The Preparation For Passover
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, to what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.” Matthew 26:1-13
In Jewish worship tradition the Feast of Passover is one of the holiest of all because it commemorates the day when death came to all the first born in Egypt because of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart that he would not let the people to Israel go from their cruel bondage under his hand. Even though God had struck the land and the people with six plagues in an attempt to show Pharaoh and all the Egyptians that the God of Israel was the true God and the idols they served were empty and no gods at all, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened. So God sent one last plague upon Egypt that all the firstborn in the land of Egypt would die in one night.
The Sacrificial Lamb by Josefa de Óbidos
But He told Moses and Aaron to instruct the people of Israel that they should, during the seven days leading up to the night when the plague would come, choose a spotless lamb and bring it into their house, keep it and care for it and on the seventh night kill the Lamb as a sacrifice to God and prepare it for a meal for all in the house. They were to spread it’s blood over the doorposts and the lentils of their houses as a sign and as a protection for all who dwell inside that no one should die of all the Israelites when death came to all the firstborn among the Egyptians from Pharaoh’s house to the least among them.
On that night when death came to every house of the Egyptians, it passed over Israel and they were spared. The people eat a meal of with unleavened bread and the lamb that had been slain. And so it was established as a memorial that this night would be the celebration of Passover in all the Israel as an everlasting remembrance of God’s deliverance from death and their release from the hand of Pharaoh because from the that night Pharaoh finally let God’s people go.
There is much more to the story and you can read about it in Exodus 10-12.
So, Jesus prepared with His disciples to eat the Passover. In the meantime, the chief priests the scribes and the elders of the people with the High Priest Caiaphas were plotting how they might take Jesus and kill Him.
Jesus was in Bethany during this time in the house of Simon the leper. A woman came to Him as they were all reclining at a meal and she began to anoint His head with a very precious ointment. But the disciples became indignant and said, Why this waste?
“For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.” Mathew 26:9
Whatever commendation one might want to give the disciples for their pragmatism and concern for the poor, Jesus was not impressed with them.
In fact, He said to them, leave her alone. She has done a good thing. If you’re concerned about the poor, then you have every opportunity always to give to them, but you do not have me with you always. Not yet.
What this woman has done is a Godly thing. She has done this to prepare for my burial. In other words what she did was also preparation for the ultimate Passover.
Here act of worship is even to this day a memorial to her.
“And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Mark 14:6-9
It is remarkable to me that even to this day in the Church, where people have known and celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, where people believe He is now seated on His throne at the right hand of God the Farther, where people confess His Spirit abides in us and with us, there are still those who believe we must choose between worshiping God and ministering to the poor. Our resources are not sufficient for both.
They will say, we can’t afford the best resources for worship, of sound, of lighting, even of our houses of worship that reflect the glory of God and the message of the gospel in its architecture, design and furnishings, (notwithstanding the explicit detail God gave for the building of the Temple). They say we can’t afford the most skilled singers, musicians, and equipment. Just get the stuff that’s cheap or that the world has discarded and use that. It’s good enough for worship. After all we need to feed the poor with our money not waste it on worship.
Is this what Jesus would say to us?
Would He not rather say, as he said to Martha, you are trouble about many things but Mary has chosen the better thing. She is here at my feat listening to and worshiping me. [Luke 10:41]
Don’t you understand, the first commandment is not you shall love the poor and your neighbor and yourself with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then secondarily love Me.
No one would ever say that, but is that not what our actions are saying when we relegate worship to a secondary place in our ministry. Worship of God is first, foremost and paramount before all other things.
The first and greatest commandment is to Love God and then secondly to love your neighbor as yourself. [Matthew 22:38-40]
If we do that with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, expressing our love to God, then all other things we fall into place. There will ways be more than enough resource, more than enough provision for whatever the need and whenever it arises.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10
“Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10
Worship and ministry to the poor are not either or. They go hand in hand. As you do the first things first, then you are equipped to do the rest.
The summons is to give to God His due first, then He gives to us whatever we need to do the work of ministry. The greatest sacrifice has already been made for us. Now we get to act in accordance with the gift that sacrifice has given to us.
“Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:7-9
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.” 2 Corinthians 9:7-9
Finally, our worship of God is also our willfully offered gift. It is His summons, but He gives us the right to choose to obey Him or to reject Him.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
The center of the Passover is the Lamb that was slain. Jesus is that Lamb. And so we worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind, strength and every available resource, even our most precious ointment. And still we are the greater beneficiaries, because of His immeasurable, uncontainable, incomprehensible, never ending love for us.
As we prepare to remember The Passover with services throughout the week do all that you can to put Jesus first. Worship should never have a price tag on it. He deserves the best that we
have all the time.
Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.