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Apr 09, 2017 | Joshua Claycamp

Matthew 26:1-13/Mark 1:40-45/John 12:1-8 ~ "Anointing For Salvation"

Turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 26. God in his providence, as we've been working our way through these chapters 24, 25 and now on to 26, we find ourselves coming to a passage that is a fitting passage to prepare us for Easter Sunday which we will be celebrating next Sunday.


 Before we dive into the text why don't we pray and just take this moment asked the Lord to help us. As we look at this text father we just come to you this morning and we pray Lord, that as we consider the actions of Mary in anointing your Son for his crucifixion and for burial, I pray Father that you would open our eyes to see and understand the beautiful life that you have prepared for us to live as well. I pray Lord that as we look upon your Son and as we rest in the grace that he freely provides to us from the cross, I pray Lord that your spirit will call us to live lives that are equally beautiful. Lord we pray that you do this work in our hearts this morning. We pray these things in Jesus name, Amen.


A number of years ago I was in a furniture shop considering different pieces of furniture. I discovered in the course of our conversation that the saleslady showing us different articles of furniture was an aspiring artist and taking art lessons at a university. We were looking at a couple of different pieces of furniture, one of them was grey. We moved on and looked at a different piece of furniture. I made the comment that I actually preferred the other piece of furniture that we were looking at. Of course we had looked at hundreds of them so she said “which one?” and I said “the grey one.” She said “no, no, it's gunmetal.” I said “gunmetal grey?” “If you want to say it that way I guess.” she said. As we continued to converse and dialogue I realize she's very particular about the differences in colour and shades of colour which is what you would expect. Now before you and I start to think some somewhat condescendingly on this woman and her particularities and nuances of colour, you need to understand that that is the nature of art and that is the essence of artistry. You see, in art it's the shades of colour and it's the drawing out of the different nuances of the object that you are seeking to capture that gives arts its essence. Anybody can throw together some slapdash thing. I can draw a picture for you of a tiger and you would look at it and think it was a cow because I am not actually skilled at drawing out the nuances of the object I'm trying to capture on paper. That is the essence of what it means to be an artist. If you stop to think about it, all of us are artists to some extent or another. We are all involved in some vocation, we are all involved in some career or some job, we all have a hobby that we like to do, we all have a craft project that we are involved in and to the extent that you seek to do that job that or craft or that hobby well and with exceptionalism is the extent to which you are an artist. The Christian life as we follow Jesus is to be a life of discipleship. I almost hate to use that word, discipleship; perhaps a better way to phrase it would be to say that to follow Jesus is an art form. We can do it in a way that is beautiful or we can do it in a way that is slapdash. What makes the difference? Where is the nuance? Where is the distinction? Interestingly enough I think that we find that here in the account of Mary anointing Jesus with her expensive perfume and then wiping his feet with her hair. As we consider this passage this morning I want you to be posing the question to yourself, could I be more artful in following Christ? Is there a way in which as I consider the different aspects of my life the different activities I'm involved in, is there way in which I can be doing it in a way that is more nuanced toward exalting the glory of God?


