Ideas for sermon preparation on John 12.1-8
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- On the journey towards Jerusalem, Jesus pauses for a meal in Bethany that John, usually minimalist in his writing, presents as a sacred moment full of stimulation to the senses. Martha is serving, her brother Lazarus is present, and their sister Mary engages with Jesus very publicly, showing her devotion by her action and her costly worship. She and Martha have equal reason to be grateful for the raising of Lazarus, and they show their gratitude in worship and action respectively. To which are we most drawn? Why? Assuming there is a place for both in our lives, how does that work out in practice?
- Jesus sees in Mary’s action something prophetic. The fragrance is a reminder of burials in general and his coming death in particular. As Mary washes his feet, so he too will wash his disciples’ feet, a lesson of what love really looks and feels like. How do we show those around us – especially those outside the church – what love looks and feels like today? What prophetic actions might we be drawn towards?
- Judas has his own agenda which, according to John, is more about personal gain than concern for the poor. On this occasion, Jesus declines to get involved in a discussion about charitable giving, and commends Mary for her costly worship. But, despite many interpretations through the centuries, Jesus’ comments should not be taken as a manifesto regarding giving – or not – to the poor. Rather, it is about the true value and place of worship. We should be asking ourselves if our worship is the sort that fills the room – and the world – with its fragrance.
- Paul gives his testimony of what Jesus has done, what it means, and how it has changed him. Always extravagant in his contrasts, Paul ‘throws in the bin’ everything that gave him power and authority, counting all his training and achievement as just so much rubbish. In place of all that, he has the righteousness won for him by Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection. Christ has done all this. But he, Paul, still has more work to do to win the goal. What work do we still have to do?
You may also find this week's All-age conversation useful.
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