“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:23-26
John 12 opens with what had to be the best dinner party ever – at least for Martha, Mary and Lazarus. This much loved brother who had been four days dead now reclines at the table where Martha serves the Master. Mary brings a pint of pure nard – two cups of this precious and aromatic oil – and pours a fragrant year’s worth of wages on Jesus’ feet wiping off the excess with her own hair. This is a staggering display of love and worship. I imagine Mary’s heart over-brimming with joyous gratitude as the living Lazarus, evidence of Jesus’ love and power, watches nearby. I’m caught up in Mary’s hair thinking forward just a few days to the certainty that the sweet aroma of nard would cling to her as she witnesses the death of Jesus – the giver of her brother’s life. What grief she will experience again in just a few short days. Did the scent of nard stir up her faith? Did she remember Jesus as the resurrection and the life? Or did she instead despair and sink into the deepest grief she had ever known?
I also wonder at the mix of emotions that Jesus experienced. What joy to be among friends still in awe of the resurrection of the much-loved Lazarus. Passover is also just days away and excitement in remembering the mighty arm of God in setting His children free from Egypt colored and spiced the atmosphere. But for Jesus the sure knowledge of His own torture and death had to color everything else. On this Passover death would not pass over Him. All of time culminated with the Friday that was just six days away when Jesus would bear the sin of all mankind for all of history.
At verse 20 some Greeks come to the disciples to ask to see Jesus. Since they were in the crowd worshiping at the feast, I suspect that they could ‘see’ Jesus, just as the rest of the crowd could, but they wanted a more personal audience with Him. Jesus’ answer points to the brevity of His remaining time. He seems to say that the time has ended for interviews and discussion and deciding about His true identity. It is time to serve Him, to follow Him, to even be willing to die with Him. Jesus speaks of His coming death and the necessity for it so that there can be more life and then He says “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” After affirmation from the Father and more discussion about His death, Jesus leaves and hides Himself from them. He never gives the Greeks the personal audience they seek. The miracles have spoken, the teaching has spoken, Jesus’ life has testified to His identity. It is enough, but even so they don’t believe.
I want to be a Mary. I want to rejoice and love and believe so much that I pour my love onto Jesus. I want my love to be first even when I grieve or don’t understand what is happening. With that love I pray to win Jesus’ heart so that I can say “I believe, help my unbelief. I love, help my un-love!” I choose to follow Jesus no matter what I feel – even unto death.