Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Alabaster Box

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

From Palm Sunday in Matthew 21, the next few chapters cover the final days leading up to the Crucifixion. But here in Matthew 26, we learn specifically that Passover is “after two days” (verse 2) of the events here in today’s text.

The Pharisees and Temple Priests firm up their plans, to not just “catch Jesus in His own words,” but to kill him (Mt. 22:15 vs. 26:4). Their motives are based in their own pride, a thing that the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Jesus had put the Herodians to shame and had discomfited the Pharisees in their questions. And a most curious thing about their plotting against Jesus is that the plot will fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 52 & 53, and they seem unaware of it. These “Holy Priests” of the Temple are clearly lacking the Holy Spirit who would help them apply the scriptures to their personal actions and choices.

Like King David was ignorant of his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, it took Nathan the Prophet to point it out to him. It’s easy to simply want what we want, but to examine our hearts before fulfilling our desires is impossible while we are yet thinking in the flesh, instead of God’s desires for us.

This plot originates with Temple Leaders. But in this chapter, we also find the Apostles are indignant about how a valuable item is used. This indignation comes from among the Apostles. Yet this too. is a prophecy fulfilled (Psalm 55:9-16), for the indignation morphed into Judas’ betrayal: the thirty pieces of silver from today’s reading from Zechariah 11. God’s foreknowledge is unmistakable. His knowledge of the human heart is without measure, whether it be for the good, or for evil.

Our pride can often get in the way of God’s will for us, as well as His beneficent promises. And hidden behind within our pride is our own sense of values, and possibilities. Can we ever give God less than our best? – Did God seek to cut corners when it came to our salvation? No, He gave us His best; He gave us His only begotten Son.

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.”  “And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up because - there had been no rain in the land.” - 1 Kings 17 : 1 & 7 

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 26:1-19 - "The Alabaster Box"

In Matthew 26, plans are being made to kill the Son of God. As with some other famous conspiracies to commit murder, this plan did not pan out exactly how the conspirators planned it. However, it did happen exactly as God planned it. 

When Jesus had finished speaking on the Mount of Olives. When He had finished the Olivet Discourse, He shifted to speaking to His disciples in private about what is to come.

At the start of the Passover Feast, Jesus and His disciples sat down at a Passover meal. He tells His disciples that He will be handed over and He will be crucified.  He says that it will happen during the Passover. There is so much beautiful irony found in this fact. The Passover festival celebrated when God spared the people of Israel from slavery and death in Egypt by the sacrifice of a lamb. Well, in Matthew 26, God is about to bring rescue from spiritual death and spiritual slavery through the sacrifice of the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ.

No one can see how everything is coming together except for Jesus. He knows this must happen, so He again alerts His disciples to this.

The chief priests and the elders had plans of their own. They gathered at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest “. . . and they conspired to arrest Jesus in a treacherous way and kill him.”

They had had enough of Jesus making them look foolish. They had had enough of Jesus not fitting into their box. They had had enough of Jesus not fulfilling their expectations of whom the Messiah should be, so they treacherously plotted against Him.

These men were supposed to be God’s representatives to the people. They were supposed to bring the people closer to God. Instead, they are planning to kill the Son of God. They are rejecting God, and their only means of salvation.

In the midst of all of the Passover festivities, the plotting of the priests, the betrayal and the treachery, Matthew takes us back a bit to reveal to us something that has already happened before the plot to kill Jesus took place. I believe that Matthew does so intentionally to create a contrast of sorts. Sandwiched between the conspiracy against Jesus and the betrayal of Jesus is this beautiful anointing of Jesus.

Mary and the Alabaster Box.  
Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, approached Jesus with an alabaster jar of very precious ointment and poured it on His head while He is eating. She anoints His head, washes His feet with her hair honoring Him. The ointment was worth about a years wages, and the disciples thought it such a waste, criticizing her, specifically Judas.

n verse 12 we learn that she is preparing His body for burial. This fact accomplishes two things: first, it reminds the disciples once again that Jesus is going to die; second, it points to the fact that it will not be possible to anoint Jesus’ body after His death. Typically, after someone died their body would later be anointed for burial after some time had passed. Well, that wasn’t possible with Jesus because His body wasn’t in the grave very long! Jesus is giving us a glimpse of this future reality now.

Never value anything over Jesus. You could give everything that you have for the glory of Jesus and it would still not be too much of a sacrifice! He is worth infinitely more than the collective value of everything in this world! Nothing spent on Jesus is ever a waste!  This was the sacrificial anointing. 

It was bad enough that the religious leaders were conspiring against Jesus. However, it gets worse. We learn in verse 14 that one of Jesus’ own disciples, one of the Twelve, was also conspiring against Jesus. He was planning to willingly betray Jesus.

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