Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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He Died so that we could Live! 3/17/2013
Sermon: March 17, 2013

Front Cover: In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:7

Call to Worship: Lord, we praise you for giving your Son for us so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins.

Opening Hymn: The Battle belongs to the Lord
Praise Song: Above All
Reading: Psalm 126
Praise Song: Still my Soul be still
Praise Song: Go Light Your World
Scripture Reading/Prayer/Lord's Prayer/Offertory Prayer: Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15-16
Offertory Hymn #80 He Was Nailed To The Cross
Sermon Text: John 12:1-8
Sermon Title: Love's Aroma
Speaker: Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Holy Communion
Closing Hymn: #572 Face to Face

Dearly beloved congregation,

As Jesus continues His journey towards Jerusalem and His death, the hostility against Him grew so that He "walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples." As the crowds moved towards Jerusalem to purify themselves before the annual passover, the church leaders in the temple wondered if Jesus would come to this annual feast. For they had issued an all points bulletin which said that if any man knew where Jesus was, they were to bring the news to them so that they might arrest Him.

As the crowds surged towards the City of God, Jesus stopped in Bethany to spend His last night of rest with His dear friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. It was there as they dined together that Mary "spoke" a wordless message as she performed an act of devotion to her Lord in pouring very expensive ointment on His feet and wiping them with her hair. Through her wordless act, was she demonstrating that she knew that Jesus was going to His death, an act which Jesus explained the meaning of in verse 7 of our text as well as in Mark's Gospel?

Mark 14:9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial ( remembrance) of her.

The Gospel gives the forgiveness of sins, but it can only come if Jesus dies for the sins of the world. The Jews wanted Him dead due to envy, Judas wanted what he could get out of Jesus, but did Mary understand that only through Jesus' death could this forgiveness come. Her act of love points to the "givingness of God in the Gospel!"

The Hymn which we just sang, He was nailed to the cross for me, was written by Frederick Arthur Graves (1856-1927) who was orphaned at age 9, was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 14. At age 21, he moved to Nobles County, Minnesota, and it appeared for a while that his seizures had stopped. Grateful for having been healed, he began to serve the Ameri­can Sunday School Union. He studied the Bible and music in Chicago, IIlinois, and Northfield, Massachusetts.

Upon his r­turn to Minneapolis and hearing evangelist John Alexander Dowie, Graves experienced permanent healing, which provided a backdrop for his Gospel songs. Later, he moved to Zion City, Ill­nois, where he lived the rest of his life. All of his child­ren a­tended the Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri. Graves himself was ordained an A­semblies of God minister in 1918.

What a wonderful, wonderful Savior,
Who would die on the cross for me!
Freely shedding His precious lifeblood,
That the sinner might be made free.

He was nailed to the cross for me,
He was nailed to the cross for me;
On the cross crucified for me He died;
He was nailed to the cross for me.

Thus He left His heavenly glory,
To accomplish His Father’s plan;
He was born of the virgin Mary,
Took upon Him the form of man.


He was wounded for our transgressions,
And He carried our sorrows, too;
He’s the Healer of ev’ry sickness,
This He came to the world to do.


So He gave His life for others
In Redeeming this world from sin,
And He’s gone to prepare a mansion,
That at last we may enter in.


KJV John 12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

According to John's Gospel, this gathering of the 16 or so persons at the home of Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3) took place after the Sabbath was done on Saturday night previous to what we refer to as Palm Sunday and it consisted most likely of the 12 disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus and perhaps Simon himself.

As Jesus drew nearer the cross where He would indeed lay down his life for me/you, the hostility grew correspondingly, and soon it would be time for Him to be lifted up above the earth, i.e. placed on the cross.
As they dined at the table, John notes that Lazarus who had been dead, but whom had been raised from the dead by Jesus, was there with them. We can only imagine what it must have been like for them at that time, having gone through the events which are recorded in the 11th chapter concerning the sickness, the death, the mourning and the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave. It is not clear how aware the group in the home was of the impending death of Jesus even though on at least three occasions Jesus had clearly told the disciples of what was to come.

We know also that Mary and Martha were sisters, but that they had different ways of relating to Jesus. We read in Luke 10 the following account.

Luke 10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Jesus was in no way minimizing the importance of serving the Him through hospitality, but he was reminding Martha as well as all of us, that gifts are given to all and that collectively we are to work together as a community to serve others. Some will have more "spiritual" gifts while others will have gifts that are more practical such as what Martha was given to do. Both are necessary and important to the work in the kingdom of God.

It is in this backdrop that we see Mary approach Jesus.......

We cannot be sure of how much she understood of the meaning of Jesus' impending death, but we can be sure that the thought of her losing another dear friend must have been overwhelming. She had gone through the turmoil of having her brother Lazarus sick, had told Jesus that "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Now he has been raised, they are together with undoubtedly great joy, but now a shadow is creeping in on their joy. The shadow of a cross, which means death for her dear friend Jesus, is slowly moving over their joyful gathering.

