(available by kind permission of Major Cliff Allchin)
John 12: 1 – 8
My comedy collection…
There is an old Laurel and Hardy film in which they play war buddies from the 1st World War. Hardy, the fat one, mistakenly thinks that Laurel, the thin one, has lost one of his legs in an act of heroism to save him. Oliver Hardy feels so much gratitude and guilt over his friend’s loss that he promises to take him back to his own home to have a lovely meal prepared by his wife… Well, why don’t we just watch the clip?
The question this morning for us is ‘How do we respond to the good things God has done in our lives?’ What can I give to Jesus, and how do I respond to his love for me?
Songwriters have long considered how they might best respond to the love they have found in Jesus.
E.g. ‘What shall I render to my God for all His mercy’s store?’
‘How shall I my life employ?’
‘What can I bring to Thee, fruit of today?’
‘What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend?’
‘What shall I do my God to love, my loving God to praise?’
‘O Lord of Heaven and earth and sea, to Thee all praise and glory be; How shall we show our love to Thee, who givest all?’
All of them express for us the heart’s desire to reach up to something which is almost beyond our reach: the need to convey our thanks to God for all that He has done for us in Christ Jesus. With these thoughts in our mind, let’s look into this story of the family who had Jesus come to stay for a while at their house and see how we might respond to Jesus.
Have you ever had anyone famous come to stay at your house? (I feel a bit like a Radio DJ when they ask listeners to ‘phone in if they have done something or known someone!’) So has anyone famous ever come to tea? Does Jeff Lucas count?
You know you can get those films of set years, well, on a video of the year 1958 a news story from that year of a time when the Queen called in for tea at someone who lived on one of the brand new housing estates, in one of the brand new towns that had been created. That was a one-off, but when we read through the gospels we discover that Jesus loved to go to people’s homes and stay with them, have a meal with them, share quality time with them, celebrate
with them, and then to move on to a new place, a new person, a new home. One thing’s for sure; if Jesus ever came to tea, life would never be the same again!
When Jesus came for tea Lazarus offered his house
It was to be the last week in the life of Jesus. He had to be in Jerusalem for that week, but Jerusalem itself was teeming with people. He needed at the end of each day to gain respite, to build his reserve of spiritual power and authority, his inner quietness. Where could he go to, but to his friend, Lazarus? He had stayed there many times previous; they had cared for him so well, and were dear to his heart. So it was decided. To Bethany they would go, to the house of Lazarus.
Lazarus had so much to thank Jesus for, not least of all that in the very near past, Jesus had actually raised him from the dead. He had been ill, and the disease was fatal. He had been robed in his death clothes, placed in the tomb where for three days he had lain, comatose. It had been an incredible experience. His body had suddenly jerked back to life, as if lightning itself had streaked through his body. He had felt the blood begin to pump around his body once again, the warmth of it bringing pain to his cold and numbed extremities. He had heard his own heart beating, like a drum as the music of the song soared to its height: “Lazarus, come forth!” He had come back from the dead. This man, this friend of his, this Jesus had raised him from the dead! Surely He could be no mere man. And his own life had been so different since that day of resurrection and life. Could he now refuse Jesus the use of his house? No, there was nothing that Lazarus could give that could match the gift that Jesus had already given him. Here was his home, let Jesus do with it as he willed.
What response may we give because of what Jesus has given us? The gift of Lazarus, the use of his house, leads us to identify the material gifts we have that we should want to offer Jesus, for His use.
Our experience as officer’s, opening up our home to different people, giving food away to people, using our car for other people …
I could tell you of others who have opened their homes, who have provided material gifts for the blessing of the church… But what about you? What has Jesus done for your life? What material items are you prepared to let him use? What about your home? What about your car? What about the salary that you earn?
The story of the early church from Acts 2: 45 ’Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need’.
Acts 4: 32 ‘All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.’
The song says:
‘All that I have accept and use Lord, as you would choose Lord.’
When Jesus came to tea Martha cooked the meal
The last time Jesus had visited their home, Martha had scolded Him: “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” Yet, even in her anger at Him for failing their family, still Martha held her faith. “Yet even now,” she said, “God will give you whatever you ask …I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.”
