Sunday School Lesson
The lives of many individuals were touched by the ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. People from all levels of society desired to be close to the son of God — even though many did not understand this fact. Our Lord was invited to have a meal in many different homes. The gospels give the account of his being invited into the home of a man referred to as “Simon the leper.” Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3. This man lived in the town of Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Matthew 26:6.
Little is known about the one — Simon the leper — who extended this invitation to Jesus and his disciples. However, we are told that Martha, the sister of Lazarus, was in charge of the meal. With this giving of the supper, and Simon being present, it is obvious that at that time he was not a “leper.” Whether or not he had been touched by the master, and cured of this malady, is only speculation. If his condition had remained, Simon would have been an outcast, and required to remain without the camp. Leviticus 13:45.
Formal meals were eaten as the guests reclined on couches. Each person rested on the elbow of the left arm, while using the right hand for handling the food. Obviously, the feet pointed away from the table. See Luke 7:38. This positioning offered some access to the head of the guest, and easier access to the feet.
We know that as the meal progressed, “There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head.” Matthew 26:7. Some of this “ointment of spikenard” was used as she anointed his feet. John 12:3. After this act of love was accomplished “Mary…wiped his feet with her hair.” John 12:3a, b. As John wrote of this situation, he wanted his readers to understand that this act did not simply affect Jesus, but that “the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” John 12:3c.
It is interesting to note that the source of criticism of this act of love did not come from the religious establishment, but from the disciples of our Lord. “But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, to what purpose was this waste?” Matthew 26:8. John reports that the spokesman for this thinking was “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him.” John 12:4.
This self-appointed critic was quick in calculation. He asked, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” John 12:5; Matthew 26:9.. John made a comment regarding this statement — “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” John 12:6.
It seems as if these comments were voiced in such a way that the woman, Mary, the sister of Lazarus heard what was said. “When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” Matthew 26:10. He continued his declaration — “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” Matthew 26:11. This act of love was seen by our Lord as having future meaning “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.” Matthew 26:12.
It is interesting to note that as these words of criticism and explanation were being exchanged, the odor of this ointment continued to fill the house. When we perform “acts of love,” there will be those who will see their role as that of keeping everybody straight. Their critical spirit does not destroy the influence of these acts of kindness that touch the hearts of those in need — as well as others. These critics should be careful in their attitudes and actions. In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon had some important words for those who see their position of “chief critic” — “These six things doth the Lord hate…and he that soweth discord among the brethren.” Proverbs 6:16-19.
As we read the account of this event — as recorded by Mark — a very interesting comment is made by our Lord — “She hath done what she could…” Mark 14:8a. This statement, alone, should cause one to take stock of personal actions. Could this declaration be applied to each of our lives? Is it much easier to “sit in the seat of the scornful” than to present our best to the master?
This woman had no “ulterior motive” as she performed this act of love and kindness. However, the master, declaring the end from the beginning knew the effect that this act — and the knowledge of this act — would have throughout the whole “church age.” The words of our Lord continue to ring true, even as we read and hear these words, today. “Verily I say unto you, be wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” Matthew 26:13.
As the psalmist, David, wrote one of his testimonial psalms, he spoke of that which will follow. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” Psalm 23:6a. As we reflect on our personal lives, what might be said to “follow us”? What have we “left in our wake” as we travel the road of life? Is there a fragrance of goodness and mercy left, as we move through time and space? Might there be the odorous stench of criticism and harshness? When we get to the end of the line, can we echo the testimony of the Apostle Paul? He wrote to the young preacher — Timothy — “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7. The woman was not seeking greatness. She was, simply, showing her love for her Lord. Might we show our love for him each day.