Wednesday Was Quiet, But Things Were Escalating

Friday Was Coming

Of the Ten Days that Changed the World, Wednesday was a quiet day at Bethany, not really mentioned much in the Gospels. Mark 14 and Matthew 26 record three snapshots of the day: the scheming Priests and elders decide to kill Jesus; Jesus is anointed by a woman at a dinner party in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper; and Judas agrees to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (about four months’ wages). After all of the confrontations at the Temple on Tuesday, Jesus used Wednesday to spend time with his friends and disciples back in Bethany, but the other events taking place on Wednesday hasten the coming storm.

Wednesday

How Many Feet in an Anointing?

(Quick note: while John gives an account of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet before Passion Week (6 days before Passover), Mark and Matthew include it in their accounts here in Bethany (2 days before Passover). These different accounts could have been the same event used at different places in the narrative, but I tend to believe it is two separate occurrences. It is not doctrinally or materially important to the sequence of events, but it’s important to remember that the synoptic Gospel writers crafted their presentations to reach specific audiences, while John’s is more of an eyewitness account.

That being said, John names Mary as the woman, while Matthew and Mark do not. In John’s account, Mary anoints the feet, but in the other two gospels the woman anoints Jesus’ head. Because of those things, I vote for two separate but similar events. I can’t imagine Mark and Matthew failing to identify someone as well-known to Jesus’ followers as Mary.)

Matthew 26:1 says, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” This would be the annual Passover celebration, held on Nisan 15 (Leviticus 23:5-6).

How Many Sabbaths?

Some scholars feel that there could have been an additional (Passover) Sabbath, beginning Wednesday at twilight and lasting until Thursday evening. The traditional view is that Passover and Sabbath began together on dusk at Friday. Since John 19:31 says that Friday was the day of preparation before Passover, and since Jesus Himself says Passover is two days away, it adds weight to the traditionally accepted view.

[Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem:] “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26:2-5, NIV). Jerusalem’s population swelled by thousands of Pilgrims during such events, and it made sense that the Sanhedrin would be cautious about how they navigated the political waters. I’ll use the quiet of Wednesday to touch on chronology: when did things happen, and how long exactly was Jesus in the grave?

How Many Days in the Grave?

The timing of events during this week has been questioned, and there are two different views about it. If Jesus was in the grave 3 days (as he said he would be in Matthew 12:40), then how do you reconcile a Friday death and a Sunday resurrection? The traditional view holds that it was part of Friday, all of Saturday, part of Sunday – “three days” – but since that’s only two nights, some folks feel that it doesn’t allow enough time to fulfill the Messianic prophecy.

Since this is the annual Passover celebration, held on Nisan 15 (Leviticus 23:5-6), some say there could have been an additional annual (Passover) Sabbath, beginning Wednesday at twilight and lasting until Thursday evening. While there is no absolute proof for this chronology, it is within the realm of possibility, so some scholars have suggested this offers an alternative to the traditional view of Easter.

This means that Christ would have been crucified on Wednesday, and allowed for 3 full days and nights in the grave. It also reconciles timing statements about when the women bought spices to anoint Christ’s body, since according to Mark they bought spices “when the Sabbath was over” (16:1), and Luke’s account says they prepared them before the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). A high holy annual Sabbath starting Wednesday night through Thursday, followed by the day of preparation on Friday, allows for both accounts to be true. These details make for some interesting scholarly debate, but I think it is always reasonable to follow the path that agrees with simple logic.

Wednesday chronology

Decide for Yourself

Since the exact days chronology is not a make or break issue, you can decide for yourself which makes the most sense. The traditional view coincides with what early Church Fathers believed, and allowed for the Middle-Eastern comprehensive logic that often defaulted to “both-and” rather than “either-or” positions.

When you compare the two views, the mid-week holy day causes significant compression of some events. It means that Jesus would have been tried Tuesday night, so it is not without its own problems. But, a mid-week Sabbath also has points in its favor. It does help explain some seeming discrepancies and it allows for three full days between the cross and the resurrection.

As for me, I’m staying traditional, mainly based on Jesus’ statement about Passover being two days away. It’s important to note that placement of these types of historical details do not make or break Scripture. The Bible is a Book of History, but it is not merely a history book.

The Gospel writers did indeed have specific points of view and audiences they were addressing, and while they vary in some details, they agree wholeheartedly on who Jesus was and why He came. In fact, I have often felt that God allowed for certain non-foundational nuances in the Bible to remain somewhat unexplained, in order to stimulate our curiosity and motivate us to dig into the Book. The deeper we are able to get into the Bible, the deeper it is able to get into us.

As we consider the events of Passion Week, that’s probably a good thing.

What Do YOU Believe?


And, as YOU consider the events of Passion Week, remember that events on Wednesday (today) serve to remind us of the question for the week (which I am reprising from Sunday):

What do YOU believe about the Cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
While the cross is history, it’s also a bit of a mystery; What caused the crucifixion?
Some say it was caused by politics in the area; others claim it was mob hysteria.
Was it Jesus’s heresy? The Pharisees’ jealousy? Herod’s legacy? Judas’s zealotry?
Was Jesus swept along by a current of events, or was he in control of everything?
As events unfolded, was he a Rabbi who overplayed his hand, or a King who had total command?
Was he a mistreated milquetoast, or a man on a mission?
The cross wasn’t circumstantial; it was strategic.

For Jesus the cross wasn’t by chance, it was by choice.
It wasn’t based on an accident; it was based on his authority.
The cross wasn’t a random disaster; it was a deliberate design.
He said, “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up!” & “Father, I will drink from this cup”
Jesus predicted it; he projected it, he presented it, and he prepared for it: He explained it to his disciples; he expounded upon it to the Pharisees;
and he expected it to happen!

Not Protected, but Projected

Jesus knew about it; he talked about it; he prophesied about it; and he prayed about it.
He could have protested when he was arrested, but it wasn’t contested because
It was what he expected.

