Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Matthew 26 A Sacrificial Love For The Lord


1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples,

2 You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."

3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,

4 and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.

5 But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people."

6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,

7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.

8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste?

9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor."

10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.

11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.

12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.

13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."

14  Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests

15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.

16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Matthew’s gospel centres now upon the cross.

The cross is introduced to us in an amazing way.

First there is the mention of the prophecy the Lord gives about His cmoming death and the plotting of the Jews to make that happen.

The Lord Prophecies His coming crucifixion, and at the same time the Jewish leaders are plotting it.

1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples,

2 You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified."

3 Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,

4 and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.

5 But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people."

It is amazing that these two harmonies. God’s Sovereign plan laid before the foundation of the world was laid was that the Lord should suffer and die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. And while the Lord is telling the disciples this, the Jews are plotting it to happen. While Jesus prepares His disciples for His death, another group in town are likewise making preparations. The chief priests and elders, the leaders with whom Jesus has been in conflict for the past several years have had enough. They gather in the High Priest’s palace, trying to figure some way to arrest Jesus and then kill Him. The one thing they must avoid are the crowds. It was usual for the Jews to punish criminals at the public festivals; but in this case they were afraid of an insurrection, as our Lord had become very popular.

But then there is an event that seems to summarise it all for Matthew. Our attention is shifted once again back to the Lord Jesus. Unlike the leaders gathered in a palace, Jesus is enjoying a meal in the house of Simon the Leper. We don’t know much about this fellow. He may have been a leper who was healed by Jesus. John’s account in John 12 says that Lazarus was there along with Martha and Mary.

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3  Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,
5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary who had just recvently seen her brother raised from the dead after 4 days, when the Lord Jesus called out Lazarus come forth, and he had come out bound in his graveclothes.

Mary who had sat at the feet of Jesus listening to his teachings. (Luke 10). Mary brings an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and pours it on His head. Alabaster is a white translucent stone from Egypt. The contents of this jar was expensive perfume. Mark says it is spikenard, a fragrance from India, worth 300 denarii. Most laborers earned a denarius a day, so this was a year’s salary.

Why did Mary give such an expensive gift?

The Wisdom her sacrificial love gift reveals

Everything in God’s sacred story centres on the cross. J. C. Ryle said it better than I ever could: “We can never attach too much importance to the atoning death of Christ. It is the leading fact in the word of God, on which the eyes of our soul ought to be ever fixed. Without the shedding of His blood, there is no remission of sin. It is the cardinal truth on which the whole system of Christianity hinges. Without it, the Gospel is an arch without a key-stone, a fair building without a foundation, a solar system without a sun. Let us make much of our Lord’s incarnation and example, His miracles and His parables, His works and His words, but above all, let us make much of His death… This, after all, is the master-truth of Scripture, that ‘Christ died for our sins’. To this let us daily return. On this let us daily feed our souls” [J. C. Ryle, “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, page 347].

The story is told of a man who loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a Bible that had been stored in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. "I couldn't read it," the friend explained. "Somebody named Guten- something had printed it." "Not Gutenberg!" the book lover exclaimed in horror. "That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. Why, a copy just sold for over two million dollars!" His friend was unimpressed. "Mine wouldn't have brought two dollars. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German."

And Mary is preparing the Lord’s body for His burial.

Why did Mary carry out this act of anointing Jesus with the very expensive oil that John implies (John 12:7) that she had been keeping for this purpose for some time? Her extravagant act was not impulsive, but planned. Jesus very clearly gave the answer in verse 12 (read). It seems that Mary alone (of all His followers) understood what Jesus had told them over and over. She understood that He was about to give His life on the cross. This act by Mary was to show Jesus that she understood what He was about to do and loved Him for it. Here is an interesting question: Why did Mary understand the coming cross when none of the disciples seemed to understand? There is a clue when we look at all the Gospel accounts of this Mary of Bethany. Almost every time we see Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. John’s account of this incident says in John 12:3 (NKJV) “Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” In Luke’s account of a visit by Jesus to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, we find Martha scurrying about, but where was Mary? Luke 10:39 (NKJV) “And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.” When Lazarus died and Jesus came to Bethany, we see Mary again. We are told what she did in John 11:32 (NKJV) “Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’" Sitting at someone’s feet was a Hebrew idiom of learning from and adoring another person. Mary was always listening to, spending time with, and worshipping the Lord Jesus. The equivalent today of sitting at Jesus’ feet is to spend time in the word and see Him and listen to Him in the Old Testament pictures and illustrations of Him, to devour the Gospels and meditate on His words, and by His grace obey His commands. It is to sing of Him and worship Him for who He is and to set our hearts on His work and live in an atmosphere of thankfulness to Him. It is to abide in Him (live in constant, conscious, dependence upon Him and to be constantly available to Him to produce in and through us whatever fruit that He desires). When you sit at Jesus’ feet and know and love Him, no sacrifice is too great to give.

What she did was to express just how precious the Lord was to her.

The Welcome her sacrificial love gift receives

Jesus seems to says something that seems callous: "The poor you’ll always have with you." It seems to contradict what he said he said earlier in chapter 25. He quotes from Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Rather than a casual dismissal of the poor as something that will always be around, He is pointing the disciples to the proper priority as to how we can reach the poor. Deuteronomy 15 commands us to reach out to the poor, not to ignore them.

