Holy Week: “Spy Wednesday”…

Two days before the Passover feast was to begin, Jesus and his disciples were at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6), where a feast had been prepared for them. A woman entered, and anointed Jesus’ head with a vial of precious oil. This oil, spikenard, was so expensive, that to purchase it would cost a year’s wages…
 …Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial” (John 12:1-7).
Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, had been present when Jesus raised her brother from the dead (See John 11). The gospel of Matthew relates that after Mary had anointed Jesus, he said to his disciples, “…’Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her’” (Matthew 26:10-13).

But Judas Iscariot, the thief, coveted the money that could have been gotten from the sale of the valuable ointment. Full of anger, he left the home of Simon, and went to the Pharisees, who had been plotting to kill Jesus, and said, “…’What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:15-16).
Listen to how the gospel of Luke tells the story:
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.  So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed (Luke 22:1-7).
Although Judas was one of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples, the greed, jealousy, and rage that filled his heart opened the door for him to become a pawn in Satan’s scheme to destroy the Son of God. We will witness the plot unfold as Holy Week continues…




All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Holy Week Continues…

Controversy continued to swirl around Jerusalem, as the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry neared completion…
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them...
John 12:20-36 ESV

The Seven “I Am” Statements in the Gospel of John: “I Am the Light of the World.”

Holy Week Begins…

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, the day on which Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that Israel's Messiah would enter Jerusalem, riding on the colt of a donkey. While the crowds cheered, "Hosanna!" there were many who still sought to kill Jesus. As he made his triumphal entry into the city, Jesus knew that all of his steps thereafter would lead him to the cross...
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
 sitting on a donkey's colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
John 12:12-19 ESV

The Seven “I Am” Statements in the Gospel of John: “I Am the Light of the World.”

Chapter 7 of John’s gospel opens in the fall, during the feast of Booths, or Tabernacles. Because the Jewish leaders were intending to kill Jesus, he went up to the feast in Jerusalem in secret (v. 10). “And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray’” (v. 12). The Pharisees were seeking to arrest Jesus, but many of the people believed in him.
The controversy continues in chapter 8, as the Pharisees attempt to trick Jesus into misinterpreting the Law by bringing him a woman who had been caught in adultery, and asking Jesus to pass judgment on her (v. 1-11). But Jesus, having demonstrated grace and shown mercy to the woman by magnifying the requirements of the Law, said to the Pharisees, “…’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (v. 12b). The Pharisees, instead of wondering what Jesus could possibly have meant by saying that he is the light of the world, accused him of lying, saying, “…You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true’” (v. 13). They were referring to Deuteronomy 19:15, which states “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”
This is interesting because, obviously, we can see that God intended this “two witnesses” rule to pertain to witnesses testifying against someone who had committed a crime. In this passage in John, the Pharisees seem to be applying this same rule to Jesus’ testimony about himself – as the light of the world. Jesus circumvents this new attempt to trick him by saying, “…’Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me’” (v.v. 14-18). By saying this, Jesus put the Pharisees in their place by declaring that it is he and the Father, and not they, who have the authority to pass judgment. In so doing, he reminded the Pharisees of God the Father’s witness about him at his baptism, as reported in Matthew 3:16-17, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” And even at this event, there were Two Witnesses who testified on Jesus’ behalf, both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Throughout John chapter 8 the Pharisees attempt to discredit Jesus, and each time, he responds to them with “I Am” statements. The first, as we said above, is in verse 12, when Jesus proclaims, “I am the light of the world.” And again, in verse 18 where he stated, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” For the third statement, Jesus said, “…’I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come’” (v 21).
As the Pharisees continued to debate, Jesus made the fourth and fifth statements, “He said to them, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world’” (v. 23). He continued with the sixth statement, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he [the Son of God] you will die in your sins.” And finally, statement seven, “So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me’” (v. 28).
Therefore, in these seven “I Am” statements in John chapter 8, Jesus established his heavenly “credentials” by proclaiming that he is:
  • The Light of the World.
  • The Perfect Witness, along with the Father.
  • going away to a place where those who die in their sins cannot find him.
  • from above.
  • not of this world.
  • The Son of God.
  • The Lamb of God who was sacrificed for our sins, i.e., The Son of Man.
Here in this one chapter, through these declarations, Jesus stated who he is and the purpose of his mission on earth.

