Jesus Is Anointed – John 12:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 26, 2015
When we graduate from high school we have a ceremony to commemorate the event; when we are married for a long time, live into very old age or have been at a job for a long time, folks usually commemorate the event; and when a ship is launched the event is commemorated as well. Here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus being remembered by those who owed him so much, especially by one gracious lady.
We do not fully understand the idea or the reasoning behind why folks of Jesus’ day would anoint him. In fact, I would venture a guess that there are a lot of folks who do not even know what it means to anoint someone. Today we are beginning an entire section that covers the very last days of Jesus’ life. Let’s discover what it meant for Jesus to be anointed.
Good food and good company are two of the wonderful things in life. This is why Thanksgiving is especially important to me, because it also includes patriotic undertones as well, and there is turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie; and did I mention pie? Here we find Jesus with good friends enjoying a dinner. Then…
I. Mary did the unexpected! (Vv. 1-3)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 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.
1. John gives us a lot of firsthand knowledge in these remaining chapters. Here we see Jesus again enjoying a simple celebration presented by his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It is “six days before the Passover” when the Jewish nation would commemorate the angel of death passing over the Children of Israel after the blood of a lamb was painted on the doorposts and lintel. “Jesus arrived at Bethany” (house of dates) a small town outside of Jerusalem “where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” Leaving the even smaller town of Ephraim 15 or so miles to the north near the Judean wilderness, Jesus returns to face his enemies. Of course this was unknown to his disciples at the time that Jesus deliberately chose to go into the mouth of the beast, so-to-speak. They just knew he was there enjoying a dinner given in his honor. “Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.” It is a typical household scene from the time of Jesus; friends enjoying one another’s company, yet there is one who does something truly beautiful. Mary. Did she know Jesus had come back to face his enemies and die? Could she have sensed something the others had not known nor guessed? I do not believe so, rather, I believe she did this out of respect for Jesus to honor him for what he had done for her family by giving them back their beloved brother Lazarus from the dead. Martha served, Lazarus enjoyed Jesus, and “Mary took about a pint of pure nard”, which was a very “expensive perfume.” It was probably something she had either bought for herself or someone special had given it to her, it was a very priceless and lovely thing imported from northern India in special sealed alabaster flasks that any woman of that era would have loved to own. Yet Mary uses in an unexpected way, “she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair”! The whole “house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” of Mary’s gracious act! Mary did the unexpected!
EXAMPLE: When was the last time you did something unexpected that benefitted someone else? What I mean here is when have you done something like Mary? Have you taken that which you value and given it freely away to benefit someone else in order to honor God? I believe Mary now saw Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah, and she was declaring it for everyone to see. Mary’s act of course is made even more poignant because it occurred within a few days of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. But what have you sacrificed in life in order to honor Jesus? Mary did the unexpected!
While Mary did the unexpected, we find someone else who did something that we have seen far too often in life. We see that…
II. Judas did the expected! (Vv. 4-8)
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
1. However, not everyone saw Mary’s act as a wonderful thing. There are always killjoys in the crowd who want to spoil the moment, you know what I mean. You could give someone something you cherished and the naysayer looking on would comment, “They’ll never appreciate it.” Now least you want to feel sorry for poor old Judas, don’t. We have a tendency to root for the underdog, but Judas was just a plain old smelly rotten dog. Jesus would say that “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24 NIV) and the King James Bible relates that Jesus prayed concerning his disciples to the Father, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” Son of perdition is a term literally meaning one who is utterly ruined, lost, or damned! Judas made his choices as we all do and would suffer the consequences of those decisions. John relates, “Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.'” What a contrast to Mary’s graciousness! Notice, John pegs Judas’ character for what he was, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” While Mary took that which she treasured and freely gave it away and used her own crown of hair as a towel, Judas can only gripe and grind his teeth at the expensiveness of the gift involved. Interestingly, it is Jesus who immediately comes to her defense, “‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.'” Ah, there it is, it is a God-ordained moment. It was intended all along that Mary would use her gift for such a purpose. It was always intended that Judas would be Judas. I guess God is in the predestination business after all, isn’t he? They would always have the impoverished, but they would not always have the physical presence of Jesus with them. Mary did the unexpected, but Judas did the expected!
EXAMPLE: We live in a day where far too many are sarcastic or just plain suspicious of everyone and everything. I believe it is because we live in an age where we do not trust other people. We have been disappointed by politicians and their false promises, celebrities and their promiscuous lifestyles, our own families and their broken commitments. We think every business, bureaucrat, or benefactor is waiting to mess us over. We truly live in a jaded age and because of this we do not expect much. We selfishly look out for number one. Judas did as well this is why Judas did the expected!
Why are there those who think that their meager little selfish plans far outweigh those of God? Often they only think of what is best for them and for the here and now. This is true for the Jewish leadership. We discover that…
III. The Jewish leadership did the ungodly! (Vv. 9-11)
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
1. Unbeknown to Jesus and the rest, “a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came.” Perhaps there were those who wanted to see for themselves the man who raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps they could see Lazarus himself, or just maybe they could see what would happen when the authorities found out that Jesus had returned. In fact, John notes that that they came “not only because of him (Jesus) but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” Lazarus was a celebrity and he was gaining notoriety as well as Jesus was! So much so in fact that “the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well”! I find this kind of humorous in a way. Not the killing part so much but that they were plotting to kill someone for simply being raised from the dead in the first place! It is kind of ironic to be threatened with death because you were raised from the dead! Either these people were dense or they were kind of slow in their thought processes. However, notice exactly why they wanted Lazarus dead, far too “many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.” Wow, simply because of the miracle of raising Lazarus! A God miracle is done and all they want to do is snuff out the miracle worker, Jesus, and the one whom the miracle was worked on, Lazarus! If you can’t beat them, beat them again and again and then kill them! But those who desire the death of Jesus do so at their own peril. Their nation, temple, and their own priesthood and Sanhedrin would be totally destroyed because of their rejection and murder of Jesus. The Jewish leadership did the ungodly!
EXAMPLE: We were getting onto the State highway when a car darted out in front of me, causing me to step on my brakes. The three adults in the vehicle were sprawled all over the inside of the car and none were using seatbelts. The TV reporter announced that a man recently caught by police “was a bad man who likes doing bad things.” In California, home of the quintessential tree-hugger, the illegal pot growers who can now legally grow their crop still use illegal methods by chain-sawing old-growth groves and diverting streams to water their crops causing them to dry up. Bad people usually do rotten things, but how surprising to learn that those who considered themselves the most righteous, holy, and spiritually pure purposely did the ungodly; the Jewish leadership did the ungodly!
Some folks do the unexpected like Mary, some do the expected like Judas, and then some do the ungodly like the Jewish leadership — which will you do?
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission