Women of Faith #4: Mary’s
Text: Matthew 26:6-13, John
This Monday is Memorial Day.
Memorial Day, originally
called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our
nation's service. There are many stories
as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim
to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.
There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating
graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel
Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L.
Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are
Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's
Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).
Memorial Day was officially
proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand
Army of the Republic, in his General Order No.
11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on
the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National
Cemetery. By 1890 it was recognized by
all of the northern states. The South
refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until
after World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died
fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in all wars. It is now celebrated on the last Monday in
Joke: Which Service
One Sunday morning, the
pastor noticed little Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the
foyer of the church. The plaque was
covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it.
The seven-year old had been
staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the
boy, and said quietly, " Good morning Alex."
pastor," replied the young man , still focused on the plaque.
" Pastor McGhee, what is
this?" Alex asked. "Well , son, it's a memorial to all the young men
and women who died in the service."
Soberly, they stood together,
staring at the large plaque. The Pastor sensed that some strong questions were
running through the boys mind and he prepared himself to answer them as best he
Little Alex's voice was
barely audible when he asked, " Pastor?”
“Did they die in the morning
or the evening service?”
When you think of the
monuments and memorials, things like the Great Pyramids, the 7 wonders of the
ancient world, the Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson Memorials, or our own San
Jacinto monument, you realize that great events and great acts of history are
marked by these memorials. These memorials were made so that those events would
not be forgotten. So then, when you consider that, how great is the memorial
that Jesus Christ the Son of God declared would never be forgotten. Turn to
Mary’s Message Matthew 26:6-9
Now when Jesus was in
Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, There came unto him a woman having an
alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat
at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what
purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much and
given to the poor.
Parallel passage John 21:1-6
Then Jesus six days before the Passover
came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the
dead. There they made him a supper; and
Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then
took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet
of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the
odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s
son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred
pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but
because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
Mary Pours Out Her Love
This event begins what we
call the Passion week, the last week of Jesus life on earth before he is
arrested, falsely accused, illegally tried and then cruelly crucified on a
cross at Golgotha.
A dinner is given for Jesus at
the house of Simon the leper, probably a man that Jesus had healed and
definitely no longer a leper for it was forbidden by the law to have company
with a leper until he had been declared healed by a priest. We know nothing
else about him except what these scriptures tell us.
John tells us that Jesus’
friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus are at the dinner and that once again Martha
is serving while Mary is closest to Jesus. It was often the custom in Jesus day
for the guest of honor to have his head anointed with perfume, but this
anointing goes far beyond the ordinary custom. Mary not only anoints the head
of Jesus, but also his feet as he reclined at the table and then washes his
feet with her hair.
The Bible tells us that the
ointment was spikenard a plant imported all the way from India at great cost in
an alabaster bottle which was a non-porous marble used to hold perfume. The
cost of the perfume is given at 300 pence, which is a translation of the Greek
word denarius. In the time of the New Testament a Denarius was a days wage and
so the spikenard poured upon Jesus in this one act of devotion was equal to
about a year’s wages. If we convert that to today’s wages her anointed of Jesus
would be worth around $45,000 dollars.
The disciples, led by Judas, murmur
and then speak outright saying this was a waste and that the perfume could have
been sold and given to the poor. John makes sure that we know, Judas has his
own motives and reason for wanting to sell the perfume instead of giving it to
Jesus. The word indignation used here in the Greek means to snort in contempt. But
the Lord understands, and he is the one who counts.
Some have wondered where this
money came from. Were Martha, Mary and Lazarus rich, was this a family
heirloom, how did they come by so much money to purchase the extravagant gift
of love? I believe that the money come from Mary’s dowry, this was usually a
necklace of coins that was carefully saved by the parents so that they could
arrange a good marriage for their daughter. In this case the parents of Mary
seem to be gone and it is Mary’s choice to take her dowry, her assurance of a
good marriage and well secure future and sell it, that she might pour it out in
one great, beautiful gift of love and devotion on her Saviour and friend,
Pouring Out Our Love
How do we show our love of
Jesus? He is not here physically, that I might do as Mary did. How can I today
show my devotion, my love for the One who loved me, and paid for my sin by his
suffering and death on the cross?
