Today, as we make our way devotionally through the Gospel of Mark, we come to the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. As I read Mark 14:22-23, I am struck once again by something I didn’t see for the first five decades of my life. It’s something I’ve mentioned before in these Life for Leaders devotions. It’s something that is both obvious and usually overlooked. Thus, I want to reflect on it once again.
I want to pause one more day to reflect with you on the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion I focused on the costly sacrifice of the woman who anointed Jesus with such expensive perfume. Today, I want to draw our attention to something Jesus said in response to this generous act.
Some who observed the anointing of Jesus by the woman objected that this was a huge waste of money. Had the jar been sold, it would have brought in a large sum to care for the poor (14:4-5). But Jesus defended the woman’s actions. Her sacrifice for him was costly indeed and absolutely appropriate. Not only was she expressing her deep love for Jesus, but, unknowingly, she was also preparing him for his burial (14:6-9).
In Jesus’ explanation of today’s text, he cites “the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things” (Mark 4:19) as impediments that keep us from attending to our leadership vocation. It’s easy to hear these as bad, perhaps even immoral, diversions. No doubt, morally compromising temptations exist in every leadership setting. But, I’m not sure that’s all that Jesus meant.
At the end of Mark 13, after revealing key elements of the future, Jesus tells his disciples: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (13:37). What does this mean for us? What happens when we watch? And how might this be relevant to our daily lives, including our work?
I was deeply troubled by Jesus’s startling admission that he did not know the exact timetable for the end times. How could this be possible for the Son of God?
Mark 13 is sometimes called “The Olivet Discourse” because Jesus delivered it on the Mount of Olives (13:3). Others call this chapter Jesus’s “Apocalyptic Discourse” or “Little Apocalypse” because it reveals what will happen in the end times. (The word “apocalyptic” comes from a Greek word that means, “uncovered” or “revealed.”)
Several years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem. Of course I visited the Temple Mount, where once stood the stunning temple of the God of Israel. Today, the Temple is no longer. The Romans destroyed it in the first century A.D. The giant stones, from which the ancient Temple and its Western Wall were built, were thrown down from the top of the mount. It was sobering to visit this site and to see some of those stones, still lying randomly on the ground alongside part of the ancient wall.
I remember as a young boy hearing this story of Jesus called “The Widow’s Mite.” That title perplexed me. I knew that a mite was a very, very small bug, something like a tick, something to be avoided at all costs. Thus, I didn’t understand why adults called the story of a woman putting a couple of coins in the collection box “The Widow’s Mite.” Only later in life did I figure out that “mite” also means “a little bit.” The widow didn’t throw a tiny bug in the offering plate. She gave a little bit, a mite, if you will.
I’ll never forget reading the first lines of The Purpose-Driven Life: “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”