Sunday, May 16, 2021



Mary Anoints Jesus


After raising Lazarus, Jesus left Bethany and went out to a town called Ephraim, near the wilderness. 

But, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany to see Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. This appears then to be the Saturday before what we call Holy Week begins. Saturday, as reckoned by the Jews, would start on Friday after sundown. If so, they would like have waited until Sunday for this dinner (Saturday after sundown and the end of the Sabbath), which would be Saturday night by our reckoning. Therefore, this anointing appears to occur on what we call Saturday night. 

This will be the third and last Passover of Jesus’ ministry. It is 30 A.D. (The first Passover of his ministry was 28 A.D., 46 years after Herod the Great began rebuilding the Temple. (2:20) 

A dinner was given for Jesus there in Bethany, likely to honor and thank him for raising Lazarus. The disciples also attended. Lazarus was there reclining at the table with Jesus and the disciples and, possibly, other guests. (2) Martha, of course, was serving them. (2)

Then, a dramatic even occurs. Mary came in with a jar that held a Roman pound of expensive ointment (11 1\2 ounces). The ointment was made of pure nard. This came from a plant that grew in the Himalayan mountains of northern India. It was expensive. Judas later refers to it costing the equivalent to a year’s wages for a laborer. Wealthy Romans used it to make perfume.

Jesus was reclining on his left elbow, with his head facing the table, and his feet stretched out away from the table. Mary used the nard to anoint the feet of Jesus. Then she undid her hair, and wiped his feet with it. 

This act was extravagant and sacrificial, using this expensive oil on Jesus’ feet. It was also humble. Normally, only servants tended to the feet of guests. Additionally, Jewish women did not normally unbind their hair in public. Mary was not thinking of herself or her dignity. She showed total devotion to Jesus with no thought to herself. 

Verse 3 says the room was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. That reminds me of the Old Testament sacrifices that were burned on the altar and yielded an aroma that was pleasing to God. God accepted those offerings and was pleased with them.

The Reaction of Judas


Judas reacted negatively to Mary’s act of devotion. He asked why it was not sold and given to the poor. (5) John explained that Judas really only wanted the money so he could steal it. Even today there are those who profess to be Christians but will demean other believers for being fanatics or Jesus freaks because they express their devotion to Christ publicly. 

Jesus Accepted Mary’s Act of Devotion


Jesus rebuked Judas in front of the whole group, telling him to leave Mary alone. He said she did it to keep it for the day of his burial. She was doing in advance that which she would not be able to do at his burial. Mary did not know this to be the case. For her it was an act of devotion. But it prefigures Jesus’ death and the preparation of his body by Joseph and Nicodemus. (19:38-42)

Jesus also said they would not always have him with them, but would always have the poor. He was not putting down the poor. He actually used the language of Deuteronomy 15:11, which is about caring for the poor. He was saying he would only be with them a short time and it was appropriate to minister to him now.

Jesus accepted Mary’s act of devotion, showing he was entitled to it, and that Mary had done a good thing with which he was pleased. 

Plotting to Kill Lazarus


Once people heard Jesus was back in Bethany, they came back out to see Jesus. They also came to see Lazarus. He had become a celebrity, being the only person anyone knew who came back from death.

This prompted the chief priests in Jerusalem to add Lazarus to their hit list, wanting to kill him since he was a living testimony to the supernatural power of Jesus the led people to believe in him.

The Triumphal Entry


The next day (12) was Sunday and we celebrate the day as Palm Sunday. Jesus left Bethany and headed to Jerusalem. But he did not come secretly as he had been doing. He came very publicly.

As Jesus came from Bethany toward toward Jerusalem, he was seen by all of those who came to Jerusalem ahead of the Passover. They took palm branches and went out to meet Jesus, waving the branches as they would for a general who has conquered the enemy. They did this because they had heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. (17-18) 

The crowd shouted “Hosanna! blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”. The words, minus “even the king of Israel, are from Psalm 118:25-26, which celebrates a great deliverance by the Lord with a procession into Jerusalem. They were very familiar to the Jews as Psalms 113-118 were sung at several of the festivals. They are blessing one who comes in the name of the Lord. 