But the Lord is seeking not to denigrate the poor or even discuss the poor at this point, He is going to highlight how much he valued Mary’s sympathy.

The Welcome her sacrificial love gift receives

The Lord was grateful for the sympathy and understanding that Mary demonstrated in her gift. Yes she had done it for His burial.

And He knew what was in her heart. But then the coldly critical voice of Judas had been echoed in the disciples; And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor."

But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.” He was saying to the disciples “You just don’t get it do you? Mary has recognised something that I have been telling you for weeks, and you just don’t have the wisdom or love to see it.” Mary saw it. She sympathised with her Lord. And the Lord was grateful for this.

The Work her sacrificial love gift recommends

“faith makes all things possible; love makes all things easy.”

S.D. Gordon wrote: The All-Inclusive Passion: But all of these and much more is included in one of Paul’s packed phrases which may be read, “the love of God hath flooded our hearts through the Holy Spirit given unto us.” The all-inclusive result is love. That marvelous tender passion-the love of God-heightless, depthless, shoreless, shall flood our hearts, making us as gentle and tenderhearted and self-sacrificing and gracious as He. Every phase of life will become a phase of love. Peace is love resting. Bible study is love reading its lover’s letters. Prayer is love keeping tryst. Conflict with sin is love jealously fighting for its Lover. Hatred of sin is love shrinking from that which separates from its lover. Sympathy is love tenderly feeling. Enthusiasm is love burning. Hope is love expecting. Patience is love waiting. Faithfulness is love sticking fast. Humility is love taking its true place. Modesty is love keeping out of sight. Soul-winning is love pleading. Love is revolutionary. It radically changes us, and revolutionizes our spirit toward all others. Love is democratic. It ruthlessly levels all class distinctions. Love is intensely practical. It is always hunting something to do. Paul lays great stress on this outer practical side. Do you remember his “fruit of the Spirit”? It is an analysis of love. While the first three-”love, joy, peace”-are emotions within, the remaining six are outward toward others. Notice, “long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness,” and then the climax is reached in the last-”self-control.” And in his great love passage in the first Corinthian epistle, he picks out four of these last six, and shows further just what he means by love in its practical working in the life. “Love-suffering” is repeated, and so is “kindness” or “goodness.” “Faithfulness” is reproduced in “never faileth.” Then “self-control” receives the emphasis of an eight-fold repetition of “nots.” Listen:-”Envieth not,” “boasteth not,” “not puffed up,” “not unseemly,” “seeketh not (even) her own,” “is not provoked,” “taketh not account of evil” (in trying to help others, like Jesus’ word “despairing of no man” ), “rejoiceth not in unrighteousness” (that is when the unrighteous is punished, but instead feels sorry for him). What tremendous power of self-mastery in those “nots”! Then the positive side is brought out in four “alls”; two of them-the first and last-passive qualities, “beareth all things,” “endureth all things.” And in between, two active “hopeth all things,” “believeth all things.” The passive qualities doing sentinel duty on both sides of the active. These passive traits are intensely active in their passivity. There is a busy time under the surface of those “nots” and “alls.” What a wealth of underlying power they reveal! Sometimes folks think it sentimental to talk of love. Probably it is of some stuff that shuffles along under that name. But when the Holy Spirit talks about it, and fills our hearts with it there is seen to be an intensely practical passion at work.
Love is not only the finest fruit, but it is the final test of a christian life.

Mary was not satisfied with anything but that which was the most precious possession she had to lavish upon Jesus in expression of her love and gratitude. I remember reading years ago of a church in South Korea with a vision to reach more and more people with the gospel. To do what needed to be done required a great amount of money. One Sunday, a woman in her 80’s made her way to the altar and handed the Pastor an old rice bowl and a pair of chopsticks, and a spoon. She said, “This is all I have … I want to give it all to the Lord’s work to help somebody somewhere to know the truth about life. I have decided that I can eat out of cardboard with my fingers”. The Pastor tried to refuse her sacrificial gift, but she began to cry and begged him to take it. A businessman in the congregation seeing what was happening jumped to his feet and said, “Pastor I want to buy those three things!” He gave the equivalent of almost $30,000. . A sacrificial gift like Mary’s is an example of what loving sacrifice for the One who loved us and went to the cross for us looks like.

General William Booth received a request from some Salvation Army officers requesting a transfer from India to a more settled situation. They had seen little fruit. General Booth wrote a terse telegram of two words : “Try love!” And this of course is the secret of it all.

The Witness her sacrificial love gift remembers

The Fragrance of Love

John 12:3 The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

The memory of that moment had lingered 70 years in John’s memory long after Mary had died. Long after her Saviour had been crucified buried and raised again.

The odour filled the room. Does the sacrificial love that you have for your Lord fill the room? Do others know that they are in the presence of one who loves the Lord Jesus intensely when they meet you?

Is there a sacrificial love that you demonstrate that sweetens others lives? Live so as to be missed! Robert Murray Mcheyne used to say. Do you live so as to be missed? Will others grieve your going or be glad?

Phil 4: 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

Mary Left An Enduring Memory

13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her."

Mary Left An Enriching memory

She touched others lives.

Do you touch others lives?

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