June 18, 2021

Some Thoughts on Jesus, Mark 14

My failure to live up to the standard of Jesus has a long, consistent history that has been well chronicled in my lifetime; in fact, I write a new paragraph daily. I am constantly frustrated by my shortcomings, but I have come to understand that until I leave this earth, my sinful human nature will play a role in all I do. Ironically, I become more aware of my flaws the more I study the Bible and learn more about this Jesus. Yet I also learn more about forgiveness and grace.

I have been thinking about good deeds. I find myself drawn to the aspects of the Gospel that emphasize our need to love our neighbors, serve the poor, care for the sick and be active in our faith. I am aware of my sinful nature shining through in these well-intended actions – there is always a sliver of selfishness in selfless deeds; always a moment of reluctance in generosity – but that is not what hit me the other day. I was recently convicted of my motivation for doing such loving acts. Often, Jesus is not the driving force. There should be no other motivation than Jesus. The rest of the world does good for goodness’ sake and I look no different if my love of Jesus is not my motivation for loving my neighbors.

In Mark 14, we read of a woman (believed to be Mary) anointing Jesus’ feet with very expensive oil. Like the disciples, I would have been indignant at such waste. Notice, their reaction was not to save the oil, nor use the money for drinks at the local watering hole, nor a new set of wheels for their wagon; no, their reaction was selfless! They said that the money could have been given to the poor. “Amen!” would have been my reaction. It was not Jesus’. “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But I will not be here with you much longer” (Mark 14:6-7; New Living Translation). He commended Mary’s act of devotion to himself.As Oswald Chambers put it in My Utmost for His Highest, “Our Lord is filled with overflowing joy whenever He sees any of us doing what Mary did – not being bound by a particular set of rules, but being totally surrendered to Him.”

Do we pour out ourselves, loving our neighbors because of a deep love for God and His creation? I don’t always. Yet this is the only way because as we give more of ourselves, we are filled with more of Him. “If you believe in me…rivers of living water will flow out from within…” (John 7:38). I encourage you, be reckless in your love of Jesus. At times it will look like service to the poor and needy and others it will be anointing our Lord’s feet. But, as Chambers reminds us, always, we are to “break ‘the flask’ of our lives, to stop seeking our own satisfaction, and to pour out our lives before Him.”

11 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Jesus, Mark 14

  1. Andrew: I’m not certain that your entire blog entry came out as you intended. (Mine somewhat stops after “….and to pour out our lives before Him.”) I so agree with what you’re aiming at here. Like you, I ache to be a guy who loves, and notices, and cares, and gives and is present for people BECAUSE of the authentic, living relationship I have with a Jesus Who lives in me and does all those things through me. That’s what grace is able to do when we loosen our grip, even for a moment on the things we attach ourselves to so tightly in life.

    I’m beginning to believe, however, that our human nature is to make it hard work, when Jesus keeps reminding us that it’s not (“…My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”) It IS truly about falling in love with the One True Match to my soul…My Maker who aches to be as intimately connected with me as you and I do (on those rare occasions…;-) with Him. Then…through that transforming relationship, He enables me to become a “man without guile”…..like my heroes Timothy or Joseph or even the Centurion whose faith even Jesus marvelled over.

    You and I and all of the rest of us who profess to follow Christ, have to get off our butts, quit whining about how difficult this life is and simply let go of what we hang on to so desperately that inhibits His enabling grace to solve.

    The married couples I see that truly and intensely love each other, do it because they’ve become extraordinarily aware of each other and pay attention to their partner’s patterns, thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams. Jesus is certainly doing His part, right here and right now for you and me…..isn’t that graciously amazing?!

    So let’s you and I and anyone else who wants to join us start taking more risks in our relationship with Him. We’ll certainly make a few mistakes along the way and we’ll also catch ourselves with mixed motives on occasion, but He wants us to be confident in this connection He’s made with us. You are SO right….He wants us to “…..be reckless in our love” for Him. Because He knows just how sufficient His grace really is.

