Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 2, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 12:1-11. Today we are going to see an example of why it is beneficial to preach sequentially through a book of the Bible. For today we are going to see the response, the outflow, the fruit that is produced from the events that unfolded in John 11, and then ask ourselves the question, do we have the same response.
John 12:1-11 – “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 9When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.”
As we begin, let us get oriented. Let us set the stage. In John 11 we saw the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This was the greatest and most public of all of Jesus miracles and it was had a substantial impact on the people who witnessed it and also the Jewish Leadership, the Sanhedrin. We saw last week that the Sanhedrin saw Jesus as a threat to their power and ultimately a threat to their nation. Therefore they made the decision that Jesus must die.
We are told in John 11:55 that these events took place when the Passover was at hand and the Jews were purifying themselves. It is said that this rite of purification would take place from 1-6 days before the Passover. In my opinion this is where it gets a little tricky in dating some of these events. Several weeks ago I mentioned that the resurrection of Lazarus took place one week before Christ’s crucifixion, and I may have even said seven days, which is possible, but upon further examination I do not think we should be so quick to put a definite number on it.
And the reason I say that is that after the resurrection of Lazarus, we are told that Jesus left the area and stayed in a placed named Ephraim. How long he stayed there, we don’t know. Some people believe he stayed one night, hence seven days, some people believe he stayed several nights, others even believe he was away from Bethany for a number of weeks. No one knows for sure, and to be honest it is not terribly important. However, what is important is that, John wants to connect these two events. John wants to connect the resurrection of Lazarus to the the dinner in John 12. We see this both in John 11 and John 12. IN John 11:2 we see John say, “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.” John tells us this fact before he tells the story. Why, because he has a plan of where he is going. Likewise we see it in our text today, verse 1, “Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there.” John wants to reinforce that this dinner was a result of the resurrection of Lazarus. Therefore, to understand out text today, we must remind ourselves about the purpose and the object of Lazarus’ resurrection.
The purpose is found in John 11:4, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The resurrection was a vessel to display the Glory of God through the person of Jesus Christ. It was a means to an end. And the way that this was achieved was for Jesus to first proclaim that He is the resurrection and the life, and then to show that Jesus was the resurrection and the life. This is the point of this event, this is its purpose, so display the Glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
The object of that purpose, the people who are to see this display of Glory, is found in John 11:5-6 where it says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” As we saw, it was the love of Christ that caused him to delay. Why? Because he wanted to show those whom he loved (Martha, Mary, and Lazarus), His glory. These three were the primary object, or recipient, of the glory of Christ.
As is obvious from our text, the glory of Christ shining upon Martha, Lazarus, and Mary had an effect upon them. As I said this dinner was a result of the love of Christ. They desired to show their love of Christ, subsequently to Christ showing his love for them. The cause was Christ, the effect was a dinner honoring him.
This concept is one that John is very found of. He speaks about this exact thing in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” Our love of God is a reaction of his initiating love of us. Without God first loving us, we will not, and cannot love him. It is impossible to love God without Him first loving us. And we see this in our story today in three different levels. Each person, Martha, Lazarus, and Mary responded to the love of Christ differently.
First let us look at Lazarus. Verse 2, “So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.” Lazarus was the one who was dead and now is alive. The course of that life was Christ. Where do we find Lazarus after life was given to him? Right by the side of Jesus. Sitting at the table with him. Speaking to him. Listening to him.
The effect of the love of Jesus upon Lazarus was a desire to be with Jesus. This is an extremly common result of receiving new life in Christ. Just think about the disciples. They left everything they had to be with Jesus. If you recall in John 6:66, where it says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” Basking in the light of Christ was the only thing they wanted. They did not want to leave him, they wanted to be with him. This Lazarus response was perhaps the one that John could best relate. Listen to John 13:23, “One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side.” Who is the disciple whom Jesus loved? It was John. Where is John located during the last supper? Right by the side of Jesus, leaning against his breast.
This is the love of Jesus. It is catalytic. The love from Jesus, causes a love for Jesus. When you love someone, you want to spend time with them. This is the fundamental question when it comes to whether someone is a Christian or not, do you love Jesus. If you can't answer yes to this, then you are not a Christian.
The second person we can look at is Martha. How did seeing the glory of Jesus effect her? In verse 2 we see it say simple, “Martha served.” For those of you who know a little bit about Martha, you are not surprised by this. In Luke 10 we are told of a story of Martha becoming upset because she was doing on the work, and Mary was just sitting and listening to Jesus. Jesus response in Luke 10:41 was “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Is Martha doing the same thing in this text, being anxious and troubled? No. Their is no indication that there is any trouble in Martha's heart. It appears that John wants to give credit to Martha for the dinner that was to be given for Christ. He could have easily left her out, but he didn't. He wanted to draw attention to her heart of service. Her service was a response to seeing his Glory.
