Introduction Michael Ngubane
What you are experiencing we are also experiencing. What is of concern to you is also of concern to us. It is distressing to be physically separated without fellowship, but on the other hand it is a test. It is an opportunity to examine ourselves and evaluate our faith – whether it is genuine or not. Is my faith only something because others see me or do I have a faith that carries me even when I am all on my own before God? Do I still trust in the Lord and rely on Him? Do I hold onto Him? Do I depart from sin because that is of utmost importance?
We are constantly reminded about sanitising, washing and cleaning. This is the weapon we can use to overcome this virus. We are reminded about social distancing and wearing face masks. All these guidelines are for our own safety and if we adhere to them, we will keep ourselves and others safe because we realise how virulent and extreme this disease is.
We are grateful for the greetings that we received from Reverend Stegen, the director of KwaSizabantu Mission. He is thinking of us and praying for us during this difficult time. We are so glad for all those who can tune in via Radio Khwezi or livestreaming. Many have found a way in which to connect to the services.
We have introduced another special programme for this lockdown period which you can tune into at home using technology. (This is positive use of the internet technology.) This programme is called Kids Live and it will be streamed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays via www.ksb.org.za
Physical hygiene and cleanliness is very important but spiritual hygiene and cleanliness is of eternal value. It is very important to keep our hearts clean and pure.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound[a] 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. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” 6 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. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” John 12:1-8
This is a very rich portion. It is wonderful to have recently commemorated the time when Jesus came to this world so that we can always have Him with us. He came for you, He came for me. He came to be with you even during this time of distress. In times of drought, famine or disease it is wonderful that Jesus came to be with us. Even if you are confined to your house, or your room Jesus can be ever present. Isn’t this a wonderful time, maybe the first time that we experience this in our lives, that we are confined to our homes, to our families. Many people, especially those who work very hard, find it a bit difficult to spend all the hours of the day with their children. Previously mothers may have just dropped their children off at the kindergarten into the care of others but now they need to spend more time with their children. That is wonderful, mother, it is your child, you bore that child! Now you get fed up and you do not know what it means to train your child. You always say that you do not have time or that your child is naughty because of the influence of others. Exercise your good, motherly influence over that babe, that rascal of yours and change it. Implant the characteristics that you wish for your child – into the heart and mind of that child during this wonderful time.
Sometime before the Passover and His passion, in accordance with the heavenly plan, Jesus still needed to visit this home. Why was this home, this place where these people lived, special to Jesus? It is wonderful at times to visit a house – a smart, beautiful building – which is just an outward show of pomp and glory. A home is something different. Is it the people who live there that make the difference? I live in a home that I call my home but at times I wish to visit other homes because I am enriched. I feel there is something special that I will lose out on if I do not go there. There is food for my soul.
Jesus arrived at Bethany where He visited the home of Lazarus, the man whom Jesus had raised from the dead. It is wonderful if Jesus raises people from the death of sin. It is wonderful if you have been raised from the death of this world. There are joys and pleasures of this world but beware that your heart, your Spirit does not die as a result of the cares and pleasures of this world. Music can be appealing. It touches the soul but it deadens something in you which Jesus wants to be alive. It is terrible if it kills that love of Jesus in your life. It is terrible too if you join friends and their influence causes you to become spiritually sick. Children, you grow up in God-fearing homes, but sometimes you are enticed by something out there, something new, something which you have not experienced before, something the world offers. You seek excitement and adventure and are lured away by the temptations of your own heart.
Mary anointed Jesus’s feet with her expensive perfume. These were heavenly feet that carried the Good News, the good tidings of great joy. Our feet should be under the control of the same Spirit that was in the very body of Jesus. Have you got that Spirit within you that warns you? Do not allow your feet to take paths that are unknown, strange and can be dangerous. You can begin with the first taste, the first glance which can stir your soul and be the beginning of death in you. Some people can be thankful that they grew up in homes where they were content and happy to obey their parents. Their interests lay within the interests of their parents. The splendour of the cities and the world were hidden from their eyes because these parents had caring hearts and loved their children. They loved to protect their children from the evil onslaught of this world, Satan and the deception of their own hearts. Blessed are you if your heart is kept. Guard your heart! We live in a world of human rights where everyone ought to be allowed liberty to live as they wish. We cry to the government for liberty to live dignified lives and serve God with freedom. Parents, keep a watchful eye over their chicks. God has placed an instinct into eagles to watch over their chicks in the nest. God has put into parents a higher instinct. Should we not request the government to protect us from the evils of society? We should be happy that we have the freedom to serve our God who came to heal mankind. We want to thank and encourage every authority that seeks the well-being of its citizens. We do not want to be given over to the degradation of our bodies. We do not want our hospitals to be full of people who are harmed by strong drink and different types of addiction. God saved us out of that death of sin. What we are using to disinfect our hands these days, has a high percentage of alcohol in it. This alcohol kills germs and unwanted bacteria that sicken our bodies. Many people prefer to pour this alcohol down their throats. The stronger the drink, the more active and the potent it is. How terrible if that alcohol which flows down your throat and bites once it reaches your bowels, causes you to do things that you will carry the shame of afterwards. You will fight. You even fight for taverns, bars and bottle stores to be opened. How terrible when even a righteous man in his drunken stupor lay with not just one of his daughters but two of his daughters and they fell pregnant by their father.
