Saturday, September 08, 2007


Mary And the Multitude : Reactions to Jesus Signs.

As we saw last week, the concept of believing is very important in John’s Gospel.
John’s purpose for writing this gospel was expressly stated in John 20:30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31, "these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
“to believe/trust" is very common (used 98 times)!”
John selected several startling signs of Jesus to convince his readers that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah (or, as Don Carson has it, that the Messiah was in fact Jesus). His purpose was to induce his readers (or those with whom his readers came into contact) to believe in Jesus and thus have life in him. John, therefore, was possessed by a holy focus. This is not an autobiography, or even a biography (a “life”) of Jesus. Rather, John’s Gospel is an aid to personal faith.
John’s Gospel is about believing. John’s Gospel is about believing Jesus is the Christ.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” John’s Gospel is about believing Jesus is the Son of God. The only One who could be a mediator between God and Man, Being fully God and fully man. John’s gospel is about people having eternal life by believing in Jesus. This chapter here is about true faith and scepticism. It’s a contrast about Mary’s faith, and the Jews’ unbelief. Judas is an example, and the Pharisees and Sadducees who took counsel against Jesus. And its about those who believed, but were still sitting on the fence.
This morning one of these groups is representative of you. You are like one of these people.
You could have a True faith! There was a book written afew years back about the Labor party called “True Believers!”
1. The Testimony Of True Faith
In our message for this morning we're going to see the demonstration of an extravagant love. Now, it's interesting that this same story we read in John 12 is also found in Matthew 26 and Mark 14. If Hollywood were to make a movie based on our text, the camera would begin to focus in on the little town of Bethany, and then zero in on the house of Simon the leper. A number of the friends of Jesus have come together to give a supper in his honor. In the text we're told that Lazarus, Mary and Martha were among those present.
e get a clear picture of Mary's preference - her preference is indicated as reference to where she was in relation to Jesus Christ. She sat at his feet. This was her preference. This was a priority for Mary - to sit at the feet of Jesus Christ. Well, Mary had her priorities right. She had established her preference. In verse 2 of John 12 we read that Martha served the tables. We see that Lazarus sat with Jesus. But where was Mary? She was at his feet. The Bible says that "Mary...anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair...."
I remember another time when Mary was at the feet of Jesus. Look in Luke 10:38-39. Here we see where Mary positioned herself (read). There is an old song that I used to hear as a boy. It goes something like this: "Sitting at the feet of Jesus Where I love to kneel and pray,
Till his goodness and his mercy Drive the shadows from my way."
. In verse 32 of John 11 the Bible says, "Then when Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
In Luke 10 Mary took time to sit at his feet in prosperity. In John 11 she returned to his feet in adversity. Here in our text she is seen going to his feet in the fellowship of his sufferings.
I want you to understand that. It is fine to sit at the feet of scholarly men. It is good to hear the discourse of noble men. But it is infinitely better to sit at the feet of Jesus.
"Feasting on the riches of His grace, Resting 'neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face, That is why I shout and sing, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . ."
When Mary came to kneel at the feet of Jesus, she brought something very precious - a gift for Jesus. Look again in verse 3 Then Mary took a pound of fragrant oil—pure and expensive nard—anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Notice it was "very costly." Mark agrees that the ointment was "very precious." John 12:4 Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray Him), said, 5 “Why wasn’t this fragrant oil sold for 300 • denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.
You know, I shall always be indebted to Judas for figuring up the price of that box of costly ointment. He did it to rebuke her, but we will let his figure stand. We would never have known how much it cost if Judas had not marked it down in his pocketbook that it might be given to the poor. How he begrudged that ointment. He calculated the value at 300 denarii. Now, a denarii was the equivalent to a working man's wage for one day. In other words, this alabaster box of perfume represented very nearly a whole year's wages. Or we may think of it in this way. When Jesus and his disciples were discussing how the multitudes were to be fed, Philip's answer was that 200 denarii, would scarcely be enough to feed them. And this alabaster box of perfume would cost as much money as it would take to feed a crowd of 5000 people. It was something as precious as that that this woman gave to Jesus. And she gave it to him because it was the most precious thing she had.
Look in verse 7 Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of My burial.
Notice the phrase "kept this." This box with its precious ointment had not recently been acquired. It was not something that Mary just had lying around. It was something dear to Mary. She had been saving it, guarding it, holding it, treasuring it, keeping it for just the right moment. So Mary put her best at the feet of Jesus. There was no stint, no selfish reservation, no dodging, no seeing how little she could give - she just gave her best. Are you giving your best to Jesus?
