The Irony of Jesus
Introduction: Psychology & Resistance.
There are many ironies we learn and face in this life. But one we will see in our text is the irony of facing realities. For instance, I was reading an article on Psychology Today that was talking about the danger of resistance and the relationship it has with dealing with realities. The article quoted the famous psychologist Carl Jung, “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” Jung was pointing out an ironic observation he had made over the course of studying the human psyche. Dr. Seltzer commenting on this idea explains it this way:
“Typically, when you’re resisting what constitutes your reality…you’re shying away from it, complaining about it, resenting it, protesting against it, or doing battle with it. Without much self-realization, your energy, your focus, is concentrated on not moving beyond what opposes you, not coming to terms with it. And unconsciously, your impulse toward resistance tends to be about avoiding the more hurtful, or disturbing, aspects of the experience. These adverse feeling states generally involve fear, shame, pain, or feelings of being hopelessly out of control.”—Dr. Leon Seltzer
As Christians we recognize this truth. What do we recognize as the ultimate reality? GOD! The more we resist God the more we are denying the inevitable. Our text today gives us a picture of two types of people—those who resist Jesus and those who worship Jesus. The religious leaders represent the former group. The Mary represents the latter group. And this is what we learn from these two groups…
Theme: Lose everything for Jesus and receive everything you need from Jesus.
1. The Irony of Resisting God—John 11.47-57.
Last week we saw Jesus perform His final most extraordinary SIGN—the resurrection of Lazarus. But like all of His other signs there were consequences. Word spread fast, so some went and told the Pharisees what happened—READ John 11.45-46. John reveals the religious leaders response and motives to this—READ John 11.47-48.
The response was to call the Sanhedrin together, so they could figure out how to deal with Jesus. The Sanhedrin was the governing authority made up of two religious sects—the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were the minority group and the Sadducees the majority. These two groups did not doctrinal agree on much, but they both saw Jesus as a threat to their power and influence. As they are trying to figure out what to do, Caiaphas, the high priest, speaks up—READ John 11.49-50. Our author, John, reveals to us the irony of Caiaphas’ statement—READ John 11.51-52.
Why is this ironic? There are two main reasons this is ironic. First, Caiaphas’ declaration is built on the sacrificial idea of atonement. The Day of Atonement was an important celebration in the OT. Leviticus 16 describes what would happen during this ceremony. The high priest would take one goat, sacrifice it on the altar, and would send another goat into the wilderness. The first goat symbolized the payment for the entire nations sins, and the second symbolized the sins were being sent far away from the community. So while it was not Caiaphas’ intention, he describes Jesus like a sacrifice, so the nation won’t suffer. Second, much like Joseph’s brothers in Genesis, the evil plans they are making will be used by God to bring about good. The sacrifice will not only benefit the nation of Israel, but all nations. These truths are what John is highlighting for us.
Earlier I referenced an article by Dr. Seltzer on the danger of resistance. Dr. Seltzer goes on to explain the more we resist realities we become more defensive, perpetuating old, out of date, thoughts and feelings. Our current feelings become exaggerated and distorted. This is what we are seeing with the Sanhedrin—their thoughts and feelings are out of date. The expiration date on their leadership is running out and they are defensive, exaggerated and distorted in how they are dealing with it.
The best way I know how to stay away from this is work hard to figure the places I am resisting Jesus instead of embracing Him. We must never forget God has the clearest picture of Himself in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells Philip in John 14.9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” We all need to regular consider the thoughts and feelings of our lives that are resisting God revealing more of Chris to us. Those resistances could be circumstances God has given us we don’t want, personality traits we have we don’t like about ourselves, and so much more. Instead of learning from Christ how to redeem them we just want them to go away. The truth is we don’t want to do the hard work of allowing Jesus to help us experience more of redeeming power. But in John 12 we see a very clear picture of someone doing this.
2. The Irony of Worshiping God—John 12.1-11.
John tells us immediately that we are 6 days away from the most important holiday in Israel, the Passover. Before Jesus and His friends all head to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover they decide to have a party celebrating Lazarus’s resurrection. Even though many of Jesus’ friends believe they have seen something amazing only Mary truly understands the depth of what is happening—READ John 12.3.
Let’s slow down and really think through what has happened to Mary. In John 11 Mary and her sister sent word to Jesus that their brother was on the verge of death. Clearly they were hoping He could do something. Jesus delayed His arrival, Lazarus died, and the entire family had lost hope. Jesus decides to demonstrate His power finally and decisively by raising Lazarus from the dead. So clearly Mary is experiencing indescribable joy, shock, awe, and many other emotions. But most scholars believe that is not the only thing Mary is feeling. Pastor Hughes put it this:
“Many commentators believe that because of her devotion (always sitting at Jesus’ feet) Mary saw, more clearly than the rest, Christ’s approaching death. I believe this is so. In this respect, G. Campbell Morgan, has a beautiful thought: ‘I would rather be a successor to Mary of Bethany than to the whole crowd of the apostles.’”—Hughes. P. 301
Mary is in tune with the reality of Jesus she is the only who truly understands the moment. Mary understands who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He is going to do. Mary understands what has happened and what is going to happen.
We understand what it is like being in tune with someone. Perhaps you have seen siblings, best friends, a couple, or some other relationship that is so in tune with each other they share thoughts and emotions. Mary is so tune with Jesus that celebrating and mourning at the same because that is what Jesus is thinking and feeling. She is celebrating what Jesus did for her brother, but mourning what is going to happen to Him. Mary’s response to this was to give Jesus what was the probably the most valuable thing she owned—a rare perfume from India. This was her life savings. It was the equivalent of 1 year’s salary. In a very patriarchal society, where women’s survival was very dependent on men, she is giving away any chance of comfortable life if she does not get married. This was a MASSIVE gift.
One cynical jerk decided to speak out against this loving sacrifice—READ John 12.4-5. Before we quickly dismiss Judas’ comments let’s evaluate ourselves. Here is the thing friends, what Judas said is true, logical and it made sense, but his motives were not pure—READ John 12.6. Not everyone who does what is “LOGICAL” is right. Caiaphas was logical, Judas was logical, and they were wrong. Their motives were not pure. Judas worshiped money, Caiaphas worshiped power, and this was causing them to be malicious cynics. All of these men on the surface would have looked like what they were saying and doing made sense, but their thoughts destructive. When we worship anything other than Jesus it is destructive. But Jesus stands up for Mary because once again she has chosen to worship Jesus—READ John 12.7-8.
In the end friends the heart of worship is a willingness to lose everything for Jesus, so we get everything we need from Jesus. Mary’s actions reveal to us the irony of worship. Mary is willing to be seen as foolish, illogical or wasteful because she loves Jesus more than what she can get from Him. If Mary merely worshiped the gift Jesus gave her (Lazarus’ resurrection) then she might be disappointed again. John 12.9-11 tells us the religious leaders were planning to kill Lazarus. The religious leaders, Caiaphas the high priest, Judas, and many others are NOT willing to give up their positions, influence, power, money, or anything else. The irony for them is the more they keep resisting Jesus they are slowly destroying themselves. Friends, we need to be constantly evaluating whether or not there are things we are worshiping more than Jesus. We could be worshiping what we can get from Jesus and not Jesus. Through Mary’s example Jesus is revealing to us if we are willing to lose everything for Jesus we will receive everything we need from Jesus.