Greg Laurie - The Best Choice
Let's grab our Bibles and turn to Mark 14 as we come to the end of one year, and now the beginning of another this is a good time to reflect. We'll look back and we'll think about some things we wish we would have done, maybe we have regrets about things that we did do, but it's a good time to reflect.
I'm reminded of a statement that Billy Graham made not long before he went to be with the Lord. He was asked the question, if he had any regrets in life, and the response Billy Graham said, quote, "I would study more, I would pray more, I would travel less, and I would take less speaking engagements. I took too many of them in too many places around the world". Billy says, "If I had it to do all over again I'd spend more time in meditation and prayer and just telling the Lord how much I adore Him and how much I'm looking forward to the time we're going to spend together in eternity". End quote.
Well, Billy is with the Lord now spending that time with Him in eternity, but here before us in Mark 14 is a story of a woman who did what Billy Graham wish he had done more of, she spent a lot of time telling the Lord how much she loved and adored Him. And then she did something very special to Jesus. And by the way, she did something that was largely missed by the other disciples, but Jesus singles this story out in the Bible. He wants us to know this story in particular and I find that fascinating because we read in Mark 14:9, Jesus speaking He says, "Assuredly I say, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told as a memorial to her".
Wow, okay. Well, we better pay attention. What exactly did this woman do? Before I tell you what that is, let's pick up where we last left off in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is headed to the cross, He is plainly declared that to His disciples at a place called Caesarea Philippi. He told them He was gonna be betrayed, He was gonna be crucified, and He would rise again on the third day. And this came as bad news to His boys because His popularity was at its total peak. The name of Jesus was on everyone's lips He was trending on social media. Well, He would have been if this happened today.
Matthew 12:12 said, "Large crowds gathered to Him and He got into a boat and the whole crowd was standing on the beach". And then Luke 12:1 says, "Thousands of people had gathered together, and they were stepping on one another". So everybody wanted to get close to Jesus, and so He was very popular, but ironically these same people that were expressing their interest in Him would soon turn against Him when He made His way to the cross. Even His own hand-picked disciples did not fully understand what He was about to do. He had come to die on the cross.
We celebrated Christmas recently and reminded you that the Incarnation was so there would be the Atonement, the birth of Jesus was so there would be the death of Jesus. This was always the plan from the very beginning, and even though He spoke about it in great detail, His disciples missed it with one exception and it wasn't John known for his spiritual perception, it wasn't Peter, James, Matthew or Andrew, in fact, this person that got it, this first net seemed to understand what none of the others understood was not one of the disciples. It wasn't John normally known for a spiritual perception, it wasn't Peter normally known for his outspokenness, it wasn't Andrew, it wasn't Matthew, it wasn't one of the apostles, it wasn't a man, it was a woman. And she was not one of the apostles, but she understood what Jesus had come to do and her name was Mary.
Now there's a lot of Mary's in the Bible so sometimes we get confused. First of all, there's Mary, the mother of Jesus, then there's Mary Magdalene, and then there is Mary and Martha, okay? So this is Mary of Mary and Martha thing. It's worth noting that every time we read of Mary, she is sitting at the feet of Jesus, maybe that's why she had this great insight. We remember one occasion when Jesus came over to her home where she lived with her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus, and Martha went into the kitchen to make a great feast for Jesus and Mary was just sitting at His feet and this frustrated Martha 'cause it's a lot of work to prepare a meal, and she comes out to Mary that Mary joiner in the kitchen and Jesus made an amazing statement to Martha. He said, "Martha, Martha, you're worried and upset about many things, but one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better and it won't not be taken from her".
Think about that. Mary chose, what is better. We have that same choice in this coming year. In fact, we'll have this choice given to us thousands and thousands of times to do the right thing, to not do the wrong thing. We can be like manic Martha's flooding here and there going about our business, or we can be like Mary and take the time to sit at His feet and hear what He has to say. And when you choose what is better as Jesus said Mary did, you're making the best choice.
And that's where she discovered this essential truth. Mary realized Jesus was coming to die on the cross. I know it seems obvious to us now, but no one else got this. She knew He was coming to die on the cross, and she also understood that's where He was now headed. And she thought I've got to do something profound, I have to do something significant that will show my thankfulness to Him, my love for Him, my devotion to Him, so she brings this great gift and Jesus said, this will now be a memorial to her wherever the gospel is preached.
