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Archive for April, 2014

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. (Luke 8:1-3)

Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. (Matthew 27:55).

 

Jesus’ disciples all left their normal jobs in order to follow Him. This means that they also left their means of financial support. Do you ever wonder where Jesus and the disciples got their meals? Who washed their robes for them? Who nursed the disciples if they got sick? Where did they get the money to get necessary items for themselves?

women follow JesusThere were women who kept track of the travels of Jesus and the apostles. In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels we learn that there were many women. They provided the money out of their own resources for food and other necessities for the men. They did not necessarily do the cooking and washing themselves; Luke does not say that. He merely says that they provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their own private means. There were probably other women who contributed to Jesus’ ministry by bringing food or clothing or offering their homes as a place of rest. Of course, many others probably contributed to Jesus’ support, but the money provided by these three women in our story was a great help. Luke singles them out as examples for us.

It seems that the leader of the group of women who served the Lord in this fashion was Mary Magdalene. We have already talked about Mary (See posting 2/25/14). We know that Jesus cast seven demons out of her. She must have been very grateful. She was willing to commit her whole life to following Jesus. Mary was at the cross when Jesus was crucified and she was first to see Jesus at His resurrection.

Mary was not a loner. She is mentioned many times in the Gospels and usually she is with other women. In most of the passages she is mentioned first, so we know that she was the leader and was outgoing and not shy about her commitment to Christ. History has castigated Mary Magdalene, making her out to be nothing but a prostitute. I am not sure why, but they are very wrong. They have done her a great injustice. Women would do well to emulate Mary. Jesus allowed Mary to be the first to see Him after He rose from the dead.

When most of the men fled after Jesus’ arrest and trial, the women stayed with Him. They did not fear the threat by the Jewish authorities to cast them out of the synagogue. They openly identified with Jesus and remained faithful to Him to the end.

Many women helped with the care of Jesus and the disciples, but we are given a few details about two besides Mary Magdalene.

Joanna was the wife of Chuza who was the house-steward of Herod the Tetrarch. Herod was an enemy of Jesus. Herod would later persecute Christians, imprisoning some and executing others. How did this woman become a follower of Jesus? We’re not told but it is an amazing story. We do not know if her husband became a follower of Jesus or not. As house steward, Chuza would have been in charge of Herod’s household and the business affairs of Herod’s estate.

It might seem that Joanna is special because she was connected to Herod’s court. Actually, to the Jews this would have aroused suspicion and distrust. Joanna’s presence would not necessarily raise the status of the group around Jesus. Joanna would likely be treated as an outsider. This story is another example of how Jesus accepted the marginalized persons in society. He accepted Joanna because she loved Him. Jesus knew that Herod had put John the Baptist to death. Herod was an enemy. But that did not mean that Joanna agreed with everything Herod did. It may have been hard on her relationship with her husband who had to work for Herod. In any event, Joanna bravely followed Jesus. Jesus was kind and good to women no matter what their background was.

Joanna is listed with Mary Magdalene and Susanna as one who was healed either of demon possession or some women at the tombillness. Like Mary she pledged her time and her money to Jesus. Later Joanna is also mentioned as one of the women who went to the tomb to prepare Jesus for burial. She would also be one of the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and part of the group of women who ran to tell the apostles that Christ had risen from the dead.

The third woman mentioned in our passage is Susanna. We are not told much about her other than that she was healed of evil spirits or sickness. Like the others, Susanna was so grateful for her healing that she joyfully ministered to Jesus and the disciples using her own resources for their support.

These women helped to spread the good news of the Gospel. Luke tells us that the women were with Jesus as He went about preaching. This means that they were included as disciples as well. The women would be hearing Jesus preach many times and would be well able to take the good news of the Gospel back home to relatives and friends.

There are many ways for us to serve Jesus. We can follow Jesus by giving to the poor when we can. If we do not have monetary means, we can volunteer at a local food back or church relief group. The women in our story have led the way. Let’s follow their example! The important thing is to be grateful for our salvation and willing to show our thankfulness by loving Jesus and loving others.

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Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. … And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. (Matthew 27:56, 61)

Our posts this week are about two special mothers – they were the mothers of some of Jesus’ apostles. One was Mary, the mother of James the less and Joseph. The other is Salome.