And this makes sense, for upon receiving the grace of God we are new creations, created for good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
For Martha, this good work, was preparing a meal for God six days before his death. For you it may be cleaning the Church, selling coffee to raise funds for missions, or lending a hand on Church work days, or going on a mission trip, or singing on the praise team, or sending a note of encouragement to someone who is struggling. The list goes on and on. And as Paul says, this work is prepared for you. Waiting for you. All you have to do is obey and do it. And why wouldn't you. Do you think Martha was complaining that she had to feed Jesus food? Absolutely not. Why not? Because she had been loved by Jesus and had been shown his glory, and because of that, Christ was her greatest treasure.
Lastly, let us turn our attention to Mary. Mary's response is the main focus of our text. What was her response to seeing the Glory of Christ? Verse 3, “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
Mary did something that was extreme. Lazarus was one of many who sat with Jesus. Likewise, their were probably others who helped serve, but Mary did something that was not normal. Her response to being loved by Jesus and seeing His glory was radical.
We are told by none other than Judas in verse 5 that the value of this pure nard was, 300 denari. If you have the NIV it will says a year's wages, which is a good calculation. Therefore for us today in America, this bottle of ointment would be valued at $30,000-40,000. Lets just take a moment and think of things that you might own that would be comparable. The equity in your home, your 401k, new truck, a cabin, an inheritance, your business. For a number of us, we can't think of anything that we own that has that much value. And I think that is the point. The sacrifice of this ointment was of such extreme nature that God desired it to be memorialized in God's Word forever.
So why did she respond so dramatically? Because Jesus deserves . Look at verse 7. How does Jesus rebuke Judas' idea of giving it to the poor, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” There appears to be only two people in the room who fully understood the overwhelming worth of Christ, Mary and Jesus.
Jesus, God incarnate, had made it a regular practice to come and dine with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus, the resurrection and the life, had come and raised her brother from the dead. Jesus, the Messiah, had showered them with His love. Mary understood that this was not just a man, this was the Creator of the Universe, the light of the World, the Good Shepherd, the great I Am, her God and her Savior and her heart was overflowing with a desire to worship him.
Mary longed to grab the most expensive most valuable thing that she had, and lay it down at the feet of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus was better than a years worth of wages. And if that wasn't enough, she used her own hair to wipe his feet. She gave her greatest world goods, and she gave of herself. Why? Because true worship is an outflow of seeing the glory of God.
Don't forget, however, she did not do this in isolation. When she spilled $30,000 over the feet of a Galilean's feet and undid her hair and wiped his feet, there was a room full of people watching. How many? No one knows, but at least 15. But this made no difference to Mary, for the only one in the room that matter was Jesus.
I can't help but think of another person who overflowed with praise in the presence of God, David, a man after God's own heart. In 2 Samuel 6 David has the Ark of the Covenant brought back into the City of David. And in verse 14 it says, “And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.” David, a theologian, a warrior, a King dancing with all his might before the entire nation of Israel. His wife, Michal, was embarrassed by him and confronted him about it and this was his response, “I will celebrate before the LORD. 22I will make myself yet more contemptible than this.” David didn't care about the onlookers, his heart was captivated by the Lord. He lived for an audience of one. And so did Mary.
Obviously, the question that looms over this entire sermon is do you? Has the glory of Christ so shown in yoru life that you are willing to lay down your idols at the foot of Christ and give yourself entirely to him? Has the gospel of Jesus Christ effected you so deeply that you are ready to give up your 401ks, your home, your goals, your dreams, your practicality and serve the living God?
Christ has given you everything. He has given you this world, he has given you your body, he has given you his blood, he has given you forgiveness, he has given your life eternal, and we cling to our perfumes. We stand in a room with a cross on the wall and songs on our lips, but is our heart far from him? Are we Marys or are we Judases?
Judas had followed Jesus for three years. Walked with him. Talked with him. Baptized, Perhaps even worked miracles and cast out demons, but he was a fake. He was an impostor. He was a child of Hell, not a child of God, but no one knew it, except Jesus. Is this you?
If you have been born again, if you have seen the beauty of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, then your life will reflect it. As Jesus said in John 7, you will have rivers of living water pouring out of you, from the inside out. And when this happens, the fragrance of your worship will be so counterculture that it will sting the eyes of the damned.
Paul's says this in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”
Is your life the aroma of Christ or the aroma of this world? When people look upon your life, do they see a devotion to Christ that is shocking? It should. You are new creature in Christ Jesus created for good works, so that you should walk in them.