3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

Mary spoke of what was in her heart through her actions. It is estimated that the cost of the ointment was nearly a years wages of that day, making it a very costly action on part of Mary. She then wiped the ointment with her hair, which was something that a woman in those days never did in public. It was only in private that a woman let her hair down for her husband, and therefore this action of hers was highly unusual, but showed of her extreme devotion of love to Jesus.

Again, we ask the question, did she see and understand that as grievous as the thought was, she knew that the death of Jesus would bring about life for her as well as for the world? Did she know that without the cross there will be no crown? One thing we know for sure is that what Mary did was explained by Jesus as pertaining to his death, as we shall see. But first let us see how those around this scene reacted....

4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,
5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

But not only Judas reacted in that way, for Matthew adds this to the account...

KJV Matthew 26:8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?

Judas spoke with words of caring for the poor, but in his heart he cared not for the poor, for he was a thief.
He was a hypocrite, for he said one thing with his mouth but believed something else in his heart. John, who wrote his gospel later, gives the information that was gained from the life and death of Judas, making the notation that Judas did not care for the poor, for he was a thief. Jesus addressed their selfish and greedy attitude with these comments.

7 Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.
8 For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.

And we add also the account from Matthew for a fuller explanation by Jesus to the meaning of this event...

Matthew 26:10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Jesus explains in clear terms the meaning of her anointing of his feet, for he tells them that this is the anointing for his burial. He was telling them that this wordless sermon of hers was pointing to the reality of those things that he had been telling them concerning his suffering, death and resurrection, the meaning of which yet was hidden from them. He addressed their concern over the poor, telling that that there would always be the poor among them, but that He was soon going to be taken away from them. In a sense, He is saying, :"Do not miss the significance of what this woman just did, for it points to the doorway to life."

He went on to say that what she has done in that room will live on in history, for whenever the Gospel (the suffering, death, burial and resurrection of Himself (1 Cor 15:1-4) is preached, this happening will also be told in remembrance of her. How so? Well, I am not exactly sure of how this is, but let us consider a few possibilities, by contrasting what she did with the reactions of Judas and the other disciples.

She could have sold her expensive ointment to the poor and that would have been a good thing of itself. But she did not, for she used it to prepare Jesus' body. Matthew and Mark write that she poured the ointment on His head) for his burial, which clearly tells us that she knew his death was close. By this can we believe that she understood of the necessity of His death for the saving of her soul? It seems like it.

Could this be similar to the reaction that Peter had after Jesus had told him and his fellow disciples that He was going to be delivered up, be scourged, be killed and would rise on the third day?

Mattheew 16: 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

What would have been our response to what Mary did? How would we have looked upon it? Would we have understood what Mary was doing and humbled ourselves along with her? Would we? Or would we have been right there with Judas and the disciples, looking on and considering what she was doing as a waste of money?

What would we have done after Jesus explained the meaning of what she had done? Would we have received His gracious explanation with understanding and knowledge? I hope that I would do so and that you would too. Of course, living today it is easy to answer this with an almost arrogant attitude towards Judas and the disciples in that we could look on them with disdain and pity. But, let us check our minds and hearts by bringing this into something that we can relate to in our lives today.

And we will do this by first reading of Judas' reaction to the gracious explanation of Jesus as to the meaning of Mary's act of devotion to her Lord and Savior.

Matthew 26:14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him..........................................

Judas did not heed the gracious call to repentance from His Lord and Master. He turned away from the Only One who could free him from his bondage to his sin serving self, Jesus the Christ. He went out into the night... John 13:30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

He was held in the grip of sin, sin was his master and in going out he left the means by which he could be free. This does not mean that the death of Jesus for the sins of the world would not wash away Judas's sins, but in his going out he would be showing that he would rather pay for his sins with his own blood. He would be revealing that reality that instead of coming into the saving grace of Christ through His atoning death, he would rather face the wrath of God himself........He was angry and instead of being driven to his knees in repentance, he was driven to conspire with the church leaders to have Jesus killed........killed.....killed.....

When the Word penetrates our hearts, it causes division in our heart between that which is of our sinful self and of that which is of God, of Christ and of the Spirit. When we are humbled before this Spirit, our hearts will soften and we will reflect upon our thoughts, our attitudes and our actions towards God, towards self as well as towards others. When we are convicted of sin towards God, we will ask forgiveness with a contrite and broken heart. When we are convicted in our hearts of sin towards others, we will take responsibility for ourselves and go to them with a humble and sorry attitude in order to ask their forgiveness so that the relationship can be restored and revived.

May our hearts today be compared to a stick of butter that is on a plate near a window that melts when the rays of the sunshine of God's Word shines into it. May they not be like clay that is on a plate near the same window that hardens as the sunshine of God's Word shines into it.

As sinners saved by grace, we yet sin, even though we do not wish to do so. The Apostle John writes very clearly about this dilemma that we live in, and in so doing, gives us assurance and hope today and in the future.

KJV 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

KJV 1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. {is born: or, has been born}
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

May the death of Jesus Christ be a message of victory believed by us today, howbeit a bittersweet one, so that we will receive grace from God our Father to humble ourselves in our time of need so that we may be lifted up in Him.

In God's Peace,

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 17 Mar 2013 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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