Women and Jesus

There are many feminists who reject everything about Christianity. They cite that it is patriarchic and oppressive to women.  They point out that the Christian church has minimized the voices and experiences of women, most notably by not allowing women to be pastors or leaders until very recently (if at all).  I agree with these assessments.  But I also think it is important to read what Jesus said about women and see how he interacted with them.  The Church would do well to follow Jesus’ example.   

Note: the Gospel verses are from the Condensed Gospel, copyright 2015 by Betsy Nelson. They are a rendering of the Gospels as one book, in order, with no repetition. Each line in boldface is the title of one unique story.

The angel Gabriel predicts Jesus’ birth 

Six months after John was conceived, God sent the angel Gabriel to a village in Galilee called Nazareth to visit a woman named Mary.  She was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of King David.

The angel said “Rejoice! The Lord is with you! You are blessed and favored among women!”

Mary was perplexed by his words and wondered what he meant by this greeting. The angel continued, saying “Have no fear Mary, for God has chosen you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of God, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor King David. He will reign over the house of Israel forever and his kingdom will have no end!”

Mary asked the angel, “How is this possible since I have never been with a man?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. Therefore this child will be completely holy and God will be his father. Consider this – your relative Elizabeth who was barren and elderly has conceived and is six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God!”

“I am a servant of the Lord,” said Mary. “May everything happen to me that you have said.” Then the angel left.

LK 1:26-38

Jesus and the Samaritan woman

Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee when he learned that the Pharisees heard he was baptizing and making more disciples than John. Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples did. On his way he traveled to a town in Samaria called Sychar, which is near the piece of land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there and around 6 in the evening Jesus sat down near it because he was exhausted from his journey. A Samaritan woman came near to draw water from the well. Jesus asked her to give him a drink. His disciples had traveled ahead into town to buy food.

She replied “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews normally did not associate with Samaritans.

Jesus answered, “If you understood the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would be asking him, and he would give you living water.”

“Sir,” she said, “the well is deep and you don’t even have a bucket with you. How and where are you going to get this ‘living water’? You aren’t more powerful than Jacob, our father, are you? He is the one who gave us this well.  He, his sons, and their livestock all drank from it.”

Jesus said “Anyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I offer will never ever become thirsty again! In fact, the water I offer will become like a spring of water, flowing from within that person for eternal life.”

“Sir,” she said, “let me have some of this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to come all this way to draw water here again.”

“Go get your husband and come back here,” he told her.

“I am unmarried,” she replied.

“You are correct in saying ‘I am unmarried,’ because you’ve been divorced five times and the man you are with now is not your husband. You have spoken the truth,” Jesus countered.

“Sir, it is obvious to me that you are a prophet,” the woman replied.  “The Samaritans worshipped here on this mountain in years past, yet you Jews believe that Jerusalem is where people should worship.”

Jesus said “Believe me; the time is coming when you won’t need to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you don’t know, while we Jews know what we worship, because salvation comes into the world through us.  However, it is now the time when true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth.  God wants this kind of worship from us.  Since God is spirit, God should be worshipped in spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman said “I know that the time is coming when the Messiah will arrive” (the One who is called Christ). “He will explain everything to us when he comes.”

“I am the One who is speaking to you.” Jesus told her.

His disciples arrived at this point and they were surprised he was talking with a woman.  But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking to her.

Then the Samaritan woman got up, left her water jar there, and went back to town.  She told the men “Come with me and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Is it possible this is the Messiah?” They left the town and went straight to where Jesus was.

Meanwhile, the disciples kept urging him to eat something.  But he said “I have food that you are unaware of.”  The disciples began to wonder among themselves, saying “Could someone else have brought him something?”

Jesus told them “My food is to do God’s will and to finish God’s work. Isn’t it common to say ‘There are four more months before the time for the harvest’? Listen clearly – raise your eyes and look at the fields – they are ripe for the harvest! Right now the reaper is being paid and gathering the harvest for eternal life, so those who sow and those who reap can celebrate together.  Here the saying is true – ‘One sows the seed and another reaps the harvest.’ I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work for.  Others have worked and you have benefitted from their work.”

Many people from the Samaritan town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony when she said “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” Because of this, they asked him to stay with them when they came out to see him at the well.  Jesus stayed there for two days.  Many more people came to believe because of his word.  Then they told the woman “We don’t believe just because of your testimony. We have heard him for ourselves and we know that he truly is the Savior of the world.”

