04/01/12 Mark 14:3-9
Leader: Pastor Biebert
Meeting Time: 8:00 AM & 10:15 AM
WHICH “BEAUTIFUL THING” CAME FIRST?
Jerusalem in Jesus’ time was a typical walled city. The “lower city,” built along a steep hillside, was full of crowded tenement-type structures. The upper city contained the large upper-class homes for people like Caiaphas, the high priest and Herod’s beautiful palace. The Temple Complex was the international worship center for Jews. It dominated the city. Built onto Temple Square was the Fortress Antonia, the barracks for Roman military forces and possibly where Pontius Pilate held court. Tourists came in droves for this holiday, perhaps five times the usual population. There could be riots. Josephus reports that at one Passover several decades after Jesus, 30,000 were crushed or trampled. They needed extra Roman troops in Jerusalem this holiday. Even the Roman governor came from Caesarea to coordinate crowd control. Directly across from the Temple, with the deep Kidron Valley between, was the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, an olive orchard Jesus used for rest and prayer. On the other side of the city, just outside the city walls, was the public execution grounds, Golgotha—the place of the skull.
What was significant about this time of year (14:1)?
This occurrence was the night before Palm Sunday (John 12:12). Jesus knew Jewish leaders were out to get Him and kill Him (John 11:53, 57). Still, He returned to Bethany, only a mile from their headquarters.
Why was Jesus spending time in Bethany (14:3; John 12:1-2)?
Aren’t lepers supposed to be segregated? What’s Simon doing in a home with a normal life (14:3)?
The Luke 7 event took place in Galilee. The setting for Mark 14:3-9 was Judea. The fact that there is a “Simon” in each account should not surprise us. Simon was a common name in that day. Anointing Jesus' feet wasn’t awkward. At these formal dinners guests laid down to eat at low tables instead of sitting at a table. They leaned on cushions with one arm and ate with the other. Their feet would project at right angles out from the table. Mary could have easily walked around the other diners, and reached down to pour the perfume on Jesus' feet or head first. The perfume told everyone Jesus was the star, not her.
Who is this woman (14:3; John 12:1-3; Luke 7:36-50)? Was she notorious?
Businessmen had to ship this perfume in from India. It came from the roots and stems of a plant that grew in the Himalayan Mountains of north India. A 12 ounce jar cost the equivalent of a blue-collar worker’s annual income. Mary could have used this perfume on her own brother’s body at his death. She saved her best for Jesus. Once you broke the flask, you had to use the contents immediately. The Bible doesn’t list Mary of Bethany with the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body (16:1).
Name three impressive things about the Bible’s description of this perfume (14:3).
The Old Testament Bible explained the details of Jesus’ last day (Isaiah 53:9). Mary must have figured that since Jesus was going to die a criminal’s death, He might not get the common burial courtesies.
6. How can you tell this woman put a lot of thought into her presentation (14:3,8; John 12:3)?
Jews customarily donate to poor people the evening before the Passover holiday. “Wasting” this much perfume on one person set Jesus’ trainees off. The original language here uses a word (“snort”) that shows these men were really ticked off and disrespected Mary. This quiet evening—in spite of the cruel way Jesus’ friends treated Mary—must have really encouraged Jesus for the next week’s demands.
7. Why did observers fixate on the kind of charity major gifts like this could offer (14:4-5; John 12:4-6)?
Deuteronomy 15:11 explains Jesus’ statement about Mary’s generosity in the midst of abject poverty. Jesus talked a lot about helping out people in need (Matthew 6:2-4; 19:21; 25:35-36; Luke 6:38; John 13:29).
8. How do you explain that it seems Jesus is downplaying helping out poor people (14:6-9)?
This Sunday we remember Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem and the rousing reception He received. This woman paid tribute to Jesus’ sacrifice around the same time. It was in a much quieter way. The gift Jesus bought us is much more beautiful. It moves us to a strange, quiet, noticeable generosity.
1. How does this section connect to Zechariah 9:9-10? What’s the connection to Philippians 2:5-11?
This account contrasts two attitudes: “I love and give,” and “I want it for myself.” How can we improve attitudes?
What are some ways we could decorate our offering plate or envelopes to reflect our motivation for generosity?