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John 12:1–8 Sermon

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John 12:1–8 ESV
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 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. 4 But 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?” 6 He 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. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Introduction

Question: Do you know the worth of Jesus Christ?
I’m asking the question mainly because it requires us to do some self evaluation when it comes to how we have shown Jesus Christ that He is worthy.
It begs the question what have he brought to Him.
What have we brought to Christ in prayer?
What have we brought to Christ in worship?
What have we brought to Christ when fellowshipping with other saints? HE’S THERE! We often don’t think of fellowship that way.
I think we need to step back and remember the worth and value of the God we serve.
There has been too much today with the waves and concerns of the world drawing our attention to the point of forgetting the value and worth of Jesus Christ.
Some issues have needed our attention. The well being of our neighbors are important.
The empathy for those who are hurting are what we as believers must do.
But our giving attention to these issues are determined by the value we hold when it comes to Jesus Christ.
If one looks to the world’s needs without valuing Jesus Christ, having a desire to give Him glory, they are no different than anyone else who meets the needs of the world.
Seeing Jesus Christ as worthy of glory is what compels us to do what we do. Without that we are no different.
We are called to live sacrificially because He first sacrificed and tells us to follow His example
We give because He first gave to us
We love because He first loved us
The value of Jesus Christ in a believer is inseparable from the reason why a believer does good works. In fact I would say that where our reason comes from. The reason being that Jesus Christ is worthy.
The world will criticize that. They will scoff at the idea that we do all that we do for the glory of God. This is not our home here. We live for another world.
But in the meantime as we are passing by, we live, we give and we love because we want the world to see that Christ is worthy. And we do it because Jesus Christ is worthy.
We bow in reverence and awe because Christ is life and the way to the Father. But the world will always see this as foolish and a waste of our time and resources.
Our text answers the question: Is Jesus Christ worthy?
I pray that we can agree at the end that the answer is yes.

Outline

1. The Setting (v.1-2)

2. The Preparation and Criticism (v.3-6)

3. The Truth (v.7-8)

1. The Setting (v.1-2)

Read Verse 1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

Bethany was located 2 miles from Jerusalem. Jesus was there six days before the Passover.
There are three recorded Passovers in the gospel of John. This one being the last of them.
The Passover was a major festival held in the spring to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
It was around this time that Jesus had went to where Lazarus was. Lazarus being the one who He raised from the dead in John 11.

Read Verse 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

Here we see that they gave a dinner for Jesus and it may have been to honor Him for raising Lazarus from the dead.
Given the other accounts we know that it was at the house of Simon the leper.
Not much is given to us about him. Being that he was called a leper it may have been that he also was healed from leprosy but we really don’t know.
It was there where we see Martha, the sister of Lazarus, serving and Lazarus who was reclining with Him at the table.
This is where Jesus was. He came to Bethany, six days before the Passover, He was given a dinner which Martha served and Lazarus who was raised from the dead was also there.
In verse 3, we see Mary the other sister of Martha and Lazarus, bring to Jesus an expensive ointment.
So Mary, Martha and Lazarus were there at the dinner with Jesus.
Martha served, Lazarus sat with Jesus, but Mary does something unique and special.
She anoints Jesus. Meaning that she smeared or applied.
It would be normal to serve food to guests and to sit with them to eat. But this act seems to be unique and special.
In fact it wasn’t customary to do this to someone. But there was a custom of using ointments which we will talk about later.
Mary had a felt need to do this because she knew something about Jesus. Something that would compel her to anoint Jesus herself.
What would follow this act was criticism which I believe happened because of not knowing what Mary knew about Jesus Christ.
It came from someone who did not know who Jesus was and what He was sent to do.

2. The Preparation and Criticism (v.3-6)

Read 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.

Now there are other accounts of Jesus being anointed with an expensive ointment.
Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:36-50.

Luke’s account would be a separate event for a couple of reasons.

First, in Luke’s account (Luke 7) it noted the women as a sinner which Mary wasn’t referred to.
Second, Luke’s account has them at the house of a Pharisee which is also in chapter 7:37 of Luke. The other accounts say that they were in Simon the leper’s house.
Last, Luke’s account follows with a different interaction that Jesus had along with a parable of two debtors that are not mentioned in the other accounts.
I believe Luke’s account to be a different event. But Matthew’s and Mark’s account I believe record the same event found here.