Here we speak of good influences that build our nation, our societies and homes. The influence of Jesus raises people from the death of sin so that we can live and die in peace.
Jesus came to the house where Lazarus lived whom He had raised from the dead. Large crowds of Jews also came when they heard that Jesus was there, not only because He was there but also to see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. It is wonderful if Jesus raises man from death. It is also wonderful when people who have literally died and returned from a place more glorious than this earth bring us tidings that tell of the glories and bliss of the coming world. Experiencing their lives is enriching. God’s work is blessed through them. We would be poorer without them. It is a pity that many people who have been raised from the dead by God’s mighty hand forget after a while and resort to their old way of life. Theirs was just an experience which had no lasting effect on their lives.
In this Bethany home, a dinner was given in Jesus’s honour. Your meals at the table in your home can be eaten in the presence of Jesus. Friend, do you want your food to be blessed? Do you want to eat your meal to the honour of Jesus who raised you from the dead? There are such riches. Once we are saved out of the death of sin, a new day dawns in our lives and our hearts are filled to overflowing – for Jesus’s honour and for His name’s sake.
While Martha served, Mary took this expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’s feet. Sometimes something is laid on your heart and you feel the urgency to do it. Do not neglect it. You may do a deed, even if it is very expensive perfume, which the Lord will honour. Mary’s love drove her to do something which not everyone was pleased about. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume – deeds inspired by the life of Jesus in us, can fill the house with a fragrance, a sweet odour. Your old house, your usual house, your old bed, your old chair can be filled with a fragrance that fills the house. These old things can be filled with a fragrance because of a righteous act that comes about through the life of Jesus.
20 And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar. Zachariah 14:20
This text speaks about dedication, a life that is surrendered to the Lord – the bells of the horses – or our cars with which we travel, should be filled with this devotion to the Lord. A man of God said regarding this verse, These garments, when I put them on or take them off, shall they not remind me of the righteousness of Christ Jesus, my Lord? Shall not my work be done as unto the Lord? Oh, that today my clothes may be vestments, my meals sacraments, my house a temple, my table an altar, my speech incense, and myself a priest! Charles Spurgeon
How wonderful if Jesus can come and live with you – your outward appearance will be consecrated to Him. Your house will become a temple because God lives there. Jesus will be with me at the table. My speech is like a pleasing fragrance around me and I am a priest who has the anointing of the Lord on me. I can be the one who directs my children on the right paths. I can intercede for the well-being of my own children or my spiritual children. This is a wonderful time in which Jesus can visit us. If Jesus does not visit you, then the devil is loose and he will be at work – dancing around, maybe not in the house but in your own heart. You will complain and find fault. You will voice your objections and see the mistakes of many which will eventually become your gospel. If someone tries to correct you there is always a ‘yes, but…’ There is always a but in your life. Children, learn this! Not that you ‘but’ afterwards and justify your good or bad ideas. Some people are specialists at investigating the faults of others. Well, how big is your congregation, may I ask? I hope that your congregations will not all display the same critical spirit that you as an ordained preacher display. If you are so anointed, where is the fruit of your anointing? Why should we specialise in criticism if we do not have a following that proves that our lives are worth more than our criticism?
Here these words of Jesus, “Leave her alone. You will always have the poor with you.” Judas, you are so obsessed with the poor but you stick the money into your own pocket! You are flourishing so why say hypocritical words that the Lord Himself will have to say to you, “Leave her alone!”
What fragrance emanates from your life? Is it the fragrance of death or life? May the Lord work this life within us, that raises us out of own sin and the death that it has caused in our lives.