He told Peter to put his sword away; he told Pilate he had nothing more to say;
The cross wasn’t the result of a bad day, or a roadblock along the way; It WAS the way…
What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
For Jesus, It wasn’t unexpected; it was premeditated.
The cross wasn’t coincidental; it was calculated.
It was not incidental, and it wasn’t accidental; it was intentional. It wasn’t capital punishment, it was cosmic punishment.

Jesus allowed the Pharisees to plot, so he could do for us what we could NOT.
He allowed the Romans to execute him, so he could execute God’s plan.
Jesus wasn’t laid low, he was lifted up.
He wasn’t horrified, he was glorified.
Jesus wasn’t a victim of circumstance; he was a voluntary sacrifice.
What do you believe about the cross?

All the sinister plans the Pharisees could ever concoct, all the Temple guards
they could have ever sent, could never have taken the King of Kings against His will.
Jesus wasn’t a pitiful loser who got caught by surprise;
He was a powerful leader committed to salvation!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Tuesday: Confrontation, Crowds, and Conflict

Tuesday of Passion Week was a busy day of teaching and confrontation. (Matthew 21:23 through 22:14; 41-46; John 12:2-8). The Passover created a huge festival-like atmosphere in Jerusalem, during which pilgrims flocked into the Holy City from all over the country. Everyone who was anyone would have traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate.

A National Audience

During Passover week, the population of Jerusalem swelled from about 100,000 to over a million as visitors and pilgrims crowded in to offer sacrifices and participate in the Temple activities. Some estimates reliably put the population of Jerusalem at two million people during festivals, so we can safely say that the stage was set for this Passover week to take place before most of the nation of Israel. Crowds lined up around the Temple and in the marketplaces of Jerusalem.

Jesus started Tuesday in the Temple courts, where he was challenged by the chief Priests and elders. In response to this confrontation, He asked them about John’s [obviously blessed and sanctified] baptism. “They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Matthew 21:25-27, NIV). Jesus made it clear that he was not some itinerant Rabbi, but someone with authority who they were refusing to accept.

Backwards Thinking

Ironic, isn’t it, that each of us treats God that way sometimes? We tend to assume ownership of our own physical domain as if we control it and as if the spiritual domain doesn’t matter. When God calls us, we demand He show us a sign of His authority before we yield to his leadership. We walk the earth HE created and live in bodies HE designed, but we claim our “rights” and our own authority over that of the true king.

It’s not just personally true, it’s institutionally true as well. The Elders and the Pharisees were so busy guarding their own power base that they were blind to God’s movement right before their eyes. Jesus offers himself, but men both then and now are too busy being powerful to understand the offer.

Tuesday-Pharisees

Powerful Parables

He not only confounded the elders, he taught in parables about God’s kingdom and the cost of rejecting it. He answered the Sadducees’ devious questions with answers so wise that the crowds were astonished! (“Render unto Caesar…” Matthew 22:21) The Pharisees’ experts then tested his knowledge, hoping to get a sound bite they could criticize. Instead, He used a Messianic Psalm (110:1) to authenticate both his position as Messiah and his incredible grasp of Scriptures, “and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.“ (Matthew 21:45).

From these conversations, even if you totally reject the concept that Jesus was God, you would still have to rationalize his incredible understanding of Scripture and his keen insight in men’s hearts and minds. His answers to the Priests and elders seemed to see right through them.

Apparently the members of the council lost their appetite for confrontation after that. Jesus finished his time in the temple on Tuesday revealing the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. He contrasted their self-righteous evil (they loved places of honor, took pride in titles, and prayed for show) with the selfless giving of the widow’s mite (she gave all she had).

I have a feeling that the Kingdom of heaven will surprise a lot of us rich Americans who see material things as “blessings”. It certainly surprised the Pharisees. He ended the day with his radical prediction about the Temple’s destruction and his teaching on the Mount of Olives about the signs of his return and the end of the age.

Tuesday Teachings

This long Tuesday was a very important day of proclamation and teaching. Jesus not only answered the devious questions of the Pharisees, he proclaimed his authority, and then denounced them publicly. If any of them were wavering, he challenged them to repent. But the vibrant life of his message fell (as he knew it would) on hardened hearts, and his bold denunciation galvanized the self-righteous Pharisees into implacable foes.

They were experts at seeing everyone else’s sins, but became outraged when confronted with their own. Can you IMAGINE? Does that remind you of anyone? Well, err, yeah I guess… We’re a lot like that, aren’t we? Ultimately, the only sins that should matter to me are mine. When we are confronted with sin, do we react with repentance, or with hardened hearts? Do you become God’s forgiven friend or His rebellious enemy? Have you repented, or are you rebellious? I don’t think there are any other options…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Cleansing the Temple: How About Cleansing our Hearts?

Day Four of the Ten Days that Changed the World: Monday of Passion Week was a day of travel and cleansing, Mark 11:12-18. Jesus and the disciples walked from Bethany to Jerusalem and back. Remember, that’s about an hour’s walk each way, so these guys were in shape! We don’t live in an age of walking, but it gave life a different pace, and certainly provided time to talk, discuss and teach as people traveled.

An Unusual Illustration

Along the way, Jesus pointed out a fig tree in the distance, and took his disciples over to see if it had any fruit. Normally a fig tree shows fruit before it shows leaves, so if it has leaves without fruit, it is not going to produce any. Seeing that it was barren, Jesus announced that it would never bear fruit again. This story has always puzzled me a bit; why should Jesus “curse” a tree? Exactly what was he saying to the disciples?

Many scholars see this fig tree as a prophecy against Israel. You see, Israel was chosen to bear fruit, but their priorities had changed. They had shifted their focus from the lawgiver to the law. The Hebrew leaders were depending upon the law for salvation instead of God. They had Jesus in their midst and were rejecting him, so God was preparing a way of salvation “which shall be to all people”. God’s plan through his chosen people always involved grace and forgiveness. Jesus often preached to remind them that hearts matter more than outward appearances.

