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03.14.21 Disciple who Believed Mark 14.1-11 Sermon Summary

by on March 22, 2021

NB: This sermon is presented in first person

Earlier tonight, we caught a break. For four days tensions have been mounting. The rural rabbi Jesus came to Jerusalem during Passover Week. It is no surprise. There are pilgrims from all over. Some are here to party. Others to pray. Still others to politicize.

Jesus did all three. On Sunday he mocked the procession of the Roman proconsul Pilate into the city. Monday he demonstrated extremist views on prayer. Yesterday and today he spoke through parables, teachings, and debates with the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, Herodians, and us Chief Priests.

My name is Meshulam. It has two meanings. One of them is “friend.” During this week we have gone from concerned to offended to fearful. And now we just wish  Jesus was dead.

But the crowds love him. They love him more and more as the festival nears. So we couldn’t get him. Here in Jerusalem Jesus is surrounded by crowds. At night he goes to Bethany. Tonight he was at Simon the Leper’s house—we weren’t going near that place!

We needed a secret opportunity. We needed a betrayer. Thank Adonai for Judas! Earlier tonight he came to us saying he wanted to betray Jesus. We were overjoyed. He didn’t say exactly why, but he told this story about one of Jesus’ disciples.

There was this woman at Simon’s house who interrupted the meal. She broke an alabaster jar of fine nard and anointed Jesus’ head. Something like that, it was probably worth 300 denarii. That amount could feed a household for a whole year! It was ridiculous! It was extravagant!

I know there are times to give such gifts. Thanksgiving for deliverance, for example, or to offer a share in a great harvest or fortune. Perhaps to provide for people in need, or to provide for the Levites who didn’t get their own land to farm. We give such gifts to remind God of the covenant or as an offering for sin.

As an aside, lately Jesus has been referring to his life as a “ransom for the liberation of people from sin.” That would certainly change the priesthood! What would we do with no more offerings?!

Well, this woman made her offering and it wasn’t for sin or thanksgiving. It certainly wasn’t providing for the poor. Jesus said it was a preparation, an anointing of his body for death. He said the poor you can always help, but he wouldn’t be around forever. (Hopefully not after this week!)

There’s something else Jesus taught: When you do give to the poor you give to him. This woman gave to Jesus now. She’ll probably give to poor later. She apparently has a heart for giving. Plus she didn’t care what others thought. She entered Simon’s home, interrupted the meal, and weathered the judgment.

And for what?! To show up everyone? Out of some obligation or debt? Jesus said it was for his death. It turns out she was the only one who understood. Three times Jesus predicted his death. He knew we would reach a breaking point. He knew we were going to win.

Eventually, despite the crowds, we were going to get him. He predicted this and she believed him. So Jesus commended her for “doing what she could do.” You can’t eliminate power like ours. But you can do what you can do. That’s why Jesus said what he said: In the whole world, wherever his message is proclaimed, what she did will be told in remembrance of her.

It’s like he was saying, “The Kingdom of God is doing what you can do even if you know you’re going to lose.” She did what she could do. She believed Jesus. She was the first disciple to do so. And then so did Judas.

He came to us earlier tonight ready to betray Jesus. He told us this story. “What is her name?” I asked. “Meshulam, I don’t know,” Judas said. “Nobody knows.” She remains anonymous. She could be anyone. ANYONE can do what they can do. Even you. Even me.

Well, the disciples were so concerned about money and extravagant gifts, we promised to pay Judas. After all, that’s the second meaning of my name “Meshulam.” It means “friend,” but it also means “paid for.”

Judas and I are new friends: It only seems right to pay him. Now all we have to do is wait. But I have this nagging feeling: This anonymous woman’s actions and Jesus’ words about her—“She did what she could do”—got me thinking: What can I do?

Does Jesus deserve more of my attention? Should I invest more in Jesus? Does the Kingdom he proclaims warrant gifts from me? What if God really is with him? What if God really is with the poor?

This woman understood Jesus. I’m afraid I may be beginning to understand also. I may be paying too much for my friends. Maybe I should be more like this anonymous woman. It’s something to think about while there’s still time.

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