“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.”
Buried in the Old Testament we discover the idea of the Cities of Refuge.
They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope to those who struggle. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— maybe an ax head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.
God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities covered Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close.
That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.
As believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essentially spiritual ‘criminals’ who have hurt others and damaged ourselves in the process.
Outside the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.
Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest dies. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.
For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.
The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide— can be a fundamental part of our lives.
I must tell you that safety is found only in the Savior.
Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:
“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”
For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.
I encourage you to think this over and pray about this.
“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.
“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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, like a fly on the wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?
Jesus made himself a slave on purpose.
Or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it? Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. (Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.)
But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was Deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.
He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoys the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other.
He showed us a real leader in action.
And isn’t making disciples all about loving (and washing) someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen, and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.
Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.
There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short-circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight of the platform?
The Church was never meant to operate like this.
That’s what Jesus said. Instead, it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege and the adulation? I know I can’t.
Peter was classic Peter.
It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).
Jesus still washes His people. He has not changed.
He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.
The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.
“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”
“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.”
“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
John 7:16 (context, Vv. 14-24)
Spiritually, Jesus is superior to everything and everyone. All that he did in the Gospels revealed that salient fact–whether he was healing the sick, walking on water, or teaching the Sermon on the Mount, he had total command. An authority soaked all that he did, just like water saturates a sponge. (See Matthew 28:18.)
The Greek word most often translated as “authority” (exousia) in the New Testament basically means: “right, permission, freedom.” Jesus was completely free to do whatever he knew was the Father’s will–he had full and total authorization to do whatever he wanted. (That seems to be what his baptism was all about. See Luke 3:21-22.)
Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
The Greek word “teach” (didaskō) in the NT means “give instruction, impart doctrine, to explain.” Jesus’ teaching was a marvel, he explained God’s kingdom to us crisply, succinctly, and precisely. All we need to understand was freely given to us in red letters. Everything necessary to us was taught with confidence and freedom. (See Matthew 7:29.)
Since Jesus perfectly combined the two words, both teaching, and authority, He could dictate to us everything we need, everything we must have, in straightforward terms. This can’t be stressed enough, the scripture we read–when ignited with the Holy Spirit, seems to be the only thing that can change the human heart.
The preceding verses in this passage reveal the setting for this statement.
Jesus stays out of Jerusalem because of the murderous hatred of the Pharisees.
There was a deep concern in his family who doubted Jesus’ timing and direction.
The origin of his teaching was questioned. He was speaking with the authority of the Messiah. Jesus completely understood the trustworthy source of his teaching.
There was a general consensus among the people of Jesus’ authority. Many were finally arriving at a decision in favor of him. Many would reject him.
We have never seen anyone of his impressive caliber, and we can only imagine the impact he was having on everyone he met. Under the Spirit’s direction, his disciples would retain all that Jesus did and taught. (The author of this passage was the Apostle John, and when you read his letters to us, we see that his memories were quite vivid.)
The Lord’s authority soaked all that he did, just like water saturates a sponge.
So what do we do now? What kind of “lordship” does he have over us? First of all, we learn (slowly) that we MUST teach ourselves to submit to our lord, constantly. He carries the authority we need, the authority human beings require. The Holy Spirit knows exactly how to pierce our pride and independence. Our teacher, comforter (and coach) understands us perfectly.
“His authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success. And His presence with us leaves us no other choice.”