We are going to take a break from Hebrews this week.
, And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they criticized her sharply.
6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." NKJV
This passage tells us a story of Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. We know this from the same account being told in the Gospel of . This account is found in three of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark and John. There is an account of another anointing of Jesus' feet at a Pharisees home in but that is a different time and place and a different person, a woman that is described as a sinner and whom Jesus forgives because of her faith. She had sought out Jesus when she heard that He was in the city and pretty much crashed the party.
BTW, this is sometimes thought to be Mary Magdalene but it was likely not. Mary Magdalene is often wrongly accused of being a prostitute and being either the woman described here in or that she was the woman that was caught in adultery and brought to Jesus. Neither assumption has any basis of truth in the Bible. Mary Magdalene was actually Mary of Magdala. Magdalene was not her last name but merely a qualifier based on where she was from. The first we know of Mary of Magdala is found in where we see that she was one of several ladies that tended to the Lord and provided for Him from their substance, from what they had. All we know of Mary's past is that Jesus drove seven demons out of her. These are things we find out when we study God's Word.
Back to our story. We are in the final week, even the final days of Jesus' life. According to this passage, we are two days before the Passover. If you read John's account, it may seem as though there is a time discrepancy but there really isn't. Matthew and Mark both speak of two days before (one of those is Jesus' words Himself). In John it speaks of six days before Passover. But that wasn't when this supper took place but was instead when Jesus came into Bethany.
Anyway, the plot against Jesus is in full swing as the Jewish leaders are looking for any way they can find to kill Jesus. Judas is most likely planning in his mind a way to turn Jesus in and get rich. The only thing that is stopping the priests and scribes is their fear of an uprising of the people during the Passover. Remember, Jesus just rode into Town this week with people shouting to Him as King.
So the end of days for Jesus is coming. He and His disciples are in the Home of Simon the Leper. Evidently Simon the Leper had been healed by Jesus prior to this. We also find out in John's account that Judas Iscariot is Simon's son, assuming he meant Simon the leper staying in context. Martha is tending supper as she does, probably because there was no other woman at Simon's house to do it. Her brother Lazarus is there and sitting at the table with Jesus. And then there is sweet little Mary, Martha and Lazarus' sister. I always have to believe that Mary was the youngest at least of the women in that home. We don't know much about this family but we know that they were of great importance to Jesus. We don't know how old they are, we don't read of any husbands for Martha and Mary or a wife for Lazarus which is quite unusual in that day and time. Women were married as young as 14. There were some belonging to an ascetic (simple life) Jewish sect who dedicated themselves to helping others and chose a life of singleness and celibacy. According to one website (http://margmowczko.com/martha-mary-and-lazarus-of-bethany/ [accessed 7/14/2017]) "It is believed that a colony of ascetics (perhaps Essenes) lived in Bethany. Literary evidence from one the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests that these ascetics had a hospice in Bethany for the ritually unclean, which included lepers (11QTemple 46:16-47:5). The ascetics were known for their acts of charity and it is likely that their hospice also helped and accommodated the poor and destitute. Jesus may have been in this hospice when he announced, “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me”"
Why is any of this of importance? Well, for one thing, we have no idea where this very expensive perfumed oil came from, not that it really matters. Mary shows up with an alabaster flask of costly spikenard oil. The estimated value of this oil is a year's wages. Pretty expensive stuff. This alabaster is a stone similar to marble but much softer and able to be made into these flasks. It says she "broke the bottle" meaning that she broke the seal on it. This was a fresh, new bottle of this expensive oil. She pours this oil out on the head of Jesus, anointing Him. According to the Gospel of John, she also anointed His feet and wiped them with her hair. A woman's hair is her glory. , But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. NKJV What a beautiful picture as Mary let down her hair (which is something Jewish women would not do in public), she humbled herself and laid her glory at the feet of Jesus.
Where did Mary get this? We have no idea but she brought what she had and did what she could do to honor her Lord. Little Mary seems to be the only one who "gets it." This anointing is like that which would be done for burial. She is preparing Jesus and the others, the disciples around Him seem to be clueless about His impending death. She is sharply criticized for her actions, most especially by Judas who would have rather sold the oil so he could steal the money from the treasury.
But Jesus blesses her for what she has done for Him. He blessed her as a memorial act that would be talked about for the ages to come. When we give our all or even part to Jesus, we may bring criticism upon our selves but we will reap blessings from God. Jesus commended her saying, "She has done what she could do." This should be and is a great example to all of us. Can it be said of you, "He/She has done what they could do"? So with that, it begs the question, "What can you do, to do what you can?"
