Halim Suh teaches on how Jesus is better using Mark 14:1-9
Series: The Gospel of Mark
The song Jesus Is Better has only been around for a little while, but it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. It needs to be the anthem of every believer.
In all my sorrows, Jesus is better - make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better - make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better - make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better - make my heart believe
These lines are so powerful and resonate deeply within us because this world is filled with sorrow. The only way we’ll get through it all is if we feel Jesus embrace and hold us. We rejoice in our sufferings and sorrows because they allow us to see and feel Jesus in a way we’ve never done before. We need to see that Jesus is better.
For others of us, we need to see that Jesus is better than our victories. Maybe you’ve chased the victory of success, spending and sacrificing your life achieving and accomplishing and now you’re wondering if this is all there is to life.
God has placed eternity in our hearts. He designed us in such a way that we cannot be fully satisfied with promotions and accomplishments, or a comfortable lifestyle, or piles of riches upon riches. Our hearts are designed to be lastingly happy and fully satisfied in Jesus. In knowing and experiencing Him to be better than anything this world has to offer.
But we struggle to believe this, that Jesus is better. This is why I love the line in the song, “make my heart believe.” It’s saying, “God, I know Jesus is better, but I’m not feeling it right now, so will you make my heart believe it? Make me believe He is better than all sorrow, all victories, all comforts and riches.”
DO YOU BELIEVE JESUS IS BETTER?
Has God been calling you to something? You can sense Him and hear Him calling you, but you have a sinking feeling in your stomach? Is it because you’re petrified of what the cost will be to obey Him?
Whatever the call of God is upon your life, you’re constantly asking yourself what others are going to think, what it will cost you, what it will mean for your life if you obeyed. How drastically will it change your life if you said yes to Him?
We’re all paralyzed with fear of the cost and what other people may think. Yet, the question still remains; will you obey?
It all depends on whether you believe Jesus is better.
MARY OF BETHANY
Mary of Bethany did something very costly for Jesus. She took the best of all she had and was and offered it all to Him. She was able to do so, because she believed Jesus was better.
As we look at the text, we’re going to ask three questions:
• What did Mary do?
• Why did Mary do it?
• How was Mary able to do it?
From these questions we’ll learn that by knowing Jesus is better, we’re able to do and obey whatever God has called us to.
WHAT DID MARY DO?
3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. Mark 14:3-5 (ESV)
Matthew 26 and John 12 also record this story. In John we learn this woman is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead. By reading all 3 stories, we can see a full picture of what’s going on. There was a thank you dinner being thrown for Jesus for raising Lazarus from the dead. Simon, who at one point had leprosy and was also presumably healed by Jesus, was hosting the party. Between Simon and his family and Jesus with His disciples, there were probably twenty or so people attending. Imagine everyone having a good time and enjoying conversation. Then all of a sudden Mary walked in and began to do something that caused the party to come to a shrieking halt.
Mary came in with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard. It was really costly perfume. She broke the flask and poured it over Jesus’ head. Everyone started scolding and yelling at her. Why did they respond like this?
The flask was worth about 300 denarii, which would have been 300 days of wages. For the average Austinite, it would equal to $45,000. This was almost certainly a family heirloom. It represented the financial security for the family. If something terrible was to happen and there was no way to earn money, the family could turn to this alabaster flask for safety and security. Yet Mary took this valuable possession, broke it and poured it on Jesus’ head and feet.
In one extravagant display of love, Mary was telling Jesus, “This is the most valuable thing I posses and I give it to you.” No longer was the flask of ointment her safety and security, Jesus was. For her, Jesus was better.
What’s your alabaster flask? What’s the most valuable thing in your life that if it were taken from you would mean the loss of your sense of safety, security and hope? It is your house, your job, or your retirement plan? Is it a relationship or your children?
Do you sense Jesus telling you to surrender it to Him? You will never be able to unless you see that Jesus is better.
Mary didn’t stop there. She bent down and began wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. In this ancient Near East culture, a woman’s hair was her glory. A woman would bound up her hair and only let it down in the privacy of her own home for only her husband.
What Mary did for Jesus was not only fiscally irresponsible, but also physically scandalous. She was breaking all social norm and etiquette. She didn’t care about what other people may think or say. She wanted to offer Him the best of who she was, displaying absolute confidence in Him and letting her hair down.
By offering her alabaster flask, she was offering everything she had. By offering her hair, she was offering everything she was. All that mattered to her was Jesus. All she could see was Him.
Mary offered Jesus everything, all of what she had and who she was.
WHY DID SHE DO IT?
6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. Mark 14:6-8 (ESV)
This ointment of pure nard was something used for the purpose of anointing and preparing dead bodies for burial. It was costly and had such a strong smell; it was designed to cover up the stink of death. Mary poured it on Jesus to anoint His body beforehand for burial. She knew He was going to die.
