Sermons

Summary: Mary

LASTING LEGACY (JOHN 12:1-8)

In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sunday school. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.

“They may be as good for others, but not for me,” was his reply.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because they love a fellow over there,” he replied.

Most readers are familiar with John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26, John 20:2, 21:7, 21:20), but few have explored the depth of love Jesus had for the siblings Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus (John 11:5). Nothing could separate Jesus’ love for them. In chapter 11 the subject of Jesus’ love was Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus – in that order (John 11:5). Jesus’ love for Lazarus was recorded three times in the Bible in the previous chapter (John 11:3, 5, 36). The strong and sharp praises of Jesus for Mary, however, dwarfed the praises He reserved for others:

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:9)

What kind of gifts most represent your relationship with the Lord? How do you demonstrate and increase your reverence for the Lord? Why is love for the Lord a deed rather than a doctrine?

Be Generous: Bring a Gift

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. (John 12:1-3)

The Junior Sunday School Teacher asked her eight eager 10 year-olds if they would give a $1,000,000 to the missionaries. “Yes!” they all screamed!

“Would you give $1,000?” Again, they shouted “YES!”

How about $100?” “Oh, yes we would!” they all agreed!

“Would you just give a dollar to the missionaries?” she asked. The boys exclaimed, “Yes!” just as before, except for Johnny.

“Johnnie,” the teacher said as she noticed the boy clutching his pocket, “Why didn’t you say ‘yes’ this time?” “Well,” the boy stammered, “I have a dollar!”

The three siblings of Martha, Lazarus and Mary all did their part when Jesus came to town, with none of the sibling’s presence or part less significant. This is the first and only account of anybody making a “supper” for Jesus, but the credit goes to all –”they made” (v 2, KJV). Martha “served” means she was the attendant, host and server. Lazarus, along with others, were content to sit with Jesus, speak to him and seek His presence, although the text did not consider Lazarus’ job as less. It was a collective, charming and caring gesture.

Mary’s part, however, was not only costly, but was criticized instead of credited. The leading actions from Mary in verse 3 are poured out (anointed), wiped and filled. The word “ointment” occurs three times (vv 3 2x, 5) in the passage. Most translations have a “pound” of nard, which is equal to a pint of nard (NIV). Nard, or spikenard in KJV, is for fit kings (Song 1:12) and lovers (Song 4:14). Wikipedia says, “it is a flowering plant that grows to about 1 meter (3 ft) in height in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. Nard oil is used as a perfume, an incense, a sedative, and a herbal medicine said to fight insomnia, birth difficulties, and other minor ailments. It was offered on the specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples.” Whether for fragrance and flavoring it was used sparingly, so a pound was extravagant, eye-opening and excessive. The average price for spikenard on the web is US$20 for 10 ml. One pound equals to 473.17 ml, so one pound is around US$950. Unlike the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:37), Mary’s offering had a volume to it, stated as “very costly”. Would you

The word “expensive” is also translated as great price (Matt 13:46), very costly (John 12:3) and much more precious (1 Peter 1:7). From the Greek rendition of the word “muron” (ointment, KJV), we know that the ointment could be myrrh; “nard” could mean foreign, and “pure” (polutimos) is “very” (polus) and “honorable” (time). Like the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:38), she anointed the feet (plural) and wiped the feet with her hair. Unlike other instances when Jesus’ feet were anointed, the house was filled with odor – “filled” and “odor” were not specified in other passages. Filled (v 3) means full (2 John 12), perfect (Rev 3:2) and complete (Col 2:10). The scent, smell and sweetness spread to the whole room. The excess (pint), expenditure (expensive) and experience (odor) were stated.

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