JN 4:1-42

Much forgiveness, much love  

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with him at his home. He accepted the invitation, and as he was reclining at the dinner table, a woman from that town who was known as a sinner entered the home, carrying an alabaster flask filled with expensive perfume.  Weeping, she knelt behind him at his feet with her tears falling upon them. She wiped her tears from his feet with her hair and then began to kiss his feet and anoint them with the perfume.

When the Pharisee noticed what was happening, he thought to himself “If this man really were a prophet he would know that the woman who is touching him is a sinner!”

Jesus, knowing his host’s thoughts, said “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Jesus then told him a parable. “Say there is a man who loaned money to two people. To one he loaned $5000 and to the other he loaned $500. Neither one was able to pay him back, so he graciously canceled both their debts. Which one do you think loved him more?”

“I suppose the one who had the bigger debt,” Simon answered.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. Then he gestured towards the woman and said to Simon “Do you notice this woman here? When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me any water to wash the dust off my feet as most people do, but she has washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss as most people do, but she has not quit kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil as most people do, but she has anointed my feet with expensive perfume. Therefore, her many sins are forgiven because she loves me greatly, but the one who has a smaller debt of sin to forgive shows a small amount of love.”

Then, looking at the woman, he said “Your sins are forgiven.”

Those who were at the table with him said amongst themselves, “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. You may go in peace.”

LK 7:36-50

Many women support Jesus’ work

Jesus was traveling all over the region, preaching and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. His twelve disciples were with him, along with women he had healed. They included Mary Magdalene, (who had been freed from seven demons), Joanna the wife of Chuza (who was King Herod’s steward), Susanna, and many others who were supporting them and their ministry from their own personal resources.

LK 8:1-3

True blessedness 

While he was talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up and said “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and blessed is the one who nursed you!”

Jesus replied “Those who hear and keep the word of God are even more blessed!”

LK 11:27-28

The parable of the yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman mixed into 50 pounds of flour until the yeast spread through all of it, making it all leavened.”

MT 13:33, LK 13:20-21

A girl raised from the dead and a woman healed from bleeding 

A synagogue leader named Jairus fell down on his knees at Jesus’ feet, begging him to heal his child.  His only child, a 12 year old daughter, was near death.  He pleaded with Jesus to come to his house and lay his hands on her so she would live.  Immediately Jesus and his disciples followed him to his home.

While they were on their way, a crowd of people surrounded Jesus, almost crushing him.  In the crowd was a woman who had suffered from menstrual bleeding for 12 years.  She had given all of her money to doctors for a cure, and not only had they not healed her, she had gotten worse.  Approaching Jesus from behind, she touched the corner of his robe where his tzitzit were attached, thinking just doing that would be enough to heal her.  As soon as she touched his robe she could tell that she was completely healed.

Immediately Jesus felt power leave him, and he began to look around him, asking “Who touched me?” His disciples looked at him in amazement.  They wondered how they could possibly know who it was, as the crowd was very large and dense.  Since her plan to do this secretly was foiled, the woman threw herself at Jesus’ feet and confessed that she was the one who had touched him, and why.  He looked at her and said “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

Just then, a messenger from Jairus’ house came to say to him “Don’t bother the Teacher anymore – your daughter is dead.” When Jesus heard this he said “Don’t be afraid – just believe, and she will be healed.”

When Jesus got to the house, he saw a crowd of mourners had already arrived, making a lot of noise with their wails of grief.  He said “Why are you going on like this? She isn’t dead.  She’s just sleeping.” The crowd began to laugh at him.

Jesus got the crowd to leave the house. Going inside with just Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents, he went up to the girl, and taking her by the hand, he said “Talitha koum!” (Which means, “Little girl, get up!”) Immediately her soul returned to her and she began to walk.  Jesus told them to get her something to eat, and strongly told those present to not tell anyone about this.

MT 9:18-26, MK 5:21-43, LK 8:40-56

A Gentile mother’s faith

Jesus traveled to the area of Tyre and Sidon. A woman who wasn’t Jewish approached him and kept crying out to him “Have mercy on me Lord, son of David! My daughter is tormented by an unclean spirit.” Jesus didn’t reply to her, but his disciples approached him and asked him to make her go away because she kept following them and yelling for help.