Jesus had said it over and over again; through out the gospels He was constantly telling His disciples He was going to die, but then rise from the dead. He talked about it so much the chief priests and Pharisees knew about it too. Yet, for some reason, His disciples kept missing or rejecting it. They couldn’t possibly imagine a Messiah that wasn’t going to militarily rule or conquer, but rather die.
But Mary had heard Him and believed Him. So she used the best ointment of pure nard to anoint His body for burial.
If you knew your best friend was going to die for you, would you have any problems offering them $45,000? No, you would give it to them instantly. But would you then bow down and begin wiping their feet with your hair? I don’t think you would. I wouldn’t. But Mary did.
Mary believed Jesus was more than just a man who would die for her; she believed He was the God-Man who would also rise from the dead. Many a good human beings may be willing to die for you, but no mere human is able to rise again from the dead. They’re just people, so you don’t bow down and worship them.
Mary knew from seeing Him raise Lazarus from the dead that Jesus was no mere human being. He was God in the flesh and had power over death. That’s why Mary did what she did.
8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. Mark 14:8 (ESV, emphasis added)
Mary knew Jesus was going to die. She also believed He would rise from the dead. She didn’t want to miss her chance to do something for Him, so she decided to anoint His body beforehand for burial, while He was still alive. Good thing she did, because when the ladies went to the tomb after Jesus had died to anoint His body for burial, He had already risen and wasn’t there.
Mary had a proper view of Jesus.
What you’re able to give Jesus shows how you view Jesus.
How do you view Jesus? Do you view Him as your friend? As someone who is always there for you? Someone you can call when you’re in trouble or in need? If you view Him to be all of those things, you will be able to offer him a lot, including $45,000.
But do you believe Jesus is God? Is He the resurrection and the life? Unless you believe this, you won’t be able to offer Him your very self.
I recently watched the movie Gravity. The distance between the earth and the sun is 93 million miles. If that distance is represented by the thickness of a single sheet of paper, then the distance to the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high. The width of our galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high. That’s just our galaxy. There are an estimated 200 billion galaxies in our observable universe. The universe Hebrews 1:3 tells us Jesus upholds with the power of His word.
What do you do with a person like this?
Mary shows us the only proper way to treat a person like this is by giving Him everything. She gave Him everything she had and all that she was. She surrendered it all to Him. She worshipped Him.
For Jesus, nothing less than worship will do. Mary’s response and affections were so proper and so matched the worthiness of Him that Jesus said, 9 “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9, ESV).
How is your heart and affections for Jesus? Do you ever reach a point where you feel like your heart is going to burst because you just want to show Him how much you love Him?
HOW WAS MARY ABLE TO DO IT?
How did she come to have this proper, full view of Jesus; even in a time when His own disciples were missing it?
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
Here in Luke 10, and through out the gospels, we see Mary continually at the feet of Jesus. She was fixated on Him, hanging on His every word, learning from Him. In John 10, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, Mary was throwing herself at the feet of Jesus weeping. In Mark 14, again we see Mary at the feet of Jesus anointing Him, cleaning His feet with her hair.
Whether it’s her learning, weeping or serving in worship, this was the constant position of Mary, at the feet of Jesus. All the while being transformed and changed by Him until it became the most natural thing to surrender everything to Him.
However, our application can’t be to do the same thing Mary did and give Him the best we have. We just won’t make it. We won’t persevere. Many of us have tried.
Mary couldn’t have done what she did on day one of meeting Jesus. But she eventually got there. How?
She constantly sat at the feet of Jesus.
We need to go and sit at the feet of Jesus. Regularly. Everyday. Go to His word. Go to Him in prayer. Constantly position yourself in humility before Him.
You’ll come to realize that He’s not asking you to give Him your life first. Rather, He’s showing you He has first given His life for you. He’s not asking you to come love Him first. Rather, He’s showing you all the ways that He has loved you first. He’s not asking you to bring your alabaster jar for Him first. He’s showing you that on the cross, it was Him who was truly broken and poured out for you first.
Little by little, you’ll feel Him changing and transforming you to see He is better. Jesus is better. Then it becomes the most natural thing in all the world to offer Him your everything.
Six days after Mary anointed Jesus, He was crucified.
As Jesus was hanging on the cross, dying for the sins of His people who had rejected Him, I wonder what He was breathing in? Was He breathing in the gift of Mary, the ointment of pure nard still lingering in His hair and beard? Could He still smell the lingering gift of Mary’s love? I wonder if in that moment, even on the cross, He was strengthened and encouraged. I wonder if it brought Him peace.
Paul tells us, 15 “For we are the aroma of Christ to God” (2 Corinthians 2:15, ESV). When it came to God and us, He did not hold back. He was lavish and extravagant. He gave everything. In Jesus, He gave us the very best of all He had. In Jesus, He gave us the very best of all He is. On the cross, Jesus was the true alabaster flask. He Himself was broken and poured out for us.
If you’re in Christ today, there ought to be a lingering smell of Jesus about you. Let’s join Mary at the feet of Jesus and let’s ask Him to change and transform us and make our hearts believe Jesus is better.