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Heart Driven Devotion
The introduction to the key players in the drama of the cross—
the gospel of Mark 14:1 to 11
Just recently, JP, Nige and I went to Singapore. We traveled to the Philippines first to see the Clarks, then traveled over to Singapore to minister to trainers who’re equipping pastors all over Asia Pacific–it was an honor, and thankfully well-received. We were only gone eight days, but it was a grueling trip. On the way home, one leg was sixteen hours on Philippine airlines–that means the seats are too small for 6’ 2’’ Chris and his big . . . seat. Let’s just say, my hips are still sore from being squeezed.
But–every time I take a flight like that, as painful as it is, and as messed up as I get with jet lag, which gets worse as you get older, I always remember those early missionaries who took three, six, and nine months by horseback, carriage, train, sailing ship and walking just to get to their destination in order to preach the Gospel to the lost. I can’t help but think that their commitment was greater, that their devotion must have been deeper.
Just a quick tour of the Scripture will wow you with the devotion of God’s people. Moses, who gave up the wealth of Egypt in order to pursue God’s will. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to be burned alive to honor God and not worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel would not stop praying, even though it meant he would be eaten alive by lions–these are no small acts.
There are examples of deep devotion all through the Scripture–many which were not life and death, but actions that express the absolute, complete surrender of a heart given to Christ. And one such act of devotion is found in Mark 14–turn there and listen to verses 1 through 11, as you follow from your outline.
“Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2 for they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.’” Read aloud with me verses 3 to 9.
“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. 4 But some were indignantly remarking to one another, ‘Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9 Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.’”
Now listen as I read verses 10 and 11, “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11 They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.”
Mark 14 to 15 begins the betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ for the sins of His children. It’s known as the Passion, from the Latin word “to suffer”. We are now in the middle of the Passion Week, about to meet all the key players in the greatest drama of history. Before Christ returns in power just described for us in chapter 13, He must die for the sins of those He’d save.
This passage is like an Oreo cookie–it starts and ends with two dark wafers. It begins with the religious leaders’ dark plot to kill Christ, and ends with the dark heart of Judas who betrays Christ, but in the middle is the soft center of devotion. Today we will see plotting, perfuming and pretending. As we exposit through these verses, make certain you notice how the lead in this drama is Jesus Christ.
And do not forget, it’s God the Father who is orchestrating every detail of these verses to accomplish His plan for salvation. And would you allow your heart to be impacted by the actions of a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, as she puts her heart on display. My prayer is that our church would be filled with believers just like this woman–that you and I would become more like her. But now, here in chapter 14, Mark begins with the . . .
#1 PLOTTING Verses 1 to 2
“Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2 for they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.’” Notice when this plotting is taking place
The PERIOD–it’s Wednesday. Jesus has already been challenged by every religious group. He already condemned the leaders, calling them whitewashed tombs. He already described the coming end times on the Mount of Olives. Now Jesus is headed back to Bethany, and Mark sets the stage for the Passion.
Verse 1, “Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away.” You recall that Passover is originally the “passing over” of the homes of the Israelites by the angel of death, who killed the firstborn of Egypt. A one-year-old, unblemished, male lamb or goat was sacrificed, and the blood was applied to the door in order to be passed over.
Passover was immediately followed by a seven-day festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a remembrance of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. They needed to depart in haste, so they baked bread without leaven, because there was no time to let the bread rise. So now they had this feast celebrating their liberation from bondage.
Verse 1 is clear that these events were two days away, which means it’s now Wednesday night. Passover was an intensely religious, deeply important observance by the Jewish people. Sadly, there is evil being planned.
The PLOTTERS–verse 1, see it? “and the chief priests and the scribes.” Sadly, chief priests and scribes were zealously seeking to put Jesus to death. They didn’t have the authority for capital punishment under Roman rule, so they had to somehow get Rome to condemn Jesus. What’d they do?
The PROCESS–verse 1, “were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him.” This is evil–they’re seeking, which describes their pursuit to capture Christ. They want to seize Him, which means arrest Him. And they want to do it by stealth through deception and by surprise, for one single purpose–not to question Jesus, not put Him in jail, not examine Him, but to murder Christ.
