Have you ever been in a place where it felt awkward to express your love and devotion to Jesus? Let’s be honest. The Christian worldview isn’t widely accepted or as popular as we want it to be. We have to admit it – the Bible tells some fantastically unbelievable stories, doesn’t it? And the rules God has…they’re rather intrusive and restrictive from the perspective of a culture steeped in the pursuit of fleshly desires. Those of us who put our faith in a God we can’t see physically and whose existence we can’t prove are seen as slightly odd, if not delusional.
It would be nice if we could stay “under the radar” and avoid any uncomfortable moments, but from what I see in scripture, if you are a true follower of Jesus, your faith ought to expose you. True faith isn’t a secret society. It’s definitely personal, but it’s not private. There should be no doubt as to whose kingdom we serve, and the greater our devotion and love for Jesus are, the more we will be “exposed” to the world.
In John 12, we read about just such an event. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are hosting a dinner in honor of Jesus, attempting in some small way to say thank you for giving life back to Lazarus. The disciples were there, of course, but also a crowd, less curious about Jesus Himself, and more fascinated to see Lazarus. It was a small town; I’m sure there was quite a stir as word of his resurrection spread.
Can you picture the scene? Martha is serving, now content in her giftedness. Lazarus and Jesus are reclining at the table. (I can only imagine the conversation; surely Lazarus had questions about what he had seen and experienced in the grave!) The house is filled with the noise of a shared meal, conversations growing louder, dishes being passed, and joyous laughter that for a time, death had been evaded.
Suddenly the room grows quiet as the fragrance of an expensive perfume fills the air. Unnoticed, Mary, the quiet one who often sits at Jesus’ feet, has poured out a year’s worth of wages in honor of her Savior. The crowd turns to see her wiping His feet with her hair. The scene is shocking, unusual. No one really knows how to respond to such an overt, open, public display of love and devotion.
Until the critics, of course. Judas, the thief, completely misses the meaning of what Mary has done and sees only a waste of good money. Jesus gently defends Mary, recognizing that she is fully aware that He is destined to die. She has poured out not just something that is valuable in physical terms but has willingly humbled herself by a public act of devotion the watching world would never understand.
Just a few verses after this, we learn the Pharisees are not only seeking to kill Jesus, but they also want to kill Lazarus! Why? It wasn’t necessarily anything Lazarus had done; the religious leaders were angry at what had been done to him. He was a living, breathing example that Jesus was indeed who He said He was – the Son of God in the flesh. As long as Lazarus was alive, his very life would be a testimony to the power of God to bring life from death. And that was simply unacceptable if they were to retain their power and position.
We can’t see God.
We can’t prove that God exists.
We can’t personally verify that those fantastically unbelievable stories in God’s Word really happened.
But the world cannot explain away a devotion and love that risks public humiliation to the point of death, nor can they dismiss the testimony of a changed life – a person who has been transformed from death to life.
At the end of John 12, we find one of the saddest statements in scripture. Many people who witnessed such devotion as Mary expressed and were even present at Lazarus’ resurrection believed in [Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (John 12:42-43). They saw the truth but were unwilling to be humbled and believe. How sad, to miss heaven because you care too much about what the naysayers and critics might think!
Jesus said if we deny Him before men, He will deny us in the presence of the angels (Luke 12:8-9). We cannot be “closet” Christ-followers. Today, as spiritual darkness grows ever greater, we must shine brighter and brighter as the light of the world pointing to THE Light, Jesus (John 8:12, Matthew 5:14). May our love and devotion for Jesus fill every room we walk into with the unmistakable fragrance of Christ without apology (2 Corinthians 2:15), and may our changed lives testify that we have been brought from death into life.