Friday, March 18, 2011

“Broken Vessel” (Mark 14:3-9)

S-1239 2MIL/3A 03/16/11, (O) #151 vv. 1, 3, 7, (S) #143 v 1, 3 10, (C) #416

Text: Psalm 32; Exodus 30:30-33; Mark 14:1-9

Theme: “Broken Vessel” (Mark 14:3-9)

Question: “Do you play it safe?” 2nd in Sermon series Broken…But NOT Broke


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The text for our 2nd Midweek is from the Gospel lesson: And while He [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over His head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’” (Mark 14:3-9).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

You who have known and tasted the wondrous love of God, tonight’s sermon is a radical one. One that will make you squirm in the pews, makes you uncomfortable and challenges you in your walk of faith as a Christian. This is no ordinary sermon, but one that will cause you to inquire what does the Lord require of me as His child.

The setting is in the sleepy town of Bethany. It was Holy Week – just a couple of days from Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. The guests include Jesus and His twelve seasoned disciples, Lazarus whom He had recently raised from the grave and others. They were at the house of Simeon the Leper who had been healed by Jesus. What takes place next is radical indeed.

Mary the sister of Lazarus walks into the room full of men—which was unheard of in those days. In her hand she is carrying an alabaster flask a very expensive perfume. She breaks it and pours it ALL on the head of the Savior. All of a sudden the room is filled with the fragrance of the finest aroma. She drenches her Savior and Lord with the finest imported Nard.

The moment of truth came when Mary in her own heart-felt joy couldn’t hold herself back. Whether she has experienced a miracle like her brother or like Simon, she knows the heart-changing life-saving miracle of God’s grace in Her Savior, Jesus. Did she plan this moment? Did she think about it as she followed her home-making sister, Martha, and helped her carry food, to the home of Simon? Was this pre-meditated? Or did the Spirit of God move her heart until she just had to do it?

Mary reveals her heart-felt thanks to her Savior, by not only giving the finest perfume, but herself as well. She didn’t play it safe. She gave all—all that she had and all that she was. PAUSE.

All of a sudden the voice of reason enters the room. All begin to complain about the waste of such an extravagant outpouring of love not in words but in action. They complain about her boldness to showing her love with such a gift. Others are thinking that it is too much, almost a waste to give up a year’s wages and to pour it out from one vessel of perfume.

Judas Iscariot spoke for his fellow disciples: “Why this waste?” he demanded. None of the disciples could believe their eyes. Just like that: Snap. Pour. Gone. The gift she gave—the Nard was imported, all the way from India. It isn’t cheap. This expensive vessel was worth 300 denarii, more than a year’s wages! By today’s standards it was worth forty five thousands of dollars! And the disciples didn’t like it. They played the “safe game.”

It’s hard to argue with the disciples. They had common sense and even their Master’s own teaching on their side! They were being wise, fiscally responsible, and spiritual. They wanted to do the right thing! They were “compassionate conservatives.” But MARY, the liberal, knew no limits, couldn’t offer a word of explanation. It was as if she had just thrown thousands of dollars into the flames. It was as she was stealing food from the mouths of starving children to fuel her reckless waste!

They knew how to play it safe, and to do what God wants, in controlled and careful ways. BUT, on this night, Jesus rebukes the disciples and us. Why? Like the disciples, we like to do what is reasonable and frugal and controlled. We’re uncomfortable with sudden extravagances like Mary’s. Doesn’t seem smart to give away everything, so we give only as much of our time and energy and resources as we can spare, and we consider that a great feat.

But what are we saving our time and our money and ourselves for? Playing it safe may win us points with our insurance company, but it leaves Jesus unimpressed. Is there a single instance in the entire Scriptural record where God praised someone for playing it safe? Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Elijah—God didn’t let them get away with caution and taking life easy! The faithless servant in the parable who buried his one talent was rebuked! (Mt 25:26) The rich fool who was taking life easy and had his future perfectly planned out and his retirement secured was condemned! (Lk 21:20) And in Revelation, Jesus tells the lukewarm church at Laodicea that He is spitting them out!

God is not pleased when His disciples play it safe. The twelve failed Jesus that night at Bethany. They blew it again at Gethsemane when they did the safe thing and ran for their lives! At Golgotha, only John managed to make a brief appearance. It was dangerous to be there, right? Could get a guy killed right! But GOD is NOT impressed with our caution, when we hold back and save ourselves for another day. The disciples were wrong. Mary, the “liberal”, was right.

Jesus took Mary’s side 100%. Mary was completely vindicated! Jesus definitely didn’t say: “Well now Mary, Judas has a point. Let’s not get carried away here. Don’t do anything extreme like this again, okay?” NO—there was none of that speech. This was not an issue of neglecting the poor. Jesus’ whole ministry proves His love and concern for ALL people, rich and poor alike. There was nothing to be carefully considered. It was simple. This was an issue of a broken container. It was a matter of a vessel that was broken and now could only be used completely with nothing held back. PAUSE.

How about you my beloved in Christ? God doesn’t want you to play the “compassionate conservative.” He doesn’t want you to play it safe. He wants you to be bold and courageous. He wants you to give all that you are and have. Yes, you heard me right. He wants you to give Him 100% of all that you are and have. So why not sell all that you have and go to the mission field. Why not quit working and go back to school and become a DCE, or head to the seminary and become a pastor, or go across the street and visit with your next door neighbor and invite them to church.

Why not invest yourself in the youth of our congregation? Why not dedicate yourself to their spiritual growth, to their development as life-long servants of Jesus? Why not stay a little longer this evening and visit and care about your brothers and sisters in Christ and help in the kitchen. Why not become a Sunday School teacher, a youth group leader, Midweek teacher or Vacation Bible School this summer?

This is a hard lesson this evening. I am not here to bail you out with words of comfort. The life of a believer is never comfortable but moving and doing for the glory of God. Living the life of a broken vessel will demand much of you. It won’t be smart, or easy, or safe. So don’t arrive at your funeral with unused energies, hoarded hours, and stockpiled resources. Spend your time, energy, talents, and resources NOW in service to Christ and His people. Don’t play it safe, don’t be the compassionate conservative, don’t do anything because it is the most feasible and least expensive. But be what God called you to do.

Mary may not have been thinking about Jesus’ burial. But Jesus uses Mary’s wonderful example of love to point the thoughts of all in this house to what was ahead. He had already told His disciples what He would face, the rejection, the mocking, the scourging, the crucifixion, and His burial. Since this dinner takes few days before the Passover it would be the Saturday before Palm Sunday. That means, the very next day Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Anyone getting close to Him would still notice the aroma of Mary’s perfume, and likely, even as His body was taken from the cross on Good Friday, the scent of Mary’s perfume would still be present in Jesus’ hair.

For it was on Good Friday that the Savior gave us His all. He was the broken vessel on the cross. His blood was poured out as the blessed perfume for all the world. His broken body for the sins of humanity. His life offered for the least, last and lost. And His grave becomes the door to the place where the stench of sin is overcome.

Dear friends, can we ever over-react in thanksgiving and giving praise to our Lord? Can we ever be too extravagant in how we would show this thanksgiving?

In one of our hymns we sing: “Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold …” And,“Take my love, my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.” (TLH # 400, stanzas 4, 6)

We don’t give back to our Lord as if to pay Him back for what He has done for us. Our Lord’s great work of saving us was and is His free gift to us, a gift we receive by faith. Rather, our response to our Lord comes from a heart that simply says, “Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, and let me show my thanksgiving in this way …!”

May the Holy Spirit continue to use us—all of us for His glory and honor Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


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