Eyes On The Prize

This is really where Mary was kneeling that night. In a storm tossed life, clinging to Jesus’ love.

This is day three in our walk through Passion Week. Today I want to look as a special dinner with Jesus. This would be where He was anointed for His death.

This story is told by all four of our gospel writers. Luke’s telling of this story may be from a different encounter than the others share. The reason I say this is because the other three mention Jesus’ burial and Judas’ heart. Luke focuses more on the heart of the woman and of the Pharisee observing this act of love. Also the woman in Luke’s story was “a sinful woman” while the other three accounts make no mention of her past. John identifies this woman for us and gives us an exact date this happened too. He identifies her as Mary, the brother of Lazarus and this anointing took place six days before Passover.

Regardless if the accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are one event or two, what I want to look at holds true for all accounts. I want to look at where the focus was for the people in the room. What did they set their eyes on? And why were they looking at what they were.

We don’t get to hear about ALL the participants in the room from our story tellers. Those identified though are Mary (or the one doing the anointing), Judas (or the disciples), the Pharisee (possibly Simon who was healed of leprosy), and Jesus.

Let’s look at John’s account first as it identifies the “players” and their motives the most clearly. John tells it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus was the one who performed this loving act for Jesus. We know looking back that it was shortly before Jesus would be crucified but she didn’t have any expectation of that event. She performed this act out of PURE love. We aren’t told if she saved up money to purchase this bottle of fragrance, if it was a gift from someone to her, or if it was something she had and was saving it for a special occasion. Who knows, it might have even been being saved for her wedding night.

Whatever the reason Mary had this oil its significance to her was overpowered by Jesus’ significance. She wanted to give Jesus a special gift of love and for this gift she chose to give Him her best. It wasn’t just the oil she gave Him that night but she gave Him her heart. She took the lowliest position possible for her service; that of the household slave on the lowest rung. She furthered that position of servitude by eliminating ALL barriers in this act of service. A servant would use a basin of water and towel for this job. Both could be cleaned and/or disposed of after such a dirty and degrading job. Mary used her own tears, hands, hair and lips. If Mary was “the sinful woman” spoken of in Luke’s account, these same body parts were probably used in that sin but they were now serving a redeeming purpose instead. Her WHOLE HEART was focused on demonstrating how deeply she was touched by Jesus. She held NOTHING back and was willing to pay any cost and suffer any indignity to demonstrating her love. When she had completed her task she wore the evidence of it all over herself. She too was anointed that night. I wonder how long she wanted to wear the scent of that night herself. “I’ll never wash my hair again because I would lose the scent of Him.” Mary only had eyes for Jesus! OH HOW I LONG FOR THAT KIND OF INTIMACY!!!

The next dinner attendee I want to look at is the Pharisee. We know our host’s name was Simon. If all three accounts are of the same event we also know that Simon was a Pharisee and that Jesus had healed him of leprosy. Simon had experienced Jesus’ love first hand but his heart hadn’t completely turned to Him. He still held questions in his heart. He also held pride there too. Simon compared himself to “this sinful woman.” He was worthy to have Jesus come under his roof. He provided a lavish dinner for Jesus, Jesus’ friends, and his own esteemed guests. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he wasn’t one of the religious leaders seeking to kill Jesus. I wouldn’t expect ANY of those men to invite Jesus into their homes for dinner, not unless a knife in the back was on their menu. Instead of only having eyes for Jesus, Simon was looking around at the guests and apprising them. He was comparing them to himself. He was especially comparing and contrasting their “holiness” to his own. He found Jesus wanting. Jesus was letting not just a woman touch Him in public but a SINFUL one to boot! “Surely someone who claims to serve God wouldn’t allow such filth to come in contact with Himself. If He were TRULY a prophet He would know this and know her state! Maybe He isn’t so special after all.” Simon had his eyes on his pride.

The third dinner guest I want to look at is Judas. He had ulterior motives; that of lining his own pocket book. Judas was apparently on the lookout for such occasions. John tells us that Judas had a history of pocketing what came into the group’s money bag. None of the other disciples knew this fact about him until later. I wonder if they did an audit at some point to learn this or if Jesus told them after His resurrection. Judas was great at making it look like he was “doing God’s work.” He didn’t ask for the money from this extravagant gift for himself but “for the poor.” But he was really thinking about “poor Judas.” I wonder how long he had been walking with Jesus with the attitude of “What’s in it for me?” He had his eyes fixed firmly on his own gain, regardless of what the cost to others.

