In Jesus’ Words: The woman’s story told around the world (Matthew 26:6-13)

 

We worry and we complain.  We get upset when we are inconvenienced.  I know how easy it is to get caught up in it, and before we know it, the moment in time has passed us by.  But one day, if we are so lucky to live long enough, we will probably see things differently.  The petty arguments, the spilled milk, even the bad grade or that terrible boss, no longer seem to matter.  They are long gone.  It is in the laughter, the beauty, the living in the present, where we begin to cherish what life is really about.  This next story about Jesus is just that.  It is one of the few stories that is mentioned in all four gospels of the Bible, except for the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection.  One reason for the significance of this story is told in Jesus’ own words: “I assure you: Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”

I believe what captures the essence of this story is the pure joy of the moment, epitomizing the true meaning of life, the ultimate show of repentance, and resting in the peaceful presence and forgiveness of Jesus.  Jesus came to restore humanity and to be a light and a path out of the darkness of this world.  This woman knew that.

~ Matthew 26:6-13  Anointing at Bethany ~

While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had a serious skin disease, a woman approached Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive fragrant oil. She poured it on His head as He was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This might have been sold for a great deal and given to the poor.”

But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a noble thing for Me. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me. By pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she has prepared Me for burial. I assure you: Wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”

In Jesus’ Words: Tale of two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)

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Which one of these is right?  A person who is disagreeable and untrustworthy but eventually does the right thing, or someone who is polite and respectable but does not do what they say?

This is the question Jesus presented to the religious Pharisees in his parable of the two sons.  But once again the religious leaders were unable to trick Jesus or fully answer his questions, and it infuriated them.

~ Matthew 21:28-32  Parable of Two Sons ~

“But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’

 “He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went.  Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.

“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.

 “Which of the two did his father’s will?”

“The first,” they said.

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you didn’t believe him. Tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him, but you, when you saw it, didn’t even change your minds then and believe him.”

In this story, both sons had the same father (God).  The first son represented the despised sinners of the day – prostitutes, adulterers and thieves.  Many of these people were attracted to Jesus.  He offered them hope and redemption, and they repented.  The second son represented the religious leaders of the day.  They loved their world and power more than their faith or finding the truth.  They spoke well, but did not back up their words with actions.

This is a recurring theme with Jesus, where he says sinners will enter the kingdom of heaven before the religious hypocrites.  Imagine… a heaven full of repentful sinners.  And for all those Pharisees and others who worked so hard for their status, where did it get them in the end?

The prophet Haggai also spoke of a similar situation to the Jewish people in 520 BC.

The Lord of Hosts says, “Consider your ways!”
You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!”
– from the book of Haggai, chapter 1

How often do we find ourselves in this situation today?  We are keeping up appearances and working hard, but it is toward the wrong things and it gets us nowhere.  Jesus is urging us instead to do God’s will, which is simply seeking the heart of God and His truth.  It’s as simple as that.  It is not being showy or working extra hard.  It is putting others first over our own selfish motives.  It is desiring the truth and being sincere in our heart.  These are things each of us can do every day, and in the end, we will be better off for it.

In Jesus’ Words: fake faith (Matthew 21:18-22)

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Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God and not in God Himself.
– Muguel de Unamuno, Spanish philosopher

One morning while Jesus was traveling back to Jerusalem, He became hungry and searched a nearby fig tree for some fruit to eat.  The tree was full of shiny green leaves but had no fruit, and Jesus cursed the tree for being fruitless, or fake, and the tree withered.  Why such harsh actions?  Jesus had been dealing with the Jewish temple leaders and was disappointed to find them to be the same way.  They put on a show and talked about God but didn’t actually follow Him.  They boasted of a Messiah to come, but then didn’t acknowledge Him.  They believed only in the idea of God.  We must also be careful today that we do not fall into that same trap.

~ Matthew 21:18-22  The barren fig tree ~

Early in the morning, as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” At once the fig tree withered.

When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”

Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

A friend once confessed to me, “I never talk bad about Jesus just in case he’s real.”  It was kind of a sad statement, and I wasn’t exactly sure where my friend stood with her faith. Though none of us are perfect in our faith, if we’re honest with ourselves, we should be able to self-examine our lives to know if we truly believe and follow Jesus, or if we just like the idea of it.  Don’t cheat yourself out of Jesus’ promises to you.  With true faith and honest prayer and Jesus by your side, you will receive many wonderful blessings.feet with waves cropped

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 8 – Coming as a servant

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The prophet Isaiah gives a vivid description of the coming Messiah as a servant – one with a gentle manner, who brings comfort and encouragement to the oppressed, and is a light to all. When you look at our world today, this is exactly what we need, and it is exactly how Jesus lived.  Here is a beautiful Hebrew prose from the prophecy of Isaiah, interspersed with the teachings of Jesus.

Isaiah 42:1-7
“This is My Servant; I strengthen Him,
this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him.
I have put My Spirit on Him;
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or shout
or make His voice heard in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed,
and He will not put out a smoldering wick;
He will faithfully bring justice.
He will not grow weak or be discouraged
until He has established justice on earth.
The islands will wait for His instruction.”

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This is what God, Yahweh, says—
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and life to those who walk on it—
“I, Yahweh, have called You
for a righteous purpose,
and I will hold You by Your hand.
I will keep You and appoint You
to be a covenant for the people
and a light to the nations,
in order to open blind eyes,
to bring out prisoners from the dungeon,
and those sitting in darkness from the prison house.”

Matthew 4:13-16
Jesus left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

along the sea road, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles!
The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the shadowland of death,
light has dawned.

I pray this Christmas season for all of you who are weary or burdened, that you will seek the gentle and humble rest that Jesus gives. He has not forgotten you. It is His promise to you – His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

 * Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 17 – fulfillment of the prophecies

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The anticipation builds in the story being told by Luke. Clearly many people were curious about what had happened and the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.  A child was to come from the tribe of Judah, town of Bethlehem, through the line of David, a messenger would prepare the way, and he would have eternal existence.  While we wait for the celebration of the birth of Christ in a few days, let’s look back at many of the prophecies that were beginning to take place.

“Daughter Zion, shout for joy and be glad, for I am coming to dwell among you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day and become My people. I will dwell among you, and you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent Me to you. The Lord will take possession of Judah as His portion in the Holy Land, and He will once again choose Jerusalem. Let all people be silent before the Lord, for He is coming from His holy dwelling.” – Zecharia 2:10-13

By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. – Isaiah 9:1-2

His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end. – Isaiah 9:6-7

The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem!
Look, your King is coming to you;
He is righteous and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey. – Zecharia 9:9

I pray that you will call out to the only one known who can heal our inward pain, give us peace among a chaotic world, and will be with us for eternity. 

* Merry Christmas *