He Was There

E. L. H. Ogden, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lanes

Category: Exposition

A devotional study of places the Lord visited as seen in Mark 14

The world is full of shrines and so-called "holy" places which mark the spot of a supposed visit by certain people whose names it is desired to venerate. The believer needs no such visible place to help him to remember His Lord, but, in turning to the passage before us, he will move with Him in spirit to four places that He visited immediately before His betrayal.

1. The House and the Ointment, w. 3-9. A woman's offering - the expression of Love. This beautiful story is another version of that recorded in John 12. 1-11. It took place a few months after the story in Luke 7. 36-50, and the details are different. It is true that both incidents occurred in the house of a man whose name was Simon, and neither in Luke nor Mark is the name of the woman given. John tells us the woman at Bethany was Mary. The fact that Simon is the owner presents no barrier to the identification of the story in Mark with that in John.

Mark includes three phrases which are not contained else­where.

i. "She brake the box"; v. 3. This not only indicates that the fragrance was entirely released, but that the box (or flask) could not afterwards be used for any other purpose. Indeed, no other use could have had higher motives, purpose or value. The ointment was nard - a product of rarity. It was sometimes adulterated, and Mark is careful to assure us that this ointment in particular was absolutely pure and unadulterated, since he adds the prefix spike which means genuine.

ii. "Whensoever ye will ye may do them {the poor) good: but me ye have not always", v. 7. This means that the critics of this act of devotion had constant opportunity to help the poor, for which purpose they considered the sale of the ointment could have been used, but this was an occasion that would not recur because of the approach of the death of the One on whom it had been so lavishly and adoringly expended.

iii. "She hath done what she could", v. 8. This encourages us to appreciate that the Lord never expects more from His lovers than that which they have and are. So the act is inter­preted as an expression of the heart. The Lord had previously said that she had wrought a good work on Him, and by this we can understand that it was He Himself on whom the deed was performed. The Lord also understood the purpose of it all when he used the word which is translated "good" - meaning beautiful. He knew her secret. This was burial ointment. Why did she not keep it for that occasion? Is it because, as the one who sat at His feet on an earlier occasion, she had heard the unfolding purposes of God in His Son, and knew of His death as a fact already determined before the worlds received their frames? Learning that, she would have been taught that death could not hold the Son of God. There would be no need to embalm Him after death. But she could, and did, anoint her living Lord! It is very significant in this context that this Mary of Bethany was not among the women who went to the tomb with spices on that resurrection morning. How much she had gained by an intimate knowledge of her Lord! How much do we know of Him? The seat of learning still is at the feet of Christ our Lord.

2. The Guest Chamber and the Supper, vv. 10-25. Two men's service - the experience of fellowship. The key to this incident is found in the question proposed by the Lord. The two disciples were to ask it of the occupier of the house to which they would be directed as they followed the man bearing the pitcher of water. "Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?", V. 14. The sign which directed them to their guide was full of significance. The task of bearing a pitcher was one normally reserved for the woman. By humbling himself in the eyes of all who saw him doing such menial work, the man to become their guide was setting the scene for the greatest example of humility recorded in the Scriptures. The water he carried was surely that with which the Lord washed the feet of the disciples in the upper room of the house to which they were led. Humility is the most precious jewel in the coronet of service. It is the most difficult to obtain, and the hardest to keep bright!

The second man in this story is the goodman (owner or occupier) of the house. The Lord was given access to, and overall control of, the upper room, and the alternative render­ing "my" guestchamber indicates the willing transfer of occupation that had so obviously taken place some time earlier. The Lord still asks the question to all who profess to love Him, " Where is my guest chamber}" We may well ask ourselves what preparation we make for Him so that He can have fellowship with us. Our hearts must be large, our motives high, our minds full of Himself, and our entire being exercised by spiritual preparation. Only thus shall we make ready for Him. Every­thing being ready, the Lord came with the twelve. Observe the word "with". This is mentioned throughout the Gospel of Mark to highlight the fellowship that the Lord enjoyed with His own. Only to those who were closest to Him did He reveal secrets concerning Himself (see 5. 37; 9. 2. and 14. 33). This feast was, however, one to which He brought all (even Judas Iscariot), for this was fellowship in love which held no dis­qualifications for any of His disciples. The revelation of a betrayer in the midst brought out the sorrowful question "Is it /?". How often does our disloyalty to the One who loves us so much lead us to such self-examination?

The teaching of the Lord's supper, which followed this feast, is so profound that none can ever plumb the depths of its meaning. It is nevertheless simple. The bread speaks of the Lord's body prepared that it might be given for us. As the believer breaks the bread and partakes of it himself, he identifies himself with all that the Lord's death means - even though it is not possible to plumb its depths. He does so in affectionate remembrance of his Lord. We remember more than the death of the Lord by this act. The New Testament statement is far more embracing than that. We remember the Lord Himself, and show forth His death until He shall come. At the Lord's supper we embrace the past and are directed to that which is yet to be.

The cup speaks of the fact, significance and efficacy of His life out-poured. What was to Him a cup of bitterness is to the believer a cup of blessing, containing not now the judgment, but our joy and peace.

3. The Mountain and the Sheep, w. 26-31. The Disciples perplexity - the exposure of realities. Here in the quiet solitude of the mount of Olives, so dearly loved by the Lord, He, the Shepherd, tells His disciples of the smiting of the Shepherd, and the scattering of the sheep. They were to be offended because of Him that night. The word offend is used several times in connection with the Lord's teaching. For example "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me", Matt. 11. 6; "And they were offended at him", Mark 6. 3. The word in the scriptural context means to be scandalised. The scandalon was a part of a trap for catching animals on which they would become caught, ensnared, fixed. The Lord was teaching that those who ran against His character and work were caught and hurt. The disciples were in danger of being caught in the maelstrom of events, and they would be offended and stumble. Without the tender warnings of the Lord their faith would be wounded and perhaps fail. Peter will have none of it, however; others may, but "not I". Yet in the short space of hours, his testimony was to lie broken before the mocking ringer of a serving girl! It is good that we linger thoughtfully over these verses, remembering the injunction, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall", 1 Cor. 10. 12.

4.  The Garden and the Hour, w. 32-42. The Lord's Cup - the Extremities of Suffering. This section takes us on to the very depths of the personal emotions of the Lord. His three companions were those who had previously been selected to witness something of His power and glory. They were now to have fellowship with Him in His suffering, but were overcome by the frailty of the flesh. Mark's Gospel tells us the reason for His prayer, and then records it. Note the intimate address, "Abba, Father". The cup was the figure of the measure and weight of God's wrath upon sin. It meant being made sin! It meant being forsaken by God! On the one hand it meant that He would be brought into immediate proximity with that which was repugnant, heinous and openly opposed to His holy nature. He shrank from that. It cannot be emphasized too strongly when speaking of such a holy transaction that in it all our Lord remained absolutely holy. The cup also spoke of the distance of separation from the One whom He loved; "why art thou so far from helping me?", Psa. 22. 1. He shrank from the awful thought of that experience. How we thank God for the grace of His prayer, "nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt".

So our study commenced with human devotion to the Lord, and has concluded with the love of the Lord to humanity. May we constantly be found with Him as we consider the demands of the house with the ointment, the guest chamber with its supper, the mountain with its challenge, and the garden with its hour. Occupation with the Lord will bring balm to our spirit and worship to God through Him.