Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Kind of Disciple? John 12:1-8

The people who gathered around Jesus all had their own stories and thoughts about Jesus. People who follow Jesus today are no different. Jesus' first followers, his disciples, experienced God's power and mercy directly. They watched him perform signs that revealed his true identity. But they all lived out that experience so very differently.

This week we read a story from John 12:1-8 of 4 people who knew Jesus first hand. They all knew Jesus' power in their lives; but their actions reveal so much more. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and Judas Iscariot could all be considered followers with close personal knowledge of Jesus. But they followed Jesus in such profoundly different ways it just stands out.

  • Consider Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead.
    It can easily be assumed that Lazarus looked at Jesus as light and hope. He knew first hand that Jesus was unlike any other person. Who was Jesus to Lazarus? Jesus was life and hope in flesh and blood. I don't think that Lazarus, alive after 4 days in the grave, doubted Jesus power. He just knew him as his very real source of new life and new hope.
  • Imagine Martha hosting dinner for her once dead brother.
    What simple joy to serve food to her brother and his savior. Lazarus and Jesus weren't the only ones there eating; but it must have been pure joy to have Jesus and Lazarus both there. I can't even imagine the joy of sitting with a once dead loved one and the man who raised him from the dead. Sure some of Jesus disciples were there too, but Jesus and Lazarus together that was pure joy, that was hope and faith fulfilled. Who was Jesus to Martha? He was resurrection and life. He was the one with power over all things starting with death.
  • Think of Mary who covered his feet with perfume
    She came to Jesus with nard, a heavy strong smelling perfume. She didn't speak a word and told Jesus just how much she loved him. Her brother was back from the dead. He was buried four days but now Lazarus sat at the table as Martha served the food. Mary poured perfume on the feet of the man who brought her brother back to life. She wiped his feet with her hair. She loved this one who had shown great love for her brother
  • Judas Iscariot was there in the house too.
    I assume others were there too, but John very clearly names Judas. His motives on the outside look so honorable. His protest following Mary's extravagant anointing of Jesus is named out loud in the Gospel of John. The perfume was so expensive. It was worth 300 days wages--imagine a perfume valued at $30,000 poured out. What a waste, Judas protested. If it was sold and all that money given away for the good of the poor. But John hints at something more sinister in Judas character. He was a sneak, a con man, who slipped money from the common purse into his own pockets.
These people, and others, gathered around Jesus. But these four all have very different back stories. The part that matters for us today is that we can see ourselves in them. Who these four people were so very often mirrors who we are. The people who gather around Jesus today are just as varied in experience and perspective as the first to follow him. We all have surface motives and hidden motives. Many of us, like Lazaraus, Mary, and Martha have profound experiences of God's mercy. But many of us, like Judas have also known deep questions about God's actions and inaction. We have sins that linger just below the surface.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain about the paradox of good and evil. God can use our evil acts and still make good happen. It's not hard to see a paradox between Judas' idea discipleship and Mary's idea discipleship. Both if asked, "are you a faithful follower of Jesus?" would likely have answered, "yes." But there is something so different in how they are following. Lewis wisely observes,
For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. C.S. Lewis The Problem of Pain 1940. Harper Collins 2001 Page 111
Our stories as believers are complicated. Our motives are often layered thick with love and devotion for God interspersed with sin and egregious selfishness. And here's where the Word of God meets us. Here is the mirror that God holds up to us. See your sin and your motives.
peace and thanks for reading, John

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