As we come to chapter 12, we come to the climax of love and hate. We are dealing now with the effects of the resurrection of Lazarus. Lazarus, a beloved friend of Jesus, became ill, he died. Four days later Jesus spoke a word and he rose from the dead. He is now alive. He and his sisters live in a little town called Bethany, less than two miles from Jerusalem. Christ has raised Lazarus from the dead. Time has intervened and as we come to chapter 12, Christ returns to Bethany. Upon His return certain things take place that give us categories of response to Christ. We can see by what happens at Bethany here in chapter 12 how people reacted to Jesus then and how they still react to Him today.
Now as we come to chapter 12 we are in the actual shadow of the cross. Though in terms of the chapters of John's gospel we have quite a ways to go, in terms of the life of Christ we have only about seven days at the most. We are in the actual shadow then of the cross. The events of this chapter occur during the last week of our Lord's life. His public ministry is climaxed with a stupendous display of almighty power in the raising of Lazarus. This was kind of the cap miracle that ended off His life in terms of a public ministry. And you'll remember I told you two things about that miracle. Number one, it was a defiant miracle. That means in the face of open rejection and hostility, Christ defied His unbelieving friends, those who had come around Him and were constantly unbelieving. And I use the word "friends" advisedly. Christ had defied His enemies really by performing a miracle that amounts to displaying His power in the face of their rejection. So it was a defiant miracle.
On the second hand, it was also a transition miracle in the fact that when Christ performed it He did it primarily for the disciples that they might see who He really was in all His glory, but He also did it as the last display to the world of His power. So in a sense He is moving now to the private ministry with His Twelve that took up the last few days of His life and He is moving away from the public ministry. And this miracle became a transition. It was done in front of some of the world and all of His disciples and it acted as a bridge. So it's a defiant miracle and it's a transition and from now on Christ deals only up until His death with His own. This last few days He spends preparing them for His coming death.
And it's kind of a sad thing when you analyze the life of Christ to this point. And as we've seen it clear through the gospel of John because for three years without wavering He has declared and proven His manifold perfections. He has manifested His blessed person in public and private and He has verified every claim He ever made by a deed of His life, or by a miracle. And the result of these three years is that among His own, first of all, there has been a deepening awakening to who He really is. And after the climactic raising of Lazarus from the dead, those that are His beloved, the sheep of His fold, have come to the convincing awareness that this is indeed the Son of God. But on the other hand you have the steady hardening of unbelief, the same three years that melted the heart of those who were His own hardened the hearts of His enemies and you have increasing hostility until both of them come to a gigantic climax in chapter 12. You have the love that has been growing for those years in full bloom and you have the hatred that has been festering for years throwing out its total poison here in chapter 12.
And because we see these two completely antithetical points reaching their climax, we are reminded that this has been the picture all the way through John's gospel. Now about a year ago when we first introduced the book we told you that John had a basic theme and that theme was he was presenting Christ as God in human flesh. John's point in writing this gospel was to show the world that Jesus is God in a human body. His sub-theme then was to show how men reacted and responded to that claim, you see. So his theme is Christ is God, his sub-theme is how men reacted. And on every page we've seen him presenting Christ as God again and again and again and again and right along with it we've seen how men reacted, haven't we? And we see the softening of the hearts of those who love them and the hardening of the hearts of those who hate Him until they have reached the extremities and we come to the climax of love and the climax of hate in this chapter.
Here in this little incident in Bethany in the first eleven verses we see it. We see love like we haven't seen before. We see love that is extravagant. We see love that is unbounded. We see love that knows no limits. We see love that's totally self-sacrificing. And at the same time that we see that, we see the hatred of those who were His enemies and it reaches its depths. It penetrates even the inner circle of the Twelve and one of His own spews out venom on Christ. So here in response to the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, love blooms and venom of hate brews its poison and the contrast is just as wide as two individuals...Mary, on the one hand, and Judas on the other hand. And that's a mystery. How you can take two people who lived with the same Christ, walk the same steps, heard the same message, experienced His same love and all of His miracles and out of that same experience have a Judas and a Mary is mystery. And it must indicate to you something of the depth of sin that must have been in the life of Judas. Out of the same sphere they both came.
But they're not the only characters in this section, although they're the most characteristic characters of the extremities of response to Christ. There are others here and we want to see a full category of reactions to Christ. So we see then that there are five responses here to the miracle. Number one, the cordiality of Martha, the charity of Mary, the covetousness of Judas, the curiosity of the people and the consultation of the leaders. All five of these individuals or groups are responding to what Christ has done and you're going to see how it unfolds.
Now before we look at each individual or group and see how they react, I want you to see verse 1 because verse 1 gives us the historical setting of what's going on. "Then Jesus," an indefinite time interval here until this verse, "Then Jesus six days before the Passover," then a definite schedule, "came to Bethany where Lazarus was who had been dead whom He raised from the dead." Now it's six days from the Passover and Jesus arrives in Bethany. Now Jesus died on the Passover. He was crucified on the Passover at the same time that all of the lambs were being slain on the Passover. Perfect timing. The true Lamb, the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world was slain on the very day when lambs were slain in commemoration of Passover. And it is only six days until that day when Jesus will die.
