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This message draws important lessons from the passion narrative in the book of Mark in which three sacrifices take place - one to replicate, one to renounce, and One to receive.
Ten Questions Driving Home One Point
The Day Heaven and Hell Agreed
This Was No Blowout. This Was a Slow Leak.
Pure, Unadulterated Hell: Dealing with It in This Life & Avoiding It in the Next
A Tale of Three Sacrifices
Father, I thank you for these friends who are here and our guests. They have patiently heard us declare who you are and how your banner over us is love. We know that many people who aren't familiar with who you are, think that your banner over us is one strictly of judgment and scorekeeping. We think of those people specifically right now.
A lot of us live in fear from you and run from you. I pray that our guests today would see that while you are a God who stands for justice and righteousness and holiness, in your grace, you are a God who made every provision for our lack of it. We get to celebrate that this morning, especially as we tear back in to the gospel of Mark and clarify our view of who this Jesus was.
He had a secret ambition that no one understood, even those close to him. They resented it when they did start to get a glimpse of it. Father, I pray for folks who are here this morning that resent the necessity of that ambition of Christ to die for sinful humanity. They don't yet understand their need or in hearing of their need, resent the fact that you observe it.
I pray that you would use this morning to soften their hearts and draw them to you. For those of us who understand it, that we would be overwhelmed once again at your goodness to us in the provision of what your Son did. Father, our world needs what your Son did. We think of all the different ways that we try and bring about peace.
As a country that's involved in war, we are now in the most horrific of options. Our country is using the sword that you have given us for the purpose of executing your judgment on people who will not live as you have told us that we should live. We are humbled, Lord, that it appears that you are using our God-given strength and prosperity to allow us to have the better end of this at this moment.
In fear and trembling, we think about what it means to be your agent and your servant. We understand that you don't want to be misrepresented by those who say one thing and yet act inconsistently. This morning, we as a nation have to humble ourselves and thank you for your grace that flies over us.
Lord, we acknowledge that the United States of America is not a united states of holy people. We are filled with self-indulgence. We often call evil good and good evil. We ask in fear and trembling, Lord, that your mercy and grace continue to be poured out on us and that repentance would sweep this land even as judgment now is sweeping Iraq.
We pray for the Iraqi people. We pray for our enemies, as you've told us to. We pray for Saddam and his leadership, the Republican guard, al-Qaeda, terrorists who hate us, people who believe in gods that are no gods at all, who seek our destruction. Father, we pray that your grace would shine forth in their lives before justice does so that they might not meet the most horrible of ends as we'll look today. You have said yourself, "Woe to those who betray the Son of Man."
Lord, families have lost loved ones this week because of war. We ask that somehow you could comfort them in a way that we can't ourselves comfort them. It's a sobering time. We thank you for what dross you're melting away from our country. We don't look out right now; we look in. We pray that you would use this time to melt dross away from our hearts as we go to your Word and are instructed by it. In Christ's name, amen.
We have six weeks, and we are going to race through to the resurrection. We have been having some fun over the last number of years coming back to a series that has to do with one of the four books of your Bible that tell the story of Jesus Christ. There are all kinds of different views that are floating around even today about whom Jesus is and what he was here to do.
If you ask people who Jesus is, most folks will respond well to the idea that Jesus is somebody you should revere. Not everybody would ultimately define Jesus in the way that he has revealed himself. God has given us his recorded Word that we might see him for who he says he is, not what we want him to be.
If you have a Bible, turn to Mark 14 with me. Let me just set up the first 13 chapters and tell you what has been going on if you're just now joining us or if you can't remember what we talked about six months ago. In the gospel of Mark, you basically have Jesus revealing himself as a Son of Man who did not come to be served, but to serve other people and to give himself as a ransom for many.
He offered his life as a source which would redeem those who have been taken captive by an Enemy. This was so that those whom he has ransomed might be delivered back to a place of grace, back to home where they ought to be. A lot of folks misunderstood what God would look like when he came. We understand why.
If most of us were given godlike powers, we would do what Bruce Almighty is about to do on the big screen in the person of Jim Carrey, if you haven't heard about that movie. It's one coming out where Jim Carrey is given all the powers of God. He does what most of us would imagine we would do if we had godlike powers. He exploits it for his own benefit.
Jesus did nothing of the kind. We find out he did nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Instead with humility of mind, he considered others as more important than himself. He did not merely look out for his own personal interests, but especially for the interests of others, even to the point of giving himself up as a sacrifice for them.
He stood against those who were powerful positions and called people to a place of rest, not a place of oppression and performance. He was resented by those who would oppress people with religion. He addressed them specifically as hypocrites who would adorn themselves in flowing robes and religious acts and yet whose hearts were far from him.
If you're here this morning and you don't like hypocrites, listen to Jesus because you're right there in company with him. He doesn't like them either, much at all. The gospel of Mark walks us through a time in Christ's life where… You get to the last week and it's often called the passion narrative because it's when Jesus is moving toward his moment of greatest suffering. The purpose for which he came is about to be most fully seen and realized.
In that last week when he goes in, he enters the temple. If you know much about the story of the life of Christ, you know that he cleansed the temple. It wasn't so much a temple cleansing as we observed a long time ago; it was a temple reforming, saying, "What you guys are doing here in order to earn access to God, this religious rite is about to be undone."