A Sure Sign

Jesus had commanded them to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8, NIV). He also said, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:18, NIV). “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. ” (Matthew 7:19-20) Bearing fruit is a direct result of where our hearts are, and hearts that need cleansing do not bear fruit. When people look at us, what do they recognize? What is YOUR fruit?

Cleansing the Temple: Why?

On this Monday Jesus went into the Temple and once again saw the Temple officials fleecing pilgrims who were coming to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice. I’ve often compared the High Priest to the Godfather, since he oversaw a corrupt system that extorted innocent victims in and around the temple. While seeming outwardly righteous, the priests and officials were a corrupt group who systematically cheated pilgrims and profited from it at their expense.

There were several ways he and his minions fleeced worshippers who came to them in good faith. The Levites in charge of inspecting lambs and birds brought for sacrifice rejected the animals the pilgrims brought from home. Then they forced them to buy a higher priced “unblemished” lamb from them. After that, of course, they would buy the now-rejected animals at a low price and put them in a pen to sell later at a higher price to another poor rube from the country…The money changers also used a high exchange rate and dishonest weights and measures to change people’s Roman coin into Temple money.

So, Why Did Jesus React?

Perhaps since God called such dishonest scales “abominable” in Proverbs 20:10, Jesus was passionately opposed to such practices. “On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves…” (Matthew 11:15). Jesus was fearless in confronting the corruption of the Temple system. Perhaps if he felt that the place where God resides should be cleansed and honest, we should feel that way today, too. But don’t forget that God’s residence is not in church, or in a temple, but in your heart. Are there any money changer’s tables you need to overturn?

cleansing temple

Were the Gospels Inconsistent?

The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke; synoptic = “seen with the same eyes” since they used common source material) mention this cleansing event at the end of Jesus’ ministry, placed here during Passion Week. John’s Gospel, on the other hand,  places a Temple cleansing at the beginning. Some scholars say there was only one event where Jesus cleared the Temple, and that John placed it at the beginning for theological reasons to emphasize the judgment of Israel’s corruption.

I think there were two events, slightly different in scale and focus, calling attention to the hypocrisy in the Temple. In either case, the act of cleansing was significant socially, politically, economically and Spiritually. One happened at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the other happened near the end. Whatever the circumstances, Jesus made it clear that he was calling out the corrupt and wealthy Sanhedrin for their greed and extortion.

An Escalating Situation

This second confrontation with Jerusalem’s “Mafioso” certainly helped bring matters to a head. Nothing stimulates criminal retaliation more than messing with their money. Monday’s events remind us that Passion Week took place in the real world, and when Jesus confronted corruption and hypocrisy, the people he exposed reacted just like people do today. Imagine disrupting the cartel’s operations, or taking half a billion dollars away from, say, a government-funded abortion mill. Reaction will be swift and hateful. In Jerusalem then, and in America today, if you want to truly understand people’s motivation, follow the money.

A couple of things about this: Jesus was no effeminate milk-toast who merely preached about love. He was strong and passionate. Don’t ever think of him as weak, or merely as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” He was a courageous, powerful leader who fearlessly challenged corruption and commanded attention. Second, on this day Jesus announced his presence in the Temple based on righteousness, honesty, and protecting the helpless and disadvantaged who came to worship. Nothing about him has changed since then.

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For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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The Amazing Story of the Victim Who Was Really a Volunteer

One of the things that Passion Week helps us to see (mentioned yesterday) is that Jesus was not a victim but a volunteer. Today is Palm Sunday, and Jesus is traveling with his friends. After the Sabbath, Jesus and the disciples walked from Bethany NW through Bethpage to Jerusalem, a journey of 8-10 miles.

The Victim who Walked Right Into a Trap?

He rode the last part on the colt of a donkey, fulfilling this prophecy from Zechariah 9:9, “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” As he approached, “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:8-9, NIV).

victim

Some say that Jesus was simply a great rabbi who got swept up in events, and who became a victim because of the tumultuous political climate in Jerusalem. They surmise that these adoring crowds called attention to him, the authorities reacted, and things got out of control. (And yes, these are probably some of the same crowds who will be calling for his crucifixion in just a few days…)

A Strange Event in a Jewish Hero Story

Even so, Luke 19 tells us that he wept compassionately over Jerusalem as he approached the city. Some Greeks came to see Philip, who took them to Andrew, who helped introduce them to Jesus. (We don’t know much about Andrew, but we could all do a lot worse than to be remembered as someone who introduced people to Jesus!).

This is one of the clear signals indicating that Gentiles will be included in the New Covenant. It is an interesting fact to be included about the triumphant entry of a Jewish Rabbi… Why even speak about Greeks at such a time? Shortly after meeting them Jesus announced, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”, indicating that these Greeks and “all men” were included in his crucifixion and his kingdom.

No Victim in This Murder Mystery

It’s interesting to note that Jesus taught his disciples several times that he was going to die, that he was a volunteer and not a victim.

Jesus was on a mission, and he was proclaiming it to everyone. Here’s another notable statement that Jesus made in front of his followers outside of Jerusalem: ““Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27, 28, NIV). Knowing what was to come, he is troubled but not desperate; he is aware but not anxious.

Jesus knows exactly what he came to do and what his purpose is. He is not a chance victim, swept along the current of events, wishing that God would save him from this fate. He is a man on a mission who plans to see it through.

The Question Is, What Do YOU Believe About the Cross?

Luke 17:2 [Jesus taught them] But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
John 7:3 “For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me.”
John 18:3, 6 Judas, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with torches and weapons. When Jesus said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground…
Matthew 26:52 Jesus told Peter to put his sword away


What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
While the cross is history, it’s also a bit of a mystery; What caused the crucifixion?
Some say it was caused by politics in the area; others claim it was mob hysteria.

