Tag Archives: eternity

Life or Death

For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Psalm 6:5 ESV)

God does not tell us much about eternity, either in or away from His presence. We can know being in His presence brings life and all of the peace and rest which comes with obedience and doing that for which people were created, and in Christ, re-created. We can also know those who exist outside of His presence, eternally absent from the source of life, are in agony and constant turmoil. These are simple and inadequate illustrations of the difference between heaven and hell. We know God will separate those who are His from those who continue willfully rebelling and sinning against Him.

God gives us clues about death, being separated from that which supports and maintains life. Death is the opposite of life. Death is non-life, removal from that which sustains life. In the physical world that which has life needs food, water and air. Remove any one of these three elements and life ceases, the organism dies and begins to decay. Sheol in the Hebrew is the equivalent of haides in the Greek, the grave, the pit, a place of no return, the place of the dead, the underworld. Both sheol and haides are considered hell by many. The place of the dead is not a place where those who die cease to exist but are conscious of who they are and their circumstances. 

David declares that those who have died have no remembrance of God and will not give Him praise. They will not remember Him nor thank Him or confess His greatness. This does not mean there is no consciousness for those in the grave. David is thinking of burial, the covering of dirt, entombing of a dead body, where it will decay. Those who knew the dead person can no longer hear their words or see their actions because in death they neither speak nor act.

Jacob uses the word sheol to describe what has happened to his son, Joseph, upon hearing the report of his death from his brothers. 

Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.(Genesis 37:34-35 ESV)

Those who have died are still under God’s control and government. Thus, the grave is an intermediate place between heaven and hell. Those who are wicked will eventually go to hell, away from God, the Giver of life, while those who are righteous will come into God’s eternal presence where they are sustained with life. Death and the grave bring mourning to those who remain alive. For those facing death there is tremendous fear of the unknown. They do not know what they are facing. 

King Hezekiah echoed David’s words as he lay dying, then wrote his own Psalm after he was healed, reflecting upon what God had done for him. When his body is placed in the grave he believed he would no longer praise God.

For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you;  those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. the father makes known to the children your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:18-19 ESV)

Jesus faced death. He saw beyond death. He spoke often about His own death but always continued speaking about His resurrection and what would happen because of His resurrection. During the last Passover week, Phillip and Andrew brought to Him a request by some Greek believers who wanted to see Jesus. Knowing His death would draw all men, Jews and Greeks, to Himself, He responded with a small parable. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24 ESV). Many Christians believe this parable speaks directly to people. It does not. Jesus spoke about Himself. The grain of wheat is Jesus. Falling to the earth is His death. Bearing fruit is His resurrection. He must die to bring all to Himself. His fruit is the ingathering of all those who are His. They are in Him. He is their refuge.

But what of those who are not in Him? Death becomes eternal separation from God. There is a separation of those who hate God and continue in their rebellion against Him, and those who love God and obey His command to come to His Son. Hell becomes a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). Those who hate life are sentenced to not have life. Death ends life.

Those who love Him will receive life. But only those who love Him more than they love their own life will receive life from God. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26 ESV). For those who are separated out for God, physical death is not the end but the beginning of true life. 

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Facing Death

Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4 ESV)

Only God can both save and deliver anyone’s life from death. Those who have faced death and lived are better able to see and know the value, or lack of value, of their life compared to their stuff. For those who face certain death, yet continue to live and who have no hope for eternity, their property becomes the only reason to live. Without their belongings they have nothing. They know they cannot take anything with them when they die so they cling to life as long as possible and covet that which was never theirs. For those who have hope for eternity, who know they are known and loved by God, material possession carries little or no value. Spiritual maturity brings a realization that only that which is eternal holds eternal value. Only the Word of God (God Himself) and people created in His image have value. 

Only God can determine eternal value. He created people for relationship with Him because He wants them with Him for eternity. Those who rebel against Him will continue to exist for eternity but will exist away from His known presence.

