The Lord’s Passion for Your Passion
St. John 12:1-16
April 10, 2022 anno Domini
On the Sunday before Good Friday Jesus was in Bethany with friends. He was with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. They were all at Simon the Leper’s house for a meal. You can picture it. Martha is being a good Lutheran and helping out wherever she can. She’s done this meal thing hundreds of times so she’s serving the coffee, making sure the dishes of food are kept full and the empty plates are picked up. Lazarus is still a little dazed. He was dead you know and now he’s alive. It had to be kind of depressing to have been in Paradise for a few days and then to be brought back to look after your two sisters. Then there’s Mary. In Minnesota, we would be nice and say, “She’s different.” Martha would call her lazy. (Priorities) Some might call her contemplative. Whenever Jesus was around, she hung on His Word and so it was on this day in Simon’s house. It’s not hard to imagine the scene – you can smell the roasted lamb, hear the clanging of dishes and glasses, the buzz of conversation, but then suddenly there was the sound like breaking glass and not surprisingly you see it is Mary. But then you are surprised for Mary has broken a white alabaster flask and then your nose is surprised by the beautiful scent. It’s nard a unique and costly perfume made from the roots of a particular bush that only grew on the slopes of the Himalayas in India.
Now you know why Judas is ticked. That little bit of Nard cost 300 denarii – 300 days’ wages for the average blue-collar worker. Mary pours all of it, $30,000 dollars worth of nard on Jesus’ feet (and you thought Channel No. 5 was pricy). Judas cannot believe it – do you know how many Easter dinners that could buy for the homeless, how much relief that could give to the refugees from Ukraine? Judas sounds so pious and practical, but he’s not. He’s a thief and he could have made a lot of money for himself off that perfume if only Mary had given it to him. But his question is a practical one – why would you waste that gift on Jesus when you could have given it to the poor?
Jesus’ answer reveals why He is going to ride that donkey into Jerusalem in a little while and why He will come out of Jerusalem on Friday carrying His own cross. In John’s Gospel he simply says, (read 12:7-8), in Matthew’s Gospel he says even more, “She has done a beautiful thing for me … where this Gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
This is why Jesus came and what He is looking for in us. He does not count the cost of our salvation. He puts no limit on His love. He loves a busy Martha, a dead Lazarus, a lazy Mary, and a thieving Judas. What He is looking for from us is faith – a faith that does not count the cost, a love flowing from faith that doesn’t put limits on what we do. This is what He sees and commends in Mary and what He desires to see in us.
Today is Palmarum, Sunday of the Palms. It is also Sunday of the Passion. It’s Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday because the crowds will lay palm branches on the road as Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem. Passion Sunday needs a little explanation because Passion does not mean what you think it means. Passion, as it is used in Church is not the emotion of desire that you had when you first met your spouse. Passion is not how you feel about your pastimes, that you’re a passionate Twins fan or passionate about Corvettes.
The old definition of Passion is specifically tied to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on that particular Thursday night and Friday which we will commemorate this week.
The original meaning of Passion is related to our English Word passive. In Christ’s suffering and death, He was passive. He didn’t act in His behalf. He allowed others to control Him — Judas to betray Him, the soldiers to arrest Him and Pilate to judge Him guilty. He did not defend Himself in court or call down a legion of angels to slay soldiers. He let the nails hold Him to the cross. Our sins were heaped upon Him and God’s anger burned against Him. He was passive. He endured the suffering inflicted by the Judas, the crowd, Pilate, and His Father in heaven.
Why would the Son of God be so passive? Because His heart was set on you. Here you might use the modern definition of passion – Christ’s desire for you drove Him to suffer for you. But here again the modern definition falls short – most of the time when we are passionate about something it is because our desire is for ourselves. We are passionate about those things which give us pleasure. Our passions are driven by selfishness.
Christ’s passion was for our benefit. Christ was passive in His passion because He wanted something better for us. He was pleased with Mary’s $30,000 offering because it demonstrated faith in Him alone, trust that He was going to die as He said, and it showed a love for Him that knew no limits. None of that benefitted Christ. It all benefited Mary – once she had faith she finally knew what it was to love, to love God without limit, to think of Him alone. Mary’s faith in Christ made her human again – able to love as Adam and Eve loved God and each other in the garden.
Sometimes we mistakenly think that humans have free will. Scripture says you don’t. Oh you have free will to be passionate about Fords or Mopar, but when it comes to spiritual matters you are not free. You are either mastered by the Devil or ruled by Christ. There is no middle ground, no neutral territory. You’re either a slave of the Devil or a son of God. Christ suffered and died that you might be set free from the Devil’s hold, that you might escape the endless and futile attempt at finding peace and joy and life by your toil and works. Christ died for your sins because sin is the only thing that gives Satan power over you. If you’re holding on to any of your sins on the last day the Devil can claim you as his own. If, on the other hand, you’re forgiven, then you’re righteous, then you’re holy, then you’re welcome in God’s house.
Christ Jesus came into the world seeking you, desiring that you would have faith in Him, and that once you believed you would have love. He wants you to join in His passion, to be controlled by something outside of you – mainly His love for you and then by His love to love your neighbor. The sinful man is driven by his belly, by his basest appetites. He imagines that as long as he actively pursues his dreams he will one day be fulfilled. He would never drop $30,000 into the offering plate. The believer in Christ is full of Christ. Full of forgiveness, full of righteousness, full of love. He is not driven by his base appetites, but by His Father’s Words and His neighbors needs.
Christ came into the world to suffer and die for you, to be passive before your sin, death, and hell. His passion is for you, that you might be better, might be human again. That you might be free of Satan’s mastery and live like Mary – free in faith toward Christ that you might love without measure. In the name of Jesus. Amen.