How many followers of Christ traipse around in the Emporer’s new clothes? Thinking they are exquisitely clad with their ornaments of royalty, they flit about naked. The warning to the church of Laodicea is a startling reminder, “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me…white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear” (Revelation 3:17-18).
The saints clothing is an interesting study. There are two main articles we must put on. The robe of righteousness can only be put on once we have shed the old man of self-righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; cp. Ephesians 4:24; Philippians 3:9). However, the focus at this moment is in John 13. Jesus was faced with the epic climax of his ministry on earth for he “knew that his hour was come that he should depart” (John 13:1). When we face moments of crisis, we shrink back into our shell and fold in on ourselves. Jesus “riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself” (John 13:4).
A soldier buckles his gear in place for battle. A carpenter straps his belt around him for work. Jesus adorns the towel of humility as a badge of honor as he washes his disciples’ feet. The first article of clothing for the saint is the robe of righteousness, but the second is the towel of humility. To be clothed in humility (1 Peter 5:5), we must follow our Savior’s example.
Notice, he rose up. The believer who comments, “I don’t know how God wants me to serve or what I should do,” often is the believer who sits in the pew. Rise up! Push away from the table. If you are not serving your Savior, then you are a disgrace to his example. Too many sit at meat although Christ is “among you as he that serveth.” Jesus posed the question to his disciples, “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat” (Luke 22:27)? Let this truth prick your conscience. If the Lord rose up from the table and served, all the while I remain at the table, I have positioned myself as greater than He. The reluctance to serve is the presumption of superiority!
It’s time to rise up and lay aside the garments of our perceived self-importance and wrap the towel of humility about our waist. Serve your friends. Serve your enemy and you will “heap coals of fire upon his head” (Romans 12:20). Serve your Savior. A follower of Christ must truly follow his example and take the towel of service. Only then are you “clothed in humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
Imprisoned within the cinderblock walls of the school building, you look longingly out the window. You daydream about the things you could be doing. Suddenly, you recognize your name. The room had grown silent which only amplified the teacher’s repeated call for your attention. You don’t know the answer because you were only present in the body and not in the mind. The warmth of embarrassment reddens your face as your teacher says, “Eyes, up here!”
The embarrassment you may have experienced in school could not even compare to the disciples’ chagrin. When they snapped out of their slumber, an army from the chief priests swarmed around Jesus. The scene is fraught with chaos as the disoriented disciples respond with the sword but mostly by hiding. The echoes of their bold promise to never deny their Master haunted the disciples. They missed the opportunity to prepare for this moment.
How missed opportunities plague us because we fail to watch for such a short while! We aren’t in the Garden of Gethsemane with our Lord, but we are supposed to be in the fields working while it is daytime. Just like Little Boy Blue, we are asleep under a haystack. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). What is the solution to slumber?
Stop daydreaming and walk. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). “Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7). The first solution is to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you soar in life, sometimes you run, but most of the time life is a walk in which you must not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
Stop daydreaming and work. Work while it is daytime (John 9:4). Jesus’ focus in his ministry was the Father’s will while it was the opportunity to accomplish his purpose. We are called to redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16). The night will come when no man can work. “Let us, who are of the day, be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them…But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief…Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6)
An indication of your slumber is your procrastination to serve. The disciples planned to rest now and labor later, but the missed opportunity now caused despair later. Protect yourself from the disappointment of missed opportunities. Walk. Work. Watch. You will not suffer loss.
It’s a trap! With these words, your senses are heightened. The mass production of chemicals such as adrenaline tells your body to alter normal function for the moment. Your heart rate increases. Your pupils dilate and your vision tunnels. Blood flow is directed to your muscles primarily preparing them for reaction. Your hearing dulls. Your lungs work faster to draw more oxygen for the blood. Even your tear ducts and salivation are inhibited. Your body begins to burn its stored metabolic energy in your fat cells for a sudden burst of energy. You are on alert!