Jesus said “I am called to help only the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman came and knelt before him, begging him to drive the demon out of her daughter.

He said “Let the children have their fill first, because it isn’t right to take their bread and throw it to the dogs.”

But she replied “Yes, but even the dogs under the table eat the crumbs that fall.”

Jesus answered “Your faith is great, woman. Because of how you answered, you will receive what you have asked for.” Her daughter was free of the demon that very hour.

MT 15:21-28, MK 7:24-30

An adulteress is forgiven

Jesus went to the Temple complex at dawn. A large crowd gathered around him.  He began to teach them after he sat down.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman into the center of the gathering.  She had been caught committing adultery.

They said “Teacher, this woman was caught committing adultery. The Law of Moses says that we should stone her for this.  What do you say we should do?” They said this because they wanted to corner him into breaking the Law so they would have a crime to charge him with.

Jesus leaned over and began writing in the dirt with his finger.  They kept questioning him, so he stood up and said “Whichever one of you who has led a sinless life should throw the first stone at her.”

He crouched back down and started writing on the ground again.  Having heard this, the scribes and Pharisees started leaving, with the older men leaving first.  Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left, with her standing in the center.

Jesus stood up and said “Woman, where are they? Is no one here to condemn you?”

“There is no one, Lord,” she answered.

“I do not condemn you either,” he said. “Go, and don’t sin again.”

JN 8:2-11

Martha and Mary

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling they arrived at a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening while he taught.

Martha was anxious about everything that she had to do to prepare for these unexpected guests. She said “Lord, do you think that it is fair that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to give me a hand.”

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing matters. Mary has made the right choice, and I won’t take it away from her.”

LK 10:38-42

Healing a daughter of Abraham 

Jesus noticed a woman who was disabled by a spirit while he was teaching in the synagogue one Sabbath. She was bent over and could not completely straighten up, and had been this way for eighteen years. Jesus called to her and said “Woman, you are released from your disability!” He laid his hands on her and she was instantly restored to health and began to praise God.

The local synagogue leader was indignant because Jesus had worked on the Sabbath. He said to the crowd “There are six days in which people are allowed to work – therefore come to be healed on one of those days and not on the Sabbath!”

The Lord answered him, saying “Hypocrites! You all work on the Sabbath! Don’t you untie your ox or donkey and lead it to water on the Sabbath? Satan has tied this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years. Shouldn’t she too be released on the Sabbath day?”

All of his adversaries were humiliated when he said this, and the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the amazing things he was doing.

LK 13:10-17

The parable of the lost coin

“What woman doesn’t light a lamp and thoroughly search the house from top to bottom if she loses a single silver coin out of the ten she has? She will call together her female friends and neighbors when she finds it, saying ‘Let’s celebrate, because I’ve found my lost coin!’ Truly, the angels before God are just as joyful when one sinner repents.”

LK 15:8-10

The parable of the persistent widow 

One day Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they needed to not get discouraged but to pray constantly instead.

“There once was a judge who didn’t fear anyone – God or man. A widow kept coming to him to obtain justice for herself against her adversary. He put her off for a long time. But after a while, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear anybody, there is something about the fact that this woman keeps pestering me that gets to me. I will rule in her favor so she doesn’t beat me up with her incessant demands.’

Jesus said “Look! Even this hardhearted judge will give in to someone who constantly asks for relief. Don’t you think that God (who is good) will grant relief to those who respect God if they keep asking? Of course God will, and God will help them quickly. In spite of all this, when the Son of Man comes again how many will be found who have faith and are praying?”

LK 18:1-8

The widow’s gift   

Jesus was sitting across from the tithe box at the Temple. He saw all the people dropping their money into it. The rich were putting in a lot. A poor widow came along and put in just two tiny coins, barely enough to buy a loaf of bread. Jesus called his disciples to notice this and said “Truly, this poor widow has donated far more than anyone else. They had given out of their excess, but she has given out of her lack. She has given everything that she has to live on.”

MK 12:41-44, LK 21:1-4

The anointing at Bethany  

Jesus was staying in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had a serious skin disease. They gave a dinner in honor of him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus, the one Jesus had raised the dead, was reclining at the table with him. Mary, Martha’s sister, approached Jesus with an alabaster jar filled with a pound of pure and expensive fragrant oil called nard.

