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?
Jesus sat a child on his knee and began to instruct the people, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:17). Luke then shares similar stories of two rich men. The comparisons between them are profound. One is unnamed, the rich young ruler; the other is named, Zaccheus. One is righteous; the other is a publican. One seeks an audience with the Master; the other starts as merely a spectator. One went away sorrowful; the other saved.
What was the difference? Notice their approach to the Savior. The rich young ruler came with pomp and circumstance, kneeling before the Master and sought the Savior’s approval. Truly, he expected the Master Teacher to say, “You have lived perfectly. There is nothing more you can do to inherit eternal life.” He came with expectations.
Everything about Zaccheus was childlike. The writer even points out he was of little stature. Zaccheus runs and climbs a tree. When’s the last time you climbed a tree for the fun of it? These were childish things to do, but they are written on purpose to draw you back to the instruction from Jesus.
Jesus is not searching for immaturity. He is searching for simplicity and surrender. When one does not presume to be equal with God, they will come in the simplicity of humility. There is no pomp or circumstance. They know they have nothing of value to offer. Zaccheus was wealthy and could have tried to impress the Lord, but he came in simplicity. Can you imagine how he must have felt? First, Jesus noticed him. Then Jesus knew him, “Zaccheus!” Finally, Jesus loved him, “Make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). This led to Zaccheus redeeming response—surrender. He didn’t quibble with the details of the law like the Pharisees. Whatever wrong he may have done, he would repay it abundantly for his sin debt was graciously forgiven.
One of the rich men experienced salvation. The other did not. Have you come to the Savior in simplicity? Or have you been trying to impress Him? Have you realized “all have come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? Have you surrendered to Him?
If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?
This is a very interesting question, but the next question is even more important.
If a person lives within the familiar goodness of God, does he have faith?
“If” is a pivotal word, and it is in usual form in John 11. Martha and Mary both comment to Jesus, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21, 32). Knowing the rest of the story, you are tempted to criticize them, however, insert yourself into their experience. At best, they have heard of times where Christ raised the recently dead. They have seen way more healings than resurrections. Their hope hung upon the fact, Christ could heal their brother. Maybe even after Lazarus sighed his final breath and slipped into the afterlife, they gazed out the window desperate to see Jesus. But when the sun set three times before they heard anything from Christ, their faith had withered.
Jesus makes his own “if” statement to Martha. Encased in a question he says, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (John 11:40). Press pause right there, and compare the two “if” statements. Martha’s and Mary’s statement to Christ used the formula: If-thou-brother. Christ’s statement to Martha used the formula: If-thou-God.
What Martha and Mary had was familiar faith. It was informed faith. Because they had seen Christ heal, they knew He could heal. It is faith, but informed faith is not sourced in God. Informed faith is sourced in your experience. Hebrews 11 describes faith for us: “Faith is the…evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Informed faith is faith within the confines and comfort of experience. Informed faith afflicts us with short-sightedness, seeing only His goodness.
Informed faith is a sight problem. Yes, you appreciate the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, but faith causes you to look past His goodness to see His glory. It is only when we desire to see His glory we actually “please Him” and will be rewarded as ones who “diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The faith which pleases God is not a familiar faith, but a frontier faith. This is the faith which embarks on a journey to “see the glory of God.” With the knapsack of God’s promises flung over your shoulder, you step off the trail of the familiar into the frontier and explore the glory of God.
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Psalm 17:15)