Lessons from a Dinner Party: The Sacrificial Life

TEXT: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8

Introduction

In our first message, we joined Mary and Martha at a dinner party in Bethany. In that lesson, we learned the priority of worship and communion with Christ. Now we attend another dinner party in Bethany, this time at Simon the Leper’s home. The narrative includes the following characters: Jesus, Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Simon the Leper, and the disciples.

Join me as I preach the second in our two-part series today entitled: Lessons from a Dinner Party #2: The Sacrificial Life.

Context

Most commentators believe that there exists about a 2-month gap between the end of John 11 and the start of John 12. I mention this because in John 11 Lazarus is raised from the dead, and in John 12, he is still alive and reclining at dinner with the Lord Jesus.

The apostle John tells us that this passage is only six days before Christ’s arrest and subsequent death (John 12:1).

It is the sabbath and Jesus is invited to celebrate it with His friends in Bethany before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the next day.

It is precious to observe that Martha is here serving. She had not got bitter and twisted by the Lord’s former comments which we read earlier. I know many Christians who would have simply thrown in the towel, but Martha is back doing what she loves, and it appears that she had learned the lesson Christ had taught her. Furthermore, we see that she is serving in a different household now. Not only had she responded well to the Lord’s loving rebuke, her ministry had increased to serving, cooking, and helping in other people’s homes!

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Extravagant

“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 (John 12:3).

“A woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table” (Matthew 26:7).

“A woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Matthew 14:3).

“Spikenard” or “pure nard” was a perfume derived from the very small and tender root of the Nard Plant found in India. The fact that it was pure meant it was genuine and unadulterated, which is what made it so costly.

Most commentators believe that this ointment was Mary’s dowry or inheritance. It was worth somewhere in the vicinity of a man’s annual wage.

It is important for us to note that the pure nard was housed in an alabaster flask (not mentioned in this account). This too, was of significant value. This long-necked bottle was made from a special variety of marble, a material which proved to be the best container for preserving expensive perfumes and oils. Once broken, it could not be re-sealed.

Mary had no intention of a partial sacrifice – it was everything!

Not only did Mary anoint the Lord Jesus with this precious substance, but she also broke the seal to this expensive container.

The Bible tells us that Mary poured the perfume over the head of Jesus (Mark 14:3; Matthew 26:7). Jesus explains that this anointing pointed to His death and the embalmment of His body. 

In just a few days, the Lord Himself would be broken like the alabaster flask and be poured out for the sins of His people. 

The Apostle John records for us a unique aspect to this account. We are told that Mary also “anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 12:3).

Another important principle is seen in this act. Paul tells us that the “glory of a woman is her long hair” (1 Corinthians 11:15), and Mary laid her glory at the feet of Jesus.

Application:

True worship comes at a great cost. Too many Christians today are unwilling to present themselves as a living sacrifice.

Consider the sacrifice Christ made for us. Consider what it cost.

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Fragrant

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3).

Mary’s gift filled the house with a beautiful aroma. Its fragrance permeated everything. Beginning with Jesus, transferred to Mary, and then to those who observed this scene of worship.

Does this not present a glorious analogy? When Christ is worshiped, the worshipers themselves carry away something of the fragrance of that moment. No house is so filled with pleasant aroma as the house where Jesus is given His rightful place.

The fragrance of Christ is conferred to all who worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Application:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

God was well-pleased with the sacrifice of His Son, it was a fragrant offering. God was well-pleased with Noah’s sacrifice, it was a “soothing aroma” (Genesis 8:20).

Is God well-pleased with your life of sacrifice? Does it spread the knowledge of Him everywhere?

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was an Irritant

In all three accounts (Matthew, Mark & John), we find that Mary’s sacrificial gift was an irritant. It upset people.

Matthew tells us that the disciples were indignant (Matthew 26:8); Mark tells us that some believed the ointment had been wasted and scolded Mary (Mark 14:4,5); John points out that Judas Iscariot was upset because an opportunity had been lost to sell the perfume for personal gain (John 12:4-6).

The lesson here is that sacrificial worship irritates and infuriates those who are disinterested in living the worshipful life. They will see sacrifice as a waste and justify their foolishness by appealing to other ways the gift could be used.

Illustration:

I remember years ago I was in discussion with a worldly Christian who asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I explained that God had called me to the ministry and that I was eager to serve Him. The older man was disappointed. He had just attended an event where I had sung. He said to me, “there is so much more to life, don’t waste your gift on the church, you could be famous.”

Worldly Christians despise sacrifice. They loathe the thought of laying our all at His feet. They see no value to surrender and have never experienced the deeper life in Christ.

At this juncture, it is important to remember that though our sacrifice be an irritant to many, Christ commends it!

“Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me” (Matthew 26:10).

The world may despise you; some believers may mock and ridicule you; Christ commends you because true worship and sacrifice is a beautiful thing.

This is never more clearly seen than in the sacrifice of Christ. It was an irritant to all who hated Him, but for us who believe, it is the most beautiful thing in all the world!

Mary’s Sacrificial Gift was Permanent

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” (Matthew 26:13).

“And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

Mary’s act was immortalised. This was not Mary’s intention, nor had she set out to make a name for herself. However, this sacrificial act, which was conducted in humility, love, and worship, had everlasting consequences.

Is there not a clear application here? Do not our genuine acts of worship and sacrifice transcend time and space? Are they not the gold, silver, and precious stones that endure?

Application:

This morning we dealt with the importance of worship, and now we have considered the importance of sacrifice. On this 21st anniversary of Mt. Cathedral Community Baptist Church, it has been my intention to remind us of what matters most – worship and sacrifice. From these comes our service, but never apart from them.

May God help us to be ever found worshipping and offering ourselves as living sacrifices in His service. I close this special day with a poem by Charles Thomas Studd, the British cricketer and missionary to China.

Only One Life – By C.T. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfil,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Oh let my love with fervour burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 



Lessons from a Dinner Party: The Priority of Worship & Communion with Christ

TEXT: Luke 10:38-42

Introduction

Last week was Vision Sunday. During that service we were greatly encouraged to hear from different people in our church as they presented the areas of ministry that they will oversee this year. It is certainly an exciting time in the life of our church.

As I considered this throughout the week, I was both cheerfully optimistic and soberly contemplative. Let me explain. My heart is full of joy at the thought of people willingly entering into service for the Lord, but at the same time I am very aware that ministry can be a distraction from the most important thing – fellowship, worship, and communion with Christ.

We have spoken a lot about balance in recent days, and this message will again help us find the “centre of the see-saw” when it comes to worship and service.

Last week we deployed many people into areas of ministry and this message is timely because it will help us to understand how worship must precede service if it is to be honouring to the Lord.

Join me as I preach the first in a two-part series today entitled: Lessons from a Dinner Party #1: The Priority of Worship & Communion with Christ. Read more…



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