Wait–these are the pastors of Israel, the spiritual leaders–they’re supposed to be the godly elders of the people. Can you imagine our elders getting together and plotting in order to kill Mark Petras? Don’t nod–like that makes sense. That’s exactly the feel the gospel of Mark is trying to give us here. These religious leaders are so threatened by Christ, and so angry at Christ, they’re seeking to destroy Him. This is religious hypocrisy and religious politics at its worst.
Now their desire to kill Jesus was not new. In His hometown of Nazareth, they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. After Jesus healed near Jerusalem, they tried to kill Him. Even early in Mark 3, they were already trying to kill Christ. And in John 17:25, Jesus even became known by the title, “The man whom they are seeking to kill.” There are probably many more attempts on the life of Jesus that aren’t recorded in the gospels–but recorded or unrecorded, every one of them failed because it wasn’t God’s time. It wasn’t the Father’s time for the Lamb to be slain.
This year, along with thousands of lambs, there will be one final, perfect, acceptable Lamb who would be slain on Friday at 3 pm. The very details of God’s perfect schedule were set. In Luke 22:22, Jesus said, “The Son of Man goes as it has been determined.” Acts 2:23 tells us His death was determined “by the foreknowledge of God.”
Jesus Christ was divinely decreed to die at the Passover exactly when the lambs were being slain, because He is the Lamb of God whose death would take away the sin of the world. But on a human level, the leaders wanted everybody to return home after the Passover, before they’d murder Christ.
The PLANNING–look at verse 2, for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.” Hundreds of thousands of people are present in Jerusalem for Passover. The leaders feared a riot because Jesus was popular. According to the Jewish Roman historian Josephus, 256,000 sacrificial lambs were slain during a typical Passover. Because tradition required that no fewer than ten people were to eat one lamb, the number of participants could have exceeded two million people. They thought if they arrested Christ during the Passover that the crowds would rebel, and the people would support Jesus and turn against the religious leaders. So these leaders planned to kill Jesus after the Passover.
But God the Father, the orchestrator of the crucifixion, had different plans–and God’s plans always and only become reality. God is in charge. God is leading Christ to the cross. I believe Satan wants to stop it, since the cross will defeat him. The religious leaders don’t want to kill Christ during the festival, cause they’re afraid of the crowd–but God’s will will be done.
And Mark wants us to know, in the middle of God’s plan for Christ to go the cross, and in the midst of all this evil leader plotting, Mark shows us there is some sweet devotion pointing to the cross. Mark will take us back to Saturday, out of chronological order, to show us the cross was planned, and that there are those who know who Christ is, and who love Christ unconditionally.
#2 PERFUMING Verses 3 to 9
The devoted actions of a believer are pictured here. If you’ve ever asked what being devoted to Christ looks like? If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live devoted, then listen carefully to verses 3 through 9. Here is also another proof that Jesus knows His death is at hand. Look at . . .
First The PRACTICE of devotion Verse 3
“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.” This event is also recorded in Matthew 26 and clarified in John 12.
There’s a similar event in Luke 7, but the formerly sinful lady who anoints Jesus feet at that event does so in a Pharisee’s house. That was a totally different event–this one takes place, verse 1, “While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper.” The gospel of John clarifies this event occurs on Saturday, in Bethany, over the back side of the Mount of Olives, in the house of a former leper–Simon, a man probably healed by Christ. Here, Jesus is anointed by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
So Mr. Simon, Mrs. Simon, all the little Simons, the twelve disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus who also lived in Bethany, were present at this gathering–at least seventeen people and children. So Simon says, “Come to dinner”—verse 3, they were “reclining at the table.” When they ate a meal like this, they typically reclined in a lounging position, relaxing, eating slowly for prolonged conversations. It’s the opposite of picking up your Happy Meal at McDonald’s drive thru.
Now at this meal, there’s a woman who is about to demonstrate her devotion. She wants to show Christ how much she loves Him. The gospel of John clarifies, this woman is Mary. Now it was a custom to wash feet, even put a drop of perfume on the feet of guests, prior to a special dinner such as this. It was actually a common cultural courtesy, since everyone wore sandals and walked on dirt roads–which is a polite preacher way to say, everyone had dirty, stinky feet.
But what Mary is about to do is far beyond custom or courtesy. Mary is about to be lavish–look again in the middle of verse 3. “There came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.” Matthew says it was very precious perfume–in a marble bottle that would’ve had a long neck, possibly with a plug at the top to prevent it from spilling out. This kind of bottle would control the flow of perfume, allowing just one drop to come out at a time–why? Because this perfume was expensive.