You know, there's a lot of controversy among some about monuments in America today, what statues should be up, what statues should be taken down. Well, this is a monument that should never be removed, the gift and the heart behind that gift to Jesus in this special moment. So what exactly did Mary do? What was this profound gift that's so moved Jesus He wanted to memorialize it?
Let's read about it now, Mark 14, starting in verse one. "Now the Passover in the festival of unleavened bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 'But not during the festival' they said, 'or the people may riot.' While he was in Bethany reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those who are present said, 'Oh, this is worth more than a year's wages. Why this waste of perfume? This could have been sold and the money could have been given to the poor.' And they rebuked her harshly".
Now look at the response of Jesus. "He said, 'Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? The poor you always have with you and you can help them any time you want, but you don't always have me with you. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand in preparation for my burial. And I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.'"
Now just stop and thinking about this. This is a meal, this is a dinner, and what a collection of people. We've got the Lord himself there, but you know who else was there? Lazarus, Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha who had just been raised from the dead. Man, I would have wanted to ask Lazarus a few questions. So, wow, what happened? What was it like to die and go to the other side? And what did you see there incredible? So they're all gathered around, probably talking to Lazarus and a lot of questions for Jesus. He had just delivered what we called the Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24. And basically that's where Jesus talked about the end times, and they probably had more questions about that.
What did you mean when you said, the abomination of desolation? Explain this all to us, so this was quite the night that they were having together, but everything was sort of coming to a head in the life and ministry of Jesus. And now Mary watching all of this is so moved, she knows what Jesus is about to do, so she does this verse three, "A woman came with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head".
Now this probably was a family heirloom. As it's been pointed out, it was worth a year's wages, so it was worth thousands and thousands of dollars under normal circumstances, just a few drops from a bottle like this would be sufficient. She pours a whole bottle on Him and then wipes His feet with her hair. The whole room would have been filled with this fragrance. Now I would have been there, I wouldn't have smelled a thing. The reason for that is as you know I got COVID 19 and my strength came back rather quickly and everything is good, but I've lost my sense of taste and smell. I still don't have it to this day, I hope I get a back in this coming year, but I wouldn't have smelled a thing.
But Judas is very critical. Maybe he has his little calculator out, he knew the price of everything and the value of nothing, he calculated it and said, this is a waste. And it did seem like a waste, but it actually wasn't a waste at all. You can be various prices for perfume today, I read that one of the most expensive perfumes that you can buy is called Clive Christian No. 1 Imperial Majesty. Mow, my that's a very impressive title, isn't it? It's a combination of mandarin orange, Indian jasmine, white peach, lemon, and more, and it costs you $200.000 a bottle. Oh, but wait, they deliver it in a Bentley. So that's a lot of money to spend on perfume, but it even gets crazier.
The most expensive perfume you can buy today is called, here you go sucker. No, I made that up. It's actually called Shamukh. I don't even know if I'm pronouncing that right and frankly I don't even care, but it comes in a crystal bottle covered in diamonds, pearls and gold. And how much does it cost? Are you ready for this? $1.295.000. Then again, you can go over to Amazon and order some Jade East for around $22, or High Karate for $56, or Old Spice for about $13, and there's brute don't forget that. But you know, the idea here is, is not how much this costs, it's how much it costs her. It costs her a lot. She was giving the most precious things she owned to Jesus. What is the most precious thing that you own? What is more valuable to you than anything else?
Now question, would you be willing to give that to Jesus? That's what this is all about. We remember the story of the young man, we call the rich young ruler. He came to Jesus in his super cold tricked out chariot, lowered, drinking a latte probably not, but he comes up to Jesus and he says, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life"? Jesus reminds him of some of the commandments and this young ruler says, "Well, all of these I've kept from my youth up". And Jesus probably laughed out loud, the Bible doesn't say, but no one's kept the commandments from his youth up.
And here's what I find fascinating. After this brash and arrogant young man said he had kept the commandments we read this statement. "Jesus looked at him in and felt genuine love for him". And then Jesus made this statement. "There's one thing you haven't done. Go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me", listen to this, "And then the man's face fell and he went away sad because he had great wealth". Understand, this was never about the man stuff, Jesus didn't want his stuff, He just saw that in the heart of this young man those things were more important to him than anything else including God. He says, there's one thing you need to do.
