Hypocritical Piety and Sincere Worship

Hypocrisy always hides behind a guise of piety, but sincere worshipers hide and hold back nothing – because they know Jesus Christ knows everything about them and yet He still loves them.

God’s great and grand story captures not only my heart but also my imagination. So on occasion, I pull away from splicing and dicing beautiful narratives from God’s Word into 3 and 4 point sermons and instead utilize a dramatic first-person form of communication. Why color outside of the normal lines like this? Because I long for God’s people to be radically captured by the beauty and power of His Word, so that their hearts and lives are changed for His glory.

In the video below I walk through a re-cap of the first half of the Gospel of John, and then dive into the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with perfumed oil and Judas’ hypocritical response (12:1-11), from the perspective of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.

Here’s the manuscript for those interested in the details of this exposition: 

[SCENE 1] Christ’s Story begins to Unfold…(John 1-10)

Jesus. Man. God. The God-Man.

Word. The Word became flesh and moved-in to live among us.

Life. Light. In Him was Life and the Life was the Light of men.

John the Baptist took the witness stand and testified to the identity of Jesus.

Lamb. Lamb of God. The One who would take away the sin of the world. And the story began to unfold…

Jesus inaugurated his public ministry at a wedding celebration and turned water into the best wine. (Ch. 2)

Jesus walked the super-religious Nicodemus out of the darkness of spiritual ignorance and into the light of God’s Good News. (Ch. 3)

Jesus turned the sex-addict from Samaria into a Gospel-telling worshiper of God. (Ch. 4)

Jesus healed a royal official’s son, saving him from death’s door. (Ch. 4)

Jesus restored a man by the Pool of Bethesda who had been disabled for 38 years. (Ch. 5)

Jesus fed 5,000+ people near the Sea of Galilee with a supply of just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. (Ch. 6)

Jesus walked on top of the water of the Sea of Galilee, showing His disciples His power over the elements of creation. (Ch. 6)

Through all of this, Jesus taught with authority and wisdom that amazed everyone – including the Pharisees and Chief Priests! (6-8)

Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. (Ch. 9)

And in all of this, everything that Jesus SAID and DID was pointing us toward who Jesus IS.

 

We were coming to know and see the grace and truth of God. He taught my sisters, Martha and Mary, and I. But more than what He taught us, He loved us. He knew everything about everyone – He knew what was in the heart and mind of every person (Jn. 2:24-25) – but He still loved us.

 

[SCENE 2] Lazarus’s Death and Resurrection (John 11)

But then a severe illness fell upon me like a giant iron weight. I grew so sick that I was unable to move or eat. The pain was so deep I couldn’t sleep and then suddenly…I was gone.

The last thing I saw were the faces of my dear sisters. Sobbing and tears overwhelmed them as they saw me slip from their grasp.

Their crying suddenly was drowned out by silence.

But then, after my body lie rotting in the tomb for four days – I heard a voice breakthrough – I heard HIS voice, the voice that could calm the seas and speak the world into existence:

“Lazarus, come out!”

 

Then I saw His face, the deep, true kindness of His eyes – I could see tears still in His eyes – but they sparkled brighter than the sun that shone on my face. A smile broke across His face – the purest of joys – when He said to the crowd gathered all around, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

In all of this, everything that Jesus SAID and DID was pointing us toward who He was and IS.

But after all of this, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Chief Priests (Ha! You never saw those three groups all working together)[1] but this time…they threw up their arms and shouted in unison, “What are WE doing?” Jesus was doing many amazing miracles. The people were flocking to Jesus in droves! But what were they doing? Sitting on their hands? No more.

They planned together to finally arrest Jesus and put Him to death. Period. It is said that Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, shouted (amidst the scheming and bickering), “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (11:50).

Little did Caiaphas know that his words were ordained by God and went far beyond what he could see. Jesus would die for the nation, “and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51b-52)

You see, God’s sovereignty overrules human conspiracy every time. God’s sovereignty overruled the Jewish Leaders’ plans for self-protection with His plan of redemption (John 11:47-57) And God’s sovereignty overrules human conspiracy… every time (cf. John 11:51-53).

God is turning tragedy into glory…

 

[SCENE 3] The Passover is Coming

Jesus and His twelve disciples then left for a town called Ephraim, 12-15 miles northeast of Jerusalem near the wilderness. We would learn that everything Jesus did was on His specific timetable ordained by the Father, to fulfill all prophecy…[2]

 

Passover was coming now, the great celebration of God’s night of deliverance for the people of Israel out of Egypt. The Passover lambs would be slain, pointing to the Lamb of God who would come and die so that our sins would be passed over, erased, forgiven.