    Thank you for bringing this up. You’ve encouraged me today.

    sT

  2. Andrew,
    It is a blessing to read your struggle and the tension that we live in as humans. We many times start with right motives and pure hearts in the power of His spirit and then come crashing headlong into our own egos and agendas. Our place is to yeild, to choose to walk in HIs power for His glory moment by moment. It is for HIm to make it happen and bring it all to pass. Henri Nouwen writes, “brother, you want to seek God with all your life, and love HIm with all your heart. But you would be wrong if you thought you could reach HIm. Your arms are too short; your eyes are too dim, your heart and understanding too small. To sek God means first of all to let yourself be found by Him…”

    Blessings,

    Peter

  3. Peter: Yes! And what a great Henri Nouwen quote. He just seldom stops “saying” good things, does he?

    sT

  4. Andrew,

    I would like to challenge your struggle, because it does not make much sense to me. You are writing about the nature of your motivation for doing loving acts: “Often, Jesus is not the driving force. There should be no other motivation than Jesus. The rest of the world does good for goodness’ sake and I look no different if my love of Jesus is not my motivation for loving my neighbors”. Are you saying that if your primary motivation is not your love and faith in Jesus, your good deeds are less important? Do you really believe that Jesus, as a teacher, wanted you to think about HIM every time BEFORE you help others? Or perhaps he simply wanted you to learn and develop the inherent need/longing/commitment to do good out of love for others (regardless of your constant praising your teacher)? Do you really have to diminish the meaning of your good deeds if they are not connected with Jesus? If you are helping a stranger because you see how he/she suffers and your primary motivation is simply to ease his/her pain and this is driven by your deep and authentic connection with another human being… is it really less meaningful because you did not do it thinking about Jesus? I would argue that Jesus wanted his love for others to be pervasive. WHAT he was teaching was more important than HIMSELF. He was NOT just another self-centered teacher who wanted to be “cited” or to take credit every time you do something good. Perhaps he simply wanted us to develop a permanent altruistic behavior towards others. I never think about Jesus when I help others. I try to help them whenever I can because I truly love people and I do not think that my deeds are less meaningful because Jesus is not the driving force of them.

  5. Alright, Piotr…..there is a lot of merit in what you say here. I have to believe that His desire and design for us is to actually have a change of heart that shows up in our behavior without thought. Loving without strings. For example, it has always bothered me when people talk about doing “good deeds” and then making sure those observing know we are “christians” so that Jesus will get the credit. I’m convinced He’d much rather we love openly and honestly and not give it a second thought and leave the resulting impact up to Him.

    However, i’m assuming Andrew (above) is actually meaning to take it deeper. We learn to love and give and care in a remarkable fashion when we are influenced by an intimate relationship we can develop with a connecting, involved Creator. If those of us who believe that we are made to be love and compassion to a soul-starved world, gain a deeper sense of how connected we really are and how much He’s made us to honor Him by how we treat each other, then that divine romance can impact how we behave. And in that case, His influence happens all over the place.

    I do appreciate your caution about us becoming over-spritualized. I have to continually remind myself that even Jesus wasn’t a “good christian”…..He just loved the heck out of those who were around Him often without giving it a second thought. I’m certain THAT is what He would desire for us as well. In the meantime, we’re very human and struggle every day in learning how to be light and love to a world that needs more of both.

    sT

  6. Steve,

    I appreciate your input, however, I wonder if your deeper understanding is commonly shared among other Christians… I doubt it, quite frankly. As you wrote: “people talk about doing good deeds and then they make sure those observing know we are Christians so that Jesus will get the credit”. Also, let’s try not to interpret Andrew’s thoughts. What he meant only he knows so I take your response as yours only.

    P.

  7. It is time for Andrew to weigh back in again. It would be easier if Andrew’s seemingly perfect MacBook had not fried on him! haha.

    PIOTR, to respond to your comments, firstly thank you. I am aware that a lot of what I wrote was an attempt to articulate an inner monologue and it may be a bit unclear. I am glad to hear your challenges because slapping the name of Jesus on actions in a careless manner may often do more harm than good. My thoughts were merely on my motives.

    I am not one who parades with the banner of Christ because, honestly, I fear I am doing his name a disservice rather than bringing it glory. I do not want to bring all things back to Jesus. I, instead, want to bring Jesus back into all things. My service to my neighbors, no matter how Biblically correct and good, has become habitual. And maybe this is over simplified, but this is how I see it: My father (the flesh and blood one) has taught me many great things. When he sees me make a good decision based on something he taught me, it brings a smile to his face. Yet, how much greater is it for him when I bring him into the process; when I ask his advice while weighing my options, and consulting him, knowing he possesses more wisdom and goodness than I. I see the beauty of “good deeds” becoming my nature. I also see the greater beauty of doing all this in the name of Jesus. The more I focus on him as my reason the less I am driven by a desire to be recognized for my actions.

