Contact Us

  • Phone: (509) 747-3007
  • Email:
  • Mosaic Address:
    606 West 3rd Ave., Spokane, WA 99201

Service Times

  • Sunday:  8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am
  • Infant through 5th grade Sunday School classes available
  • FREE Parking!



Back To List

Nov 25, 2012

Extravagant Gratitude

Passage: John 12:1-36

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Life to the Full

Keywords: gratitude, party, resurrection, generosity, extravagance, criticism, money, giving


Ever been to a post-resurrection party? This message looks at the change God can bring to people's lives who have experienced the resurrection power of God. In a day of great discontent, extravagant gratitude is something God wants his children to experience. This message looks at how and why we can do that.


Extravagant Gratitude

Life to the Full—John 12:1-36

November 25, 2012


Get acquainted: 

  • If you had $35,000 to spend on one person a day, WHO would you spend it on and HOW? 
  • If you wanted to throw a party for someone who saved your life, what would you do?


Gratitude is an amazing quality.  It doesn’t depend upon how difficult life has been; it depends more upon how we view life’s difficulties. 


I’d like you to put yourself into a story this morning.  Imagine you are 30 years old and have been married for 7 years.  You have a young child just a toddler, a little boy named John. 


You and your spouse decide to engage in an adventure of a lifetime.  It holds promise for a wholly new kind of life but it will take you to a very isolated and remote part of the world.  You and your spouse pray long and hard about this decision because you know that it will change just about everything in life for you.  You sense clearly that God is leading you so you step out in faith into a very uncertain future.


Your faith leads you to board a ship that has space for you and over 130 others to live that is no more than about 5’ by 10’ per person. And, by the way, you won’t be able to stand up straight since the ceiling is only 5’ tall. 


You will be confined to those crowded conditions for almost 3 months, one of which will involve the worst weather you have ever experience.  Your small ship less than 100 feet long will bob like a cork, with non-stop rolling and pitching, people vomiting, sea water streaming in over your head day and night through the leaky deck above you.  You and the rest of the passengers wil-l be wearing the same set of cloths for the entire ninety day ordeal. 

            And what kind of cruise ship cuisine can you look forward to?  Breakfast consists of a hard, dry ship's biscuit and moldy cheese. Dinner, served at noon, will be a piece of pork or beef jerky or perhaps salted fish, and a little bit of cabbage, onion, or turnip, any of which will usually be rotten to some degree. Supper will be your small meal in the evening comprised of little lumps of wet flour fried in pork fat,  maybe hot oatmeal with a little molasses, and, if you’re lucky, some pudding with raisins and prunes. The taste and smell of the putrid food will frequently be concealed with spices such as, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

What about beverages?  The only drink you and the other passengers will be able to tolerate will be beer since the shipboard water will probably make you sick.


You finally arrive at your destination in the northern hemisphere just as winter is setting in.  For a whole month you and your young family are mostly confined to the stinking, pitching ship as it sits at anchor in a sound.  After one of the few shore excursions you and a few others take in order to find a suitable place to begin building your homes, you return to the ship to find that your wife has either accidently fallen overboard or jumped to her death and drowned.  You are now left with the care of your little 3-year old toddler, John.

But you are far from the only member of this “cruise” who will face suffering.  The first teenager in the group to set foot onshore that cold December is a young girl named Mary, just 13.  She is one of 11 young girls in the group.  Two of her teenage friends will die before that winter is out. 

Mary’s father has already died aboard ship, just one week before Christmas that year.  Six weeks later, in January, her only other family member, her mother, also dies aboard ship.  The ship is becoming a floating morgue.  Mary is now truly orphaned.  Since children must be cared for by some adult, she becomes the ward of one of the young single men she had not even known three months earlier when this nightmare journey began.


These two people I just described to you—one a widowed man named William Bradford who, in his early thirties became the first Governor of Plymouth Plantation, and the other, an orphaned teenaged-girl named Mary Chilton—will find themselves just 10 months later participating in 3 full days of celebration and feasting, all out of gratitude to God for how He has sustained them, treated them and provided for them through the last 12 hellish months of life they and fifty other people survived in the year 1621. 

