Series: Easter: This Changes Everything
Preacher: Dany Hernandez
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Bec Reid
Live Adventure: Jess Lee
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: John 12:1-19 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: During the last Christmas season I noticed a persistent online marketing campaign highlighting a particular beauty product. It received enthusiastic endorsement from a flawless Hollywood celebrity and high levels of saturation to ensure frequent views. I finally succumbed to my consumer instincts and opted to investigate. I wanted a somewhat classy gift for Angie, but quickly realized placing this item under our tree required a hefty payment. In reality, my wife would have been alarmed had I spent such an enormous amount (hundreds of dollars) when the main ingredient was most likely water. Even though my heart was in the right place, I would have been mishandling our modest financial resources.
In The IVP Bible Background Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 1993), Craig S. Keener notes, “It was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, but a host would provide only water for their feet.” Yet Jesus didn’t seem concerned (as Judas was) about proper financial stewardship as expensive perfume was poured over His feet. Mary’s extravagance demonstrated outwardly the gratitude she felt inwardly (in her heart) towards Jesus for what He had already done for her and her family. After all, Jesus raised her brother, Lazarus from the dead (John 11). What would you have done for someone who saved a loved one’s life? It was impossible to repay Jesus for His kindness and mercy. All she could offer Jesus was gratitude.
I have come to believe there are two primary ways we can relate to God. The first is based on what God can do for us. It is the self-centered approach, and no personal relationship thrives when our focus is on how the other person can meet our needs. This is how most religions operate. Worshippers try to fulfil any number of requirements in order to secure favor from their deities. It is the consumer mindset, and Christians are not immune to it. God is reduced to a celestial Santa Claus, genie-in-a-bottle, or gumball machine. We do what is required in order to get what we want.
The other approach may sound similar, but there is a world of difference. It is relating to God not based on what He can do for us, but on what God has already done for us. When we focus on God’s love for us (seen most clearly on the cross), we cannot help but love Him. In our church there are two beautiful banners up front. On one side of the stage the banner reads, “Oh How I Love Jesus” and the other, “Because He First Loved Me.” Mary did not offer Jesus expensive perfume in order to get something in return. Mary loved Jesus because He first loved her.
Recalibrate: Why is it natural for us to relate to God based on what He can do for us?
Respond: Spend some time today reflecting on what God has done for you through the cross.
Research: Do a brief survey of the world’s religions. Are they different forms of “consumerism” or a means of displaying gratitude?
Remember: “Because of Lazarus many Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus” (John 12:11, ICB).
Sam Millen is the pastor at Anacortes Adventist Fellowship in Washington State. He his wife Angie is a schoolteacher on Orcas Island and their three children are really awesome!
Today take your little one for a walk around the streets where you live. While you pass each door, or driveway, or letterbox, explain to them that Jesus loves each person living in the home that you pass. He loves them all, and your little one, no matter what they do or do not do this week.
Have you read the story Guess How Much I Love You? If not, here is a quick summary:
Little Nutbrown Hare asks Big Nutbrown Hare the question, “Guess how much I love you?” Little Nutbrown Hare shows his daddy how much he loves him: as wide as he can reach and as far as he can hop and right up to the moon. But Big Nutbrown Hare, who can reach farther and hop higher, loves him to the moon and back just as much.
God loves each of us just as much and more!
When we look at this story and the way it begins, we have to remember what has happened before in order to get a better understanding of the whole picture. We call this context. In the previous chapter, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and everyone is amazed with this miracle, even the Pharisees. However, the Pharisees saw that all the things they were trying to do to keep the people from following Jesus were not working. Now that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, there was no way to deny that there was something special about Him. The Pharisees got angry and frustrated and became more determined to try to keep the people from following Jesus. The only thing they could think to do was to kill Jesus. From this point on, Jesus was not safe to be around anyone because He was so famous, and so He decided to leave Bethany and go to a place called Ephraim where He stayed with His disciples.
Let’s get real—Have you ever felt so frustrated with your failed plans that you were determined to make sure others did not succeed? Have you ever felt so angry at someone that you were not able to see that you were the one who was wrong in the first place? How did you deal with this scenario? How did you come to realize that you were wrong?
Jesus knew He was doomed to die. We think He first understood this when He went to the temple as a “man” and no longer a child in Luke 2. It was there that He saw His first blood sacrifice, for the Jews were not allowed to make sacrifices away from the temple once it was built. He spent the next 17 years or so around Nazareth, going about His work, always knowing that the day would come when He’d walk toward John in the Jordan as His first step toward the Cross. Every day of His ministry was lived in the shadow of an approaching Roman execution. Revel in this—Isaiah 53:11 tells us He was perfectly OK with this outcome because He knew what it would mean for you. For the next four weeks let’s follow Jesus as He moves toward the total victory that we call “Resurrection.”
Bec Reid is a real estate agent within her family business. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and is a part of the Wahroonga Adventist Church community.
Jess Lee is an education consultant for the New South Wales Adventist education system. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and attends Kellyville Church.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.