Mark 14:1-11, John 12:1-8
April 18, 2021
How many of us have ever been, or known someone who was so committed to something that others may have viewed it as crazy?
Have you ever heard of Fauja Singh? What a story! So here is a guy who is a runner, now is 110, and didn’t retire from official running events until 104. That is crazy! That is commitment right there. He, at an age where most of us would probably like to relax a bit and slow down is doing more than people 1/3 his age. He started running at the age of 81 and ran his first race at 89. At 100, ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. 42 kms in just under 8.5 hours. At 102, he ran a 10km race. And now, he is the subject of a children’s book!
As crazy as this example is, it is truly an example of commitment to a cause – a cause he believes in and has devoted his life to. He is truly committed.
What are you committed to? What do you believe in? What are you devoting your life to? There are lots of things that we can be committed to aren’t there. Many are good things too!
Jesus invites us to be committed to His cause
That cause can be loosely summarized in three parts:
a. Love God with all of yourself
b. Love others how you want to be loved
c. Help others find and follow Jesus
I Invite you to turn to John 12. A parallel story is found in Mark 14. I am going to reference it a bit to fill in on some details, but my main focus in on John 12. I will give you a bit of background as you flip.
Passover is just around the corner. For those unfamiliar, Passover was a major annual yearly celebration for the Jews that dated back some 2000 years prior, celebrating the freedom of Israel from Egyptian slavery by the hand of God. Check out Exodus 11-12 for further reference.
What you need to know is that it was expected that all males over a certain age were supposed to come back to Jerusalem to be a part of the temple worship and celebration to God in this yearly event. Even Jewish males who were in jail could even be released for Passover and then taken back after. This was a big deal! Jesus (knowing that He will also be killed at Jerusalem) still heads there with His disciples for this yearly celebration.
On the way, he comes to a town called Bethany where 2 sisters live with their brother (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus). Lazarus is dead, but Jesus comes, and calls Lazarus out of the tomb where he is buried and back to life again!
Read John 12:1-8
Later that night, still in Bethany, we see from Mark 14that they are at the home of a man named Simon the Leper, where there is a feast being held in honour of Jesus. Simon (not to be confused with Simon Peter) likely was the man that Jesus healed prior that had leprosy. He would have been referred to as “the Leper” because at one point he was a leper, not that he is presently. He wouldn’t be having people over for a party if he still was fighting leprosy as those with leprosy lived in a secluded isolated colony away from people.
At this dinner is Simon (the host), Jesus, His disciples, Lazarus, maybe others, and Mary / Martha who would, according to custom, be serving. What happens next gives two completely different pictures of commitment.
1) Mary – the committed follower:
Everyone is reclining at the table, talking, listening to Jesus speak maybe. Then, it all stops as Mary comes into the room with an ointment – made from an aromatic plant in India. This ointment was used for burial (which is interesting because of what is about to happen to Jesus. And it is worth lots of $$$. 300 Denarii was equivalent to 300 days of work for a laborer. An extravagant and expensive gift indeed!
She then takes this ointment, breaks the jar it is in, and lets it pour over Jesus’ head (see Mark 14) – In the process she also anoints His feet with the oil and chooses to wipe His feet with her hair.
The men in the room were likely already talking. Mary had come into a place that, in their custom, she was not to be. She was not to gather with the men. And now, she is doing this really uncomfortable, awkward public display of love and honour. And in the process, she is wiping the dirtiest part of the body, the feet, with her hair. Awkward….
Here we have a picture of the depth of her love and commitment to Jesus – that she loved Jesus so much, with all she was, that she was willing to lay it all out there – at a cost to her personally, and even to her “dignity”. There was no taking it back now. Out of love and commitment she ensured that her Lord got the anointing that was the best she could do. Her commitment to Jesus, to her God was on full display for all to see.
2) Judas – The committed crook
Here is a guy who is the complete opposite of everything Mary was committing to. He was, by all accounts, a committed crook who deserved to be committed. Judas is one of the 12 disciples – He is in Jesus’ inner circle, but he never seems to be engaged at a heart level in what is going on. Judas was concerned with his own gain, and we see
that in this passage.
Mark 14:4-5 talks about the disciples getting worked up about Mary anointing Jesus with the expensive ointment. But in John 12, we see one disciple in particular being a mouthpiece for the others – Judas… He is the one speaking up. That is not to say that the others were not taken back by this, in fact I am sure that everyone in the room was talking (maybe in disgust and disbelief), but he is the one who is vocally bothered enough to speak up.