The people who made their living by continuing and furthering this rite were shocked by this because they had understood that's what God wanted. They began to plot how they might destroy him. Jesus was busy telling his disciples, "Hey, I'm going to give myself up to these men. They're not going to take it from me."
He pulled his disciples away in what's called the Olivet Discourse that we spent 10 weeks on in Mark 13. We talked about Jesus' explanation of what will happen to the kingdom of God in light of the view that the King had been rejected. Then we're in Mark 14. In Mark 14, Jesus is at the house of friend, a guy named Simon the Leper.
Apparently, Simon is one who is no longer a leper, because now he's back in society. Undoubtedly, he was one of the lepers who Jesus had healed. Because of that, as you and I would, he greatly adored Christ. Jesus was there with his friends and was lounging at a table. We find out that what's going on in Mark 14 is really like a stale sandwich, or at least it's stale bread with good meat in the middle.
What Mark did to tell us the story is he talks about the fact that you've got a bunch of men who are conspiring to kill Jesus. You have a woman who is doing everything she can to adore Jesus. You have another group of men who are confused about what Jesus is doing and one man in particular who will betray him.
Let's just take a look at Mark, chapter 14, verse 1. It starts by saying, "Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away…" By the way, if I had to title this message, and we will, I'll title it this: A Tale of Three Sacrifices.
You're going to find that there is a woman who will sacrifice everything for the one she loves. You're going to find a man who will sacrifice his one best friend for $30 of silver. You'll find one who will sacrifice everything for everyone. There are three different sacrifices made here. Two that you should emulate. One that you should take as the ultimate sign of a sacrifice to avoid.
It was the Passover and the unleavened bread. That means nothing to us. If I said to you, "It was around Thanksgiving and Christmas," it would. If you were a person who understood the Jewish faith, and you heard Passover and unleavened bread, it would be like hearing Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a big-time holiday season. Now Passover always happened at the beginning of the year in the Jewish calendar, which is typically right around March or April.
Preparations would start on the tenth day of the month, and it began on the fourteenth. Then the Feast of Unleavened Bread would start seven days after that. The Jewish calendar was based on the moon, the lunar calendar, in 28-day cycles. It gets a little off from our 30-, 31-, and 28-day beginning of our year.
Along about March or April every year, you've got the Jewish month of Nisan. Passover would begin on the fourteenth day. Passover was a celebration of the Jews that would be a time when they would remember how God delivered them from the slavery, bondage, and oppression that they were in Egypt.
There were 10 plagues, if you remember. We'll take a look at Exodus 12 a little bit later when God instituted the initial Passover Feast. There were 10 different plagues where God was trying to communicate to Egypt and Pharaoh, "You need to not mess with these people because I'm for them. There's nothing that you can do to maintain them. I'm about to let them go."
He upped different plagues to let them know that God is with these Jews, these Israelites, these sons of Abraham. Finally, the tenth plague was that the firstborn in all of Egypt would die. I will show you a little bit later what they did to cover themselves with blood. An innocent lamb was slain in order to allow them to be protected, that the angel of death would pass over their house and the judgment of death would not come upon them and would continue all throughout Egypt.
Everybody that sheltered themselves by faith under the blood would not incur the curse of death. For years after that all the way to the time of Christ is Jewish people would get together and they would remember this great event with this celebration called Passover. There were many different elements to it.
It's the meal the Christ and his disciples shared that night that Judas betrayed him. I'm going to try to show you a little bit about that Passover seder that will just open your eyes like you can't imagine. It's amazing how many Jews will celebrate Passover this coming month not understanding they're celebrating Communion.
It's amazing how many of his believers have celebrated Communion not understanding initially it was part of Passover. What Jesus did during Passover is he said, "I want to show you what you have long been celebrating and how that is a picture of who I am." The reason we don't celebrate the Passover seder here is because Christ said, "I want you to celebrate something else from now on, not the picture, but the person."
It was this time of great celebration. Jerusalem at the time had anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 different people in it, depending on who you ask. It would swell to two to five times that amount. Passover is when the Jews would look for this great Deliverer that God had told them would come. There was a lot of tension that was in the city.
The Roman governor would leave his Mediterranean bungalow up there in Caesarea and come down to oversee the Passover Feast, because there could be as many as three million Jews. Jewish historian Josephus tells us at about AD 65, which is just 30 years after Christ. It was a city that was swarming with people. It was a time when they were celebrating God's goodness to them and his deliverance for them as a people.
There was a lot of tension going on there. We find that the leadership, who was angry at Jesus, decided not to try and capture this very popular teacher. The reason they said they wouldn't is because it could potentially create a stir in the people. If they're going to continue to be leaders of the Jews as puppets of Rome, the Roman authorities don't take kindly to disturbances around Passover."
To protect their position, they said, "Let's just wait and do this a little bit later." You're going to find out that God didn't want them to wait. In his sovereignty, he made sure it happened on his schedule, during his time just like he said it would. These men who betrayed him… I read a guy this week who made a great observation.
