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Faith Bible Church, NY
June 4, 1995
Preparing for His Death
Man would like to think of himself as being autonomous, and the master of his own fate. Certainly this is a foolish thought. Man often finds himself in situations that prove the opposite. He finds his desires and plans are changed by others and circumstances of life, yet man continues to try and control his world to make it his slave. He wants to control his environment, those around him, and the circumstances of his life.
Man has some limited success in manipulating other people, planning for the future, and even in changing his environment to a small degree through air conditioning and heating, yet man cannot control the weather and his plans are constantly changing and other people manipulate him.
This morning we will see the feebleness of man to control the future as the plans of the Jewish religious leaders are crushed again by the sovereignty of God. We will also see the sharp contrast between those who submit themselves to God and out of love for Him give their most precious gifts, and those who continue to try and live for themselves resulting in selling themselves into evil for a pittance. All this will be seen as we examine how different people prepared for Christ’s Death:
GOD’S SOVEREIGN PLAN (vs. 1-2)
THE PRIESTS’ PERVERSE PLOT (vs. 3-5)
A WOMAN’S PRECIOUS WORSHIP (vs. 6-13)
A TRAITOR’S EVIL PACT (vs. 14-16)
GOD’S SOVEREIGN PLAN (vs. 1-2)
When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”
Vs. 1 tells us the timing: Jesus says this after finishing His Olivet Discourse.
Vs. 2 is a statement of sovereignty. The crucifixion was not coming as a surprise to Jesus. He has been telling the disciples about this since chapter 16 when Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem to be crucified. 16:21 says, “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” Jesus warned them several more times while they were on their way to Jerusalem what would occur when they arrived there.
He had told them this same thing in Matthew 17:22,23, after Jesus and Peter, James, and John return from the mountain in which Jesus was transfigured before them. “And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.” Later, as Jesus approaches Jericho, the last city before Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples again: (20:18,19)“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
Jesus had hinted about the coming crucifixion as early as John 2:19 when He told those who were seeking a sign, an attesting miracle from Him, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The text goes on to specifically state that Jesus was talking about the “temple of His body.”
What would occur in two days was not a surprise, it had been revealed centuries before in the Old Testament. David had prophetically spoken about it in Psalm 22 describing what would occur to the Messiah: “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken Me… (vs. 1), “But I am a worm, and not a man, A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him; Let Him rescue Him, because He delights in him…” (vs. 6-8), “they pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; they divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots” (vs. 16-18).
Isaiah described the Messiah as the suffering servant describing in detail what Jesus would go through some 700 years later.
To Daniel it was revealed the timing of His death over 500 years before it happened. Chapter 9:26 says that “The after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing…”. In our discussions of this passage in our series on Daniel we found out that Christ’s triumphal entry would take place on March 30, A.D. 33, being Nisan 10, which is four days before Passover. Messiah would be “cut off and have nothing” by being killed after the triumphal entry. There was nothing haphazard about the timing of Jesus death. He knew it before hand because it would occurred according to “the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God”, as Peter put in Acts 2:23. It was Wednesday and after two days it would be Passover and Jesus would be crucified. The Jews counted a part of a day as a day, so the rest of Wednesday, then Thursday (two days), then Passover. Jesus could not be killed prior to or after God’s predetermined time. God is sovereign and He knows what He is doing.
THE PRIESTS’ PERVERSE PLOT (vs. 3-5)
Man plans his way, but God determines his footsteps (Prov. 16:9). There is really not a problem with that until man ignores or refuses to acknowledge God’s sovereignty. The chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees were of that mindset even though they were the designated religious leaders of the people. They should have learned much earlier that they were not in control for every effort they had made to kill Jesus earlier was thwarted.
