Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community
 

SHE DID WHAT SHE COULD

Mark 14: 3-9

 

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of man known as 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.

 

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume?”

It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

 

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus.

 

“Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

 

What does a beauty queen, a formerly demon-possessed woman, an adulterer, murderer and a repentant prostitute have in common?

 

They, along with countless others, are people of the Bible, who responded to God’s love by simply doing what they could in their everyday lives.

 

Jesus’ words in Mark 14:6-8 state...“Leave her alone,” Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me….She did what she could.”

 

What an amazing statement. Jesus called the action this woman did  -  “beautiful.”  Jesus didn’t say “Leave her alone, her action was going above and beyond what she could” or “Leave her alone, she has had a terrible childhood and life has been tough for her so she was expected to give just a little”

 

No, Jesus’ words for this beautiful action was “She did what she could”

 

Before we  look at this passage more deeply and seek to find what God has for each of us here today, let’s pray…..

 

PRAYER FOR THE MESSAGE

 

First, I would like to share some background of the woman who poured perfume over Jesus’ head.

 

This woman was “Mary of Bethany”  In order to tell which Mary she was since it was a common name in  Jesus’ time, this Mary was identified by where she lived. She lived in Bethany, a village just outside Jerusalem. Jesus had spent a great deal of time in Bethany, we know this because Mary of Bethany was also Martha and Lazarus’ sister. Mary first appears in the Gospels when she and her sister Martha are having difficulty, because Martha thinks Mary is lazy and is not helping her with the chores of feeding and taking care of everyone and asks Jesus to rebuke her sister and set her straight. However, Jesus responds with a gentle correction for Martha that Mary had chosen what was best, and that was spending time with Him.

 

So, the first lesson we learn from Mary of Bethany, is:

 

our doing for Jesus flows out of our being with Jesus

 

Jesus wasn’t saying that Martha was wrong for being concerned with the duties that were necessary to be done, however, he was pointing out that her “doing” was not flowing out of her being with Jesus, but with how much she was “doing”. How many times do we put what needs to get done ahead of the relationships around us, whether it’s God, our family or our friends. Mary shows us what our priority should be.

 

The second time we read of Mary of Bethany, in the Gospels, was when she and Martha are grieving over the death of their brother Lazarus. Again, the sisters act differently. Martha accuses Jesus of being too late to help their brother in need, Mary is found in the house, waiting, and she runs to Jesus when he calls. Now we can’t blame Martha for her faith in Jesus to have the power to save her brother from death, had he been there. But Martha’s responded to God’s timing as most of us do, with anger and accusing God of being late.

 

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever accused God of being late, or possibly uncaring?

 

I know I have. When we don’t understand God’s timing  and methods, frustration sometimes takes over.

 

But Mary is a wonderful role model, instead of accusing Jesus of being late, she waits on Jesus to show up and call her. She doesn’t doubt that He will arrive and when He gets there I can imagine she doesn’t come out of the house telling Him what he could have done to make things better, I imagine she runs to his arms, collapses and cries. The Bible states that Jesus understood their pain, because it says, even Jesus wept. He wept with Mary and with Martha, regardless of their individual responses.

 

Mary of Bethany teaches all of us

 

How to wait patiently on the goodness and power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

especially when we do not understand His timing or methods.

 

This brings us to our Scripture lesson of the day, Mark 14

 

Let’s look at some details about what is happening.

 

It is two days before Passover, and Jesus and his disciples are like every other “good” Jew and they are heading towards Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The town of Bethany is two miles outside Jerusalem. This is Mary’s hometown.  This most likely takes place on the Wednesday before Jesus was crucified. If we look ahead. in Mark, Jesus begins making preparations for the Last Supper and his final betrayal. Knowing this helps to understand a bit more at the possible “mindset” of Jesus. He knows he is about to become the “Sacrificial Lamb” at this Passover.

 

The passage says Jesus was reclining at the table of Simon the Leper.

 

(Describe “reclining” in the Middle East at that time)

        - they did not sit at chairs around the table

        - eating was an intimate social event

        - tables were low to the ground

        - everyone “reclined” around them

        - Jesus was most likely propped up with his elbows or on pillows

        - lying on his side

        - with his feet away from the table

        - there were large platters of food down the middle of the table

        - each person used their fingers or piece of broken bread and dipped into the platters

        - they lay side by side, very close together

        - probably one of the reasons genders ate separately

 

Picture Mary of Bethany, entering the room, and working her way to where Jesus lay, and she doesn’t stop at his feet, but maneuvers her way to his head to pour out her scented oil.

 

 

She makes it to Jesus’ head and pours out this scented oil from an alabaster jar. If we examine the type of perfume this was, we discover it was expensive. A year’s worth of wages! Comparable to about $30,000 in today’s standard, depending on where you live. If we were to compare the cost with today’s prices, the most expensive perfume today is $215,000 for 16.5 oz. Mary had about 2.4 oz of perfume.This was definitely a fine resource of Mary’s and from the disciples point of view it was a waste to dump it over Jesus’ head. Why it could have been sold and the money given to the poor!