Now many people have speculated about how these days were catalogued, whether or not it was six days and then the Passover, or whether the sixth day was the Passover, so that means if you go backwards six days it's either Friday or Saturday...either one. Personally, when all the evidence is in, I believe it was Saturday, it was the Sabbath when Jesus arrived in Bethany. But whether or not it was Friday or Saturday doesn't really make a whole lot of difference doctrinally. We might assume that it was Saturday, that puts the next day, which is in verses 12 and 13, commonly called Palm Sunday on Sunday when we feel it should be and then Christ's death on Friday.
But it is six days until Passover, according to John...six precious days. Christ had spent three years giving Himself to the world and now He's got six days to give Himself to His own. Now during the time He was ministering to the world He was ministering to His own as well, but here are six concentrated days with His own. Six days to tie their hearts together. Six days to build their faith. Six days to teach them what to do and how to respond when He dies. Six days to be with them. And the first of those six days He also includes His beloved friends at Bethany. And so we find Him at Bethany.
Now it's Passover in Jerusalem and all the Jews came to Passover. Passover commemorated the experience in Egypt, you remember, when Israel was in captivity to the Egyptians and God was sending plagues upon Egypt and God said, "I'm going to send a plague and kill the firstborn of every family in Egypt." And then God made a provision of grace by saying if you'll sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle the blood on the doorpost and the lentil, the angel of death will pass by and will not take that firstborn. And every house where the blood appeared the angel passed by and that was Passover. And that's what Passover commemorates, the passing over of that angel when there was blood on the doorpost. And so it is at Passover time that they gather together to feast and to go through all of the things of Passover sacrificing in Jerusalem and Jesus is no different. He comes and before He gets there He stops for this one day in Bethany with His beloved friends and it turns out to be a thrilling and yet a tragic experience for Him. It's the last Sabbath day before He was to be hanged on the tree and He chooses to share that day with His friends at Bethany. And I imagine they were tender moments for Christ because already the anticipation of the cursing of bearing sin was already in His mind. He knew it was only a matter of days.
I want you to notice how Bethany is designated. It says, "Bethany," and then how do we know what Bethany is? "Bethany is where Lazarus was." Isn't that good? That little village will always be known because of that. That's the only claim to fame it ever had and what a claim to fame. That obscure little village less than two miles from Jerusalem will always be remembered throughout all the ages because of that's where Lazarus was. Bethany has only an identity because of its relation to Lazarus. What's so important about Lazarus? Oh you remember about Lazarus, look at verse 1. "He's the one who was dead whom Jesus raised from the dead." That's why Bethany is famous and that's why Lazarus is famous. You notice that the village is identified because of its relationship to the power of Jesus Christ.
And so we meet Jesus and He arrives at the little village, six days away from the thorns, six days away from the nails, six days away from the spear, the spit, the hate, the cross, the sin bearing, the loneliness of being God-forsaken, six days, that's all. And for one of those days, at least, He seeks the warmth and the love of His friends at Bethany. But sadly, even in the midst of the love and the warmth of the scene, He is stabbed by the sharp, hurting spear of hell as Judas comes to the fore and reveals himself as the traitor. And as you read this story and you can almost feel in the heart of Christ the desire for the warmth and the fellowship and for just a day, at least, to escape the hatred, but the hate is relentless at this point, it doesn't give up. Everywhere He goes and every turn He makes, the hate is there, even to the extent of penetrating His own disciples. So He arrives in Bethany.
Well, Bethany is ready for Him and we see how much they love Him in Bethany by the first two things. Number one, the cordiality of Martha. When He came they made Him a supper. Verse 2, "There they made Him a supper and Martha served," right on schedule, true to form. "But Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him." Now here we see the cordiality of Martha in two words, "Martha served." Always Martha did that, didn't she? Remember last week we pointed that out? Martha was always hustling around, she was the hostess. She was always preoccupied with taking care of everybody's need, cooking the stuff in the kitchen and serving it all and making sure everybody was comfortable. She just served other people. Martha served.
What was going on here? Well the friends of Jesus had gathered together and they knew they didn't have much time but they wanted to honor Him and so they grabbed one opportunity to honor Him, they had a day and they said, "Let's honor Jesus." And they got together and, I don't know, I imagine it was some kind of a super potluck and it didn't even happen in Mary and Martha's house, friends, it happened in the house of Simon. Now Simon was a leper and undoubtedly, although the Bible doesn't say it, Simon had been cured from his leprosy otherwise they wouldn't have been eating in his house, he wouldn't have even had a house. And it's very likely that Simon's leprosy had been cured by Christ since there was no other cure in existence. So Matthew and Mark tell us it occurred at the house of Simon the leper and even Martha, not even in her own house, is busy serving. Have you ever met people like that? You invite them over for dinner and all they want to do is serve and cook and wash the dishes...terrific kind of people, we try to find them as often as we can and invite them over. But that's how Martha was. Martha was really preoccupied with serving other people. She was a selfless kind of person and she saw that area where she could serve and took advantage of it. And so they have a supper. The word "supper" is deipnonand it's the word that refers to the main meal of the day. This is a time at the end of the day they got around a low U-shaped table and just kind of lounged and they ate leisurely and discussed things. There wasn't anywhere to go, no hurry, nothing was happening, no activity. In those days people just got to know people. They just shared together. They weren't in a hurry to get everywhere and this meal would be a lengthy meal as they would share and talk. And so they were gathered for deipnonand Martha was serving in the house of Simon the leper.
