Points Covered: A sermon based on John 12 on the anointing of Jesus for burial by Mary. A look at the true disciples of Jesus Christ who remain faithful to the bitter end.
God brings souls to him through various circumstances in life. People become believers and what a joy that is. However, some people quit when the going gets tough and only a remnant faithful to the Lord. How is your Christian walk? Are you faithful when the going gets tough?
In John 11, you have the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Because of the proximity of Bethany to Jerusalem, the word of this miracle spread through Jerusalem. So, the chief priests and leaders were planning to kill Jesus.
Because his time had not come, Jesus moved to Ephraim for a couple of weeks. When you come to John 12, His time had come. So, Jesus is coming to the Bethany. He will die at this Passover on Friday. This is the point where the Passion Week begins. Chapter 12 to the end covers the final week of the Lord Jesus Christ, so everything gets very intense from here on.
John presents Jesus as the only Savior of the world, the only hope of eternal life. In the first 11 chapters, there is the constant relationship between faith and unbelief. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is so extreme it leads to eternal life in heaven. Not believing in Jesus Christ is the other extreme it leads to eternal death in hell.
Now, as we come to chapter 12, those extreme becomes crystallized in the characters here. Jesus Christ causes faith in some, unbelief in some, and indifference to some others.
Let’s break the characters out of the story a little bit. This incident is also recorded is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I’ll be weaving into some of the other gospel accounts.
John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Jesus came to Bethany six days before the Passover. This is the last Sabbath and the next Friday Jesus is going to die and ratify the old covenant. He is six days away from the thorns and the nails. Six days away from the spear. Six days away from the sin-bearing. He seeks the warmth and the affection of dear friends.
John 12:2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
When Jesus comes to Bethany, they made Him a supper there. That’s the prolonged evening meal around an U-shaped table at which you recline.
Matthew 26 and Mark 14 tell us it happened at the house of a man named Simon, the ex-leper who also lived in Bethany. Why Simon would host the event? Because he also had had a miraculous restoration (healing of leprosy). So there are two very special people sitting at the table, one is an ex-leper and another is an ex-dead man. Then you the Lord Jesus sitting in the middle. That should make for some great conversation.
This meal was in honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, by two people who have experienced personally His creative power. Martha is serving.
The Service of Martha.
What stands out is the service of Martha. She served the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Martha gets bad press in Luke 10. The Lord came to Bethany, Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to the Word. Martha was distracted with all her preparations. She came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” She’s a little obsessed with this serving stuff. The Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is really necessary, and Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Let me tell you something. The truth that Mary is listening to is forever. The meal and the stuff in the kitchen, that has a short shelf life. So instruction, divine truth, listening to God is a priority.
1. Listening to God is a priority.
If you want to be a good disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will have to listen to God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God.
Based upon that experience, we sort of degrade Martha a little bit. Martha served then and here, service is regarded nobly in scripture.
2. True faith is accompanied by service.
Jesus said: Matthew 20:27 Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.
Luke 22:27 I am among you as one who serves.
The nobility of service is told in Luke 12:37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. When Jesus returns and establish His kingdom, He’s going to put on the waiter’s apron and serve us. That’s how elevated service is.
What is the spirit of service? Acts 20:19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.
What is the extent of service? Galatians 5:13 Serve one another humbly in love. We’re all called to be servants, servants of the Lord and servants of each other.
Martha will always be remembered for her service. That’s is her nature. Sure, Mary was more reflective, more maybe spiritually-minded. Martha was a doer. Thank the Lord for doers. Thank the Lord for those who serve.
Illustration: Once a kingdom was under attack from the neighboring king. The king asked the young men in his kingdom to join the army. An old lady who on hearing this news went to the royal palace. She met the king and said that she wanted her only son to take part in the battle. The king was stunned to see the patriotism of the woman. He gave her the permission. A vicious battle took place.
The old lady’s son sacrificed his life for the motherland. When the old lady went to the palace weeping, the king tried to console her. She said, “I am not crying because my son died, but because I had only one son. Now I won’t be able to give any help to the kingdom at the time of crisis.”
The sacrifice of Mary.
John 12:3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
It strikes me that there is a detailed description of what she did. God enjoys the details of a person’s sacrifice and devotion to him. God remembers everything that you do in His name.
I don’t really think this is something premeditated. This is the heart of Mary bursting, it was sacrificial, unrestrained love.
3. Faith in Christ requires sacrifice.
This kind of perfume was used at funerals to prepare a body for burial. Nard was a very rare herb grown in the high pasture lands of India. Because it came so far and was so pure, it was very valuable.
In fact, its value was known by the man who always thought only about the price of things: Judas. John 12:4-5 It was worth a year’s wages.