I think this occurs when we give
ourselves, our lives and our possession in the cause of Christ today. Some will
call it a foolish and silly waste. Some may even resent that you give your
time, your money, your love or your life to the cause of Christ.
Yet, if your motive is like
Mary’s, your love for Jesus Christ, if you are doing it for God then His
opinion is all that matters. It is never waste, no matter how extravagant the
gift if it is done for Jesus our Lord.
Illustration: Watchman Nee
Watchman Nee was a Chinese
Christians, who grandfather was an Anglican and his mother a Methodist. He was
a very influential preacher and established many churches and an institute for
training Christian students in China. He worked for 30 years and then was
arrested after the Communist Revolution and spent the last 20 years of his life
in a communist prison doing hard labor and often being beat daily by the
guards. When he died in 1972 his family was not notified and only after the
cremation were they allowed to come and see the ashes. One guard who had be
sympathetic to Nee showed the family a note that Nee had written and kept under
his pillow in the cell. It simply said, “Christ is the Son of God who died for
the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the
greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. -
Watchman Nee wrote many books
but his most famous is the Normal Christian Life and the last chapter is
dedicated to the story of Mary and her anointing of Jesus.
“The idea of waste only comes
into our Christianity when we underestimate the worth of our Lord. The whole
question is: How precious is He to us now? If we do not think much of Him, then
of course to give Him anything at all, however small, will seem to us a wicked
waste. But when He is really precious to our soul, nothing will be too good,
nothing too costly for Him; everything we have, our dearest, our most priceless
treasure, we shall pour out upon Him, and we shall not count it a shame to have
Transition: Mary was willing to face criticism and to
sacrifice because what she was doing was worthwhile, it counted for something
greater than the moment. She knew why she did it and that was enough.
Mary’s Motive Matthew
When Jesus understood it, he
said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon
me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in
that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
Mary’s Motive was Love for Jesus
Mary did it for her Love of
Jesus. Jesus said, she hath done a good work upon me. The Greek word for
"good" is kalon and can be translated as appealing, and beautiful. To
Jesus it was beautiful because it was such a true expression of her deepest
She did it knowing he must die.
Mary had sat at the feet of Jesus and knew that believed that He had returned
to Jerusalem at such a dangerous time for one reason. He came to die. Jesus
said, she has done this for my burial.
She poured out this valuable
gift, she poured out her future upon Jesus, because she did not dare wait to
lavish her love upon her Savior.
Do you realize that Mary was
the only one who was able to anoint the body of Jesus for his burial. The other
women who came the first day of the week were too late, Jesus had risen from
only Mary and her love were able to anoint him, because her love for
Him would not let her wait.
What Motivates Us?
What is motivating us as
Christians to do the things we do? What is motivating us to give what we give?
Is our motivation to get to heaven? Are we making a deal with God or others? Are
perhaps we are motivated by a fear of punishment for not doing what we should?
Is there a fear of failing or of displeasing our parents, Pastor?
By the way, let me assure you
that fear of Pastor as a motivation is way overrated.
Joke: Pastor eating after revival up in the
mountains. “You sure have an
affectionate little pig there.” “Yeah, I
guess that’s because you’re eating out of his dish.”
Those kind of motivations
will never build a lasting memorial. If your life will count, if it will be
remembered, then you must serve and sacrifice because of a deep and abiding love,
the love for Jesus Christ.
Scripture: I Corinthians
Now abideth Faith, Hope and
Love but the greatest of these is Love.
When do I die?
There is a story told of a very
young boy who had a little sister who was very sick. The doctors told the parents the only thing
that could save the girl was a blood transfusion from a sibling. The parents went to the little boy and told
him, your sister is dying but if you would be willing to give her your blood
she could live. The little boy looked very serious and asked, “Can I go to my
room to think about it?” The parents
were a little surprised that it should be such a hard decision but said yes.
About dinner time the brother came down and said, “I’ve thought about it and
prayed about it and I think I should give my blood.” The parents thanked him and told him he was
doing the right thing. Though they
couldn’t understand why he seemed so sad and serious.
