For many years I would read these three or four verses and I’d get a knot in my throat because I sensed something very, very beautiful was happening in this room, and that I would have loved to be a fly on the wall. It’s out of John, chapter 12, verses 1 through 3 and then we’re going to skip down to verses 7 through 8.
My suggestion tonight is that your desire for your life, your true desire, what you really want out of your life and the Lord’s desire for your life, the answer to those questions, the Lord through the Holy Spirit has woven that into what is said and what is not said in these three or four verses. So we’re going to start with John chapter 12. I’m going to read from verses 1 to 3 and just for the sake of tonight’s text we’re going to skip down to verses 7 through 8.
“Six days before the Passover Jesus arrived at Bethany where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor, a dinner in Jesus’ honor, Martha served while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. And then Mary took 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.
Skipping down to verse 7, after Judas ran a cost benefit analysis and explained, just you know how huge a waste this was. “Jesus said, ‘leave her alone. It was intended, it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have poor among you, but you will not always have me’”.
Ok, let’s take on this first question and then we’ll go back to the text.
What do you desire really? Ok, first of all the fulfillment of your heart’s desire is not an accident. The first thing you need to come away with tonight is knowing that it’s not going to happen because someone is going to sprinkle pixy dust on you. It doesn’t happen by osmosis. It’s not a fog that descends on your life and all of a sudden you go from one moment of being…. of your longing and dissatisfaction, and your searching, and your emptiness, and the next morning as if you know, it was a change of the weather, all of a sudden you’re a satisfied self assured human being. It doesn’t happen that way. In fact, I hope this hasn’t shocked you, maybe no, I do hope it shocks you. Shocks you into thinking.
There’s no guarantee that this is going to happen. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever fulfill the longing of your heart’s desire. In fact, there are multitudes of joyless, unfulfilled people on this planet. There are lots of folks on this planet who live utterly automatic, utterly joyless, utterly bitter, utterly unfulfilled lives. Their entire marketing strategy is based on that reality.
And you know what? I believe, this is just me, I’m no psychologist, but I believe that the greatest fear that people have isn’t dieing, it’s dieing in a state of joylessness, dieing after having lived a life with no meaning, with no significance, dieing after having accomplished not much in your life.
And this is coming from a nation, there are people living in this country living this way. A nation whose government is set up on the whole idea of the pursuit of happiness and there are so many people pursuing it and never getting there. But it doesn’t keep us from pursuing it. You know, what is it that you really want, or what is that people are really after when they’re working 70, 80 hours a week? When that, you know, 50 year old man is having an affair with somebody half his age, what is he after? What are people really after?
You know, when they blow their minds and their bodies on drugs that they know it’s going to kill them because it killed their uncle, it killed their cousins, it killed everybody else, it’s going to kill them too, but they do it anyway, what are they thinking? What are they after? What are people after when they throw their lives away? What is it that they want? What are they pursuing? Is it really the desire of their heart when they live this way?
Now, why don’t they achieve this through these means? And, I’ll tell you why. In fact, I won’t tell you why. I’m only going to let the Apostle James, who really should have been a drug counselor somewhere in Dorchester…. The Apostle James who tells it like it is, the Apostle James, and you’re going to get it in the King James version, nice and Elizabethan in raw.
He says ‘you lust and you have not. You kill and desire to have and cannot obtain. You fight and you war and you have not because you ask not. ‘You’re not even asking the right questions. You’re not even going to God to begin with, the author, the designer of your desires.
And you do ask and receive not because you ask amidst that you may consume it upon your lusts. You’re asking for the wrong things. You’re not asking for your desires, you’re asking for your appetites and that’s a different thing. An appetite, something to cover up the fact, something to soothe, anaesthetize the reality that your life’s desires are unfulfilled.
So we chase after them, always desiring and never having. Now, I’m going to ask you to go to the next question. I’m going to ask you tonight to ask Jesus: ‘Jesus, what do you desire for me?’ And I’m going to ask you to do this because I’m convinced that the true desire of your life, what you really desire and Jesus’ desire for you are one and the same. When we have the answer, when he responds to us: ‘my child, this is what I mean for you, this is what I desire for you’, it’s going to be perfectly in sing with the desire of your heart for yourself.
