Living for Eternity
Worship, Celebration, and Opposition
Turn to John 12. I do wish to encourage you to attend our marriage weekend at the end of the month, as we will dig into the Bible to better understand clearly what the Scriptures really say regarding husbands and wives. We have already had a great response for the sign-up sheet. So, do make sure you sign up, so that we know how many are here for lunch and how many need child-care. I am greatly looking forward to that weekend. Before we get into our passage this morning I thought it might be good to just pause here for a moment to address some thoughts about the Bible, considering its inerrancy and authority. We believe that the Bible, because it is God’s Word is inerrant, without error. In fact, the Bible makes this claim for itself, as 2 Timothy 3:16 speaks of God’s Word as being inspired, literally God-breathed.” So we can say that God Himself wrote the Bible through men that He inspired, or breathed into. The Apostle Peter also wrote:
“Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes by one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever made by the will of man, but men being moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
2 Peter 1:20-21 (LSB)
So, it is important that as we teach here week after week, we are not giving you our view on things, but we are communicating what the Bible says because it is the Word and truth of God. Now this does not mean that everything I say is right, for I am not inerrant, meaning I am not without error. But it does mean that everything the Bible says is right. And because the Bible is written by God and therefore it is without error, then it is also authoritative. In other words, its truth is foundational upon each and every situation over all of history to those who believe and to those who do not believe. This is without exception. In other words, someone may choose not to believe the Bible, yet the truth of the Bible is still providential over them. So, the truth that God’s Word is authoritative today is going to cause questions and tension among people. Certainly, to those who claim to not believe. But also, to those who claim to believe the Bible, but who have been conditioned to listen and maybe are somewhat sympathetic to the views and values of the culture. This is very dangerous. For as the culture moves further from the truth of the Bible, the truth of God’s Word seems more stark and abrupt.
I was sharing with the Sunday night crew last week from a book I have been reading by Daniel Doriani, and he addressed this issue saying that biblical teachers and preachers will need more courage in the days to come because the gap between the culture and the Bible is growing tremendously, and therefore, the truth of the Bible is becoming far more offensive. So, he talked about the need for courage to speak what the Bible states in relation to what the world is saying. And he gave a time when he was asked to speak at a conference to a group of people on the Bible’s teaching that husbands and wives complement each other, as taught by Paul. That is the belief that the roles of husbands and wives are different. Why? because the Bible has stated that the husband has the role of loving and leading, while the wife has the role of following and respecting. But Doriani said that ninety percent of his audience while speaking at this conference had abandoned the biblical view, and agreed more to an egalitarian view, which teaches that husbands and wives share their roles, that there are no God-distinct roles, which is more in line with where our culture is today, and therefore, much easier to teach, trust me. I smiled because he wrote that his own mother is an ordained minister, so, the tension is even within his own family. And that he has three daughters, so he could have a natural sympathy towards the feminist position. But Doriani said this:
“So, in some ways, I would prefer that the feminist case were true. But what I prefer is not the issue. The issue finally, is whether the God of the Bible exists or not. If there is a personal, all-knowing God who wishes to communicate with [H]is creation and has done so in the Bible, then that word has authority over us. When [H]e speaks, it is our responsibility to understand and follow that word, whether we particularly like it or not. If that word runs against our preferences, then so much the worse for our preferences.”
Daniel M. Doriani, Putting the Truth to Work 63
So, when we come each week and hear God’s Word, the issue is not so much whether you agree with me or not, the issue is whether you agree with God. If I say something that is not true, don’t believe me. But if the Bible says something, you had better believe it, for the Bible is the Word of God. So, let’s ask the Lord to help us before we begin this morning. Lord, we believe that Your Word is true, but may that belief not be just lip service. But may the truth of Your word be so powerful in our hearts and minds, that we must act upon it, we must respond to it, we must speak about it. And therefore, we must live differently, not only from the culture, but live differently than from the way we used to live, and differently from what our own minds may tell us. And may I as the speaker this morning, speak not my own words, but Your words. Amen.
