She Hath Done What She Could
September 22nd, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-22-91 10:50 a.m.
. . . and on television, you are now part of our precious and wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled, She Hath Done What She Could.
I am preaching from the New King James Version of God’s Holy Word, from the Believer’s Study Bible. And our wonderful friend through the years, Sam Moore, who heads the Nelson Publishing Company of Nashville, Tennessee has placed the Bibles in the pews, in the racks where all of our people can enjoy them. At the cost of thousands of dollars, he has bestowed these Bibles upon us as a gift. From now on I’ll be preaching out of the wonderful leather bound Book that he gave to me. But this morning I wanted to preach out of the Book that you have in the pew racks before you.
In our preaching through the Gospel of Mark we have come to chapter 14. In this chapter is described the arrest and the trial of our Lord Jesus against His death. But the first part of this chapter 14 is a recounting of one of the sweetest incidents in the life of our Lord, and one of the most preciously moving that we could ever know [Mark 14:3-9].
You see, there is a time and a place that God has chosen to present His Son in a beautiful light. And it is thus in the passage that you have just read and which will be my text and story for the morning. And one of the most unusual things about the presentation is that the central character in what is happening is a humble and precious woman, unprepossessing, having no thought of the immortality of her deed [Mark 14:3-8].
Do you remember the story closes, “Assuredly I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel is preached to the ends of the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her?” [Mark 14:9].
Tell me, had I made an announcement in Jerusalem that in the nearby town of Bethany there will be done something that will outlast and outlive all of the kingdoms and empires of the world—when the great empire of Egypt and of Assyria and of Babylon of even Greece and Rome are forgotten, this that is taking place will be heralded around the world; and they had gone to Bethany to look at this amazing phenomenal come-to-pass, can you imagine their surprise at what they would have seen? Yet what this humble woman did is told in a thousand and more languages. It is constantly sent out from the presses of the world. It is a memorial to her [Mark 14:9].
I think of men, great men of the earth, who build monuments of granite, and they erode away; monuments of iron, and they rust. But what this precious woman did [Mark 14:3-8] is as vibrant and viable and as moving and as alive today as it was two thousand years ago. What an amazing thing that is come to pass.
What happened was, in this little city of Bethany, there is a man named Simon, and he was a leper. So they called him Simon the leper [Mark 14:3].
May I pause to say; almost certainly he had been healed by the Lord Jesus Christ. He could not have invited our Lord and His apostles, and Lazarus and Mary and Martha. He would have had to exist in the tombs, and cry everywhere he went with his hand over his lips, “Unclean, unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45]. Yet here he is a host to this great company in Bethany. Jesus almost certainly had healed him. And out of gratitude to our Lord, he invites these sweet, dear people, a wonderful thing for that glorious man to do.
And as they sit at meat, breaking bread, Mary comes with an alabaster box full of precious ointment [Mark 14:3]. You see, even the Bible here says it was very costly [Mark 14:3-5]. You would have known that had the Bible not avowed it. The alabaster box came from Egypt. It is frozen marble. And the ointment of spikenard came from India. It would take a hundred gardens of roses to distill just one drop. And she comes before our Lord, and breaks that alabaster box over His head, and anoints Him with that ointment [Mark 14:3].
That is a custom that is strange to us. We do not anoint in the Western culture. But in the Eastern culture every great somebody was anointed. In the Old Testament they anointed their kings, they anointed their priests, they anointed their prophets. It was something done out of love and exultation, though where we are in the West, for a man to be anointed, to be covered with perfume, would be very unmanly to us, but not to them. It was a beautiful and precious ritual.
So Mary comes and breaks that alabaster box of ointment over the head of our precious Lord [Mark 14:3]. She owed so much to Him. He had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. She sat at His feet and was born anew, given eternal life. And this was something for Him, a beautiful thing for Mary to do [Mark 14:8].
But I want to point out to you something else. Our Lord says that, “she has come beforehand to anoint My body for the burying” [Mark 14:8]. There in that group of happy friends, she sensed that our Lord had a sad heart. And one of the things that’s even difficult for me to understand: upon three different occasions our Lord had spoken to His disciples of His nearing, coming death, and of His burial [Matthew 20:18-19; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:31-34], and they were oblivious to it. They were even arguing who would be greatest in the coming kingdom of God [Mark 9:33-34]. Even Simon Peter took the Lord Jesus and said, “Lord, that be far from Thee” [Matthew 16:21-22].
