Sometimes a person’s whole life is gathered up into one moment.
I heard a story about a couple, Eduardo and Maria. They had just received news from the doctor. The results were not conclusive, but the doctor strongly believed Maria had MS. They were now awaiting a schedule of further tests. As they sat there in the doctor’s office, Maria felt Eduardo touch her hand. He said, “We’ll handle it.” His words brought a lifetime of memories rushing back. That’s what he’d said when she needed to be on total bedrest during the last weeks of her pregnancy. That’s what he’d said when they closed the factory. That’s what he’d said when their second child was diagnosed with depression. Again and again, throughout all of those years, she had felt him place his hand on hers and say, “We’ll handle it.” And, with God’s grace and strength, they did.
Those words meant work. Hard work. A facing of facts. They led to a deeper reliance upon faith and prayer. And a daily commitment to doing what could be done and entrusting their days and burdens to the Lord.
Suddenly, Maria saw it. Those years of faith in the midst of hardship were training. Training for this present moment. And, although she was devastated by the news and afraid of what this might mean for her family, she knew that they would handle it. God had prepared them for a moment like this.
In the parables he told during the last week of his life, Jesus was telling stories to touch the imagination of his disciples. He wanted them to prepare and watch. He spoke of bridesmaids waiting for the groom, of guests invited to a banquet and needing to be prepared, of people watching and waiting for trees to bear fruit. In story after story, Jesus was encouraging his disciples to watch. Prepare and watch for the coming Kingdom of God.
Jesus wants you to know something, too - discipleship is not one day a week. Living in the Kingdom is not about one hour on a weekend. It is 24/7. Day in, day out - preparing and watching. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to keep watching? It is so easy to come to church on Sunday and think we have got God covered. For us, being a Christian can sometimes be reduced simply to going to church. Yet, there’s more to it than that.
“I went to church,” we say to God. Then God responds, “Yes. And now, you’re going out into the world. I’ll meet you there. Be prepared. Watch.”
Jesus wants us to live in deep discipleship with him. He wants us to meet him in our daily lives in the world. But what does that look like?
Today, Jesus gives us an answer. Not in parables but in a person. (Read Mark 14:1–9.)
Jesus was in the town of Bethany. It was a small village about two miles outside of Jerusalem. With the celebration of Passover, Jerusalem was crowded, and so Jesus was eating dinner outside Jerusalem in the home of Simon.
While he is reclining at table, a woman comes in. She is carrying a bottle of ointment. Expensive ointment. It was a perfume that had been made from the roots of a plant grown in the mountains of northern India. It had come from halfway across the world and brought with it a fragrance that people had only heard about, never smelled.
Coming to Jesus, she broke the long neck of the jar and poured the ointment over his head. Fragrance filled the room. If you have ever wanted to know what wonder would smell like, this was it. Some of the people there were transported to a world of kings. They saw Jesus, reclining at table with oil running down his face and the scent of wonder from a distant kingdom filling the room. They were lost in wonder at this moment. The Kingdom of God was breaking into the world.
While some were transported to a world of kings, others preferred to sit there in a world of merchants.
They began to argue about this anointing. It was a waste of money. This ointment could have been sold. The proceeds could have been given to the poor. A whole year’s salary—think of the good you could do with that! All of that money, wasted as it was poured out on Jesus.
The room quickly closed in as these men poured out their anger on the woman. They scolded her. They turned everyone’s eyes away from Jesus and onto her. She suddenly looked foolish. Wasteful. Inconsiderate. Uncaring toward the poor.
But then Jesus spoke. He interrupts their hatred to speak love. He stops an argument in order to begin a conversation - a conversation that we can learn from today. Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9 ESV).
Jesus connects what she did with the gospel. Why? Because she anointed Jesus for his burial. He would soon be beaten, spit on, scourged and flogged, nailed to a tree. But he was anointed for this work. His death and burial would be a royal act of love. This is how God will bring about the Kingdom. For her, for the disciples, for you. What she did was right—it was foolish, it was wasteful, but it was right. Why? Because it was connected to this wonderful, wasteful love of God.
Jesus is trying to train us. To help recognize love when we see it. Love sometimes looks foolish. Wasteful. Unwise.
That God would send his Son to die for sinners is foolish. That God would love those who do not love him back is a waste. That God would entrust his Kingdom to people who keep on failing him is unwise. And yet that is the wonderful love that brings you into the Kingdom of God. God sends his Son, Jesus, to do the foolish work of love. He dies for you and then rises to teach you what his death truly means. You are forgiven of your sins and you are made a child in God’s Kingdom. Anointed with the Spirit, you now bring to the world this foolishly fragrant, this wonderfully wasteful love of God.
By giving us a picture of this woman, Jesus invites us to see the work of God. First in him and then in our lives.
Like this woman, Jesus takes that which is priceless and pours it out for us. The King of all creation pours out his royal blood on the cross. That death, however, is not the end. It is the beginning as it fills the world with wonder. It descends to the depths of hell with victory over sin, death, and the devil. It rises to the heights of heaven with power and glory. It crosses the mountains and travels over the seas. It goes from Jerusalem to Ethiopia and to the ends of the earth. It is found even here. Today. In this place, where people sometimes think that faith means giving one day of the week to God. Here, Jesus comes to share with you the good news that he has given his life for you. You are forgiven.
And now, Jesus invites you to watch the work of God in your lives. Today, he prepares you. He shows you what love looks like. And tomorrow he will meet you out in the world. Watch for him. Wherever an act of love is out of place, wherever a word of forgiveness is foolish, wherever a work of kindness is a waste, there you will find him. Waiting for you.
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from the sermon outlines that accompany CTA’s new Easter preparation theme, Crucified. Glorified. Use these downloadable sermons and the included discussion questions to enhance your worship and Bible time in the weeks leading up to Easter!
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