You might find it helpful to once again follow the passage in your Bible on page 718.
The writer of this Gospel once again uses what has become known as the Markan sandwich.
There is one story which starts and ends the passage and there is another story sandwiched in the middle.
The outside of this sandwich, the bread if you like, are verses 1 and 2 and then verses 10 and 11.
All of it, though, takes place on the same day. Wednesday to be precise.
Let’s get that story out of the way so we can concentrate on the meat of the sandwich.
Sorry to the vegetarians and vegans you can have a nut burger in the middle if you want.
I was using the word meat metaphorically rather than literally.
Verses 1 and 2, 10 and 11.
Yet again the temple authorities were plotting in order to carry out their long-standing ambition to do away with Jesus .
This time, though, they wanted to do it by stealth.
Today we would probably employ a hit man.
They did have a big problem.
Massive crowds would be on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover and the feast of unleavened Bread.
Although these were separate events the one followed immediately on the other so, to all intents and purposes it became one festival lasting a week.
The priests were not put off because of the religious aspect but that there might be a riot.
Moving on to the last two verses we read that their problem was solved.
Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples went to them offering to betray Jesus by telling them where they could find him when he would be apart from the crowd.
Good for Judas as they promised to pay him for his services.
End of Part 1.
Now for the story in the middle.
In between the slices of bread is the story of Jesus’ body being anointed for burial.
As had happened on different occasions Jesus and his disciples were staying in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem.
They had met in the house of a man called Simon.
It may be that he was one of the people Jesus had cured of leprosy.
The main character seems to be a woman of whom Mark didn’t give her name.
This is not unusual throughout Mark’s gospel.
It seems he liked to cut out unnecessary words.
A man after my own heart.
The woman had an alabaster jar full of expensive nard.
No, nard not lard.
Nard was made from the fragrant roots of the Spikenard.
A herb which grows high up in the Himalayas.
It’s expense was partly due to high costs in transporting it.
It was so value it was sold in alabaster boxes.
It was this oil that she poured on Jesus’ head.
Some people, who were probably followers of Jesus, objected to this.
It is interesting that the people actually understood something of Jesus’ ministry. T
They knew about his concern for the poor and disadvantaged.
The oil infused with perfume was worth a year’s wages.
Just think what we could have done with the money.
We could have given it to the poor.
I suppose to defend the disciples a bit,
Jesus had been giving mixed messages.
It wasn’t long before that he had praised the woman who had given a couple of pence to the temple and criticised the rich.
Now he was praising the woman for her extravagance.
Jesus defended the woman.
He said, “Leave her alone.
She has performed a good service.
The poor you will always have with you.
You can show kindness to them any time you want.
You will not always have me.
She has done what she could.
She has anointed my body beforehand for my burial.
A couple of points about this story.
Firstly a negative one.
Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.”
Some people, even, sadly, some who call themselves Christians, have used this statement to justify the persistence of poverty.
Jesus said that we will always have poor people so there is no point in doing anything about it.
Poverty is natural.
It was Nelson Mandela who said,
“Poverty, apartheid and slavery are not natural.
They are man-made.
Using Jesus, the champion of the underdog, to justify huge differentials in society seems to me a misuse of the Bible.
Secondly a positive point.
Jesus commended the woman for her action.
He said, “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”
A bit like saying we’re going to build a statue of you.
Why did Jesus say that?
The truth is we can’t read Jesus’ mind but we can guess.
Jesus had been talking about his forthcoming death quite a bit but nobody had really understood.
At last, this woman seemed to have got the message.
When Jesus’ eventually died expensive spices would be used on him.
If it wouldn’t be a waste then it isn’t now.
Rather like someone saying, I would prefer you to buy me flowers whilst I am alive rather than wait till I am dead.
It didn’t escape my notice that Jesus received expensive gifts both at his birth and at his death.
I expect some thought that both gifts were wasted.
The woman in the story, although she may not have understood it all, she knew that Jesus was heading for death.
Not only that but the woman anointed Jesus on his head.
A sign usually observed for kings, usually done by prophets or priests.
Not unknown women.
She was anointing him then as king because she knew she would not get another chance.
Jesus was valued at his birth and at his death.
How much do we value Jesus.
Enough to anoint him as a king worth following?
That woman took the opportunity to acknowledge Him.
As a result both are linked together in history.
We should also take the opportunity when it arises to acknowledge Jesus as King and follow him by treating others as He would have done.
At the start of the sermon I said that we would get the story Judas out of the way.
It struck me that if we don’t take every opportunity to follow Jesus and his example we are no better than Judas.
We are betraying Jesus and His memory.
Just a thought!