I want to take a moment her to point out that these three attendees were not the only ones with these attitudes. We aren’t told of any other guests demonstrating such devotion to Jesus as Mary did but I can bet Lazarus was wondering what he could do to show Jesus how much he loved Him. Jesus had recently given him back his very life! But we are told that there were others in the room who grumbled about the “waste” of this oil on Jesus. “There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor’” (Mark 14:4-5). I don’t know if Mark was being kind to Judas by not pointing directly to him or if there were indeed others Judas shared this sentiment with. The others might have had a more altruistic intent than Judas did but Jesus could feed 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread. No way they could buy more food than He could provide! And I’m certain there were others looking down their noses at “the sinful woman” touching Jesus. That’s something we are ALL very skilled at. Jesus wouldn’t have needed the lesson on the log in your eye if it wasn’t a problem, even among “believers.”

Before we wrap up, I want to look at one other person in the room; Jesus. I want to look at His responses to these three individuals/groups. Let’s go backwards though so we can end on a “high note.” When Jesus dealt with Judas He didn’t call him on the carpet for his past embezzlement of the group’s finances. He also didn’t tell him to use the money he was about to receive for betraying Him if he was REALLY interested in caring for the poor. What He did instead is tell Judas that he would have other opportunities to do the “right” thing. Feeding the poor was NOT a bad thing but something Jesus called His disciples to do, but not now. This was Jesus’ time and He cherished all the love and support He could get.

Simon got a lesson in pride. The story Jesus used made SURE Simon knew that BOTH he and the woman were sinners. BOTH owed a debt. BOTH had that debt cancelled. He was no less a sinner than she was. He should be displaying an attitude of gratitude instead of measuring who was the worst sinner. “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus didn’t need to name Simon’s sin for all to hear or name the woman’s. BOTH knew their own sin and both knew His forgiveness.

Jesus saved His last words for Mary. He gave her two AMAZING gifts. I want to back up just a moment before unwrapping these gifts and look again at Mary’s actions. We know she performed this act out of pure love but the tears she shed that day were not tears of joy but tears of a broken heart. She knew her status. She knew her sin. She had been listening intently to Jesus’ teachings. Her heart was broken on two fronts. Jesus had been speaking of His impending death. She knew she could do nothing to stop its coming and it was tearing her up inside. She was hopeful His disciples could do something but she had learned to believe His words and His words were that He was soon to be taken from her. This brought heartache number two to the surface. Actually it was Satan whispering in her ear, “When He’s gone who will love you then? You are dirty through and through!”

Jesus spoke to BOTH of her fears with His gifts. Let’s go backwards again. After being publicly pointed out as a person in disgrace, Jesus raised her up with His story. He didn’t share her sin with the rest of the people in the room. He didn’t withdraw His feet from her hands. Instead He looked at her and told her that the devil’s words were a LIE. “And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 7:48). Not “everyone’s sins” but YOUR sins! Jesus’ first gift was the gift of forgiveness. Jesus’ second gift was the gift of freedom. Satan had no right to hold her in bondage over her sins. Jesus’ had the last word on that subject and His last words were; “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

Jesus gave her one more gift; the gift of a story. As far as she could see it was a sad story but He knew the full truth. Her story would have a happy ending after all. Jesus wasn’t going to stay dead! And when the story of the events leading up to His death were told, her gift of love would be told in each sharing of this AMAZING story. “He said what I did was part of His plan and I know it blessed me as much as it blessed Him.” And Jesus’, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9), is why I believe Luke was sharing this same story from a different perspective. Luke was sharing the gospel so her story needed to be in there too.

Lord Jesus, everyone in the house that day had their eyes on something. Some had them on others, some on themselves, but Mary’s eyes were on You, the TRUE prize! I know I’m often each of the members in attendance at that dinner but I LONG to be Mary more than any other guest. I want to give you my whole self, even the parts of me that have been undone. Maybe those parts MOST of all as they need Your redeeming work in a BIG way. I want to give You my mouth. It has been used to hurt too many people over my life. Thank You for changing the “bridle” in it so it isn’t as cutting as it used to be. Thank You for Your gifts of forgiveness and freedom! Thank You that You offer these to ALL who ask for them. And that they are FREE of charge.

Satan! You have NO hold on me through my past! As for your future, wait for it…

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