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He Became Poor

January 9, 2013

Presentation is important.  There is just no denying that the way in which a gift is given…the way it’s presented…is of immense importance.  When Jesus was just a couple days from being crucified, a woman came to the home where he was reclining with his disciples.  What she did next has been talked about ever since.

Take a moment…preferably this moment…and read through Mark 14:1-11.

Jesus says in verse 9, “Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  And the fact that we are talking about it today is evidence of the validity of what Christ said to His disciples that evening in Bethany.  But we have to acknowledge that on some level, this whole scene just seems strange.  He’s there at the home of a man called Simon the leper, he’s with a small group…the twelve with a few others…and this lady (who Mark chooses to leave anonymous) walks in with an alabaster flask of ointment.

At this point, things get a bit uncomfortable for many in the room.  She breaks open the flask and pours the ointment of pure nard (very costly) over his head.  And we’re told in verse 4 that an anonymous “some” of those present looked on indignantly at what she had done.

You see, presentation is important.  When I give my wife flowers, I buy them from the grocery store.  And we could argue over whether or not I’m just cheap, but the reality is that those flowers come off the same truck as the ones at the legit florist.  Now, if you’ve ever purchased flowers in this way, you know that they come with a rubber band around the stems and a clear plastic wrapping around them to hold them in place.  Compounding the issue, is the fact that on that clear plastic wrapper, you will find a very tacky looking white sticker, which is imprinted with a bar code.  And I think we can all agree, nothing says “I love you” quite like a bar code.  Knowing that presentation is important…I take those flowers…I remove the rubber bands and plastic, and that awful looking sticker….I put them in a vase…and I place them right in the middle of our kitchen table.  I make them presentable.  This is the same thing that happened with the alabaster vase.

As soon as she walked in the room, everyone within sight of her knew that what she had in her hand was of great value.  She didn’t have some little cup of ointment…it wasn’t a little brown pottery bowl in her hand.  No…no, she carried an alabaster flask.  Most commentators on this passage will tell you that this was more than just something she picked up that week in the market…didn’t swing by Publix on the way home for this.  No…this flask of pure nard was probably a family heirloom.  It had been passed down to her.  It represented on a fundamental level her family, her security, her insurance…and to a large degree, her hope for the future.  And this is what she poured over the head of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And some were indignant.  This, they said, could have been given to the poor.

What they failed to realize is that she had given it to the poor.  Jesus is the poor man “par excellence.”  He is the quintessential poor man.  If you look at Psalm 41, you’ll read a description of the poor man that is a spot on prophecy of what Jesus will endure as the suffering servant…the Lamb of God.  He is the poor.  The contrast in the words of Jesus is not between Him and the poor…the contrast is between “always” and “not always.”

We have to remember where Jesus came from.  If we fail to understand Him as the Eternal Son, the second person of the living triune God, we fail to grasp the depth of His sacrifice…even before he ever walked the hill to Golgotha.  His sacrifice, His humiliation, began at the virgin conception.

In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we’re reminded, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  Philippians 2: 5-7 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who thought he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”  And all of this…all of this was so that those who were far off…His elect who were dead in their sins…might be brought near…ultimately by His blood. (Ephesians 2:13)

How poor was Jesus?  He gave His blood…His actual, tangible, physical blood…for you.  That lady did a tremendous thing for the poor.  What will we give for Jesus?  What security will we do with out?  What insurance will we let go of?  What will we give to find our hope in Christ?  In reality, that’s the only place hope is truly found.  Tim Keller says, “Every religion has a prophet who is pointing people to God.  Jesus is the only one who says, “I am God, and I am coming to find you.””

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alba Eckstrom permalink
    January 9, 2013 2:59 pm

    Adam, Isn’t the anonymous lady referenced there Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus? (John 12:3) Anyway, loved the point of your lesson. I never thought of Christ as the ultimate poor. Always just considered this to be the preparing of Jesus’ body for His imminent burial. Thanks for adding new depth to this passage! Alba

    • January 9, 2013 8:16 pm

      Most, if not all commentators would say that this is Mary and that this account is a parallel to the one in John. I like the fact that Mark leaves it anonymous. It sort of vividly reminds me that who she is…is less important than what she does. It’s especially powerful considering he includes where Jesus says that the story of this lady (nameless) will be told wherever in the world the gospel is preached.

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