She has done what she could to anoint My body in advance of My burial.
Luke 7. Indicate Mary's reasons for loving the Lord, with all her heart and soul and strength, and show that this act of exquisite self-abandonment was the natural expression of her love. Learn from the subject the following lessons: -
I. THAT AN ACT WHICH IS PLEASING TO OUR LORD MAY BE MISCONSTRUED AND CONDEMNED BY HIS DISCIPLES. All the disciples were guilty of murmuring against Mary, but John points out that Judas Iscariot began it. Entrusted with the bag in which the common fund was kept, he had carried on for some time past a system of petty thievery. It has been suggested that, as our Lord knew his besetting sin of avarice, it would have been kinder not to have put this temptation in his way. There is, however, another aspect of this question. Evil habits are sometimes conquered by a tacit appeal to honor and generosity. An outward habit may be got rid of by removal of temptation, but absence of temptation does not root out the sin. In effect our Lord said to Judas, "I know your sin, but yet I put this money in your charge; for surely you would not rob the poor, defraud your brethren, and dishonor me!" This appeal might have saved Judas; but he yielded to his sin till it damned him. Such a man would be likely to feel aggrieved at this generous act of Mary's. He felt as if he had been personally defrauded. He knew that if this spikenard, which had vanished in a few minutes of refreshing fragrance, had been sold he would have had the manipulation of the proceeds. Therefore he was angry with Mary, and angry with the Lord, who had not rejected her offering. We can easily understand the feeling of Judas. But how was it the disciples re-echoed his complaint? They sided with him, although they certainly were not actuated by his base motive. Well, we all know that if a word of censure be uttered in the Church it swiftly spreads, and is like leaven, which soon leavens the whole lump. Suspicion and slander find easier access to men's hearts than stories of heroism and generosity. Weeds seed themselves more rapidly than flowers. The disciples had more to justify their fault-finding than we sometimes have. They were plain peasants, who had never known the profusion of modern life, and they were aghast at the idea of such a prodigality of luxury as this. From all they knew of their Lord they supposed that he would have preferred the relief of the poor to any indulgence for himself, and that he himself would have been disposed to say, "To what purpose is this waste?" Many now imagine that they can infallibly decide what will please or displease their Lord, yet in their condemnation of others they are often mistaken. Mary, no doubt, was discouraged and disappointed. Her gift had been the subject of thought and prayer, and now that her opportunity had come for presenting it she eagerly seized it. She was prepared for the sneers of the Pharisees; but surely the disciples would be glad to see their Lord honored. At their rebuke her heart was troubled; her eyes filled with tears as she thought, "Perhaps they are right. I ought to have sold it." Then Jesus looked on her with loving approval, and threw over her the shield of his defense.
II. THAT ANY SERVICE WHICH IS THE OFFSPRING OF LOVE TO THE LORD IS ACCEPTABLE TO HIM. He perfectly understood and approved her motive, and therefore was pleased with her offering. Whether it came in the fragrance of this ointment, or in the form of three hundred pence, was of comparatively little consequence. It meant, "I love thee supremely," and therefore he was glad. Naturally so. When a child brings you the relic of some feast which you would rather not have, yet because it has been saved from love to you, you eat it with as much gusto as if it were nectar from Olympus. Why? Because you judge of the gift from the love it expresses; and this, in an infinitely higher sphere, our Lord also does. Unlike us, he always knows what the motive is, and about many an act condemned by his disciples he says, "She hath wrought a good work on me." Καλόν, translated "good," means something beautiful, noble, or lovely. Mary's act was not ordered by the Law, nor dictated by precedent, nor suitable to everybody; but for her, as an expression of her love, it was the most beautiful thing possible. She poured her heart's love on Jesus when she poured the spikenard from the broken cruse.
