Category: John

easter-sunday-social-media-promoOver the past 6 weeks, we have been talking about spiritual disciplines; what they are and how we can infuse them in our lives. We talked about prayer, study, simplicity, solitude, meditation, confession, and now, celebration.

Let me keep this one really simple. Celebration is a gift to us so that we may laugh, sing, shout, and have a great time. There is nothing wrong with Christians having a good time, in fact, because of this day, and our relationship with Jesus Christ, we should be the group of people with the most to celebrate. So, when we join together on Easter morning and sing these familiar hymns, my spirit is lifted, and I hope yours is too. But some of us today may be wondering, how can this be true? This is such an unbelievable story. How can it all be true? Did this really happen?

Thomas Jefferson, a great man, nevertheless could not accept the miraculous elements to scripture. He actually edited his own special version of the Bible in which all references to the supernatural were deleted. He actually cut them out of his book! When he was done editing the Gospels, he confined himself solely to the moral teachings of Jesus. The closing words of Jefferson’s Bible are these; “There they laid Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” That’s it! Thank God that is not the way the story truly ends!

I wonder if there are some of you, who like Thomas Jefferson, find it hard to believe in the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection, or maybe even the existence of this man from so long ago. I guess I could understand this if we only had the Bible to reference. I mean, if all we had was this book, how could we be so sure of the validity of what is found inside?

Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian from the first century, who was also known to defend the Romans, wrote “Antiquities,” a multi-volume collection which mentions Jesus Christ’s existence.

Tacitus, a senator and historian from the Roman Empire also wrote that Jesus existed and that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He also wrote something else about the followers of Jesus. He said that this group of believers would rather die than recant their claims. There were the early Christian martyrs. Why, if they had not seen with their own eyes, would they want to lay down their life, endure the torture, humiliation, and ultimately death, if this wasn’t true?

Other first century writers, called the Apostolic Fathers, attested to Jesus’ presence. In fact, as far as I’m aware, there is no archaeological evidence that disputes the gospel accounts. Not just in speaking of Jesus’ existence, but more so by the stories that are told, science can depend on locations, artifacts, and happenings that are named in the gospels.

Lee Strobel, during his research for evidence of Jesus Christ, interviewed Edwin Yamauchi from Miami University, one of the country’s leading experts in ancient history. This is what he told Strobel about the evidence that we have, even without scripture.

“We would know that first, Jesus was a Jewish teacher; second, many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; third, some people believed he was the Messiah; fourth, he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; fifth, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; sixth, despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by A.D. 64; and seventh, all kinds of people from the cities and countryside – men and women, slave – and free, worshiped him as God.”

All of this without the Bible! The evidence is overwhelming!

So, what does this mean for you? I know what it means to me…it’s true! It’s all true! He is risen, He’s alive!

I said at the beginning, that this could be an unbelievable story. It’s a story that some would only say could come out of Hollywood or a bestselling author. But it is the story told by the Author of life, the creator of the cosmos. Paul writes that the cross is foolishness to those who don’t believe. It doesn’t make sense to them, but it does to us. To us it is the power of God, the salvation of God, and the promise of the everlasting.

Extravagant Love

Extravagant-LoveMy meditation today comes from John 12, verses 1-8. It is the story of Mary washing Jesus’ feet with expensive oil, raising the awareness of Judas and so many others around her.

It is here that we find a few examples of how we can show extravagant love to the world around us. It’s not the love that we are used to seeing. Mary demonstrates love through three attributes, extravagance, humility, and unselfconsciousness.

Extravagance. Judas points this out as he explains how much this pound of ointment would have cost. 300 denarii! But what would 300 denarii translate into? For Mary, it would have been about a year’s worth of wages. That’s an expensive jar of ointment, and using it for the anointed of someone’s feet certainly could be called extravagant. But that’s the love she had for Jesus Christ.

Think about it this way. When someone goes out to buy an engagement ring for his fiancé, what is the standard, or “rule of thumb” measurement to gauge how much one spends on a ring? I know it’s been a while for me, but I think it is somewhere between 3-6 months wages, not that you have to either spend that much or limit it to that much. But that’s what I have heard. Normally, that would buy a very nice ring, and it would be something your fiancé would wear every day. This ointment cost a full year’s wages, and after it was applied during the anointing, it was gone. No residual value, no selling it back, it’s gone.

This is love’s extravagance. Mary took the most valuable and precious thing that she owned and spent it all, all of it, on Jesus. Love does not count the cost, it sacrifices. Love gives all it has for the sake of others. In fact, someone once said, “Loves only regret, is that it has nothing more to give.”

But Mary didn’t just show extravagant love, she also showed humble love. She used this extravagant gift of oil, not to anoint the head of Jesus, but to anoint his feet. This was the sign of a servant. When people arrived as a guest for dinner in those days, a servant would offer to wash the feet of the guest. We find this in Luke’s account of this story.

In Luke 7 we find Jesus telling Simon, the owner of the house that his servants did not wash his feet with water, but Mary is washing them with her tears. Jesus said that he was not greeted with the customary kiss, but Mary has not stopped kissing his feet. Jesus also said that Simon did not anoint his head with oil, as was the custom, but Mary has anointed his feet with this expensive oil.

Mary has taken the role of a servant, she has truly taken what Jesus has taught and put it into practice. She is loving humbly.

Finally, Mary is giving unselfconsciously. There is a scene in a movie called “Hope Floats” where Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr’s characters are dancing. Part way through the dance, which happens to be on a crowded dance floor, the camera pans around them to reveal, they are the only couple on the floor. It shows how when they love so deeply, the world seems to fade away. They don’t care what anyone else thinks.

Well, in order to wash and anoint the feet of Jesus, Mary needs a cloth or towel of some kind. But she has none. What she does have is her hair. Now you need to understand something from this time.

If a woman was seen in public with her hair down, she was thought of as immoral, sinful, a temptress. This was scandalous! But Mary didn’t care. She didn’t care what others thought of her, Mary seized the moment, she didn’t let this opportunity pass her by, even as uncomfortable as it was, she took it and showed Jesus and the rest who were there how to love.

Mary expressed her love for Jesus Christ in a very extravagant, humble, and unselfconscious manner. I hope that we too, can show our love of Jesus Christ the same way. I hope that we can give all we have to him, serve him in every way, and not be worried about what others think of us. We love because he first loved us.