Was it Jesus’s heresy? The Pharisees’ jealousy? Herod’s legacy? Judas’s zealotry?
Was Jesus swept along by a current of events, or was he in control of everything?
In the panoply of history, was he a Rabbi who overplayed his hand, or a King who had total command? Was he a mistreated milquetoast, or a man on a mission?
The cross wasn’t circumstantial; it was strategic.
For Jesus the cross wasn’t by chance, it was by choice.

So, WHY the Cross?

It wasn’t based on an accident; it was based on his authority.
The Cross wasn’t a random disaster; it was a deliberate design.

He said, “Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up!” & “Father, I will drink from this cup”
Jesus predicted it; he projected it; he presented it; and he prepared for it: Jesus explained it to his disciples; he expounded upon it to the Pharisees;
and he expected it to happen.

Jesus knew about it; he talked about it; he prophesied about it; and he prayed about it.
He could have protested when he was arrested, but it wasn’t contested because
It was what he expected. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away; he told Pilate he had nothing more to say;
The cross wasn’t the result of a bad day, or a roadblock along the way; It WAS the way…

Still, It Comes Down to YOU

What do you believe about the cross? Was Jesus a victim or a volunteer?
For Jesus, It wasn’t unexpected; it was premeditated.
The cross wasn’t coincidental; it was calculated.
It was not incidental, and it wasn’t accidental; it was intentional. The Cross wasn’t capital punishment, it was cosmic punishment.

Jesus allowed the Pharisees to plot, so he could do for us what we could NOT.
He allowed the Romans to execute him, so he could execute God’s plan.
God’s Son wasn’t laid low, he was lifted up.
He wasn’t horrified, he was glorified.
Jesus wasn’t a victim of circumstance; he was a voluntary sacrifice.


What do you believe about the cross? All the sinister plans the Pharisees could ever concoct, all the Temple guards they could have ever sent, could never have taken the King of Kings against His will. Jesus wasn’t a pitiful loser who got caught by surprise;
He was a powerful leader committed to salvation!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Saturday before Good Friday: Ten Days that Changed History

We began a long look at the Passion Week starting yesterday, so our “week” is actually ten days, starting BEFORE Palm Sunday… Here are some observations about the Saturday before Good Friday, which would have been eight days before Easter. It is a quiet Saturday, a sabbath, so there is no mention of any activity until we read John’s account  of Supper at Bethany:

Eyewitness Account

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.” (John 12:1-2, NIV).

A short time before this day, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, which prompted Caiaphas (the High Priest) and his council to begin plotting Jesus’ death. They were concerned that this young rabbi’s followers would get out of hand, and bring Roman judgment down upon them all. John, who apparently had connections with the Jewish council, reported this in John 11:49-50: “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Saturday

Guess Who’s Reclining for Dinner

After a quiet Sabbath day in Bethany on Saturday, there were several notable exchanges at dinner. The guests reclined around a low table, as was the custom, leaning on one elbow. (This accurate depiction of places at mealtime means that all of the Italian Last Supper depictions are wrong, of course!) After the close of Sabbath they were actually reclining around a low circular or perhaps square table, starting with the Leader or Guest of honor at the head of the table, ending with the youngest.

(That’s why in the Last Supper, in John 13:22-25, John describes himself as the one leaning against Jesus’ breast. As the youngest disciple, he completed the circle, and had the closest position to Jesus at formal meals).

Lazarus’ sister Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume, and Judas, the group’s treasurer, objected to the waste of money (because, John said, Judas was a thief who used his position as keeper of the bag to steal funds).

There is one other detail. Mark 14 and Matthew 26 record a very similar event, but scholars debate about these two accounts. Was it two events, or Gospel confusion and presentation about one event? I believe them to be two separate incidents that shared some common elements. (Since John identifies Mary as the anointing party, and Matthew and Mark do not name the woman, I think it’s two events–not just confusion within the Gospel accounts. It would have been very unusual for Matthew and Mark not to name someone as well-known to the group as Mary…)

No Accident

Jesus pointed out that this anointing was appropriate because it signified his upcoming burial. He also said “you will not always have me with you”, knowing that his death was imminent. (He told them frankly about his death in John 12:23, Matt.16:21 and 20:17, but it didn’t register with them at the time). One of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of the crucifixion is that it was NOT AN ACCIDENT. Jesus knew it was coming, and he was preparing his followers to deal with it. His disciples later recalled that he told them about his mission, but they were so swept up in the moment that they missed his point entirely.

A Quiet Saturday Evening

This Saturday evening, however, even as a crowd of curiosity seekers hovered outside the house, the disciples remained blissfully unaware of Jesus’s true intentions. But He knew what was coming. It is always important to remember that he made these plans of his own volition, not as a victim. Zebedee’s wife asked if her sons James and John could have important positions when Jesus came into his kingdom. He used this request as a teaching moment about servant leadership. Jesus reminded them again that he came to give his life as a ransom for many. He stated this explicitly to them three times in Mark, but apparently they didn’t grasp his mission until later. (Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34)

This was a bittersweet moment for Jesus. Disciples were speculating, perhaps, about their positions in the new kingdom when he overthrew the Romans. I’m sure there was some concern about the Sanhedrin’s opposition, but they would have assumed it was nothing the Master couldn’t handle. So much that we know now, they didn’t know then. He was with his closest friends, the night before Hosannas would ring on the road to Jerusalem, and yet he was being anointed for his impending death. It is a calm before the storm.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Friday Before Good Friday: Ten Days that Changed the World

We are headed towards Passion week. We will start on the Friday before Good Friday, and follow each day preceding Christ’s death and resurrection. Bill O’Brien’s book Killing Jesus provides some great outside reading, if you are interested. It is time to celebrate the Easter season, and to acknowledge both the gritty reality of Christ’s last week on earth as well as the undeniable impact of his resurrection. I see it as the most fascinating week out of human history, and it is a story that began as far back as the Fall.

Take it From the Beginning

Genesis states that Adam and Eve sinned, and the story about their deadly error aligns with things we see every day in human nature and behavior. Man sinned and brought death into the world. As a Holy and Righteous giver of life, God rejected sin and was required by his very nature to execute judgment. Death entered the world of man, who was free to follow his own selfish choices at his own peril.

