Sunday, October 22, 2023

Only by Remembering our Past can we Face the Future: The Woman who Anointed Jesus

It’s so incredibly important that we remember our history, our heritage, and who we are. If we don’t know who we are, the history of our people, our nation, our faith, our religion, our family, our state, our city, all of these things, then we’re liable to believe anything that we’re fed, and to be manipulated by the forces in the world around us that are trying to promote their various ideological agendas.

I want to talk to you about the history of Israel, in particular this morning, which as Christians is part of our story:

Long, long ago the nation of Israel was only one man and his family, it was Abraham, and his wife Sarah. And their children and extended family. Abraham would have two children, Isaac, from Sarah, and Ishmael from Hagar, his wife’s servant girl. Ishmael according to tradition would go on to found the modern Arab nations, including many who are part of modern day Islam.

Isaac and his wife Rebecca would have children, and one their children’s children Joseph, would save his family from a terrible famine that had come across the land. That is what led Israel to live in Egypt. Joseph became a leader in Egypt and helped shelter his family in a place called Goshen in Egypt.

God blessed the Israelites and they became numerous. But the Egyptians began to fear them because of their great numbers, so they enslaved them.

They had been slaves for 400 years, building the wealth of Egypt. But God was at work. He began working through a man named Moses, to bring Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and into the promised land, the land that would be called Israel. And it’s capital, the city of Jerusalem, which means, “city of peace.” A place of peace between God and man.

Moses died, and Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of Israel, and led them into the promised land. The nation was founded, amongst their enemies.

But once God brought them into the land, he gave them detailed instructions in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, on how to celebrate festivals each year to remember everything God did for them.

That is our first point today, a single word: Remember.

If we don’t remember, we’re liable to forget, as they say.

It was very important that Israel remember what it was like to live as slaves in Egypt, and what it was like to travel through the wilderness.

Why would that be important? None of the generations born after the journey through the wilderness and out of Egypt were even there? Why does it matter if they remember it?

Because it’s part of their history. It’s part of their identity under God.

It was the most important festival of the year, Israel was celebrating, the Passover festival, and the festival of unleavened bread. These two festivals celebrated first, the Passover lamb, that the blood of the Passover lamb was slaughtered and the blood was wiped on their door posts, and this protected them from the wrath of God against the nation of Egypt.

Secondly, they would celebrate for seven days after, the festival of unleaven bread, to celebrate their deliverance from Egypt and into the wilderness.

Jews to this day celebrate these festivals each year. The purpose is to remind them what God has done for them.

What happens when we stop reminding ourselves what God has done for us? We forget what God has done for us. We start to drift away. We start to think we don’t need God. We stop coming to church. We go back into the world of sin. And we end up shipwrecked once again.

I’ve seen many people come in the church and learn and grow, and then leave. They slowly seem to forget all that God had done for them, and they go back to the world of sin. This is a very sad and tragic thing so, don’t let that be you. Always remember.

Set a pattern in your life. Remember the day you received salvation through Jesus Christ. Celebrate that day. Rejoice. Remember the day of your birth, the day God gave you life. Celebrate Christmas, that Jesus was born. Celebrate Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus is alive.

The reason we so carefully come ot church each Sunday, and attend bible study, and celebrate holidays, and to consistently remind and re-remind ourselves of all God has done for us, so we never forget, and so that we always remain grateful, and joyous, and focused on God.

We as sheep are prone to wander, the Shepherd Jesus helps us to stay on course, but we ought to try not to wander, but to stay close to the shepherd.

All of that to explain, that in Mark chapter 14 today, in verses 1-26, Jesus and the twelve disciples were all preparing for the festival of Passover and unleavened bread.

It says in Mark 14:1-2: “Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

The leaders in Jerusalem are plotting to kill Jesus, but they want to avoid a riot because of the festival.

Meanwhile Jesus is about 2 miles away at Bethany, and we see a very beautiful event take place.

It says in verse 3: While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”

This woman takes some very expensive perfume and anoints Jesus head with it. The woman was really saying, “this is how important Jesus is to me.” The nard was worth a great deal of money, we’re talking worth about $30,000 dollars, or as the Bible says, a year’s wages. And she uses it as an act of worship to Jesus her Lord. It’s beautiful. It’s a statement of understanding, just how important Jesus is. And I think sometimes we miss that. We’re focused on work, paychecks, retirements, cars, family, friendships, coffee, vacations, and we forget that Jesus Christ is worth more than every cent we’ve ever had or will have.

