“Giving Him Our Best”

 

Text:  Mark 14:3-9

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

I’ve been reading a very interesting book by Temper Longman entitled, “Immanuel In Our Place: Seeing Christ in Israel’s Worship.” It’s a book that attempts to explain the way Old Testament Israel worshipped and how it connects to our New Testament worship of Christ.

We have a tendency, today, to look back at Old Testament worship and wonder why, especially as it has to do with their sacrifice rituals. They seem so bloody and gruesome to the casual observer. Why would God require such a worship practice like sacrificing animals?

Temper reminds us it’s because of sin. You see, because we sin, our penalty is death. God hates sin and will not have any part of it, even from His creation.

Yet, the penalty of death has to be fulfilled because our God is a righteous judge and cannot let sin pass unpunished.

By His grace He provided a way out for the people he so dearly loved by allowing a substitute to be given. During the sacrifice, the sinner would place his hands on the head of the bull or goat or whatever he was sacrificing, ceremonially transferring His sin unto the animal being sacrificed. Once the penalty of death had been paid through the surrogate, the sinners sin was washed clean.

The animals slaughtered could be anything from bulls to birds. If one couldn’t afford to sacrifice a bull, then a goat or lamb would do. If they couldn’t afford even this, then a bird would suffice. But no matter the animal, it was to be unblemished. God wanted their best. A goat with a limp would not do. A bird that could not fly was forbidden. Whatever was given had to be their best. The firstborn, the choicest goat, the flawless lamb.

That is what separated Cain’s sacrifice from Abel’s. Cain gave from a portion of his crop, not the choicest portion, just a portion. Abel gave the firstborn and the treasured fatty portions. The best he had to offer. Therefore, God had high regard for Abel’s gift but for Cain’s gift He had no regard.

In our Gospel lesson for this morning we see another form of sacrifice. Though our text does not tell us, the Gospel of John tells us it was Mary who used pure nard, a very expensive and aromatic oil, to anoint the Savior. This amount of oil equaled about a year’s pay to the average worker. It would have been the very best Mary had.

Now, in studying these examples of worship, we might assume that God likes nice things. Like many of us he wants to surround Himself with the best of the best. Only the choicest lamb or the costliest oil would do. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth because it was not the value of the sacrifice God was interested in, it was the dedication of the heart. Giving the very best of what you have to the Lord takes a special heart toward Christ. It’s the biggest sacrifice, the hardest to do, therefore it takes the greatest faith that the sacrifice will not be wasted.

We see an example of this kind of attitude two chapters earlier in Mark 12.

And (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

You see, it wasn’t the value of the gift, it was the heart it which it was given. God wants the best of you, not the best of your things. He wants you to trust Him with your whole heart, not just the part you’re willing to sacrifice.

What made Mary’s gift truly precious was that it was done without a word. She simply did it in worship for her Lord. She didn’t hesitate but willingly prepared for our Lord’s sacrifice with great faith and humility, even if she didn’t yet know the rest of the story. She didn’t gloat at what she had done, she simply did all she could with the very best she had.

The Bible says that, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the Humble.” In this scene Mary showed great humility. First she poured the oil on Jesus’ head and, according to John 12:3, she then poured it on His feet, and wiped His feet with her hair. You see, in those days, only servants touched feet, but not only did she touch them but she wiped those feet of Christ with her own hair showing great humility and love. Because of this Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing.” When we do a beautiful act in humility towards Christ, lives can be touched and changed forever, especially our own.

So, what does that mean for us? What does God expect from His people today? Well, in the simplest terms, He wants the very same. He wants you willing to sacrifice your very best. He wants you to trust him with the same trust the widow had. He wants you to depend on Him every bit as much as Able did. He wants you to come to Him with the same humility and love that Mary showed. And He has shown He’s willing to give you the very same in return.

God showed His love for us in that He was willing to give of the very best of Himself. But, instead of a Bull or a goat, He sacrificed His only Son for us. In this way, Jesus became the surrogate for all of mankind. He took away all of man’s sin by transferring those sins upon the very best he had to give, His own Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

That’s why Mary’s sacrifice was so much more special, because it not only showed her willingness to give the very best of what she had, but it was led by the Spirit of God to prepare the way for an even greater sacrifice through the anointing of His Son. This is why her special sacrifice will always be remembered. This is why it was seen by God to be a beautiful thing. Because, what was soon to become, would be God’s greatest gift to mankind. Soon after her special gift to God, she, along with all people would be given the gift of the perfect sacrificial lamb. The only one who has ever existed without blemish. Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

So, what will you be remembered for? Will it be for the things you have accumulated or for the things you were willing to sacrifice in the name of God?

There is a challenging story about another lady named Dorcas in Acts chapter 9. Verse 36 says, Dorcas was, “always doing good and helping the poor.” It was in her very nature to sacrifice herself for the benefit of others. When she became sick and died, and urgent message was given to Peter who was nearby, to come at once. When Peter arrived, all the widows again reminded Peter of Her willingness to give of the best she had to give, showing Him the robes and clothing Dorcas had made for them. As they cried and spoke, something stirred within Peter as he reflected on all the sacrificial acts of Dorcas, and the end result was that God instilled within Him enough faith to raise this beautiful lady from the dead. Like Mary, her acts of sacrifice and love would never be forgotten and are still with us to this day.

When the Missionary John Paton was buried in an area where he selflessly gave of the best of himself by sacrificing his life in mission towards others, with large numbers of people turning to Christ, these words were apparently engraved on the epitaph on his tombstone: “Here lies John Paton. When he arrived there were no Christians, only heathens. When he left, there were no heathen, only Christians.”

He was willing to serve God with all that he had and it saved thousands. Today He will be remembered for those sacrifices and many more will come to Christ because of His willingness to give the best of himself.

So, in conclusion, I ask you to also trust God by giving Him the best of yourselves. Trust in Him by giving the very best of yourself in your service towards Him. Trust Him in tithing the very best of the gifts God had given you whether it be your treasures or your talents. Give to Him the very best because He gave you His very best and continues to do that in every moment.

Our Lord would never expect from us anything that He is not willing to give us in return. Yet His blessings to us are even greater as each cup overflows with all He has to give, the very best of Himself.

If you are willing, I challenge you to not count the cost as you give in all humility. If criticism comes your way because of the sacrifice you are making, handle it with the same grace that God shows to those He loves. As you give of yourself for Christ, it will point people, wherever possible, to the sacrifice He was willing to give so that we could all receive the very best of things. Do so, and your acts of love and humility will never be forgotten. God is ready to assume full responsibility for a life wholly yielded to Him.

We end reading  Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” Amen.

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