Sermons

John 12:1-8 What Is Beautiful?

July 8, 2018 Speaker: Scott Slaughter Series: The Gospel of John

Topic: Worship, Evangelism, Church Growth, Outreach Scripture: John 12:1–12:8

What is beauty? We almost instinctively know that it is not pretty; or nice, or pleasant, but what is it? Defining beauty is notoriously difficult. We certainly cannot give a definitive definition of beauty in one 45 minute message. We have already expounded on this amazing account in Scripture. Now, I’d like us to consider its truths in a different light. 

For instance, things can smell beautiful, sound beautiful, feel beautiful, and look beautiful. A sentence or a poem can be beautiful. A song or person can be beautiful. Pure Chinese silk can both feel and look beautiful. 

See Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 31.

Scripture specifically calls the tabernacle and the temple beautiful. There was a gate called beautiful. Jerusalem is called beautiful. And in Ecclesiastes, the writer says that God makes everything thing beautiful in its time. 

Beauty is one of those things that we may not be able to define in a single sentence but we most assuredly know it exists and we know when we have experienced it. 

Yes, all of this is true but what is really going on when we experience beauty? Is there more to beauty than meets the eye? Aside from a little joke, we must recognize that beauty is speaking to us of something much greater. Beauty is a road sign, a marker, a messenger who is showing us the mysterious passage of the One Who is all together Beautiful, the Beautiful God. 

There is so much more about this topic we could consider such as is there such a thing as false beauty? Is beauty merely subjective? Or, are there more facets to beauty than we will discuss this morning? To which I must quickly respond in the affirmative. 

The great contemporary philosopher Sir Roger Scruton writes, “We discern beauty in concrete objects and abstract ideas, in works of nature and works of art, in things, in animals, and people, in objects, qualities, and actions. As the list expands to take in just about every ontological category (there are beautiful propositions as well as beautiful worlds, beautiful proofs as well as beautiful snails, even beautiful diseases and beautiful deaths), it becomes obvious that we are not describing a property like shape, size, or color, uncontroversially present to all who can find their way around the physical world. For one thing: how could there be a single property exhibited by so many disparate types of thing?… So why do we call a thing beautiful? What point are we making, and what state of mind does our judgment express? 

There is an appealing idea about beauty which goes back to Plato and Plotinus, and which became incorporated by various routes into Christian theological thinking. According to this idea, beauty is an ultimate value - something that we pursue for its own sake, and for the pursuit of which no further reason need be given. Beauty should, therefore, be compared to truth and goodness, one member of a trio of ultimate values which justify our rational inclination.” Beauty, A Very Short Introduction, p. 1, 2. 

As insightful as Scruton’s words are, my purpose here today is not to give us a philosophical definition of Beauty but to suggest to you, to point you, to draw you to what all that is truly Beautiful in life is in reality only an echo. My aim to show you what is that truly Beautiful Thing to which all in this world we find Beautiful is merely a shadow. 

My purpose it to show you, my dear friends, where you and I may find and dwell in the presence of True Beauty!

Consider the differing accounts of this incident by the gospel writers, Mark and John specifically. 

Mark 14:3–11 [3] And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. [4] There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? [5] For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. [6] But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. [8] She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. [9] And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

[10] Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. [11] And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. (ESV)

John places Mary at the feet of our Savior. Matthew and Mark place emphasis on Jesus’ anointing for burial. Mark makes mention of the “beautiful thing that Mary has done” without taking the subject further. John places his emphasis on the beauty and purity of worship to Christ.