Why did Mary sit at the feet of Jesus? Why did she pour out this costly ointment upon Jesus? First of all, I am sure that Mary was motivated by love. As we shall see, Mary seemed to understand who Jesus was. I believe she adored him and worshipped him because she knew he was sent from God. A couple of years ago some quack theologian came out with the idea that Jesus and this Mary were lovers and had an erotic affair going. Rubbish! The Bible says that "he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." The Bible says "he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." The love that Mary had for Jesus was a high and a holy love, for she saw something in his divine nature that even the disciples did not see. Mary gave her best to Jesus because she loved him. And that's a good reason; that's a good motive; that's a good purpose.
If a man loves Jesus, I mean if he really loves the Lord, he's going to tithe; he's going to witness; he's going to be faithful to the church; he's going to be cooperative.
Do you remember what Jesus said about the Ephesian church? He said they had left their first love. They just didn't love Jesus as before. Friend, how much do you love Jesus? This was Mary's purpose. She broke the alabaster box and anointed Jesus because of her love for him. She did it to show her love. That was her purpose; that was her motivation.
But she had another purpose; another reason for giving her best - gratitude. Two months earlier Jesus had raised up Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was the brother of Mary. Mary's heart swelled with gratitude for this and so many other things which Jesus had done.
Then I think Mary was expressing gratitude for what Jesus was about to do - on Calvary. Mary was perceptive. I believe Mary knew that Jesus was going to die on a Judean hillside to pay the sin debt for all mankind. Quite possibly Mary was the only one of the disciples that truly understood the importance of that moment. Mark 10 tells us Taking the Twelve aside again, He began to tell them the things that would happen to Him. 33 “Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The • Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, 34 and they will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him, and He will rise after three days.” Jesus had previously announced his approaching death, but the disciples seemed oblivious to it But instead of closing her mind to the prediction as the disciples seemed to do, Mary believed it. She apparently realized that when the tragedy struck there would be no more time for customary courtesies, so she wanted to anoint the body of Jesus as if in preparation for his burial. The praise Jesus outpoured upon her in Matthew's account of this episode makes no sense unless you realize that Mary had comprehended the mission of Jesus. Notice the words of Jesus in Matthew 26:12 By pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she has prepared Me for burial. Mary, out of gratitude for what Christ had done and for what Christ would soon do - even on Calvary’s cross - anoints the body of Christ. This was Mary's purpose. Do you see the cross in this story? This is a beautiful demonstration of extravagant love on the part of Mary and on the part of Jesus. The disciples should have known, but only Mary, who had made it her practice to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him really understood! Do you wonder why you sometimes don’t understand spiritual truth? You need to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. You can do that by reading His Word each day. Make listening to Jesus in His Word a real and active part of your life.
2. The Stupidity of Scepticism
John 12:37 Even though He had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him.
37 Even though He had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him.
10 Therefore the • chief priests decided to also kill Lazarus, 11 because he was the reason many of the Jews were deserting them and believing in Jesus. Meanwhile the crowd, which had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify.
18 This is also why the crowd met Him, because they heard He had done this sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to one another, “You see? You’ve accomplished nothing. Look—the world has gone after Him!”
Matthew Henry : His miracles were the great proof of his mission, and on the evidence of them he relied. Two things concerning them he here insists upon: - (1.) The number of them; they were many, - various and of divers kinds; numerous and often repeated; and every new miracle confirmed the reality of all that went before. The multitude of his miracles was not only a proof of his unexhausted power, but gave the greater opportunity to examine them; and, if there had been a cheat in them, it was morally impossible but that in some or other of them it would have been discovered; and, being all miracles of mercy, the more there were the more good was done. (2.) The notoriety of them. He wrought these miracles before them, not at a distance, not in a corner, but before many witnesses, appearing to their own eyes. The inefficacy of these means: Yet they believed not on him. They could not gainsay the premises, and yet would not grant the conclusion. Note, The most plentiful and powerful means of conviction will not of themselves work faith in the depraved prejudiced hearts of men. These saw, and yet believed not.
In John 2:23-24 we see that many in Jerusalem ‘believed’ in Jesus when they saw the miracles He did, “but Jesus did not trust Himself to them”, for He knew their hearts. Those who think that if people see signs and wonders they will believe should read John’s gospel. John makes it perfectly plain that those who are impressed by signs and wonders, but are not deeply touched in their minds, will not in the end prove to be true Christians. On the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem many people were enthusiastic about Him because of His great miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead; but within a few days they were crying out “Crucify Him!” John, taught by his great Lord and Master, put no great weight on signs and miracles for bringing in the kingdom of God. Chapter 12 is full of the unbelief of the Jews. Look, for example, at verse 34. Verse 37 is even plainer; it says Jesus left and “hid Himself from them. Though He had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in Him”. There it is in black and white!
