Signs & Wonders (John 12:1-8)




There’s a story of a man named Danny Simpson of Ottawa, CA who robbed a bank of $6,000.[1] He was caught by The Mounties (Canadian Police), arrested and imprisoned for six years. Danny’s Colt .45 pistol was impounded but after further investigation it was noted that the gun was an extremely rare collector’s item. The gun was under license by the Ross Rifle Company in Quebec City and made during WWI, and only 1 of 100 ever made. The gun was worth at least $12,000 and could have auctioned for as high as $100,000. Danny Simpson owned a limited edition antique weapon and could have walked into any gun shop or auction to make at least twice the haul of his bank robbery without breaking the law or going to jail.

Sometimes our actions are not worth the cost of the consequences.

However, today’s message presents a narrative of actions that pay a high price but was worth every expense.

logo-signs-and-wonders-johnEXAMINE           john 12 – Healing Frugality

Jesus is continuing His journey to Jerusalem, where previously He performed a 7th sign-wonder – and perhaps the most significant of miracles – in raising Lazarus from the dead after a four-day funk. Lazarus exits the grave wrapped in linen strips and this event stirs many to commitment with Jesus, while it also stirs others to contest Jesus’ power and influence over the Jews (cf. Jn 11:45-57; 12:9-11, 17-19).

Jesus is not frugal with His meal guests – open and diverse hospitality (John 12:1-2).

Some time afterwards, Jesus relaxes at a dinner banquet with friends. The other Gospel writers share some of the names of those who were present at this banquet:

–        Martha: She was the sister of Lazarus who first encountered Jesus at His coming to visit their freshly dead brother. She rushed, running out of their house to meet Jesus. Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise again and that “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). Martha believed Jesus’ words as many of us do today.

o   Luke’s Gospel doesn’t specifically mention this narrative but writes of an encounter the sisters have with Jesus and Martha is busy with house tasks, while Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening attentively (Lk 10:38-42).

o   Likewise, John’s Gospel records that Martha is the one serving the dinner food (Jn 12:2).

–        Mary: She was the other sister of Lazarus who didn’t run but instead reflected in their house over her brother’s death. Jesus finds her weeping and weeps with her.

–        Simon the leper: Matthew & Mark’s Gospel notes that the house of this narrative is actually that of Simon the leper (Mt 26:6; Mk 14:3). Not much is known about him, other than the fact that leprosy was an awful skin disease (included anything from skin rash to running sores, to even loss of fingers or toes) that would have relegated him as unfit to worship and unclean to the community life. He would have been quarantined and isolated from the community, so his presence at the dinner implies that he was healed, and most likely by Jesus.

–        Disciples: Matthew’s Gospel notes the Disciples’ questioning judgment of Mary’s actions to anoint Jesus’ feet with the perfume (Mt 26:8-9). The Disciples viewed it as a waste of money, for it could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor. John’s Gospel notes that Judas was the spokesperson for this view (Jn 12:4).

–        Lazarus: And not to be missed is the presence of Lazarus reclining at the table with Jesus (Jn 12:2). Lazarus was a loved friend of Jesus, so it wasn’t surprising to see him there. But can you imagine the questions for this man: What was it like to die? What was heaven like? Can you describe God? Who broke the news to you that you had to come back? We can almost picture it: An angel says, “Hey Lazarus, look, um… your sister Mary’s crying, Martha is weeping uncontrollably and got Jesus all sniffly upset; sorry pal, you’re going to have to go back!”

We have the picture of the people present at this dinner table. It’s a picture of joyous friendship and fellowship in God’s kingdom. The table is filled with people who are undeserving, unqualified, and unfit. Yet, all these people have been accepted by God through the grace and power of Jesus. My friend, don’t miss this truth: God invites you to friendship and faith in Him (cf. Ps 25:14).

è Hospitality is a vital help to reaching the culture with the gospel[2] and healing the divide in the culture[3]. Consider who is at least 1 person/family that you will invest-invite into your home in order to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ? #Each1Reach1SPBCMD

Jesus is not frugal with His mission – extravagant service and radical sacrifice (John 12:3-8).

Following the dinner, Mary enters the room with a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard. Mark’s Gospel references the ointment was contained in an “alabaster jar” with a flask that needed broken to open and pour (Mk 14:3). The expensive perfume was said to cost three hundred denarii, approximately a year’s worth of wages; and more than what was noted as an insufficient standard to feed a crowd of over five-thousand (Jn 6:7). Either Mary’s family was wealthy or this was a family heirloom that was used sporadically, where Mary chooses not to conserve but splurge the resource.