There are six famous Mary’s in the New Testament. It was a popular name mentioned fifty-one times in the New Testament. In the Gospels there are Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary of Bethany; Mary Magdalene; and Mary the mother of James and Joseph. In the book of Acts there is Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12), and there is Mary of Rome (Romans 16:6).

We do not know a lot about Mary the mother of James and Joseph. We do know that she was a faithful follower of Jesus, serving Him for His entire ministry on earth.

Mary was the wife of Clopas. There is some speculation as to whether or not she was also Jesus’ aunt. That is because in John’s Gospel at the crucifixion there is a little ambiguity about the women who are named that were present at the cross.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of women at the crossClopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25) Were there three or four women at the cross? Scholars have not come to an agreement. It is possible to interpret the verse in such a way that Jesus’ mother’s sister was Mary the wife of Clopas. If that is true then James and Joseph were Jesus’ cousins. However many scholars say that it is unlikely that two sisters in the same family would be named Mary.

Another possibility is that the two Mary’s were sister’s-in-law. Early church father Eusebius recorded that Clopas was the brother of Joseph, husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. That would make Mary, wife of Clopas a sister-in-law of Jesus’ mother Mary, and James the Less a cousin of Jesus. Well, we will have to wait until we get to heaven to find out if these two disciples of Jesus, James and Joseph, were His cousins or not.

One thing that all agree on was that Mary was a wonderful mother. She raised two sons who served Jesus. James, also called “the less” was one of the twelve apostles. He is not called “the less” because he wasn’t a great apostle, but because he was younger than the other apostle James. The elder James is mentioned with Peter and John as one of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples (“Peter, James, and John”). This other James was the brother of John and the son of Salome, whose story is told later in this post. The elder James would go on to become the head of the Church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15). Both James’s would be martyred. James, son of Zebedee would be beheaded in Jerusalem. James, Mary’s son would be thrown from a pinnacle then beaten to death around 60 A.D.

Mary was one of a group of women who kept track of Jesus’ travels and ministered to His needs whenever they could. The women provided food, shelter, laundering, and even money so that Jesus and the disciples could travel freely preaching the Gospel. Jesus’ twelve disciples left their jobs in order to join Christ in His ministry. It was the usual custom in those times for wealthy women to make contributions to the Rabbis and their students. Jewish rabbis were responsible to feed and house their students. Of course, one of the twelve disciples that Mary was giving support to was her own son, James. We do not hear any more about the other son, Joseph, but indications are that he too was a close follower of Jesus.

Mary the wife of Clopas was so committed to Jesus that she not only helped support Him during His ministry, but she stayed until the crucifixion and the burial and the resurrection. Mary was with Mary Magdalene and Salome who all brought spices to the tomb so that they might anoint the body of Jesus. Mary went with the others to tell the disciples the wonderful news that Jesus was risen from the dead.

What an example Mary was for her sons, one of which would be faithful unto martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel.

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” (Matthew 20:20-23)

Like Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Salome had known Jesus since the beginning of His ministry if not earlier. Like Mary she would follow Jesus faithfully through Jesus’ entire time on earth. She too would be at the cross and at the tomb.

She and her husband Zebedee and their family lived in Capernaum. Peter was also from there. Jesus spent a lot of time there. It was near Nazareth where He grew up. Jesus probably ate at Salome’s home many times. Salome was one of the group of women that contributed to the support of Jesus and His apostles. Like Mary, she had her sons to think of. Unlike Mary who seemed to be quiet if not shy, Salome tried to use her influence with Jesus to gain a special place of recognition for her sons.

Jesus Meeting Mother of James and JohnNear the end of Jesus time on earth, very near to the final Passover when Jesus would be arrested and tried and crucified, Salome came to Jesus and made a request that her sons would rule with Him.

We wonder what Salome could have been thinking of to put her sons forward like that. When the other apostles heard it they “became indignant with the two brothers” (Matthew 20:24). Why did they become indignant with the brothers? Why were they not angry with their mother, Salome?

