Masterclass: The Gospel of Mark

Part 14: Jesus as King of the Kingdom

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We hope that each we have communicated that nothing is more needed or urgent than seeing Jesus clearly and understanding who He is. How you answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” changes everything. We find that Jesus is the most surprising and compelling person in history. But here’s the other question Mark wants to help answer in Mark 14: How do you respond to who Jesus is? Mary understood full devotion and realized devotion to Jesus would cost her financially, socially, and some criticism. Judas directly opposed due to personal interest. And although Peter failed Jesus, he humbly received His grace. Of course, God's desire is for His people to be fully devoted. But He also wants us to know we don't have to be stuck in our failure, we can receive His grace and move forward in gratitude. Let's move forward in grace and step into people who fully devote their hearts and lives to the person of Jesus.

The Anointing at Bethany

In His last days before the crucifixion, Jesus spent a lot of time in the town of Bethany. There, a woman unnamed by the Gospel of Mark (but believed by scholars to be Mary Magdalene) stepped forward and anointed Jesus’ head. Anointing was the practice of applying oil or a similar substance to someone ceremoniously, and was generally reserved for priests, kings, and dead bodies before burial. To anoint Jesus was an acknowledgement of His ultimate spiritual leadership, His status as King of kings, and His impending sacrifice. 

And this wasn’t any ordinary anointing substance: the woman used an extremely expensive perfume made of pure nard, a derivative of a plant that had to be imported from India. The Bible tells us that the jar she emptied out would have been worth about a year’s worth of wages! The people around them knew this, and they admonished her, saying the perfume could have been sold and the money could have been given to the poor.

They weren’t wrong that it’s good to help the poor. And indulging in decadent luxuries is usually self-serving. So, you might expect Jesus to agree with the people rebuking the woman, but that’s not what happened at all! Verses 6-9 read: 

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Jesus defended the woman, because in her act, she had displayed her full devotion to God. He reminded the scoffers that the poor will always be there to serve. People would never lack poor neighbors to help, and to this day, that is true! But even if you were among the poor yourself, and had no money to give, you could still serve them in the most important way: by sharing the Gospel.

Jesus was not downplaying the importance of helping the poor through financial means; He was upholding the supreme significance of His sacrifice. One can be rescued from material, physical poverty for an earthly lifetime, but that is nothing compared to the eternal rescue that Jesus provides us from our sins. Humanitarian work is good, but humanism is hopeless. 

The Cost of Devotion

The anointing at Bethany shows us that selfless devotion is costly. For the woman, it obviously cost her financially. But it also threatened her, socially. Had Jesus not been there to defend her, the people would have seen her as wasteful and uncaring toward the needy, and they may no longer have associated with her. And, lastly, it meant being publicly criticized

The disciples came to know this cost, too. When Judas betrayed Jesus and the chief priests came to arrest Him, everyone deserted Him and fled (Mark 14:50). Only hours before, they had all agreed to stand with Him, even if it meant death. But when persecution came, the devotion they claimed to have for Jesus all but disappeared. 

As Jesus was taken away to be judged by a hostile court, Peter followed close behind, trying to keep under the radar. He wanted to remain with Jesus, but He didn’t want to pay the price. So, just as Jesus foretold, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Years later, Peter, reinstated by the grace of God to be at the foundation of the church, is said to have been martyred on a cross upside down. 

Do the costs of devotion hold you back from being all in for Jesus? If you’re in America, you’re probably not dealing with matters of life and death, but that’s not the situation in other parts of the world. Let us be bold enough to stand up for Jesus here where it’s safe, even in the everyday things. Pray that the Holy Spirit within us will give us the strength to stand firm until the end. Pray for the missionaries of the church who go into places where the term martyr is more than a metaphor.

Know that, even though we are bound to fail sometimes, God will not reject us. Peter wept after he denied Jesus. John 21 records Peter having decided to go out to fish, just as He had done before Jesus’ call to follow Him. He was most likely feeling that he was unworthy to continue as an ambassador of the Lord. But Jesus reenacted the very miracle from the day He called Him, shouting from afar that Peter should cast his net on the other side. Read John 21, a beautiful passage of Scripture. 

You are not called to spread the Gospel because you are perfect, but because you are flawed and He is good. And like Peter, no matter how wrong you go, Jesus will forgive you and use you for good. 


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