anointing, blessed, broken people, compassion, death, disciples, gift, humility, Jesus Christ, love, worship

Pouring Out Your Oil, #88

“Jesus said, “Let her alone. She’s anticipating and honoring the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you. You don’t always have me.”

John 12:7-8, (context vv. 1-8)

She came and poured perfumed oil on Jesus feet. She massaged it in with her hair. What she did was out of love, and maybe concern? She knew and understood. Many of us deeply understand with what she did–Mary has become a person that we identify and engage. She is doing what we would have done. (At least we hope.)

That perfume was a concentrate–it was the source for smaller vials. The oil Mary used was undiluted and not weakened in any way. It was not diminished or thinned, it was powerful stuff. What she did was an extremely costly act. Notice that it was a whole pound–and the text states that the entire house was filled with the scent.

When Jesus was being scourged and crucified, the odor of that perfume would’ve been present. That smell was still there, and most likely it sustained, and even encouraged him. Perhaps our acts of love–of sacrifice, of deep worship mean far more than we realize?

But there will always the ones who are practical.

All they see is the incredible waste. Judas had a pragmatic, reasonable and more sensible position. The other 11 felt the same. As they analyzed Mary’s actions all they could see was the terrible waste. There came a point when Judas, who controlled the finances, just had to speak:

“Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (vv. 4-5).

“He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it.” (v. 6).

So dear one, who was right? The other Gospel accounts tell us that the disciples also felt this way, (Matthew 26:6-13). The general consensus was that Mary was far too excessive. After all, 300 denarii was a lot of money–a denarii was a day’s wage. It was probably more money they had ever seen!

It’s interesting that Mary unbound her hair. That was anathema in Jewish culture. It was the clear evidence of an immoral woman, a prostitute. But yet she did it. Mary did not stop to calculate public reaction. She knew deep down that it was the only thing she could do for him.

What exactly is worship? What part of it do we not understand yet? Does it matter what is in our heart?

It is interesting that was immediately afterward this that Judas Iscariot left, and set up an agreement to betray Jesus.

“Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him.”

C.H. Spurgeon

“Redletterstudy is a member of Faithful Bloggers

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Blind and Desperate, #85

Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861

“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

42 “Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

Luke 18:40-43

Tradition tells us that his name is Bartimaeus. This man, led by others, plopped on a mat by a curb, that’s where he will hold out a basket to collect coins. Hopefully, he would do well, and if not–well there will always be tomorrow–another black and meaningless day. Is this is as good as it’ll ever get?

The crowd around him starts to get more and more excited, and this man, who is very much attuned to the noise of the things around him, tries to pick out conversations, he wants to understand. He keeps listening, and the voices get louder and louder, and he finally pieces together what’s happening.

He finally hears one of them shout out, “It’s the Messiah! It’s him–he has come!” At that moment he too stands up, and begins to shout himself. But his shouting gets louder, and it turns into screams. Within seconds he’s out-of-control, and wild and insane. He releases years of pent up anger and frustration.

The crowd, who was once preoccupied by Jesus’ interesting entourage, now tries hard to quiet this wild dervish down. But he quite mad by now, completely out-of-control. His deranged screams are those of man pushed totally beyond reason.

The original Greek text describes two different words in the New Testament.

The first word used by the crowd is used as a cry for assistance, and deliverance. It’s basically a “respectable” kind of a shout for help. Loud, but still within reason. Earsplitting maybe, but still aware of itself and yet somewhat respectable.

But the second kind of scream, isn’t the regular ‘run-of-the-mill’ kind, rather it’s the scream of someone extremely disturbed. It is wild, primal–something animalistic, shrieking, unearthly, something that’s very disturbing. It’s the cry when an animal goes berserk and in pain, chews off its leg that’s caught in a steel trap. It’s much more than loud, it’s a scream from someone that’s completely out of control.

Dear friend, this is not a human scream. He’s far, far past that point.

