Lesson #3

Devotion to Christ

Mark 14:3-11        The New King James Version

                    The Anointing at Bethany

3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at
the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of
spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.  
4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and
said, "Why was this fragrant oil wasted?  
5 "For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii
and given to the poor." And they criticized her sharply.  
6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has
done a good work for Me. 
 7 "For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish
you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.  
8 "She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint
My body for burial.  
9 "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the
whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a
memorial to her." 

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to
betray Him to them.  
11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him
money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him. 

                 I.  ADORED BY ONE DISCIPLE   14:3-9

     This event took place six days before Passover, which would put
it on the Friday before the Triumphal Entry (John 12:1).  By placing
this story between the accounts of the plot to arrest Jesus
(Mark 14:1-2 and 14:10-11) Mark contrasted the treachery of
Judas and theJewish leaders with the love and loyalty of Mary. 
The ugliness of their sins makes the beauty of her sacrifice even 
more meaningful.

     Neither Matthew nor Mark gives us the name of the woman, but
John tells us that it was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and
Lazarus (John 11:1-2; 12:1-3).  This feast at Simon the leper's house
was given in honor of Jesus and her brother Lazarus.

     Mary is found three times in the Gospel story, and each time she
is at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:31-32; 12:1-8).  Mary
had a close fellowship with the Lord as she sat at His feet and listened
to His Word.  She is a good model for all of us to follow.

     Mary's anointing of the Lord must not be confused with a similar
event recorded in Luke 7:36-50.  The unnamed woman in the house
of Simon the Pharisee was a converted harlot who expressed her love
to Christ because of His gracious forgiveness of her many sins.

     In the house of Simon (the one who had been healed of leprosy)
Mary expresses her love to Christ because He was going to the cross
to die for her.  She prepared His body for burial as she anointed His
head (Mark 14:3) and His feet (John 12:3).  She showed her love for
Jesus while He was still alive.

     It was an expensive offering that she gave to the Lord.  Spikenard
was imported from India, and a whole jar would have cost the
equivalent of the average worker's annual earnings.  Mary gave
lavishly and lovingly.  She was not ashamed to show her love for
Christ openly.

     There were three consequences to her adoration:

     First, the house was filled with the beautiful fragrance of the
ointment (John 12:3; also note 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).  There is also
a "spiritual fragrance" in that home where Jesus Christ is loved and

     Second, the disciples, led by Judas, criticized Mary for wasting
her money!  It sounded so pious for Judas to talk about the poor,
when in reality he wanted the money for himself!  (John 12:4-6). 
Even in the upper room, six days later, the apostles still thought Judas
was concerned about helping the poor (John 13:21-30).  It is
interesting that the word "waste" in Mark 14:4 is translated
"perdition" in John 17:12 and applied to Judas!  Judas criticized Mary
for "wasting money," but he wasted his entire life!

     Third, Jesus commended Mary and accepted her gracious gift. 
He knew the heart of Judas and understood why the other disciples
followed his bad example.  He also knew Mary's heart and quickly
defended her (Romans 8:33-39).

     No matter what others may say about our worship and service, the
most important thing is that we please the Lord.  The fact that others
misunderstand and criticize us should not keep us from showing our
love to Christ.  Our concern should be for His approval alone.

     The Lord said, "Let her alone.  She hath wrought a good work." 
The word "good" here is not the usual one, but kalos which means a
beautiful  work.  It was a beautiful work that Mary did.

     1.   Beautiful in motive!  It was a motive of love and gratitude
that prompted Mary to do what she did.

     2.   Beautiful in timeliness!  Jesus said she anointed me "before
hand."  Later some rich men anointed his body "after hand," after he
is dead, but Mary anoints him "before hand."  She shared with Jesus
the flowers while he lived.

     3.   Beautiful in consequence!  Jesus said that wheresoever the
gospel should be preached throughout the whole world that which this
woman had done should be spoken of as a memorial to her.

     Mary was a blessing to Jesus as she shared her love, and she was
a blessing to her home as the fragrance spread.  Were it not for Mary,
her village, Bethany, would probably have been forgotten.  What she
did is recorded three times in the Bible.

                    II.  BETRAYED BY ANOTHER   14:10-11

     At one time Judas was a loyal disciple.  He became a traitor. 
Luke tells us that he allowed Satan to enter into his heart and he
became his tool for working mischief against the Lord (Luke 22:3;
John 6:70).

     Likely Judas had heard how the chief priests and scribes desired
the arrest of Jesus.  They were afraid to take him openly for fear of the
multi-tude.  They needed a subtle way.  When the Jewish leaders
heard of Judas' proposal, "they were glad, and promised to give him

     While one disciple is seen worshiping Jesus in this lesson, another
is seen involved in: 1. covetousness, 2. stealing, 3. pride, 4. disloyalty,
5. impenitence.

     Mary gave her best in faith and love; Judas gave his worst in
unbelief and hatred.  He solved the problem of how the Jewish leaders
could arrest Jesus without causing a riot during the feast.  He sold his
Master for the price of a slave (see Exodus 21:32), the basest act of
treachery in history.


     1.   We learn the beautiful lesson to show our love by our deeds
and not to wait until it is too late (1 John 3:17, 18).

     2.   We can learn the great lesson of "unselfish" love, a love that
gives unsparingly!  Our Lord's unselfish love should lead us to repent
of our own lack of love.

     3.   We should be alert to opportunities to do all the good we can
(Galatians 6:10).  And if we can't do some "great" thing, let each of
us "do what he can."

     4.   One should learn the lesson not to be surprised when good
deeds are criticized.  Even a "Judas" was able to get others to follow
his lead in criticizing a good deed.

     5.   Let no one be discouraged by the failure of others to see
clearly themselves.  The Lord knows not only our actions but our
motives as well.


1.   Who were the famous relatives of this Mary of Bethany?
2.   Mary is seen in three different events in the gospel, where is she
     pictured each time?
3.   In whose house does this event occur?
     Who else is there?
4.   Who led the criticism of Mary?
     Can just about "anyone" get a following?
5.   What was the complaint?   And what was the real motive?
6.   What did Jesus say about this deed of Mary's?
7.   What was the reaction of the chief priests and scribes to Judas'
8.   What contrast do you see in Mary and Judas?
9.   What do you think is one of the most important lessons from this
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