Summary: 1. Jesus wants us to be confident in Him (John 12:1-2). 2. Jesus wants us to be committed to Him (John 12:2-5, 9-11). 3. Jesus wants to take care of us (John 12:4-8). 4. Jesus wants to commend us (Matthew 26:7-13).

God Wants Us to Get Closer to Him

The Gospel of John

John 12:1-11, Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 26:7-13

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - May 3, 2017

(Revised December 5, 2019)


*Here in John 12, God's Word jumps forward about two months. We are now only six days before the cross. And in the opening verses of this chapter we are faced with two very different responses to our Savior, extreme opposites. One of these people was an extraordinary giver. The other was an extraordinary traitor.

*The giver was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. These three were all very close to Jesus. He had been in their home probably many times. Mary was known for carefully listening to the Lord as she sat at His feet. She was also there when Jesus raised her brother from the dead. And now Mary was about to perform a great act of love and devotion for the Lord.

*Judas the traitor had also seen Lazarus raised from the dead and much, much more. But now Judas was about to betray our Savior for just 30 pieces of silver.

*With this background in mind, let's read John 12:1-11. And as we read, please think about the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with us.


*Kevin Higgins asked this important question: "Do you ever feel distant from God? Do you ever wish you were closer to Him?" Church, you are in good company. In Psalm 13:1, King David cried out these questions to God: "How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?"

*In those moments, David felt very far away from the Lord. And Kevin explained that "we all go through wilderness times in our lives, times when we feel deserted by God, times when our prayers don't seem to be heard. We feel distant from God, cool in our devotion to Him, wondering if we will ever get that closeness back." (1)

*Well, you may be going through one of those dry spells right now. But even if you're not, let me give you some great news: You and I can get closer to the Lord than we have ever been before! God wants us to get closer to Him, and Lazarus' family can help us get there.


*The Lord Jesus Christ wants us to be fully confident in Him, and we should be! Verses 1-2 remind us of this truth:

1. Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.

2. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.

*Mary, Martha and Lazarus were all highly confident in the Lord, because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead! And the sisters were there when it happened. Please listen to this part of the story in John 11:38-44:

38. Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.

39. Jesus said, "Take away the stone.'' Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.''

40. Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?''

41. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.

42. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.''

43. Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!''

44. And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go.''

*Mary and Martha were there that day. They saw and heard all of these things. And now Lazarus was sitting with them there at the table! There is no doubt that they all had total confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so should we!

*We should be confident in Jesus because He loves us beyond measure, because He died on the cross for our sins, because He rose again from the dead, and because He will never fail us! We have God's Word on all of these things, so we can fully trust in the Lord.


*The Lord wants us to be committed like Lazarus and his sisters were in vs. 2-3:

2. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.

3. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

*Think about the commitment Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, had to the Lord.


*By this time, the situation had gotten very dangerous for Jesus and His followers. That's why the disciples at first were very reluctant to go back to Judea. In John 11:8, they said, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?'' Then in John 11:16, Thomas pleaded with the other disciples saying, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him.''

*Things got much more dangerous after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, John 11:53-57 says this about the Lord:

53. Then from that day on they plotted to put Him to death.

54. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.

55. And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.

56. Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, "What do you think that He will not come to the feast?''

57. Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

*Many of the ruling Jews had been trying to kill the Lord months. But on that day the Pharisees and Sadducees of the High Council came together to make it their official policy. Verses 9-11 in today's Scripture tell us more:

9. Then a great many of the Jews knew that He was there (i.e. with Lazarus); and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.

10. But the chief priests took counsel that they might also put Lazarus to death,

11. because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

*The situation was very dangerous for both Jesus and His followers, but Mary, Martha and Lazarus all stood by the Lord. They were there when they could have walked away, and many had already walked away because of the danger. Many had also walked away, because they would not receive the Lord's teachings.

*In John 6, Jesus talked about being the Bread of Life. And in vs. 57-66 the Lord said this:

57. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.

58. This is the bread which came down from heaven not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.''

59. These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?''

61. When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?

62. What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?

63. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

64. But there are some of you who do not believe.'' For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

65. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.''

66. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

*Many had walked away, but Mary, Martha and Lazarus stood by the Lord. Verse 2 shows us that Martha was present to serve the Lord: "There they made Him a supper; and Martha served." Then in vs. 3, Mary used her hands to spread the ointment. How are you using your hands to serve the Lord?

*Also in vs. 3, Mary used her hair to serve the Lord. She wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. Why did she do that? Well, she must have been on her knees before the Lord. And that's the spirit the Lord wants to see in us today: Hearts bowed down in thankful worship and adoration for the Lord.


*Mary is our example in vs. 3. There she "took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard," and "anointed the feet of Jesus." This gift of ointment was an extravagant expression of Mary's love. Judas showed us just how extravagant it was in vs. 4-5:

4. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said,

5. "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?''

*Three hundred 300 "denarii" or 300 "pence" in the KJV. That was equivalent to an average man's wage for 300 days, so Mary used ointment that it would take a whole year's salary to buy! Mother's Day is coming May 14th, and I really love my wife Mary. But she is not getting 300 pence perfume!