Jesus is completely in control. He’s not disturbed, shocked or offended–he’s not fazed by this awful darkness of this desperate man. He orders that he be brought to him. At that moment, all eyes are glued to Jesus and this blind man. I have to believe a hush fell over everyone, quiet enough for them to hear the conversation.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks that question, and it seems an unreal thing to ask. And yet Jesus speaks it into this man’s wild, raving, out-of-control pain. It was Jesus who calmed the turbulent seas; he is now reaching into this man’s incredible darkness. “What do you want?” It’s a question that must be asked.

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

Jesus calmly announces to the man that his faith has saved him. At that instant Bartimaeus sees. That’s all that was needed.

I really need to ask you this–How far will you go, how loud will you get? How many people will you ignore to reach your Savior and your Healer? How insistent will you become? How outrageous will you get to see Jesus reach in and touch your need?

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”

Joni Eareckson Tada

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The Other Nine, #80

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:17-19, (context, vv. 11-19)

He was the unlikely one. Samaritans were at the bottom of the spiritual “food chain.” He was only included in the group because he also was a leper–a person’s religion meant nothing. He was a leper first and foremost, and after all, they do say that “misery loves company.”

The group of ten stood far away, so they had to yell. They “called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (verse 13).

The text implies that Jesus never touched them, which is somewhat unusual because Jesus usually did. Their healing was a bit odd as well, as they were healed as they traveled to see the priest. That was one of the many duties the priest had to do, Leviticus 14:2-32.

So it seems that this particular healing wasn’t exactly instantaneous, but something gradual. But still, it required faith, but I have to believe that these guys may have expected something a little more. (But having faith sometimes, isn’t what we expect.)

The ex-leper, a.k.a. the Samaritan, returns and comes back to the One who healed him. The previous verses tell us that he fell at Jesus’ feet. Now tell me–was he “disobeying” the Lord’s command to go to the priest? I’m not so sure. When we consider that he was a Samaritan, and not really part of the Jewish religion or rites, it might make some sense.

He’s not rebuked by Jesus. Instead Jesus turns and in a way, lavishes praise on him. Maybe there is an application here to those we consider to be “outside” of our faith. Sometimes rules get broken by those who we consider on the margins–they seem to be external to our religious sensibilities.

“Your faith has made you well,” is Jesus’ evaluation; he recognizes the essentials that are necessary. Jesus understands the reality of this man’s faith in him–and it’s that faith which has becomes the conduit for his healing.

“Christ will always accept the faith the puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

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A Crooked Back, #74

Jesus and the Bent Over Woman

“When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.”

Luke 13:12-13, (context, vv. 10-17)

Doctors call it spondylitis ankylopoetica, which produces the fusion of the spinal bones. Sometimes physical issues have spiritual reasons, and many times crippling diseases leave their marks on our hearts. They damage us inside.

Eighteen years is an awful long time.

The response to this astounding miracle was less then ideal. Quite often “religion” responds out of foolishness, and anger at what God wants to do:

“But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 

(verse 14)

Jesus is angry. He rebukes the hypocrisy of the synagogues leaders. Their livestock get better treatment.

“Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst.”

    C.S. Lewis

“As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.”

(verse 17)

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

    James H. Aughey

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The King’s Work, #70

 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 

Luke 10:3, (context, vv. 1-12)

What happens when lambs are attacked by wolves? My simple guess is that they tear them up. Jesus doesn’t paint a rosy picture of ministry. He’s very clear what the seventy can expect. There shouldn’t be any illusions about the work, it’s not entirely easy, or pleasant. There maybe casualties.

This passage is crucial, not only for Jesus’ disciples, but for the harvest. Seventy-two are selected; they’re given clear instructions on the work ahead–what they must know, and how they need to act. The kingdom of God must be announced, that’s imperative. His rule extends over all, and that dear one, is markedly good news.

They’re given them supreme authority over demons–that’s going to be a necessity for doing his work. There’s an awful lot of darkness out there, and they will engage it head-on. Satan rules temporarily, but God triumphs forever. The disciple’s ministry is to step into this, and extend the kingdom of God. This is now your work.

Doing this means they have to follow his detailed instructions. The disciples are going to move into both the physical and spiritual, and the wolves are coming– the seventy-two have been warned. The world will hate, but the believers still have to preach.

It’s not just a message to preach. There’s more.