III. THAT A GIFT OR ACT PROMPTED BY LOVE TO THE LORD MAY HAVE FAR MORE EFFECT THAN WE DESIGN. "She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying." Some argue from this that Mary knew Jesus was about to be crucified, and would rise again from the dead, so that this would be the only time for such anointing. I doubt that. Probably she had no distinct, ulterior design when she simply did what her love prompted. But in commending her Jesus in effect said, "In this act she has done more than you think - more than she herself imagines; for she is anointing me for my burial." In God's Word we find that we are credited for the good or for the evil latent in our actions, by Divine justice or in Divine generosity. We read of some standing before the Judge of quick and dead who are amazed at the issues of their half-forgotten acts for or against the Savior. "When saw we thee an hungred or athirst?" etc. This was the principle on which Christ attributed to Mary's act a result she could not have foreseen.
CONCLUSION. This is true of evil as of good. There is not a sin you commit but it may beget other sins, and in effect as well as in memory the words are true, "The evil that men do lives after them." For the far-reaching effects of sinful words and deeds, of which he may know nothing till the day of judgment, the sinner is responsible to God. What an encouragement is here to steadfast continuance in well-doing! That which has the smallest immediate result may have the greatest ultimately. The story of Mary's inexpressible love has had far greater effect in blessing the world than the distribution of three hundred pence among the poor, which human judgment might have preferred. - A.R.
She hath done what she could.I. That the Lord Jesus likes His people to be DOING CHRISTIANS. She "did something." She did "what she could." Hence the praises bestowed upon her. The great Head of the Church likes "doing" Christians. Christians who show their Christianity in their lives. True religion is not made up of general notions and abstract opinions — of certain views, and doctrines, feelings, and sentiments. Useful as these things are, they are not everything. The wheels of the machine must move. The clock must go as well as have a handsome case and face. It matters little what a man thinks, feels, and wishes in religion, if he never gets further than that. What does he do? How does he live?
1. "Doing" is the only satisfactory proof that a man is a living member of the Lord.
2. "Doing" is the only satisfactory proof that your Christianity is a real work of the spirit. Talking and profession are cheap and easy things. But "doing" requires trouble and self-denial.
3. "Doing" is the only evidence that will avail a man in the day of judgment. (Matthew 25:31, etc.)
II. That ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS CAN DO SOMETHING, and that all should do what they can. Now I know well the devil labours to make true Christians do nothing. Doing Christians are the devil's greatest enemies.
1. Satan will tell some that they are too young to do anything. Believe him not: that is a lie. Yet a little while and the enemy will say, "you are too old, and it is too late."
2. Satan will tell others that they stand alone too much to do any good. Martin Luther, Mahomet, Napoleon — all are cases in point. They all rose from the ranks. They stood alone at first. They owed nothing to position or patronage.
3. Satan will tell others that they have no power to do anything. He will say, "you have no gifts, no talents, no influence."
4. But Satan will tell some that they have no opportunities for doing anything — no door open on any side.
5. Do you ask me what you can do? I reply, there is something for every true Christian in England to do. Have you not the power of doing good by your life? you may work wonders by steady consistency and patient continuance in well-doing.
(Bishop J. C. Ryle.)
(Bishop J. C. Ryle.)I. THE INCIDENT HERE RECORDED COMPRISED THE CONDUCT OF A CERTAIN WOMAN ON A PARTICULAR OCCASION, TOGETHER WITH THE TREATMENT WHICH SHE RECEIVED; first, from some of the persons present, and secondly, from Jesus Himself. Those present, not having the same affection and veneration for Jesus which the woman had, found fault with her conduct. But what treatment did she receive from Jesus? "And Jesus said," etc. Here we see in the first place, how our Saviour defended the woman, and reproved and exposed those who had blamed her. Let us notice also in the second place, that Jesus not only defended the woman, but even praised and commended her.
II. TO DRAW FROM THIS INCIDENT SOME INSTRUCTIVE INFERENCES.
1. We may hence infer that those works which Jesus Christ accounts to be "good" are such as spring from faith in, and love to Him.
