DEVOTIONS WITH PASTOR BOB
The Gospel of John Chapter 12
“Our Best Praise”
JOHN 12:1-8 (NLT)
1 Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.
2 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him.
3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair.
The house was filled with the fragrance.
4-5 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “that perfume was worth a year’s wages.
It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”
6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.
7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
PREPARATION TO HONOUR JESUS
This message today features four characters, though there likely were many other guests at the dinner table that day.
Here in John chapter 12, once again, we find ourselves back in the town of Bethany where Jesus is the guest of honor at a dinner.
In essence it is a worship service of thanksgiving to honor Jesus.
Our four key players in this story had come to an agreement that they were going to put on a dinner to honor Jesus with expressions of personal gratitude.
WHO ARE THESE FOUR WORSHIP PLANNERS?
We are introduced to three of them early in the story.
They are Lazarus, and his 2 sisters, Mary & Martha.
In the Gospel of Matthew 26:6-7, we are told that this dinner took place at the home of Simon a man that had been healed from leprosy.
Now you won’t be able to find the story of Simon being healed by Jesus of his leprosy in the gospels.
For some reason it is not recorded, at least his name is not recorded.
But obviously, Simon the Leper is no longer a leper and was healed.
Mark 1, Matthew 8 and Luke 5 each record a story of Jesus healing a leper.
And it’s possible that the leper in those stories was this Simon.
Simon was also from Bethany.
Just like Martha, Mary and Lazarus he had a very good reasons to say “thank You” to Jesus.
Thus, the decision to host a dinner in His honor.
WHY DID THEY PLAN THE DINNER AT SIMON’S HOUSE AND NOT LAZARUS?
Now, given that there was a warrant out for the arrest of Jesus, it’s possible that having this dinner at Simon’s home would draw less attention, particularly with the popularity that Lazarus now had after Jesus raised him from the dead.
Prior to Jesus returning to Bethany, He had been in seclusion with His disciples near Ephraim.
The event of this dinner in Bethany begins the final march to the cross for Jesus.
How appropriate, therefore, that some of the most grateful followers of Jesus put on an event to honor the One who heals the sick, and brings the dead back to life.
You may be familiar with another time that Jesus was in Bethany and Martha was all busy straightening up her house and fixing a meal for Jesus.
That event provides us with a very valuable comparison that helps us see things we may otherwise miss.
Educators often use near identical pictures to help their students discover the difference between them, and thus sharpen their observation skills.
That same teaching tool can be used with our story for today.
Placing our text right alongside Luke’s account help us to see something different, that something has changed.
Luke 10:38-41 (NIV)
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman
named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the
Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations
that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister
has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
MARTHA’S HEART WAS CHANGED
A profound difference in these two stories is the absence of complaining by Martha.
Something has happened to Martha. She’s a changed woman.
We can trace the change back to the events of John chapter 11.
It is true that Jesus had rebuked Martha for allowing herself to get all discombobulated
over her preparations as His hostess, and likely she took to heart His admonishment.
But, her interactions with Jesus surrounding His raising her brother from the dead offer
an even greater clue, as to the change that took place in Martha’s heart.
Martha had come to realize who Jesus was, and she had come to see Jesus as more important than everything else.
That the miracles she had witnessed, were simply signs pointing to the greater reality that Jesus changes lives from within.
Just like Martha, Jesus effectively unites Himself with a person and transforms them.
Though her offering of love was still her service, and her making excellent preparations
and delicious dinners, but now her focus was on offering a heart of thanksgiving to
She was no longer preoccupied with complaining about what her sister was or was not doing.
WHAT UNITED THIS FOURSOME WAS THEIR COMMON LOVE & INDEBTEDNESS TO JESUS.
Thus, they planned to honor their Lord with this dinner.
This dinner was a worship service that was being given to express deep gratitude.
This gratitude was born out of a deep and abiding love in their hearts.
THE EXPENSIVE PURFUME
The Apostle John makes much to do about the expensive perfume that Mary pours on the feet of Jesus.
I think it should be noted that Martha is also giving Jesus a fragrant offering.