See that young ruler missed the one thing and he walked away sad. He wasn't willing to let it go. But Mary, she got that one thing. One thing is essential. Jesus said of Mary and she has chosen it. Well, Judas did not get it and so he criticized it. Judas is typical of so many people today like dutiful Pharisees they wanna give the bare minimum to God. They'll lamely ask questions like, can you do this and still technically go to heaven? Can I get away with this and still call myself a Christian? Those are the wrong questions. We'll give our leftovers to God if you will, we'll pray briefly if we think of it, we'll read the Bible if we can make time in our busy schedules for it, and then what's even worse is we will criticize others that are more committed to the Lord than we are.
Maybe that's one of the reasons why the early church changed their world. Maybe that's why the early church turned their world upside down because they had a sense of abandoned. God would tell Phillip, "Go to the desert". And he went in obedience to the Lord. God will tell Peter, reach down and take the member of the hand and pull him to his feet and he would do it. They took risks and they left their comfort zone. Why? Because the Scripture says, they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 says, "The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John because they were ordinary men, they had no special training but they recognize them as men who had been with Jesus".
Can someone tell you've been with Jesus? Can they see it reflected in your life? Does their fragrance of your life fill the room as it did with Mary and her gift to the Lord? It's a wonderful thing when people see that and ask us why we are the way that we are, and they wanna know more about us and then we can share the gospel.
Now, again I wanna emphasize Mary did not have the same privileges as the disciples. They spent pretty much every waking hour in the presence of Jesus for some three years, she was with Him sporadically, but she was gonna take advantage of this opportunity. She's gonna listen to Him, she's gonna learn from Him, and she's gonna bring a great gift to Him because she could see the lines edging his face and read or write the problems reflected in His eyes. And she understood, He had said what He meant and He meant what He said, He was going to die on a cross and that broke her heart, so she was gonna bring her tribute to Jesus now. She would not wait until He was gone.
And I wanna remind you right now, there might be someone that you know and love, and I wanna ask you, when's the last time you told them you love them? Well, I'll say something nice at their funeral service. Well, they won't be around to hear that, will they? So bring your flowers now. If there's someone you love and appreciate tell them now. If you have regrets about something you did this year deal with that now and make the appropriate changes. If there's someone you need to forgive, do it now. And why should you forgive someone? You say, well, they don't deserve my forgiveness. My response is, do you deserve to be forgiven by God? And answer is no.
So the Bible says, "Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you". See forgiving a person isn't letting them off the hook, it's a way for you to get free of your bitterness 'cause the one that's being hurt more by your lack of forgiveness is not the person that hurts you, it's you. As they've said so many times when you forgive a person, you set a prisoner free yourself. And so this woman said, I'm gonna do it now. Listen, we have a new year with new opportunities before us, let's seize the moment, carpe diem is the expression.
Now is the time to share that gospel with the person, now is that time to make that change in your life as we're at the beginning of a new year. That's exactly what Mary did, but of course Judas thought it was a waste and he criticized her for it. But then John gives us an interesting little detail about Judas. He said, Judas did not say this because he cared about the poor, he said this because he was a thief. Basically Judas was hanging onto the money for the disciples and he was pocketing it. And so this had nothing to do with his concern for the poor. And that reminds me of a very important point about critical people. Sometimes the people that complain the most actually do the very least. And sometimes the people who are aiming accusations at you are revealing something about themselves. The thing they're accusing you of is actually what they are personally guilty of.
After all, it was Judas who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. So careful if you're always harping on a certain sin over and over again, you may be telling us more about yourself than you want to reveal. And so things are not always as they seem. From the outside Judas looked thrifty, and careful, and spiritual, and the woman looked frivolous, and wasteful, and silly, but the very opposite was true. Judas was evil, and greedy, and wicked, and she was thoughtful, and godly, and committed.
So things are not always as they appear. You know, we always think Judas would have been the easiest guy to identify. You know, all the other disciples wore white robes and he wore a black robe, a black leather robe with the color turned up, right? No, of course not. In fact, Judas was such a good actor, such an effective faker that when Jesus said one of you is gonna betray me, no one suspected Judas. You would have thought that someone would have said, I bet it's Matthew, he used to work for Rome. It's him, isn't it? No, they said, is it me? No one thought Judas. If he was as obvious as people thought he might've been, they would have all pointed in unison and said, "It's Judas, isn't it? The guy who wears the black robe". No, no one suspected Judas 'cause he was such a good actor, but he was a liar.
