Day 4 – Humility in the Anointing and Betrayal

Mark 14:3-11 ESV

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly,“Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

 

Humility in the Anointing and Betrayal

In Philippians 2:3, Paul charges the church to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (ESV). Mark 14:3-11 juxtaposes the anointing of Jesus with the betrayal of Jesus, revealing where each of these divergent attitudes of selfish ambition and humility ultimately lead. 

In John’s account of this same story, we discover that the woman who anointed Jesus was Mary, the sister of the recently resurrected Lazarus (John 12:1-8). The alabaster flask of ointment that Mary poured over Jesus’s head was worth almost a year’s salary of an ordinary palastinian day laborer, and it was probably the most valuable thing that she owned. She had very recently witnessed Jesus call her dead brother back to life. So, in her eyes the price of the ointment compared with the gift of Lazarus’s resurrection wasn’t even close. Her desire was to give Jesus the very best thing she had in order to honor Him and express her gratitude and praise. Jesus said it was a beautiful thing that she had done. 

It was Judas who scolded Mary for wasting such an expense on Jesus, claiming that it should have been sold and given to the poor (John 12:4-5). John wrote that Judas was in charge of the disciple’s money and would often steal it for himself (John 12:6). Of course, it was also Judas who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, which we know he didn’t give to the poor because he later returned it before his suicide (Matt. 27:3-5). It is not hard to see that the desires of Judas’s heart were greedy and that he used Jesus to feed his selfish ambitions. 

C.S. Lewis wrote that, “you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” I’d only change John’s name to Mary. Mary glorified Jesus by humbly gifting Him with her very best, and Jesus said she would be remembered for it always. Judas glorified Jesus by betraying Him, which led Jesus to the cross to die for the sake of the world while Judas took his own life in self hatred. 

It can be easy for me to go through the motions of acting like a disciple of Jesus who humbly cares for others as long as things go according to my plans. It’s easy to buy food to distribute to the poor or show up to a church service to worship and pray with others. However, when I’m caught off guard and somebody needs the money, food, or time that I intended for myself, that is when my heart’s treasure is truly revealed. Do I really count others as more significant than myself, or am I using Jesus and His people for my own benefit? What reveals your heart’s true treasure? 

The humility of Jesus is displayed in His being a better treasure than we could gain for ourselves. Jesus accepted Mary’s gift as an anointing and then poured Himself out for her on the cross. Jesus let Judas choose to treasure a few coins over Him so that all who had betrayed Him could be reconciled to God. Jesus counted others more significant than Himself even when the favor wasn’t returned, and for those who humbly accept His gift there is life abundant found in Him. 

 

Prayerfully consider these few questions:

  1. Has life interrupted by a quarantine revealed anything about what or who your heart truly treasures?
  2. How has Jesus proved to be worth more than anything else? 
  3. How would life be different for you if you consistently counted others as more significant than yourself? What would be lost and what would be gained?

Day 3 – Humility in Cursing of the Fig Tree

Matthew 21:18-22 ESV

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and  do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

 

Humility in Cursing of the Fig Tree

Jesus told a parable concerning a fig tree that didn’t yield fruit in Luke 13:6-9. Seeing the fruitless fig tree, the man who planted it told the vinedresser to cut it down because it was worthless. The parable ends with the vinedresser’s request that the tree, having just been fertilized, be given one more year.

This is the story of Israel’s relationship to God and their covenant purpose of making Him known in all the earth. They were given every provision and every reason to trust God, but time and again they were unfaithful and sought their own sources of power, wealth, and prosperity. After Jesus cleansed the temple, it was clear that things hadn’t changed. The temple was busy, but the worship there was fruitless; it didn’t make God known to others. So, when Jesus cursed the fig tree He was undoubtedly making a statement about the continued unfruitfulness and coming judgment of the temple.

