A God to Trust and an Example to Follow
“After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. And 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. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:1-9)
In this chapter Mark begins to describe those things which our Lord Jesus Christ suffered as the Lamb of God. Up to this point, he has spoken of our Savior as our Prophet, teaching us the things of God. Now, he begins to describe the Lord of glory as our great High Priest. Mark has shown us the miracles and sayings of the Master. Now, he begins to describe his vicarious sacrifice.
God Our Savior
The Scriptures set forth a stark contrast between the God of the Bible and the gods of men (Isaiah 45, 46, 47). The gods of men, those idols invented by men, the gods of this religious age no more resemble the God of the Bible than a gnat resembles an angel. The gods of religion want to do things, desire to do things, and try to do things, but are unable to accomplish them because of the works of the devil and the wills of men.
The God of the Bible, the only true God, he who is our God and Savior never wants to do, desires to do, or tries to do anything except what he does. He is a God in whom we can be confident, a God who can be trusted implicitly, because he always has his way and does as he will.
In these first two verses of Mark 14 we have a very clear example of God’s total sovereignty and omnipotent power to accomplish his will. He who truly is God over all and blessed forever always has his way. Here we see our great God disappointing the plans and designs of wicked men, overruling their wills and decisions to accomplish his own eternal purpose of grace in predestination.
“After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
Our Lord’s enemies did not want his death to be a public spectacle. Repeatedly, they tried to stone him to death, throw him off a cliff, or in some other way murder him without the common people being aware of what they had done. Notice the words of our text – Therefore, “the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.” But that was not what God had purposed. Therefore, in his wise and adorable providence, he simply overruled their schemes. God defeated their counsel and performed his own.
It was the purpose of God from eternity that the Lord Jesus Christ must be lifted up upon the cursed tree and crucified as a cursed man as our Substitute. There was no other way possible for God to be both just and the Justifier of chosen sinners except by his own dear Son dying in our room and stead as our substitute. His justice must be satisfied. Else, he could not forgive sin. Christ alone, the God-man Mediator, could satisfy the justice of God for us. Yet, in order to fulfill the Scriptures, our Savior must die “according to the Scriptures.” You will recall that our Savior often said, with reference to his sin-atoning death at Calvary, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (v. 49).
In other words, the Lord Jesus must be betrayed by his own familiar friend for thirty pieces of silver, crucified by the hands of Gentiles at the insistence of the Jews, without a single bone in his body being broken, yet having his heart pierced. He must be numbered with transgressors in his death, mocked, beaten, spit upon, and stripped in public humiliation. And the soldiers who crucified him must cast lots to see which one would get his garment.
All these things were prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. But “the chief priests and scribes sought how they might take him by craft and put him to death.” That presented no problem to God Almighty! His counsel stood firm. His purpose was fulfilled. God’s will always prevails. These men thought they would put an end to Christ’s kingdom by killing him; but they were actually instruments in God’s hands for the erection and building of his kingdom. When they did, with vile hearts, have the Lord Jesus crucified, they thought they would vilify him and make him a laughing stock; but God used them to make his name glorious. The Jews thought they would scare his disciples into silence by killing our Master; but God used their wicked deeds to embolden his disciples in preaching the gospel.
Sovereignty and Responsibility
Understand these two things plainly revealed in Holy Scripture: (1.) The Lord our God is in absolute control of this world (Psalm 76:10); and (2.) every person is so completely responsible for the evil he performs that they shall give account of every idle word they speak (Matthew 12:36).
Though it was necessary that Christ our Passover be sacrificed for us, and though wicked men did no more in the crucifying of the Lord of Life and Glory than God had before ordained must be done (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28), the deed itself and the malice with which it was performed was all their own. The opening verses of this chapter give us an awful representation of this fact, displaying the baseness of the depraved hearts of fallen men. — “The chief priests and scribes,” while engaged in the most solemn religious ceremonies, while pretending to worship God, sought to take the Son of God “by craft and put him to death!”
That God, and that God alone, who is in absolute, total control of the entire universe, we can and should trust with implicit confidence in all things and with all things. The Word of God, the promises of God, the prophecies of Holy Scripture are all utterly meaningless, unless our God is the God who rules everything, whose will is always performed, whose purpose stands fast, whose thoughts are irresistible!
