Last night, Maundy Thursday, I had gone to bed as soon as I arrived home in the evening, exhausted. I slept a long night’s sleep, enjoying the rest. But as I woke up this Good Friday morning, I reflected on Jesus’ long night, knowing that, years before, He had spent the whole night after the Passover meal and His time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane being humiliated, mocked, spat at, beaten, whipped, taunted, interrogated, challenged, ‘crowned’ … Such injustice.
For Jesus, it was His last night on earth as a man. He was probably exhausted, too, being made to stay up all night by the Pharisees. Not only that, so many people had been demanding His attention, expecting Him to rescue them from the tyranny of the Romans, set them free from the harsh religious rules of the Pharisees, heal their bodies (which He happily did), perform miracles like a show pony, prove Himself over and over… He was misunderstood in His purpose and some were not happy with Him at all. He was a threat to their way of life. Others followed which ever voice was the loudest. One day it was “Hosanna!” The next week it was “Crucify Him!”
Yet He faced this final night with joy and courage, with love for His disciples and expectation for the future. He was happy to eat this last Passover meal with those who had followed Him.
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
Luke 22:15 (NIV)
“…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…”
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
He had the weight of the cross on His heart – the joy, the faithfulness to His Father – but also the pain and suffering to come – the physical agony, nakedness, the spiritual pain, carrying the punishment for all sin, taking on the curses, sorrows, griefs, shame and disease, and the separation from His Father. He faced the cross and the grave, the demons in hell, to win us back to the Father. Such love.
I wondered if He thought He might fail. This was hard.
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
He asked for a reprieve, at the same time knowing He had to do this. Such faithfulness.
And this faithfulness spoke to my heart, as I am one who fails often: who fails out of fear, procrastination, or avoidance altogether, and who fails due to my flesh rising up – sin. His faithfulness to His Father, and to me, sparked a courage in me again to seek to follow Him well, with a cry in my heart, ‘Lord, help me to be faithful. Help me follow You’.
The week before the Passover meal, after being welcomed to the festival by the great crowd crying, ‘Hosanna!’, Jesus speaks to the people,
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
John 12: 24
I believe He was referring both to Himself dying to produce a harvest of eternal life, as well as to those who would follow Him, that we would lay down our lives to serve Him (v25-26).
Jesus then speaks His heart, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name.” (v27-28)
Even in this week of anguish and trouble, leading to His death on the cross, Jesus’ focus was to bring glory to His Father. I’m sure there is much more to be said about this, but my heart wondered what God’s glory looks like. I thought of His love, mercy, salvation and redemption; His forgiveness, power, hope and victory! Is this what Jesus was referring to? Are these not glorious?! What a gift we have been given in these. Or perhaps, if I can appear bold, are we His glory? I wondered this and felt it as a great humility -that we might glorify God, bring Him glory in our believing, in our love and devotion, and even, in the sense of a child to His Father, be His glory, His precious children, His treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18) Please don’t misunderstand me. Just as ‘grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged” (Psalm 90:16), are we like that to God? I know that’s how I feel about my children. For God to allow His precious Son to die that we might be brought back, bought with His shed blood, redeemed by the power of the cross and resurrection, does not that tell us how much we are loved and valued? Like the man who found treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 14:44) and sold all he had for it, are we the treasure that the Father bought? In my morning meditation I sensed His joy, His deep passion for us. I was reminded again how great the Father’s love is for the sinful, broken, shamed, prideful and weak soul. That our Father would choose us to be His, love us enough to send Jesus to die a gruesome death, and rescue us from an eternity worse than death, is a wonderful gift.
And I pray with the Apostle Paul, that
“you will be empowered to discover…the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is His love! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding – this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume: she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
John 12:1-3 (NIV)
Here we have Jesus’ friends, serving a dinner in His honour. They were the ones who had experienced and witnessed the resurrection power of Jesus, when He raised Lazarus from the dead.
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?
I can feel the joy and gratitude in their hearts as they once again share a meal with Jesus. I feel that same joy in my heart, that same gratefulness for all he has done for me. My Saviour. My friend. This is my Jesus – the One who is close, relaxed, joyful, attentive, personal.
At this dinner we see Lazarus and his sisters pour out their love on Jesus. Firstly, Martha is serving. Pouring her love on Jesus through her love language of hospitality.
I am reminded of an earlier interaction with Jesus, where in her desire to serve, Martha complained and found fault with her sister. At that time, Jesus reminded her,
You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.
I’m hoping she learned from that and is now serving with a grateful and cheerful heart. Or is there another possibility? After all, in John 12:2 it merely says, Martha served. No commentary at all. Was there nothing more to say of her serving? Was this love poured out, or was she just fulfilling cultural norms?
You know – those expectations we place on ourselves because ‘that’s just the way it’s done’. Or was this an expression of her deep love for Jesus, now she, too, had learned to ‘sit at his feet’, as her sister already had? Was busyness still a struggle for Martha or had her lesson with Jesus taught her to serve with a heart of love and fellowship instead of anger or angst or other’s expectations?
Sometimes I find it hard to know why I am doing what I do. I am a people pleaser. I don’t like being in trouble. I like things to be nice. I love to bless, but I don’t always have the energy to do them all ‘in love’. Sometimes they just feel like chores.
Perhaps, we need to see what the ‘many things’ are that we are worried about and remember there is just ‘one thing that is needed’. Is it time to remove some of those things (stuff, activities, the wrong people in your life, wrong attitudes or focus…) or just a time to re-evaluate and put in perspective? Whatever our roles in life, we have a choice in attitude toward them and the people they effect.
None of us have ‘arrived’ and we all carry a mixture of motives and attitudes. Hopefully, Mary had adjusted hers. I hope to adjust mine, also.
Next, we read of Lazarus, reclining at the table with Jesus – such a lovely picture of fellowship, friendship and intimacy. I can’t imagine a person with more gratefulness than one who has been raised from death – to be given a second chance, more time with loved ones, and now the privilege of sharing this Life with those around him.
And yet, this is our story. We have been saved from death, raised to life. We, too, can have grateful hearts. The gift of eternal life is for us all. Our lives, in the hands of the Saviour can be safe, redeemed, rescued from death.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Now it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Lazarus. He also became a target along with Jesus because of his experience and devotion. (John 12:10).
We too, are targets for the enemy. Which is why we must stay close to Jesus, resting in Him, fellowshipping with Him. He is our strength, our sustenance, our protection, our friend. We can trust Him.
Finally, we see Mary, taking perfume to pour out on Jesus’ feet. She took the place of a servant to anoint her Saviour. To declare her love. To anticipate His death. Instead of waiting for a funeral to express her love, she now poured out that which was prepared for His burial (verse 7). This was costly. A year’s wages saved to buy this oil.
Not everyone understood. Not everyone agreed.
Some will misinterpret our love poured out on Jesus. But He won’t. Some will be angry or envious, greedy or critical. They will twist our gifts into something selfish. They will demand that we should have used our resources, love, or giftings in a different way. Man’s judgement can be cruel.
No matter what ‘they’ say, let us pour our love out on Jesus today and every day, serve Him with all our hearts and sit at His feet, fellowshipping with Him. Let’s take the time. Let’s save and spend our resources in the honour and love and worship of our great Saviour, Redeemer and Lord.