As we begin Matthew chapter 26 Jesus is very clear when he says I am going to be crucified. There is no sort of mysterious parable. He is not talking in rhymes or riddles. He is very upfront when he says I'm going to be crucified. He's been saying this multiple times now, this is the third time now in the Gospel of Matthew that he has made this explicitly to clear. The Scriptures go on to say that the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered and they're conspiring. He makes a statement that they got together in the palace of the High Priest whose name was Caiaphas and they plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. Of course they fear a political backlash so they decide not do it during the feast lest there be an uprising among the people. You get the clear impression that there's tension and this awkwardness. Jesus is coming to Jerusalem on a donkey, he's openly challenged the religious establishment in the temple and they are now gathering together to plot to get rid of this guy; although, they have got to be careful because everybody loves him, he's quite popular and there's going to be a backlash. In the midst of all of this Jesus, who is a prophet himself, is saying to his disciples “I'm about to be crucified.” So, if you're one of his followers, though you may not understand the significance of his statements or what's about to happen, you know something dark and foreboding is imminent. In the midst of all of this a leper who is a leper no more and a dead man who is now alive, together with the sisters who are always fighting about which one should be serving and which one should be sitting at the feet of Jesus, they come together in the say let's have a dinner party. That's where we find Christ in Matthew chapter 26 verse 6 where it says Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. Here you pause there and if you didn't know any better, that expression right there should just capture you with wonder. Lepers in this day and age don't give dinner parties. Lepers in this day and age would wrap themselves with cloth, they exclude themselves from society, they gather together with other lepers in a kind of convent where they know that it is safe for them to be near each other because they're already infected, they can't infect each other. They don't have anything to do with the rest of the world. The fact is the common practice in this day and age is if you see a leper coming you identify them and say “hey, look there's a leper!” You let everyone know so that they can take a giant step back. Lepers themselves are required to say I'm a leper or unclean and yet Jesus and his disciples are having a dinner party at a lepers house.


