Sunday, November 06, 2011

Preparing for His Death - Part 2 (Jn. 12:1-8)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 30 October 2011 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 12:1-8

To anoint Jesus, Mary bought a very expensive kind of pure nard, broke the bottle and used all of them on Jesus. As the fragrance filled the whole room, it symbolised how much she loved the Lord. It must have been the moment that Jesus most appreciated his whole life as he spent much of his time with the poor and smelly, ministering to them.

In the Bible there were many people used by God. Most of them were men, and a few were woman. Even though they were women, they were still used by God in very special ways. No other religion held women in such high esteem, granting them opportunity to serve God. Before God, man and woman are equal in status. However their roles are different: Man is the head of the woman. When brothers and sisters serve together in the ministry, the sisters do not need to compete to be leaders over the ministry; the former are to be submissive to the brothers. Reformed theology (归正神学) aims to follow this principle in the ministry too - there is a difference between the Reformed theology (归正神学) and [some] Presbyterian church (长老会): The former does not ordain female reverends but the latter has already permitted that.

Still, women were used in very special occasions by God. Among them is this Mary from Bethany.  She was such a silent woman, she would listen to the Lord intently when he taught. In the whole Bible only one sentence of her is recorded, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died' (John 11:32). However she was the one used to anoint Jesus.

From a person's words we can tell how a person is like. Rahab, even though she was a prostitute, spoke gracious words to the spies that sought refuge at her house. The Queen of Sheba who went to seek an audience with Solomon in search of wisdom spoke humbly too. Mary the mother of Jesus, praised God very wonderfully upon hearing the news that she will bear Jesus Christ in her womb (the Magnificat) even though it was a sacrifice on her part [of bearing the shame of bearing a baby as a virgin].

In contrast, Judas spoke words that destroyed the whole atmosphere that evening. Judas was quick to speak and did not take any action. But Mary kept quiet and let her actions speak instead. Very few Christians are like her today - quiet but full of actions. In the church today we seldom find people like her. Those who like to quarrel don't serve in any ministry but those who serve, would not quarrel.

I believe the words in v6 were added by John later on. This is because in chapter 13 we read that when Jesus said one of them would betray him, nobody knew it was going to be Judas. Only when Peter motioned to John to ask Jesus did Jesus reveal it to John.

Jesus' reply were greatly comforting words to Mary. The implication is that whatever sadness happens to us the true comfort will come from Jesus Christ. What she did was to anoint Jesus Christ.

When a person becomes a priest/prophet/king, he must be anointed. The Bible tells us only one occasion when a prophet was anointed - Elisha (by Elijah). This does not mean that prophets do not need to be anointed; it can only be concluded that only Elisha was anointed through a religious rite. In reality, a prophet does not need to be anointed by man because his anointing comes direcly from God. When a person was sent as a prophet, the Holy Spirit moved upon the person and that was his anointing. However priests and kings are different. A priest require another priest to anoint him. A king needs the high priest to anoint him. Now Jesus was all: a prophet, a priest and a king. As king, God himself has anointed him as no one in his era would have been qualified to anoint Jesus. This was recorded in the first messianic psalm - Psalm 2. As prophet, it was also God himself who anointed him as we can see from John 1:1-3 that the Word became flesh and the Word came from God and the Word was God. Prophet in Hebrews means God's spokeperson. Now Jesus himself is the Word that bsecame flesh and that he came from the Father. This will become clearer towards the end of John 12. As a priest, a priest represents two parties. Before man he represents God and before God he represents man. On behalf of God, he tells us God's grace, promises, and commands. On behalf of man he is a mediator between man and God. On one hand he represents God by preaching the Word of God, on the other hand he represents man and his sin. Jesus came to the world for his life so that he could die physically for man. Jesus also came to the world for his death so that man can be saved. From the third angle, Jesus came to the world through the virgin Mary, so that he could take our sins upon himself. Ps 45 and Heb10:7 tell us that when Christ came to the world, he thanked God for giving him the physical body so that he could take on the sins of man. Therefore his death was a priestly death, his burial was a burial of the final mediator, and his resurrection brought the end to the priest genealogy.

John recorded a few times that the Jews were asking if Jesus would like to die, because in their Christology the Messiah would not die. But if Jesus did not die, he would have not carried out his duty as a priest.

Mary's anointing of Jesus was not a simple outpouring of perfume unto Jesus; it was part of the priestly duty itself. She had a part in that. Mary knew her responsibility well. Hence Jesus told Judas to leave her alone while anointing Jesus.

John the Baptist was the only one in history ever moved by the Holy Spirit while still in the womb. We can see this when Mary the mother of Jesus went to meet Elisabeth the mother of John the Baptist. Elisabeth said, 'The mother of my Lord has come to meet me.' At that time, John the Baptist was moved by the Holy Spirit to jump in her womb. The implication is that the Gnostic were wrong - it was not that Jesus become divine only after the Holy Spirit came upon him (The Gnostic relied on Jesus's words on the cross, 'My Lord My Lord why do you forsake me?') Jesus was already divine even before birth as we see from Elisabeth's words.

God did not use Annas and Caiaphas to anoint Jesus because they were dishonest people and hated Jesus.


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