I. Do what you can to build up your faith.
A. , For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. NKJV
1. Jesus told His disciples to be of good cheer because He had overcome the world.
2. In the Greek, the term whatsoever means "Everything which is begotten of God." So, everything which is begotten of God overcomes the world! The term begotten means to be born of or to regenerate! That's us!
, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. NKJV
1. We are only as effective as our faith allows us to be.
a. , But without faith it is impossible to please Him. NKJV
b. We must build our faith and make it stronger. I don't think that we get more faith but we certainly can have stronger faith.
c. Some can believe for almost anything and some will believe just the bare minimum.
B. We must develop a strong faith.
1. We do that by reading, studying and learning the Word of God.
a. We need to be able to back up what we believe that God can and will do. We need to know His promises so that we can trust for them.
b. , So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. NKJV
2. We need to take time to pray.
a. That's not just those quick prayers, but time to really pray and seek what God wants for and FROM us.
b. , So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. NKJV
3. We need to take time to be alone with God.
a. Jesus spent private, quiet time with God the Father. Should we do less?
b. Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus went off to be alone with His thoughts and His Father. This was as He was coming to a place where even His faith would be tested. Yes, Jesus' faith (as a man) would be tested in going to the cross. In His humanity, Jesus knew the trial that He and His disciples would be put through.
c. In His words, , Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. NKJV
d. We better spend time with God because when the trial comes upon us, our spirit may want to hang on but our flesh may give in.
C. Exercise your faith and it will grow.
D. Expect God to come through for you.
E. DO WHAT YOU CAN TO BUILD YOUR FAITH!
II. Do what you can to build up other believers.
A. , Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. NKJV
B. We are called to build up the body of Christ, not tear it down. Some people seem to feel it is their lot in life to do as much damage as they can dividing the churches. Build them up!
C. Don't focus on the faults of other believers. Please don't focus on mine!
1. Never speak negatively of each other.
2. Look for the best in them.
3. Christians aren't perfect, they are just forgiven.
4. Let's check the plank in our eye before we help someone with the speck in theirs.
5. says that we are not to do anything that would make our brother stumble, or be offended or be made weak.
D. We need to be bringing peace into the church, into meetings, gatherings and even in arguments.
1. , beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. NKJV
2. The unity of the Spirit is found in the bond of peace. You want churches to get along? Be at peace with one another.
3. This one is tough for us. , If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. NKJV
E. And don't even think about talking bad about your leaders.
1. , And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. NKJV
2. And consider the weaker members of God's family.
3. Let concern for them govern your actions and words.
F. , Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. NKJV
1. Where is the line on that one?
G. Be an Example to other people and other Christians.
1. Paul admonished Timothy: , Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. NKJV
DO WHAT YOU CAN TO BUILD UP OTHER BELIEVERS
III. Do what you can to build up the Body of Christ
A. The church is a body and a body is made up of many parts. It takes all the parts of the body working and doing their job for the entire body to function the way it is supposed to.
B. We build up the Body of Christ, the Church by utilizing our gifts and talents and exercising them in service to the Lord.
C. Do what you can...so what can you do??
1. Everybody has a gift of some sort.
2. Each of us need to chip in and do our part for the body.
D. Are you versed in the Bible? Is your doctrine sound? Can you teach? We need teachers.
1. Not so sure about your abilities but it's still on your heart? We need teacher's helpers also.
E. Mary got to anoint the head and feet of the Lord, and Jesus said that she "Did what she could do."
1. Well, can Jesus say that about you? About me? About us?
F. Some of the things that we need done here and we have a sign up sheet.
1. Maintenance, Yard work, building upkeep.
2. Plant care and seasonal decorating.
3. Church cleaning.
4. Helping with the Lord's Supper.
5. Kitchen help/Hospitality
6. Nursery workers. Have you seen how many kids we can have some Sunday Mornings? (1-4)
7. Children's Church. (5-10)
8. Youth Group.
9. Worship Ministry (Alternates)
10. Powerpoint (Alternates)
11. Prayer Ministry Teams
12. Visitor Teams
14. Weekly Hosts
15. Website Master
G. There is never a lack of things to do in the Body of Christ.
1. There is a statistic that 20% of the people do over 80% of the work in churches.
2. This is not my church, this is our church, this is God's church.
A. Let's do what we can for this church.
B. Let's do what we can for the Body of Christ.
C. Let's do what we can for the Lord.
D. And let's long to hear Him say that we have "Done what we could...each and every one of us."
E. Have you done what you can do?