“And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim…”
When you become a follower of Jesus everything in your life becomes about the eternal. Possessions lose their luster in your sight, media of the world becomes bland in comparison with the Bible, vacations and holidays are enjoyable and nice but don’t even come close to the place you know that Jesus is preparing for you. Granted, we occasionally lose sight of these truths when we become distracted by life’s trials, but a true follower always regains his footing on the straight and narrow towards the beautiful before all is lost.
“Whether fine or stormy…”
Recently I started reading The Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor to my 5 year old son. I am amazed at how the story can hold his attention (he is a very active 5 year old boy), it’s always “one more chapter mommy”. It is the children’s version of John Bunyan’s classic and it truly is well done. I think I love reading it to him equally as much as he enjoys listening to it, if not more. The tale of Little Christian being met by Evangelist in his own city, the City of Destruction, and then setting off on his pilgrimage in hopes of reaching the Celestial City and the King is mostly beyond my son’s comprehension but I don’t believe it is a waste of time. It is planting good seeds of what it looks like to be a young Christian in this world.
In the story Christian meets several characters, one in particular is named By-Ends, this boy appears to be a pilgrim on the Way of the King until he responds to Christian and his companion Hopeful that he was bored at home and thought he would like to try being a pilgrim and that although the weather was nice at that moment if a storm were to come he certainly wouldn’t walk in it and that it would be foolish to do so. Each character in this book represents very real and likely examples of the types of people we will meet in this life and I think the character of By-Ends is a good example of the type of church going person who tries to discourage anyone who is pursuing Jesus in a “radical” way. Christian responds wisely to By-Ends in Chapter 30; it says, “Now Christian had read in his Book that it is unwise for pilgrims to have friends who are not the King’s true servants, so he said, “I am afraid if you think in that way we shall not be good companions for you. We must go straight on, whether it is fine or stormy.”
“Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world…”
As Christians nothing is more beautiful to us than the gospel and the hope of salvation that it has brought to us. The reason we can endure through trials and temptations is because of that hope of being with our Savior into eternity and nothing is more valuable to us than he is. Two nights ago I read the story in Matthew 26 of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Jesus tells his disciples immediately after she does this that what she had done would always be told in her memory wherever the gospel was proclaimed in the world. It was obviously a deeply meaningful thing that she did and closely related to the message of the gospel. I’ll explain after I share the passage.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Matthew 26:6-13 ESV
The perfume that was used was pure nard and it was worth approximately an entire year’s wages! The same account of this story is also found in John 12, which also tells us that the woman was Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) and that when she poured the perfume over Jesus head, “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” It was a lot of perfume that she poured out, the entire bottle in fact. She could have just used the less costly oil that typically was reserved for guests or she could’ve used only a portion of the pure nard and saved the rest, but she didn’t. She chose to pour it all out as a demonstration of her love and deep gratitude towards Jesus for saving her, and this is a perfect picture of the effect of the gospel on a truly converted heart.
“Hold on loosely…”
When a person truly comes to the knowledge that their desperately wicked heart is being offered completely undeserved mercy they will always respond by laying down everything they have for him. For Mary a year’s worth of wages were nothing in comparison to her salvation and the eternal glory that her sights were now set on. Since every material thing will soon pass away, and is already beginning to fade, our hold on these things should be very loose. A few years ago my husband, Shane, read Phil Vischer’s autobiography (the creator of Veggie Tales) and loved it. If you’re at all familiar with Veggie Tales you well know its success, what you may not know is that Phil Vischer lost it all to bankruptcy in 2003. His book was very encouraging at the time to Shane and for his birthday I had arranged for Phil Vischer to write Shane a personal letter which came right on time in Phil’s own handwriting. The reason I share this is because of one thing that Phil wrote in that letter that has stuck with Shane and I over the past few years, he told Shane to always “Hold on to things loosely and hold on to God tightly.” He knew, from experience, that material things were fragile and easily lost and the only thing that is certain is God, and in the words of John Piper “God is the Gospel.”
How much will you waste on Jesus?
Now to bring some understanding to the title of this post “Wasted on Jesus” some of the disciples, Judas in particular, were “indignant” that Mary had done this and said, “Why this waste?” In Judas’s eyes Mary had just wasted a whole pile of money on Jesus. He valued Jesus very little and that is proven in his next act that follows in Matthew 26:14-16
Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
(Matthew 26:14-16 ESV)
Thirty pieces of silver was equivalent to about 4 months of wages. Mary “wasted” a year’s worth of wages on Jesus and Judas betrayed him for four months worth. Someone like Judas, or the fictional character By-Ends, who is not a true follower of the King (Jesus) will not be able to accept or understand personal sacrifice for Jesus. The money, the time, the life, will always seem better spent elsewhere. But even though the weather of life may be fine today and a storm tomorrow a true Christian finds his delight in the great and unspeakable value he has found in his Savior. The story of Mary’s act of worship in anointing Jesus will always be shared wherever the gospel is shared because the message of the gospel causes those who truly believe to value Jesus above all else.
So, Christian, if you are following Jesus radically and valuing him above all else that you own don’t be discouraged by rough roads or people who don’t understand what you’re doing. In the words of Little Christian, “we must go straight on, whether it is fine or stormy.” Be willing to give it all up without a second thought or question. When this short life is over the riches we will share in heaven will far outweigh any meager wealth we might gain while here.
Preparing the Way,