by Darryl Thompson Powell
Pastor, Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chicago, Illinois
God is a good God. And it is good to be in the presence of a loving and merciful God. I just want to thank God for allowing us to come together once again and it is not for a sad occasion. Far too many times people only come together for a funeral. Well, sisters and brothers, we are not here today to bury our Lord. We still have a few days before that. We’re here today to journey with him to the cross and celebrate and remember what he’s done for us. So we’re going to praise and worship him this morning in spirit and in truth.
Six days before Passover, Jesus entered Bethany where Lazarus, so recently raised from the dead, was living. Lazarus and his sisters invited Jesus to dinner at their home. Martha served. Lazarus was one of those sitting at the table with them. Mary came in with a jar of very expensive aromatic oils, anointed and massaged Jesus' feet, and then wiped them with her hair. The fragrance of the oils filled the house. (John 2:1-3, The Message)
I want to put a tag on this text, and for a moment, with your prayers, I want to talk about “Once You Really Know Jesus.”
I often tell people I was born and brainwashed Lutheran… but in a good way. So I know that it’s possible to know who Jesus is, but not know Jesus. I’ve lost some of you already, but that’s understandable. If LSTC is like Trinity – where I went – and other ELCA seminary, then I’m sure the focus is on knowing who Jesus is – biblically, historically, and theologically. But there’s little emphasis on knowing Jesus personally! You can know who Jesus is and still not know Jesus.
And I’m not going to assume that everybody here knows Jesus, but for the sake of time, I’m going to preach as if you do.
See, this concept of “really knowing Jesus” is biblical. Before we came to know the Lord, we weren’t any different than, Martha, Mary and Lazarus once were. To understand what I’m talking about, we’ve got to look at the condition of these friends of Jesus when we were first introduced to them.
In Luke, the 10th chapter, we’re told about Martha. Luke tells us that even though Martha had welcomed Jesus into her house she was worried and upset about many things. Luke tells us that Martha was distracted with much ministry. Now sisters and brothers, the problem that Martha had wasn’t with her desire to serve the Lord. Her problem was that she was so caught up in the ministry that she had gotten distracted from the Messiah. In other words she was unable to focus on the one she was to serve. And this only lead to more problems. My Bible tells me that not only was Martha preoccupied but she was also feeling sorry for herself. She began to complain and say “Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to do this ministry alone?” Church anytime we don’t put Jesus first in our life we can expect to have more problems. For Jesus makes it plain that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Well, brothers and sisters, the problem many of us face this morning is we want to put everybody and everything before God! Therefore, we find ourselves reacting like Martha: feeling sorry for ourselves… feeling that no one cares, not even Jesus.
Another problem Martha had was that she was demanding. Martha approached Jesus and began to tell him what to do, instead of letting the Lord tell her what to do. I’m still in the Bible here. Luke says she went to Jesus and demanded that he, Jesus… The one who woke her up… The one who got her on her way… The one who was there in the beginning with God… She demanded of Jesus that he tell her sister Mary to get up and help her with the ministry.
Church, many time we have been so caught up in what we wanted to do and what we want others to do instead of focusing on what God was wanting to do through us and with us. Too often we’re so caught up in what we want that we don’t allow God to use us.
I hear it from seminarians, and I’m sure faculty and staff say some of the same type of stuff.
“Lord, tell them to put me in this type of MIC.”
“Lord, tell them to put me in this type of CPE.”
“Lord, tell them to put me in this type of internship.”
“Lord, tell them to put me in this specific synod!”
“Lord, tell the church to call me before graduation.”
Many time we won’t allow God’s will to be done in our life. Therefore, we go to God demanding that God bless us and that God do it right now.
We go to God demanding that God change our spouse – or give us a spouse – and that God do it right now.
We go to God saying Lord, give me a new job, give me that promotion, and do it right now.
We go to God saying Lord heal me and do it right now.
Church we need to realize that God may not always come when we want, but I want you to know our God is an on time God. Some time we need to just stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
We need to stand still and let the Lord fight our battles.
We need to just look to the hill from where our help comes, knowing that all our help comes from the Lord.
‘Cause it’s better to sit at Jesus feet and listen to his words than to be so caught up in the cares of this world and not have time for him.
The next time we meet Martha is in the 11th chapter of John where we learn that their brother Lazarus has taken ill and she and Mary sends for Jesus. But the author of John tells us that Martha had a problem: she was fault finding and argumentative. When Jesus arrived after Lazarus had died, Martha went to Jesus and the first thing she said was “Lord if you had been here…” She didn’t say, “thank you Lord for coming! Now that you’re here I know that everything is going to be alright.”