He said, "People do not come out of the saloons and peep shows to betray Jesus." The men who betrayed Christ were not the charlatans and hookers and gamblers and dark people of the day. Those were the ones who gravitated to Christ. The folks who were having a hard time with him were the people who were in religious positions because he shattered their paradigms. Nobody understood what all the pictures and what the purpose of the law was, which was to show you that you fell short.
It's interesting when you look at our day and age. There are a couple of little parallels even in this little start to chapter 14 of Mark. First, it's interesting that the Pharisees decided that they weren't going to mess with Jesus during the holy season. I gave you one reason why. Because the Scriptures tell us they were concerned that if they did this during the festival that people would get all upset.
Let me tell you another reason why they probably wouldn't do it. That's because you have to make sure that you are involved with holy activity during the holy days. They did not want to do this act of murder and deceit because that's not becoming of people at such a time as this.
I had fun coaching my kids in soccer. At the end of almost every soccer game, there is always a snack mom who will roll out some incredible assortment of gifts that the kids tear into and then the siblings wait. If there's some left, they dive in like vultures. It's interesting how many parents… A lot of them now know what I do vocationally.
When time comes to dive for the drinks and the moms let them, there's a number of children whose parents say, "No, no, no. You remember we gave up Chips Ahoy! or Krispy Kreme or sweets for Lent." You see the kid give a look like, "But Mom, this is soccer! Is there not some exemption clause here?" "No." The child puts it down and they look at me like they gave that up for Lent.
The first two that did this, they were looking at me like, "Surely, if anybody's soccer coach would understand, it would be mine, because he's a pastor." I don't, frankly, observe Lent and the giving up of things for Lent. Here's why.
Because I don't give up something for a certain season. If there's something in my life that I need to give up, I'm going to give it up. God doesn't tell me to abstain from certain things for a time. He tells me to say, "Change your life where it needs to be changed now." Many people who are giving up things for Lent are not doing it because they're bad things, obviously, like Krispy Kreme, and will get back to it after Easter.
They're doing it as a reminder of sacrifice, which is a good discipline. It would be similar to our disciple of fasting, which is something that we should do on a regular basis. We pick an object that we abstain from. It is not to make God love us more, but because we love God. It is to discipline our bodies, to remind ourselves of his great love and sacrifice for us, and to focus our minds on spiritual things. We'll abstain from some things for a time.
That's what most people are doing during Lent. Let me tell you why I bring this up. It's interesting what is going on with the Pharisees here. They would easily say, "It's not good for men to act this way during this season." There's a little celebration that happens just a little bit east of here in a town called New Orleans. It's an event called Mardi Gras.
You guys know what Mardi Gras is, don't you? It means Fat Tuesday. It has come from what religion has introduced in humankind, which is, "You do these things and you will be considered holy," which is not unlike what these men were doing. I say this to you because it's good to discipline yourself and to focus yourself on spiritual things for a while, not to blackmail God to love you more, but as a personal discipline that you consider it as an act of worship to him.
That's wonderful. I hope that our kids do stuff like that all the time and we as adults do that all the time, not just during certain seasons. There are many people, largely inside the Catholic church, that believe you must do certain things during certain high holy seasons for you to be in good favor with God.
The gig is this: you can be whatever kind of hellion you want to be for however long you want to be it, but come Fat Tuesday, you'd better get all your disorder out of your house and out of your system. Because come the next day, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten season when we prepare ourselves for the 40 days before Christ was crucified.
There is no end to the debauchery and rancor and self-indulgence that happens in that town. They feel like they can cut it loose. On Wednesday, baby, when it's time for the sun to get up, sin is to go down. They clean the streets. You go sit down before some guy in a little screened-in room. He's going to rub dirt on your head. You're going to tell him about stuff you shouldn't do and won't do anymore. Somehow God is appeased because for 40 days, you tiptoe around or at least aren't as outwardly brazen in your sin. That is nuts, folks.
That is nuts. What I would offer to my friends who go to Mardi Gras is just keep partying right through Easter if that's what you're going to do. Because that little superstitious act is not fooling God. What I would really offer to them is, "Look, let's get your house in order. Let's figure out what Jesus did on that Friday that Lent leads to so you might respond appropriately.
He can come in and dwell in your life and change your heart so that you would consider how you live your life in general. Until that happens, he is not bribed by your attending a certain mass, a certain confession, a certain church, and doing certain acts of sacrifice and service and rubbing dirt on your head or shoveling out cash from your wallet."
God hates such activity. He abhors it. He says, "You people of all are going to incur a greater judgment because you acknowledge who I am and what I have done. You take me for somebody who, like you, can be bribed. You don't know who I am." It says in Psalms, "…I Myself will rebuke you and accuse you to your face." Mardi Gras is the closest thing we have to the kind of hypocrisy that was going on in the days of Christ. You'll find out that Jesus had no short fuse for hypocrites. "Woe," he said. "Woe, woe, woe."
It's also true when we see who first betrayed him, the individuals that we most often forget are enemies of the gospel. We think of cults. We think of other religions. We think of atheists who mock at the Scriptures as our great enemy. Where are the enemies of Christ in the Scripture? They are within the system. Where is the enemy of Christ found most often today? Not outside the church. I think within. They are people who do what I do but compromise on what God says they should do and the way they should do it, how they should do it.
