A Word to the Wise

10-22-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Part 3 – Matthew-Luke Record

The situation with Martha two days before Passover is incongruent with the events in Simon the Leper’s house. Martha’s purpose was to serve Jesus. Magdalene anointed Jesus feet, out of remorse for her manner of life. Matthew and Mark tell us that Martha poured the ointment on Jesus’ head, which Jesus connects with His death. Mary purchased for His burial. No indication is given of preplanning by Martha. The cost was the same; according to the text, its value is 300 denarii. Judas is not singled out as saying anything. However, this is too much for Judas. Another $15,000 lost, his money wasted on Jesus. He leaves the house and sets up the betrayal for thirty pieces of silver equal to 120 denarii or about $6000. No small sum.

Something else that is interesting about all of this is the effect upon Jesus. I think Jesus is amazed at all this expense on His behalf. Jesus being surprised is not something we usually think of. However, it does happen. Notice the surprise expressed by Jesus on several occasions.

The woman who came up behind Jesus and touched Him was a surprise. The surprise was that someone had the depth of faith to try it. This incident is recorded in Mark 5. In Mark 6, Jesus marvels at the unbelief of the people in His hometown. Mark 7 tells of the incident with a Syrophoenician woman who pleads with Him to heal her daughter. He is taken aback by her boldness, and ability to answer Him. In Mark 9 Jesus is amazed at the lack of belief on the part of His disciples after they have seen so many miracles.

John 3 records the conversation with Nicodemus, and in verse 10 Jesus finds it difficult to understand how a teacher does not understand so simple a thing as regeneration. Jesus is somewhat surprised in John 6:64 that His disciples do not desert Him as many others have. In John 12 taken aback by the events of Lazarus’ death and the response of Mary and Martha. He weeps. In Luke 17 Jesus wonders why only one of ten lepers He has just healed returns to say thank you, and he a foreigner.

Jesus is surprised at the anointing by these women. The anointing was an event never referred to or foretold about Him. His death, burial, the Old Testament prophets, but not the anointing refer to all resurrection, betrayal, and entry into Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, and healing the sick. He was so surprised by it that the very next night, on Wednesday before Passover, He washed the feet of His disciples. It seems these women gave Him an experience He now shares with His disciples. Jesus knew how He felt, and therefore, what the disciples would feel.

We have noted much of the dissimilarity in these passages leading to a conclusion that each event was distinguishable from the other. However, there is a common thread, which runs through all three. There is a suggestion of hope.

Some of us are very much aware of just how sinful we have been in life. Some are aware of a huge burden of guilt for wrongs we have committed. For those of us who carry such a burden, Jesus has a personal message of hope. It is a sentence introduced in Luke 7:47; “for I tell you, her sins, are forgiven, for she love loved much—but he who is forgiven little loves little.” Jesus is teaching a unique lesson here. One of the greatest blessings that may come from sins is deeper love.

The depth or capacity of one’s love may be measured by the depth of sin—forgiven. It is that single word ”forgiven” that draws our attention. For those of us who have shed many tears over the harm we have brought to others, who have wished to redo sins perpetuated on others, forgiveness means everything. We hate our sinful ourselves. This is a paradox. The more we hate sinful self the greater the capacity for love of others.

One might say at this point “let me sin even more that greater love may abound.” Not so. The element that begets love –was not the sin– rather the forgiveness.

If we examine the passages more closely, we will find some character traits being revealed. Magdalene was a sinner. Her brazen brash approach may be an indicator of immorality. Simon thinks he knows the depth of her sin—doubting Jesus has a clue. Magdalene’s sins, however, are over shadowed by a yearning, yea burning to turn aside from her wayward path. Jesus affords that opportunity. Magdalene knows Jesus has the power to forgive sins. The Pharisees had challenged Jesus on this topic before.

While Magdalene yearned for purity, Martha is motivated for something different. Martha anoints Jesus’ head, not His feet. Emphasis is on a physical act. The Matthew-Mark passages are for the most part devoid of emotions. Statements like “she has done what she could,” and “worked a good work,” reinforce the physical emphasis. Moreover, it is the act that is memorized—not the woman. She is unnamed. This leads us to an assessment that Martha’s deepest need is for acceptance and recognition. It takes tremendous character to endure silently wrenching unjust criticism and say nothing.

