The Threat of Life

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The Threat of Life

John 12:1-111

Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The Plot to Kill Lazarus

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

I’m not big on perfume or cologne. I went through that middle school phase where we all wore too much cologne all the time, but ever since then, I’ve not cared for it much. It makes me wonder, why Jesus just sat there and let Mary put a whole pound of perfume on him. Apparently, so did everyone else. Judas went so far as to complain about it. I find it unusual that he complained about the money that could have been saved, but no one complained about the smell.

I believe I recall Dr. Ben Witherington teaching that this perfume may have had the special purpose of anointing the bodies of the dead during the funeral preparations. This might be the kind of thing the women were taking to Jesus’ body on Easter morning. Why then, did Mary have it at the point? Was she one of the few who honestly believed that Jesus was heading to His death, and if so, why was she putting it on Him so early? Dr. Witherington suggested that this may have originally been bought for her brother Lazarus who did indeed die, and whose body had begun to stink 4 days into his burial. Judas was right in that it probably cost Mary and Martha quite a bit of money to purchase, which makes me think it was something they had saved up while Lazarus was sick, or that they had saved and sold as a final act of love for him. The gospel accounts do not tell us for sure, but if we take it to mean that this perfume was meant for Lazarus, who was then raised from the dead, Lazarus did not need it anymore and by bringing him back from death, Jesus had, in a strange way, earned that burial perfume for Himself.

The second passage here speaks to the growing concern about Jesus gaining popularity with the people – particularly because of the resurrection of Lazarus. Many had seen him dead and witnessed that resurrection, so it could not be easily denied. Both of these two accounts deal with the threat that new life brought to the people around Jesus.

What do I mean by threat of new life? We all have a script for life that says something like: you are born, stuff happens, then you die.

The most important thing you can do is stretch out the “stuff happens” part as long as you can… preferably with good things. But what if that script is wrong? What if Jesus showed that for some people, their script read: you are born, stuff happens, then you die, then you come back… and life goes on forever after that?

If you knew that you would be raised into a body that would not get sick and hurt ever again, but you would have to have your heart stopped for a few days to get it, would you do it? I think many people would. I think there would be a long line of people who would trade away self-preservation for the chance at a life without pain. New life.

If this were offered, the medical industry would go out of business. Economies would crash. People would quit caring about things like they do now. Some of us might just become self-absorbed slobs who quit caring about work, food, anything… why rush? We only have forever. But I think there might be others who would make it there purpose to make sure every person would have the chance to experience this as well. World peace and an end to suffering all over. The very existence of these kind of people could topple governments and would be a threat to anyone in power. It would be a messy blessing.

Death is really less of a threat than life eternal because we know we all face death anyway. Death is not a punishment, it is a normal part of our script. Life, however, is much more uncertain… and uncertain can be scary.

How do you hope to experience the new life found in Jesus?

What part of that new life do you hope to experience today?


  1. (Mt 26:6–13; Mk 14:3–9)

The King of Humility

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The King of Humilty

Matthew 21:1-111

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” “


  1. (Mk 11:1–10; Lk 19:28–40; Jn 12:12–19)

Seeing is believing

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Seeing is believing

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection1

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”

“Behold!” He said.

It was not the first time Jesus had this discussion with them. At the beginning of their time following Him, Jesus had told them there would be a cross involved. They would suffer, as He would suffer. This was not the second time either. This was the third time He sat them down and explained what was going to happen in Jerusalem, and now it was almost too late to turn back. They had spent 3 years together trying to get to this place, and here they were in the home stretch. Jesus was preparing them for the big finale.

Yet somehow it took them all by surprise. Why was that?

As wild as our imaginations can be sometimes, they are all fairly limited to recycling material we have seen before. I find it oddly humorous to note the number of television episodes that are based on real life situations. We cannot invent enough new crimes for late night TV so we borrow from the local newspaper and spice it up a bit. Then someone watching that program is inspired to commit a crime of their own based on that, with a twist. They end up on the internet news the next day and the TV writers have new material to work with. It’s an endless cycle of rehashing the same old stories.

Even Disney got involved, not only reselling age old fairy tales, but remaking their own former versionsof them and marketing them as such. (I’m excited to see what Guy Ritchie will do with the Aladdin remake!)

