The Fragrance of a Perfume-Filled Home

John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served,  while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume;  she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.  And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him,  objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag,   he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.  You will always have the poor among you,  but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

 

 

                A research team at Oklahoma University wanted to measure the intelligence of animals.  They taught American Sign Language to a five year old chimpanzee named Washuo.  They taught sign language to a chimp, which I thought is rather difficult to learn.

After the team taught the chimp about 140 words, they led the chimp to make sentences.  Guess what?  One of very first phrases the chimp signed is, “Let me out.”  I take that the chimp is asking to be freed.

 

                A desire to be free is the instinct of all sentient life forms.  All animals and all men want freedom.  Philosophically speaking, freedom can be divided into two concepts.  One is “freedom from something that is restricting.”    And the other is “free for something.” 

Just because someone has been granted freedom does not mean that you are truly free.  If I cannot stand on my own two feet, holding my own ground, that freedom does not signify true freedom.  We must know the true meaning of freedom.

 

                Marriage is like that.  Is marriage a form of freedom?  Or is it a new restriction?  Those who think that marriage is a restriction do not deserve to be married.  When a man with such an attitude gets married, the world is filled with even more problems.

You must know this.  A marriage allows one to be truly free.  It is not a thing of restriction.  I often hear that we are living in a marriage-less time.  Many choose not to get married, for they do not want to be tied down.  They are indeed mistaken.  If you have tied yourself to someone you desire and therefore become freed from thousands of others that you do not want, why wouldn’t you want to be tied to one person?  You must know the precious nature of marriage.

                Everyman dreams of a happy life, but the Bible tells us that happiness is a state that is only possible when the Lord God blesses.  Thus, our homes must be homes that are blessed by the Lord God.  Then, what kind of home is a blessed home?

 

                 Today’s scripture tells us about an amicable family that consists of Martha, Mary, and a brother named Lazarus.  When we say “a happy family”, an amicable and healthy family comes to our minds.  It is a family who is comfortable in finance, enjoys leisure, lives in a nice house, and maybe owns some fancy cars.

From this worldly perspective, the family of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are not necessarily a happy family.  But we, the believers, think that they were a happy family. 

We find them warm and comfortable.  According to the four books of the gospel, they are the only household that Jesus has visited three times.  Martha, Mary and Lazarus: these brothers and sisters were a truly blessed family.

The story in today’s scripture is a very familiar story to all of us.  Mary poured expensive perfumed oil on the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  What happened as a result? 

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 향유 냄새가 집에 가득하더라.” 

A house that is filled with the fragrance of perfume, how beautiful that home is!  From that moment forth, the home became a blessed house that was filled with the fragrance of perfume.  We should look to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus for the secret of their household becoming a happy home.  What is the secret of their blessings?

 

 

                First, this household had the testimony of Lazarus.

첫째로 집에는 나사로의 간증이 있었습니다.

 

                A testimony means telling your personal experience of the Lord to others.  It is telling your personal account of the Lord’s love and grace that you have experienced.  It is telling your personal life story about the Lord. 

The refrain of a well known hymn, “Blessed Assurance” goes , “This is my story, this is my song”.  Indeed, this is my story.  It is my personal testimony. 

It is a story too precious for me to keep to myself, thus I want to and I have to share it with others. It is an earnest story that I cannot keep to myself, so I share; that is the personal testimony.

Every man has a story like this.  Whether it was agonizing or joyous, when they are all in the past, it becomes history.  Then what is the present?  The present is a crystallization of past events that remain in our minds as a memory.

 

                Andrew Blackwood, a professor of Homiletics and a leading American pastor of the early 20th century, once said, “The greatest inheritance a parent can leave to their children is beautiful memories.”   Not too far in the distant future, we’ll be leaving this world.  What kind of memory will you leave to your children?  You must leave beautiful memories.

A praying mother who has never given up to the difficulties of life, a rejoicing father after receiving  answers to his prayer: if such are your children’s memories of you, how blessed it would be! 

“My father prayed in a small room, calling out each one of our names; and my mother went to early morning prayer every morning to pray for us…”  if such are the memories you can leave to your children, what could be a more precious and more beautiful inheritance than that?

