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Who Do You Say I Am?
The Gospel of Mark
A Beautiful Thing


This morning we are going to fulfill a prophecy of Jesus.  You didn’t think that when you got up this morning... “Today may be the day when we fulfill a prophecy of Jesus.”  Listen to Mark chapter 14:1-11.  Watch for the prophecy.

Mark 14:1-11 It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people."  And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."  Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.  And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Jesus predicted everywhere the Gospel was proclaimed this beautiful thing would be remembered.  Jesus predicted that what this woman did would be told in her memory...  Sure enough, we fulfilled the prophesy this morning... 1,987 years later and 7,147 miles away.  How about that?

This is interesting.  Jesus, before his death and resurrection, had the sense that the gospel was going to be proclaimed around the whole world.  Jesus understood the immensity of what was going to happen.  His death; his resurrection was going to rock the world. 

The fact that we, who are at the ends of the earth, have heard of this beautiful thing, is amazing.  But, I suspect that is not the take away Mark intended. 

Let’s dig a bit deeper looking for THE take away from this passage.

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Last week, in chapter 13, the storm clouds were gathering over the wonderful Temple.  Jesus warned his disciples, in the near future, Herod the Great’s wonderful new temple would be destroyed by the Romans.  Because they were using the temple as their hideout; because the temple was not a blessing to the nations; because they rejected the cornerstone of a new temple; because they rebelled against the Romans... their brand-new, wonderful temple would be wiped out.  Another prediction that happened. That was last week in chapter 13.

This week, in chapter 14, the storm clouds are gathering over Jesus, himself.  The storm he predicted for Jerusalem, was about to break on him. Jesus is about to be destroyed at the hands of the Romans. Jesus predicted his own death 3 times in the Gospel.  Guess what? It happened.  From our story of the “Beautiful Thing” Mark moves quickly to the crucifixion.

Mark is specific.  It is just two days away from the Passover.  Here is another interesting observation from this passage.  Jesus chose the Passover as the setting for the final showdown.  Jesus chose his confrontation at the Passover.  I suspect Jesus could have chosen the Day of Atonement or the Feast of Tabernacles, or Pentecost, Halloween, or Columbus Day.  But he chose Passover to die; for a reason. 

Jesus viewed his death and resurrection as a freedom thing.  The Passover was the Jewish 4th of July.  It was the creation of a new nation.  It was deliverance from slavery.  It was conquering the bad guys and creating a people of God.  It was crossing the Red Sea to be the People of God.  Jesus viewed his soon to happen death, which would be told around the world, as freedom over the forces of evil.  It was the creation of the new kingdom of God!   We call this view of his death, “Christus Victor”; Christ is victorious! 

The chief priests wanted to all be done in secret.  Quietly, shuffle Jesus off the board; quietly sneak Jesus onto a Roman cross; no one would ever hear from this goofy guy again.  (That didn’t happen.)  We heard about it here in Los Alamos, 1,987 years later and 7,147 miles away.  It wasn’t a quiet killing.  Jesus chose the Passover to die and be resurrected.  Christ was as victorious as Moses crossing the Red Sea...  Christus Victor!

That is amazing.  Jesus viewed his own death as victory. He chose Passover.  But as amazing as that is, I don’t think that is the take away Mark intended from this passage.

Let’s keep digging.

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Not everyone thought this was a beautiful act.  Some, who witnessed the beautiful thing, saw it as a waste of 300 denarii.  A denarius is a day’s wage.  300 denarii was most of a year’s salary.  Think about how much you make in a year and go pour it out on someone’s head. But, some, who witnessed the beautiful act, whined.  They got onto this woman.  They scolded her.  The Greek word is a harsh scolding. 

Regardless of what good thing you may do, there is likely someone to gripe at you.  No good deed goes unpunished.  That certainly is a take away.

--The chief priests are out to kill Jesus. 

--Some of his disciples are scolding a woman for a beautiful act. 

--Look at the reaction Judas has.

When Judas sees what is going on, he decides to sell out Jesus.  Judas has been a mystery ever since.  How could Judas, who has been with Jesus, decide to help the chief priests kill Jesus? 

--Was it something as simple as... this beautiful waste of a year’s wages? 

