John 12:1-19 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 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.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 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. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 9 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. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”
First, a pint of pure nard. Six days before the Passover, or six days before Jesus’ death, he arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived. There, Mary, Martha and Lazarus prepared a dinner for Jesus. Because of Jesus, all their bitterness was turned into joy. They were so thankful and wanted to do their best to show him their thanks. Out of all those who witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection, Mary was especially touched. Jesus’ divinity meant something more to her. She felt that just holding a feast was not enough to show her thanks, so to everyone’s surprise, Mary slowly approached Jesus and started to pour her $40,000-worth perfume all on Jesus’ feet. All of this seems ridiculous. Who would do this kind of thing? Not only is it crazy, but it also seems foolish to waste such precious perfume–this does not look like a very wise thing to do! Her perfume was very, very expensive. And more than that, the fact that she poured it on Jesus’ feet was more ridiculous. Maybe she could have packed his perfume and put it in a gift bag–at least that would be better than pouring it on Jesus’ feet! Also, she knew that once she poured it out, she was never, ever getting it back. Later, even if she regretted, she would not get it back. Once it was gone, it would be gone forever. Based on these facts, I can learn a little more of what it means to love Jesus. Sometimes, I pour out my perfume on Jesus’ feet because I know he is worth it, but then I change my mind. Out of my sense of loss, I find myself still trying to gather some perfume on the ground and put it back into my jar. In my new life, I had to give up many things for Jesus, because if I don’t give them up for Jesus, I will end up giving up Jesus for them. Others, however, do not understand this. In the world’s eyes, what I did, and how I am living my life, seems ridiculous. They do not understand why I do not party, why I do not want love and attention from men. They may criticize me, just like how Judas Isacriot criticized Mary for pouring out the perfume. He did not know that actually, Mary valued this jar of perfume more than he did, and more than anyone else in the house did. Yet she chose to pour it out for Jesus. Others, even my family members, think I should not be so stubborn in my decision to not pursue human relationships. Little do they know that this very thing that I decided to give up for Jesus meant everything to me in the past. I lived for it; even my life goal was to be a housewife. I made this decision not because I had no interest in it; in fact, I knew more than anyone else how sweet and how attractive romantic relationship can be, and I knew its value. But even so, I consider Jesus to be worthy of this most valuable thing in my life, just like how Mary knew more than anyone else of the value of her perfume because she was once the girl who would save up every penny just to buy a little bit of it. She did not need Judas to tell her that this perfume could be used for better. She did not need him to tell her that this perfume is expensive. She bought it! Mary knew, she knew what she was doing, she knew what she was losing when she poured it all on Jesus. She knew what this action meant for her future. She knew that she would never get her perfume back, and she was ok with it. She knew that Jesus’ feet would probably just smell really nice for couple days, then everything would be gone–and she was also ok with it. Same with me, I knew what I was doing. It felt like cutting off my hands and feet when I decided to give up my marriage dream for Jesus, or my desire for comfort in order to better serve this mission, and I knew that once I surrendered that to Jesus, I’m not getting it back, and even the slightest little hope must be removed from my heart, and I am also ok with it. In comparison to Jesus, everything loses its value. He is worth every drop of that perfume. Surely, he is also worthy of every second of my life, of all my dreams and desires, of my comfort and of my future.
When everyone was about to attack Mary for all this nonsense that she was doing, Jesus said, “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.” Mary certainly did not know that Jesus was going to die on the cross. How then could she save this perfume for the day of his burial? That’s not what she had in mind. But she simply did this out of her heart’s love for Jesus. But Jesus gave her credit, and justified her actions for her. From this, I can see that one thing I can always know for sure is that Jesus never drives me away when I really pour out my heart for him. Even though I make a lot of mistakes, and sometimes, I do not know what I am doing or what I am talking about, still Jesus sees my heart. If he is the one who just criticizes and judges my actions, then there is no way that I can still be here. Simply, in Jesus, I do not have to be so fearful, worrying about this or that, and never being able to do anything for him. While I still need to be wise, I don’t need to let this fear paralyze me. Even if what I do look absolutely weird and even crazy in other people’s eyes, Jesus does not judge based on the appearance. I can have the confidence that even if the whole world criticizes me, Jesus will be pleased with me, for he knows my heart. It’s so beautiful to be fully known by Jesus this way. I never have to try to explain or justify myself, because even before I open my mouth to speak, he already knows. To be loved but not known is very sad. To be known but not loved is scary, but to be loved and fully known is a lot like Jesus’ love. And In this love, I can find freedom, satisfaction and true happiness.
Actually, when I think about it, I realize that in the end, all that matters is Jesus’ acknowledgment. Sometimes, I feel like I am working hard to accomplish something. I thought that students may come to repentance through my persuasion. But It is clear in this passage that the reason why I pour out my time and energy for Jesus is not so that I can accomplish something through my hard work, so there is no need to become sad or depressed just because things do not always turn out very well. Even then Jesus acknowledges my hard work. In Jesus, nothing I do is a waste. Even “meaningless” things like pouring out perfume on someone’s feet becomes very beautiful. But it is when I do them for my own benefit that even these good works lose meaning. Even if I did a great job, if it is not for Jesus, then it is still meaningless. I do not need any reward from men, whether it is human praise and recognition, or proof of my labor or some benefits. I should not put hope in them. If I do, I will only be disappointed. But if instead, my hope is in Jesus, then his recognition alone will be enough.
