Oftentimes when I read the Bible, especially the Gospels, I am overwhelmed by God’s love for us, and by what Jesus did out of love while on this earth.
One example is before He celebrates the Passover with His disciples. In an intimate moment with these men whom He knows so well, Jesus performs the lowly job of washing their feet. The Son of Man bent down to cleanse the dirt (and who knows what else) off the road-weary feet of twelve men.
During the meal Jesus predicts Judas’s betrayal, and almost immediately, Judas leaves for a reason unknown to the others. And what is Jesus’ response after Judas is gone? He tells the others, “The Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him.” Jesus knows what is coming. He knows Judas has betrayal on his mind. A betrayal that would lead Jesus to the Cross. A humiliating, torturous way to die. I think not only of the dread Jesus feels, but the heartache of seeing Judas leave His side. For money.
But He longs for God to be glorified through Him so He is willing to face this manner of death. He loves those men and us with such a passion that He is willing to go to a Roman Cross.
Jesus words stayed on my mind today, and I asked myself “How badly do I want God to be glorified?” “How much do I want people to see the love of Christ in me?” I may not be called to give up my physical life, but what about wrong attitudes, anger, resentment or an irritable spirit? Am I willing to give those up? Will I choose to take His commandment seriously and love others just as He loves me? Am I willing to serve in the same humble way Jesus did?
Lord help me develop a heart to serve others and to treat them with the love you have for me.
Have you ever considered your life to be worthless or that people would just be better off without you? I know, I know this sounds rather melodramatic to some, but in the depths of depression, there are loads of people who feel this way. And telling someone in the throes of this despondency that God loves them may be like singing a song to a deaf ear that cannot comprehend.
Or perhaps we’ve never experienced such sorrow so we just want to tell that individual “cheer up,” “look at the bright side,” or if we’re a little more blunt, “suck it up.” Unfortunately, even with good intentions, this type of advice can cause even greater despair.
Perhaps you are in a low place right now and just want to give up. Can I tell you that your life is worth a great deal to God? Even in the midst of circumstances that seem overwhelming. Even when you have committed some horrible sin, or have been caught up in an addiction, or deserted, or wrongfully accused, your life is meant…well, to live.
Jesus promised us abundant life as we follow Him (John 10:10). An abundant or satisfying life does not mean that everything will go our way. No, we will suffer. He promises us this. But our lives still matter and are worth living, even if the circumstances are horrific.
In John 10:1-14, notice what Jesus says about thieves, and contrast it to what He says about the good shepherd. The thieves (the enemy, Satan and his forces) want to steal and kill and destroy. So, there may be literal attempts on our mortal lives, attempts to steal our joy, or attempts to destroy our very reasons for living. There will be hard times but that does not mean we can’t have an abundant life. Not if you think of abundance as having a rich and wide variety of experiences.
Mankind dreamed of flying for millennia, and there were some rather humorous attempts at flight in our not-so-distant past.* Did you know an airplane (or bird for that matter) essentially “struggles” to get in the air? Lift and thrust must overcome the forces of gravity and drag. But once at cruising altitude we probably feel only the forward momentum, and if we are not afraid to look out the window, we can view mountains, forests, farm land, cities, all from a new and exciting perspective.
Consider that Jesus knows us in our struggles and is with us as we struggle through our daily lives. The thieves may be right outside the gate or climbing the walls, but the Good Shepherd is fighting for us. He has already laid down His life so that we may have a full, abundant, and satisfying life. Yes, we will face obstacles. Yes, we may face real danger. But remember Jesus has overcome the most powerful enemy…that of death.
Even now, He fights for you.
He loves you. Yes, really. Walk with Him. Just walk at His pace, in His path, and let Him guide you to abundant life.
A Moment to Reflect
Do you believe the Good Shepherd fights for you?
Have you ever survived something that was a real danger to your life? Do you feel as if God intervened?
