An act of pure devotion: John 12.1–8 (21 March 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

The LORD Orders Israel to Leave Mount Sinai

1The LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought out of Egypt, and go to the land that I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to their descendants. 2I will send an angel to guide you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3You are going to a rich and fertile land. But I will not go with you myself, because you are a stubborn people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

4When the people heard this, they began to mourn and did not wear jewellery any more. 5For the LORD had commanded Moses to say to them, “You are a stubborn people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I would completely destroy you. Now take off your jewellery, and I will decide what to do with you.” 6So after they left Mount Sinai, the people of Israel no longer wore jewellery.

The Tent of the LORD's Presence

7Whenever the people of Israel set up camp, Moses would take the sacred Tent and put it up some distance away from the camp. It was called the Tent of the LORD's presence, and anyone who wanted to consult the LORD would go out to it. 8Whenever Moses went out there, the people would stand at the door of their tents and watch Moses until he entered it. 9After Moses had gone in, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the door of the Tent, and the LORD would speak to Moses from the cloud. 10As soon as the people saw the pillar of cloud at the door of the Tent, they would bow down. 11The LORD would speak with Moses face to face, just as someone speaks with a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp. But the young man who was his helper, Joshua son of Nun, stayed in the Tent.

The LORD Promises to be with his People

12Moses said to the LORD, “It is true that you have told me to lead these people to that land, but you did not tell me whom you would send with me. You have said that you know me well and are pleased with me. 13Now if you are, tell me your plans, so that I may serve you and continue to please you. Remember also that you have chosen this nation to be your own.”

14The LORD said, “I will go with you, and I will give you victory.”

15Moses replied, “If you do not go with us, don't make us leave this place. 16How will anyone know that you are pleased with your people and with me if you do not go with us? Your presence with us will distinguish us from any other people on earth.”

17The LORD said to Moses, “I will do just as you have asked, because I know you very well and I am pleased with you.”

18Then Moses requested, “Please, let me see the dazzling light of your presence.”

19The LORD answered, “I will make all my splendour pass before you and in your presence I will pronounce my sacred name. I am the LORD, and I show compassion and pity on those I choose. 20I will not let you see my face, because no one can see me and stay alive, 21but here is a place beside me where you can stand on a rock. 22When the dazzling light of my presence passes by, I will put you in an opening in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take my hand away, and you will see my back but not my face.”

Jesus is Anointed at Bethany

1Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, the man he had raised from death. 2They prepared a dinner for him there, which Martha helped to serve; Lazarus was one of those who were sitting at the table with Jesus. 3Then Mary took half a litre of a very expensive perfume made of pure nard, poured it on Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the whole house. 4One of Jesus' disciples, Judas Iscariot — the one who was going to betray him — said, 5“Why wasn't this perfume sold for 300 silver coins and the money given to the poor?” 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would help himself from it.

7But Jesus said, “Leave her alone! Let her keep what she has for the day of my burial. 8You will always have poor people with you, but you will not always have me.”

The Plot against Lazarus

9A large number of people heard that Jesus was in Bethany, so they went there, not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from death. 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too, 11because on his account many Jews were rejecting them and believing in Jesus.

The Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem

12The next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover Festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the King of Israel!”

14Jesus found a donkey and rode on it, just as the scripture says,

15“Do not be afraid, city of Zion!

Here comes your king,

riding on a young donkey.”

16His disciples did not understand this at the time; but when Jesus had been raised to glory, they remembered that the scripture said this about him and that they had done this for him.

17The people who had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus out of the grave and raised him from death had reported what had happened. 18That was why the crowd met him — because they heard that he had performed this miracle. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, we are not succeeding at all! Look, the whole world is following him!”

Some Greeks Seek Jesus

20Some Greeks were among those who had gone to Jerusalem to worship during the festival. 21They went to Philip (he was from Bethsaida in Galilee) and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

22Philip went and told Andrew, and the two of them went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. 25Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. 26Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honour anyone who serves me.

Jesus Speaks about his Death

27“Now my heart is troubled — and what shall I say? Shall I say, ‘Father, do not let this hour come upon me’? But that is why I came — so that I might go through this hour of suffering. 28Father, bring glory to your name!”

Then a voice spoke from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.”

29The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

30But Jesus said to them, “It was not for my sake that this voice spoke, but for yours. 31Now is the time for this world to be judged; now the ruler of this world will be overthrown. 32When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” 33(In saying this he indicated the kind of death he was going to suffer.)