Verse 3 begins with Mary taking a pound of expensive ointment.

Question: What is an ointment?
An ointment was a strong, aromatic and expensive perfume or oil.
In our text it was made from pure nard which was also called spikenard.
“Spikenard” was an oil taken from the root of a plant. Which was rare to have in the region of Judea. Some said it came from India and even Nepal. What we do know is that it was rare.
Notice again that John writes that it was expensive. Mark’s account calls it a “very costly” ointment.
Later in verse 5 Judas tells us how much of it she had.
John 12:5 ESV
5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
Three hundred denarii was equivalent to almost a years wage.
So that’s how expensive and how much was used in anointing the feet of Jesus.
Mary then would do something here that expressed something about what she believed Jesus to be.

She anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.

Here, she applies the nard to the feet of Jesus.
She took what was very expensive (almost a years wage) and anoints His feet.
Notice that she didn’t use water. Which was common to do when a guest came to a house.
Mary thought of Jesus important enough to apply not water but an expensive ointment to His feet. Showing us that she had known something about who He was.
Some may say that it was just an act of love towards Him because of raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. Which I do believe is part of it.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus said of what she did here that she had done a beautiful thing.
She was not concerned with how much the nard cost. She just knew who was sitting in front of her.
This was a beautiful act of giving to Jesus what she had. Almost a years wage spilled on His feet.
She gave Him what was costly. After anointing Him with an expensive ointment, she continued to wipe His feet with her hair.
She didn’t only pour the nard on His feet. The other accounts include that she also anointed His head.
John records that she also anointed His feet. Which she would then wipe His feet with her own hair.
To do something like this again shows that she knew something about Jesus. Enough to humble herself to His feet and wipe them with her own hair.
She offered to Jesus what she had. From an expensive ointment to her own hair.
She knew that Jesus was deserving of it.

Application

Question: Do you know the worth of Jesus Christ like she knew?
I have often wondered about what I bring to Jesus to speak of His worth.
It is something we should consider.
Have we considered His worth when we come to Him in prayer?
Have we truly believed in the value of who Christ is when we come to Him in worship?
Have we really shown Him His worth when in fellowship with His people?
What have we given to Him that speaks about His worth?
Mary knew in our text. And she gave Him almost a years wage and her own hair, bowing to wipe His feet.
This should convict us today. Because if we were honest, we could find ways where we have not given to Christ what He deserves.
Mary wasn’t concerned with the worth of the nard or with her own pride.
She poured on Jesus her best and gave Him what she had because Jesus was worthy of it.
And what happens from those who see us doing this for Christ is that they will show their blindness to the worth of Jesus Christ.
There are those that cannot see or believe that Christ is worthy. And it’s exactly what Judas does here in our text today.
He was critical of Mary because he did not see or believe Jesus to be who He said He was.
He criticized her because He did not know the worth and value of Jesus Christ.

Read Verse 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,

Read Verse 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

Notice that Judas is speaking of something that people should do.
We should give to the poor when they are in need.
In Mark’s account we see that Judas was not alone about this. There were others who were asking the same thing.
They said it was wasted because they could have given almost a years wage to the poor.
Question: But was it? Was it better to pour it on Jesus than to sell it and give to those who were hungry?
This is exactly what we need to ask ourselves today!
Our highest priority is not good works. Feeding the poor is important. We should do that. But that is not the highest aim of the Christian.
The highest aim of the Christian is to give to Jesus Christ what is His. Namely, our worship which is the core of our doing good works.
Judas’ question wasn’t genuine. And even if it was it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus is deserving of everything we have. Which includes priority over any good we can do here.
The cares of the world are not to be our preoccupation. The glory of God is to be what we are to be preoccupied with. The glory of God compels us to do good works.
Our faith in Him brings forth good works. And that is the confusion of many in the visible church.
We are not called to do. We are called to give. Anyone can do what the world needs. But not everyone can give how Mary gave. She gave because she knew who this man in front of her was.
This man was God who raised someone from the dead, proving that He is the Resurrection and the Life!
But Judas did not believe. And because he did not believe, he criticized.
And even more his criticism wasn’t genuine.