In James, chapter 2, it talks about being a respecter of people based on how they look. Just like we would often respect people because they're in certain offices. I have to tell you. One of the more frustrating things I've seen on television in the last little bit was a discussion that Larry King hosted about war and whether or not it was just.
They had five different men: an individual representing the Catholic faith, a bishop from the Methodist church, a gentleman from a Bible church in California, a gentleman from a church in San Antonio, and a leader of a Christian university. Two of those men consistently compromised on the sufficiency of Christ, the necessity of Christ, and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the great frustration of even Larry King!
They were consistently distorting and twisting the Scriptures representing the faith. Some of the other men, Max Lucado and John MacArthur and the other kept looking at them in disbelief. Like, "I can't believe you're saying that." Larry King would even challenge them. It was just so disturbing to see men who were supposed to represent the different aspects of the faith to be so separated on core issues that were nonnegotiable.
Not war, but the necessity and the exclusivity and the essentiality of Jesus Christ. If they couldn't get that right, there was no way they were going to get the next thing right. It was so frustrating to watch. The problem wasn't the folks who were outside the church in that moment. It was folks that were right inside. James tells us to be careful.
He says, "Listen. Don't just elevate the people because of what they do or what they look like or what they can give." Because if you'll cut right down to the very end of James, chapter 2, verse 7, he makes this observation. He says, "Aren't the rich ones, aren't the proud ones, aren't the successful ones, the ones who blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?"
So, careful how you recognize people because of their position or because of their place in society. You recognize people because of how they respond to who God is. Period. As we start this chapter in Mark 14, we see that the people who most vehemently pursued Christ were those who were in the position of greatest respect, spiritually speaking.
There is another one who comes in the scene right after this, where Jesus is lounging in a seat at Bethany. I love the observation that I can make when I look. It says in verse 3, "While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table…" You think about what's about to happen to Christ, and here he is reclining.
The honchos are after him. He knew that there was no way that he was going to escape the closing net that was coming around him. Yet he was just lounging there. It's a picture to me of how we can all rest no matter the number of our enemies when we know that we're in the will of God.
I had a friend who told me one time… It's really true. He said, "Todd, it's amazing how comfortable believers can be in an uncomfortable situation when they know themselves to be in the will of God." He actually said it to me the other way, because he was talking about a friend of his who was prospering in every way but was living outside the will of God, but he was a professing believer.
He said it was amazing how uncomfortable believers can be in a comfortable situation when they're outside of the will of God. Some of y'all know that. Financially, things are going well. Health wise, things are going well. Yet you take the name of Christ and you know that you're not walking with him in obedience and really pursuing him.
There is this deep sense of disturbance and unrest in your heart. You wonder what the deal is because everything around you should be fine. Yet there is something missing. That's true of believers, and it's also true of those who God is drawing to him. We have individuals in this body who I have talked to who I know have had the pinnacle of success in their profession, like you can't imagine and very, very few of us will ever experience.
They have said, "I just can't believe how empty I am." They want to know. They almost grab me in desperation and say, "You've got to explain to me how I've got everything that you want and yet you've got the one thing that I want."
I tell them, "Listen, it's not because I've got everything that a man could want. I've got the one thing that Jesus says a man needs, which is peace with him. You can have it too."
Let's take a look at these three folks, specifically. First of all, why did that woman do what she did? When she came up and poured out all that perfume, what was she thinking? One of the core values that we have here at Watermark is that we want to make sure that everything we do is evaluated and run through the grid with, "Will this glorify Christ?" We believe that full devotion to Christ is normal for the believer. That you can't be too extravagant in your worship of him or acknowledgement of him in your life.
It's not something that we have said is saved for the seminary student, the salaried, or the super saint. That's not what discipleship is for. Full devotion is something that God expects for everybody when they see who he is. Here we have this woman who said, "It's impossible for me to be too extravagantly devoted to Christ."
One of the other gospel writers, a guy by the name of John, tells us the woman who did this was named Mary, the sister of Martha. One of the things we find out about Mary in the New Testament is that Mary had this affection or this tendency to sit a lot at the feet of Jesus. She would sit there and spend time with him and get to know him.
Jesus said at one point, "He who has My commandments and keeps them…" He who hears my words and buries them in his heart, not perfectly obeys them, but meditates on them in their heart and holds to them and thinks about them and dwells on them. He said, "…is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him…"
It ends in John 14:21 by saying, "…and will disclose Myself to him." It very well might be that this one woman knew what very few folks around Jesus knew, though he had told them three times, that the Son of Man was going to be betrayed and his life was going to be delivered up before the authorities. This one woman had ears that could hear. While the others heard the words, she understood.
She knew that she only had a small amount of time before she would lose her Lord forever on this earth. She had one last opportunity to love him and to pour out her affection for him. She said, "It doesn't matter what I have. There's no sense in holding on to it because I only have a few more days with this individual."
She was reckless in a sense with her love and devotion. Love is always like that. When I got married, I was making $10,000, maybe $12,000 a year if I had all my taxes right. I went down to a friend of mine and we were talking about what kind of engagement ring I should get for my wife. The real answer is something out of a Cracker Jack box. That's what I could afford. His wife was down there and said, "Todd, you can't get anything less than a carat."
