“Chosen When This Is All I Have” with Jamie Schwarz

We concluded our Chosen series at Gateway Church in Austin.

When Jesus showed up in people’s lives in the Gospels, something shifted. The same is true today. When we radically encounter who God really is, in the greatest way possible, nothing is ever the same. God will stop at nothing to show you that you are chosen like a woman who demonstrated that extravagant love invites extravagance.

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning. 

Digging Deeper Discussion Questions

Video from Gateway South Austin:

Audio from Gateway South Austin:

Message Notes by Jamie Schwarz:

Today we are finishing up our Chosen series. Throughout this series we’ve been talking about being loved and chosen by God. We’ve talked about how when we radically encounter who God really is, in the greatest way possible, nothing is ever the same. We’ve been exploring stories from the Bible about real people whose encounters with the love of God transformed them into people of extravagant love and worship.

Today we will conclude this series by looking at the story of Mary, a woman whose costly sacrifice and worship will inspire, challenge, and encourage us in the best of ways. Through Mary we will see that When we REALLY encounter who God is, we have a choice to go ALL-IN. 

My Kickball Story 

As I was preparing to speak today I was thinking about that statement and what it looks like to go ALL-IN. The first memory that popped into my mind was a funny one. I call it my kick ball story. Mainly because I don’t play kickball so this is my only kickball story.

While I was working on staff here at Gateway they would host staff activities that were meant to be team building opportunities. They usually revolved around some sort of friendly competition. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t like these events. And to be even more transparent I tried often to get out of them. 

The year before we had a kickball event I’d been sick so I didn’t have to go. But this year, I had no excuse. I was dreading it. I kept trying to come up with some sort of conflict but nothing was working out in my favor. I even asked my husband to go play in my place, because he’s good at that kind of stuff, but he said that would defeat the purpose. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend quality time with my coworkers, it was just that I wasn’t good at kickball and I was scared of making a fool out of myself in front of everyone. So, I’d convinced myself it just wasn’t my thing. 

As the event was approaching I had a come to Jesus moment. I felt like God helped me to see that my fear was holding me back from trying new things. Whether I was good at kickball or not, maybe if I went out and tried, I’d have fun. So I decided to go ALL-IN. I was going to show up with a good attitude and give it everything I had. 

On the day of, I ended up getting to the field late so the game had already started. As I walked up and found my team they immediately told me it was my turn to kick. Ok, I thought, here we go. I went up to the plate and with a little bit of forethought tried to kick the ball away from first base. Then I was off and before I knew it…I had made it! I was on base! I was so excited but there wasn’t much time to celebrate because the next person was kicking the ball and it was time for me to make a run for second. As I started to sprint my way to second base one of my legs started to feel funny, kind of like jello. Before I knew it my leg was giving out and it was clear I wasn’t going to make it to second base, so I dove for it! I made it to the plate but, I was out. 

You might think I was embarrassed by what just happened, but I’m happy to report to you, it was quite the opposite. I had tried, I had fallen, AND I was having fun! I had gone ALL- IN with this game and I had a blast! I didn’t care if I won or lost or even made a fool of myself because I had overcome my fear by confronting it and that felt like a win to me!

Our Tension

Going ALL IN with anything can be scary because there is usually some sort of risk or potential cost involved. 

Fear is one of my biggest obstacles to stepping out in faith and trusting God with my life. It’s so tempting to play it safe and to isolate myself in my comfort zone. I wonder if some of you can relate with that?  

What are some of the things that hold you back or get in the way of you going ALL-IN with God in your life? Is there an area of your life that you are struggling to trust God with right now?

As we get ready to explore Mary’s story and to reflect on our own lives, let’s pray and ask God for his help and guidance right now. 

(PRAY)

Mary’s Extravagant Worship

We are going to be exploring Mary’s story in John 12:1-11 in the NIV which is the new international version of the Bible. You can also find two other accounts of this story in Matthew 26 & Mark 14. Each account includes different bits of information that helps to fill in more completely what happened. But for today’s purposes we will be focusing on John 12 and will just reference the others.

We will have John 12 up on the screen but you are welcome to pull it up in your own Bible. If you don’t have a Bible app on your phone the one I use is called YouVersion and it’s free. It has many features and resources to help you with reading the Bible. I highly recommend it. 

I’m going to read through the whole passage first and then we will go back through it and reflect on Mary’s story together. As I read it, I encourage you to try to soak it in and notice any places that particularly stick out to you. You may want to highlight or make note of those places so that you can go back and reflect on them again later. 