Words are not going to be enough. They’re also to have a ministry of physical healing. They’re to touch the sick, and God will heal. But please, don’t misconstrue the work, bloodshed is a real possibility. The wolves are coming in packs.

Jesus is not only training, but he’s extending the Father’s rule by sending them out. He is duplicating himself, and the seventy-two are clearly extensions of him, they’re to be his witnesses, doing his work. Essentially that’s what true ministry is, doing what he would do if he were in your shoes.

The kingdom comes–“thy kingdom come, thy will be done” is the believer’s prayer. We’re committed to this, and we follow our king’s example. The world will be ruled by him, and we have the incredible privilege of being his witnesses–we are his healers, and proclaimers of his gospel.

“The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God.”

Leo Tolstoy

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Negotiating with Jesus, #45

“Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” 

And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Matthew 15:28, (context, vv. 21-28)

Negotiating with God is not for the timid. It takes spiritual guts, and very few do it right. This chapter begins with a strong teaching on Jewish tradition and moral purity. The scribes and the Pharisee’s have cornered the market on social and religious correctness, and they have a solid grip on the Jewish faith. You must do what they say.

Suddenly there’s a noisy commotion, up jumps a Gentile woman who is terribly loud and terribly desperate, she’s caught somewhere between rudeness and hysteria. She has a disturbing need for her daughter to be released from a demon’s control–there’s a satanic oppression that wants to destroy her. Only Jesus can stop it.

The Judaism of Jesus’ day was not doing its job. Israel was meant to be a “light to the Gentiles,” and a source of healing and truth to the nations of the earth. Clearly it had become confused–its traditions and ceremonies that had nothing to do with the salvation of the world.

Perhaps the failure of the Jewish people to reach the world parallels the failure of the Church to carry out Jesus’ Great Commission? Religion has always stood in the way of God’s heart and His plan to bring salvation to everyone. I think this is the main reason Jesus hated it so.

This woman has a need that only Jesus could meet. She embarrasses herself insisting that Jesus take action. She seems almost rude to the point of being obnoxious. She is repeatedly told to be quiet, that her daughter’s deliverance was not in the plan of God. But that’s an answer she will not accept.

How honest are my conversations with God? Do I say what I really think? Do I intercede for others?

This is one of more unsettling verses in the New Testament–at least for me anyway. Everyone in this passage seems somewhat rude, even a bit boorish to me–even Jesus seems off, which really does unsettle me. There’s a stilted awkwardness in this passage that makes me want to apologize about Jesus’ attitude to all my unbelieving friends. I just don’t get all the national, racial, and social issues that are involved here.

An addendum though: Not every scripture is ever grasped once, and for all time understood. I’ve learned there are verses that reveal their layers years later. Onion-like. I think that this is probably true–for me anyway. The same verse will speak to me over and over again.

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Two Blind Men, Entry #40

The blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 

And their eyes were opened. 

Matthew 9:28-30, (context vv. 27-31)

I remember reading a story; more like a sanctified fable but maybe containing a bit of truth? The story (possibly from a French poem?) was that wherever Jesus would walk flowers would bloom in His footprints. I suppose the idea was that wherever Jesus went–life, healing and wholeness happened. It was His footprints; His presence that brought out the very essence of the Kingdom of God.

The love Jesus has for us is that wonderful. His grace–a grace that heals and forgives, a grace that’s now flourishing in the heart of a every real disciple. His mere presence brings us flowers even in the hard times.

Without Him, it seems we’re stuck with plastic roses that really don’t impress anyone. They aren’t real.

Jesus heals these blind men. They are completely without sight. They have understood nothing but blackness, but that is about to be instantly changed, it will come like a switch is flipped. Pop! Instant sight. Suddenly everything floods in. They “see” everything for the first time. Imagine, to be sightless, and then to suddenly see. Colors, trees, flowers, faces, and Jesus all at once. Can you imagine what that must be like?

These men had to have faith–that ‘spiritual ability’ to step out and grasp a healing that hasn’t come yet. They first need to trust the man (Jesus) before the healing can ever be received. “Do you believe I can do this…” I suppose the issue here is identity, the Lord Jesus Christ declaring His authority over this blindness. He intends to heal. It’s His nature to heal.

