DISCLAIMER

These lessons are based on my personal studies and therefore my own opinion. The reader should not accept anything simply because I wrote it, nor should the reader accept anything anyone present to you as absolute truth. You should always check out a teacher or preacher or anyone else claiming to be an authority on their facts. Go to the Scriptures and conduct your own study.

Monday, April 2, 2018

THOSE WOMEN! LESSON 6: CONFUSION AND CONTROVERSY

     
 Jesus was anointed by some of the women who were involved in his life. It may seem these were fairly straightforward occurrences, but they led to some confusion and controversy, and to many words trying to explain.  I am going to add to the many words with my own opinion of whom was involved and when.
There were two instances of women pouring perfume on The Lord, which many try to make into only one instance. They also try to put forth one certain woman as the one who did both, whom I argue had no hand in either event.
To begin, though, I would like to set a kind of timeline of Jesus ministry so we can place these events in the proper place. We'll use a fairly common assumption that Jesus' ministry lasted 3 ½ years from the autumn of A.D. 26 until the spring of Year A.  D. 30. I am not saying I agree with these communal accepted years, but it hlps put things in perspective.

So around the age of 30 Jesus began his public ministry, was baptized and tempted by Satan in the wilderness, after which he made his first public appearance in autumn A. D. 26.

Jesus's First Ministry in Galilee, Judea and Samaria, was from the end of autumn of A. D. 26.  He began this after changing water to wine at a Cana Wedding and finished it meeting a woman at Jacob's Well in Samaria during Autumn of A. D. 27.

From autumn of A. D. 27 until the spring of A. D. 2, Jesus conducted what is known as the Great Galilean Ministry. Near the beginning of this he was rejected in Nazareth and moved to Capernaum. He called forth four fisherman to follow him and he cured Peter's mother-in-law of a fever early on as he began.  Eventually he enlists Matthew, heals a great multitude by the Sea of Galilee and names his 12 Apostles. Soon after he gives the famous Sermon on the Mount, he goes on to Nain where he brings a widow's son back to life, as hopefully you recall. By this time John the Baptist was in prison and sent some questions to Jesus, who answered publicly.


This brings us to the first anointment we'll discuss as recorded in Luke 7:36-50. It is important to note this takes place somewhere about halfway through his Great Galilean Ministry, so may be going into summer of A. D. 27. 


LUKE 7:36-50

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”


And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”


And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”


“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 


Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.”

And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”


And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 



 "And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table."

When people ate in those times they did not commonly sit at a table as we do. There would be a low table surrounded by cushions on the floor and people would recline on these pillows. Propping themselves up on an elbow, they would eat somewhat stretched out, so Jesus' feet were behind him as he lay.

A woman of the city entered.

There is some argument about what "city". Some claim this was in Nain, since Jesus had just raised a widow's son there, but I agree with those who say she was a woman of Capernaum. I say this because just prior to this dinner Jesus had been addressing a crowd and in Luke 7:23 he says, "And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths." When you read the context you get the impression he is in Capernaum at this time.

No name is given this woman. She is not an invited guest. She is a gatecrasher, sort of a Jesus' groupie I suppose. She heard through the rumor mill that he was there, grabbed her Alabaster jar of perfume and snuck into the dining hall.


[She] "brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 
38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment."

Why an Alabaster Flask? 

Because this was a common container that women in Israel used in those days to hold ointments and perfumes. Alabaster was a type of stone. It was usually shaped as a flask or box with a long, thin neck that could be broken off to pour out the liquid; thus once broken the contents were exposed to the air. 

Luke says the flask's contents were an ointment. We can assume this was perfumed in some way, but we can't assume it was costly, such as Spikenard. This could have been a cheap perfume.

She is "standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment." 


So she has walked up behind him. Remember he is reclining to eat, and at this point she is standing and weeping. She is carried away with emotion. Her tears are falling down now onto his feet, so presumptively she must quickly drop down to her knees and begin to wipe away her tears with her hair. Considering that he is upon some cushions, she would probably be able to reach his feet by bending over them from a kneeling position. She also begins to kiss his feet and finally to snap off the stem of her flask and pour the ointment over his feet. This is an act of contrition and of worship. No words are exchanged, but the Pharisee has some thoughts, criticism actually.

 "'Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,  for she is a sinner.'”


This has given the Pharisee some second thoughts about whom he is entertaining with this feast. If people have claimed Jesus is a prophet, he should know what this woman is and not let her touch him in such a manner.

But Jesus immediately proves to the Pharisee how wrong he is in doubting. "And Jesus answering said to him, “"Simon, I have something to say to you.”'

He is answering a question never asked and showing complete understanding both of the question and of what the woman is. What is the Pharisee to think now? Remember the Pharisee never really made any comment except in his own head.

Jesus tells the Pharisee a little story and has him reflect on the degree of debt one has and the forgiveness of such debt.  The Pharisee answers, if somewhat  hesitantly, that the one with the most debt forgiven would show the most love to the forgiver.  As it was, I don't even hear the Pharisee ask for any forgiveness, apparently not recognizing he had anything to be forgiven for, but he sure thought the woman had a lot of sinning on her rap sheet.

