the hand of the Savior. Perhaps they are on a long leash until they learn the spiritual priority of life. They do not know how to honor Jesus, or how to do something beautiful for Jesus. They and we must learn how to honor Jesus with the same attitude as this woman who made Biblical history, making him the priority of our lives. We can learn how to do beautiful things for Jesus that too are accomplished in the name of gospel work. May God enable us to make history and to be a part of his history.
Look at verses 10 and 11. Judas should have learned from this woman how to do something beautiful to Jesus but his heart was bent on betrayal. How sad was Jesus that Judas would go out and turn away. After realizing something about Jesus life after this event, that he would be penniless, and homeless, Judas hardened his heart. He did not want to be like Jesus in that way. He could not accept that this woman poured out her heart in preparation for Jesus burial. When he realized that Christian life is rooted in sacrifice, he decided to step out of Gods history and embrace human history which was destined to perish. So for a few silver coins, he sold Jesus, his best friend to the hand of the Chief Priest in betrayal. We must ask ourselves what choice we will make. We have an opportunity to make history while the grace of Jesus to do so is still alive within us. May God help us to remember what he has done for us so we can do what we can in serving his gospel to the world. Amen.