Saturday, April 16, 2011

Aroma of life unto life

According to John chapter 12, on the day before Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, a large crowd of Jews came to Bethany to see Jesus and Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. The night before, Mary, the sister of Lazarus anointed Jesus feet with nard. The value of the nard was 300 denarii or a year’s wages. She didn’t use it all. After Judas complained (because he was a thief), Jesus told him, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.”

In the Gospels there are three accounts of Jesus’ anointing by women. The first in Luke 7, a sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, anointed them with perfume, and wiped them with her hair. If we witnessed such behavior today, we would probably sign the woman up for a psych evaluation. Jesus explained, “. . . her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” No doubt, Mary, sister of Lazarus, loved much, too, for she received her brother back from the dead. Likewise, the woman who on Tuesday evening of the Passion Week anointed Jesus head with perfume did something Jesus commended. He said, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, whenever this gospel is preached in the world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

The circumstances of the three anointings of Jesus by women are as follows:
  • The first occurred early in Jesus’ ministry in the hill country of Galilee and recalls Isaiah 52:7:
    How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,
    that publisheth peace;
    that bringeth good tidings of good,
    that publisheth salvation;
    that saith unto Zion,
    Thy God reigneth!
  • The second anointing occurred at the Sabbath meal before the Triumphal Entry. Again, this seems to reflect Isaiah 52:7. Jesus feet were anointed before he descended the Mount of Olives and climbed Mount Zion to the temple in Jerusalem.
  • The third anointing, which happened on Tuesday evening, Jesus’ last evening in Bethany before his crucifixion, a woman anointed his head (not his feet this time) with perfume. This, of course, recalls Psalm 133 a Psalm of Ascent that was sung as worshipers approached the temple:

    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
    for brethren to dwell together in unity!

    It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
    that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard:
    that went down to the skirts of his garments;

    As the dew of Hermon,
    and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:
    for there the LORD commanded the blessing,
    even life for evermore.

This week, I received invitations from two churches for Easter egg hunts with promised appearances of the Easter Bunny. On the day when we should be commemorating the love which bought our propitiation churches may teach a Christ crucified and risen again, but they’ll use the Easter Bunny for a mendacious bait and switch. They’ll muddy the message of the Gospel with Jelly Bellies and chocolate. They’ll prove that they’ve so lost sight of the beauty of the Gospel, that they have to resort to fiction and gimmicks. They’ll say it is an evangelistic outreach, but in reality they are ashamed of the Gospel.

Unlike the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, anointed them with perfume, and wiped them with her hair; unlike Mary who also anointed Jesus feet with nard and wiped them with her hair after receiving Lazarus back from the grave; and unlike the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ head in the house of Simon the leper; churches today just don’t love too much. They certainly don’t love enough to proclaim the truth in purity. Do they love little because they have been forgiven little? Perhaps they have been forgiven not at all.

The Gospel will always be offensive to some. Paul said that we are the fragrance of Christ. Imagine Jesus after his anointings. John says, “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” As the fragrance of Christ, Paul says that to some we are an aroma of death to death, but to the ones being saved we are an aroma of life unto life. (Read 2 Corinthians 2)

Why should churches try to accommodate those likely to be offended by the Gospel at the expense of those who might find it an aroma of “life forevermore?”

No comments:

Post a Comment