Hezekiah lay dying. Isaiah came to the king, delivering a hard message. “Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isaiah 38:1 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:1, 2 Chronicles 32:24). Despondent, facing imminent death and deeply afraid, Hezekiah prayed.“‘Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (Isaiah 38:3 ESV; see 2 Kings 20:3). Isaiah returned, giving another message to the king.“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5 ESV; see 1 Kings 20:5). God listened to king Hezekiah. He did not avoid death but was given more time.

There are two things we should note about king Hezekiah. He did follow the LORD with his whole heart, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD.“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV; see 2 Chronicles 31:20). But his righteous works did not follow in those extra years given by God. The evidence is shown in the life of his son, Manasseh.  

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:1-2 ESV; 2 Chronicles 33:9).

King Hezekiah was rich and became proud. After God healed him he did not continue working for God with his whole heart but exulted in his riches. Though he humbled himself, and God saved Judah and Jerusalem from the attack of the Assyrians, God still punished Israel for not seeking Him with the whole thinking of their hearts.

“But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:25-26 ESV).

God turned away from His judgment and delivered Hezekiah’s life. God saved him because of His love. In his later life, Hezekiah did not return to God the compassion and grace he was given. 

God did not turn away from, or stop the required judgment against sin endured by Jesus even when He asked God. Jesus did respond to God’s mercy and compassion in a way that lifted up God before all the people.

Without an eternal perspective life is self-focused and people are self-absorbed. Created in the image of God, people are given the natural and eternal ability to know Him intimately. Replacing Him with stuff is idolatry. Those who do not intimately know God are agonizingly afraid of death and the unknown. Those who do intimately know God, and are known by Him, are peacefully at rest with death. There may be fear of the process of dying but not of death itself. Death, separation from this sinful world, our sinful flesh and the constant attacks of the Deceiver, brings relief. We know this because of Jesus, who was raised from the dead, tells those who are His they will be with Him in eternity. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

COVERED

For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12 ESV)

God blesses the righteous. In Psalm 1, God blesses a righteous man. “Blessed is the man who walks not …”  (Psalm 1:1 ESV). This opening statement of the Psalms points to the One Man who has never done anything wicked or sinful. There is only One. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If anyone else is righteous before God it is because they are found in Christ. They take refuge in Him. God blesses those in Christ because He blessed Christ and what happens to the Son of God happens to those in Him. “Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV).

How does God bless the Righteous One and those found righteous in Him? He will cover Him, which means to surround and to give a crown. Not only does God protect Him, spreading His “protection over them” (Psalm 5:11), those in Christ, but He gives Him a crown, seating Him in Zion. “As for men, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill”  (Psalm 2:6 ESV).Where God’s King is, so are His citizens.

Favor  is goodwill, acceptance, delight and pleasure. A shield  is a buckler and can also mean something piercing, a hook or barb. A shield is a defensive weapon designed to stop any attack without qualification. God does not even allow an attack to occur but hooks those who hate Him and leads them away from His presence.

God will allow nothing into eternity that conflicts with His ultimate will and purpose. His presence is enough to keep all protected from sin, from the Deceiver, and the world that draws people away from Him. There is no danger in His presence. There is peace and rest given to all whom he draws to Himself. Those found in Christ are protected and secure in their being and place before Him.

Throughout Jesus’ last week, after He entered the Temple and violently drove out those who desecrated His Father’s house, He challenged and was challenged by the religious leaders. They questioned Him, His authority, and His reason for acting violently against them. He challenged them, telling them parables meant to convict and draw out their sin so they might see their sin and repent. Just before launching into a long, multi-pronged accusation of them, Jesus asks them a simple question. Whose son is the Christ? “Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?  They said to him, ‘The son of David’” (Matthew 22:41-42 ESV). They rightly answered. Messiah, the anointed One, the Son of God, known as Christ, is a descendant from the lineage of King David. He is a Man, as God originally created Man, without sin and with the character and personality of a servant, as Adam was created. 

