Complete Devotion to Christ

Complete Devotion to Christ

by Trever Calvert

Mark chapter 14 is one of the longest chapters in the New Testament and includes several events from the last few days of Jesus’ life. Recorded there are His observance of the Passover with His disciples, the institution of the Lord’s supper, Jesus’ memorable prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin council, and the denial of Peter one of His “faithful three” apostles.  

The chapter begins with the Jewish leaders’ plot to kill the Messiah – a plan which quickly begins to materialize a few verses later when Judas agrees to betray Jesus.  But nestled in between the plotting of verses one and two and the betrayal in verses 10 and 11 we find one of the most beautiful examples of reverence and honor for God in all the Bible. Conversely, it is also, perhaps, one of the most underappreciated stories in the life of our Lord.

In verses three through nine we read of a woman who takes a jar of oil and anoints the head of Jesus. We find from John’s gospel account that she also anoints Jesus’ feet with the oil and wipes them with her hair (John 12:3). John provides us with the woman’s identity – she is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

The gospel according to Luke is the only account that does not record this event; however, Luke does provide us with a very important view into Mary’s heart. In chapter 10 beginning at verse 38 we read a simple, yet profound story in which Mary sat at Jesus feet and listened intently to His every word. Meanwhile, Mary’s sister Martha was busy serving Jesus and the other guests who had gathered at their house. Martha was resentful that she was having to work alone, but Jesus quickly made her aware that Mary had wisely chosen to prioritize listening to His teachings. Mary blocked out everyone and everything else around her and focused solely on Jesus.

Keep this image of Mary in mind as we return to Mark 14 and the anointing at Bethany. Mary’s jar was made of alabaster – a white colored type of gypsum. It was often used in the ancient world to make things such as vases and statues and was considered an expensive material. What was even more remarkable about the jar Mary owned was its contents. It was filled with spikenard oil, a substance derived from a plant (Nardostachys jatamansi) found mainly in the Himalayas. It was very valuable, and Judas Iscariot estimates its worth wasgreater than 300 denarii (John 12:5) – roughly a year’s wages for the common laborer. So, we see that both the jar and its contents were very costly.

Interestingly, the most precious characteristic of this item was not its monetary value. In Jesus’ day this type of oil-filled jar was mainly reserved for two purposes: 1. As a dowry for marriage or, 2. As an anointing oil for one’s death. Additionally, it could have possibly been in a family for a couple of generations. Mary may have very well looked upon this jar at various points throughout her life and dreamed of her wedding day when she would have the opportunity to present it to her husband and his family.

With this knowledge in mind, we can view her sacrifice of the jar with even greater appreciation and amazement. When she broke the flask and emptied it of its contents, she was literally pouring out her future on Jesus Christ. She risked being socially disapproved of and ridiculed for “this waste” – as the disciplesreferred to it (Matthew 26:8). However, there was no hesitation on Mary’s part. Her mind was closed off to the thoughts and opinions of others and she focused squarely on providing this act of reverence and honor to her Lord. She didn’t know if she would have the chance to anoint Jesus for burial after His death, so she seizes what she thinks could be her only opportunity and anoints Him while He is still alive.

Jesus responded to the disciples’ criticism of Mary in Mark 14:8 by saying, “She has done what she could.” This may seem like an insignificant phrase to us but essentially what Jesus said was, “she has done everything she could.” She sacrificed her most treasured possession, as well as her future, in order to provide a single act of service to Jesus. That is why He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:9).

The application for us is simple, yet what is simple is often difficult to emulate. The reason why we struggle to do what Mary did is because we succumb to the various distractions of our busy lives. It may be our jobs, hobbies, or temptations that prevent us from rendering our greatest service to God. Perhaps we are afraid of what others might say if we were to fully devote ourselves to Him. Regardless of our excuses; however, we need to have the perspective that Mary did – an unwavering focus on Jesus Christ. We should strive to offer up our lives in complete devotion to Him. After all, there is no sacrifice that we can make that will ever be too great for God. Let us follow Mary’s example and give our heavenly Father everything so that it may be said of each of us in the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve done what you could.”