And not only that, but once the Lord told Martha that Lazarus would live again she wants to argue with the Lord, and say, “I know he will in the resurrection.” Jesus tells her, “Martha, let me make it plain for you: I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believes in me, though they may die, they shall live. And who ever lives and believes in me shall never die!”
That was Martha. Now let’s focus our attention for a moment if you will on Lazarus. The first time we meet Lazarus is in the 11th chapter of John, and he really has a problem. Lazarus was sick and then he died. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. Four days later Jesus came and called Lazarus forward from the grave.
Now Mary, when we first met her, she was sitting at Jesus feet listening to his words, and the next time we meet her, she was sitting in the house waiting for Jesus to come when Lazarus was ill and died.
That’s how we meet them for the first time. Now, church, let us look at the three of them from our text.
In other words, let us look at them now that they have really gotten to know Jesus.
Our text says that it was six days before the Passover. Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was.
Lazarus, who had been dead… Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead… The last time we saw Lazarus he was in the graveyard. He’d been dead for four days. Martha even said he’d begun to smell something awful. And they tell me he was bound with grave clothes, and Jesus was telling others to unbind him and let him go. Now Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with him.
Church we too were once like Lazarus in that we were dead in sins and transgressions, when we once walked according to the course of this world, when we once filled the desires of the flesh.
But God, who is rich in mercy and because of God’s great love for us, even when we were dead in sin and trespasses God made us alive in Jesus Christ by grace. I know we’re not to Good Friday yet, but sisters and brothers, I’m so glad that one day Jesus died on the cross, that we could be made alive. Because of his precious blood that was shed on Calvary we are alive and well!
Yes, church I’m so glad that one day Jesus came into our life and he called us out of the grave of set us free. For by grace we are saved through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And church, once you really know the Lord you can sing that song:
I am free
Praise the Lord I am free
No longer bound
No more chains holding me
Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, I am free.
(“I’m Free” as performed by Rev. Milton Brunson)
You see my brothers and my sisters once you really know Jesus you too can be like Lazarus. We can sit together at the table with Jesus and fellowship with him. In other words, Jesus becomes your company.
Now look at Martha. Church the text says Martha served. Before when Martha served she was distracted, worried, upset, demanding, accusing, and argumentative. In other words Martha was like many of us, nobody could get along with her, not even Jesus. But once you really know Jesus, you will just serve. No matter if no one is serving you will just serve the Lord.
Once you really know Jesus, you stop worrying, ‘cause you know that worrying don’t change a thing. Yes, once you really know the Lord you don’t worry about your life.
You don’t worry about what you are going to eat or what you are going to wear, or where you’re going to be placed.
Once you really know Jesus, you don’t worry about tomorrow.
Once you really know Jesus, you can go to bed at night and sleep in peace, because you know the Lord will keep you safe.
Once you know Jesus, you realize that he will give strength to his people, and he will bless his people with peace.
Once you really know Jesus, you know that all things work for the good of those who love God.
Once you really know Jesus, you know that if God be for you no one can be against you.
Once you know Jesus, you know that greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.
Therefore once you really know Jesus, you can be more and more like Mary. Our text tells us that Mary took some very costly oil and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. Somebody ought to say Amen! Mary gave her very best!
Church once you really know Jesus, you give your all to him! You don’t worry about how much time it will cost you to serve the Lord.
You don’t think about what you will do about your bills if you pay your tithes, once you really know Jesus, you just give.
Mary shows us how to truly worship the Lord, for Mary wasn’t concerned about what others thought of her when she was in service for her Lord, ‘cause my Bible tell me she wipe his feet with her hair. [You missed your shout cue again!] See, it was unheard of for a woman to let her hair down in public. Plus women didn’t enter the dining hall with the men.
Yet once you really know Jesus, you will be able to cross over the barrier that hold you back from glorifying the Lord in your giving… The barrier that hold you back in your praising… The barrier that hold you back in your worshipping, and you’ll be able to just let go and let God.
Once you really know Jesus, you make him the king of your life. Even in the midst of trials and tribulations… In the times of troubles… In the times of tests and term papers… When you are being lied on talked about and called everything but a child of God, you will be able to say I’m satisfied with Jesus.
When you really know Jesus, you’ll be able to say Jesus is my rock, my sword, and shield. He’s the wheel in the middle of the wheel and I know he’ll never, ever let me down.
Church once you really know the Lord you’ll be able to say:
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely Give
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to thee, my blessed Savior
I surrender all.
Once you really know Jesus, you’ll say:
All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at his feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.