One Saturday In Bethany

Six days before His crucifixion and burial, Jesus was prepared for His burial by the most unlikely of people. This story takes place in Bethany, where Jesus spends a lot of time during His earthly ministry. 

As was customary, the most influential men in the village would try to entice visiting guests to join them for dinner. Simon—a Pharisee and a former leper—was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus. Simon is a former leper because one who still had active leprosy wouldn’t have been allowed in his own home, let alone allowed to host guests. I think (as you will see in a moment) that Simon had been healed of his leprosy by Jesus.

Although it was customary for someone like Simon to host visiting guests, in this case, the religious leaders were scheming to arrest Jesus. In other words, there was an ulterior motive for Simon to have Jesus in his home.

Which is probably why Simon neglected his host’s duties: No welcoming kiss, no foot-washing, no anointing. All normal hospitality is ignored. Jesus appears to ignore the snub and simply recline at the table. But another guest takes Simon’s incredible rudeness personally. 

Mary was standing or sitting along the wall in Simon’s house, as many common villagers would in that day. Luke tells us that Mary had lived a sinful life. But while sitting at Jesus’ feet earlier she heard the good news that Jesus could forgive sins, she placed her faith in Him, and her lifestyle changed 180-degrees 

Mary is overcome by emotion at the inhospitable—rude!—way Jesus is being treated and tears began to well up in her eyes. Since Jesus is reclining at the table, His feet would have been pointed in her direction, and she began to use her tears to wash His feet. Then—horror of horrors—she uncovers and lets down her hair in public(!) and begins to dry His feet. 

Simon the Pharisee judges Mary by her past. Simon twice says, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” Mary is in big trouble: she is publicly pointing out the rudeness of the host, she is touching a man that is not her husband, and she has uncovered and let down her hair in public. 

Jesus responds not to Mary, but to Simon: “Simon, I have something to tell you,” He says and then shares a short but powerful parable of a creditor who had two debtors. One owed him the equivalent of a year-and-a-half’s wages, and the other owed about two months’ wages. Since neither could pay, the creditor forgave both of them. 

Jesus asked Simon, “Which of the two forgiven debtors do you think would be most grateful?” Simon correctly responds, “The one who was forgiven more.” 

Jesus points out that Mary’s acts didn’t bring her forgiveness, but that her acts were a loving response to the forgiveness she had already received. Jesus said things like, “You have been forgiven,” and “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you.” 

Jesus took the anger that was focused on Mary and redirected it to Himself, as Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do (see 53:4-5).

At the same time He is also challenging Simon, “Don’t you have something to be grateful for? Weren’t you once a physical leper? Mary was a spiritual leper, but she has been forgiven and is now overwhelmingly grateful. What about you?” 

Mary was forgiven. She gave all she had in worship. Her anointing oil was lavishly poured out. It was worth a year’s wages, but she spent it all on Jesus. She anointed Him for His burial. The aroma of the oil remained on Jesus throughout His Passion Week and through His crucifixion. The aroma remained on Mary’s hands and hair. The aroma remained in Simon’s house. The memory was fixed in the memories of everyone in that room. 

What about Simon? Did he ever acknowledge his gratitude? Or was he more concerned with receiving praise from men? 

Have you received the forgiveness Jesus offers you? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to stand up for Him? Can people tell you’ve been forgiven by your willingness to give up everything for Him? 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue of slow, deliberate walk alongside Jesus on His passionate journey to the Cross and the resurrection. 

Living Between The Advents

We live in an amazing time—the First Advent of Jesus has already happened in Bethlehem, and yet we are eagerly anticipating Christ’s Second Advent at any moment! 

The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate. 

COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).  

FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8). 

RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)! 

BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).  

Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)! 

STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18). 

REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)! 

The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—

    1. In celebration that Jesus came at His First Advent to be our Savior 
    1. In anticipation of the Second Advent 
    1. In obedience to God’s Word (Revelation 22:7) 

Notes On Jeremiah (book review)

Oswald Chambers always gives me unique perspectives on passages of Scripture—even ones that I thought I already knew quite well. He does this again as he dives deep into one of the major prophets in his book Notes On Jeremiah.

These Notes are really his lecture notes from his classes at the Bible Training Institute. Once again, these classes were cut short by the outbreak of The Great War (what we now call World War I), so we only have his brilliant insights through Jeremiah chapter 29. 

Chambers himself noted, “The conception of these studies is that man must look higher for the source of life and salvation than the experience of life. … Jesus Christ is the only One Who can throw light on the prophecies of Isaiah, and He is the only One Who throws any kind of light on the acute suffering and amazing misery of this prophet [Jeremiah].” 

Indeed, many of Chambers’ lectures start with “the experience of life” that most of us have had (or are having at present), and then he tries to take us both higher and deeper. Using Jeremiah’s prophesies like a searchlight, Chambers shows how these Old Testament words find their ultimate relevance and fulfillment in the dazzling Advent of Jesus Christ. 

Jeremiah was prophesying in the darkest days of Judah, just before the city was overthrown by the Babylonians. In the face of this darkness, Jeremiah shines out a light of Ultimate Hope. This is a valuable resource for Christians today who are living in sin-darkened days.

If you are looking for a great companion resource for your Bible reading time in Jeremiah, please add Notes On Jeremiah to your library. 

12 Quotes From “Notes On Isaiah”

Oswald Chambers always has more insights than I can possibly share with others: he is a true treasure-trove of biblical illumination! Check out my review of his Notes On Isaiah by clicking here. Below are a few shorter quotes from this book. If you would like to read some longer passages, check out my weekly series called Thursdays With Oswald. 

“What we are apt to call interruptions are God’s way of introducing us to a new knowledge of Himself.” 

“The supernatural power of satan never reasons, it appeals to man’s superstition, not to his conscience.”

“I have no right to have anything less than the hope and the belief of Jesus Christ with regard to the worst and most hopeless of men.” 

“We have to keep the call of God alive, and continually recall to our minds what we are here for. … There is no danger of spiritual retrogression if we will keep in mind the times, one or more, when the Spirit of God has touched us.” 

“God’s dates are not man’s. God seems to pay no attention to our calendars; He has a calendar of His own in which He suddenly surprises a man in the midst of his days. Leave room for God. We expect God only on special days, in particular meetings; that is not God’s way. He comes suddenly, at midnight or at noonday.” 

“We are to be in the world while not of it, and to denounce by lip and life the things that are wrong.” 

“The mark of the beast is already here, and it will grow clearer before the man of sin is revealed (see 2 Thessalonians). It is slighting no one to say that prosperity in this order of things along with godliness is impossible, and growingly more impossible.” 

“Undisciplined imagination is the greatest disturber not only of growth in grace, but of spiritual sanity [Isaiah 26:3].” 

“Conscience does not shout in thunderclaps, you can easily drown its record, but it goes on, and if you do not heed it for a while because of sensational sinning, as soon as the sensation exhausts itself, back comes the monotonous tick, tick, that nearly drives a man mad. God will never make us listen to Him; we have to will to listen.” 

“Belief in God will always manifest itself in right principles, but if you put principles first you will end in disbelief in God.” 

“The only place of confidence is personal trust in God and patient waiting for Him. … To trust in the goodness of God is not enough, it is not eternal and abiding; we have to trust God Who is infinitely more than goodness.” 

“If in the face of all the appeals of common sense you remain true to God, that is the ‘proof of your faith’ which will be found to the glory of God.” 

Notes On Isaiah (book review)

I’m always astounded by the depth of insight that God gave to Oswald Chambers on spiritual matters; especially on concepts that seem confusing to a great many people. His God-given insights are on full display in his Notes On Isaiah.

I’ll share one disappointment right up front: There is not nearly as much information in this book as I would have hoped for. Chambers’ books, with only a couple of minor exceptions, were not initially written as books. Instead, the books are a collection of sermons or lectures that his wife recorded shorthand as he spoke, and then they were transcribed and compiled later. Apparently during this series of lectures on Isaiah, Biddy Chambers had taken on more responsibility at the Bible Training Institute (even teaching a class of her own), and she gave birth to their only child. These things kept her from taking the extensive notes we readers have become accustomed to. 

Although limited, the content is still as insightful and mind-expanding as ever! David Lambert, a friend of the Chambers who helped get this book into print, marveled at how masterfully Oswald could make the words of Isaiah accessible to his students. Lambert noted, “The only mind for the author of the Bible is the Mind of God, and the only Interpreter is the Spirit of God.” Clearly, Oswald Chambers was deeply dependent on both the Mind and Spirit of God in all of his work! 

In introducing this class to his students, Chambers reminded them what was at stake. He said, “God will never have us follow Him blindly,” unlike satan. He pointed out, “The supernatural power of satan never reasons, it appeals to man’s superstition, not to his conscience.” If ever a book of Scripture appealed to our conscience to open our eyes and hearts to the ways of God, it is the book of Isaiah. And Oswald Chambers is a marvelous companion for our journey through this book! 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “V” Is For Verified Prophesy

This is part 4 in my 5-part series, “I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of ….” I have already addressed A—Apologetics, L—Lives changed, and I—It is finished. Today I want to consider the prophesies that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus supposedly fulfilled. 