In Matthew 26:7 we read that the perfume was in an alabaster jar. Alabaster is a carved white translucent stone that contained this nard. Alabaster was also costly. Both put together it was costly and it was a sacrifice that Mary was doing.
Mary’s heart is overflowing with love and gratitude. She is behind the scenes at first and now all of the sudden. She smashes the alabaster jar and opens it. Matthew and Mark tell us it went on His head and here we find in John that it went all the way down to His feet.
This is an amazing and lavish expression. Then she loosened her hair, which was a radical thing for a woman to do in the presence of men, and used her hair to wipe His feet.
This is shocking and in complete disregard for Jewish rules for women not to loosen their hair in the presence of men. This is love that knows no limits. It’s generous. She gave everything of value that she could lay her hands on. There must have been stunned silence in the home.
As they were contemplating the humble sacrifice of Mary, they were interrupted by the hypocritical self-interest of Judas.
John 12:4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected. What an interruption to such a lavish expression of believing love and devotion. These are the first recorded words in the Scripture from the lips of Judas: John 12:5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” Do you want to know his last words? Matthew 27:4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
Judas is identified by Jesus as a devil. John 6:70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” Judas was a man of greed, ambition, and self-interest.
He came to the fold of disciples thinking he would be wealthy. He thought he would be elevated to some position of power and authority, and it began to become clear to him that Jesus is going to die and Judas cannot have his money.
He says: John 12:5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” It sounds so noble, but John tells his intention. John 20:6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
He wanted all the money he could get before Jesus died. He can see the hostility. He knows the end is coming. So he is to get the money that’s in the box. He wants as much as he can get. Matthew 26:8 says the other disciples chimed in on this. Yeah, why wasn’t that sold and the money given to the poor? Stirred up by Judas the other disciples protested Mary.
4. Faith in Christ will make others hostile to you.
A place where true honor is offered to Jesus Christ will always bring out the hostility of those who belong to Satan. If you honor Jesus Christ, those who belong to Satan will be hostile.
The defection of Judas.
For 300 denarii, he would rob Jesus of the gift of Mary’s love. Later, he would sell Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Three hundred denarii, that’s about a year’s wages; 30 pieces of silver, 4 months’ wages. The perfume was worth 3 times to him what he sold Jesus for.
So as Mary’s perfume had filled the house with its fragrance, the poison of Judas’s words turned the event toxic and contaminated the air.
The Lord responds in verse 7: John 21:7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. The Lord defended the true act of a believer.
5. God defends his beloved.
The Lord will stand up for the people who have no one to support.
Mark 14:9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
John 21:7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”
Our Lord here connects what she did out of an expression of love to His burial. Jesus interpreted what she did as anointing for His day of burial.
6. God honors every sacrifice.
Not only does the Holy Spirit lay out what she did in detail, but the Lord gives its significant spiritual meaning attached to His very death. Then the Lord says, “This is going to be a permanent, everlasting memorial to the love of this woman.”
Mark 14:10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. When Jesus said, “Let her alone. She has done this symbolizing My coming death,” Judas knew it was over. He was going to die. There wasn’t going to be any more money, but He wanted more money. Judas remembered the threat the Chief Priest had given to kill Jesus. He figured he could do that and make some cash on the way out. So he left. He runs to meet the leaders. He negotiated it to 30 pieces of silver.
John 12:8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. What a beautiful statement, isn’t it? They did care for the poor. Jesus said, “It’s right to take care of the poor, but not now, not now. I’m here. You don’t always have Me.” Jesus talked about priority here.
7. Priorities change with time.
Remember our first priority remains to heard from the Lord. But also remember, different situations of life demand different priorities. We need to make adjustments to our priority. Amazing sermons on Priorities
The story closes just briefly with two other groups.
The superficial crowd.
John 12:9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
So the crowds came. They are curious about Jesus. They’re curious about Lazarus. The next day when Jesus enters into the city they’re saying Hosanna to the Son of David. By Friday, they are saying, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” This is the hollow superficiality of the people one moment with the chief priests and Pharisees and the other moment with Jesus and his miracles. Unstable crowd.
The hostile leaders.
John 12:10-11 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
The chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death. Killing the man who was raised from the dead. They wanted to kill Him again because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, going away from the temple and believing in Jesus.
Conclusion: You have the service and love of Mary and Martha. You have the defection of Judas. You have the indifference of the crowd that shouts, “Crucify Him!” You have the hatred of the false leaders of Israel. There are the people who love Him, who hate Him, who are indifferent to Him, who want to destroy everything about Him. Against all that, you have people believing in Him. There’s always a remnant who believe.
Which group do you belong to? How lavish is your sacrificial love for Christ? How is your service for the Lod? Will you continue to stay in faith in your difficult times like Martha and Mary or quit being a disciple of Jesus like Judas? Be faithful to the bitter end and God will stand with you in your difficult hour.