Not merely precious–a disciple will tell us in verse 5 this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii. That’s almost a year’s wage. How much do you earn in a year . . . 40-, 60-, 80-, grand? That’s what Mary is pouring on Christ right now! Can you imagine spending a year’s wage on a bottle of perfume? Who would do that? People did that because they stretched out the smelly stuff and used it for a very, very long period of time–since just a drop of it in water would actually meet the social need. And because you didn’t have dinners every week, a drop was fine. So this stinky stuff would last a very long time.
Yet John 12:3 tells us, “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard.” What’s nard? Sounds like lard, and doesn’t sound sweet smelling. Nard is actually a plant from India, and pure nard means undiluted. Do you know the difference between perfume, cologne and toilet water? It is concentration levels. Perfume is solid stink, cologne is semi-concentrated, and toilet water is water with some smell. AND–for you men and especially you Junior Highers, I learned that toilet water is not water from the toilet.
Nard, by the way, is still from India, and still used for perfume today. But Mary has a pound, 16 ounces of pure perfume! And she does something with it that nobody would ever do. She doesn’t just tip it to send out a drop for Jesus’ feet–no! She breaks open the neck of the bottle, and she pours the entire contents of perfume over His head. And John adds in His gospel, she also anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. Wow, Mary dumps eighty-thousand dollars of perfume on the Lord’s head and feet.
Then John adds the obvious–the entire house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. The entire environment was saturated with the smell of nard. This is lavish love–the action of a fervent heart, sacrificial affection, adoring dedication, and passionate worship. But not everyone saw it that way.
Second The PERTURBED reaction to devotion Verses 4 to 5
“But some were indignantly remarking to one another, ‘Why has this perfume been wasted? 5 For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they were scolding her.” They were indignant at what Mary did and actually scolded her. Mark is vague, but John tells us that Judas led the parade of indignant scolding.
John even adds in John 12:4, “But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said . . .”—wow, it’s Saturday night, yet Judas is already planning to betray Christ. Judas didn’t suddenly come up with his plan–betrayal didn’t just pop into his head on Wednesday night when he thought Christ wouldn’t rule, so Judas would not get rich.
No, John tells us Judas had been ready for his betrayal for a long time. John tells us Judas is the one who said, “Why has this perfume been wasted,” then “the others” chimed in–which exposes what really motivates Judas. What was it? Money! John 12:5, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Judas wasn’t concerned about the poor, John 12:6 says, “Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.”
How long had Judas been stealing from the money box? Seemingly during the Lord’s entire ministry, while Judas was with Him, Judas was embezzling from the tiny funds they kept in a box, that were used for food and ministry. Judas was a thief, and his materialistic heart is fully exposed as he comments about the eighty-grand perfume being wasted on Jesus.
Notice Judas’s heart in verses 4 to 5. The Greek word “indignant” tells us he’s aroused, angry and vexed from selfish motives. He views the perfume as being wasted, that Mary’s actions were careless, thoughtless and a foolish loss. And Judas actually scolded Mary, which was to sternly criticize her and find fault in her actions.
But that is not how the Lord viewed her actions–what Mary does is to express the heart of all who love the Savior. This is all in–the wholehearted behavior of a devoted believer. She holds nothing back. I don’t imagine she had anything greater to give. She gave her greatest gift, and lavishly gave it all, in an extravagant, over-the-top, beautiful gesture. She can’t just tip a few drops on Jesus–her heart won’t allow her to be restrained. Her heart loves lavishly.
I’ve heard my own voice be critical of gifts given to others. I’ve heard believers be critical of care given to other Christians. I’ve heard churchgoers mock those who give generously to Christ. I’ve seen the so-called committed pretending to be mature, yet barely giving at all to Christ’s Church–not even 2%.
Yet I have also witnessed a pastor who was willing to take a second out on his own house, to provide me with a down payment. He was ready to give lavishly, even though I didn’t let him do it. I’ve also been blessed by a man I never met, who provided me with $500 a month for an entire year so I could merely pay my bills. I’ve seen the fake, the shallow, immature, and hardhearted–and I have seen the abundant generosity of devotion to Christ . . . which is exactly how Jesus sees Mary’s action.
