For Love of the Savior Matthew 26:6-13

It appears that during the passion week Jesus probably spent his evenings and nights in Bethany

  • Less than two miles from Jerusalem
  • House of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary
  • John 12 records this event as being six days before Passover
  • Gospels weren’t written as modern day biographies for westerners
    • Timing isn’t the most important thing
    • So the difference between John’s timing and Matthew’s lack isn’t a concern
      • Even liberal scholars that are familiar with historic literature from that time period don’t make a big deal about this
  • The Big point:  Look at How Mary Loved Her Savior
  • She poured out what essentially was priceless ointment on Jesus out of sheer love and devotion
  • Compare this to the rich young man who went away sorrowful (Matthew 19:22) because Jesus told him he needed to sell everything to follow him
  • You don’t have to sell everything to follow Jesus, but you do need to love him more than everything else
  • 10:37-39  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
    • 1. Friends;  2.  The Disciples’ Mistake;  3.  For Love of the Savior
  1. The Friends
    1. Jesus loved them all, but perhaps you’re most familiar with how much Jesus loved Lazarus
      1. John 11:1-3 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.
      1. And of course, Lazarus was raised from the dead—which made him a marked man
        1. John 12:9-11  When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
    1. Mary gets a lot of attention, and she should—Jesus even says her story will be told wherever this gospel is proclaimed, but Martha shouldn’t be forgotten
      1. Martha gets a bad wrap for being too busy serving in Luke 10:38-42, but don’t forget she’s the one who invited Jesus over
        1. As a side note—who’s been intentional about biblical hospitality? (two weeks ago…)
        1. Inviting someone for a meal?  Coffee?  just welcoming them into your home?  Offering to come for a visit?
        1. Martha invited Jesus in.
      1. Related to Martha’s activity in serving is how quickly she takes action in everything
        1. John 11—Jesus arrives in Bethany after Lazarus died, it’s Martha who runs to meet Jesus
        1. Martha loved Jesus just like Mary, but she showed it differently
          1. Mary sits and listens—which Martha should have done, we have Jesus’ words to direct us there; but Martha served out of love, she wasn’t faulted for what she did, her fault was in not seeing the best thing
          1. Mary anoints Jesus—Martha invites Jesus in, serves Jesus, and runs to meet him
        1. And listen to their conversation:  (John 11:21-27)  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
          1. Martha’s love stemmed from her understanding of who Jesus is
    1. And of course, Mary, in general she appears to be more passive than Martha
      1. Martha invited Jesus in and served him; Mary sat at his feet
        1. Important lesson for us:  hearing the savior is a must before we serve the savior
        1. And a side note for the more hospitable of us:  having someone come into our house is good, but truly listening and knowing them is the point
      1. Mary’s passivity went by the wayside when Jesus came to Bethany on that day before the triumphal entry
        1. John 12:1-3 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
        1. That ointment, the pure nard, was likely her inheritance or meant to be the dowry for her marriage.
  2. The disciples’ Mistake—substituting service for loving Jesus,  they introduced a different gospel, one with the poor at the heart of it
    1. Not another gospel  Gal. 1:6-9  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
      1. Nowhere is Paul more harshly direct
        1. 2x “let him be accursed”
        1. There is no other gospel
      1. Paul addressing substituting works for faith
      1. Circumcision—the OT law as if Jesus didn’t fulfill it for us
      1. Circumcision is replaced by baptism and both signs are fulfilled in Christ
        1. Col. 2:11-12  In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
    1. Matthew 26:8-9 a much more common problem for us—social gospel
      1. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”
      1. Social gospel replaces Jesus for societal improvement through positive human action
      1. It puts the cart in front of the horse—seeking the change in society without the change in hearts that can only be accomplished by the true gospel which then would transform society
    1. Any of us can slip up—it’s easy to have a substitute Christ, as much as we hate to say it
      1. Substitute Christs:
        1. Church membership classic self-righteousness—religious activity instead of true devotion founded on Jesus’ love
        1. Evangelism that preaches decision based regeneration
        1. Mercy ministries—relieving oppression and poverty without addressing spiritual oppression and poverty
        1. Theology—knowing a lot about God without actually knowing God in Jesus
        1. Purity—Bob Jones and 2 degrees of separation
      1. Jesus corrects them right away:  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
      1. Loving Jesus is the first and foremost duty of the believer—you will always have the poor but you will not always have me.  He’s indicating that Mary has made the most important thing, the most important thing.
      1. It’s not that serving the poor shouldn’t be a part of our work, it just takes back seat to loving Jesus and serving him.  Even more than serving the poor in Jesus’ name.
  3. For Love of the Savior–In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
    1. Why did Jesus say that when Mary probably didn’t believe Jesus was going to die any more than the disciples did? 
