Recognize the past but look to your future in Christ
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
John 12: 1-11 – Jesus Anointed at Bethany
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.
Then Mary took about 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.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “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.”
“Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So, the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”
Editor’s note: This is part two of a Journey to the Cross devotion from April 5 on Palm Sunday through April 12 on Easter. It includes a scripture reading from the gospels as we walk with Jesus. Please join me each morning when a new devotion is posted.
Journey to the Cross – No. 2 – April 6, 2020
This is an unbelievable story during Holy Week. After being in a parade with waving of palm branches in Jerusalem, Jesus comes to the home of Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead. It’s a celebration in Christ’s honor for what He had done.
Lazarus is reclining and eating with Jesus. It’s a festive occasion, laughing and drinking wine while reliving what took place. You can almost hear the conversation.
“Can you believe it: “Jesus says, ‘Lazarus come out!’ ”
“I know, and then he does, with those strips wrapped around him like a mummy. And, boy, Lazarus, did you smell … that was nasty.”
Then amid the celebration, Mary drops the proverbial mic.
She gets down on her knees and pours a jar of pure nard on Jesus’ feet and then begins to wipe it with her hair. And, it’s not just any perfume. It’s worth the equivalent of a year’s wages, an extravagant gift.
John presents Mary as someone willing to give her all to Christ.
Judas objects by saying the perfume should have been sold and given to the poor. The passage states Judas didn’t say this because he cared for the poor, but he just wanted to keep some of it for himself.
But could you blame the other disciples for objecting? Imagine, if on our first service back together after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, a request was made to the finance committee to spend $40,000 on a pyrotechnic display for one worship service.
“YOU ARE GOING TO DO WHAT!!?”
That wouldn’t be the best use of our resources, would it?
But Jesus accepts the gift in the spirit in which it was given.
Mary’s showing her love and appreciation for Jesus for saving her brother’s life, but she’s also looking at the future – his death on the cross – at the same time.
This Easter season, can you look at how Christ has come to you in the past while also anticipating what the future holds at the same time?
I know where I can look in my past to see Christ’s presence.
It’s something my grandfather Anton (for whom our son is named) did for me. I wasn’t even completely aware of it until the last decade.
As a child, for most Easters, we traveled from Davenport, Iowa to Sobieski, Wisconsin, to be with my grandparents. We made the trip nearly every year from age five through high school.
My grandma gave my brothers and I huge Easter baskets. She made two frosted cakes for our traditional Polish Easter breakfast. One was in the shape of the cross and other was a lamb with coconut shavings.
But one thing from those trips stands out more than any other. My grandpa’s smile at church. It spoke of indescribable joy.
As a five-year-old, I just knew grandpa was happy. As a teen-ager, I knew I could stand next to him and hold his hand as we would belt out “Jesus Christ is Risen Today."
As a young married man, I knew if I could make a rare trip to be there, that my grandpa’s presence on this greatest of days would shine for my whole family.
Now, as a 55-year-old, I know my grandfather passed on to me the power of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection light – his dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead – without EVER saying a word.
Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not turn from it.”
As far as the future at Mulder, my heart leaps in being a conduit of leading people to relationships with Jesus Christ. Last year, at this same time, I struggled going back and forth with the list of pros and cons whether to leave my sports journalism career.
God held me in His arms the entire time.
I can’t wait to see which men from the Resolution for Men’s class are going to be the God-inspired leaders of their families while loving their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it.
I can’t wait to see how Celebrate Recovery, though temporarily postponed, can lead people to profound healing through Christ. There are so many other possibilities.
You may be thinking, the future is messed up. The worldwide virus is changing everything. It is … our lives will never be the same.
But God is still at work, maybe now more than ever, drawing people to Him.
Look at what God's doing at Mulder. The social-distancing shutdowns prompted livestream worship where we as a church can reach people in innovative ways we weren't previously.
Processes are being put in place to continue livestreaming once we return to the sanctuary.
God works in amazing ways.
This Holy Week recognize what Christ has done in your life.
But also pray about how it may inspire you to do something differently.
Which grandfather or grandmother among you, can shine the light of Jesus Christ in your grandchild’s heart simply by a smile empowered by what your Savior has done in your life?
Is there someone you can take under your wing and be a spiritual mentor? Is there a ministry where God is calling you – with your unique gifts and talents – to use for His kingdom?
People will be struggling and searching during this crisis. They will lose loved ones. They will lose jobs. They will need to change careers. They will be lonely.
People’s entire priority systems will be turned upside down.
When facing life’s “rock bottom” turning points, people desperately seek answers.
If someone comes to you, are you capable of giving them the best answer of all – the saving power of a relationship with Jesus Christ?
Before Jesus is arrested, he prays to be glorified, for the disciples and for all believers.
In John 17:3, he says: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Be rest assured of the power of what Christ is doing in your life.
This week we celebrate Christ’s journey to the cross and His resurrection.
And, with devotion, appreciation and love, offer yourself to Him at the foot of the cross … and extravagant gift – worth more than a pint of nard or a year’s annual salary – by giving your heart, soul and mind to Him.
Brad Zimanek is the Associate Pastor at Mulder Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. He worked in sports journalism for 32 years prior to answering the call to full-time ministry.