Jesus then asks them other questions. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him, Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:43-45; see Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:34-35, Hebrews 1:13). How can Messiah be a son of a sinful man? How can Messiah be a man at all?

They were confounded. “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions”(Matthew 22:46 ESV). They challenged God to debate. They sought to impose their traditions and will upon Him whom they are designed to serve. They refused to accept the words and works of the Man standing before them aware of the miracles He had performed, doing that which only God could do. Messiah was standing before them and they rejected Him.

David wrote the Psalms as prophecies of Messiah, of Christ. David’s heart reflected the thinking of the heart of Jesus. Though they hated Him and put Him to death, He fulfilled God’s ultimate, eternal purpose, and lives, reigning in eternity over His kingdom. His citizens are with Him. God’s blessings are on them because of Jesus. His blood covers them with His righteousness, protecting them. Christ’s blood is the only defense against sin, stronger than any fortress, impenetrable, a shield of God’s favor and protection.

Refuge

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them,  that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11 ESV)

When threatened people stand and fight, shake in fear, paralyzed and unable to move, or flee to a protected place. A refuge  is a trusted place where those who belong to God flee from danger, knowing His protection is guaranteed. However, God’s refuge is not a physical place. He does not take people out of the world when they are in danger. Those who are in Christ are hidden in His Son, filled with His Spirit, and guaranteed eternal life. God blesses those in Christ because He blesses Christ, the only One who lived a full life in the flesh and never sinned. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). Those in Christ are in God’s refuge. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him”  (Psalm 2:12 ESV).

Finding refuge in God through Christ brings eternal joy, even when surrounded by temporal chaos. They not only rejoice, which is to make glad, but they ever sing for joyEver  means from ancient times into eternity, indefinite and unending. To sing for joy means to give a ringing cry out of perpetual gladness. Those who face the wrath of the world because of their relationship with God in Christ will endure persecution for righteousness’ sake. 

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.   (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)

Living in the world and facing persecution does not feel like having God’s protection. Trust, which is part of the description of a refuge, is an emotional response to the sure promises of God and integral to a healthy, whole faith. He has promised those who are His eternity with Him, where there is no sin. “Evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4 ESV). In the refuge of His eternal presence is His protection, a hedge or fence, woven together, strong beyond comprehension. Nothing that is not of God gets through this barrier. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory”  (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

God protects those who love Him. We often do not see His protection. When He allows us, those who are His, to feel the brunt of persecution for righteousness’ sake, it may seem He has withdrawn His refuge and abandoned us to the world. Yet, being in Christ means that what happens to Christ happens to us, and what happens to us happens to Christ. Jesus endured the cross for our sake and bids us take up our cross, which is, in reality, His cross, and follow Him. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27 ESV). Our identity with Christ is complete. Our obedience to God is a natural result of our being in Christ. He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us and bring us into eternity with Him. Nothing this world can do will separate us from Him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?   (Romans 9:31-35 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on His way to cleansing the Temple, a crowd of people filled with children sang out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV). Some Pharisees standing there told Jesus to rebuke His disciples and stop them from singing out to Him. “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:40 ESV). After driving out the people desecrating His Father’s House, the children continued to sing “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:15 ESV), causing the indignation of the chief priests. Those who love God cannot help but sing out in joy. They exult in Him, which is to give glory, rejoice, act triumphantly, and take the greatest pride. He is everything. 

Entering God’s House

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy Temple in the fear of you. (Psalm 5:7 ESV)

We enter God’s house only because He draws us to Himself.

God built a house, a Temple and a place where His people would worship Him, in Jerusalem, the City of David. Solomon spent seven years building the Temple (see 2 Kings 6:38). Jesus went to a Temple built by Herod the Great, still under construction after 46 years (John 2:20). Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC and its contents carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. God used Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people because of their sin, as He continuously warned them He would do. In AD 70, Herod’s Temple was destroyed by Titus, who attacked Jerusalem because of the rebellion of the Jewish nation against Rome. 