Jesus was hungry and wanted something to eat, but the fig tree yielded no fruit. We can assume that Jesus could have easily made the tree bear fruit to satisfy His hunger, but instead Jesus cursed the tree and taught His disciples about a faith that can move mountains. Through His actions Jesus not only made a statement about Jerusalem and the temple, He pointed to the better fruit of a humble faith in God. 

It occurs to me that we are more often found quickly thanking God for our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11) than praying that He provides it. Is that because we’re proud and would rather leave the providing to ourselves? In a crisis, are you quick to yank the reins of your life from the hands of God in an effort to make things manageable again? In those moments when we are quick to skip the prayers, get out our planners, make a list, and start checking some boxes, the reality of where our faith lies is often revealed.

The humility of Jesus demonstrates a better faith that relies fully on God and seeks His glory above all else, in every circumstance. Paul says in Philippians 2:6 that Jesus, “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (ESV). This is the humble faith that led Jesus to endure the cross in submission to the will of the Father. The good news is that because of the humble faithfulness of Jesus, instead of us bearing the curse of the fig we’ve been granted full access to call on the God who moves mountains and conquers death. 

 

Prayerfully consider these few questions:

  1. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 21:22, “whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” How does that challenge you? 
  2. In a time of crisis, what is revealed about where you place your faith? In what ways do you trust yourself over trusting God?
  3. What is the better fruit that is yielded by humbly trusting in Jesus over yourself? How can you remember that for daily living?

Day 1 – Humility in the Triumphal Entry

Luke 19:29-40 ESV

When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying,“Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (ESV).

 

Humility in the Triumphal Entry

As Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on the back of a colt the crowds laid their cloaks and palm branches (John 12:13) along the road to prepare the way before Him. They sang His praises and hailed Him as God’s promised eternal King. In ancient times, a king would often ride a donkey as a sign of the peace they had achieved. After all, a horse and chariot were no longer needed when a king had won all his battles and there were no remaining threats. 

Jesus was doing more than fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9) when He entered the city on a donkey. He was very intentionally announcing the establishment of God’s kingdom of peace and His identity as the long awaited King. The Pharisees, observing all of this, urged Jesus to silence the people’s praises, but He refused. Where is the humility of Jesus?

The Pharisees were well aware of the significance of the claims that were being made about Jesus’s Kingship, and they called on Jesus to show some humility by refusing to accept such praises. However, their request was a guise. John’s account of this same story says that “the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him’” (John 12:19, ESV). What they wanted more than Jesus’s humility was the support and allegiance of the people for their own gain and political agenda, and this whole scene was threatening to their own sway over the crowds.

Whatever Jesus’s  followers celebrated and understood about Jesus’s announcement, they certainly didn’t expect what would transpire over the next week. They had no idea that they would praise Him as King on that day only to deny Him, reject Him, and call for His execution within days. They were enamoured by His miracles, the moment, and the prospect that their plight as a lowly people under Roman rule might soon change. Like the Pharisees, they were out for themselves, and when Jesus was taken into custody later in the week they would shift their allegiance to whoever gave them more confidence in the moment about their future well being.

We can easily mistake confidence for pride and power. So often political leaders, business executives, and even pastors and other religious leaders rouse the praises of the people but turn out to be nothing more than prideful and arrogant, ultimately exploiting their sway of the people for their own selfish gain. Jesus is different. 

Jesus didn’t come to gain power, He is all powerful. Paul says in Philippians 2:7-8 that Jesus, who is God, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (ESV). Jesus came to lay His life down for the people in the crowd, for the Pharisees, and for all who were going to mock Him and attempt to rob Him of His kingship. He would give His life to forgive them knowing they didn’t have a clue, knowing they were captive to sin and idolatry, and knowing they were ultimately robbing themselves and others of knowing true peace and joy. Jesus would die on a cross within the week so that they could finally have peace with God. This is the humility of Jesus. 

