“The fragrance of giving”

Summary of sermon by Friedel Stegen, 20 Sep 2015

John 12:1-3
1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was (who had died, whom He raised from the dead).

2 Then they made a supper there for Him. And Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him.

3 Then Mary took a pound of ointment of pure spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.

Here we find Jesus in the house of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. And Mary took the most precious gift she had and gave it to the Lord Jesus. No wonder that Mary had a special place in the heart of the Lord Jesus. Often in the Bible we are challenged by the attitude of love she had towards the Lord. Evidently the Lord had done a lot for her and forgiven her much. We might say that she was willing to do anything for the Lord.

What is the most precious thing to you in your life? Are you willing to give that to the Lord Jesus? Such love is not found easily. Maybe it’s your secret addiction to pornography, or your cellphone etc. that is very precious to you. You feel like you cannot live without it. But are you prepared to get rid of that for the Lord Jesus?

She anointed His feet with the precious oil, which was worth a year’s wage, and then humbled herself even more and wiped His feet with her hair! Are you prepared to humble yourself to such an extent? Just imagine what her hair must have looked like after that. In those days, people mostly walked where they wanted to go, so His feet must have been dirty with dust. Just visualize this sight, Mary pouring the oil on His dusty feet and then wiping off the oil with her hair. Her hair must have looked terrible after that. But she wasn’t concerned at all what she looked like. She was only concerned with the Lord Jesus.

But even more than Mary, look at what the Lord Jesus did. He was prepared to leave heaven, come to this world and even die for us! That is love! That you are prepared to lose your life for another.

May God be merciful to us. May He become so precious to us that we forget all else, and are only concerned that His Name be glorified in our lives; that everything else would become strangely dim, as long as our Lord and Saviour is well-pleased with us.

What fragrance do people receive when they enter into your house? Is it a heavenly smell? What fragrance does your wife or husband receive when they are in your presence? Is what you speak uplifting, or is it from hell?

All of us are an open letter, being read by those around us (2Cor 3:2-3). What do people read in us? Remember that our lives speak louder than our mouth. This isn’t something new. We all know it. The question is whether we live it. Jesus said of the Pharisees and Sadducees, everything they say, do, but do not do what they do (Matt 23:2-3).

John 12:4-6

4 Then said one of His disciples (Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who was to betray Him)

5 Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?

6 He said this, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and held the moneybag and carried the things put in.

Mary was different to Judas. He always sought to gain an advantage by whatever he did. But Mary wanted to give and give. If you want to be blessed, learn to give. You receive by giving.

Philippians 4:15-18

15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as regards giving and receiving, except you alone.

16 For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my necessity.

17 I do not say this because I desire a gift, but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound. I have been filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things which you sent, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God.

What the Philippians did was a sweet smell to God. Are you doing good to others, not only materially but by a kind word, a kind deed etc., that can pull a person out of darkness and lead them to the light. What are we here on earth for if we only live for, and only want to benefit ourselves? Be honest with yourself. What fragrance do people get when they come to you and speak to you? Are they helped? It’s easy to call yourself born again. It’s easy to say that you follow the Lord with all your heart. But what do others see in you? Do they shake their head that it’s not true of you.

We cannot do this out of ourselves, but if the Lord is in us, then it is possible. May He create within us a new heart, a contrite spirit, that won’t expect something from the next person, but give.

German Translation