I'm like, "Well, that's fine for you to say, but there is no way I can afford that." My friend is a jeweler. He's going to practically give it to me for cost. You know what? Love is extravagant. I went ahead and got that carat. Because my friend was the one who sold it to me, I knew that I wouldn't have to pay for it right away. I waited until I was married and then used my wife's money to pay off the ring that I gave her. Extravagant love! Extravagant!
I didn't tell that the first service when she was in here, so please don't tell her. All right? It's interesting what Christ did. He said, "Don't tell this woman that what she's doing is wrong. Because what she's doing is completely appropriate in pouring out her love and devotion for me. You tell me that you don't want her to do this because you're concerned for the poor. Well I got news for you. You're not concerned for the poor. You can give to the poor anytime. In fact, the poor are going to always be with you, but I won't be. She knows that because she is listening."
This is not to say that Jesus is saying that we should only invest in him and his kingdom work and ignore the poor. What Jesus was saying by saying that the poor will always be with you is the rebuke that he was delivering to the Jewish people. Why? Because in Deuteronomy 15, Jesus told the Jewish people that God would so greatly bless them in their relationship with him that they as a country would not have poor.
He said that they would never have poor people among them if they walked according to his commandments. He said if you don't walk according to my commandments, you will have poverty, you will have oppression, you will have caste systems, and you will have individuals who will suffer. He tells you, "I want you to care for one another even in the midst of that."
He had a system that was introduced to allow people who were oppressed by bad decisions in the past to get out of that and escape from that. What he was saying is, "You guys aren't going to adhere to those systems. You're not going to care for one another. You're not going to walk with me. The poor are always going to be here. Why? Because you don't know who I am! She knows who I am."
It would be terribly wrong for those of us who live today to say, "I'm not going to give to the poor. I'm going to give just to Christ," based on a poor interpretation of this passage. We're never to see poverty as something that God intended, as something that is that individual's fault necessarily, or something that we're not somehow responsible for speaking into that poverty that's around us.
I'm going to make this note. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, the Bible does say, "When you've got people who are living in poverty because of rebellion and foolishness, because of choices that they have made, you're not to come rescue them from their poverty." It says, "Let their stomach work for them. If you can't reason with their minds and their hearts to have them walk in a way that speaks and reeks of discipline that leads to life, then you let their stomach talk to them."
To continually give money to rebellious, self-destructive people is not loving. It's enabling and destructive. On the other hand, there are individuals who are victims of many foolish decisions their parents have made, or maybe even generations of poverty. To not give those children an opportunity to climb out of their circumstances because we don't see it because it's not near us, offends Christ. He says it doesn't speak well of him and well of our love and affection for him.
He calls us to care for the orphan and the widow and the child of the widow and to do all that we can to give them an opportunity. This is what is so perverted about the Indian caste system. Not the American Indian, but India. Over there, they've got different classes. In their worldview, you live how and where you live because of how you've lived in a previous life.
In order to allow themselves to not feel guilt or have to experience sacrifice to help one of the lower classes, they tell them that if you interrupt the karma that has lead those people to their suffering state, you are introducing bad karma to yourself. If you go down and help them by giving them healing medical attention, care, provision, shelter, you are interrupting their karma and playing against the gods and fate.
If you want to evolve to yet another higher plane, not only can you not help them, you can't even acknowledge their presence. You let them suffer and you let them die so that your karma might continue to evolve to a better thing. The poor will always be in India because of that kind of godless thinking.
God tells us to not think that way but to be mindful of the poor who are around us as an act of worship to him in the name of Christ to care for them. He does make the observation to a group of men that he knew, to a nation that he knew would never live in complete obedience to him. I'll tell you, it's going to be true of our day and age as well.
We'll never have a country full of Christ followers, though he tells us to call for that and pursue that. We're always going to have poor among us. That doesn't mean though that we, as individuals who know Christ, should not care for those poor. We should care for them with wisdom, careful not to enable that which rightly brings poverty, but not with callousness that says, "Everybody who is poor is poor because of judgment."
That takes a lot of wisdom and time, not just showing up during a certain season or giving a handout on a corner but with people who reason and wisely think together how to care for those kind of folks. Jesus says, "This woman is doing what she should do, and you leave her alone." It's interesting that in the gospel of Mark he leaves her name anonymous.
Just like in Mark, chapter 12, there was another woman who people probably didn't have as much trouble with because she just gave two small widow's mites. We don't know her name, but she too went down in history. She too was remembered. It's interesting what Christ said. It's a view of his sovereignty in the midst of this.
Here is a woman who was offering everything that she had. They told her it was a waste. Jesus said, "It's not going to be a waste. In fact, she is going to be remembered forever." Notice that Christ knew his death was coming, but he also knew that wasn't the end. He knew his gospel was going to go forward because he knew he was going to be risen from that grave and people were going to understand who he was and come to relationship with him.
His Spirit would indwell them. His kingdom would live in his citizens who would walk on this earth until he returned as a reigning King and one who was in authority. Jesus knew the ultimate outcome of this story. It was a secret ambition, but it wasn't a secret to him. He is sovereignly in control, not the religious leaders as they thought they were.
The leaders said, "Jesus won't die on this day called Passover. It would be too radical." God said, "No, I want him to die on Passover because I want people to see a picture of who this Jesus is as another revelation of the fact that they should trust in him, my Son." God is sovereignly involved in all of this.
