Thursday, December 31, 2009

What Jesus Receives (Part 2)

So how did you do with your gift determinations this Christmas?  In the previous post, I mention the ways that we tend, whether intentionally or not, to place value judgments on others as we decide if we will give a gift at all, and if so, how nice of a gift.  And, when it comes to Jesus, although He deserves our worship and our very best of everything—like what the lady in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 14, gives Him—often He receives from us far less.  It says something about how much we value Him.  Certainly I don’t intend to allegorize the chapter (or any of Mark’s Gospel account).  These events really happened.  And yet we can’t help but notice that there are parallels in our own lives.

In contrast to what the lady gives Him, chapter 14 continues with several negative pictures of what He receives.  As Jesus re-enters the city, the time has come for the Passover meal.  He asks His followers, who had become His friends, to set up the dinner.  During the Passover dinner, Jesus foretells that one of them will soon betray Him.  As they all deny that they would do this to Him, most of us who also follow Him agree that we would never betray Him and walk away.  However, later in the same chapter, we watch as Judas does this very thing.  Again I think to myself, I could never do that!  But then I have to ask, in the way that I sometimes ignore Him, sometimes seemingly selling Him out, am I not committing what we might call a practical betrayal?  It might not seem as bad as what Judas did (after all, Luke 22.3 says he was driven by Satan at this point), but if I act like I’m not a follower of His, if I sell Him out, I’m practically betraying Him.  And if so, I fail miserably at giving Jesus what He deserves.

The next negative picture comes immediately after dinner.  Jesus tells His friends that they will fall away.  In fact, one will specifically deny Him.  Once again, each one says it won’t be him.  I’m sure I would have said much the same.  Peter asserts with no uncertainty that it will not be him.  However, before long, as the events of the night unfold, we watch as Peter puts his foot in his mouth three times before morning breaks, and on hearing the rooster crow, begins to cry as he realizes what he has done.  It’s easy to criticize Peter.  He almost always says the wrong thing.  But if I look carefully at Peter’s actions, here and elsewhere, all too often I see myself.  If someone threatens me, I pray I don’t openly deny Christ like Peter did.  But how often must I be denying Him when I fail to take a stand for Him?  Is this not practical denial before a watching world?  We Christians are hypocrites when we say we are followers yet fail to live for Him.  I hope I never verbally deny Jesus; but I need to work harder at not committing a practical denial of Jesus.  He has accepted me, and would deserve praise even if He hadn’t.

Finally is a negative picture that I can relate to even more than the others.  Knowing what is about to befall Him in an arrest, accusations, beatings, and even death, Jesus takes His friends to a garden to pray.  He takes the three apparent leaders, who have been closest to Him throughout His travels and ministry, and asks them to pray near Him.  He goes away a little further and prays—through so much anguish that He sweats and eventually bleeds.  He comes back to see that His close friends, His trainees, have all fallen asleep.  He understands that they are exhausted—so is He.  But He is only asking them to pray with Him; He will end up dying for them.  Placing proverbial salt in the wound, this cycles through two more iterations.  After finding them asleep the third time, He tells them that it’s “enough,” and then waits for Judas to come over to betray Him.  The disciples’ lethargy at first seems mind-boggling to us.  After all, by this point they should have understood at least a little of what was about to take place.  And yet when I see their sleep, I confess my own practical lethargy.  Instead of being inspired by the goodness of God in Christ on our behalf, I seem to have fallen asleep.  He asks me to do such minor things, but figuratively speaking I can’t stay awake long enough to do them.  In so doing I miss giving Him what He deserves.

The story of course continues.  After His death and resurrection, Jesus receives a small fraction of the glory due Him.  One day, He will receive the full praise He deserves.  This season has once again reminded me of the great gift and sacrifice that Jesus has made for us.  However, I’m learning that what Jesus currently receives from me is sometimes not a blessing to Him.  As we begin this new calendar year, my hope and prayer is that I would give Jesus the honor that is due Him.  It’s what He deserves.

Merry Christmas, and I hope you have a happy and blessed 2010.