A Good Work Done for Christ
“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 14:3-9)
In these verses 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). Passing over the negative attitudes and wicked conduct of Judas and the Lord’s disciples, I want us only to observe what this woman did, why she did it, and what the Lord Jesus said about her and her work. This was the Master’s commentary on this dear woman and what she did. — “She hath wrought a good work on me…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, 8, 9). May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher as we seek to learn from him the lessons set before us in this portion of his Word.
A Scripture Fulfilled
"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" (v. 3).
This act performed upon the Lord Jesus was an act of singular respect and honor. It showed great humility on the part of this woman. More importantly, it was a literal fulfillment of the Song of Solomon (1:12) — "While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof."
What this woman did for the honor of Christ, every gospel preacher must do every time he stands to preach the gospel. The Word of God is like a sacred chest containing precious spikenard, the rich, fragrant spikenard of Christ crucified. As this dear women broke open her box of spikenard, it is the privilege and responsibility of the gospel preacher to break open the Word of God, that the sweet, sweet aroma of Christ may fill his house. The gospel of Christ is as ointment poured forth. The sweet savor of the knowledge of Christ is diffused in the house of God when Christ is preached.
Let every ransomed sinner anoint the Son of God spiritually, by faith in him, giving him the honor he so richly deserves. Anoint him as your sovereign King, with the kiss of allegiance. Anoint him as your glorious Savior with the kiss of repentance. Anoint him as your Beloved with the kiss of affection.
A Sinner Forgiven
When we read Luke’s account of this event, we find that Luke was inspired to give a few details that Mark was inspired to omit; and those details help us to understand the reason for this woman’s actions.
“And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:36-39)
This woman was Mary Magdalene, mentioned in the next chapter, out of whom the Lord had cast seven devils. Though most conservative and liberal theologians and commentators alike disagree, I am convinced that all four accounts of our Lord being anointed by a woman are of the same event, performed by the same woman. Try to picture the scene here.
Here is a woman who had been a notorious sinner, once possessed of seven devils. But she had been the object of God’s saving grace. The Lord Jesus had forgiven her of all her sins, robed her in his righteousness, and told her plainly that he would soon die as her Substitute and rise again. Now, here she stands, looking at him, listening to him, loving him.
As she stood at his feet behind him, she remembered what she was and who she was. She remembered who he is and what he had done for her. She knew that the time of his death was at hand. Her heart broke with gratitude and love for Christ. She wanted to honor him. So she washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. A woman’s hair is her glory (1 Corinthians 11:15). She untied her glory as she knelt at the Savior’s feet, and wiped his feet with that which was her glory. Then, she kissed his feet, and kissed the incessantly. The Savior said, “This woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet” (Luke 7:45). And she anointed him. She poured the ointment on his head. When she did, it ran down his beard, over his body, down to his feet.
A Simple Faith
“She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying” (v. 8).
Faith is simply trusting Christ, taking God at his Word, believing him. That faith which stands in the word of man is not faith at all. True faith stands in the Word of God alone. Our Lord Jesus told his disciples that he must die and rise again. Mary simply believed him, and came as a penitent sinner to anoint him for his burial. Where does your faith stand? What is the basis of your faith? Is it your feeling? Your experience? Or, is it the Word of God? Faith believes the Word of God (1 John 5:7-12).
The basis of our faith is the Word of God, and the Word of God alone. I fully agree with Martin Luther who wrote…
“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving.
My warrant is the Word of God;
Naught else is worth believing!”
With David, I say, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.” — “Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.” — “Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.” — “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope” (Psalm 119:81, 114, 49). Our feelings are no basis for hope. Our hope is in that which God has caused to be written in Holy Scripture. If I have “a good hope through grace,” I ought to be able to turn to some text, or fact, or doctrine of God’s Word as the source and basis of it. Our confidence must arise from something that God has said in his Word, that we have received and believed with our hearts. — “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). — “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). Good feelings are deceiving, unless we can point to “Thus saith the Lord” as the basis of our hope. Our hope is found in, arises from, and is based upon the Book of God. — “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Book of God was written specifically to give believing sinners an assured hope of grace, salvation and eternal life in Christ (1 John 5:1-3).
The basis of hope is the Word of God. And that which is revealed in the Word of God which gives us hope is the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Substitute (Romans 8:34-35; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Christ is the Foundation upon which we are built. — “Christ is our Hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). — We “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). — “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24). — Our hope is in Christ, our Covenant Surety, our blessed, sin-atoning Redeemer, our Righteousness, and our Advocate and High Priest in heaven. — “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
The basis of our hope is the Word of God. That which is revealed in this Book that gives us hope is the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I want you to see that the good hope of grace and salvation that God gives to his elect is something that is felt in us, felt inwardly in our hearts. The Apostle Paul speaks of God’s saints as people “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12). We read in Romans 5:5, “Hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
A Service Found
Mary wanted to honor the Lord Jesus. She wanted to serve him. She wanted everyone around her to understand how gracious he had been to her, how much she owed him, how great, how glorious he is. But how could she do it. She was a woman. Modesty and obedience to God would not allow her to preach. She could not become a pastor, a deacon, a missionary, or an evangelist. But Mary was not one of our modern, mouthy, obnoxious domineering women. This woman, rather than being repulsed by her proper place in the kingdom of God, used it most honorably. She found a place where she could serve her Lord. She found a way to do something for Christ. She could not do what others could do. But she could do what she could do, and she did. Look at what our Lord says of her in verse 8. — “She hath done what she could.”
What an honorable thing! Blessed is that person who does what he or she can for Christ! Mary did what she had opportunity to do. She did what she had the God given ability to do. And she did what she could when it had to be done. Had she not done this thing now, she could never have done it at all. — "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). — "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).
Because she did what she could, the Lord Jesus said of this woman, “She hath wrought a good work on me.” Oh, for grace to do what I can for Christ! If we would just do what we could, we would do a good work for our Master.
Let me show you several things which are obvious about this great thing Mary did for the Lord Jesus, several things that make her work a good work.
It appears that everything Mary owned in this world was in that little box of precious spikenard she had saved. With happy, willing, grateful heart, she poured it all out on the Savior. Even so, if we would honor the Lord Jesus Christ, he must be honored with all we have (Romans 12:1-2). Those who have been forgiven much love much.
A Singular Fame
"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" (v. 9).
Mary lost nothing. Her oil was not wasted. Her labor was not spent in vain. She got by it that good name which Solomon says is “better than precious ointment.” You can count on this: those who honor Christ, Christ will honor (1 Samuel 2:30). — "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
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