Sunday Morning | June 25, 2023 | John C. Majors | Louisville, Kentucky
Pastor John C. Majors delivered a sermon on June 25, 2023, focusing on the passage John 12:1-8. The sermon explores the act of love portrayed by Mary as she anoints Jesus' feet with expensive oil. The pastor highlights three significant aspects of this act. Firstly, Mary's lavish love is displayed through her extravagant pouring of the oil, symbolizing her deep gratitude. Secondly, the response to Mary's act by Judas and others represents disordered love, as they question why the oil wasn't sold to help the poor. The pastor warns about the dangers of personal greed and emphasizes the need to be mindful of weaknesses that can be exploited by the devil. Lastly, Jesus defends Mary's actions, revealing prioritized love. He states that worshiping Him should take precedence, as caring for the poor flows from a heart of worship. The sermon concludes with an encouragement to engage in radical, lavish worship without apologizing for it, as it can have a profound impact on the lives of others.
At Valley View Church we are currently studying through the entire gospel of John, verse by verse. You can join us on Sunday mornings at 11 AM for worship. We are located at 8911 3rd Street Road, Louisville KY 40272.
Well, good morning to all of you. Can we give thanks for this worship team and just the awesome job they do? I'm so grateful for the effort they put forth and not just for the quality of the music, but just for the also the heart of worship displayed. Hey, listen, we're continuing in our study of the book of John. We've been working through the Book of John. We're going to be in John chapter 12 today. And there's one guy who came to mind in the midst of preparing for this message. I've always been encouraged by Al Mohler in his ministry. He is the president of Southern Seminary. Many others have as well. The thing that most encourage me about Dr. Mohler, though, is the way he started out at Southern, you know, when he came to Southern Seminary, which is here in Louisville, it's a it's a seminary that has trained many, many, many pastors, especially in this area, largest seminary in the world right now. When he first came, though, southern Seminary had become very liberal. They had moved away from the view of the authority of scripture, of the inerrancy, of Scripture, of the Scripture, as our basis for all of life and theology. They had gone away from that. And so when he came in, the first priority was to change that back, to move that back to where the scriptures and authority of scriptures, inerrancy, the scriptures are the foundation of everything they teach, which meant a lot to me. To me, that's just a supreme act of love and care for the church. Well, I had a good friend who was also the provost at the seminary years ago. I got to visit with him. I went there. We met in his office. We were talking about especially family ministry. How do we train parents to train their children? And as we're talking, at one point he stops and says, Hey, take a look at that window over there. Does is there anything that looks strange about that window? And I thought, I'm not here for decorating advice. We're not that's not what I'm into. But I'll look at it. And it did. It looked weird. And look it didn't look like a normal window. And he said, that's because it's bulletproof glass. That raised a whole lot more questions in my mind. I wonder where this was going. But he said, here's the issue. This room we're meeting in was originally Dr. Mueller's office. And when he first came and started to make all these changes, what I took as a supreme act of love, care for the seminary, many others took differently. And he had death threat after death, threat after death threat, so much so that they installed bulletproof glass on the offices that he had. And he said, I keep those windows up. They've asked me to change them out because they're hard to clean. But we leave them up as a reminder that there was a day and age in the seminary where we had to install bulletproof glass because of the death threats on the president. It's shocking how we can view things so differently. What I saw as a supreme act of love others saw as evil as hate. They disparaged him. I couldn't believe he would do such things. How is it that we can end up sometimes and see the same thing and end up in such different places? We're going to see some of that and today's passage in John chapter 12. In fact, we're going to see three different displays of love that occur here. We'll see lavish love, extreme pouring out of love. We'll see disordered love, misplaced love, and then we'll see prioritize love as we look at this passage. So we're gonna look in John chapter 12. If you don't have a Bible, we have Bibles for free for you out in the connection corner. In fact, through the passage up on the screen, it's on page 845. In that Bible, we tie the pages on the screen to that specific Bible, but we're in John chapter 12, and let's read the first two verses here to get our bearings, to get our setting on the passage. John Chapter 12, verse one and two, six days before the Passover Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was whom Jesus has raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. So here's our bearing, here's our setting. It's six days before the Passover. That's significant because