I know deep down I don’t fully realize just how valuable Jesus Christ is, and how much I need Him every moment. I don’t feel see it right at this moment. I may not ever until I see him face to face. But I want to know the truth.

That’s our second point today, hunger for the truth. Maybe you realize right now, I don’t see Jesus the way the woman does, who poured out the nard on Jesus’ head. But you can want to know. You can say to yourself, and to God, “Lord, I want to know you like that.

Be hungry for the truth. Want to know. Then ask God to show you.

It continues in verses 4-5: Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.”

This is Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples who rebukes the woman. And I just have to smile when I see this. Because we see the same thing today in the news quite a bit.

When a big corporation buys something, or when we talk about money in politics, or when Elon Musk bought twitter, you had all these keyboard warriors, on social media, crying out that for the price Musk paid you could solve world hunger. And you see that a lot.

But this isn’t just something that happens to big corporations or social media. Your mom or dad probably told you growing up when you didn’t want to finish your peas or beans, “there are children starving in third world countries.” And you probably thought to yourself, well, if I don’t eat it, it’s not like it’s going to appear suddenly in another country.

Let’s see what Jesus says to this statement by Judas. In verses 6-7: “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

Don’t worry about the poor right now, says Jesus, how insensitive right? Wrong. Jesus is absolutely right. It was beautiful what this woman did. Don’t worry about the approximate value of the nard.

The Lord continues in verses 8-9: “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Jesus here foreshadows his own death which he knows is rapidly approaching. It’s only a few days away. He says this perfume is preparing for his burial. Then he gives this beautiful picture for us today, wherever the gospel is preached around the whole world, people will talk about what this woman did.

Now I’ll tell you this, I looked it up, the distance from Bethany, Israel to Owosso, Michigan is 6,003 miles. So we do qualify I think when Jesus talks about being “throughout the world.”

Jesus doesn’t say this about many other people around him who did great things. But he says that this woman’s act of anointing him, will be remembered, in memory of her.

And that brings back to our first point today, “Remember.” Are you beginning to see how important it is to remember? We must have memorials in our lives. We do that with loved ones we lost. We visit their grave. We keep their memory alive. How much more so should we keep our entire calendar year centered around our relationship with the God who made us?

And if you’re truly hungry for the truth, our second point today, you’ll “remember” and by “remembering” you’ll stay hungry for the truth. Do you see how it all fits together? As we remove pieces and parts from Christianity, like a car engine, eventually the car will start running badly as we remove parts, and eventually it will break down all together.

Jesus has just rebuked Judas. Now let’s see what happens next.

In verses 10-11, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

With some people in the body of Christ, you can just tell, as you watch them, that they are watching and looking for something to get mad about, they are on guard for something they don’t entirely agree with. And they are like pregnant with controversy and they are on the edge of their seat waiting for a disagreement. And then at last you say something that offends them and off they go to another church.

That’s one variety of what you might call “church hoppers” they bounce from church to church to church. Which is very unhealthy. And every time they have a conflict of any kind, they bounce to the next one. But instead, we should look to work out the disagreement, sit down and figure it out. It’s awkward, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s worth it, to work it out, instead of running. I remember I told someone a few years back who was upset, if you keep storming off and leaving every time you have a disagreement, you’re going to be running your whole life. It will never end. You have to put an end to that pattern, with whatever it may take, conflict management books, anger management with a counselor, something to break that toxic pattern.

But as you can see here Judas gets upset, he’s pregnant with evil, and he heads off to the chief authorities to betray Jesus to them for money.

We know from other gospels that the chief priests offer Judas 30 pieces of silver, which is not very much, it’s the cost of purchasing a slave, one slave. But he takes them up on the offer.

It’s a crazy moment because as we go through the entire gospel of Mark, there’s no thought to the possibility that Jesus’ closest disciples would ever totally betray him. Sure they struggle to understand what he’s saying, they make mistakes, they struggle with unbelief, they argue amongst themselves but you get the sense that they all have true hearts of devotion despite their failings.

But suddenly we see Judas, and off he goes, to betray the son of God.

Consequently that’s our third point today, “break the toxic pattern.” We all have toxic patterns in our lives, things that repeat. I’ve known people who were cleptos, they couldn’t stop stealing. Others like we talked about have anger issues. Others always seem to be in the middle of drama. Others it’s drinking, drugs, cigarettes, gambling or pornography. Those are the obvious ones. But what about manipulating people for your own benefit? For your own pleasure? What about refusing to forgive someone that hurt us in the past? What about stealing from your employer, or cheating on your taxes, or bad mouthing people behind their back? What about excluding people you know you should try to include in your “in group”? All those things are just as toxic as obvious things like drugs or stealing.

