Ransom

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus made flesh. Flesh that lives, flesh that dies.

Jesus left heaven’s gates and put on a coat of skin and bone over the makings of blood and guts. He couldn’t have died without being human. He couldn’t have died until he became one of us.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead he gave up his divine privileges,
he took the humble position of a slave-
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God,
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

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He breaks bread. He pours wine.
In remembrance of another lamb.
In remembrance of another rescue.
This time blood will spill on one wooden beam for all. All who will say yes.

In an upper room Jesus tells his friends to eat and drink. To remember him on this passover of all passovers. He explains that what he is showing them through the broken bread and poured wine, he is about to accomplish through the brokenness of his own body and the poured down red of his own blood. A ransom will be paid tomorrow.

Jesus tells his friends to eat and drink, but he will not.

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.

Until the kingdom of God comes…

So begins Jesus’ fast.

We eat, drink and remember,  while he waits for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled for every race, tribe, people group, neighborhood, and city in this whole wide world.  He knows the timetable of this fulfillment, just like he knew that night in the upper room the timetable for the ransom he would pay the next day.

Unimaginable suffering is about to occur.
The deepest darkness will descend.
A stone will be rolled to seal a tomb.

A ransom will be paid in full.

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Who Do You Smell Like?

“For when she poured this perfume upon my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her.”

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This was too much for Judas.

Right away he goes to the chief priests and asks,
“What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?”
He left with 30 pieces of silver jingling in his pocket.

Why the sudden betrayal?

Was it the extravagance the woman poured out on Jesus?
Was it Jesus’ comment about his burial?

Perhaps it was that Jesus esteemed the woman so highly that he declared her act of devotion would be remembered every time someone shared the gospel.

Because when the jar busted opened the fragrance of its contents changed the atmosphere of the room. It seeped into the cloaks and robes and beards and walls and tapestries. No one could escape it.

This is how it is with Jesus. You can’t escape Him if you tried.

God is everywhere.

For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Judas’ perishing is already beginning and the fragrance of the gospel is a stench in his nostrils because this is not playing out as he’d hoped. Jesus seems bent on talking about his death when he should be talking about conquering Rome once and for all.
It is time to take matters into his own hands.

To the one, we are an odor of death and demise; to the other, a fragrance that brings life. And who is qualified for such a task?

The Rose of Sharon is about to release a fragrance that will change the world.

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Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.- John Steinbeck

 

An Extravagant Woman

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Breaking open a jar of expensive perfume over some rabbi’s head is a bit ridiculous.

Especially if it’s all you’ve got to get you through retirement. Maybe you were saving it for marriage, but judging from the “sinful” life you’ve been living lately, that ship as most likely sailed.

This woman. Coming into this man’s house breaks so many rules. Although, this is no real surprise knowing what kind of woman she was.

Besides all that, the audacity of walking into a man’s home while he’s entertaining somone of noteriety, someone inching toward celebrity status at this point…did this woman see how the crowds welcomed him into Jerusalem? Did she hear what he did in the temple courts with the moneychangers?

She made such a spectacle of herself, it was embarrassing for all sitting there.  If she’d wanted to give away her entire life savings, she could have at least been a bit generous to the poor and sent some their way. Judas would have seen to it.

Instead, she wasted everything on this man. This Jesus.

And she kept touching him. Weeping like a mad woman and letting her tears fall on his feet, wiping them with her hair.

His feet! To touch so intimately what had walked through the day’s filth.

How lovely on the mountains
            Are the feet of him who brings good news,
            Who announces peace
            And brings good news of happiness,
            Who announces salvation,
            And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Jesus’ feet that calloused and stubbed and mucked about the dirt of humanity.
Majesty became sandal-tied.

To be so over the top. So extravagant.

Extravagantexceeding what is reasonable or appropriate, absurd. 

Can you even come close to this kind of love?

What if you gathered your entire 401K, your insurance policy, the equity in your house, and all the little bundles of 20’s and 50’s you have stashed in a bank vault somewhere and you walked into the home of the most prominent man in town during a party?

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Everyone there knows your deepest, darkest secret. Jesus is there. You had an encounter earlier with him where you were set free of all that had held you captive your entire life, so you gathered everything you owned and managed to squeeze it all into a sealed jar and you just wanted to give Jesus everything.

