Good morning. If you have a Bible today, please open it to the book of John, Chapter 12. The title of my lesson this Lord’s Day is “How do You Say I Love You to God?” I want to start, right away, by asking you how you say I love you to your loved ones? That may be a difficult question, given the fact we have such a hard time expressing our feelings to each other. I know, in Belgium, it is not proper to do that. You rarely see someone crying publicly. You rarely see someone hugging and you definitely don’t hear people say “I love you” to each other. In the U.S., it’s a little better. Better may not be the right word. It’s different. You often see people publicly expressing their emotions. It’s common to see conference speakers cry. It’s common to see people say “I love you”, to each other. It’s common, but it’s still not the norm. And I am sure many of us still struggle to be more transparent. Your wife may often tell you, “I never know how you feel. Why don’t you share with me sometimes?” And what she means is you stink at expressing emotions. It’s not a given for men! Or, at least, it seems like it because I believe part of the problem is also in the reading of the emotion. You see, it’s not always that men don’t express emotion. They just don’t necessarily express it in the same way as their wives.
There is a good book that was written on the matter a few years ago. It’s called The Five Love Languages of Mankind. The author shares how we all express love a little differently. Some say:
Let me illustrate. A Bible teacher was giving a lesson on the subject once. He said to his students, how have you been told, “I love you” before. A few young girls raised their hands and said, “We’ve received letters from boys where they wrote “I love you” in it! That was verbal expression. A man said, “Every time I come home and it’s a special occasion, I bring three red roses to my wife. I’ve done that for years and she knows what it means. Each rose stands for one word. There are three of them, so three words. The first one stands for “I”. The second one stands for “love”. The third one stands for “you”. So you see, this man was expressing his love with gifts. It was his way of letting her know of his feelings. Was it any worse than verbal expression? No! Just different! It is the same message, but a personal way of expressing it. Let’s go back to the Bible class. A lady raised her hand and she said, “When I have a really hard week, once in a while, I’ll come home and find the house totally clean. My husband has felt I’m overworked and, secretly, he’s come home early and deep cleaned the house. My meal is even ready with a candlelight setting. What’s that way of saying “I love you”? It’s with service. The man says, “I love you”, by serving. Another lady said, “I tell my kids I love them everyday by hugging them and kissing them. I show my love with touch.” You see, we all say I love you to others, but we have our own way of doing so. But what is important is to know ourselves and our mates in our love language. You see, it is true that my mate needs to learn to read me but also I have to learn, as a husband, to speak in a way my wife understands. And so today, I ask you, “How do you say I love you”? And more importantly:
You see, though God knows your heart and how you express yourself, he might also want you to learn to communicate in his language of choice. And so today, I am going to seek to answer these three questions. I am going to do that by looking at John, Chapter 12:1-8. Let us read together “….” And so John recounts here the last time Jesus goes to the house of his friends in Bethany. And indeed, this must be a very special dinner. Two of the men sitting there have been miraculously helped by Jesus. One is Lazarus, who was dead and now is alive and the other is Simon, who was a leper and now is pure. They must have great stories to share. But first, notice they are both showing love to Jesus by being there. They have made it a priority on their busy schedule to sit at the table with Jesus. And it’s not all. There is also Martha! What is Martha doing according to verse 2. She is serving. Could it be her way of showing her tender feelings towards that dear friend of hers? I bet you it is.
And finally, there is Mary – gentle, sensitive Mary! She is still thinking of what Jesus has done for her. She’s still in awe of this great teacher, this good friend, this wonderful, powerful leader, this man who has transformed her grief into the deepest joy. And she feels no words are strong enough to express what her heart contains. So the Bible says she takes a pint of pure nard, pours it on Jesus’ feet and wipes it with her hair. Nard was an expensive perfume imported from North India. It was usually carried in an alabaster jar to keep it fresh. To access the liquid, you had to break that sealed jar made out of marble and then you were forced to use all the liquid. The only time such a thing was done was for a great occasion to anoint the heads of many guests. It was never done for one individual alone, at a common meal, to wash some feet. But it’s exactly what Mary did and it thrilled Jesus! And I ask you why this morning! Why is such a wasteful act applauded by our Lord? First of all, because it was her way of saying, “I love you!” to the Savior. It was her way of saying in unmistaken terms, “No one is like you, my Lord! I love you with all of my heart.” And indeed, she showed just that to Jesus. Think of all her gift meant.
I. It was an extravagant gift that showed her extravagant love.
This perfume was worth a whole year’s salary. It was probably the equivalent of $25,000. Think of all the time it took for her to buy this with her savings. It was absurd to Judas, but for Mary, love was not love if it calculated the cost. She had to take the most precious thing she possessed to give it all to Jesus. Folks, that’s the nature of true love. It gives its all and its only regret is that it has not still more to give. Our teens, two years ago, put on a play at the center with that! It was called The Gift of the Magi. It told the story of a couple, Della and Jim, who were very poor but very in love with each other. Each had one unique possession. Della’s hair was her glory. When she let it down, it almost served as a robe. Jim, on the other hand, had a watch. It was given to him by his father and it was his treasure. But when Christmas came that year, they had no money to buy each other a present. So she went out, had a haircut and used her hair to have a wig made which she sold for $20. She bought a platinum fob for Jim’s precious watch. That day he came home and handed her his gift. It was a set of expensive tortoise-shell combs with jeweled edges for her lovely hair. He had sold his watch to get her these. Each had given the other all there was to give…. You see, real love cannot think of any other way to give. That’s how Mary gave extravagantly. How about me?
