Perfume And No Peace

April 2, 2023 Speaker: Ray Lorthioir Series: Sermons 2023

Passage: Matthew 26:1– 27:66

Sermon 4-2-23

Pastor Ray Lorthioir

Trinity Lutheran Church

W. Hempstead, NY

Based on the Passion of our Lord. Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday 


Perfume And No Peace

So, let’s look into the setup for Holy Week. As we saw in the last two weeks from John’s gospel, first Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man. That gave the Pharisees wedgies. Then, he resuscitated His friend Lazarus back from death after four days in the tomb. That gave the Sanhedrin apoplexy.

But there are more things. First is the perfume. The four gospels record several incidents with Jesus, women and very expensive anointing oils. Early in His ministry Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. We read in Luke 7:36-38, “37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” This resulted in Jesus saying to her in Luke 7:48, “. . . ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” Since only God can forgive sins that gave the Pharisees fits.

In John’s gospel we read last week in John 11:1-2, “1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.” It sounds like Mary was the woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house. If so, it makes sense that Mary wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet rather than help her sister, Martha, entertain Jesus and His disciples on another occasion. Mary had come into the light out of deep darkness.

Now, John records this episode just prior to Palm Sunday. John 12:1-8, “1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 ‘Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.’ 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 ‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’”

OK. Keep in mind that Mary poured the perfume on Jesus’ feet. It’s possible that in chapter 11, John was referring to this incident. But if not, then Mary anointed Jesus’ feet twice. She was the woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house.

Now, Matthew and Mark both record an event that happened after Palm Sunday. Matthew 26:6-13, “6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. 9 'This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.’ 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, 'Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’”

Notice that this nameless woman poured the anointing oil on Jesus’ head, rather than His feet. So, it looks like within a week’s time two women anointed Jesus with very expensive oil. Apparently Satan used these two incidents to tempt Judas. For immediately afterward, we read in Matthew 26:14-16, “14 Then one of the Twelve — the one called Judas Iscariot — went to the chief priests 15 and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” The perfumed anointing oils seem to be the thing Satan used to tempt Judas Iscariot.

Second, there was the issue of Jesus’ popularity. Fresh from His greatest miracle, resuscitating Lazarus, Jesus entered Jerusalem for Passover on Palm Sunday. The crowd that accompanied Him shouted various things as He entered. Here’s what John recorded. John 12:12-13, “12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' ‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’”

It’s also written in John 12:17-19, “17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”

Of Palm Sunday, we read in Matthew 21:9, “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!' ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”

And in Mark 11:9-10, “9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 10 ‘Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”

Finally, there’s Luke 19:37-40, “37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ 40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”

So, look at all the glorious things that were said about Jesus. Look at all the expectations. And Jesus did not stop the crowd from saying these things. Powerful! Matthew also recorded another incident from later that day. Matthew 21:14-16, “14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. 16 ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”?’” Here He was claiming to be none other than God.

It’s very clear that Jesus came into Jerusalem as the King of Israel, the Messiah, the Son of David. The crowd recognized Him as such. And Jesus received their acclamation. Also, He was strongly petitioned with the word Hosanna, which means, “Lord Save.” He came into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling what was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

In Old Testament times if a king came into a city riding on a donkey or a mule, he came in peace. If he came on a horse he came with war. So, notice. Jesus came to Jerusalem on a donkey. Contrast this with Revelation 19:11-15, “11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” This is Jesus as He will enter Jerusalem on a horse in the final days of earth. As it says in Psalm 110:1, He will come and make His enemies a footstool for His feet — not only His earthly enemies, but His heavenly enemies. However, at Passover 33A.D., Jesus came to Jerusalem in peace. The problem was that Jerusalem did not receive Him in peace.

So far, we have seen Judas and the Palm Sunday crowd. There were more players. Jesus said something quite startling to the people around Him in John 8:42-47, “42 . . . ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’”

These are very insulting words. Are they not? But this is what prophets are sent to do — to insult our self-righteous wickedness. 

You do not belong to God. You are of your father, the devil. This is true for all of us as we are conceived and born in this flesh. All of us are enemies of God by nature. Some of us are mercifully blessed by our Creator and recognize our pathetic situation from God’s Word. Thus, some are granted a longing after true righteousness and are given repentance. These are then given Lord Holy Spirit in order that they may hold fast to Yahweh and the Messiah He sent. For only in Messiah is there forgiveness of sins and justification for our lives before the living God. Those who reject Messiah remain children of the devil; enemies of their Creator God.

But how was it that the men charged with the leadership of God’s people, Israel, remained enemies of God as Jesus said? This is a great mystery. But, God’s enemies are known by their fruit — by their words and actions.

