At Gateway Church in Austin we’re taking the next 3 weeks to trace the story of Jesus from his anointing at Bethany and Palm Sunday to his betrayal and crucifixion—hence the title, How To Get Killed In 6 Days. We will also look at the lengths to which Jesus was willing to go to die for us, so that we might follow in His steps to take up our cross and die daily for Him.
What really motivates you in life? What motivates your behavior? Is it money? Power? Perhaps accolades and approval from others? Many of us claim to have good intentions and motivations, but so did Judas, a disciple of Jesus chosen by the Messiah Himself to help in His ministry. Yet Judas was unwilling to admit that what he really worshipped was money, so his greed kept him from experiencing the joy and freedom the other disciples experienced. What might you be worshipping through your thoughts, priorities, and decisions that could also be killing your connection with abundant Life?
Discussion questions for your life group or family dinner are here.
Audio of the Message I Shared at Gateway South:
Notes from the Message by John Burke:
In a church that says “No Perfect People Allowed,” it’s really easy to use it as an excuse: “God forgives, I’m not perfect, don’t judge—leave me alone.” And many people use that as an excuse to not really take responsibility for their actions or motives. We say NO Perfect People Allowed so we won’t pretend we’re perfect and stay stuck—it’s so that we will let God search our motives and grow us. It’s not an excuse to stay the way we are.
But what really motivates us? It’s not easy to be honest about our motives. What’s at the core of what drives all your decisions, all your actions, all your behaviors?
Today we’re starting a series leading up to Easter called “How to get killed in 6 days.” Jesus is six days out from crucifixion. He’s going to die, and he knows it. He’s going to die to bring New life to all who follow Him—a life of power, an eternal quality of life, a resurrection life. It’s a life that only comes if He will lay down his life.
There’s no resurrection without crucifixion.
Over the next 3 weeks, we’re going to trace the story of Jesus from his anointing at Bethany and Palm Sunday to his betrayal and crucifixion—hence the title, how to get killed in 6 days. We will look at the lengths to which Jesus was willing to go to die for us, so that we might follow in His steps to take up our cross and die daily for Him. Because you can’t follow Jesus and experience a New Life unless you kill those old things that stand in the way—there’s no resurrection life without crucifixion first.
Coming into Easter, I want us to take a real hard, honest look at what needs to be killed in our lives if I want God’s life to come alive in us?
Jesus is 6 days out from being killed, and he’s at a dinner in Bethany, a village just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. For 3 1/2 years Jesus has been healing, feeding, teaching and swarms of people are following him. The religious leaders of his day were in positions of power and prestige—closely aligned with the Roman government—claiming to do so out of necessity to protect the nation of Israel and the temple. They claimed love for God was their motive, but they were not honest about their motives. And when we’re not honest with ourselves about our motives, we can be deceived—in horrible ways. And that deception will lead these religious leaders, these Pharisees, to kill Jesus in the name of God.
So in John 12 it says, 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. John 12:1-2
Mary, Martha and Lazarus are brother and sisters who have been following Jesus. Lazarus gets deathly ill and dies. Four days later, Jesus does the impossible—he raises Lazarus from the dead. It was such a notable, undeniable miracle, that this was the watershed event that caused the Pharisees to decide to Kill Him.
“Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” – John 11:47-48
See, their true motivation was self-preservation. Jesus was doing such miraculous things, they couldn’t deny it—yet because Jesus threatened what they idolized—power, prestige and money—they were willing to kill Him instead of killing those things they idolized that needed to die.
It’s not just Pharisees that struggle with this—all humans do! But if we’re not honest about our motives and what we truly put first in our lives, we can be deceived. You can only have one God—one Ultimate First in your life—who or what gets First Place? That’s our God. And It’s better to be honest and wrestle with our motives and think it through if what’s first is worthy of God-like status than just make excuses and cover up.
So these Pharisees can’t deny Jesus is doing the miraculous, yet they don’t like him challenging their motives, so they create an excuse to do what they want and kill Jesus. They claim Jesus is demon possessed—that He’s doing the miraculous by the power of Satan. In the Talmud, the historical commentaries of the religious leaders who crucified Jesus, it says:
“On the eve of Passover, they hanged Yeshu the Nazarene [Jesus] . . . because he practiced sorcery and led Israel astray” Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a.
This is real history–Jesus’s enemies could not deny that he was doing miraculous deeds, but due to their fear of losing power, they use fear and intimidation to turn the crowd who one week hailed him King, to turn against him and convince Pontius Pilate to hang him on a cross—exactly on the eve of Passover six days from this event in Bethany.
So here’s Jesus, eating dinner at Simon the Leper’s house (Matthew and Mark tell us that’s where the dinner took place). Jesus had healed Simon, and Lazarus, Martha and Mary and the disciples are all there. Everyone is still amazed that Lazarus is alive, eating with them. When Mary, his sister, comes in and does this shocking thing:
Then Mary took about 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. – John 12:3.
