Tag Archives: John 12

Before darkness overtakes you

20 Apr

SMILING_DalmatianMy dad brought him home for us. A wriggly white puppy speckled with black spots. And equipped with sharp puppy teeth and huge paws. My brothers, sister, and I named him Pepper– for the spots he wore and for the energy that wound him up like my brother’s Wizzer.

Cute five pounds grew into strong 40 pounds while I wasn’t looking. Pepper’s body grew into his feet, but his internal discipline didn’t. He shredded everything his puppy teeth and flexing jaw muscles could handle—our toys, the blow-up wading pool, and Dad’s snowmobile seat.

The last offense put him on the list for deportation as soon as another home could be found. While he served his sentence in the garage, he grew crazier and plotted an endless array of techniques to escape when the side door opened.

His favorite (and easiest) attempts were when a 60-pound girl with knobby knees and long blonde-ish hair brought him dinner. I stood outside the wooden door picking at the peeling paint to work up courage and bravery becoming a Marine before turning the rusty knob. Pepper outgunned me. On his back legs he seemed to tower over my slight frame. Confined all day, his puppy-energy-expenditure did not come close to the needed quota. And his teeth. Oh, they were sharp! No wonder I stood there without opening the door.

More than a few times, he lunged at the door when he saw a crack of light and wrenched it free from my shaking hand, dog food raining down around my sneakers as his dish went flying. I screamed, then bolted, too. The game was on for Pepper. I was his terrified, and very unwilling, playmate.

He nipped at my ankles, and my legs pumped faster. More than once he knocked me down and puppy-played with his teeth on my thin skin. Several times he treed me in our little orchard, and I hurled apples down on him. Another game to him (who knew little green balls came from heaven?), and frantic self-preservation for me.

———-

Right after entering Jerusalem to cries of “Hosanna!” from the crowds, Jesus predicted his death on the cross. His heart was troubled even as he encouraged the crowd: “You will have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” (John 12:35)

The crowds still did not know Jesus was Messiah. You can almost hear Jesus pleading with them to understand while he is still among them – before evil came nipping at their heels even though his sacrifice would drive out the prince of this world. (John 12:31)

Again, with just his disciples this time, Jesus entreats them to believe he is the Son of God as he predicts one of them will betray him: “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” (John 13:19) Yet again, his spirit was troubled.

As he comforts his disciples and prays for them, the mood of John’s Gospel changes. Tension and fear are replaced by Jesus’ deep love for his friends. Three times he encourages them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Instead we are to believe in him for gives divine peace and has overcome the world.

Jesus’ heart was troubled at what lay ahead beyond any crisis or despair we can imagine. (To begin to describe what he suffered would take several posts.) The urgency for his followers to believe who he is in John 12 and 13 melts into the love song of Chapters 14-17. Immediately following, Jesus is arrested, and everything he predicted unfolds – his arrest, crucifixion, and death; Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ abandonment; and his resurrection as he conquered the grave and the prince of this world!

He still has influence, this prince of darkness. Unless you are a hermit without access to the news reports this past week, you have watched the evidence that darkness still has a foothold in this world. The horror at the Boston Marathon is not the end of what evil will do in this world. There will be more – much more. But we do not have to be terrorized like a little girl with a snarling Dalmatian snapping at her heels. Jesus took on trouble so we could have peace.

And peace, wrapped in light, shows up brilliantly against the darkness.

———-

Ready for Sunday

What he suffered for me is reason enough to worship him. That he did it because he loves me makes me love him back.

But it’s still hard to remember this in a way that translates to a practical overcoming attitude. How to remember his peace when faced with evil? I think being prepared is key. One way to prepare is to nurture the relationship by worshiping him. Another is by memorizing his Word. Both cause me to think about the eternal (instead of the temporal) aspects of the situation.

A good verse to memorize: “You, dear children,are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Thank God the people of Boston can breathe a little easier tonight. Praise him that even in the midst of horrendous evil he is greater.

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Precious Pouring

30 Jun

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. John 12:3

My Grandpa worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad, but also kept a farm in rural Michigan.

I “helped” with chores when we visited. Spilling cat food into the feed bowls, throwing hay (almost) into the feed troughs for the milk cows, and tossing vegetable scraps from Grandma’s slop bucket to the tiny goat kids probably made more work for him and my aunt.  But I loved it.

