- Sermon Notes
Do you love God? If you would say yes, then the next question is how much do you love God? And why? These first verses of John chapter 12 are about extravagant love. The greatest and highest of God’s desire is for us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But the reason we love God extravagantly is because of the extravagant love He has poured out to us.
Last week, we read one of the most amazing stories in the New Testament. Jesus was friends with Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus who had fallen sick. Mary and Martha had sent an urgent message that Lazarus, the friend whom Jesus loved, was sick. Jesus stayed two more days in that place and when he finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days.
When Jesus arrives in Bethany both Martha and Mary said to Him, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.” Jesus then responded, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha gave a theological answer, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
But here is where we see that the death of Lazarus was an opportunity for God to reveal the hope of eternal life. Jesus responded, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus was leading up to something. He was strengthening their faith by demonstrating the power of God over death. Within a short time Jesus Himself will be crucified and laid in a tomb very similar to that of Lazarus. He is strengthening their faith so that when they see Jesus Himself raised from the dead, they can take hold of it.
In fact, there is a great scripture that puts it all in perspective. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10.
Now we come back to John chapter 12. Lazarus has been raised from the dead after being in the grave four days and he is sitting at the table with Jesus having supper. Mary then took costly perfume made of pure nard and anointed His feet and wiped His feet with her hair. What a great story. What amazing love.
I. Love God Extravagantly
- Capturing the scene for a moment, it’s very beautiful. Lazarus is seated at the table after being raised from the dead. Martha is serving.
- There is some history about that. There was another time when Jesus was sitting while a meal was being prepared. Mary was sitting at His feet listening to His words. Martha was getting irritated because Mary wouldn’t help. Jesus corrected her, saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
- Now, in John 12, Martha is serving, and we get a sense that she serves with a good heart.
- Mary came to Jesus with an alabaster jar of extremely expensive perfume, which we later hear is worth 300 denarii. That would be almost an entire year’s wage. In today’s value, that would be about $30,000-$35,000.
- In case you’re wondering, yes, there is a perfume that expensive today. Hermes Perfume 24 Faubourg is $1,500 an ounce. But the Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty Perfume is $215,000 per bottle. The extremely high price might have something to do with the fact that the bottle is covered with diamonds.
- Judas Iscariot objected, “Why was this perfume not sold and given to the poor?” And we also know something about his motive. He said this, not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was a thief who had the money box and used to pilfer what was put into it.
- From the other gospels we know that Jesus had been telling them that the Son of Man must be delivered up for crucifixion. He was very clear about this.
- We also know that the disciples did not want to hear this and it seems evident that they didn’t fully grasp what He was saying.
- But Mary had learned the importance of sitting at His feet and listening to His words. But more than that, I’m convinced she heard His heart. “If You are to be crucified, then I will anoint You now for Your burial.” It was an act of extravagant love.
- Why did she love extravagantly? Because she understood how much Jesus loved her.
- Jesus had just raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead, something far beyond her expectation.
- If we can only understand the extravagant of God’s love toward us, it would radically change our lives.
Ephesians 3:18-19, I pray that you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and the length and the height and the depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
- There was another time when Jesus was anointed, but with tears, and there we also learn why we should love extravagantly.
Illus - Jesus spoke of two debtors; one owed 500 denarii and the other 50. They were both graciously forgiven, which of them will love more?
Luke 7:44-50 He who is forgiven much, loves much.
B. Love first; serve second
- Judas Iscariot was indignant, saying that the perfume could have been sold and given to the poor.
- Jesus corrected him, “Let her alone. She has done this to prepare Me for the day of My burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”
- Jesus didn’t say there was anything wrong with helping the poor; in fact the scriptures encourage us to have a heart of compassion and a desire to serve others.
- Mary understood the importance of loving God first, and loving extravagantly, and then, out of the abundance of the heart, comes a heart to serve.
- Mary and Martha both learned this lesson. Mary had learned the importance of sitting at Jesus’s feet which Jesus said was the better part.