The humility of Jesus bears better confidence than the pride and arrogance of this world. Only Jesus, who is God incarnate, could rightly and humbly ride through that crowd with confidence. When Jesus refused to silence the crowds He knew that to deny their praises and proclamations would be to deny the truth. Jesus knew what nobody else knew; the price He would pay within a week to establish peace with God on their behalf. He would confidently give away everything for the sake of the world, knowing that everything that He is would remain for eternity. 

 

Prayerfully consider these few questions:

  1. What are you afraid to lose or let go of that keeps you from confidently and humbly living like Jesus? Any selfish ambition, material possession, or personal relationship? 
  2. Jesus’s humility is rooted in a confidence that He can lose everything and still have everything. How has He made that true for you also?
  3. The humble confidence of Jesus is yours as an heir with Christ (Phil 2:5, Rom. 8:17). If your heart could grasp that and believe it, how would you live differently?

 

Lent 2018

In his book A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, John Piper writes; “As Jesus teaches it, fasting is an intensely Godward act. Do it toward God, who sees when others don’t.”

Lent begins this Wednesday, February 14th. Traditionally, Lent is a 40 day period of fasting, prayer, and devotion as we remember our own brokenness and God’s work of redemption through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

At Redemption Church, we aren’t looking to establish a bunch of rules and regulations about how to observe Lent, but we are inviting you to enter into this season together prayerfully and “toward God.” 

HERE ARE A FEW RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:

Hearing the Voice of God: A Lenten Art Show  Scott Erickson

In the windows of The Doris Building this season you can find Scott Erickson’s newest art show meant to help you engage in the season of Lent. 

On Saturday, March 17th, Scott will be performing his one man show We Are Not Troubled Guests live at the Doris Building. Tickets available here. Scott will also be sharing more on the subject of prayer at Redemption Church on Sunday, March 18th at 10:45am. Don’t miss it!

Prayer: Forty Days of Practice  Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson

This is a beautiful guided prayer resource from Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson. Find out more about it on their website. 

Living Through Dying: A Six Week Community Guide Through Lent Brad Watson

In Living Through Dying you will read the Psalms, discuss the themes of Lent, and practice the spiritual disciplines of fasting, confession, praise, and lament as a community. Each week your community will be looking to Jesus, looking inwardly at his or her own heart, and looking outwardly in what it means to live in light of the gospel. This is an opportunity to re-center your community on the gospel of Jesus.

God is on the Cross: Reflections on Lent and EasterDietrich Bonhoeffer

These forty stirring devotions will guide and inspire readers as they move thematically through the weeks of Lent and Easter, encountering themes of prayerful reflection, self-denial, temptation, suffering, and the meaning of the cross. Passages from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and sermons provide special encouragement as readers prepare themselves spiritually for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Supplemented by an informative introduction to Bonhoeffer’s life and a Scripture passage for each day of the season, these daily devotions are moving reminders of the true gift of Christ on the cross.”

Lenten Devotionals Redeemer Presbyterian Church

“In 2011 Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York published 40 Lenten Devotions written by a variety of authors including Kathy Keller. Due to popular demand over successive years, RPC have continued to make the devotions available to help their people ‘prepare their hearts for Easter.”

This devotional material is also available through the You Version Bible app.

 

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

The artistry that The Gospel According to Matthew was written with continues to amaze me. This book isn’t just some guy’s feeble attempt to record the things that he saw. No, Matthew wasn’t a hack writer. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, and by actually walking with Jesus and learning from His brilliance, Matthew put together a masterpiece that, like any truly great story, instills perspective and sparks insight; always pointing us to the true Christ.

Coming out of the Advent season and Christmas, when we celebrated the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, we now turn our eyes very purposefully toward Jerusalem, the cross, and the resurrection of Christ our King. Matthew’s Gospel leads us well in that direction. Therefore, we will be keeping pace with the story in Matthew as we are led through the seasons of Lent, the Passion of Christ, and Resurrection Sunday.  

In our current series, Revealing Christ, we are taking a closer look at Matthew 15:29 – 17:23, where Peter confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of God,” and Peter, James, and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.  This coming Sunday we will encounter the first of three times when Jesus foretold both His death and resurrection to His disciples, and it is to these three occasions that I’d like to look forward to for a moment.