Crowds of faithful Jews were pressing into Jerusalem. The sounds animals baaing and bleating, children scurrying, parents shouting, they were all passing through little villages like ours, Bethany, just 2 miles from the great city, Jerusalem. But through all the din, there was a whisper among the people, “Is Jesus coming? What do you think? Will He come to the Passover feast at all?

Word had spread all over that the religious authorities had posted a death wish for Jesus. If anyone knew anything about where Jesus was, they were to immediately tell the chief priests and the Pharisees, so that they could send soldiers to arrest Him (John 11:55-57).

Jesus was going to die.

I was wondering, too, with the crowds. Would I see Jesus again? Would I be able to thank Him again? Oh to see His face and hear that voice again…

 

[SCENE 4] Jesus Comes to Bethany!

Then the news came! People were running ahead to let us know! Jesus was returning! Jesus was coming to Bethany!

6 days before the Passover celebration,[3] the day when the lambs would be slain and we would not only celebrate God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, but also pray with anticipation for the promised Messiah, the Lamb who would rescue us and deliver us… and now here was Jesus and His twelve followers!

Our tiny village burst into celebration! I threw my arms around Jesus. Tears of joy welled up into my eyes. I could see tears in His eyes, too. Tears of joy… but a hint of sorrow, too. At the time I wasn’t quite sure why.

We, together with Simon, the leper, (whom Jesus had healed) decided to throw Jesus a big banquet – in thanks and praise for bringing me back to life again and teaching us the Good News of God’s kingdom!

My sister Martha, immediately gathered other people together to prepare for the big feast![4] She loves that sort of thing – she always loved to work and serve but now that Jesus had given us grace and truth – her service was a beautiful, joyful act of worship. She flurried around making sure everything was just so.[5]

I, Lazarus, was able to sit down at the head table with Jesus. We laughed and talked and ate and rejoiced…

 

[SCENE 5] Mary’s act of sincere worship and Judas Iscariot’s words of fake piety

But then my sister, Mary, did something totally unexpected. It was as if she knew something was to come that nearly all of us didn’t see. We missed it…

I was just about to bit into a piece of bread when she came in – full of tears in her eyes. I wondered what was wrong.

She hurried over to where Jesus sat at the table and knelt down at his feet.

 

All the talking and laughing immediately ceased.

 

Suddenly she broke open one of our family treasures, a sealed alabaster box filled with the purest perfume oil one could buy – a Roman pound, nearly 12 ounces as you might say here.[6] The fragrance was of pure nard, prepared from the roots and stems of an aromatic herb from northern India. It was worth as much as what most men could earn in an entire year of labor!

This pure oil was only used by the wealthiest of our society. It was kept to anoint Kings or rabbis or to perfume the bodies of our deceased upon burial.

And Mary poured it all out upon the feet of Jesus, anointing Him

But then she knelt down and wiped his feet with her hair. Only the lowliest servants would clean the feet of guests. The strong, sweet fragrance filled the entire house where everyone was gathered.

It smelled like a thousand roses on a warm spring day… The pungent sweetness hung in the air.

Mary wept as she wiped the oils and cleaned the feet of Jesus… and she knew something that nearly all of us missed that night.

 

Suddenly, a cutting voice broke the silence, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor!???” I felt a pit in my throat as I whirled around to see who had said the words.

 

It was Judas Iscariot. He was right, so it seemed. This perfumed oil was incredibly expensive and it could have been sold to give money to the poor. Soon some of the other disciples started to agree with Judas (see Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-8). His words appeared pious, righteous. Jesus had taught us to feed and care for the poor, the sick, and the outcast.

 

Mary’s spirit broke. I saw her crumple down to the floor… she hid her face from the men.

 

But then Jesus spoke with a calm but firm voice, “Leave her alone. She has kept it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:7-8)

You see, Mary knew that every step Jesus took was one step closer to the cross, to His death, and His burial. In her sincere worship she was preparing him for death and burial. She was worshiping the Lamb who would be slain the very next week for the sins of the world.

My sin.

Her sin.

Your sin.

Jesus in our place.

 

We would find out that Judas Iscariot had walked with Jesus for three years but completely missed what Mary knew: Jesus was the Messiah, who would suffer as the Servant of all, in order that we might be brought to God.

The disciples discovered that Judas’ seemingly pious and righteous statement was actually a guise for his greed, for he was a thief. As the keeper of their moneybox, he would help himself to what was put into it. He certainly would have helped himself to the 300 denarii gained from selling the perfume.

Judas would sell off his association with Jesus for 30 shekels of silver, not even worth half the value of the oil that Mary lovingly and worshipfully poured down on Jesus’ feet.

She knew Jesus was just days away from the cross. He was just days away from burial and from the ultimate sacrifice – out of love for you and me.