This woman did what she did because she knew Christ. It's impossible to be too extravagant in love for him. There is always recklessness associated with true love. I mentioned before a guy named C.T. Studd, who was just the stud of his day from England, a great cricket player. He was the Alex Rodriguez of his sport who had certain fame, fortune, and ease where he was from.
He left all that to go be a missionary overseas. The papers, as you can imagine, clambered to his feet and said, "How in the world could you be so reckless in giving up fame, fortune, and comfort for that?" His response was, "If it's true that Christ is God and he died for me, then there is no sacrifice that is too great." He gets that right there in Mark 14.
Here is the question for you and me: When was the last time somebody has challenged you that you're taking this Jesus thing just a little bit too seriously? They said, "It's fine if you go to church. I don't mind that you even give a little bit, maybe more than most folks, but this is just consuming your life! You're making decisions at work, in relationships, you're trying to navigate our family. Everything about you is always Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Why don't you just pipe it down a little bit? You're a little too radical."
I'm going to offer to you if you haven't heard that lately, all probably is not as it should be. The idea of a radical believer is not somebody who has tripped over the edge and now is living irresponsibly. A radical believer… Those of you who are still around math circles a little bit, what's the radical of 64? It is the root of 64, which is 8. Eight times eight.
When you get to be a radical, you get to the very root of something. Here is the root of the question this morning: Who do you say Jesus is? If it's true that he is God and he died for you, then what is not a reasonable response of worship? Should it not affect your giving? Should it not affect your living?
Should it not affect your spending? Should it not affect your loving? Should it not affect your neighbor? Should it not affect everything in your life? If somebody hasn't challenged you lately for the nard of your life profusely going forth with an aroma that the world doesn't get, we are not as we should be. That's why she did what she did. One who gave everything for the one who is worth everything.
Judas Iscariot then speaks up who is one of the Twelve. "Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him…" It talks about how Christ then sends some of his disciples ahead to the city and said, "When you go there, look for a man carrying a pot of water on his head. He will lead you to his house. There will be an upper room. Everything that we need will be prepared for us. Come back. Tell us it's ready. We will go there and we will celebrate the Passover seder together."
Passover is the time when every Jewish household in groups of 10… If you didn't have 10, you'd partner with some folks who did. At least 10 people would get together and would sacrifice a lamb. They would take it to the temple. The priest would slay it, spill its blood on the altar, and give you your lamb to go back and roast and celebrate a Passover Feast.
Jesus has the lamb and all the preparations ready. Now they are together and they are in the middle of this little Passover meal. Christ says in that moment, "Some of you guys here, one specifically, is going to betray me." Everybody in that room starts to focus on the fact not that, "Woe to that person who does it." Or "Woe to Jesus who is going to be betrayed." Everybody is self consumed. "Is it going to be me? It's not going to be me, is it?"
Jesus says, "Yeah, in effect, you're all going to leave me in just a moment." Peter denies that. We'll talk about that in the weeks ahead. Christ makes it clear that there is one who will ultimately betray him. His name is Judas. Second question: How could Judas do what he did? Judas was the antithesis of who the woman was. Here you have a guy filled with greed.
It says in Matthew 26, he went to the leaders and he said, "What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?" In John, chapter 12, he is the one who argues, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?" Judas was the keeper of the treasury amongst the disciples, and "…he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it." One of the reasons that he betrayed Christ was just flat-out greed.
Secondly, he did it because of jealousy. He wasn't in the "in" group when Jesus went up to the Mount of Transfiguration. It wasn't Judas and Thomas and Bartholomew. It was Peter, James, and John. He could've resented that very easily.
Thirdly, it could have been possibly just because he had resentment. He could have resented Christ. Judas was known as a zealot. He wanted Christ to restore Israel to its rightful place and deliver them from the oppression of Rome. Jesus wasn't going to do that. He resented that Jesus was, if you will, spinelessly letting the Roman authorities continue to oppress his people. He moved from love to a place of hatred. He probably saw Jesus as a charlatan who talked of deliverance but in the end was a coward and a non-actor, so he resented that.
Fourthly, he had a design possibly here. Some people would say that what Judas was going to try to do was betray Jesus to them so that Jesus would be forced to act. He was going to drag them in the room and say, "Look Jesus, they're here! Surely you can talk about not revolting against people who are going to wrongfully accuse you, but when push comes to shove, you're going to respond like any of us will. I know what you can do. I've seen you do it. I've seen you still the storm. I think you'll do some stuff here."
Possibly Judas, in his zealousness to make something happen, was looking not to surrender to Christ but to try to get Christ to surrender to his will and way, because Judas had an ambition. His ambition was to be great in the world's eyes and not to let God restore him to a place of greatness with him. Some people say that Judas did what he did because he was trying to work out a plan. He had a design to force Jesus' hand.
Lastly, he had a desire to have it done his way. In other words, he wasn't as much like a follower of Jesus as he wanted Jesus to be a follower of him. Jesus wasn't what he wanted him to be, so he was going to make him. If he wouldn't do it, he'd pay for it, because he resented the fact that Christ wasn't going to fit into his paradigm, so he rejected him.
