Posted by: pmarkrobb | April 16, 2014

this central day

There is little recorded about this “central” day in the last week of Jesus.  Central, in the sense that it is a small point with seemingly little activity that marks the transition of the crescendo of the triumphal entry, temple cleansing and marathon teaching to the descent towards betrayal and crucifixion.  Wednesday in the life of Jesus is a tipping point.  Emphasized in Mark’s language as he begins chapter 14, “It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”  His words seem to set the stage for the primary action which is soon to come.

The use of that word (central) is also purposeful, as it is illustrative of an interesting literary technique that Mark is known for.  It’s called the sandwich technique and involves the writer taking two smaller, related stories and breaking them up with a larger, seemingly unrelated story.  This larger story usually has big action or significance which would represent the meat in the sandwich.  While the two smaller, related stories act as the bread.  On further analysis, the central story has elements that tie the other stories together and, in a certain sense, create the “sandwich.”

Our two pieces of bread are the silent but substantive nudge that sends the snowball that is the plot to kill Jesus on its way down the hill towards crucifixion.  The religious leaders need a way to get to Jesus, who is seemingly at His peak of popularity.  Judas shows up and in him they find their way.

But before the action goes any further, Mark narrates the story of a significant meal and an unnamed woman.  A story that Jesus declares as central when He says, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  (Mark 14:9 ESV)  This woman did something risky and supremely sacrificial.  We are not told of her motivations in anointing Jesus, but they can’t be anything short of Spirit-led.  She approaches the table as the guests were reclining after dinner.  She breaks open a bottle of highly valuable perfume and pours it over Jesus’ head.  The reaction to her actions was one of shock and anger that Jesus was quick to rebuke.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
Mark 14:6 (ESV)

After quoting from the Old Testament text in Deuteronomy 15:11 to remind them that the poor they seemed so worried about would always be with them, while He would not, Jesus said these words…

She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.
Mark 14:8 (ESV)

God knew … Jesus knew … that a criminal’s body was not ceremonially prepared for burial after their death.  God knew that his Son would die a criminal in mans eyes.  God would not allow man to have that say and made a way for a proper anointing.

And I love the words, “She did what she could.”  On this side of eternity, I want my Savior to say those words of me.  Our perpetual offering to our God and Savior should be to do what we can.

For as many years as God allows me to share thoughts with you during Holy Week, I will join the chorus of voices that proclaim what that woman did for her Savior.  May we live broken and poured out in service to God.  And before we stand before Him with the desire to hear “well done, good and faithful servant,” may our Savior say of us, they did what they could.

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