Now to set the scene, let’s clarify which Mary we are talking about. Mary is a popular name in the Bible. This particular Mary is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. You may recognize both of those names. 

This is the same Mary we find sitting at Jesus’ feet, in Luke 10, listening intently to Jesus while her sister Martha expresses her frustration to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping her with the hostess duties. In this account we see Mary already prioritizing Jesus above what others, including the culture of that time, expected of her. Usually the women weren’t allowed to learn with the men because to sit at the feet of a teacher was for the purpose of becoming a teacher. Jesus affirms her for making that choice.

Then, Mary shows up again in John 11 where it is recorded her brother Lazarus was very sick and died, but in a truly miraculous turn of events Jesus comes to them and raises Lazarus from the dead with many witnesses left in awe, including Mary. 

Mary saw with her own eyes something that she would have previously thought was impossible. She was in full grief over her brother’s death when Jesus called him back to life! Her brother Lazarus who had been lost to her was once again alive! 

For just a moment try to put yourself in Mary’s shoes. 

In the days since her brother’s resurrection, can you imagine what Mary must have been thinking? How she might have been feeling? Can you imagine how amazed and grateful she must have been? How does one respond to such a thing? How would you respond?

It’s here we pick up with the story…

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 

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. 

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He 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. 

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”” 

“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭12‬:‭1-‭11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Notice the passage starts by letting us know it’s six days to Passover. The very next event recorded in John after this one is Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the praise of many waving palm branches and crying out “Hosanna” meaning “save us now”. They had the right praise but the wrong expectations of Jesus- they were hoping for the arrival of a political kingdom, that Jesus would overthrow their Roman oppressors. But Jesus weeps because they don’t get it. 

As Jesus prepared to enter Jerusalem he knew what he was walking into. He knew what was to come. He knew how the mob would turn on him, many would betray him, he would be beaten, humiliated, mocked, tortured and he would die. 

Yet, here in Bethany as all of that looms ahead, Jesus is sitting at a dinner with his friends being honored and loved by their hospitality. Then, in comes Mary.

During this time it was common to honor a special guest with a few drops of fragrant oil on their head but Mary goes far beyond what was customary. 

Between Matthew, Mark and John’s accounts we discover that Mary not only pours oil on Jesus’s head but also his feet and wipes it with her hair. Now usually a servant would wash the feet of the guests as their feet would be dirty from walking along the dirt paths with sandals, but what Mary did was far more than usual.

John identifies the type of oil Mary used as a pint of nard oil. Nard oil  was made from a plant mostly found in India which means it was imported and that made it expensive. At the time a pint of nard oil was the equivalent of a year’s wages. The other passages about this moment tells the perfume was in an alabaster jar which she broke in order to anoint Him. She didn’t just pour out a little bit, she gave it all. She couldn’t put that perfume back in the bottle now! She went all in!

Maybe it was her inheritance or hope chest. She didn’t hold back any for a rainy day or her retirement. It is fair to say this was the most valuable thing Mary owned and it was not something that could be easily replaced, if ever. 

Mary was also risking her reputation by letting down her hair and using it as a towel to wipe his feet. Custom required Jewish women to keep their hair bound in public. But Mary’s act was an intentional one. This was an act of humility and devotion to Jesus. 

Mary put a lot on the line here but her actions were expressing the type of worship she believed Jesus was worth. Her gift wasn’t an ordinary one, it was an extraordinary one because Mary believed Jesus was worth her very best, so she held nothing back. 

When you realize what he’s done, you hold nothing back.

Her costly worship emits a beautiful aroma of extravagant love and honor that deeply moves Jesus. 

However, not everyone sees it that way.

As beautiful as this moment is, Judas is appalled. His words are sharp and they sting with self righteousness,  “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.”

Now we might be tempted to empathize with Judas at first, after all it appears his concern is for the good that money could have done for the poor. But John cues us into information that they found out after the fact.

Judas’s motives were self-serving. Judas had been the keeper of the money bag and had been helping himself to their money and stealing from them. Behind his pious facade Judas was actually a thief. (If you missed week one in this series, go back and listen to it as we looked more closely at Judas in that message).

While Mary believed Jesus was worth her very best, Judas’s response implied Jesus was not worth this gesture.

When you follow JESUS and go ALL-IN, your lifestyle and choices won’t make sense to a lot of people.