Jesus told his audience to watch for a trap. In the prophetic material of Luke 21, Jesus prophesies of near and distant events. Jerusalem will be surrounded and destroyed. It happened once already and in Revelation, it is clear it will happen again. He warns the disciples, “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35). What is the trap? Look back one verse and you will see Jesus references carousing and drunkenness, but He also says, “Take heed…lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with…cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (Luke 21:34). Jesus tells his followers to emancipate their lives from the cares of this world. The word “overcharge” is translated in Matthew 26:43 where the disciples’ “eyes were heavy.” However, Jesus had already cautioned them, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41)!
How can we cut the ties of these earthly affairs and live focused on the reality of Christ’s return and the final judgment of the world? Simply, know God’s word and take Him seriously. If He says, “It’s a trap,” then we should “walk circumspectly…redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
How certain can you be of God’s Word? “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Luke 21:33). Everything God promised will happen.
I am firmly convinced, part of the reason the world wallows in carelessness is that the followers of Christ do not live with urgency. The truth of Christ’s return is recorded in our minds, but it is not reflected in our manner of life. If we do not take Christ seriously, why should the world?
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
The cares of this life are a trap! They are a sweet, seductive, slumbering trap. “Awake thou that sleepest…Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).
What does it mean to love God?
Some would say to love God is to commune with Him. There is truth in that, but everyday people commune with one another yet they are in sharp disagreement or their lives are islands to one another. Jesus said the Pharisees engage in long prayers but they “shall receive greater damnation” (Mark 12:40).
Is love for God about action or position? Jesus said we should “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). How?
The first step to properly love God is to revolutionize the way you think about your “stuff” in this life. Mark 12 is full of person-stuff relationship instruction. Jesus first taught a parable about a lord of the vineyard who sends for the fruit of his vineyard while he is away. The servants refuse. This is rather odd since it was the lord’s vineyard and not the servant’s to start! Did they have the right to refuse? Then the Pharisees try to stump Christ with the question about taxes. Jesus’ answer is about their relationship with their possessions more than whether they should pay taxes. All of us bear in our identity the image of God, so we should be devoted to Him. Throughout this chapter, Jesus insists our love for God depends on our relationship with our earthly possessions.
The widow woman at the end of Mark 12 gave more than all the others because she gave all she had. Her life was properly oriented to focus on God so she realized everything she had was from Him anyway. To love God means to recognize the signature of His sovereignty. Surrender to His sovereignty through the signal of your worship.
While Lazarus is fellowshipping with Christ and Martha is joyfully serving, Mary sneaks to her room. She takes a key and opens the secret cabinet door and pulls out the ornate box. It’s a pound of spikenard. Oh, she had pulled it out before and glowed in her daydreams about the ways she might use this valuable possession, but, today, those daydreams seemed petty. She was going to use it on the Savior who changed her life. She walks down to where the festivities are. Her focus on Christ drowns out the chatter. This wasn’t spontaneous, this was a planned demonstration of her love. She takes the box over to Jesus and she breaks it and anoints his head and his feet. The room is silent. The room is filled with the aroma of her worship. She just gave everything to God.
The next person mentioned in the story is Judas Iscariot. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor” (John 12:5)? Then we have the editorial comment, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6). Judas the thief would rob Christ of the worship he deserved!
This begs the question: If Mary had saved the ointment for herself, would she be a thief like Judas? It was hers to give, wasn’t it? Or was it hers to give?
The word possession is important. We think of possessions as a good thing. However, demon possession is a bad thing. For a moment, humor me and consider the origins of the word “possession.” This word comes from the Latin and the French and has at its root “power.” When you study the word you’ll find it means “power over; mastery.” The things you have in this life, are they your possessions? Or, rather, have they been given to you by God for you to steward for His glory? It is considered a bad thing for a demon to rob God of a soul by possessing a life. The demon’s power over and mastery of a child of Adam is robbery, so what of my possessiveness? Would it not be the same for our mutinous power over the gifts God has given us? Our possessiveness places us as master over something which God has given us. Instead of possessors, we should be stewards. Every dollar is given to me by God to steward for my needs in order to accomplish his service.
I am the steward. He is the possessor. If Mary did not worship Christ as she did, I’d say she would have been a thief much the same as Judas. Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me…him will my Father honour (John 12:25-26). Mary’s worship properly acknowledged the Owner and Master of all things, even of her own life.
Do you hesitate to “sacrifice” in your worship of God? If so, could you be a thief like Judas?