Matthew and Mark noted she also poured some on Jesus’ head—she anoints his whole body with perfume. Mary is preparing Jesus’ body for burial. But we can’t understand what’s really happening without understanding how expensive this perfume was.
Back in Jesus day, if you wanted to save up money, you couldn’t go to the First Bank of Jerusalem to deposit your savings. They didn’t have banks, so a common way of saving money was through precious items easily stored—expensive perfumes were one way to store lots of money compactly. This was 1 pint of pure nard. In that day, this was a whole year’s worth of wages that Mary had stored up. This is probably Mary’s life savings.
Think about this—what do you make in a year? Think that number—a whole year’s wages. Now imagine saving up a year’s wages. You’ve worked hard for that money. Think of how long it took to save. Think of all the security it gives you safely tucked away. Think of all the things you could do for yourself with a year’s savings. Can you imagine it? Oh yeah—every day. Nothing wrong with that—what a gift—a blessing from God. But now…imagine pouring it out, just wasting it. Wasting an entire year of savings—poured out on Jesus’ feet. Don’t think about Mary doing this—think about you actually doing this. What would it feel like to take a year’s worth of savings and give it to God? Have you ever done that? It would be one thing to do that and know—well it’s doing a lot of good in the world. Helping a lot of people. Yet Mary’s offering did seemingly NO GOOD. None at all. It didn’t feed poor children, help refugees, build a hospital—nothing! How would that make you feel? Why? And why would Mary do this, and why would Jesus accept it as okay?
Well, Judas was terribly bothered by this act.
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” – John 12:5
On the outside, it’s a reasonable question—right? Jesus, why don’t you stop this? Why don’t you give this money to the poor? There are lots of poor people in this world—think of all the good that could be done—I don’t approve of how this is being handled. On the outside—this sounds good. Concern for the poor, concern for people in need, concern for all the problems of this world and for money or resources to be used wisely to help people—sounds great. Only problem—motives! Judas true motives were very different than what he was saying. And honestly, I’m not even sure Judas realized it. This is the troubling part—I think he was so deceived and blinded, he didn’t really see what his own motives were. That’s what’s dangerous—if we’re not honest about our mixed motives—and we all have mixed motives—if we aren’t honest, we can be deceived…and instead of killing our wrong motives, we will kill God. We would never say that’s what we’re doing…just as I’m convinced that’s not what Judas thought he was doing. But we find a way to do away with God so we don’t have to face our true motives.
John notes Judas’ motives which were revealed six days later:
[Judas] 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. – John 12:6
What upset Judas was not that more poor people would not be helped—that was an excuse for his greed. Greed was his true God, his Idol was money—it’s what motivated him. It’s what he thought about as his head hit the pillow every night. It’s what he dreamed of having more of. It’s what he put all his security and sense of worth and hope in—money will buy me happiness.
Now, before we make Judas so evil and horrible that we keep him a safe distance from our own motives—remember–Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples. Five days from this event, when Jesus says “one of you will betray me tonight” none of the disciples knew who it would be. Judas played a good Christian game (so to speak). He looked the part, acted the part, and he was a leader in Jesus’ church. Remember, Judas was in Jesus Life Group, sent out by Jesus to do the front-lines ministry Jesus was doing. And even more scandalous—Jesus trusted Judas with the money! Judas had a gift for money—he was good with it—so Jesus made him treasurer. Jesus put Judas in charge of the money. Why would Jesus do this knowing Judas’ tendency? Well, God trusts all of us with alot—and He wants to see what we will do with it. All of it is just an opportunity—to use it to love God and people, or for lesser motives. I think it was a test–an opportunity for Judas. Judas was not forced to betray Jesus—it happened slowly with many little opportunities to either kill his idol of Greed (stop stealing) and live for God. Or live for his idol of Greed and ultimately kill God. Jesus trusted Judas with the money, so he could be saved from what ultimately killed Jesus and Judas (Judas hanged himself in regret after Jesus was killed).
What do we kill, and what do we live for?
That’s a very important question to wrestle with. Do we kill the things that try to usurp God’s rightful place in our lives? Or do we kill God when his commands threaten what we really value and live for? What do we kill and what we live for? Searching our true motives is really important if we are truly going to see God’s resurrection Life alive in us. See there is an eternal quality of life God wants to give you—a New Life—a life from within that consists of peace, joy, love, security. But this only comes from God at the Center—which means we must kill all things trying to be First in God’s place.
Greed is an idol. We are told to kill it. Kill it or it will Kill God from leading you into real life.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5
Greed is an idol—no different from the idols of India or south America—Americans have our own patron saint idols. The way to tell is observe.
Imagine if an alien came to America and just made observations about what we think about, talk about, pay most attention or patronage to. As they watched our TV, internet, movies, songs—what would they probably say are our gods—what we worship? What is most important to us and what we center most of life around? Money or Material stuff and Sex—right? Isn’t that what aliens would probably conclude our gods are?