Now how many were there we don't know. There were at least twelve disciples, there's Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and there's Jesus and there's Simon probably and perhaps more from Bethany who had believed on Him at the miracle of Lazarus. This may have been at Simon's house cause he may have had such a large house. They were all there. They were there for one reason, and that was to express their love and gratitude to Jesus. That's why they were there. They made a supper for Him. It was for Him to honor Him. And I...it just must have been a thrilling supper as they all gathered around, they were so in love with Jesus Christ and they gathered there and here were two living examples of His power. Here's Simon the ex-leper and here's Lazarus the ex-ex...the ex-dead man and they're both there and they're rejoicing and thanking Christ for all that He means to them. What a blessed time it must have been.
Notice at the end of verse 2 it says, "But Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him." And that indicates it wasn't Lazarus' own home but that he was a visitor and a guest in another home.
Now Martha served, using just a little insight, we could jump off of that and consider the idea of service, for a second. She had a built-in cordiality. She had a built-in hospitality. She just really put herself out for other people. She loved Jesus Christ and she was practical, so naturally her love took a practical vent and she moved to serve Christ. That's the most practical thing she could do. Mary loved Christ too, but she wasn't too practical. But we'll see the nature of her love in a minute. But Martha was just really down to earth, maybe a little too practical. But she served and her service is commendable. There are really only two things that make service worth anything. Number one, if it's in love and number two, if it's in the glory of Christ. And her's was. She did it for Jesus and she did it because she loved Him. That's the kind of service you like. That's the kind that God honors. Simple service.
You know something? Really honestly, friend, that's what we're all doing. That's all we are are servants of God, isn't it? We're not celebrities. We're not big shots. We're just servants. That's all we are. And, you know, Jesus even said, "He that would be chiefest among you, let him be your servant." That's where we all begin. I mean, we're in this to serve. That's...Jesus came and He said,....He said, "I am come not to be ministered unto but to...what?...to minister." We're just servants. We're not in it to elevate ourselves as Christians, there's no place for that. There's no place for selfishness in Christianity. There's no place for self-love and self-glory and self-exaltation in the body of Christ. No place at all. We're servants, that's all. And the word "served" is the word diakoneofrom which we get our word diakonoswhich means deacon. That's all a deacon is is somebody who serves. That's all any of us are, servers and servants. Paul calls himself an apostle and a servant of Jesus Christ. We're all servants. There's no place for anything else, none whatsoever. If any Christian feels he has any other obligation than to serve his Lord and serve his fellow believer, he's wrong. That's all you have to do. We need to be preoccupied with serving each other. Can you imagine what our fellowship would be like if we did that? I mean, just think about it. If we just served each other, everyone of us would have about 700 people serving us. Terrific. And we'd be serving everybody else. And the love and the concern. But instead, most of us just serve ourselves and then we have one person serving us. You see, God designed it the right way. And Jesus set the example. Luke 22:27, Jesus said, "I am among you as he that serveth," didn't He? I'm just here to serve. In John 13, reflecting on that verse, listen to this, "Verily, verily I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord." If my Lord served, I should serve. Believers are continually called servants. And, you know, it's wonderful to be a servant because of the promise that comes with it. I mean, to serve Christ and to serve God the Father and to serve other believers, that's all we want to do and it's a wonderful thing because of the promise. Look at 12:26, this is terrific, "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me and where I am there shall also My servant be." Isn't that good? Just keep following Me around and serving Me. And what will happen? "Well, if any man serve Me, him will My Father...what?...honor." Did you know that? Did you know that if you serve Jesus Christ, God will honor you? Isn't that exciting? God will honor you if you serve Him. We're to serve Jesus Christ in the spirit of service.
Well, you say, "Well how...and what's your attitude in service?" Well, it's Acts 20:19, simple verse, here's what it says, "Serving the Lord with all humility of mind and with many tears." Isn't that good? You serve the Lord with humility. You're nothing, you're just a servant. And with tears, you know what that means? That means you really care, compassion. And you not only serve the Lord as a believer but you serve each other. Galatians 5:13, you know what it says? It says this, quote: "By love serving one another." We're only in the body of Christ to serve each other. Remember how much we've talked on Sunday nights about the body ministries and about our gift and about ministering to each other and loving each other? It's all service to each other, constant service to each other in love. And I'll be very frank, every time I serve myself, that is sin. Did you get that? Every time I serve myself, that is sin. Every time I do what I want for myself, that is sin. I am only existing that I might serve Jesus Christ and that I might serve you in love. That's the only reason I exist. And every time I fall back and do something for myself, it's sin. I'm a servant, I'm a servant of my Lord, and I'm a servant of the rest of the body of Christ.
And Martha is a good illustration of a servant. She served humbly. And you know something? She didn't have a big fancy deed, it wasn't a big notable thing. But, you see, service isn't measured by the deed, it's measured by the motive. See. Why she did it, because she loved Him and wanted Him to have the honor.
