And truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached in all the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her."
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.
And Judas Iscariot.
I. We here have Mary's love for her Lord arriving at its loftier elevation, pouring its costly treasure on those feet at which she was wont to sit with so much reverence, and learn lessons whose value is beyond rabies. It was not at first that she wrought this deed of munificence, the fame of which shall be coeval with the duration of the world which now is, but after continuing to receive and to profit by the instructions and works of her Lord for some time; the gracious impression on her mind and heart toward her Lord, once in its infancy, is full-fledged and full. grown; now the little leaven has leavened the whole lump.
II. Now let us glance at him who was called to be on earth one of the twelve, and called in heaven to sit on an apostolic throne; but who became covetous, and, in consequence, stole from the poor, and sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. He was not all this at once, even as Mary did not break her alabaster box the first time she saw Jesus, but the last, immediately before His death and burial. Judas Iscariot erred by allowing a creaturely thing, even mammon, to have an undue place first in his thoughts and then in his heart. Jesus was the object of Mary's regard, her thoughts were ever running after Him, until her heart was filled and ruled by His love, so that she would consider it a little thing to be allowed to pour a fortune down at His feet. She was spiritually-minded, and in that she found rest to her soul; Judas was carnally-minded, and he fearfully proved that to be so is death.
III. These opposites serve to show that a continued course of virtue or sin will lead to extraordinary acts of goodness or crime when opportunity or temptation arises. While the love of Christ leads to constant acts of beneficence for Christ, and extraordinary acts on great occasions, as with Mary, so, on the other hand, the disciple who allows himself to indulge at first in lesser acts of delinquency, waxes gradually worse and worse, becomes so habituated to wander from the straight line, that he is prepared to commit under strong temptation the greatest enormity, to do that of which at one time he would have cried with horror, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" Nip sin in the bud; cease from it at once, for you little know to what height of crime and depth of shame it may conduct; seek, by God's help, to eject from the heart the little leaven of perverseness ere the whole heart and life be corrupted and misguided thereby; the beginning of sin is as the letting out of water, there is the trickling stream at first, the overwhelming flood afterwards.
IV. We have the Lord's commendation of the one and condemnation of the other. How contrary his fate on earth to that of the woman of Bethany! Thus, the one who forgot self and thought only of her Lord, and gloried that she might become poor if He might but be honoured, the fragrance of her name fills the whole world with a sweet perfume, even as the ointment filled the house with a grateful odour; while the other, who, yielding to temptation, did not care that His Lord should be destroyed if he might be enriched and aggrandized, his fate is to stand forth among men as most destitute and desolate, cursed of God and man. And where are they now — the Christ-loving one and the money-loving one — brought into contact for a moment under this roof? The distance between them, the moral distance, has been widening ever since, and will evermore and evermore; the one has been soaring always nearer to the throne of infinite love and truth, following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, increasing in likeness and devotedness to her Lord; the other, cut off from all sources of restoring life, and only exposed to what is evil, is always plunging into a lower depth of corruption, wandering ever to greater distances from his Father's house, his Shepherd's fold; it had been good for that man if he had never been born. A few lessons suggested by this subject:
1. We have a terrible lesson read to us here against the sin of covetousness. It is not necessary to have large sums of money entrusted to us to be covetous. No one can sin exactly as he did by selling again his Saviour for money, but professors, if not watchful, may allow their supreme love to wander from Christ, and to concentrate itself on earthly treasure, be it equal in value to five pounds or fifty thousand; the sin is not in the quantity of wealth which is preferred to the Saviour, but in giving to wealth or anything else our highest love instead of to Jesus. Those who do this are as guilty of soul-destroying idolatry as ever Judas was. Take heed and beware of covetousness; all the more need to beware thereof because it comes to us in such specious forms, and assumes such deceptive titles, as economy, carefulness, prudence, honesty, provision for the future, provision against old age; it is a sin which among men is treated with respect, and not held in abhorrence, as are sins of murder, adultery, and theft; and yet it has been the millstone which has sunk many besides Judas among the abysses of the bottomless pit; it is idolatry, says the Word of God; and we know that no idolator hath place in the kingdom of heaven.
2. The only safeguard against this and every other evil besetment is to imbibe the spirit and track the steps of Hazy. Her heart was full of Christ. Let Him have your heart, that He may wash it from all sin in His blood, and fill it with His perfect love. Regard Him as your one thing needful, the only one absolutely essential to your well-being. Having given Him your heart, and fastened its strongest love on Him, all boxes and bags containing treasure will be forthcoming at His demand; and in life, in death, in eternity, like Mary, you will be infinitely removed from Judas and all who are like-minded. Well, my fellow sinners, do you choose with Judas or with Mary? Not with Judas, you say. You would not, if you could, betray the Holy One and the Just. But his original offence, the root of the great betrayal sin, consisted in allowing something in preference to Christ to engage his thoughts and affections, even money, until he became wholly absorbed thereby; there was the seat of the mischief. As long, then, as anything has your heart, be it money, be it a fellow creature, be it a sensual indulgence, a carnal gratification, be it anything else, you do choose with Judas and not with Mary. You give your heart, like the apostate, to some creaturely thing or other, and as long as you do your soul is in danger of eternal ruin; that one sin of yours, unless it be abandoned, will destroy you. Oh, choose with the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and give the whole heart to Jesus.
