Today holds a beautiful message for you. A message of safety. Shelter. Hope. It’s time to humble ourselves at the feet of Jesus and become the fragrance of Christ.
1 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.
By now, we should be familiar with Martha, Lazarus, and Mary. We learned of Lazarus’ resuscitation in our John 11 study. If you think about the actions of these three individuals, you’ll see three parts of an abiding relationship with God: service (Martha), communion (Lazarus), and worship (Mary). These three siblings were unified and diverse, just as it talks about it 1 Corinthians 12:12-14: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
Martha, Lazarus, and Mary all had varying spiritual gifts, yet they are each part of Christ. We’re offered a quick glimpse of Mary, whose heart was consistently found at the feet of Jesus (we also read this account in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9). Because of her time with Jesus, she was fully aware of what was going to happen.
Mary brings a pint of perfume that costs the equivalent of a year’s wages. She came to the feet of Jesus, once again, and presented herself as a humble slave. She let down her hair (which was something Jewish women did not do in public) and laid her glory at the feet of her Savior (see 1 Corinthians 11:15).
What a beautiful act of worship. And because of that worship, the house was filled with fragrance. I love the word fragrance. It’s mentioned eight times in the Song of Solomon in relation to the love shared between a man and his bride. That is no coincidence. We are to be the fragrance of Christ to others. When you walk into a room, do people notice something different about you? Do they smell the stench of the world or the fragrance of Christ?
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.
Of course, with every sacrifice there comes criticism. That’s usually what happens when someone brings their best to the Lord. Don’t be discouraged! If your heart and motive is pure, God will honor your sacrifice despite the Tweets and the Instagram commentary.
Judas seemed so “concerned” with the poor as he made his statement. However, Jesus knew his heart and the evil that consumed it. These were Judas’ first words recorded in the gospels—words of disapproval and disdain. It makes me pause and consider the words I speak to others. Could there have been times when the only words other people heard me speak were judgmental? Yes.
Lord, teach me to see and hear as You do.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.
I’m thankful that God is our defender! Proverbs 23:11 says, “for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.”
According to this account, the testimony of Lazarus was done without words. I couldn’t find a verifiable attribution, but someone once said, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” That’s certainly how Lazarus lived. Large crowds came to see Lazarus, so their eyes could see what their ears had heard. Because of his testimony, many believed…and that made the chief priests mad (again).
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:
15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”
This is a familiar passage if you celebrate Palm Sunday. Hosanna means save now or save us. It was a proclamation to Jesus in hopes that He would become their King and overthrow the Roman government. The Jews wanted an earthly King; yet, Jesus had an eternal plan.
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
This was Jesus’ triumphal entry and it drew a crowd. Once again, His popularity was building and people were hopeful to meet Him. The words of the Pharisees made me chuckle: “This is getting us nowhere!” When we don’t follow Christ, we go nowhere, folks.
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Philip often brought people to Jesus. Folks were on him for an interview with Jesus and he finally got with Andrew and told the Lord. On numerous accounts in the book of John, we’ve heard Jesus say, “My hour has not yet come.” Finally, Jesus’ words have changed, and it is time! God’s divine timetable was orchestrated for this exact moment!
Jesus began to explain allegorically how there must be death to have life. When we white- knuckle our life, we lose it. But God had a plan to send a Man into the world and be the atoning sacrifice for His creation. How beautiful that He would become the offering poured out, just as Mary poured out her offering.
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus saw beyond the cross. He recognized that while this moment was for Him to be crucified, its ultimate purpose was for God to be glorified. This is such a crucial point. The world we walk in isn’t for our own comfort, it is for God’s glory. I forget this. I want a comfortable life, don’t you? I want a life that is easy. The hard thing about hard things is that they are hard. A dear friend of mine sent me a quote from Paul David Tripp last week and it read like this:
I am safe, not because I have no trouble, or because I never experience danger. I am safe, not because people affirm me, or my plans always work out. I am safe, not because I am immune from disease, or free of the potential for poverty. I am safe not because I am protected from disappointment, or separated from this fallen world. I am safe, not because I am wise or strong. I am safe, not because I deserve comfort or have earned my ease. I am safe, not because of money or power, or position, or intellect, or who I know, or where I live. I am safe because of the glorious mystery of grace. I am safe because of the presence of boundless love. I am safe because of divine mercy, divine wisdom, divine power, divine grace. I am safe, not because I never face danger, but because you are with me in it. You have not given me a ticket out of danger. You have not promised me a life of ease. You have chosen to place me in a fallen world. I am safe because you have given me the one thing that is the only thing that will ever keep me safe. You have given me You. I am safe from my evil heart and this shattered world, not because I can escape them both, but because in the middle of temptation and trial, danger and disappointment sickness and want, You give me everything I need to fight temptation and avoid defeat and to point others to the safety that can only be found in You. So, I will wake up tomorrow and face the anxiety of not knowing, the fear of my own weakness, and the reality of the fall. I will live with faith, courage, perseverance, and hope. And when danger comes, and it will, I will whisper to my weakening heart, "Emmanuel is your shelter, you are safe."
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
The people didn’t comprehend what Jesus was saying. He was firm in His response because it was an hour of crisis (meaning judgment). The Light was shining and this moment marked the end of Jesus’ public ministry.
37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
The key word in this section is believe. How hard life is when we live in unbelief! Even though there was clear evidence, they “would not” believe (v. 37) and they “could not” believe (v. 39). Their conscious was seared due to unbelief and repeatedly turning away from the Light. I was emailing a sweet woman this past week who was asking about how to live a life of surrender. A life of surrender is a process—it’s a never-ending journey (until we see Him!). As hard as life can be at times, I’m thankful that she is seeking more Jesus, like many of us. It is those who aren’t seeking who should give us concern.
42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Verse 42 and 43 are gut-wrenching, and we’ve seen it before when Jesus healed the blind man and his parents refused to declare Jesus was the Messiah: “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
Lord, help us not to love the praise of man. Let us fear God, not humans!
The word judge is used three times in these final few verses. Of course, God will judge us—and He’s provided an opportunity (The Way) for us to be redeemed from this judgment. Jesus’ purpose on this earth wasn’t to judge; that was not His role. His purpose is to save. Society wants to sell us a different story. Non-believers (and believers, for that matter) can get focused on the judgment story that they completely leave out the salvation message. It is GOOD NEWS that we are provided grace upon grace. We can cry, “Hosanna!” because we were provided an eternal solution for a broken life. Hosanna! Amen!