John: Part Two Episode One

At the beginning of 2020, we walked through the first 11 chapters of John. Those entries can be reread (here). The intent when we paused the series was to pick it up again in January of 2021. So, now, a year later than planned, we again pick up the study of John.

The book of John feels like two books. Chapters 1 – 11 cover Jesus’ ministry years. They provide us with many memorable scenes and valuable insights. That section concludes with the raising of Lazarus. The rest of John, chapters 12 – 21, all happen in the span of one week.

It may not be obvious, but there is a gap of time between the end of chapter 11 and the beginning of 12. When we last visited John, Jesus had just raised Lazarus and the Jewish leaders were determined to arrest Jesus. How much time elapsed between 11:57 and 12:1 is not clear.

John records, “Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.” (John 12:1–3, NLT)  At this point, Judas Iscariot raises a fuss about the cost of such a display. John also provides a bit of insight into the character of Judas and calls him a thief. “Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:7–8, NLT)

In those first few verses, we again see the varying motivations of Martha, Mary, and Judas. Martha, ever the servant hostess, prepares and serves a meal. The planning and work necessary for the gathering was a pure act of worship. Mary also worshipped Jesus, but in a different way. Mary took an expensive jar of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. This intimate act of worship filled the room. Both women worshipped Jesus, but in unique and different ways.

Judas’s response to all of this gives us an insight into his later actions. While he cloaked his complaint with care for the poor, his heart was somewhere else. If Judas had truly cared about helping the poor, we could also call that an act of worship. But he wasn’t. That desire for money was no doubt part of his later motivation to betray Jesus.

While these few verses begin Jesus’ last week as recorded in John, they also invite us into worship as we are able. Worship of Jesus takes on many forms. It is hearts raised in song, dedicated acts of service, sacrificial giving, or seeing to the needs of the poor – and so much more. But it all comes down to the integrity of our hearts. Not all who sing are worshipping. Neither is all service, giving, or caregiving worship. Externally, two people may do exactly the same thing, but one is worshipping and the other is not. Worship is not defined by external actions, but it is and must be a matter of the heart.

Why do you worship Christ? What really motivates your singing, service, giving, and charity? How often do you judge the worship of others? Worship must flow from love, or it is not worship but obligation and appeasement. Worship is offering something of ourselves to God without the expectation of a return on our investment. It is simply a love song that comes in many different styles, melodies, harmonies, and actions.   

Dale Heinold
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