Instead of crying tears of sorrow, you wept tears of joy and thanksgiving and you didn’t care who saw it. Life had crushed you and somehow knew this man was about to be crushed for your sake.

What would happen if you broke open your jar?

alabaster jar
(Mere Whispers)

Busted

It is Passion week.

The week when Jesus, motivated by compassion, walks into Jerusalem, and His extravagant love for us spreads like a broken bottle of perfume.

It goes everywhere.

perfume bottle
(Eric Sauvage)

Tables get turned over and coins scatter and distorted passion for wealth and riches and highway robbery spill over cobble stones and cobbled lives.

Passion withers the roots of a fig tree when hypocrisy is exposed.

Passion laments a city when desolation comes to withered souls.

The uptight upright whisper and plot, but Jesus already knows the whisper of their hearts before they do.

Then…a woman gets involved.

A jar gets busted and its contents are dumped on Jesus’ head. Passion perfume fills the room and Jesus and the woman are the only ones who get it.

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

What if you busted open a jar of your passion?
What if you shattered the glass of your broken self and let it spill everything you own?

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Spilled everything you love and
every tear you let slide down your cheek,
every cry you wailed.
What if you broke open every talent,
every strength, every lame step you walked
and you just poured out to Jesus.

Past the stare, the glare,
the lips thin-gripped,
the mouths jaw dropped of those who can only see
the mess, the waste.

Everything takes on the scent of extravagant love and
everyone there, except the ones that matter,
think you’re a fool.

How dare you love this way.

But, like an expensive perfume that emits layers of fragrance and mystery, this woman went to another layer, she realized another depth.

Pouring everything she owned onto Jesus wasn’t about how much she loved, but about how much she was loved.

This is what those who mocked her passion missed and what the enemy of our souls does not want us to know.

How dare we to believe that we can be loved this way.

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We owe something to extravagance, for thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand.-Lady Randolph Churchill

 

What Do You Really Want?

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Jesus and the boys have Jerusalem in their sight and Jesus doesn’t mince words.

“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death, and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” 

Immediately after this,  the mother of all stage mothers comes up to Jesus with her sons, the sons of Zebedee, and requests a favor.

Jesus says, What do you want? 

Like he doesn’t know.

Jesus asks this question a lot and it is not because he doesn’t know the answer.
He asks it so that we can know the answer.
What do I really want from Jesus?

At the beginning of my Lenten journey I entered into the discipline of self-examen. This self-awareness process allowed God’s spirit to penetrate my heart in such a way that what I began to go deeper into what I really wanted from Him.

When I said I wanted to be set free from the spirit of fear that has dogged me my whole life, was I really saying that I would do anything it takes to get free?

To go into the tomb of the dark night of the soul, perhaps even getting to the darkest place where I would cry out…”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Could I take my fears to the grave of surrender?
Would I really come to believe that I can trust God for everything?

See, the gospel is the real deal. It doesn’t shrink back from the stuff of life.

So this first century stage mom just puts it all out there. She wants success and power for her boys and apparently she believes they are worthy of it.

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.”

Here is Jesus declaring his mission statement, in black and white, in all of its horrific and glorious detail, and at once this mother, perhaps the first helicopter parent, asks that her sons get to be Jesus’ next in command. Like, Vice-President and Secretary of State. Just think. The Roman empire was about to be squashed and her sons would be front and center!

Was she guilty of selective hearing?
Did she not understand what Jesus meant?
Did the phrase “Son of Man” get lost in translation?

I love this woman. Warts and all. She wants it all for her boys and she is bold, forthright and…honest. Her motherly pride is out there for all the world to see and she doesn’t even know it, because like me, she doesn’t get it.

There was a time in my early mothering days that I took every compliment, every praise about my children’s good behaviour as an affirmation of my good parenting. After all, I read the books, of course searched the bible and oh…did I pray! The first time one of my children mis-stepped publicly, however, was like a divine wedgie from God Himself, that He, not me, was my source for whatever I possessed in wisdom and understanding.

These boys don’t get it either. They accompany their mother when she makes her request, so they are in the know.  In another account, it says James and John (the Zebedee boys) asks Jesus for these positions themselves. These guys, who had heard over and over again, that to save your life, you must lose it.