They are the fortunate ones.  Of the 18 adult women who started this journey, only 4 are left.  A staggering 78% of the adult women succumbed to disease that first winter and spring.  Of the 102 fellow passengers, only 53 are still alive, a nearly 50% mortality rate in less than a year.  And yet they take 3 full days at the end of that first year so filled with death and hardship to thank God for their lives, His care and the new existence they are eking out in a very hostile land. 


Gratitude doesn’t seem to depend upon how difficult life has been; it seems to depend more upon how we relate to God in life’s difficulties. 


Today we are closing off this worship series in the book of John that we’ve been enjoying for the better part of this year.  And what better way to do it than to spend some time looking at the only post-resurrection party thrown in honor of Jesus in the entire Gospel of John?

            If you were with us last week, you remember that we looked at that very difficult, grief-filled story of the death of one of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus.  It’s a death that had profound impact upon his closest friends and even upon the timing of his own death.  How Jesus dealt with Lazarus’ death (basically through a miraculous individual resurrection) brought Jesus into closer contact and even deeper conflict with those who would shortly nail him to the cross. 


But John 12 is a party, the last true celebration given in Jesus’ honor before he dies.  It is a party thrown by three people whose worlds had been turned completely upside down when, months earlier, the head of their family, Lazarus, had died unexpectedly.  His death had provoked a “crisis of faith” in his two sisters who were largely dependent on him for stability and survival. And then, in the midst of deep grief, Jesus had done a miracle which no one mourning Lazarus’ death had hoped for much less expected.  Jesus had brought Lazarus back from the dead a full four days after he was laid to rest in a tomb. 

Unless we happen to have had the horrible experience of being notified that our loved one has died when, in fact, that was not the case, we have little comprehension for the magnitude of the change that this miracle of Jesus had in Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ lives.   


So here in John 12, Lazarus and his sisters are hosting a party for Jesus, a “Resurrection Party.”  Ever been to a “Resurrection Party”???  Probably not.

ILL:  When I was in seminary in the early 80’s, Sandy and I were leading a college ministry in Portland, OR at the time.  One night, about 2:00am, the phone rang.  It was the mother of one of the young men, Mark, in our college group.  She was at the hospital with her husband and daughter, all waiting for news about Mark.

            What had happened was, the day before, Mark, a very gifted and athletic kid, had been riding his bike somewhere in town when he looked over his shoulder to go around a parked car in front of him.  He apparently misjudged the distance and speed and ended up running into the car.  A little banged up but not too worse for wear, they had taken him to the hospital to get checked out.  They found no broken bones and sent him home for the night. 

            In the middle of the night, his parents awoke to hear him (through the air vent connecting their room and his bedroom) having a seizure.  They rushed him to the hospital where it was found that he had ruptured a blood vessel in his brain and had serious bleeding on the brain.  We spent that whole, long night praying and waiting. 

            He survived those first critical 48 hours…but he remained comatose for nearly 3 weeks.  When he finally began to come out of the coma, he had to learn to walk and talk all over again.  After months of therapy, he was able to walk again with the aid of a walker and eventually just a cane, which he still uses today. 

            But somewhere along the line of his recovery, his parents threw a party for Mark.  It was a true celebration complete with hundreds of friends and well-wishers.  But even that celebration was tinged with sadness as we knew Mark would never fully recover all the mobility, agility and athleticism he had once had. 


Not so with this party in John 12!  Lazarus was back; no disabilities, not linger effects, no lost mobility.  And these three family members really wanted the world to know how deeply grateful they were for what Jesus had done for all of them in resurrecting just one of them, Lazarus, from the dead. 


APP:  You know, I think that every time we gather as God’s children to worship, to pray, to study His word and to break bread together, it should be a celebration in which everyone brings something!  Not everyone will have experienced resurrection power that week.  But someone will have.  SOMEONE will have seen God work that week in some way for which they are deeply grateful.  And when we come together as one family in Jesus Christ, we’re “throwing a party” in honor of Jesus.  We know who the party is FOR; we just don’t all know yet WHAT it is that we’ll be praising Him for. 

I hope you see weekly worship gatherings that way. [As Andrew mentioned earlier,] God wants us to experience times together where everyone comes prepared to share something with the family members in this celebration. 

It may be a need you want others to pray about. 

It may be an answer to prayer that you’ve experienced this week.

 It might be a passage of scripture… or a testimony of praise

It might be a song or hymn or “spiritual song” that you want us all to share in. 

