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Lent 2021 Devotion: Week 7

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Mark 14:1-11 ESV

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, [2] for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”

[3] And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. [4] There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? [5] For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. [6] But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. [8] She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. [9] 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.”

[10] Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. [11] And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

So far in the story, we have seen Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Monday’s temple cleansing and Tuesday’s conflicts in the temple.

On this particular Wednesday, while Jesus was at the table with his disciples and some others, we see “a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Mark 14:3). From John 12:3, we know that this woman was Mary, Lazarus’ sister. Some guests criticised her and were mad that the ointment had gone to waste (Mark 14:5). Supposedly, the money could have gone a long way in charity, but it was not because they cared about the poor. Beneath the façade, was all greed and selfish gain. At least, that was what Judas had in mind (John 12:6).

Judas would have “hated” to see all that precious ointment go to waste so he offered the chief priests what they wanted – he would betray his master. As suggested by the word “promised” in verse 11, Judas was not at all surprised by the reward he was getting. In fact, he asked for it (Matthew 26:14-15) - and for only thirty shekels of silver, which was the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32).

We also see Jesus rebuking the murmuring of these people, saying that “she has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6). Jesus saw in Mary’s “waste” a worship that goes beyond calculated, effective use of time, money and effort. For Mary, Jesus is worth a year’s worth of wages... and so much more.

Note the irony of this passage: Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples, could see so clearly the value of the ointment falling down Jesus’ head, yet he was utterly blind to the value of Jesus himself. Mary, on the other hand, could see the value of the ointment but more importantly, the value of Jesus – and that is why she broke the flask so willingly.

As we conclude this year's Lent, may we reflect upon our own lives - have we been carefully counting up our costs, offering up what is convenient for us and giving only partial allegiance to Jesus? Are we choosing to place our ultimate value in things aside from Jesus – security of a ‘kingdom’ we build for ourselves, being a ‘somebody’ in the eyes of the world or even at church, acceptance and requited love from those around us?

Or do we truly see the value of Jesus, who died and rose again to rescue us from sin and death? Will we, like Mary, willingly give up our most prized possession for Jesus’ sake? Will we surrender our lives to the King we desperately need, and present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1)?

Abba Father,

All the day long, we let our affections wander and give undue attention to lesser things in life. We continually chase after fleeting pleasures and empty promises, only to be left with greater despair and emptiness.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. May we count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8). Open our eyes to see that our worth is not in what we own, but in the costly wounds of love and in the blood of Christ that flowed at the Cross.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


SUGGESTED FAST: SLEEP As we approach the end of Lent, think about getting up an hour earlier than usual or staying up an hour later to intentionally spend time with the Lord. Whether that be in prayer or confession, consider giving up a portion of your sleep to focus your heart and mind on God, specifically the passion of Christ.

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