They had been plotting the death of Jesus since chapter 12, verse 14 saying, “But the Pharisees went out, and counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” John 5 records an event only a few weeks later: the healing at Bethseda in which Jesus also forgave the sins of the cripple man, at which the Jewish religious response in verse 18 was that they were “seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”
And they did try to kill Jesus. In Luke 4, the angry crowd wanted to throw Him off a cliff on the edge of Nazareth, and Jesus let them get Him to the edge of that cliff, but then “passing through their midst, He went His way.” In John 8:59 they picked up rocks to stone Jesus but “Jesus was hid himself, and went out of the Temple.” How do you walk through an angry crowd? How do you hide yourself in the midst of a crowd that wants to kill you? God’s sovereignty. Though they had ample opportunity and had tried many times to kill Jesus, they could not kill Him prior to God’s predetermined time. And as we look at verses 3-5, we find that they also could not delay His murder at their own hands.
“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a r iot might occur among the people.”
Notice what they had determined here in verse 5. They had tried to kill Him before and were still trying to do it, but because they were afraid of the people, they now have decided that it would have to wait until after the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread was over. It would have to wait until things calmed down and most of the people who had shouted to Him, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest,” would have left and gone home. But they did not have the power to determine when Jesus would die even though the murder would be done by their own hands. They said that Jesus’ death would now have to wait until after the festival. God said that Jesus would die on the most important day of the festival, on Passover itself.
It is interesting and worth pointing out that the chief priests and elders were meeting in the home of Caiaphas rather than the “hall of hewn stone” on the south side of the temple court where they would normally meet. Joseph Caiaphas was the high priest. A position he gained not because of Levite heritage, but because it had become a puppet position controlled by the Romans. Caiaphas was an opportunistic, sly manipulator who by “hook and crook” gained the Romans favor and eliminated his rivals. Their meeting was probably held in his home for several reasons. 1) It would have been convenient for him and his father-in-law, Annas, who had been the previous high priest. 2) It would afford more secrecy from the crowds which might overhear something if the meeting had been held in the Temple courtyard. 3) They probably planned for a meeting that would go late into the night, past the time when meetings were allowed in the Temple area.
From the perverse plotting of the priests our text now takes up back in time to:
A WOMAN’S PRECIOUS WORSHIP (vs. 6-13)
Verse 6 tells us the time and location of this woman’s actions. “Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper.” John 12 also tells us about this same event and that it occurred “six days before the Passover,” and that the woman involved here is Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, who are also present. John 12 also informs us that though they are in Simon the leper’s home, it is Martha that is serving them. Mary has most likely been sitting at Jesus feet listing to all that He had to say.
It was against the Mosaic law to have such a close association with a leper. They were required to live by themselves or with other lepers. Isolation was a means to keep the dreaded disease from spreading. In light of that we assume that Simon has been cured of his leprosy by Jesus and gratitude may be part of the reason he has provided for a feast for Jesus. He is still called “the leper” as an identification to keep him from being confused with other “Simons.”
Our text continues, “A woman,” whom we have already identified as Mary of Bethany, “come to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it upon His head as He reclined at the table.”
Mary’s act is one of pure worship. A heart of adoration is not concerned with price, economy, or restraint, it desires to give all that it possibly can. John 12:3 tells us that this was a Roman pound, about 12 oz., of pure Nard and that she also used it to anoint Jesus’ feet. Nard was a fragrant ointment obtained from a plant, Nardostachys jatamansi, which grows in the Himalayan mountains. It was imported from India in alabaster jars. Ancient alabaster referred to a type of marble which could be white, translucent, or colored by impurities. It was probably her most expensive earthly possession which she pours out as a sacrificial offering the Jesus Himself.
The manner in which this was done adds to her act of worship. Mark 14:3 makes it clear that she did not just pour a little on Jesus head, shoulders, and feet. She “broke” the vial letting its contents pour out upon Him. The true worshiper gives freely without concern for cost knowing that no matter how valuable the gift, because it is a trifle compared to what has been received from God.
What a model to follow for our own worship! Often do we instead approach God with the thought of “how much is it going to cost?” “How much time will I lose?” Whatever it costs, it came from God to start with, and time can never be lost when it is used in the worship of the Lord. Tragically, our tendency is to be more like the disciples who were looking on.
Verse 8, But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said,”Why this waste? for this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” John 12 tells us that they disciples were incited in this by Judas Iscariot who set the price at 300 denarii, nearly a year’s wages for the average worker. Judas’ motives were self serving with John 12:6, stating that his concern was being able to pilfer the money for himself since he was the treasurer.
