Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus
was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served:
but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with
her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot,
Simon’s son, which should
betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence,
and given to the poor? This
he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief,
and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then
said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept
this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me
ye have not always. Much people
of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for
Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had
raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might
put Lazarus also to death: because that by reason of him many of the
Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. On
the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and
went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the
King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat
thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy
King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. These
things understood not his disciples at first: but when Jesus was glorified,
then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. The people therefore that was with him when
he called Lazarus out of the grave, and raised him from the dead, bare
record. For this cause the people
also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves,
Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after
him. And there were certain
Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: the same came
therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired
him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip
cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. And
Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man
should be glorified. Verily,
verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground
and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and
he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and
where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him
will my Father honour.”
“Good morning. I guess some of the ladies are fired up this morning, having been at the women’s retreat, for those who have made it back or have come back anyway, I guess it’s still going on. I know my wife was encouraged. And I know I have a greater appreciation for my wife, [laughter] having the three little bambino’s for a day and a few extra hours, it was quite a treat for me. And so I’m glad she’s back. Praise the Lord [laughter]. And there’s a men’s retreat in just a couple weeks from now, keep it in prayer. Opportunity for you too, to set aside some of your time and be encouraged in the Word and through fellowship. You won’t regret it if you’re able to be part of it. Let’s say a word of prayer, and we are going to pick up our study in John chapter 12. ‘Lord, we thank you for this opportunity to study your Word this morning. I thank you Lord, there’s so much, we could take a verse at a time, and spend a lot of time on each verse, your Word is full of so many truths, so many things that we can feed upon. And even as we go through this chapter, we’d ask that you’d open our eyes to what is here, and our hearts to what’s here, and you’d nourish our souls Lord. And I also do pray for anybody that might be present without Christ in their heart, maybe some are here and they’re not born-again, and I pray that before they’d leave they would know what it means to be born-again and have Christ in their heart as Lord and Savior. We thank you for this time, and we ask Holy Spirit that you’d be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’
So we are in John chapter 12, that’s where we pick up from last week. You know, just recently, a little over a week ago, we were outside doing our family fest, just really neat what the Lord brought together, a great time as we sought to be a light to the community on that night. Even had up our sign, I don’t know if we still do, I didn’t look this morning. But you know, the “Jesus Loves [this town]” banner there on the second floor windows. And then to discover, some of us did, that we’re reading in the paper, that just a short distance from our building, the same time, the same night, a place called Nightline, a business, is having a séance. So I was just thinking about that contrast, you know, we’re here shining the Light, seeking to shine the Light, and there’s this business just a few, well, seven-hundred yards away that’s trying to make contact with darkness, and we’re trying to shine the Light, just a contrast between the two entities, and yet so close together. We were trying to encourage communication with the Savior, and evidently they were trying to seek to communicate with a dead escapist, Houdini, his brother, or something like that. But just the contrast between the two. And that is the reality, indeed, of the world we live in, lots of contrast that we can see. And as we even look at this chapter 12 here in the Gospel of John, we’ll see that there is indeed a lot of contrast even in this chapter, of different extremes and things, many pictures and sketches that help depict that difference between Light and Darkness. So in order to organize this passage as we go through it this morning, I’ve laid out a simple outline, highlighting some of the contrasts that we’re going to look at. The first contrast is “Love verses lust”. The second is “Generosity verses greed.” And then thirdly, “Presentation verses persecution.” And then, “Exaltation verses envy”, and “Mortification verses multiplication”, and then sixthly, the last one, “Humiliation verses honor.” And that’s basically our outline here for the first 26 verses.