Is It Helpful?

Is It Helpful?

As a Christian, viewing the evil that persists in the world today is a reminder of Lot, who is said to have tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds (2 Peter 2:8). The wickedness of this worldseems ever-present before our eyes. It is even more obvious, as we listen to friends confess the hardships they face—some because of the color of their skin.

Unfortunately, instead of empathy and compassion, many are made to feel as if their existence can be narrowed down to statistics that do not fit their reality. Those who use statics in such a way are seeking to win an argument and not win a brother. This type of argumentation is not fruitful in the Christian’s ultimate goal of seeking the lost and promoting unity within the body of Christ. Do not misunderstand: truth is essential but so is our relationship with other people.

Paul says his ultimate goal was to seek the profit of all men by helping them be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33); in the same way, our ultimate goal is to help those lost in sin take hold of the promise of salvation. Likewise, as Christians, we are to promoteunity and peace within the body of Christ (Romans 15:19). Can we truly believe that arguing will ultimately help win the lost and encourage unity? Not so, when we are causing our brothers and sisters to feel as if they are nothing more than a statistic. Seeking to win the argument is an unfruitful way to win the soul and build unity. Instead, Paul provides us with some helpful ways to consider our words during this season of distress.

First, we must always ask, Is what I am about to say or share helpful. When writing to the church in Corinth, Paul gives a glimpse into his mind saying, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful… (1 Corinthians 10:23).Paul’s ultimate goal in life was to be helpful, not so much in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Paul wanted to help every person he came in contact with to come to the knowledge of the truth. Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus to use their speech in a way that is good for necessary edification(Ephesians 4:29). Does this statement mean Paul perverted the truth of the Gospel? Far from it! Instead, he sought words that would help convert the lost and promote growth within the body. He even went so far as to say he would never eat meat again if it would cause his brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13). Are wewilling to be helpful to someone to the extent that we would never eat meat again?

Second, Paul’s actions and words had the singular purpose of glorifying God. Again, to the church in Corinth, Paul says, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The strife, conflict, and hurt that arises when individuals ignore the real-life experiences of others stand in opposition to the wisdom of the Proverbs. The wise Solomon says of those who cause strife and conflict, It is honorable for a man to stop striving (avoid strife) since any fool can start a quarrel(Proverbs 20:3). God receives no glory when we pursue that which causes strife. Instead of seeking to push our point of view, Solomon says wisdom comes from seeking advice (Proverbs 13:10). It is always productive to listen; and where disagreementoccurs, our response must seek to glorify God.

Third, Paul says we as Christians are to give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Gentiles, or to the Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32). This word offense speaks of not causing to stumble or acting as a smooth road (Thayer, 2531). Yes, it is true, each person will be held accountable for his own sin (Ezekiel 18:20), but it is also true that each Christian has the command to act as a smooth road to salvation for the rest of the world. We must take into consideration the question, Will this comment negatively affect my ability to evangelize the person I am speaking with? before we hit post on our keyboards. If we are not careful, our failure to show emphathywill act as a stumbling block in our evangelistic efforts. Paul’swords in Romans 12:18 are applicable today: as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Whatever webring to a conversation must have peace as its ultimate goal.

Yes, there is unrest all over the world, but the last thing this world needs is for those who should be empathetic and humble to act in a way that causes more heartache and strife. Surely Paul, our ultimate example (1 Corinthians 11:1), felt frustrated with the world around him. Nevertheless, throughout this frustration, he was able to accomplish his ultimate goal of calling the lost and seeking unity in the body of Christ through the simple mantra, Is it helpful? It is possible today, by imitating Paul, to accomplish this same incredible goal. Wisdom dictates that we should stop and ask if what we are doing willhelp promote the Gospel call of salvation?

Aaron Boone