While Jesus was going through the greatest temptation in his life before the cross, he knew that his disciples would also go through temptation and testing. Before testing and temptation, the only protection was prayer, so he prayed and he asked his disciples to pray as well. SWIM says, “Like disciples, we may have good intentions, but they are simply not enough to keep us faithful to God during times of testing. Our only hope is to be strengthened through prayer so that our spirits will be able to resist the temptations of our flesh.” We usually think we will be okay because of God’s mercy. We think Jesus will take care of us during the testing and temptation. However, there is what we are supposed to do while there is what God is supposed to do. Jesus bore much heavier burden and temptation before the cross. That was not our burden. However, we had also our burden – to be with him as his witness instead of running away from him while he was carrying the cross instead of us.
When I go through troubles and hardships, I know it is not me but God who deals with those troubles and hardships. However, I also have my part. I should not run away or give up or complain during hardships. God will take care of my hardships but I should be there with God trusting him instead of grumbling. For that small role, hanging in there trusting God while he is doing everything for me, I need prayer. If there was other way to prepare or deal with testing and temptations other than prayer, Jesus would have told us. However, what Jesus did and what he asked disciples to do before testing and temptation was only prayer. Let’s pray, especially during today and tomorrow during Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8)
Jesus who was in a position of great honor decided to eschew all that privilege and lower himself to serve those that the world thought should be serving Him. Jesus was always turning things upside down — challenging our beliefs and attitudes about what was valuable and what was not and what was wrong and what was right.
It’s very important that Jesus first serves us. Through Jesus washing our feet, we get our sense of our own value and worth. That’s probably one of the first steps to being a good disciple; first, we must know completely and unequivocally that we have infinite worth. And after we know this, from this place of wholeness, we can get fill up others to show them their worth.
I wonder if part of the gospel message is: The God of the Universe came down in human form to convey the simple message that you are a person of unequivocal worth. You matter, and I would do anything to be in relationship with you. It would be an interesting exercise for each of us to put into our own words what exactly the gospel message is; what is the message that your soul is desperate to hear? I don’t resonate with the accusatory tone of “you are a sinner in need of rescuing and it’s your fault that Jesus died a horrible death.” I have never believed that my core identity is that of a sinner, nor do I believe that I was evil from the time that I was conceived. I do believe that I was lost and wandering, looking in vain for rescue. Maybe this is why I don’t make a good Christian.
In the Bible, the central message that Jesus often gave was that your sins are forgiven. The aspect of sin must be a big part of the good news. I need to ponder this more.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)
Death or loss seem so final to us, yet Jesus showed us another way of looking at it. Death or loss can be the portal to new beginnings. When we are in the middle of loss (of a loved one, of our dreams, of material possessions or our health), we see it as final, but God always redeems these deaths and losses. We can think of these sad events as the result of our own failures or the result of the evil one’s influence in the world, and we can also have hope that the loss will be redeemed by God in ways that work out for good. The forces of evil and our own fallen natures conspired to kill Jesus on the cross in the most horrible of deaths. In the face of all this evil, Jesus responded with love and asked God to forgive those who killed Him; his actions in death were consistent with how Jesus lived his entire life. After death, Jesus was lifted up, conquering death and evil for good. His rising gives us hope that we too will have new life. (In fact that new life is available even now. We need only to surrender our false notions that we are in control of our lives and trust that God will guide and protect us, no matter how bad things look.)
Why this waste of perfume? (Mark 14.4)
This story has confused me in the past. I wondered why Jesus was not being practical or cost effective with how resources are used. Jesus cared for the poor and the resale value of the perfume would have met many of the needs of the poor. Jesus seemed to be saying that it’s OK to pour out expensive and limited resources on Him. (Perhaps this was the justification used by the Church hundreds of years ago when it was building very expensive and ornate temples at the cost of taking care of the needs of the poor.)
But perhaps Jesus is saying that there will always be work to be done. No matter how much you do, there is always more. This world is broken so as much as we try to fill up the cistern, we can never fill it up because the cistern is cracked and the water constantly leaks out. Maybe the point of doing the good work is not so much to help Jesus (who needs our “help” as much as a mother needs her child to help wash the dishes) or to help others, but in doing the good work, we get closer to the heart of Jesus. We should avoid letting our focus be on accomplishment of a goal (which is a very western and capitalistic approach but that is a post for another day), but our focus in service should be to express our love for Jesus — to pour out the very best of what we have for Jesus in an extravagant lavish way, much like how the Father pours is grace and love out to us. In pouring out her expensive perfume for Jesus, this woman was going all-in with Jesus. Like Mary, she was choosing the finer thing. She was choosing to be present to Jesus and choosing to fully trust and surrender to Him.
What is my alabaster perfume that I’ve been saving all these years? What would it mean to pour this out onto Jesus’ head? What changes would need to happen so I would be willing to break the jar and pour all of it out, leaving behind what is rational and cost-effective in other people’s minds?
For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn–conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. (7:5-7).
“Our God is a God of comfort, and He is near to us in times of affliction. He does not leave His children to suffer alone but comforts us through the people around us. And out of the comfort and love we receive, we are able to comfort others as well” (SWIM).
“known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:9-10).
When I read today’s passage, I feel that my faith is very weak. I confess the Lord is my shepherd when I feel protected, guided, watched and cared. Simply, my faith is okay while things are going well. When things are not going well, maybe I am still okay for a while if it is temporary or if it is about minor things. I think God has a plan for me and God will fix me and my problems through hardships. However, when things are not really going well for a long time, I cry out. Why? What are you doing? Paul’s confession really challenges me – “known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” I feel I am still far away (not even close) to be a genuine Christian. What and how many things would he have gone through to confess like that? My Christian journey is not over yet. I felt that I have gone through many things, but maybe what I have to go through is much more than what I have gone through already. SIGH!!! However, it is not I who will keep going my journey. God will keep leading me. I will just walk like a mule walking following its master. The end will surely come and I will share my master’s happiness.