Let’s look at verses 1-3, “Then six days before the passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” Just a beautiful picture, isn’t it, there in this house in Bethany. We’re now within a week, it says six days, within a week of when Jesus is crucified. It’s nearing the time of Passover, and multitudes upon multitudes, millions of people in totality, are making their way to Jerusalem to partake in this sacred feast of the Passover. Now if you remember from our study in chapter 11, in the last few weeks Jesus actually withdrew himself, went to this area of Ephraim, but he withdrew himself because of just the clear persecution, and just to stay away from the religious leaders. He understood that they indeed wanted to take his life. So he withdrew for just a season to Ephraim, knowing too that his time to go to the cross wasn’t far away also. But now understanding that the time is near for the Passover, he comes to Jerusalem, stops on the way to Jerusalem, at this place of Bethany where Mary, Martha and Lazarus have their home. So, if you remember too, from our last study, was a month or so ago, that Lazarus had been sick, had gotten pretty sick, in fact, he even died, as we studied that in chapter 11. And then he was placed in the tomb. But incredibly, in just an amazing way, as a witness before many people, Jesus came to Bethany, and miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. And in verses 43 and 44 of the last chapter, Lazarus walked out of the tomb there, all wrapped in his tomb clothes. He had been in the tomb, dead, for four days. Well, as John has been demonstrating for us, as we go through this Gospel, he’s been making it very clear to us, proving that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. As the Prophets had predicted centuries before, “By the hand of the Messiah, the blind would receive their sight, the lame would walk again, the lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear, the dead would be raised, and the poor would have the Gospel preached to them”, all of which Jesus has done, and we even saw that last chapter, where he’s raised the dead [and the chapter before that, where he healed a man born blind from birth]. Now it appears while he’s in Bethany, the NIV notes this, that these friends of Jesus have this dinner in honor of Jesus. It doesn’t necessarily say that explicitly, but it does appear that way. And this scene in this home at Bethany, as you paint this picture, man, it’s in startling contrast with the scenes that are soon going to follow, in the following chapters. This is such a beautiful serene picture, but what follows from here is so ugly indeed. This home is filled with the fragrance of joy, with love, and worship, and fellowship and communion. I think of a thriving home-fellowship, and that’s what this home is like, as opposed to the darkness that’s going to come in just a few chapters, in just a couple days [six to be exact], days that are filled with anger and wrath and pain and separation, and the stench of death. But anyway here, this beautiful picture, we have the followers of Jesus expressing their sincere love for him. Gathered around the table is Lazarus, as it’s told there, of course he has this tremendous testimony of what Jesus can do in a person’s life. And I would just think, because they’re gathered around the table, we don’t have any of his words in the Gospels, but I would just imagine there’s a lot of expressions of praise and thanksgiving as he’s with Jesus and the others are there. I mean, this man was dead just a little while ago, and he’s alive, he was physically dead before. So you could only imagine some of the things that he’s saying to Jesus. I can certainly picture it in my mind. And then we have this other friend of Jesus, Martha, she’s a doer, so she’s doing, right, serving the Lord. But it’s different, in Luke you remember, she was complaining as she was doing, and Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. But this time there’s no complaining, there’s no murmuring, and I would imagine there’s some singing and humming as she works, she’s enjoying what she’s doing, and what she’s doing is really a beautiful service to the Lord also. And then we have Mary. Mary is again at the feet of Jesus, and it’s just a beautiful picture, where she worships and adores her Lord, that’s for sure. We’re told that she takes some of this costly oil, this spikenard perfume, there’s a pound of it, and at that time that would be 12 ounces, so there’s a pound of it. That’s a lot of this oil of spikenard, this perfume. Essentially, it’s so costly that it costs about a years wage to purchase what she has. So you take the average wage today, what is it, $30,000, I don’t know, that’s what she’s got for perfume here in this bottle, just to bring you into the year 2002 and understand what’s going on here. She’s got some real expensive perfume in her hand. And what does she do with it? She begins to douse Jesus with it. His feet, but we know also from the Gospels, the other Gospels, also his head, just begins to anoint him with it, and just worship him with it. But then, in a way, it’s actually very beautiful, although there’s some misunderstanding with what she does. In her time it would be considered an immodest act to do this, but she drops her hair, and begins to wipe his feet with her hair. But really it’s an act of worship. I mean, she’s taking her glory, remember Paul’s letter, 1st Corinthians, he talks about the glory of a woman being her hair covering her head. And she takes that glory and lays it at the feet of Jesus, and she douses him with the perfume, and then begins to take her very hair and wipe his feet with her hair, just a beautiful picture. And we’re told, I like that point that John puts in there, “The house was filled with the fragrance.” I mean, the perfume, there’s a beautiful spiritual aroma coming out of what’s going on here too, and it’s filling the throne-room of heaven I’m sure, but there’s also this physical perfume filling the house. I mean, what a picture of joy, worship, sweetness, and love. Again, what a contrast with what comes later, just a few days from now. But she’s just worshipping her Lord. So we have people loving Jesus, we have people serving Jesus, we have people worshipping Jesus. But even in this same home, as we just read on a few more verses, there’s yet a contrast between light and darkness, a contrast between what some have as a religious outward expression and appearance, and what we see here with these friends of Jesus, this true religion of heart, this true relationship of intimacy with God.