basically Jesus has about six days left before they put him to death. And so if you notice, we're in chapter 12 of John. Do you think that's the ending of the book? But that's basically that half of the book spends about a week of his life, the focus of a week of his life. So things are really slowing down time wise. He's going to spend a lot of time investing in his disciples in this window. Also, note the word Bethany. They come back to Bethany. We were in chapter 11, and that's where Lazarus says it says here Lazarus was. That's where he brought Lazarus back to life. The miracle of all miracles. That's what turned so many against him, though. Just like with our mother, you do something, you think that's great and it turns many against him. The miracle of all miracles. Bringing someone back to life. But he comes back to the town and of course, they throw a party for him. I mean, if someone who had done something great for your family comes through town, you're going to want to throw a party with them. You're going to want to celebrate that. In fact, other accounts of the story of Matthew and Mark said they met in the home of Simon, the leper, probably someone else who had been healed by Jesus in the same town. Let's bring them all together. Let's celebrate what he had done. Now, notice here, as we get the setting, it said in verse two that Martha served them. Martha does the serving. Now we've seen that before. If you've read the Book of Luke, you've seen where Martha and Mary are compared, contrasted not in a favorable light for Martha. Martha, Martha, why are you so busy and bothered with so many things where Mary has chosen a better path to sit at my feet and worship. And there it's really shown that she she had gotten her priorities out of whack. She was too focused on the tasks and ignoring Jesus in the moment. Now, what's cool here is, though, that we don't see her painted negatively here. There's the contrast and we'll see Mary as she often shows up worshiping at Jesus's feet. We'll see the contrast between the two. But but Martha is not spoken of negatively here, and that's important to recognize. There is a service aspect of ministry that is not unimportant. It is significant, especially around the serving of food, which I think as Baptists, we would say, amen, hallelujah. That's a critical role in the church. You know, it's interesting how much ministry in the Bible occurs around food When you start to look at it through that lens, you see connections ministry happening. Also arguments happening all around, food all the time. There's just something, even socially, that happens. If we can gather around food, if we can connect around food. If I were to call you up and say, Hey, I'd love to just set out a couple of chairs and us sit around and talk about our feelings, I'd be like, Leave me alone, weirdo. Why are you calling me right? But if I said, Hey, you want to grab lunch? Do you have time to grab lunch? Yeah, I'll eat. Let's go eat. You know, there's something about food that just helps us connect with one another to be able. And it's so. It's important that that's done well. We want the conversation to be about the conversation, not about how bad the food was or how poorly it was presented. There's something about doing that with excellence that is valued and that even Jesus values. And so you see that that comparison in Martha and Mary. It hints at some of what we see in the church with the role of elders and deacons. At Chapter six, the deacons are issued. They're given the charge of caring for the service, especially of widows. Those in need elders are given the charge of caring for the doctrine of the church. And so we still see that play out today, and both are critical. You've got to have solid doctrine, you've got to have solid beliefs, but you also got to love and serve. I mean, if you say we believe what the Bible teaches, but you we never love and serve anyone, there's a contradiction there. It's not where you went in that we want to care for both. In fact, I often say of the deacons, I think the deacons in the church are the front lines of unity in the church, because when churches split over meaningless things, you know, arguments over things that don't don't matter the color of the paint or whatever you've heard the stories, it always comes back to somewhere along the way, someone quit leading with just a humble heart of service. It went from, We're just going to humbly serve one another to this place of No, what I say has to go, but it matters more than unity. This little thing. I got to get my way. My rights are most important. We end up there. That's a it's a tough place to be. But the deacons are the frontlines of unity because they model that act of service and humility. A friend of mine shared just this week about a church he had been involved with years ago. He remembers when the pastor hired him as an associate. And I say hired because they didn't pay him, which is a great arrangement. I think we'll be talking about that among the elders here. Somehow he agreed to it, but the deacons did not like that the pastor had made this decision, and I don't know all the details. He may not have gone about it the right way, but he remembers the night he could hear the the pastor and the head of the deacons in the opposite room yelling at each other at the top of their lungs, just yell