(Hans Christian Andersen.)
1. Many begin well who perish awfully.
2. Self is the destruction of safety and sanctity alike.
3. Greed leads to much inward backsliding, and to much open apostasy.
4. There is meanness and cowardice in all evil. Evil lays plots and practises deceit, ashamed and afraid to act in the open.
5. The goodness of good men makes bad men worse when it fails to wake repentance in them.
6. The world thinks as Judas thought, that the lack of money is the root of all evil; but God says what Judas forgot, that the love of money is so.
7. To get one-third of the sum Mary had spent on ointment, Judas sides with the foes of Jesus, and becomes a traitor to his Saviour.
8. They who plot against the Saviour plot against themselves. It was Judas, not Christ, who was destroyed.
9. Beware of half-conversion and the blending, of worldliness and discipleship, for such mixtures end badly. The thorns springing up, choke fatally the grace that seemed strong and healthy.
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)1 Timothy 6:10). A mother sin, having many cursed daughters like itself. A stock upon which one may graft any sin almost. Hence come fraud, injustice, and all kinds of oppression both open and secret; cruelty and unmerciful dealing; lying, swearing, murder, etc.
1. It withdraws the heart from God and religion, hindering our love to God, and delight in His service; quenching our zeal for His glory; causing men to set their hearts upon worldly wealth and gain, which so takes them up that they cannot be free to love God, and to delight in His service as they ought to do (Matthew 6:24; Luke 14:1).
4. It is a sin very hard to be repented of. When other sins leave a man, e.g., in old age, this only clings faster to him. He that will follow Christ, and be a true Christian, must forsake all things in this world (at least in heart) to follow Him. But how difficult is this for the covetous man to do. Besides, such have many pretences and excuses for their sin: as, that hard times may come; and, "He that provides not for his own," etc., which is one main cause why it is so hard for such to repent.
(George Petter.)1. Remember, that we are in Scripture plainly forbidden to desire and seek after worldly wealth (Proverbs 23:4; Matthew 6:1).
2. Consider the nature of all worldly wealth and riches. It is but this world's goods (as the Apostle calls it), which serves only for maintenance of this present momentary life, and is in itself most vain and transitory; being all but perishing substance. Gold itself is but "gold that perisheth" (1 Peter 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:17; Proverbs 23:5; Luke 12:20).
3. Consider how vain and unprofitable to us all worldly wealth is, even while we enjoy it: not being able of itself to help or do us good (Luke 12:15). The richest men do not live longest. All the wealth in the world cannot prolong a man's life one hour. It cannot give us ease in pain; health in sickness; but most unable it is to help or deliver us in the day of God's wrath. Think of these things, to restrain and keep us from the love and inordinate desire of this world's goods. One main cause of covetousness is a false persuasion in men's hearts touching some great excellency in riches, that they will make one happy; but it is not so; rather the contrary.
4. Consider the account to be given hereafter to God, of all wealth here enjoyed; how we have used it, well or ill: for we are not absolute owners of that we have, but stewards only, entrusted by God with earthly substance to use it to His glory and the good of others. Think of this well, and it will be a means to curb the inordinate love and desire of worldly wealth.
5. Labour for faith in God's providence; to depend on His Fatherly care for things of this life. This will cut off covetous desires, which are fruits of infidelity and distrust of God's Providence (Matthew 6:30, 32; Romans 8:32; Psalm 55:22).
7. Labour to make God our portion and treasure. Let thy heart go chiefly to Him, and be chiefly set on Him: thy love, joy, delight. Then thou art rich enough. In Him thou hast all things.
(George Petter.)I. THAT A TOO INTIMATE CONNECTION BETWEEN A PROFESSING CHRISTIAN AND THE WORLD IS INJURIOUS TO THE CHURCH.
II. THAT THE HYPOCRITE IS MORE INJURIOUS TO THE CHURCH THAN A NON-PROFESSOR.
1. The world depends upon him for an opportunity. To the chief priests all plans and proposals failed, until Judas's came.
2. Hypocrites are the leaders of the enemies after abandoning Christ. Examples: Judas, Alexander the coppersmith, etc.
3. They have a knowledge of the failures of Christian brethren. A fortress attacked — an enemy disguised enters — has intelligence of the weakness of the fortification — joins the army outside — leads the assault to the weakest place. Zion trusts in the Lord.
4. They are too near to be seen. Gold and copper cannot be distinguished when held so closely as to touch the eye.
III. THAT A FEEBLE MORAL CHARACTER IS INJURIOUS TO THE CHURCH.
IV. THAT THE WORLD'S JOY AND THE CHURCH'S GRIEF MAY OFTEN BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE SAME CAUSE. "And when they heard it they were glad;" and "they were exceeding sorrowful." The same cause — how different the effects! Dismembering, abandonment of God, etc., produce similar effects. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
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