Let me just throw this out to you. The ultimate question is not…Why did Judas do what he did? but…What will you do with Jesus? That's what you should wrestle with when you look at this. When you look at the things that characterize Judas' life, you have jealousy, greed, bitterness that things aren't the way you want them to be, a design on your life that you want God to fit into, and your own selfish desire.
Don't those things exist in all of us? Ultimately, these are the things which made Judas betray Christ. The Scripture says that Satan entered into him, but when Satan enters into you, it's not like you become a puppet to do what he wants. He caved in to one or all of these combinations of temptations.
There are some of us in this room who have betrayed Christ and will betray him this week in small areas of compromise. Some will not accept Christ for who he says he needs to be, which is a sacrifice for you, because of one of those reasons. You miss this story and the point of what Jesus is setting up here to the gospel if you don't wrestle with…What am I going to do with this Jesus? That's the question.
Let me close with this, because there is one more sacrifice we haven't considered, and that is the sacrifice of…Why did Jesus do what he did? What was his motivation? Let me just set this up for you. How could he do that? He could do that because it was his ambition all along to give his life away. We are at the Passover meal that Christ is celebrating with his disciples. During the Passover meal, you have a lot of different elements that are involved.
You have the lamb that they offered up as a sacrifice. You have unleavened bread, which is a sign of sin that has been purged, because yeast in the Scriptures is often a sign of sin or that which is not pure because it basically has to rot to grow. You have some salt water that you would dip some stuff in, bitter herbs.
You have some mix of different kinds of vegetables that you would use as a spread to remind you of the mud that they used to make bricks out of back in Egypt. You have four cups of wine during the Passover meal. Let me just show you a few things that are going on here, because God is the master Teacher. We have this door over here.
First of all, if you'll look at Exodus, chapter 12. This is the original story of the Passover. This is God to Moses. It says, "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household.'"
"If your house is too small, combine with your buddy next to you so you get at least 10. Get together in a house. I want you to keep this lamb from the tenth day until the fourteenth day. It has to be a good lamb, a perfect lamb, and unblemished lamb, not the sick and scurvy one that's going to die anyway. You get that good lamb that shouldn't die that's valuable to you. You take that lamb and you keep it, verse 6 says, until the fourteenth day.
Then once you've established a relationship with it, once you love it, once your kids have named it, I want you to take that lamb and kill it right there at twilight. Then I want you to take some of the blood and to put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel," which is basically the top of the door in which they eat. This is not what the doors looked like in ancient Egypt.
He told them basically this. First of all, I want to show you the very first Passover, hundreds of years before there was any system of execution that looked anything like this. I'm going to show you what God in his wisdom and in his teaching had the Hebrews do. He tells them to take a branch of hyssop. He told them to cut the lamb's throat right there at the doorstep.
They would dig a little hole in the mud. When they killed the lamb right there at the threshold of their house, the blood would fill up that little bowl. The dad would take the hyssop branch with the family sheltered beneath the blood of the lamb, and he would dip it in there. It says, "I want you to go up and I want you to put some up here."
He says, "I want you to put it on the two doorposts. Put some over here. I want you to put some over here." Look what's on that door. It didn't show up extremely well, but it is a blood red cross that shows up in Exodus 12. That the lamb's blood was shed that they could shelter behind it, that the angel of death might pass over them in judgment and they would have life.
When you get to the Passover seder later, they would celebrate this and remember this. Years later now, the cross is a means of execution. How did John first identify Jesus? "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" How will he do it? On a blood red cross. There are four cups of wine that were given during the Passover seder.
After the meal, which is when the lamb was slain, they would take one little piece of bread. What is interesting is in the Passover seder, there are three loaves of unleavened bread. There is one on the left, one in the middle, and one on the right. At some point, there would be a blessing that would be given of the one in the middle. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. That one in the middle would be broken, then wrapped in a linen sheet, and hidden by the father.
At this point in the meal after the lamb had been taken, the father would redeem the hidden bread. It's kind of the dessert of the meal. The father would give to the youngest child some money to go and ransom back this broken bread. He would come and open it and give a blessing that would say, "O Lord, our God, King of the Universe." He would go on to say this specific thing.
He would say, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who brings bread forth from heaven for us." Jesus, this broken middle bread, born in Bethlehem, house of bread. Jesus says, "I am the bread of life…" God gave the people manna from heaven that they were sustained with.
Now here comes another manna, another bread that when Jesus breaks this last piece and passes it out… After he had given that blessing, that God gives bread from heaven, looks them in the eye and what does he say? "This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat it. As often as you now eat bread, which is going to be at every meal, you do it in remembrance of me and be reminded."
Do you see what Christ is doing? This historic thing that the Jews have always celebrated about the deliverance from the enemy. What Christ is doing… Do you want to know how Jesus could do what he was doing? It was always a part of God's plan. His secret ambition was to give his life away.
Then it says he would take the cup, the cup of thanksgiving, the cup of abundance and blessing, the third of the four Passover cups. Jesus would raise it. He would give the same basic blessing but instead of saying, "Who gives us bread from heaven," he would say, "You give us the fruit of the vine." It's almost a toast. Jesus says he's the vine. We're the fruit of the vine.
