March 21, 2021–The Life and Death of Jesus – Part 5
Asbury Free Methodist- Rev. Dr. Brent Russett
We are ¾ the way through lent and our series on the life and death of Jesus. Up until this point in our series we have been talking about what Jesus said and did. This morning I want to take you to a story that tell us about what one person did to Jesus.
If I was to ask you, what is the greatest commandment I believe most of you would be able to tell me because you have read the words of Jesus. Someone came to Jesus and this is what he asked that exact question.
Matthew 22:36–38 (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
The greatest commandment is to love God with everything that you have. My question is, how are you doing with that commandment? I think we are living in a time like the one that Jesus described. Jesus in talking about the end times said,
Matthew 24:10–13 (NIV)
10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
We live in a time where the love of many will grow cold. We live in a time where de-conversion stories – conversions away from the gospel are all to frequent. We live in a time when, because of the state of the church in North America – faith is hard. We live in a time where the depth of discipleship has not kept pace with the influence of our culture.
But in spite of that, the greatest commandment is still a thing. It is still the greatest commandment. God still loves us, hoping that we will love him in return. God is still looking for a relationship with us. So, my question stands – how are you doing with your love for God?
As I look back over my life, I see that my love for God has sometimes been strong and at other times it has been weak. Sometimes I sing –
I love you Lord, and I lift my voice
To worship you, o my soul rejoice
Take my king, in what you hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.
Sometimes I sing that, and it is an expression of my love for God. Sometimes I have sung that in the hope and prayer that my heart would catch up with my words. Maybe you have been there too.
How is your love for God? Do you love God? There are some people who have a relationship with God that has very little to do with love. Some people serve God, fear God, obey God, but they don’t really love God – and when it is all said and done, they have the kind of relationship with God that dry and – maybe even toxic. But that is other people – what about you?
This morning I am hoping that through the word of God, I am give you a pathway back into loving God.
You heard the scripture from John 12 read about Mary’s expression of her love for God. But before we get there, I want to walk you through Mary’s life.
We are introduced to Mary in
Luke 10:38–42 (NIV)
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 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!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Near the first of Jesus ministry, he met up with Mary and Martha. Martha was one of those people who was a hard worker. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to him.
It seems to me that if you are going to learn to love Jesus that you are going to have to hang out with him. You are going to have to learn to hear what he says. You are going to have to learn to put aside some things that you feel need to be done and just hang out with Jesus.
I see that the new daily bread devotionals came in this week. I sometimes listen to the daily bread on my google home device. But people, the daily bread is meant to be a warmup to your time with Jesus. It is not meant to be all of your time with Jesus. Personally, I do the You Version devotional every day – while I am brewing my coffee. It is kind of like an online daily bread. But after my coffee is brewed then I will spend time with Jesus.
I can’t tell you how much time to spend with Jesus – ask him, he will tell you. But I do know that if you can do your devotions in the time that it takes you to make a pot of coffee you are probably not spending enough time with him.
Mary spent time at Jesus feet, and Jesus commended her for it. If you are going to foster your love for Jesus, then you need to spend time listening to him and talking with him.
Now I want to take you to another story where we find Mary found in John 11. I am not going to take time to read the story. The shortened version of the story is that Mary and Martha are sisters. Their brother Lazarus gets sick. Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus who was a couple of days away – in hopes that he would come and heal his friend and their brother. But Jesus stays where he is for a few more days and Lazarus dies.
Jesus gets to where Mary and Martha are mourning. Lazarus has been dead for 4 days by this time. Mary deep in her grief says, Jesus if you would have been here my brother would not have died.
Loving Jesus doesn’t preclude expressing disappointment. It doesn’t preclude anything but being real. Sometimes our prayers to Jesus need to be prayers of lament. All the time our prayers need to be real.
But here is what I have found, Jesus meets us in our times or sorrow and grief and pain and loss. Jesus meets us right where we are at.
Jesus walks up to the grave, and after having his own little cry, he says, remove the stone. Martha said, but Jesus he is going to stink. Jesus said, just believe.
The stone was removed, and Jesus spoke into the grave, “Lazarus come out of there.” And Lazarus, Mary’s brother, was raised from the dead. Now that is pretty amazing.
What do you think that this did for Mary’s love for Jesus? I think it probably took it up a few notches. In fact, I think the precious perfume that Mary poured out over Jesus was a result of the love that Jesus fostered in her.
Here is what I have come to believe. Sustaining our love for God is very hard unless we have fresh experiences with God. Now I am not expecting that God is going to raise someone from dead for you – but here is what I know – God is at work around you and when you have eyes to see and get on board with him you start to experience him.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about what it means to experience God. We experience God when he speaks to us through his word or in our hearts and mind. We experience God when he answers prayer. We experience God when we are led by him, or when his spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. We experience God when have his peace in the middle of turmoil. We experience God when we see him using us to help other people bear fruit. We experience God when see transformation in our own lives, and sometimes we just experience the presence of God.
Unless you are regularly experiencing God, it is doubtful that you will maintain your love for God. Without an experience with God we become like a husband and wife living together in a loveless marriage. They are together, but they are not. Our love grows cold when we don’t connect with God.
Some time after Jesus brough Lazarus back from the dead we come to
John 12:1–3 (NIV)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 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.
In this snapshot of Jesus’ life, we have Martha being Martha. Her love language is service. She is loving Jesus by serving the meal. There is a lot to be said for that – unless hiding in the kitchen becomes a way of avoiding Jesus. We have Lazarus just being there, which makes a statement because he had been dead for four days. But here we come to Mary.
