|Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus. — John 12:1-11 NKJV|
As John 12 opens we have a beautiful picture of what the Christian life ought to look like. In the first eleven verses three individuals are brought before us whose lives were completely and forever changed by the Lord Jesus. Through Lazarus, Martha, and Mary we see lessons and a real challenge for our own lives.
Lazarus represents a life that fully enjoys the resurrecting power of Christ – the power that Paul desired to “know” about (Phil 3:10) and that he sought, through His prayers, for the Ephesians to “know” in their lives (Eph. 1:18-19). We might say Lazarus represents our witness. Reading the portion we see Martha represents our work that is done for Christ and is accepted by Him, while Mary represents our worship flowing from a heart occupied with Christ.
Let’s look at these three people as they present the Christian position and association with Christ, and their exaltation and appreciation of the Lord.
Our Position With Christ
At the end of John 11 we see Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead, as a beautiful picture of those set free from dead-man clothes. He shows what happens to the lost sinner who comes to Christ.
- We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3).
- We have been raised from that dead position (Jn. 5:24)
- We have been set free from the grave clothes (Col.3:1) and have been given liberty (Jn. 8:36).
- We are seated with Christ (Jn. 12:2, Eph. 2:6).
- We enjoy fellowship with Him (1 Jn. 1:1-3).
- We are now to be a testimony to others as was Lazarus (12:9-11).
- As with Lazarus some people will be against us (Jn.12:10).
Lazarus was enjoying what Christ had accomplished for him. He was in the good of it. The question for us is this: Are we in the good of the resurrecting power of Christ? That is the truth of the book of Ephesians. Are we living like those still dead or are we like Lazarus was for a brief moment – raised but still wrapped up with the dead man’s clothes that restrict our walk, work, and worship? Lazarus could never have appreciated his raised position with those grave clothes on.
Our Association With Christ
Lazarus was sitting at the table associated with the One who raised him from the dead. Every born again believer has this same privilege. It speaks of our association based on our position. Look at Colossians 3:1-4. Notice how many times that little phrase “with Christ” is used? “In Christ” emphasizes our position, as seen repeatedly in Ephesians and Colossians 1-2. But “with Christ” emphasizes our association based on, or that flows out of, our spiritual position.
Our Exaltation Of Christ
We are told that “God … has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name above every other name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil 2:9-10 KJV). We can’t exalt Him any higher than God has exalted Him, but there is a practical way you and I can exalt the Lord Jesus. Notice John 12:2: “they made Him a supper.” That supper was for Him! He was the center of attention. The focus was on Him, not on the risen Lazarus, the dedicated serving of Martha, or the worshiping Mary. They made Him a supper – suggesting preparation through the use of time and resources. This wasn’t done on the spur of the moment.
We too have the privilege of making Him a supper every week. We call it the Remembrance Meeting, the Lord’s Supper, or another name. What the Lord instituted in Luke 22:14-23 is explained for us in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. We learn from Acts that it was one of the main activities of the early church (2:42) and later that it was held regularly on the first day of the week (20:6-7). So in the Gospels we have the supper instituted, in Acts have it celebrated, and in 1 Corinthians we have it explained. The bread speaks of His body which was given for us. The wine speaks of His blood that was shed for us. As we celebrate this we remember Him! In a way, we each exalt Him by giving Him that special place in making Him the Supper.
Our Appreciation Of Christ
The story in John 12 is not the first time Mary came to the feet of the Lord Jesus. In Luke 10:39 she sits at His feet as a learner, having come to Him as the One who instructs her. There He is seen as the Prophet. Then in John 11, when her brother died, she comes to His feet pouring out her heart to Him. There we see Him as Priest. Then here we see her falling down with a heart full of worship. The account of Mary’s anointing of the Lord is also found in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. When you combine all three accounts, you learn she anointed both His head and His feet. It was an act of pure love on her part. Her anointing Him points to the fact that He is King.
Here in John 12 the emphasis is on the fact that this Man who won Mary’s heart is the Son of God! She is seen anointing His feet, which speaks of His walk here as a man. We see three things in this portion:
1. Her submission to Christ. Mary wasn’t concerned about herself or how it might look to others; she simply came to Him and poured out the costly spikenard. So there was not only preparation for the supper, but there was also a cost here. Judas did not understand it at all for he thought it was a waste. But Mary poured everything out without regard for the cost. For Mary it was all or nothing! When Mary undid her hair (something Jewish women did not do in public), she humbled herself and laid her glory at His feet (1 Cor. 11:15). So too, we ought to be willing to use our glory to exalt Christ (Ps. 16:9, 57:8, 108:1). Our glory should be hid, and His ought to be seen. It is not about us, but about Him!
2. Her affections for Christ. She had enjoyed Him as her prophet and priest; now Mary is giving Him His proper place in her heart! Think for a moment of the effect that this type of heart-felt worship had on all around. Remember there was a meal that had been prepared. I’m sure the aroma of that meal filled the air. But when Mary poured out her spikenard and anointed the Lord’s feet, the fragrance permeated the entire house! The aroma from the food that had been prepared faded in comparison to the aroma that filled the house from the precious oil. It wasn’t about the food they would eat – it was about the worship He would receive from her heart! When they left the house the aroma stayed with them. The fragrance would eventually fade, but the aroma has lasted even to the present day, just as we read about it now.
3. Her motivation was Christ. We see in John 12:7 that she had spiritual insight. She had kept the oil for His burial. Interestingly, she did not use it for her brother’s burial but kept it for her Lord! Her heart was in tune with God’s heart. God the Father wants each of us to appreciate the One He appreciates. Where did she learn this? It was learned at His feet as in Luke 10. We too ought to spend time at His feet. Can others tell that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)? He invites us to come to Him and learn of Him (Matt. 11:29).
There will always be those who don’t understand why we want to make Him a Supper or why we desire to exalt Him as we see in John 12:4-6. But what a great privilege believers have to enjoy our position and association with Christ, and to seek to exalt and appreciate Him more and more!
By Tim P. Hadley
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org