The word promises us in psalm 37:4 ‘Delight thyself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart’. Even as we are delighting ourselves seeking the Lord, he’s going to unravel this mystery for you and actually give you the desires of their heart in your transaction. And we align our desires with God’s divine desires, it unleashes power, it unleashes peace, confidence, contentment, satisfaction and all of those and just the sum of all those things is the word joy. Joy. Living your life and desires.
Now, I’m suggesting that in this dinner for Jesus’ honor at Lazarus’ house, there are at least four basic desires that Jesus has for us tonight. They are wrapped in here and a kind of clothe. And I’m going to suggest that from tonight on you memorize these, you actively seek these, you say ‘Lord I want these’, you pray for these, you long for these and say ‘God, I must have this’.
There’s at least four of them. There’re probably more and as you engage in the mystery of the Lord and fall in love with him, you’ll find these, but at least in this text we’ll find four.
Ok, let’s see if that’s true. Number one: Jesus desires that we have him, that we have him for ourselves. Jesus desires that we have him for ourselves. This dinner in Lazarus’ house is just exactly as the text says. It was a dinner in Jesus’ honor, in their holidays. What we would consider the Christmas season, just as you bring over to your house you know, a week or two before or after Christmas, you fill your house with friends and people you care about and you want people near them.
Lazarus says: ‘I owe my life. I was dead, literally dead, buzzes flying over my head, he raised me from the dead. He gave me back my wife, -I don’t know if he was ever married- he gave me back, -I’m just thinking of so many guys that we see on Saturday morning and this is their testimony. In fact our Saturday morning group here, for people in recovery is called ‘the Lazarus group’, and this is their testimony. ‘I was dead. Jesus called me by name and gave me my life back and the least I could do is honor him and have him over for dinner.’
So the center of attention here is Jesus. Now, I’m going to suggest to you that whatever else we may say about Jesus, at least in this context tonight, having Jesus for ourselves is not a means to end. It’s an end in itself. It is a purpose to have him with you, near you, touchable, loveable, praise-receiving Jesus near you, is an end in itself, for you high church people, you’ll recognize out of the book of common prayer the Westminster Catechism which begins with very famous question: What is the chief end of man? The chief end of human kind? What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. That’s it.
We are made for this. Now, that’s hard to explain or it’s ok for you to come here and seek God because you need something from him. But the problem with that is that we often loose the whole idea of worship. We know that we’re feeling something, we know that when this worship team here is right in the surface of the Holy Spirit, something is happening. It’s actually happening beyond our need. Somehow our need is eclipsed by whatever is going on here and it defies explanation. I’ll tell you this, it’s always going to defy explanation until you remember that this is a love thing and it doesn’t need an explanation. Don’t need more.
It’s a little like this: I don’t need,….. my wife and I, Marina and I, celebrated our fifth anniversary just this mid July, July14, and for that we went over to Gloucester, found a place, right on the water, view of a couple of lighthouses, beautiful place. I don’t know what came over me to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and to go out and watch the sun rise. The night before Marina and I had seen our first moon rise ever. The most hilarious thing is that we didn’t know what we were looking at.
I said, ‘Marina, do you see that orange light over there? That’s a big ship, isn’t it? Can’t be a lobster boat!’ Then we were figuring out, ‘but it can be the land because that’s way out there. it’s probably…. Wou, it’s coming fast! That’s one big thing! It’s the moon.’ And we were like fascinated. Wou, the moon actually rises!
I’ve never seen anything like that before. You spend the childhood in the Bronx, you’re not going to see too many moon rises. So, I was amazed, you know, and the next morning that same spot we saw the sunrise. And it was beautiful. I don’t need a reason to enjoy that. Besides the fact that I’m there with my wife watching the sun rise.
The funny thing is we were talking about that and said: ‘Now, what could this mean?, like good Pentecostals, what could this mean? What sermon illustration can we pull from this? And then it’s like I heard the Lord say ‘it just means that you just watched the sunrise with your wife, and that’s all it needs to mean.’ And when you’re alone with your God, loving on him and having him love on you, that’s all it needs to mean.
