Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and learners! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. In this week’s Lesson, Jesus is two miles from Jerusalem in Bethany. He is at the house of Simon the leper when an unnamed woman appears and anoints him with some very expensive perfume. In fact, it’s so expensive it costs about a year’s wages. The gospel according to Matthew records how Jesus was anointed by an unnamed woman, the Jewish religious leaders plotting to kill Jesus, how the disciples are indignant at how this woman chose to bless Jesus and Jesus once again plainly telling his disciples that he will soon be crucified. Stay tuned to see how the story unfolds and why it’s important to remember.
Background: The Gospel according to Matthew:
Matthew, also known as Levi the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14) is a tax collector. Tax collectors were despised by the Jews because they were seen as collaborators with the Roman Empire. In today’s text we see Jesus associating with Simon the Leper. Lepers were another category of shunned or rejected people that Jesus associated with. Just as Matthew’s occupation didn’t matter to Jesus, neither did Simon’s illness. Keep in mind that this text is written to Jewish Christians about 70 A.D. after the destruction of the Temple. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary writes that Matthew’s Gospel is written in part to show “God has intervened to reassert the rightful rule of “the kingdom of heaven” and to impart its blessings to the covenant people of Israel, and ultimately to all nations.
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week we discussed the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He had called his twelve disciples, given them a specific mission, and commissioned them as Apostles to go forth proclaiming the “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Jesus told them what to do and reminded them to depend on others. In other words their mission was not about gaining anything for themselves but more so a dependence on the hospitality of those who would receive the message. We discussed six important facts. Those included the ideas of authority, the first appearance of all twelve disciples listed together, Who NOT to go to, what to say, dependence on others, and leave the negativity behind (kick the dust off). This week we continue with the theme of being called. However today does not mention a specific ministry. Instead, it is a general call to action that everyone should participate in. It is a call to remember; to remember the good deeds of others and hopefully it’s an encouragement for all of us to remember to do good deeds ourselves. Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Commentary title this week’s lesson “Called to Remember”. The Scripture text comes from Matthew 26:1-13.
What takes place in this passage:
In this text, there are several sections that could be entire lessons. I’ll briefly mention some of those ideas but focus on the idea of remembrance. The text begins by saying “when Jesus had finished saying all these things”. The things Jesus was saying was focused on Jesus’ end-times teachings in Matthew 24 and 25. As Jesus talks to his disciples he reminds them that the feast of the Passover is approaching and He will be crucified in two days. Note that he is called the Son of Man in verse 2. Matthew’s Gospel then records how the chief priests and the scribes, and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest Caiaphas. There they plotted to kill Jesus. Which begs the question, why? What did Jesus represent that warranted death? Was it an ideology? Was it his real power? Or was he a threat to their political power? Note also that they plot to take Jesus secretly and kill him. But they feared the crowds might riot. The gospel writer then changes the scene to Bethany where Jesus is in the house of Simon the leper. Bethany is about two miles from Jerusalem. Note that lepers were made to live separately from uninfected people. Yet, here Jesus is at the house of a leper only days before his crucifixion. Perhaps Simon has been healed of leprosy. But regardless of whether or not he had been healed it shows how Jesus treated people. It didn’t matter to Jesus that Simon was a leper; he stayed with Simon in spite of and despite his leprosy. In this lepers house an unnamed woman with very expensive perfume appears and anoints Jesus’ head. The disciples were indignant because they saw this as wasteful. The disciples thought it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Townsend Commentary writes the perfume “could easily represent a year’s wage for an unskilled laborer”. So it was indeed expensive and could have done a lot of good. In one way, this is to their credit. It shows they were thinking about others and not just themselves. When Jesus understood they were upset he explains “the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me”. I like the New Interpreters Study Bible commentary on this verse. It explains that “Jesus’ statement does not mean the poor should not receive help. Rather Jesus recognizes that poverty always accompanies imperial rule and will do so until God’s empire is established”. After the unnamed woman anoints Jesus and the disciples complain about her good deed, Jesus then plainly tells them “she did it to prepare me for burial”. I wonder if the woman already knew about his impending crucifixion. I wonder if she understood the danger; if she understood who Caiaphas and those who were gathering to plot against Jesus was. I wonder if she understood that danger better than the disciples. This unnamed woman, at great expense, demonstrates her love for Jesus perhaps because she already knew better than the disciples what the next few days would entail.
So let’s give the text some Context:
Maya Angelou wrote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. The unnamed woman in today’s text clearly had strong feelings for Jesus. Somehow Jesus made her feel something that prompted her to spend a year’s wages on a single act of love and devotion. Perhaps she remembered what Jesus did for her. Perhaps she remembered what Jesus did for one of her loved ones. At any rate she remembered. She remembered Jesus and this was her attempt to recognize, acknowledge, and demonstrate her love to the Savior. She remembered Jesus in a very special way and as a result, Jesus proclaimed that she too would be remembered. It’s been said many times that only what you do for Christ will last. So do it for Jesus. You should remember others throughout the year but especially during Holy Week as we move toward Good Friday and then Easter or resurrection Sunday. Remember others in special ways for Jesus. And remember what others have done for you. It may be time to jot a note or send an encouraging email or just call someone to say hello, I remembered you today.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30). His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.
Son of Man – A Hebrew or Aramaic expression that may be a synonym for humankind (Ezek. 2:1; “mortal” in NRSV) or refer to an apocalyptic figure who will judge the righteous and unrighteous at the end time (Dan. 7:13-14, KJV). It is also used as a title for Jesus (Mark 2:10; 8:38) in each sense.
Simon the Leper – Some scholars propose this is the father of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.
The Unnamed Woman – Each of the gospels include this story of a woman who either washed the feet of Jesus or anointed him with expensive perfume. In Matthew, Mark, and John it takes place in Bethany just days before the crucifixion of Jesus. John identifies her as Mary of Bethany. This takes place at the home she shared with her brother Lazarus, and her sister Martha.
Caiaphas – As high priest, he presided over the first trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin Jewish court.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Passover – The Jewish commemoration of the “passing over” of the angel of death prior to the exodus from Egypt (Ex 12:13, 23). The festival begins on the 14th day of Nisan and is eight days in duration.
Passover, Christian – A term for Easter and the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death as the Jewish Passover had celebrated the exodus and liberation of Israel from slavery (See I Cor. 5:6-8).
Palm Sunday – The Sunday prior to Easter, commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna” and the waving of palms (John 12:13). It is the first day of the Holy Week.
Themes, topics, discussion, or sermon preparation ideas:
- Remember Me
- When money doesn’t matter (see vss. 8, 9).
- An unnamed woman with a well-known purpose.
- When organized religion goes wrong (see vss. 3, 4)
1) List ways we can honor the idea of remembering Jesus and others.
2) The unnamed woman spent a year’s wages in a single act of love and devotion to Jesus. In what ways can we show our love and devotion to Jesus?
As we approach Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week we should make effort to remember both what Jesus has done for us and what others have done for us. Remembering how we have been blessed is a way to count our blessings. Even though our challenges may be tough and even if obstacles may seem insurmountable, there is always hope in a resurrecting Jesus. Although Jesus faces crucifixion on Friday, he arises with all power on Sunday.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week Matthew’s Gospel will tell us of the events immediately following the burial of Jesus. Two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary will go to the burial place of Jesus only to find an angel instead of the body of Jesus. The angel announces perhaps the greatest news of all time – “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said”. The women leave to proclaim the resurrection and this same proclamation is ours today.