Eating With Jesus
Have you ever sat down for a meal with family or friends and the meal took a left turn toward awkward-ville? I remember a few meals that ended up being shocking or awkward in my life. Most of them were first dates. There’re two meals in Mark 14, and something shocking happens at each meal.
Check out Mark 14:1: “It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.” Here’s the first thing we notice about the two meals in this chapter: these religious people, the chief priests and scribes, they aren’t at either meal. Some people won’t even accept Jesus’ invitation to eat with him. All throughout the book of Mark these religious leaders have been hanging around, seeing Jesus’ miracles, hearing his teaching, hearing his invitation to follow him, but they consistently reject him. And it was always because Jesus didn’t fit their view of God or their view of the world or how to live life.
Some people aren’t going to eat with Jesus because they want control. They don’t want to submit to Jesus, and so they end up hating him instead of eating with him. They end up plotting to kill him instead of being fed by him.
Maybe that’s where you’re at right now. You’ve heard about Jesus but the more you get to know him and what he’s like, he doesn’t fit your idea of who he should be. Maybe you’re looking for a God whose just all about love and accepting you for who you are and never asks you to change. Maybe you’re looking for a God who doesn’t ask you to follow him except for on Sundays. Maybe you’re happy with religion, but don’t really want Jesus. That was these guys, and not only are they not at any meals with Jesus, they’re looking to kill him.
But look at verse 3: “While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.” So now Jesus is in the home of Simon who Jesus had probably already healed of leprosy, and these people are probably throwing Jesus a thank you dinner for that healing and for raising Lazarus from the dead. So here in this house there are probably 17 or so people: Jesus, his disciples, Simon, Lazarus, Mary, Martha. And as they recline at the table to eat, Mary does something that would have stood out massively—even been awkward. She grabs this alabaster jar or very expensive perfume she owns, breaks it open and poured it over Jesus head. And even thought this act of anointing someone wasn’t terribly uncommon, everyone started yelling at her.
Now in John 12 it says that the perfume filled the air, so maybe they’re yelling at her because they couldn’t eat anymore. Like when someone essential oil bombed me in Starbucks a few weeks ago and I couldn’t drink my coffee anymore, or anytime anyone uses Axe body spray you have to get in your car and drive to a different part of the island to get away from it? But that wasn’t why they were upset.
It was probably only about a pound of perfume, but this perfume was incredibly costly. So costly. That’s why everyone’s upset. If you burned a $1 bill, people would just look at you like you’re a weirdo, but if you whipped out a wad of hundies and set them on fire, everyone would freak out, right? They say that this perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii. That’s a full year’s wage for a worker. How much money did you bring in last year? Do you have a number in your head? This would be like you pouring that out on Jesus’ feet. Actually, that’s not totally accurate. Because Mary wasn’t rich at all. Scholars believe that she must have inherited this perfume from a family member who died. This is her inheritance guys. This was probably her safety net, her retirement. Her entire financial security. Now do you see why people freaked out? This is scandalous! This sacrifice changed her entire life! If disaster strikes, there’s nothing to fall back on now! What a waste!
Maybe that’s what you feel sometimes when you see people loving Jesus. When you see people in our church sweating to do setup and teardown, you wonder why they’d waste all that sweat. When you see people give financially as they worship Jesus, you wonder how people could waste that kind of money. When you see people singing loudly, passionately, it just seems like wasted breath and energy.
Mary looked at Jesus and said, “This most valuable thing I possess, and I give it all to you.” You see something happened to Mary. This perfume, the best thing she had in the world, wasn’t her safety and security anymore. Jesus was. For Mary, Jesus was better than everything this perfume could give her.
She was doing what the man did in Matthew 13: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.” What would cause someone to joyfully sell everything they have? Finding something that’s better. Notice that it doesn’t say that he found this treasure and thought, “Oh great, now I have to go sell my stuff so that I can get this massive treasure.” No it says in his joy! It was a joy for him to make any and every sacrifice to get this treasure.
Mary treasured Jesus. So much so, that the thing she treasured in life before Jesus could now be totally, joyfully poured out because she didn’t treasure it the same way anymore.
What’s your perfume? What’s the most valuable thing in your life that brings you safety, security, hope? Do you believe that to pour it out would be no sacrifice at all if you got to eat with Jesus forever? You’ll never BE able to pour it out unless you believe that. Some people see Mary being wasteful or irresponsible but what Mary does is actually the most freeing act in the world. She’s been so transformed by Jesus that she doesn’t hold the securities of this world that you and I grasp at and hold onto so tightly as worth anything at all.
There’s another detail to the story that makes it even more scandalous. In John it says that as the perfume dripped down to Jesus’ feet, Mary let her hair down and washed his feet clean with her hair. In Ancient Near Eastern culture, a woman’s hair was her glory. She would only let her hair down in the privacy of her own home and only for her husband. So Mary broke all kinds of social norms and etiquette here. She didn’t care at all about what other people might think or say about her love for Jesus. She wanted to offer him the absolute best of who she was, not the scraps of her life. Not a tithe of her time or money or energy. She gave Jesus everything.
See when Mary encountered Jesus, she wasn’t eating with a good friend, her co-pilot, or a respected teacher, she was eating with her Lord. She worshipped him. She couldn’t eat with him, hang with him, without worshipping him.
Can you? When you read your Bible are you content to get information, a new truth or discover a key verse to help you defend your faith, or do you worship Jesus? When you come to church, are you content to be around God’s people and have community but you don’t really worship God during this time?
Mary shows us how to eat with Jesus. Because look at Jesus’ response in Mark 14: Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me. You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” He was pleased with the way she ate with him. He was pleased with her worship, her sacrifice, her love for him. It made Jesus happy. And yes, the rest of Mary’s life was probably much more difficult financially. But Mary died. And for 2000 years she’s been with Jesus. Do you think she cares now that she went a few years struggling financially? She doesn’t care one bit. She has Jesus, and he brought her more joy than anything she could find in this world.