While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the leper,
I. ONE WHO TRULY LOVES CHRIST WILL RECKON NO GIFT TOO COSTLY TO BE OFFERED TO HIM. Mary's adoration was prompted by adequate motives. She had often sat at the feet of Jesus, and she had learned to appreciate his goodness as far as any human being could do so. Her brother had just been restored to her from the grave by this wonderful Friend. Jesus had dropped dark hints of his approaching departure. Then all her love and adoration were gathered up in an enthusiasm of devotion for this last typical act. The reason why the incident is so exceptional is that the Marys of Bethany are rare. The real wonder is that the Church of Christ should be so slow to pour out her treasures at his feet, that calculating economy and grudging meanness should cripple the efforts of any Christian people in sacrificing themselves and giving their offerings for the glory of their Lord.
II. JESUS CHRIST ACCEPTS COSTLY OFFERINGS GIVES TO HIMSELF. The hypocritical objection of Judas was cleverly invented. The traitor knew the simplicity and unselfishness of his Master, and he knew that the heart of Jesus was always with the needy. Why, then, did not our Lord take the same view of his enthusiastic disciple's action? Because he would not hurt the feelings of Mary, would not grieve her love. Still, even that painful course must have been taken if her conduct had been unacceptable to Christ on account of any blameworthy extravagance. It is plain that he did accept adoration. This was seen on Palm Sunday, when he received the "Hosannas!" of the multitude, and defended the children from the rebukes of the interfering Jews. It is right to give honour to Christ, for he is good and great; but above his human excellence his Divine glory makes this homage supremely fitting.
III. WE SHALL BEST SERVE OUR FELLOW MEN WHEN WE ARE MOST DEVOTED TO CHRIST. He was not robbing the poor in order to accept a luxury for himself, as Judas rudely insinuated. We must set this incident over against our Lord's recently spoken words about the kindness shown to others being really given to himself (Matthew 25:40). There is no rivalry between the two kinds of gifts. Mary would not be the less charitable to her neighbours because of her expenditure on her Master. It is more likely that her heart would flow out in richer kindness towards them. Devotion to Christ is the greatest inspiration for sympathy with suffering fellow men. What is spent on the cause of religion does not detract from the help of the poor. The reason is that the fund of possible generosity is never exhausted. We have not such a limited amount to give away. Few contribute a tithe of what they ought to give. But when the heart is moved to offer directly to Christ, its new warmth of love will prompt it to be more liberal in giving to all other good objects. It is not a fact that, for the most part, those people who refuse to help religious objects are the most generous in charity to their neighbours. The poor would not be grateful to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Judases. On the other hand, we find that those men who are foremost in supporting the cause of Christ are most earnest in human charity. The very people who maintain foreign missions do most for the suffering poor at home. - W.F.A.
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper.
I. There can be no doubt that the majority of Christians would express SURPRISE AT THE HIGH HONOUR PROMISED TO MARY FOR SO SLIGHT A SERVICE, She did not resign wealth. What she did was of no utility. In these days and in this land we have a narrow and prejudiced way of judging of the character and actions of men. There is a national character, our likes and dislikes; we are disposed to try everything by this standard. Our national qualities are industry, prudence, regularity. There is another class of national qualities also — warm affections, enthusiasm, high unearthly devotion — these are contrary to our mental constitution. You find them in excess in warmer climates. Both of these characteristics have their faults and excellences. What is our ideal of a religious character? That a man should be upright, sober; hence our religious temper is not enthusiastic, The conduct of the woman was the result of overpowering love. May not this narrative teach us that God above all things values love to Himself, that one outgoing of the soul to Himself is worth hundreds of acts of duty apathetically rendered.
II. So also did she offer as ILLUSTRIOUS EXAMPLE OF IMPLICIT FAITH. She had in view His burial, and did it to that end. A marvellous effort of faith. The apostles were not equal to it, though Christ had told them of His death and resurrection.
(R. Woodford, M. A.)I. Let us seek to, challenge and CORRECT THE WORLD'S CHARGE OF WASTE brought against this and all similar acts of homage to Christ. Waste is useless and prodigal expenditure. Sin is the parent of extravagance. There are notions in the world on the subject of giving to God which we can correct: —
1. Let us mark, in opposition to selfish policy, that as hoarding is not always saving, so neither is expenditure always waste. So the Divine method. The sunshine streams clown from heaven with no stint, yet without waste; because all this vast outcome of goodness returns in richest blessing to its Parent Benefactor. The same principle of generous expenditure forms the life and success of commerce. A man of sordid habits toils with old worn-out machinery, because he dreads expense of repairs, only to find that his inferior goods have fallen out of demand. Again, does the selfish man congratulate himself, when he has refused some urgent opportunity of doing good, that, whatever conscience or the world may say of him, he has at least saved his money? He is mistaken. There is no safe keeping of that which vexes and displeases God. But there is another fallacy of the ungenerous and selfish, suggested by the text, viz., that everything is wasted that is given to Christ. Finally, it is the fallacy of the selfish that, while they will not make sacrifices for Christ, they think they have a right to prevent others; but this will not exempt us from doing our own duty.