Every one of our homes must be a home that has a personal testimony and story of the Lord.  Look at today’s scripture.  Martha, Mary, and Lazarus have testimonies.  What was a testimony?   The dead Lazarus is resurrected by the power of Jesus.

What could be a greater testimony than that?  Many people come to their homes to hear such great testimonies.  Then they would have a great celebration and thanked the Lord.  You may ask a rhetorical question.  “What relevance do I have in relation to the resurrection of Lazarus?” 

The event of Jesus reviving Lazarus is a revelation that tells us, “Death is not the end to all. There is unquestionable resurrection after death.”  What did Jesus say before he gave renewed life to Lazarus? 

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  나는 부활이요 생명이니 나를 믿는 자는 죽어도 살겠고 무릇 살아서 나를 믿는 자는 영원히 죽지 아니하리라” 

HE is telling us of spiritual resurrection.  The very moment we accept Jesus, we enter an eternal relationship with the Lord God. 

The Lord God becomes our father and we become HIS children.  We become a born-again as sons of the Lord God.  This is spiritual resurrection.  The Bible calls this, ‘born again”.  Every Christian must experience this spiritual resurrection.

Brethren, have you had the experience of spiritual resurrection?  We used to live a life without purpose, an aimless life.  But the very moment we accept Jesus, we are given a new life.  From that moment forth, our perspective of the world and our value systems have changed.  Then, do you have a testimony as a new person?  What kind of testimony does your family have?

 

                Second, this household has the service of Martha.

둘째로, 집에는 마르다의 봉사가 있었습니다.

 

                When you take time to help others without expecting a return, we call it service.  When their household was filled with company, who provided service?  It was Martha.  The Bible describes Martha as a person of action.  John 11 tells us that it was Martha who greeted Jesus when HE visited their home.

In Luke 10, when Jesus visited their home again, it was Martha who greeted Jesus.  On the other hand, Mary is described as a person who always sat around.   One time, Martha must have felt uneasy about Mary’s behavior because she complains to Jesus, ““Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  But Jesus said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What normally happens in these kinds of situations?  “Why Lord? Do you think I prefer to do this?  Why am I the only one working?”  The person providing service may decide to quit all together.  But Martha did not stop her service.  The more precious thing to be noted is that Martha continued her service, even after being chided. 

The Bible tells us that Martha never complained again.  She served the Lord with a changed heart.  We must know this.  Service is not a duty, but a privilege.  It is a privilege given to those who love the Lord.  We must never forget that.

Look around you.  Service becomes a source of joy to those who provide it.  Many do not serve others because they do not know that fact.  Receiving can give you joy for the moment, but giving brings you endless joy. 

 

                Paul Tournier, a Christian psychiatrist, said, “Parents, teach your children the importance of serving others.  Then they will learn great joy in giving, more than the joy of receiving and the pride of giving.”

 

                There was a father who was drafted to a coal mine during the Japanese occupation.  He lost his arm due to a mine accident.  After the independence of Korea, when the Korean War broke out, his son was drafted.

When the war was over, his son was coming back home.  He went to the train station to welcome him.  As his son was getting off the train, he noticed that his son was legless.  His son had a wooden prosthetic. 

On the way to their home, they had to cross a creek that had no bridge.  The father showed his back to his son.  The son got on his father’s back.  The father was crossing the creek with his son on his back.  Up to that point, they were both silent.  When they were at about the middle of creek, the son said, “Father, wouldn’t it be better to die than live like this?”  “No, son.  Look at me.  Aren’t I having a decent life with just one arm?”  “But isn’t the ability to walk better than having two arms?”  “Son, what good are two  legs when you can’t use two arms?”  “Do you think that Dad?”  “Of course, son. From now on, you can do the work that can be done sitting down.   I’ll do the work that needs to be done by walking.”

                This dialogue is an extract from a novel titled, Father and Son: the Two Generations.    Whether it is a family or a society, they do not consist of all perfect people.  When incomplete people come together and serve each others, just like an armless father helps out his legless son and a legless son helps out the armless father, their needs are met completely.