Here is the basis of our faith and the foundation of our comfort. We live in a world of woe. We are often tossed to and fro in this world, confused and perplexed by many things. Let us ever rest ourselves in our God. “All things are of God.” All things are ordered by our heavenly Father for our good. All things are arranged by God’s infinite wisdom and omnipotent arm for his glory.
Look yonder to Calvary and laugh at those will-worshippers, who vainly imagine that the events of this world are ordered not by the will of Almighty God, but by the wills of puny men! We often hear preachers and others say, “God will never interfere with the will of man.” This passage shows otherwise. It was the will of these men that Christ be put to death secretly. But God willed that he be publicly crucified in due time for the ungodly. God would not allow these wicked men to kill his Son when they wanted to, the way they wanted to, or in the place they wanted. However, he did permit them to kill his Son exactly according to the malice of their hearts. Yet, he used their sinful malice to accomplish his purpose of grace in the redemption of his people, exactly as he had purposed from eternity (Acts 13:28-30).
If the god you trust can be controlled, hindered, or even influenced by you, by Satan, or by all the powers of earth and hell combined, the god you trust is no God at all, and you are an idolater. Our God is not a spectator or even a competitor in this world. He is the Ruler of it. Salvation is knowing him, the only true and living God as he is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ his Son, the God-man, our Savior (John 17:3). He who is our God is the God we can trust.
An Example to Follow
In verses 3-9 we are given an example to follow. Here, Mark records, by divine inspiration, the story of a woman coming into the house of Simon the leper and anointing the Lord Jesus for his burial. It is an event recorded in all four of the gospel narratives (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 7, and John 12). Comparing Scripture with Scripture, I cannot avoid the conclusion that this woman was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and that she is the same woman often referred to as Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Lord Jesus had cast seven devils (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2).
Mary was a remarkable woman. Modest and unassuming, she said very little. In fact, as far as I can determine, there is only one sentence written in the Scriptures which was spoken by Mary. It is found in John11:32. Yet, it is obvious that Mary was a woman of great wisdom, devotion, and faith, a woman who truly loved the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God presents Mary to us as an example of faith, devotion, and love on four different occasions.
1. We see Mary sitting at the Lord’s feet, absorbing every word which fell from his lips (Luke 10:39).
2. We see her falling at the Master’s feet in humble, submissive faith (John 11:32). As a broken-hearted woman might run into the arms of her husband for comfort, Mary ran to the Lord Jesus, fell at his feet, and sought comfort in him in her time of great sorrow.
3. We see Mary early in the morning of the resurrection at the tomb where our Lord’s body had been buried (Matthew 28:1-9). She was the first one to hear the good news of the resurrection. She was the first one to see the risen Christ. This woman was the first one to proclaim the resurrection.
4. Here in Mark 14, we see Mary in the house of Simon the leper breaking an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious,” anointing the Lord Jesus for his burial (Mk. 14:3-9).
This picture of this dear woman is perhaps the most instructive of the four. Our Lord himself declares, “She hath wrought a good work on me…She hath done what she could. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Truly, this woman sets before us a remarkable example to follow.
This good work, which was performed by Mary, might be most reasonably expected from any believer. Like you and me, Mary had experienced the grace of God in Christ. This work which she performed was only the spontaneous response of gratitude and love for the grace of God she had experienced. It was but her reasonable service (Romans 12:1-2). Mary had been given faith in Christ. The Lord Jesus revealed himself to her and gave her the gift of faith. He chose her and graciously caused her to choose him. The demons who tormented her and held her captive were driven from her; and the Son of God established his throne in her heart. Her sins, which were many, were all forgiven her. The Lord graciously revealed to her the mysteries of the gospel. Mary alone seems to have known and understood how the Lord Jesus would accomplish redemption by his death as our Substitute. With all these things in her heart, Mary came to Simon’s house to anoint her Lord in anticipation of his death and resurrection.
Mary’s loving devotion and sacrificial zeal drew a very unexpected response from those who witnessed it.