37 Even though He had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him.
38 But this was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet, who said: Lord, who has believed our message? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? 39 This is why they were unable to believe, because Isaiah also said: 40 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they would not see with their eyes or understand with their hearts, and be converted, and I would heal them. 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke about Him. 42 Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. 43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
Somebody wrote: I’ll live for myself , for myself alone, For myself and none beside!
Just as if Jesus had never lived, And as if He had never died.
The Would Not believe soon becomes Then they could not believe.
Your heart could be hard because of sin.
Therefore they could not believe: It is possible to harden your heart to the place where you can not believe. Therefore we must believe while there is light. Our desire for the darkness of sin can be overwhelming. How many alcoholics want to stay alcoholics? How may our sins drive us away from God, even though we know its downright stupid!
Your heart could be hard because of Resisting Christ’s appeals
Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian born novelist who achieved popular success with his novels Lolita (1955), Pale Fire (1962) and Ada (1969) demonstrated on a visit to the U.S. just how frivolous humans can be. One summer in the 1940's, Nabokov and his family stayed with James Laughlin at Alta, Utah, where Nabokov took the opportunity to enlarge his collection of butterflies and moths. Nabokov's fiction has never been praised for its compassion, he was single-minded if nothing else. The story of that visit is as follows: One evening at dusk he returned from this day's excursion saying that during hot pursuit near Bear Gulch he had heard someone groaning most piteously down by the stream. "Did you stop?" Laughlin asked him. "No, I had to get the butterfly." The next day the corpse of an aged prospector was discovered in what has been named, in Nabokov's honor, "Dead Man's Gulch." While people around us are dying, how often we chase butterflies!
Your heart could be hard because of Pride
43 John makes a clear statement which is universal: “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”. Is that true only of Israel? Doesn’t it ring any bells in the 20th century? Do you not have friends, neighbours, or people in your church like that? Isn’t something like that lurking in your own heart? Isn’t it one of the most universal facts that people care greatly what other people say about them, but care little what God has to say? They turn away from hearing the gospel because they know people will laugh at them, and they find it easier to listen to men than to God. That is the tragedy of unbelief.
Your heart could be hard because of Fear of your friends.. your friends can laugh you into hell but never out of it.
42 says: “many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue”. We would never have known this if John did not say so; no writer of fiction would have said that among the people who were hounding Jesus to His death were some members of the Sanhedrin who were secretly persuaded that He was indeed the Messiah! John puts the record straight. Among the persecutors were some who were afraid to speak out for Jesus “for fear of the Pharisees”. That was their responsibility.
Your heart could be hard because of God’s judicial hardening.
He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart: There comes a place where God will strengthen us in our decision, whether for Jesus or against Jesus. Ultimately, before God, we get what we want, and those who push Jesus away will not have to endure eternity with Him. So astonishing, pathological, insistent and inexplicable was the unbelief of the Jewish people - who had the promises of God and so much preparation by the prophets - that John has to turn to the prophet Isaiah. In verses 39 and 40 he shows that long before Jesus came, Isaiah foretold that when He did come people would not believe in Him, that there would be a persistent refusal to receive Him as Messiah, and that He would be rejected. Isaiah said “Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Certainly not to Israel, although they were the people prepared for it!
3. The Challenge to Conversion Hear Jesus’ call
John 12: 44 Then Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. 45 And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects Me and doesn’t accept My sayings has this as his judge:the word I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak. 50 I know that His command is eternal life. So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

You need to believe on Him because He is God, If you don’t you will be an enemy of God for eternity.
You need to believe on Him because He gives light. If you don’t you will remain forever in darkness.
You need to believe on Him because He Saves. If you don’t you will remain condemned for eternity.
You need to believe on Him because He gives everlasting life.

Come to the light tis shining for thee,
Sweetly the Light has dawned upon me;
Once I was blind but now I can see
The Light of the world is Jesus!

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