BROKEN - John 12:1-11 November 20, 2022
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM BETHANY CHURCH IN RICHMOND, BC.
The passage we are looking at today has a striking parallel with an earlier account in Scripture Luke 7:36-49 in which Luke describes of a time when Jesus is invited to dinner at the house of Simon, a Pharisee.
We enter that scene with men gathered around the table, not sitting as we, but reclining as they prepared to eat. The room would be filled with members of Simon’s social circle - other men he would think as worthy as he, which meant a large gathering of Pharisees. As was the custom, there would be no women at the table though some might be outside the room, looking in.
Meals like this, in an open courtyard, commonly brought outsiders to listen to the conversation. And a meeting like this, with the ‘important’ – the Pharisees, and the intriguing – Jesus, would have drawn the curious.
At table, were the honored, who would have been welcomed with normal courtesies: the host’s embrace and then attention to their needs as his servants made certain guests were treated as they should. Feet were washed – eliminating the dust and dirt encountered on their travel. Heads were anointed with oil to refresh and invigorate. The oil would also prevent excessive perspiration in the hot, Middle Eastern air.
Make no mistake, Simon wouldn’t have overlooked even one of these courtesies because to have done so would have jeopardized his standing in society.
Amongst this group is another. Like others at the table, He is invited but He is definitely not honored. Simon was hardly going to honor a man he regarded with suspicion. Further, to elevate Jesus in front of his contemporaries would mean diminishing himself. And Simon wasn’t about to let that happen. In truth, Simon invited this guest as a specimen to dissect.
So, Simon and his ‘righteous’ friends, who saw themselves speaking for the heart of God, did the unrighteous by treating him as someone deserving no honor, not even the bare minimum courtesies Middle East custom required.
Let’s pick up the story as the table is set and the conversation is loud.
“As they were getting ready to eat, it says that, “a sinful woman in that town found out that Jesus was there, she bought an expensive bottle of perfume. Then she came and stood behind Jesus. She cried and started washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The woman kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.”
Outrageous. Invasive. Offensive.
How dare she? One such as she, doesn’t come into a place such as this.
One such as she, doesn’t come into a presence of people such as us.
Listen how Scripture pictures their hearts, The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and said to himself, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him! He would know that she is a sinner.”….. Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Have you noticed this woman? as if Simon hadn’t noticed When I came into your home, you didn’t give me any water so I could wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t even pour olive oil on my head, but she has poured expensive perfume on my feet. So, I tell you that all her sins are forgiven, and that is why she has shown great love.” Luke 7:39
Okay, with that as a backdrop, let’s dip into the passage we are looking at this morning. Our setting is almost identical. It’s meal time, only this dinner table is not about entrapment. Quite the contrary. This is a celebration meal.
One look at the host and guest list tells you why.
Curiously, we are once again in Simon’s house, a fact John omits but Matthew and Mark don’t. However, this Simon is not Simon, the Pharisee – the one who thought himself righteous, the one who felt he stood several levels higher than everyone else. No, this is Simon, the leper.
This Simon knows what it is to have life go south. Leprosy had gifted him with that, turning a successful man into a broken one. In all likelihood, he had lost everything – his family, his friends, his home, his business, his place in society. All gone, because of something over which he had no control.
But the fact that this dinner party is at Simon’s, tells us something. Simon had been healed.
Make no mistake, there was no cure for leprosy. Only God could do that and He had. It’s clear, Simon met Jesus and Jesus had spoken words of life into dead flesh. He attached new limbs, new fingers and new toes onto places where only stumps remained. No wonder Simon was celebrating.
There’s another at the table, sitting alongside Jesus and the disciples. Lazarus.
Can you imagine the conversations?
So, Simon tell us – what was it like when your body betrayed you? How did you cope? Knowing you’d never again play with your children or feel the embrace of your wife? How did you deal with former friends, who now averted eyes and kept distance?
But most importantly, tell us - what was it like when He healed you and life came flooding back into your limbs? Did it feel like pins and needles or was it just a gigantic rush?
In response, Simon weighed forth – answering but soon laughing as he regaled others with staggering accounts of brand new fingers and toes and being overwhelmed as he caught his first look at his new, transformed face, more perfect than it had ever been. He possibly couldn’t resist, “Heh Peter, with your face, you should be so lucky. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.”
Laughter. Banter. Joy. He probably would have gone on with his story had Lazarus not interrupted, “So you think that’s impressive?” And that would have brought the table up short with uproarious laughter.
“So, what was it like? Lazarus, did it feel as if you were waking from a deep sleep? Was there a blinding light?” “And when He said, ‘Come forth!’ did it feel like the surge of a lightning bolt?”
Laughter and wonder. Questions and delight. Amazement and great joy.
And then, as the men laughed, ate, and then asked some more:
She came – unannounced and uninvited. Breaking into a party to which she did not belong. Not to deliver bread. Not to serve as her sister had done but to do exactly what a ‘no-reputation, outcast’ had done some time before.
She came, flask in hand.
To worship outrageously. To worship unconventionally. To worship recklessly. To worship offensively. To worship extravagantly.
Why? Because she had been broken by love.
Here’s the thing. Broken by love, she didn’t hold back for a more acceptable time. She didn’t wait to come in a more presentable manner. She didn’t care that she was violating convention. She just came exactly as she was – not caring what others might think.
She did what she had seen a broken one do some time before. She would worship as that one had worshipped. Not perfect. Not all together. Not trying to be something she was not. Just real. Just needy and just broken. Coming to the One who had healed the broken and provided for the needy. Just like her.
No different. No better. Just one in love
You’d be mistaken if you thought Mary’s actions were impulsive. They weren’t. That Mary had been so caught up in the emotion of the moment, that she ran to her room, grabbed her most precious possession and then returned to pour its content all over Jesus. She hadn’t.
Because Mary wasn’t in her home. The gift she brought wasn’t in the other room just waiting to picked up from the shelf.
No, what Mary did was intentional. Deliberate. Thought out and costed out. She was fully aware of what she did. Were her actions filled with emotion? Without question. But her emotion came from dwelling in the overwhelming greatness of what it meant to be in the presence of Jesus. To have her life so filled with Him that everything else became meaningless in comparison.
And so she came, flask in hand.
She carried it with great care because its value was immense. Judas assesses its value at “300 denarii” – almost a full year’s wages :5. This vessel carried her hopes for the future. It represented all she had done and all she hoped to do.
But when she got to Jesus, SHE LET GO. (breaking jar)
And she broke this vessel and used this perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus. Breaking her most precious possession. Pouring it over Jesus’ head and pouring it onto His feet. Matthew and Mark tell us that, “Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and poured the ointment on Jesus’ head”. :3 while John tells us, she, “anointed the feet of Jesus.”
Anointing Him. Bowing to Him. Falling at His feet. Because she realized as we need to, that if Jesus doesn’t have our treasure, He doesn’t fully have us.
I find it interesting that Matthew and Mark tell us the account in slightly different ways than John. It’s not because there’s a discrepancy in their stories but because they want to shine a different lens on their stories.
Matthew presents Jesus as King – God’s Anointed, His Mighty One who is worthy of all our worship. Mary’s treasure anointing a far greater treasure. Anointing this king’s head, as her proclamation that God’s King is her King.
Mark’s view presents Jesus as Servant – the servant King who lays aside His Crown so we will come near and follow Him. He doesn’t demand our allegiance, He wins it by humbling Himself to wash our feet so we will worship at His.
And then John presents Jesus as the Son of God whose title and reign is so far beyond anything we yet understand. Beyond any image we have. Beyond any limitation we apply. Beyond any condition we ask Him to meet. Beyond any question we demand that He answer. Beyond our beyond. But here’s the thing – that beyond can’t even be entered into until we are broken before Him.
Oh, I don’t mean broken where we willingly open ourselves to hurt or pain. Or that we pray for God to bring situations into our lives to break us or sensitize us to the needs of others. No, I mean broken from trying to put our lives together by ‘finding’ ourselves in some sought after identity that is different from who we now are – that ‘IF we were only’ or IF only we had’ - a bigger office, a better job, a more successful family.
And so she came, to break the treasure she held in exchange for a far greater treasure that she was to lay hold of – pouring her life out to Christ. As she fell in worship to Him.
Her worship - unashamed
Have you and I come to a place where we have broken the treasure that we hold to and pour out everything to Jesus? To worship without regard to what others think? Washing the feet of Jesus was a task for a slave. But Mary didn’t care. She wasn’t worried about what the others thought. She didn’t let pride stop her from doing what she needed to do.
Her worship - extravagant
She didn’t hold anything back. She wasn’t conservative in her worship. This woman wanted nothing left over of her sacrifice. She didn’t measure out a portion calculating the minimum she could be expected to give. She gave all, and in return she got the greatest gift anyone could receive.
Her worship – Joyously unrestrained
In the culture of that time, no woman, not even a prostitute would let her hair down in public. If a married woman did so, it was grounds for divorce. Even today, in some Middle Eastern societies, a bride lets down her hair for her husband and for the first time, allows it to be seen on the night of her wedding. Mary, by unloosing her hair, made it clear that she wasn’t going to settle for anything less than full intimacy with Christ. A casual encounter would never be enough. She was all in.
AND SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE WORSHIP LIKE THIS?
Brokenness exposes the fragrance. John notes that the fragrance filled the room but that fragrance wasn’t embraced by all. Scripture tells us, Judas looked at Mary’s actions and was appalled. What a waste!!
He would never bow as she had done. He would never humiliate himself as she had done. Because for all the years he spent with Jesus, he was no more than an observer. No matter what he had seen; no matter what he had heard, he would observe but he would never bow. He would never worship. Seeing and hearing would not bring him to the place of belief. Only faith would do that.
Matthew and Mark tells us that this event was Judas’ determining moment where he chooses to be a betrayer rather than a worshipper. His response to what Mary had done? His response to the years he had spent with Jesus - What a waste!! It strikes me that God often brings us to a similar place, where He calls us to decide who Jesus is? Not in theory but in truth. For whom we live. Before whom we bow.
For Judas, Mary’s actions were just wasted fragrance but the only wasted fragrance is the fragrance that remains bottled up and unused. The only wasted worship is the worship you and I refuse to give.
The only wasted worship is the worship we give out in measured drips and drabs. We hold back never fully embracing the only One that is fully worthy of all the worship we can bring.
We hold back not wanting to look foolish. We hold back not wanting to be outside of convention.
We hold back not wanting others to look at us and think we are losing it. We hold back because true worship means giving our lives, our behaviour, our attitudes completely to Him.
Worship that says, I surrender my will to yours. Living by your standards not mine. Ultimately, worship is about being honest regarding who I serve and what that means for how I live. The question simply this – is Jesus LORD of my life – in everything?
Worshipping the LORD Jesus Christ for Who He is and what He’s done. Unashamedly. Extravagantly. Joyously unrestrained.
Is today God calling you to understand that if you don’t let go of the treasures you tightly hold instead of Him, your arms can’t embrace the Lord whose arms are embracing you. Is He asking you to break some things open in your life so you may fully enter into the place of worshipping Him? To step out and worship Him without reserve as His disciple? Bowing to Him. Obeying Him and loving Him – His life first in everything?
Your choice - an observer? or a worshipper? It all begins with broken things.