I had Jeanette read to you from Mark chapter 1 earlier. I am convinced that this leper was a follower of Christ from the earliest days of his ministry. My suspicion is that it is one of those two that he healed from the very beginning in which he told them go and offer the appropriate sacrifices at the temple and not to tell anyone that he had healed them. They disobeyed Jesus after he had just miraculously healed them and restore them to health. They tell everyone that he healed them and restore them to health which made it very difficult for Jesus to continue his ministry. The Gospel of Mark as well as Matthew says that he had to withdraw from the cities and villages and he had to go back out into the wilderness because it was just too crowded. In effect, by telling everyone that Jesus had healed them they made it actually more difficult for Jesus to conduct his ministry. By disobeying him they made it more difficult for people to come to Jesus. You'll notice in those accounts and at the beginning of the gospels were Jesus heals these guys, but the Scriptures don't record their names. These are people who place their faith in Christ and who were miraculously healed only disobey right afterwards the clear instruction of their saviour. In the Scriptures in a manner that is reflecting the character of God's grace and his mercy their names were not mentioned. My suspicion is that it Simon. You read some of the early church historians and some of the early church fathers and they say that the guy here, Simon, was the one that was healed earlier in the Gospel. The Scriptures won't say who the leper was who disobeyed and made life difficult for Jesus, but they say here in Matthew 26 that Jesus is having a dinner party at the leper's house. You say that's pretty phenomenal that the apostles actually sit together with the diseased guy and have dinner and he's not diseased anymore. It gets better. Do you know who else is there? Lazarus. The two that are putting this dinner together are Mary and Martha the same Mary and Martha who served Jesus earlier in the gospels and of course Martha is busying herself in the kitchen doing all the cooking and all the cleaning and Mary is just sitting there at the feet of Jesus soaking up all the teaching. Martha gets irate at this and says Lord, of course she's going to go to the Lord as this is his problem; you know she's not going to confront her sister and her laziness you can go to Jesus, she says “why are you not rebuking this girl and telling her to get in the kitchen help me start serving dinner?” of course Jesus' response is that she's chosen the good portion. She's chosen the necessary portion which is coming to Christ and hearing his teaching. They're at it again in the Gospel of John where says Mary and Martha were there and he points out that Martha is in the kitchen still serving again, so you know it's hard to break old habits. Lazarus is there, the same Lazarus who just a few days prior was called forth from the grave. It's clear that this is the Messiah just from the attendees at the dinner party. It's clear he's prophetic, he knows the future and he understands what is about to happen. It is clear that this is a tense moment. He is telling them he's going to be crucified and he's telling them he's going to be raised on the third day, but they don't really understand that. They don't really believe that and they are struggling to wrap their minds around and it in the midst of all of this Mary does something amazing. Understanding the tension, looking at the room and recognizing Simon the leper and beholding with wonder and joy her own brother raised from the grave, she is looking at Jesus and thinking in just a short time he is going to die. She engages in an action in which she wants to show everybody gathered there exactly how much she loves this man. Scripture says in verse 7 that a woman came up to him. Matthew doesn't mention or identify Mary by name, but we know who she is from the Gospel of John. A woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head as he reclined. Verse 8, “And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, why this waste?” we don't know this from Matthew, but we know it from the Gospel of John as well as from the gospels of Mark, this was a really expensive bottle of perfume. We also know from the Gospel of John that as she poured it over his head she also poured it on his feet and she took her hair and she wiped his feet with her hair. It mentions that this bottle of perfume cost 300 denarii. A denarii is about a day's wage so 300 denarii is almost a year's salary. Translated loosely into a modern current sense is always a best guess of about $27,000 for this bottle of perfume. You didn't just buy this stuff. It was hard to come by and undoubtedly it was a family heirloom. It was probably something that had been given to Mary or Martha or possibly the girls together by their parents in anticipation of their wedding night or it could've been something that was given to them in anticipation of their eventual burial. It was an expensive gift and it was undoubtedly the most valuable possession that they had. Mary takes the most expensive thing she has in her home and she breaks it. It's a one-time use; it's a sealed jar because this type of perfume goes back bad quickly. You only get to use it one time as there are no preservatives or anything like that like we have in modern perfume today. She puts it over the head of Jesus and she puts it on his feet. The scripture of Matthew it makes the statement that when the disciples saw it they were indignant and in the gospel of John is states that the ringleader in this particular accusation was Judas. Matthew is pointing to the fact that it was a group question. Even though we know from the Gospel of John that Judas was the ringleader in the accusation that the perfume could have been sold and the money used for the poor. We understand that there is a spiritual dynamic involved here. Judas doesn't even really care about the poor. That's the excuse he's going to put forward and John makes it clear that Judas would steal from the money bag. They put all their money into this money bag to help fund the ministry of Christ. Judas was in charge of it and he routinely stole from it. He sees this exorbitant expensive bottle of perfume broken and put onto Jesus and immediately as a ringleader he starts the grumbling and the whole group goes with him. Matthew says the disciples asked the question in righteous indignation “how dare you use this on Jesus?” in front of Simon the leper and Lazarus the dead guy who is not dead anymore. What is that worth to those guys? You would think maybe Lazarus would be like “You know what? I know it's expensive, but I'm alive. Let's give the guys of perfume! I owe my life literally to him.” The leper could have said the same thing. He could have said “I'm touching you and you're not afraid. That's cool right? Let Jesus have his perfume ointment. What's the big deal?” None of these men come to the defence of Mary; these men who owe everything to Christ. Judas asked the question and Jesus is going to Mary's defence and will say it for what it is. Look at verse 10, Matthew's clear Jesus is talking to the whole group. Judas is the ringleader and there's a spiritual dynamic involved here. Judas in his selfishness has captured the hearts and the minds of those around him to approach Mary with this indignation. Jesus says to the group “why do you trouble this woman.” The Greek word for trouble is a really interesting word. The word does mean trouble, but it is actually more commonly associated with labour and hard work. It has this idea inherent within it of toil. They approach Mary and she's already done it, she's already broken the flask, she's already put it on the feet of Jesus. They come to her not because there's any possibility of salvaging back this expensive nearly $30,000 bottle of perfume. There's no way of getting it back at this point so there's no way you're selling it for $30,000. They come to her to make the action she has already performed toilsome. They cannot reverse what has happened, but they sure can assure that she doesn't want to do it ever again. Jesus comes to them and he says “why do you trouble her?” She has done an action of faith and they want to make that difficult for her. People will want to make faith difficult for you. Jesus is going to call what she did beautiful for two reasons. Jesus is going to identify her sacrifice as a very rare and wonderful form of artistry. Church, understand something, any step of faith you take to exalt and make Christ look beautiful will be opposed by the world and may even be opposed mistakenly by your brothers and sisters in the church. Every step of faith that you take to lift high the name of Christ will be met by those who, in mistaken and misplaced righteous pious indignation, will strive to make your faith toilsome. Judas's got these other 11 apostles on this side and made it difficult for Mary not because he cares for Mary or cares for Jesus, but because he cares about himself and the same will happen to you. There will be opposition; there will be an element of toilsome numbness to your task, to the artistry of your craft of following Christ. Jesus responds “why do you trouble the woman, for” (the “for” connects what he is about to say to the justification). It's a rhetorical question. There's no reason for you to be making Mary’s sacrifice toilsome “for” you always have the poor, but you do not always have me. If your heart really is to serve the poor and to take care of the less fortunate Jesus is totally on board with that. He cares about the poor, He cares about looking after the needs of those who are less fortunate, but those philanthropic needs do not hold a candle to the sacrifice he's about to offer. You will always have an opportunity to look after the poor, you will always have the opportunity to take care of the less fortunate, but what Jesus is about to do is the centre of human history and it is the only lasting solution to poverty. Christ, in making this statement “we will always have the poor” means that despite our best efforts were not going to solve poverty this side of heaven. Despite our best efforts we are never going to eradicate poverty or homelessness from this earth as it is a simple feature of living life in a fallen world. Jesus doesn't denigrate these things, He is just saying that in comparison, as you are sitting here looking at the opportunity to take care of the poor and the opportunity to anoint a specially prepared body given for the sacrifice of the salvation of all mankind, these two things do not even come close to being in the same category. You always have the poor, but you do not always have Jesus. That is reason number one, but here's where Jesus makes a really interesting point in verse 12. He understands what Mary is doing in pouring this ointment on “my body.” I want you to just look very carefully at the text your Bible. I want you to see this, in pouring this ointment on “my body” Jesus draws a distinction between himself and his body; only in the very next phrase to remove that distinction. This is going to be critical to understanding what we are talking about in the Christian life. In pouring the ointment on my body, my external out word body she has done it to prepare me. In that pronoun Jesus is talking about the whole of who he is, in an anointing “my body” she has prepared “me” for burial. So Jesus draws attention to the external and he says she is doing something to his external body, but it is now all encompassing. If you look back to the previous verse, verse 10, look again at this expression. When he first rebukes Judas “why do you trouble the woman for she has done a beautiful thing to me” when we reflect on the word beautiful or beauty most likely you're going to be thinking of external aesthetic appearance. That would be the natural understanding of the word. This past week I was contacted by the pastor of the Evangelical Free Church regarding the Good Friday arrangements coming up and while he was on the phone I said “let me ask you to question. There are always these go-to passages that we always use as pastors to teach about subjects. The passage on love is 1 Corinthians 13 and for faith Hebrews chapter 11. What would your go to passage on beauty? I don't have one.” He didn't either. I was sitting there staring at this word and I'm trying to think it through. Now, I love the Bible and I love words and Scripture says that the Scriptures can't be broken and this is the word of God which is sharper than any sword. I'm staring at the word and all of a sudden the spirit shows me exactly what I need to see. The word contains its own definition right there if you think about it. If you're here this morning you may have a definition that is different. Your translation may not be “beautiful.” Your translation may say “good” thing. The Greek word here is kalos. The basic definition of the word means “good” as in talking about the quality or the essence of a thing, but it also means “beautiful.” Depending on the context in which you use it, it could mean one or the other.


