Guest post -Sunday Night Church study from James Williams
How do you feel about the controversial sausage roll advert published recently by Greggs?
A Look at the text:
1) At the beginning of this passage Jesus predicts his crucifixion. Did his disciples believe him? (v.2)
See notes for question 4.
2) Why did the leading priests and elders respond to Jesus in such an extreme way? (v.3)
If we compare our text with the parallel account in John 12:1-11 this jealous and hateful response from the priests and elders follows shortly after the resurrection of Lazarus. The raising of Lazarus was the final miracle in Jesus’ public ministry, the ultimate ‘messianic sign’ which clearly highlighted Jesus’ identity as the promised saviour; it strengthened the resolve of the priests and elders to arrest and kill Jesus. In fact, they even wanted to destroy the evidence (kill Lazarus) rather than change their minds about Jesus; See John 12:10. Ultimately, they wanted people following their traditions rather than Jesus.
3) The woman with the perfume is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. What do Mary’s actions tell us about her character? (v.6-7)
Mary was humble; she didn’t care about her own dignity or what other people thought of her. She was willing to do the work of a servant. She was devoted; she showed an intense, wholehearted love for Jesus. Her behaviour is described by Jesus as ‘beautiful’ in Mark 14:6.
4) Was Mary demeaning the poor by ‘wasting’ this expensive ointment? What motivated her to pour it out on Jesus’ head?
Mary was daring to put Jesus above the poor. Her actions and Jesus’ subsequent response were not intended to discourage us from helping the poor. In fact, Jesus’ words in verse 11 are very reminiscent of God’s command in Deuteronomy 15:11:
“For there will never cease to be the poor in the Land. Therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
Jesus is clear about Mary’s motivation for anointing him. The use of expensive perfume was reserved for solemn acts of devotion such as preparing a body for burial. Besides showing her intense love for Jesus Mary was anticipating the anointing Jesus’ body would receive at the time of his burial.
Jesus openly predicted his death four times (verse 2 describes the fourth and final time) but his twelve disciples don’t seem to have taken his words on board. Unlike the disciples, did Mary take Jesus’ predictions at face value? Did she believe Jesus’ death was imminent?
5) What did Jesus mean when he said, “…you will not always have me.”? (v.11)
Jesus is referring to his impending death, resurrection and ascension. The disciples’ time with Jesus on Earth wasn’t going to last much longer.
Digging a bit deeper:
1) How would you summarise Mary’s response to Jesus? Who was Jesus to her?
Mary was self-sacrificing; she did what she could to serve Jesus, according to the resources she had, with generosity that was completely uncalculated.
In following Jesus she was willing to deny herself; see Luke 9:23:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
For Mary, losing a year’s wages worth of perfume was nothing compared to the infinite value of gaining and knowing Jesus as her saviour, Lord and friend; see Philippians 3:8:
‘Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.’
Jesus was everything to Mary.
2) What motivated Judas to betray Jesus? Who was Jesus to him?
In John 12, Judas is described as the treasurer amongst Jesus’ disciples and a thief who helped himself to the contents of their common purse. Judas was horrified to see Mary’s lavish extravagance and was desperate to recoup the ‘lost’ money back; See 1 Timothy 6:10:
‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith…’
In stark contrast to Mary, Judas is completely self-seeking and his bargain with the chief priests was coldly calculated to solely benefit him.
For Judas, Jesus’ value lay in what he could get from him. The pitiful sum (less than a third of the value of Mary’s perfume) that Judas took in exchange for Jesus shows the low value he placed on him.
Jesus was nothing to Judas.
A Look at ourselves
1) In what way have you responded to Jesus? Who is Jesus to you?
Is he like a product you buy into whose value is measured only in terms of what you can gain from him? Or, is he a person whom to know is eternal life? See John 17:3:
“And this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Knowing Jesus and having him in your life is of infinite value compared to everything else; there is no greater thing:
‘Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you.
There is no greater thing.
You’re my all, you’re the best, you’re my joy,
My righteousness; and I love you, Lord’.