She broke the jar open and poured the oil on his head and feet while he was reclining at the table, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the oil’s fragrance.

The disciples were indignant about this. Judas Iscariot, the one who was going to betray him, spoke up to scold Mary, saying “Why wasn’t this expensive perfume sold and the money given to the poor, rather than being wasted like this?”

Jesus said “Why are you bothering her? What she has done for me is very noble. She has saved this oil for the day of my burial, which she has now prepared me for by anointing my body. The poor will always be with you for you to take care of, but I won’t. I assure you, what this woman has done for me will be told in memory of her wherever the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world.”

MT 26:6-13, MK 14:3-9, JN 12:1-8

On the way to the cross  115

There was a Cyrenian man named Simon who was coming in from the country. He was the father of Rufus and Alexander. He was passing by as the soldiers were taking Jesus to the crucifixion site. They grabbed him and forced him to carry Jesus’ cross by laying it across him.

MT 27:32, MK 15:21, LK 23:26

There were many women wailing with grief in the large crowd that was following Jesus.  He turned to them and said “Don’t weep for me, daughters of Jerusalem. Weep for yourselves and for your children. The days are coming when people will say that those who never bore children are fortunate. They will call out to the mountains, saying ‘Fall on us!’, and begging the hills to bury them. For if they do things like this when the tree is green, what will they do when it is dry?”

LK 23:27-31

Jesus’ provision for his mother

Jesus’ mother, along with Mary Magdalene and his aunt Mary (who was the wife of Clopas), were standing by his cross. When Jesus noticed his mother standing with the disciple he loved, he said “Woman, here is your son.” To the disciple he said, “Here is your mother.” From that point on the disciple made her a part of his family.

JN 19:25-27

Women with him 

Many women were there who had followed and helped Jesus from when he was in Galilee.  They were watching the crucifixion from a distance. They included Mary Magdalene, Mary who was James and Joseph’s mother, Salome, and the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee).  Many other women had traveled with him up to Jerusalem.

MT 27:55-56, MK 15:40-41, LK 23:49

Resurrection morning  

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Joanna, and Salome went to the tomb while it was still dark on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had ended. They brought the spices and perfumes they had prepared to anoint the body. They were wondering among themselves how they would roll back the stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb.

An angel of the Lord suddenly descended from heaven, causing the earth to shake. He rolled back the stone door and then sat upon it. He shone with a brilliant light and his robe was snow-white.  The guards were paralyzed with fear when they saw him.  The women bowed down to the ground, amazed and terrified.

The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  Why are you looking among the dead for the living? He is not here – he has been resurrected! Remember how he told you when he was in Galilee that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and will rise on the third day?”  Then they remembered that Jesus had said this.

The angel continued, saying “Come and see where they put him. Go quickly and tell his disciples ‘He has been raised from the dead.  He is going ahead to Galilee – you will see him there, just as he said.’ Make sure you tell them this.”

The women, trembling with amazement and alarm, ran from the tomb to tell the other disciples the news.

MT 28:1-8, MK 16:1-8, LK 24:1-8, JN 20:1

Mary Magdalene and the other women see Jesus 

Mary saw a man in the garden not far from the tomb.  She assumed he was the gardener. He was Jesus, but she did not recognize him. When he said “Mary”, she instantly knew who he was.

“Teacher!” she exclaimed, reaching for him. 

He cautioned her, saying “Don’t hold on to me, because I haven’t yet gone up to my Father.  But go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to our Father – mine and yours. I am leaving for Galilee, have them meet me there.”

The other women saw him as well, and they held his feet and worshipped him.

The women reported to the disciples on all that had happened and relayed the message from the angel and Jesus to travel to Galilee, yet they didn’t believe them.  The disciples thought they were making up the story.

MT 28:9-10, MK 16:9-11, LK 24:9-11, JN 20:14-18

Christian correction

A lot of Christians feel that it is our religious duty to correct other people. Some of us think that we are supposed to tell other people that they are sinners.

This verse is often used to justify this:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.” Matthew 18:15-17

Notice that this only refers to fellow Church members. Notice also that the first part is that the member is rebuked privately. This is never a public censoring, to be aired outside of the Church. Also, it most certainly is not meant for unbelievers.

Some of us will also refer to Matthew 5:23-24. I have included the preceding verses to put it in context.
21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:21-24

We are not to insult or attack anyone. We are to reconcile – to balance the accounts. We are to make peace.