Whatever it is, WELCOME TO THE PARTY…a worship party! We’re here to celebrate our Savior Jesus Christ.  We’re here to marvel at (and sometimes wrestle with) his wisdom.  We’re here to exalt His greatness and enjoy His presence.  We may be going through the worst experience of our life, but we need to be reminded that God is still faithfully sustaining others around us and doing some pretty amazing things among us. 


So let’s take a few minutes today to do that.  Do you have a testimony of thanksgiving you want to give in 60 seconds here today “in honor of Jesus”? 


[Allow for sharing.

One I saw this week:  Mark Massingale—Skyped this week about the English & Bible school he’s working in 6 days a week.  These are most of the same 125 kids who will be receiving our Christmas in Cambodia gift packages in the next few weeks. 

            So over the past couple of months, I’ve been nosing around for someone who could possibly go over there for a few months to a year to help organize, administrate, teach and develop that part of the work.  The Cambodian pastor who started this work there has been praying for 5 years for a native English speaker to come and help out.  When Mark arrived 4 months ago and they met, he began praying harder.  And God answered by sending Mark to his village and his church and this work. 

            One of the challenges is that most of the children have been sent to town by their parents and the only safe, steady lodging they can find is in a Buddhist dormitory where they must also take 2 classes in Buddhism every day.  So this week I was trying to clarify whether this school just wants to be an English and Bible-teaching school for younger children and teens or whether it is something that Mark and the Pastor see growing into a full-blown Christian school teaching kids all ages all subjects. 

            When I asked him that, he looked down and smiled (like he does when he’s about to tell you something amazing) and then responded, “Funny you should ask that.  Just this week, through a personal connection the pastor has with some people in the government, he was offered a 15-acre piece of land that has multiple buildings already on it that could serve as classrooms and dormitories…all for less than 1/4th the value of the property, about $300,000 (still a significant sum).  He’s praying about what to do and asked us to pray for God to give him wisdom, too.”]


So let’s read John 12:1-3

Notice that everyone in the Lazarus household had something to contribute to the party.  (The party may have actually been served in Simon the Leaper’s house, not theirs, according to the other Gospel accounts.)  Regardless of where it was held, Lazarus and his sisters were all involved in honoring Jesus in some way. 

  • Marthaserved.”  This was her apparent “love language.”  The best way task-oriented Martha figured she could say a huge THANK YOU to Jesus was through her serving at the party given in His honor. 

So what or where are the parties given today in Jesus’ honor?  (Worship services? Praise gatherings?  Prayer services?)  WHO are the saints serving there?  Musicians, technicians, ushers, greeters, parking lot attendants, unseen laborers like the cleaning crew who mops the floors and cleans the bathrooms, those who prepare the PowerPoint slides, those who set up chairs, do the bookkeeping, print the bulletins, put out the parking signs, teach the children, hold the babies so parents can worship and learn, plan the services, administrate the logistics.  Most people have no idea how many people it takes to plan and pull off a “party” in honor of Jesus.  

  • Lazarus “was among those reclining at the table with [Jesus].”  So what is he contributing to the party?  His presence?  YES! 

It’s amazing how many people who have experienced the life-changing work of Christ can simply fail to “show up to the party” that is given to honor Jesus.  Just being present to honor Jesus at events that are given to lift up His name IS a gift every child of God brings to the party

Some of the most moving times of honoring Jesus I’ve ever experienced were times of simply worshipping God. Some were huge gathers and some were small.  I’ll never forget gathering with 40,000 other pastors and priests in Atlanta, GA in 1996 at Promise Keeper’s Pastor’s conference.  Coming together to honor Christ in one voice produced some of the most powerful worship I’ve ever experienced.  Some of you men remember the same about Promise Keepers events in Portland or Seattle.  Then there are Pastor’s Prayer Summits with 50-100 pastors of all stripe and color committed to praising God in song and prayer.  Whenever and wherever people come together with the primary agenda of honoring Jesus, you will experience the power of people just “showing up for the party” when their lives have been changed by Christ.  That’s what I hope every gathering of the church to honor Christ will be to some degree when we set our hearts on that goal.