Once the cows were turned back out to graze in the pasture, I disappeared while the two of them scooped the cow pies out of the manure trenches into wheel barrows to be dumped behind the barn.

Chores done, we headed for the house and Grandma’s cooking.  The two of them left their barn clothes and boots in the back room.  I didn’t have any barn clothes, so I whizzed through the kitchen, past the lunch table on my way to the bathroom to wash my hands.  “Whew!  Who brought the barn into the house?”  Grandma chided, looking right at me.

I couldn’t smell a thing, so I just shrugged innocently.  More than once there was “barn” caked to my feet that banished me to the pump under the windmill until my shoes were manure-free.  The barn smell infused in my clothes and hair stuck with me, however, like Pig-pen’s dust cloud.

———————

The last time Mary of Bethany saw Jesus, he had raised her brother from the dead.  She knew Jesus was from God, but when her trembling fingers ripped the grave clothes that bound her brother; when they embraced in joy– and fear, Mary knew her beloved Rabbi was God.

Now she was waiting for him while Martha (as usual) cooked a feast.  He arrived, and people (stinking men!) closed around him, asking the Rabbi questions and hoping to be the one seated next to him during the meal.  Trying to get near him, and yet also waiting patiently, she held her jar of nard, grateful she had it to give.

She had anguished over anointing Lazarus with it before he died.  How could she withhold her most precious possession from the brother she loved so deeply?  And yet, she had.  (What a waste that would have been!  He was only dead for a few days!)  When she heard that Jesus was on His way to Bethany, she knew instantly how she would greet him.  She would not be empty-handed this time.  And so she waited for the opportunity.

After the women brought out the food, the men settled down to their meal.  Now was the time.  No one paid attention to her– until she broke the vessel open.  The perfume spilled out, splashing everywhere.  To keep as much as she could on his feet, she used her hair and rubbed the rich perfumed oil into their cracks and calluses.

Judas, especially was incensed.  “What a waste!” he spat in her direction.  The look Jesus gave Mary made every drop worth it.  The beauty of His presence mingled with the fragrance and chased everything foul out of the room.

She poured out the best she had, holding back nothing, on her Lord who would soon pour out the most precious of all earthly substances for His creation.

The nard quickly soaked into everything it touched – Jesus’ skin and the hem of his robe, the floor, Mary’s hair, hands, and clothes. The scent of the nard would be unmistakable for several days causing all those at the dinner to remember Mary’s act of devotion.  Jesus would smell the nard as he walked toward the most difficult week anyone has ever experienced.  Perhaps he could still smell the nard when he fell as we carried his cross through Jerusalem.  Maybe even those who hammered the spike into Jesus’ hands and feet smelled the perfume.

Since nard was used for burial anointing, when people came into contact with Mary they would assume she had buried a loved one and ask her who had died.  I wonder how she answered them?  And I wonder if she could still smell the nard when she found out Jesus had been crucified… and when she heard the news of His resurrection!

———————

Ready for Sunday

We know how the account plays out, but Mary was simply in the moment, responding with love for her Lord.  She had no idea she was a participant in the spiritual drama of the ages.

Tomorrow, will my worship embody how much I love my Lord?  Will I sacrificially worship Him, so that the fragrance of devotion lingers around me for others to smell all week?

With her sacrifice Mary participated in Jesus’ mission to redeem the world by preparing his body for burial as she anointed him with perfume.  This is the potential within worship – participating with Christ in the redemption of the world.  Break my vessel open, Lord.

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More info on the sense of smell:

  • Among the five senses, we are the least conscious of smell, but we trust it the most.  Creating Understanding, by Donald K Smith, p. 146
  • People recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months.  Our odor memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions. Therefore, we often find that we can immediately recognize and respond to smells from childhood such as the smell of clean sheets, cookies baking in the oven, the smell of new books or a musty room in Grandma’s house.
  • With every breath, your sense of smell is at work, even when you’re sleeping.
  • Our sense of smell is more connected to emotion than any other sense.
  • Recall can be enhanced if learning is done in the presence of an odor and that same odor is present at the time of the recollection. (For this reason some teachers burn scented candles in their classroom and then again at Mandatory National Tests like the SAT.)
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