And it's interesting because Judas accused her of being wasteful, yet Jesus would say of Judas, he was the son of waist. Jesus called Judas the son of perdition which means the son of waist. He was the very thing he accused her of being. Now Jesus commends her as an example to us, look at verse eight, "She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint my body for burial. She did what she could because she understood that He would do what He did". In the same way, the more we discover about what Jesus has done for us will cause us to want to do more for Him. The Bible says, "We love Him because He first loved us". She saw this love that was driving Him, she saw this concern for her and the others and all of humanity and so she wanted to do something for Him to show her love.
And I think sometimes we'll look at people who offer something to the Lord and some might criticize them for it. For instance a young person may give up a promising career to go into the ministry, and some people like Judas will say, what a waste? Now you could have gone out and had a great career and made a lot of money, that's a waste. It is no waste at all.
I'm reminded of a young lady I just met, her name is Tiffany. And she works with the World Health Organization in the United Nations over in Yemen, and they're reaching out to the poor people that are living there. And so Tiffany has been able to show God's love to these people and be a great witness. In fact, she watches Harvest at home, that's where she gets her teaching being so far away from the United States. And some would say, well, that's a waste of a life. That's a waste of a life? As far as I'm concerned, that's an investment of a life. You might give up certain pleasures and activities that other people are engaged in and be able to say, man, what a waste? You miss the big party. Oh, you should've been at this thing when you went to church again, seriously, what a waste really?
Let's just run the clock out and come to the end of our life and let's just see how that played out for you and how that played out for me. I just read a very interesting study that was done that showed people who go to church on a regular basis and have faith in God live longer, healthier lives. So there's even a practical aspect to it. Oh, no, if I've given up any pleasure that's no sacrifice compared to what God has given up for me. It said that Moses chose to give up the pleasures of Egypt and the pleasures of sin for a season to pursue God's will for his life. And whatever you give up will be more than made up to you as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Or maybe you avoid that temptation to go astray. You're faithful to your wife for a lifetime, people say, oh man, come on, you missed out, you could have gotten an affair here and there. Oh yeah, let's just look at the wreckage of divorce and the impact it has on you, and on your children, and even on your grandchildren, and we'll see who made the right choice. It's not a waste, nothing is a waste if it's done for the glory of God. And that's what this woman did, she gave her very best, it was the very opposite of a waste. Or you may decide to simply live for yourself and do whatever you wanna do with your life, and one day, God will say, what a waste? What do you care about the most, the opinion of people or the opinion of God Almighty? Give your most precious thing to the Lord.
My son Jonathan was in Peru a while ago with his wife Brittany, we worked on some projects with Compassion International a great organization impacting people around the world, but especially children and helping to lift people out of poverty, and they share the gospel with these folks.
And so Jonathan went to a village in Peru, he took a backpack full of toys and other things, and they were hanging out with this little family and there's a little boy named Anthony and Jonathan was playing soccer with the little guy and it was just great, and as Jonathan was leaving and getting ready to get into his cab, little Anthony ran to him and hugged him and then presented Jonathan with a little gift. It was like this little piggy bank of a little dog and obviously this was a very precious object to this little boy. He had very little and he gave his very best to Jonathan. And I just thought, that's a perfect picture of what we're talking about here, giving our very best to God, He deserves nothing less.
Hi, thanks for watching our TV program. And I wonder if you yourself have accepted Jesus Christ. You know, a lot of times people tune into programs like this, who aren't believers and they're kinda checking it out, maybe you're laughing at it at first, maybe you think it's not real, but something has happened and maybe it's something that's been said you've suddenly discovered you need Jesus Christ. You know, the day I accepted Jesus, lemme tell you, it was a last thing I planned on doing. I didn't plan on becoming a Christian that day, but that was the day that was appointed in eternity for me to believe in Jesus.
I wonder if this is not that day for you. You've been ease dropping, you've been checking it out, but now God's speaking right to your heart and you realize you need Jesus Christ. Would you like to have your sin forgiven? Would you like a second chance in life? Would you like to go to heaven when you die? Would you like your guilt removed? Listen, it can all happen because Jesus Christ went to a cross and died for your sin and then rose again three days later and He'll come into your life right now and be your Savior and your Lord and the best friend you've ever had. Let's pray together. Pray this after me:
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I believe you died on the cross for my sin and I'm sorry for that sin. And I turn from it now and I ask you to come into my life and be my Savior, and be my Lord, and be my God, and be my friend. I choose to follow you from this moment forward in Jesus name I pray. Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer, I wants you to know on the authority of God's Word, that Christ himself has come to live inside of you. The Bible says these things we write to you that believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. Well, lemme say, God bless you and welcome to God's family.