The trouble with the usual manner of “correction” by calling someone a sinner is that it isn’t Christ-like. Jesus never called anybody a sinner. Jesus spoke a lot about religious hypocrisy, in fact. He spoke often against religious people who thought they had it all figured out. So what we are doing when we condemn people is not only not correct in the eyes of Jesus, it isn’t building up the kingdom. It is tearing it down. It is pushing people away from wanting to follow Jesus.

Note these words of Jesus, right after the most famous verse in the Gospels –
“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17

Jesus didn’t come to condemn anybody, so neither should we. We represent Christ here on Earth. We serve as his ambassadors. Your face may be the only face of Christ that people see, so make it a good one.

We have certain moral obligations as followers of Jesus, certainly. We are set apart and are commanded to not follow the ways of the world. There is no reason to water down the rules that we are commanded to follow – that is not what I’m saying. But we need to change what we are focusing on when we interact with people who do not yet believe.

Non-believers aren’t obligated to follow our rules, because they aren’t part of the Body of Christ. It is as if we are getting angry with people for breaking contracts they never signed.

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

Our first goal must be to have the person hear the words of Jesus. Give them a copy of the Gospel. Share verses with them. Pray for them. Because once they have the Lord in their hearts, they will change their ways.

“…whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16b-18

Don’t focus on other people’s sin at all. Focus on the Spirit. Encourage people. Be a good example.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 HCSB

I’ve heard a story about African Christians who would move to a different village to be missionaries. Instead of preaching to them with their words, they did so with their lives. They lived among them and showed the light of God through everything they did. The other villagers would come up to them and ask them what was the secret for their happiness. Only then would they share the message of Jesus with them in words. All along, they had been sharing it with them by their example.

You know a tree by its fruit. We can see when people are producing good results – fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

Our call is to imitate Christ, who waited for people to ask him to be healed. People had to admit their illness to themselves first, and then to him. He didn’t heal people who weren’t called to him first.

The Hebrew word that is translated in English as “sin” does not have nearly the same weight as it does in English. It is from an archery term, and means “missing the mark”. You aim your intentions, act, and your actions fall short of the goal. It isn’t a moral failing. From observing the result of your action, you learn to aim higher so that you can achieve the goal.

To get better, aim higher. This should always be our goal – to set our sights on Heaven at all times.

“6 So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6

May God bless us and strengthen us, and help us to be good shepherds – to feed his sheep with the spiritual food of his Word made flesh, Jesus. I ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

(all Bible translations are HCSB)

A Nation Under God

If we want to go with the idea of making America a nation “under God” – what does that mean? What does it mean when people say that they want America to be a Christian nation? Let us look at Holy Scripture for direction. I’ve selected some prominent ones and then boiled them down to the essentials in boldface. Read over all of it carefully, and see if what America does currently in the name of Christian values matches up with what the Bible says.

Ezekial 18:7-9 describes the actions of a righteous man –
7 He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. 8 He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from wrongdoing and carries out true justice between men. 9 He follows My statutes and keeps My ordinances, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.”This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.

We shouldn’t oppress anyone. We should repay debts. We shouldn’t steal. We should feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If we lend money, we shouldn’t do it at interest. We should do only good things and act in a just manner. We should follow the rules that God has given us.

The whole of chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah tells us what to do –
“Cry out loudly, don’t hold back!
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Tell My people their transgression
and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek Me day after day
and delight to know My ways,
like a nation that does what is right
and does not abandon the justice of their God.
They ask Me for righteous judgments;
they delight in the nearness of God.”
3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You fast with contention and strife
to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today,
hoping to make your voice heard on high.
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The LORD will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.
13 “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath,
from doing whatever you want on My holy day;
if you call the Sabbath a delight,
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much;
14 then you will delight yourself in the LORD,
and I will make you ride over the heights of the land,
and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

God does not want us to fast in sackcloth and ashes, drawing attention to ourselves. God wants us to set people free of anything and everything that enslaves and traps them. God wants us to share our food with people who are hungry, share our homes with people who are homeless, to clothe people who have nothing, and to not neglect our families. We are to make sure that others have as good as we have, by sharing what we have with those who have nothing.