He raises it up and he's saying, "God is going to prosper you and bless you. You're going to be what God brings forth from me." The Passover feast is a great time of celebration. We always have Communion. It's all solemn and depressing. That's not the way it should be. Because you toast and raise up that cup of forgiveness.
What Jesus is saying, "This cup represents the new covenant of my shed blood. Now you're going to be put into a place of blessing where God is going to indwell you with his Spirit. You're going to produce a fruit that no one has ever seen before." Then Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
Why? Because the fourth cup was the cup of Elijah when Elijah would come. He would raise the cup up and say, "The Messiah is coming." Jesus says, "We don't need to drink that fourth cup." Why? Because Elijah has already come in the person of John the Baptist, and Messiah is here. There will be no fourth cup anymore. Do you see the point? This is no random actor here. What we're going to do is celebrate Communion. Here is what you need to know.
There is nothing about Communion that will make God love you if you don't love the one who Communion is to remember. In fact, just like the people who in our day go and have little stuff rubbed on their face as a reminder of what Christ has done for them who don't do business with Jesus are incurring greater judgment on themselves.
If you share Communion this morning with us and you have not personally come to a place where you acknowledge the blood of the Lamb you are sheltered behind and under, what you're saying is, "I recognize that Jesus is who he said he was. I recognize that there is sin. I recognize that there is a way to be forgiven from that sin. I recognize that Jesus is it. But I don't do business with that in my heart. I toast what he's done."
I'll tell you, the Bible says he who eats and drinks this bread and this cup in an irresponsible manner, eats and drinks condemnation to themselves. What I want to ask you to do this morning is, first of all, to do business with God. If you've had a Mardi Gras kind of week, get it right with him. Acknowledge that your life is lived inconsistently with who he wants you to be. Thank him for his grace and his provision and purpose to confess your sins one to another that you might not continue to live the way that you're living.
Secondly, if you've never come to a place where you have identified yourself as one who needs the grace of God so that judgment might pass over you, you can make a profession of faith right here this morning. If you do that, the Bible calls you not to do it secretly through Communion, but publicly through baptism and other means of testimony. Any true believer of Jesus Christ who is depending on him alone for their salvation is welcome to this Table. I warn you to not be flippant or ritualistic or superstitious in your opinion of it.
One last thing. This is a celebration. It's a weird thing because we're remembering his death, but we're proclaiming what his death has done. We're going to toast, in effect, the goodness of what God has done and expects in our lives as we pass both of these elements. Take them both. Meditate. Prepare your hearts. Then we'll close our service by sharing this together. His extravagant love is broken and poured out before you.
Most of us have never had a Passover seder, Passover dinner. We've never understood what Jesus was doing when he took that middle bread that was broken and hidden and brought back. That was a provision of God's bounty, just like his body was broken and hidden and brought back.
He said, "This thing that you've celebrated to remind how God will pass over you by grace and judgment not because of what you have done, but because of whom you have trusted, that's me. I'm the manna from heaven." If you believe that you're reconciled to God by faith in the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ alone.
I want you to know if you've never believed that before, you can believe it now. This is his body, broken for you. It says afterwards he took the cup in the same way and he, after giving the blessing, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, the fruit of the vine is from you."
He looked at his 12 and he said, "These guys are a bunch of bozos (There were 11 at the time.), but we're going to get something done here because now that I'm about to shed the cup of thanksgiving, the cup of redemption, the new blood is about to come. That's going to institute a new agreement between man and you, God.
You tell us way back there in the Old Testament, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, that this new covenant is going to cause these knuckleheads to be fruitful and to bear great fruit for you, so much so that what they do and the works that they accomplish will be greater than the works that I accomplish." That's what he said. He said, "This cup of redemption, this cup of thanksgiving is my blood, which is shared for you." He blessed it by saying praise to God for what he's doing. The cup of forgiveness and redemption and thanksgiving that in you and in me, God can glorify himself. Amen.
That's the story of Communion, and we celebrate that this morning because we're teaching on it appropriately. If this was your first time to ever identify with Christ by faith, would you please not leave here today without telling us so we can come alongside of you as is appropriate? One of the things that Communion has done. We're told to do is as often… Jesus used two elements that are in every meal. Bread and wine. You couldn't eat in his day without bread and wine.
I would encourage you that every time that you gather together with believers, every time you break bread and raise the cup, not necessarily of wine or juice, although that would be ideal because of what it pictures, I would encourage you to bless the food. Say, "God, as we get together today."
Some of y'all at Joe Willy's today, "Lord, as we take this bread, as we enjoy this, I want to thank you. We remember that the reason we get along and are now other-centered instead of self-centered bringing divisiveness, but instead being diligent to preserve the bond of peace because of what Christ has done for us. God, blessed are you to give us such provision on the table, but even greater, the manna from heaven. In Jesus Christ."
As often as you eat that bread and drink what they drank at every meal, you remember him. That's why you say grace, people. If you're a believer, you don't go six hours without remembering the cross. Have a great week of worship.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? In this, the last volume of the sermon series devoted to the Gospel of Mark, Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, looks at the final week of Christ's life and what happened next. You'll see how one man changed the entire course of human history and how He can change the course of every individual life that understands and responds to the events described in Mark 14:1-Mark 16:8.