Communion, Worship, and Service

John 12:1‑18  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Charles Hickman
John 12
“Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead.
“There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him.
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.
“Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him,
“Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
“This He said, not that Hhe cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.
“Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this.
“For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always.”
The home at Bethany was always a place of rest and comfort for the Lord, and in this chapter we see the whole family that He loved so well contributing to His joy; Lazarus sat at the table with Him — a figure of communion, Mary anointed His feet with ointment — a figure of worship, while Martha served. These three things — communion, worship and service, go to make up the present privileges of every Christian.
Communion stands first, and is the spring from whence worship and service flow; moreover it is this that the Lord particularly desires. He is not satisfied with the hope of having us with Him in heaven presently; He wants our company now. This is strikingly proved by His tender appeal to the Laodicean church, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:2020Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)). Do we desire His company as He desires ours?
It is impossible for us to have communion with Christ, if we are walking in a way that grieves the Holy Spirit. We need to judge ourselves in what may seem little things. In the Song of Solomon we read: “Take us the foxes,” but it does not stop there, “the little foxes that spoil the vines.” I will call your attention to one or two little foxes that spoil the vine of communion. The first shall be — spiritual sloth. Diligence has a large place in the Word of God. It is the diligent soul that shall be made fat, and apart from spiritual diligence you cannot know very much about communion with the Lord.
Another little fox is neglect of prayer. It would be a very interesting thing for each of us to see how much time we spend in prayer. There is no such thing as maintaining communion apart from a prayerful spirit. It is good to live in the spirit of prayer. You can pray while walking down the street — you can pray while at your business, but never neglect to spend time alone with the Lord.
Another little fox that spoils the vine of communion is anxiety. It is impossible to have communion if weighed down by a load of care. Hence it is written “Cast [or roll] thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee” (Psa. 55:2222Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)). The Lord wants us to roll every care upon Him, so that our hearts shall be free for communion with Himself.
There is another fox, and it is very little, for it creeps in so easily. It is worldliness. You cannot walk with Christ and the world at the same time. Remember the prayer of the Lord Jesus in reference to His disciples: — “ I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth “ (John 17:15-1715I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:15‑17)).
The world has rejected and murdered the Lord Jesus, and if our hearts are true to Him we shall not desire its favors.
If you go on in the spirit, and with the pursuits, of the world that murdered your Savior, you will not know the joy of communion with Him.
Now let us consider the case of Mary. We read:
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.”
Elsewhere we read that “Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Luke 10:3939And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. (Luke 10:39)). At the feet of the Lord Jesus she had learned something of His perfections, and her soul was filled with adoration. In the intelligence gained in His company of what was suitable, she took the box of ointment at that hour preceding the Lord’s death and anointed the feet of Jesus.
I do not think that, Mary was a rich person; if she had been rich, the Holy Spirit would not, I judge, have spoken of the ointment in the way He did. I am under the impression it took all the money she possessed to purchase it. She would say “Christ is worthy of everything,” and she expended her all upon Him. Judas said the ointment was worth three hundred pence. But I would rather have the statement of the Holy Spirit: He said it was “very costly.” Her appreciation of Christ was precious to God. We are told that the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. This is a true figure of worship flowing out from a heart filled with love to Christ, and it is very fragrant to God, and precious to Christ, and no higher privilege could we have than this; but there must be communion if there is to be worship. Do not try to reverse the order. First communion: you walk in His company; then as the heart is filled with His beauty, there is the outflow of worship to Him.
In Martha we see intelligent and loving service. If you look at the narrative in Luke 10 you find failure there: she was cumbered with her service. But in John 12 there is no failure. Lazarus was right, Mary was right, and Martha was right: each was right because Christ had His rightful position — He was the supreme object of each. I make bold to ‘say, that Martha was as right in her service, as Lazarus in his communion, or Mary in her worship. Love always wishes to serve its object. If I saw a person who did not wish to serve one whom he professed to love, I should say the love was not real. And how great is the privilege of serving Christ in the scene of His rejection! In heaven everyone owns the Lord Jesus; mightiest spirits fly upon lightning wings to carry out His commands. But in the world, where He is despised and rejected, we have now the honor of owning Him as Lord, and of doing His pleasure. You may feel that your service is poor and feeble, but if it springs from love to and communion with Him He greatly appreciates it.
The Sphere of Service
The true homeland of the Church is “in Christ Jesus,” and all who know Him not, whether at home or abroad, are the one great outland,’ which is the field of gospel work. We must preach Christ to all, for to their need of Him there is no exception, and to His power to save there is no limit.
The presentation of Christ to all is our supreme business. This was placed beyond question by His parting charge, to go into all the world, and to preach the gospel to every creature. Through all these centuries the charge has come down to the present generation, telling of a purpose and desire still existent in the heart of our ascended Lord.