I'll give you a couple of examples. If you're looking at this passage here in Matthew chapter 26, some of your translation say “good” and some of your translations say “beautiful.” Let's look first at the aspect of beauty that is the external appearance. I want you to flip over to Luke chapter 21 verse 5. It is a similar passage to Matthew chapter 24, it is the Olivet Discourse where they're reflecting on the beauty of the temple and the disciples are telling Jesus about the temple. In Luke 21 verse 5 (I'm reading from the English standard version) it says some were speaking of the temple and how it was adorned with “noble” stones. Noble stones? What is a noble stone? Is it like a knight that charges to your rescue or a knight in shining armour kind of thing? When you use this English word “noble” what do we mean by that? The Greek word is kalos. It is the “good” stone or the “beautiful” stone. The ESV translates it as noble stones. King James will translate it “goodly” stone. Look at those nobles stones look at those goodly stones. What is a “goodly” stone? I would never say this to you because we live in the 21st century, but if you have a beautiful garden in your backyard with a stone border and I say to you “those are some goodly stones,” you would think I was a weird and it is a little humorous, but if you're to stop and take me seriously, what am I saying? Am I saying those are beautiful stones? Am I saying that those are some solid stones? If it's an ornate sort of decoration in your garden you're probably going to be lean towards the fact that I'm pointing out to you the aesthetic external appearance of those stones as a being pleasing to me. It's probably a reference to beauty. In the New American Standard Bible Luke 21 uses the word “beautiful” and New King James also says “beautiful.” You see, this word kalos means both. It means the quality or the essence of the thing as well as a reference to it’s and moral acceptability, but it is also in other contexts talking about the external appearance of a thing and the way that it looks in a person's eyes. You've heard the expression beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Well it can be that those two things from Scriptures perspective are the same. You see, we draw a distinction between a moral quality of an object and its aesthetically pleasing quality. We say they are two different things when really as far as the Scriptures are concerned the same word is used both ways. Where we will draw a distinction the Bible does not. If a thing is beautiful it is good in God's eyes and if a thing is good in God's eyes it is also beautiful. The two are together. I want you to flip back to Matthew. I'm going to try and show this to you. Matthew chapter 13 verse 48. The disciples have been told by Jesus to let out their net one more time to catching some fish. The fishermen say “we've been fishing all night” and Jesus tells them just to do it and they get a huge catch of fish. In Matthew chapter 13 (ESV) “When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers, but threw away the bad.” The Greek word there is kalos. It is same word in the ESV that the King James will translate as the “goodly” fish and the NAS translates as “good” fish. Now, in those three passages side-by-side ESV, King James and NAS, when we look at the stones in the temple one said noble, one said goodly, one said beautiful. When we look that the fish none of them said the fish were “beautiful.” It would be weird if it did. This is a beautiful fish. Is there any fisherman in the room that I'm offending right now? (Laughter from the congregation) Normally we don't look at fish and think “oh it's so beautiful,” it's not normally what we think, but if you have a love of fishing you may look at it differently. In this particular instance they are talking about the quality or the essence of the fish. There could be bad fish that aren't really edible and that aren't really fit for consumption. There are also fish that are, in their essence and in quality, good for consumption. The Greek word kalos here is trying to convey both ideas together. Quality, the essence of a thing, if it is good can also to be considered beautiful.