The rest of the disciples chimed in with more altruistic motives of helping the poor, yet consider carefully what they said. “Why this waste?” They viewed Mary’s act of pure worship to be a waste. That is a pretty revealing statement about the heart of man. We are egocentric and we view the universe as revolving around us. We tend to put little value on things that do not in some way benefit man. Here we find that relief for the poor is valued more than the worship of God. But the world was not created for man, though God has given man responsibility over it. Both the world and we were created for God. Jesus corrects the disciples on this issue in verse 10-13.
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
Mary may or may not have understood that her act was in preparation for Jesus burial; the text does not explicitly say. I believe that she did understand, because unlike the others, she paid close attention what Jesus said. That is why we find her in Luke 10 sitting at Jesus feet listening. I suspect she understood what the disciples kept missing and that her anointing Jesus with the Nard was a response of her heart in pure, adoring worship for the one that would soon die in her place.
In any case, Jesus rebukes the disciples and commends Mary. The poor will always be around. There would always be opportunity to perform acts of charity, but Jesus would not be on earth much longer. It was proper for worship to be given to Him. It still is. Benevolence and philanthropy are important and should be marks of the Christian, but the supreme indicator of a true Christian is worship of the Lord. Charity is to be an outgrowth of our worship of God.
A question that now arises is why Matthew places this story about Mary anointing Jesus here. Why didn’t he place it back in chapter 20 where it fits chronologically? Remember that Matthew’s emphasis is presenting Jesus as the promised Messiah and explaining His kingdom program. Jesus’ death is part of that program. Mary’s act was in preparation for His death, and so it fits the context here as a reminder that Jesus had previously been declaring that His death was coming, and at least one person understood that. It also sets the extreme contrast to Judas’ wicked act.
A TRAITOR’S EVIL PACT (vs. 14-16)
Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You t o eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”‘”
The time indicator here is a little indefinite, but not hard to figure out. Judas the traitor goes to make his evil pact after the chief priests and elders had made their plans back in verse 5, otherwise they would not have planned to wait. The traitor’s evil pact is made either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Judas’ job would be to inform those who were plotting to kill Jesus when Jesus would be in a secluded spot where they could seize Him and bring Him to their kangaroo court without notice of the crowds. That is why it was “from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.”
Look back at verse 15 and notice the bargain that is struck. It is Judas that approaches them, and Mark 14:11 tells that they were “glad.” Judas is disillusioned. He wanted to be part of a new government that would sweep the Romans away. He wanted the prestige, the power, and the riches such a position would bring him. Now he realizes that Jesus is not going to set up that kind of kingdom. He has listened and knows that Jesus will soon die. His only interest now is what he could get out of it, and so he goes to the chief priests.
Putting all the accounts together the scene goes something like this. “What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?” “We promise to give you thirty pieces of silver if you agree to do it.” “I agree.” “They weighted out to him thirty pieces of silver.”
The chief priests were not going to let the opportunity get away. By paying him in advance, they obligated him to carry out his end of the bargain.
What a contrast between Judas and Mary. Mary gave to Jesus what was probably her most valuable possession expecting nothing in return but simply as an act of adoring worship. Judas had high expectations of what he would get and being disappointed, settled for what ever he could get. And the price? Thirty pieces of silver was, according to Exodus 21:30, the price of a slave that had been gored by an ox. For the price of an injured slave Judas sold his soul to Satan and became the most tragic figure in human history. To have walked and talked with the Lord, to have seen miracle after miracle, to learn at the master’s feet and then to turn his back on the Light of life and walk into the darkness.
Jesus death was not haphazard. It was no accident. It was not a tragic fate. It was the sovereign plan of God to purchase the redemption of man. What is your response? Do you rest in God’s sovereignty as Jesus did? Do you plan against it as the Jewish leaders did? Do you worship the Lord with the adoration and sacrifice of Mary? I fear for those that hear the word of life and turn their backs to it as Judas did.
May each of us learn to rest in the Father as Jesus did and offer a heart of worship as Mary did.
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