As we have studied through the Old Testament, it has been surprising to see God’s judgment juxtaposed with His precious love. We find images of the Lord of Hosts as a lover, as an anxious groom, and as an affectionate Father singing gently over his child. These images lead us to the realization that while the Old Testament is full of the harsh reality of sin, death and a fallen world, the story of Grace is not finished. There is more to the story than a harsh, vengeful God who delights in sacrifice and judgment.

Turning a Page

The New Testament and the work of the Messiah introduces us to new possibility about sin. A world governed by a continuous cycle of sin and sacrifice gives way to a world of grace. Sin still corrupts, but the required sacrifice provides a plot twist that takes God’s revelation in an entirely different direction. This week, starting on Friday, we will look into the Gospels and see the rest of the story.

Here, nine Days before Easter, we will appreciate the Easter season for everything it holds. This Friday post introduces us to a slightly extended version of the passion week of Christ, with an attempt to recount daily activities and developments. One can easily make the argument that no other week affected all of human history as much as this one. The significance of these ten days is demonstrated by how much attention the Gospel writers paid to it: though Christ spent three years ministering, the four authors commit from at least one-fourth (Matthew and Luke) to almost one-half (John) of their books to this single week.

Escalating Events

To set the stage for the rapid turn of events, John reminds us that the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees had been heightened by the resurrection of Lazarus. As Jesus’ fame grew, the tolerance of the rulers in Jerusalem diminished.

John 11:54-57 says, “Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.”

Friday

An Ordinary Friday…

Jesus was well aware that the Pharisees were plotting against Him, and any normal man might have avoided Jerusalem this week altogether. But Jesus was not a normal man. As people in Jerusalem spent Friday getting ceremoniously cleansed for the Sabbath, they wondered if He would show up at the Festival. Not only did He show up, but He had a very busy week making sure that He fulfilled every aspect of His mission.

Sabbath began on Friday at dusk and went to Saturday Sunset. Starting with today, this quiet Friday when Jesus and his disciples were on retreat together, we will walk each day through Passion week alongside Jesus and His disciples, and we will observe the various players who influence events.

A brief chronology:

Friday the week before: Crowds follow; Pharisees have ordered Jesus’ arrest
Saturday (Sabbath) in Bethany, an anointing at Dinner
Sunday (“Palm Sunday”) The triumphal entry into Jerusalem
Monday back and forth to Bethany, a cursed tree, cleansing the temple
Tuesday (a busy day) in the Temple, answering critics and teaching
Wednesday (a quiet day at Bethany) a brief look at chronology
Thursday (Passover Meal) Last Supper, night-time betrayal and arrest
Friday (Illegally Tried) Convicted, Scourged, Crucified
Saturday (The Darkest Day ever) In the Tomb
Sunday (Easter) The Resurrection!

As you read through the daily account of Passion Week (Really ten days, from Friday before through Easter weekend), remember that Easter is about gritty reality. It is about greed and politics, about hatred and hope. Easter week started with a celebration and almost ended with a crucifixion…

It heralds the transformation of scattered and scared disciples into astonishing men; of a rejected Rabbi into the coming King. Ultimately, in perhaps the most surprising turn of events, it begins the transition of the mighty Roman Empire into a mere asterisk in the annals of History. Last of all, it represents the transformation of an un-lovable, insecure and inconsistent sinner –me– into someone redeemed and adopted by the King Himself. I hope your Friday helps you begin a transformation that turns the worst day in history into the best. Day. Ever.

The Beginning of an Empire

Roman soldiers formed their lines with military might;
Everywhere they went, they conquered everything in sight.
States and nations large and small capitulated one and all,
And every Roman man would stand in answer to the emperor's call.
Into every battlefield centurions were hurled,
Conquering everything that mattered, all around the world.
The Roman soldiers spread their fears, making widows, causing tears
And built an empire Caesar said would last a thousand years... 

But then that world was changed--not by a battle or a sword--
But by a loving, humble king armed only with God's word.
Caesars rose and fell. This King, though gentle, mild, and meek
Is one whom wise men sought, and one whom wise men still should seek.
He told his followers that they should turn the other cheek;
He hastened Rome's demise by what he did in Passion week.
One week changed the Roman world, and altered all its ways:
Refresh your view of history and take the next few days
To see the actions of this King--and Jesus was his name--
As Passion Week unfolds, the world will never be the same.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
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Abba: We are the Intimate and Beloved Children of God

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7, NIV)

Affectionate Abba

In the grand drama of the cosmos, man was created in God’s image to be share in all that God made. He created man as a member of the family, someone who could walk with Him daily and call Him Abba, the affectionate form of Father that most closely equates in our culture to “Daddy”. Vine’s says this about “Abba”: “Abba is an Aramaic word, found in Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6.

In the Gemara (a Rabbinical commentary on the Mishna, the traditional teaching of the Jews) it is stated that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title. “Abba” is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; “father” expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.”

Adam and Eve were his children, and the LORD was their Abba. Man was placed in the garden with a covenant that had one stipulation: do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve broke that covenant and were separated from all of God’s goodness. Like the prodigal son, (like all of us!) they selfishly tried to take their inheritance early and ended up outside the family and far from home. Those who once walked daily with the Father now walked alone, and their actions brought a curse not only upon themselves but also upon the creation in which they labored.

Far-reaching Consequences

Because of the curse of sin (self-will), the very fabric of existence was torn, and no amount of effort by mankind could repair it. The story of the Bible is the story of how God redeemed His children from the curse and adopted us back into His loving family. The curse resulted from the breaking of the covenant by men; so only a man could provide justice before a righteous God.

Sin was the deadly enemy of man, separating him from the Father and bringing death and corruption into the world. Only a redeemer untainted by sin could triumph over it. Because its wages are death, sin affected all of mankind both physically and spiritually. This passage from Galatians offers assurance and hope. First, it assures us that God has always had a plan, and that plan has always been bent on restoring us to His family. It says that God sent his Son at “the set time.” The appearance of Jesus was no accident, and he was sent by the Father.

