Concentration And Diffusion

“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.”

John 12:3

YOU will notice, if you read the narrative attentively, that the two sisters and the brother who made up the favored household at Bethany, though all most truly loving Jesus, had each one a different way of showing that love. Even so, true children of God do not always feel moved to serve the Lord Jesus in the same fashion, or to express their love to Him in precisely the same manner.

Martha served. She was the housekeeper and with much diligence made Him a supper. It would have been a sad omission had there been no table spread for so blessed a Guest–and who could prepare it as well as Martha? Sometimes we have heard people speak disparagingly of Martha, but truly they mistake the Lord, who never chided her for serving but for being on one occasion so cumbered by it as to think harshly of her sister. Martha, in this instance did not fall into the fault which her Lord once so gently chided–she did her part quietly and well and, thereby, set forth her attachment to Jesus in the most commendable manner. We have Sisters in the Church whose way of serving Christ is in the household, or by caring for the sick and the poor. Like Dorcas, they make garments for them, or like holy women of old, they minister to the Lord of their substance. Their work is with temporal things, but they are none the less approved of their lovingMaster. Brothers, too, as deacons, may better honor the Lord by serving tables than they could by attempting to edify saints when the gifts suitable for that work are denied them. Each man and woman must labor according to his or her ability and calling.

As for Lazarus, he was “one of them that sat at the table.” We might hastily imagine that by sitting there he did nothing, but, my Brothers and Sisters, the people had come together very much to see Lazarus who had been raised from the dead– and for him to sit there and to show himself–and especially to eat and to drink, was to do the best thing to convince onlookers that he was, indeed, alive! Our blessed Lord, Himself, when He rose from the dead, found it necessary to convince His disciples that He was really alive and in a real body and, therefore, He took a piece of a broiled fish and of a honeycomb and ate before them all. When they saw Him eat, then they were sure that He lived! So, when Lazarus ate at the table, skeptics could not say, “It is merely his corpse, set upright to look like life, or a mere phantom to deceive.” Lazarus eating and drinking was a testimony for Jesus and I would that we all knew how even to eat and drink to the Glory of God! There are some Christians who cannot do much or say much, but their godly lives, their patient suffering, their quiet holiness are good witnesses to Jesus. I have looked at the lilies and the roses in the garden and I have thought, “You toil not, neither do you spin. You preach not, neither do you sing, and yet you praise my Lord simply by beingbeautiful and by unconsciously shedding abroad the perfume which He gives you.” May not some saints be glorifying God most truly though they can do no more than this? Besides, someone of the family was needed to keep the Master company and preside as host at the table–and who could do this but Lazarus, the master of the house? Anywhere else, Lazarus might have been out of place, but to me it appears most seemly that Lazarus should sit at the table–and if he modestly declined to take the head of it and sat with others, he was still bound to be there!

But what shall Mary do? She need not be at the table, Lazarus was there. She is, perhaps, of small use in the kitchen–her abilities are slender in that direction. What shall Mary do? Her heart was very warm and she felt she must do something. She did not ask anybody, however, for her own mind was inventive. She knew that it was a usual custom with honored guests to anoint them with ointment. She perceived that this had not yet been done, or if done, not in the royal style which her love suggested. Perhaps she was very lovely and had been somewhat fond of adorning her person. Her long hair may have been much cherished and she may have been profuse in the use of perfume upon it. The thought strikes her–she will consecrate that hair to Jesus and that pound of fragrant salve which she had stored up for the beautifying of herself shall be spent upon Him. It was very costly, but it had not cost a penny too much, now that it could be usedupon Him.She brings the pound of ointment and pours it upon His feet as He lies reclining at the table–and then begins to wipe His feet with the hairs of her head, consecrating her personal beauty as well as her valued treasure to Him whom she both loved and adored! She had found something to do and that something not the least of the three works of love!

The service of the three members of that elect family made up a complete feast. Martha prepared the supper, Lazarus conversed with their honored guest and Mary anointed the Master’s feet. Judge not one another, my Brothers and Sisters! Do, each one, what you feel you can do, and what the Lord expects of you–and look not on another’s work with ungenerous eyes. Neither Martha, nor Lazarus, nor Mary complained of each other, but together they made the service complete! All members have not the same office, but each one must lovingly supplement the office of the rest and emulation and jealousy must never enter among us.