Magdalene’s need was for cleansing, Martha, acceptance Mary’s motives were much more complex.

Death is an event of life that presses hard on survivors. The death of Lazarus, Mary’s brother shortly before no doubt signaled major transitions in the lives of Mary and her sister. Jesus intervened and raised Lazarus from the dead. Gratitude is overwhelming on Mary’s behalf.

Mary purchases this special ointment, which she plans to use for His burial in a few days. Mary applies some of the ointment and massages it in with her hair. Emotionally she has been jerked from the depth of sadness with her brother’s death to the heights of joy with his restoration. Now, once again she knows the depth of anguish because her savior is to die. She prepares her benefactor’s body for the grave.

The text is clear about something else. Jesus raising Mary’s brother from the grave a few days before is the precipitating factor in His own condemnation by the Jews. This must have been a heartrending experience for all involved.

A Word to the Wise

10-21-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Part 2 – John’s Record

The anointing by Mary in her brother’s house six days before Passover is very different from Magdalene’s anointing both in purpose and behavior.

Mary did not wash Jesus feet, nor did Jesus act like she had. The text indicates that she had specifically bought this costly perfume of pure nard for his burial. She took a small portion of the ointment and anointed his feet. The rest is kept for Jesus burial. Jesus had been telling His disciples for some time that He was to be killed. They did not believe it, nor did they prepare for it. Mary believed and prepared before hand.

John describes the event vividly. He gives details that only a person who is present would have known. I strongly suspect that after this day none of those present would fail to associate the aroma that filled the house with Mary’s tender care of Jesus. John was here; he saw it with his own eyes and smelled the aroma that filled the house.

There is difference in what happens here six days before the Passover and with what takes place four days later. In the later case, several of the disciples are critical of the sacrifice. Here, Judas stands in the forefront as Mary’s accuser, which is significant in that the other disciples said nothing on this occasion. Four days later they become the accuser, and Judas is silent. The motives of Judas are different than the other disciples.

Judas is very upset. Why do you suppose the intense feelings? After all what is a little perfume? With a little knowledge of the economics of the period, much light is shed on the circumstances. The text says the value of Mary’s gift was 300 denarii. Translators do not give a very accurate picture of what this means. Some put in a footnote that the amount is worth about fifty dollars. Others give other amounts. Most miss the economic reality.

In Jesus’ time one denarii was equal to a day’s pay for a laborer. In our language, today when the rate of pay for unskilled labor is $5 per hour, the cost of a days pay would be fifty dollars (their work day was ten hours long). The value is $15,000. No wonder Judas is upset. By the way, notice that Judas knew its exact worth. Later the disciples guessed. His money being wasted. A thief steals because he deludes himself into thinking he has a right to take it. Therefore, Judas believes that this is his money being wasted on the Savior.

Another reason for Judas being upset has to do with Mary. Judas did not like Mary. How do we know? Because thieves hate their victims and their naive attitude. Notice also that Judas must have either taken or tried to take the remaining perfume for Jesus tells Judas to let her keep it.
Another reason for Judas being upset has to do with Mary. Judas did not like Mary. How do we know? Because thieves hate their victims and their naïve attitude. Notice also that Judas must have either taken or tried to take the remaining perfume for Jesus tells Judas to let her keep it.

A Word to the Wise

10-19-2019 – A Word to the Wise – What follows is a short textual study which seeks to clarify the Gospel record concerning the anointing of Jesus by women. It comes it 2 or 3 parts. Many misconceptions surround the anointing of Jesus. Incidents are recorded in all four Gospels attesting to the event. Some would say that there is just one event, and each Gospel writer gives different information. Others, the majority of conservative biblical scholars, would suggest that there are really two different events. It is our premises that there are actually three different events.

We will outline the basic information that suggest the three events and then present some ideas about why Jesus may have been anointed three times.

The appendix gives the full reading of all three passages and frequent reference will be made to these passages. It is suggested that the reader quickly scan these passages before going further.