Third The PERSUASION of Christ about devotion Verse 6
“But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me.’” Let her alone, literally do not oppose her–cancel your criticism. Forgive her, release her, pardon her–stop what you’re saying. Why are you troubling her and making it difficult for her? You’re literally wearing her out, tiring her, shriveling her heart.
Some of us need to take to heart what Jesus says here. Some of us wear our spouse out with our constant complaints. We wear our kids out with our caustic corrections. We wear our spiritual leaders out with unnecessary comments. Today, ask them, “Am I more critical or complimentary? Am I more attacking or affirming?” Some of you may discover, if you’re honest, that you’re not encouraging at all. Stop riding Mary.
Jesus actually defends Mary. Some of you are tempted to feel God is never pleased by your actions–that deeds done in faith and for His glory don’t really matter. That a sinner like you could never make Christ happy. But Christ shows us here that what you do does matter to Christ. He reminds us in Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” God is pleased by your actions done in His power for His glory in serving others, when you serve as if you’re serving Christ.
So Jesus says, “Leave Mary alone–stop criticizing her and wearing her out.” This is shocking to me. The Greek verb for “leave her alone” is the only command imperative in these first 11 verses—stop bugging Mary. It’s plural—“All of you—back off!” Why? Verse 6b, “She has done a good deed to Me.” She has done excellently, beautifully, remarkably, worshipfully. Eighty-grand of perfume poured out on Me is not a waste!
Lavish love shown to Christ and for Christ is never a waste. Verse 6b, “She has done a good deed to Me.” Jesus literally says, “Mary has completed a beautiful achievement!” What Mary did by pouring out on Christ a year’s worth of salary in perfume was a noble deed of devotion. But why? Why not feed the poor, or use the money for another ministry purpose?
Fourth The POINTS why devotion is embraced Verses 7 to 9
The Lord tells us four reasons why Mary’s action was esteemed and beloved by Christ.
1 The PRIORITY of her devotion Verse 7
“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.” Sometimes I think that’s how you feel about me–I’m like the poor, you always have me with you. You’d rather have Spurgeon, or some radio preacher, one of our guys–anyone but “the poor guy.” Jesus is actually quoting Deuteronomy 15:11, “For the poor will never cease to be in the land.”
So ignore the poor? No–giving to the poor has its place. But the principle Jesus is teaching is this. The higher priority is Christ. Adoring, devoted worship of Christ is the ultimate priority. Charity is good. Helping the poor is necessary. Dropping coins into the bucket of the ringing bell is good, but worship of Christ is always better. And all true worship will always lead to charity, verse 7, “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them.”
You can help the poor anytime–the need never goes away. So care for them, give to them, serve them–that’s all good. But Mary demonstrates the priority of devotion. She lavishly gave directly to Christ. She worshiped Christ with her best and most expensive sacrifice. It’s like she donated her retirement, her new car and all her savings. I wonder, don’t you–did Mary know about what was coming for Christ? Did she see, or understand, or overhear the coming cross of Christ? I suspect she had some idea the cross was coming–think about it.
#1 She is the one who listens well, sitting at Christ’s feet when Martha is frustrated, running around in the kitchen
#2 Mary personally watched Christ bring her brother back from the dead–a firsthand resurrection proof. Plus . . .
#3 Christ already publicly declared He will suffer, die and rise from the dead three times. Even the Lord’s enemies knew Christ predicted His own death and resurrection.
So there is little doubt Mary the listener certainly put the pieces together and was moved in her devoted heart to anoint Christ with this super expensive perfume. She knew the pain of verse 7, “but you do not always have Me.” Jesus is reminding them that He’s going away–He will die, resurrect, then physically ascend into Heaven, and will no longer be physically present on this planet. So if you are going to express a heart of devotion to Me, then now is the time. And I believe Mary understood that. Look at . . .
2 The PROFICIENCY of her devotion Verse 8a
“She has done what she could.” I love that phrase. Again, verse 6b, “She has done a good deed to Me.” Ever find yourself in a place where you can’t do what you really want to do–help a friend, buy a needed item, remove a child’s pain, fix an injustice, or rescue the needy?
I remember being emotionally and physically overwhelmed by the needs I saw all around me in India, and was overcome by what I could not do. I couldn’t fix the problem. But I was with Chris Williams, a godly Indian missionary friend. I asked him, “What do you do Chris? How do you deal with this overwhelming need?” Chris said, “I can’t help them all, but I can help some.” Mary couldn’t take the cross away, but she did what she could do.