God is not contained in a physical place. He does not live in a physical house. Solomon knew this as he dedicated the Temple he built to God.“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 ESV). God created the heavens and the earth. He transcends heaven, filling the earth with Himself, holding the universe in His hand.“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD”(Jeremiah 23:24 ESV). We build places of worship for ourselves. Our purpose is to know God intimately, the reason He created us in His image. God wants us to worship and know Him.

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”(Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)

Abundance means multitude and greatness. Steadfast love means goodness, kindness and faithfulness. Fear is not terror caused by an eminently dangerous circumstance but the greatest respect, reverence and piety brought on by the awesome and terrifying presence of God. To bow down is to worship and prostrate oneself before God. God draws the worshipper into His presence because of His eternal love for the person created in His image. In response, the individual offers true worship to the God of the universe with an intimate understanding and knowledge of Him who is above all.

Jesus entered the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and violently drove away those who desecrated the House of God. He challenged those given the responsibility to lead God’s people in truthful worship. He knew the Temple would be destroyed. Herod’s Temple was a magnificent structure, which impressed all who saw and entered. 

“Jesus left the Temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”(Matthew 24:1-2 ESV)

 God’s Temple is the body of Christ, which Jesus said they would destroy and He would raise again in three days.“He was speaking about the Temple of his body”(John 2:21 ESV). He is the eternal Temple of God built with the living stones of those who belong to Him. 

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”(1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

God’s house is in eternity. Jesus did not come to preserve a sinful world, to fix it or make it better. He came to draw to Himself, into His presence for eternity, “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6 ESV), who have abandoned themselves to Him.“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV).

We are surrounded in the world by God’s enemies. We are separated from the world for Him who created the world, while still living in the world. We are here as a witness to them of the love God has for them, shown through the life, death and resurrection of His Son. Also, He is preparing us for eternity with Him. Our place is both as a witness in a courtroom and a student in a classroom.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.(1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV)

Alien Immigrants

Studies in First Peter

To those who are elect exiles (immigrants) of the Dispersion (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Our true home is not in this world but in eternity with God. Those who are citizens of His kingdom think differently about God, about themselves and about the world in which they live, than those who are citizens of the world. Peter uses the word exiles, people who are foreigners or aliens (parepidemos), to show the focus of the Christian remaining on God the Father.

In the first section of his letter, 1:1-12, Peter affirms it is God the Father who determines to provide and assure salvation for each citizen of His kingdom. He guarantees their place with Him in eternity and gives protection while they His live in a corrupt world.

When most people think of the word exilesthey imagine persons displaced by war or natural disaster, whose home or country is so violently attacked or destroyed they can no longer safely live there. Or, they think of someone who, for political or criminal reasons, has been forcibly removed from their home country as a punishment. For those displaced by war the exile flees for their own safety. Those punished are forcibly removed from their country. But this is not what the Greek word (parepidemos) means. A better translation is either alien or immigrantor both. An immigrant may have had to flee their country because of persecution or war. But immigrants usually want to come to a new country to live and to become a citizen of that country. They purposefully move from one country and culture, which was theirs, to another country and culture they make theirs.

According to Thayer’s exile (immigrant) (parapedimos) means one who comes from a foreign country to live side by side with those who are natives of the host country. They are foreigners who live in a strange place. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles(read immigrants) of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1Peter 1:1 ESV). In the context of 1 Peter 1:1, Christians are those who hold citizenship in heaven while living their lives on earth. Peter is writing to all Christians, but especially the Jews, who are part of the dispersion, the Diaspora. They are Jews scattered throughout the nations of the known world. Currently, the term Disapoa may also refer to Christians scattered throughout the world. Christians have dual citizenship. While living on earth the Christian lives according to the customs and culture of the nation in which they reside while remaining constantly aware of their citizenship in heaven.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews couples the word alien immigrant with the word xenos. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers (xenos) and exiles (parapidemos) on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). Xenosmeans foreigner or stranger, or someone who is not familiar with the country in which they find themselves. They are not immigrants, though they are alien. Thus, the writer of Hebrews describes those who wait patiently and faithfully for God to act and consider themselves strangers even while they are living in the culture of a host country.