We will now forget the others and look alone at Mary. We are struck with the service which she performed for Christ. It was somewhat singular, it was very demonstrative and it proved her love to be of no common kind. Other women besides Martha had made Him a supper. Other hosts besides Lazarus had sat at the table with Him. But no other had anointed His feet exactly in her fashion, though perhaps some may have come near to it. Mary was inventive, demonstrative, patient, ardent, enthusiastic. What she did was the deed of a soul all on fire–the deed of a woman filled with deep devotion and reverent love. There is an old proverb that “still waters run deep.” Mary had these still waters within her heart–she sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Words! She was a woman of few words, but of many thoughts. She considered, she pondered and she adored. Mary among women is the counterpart of John among men and, perhaps, at this time she had even outrun the Beloved disciple in quick discernment of the Lord’s true Nature. It seems to me that she had perceived His Godhead and understood more of what He was and what He was about to do than any other of the disciples did. At least I can, on that theory, better understand her deed of love. She devised a homage for Him which she would not have dreamed of presenting to any other than such an One as she perceived the Lord to be. Pondering many things within her soul and remembering what He had done for her, personally–and for her dear brother, Lazarus, whom she loved so well–she determined that a special mark of reverential homage should be paid Him. And she carried out the resolve. Deep thought led to burning love and burning love led to immediate action!

Beloved Friends, the Church of Christ needs a band of men and women full of enthusiasm who will go beyond others in devotion to the Lord Jesus. We need missionaries who will dare to die to carry the Gospel to regions beyond. We need ministers who will defy public opinion and, with flaming zeal, burn a way into men’s hearts. We need men and women who will consecrate all that they have by daring deeds of heroic self-sacrifice. Oh, that all Christians were like this, but we must at least have some! We need a bodyguard of loving champions to rally around the Savior, the bravest of the brave, Immortals and Invincibles, who shall lead the van of the armies of the Lord! Where are we to get them? How are they to be produced? The Holy Spirit’s way to train men and women who shall greatly serve Christ is to lead them to deep thought and quiet contemplation. There they obtain the knowledge and vital principle which are the fuel of true zeal. You cannot leap into high devotion, neither can you be preached into it, nor dream yourself into it, or be electrified into it by revivalism! It must, through the Divine energy of the Holy Spirit, arise out of hard, stern dealing with your soul and near and dear communion with your Savior! You must sit at His feet, or you will never anoint them! He must pour His Divine teaching into you, or you will never pour out a precious ointment upon Him!

This is a rather long introduction, but we will now leave it all and crave your attention for a little time to a short parable which appears to me to grow out of this incident.

Mary took a pound of ointment and poured it all on Christ’s feet–that is concentration. When she had poured it allout on Christ’s feet, the whole house was filled with the odor of the ointment–that is diffusion. And the surest way toeffective diffusion is perfect concentration.

  1. Let us speak a little first upon this CONCENTRATION.

You desire, my Friend, to do something before you die which may prove a blessing to your family connections. The desire is good, but do not begin with diffusion–commence with concentration and let Mary be your model. She brought out all her ointment, the whole pound without reserve. Even so, consecrate to the Savior all that you have–every faculty, power, possession and ability! Half the pound of spikenard would not have sufficed. That half pound in reserve would have spoiled the deed. Perhaps we should never have heard of it at all if it had been less complete. Half a heart given to Christ? Tell it not in Gath, whisper it not in the streets of Askelon! Half a life given to Christ? Half your faculties, half your powers given to Christ? It is an unworthy gift! He gave you all and He claims all of you. O dear Soul, if you would fill the house with sweet odor, bring in your whole self and pour out your heart at His feet!

Note that as she brought all, so she poured it all upon Jesus. She had no fear of the black looks of Judas, for the actwas not meant for Judas–it was all for Jesus. I do not think she gave a thought to Martha, or Lazarus, or to any of them. The whole pound was for Jesus! The highest way of living is to live for Jesus and altogether for Jesus, not caring what this man says or how the other judges, but feeling that as He has bought us with His blood and we are His from thecrown of our head to the sole of our feet, we, therefore, acknowledge no master but our Redeemer! Brothers and Sisters, do you live for Jesus in that fashion? Do we not perform many actions under the impulse of secondary motives? I like, for my part, sometimes to do an act of which I feel, “I do not consider whether this will benefit my fellow men. I am doing it only for Jesus. What comes of it–whether a soul shall be saved or not is not my main care–I am speaking this good word in His honor and if God accepts it, and it glorifies Jesus, my end is served.” Oh, it is a blessed thing to feel that you are living, not as a servant of man, nor of the Church, nor of a sect, or party, but of Him whose precious blood has bought you!