Have you ever wished you could just disappear? Responsibilities weigh you down, and you want to leave them behind. That weight perhaps causes you to forget the good things, the blessings you have.
Maybe you feel this way now or have felt this way in the past. There is no peace in your home, in your job, your community, let alone in your country and in the world. You are tired of the bickering in politics. Yes, I “went there” because I have found that putting my energy into “whose side” I’m on can drain me. My fear of the future may haunt me because of what the politicians are doing or not doing. Or because of war or the threat of war.
The Eleven disciples who remained after Judas died are different from us though, right? They know they have to continue His mission. They’re not worried about the political atmosphere or the Roman’s torture. So, they go out and preach everywhere the Gospel and love of Christ!
Oh, wait. No, they don’t.
Instead, they go into hiding. Fearful of the Jews—which meant, by the way, the fear of the Jewish leaders—they disappear from the public eye. Huddling together, they lock the doors. But without a warning, instead of a dreaded pounding on the door, Jesus appears in their midst.
And is He ever upset with them! He reminds them that they’ve denied Him, deserted Him, and even fallen asleep while He asks them to pray (Matthew 26:36-45, 56, 69-75). I can hear Him saying, “Hey guys, you know the plan. Why are you hiding? I faced the same threats you’re afraid to face. Now get out there and do what I told you to do!”
At least that’s what He could have told them. But instead, His first words are “Peace be to you.”
Wow. I get so excited when I think of Jesus uttering those words to them in love. In absolute love.
They are frightened by His appearance, thinking he is a ghost or spirit. At this point Jesus seems disappointed with their doubt yet He tells them to “Handle me and see…” in order to assure them it is Him in the flesh. (Luke 24:36-40).
After this event (we don’t know how much later), Peter announces he is going fishing, and some of his fishing buddies decide to go with him. I’m not sure what motivates Peter, but he heads out to his former occupation. Apparently, Peter does not want the responsibilities of being a fisher of people with the obligation of not only catching them, but teaching and training them as well. No, he seems to be done with that.
So off they go. Back to what they’ve always done. The men fish all night as is the custom, but by morning, they have caught nothing.
Someone on the shore calls out, and the voice carries across the water, “Children, do have any food?”
With a weary sigh, they holler back, “No.”
Who is this guy anyway?
Maybe they should have known when He calls them “children,” but only after He tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they catch a net full of fish does Peter realize “It’s the Lord!” And Peter, being Peter, jumps in the water and swims towards Jesus.
When they haul the fish to shore, Jesus invites them to breakfast. He asks them to bring Him some of the fish they’ve caught even though he has already started cooking. He tells them to come and eat. He doesn’t fuss at them for fishing. He doesn’t tell them they should be ashamed for trying to net fish when he has told them to fish for people (John 21:3-13).
Do these reactions by our Lord surprise you? Don’t we sometimes see God waiting to fuss at us when we lack faith or when we turn back to our old ways?
But look at what Jesus does. He knows these men are hungry after working a physically exhausting and discouraging job. So, he prepares a meal for them. I also think He longs to sit with these men and enjoy their company before ascending to the Father. Just chill with his homeboys.
That is God. It is a beautiful picture of Him. He understands. He comes to us in our need and even in our doubts. He holds us close, sits with us in fellowship, and invites us to sup with him, to be nourished at his hand.
I know God disciplines us and guides us away from the wrong path, or even away from a good path to the best one, but He knows our needs too. He understands when we falter. He will come to us, remind us He is our peace, and remind us we are His children.
Perhaps He calls to you today. “Children, have you any meat?” If you don’t, He has something that will fill you.
No matter what your need, He longs to satisfy it. Bow to Him, set your longings at His feet, and trust Him to sustain you.
Have you ever experienced God’s comfort in a real and almost tangible way? I hope you have. But in order to experience that comfort we must also experience pain–emotionally or physically. At the same time, pain in this life is unavoidable. Experiencing the comfort only our God can give makes the pain, not only bearable, but also worthwhile.