3 Times Jesus Foretold His Death & Resurrection

We come across the first foretelling in Matthew 16:21 (ESV) where it says:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21 ESV)

Matthew sets this passage apart by introducing it with the phrase “From that time.” You may remember the use of this phrase earlier in the book when Matthew uses it to emphasize the beginning and direction of Jesus’ ministry, citing His core message; “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17 ESV). Likewise, Matthew uses the phrase here to draw our attention to the direction Jesus’ ministry is now headed.

Just before this passage Jesus asked His disciples who people were saying He was. When Jesus pushed further and asks who the disciples believed He was, Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 16:16 ESV).

It was right after that confession that Jesus let the disciples in on the rest of the plan and what it really meant for Him to be the Christ.  This foretelling of His own death and resurrection served to help them see Him as Christ rightly, because to confess Him as Christ and deny Him the cross would be to have misguided expectations.

Peter, of course, rebuked Jesus saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22 ESV). It’s a stunning turn of conversation really, and I can totally relate to Peter’s reaction. I can’t help but think of the scene in Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Susan and Lucy walk with Aslan through the woods in the night, holding his mane and falling in love with him, only to find that they were walking with him to the Stone Table. That place where they later watched from afar as the White Witch and her army tortured and killed him. Of course Peter and the disciples would be devastated by the news that Jesus delivered. Nevertheless, Jesus turned their eyes toward the cross so that they could begin to understand what it truly meant for Him to be who they said they believed He was.

There is good news beyond the death of Jesus, although it seemingly went unnoticed by Peter, and it is that Jesus would be raised from the dead. A cross that killed Jesus and was the end of the story would have rendered Jesus to not be the Christ at all. Whereas, death defeated reveals Him to be the true and better King; the suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah.

Matthew intentionally tells the rest of the story under the shadow of the cross of Christ, which of course is cast by the light of His glorious resurrection. We not only read the recorded exchange between Jesus and His disciples, but as we read the story our eyes too are turned toward the cross and resurrection. Matthew engages us in the story so that we can make the confession along with Peter, that Jesus is the Christ, as our attention turns toward the acts of Jesus that have made that a reality for us.

A second time, in Matthew 17, Jesus foretold of His own death and resurrection. Certainly, Matthew could have left this out, especially after writing the sort of blanket statement of “From this time on” in the first scene. However, Matthew goes on to tell of two more scenes when Jesus revealed these things to His disciples. These stories act to pull the audience in so that we can feel the momentum building as the story begins to roll more directly towards the cross.

In this second instance, a few of the disciples had actually just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus and heard the voice of the Father saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5 ESV). This foretelling in its context reveals, at the least, the motivation of Jesus to live and die in total submission to His Father’s will, trusting that His purposes and mission are best. This is accented to some extent by the scene between the transfiguration and this foretelling where Jesus presses in on the disciples “little faith.”

Notice, there was no rebuttal this time, only distress, and as Matthew’s story transitions immediately to a new scene after this passage we should feel the weight of the necessary pause at the end of this passage in Matthew 17:22-23 (ESV):

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

Lastly, the drama of this ultimate of redemption stories is heightened with the third occasion of Jesus’ foretelling of His death and resurrection. It is found in Matthew 20:17-19 (ESV) and reads:

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Jesus and His disciples have left Galilee and hit the road toward Jerusalem. So far, concerning these foretellings, there hadn’t been a real timeline put forth or much in the way of details. Jesus hadn’t told them the when or where of His death and resurrection, just that it was coming, that it was necessary, and that He was devoted to the mission. Here, Jesus let them in on the where and roughly the when. The time for these events would be near when they reached their destination, Jerusalem, to which they were already on their way.