2. Such good works, such acts of love and faith, will not always, nor even in general, obtain the favour and applause of the world. To the world the good works of the Christian are seldom either intelligible or gratifying. Propose, for instance, to worldly persons to join with you in supporting some charity at a distance; they will tell you how it is abused and perverted, and that there are poor at home to whom we are required to attend. Thus selfishness and avarice plead their cause, and lead men to evade their plainest duties.
3. We may infer from the passage before us that those "good works," those fruits of faith and love, which the world misunderstands, misrepresents, and censures, are yet graciously noticed, and favourably accepted by Jesus Christ. My brethren, what encouraging and consolatory reflections are these to all such as are endeavouring to serve the Lord Christ, and to be fruitful in good works! Regard not the sneers and reproaches of ungodly persons. Behave to them with meekness and kindness. Overcome their evil with good.
(Edward Cooper.)I. THE MOTIVE OF CHRISTIAN DUTY. Love is that motive — the very principle which fills the mind of Deity. It was love which brought the Saviour down, and led Him through all the scenes of His earthly sufferings and the cross. Christ has loved you; therefore do what you may, for His sake. No higher motive than this can be urged.
II. THE AMOUNT OF SERVICE REQUIRED. The amount of ability is the measure of duty. What we can do, we ought to do — cheerfully and honestly. Use the balance of the sanctuary to make sure that thou art not defrauding thy God.
She hath done what she could.
I. THIS ANSWER OF OUR LORD'S PLAINLY AND POWERFULLY ASSERTS THE SUPERIOR WORTH OF THE HEART'S FEELING OVER ANY OUTWARD ACTS. The very form of the expression implies that, in one sense, she had done but little. Yet that little was enough. It was a test of her sincerity. It said distinctly that she was in earnest. It demonstrated the deep and tender attachment of her soul. One penny's worth, if it is only the utmost that self-denial can do, is as good for that as ten thousand shekels. The whole spiritual meaning of gifts consists in the disposition of the giver.
II. THESE WORDS BESTOW A BLESSING ON THE FEELING OF PERSONAL AFFECTION TOWARDS CHRIST. Have you ever had that mingled sense of gratitude and love towards a person which made you long, above all things, to find out some way of serving him, and made it a positive pain to be denied that privilege? Did Christianity not provide an outlet for this feeling, it would fail to secure a practical hold on human sympathies.
III. THESE WORDS AFFIRM, FOR TRUE GOODNESS, A COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE OF PLACE. Acceptance with God is as possible in small fortunes, or limited reputations, as in influential and powerful circles. No one, therefore, is excused from doing "what he can," nor is there one to whom the whole infinite wealth of Christ's favour is not offered.
IV. ABILITY IS THE MEASURE OF RESPONSIBILITY. No soul is tasked beyond its power. God's commandment never passes the line of a possible obedience, and so never goes over from justice to tyranny. What we fail to render in actual work (through our human frailty), He mercifully permits us through Christ to make up in those penitent and self-renouncing affections which gain forgiveness and open the way of reconciliation. Still, let us solemnly ask ourselves, even after making allowance for this, Have I done what I could? Has my service to the Master reached the full measure of the powers and gifts, the capacities of affection and the opportunities of well-doing, with which my Master has entrusted me?
V. TAKE THESE THREE THOUGHTS AS THE PRACTICAL SUBSTANCE OF THE SUBJECT.
1. This saying of Jesus is dangerously perverted and shamefully abused, if we take it as excusing us from the utmost effort in well-doing, and a laborious progress in Christ's service. We must summon into the Master's service every power, every energy, every affection, every hour of life. No laxities, and no apologies. Nothing less than entire consecration is demanded of us.
2. In order to serve Christ acceptably, we have not to revolutionize our lot, nor to seek other conditions than those Providence supplies. The place is nothing; the heart is all.
3. There is no service thoroughly right which does not directly acknowledge and honour the Saviour. The heart's offering to Him is the beginning of all righteousness.
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)1. Willing service.
2. Costly sacrifices.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
She hath done what she could.
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)
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