Most of us know that sooner or later we experience less than ideal circumstances. Something we didn’t see coming. Something that overwhelms us and brings us to our knees. It may not seem like a tragedy, but we are inconsolable because of a rejection, a broken relationship, a lost job or any number of crises. That broken relationship or rejection could be a spouse leaving or a grown child you haven’t heard from in years. That lost job could be what you thought was a God-given calling. But then the doors slammed shut. And you were left to figure out what to do next, attempting to make sense of this loss, and perhaps determined to never dream big again.
Second Corinthians teaches us that God is a God of comfort “who comforts in all our tribulation.” In all our tribulation. That includes trials, conflicts, rejection, and broken dreams. Isn’t it wonderful that the God of the universe wants to gather you in His arms and comfort you?
But there’s more to this promise. He comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” You get that? We are to comfort others with the same comfort God has given us. That may make some of us uncomfortable. We may not like the idea of comforting others. But every gift God gives us–mercy, kindness, love, comfort–is something we can pass on to others.
It may be that our own tears need to clear a bit before we are ready to reach out, but eventually we’ll see someone who needs our compassion because they are going through a similar sorrow. Our hearts will stir, and we will be able to pass that wonderful gift of God’s comfort on to another.
God, please use my hurts so that I may see you as my Comforter, and please use those hurts as a way for me to comfort others who are in need.
Have you ever done something for the Lord that seemed a little strange to others, but you were so passionate about it that what others thought didn’t matter? The woman in our story today is one such person. She has a passion to worship Jesus. It seems there is something about Him that draws her—something that makes her heart ache to be in his presence.
One thing I want to mention before we go any further is that the other gospels record a story of a woman anointing Jesus. (See Matthew 26:6, John 12:3-7 and Mark 14:3-6). ) That may seem a little confusing, but for now just realize that some Bible scholars have had questions about these passages too. “Whether these accounts represent one event or two, or possibly even three, has been the subject of speculation for centuries.” (http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/women-of-the-passion-anoint-oil)
Identified only as “a sinful woman,” we see that she has a passion for Jesus and as a result, worships Him in a way that seems a little, well…extreme or “over the top” and definitely improper. She has, more than likely, seen Jesus heal, teach, raise the dead, and forgive. When she follows Him to Simon’s home perhaps she wonders if He could forgive her. Maybe she is desperate for the peace that His forgiveness might bring her.
However there are some social barriers in her way. Here she is—a known sinner (probably a prostitute or adulterer), inviting herself into the home of a Pharisee, a religious leader. She also plans to perform an act involving two things that were huge faux pas—touching a man in a society where men and women did not even address each other in public and letting her hair down for someone other than her husband.
But none of this seems to matter to her. Proper or not, she will show Jesus her love. So she anoints Jesus with oil and as she does, her eyes fill with tears, and she kneels at his feet without a word. I can hear the room grow silent. Her tears brim over, and unashamed, she uses them to wash His feet. I imagine she weeps a good bit moved by the fact that she is in His presence, before gently drying his feet with her hair. Think of it, here she is before at least fourteen men (probably more), touching Him and allowing her hair to fall freely over His feet.
At this point Simon begins to think. Perhaps he should not have for Jesus knows his thoughts–thoughts very logical to Simon–that she is a sinner, and if Jesus were a true prophet, He would not allow her to touch Him. First, Jesus tells Simon he wants to say something to him. Almost as if He’s asking for permission. But Simon’s okay with that and tells Jesus to say what’s on His mind.
So Jesus begins his reprimand by telling Simon a story about two debtors, one who owes a great deal and one who owes little. The generous moneylender forgives both debts. “Which one will love him more?” Jesus asks. Simon says that he supposed the one with the larger debt. (I think it’s cool the way Jesus let Simon figure that one out for himself.)
But He is not done.
