We have here instances,
I. Of the kindness of Christ’s friends, and the provision made of respect and honour for him. Some friends he had, even in and about Jerusalem, that loved him, and never thought they could do enough for him, among whom, though Israel be not gathered, he is, and will be, glorious.
1. Here was one friend, that was so kind as to invite him to sup with him; and he was so kind as to accept the invitation, Mark 14:3. Though he had a prospect of his death approaching, yet he did not abandon himself to a melancholy retirement from all company, but conversed as freely with his friends as usual.
2. Here was another friend, that was so kind as to anoint his head with very precious ointment as he sat at meat. This was an extraordinary piece of respect paid him by a good woman that thought nothing too good to bestow upon Christ, and to do him honour. Now the scripture was fulfilled, When the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof, Song 1:12. Let us anoint Christ as our Beloved, kiss him with a kiss of affection; and anoint him as our Sovereign, kiss him with a kiss of allegiance. Did he pour out his soul unto death for us, and shall we think any box of ointment too precious to pour out upon him? It is observable that she took care to pour it all out upon Christ’s head; she broke the box (so we read it); but because it was an alabaster box, not easily broken, nor was it necessary that it should be broken, to get out the ointment, some read it, she shook the box, or knocked it to the ground, to loosen what was in it, that it might be got out the better; or, she rubbed and scraped out all that stuck tot he sides of it. Christ must have been honoured with all we have, and we must not think to keep back any part of the price. Do we give him the precious ointment of our best affections? Let him have them all; love him with all the heart.
Now, (1.) There were those that put a worse construction upon this than it deserved. They called it a waste of the ointment, Mark 14:4. Because they could not have found their hearts to put themselves to such an expense for the honouring of Christ, they thought that she was prodigal, who did. Note, As the vile person ought to be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful (Isa. 32:5); so the liberal and bountiful ought not to be called wasteful. They pretend it might have been sold, and given to the poor, Mark 14:5. But as a common piety to the corban will not excuse from a particular charity to a poor parent (Mark 7:11), so a common charity to the poor will not excuse from a particular act of piety to the Lord Jesus. What thy hand finds to do, that is good, do it with thy might.
(2.) Our Lord Jesus put a better construction upon it than, for aught that appears, was designed. Probably, she intended no more, than to show the great honour she had for him, before all the company, and to complete his entertainment. But Christ makes it to be an act of great faith, as well as great love (Mark 14:8); “She is come aforehand, to anoint my body to the burying, as if she foresaw that my resurrection would prevent her doing it afterward.” This funeral rite was a kind of presage of, or prelude to, his death approaching. See how Christ’s heart was filled with the thoughts of his death, how every thing was construed with a reference to that, and how familiarly he spoke of it upon all occasions. It is usual for those who are condemned to die, to have their coffins prepared, and other provision made for their funerals, while they are yet alive; and so Christ accepted this. Christ’s death and burial were the lowest steps of his humiliation, and therefore, though he cheerfully submitted to them, yet he would have some marks of honour to attend them, which might help to take off the offence of the cross, and be an intimation how precious in the sight of the Lord the death of his saints is. Christ never rode in triumph into Jerusalem, but when he came thither to suffer; nor had ever his head anointed, but for his burial.
(3.) He recommended this piece of heroic piety to the applause of the church in all ages; Wherever this gospel shall be preached, it shall be spoken of, for a memorial of her, Mark 14:9. Note, The honour which attends well-doing, even in this world, is sufficient to balance the reproach and contempt that are cast upon it. The memory of the just is blessed, and they that had trial of cruel mockings, yet obtained a good report, Heb. 11:6, 39. Thus was this good woman repaid for her box of ointment, Nec oleum perdidit nec operam—She lost neither her oil nor her labour. She got by it that good name which is better than precious ointment. Those that honour Christ he will honour.
II. Of the malice of Christ’s enemies, and the preparation made by them to do him mischief.
1. The chief priests, his open enemies, consulted how they might put him to death, Mark 14:1, 2. The feast of the passover was now at hand, and at that feast he must be crucified, (1.) That his death and suffering might be the more public, and that all Israel, even those of the dispersion, who came from all parts to the feast, might be witnesses of it, and of the wonders that attended it. (2.) That the Anti-type might answer to the type. Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us, and brought us out of the house of bondage, at the same time that the paschal lamb was sacrificed, and Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt was commemorated.
Now see, [1.] How spiteful Christ’s enemies were; they did not think it enough to banish or imprison him, for they aimed not only to silence him, and stop his progress for the future, but to be revenged on him for all the good he had done. [2.] How subtle they were; Not on the feast-day, when the people are together; they do not say, Lest they should be disturbed in their devotions, and diverted from them, but, Lest there should be an uproar (Mark 14:2); lest they should rise, and rescue him, and fall foul upon those that attempt any thing against him. They who desired nothing more than the praise of men, dreaded nothing more than the rage and displeasure of men.
2. Judas, his disguised enemy, contracted with them for the betraying of him, Mark 14:10, 11. He is said to be one of the twelve that were Christ’s family, intimate with him, trained up for the service of the kingdom; and he went to the chief priests, to tender his service in this affair.
(1.) That which he proposed to them, was, to betray Christ to them, and to give them notice when and where they might find him, and seize him, without making an uproar among the people, which they were afraid of, if they should seize him when he appeared in public, in the midst of his admirers. Did he know then what help it was they wanted, and where they were run aground in their counsels? It is probable that he did not, for the debate was held in their close cabal. Did they know that he had a mind to serve them, and make court to him? No, they could not imagine that any of his intimates should be so base; but Satan, who was entered into Judas, knew what occasion they had for him, and could guide him to be guide to them, who were contriving to take Jesus. Note, The spirit that works in all the children of disobedience, knows how to bring them in to the assistance one of another in a wicked project, and then to harden them in it, with the fancy that Providence favours them.
(2.) That which he proposed to himself, was, to get money by the bargain; he had what he aimed at, when they promised to give him money. Covetousness was Judas’s master-lust, his own iniquity, and that betrayed him to the sin of betraying his Master; the devil suited his temptation to that, and so conquered him. It is not said, They promised him preferment (he was not ambitious of that), but, they promised him money. See what need we have to double our guard against the sin that most easily besets us. Perhaps it was Judas’s covetousness that brought him at first to follow Christ, having a promise that he should be cash-keeper, or purser, to the society, and he loved in his heart to be fingering money; and now that there was money to be got on the other side, he was as ready to betray him as ever he had been to follow him. Note, Where the principle of men’s profession of religion is carnal and worldly, and the serving of a secular interest, the very same principle, whenever the wind turns, will be the bitter root of a vile and scandalous apostasy.
(3.) Having secured the money, he set himself to make good his bargain; he sought how he might conveniently betray him, how he might seasonably deliver him up, so as to answer the intention of those who had hired him. See what need we have to be careful that we do not ensnare ourselves in sinful engagements. If at any time we be so ensnared in the words of our mouths, we are concerned to deliver ourselves by a speedy retreat, Prov. 6:1-5. It is a rule in our law, as well as in our religion, that an obligation to do an evil thing is null and void; it binds to repentance, not to performance. See how the way of sin is down-hill—when men are in, they must be on; and what wicked contrivances many have in their sinful pursuits, to compass their designs conveniently; but such conveniences will prove mischiefs in the end.