Explore The Bible Study: Honoring Jesus (Title Change)

7:11 PM

Have you attended a dinner that was very special to you? What made it special? If you were hosting a dinner for someone very special, what actions would you take to be a good host? The Explore the Bible Study: Honoring Jesus (I have tweaked the title) focuses on a dinner in John 12.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Jesus’ opponents began plotting to kill Him, so he left Jerusalem for a while (see John 11:53).  Jesus has now returned to Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, for a very special dinner.

This special dinner occurred at Simon the leper’s home (See Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9). Simon had probably been healed by Jesus, thus allowing the meal to take place at his home. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were guests. This dinner could have been for the purpose of celebrating Lazarus’ resurrection. Martha helped serve the meal, and then Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. The purpose for the anointing in John 12 pointed to his death and burial which was moving ever closer.

It is out of this dinner and the anointing of Jesus with oil that we discover the ways in which we should honor Jesus.

We Should Honor Jesus by Serving – John 12:1-3

Imagine you were a guest at this dinner. A healed leper, Lazarus who was raised from the dead, and Mary and Martha were present. What would be the emotions you would be experiencing? How would you respond as you were served by Martha and observed Mary anointing Jesus’ feet?

Bethany is about two miles southeast of Jerusalem. It is located on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. This visit and dinner was a major event in Jesus’ life because it was leading up to His last days, death, burial, and resurrection.

The tables for this special dinner would have been surrounded by low couches. Guests would recline on one elbow while eating. Jesus, Lazarus, and others were reclining when Mary served Jesus in a very special and unique way. She served Jesus by anointing Him with expensive oil and an extravagant amount of perfume as one would prepare someone for burial. 

John only indicates that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet. When Matthew and Mark recorded this event, they noted that the woman anointed Jesus’ head. It’s most likely she anointed His feet and head in keeping with Jewish burial practices. John simply focused on the act of sacrificial service Mary took in order to honor Jesus.

Had you been sitting at the table, would you have understood the purpose behind the way Mary honored Jesus? Do you think Mary understood what she was doing? Can you describe a time when you only understood why God led you to serve Christ in a certain way, but you later realized it’s significance after looking back to the event?

In keeping with modesty and decorum for a dinner, most would not serve someone in this manner, especially since women did not let their hair down in public. But Mary’s willingness to honor Christ in this moment and in this manner prompted her to ignore all traditions. This truly was an act of service to honor Christ that transcended every tradition that was in place at the time.

Believers should honor Christ as Lord in the way in which we serve Him. There will be times when that act of worship through serving will be so powerful that we will be willing to ignore all customs and manners in order to do what God leads us to do.

How do we balance our actions when there is conflict between what our culture finds acceptable and what God might be leading us to do to serve and worship Him?

We Should Honor Jesus by Giving our Time and Resources – John 12:4-8

John previously pointed out the extravagance and expense of the perfume and oil. But now he reveals the response of the profiteer from one of the guests dining with Jesus. In this case, it was Judas, the one who would soon betray him for money. 

How can our giving of time and resources be misunderstood by others? How did Jesus’ response to Judas reveal the fact that Judas didn’t really care about the poor? 

Notice how Jesus got straight to the issue with Judas’ protest. Judas didn’t really care about the poor so Jesus pointed out that the poor would always be with them. He also pointed out the priority of honoring Jesus in this manner. He stated that this was a time to honor Jesus directly in this manner. There will be another time to put resources toward the poor because they will still be present after Jesus has left them. He was pointing out that this was certainly a time to honor Christ while He was still with them.

How might someone express attitudes like Judas’ today? How can we avoid responding the way Judas did to those who give their time and resources?

Judas’ response is not unusual, but it is sad. There seems to always be that one individual in a church or group of Christians who questions the value of giving time and resources in a manner that brings honor to Christ. Some might even say, this money should be used for the poor and needy in our community. They are the ones who usually only examine the money but never offer sacrifices themselves. They are too busy counting the pennies and considering where all the money is going. They don’t appreciate the hearts of those who desire to honor Christ through their gifts of time and resources.

However, most who make this challenge, usually aren’t on the front lines when the church calls for help with time and resources to help the poor and needy. Yes, there is a time to sacrifice time and resources to help poor and needy in our communities, but there are also times and opportunities that require sacrifices of time and resources in order to simply worhip and honor Christ. While there must be a balance, one should be careful to not criticize those who desire to give their time and resources to honor Christ in ways that might seem extravagant at the time.

As long as actions align with Scripture, we should celebrate anyone who willingly sacrifices time and resources to worship our Lord in Spirit and truth. Mary took the time; she stepped across cultural norms and provided costly resources to honor Christ.

Mary saw the anointing as an expression of grateful love for the One who raised her brother from the tomb. She attached its significance to His upcoming death. Following His burial, women came to the tomb with spices to anoint His body, but Mary of Bethany was not among them (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:40,47; Mark 16:1; John 19:25).  In one sense Mary was the only one who had the chance to anoint Jesus. By the time the other women got to the tomb, Jesus was gone. – ETB Leader Commentary

When We Honor Jesus, We Can Experience Persecution – John 12:9-11

Honoring Jesus can attract a crowd. However, the crowd may not always embrace Jesus, which could lead to persecution for those who are trying to honor him. 

Sadly, those who didn’t like Jesus would rather kill a man whose life had been restored than to honor the One who restored His life! This reveals the hardness of the hearts of those who continued to ignore the message of salvation. They didn’t want to give up their power or their position to follow Jesus. One can only imagine what kind of revival the crowd would have experienced had they responded by honoring Christ.

Honoring Jesus

What are some ways in which you can honor Christ through extravagant, sacrificial service?

What are some ways in which you can honor Christ through extravagant giving of resources and time?

What can we do to encourage one another when people don’t understand the ways in which we honor Christ?

We can honor Christ by extravagantly serving Him by serving others in His name. We can honor Christ by giving our time and resources to Him. When we do so, we can demonstrate the gospel to a lost world as Mary demonstrated the burial of Christ by anointing Jesus with oil and perfume.

Mary, Martha, Simon the leper, and especially Lazarus had first-hand experience with the amazing way in which Jesus worked. News of His work to restore life to Lazarus spread throughout the region. 

As believers, we have firsthand experience with the ways in which Jesus has worked in our lives and the lives of others. We have firsthand experience with the life-giving, transforming power of the Good News of Jesus. This should prompt us to honor Christ as Mary did. 

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

Download PDF Version

Download Word Version

LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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