This time when He came to their house, it would be different. This time he was going to get a meal to remember, a dinner in His honour, and she was going to cook it, and serve it. And so it was that Martha used her gifts and abilities to serve the Lord, working away in the background, never in the limelight.
Where would the church be today, if it were not for the many millions of ‘Martha’s’ there have been through the years. The church has done them a disservice in not proclaiming the way in which they use their gifts and abilities for the Lord. We have feted the musician; we have proclaimed the artist; we have adorned the preachers; we have affirmed the evangelist – and neglected those whose gifts are just as important to the Lord, perhaps even moreso than those gifts that are more public. It was to the ‘Martha’s’ of this world that Jesus said: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” With this, He bids them to take their reward, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
So, if you are one of those people who think that the gifts and abilities they have are so little and so tiny, I urge you to think again of the talents and abilities that you have. What are you good at? What could you do for Jesus? Is there not something practical that you could do for Jesus?
‘Take every talent, every skill, take all my powers and bend them to your will.’
When Jesus came to tea Mary anointed Him
Just as Martha had reproached Jesus, so too had Mary, except that Mary could not look him in the face. She fell at his feet, her tears staining his dusty skin, and with her sobbing, grieving heart, she wailed: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” At this most moving scene we find an incredible reaction from the Son of God. Jesus wept. He saw Mary and his tears met hers.
I think it must have been with this incident still fresh in her mind that Mary chose to anoint the feet of Jesus, not with her tears, but with her most precious possession, this bottle of perfume. She poured it on Jesus’ feet and then wiped his feet with her hair, so that the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
I’ve done a little bit of research into perfume, so that we might try to picture better what was happening in this scene.
The top five selling fragrances are:
- Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf
- La Vie Est Belle Lancome
- Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana
- Chance by Chanel
- Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel
However, should you want to buy the woman in your life something a little more extravagant, I’ve tried to find the most expensive fragrances:
- Caron’s Poivre = £750 per ounce
- Clive Christian’s No. 1 = £850 per ounce
- Chanel’s Grand Extrait = £3000 per ounce
- Baccarat’s Les Larmes Sacrees de Thebes =£5700 per ounce
- Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty = £10,600 per ounce
However, all of these pale into insignificance behind the gift that Mary poured over Jesus’ feet. This ointment cost approximately one year’s wages. She had worked and saved, worked and saved, worked and saved. This was an act of true love, of true worship, by Mary. She held nothing back from her giving to Jesus. What an example to us! When we give we need to give not just our material gifts, not just our talent and abilities… we need to give ‘the dearest and best’.
‘All that I am, all I can be, all that I have, all that is me, Accept and use Lord, as You would choose Lord, Right now today.’
What has Jesus done for you?
Paul writes in Romans 12 v1: ‘In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.’
As we have looked at the way in which this particular family offered their gifts to Jesus, so let us learn how to give; let us learn how to make of our lives a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God. We do this in a very simple way. On this day in which we make a commitment in our giving to the Lord, we want to respond with more than just the promise of our monetary gifts: let us offer to Him our material possessions; let us offer to Him our gifts and abilities; let us offer to Him our worship, as we kneel at His feet and with our own peculiar, particular gift anoint once again the precious nail-pierced feet of Jesus.
Father, Creator, everything on earth is yours. We have nothing that can make you richer, for it all comes from you in the first place. But what we have, we bring: the acknowledgement that we live because of you, and that without you we have nothing and can do nothing. Lord, it’s so easy for us to hold on tightly to the money we earn but help us to realise that you alone gave us the ability to do our jobs and to earn the money that we do. Help us to be open-handed and generous in our giving to show our thanks to you. Only You, Lord, know whether our offering is generous. Forgive us for that lack of generosity. Make our giving a blessing for us and not a burden. As we reflect more and more on all you have given to us, make us eager and willing, responsive to all the gifts you have poured down on us. We are, each of us, so grateful for all your gifts but especially the gift of Jesus Christ before whom we will lay down all our gains, all our riches, all our crowns. To him be glory in the church, now and evermore. Amen