Picture of Pastor David Cook

Sermon delivered December 16, 2006 by Pastor David Cook

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New Inductive Study Bible NISB unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Wasteful Thanks

John 12

(RealAudio Version avaiable)

Her question was one that most of them were asking. It was a question many have asked since. 'How can I give Jesus my thanks.'

The master had done so much for her. Standing in the shadows, she quietly watched Him interact with her friends and family. Catching His glance for a moment she remembered the first time she had looked into his eyes.

What a rough way to start your day. She had been dragged out of bed and rushed to the temple courtyard. There, men whose secrets she'd kept betrayed her. They had thrown her in front of this man and asked if she should be stoned. She had kept her face hidden as she waited for his verdict. But there was no verdict.

Soon His calloused hands were wiping tears and lifting her chin. It was then that she had looked into His eyes. If any could look through her, His could. Yet, they seemed to completely accept and appreciate her.

John 8:10,11(NASB). Straightening up Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemned you?" And then, And Jesus said, " I do not condemn you, either. Go, from now on sin no more."

Since then she had spent many happy moments with this man. She had sat at His feet drinking in his every word. She had joined other wealthy women in ministering to him. They had lovingly provided money to feed him and his disciples.

After that, just two months ago, He had done the most amazing thing for her. He had raised her brother from the dead! She could hardly believe it but it was true! How could she say thank you? What could she do?

Looking out in the hall she noticed her sister. Martha was such a good hostess. She always prepared the best food. Her stuffed grape leaves were a local legend. Mary wished she could be like Martha. Martha had something she could do to show her gratitude.

And then there was Lazarus. She was so proud of him. He was such a good man. And now that he had been raised from the dead he was like a lamb with His Shepherd. He just couldn't be separated from His Lord. He was really able to show Jesus his gratitude.

But what about her? What could she do? She couldn't serve like Martha. As a woman she couldn't sit close to Jesus like Lazarus. What could she do?

Her eyes turned to Simon. He had so much to be thankful for too. Jesus had cured him of leprosy! No longer was he considered a sinner under the curse of God. Once again he could be a prominent man in society. And look at how he showed his thanks. This beautiful meal with all of these important guests. She wished she could be like Simon.

Suddenly it hit her. The perfume! She had been saving it for for . . . Well, Jesus had said He might die soon. Why wait for the uncertain future? In a flash she was racing down the street toward home.

John 12:3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

As the scent permeated the room, all eyes turned to its source. Once again, Mary found herself being examined by flinty-eyed judges.

John 12:4,5 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?"

Mary felt sick with shame. Maybe she had been wasteful. It seemed like she could do nothing right. Maybe this was a dumb idea.

Judas was upset. Mary was so overdone. Her impulsiveness amazed and angered him. He <<< couldn't imagine wasting that much on Jesus' feet.

The disciples depended on her charity. Their money bag was almost empty. Besides, it was high time for him to be paid for his services. Not that he was stealing. He had earned it.

You would have thought that Judas would have been more grateful. Of all the disciples, he was the only one who hadn't been chosen directly by Jesus. In fact, the other disciples had to put in a good word for him. And Jesus had accepted him and used him in powerful ways. He had done miracles in Jesus' name.

He should have been grateful. But instead he was resentful. He felt like he deserved better. He was the one that kept their money from falling through the cracks. He should have been Jesus' most trusted advisor. What was so special about Peter, James and John anyway?

And now Mary had done this. Her act was a cutting rebuke to his greed. Here he was taking from the Lord while she lavished love on him. Trying to justify his anger he turned to the other disciples and murmured his line of "what about the poor."

Jesus' gentle voice cut through Judas' self-pity. John 12:7,8 "Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.

"For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me."

So why was Mary's act of gratitude praised above the rest? Jesus didn't praise Martha for serving him. He didn't congratulate Lazarus for sitting close to him. He didn't honor Simon for holding the feast for him.

Let's look closer at each character beginning with Martha. Was there anything wrong with her serving Jesus to show her thanks? No. The truth is that her act of service was what you would expect. If someone raises your family member from the dead, it is LOGICAL that you do something nice in return.

The same goes for Lazarus. It comes as no surprise that Lazarus sat next to Jesus. He had been raised from the dead! Wouldn't you sit next Him?

Simon was a little different. He appeared as if he was going above and beyond, but in reality he wasn't. He was definitely grateful to Jesus for healing his leprosy. But he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Now that he was no longer an outcast, he might ruin his reputation by associating too closely with Jesus. He was a Pharisee, mind you. And most of his friends hated the teacher. So he invited the Master to a feast, but withheld from overdoing his hospitality. He didn't perform the customary foot washing or welcome kiss. And he certainly didn't go as far as to anoint Jesus' head with oil. This way he can be grateful without being undignified. He takes no risks.

Judas was probably the most selfish of all. The others at least made attempts to thank Jesus in their own way. Instead of being thankful he was resentful. Resentful that he didn't get more respect. Resentful that Mary's act had made him feel so guilty. Resentful that Jesus had taken her side.

So, what about us? How do we show our thanks? Are we like Martha and Lazarus? Do we just do what we should have done anyway?

Are we like Simon? Do we make a public display of our gratefulness while not fully welcoming Him into our heart?

Are we like Judas? Are we using Jesus to make ourselves look good? Are we holding back what is His? Are we covering our selfishness with false charity? Are we resentful instead of grateful?

You see. Mary really knew how to show her gratitude. She showed it by being wasteful; by being extravagant. She showed it by risking all; by wasting her love on her Lord.

Mary showed it by not being shrewd, By not counting the cost. By not doing the expected.

Mary showed her gratitude by an act of wasteful love. She had poured out a whole bottle of precious nard onto Jesus' feet. This nard was a spice that had been shipped all the way from India. It was very precious; very expensive. She could have just dabbed a few drops on Jesus. But she didn't. She could have used a cheaper perfume. But she didn't.

But not only was she wasteful, she took an incredible risk. She risked no longer being able to cover her body odor with the perfume. Perfume was a substitute for daily baths in those days. She risked public rebuke. She knew what the disciples were like. She knew Judas. But she didn't care.

She also risked Jesus' disapproval. He might have rebuked her for being so wasteful. You see Mary had not only wasted the perfume, she had wasted herself.

What about you. How are you going to show your love? This Christmas people everywhere will be giving gifts. To some we'll give our token five dollar gift. To others we will give more than they would expect. What will we give Jesus?

As we celebrate His birth, we remember that he wasted Himself for us. He poured out Himself and His blood for all mankind. What a waste! His blood was enough to save everyone and more. And yet so few will accept the gift. And fewer still will really pour out themselves in return.

Are you giving only the minimum the lord requires? Or are you lavishing your money on him freely? Are you just a body in the pew? Or are you wasting your time serving Him. Are you afraid your co-workers will think you're a Jesus-freak? Or do you openly live for Him. Are you giving Him just your body? Won't you give him your whole heart too?

Martha, Lazarus, Simon and Judas missed out on much. They thought they had counted the cost but in reality they lost. They could have lavished their love on their lord. They could have wasted themselves for him.

Martha and Lazarus will be known throughout history as the siblings of Mary. They will be known as those who showed expected gratefulness.

Simon missed an opportunity to risk himself for his Lord. He missed an opportunity to ruin his reputation for the sake of Jesus. Instead he will be known as the man who couldn't offer Jesus the most common courtesy.

And Judas. Poor Judas. He thought he was being shrewd. He thought he was helping himself. But in the end he only received ruin. He will not go down in history as one who wastefully gave to his Lord. He will always be known as one who would be willing to sell his Lord for a measly 30 pieces of silver. What a bargain. Thirty pieces of silver for the king of the universe. Thirty pieces of silver for a horrible death and eternal extinction.

As Mary listened to Judas' cutting rebuke, her heart sank. Perhaps she had made a mistake. Would Jesus rebuke her as well? Would he send her away. Slowly she looked up to her Lord with tears streaming down her face. What would He say? For a moment those beautiful eyes looked lovingly into hers. And then she knew. She knew what He would do. And it was all worth it.

But Jesus said: "Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her." (Mark 14:6-9)

Mary's face flushed with joy! The master had accepted her lavish gift. He had defended her in front of everybody. He said that her act would be told to the end of the world! She felt such love, such peace, such acceptance.

Mary had discovered the best way thank her Lord. Mary had wasted herself on Her Lord. Won't you waste yourself on him too?

 Hymn of Praise: #132,  O Come, All Ye Faithful
Scripture:  John 12:3-8
Hymn of Response: #137,  We Three Kings

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