Monday: Six Days Before
Read John 12:1-8, Genesis 1:1-2:3, Exodus 24:15-18, Mark 9:2-13
We’ve already seen John use numbers, festivals and symbols to teach us about the nature of God through the life of Jesus. It seems as if every detail has a deeper meaning, and the time and background for Jesus’ dinner at Lazarus’ house 6 days before the Passover is no exception.
On the very first pages of the bible we are presented with 6 days of God’s good creation culminating in the creation of humankind and followed by a 7th day of rest. Jesus will live for 6 more days, culminating with his death on Passover/Good Friday and followed by the ultimate day of rest – dead in a tomb.
Six days is significant in other places in scripture as well. When Moses is invited up Mount Sinai to receive the law, he has to wait 6 days. On the seventh day he is called out of the mist and into the glory of the Lord where he stays for 40 days. Jesus’ resurrection will also be 40 days. Mark uses similar language when he tells the story of the transfiguration, adding the seemingly unnecessary detail that it happened “after 6 days.”
God’s plan and his timing are marvelous!
Tuesday: Wiped His Feet With Her Hair
Read John 12:1-8, Mark 14:3-11, Luke 7:36-50
Oh to be at a dinner party with Jesus! It seems like Jesus and his disciples never simply ate when they were invited into a home. Jesus was always watching for moments where he could instruct his disciples and even his hosts. As a fulfillment of what Jesus states at the end of the Mark account (and in Matthew 26:13), the story of Mary’s anointing is one of only a handful of stories that is featured in each of the four gospels. The details of each story vary and there have been many attempts over the last 2,000 years to reconcile the accounts. We would do well to not get caught up in the details but instead to realize that there is more going on (just as we saw with the reference to 6 days) and that each author is telling their story their way for a reason, guided by the Spirit. In the ancient world details could differ as authors searched for a truth greater than our rationalism/enlightenment wired brains often bring us today. The fact that things don’t perfectly line up is actually evidence that 1) these writings have not been tampered with and 2) the early Christians were not scandalized by these differences.
The most important reason to not get caught up in the details is that we’d miss the amazing act of Mary to pour out what may have been her life savings, not just on the head of Jesus, but on his feet. If we combine the accounts we can add her tears to the ointment as an even more valuable offering. Will we learn from these accounts to be humble and sacrificial or will we sit at the table and scoff? What unique lesson can you learn from each of these accounts?
Wednesday: Fear Not…Your King Is Coming
Read John 12:12-19, Psalm 118, Zechariah 9:9
At this point there should be no doubt that John’s gospel was written with a deeper thread that ties Jesus’ life to the Old Testament. In the triumphal entry, the people quote one of the most messianic of all the Psalms (118) as they cry out Hosanna/Save us! And then John quotes one of the most apocalyptic books in the Old Testament (Zechariah 9:9). This is one of many reasons why it makes sense that the John who wrote this gospel is the same John who wrote Revelation, contrary to what some scholars believe.
John does something interesting as he quotes Zechariah. It was common for writers in the first century to blend or make subtle changes to texts. There were no copyright laws to violate and this was often done purposefully to illuminate something new that God was doing. Just as the gospel of John opens with a rewrite of the very first sentence of the bible, John rewrites Zechariah 9:9. The original text says “Rejoice greatly…your king is coming.” John changes it to, “Fear not…your king is coming.” Why the change from rejoice greatly to fear not? “Fear not” is what was commonly said when people encountered the divine presence or an angel. In this subtle shift of language, John is again proclaiming the divinity of Jesus. (See Genesis 15:1, 21:17, 26:24, 46:3) It was also a common phrase that prophets would use when speaking about the coming restoration of Israel. The very thing Jesus was riding into town to do! (See Isaiah 41:10, 13, 43:1, 54:4, Jeremiah 46:28)
Read John 12:20-26, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 10-11, Galatians 3:27-29, Genesis 12:1-3, 17:6
The path the gospel took to expand beyond Judaism and into the rest of the world was difficult. The “special” status that was foundational to the Jewish people’s identity made it difficult for them to even imagine their God saving non-Jewish people. The rest of the New Testament tells the story of Christianity’s expansion as Peter has his eyes opened and well, Paul does too. The roots of salvation for the whole world and not just one nation are clear way back in Genesis as God reveals his promise more fully to Abraham throughout his lifetime. Even in John, years before the gospel would actually be preached to the gentiles through Paul, Jesus interacts with Greeks who’ve come to Jerusalem for Passover and, we can assume, will be there when he dies and raises again.
Jesus’ message for them is pure gospel. Death, burial and resurrection like a seed planted in the earth. They are given the opportunity to respond to the gospel and follow him or to follow our own path. This passage shows the popularity of Jesus as he approached his final days. He was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. But more importantly it shows the scope of his salvation: a true worldwide phenomenon!
Are you sharing your faith with all? Or are you limiting the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Friday: Now My Soul Is Troubled
Read John 12:27-36, Matthew 26:36-46, Isaiah 53
The Greek philosophers of Jesus’ day held in high esteem one who could laugh in the face of death or go to his death un-troubled. Jesus admits that he is troubled by the path that he is walking that will result in his crucifixion by week’s end. This honesty and vulnerability is so different from what we see in most leaders. If we’re honest, we might be part of the problem. When we do see leaders being vulnerable, we often judge them and wonder if they are fit for leadership. Should we value the “strong man”? Or should we see leadership Jesus’ way, that the least is the greatest and the childlike heart is the heart God desires? How it would change our world if we valued vulnerability as the greatest strength!
Ultimately, vulnerability means wound-ability. Literally, the ability to take wounds. That’s what a great leader does. And Jesus, the greatest leader of all, took our wounds so we could be healed. At this point in John, his physical suffering has yet to begin but he highlights for us the often overlooked or dismissed suffering that we endure in our emotions and even in our souls. Jesus felt that. He cares when we suffer in all the ways. And he wants us to follow his example of vulnerability.
Saturday: They Still Did Not Believe Him
Read John 12:36-50, Isaiah 53:1, Isaiah 6:10
This is it. We’ve come to the end of Jesus’ ministry on the earth. All that’s left is an intimate dinner with his closest disciples. How’d Jesus do? Well, “though he had done many signs before them, they still did not believe him.” It’s discouraging when we reach out to people and get rejected. But we’d do well to remember that they rejected him first. There’s irony here: the passage in Isaiah that states that people will not believe in the messiah is now used by John to prove that Jesus is the messiah. He was destined to be rejected. If John’s end of ministry report featured Jesus Christ as a superstar then we could be sure that he was not the true savior.
God planned for rejection. Not because he wanted his son to be rejected but because he knew our nature. We are blind, hard-hearted, and hurting. God came anyway with the only plan that would allow us to find salvation. He let us kill his son Jesus so we could finally believe in him as God the Father.
Jesus’ ministry was so powerful that people were starting to believe despite the threats of the Jewish leadership. His closing words were a cry: “I came to save the world.” In the closing chapters of John, he’ll prove it.