--Was it that Jesus was committed to dying, might as well make a buck on it?

--Did Judas think to force Jesus to perform a spectacular miracle to save himself?

--Was Judas a disappointed zealot?

It is hard to read Judas.  But a take away is...  not even Jesus could make everyone happy. 

I suspect that is not the take away Mark wanted for us.

Let’s keep digging.

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As soon as the “some” scolded the woman, Jesus comes to her defense.  "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  Jesus acknowledged her act of worship as a beautiful thing.  “I’m liking this better.”  This woman offered this precious gift to her Lord. 

Stop, a second, and appreciate this. 

--Jesus is sitting at dinner. Perhaps, they have just finished eating.  Jesus is teaching something, per usual, when this woman, seemingly out of nowhere, she doesn’t even have a name, comes up behind Jesus and breaks the alabaster jar open. 

--Nard is an expensive perfume made from the roots of plant found in India.  It is fragrant.  This nard starts to dribble on his head.  Smell the fragrance.  Everyone stops to watch.  The conversation halts. 

--The unnamed woman without saying a word, continues to pour.  “Surely she is going to stop.” 

--It runs down his hair.  “That’s enough.”   

--It drips onto his beard.  It covers his shoulders.  It runs all the way down.  She keeps on pouring.  “That’s plenty.”

--It drips onto the floor.  “Wow! She used up the whole jar!” 

Jesus says, “She has done what she could.” Maybe, this is all she had.  She offered what she could to worship her Lord!

The extravagance!  The offering!  The worship is as pure as the fragrance. 

Flashes of Old Testament scenes run through our heads...

--The incense burning in the Tabernacle...as worship to YWHW!

--David being anointed as King... Jesus is King!

Song of Solomon 1:12-15 While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance. My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi. Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.

Her act of worship Jesus called a beautiful thing.  The critics were right.  It was a waste of 300 denarii.  But you can always help the poor.  Jesus honors pure worship.  It doesn’t have to make sense or save cents.  Jesus honors uninhibited, pure worship. 

This is close to what Mark wants us to take away.  But I think we can dig just a bit deeper.

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Jesus said, “She has anointed my body beforehand for burial.”  This, I think, is the heart of the passage.  Her act of love prepared Jesus for his death.  Her act was another prediction.  Her beautiful act prepared Jesus for his death. 

This is interesting. You already know the end of the story, you know, that the burial of Jesus was done in a hurry.  They needed to get Jesus buried before the beginning of the feast, so they would not be unclean.  In fact, on Sunday, women go back to the tomb to anoint the body.  Jesus is alive.  So, this unnamed woman does for Jesus what no one else does... she honors his death with perfume!

Wow... this is a surprising take away.  She predicted and prepared Jesus for his death!

Let’s dig in a different direction.

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Judas is being used by Satan to discourage Jesus.  It is heartbreaking for Jesus to know Judas, one of his guys, was going to betray him.  But to offset that, here is a woman who gives it all to encourage him.  Judas sells Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  She worshipped Jesus with 300 denarii.

There is a contrast of reactions going on as Jesus approaches the cross. 

--The chief priests plot to kill him.

--Judas sells Jesus out.

--Some scold the woman for waste.

-- The unnamed woman prepares Jesus with this beautiful act.

As we quickly move toward the cross and then to the mysterious resurrection and then to a sudden end of Mark... watch for how people respond to the cross. A question is building.  Throughout this year we have been asking, “Who do you say I am?”   We have been exploring who Jesus is.  We have seen Jesus as the Prophet... The Christus Victor... The Rejected Stone... the New Temple... One who is to Die...

Mark shifts the question to “Who do you say I am?”   How are you going to respond to the cross? 

--Are you glad to be rid of such a trouble-maker?

--Are you those who shook their head at the waste and scolded the woman?

--Are you Judas, hoping that, if Jesus was determined to die anyway, you at least might make something out of it?

--Or are you ready to give everything to worship this strange man; this unexpected Messiah; this paradoxical Passover-maker?

Who do you say I am? 

Are you among those who rejoice that we fulfilled a prediction of Jesus this morning. 

What do you take away from this story of a beautiful thing?


Tim Stidham

October 15, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ



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