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as it were hug the chains of superstition, while they reject with dislike the gentle rule of the Gospel.
There was nothing about the life and teaching of Jesus that suited the ideas of the people respecting the Messiah. They bad been taught to look for the fulfilment of the prophecies; but, naturally enough, both they and their teachers had confounded together the different characters in which He was to appear. Looking for the warrior foretold by Isaiah, —"glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength "* to take vengeance on His enemies; they passed over all he had said of the “man of sorrows acquainted with grief,” “wounded for our transgressions ;”+ who for our sakes was to "pour out his soul unto death,” that He might“ bear the sins of many." Even the disciples of the Lord Jesus could not yet understand the nature of the kingdom about to be established. That all mankind should gradually unite into one family, to be saved by one Saviour, from the power of one common enemy, Satan, the foe of God and man, was an idea too grand, too pure even for the minds of the Apostles. How much less then could it be expected that the rash and ignorant multitude should understand the nature of their promised glory; that from Israel should shine out the light which was to lighten the Gentiles. It had been written of Israel —"The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising," "and the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister to thee ;” and from this prophecy they expected that the time was at hand when their kingdom was to be raised even bigher in power and glory than the kingdom of Rome, which at that time ruled over every nation known upon
the face of the earth. Was Jesus of Nazareth a man likely to bring about such an event as this? They forgot that it was also written of their Messiah-“He shall grow up before him (before God) as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry * Isaiah lxiii. 2.
t Ibid liii.
ground : he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him." * Many such passages might have shewn them that no earthly pomp should surround their King, who was “to reign in righteousness,” till the time came when angels and principalities and powers should be subject to Him.
It is not wonderful that these things were hid from the eyes of the people ; nor is it wonderful that their rulers should have hated with a bitter hatred the man who exposed the hypocrisy, and avarice, and love of power which they concealed under the name of religion ; deceiving the people, and deceiving themselves. Nor is it wonderful that they feared the jealousy of the Romans, who required but little excuse to "take away their name and place as a nation.
The multitude already followed Jesus wherever He went ; and already He had suffered Himself to be saluted as the Son of David.” It only needed some deed of His more suited to influence the public mind than His works of mercy had been, and the nation from one end to the other would rise in a blaze of enthusiasm. They knew this, and they knew that one single command of the emperor of Rome would bring upon them the Roman army, which already had swept over the earth as a tempest, carrying desolation wherever it went, for much less cause than the setting up a rival king. The advice of Caiaphas, therefore, to sacrifice even an innocent man for the safety of the state, would appear to them both sound and reasonable.t
We must think of all this, and picture to ourselves the suspence and agitation that filled men's minds in the crowded city as Jesus, fully knowing it all, calmly moved forward to meet the storm ready to burst upon him. .
t John xi. 37-53.
* Isaiah liii. 2.
John xii. 1–3. “ Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served : but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair : and the room was filled with the odour of the ointment."
St. Mathew tells us that this supper was given “in the house of Simon the leper.” † No doubt this Simon was one of the many who had been healed by Jesus, and gladly thus shewed his grateful love. It is pleasing for the last time to see our blessed Lord surrounded by those who loved Him. Lazarus, who for three days had lain within the grave, called back by Him to life, sat at table with Him. His sisters, restored by Him to happiness, were there, each shewing their affection according to the difference of their characters. The active Martha gladly filled the place of a servant, waiting on her beloved Lord at the table. The devoted Mary poured upon His feet so costly an ointment that the perfume filled the house, and then stooped down to wipe them with her flowing hair, the chief ornament of woman.
Alas, even here, beneath the appearance of so much peace and love, a serpent lurketh.
Verses 4–6. “Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, (Simon's son,) which should betray him,- Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor'? This he said, not that he cared for the poor ; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein." St. John did not write his gospel till long after all was finished, and the character of Judas Iscariot known by his fellow-men, as it was at that moment known by his Lord and Master. So little did the other disciples then suspect him of dishonesty, that they had trusted him with the care of their small store of money, from which their daily wants were supplied. He was a thief, and yet an apostle ! what an awful warning to all, to watch over the beginnings of evil. “The love of money is the root of all evil, and they that will be rich have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Rich! Oh, how great is the poverty of that man, who, for the love of gain, strips his poor soul of every hope! Judas, under the name of charity bad habitually robbed his Lord. He grudged the value of Mary's offering, and pretended that the money it was worth should have been given to the poor, intending all the while to take it for himself.* It seems from the account given by St. Matthew and St. Mark, that some of the other disciples, little suspecting the secret motive of Judas, were struck by what he said, and agreed with him in blaming what seemed to them a foolish extravagance; they said “To what purpose is this waste ? for this ointment might bave been sold for much,” † “ for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor, and they murmured against her.” I
* Matthew vi. 6.
How touching is the reply of Jesus! In mild and beautiful language, He reproves Judas and those other disciples who had agreed with him in blaming Mary, and defends her from their attack.
Verses 7, 8. “Let her alone (he said,) why trouble ye her ? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good ; but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could."
Let her alone, trouble her not; her love for me is as this earthly perfume which she hath poured over me; grudge it not. * Vol. ii. p. 82.
Matt. xxvi. 8, 9.
Mark xiv. 5.
Mark xiv. 8. “ She hath come afore hand to anoint my body to the burying.”
Yes, the Saviour knew that before that week was passed, He should be laid mangled and bleeding in the grave. Kindly he made use of this sad foreknowledge, to win for Mary the sympathy of those about him. Some of them had made for Him a supper, they did not grudge Him this expence while living, neither would they grudge to any friend the precious perfumes with which it was the custom to prepare the body for the tomb. Let them look on this token of Mary's love, as indeed it was, though she knew it not, the last sad service she 'could render to him.
“She hath done what she could.” Blessed Mary! Oh how blessed to have such a testimony borne to her by her Lord, who read her heart, and thus accepted its adoring love !
Moreover, Jesus said that the very act which Judas had reproved as waste, and some of the others had joined in blaming, should always be remembered to Mary's praise, and to the encouragement of all, who like her, so loved Him, as gladly to do for Him, all that they could. The house in which they sat was filled with the odour of the ointment. The remembrance of Mary's deed, should, as a soft perfume, go forth. into all the world.
Verse 9. Verily (said Jesus) wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done, shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
And so has it been, and so shall it be to the end of time. Wherever the history of our Lord is known, this act of Mary's love is known also. We cannot call up to our minds the picture of Jesus on this night at Bethany, which seems to have been the last night of peace he spent on earth, without seeing