John 12:1-36

“She poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair.” (John 12:3)

Again, Jesus is sharing a very special moment with His Bethany family: they are having a celebration party for Lazarus’ life. They are so totally overwhelmed by the amazing love of God shown to them, through Jesus, that Mary does not give a second thought to taking her most valuable perfume and pouring it over Jesus’ feet. This perfume could have been her dowry, so she would have been literally pouring out her future at Jesus’ feet. She was so thankful for God’s love that nothing was too costly. Her whole home would have been filled with the smell of her sacrifice and Jesus would have been blessed and encouraged.

This perfume was the equivalent of a whole year’s earnings. If you had saved up money to this value and the Holy Spirit spoke to you about giving it away, are you so grateful to God for giving you new life that you would obey with joy? Judas’ reaction to this beautiful outpouring of love from Mary just shows up his hypocrisy and greed in always looking after his own interests. This was his last opportunity before the Passover Feast to get his heart right with Jesus; to break the curse over his life and not betray the Son of Man who had been so kind, loving and merciful to him.

A chance for things to change

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13)

The religious leaders were beginning to panic. It looked as though the whole world was following Jesus and people were openly talking about making Him king. (John 12:19) Lazarus had become a celebrity. People who came to see him and hear what had happened to him were putting their faith in Jesus as the "Anointed One" (Messiah) and even as the Son of God. (John 12:17) More and more people were clearly coming to the conclusion that, the only way to escape the oppression they were suffering under the Romans, was to make Jesus their king. He obviously had great concern for ordinary people and God had granted Him great power; they were convinced that Jesus would look after them all and supply their every need.

A different kind of change

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies...” (John 12:24)

God had a better plan. Jesus was explaining to His followers that He would have to die. He was distressed at the idea, but very aware of the reason why He had been sent to earth and where His destiny lay. (John 12:27) He explained that He would be "lifted up" (crucified) and, thereby, would "draw all people to Himself". He will not be calling people to a new type of politics, philosophy or religion; He will be calling people to follow Him. (John 12:32)

Jesus says here that, if we die to "the world" - turn our backs to the natural, physical world and look ahead to a new, spiritual life - we shall produce fruit from God. Wheat is made for soil. When it’s planted, it can release its potential. In the same way, human beings are made for God and, only when we die to our own selfish ideas, can God develop us to our full potential. Of course, seeds need frost, snow, wind and rain, along with sunshine, to bring forth fruit! As Christians, we have our part to play in choosing to yield (Romans 6:13-16) and surrender our whole life, spirit, soul and body to the Holy Spirit. (Romans 12:1) Jesus is saying that the way of the cross - death (denial of our fallen nature) - is what sets the pattern for spiritual victory. If we are going to grow in Christ, we need to make a decision to follow our Lord and Master.

Whole-hearted commitment

Many Christians live about three-quarters of their lives by going along with God in most things, but the time comes when we need to agree with the Holy Spirit’s demand for full commitment: nothing less than one hundred percent is required. That is when we choose to put "self" to death. Every day, we must "die" to our own way and our own will and become totally available for the Master’s use. (Matthew 10:38-39; Luke 14:26)

The "way of the cross" (death to self) always precedes real power. It is dying, not doing, that produces spiritual fruit that will last. The "way of the cross" is not about suffering sickness, disease or lack of money, but about deciding to do what God asks of us, even if it means being rejected for our faith in Him. We may receive no thanks for work done; we may be misunderstood; we may suffer loss of relationships with loved ones and we may have to stand against the prevailing flow of ideas and attitudes amongst neighbours, work colleagues - even friends and family. Until we are willing to give one hundred percent for God, we do not belong to Him completely. We need to realise too, that what God asks of us is only for our best and brings great rewards. Until we are prepared to be utterly taken up by whatever He chooses for us, we are not free. It's tempting to substitute Christian work for the "way of the cross". Sadly, this not only makes us self-centred, but it can also feed pride, instead of stressing holiness and the cross. “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He that finds his life will lose it and he that loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38)

How can we live out such a commitment?

“I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Such a life is not easy, but God has promised to be with us and to guide us every step of the way. Here are some practical guidelines:

  1. Choose daily to take up your own "cross" so that people can see Jesus in you. “We are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
  2. Obedience is the key to the "death-life". “Whatsoever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5)
  3. Do not hold onto the things of this earth or put others before God. (Philippians 3:8-11; Matthew 10:37-39) “The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)
  4. Yield all parts of your body to serve Christ. Do not hold back in any area. “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1)
  5. Deal with sin. It is poison and the root of sin is rebellion against the authority of God in your life. “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you.” (John 12:35)
  6. Deal with your mind by choosing to think on “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:2) “The mind of sinful man is death.” (Romans 8:6)
  7. Feed your zeal for God by setting your affections on things above and killing apathy. (Proverbs 23:7)
  8. Rejoice in the opportunity to die to self; to be out of the way so that Christ can be seen in you. “Reckon yourself dead unto sin (your own ways) but alive unto God.” (Romans 6:11)

The results of living in the "way of the cross"

  • The "fruit" of christian living is the birth of new believers (through disciples or "natural" children). “Take this baby and nurse him for me and I will pay you.” (Exodus 2:9)
  • Spiritual growth through diligent study of God's word. This will encourage both you and others around you. “But, if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
  • A daily life, filled with the Holy Spirit, leading to ongoing spiritual victory as we are filled to overflowing with Jesus. “Be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 8:5-8)
  • Holiness - a life that is "set apart" to God. “Holiness - without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) “You are not your own: you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • Joy - Jesus had joy because He knew what He was aiming for in building His church. “Enter into and share the joy which your Master enjoys.” (Matthew 25:21)
  • Self-fulfilment. I am still me! I have not lost my identity, personality or individuality. What I have lost is my sovereignty. I am no longer self-centred but Christ-centred. It is my "right to myself", that I choose to crucify. “Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:5-14)

A growing kingdom

John said that Jesus would, “baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire... gathering His wheat into the barn.” (Matthew 3:11-12) Only as the Holy Spirit cleanses us of "ourselves", can we be totally filled with Jesus. He is calling us to be one with Himself, so that He can build His church. All He wants is available "vessels" (instruments, tools or things to be used). “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Someone has said that revival is: "choosing the cross out of love, so that the nations will see the resurrection of Jesus living through us”.

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