1. Love verses lust
Lets read from verses 4-8, “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 dinari and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the moneybox, and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, she has kept this for the day of my burial. For the poor you have with you always, but me you do not have always.’” Well, again this contrast, the contrast is provided by Judas. His heart stands in dark contrast, stark contrast with that of Lazarus, and Mary and Martha. If you compare Mary and Judas, the first contrast I’ll note in my outline is (1) “Love verses lust”, looking at Mary and looking at Judas here. Now Mary, just a few weeks ago had her brother raised from the dead. Prior to that she was a woman who loved God indeed, we see her worshipping the Lord at other times. And she had this great love for Jesus. But I can only imagine, at this time she has even a greater passion, appreciation for him. She was at such a traumatic time just a few weeks ago. Her brother had died, probably the darkest hour in her life to this point, a very difficult time. And then Jesus came, and completely changed the scene from one of trauma to one of incredible joy and excitement. He actually raised her brother from the dead. And I know when God works in my life, there’s a response, I mean, that’s the truth. God works in our lives, and we just respond. The response must have been all the more just love. I think partly what she’s doing here, is showing such a love for Christ. She’s had a love, but even more now. Look what he’s done in her life. Look at the way he loves her and has blessed her. No doubt, her heart has been moved with a lot of adoration for her Savior. So we see in her, in a most wonderful glorious and extravagant manner, her expressing her incredible love for Jesus. I would think, no doubt, somebody could say she’s a bit of a fanatic. I mean, it’s fanatical what she’s doing. I mean, $30,000 worth of perfume, putting it on Jesus’ feet, $30,000 worth of perfume, putting it on his head. I mean, this lady’s fanatical, that’s for sure. She’s a fanatic. But I have to agree with one author’s words, and that is the word “restraint” and the word “moderation” should not describe our heart and our worship of our Lord. Those words shouldn’t go with worship, “restraint and moderation,” those words shouldn’t go with our love for God, that’s for sure. I’d rather be a fanatic than be somebody that moderately loves God. I’d rather be a fanatic than be somebody that has restraint in my heart-worship towards God. This lady’s a fanatic. I think we have a beautiful picture of what God likes to see in us too. Now I’m not speaking of being a fanatic in an idiotic manner, but a fanatic in a sense of being extravagantly in love with our Lord, and realizing that nothing is too good for him, man. Be extravagant in our giving of our time, giving of our finances, giving of our resources, giving of our lives, because he’s worth it, man. We just give it all to him. That type of extravagant giving, that type of a fanaticism, that’s a good thing, that’s a beautiful thing, and that’s what we see here. But contrasted against her heartfelt love is the consuming lust of Judas, man. This guy’s consumed with a completely different attitude. Seeing her pour out such an expensive oil, he begins to speak up and complain. Of course we shouldn’t be surprised, that’s frequently what happens when there’s somebody who really has a beautiful worship of God, even what might be seen as a fanatical worship of God. There’s often a judgment and a criticism that follows when somebody gives their best to God. They’re often criticized for it. You can remember David, remember in 2nd Samuel chapter 6, he was out there giving his best to the Lord as he worshipped God. He was so in love with him, man, he stripped off his robe and he just paraded there in front of the Ark, just praising God [and dancing up a storm]. But then there was his wife, Michal, right, waiting for him. And what did she say? “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of maids of his servants, one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovering himself.” He was worshipping God, and there were some criticisms soon waiting when he got home, from his own wife, criticizing him for his fanaticism. Well like Michal, Judas doesn’t understand this wonderful expression of worship. Rather he sees it as foolish act of waste. And with a seemingly religious pious attitude he begins to express his concern that this oil was not instead sold and the money given to the poor. Certainly a seemingly spiritual man, no doubt. Right? ‘Oh, man, what a waste. We should have just sold this. Look at all the people we could have fed.’ But I thank God that Jesus sees through the hypocrisy. God sees the heart. Jesus knows and understands what really is bothering Judas, and it’s not concern for the poor, man, it’s concern for his own wallet. He’s really the poor beggar that’s desperate for money. He’s the guy that’s really the poor one in this picture. He, we’re told, was in charge of the money, and we’re told at certain times he’d skim off, given the right opportunity he’d skim off some of the profits for himself. He’d use it for whatever, we don’t know. But he’s been taking money from the moneybox. He’d make a real good executive for an Enron or one of these companies, you know. But he knew how to take money and at least try to hide it. Nobody knows what’s going on, but he’s been taking some of the money for his own self. And it’s true, though, he comes across as very religious. And it’s true, there are people that are often driven by selfish ambition and other carnal motives. But in front of other men, they come off as very spiritual, very pious. And at times they even fool other people, and that’s what happens here with Judas. He doesn’t fool Jesus, but he does fool the other disciples, because in the other Gospels that note the same story, Matthew chapter 26, verse 8, we’re told that more than Judas spoke up. And I’ll quote to you the verse. “When his disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’” So Judas and a few other disciples, he influenced some others, and he came off as pious and religious, and he influenced them, and they just responded ‘Why the waste? Why the waste? We need to feed the poor here.’ But Jesus sees through this religious hypocritical pious attitude, this outward form of religion, this form of religion that lacks the heart of relationship and intimacy, the true heart that God is looking for. And he responds. He says “Let her alone. She’s kept this for the day of my burial. You’ve got the poor with you all the time, but I’m only here for a few more days.” (verses 7-8) So what she does is actually beautiful. Now Jesus isn’t saying of course that we’re not to minister to the poor, he’s just referring to the shortness of time, and right now he’s the priority. And he always is the priority, everything starts with worshipping and giving to him. But of course he’s not saying that we shouldn’t minister to the poor. James made it clear, right, a little later in the New Testament. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is to visit the orphans and the widows [and to keep oneself unspotted from the world]” [James 1:26-27.] So, to minister to the poor is a beautiful thing when it’s done with a right heart. But what Jesus is addressing is the wrong heart, and that of again religion, the religion of man, appearing one way outwardly, when there isn’t the real heart of love and relationship with God, having this form of religion, but lacking the true love. You remember Paul made it very clear to the church in Corinth, 1st Corinthians chapter 13, verse 3, he says “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” I can be as religious as it appears, man, I could give up my house, my job, and give everything, and go to the mission field, and try to feed every hungry soul, but if there isn’t genuine love, agape love, especially love for God, it means absolutely nothing. And that’s the point that Jesus is making too. ‘I mean, it’s about me, Jesus, first and foremost, and from that comes the expression of love to our fellow man and to those who are in need. I can appear the most religious man in this town, but the truth is, according to the Scriptures I could yet be destined for the fires of hell. I mean, appearance is one thing, the reality is a whole ‘nuther, of the heart. I could have the right smile, and I could say the right words, and yet I could be fooling many, many people, including myself. But I’m not going to fool God. God knows the heart. He looks down into the heart. So the question to us this morning, Judas fools the disciples, comes across as religious, but now with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus’ response, we see it’s very different. And then the question to us this morning is, what is true of our hearts? Is there a true love for God in our hearts? Do we truly worship Jesus, do we have a close intimate relationship and fellowship with God? Do we love to cry out to the Lord in prayer, there in our prayer-closet? Is it our heart to desire the presence of God, no matter what the personal cost may be? Or are we potentially Sunday [or Saturday] Christians?---those that appear religious and pious on Sundays [or Saturdays], in the public or whatever, but in private are very different? And that’s what we see here with Judas. But may we understand as we look at these verses together, that God’s concern again is the heart. And what he desires is that we love him, what he desires is that we walk with him. You remember Micah 6:8, “He has shown you O man what is good. What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It’s to walk with God. This morning, if your heart maybe isn’t right with God, maybe you’re a religious person, maybe you’ve been religious for a long time, maybe you were born into a religion of one kind or another, yet there’s a lack in intimacy and a true genuine relationship with God. But understand today, you can know God personally. You can be raised in religion and still not yet know God, not walk with God, not have an intimate communion with God. Understand if that’s you today, that you can know God personally, you can be what the Bible says is “born-again”, given a new life, given a new heart. And it’s important to be reminded of that, because earlier, as we remember in John chapter 3 Jesus says ‘In order for you to enter the kingdom of God you must be born-again, you must be born-again.’ I must be changed from the inside, I must have a new heart. Well, if that’s you today, and you want to be born-again, you want to have that closeness with God, you want to know that if you die your going to be with God in the kingdom of heaven, if that’s you today, stay tuned. At the end of every service we give an opportunity for folks to make a decision for Christ. Well, anyway, in these verses we have a contrast between a woman expressing heartfelt love for Jesus, and a man consumed with lust. So, love verses lust. He’s consumed with the lust of money.
Generosity verses greed
But with that also, we can make the contrast of generosity verses greed, I mean, they’re just so opposite, you see that in the same picture. The question, how did Mary get such expensive perfume---$30,000 worth of perfume? How’d she get such expensive perfume? Now, from the whole passage, studying their lives from other Gospels, it does appear that they were people most likely of financial means, so maybe we could say they had enough financial means, that she was a wealthy woman and would have this type of perfume around her house. But even then, I mean, it’s so expensive, you’ve got to wonder. There are some, though, who believe, and I kind of lean towards this, that this was really set aside for a whole ‘nuther purpose. Some commentators believe that this perfume was set aside for her own funeral, this was something that was purchased for her someday. As we do in our own society, we’ll get our own coffin. And funerals aren’t cheap, they’re expensive. I guess even then it was pretty expensive. So maybe this is something that’s been set aside for her funeral. Some people believe maybe it was part of her dowry. But it doesn’t matter the cost, doesn’t matter, man, she just lays it there. And this heart of love for God is so great that there’s a generosity there. ‘I just give, I want to just give, man, just give it to you, Lord. I love you, so I want to give.’ And that’s what the Bible says, that giving, true giving, is giving that’s motivated by love for God. In fact, Paul says again in the New Testament, he says that God loves a hilarious giver, somebody that just loves and loves to give, because they love God. You see the generosity, she just loves to give, and loves to worship, because she just loves God. So she gives in a way, maybe it’s her own perfume for her own funeral, and says, “It doesn’t matter, I’ve been saved, I’ve got life, doesn’t matter anyway, I’ve got life in Christ”, and lays it down, extravagant giving. In response to this generous giving, this self-sacrifice in giving, this generosity, Jesus then exclaims, we don’t have it here, but we have it in the other Gospels, there’s another comment he makes. He says this, “Assuredly I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” No doubt, Jesus loved what she did. He responds in a way, and he makes it real clear, he says even what she’s done will always exist, throughout the generations, as a memorial to her love for me. So Jesus loved what she did. God loves a hilarious giver. God loves those that just love him and want to just be generous, in whatever it means. But the contrast is so startling, you have her generosity, then you have his greed, his greed. Her sacrificing extravagantly, and his hording extremely, contrast, generous giving, his greed, ‘Man, I want it for myself.’ He doesn’t say that, but that’s what he’s thinking. ‘$30,000, I could sneak off a few thousand and no one would know it.’ What greed, that’s what he’s motivated by at this time, is himself, his own needs, his own life, his own income, his own good, as contrasted to Mary, whose just giving, because she loves God.
