Summary: Martha beavered away ’serving’, Lazarus (a former dead man) had a story to tell and Mary was extravagant in her worship. There are lessons for us in these three characters!
On Maundy Thursday we hold meals around the town in homes and in Churches in honour of Jesus. Here was a dinner given in Jesus’ honour (12:2).
It is only six days before the Passover (12:1) so it is the day before ‘Palm Sunday’ – the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, the day when he was greeted by shouting and rejoicing and the waving of branches from Palm Trees - and it is just a week before the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a meal given at Bethany, the town where Lazarus lived (12:1) – Lazarus, a man with an amazing story to tell (11:1-46) - it is a meal given in honour of Jesus. Our gathering here this morning is in honour of Jesus.
I want to focus briefly on three characters – Martha, Lazarus and Mary, but of course it’s impossible to do that without mentioning other people such as Judas, Jesus, and a large crowd of people (12:9-11).
• Martha: Martha gets a tiny but very important mention: “Martha served” (12:2). She was exercising and extending hospitality. She was beavering away in honour of Jesus. So, if offering hospitality is something you are good at, can I encourage you to exercise it in honour of Jesus! If someone offers you food or drink at their home, can I encourage you to accept it in honour of Jesus?
• Lazarus: This man has got a story to tell. This is a man over whom Jesus wept (11:35) because Lazarus was a former dead-man whom Jesus had resuscitated four days after his death (11:39). Lazarus is at this meal in honour of Jesus and he also get a short but important mention: “Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him” (12:2). We later discover (12:9) that a crowd gathers outside this house not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.
It’s not long before there is a contract out on Lazarus too (12:10) because people were putting their faith in Jesus on account of him. He was now a living, breathing, walking testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to change situations. He didn’t have to say anything. His very existence pointed to Jesus and that is a challenge and an encouragement to us. However, let’s be ready to give an account of our hope, as in 1 Peter 3: 15-16!
• Mary: Maratha and Lazarus might be summed up by 1 Peter 4: 7-11 with their serving and speaking; and often our actions will ‘speak’ louder than words!
Possibly using an heirloom worth a year’s wages, 300 pieces of silver, Mary is extravagant in her worship of The Lord. It is focused solely on Jesus. She invests everything she has in Jesus, and she gets criticised for it by Judas (12:4-6).
Have we ever looked at others, at the love they have for Jesus and been critical? Judas on the face of it has good reason – surely that money should have been used to feed the poor! The problem however is that his motives were actually wrong in any case since he wanted to filter off some of the money for himself; and his heart was not right with God. It’s a reminder that righteous acts can be carried out with wrong motives. God wants our acts of service to come out of love for him. Love God and love your neighbour!