John 12:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 1, 2010


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

We are now in the final week of Jesus’ life.

It was just a week or so ago when Jesus came to Bethany and raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. Play “Lazarus raised” clip.

11:1-3 Mary anoints

:1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.

:1 BethanyBethania – “house of dates” or “house of misery”; small village about 2 miles east of Jerusalem.

:2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.

:2 supperdeipnon – supper, especially a formal meal usually held at the evening

You will find that both Matthew (26) and Mark (14) tell us this same story, with a few added details. There is a different story in Luke (7), but it’s not of the same incident.

Luke tells us of a different occasion earlier in His ministry in Galilee where Jesus was having dinner at a Pharisee’s house when a “sinner” woman came into the room, wept at Jesus’ feet, and poured perfume on His feet (Luke 7:36-39). This is NOT that occasion and Mary is NOT that sinner woman.
(Lk 7:36–39 NKJV) —36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

Mark (14:3) tells us that the supper took place at the house of a man named “Simon the leper”, not the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

(Mk 14:3 NKJV) And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.

:2 Martha serveddiakoneo – to be a servant, attendant, to serve, wait upon

It’s the word that’s used of the first “deacons” who “served” food to the widows in Acts 6.

Serving” is something that Martha was known for. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He had spent time in Martha’s house:

(Lk 10:38–42 NKJV) —38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
distractedperispao – to draw around, to draw away, distract; to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing
Sometimes we look at this passage and think that we are either a Martha who serves or a Mary who sits. And of course we all want to be like Mary who chose the “good” part, sitting.
I don’t think we need to choose between serving and sitting. We need to find a balance.

We don’t want to be so caught up in “serving” that we never take time to listen to the Lord.

We don’t want to be so caught up in “sitting” that we never learn to serve.

:2 Lazarus

Even though Jesus is the guest of honor, I get the feeling that everyone is paying special attention to Lazarus. He is the one who used to be dead and is now alive.

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

:3 poundlitra – A Roman measurement of weight; 12 ounces (340 gm)

One commentary puts the amount of oil as a pint, think of a pint of ice cream.

:3 oilmuron – ointment

Mark (14:3) tells us that the perfume was in an expensive flask made out of alabaster, a very pale stone.

(Mk 14:3 NKJV) …a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.

alabasteralabastron – a box made of alabaster in which ointments are preserved

The ancients considered alabaster to be the best material in which to preserve their ointments. Breaking the box, probably means breaking the seal of the box.

:3 spikenardnardos – nard, the head or spike of a fragrant plant found in the mountains of China, India, and Nepal.

The underground stems was crushed and distilled into aromatic oil, used in perfume and medicines. (Anyone want to smell spikenard?)

Our English word “spikenard” actually translates two Greek words, “nard” and “faithful”

:3 spikenardpistikos – pertaining to belief; having the power of persuading, skilful in producing belief; trusty, faithful, that can be relied on

:3 very costlypolutimos (“great” + “price”) – very valuable, of great price

We’re going to get a price put on the oil (John 12:5), valued at “three hundred denarii”.

A denarius was the day’s wage for an average worker. This means that the value of the perfume was about a year’s worth of wages, perhaps a lifetime’s worth of savings.

:3 anointaleipho – to anoint

There are two different Greek words that can be translated “anoint”. John doesn’t use the “religious” word for “anoint” (chrio) where we get the word for “Christ”, as the high priest or a king was “anointed”. The word John uses is an everyday common word, she’s simply putting the perfume on Him.

She isn’t the one making Jesus the “anointed” Christ, He already is that. She’s simply pouring expensive perfume on her Friend.

Mark tells us that Mary poured it on Jesus’ head as well as His feet (Mark 14:3)

(Mk 14:3 NKJV) …a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.

:3 wipedekmasso – to wipe off, to wipe away

She’s not smearing it around on Him, she’s simply wiping off His feet.

:3 was filledpleroo – to make full, to fill up

Aorist tense.

John’s description gives us a clue that he must have been present when it happened.

:3 fragranceosme – a smell, odor


Extravagant worship

I would imagine that Mary’s gift to Jesus was at least in part because of her gratitude for Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus will say that Mary’s gift was also to prepare His body for death.
Her gift of love to Jesus was given before it was too late. Instead of giving roses to Jesus at His funeral, she gave them to Him while He was still alive.
(Wiersbe) “Her act of love and worship was public, spontaneous, sacrificial, lavish, personal, and unembarrassed.” [1]
Jesus called it a “good” work (Mat. 26:10)
(Mt 26:10 NKJV) …For she has done a good work for Me.

Qualities of Extravagant worship:

1. It is costly
Her gift to Jesus was very expensive.
When David bought the land to build the Temple, he insisted on paying for it.  He said,

(2 Sa 24:24 NKJV) …“No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.”

When you worship, there will be a cost.  It might cost you your pride.  It might cost you a relationship.  It might cost you your bitterness:

(Mt 5:23–24 NKJV) —23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

2.  It is for Jesus
We don’t worship so other people will notice.
Before William Watson Purkey (b.1929) was a professor, he was a bomb disposal expert for the Air Force. He wrote,

“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”

Chris Tomlin put it in a worship song (The Way I Was Made):

I want to live like there’s no tomorrow

I want to dance like no one’s around

I want to sing like nobody’s listening

Before I lay my body down

Dance like nobody’s watching. Well, as if there’s only ONE who is watching…

When David brought the Ark of the Covenant into his capital city, he got pretty excited. He made a big parade.

(2 Sa 6:14 NKJV) Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not trying to encourage you to make a big scene at church and act “over the top”.