and scream and almost to the point of fighting. And so the church of 15 people split over that split apart. How do we end up there? It's not where we were going to end up. We want to value both the doctrine of the church but lead with humble humility, service, attitude. And we see that comparison here. We're going to see more as we look at Mary and Martha as we go. In fact, this week, I think we got a good picture of that in the church. So, you know, we're renovating the fellowship hall that's down below where we're sitting right now. In fact, throw up some of these pictures. This is one of the images of the walls when they start come tumbling down. First one goes down and then they later they start to take them out. One by one. We're loading them up. And you saw guy after guy after guy. We had some ladies there as well helping, just loading them up, taking them out, seeing them hauled off, even in the pouring down rain, everyone. And there were discussions about the best way to do it. You know, is this the right way to stack the panels or not? But they were all friendly, Wasn't he arguing? There wasn't any yelling. It was we're here. We're so glad to be able to be here and serve so we ended up getting that whole room cleaned out. We thought what would take two days and four crews just took one day. All the carpet out, all the walls out. They got the floors sanded down. It's ready to start painting this week. It's all moving along. But it was just great to see just this excitement, this service attitude, this humility, this lightheartedness in the midst of everything we were doing. All this goes back to Mary and Martha and the way they interacted with one another. And the point is, they're here for this dinner, though, Martha, serve in the dinner. And so something, though, very interesting happens when Mary shows up on the scene. Let's look at verse three. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiped his feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. I said, We're going to see three acts of love today. This is the first one, lavish love, because this is a lavish, extravagant, extreme display of love. In this moment, Mary shows up, Jesus is here and she comes out and anoints his feet. In fact, there's three elements here that I want to highlight about what she does and the significance of them. First is just the anointing in and of itself and the act of anointing. You see in the Old Testament oil was poured over the head of someone who was designated as the King of great. Some of like here, that oil was likely valuable. It was poured over the head symbolically as your head, meaning the place from where you lead. The vast most valuable part of your body is also designating you as the leader of this nation. We value you. Your leadership is value. The act of mourning, of anointing what is symbolically sets someone apart. But in passage she doesn't anoint his head. So the second significant element of this is that she anoints his feet and now we got to take a step back here and talk about this for just a second, because if you look at some of the other accounts, there's actually four versions of this story in the gospels. We have Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Matthew and Mark likely are the same account. Luke is probably a different account. And which by the way, as I'm talking about these other gospels, if you've been here over the last few months, I've not talked about the other Gospels at all. The book of John is something like 90% unique. And so since about the middle of Chapter six, everything we've been talking about doesn't show up in the other gospels. We've got six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, this kind of just unique material in one big chunk. But now here with the story of Mary anointing, what's interesting is in Matthew and Mark, she does anoint his head. She's not name they're named here. A lot of names show up in this passage that don't show up in others. She does anoint his head there, as some have said. Now see, we can't trust the Bible. Here's a clear contradiction. But we know as we've looked at different stories, each of the gospel accounts, the writers emphasize different things. They draw out different things. Just tell a story at home. Someone else in the family will correct you about things you left out that you should have emphasized, but you didn't want to. I to draw this part out. Okay. I don't care if it was November or September, whatever it was last year. Here's what I want to get to and that's what he's doing here. He's drawing out the reality. Yes, I may have anointed the head, but I want you to see that they anointed his feet. That she anointed his feet. Now, the significance of that and what I think the emphasis here is, is that it wasn't just the head, it was the toe from head to toe. We're anointing she's anointing the entire body. In essence, his whole body had been prepared. And the only time you would have done that is at burial. You want to make sure that the body that we can endure the smell before we get it in the ground, in that hot, dry culture, bodies decay very quickly. And so the symbolism here is I've got a greater purpose in mind here. Yes. Mary came to worship at his feet. She came to say, God, I'm so grateful for what you've done. I'm at your feet as your servant. But you had also she didn't even realize