- When you think about the life that is effective and accomplishes much, it would be tempting to think that the prize would go to the one who works the hardest; the one who sweats the most. But God gives a better word.
Psalm 127:1-2, Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.
Illus - When Israel was walking through the desert they faced a terrible enemy, the Amalekites. Joshua commanded the armies of Israel, but Moses stood with his hands lifted up to God. It was only in lifting up praise that they were victorious.
James 5:16, The effective of prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Isaiah 40:29, 31, He give strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases his power… Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become faint.
II. Be a Sweet Aroma to God
- When Mary poured the alabaster jar of perfume upon Jesus, the room was filled with the fragrance.
- What a beautiful picture of Mary’s heart. In fact, there is a scripture that says something similar, “We are a fragrance of Christ to God who manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”
A. Don’t waste your life
- In another gospel we know that when Judas objected, he said, “Why this waste?”
- From the verses that follow we understand his true motive. He wasn’t concerned about the poor; he was just trying to put a righteous twist on it. In reality, he was a thief and used to pilfer the money box.
- “Why this waste?” Judas asked. It wasn’t a waste; it was extravagant love. I’ll tell you what was a waste; it was Judas himself.
- His own eyes had seen so much of what Jesus had done. He was there when Jesus calmed the sea, he was there when He healed 10 lepers at one time, when He cast out a legion of demons by the word of His power, and he was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
- His life was a waste because in spite of all that God had poured out before him, his singular priority was himself.
App - Too many people have only one motivation; themselves.
Philippians 2:3-4, Do nothing from selfishness… regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
- God says that for very good reason, to focus only on yourself is to poison the soul.
Illus - If a person spent his life pursuing wealth and status, and even achieved it, and then spent the remaining part of his life spending and enjoying all the wealth and status he had accumulated, would we not also say, “What a waste?” “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Jesus said.
- Judas’s life takes a turn that will end tragically. He betrays Jesus to the Jewish leaders for 30 pieces of silver. What a waste.
Illus - In the 60s during the drug culture, when a person would get high they would say he was “wasted.” That generation was rebelling from the materialism, corporate cronyism, and government corruption of that day. They didn’t want to waste their lives that way. But to “get wasted” was no answer either.
Yet there were others, hippies of that generation, who began to sit at Jesus’s feet and hear God’s Word and listen to His heart and fall in love with Him. They began to teach others and tens of thousands have changed their lives because of those from that generation who did not waste their lives.
- Several days later, this same Mary would come to see Jesus’s prophecy of His crucifixion and resurrection be fulfilled before her eyes.
- It would be then that she would have no regrets for having loved Him so extravagantly.
- In fact, in Matthew Jesus said, “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall be spoken of in memory of her.”
- What are memorials for? They are for us to remember a life well spent, that we might see Mary’s extravagant love and understand that we need the same love in us as well.
Illus - In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. Heir to the Borden family fortune, he was already wealthy. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home about his “desire to be a missionary.” One friend expressed disbelief that Bill was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”
In response, Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible; “No reserves.” In other words, “I’m holding nothing back.”
Borden went to Yale and his classmates noticed something unusual about him and it wasn’t that he had lots of money. They saw that he had already given his heart in full surrender to Christ and had really done it. He was a man of spiritual strength with a settled purpose in his life.
Upon graduation, Borden received several high-paying job offers, which he turned down. In his Bible, he wrote two more words, “No retreats.” In other words; no turning back.
Borden’s missionary call narrowed to the Muslim Kansu people in China. Once he fixed his eyes on that goal, Borden never wavered. Others said of him, “There was real strength in him, and I always felt he was the stuff martyrs were made of, and heroic missionaries a more modern times.”
Because he was hoping to work with Muslims he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within months, 25-year-old William Borden would be dead. The wave of sorrow went round the world. Was Borden’s life a waste? Not in God’s perspective. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. This time he wrote his last words, “No regrets.”
John 12:1-11 NASB