July 30, 2017
If you’ve been at Alliance, you know I usually spend some time on the introductions to my sermons. I try to think of something catchy – whether it’s a story or a picture or a humorous anecdote or I’ll grab something from the headlines, or, my personal favorite, something from history. Well, this morning, we arrive at our 76th sermon in the book of Mark – which means I’ve written 76 introductions.
Including holidays, vacations, etc, we’ve been in Mark for two years now, studying the life of Christ. But, can I suggest that everything I’ve written, everything I’ve said, everything we’ve studied over the past two years in a sense is introduction. It is now time for the main event. In fact, you could say everything that has been written in the Scripture up to this point – all the way through the 39 books of the Old Testament, most of the way through the gospels – has been introduction to the main event.
This event was spoken of as early as the Garden of Eden, when God said to the serpent regarding the seed of the woman – you will strike his heel, but he will crush your head. It was the ultimate fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham – through your seed, all the nations of the world will be blessed. It was the fulfillment of every Passover lamb ever sacrificed, causing Paul to write (I Corinthians 5:7), “For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” In fact, it is the ante-type to which every Old Testament type in the Levitical system points. Every animal ever killed, every offering ever given, every lamb ever sacrificed point to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. It was the ultimate subject of every prophet, stated most clearly by Isaiah,
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
The main event is, of course, the cross of Jesus Christ. The Passion of the Christ. In Mark 14, 15 and 16, we arrive at the climax of redemptive history – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the event to which all preceding events point forward. It is the event to which all history looks back. Even as we look forward to the second coming of Jesus, we can only do so because of the main event to which we look back. It is the central event of the epistles, of Paul’s ministry, causing him to write, “For I have determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” It’s all I know, it’s all I want to know, it’s all that matters.
I told you some time ago this culmination of redemption, the focal point of history, was the primary emphasis of the gospel writers, to include our own Mark. A full 33% of the gospel narratives cover this event. Everything else is just introduction. I wish my feeble words could make this big enough in your hearts and minds. Only the Holy Spirit can impress upon you the magnitude of the event, and I pray He will. We will never cover anything more important than what we cover over the next few weeks – to cover the next few days of Jesus’ life. It’s what it’s all about.
And so, we arrive this morning at the last major section of the book of Mark. I gave you this outline in September, two years ago. The next three chapters, 14, 15, and 16, cover the poignant preparation, the sad betrayal, the unfair trials, the brutal death, the bitter burial, and the glorious resurrection of our Christ. Today, we’re going to begin chapter 14, which details the preparation for the cross and leads to His arrest. We’re going to look at verses 1-11, where we’ll see:
- Preparation Behind the Scenes (1-2)
- Preparation for Burial (3-9)
- Preparation for Betrayal (10-11)
You see, it’s all been setup, preparation. We read about it in Mark 14:1-11.
Who killed Jesus? That’s an important question, isn’t it? That question caused lots of controversy in the movie, The Passion of the Christ. I’m sure you remember Jewish groups were concerned the movie was anti-Semitic; it painted the Jews as Christ-killers, and it would release yet another wave of violence against them. And yet, as we read this passage, it appears the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ. The chief priests and the scribes, the experts in the Law, gathered and conspired how they could seize Jesus secretly and kill Him.
Later, we see Judas, one of Jesus’ own followers, went to the chief priests and agreed to betray Him to these Jewish leaders for thirty pieces of silver. And we know the rest of the story – we know in a few verses, before the end of the chapter, Judas will succeed in his betrayal. Who killed Jesus? It seems clear.
In fact, if you’ve been with us through our study of Mark, you know these Jewish leaders have been plotting His death for some time. It started as early as chapter 3, where we read, “The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” For months they’ve been trying to bait Him, trap Him, trip Him, and destroy Him. The attacks intensified after the triumphal entry, and during the Passion Week, the attacks have come from every direction – Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, scribes, chief priests, elders – they’ve been incensed by this man and are intent on one thing: to get rid of Him. These Jewish leaders seldom agreed on anything, but they agreed on this. Were the Jews responsible for the death of Christ? Of course. Even the Jewish crowds later cried out, “Crucify Him!”
In his first message on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, …, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:22-23) Case closed.