All that to say, when it comes to imagining totally new things, we are not so good at it.

So when Jesus tried to explain that victory over sin and death would come from a cross and that new life for everyone would come when He was brutally executed… well, remember these people had never seen movie special effects. I’m sure they passed it off as something to be taken spiritually or philosophically, but not literally. I mean, even for those who actually saw it all happen, most could not even believe it then.

A few months ago I had the privilege of riding on an airplane during a thunderstorm. It was Incredible watching the lightening bounce from cloud to cloud, so high up in the air. It struck me then, like it must have struck the first astronauts about how few people in the history of the world had ever seen what I was witnessing right then and there. Seeing something as simple as lightening expanded my beliefs about what God can do. What about you?

What has Jesus told you that you may have to see to truly believe?

Can you walk with Him a little further today, even if you cannot see the big picture yet if where He is taking you?


  1. (See also: Mt 20:17–19; Lk 18:31–34)

Tough Decisions

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Tough Decisions

Philippians 1:21-30

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. “

Suffering is only temporary, but not in the way we might hope.

I wonder why Jesus died so quickly on the cross. Two thieves may have hung there longer than He. Don’t get me wrong, He did not deserve any of it. Yet for those who claim He took our punishment upon Himself, I wonder if our own crucifixion would have been as short. Why does Jesus give a loud shout and die when most die slowly of suffocation? I don’t know.

One of my professors, Robert Tuttle once told me that the suffering of Christ did not begin on the cross, it began in the manger. If he was right, than Jesus really did have one of the longest punishments – 33 years worth! What all would that include then?


  1. Being born helpless and vulnerable.


  2. Being hunted


  3. Being misunderstood by his own family


  4. Being tempted by the devil himself

…and that is all before he actually starts any of his ministry. It also does not count much of the first 33 years of His life for which we have very little information on.

It was fairly downhill after that. Doubts, questioning, betrayals… people always around trying to use Him for their own agendas. Some of those were the ones He called friends. Most of them called themselves leaders and upstanding citizens. A few called themselves revolutionaries. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man). Those who knew Him best called Him the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Paul called Him Christ, which means messiah or “anointed one”. Somehow knowing the suffering of Jesus inspired Paul to carry on despite his own suffering. As far as starting new movements went, Paul was not terribly successful in his own lifetime. He was kicked out of more towns than he had friends, and even the places he was able to establish Christian communities were often corrupted by false teachers who followed after him. It was then and continues to be an act of God that the church perseveres.

In all this Paul wonders, would it be better to die and be with Jesus than to continue suffering through the day to day pains of trying to be a witness for God to a world that wants nothing to do with Him? That is a question we all have to answer for ourselves.

Paul found his answer in the same way Jesus found His own. He loved God, and he also loved all those around them. Well, he may have struggled to love all of those around him, but he certainly loved some of them. He knew that death might bring him some relief and maybe even some joy. But he also knew that those left here on earth would suffer without him. Even if he could not end or even ease their suffering, there was something powerful and loving about being willing to suffer with them. There is a word for that. It is called compassion(which literally means to suffer with).

What tough decisions do you face today?

What role does suffering play in these decisions?

What choice most reflects the compassion of Jesus?

What the Lord sees

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What the Lord sees

1 Samuel 16:11-13

“Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.”

Samuel learned about the vision of God when Saul failed as King and Samuel was sent to find his successor David. To outward appearances, David was too young in age, and last in his family – so much so that when the prophet came to his home, looking for a young man to make king, David’s own father did not even consider him. Neither, by all accounts, did David argue that point. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to advance himself, David contented himself by tending the family sheep.

I think part of what made David a man after God’s own heart was that he chose dedication to his work over aspiration for position. If you follow David’s career, apart from a handful of mistakes and several major misdeeds, he dedicated himself to serving God and the people of Israel. He saw himself as their shepherd and sought to be a good one.

But it is also important to note that, like Jesus, David went through his trials and temptations as well. Although he was anointed as a young man to be king over Israel, he had to wait 20 years before taking the throne, and unlike many would-be kings in history, David waited with patience. I think he was able to because he saw each day as an opportunity to serve God, wherever he was, rather than as an opportunity to advance himself.

