Previously, I had posted on Aaron’s sermon about the anointing of Jesus by the woman with the alabaster flask in Mark 14:3-9. It is a beautiful passage, and I hope the sermon and blog proved to be profitable for those who listened and read. One thing I had wanted to mention but did not, though, was Jesus’s response to this extravagant worship:
And truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she had done will be told in memory of her.
By way of preface, I should note two things: first, this will not be an exegetical study of the above text, and secondly, hardly anything I write below is a thought that is original to me, but comes from having my thoughts formed after hearing many, many sermons.
Ok, that’s out of the way.
The context of this story, if you recall, was in the midst of when Mary was being harangued for her worship. In the midst of such derision, though, Christ affirms the precious nature of this worship, and in so doing, validates her own personhood, for He says, “what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
This is an astonishing statement. The Lord of glory Himself not only took note of Mary’s action, but also affirmed her worth. And that’s what I’d like to focus on here.
One thing you may notice throughout the gospel accounts is that in the midst of preaching to the masses and roaming around the countryside with His band of disciples, Jesus repeatedly takes special time and care to stop and interact with broken, hurting, and curious individuals. Passages throughout the Bible that talk about these stories have grown increasingly precious to me.
Perhaps one of the most striking instances of this is the story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well captured for us in John 4:1-45. In it we have the story of Jesus interacting with a racially discriminated against, morally rejected, profoundly confused woman. For Jesus to even speak with a woman (not to mention one of “ill-repute”) in that day would have been scandalous to the utmost! And yet we not only see Him speak to her, but He gives to her the most profound of self-disclosures when, after talking to her about the prophesied Messiah, He says to her, “I who speak to you am he,” (John 4:26).
I would love to mention some more of these stories, but for want of time and space I will forego them here. Rather, I would encourage you to open up to any page of the four gospels and see that there is more than likely a story involving Jesus spending time with an individual.
There is something worth pointing out here, and that is this: people have worth. There is something within a person that the Son of God Himself found so compelling that He took the time to interact with many of them on a one-on-one basis. However, this inherent worth in humanity, I believe, is established in something extraneous to itself.
Perhaps one of the more peculiar yet foundational claims made by the Judeo-Christian worldview is that men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That is to say, humans are created with inherent worth because they are made in the image of someone who is infinitely worthy. This is a compliment that I think far exceeds anything that we could possibly comprehend.
I freely admit that I lack a comprehensive knowledge of all the worldviews that find themselves in stark contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. As for what I do know, though, I believe that the way in which Jesus displays this fundamental truth makes for a profound distinction between Him and all the other leaders and pedagogues of all other major worldviews. From eastern pantheism to western atheism, I have a hard time imagining how any other worldview might argue for something that appears so self-evidently true.
Reasonably, you may well wonder why I bother bringing this up. Good question.
For starters, I think we must know this: that the image that God has stamped upon us has been marred by human sin. In all the honor into which God created us, we have all too readily given it up to go after our own sinful and selfish proclivities.
Secondly, though sin has separated us from God, in a sense it did not separate God from us. This is what I mean, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,” (Romans 8:3-4). Know this: Christ Jesus came into the world to save individual sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He came in the very likeness of man and died upon a cross in order to reconcile us to a most worthy, and good, and just, and holy, and loving God! Christ coming in this likeness tore down the veil that separated man from God (Matthew 27:51, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Hebrews 10:19-20).
Third, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is to say, if you are a believer in Christ, not only do you have the compliment of being made in God’s image, but you now have the utter privilege of being redeemed to conform to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Do not let this conformity confuse you, however, for in conformity to this Individual, we gain the truer and better expression of our own individuality.
Fourth, take the time to understand and love the way that Jesus does things. He loved people (John 3:16). He loves you (Ephesians 2:4-5). Rejoice in this love! And now show that love by following the example of Jesus. Understand that there is something very important about the individuals that God has placed in your life, both believing and unbelieving. Do not neglect this truth, for you would do so at your own peril and the peril of others. Like Mary, our response to Jesus, his love, and his salvation in our acts of worship and obedience toward God are precious in the sight of our Savior. As feeble and small as they are, like the destitute widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44), or the handful of unbelieving individuals that you know, individual acts of obedience make for a powerful and lasting impact that leave impressions even upon Jesus.
Fifthly and lastly, this is how the Kingdom of God is built. It is built upon broken individuals being saved and then put together as wholesome stones into a temple (1 Peter 2:5). Yes, Jesus did speak to the crowds, but I’m sure it was not uncommon for them to leave after hearing His hard words (John 6:66). But in nearly all the examples of Jesus going to an individual, the change is drastic and effectual. Jesus did the hard thing by building His Kingdom from the bottom up, and not from the top down. He loves individuals into His Kingdom. This, again, distinguishes Jesus from all others.
We as the Crossing need to take this same approach. On several occasions I have heard Pastor Aaron say that we are planting a church in the most difficult way possible. That is to say, our “evangelism strategy” is simply to tell the church to love their neighbors, coworkers, and friends, to pray for them often and earnestly, and share the gospel in deed and truth (1 John 3:18), hoping that their hearts would be softened and they would come to know God in Christ.
Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to do it.