There is nothing negative about the Good Message of Christ Jesus. This Good News is the proclamation of the glory of God in Christ Jesus. When Paul was sent to Rome, he declared: “I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Rom. 1:15). In other words, Paul had been prepared by the Spirit and his Word to preach the Gospel; and he had been set apart to preach this Gospel to Rome: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Have you taken this day’s opportunity to grow in the grace of God through his Holy Scriptures? For you must be first disciples (learners) of Christ Jesus before you are ready to disciple others in the Gospel. Where are you today, what is your address? For this is the place where you have, at this moment, been set apart to proclaim the Gospel of Christ Jesus.
There is nothing lacking in the person who has been appointed to preach the Gospel of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus. Paul understood the glory of the preaching the Gospel, saying, “I am not ashamed the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The Good News is to be preached, not by the vocal wonders of man, but by the miraculous work of God, the divine Magistrate. Matthew Henry wrote of this Gospel as being alive: “It is through the power of God; without that power the gospel is but a dead letter; the revelation of the gospel is the revelation of the arm of the Lord (Isa. 53:1), as power went along with the word of Christ to heal diseases.” Thus Christ speaks of the anointment he received as a memorial in the preaching of the Gospel: “Verily I say unto you, Wherever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this women hath dome, be told for a memorial of her” (Matt. 26:13).
“Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.” A simple historical fact filled with the power of grace and love. Though the past gripped Simon, reminding him that he was once a leper, it would most likely be a robe of grace as it reminded him of the healing he received from the Lord; for he received Jesus into his house a guest. John’s Gospel tells this story, emphasizing the presence of Lazarus and Martha. Some believe that these are two different occasions. However, the pouring of the ointment, the question of the traitor Judas Iscariot, and the reply of Jesus, lead one to believe that this is one story. There is no doubt that in the town of Bethany Simon the leper would have fellowship with the family of Lazarus, as they all had the experience of knowing the grace and power of Christ Jesus. Therefore, you would have, in the house of Simon, the presence of Mary and Martha, Lazarus, and the disciples (possibly the 12) of Jesus.
Mary was always ready to give honor to Jesus, bringing with her “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair” (John 12:3). The “spikenard” speaks of the genuineness of the oil; while the “alabaster box” speaks of the container, which held the “precious ointment.” Matthew records that Mary poured the ointment “on his head, as he sat at meat.” There should be no doubt that as the oil was being poured, some would drip on the feet: Unquestionably we know that anointments were not poured on the feet; but as it was then poured in greater abundance than usual, John, by way of amplification, informs us that Christ’s very feet were moistened with the oil. Mark too relates that she broke the alabaster-box, and poured the whole of the ointment on his head; and it agrees very well with this to say that it flowed down to his feet” (J. Calvin).
Mary loved Jesus and always found time to honor him as the Christ. Matthew Henry sees this anointing “As an act of faith in our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed. To signify that she believed in him as God’s anointed, whom he had set king, she anointed him, and made him her king. They shall appoint themselves one head, Hos. 1:11. This is kissing the Son.” Our activities in the home, in the neighborhood, in the fellowship of believers, ought to be motivated with our love for Christ, and that he would be honored and worshipped as the King and Head of his Church. Nations are also to honor Christ as the Prince of kings: “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are they that put their trust in him” (Psa. 2:11–12).
Matthew records that the disciples, when they saw Mary pouring the ointment, “had indignation, saying, to what purpose is this waste?” How did they come to this righteous anger? John gives us the answer, that Judas, who was to betray Jesus, led the disciples to murmur, “Why was not the ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Calvin give us this understanding: The reason is, that none of the others would ever have dared to murmur if the wicked slander of Judas had not served for a torch to kindle them. But when he began, under a plausible pretext, to condemn the expense as superfluous, all of them easily caught the contagion. And this example shows what danger arises from malignant and envenomed tongues; for even those who are naturally reasonable, and candid, and modest, if they do not exercise prudence and caution, are easily deceived by unfavorable speeches, and led to adopt false judgments. But if light and foolish credulity induced the disciples of Christ to take part with Judas, what shall become of us, if we are too easy in admitting murmurers, who are in the habit of carping wickedly at the best actions?”
Discussion: What did Mary see in Jesus that Judas did not?
Jesus understood their murmurings and said to his disciples, “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.” Christ deals tenderly with Mary, understanding that her desire to honor him was from the heart: “she hath wrought a good work.” Matthew Henry’s comments help us understand how we need to see others as they desire to serve Christ: “Charity teaches us to put the best construction upon every thing that it will bear, especially upon the words and actions of those that are zealously affected in doing a good thing, though we may think them not altogether so discreet in it as they might be. It is true, there may be over-doing in well-doing; but thence we must learn to be cautious ourselves, lest we run into extremes, but not to be censorious of others; because that which we may impute to the want of prudence, God may accept as an instance of abundant love. We must not say, Those do too much in religion, that do more than we do, but rather aim to do as much as they.”
The statement, “For ye have the poor always with you: but me ye have not always;” reveals a principle how we are to do the work of ‘charity.’ There are those things which are always with us: those who need our financial help, our comforting help, the sharing of the comfort of the Word of God, of missions, and of prayer. However, there are those times which come but once or twice, that, because of our love for Christ, need our immediate response; for all things which God places before us may be done to his honor and glory, and for the good of others. “Sometimes special works of piety and devotion should take place of common works of charity. The poor must not rob Christ; we must do good to all, but especially to the household of faith” (Henry).
Christ places upon Mary’s anointment a most glorious quality—that which reveals the wonderful Gospel of Christ in his death; for is not the work of Mary in this anointing with oil in his providential care to his glory? Christ therefore testifies: “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 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.” The glory of Christ in his death and resurrection is always proclaimed in the Gospel of our Savior: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (the divine act of God’s saving grace)” (Rom. 5:10–11). The glory of God’s salvation was revealed in Mary’s act of anointing Christ Jesus with precious oil; “the anointing of Christ was not at that time superfluous, for he was soon to be buried, and he was anointed as if he were to be laid in the tomb. The disciples were not yet aware of this, and Mary unquestionably was suddenly moved to do, under the direction of the Spirit of God, what she had not previously intended. But Christ applies to the hope of his resurrection what they so greatly disapproved” (J. Calvin).
Discussion: How do our good works reveal the Gospel of our Lord and Savior?
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