Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“Extravagant Love and Expected Betrayal”
1) Devious Leaders Plot to Kill Jesus (vv. 1-2)
It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
Scholars believe that numbers of pilgrims would have been between 150,000 to 250,000 people crowding into the Temple complex. So, the religious leaders decided that they would not arrest Jesus during the Passover week of celebrations. Their fear was that a riot would start, because of his popularity amongst the people, and then the Romans would get involved, which would be very, very bad, especially for the religious leadership.
Remember on Sunday of this same week (Mark 11), the people had praised Jesus, yelling “Hosanna,” waived palm branches, and laid their clothes down in the street before Him as he entered, as a king, into Jerusalem.
The religious leaders have held meetings, and plotted and schemed to come up with a way to trap Jesus, and all their plans have failed, until Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples, is going to present them with a new plan, a new way to get Jesus, and it will cause them to reconsider.
2) Devoted Follower Seeks to Honor Jesus (v. 3-9)
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. 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. 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.”
The presence of an unnamed woman (John tells us that it is Mary, Lazarus’ sister) was most unusual; “Jewish women did not ordinarily attend banquets with men except in the capacity of servants. Jesus has also told the disciples, not necessarily in private that there was a crisis coming.
He told them that he would die, but they weren’t comprehending it. Mary probably didn’t comprehend it either, but she knew something bad was coming, so she took an unusual step. Luke 10:39 also says that Mary listened to Jesus’ teaching, “And she (Martha) had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” “Mary is mentioned three times in the Gospels; each time she is at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:31-32; 12:1-8). Mary loved Jesus.”
Jesus responds by saying, “she took beforehand to anoint my body for the burial.” She anticipated the event. Matthew 26:12 says of this same event, “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.”
The “alabaster jar” was a flask with a long neck and no handles, and it was sealed to preserve the ointment.” Nard was an aromatic oil extracted from a root found primarily in India – thus its costliness.” When she broke the flask the smell spread throughout the entire house.
(v. 4) “There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?” – Just like the nard smell spread, “Judas uncorks the vial of his poison, and the vile odor begins to spread.” Mark tells us that there were more than one of the disciples felt that she had wasted money in this way, but the gospel of John specifically points to Judas and gives us insight into his heart.
John 12:4-6 discussing this same event, “But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
Mark’s account seems to emphasize that the disciple’s objection was not the act but the extravagance of the act. Also, the chief person criticizing Mary “And they scolded her” had already made plans to betray Jesus. How delusional and self-righteous is that? The others jumped on his bandwagon – so just be careful, when someone seems to be righteous and is criticizing another for their extravagant love for God. Also, Jesus allowed Mary to do this, so they are criticizing Jesus too – they are standing up for the poor! Judas is implying that Jesus is robbing from the poor.
(v. 7) Jesus is referring to Deuteronomy 15:11 “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
(v. 8) “she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” – the word used for anointed speaks of anointing a corpse according to the Jewish custom. The verb is related to the noun for myrrh and points to anointing with perfume. It is also, the women who go to prepare Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. So, it was culturally a woman’s task to anoint the body of loved ones at death. So, Mary’s presence at the banquet would have been unusual, but not once it was explained that she was preparing Jesus’ body for burial.
You may remember at Jesus’ birth narrative, in Matthew 2:10 that wise men “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold (because he was a king) and frankincense (because he was a priest) and myrrh (because he would die for the world).”
Remember that Mark is not overly concerned about a correct timeline, but to help us understand who Jesus is: so, Mark contrasts Mary’s anointing of Jesus with this expensive perfume, with Judas’ betrayal. She is thankful for Jesus raising her brother from the dead, and believes him to be the Messiah, she has listened to His words of his coming death – Judas also believes Jesus to be the Messiah, but he feels that Jesus owes him something, so when he doesn’t get it; he betrays him.
(v. 8) Jesus also says that “She has done what she could” – she sat at Jesus’ feet, she understood that something was coming, she thought to herself, “what can I do” to honor Jesus? Was the alabaster jar left from Lazarus’ burial, she never got to use it on her brother, because Jesus brought him back from the dead? Who knows where she got the perfume – but that’s what she could do. She had the perfume with her.
The phrase “what she could do,” is “not referring to a general action, but when an opportunity arrived, she not only was ready, saw and embraced it, but went to the limit of her ability, and in fact, would have done more if it had been possible.”
Have you done what you can do to honor Jesus?
(v. 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.” – if they had taken the alabaster jar of pure nard and sold it for a year’s wages, they would have fed many poor people. But “Mary did infinitely more for the poor by the act of that day than she could have done” by giving them the jar. “That would have relieved only a few of them, and only for a little while, and it would soon have been forgotten. But her act of sacrificial love has inspired ten thousand deeds of unselfishness.”
“We learn from her that it is not always necessary to defend ourselves – our good actions speak for themselves, and the only thing essential is that Jesus approves them.”
3) Disgruntled Disciple Seeks to Betray Jesus (v. 10-11)
10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
(v. 11) “they promised to give him money” – Matthew 26:15 tells us that it was for thirty pieces of silver. Judas had already made up his mind to betray Jesus before money or the amount was agreed upon. Judas getting money was a side effect. Yes, he was greedy, and a thief – but the most he would ever get was 30 pieces of silver – if he wanted to be rich, that didn’t help get him there. After all that Judas had seen and experienced with Jesus, as one of the twelve, why did he betray Jesus?
