The following message was one I preached at youth group on John 12 several weeks ago.
PrioritiesBefore we dig into anything, I want to take a moment to, most likely, catch you off guard. To some, it may appear as a simple question but truthfully its not.
What are your priorities in life?
In other words, what do you value the most? What do you pursue the most? I know, when put in that context, I say with much confidence but great shame that my highest priority isn't to glorify God and I think that would go for many people. Sure, we can say it, but do we mean it? As you read this, ask yourself, am I really trying to glorify God or am I seeking to do things by my own means and methods?
The first passage I want us to look at is John 12:1-8. In the NIV, it reads, "
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint[a] 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.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b]” 6 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.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”
Here, we see a very stark contrast in priorities. Where Mary's priority was to give her best to honour and glorify God, Judas was focused on other means... on earthly matters.
2 Corinthians 4:18 says, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (NIV).
And throughout Scripture, we see this contrast between the seen and the unseen and here, in this verse, Paul compares this to focusing on the temporary andon the eternal.
So, it would seem that while Judas was focused on earthly matters, on poverty, on the issues surrounding us (I am no way trying to demean these issues. They can most definitely glorify God), while Mary was focused on the one eternal goal that should be the goal for us all: the glorification of Christ. But, also importantly, she knew how she was meant to glorify God at that moment. And Mary knew, in that moment, that she had to glorify Him in this manner.
But couldn't Judas also have realised this? I think John 12:35 can shed some light on this:
"Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going."
Could we say that, though Judas had the option, he chose not to walk in the light while the others did? I know this brings in a whole other debate, but bear with me here.
Just before, I said that Mary knew what she needed to do. She was in line with God's will. Judas, on the other hand had chosen darkness, this we know. And what does Christ say?
Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.
Unless we prioritise God as being first, how can we understand God's will for our lives? Understanding God's will is another topic altogether but we already have a great tool: His Word. His commands are clear. Follow them.
I think that the topic of surrender has a major role in our following of God's will. The whole idea of surrendering ourselves to God.
To put surrender into perspective so that we can all get a good idea. How do you feel when you feel someone has wronged you (or you believe they have) and you feel compelled to apologise first? Remember, when I talked about this several weeks ago on the message about John 8?
Some of us have experienced this and I quoted Max Lucado on the idea that when we surrender and apologise first, often the other party (whether offending or not) usually gets on their knees too. As a result, there is a great feeling of mutual humility and reconciliation when that happens. I think we can all agree on that.
But what about when the other party doesn't get on their knees and apologise as well? I'll be the first to admit this hurt's my pride because I approach the situation with expectations. Expecting the other party to follow suit and apologise as well. How prideful...
To suck it up and apologise and serve the other despite their actions... that is surrender.
Next, let's look at John 12:20-28a, "
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” (NIV)
Is anyone here seeing what I'm seeing? "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (NIV)
And when Christ speaks of dying, what is He speaking of? Dying to one's self, to one's sinful desires, pleasures and wants.
I think what really sets Christians apart is their surrender. When they surrender their own desires to follow His. And here Christ is essentially saying there are only two options: one will not reap godly results, the other will. No middle ground, no part-way surrender.
One of my favourite quotes is by Jim Elliot and says, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
Essentially, someone who is not a fool gives up their own life which passes in the wind once they die and gains eternal life which never falters.
Put in that context, it sounds awfully foolish to hold onto our lives... and yet too often we try to... what fools we are.
And we know from Galatians 5:22-23 some of the fruits of surrender such as kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control.
But why do we falter so often? Well truly this varies from person to person but perhaps something we forget far too often is that surrender isn't a one-time choice, its a daily choice. Each day when we wake up, we have a decision. Will we choose to lay down our goals, desires and plans to follow His today, even if we don't like them? Remember, the Christian walk is a process and the Father is continually pruning and molding us His purpose for His plan and glorification... not ours.
Which brings us to the final point: glorification.
I think in the previous passage mentioned, Christ paints an awesome picture of glorification and surrender. Let's look again at some of the verses, "
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28a NIV)
First we must remember, Christ was human. He suffered and was tempted just as we are and the Scriptures tell us this. Yet, Christ, though He is troubled and distressed sets an example for us. Does He choose to run and call upon the Father to save Him? No. Why? Because He knew the will of God and He prioritised the glorification of God in His life.
Earlier on in the chapter, we have the triumphant entry where Christ rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. Now, ideally, it would seem more fit for the King of kings to ride in on at least a horse, surely.
It seems as though Christ was less concerned with Himself in His human state, and more concerned with fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah... he was more concerned with the will of God.
Zechariah 9:9 says, "Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt."
Isn't that awesome? Now, we don't have centuries of prophecy behind us that we must fulfill, but we do have the will of God for each of our lives in how God intends to use us. But, on the other hand, one thing we know for certain is that is isn't easy. Not at all.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV plants a clear picture for us just how difficult it can be, "
or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (NIV)
Here, Paul was suffering, he was oppressed by this thorn that had been placed in his life that was torturing him. Yet, God doesn't fail to provide and like most always, He provides in an unexpected, awesome way.
Firstly, He says, "My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
In other words, when you are weak, that is when He is strong. Isn't that awesome news for such fragile beings as ourselves? Even when we've run the race, we've done all we can and we say 'God, I can't do this anymore', He replies 'My child, my power is made perfect in your weakness, I am sufficient".
And it doesn't stop there. No. Not only is His power made known, but according to verse 10 above, is is made known through us. Paul proclaims, "For when I am weak, then I am strong." Where does this strength come from? From God.
Now that sounds like some awesome news.
Before I finish, I want to make one final point.
You are not confined by your age any other constraint in your life. God can use you anywhere, wherever you may be. Christ was only 12 when God began to use Him when He remained in the Temple with God the Father because He knew who He is Father was.
All it needs to start with is a simple calling.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)