it. She was preparing him for burial, for his sacrifice, in the midst of anointing his feet. Now, the third thing, though, to point out about this anointing, that it was extravagant over the top at so many levels, both in its value but also in its cultural statement. So as we read and study the value of the perfume she used, most agree it was roughly the equivalent of a year's salary. So think of whatever possession you own that is worth a year's salary. The average American wage is somewhere in the 55,000 or so. I mean, what item do you own? The one singular item that has that kind of value to it? Then in a moment of deep gratitude, gratitude is just given to someone else poured out on someone else. There's a lavishness there. There's an extravagance that is just almost incomprehensible. And it's so extravagant. This perfume just you can't avoid it. It fills up the whole house with the smell. And again, we feel sorry for Martha and her sensitive nose in this moment. Who else here kind of can't stand the overpowering perfume in the room? You know what I'm talking about? I was this lady. I worked with it. She must have sprayed the whole bottle on herself every morning before coming in to the office. It filled up the whole room. I'm just dying. I'm having to run out of there, take, like, an hour for it to clear out. It's. There's no avoiding the reality that she has showed up. Mary says, I don't care what other people think. She saved my brother, who is so much more valuable than this perfume and embodiment of the poor. This out on him just to try to begin to show him how much I appreciate what he's done. An extravagant, overwhelming love in response to what Jesus has done. The problem, though, is not everyone saw it that way. Not everyone agreed that this is what should be done. In fact, we're going to see this next display of love, and I would call it disordered love. Judith sees what she does and he doesn't like her approach because he loved something else. We're going to see how that plays out here. Look at the next few verses here. Let's look at verse four. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, he who was about to betray him, said, Why was this ointment not sold for 300 in their eye and given to the poor? So we get just a touch of the value of this. We get just a hint of her generosity. I think one of the takeaways from her act was that we should be generous. I don't think that's the main point of that, but it's a powerful model of be generous, especially when God has worked in your life. Pour out, show your generosity, show your gratitude in the way you're generous now. But that gets criticized here. Judas sees what she does, and he says, that's not right. What should have happened is we should have sold that and given that money to the poor, wouldn't that have been better use? Why would you waste it all on one person in one moment on his feet? And, you know, on its surface level, that's not necessarily a wrong criticism. I mean, I think many of us would be on the practical end of going, yeah, couldn't we have stewarded that money better? I mean, aren't there ways that we could use that in our view, more productive? I remember when we lived in Little Rock, we weren't attending this church yet, but it was the church we would eventually end up attending. And at the time they were building a new sanctuary probably a mile down the road from us. And it was huge. So huge. And it seems even bigger than it is because the lot they had wasn't very big, so they had to build up its kind of stacked on layer after layer after layer. So it really stands out of how tall it is. One of my neighbors, she was kind of new agey. I remember her saying to me, What are they doing? Why are they spending all this money building that monstrosity when they could be helping people? And a friend of mine says if they're not listening, they're not listening. It's okay. So she wasn't looking for my feedback. She wasn't looking for my insight into how they might actually help people and build that. So I just said, You know what? Yeah, okay. But let me tell you, when the tornado hit our neighborhood a mile from there, they were there serving. Pour it out, giving. Come, stay here. Here's the center. The whole city convened at that church to serve that community. But a criticism is in that moment. Couldn't we have used that money better? Couldn't that money have gone to better things? Now Jesus hears that. And in fact, those and John gives us comment that that's not what really was going on in Judas, his heart. He didn't really care that much about the poor in fact, look at the next verse, verse six. He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. And having charge of the money back. He used to help himself to what was put into it. There's a really good quote I had to capture and just put on screen for you that summarizes this. His name, Don Carson. He's a pastor, writer, teacher. Here's what he said. The comment on this, Gordon thought that a personal greed here's what's happening here. What we saw with Judas this was personal greed for material things masquerading as altruism. Let me appear to really care about the poor were really at the heart of that. I just want to make sure I get mine now. Sometimes that's what happens. I'm not saying that every time you ask questions about stewardship of money, that that's what's happening. But I think you know what I'm talking about. You've seen this happen. I appear to really care about something. But really beneath that, there's something the opposite of that at work. And I think the caution with this, the thing for us to be mindful of, be aware of your own heart tendencies that can be drawn away into a bad place. It was the greed and judas's heart that ultimately led him to a place of betraying Jesus because of that greed that was there that he allowed to continue. 