Somehow the disciples never grasped what our Lord was avowing, His coming death [Mark 9:31-32; Luke 18:33-34]. But Mary sensed it, was sensitive to it. And the Bible says in the Gospel of John this is what she had kept for Jesus [John 12:7]. She had carefully secured this alabaster box of ointment, and had carefully put it aside, and now was anointing Him for His burial [Mark 14:3, 8]. Mary, how could you have known and been sensitive to so precious a thing? And the Lord said, “Wherever this gospel is preached, this will be said of you” [Mark 14:9].
May I make another aside? Whenever we identify ourselves and our labor and ministry, with the cross and the death of Christ, God blesses it, a remarkable thing. “I preach Christ crucified” [1 Corinthians 1:23], said the great apostle Paul. “We are crucified with Him” [Galatians 2:20], he wrote. When our Lord was slain, that means we are dead to the world. When our Lord was buried, that means we have, by and in that tomb, laid our pride and our selfish ambitions. And when the Lord was raised from the dead that means we live a new life in Him.
What an unusual woman, so sensitive. But there’s always a side in the world that is dark; so, the indignation of the apostles, here led by Judas [John 12:4-6]. To us today, Judas, Judas Iscariot, is a name for a contemptible traitor! But you see that’s in our world. To the disciples, he was honored above the rest. He was the only Judean, cultured and educated. These Galileans could hardly speak good language. And he was elected the treasurer of the company of Christ. They honored him and trusted him. And it was Judas who made the comment, “the outlandish, unbelievable waste!” And all of the other disciples came along. “That’s right. That’s right. What a waste,” it says, they say, “What a waste” [Mark 14:4-5].
Now may I make a comment about that? “What a waste,” and their observation: “This could have been sold”—and we owe this to Judas Iscariot, the exact cost of it—”this could have been sold for a year’s working man’s wages, and have been given to the poor.” And look, what a waste to anoint our blessed Lord Jesus to no utilitarian end whatsoever.
Now my comment: love is always extravagant, never utilitarian, never. Just out of the love of your heart you do, sometimes, an outlandish thing. Why, yesterday, in one of the wedding services I had, I say, “Do you have a sign and a seal of this love?” “Yes.” And he gives me a ring. It’s a band and right in the middle of it is a big, expensive diamond. Why, you don’t need that in a wedding band. It’s an extravagance, and love is like that. It is always extravagant. God is like that, loving us in this world! Tell me, what good, what utilitarian purpose, is a rainbow? God, just extravagant.
You know, one time I flew over the Amazon jungle, and I never knew this, there below me was a rainbow, a complete circle. Did you know that? You didn’t know that. You didn’t know that. Every rainbow you ever saw in your life is a half circle, goes from here to here. Up there, it was a circle all the way around, looking down on it from that height. God’s extravagances, the blue of the sky. Why blue? Why isn’t it gray all the time? Or the beauty of the color of the ocean? Did you know this very week, this last week, there’s a group here in our church making a trek to New England to look at the autumnal leaves? The color of the leaves, what good is the color of the autumnal leaves? Just God’s extravagance! And love is like that.
In the first little church that I pastored, I built a church house. They didn’t have a church house, just a tabernacle. I built a church house. And it was in the days of the Depression, and they sold their cotton for five cents a pound. And I struggled, and we all struggled, and we built a little cupola on the top of the little country church. What good is a cupola?
When we built that beautiful building just across the street, I went to Mrs. Veal, that chapel in honor of her dad, Colonel C. C. Slaughter, I went to Mrs. Veal, and I said, “Mrs. Veal, I want you to give me the money to put a steeple on it, to put a steeple on it.” What good is a steeple on that chapel? Just extravagance. Same thing about Dr. Embree; when we built Embree Hall, I said, “I want the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world.” And we went to the ends of the earth and hired a company and a genius. Dear me, those are the most beautiful windows you’ll see in Embree Hall. I thank God for these windows here. Just the extravagance. That’s love! Love is extravagant for no reason at all, no utilitarian purpose at all.