We went to Kansas city earlier this summer and there’s this remarkable church just on the south port of Kansas City called, in fact it’s not even a church, it’s called the International House of Prayer. It’s a place, imagine what was going on here about 15 minutes ago, all of the time. Twenty four hours a day. Imagine Nicky and Stephen and everybody else up here, sharing in fact, did some of that stuff in Chicago with these people. Imagine that. 24 hours a day.
Now, I came prepared to whatever with God and I came there to make this a purposeful time. I came with my journal. I said, ‘I’m going to be here, we’re going to be here for hours, I’m going to journal, I’m going to get some things clear with God. The minute you open the door is a little bit like walking in from the desert and hitting air conditioning, the anointing is so strong, you know, and there are people… people just reacted this in different ways. Some people just lay there on seats, not unlike this, and they’re sleeping in there. That’s actually a form of their worship because it is the probably the most peaceful they’ve ever been in their lives. And God honored them with that.
And I opened the journal and I kept trying to journal but I couldn’t…. I couldn’t see the pages for all the tears. It was just amazing! And I heard the Lord say, ‘Sam, just shut up and listen. Close the journal, put it aside. Just write this, just dissolve in this like an Alka-Selzer tablet in a glass of water. Just dissolve in his presence.
There was this guy… very, reminded so much of Stephen, just singing this …… that I’d never heard before or since. It was something like ‘daughters of Jerusalem, have you seen him….. I am love sick… I am love sick’. Imagine repeating that about 15, 20 times, just crecendoing and decrecendoing and riding and the worship going right through you.
Scripture goes nuts over this stuff. Scripture is laden with references, it’s just dissolving in the Lord’s presence as an end in itself. Here are a couple of quickies.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
Better than life. You know, for a split second, I said ‘God, this is the way to die, annihilated in your presence.’ Turned into Adams in your presence. Disappearing from the face of the planet like paper by the power of your presence. It’s better than life. I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
One thing I desire of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I should live in the courts of my God all the days of my life… That afternoon in Kansas City I understood what David was talking about. I want to live here God. Like Peter, a tent for Marina, a tent for me, a tent for you, home. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Taste him. To have him. He wants you to have him.
Lazarus had a sister who understood this, Mary. In the book of Luke, because Jesus, this isn’t the first time that Jesus visited Lazarus and Mary and Martha. He was often there and Martha had a wonderful gift of stewardship and a wonderful gift of hospitality, that invited them in. She was careening around the house, doing different things, cleaning things up. I’m convinced that she was Porto Rican, a Porto Rican mom. That’s exactly what she’d do. Get things…. Hay visita, hay visita and you just run around, you’ve got company.
Mary was, ah, Jesus, you’re so wonderful! Tell me more. I love the way you talk. Wonderful. And it’s going to be really hard for me to say this in English, in Spanish is more ‘ay, qué lindo! ¡Qué bueno, qué lindo está esto! Isn’t this pretty? Isn’t this a pretty scene! Lord, don’t you care? I’m kind of busy, would you kindly tell…..
She wasn’t just scolding Mary, she was scolding Jesus. She was scolding Jesus. She didn’t get it. Jesus is the only one thing that you really need. And Mary got it and you missed it. Judas didn’t get it. This nard, by the way, is imported from India.
Now, if you think that an Indian pure perfume is exotic today, imagine being in Jerusalem in the first century. It was expensive. At years wages in Boston these days is what? 30.000 dollars. Imagine pouring 30.000 dollars worth of oil on somebody. They kept this for special occasions. And by special, we mean someone’s marriage bed or someone’s burial pot. Those were the only reasons that justified opening up this alabaster box.
And Judas put this together and said ‘mmmm, that’s one amazing grant she just poured on your feet, Jesus. What a waste!’. And Jesus is like ‘you, know not. Don’t you get it? You’ll always have the poor with you. you’ll always have one more thing to do. You’ll always have one more thing to accomplish, but you won’t always have me.’
Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things, all the things that you could possibly need or want will be added on to you.
But Jesus is an end in itself. He desires
1. He desires that you have him for himself
2. Jesus desires that we fulfill our daily needs.
It goes back to that promise: Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added on to you. This partly needed some basics, ok? It required a home. I’m not imagining Lazarus’ house as a mansion, but he was doing ok. It required furniture. He was leaning on a table. It required food. I’d bet …….donuts. It involved some wine, ok? I bet ….. donuts, they spread out a table….. these are basics.