30 pieces of silver, which really wasn't that much money, became more important than following Jesus. I read that and we all got to step back and go, What is it in my heart that that that I allow to stay there that the enemy can use to draw me away easily? And look, it's not just Judas. I mean, it's a pretty common tale in churches and in other places for those who have access to the money to misuse the money. A friend of mine in a church, another town, another state, he said the person, the part time person, their money stole $15,000 from them. And I, I want to take a second and just say we have a lot of safeguards in place here to try to protect against that. I never handle any money. I mean, unless you force it into my hand to go into the offering box, I'm trying to always get, you know, go put it in the offering box, hand it to this other person. I'll never know how much you give unless you tell me for some reason. If you want me to know, here's how much I gave. I'll never know otherwise I never check. No one gives me a report. I never see individual names and giving. We just look at the what, what's the bulk that we need to deal with and manage? Well, we have an accounting team. When the money comes in, they get together on Monday and they count it together in a group. So you can see, okay, that person's count this, I'm counting that. And then someone else deposited it and then someone else checks the deposit records. And so we have lots. And then the elders get a report on all that and they look it over as well. So we try to put as many checks and balances in place, not because we don't trust these people. Part of it is just to make sure we're all being aboveboard, that we don't put any of us in a place where we can be succumb to temptation and where appearances even are in the right place. In fact, rarely heard my friend whose church where the lady stole$15,000, they found out and they confronted her. We know something doesn't add up here. And you know what she did? This is unheard of. She confessed to it and she said, I did that. And you know what? I'm going to pay it all back, plus 10%. And she did. And then the church brought her before the church. She confessed it to the church. She apologized. They restored her not to that job, but they restore order to the church. You're still a part of us. We love you. We care about you. And I said to him, you know, that wasn't a bad investment. Actually, that's not too bad. 10%, That's better than you can get other places. Anyway, sad note. Not everyone in the church was happy about that, by the way. She should have gone to jail. She should have been more harshly punished. Again, I don't know. All the details of it, but I look at that and go, what a beautiful thing. How rare is that? Usually hear the opposite restoration, forgiveness, a beautiful picture. Our hope is that we don't open people up to the temptation that will lead them astray, even in the way we handle finances. But we all have to look at our own heart and go, Where is that area? Where I would be easily drawn astray. Judas's love was mis ordered. His love was for something else, not Christ. It was for money. And what is it? What is that love? Is it money? Is it possessions? Is it fame? Is it position? Is it books? I know that's the temptation for all of us out there. Maybe not. What is it for you? Be aware of that. Be mindful and open your life up to others. Make sure they know as well. Don't keep that hidden. So we had lavish love, disordered love. And then third, we're going to see how Jesus responds to this with a prioritized love. Let's look at the next set of verses here, verse seven Jesus said, Leave her alone. So that may she may keep it for the day of my burial for the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me. So Jesus says, Leave her alone so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. Part of the challenge here with this verse in particular is that it's difficult to translate. It's difficult to understand. You read this where he says so that she may keep it for the day. My burial. And you think, didn't she just pour it all out? What she's going to keep it for, how she's going to soak it back up? Maybe it's in her hair now, but what's she keeping? It's a little hard to understand and most translations translate it this way. I'm going to get in the weeds for just a second. That word keep shows up 16 other times in the book of John, and most of the time it's used with more of concepts than possessions. So, for instance, keep my word, keep my commandments, keep the Sabbath. It's not like he's saying store my word for later, preserve the Sabbath for later, hold on to the commandments for later. It has more of the idea of obey or follow practice. Order your life around it. And so, oddly enough, I don't often go to the message as a accurate translation. It's a helpful one. A lot of ways