Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What Jesus Receives (Part 1)

Do you place an upper-limit cap on how much you are willing to give certain people this time of year?

We just saw a scene from a film where the main joke is that the gift giver at a family gathering doesn’t realize that a gift cap has been set.  So he hands out his boxes completely confident that the recipients will enjoy his prized gifts.  Even after finding out that a cap was supposed to have been followed, he is secure in thinking that they will be thankful and happy, since the gifts are expensive.  The contrasts of his gifts with others’ gifts soon give the kids complexes and eventually set off a family fight.  In our extended family, especially among siblings, we often set a spending cap, but we all agree on it ahead of time!

Vast amounts of time and energy are spent this time each year in hope of determining who receives what.  Isn’t it an interesting game we Americans play when it comes to making these determinations?  Sadly it often degenerates into thinking through how close you are to a certain relative or coworker, in order to decide if he or she should receive a card, or maybe a gift, or maybe a really expensive gift.  Often the decisions made are quite arbitrary, and it’s easy to quickly lose sight of the reasons that are supposed to be behind giving a gift.

What if you and I only ever received what we deserved?  Would you receive nice things?  Would you receive nothing?  Would you actually receive something bad, as result of what you earned?

I couldn’t help but see some connections with these thoughts in Scripture, and thought I would share here what I did in my LIFE Bible study community.  We are in an ongoing study through the Gospel according to Mark, and we have reached the week that immediately preceded Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Earlier that week, Jesus had entered Jerusalem to celebratory shouts of “Hosanna!”  But His outlook, humanly speaking, would soon take a turn for the worse.  As chapter 14 begins, we see some religious leaders plotting His demise, which Jesus has predicted three times by this point in the Gospel account.  And then in what should be a joyful, reflective time at Jewish Passover, we see an amazing contrast in what Jesus receives, as opposed to what He deserves.

However, the first picture is a positive one, showing what He actually deserves.  While still in the neighboring small town of Bethany before going back into the city, Jesus is seated at a dinner table with friends.  As was common for the day, they are reclining on the floor around a low table.  A lady comes to Him with a container of expensive ointment which she subsequently breaks open, and pours over the head of Jesus, which is an ancient sign of dear respect.  Instead of praising her apparently loving sacrifice, the men around her start to criticize her.  They tell her that her logic is flawed: instead of anointing Jesus, she could have sold the costly ointment and given the proceeds to the poor.  Jesus defends the lady’s sacrifice, saying that she is wise since He will only be with them a short time, and then announces that the story of her sacrifice will be told for years to come (which is what I’m doing right now).  According to Jesus’ defense of her actions, she appeared to know exactly what she was doing, and why.  Jesus was receiving the glory He actually deserved.

I want my offering of my life to Jesus to be as sacrificial.  But the One who truly deserves praise often does not receive it.  All too often, I look more like the next few pictures from Mark 14, which aren’t so attractive.  More to come.