Jesus also wanted to teach the crowd that they would always have the poor, but they would not always have him. I remember my parents saying, “You will always have the chance to go to church, but you will not always have us!” My heart ached when they said that. But it shouldn’t be, because I know that my dedication to the Lord is going to yield eternal glory. All that I lose will only be restored in the kingdom of heaven. I pray for my family members, and I know that only when I stand firm can there be a chance for them to be saved. And at that time, we will not just have one family gathering, but eternity together. Maybe it seems that I am cold and uninterested in spending time with them, but I love them a lot. In the past, whenever I spent time with my family, I enjoyed it so much that I did not want it to end. But whenever I thought about the time when my parents will pass away, how my sister will eventually also get old and die, I just became so sad, and even happy family time was not that happy when I knew how it was going to end in the future. But in Jesus, I have hope. Perhaps this is also how Mary felt. Even though she was losing a lot, and it was certainly not an easy thing for her to do, she considered that all her losses were not worth comparing with the glory that would be revealed, what really was more important. It seems that life is so short, and enjoying my youth is the most urgent thing. Once I am old, I cannot go back even if I want to. But if instead, I will not die–if I lose my life only to get eternal life in the end–then I can also say, “I will always have time for other things, but I will not always have this chance to serve Jesus.” Now when my situation is limited, it is the best chance to prove my love for Jesus.
Second, see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt! It was the time of Passover, and Jesus now entered Jerusalem. At this, everyone was so happy. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is the king of Israel!” They really believed that Jesus was their king, the king that they wanted so badly, the king that God promised them. All humans want a king. Not because they want to be oppressed, but because they want someone to go before them when dangers come, someone who would unite them, and lead them. This was what they expected when they demanded God for a king in the past. They saw how all the other nations had a king, and thought, “If only we also had a king, we would be as powerful as them!” Yet they did not realize that God had been their king all this time. Only God can be the true king we all desire. When the Israelites asked for a king, it was actually their rejection of God as their king. As I thought about this, I can see how I too, wanted a king, someone who will be there for me as I go through trials and difficulties, someone who is truly reliable. As for me, I would submit to this king and be loyal to him regardless of the situation. When the king fights for me, I also fight for the king. This is what I deeply desired. However, no human can be like this. I should never have put hope in humans, or things of this world because when I do, I am also rejecting God as my king. Now as I study the Bible, I learned that Jesus is my king, and I belong to his kingdom. His kingdom is very beautiful. And this king that I must serve is also very beautiful. Unlike other kings, Jesus sits on a donkey. More than that, the Scripture also wrote about him, saying, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion. See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” For a very long time, I had the idea that Jesus came to judge and to condemn. I imagined that his entry into Jerusalem would be like a three-hour-long parade, and after that, finally, he would show up. After all, he is God! He is the highest of all things. As a result, I was always afraid of this king. I prayed every day because I feared that if I forget to pray one day, I was going to be seriously punished. Also, I was afraid to read the Bible when I was in the bathroom because my mom told me that I can also get punished that way. Christian life for me became a life of trying hard to not get punished, instead of having a real and beautiful relationship with God. But seeing Jesus riding on a donkey, saying hi to all the people, I know that I don’t have to live in fear of being punished every day. Rather, seeing him on a donkey somehow gives me so much confidence and joy. It’s the confidence that I can approach this king and not be punished for it, and it is the joy that someone as great as my king is willing to be with me. Jesus removed all barriers between humans and God, showing that God’s ultimate desire is to be with men. In the desert, he wanted to be with his people, so he instructed them to build the tabernacle. Then many years later, he still wanted to be with his people, so he himself became a human and lived among us. Even now, he is with me. What a beautiful and gentle king he is! No king wants to live with the people. No, they enjoy living in their beautiful palace, getting as far away from the people as possible. But my king did not just want to live with the people, but he actually came from heaven to earth, and now sitting on a donkey, just so that he can make himself approachable.
From all this, I can really see how much God loves and cares about me. When I was so blind, my way of thinking was very twisted because of my sins. I was full of pride, trying to make a statement about God when I didn’t actually know anything about him. At those times, he could have just left me, but he did not leave me alone. It’s because of his unfailing love that I can still be here today. As I look back, I’m sometimes so frustrated at myself. Why did I make that decision? How could I do that? If I was God, I would certainly not have tolerated myself. Surely, nobody could have tolerated me, except for God, who is so gentle and kind. Now God is teaching me to have the same gentleness and kindness toward others. Some students are very hard to deal with. They are prideful and insist on their way of thinking. And because of their pride, they are so rough, saying hurtful words to me all the time. I do not like to deal with this kind of sheep, but through this struggle, I am able to connect with Jesus’ pain. If I am like this just because of these college students, how much more burdened was Jesus when he saw that the whole world was against God! Surely, it was not easy for him. But he still came so gently and kindly, not as an authoritative, scary guy calling down fire from heaven, even though I could totally understand if he did that. I pray to also learn gentleness from Jesus. Being gentle is different from being a people-pleaser. I like pleasing others, but when it really comes to being gentle toward people who hurt me, I would not be able to do it. Only when I see how Jesus has been so gentle to me, can I be gentle toward others as well.
Seeing how joyful it was for the people to finally meet their God, the Pharisees were not so happy. They became all the more determined to kill Jesus as they saw that the whole world went after him. When they were occupied by their own pride, they were not able to see the beauty of King Jesus. I pray to not be like this, but to humble myself. That is how I can be blessed to see what a beautiful king he is.
One word: Jesus is worthy of my life