We know from Scripture that God deliberately hid the full work of Messiah within Moses and the Prophets. It could not be fully understood until Lord Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost 33A.D. Thus, the leadership was deceived with a picture of Messiah that was only half true. Reading Moses and the Prophets, it was easy for them to see a victorious Messiah who would come in power and glory. But hidden from them — to this very day — was the suffering Messiah spoken of in Moses and the Prophets who first had to gain a different kind of glory — a glory of obedience and suffering unto death on a cross. There were many things these leaders could not receive about Jesus: that He came from Nazareth; was the son of a day laborer; and was a man untrained in their schools. But, ultimately, these leaders took offense at Jesus because He was a mortal man. — a man who could die.  As far as they were concerned such a person could not be Messiah.

Leadership deceived by the devil has historically been an enemy of God’s people. The same thing is true today. Among the historic great Christian denominations — the Church of England, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Reformed — many present day leaders are enemies of God. They’ve yielded to the woke mob in many things. They desire to look good among men, rather than remain faithful to Yahweh and His Holy Scripture.

But back to Jerusalem. The leadership in Jerusalem was hostile to Jesus. But they were restrained by a severe problem mentioned in an exchange Jesus had with them during Holy Week. We read in Luke 20:1-8, “1. . . the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him [Jesus]. 2 ‘Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,' they said. ‘Who gave you this authority?’ 3 He replied, 'I will also ask you a question. Tell me, 4 John's baptism — was it from heaven, or from men?’  5 They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Why didn't you believe him?” 6 But if we say, “From men,” all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’ 7 So they answered, 'We don't know where it was from.’ 8 Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’”

Did you catch what the leaders were afraid of? The people. Indeed, there’s nothing new under the sun. We see it in our present politics. Anyway, immediately after this, Jesus told a parable about a landowner and share cropping tenant farmers. It was really a parable about Yahweh and Israel. Through this parable Jesus portrayed Israel as unwilling to give Yahweh the fruit of righteousness. Time and again their leadership rejected the prophets sent to them. And finally, predicting His own death, Jesus said that they killed the landowner’s son. The parable ends with the landowner (Yahweh) throwing out those tenants and renting the vineyard (His Kingdom) to new tenants. Messiah’s Church is the new tenant.

At the end of the parable, we read in Matthew 21:45-46, “45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”

As we saw, the Jewish leadership was truly terrified that they would be stoned to death by the people if they attempted to put Jesus to death. It was at this point that someone had the bright idea of getting the Roman government to handle Jesus’ execution. For, if the Romans put someone to death, no one would be able to object. This is where Pontius Pilate and the Roman army came into the picture.

Pilate’s involvement with Jesus was quite complicated. He really didn’t want to put Jesus to death. But the Jewish leadership skillfully manipulated Pilate into a corner until he consented to Jesus’ death. But Pilate also manipulated the leadership. He wrung this confession out of them in John 19:15, “. . . ‘We have no king but Caesar’” That shows how corrupt they had become in their dealings with Jesus. And when he proclaimed himself innocent of Jesus’ blood, Pilate got the crowd to say in Matthew 27:25, “. . .  ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’” That is absolutely devastating.

So, here is our Holy Week setup. The perfume was the means whereby Satan tempted Judas into becoming a traitor. Judas, was the means by which the leadership could arrest Jesus in the night, away from the adoring crowds. At a secret pre-dawn trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, Scripture testifies that the leadership was unable to make charges stick to Jesus. However, the high priest finally had this exchange with Jesus in Matthew 26:63-64, “63 . . . ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ 64 ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” 

With these words, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the fulfillment of two well known and powerful Messianic prophecies found in Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. Continuing, we read in  Matthew 26:65, “65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?’ ‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?’”

Having satisfied themselves that Jesus was an imposter, the leaders carted Him off to Pontius Pilate. Visibly in the hands of the Roman government and apparently unable to do anything about it, the crowd turned against Jesus. How could He be a helpless Messiah? Thus, the Jewish leadership manipulated them into crying for Jesus’ blood — “crucify Him.” And the rest is history. No. It was Yahweh’s plan from the beginning — hidden in plain sight in Moses and the Prophets.

We close with a final point concerning the man named Barabbas. This man’s name means “son of the father.” And it was no coincidence. The condemned “son of the father,” Barabbas, was set free and the God/man “Son of the Father,” Jesus, was condemned in his place.

Jesus’ punishment and death is a substitutionary punishment and death. In our place, Jesus received at the hands of our Creator God what we rebellious sinners deserve. And so Barabbas represents all of us. Any child of the devil conceived in sin who comes to Messiah Jesus to be born again becomes a “son of the father” and is set free from sin, death and the power of the devil. This can happen only because Jesus, the Son of the Father, has been condemned in our place. As it says in 2Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is the Gospel of the Lord. Amen.

All Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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