All right. It's kind of beautiful, too, that the Holy Spirit includes Martha. Poor Martha, every time you read about her she's just serving. And you might think, you know, with Mary, she really...Mary does something that's fabulous here and Martha might have gotten shoved in the corner but the Holy Spirit doesn't let that happen. He pulls Martha out of the woodwork and gives her a verse. Don't forget Martha...she served. So we see the cordiality of Martha.
Then we see the charity of Mary. And this is just absolutely a fantastic verse when you really see what's behind it. Verse 3, "Then took Mary," and, you know, Mary...she was not practical, she was a very pensive, moody, kind of one and undoubtedly wasn't practical. She was the one that wept most over Lazarus' death and had to be comforted. And she was the emotional one, you know, just the all stirred up inside where Martha appears to be rather a picture of even temperament and complacency. But look at Mary. "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 odor of the ointment." Now that's a strange thing to do, really. That's very strange. And I'll tell you in a few minutes how strange it is. But when you talk about the charity of Mary, and I use the word charity because, you know, in the old days charity used to mean love, nowadays it means giving something...giving someone something valuable. But let's be real honest about it, if you love somebody, that's what you wind up doing, right? It's no wonder the word came to mean that, donating or giving something which is an expression of love. And so Mary has this love in her heart and it just comes out as she gives something to Christ and it's a fantastic thing. And this verse is so detailed...a pound of it, and that's like a 12-ounce type pound, of ointment and ointment is the Greek word muron from which we get the word myrrh and spikenard was what it was and it was very costly. And He goes in...the Holy Spirit goes into all these details as if the Holy Spirit wants to measure the act of Mary's love, you know, just line it out in every little detail so that the mention of her love is visible. It's almost like the divine Holy Spirit is putting a stamp of approval on this deed, and, in fact, that's exactly what He's doing.
Now I read that verse and I thought, "You know, that verse doesn't teach any doctrine at all, did you know that? There's no doctrine in that verse." Now doctrine is important. We need to know doctrine. We need to know sound doctrine. We teach sound doctrine. But there's a balance over there. I have told you time and again there are two things that build a strong believer, two things that build a strong church. One of them is sound doctrine...and what's the other one? Love. And this isn't doctrine, friends, this is love and unless you have them both, you're as a clanging cymbal, Paul says, even if you speak with the tongues and angels and don't have love. There's no doctrine in this verse. This is simply an illustration of somebody's love for Jesus to act as a catalyst for our love, isn't it? And what love it is. Her sacrifice is fantastic and we can measure our love by our sacrifice, just like her love is measured by hers. And let's square ourselves and see how we come out.
Now she gave spikenard, now the essence of this kind of ointment came from nard and that's something that grew up in the Himalayas between China and Tibet and it had to be brought out of there on the backs of camels and brought all the way down the Himalaya mountains and all the way to Israel and then put together in some kind of an ointment and put in some kind of an alabaster box or jar, as the other writers tells us and then sold. Well that's a costly operation for a little bit of ointment. And it was a very, very expensive commodity, a luxurious possession, one of those things you have and you never want to use it. You realize if you use it it's costing you a fortune so you just sit it there and it still costs you a fortune and it doesn't do you any good. But Mary just can't resist, it's too good for her, it's not good enough for Jesus and she comes bursting out there and just pours it all over Him. Just my imagination can picture the scene because at that time the men would be around the table, the women didn't sit down to eat with the men, they stood around the outside and just waited on them. Terrific way to do it. Anyway, the men would be sitting at the table and Mary and Martha would be kind of scurrying around the outside taking care of everybody's needs and Mary's heart, I imagine, was just overflowing with love and she probably couldn't keep her eyes off Jesus. She...she just was loving Him so much and so full of love for Christ and doing all this service. And I imagine that her heart began to beat so loudly that she thought everybody in the room must be hearing it beat, just love just welling up until it was going to burst. She felt like she was going to shatter and she went into this place, wherever it was, and she grabbed that alabaster box, or jar, and she came out and she just poured that stuff all over Him. It was just a bursting of her love. It was not a calculated thing, not at all. It was total boundless love. And Matthew and Mark tell us she poured it on His head and it ran down the back of His neck, across His shoulders and it came on down and there was enough left she poured it on His feet. Now she didn't calculate it at all. She didn't measure it out. She didn't know what to do, she loved Him so much and she didn't ask Him anything, her love was bursting within her, she ran and grabbed the most precious commodity she had and just poured it on Him. She never calculated that. I mean, that was just love. That was boundless love expressing itself. And it just ran all down Him.
And you can imagine, first of all, the shock. Everybody sitting around and here she comes just with her heart beating and her face flushed and she just pours this all over Jesus. But Jesus knew. And I imagine His heart was just full of joy at her love, He could measure her love by that, couldn't He? She had just tried to find some way that she could pour out everything she had in terms of love and relieve herself of that love that wanted to do something. And so she poured it all over Christ, a burst of love. Then in shocking disregard for Jewish tradition, she knelt down at His feet and she had poured it on His feet and it was beginning to drip and she let her out, and you never did that, that was strictly a no-no. No Jewish woman ever let her hair down in front of men and she did that. And not only did she do that, but still allowing her heart to do the speaking, she took her hair and began to wipe that which was dripping off His feet. Now you don't plan something like that. She was just rapt in the emotion of the thing and she poured this all out and it started to drip and she didn't know and she just started to wipe His feet and it was all just love gushing everywhere. I mean, that's real love. I don't know if any of us really know how to love Jesus like that. That's the kind of love that doesn't hold anything back, it just...there it is, Lord, it's all for You...just unbounded love. And, you know, it says that the house was filled with the fragrance, just imagine this...that kind of a costly perfume and that much of it!! The place just smelled with all this fragrance and love had given its unbounded sacrifice.