Perhaps they truly did lack understanding.
Perhaps it was something they just didn’t want to hear.
Perhaps they were blind to the truth.

So Jesus simply says, “You do not know what you’re asking for.”

He talks about drinking from a cup, a cup of sorrows and asks if they can do such a thing, which they reply, Yes!

But they do not know what that really means.

Like we don’t know the hard work of marriage, or raising a child, or being at the helm of a business or a ministry. We do not know what we have asked for, because with position comes a purifying, a pulverizing. To be truly effective in our sphere of influence we lay aside our thrones and crowns and walk the road. We get our feet dirty.

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Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

This is what Jesus has been saying all along and, as He is about to live and die it out, some of his closest friends and their mother were still missing it.

Jesus is saying, don’t you get it? I’ve laid aside my throne and my crown for you. And if you want to be like me, you will do it too. 

You will release your grip on your abilities, your money, your self-protection, your reputation. You will serve in the seen and unseen.

So Jesus goes ahead and shows how its done. While on his way, Jesus and his friends encounter two blind men. Unlike James and John, these men were physically blind. And unlike James and John, they sought mercy and not position.

The crowd, stern as always, wants them to shut up, because, “Duh, Jesus is on a mission to claim His kingdom here and time is of the essence.”

Jesus stops. He has a question.

What do you want Me to do for you?

They said, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.”

And Jesus, moved by compassion gives the men their sight and they follow Him.

Two blind brothers. Two blind men.

Eventually those brothers receive eyes to see, too. They have to get past all the accolades and praises and palm branches first.

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Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.- Abraham Lincoln

When You Have A Big But…

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I have a friend who uses this phrase quite often – “But, God.”

It’s a phrase lifted right out of God’s own lips. Its expression fluctuates with the positioning of a tiny ink blot.

There’s the finality of the period.
But, God.

There’s the shout of the exclamation point.
But, God!

There’s the subtle pause of the comma.
But, God,

And finally, the mystery of the unfolding dot. dot. dot.
But, God…

This “but”, this humble link between two clauses, two narratives, can be like the sudden appearance of a comet streaking across the sky. Or it can be like the subtle wind change that redirects the course of your sails.

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Some of you know this.

You were going about your life thinking that this is all there is and then you had an encounter with God that you could not explain to your friends.

Maybe you were traveling down the road of negativity and anxiety searching for answers and suddenly found yourself going down a new path toward your healing.

Or like me, you found yourself in the middle of the night lying on a cot in a roomful of other terrified parents lying on their cots as you all awaited the final diagnosis that would not bode well for your children. Then, one day,  three years later you woke up on a crisp Autumn day and you heard the doctors say to you…”but we can’t explain why your son’s liver has completely shrunk to its normal size…” To this day you still marvel that the boy keeps drumming worship into his third decade.

But, God!

This…from a long ago silly movie,  is one of the truest things I have ever heard-

“Everyone I know has a big but…”

Funny, but true, but tragic, stuff.

Isn’t it true that for many of us, our buts are really excuses or avoidances of why we live half-hearted lives?

But, I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much.

But, she’s struggled with addictions for so long.
But God has seen my hardship.

But, I can’t really do anything significant.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

But, he cheated on his wife.
But You are a fogiving God.

But, she’s always been depressed.
But God will redeem my life from the pit.

Our buts are roadblocks erected to keep us safe from disappointment, from accountability, even the possibility of just being happy for no reason. Our buts confine us, derail us, and diminish us.

I can say this because I live from a narrative that says I am beloved and some things are just plain funny and some things are just plain true and laughter is good medicine and if God doesn’t laugh, then I don’t know nothin’.

Because the plain truth is God has a bigger but. It trumps our puny, little buts because with God all things are possible.

I may be weak…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I may have messed up…But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

Are you walking toward your own Jerusalem this week? Are you ready to face what awaits you there?

When the enemy of your soul throws your addictions, your anxieties, your pain and your sin in your face, you can  put away your roadblocks and say the hard work of life is the hard work of life. It can feel like it’s killing you right now. … but God is the strength of my (your) heart and my (your) portion forever.

This is my Lenten journey this week.
Facing Jerusalem and saying But, God. 

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The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.- Mark Twain