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03.29.15 This is the Big Sunday Mark 14:1-11 Sermon Summary

by on March 30, 2015

By the numbers, next Sunday is the “big Sunday.” But if we celebrate Easter without Palm/Passion Sunday, we’ll never understand the Kingdom of God, or what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This is the big Sunday.

Summary Points

  • When Kingdoms collide
  • A source of our religious anger and judgmental attitudes
  • The call to faithful generosity
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

By Wednesday night, things were pretty tense among the Twelve. The joyful entry of Jesus on the donkey on Sunday seemed a distant memory. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem from the East, contrasting Pilate’s from the West, dramatically depicted that the Kingdom of God is much different than the Kingdom of Rome.

But Monday and Tuesday were pretty rough, too. Jesus had picked fights with the religious authorities, and like a prophet from old, he challenged the priests. Apparently the Kingdom of God is also different from the Kingdom of Religion.

When the Kingdom of God challenges both the Kingdoms of Rome and Religion, disciples get anxious.

Now they are at the home of Simon the Leper, and the Twelve were thoroughly confused. Jesus is really popular among the people, those disenfranchised by the political and religious elite. He’s so popular that the chief priests and scribes are now looking for a sneaky way to arrest him. And that’s the problem—Jesus is equally unpopular with the powerful.

When the Kingdom of God becomes confusing, when it challenges Rome and Religion, criticizes Barak Obama and Franklin Graham, we are challenged to choose which kingdom we are a part of. We can become angry and judgmental. And in our confusion, anger, and judgment, we don’t recognize true faith.

In walks this woman with the expensive ointment. She anoints Jesus, which triggers a reaction. Her anointing calls together traditional Old Testament anointing of kings, priests, and prophets. It surfaces all the anxiety about Jesus and the Kingdom conflicts he represents. And the Twelve get angry and judgmental.

According to salary.com, a year’s wages for a laborer, the purported value of this woman’s anointing, is $29,400. That’s an extravagant gift. The Twelve scold the woman, for the money “should have been given to the poor.”

I find this passage very challenging. First, it challenges me to be an extravagant giver—if not to the church as the body of Christ, then at least to the poor. Second, it challenges me to wonder why I don’t give extravagantly. I am haunted and inspired by this line from the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations: “Giving generously reprioritizes lives and helps people distinguish what is lasting, eternal, and of infinite value from what is temporary, illusory, and untrustworthy.” (p. 114) This passage asks me, Why am I not an extravagant giver?

Sometimes we find it easy to be extravagant. When I attend weddings I often wonder, Who received more money: The rehearsal dinner restaurant, the reception hall, or the church? I am confronted by these questions during memorial services also. They make me think about my priorities.

The Twelve at that table were being challenged about their priorities and their allegiance. They saw an anointing, as for a king, priest, or prophet, but this one was for a burial. Even though Jesus had spoken a lot about his coming death and resurrection, they had refused to hear.

But not this woman. She had listened and heard. She understood his lessons about dying in order to live. She also understood the nature of God’s grace. She gave like a child does—generously, always assuming there is more. Jesus commends her for making an extravagant gift when she could. And her act of faithful generosity would accompany him through his betrayal and torture.

This week we remember God’s extravagant gift to us in Christ. May it inspire us as it did this woman, not only to receive, but to be extravagant in our giving as well.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • In what ways do you see the Kingdom of God as represented by Jesus in conflict with the Kingdoms of “Rome” and “Religion” in your life?
  • The woman gave a “real” gift to Christ, not just money. In what ways do you give real gifts to Christ, either to the church as the Body of Christ, or to the poor (see Matthew 25:31ff)?
  • What makes you religiously angry or judgmental? To what degree do these feelings arise because your allegiance is divided among the Kingdoms?
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