Judas was caught in a mindset of wealth, money, influence, power, and he lost sight of who Jesus really was to him. And off he went, pregnant with evil.

Now if we “remember” point one, we will know our history, our past and all God has done for us. And if we remember, then we’ll hunger for truth, because we’ll know the truth from our past enough to want it badly, And if we remember the past, and then we hunger for the truth, then we’ll have the courage, and devotion, and grit, to point three, break toxic patterns.

But if we don’t remember, then we won’t hunger for truth because we won’t know it, and if we don’t hunger for truth we won’t have the grit and courage and devotion to break toxic patterns in our lives. It all fits together.

Next we see in verses 12-16, “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

It’s now earlier in the day on the festival of Passover, on the first day of the unleavened bread festivals 7 days. The disciples go make all their preparations and Jesus makes sure everything is ready for them. It’s a good reminder that someone has to set the table, but don’t worry, Jesus will provide a good venue. And he certainly does.

So then they all gather there in the room Jesus has provided for them.

Then it says in verses 17-21: “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Here we have each of the disciples asking Jesus, is it me, am I the one who is going to betray you? They are all worried and concerned. They rightly understand that the chief issue with a follower of Jesus is within ourselves. They don’t trust their own actions. They are afraid that they will fall away in the future. Which all of them will aside from John, but Peter would rally them afterwards, and they would be restored.

Point number four, Check Yourself. Each of the disciples ask the question, “Is it I Lord?” They are checking their own heart. They are judging and evaluating themselves, and then bringing it to Jesus. That is wisdom. Check yourself, in other words, guard your heart.

It’s shocking though, the statement Jesus makes, that it would be better for Judas Iscariot after betraying the son of God, that it would be better if he’d never been born at all. I think this implies the punishment he will receive in hell for all eternity, it must be particularly terrible. And in the court of God’s justice, it should be. As sad as it is, justice requires it.

I’ve heard some well meaning Christians try to make the case that Judas is in heaven. Honestly I don’t know how backwards you have to be in your theology, and think basically everyone just goes to heaven no matter what, to think that. It’s ludicrous. Would Jesus make this statement about Judas if he was in heaven? Of course not.

Lastly, we see verses 22-26: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Jesus says, this is my body, this is my blood. Jesus would of course soon be giving his own body over to death, to cover our sins. Jesus would become our Passover lamb. As the doorpost was painted with the blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt, and the angel of death did not harm those who were in that home, so we are painted in the blood of Jesus, our sins are covered over by his sacrifice, and then we are given a clean slate before God, all our sins are forgiven.

Yet Jesus also affirms that he would not drink again the fruit of the vine until he was alive again in the kingdom of God. So Jesus knew, though he would die, he would be raised from the dead, and would be in the kingdom of God forever, in heaven.

Point five today, rest in the love of Christ. As you remember the past and keep in touch with your mindset, you hunger for truth and pursue it, then by the leading of the Holy Spirit you are active in finding healing for toxic patterns, and you’re also checking yourself, evaluating your actions and your heart, so lastly, you’re walking the Christian lifestyle faithfully, now the goal is to find the mindset of rejoicing in the restful love of Christ.

But pastor you told me all this stuff I need to do, remember, hunger, heal, evaluate, and yes that’s all true, but at the same time, that’s not how you get saved. That’s how you build your walk with Christ and guard the danger of falling away. But since you’re there. You can rest in the love of Christ. Remember you are working from acceptance, not for acceptance. You’re guarding against falling away, you haven’t already fallen away. You’re safe and secure in the love of Christ.

Lastly, I do want to point your attention to verse 26 which mentions that they sang a hymn before leaving for the mount of olives.

I can only imagine what this night was like, but it was a time of celebration, yet also a time of angst for the disciples, they knew Jesus was saying he was about to be betrayed and killed. And yet after all this, they sang a hymn together.

And we’re pretty sure we know what song they sang, it was traditional for Jews as part of the Passover ceremony to sing Psalms 116 through Psalm 118. This was called the Hallel, part of it would be sung before the meal, then part of it after, generally it was Psalms 113 through 118. With the last 2-3 being sang after. But it’s astonishing that in psalm 118:20-24 it says, “

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.[d]
23 This is the Lord's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Main Points:
1. Remember

2. Hunger for Truth

3. Break Toxic Patterns

4. Check Yourself

5. Rest in Christ’s Love