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Mark 14:3-9 Don’t Miss The Point

    Throughout high school and college, I had the opportunity to serve on four mission trips to Nicaragua. It was on these trips that I was exposed to a kind of poverty and neglect that I had never witnessed before. I learned a lot about the corruption that exists within the Nicaraguan government and America’s role in their history and where they are today. However, where I thought I would find despair and hopelessness, I found life, abundant life. During one of these trips at the end of college, one of our leaders (who is now my wife, shoutout Abbey) gave a talk about what she called “the secret of the poor.” Essentially, she was teaching us about how while the people we interacted with were very poor, they had such great joy compared to us in America because they recognized the wealth and inheritance they have in Jesus Christ. Perhaps that is the reality we see played out in this story about the anointing of Jesus by this woman in Bethany.

     Mark’s account of this story does not tell us who this woman is, but we know from John’s account that it is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Jn. 12:3). Knowing this makes the disciples reaction to her act of devotion even more disappointing than it already was without knowing her identity. Up to this point, Jesus and the disciples had benefited from Mary and her siblings’ hospitality and support throughout their ministry. Someone very wise once said, “It be your own people sometimes.” This interaction between Jesus, Mary, and the disciples is another instance of the disciples just missing the point of a given situation, creating a teaching opportunity for Jesus. That is why Jesus quotes Deuteronomy when he says, “you always have the poor with you.” They were so fixated on what they believed to be the proper course of action that they began to berate and “mansplain” against Mary’s actions. Jesus sets them straight by pointing out that Mary actually has some sense of the bigger picture. We know from Luke 10:39 that Mary was actually a good listener, so maybe she had some sense of the fact that her time with her Savior on earth was coming to end. While serving the poor is certainly commendable and Biblical, the nature of the disciples’ response shows that they were equally if not more concerned about the amount of money “wasted” as they were about serving the poor. Mark’s placement of this story between stories of hatred and betrayal show that the passions of many hearts, including one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, were misplaced. In the midst of misplaced hopes and misguided desires, Mary understood to some extent that Jesus was worth more than a year’s wages. To put her actions into perspective, she essentially spent the amount of money you and I would on a car or down payment for a house, and then gave it away. That’s wild, and yet the glory of our Lord warrants such an overflow of praise and sacrifice from our hearts. Though Jesus would be tried as a criminal by the masses, she on some level understood that He was worthy of honor, hence His anointing. After all, is He not the one who sustains us in our acts of service, in our giving? Is He not the one who provides the very resources we give to the poor?

      Mary’s mindset to me is the same mindset as the secret of the poor that I learned about in Nicaragua: Jesus is the true source of fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy. Rather than serving for the sake of service, we are called to give and to serve out of the abundance that a life of abiding in Christ produces. Don't miss the point.


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