Wherever Jesus chooses to walk, supernatural things happen. We’re called to trust the person of Jesus, to simply believe Him, and expect Him to keep His word; but whatever happens, happens. Believers will choose to continue to believe, no matter what. They know the difference between real and plastic flowers.

I believe in Jesus’ character–His absolute love for me, and His power over everything. I love Him, and I look for His presence, and suddenly amazing miracles happen. But it’s Him–it’s all Him, and I must put my faith in Him. He does all the work, I’m the lazy guy leaning on my shovel.

But He wants to heal us, that’s His nature. My feeble faith can move things. My mustard seed faith can elevate mountains. It makes wonderful things happen. But that faith has to be fortified, cemented into His heart– we must tell of Jesus’ kindness and mercy and love for those still lost. We must believe in Him to touch others, and then whatever might happen after that will always be His decision. He will always be the Lord either way.

“When human reason has exhausted every possibility, the children can go to their Father and receive all they need. … For only when you have become utterly dependent upon prayer and faith, only when all human possibilities have been exhausted, can you begin to reckon that God will intervene and work His miracles.”

-Basilea Schlink

   

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Simply the Hem, Entry #39

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 “Jesus turned and saw her. 

“Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.”

Matthew 9:20-22

I really don’t have a faint idea of her sickness. But I think to bleed constantly must’ve been tiring. Physically, and emotionally–exhausting. She had to ‘plan’ her days carefully to accommodate all of this. Things were never easy for this woman. It truly crippled her life; it would’ve consumed her.

This Jewish woman was suffering with an issue of blood for 12 long years. She had sought help from one physician after another, and spent all her money paying doctor’s bills. But she had not been helped. In fact, her problem got worse. And we need to remember, that she’d be completely ostracized socially–a total write-off, a reject.

Leviticus 15 explains this:

Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening.

(vv. 19-23)

Fourteen years of being unclean; it seems like a half of a lifetime. She was cut off from any solace of the Temple–that would’ve denied her a sacrifice for her sin. Not only was 14 years a long time, her physical disease had powerful implications spiritually as well. She would have carried around her sin like a heavy coat. She would never know the peace that infuses grace.

Her only hope was Jesus, plain and simple. His reputation as a healer and a teacher had spread like crazy through the country (even King Herod followed His ministry!)

She had one overriding desire. Nothing but a healing would be acceptable.

Perhaps Jesus had already passed by her? After all, He was on His way to a simple resurrection! But in her thinking, she could still touch Him, perhaps she just stretch out and grab the tassel of His robe. And guess what; she was healed, completely. A lightening strike!

We don’t bleed, but we sin all the time.

All of us are like this woman. We don’t bleed, but we sin all the time. Romans states, “we all have sinned, we all have fallen short of the glory of God.” Isaiah graphically describes all of us “to be like and unclean thing.” The Hebrew word for those two words is “menstrual cloth.” All the good we do amounts to something less than zero.

Each of us have definitely sinned. We’re very much ‘defiled’ even at our very best. Sin has completely ruined us. We are foul.

We must reach out, and keep reaching out, grabbing a hold of Jesus. We must seize Him, even if it’s a tiny tassel of His robe. We must snatch it and never let go; until He heals us and restores our lives. We know He can.

“Christ is the Good Physician. There is no disease He cannot heal; no sin He cannot remove; no trouble He cannot help. He is the Balm of Gilead, the Great Physician who has never yet failed to heal all the spiritual maladies of every soul that has come unto Him in faith and prayer.”

-James H. Aughley

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“Centurion” Faith, #25

Jesus said to him, “I come and heal him.”

Matthew 8:7 (context, vv. 5-13)

See the remarkable faith of a Roman centurion. Can we really fathom the deep depth of such belief? He comes to Jesus with a desire for the healing of a servant. He was doing something that a Gentile would never stoop to do. He sought the healing from a homeless itinerant teacher who happened to be a Jew.

