Holy Week – Wednesday – Quiet Strength

Matthew 26:6-16 –  Mark 14:3-11 – Luke 22:3-6

Wednesday is a quiet day for Jesus, but God is still at work – A quiet strength. After all that had been said on Tuesday, Jesus gave the Pharisees a little break from Him. They had already made up their minds about killing Him, but needed a little time work out a plan. Like a true gentleman, Jesus gave them some space. Scripture doesn’t record Him taking another trip into town or any interaction with the Pharisees.

Instead, Jesus stays in the home of Simon the Leper, where Mary (Lazarus’ sister) anointed Jesus with a very expensive perfume. According to one scholar,  hung flasks like this one around their neck. Mark 14:3,  says that the flask had to be broken for her to even open it. An article from Russ Ramsey explains that this act is like “popping the cork on a $20,000 bottle of champagne.” It was extravagant and the disciples (specifically Judas)  was upset (John 12:4-6) because that kind of money could have been used to “care for the poor.” (Code for: I can steal some) However, Jesus defends her saying that they would always have the poor, but that He would not always be there.

I think Jesus recognized something else too. The expensive perfume, was not just expensive perfume. It was a symbol of her heart. She gave all she had to Jesus. The perfume was simply the means by which she gave her life to Him.  There’s a quiet strength in her. When Jesus defended her, He valued her heart.  When He says this was a beautiful act that would always be remembered (Mt 26:13), He is telling us that she is a great example. We should respond to Him generously… extravagantly. All we have and all we are still doesn’t match the gift we’ve been given in Him.

Jesus didn’t stir the pot with the Pharisees on Wednesday, but Judas met with the chief priests, arranged to betray Him, and received 30 pieces of silver. Jesus’ quiet strength worked in the lives of those at Simon’s house, and the enemy was working in the shadows at the same time – plotting and scheming to destroy Him. Interestingly enough, Jesus’ efforts on Tuesday (pushing Pharisees into a corner) seem to be quietly whispering that Jesus’ plan is big enough to include a bunch of angry Pharisees. They thought they were working their plan, but ultimately, they were stepping into a script that the Lord had written before time itself.

My inner monologue: What’s keeping me from demonstrating my love for the Lord extravagantly? Are there people that I have judged for being too extravagant? What excuses do I tell myself for not being more generous?

Holy Week – Tuesday – Confrontation and Determination

Matthew 21:23-26:5; Mark 11:27-14:2; Luke 20:1-22:2; John 12:37-50

The Tuesday of Holy Week is full of confrontation. Jesus is determined.

After the events of Monday (running money changers out), the chief priests and scribes have seen enough and they are ready to kill Jesus. However, Jesus doesn’t do anything different. He could have smoothed things over a bit and de-escalated the situation, but He didn’t. Jesus chose to push forward in spite of the opposition.

When they question His authority, He trapped them. (Mt 21:27) Then he told them that tax collectors and prostitutes made better decisions than they did. (Mt 21:32)  In vs 21:43, Jesus tells the chief priests and scribes that the Kingdom of God will be taken from them.

These are not the kinds of things you say if you’re trying to de-escalate the situation.

Next, (Mt 22:10) Jesus tells them a story that compares them to wedding guests who make poor choices and aren’t worthy enough to attend. They end up losing their spots to random people from the streets.

Jesus just keeps pushing them.

They try to trap him with a question about paying taxes, but Jesus makes the slip and points out that they are putting trust in the wrong things. God is interested in hearts not money. (Mt 22:21)

Sidenote: Caesar minted coins with his face to help spread his name. When Rome conquered Jerusalem he also required a tribute in the form of a tax from that country. This is a huge deal to the Jews ’cause Caesar was claiming to be god. If they paid the tax, then they would be breaking the first two commandments – no other gods before me, and you shall have no graven image. (coin itself was an image) When the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with this issue he asks them for a coin – this means that Jesus didn’t have one (He wasn’t carrying a graven image) When the religious leaders pull one out, they have already broken the second commandment. Jesus is so cool!!!

The Sadducees question Him, and Jesus silences them too explaining that they don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. (Mt 22:29)

If they were upset about Monday, Tuesday simply compounds their feelings about Him. They hate him even more now.

After all the confrontation, Jesus tells His disciples and the crowd not to act like the Pharisees. (Mt 23:3) I can just imagine them listening in on these words and fuming. Their blood is already boiling, and Jesus just keeps going. They’re already angry enough to be seeking a way to kill Him, but Jesus begins announcing a series of “Woes” on them. He calls them “whitewashed tombs.” He describes them as outwardly beautiful, but inwardly just dead bones and uncleanness.

