Isaiah 43:16-21/ Philippians 3:5-14/ John 12:1-8
Do you like makeovers? Makeovers make us feel fresh and new. I feel like a new person when, once a year, I dress up and wear makeup for the performing arts festival. Even something as simple as getting a new haircut makes us feel good, doesn’t it? Today’s theme is spiritual makeovers and I want you to think of how you felt getting a makeover.
Meet Paul as an example of a person after a spiritual makeover. He was a serious and pious Jewish scholar and his devotion made him persecute the early Christians, until he experienced Christ firsthand. Then he devoted the rest of his life spreading the gospel of Jesus.
Most Christians think his name was changed from Saul to Paul because of his conversion, but that is not true. His Hebrew name was Saul indeed, but the reason why he started using the name Paul was because Paul was the Greek form of his birth name Saul.
He used Paul because he started preaching to the Gentiles, who spoke Greek as an international language. It’s like my late mother-in-law’s Hungarian name Jutka becoming Judith when she came to Canada.
Now that this misunderstanding about Paul is sorted, let’s see how his life changed after meeting Christ. In Philippians chapter 3, we read that the transformed Paul didn’t care about anything else anymore; knowing Christ and preaching about Christ became his everything.
He changed his life and made sacrifices for his new cause, and as he wrote in verse 14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Experiencing Christ was so powerful that it changed his whole life.
Our Goal is Love
Paul’s life’s goal of knowing and witnessing to Christ is about the essence of the gospel message based on compassionate love and justice since that was the goal to which Jesus dedicated his life. Love was everything for Jesus, so it should be the same for those who follow him. Today’s gospel story about Mary illustrates what Christian love should look like.
Mary’s Love for Jesus
There are a lot of Mary’s in the Bible; this is the Mary who was the sister of Martha and Lazarus as we read at the beginning of chapter 12. What Mary does to show her love and devotion for Jesus in this scene shows three characteristics of true love.
First, she gave the most precious thing for Jesus, the expensive scented oil. Second, she showed humility by anointing his feet. We have learned from the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet that caring for the feet was the job for servants. We are to learn this humility and serve one another. The third aspect of love is Mary’s unselfconsciousness. A respectable woman of Jesus’ time should never show herself with unbound hair. In her love for Jesus Mary didn’t care how she would look to others. One cannot truly love while being self-conscious.
This is how powerfully knowing Jesus changed Mary. Mary’s expression of love for Jesus epitomized what Christian love looks like, which is why this story is read regularly and remembered by us Christians even to this day. Like the aroma of her precious oil filled the room, her expression of love became a metaphorical aroma that fills our hearts.
In Christ’s Image
Our goal as the followers of Jesus is love; to love God with all our hearts and our neighbours as ourselves. We witnessed an exemplary expression of love from Mary but understand that Christian love can be a huge challenge. How can we love our enemies, those who hurt us?
We need to be transformed into the image of Christ, and this job is way beyond our power. However, Isaiah confesses that God, who can make a way in the wilderness and rives in the desert will do a new thing.
We are to trust God for whom nothing is impossible. “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
This sounds to me like “I, the almighty and loving God, am giving you a total makeover. Trust me completely and do not dwell on your past.” No matter what our lives were like before experiencing Christ, it doesn’t matter. In Christ, we are different people, more worthy people, because God’s love changes us.
God’s New People of Love
I pray that, during this Season of Lent, we will trust and ask God to transform us. Let us trust God’s loving kindness and power. Let us forget the past parts of ourselves that don’t make us feel good. Knowing that we are beloved children of the almighty God, let us focus on whom we can become by God’s power. Let us press onward, like Paul, to transform into a new person to love and respect ourselves as well as others, all God’s people.