How important is position to you?

What can you do today to be a servant of the Lord?

Just give me Jesus

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Just give me Jesus

Psalm 143

Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies

A Psalm of David.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;

give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness;

answer me in your righteousness.

Do not enter into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued me,

crushing my life to the ground,

making me sit in darkness like those long dead.

Therefore my spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old,

I think about all your deeds,

I meditate on the works of your hands.

I stretch out my hands to you;

my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

Answer me quickly, O Lord;

my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me,

or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,

for in you I put my trust.

Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Save me, O Lord, from my enemies;

I have fled to you for refuge.

Teach me to do your will,

for you are my God.

Let your good spirit lead me

on a level path.

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life.

In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.

In your steadfast love cut off my enemies,

and destroy all my adversaries,

for I am your servant.

Most days, I really do not know what I want. That may seem silly or stupid to you, but it is true. I’m exactly the type of person who stands in line at McDonald’s for hours trying to decide what kind of burger to order… no I have a coping mechanism of either getting the same thing every time or defaulting to whatever seems new. In either case, I am usually not incredibly excited about what I get. Sometimes I feel like one of the purposes of my life is to figure out what I really want. I hope I find out before the end.

I have enemies. Some of them I have loved into friendships. Others have been washed away by time and circumstance. The worst of my enemies wear my own face, sleep in my bed, eat my food, and pull me down from a place that few can see. I cannot run from them. I cannot hide. I can only endure and lift up my soul when the tide rises too high.

Where the Spirit of God swoops down to catch me up…

My problems are nothing compared to King David’s. My enemies are few and powerless by comparison… but I can relate to the call for help. Notice though that David asks for more than just salvation from trouble. He asks for guidance and refuge. He ends declaring himself as God’s servant. David’s prayer was to be saved to serve.

How do you pray?

Do your prayers for help connect with a desire to serve God?

Giving your all

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Giving your all

2Kings 4:18-37

“When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.” Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.” So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.” Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.” So he rose up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and closed the door on the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left. ”

This story is not about a normal family. This is a story about gratitude, blessing, and trust.

This foreign woman gave shelter to the aging prophet Elisha and asked nothing in return. When he asked how he could bless her, she said she needed nothing. She was provided for by an aging husband and well thought of in the community. Elisha was relentless in his desire to bless her though, and noting that they were childless, he told her she would bear a son soon. I don’t know how old she was, but between her and her husband, they had given up hope for children. It sounded like false hope to her and she asked him not to taunt her with such foolish promises. Yet she did indeed bear a son.

This passage picks up the story several years later, when that miracle child suffered an unusual headache. His father brought him in to his mother and he laid there with her until he died. Many people would have been furious with grief, cursed Elisha and his God for being cruel in providing them with the blessing of a child and then taking them away so soon. That kind of reaction would be understandable. Not right, but understandable.

The Shunammite woman did not respond that way though. Instead she put the child on the bed that the prophet had slept in, packed her bags, and headed off to find Elisha. Elisha saw her coming from a distance and prepared to meet her. He intended to send his servant with his staff to go back to the boy and restore him to life. The woman was relentless though and refused to leave without Elisha himself. (In some ways this is a counter example of the faith of the centurion and also similar to the faith of this gentile woman)

The kind of faith exemplified here is not blind faith, but persistent faith. It is inspirational as well because even as the mother would not give up:
1. when her son died
2. when Elisha did not want to come back with her
3. when the boy did not awaken at the touch of the staff

So also Elisha did not give up and eventually crawled on top of the boy to warm his body and breath life into him anew. I don’t know how this worked any more than I know how any of the other biblical miracles worked. What strikes me about this passage though is the persistence of everyone in bringing this boy back to life, and the grateful trust that God would provide. There are few things that make you unclean by Old Testament Law more than crawling into bed with a corpse – which ma be why Elisha did not even want to come back into the house to begin with… but in the end, he was willing to give up his own state of spiritual cleanliness for the sake of this faimly and bringing new life to them again.

How far would you be willing to go to bless someone in need?

Who are the grateful foreign families around you that do not know God but may be waiting for you to share your life and your faith with them?