He hides under the disguise that this is a bad use of resources when there are so many needy people around. 300 days wage could really help the poor after all. I like the insight John 12 gives to this passage. Judas really couldn’t care less about the poor. He was a thief at heart. As keeper of the communal money bag (as there were not ATMs and Bank Accounts in those days) he frequently helped himself to the moneybag of the disciples for his own desires. We have a term for that today… Robber. Judas was a thief and robber who saw Mary’s possession as an opportunity to get rich. She could sell the perfume, put the money into the communal money bag, and he could get rich through taking some of that money for himself.
If we were to jump to Mark 14:10-11, we further see the heart of Judas in this whole true story… some point after this whole exchange, after Jesus rebukes him, Judas goes off in secret to agree to betray Jesus to the religious leaders with a promise from them of money when he would hand Jesus to them only days later. So not only is Judas a thief, but he is also a bounty hunter who is guilty of conspiring and an accomplice to murder.
Judas was committed to himself, his sin, and his darkness. And the love of money was driving many of his actions. He was the complete opposite of Mary.
A) True commitment to Christ may invite the critics.
Look at Mary… she experienced that first hand. As she did this extravagant form of worship and honor to Jesus that came from a place of wholehearted passion, respect, and honor to Him, people got uptight. The whole scene of Mary being “undignified” and Jesus allowing her to wipe His feet with her hair or anoint His head was a bit too much for some. As well, Judas, and possibly some of the other disciples took exception to what was viewed as a misuse and waste of resources. Mary had her vocal critics.
As we wholeheartedly commit to follow Jesus individually and as a church, we may be called upon to do something that may not make sense to those around us. It may actually invite criticism, harsh words, and in some cases anger. But we shouldn’t be surprised as the Bible tells us to expect it – John 15:18-21.
Bottom line – as we commit to His cause, as we commit to follow Jesus passionately, whole heartedly, and obediently; desiring to see His work and purpose unfolded in and through our lives, some people will object, get uptight, oppose, and criticize. Expect it.
B) True commitment to Christ may come at personal cost.
Mary’s act of worship and commitment came at the cost of ointment worth over 300 days wages as a laborer. In the eyes of her critics, it cost her human dignity.
When we commit to the cause of Christ, it could come at a personal cost. I am not going to speculate on what that will look like as for each situation and person it might be different, and we could spend all day talking about it. But this I know, following Jesus, committing to His cause could come at a personal cost. And this is something that the Bible speaks about in Mark 8:34-35. If you want to be a follower of Jesus, if you want to be committed to His cause, you and I need to be willing to deny the things in our lives that would stand in the way of following Christ, take up our figurative cross (which was a tool of death), and give up the things on that cross that are standing in the way of us living the life Jesus wants for us. When that happens, you and I find true life in Christ.
These first two applications sound a bit heavy, and maybe are a bit discouraging to some of us this morning…. Here is the great promise in all of this though:
C) True commitment to Christ leaves behind true blessing
What did Jesus say in Mark 14:8-9? To paraphrase it, Mary’s obedience, passionate worship, and true commitment to Christ will be remembered wherever Jesus is preached, and we are blessed with a wonderful example to follow of how to love God with all of ourselves. And even today, over 2000 years later, we are blessed with that legacy, that example of true commitment to Christ.
What is our legacy as Hanover Missionary Church? I have asked before in this church “will we be missed if we as a church disappeared?” Think about that… even if 50 years passes, will we be remembered? How many churches have even folded in a 40km radius around Hanover in the last 50-100 years that people have forgotten about?
Remember: Jesus invites us to be committed to His cause. My conviction is this – If we:
a. Love God with all of ourselves
b. Love others how we want to be loved
c. Help others find and follow Jesus
…the result will be that we will be a blessing to our community, we will be remembered for the right reasons, and our commitment to the cause of Christ will make a deep difference in our community.
Why? Because following Jesus involves a life altering, people shaping, world shaking, radical commitment that others notice. It changes who we are and what we do. We stand out in a good way like a light stands out in darkness. In a society that seems taken by scandal and hypocrisy in the church, living committed to Jesus is a rare concept that people can’t forget. Let us then be committed, and be a blessing to our town, province, country, and world.