We have two clues for an answer. Notice that Jesus addressed James and John and not Salome when He answered. He asked them if they were able to drink of the same cup as He would. Then, the disciples were indignant with the brothers, not their mother. Is it possible that the brothers had put their mother up to this and that Jesus and the disciples knew it? The disciples had certainly built up a long relationship of love and trust with this woman over the years.

The other thing to consider is the character of Salome herself. She was faithful to Jesus and His band of followers to the end. She contributed to their ministry and she was at the cross sorrowing with Jesus’ mother. She brought spices to the tomb.

This request she made of Jesus was probably out of character for her. Jesus was tender with her and directed His response to the brothers, not her.

Jesus’ answer was a good lesson for all of us. It is one that I am sure Salome understood. Jesus said, “… but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. …. just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26,28).

It is a sign of spiritual maturity to put the needs of others before our own. If we do, we will be like Jesus. May we learn from the examples of these two women who followed Christ so faithfully.

 

 

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Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. New when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”     (Luke 7:36-39)

anointing Jesus' feetOne day while having dinner at the home of Simon, a Pharisee, a woman came into the room and standing behind Jesus she bathed His feet with her tears of repentance. In order to understand how the woman could be standing behind Jesus and weeping on His feet, we must picture Him reclining on a couch with His legs outstretched. The woman was at the lower end of the couch weeping over His bare feet. Jesus’ feet were bare because that was the custom in those days. The guest was to leave his sandals outside the door when entering the house. The host was supposed to get some water and a towel and wash the dust off of his guest’s feet.

We are told that this woman was “a sinner”. The woman was very aware of the contrast between herself as a terrible sinner and the Lord Jesus as totally sinless. In the presence of the Savior she could not control her emotions and could not help weeping until His feet were very wet. She then dried His feet with her hair.

The Pharisee, Simon, was looking on with disgust while she was weeping on Jesus’ feet. Simon’s reaction probably indicates that the woman was a prostitute. The Pharisee would have considered himself unclean if the woman had touched him. According to Rabbinic rules the woman was supposed to be at least four cubits away. Simon could not understand why Jesus was allowing her to be so near to Him.

Why was Jesus invited into Simon’s home? It seems odd that the Pharisee did not even extend the courtesies to Jesus that all guests were to receive. When the other guests were arriving Simon would have embraced them, even offering the kiss of friendship that was common in the East. Slaves would have been standing by waiting to wash the road dust off of their feet and to pour sweet oil over their heads to soften their parched skin.

But Jesus was just a poor traveler. He did not receive the treatment of the other honored guests. So why was He invited? Was this Pharisee trying to determine if Jesus was the Messiah? We know from his thoughts that he was at least considering that Jesus may be a special prophet. And why did Jesus accept the invitation? Jesus wanted to show His love for all people by eating with publicans and Pharisees alike. All people, no matter what their station in life was, need the Lord Jesus.

So Jesus came. He caused Simon much consternation by allowing a prostitute to touch Him. But if Jesus was a prophet, Simon reasoned, then why didn’t He know that the woman was a sinner? Jesus knew what Simon was thinking.

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he 1replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred 1adenarii, and the other fifty. “When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you agave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. “You agave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, 1has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” And those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say 1to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:40-50)

Simon called Jesus a “Teacher”. He was so right. Jesus instructed Simon by telling him a story about two debtors. One owed the creditor a small amount and one owed the creditor a huge amount. The creditor forgave both of them. Jesus asked Simon, “So which of them will love him more?”

The Pharisee would consider himself as being the one who owed a small debt. This Pharisee was the one who served God but did not love Him. Though Jesus was offering him forgiveness he did not want it. He was too self-righteous.

The woman was the debtor who knew the depth of her sin and the immensity of a debt she could never repay. She could only beg for forgiveness. She looked to Jesus for help. She trusted in Him for forgiveness.

The woman gave Jesus the grace that Simon withheld. She washed His feet. She also kissed His feet. She gave Jesus the honor of anointing Him. Often the oil was poured over the head. In our story the woman anoints Jesus’ feet. This was considered a real luxury. Jesus told Simon that it was more valuable than what Simon would have done.

Jesus told the woman “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” The woman’s whole life was transformed! Now she could truly have real peace and joy. She would love Jesus and follow Him from then on.

