Midweek Lenten Service + February 21, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Our midweek Lenten services are built around the theme, "The Work of the Lord Endures Forever," a reference to themes for both our 175th anniversary and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: "The Word of the Lord Endures Forever."
Text: Mark 14:3-9
Retirement is a big issue. The retirement age has risen from 65 to 67. Traditional pensions have given way to defined benefit plans, known as IRAs. Many Americans have little or nothing saved for retirement. Combine that with increasing medical costs and many Americans have dismissed the idea of retiring early or even retiring at all. Many Americans have told themselves, I’m going to have to work until I can’t work at all. I might have to work until the day I die.
Never being able to retire and having to work until the day you die - these are not happy thoughts or cheery prospects. But, what if you are financially set? What if you really want to work for the rest of your life? It’s been said, “If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life.” In a way, that is true about the Lord and his work. Our Lord’s work is to love his world. His work is to sustain and bless all his creation. His greater work is to have mercy on lost and condemned humanity. God’s greatest work is to save sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.
During these midweek Lenten services, God’s Word will show us how God loves to do his work. It will also show us how God never stops doing his work. So, our theme for these services is The Work of the Lord Endures Forever. That means that not only will God continue to do his work of blessing and saving us. But the work that God does has eternal, never-ending benefits for you and me and all who believe in Jesus Christ.
This evening, we see one work that God does. This work is proclaiming the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross to pay for our sins. Tonight, God’s Word shows us, Christ's Gospel will shine forth forever.
Our text says that just before Jesus died for the sins of the world, he was eating dinner at the home of a man known as Simon the Leper. Mark then says, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume... She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (v. 3)
This woman is Mary. She is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. She saw Jesus raise her brother from the dead. Mary listened to Jesus teach while Martha was too busy working in the kitchen. Mary stood by Jesus when he hung on the cross. Mary also went to Christ’s tomb early on Easter morning.
So, Mary was devoted to Jesus. What she does in our text is further proof of that. Mary poured expensive perfume on Jesus to prepare for his death and burial. Not everybody at the dinner party thought that was such a good idea. Our text says, "Some…were saying, 'Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages.'" (v. 4-5) In modern, American dollars, that was about $50,000 worth of perfume. Mary was a dedicated follower of Jesus, indeed!
Now, we can all take to heart Mary’s example of generosity. $50,000 is a lot of money. But Jesus is worth more, a whole lot more. Mary realized that. Remember, she witnessed Jesus raise her brother from the dead. Jesus personally taught her God’s Word. Again, put those things in modern terms. How much does life-saving surgery and a week in the hospital cost? $100,000? $200,000? How much does a semester at a top-notch university cost? $30,000? $40,000?
So, yes, Mary was generous to the Lord by pouring that expensive perfume on him. But Jesus had been even more generous to Mary by raising her brother from the dead and by personally teaching her God’s Word.
Of course, that does not even include the greatest thing Jesus did for her. Jesus went to the cross for her. Jesus took all of Mary’s sins upon himself. Jesus suffered in his body and soul the torments of God’s anger over her sin. Jesus did this because he loved Mary and wanted Mary to be with him in heaven.
Jesus did the same for you. Jesus wants the same for you. Jesus took the shame, the guilt, and the punishment for your sins. Jesus paid for your sins when he suffered, died, and was buried. Jesus shielded you from God’s anger over your sins. Jesus absorbed in his body and soul the deadly spear of God’s law. And Jesus wants you to be with him forever. Jesus wants you to rejoice with him in heavenly paradise. Jesus wants you to be a guest at his feast of salvation in heaven.
That’s why Jesus did more than pay for your sins on the cross. Jesus also did the work of bringing you to faith. Jesus performed the life-saving surgery of baptism by sending the Holy Spirit to create faith in your heart. And Jesus keeps you in the true, saving faith. Jesus keeps sending the Holy Spirit to educate you in the University of Christian education, Bible-based worship, and gospel-centered Christian publications.
By giving you faith and by keeping you in the faith, Jesus continues to do what he promised he would do in our text. After the dinner guests rebuked Mary, Jesus said, "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me…She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (v. 6-9)
The fact that I just spent a large portion of this sermon talking about Mary proves that Jesus was telling the truth. He said his gospel would go throughout the world until the end of time and that Mary would be mentioned when that gospel is preached. So, basically, Jesus said, “Whenever anyone hears about Mary, it means that they will have also heard about me. They will have heard about my perfect life, about my sufferings and death, and about how I am the Savior from sin that every person needs.”
And that’s why you—a person living two thousand years after Mary and living six thousand miles away from Jerusalem—that’s why you are here tonight. Jesus has kept his promise. His Gospel has sounded forth throughout the world. His gospel came to your ears. His gospel entered your heart. His gospel created your faith. His gospel has given you forgiveness of sins and everlasting life in heaven. His gospel also created something Mary possessed --your love and devotion for your Savior.
So, praise God that he did not decide to retire from his work of sounding forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank God that he did not get too old or too tired to continue creating faith and strengthening faith. Worship God that his gospel promises you paradise forever in heaven.
And be like Mary. Be generous to the Lord. Realize that no matter how much you give to Jesus, Jesus has always given more to you. But also, be like Mary when Jesus came to visit her and Martha in their home. Be an eager student of God’s Word. Don’t let the distractions of every-day life interfere with coming to church, reading your Bible, and attending Bible Class.
But most of all, thank and praise Jesus Christ for his everlasting Gospel by believing it. Thank Jesus for his gospel by telling him, “Yes, Lord, I trust that your death on the cross paid for my sins. Your love and power have rescued me and saved me from sin and hell. By the power of the Holy Spirit and by his gift of faith, I put my whole life and soul in your hands. I praise you, Lord Jesus. Your work of being my Savior continues forever. Therefore, my life and my salvation will continue forever and ever. Amen.”