Without a doubt, Simon’s house was filled with the aroma of the food cooking.
So, let’s not miss the fragrant offering that Martha is making as her part of this worship service.
AND, WHAT ABOUT LAZARUS?
He too was giving honor to His Lord in his conversation while reclining at the table.
His purpose was to direct attention to Jesus.
Though he was receiving lots of attention and notoriety himself.
As part of the planning team for this event of honor for Jesus, his desire was to point
others to Jesus while he himself lived in gratitude to Jesus.
SIMON THE FORMER LEPER’S PART
Not only did he provide the place for this meal, we can imagine that he joined in with Lazarus in making Jesus the topic of conversation.
WORSHIP IS NEVER ABOUT US
Worship is about the Lord our God, who He is, and what He has done.
It’s about offering thanks to the One who truly deserving it.
So, John, after telling us that Martha served a meal,
And Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Jesus, he then tells us about Mary’s act of worship.
MARY’S ACT OF WORSHIP
She takes a bottle of perfume and pours it on Jesus.
But this wasn’t any ordinary perfume.
But, even more profound, I believe, that this act of worship WAS PLANNED.
Someone doesn’t just carry around in her purse a special perfume worth nearly a year’s wages.
Plus, this event was not at Mary’s house, so she needed to have come prepared to offer this perfume.
Thus, we also see that this act of worship was a sacrifice, a premeditated sacrifice.
For how long Mary had been planning this, we don’t know.
But she probably was aware of the worshipful act by the sinful woman whom Jesus
had forgiven, how she had washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.
And, she probably recalled the joy of sitting at Jesus’ feet on a previous visit and she
began to ask herself, how can I say “thank You” to Him?
And the clincher came when Jesus raised her brother from the dead.
Nothing would be spared to express her love and deep gratitude to Jesus.
HER ACT OF WORSHIP IS CRITICIZED
Sadly, in the midst of this beautiful banquet to honor Jesus, a complaint is registered, an act of worship is criticized.
Can you imagine how it must have felt to be Mary?
To have come with this special love offering, and to be criticized for it, it must have wounded her soul.
John makes the point that Judas Iscariot, a thief who cared nothing for the poor, was the ringmaster for this complaint.
The other gospels indicate that some or several of the disciples joined with Judas in this complaint. (Matthew 26:8-9, Mark 14:4-5)
CRITICISM IS CONTAGIOUS
It spreads like wildfire and even good intentioned persons can get caught up in it.
But it also has the potential of stifling worship.
And it does exactly that for the complainers.
Criticism is like poison that can be used by the devil to kill genuine worship.
NOTICE, JESUS DID NOT REMAIN SILENT
Though He was the honored guest, He took charge of the situation and issues a rebuke.
He even gives special meaning to her act of worship, a meaning that she very possibly did not have in mind until He said it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied.
“It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial.
In her defense, Jesus makes a remarkable statement, a statement that is either full of
arrogance, or one that can only be said by someone who is God.
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.”
You see, it makes all the difference in the world who the guest of honor is in our lives.
WORSHIP IS RESERVED FOR GOD.
That’s why this dinner of thanksgiving was more than just a meal to say “thanks.”
It was a worship service with Jesus being the focus of their worship.
So, what can we take from this story for a personal application?
FIRST, WE MUST PUT OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST
He is the source of life and transformation.
He alone can forgive sins.
He alone can take us who are dead in our trespasses and sins and make us alive by His Spirit.
The basis for our gratitude starts with our awareness of our indebtedness to Jesus.
SECONDLY, WE NEED TO PREPARE FOR WORSHIP
We need to reserve some time where we can review God’s goodness, and make plans what our offering will be.
THIRDLY, WE NEED TO OFFER SOMETHING OF VALUE WHEN WE WORSHIP
We need to understand what impresses God.
The Old Testament frequently speaks of burnt offerings as being a fragrant and pleasing aroma to God.
He wants us to offer up our lives to Him.
We are the perfume.
To Him we are the valuable offering.
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.
BROKEN & SPILLED OUT FOR LOVE OF YOU JESUS