This summary of Jesus’ words on Tuesday of Holy week only scratches the surface of all that He said, but in the end, the main point is that Jesus seems to be intent on walking a path which will lead Him to the cross. It seems obvious to me that He is deliberately choosing to upset and anger the Pharisees. He is God. He understands fully that He is poking the bear, and yet, He still chooses to do it. In Luke 9:51, we see that Jesus had “set his face on Jerusalem.” He understood His purpose and knew what must be done. Although it was going to be a tough road and difficult days were ahead, Jesus’ resolve was greater. His love for His Father compelled Him. His steps were deliberate.

My inner dialog: How Great is Our God? What kind of God/King chooses the kind of suffering that awaited Him for the benefit of His subjects? How can I be more deliberate in my choice to love others? In what ways do I need to stop trying to pacify others? Do I de-escalate situations too quickly? If I allowed confrontation to have its full effect, would it be beneficial? Would it push things forward and force stronger resolutions?

Prayer: Jesus, I am grateful for your example – for your confrontation of sin and for your determination to honor your Father in spite of the earthly consequences. I’m grateful for your resolve. It led to the cross which allows for my salvation. Thank you for your love. Thank you.

 

The Adultery Passage – John 7:53-8:11

It’s a famous story: The Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and ask if they should stone her. He answers by saying, “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” One by one, they all leave.

This is one of the most highly debated texts in the Bible. Many pastors actually skip it or choose to never preach on it. Let me explain why. I’ve been studying up on this passage for a Small Group session tomorrow night and here’s what I’ve discovered: (By the way, most of this info is from a sermon I downloaded by Dr. Israel Loken who was my Bible teacher and is a highly regarded Biblical scholar/author.)

1. Most Bible scholars agree that this passage was not in the original Biblical text. It was added at a much later date. The earliest manuscript which includes this passage dates back to the 5th century – over 400 years after Jesus’ days. The next oldest manuscript which includes it is from the 9th century – another 500 years later. All the older manuscripts exclude this passage however, after the 9th century addition, is appears that most manuscripts do include it with a special marking identifying it as a later addition. The manuscripts which include it also don’t agree on where it belongs. It is sometimes found in John, sometimes in Luke, and sometimes in Matthew.

2. Textually the passage doesn’t fit the rest of John’s gospel. The words used are not found in any of John’s other writings. It’s highly unlikely that the author of John could have written it.

3. If you omit the passage from John, the gospel seems to flow better. The last part of chapter 7 takes place at the Feast of Tabernacles and raises the question of where Jesus is from. Who He is. When you skip this passage and go directly to 8:12, you see Jesus answering their questions. Especially in verse 14 where Jesus talks about where He came from. Also in 8:12, Jesus calls Himself the “light of the world.” This would make much more of a statement if it happened during the Feast of Tabernacles with the huge festival Menorahs in the background. If we leave the passage in tact, the scene has changed away from the Feast of Tabernacles and this event would not have had the same kind of impact.

4. Even though most scholars recognize this text as a later addition, they also believe it to be an accurate account of a historical event – it really happened. Much like the Old Testament, this story was passed down orally from generation to generation. The story is also recalled by a a few historians long before it’s first appearance in a manuscript in the 5th century. Papius wrote about it around 140AD. Augustine and Ambrose write of it as well.

5. It important to recognize that even if the story doesn’t belong in the Scriptures, it doesn’t add any important doctrine or make any changes to the whole of Scripture. It merely supports those doctrines which have been established in other texts.

6. In verse 8:6, we see Jesus writing on the ground with His finger. There has been much debate and there are many theories about what He wrote.

a.) He wrote the 10 Commandments. (It’s the only other place in Scripture where the hand of God writes something.)

b.) He wrote the sins of those who were standing as accusers of the woman.

c.) (and this is the one I like) He was writing the text from Lev 20:10 or Deut 22:22 and 24 which describes how both a man and woman should be brought forward when caught in adultery. This would have pointed out the “sins” of the accusers as well as upholding the law.

I also think it’s important to note that “he without sin” disqualifies everyone present. . .well, everyone except Jesus. Under these rules Jesus actually had the right to stone her. His choice in no way condones her actions. This is clear when Jesus tells her to leave her life of sin. What a beautiful example Jesus has given us! We are to forgive others no matter what the circumstances. We’ve got to remember that we are sinners too and we need the same forgiveness. We have chosen other things over God. We are adulterous too. We are an adulterous people.

This was a fun lesson to teach at small group. We had lots of great discussions around it all. I hope it’s been beneficial to someone else too.