Summary: Around the table with Jesus only Mary had the correct focus. This sermon examines all the different foci of those represented.
Updated: 3rd April 2001 (was previously only in ’skeleton’ form)
According to Rev 3:20, when we ask Jesus into our lives He comes to feast with us! In this story, there are many people around that table with Jesus but all with a different ’FOCUS’ - Mary is seen as having the correct focus.
(2) THE DIFFERENT FOCI:
(a) MEAL focus - Lazarus(v2) - focusing on being fed in presence of Jesus.
Lazarus had just experienced a great miracle - Jesus raised him from the dead. He was enjoying the meal celebrating in Jesus’ presence, and rightly so. However, Mary understood something about Jesus that Lazarus didn’t as we will later see.
Sometimes we can be like Lazarus, enjoying ourselves feasting at the Lord’s table, eating His Word, celebrating in worship. But we focus on that instead of going beyond that to enter into His purpose for us.
God doesn’t seek merely for ’happy,clappy’ Christians who like to celebrate in His presence but know nothing of pouring out their lives sacrificially to Him.
(b) MINISTRY focus -
(i) To Jesus - Martha (v2)
Martha was always doing things for Jesus but her focus was the things she did rather than Jesus Himself. Earlier Jesus had gently rebked her for been so busy and full of worries whereas Mary had chosen the good part by sitting at His feet and learning from Him.
We too can get so caught up in doing things for Jesus thatthis becomes our focus. Our first call is to Him, not to the ministry!
(ii) To the Poor - The Disciples (v5 & Matt 26:8-9).
The Disciples criticised Mary for ’wasting’ the perfume and said it could have been sold and given to the poor. Indeed the alabaster jar of Spikenard had cost her a whole years wages!
Their focus was on the ministry for Jesus. Indeed it is good and right to give to the poor but it is not our main focus. If it is then we start to propogate merely a SOCIAL GOSPEL.
We always have the poor around us, it’s not a matter of meeting all their needs, but the needs that Jesus directs us to meet. We come first to Him to receive direction in ministry - we should be motivated by FAITH (His word to us) and not NEED (the needs we see around us) or we will burn out trying to meet all those needs!
(c) MONEY focus - Judas Iscariot (v6)
Judas disguised his greed for money in a fake concern for the poor! His main motivation in criticising Mary was his desire to bag more money for himself. Unfortunately there are some Christians who are serving FOR MONEY as their main focus. Even with the prosperity gospel being widespread many Christians are now more money minded than Christ-minded, even if they have all the correct ’spiritual jargon’.
(d) MIRACLES focus - Other Jews (v9)
The other Jews around had only come because they had heard of the miracle of the raising of Lazarus! They sought Jesus not for Himself but for the dramatic signs and wonders He performed.
We are not to seek the signs but what the signs point to! Have you ever heard of someone sitting down under a sign pointing to a town and saying they have made it to that town! Ludicrous right ? But how many Christian have their eyes on the ’spectacular’ rather than on Christ Himself ?
Don’t follow the signs and wonders, they are supposed to follow us!
(e) ME focus - Chief Priests (v10)
The Chief priests were more concerned about their own reputations in the presence of Jesus. They had an ’I, Me, Myself’ mentality. How many of us think only of ourselves even in the awesome presence of Christ ?
(f) MESSIAH focus - Mary (v3)
Mary differed from the rest in that she had:
* an understanding of His will (she had been sitting at His feet listening - Luke 10:38-42). She anointed Him for burial - she understood He must go to die. The others had a wrong concept of the ministry of Jesus but Mary saw the side of suffering that the others did not. She had heard the heartbeat of God and responded with an action that was pleasing to Him even if it raised the eyebrows of those around her. She was not a man-pleaser but a God-pleaser.
Are we willing to sit at His feet and hear his purposes for our life and take the sacrificial steps He’s asking us to ? Are we willing to pour out our lives in a sacrificial act of surrender to His will ? Mary was, so should we be.
* great humility - bowed down to wipe His feet. The broken alabaster vessel represented her own brokeness. She was submitted to His ways.