It’s a great way to let God test our own secret motives—what would people say observing our lives—what we actually do with our money, our time, our decisions? What occupies most of our thoughts and drives most of our decisions? That’s what we worship—that’s our rival god. It can be many things. But Jesus warned us
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24
You’ll live for one and kill the other. When Jesus did not do what Judas thought the Messiah should do—he showed his true god—he betrayed Jesus for money. It was right after Mary poured out perfume worth 300 silver coins that Judas made a deal with the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver.
Over the years, I’ve heard many people use the excuse of Judas. How can a church spend money on fill in the blank—that should be given to the poor! But did they give that same amount to the poor? OR was it was an excuse to not give to God at all, or hold back more for themselves? Jesus wants us to care for the poor—do good—as a church we take that seriously. Over the years, together we’ve given millions to empower people in poverty—from India to Nicargua to Haiti, DR, to Africa to our own city—we just gave $200,000 to reach and serve refugees. No one of us would probably ever be able to do that much for the poor alone—I’ll bet you wouldn’t have built a hospital in India, provided clean water in Nicaragua, invested in free medical care for refugees, and hundreds of other examples without being part of a church doing this together. Yet, I bet you’ve also heard the Judas excuse: “I’m not giving to a church—that money could go to the poor.” Great—do it—give to the poor motivated by love for God, but don’t say that as a Judas excuse to keep more for yourself. At least be honest with your motives, that’s the only way to let God’s life start to grow within you.
So Mary pours out this lavish gift—wasting it on Jesus. Why does she do it? Because she understands nothing given to God is ever wasted. It’s the only thing we will ultimately keep. She realizes Jesus is the Messiah. The one the prophets foretold for 1000s of years. He is the unseen, infinite Creator, made visible—He is the lover of her soul. He’s the one who holds all power over everything that could threaten her life or give her life—Nothing else truly matters. And He loves her—And He loves you. He saw her tears last week as her only brother Lazarus rotted in a grave—and Jesus wept with her. He cares—he cares about you and weeps with you. And He is the Source of all Life. Right before raising Lazarus he said,
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” – John 11:25-26.
He is LIFE—the Source of true Life that never dies. Why would I think Life can be found in anything more than him? It’s not sacrifice to give Him all I have—it’s the safest place to keep all I have—everything given fully to Him I keep, all I try to keep from Him I ultimately lose. Mary wasn’t sacrificing anything—she was simply letting her abundance overflow in love and gratitude to Jesus—her Lord, her Savior, her God. And that year’s wages turned into an eternal savings of far greater value.
One of the main differences between Mary and Judas was gratitude. They both saw the same miracles—saw Lazarus raised from death. Mary was grateful, Judas wanted more. The antidote to greed is gratitude. Are you more thankful for what you have or more upset about what you don’t have?
The Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
Academic psychologists have discovered what the Bible said long before. Harvard Medical School research reports that “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” – Harvard Medical School
Have you come to the same realization? Mary gave from gratitude, Judas made excuses out of greed. Whatever you try to keep from God, you ultimately will lose. Jesus is going to die in 6 days and he bids us to come die with him—He dies for us, so we will die to all that stands in the way of God’s life coming to us. Whatever we hold onto—we lose. Death is the great equalizer of all humanity. You can’t take anything with you. But you can send it all ahead.
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” John 12:7-8
Mary’s expensive, lavish act of love was a preparation—Jesus was anointed to die—He poured out not just a bottle of perfume, not just a year’s wages, He poured out his very life for Mary, for Judas, for you, for me. And the question is—if He did not hold back anything for you, will you hold back anything from Him?
When we hold onto things that displace God, in the end we lose them, and they kill the Life we thought they’d bring. Let God search your heart, he loves you, he forgives because he paid on the cross for all your mixed motives and character defects and sins. So be honest about your idols, lay them on the cross w Jesus…otherwise, our idols will deceive us into killing God.
Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me…Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand [Jesus] over.” – Matthew 26:10-16
What’s standing between you and God? It might be a good thing—but it’s not a good God substitute. It might be a child you idolize, it might be savings, it might be a career, things God doesn’t want to take from you, but if you make them most important—more important than God—they will kill the life God wants for you. Pour that out at his feet. Let him give you back His good gifts as gifts, surrender them if they’re substitute gods. Some of you may have idols you just need to kill—it’s become your god—what your life revolves around, maybe greed, or a drug, or alcohol, or lying, or stealing, or porn or a sexual relationship or an affair—it’s first, it’s what you live for, and it’s gonna kill the life you really want. Kill it before it convinces you to kill God.
That night Jesus said,
[Mary] has done a beautiful thing to me…Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.- Matthew 26:13
And it’s true—her great act of love poured out for Jesus is being told again today 2000 years later. When you give everything to God—you lose nothing. He doesn’t ever forget any act motivated out of love for God—it will be remembered, and rewarded for eternity.