Well, we have concluded that the Gospel of John, like the other three gospels tells us much of the life of Jesus. However, it does focus much more on personal encounters with Christ. And John 12 is no exception as we begin with Jesus in the company of three familiar people, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And of course, last time we were together it was Lazarus who was raised to life by Jesus.
“Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.”
John 12:1 (LSB)
This would have been something in itself, to have Lazarus interacting with them, knowing that he had actually died. Say hello to Lazarus, last week at this time he was dead. This would elevate the spiritual atmosphere within the home, and within that community. Now to make sure that we are not all confused here regarding this event, as we will see that Mary will go on to anoint Jesus with perfume, as there are accounts of Jesus being anointed with perfume from all 4 gospel writers. The one in Luke 7 speaks of Jesus being at the home of a Pharisee and a sinful woman or a prostitute pours oil on Him. This is not the same story we are reading here in John 12 as the location in Luke 7 is in Galilee, whereas the account in our passage is in Bethany and involves Mary, and is the same story given in Matthew 26 and Mark 14, and both Matthew and Mark inform us that this was in the home of Simon the leper, not the Pharisee (who by chance, is also named Simon, a very popular Jewish name). And I would suggest that there must have been a close relationship between Jesus’ three friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus with this Simon the leper.
“So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a litra of perfume of very costly pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
John 12:2-3 (LSB)
The Worship of Jesus (vs 1-8)
Again, we see the heart of Mary as she is the one who desires so much to worship Christ, and the worship she brings to Jesus cost her, costly pure nard. Some have suggested that the value would be equivalent to over a year’s wages. And the house was filled with the fragrance. The fragrance of worship! Worship, the presence of Jesus, and the fragrance of the perfume. Now, I understand that my job could be envious for some of you, as it is such a blessing to be able to open up God’s Word each week, and study His truth daily. And sometimes the study of the Bible, and at times, I will have worshipful music playing, there can be such a time of reflection and worship, as sometimes a quote or passage in my office can bring emotion. But whether you are a pastor, a Mom or Dad, a worker out in the secular workplace, someone retired, or a high school student, that your worship of Christ could be described as a fragrance of worship. That we would not be satisfied with little. That we would not hold something back. That our lives would be like a house filled with fragrance. And when we live this way, when our focus and priority is on Christ, there will be those who rejoice with us. Those who too are attracted to Christ. But:
“But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was going to betray Him, said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’”
John 12:4-5 (LSB)
Yes, there will be some who bring criticism over our love for Christ. It is interesting that when we are given different views regarding the same story, which we do in the gospels, we learn different things. Matthew tells us that it was not just Judas who complained, but the disciples. And Mark tells us that there were some who said this only to themselves, or under their breath. And here in John, Judas is named. It might be that Judas was the spokesperson who said what the others were all thinking. Now sometimes someone else may not understand where your heart truly is, as you might choose to do something of such a great cost for Christ, only to be criticized. And it is probably good to give people the benefit of the doubt that maybe they did not understand. But this passage actually reveals the real truth going on in Judas’ heart.
“Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to take from what was put into it.”
John 12:6 (LSB)
Again, we see here a presumed follower of Christ, who proves by his actions that he is not a true follower of Christ. Not that anyone knew, for the other disciples did not even know when Jesus warned about the one who would betray him during the Last Supper. So, yes, there may be those who look like followers. But their lifestyle may reject that truth, though from the outside it is not always apparent. Maybe some who attend here with us, who claim to be a follower of Christ, yet your heart may be far from Christ. We spoke about this a few weeks ago, that the Bible is not surprised at this. The Old Testament prophet wrote, “Because this people draw near with their mouth And honor Me with their lips, But they remove their hearts far from Me.” And as we said last time when someone claims to be a Christian and is not truly following Christ, this has no bearing on the reality of Christ. This does not bring down Christ or Christianity. This is only a false disciple who is either secretly deceptive or a false disciple that has been found out. And whether it is some kind of misunderstanding, or blatant hypocrisy as demonstrated here by Judas. Notice what Jesus says:
“Therefore Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.’”
