Spending Money on Jesus: John 12:1-11

Focus Passage: John 12:1-11 (NIV)

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. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Read John 12:1-11 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Often, as I am reading many of the events found in the gospels, I turn my attention onto Jesus – and specifically on how He reacts to what is happening around Him. While studying this passage, when I turned my attention onto Jesus and looked specifically at how He acted/reacted, a fascinating insight became clear.

With the exception of Jesus and the woman, likely most everyone else in the room was surprised about what had just happened, and many of these people were “indignant” at the price tag of this gift – Judas Iscariot being their spokesman.

However, Jesus’ lack of response says something important to me. Jesus pushes back at those who did not value the gift; against those who were only seeing the price tag involved. This tells me that Jesus/God is willing to accept gifts that cost money – perhaps even a lot of money. Money is irrelevant in comparison to the state of our heart, our mind, and our attitude when we give the gift.

This means that in God’s eyes, it is okay to spend money on things that will bring glory to Him. This was a very expensive gift – one year’s worth of income – and in today’s terms, in the United States economic culture, we could conservatively call this a $30,000 gift.

We don’t know how rich Mary was or even if this gift dented her overall estate. She could have spent all her savings on this gift, or she could have spent just a small fraction of a much larger savings account. Nothing in this passage hints at Mary’s (or the woman’s) financial status – except that she had enough to have purchased this expensive perfume.

However, the focus here should not be about the cost, but about the One that is given the glory. Jesus draws attention to the action, the intention, and the symbolism of what happened, and these things should only be amplified by the cost. The fact that the perfume cost a lot should make the gift that much more significant.

In Jesus’ response to Mary, I see a truth for my life today: It is okay to spend money on things that will bring glory to Jesus. It is okay to not be uptight about the most worthy place to put each penny. What matters most is where my heart, my mind, my attitude, and my focus are – and the only correct answer is on glorifying God.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

The Miracle Jesus Prompted: Mark 8:1-10

Focus Passage: Mark 8:1-10 (NLT)

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they replied.

So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 10 Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha.

Read Mark 8:1-10 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, the gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us about a trip away from town where the crowd has run out of food again. While the earlier miracle where Jesus fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people did not seem to be prompted by any immediate need, the miracle in this event where Jesus feeds the crowd of over 4,000 people is prompted by a clear need.

Mark introduces us to this event and this need by writing, “About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.” (v. 1-3)

I find it amazing that Jesus is the one to prompt this miracle. The crowd in this event seems pretty dedicated to Jesus because while they may have planned to spend an afternoon or a couple days with Jesus, they were so dedicated that they had stayed well past their last crumbs of food. Jesus is the one who brings out the detail that some of these people might faint on their way back home.

If one of the disciples had included this detail, we might accuse him of being melodramatic, however, since Jesus said it, we can be more certain it was a realistic concern.

This brings me to big key thought I see included in these introduction verses: Jesus is aware of our needs even if we don’t realize He is aware. While the people were allowed to get hungry while being with Jesus, He never allowed them to starve to death because of Him. These people were dedicated to Jesus above even going to get food for themselves, and because of this dedication, faith, and devotion, they experience a food-multiplying miracle.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — The Question to End the Questions: Matthew 22:41-46

Read the Transcript

As I have read the Bible, studied through the gospels and other passages, and prayed for wisdom, not many verses have stumped me on exactly what they mean. However, the passage we are focusing on in this episode is one passage I don’t really understand. In our passage for this episode, which can be found in three of the four gospels, after avoiding trick and trap questions, we find Jesus challenging the religious leaders with a question of His own.

Perhaps it is a matter of how the question and quotation is worded, but for a long time I wasn’t sure what David was describing.

Let’s read Jesus’ question and what happens, before discussing some thoughts about this event. While our event is recorded in three of the four gospels, let’s read Matthew’s version of it for our episode today. Our passage is found in Matthew, chapter 22, and we will be reading from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 41, Matthew tells us that:

41 While the Pharisees were still gathered, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They answered him, “David’s.”

43 He said to them, “Then how can David, guided by the Spirit, call him Lord? David says,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
    “Take the honored position—the one next to me [God the Father] on the heavenly throne
        until I put your enemies under your control.”’

45 If David calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”

46 No one could answer him, and from that time on no one dared to ask him another question.

For a long time, about the only part of this passage that I understood was the last statement, where Matthew simply describes the detail that no one could answer Jesus’ question and they didn’t ask Him any more questions after this. I think part of my confusion regarding this whole passage and discussion is in the first phrase of Jesus’ quotation. When Jesus quotes David saying, “The Lord said to my Lord”, who are each of the “Lords” that David is referring to.

Since the term “lord” can both refer to God as well as important humans, is David’s statement referring to God the Father, speaking to God the Son, or is David the one being honored with Jesus referring to David as a lord.

This psalm is quoted numerous times throughout the New Testament, which meant that not only was it significant following Jesus’ use of it in our passage, but that those in the first century understood what it meant.

In preparation for this episode, where I would need to come up with at least one theory or idea for us to think about, I decided to switch translations to see if a different translation would help uncover the meaning of this passage, and especially the phrase that was obscure. What I found was that almost every translation worded this event in a very similar way. However, one translation did explain it in a profound way.

The Amplified Bible translation is one hidden gem of a translation because throughout this particular version of the Bible, the translators include additional nuances that the original language has but that isn’t readily able to be translated into English. They do this by including these extras in parenthesis.