    Phew, sorry, still a few more rants…!

    jesus does not need any credit. His is complete, lacking nothing; especially anything I can offer. But I do desire to bring him joy. I believe that when good deeds happen in this world, it is a move in the direction towards The Garden. It is a step closer towards life as it was meant to be those millions of years ago(or thousands, depending on your view). However, I do believe there is a difference in good deeds. On your comment “Are you saying that if your primary motivation is not your love and faith in Jesus, your good deeds are less important?”

    Yes.

    If I do good in this world, it counts for something in this world. But life is so much more than earth. Bill Gates is a wonderful man. (I might take heat for this, and I also may back-pedal as soon as I hit “submit”). The foundation set up by him and his wife does more good in this world than I will ever imagine doing. He improves the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet, what if he does nothing to show this world that the true source of Goodness is God himself? At the end of the day, we are all flesh and like the grass, we whither and fade away.

    What does good accomplish in this world? I think nothing unless it nudges people towards Jesus. I also must say I believe that Jesus can work through me when I buy a meal and share it with a hungry woman in the streets. I may never speak the name of Jesus in that conversation but I am hoping that Jesus is working in me to show His goodness to this woman. And perhaps it is years later when this same woman encounters the same goodness, but this next person draws the connection to some distant God. And maybe it is the next person she encounters who draws the connection from this distant God to the close, active, intimate God incarnate. Back to Jesus.

    Well, I have rambled on and on and am not even sure if I addressed any of the great points made earlier. Please, continue to respond and allow me to clarify anything. I just dont want to proofread anything at this time of night! haha.

    Andrew

  8. Andrew,

    Thanks for your thoughts and explanations. I can clearly see now that our views on good deeds are diametrically different. It may surprise you, but I am an atheist. I was born and raised in a Catholic environment, but questioning the rules of this world has become my nature quite early. And so I decided to leave the imposed order and guidelines. I do not have a problem with people who believe in God. Spirituality is an extremely important aspect of human life. And yes, we – atheists have that too. I, for one, consider myself to be very spiritual. Obviously, my godless spirituality does not have your supernatural component. I do not even think this is so important here… well, at least not for me. Each religion is a system with its own structure and rules so obviously I do not question that. What I question is when people start interpreting “God’s rules” and use them to feel superior. And I am not judging you personally since I do not know you. I just observe how Christians are making the same mistakes or achieving the same goals as the rest of us and yet they still feel above everyone else. I guess you are not the only one who thinks that your good deeds are less important if Jesus was not present in your motivation. I feel that quite often religion as a system/structure dominates and “devours” its simple rules – that the external facade and false pretexts drive motivation of those who believe. They do things in the name of God, they teach God’s rules, and they condemn others in the name of God. But who gave them the power of speaking in His name? Believers started interpreting simple religious rules and made up the whole new list of their own rules. Quite often they do not see how far they went with these interpretations – how far away from the original guidelines. They judge others with their own interpretations claiming their godly origin. They feel superior because they believe in their system. I understand the analogy between your father and Jesus, but there is a difference there. You may always go back to your father and seek his advice – he is alive and you can discuss things with him. He can convince you to his way or not, but you deal with a real person. Jesus is no longer with us, but to comfort ourselves we believe we can find his answers in our hearts/souls. The trick is we really do that to comfort our minds with the “right” choices. All the choices we make are ours and ours only. All the actions and their interpretations belong solely to us. I believe that Jesus’s teachings can direct your life, but to claim that you are trying to find him in every single life situation? Isn’t it really to feel comfortable with your own choice, to ease the pressure of your own responsibility? You answered yes to my question about the importance of Jesus’s presence in your motivation for good deeds. I still struggle with that because the end result of our actions should be more important than interpretations of our deeds… and we humans do love interpreting, reasoning, and judging… especially the actions of others. And we like to claim that Jesus would think the same – for our own comfort. But think about it – would Jesus choose a war as a problem resolution? Would he discriminate against race, status, your own beliefs, sexual orientation? I met so many Christians who, as I mentioned it before, make the same human mistakes and achieve the same human goals, and yet – they feel superior because they can always use Jesus or God as the ultimate inner Judge. It is very easy to get lost between very general guidelines of Jesus and our own, very specific interpretations. You say that you do not value your good deeds if Jesus was not your primary motivation. So how about a doctor who helps and saves his patients everyday? He is an atheist, but he genuinely loves people and wants to ease their pain. Would you value his work less because his motivation is different than yours?