*The Mary here in John 12 gave a most extravagant expression of her love. She gave her absolute best to Jesus. She was fully committed to the Lord, because she knew what matters the most in life.

*It's easy to forget. A dad named Glenn Adsett got a unique wake-up call on this truth. Glenn and his wife were missionaries in China when the Communists took over in the late 1940s. Glenn, his wife and their two children were placed under house arrest while they waited to hear what the Communists were going to do with them.

*Then the soldiers came one day and said, "You can return to America." They went into a wild celebration, but it was cut short when the soldier gruffly said, "You can take only 200 pounds with you!"

*The family started rushing around. They had been in China for many years. How can you limit the possessions of a lifetime to 200 pounds? They got the scales and began to argue about what to take. All four of them had their own ideas about what was most important: A typewriter, a vase, some keepsakes they treasured.

*Finally, they got it down to 200 pounds on the dot. The soldier asked, "Ready to go?" -- "Yes!" they replied. Then the soldier asked, "Did you weigh the children?" Suddenly the typewriter, the vase, and the keepsakes all became trash. They were garbage compared to the children! Glenn and his wife were reminded of what matters most in life. And nothing matters more than God! (2)

*Mary was fully committed to the Lord, because she had the right priorities in life. How did she get that way? The answer is found in Luke 10:38-42, which says:

38. Now it happened as they went that He (Jesus) entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.

39. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.

40. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.''

41. And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.

42. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.''

*Mary loved the Lord, because she listened to the Lord. And the more we really listen to Jesus, the more we will love Him too. And we will be committed to Him.


*Remember that Mary was harshly criticized in this Scripture. The main critic was Judas the Betrayer, and we see him in vs. 4-6:

4. Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said,

5. "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?''

6. This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

*Judas is hard for us to understand. To see all he saw, to hear all he heard, and still reject Jesus is hard for us to understand. But it all came back to selfishness and sin. And that sin put Judas on Satan's side. So the devil used Judas to attack Mary, and somehow, he will find ways to attack us.

*Mary was harshly criticized, but Jesus was there to take care of her. And we see the Lord in action in vs. 7-8:

7. Then Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.

8. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.''

*Jesus was able to take care of Mary, and He can certainly take care of us! In fact, the Lord has already done the most important thing. By going to the cross for us, Jesus took our punishment. He paid the price to deliverer us from sin, and death, and hell. And the risen Christ will deliver us, if we will believe in Him, if we will receive Him as our Lord and Savior.

*Think about the extreme price God paid to fully save us from our sin. Stuart Townsend said it well in this hymn he wrote:

"How deep the Father's love for us, How vast beyond all measure; -- That He would give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away; -- As wounds which mar the chosen One, Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross, My guilt upon His shoulders; -- Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice, Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there, Until it was accomplished; -- His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no powr's, no wisdom; -- But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; -- But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom." (3)

*Praise the Lord! Jesus wants to take care of us just like He took care of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, so put your trust in the Lord!


*John's Gospel doesn't mention this part of the story, but Matthew 26 and Mark 14 do. There Jesus both defended and commended Mary. Listen to this part of the story from Matthew 26:7-13:

7. a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.

8. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "To what purpose is this waste?

9. For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.''

10. But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.

11. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.

12. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial.

13. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.''

*Why did Jesus honor Mary's giving? -- Not because her gift cost so much, but because she gave God the best she possibly could. As Howard McGlamery once said, "Mary didn't just pour some out. She gave it all. She held back nothing. She gave her best."

*Howard then told about a father who had two grown sons. One was brilliant, and one was very handicapped. In the very same week one son graduated from college with a 4.0 average, and the other son learned how to tie his shoes. But the father was equally proud of both his sons. And God will be equally proud of us, whenever we give Him our best. (4)

*Mary heard some wonderful words of praise in vs. 13, and God wants to praise us too. He wants to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:21)

*Let's make up our minds to give Jesus our best. God gave His best for us, and it is most proper for us to give our best to Him.


*Just as Jesus prophesied, Mary's story has been told all over the world. This reminds us that we can always count on God's Word! And the world may never hear about us the way they have heard about Mary. But Jesus will know. And one day, by His grace, we can hear Him say, "Well done."

*You and I can get closer to the Lord than we have ever been before! God wants us to get closer to Him. Remember that James 4:8 says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." Let's get started right now, as we go back to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "I Want God Close to Me" by Kevin Higgins - Matthew 1:23 - December 23, 2007

(2) Sources:

-DEEP JOY FOR A SHALLOW WORLD by Richard A. Wing, CSS Publishing Company, 1997, 0-7880-1033-6 - Source: - 12/07/2003

-From a sermon by Wayne Brouwer - Source: sermon "What Are You Tied To?" by King Duncan - John 15:1-17

(3) "How Deep the Father’s Love" by Stuart Townsend - John Mark Ministries - 1995

(4) SermonCentral sermon "Alabaster Giving #2" by Howard McGlamery - Mark 14:3-9