Like Father, Like Son

Second, He was born of a woman, so that he might redeem those born of women. The problem with those born under the curse was they were not qualified to lift the curse. A Redeemer had to be untainted by the curse of sin in order to save those who were already condemned by it.

Third, He satisfied the law, so that he might save those cursed by the law. He provided not only a physical solution to sin, but a spiritual one as well. His words were not the random ramblings of a Jewish wise man, and his claims to be one with the Father were not blasphemy but fact. He was unique in all of history as being the one qualified to counteract the curse and mediate our adoption back into the Father’s family.

Because of Jesus Christ, we are all able to be God’s children once again, walking with Him and calling Him “Abba” (Daddy). Read the words of Jesus sometime and see how often he depended on his Father, talked with his Father, and walked with his Father. See the affection and intimacy Jesus had with “Abba”. When is the last time you loved on the Father, and talked to Him not as the Awesome God of the universe or as the somewhat intimidating Righteous Judge, but as your Daddy? I’m pretty sure he sent His Son so you could do just that. Crawl up into God’s spiritual lap today and sit there for a while. It’s what children do.

Abba’s Children

Abba's children
Why would the Almighty God, the LORD, the great Creator,
Concern Himself with our mistakes? He could say, "See you later."
He could have started over with another cosmic plan
That had a better version of the beings we call Man...
He could have left us all behind. When all was said and done,
He didn't have to save the world or send His only Son!
And yet, he did. He paid the price to set his children free,
So we could all be heirs, and children in His family.
Crawl into your Father's lap, and let him hold you near;
Lean against his chest, and hear him whisper in your ear:
"Out of all creation, it is you that I hold dear,
And I have moved the cosmos just so I could have you here."

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
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Who Has So Much Passion You’d want a Double Portion of it?

Elijah was perhaps the most dynamic of the prophets of Israel. He was seasoned veteran, a prophet who had confronted Baal and defied the evil Queen Jezebel. He was full of power and passion. Elisha was his protégé, a younger man who was doing his internship with arguably the greatest prophet in Israel’s history. As Elijah’s time on earth drew to a close, he asked Elisha a question. (And when you stop and think about it, perhaps he asked ALL of us a question…)

“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” (2 Kings 2:9-10, NIV).

Visible Passion

Elijah was a powerful man of God who prophesied during the evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel (around the Ninth Century, BC). Elisha was his protégé and heir apparent. As he followed and served under Elijah’s ministry, he saw amazing things. Elisha had seen his mentor rain fire upon the prophets of Baal and challenge a corrupt kingdom. Elijah’s passion for the Lord literally drove him into precarious situations, and he represented God in the midst of one of the most corrupt monarchies in Hebrew history.

passion

Elisha saw miracles and confrontations, but he also saw Elijah’s heart. He saw him when he was exhausted and vulnerable, subject to the pressures of being God’s prophet. When they knew that Elijah’s time on earth was nearing an end, Elijah asked his student what he could do for him. In return, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. It was an unusual request, but one that deserves a closer look.

A Difficult Request

I think it speaks volumes to us, and here’s why: 1) Elijah conducted himself in such a way that his follower wanted to emulate the spirit and passion with which he lived. That’s a pretty good legacy. Who is watching YOU, and what will you pass on to them?

2) Elisha demonstrated wisdom in asking not for advice, or material things, but for spirit. He wanted to inherit, not Elijah’s possessions, but his passion and his power. The stuff we leave behind is not important, but the spirit we leave behind will resonate far more in God’s economy.

3) Apparently, in order to inherit Elijah’s spirit, Elijah had to be with him and see him depart. You can imagine that he stayed close no matter what kind of pace the rugged Elijah set, or what kind of danger he might face. In fact, Elijah told Elisha three times to leave him, and Elisha refused. He was stubborn and persistent as he pursued God’s blessing. Are YOU?

4) If somebody got a double portion of YOUR spirit, how much would that benefit them? 5) Someone, today, whether you like it or not, is following you. What do they see? As you near the end of your time on earth, will they find your lifestyle so compelling that they ask to have it replicated in themselves?

Finally, 6) who do you know that exhibits passion and Spiritual wisdom? It might be worth your time to discover how they got to be that way. Be passionate. Pursue. Persist.

Passion Worth Pursuing

Life is important. It’s not about fashion,
It’s not about bank accounts you put your cash in,
But it’s about seeking God’s favor with passion.
Elisha was learning; Elijah was leading,
And knew that their moments together were fleeting,
So he asked Elisha, “Before I must go,
What thing would you ask me that you’d like to know?
Elisha said, “There is one thing I would ask:
No matter my role and no matter my task,
I need to climb up to your greatness- or near it,
So please make me full of your passion and spirit!
And please, if you can, and it’s not too much trouble,
I need lots of help, so please make that a double.”

So, clearly, Elisha was very inspired
And he made that request from a man he admired!
But my question is this: Friend, in all that you do,
Whose passion would you like invested in YOU?
Consider your future. Consider your task,
And who has the spirit for which you would ask?
Spend time with your friends who are loving and wise,
And you’ll find that their attitude helps you to rise!
And while you are at it, consider this, too:
Who’d ask for the spirit that they see in YOU?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Br

Solomon Had a Mission, but the Temple didn’t Build Itself!

Solomon was given a Mission, ordained and blessed by the God of the universe. Since you’ve also been given a mission, perhaps it would be instructive to see what Solomon did!
“I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name…’ When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the Lord today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.” …

A Mission Requires Workers

So, the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stone-cutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers.” (1 Kings 5:5-16, NIV)

Solomon mission

Wow, this was a pretty big construction project—as far as Israel was concerned, it was the biggest one of all time… God could have chosen David to build the temple, but he didn’t. The Lord knew that David’s enemies would likely object to his military past, so He chose David’s son instead. David was incredibly disappointed, but Solomon was chosen to carry out God’s will.

