Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / March 8th 2017 - / John 20:1-8, 7th Commandment, Wednesday Midweek Lenten Service
(This sermon is adapted from a sermon, in a sermon series, written by Rev. Brent Kuhlman for Concordia Pulpit Resources, which our Circuit selected for us to use in our Lenten Services. The focus for our Wednesday evening Services, and for Holy Week and Easter, will be the 10 Commandments.)
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday March 8th 2017: Lent / John 20:1-8 "Theft and Generosity"
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for Him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with Him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because [Judas] cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. You hear a faint popping noise as the cork of a wine bottle is dislodged. It’s a dinner party, at Bethany. Jesus is the guest of honor. Martha dishes up the mashed potatoes and prime rib roast. Pours the Zinfandel. Recently-raised-from-the-dead-by-Jesus Lazarus is at the table. All of a sudden, Mary breaks out the most expensive of her ointments - imported from the East - a whole pound full! It’s magnificent, and extravagant, the fragrance of it fills the entire house.
You know the verse in Psalm 23: “You anoint my head with oil.” But Mary pours it all over Jesus’ feet and wipes it off with her hair.
Mary is not stingy. She doesn’t hold back. She generously and deliberately anoints Jesus with her one-of-a-kind, pure, genuine, precious, high-priced anointing oil. It’s what you’d normally put on a dead body right before you bury it - To honour the deceased.
The deceased? The buried? What’s with that? Is Mary crazy? No. She gives one of her most precious possessions to honour Jesus! He was about to give His divine body into cruciform death as the atoning sacrifice for all sin and every sinner. Soon, His divine body will be dead and buried! Then it would certainly need the ointment but not yet, or so it would seem. How much did Mary understand? Hard to say … Seems like she’s on to something big, looks like she knew enough, she had certainly been listening to Jesus close enough as He taught … and she knows just how precious sinners are to Jesus, the Lord who has come to die for her. No wonder her faith in Him is exhibited through such love and thanksgiving, as she anoints His feet with the pricey ointment and then wipes it from his feet with her hair.
Then there’s Judas. Judas Iscariot. The total opposite of Mary. He blasts her. Lets her have it. But in a very pious way, of course. “Oh, Mary! You poor, poor dear! What a waste! As Chief Financial Officer in charge of Jesus Ministry Inc., I know a thing or two about fiscal responsibility. What you’ve just done is such a shame! A monetary calamity! You meant well, but you should have donated that high-priced oil to Jesus Ministry Inc. I would have sold it to the highest bidder and given the hefty proceeds to Bethany’s street people, the homeless, the battered, the abused, the orphaned, and the unemployed. You could have been part of something greater! Community building! Community transformation! With all that cash, we could make Bethany a better place to live. And just imagine how much street cred and props Jesus Ministry Inc. would get!”
Sounds really good, doesn’t it? However, behind all that pious talk, Judas doesn’t give a rip about the poor. Or about Jesus. He’s all about helping himself. Enriching himself at Mary’s expense.
He’s been at it for quite some time. Embezzling. Misappropriating funds. Stealing from Jesus Ministry Inc. Saint John, as he writes our text, sees through all of this for us, John writes, “Having charge of the moneybag he [Judas] used to help himself to what was put in it” (v 6). Less for Jesus Ministry Inc., and the disciples who followed Jesus, meant more for him. Judas was a thief! His pious talk was just smoke and mirrors, meant to distract, as he quietly but relentlessly padded his Swiss and Mediterranean offshore bank accounts.
In fact, CFO Judas will soon make a dastardly deal for cash to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies, a deal which will lead directly to Jesus’ death. What a fraud! What a big time Seventh Commandment breaker! He couldn’t care less how much his robbery deeply hurt people—Mary, his fellow disciples, or even Jesus!
You know what God forbids in the Seventh Commandment—and also what he commands. We recited it together earlier this evening: You shall not steal. What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”
Yes, with the Seventh Commandment, God wants you to help people. To serve them. To improve and protect your neighbor’s possessions and income instead of stealing, burglarizing, or thieving them. In the Seventh Commandment, God wants you to love your neighbour. Stealing harms, hurts, and injures your neighbor. Again, take the example of Judas Iscariot. More for you at the painful expense of your neighbour is a sin—not only against the one from whom you steal, but it is rank rebellion and transgression against God himself.
After all, when you steal you not only break the Seventh Commandment; you also break the First Commandment. You steal because you do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. You steal because you do not believe that God is for you. You steal because you do not trust that God will provide for you. So, you take matters into your own hands and take from others.