There was a poor widow woman who had a boy, a little boy, and she was struggling to raise the little lad. And a friend of that poor widow woman also had a little boy the same age. And the little boy in the poor widow’s home didn’t have any pants, didn’t have any nice, any clothes, ragged, and so the other woman went to the closet and got out a beautiful pair of pants of her boy. And when she prepared to send it to the poor widow’s boy, she reached into the pockets, you know, and it was full of marbles. And she took the marbles out preparing to send the pants over there to the poor widow. And looking at the marbles, she put them back in the pocket, and sent the pants over to the poor widow and her little boy with the marbles in it. And the poor widow wrote back and thanked that gracious woman for the pants. And then added, “But especially, thank you for the marbles.” An extravagance for no utilitarian purpose at all, just loving God, and loving the Lord. That’s what happened here.
Well, what was the response of our Lord? He said to them, “You leave her alone. She has wrought a good work on Me [Mark 14:6]. She hath done what she could” [Mark 14:6-8]. Now that idiom is the exact opposite to us, as to what it means in the word of our Lord. “She has done what she could.” You know what we think when we use that idiom? “He’s done what he could. She’s done what she could.” When we use that idiom, we mean this thing is apologetic, it has to be explained. We didn’t expect anything because there wasn’t anything capable of them. Not being able, why, he did just what he could, or she did just what she could. Now that’s what we think. It’s just the opposite here, the meaning of what our Lord said.
You see, when we do what she did, the disciples said, “Look.” And they didn’t criticize her for the paucity and the penuriousness of the gift, but for the extravagance of it. It was the opposite. Now, that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “She has done what she could. She has done what she was able to do” [Mark 14:8]. Like a multi-multi-millionaire, and he gives ten million dollars to the work of Christ, he’s done what he could. What most of us couldn’t, what he could. Or a great genius, painting a picture and giving it to our Lord, he’s done what he could. Or an eloquent man, standing before God’s people, preaching a marvelous sermon, he’s done what he could. That’s what Jesus meant here. Mary, being somewhat affluent, has done what she could. And it was a beautiful thing and a memorial to her [Mark 14:8-9].
May I make another aside? I do not understand. I have been a pastor sixty-four years. I do not understand. In preparing this sermon, it’s the first time I ever realized that Jesus never criticized a woman. He never found fault with a woman, never, ever. I don’t know how in the world I’ve studied these years and years and years and prepared sermons and have never…I’ve never seen that. Men, dear me, how the Lord could be excoriating. Gracious alive, just scaring the life out of you just listening to Him! He called Herod Antipas a deceiving, sly old fox [Luke 13:32]. That’s what the Lord said about him. Taking the unjust judge, and using him an as example of an evil man [Luke 18:6]. Or who was it that He described in hellfire and damnation? It was Dives, a man [Luke 16:22-23]. And not in all literature of the earth are there words, are there passages excoriating and as damnable as when Jesus damned the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the rulers of the temple! [Matthew 23:13-36].
And you just find it all through the work of our Lord. But you look: never in the life of our Lord Jesus did he ever say an incriminating word or a devastating word or a criticizing word about a woman, never. That Samaritan woman who came to Jesus as He sat by the well [John 4:6], “You have had five husbands; and the man you now live with is not your husband” [John 4:18], didn’t condemn her, just led her to the faith [John 4:9-29].
Take that passage that begins the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. When that woman in adultery was taken before the Lord, and those that had seized her said, “In the act, we have caught her. And the law of Moses says she is to be stoned to death; what do You say?” [John 8:1-5]. You know that story was so impossible to the people back yonder in the first centuries who put these Gospels together, they cut it out. But it was so true of the Lord they didn’t know what to do with it. So somebody stuck it there in the eighth chapter of the Book of John [John 8:1-5], doesn’t belong there at all. “What are You going to do with it, Lord?” He just wrote in the sand; finally lifted up His face and said, “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone,” and put His head down writing in the sand [John 8:6-8]. When He lifted up His head, nobody was there but that woman [John 8:9]. And our Lord said, “Where are thine accusers? Are there none to condemn thee?” And she said: “No, my Lord.” And He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” [John 8:10-11].