    The bottom line is that we are all struggling in life choosing our own paths. To comfort ourselves we either speak in the name of God/Jesus (to feel superior) or devalue the truth of others (to make us feel superior again).

    Happy New Year, Andrew! Keep doing your good job, but don’t get lost in the interpretations of your actions ☺

    Piotr

  9. Andrew….and Piotr:

    I hesitate momentarily as whether to step back into this conversation. Hmmm…..i’m still uncertain even as I type. Here’s what seems appropriate to me….The Jesus I believe in…the One Who argueably has changed our world as much as anyone ever has, is not synonmous with Christianity. We Christians like to make ourselves feel more comfortable by believing that this is true, but, in fact, sadly, much of the time the religion we have built around the Person of Christ, actually gets in the way of the very message He taught and, I believe, lived.

    Even when He was here on earth in one human body, He spent more time dealing with the Pharisees, attempting to get them, through parables and how He lived, to see that their religion had blinded them to the intent and spirit with which He had intended.
    We’re no different. It’s human nature to continue to do the same today as it was then. And, in my opinion, it’s this same nature that causes us to believe that Jesus needs to be our motivation for it to have value.

    One of the hardest and most important aspects in belief that changes our hearts and lives, is when we stop thinking and being conscious of our good deeds and simply find that our hearts have become more like the type of heart that Jesus exhibited in every aspect of His living and dying — and it results in love — maximum throttle — being poured out on those around us…including ourselves.

    Jesus said, “when you give, don’t let your left hand know what you’re right is doing”….and “when you pray, do it in secret”….and He told the amazing story of the two prodigal sons. The younger is usually the focus, but Jesus was actually aiming his story at an audience that resembles the elder’s point of view. The older brother had done all the right things while the younger went out and squandered everything. Yet, because if this insanely amazing thing called grace, when the younger comes back with a changed heart, all is made right…..except with the heart of the older brother who is plain pissed off that he had done everything right (dare i say in God’s name?) and yet wanted nothing to do with the celebration. His heart was nothing like the father’s. And that was his barrier. He was attached to doing the right things rather than developing a heart like his father’s.

    Jesus would have us love for love’s sake, and, in my opinion, He is the epitomy and essence and reality of love. Whether or not Bill Gates, or Ghandi, or Mother Teresa are doing things for motives that matter to Our Creator only He knows. Jesus warns us against judging these things. But He also tells us that our fruit will identify us. And fruit trees don’t have to think about producing good stuff to eat, they just do it. Jesus can help us, both by example and even more extraordinarily, by living through us….spiritually and changing our hearts…..and hopefully, this world.

  10. Dear Piotr,

    I realize that this is coming over a month after your last correspondence; I thought it had finished! My apologies. Yes, I agree with many of the sad truths you stated, such as Christians feeling that they are above everyone else and that they have “figured it out”. In reality, this should be the opposite trait of Christians as the God I love and believe in has told us differently. Christians should be more humble because being a Christian, by definition, means accepting our imperfect nature, and a need for grace. I wish I could say I lived this way, but I should carry an attitude that speaks of humility and being below my fellow brothers and sisters and that in God’s grace – only in His grace -shall I boast.

    Beyond that quick point, our conversation will have a difficult time progressing. You stated a “diametrically different” worldview and I say to that, “yes.” So if I go on using language like “the Holy Spirit convicts …” or that “I CAN go directly to God as I could my father…” there is a great disconnect in our language and understanding. That said, I thank you for encouraging a rich dialog. I am no theologian, I am no great Christian thinker or apologist. I am just a 25 year-old guy who loves to kick it with friends, enjoy and beer, go dancing, figure out this Jesus, and who stresses about life’s decisions! If you would ever have any interest in continuing this line of conversation over a beer, I would be so down! aefranklin@gmail.com

    Andrew Franklin

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