This Roman soldier was an enemy. They occupied the land of Israel. If Jesus decided to withhold a healing (to make a point) this was the time! I’m guessing that His refusal would be a good lesson to the disciples, and the watching crowds.

Although the numbers under the command of the centurion varied, he commonly oversaw up to 6,000 men. In battle, they took position in the very front, they were expected to be the first over a wall or through a breach. The centurion was responsible for every aspect of his men. Every centurion of Rome was expected to display ultimate courage on the battlefield.

Typically it took 15-20 hard years to become a centurion. Service was very difficult, living conditions were rough at best. The centurion was not married, he had no family. To be a centurion’s servant you would be responsible for every aspect of his master’s needs. But most of all, the servants became the centurion’s only family. They stayed with him for the duration of his service.

I suppose this explains much. The servant was paralyzed. The text in Matthew says that he was suffering terribly. No doubt the centurion sought out doctors and treatments, but apparently this didn’t help. He was at wit’s end and really didn’t know what to do. I suppose being helpless will often turn people to Jesus.

Jesus seems to have developed a reputation. Those in need, the desperate, sought out His healing power. It seems like that He was now becoming famous for His ability to heal diseases. It’s interesting but scripture clearly shows that Jesus really didn’t want to be this famous. He repeatedly told people not to tell anyone about their healing.

We can see the centurion’s respect for rank and authority.

He explains his own authority over his own soldiers. When he commands he is obeyed without question. He recognizes command and leadership. This man fully understands, and he clearly acknowledges the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,” 

“Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

Matthew 8:10

Emulating this man’s faith is the true task of every believer. We must continually put ourselves under the authority of Jesus. His lordship is to be supreme. His rule over us should never be questioned. He commands everything, and we must obey without any reservation. This new depth of faith must now become our true calling.

A couple of observations. 1) There exists a “quality” kind of faith in comparison to a weaker faith. There seems to be degrees of faith. 2) Quality faith recognizes the true authority and supreme lordship of Jesus. 3) Quality faith can be seen in very strange places. 4) This quality faith is meant to be sought and imitated. It is meant to be recognized by every disciple.

“Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the essential characteristic of our lives.”

-Andrew Murray   

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Leaving the Mat Behind, Entry #23

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, 

“Do you want to be healed?”

John 5:6 (context, vv. 2-9)

He’d been sick for 38 very long years. On this day he was laying like usual in his spot by the pool of Bethesda. He doesn’t realize it, but he was about to encounter Jesus. His life, as he knows it, is about to be turned upside down.

The question Jesus asks is pointed, and it savagely confronts him–“Do you really want to be healed?” Sometimes the sick, the injured, the handicapped become so aware of their issues that they can’t see any life beyond them. Perhaps Jesus wanted to jolt this man with this very odd question; of course he wants to be healed– doesn’t he?

Jesus clearly knew what was happening.

The Lord knew that this man must make a decision, and healing would only come if he could leave his mat behind. Before we get too hard on him though, we should consider that 38 years is a long, long time to be sick. One thing he had learned over time was that having any kind of hope was a very dangerous thing. In these many years he had worn out lots of mats.

Apparently, an angel would come and stir the waters; the first one who somehow jumped in would be healed. Over time the pool became the gathering place where there laid “a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (v. 3.) Someone once said that ‘misery loves company.’ The odds for healing however, were definitely not in their favor.

I’m somewhat curious, not so much with the ‘angel/pool’ thing, but with the Lord passing by a crowd of sick people. Jesus didn’t stop and just wholesale heal them, but instead He makes a bee-line to where this man lay. Why did He do this? Perhaps an encounter with Jesus was far too radical for the crowds; perhaps they weren’t ready. IDK.

The question Jesus asks does seem strange– “Of course he wants to be healed.” And yet the Lord (and this man) had to know for sure. It really isn’t a question of Jesus’ healing power–it is however, an issue with one’s desire to be made whole, and then to leave his mat behind.

A disclaimer though.

People will often talk about having enough faith to be healed, and that’s well and good, but what about having faith to continue to be sick; day after endless day? Will we continue to believe in Him no matter what happens to us? I do wonder about this sometimes.

“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, In a believer’s ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear.”

-John Newton

 

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