34The crowd answered, “Our Law tells us that the Messiah will live for ever. How, then, can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

35Jesus answered, “The light will be among you a little longer. Continue on your way while you have the light, so that the darkness will not come upon you; for the one who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Believe in the light, then, while you have it, so that you will be the people of the light.”

The Unbelief of the People

After Jesus said this, he went off and hid himself from them. 37Even though he had performed all these miracles in their presence, they did not believe in him, 38so that what the prophet Isaiah had said might come true:

“Lord, who believed the message we told?

To whom did the Lord reveal his power?”

39And so they were not able to believe, because Isaiah also said:

40“God has blinded their eyes

and closed their minds,

so that their eyes would not see,

and their minds would not understand,

and they would not turn to me, says God,

for me to heal them.”

41Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.

42Even then, many of the Jewish authorities believed in Jesus; but because of the Pharisees they did not talk about it openly, so as not to be expelled from the synagogue. 43They loved human approval rather than the approval of God.

Judgement by Jesus' Words

44Jesus said in a loud voice, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in him who sent me. 45Whoever sees me sees also him who sent me. 46I have come into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47If anyone hears my message and does not obey it, I will not judge him. I came, not to judge the world, but to save it. 48Those who reject me and do not accept my message have one who will judge them. The words I have spoken will be their judge on the last day! 49This is true, because I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has commanded me what I must say and speak. 50And I know that his command brings eternal life. What I say, then, is what the Father has told me to say.”

Wisdom and Stupidity

1Wisdom has built her house and made seven pillars for it. 2She has had an animal killed for a feast, mixed spices in the wine, and laid the table. 3She has sent her servant women to call out from the highest place in the town: 4“Come in, ignorant people!” And to the foolish she says, 5“Come, eat my food and drink the wine that I have mixed. 6Leave the company of ignorant people, and live. Follow the way of knowledge.”

7If you correct conceited people, you will only be insulted. If you reprimand evil people, you will only get hurt. 8Never correct conceited people; they will hate you for it. But if you correct the wise, they will respect you. 9Anything you say to the wise will make them wiser. Whatever you tell the righteous will add to their knowledge.

10To be wise you must first have reverence for the LORD. If you know the Holy One, you have understanding. 11Wisdom will add years to your life. 12You are the one who will profit if you have wisdom, and if you reject it, you are the one who will suffer.

13Stupidity is like a loud, ignorant, shameless woman. 14She sits at the door of her house or on a seat in the highest part of the town, 15and calls out to people passing by, who are minding their own business: 16“Come in, ignorant people!” To the foolish she says, 17“Stolen water is sweeter. Stolen bread tastes better.” 18Her victims do not know that the people die who go to her house, that those who have already entered are now deep in the world of the dead.

From Death to Life

1In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. 2At that time you followed the world's evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God. 3Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God's anger.

4But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, 5that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. 6In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 7He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. 8-9For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it. 10God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.

One in Christ

11You Gentiles by birth — called “the uncircumcised” by the Jews, who call themselves “the circumcised” (which refers to what men do to their bodies) — remember what you were in the past. 12At that time you were apart from Christ. You were foreigners and did not belong to God's chosen people. You had no part in the covenants, which were based on God's promises to his people, and you lived in this world without hope and without God. 13But now, in union with Christ Jesus, you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies. 15He abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. 16By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God. 17So Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all — to you Gentiles, who were far away from God, and to the Jews, who were near to him. 18It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.

19So then, you Gentiles are not foreigners or strangers any longer; you are now fellow-citizens with God's people and members of the family of God. 20You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. 21He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. 22In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through his Spirit.

Reflect

Daily Reflection: John 12

Mary's action in anointing Jesus would have been very shocking given the customs and outlook of the time. It still shocks us today; it's an uncomfortably intimate picture of devotion. It's also a very beautiful image, in which Mary adores Jesus not as a man, but as the Messiah.

Her act provokes a sharp reaction from Judas, who questions its economic value. He has reasons of his own for doing so, but his objection is, on the face of it, not unreasonable.

However, the exchange between him and Jesus shows that there's something wrong with his faith. John tells us that the fragrance of the perfume 'filled the whole house' deliberately (verse 3). It's as though Judas is the only one who can't smell it. Mary has done a beautiful thing, and he's the only one who can't see it.

The world tends to judge by results, usually measured in terms of profit and loss. Christians have a responsibility to be good stewards of their resources, but we judge by different standards; the question for us is, does what we do honour Jesus? What might seem wasteful or pointless to someone with no faith might for the believer be a perfume filling the whole house.

Pray

Pray

God, thank you for Mary's act of devotion. Show me how I can honour Jesus in what I do, even when the world might think it foolishness.

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