MARK 14 – The Final Countdown
When our only son died suddenly and unexpectedly, we were grateful that his “final countdown” included two days off work. He was due to start work at 9am on Saturday August 1st, but we found him dead at 8am.
During the two weeks leading up to that infamous moment, we were decorating our lounge room. Besides playing his guitar in his room, our son Michael was with us for most of that time. He was pottering about and probably hoping not to be asked to work! Bringing things back into our lounge room was difficult. For one thing, our big box TV that sat on an old deeply scratched coffee table, looked the least attractive of everything in its new surroundings. In addition, the DVD player wasn’t working. So Mark and Michael went shopping!
After twenty minutes, the phone rang and the boys where up to mischief. They were asking permission to buy a “really cool Manager’s Special offer”! The pair of “naughty boys” came back home all excited and Mike spent the next two days building the new TV stand, setting up the TV, and wiring in surround-sound speakers. This was Christmas in July – his last happy moments on earth.
The photos we have of Mike’s smile as he sat surrounded by boxes, will be treasured now forever. We used that DVD system, that he’d just set up, to watch two movies as a family… and then… he left us all behind.
In the same way that we’ve treasured our record of our only son’s life on earth, the Creator God has miraculously recorded and preserved for us four different angles from which we now view the world’s most talked-about event in HIStory – the life and times of Yeshua, Jesus, the Son of God. Because of this, my Breadcrumbs have been flipping between the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Today’s chapter shows what Mark saw in “the final countdown” to Jesus’ life here, in seven parts:
The Anointing for Burial
The Last Supper
Betrayal and Denial Predicted
Gethsemane – on the Mount of Olives
The “trail” before the Sanhedrin
Peter’s Denial come True
Because it’s such a long chapter, I’ll be covering these events in other Breadcrumbs. On April 22nd I’ll look at Jesus Last Supper with His friends. On April 4th I’ll cover Peter’s denial of Jesus. And on April 7th, I’ll look at what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane .
Today, Mark begins Jesus’ final countdown by mentioning the rather significant “alabaster jar” incident, which could have tipped Judas over the edge. It was the amazing moment of anointing Jesus for burial, but so far no-one knew (except Jesus) that He was going to die! [v1-10] It was two days away from the Feast of Passover, which was due to start at supper time on Friday night.
Jesus was visiting Simon’s house at Bethany – the same village on the Mount of Olives that Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived. Now a woman of ill repute came with a jar of thick perfume and, from the other accounts, it seems that this may have been Mary, Lazarus’ sister. The perfume was probably thick ointment-type aromatic oil essence. It had been sealed with wax in an alabaster jar and to open it, was in irreversible act. The jar would almost certainly be broken with the seal.
A pound of perfume “nard” was worth more than a year’s wages! [v3-5] If today’s average annual salary in the UK is around £25,000, then breaking it would be like breaking open and pouring out a bottle of whisky worth in excess of £25,000! It’s a colossal moment!
So if I were a reporter at that house that night, I could have taken a snap shot and made judgements in the following morning’s Jerusalem Times, concerning Jesus’ wasteful behaviour. But there’s many things that I don’t know. And I risk discounting Jesus, simply because I’m not privy to certain undisclosed facts. In fact, it may have been the final straw for Judas who seemed to betray Jesus soon after. [v10-11]
No-one knows why this lady had such an heirloom in her possession. If she’d been a prostitute in the past, it may have been a gift from a wealthy client. Or, she may have invested in it with her earnings. But with two unmarried siblings and no parents mentioned, I wonder how she wouldn’t use her earnings to pay for food. If her parents were dead, her Mum may have given it to her. This was her entire inheritance. In that culture, it may have been her dowry – the only item worth anything that could see her married into a middle-class family. If her dowry, she was now throwing away her future on an act of devotion to Jesus.
But the text simply said that she had the ointment. It didn’t say where she got it from, only that Jesus allowed her to do it because He said…
“…it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial”.[a]
So here’s another thought for you… What if the perfume actually belonged to Jesus? What if it was the jar of myrrh that His parents were given when He was born?[b] What if they’d kept it all those years because, trying to sell it would be like a poor family showing up in a pawn shop today with a £30,000 piece of art. Questions would be asked. They could have even been accused of trying to sell stolen goods!
Of the three gifts in the Christmas Story (the gold, the frankincense and the myrrh), this one may have been the hardest to break down and sell. Because the gifts were prophetic and the myrrh related to His sacrifice, could Joseph have hidden it in his carpenter’s shop – not knowing what to do with it? Jesus then brought it to Jerusalem – knowing He was going to die.[c] Jesus gave it to Mary for just this moment i.e. “…it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial”.[d]
All this is speculation. But I’m saying it to suggest that we’ll often be like Judas. Instead of taking the Creator’s Story at face value (knowing that the complexity of its interlinking parts can cause one’s faith to be litter with unanswered questions), and instead of trusting Father God for the bits we don’t understand, we can act on quick judgements that are based on a snap shot, which only takes in a fraction of the true picture!
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” says the Lord.[e]
So what am I suggesting?
I want to be like Mary. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow – whether it will be a normal day, or a day that will change history forever. But if I’m in my final countdown, as my son was without knowing it, I want to use what’s in my hands (no matter how valuable) to express my devotion to my Maker, and to the One He sent to save me. Every piece of who I am was lost, but now found… in Him…
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] John 12:7
[b] Matthew 2:11
[c] Matthew 26:2
[d] John 12:7
[e] Isaiah 55:9