We have all heard about “copycat” crimes. Could the life and death of Jesus fit that? Since Jesus was born from the family line of King David, and His family really wanted the promised Messiah to finally appear, perhaps He was pushed that way. Perhaps He lived in a certain way to make it look like He was fulfilling prophesy. 

Detective J. Warner Wallace wrote, “Homicide detectives are perhaps the least trusting people in the world. My own experience investigating murders has taught me to consider everyone a liar—until, at least, I have good reason to believe otherwise.” 

So was Jesus a liar? Was He following some copycat script to make it merely look like He was the Messiah? Or do we have good reasons to believe He was telling the truth? Consider a couple of points—

    • How could David describe a crucifixion scene in 1000 BC, since the Persians didn’t invent it until around 400 BC (see Psalm 22:12-18)?
    • How could Jesus control others’ actions (i.e. Judas’ betrayal; being killed by crucifixion, not by stoning; soldiers gambling for His clothes)? 
    • Even His own followers—whom He would need to perpetrate the hoax—didn’t understand what He was doing (John 12:16). 

Prosecutors have to present enough evidence to convince a jury that they have arrested and brought to trial the right man. One of the key terms is beyond a reasonable doubt—“a part of jury instructions in all criminal trials, in which the jurors are told that they can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ of his or her guilt.” 

Let’s consider a hypothetical case that a prosecutor might present: 

  • multiple eyewitnesses saw a man fleeing the scene, and all of them identified the suspect in a police line-up
  • the shoe prints at the crime scene were the same size and design that of the suspect was wearing when he was arrested
  • prosecutors presented text messages in which the suspect threatened to do to the victim exactly what was done to the victim
  • the wounds made by the weapon which was used on the victim correspond with the weapon the police found in the suspect’s car
  • the blood on that weapon matched the blood of the victim
  • the fingerprints on that weapon are the suspect’s fingerprints

That is the evidence. From that evidence, the jury is asked to draw inferences about the reasonableness of that suspect being the one who committed the crime. 

I have listed just six pieces of evidence. How strong do you think the prosecutor’s case is? What if the jurors were presented with 50 pieces of evidence? What about 100? 200? How about 300 pieces of evidence? 

Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophesies—which were made before He was born!—in His life, death, and resurrection!

Math professor Peter Stoner calculated that the odds for just one man in history to fulfill only 8 prophesies is 1-in-1×1017. How amazing is that!? To give us a little perspective, Stoner says that 1×1017 silver dollars would cover the entire state of Texas in silver dollars two-feet thick. If just one of those silver dollars was marked, and a blindfolded man could select that one marked coin on his very first attempt, that would be about the same odds of Jesus fulfilling only 8 prophesies. 

As a juror, if you weighed this evidence, do you find enough proof to “convict” Jesus? 

But ultimately Jesus didn’t come just to fulfill prophesy; He came to rescue you and me from the penalty of our sin (Luke 4:16-21), and that is the best news of all! 

Join me either in person or on Facebook Live this Sunday for the final message in this 5-part series. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Isaiah 8-11

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Isaiah 8-11

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Isaiah 8-11.]

     God did not give a progressive revelation of Himself through the Old Testament: the people progressively grasped the revelation, which is very different. …

     The remarkable thing is that when Jesus Christ comes, every one of the things the prophets have been saying fit in with one Personality, the Being whom we know as the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah never saw Jesus Christ, he could not have imagined Him, then what inspired him? The very Mind of God (see 2 Peter 1:20). … 

     Fear is apt to make us atheistic and in our outlook we enthrone the devil, not God. God is behind it all, not a thing happens but He knows all about it. …

     If we try to draw our breath from any other source we instantly get diseased. By prayer and communion with God we live out in God’s moral open air, consequently we can live in the cities and amongst the places of men and maintain the life which is in accordance with the Messiah’s life…. The enemy of our souls goes for all he is worth against our praying, against our solitudes with God, he tries to prevent us drawing our breath in the fear of the Lord. The great need is to bring every thought and imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ until every bit of our nature is reconstructed. 

From Notes On Isaiah

In these four chapters of Isaiah, the kings of Judah are facing enemies closing in from all sides and fear is mounting. Isaiah keeps speaking a word from the Lord that amounts to God saying this: Stop focusing on your troubles and focus on Me instead!

It’s a good reminder for us still today. God is in control. Let me say that again: God is in control! Let His perfect love and His perfect power drive out fear from your heart. Keep your eyes on Him, not on the problems coming against you. Let your thoughts be captivated by Jesus, and you will be reconstructed from the inside out with the nature of Christ.

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