A Man With a Mission

Thus, Solomon was given a clear mission by God, and he went out committed vast amounts of resources, workers, and leaders to get it underway. He worked hard to fulfill his mission. It should be instructive to us that the Lord gave Solomon a job, and he then did everything he knew how to do to get it done. He planned, organized, called in favors and committed resources. He applied his gifts and his wealth to do what God appointed him to do.

God could have just created a temple and set it right down in Jerusalem, but he gave that task to Solomon. The king could have waited for workers to appear miraculously, and for timber and stone to materialize, but he realized that God had put him where he was to have an impact on the world, and he applied himself to doing God’s work. He exercised his own wisdom and position in leveraging relationships and managing people, and he used all of his skill as king to serve God. He knew that he had been chosen by God to perform a task, and he believed that God had put him there to get it done.

Not By Magic

Here’s the point: Why are YOU where you are? What mission has God given you? How much have you committed your skill and resources to make it happen? We may not be building a temple, but we ARE a temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and we HAVE a mission (Matthew 28:19-20). There is something to be done that only you can do. The fabric of eternity is woven with millions of seemingly unrelated tasks that change the world for good, and not all of them get headlines.

The small commissions matter just as much as the big ones in God’s economy, and He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. Jesus told us to love each other, to love “the least of these”, and even to love our enemies. Who will you love today? God has a job for each of us to do. What will He do through you? It only remains for you, in Paul’s words (Philippians 2:12-13), to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act to fulfill his good purpose.” Go. Fulfill.

The Only Mission that Matters

God gave Solomon a mission: build a temple, fit for me;
Put it in the center of Jerusalem for all to see!
Solomon secured the workers, more than a hundred thousand men,
Working shifts in Lebanon to bring the cedars back again.
Everything was organized–the workers getting stone and wood,
And Solomon made certain they were doing everything they could.
See, God gave Solomon a mission, so he had to do his best;
He had lots to do, but this priority outstripped the rest.

No matter what transpired, he knew he had to get the Temple done:
God gave Solomon a mission–but he’s not the only one.
Jesus gave us all a mission, there in Matthew twenty eight:
“Go and make disciples. I am with you. Don’t procrastinate!”
God has given us the job of reaching out to every man;
I hope, like Solomon, that we are doing everything we can.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Prayer of Jabez is Good. Here’s One I Like Even Better!

Do you remember The Prayer of Jabez,  the best-selling book from a few years ago? It had wide circulation among evangelicals, and it certainly stimulated some thoughts about praying for results. Let’s take another look at the man made famous for his prayer:

A Famous Prayer?

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NIV).

This little passage was the subject of Bruce Wilkinson’s book, “The Prayer of Jabez, Breaking Through to a Blessed Life”, back in 2000. Mr. Wilkinson’s work was embraced by many who agreed with him that praying this prayer devotedly and persistently would result in God’s blessings. Others criticized it because they said it focused on prosperity rather than on spiritual blessing, and prescribed rote, formulaic prayer rather than sincere, heart-felt prayer. Whatever your take on it, it is a well-written book that was quite popular, and got folks talking about the power of prayer.

Jabez

Valuable Lessons

The book does a great job of encouraging us to be persistent in prayer and to claim Bible promises for our own, just as Jabez did in 1 Chronicles 4. Mr. Wilkinson did a great job sharing the story of Jabez and drawing some Biblical principles from it. I’ve given it some reflection as well, and here are my own observations about this passage:

1) Jabez is a sincere and honorable man, and he turns to God for blessing. I’d have to say that if everyone we met was sincere and honorable, the world would be a better place. But apparently then—as now—being honorable was the exception rather than the rule. Be the exception.

2) Jabez seemed to be motivated by the fact that his name meant “he makes sorrowful”, apparently or possibly because of the pain he caused his mother in childbirth. He didn’t name himself, but as he grew up he was constantly reminded that he had once been the source of pain…

Parents, be careful what hurtful things you say to your kids, because there are things that stick with them. (I can remember some that were said to me, and I know there are lots of dumb or angry things I have said to my kids or my wife that I wish I could have back! I’m very sorry guys, if anything I said gave you a negative message or memory. I really do love you a lot with my imperfect love!).

The Fine Print

3) This isn’t necessarily a bad prayer, since Jabez asks for God’s hand to be on him, and to keep him from evil so that he would not cause (or have) pain. “And”, the Bible says, “God granted his request”. So there’s that. It’s a prayer that identified Jabez uniquely among his peers, and God answered it. It’s a good prayer, and probably one that all of us would make from time to time…

But when you break it down and look closer, the prayer of Jabez does seem perhaps a bit self-serving, and might just be a bit focused on personal benefit. (Bless ME. Keep your hand on MY territory. Let your hand be with ME. Keep ME from harm. Keep ME free from pain.) These are all legitimate requests to make of God, but there’s a different prayer in the Bible that also asks God for something about ME, and it’s one I can relate to far better.

If I had to pick a Bible prayer that we should pray early and often, it’s not the one prayed by the arrogant Pharisee who stood in the Temple in Luke 18 and thanked God that he was more righteous than his fellow men; it’s the sincere, passionate one prayed by the humble, repentant tax collector as he beat his breast in anguish in Luke 18:13: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Now, THERE’s a prayer worth repeating! (And one that I can certainly relate to!) “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Try praying that one. I bet it will enlarge your territory.

My Own Personal Jabez Prayer

Jabez was an honest man who went to God and prayed,
He asked for God’s protection in the petitions that he made.
Apparently he was honorable; and he was surely blessed.
The Bible says when Jabez prayed, God granted his request.
I guess I’m not like Jabez, since my prayer life is much thinner;
I’m much more like the man who said, “Be merciful to this sinner!”
You may have a different prayer you think of when you pray,
But when you kneel before your God, and find the words to say,
I hope you pray with love and passion every single day.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Stubborn Love: We All Need It, and the Bible is Full of It

Being stubborn is not always thought of as a good thing, but sometimes the best kind of love is the stubborn kind. Stubborn love will throw its arms around the unlovable, the underdog, and the unlikely…and it won’t let go.

