You see, at just the right time,
when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person,
though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
April brings a Mediterranean spring to these parts. The wisteria are in bloom.**
Orange blossoms fill the air with their glorious scent.
This brings to mind what happened a week before Jesus’ last Passover:
Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. [John 12:3]
When I read that, my heart is stirred by Mary’s act of devotion and love. It seems a fitting way to honor the Savior of the world shortly before He was going to be killed.
Coming to Good Friday, I am reminded of another pouring, only this time Jesus is the one who is doing the pouring, and it’s not perfume He is giving but His very blood.
After the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.” [Luke 22:20]
I am struck with the differences between these two pourings.
an act of devotion
given to someone who deserved it
an act of purification**
given to worthless and ungodly people
Judas complained about what Mary did–the perfume was too expensive to wash feet with. It was worth a years’ wages. To put that in modern terms, take a good annual salary [say $50,000? $75,000?], convert it to cash and burn it on an altar. Looking at it that way, I might have complained too, except I know who Jesus is and I think the King of Kings is worth it.
But that makes me wonder–did anyone complain when Jesus took up the cross and walked to His death for people who didn’t deserve to be saved? Did anyone complain when He poured out His life for people who thought they didn’t need His sacrifice or that they were somehow worthy of it?
That is the heresy I find I can slip into after a few decades of following Jesus. On one level, it’s true I’m God’s beloved.** As I wrote earlier this week, He has loved me from the beginning. But that’s not how I twist it. Instead I begin to think I wasn’t really that bad. Maybe Jesus had to die for murderers and rapists, but at best I was only a petty thief and He didn’t have to go all the way to the cross for me.
One of the chief dangers of grace is that it’s so easy to cheapen it. In fact, I can imagine an angel hearing about God’s grace plan. He flaps over to God on the throne and tells Him it wouldn’t really be such a good idea. “Don’t you think it will go to their heads after awhile?”
I can imagine God’s reply. “Yes, that’s a risk, but there’s no other way.”
This year, God has graciously given me a fresh look at my capacity to let His grace go to my head and not to my heart. I’ve seen from a new angle how I can pretend to serve Him while running my own life. I’ve become painfully aware that the old gospel songs, with all their mentions of sin and blood, are true of me:
“Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me”
“Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me”
“There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains”
“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus”
Jesus poured out more than $50,000 when he died for me. He poured out His life. Not because I was worthy of such a sacrifice, but because He loved me.
The life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:21
Jesus suffered and died for me–and I didn’t deserve it.**
Hallelujah, what a savior.
**Links and Notes
**Speaking of wisteria, Easter weekend is the perfect time to watch Enchanted April if you’ve never seen it…or to rewatch it if you have.
You can also get the book for free at Project Gutenberg. [That would be the eponymous book which faithful readers know was my favorite vocabulary word last year.]
**The book of Hebrews is a good overview of the Old Testament system that Jesus fulfilled: …the law [of Moses] requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. [Hebrews 9:22]
With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. [Hebrews 9:12]
A short but powerful video about John 12:22-28 [starring our nephew]
“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”