Concentrate all your faculties upon the Lord, Himself, and then consult not with flesh and blood. Mary did not wait for any advice about the matter. There is Jesus and there are His blessed feet inviting her to anoint them! She will not stop to enquire what Martha thinks, much less what Judas murmurs, but her heart tells her to do it. All her powers of love say to her, “Do it.” And she brings out the costly perfume and pours it all on Him. When the criticism is given about the wasteful deed, she cares not to make an apology–and she needs not to do so. If for the moment the grumbling grated harshly upon her ears, her Master’s look of love and that kind word, “Let her alone; against the day of My burying has she kept this,” are quite enough for her. She did not aim at pleasing Judas and so, if Judas is not pleased, she is not disappointed! She did it for Jesus and Jesus, being pleased, she has gained all that she sought! Ah, Brothers and Sisters, this is what we must try to do–we must not always remain in leading-strings, asking other people what they think about our actions–if we know that a certain course is right, let us follow it and let others think and say what they choose!

This concentration of everything upon Jesus is the only way of worthily serving Him. When we give Him all, we do not give Him a thousandth part of what He deserves! But to give Him half–to give Him a tithe, to give Him what we can easily spare–is a poor way of expressing our love to Him. Who else deserves a part of your service? If you have been redeemed from death and Hell, who else can claim a portion of your heart? Look at Him in His life of labor. Look at Him on the Cross and look at Him still remembering you before the Throne of God. Does He not engross your affections? Say, does He not throw another cord of love around you and bind you as a sacrifice to the horns of the altar?

I will not linger longer on that point. Enough is as good as a feast. Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate, concentrate all on Jesus!

II. Now, consider what will come of it–namely, DIFFUSION. “The house was filled with the odor of the ointment.”

Mark that the house was not filled with the odor of the ointment through Mary’s seeking. She did not run into every chamber and drop a little on the floor, so that every room might smell of it. She did not care whether the house was perfumed or not–she only wanted to anoint her Lord and, therefore, she poured all the ointment on His feet! The result was that the rooms were perfumed, but that was not her main objective. She did not tell everybody that she had precious ointment in store, but they knew it by her pouring it out. Whenever you hear a man boast that he is holy, remember that good scent needs no proclaiming! The only cart I ever meet with that rings a bell is the dust cart. If jewels and diamonds, or the bullion of the Bank of England are carried through the streets, no bell is rung. “Great cry and little wool” is a proverb which has had a new exposition in this country of late–a wonderful cry about holiness and wonderful little holiness to cry about, but a great deal to be wept over and lamented before the living God! To stand in every room and cry, “Spikenard! Spikenard! Wonderful spikenard!” would have been idle. Pour it on Jesus' feet and you will not have to say anything about it, for every room will be sweet with the smell thereof! We need, nowadays, dear Friends, to have a little less talk about what men are and much more actual living unto Jesus. The Lord work it in us by His Spirit!

Why was it that Mary’s spikenard perfumed all the house? And how is it that if there is true Grace in a man’s life, it is sure to be felt and recognized without his saying much about it? We reply, because it is real. Real religion is alwaysinfluential. Sham religion has but sham power. You cannot get influence by saying, “I mean to influence So-and-So”–as well hope to stop the sun and moon without Joshua’s miraculous power! The power of religion within yourself will be very much the measure of the power which you exercise over others. Artificial flowers may be made so exactly like the real plants that you can scarcely detect them, but they lack the perfume of our garden favorites–and so also the mere professor has not the fragrance of real Grace and, consequently, no attractive and sweetening influence upon others! But where religion is real, true, heartfelt, deep–where there is strong, all-absorbing love to Christ–the sweet perfume of Divine Grace will give the man influence over his fellow men! I cannot tell you how it is that a man who lives near to God has this influence, but I know he has it. The camphor tree is full of camphor in all parts of it–branch, bark, root and flower are all full of camphor–and the man who really lives for Jesus is full of gracious influence in all places and times. May you and I be so!

How was it that the rooms became filled with the odor? There is a law of Nature which chemists call the law of transfusion. If two gases of an entirely different nature are brought into contact, they commence at once to mix with one another and continue to unite till they are thoroughly intermingled. Thus flavors and odors diffuse themselves in the air. It is so with good and evil in the world. Insensibly, every man is the worse for coming in contact with a vicious example and, consciously or unconsciously, every man is swayed to some degree for good by the presence of a virtuous life. The law of transfusion enters into moral and spiritual matters as well as into the realm of chemistry–and if you walk with God, endeavor to preserve a blameless life and glorify Christ–influence will be yours without your seeking it! How far it will extend, God alone knows. It may reach far beyond what you suppose to be its sphere and may even teach some who are yet unborn who shall hear from others how you lived and how you glorified Christ!