To add fuel to the fire, Jesus also revealed other details. In part, this demonstration of His foreknowledge says mounds about His divinity, and Matthew is certainly illustrating that for his audience. However, Jesus wasn’t just showboating His God skills here, He was giving His disciples insight into the reality that was about to take place. Not only would Jesus be betrayed and killed, but it would be ugly, and there would be beating, blood, and a crucifixion.

To be honest, I don’t know how you keep your feet moving toward Jerusalem at the hearing of such shocking news. No half-hearted belief would do. You’d have to truly believe that Jesus is who He said He is, that His is the only way to true life, and that it is absolutely worth pushing through the mess to get enjoy the beauty.

Moving Forward Together

When we reach this third passage at Redemption Church, as we make our way through Matthew, we will be beginning to observe Lent together. We don’t usually do a lot in the way of observing Lent here, but as Advent is to Christmas so Lent is to the Passion of Christ and Resurrection Sunday. It is a time of preparation, and we will be encouraging us all to walk through that season with some intentionality; knowing that at the end of the road there is a bloody cross and our Saviour, who rose from the grave and is God with us.

It is my hope that as we spend a few weeks between Christmas and Lent, these few passages will help draw our gaze intently toward the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. As we see Jesus more clearly as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, may we see that for any of that to be true He had to go the way of the cross.

As we seek Christ together we will surely hear His call for us to follow Him, to submit everything, to take up our cross and come and die. May we prepare ourselves on purpose then to answer the call for His glory and our joy as we find that there is plentiful grace and redemption for us all as we lean into the brokenness and mess that lies before us.

Unwrapping God’s Presence: 3 Implications of Christ’s Incarnation

A Christmas Story is my favorite holiday movie. In the movie, Ralphie Parker is in eager pursuit of acquiring his “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” After numerous mishaps, warnings, and let-downs, Ralphie’s father surprises him with the gift on Christmas morning. This nostalgic film evokes memories for me of when I received my first Red Ryder BB gun (and when I gifted a Red Ryder to my own son just last year…thankfully, no eyes have been shot out!)

The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year to wax nostalgic, connect with loved ones, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Often in the melee we find ourselves clumsily scrambling to unwrap the meaning, like Ralph in his pursuit of a bb gun. However, Advent graces us with the opportunity to dwell on the implications of Christ’s incarnation.

Throughout biblical history, God’s people anticipated the coming of the Christ. Numerous Old Testament prophets wrote expectantly foretelling his birth. The prophet writes in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This prophecy first refers to the birth of the prophet Isaiah’s own son Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz (whose name means “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens”) as a sign of God’s presence with His people during their military and political crisis a few hundred years before the time of Christ.

This prophecy also refers to the birth of Jesus, as the gospel writer affirms in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew wrote his gospel just a few decades after the life of Jesus during a time of continue political oppression and religious expectation.

This “double fulfillment” affirms that God is true to His word and also tells us something of the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God with us, God dwelling with His people. There are several implications of this good news for us today.

3 Implications of Christ’s Incarnation

First, God relates by His presence. Jesus is how we know God the Father (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2-3). Not only did God dwell with His people as Jesus the incarnate Christ, God continues to dwell with His people (Matt. 28:20; 2 Cor. 13:14). This good news defeats our loneliness and isolation and causes us to live with great joy with God and others (Psalm 16:11).

Second, God saves us by His presence. The name Jesus means “the Lord saves” (Matt. 1:21). God does not rescue His people by some outside, detached means. Rather, the Lord Himself personally rescues His people (Isa. 41:10; John 3:16-17). The good news defeats our fears and doubts and causes us to live in faith.

Third, God empowers us with His presence. The spread of the gospel and the good deeds of the saints is empowered by the Holy Spirit dwelling in and with God’s people. (1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13-14). This good news defeats our inaction and indifference and fuels our obedience to live godly lives in service to others.

What is the state of your heart this Christmas season. Do you believe the good news of the presence of God with us? Are you responding in joy and repentance, in worship and obedience, in faith and action?

May this good news of Advent give us joyful faith, intimate hope, and bold obedience; for His glory, our joy, and the advancement of the gospel.