She is doing what she could. “She can’t stop My death, but she can prepare me for it.” She can’t stop God’s plan, but she can express her devotion to Christ. Mary could not stop Jesus coming death, but she could show her love in a lavish action by anointing Christ for a burial she knows is coming, leading to . . .
3 The PROVIDENCE of her devotion Verse 8b
“She has anointed My body beforehand for the burial.” Here Mary is, living with a brother who daily reminds her just how awesome Jesus Christ is. But she also has a growing sense Jesus is headed to His death. And she must have thought, “What can I do? What can I do for my Lord, who brought my brother back from the dead, who’s been in our home a lot, who has allowed me to sit at his feet and learn so much from Him?”
Considering His coming death, she thought, “I could anoint Him.” So that’s what she did. She knew He’d die, but she also believed He’d rise from the dead–so she did what she could. Like all ancient Jewish burials, Mary alone prepared the body of Jesus with fragrance before He was put in the tomb. Because of the timing, Christ was rushed into the tomb on Friday evening before Sabbath began at 6 pm, without the final preparations, such as perfume. Mary alone accomplished that. So what does God say about her actions?
4 The PRE-EMINENCE of her devotion Verse 9
“Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” All of us together are living out verse 9 right now, this morning. Two thousand years have gone by, but the remembrance of Mary’s adoring, devoted, selfless worship is today being recalled.
Mary’s act of lavish love was certainly a deep encouragement to Jesus personally. It had to be, as He knows He’s less than a week away from the cross, facing horrible torture, a cruel, grueling death, and worst of all, God’s wrath for sin. But Mary’s extravagant worship also stands as witness to all of us, as an example of the heart of every true believer.
As we preach the Gospel, the good news that God Himself has provided the only way for us to be reconciled to God and forgiven for our sins which stand between God and us, we can look at Mary and see a woman who was transformed by God’s amazing grace. God saved Mary, and she was internally changed so she would want to lavish her love on Christ–which she showed us in this incredible sacrifice of anointing Jesus with eighty-grand worth of perfume.
Today we remember you, Mary–thank you for showing us the genuine heart of extravagant, lavish, unselfish devotion. Against the backdrop of hateful enemies who want to kill Christ, and next against the backdrop of a disciple who’ll betray Christ, we have affectionate, sacrificial devotion. We almost need to see a genuine believer, because now we see . . .
#3 PRETENDING Verses 10 to 11
“Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11 They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.” Like the wizard of Oz, Judas finally steps out from behind the curtain.
The only disciple from Judea in the south, and not a Galilean in the north like the eleven–Judas came from the village of Kerioth, 23 miles from Jerusalem. He joined the disciples for proud and greedy reasons. And when it looked like the, “I get to rule with Christ and be wealthy” dream of goods and glory collapsed, one preacher says, the uncured malignant cancer in his wretched soul metastasized until it totally infected him.
Judas wants out, but not without compensation for three wasted years. He wanted a kingdom, but not through a cross. So verse 10, he goes off to talk to the chief priests to betray Christ. Best guess chronologically, this is still Saturday night after supper. He left Bethany, went back to Jerusalem and set up the betrayal.
The leaders were glad–literally, they felt happy and were rejoicing. Wow–and they promised Judas money. Verse 11, “and promised to give him money.” The amount was thirty pieces of silver. Matthew 26:15, “And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him.”
So now Judas is looking for the right time. Verse 11, “And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.” When is that? Judas knew what he was going to do all Passion Week long. The gospels tell us Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Christ in the absence of crowds, since he too was afraid of the people.
Then at the Passover meal Thursday, Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Jesus was predicting His own betrayal and pointed to Judas, by giving this betrayer bread. Later Thursday night, Jesus will be crowd-less, alone in the garden of Gethsemane. And it is Judas who leads the parade in the arrest of Jesus.
And now . . . Judas, Mary, the religious leaders, the disciples and all of you are being led to the cross.