You believe the lie that robbery or theft—from grand to petty—is no big deal. You believe the propaganda that there’s no harm, no foul when you cheat or defraud your neighbor at school, in your family, or in your community. It’s as though you are all playing that video game Grand Theft Auto on your gaming system. You’ve become numb to the horrific nature of stealing as well as other wicked sins that usually go with it. (Remember the story of King Ahab and the sins that went into his taking of Naboth’s vineyard?) Husbands steal from their wives when they withhold love from their wives, and wives steal from their husbands when they do the same. Kids steal from their parents when they don’t honour them. When you don’t give what you should give to one another—yes, also neglect or fail to freely give things like love, honour, or respect—that, too, is robbery! It’s not just putting your hand in someone’s pocket, taking something from the office that doesn’t belong to you.
Consequently, stealing is so common, so ordinary, so expected among you that you don’t even think twice about it. You rob others, others rob you and you lose no sleep. You don’t even blink an eye. No pangs of conscience when you steal in whatever way, sometimes you hardly notice when things like love, honour, or respect are stolen from you. It’s just a matter of fact. Expected. A way of life. It’s what people do. So what’s the big deal?
I’ll tell you what the big deal is! Your stealing (from chronic to occasional), the hurtful and deliberate harming of your neighbor, reveals a much bigger dilemma, in fact, the biggest crisis in your life. What is that? It is this: you do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The First Commandment again. You do not believe that God is for you to take care of you in everything, and so you callously and fanatically steal with your heart, your mouth, and your hands. I’m here to tell you that this is a danger, a danger with eternal consequences: a road broad and wide road that leads to damnation and hell.
I’m here to tell you that in this season of Lent, you’d better repent of such unbelief and repent of the stealing that flows from your breaking of the First Commandment. In fact I’m here to tell you to repent of this in season and out of season: Confess your sin. Admit it. Take responsibility. Don’t deny it anymore. Quit blaming others. Stop the stealing. Knock it off.
And most especially, believe that God is for you in Jesus, His Son, the Savior of Seventh and First Commandment sinners. While Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with that expensive and pricey ointment, covering Him with honour, Jesus is so much for you, so much on your side, that He is ready and willing to be covered over with your dishonour. In your sin you anoint His feet, His Hands, His head with the oily dishonour of your theft. At the cross Jesus willingly allows Himself to be drenched in it. That is to say, as Jesus was hung on the cross by the Roman soldiers, He “was numbered with the transgressors” (Is 53:12), numbered with you, and He [Jesus] was made “to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21) because he was truly carrying all your sin in his divine, sinless body. He allowed it to cover Him, to fill Him through and through.
Why? So that God the Father would treat Him, not you, as The Sinner who deserves all of God’s divine wrath and eternal damnation. This is what it takes to save you, the sinner! Listen carefully. Jesus becomes The Sinner and gets treated as The Sinner with the world’s sin and yours that he’s taken from you! Judas didn’t seem to realize that Jesus was going to do this, Mary it seemed was onto it. On His Good Friday cross Jesus redeems sinners, redeems you from the curse of the Law by “becoming a curse for” you (Gal 3:13).
Therefore, Jesus is, “numbered with the transgressors” and “He who knew no sin was made to be sin.” He was made to be The Thief for every thief. And so He cries out with a loud voice with all the sin and its damning consequences that He took from you: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt 27:46). Because your sin is nailed their to the cross by Christ Jesus it doesn’t belong to you any more, it all died with Him and it stayed dead, it did not walk out of the tomb on Easter morning only Christ Jesus did that. It’s all forgiven. Not counted against you. Salvation is yours! You poured your sin on Jesus, anointing Him with the wages of death. And now Jesus the Lord of Life pours His forgiveness on you, anointing your head with goodness and mercy.
Can you make good use of the Lord’s forgiveness? You can? Good, because Jesus now has good use for you: In this world of sin, in this world full of theft, and burglary, and greed Jesus desirers you to be His own hands and mouth and feet. To deny yourself in order to help people—to love people without counting the cost. To improve and protect your neighbour’s money and possessions. Not to pull a Judas Iscariot but rather to give self-sacrificially and abundantly like Mary. You’re free to do that because salvation is yours in Jesus! And the Lord Jesus will provide you with tons of opportunities to love and help many people in the way of the Seventh Commandment, piles of opportunities to help people to improve and protect their possessions and income and property. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.