Presentation verses persecution
Verses 9-11, “Now a great many of the Jews knew that he was there, and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” These verses amaze me. “But the chief priests wanted to put Lazarus to death also.” Amazing. That is amazing, isn’t it? I mean, Jesus resurrected him from the dead. Now there’s people that want to kill him because he was resurrected from the dead. There’s something bizarre about that. Isn’t there? It’s amazing, their reasoning. ‘Ah, he’s been raised from the dead, let’s go kill him.’ I mean, Jesus could do it again if he needed to, I mean, it could just keep going on and on. “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also because on account of him, many of the Jews went away, and believed in Jesus.” Lazarus was raised from the dead just a few weeks ago, and now he’s got these hit men that are after him, seeking to kill him as a result. But why? Why is there the contrast here that we see? Well, in the eyes of the religious leaders, there’s this danger, this mass movement of Jesus. Already there’s a lot of people that are amazed because of what has happened in Lazarus’s life, they are so amazed, they’re very curious about Jesus, there’s an added excitement around Jesus. And the religious leaders can see that. So they’re threatened by that. So they want to kill Lazarus as a result. He is being an effective witness, he’s being a tremendous witness. And when there is a great witness, there’s always the persecution that stands against it. So, as a great witness they want to then kill him. And the amazing thing is, the witness is so powerful, the way he’s presenting the gospel so tremendous, but maybe he’s never even spoken a word. It’s just his life, his life alone has blown people away. ‘This man was dead. And now he’s alive. That is amazing. I got to check out Jesus. If he can do that, he’s the guy I need to know.’ I mean, he [Lazarus] didn’t do anything, I mean, he wasn’t saying anything necessarily. But certainly his life alone was so radical. Man, that can be true of us too. Certainly it’s important to be a verbal witness, but man, more than anything I need to present a witness of my life. People need to see, ‘Look what God can do in that man’s life. Look what he can do in that home, look what he can do in that marriage. Look what he can do in those kid’s lives. Look what he can do in the school system. Look what he can do in this town.’ Now that’s what people need to see especially, is the change, the transforming power that God has. Well, we have this contrast, this contrast, that I would say is presentation verses persecution. I could say “witness”, but in order to get the same “p”, the letter “p” there, presentation. Witness verse persecution, the contrast there. It is true, the more effectively we present the Gospel message, the more will be the result in persecution that we experience. But don’t be discouraged, you should never be discouraged. Because though there might be persecution, we need to remember that in the end we are victorious. And that’s where this is all going. As Jesus does even die later, and he rises from the dead. And in that I know there’s now victory for me. There might be hard times as I try to promote the Gospel, but that’s OK. In the end I know I’m victorious. But consider their mentality for a moment. They want to put to death Jesus, they want to put to death Lazarus, because if they put to death Jesus, there’s still Lazarus, of course, as witness. I mean, it’s still going to make a mess, so they want to put to death Lazarus as well. But the truth is, they’re going to have to keep on going, because there’s still the rest of the disciples. And they’re pretty radical witnesses. In fact, they do eventually put them to death, later. [But then, the early Church of God in Jerusalem eventually swelled in membership to an estimated 50,000 in members between Jerusalem and Galilee. The early Judeo-Christian Church kept growing, but eventually Rome wiped out Judea and most of it’s population in two Roman-Jewish wars, while the Church escaped northward into Asia Minor. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm.] But they have to keep on going. Eventually they have to hit the entire early Church. But what happens? And we’re told in Church history, those first few centuries, that six million Christians were killed [mostly by Roman persecution within the Roman empire after the Jewish-Roman wars]. It goes on and on and on, Lazarus, Jesus. Of course the enemy, he’s been working that way for a long time, trying to stop and trying to even at times put to death, you know there’s been martyrdoms throughout history. In fact, according to Christianity Today, March 1990, between the year 1900 and 1990, according to the magazine anyway, an average of 300,000 believers in Jesus Christ were martyred every year. And of course, we in America are like, “No way, no way.” But you go to places like Sudan, Indonesia, especially China over the last decades, and places like that, and others, man, evidently hundreds of thousands Christians. So, Lazarus, Jesus, they have to keep going [to try to shut us up]. Of course, Satan continues to try to stop the witness. But what happens is the witness only becomes greater as a result, really. But there’s the presentation, the contrast of the Gospel, and the persecution that results.