A The SIGNIFICANCE of the cross
Moments after the Fall into sin in Genesis 3:15, God promised a coming Savior. He’d be wounded by Satan, but He’d crush Satan’s head, defeating him. The cross was foreshadowed in Abel’s acceptable sacrifice and also in the animal sacrificed by Abraham, instead of Isaac. Also in the Passover lambs which were slaughtered in Egypt, whose blood protected Jewish families from divine judgment, and then foreshadowed in the serpent lifted up to heal those bitten, and later in the Levitical sacrifices all pointing to one final, sufficient sacrifice.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and identified Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Everybody knew a sacrificial lamb was only acceptable to God if it was killed, meaning the murder of Christ was not an accident. It was planned in eternity past. It’s the cross alone which provides the repentant follower of Christ with forgiveness for all his sins, along with the promise of eternal joy in Heaven. The cross is super significant.
B The PROVIDENCE of God in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross
Like in the book of Esther, in Mark 14 to 16 you don’t read the Father’s name, but you see His sovereign hand determining every action of both believers and evil men. The religious leaders do not want Christ to die on the Passover–they’re afraid of the crowds. But God’s schedule is the only one that matters.
The leaders would never have planned to have Jesus arrested and crucified on Passover Friday, exactly at 3 pm, when all the lambs are killed. But that’s what happened–why? Because that was God’s plan. So as the leaders play their little games, they’re merely pawns in the purposes of God. Yes, they’re guilty. They’re culpable for their rejection of Christ. They’re responsible for the murder of the Son of God. And they’re accountable for their unbelief. But they do not determine what happens or when it happens. Our Lord will die by the predetermined foreknowledge and purpose of God. He Himself is directing everything by His providence, even though it’s invisible to everybody except the Lord Himself.
C The Love of the FATHER for Christ first, and then you
Our Savior is about to suffer unjustly at the hands of men, but the greater suffering of Christ was not at the hands of his enemies, but at the hands of His Father. It was God’s wrath that caused Christ the greatest agony on the cross. Jesus was tried for leading an insurrection against Caesar, something Jesus didn’t do. Men punished Christ for what He didn’t do, but God also punished Christ for what He didn’t do. Jesus suffered as if He was guilty.
The most evil act ever perpetrated by evil men, yet the most loving act ever perpetrated by God. The worst miscarriage of justice in history, and yet the greatest satisfaction of justice in history. The cross is full of paradoxes. Human injustice at its worst, yet the crucifixion was also the greatest act of divine justice.
Even though God killed Christ for sins Jesus didn’t commit, God did kill Christ for sins we did commit–done for the most awesome purpose, to secure the salvation of sinners like us. Jesus was God’s victim. Jesus was killed by the One who loved Him perfectly, to satisfy divine justice and divine righteousness on behalf of undeserving sinners–why? Not for us, but so that God might give to His Son via His Son’s death a redeemed humanity to praise Him forever.
The reason there are redeemed sinners is so heaven might be populated with people who give glory to Christ. The Father loves the Son. And the Father desires to give the Son a redeemed humanity so that they can praise, adore, serve and worship Christ forever–and we are that love gift. Because the Father loves the Son, you and I have been saved to be the gift of the Father to the Son for all eternity. Aren’t you glad?
D The importance of a DEVOTED heart
Mary is in the spiritual hall of fame. Even this morning, the fragrance of her deed fills this building, never to be forgotten. Mary showed us what a devoted heart looks like. True devotion does not ask, “How much is it going to cost?” True devotion gives all in adoring wonder and praise. In her devotion, Mary lost a sense of economy and restraint. Mary almost appears to be impulsive in her devotion.
Does your devotion to the Savior cost you anything? Have you become calculating or cold in your service? Even with giving, do you give only to a need? That’s good–but do you ever give for love, for worship, for adoration and thanks? Who’s here this morning who’d be commended by our Lord for their actions of devotion? God’s desire is for us to worship not from half our heart, half a wallet, or half a talent–but to worship Him lavishly. FBC needs broken vials of devotion. FBC needs more believers like Mary who are preoccupied with His person, rather than the pursuit of lesser things. True worship is lavish and costly. Is yours?
E The reason why many are not DEVOTED
The biggest reason is they don’t have a regenerate heart–a new heart that wants to love Christ with a life of obedience. Cry out for God to save you from your dead, self-centered heart. For others, their devoted heart has been replaced by dullness, their passion has become procedure, their lavishness has become lackluster, their worship delight has drifted to wearisome duty because they’ve allowed their faith to slip into externals and are not pursuing a vibrant internal relationship with Christ. Their life is about Christianity, but not Christ. And today is the day you repent and turn back to your first love. Let’s pray.