But her gift was also a humble gift.
II. It showed her humble love.
You see, at that time, as I said, you anointed the head, not the feet. It was an honor to anoint a person’s head. But Mary did not look as high as the head of Jesus. She anointed his feet. The last thing Mary thought of was to confer an honor upon Jesus. She never dreamed she was good enough for that. She was way to humble to look at it this way. I’ve got to wonder, as I see this. When I give a gift to God, do I give in humility? Do I have the feeling, “I am blessing God with my feelings and my gifts or I am not worthy to give him this much”? There is a difference there. Mary was humble in her love, you see!
III. And finally, her gift was selfless, which showed her love was selfless.
In Palestine, no respectable woman would ever appear in public with her hair unbound. On the day a girl was married, her hair was bound up. Never again would she be seen in public with her long tresses flowing loose. That was the sign of an immoral woman. But Mary was not concerned with that. You see, when two people really love each other, they live in a world of their own. They could not care less about what people think. And what I see here, Mary was so in love with Jesus, it was nothing to her what others thought. Indeed, her gift was beautiful. It was a way to show Jesus the center of her heart and he was pleased with it. It’s a little like us when we give flowers, a ring or money. These things are only the symbol of a greater gift – the symbol of our love. To Jesus, Mary’s perfume was the symbol of her love. And to this day, the beautiful, fragrant aroma of her gift is still remembered. So should I say to my Lord that I love him? You bet I should. I should while there is time to do so on this earth. Soon it will be too late to tell him. When he comes in judgment, all men there will love what they see in him – the promises he offers. But not all will be able to partake of it. Only those who will have shown their love to him before that time can partake. Today, do you love the Lord? Do you love him as much as Mary? Then tell him! How, you say? What does the scripture say on it?
You see, a letter is just as good a way to tell someone you love them. During the Gulf War that sent the Allied forces to Iraq, a young pilot, named Scott Sheider, was killed. He was the father of two children and the husband of a good wife. He loved her very much. A few weeks after his death, the authorities went to visit her to give her all his belongings. In these, there was a letter he had written the day before he passed away. He never had the chance to mail it. She opened the letter and in it the wife found a few personal lines written for each kid. Then it ended with these special words for his spouse. It said, “You are the center of my life. I’ve always been perfectly happy with you. If I never come back, learn to love again. You have so much to give!” You see his letter was one of the greatest ways to tell his wife he loved her. It is very cherished by her forever. I suspect the same is true of the love letter we can write God. Maybe it’s why we have the book of Psalms. Maybe it’s God’s secret box of love letters!
So you can show your love by writing him, by praying to him, by singing to him, by giving him your heart, but, also by loving his children – your brothers. That was the second most important command in the Bible. “You shall love your …. As you love yourself! Why. If you are a parent, you know. You love when people are kind to your kid. You want to make me happy, don’t treat me, treat my kid. I’ll be twice as glad. It will be a way to say “I love you” to me. My friends, my good friends, love my kids almost naturally. They see in them a little bit of me. But you know, I wonder is it true for me with my brethren. Do I show God I love him by treating them well? Then if we really want to show our love to God, there is some more ways. Perhaps it’s the most difficult of all, but it’s inevitable. If we want to show God we really love him. The scriptures say we ought to obey him. Turn, if you would, to 1 Jn 5:3 and read with me “…” See, often, people don’t want to hear about obedience. It’s too burdensome – not a feel-good subject. But if we want to love him, there is no way around it. We ought to obey him. It reminds me of the story where the couple has been married for a long time. And now the husband is really sick. They get the doctor and finally the surgeon asked to speak alone with the wife. He says to her, “ I’m not going to lie to you. It’s terminal. He is going to die. It’s a matter of time. You’ll have a few years if you follow my advice. Cook him a good meal three times a day, be very kind to him, rub his feet everyday and keep the house very clean. Dirt will kill him in no time. And don’t forget, no exhaustion. Do all his chores and you’ll be fine. You’ll have three, maybe five, years.” And now the wife leaves. She returns to her husband and he says, “What’s the verdict. She looks at him and says, “You have no chance. It’s terminal. We may as well say our good byes soon!
You see, that illustrates how often we have a hard time serving God. We want a one-way relationship – not a two-way! But to love him as he loves us means serving him and obeying him! And really we’ll never show him our love to the extent he showed us his, even if we serve until we die. You see, our gifts, next to his, are nothing. Mary’s offering was great, but it was pale compared to what God gave her. If you have a child you know what I mean. And if you don’t, go to John 3:16 and read with me, “….”
Do you love God today? How are you showing him? Would you prove it today by repenting of your sins and being baptized for ….. ,or maybe, if having done that, would you show it by coming back. Mary has shown us the way. Today, would you follow her and simply say to God, I love you as we stand and sing.