Exaltation verses envy
Verses 12-19, “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, and cried out ‘Hosanna, blessed is he who comers in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!’ Then Jesus, when he had found a young donkey, sat on it, as it is written, ‘Fear not daughter of Zion, behold your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’ His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things to him. The people that therefore were with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bore record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘Don’t you perceive how you prevail nothing?---behold, the world is going after him.’” …[tape changeover, some text lost] Ah, we believe the date was April 6th, 32 AD. But it’s four days before the Passover. [Another denomination, which actually observes the Passover each year, feel the Passover where Jesus was crucified was on 31AD. To read an awesome sermon detailing the last six days of Jesus life before this Passover, log onto: http://www.unityinchrist.com/lamb/lastsix.htm.] And according to the book of Exodus, it was the day when each family who was celebrating the Passover would go and choose their lamb for sacrifice. And then you’d have from the 10th to the 14th day of Nisan where you would examine, this lamb would be examined. And at the end of the time the lamb needed to be seen as fitting, without blemish, without any type of illness or any flaw, so that it could then be used in the Passover feast. So you’ve got all these people coming to the city of Jerusalem, and you have them bringing their lambs. What a picture. Right? All these people, hundreds of thousands of lambs coming to the city, tens of thousands of lambs, anyway. And in the midst, you have Jesus, coming into the city, the Lamb of God. Where too, in just a short time, he’s going to be inspected, he’s going to sit before the religious leaders, and they would inspect the lambs, and they don’t realize it, they’re inspecting the Lamb of God, they hit him with all kinds of questions, they take him to their own court, they assail him with this and that. But then, in the end, the verdict is lifted up, and said in the verdict by Pilate, as you remember in Luke chapter 23, verse 4, is “I find no fault in this man.” So as the Lamb of God he comes in, just as the lamb is to be inspected, he was inspected and Pilate said, ‘there’s nothing wrong with him, he’s perfect, no fault, no flaw, without blemish.’ This is also an interesting time on the calendar because this day was prophecied four hundred and eighty three years before, in Daniel chapter 9, verses 25 and 26, and I’ve done studies on this before…you can look at those verses, but there Daniel prophecies that after the issuing the decree by the king for the walls of Jerusalem to be rebuilt in the time of Nehemiah, that after the issuing of that decree there would be sixty nine sevens, meaning if you just take the words literally, the way things are symbolized in the Old Testament, sevens means seven years---you get 483 years. And we know, archeologists have discovered that we know exactly the day that decree went out for Nehemiah to be able to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We know the day, there’s been inscriptions that have been found. You take that day, you add 483 years, you adjust for the different calendars, the Babylonian calendar, and you make your way into our current calendar and adjust the days a little bit, and you come up with April 6th, 32AD, which is this day right here on the calendar. And the interesting thing is, Daniel prophecied, is at that time, the anointed one, the Messiah, would appear. And then it says after that, right after that, he’d cut off. And that’s exactly what happens, and we know historically, that is what happens. But he said that 483 years before. Anybody that knew their Bible could have gone back. Daniel chapter 9, he makes it very clear when the Messiah is going to come and present himself. And right after that he is cut off. He says 69 sevens, 483 years. Do your mathematics, and do a little bit of study, it’ll blow your mind. We have a date when Xerxes issued that decree. [That would be 483 BC, making this the time when Jesus would be born, not die. Xerxes tried to conquer Greece in 480BC. Darius was alive in 490BC, and lost at Marathon to the Greeks, so Xerxes wasn’t even king yet until 485BC. I know my Greek and Persian history.] Nehemiah could go and build the walls. We have that date. April 6th, 32AD, here comes the Messiah. This was the only time when Jesus would let them worship him as the Christ, the Messiah, this is the only time in his entire ministry. He always avoided it, but for this hour, he came in, and the multitudes came, and verse 13, they actually quote a Messianic song, Psalm 118, which is a cry to the Messiah, worship of the King of kings who was to come, the Deliverer. So they worship him in that way. So tremendous an hour it is. They come with palm branches, we’re told there, branches of palm trees. There’s a reason for that, it’s a tradition that started a couple hundred years before. Prior to that time, a couple hundred years, that piece of real estate, Judea, man if you study historically, it’s been under one nation after another, it’s been a battlefield for so long. In 200 years before the time of Christ it was also a big battlefield. And in that time it was under the control of the Syrian [Antiochus Ephiphanes, who was descended from one of the four generals of Alexander the Great.] Just prior to that Egypt and Syria would really battle it out for that area of Judea. And at times Egypt had control over it, and at times the Syrians did. But 200 years before, the Syrian leader Antiochus