“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me.”
Matthew 23:37, Amplified
Scripture tells us that Jesus only wept twice.The first was at the tomb of Lazarus when he cried over the evil and destructive power of death. The second is here–the night before he was crucified, where he stood on the Mount of Olives–and wept over the city of Jerusalem.
The disciples saw the tears roll down His face.
Mother hens do not provide milk for their chicks, they simply aren’t equipped for that. Instead, they teach them by example–and occasionally hold food in their beaks until the little ones get the idea that they can scratch on their own. The yolk sack from the eggs they are hatched from will provide food for the first 72 hours–after that, they’re on their own.
The chicks will always return to their mother. They instinctively know who she is, it’s she that provides them with heat and shelter. You’ll see them snuggling up to mom, especially when the weather gets cold, wet–or for protection. The little chicks ‘automatically’ understand that she got what they need. They’ll always stay close to her.
There is no “magic force field” for the believer. We’ll face all the things that the unbeliever does, maybe even more–but he does cover, and lavishly provides the grace and peace that we need. Life can be brutal and nasty, there is no question about that.
“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past.”
The Lord will always protect his people. He’s deeply and intensely aware of us–he shields and provides everything we need. He covers us, keeps us, and protects us. We truly belong to him. He has adopted us as His own. We’re His sons and daughters, we are “family.”
“The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him, we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Do we really understand this? Do we really grasp the profound implications of his promises to us?
I have many questions (of course I do.) So why do we do the things our Father hates? Why do we bring him tears by the way we behave? Will we come to him at the first sign of “danger?”
When I’m threatened or challenged do I find shelter under the wings of God?
The city of Jerusalem was stubborn and unreceptive to His love–can I also resist him as well? Is my own hardness blocking His will? Do I ignore Jesus’ protective love?
“But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You.”
“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.”
4 “You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling, as lovely as Jerusalem, as majestic as troops with banners. 5 Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Gilead. 6 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep coming up from the washing. Each has its twin, not one of them is missing.
Song of Solomon 6:4-6. NIV
Her beauty stuns him.
He’s completely overwhelmed and totally undone, he’s looking for words to describe her. He chooses metaphors that we really don’t get and descriptions that seem a little odd. But the emotions of the human heart haven’t changed.
Love is still love, and beauty is still beautiful.Even if our words have changed.
He chooses concepts that we understand–words like beautiful, darling, lovely and majestic. But we really don’t understand the nouns–Tirzah, Jerusalem, and troops carrying banners (and that’s just verse 4!) And yet that’s how he communicates his love to her.
But we do get verse 5, at least in the first half.
“Turn your eyes on me; they overwhelm me.” Love still does funny things to each one of us–but “eyes” still convey love. When we’re really in love we obviously see the outward, but true love sees the inward too.
I think that love can pierce the heart like nothing else.
Again, the descriptions are funny, and believe me–they get stranger–goats, smelly sheep, and having a mouthful of teeth!? And yet he carefully weaves these ideas that still have concepts that are vaguely relatable, but still, I have to admit, they are hysterical. If I tell my wife that her hair is like a “flock of goats” she is liable to punch me.
The metaphors may be outdated, but the ideas behind them are not. We still understand real-life concepts like beauty, love, and true sight. These are concrete–they still ring true today. Time has not diminished them. They are bedrock solid.
But notice, it’s the eyes that get him.
He sees her eyes, and that’s all it takes–they overwhelm him. A person’s eyes can often reveal the person that’s really inside, which is something we can’t really hide.
Can Jesus see your loving gaze?
The Song of Solomon lover sees her love, and I really believe that Jesus does see the love that a believer has for him. Often we make love a one-way deal. God loves me (John 3:16). That is true–I know that God loves me, that is indisputable. But, do we really ever return his love?! maybe, he’s overcome by my gaze at him? Is that heretical?
His descriptions are funny, and believe me–they do get stranger–goats, sheep, and a mouthful of teeth!? And yet he carefully weaves these ideas that still have concepts that are vaguely relatable, but still, I have to admit, they are hysterical. (If I tell my wife that her hair is like a “flock of goats” she is liable to punch me).
But notice, it’s the eyes that get him.
He sees her eyes, and that’s all it takes–they overwhelm him. A person’s eyes still reveal love and kindness, they can reveal the person that’s really inside, which is something we can’t really hide.
Can Jesus see your loving gaze?
(I want to change. Help me Lord Jesus!)
He sees her love, and I really believe that Jesus does see the love that a believer has for him. Often preachers make love a one-way deal. God loves me (John 3:16). That is true–I know that God loves me, that is indisputable. But, do we really ever return his love? Just maybe, he’s overcome by my gaze at him? Is that heretical?
“After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.”
“So he got a job with one of the citizens there who sent the son into the fields to feed pigs. 16 The son was so hungry that he wanted to eat the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”
“The Prodigal Son,” Luke 15:14-16
God has a definite way of arranging things to get our undivided attention. The prodigal had blown through his inheritance money and now had nothing. And then there was this famine–a really bad one. (The word can be translated, as “violent.”) I think the Father was working.
Flat broke and having a need to eat, he started looking through the want ads for work. All he found was an ad for a “pig feeder.” That was it, there was nothing else to be had. So now began his new career in porcine agriculture! He was desperate and he was hungry.
A Jewish boy feeding pigs. Oh boy, how the mighty have fallen!
