Monday, April 9, 2007

What Kind of Jesus Are We Looking For?

Mark 14: 1-11.
V. 1-2: This is Mark's account of Mary, the sister of Lazurus and Martha, annointing Jesus with oil. This event occured after Jesus had raised Lazurus from the tomb. Jesus had raised people from the dead before (the son of the widow of Nain and Jairus's daughter), but no one had ever raised anyone from the dead after the body had been in the tomb four days and already began to decompose. By raising Lazurus from the dead, Jesus showed himself indeed to be "the Resurrection and the Life." Many became believers, others, including eye-witnesses, wanted Jesus dead. However, these people had to be careful, because Jesus was popular with the people. Removing Jesus from the scene would not be an easy task. And not only Jesus; they wanted to kill Lazurus as well. One who came to a greater realization as to who Jesus was was Mary. The restoration of her brother not only made her grateful, she also realized that Jesus was worthy of total worship. What she knew about Jesus's identity can be a matter of speculation, yet I believe she realized that Jesus was God.
v. 3: Jesus was in the house of Simon the Leper. Being a leper would have made Simon a member of Israel's most feared and dispised minorities. No one was to touch a leper for fear of contamination and being ceremonially unclean. Yet Jesus was not only at his house, Jesus was engaged in the most intimate of social gatherings: sitting at the table eating a meal. Then Mary comes with the spikenard. The bottle she had was not the kind with a lid that could be screwed back on when one was finished with it. To release its very costly contents, the bottle had to be broken. All the contents of that bottle had to be used. As the contents spilled out, the aroma filled the room. (Jn 12:3)
v. 4-5: Mary was criticized for her extravagant worship of Jesus. "Why this waste?" she was asked. (Matt 26:8) The bottle could have been sold to aid the poor. John's Gospel singles out Judas as the one rebuking Mary. But as John points out, Judas was not concerned about the poor. He wanted more money for the money-bag he was in charge of so he could steal the money.
v. 8-9: Jesus announces that Mary is annointing Jesus for His burial. Does she not only know His identity but His mission as well? Again, this is a matter for speculation. I believe she had such an understanding. And wherever the Gospel is preached, this act of hers is to be made known. Why? Because her actions modeled one who is to be a total worshipper of Jesus, one who gives everything for Him. The perfume was worth many years wages. She did not even use it to annoint Lazurus for burial. But she annointed Jesus before His death. Not only that, she wiped His feet with her hair (Jn. 12:3) In terms of public behavior, this was indeed the most incredible act of devotion one could do. She gave her all, as the widow who put her mite into the Treasury. That bottle broken, with its contents spilled out, never to be contained again, is a picture of who we should be. When we give our all, when we make a total sacrifice to Jesus, we are broken vessels. When we give our all to Jesus in total worship to Him, it is indeed a sacrifice, costly to us, yet just as the fragrance filled the room, our sacrifice pleases the Lord and the world is more conformed to what God intends it to be. Watchman Nee, one of China's greatest Christians, wrote about an encounter with a former professor. Nee was in bad health and the professor inquired as to why. Nee responded that he had damaged his health through his ceaseless evangelistic activities. The professor rebuked Him. Nee had been a brilliant student who had a bright future before him. Why did he waste his life following this Jesus? The professor left indignant, yet Nee was able with satisfaction to understand the sacrifice Mary made and that Nee's own sacrifice had been just as "total" as hers. (This account was from "Why This Waste?" by Watchman Nee from Christian Literature Crusade. I am not sure if it is still available.)
v10-11: When Jesus rebuked Mary's critics, Judas made the decision to betray Jesus. Why then? We know from John that Judas had been stealing from the money-bag he was entrusted with. Why was he following Jesus? The disciples believed that Jesus was going to be a king; Jesus would expell the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory. Perhaps Judas thought that when Jesus became King, than he Judas, would be the Royal Treasurer. Then he could take as much money as he wanted for himself. But Jesus showed himself to be interested in another Kingdom, one that Judas could not understand. Judas must have began to doubt whether following Jesus was to his advantage. His encouragement of Mary's behavior was the evidence Judas needed to realize he was looking for a different sort of Messiah. And so he thought to betray Jesus for money. Judas probably thought "What is the use of following Jesus if one cannot profit from it in worldy riches?"
What kind of Jesus are you looking for? A Jesus who preserves our self-esteem by not requiring us to be broken? One that keeps us from all suffering? One that promises us we will be rich in the world's goods? Sometimes, with the excuse of avoiding legalism, people will ask how far they can go in certain behavior before that behavior turns into sin. They want to know how much of the world they can have and have Jesus too. Jesus will have none of this. He wants our all, or He will have none of us at all. Paul exhorts us to make our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is our reasonable service (act of worship). (Rom. 12:1) John writes "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."(IJn 2:15-17) Jesus himself said "And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matt. 10: 38-39) Mary knew better than the disciples who Jesus was. Her knowledge led her to total worship of Jesus. Judas was following a Jesus who he thought would give him all he wanted. When Judas realized that "his Jesus" was not the real Jesus, he betrayed him. Will you follow a "Jesus" that will grant all your desires, or will you seek the real Jesus? And when you find the real Jesus, will you give Him your all? (All scripture quotations are from the NKJV)

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