Ephiphanes, just this ruthless leader, really dealt a blow to the Egyptians and he got control of the area of Judea. And as he came back from his victory, which was part of his strategy, he also wanted to humiliate the enemies, so what he did, he went into the Jewish temple, he’s got control of Judea now, he went into their temple, and he took a pig and he sacrificed it on the altar, desecrating the temple. But also that would, in a sense, humiliate the people of Israel (the Jews). And that’s an interesting thing to consider too, the prophecies about the anti-Christ. Well, there was this guy, though, there’s this Antiochus Ephiphanes, the Syrians ruling over Judea, over the people of Israel, but there was this guy, Judas Maccabee, his last name means “hammer” in Hebrew. He was a radical guy, and he decided he wasn’t going to let it go on too long, so he started to form his little group of soldiers and sort of launched guerilla warfare, and it took about nine years, but he overthrew the Syrians. But when he did, the day he did, they were delivered, the people of Israel were delivered from the Syrian rule, so in a spontaneous way the people took palm trees and cut off the branches and began to wave them, as a symbol of deliverance and victory. So this goes back to that time. [For a complete study of Judas Maccabee and this victory, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/messianicmovement/festiavloflights.htm.] And it’s interesting then to consider that here. On the back of Jewish coins, as a result, there is this palm branch which symbolizes deliverance. This would be understood in the minds and the hearts of the people there. So, there’s no doubt that some of the people in the crowd, they’re waving their palm branches, but they’re doing it for a reason. They’re saying, essentially, “Be a Judas Maccabee for us.” That’s what they’re saying. “We’re under the Romans now. Two hundred years ago we were under the Syrians, and this radical guy delivered us.” Jesus, pretty radical here, “Deliver us from the Romans.” Of course, the Jew of that time was looking for the Messiah in the sense of the Deliverer, that would come and deliver them from their physical/political oppression. So, no doubt, they’re crying out Psalm 118, they’re waving their palm branches, and a lot of them, I’m sure, thinking ‘Here’s our political deliverer.’ Well, a little later they realize ‘This guy didn’t come for politics at all, he came for another reason, a spiritual reason. So it’s true, maybe some in the crowd went from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!”, because it changes quickly in Jerusalem. There’s this great exultation, and a little later, just a few days, there’s “Crucify him! crucify him!, crucify him!” Well, we have this contrast, anyway, we have this exultation, we don’t know all the hearts, certainly some I’m sure see him as the Messiah indeed, you know, those that have seen Lazarus raised from the dead, and we’re told that they’re there also. There are some who are truly glorifying him in heart, and there are some that have political motives and reasons, and are misunderstanding the “suffering Messiah”, that Jesus would come the first time to suffer, and then he would come later to reign as Kingdom Ruler. [To read what all the prophecies have to say about this coming Kingdom of God, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/mkg1.htm . Also the book of Isaiah is loaded with Millennial Kingdom of God prophecies. To read this website’s online commentary on Isaiah, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/kog.htm and click on whichever version you want, html or pdf.] But we have this contrast, exaltation, but then in this same passage there, towards the end, we have incredible envy. The exaltation, hands lifted up, palm branches. But then there’s some guys looking out that are totally envious, totally envious, hearts burning, you know that envy, with hearts just burning within, consumed with envy. And that’s how it works, isn’t it? When there’s this praise for God, there’s this envy in some of the hearts of this people, especially religious envy. These guys, man, their hearts were so prideful, they wanted so much to be in control, that seeing Jesus being exalted like that, their hearts are burning, man. Later Pilate would even understand the envy in their hearts, and he would even note, it’s told in the Gospels that he understood ‘They hand over Jesus because of envy, because of envy.’ And that tells me a little bit too, it is amazing to consider this, in my mind I was thinking about it this week, but for the suffering Messiah, Jesus, this is the moment, of his first coming time, of his greatest exaltation. But it’s just moments away from his greatest humiliation. I mean, it goes from way up here to way down there so quickly. From one moment he’s being worshipped, to another moment there’s this blood-thirsty crowd that wants him dead. From his greatest public exaltation to his greatest public humiliation in just a few days. And that says to me that Jesus indeed understood the hearts of men. So, before that, he would not let people make him king, he always withdrew, because he understood there were guys that were so controlling and so prideful and hard, and as soon as that even began to appear, man, they would go for it [trying to make him king]. But now he lets it happen, really, he’s forcing the cards, because it’s Passover time, he knows it is the time for him to go to the cross. So he’s letting it happen. And of course, now we see the hearts of the religious leaders, and they are burning, they’re burning with such envy. And we know this sort of envy, man. Hatred goes hand in hand with, murder goes hand in hand with that, indeed.