It was customary to anoint the heads of highly important persons or guests such as Jesus, but a host would provide only water for the feet.[4] However, Mary not only anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume but wiped his feet with it as well with her hair. Further, the fragrance of the entire house permeated with the perfume smell. à I wonder what people smell from our faith actions?

Mary’s actions invited criticism from multiple disciples, but notably Judas. The disciples scold Mary and Judas objects to the splurging of perfume as wasteful and could have been used to care for the poor. The author John provides the readers with background detail and commentary that Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus and didn’t really care for the poor, but instead was greedy and a thief (Jn 12:4, 6). In other words, Judas was a wolf among the sheep (cf. Jn 10:8-13). Judas’ objections about using the money for the poor was self-righteous and hypocritical; it was about him appearing compassionate when in reality he was a counterfeit disciple. We can be inches from Jesus and still in route to hell.

è One way to self-evaluate sincerity of faith is to check your own generosity with your time, talent, and treasure? Do you meaningfully serve in and through the church and sacrificially give to God’s work?

o   Mary gave a an entire year’s salary worth for an offering… and many today complain about 10%.

o   No, this is not a sermon on tithing but let the Holy Spirit apply.

è When someone does something extreme or radical for Jesus there is always debate. Somehow Mary understood the value of her actions still failed to compare to the supreme worth of Jesus. Her life had been radically transformed that nothing was too great for God. When is the last time you showed extreme and radical devotion to Jesus in worship?

o   Some anticipate and expect to meet God on Sunday gatherings while others are rote going through religious motions.

o   Some sing in worship and others stare… which do you?

o   Some sensitive to Spirit during worship response (public or personal) while others suppress and stifle the Spirit by leaving the service or start mentally preparing to go home.

o   Some serve in church ministry while others spectate.

o   Some risk and share their faith while others remain silent and miss opportunities to see God at work in and through their life.

o   — Jesus is most honored when we serve extravagantly and radically sacrifice for His glory and not our own.

After Mary’s actions and the disciples gave debate about her extreme measures of worship; Jesus rebuked the disciples saying, “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 12:7). Mark’s Gospel records Jesus saying additionally, “Mary has done a beautiful thing to 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” (Mk 14:6-9).

In essence, Jesus was saying that her actions would be a living legacy that would go on to future generations.



Before we close this message, I want us to consider a few ways we may be able to apply today’s passage.

Reformer Martin Luther said we are to live as Christ died yesterday, rose today, and is coming back tomorrow.

The essence of this quote is to have a sense of urgency in your life.

è What is your urgency purpose?

o   C.B. my friend with health condition of requiring a liver transplant said his circumstances drive his actions; for him it’s not to drink alcohol and to start toward a healthy diet. What if you were told that your next sin would take your life; would that instill a fear and urgency to holiness with God?

o   Friends of lost loved ones say they’d do anything for a repeat or even moments with their deceased member. What if we valued relationships today like we truly didn’t know if we’d have one more chance to commune tomorrow? Would our love increase? Would we speak of eternity and the gospel?

o   This week a church bus of senior adults on spiritual retreat had head on collision and 13 died. What would you want your last week or weekend to be spent doing – things that matter only for this life or drawing closer to Christ and having treasure in heaven?

o   Every day is about capturing moments, seizing the day (carpe diem).

  • Psalm 39:4 “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.”
  • Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
  • Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
  • Luke 10:42 “but one thing is necessary…”
  • John 9:4 “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”
  • Ephesians 5:15-16 “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”
  • Philippians 1:19 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”


è Mary’s gift was costly and her actions were radically vulnerable. But even more, Christ’s gift to us was of supreme cost of His life as His body was vulnerable before His enemies to hit, beat, whip, spit, pulverize, and crucify. Just like no one understood Mary’s actions, we cannot possibly fathom the love of Christ for sinners through the cross. Profound love is unexplainable.

o   While you may not be able to fully explain Jesus’ love you can embrace it as a gift by grace. Today is the day of salvation…



[1] Unknown if story is true but adapted illustration from Tony Evans Book of Illustrations, and another adaptation is found here:



[4] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, NT, John 12:1-8, p.294.

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