Mary’s worship was true even if others misjudged her. She willingly risked being criticized by others in order to give her best to Jesus. Going ALL-IN was costly, but to Mary, Jesus was worth it.

Jesus sees through Judas and offers a compassionate defense of Mary. 

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”” 

Jesus affirms Mary’s actions and reveals that she achieved a greater purpose than even she may have realized. These types of fragrant perfumes we often used during burial to combat the stench of death. While Jesus had been sharing with his followers of his coming death many of them were still unclear of what would happen. Yet we know Jesus was nearing his death and this oil was symbolic of what was to come.

While the poor would be with them always, Jesus came only once in history to die for all of humanity and he would be going away soon.

Mary and Judas had conflicting responses to Jesus. Mary’s response to being chosen and loved by Jesus was to choose him back and to go ALL-IN by devoting her life and giving him her all. 

But both Matthew and Mark’s accounts reveal that it was after this encounter with Jesus that Judas decided to go to the Chief Priest and to betray Jesus.

According to John, similar conflicting responses to Jesus were also occurring outside. There were those who were responding in faith and choosing to believe in Jesus and those who were rejecting him and plotting against him.

Your Choice

Like Mary, each of us is living out our story. And like Mary each of us has a choice to make. The question I want us all to consider is how will we respond to Jesus? How will I respond to Jesus? How will you respond to Jesus?

When we recognize that Jesus CHOSE us, we have a CHOICE. 

Like Mary…

We can choose to pour out our everything, because of WHO He is and what he has done.

Or like Judas we can walk away. 

The love of God invites us to come to Him and to find life through Jesus, but He doesn’t force us to. The choice is ours.

For those of us who choose Jesus we receive all that his sacrifice purchased for us. Like Lazarus he calls us out of death and into a new life. A life where we no longer live for selfish, self centered gain, with secret motives always at work in the dark. But instead the life we live we live with Jesus in the light. We let go of former ways that seemed good to us at the time but led to death, and instead we embrace the path of life Jesus has set out for us going ALL-IN to live according to his will and his ways. 

And as we come together and unite around our love and devotion to Jesus the power of God’s love bubbles up from within us and pours out to the world around us as a beautiful fragrance inviting others, like you and me, to come to Jesus and live.

“God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭2‬:‭14‬b ‭GNT‬‬

The question Mary’s story challenges each of us to consider is…

How will I respond to Jesus?

Communion

We want to create space for your response today. 

For some of you, your response may be to reflect on what you’ve heard today. Maybe you have questions and you’d like to talk to someone. Feel free to join an Alpha class (gatewaychurch.com/alpha) or fill out a connect card and go to the connect spot and let them know you are wanting to have a conversation about faith.

For others, you may be ready to go ALL-In with Jesus for the first time and you’d like someone to pray with you and to guide you through that. If that’s you, our prayer team is up here ready to talk & pray with you now. 

For everyone who has chosen to go ALL-IN with Jesus we’d like to invite you into a time of reflection and remembrance that we call Communion – which we take on the first Sunday of every month and at our worship nights. Jesus called his followers to observe communion together regularly as a way of reflecting on our lives and identifying any areas where we may have fallen back into old patterns of selfish, self centered living. 

This serves as an opportunity for us to address our own hearts on a regular basis. Think of it like yard maintenance but instead it is heart maintenance, taking the time to notice and pull up any weeds that are starting to take root in our lives. We are especially encouraged to work out differences or conflicts with each other when at all possible, being quick to forgive each other as Jesus has forgiven us. 

We take Communion together to remind us that we are now “one body in Jesus” so just as all the parts of a body work together to care for the whole body, so should we. We are reminded that how each part of the body treats the other parts of the body is important. So, we should work out our differences so that we can remain in communion with one another in Jesus, and so that fighting between us doesn’t distract us from loving the world around us.

Communion also serves as a time to remember Jesus and to encounter his love for us afresh by reflecting on his sacrifice. The sacrifice of His life poured out for us, His everything laid down for us. Jesus is the ultimate example of life- changing love poured out through his substitutionary sacrifice. He took the just consequences for our wrongs so that our debt would be paid and justice would be served. And in return his gift to us was his life…resurrection life that has now and forever defeated and overcome sin and death. So that those who choose Jesus may walk with him in freedom and victory forever.

As the band plays please take this time to reflect and to do some heart maintenance between you and God. Ask Him for forgiveness. Ask Him to show you who you need to forgive. Ask Him for what He wants you to confess and what to surrender. After this song I will come back up and lead us in Communion.

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