Jesus then points out the shortcomings of the Pharisee as a proper host. The Pharisee did not wash his feet, which was a common curtesy a host would offer his guest, the very least being to give the guest water for that purpose.  It was also quite prevalent for a host in greeting a guest to give them a kiss. This was especially so as a sign of respect, such as a student kissing a teacher. The Pharisee did not kiss Jesus in greeting nor did he anoint Jesus' head with oil, which was a very common gesture of hospitality toward a guest then.  All these things this woman did.

 Jesus tells the Pharisee, " I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."


 This must have stung. 

Jesus then turns to the woman and tells her, Your faith...your faith...your Faith has saved you. Go in peace.

Luke goes from there directly to the first paragraph in Chapter 8:1-2:


 "Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means." 

This may be soon after the feast, but still some time has lapsed. These two passages do not necessarily link together, yet from this small amount of information there are those who think Mary Magdalene was the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet,  but not at all.


It simply tells us Jesus went about from town to town and a group of women followed along and helped support the ministry. It list a few by name one of which is Mary Magdalene. There is no other information saying she was the sinful woman who crashed the Pharisees party. Why not claim it was Joanna or Susanne? 

If the sinful woman had been Mary Magdalene I believe her name would have been used. It was every other time.


Now lets look at a similar story that many have confused with the passages we just discussed about a Sinful Woman of Capernaum. This event is described in 
Matthew 26:1-16, Mark 14:1-11,  John 11:45-55  & 12:1-12. I have harmonized these three Gospel tellings together:

We begin with the events that occurred immediately after Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave.

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary [of Bethany] and had seen what he did, believed in him,  but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 

[ Do you see where their hearts were?  They were afraid of losing their lofty positions, and this completely blinded them to the obvious truth and they wouldn't be among the everybody believing in Jesus.] 

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 
 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.


Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

Ephraim was about 13 miles northeast of Jerusalem and atop raised ground that afforded a view of the countryside all around it. This was wild country, which probably provided some safety
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples,  “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,  and plotted together seeking how in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.  But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.

Keep in mind the priests wanted to arrest Jesus. This was no secret. The people knew it and they were wondering if Jesus would even show up at the Passover. The priests, meanwhile, had enough fear of the people they didn't want  a public arrest that might lead to some sort of uprising that might attract the attention of Rome. 

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there [in Bethany], they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
So they gave a dinner for him there [in Bethany]. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

The priests would not want to send soldiers to arrest him at Bethany, either, not with crowds going there to see him. What could be done? They needed someone who knew Jesus secret places.

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper,
 a woman, Mary, therefore] came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment,  a pound of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  And when the disciples saw it, there were some who were indignant  and said to themselves indignantly,  saying, “Why this waste? 

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,  “Why was this ointment not sold? For this could have been sold for a large sum, for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

One denarii or penny was what a farm laborer was paid for a 12-hour work day at that time.  I am not sure what the total worth was in today's dollars. I have seen a range of $20,000 to $54,000. If $54,000 it would have equated to a laborer earning $15 an hour today. Whatever the actually amount, it was a lot of money for a little box of perfume.

And they scolded her. 
 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, Leave her alone. Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for thembut you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has anointed my body beforehand, done it to prepare me for burial. 13 And truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them, and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money, and they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

It is noteworthy not just that we are told that Judas was a thief who took from the common purse for his own purposes, but it is he who knows the value of the box of Nard -- more than $300 denarii. One would expect maybe Matthew would put a valuation on it, since he was a former tax collector and had probably had to make such estimates in his profession. But it was Judas, which shows his interest in money. When he claims this could have been given to the poor, he was thinking how much of it he could skim off.

Recall back in John 11, before Jesus arrived at this Passover, the people were wondering if he would come. Why were they wondering? Because the Chief priests and Pharisees gave order if anyone knew his whereabouts they should come and tell the authorities. Certainly Judas was aware of this and now he begins to think there may be an award.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;

behold, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey's colt!”

John is quoting a passage in Zechariah, one of the most prophetic books predicting the coming Messiah and End Times.

Zechariah 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.


His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.  The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.  So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

So we see that the raising of Lazarus led to the Passion of Christ; it turned the key for the Priests' final determination that Jesus die and for Judas to betray him.

If you wonder, having seen the miracles and heard the words of Jesus, why didn't the Chief Priests and Pharisees believe? They knew the Scriptures and the prophecies of the Messiah. We are told in John 12:42 that actually many of these authorities did believe. So why didn't more than Nicodemus speak out? We are told the why of that as well, in John 12:43:

"for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God."

Can we say much has changed with those in position of power today since then?

One final note. Messiah means The Anointed One. Some say Jesus being anointed by one or both of these ladies fulfilled the requirement he be anointed. I disagree. When Jesus arose from the water at his Baptism God declared him His Son and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. The Messiah was anointed by God and with the oil of the holy spirit, not by any man or woman with any kind of earthly expensive oil.


Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
    The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
    you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions -- Psalm 45:6-7.