Most of us have not committed this particular sin. But we have committed plenty of other sins. We can go to Jesus for forgiveness. We must be truly sorry for our sins, but He is gracious and compassionate and willing to forgive. The result of our forgiveness should be gratitude and love for the Savior.

1-John 1.9

 

 

 

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And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.  (John 8:3-11)

This story has often been used to remind us that we are sinners as much as anyone else and we should not judge others.

Maybe you have also heard the saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” I think that this story is a good example of that. The Lord Jesus is our best example for how to have compassion on others without condoning wrong actions.

One day some men brought a woman to Jesus who was caught in the very act of Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery_Bruegeladultery. Immediately a few questions come to mind:

1. We know from Jesus’ trial and crucifixion that the Jews were not allowed to execute anyone, so why were they asking Jesus whether or not the woman should be stoned?

2. If the woman was caught in the “very act” where was the man? Why wasn’t he brought forward to face the same death penalty as required in Leviticus 20:10?

3.  If the so-righteous Pharisees and Jewish leaders were supposed to be avoiding places of sin, how did they find the woman and her partner? If she was a prostitute by profession, then the Pharisees should have been avoiding brothels. If she had been the man’s mistress, then that would have been a private affair. Who told on them? Was the man part of the set-up to try and discredit Jesus?

It is pretty obvious that the Jewish leaders were just looking for another way to trap Jesus. They knew that they could not carry out the stoning without going through a trial by a panel of rabbis and then by government officials. Jesus was not a religious or government official, so why were they asking Him?

What they really wanted to do was discredit the Lord Jesus. On the one hand, in those days there was so much of this type of sinning going on that the people were not unsympathetic with the woman involved. Jesus would look like a really mean person if He called for her stoning and many people would be alienated from Him.

On the other hand, if He said she should not be stoned, He would clearly be breaking the law of God. The Jewish leaders really thought they had Jesus in a no win situation this time. So, what did He do?

Jesus took a little time to write something in the dirt. We don’t know what it was. Was He just stalling a little to un-nerve the leaders? Did He write another verse maybe? How about Micah 6:8? (He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?) This would have been a good reminder to the leaders who were supposed to have known their Scriptures. “Doing justice and loving kindness” is another way of saying don’t condone wrong things, but be compassionate to others.

He Without Sin 017In any event, Jesus stymied the officials. He avoided their trap by telling them, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Of course, no one can measure up to that standard. One by one the officials left.

There is another reason that they all left. The law had very strict requirements about the witnesses to a crime. In Deuteronomy 19:15-21 we read that witnesses were not to be malicious. By “malicious” God meant that the witnesses were not to be promoting violence with their testimony or perverting justice. False witnesses were to receive the punishment that they were seeking for the one they accused. Jesus is showing the leaders that He knows the law and He knows how to apply it. The leaders were the ones who were malicious. Their actions would not stand up to the scrutiny of the law. They left one by one. This may not have been because they were sorry for what they did, but because they were looking out for their own skins.

Then Jesus turned to the woman. He realized that the Jewish leaders had not cared one bit about her as a person. They just wanted to use her. They thought nothing of abusing a woman. Remember that they didn’t bring the man.

Jesus had compassion on all sinners. Jesus did not try to change the laws or customs of His times. He acted by example. He showed the leaders how they were supposed to treat women (and all wrongdoers).

While Jesus treated the woman with compassion, He did not let her get by with her sin. Clearly, she was a prostitute whether by choice, or by reason of destitution. By forgiving the woman and then telling her to “go and sin no more” Jesus was telling her to go and find a different way of life.

The woman was forgiven, but now she must put her faith in God and trust Him to provide for her. She is a lesson to us. We must never rationalize away our sins. We must obey God, even if it costs us something. Surely God is not capricious or mean. If He gave us laws to live by, He will take care of us so that we can live lives that are honoring to Him without sinning.

This story is important, because we see Jesus having compassion on women who may be victims. But He does not excuse sin. Many other times Jesus healed women who were demon possessed or sick. They were sinners, too. But the issue in those stories is how Jesus heals physical and spiritual infirmities. In this story, Jesus healed a wounded conscience. We’re not sure what happened to the woman after this. Hopefully, her repentance was unto faith and she followed Jesus for the rest of her life.

 

 

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