“Hosanna” is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word for “save” or “give salvation now”. 

The words “the King of Israel” are not in the Psalm. The crowd added those words, showing who the one is who comes in the name of the Lord. It is the King of Israel. 

These words also show us the concept of the Messiah among Jews of the time. The Messiah would be a King who accomplished military victories and threw off Roman rule.  It seems that the people in the crowed believed that one who could raise Lazarus from death must be the Messiah.

Jesus mounted a young donkey and rode it into town. John writes that this fulfilled what was written, meaning an Old Testament prophecy.

The main writing, or prophecy, is Zechariah 9:9, which John quoted for us in verse 15 (from the Septuagint): “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt”. 

Zechariah 9 is a prophecy of the Lord returning to Jerusalem as God restores and saves his people. The Jews rightly considered it a Messianic prophecy. 

However, the words “fear not” are not in Zechariah 9:9. They are in Isaiah 40:9, which is tells a herald not to fear, but to lift up his voice and say to the cities of Judah “behold your God”. 

This is an example of something we see often in the New Testament, where two passages are cited together. So, John showed us that Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus came, not on a war horse or chariot, and the conquering king, but as the humble savior who brings restoration of the relationship to God. In addition, John writes, Jesus is God, the one to whom Israel should look. 

The disciples did not understand all of this at the time. But, when Jesus was glorified they came to remember and understand these things. (16)

In the midst of this celebration, the Pharisees continued to see Jesus as a problem. They were making no progress against him. They said “Look, the world has gone after him”. (19) This would turn out ultimately to be false, as the world would turn against him.   

Sunday, May 02, 2021



Jesus the Christ (Messiah)


John placed a chronological marker for the setting of this story. It occurred during the Feast of Dedication. 

This feast celebrated the dedication and sanctification of the second temple after it was defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes, the ruler of the Seleucid Empire, who controlled much of North Africa, including Judea. The Seleucids were Macedonian Greeks. Below is a bust of Antiochus that has been preserved. 

Antiochus had resolved to eradicate the Jewish religion. He took control of the temple, barred the worship of the Lord, and made it into a temple for the worship of Zeus.

Judas Maccabaeus, known as the “Hammer”, led a revolt and liberated the temple. It was re-consecrated and dedicated to God. Judas decreed that all of the Jews would observe a feast to celebrate this event. It is not one of the feasts ordained by God. But it was joyfully observed for 8 days beginning on the 25th day of Cisleu according to the Jewish calendar, December 25th according to ours.

Jews still observe this feast today. They call it Hanukkah.

So, Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of the feast. It was winter. He was walking through the Colonnade, or porch, of Solomon, on the east side of the temple, in the court of the women. He may have been trying to stay out of the cold, winter wind. 

A group of Jews recognized Jesus and confronted him, demanding that he say plainly that he is the Christ or not. (24) This was likely not a good faith question from some who wanted to believe. Jesus’ reply to them shows that is the way he took it. It was more likely the opening gambit of an attack.

Jesus replied “I told you and you do not believe”. (25) Now, Jesus had not made a public statement in Jerusalem that he was the Messiah. He said it to the Samaritan woman at the well. (4:26) Matthew recorded Jesus making the declaration as he affirmed Peter’s confession. (Matthew 16:13)

Why did Jesus avoid a plain declaration in Jerusalem? 

First, the political and military ideas the people had attached to their concept of the Messiah would confuse people as to who Jesus was and what he came to accomplish. They would reject him once he said the Messiah comes to suffer and die, not kill and conquer.

 Second, the Jews would not believe him anyway. They had enough evidence to believe already. That evidence was, first of all, his works, and then his other statements about himself. And that is what Jesus likely meant when he said “I told you”. 

