Sermon: Three Ways to Honor Jesus - John 12

While John 12:1-8 is given to us in the form of historical narrative, it is nonetheless instructive. It teaches us quite a bit about honoring Jesus. There are six things about honoring Jesus we can gather from this text.

Scripture: John 12:1-8

Introduction

Open your bibles this morning to the Gospel of John, the fourth Gospel, chapter 12, and read with me verses 1-8.

There are several instances recorded in the gospels where a woman anoints Jesus with a precious ointment. This one is thought to parallel the one found in Mark 14:3-9.
 
It had not been long since Jesus had raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead, an act which had created quite a stir, not only among the locals but also with the religious leaders. Jesus was nearing the end of His public ministry as, chapter 11:55 says that the Passover was rapidly approaching.
 
Scripture tells us that after raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus knew that the chief priests were plotting His death and so he did not walk openly among the Jews, but instead went to the city of Ephraim, a city near the wilderness. Six days before the Passover, the time when Jesus would host the last supper, right before His crucifixion, Jesus returned to Bethany.

Everybody needs a place to rest, to relax and enjoy the fellowship of friends. This is especially true for those in vocational ministry. For Jesus, on this occasion, it was the home of Simon the Leper. Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus of Bethany were there, along with the Disciples. Bethany is located two miles east of Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Jesus was on His way to the cross. He knew that in just a few short days He would face the agony of Gethsemane and the shame and suffering of Calvary. Here we find Him coming to the home of His friends to find a few brief hours of encouragement and support from His disciples, the majority of which He knew would abandon Him during His darkest hour.

While this passage is given to us in the form of historical narrative, it is nonetheless instructive. It teaches us quite a bit about honoring Jesus. There are six things about honoring Jesus we can gather from this text.

The first is that we should honor Jesus in your home.

1. Honor Jesus in your home

Look at verse 1.

Notice how welcome Jesus is in the home of Simon the leper. It was a place where His friends were, a place where He felt welcome, a place where He could rest. No doubt Jesus at times grew weary and looked forward to these times of serenity and peace. Here was a home in which Jesus was the honored guest. A question every Christian should ask is "How welcome is Jesus in my home?"

There are many Christian homes wherein Jesus would not be all that comfortable today. Things that are watched on television, words that are used, attitudes that are displayed, things that are said all would be offensive to Him and would grieve His Spirit. There are many homes where Jesus would always feel like an outsider.

As followers of Jesus Christ we should strive to have homes where Jesus is always the unseen guest. We should strive to live the kind of lives in private that could be viewed publicly without any embarrassment or shame.

Honoring Jesus in your home means making Him the Lord or Master of your home. It means that if Jesus were to come to your house today He would feel right at home. It means you would not have to spend hours getting rid of things or hiding things you would be ashamed for Him to see. It means there is no room, no closet, no drawer or cupboard into which He could not look. It means He would have free reign to go wherever He wanted and you would have nothing to hide.

Honoring Jesus in your home means He would feel comfortable watching what you watch, listening to what you listen to, joining in your conversations and reading your magazines and books. Honoring Jesus in your home means that His presence is always taken into account.

Honoring Jesus in your home husbands, means you treat your wife with the love and respect she is due. She is a gift from God to you and as your sister in the Lord, as one in whom the Spirit of God dwells, you honor Jesus in your home when you love her like you should.

Honoring Jesus in your home wives means loving your husbands as Scripture teaches. It does not mean being a doormat but instead being a partner, suitably fit for his needs. It means allowing him to be the spiritual leader and following his lead. It means showing him respect.

Honoring Jesus in your home children means obeying your parents, doing what they say without arguing; it means giving them the respect they deserve. After all, they are God's representative in your life.

Jesus was the welcome guest of honor in the house of Simon the leper. He should be honored in our homes as well.

This text teaches us that we are to honor Jesus in our homes.

But if you are going to honor Jesus in your home you've got to honor Him from your heart. And that's the second thing I want you to see in our text.

2. Honor Jesus from your heart

Notice verse two and three. Here we find three different people mentioned, Martha, Lazarus and Mary. It is interesting to note that each of these followers of Jesus had a different passion, a different disposition of heart in how they chose to honor Jesus.

The first one mentioned is Martha. The Scripture says they made Him as supper and Martha served. Go through the Scripture and you find this picture of Martha, cooking, serving, giving the best of her heart to God through the gift of hospitality.

Turn to Luke 10:38-42 for just a minute.

Martha has been called the worried housekeeper. Since Jesus was the guest of honor in her home she wanted everything to be just perfect and she wanted to get everyone on board to make sure it was right. (You don't want to be standing around doing nothing when a woman gets on a cleaning binge, she'll put you to work.)

You see, for Martha, honoring Jesus meant serving Him, doing that which she loved to do, doing that which she knew best, cooking and serving. Counselors today might tell you that it was her love language and she demonstrated her love to Jesus through this gift.

Because that was her gift to Jesus, it was a valid expression of her love and devotion to Jesus, but it was not the only valid expression of love and devotion to Jesus.

The next person mentioned is Lazarus. The Scripture simply says that Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. It would be easy to read something negative into the text, and call Lazarus lazy, but that would be a mistake. There is a specific reason the Scripture tells us that Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Jesus. While Martha wanted to serve Jesus, Lazarus simply wanted to enjoy His presence. He wanted to fellowship with Him, talk with Him, ask Him questions and listen to Him speak, he wanted to enjoy every minute he had with the Master.

Folks there is nothing wrong with simply enjoying being in the presence of God. There are times and places where we are to be still and know that He is God. There are seasons in our pilgrimage that we are predisposed to simply enjoy fellowship with our Lord. That was what Lazarus was doing. He was enjoying fellowship with Jesus.

But then look at verse 3 back in John 12, where we find Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Instead of serving Jesus food, instead of simply enjoying a conversation with Him, Mary, moved with Love for the Savior, wanted to demonstrate her devotion in a more dramatic way.

I want you to stop for a moment and recognize that there are different levels at which we honor Jesus. There are different levels at which we worship Him, different levels at which we show Him how much we love Him.

Martha and Lazarus both loved Jesus, and for them their response to Him was perfectly normal, but the text shows us that what Mary felt led to do went way beyond what others had done.

The Scripture says she took a pound of spikenard, which was made from a plant which grows in India, and she anointed His feet with it and wiped his feet with her hair and the odor of the ointment filled the house.

Notice several things about what Mary did in anointing Jesus.

She gave her best to Jesus.

The Scripture says that ointment was very valuable. In fact, it was worth about what an average worker would make in an entire year. Jesus tells us in verse 7 that she had been keeping it for the day that He would be buried. She poured out, with total abandon, the most valuable possession she had. That's how much she loved Jesus.

How much do you love Jesus? The fact that 20 percent of nearly every church gives 80 percent of the financial resources to fund its ministries tells me that while many people may claim to love Jesus, they are not willing to give Him their best. Many people who claim to follow Jesus have never come to know Him to the degree that they are willing to give Him the best of their lives. They are not willing to give Him their children for the ministry or the mission field, they are not willing to give Him their time on a daily or weekly basis, they are not willing to give Him even one tenth of all He has given them. They may claim to love Jesus but they don't define love the same way Jesus does.

Jesus tells us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments and that greater love has no man than this, that he will lay his life down for his friends. Jesus gave His life for us, what are we willing to give Him? Have we given Him the best we have? And if not, what does that say about how much we really love Him?

Not only did she give her best to Jesus,

She was also willing to humble herself in order to honor Him.

It is impossible for us to honor God and maintain a sense of self importance at the same time. Like John the Baptist said, He must increase and I must decrease. Mary worshiped in such a way that was, in and of itself, humbling.

To pour a precious ointment on someone else's feet is one thing, but to wipe it with your hair is another. One commentator has noted that since a woman's hair is her glory, she was laying her glory at His feet. She was giving up her pride, without respect for what others thought, and she was worshiping Him, honoring Him, in humility.

Friends, I believe with all my heart that when we come to know Jesus for who He really is, it will humble us. When we know Him, coming into His presence will be no ordinary thing. Worshiping Him, ascribing the glory and honor to Him that He alone is due will not be something we do as a matter of routine. The better we know Him the more personal, the more intimate, the more humbling our worship experience will be.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus that you were led to tears? Have you ever felt Him in such a powerful way that you were driven to your knees? Have you ever felt like Isaiah who, when coming into the presence of God said, "Woe is me for I am undone!" That's where Mary was. The very presence of Jesus afforded her an opportunity to worship that was intensely personal and experientially powerful. And the interesting thing is that others in the room didn't get it. While Mary is consumed with a passion to Honor the Christ, the Son of the Living God, there were others there that loved Him and honored Him, but they just didn't understand what she was doing.

And that's the next thing you should notice about Mary's worship.

Mary worshiped despite criticism.

Look at verse 4. Scripture tells us that Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Jesus, accused Mary of wasting her precious ointment. Ointment, which he claimed, could have been sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor. Of course he was not concerned about the poor, but the point I want you to see is that when you feel led to worship God from your heart, there will always be some who won't understand. There will always be those around who will say you are wasting your life, wasting your time, wasting your money, wasting the best you have to give. But you can't let them stop you. Worship, after all, is for an audience of one, and that One is Jesus.

When you love Jesus like Mary did, what other people say doesn't matter. All that matters is that you demonstrate the love you have for Jesus from your heart.

Folks, we need to quit worrying about what others think. There are a lot of churches today that have altered their worship services so as to "not be offensive to the lost." How ridiculous! Worship is not for the lost because they don't know the One we worship. Worship is the song of the redeemed, sung to the Redeemer. It is the praise of the saints to the One who has made them Holy. It is something we do for God's pleasure, without respect of what others might think of us or how they might judge us.

That's what I love about Mary. She doesn't care what others think, she doesn't care how public it is, or how much it might humiliate her. She is there to worship Jesus and she doesn't let anyone get in her way.

But there is one other thing you should notice about Mary's worship, about her act of honoring Jesus. It is also found in verse 3, the Scripture says that the odor filled the house.

The ointment got into everything. It saturated her hair, it filled the house with its sweet aroma. That's what true worship does: It leaves its indelible scent on you and one everyone around you.

People, when you're in love with Jesus, the aroma of that love, of that reverence, of that fellowship bleeds out all around you. Even as the aroma filled the house where Jesus was, it will fill the place wherever you are.

We must honor Jesus from our hearts.

But finally, notice that we are to honor Jesus when we can.

3. Honor Jesus when the opportunity is at hand

Notice verses 7 and 8, Jesus corrects Judas, telling him that the poor would be with them always but that they would not always have Him.

Jesus is telling us that we should honor Him, we should worship and adore Him whenever the opportunity presents itself. He is speaking about the extemporaneous nature of our worship.

Mary did not put Jesus on her day timer, she did not have to schedule some time in her otherwise busy day specifically to honor Jesus. She did it when the opportunity presented itself. She was ready and eager to honor Him and was thus able to do so at a moment's notice. While others around here were serving food or simply enjoying our Lord's company, Mary was absorbed in worship.

God wants our love and our worship to be spontaneous; He wants us to be passionate about honoring and loving Him; He wants it to become a magnificent obsession. While there are many good things about solemn and formalized worship, that which comes as a natural response to our love for Him is usually most heart-felt. The honor Mary gave to Jesus was authentic and natural. She honored Jesus when the opportunity was at hand.

This is what Jesus is saying when He says that the poor we would always have with us.

Many people have misunderstood what Jesus said to somehow be cruel of insensitive towards the less fortunate. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you study the ministry of Jesus most often you will find Him with the poor and the dispossessed. Jesus was an itinerant preacher who owned no home, had no animals or livestock, no retirement plan. He had no earthly possessions to speak of. The only thing He had was the robe which the soldiers gambled for as He was dying. Jesus was always concerned about the poor and while the disciples wanted to send them away, you'll remember that Jesus had compassion on the multitudes. He saw them as sheep in need of a Shepherd.

Jesus was not being insensitive to the poor, He was merely stating a fact of reality. The poor will always be with us. Knowing the hearts of men as He did, understanding the greed of humanity as He did, He knew that there would always be those who were poor.

What Jesus was saying was that we must honor Him, or serve Him whenever we have the opportunity.

Mary would not always have the opportunity to anoint the Lord's feet with oil and so she had to do it when the opportunity was at hand.

The truth here folks is that opportunities for spiritual service, for honoring Jesus through our lives are passing. We should not procrastinate or put off till tomorrow what we could do for Jesus today.

Conclusion

Does Jesus get honor and glory from your life? Is He honored in your home? Would He feel comfortable at your dinner table? Or would He feel at home with what you watch, read and listen to? Do you honor Him from your heart? It's easy to put on a show for others to see but is your worship heartfelt? Are you preoccupied with this idea that Jesus must be exalted through every facet of your life?

Are you looking for ways in your everyday experience to bring honor and glory to Christ?

Allow me to make four practical suggestions:

  1. Make Him the unseen guest at all times. Some folks leave an empty chair at the table to remind them of His presence, and sometimes a physical reminder of His spiritual presence can be helpful.
  2. Make a practice of meditating on Him and His Word. Out of sight, out of mind is more than a saying, it is a truth. The more you meditate on Him and His word the more you will be cognizant of His presence with you.
  3. Make a practice of talking to others about Him. One of the ways we honor Jesus is to speak to others about Him. In fact, to bless the Lord means to speak well of Him.
  4. Ask God to open your spiritual eyes to see opportunities where Jesus can be honored in your everyday experience. God is at work around us, enabling us to bring Glory to Him. The more sensitive we are to His working, the more we will be aware of opportunities to honor Him.
Dr. Calvin Wittman is pastor of Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He serves as a trustee at Criswell College, and regularly contributes to Open Windows, a monthly LifeWay devotional publication.