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Watch Our Hearts As We Serve

Andy Yung

John 12:1-11 ESV

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. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 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. (John 12:1-11 ESV)

It was one week before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Jesus had raised Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead. So they had a celebratory dinner that was hosted by Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6).

Lazarus was there as a guest. Martha helped to serve them, but this time, she did not complain like she did the last time (Luke 10:38-40). Mary wasn’t sitting and learning at Jesus’ feet this time, but poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. This is a different incident from the one which had happened much earlier in Galilee when a different woman, who had “lived a sinful life”, had done a similar thing (Luke 7:36-38).

While all of these happened, a large crowd came not only to see Jesus, “but also to see Lazarus”. Many believed in Jesus as a result. The Pharisees and chief priests had already planned to kill Jesus (John 11:53-54) after he raised Lazarus from the dead. Now the Sadducees (a sect that most of the chief priests belonged to) who did not believe in resurrection saw Lazarus as a threat too. He was a living testimony of Jesus’ power and an embarrassment to their theological beliefs, so they planned to kill Lazarus too.

The author of this gospel, John, witnessed these memorable acts of Martha, Mary and Lazarus… one served Jesus, one anointed Jesus feet, and one testified about Jesus’ power. John noted the details, even the fragrance of the perfume that filled the house.

How will John write about us if he is here with us in our house of worship? Will John write about how we serve Jesus? Or how we pour out our most expensive resources to honour Jesus? Or how we share our life-changing experiences through Jesus with everyone?

Or will John’s account about us be similar to what he remembered of Judas?

Instead of appreciating the spiritual and emotional value of what Mary did for Jesus, Judas saw the monetary value of the nard. He coveted the money, but pretended that he was concerned for the poor. The other disciples were unaware of how Judas was like until much later, when they learnt that he had been stealing from their moneybag.

Judas was one of the Twelve, who were the closest people to Jesus and followed him everywhere. However, his heart was on the material. We can become like Judas if we’re not careful — following Jesus physically but our hearts are somewhere else.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Our actions are often deceptive; we need to watch our thoughts and know what our hearts desire. Are we busy serving and witnessing like Mary, Martha and Lazarus because we love Jesus? Or are we thinking materialistically while we serve God and the poor?

God knows our hearts. He knows who genuinely loves Jesus, and who have their hearts set on the material.

Andy Yung

Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.

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