And bottom line, your heavenly father knows that you need the basics. He knows that you need food. He knows that you need clothing. He knows that you need physical health. He knows that you need self esteem. He knows that you need these things. Jesus knows you need them.
Now, the trick is the goal here is a word called ‘contentment’, and by that I mean, not focusing on the stuff but focusing on your sense of satisfaction and well-being. Even as he gives you your daily needs, his focus isn’t on the stuff, his focus is on you. Are you living your life in a way that you’re getting a sense of satisfaction and well being out of your life, out of your surroundings?
First Timothy 6, verse 6 tells us that ‘godliness that is that seeking of Lord, making him first.’ That first desire. Godliness with contentment. This thing of, in addition to the Lord God giving you life support, God giving you what you need around you. Godliness with contentment is great gain. So start praying for that. Start asking for that, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.
As I often hear Roberto say, as he parses this text, it means; well, if you don’t have food or clothing, then ask him for it. Because the Lord wants you to have what you need. But realize the stuff is just the back drop, it’s just the back drop. The food and the table, and the house and whatever, all of that is just scenery. What’s important is the laughter, the peace, the joy and the sense of security that is inside that home. And that’s what Jesus wants you to have.
By the way, even as they’re having dinner, there are people out there wanting to kill, not just Jesus, but Lazarus too. There’s a nice little for instance statement here in this verse. It says ‘… but the chief priest made plans to kill Lazarus as well for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus’.
And yet, they’re having dinner, having a wonderful time, feeling utterly secure in this home, and having dinner in Jesus’ honor. This is called contentment. This is called contentment: to have what you have and be blessed by what you have, and enjoy what you have. The Lord wants you to have your daily needs. He wants you to be content.
Desire number 3: and it’s closely aligned with that, but it’s more about relationships. The Lord’s desire for you is that you have harmony in your home.
Harmony. This is one of the things that I love the most about this scene. It’s the togetherness. They are aware of each other and they enjoy each other’s company: Lazarus, his sisters, the disciples who are their friends, Jesus. It’s like a Norman Rockwell thanksgiving scene. It’s just this beautiful scene.
How good and pleasant it is when brethren live together in unity. And the word here that we’re looking for is harmony. Harmony. Harmony between brothers and sisters. Harmony between these brothers and sisters and their community, their friends, these disciples. And harmony between them and their God. And often even if you have, you know, a 60 inch plasma TV with HB TV and all of the trimmings, if there is disharmony in your home, you’re going through hell. And that’s the last thing that Jesus wants for you. He wants more for you than that.
Now, harmony doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have arguments. One of the most favorite symboling arguments in all of scripture, I just shared with you, Mary and Martha. But harmony does mean this: it doesn’t depend on the macro, what Mayor Menino is planning to do, what Midron is planning to do, what your pastor is doing with the community, with your life; what your mom is up to or planning, or whatever they did to you.
Harmony begins with you. There is a role that God has you to play that no one else can play. You see you are part of something, you are a member of a body and whether you call that body the church, or you call that body the family, you are part of that body. You, if you are a guy, you can… in this house tonight, you can simultaneously be somebody’s brother, somebody’s son, somebody’s friend, if you’re lucky enough to be married, somebody’s husband, somebody’s dad, somebody’s employer, somebody’s employee. You are all of that, all at once. You play all of those roles. You affect that many people.
That is important and pastor Roberto is going to get to this, part of spiritual warfare is fulfilling these roles, Ephesians, chapter 5, and the beginning of Ephesians chapter 6, focused just on these roles. If we are going to live as children of light, well, husbands love your wives, unconditionally, no questions. That’s your role. Wives, support this guy. That’s your role. Employers, honor the people that you work with. That’s your role. You keep your covenants with them. Employees, do your job, put in 8 hours work for 8 hours pay. That’s your role. And in the working of this role we’re going to need things like grace. We’re going to need things like forgiveness. We’re going to need things like his illumination. We’re going to need these things.
