Summary: A sermon about learning how to express our love for Jesus.
“I Don’t Know How to Love Him”
In Jesus Christ Superstar Mary Magdalene sings the following:
“I don’t know how to love him
What to do, how to move him
I’ve been changed, yes, really changed
In these past few days when I’ve seen myself
I seem like someone else.”
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus had come to where Mary and Martha lived because their brother Lazarus had gotten sick.
When Jesus arrived, the funeral was already over, and the sisters were absolutely overwhelmed with grief.
Now, usually when a funeral is over the mourners gather for a meal.
The strange thing about this meal is that the person who died is hanging out with Jesus and the other guests at the table—and he is very much alive!!!
And so, how grateful are his sisters?
Well, Martha is busy serving the food, and Mary?
Mary is so grateful that she takes out, what could well have been the family’s life savings, and anoints the feet of Jesus with it.
Then she wipes His feet with her hair.
And Judas, who is watching all this take place, gets red in the face mad and asks: “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?”
Well, that’s not a bad question.
Judas may have been a thief and a traitor, he may have embezzled money from the common money bag, he may have had other motives besides the high moral road he seems to project, and he probably doesn’t care a bit about the poor.
But isn’t he basically right?
Couldn’t the pint of expensive perfume been used for a better purpose?
It was worth a year’s wages, for crying out loud!
Couldn’t the money be used to buy food for starving people or to improve the miserable housing in Mary and Martha’s neighborhood?
I mean, they did live in the ghetto.
The name of their town literally means “House of the Poor.”
Didn’t Mary go just a little overboard?
She reminds me of people who choose the most expensive casket possible only to have it buried in the ground.
That’s essentially what happens to this perfume.
But instead of agreeing with Judas, Jesus tells Judas to “Leave Mary alone.”
And then He says something that sounds a bit confusing, if not downright mean.
He says: “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
What does Jesus mean by that?
That the poor can go fly a kite?
Is He giving the green light to prosperity preachers—the Jim and Tammy Bakers of this world?
I mean, this verse has been used to justify more than one massive church building program.
What does Jesus mean by these words?
***Put Scripture on Screen***
Jesus’ words are a quotation from Deuteronomy 15:11.
And the meaning here is unmistakable.
It reads: “There will always be poor people in the land.
Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy…”
***Take down Scripture***
There can be no doubt that Jesus is NOT suggesting that we neglect the poor.
Jesus’ ministry was all about the poor.
The evidence is so overwhelming that we should hardly even need to mention it—the poor in spirit, the financially poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, those in prison—you name it.
So what does Jesus mean?
Years ago, a friend of mine used to teach school in Camden, South Carolina.
It was a classroom for mentally challenged children and most of them were very poor.
In December, right before Christmas break, a little girl named Natasha brought my friend a present.
It was a very nice present.
It was a present that cost more than her family could afford.
My friend didn’t need the gift.
But Natasha was so proud standing there.
Her family was grateful that my friend had taken an interest in their daughter.
They didn’t need to buy that gift.
But what could my friend do but hug that little girl and say: “Thanks”?
A pastor tells the story of the first congregation she served.
It was a country church where many of the members had gardens.
A church member asked: “Would you like some carrots, pastor?”
She answered, “A few would be nice.”
The next day a bushel of carrots appeared on the parsonage porch.
The pastor recalls wondering, “A bushel of carrots for two people? Were they crazy?
Not at all; just grateful to God, just happy.”
A bushel of carrots was an extravagant way of saying “Thanks.”
The pastor says, “We ate what we could.”
So, we might ask, “Well, if Jesus accepted a $50,000 foot massage, would He also drive a Lexus?
Would He stay at the Hyatt Regency?
Would He always eat His steak at Ruth’s Chris?”