  • When you get to Mary, it may look like she is doing something pretty much on her own. But I don’t think so.  I really think that the whole family—Lazarus, Mary and Martha—were all in on this.  Interdependent families don’t give away a massive sum of money like this without all the important decision makers having signed off.   I doubt very much that Mary just grabbed the family savings and made a unilateral decision to spend it all in a few seconds on Jesus.  I think they had talked this one over ahead of time.  Mary just got to be the one to administer the gift to Jesus.


Speaking of that, what do we know about the GIFT?

  • It was worth a whole year’s wages for a laboring man, probably equivalent to about $30,000-45,000 in today’s currency.  That’s a chunk of change! 
  • It was “expensive perfume…pure nard.” As Jesus indicates later, it was probably the kind of aromatic oil that would have been used to embalm a body at burial to overpower the smell of death in the corpse. 


Hmmm.  Why hadn’t they used it on their beloved brother Lazarus when he died just weeks before?  Remember when Martha (Jn. 11:39) protested Jesus instruction to “take away the [tomb] stone” at the entrance to Lazarus’ grave?  She had told Jesus that Lazarus’ body would be foul-smelling just 4 days after his burial.  Why hadn’t they used this nard for his burial? 

            The Scripture doesn’t tell us but I don’t think it takes a lot of reasoning power to figure out the possible options why.  It is possible that their family was so well-to-do that they had other vials of the perfume and could easily spare it here. Possible, but that doesn’t seem to fit Martha’s expectation of the body stinking after 4 days in the tomb.

I’m thinking that it is more likely that they had so few resources that the two single sisters, Martha and Mary, decided to forego an expensive embalming and just burry Lazarus immediately upon death.  This vial of expensive perfume might have been their entire “nest egg,” the only things these two sisters had standing between them and poverty to take care of them when Lazarus was not around to provide for them. 

            Whatever the exact situation was, I’m pretty sure that Mary’s actions were not some rogue, spur-of-the-moment, independent decision to spend the family fortune in one moment.  I think the whole family was fully on-board with her decision to pour out the family savings on Jesus himself. 

This was an act of extravagant gratitude by three people who had already experienced the power of Christ to overcome life’s worst-case scenario, death.  They knew that no matter what life would bring from this point on, Jesus’ word and the goodness of God was something bigger than anything else they would have to face. 

            They didn’t need to have a “back-up” plan.  They didn’t need to have an “ace in the hole” just in case the bottom fell out of life.  They had experienced that Jesus was more than enough, and their faith rose to the occasion.  There was nothing, not even death, that could undo their faith in God’s care for them now. 


APP:  Being Americans, used to “insuring” everything from our health to our cars, our retirements and our very lives from unplanned catastrophes, it’s really hard for us to imagine such extravagant gratitude.  In fact, we’d probably criticize that level of worship and gratitude if someone in our family did that, right.  What a “waste” of a lot of good money on just one person that could have been spent hundreds if not thousands of different ways to help hundreds and perhaps thousands of people. 

But it was “just” poured out on Jesus.   

So how might extravagant gratitude to God look TODAY?  Is it even a possibility given that Jesus isn’t living on earth bodily today? 

My thinking naturally defaults to the very thing Judas and the disciples defaulted to:  give more to the poor.  And according to Jesus’ answer about the poor always being with us, that might not be all that off-the-mark. 

            But most if not all of our material giving, even though done “as to the Lord,” ends up going to other people, doesn’t it.  Is it even possible to “give directly” to God today in ways that don’t end up in the hands of people? 

Under the Old Testament sacrificial system, many of the offerings were shared with the priests and Levites.  Some was consumed on the altar and some was given to the priests to feed them and their families.  Then there were certain sacrifices that were not shared with any human being.  Those offerings were completely consumed on the altar, their smoke rising simply to God, not benefiting another person directly at all but rather expressing one’s love for and adoration of God alone. 


So is there a New Testament Church parallel to this kind of “exclusive” giving directly to God? 

I’m hard pressed to think of many, but Hebrews 13 may give us two:

1.)    Hebrews is a book that is written to God’s people facing imminent persecution.  In chapter 13:11-13, the writer talks about how Jesus, just like the sacrificial animal, was consumed by death “outside” the city gates.  We as his followers are, therefore, called to suffer disgrace and persecution, being ostracized from people for the sake of the Gospel and bearing the name of Jesus. 