Although the Jews surrounding Jesus as he preached in the Temple could not understand these things, the scripture reports that many believed in him: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (v.v. 31-32).
But they still could not understand, and “They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?’
 Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (v.v. 33-36).
And yet, the Jews were offended by Jesus’ offer of freedom, and accusing him once again of overinflating his importance, they cried out in anger, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” (v. 53). To which Jesus replied, “’Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, ‘I am’” (v.v. 56-58).
This may be Jesus’ most profound “I Am” statement. In it, he referenced God’s instructions to Moses, when he spoke to him from the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-15, “Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’”
Throughout John 8, Jesus insisted on defining who he was for the people of Israel. His final “I Am” statement in this chapter made it clear that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the Great I AM.
But his final statement threw the Jews into a frenzy. The last verse of John 8 reports that “…they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (v. 50).

And yet, John 9 begins with another, quite different, encounter: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing” (v.v. 1-7).
In John 8, Jesus revealed himself to the Jews through seven “I Am” statements, concluding with the resounding proclamation in verse 58, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” But instead of turning to Jesus, they took up stones with which to kill him. And yet, in the very next chapter, only one man, a beggar who had been blind from birth, recognized Jesus as The Light of the World, and came back seeing.
As the great English biblical scholar Matthew Henry claimed, and as so many who are blinded by sin demonstrate, “There are none so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see.”





All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Repost: How to Build Faith in Times of Crisis.

This repost is dedicated to my friends Deborah, Donna, and Bobbie Anne with all of God's blessings and much love.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him to increase their faith, he answered, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:5-6).
A lot has been said about these verses, but when we simply read them as they were written, we can see that Jesus was telling his students that their problem was not that their faith was too small. They asked, “Make our faith bigger!” and Jesus answered, “What you need is not bigger faith.”
Beloved Friends, it is not that we do not have enough faith to see us through in times of crisis. The truth is, we have more than enough faith. We have lots and lots and lots of it, and we use it all the time! The problem is not that we do not have enough faith. The problem is in where we are placing it!
Psalm 118 instructs us that “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (v.v. 8-9).
Did you know that when we worry, we are exercising our faith? This is true because when we worry, we are placing our faith in something or someone other than Almighty God. When we worry, we are placing our faith in our own strength - or in money, our job, our doctors, our leaders, or even our friends and family. And it can be especially frightening to place our faith in something we heard on the news or social media.
Worry is not faith-less. Worry is investing our faith in the wrong place.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust  in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!...The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together” (31:1,3).
 Uh oh! That does not sound like a very good outcome for the one who puts their trust in the mortal world and all its trappings, instead of in God!
In the book of 2 Kings chapter 6:1-22, the prophet Elisha and his servant woke up early one morning to discover that during the night the city where they had been staying was surrounded by a hostile army. Confronted by the intimidating array of warriors, horses, and chariots, the servant was very distressed, and he ran to Elisha, crying “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” But Elisha replied, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened so that he could see that the power of God was with them. The scripture relates that “…the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of [God’s] horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Then the prophet prayed that God would strike the surrounding army with blindness, which the Lord did. This allowed Elisha to lead the army into the hands of the king of Israel, instructing him to exercise mercy with his enemies, and this detente eventually led to peace between Israel and Syria.
The prophet Elisha did not place his faith in what he saw with his earthly eyes, or even in the fears of the people around him. He placed his faith in God and what he perceived with his spiritual eyes, because he knew that no matter what it looked like on the outside, God had a plan.

Notice, too, that Elisha did not stand idly by, waiting for God’s plan to reveal itself. Instead, he took an active part through prayer in the furtherance of God’s will for the nation. Even though Elisha did not depend on his own power, he knew that because he had developed an intimate relationship with God, he was not powerless. Elisha knew that his ability to face down the crisis was founded on the power of prayer through his faith in Almighty God.
In the New Testament, just before the crucifixion, Jesus prepared his disciples to face the most difficult crisis of their lives by saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus was reminding them that they were responsible for the condition of their hearts, and that if their hearts became troubled, the remedy was to place their belief – their faith and trust – in the Son of God.
Psalm 146 sums this up beautifully, giving us relief from the burden of worry by illustrating where to place our faith:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in princes,
 in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
 on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
 who made heaven and earth,
 the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
 he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
 but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
 your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!