Last week we looked at one of Christ’s most notable miracles, the raising of Lazarus. A dead man coming back from the grave caused quite a stir and brought a lot of curious onlookers. John opened his gospel by telling us Jesus “came unto His own and they received Him not” (John 1:11). In the first twelve chapters, John presents one witness after another, conversions and miracles, but the leaders of Israel rejected Christ’s claims. So, now as we come to the last week of Christ’s earthly life, we see there were many who sincerely believed in and loved Jesus, while others hated Him and sought to kill Him.
In our passage today we see Jesus anointed at Bethany (1-11). Although the Jewish leaders were seeking to kill Him, Jesus gathered with his close friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in the town of Bethany which was only two miles from Jerusalem. True to form Martha worked, Mary worshiped, and Lazarus witnessed. The three together comprise a balanced Christian life.
The account of Jesus’ anointing is also found in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. But this account is not to be confused with the one in Luke 7:36-50 where a former harlot anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee. The Luke seven account took place in Galilee, while this event took place in Judea.
What Mary did here was an act of pure love. She sensed that her Lord was about to suffer and die. It is significant to note that she was not one of the women who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). She showed her devotion before it was too late. This act of love and worship was spontaneous, public, sacrificial and personal. Jesus called it a “good work” and commended and defended her. The perfume was worth a year’s wages! The fragrance filled the house where they were dining and the blessing of her deed eventually spread around the world (Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9). Mary took the place of a slave by washing Jesus’ feet. When she undid her hair (something Jewish women didn’t do in public) she humbled herself and laid her glory at His feet (I Cor 11:15).
She was misunderstood and criticized, but that often happens when someone gives their best to the Lord. Judas started the criticism and sadly the other disciples joined. Judas, the treasurer of the group and a thief, pilfered the money bag. He didn’t care for the poor, he enriched himself. Until Judas betrayed Christ in the garden, the other disciples thought he was a devoted follower of Christ. Jesus had been talking much about His coming death; Judas must have thought he would get out now and avoid going down with the leader. Certainly, he was disappointed that Jesus wasn’t going to defeat the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom– where Judas could be treasurer over all! Be careful not to allow your hurts and disappointments drive you away from the Lord.
The crowds were now gathering to see Lazarus as well as Jesus. Because the Jewish leaders refused to believe the evidence, they decided to get rid of it and plotted to kill Lazarus along with Jesus. But then Jesus was acclaimed in Jerusalem (12-19). John shifts from a quiet dinner in Bethany to a noisy parade in Jerusalem. The Triumphal Entry is recorded in all four gospels. Jesus allowed this public demonstration in part to fulfill prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) and to offer Himself as the Messiah and true King of Israel. Jesus entered the city on His Father’s timetable. The events of the following week would lead to His crucifixion at Passover as God’s perfect, sacrificial Lamb. The Jewish pilgrims that were in town for the Passover welcomed Jesus by waving palm branches and by using their outer garments to pave the road. They shouted “Hosanna” which is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “salvation now.” The other gospel accounts give additional details such as the selection of the young donkey and that while the people were shouting with joy, Jesus was weeping, realizing the fickle crowd would turn on Him in a few days and knowing that death and destruction awaited the Jews because of their rejection of Him. Jesus’ own disciples did not understand the significance of this event until after the resurrection, when they realized Jesus presented himself as the Messiah only to be rejected (16).
The people who had seen the resurrected Lazarus testified to many other Jewish pilgrims that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah (17- 18). The number of those that believed in the Lord was growing, to the frustration of the Jewish leaders. All their actions to quell the followers of Jesus weren’t working. The whole world was going to follow Him. Oh, if they were only right! Would to God that everyone would become a Christ follower.
Let’s consider some concluding applications. First, sacrificial acts of love for the Lord’s sake leave an impact men remember and God rewards. Secondly, the most sincere praise comes from a life that continues to honor the Lord long after the song is done. Finally, when the heart is closed to the truth the mind will be unable to comprehend it regardless of how plain it is.