 

[SCENE 6] The IMPLICATION 

Hypocrisy hides behind a guise of piety but sincere worshipers hide and hold back nothing because they know Jesus knows everything about them… yet He still loves them.

Write those words on the tablet of your heart today.

God’s Word says:

“Christ died for sins, the just for the unjust so that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)

“But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

 

What Jesus SAID and what Jesus DID points toward who Jesus IS.

And today, for you and for me, He is calling us to sincere, true faith expressed in humble and devoted worship.

Judas sounded incredibly righteous but He completely missed what was really going on! Was all that perfume wasted? Vaporized?

 

The content of our worship may seem like a waste of time to the world, but it’s like a beautiful aroma to Christ. He is not looking for efficiency and productivity and a high-octane performance in our worship. No, God is looking for our all to be lovingly placed at His feet. Our time, our possessions, our schedules, our ambitions – all at His feet in worship.

 

Do you find yourself hiding behind pious and righteous sounding words? What religious masks are you hiding behind in order to protect your reputation or sound pious?

You see, the gathering of God’s people is not a charade where we parade around in our costumes and masks inspecting everyone else’s façade of holiness. No, God’s people, the Church, is a family brought together by a God who knows everything about you – about all of us – yet still loves us, and died and rose again to rescue us.

So remove your mask today. Drop the hypocrisy and the fake piety.

Respond to Jesus the Messiah in sincere worship today.

 

Footnotes

______________________________________

[1] The Sadducees and the Pharisees were fierce enemies in almost every respect. The Sadducees were the liberals of the day, denying the resurrection and the divine authorship of all the OT books besides the Torah. They were also cozy with the Romans through financial kickbacks and extortion. However, the Pharisees were the ultra-conservative legalists of the day who barely tolerated the Roman occupation and followed umpteen regulations to seemingly maintain their righteous standing before God. However, the Sanhedrin was comprised of mostly Sadducees (including the high priest and chief priest’s family), with a small but influential minority of Pharisees.

[2] Carson notes: “A large council […] is unlikely to be secure, especially if there are sympathizers in it. So it is not surprising that Jesus found out about the Sanhedrin’s decision and therefore . . . no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. To those with eyes to see he was making a theological statement: no human court could force him to the cross. Both the fact and the timing were simultaneously the Father’s determination and his own willed act (10:17, 18; cf. notes on 12:23ff).” Carson, D.A., The Gospel According to John, PNTC, pg. 423.

[3] Kostenberger remarks, “If John, as is likely, thinks of Passover as beginning Thursday evening (as do the Synoptics), “six days before the Passover” refers to the preceding Saturday, which began Friday evening.” (John, Backgrounds, pg. 119).

[4] The dinner was most likely in their home or in the home of Simon the Leper, but it may have been in a larger public setting. Remember, the last time Jesus was in Bethany he raised Lazarus from the dead. This shocking event would certainly bring the small village together in a grand welcome to the One who gave their brother and friend life again. The noun deipnon refers more the central meal of the day, similar (but not the same as our “dinner”). This may very well have been a festival type banquet in honor of Jesus’ return.

[5] Just think, the last time Jesus was in Bethany, Lazarus was rotting in a tomb and Martha and Mary were sobbing with grief. Then the Life broke through death and brought Lazarus back to life again. Jesus has been temporarily in Ephraim, but now returns to Bethany – now doubt with great fanfare. Can you imagine the greeting between Jesus and Lazarus? Can you hear the buzz humming across the village? “Jesus is returning, Jesus is coming back! We must give him a great dinner…” Kostenberger writes, “It is probably that Lazarus, Mary, and Martha provide the meal, though a large dinner in this small village, celebrated in honor of a noted guest, may well have drawn in several other families to help with the work.” (Backgrounds, pg. 119)

[6] The manner by which Mary expressed loving worship to Jesus was by using an extremely expensive bottle of spikenard perfumed oil from northern India, a litra (11-12 fluid ounces) to anoint the feet of Jesus, (v. 3a).

 

Author: Michael Breznau

:: Who I AM: Husband | Father | Pastor | Speaker | Author | Singer | :: I am a redeemed follower of Jesus, and I’m passionate about inspiring others to follow Him with radical faith.
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:: What I DO: I love and pursue knowing the Triune God. I am crazy-in-love with my amazing wife and children. I serve as Staff Pastor and Missions rep for LifeChange Action. Prior to my current role, I had the privilege of serving as the Lead Pastor of North Park Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, MI, and Pastor of Youth and Christian Education at Evangel Baptist Church in Taylor, MI.
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:: The Wallpaper: God gave me the opportunity to be trained for ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary, where I completed the Master of Theology program (Th.M in Pastoral Ministries; magna cum laude). I also hold a B.A. in Ministry and Music from North Tennessee Bible Institute & Seminary.

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