Monday, February 22, 2010

Anointed by a Woman in Bethany: Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending February 28, 2010

Purpose: To encourage us to offer what is most precious in our lives to Christ

Scripture Text: Matthew 26:6-13 (NRSV)

Matthew 26:6-13
(6) Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, (7)a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. (8)But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? (9)For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ (10)But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. (11)For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. (12)By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. (13)Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This story is found in 3 of the 4 Gospels, see also Mark 14:3-9 and John 11:55-12:11. John has the story taking place on the Saturday before the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. While the story takes place in the home of Simon the Leper, Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead about a month prior to this was there as well as his sisters Martha and Mary along with the disciples.

While Matthew does not name the woman, John tells us in his writings it was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. To set the scene, it would seem the roads were crowded with travelers in preparation for the Passover feast that would begin in a few days. Good Jews would come early and go through the proper cleansing prior to observing the Passover feast. Bethany is about 2 miles East of Jerusalem and was one of Jesus' favorite places to rest and spend some quality time with his friends. Simon the leper had evidently been previously healed by Jesus and he wanted to host a banquet for Jesus and his close friends and disciples.

We should take note of verse 2 of this chapter, where Jesus tells everyone that the Son of Man will be crucified. Obviously Mary got the message, even if no one else did. There was an alabaster flask of very expensive perfume and oil that she had kept. We are told it was worth a year’s wages, but Mary was not concerned about the cost, she only knew if Jesus was going to be crucified, she wanted to give Him the kindness and ritual that would be given to a King. She chose to anoint Him from head to toe with this sweet fragrance, just as would be done in any court where the King was facing certain death. Mary got it; she knew that Jesus was the anointed one of God the Messiah/Christ. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were very close to Jesus, but Mary seems to have a spiritual understanding of who Jesus was.

No sooner had the flask been unsealed with the fragrance filling the room and the grumblings begin, with Judas the betrayer leading the charge. “What a waste, think of how much a year’s wages could have done for the poor.” (My paraphrase) Now we know that Judas continually stole the money out of the disciples’ money box according to John. (Jn. 12:6) It is doubtful Judas had any real conviction about helping the poor.

(I have recently witnessed a similar situation locally, John Travolta, and his wife Kelly Preston, live here in Ocala, recently John flew two large jets down to help in the Haitian relief effort. Then someone sent a letter to the editor of our local paper wondering why they did not help the poor of Ocala.)

Jesus quickly points out two things; first, don't blame Mary for discerning what was going to happen to her Lord, and doing the proper thing in preparation for His burial. And secondly there will always be an opportunity to help the poor among us. All the way back to Moses who said in Deuteronomy 15:11 “for the poor will never cease from the land”. The poor will always be a part of community problems. That does not excuse us from doing all we can do for the poor when given the opportunity. The sacrifice Jesus was about to make would do more for the poor than the offering of a year’s wages. In Matthew 11.5: Jesus says “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. The good news of Jesus as our redeemer trumps the need of the poor. And in Luke 6.20 He looked up at his disciples and said:”Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Jesus never promised wealth or elimination of the poor, He only promised them the Kingdom of God.

Mary was right in giving a gift of great price, it may have been an inheritance that she had received, but she knew it could not repay or buy the love that her Lord would show by willingly giving Himself, so that she and the poor could experience eternal life with Him.

Mary's gesture will long be remembered, but it pales when compared to the gift each of us was given at Calvary.

1 comment:

Beverly said...

Very good message Mr Walter. I find we all can be a bit selfish with our "gifts and talents". I am looking forward to teaching this leason tomorrow.