Jesus describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven as both salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)

God does not physically separate out those who are His from the world though He does separate them out as His. He disperses them throughout the world as witnesses of the Gospel. Christians live in the world as full citizens of the kingdom of God, temporarily removed from their true home, which is in eternity with God.

Relentless Joy

Meditations on the Psalms

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.(Psalm 4:7 ESV)

Our expectations, because of the image of God in us, are to naturally do that for which we were created. God created us for relationship with Him. Sin brought rebellion, making the world a dangerous place. Our expectations of God are He must bless us, and when He doesn’t according to our arbitrary standard, we curse Him. We cease to rely upon God, not realizing all we have, our very lives, are given us by His grace and sustained by His decision.

Jesus tells us God gave Him more delight and contentment, because of Their relationship, than any person could have, even when all their perceived needs and wants are met. God put joy in His heart.

Joy means mirth, gladness, gaiety and pleasure, and can mean happiness. Spiritual joy is more than happiness. Spiritual joy is the relentless pleasure of intimately knowing God. Abound means to increase or become many, great, or long. We measure our riches with physical belongings, pleasurable and sensual activity, or manipulative control like power, grasp that which will last only a short time. If our measure does not last for eternity then we settle for failure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death, demonstrated her joy in intimately knowing Jesus. John tells us she was the one who anointed Jesus. “It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (John 11:2 ESV). John tells us this fact before it happened in the sequence of the story because her devotion is important to Jesus, bringing Him great pleasure and joy. What she did for Jesus is given prominence in the declaration of the gospel. “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 26:13 ESV; see Mark 14:9). God is not selfish in accepting the worship of those He created for relationship with Him.

Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume, pure nard, or spike nard. “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3 ESV). Spike nard perfume was expensive because the plant from which it is derived, Nardostachys jatamansi, also called Indian spike, grows only in the Himalayas. Nard also means having the power of persuasion, skillful in producing belief, trustful, relied upon. Mary used a perfume to anoint Jesus which symbolically described His character and personality. Mary showed her devotion to Jesus by cleaning His feet with the perfume and drying His feet with her hair. She would, if necessary, die for Him.

But there was one present who thought more like the world than like one abandoned to God. Judas, who would betray Jesus, who was charged as the Disciple’s treasurer, who stole money from the moneybag for himself, was displeased with Mary’s devotion.“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 ESV; see Matthew 26:9, Mark 14:5). His focus was upon what God should do for him, not what he was obligated to do for God. He who walked with Jesus, saw His miracles, heard His words and teachings, spent enough time with the Son of Man to intimately know Him, hated Him. Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities that wanted to kill Him, for a handful of money. Perhaps his hatred grew over time as he saw missed opportunities to increase his own wealth and standing in the world. He wanted an abundance of grain and wine, measuring his riches with a temporary, transient standard, refusing to see those riches would be destroyed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52 ESV)

Jesus tells us to find our joy in Him, in eternity and in knowing God, which is the natural product of having the image of God. Our eternal joy cannot be found in the world or in anything of the world. Our worship of Him brings God great joy. He looks to eternity, where those who are His will no longer rebel against Him. They will have a righteous and healthy relationship with their Creator and will enjoy Him as He enjoys them. There is no sin in eternity in God’s presence.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV)

Jesus looked toward His death with anxiety and anticipation. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44 ESV). Before His crucifixion He raised Lazarus from the dead knowing He, though He would soon die on a cross, would not stay dead. We who believe His resurrection, who find ourselves in Him for eternity, give God the greatest joy. In turn, He fills us with His Spirit who gives an abundance of joy, with peace and rest, to we who are God’s.