II. What the world calls waste, as done to Christ and His cause, the Saviour Himself commends as duty, which secures our truest interest and honour.
(J. R. McGavin, D. D.)
American Homiletic Review.What are the cardinal principles of the problem?
1. The essential claim which this class of mankind has upon the common brotherhood is not one of charity, but is founded in religion. It is not a humane sentiment to be gratified, but a law of Christianity to be obeyed.
2. The poor may be considered in the light of Christ's legacy to His Church in all ages. Had there been no poor claiming our sympathy and kindly ministry, what a lack there had been in the training of the Christian graces.
3. We are to perform this high and sacred duty in testimony of our love to Christ, and in gratitude for His love and services in our behalf.
(American Homiletic Review.)
(A. Watson, D. D.)Is there no religion except what is called the practical? and must everything you say and do and give have a direct religious purpose? May that not be true in the sacred region of religious life, which I have already indicated as true in the daily home-life? May there not be great religious emotions and desires which seek for utterance, and nothing more? May there not be a deep gratitude for spiritual blessings which longs to show itself, and which only wants to express its force towards Him from whom the blessings have come? I am not encouraging a mere sentimental religion, or a religion which has nothing but emotion in it; but I desire to destroy nothing which God has formed, and to suppress no genuine spiritual aspiration. And I wish that all should feel how natural it is, and how true to the religious instincts, that there should be times and seasons when the devout soul finds pleasure and satisfaction in what seems to effect no direct purpose. There are occasions when the very essence of religion consists in words and works of worship and praise. To what purpose this waste of time, or thought, or language? some may ask. And the answer is, that goodness in religion is often what goodness is in the home-life of men; it is goodness, not for what it accomplishes, but for what it expresses of the state of the heart.
(A. Watson, D. D.)1. This memorial affords an instance of the Saviour's foreknowledge, and of His fidelity and power in the accomplishment of His predictions.
2. It reminds us that as we possess this gospel ourselves it is our duty to impart the knowledge of it to others. The text implies that the gospel is for the world.
3. It sanctions and encourages the efforts of Christian females, as well as of others, to serve the cause of Jesus Christ.
4. It teaches us that a desire to supply the temporal necessities of the poor is not to supersede a devout regard to the claims of Christ, and to the welfare of souls.
5. It directs us to serve Christ according to our ability, and intimates that no sacrifices are too costly to be made for Him.
6. It reminds us that Jesus Christ sometimes bestows upon us such peculiar mercies, as demand peculiar and extraordinary expressions of gratitude.
7. It shows that those things are the most agreeable to Christ which are done with a devout regard to His death.
8. It admonishes us that such opportunities as are peculiarly favourable for testifying our regard for Christ, and to the salvation of our souls, if they are neglected never may return.
(J. Alexander.)I. WHO WAS THIS WOMAN? She was a blessed woman, had the favour of Christ in no ordinary way. Blessed in her deed and in the approbation of it. She was Mary of Bethany.
II. THE ESTIMATE WHICH CHRIST FORMED OF THIS WOMAN'S ACT. It was not elicited by the act itself immediately, but by the estimate formed by others. What determines the moral character of a work? Not the work itself, its amount, but the motive. Love was her motive. The act itself was selfdenying. It was an act of clear preference. There were other objects on which she might have bestowed the ointment. It was a striking act of faith. She did it for His burial. Our Lord marked the deed of the woman not only in the credit He gave her, but in the comfort he imparted. She only wanted His approval. The honour He gave — "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached," etc. Why should not we love Jesus as did this woman? Mary anointed to His burial. To what shall we anoint Him? Let us employ our talents for Him and suffering humanity.
(C. Molyneux, B. A.)I. LET US OBSERVE THE WOMAN HERSELF.
1. This act was the impulse of a loving heart.
2. What this woman did was done purely to Christ and for Christ.
3. She did an extraordinary, thing for Christ.
4. Her act was beautifully expressive of her broken heart.
II. LOOK INTO THE FACE OF HER LOVING LORD.
III. APPEAL PERSONALLY TO YOU.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. R. S. Harington.)
I. THE WOMAN'S SUBLIME DEVOTION.
1. She was completely under the sway of devoted love to Christ's person — "Unto Me." The prominent feature of Mary's character was her power of loving. This caught the eye of Christ, and gained His admiration. Here is an ideal of what a follower of Mine should be. Devotion to the Lora's person is the chiefest of Christian virtues. Now in making love the test of excellence Christ differs from all the rest of the world.