      1. First not everyone believes that.  Some people think Mary did believe Jesus would die soon.  It could be, but I’m not convinced.
      1. I think Mary’s action is more like the OT prophets—“being carried along by the Spirit” they didn’t always realize the predictions would apply to Christ and their current times.  Mary saw her savior, felt something move inside her and used something of immense physical value to demonstrate her immense spiritual love for Jesus.
      1. And this was preparing Jesus’ body for burial, even though she didn’t know it.
      1. Jesus interpreted it this way and in this way Mary’s devout love became a part of the gospel message.
        1. Jesus referred to her action in association with the gospel—it’s important!  He realized that his death wasn’t the end of anything, in reality his death was the beginning, and Mary’s action displayed what an appropriate response to him looks like.
        1. Matthew Poole, “Christ, seeing that her action proceeded from a hearty and burning love to him, accepteth her act as an extraordinary act of kindness to him, and proportioneth her a reward. Without love, if a man give all his goods to the poor, it signifieth nothing; but if there be love in the heart, it makes the gift acceptable. Love seldom underdoeth in an act of kindness, and it cannot overdo where Christ is the true object of it.[1]
    1. Do we love Jesus like this?
      1. At times, I imagine every  true believer does, but we also recognize our sinfulness and have to admit that my love falters.
    1. Look at what Mary was willing to give Jesus out of her love:  2/3 of a year’s salary worth of rare perfume.  Spikenard came from India, the would never be able to replace this.
      1. What can we do to stir up this type of deep affection for Jesus in ourselves?
        1. First it can only come from a converted heart.
          1. When the prophet Ezekiel lived and preached to Israel, one of the main problems was Israel was spiritually dead and unable to love God.
          1. Ezekiel 37—the valley of dry bones
          1. Prophesy over these dry bones and they will live!
          1. 37:12-14 “Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. . .And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live. . .”
          1. John 3:3,6 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
          1. Are you converted?  Have you heard the promises of the gospel and believed them?
        1. Second, don’t be like the Galatians—don’t try to finish in your flesh what the Holy Spirit started in your soul.  That’s what they did when they followed the substitute gospel—Gal. 3:1-3  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
          1. Spurgeon comments on Mary’s devotion and love, “Our Lord always cared for the poor; he was himself poor, he was the poor people’s Preacher, he fed the hungry poor, and healed the sick poor. He would always have his people show their love to him by caring for the poor; but he had reached the one occasion in his life when it was seemly that something should be done specially for himself, and this woman [Mary] by the intuition of love, did that very thing. Oh, that we might all love Christ as intensely as she did!”[2]
          1. The Galatians sought to increase themselves through law keeping, Mary sought to love her savior even to the point of decreasing her worth in this world.  Even stooping so low as to wipe Jesus’ feet with her hair.
          1. The Spirit of God in you will lead you down the road of humility and humiliation.  That’s not a journey we’re naturally inclined to take.  It’s a journey that the Spirit leads you on, equips you in, and sustains you.
        1. Third, Practice regular adoration in your private worship like we do in our corporate worship
          1. In our liturgy we seek to match Mary’s love at the outset of worship.  Her anointing Jesus was basically an act of worship, after all.  Not that we base our liturgy on what happened in Bethany, but Mary’s example should be followed here.
          1. The hymn of praise and prayer of invocation are designed to be acts of adoration—professing love for God because of what he’s done for us in Jesus.  Professing love for Jesus because of who he is.  Professing love for the Holy Spirit, because without Him we couldn’t worship God or know him at all.
          1. Stir your love for God with prayers focused on Him:
            1. From the BCW 1946, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love thee.  Acknowledging your need for grace, even in loving him who has already shown you so much grace.
            1. From PCA Pastor Terry Johnson, pray focused on Christ’s work, “we come to you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin fo the world;  He is our advocate with the Father;  He is the only mediator between God and man; He lives to make continual intercession for his people.”  Those are words from scripture, truths about who Jesus is and what he’s doing for us now.  It’s not that Jesus’ historical work isn’t marvelous, but many days I need to know Jesus is working for me now, because I just can’t seem to do it myself.

There are so many reasons to love your Savior above all else, and God gives us ways to increase our love, not least of all, communion with Him.  Will you commune with God, give thanks for the suffering of Christ, and love Jesus above all else?  If so, then you must, you must, learn to pray like you’re pouring out the most expensive, the most precious thing you have when you’re on your knees before him.  Love your Savior like Mary did.

[1] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 124.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Commentary on the Book of Matthew (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1893), 232.