Verse 18 in this passage takes it a step further. As he poured out the slop the things he was feeding the pigs looked mighty tasty. His mouth began to water. He thought seriously about reaching into the trough and grabbing some of the good pods for himself. (Several days without food does funny things to a man.)
God does some interesting things to bring this prodigal home. Not all of them are pleasant and self-affirming. His circumstances got pretty brutal. He still allows hard circumstances to bring back the stupid. It’s very likely his soul was so valuable that this kind of intervention was necessary.
“When he realized what he was doing, he thought, ‘All of my father’s servants have plenty of food. But I am here, almost dying of hunger.”
What happened at that precise moment of real repentance can be seen in the following translations of verse 17:
“he came to himself,”(King James Version and ESV)
“he came to his senses,” (Christian Standard Bible)
“he realized what he was doing,” (New Century Version)
“he turned again to himself,” (Wycliffe Translation)
That I suppose is the power of the trough. It’s a hard place to live.
The prodigal son is jolted by a very real revelation of home. And even though he grossly underestimates the love of the father, he leaves the pigs and returns. No longer does he have any desire to eat pig food.
Often the side effects of our own stubborn rebellion debase and shame us. It reduces a man or woman to a place of ruin and failure. We feel worthless and very much defeated. We know we’re a dirty rotten mess and we believe Satan’s infamous lies about our ‘impossible-to-forgive” sin.
The spiritual danger in self-degrading thoughts and feelings is that we will start to believe things such as, “God’s Holy Spirit can’t help someone like me” or “I’m helplessly addicted to sin” or even “I’m damned without any hope.”
These are some of the vicious lies Satan tells people to keep them in their sin and rebellion. (It has worked well for him over many millennia.) The enemy tells us that we’ll always live with the pigs, and eventually, over time, we will come to enjoy eating the pig slop. Sadly many accept that lie as the truth.
It is not.
God’s Holy Spirit is transformative and powerful; therefore, if we continue to think we are failures and worthless after receiving Spirit, what are we really saying? Do we doubt His power, or question His love? I hope not.
It’s time to come home.
“Because you have been down there Neo, you know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.”
“Watch, O Lord, with those who wake or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who slumber.“
“Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ,Rest your weary ones,Bless your dying ones,Soothe your suffering ones,Pity your afflicted ones,Shield your joyous ones,”
“And all for your love’s sake.”
Woven into this ancient ‘evening prayer’ is an idea of God meeting us with overflowing grace and kindness. There is a strong sense of God watching everyone! And there is also a “tending” sense that He has overall.
As I read this prayer, I seem to focus on the single phrase, “shield your joyous ones.” To think that these joyful people need protection strikes me as odd. Why do they even need a “shield?” Of all people, don’t they have it together?
God sees to our every need, and His flock can be incredibly needy.
As I thought it through, I started to realize that joy is its best standing in the shadow of warfare. The joyful ones are companions– “buddies” who share the same ‘fox hole’ on enemy lines. But this isn’t a grim thing, Nehemiah told those trying to build the city walls,
“The joy of the Lord is your strength”
Joy connects with the desperate need of the moment; it is the muscle of all ministry. And as a result, perhaps more vulnerable.
He didn’t say that the joy of the Lord is our happiness, cheeriness, or merriment.
But rather, joy would impart strength, and stiffen one’s ability to go to war for our brothers and sisters, our churches, and our communities. There are certain epoxy resins that will only harden when a special light is used on them. Maybe joy transforms into strength when we step toward our Father.
We need to spiritually protect and cover those who are His “joyous ones.” They can be found sprinkled throughout our churches and ministries. And they need us to shield them. They seem to be quite exceptional, and seemingly invulnerable. But that isn’t the case. We need to pray for them. Joyful people inspire me in battle.
“The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”
1. believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity. Contemptuous; mocking; derisive; sarcastic.
I want to speak from my heart. I woke up this morning intensely cynical about the world. I hate to think I’m becoming critical or judgmental, but whatever it is I must take it in prayer to Jesus. I feel like I’ve been bit by a snake– a venomous one at that.
When I think of our Lord’s example, it helps a great deal. He knows every man’s heart and motives and that didn’t discourage him. He knew when he came what each of us had done, and was capable of doing.
There was this incident at the Temple:
23 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. 25 No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.
John 2:23-25, NIV
People can’t be trusted. Our motives and our desires, although hidden from men, are clear to God. And yet He loves us deeply. And love, “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5.) In his humanity, Jesus was tempted in every way. Discouragement and despair over the sin of men were resisted.
We can become cynical and jaded over the repeated wrongs we see or hear– it’s easy to do. There can become a ‘coarsening’ and hardness of our hearts. That is dangerous. It requires a touch from Jesus. It means it’s time we get on our knees.
When Jesus sent out his disciples he encouraged them, ““Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) He knew the hostile human heart had its own agendas– people would be like wolves. But though they would see first-hand the deceitfulness of many, they were to be wise and be completely harmless.
The Holy Spirit will keep us close as we seek his victory in this matter. We will be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Exchange your attitude with His. He will strengthen you. We can renounce the spirit of judgmentalism that is so pervasive. We will love the way he loves.
I know there is much more to say about this. But now the Spirit is prompting me to pray through this issue myself.
Cynicism and skepticism are the crudest form of quasi-intellectualism… Let the cynic become cynical of his cynicism and the skeptic skeptical of his skepticism and join the battle.