Luke’s Record

The student of the gospels can immediately see that the passage in Luke 7 stands apart from the other records. Luke does not mention a specific time while all three of the other gospels place the event within a week of Passover and the death of Jesus. Luke does record the event as taking place right after John the Baptist’s last message which occurred during the second period of the Galilean ministry. Most authorities place this time period between the summer of 28 A.D. until the Passover, April 18, 29 A.D. If this is correct then this event happened at least a year prior to the crucifixion.

Numerous elements recorded in Luke’s account differ with the other gospels. As noted above the time is a year before the other gospel events. Luke places his episode in the home of a Pharisee. Whereas the events recounted by the other gospel writers occur when the Pharisees have established themselves as staunch enemies of Jesus. Moreover, there is a price on the head of Jesus, which is not the case in the time period covered by Luke. Also, the conversation between Simon and Jesus in the Luke 7 passage appears amicable. The later incident is placed in the house of a leper, a place a where a Pharisee would never go

Other differences include how the anointing takes place. The response of both the host and guest. Even the actions of the woman in Luke are different from the women in the other episodes. Luke’s character washes Jesus feet with her tears; neither of the other two mentions tears. The woman in Luke dried the tears with her hair; while Mary in John’s Gospel massages the oil into his feet with her hair.

These differences set Luke’s episode apart from the other accounts. Turning our attention to the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John, again we see a diversity, which sets them apart from each other.

John says the event he records takes place in the home of Lazarus a few days after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Matthew and Mark agree that the event describe takes place in the home f Simon the Leper.

John says the incident he is referring to happen six days before Passover and the death of Jesus. Matthew and Mark place the episode they recount two days before Jesus is murdered. Now, one could reach the conclusion that the writers are just confused, an accusation often made by some scholars. However, if one accepts that three actual separate events occurred, then one is free to look more closely at the differences in behavior, which gives clues to motivation. A summary of the events appears on the chart in Appendix I.

It is suggested then that Luke records and event, which occurred a year prior to the events in the other three gospels. Matthew and Mark jointly describe the same event, which occurred two days before the Passover and Jesus’ death. John recounts a different event occurring four days before the one described in Matthew-Mark.

Some interesting details present themselves. Major differences exist in the purpose in the women’s minds as to what they did and why. To personalize the events and hopefully draw out these nuances, we will assign a name to each woman. Mary is of course the only one given a name in Scripture and that is in John 12. The unnamed women in the Luke passage we will call Magdalene. The unnamed women in Matthew-Mark we will refer to as Martha.

It would appear that Magdalene’s motive was somewhat dissimilar to Mary or Martha. Magdalene comes to Jesus with a tremendous burden of sin. Magdalene is most certainly aware of her great sinfulness. She at the same time is brazen; she did not give a thought to coming into a Pharisee’s house and paid him no attention. I suspect she knew the man well. We can only speculate as to how she knew him. Magdalene’s entrance and behavior are dramatic and purpose oriented.

Immediately we are confronted with a perplexing statement by Luke. The text says she was “standing behind him, at his feet.” Jesus was sitting down! How can that be and what does it mean? Luke, I think, chose these words with great care for they both hide and reveal at the same time.

Luke is using what is called an idiomatic expression. This word ‘standing’ is often used figuratively, carrying with it the idea of being immovable. Thus, Magdalene planted herself at the feet of Jesus and was not to be moved.

Then Luke turns around and uses a figurative idiomatic expression literally. The phrase ‘to kiss the feet’ carries with it the idea of worship. Magdalene is firmly at the feet of Jesus, worshipping and bestowing great care. She is here for two purposes; to express ‘great love’ and to acquire forgiveness.

10-18-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Human possessiveness is a misplaced sense of ownership. No one in any relationship owns another person. Husband denotes relation- ship, not ownership, wife denotes relationship not ownership, etc. mother brother, sister, friend.

The deepest yearning in every human being is for a “sense of belonging” but it must be fulfilled in God, if it is displaced to a person it brings many forms of unhappiness – one of which is feelings of being owned by another. This makes the happy marriage impossible because it cannot function in the manner God intended, “as one flesh”, a part of each other.