But what Satan would love to do more than anything else, is take your life…. How is it that nations come apart? How is it that city crimes waves exist? How is it that these things happen? It is by taking one thread out of the fabric of society and pulling it out and that thread is you. By not living your role, by depriving this kid of a dad, you just created a multimillion dollar problem in the city of Boston. One dad is worth 15, 20 jerks. One dad is worth the entire department of DSS, one dad. It’s lethal. You deprive a society of enough dads, you’ve got a problem.
God wants you to have harmony. God wants you to fulfill the roles that he has for your life and in that life you’re going to find joy. I am significant. I am key. This show will not go on without me. God has me here because I am someone’s husband, or son, or daughter, or friend. I’m connected and I have an opportunity to serve and bless.
Finally, this is very similar to that. The Lord’s desire is that you fulfill your purpose in life. The Lord desires that you fulfill your destiny, your calling, your raise ……. , whatever it is that you want to call it, his desire is that you fulfill that.
Now, Mary did something at the end of the story that seemed like a waste, an unusual, beautiful, extravagant waste to everyone but Jesus and her. What do I mean by that? By now most folks have a copy of Purpose Driven Life at home, and I love the caption and he stays close to this idea. The whole idea of that book is this: what on earth, he famously asked, are you here for? Why are you here? Ultimately, what did your life mean? What was it all about? Your childhood and your friends, and middle school and high school, and college and your job, your boyfriend, your wife, your kids, what does that mean?
What I’m saying is that it means that there is something, there’s a mission, there’s an adventure, that God has you on this planet to do that no one else can do. Your life is no accident. The Lord planted you, digitized you, placed you on this planet for a reason, for a purpose. It’s a precious gift that Satan would love to steal.
So, when Mary did this, when Mary approaches Jesus and breaks open this very, very expensive box and pours this very, very expensive perfume, and the fragrance of that perfume fills this room, Jesus’ defense of her was ‘leave her alone.’. And then the three most powerful words I think in this entire passage. ‘it was intended’. It was intended that she should do this.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I believe that that is the answer, those three words are the answer to every God why question you can ever come up with or that God has ever heard. Have you ever given God a God why question? Have you ever uttered a God why question to the Lord? God, why did this have to happen? God, why, why my son? God, why my parents? God, why my childhood? God, why my job? God, why? Why? This doesn’t make any sense.
The Lord’s response to you tonight is, ‘My friends, it was intended’. He has a purpose. There is no moment of your life, no moment of your life, however bitter, however painful, however senseless, that was ever wasted. No moment of your life was ever wasted. It was intended, the Lord would say.
My child, I have a purpose for you. it didn’t make sense to you, but I have a purpose. I know my plans for you. I know my plans and they are good plans, not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future. I intended it because there’s a plan that I’ve lined up for you.
Maybe you could tell the Lord. ‘Lord, that alabaster box that I broke open, it was the thing that I desired more than anything else in my life, it was the thing most delightful for me. I’ve lost it all. It was my son, it was my job, it was my reputation, it was education. I poured it…. I’ve got nothing left. I’ve broken it open and I’ve poured it out.
And the Lord tonight is telling you ‘my child, sweetheart, it wasn’t a waste. It was an offering that honored me, that filled your life with the fragrance of the Lord and it was intended for the glory of God. Well done. You’re fulfilling your mission. There’s a reason I have you where you are. I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing. Everything is going according to plan. And I love you.
Tonight I want you to consider your whole life as a dinner in Jesus’ honor. Your life, your life is a dinner in Jesus’ honor. And he wants to fill that life with good things. He wants you to have him for himself, so it’s ok for you to come before God tonight and say ‘God, I don’t think I know what that means, but I know that it’s good. I want you for me. I want you for myself.’
He wants you to have your daily needs. Ask him for them. Lord, that’s your desire for me. He wants harmony in your home. Listen, fill your role. You may not have heard from your son, or your daughter in 20 years, that doesn’t keep you from filling your role. Your dad may have been a complete jackass but that doesn’t keep you from fulfilling your role as his son. And ask him, ask him ‘Lord, fulfill your plan in my life’.
I leave you with this verse. It’s Jesus’ invitation. Close your eyes, please, for a minute and just listen to the Lord knocking.
Here I am, I stand at the door and I knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I’ll come in. I’ll come in and I’ll eat with you and he with me. I’ll have dinner with you. I will have dinner with you if you let me in.