but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25 ESV)
Recently a string of rather unexpected deaths have rocked several of my friends. Death is a difficult thing to deal with. Even when you have the assurance that a person was a believer it is still tough to have them suddenly out of your life. Even though it is a temporary removal.
Jesus’ mother had to have been emotionally devastated by the events of Jesus’ execution. She had known from before his birth that he would face the inevitable brutality, but that wouldn’t have made it any easier. Thankfully there were friends around her to help her through it.
Jesus, from his cross, even appointed his youngest apostle, John, to watch over Mary. He took care of his mom. He didn’t want her to face life alone. It begs a curious question that I don’t really know the answer to. Where was Jesus’ adopted father Joseph?
The bible doesn’t really answer that question, but the point is that Jesus wanted Mary to be taken care of. Even in his final moments he was concerned for others. He didn’t love his life alone, he didn’t die alone, and he doesn’t wish that his people would go it alone either.
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. (Mark 14:8 ESV)
As Mary anointed Jesus with the costly perfume people grumbled at the apparent waste of such an action. Jesus chastised them, declaring her sacrifice to be a beautiful and selfless act of worship. She had done what she could with what she had. It was her way of offering all that she had to God.
What does God ask from us? Better yet, what has God already done for you, or given to you, that He might be asking for you to use for His Kingdom? Mary did what she could, whatever she was able to do she did for Jesus. Furthermore, her faithful act of worship had a part to play in God’s work of salvation.
What can you do? I think it’s high time that we in the American Church stop showing up to sponge off of the insight and experiences of the few. God still speaks to us, He still reveals Himself to our hearts, He still challenges us to take up His cause. What are we going to do about it? When will we cross the line and stop merely being consumers?
Mary did what she could. I don’t know what we can do, but I think it’s time we found out.
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. (Matthew 26:10 ESV)
Shortly before his murder Jesus was traveling through Bethany, the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, while on his way to Jerusalem. As he enjoyed their hospitality his friend Mary anointed him with a very costly perfume. It was a beautiful, and incredibly selfless, act of worship.
I remember hearing missionaries speak on occasion as I grew up. They would often tell amazing stories of sacrifice and service. The mission field seemed a place ripe with opportunities for selfless acts of worship. In my own life it always seemed to be an incredibly easy thing to love Jesus. It wasn’t until early adulthood that I was faced with a situation where worshipping and serving Christ actually cost me something.
Many people the world over are faced with great difficulty in serving Jesus. Their culture, political environment, or familial situation may make it dangerous to openly worship Christ. Still, millions around the world offer their worship to him. Like Mary at Bethany, they understand he is worth all of their sacrifice.
Jesus is worthy of all that we can give him. Our worship, our adoration, our service—all of these things bring us near to him. Extravagant worship is a beautiful thing in the eyes of God.
“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 ESV)
Why did you this? Why did you do that? Why did you buy whole milk? Ever had someone question your every action, motive, and method? Jesus did. He was under consistently uncommon scrutiny of a kind we would be hard pressed to fathom.
Jesus’ doubters questioned him and challenged him on a regular basis. His followers questioned him. His haters demonized and bemoaned him. In large part everyone in Jesus’ life had some kind of opinion they were hoping to push on him.
Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was already up to his untruthful duplicitous tricks by the time the ministry team passed back through Bethany. He was overseer of the ministry’s limited and meager money supply. So when Mary lavished such a wonderful and extravagant gift on Jesus it did not set well with him. He took an opportunity to chastise Mary under pretenses of charity. Actually it was selfishness at work.
Some days I feel a little like Judas, I find myself defaulting to selfish arrogance. I wrestle with thoughts of perceived supremacy. I question God, his methods, his means, and his motives. The silly thing about all of that is that the responsibility for any problem, whether actual or conjured, lies solely with me.
It’s not my right, it is not your right, to question the way that God chooses to work. “Why was it done this way?” Is really just another way of telling God, “I think Im smarter than you.”
Read: Luke 2:41-50
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV)
Every year to celebrate the Passover Jesus travelled with his family to Jerusalem, a journey of roughly 140 miles over rough and rugged terrain. When he was twelve he went missing for a couple of days which of course upset Mary and Joseph quite a lot. Any good parent has a strong reaction to the news that their child is missing. They returned and were looking for him. Only to discover him listening and teaching in the Temple.
Have you ever lost something really important only to turn around and find it in the most obvious of places? In this story we begin to see the future of Jesus who is all about His Father’s business. We also get to witness his understanding of his unique identity as both God and man. Jesus showed his divine nature in his actions at the Temple, but he also showed his human nature in his submission to Mary and Joseph.
Sometimes we spend a lot of time looking for things, whether answers or objects, and they are in the most obvious of places. Many people spend insane amounts of time, effort, and resources to achieve a peace that is offered in the most obvious of places, Jesus.
Read: Luke 2:39-40
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40 ESV)
When Herod the Great died Joseph returned to Nazareth with his young family. It was in Nazareth that the young boy Jesus grew into the mighty God-man we read of in the Gospels. Jesus became strong as he grew. He was filled with wisdom. But it was a process as relates to his human nature.
Growing is an essential part of all life. We start small and young and progress in age, size, and capability, or at least we should. Growing up on a farm I got to be pretty familiar with growing things. Whether it was an animal or plant, the phrase if its not growing its dying held pretty true. We should have a desire to continually grow in our relationship with God.
When we begin our personal journey with God we are like children. We may have great passion, enthusiasm, and faith, but we often lack the kind of maturity that fills us with strength and wisdom. Spending time with the Father gives us both strength and wisdom. Not so we can better manage things on our own, but so that we will trust God even more.
Jesus enjoyed the favor of God because of his growth. Yes, he was the Son of God, but he was also a man. And as he grew from boy to man he followed the Law of God, sought after the heart of God, and it produced in his human nature the strength, wisdom, and favor of God.
Read: Hosea 11 & Matthew 2:13-25
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11:1 ESV)
In 700 B.C. the prophet Hosea wrote that Jesus’ family would flee to Egypt as refugees. It was a courageous and faithful act on the part of Jesus’ adopted father Joseph that saved the young Messiah’s life. But to further fulfill prophecy, and ultimately the mission of God for mankind, Jesus had to leave Egypt.
I really believe that along the way God sometimes directs us to places that are more like pit stops than they are destinations. We can, and should, do whatever good we can at these stops, but ultimately they are small parts of our journey. Whatever reason God has for sending us to those places, it is usually more about protecting us, helping us learn and grow, or helping someone there, than anything else. Sometimes you have to flee to your own personal Egypt to become who you are supposed to be, but you almost always have to leave it behind to step into your destiny.
Jesus didn’t spend an incredibly long time in Egypt. Joseph only kept him there until the danger had passed and it was time to return to Nazareth. It would still be many years before Jesus would begin his public ministry. Sometimes God takes us from one season of preparation to another. These seasons look different, are often at different locations, and come with a plethora of diverse learning experiences. Don’t be in a hurry to speed through these times. God can still use us in times of growth and learning. He will call us out of it when we’re ready for the fullness of His plan.