Judas didn’t get from Jesus something he wanted, after all he went on the ride, stayed on the ride, and only now wants to jump off. It is at this point of the journey Judas knew he would never get what he wanted from Jesus, so he tries to get something from the three years he feels he has wasted (which turns out to be thirty pieces of silver).
What did Judas want, that he knew Jesus would never give him?
Judas had experienced Jesus casting out demons, raising the dead, healing countless sick people, controlling the weather, feeding thousands, and he had even sent them out where “So they [the disciples] went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13). Judas had experienced what it was like to be in the presence of God, the Son of God chose him to be one of only 12 men to be His disciple, to see Him do mighty deeds, and to be trusted by God to speak and have authority in His name – yet there is still something else, something more, Judas wants. What more could Jesus possibly give him?
There was even the promise from Jesus of even greater things, than what they had experienced, John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Judas was destined for one of the twelve apostolic thrones in heaven (Matt. 19:28).
Luke 22:3-4 “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them.” John 13:2, 27 “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, . . . Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” So, the devil made him do it? No, In both of these verses, Satan entered Judas after he had this realization that Jesus would not give him what he wanted. But Judas is being used as an instrument of Satan because he has opened himself up to it.
What is the root of betrayal?
We are supposed to compare Mary’s act of anointing Jesus with perfume with Judas’ betrayal. Jesus is the focus of Mary’s extravagance – Judas wanted the money for himself. Judas believes that Jesus exists for him, Mary believes that she exists to worship Jesus. Those are two radically different mindsets.
In a marriage if the other person exists to make you happy, then eventually you will grow frustrated and look for others who will satisfy you. However, if you believe that you exist to love another completely, and for you to pour out your love with extravagance, then betrayal is far from your mind. You are trying to find ways to lift up your partner, not how to use them to get something you want.
I think this is the root of Judas’ betrayal – Jesus existed to give Judas what he wanted, so when he was not the Messiah Judas thought He should be, and when Jesus didn’t follow the plan Judas thought he should follow, and when Jesus didn’t make him wealthy, etc. whatever the itch was – the world exists for Judas and is supposed to revolve around Judas, and when he didn’t get that, he betrayed the Son of God.
How do you respond when you don’t get what you want from God?
4) Disguised Comments of Grace Given (vv. 12-21)
12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.
18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
(v. 12) The Passover meal, according to the Jewish law, had to be eaten within the Jerusalem walls of the city; so the disciples ask Jesus where they should celebrate the meal. “The food consisted of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and the dish of bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8-20). The lamb reminded the Jews of the blood that was applied to the doorposts of their homes to keep the angel of death from slaying their firstborn. The bread was unleavened to remind them of the haste in which they left Egypt (Ex. 12:39). The bitter herbs spoke of their suffering as Pharoah’s slaves.”
(v. 18) Jesus begins the meal by declaring, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” This is important for later because Jesus wants them to know that He is aware of the betrayal but He is not going to do anything to stop it. He has been telling them that the “Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago.”
But even here, Jesus has let Judas know that He knows of his betrayal, but it’s still not too late, Judas can still repent, fall at Jesus’ feet and be pardoned. Even when Judas leaves the meal, the disciples think Jesus has asked him to run an errand, or do something for the poor.
(v. 19) “They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” – Each disciple, one after, another asked “is it me?” Imagine Judas’ thoughts as each disciple askes, one after the other – then the question circle gets to him. Matthew 26:25 tells us that Judas even asked Jesus, “Is it I?”
(v. 20) Then Jesus speaks, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.” – The meal would have a common bowl of bitter herbs that they would dip their bread into as part of the meal. “To betray a friend after eating a meal with him was, and still is, regarded as the worst kind of treachery in the Middle East.”
(v. 21) “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him,” – All of this has been planned out by God ahead of time, and His divine purpose is being carried out. “What happens to the Son of Man does not just happen.”
Isaiah 53:12 “. . . yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Another translation is “And he bore the sins of many and was delivered up because of their iniquities.” Being “delivered up” is the path that the Son of Man has to travel – but “woe to that man” who actually is the one who delivers the Son of Man up.
Judas’ betrayal of Jesus shows us that simply being around Jesus, and knowing a lot about Jesus, even doing things in His name, does not save a person. There must be a response of faith and love.
 Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, The Gospel of Mark (Carol Stream, Illinois; 2005) 525.
 Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; B&H Publishing Group) 234.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930, 380.
 James A. Brooks, The New American Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1991) 222.
 R. C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, Minnesota; Augsburg Publishing House, 1964) 601.
 Lenski, 602.
 Lenski, 604.
 W. N. Clarke, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1950) 204.
 Lenski, 603.
 Psalm 41:9 “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
 Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 758.
 Anders, 236.
 “The point in so emphasizing the fact that the traitor was one of the twelve, who thus ate from the same bowl as Jesus, is the resemblance of Judas to Ahitophel, the man who ate at David’s table and then turned traitor to David. He is the prototype of Judas; Judas was the second Ahitophel” (Linski, 616).