 Now coming back to Matthew chapter 26, Jesus' statement is why do you trouble her? Why are you making her faith toilsome? What she has done is beautiful or it is good. What she has done has within it both this idea of moral excellence as well as artistry. What has she done? Jesus makes a statement in verse 12 that in pouring this ointment on “my” body she has done it to prepare “me” for burial.


Step way back out of the text and just walk with me for moment. Church you're in a room with a guy who has just raised your brother from the dead you are in a room with a guy who used to have leprosy and doesn't have leprosy anymore. Imagine you are Mary and you're in a room with a guy to has fed the multitudes, he has raised people back to life, he has preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven, he has resurrected people to life. If you're Mary and you've had a very specific conversation with this man in which he has said to you “do you believe in the resurrection” and she says “yes I believe in the resurrection” and Jesus then says “I am the resurrection and the life.” All your hopes, all your dreams, everything you've ever been told could be a possibility from the Bible, all of it is found in this man and he's there with the evidence of his life saving power gathered around him and he saying to you “I'm going to be killed in a few days and you're not going to have me with you always.” When you don't know what the future is supposed to look like and when you've actually been teased almost, you've had this tantalizing thing kind of put out there for you knowing this man can actually bring people back from the dead, you're walking with the one that you believe against all possible expectation could in fact be God in the flash and then he just casts a huge dark ominous shadow over everything that you thought was going to happen. He takes all of your certainties regarding the future and he throws them to the ground and says there are dark days ahead. What do you do? The chief priests have the power to kill and they're going to strive to kill's Jesus here very soon. Jesus himself is saying I'm going to be killed. You are his follower; do you step back and say I'm not going to follow you anymore because you are not following my prepared and predefined script for how things are supposed to happen? Or do take the thing which is most precious to you, not knowing what the future holds and do give it to Jesus? Trusting him when you're not sure what's going to happen? If you, as a believer, can walk with Jesus and love him with all that you are, heart, mind, soul and body and in the midst of uncertainty and darkness if you can continue to come to him and give him your all not knowing how it's going to turn out. If you're life will reflect that truth you'll be living, in the estimation of Jesus, a very beautiful and artistic life; beautiful in his eyes by capturing a form of artistry which he appreciates.


My daughters they like to draw and do art work. They routinely will bring me a drawings that are not really very artful, if I can say that would love is a father. I'm sure moms and dads that you've had random scribbles presented to you and you asked for the interpretation and your child then begins to describe this vast panoramic vista of beauty and splendor, but it just looks like red crayon scribbled on a page. When we see that we love our child so we are going to receive the artwork because they did it for, but in the objective sense it is not really all that artful. It is just the scribblings of a five-year-old.


This past couple of weeks I have been working to renovate our kitchen. I was working at it and my daughter comes up to me as I am under the Kitchen cabinet screwing the bottom side of the kitchen countertop secure to the cabinet. As I'm in the midst of all of this construction my youngest comes up to me and she says “here daddy” and she puts this thing on my chest right as I'm in the worst position and I'm not in a position to properly appreciate her art. I said “hang on the second Olive I'm busy.” I get done doing what I'm doing and I stop and I put my drill down and pick up this piece of paper. It looks like some random stick figure with a gun in his hands and I'm like “Oh that's lovely dear.” She says “This is you daddy. You are under the cabinet drilling the screws into the countertop.” Now, this picture is not going to a museum or gallery, but it really blessed me and I thought she was giving it to me. That’s when she said “it's not for you.” I was confused because it is always for me. She says “I'm going to keep that and I'm going to put that on my wall because when I grow up I want to take care of my family the way you take care of us. I want this picture to remind me.”


If you strive to follow Christ the greatest thing you can do as a Christian is to lift high the good news that he died on the cross, that his grace is sufficient and that you are totally forgiven because of what Jesus did on the cross. When you do that you are like Christ. Sometimes you and I think that our efforts to lift high the name of Jesus are quite pathetic and maybe they are. Listen to me, in our efforts to follow Jesus we sometimes will not do it as beautifully or is perfectly as Mary did it here, but Jesus sees our hearts so when the world says” why do you do this?” when the world tries to make faith toilsome remember that Christ sees you and that his grace is sufficient for you. Where you lack you are still dealing with a father who loves. Let us rejoice in that love.


Let us close in a word of prayer. Father, we just thank you for this privilege this morning, to look at your word to look at what Mary did for you in preparing you for your crucifixion, Lord. Father we are preparing now for communion and I just pray, Lord that you would speak to our hearts about following you. Show us how we can live a life that is more artful in exalting the goodness of your son Jesus. We pray these things in Christ name, Amen.

Series Information

The Gospel of Matthew is a story about a once and coming King. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of David, the long awaited for Messiah. He has come once, and Matthew tells the story of His arrival, ministry, sacrificial atoning work on the cross, and His promise to return soon.

Other sermons in the series