Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for the Sunday’s Message; Sunday, June 12, 2016

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 12:1-8

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

 

What would you say if one of your friends or neighbors were to ask what it means TO YOU to be a follower of Jesus? Today Scripture sheds a light on the tension that all of us face in our relationship with God.

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The historical event of Jesus’ anointing is recorded in all four gospels. Because each of the Gospels was written to a specific community {persons living at a specific time and place}, four evangelists {Matthew, Mark, Luke and John } concentrate on different aspects of this event.

Matthew, Mark and Luke do not bother naming the characters of this story. In their accounts, Jesus was anointed by “a woman with an alabaster flask of ointment” and criticized by the “disciples” (in Matthew), or the “Pharisee” (in Luke), or simply “some” people (in Mark) (deVega).

The story that John is telling his listeners is much more specific. John names the characters. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, is the one with the perfume; Judas Iscariot is the one criticizing and rebuking. John also makes it a point to remind his listeners that Judas is the betraying disciple.

John wants to make sure that we understand that these were not two people engaging in some obscure conversation or debate over dinner. These two were among the people who knew Jesus the best. These two – Mary and Judas – were among the people who had the most at stake in Jesus’ future (deVega). Both Mary and Judas were handpicked and selected by Jesus himself; Lazarus, Mary and Martha were personal friends and Judas was handpicked by Jesus to be one of the Twelve.

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We do not know why Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. Some say it was an act of gratitude in which she was thanking Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. It was an act of consecration in which she was {“} “encouraging” [or demonstrating support and understanding to] Jesus as He was preparing himself emotionally to go into Jerusalem to fulfill his mission. It was a foreshadowing, an act of preparation, in which she was anointing His body for the death which was to come a few days later. Either way it was an act of love and kindness.

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Every road has markings. We know where the left boundary of the highway is and we know where the right boundary of the highway is. I think that today’s Gospel reading is like a light that illuminates the boundaries of the highway of our lives – the highway that we travel on our journeys as followers of Jesus.

The truth is that Judas made a valid statement that reflects what the Gospels record as Jesus’ teachings to the Disciples when he [Judas] said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages” (John 12:5, NIV). That was a true statement. The perfume was expensive and, if sold, could finance a lot of much needed ministry and outreach.

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Dictionary.com defines the word DISCIPLINE as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement” or “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.”

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Judas’ statement sheds a light on the discipline of life that Jesus taught and shared with his disciples. Judas’ statement hints at dedication and a sense of mission that Jesus was instilling into his followers. Many contemporary Christians in North America, many of us, have lost such dedication and sense of mission.

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On the other hand, Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet is an act of tending to Jesus’ emotional needs as he was preparing for the final, challenging and gruesome action of his earthly ministry (allowing himself to be crucified by the authorities). Mary’s action was an act of discipleship; it was an act of nurturing that Jesus needed at the time.

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I understand DISCIPLESHIP to be a process of transformation. Richard of Chichester wrote this prayer sometime between 1244 and 1253:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

Discipleship is a journey that Richard described in this prayer when he wrote, “May I know Thee more clearly, Love Thee more dearly, Follow Thee more nearly.”

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As followers of Jesus, our lives must demonstrate certain discipline (i.e. tithing, involvement in a local church community, Bible study, being responsible members of our society, etc.) as well as discipleship (i.e. being loving and gracious, exhibiting empathy, striving to help one another, being willing to lend a listening ear and understanding heart, being willing to forgive and help someone to better themselves).

Judas represents those of us who find rules and common sense more enticing than sacrificial love, devotion and grace; Mary represents those of us who prefer sacrificial love and grace and can always see a gazillion reasons why certain rules should not be followed (like filling out annual reports for the conference). Mary and Judas represent the boundaries of the highway of our lives as we strive to be followers of Jesus.

In extremes:

  • When we abide by rules and regulations only, when we travel on only this side of the highway of life, our lives project a message of God who revels in hail and brimstone BECAUSE we exhibit very little grace and tolerance.

  • When we abide only by sacrificial love, devotion and grace, when we travel on the other side of the highway of life, we are in danger of being hurt and taken advantage of. We deliver a message of a weakling God for whom everything goes because we do not hold anybody accountable for anything.

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We are not called to judge others. We are not called to be doormats. We are called to be followers of Jesus. Being conscientious followers of Jesus, we are invited to live our lives with both discipline and discipleship.

May God bless us on our journeys and help us to face our faiths. And may our lives be like a pleasant aroma in God’s nostrils.

Works Cited

deVega, Magrey R. CurcuitRider Sermon Starters, February 21 – March 28, 2010. January 2010. 19 March 2010 <http://www.umph.com/pdfs/circuitrider/BBMT001808PDF000.pdf&gt;.

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