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Mark’s first-century biography – page 41

(Jesus of Nazareth, c. AD 30, Jerusalem, speaking with four of his disciples) But concerning the particular day or the hour, no one knows, neither the angels in sky, nor the Son, but only the Father. See! Be alert! For you have not known when the time is - like a man away from people, having left his own house and having given his own servants the authority, each with his own work - he commanded the guard gatekeeper to stay awake. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning – otherwise, coming unexpectedly, he may find you sleeping deeply. And what I say to you I say to all: stay awake!” 
“Stay awake” x 3. What for? His coming? Yes, because they had not expected one coming. Earlier, Jesus had tried to prepare his followers for a future riven with wars, plagues, earthquakes, famines, false saviours who can’t deliver, - and persecution. Amidst all that, Jesus would come. 

Now he is anxious that they will stay awake at all times because the “particular day and hour” is known only to “the Father”. In particular because evening, midnight, dawn or morning, may be his coming hour for me. 

But it was, after two days, the Passover and the Unleavened. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how, overpowering him by deceit, they might kill him. For they stated, “Not during the festival, lest there will be an uproar from the people.” 

Urgency is now inserted into the mix. The religious, political, well-educated leaders in Jerusalem had only two days left in which to achieve Jesus’ death before their celebratory feast days. The circumstances also demanded deceit: Jesus was popular with the people so the people would need to be deceived.

‘Men always hate what they envy most.’ (Henry Mencken, American journalist, 1880-1956) 
Mark decides to describe the two celebratory events with a noun and an adjective. The singular noun “pascha”, meaning ‘passing over’, pictured the lambs slain by the Israelites around 1350 BC by means of whose blood they escaped the punishment of death which, on one night, fell upon all the Egyptians and their livestock. The adjective “azyma”, meaning ‘unleavened’, bread without leaven, pictured living a judgment-free, sin-free new life.

And, he being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, himself lying down, a woman came having an alabaster flask of perfume of trustworthy nard, very costly. Crushing the alabaster flask, she poured it down upon his head. 

That same evening, two miles from Jerusalem city centre, Jesus is in the house of a sin-full man (like us all, or me if no one else) – “Simon the leper”. “Bethany” means ‘house of misery’. Jesus was at rest; not so the woman.

But some were very indignant within themselves, “Why has this destruction of the perfume come about? For this perfume was able to be sold for more than three hundred denarii to give to the poor.” And they were censuring her.” 

“Perfume” x 3. This woman must have been absolutely thankful to Jesus and devoted to him. 300 denarii were a year’s pay for an ordinary labourer, around £20,000 today. “Destruction of the perfume”? The perfume of Jesus destroyed - for others?

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why are you bringing trouble on her? She worked a beautiful work with me.” 

His self-giving life had worked in her the same death to self as he was about to endure for her and others. She was free – free to give – as he was.

‘We must not only give what we have; we must give what we are.’ (D-J Mercier, Belgian pastor and writer, 1851-1926) 
“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish, you are able to do good to them. But you are not always having me. What she had she did: she took my body beforehand to perfume it for entombing. But truly, I am stating to you all, wherever the gospel may be proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be spoken as a reminder of her.” And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, came away towards the chief priests so that he might give him away to them. Moreover, having heard, they were glad and promised to give him silver. And he was seeking how, opportunely, to give him away.

“What she had she did.”? Strange way of writing. What did Jesus mean by that? What we have is part and parcel of the “me”. What we do with what we have (in the woman’s case her £20,000 perfume) shows what the “me” is in reality. Judas’ “me” was the polar opposite of the woman’s “me”.

Sinner Syvret

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