You know something, you don't give God something that doesn't cost you anything. David said, "I will not give the Lord that which cost me nothing." I won't do it. Love isn't measured that way, love is measured in the burst that pours everything out. We don't know how to do that. We calculate our love to God. We say, "Well, probably could go to church tonight. I don't know. Lord, I'll try to spend a little time in prayer and praise the Lord. Well, I've got a lot to do, probably could read the Bible. Well, there's two or three verses." We calculate everything. "I probably could give some money to the church, probably need some this month to some mission or, let's see, how much have I got....well, I don't think I can swing that." You know, we calculate everything. That isn't the measure of love. The measure of love is abandonment, just...whatever, it doesn't matter what it is. The only thing that love asks is that love just gives everything and then is upset because it doesn't have more to give. That's love. It's funny how we calculate. We balance the books with God and put ourselves in debt for what we want. Our house is in hock, our car is in hock, we owe a fortune to Sears and everybody else and we balance the books with God. It's amazing.
Two things hit me about her love. Number one, it's extravagance. She spent her most precious commodity on Jesus and she did it in a burst of love. You can't calculate that. Love gives everything it has and then regrets that it doesn't have anything else to give. Not only her extravagance hit me but her humility. Love seeks not its own, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13. That's right, she fell at His feet, she didn't care...you want to know something very frankly? There wasn't anybody else in the building when Mary went to Jesus' feet, no one was even there. She couldn't see anybody else. You say, "Wasn't she embarrassed, I mean, down there wiping up with her hair, I mean that's very embarrassing." There wasn't anybody there in her mind. I mean, Jesus was there and love was gushing out and it didn't matter who said what, she could have cared less. And that's the measure of love.
One of the young people in our church who wanted to have a part in our ministry...well, it's the one who gave the thousand dollars for Lynn to go to Israel with us, said, "You know, nobody will understand, nobody will understand, no one will ever understand why I did this. My parents won't understand and they won't understand." But he said, "I don't care." That's the measure of love, you just do it and don't worry.
She loved Jesus so much she could have cared less what anybody else thought. Such love. I don't know, I measured my love all week long as I studied this and I came up short. I really did. I just...I guess I haven't learned to love like that but I want God to teach me to love like that because I want to learn to love so that I can pour out everything I have to Jesus Christ. He deserves it. And I want to love Him that way and I hope and pray that you do because it's not right for us to say we love Him and then not show it by total sacrifice. Boy, what could be done if we all had that kind of uncontrollable love to pick out the most precious commodity we have in the world that we're saving up for some rainy day and just say, "Here, it belongs to You, Jesus, all of it." How sweet it must have been and how Jesus' heart must have been filled with that love that Mary was giving Him.
And it was short-lived. Then like a piercing arrow the words of Judas penetrated the scene and we come, point three, to the covetousness of Judas. And it almost turns my stomach. I had to fight becoming nauseated as I studied this. The shock of the warmth of the love of Mary and the cold, calculated, deadly hatred of Judas, just flipping back to back in two verses, almost shocking. The covetousness of Judas is in verse 4, "Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son who should be betray Him," and there we're introduced to the man. The most tragic human who ever lived was Judas. He is the most despicable character in history. He is the betrayer of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Judas sold Him. And the contrast between the love of Mary and the selfishness of Judas is shattering. Boy, it's a strange dichotomy. It reminds me of chapter 6, that beloved Peter stood up and said to Christ, he said, "Thou hast the word of eternal life and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter says, "Lord, we know who You are, we believe." The next verse Jesus answered them, "Have not I chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil," and He spoke of Judas Iscariot. Right there in the Twelve, Peter's confession and Judas the devil.
How does that happen out of one group? Oh the depth, the depth of sin. Greed, avarice, ambition, worldliness, selfishness had taken over in his heart and driven him to a frenzy. He had cast his lot with a cause and he thought was going to make it. He thought he was going to get to slide in on the coattails of the king and go into a kingdom and a messianic rule and the whole shot was going to happen and all of a sudden it was going sour and Jesus was hated, and Jesus was talking about dying and there wasn't any money in the treasury and everybody was hating Him and opposing Him and it was no good. And he wasn't making it big like he thought he'd make it big and he was going to get out now but he wasn't going to get out until he got some loot. He needed some money to compensate for three wasted years so when he sees the love of Mary, it activates his love for money and he bursts out and reveals his feelings by belittling the waste of money. And it's interesting that the other gospels tell us that the other disciples joined in with him. Evidently he was a very persuasive person, that's probably why he got elected treasurer and had been embezzling the money all along.