Jesus points out Simon’s areas of negligence in performing the simple courtesies extended to visitors in that culture. Simon has not even called a servant to wash his guest’s feet. He did not greet Him with a kiss. And look at the “sinner”—she kisses, anoints, washes, and dries His feet. Not only that, but as Jesus says here, she offers these things with her own body—her tears, her hair—and performs the lowliest of services.
He then turns his attention to the woman, and I wish I could have seen the look on Simon’s face as Jesus said these words, comparing him, a religious leader to this “sinner.” We hope he begins to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words. Maybe he is angry at the rebuke, or perhaps he has a revelation about his own character. I like to think that he becomes less judgmental after this visit with Jesus and begins to show mercy to other “sinners,” realizing he is one also.
So what can we learn from this passage?
As Simon perhaps figured out, we seldom understand what is in a person’s heart. Maybe on the surface, their sin is more obvious than ours, but that does not make it worse. And Jesus accepts an offering made with a worshipful heart.
Jesus is not at all interested in convention. He not only allows the woman’s touch, He compliments her unusual behavior.
Jesus forgives sin. He has such a deep well of love he does not worry about who comes to Him; He doesn’t worry about being influenced or tainted by our sin. As a matter of fact, He appreciates the openness and sincerity of the woman in our story.
No matter what, Jesus longs to demonstrate His love to us. Some of us may have committed the very sins that this woman was guilty of or worse. He still desires that we come to Him and lay all that “junk” on Him. He can bear the weight of our sins and the shame we may feel because of it—and I may add, the shame we may feel from what others have done to us.
Perhaps like me, you become emotional in public worship. Other people may think you’re a little odd for making such a big deal over Him, but I don’t think Jesus minds that at all.
And by the way, the things we have done wrong and the wrongs that have been done to us are not who we are; they do not define us. Jesus sees His followers as righteous and redeemed, and you are of great value to Him.
A few months ago, I was listening to a Christian radio station when one of the DJ’s asked a hypothetical question. If Jesus were on this earth today, living in our culture, would he be on social media?
I wasn’t sure about that one, but one of the other DJ’s said yes! Jesus absolutely would use social media as a way to connect with people. You may argue that Facebook, Google+ Instagram, etc are not the best places to really connect with folks, and I would agree. It disturbs me when people say they are closer to their Facebook friends than they are their “real” friends. Nevertheless I have found it does have some real value. Through social media I have reconnected with friends I no longer see for one reason or another and have been able to find out what is going on in their lives. Being able to pray with them in their times of need has been wonderful.
So would Jesus participate in social media? I’m not sure, but what the DJ said certainly rings true. Jesus loved being around people and loved connecting with them in all manner of ways. He went to the temple to teach people, ministered to individuals, at least once invited himself to dinner, and went to parties
Parties in Jesus day were different than ours. Hospitality was exceedingly important to them. Did you know that in Jesus’ time the party after a wedding could last a week? A week! No honeymoon for the bride and groom, but rather, they entertained for several days after the ceremony.
In John 2 Jesus, His disciples and His mother have received invitations to a wedding in Cana. And now the celebration is on. The host is prepared with plenty of food and wine. Or at least he was supposed to be. At some point during the days of the celebration, the wine runs out. This was a huge problem. It was not like running out of pretzels or drinks nowadays, and oh, well, will someone run up to the 7-11 and buy some more? Oh, no, this was a reflection on the host’s reputation. His lack of hospitality would be a gigantic faux pas. So Jesus’ mother Mary goes to her son and tells Him about the situation.
Why would Mary do this? Why would she bother the Lord with such a problem?
Perhaps she thinks that her son will listen to his mom and come up with a solution. But Jesus does not do as she had hoped or maybe expected. (If you study His life much at all, you will see Jesus often did the unexpected.)
Instead of saying something like “Sure mom, I’ll be glad to help,” He tells her “Woman, what have I to with thee? My time is not yet come.” (KJV)
Take a deep breath, everyone. If you have never read this story, you may wonder why He was talking to Mary like that. His mother! I know His words have raised a lot of questions. So let’s try to answer one or two at least.
As you may know, “woman” was a term of endearment and respect. Okay, that’s better, isn’t it? BUT look at his next words. “What have I to do with thee?” What? He really said that to her?
Not long ago, I was very direct with God and made this statement to Him: “I know you were being respectful when you called Mary ‘woman’, but I still think what you said afterwards…well, it seems rude.” The Lord did not keep silent, and these are the words I heard him speak to my heart: “Now Eileen, don’t you think I knew how to talk to my mama?”
Well, that shut me up.
And I love it when He speaks in my vernacular. Both my children call me “mama,” and so for me the term is particularly endearing.
But the Lord had another assurance for me. “Look at how she reacted. She knew what I was saying. She was not offended.”
I am totally looking at this Scripture in a new light now. Perhaps Mary is a little more spiritual than I because she doesn’t drop her jaw, make a sigh of disgust or demand that He talk to her with more respect, but simply turns to the servants and bids them do as her Son wishes. Is she recognizing His authority here? Is He somehow getting it across to her that He wishes her to relate to Him as Lord in addition to the mother-son relationship? Some scholars have said this is the case. His words probably meant far more than the English can convey. But apparently she understood his intent, and had confidence that He would let the servants know what to do.
And this passage ends in the first recorded miracle of Christ when He turns the water into wine. (By the way, it was good wine too according to the words of the host.)
There is always more that can be said about a particular passage of Scripture, and this one is no exception. So what would I like you to take away from this? First of all, Jesus acted in a loving way to His mother; He knew how to talk to her. Secondly, you and I are not the same as Mary, and He knows that. He knows how to treat each of us and how to speak to us as individuals.
Let me add one huge caution here. If you are not reading your Bible and searching for God’s instruction in His Word, it may be very difficult to hear His voice. Sometimes God may speak to us in a thought, an idea, or through the voice of a friend. But first search for His face in Scripture and through prayer. For that is where we find Him.
The death of a loved one can be traumatic to say the least. Aside from the sadness, the hole left in our lives, or any number of emotions, grief can sneak up on us and strike when we least expect it. A movie, a casual comment, hearing a phrase the loved one used, or even a commercial can trigger tears or the wrenching of our hearts.
Today I want to take another peak at the lives of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazurus. The three siblings were apparently very close to Jesus, and we have the opportunity to observe the sisters’ reactions and the reaction of our Lord to the loss of a loved one.
When we read about Martha and Mary a few months ago in Luke 10 we saw that Mary had the faith that Jesus most appreciated while Martha—well, he kind of fussed at her for not paying attention to what was important. Mary, who seemed so useless to Martha, was praised for listening and spending time with Jesus. I also believe Jesus’ rebuke of Martha was a gentle one, and He took the sting out of his criticism by addressing her by name. I also believe He was more disappointed with her attitude than anything else. Remember? She called him “Lord” then demanded He tell Mary to help her. In other words, Mary should be serving too, why don’t you see that and say something? (See my July 2015 blog.)
So let’s spend some more time with these two fascinating women and see how they interact with Jesus at a tragic juncture in their lives. It’s kind of a long chapter, but I encourage you to read John 11:1-43 for yourselves.
Just days before Lazurus dies, the sisters send Jesus a message telling Him that Lazarus is sick, referring to their brother as “the one you love.” Perhaps those words are meant to convey the urgency of the situation as well as an expectation that Jesus come immediately. But Jesus, in a seemingly callous manner, waits until after Lazurus dies to go to them. In verses 7-16 Jesus lets the disciples in on His plans. These verses deserve a closer look and we could most definitely delve into this passage and find some great treasures, but I mainly want to stick with Martha and Mary. (Again, I encourage you to read through these verses, and look at what the disciples say about His planned journey.)
In John 11:17, Jesus arrives when Lazurus has been in the tomb for four days. In verse 20 Martha hears He is coming and goes out to meet Him while Mary stays at home.
Wait. What? Is that right?
Yep. That’s Martha all right, heading down the road to meet with Jesus while Mary stays at home with the guests who had come from Jerusalem. Let that sink in for a minute. Martha who previously had been the one hurrying about, anxiously serving and taking care of preparations leaves a house full of mourners and heads out to meet Jesus with no desire that I can see, to serve Him. She simply wants to get to Him. Perhaps she is hoping to receive comfort. Or perhaps she wants to confront Him. All we know is that Martha wants to be with her Lord.
When she meets with Jesus, the first words out of her mouth according to Scripture are: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Hmm. Sounds like confrontation wins out. Or does it? Perhaps Martha is just seeking honest answers. Jesus doesn’t interrupt her, but listens as she continues (I don’t know about you, but I think Jesus is a pretty good listener), and her next words reveal her heart. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Wow! Do you think she really believed that Jesus could raise her brother from the dead? (Hang on and we’ll gain more insight into her thinking.)
Jesus then tells Martha that her brother will rise again. She understands this—she knows he will rise at the last day. But Jesus has something more to share. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He tells her. “He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” I imagine Him stating these words gently with an extra dose of the love that He has for this woman.
Martha’s reply is apparently immediate. And look at what she says! (It really is a great answer. Okay, take a deep breath. Ready to see more of Martha’s heart?) “Yes, Lord. I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God who came into the world.”
Dude. The first time I read this I was so proud of Martha because, to be honest, I was a little worried about her harsh attitude toward Mary in the Luke 10 story. But now I see her standing before Jesus having this quiet conversation. And He gives her a chance to confess what she believes about Him. She knows her brother will be raised and live forever. Jesus just had to remind her of what she already believed. He changed her focus and got her to confess aloud what she believed. This must have been a comfort to her for “after she had said this, she went back.”
When she returns, who does she go to? The Bible says she pulls Mary aside and tells her sister that the master is asking for her. I’m so glad we get to see this side of Martha as she delivers the message that Jesus wishes her to come to Him. That is so awesome. Picture Martha’s kindness to Mary as she pulls her aside so they can speak in private. I love it. And Jesus requests her presence. So now it is Mary’s turn to go to Jesus. And she leaves so quickly that those who had come to comfort notice and follow her.
When Mary reaches Jesus, she falls at His feet. Much like her old self for this isn’t the first time she is at His feet. She once washed His feet with her tears, and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:37-38)
in a display of devotion. So now her emotions spill forth again in much the same way but this time with grief. And she says the same words as her sister. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” According to the Scripture, she doesn’t add Martha’s statement that God would do whatever He asked, yet Jesus understands her aching spirit. He is moved by her weeping and the weeping of those who had come with her. Maybe this is the reason “Jesus wept” for as soon as He asks where they have laid Lazurus and they tell Him “come and see,” He weeps. The ISV states that Jesus burst into tears. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says “And the tears of Yeshua were coming.” I don’t know about you, but I want to weep when I read those words. Theologians have come up with a number of reasons for Jesus’ tears. All we really know is that Jesus is moved with compassion for Mary and for all the Jews who had come with her.
The people lead Him to the tomb and as Jesus tells them to remove the stone, Martha objects. “Lord, by this time there will be a stench.” Keep in mind that we just heard Martha say that God would do whatever Jesus asks, but now her practical side has settled on her and she thinks about the smell. (Notice that once again she prefaces her objection with “Lord.”)
As you probably know, the stone is moved and Jesus calls Lazurus from the grave. Many come to believe in Him because of this miracle much to the chagrin of the Pharisees. It is interesting that the Bible says nothing about Martha and Mary’s reaction to having their brother back. And I wonder–do they dance with joy as they welcome him into their embrace? Do perhaps both of them fall at Jesus feet and cry tears of joy? As Jesus wept with them, does he now laugh with them? Or maybe they stand in stunned silence.
But God was glorified as Jesus said He would be (verse 4), and both sisters find comfort in Christ.