John 12:7-8 (LSB)
Jesus mentions here the anointing of His burial. Yet it is unlikely that Mary would have been aware of this, as she was only doing this deed out of love and devotion to Christ. Some have likened this to the statement of Caiaphas who said about the death of Christ, when he said that it is better that one man die for the people than that a whole nation should perish. He was unaware of the complete ramifications of his statement, as Mary was likely unaware of the full ramifications of what she had done for Christ. And I do not want to say too much here, but it is likely true that if each of us, you and I, would place such importance upon worship and obedience and devotion and love toward Christ, that the ramifications of that would be much broader than we might ever think. That as the Bible says that we would take every thought captive from 2 Corinthians 10:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the tearing down of strongholds, as we tear down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
- Cor 10:3-5 (LSB)
That our every thought would be carefully considered. That our proper spiritual motives and therefore our proper spiritual words and actions would have a great spiritual significance in breaking down even defiant hearts and penetrating the world, as how we live for the sake of Christ matters! And Jesus’ statement in verse 8:
“For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
John 12:8 (LSB)
Certainly, this does not lessen the importance of compassion. But it does heighten the urgency of worship toward Christ. This is why any mission for people, though it may contain help and assistance, and often this may be towards the poor; at the same time, must always include that which is the most important, the preaching and proclamation of Christ. Even ministries here at Elim, that would include a number of good things, yet the core purpose must always be to the glory of Christ. This is why in Matthew 26 Jesus said:
“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
Matt 26:13 (LSB)
And this ought to be a challenge to each of us. That when our lives are concluded and all is said and done, that the core energy and the core activity of our lives would be profitable towards the gospel, and not meaningless. That the things that I said, the works that I did, and the heritage that I left, would be a complete demonstration of the gospel and all that is of utmost importance to God. “Only one life to offer (states the songwriter) … Only this hour is mine Lord … May it be used for Thee … May every passing moment … Count for eternity.” Well, then the scene shifts in our story:
“Then the large crowd from the Jews learned that He was there. And they came, not because of Jesus only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead.”
John 12:9 (LSB)
The Celebration of Jesus (vs 9, 11-15)
Maybe this is the first excitement of the prosperity gospel, as there is a bit of a contrast as you have Mary’s heart in giving. Whereas maybe part of the motivation with this crowd is the getting. Certainly, the raising of Lazarus obviously had drawn a crowd and he was well-known, though, interestingly enough, we do not know a whole lot about Lazarus, nor do we really know much about this particular crowd. Though with any supernatural event, the raising of Lazarus would likely draw some thrill-seekers. And it is interesting that the life of Christ came with little fanfare. His miracles were for the most part out in the countryside, and it seems to be the reality of serving Christ was more of taking up a cross as opposed to riding some kind of a spiritual wave. As the test of faith is not so much that we experience blessing after blessing in the sense that Christianity is easy. No, Christ, both following Him while He walked the earth and those who followed Him after He ascended, and with us today, we are tested to make sure that we are of the faith. Peter speaks about this in 1 Peter 1, that the ultimate salvation of Christianity is the outcome of our faith. That the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance, heaven, is being kept for the believer, that it is ready to be revealed, not now, but on the last day. Yet while here on the earth, Peter spoke of various trials, so that these trials would actually become the proof of our faith, a faith that has been and will be tested by fire. So that, in reality, the one who likely has the greatest reward, is the one whose testing has been the hardest and the most difficult.