You know, a man like Judas could only bloom in a sphere of Christianity. He'd be lost in the world because there are a million Judases who would betray Christ for anything. But when you see him in the sphere of Christianity, oh how stark he becomes, twisted and rotted by the love of money. He couldn't even see any beauty in Jesus Christ. He couldn't see any beauty in the love of Mary. All he could see was money, money, money, money and the first words ever in the New Testament recorded from his mouth are verse 5, "Why was not this ointment sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?" What a waste, 300 denarii was a lot of money, I mean, that was 300 days wages, a denarius a day. He was ready to get 300 denarii and take away the gift of Mary's love, but that's not unusual, he just turns right around after this and sells Jesus for 30 pieces of silver which amounts to about twenty dollars. He lived with money on the brain. The first words he ever said indicated the rottenness of his heart, the last words he ever said, I remember them in Matthew 27:4 where he says in total remorse, "I have betrayed innocent blood." Went out and hanged himself.
Judas was standing there and he thinks, "Oh what a waste, look at her pouring that on His head. Oh that's terrible, that's worth 300 denarii at least. Why she shouldn't do that, she should give that to me. Oh no, not to...to the poor, to the poor." So he makes his little announcement. How noble you are, Judas. Oh, put you on the welfare committee, you care. Oh for the poor, poor.
Now Jesus had a lot to say about caring for the poor and rightly should we care for the poor. No question about that. But Judas didn't care about the poor. He was a fake. The Judas kiss that he placed on Jesus' cheek in the garden wasn't the first hypocritical move he ever made. Verse 6, John knew what was going on and John writing in retrospect many years later says this, "This he said...Judas said this...not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief...that's why...and he had the bag with the chest and bore what was put in it." He didn't care about the poor, he was embezzling the funds. He wanted money in the bag, he was going to get out and he didn't want to get out empty-handed, he wanted compensation for those years. He was a thief.
You know, I've heard people...I read so many books on Judas, I wrote my dissertation in seminary on Judas and I spent a year with him, every day for a year I studied Judas, every book ever written on him. And I came to the conclusion...some people have written books and said how Judas was a misguided patriot and what Judas really wanted to do was good, he was trying to push Christ into a position of having to exert His power. He was trying to force Christ to bring in the Kingdom. That's not true at all. If that's true, why would Jesus say he's a devil? And why would John say he's a thief? He didn't have any good motives, he had nothing but rotten motives from the beginning. He didn't care about the poor, he cared about the money. He wanted money and he was going to get out of this deal.
And so we meet the embezzling thief in verse 6. He is without question the tragedy of history and thus the tragedy of eternity. And the reason he's a tragedy, listen to this, is because he lived three years of his life in proximity to truth like no other man except eleven more had ever lived. That man for three years lived every day with Jesus. And I imagine the remorse in his soul as he's in hell right now must be unbelievable because of the proximity to the truth. And only his history remains and it's not to be a discouragement, it's to be a warning to men who live in the proximity to truth to be sure that they apprehend that truth, lest they spend an eternity in hell and remorse like Judas. Judas lived in the sunlight of the very Son of God and his life ended in the blackest darkness of hell.
And, you know, there are probably some people here this morning who are living in privilege. You are here this morning, you're hearing about the Son of God. You've come to church before, many of you have even read the Bible, somebody's witnessed to you, and you have all the privilege and all the light and the life of Christ is right there offered to you and you're refusing it. And you're going to be a tragedy after the kind of Judas because you've lived in the light and you'll die in darkness that is infinitely darker because you know what the light is. And I would plead with you, if you don't know Jesus Christ, give Him your life while you still can. No, it's true, Judas is no solitary monster standing alone in the world, there have been a million-million Judases, all the time there are Judases, many men who sell Jesus.
You say, "I never sell Christ. I never betrayed Christ." Oh yeah, for anybody who doesn't receive Jesus Christ as Savior, you're selling Him. Whatever it is that keeps you from inviting Christ into your life is the price that you're selling Christ for. Some people are selling Christ for money, they want to play around with money, they want to become a financial success and they don't want Christ horning in on it. Some people are selling Christ for sex, they want to live the kind of immoral life they want to live and so that's the price they're selling Christ out for. Some people want to sell Christ out for ambition, others for all kinds of other things, self-glory. Whatever it is that keeps you from receiving Jesus Christ is the price for which you sold Him. It would have been bad enough if Jesus had only been kissed by one Judas, He's been kissed a thousand-thousand times the same way.
Well, the Lord moves in to defend poor Mary who by this time is probably standing there in a state of shock with all the disciples pointing at her and yelling at her wasting her spikenard. Verse 7, "Then said Jesus, 'Let her alone.'" Don't you like that? Let her alone. Stern, that's imperative in the Greek, let her alone. "For the day of My burial hath she kept this." And there's almost a pensive tragic prophecy of His death. "Let her alone, she's doing this because of My burial." Oh she loved Him so much and yet Judas fosters this kind of animosity and Jesus rebukes Judas and in the statement He unmasks Judas' hypocrisy. He doesn't even answer the issue. He just...He leaves it at that, unmasking Judas.