Orpah and Ruth were sisters from Moab who married two brothers, the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. Both brothers and Elimelech up and died. Suddenly both the two younger women and their mother-in-law were thus tragically widowed.

Bad to Worse

Now, the prospects for a widow in that place and time were not good. The prospects for a widow with no children was even worse. Poverty was likely at best, and at worst women were subject to misuse without a man to protect them. (Yes I hear you strong women protesting, but it was a fairly primitive time…)

Naomi had decided to leave Moab and go back to her own people and try to live out her days on their charity. In all likelihood, she would remain a lonely, heartbroken woman. The chances of finding a suitable husband for her younger daughter-in-laws was remote if they stayed with Naomi, so Naomi urged the girls to go back to Moab and try to find a husband.

A Surprising decision

Orpah kissed her mother-in-law and left. “But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16, New King James)

stubborn

Ruth stubbornly refused to leave Naomi, and stayed by her side for a journey back to an unknown land and an uncertain future. There she got to work in dry, dusty fields alongside beggars and slaves, picking up scraps that the harvesters left behind. This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and yet it turned into an amazing story of redemption and hope when Ruth was noticed by Boaz, who bought the rights to both Ruth and Naomi to act as their kinsman-redeemer, marrying Ruth and reestablishing Naomi’s family name.

A Stubborn Decision

Ruth’s stubborn love for Naomi seemed destined to force her into obscurity and poverty, but instead it opened doors and changed her life completely; and did you know it also changed Israel’s future, and sent ripples through the pond of history that have touched all of its banks, and have even touched you and me?

As we discussed in another blog, Ruth had a son named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. If you have ever been encouraged by a Psalm, then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. If you have ever profited from a Proverb (written by David’s son), then you have been touched by Ruth’s stubborn love. Her simple act of faithfulness to her mother-in-law turned into an eternal legacy.

I have been the blessed recipient of stubborn love several times, including parents who never absolutely despaired, and an amazing wife who has loved me in spite of myself, and who never gave up on me. And, oh yeah, there was love so stubborn that a brutal whipping couldn’t stop it, the temptation to turn aside couldn’t end it, and a crucifixion couldn’t diminish it. May you, too, find stubborn love in the midst of a thoughtless, temporary and selfish world.

The Best Kind of Love

Naomi’s husband died, and then she lost her sons as well;
Her loss and grief were greater than she had the words to tell.
She told her dead sons’ widows both to leave her there behind,
So they could build a better life and find some peace of mind.
Orpah left. But Ruth said, “Mother, both of us will grieve.
But please, Naomi, in your grief, entreat me not to leave!
No matter what will come our way, there’s one thing you can know:
Wherever you stay, I’ll stay, and I will go wherever you go.

Our prospects are uncertain, and our future may be flawed,
But your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”
Naomi realized then that Ruth just could not be got rid of,
And acquiesced to be blessed by Ruth’s stubborn, stubborn love.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Consecrate Yourselves Today. See Amazing Results Tomorrow.

“Consecrate Yourself” is a phrase you don’t hear every day. (In fact, you may have lived your entire life without even considering it!) You might say, “help yourself”, or “watch yourself”! Archie Bunker often said, “Stifle yourself, Edith!”, but he never said, “Consecrate Yourself, Edith!”

Have you ever consecrated yourself? How would you do that? Just what, exactly, does that mean?
“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5, NIV) It was a command with a promise.

Say What?

As the Israelites prepared to take the Promised Land, they were operating for the first time without Moses. It was he who had brought them out of Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and given them the law. He had challenged them to obey the Lord, and yet they were not always consecrated even though they had seen amazing things!. Apparently it was pretty important to Joshua. I’m sure they asked themselves, “I wonder what he meant by that?”

consecrate

The word consecrate means “to make sacred, to dedicate to a higher purpose.” The Israelites had failed to do that. In fact, they failed so egregiously that they had to wander in the wilderness for years and years. (You may remember the whole “golden calf idol worship” thing, right? That event vividly illustrated how un-dedicated they were.) Even though they were going to the Promised Land, they were still far short of their goal.

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country…

Now they stood on the banks of the Jordan River, ready to start the campaign that would ultimately create a home for these wanderers, these skeptics, these idol-worshippers, these former slaves… Moses had brought the people out of Egypt. Now, Joshua told them they still needed to bring Egypt out of the people!

“Consecrate yourselves”! He challenged them to separate themselves to God, to assume His holiness and character, and to be devoted to His purpose. If they consecrated themselves, Joshua said, they would see the Lord do amazing things among them on the following day.

Consecrate This

What can we glean from this one simple, challenging verse? First of all, good leadership is visionary. It looks ahead to the future and sees amazing things. Second, leadership recognizes that in order for us to experience “amazing things”, we need to be dedicated. We need to make sure that nothing else keeps us from being part of God’s work. What competes with God for your time and attention? What is it that prevents you from being consecrated? I bet if you followed the same advice Joshua gave the Israelites, you would start seeing “amazing things”!

Think about being dedicated to the Lord above all things: Put your name in the blank: Consecrate yourself, ____________, [Bo Jackson] for the Lord will do amazing things around you!” Which amazing things would you like to see? What victories await? What giants will you slay? Consecrate yourself today. Get results tomorrow!

Joshua Said It, But Maybe it Applies to US

If the Lord commands, obey it. Don’t you wait, don’t hesitate,
Don’t obfuscate, prevaricate, don’t act on it a little late,
Or wait for it to resonate, and don’t you dare procrastinate.
Don’t meditate or vegetate, or even try to delegate:
If God tells you to consecrate, then consecrate, and calibrate
Your life so you can dedicate what once was unregenerate.
Just consecrate your heart to the King of Kings,
And you will see Him do amazing things.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread