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John 9-12



There is much that is worth comment in this section of John's Gospel: the healing of the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and so much else. However, one of the quieter stories of this section, really has a lot to say to us in our busy culture that is so concerned with externals....

I remember well what Christmas and birthdays were like when our boys were very young. We would spend time picking out the perfect gifts, ones we thought they would enjoy, and ones we found delightful too. Then the time would come for one of our sons to open his gift. Of course, being very small, they needed help opening the presents. Once the presents were open, as every parent knows about young children, our boys would inevitably show more interest in the box than they would in the present inside.

As God’s children through Jesus Christ, we have been given the most wonderful gifts of all: the gift of God’s grace, the gift of his love and forgiveness, the gift of his person through the indwelling Holy Spirit. However, like very small children, we are often content to just play with the boxes that his gifts come in. We get all caught up in the beautiful wrappings of this creation, that are mere reminders of the greater gift of God’s grace and God’s person in Jesus Christ.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, was not like that. She wasn’t content to play with the box. She recognized the great gift inside—the gift of the Lord Jesus—and so she spent as much time as possible focused on him, serving him.

Let us read John 12:1-11 and see what it has to teach us about the power of a servant heart....

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

I like what C. S. Lewis has to say about this story....

The allegorical sense of her great action dawned on me the other day. The precious alabaster box wh. one must break over the Holy Feet is one's heart. Easier said than done. And the contents become perfume only when it is broken. While they are safe inside they are more like sewage. All v. alarming. (From a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, November 1, 1954)

If you would like to listen to a message I preached on this passage a couple of years ago, you may click here: The Power of a Servant Heart

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