Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11
In chapter 12, John gives account of several different responses to Jesus – these responses remind me of the various responses of people within the church today.
Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus – the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.
But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor – he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. – John 12:1-6
The Passover was only six days away and I am sure there was much that needed to be done for this annual celebration, yet Lazarus and his sisters put aside their preparations in order to throw a dinner party in Jesus’ honor. What a year it had been for them! They recognized how different this Passover celebration would have been if Jesus had not intervened and raised Lazarus from the dead. God had blessed them greatly and they refused to forget His generosity. Instead they chose to be generous in return.
Martha is doing what she does best – serving. It is her love language. Lazarus is soaking in the presence of Jesus, thankful for the opportunity to share a meal together in brotherly fellowship and giving Jesus the gift of his time, probably recognizing that every minute of his life is a gift from Jesus. Martha and Lazarus remind me of my mother-in-law, Bonnie Sherwood. Three times she has been diagnosed with cancer and today she is cancer-free, not saved by human efforts but healed by God. She knows that every day is a gift from God and so she lives out her love language of serving God by serving others and she soaks in every opportunity to worship in Jesus’ presence.
Mary’s response to Jesus is beautiful in her own way, perhaps describing her love language – sacrifice. There was nothing too expensive for Jesus, nothing she was unwilling to do in order to express her devotion to the Savior. The house was filled with the fragrance. Mary’s gift and worship had an impact on the entire house, affecting the experience of everyone in her vicinity. When we give our best to God, when we serve and worship Him in reckless abandon, all those around us are impacted by that kind of sacrifice – by that kind of gift.
Judah’s response was one of selfishness and greed. He was thinking only of himself. His concern was first for his own experience, disregarding the heart of Jesus and the needs of others. He had an attitude of possessiveness and entitlement.
These various responses can sadly been seen today among the body of Christ. Consider these examples and ask God to reveal your heart.
– The Church announces a work day. Martha signs up to help, Mary offers to buy the cleaning supplies and Judas says, “I was at the last work day. It is someone else’s turn to clean.”
– A teenager who is rough around the edges, struggling with some addictions and coming from an unchurched family walks in the door. Martha offers him a ride to all future youth group events, Mary offers to pay his way to camp and Judas complains that there are cigarette butts in the Church parking lot now.
– The State posts the abortion statistics for the local community and the lives of 350 babies are reflected in last year’s numbers. Martha volunteers her time and Mary writes a check to the local pregnancy center, while Judas looks the other way and complains if the Church brings up the topic of abortion – after all, it makes everyone uncomfortable.
– A man walks out on his wife and kids, filing for divorce. Martha volunteers to babysit, Mary brings over a week’s worth of groceries, and Judas says, “There’s always two sides to every story – I’m sure she shares some of the fault in their marriage going bad. Pastor, you need to find someone else to teach her Sunday School class.”
Heavenly Father, reveal to me any “Judas” traits I might have. Forgive me for the times when I have put my own desires ahead of the needs of others, or the times when I have been too busy to honor you. Forgive me for the times when I have judged others instead of showing love. Help me to always see how different my life would be without your intervention and healing.
Lord Jesus, may I never forget your generosity but always be generous towards you. May the fragrance of my devotion to you be a blessing to all those in the house. Grow the “Martha” and “Mary” in me so that my first response is service and generosity. Like Lazarus, thank you for allowing me to experience your presence this morning as I drink my morning coffee.