Mortification equals multiplication
Verses 20-26, “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast” (these are the last verses we’ll look at) “Then they came to Phillip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Phillip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Phillip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them saying, ‘The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, there it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, let him follow me, and where I am there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, him my Father will honor.’” Another passage of tremendous contrast. We’re told there were certain Greeks that come, and they come to worship at the feast, and these are proselytes now, maybe they’ve even converted to Judaism. But they’re not Greek just in the sense of their language, they’re truly Greeks. And we’re told that they come to Phillip, in verse 21, and they ask him, we’re told he’s from Bethsaida of Galilee. In fact, Phillip has a Greek name, and that might be why, there’s a way of identification there, that’s why they pick him to come to. But they come to him, and we’re told that they ask him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Now the word “ask him” in the Greek is in the tense that they kept asking, they were persistent, they want to see Jesus, “We want an interview with Jesus. Phillip, help us out. We want to talk to him, arrange something so that we can talk to Jesus.” Well Phillip then came and told Andrew. Andrew also is an apostle with a Greek name, and maybe that’s why Phillip talks to Andrew. But they both then come to Jesus. And Jesus’ response is interesting, isn’t it. He says “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.” There’s no mention of this interview. There’s no mention, ‘Yeah, bring them over, I want to sit down and talk to them.’ But what does seem to happen, just the fact that these Greeks, these Gentiles want to see him, and maybe there’s an indication of their hearts, it stirs his heart, it stirs his heart, and he realizes that, it’s clear from the verses, what he needs to do, and what he’s about to do. There’s this response to that. He says “The hour is come that I should be glorified”, meaning that he’s going to go to the cross. That’s his moment of glorification, is to die, and then to be raised up. And then he gives a picture, that maybe somebody whose Greek can identify with it. This message goes back to the Greeks, he shares something that in science a Greek might more readily identify with. But he says “I tell you, take a grain of wheat, it’s useless unless it’s planted. If you don’t plant a grain of wheat it’s useless.” In fact, there are grains that have been found in Egyptian tombs that are grains of wheat that are even four thousand years old, grains of wheat, found in Egyptian tombs, and they are still little grains of wheat that are dead, useless, they haven’t done anything. I’ve heard this illustration told different ways, so I’m going to use the one I think is the most accurate. But I didn’t calculate it, because I don’t know how many grains there are on a stalk of wheat, and people come up with different answers. But if you take a grain from a piece of wheat and you plant it in your garden, and you let it grow, it’s going to come up, there’s going to be a stalk with other grains on it. If you now take all those grains and you plant them, and you let them grow, and you repeat that every year. I’ve heard this different ways, but I’ll use this one, within 15 years you’d have enough wheat to cover the entire United States, if you take that one grain. I’ve heard it said, fourteen years you could cover the whole earth, I don’t know which one is true, one stalk had more than the other, or whatever. So I’m going to give you that one. I’m not a farmer, so I can’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you how many grains are on a stalk of wheat. But the point is, we’ve got four-thousand-year-old little grains that are useless, they didn’t produce anything. But if you just take one and plant it, and take what comes from it and keep planting it, you’d have the ability in a short time, we could make a big wheat field out of the United States of America, if we planted it all, and it all grew. So there’s this contrast here, that death [of one wheat grain] that’s needed for life. Or mortification verses multiplication. Jesus uses this illustration of this seed to give us a spiritual picture, a spiritual truth. And the truth is this, there can be no glory without suffering. There’s no fruitful life without death, there’s no victory without complete surrender. There has to be the laying down and dying in order for there to be life, Jesus referring to himself. But also he’s clearly in a passage giving an illustration for all of us to consider. As a child of God we have God’s life in us, we are small and maybe insignificant, there’s this life in us, and that life doesn’t really do much unless we yield and surrender to God. It’s fully fulfilled as I do that, allowing him to plant me, in a sense. Surrendering to him will then yield that multiplication and yield that life. So, I’ve been thinking about this. I shared on Wednesday night too, sharing about different truths that God has been ministering to me, and I have been telling the Lord in my prayer-time, ‘Lord, I don’t care what the cost, but I really want to know that experience of laying it down. Because I believe that if you lay it down, all your life, and I’ve been telling the Lord, ‘I don’t care what you take, my life is your life, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ But I realize too, that with true death itself, there is multiplication, there is spiritual power, there is spiritual life. Without surrender you don’t got it, man. Without the willingness to yield. And God is a gentleman, if you want to hold onto those reigns, he’ll let you hold onto those reigns, you’ll be miserable, you know. You can be a little grain, all by yourself, you can die that way. You know, there’s this contrast in these verses of loneliness and fruitfulness. What do you want to be?---losing your life or saving your life?---serving yourself or serving Christ?
Humiliation equals honor
Well, the last contrast is, as he says there, he says “If anyone serves me, if anybody lays it down, he says, my Father will honor him.” And as Christians, man, we want the honor of God, we want God to bless us and to honor us. But the key is to serve him. So we have this contrast, humiliation, Jesus said “Humble yourself, pick up your cross, follow me, humble yourself, humiliation---but it’s through that, that I then find honor. In fact, in some instances great honor from the Lord. So, beautiful truths that Jesus shares with us here. There’s also in this last verse there that we’ll look at, verse 26, there’s also a statement of intimacy. He says “If anyone serves me, let follow me, and where I am there will my servant be also.” A picture of intimacy, that God, with his servants, Jesus with his servants, together. Well there are some truths to consider as we’ve gone through chapter 12, a chapter of contrasts. We have love verses lust, generosity verses greed, presentation or witness verses persecution, exaltation verses envy, mortification verses multiplication, humiliation verses honor. [the last two are really “mortification equals multiplication” and humiliation equals honor]. As we go on next week we’ll see similar contrasts, light and dark, being selfish verses selfless, same types of things. Let’s close in prayer…[a transcript of a sermon on John 12:1-26, given somewhere in New England.]