John 11:45-12:11 – Every Death You Take
“What do you want to die to while in this program?”- Interviewer
“I want to die to my sense of control, my desire to prove that I can make it in ministry, whether trying to prove to myself or my family or anyone else. I want to trust that God is directing my steps and not feel like I have to fight for my position or prove that God has called me.”
This was one question in just one interview that lasted over an hour. It was one of the last questions, but it was not the most emotionally trying one of the interview.
I started reading the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring a week ago, not connecting that my 2018 word of Emprise is a great descriptor for the journey of one Frodo Baggins.
I watched the whole 2nd season of Baskets a week ago, a dramedy about a clown (Zach Galafanakis) who is trying to find both, himself and love, but struggles on his journey to find a sense of internal stability.
I’m living in the most exciting season of my life, one that has finally felt like God is knitting the pieces together in my mind whilst showing me the purpose of the past several years. Purpose makes pain feel less painful, post experience.
I am and feel like I am an individual in control, holding loosely, while trusting in God. It feels good though I feel like there is more, which is why I find it strange that after creating a sense of comfort, control, and consistency, I feel called to a vocation that will likely turn some of that or perhaps all of it on its head in the upcoming season of life.
Can we pause here?
John 11:45 makes an affirming statement; Jews that came to visit Mary, see that Jesus resurrected Lazarus and those people believe in Him. But the tone changes quickly because some of those that visited reported back to the Pharisees. This prompted a meeting of the Sanhedrin (the rabbinic council).
In the meeting, they see the work of Jesus, recognize his accomplishments and their lack thereof, so they come up with a plot to kill Him. Jesus is aware of this so his ministry becomes private. As Passover approached, people were on the high alert for Jesus.
John 12 tells us that six days prior to the Passover festival, Jesus is back in Bethany with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They have a dinner in Jesus’ honor and at this dinner while Martha serves and Lazarus reclines, Mary pours out pure nard (an expensive perfume) on Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair.
Judas, of course objects, but Jesus makes an insightful and revelatory statement. He says, “Leave her alone. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
A crowd begins to gather to see Jesus and Lazarus who was raised from the dead. This incited the chief priests even more, deciding to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus, because more people were coming to faith in Christ.
But the disciples are unaware still. Who knows how many failed to comprehend that this was Jesus’ final two weeks before His death and resurrection? At the very least, we know two people grasped it. One was Jesus who on several occasions told his disciples that he would die and raise to life.
The other was Mary, who Jesus suggests that the perfume poured our was intended to be saved for the day of his burial. In other words, she is aware Jesus will die, but she wants to honor Him while He is still alive. But she walks with this sense that Jesus’ time to go is coming.
His face and pace is steadfast.
Jesus’ is going, literally moving towards death for the sins of the world. He is walking into feeling forsaken by His Father. He is obeying to the point of death, faithful to His mission, fulfilling perfection in sacrifice. Jesus is taking kingship and authority over death by dying.
And likewise Jesus who has echoed the call of what it means to be a disciple/follower has reminded us in the gospels “If you try to save your life you will lose it, but lose your life for my sake and find it.” (Luke 17:33) “Take up your cross and follow.” (Matthew 16:24) “Follow me, leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22)
In other words:
“What are you afraid to leave behind or lose in order to follow me?”
I don’t ask or answer that question trying to relate to Jesus because I am not, but I am a little Christ (Christian). I ask that question as I see myself in Mary. My service is weak, my knowledge is somewhat bold in confidence mingled with the uncertainty of the proper timing of pouring out a fragrant offering. Kneeling in front of family and friends while trying to give some honor to my Lord (I know it’s just a drop in the bucket), I am too in the moment to hear any criticism, trusting Jesus will come to my defense.
Yes, I am a little trepid of losing my livelihood, of potentially leaving behind comfort and familiarity. I have these passing thoughts of being afraid to fail in ministry or to move and be overwhelmed with feeling alone.
But… really I am also afraid of the bottom of this well, not rock bottom as in my sin has led me to a breaking point, rather the end or death to a season of life that has been largely safe and comfortable and did not necessarily require much intentional discipline (or at least, my awareness was not as keen to needing to be).
The steps of dying to live and losing to gain are daily. They require reminders and motive checks, they require forgiveness, grace, thick skin and a tender and empathetic heart. They require acceptance of things that won’t change and adaptability in the things that surely will. To be raised up from the dead requires a burial.
Jesus and Mary of Bethany knew that.
You and I are probably still learning that.