An example might aid in distinguishing  between ownership and being a part of. The arm functions as a part of us – but suppose we tied it behind us – none of the body could function normally. The human being is meant to function in many relationships but  if tied to only one relationship then none will function properly. It will cripple and eventually destroy all relationships.  Possessiveness is a part of jealousy, so now we see the meaning of Song of Solomon 8:6… “jealousy is cruel as the grave:…” and Proverbs 6:34…”jealousy is the rage of  men…” Why rage? Because he imagines he owns another – that something that is his  is being taken from him – when he should realize he is the taker of that which is not his. He has taken that which is God’s. The world denies its ownership by God.  Therefore it attempts to regain its loss by glamorizing the “belonging the possessiveness” of marriage, which in reality was never even suggested by God at all. God meant for a man and woman to function together in harmony as one. Just as the parts of our body function in harmony.

This is the mystery of the “one flesh”. It was to make vivid the harmony and cooperation to exist between them, the togetherness of  cooperation, not of ownership. We do not think of our arms and legs as belonging to  us: but as being a part of us. At this point one might wonder, is anything mine, and if so – what is it? Yes, there is something which is ours: the love, the kindness, consideration given by another to us. Not to own rather to treasure, to hold close to  our heart and warm with our love and our respect, this is ours.

A Word to the Wise

10-16-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Suffering comes in many forms. Sometimes in the form of illness; cancer, heart trouble, or a variety of other illness. Perhaps it is in the form of mental illness; anxiety, panic attacks, addictions, or in the form of spiritual attack by the evil one with his demons. It may occur in battle, bullying, assault, even murder.

The prophet Jeremiah suffered at the hands of hostile, religious people. One may read in Jeremiah 38 how he is thrown into a miry pit by his enemies for speaking the truth. It is in this context that the following words are pinned:

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,

and made me cower in ashes;

my soul is bereft of peace;

I suspect at times many of us have known these feeling and the desperation which smother and rips apart the soul. Jeremiah goes on to say:

I have forgotten what happiness is;

so I say, “My endurance has perished;

so has my hope from the LORD.”

Yet, even in the midst of such suffering the next words ought to ring in our hearts

But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

It is this idea of hope which must permeate our very soul. Hope in the Lord and His goodness. It is this hope which neutralizes the depression, the anger, fear, which so easily besets us.

If we do this, if we acknowledge the Lord’s goodness then in the words of the prophet:

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3 (ESV)

Few scriptures so eloquently encourage the down trodden and bring peace to the soul.

A Word to the Wise

10-12-2019 – A Word to the Wise – When is the last time you gave consideration to what the Lord has done for you? Do you think the Lord was impressed by what came to your mind? Or would He be surprised at how little came to mind? See that is the problem, not only do we forget all that He does do, we lose track of when it was, how important his intervention became and more important what the outcome would be without His intervention.

One cure for this problem is to keep a running list which we write down and carry with us. Sort of like a picture we carry with us to remind us of a loved one. He is a loved one is He not?

A Word to the Wise

10-2-2019 – A Word to the Wise – Often we find things to complain about; the weather, food, leaders, followers, black, white, yellow, government, male, female. The list of complaints goes on endlessly. We do it almost unconsciously, yea even habitually. I suspect that grumbling is a habit just as bad as heroin, meth, cigarettes, anxiety, or sleep apnea.

The Bible calls this problem by several terms: grumbling, complaining, malice, slander. I like how Moses refers to it simply: “And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes”. (RSV)

It seems to me the more we have the more we complain, and the less we have the more gratitude we experience. This is true of Israel in Moses day, and just as relevant in our day. Scripture, old or new condemns such practices. Whether it’s Moses in Numbers 11:1, or Jesus brother, James, in James 4:11, or even the one chapter of Jude, verse 16.

The only way I know to turn aside this trash talk is to praise perhaps the Eternal Father, Christ Jesus, perhaps the Holy Spirit, and even on occasion our fellow man. Expressions of praise and gratitude ought to pass our lips daily, hourly, and even perhaps minute by minute.