When looking at the amplified Bible at this passage, we discover that “The Lord (the Father) said to my Lord (the Son, the Messiah)”. Now we have a frame of reference to use when understanding this passage. David isn’t talking about himself at all, but he is sharing a dialog between the Father and the Son – also known as the Messiah.

This detail is key because of the broader context. The footnotes for this passage from the Amplified Bible share some interesting thoughts on this passage’s significance. This passage immediately follows Jesus being challenged by a key Pharisee about what commandment was the greatest. We learn that the goal of this question was to trap Jesus in His own words, but when we read Jesus’ response, we don’t fully grasp what the trick part of this question is.

When looking at Mark’s version of the Pharisee’s trick question, we discover that Jesus shares the opening lines leading up to the greatest commandment, which the New American Standard Bible translation tells us are “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord;(This is Mark 12:29 quoting Deuteronomy 6:4.)

This detail is significant because it sets up the trick question. With the Pharisees trap, they were going to challenge Jesus based on His claim of being God’s Son because there is only one God and one Lord. Matthew’s gospel, while leaving this opening line of the commandment out, describes how Jesus answered the Pharisees question, but then challenged them on this foundational idea.

When the Pharisees answer Jesus’ question that the Messiah would be David’s descendant, they both speak truthfully, but they also expose the idea that they might believe the Messiah to be simply a human descendant of David and not someone divine.

Knowing that David was a key figure in their history, Jesus pulled their attention and ours onto three Members of the Godhead in how He quotes the psalm in our original passage. Matthew 22, starting in verse 43 says, “Then how can David, guided by the Spirit [also known as the Holy Spirit], call him Lord? David says, ‘The Lord [referencing God the Father] said to my Lord [referencing the Son and the Messiah]…”

In David’s own writings, he describes how the Messiah is honored by God and that the Messiah existed prior to His arrival. David called the Messiah “Lord”, using a term that is generally reserved for God, and with a context that does make it refer to God. By using the word Lord to describe the Messiah, David acknowledged that his descendant would be greater than he was.

In this passage, we discover some amazing ideas, and while I still don’t fully understand all the nuances that were present in this event, I do understand more than I did when I began. In this passage, Jesus pulls our attention onto the detail that David acknowledged the divinity of the Messiah, and that the Messiah is David’s descendant. These two details combined give us the impossible-for-us-to-understand nature of Jesus as both fully God and fully human. Jesus asks the perfect question to stop future questions because the answer to this question is something we cannot understand.

However, just because we cannot understand how this is possible doesn’t mean we cannot believe it. The Bible gives us plenty of evidence we can use to base our faith on, and we can use what the Bible says to know everything we need to know to be saved. It isn’t important for us to know how it was possible for Jesus to be both God and human, but it is important for us to know that God – the Son – died in our place on the cross.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to intentionally seek God first in your life and trust in Him even if we don’t have all the answers to all the tough or perplexing questions we might have. Know that some questions we have can probably never be understood, while others are only able to be understood once we reach heaven.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself so that you can keep your relationship and connection with God strong. A pastor, author, speaker, or podcaster can give you great things to think about, but test everything on the truth of God’s word the Bible. Take your questions to God and let Him lead you to His answers.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 39: Jesus faced many trick questions that the religious leaders used to try to trap Him. Discover what happens when Jesus asks a question of His own.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Loving to the End: John 13:1-17

Focus Passage: John 13:1-17 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Read John 13:1-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As John’s gospel shares about the last supper Jesus and His disciples experienced prior to His arrest and crucifixion, John opens the event with a very interesting phrase. At the end of verse 1, John tells us: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he [Jesus] loved them to the end.

The first thing that happens next is that Jesus bends down and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. While this was not the extent of Jesus “loving His own to the end”, it was definitely a start. While Jesus had served His disciples in many ways up to this point, never before had He taken the role of the lowest servant who happened to have the responsibility of washing the feet of those who entered a home.

However, Jesus “loving the disciples to the end” doesn’t stop with simply washing the disciples feet. Pretty much everything that happens afterwards, from teaching the disciples, from promising them the Holy Spirit, from requesting their escape when the mob arrives, through all the torture all the way up to death on the cross, everything is an example of this one short phrase. Jesus loved “His own who were in the world to the end.”

When I read this line the first time, I realized something offensive: Jesus only says that He loves those who are His. Nothing in Jesus’ statement here implies that Jesus loved His enemies to the end. While there are other places in scripture that imply having love for those who you disagree with, we don’t see that here. However, if John uses the phrase “His own” to describe how Jesus is one of humankind, then we get the picture that Jesus loved all of humankind to the very end – which does sound like something in harmony with the rest of the Bible.

The other phrase that jumped out to me in this how this statement ends: Jesus “loved them to the end”. A quick reading of this verse makes me think that John wants us to focus in on how Jesus loved everyone through the entire experience of the cross, but is that what John means when he says “the end”.

I wonder if this subtle detail is a promise we can claim because Jesus did not end at the cross. While He died, he was only briefly in the tomb before God raised Him back to life. Because of this detail, I am inclined to believe that “the end” does not refer to the cross.

“The end” could mean the end of history, when God ultimately judges the world, but we run into the same challenge with this angle on this phrase: Those who God has saved and redeemed will be living for eternity, and that extends past the end of history.

The only angle that makes sense in my mind for this last phrase is that Jesus loves those who He has redeemed forever. No gap or break exists in His love for each of us who have accepted Him into our hearts. Jesus loved us through the betrayal, the rejection, the pain, the torture, and the cross and He chooses to love us (all of humankind) forever!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.