Wasting, Weeping, and Tired, Filthy Feet
“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” So said the first frontier missionary in an op-ed on the veracity of the resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15). What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. Jesus, through the apostle John’s record, put it this way: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone. But if it dies, it yields a harvest.”
If it dies, it yields a harvest.
There is much to be said about life, death, the harvest, and the resurrection. Still, the writer of Hebrews considered all of these things elementary, entry-level discipleship issues. For now, as the world reels from the witness and sacrifice of John Allen Chau, we need to consider what it means to waste a life, waste an opportunity, and where wisdom is meant to guide us. There is, to be certain, a “wisdom from above” and a “wisdom from below.” We want the wisdom from above.
“The Way,” the narrow road of obeying King Jesus, was first followed by a man out of Babylon, out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Abraham’s faith was, and is, in the God who raises dead men from the grave. Abraham’s obedience, and fatherhood of this faith, was marked by conformity into the image of the Father willing to lay His Son on the altar. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, staked everything on the resurrection. If Jesus wasn’t resurrected, we won’t be resurrected. And if we aren’t going to get raised from the dead—if this life, this “present evil age” is all there is—let’s all pack up and go home. “Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die.”
When Jesus pulled Lazarus out of the tomb—likely carefully identifying him by name so every dead man and woman in earshot didn’t come out of their graves as well—it was a glimpse of the restoration to come, when death is finally swallowed up in victory. But it wasn’t a full or final resurrection; we know this because Lazarus died again. He wasn’t raised again invincibly. But he will be.
Yet our Master staged this miracle intentionally, so we’d all see something about Him. For one eyewitness that day, what Jesus revealed changed her life. It meant everything.
“I AM the resurrection and the life,” He said.
And then she watched Him pull her brother out of the grave. She and her neighbors helped him out of the burial cloths they’d just wrapped him in a few days prior.
I have to wonder what was running through her mind as she methodically unbound her brother.
Because something clicked.
Something let her in on the fact that the LORD of the resurrection, to govern the resurrection, was Himself going to be the first raised from the dead immortal.
Jesus was going to die.
This episode is the second time we see Mary; in the first, she’s defying cultural order—one that is still a pervasive cultural order in the Middle East—and hanging out with all the boys, uncomfortably close to Jesus while He’s talking. Hanging on His every word. In the third, she’s acting on everything she’s learned, and with urgency. She knows the clock is ticking. Jesus rocks back up to Bethany, and she had every reason to believe it would be the last time she saw Him. With something in her screaming that this Man she called Yeshua could not meet the grave without being lavished upon, she took her life and future security, the most valuable thing she had, and shattered a year’s worth of wages into one beautiful stream that poured all over Jesus, leaving a puddle on the floor. Soaked Him straight through. Shocked the whole community in the room.
And really offended the disciples.
“Why this waste?!” they erupted (it is worth noting Judas led the charge).
Jesus didn’t miss a beat. He not only defended her reputation and vindicated her actions, He tethered her forever to the proclamation of the Gospel and standard of discipleship we’re to emulate. We are to be good soldiers who “imitate [Paul] as [he] imitates Christ,” and doing so looks a lot like this young woman from Bethany a few days before Jesus died. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” She bankrupted everything for the One who did the same for her, much like Hudson Taylor gave his future to Jesus:
“During a leisurely afternoon not many months after my conversion, I retired to my room to spend time in communion with God. Well do I remember that occasion. In the gladness of my heart, I poured out my soul before God. Again and again I confessed my grateful love to Him who had done everything for me. He had saved me when I had given up all hope and even desire for salvation. I begged Him to give me some work to do for Him, as an outlet for love and gratitude. I asked for some self-denying service, no matter what it might be, however trying or however trivial. I prayed for something with which He would be pleased that I might do for Him who had done so much for me. I remember how I put myself, my life, my friends, and my all upon the altar in unreserved consecration. I recall the deep solemnity that came over my soul with the assurance that my offering was accepted.”
Neither Taylor nor Mary felt manipulated by the Cross or missions statistics. Both were simply moved and compelled by the love and worth of Jesus.
We can discuss strategy and method till Kingdom Come—literally, and it looks like we probably will—but at the end of the day, extravagant love will always look foolish no matter what method you employ or avenue you take. Extravagant love is costly love. It is servant-hearted love, the kind Jesus deliberately illustrated when He washed the dirty feet of twelve men who traveled through dirt for a living. “The apostle Jesus loved” records that He did so because “He loved them till the end,” including the one who was so offended by Mary’s extravagant affection and devotion to Jesus that he immediately sought means to betray his Rabbi.
Funny, then, that Jesus washed the feet of the man who was so deeply offended when someone else washed Jesus’ feet.
We get “seventy years, eighty by strength,” maybe. No matter the length, our days are numbered—and the psalmist so wisely prayed, “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” A heart of wisdom—not the demonic, sensual kind from below, but the wisdom from above that is pure, peaceable, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruit, without partiality and without hypocrisy. This is the wisdom that “yields a great harvest.” “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies, and what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain.” “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies….”
Let us, like Mary, take the chance we have when we have it. Let us waste so wisely “what we can’t keep to gain what we can’t lose.” Let us weep in adoration at His feet now so we don’t weep with regret when He comes. Let us meet Him with tired, filthy feet made “beautiful” on the hills bearing Good News to everyone who hasn’t heard it yet. And let us let Him wash them clean while He wipes every tear away from our eyes.
“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people…I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelation 7:9-10 states.”
– John Chau, letter to his parents
Dated just before he died
WHY WE’RE CONFIDENT
JOHN’S LIFE & DEATH WERE NOT IN VAIN:
Stephanie Quick is a writer and producer serving with Frontier Alliance International in the Middle East. She is the author of To Trace a Rising Sun and can be found on on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Sign up for her ministry updates here and receive a free copy of her book Confronting Unbelief. She can be reached at email@example.com.
 Ephesians 2:12
 Ephesians 2:2-3
 John 8:39-47
 Romans 7:24
 1 Corinthians 6:11
 Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43
 Genesis 1:3
 Ephesians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6
 Ephesians 2:4,7
 Colossians 1:13
 Romans 7:21-25
 Galatians 5:1; 6:1-5
 See Matthew 11:28-29
 Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24
 Matthew 11:30
 See John 13:35
 See Matthew 5:17-20
 Isaiah 57:15
 Romans 13:8, emphasis added
 See Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:1-19
 See 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 2:4
 Acts 2:42-27; Galatians 5:23b
 See Matthew 5:39-41
 Romans 13:9b
 See Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 6:27-31
 Romans 13:10
 See Romans 13:14
 See Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Matthew 22:36-40; John 12:1-8
 John 15:1-17, but I really recommend you meditate on the whole chapter
 Galatians 6:2
 Galatians 5:14
 James 2:8
 See Psalm 23:6; Proverbs 26:11; Hosea 3:1-3; 2 Peter 2:22; 1 John 4:8
 See 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
 Ephesians 4:4-16; 1 Corinthians 12:21-31
 See Acts 2:45
 Galatians 6:1
 Luke 15:11-32; James 5:19-20
 James 5:20
 Proverbs 10:12; Colossians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:8
 Luke 15:4-5
 Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24