Matthew 26:9-13 (You Always Have the Poor; Embracing Sacrifice)

Recall that the disciples, and especially Judas, were indignant about Mary’s extravagant display of love towards Jesus by pouring upon Him a year’s salary worth of costly perfume during a meal at Simon the Leper’s home in Bethany.  In their minds the wealth might have been put to better use for the poor; and for Judas who was in charge of the communal purse and “used to pilfer what was put into it” (Joh 12:6), it reflected the exact opposite of the sort of kingdom he sought in the world from which he might personally profit.  But, as Jesus responded, whereas they would always have the poor with them to whom they could do good whenever they wish (Mar 14:7), they would not always have Him to whom they could do good as Mary had done as a reciprocal human expression of the sort of sacrificial love that He was about to demonstrate for them upon the cross.

What do Jesus’ words about the poor in Mat 26:11 seem to communicate about the notion of many that His kingdom we seek and for which we pray is not compatible with poverty?  Cf. Deut 15:11.  Is material wealth and prosperity more a lure of the kingdom of God, or the kingdoms of the world?  Cf. Luk 4:5-7, 6:20.  What is more the lure of Christ’s kingdom?  See Rom 14:17.  Should we therefore equate God’s kingdom with a lack of poverty or income disparity?  Cf. Mat 25:15,28.  Rather, as there is much kingdom riches demonstrated by Christ’s example in dying to self in order that others may be lifted up, what opportunity do the poor offer those who are rich to come into possession of even greater treasures while at the same time blessing the poor in the same way?  Cf. 2Co 8:9, 1Ti 6:18-19.

Do Jesus’ words imply that the poor must always remain poor?  As poor is a relative term (think about the poor today as compared to 100 years ago, or the poor in America compared to the poor in Mexico), do Jesus’ words imply that His kingdom is incompatible with the wealth and prosperity of nations that benefits everyone by raising everyone’s standard of living?  Consider the ways in which the poor today live better than even kings did in the past.  Throughout history, in what way have both poor and the rich of a nation been blessed in proportion to the way they have practiced the gospel principles of God’s kingdom (like righteousness, justice, generosity, sacrifice, faith, grace, hope, love, etc…) and applied those principles to their government and economics?  Cf. Deut 28:1-6, 11, 15-19, 38-40, etc…

What else does Jesus say in Mary’s defense about the precious anointing that relates her sacrifice to His?  See Mat 26:12, Mar 14:8.  In addition to her display of great love, what do Jesus’ words also indicate about her great faith that was not unlike that of Abraham?  Cf. Heb 11:17-19.  What event had recently happened within Mary’s own family that had helped her to understand the greatness of God and His kingdom that transcends even death?  See Joh 11:1-2,20-27,32-33.  Does the great faith Mary displayed and Jesus’ words imputing her deed to His forthcoming burial necessarily imply that she fully understood what was about to happen as her motivation for the anointing?  What does this remind us about the important difference between faith and knowing the future?  Does having and demonstrating faith imply that we know exactly how something will turn out, or only that whatever happens will be for the good of those who love God and who have been called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28)?

What is the natural reaction of people to suffering and death, especially when faced with the possibility of their own?  Cf. Gen 12:12-13, 27:42-43, Exo 2:15, 1Sa 19:10,12, 1Ki 19:1-3, Job 2:4, Joh 11:3,21,32, Act 21:10-12, etc…  In what way do Jesus’ words in Mat 26:12 reflect the exact opposite, even to the embracing of His forthcoming death, that had He wished, He could have avoided by fleeing?  Cf. Luk 9:51, 12:50, 13:22, 18:31.  In what way did the apostle Paul follow Christ in this regard?  See Act 20:22, 21:13.  Does God expect a person to needlessly suffer or throw away one’s life?  Cf. Mat 10:23, 24:15-16, Joh 8:59, 10:39, Act 9:23-25, 1Co 6:19-20.  What then was different about Jesus’ circumstances at this time, and later Paul’s, that led them to face death rather than flee from it?  Cf. Joh 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 13:1, Act 20:23-24, Col 1:24-25.  Did Jesus, or Paul, needlessly suffer or throw away their lives?  Cf. Joh 10:11, 15:13, 1Jo 3:16.  What one word explains the difference between needless waste and extravagant love, and that was at the heart of Mary’s precious anointing of Jesus?  See Eph 5:2.  Is it only by literally laying down our physical life that we sacrifice ourselves to God?  Cf. Rom 12:1, Phil 4:18.