Read Verse 6 He 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.

When one criticizes our worship and our giving to Christ what is deserving of Him, they may in fact show that one does not know God at all. In Judas’ case it prove true.
Judas showed that he did not care about the poor. But he was about himself. Using the money bag to help himself.
He was greedy. Self centered. Which led to his betrayal.
He wanted more money to help himself.
Those who do not see the value of Christ will criticize those who give Christ what He deserves.
Judas did not know the truth of who Jesus was.
The truth being that He was deserving of everything Mary gave to Him because He was the Son of God. Sent by the Father so that they may have life in His name!
This is the truth he did not have. And without this truth being believed it would leave Judas lost.
It truly is the truth that sets one free when believed.

3. The Truth (v.7-8)

Verse 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.

Question: Some may have been asking where in the text does it say that she gave the expensive ointments because Jesus Christ is worthy?
It was custom of the Jews then to use expensive and costly ointments for burials. Which we see in John 19:40.
They used it to cover the smell of the dead body. The odor if you remember the concern in the previous chapter.
This was done for burials which may be a hint to what she knew.
Jesus pointed to what Mary had as what would be kept for His burial.
Later in the chapter we will see Jesus speaking more about of His death.
But here He introduces His death in speaking about His own burial which is what we must speak about when sharing the gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:1–4 ESV
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
This is the truth about what Jesus would do and it was what Jesus proved to be when raising Lazarus from the grave.
It proved Jesus to be the resurrection and the life which Mary must have believed! Which is why I believe she gave to Jesus what was custom for burial and what was deserving of Him because He was and is the resurrection and the life!
The gospel at its core includes His burial as Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 15.
He was literally buried which speaks of His death.
He died for our sins. If one does not believe that Jesus literally died, then it leaves them with their sins.
And if one does not believe that Jesus died and was buried, then they do not believe that Jesus was literally raised from the dead. And if Christ did not die being buried and raised from the dead then our preaching is in vain.
If Christ has not been raised then our faith is futile (useless) and we are left in ruin. We are still in our sins. We are left with criminal charges before God that are deserving of His wrath and justice.
The act that Mary had done with Christ was an act of pointing forward to His burial. Whether Mary knew it or not.
I believe she knew because she was in tears.
But in either case we know that for Jesus it was a beautiful act that Judas could not see.
He could not see that His burial would prove that He died. He could not see that the resurrection would prove His sacrifice for sins and the defeat of death.

Judas could not see that,

Even if one spoke in the tongues of men and of angels
Even if one had prophetic powers and understood all mysteries and all knowledge, and if one had all faith, so as to remove mountains
Even if one gave away all they had, and even if they delivered their body to be burned
Even if they gave all they had to the poor
Without the gospel of Jesus Christ and genuine saving faith, it means nothing.
It wasn’t just that Mary had given to Christ what she had. She gave to Jesus in tears what she had because she knew He was deserving of it.
She didn’t think about what the world needed. She was fixed on who Christ was and she gave to Him what was deserving of Him.
Question: Do you know the worth of Jesus Christ?
Jesus prioritized this truth about Himself to the point of meeting needs as secondary to what Mary had done.
It is far more important to offer to Christ what is worthy of Him than to do good in the world.
We must meet needs but not without the truth of who Jesus is.
We must prioritize His worth and share of His worth over every good work. It is the core of the Christian work ethic. Without it we are without eternal significance. Being no different from good works done in the world.

Read Verse 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

To remember Mary’s act here is to remember the gospel message.
She gave to Jesus all that she had because He was worthy of it. And it spoke of His burial. Which speaks of His death and resurrection.
Jesus died for our sins because our sins were deserving of the wrath of God.
He was buried proving that His death had in fact taken place.
And He was raised so that we could be justified, declared righteous because the penalty for sin was paid.
Question: So the question today is do you believe Jesus to be worthy?
In Matthew and Mark’s account it speaks of what would happen when the gospel is proclaimed in the world.
Both accounts say that “wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
And here today we are fulfilling that very word.
She gave what she had. What was costly and her own hair as rag because the man before her was and is the resurrection and the life!
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