3/28/04 , L5C, Confirmation Class Received
The Value of Knowing Him
“Mary took a pound of costly perfume… anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of perfume.” (John 12: 3, NRSV)
“Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, first-hand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant… I have dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.” (Philippians 3: 8-9, THE MESSAGE, Peterson's paraphrased)
ne of the great joys of having daughters is that they have kept me in style. When Lyn first started working, after college, she came home with a pair of Tommy Hilfiger slacks for Daddy. Candi insisted that I wear Polo cologne, so I have made the switch from Old Spice, and she buys the Polo for me. My daughters tell me that I am worth it!
Under my youthful tutelage, my Dad made a similar change from that stinky “green lizard” after-shave that skid row bums were accused of drinking, to Old Spice cologne. He definitely was worth it! In fact, if I had know that we were going to lose him so soon, I would have bought the most expensive Ralph Lauren Safari, at fifty bucks a bottle.
This memory has helped me understand Mary's extravagant outpouring of expensive sweet smelling perfume onto Jesus' feet. She realized that they would not have Jesus with them much longer and she was expressing her family's great appreciation and love for their Lord, who had raised their brother Lazarus from the tomb. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were almost like Jesus' sisters and brother.
During Jesus' previous visit to Bethany , when he brought Lazarus back from death, he had explained to them that, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." And then Jesus asked Martha directly, "Do you believe this? She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." (John 11: 25-27, NRSV). John is the only gospel author to include this encounter because he was the only one that had been included in this small circle.
John is sharing with us an incident from one of last days Jesus spent in this world. When he left the home of these dear friends he would walk a few miles up a dusty path to a The Mount of Olives overlooking the City of Jerusalem and from that pinnacle, he would march through palm branches to his death. So, this scene is almost like a death bed goodbye for Jesus' friends at supper that evening in Bethany .
Don't you know that later, when the other Apostles realized how much they had missed, they felt terrible? They could have been included in the inner circle right from the start, but somehow they did not catch on. Peter's grief is recorded after he had denied even knowing Jesus three times. Judas, the penny pincher in our text, had such remorse over the death of Jesus and of his own secret stealing from the treasury, that he committed suicide. Jesus was right there with them for three years walking along the roads of Palestine , and many who followed him somehow missed out on really grasping the significance of his ministry and purpose for coming into the world.
However, the Good News of the New Testament is that it has been made clear for us and that we can understand, believe and experience God's great salvation. We can become a part of Jesus' inner circle which has been opened up wide enough for all of us.
Also, in today's Bible reading from the letter to the Church at Philippi we hear Paul explaining that the most valuable thing is not our money, or power or prestige, but it the “Great Value of Knowing Him.” This means that in today's world we can know Jesus much like Mary and Martha, Lazarus and John knew him. Jesus wants to live in our hearts as the Holy Spirit, but we must allow him to come in.
Although our twenty-one sixth graders in this year's Confirmation Class came into the sessions already as veterans of Sunday School, worship and having been reared in Christian families, they this day are formally committing themselves to the Christian Faith. From now on they will be full members of our great United Methodist Church . And the Holy Spirit will give them all of the wonderful benefits of knowing Christ in their hearts. They are publicly committing themselves to being Christians. In fact, they have already been experiencing the great benefits of a thoughtful and vital relationship with Christ along with their many friends in our wonderful Youth Fellowship. The friends that they will always remember from school days will be these fellow believers with whom they will share lock-ins, ski trips, football parties and Sunday Evenings in our Solid Rock Youth Building . The power, and value, of Christ is magnified through the lives of the Christian Family. Like the small group in Mary, Martha and Lazarus' house anointing Jesus' feet, or like the fellowship experiences at the Church of Philippi , so today the love for the brothers and sisters is an extra blessing of the experience of knowing Christ as Savior and Lord. It is like a sweet smelling perfume. It is the most valuable thing in our lives.
And then, almost better than getting drawn inside the family, is the joy of opening up the ranks to others. Total strangers, friends, relatives, classmates, new neighbors--- all begin to see the reflection of our Christian family in us. Just as we bear the environmental influences, the accents, the attitudes, and the power of our birth families; likewise, we can not help but bear the fragrance, and attraction, of our extended spiritual family as brothers and sisters in Christ. You have been here all along as children, but today you have made your decision to step up to the table as a full member of the fellowship divine.
What a great joy and blessing is ours today as a church family to welcome these young people into the circle! We also hope that nobody present will feel left outside the ring; but if you do feel left out, you are invited to jump in today as we stand and sing.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor