“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”
Mary Magdalene would’ve been the last one I would have chosen to be the first witness. If it was me, I would have gone straight to Caiaphas, or gave Pilate a good scare–“I told you so.” He didn’t go to the Temple and to show off his resurrection power. He zapped no one.
It fascinates me, but Jesus didn’t show off his power. Instead Mary was chosen, the harlot, and the one who he cast out seven demons. Simple, humble Mary. The one whom he forgave. And he comes quietly, and gently to her.
Brutally killed, taken off the cross and carefully laid in a tomb–but Jesus comes to life!
The most powerful testimony of truth of the Gospel rests here in the resurrection. Our faith hinges on this. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ bones still lay in a tomb, and we are still dead in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
There is so much in this passage; the implications are enormous.
“What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.”
How much do you love Jesus? This parable looks at the heart of the believer, the person who has been incredibly forgiven of everything–past, present and future. And it’s here we see a woman whose heart is broken by her sin, and she discovers Jesus’ grace, and tremendous mercy.
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
44 “Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”
47 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus has been invited to Simon’s home. He’s a Pharisee, and at this point they haven’t quite banded together to attack Jesus, it seems that there were still some Pharisees who were true seekers.
The text jumps right in and we see Jesus reclining at a table (the Jewish people didn’t use chairs–pillows were used instead.) At a feast like this people who weren’t officially invited could come in to stand in the back and listen in on the conversation. (That seems awkward.)
Suddenly a woman enters the room.
She’s described as “a woman of the city,” which is a code word for “a sinner, or a harlot.” (Let your imagination roll that one around.) She comes with a definite purpose, for she brings a jar of quite expensive perfume with her.
The passage reveals that she’s on her knees, weeping on Jesus’ feet, and rubbing her tears with her hair, and pouring out the perfume. She’s kissing his feet. She’s obviously a broken person—someone who knows who Jesus is, and who understands who she is, and how deep sin has destroyed her.
At this point Simon is deeply offended, and probably embarrassed by what’s happening. But he also assumes that Jesus isn’t who he’s saying he is. “How dare does this man let an unclean person even touch Him!” But Jesus understands everything. His parable is short (just two verses) and it’s directed at Simon; and it’s a no-brainer.
The interpretation is obvious: the man who owes the most will love the most.
Jesus accentuates Simon’s breach of protocol. The Lord deftly explains the entire situation and Simon is busted. He’s put on the spot and Jesus has made his point. It’s all so obvious. The essence of the story is clear. How much do you love the Master?
Do you fully fathom how much sin Jesus has forgiven you?
(Or maybe you’re a Simonite?)
Perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t quite accept what’s real? The Bible tells us repeatedly that no one is righteous. No one. Scripture has a very low opinion of the righteousness of men. (That should shatter your thinking.)
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Isaiah 64:6, KJV
The Hebrew word for “filthy rags” is extremely graphic–literally it means “a menstruating cloth.” It was something that a woman used before Tampax came along. How very descriptive. Do we even have the slightest idea what that means? Are our good deeds that bad?
Yes they are. Isaiah announces that’s exactly how God sees our best attempts to find acceptance apart from grace. It often seems we try to please Him by doing the best we can, but that isn’t sufficient. We always fall short and mess up.
How does understanding this change our discipleship? I’ll let you be the judge on this on this one.
“He loved us not because we are lovable, but because He is love.”
“Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 “But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 “And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The pain was incredible, but I know that deep down I deserved to die. But not like this. Never like this. I was almost out of my mind with fear. What they were doing to me was terrifying.
You must understand that I was a common thief. I had stolen a loaf of bread when I was eight years old and that’s how it all got started for me. It more or else got bigger and easier. I knew how to steal and I was quite good at it. I was Jacob, the master thief!
When I was finally caught, they sentenced me to die. I supposed it was inevitable. I fault no one but myself as I knew what I was getting into. As I dragged my beam up to Golgotha, it was really strange but I suddenly remembered a verse from the scripture and it really did unsettle me.
It’s a terrible thing to die this way. There were three of us, nailed to the wood and lifted up between heaven and earth. Jesus was nailed to the middle cross, not that it really mattered; all three of us were going to die today.
Many hope for a simple and easy death, maybe in their sleep–but that’s not going to happen to us.
The third man could only mock, he was afraid, and I suppose he just echoed those Pharisees who didn’t really understand. But I knew better. I knew who this other man was, I had heard all the stories. Deep down I knew that this man on the center cross was the Messiah.
A crowd had gathered to watch us die. The Romans in their wonderful ingenuity had made a sign that they nailed above Jesus’ head, and it declared to everyone that Jesus was “the king of the Jews.” Even as he was dying, they found a way to malign him and irritate the crowd.
The other man being crucified continued to mock Jesus, and it infuriated me.
Why I defended him I don’t know for sure.
But I understood. Jesus was murdered out of the envy and jealousy of the Pharisees. He didn’t deserve to die like this, but He was hated, and who can confront these religious men without becoming a victim. Jesus had repeatedly crossed the line, so now they were now putting him to death. It seemed evil was really winning today.
I saw the soldiers throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes. He was now being mocked by them as well, even as he was dying on a brutal cross.
But all of a sudden it all made perfect sense, he really was the Messiah, and these bastards were killing him. Crucifixion was starting to work on me now. I began to choke on my words, and it was getting hard to breathe.
“Jesus… please remember me. When your kingdom comes, please let me be a part of it.”
And as beaten as he was, he managed to turn and look directly at me. They had whipped and brutalized him, and yet he was still aware. His words were whispered now, but I understood. “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”
I was starting to spasm again, but the horror of death had left me. Some time had passed, and I could hear his breathing stop. But for the first time, I had peace. They used a spear on Jesus, but he was already dead.
The soldiers now came to the two of us, and they were carrying an ax to break our legs. It all had to do with the coming festival, and the Pharisees wanted us dead. When they swung that ax I knew a pain that I could never describe. My own death came quickly after that.
I was suddenly standing in paradise, whole and complete, and loved.
Someone was standing before me. He was shining I remember, and I knew he was powerful; stronger, and he was more glorious than anyone I had ever met. It was crazy but somehow I knew that he was an angel and he had been sent to meet me. It’s funny, but I realized that somehow I really did belong. Me–a dirty rotten thief.
Jesus had promised me, he had pronounced me righteous, me of all people. I suddenly had a joy that I could never explain. I really was a part of the Kingdom that was beyond anything I had ever known. And all I can really say about this was that I was privileged to die with him. That is all I could claim. I simply believed him and asked if somehow I could be part of his eternal rule.
I simply asked and He gave me everything.
Cover Art: “Christ on the Cross between Two Thieves,” by Peter Paul Rubens
I have to admit, I never really appreciated the depth of Psalm 23:5. I supposed that “He anoints my head with oil” was simply just figurative language for something nice. Poetic. I never knew this definite parallel until recently. But David completely understood and was able to understand the full ministry of the Shepherd.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Psalm 23:5, ESV
“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. There are horrid little flies that like to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Their ears and eyes are also susceptible to tormenting insects.”
So the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil.
“Then there is peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil that tries to destroy the sheep. Do you have times of mental torment? Do the worrisome thoughts invade your mind over and over? Do you beat your head against a wall trying to stop them? Have you ever asked God to anoint your head with oil?”
He has an endless supply!
His oil protects and makes it possible for you to fix your heart, mind, and eyes on Him today and always! There is peace in the valley! May our good good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful!!”
Prayer can often be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides.
That is one of the reasons why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real. As elders, they probably had lessons in prayer.
We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves. My own heart gets pretty creative as I display self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that really is the prayer that touches his heart.
When you talk with Jesus, do you truly talk to Him?
Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?
Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?
The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.
For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:
I praise and worship You, O Lord.
Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;
Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.
“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’
“The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”
— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”
All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do really is to shake our heads and then give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence.
Ministering to these extreme sufferers can be a real challenge.
What can we say to those who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in unbelievable pain?
Perhaps a very simple word of calm encouragement is the only real way to touch their hearts. They often don’t need another teaching or a link to a website. In the midst of some awful difficulties, I once had a dear brother who gently and carefully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over whenever we met and whenever we parted:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
It was a precious thing that he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact, I grew to like it. At first, I’ll admit it was strange, but my faith began to ‘mix’ with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.
He refused to preach or counsel me. The light he carried was more than enough.
He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should become our own method of choice? I look forward to seeing him someday, someway. (If you hear someone quoting Philippians 1:6 in heaven, that will probably be Fred.) 🙂
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
A keyword in this verse is “rejoice.”
It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we can navigate through these issues and come out on the other side. “We will shine like the stars” (Daniel 12:3).
Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.
But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,
A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap, saying no word.
The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary. Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching.
Isaiah 50:4, CEB
Ask the Father to guide you. Be gentle. Be there. He will give you, in His time, a good word for them.
“And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.“
1 Samuel 18:11, ESV
“And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.“
1 Samuel 19:10
King Saul has gone mad.
We need to understand that David had a different heart. We see that he would leave Saul’s spear in the wall. Remember that David was the giant killer, the boy who faced Goliath. I don’t really think that David was really afraid, he knew God’s protective hand was on him and this made the difference.
Saul’s spear shows up later in David’s life, and it becomes a vital component in his growth as Israel’s next king.
But David doesn’t know it yet.
1 Samuel 26 is David’s second encounter with the spear of Saul.
The scene is in the wilderness and David’s on the run. Now the badlands are a good place to hide as any Western movie knows. I think David had his scouts and I suppose that there were also men who knew every rock and cave in that wasteland. They were hiding from Saul.
“So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was—Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his spear stuck in the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.”
1 Samuel 26:7
Sneaking into Saul’s camp was a bold and audacious move. Saul was sleeping and scripture says that David’s companion desperately wanted to kill Saul, but David refused, David, looking through the darkness lighted on Saul’s spear. Perhaps he remembered back to when Saul tried very hard to kill him.
He avoided that spear a long time ago, and now he escapes it again.
The tables have completely turned. Given a chance to end King Saul’s life, he refused; he would not kill him. When you think about it, many problems would’ve been solved, and David would take his rightful place as Israel’s new king.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:21, ESV
The Greek word for “overcome” is νικάω which can be translated as “to conquer or to come forth victorious.” It is also used when someone is arraigned before a court of law but wins the case.
Inherent in this definition is the idea of a test that one passes with “flying colors.”
To follow Jesus means to entirely reject the spear. It’s not for you. Never.
“We win by tenderness. We conquer by forgiveness.”
Frederick W. Robertson
Like David, we are to trust the Father. We’re to be secure in His timing. And yes, we each must use kindness and brokenness to overcome dark things. When you think about it, Jesus also faced evil without defending Himself. The spear showed up again and we see that our Savior allowed it to pierce His side on the cross.
You must leave the spear in the wall. You mustn’t use the spear when it seems you can wield it at the perfect moment, And like Jesus you need to allow it to save your enemies from their sin.
These three spears are evidence you “have God’s heart.”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
As believers, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty. We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But to pass out a guilty sentence is God’s exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly. We don’t.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to pronounce a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger.)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (These are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes.)
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this dark night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in a position to judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore.
I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.“
“Once we have come through the ‘furnace of humiliation,’ desperately, fearfully clinging to Christ for all He is worth, then we are fully equipped to march into somebody else’s furnace.”
‘Blessed with Bipolar”
Becoming a real and authentic person starts with the responses that we’ve made in the presence of Jesus. Amazingly, this simple faith becomes the prerequisite, granting us the right to enter into the promises of the Lord. If you have those promises you may enter. However, without faith in those promises, you won’t find anything real.
You will not be able to handle the Kingdom of God unless you’re walking out of a life of brokenness and humility!
Furnace people will often recognize those without any real and tangible connection with God’s work. There are furnace promises, but many, without truly understanding will walk around in unreality. Often ‘they get religion.’ These are those who land on “the rocky soil.” They become ‘quasi-disciples’ who will do and say things that they really don’t really understand.
But furnace people have a connection to that which is honest and true. The Holy Spirit refuses to give up. These people can’t tolerate anything false or manipulative. Their own hearts are being transformed by the fire, and it seems only then are qualified to minister God’s grace. Only furnace people can enter. You will know them by their scars.
The Church has a tremendous need for those who have withstood the furnace of humiliation.
After we endure its ugliness and its great evil, we’ll discover that we’re in an altogether different place than when we first started. The Church is waiting for those who went in and then come out on the other side. Again, the furnace of affliction will have done its work.
I was thinking today about Joseph, and his ordeal, as found in the Book of Genesis chapters 37-50. He was a rare kind of person. Perhaps, one in a thousand. You may emulate but never exceed his faith. His confidence in the Lord was true and came from his lousy circumstances.
Furnace people have the ability to function gracefully at this particular stage.
Furnace people are sovereignly brought to a place where they can minister the grace of God into desperate situations. We must convince ourselves, that furnace people have a gift. They have been through the worst. They may be battered and bruised. But they still stand. We must look to those who are the gracious agents of a loving God.
Our brothers and sisters have carried the Word with wisdom and grace. They come to us, through the fire. But will we receive them?
My hope is that you will personally grasp what God has worked for you. That really is your truest calling. The things good or bad, that have happened are part of how you’ll understand grace. He waits for you to respond. Will you come to Him, through the grace you find in flames? The most gracious people you’ll ever meet are those who endured God’s furnace.
“He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.”
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[g] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
There’s to be no whitewashing the way of discipleship–there’s no glamour, no special recognition–no acclaim in it. I guess this is the “real” way of being His follower. The path Jesus has for me demands I give Him my whole heart. Heart enough to turn it all to Him. Heart enough to give Him total commitment.
Jesus seems to make it hard–we can see this in His responses to each prospective disciple. His statements to these possible followers seem harsh, difficult, and a bit “unreasonable,” but He doesn’t receive these men unless they do what He says.
Discipleship demands that we give up what we hold dearest.
What happened to these three “would-be” followers? Did they return home dejected and frustrated? To follow in Jesus’ footprints means we have to give up our personal agendas and turn our backs on what is closest and dearest. We must renounce everything, and give Him preeminence over all.
He must be our Lord, or we can’t follow Him.
These are hard verses with profound implications. But this passage is given to us for a reason. We dare not minimize what it means to be a disciple. We must grasp the plow with both hands, and we can’t look back. The plowman can never look back if he wants to make a straight furrow, and that’s the way the Kingdom works.
Those who follow Jesus realize that they fall woefully short. They start to realize that this path is going to take the grace of God. Every day we must take up the cross, and we must embrace that we’re loved. To be a disciple we need to become intimate friends with the Holy Spirit; He is both our ‘fuel’ and our guide.
“Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.”
1 John 2:6, MSG
We must obey our Lord. We’re to be intimately close to Him.
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”