The day of the procedure
arrived and the boy was taken to the hospital, placed on a bed and a IV needle
put into his vein to draw blood. In a
few moments the nurse smiled and said, “There, all done. Now your sister can get better.” The little boy, with tears in his eyes then
asked the nurse,
“When will I start to die?”
You see the little boy didn’t realize that his giving blood would not
cost him his life. He went to the
hospital that day fully ready to die for the little sister he loved.
The boy was mistaken in his
understanding of transfusions, but he was not wrong in his understanding of
love. When you love someone, really love someone, no cost is too high. When the
one you love is Jesus Christ than not gift can be considered too much, and no
act to great.
Transition: Now let’s look at what Jesus said about
Mary’s gift and why it still stands today as a memorial to her and her love for
Mary’s Memorial Matthew 26:13
Verily I say unto you,
Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also
this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
Mary’s Memorial Continues Today
Jesus the Son of God, the One
who live in eternity, the one who better than anyone else could knew what a
memorial should really be, said this about Mary and he never said it about
anyone one else.
“Wherever the Gospel is
preached Mary of Bethany is known.” Mary kneeling at the feet of Jesus
listening, Mary running to meet him in times of sorrow, Mary anointing his head
and feet with the gift of her love.
In millions of Bibles copied
and printed since the time of Christ, the story of Mary is recorded. In thousands
of nations across the old and now the new world, the story of Mary has been
heard. In millions of sermons preached in a millions of churches the story of
Mary is proclaimed. If ever we inhabit Mars or another planet and they have a
Christian who shares the Gospel then even there Jesus has promised, the story
of Mary will touch hearts and stand as a memorial.
What memorial will We Leave?
We will never leave a
memorial such as Mary did that day. We did not live in her time, we did not
have her opportunity. But that does not mean we cannot build a memorial without
lives today in the same way that Mary built hers. With your actions, choices, and
commitments we are all building a memorial.
If it would be a lasting
memorial, if it would be one that touches the lives of our family and friends,
if it would be a memorial that will even touch eternity, then it must be built
like Mary’s at the feet of Jesus Christ.
Illustration: Edinburgh Castle Memorial
Towering over Edinburgh, Scotland, is the
Edinburgh Castle. And in the midst of very old buildings is the World War I
memorial. It carries a quotation from Thucydides: “The whole earth is the tomb
of heroic men, and their story is not graven only on stones over their clay,
but abides everywhere, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of others'
lives.” - Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows
If we would desire that story
woven into the stuff of other’s live to truly last then it must be woven with
the threads of eternity, and like Mary’s on the loom of the Gospel. Great deeds
may be remembered for generations, but most are forgotten in a matter of a few
years, but what we do for Christ, what we lavish upon Him will last for
God’s Word says, “For other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any
man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay,
stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,
because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work
of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall
receive a reward.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-14 AV)
Watchman Nee - Let me give a
personal instance. In 1929 I returned from Shanghai to my home town of Foochow.
One day I was walking along the street with a stick, very weak and in broken
health, and I met one of my old college professors. He took me into a teashop
where we sat down. He looked at me from head to foot and from foot to head, and
then he said: ‘Now look here; during your college days we thought a good deal
of you and we had hopes that you would achieve something great. Do you mean to
tell me that this is what you are?’
Looking at me with
penetrating eyes, he asked that very pointed question. I must confess that, on
hearing it, my first desire was to break down and weep. My career, my health,
everything had gone, and here was my old professor who taught me law in the
school, asking me: ‘Are you still in this condition, with no success, no
progress, nothing to show?’
But the very next moment,
…the thought of being able to pour out my life for my Lord flooded my soul with
glory. Nothing short of the Spirit of glory was on me then. I could look up and
without a reservation say: ‘Lord, I praise Thee! This is the best thing
possible; it is the right course that I have chosen!’ To my professor it seemed
a total waste to serve the Lord; but that is what the Gospel is for—to bring us
to a true estimate of His worth. …If the Lord is worthy, then how can it be a
waste? He is worthy to be so served. He is worthy for me to be His prisoner. He
is worthy for me just to live for Him. He is worthy!