Further, Jesus used the title “Son of Man”, referring to the figure in Daniel who is given an eternal kingdom by the Ancient of Days. He also had cited Old Testament passages about the Messiah and applied them to himself. He also identified himself as the Son of God by calling God his Father and describing their intimate relationship. Despite all of this, the Jews still did not believe.

And the reason they did not believe, Jesus said, was they were not part of his flock. (26) If they were part of his flock, they would hear his voice and follow Jesus, who knew them. (27) Since they are not part of his flock, they do not hear his voice, he does not know them, and they do not follow him. 

The word “know” means more than just having a knowledge of facts. It means there is a relationship. 

To those Jesus knows, and who follow him, he gives eternal life, meaning they will never perish. (28) He stated this positively, then negatively.

The reason they will never lose their eternal life, is the power of God. Jesus has the power to hold believers in eternal life so that they are not snatched away. Otherwise, Jesus would fail in his mission. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should to perish but have eternal life.” (3:16)

Additionally, the Father gave believers to Jesus the Son. The Father is greater than all, so no one has the power to snatch believers away. 

That is why you do not “lose your salvation”. It is not held by you, but by God. See also 1 Peter 1:3-5. 

Jesus has the power to hold believers in eternal life because he is God. So, Jesus said “I and the Father are one”. (30) 


He was not saying that he and the Father are the same person. John pointed this out at the very beginning of his gospel, saying that Jesus was both with God and was God. (1:1) But they are one in that they are in total agreement with each other. Jesus did what the Father did. The Father approved of the actions and words of the Son.

The Father and Son are separate persons, but shared the divine will. 

But Jesus likely meant more than a sharing of the divine will. Jesus and the Father are of the same essence. The “fullness of God” dwells in Jesus. (Colossians 1:19)

The Christian creeds throughout the centuries have maintained this truth. The Nicene Creed, for example, said Jesus was “being of one substance with the Father”. 

This is a claim to deity by Jesus, a claim to be God, to have the same essence as God. The Jews asked for a statement as to whether Jesus was the Christ. Jesus gave them more than that.

Jesus the Son of God


The Jews understood the claim to deity. They took up stones to stone him to death. Stoning was the penalty for blasphemy. A human being claiming to be God, or making himself God, would be blasphemy because there is only one God. Jesus was claiming to be God, but not a rival God to the Father. 

Jesus did not leave this time. He stayed and confronted the crowd, asking which of his good works lead them to condemn him. (32) He still claimed the works to be the works of God. The Jews said it was not for the works, but for the claim to be God. (33) In effect, they were saying it is ok to do works, or miracles, only God could do, but not to actually say you are God.

The crowd, or mob, is beyond rational thought and discussion. They are crossing the line into mob violence. So Jesus responded with a statement meant to shock them into thinking about what they are doing. 

Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 from the Septuagint. In that Psalm, God referred to the Israelites (those to whom the word of God came) as gods. God was referring to their lack of justice, their failure to judge correctly. Judging is the province of God, though he delegates it to humans to judge according to his standards. 

So, Jesus was saying, if God refers to some people as gods, and scripture cannot be broken, how can you say I am blaspheming because I said I am the Son of God. (36) And, of course, he is not a mere human, but the one the Father consecrated and sent into the world.

Having brought a pause to the mob action, Jesus again offered the evidence of his deity. He said they could believe the works he did, which he did so that they could know and understand that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him. (38) 

The last statement again stirred up the rage of the Jews for his claim of deity. So, they tried to arrest him. They could not, however, for his time had not come.

Jesus Retreats


Jesus retreated from the temple and crossed the Jordan to the sea where John had first baptized. There, the memory of the preaching of John the Baptist was still fresh. Those people compared John and Jesus, noticing that John did not do any miracles like Jesus did. 

John’s ministry was to be the herald, not the miracle worker. He preached the coming of the Savior. And in this, the Jews of that place saw that everything John said about Jesus was true. Since that was the case, many of them believed in Jesus.