But, if you’re at all familiar with the Bible, you know the Jews weren’t the only ones responsible for His death. After all, Jesus has been saying He would be handed over. Handed over to whom? Of course, the Gentiles. Crucifixion was not a Jewish means of death – it was Roman. You say, I’ve seen the movie, I’ve read the book. Jesus was handed over by the Jews, but it was the Gentiles who killed Him. Herod, the king of the Jews, wasn’t even a Jew, he was Idumean. And it was Pilate, a Roman governor, who gave the death sentence. It was Romans who beat Him. It was Roman hands that drove the nails into His hands and feet, and crucified Him. It was a Roman spear that pierced His side. It was the Romans, you say, and again you’d be right.
In fact, that’s why later in Acts, the early church lifted these words in corporate prayer to God, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,” It seems obvious, doesn’t it, the Jews and the Gentiles were responsible for the death of Christ.
And we remember when Jesus talked about His coming death. He talked about it at least three times. In chapter 8, way back in Galilee – in fact, that’s why He told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem. He told them He must go to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, but that He would rise again the third day.
Then, He gave a little more information in chapter 9 where we see He was going to be delivered into the hands of men, who will kill Him. A little more in chapter 10, where we find out for the first time He will be delivered by the Jewish leaders to the Gentiles who will mistreat and kill Him. So, Jesus identified His killers. He knew what was coming. Doesn’t it make you ask, If you know, why go? If it’s Tuesday evening, and you know in two days, on Thursday evening, you’re going to be betrayed, why not leave on Wednesday? The answer lies in the question, who killed Jesus? There was some behind the scenes preparation going on at the hands of the Jewish leaders. They would arrest Him and hand Him over to Gentile leaders who would pull the trigger. But that’s not the ultimate answer to the question.
Jesus knew they were going to kill Him – and yet He went voluntarily, we’ll see silently, to His death. It was, after all, the main event. We must erase from our minds once and for all any notion Jesus was a victim; the cross was an accident; Jesus was a revolutionary caught up with His own grandiose ideas; He was a good person unfortunately killed by evil men. Clearly, the Scripture says this was a divine appointment, a divine plan, and the Person ultimately doing the behind the scenes plotting was none other than God Himself. Over and over Jesus said, death is not coming to Me, I am going to death. The cross is not choosing me, I am choosing the cross. I have the authority to lay my life down – and no one can take it from Me. And if I lay it down, I have the authority to take it up again. That is the gospel. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The Scripture is full of this truth. You see, the rest of Isaiah 53 says,
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him….
10 But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; [why will He be satisfied in the death of His own Son? Because] By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.
Who killed Jesus? Ultimately, the answer is, God is responsible for the death His own Son. No mere man could have taken Jesus’ life. Later, Jesus is standing before Pilate – big, strong Pilate, who is questioning Him. Pilate gets irritated at Jesus’ silence and explodes, “Why don’t you answer me – don’t you know that I have the power to crucify you, or to release you?” To which Jesus answered, You’re big, Pilate – you’re strong, but you are not in charge. “You would have no power over Me at all if it were not given to you from above.” You don’t get it. Don’t you realize you’re just a pawn in these proceedings? Don’t you realize God is accomplishing His purposes through this evil to bring about the salvation of humankind?
That’s the answer. You may have noticed I left out some verses in Acts. Acts 2 actually says, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Do you see? It was all part of God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge. They were guilty – they perpetrated the most atrocious evil ever committed against any man. But it was all according to God’s plan, and the most awful evil produced the most wonderful good.
Acts 4 actually says, For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
Do you see? Who was responsible for the death of Christ? The Jews? Yes. The Gentiles? Yes. You and me? Yes. God? Yes. As we go through this over the next few weeks, we’re going to meet some really bad guys – Caiaphas, Pilate – and it’s going to look like they’re in charge – but they’re not. God is in charge, sovereignly in control, accomplishing His purposes.
Let me ask you a question – do you hate it when you’re in the midst of a really difficult trial and someone says to you, “Well, we know that all things work together for good for those who love God”? Doesn’t that sound trite? Doesn’t it irritate you a little bit? How do you think the disciples would have felt if someone walked up to them after Jesus was hauled away in chains, after they watched the beatings and the crucifixion, and said, “It’s okay boys, God’s in control – He’s working this all out for your good”? But let me ask you a question – was it true?
Is there anyone here right now who needs to hear that God is in control? I don’t know if you’re in a trial now, and I don’t want to sound trite – but, is it possible if God was working out His purpose in the most heinous, awful, horrendous act ever committed, that He’s also working out His purposes in whatever trial you’re facing now, or will face tomorrow, or will ever face?
Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away. Passover was one of three festivals celebrated by the Jews – and it had to be done in Jerusalem. On the 14th day of the first month, they would slaughter a lamb. That evening, the beginning of the 15th day, they would observe the Passover. It commemorated their deliverance from Egypt after the tenth plague, when the death angel passed over the land. And those Jewish households that had the blood of a lamb applied to the doorposts, the angel would pass over the house. But if there was no blood, the firstborn in the house would die. After the plague, the Israelites left Egypt in hurry – they gathered up all their goods and left – there wasn’t even time for the bread to rise. And so, the Feast of Unleavened Bread followed, in which they removed all leaven from their homes. The whole event, from the death of the lamb on the 14th, through the next seven days to the 21st, they would celebrate and remember.
It was two days away, meaning what we’re about to see takes place on Wednesday. “and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him.” But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.” Don’t miss that. They had no intention of seizing and crucifying Jesus during the Passover. The Jews nationalism was at its height during this festival celebration. The governor Pilate would station extra soldiers in Jerusalem – he would even come from Caesarea to be there. Tensions were always high – so we won’t seize Jesus then. Don’t want to start a riot. Not during Passover, but we’ll find God had something else in mind.
This isn’t the first time they tried to kill Jesus. In fact, they’ve been trying to kill Jesus since He was born. The first attempt was way back in Matthew 2. Herod had heard a king of the Jews was born in Bethlehem, so he sent His soldiers to kill every male child under the age of 2. Jesus escaped. Because you see, it wasn’t His time.
Later, when He began His ministry, He returned to His home town, Nazareth. He was called to read from the Prophets. He read from Isaiah 61, which spoke of the glorious days of the coming Messiah. Jesus stopped reading, gave the book back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes were on Him. He looked at them and said, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” They were furious. They got up and drove him to a nearby cliff to throw Him off – to kill Him. But the next thing we read is He walked away, right through the middle of them. It wasn’t His time.
In John 7, we read He became known as the man who they are seeking to kill. He was a marked man, a man with a price on His head, a man destined for death. Two other times, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him (John 8, 10), and He walked away. You don’t walk away from a stoning, unless, it isn’t your time.
But now notice, the religious leaders said, now is not the time. But God said, the Passover would be the perfect time. He would become the Passover Lamb, sacrificed to take away the sin of the world. That’s the time, God said, when Jesus will die. The leaders who wanted Him dead were saying, not now. He’s got quite the following. People from Galilee are here who think He’s a prophet. Just the other day, they were hailing Him the Messiah. We must wait until after the festival. Two days until the Passover, seven days for the Feast of Unleavened Bread – nine days. Not before then. Now is not the time.
But God said, now is the time. Do you see? They couldn’t take Him when they wanted to, and they would take Him when they didn’t want to. The point is, God was sovereignly in control of this whole event. You’re not in charge. You’ll take My Son when I tell you to, not before, not after. He was orchestrating His plan, they were but pawns to carry out His bidding. Behind the scenes preparation? You bet – they just had no idea who was in charge.
- Which brings us to our second point in verses 3-9 – anointing for the burial.
It’s a beautiful story, recorded in Matthew and John as well. In John, we learn the woman’s name was Mary of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. This event actually happened on the day before the triumphal entry, about four days before this, but Mark records it here for a couple of very important reasons. First, it serves as further preparation for Jesus’ coming death and burial. Second, it serves as a contrast. I want you to get that – Mark is purposefully drawing a stark contrast between this beautiful act of devoted worship and the scheming, plotting and betrayal of the Jewish leaders and Judas. In another of his famous sandwiches, Mark inserts the story between the plotting and the betrayal as light in the midst of darkness.
Jesus is at the home of Simon the leper. (outsider, insider) Which means Simon must have been healed, otherwise, no one would go to his house for a party. The law was very clear on that. Simon, you see, is another in a long list of broken people healed during Jesus’ ministry. They’re in Bethany, a couple miles east of Jerusalem, also the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, which explains their presence. In fact, Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. Two men, brought back from the dead, figuratively, and literally. It is a festive occasion.
At some point during the meal, Mary makes her way to where Jesus is reclined at the table. That’s not unusual – she was always at the feet of Jesus – listening, learning. Now, it would have been very common to anoint a guest with oil on his head and wash his feet with water. In certain cases, with important Rabbis, you might even break out the more expensive oil.
But here, it was an alabaster vial of very costly perfume. An alabaster vial itself was very expensive – it would typically contain the costliest of perfumes. Mary broke the vial and poured the entire contents all over Jesus’ head. She made a mess. John records the additional detail that it was about a pound of pure nard, which was imported from India – very expensive – and John says she poured it on His feet as well and wiped it with her hair. The fragrance filled the house. Mark tells us the perfume was worth about 300 denarii. You may know that a denarius was a day’s wage for the common laborer – meaning this was about one year’s wages. How much do you make in a year? $40,000, $50,000? That’s how much she just poured out in seemingly excessive waste on Jesus.
