Daily Devotional

March 18, 2019

Daybreak: Mark 14:1-11

“Being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.” (Mark 14:3)

Without sparing time or effort, a friend of mine applies herself to the tasks of decorating, cooking, and serving at various church gatherings. Each event is beautifully orchestrated. There are napkins to iron, flowers to arrange into vases, serving dishes to choose, a crew to recruit, groceries to procure, food to prepare and serve, and the inevitable clean-up. 

Although these occasions are not meals for her own family, the effort is still a labor of love. She pours herself into each function, and the result is a tasty meal, always delightfully presented. Her unstinting generosity in giving time and effort is an example to all of us. It is one of her ways of giving to the Lord. 

Preparing a wonderful meal for eighty may not be our specialty. And I cannot think of anyone who has an alabaster box of ointment to offer the Lord, as the woman in our text today brought to Jesus. However, there are many other ways we can give to Him. Every avenue of life needs to be touched by the love of God, for He uses our hands, feet, and abilities to accomplish His purposes here on earth. A craftsman has excellent opportunities to speak to those in the building trades; a homemaker can reach out to her neighbors; an office worker can befriend a fellow employee; a mother can give her children godly instruction and interact with other parents at school functions; and the list can go on. When we share our time, effort, or possessions in Jesus’ Name, we are also giving to Him. He sees the motives behind our deeds, as well as the sacrifices required, and accepts our offerings. 

As opportunities arise to step up and do our part, we can do it as unto the Lord, giving it our best effort. There is no virtue in being slothful: let’s put a little energy into it and demonstrate excellence! Maybe the walks at the church need to be shoveled, a class needs a Sunday school teacher, intercession needs to be made, or, as always, praises offered up. Because of her actions, the woman who offered the alabaster box of ointment has been immortalized on the pages of the Bible. And as we give of ourselves to the Lord, we will be immortalized in eternity. 

Background

Today’s text recounts events that led up to Jesus’ arrest — the plotting against Him by the Jewish leaders, His anointing by Mary, and the onset of Judas’ betrayal. 

The chief priests and scribes knew that Jesus had been directing His parables and teachings toward them. They were seething with anger, and plotted to kill Him. The Passover was an annual feast commemorating Israel’s escape from Egypt, when the Israelites followed God’s directions and applied a lamb’s blood to their doorposts and He “passed over” their firstborn sons. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted seven days and celebrated the same exodus, when there was no time for their bread to rise. By Jesus’ time, the two events had merged together. The Passover was the Jewish people’s most important feast, and it had to be kept at Jerusalem. Consequently, perhaps between one and three million people were in the area.1 The Jewish rulers knew the situation was volatile because Jesus was popular among the people and the Roman armies were on alert, due to the crowds. So they planned not to arrest Him during the feast.

Jesus spent the nights of this last week in Bethany or on the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem was on the western side of the Mount of Olives. Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem on the eastern side of the Mount, and was where Lazarus had been raised from the dead (see John 11:1). 

Nothing is known about Simon the leper (Mark 14:3), but he must have been healed, presumably by Jesus, since he was functioning in society. 

Mary, the sister of Lazarus (see John 12:3), poured precious ointment on Jesus as an expression of devotion. This perfume was spikenard, also called nard, and came from a plant grown in the Himalayas of India. The best perfume came from the root of the plant, and the ointment Mary used was worth nearly a year’s wages. Wealthy people at that time anointed their guests with a drop or two of expensive perfume. Yet Mary “brake the box,” in other words broke the jar at the neck so the whole amount had to be used at once, and poured it all out upon Jesus. The word messiah means, “anointed one,” and here, Mary anointed Jesus for His burial. Her actions declared that He was the Messiah and that He was going to die.

Mary’s devoted sacrifice annoyed some, including Judas Iscariot (see John 12:4-5), who viewed her deed as an extravagant waste, and shortly thereafter contacted the chief priests. His offer gave the Jewish rulers access to Jesus at night when He was away from the crowds, thus avoiding an uprising.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VII.   The Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Son of God 
       A.   The plot of the religious leaders (14:1-2)
       B.   The burial preparation by Mary (14:3-9)
       C.   The betrayal by Judas (14:10-11)

A Closer Look

  1. What did Jesus say was the purpose of the woman anointing Him?
     
  2. What was really bothering those who had indignation against this woman?
     
  3. Consider someone you think has gone “above and beyond” in their service. What ability do you have that can be similarly devoted to the Lord?

Conclusion

Whatever we do in Jesus’ Name is worth doing to the best of our ability. There is no way to out-give or out-love the Lord.

 

1.    Sanner, A. Elwood, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. VI, p. 387.

Reference Materials