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

When believers suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus, is that perhaps not one time when the offering of our lives is given directly, personally and solely to God?  While the church may benefit indirectly by increased boldness and conviction, it would be hard to say that anyone receives some direct, tangible benefit, of another person’s suffering by persecution, wouldn’t it? 

APP:  So if or when those days come when we are ostracized or persecuted because of our faith in Jesus, remember, that may be one of the purest forms of thanks-giving or thankful offering you will ever give to God. 

2.)    Secondly, Hebrews 13:15 goes on to say, 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

So here we have “a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name.” When we praise God and speak or sing in a praiseworthy manner of our God, God receives that as a sacrifice given directly and wholly to Him.  So in that sense, yes, our times of praise when we gather here, be it in music or reading/speaking words of praise to God, are something that gets poured out directly upon God.  Again, how we choose to praise God matters greatly. 

But additionally, this passage indicates that “doing good” to others and “shar[ing] with others” are sacrifices that please God as well.  So while others will also benefit from things we do in helping and giving to them, those are also sacrifices that God receives as if they were given to Him directly.   


One more observation about what Mary brought to this party to honor Jesus.  She brought something personal.  When vs. 3 says that “she poured it [the perfume] on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair,it is giving us a little more information than either Matthew or Mark give in their respective Gospel accounts of the same event (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).  Comparing all those accounts of the same event, it becomes clear that Mary, while anointing Jesus head (which was very customary), went beyond the normal level of honor and poured the perfume on his feet as well.  (He would have been reclining at the low table with his feet extended back from the table.) 

Mary is taking the role of a servant.  And by letting down her probably-braided hair, she is treating Jesus as only a woman would her much-loved husband or family member.    

By doing so, she is opening herself up to criticism, not just for the amount of money she poured out on one singular person, but for the way in which she is showing her extravagant gratitude.  Most of us would have been somewhat embarrassed by her behavior.  She is stepping beyond the bounds of a normal show of public honor.  She’s bordering on the embarrassing. But then, she doesn’t care! When you’ve experienced a miracle with the magnitude of a resurrection, your gratitude may grow to be embarrassingly generous and heart-felt too.


APP:  Do you see why worship is SO important? 

Do you see why cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving is SO vital?  Often gratitude and thankfulness are statements of faith.  Regardless of an uncertain present and future, gratitude says, “I’ve experienced the goodness and power of Christ in a way that moves me to generosity of heart and actions that would normally jeopardize my future security.  But I don’t care about that.  I care much more about showing my gratitude than trying to guarantee my future financial security” 

            This is also one of the reasons why financial giving has always been an important part of the worship experience of God’s children in every generation.  It’s an act of faith in the unlimited God in the face of limited resources in an uncertain world.  Giving changes US!  And it will often change how God deals with us as well.  


Well, not everybody is going to agree with or applaud extravagant gratitude.  Just look at  John 12:4-6.

While John the Evangelist here singles out Judas for special criticism, the other parallel Gospel passages in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 say that Mary came under the critical eyes of many of Jesus’ disciples. We’re told they became “indignant” and criticized her “harshly.”   

As difficult as it is to understand, sometimes our biggest critics when it comes to extravagant gratitude will be the people of God.  We think we know better how someone else should spend their resources of time or money or talent on God.  We criticize these brothers and sisters for building this building or that ministry that costs a lot of money.  We (arrogantly) think we could do it better, cheaper, more economically and with better stewardship.  We fault this group of God’s children who worship differently than we do, who express their love and praise of God in ways that may seem to boarder on embarrassing to us. 

But who are we to criticize?  Jesus came to Mary’s defense in a very strong and direct way.  And I bet he is still doing that today!  I’ll bet you can hear Christ saying in heaven, “Leave him or her alone!  Why are you bothering them?  They have done a beautiful thing to me.” 

Jesus not only deserves our extravagant gratitude; he enjoys it.  He’s not embarrassed by it like others around us might be.  He’s the One being in the universe for whom such overflowing praise and adoration IS absolutely appropriate.  He is the One being who deserves to have stadiums full of His fans—cheering him, waving at him, shouting for him, singing to him, and doing anything honorable and praiseworthy for and to Him, the matchless Savior of our souls who will one day shout for us and with that shout raise us, as he did Lazarus, from the grave. 


So how would you like to express your extravagant gratitude to Jesus today???