[Even though Matthew 3:4 records John the Baptist wore “a garment of camel’s hair” and in Luke 18:24 Jesus says, “For it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” what Jesus did on “Hump Day” or the last Wednesday before His crucifixion is not recorded in any of the four Gospels. That’s okay because we haven’t gotten through what Jesus did on His last Tuesday.]
When we rejoin Jesus on the last Tuesday before His crucifixion, He is alone with His disciples. Jesus answers their questions regarding the end times, but He does not give an exact date when “the end” will come. Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and gives the signs to look for in nature, human governments, and people’s depravity and so on, as clues that the end of the world as we know it is near. He also says that the Gospel [GOOD NEWS] is to be preached to all nations before His return. In Matthew, Jesus talks about the days of Noah, and how one is taken into heaven and the other is left behind. He teaches the parables of “The Faithful Householder” and “The Wise Servant” and “The Ten Virgins” and “The Talents [money]”. All these parables have to do with being ready for Jesus’ Second Coming. Jesus warns them again about “The Final Judgment” in “The Sheep and the Goats” parable. (See Matthew 24-25; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-38). I know that I am ready for Jesus to come again because “…when the KINDNESS and LOVE of GOD OUR SAVIOR [Jesus Christ] appeared, He saved us, not because of any righteous things we had done, but because of His MERCY. He [GOD] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us GENEROUSLY through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His GRACE, we might become heirs having the HOPE of eternal life” (Titus 34-7). [Did you notice that these verses in Titus mention the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit?]
Matthew records Jesus telling His disciples, two days before the Passover, that He will be crucified. The three Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] record the chief priests and scribes plotting Jesus’ death after the Festival. Luke records Satan entering Judas Iscariot. (See Matthew 26:1-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2.) Right about now, it looks like Satan is gaining ground and something terribly wrong is going to happen. However, just the opposite is true. All who believe in the Cross of Christ are about to be set free from Satan’s grip. To this day, some people think all this talk about the cross is utter nonsense. But, to those who trust Jesus for their salvation, it is the crux (decisive, pivotal, most vital point) of our lives. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’” (I Corinthians 1:18-19 [Also Isaiah 29:14]).
The woman who enters Simon’s house does not think the cross is foolishness. Matthew and Mark tell of the time when Jesus is at the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. Perhaps Jesus finally took time to get a bite to eat, when a woman comes in and pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. The disciples complain that what she is doing is a waste and the perfume that should be turned into money to be given to the poor. Jesus tells them they will always have the poor, but they will not always have Him [in bodily form]. He explains that the woman was preparing Him for burial. In Mark, Jesus says that what she has done will be remembered. (See Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9.) The same kind of event is recorded in John 12:2-8, before the “Triumphal Entry,” at Lazarus’ house. The woman is identified as Mary, Lazarus’ sister and, of course, Martha was serving dinner in Jesus’ honor. This time, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair (John 12:3). Judas Iscariot, keeper of the money bag, is identified as the one who complains about the waste. John writes, “[Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (12:6). Because this same kind of event happened in two separate locations, I believe Matthew and Mark are writing about the same incident and John is writing about another incident. Whether it is the same incident, only someone got the location wrong, or they are two separate events, the important lesson to be learned is not to hold back when we serve the Lord. We need to GO FOR IT, with everything we have, no matter what others may think. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, thought all this talk about Jesus dying on the cross was foolishness. Jesus was not the “Jesus” he was looking for. Judas thought he was going nowhere fast. Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests to discuss an opportune time to betray Jesus. The chief priests were glad about this and agreed to pay him for the betrayal of his friend. Matthew records the payment to be thirty pieces of silver. (See Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).
I’m afraid many people, even those who call themselves Christians, want Jesus to be what He is not. They want Him to be the One who makes their lives easy and gives them riches and good health and fame and a smoothly paved path to walk on. But Jesus calls everyone who wants to follow Him to walk the way of the cross. Jesus says to all of His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25;also see Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24)
My brother in Christ who worships God in The Eastern Orthodox Church sent me an email last year during Holy Week. He has given me permission to share his “Thoughts and Readings” with you.
“Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses his/her life will find it” – Matthew 16:25.
“That’s a pretty strong, almost brutal, statement from Jesus. But it makes very clear that there is necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls ‘losing your very life,’ or the False Self. Your False Self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.
When you do die before you die, you are choosing the Real – or union with God, (theosis) – over separation from God. You are choosing ‘the kingdom of God’ over your smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union both here and later, Only the True Self knows that.
The lasting question is: ‘How much False Self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?’ Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, (for it is dying of self) which is what good spiritual teachers/leaders will tell you very honestly.”
(Taken in part from “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” – Fr. Richard Rohr)
I have been “chewing” [meditating] on this one for about a year now. I believe dying to myself means being more like Jesus. When there is more of Jesus and less of ME, I will be able to have a better “taste” of what Heaven is like.
[When Jesus told His disciples “it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” the disciples were concerned and asked, “Then who can be saved?” and Jesus answered, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (See Luke 18:25-27). In a matter of days the disciples would find out what Jesus was talking about.]
“[Jesus must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)