 

Jesus doesn’t see it that way.Jesus takes comfort by her sacrificial and extravagant actions and sees it as her devotion of love and worship towards Him.

 

Jesus then connects her action with his death. Jesus uses this action to teach us a spiritual principle;

 

 - When we connect with His death through sacrificial and extravagant worship, unto Him, he connects us with His eternal life

 

REPEAT

 

Are we identifying with Christ’s death by dying to ourselves?

 

Pouring perfume on someone’s head may seem ridiculous to us today and this particular jar of perfume that cost a year’s salary even more ridiculous, but again it important to go back to the time period in which it happened. Mary was simply letting everyone know in that house, through a custom familiar to all Jews, that Jesus was her King.

 

Kingship is a bit foreign to us today. But in biblical times the king was truly the king in every sense of the word. The King was

        - supreme authority over all things, people and events

        - his word was the law

        - if people didn’t submit, they suffered great punishments

 

In verses 6-8 Jesus said, in doing “what she could” Mary had done a “beautiful thing”

 

Doing what we can for Jesus, no matter how small or seemingly foolish, honors Him and brings Him pleasure.

 

That’s a relief! No pressure from God there!

 

We don’t need to be someone we are not, or be ashamed of who we are, or fear being misunderstood by others. Simply doing what we can for our Lord is an acceptable and beautiful offering.

 

Mary was simply expressing her love and devotion to Jesus as her personal King in the way her society had taught her to.

Like Mary we may never know the significance of even the smallest of deeds God calls us to do.In this story, Jesus used Mary’s simple act of love to prepare Himself for the ultimate sacrifice that would ever take place in history.

 

As we are in relationship with Jesus, and take every opportunity to draw closer to Him, we too will be used in ways we never could have imagined. He will use our lives to do amazing things in us and through us!

 

When we are willing to do the ordinary, God does the extraordinary.

 

When we are faithful to do the ordinary, leaving greatness in God’s hands, miracles happen.

 

So, I asked myself, and my husband, what would be some reasons for people not to do what they could? We came up with a list:

        - fear, fear of failure, fear of being harassed

                Fear could have stopped Mary. It required a personal intimacy and a safety with Jesus and the men around him to give Mary the courage to get past all the cultural taboos.

 

Jesus was approachable to her, she had to have known he would have accepted her presence and her present, in order to take such a risk.

 

How about your relationship with Jesus today? Is Jesus approachable to you today? Does fear get in the way of you “doing what you can?”

 

Honoring and serving Jesus usually requires courage no matter what culture or time period we live in.

 

        - another reason for not doing what we can, may be “too busy”

 

Let’s remember, we are asked to do “what we can” not to try and outdo our neighbor, or do more than we can, just what is set before us today, now.

 

         - or maybe it is pride that keeps you from “doing what you can” pride gets in the way of many things and keeps us from many blessings,

 

pride may tell us we are “too good” to do something simple, we have to do all of it or none at all,  how disappointing

 

When we look at Mary’s life we see that Jesus was worthy of all her time and resources, especially her most precious resource. We are also reminded of the priority of relationship over religion. Remember. Mary was forever spending time at Jesus’ feet.

 

Mary of Bethany teaches us that:

 

1. God desires to use us in His kingdom purposes just as we are. We are each unique and have been given talents and abilities that He will use for His purpose, if we allow him to, by doing what we can.

 

The world often tells us otherwise. Sometimes we are told to compare ourselves to others and if we don’t make the grade, we are losers and we should give up. Other times we are told if we keep trying and do more we can finally make it.

 

But that is not what the Bible says, Doing what you can, is just that. It is not how well you do what God has put before you, most times it is being obedient to just do it, in the correct spirit, the spirit of offering it to the Lord as your service to  Him. Because,

 

2. God is Worthy. He is worthy of our all, and yet he knows us and understands our circumstances and says it is beautiful when we “do what we can”. Even the smallest deed, given to Honor God, can be made into a miracle by Him.

 

3.  Finally, I believe Mary of Bethany would remind us to live through His death. Mary probably didn’t have a clue that Jesus was going to use her gift to anoint his body for burial, but by pouring out her most precious resource, dying to her hopes of what she could have done with that expensive perfume, Christ used her seemingly foolish offering to identify with His death and then connect her with His eternal life and purpose.

 

God uses our ordinary offerings to do his extraordinary work

 

This church has a history of its parishioners “Doing what they can”

 

(point to plague on the wall for  Anna Elizabeth Hall )

 

I encourage you to follow Mary’s and  Anna’s examples:

        - Build your relationship with God, by spending time with God.

        - Remember,  you are asked to do only what you can, no more, no less

        - and Trust God to do the extraordinary with what you have done.

 

Just imagine, what could happen, if everyone, did “What they could” I believe our lives, our church, our world, would be a better place.

 

PRAY.