Title: POPULARITY COMES AND GOES, BUT THE SAVIOR COMES TO STAY
Text: John 11:47- 12:8
As it was then, so it is today…the deeds of Jesus divide the waters. His deeds make both believers and unbelievers. Some welcome a fresh wind of pure compassion and wisdom, but others despise it and turned on Him just like a wild boar. The root of the tree determines the fruit the branches bare. So it is with our soul – if there is faith then you become a believer; but if there is skepticism, it won’t be long before the barren branches wither because of unbelief. In our chronological journey in the life of Christ, that distinction is becoming more and more apparent.
Lazarus’ resurrection deepened the faith of Jesus’ disciples and even some of those who were there to support the family following Lazarus’ funeral, but others became tatty-tails to the Pharisees. Jn. 11:45-46 With this new wave of believers, the Pharisees become nervous and convene a council to plot their next move. That’s where our text begins. Read Text.
1. Why do you think the news of the resurrection of Lazarus disturbed the Pharisees so much? 11:48 (Jesus is gaining popularity; they are losing control; people are talking like He’s the Messiah and bring on a possible wave of retaliation from the Romans because of a new King; and thus the Pharisees would lose their spiritual control that was tolerated by the Romans.)
2. How bad can things get when there is a serious misunderstanding? Do you find it difficult to straighten out a misunderstanding when the opposing party has put a lot of emotional energy behind their position (they’ve already dug into the trenches)? Is there such a thing as a “point of no return”? Was this the case for Christ?
Insight: Beware of the claw of those who are stripped of their power. If they are evil, they will always ascribe evil to your motives…no matter how pure they may be!
3. The High Priest (Caiaphas) pushes his weight around with a statement: "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." Little did Caiaphas know, but he was making a prophecy in irony. What’s an irony? (An expression marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.) What’s ironical about what Caiaphas said? (Indeed through the death of one Man, Jesus, salvation would enter the world.)
4. What was the conclusion of the meeting of the Pharisees? Ps. 2:1-6 Notice in Jn. 12:10-11 how the murder plot thickens.
Insight: Devising evil plans never has a peaceful end. Another evil plan must be created to cover up the first. Scripture is true: “Be sure, your sin shall find you out!” (Num. 32:23)
5. The hour of Jesus’ passion has not come, so He withdraws from the public sector and retreats with His disciples to Ephraim (northwest of the Dead Sea). When hunted by the jackals, do you retreat to be by yourself, or do you allow the presence of your closest friends comfort you? What is likely to happen when we retreat by ourselves? (Distorted thinking, rash decisions, depression sets in.)
6. Notice in verse 55 that many were arriving early in Jerusalem prior to the Passover in order to purify themselves. What does that tell you about how they viewed participating in the Passover? (Seriously.) What does it tell you about their spiritual state? (They were in need of cleansing, for their old ritual system just didn’t cut it when it came to making them pure or righteous.)
7. In verse 56 John makes a notation of the comments that were made by the people who were arriving early. What did they come expecting to find? (Jesus in the Temple teaching.) What does that tell you about their change of expectations of ritual versus what Jesus had to offer?
8. Jesus now returns to Bethany. This would become His final base from which He would come and go to Jerusalem during His final days. Who throws this dinner in honor of Jesus according to Mk 14:3? Notice who is listed by name is sitting at the table with Jesus. Jn. 12:2 Notice also who is once again serving instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus listening.
Insight: Martha serves, but Simon and Mary sacrificed to show their love and honor of Jesus. The one to whom much has been given, is often the one who returns with a lavish gift of love. Has Jesus done much for you? What lavish love do you give in return?
9. What would you call Mary’s act of anointing Jesus’ feet? an act of honor? an act of devotion? an act of grief? How does the value of the perfume affect your view of her act? (Spikenard, or nard, was a perfume derived from an aromatic plant in India, used in baths, feasts and to anoint bodies prior to burial. It was very costly, and most likely represented her life savings [300 denarii was a large sum for ordinary people]. It shows her profound motive: she wanted to give Jesus her best.)
Insight: Mary redefines worship in this act…it’s spelled “personal extravagance.” Mary is in fact anointing Jesus as King. But this King must first be laid in a tomb before He enters His Kingdom. There are no subjects in this Kingdom until the King pays for their entrance, and anyone who enters this Kingdom must have His blood upon them before they can enter.
10. Is not the glory of a woman her hair? What does the act of wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair tell you about Mary’s heart toward Jesus?
Insight: Wiping a dirty man’s feet with her hair and washing them with perfume is the most humbling act a woman can display. The lowest act of humility is fitting only for the person she esteems the highest…even the King of her heart. And now she says “goodbye” and honors Him one last time before this gentle King leaves this earth. How is it that the most humbling thing we can do becomes the greatest act of worship we could render?! As the scent of perfume filled the air of the house…so did the love she rendered to Her King…it was unmistakably present!
11. But then there was Judas’ comment. In one brief sentence the fragrant atmosphere was replaced with a foul stench. His cold comment was masked with a pious motive…concern for the poor. But in actuality he had no concern for the poor…only to pad the group’s pocket book that he controlled…and I might add, he often pilfered. How can we guard our heart from selfish motives corrupting the Body of Christ?
Insight: Even Christ’s betrayer tried to sound spiritual on the eve of his wicked deed. We must watch out for those who criticize someone’s good intentions by using pious motives to make the deed look wrong. Piety often cloaks hidden motives.
Christian Presidents who come and go along with their executive commands will always bring to the front or send to the rear those who embrace Christian ideals. Charismatic (in the personality sense) leaders come and go, and along with them the entourage of policy makers that hold the same philosophy. What is needed is not charismatic leaders (although I do advocate Christians need to be in politics all the way up to the Presidency), but a Savior who comes to stay. Oh yes, even His popularity comes and goes, but He remains in control even through the rise and fall of kingdoms. Isa. 9:6-7; Lk. 1:31-33
The size of the crowd following our Savior may fluctuate with political popularity. It did then, it will continue now. But ever once in a while there is a Mary who performs a stunning act of worship that brings each of us to our knees because of their act of pure devotion, pure worship, and pure adoration. Such Mary’s in the crowd transform the scent of the whole room…and then each of us in turn fall on our knees before Him, and we too, wash our Savior’s feet with tears. To the Judas’s Jesus will always say, “Charismatic leaders you will always have with you…but you do not always have Me…let those who truly love Me perform their act of devotion.” (paraphrase mine) What kind of follower are you? Popular tail-rider? Or devoted servant?