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Love’s Fragrant Gift
Martha’s service reminds us of Luke 10:41 . The earlier Gospels (Matthew 26:1-75 ; Mark 14:1-72 ) do not mention Mary’s name, probably because the whole family might have suffered for their intimate identification with Jesus; see John 12:10 . But when this Gospel was written the beloved trio had been gathered home to God.
There was no value in the spikenard except to refresh and comfort, but this was sufficient to warrant Mary’s act. We must not always be considering the utilitarian side of service. There are hours of holy ecstasy when we are lifted out of ourselves, in the expression of our love to Jesus, in ways that to cold and calculating onlookers seem mere extravagance. In her absorption in Him whom she loved, Mary has incited myriads to similar acts. But her love stirred up the evil in the heart of Judas, as summer’s lovely sunshine extracts poison from stagnant ponds. Our Advocate will screen us from our dread accuser. He interpreted Mary’s motive. She knew that her Lord would be crucified, and as she thought that there would be no opportunity for love to perform the last offices, she beforehand anointed Him for the burial.
the Tribute of the Multitude
This multitude of enthusiastic lovers of Christ were principally from Galilee. They had already reached the city, but hearing of His approach they went forth to meet and accompany Him. They were proud to own Him as their prophet, and were profoundly touched by the wonderful miracles He had wrought among them. It was a foretaste and glimpse of that yet gladder outburst when He shall be recognized as the King of men. The lowliness of Jesus’ estate should have allayed the suspicion and hatred of His foes. What had they to fear from such a King! But the gladness of His followers maddened His adversaries, who saw with unconcealed vexation the spontaneous loyalty given by the crowds to Jesus, as contrasted with the strained obedience which, was yielded to their prescriptions and exactions. Another element in the crowd was contributed by those who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus.
Religious jealousy is deplorable. It leads to murder, if not by the Cross, yet by the lips. It embitters the heart, separates and divides those who ought to love, and hinders the coming of the Kingdom. The cure of hatred and jealousy is the admission of Christ to the heart-citadel as king.
Sacrifice a Law of Life
These were genuine Greeks. The East came to the manger-bed; the West to the Cross. These men came to Philip probably because of his Greek name. The inarticulate cry of the human heart, whether East or West, is for Christ.
The application of these representatives of Western civilization reminded our Lord of His glorious enthronement as the Savior and Lord of mankind; but He realized that the dreams of the prophets could be fulfilled, and the demand of the world met, only through His death and resurrection. There was no other way to the glory than Calvary and the grave. If His love for men was to bear much fruit, He must fall into the ground and die. Death is the only way to Saviorship. Death is the only cure of loneliness, and the necessary price of fruitfulness.
All through life we must be prepared to erect altars on which to sacrifice all that hinders our highest service to our fellows. The soul that dares to live in this way finds streams flowing from every smitten rock, and honey in the carcass of every slain lion. Day out of night, spring out of winter, flowers out of frost, joy out of sorrow, fruitfulness out of pruning, Olivet out of Gethsemane, life out of death. But through it all, our aim must be that the Father may be glorified.
Belief May Become Impossible
The question of the Greeks led our Lord’s thoughts to His death. He saw, too, the baptism of suffering through which His followers must pass. From all this that troubled Him, He fled to the Father, asking only that all should converge to His glory. That request was immediately answered in the affirmative. Thus He was led to give this amazing interpretation of the events which were taking place, as viewed from the standpoint of heaven. The age, not He, was being judged. It was standing before Him for its verdict, not He before it. Caiaphas, Pilate, and the rulers of the age were passing before His judgment seat and being judged as worthless. The prince of the age, Satan, not Christ, was being cast out, though the sentence might take long before fully realized. Little as they recognized it, the day of the Cross was the crisis of the history of earth and hell, of men and demons. Then was settled the question of supremacy between darkness and light, between hate and love, between death and life. Lifted up recalls John 3:14 . The Cross is the divine magnet, and our attitude with regard to it shows what we are. Learn from John 12:35-36 the order of transfiguration into the sonship of light: believe in the light, walk in the light, and you will become sons of light.
the Commandment of the Father
The fear of being cast out of the synagogue was a very real one, John 9:22 ; and the yoke laid on Israel by the Pharisees was a very crushing one. Only a very few, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, could withstand it. Let us see to it that we set the promotion of God’s glory above any thought of ourselves. We must confess Christ, if we would experience His saving grace. See Romans 10:10 . To reject Jesus was nothing less to Israel than to reject God Himself and His word. Such a supreme act of rebellion could not fail to draw down unexampled judgment.
In John 12:48-50 our Lord unfolds to us the significance of His words. They will be the sole criterion at the day of judgment. He will apply to each of us the rule laid down in His teachings, which were purely and simply the reflection of His Father’s mind. In every sentence He acted on the Father’s mandate; hence His words were capable of quickening and regenerating His hearers. What a marvelous effect would be produced on the world if all ministers of Christ would utter what they had received!
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Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. "Commentary on John 12". "F. B. Meyer's 'Through the Bible' Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17