Preparing to Die
Heavenly Father, I rejoice that You are always with me. You strengthen me and guide me with Your wisdom. I desire only You.
Read John 11:55-12:11
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
In the movie The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman endeavor to complete all the things they had hoped to do before they die. Prayerfully write out your own bucket list.
Jerusalem is agog with expectation: Jesus might come for Passover as before (2:13), but there’s an official arrest warrant out for him (57). Will he come? Most people would arrive several days early, in order to make preparations (55), and people know that, as soon as Jesus appears, the authorities will move against him.
The necessary preparations are about getting into the right state of purity, so as to be able to participate in the festival. Jesus has his own arrangements for this!–not in the Jerusalem Temple, where all the other pilgrims will go, but in another temple, made out of the home of his friends in Bethany. There Mary anoints him with precious oil, and the whole “house” is filled with the fragrance (3). This “filling” of the house reminds us of the “filling” of the Tabernacle and Temple with God’s glory (Exod. 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11) where Aaron was similarly anointed with precious oil to sanctify him for his ministry (Lev. 8:12). In Jesus’ case it’s a ministry of sacrifice, too, like Aaron–but the sacrifice is of himself. He deliberately comes to the festival, so that he may become the Passover Lamb sacrificed for the life of God’s people. Mary anoints him, he says, “for the day of my burial” (7).
So Jesus deliberately prepares himself for his own death by receiving this loving ministry from Mary, which unexpectedly turns into such a poignant picture of what lies ahead for him. Anointed for his burial! I heard some years ago of a Christian woman who planned her own funeral in detail, in discussion with her friends–but then decided that she’d love to be there to experience it! And so she held it as a thankful celebration of her life, just shortly before she died.
Death is all around them. Lazarus’s life is under threat again (10). How do you want to prepare for your own death? Pray about this carefully and without fear.
Eternal God, I am not afraid of death, but I admit I am afraid of dying. How will it happen? Help me embrace the words, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow…”