I love the message, but in terms of conveying the meaning of a word, I think it gets us a little closer. Look, I throw this translation up of this verse in the message translation Let her alone. She's anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. This is confirmed by the account of this in Matthew chapter 12, though, that up as well, Matthew 26 in pouring this ointment on my body that says this in Matthew and Mark, she has done it to prepare me for burial. And so it says leave her alone. She doesn't even realize what she's doing, but she's already celebrating my death to come. She's already preparing me for the day I need to die, even though she doesn't fully realize it. Leave her alone. The thing that she's doing is so important and. And no one really realizes it. And so what he says in this morning is you need to have properly in this moment to have properly prioritized worship his last statement to them around this the poor you have always with you, but you don't always have me. The poor are always going to be there, but you don't always have me. And the way we look at that, here is all of our programing comes after worship. The things we do to love, to serve, to give. They follow out of worship. We don't get that upside down. Caring for the poor is not a means unto itself. That's the doorway to the gospel. And Jesus is who we worship first and foremost. And our worship for Him leads to our service of others. I mean, if you if you don't worship him, why would you have a reason to care for the poor? Why would you ever care? Why would you give what you have to someone else who, for whatever reason, doesn't have of their own? What would be your motivation? And I know look, I've read lots of books by atheists and they talk a lot about why there's reasons to be good and have just been, as we've been working on a book called Overreach, which makes the case that most of what atheists call good is borrowing from the tradition of Christianity and Judaism that's been around thousands of years. How is can you say good? How can you say that anything's good? Why? What would be your motivation to care for the poor? It starts with worship. We worship him, and because of how much he's done for us, because of how much we love him, because he is preeminent, because he is the greatest, because he has radically changed our life, because of all that is why we serve. And look, we have a lot here to serve the poor. We have a food pantry. We have homeless ministry that goes out to meet people. We offer a home items. We have Benevolence Fund. We have deacons who serve the widows. And I could go on and on and on and on. But all of that flows from a place of worship. All of that flows from this example that Mary set. God, thank you for what you've done. Thank you for saving my brother. And ultimately thank you for dying on our behalf. In fact, this morning, we're going to remember what he did very intentionally by taking communion together. In fact, deacons, if you wouldn't mind, go ahead and slip it out. And preparing the elements for communion, Mary was remembering in advance what Jesus would do on our behalf. And now we do it after the fact. We come together and we remember his death and his burial, but also we proclaim his resurrection. And so this morning, what we'll do when we practice communion here at the church, we practice open communion. You don't have to be a member here to take communion if you know Christ, if you follow him, If there if there's been a point in your life when you say he is my savior, I commit my life to him, even though you haven't lived perfectly. If you would say I follow him, I'll call him Lord, then you can participate with us. And what'll happen is these men will pass around trays. And then there are two cups stacked on top of another one is the juice and one is the bread. Just take that cup that stack together, separate those and wait. And when everybody has theirs, we'll take them together and we'll go ahead and start passing that out, guys. And while that's being distributed, here's what I'd ask you to do. Take a moment and just pray and ask God in light of what we saw with Judas, ask him to just reveal what area of my heart am I hanging on to, what part of my life? And I said, Don't go there, Lord. What area have I said opened up to potentially being in a really bad place? Just pray for God to expose that and ask him to forgive you and spend time in just confession and receiving his forgiveness. All right. They're going to distribute that. And when it's all distributed, all leaders and taking it together, verse 23, for I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, he took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. Let's take the bread together in the same way. He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's Death until it comes. Let's take the cup together as well. God, we thank you for this remembrance of your life and death on our behalf. God help us to take it to heart today as we worship you. In fact, let's all stand together and we're going to continue in worship. We're going to sing another song together. And if there's anything you need prayer for, if you want to talk about what it means to follow Christ to be a part of this church, I'll be down front here. I'd love to talk with you. I'd love to connect with you. But, Andrew, go ahead and lead us now.