At least, that’s what the some thought. Matthew says it was the disciples who were irritated, John says it was Judas. They began indignantly saying to one another, why this waste? Don’t miss – they demeaned the worshiper, and the One worshiped. They called anointing Jesus a waste. We could have sold this perfume and used the money for the poor. Passover was a special time to care for the poor. Again, John tells us Judas led the discussion because he was the keeper of the funds and used to help himself to the money. He was a thief and irritated about the loss. They start attacking the woman, scolding her.
But Jesus put a little different spin on it. Let her alone, why are you bothering her – what she has done for Me is a good thing, more literally, a beautiful thing. So they quiet down and listen. You are always going to have the poor with you. Take care of the poor – He’s not saying to not take care of the poor – true Christianity that God accepts as pure and faultless is taking care of orphans and widows – take care of the poor. Do that.
But, right now, you have Me with you. And what is about to happen is more important. You see, the reason brokenness like poverty is because sin and its consequences. I’m about to take care of that problem. You’re not always going to have Me. I’ve been telling you that I’m headed to death. And apparently Mary, of all people, to include the disciples, is the only one who got it. Did she fully understand what she was doing? I doubt it. But I do know this – Jesus took her act of wasteful worship as preparation for His burial. And further, He said wherever this gospel is preached, even in Boone, North Carolina, her story will be told. And here were are.
What was so special about her act? Was it costly? Yes. Was it even sacrificial? Yes. Was it an act of worship and devotion? No doubt. Was it humbling? You bet – would you wipe someone’s feet with your hair? By the way, notice she did what she could. Very similar wording to the widow and her two mites. Jesus commends the sacrificial giving of both women – recorded in the eternal pages of Scripture. You see, it’s not the amount – it’s the sacrifice of worship.
It was an act of worship everyone else thought was foolish. You ever been in a position like that? You ever felt like that, even in church? Like that you just wanted to worship, and you didn’t care what anyone else thought? Good for you – I have one word for you: worship. Without releasing foolish, senseless acts of self-exalting emotionalism, I do want to release you to worship – to what may appear to some to be foolish acts of devoted worship.
I would suggest when unregenerate people walk through those doors to see us worship – singing, clapping, in some instances, hands lifted, tears flowing, they think us crazy. When they see us give our hard-earned money to the work of the kingdom – in some cases lots of money – money you could use to buy hot tubs or a new car or maybe you can’t afford to give that much – maybe it could be money used to upgrade your already poor life – you know, maybe a widow’s mite. And they see you give in an act of worship – no matter how the gift comes – they think you’re crazy. And Jesus says, that is a beautiful act of worship – it is a good thing.
Can I say to you I want Alliance to be a place of worship. I didn’t say running down the aisles, leaping pews, drawing attention to yourself. I mean selfless, devoted acts of worship that makes no sense to people. Notice, in this case, it didn’t even make sense to Jesus’ closest followers. I don’t even know if it made sense to Mary. But she worshiped with costly, self-giving, self-effacing sacrifice. She worshipped the one she loved, and didn’t care what anyone thought.
- Which brings us to our third point, and I’m out of time. Back to the contrast. Back to the preparation for His death. Judas goes and agrees to betray Jesus, Matthew tells us, for thirty pieces of silver – the price of a slave. Notice, Judas went to them. This was a willful act of betrayal on his part. Lots of discussion about that – was he disillusioned, was he secretly sent by Jesus to force the hands of the Jewish leadership. No. We’ll find Jesus says shortly, woe to the man who betrays Me.
The contrast is this, folks. Mary knew the value of Christ – and she gave what she had in worship. Judas should have known – he had walked with Jesus for years. And he chose to walk away, choosing instead thirty pieces of silver. And he began looking for an opportunity to betray the Son of God. She sacrificed much monetarily because of her faith; he sacrificed his faith for money.
It’s all been introduction until now. We are at the climax of redemptive history – it is the story of stories – it is His Story. He went to the cross for us. So who are you this morning? It’s time to draw some contrasts. Maybe you’re like Judas – willing to sell your soul for thirty pieces of silver – for what this world has to offer. You’ve seen it, you’ve heard it, and you choose the silver instead. Nothing I can do about that. But maybe, you’re like Mary – beginning to understand the magnitude of the event. If so, I invite you to worship with everything you have.