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.
I’ve often imagined myself as the Samaritan woman sitting with Jesus by the well. Putting myself in the story of the Bible. Listening to Jesus. Other times I just imagine sitting with Him on a park bench and, in my mind’s eye, seeing what is before me, fields or meadows or flowers. I listen to His still, small voice, which, in a quiet heart, is like a booming burst of love and hope!
As I sat with Him recently, I was pondering being called the temple of the Holy Spirit. What an incredible thought.
“Or do you not know that your body is thetemple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,
whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
1 Corinthians 6:19.
In my heart I could see clouds, like a mountain valley full of mist.
Jesus reminded me that I’m seated with Him in the Heavenly places and what I saw was a view from heaven, looking out at the clouds. It was beautiful – like seeing clouds beneath you when you’re in an aeroplane. That sense of awe.
Twice last week friends sent me Romans 5:1-5; such a powerful and wonderful chapter. (Really, they all are!) So, I knew there was a message for me in there. And I loved the new revelation that dropped into my heart. I always marvel at how the Holy Spirit highlights truths I’ve read before and I get to see them in a fresh and exciting way.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)
One of these highlights was in verse 5, that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. That really struck me. We don’t have to seek Him ‘out there’, far away. He is in us, right here. Close. When we seek Him, it is not us going somewhere, working at finding Him, slogging to see Him, sense Him, know Him. It’s so much more precious than that. Seeking Him is but a prayer, a breath, a turn of our heart to know He is there. He is in us. Of course, we want to pray and study His Word, to hear His voice, to seek Him. But it is from a place of ‘here’. God with us. How wonderful.
If you are His, bought by His precious blood and saved by His great love, if you are reconciled to Him through His own death on the cross, then know that God’s love has been poured out into your heart! And if you desire this love of God in your heart, you just need to ask Him. Give your life to Jesus and follow Him. It’s His promise to pour His love out to you.
We certainly understand ‘poured out’ at the moment.
Rain! Constant, soaking, flooding, even destructive, as it builds and flows, taking over and building new water courses. Overwhelming.
War. Greed, evil, misunderstanding, fear and stubbornness in poor leadership (world-wide) causing such disaster, heartache, and unnecessary pain. Too much sadness poured out into our world.
But God’s outpouring of love is definitely not destructive or selfish like floods and war. Though the imagery is powerful. How immense is God’s love for us. So overwhelming that it can even wash away the biggest difficulties in our life, it can move our hearts to where he wants them to go, it can create such a shift in our world that we will never be the same. And who wants to be the same? I want to be like Him. I need to be changed, healed, victorious, courageous… These shifts are not usually instant, of course. ‘Suddenlies’ usually come after time and patience, trust and faith. But He is a good God worth all our faith, all of our life, all of our hope. More than a hundred years ago, Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God.” It is still a saying that gives me courage and joy.
Here is a small glimpse of God’s character: His love is patient, kind, everlasting, unfailing, faithful, sacrificial, powerful, cleansing. On any page of the Bible you will see His goodness and grace, mercy and love. We have the privilege of receiving it.
“God is love”
1 John 4:16 (NKJV)
And so, I receive this love poured out. God Himself! That is worth pondering and believing. God, who IS love, lives in me.
This knowledge wasn’t new to me, but it was fresh. And it brought hope. This is the beauty of the Living Word of God.
Like many of us, I have found these last two years difficult. Covid, cancer, fires, floods, mandates, more floods, loss, war… Watching our world disintegrate around us has made me consider and question my place and purpose, my understanding of being God’s person in this world. In some ways I feel helpless. Will God answer my prayer? What can I do to make a difference? What evil is afoot? These questions are good to ask. They refine us, cause us to seek God for deeper answers and meaning. Doors have closed, so what’s next? How do I reconcile God’s goodness with such pain? How do I live a blessed life here while others are suffering? These are questions that have been asked since the beginning of time. And I certainly don’t have all the answers.
But another fresh revelation from Romans 5 also gave me great hope. Even a bit of grunt and excitement to keep trusting God.
“…knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)
As I journalled, I called it the ‘Harvest of Suffering’. I love a harvest, seeing the fruit (or vegetables) of my work in the garden, the dust over the plains as the combine harvesters do their job, the loads of sunflowers growing by the edge of the road. This is what our suffering produces – something worthwhile.
Suffering produces perseverance, making us strong and resilient, which then produces character – faithfulness, being trustworthy, compassion, kindness, courage… Making us like Jesus. Character produces hope – the confidence we have in God’s Word and His faithfulness. Trusting that God will come through for us at the right time. What a joy to know that God uses all of our hard days, all of the trials, our developing perseverance, and our growing character to bring about a harvest of hope. Hope, like faith, is not seen. It is used, like a muscle. It is a foundation to stand on. It is strength to our circumstances.
“And hope does not put us to shame…” (v5 NIV) We don’t have to carry shame – wondering if He will answer us, doubting His love, thinking we are not good enough for his attention and love because of our mistakes. Hope, instead, will wash away any inferiority, fear, disappointment. Verses 6-10 reassure us that God knew full well who we were when He died for us. “Christ died for the ungodly” (v6) “While we were still sinners…” (v8)
This is His great love.
And it is this great love that is in me, poured out through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. So we can stop striving to find, earn or even feel God’s love. Child of God, He is already here. He is in me. He is in you. What an honour. What a privilege. His love, poured out into this temple of the Holy Spirit.
Actions: Read these verses to see some of God’s incredible character: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Exodus 15:13, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 100:5, John 15:13, Romans 5:35-39, Ephesians 316-19, 25-27
In which circumstances will you hope in God? Tell Him. Write your vision and thank Him.