 

                We have both legs and arms.  We can serve others without any restrictions.  How precious it is that we can give to others in need!  Throughout the Bible, Apostle Paul directly quotes Jesus only once. It is, “’ remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. 주는 것이 받는 것보다 복이 있느니라

When you serve your brothers and your neighbors with your time, effort, and materials, the beautiful work of the Lord shows through it.  The blessed family is not only the family that has a testimony,  but a family that gives service to others.

 

                Third, this household has the dedication of Mary.

셋째로, 집에는 마리아의 헌신이 있었습니다.

 

                Today’s scripture tells us, Mary poured perfumed oil onto the feet of the Lord.  When Mary poured the perfumed oil, the fragrance filled the house. 

We must know this.  Dedication fills the surroundings with fragrance.  Pure and unadulterated dedication elicits pure and unadulterated fragrance.  Mary poured perfumed oil onto Jesus without any alternative motive, just pure love, so the fragrance filled Mary’s house.  Mary is the cause of the fragrance of dedication.

These days, there is a lot of hesitation when we offer a dedication service.  Why is that?  It is because there is no heart of dedication within us.  Why don’t we have a heart of dedication?  It is because there is no love for the Lord in our hearts. 

We still claim that we are living a life of the faithful.  Yet we are living a life of the self-centered.  Thus there is no fragrance in our lives.

`How are our households?  What are the causes of all our misfortune and unhappiness?  It is due to our selfishness.  Husbands chide their wives, “Why can’t you understand me?”  Wives grumble with selfishness, “You aren’t interested in me anymore.”  Such are the results of selfishness.  That brings about unhappiness to a family.  Then, how can we overcome our selfishness?

 

                It is the season for graduation ceremonies.  About twelve years ago, a 21-year old Brooke Allison graduated from Harvard with honors to become the topic of headlines.

She was a quadriplegic due to an automobile accident when she was 11 years old.  She could not breathe without the help of a machine.  She moved about in a wheelchair with a key pad in her mouth.  She could not move a single finger out of her own volition.  But she graduated with honors.  It is indeed a true victory of mankind. 

Then again, such a thing did not just happen.   When she was admitted to the school, the school renovated her dorm like a hospital room.  The school gave her a full scholarship and paid for her medical bills, also.  And for all the lectures, the school made special adjustments for her to be able to attend them. 

More importantly, her mother, Jean Allison whom she admired the most, became her hands and feet.  Jean Allison spent 24 hours a day with Brooke to assist her.  Jean read books, flipped pages, took notes, and when Brooke had a question, Jean raised her own hand by observing Brooke’s eyes.

Brooke, who double majored in Psychology and Biology, wanted to become an inspirational speaker and give hope to all the handicapped.  To be able to achieve this great feat, there was a great determination and dedication in her part, a warm accommodation by the school, and the devoted dedication of her mother.  In result of such synergy, Brooke became a new hero and gave hope to countless handicapped people.

 

                Look, only love can overcome selfishness and lead you to a life of devotion and dedication.  Here lies the beautiful fragrance.  Just because one has given birth to a child does not make a woman a mother.  Just because one feeds and gives a roof to her children, does not make a woman a mother.  Harvard University was inspired by the dedicated life of Jean Allison, the mother of Brooke Allison, so they gave her an honorary certificate of graduation.  A life of dedication is never a waste. 

 

                What kind of family is a happy family?  It is a family whose life is focused on the Lord God.  Lazarus, who was revived by the power of the Lord, Martha, who served the Lord, and the Mary, who dedicated her life to the Lord; their focus on life was on the Lord.  As a result, they have overcome selfishness.

                My beloved brethren, live a life of witnessing the Lord through your household.  Live a life of beautiful services and a life of true dedication.  Then your household will be a blessed family that is filled with the fragrance of the Lord. 

 

 

The Charge

                A Christian must show the kingdom of heaven through his home.  Be the fragrant house that shares the fragrance of Christ to the world.  Live a life of giving your testimony of faith.  Live a life of serving your neighbors with beautiful service.  Live a life in love of dedication to the Lord.

Then you will live a blessed life in the fragrance of heaven as it fills your household and you will show the glory of the Lord God to the world.