Now what did He mean when He said "she is anointing Me in connection with My burial?" Well, it wasn't very long until He was going to be dead and buried. And it was part of the Jewish custom to anoint the body of those who died and Mary evidently knew Christ was going to die, she had heard Him say it many times. And she had saved this for Him. And now she knew it was coming close to the time of His death and she thought perhaps when the authorities get Him and the Romans take Him and they go through all of that, I'll never get near Him and I'll never be able to anoint Him and I want to give Him my most precious thing. And this was scrambling around in her love-torn brain and, "I better do it now because if I don't do it now I might not see Him again, and I might not have the opportunity." And so with that in mind she rushes in and pours it on Him and it's a pre-anointing because she knows He's going to die. She grabs the moment, see. And that's good, she makes use of the moment she has because she doesn't know if she's going to have another moment at all. Matthew 26:12 and Mark 14:8, both those verses tell us the same thing. She was anointing Him beforehand, she was afraid she might not have the chance later on.
And isn't it sad that even in the expression of her love is inherent in that is His death? She was preparing Him for burial while Judas was preparing in his mind to betray Him. Two absolute opposites. Here's Mary getting Him ready to die, and Judas in the same building, in the same room eating with the same meal is preparing to betray Him so He will be killed. As the Old Testament said, "Mine own familiar friend hath lifted up his heal against Me."
Well then Jesus adds a word prophesying His death when He says, "My burial." He adds to it one more statement in verse 8. "For the poor always you have with you, but Me you have not always." In other words, He says, "Can't you see priorities, friends?" He says to His disciples, "Can't you see priorities? I'm not going to be around very long. Poor people are important, we want to care for poor people, but I come first. I mean, which is more important, the poverty program or the glorification of the Son of God? And you've only got six days for Me, the poor you're going to have with you always."
And that's a good verse for the people who are working in government to remember. There is no cure for poverty. Jesus said they'll always be around. That doesn't mean we like it. That's just how it is. That's the way the world is made and that's why it's encumbered upon the church of Jesus Christ to care for people who have needs and are poor that we might minister to them physically and then have a spiritual entrance into their hearts. But Jesus isn't depreciating poor people, not at all, He was the poorest of the poor. He said, "I don't have a place to lay My head," He didn't even have a house. He said, "The foxes and the birds are better off than I am." But what He is saying is understand your priorities, right? You get Christ in the right perspective first, He demands your allegiance initially. I don't have much time, do what really matters. This is priority, folks, what matters today? I mean, let's face it, it's very important to work with poor people, it's much more important to move around exalting Jesus Christ, isn't it? Get your priorities.
And what do you spend your time doing? Do you spend any time exalting Christ? Do you ever tell Him you love Him? Do you ever bother to tell Him you love Him? Do you ever just sit down and let your heart pour out love to Him? Do you ever do that? If you're going to love Him, love Him now...now.
Thomas Carlyle(?) loved Jane Carlyle but he was a cross, irritable, grouchy, grumpy character. He made life miserable for his wife. Finally she died...sweet and gentle person. After she died Froud(?) was writing about it, tells Carlyle's feelings and he said this, quote: "Carlyle was looking through her papers, her notebooks and journals and old scenes came mercilessly back to him in the vistas of mournful memory. In his long sleepless nights he recognized too late what she had suffered. His faults rose up in remorseless judgments as he thought in helpless repentance. He cried again and again and again and said, 'If I could see her but once more, were it only for five minutes, just to let her know I always loved her. She never knew. She never knew. She never knew. She never knew.'" That would be a terrible thing to love somebody with all your heart and have them die and never know it. I wonder if we love Jesus Christ so much, I don't know how much time we have to tell Him before we're going to be in His presence. I don't know how much time we have to live and prove to Him our love by sacrifice.
Do you really love Him? Do you understand priorities? What do you spend your time doing? Worrying about politics or loving Jesus? Priorities.
So, Judas is unmasked, friends, he's had it. He's crushed. And here is the locus-crucious in the life of Judas, here was his decisive moment. Christ had unmasked him in Christ's mind, Judas knew he was discovered. Now Judas had a choice. First of all, he could cast himself at Jesus' feet in penitential tears. He could confess his lost condition and his sin and he could seek mercy at the throne of grace. That's one option. Second option, his pierced pride could swell up to greater pride and he could go the opposite direction, becoming willfully hardened by Satan himself to betray Jesus. He chose the latter. He chose not to repent, not to love Christ, not to confess. But the hatred that had been festering in his now frenzied heart turned him into mad despair and he left Bethany and he left Bethany during the night and he walked those two miles till he arrived at Jerusalem and he went in and he consorted with the leaders and he sold Jesus that same night. That was a decisive moment in the life of Judas. Jesus confronted him and gave him the options. He chose the one he wanted. He betrayed Christ.
So the scene at Bethany is like so many others in John's gospel, blessing and cursing, love and hate all reaching a climax. You have Mary overflowing extravagance, sacrificing humble love and you have Judas bitter, greedy, murderous, betraying hate. And that's how it always is with Jesus, did you know that? There's no neutrality. He that is not with Me is...what?...against Me. There's no neutrality with Jesus.
So we see the cordiality of Martha, the charity of Mary, the covetous of Judas. Then very quickly in those last three verses we see the curiosity of the people. Verse 9, "Many people of the Jews," these are the common people, not the leaders, "therefore knew that He was there." It was Passover, see, so pilgrims had come from all over the land in Jerusalem, and they were staying on the hillsides all around and they would be very near Bethany. They 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." Now isn't that typical? The curiosity of the people. There they are again, the Jesus watchers, same ones. Back in verse 55 of chapter 11 doing the same thing. Where is He? Oh let's see Him. That's where it's at, Jesus always provides so much entertainment at the Passover and they wanted to see Jesus and they wanted to see Lazarus, this guy who was raised from the dead. Curiosity. Thrill-seekers, sensation-seekers, careless, indifferent, could care less really about the person of Christ, they just swung with the crowd, the mood of the mob just carried them whichever direction.
