Death now holds hope rather than fear for believers

Jesus spent His last week on earth traveling, teaching and preparing for the Passover holiday.

He knew that His time was almost at an end. A Pharisee came to Jesus in Luke 13:31 and warned Him that Herod wanted to kill Him and urged Jesus to go somewhere else.

Undaunted and unafraid, Jesus continued on His path to Jerusalem. Six days before the cross He arrived at Simon’s house in Bethany. Simon was referred to as the leper in Mark 14:3, and in other accounts as Simon the Pharisee.

Jesus had healed Simon and he was undoubtedly grateful and a faithful student willing to host Jesus’s visits anytime.

Rhonda Sexton

While Jesus was there a woman came and anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. This woman is believed to have been Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, who had a close relationship with Jesus and also lived in Bethany.

Some of Jesus’s followers were snickering beneath their breath about what a waste this had been, as the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

It is interesting that John mentions Judas specifically in John 12: 4-5, as Judas was the treasurer of Jesus’s ministry and implicates his reaction was out of greed instead of concern for the poor because he was embezzling.

Jesus heard the rumbling and in Mark 14:6, He replied, “Leave her alone, why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can give to them anytime you want. But you will not always have me.

“She did what she could by pouring perfume on my body, she has prepared me for my burial. I assure you wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world what she has done will be remembered.”

Luke refers to Mary as a sinful woman in Luke 7:37. Luke infers that Mary was an uninvited guest at the dinner and that Simon was none too happy this sinner was in his home.

Jesus was a weary traveler and it was customary for the host to wash the sandaled feet of a guest, and the fact that Simon didn’t do this before they sat to eat points out his own failures.

Maybe Simon was jealous of Mary for thinking of it before he got the chance, maybe Simon didn’t really believe this Jesus who previously healed him truly was the messiah.

The Pharisees were an educated, religious bunch who believed only God could forgive sins. They loved to find fault in anyone who spoke truth and exposed their own hypocrisy. They as a whole didn’t think much of John the Baptist or Jesus.

I imagine these ingrained, learned patterns would have been hard habits to break. But face to face with Jesus, Simon could no longer justify his own piety.

Jesus asked him in Luke 7:41-43, “Two men owed money to a lender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other 50. Neither one had the money to pay him back, so the lender cancelled the debts of both.”

Jesus asked, “Which man loved the lender more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one with the bigger debt cancelled.” Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”

Jesus sent Mary away assuring her that all her sins were forgiven.

Jesus’ comment cuts to the heart of any self-righteous understanding of forgiveness. He showed Simon the hypocrisy of accepting forgiveness for his own sins and still looking at Mary as guilty.

Those that are forgiven much love much and may show much more gratitude. Those of us who are forgiven of much or little are in no position to judge others’ sins self-righteously.

Overflowing love and appreciation is the natural response to forgiveness and Mary surely displayed this with her actions toward Jesus that day.

As Jesus was walking into His last few days on earth He wasn’t concerned with His own safety or comfort, but with making those around Him understand the gift of forgiveness, His great love and inclusion into His kingdom.

He showed love and compassion for those who hung Him on the cross, and for the sinners who hung beside Him as His final act of love.

Easter is the celebration that Christ bridged the gap between man and God by His sacrifice. His victory over death is our promise that we can never be separated again from Him.

Death no longer holds any fear for believers but rather a hope for a future with love, acceptance and everlasting friendship with Jesus.

An opportunity for us to be like Mary, and lavish our appreciation on Him by our lives and actions, remains our privilege today.

(Rhonda Sexton is an author and inspirational speaker. She lives in Neosho with her husband and children. She can be reached at info@rhondasexton.org or 417-389-1222.)

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