2. Her devotion was original and fearless. It was her own way of manifesting her love. It shocked the twelve. Let a person only love and he becomes a genius in manifesting it. Mary was unmindful of criticism.
3. Her devotion was magnificent. She did not think how little she could give.
II. CHRIST'S CHIVALROUS CHAMPIONSHIP OF THIS WOMAN Note the resemblances that exist between the action of the woman and our Lord's action in a few hours afterwards.
1. There is a resemblance in motive. Love led to both offerings. He died because He loved. He intercedes because He loves. There is a sweet savour in love. In His body there is an alabaster box that contains the ointment, a salve for every wound.
2. There is a resemblance of self-devotion. She could not have given more. Christ gave all that He could. He emptied Himself.
3. In the broken box Christ saw His end. That was the gospel.
4. The magnificence of Christ's work. It is "plenteous redemption."
(A. G. Brown.)
(A. G. Brown.)
(A. G. Brown.)
(A. G. Brown.)
(R. B. Fairbairn, D. D.)
I. THE DEED.
II. THE SIGNIFICANCE of the deed. One only of those present at this transaction was competent fully to declare its import.
1. It was a useful work. Such is the first inscription. The word translated good means, primarily — fair, goodly, beautiful, as to external form and appearance. This it was, but the language implies more. It was moral excellence that distinguished the miracles and teachings of the Saviour, and the quality pertaining to them He ascribes to this humble performance. More precisely, however, the epithet refers to the effect and influence of the work possessing this quality. This is the ordinary sense of the word, where it is used to characterize the practice of piety among the followers of Christ.
2. It was a great work. "She hath done what she could." The deed was co-extensive with her ability. To the eye that looked only upon the outward appearance, it seemed an act which nothing but its wasteful extravagance raised above insignificance. To the eye that searcheth hearts, it was grand, august, important. The value of a deed wrought upon Christ, or for the sake of Christ, though relative to us, is absolute to Him. If it he our best, though it were another's least, it is great and precious when its perfume ascends to heaven.
3. It was an act of faith in a crucified Saviour.
III. The COMMEMORATION of the deed. For the most delicate service that mortal rendered Him on earth, our gracious Redeemer provides the most delicate reward. Upon the immediate disciples of our Lord the accomplishment of this declaration first devolved.
1. How exceedingly precious to Christ is the love of His people!
2. How precious to Christ is the memory of His people!
3. How great the jealousy of Christ for the good fame of His people!
4. How generously Christ estimates the offerings and services of His people! Mary was not so lavish of her ointment as Jesus of His praise. Be very sure that whatever others may do, He will put the best construction upon a work of faith and love wrought for His sake.
5. Learn how Christ would have us cherish the memory of His people. Records of good men's lives are among the meads which God hath most emphatically approved and blessed for the sanctification of believers.
(C. W. Baird.)I. From the words of this text we evidently perceive that our Lord distinctly foresaw the great progress which the gospel would soon make in the world.
II. From the text we learn that reputation for good works is desirable and valuable.
III. Also we learn that some seasons and circumstances may justify uncommon expense.
IV. What this woman now did in anointing the body of Jesus was very commendable.
V. With all His great and transcendent wisdom, Jesus did not disdain what we call the weaker sex; but allowed them to be capable of true and distinguished worth and excellence.
VI. The text gives no encouragement to those honours approaching to idolatry or altogether idolatrous, which some have since given to departed saints, both men and women.
VII. We have, in this history, an instance of the favour of our Lord for virtue.
VIII. This text teaches us to think and judge for ourselves, and to act according to the light of our own judgment and understanding, after having taken due care to be well informed, without paying too great deference to the favourable or the unfavourable sentences of others.
1. By Mary's social position.
2. By the intrinsic value of that which was presented to Him.
3. By the opinion of those who were present with Him at the time.
4. The great thing, the one thing to which Jesus looked, was the motive from which the action was performed. What a sublime prophecy that eulogium is!
(W. M. Taylor D. D.)
1. Man's gifts to God are consecrated by love.
2. Profusion is not necessarily waste.
3. Amid the conflicting duties of life the immediate is best. "She hath done what she could" — not all that she could, but that which her hand found presently to do.
4. Our Lord not only accepts and commends the act and gift, but recompenses them in a royal manner.
(H. M. Jackson.)
I. Makes solid, although often unseen, preparation for the future.
II. Sacrifices worldly advantages at the call of God and duty.
III. Spends labour, and parts with possessions, in exchange for spiritual attainment.
IV. Surrenders life for a blessed immortality.
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