There are too many people like that, friends, I'll be very honest with you. I don't know any statistics but I'll tell you right now, the vast majority of people who attend churches in America today are Jesus watchers and nothing else. They're spectators. They don't hate Him, they're not hostile Judases and they don't love Him, they're not Marys. They're watchers and they sit there and look. And it's a sad thing because the crowd that sits and watches became the crowd that crucified Him.
In Acts chapter 3 this kind of a crowd is designated to us by an illustration. In Acts chapter 3 verse 6 Peter says to this particular man who was lame, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give thee in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And he did and he was leaping and praising God, you know, and it was really exciting, all the things that he was doing. And then you come to verse 14 of chapter 4 and you read an astounding statement. Now the man is jumping around and having a great time and the people are there and they see him. It says in verse 14 of chapter 4, "And beholding the man that was healed standing with them, they could say nothing...what?...against it." Now isn't that interesting? What did they want to say? They wanted to say something...what?...against it. You see, they didn't want to believe. They never wanted to believe. Even when they watched they were only looking for some way to disprove it. You see the negative of it? They saw that the guy jumping around leaping for joy who had been lame and they said, "Um, now how can we say something against that?" see. That's looking at it with the evil eye.
So here's the crowd. They come and they see Lazarus. And they watch. But, you know, the crowd that watches doesn't stay that way, they get moved and, you know, they sway. So in verses 12 and 13 of chapter 12 Jesus comes into the city and they all say, "Hosanna, blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." You say, "Oh, it's a good crowd, terrific. They really like Him." Yeah, well you want to meet them again? Look at them in chapter 19 verse 14, it says this, "And it was the preparation of the Passover about the sixth hour and he saith unto the Jews...Pilate says...Behold your king. And they cried out, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him.' Pilate saith unto them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priest answered, 'We have no king but Caesar.'" Hypocrites. They hated Caesar. But you see the same crowd watched Him, threw psalms at His feet, crucified Him. The mood of the mob. The Jesus watchers. They don't have any thoughts of their own, they just sway along with whichever way the theology goes, knowing nothing. And the tragic comment on them is in Matthew 27:36, they all gathered around the cross and you know what it says? It says this, pathetic, "And sitting down they watched Him there." Still doing the same thing.
Listen, don't just sit there and watch Jesus. That's deadly. Receive Him into your life.
Lastly, we see the consultation of the leaders. The leaders are really in trouble now. I mean, they've got a live man who used to be dead roaming around and he's gathering crowds to Jesus. Now they know all these people went to Bethany so they're panicked in verse 10, "But the chief priests...and they were Sadducees, chief priests refers to Sadducees...consulted that they also might put Lazarus to death because by reason of him many Jews went away and believed on Jesus." Now they were threatened two ways. Very quickly, two ways.
Number one, they were threatened politically because, you see, if all these people gathered around Jesus, they might start an insurrection and then the Romans would come down and squash it. Go back to verse 48 of chapter 11. If we let this thing go, they say, all men will believe on Him and the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation. They were afraid that Jesus might get a revolution going and Rome would crush it and throw them all out.
But better than that, they were really threatened theologically because...now watch this, this is really funny...the Sadducees had for years been teaching there was no such thing as resurrection. And here they've got to contend with a guy who resurrected...who was resurrected. They were on theological thin ice, friends. I mean, they had been propagating their doctrine of no resurrection and here's a guy who has come back from the dead. So they've got one choice, destroy the evidence. That's the real objective way to attack a problem. Support your position by destroying all the contrary evidence. If you don't believe there's a resurrection and somebody's resurrected, kill him. And so they're not too objective. They decided, "We've got to kill Lazarus, too," the hatred that is boiling in these leaders.
So you see it there. In these verses we see the hatred and the love reaching a climax. They're the categories of reactions to Jesus. You can react like Martha and Mary, you can serve Him and love Him. And is it exciting! You can serve Him and love Him. Or you can react like Judas did and just live for materialism, maybe once in a while look to religion and be hypocritical. But it's all a Judas kiss. Or maybe you'd just rather be indifferent, just kind of stand in the back and just kind of look at it all, and that's just as tragic as anything. Or maybe you've even gone so far as to be like those false leaders, you're a false teacher teaching lies and defending yourself by destroying the evidence.
Where are you? You're already somewhere, you've already made a choice. Maybe you can still make another one and choose Christ and remember, "He that is not with Me is against Me."
Father, we thank You again this morning for Your Word and we pray that You'll burn it into our hearts that we might indeed understand the seriousness of reacting to the claims of Christ. Father, I pray right now for some who may be here who have never invited Jesus Christ into their lives that they might do it right now and that Christians who don't even know the measure of love, who have never found out what it is to give sacrificially of all they have, who have never understood what it means to just pick up everything and give it to Christ that they might learn that.
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