“And 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. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her” (vv. 3-5).
Mary must have been shocked by the comments she heard. She only wanted in some modest, but public way to honor her Lord. For her good work Mary was severely censored by Judas, the church treasurer (John 12:4-6). All the disciples followed Judas’ wicked lead and became indignant at what they considered was Mary’s waste (Matthew 26:8).
If you are committed to Christ, if you are inclined to do something for him, just for his honor and his glory, for the interests of his kingdom, for the furtherance of his gospel, simply because you love him, simply out of a deep sense of overwhelming gratitude, do not expect the approval of either the world, or religious hypocrites, or even true believers. The fact is, those who serve the Lord Jesus with the most ardent, self-sacrificing devotion are often ridiculed and criticized by those who ought to imitate their example.
Whole-hearted devotion exposes and condemns half-hearted religion. It stirs up the wrath of those whose hearts are cold and indifferent. Real consecration to Christ is sure to be criticized and mocked by those who know nothing about it. Though her actions were criticized and condemned by others, even by her friends, the Lord Jesus approved of, highly esteemed, and commended both Mary and her work.
“And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her” (vv. 6-9).
Because the Lord Jesus was pleased with Mary, she seems oblivious to what anyone else had to say about the matter. She did it just for him. They really did not matter. Her faith in, love for, and devotion to the Son of God gave her courage and strength.
If I am conscious that I am sincerely doing something as unto the Lord, for the glory of his name, the interests of his kingdom, and the furtherance of his gospel, the opinions of men, their approval and their disapproval, are really of no consequence to me. As David said to his half-hearted brothers, I say, “Is there not a cause?” We must not allow the opinions of men to be the rule of our actions (John 2:5; Galatians 1:16).
A Good Work
Here the Holy Spirit shows us what a good work is. Our Savior said of Mary, “She hath wrought a good work on me.” This woman is held before us as a noble example to follow. Our Lord holds her up as an example of what we should be and do as his servants in this world. Here are seven things about what this dear lady did, by which her work shows itself to be indeed a good work done for Christ.
1. It was a work done for the glory of Christ alone. — She was wrapped up in, absorbed with, and consumed by the Lord Jesus Christ. She cherished him. This perfume was meant for no one but him. She had no regard for herself, the consequences of her actions, what she might lose, or what she might gain. She wanted nothing but to honor Christ.
2. This was an act of pure love. — This is exactly what Luke’s narrative of this event teaches us (Luke 7:36-52). The one thing that motivated this woman to do what she did was love for Christ (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14). When our hearts and lives are ruled by love for Christ, they are well ruled.
3. This was a work requiring considerable cost, self-denial, and sacrifice. — If you read the accounts of Mark and John, you will find that this ointment was worth nearly a year’s wages (300 pence - Compare Matthew 20:9-13).
4. This great sacrifice was the result of thoughtful, deliberate preparation. — This was something she had been planning for some time. She had been saving this rich, costly perfume specifically to use it for Christ’s honor at the appropriate opportunity (John 12:2).
5. This woman’s sacrifice was made silently. — She said nothing; she drew as little attention to herself as she possibly could. She said nothing about what she would like to do, what she planned to do, what she was doing, or what she had done. She just did what she could.
6. This was the response of a believing heart to the sacrifice of her Lord. — This woman appears to have been the only one of the Lord’s disciples who clearly understood at the time how he must accomplish our redemption by his death as our Substitute.
7. This was an act of faith. — She anointed him for his burial, but she did so in anticipation of his resurrection (Isaiah 53:10-12). The primary object of embalming was and is a belief in the resurrection of the dead.
I see in this incident a blessed foretaste of the honor that shall be given to God’s elect on the Day of Judgment. In that great and glorious day no honor done to Christ shall be forgotten. The speeches of orators, the feats of warriors, the deeds of the greatest politicians, the trophies of athletes, the poetry and literature and art produced by men, all shall be forgotten; but this work, and the least work of any and every believing man and woman, even the giving of a cup of cold water in Christ name shall be remembered and honored before men by God himself! So let us do what we can for our Redeemer and his honor as he gives us opportunity (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com