There’s no exception to that. May I take just one more? A little pericope out of the Gospel of Luke. There comes a sinful woman and anoints His feet with her tears, and wipes them with the hair of her head. And Simon the Pharisee says, “If He were a prophet, He’d have known this is a sinful woman that is bathing His feet with tears, and drying them with the hair of her head, and He would not let her touch Him” [Luke 7:36-39].
I haven’t time to tell what the Lord said about that sinful woman, loving her to the kingdom [Luke 7:44-47]. In that same pericope, Jairus comes. His daughter is dead. And as the Lord follows Jairus to his home [Luke 8:41-42], that woman with an issue of blood comes up behind Him, and says, “If I but touch the hem of His garment, I will be well, I will be healed.” And she touches the hem of His garment, and she is made whole [Luke 8:43-44; Matthew 9:20-22]. And when He comes to the home of Jairus, He puts forth all those mourners, professionals who have been hired to weep and lament, puts them forth [Luke 8:51-54], in order that when the little girl opens her eyes in life, the first ones she will see are her mother and her daddy [Luke 8:54-56]. That’s the Lord Jesus.
It’s amazing to me, never any incriminating word from our Lord about a woman, never uses her in an example of evil, never entices her into any kind of a compromised answer. It was in behalf of His mother that He made His last request on the cross [John 19:26-27], and it was to a woman that He first appeared from the tomb [John 20:11-18]. That’s why they say this faith of ours is a woman’s religion. It’s mother’s faith. It is.
I must haste to a conclusion. The fragrance, the Bible says, of this broken alabaster box filled the house [John 12:3]. It filled the town. It fills the nation. It fills the earth. It has never faded away from the church, this alabaster box broken over the head of our dear Lord [Mark 14:3]. And this is our loving gift to Jesus today, our alabaster box. Just out of the love for our Lord, serving Him, worshiping Him, doing our best for Him. Just out of love.
You’ve heard me describe, in these years gone by, I went with Dr. Goldie as he visited that great arc of what they call clan settlements. He gathered together the lepers. In that culture and life over there, if one had a leper, that one was cast out to die of exposure and starvation. And did you know little children have leprosy? Well, what Dr. Goldie did, he gathered those lepers together, gathered them into what he called clan settlements, here, and then way up there another one, and then way over here, in a great arc through Nigeria.
Well, I went with him. I had the strangest experience. Did you ever preach in a church made out of mud? The pulpit, made out of mud, the pulpit stand, the lectern, made out of mud. The one row in the choir, made out of mud. The pews, made out of mud, everything, made out of mud. And those lepers there, to whom I, preaching, singing a song, “The great Physician now is near. O hear the voice of Jesus.” And those lepers, leprosy, the ends of your anatomy fall off, they rot and fall off. Your ears fall off. Your eyelids fall off. Your nose falls off. Your fingers fall off. Your toes and your feet fall off. O God!
Anyway, a group of multimillionaire industrialists came and watched the doctor. And one of those multimillionaires of industry, one of those corporate leaders said, “If you were to give me a million dollars a day, doctor, I wouldn’t do what you do.” And the doctor replied, he said, “Kind sir, if they offered me all of the money in the world, I wouldn’t do it either. But I gladly am doing it for the love of Jesus.”
Dear me. Our alabaster box, doing what we do just for the love of Jesus [Mark 14:3, 6-9].
SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Central character a humble, precious woman
B. Her deed remembered beyond all kingdoms and empires of the world
C. In the home of Simon the leper, in Bethany
1. Mary breaks the alabaster box
2. Anointing done out of love and exultation
sensitivity of Mary
A. She sensed that our Lord had a sad heart
B. The disciples never grasped the Lord avowing His coming death
C. She had put aside the ointment, and now anointed Him for burial
indignation of the disciples
A. Judas, the trusted treasurer
B. The ointment “wasted”
C. Love is always extravagant, never utilitarian
A. “She hath done what she could.”
1. A beautiful thing and a memorial to her
B. Christ’s attitude toward women
1. Never a criticizing word (John
4:18, 8, Luke 7:36-50, 8:41-56)
2. His last request on the cross and first appearance from the
fragrance filled the house (John 12:3)
A. It has never faded from the church
B. Our alabaster box
1. Dr. Goldie