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Thursday, August 12, 2010

8/12/10 Mark 14:1-9 Spending on God

1Now 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. 2"But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot." 3While 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. 4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? 5It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.
6"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

(Mural in Bethany of this event- taken by the author 6/10)

Thoughts: What is a waste of resources?  In a finite, limited world especially in a recession, this is a great question.  We need to set priorities, and as believers we need to think about how God would have us to give.  To the secular world (and to those in the church who are always trying to win the world's approval) giving to the poor justifies the existence of the church.  There have been times when the Church has justified extravagance and ostentation on itself making people sacrifice.  There are many huge ornate churches in very poor areas.  Yet this passage allows for prioritizing spending on God above spending on the poor.  Jesus was being anointed for his burial- it was special.  While certainly Christ cared for the poor, the sick, and the left out- he also allowed for these special exceptions. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to be a good steward of the gifts you have given me.  Let my heart for spending be as your heart.

John Calvin abridged: Christ again predicts his death, but this prediction shows how willing he offers himself to die. He shows that he was willing to offer himself in order to reconcile the world to God and also that he was not caught merely in a trap of human violence from which he could not escape.  So he declares that he comes to Jerusalem expressly for the purpose of dying there.  We are able to see, as in a brigh mirror, how boldly and cheerfully he comes to Jeruselem to blot out the world's sins and then be victorious.  This is the same narrative in John (12:1-11) as in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark.  She anointed his head so extravagantly that the oil ran down to his feet.  John relates that Judas began the murmuring and the others joined in.  We should be careful of following those who lead in wicked complaints and murmurs.  Christ who was an example of temperance and frugality here defends the woman for this single instance of extravagance.  The Spirit led her to anoint him.  We should find comfort that often what is condemned by those on earth is blessed by heaven.  Christ does not defend the anointing as if we should all imitate it, but assures us it pleases God on this particular occassion while Christ is still on earth.  This is no excuse for religious extravagance as Christ has ascended into heaven.  "The poor you will have with you always"- means that God has placed the poor around us to give us an opportunity to respond and sacrifice to their need.  "Through the world"- The Gospel should be preached through the whole world, and this incorporates the Gentiles (cf. Mt. 24:14).

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