It is important for us to understand that much of the disappointment with Christ when He came is that He did not fulfill much of what was prophesied about Him regarding His role as King. Yes, He came as King, but the conquering and reigning in the sense they would have believed or hoped, would only come later upon His second return. But He comes as the Son of God, and He knew that He was the Chosen One. And here we have Jesus ready to be crucified, a short time after this story, giving very little sign of His Kingship. Yet listen to Him as He stands trial in Mark 14:
“Again the high priest was questioning Him and said to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’[are You the Christ or the Messiah? are You the Son of the Blessed One or are You the Son of God?] And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
Mark 14:61b-62 (LSB)
See, Jesus was not whom most thought He should be, though He actually was. For many who were celebrating Him here in John 12, would soon flee from Him when he is arrested. And that is the question for us today. Are you going to follow Jesus believing in whom He really is? Though the reality of Him being King is not always apparent? Are you going to trust His claims that he is God in the flesh, the Chosen One? Because in this story, for good or bad, Lazarus has become a walking proclamation for Christianity. For we read (vs 11) that many believed because of him. It says that many believed in Christ because of Lazarus. And therefore, because of Lazarus, Christianity is heightened. In other words, it has become very popular because of something that has happened and because of a person. Look (vs 19), the world has gone after Him! Imagine today if the popularity of Christianity was heightened, and the majority of people called for a parade to honour Christ. Not to honour despicable things, but to truly honour that which is right and good. And music stars and sports stars proclaimed Jesus, and they tell of what Jesus has done to save them. And people in government stand to declare the truth of God’s Word. And children would walk into classrooms and the teacher before their lesson, let’s pray. Because look at verse 11:
“[B]ecause on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.’ And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’”
John 12:11-15 (LSB)
Yes, Christianity was heightened. And to go to the parade would be easy and to pick up a palm branch and wave to the glory of God would be such a joy, to join with the crowds. As we sort of join the prevailing crowd. As there was little doubt in their minds that a miracle did indeed happen, after all, it sounds like many knew of Lazarus. And so, we join in with the celebration of Christ with the multitudes, the celebration of Jesus. But the scene is shifting.
“But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death.”
John 12:10a (LSB)
The Opposition to Jesus (vs 10)
See, this is where we find ourselves today. The main event and person who was spreading the proclamation of Jesus, not necessarily because of what Lazarus was saying, for we do not read any particular words from Lazarus. But the news of Christ was spreading because of what had happened to Lazarus, and the leaders wanted to wipe this out. And therefore (vs 10) really gives us an insight into a changing interest in Jesus, and that following Him was soon going to be very hard. Not the celebration of Jesus with the crowds, but it would soon be the worship of Jesus in the quiet. So, we who know Christ and follow Him, and anyone sitting here today who may never have truly received Christ, this is a warning, isn’t it? I was thinking, there may never again be any fanfare to following Christ. What we experience now, may be the norm. That we will have to be against the vast majority all the time in what we hold regarding:
- Biblical Morality
What we believe about marriage, that it is only between one man and one woman. That there are different roles in marriage. That abortion is wrong. That sex before marriage is sinful. And there may only be a small minority that ever holds to this again, you know that. That only a few would ever understand what we believe. And that it may be even worse when our children raise their children. That we will have to be against the vast majority all the time in what we hold regarding:
- Our Origin as Human Beings
That we were created by God, and therefore, we are responsible to a Master Creator. That we do not exist by happenchance, and there may only be a small minority that ever holds to this again. That only a few would ever understand what we believe. And that this too may be even worse when our children raise their children. That we will have to be against the vast majority all the time in what we hold regarding:
- Our Salvation and Forgiveness
That the masses will never believe in a God like they once did. And there may only be a small minority that ever attends church. That churches will continue to grow smaller. That our encouragement in the faith will only come from very few. And that this too may be even worse when our children raise their children. Unless, unless, the Lord chooses to bring a mass revival. Don’t ever quit praying to that end. Never doubt that God could raise up a new generation of believers. A group of young people who tire of what the world teaches and offers today. But whatever God chooses to do: we who know Christ to be true, we know that our King is coming. And we do believe in His Word, and so, even amidst great opposition, we will worship Him and we will celebrate Him. Remember there was the time back in John 6 when it says that many who followed Christ walked away. Turn there:
“As a result of this many of His disciples went away and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”
John 6:66-69 (LSB)
What about you? Are you truly convinced of who Jesus is? Even when most are not? Lord, may we worship You alone this morning. Not because the crowds are following You, but because You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And this we believe, though most do not. Thank You for the faith of those here within this church. May that faith deepen, so that we too would leave this place this morning as they did in John 12:11, believing in Jesus. And all God’s people said, amen.