Besides, dear Friends, true piety is a very powerful essence and possesses great energy. There are perfumes in Naturelike the attar of roses, of which the smallest drop will make a chamber smell for many a day. True holiness is such a mighty, pervading essence that if you possess it, it cannot be hidden–it will make itself known as a sweet savor even as far as Heaven! The life of God is in it and it must operate. In everything that is good, God lies hidden. The Spirit of God dwells in every gracious word, godly thought, holy deed and He is sweetness itself! The name of Jesus is as ointment poured forth–what must His Spirit be? Yet that Spirit is to be found in every true Believer!

I want to close by asking you, dear Friends, how far, as yet, you have concentrated your love upon Christ and thus have influenced those who dwell in your house? I will only ask about your own house. Has your house been filled with the odor of the ointment? You do pray, but have your prayers been so mighty with God that they have brought down a blessing upon your family? You seek to avoid sin, you try to make your conversation pure, gracious, kind, cheerful, loving and Christlike–do you think that some in your house have been blessed thereby? I do not ask, “Have all been converted?” for though all the house was the better for Mary’s ointment, yet Judas remained a traitor! I should not wonder if some in your house may have even disliked you the more for your piety–but still, the Lord frequently blesses godliness and makes it the means of conversion. O Woman, you may gain your husband by your piety! If he will not hear sermons, he will hear that quiet, loving life of yours! O Sister, you may win your brother by your love! He will not read pious books, but those letters of yours, those sweet words of tender rebuke and invitation–he does read them and he feels them, too, though you fear he does not! Father, those boys of yours are not yet what you could wish, but they must feel your godly example. Perhaps when you lie beneath the sod, they will recollect what you used to be. Fill the house with the odor of true religion! Fill the parlor and the drawing room, the bedchamber and the kitchen with hallowed conversation! I say again, not with mere talk and Pharisaic pretense, but with real holy living and true godly communion! And depend upon it, you are doing for your children and your servants the best thing in your power to do! Give them teaching, give them warning and entreaty, but still, the actual perfuming with godliness must arise from your own holy living–it must be begotten of the ointment poured on Jesus' feet!

Ah, dear Friends, I wish that not only the house in which we may happen to dwell, but the workshop where we labor, the shop where we trade, the place of business where we associate with others might all be perfumed with Divine Grace! Christians are not to glide out of the way of their fellow creatures and shut themselves up in order to be pious any more than a soldier may hope to win the battle by running away! No, mix with your fellow men! If there are offices of trust to discharge, do not leave them to the lowest of the low to discharge them, but be willing to do public service for your country! But so do this that you shall spread abroad in every office the savor of honesty and integrity and make the rogue and the cheat ashamed of themselves. I would to God that every Christian Church were a living protest against all the evil of the times, a gracious disinfectant to stop the abounding corruption. There is an evil smell of sin perpetually reeking towards Heaven–and it needs that you Christians should live Christlike lives in public as well as in private until you fill this country with a healthier savor–and until England shall become a Christian country in fact, as well as inname. Would to God that the example of Christians might yet become so potent that all nations might feel its power, that wars might cease, that cruelties of every kind might come to an end and that the sweet savor of Jesus' name, manifested through His people, might perfume the whole world as though God had showered upon it ambrosia, essences and fragrances from the flowers of Heaven to sweeten it against the time when Christ Himself shall come and make it a marriage chamber for His chosen bride! God grant that the perfume of your holiness may reach the stars! That your lives may be so sweet that beyond these fogs and clouds, the sweet aroma of your Divine Grace may rise acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, for we are always a sweet savor unto Him if we live unto the Lord!

I fear, however, that I may be addressing some whose lives are not a sweet perfume at all. Ah, take heed to yourselves! If you are living without God and without Christ–if you are living in any secret sin–take heed to yourselves! You may think that you will be able to conceal the ill savor of your sin, but you will not. How wonderfully does evil tell its own secret! The intolerable odor of many a secret sin has forced its way to notice. Beware you who would cover your sin! Beware, I pray you! For the task is hopeless. Dig, dig, dig, dig deep and in the dead of night cover up the sin, but like the blood of Abel, it cries from the ground! “Be sure your sin will find you out.” If you are living now in sin and yet pretend to be virtuous, remember that if your hypocrisy is never found out in this life, it will confront you at the Last Great Day!How terrible will be the resurrection of buried sins to men who know not Christ! They will wake up in the next world and find their sins howling around them like grim wolves–insatiable, fierce and terrible! Any one sin is able to destroy the soul, but what must it is to be surrounded by thousands, howling with terrible voices and eager to drag you down and tear you in pieces?

It will be so with you, Sirs! It must be so with many of you unless you lay hold, now, upon the great salvation! Jesus Christ can drive away those wolves, can stop the ill savor of your sins! If you will trust Him, if you will yield your hearts to Him, He will deliver you! But if you will not, on your own heads be your blood!