Now before I get to Mary, just a couple of things about our passage. This is a key passage in John because it is the transition between Jesus public ministry to a private ministry with just the disciples. This passage is also a study in contrasts. Jesus is at the center of the story, but then we have two contrasting characters, Mary and Judas.
Mary brings this expensive perfume. To put it in todays terms – we are talking perfume that is about $4000 an ounce – Chanel 5 is only $500 an ounce by comparison. She takes this pint of perfume and pours it over Jesus’ feet. Then she wipes his feet with her hair.
Here is what you need to know, the culture of that time saw the feet as something dirty. A Rabbi could not command his students to touch his feet – because that was seen as something that only slaves and servants would do. And yet here you have Mary pour out expensive perfume and wiping it with her hair.
This is extravagant love. This act of love was not commanded. It was not suggested. It was just something that Mary wanted to do for Jesus. And she did it.
When was the last time you did something impractical to show your love for Jesus? – I will tell you this, that most people never do. But it is a way forward in your spiritual life.
This is analogous to a husband bringing a bouquet of flowers for his wife – just because. Not to get out of the doghouse, not for a special occasion, but just as a way of saying I love you.
I am not suggesting that you get a pint of Channel #5 and pour it out on the communion table – please don’t. But what could you do to show your love for Jesus?
Maybe you could go on a prayer walk, and thank Jesus for what you see. Maybe you could cook a meal for someone else – Jesus said, if you do it to the least of these you do it for me. Maybe you could spend some time during holy week, reading all the accounts of Jesus death and resurrection. I heard of a church who has an occasional worship night that they call wasting time on Jesus. Maybe you could take an evening that in stead of watching T.V. you listen to worship music.
I don’t know how you will do it, but just between you and God, do something just for the love of God.
John 12:4–7 (NIV)
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 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.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.
There will be people like Judas who, if they see what you are doing will criticize you. But that is the difference between Judas and Mary – both would be said to be followers of Jesus – but Mary loved Jesus – Judas used Jesus. Mary connected with Jesus in heart – you can see it from her tears. Judas only connected with Jesus functionally. He used Jesus for his own agenda.
In our culture, it is a way to easy to become like Judas. We expect Jesus to be one thing – and it turns out that he doesn’t make all our dreams come true. I think in Judas’s case, he was hoping to ride Jesus’ coattails into a position in an earthly kingdom. But he came to see that Jesus was much more interested in freed of the heart than political freedom. He was more interested in people’s wholeness than meeting people’s expectation.
Mary experienced disappointment – Jesus, if you had been here my brother would not have died. – But she clung to Jesus. Judas experienced disappointment that Jesus would not be the kind of Messiah that he wanted, and he ripped Jesus off by stealing from the money bag.
Here is what I know, in your spiritual life you going to have disappointments. In those times you will have to choose to be like Mary or Judas. Will you love Jesus or turn from him?
One more set of verses. This is Jesus speaking.
Revelation 2:1–5 (NIV)
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
The church at Ephesus was doing a lot of good things. They were serving in the church well. They were good theologically. But Jesus says, I have this against you – you have lost your first love.
It is a problem if we are living in a loveless relationship with Jesus. The whole point of the gospel is to bring us into a loving relationship with the God of the universe.
Jesus says to do three things – Consider how far you have fallen.
As I have been talking today, some of you may remember a time when you were much more in love with God than you are now. You spent time hanging out with him. I am not talking about youthful zeal when you first came to know Jesus – but a time when the song – I just want to be where you are – living daily in your presence was a reality. But that is not where you are at right now.
Consider that. There is a problem if you are not really in love with Jesus anymore.
The second thing that Jesus says to do is to repent. As we have talked about a couple of times in this series, Repent means change your course. Some of you have your back towards Jesus – turn around and face him. Look full in his wonderful face.
The third thing Jesus says to do is do the things you did at first. Notice he doesn’t say, feel the things you did at first. Notice that they are already working hard and not growing weary. But they are not doing what they did at first.
They are not bringing spiritual bouquets to Jesus anymore. They are not spending time with Jesus just because. They are not being like Mary. If they are not careful, they could become like Judas.
Where are you at? What have you done to show your love for Jesus? It might not be anything anyone else would notice. But what is in your bouquet? It may be driving in your car alone and worshiping Jesus – or just talking to him. It might be serving someone else, but deep down you know that you are doing this only because of Jesus.
Here is what I know – If we have a church full of people who are bringing spiritual bouquets to Jesus – this will be an amazing place.
Are you loving Jesus – if not consider how it used to be, repent, and do the things you did at first.
Sermon Questions- Sunday March 21, 2021
John 12:1-8 – Extravagant Love – Part 5 – The Life and Death of Jesus
1. Has gratitude become a habit in your life or are you still challenged by that particular habit?
2. What are you praying for this week?
3. Read Matthew 22:36-38. How do you feel like you are doing with the greatest commandment? (No shame here – it is just good to assess where you are at)
4. Matthew 24:10-13 – Do you think we are in a time when the love of many (most) is growing cold? Why/Why not?
5. Luke 10:38-42 What does this story tell us about Mary? What does it tell us about the value Jesus puts on being with him?
6. Read John 11:28-35 – What does this passage tell us about Jesus? What does it tell us about Mary?
7. Read John 12:1-3 – Why do you think Mary did what she did? What does this tell us about Mary? Is there anything in this that we can apply to our own lives?
8. Read John 12:4-7 – What does this tell us about Judas?
9. Both Judas and Mary were followers of Jesus. What are the similarities and differences between them?
10. Read Revelation 2:1-5 – What are the three steps back to God if we have lost our first love? What would it look like to do these three steps in 2021?