But make sure that as you worship, you are doing it for Jesus, not those around you.

3. It blesses others
When worship is done for the wrong reasons, it doesn’t bring a sweet smell to the house, it stinks up the place.

It’s kind of like trying to play a piece of music with the wrong instrument, like the newly famous “Vuvuzela” of the World Cup Soccer games …

Play “Classic Vuvuzela” clip … it gets “Ugly”…

When worship is done correctly, it affects those around us. The fragrance fills the entire house.
Jesus said that what Mary had done would bless people all around the world.

(Mk 14:9 NKJV) Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Even though we don’t do worship for others, they are affected by it.
4. It will be misunderstood
We’re going to see that the disciples weren’t sure what to make of Mary’s act. It’s as if the other people at church didn’t get it.
When David danced before the Lord, he had a bad reaction from his family.

His wife Michal didn’t understand. She called David an embarrassment.

(2 Sa 6:20 NKJV) …And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

11:4-8 Judas objects

:4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,

:4 JudasIoudas – Judah or Judas = “he shall be praised”

This is one of the great Jewish names. Judah was the father of the tribe of Judah, from which we also get the name “Jew”.

:4 IscariotIskariotes (“men” + “cities”) – “men of Kerioth”

:4 betrayparadidomi – to give into the hands (of another); by betrayal to cause one to be taken

:4 who would betray Him

John wants to make sure you don’t mistake this Judas with another Judas, like the apostle (John 14:22) also known as Thaddaeus, or Jesus’ own half-brother (Jude).

John also wants to make sure you know a little more about Judas Iscariot’s background as you follow the story.

:5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

These are the first chronologically recorded words of Judas in the gospels.

:5 fragrant oilmuron – ointment

:5 soldpiprasko – to sell

:5 three hundred denarii – the denarius was a Roman silver coin used in NT times, a single denarius was equal to a laborer’s daily wages (Mat. 20:2-13). Three hundred would be close to a year’s wages.

:6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

:6 thiefkleptes – an embezzler, pilferer

How did John know Judas was a thief? They must have discovered it after Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. Perhaps after Judas killed himself, somebody decided to order an audit and found that there was money missing.

We know that when Judas betrayed Jesus, money was involved.

Matthew tells us what happened immediately after this particular supper:

(Mt 26:14–15 NKJV) —14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.
Can I say that if you are living your life with no other goal in mind than to get more money, that you’re in dangerous company?
(1 Ti 6:9–10 NKJV) —9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

:6 the money boxglossokomon – a case in which to keep mouth-pieces of wind instruments; a small box for other uses; esp. a casket, a purse to keep money in

:6 not that he cared for the poor – the point is that Judas did NOT care for the poor, he only cared for himself.


Hidden motives

Last week we talked about the amazing Caiaphas, and how God can speak truth through the most unexpected people.
This week it’s just the opposite.
The guy you should be trusting, a “disciple” of Jesus, one of the inner circle, says something that ought to sound okay to most people.
But his heart isn’t in the right place.

You can’t always trust what people say.

Mark records that Judas’ opinion affected the other disciples as well:
(Mk 14:4–5 NKJV) —4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

What Judas said sounded right to the other disciples as well and they joined in with condemning Mary for her extravagant worship.

We need to learn to test what we listen to.
(1 Th 5:21–22 NKJV) —21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Chew the chicken, spit out the bones.

:7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.

:7 Let her aloneaphiemi – to send away to let go, let alone, let be to disregard

:7 burialentaphiasmos – preparation of a body for burial; by the use baths, vestments, flowers, wreathes, perfumes, etc.

Jesus’ death was only a week away. I wonder if some of the scent of this spikenard was still on Him at His death.

It is interesting to note that after Jesus’ death, when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning to anoint His body, Mary of Bethany wasn’t with them (Mark 16:1) – she had already anointed Him.

(Mk 16:1 NKJV) Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.

:8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

:8 but Me you do not have always

Jesus isn’t saying that we should not care for the poor. He’s just saying that at this particular moment, there was something more important.



Some of us can become so rigid in the priorities we set in life that we panic when things don’t fit our scheme of things.
Priorities are good. Self-discipline is good.
Sometimes we need to loosen up a bit.
There are times when we need to see that our priorities might not be as important as the thing in front of us.
It’s possible that we might have some things a little wrong…

Like this fellow who had just bought his first boat and asked his friends advice in how to launch it.  They told him, “Just don’t let the trailer get too deep in the water when you’re launching your boat, and you should be fine”. Well later on, he couldn’t understand what they meant by that, as he could just barely get his trailer in the water!

Are you flexible?

11:9-11 Many believe

:9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.

:10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also,

:10 plottedbouleuo – to deliberate with one’s self, consider; to take counsel, resolve

:11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

:11 on account of him

Isn’t that amazing? How blind can you be?

A man has been raised from the dead, and they want to put him to death because people believe in Jesus because of him.


The Witness

God used Lazarus’ life as a witness to lead many to Christ.
What did Lazarus do to be this great witness?

This is what grace is all about. We don’t do anything to deserve what God has done for us.

He did lose the grave clothes

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus still had on the grave clothes.

Jesus told the people around him to help him get out of the grave clothes.

People don’t need to see you still wrapped up in your old life. They need to see that you’ve gotten rid of the old life (with some help from your friends), and that your life has changed.

Your “witness” or “testimony” is not about what you’ve done for God.
It is not about all the things you’ve given up to be a Christian.
It’s about what God has done for you. The new life that God has given to you.
The more people see what God has done in your life, and the fewer the grave clothes, the better.

Play “Jesus is anointed” clip

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jn 12:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.