December 2, 2015

crown of thorns


This story of Mary anointing our Lord shortly before His death has had a profound influence on my walk with the Lord for over 40 years now because of a sermon I read and have re-read many times by the late Chinese preacher, Watchman Nee. It’s the last chapter of his book, The Normal Christian Life [Christian Literature Crusade], titled, “The Goal of the Gospel.” It’s also in a pamphlet titled, “Why This Waste” (you can find it online).

Nee points out that in the parallel accounts in Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9; Luke 7:37-39 is a different incident), all the disciples joined Judas in scolding Mary for wasting this expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus defends Mary by replying (Matt. 26:13), “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” Nee says (p. 186) that Jesus “intends that the preaching of the Gospel should issue in something along the very lines of the action of Mary here, namely, that people should come to Him and waste themselves on Him.” Or, to state it another way (p. 187), the gospel is “to bring each one of us to a true estimate of His worth.” If Jesus is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field, then it’s not a waste to sell everything you have to buy that pearl or buy that field. Jesus is worthy for you to devote all you are and all you have to Him.

So this is a story about how not to waste your life. It’s also a story about motivation: why do you do what you do for the Lord? Do you serve Him for the satisfaction you get when you see results? It is satisfying to see Him use you, but that’s the wrong motivation. Do you serve Him because it helps others? Again, it’s gratifying to see others helped, but that’s the wrong motivation for serving Him. The true motive for serving Christ is because He is worthy of everything you can do for Him and because you love Him and want to please Him because He gave Himself for you on the cross. We learn this from Mary’s act of devotion.

But John contrasts Mary’s act of devotion with Judas’ self-centered focus and with the evil plans of the chief priests, who now not only want to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus, whose resurrection was resulting in many believing in Jesus. So the story’s lesson is:

A life spent in selfless devotion to Jesus is not wasted, but a life spent on self is totally wasted.

This story illustrates Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-36:

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

Jesus repeats this idea (John 12:25), “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Mary denied herself and “hated her life” for Jesus’ sake by her extravagant act of devotion to Him, and she gained that which would not be taken from her (Luke 10:42). Judas greedily wished that he could have pocketed some of Mary’s gift. In a few days, he would sell Jesus for a paltry sum. But he forfeited his soul.

You will not waste your life if you spend it in selfless devotion to Jesus.

To put it another way, to “waste” your life on Jesus is to save your life. Mary’s act reflects four components of selfless devotion:

  1. Selfless devotion is costly.

Mary’s anointing Jesus with this perfume was costly in at least three ways:

Selfless devotion costs you financially: “Do I treasure Jesus more than my stuff?”

Pure nard was a spice that came from the Himalaya Mountains in the far north of India. It had to be imported to Israel at great cost. We don’t know where Mary got this 12-ounce jar of perfume. Perhaps it was a family heirloom. Judas estimates that it could have been sold for 300 denarii, which was equivalent to about 300 days’ pay for a working man (Matt. 20:2). Figuring $10 an hour, 300 eight-hour days adds up to $24,000! Any way you figure it, Mary’s action was extravagantly costly! Judas and the disciples, who according to the other Gospels joined him in scolding Mary, were only being sensible: She could have sold this jar of perfume, given 90 percent of the money to help a lot of poor people, and still had a sizeable amount to give to the Lord. But were they really sensible?

The Lord rebukes them (John 12:8), “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” He was not saying that we should not help the poor, but He was saying, “I am more worthy of your unselfish devotion than all the world’s poor put together!” He was accepting the worship that Mary gave Him because she rightly saw that He is worthy of all that we can give Him and even more. As Isaac Watts put it (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”):

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small: Love so amazing, so divine Demands my soul, my life, my all.

The point is, devotion to Christ will cost you financially. If He bought you with His blood, you don’t own anything. It’s all His and He can direct you to give some or all of it for His kingdom purposes. Probably, most of us would have sold the perfume, given ten percent to the Lord, and pocketed the rest to spend on getting a later model mule! But Mary gave it all because she knew that Jesus is worth it.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

My apologies to anyone I talked to day, I had anesthesia at 530 this morning and I  don’t think  it wore off until about 330pm. so if I babbled to you today, (which I must have after a few return phone calls) thanks for making fun of me. (and yes so far I’m ok)

we had so many prayer requests today so we will go by topic

divorce, illness, marriage problems, problem with teens, adult children, depression, fool hardiness (stupid people), employment, lack of employment, guidance (that was the number one request today)

please pray for all these

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