August 25, 2021

August 25, 2021

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
August 25, 2021

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound 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. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 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. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

John 12:1-8

This is a beautiful story where Mary takes that very expensive ointment, pure nard as John described it here, and anoints Jesus body for burial. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said it was a beautiful thing that she did, Matthew 26.

We also know from Matthew’s gospel account that the criticism that came upon Mary was a collective effort. It wasn’t just one or two but it looks like the disciples (plural). It doesn’t tell us which disciple but in all likelihood all of them got involved in this barrage of criticism. But John tags Judas as the instigator. He was what you could call the firestarter. He provided the sparks for the fire of criticism. James reminds us in James 3 where he picks up that analogy of sparks when it comes to the use of the tongue and some of the dangers that we must be aware of. A few words, a few sparks can create a raging forest fire.

What is Judas’ problem? What is really the big problem here? Some might say, “He was a thief.” That’s right, he was a thief, he had the moneybag. Some people have a drinking problem; some people have a porn problem; some people have food problems, but Judas had a money problem. Remember what Jesus said about money on the Sermon on the Mount, “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus employs the language of worship here. You cannot serve, you cannot devote yourself to money.

That’s what Judas is doing. He had a money problem, but he had a worship problem. That is really the issue here. I think it is safe to argue that the biggest problem in the world today is worship problems, idolatry, the first commandment. You can go back to John 4 and remember the woman at the well and her problem with relationships. She had four husbands and the one she was living with was not her husband. She had a worship problem. She was trying to find her satisfaction and joy and delight in marriages or relationships with men. In Exodus 32 the nation of Israel falls prey to idolatry, worshipping the golden calf. Israel has a recurrent worship problem throughout the Old Testament again and again and again. The big problem is idolatry. Think of Paul when he visits Athens, Greece, Acts 17. The city was full of idols. The intellectual, philosophical capital of the world at that time was Athens, Greece. What was the big problem, it was a worship problem.

When you open up Romans 1 and Paul begins to preach the gospel and why men need the gospel, what is the first problem he deals with? He says they worship the creature rather than the creator. It’s a worship problem.

I think it is safe to say the biggest problem today (and you will never hear this through the mass media, or any blogs) is not melting icecaps; it’s not racism; it’s not pornography; it’s not abortion; the biggest problem today is idolatry. We should never, ever think we are not vulnerable to the sin of idolatry. You could say the greatest battle, the greatest war that takes place, takes place on the turf of our hearts, and it’s a battle over who will we love most.

It’s a god war. We can pretty well worship anything, can’t we? We can worship any created thing, it doesn’t have to be bad things. It can be legitimate pleasures and blessings. Dr. John Piper says, “The most deadly appetites are not the poison of evil, but the simple pleasures of earth; where we replace an appetite for God himself. It is the replacement strategy of Romans 1. That is what is happening in Romans 1. They are replacing God the creator with god the creature. Idolatry,” he says, “is then scarcely recognizable and almost incurable.” That is kind of shocking, isn’t it? “Scarcely recognizable and almost incurable.”

All of us have pulls and vulnerabilities easily seduced by the world we live in. You could call it the God war, the worship war. Go back to Mary. Mary got it right. She is found at the feet of Jesus and that is where she would love to be.

I hope that is true of us, Brethren, that we would love to be at the feet of Jesus. That we love to be at his feet on Sunday morning, Sunday night and at Wednesday night prayer meetings. This gives us an opportunity to come to the true and living God and ask him to stir up our hunger for God.