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May 15, 2017: Pure Nard

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Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 3-4Psalm 108Mark 14:1-112 Corinthians 12:11-21

Mark 14:1-11:

Another end is fast approaching—this time not the end of all things, or Jesus’s coming, but his crucifixion, death and resurrection, the “Christ event.” It was now “two days before the Passover.” If you are unfamiliar with the story of the Passover, or the celebrations instructed to commemorate the event, it would be worth taking a refresher course in Exodus 12-13. Jesus is the True Passover Lamb, and his sacrifice is coming. Through his blood God’s wrath will “pass over” those who put their trust in Christ.

The chief priests and scribes will not arrest Jesus during the feast. It was a popular event, and Jesus was popular with the people. They waited for the right time to seek to kill him.

Jesus is in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper. A woman anoints him with a very expensive ointment of pure nard, a special incense originating from as far away as China and India, and known to the ancient world and mentioned in Song of Solomon 1:12 and 4:13. One person estimates the cost as about $3,000 per ounce. This was no trivial expense. Song of Solomon indicates that the worship of the Christ—the anointed one—is now being fulfilled in this moment. We are to bring Christ our best, and spare no expense in honoring him. He is worth it all.

Some however are “indignant” (14:4): should not this money have been used for the poor? Jesus’ reply was as controversial then as it is today. “You will always have the poor with you” (14:7). Jesus is not saying that they should not take care of the poor; quite the reverse. He is saying that they are free to do so, and will continue to be free to do so, and by implication should do so. He detects though that the real reason for the objection is not a genuine concern for the poor. It is a lack of realization of what an important moment this is. Jesus, the Savior of the world, is being prepared for the saving acts that will save the world. It is right and fitting that he is honored. Social care for the poor is an expression of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself, or else there is no need for the Savior at all. Those who honor Christ well will also serve the poor and love their neighbors. But neighborly love flows out of love for Christ first of all (Revelation 2:1-7).

This is all, apparently, too much for Judas. For him, it seems, this act was the final straw. He goes to the chief priests to betray Jesus. And they promise to give him money. Oftentimes the greater the focus on Jesus, the clearer it is who is really loving him and who is not. The more it became apparent that Jesus was worthy of all honor, the harder it was for Judas to follow along in the wake of the other disciples. Now his loyalty is clear: he is a betrayer. Let us instead embrace Christ and encourage those who make much of Christ and seek ourselves to make much of him.

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