How many stories of personal sacrifice are hidden behind the casual conversations we have every day? I remember a day when I heard such a story.
I had been chatting with an elderly woman at the Y one day while I worked out. She was a fellow believer, a dear sister in Christ, with whom I’d had friendly exchanges many times. But that day her story came out. She began to tell me about her children, how she’d raised them through many hardships, how she’d poured out her life for them. Then despite her best efforts, she had seen one of them rebel, first against her and then against God. His life had spiraled downward, leaving debris along the way.
Now my friend found herself having to raise her grandchildren–his kids–because both parents were in jail. The tragic story shot out of her in bitter bursts. It took me by surprise. I didn’t know what to say.
Her eyes filled with tears as her mind replayed each scene. Her lips pursed. Then these words exploded, “I hope God appreciates my sacrifice!”
I hope God appreciates my sacrifice!
Oh yes, sister, he does. He sees it. He knows every tear, and hears every groan. You can entrust the sacrifice of your years to him.
But after you do, look away from your sacrifice … to his. Find rest there.
Many Failures, One Sacrifice
I’m just like her. I also tend to dwell on my sacrifices as I go through my day. Yes, I know about Jesus’ sacrifice. It’s somewhere in the background. But my sacrifices take the foreground, where they loom large and monopolize my thoughts. No wonder I often sink into martyr moments and pity parties.
As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, this week’s chapter, Mark 14, is a perfect chance to bring his sacrifice back into the foreground. The longest chapter in the entire gospel, it draws sharp contrasts between the failures of Jesus’ friends and the victories of his final steps to the cross. His sacrifice wasn’t accidental. It was a great and conscious obedience to the Father over all the opposing forces that tried to stop him from offering himself for our sins.
His sacrifice wasn’t accidental. It was a great and conscious obedience to the Father over all opposing forces.
If you’re like me, you might protest, “but what about the woman who poured out the perfume his feet? That wasn’t a failure! Wasn’t that a sacrifice worth talking about?” Yep. That incident stood out to me, too. We’ll talk about it at the end of the week.
But for now, let’s look at him.
Day 1: Context — Read Exodus 12:17-27 and Mark 14:1-12 as preparations for the Passover.
- What is it like for you to prepare for a big celebration–Christmas, Easter, etc?
- How were the Israelites to prepare for Passover celebrations year after year? (Exodus 12:17-27)
- How were the preparations for this Passover different? Mark 14:1-12–for the Pharisees, for Judas, for the woman at Bethany, for the disciples?
- Why was this one different? The disciples thought they were preparing for Jesus to “eat the Passover.” But what was he actually going to do?
Day 2: Observation — Read Mark 14 as a catalog of moral failures.
- At Bethany what was the sin behind the disciples’ scolding? What did they value?
- Before the Passover, Judas went to the Pharisees. How did each of them sin?
- At the meal Mark records several warnings from Jesus. How did the disciples respond? How aware are they that they need a Savior?
- After supper Jesus takes the three with him to pray. How did they fail Jesus?
- How did the witnesses and the judges at the trial fail?
- We often focus on Peter’s denial, but where were the other disciples while Peter was busy denying Jesus?
Day 3: Meaning — Read Mark 14 and see Jesus pouring out himself in love.
- How is the woman’s sacrifice an object lesson for the disciples, and us?
- How did Jesus offer himself to Judas?
- After warning his disciples that they will both scatter and deny him, how did Jesus offer himself to the disciples?
- How did Jesus pour himself out for them in the Garden of Gethsemane?
- How did Jesus offer himself to his accusers at the trial?
Day 4: Application — Read Mark 14 as Jesus’ personal word to you.
- What personal failures are you aware of today?
- How does his sacrifice specifically cover and remove them forever?
- Take the bread from his hand. Eat. He offers it for you gladly. Take the cup, too. He drained the cup of wrath so he could hand you the cup of joy!
Find rest in Jesus’ sacrifice this week. He doesn’t regret giving himself for you and me. Not for one minute.