Micah 6:6-8

6 What should I bring before the LORD
when I come to bow before God on high?
Should I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?
7 Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams
or with ten thousand streams of oil?
Should I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the child of my body for my own sin?
8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the LORD requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

The only offerings God wants from us is to show justice and mercy, and be humble when following God’s commandments.

What are those commandments? They are in Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
3 Do not have other gods besides Me.
4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.
7 Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. 11 For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
12 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 Do not murder.
14 Do not commit adultery.
15 Do not steal.
16 Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

In summation – know that God is the only God, and worship only God. Don’t use God’s name casually. Rest on the Sabbath. Honor your parents. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t want anything that your neighbor has.

Jesus boils it all down to two simple rules in Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

If you love God and your neighbor (everyone else) then you will not violate any of the commandments. You won’t make idols, worship other gods, or use God’s name without reason if you love God. You can’t murder, steal from, or lie about anyone if you love them.

Jesus tells us more with a parable in Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!
42 For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’
44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’
45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We are to treat everyone as if they are Jesus – to serve them in the same way. This means that we are to give food to the hungry, something to drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the stranger, give clothes to the naked, and take care of people who are sick and/or in prison.

If we do all these things, then, and only then, can we say that we are Christian nation. Let us focus our efforts on being known for our love by serving others – feeding, clothing, welcoming. If we do that, we won’t have time for anything else which we’ve been deluded by false pastors into thinking we have to do.

(All translations are HCSB)

The baptism font at St. Meinrad’s

Let us approach the baptism font at the monastery of St. Meinrad’s  Archabbey in Indiana. It is near the front doors, although almost nobody uses them because they are up three flights of stairs.  Most use the side doors instead.

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font

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And now we look inside.
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There is a constant bubbling of water in it.  It is rather soothing to watch.  It is big enough to put an infant inside.

Here is the base.
font base

This next photo is very interesting. I was taking a picture of the altar, but with the light it looks like the font is the chalice on top of the altar. This is very appropriate, as the baptism font and the altar are connected symbolically.  We enter the faith through our baptism.  We are reminded of our redemption through communion.
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I wonder what it is like for these priests to baptize, when they will never have children of their own (since they cannot marry or have sex)?

There is no reason from the Gospels why priests cannot marry. Peter, the “rock upon whom the church is built” was married before Jesus called him to be a disciple. (See MT 8:14-17, MK 1:29-34, or LK 4:38-41, when his mother-in-law was healed.) Jesus never said that his followers couldn’t be married. He also wanted us all to live communally and work together, sharing what we have with each other.

Easter and Ostara

I have an opportunity this week to go to two different religious events that are not part of my faith tradition. They are being held at a Unitarian Universalist Church. I’m interested in other faith traditions and attending their events. I feel that we cannot truly “love our neighbors as ourselves” if we don’t know anything about them. It is important to know where we are both coming from.

But I’m conflicted. The first one is a Purim celebration. That is a Jewish festival, celebrating the defeat of people who wanted to kill the Jews. It centers around the story of Queen Esther. I’d like to attend because I’ve never participated in this festival, but do I want to do it at a place where they might not be doing it correctly? It might be more “show” than real, because the Unitarians aren’t Jewish. Going to a synagogue would be the best option if I want an authentic experience, but I don’t want them to feel threatened by the fact that I follow Jesus.

This then leads me to this thought. I find it interesting that the very things that the Jews hold against Jesus for why they can’t accept him as the Messiah aren’t true. They think it is blasphemous that he said he was God. But, he never said he was God. He said all the time that he was the Son of Man. He said he was the son of God, but said that we all are. They are also repulsed by the idea of human sacrifice, as well as the concept of sacrificing yourself for other people’s transgressions. I’ve not found anywhere that Jesus said he “died for our sins” – Paul said that, but he isn’t the Messiah. Jesus died out of obedience to God’s commandments, and to show us that death is not final.

I’m also little confused as to why the Unitarian Universalists even call themselves a “church” – as the term is associated with Christianity. If they want to be inclusive, then the word “church” is going to be a problem for the very people they are trying to attract. “Congregation” or “community” might be a better term for them. They don’t consider themselves particularly Christian, nor do they act in usual Christian ways. They don’t even mention Jesus or God in their services. They don’t read from Christian scriptures, and in some gatherings they don’t read from any scriptures from any faith tradition. They want to not offend anyone and be as inclusive as possible. This means that they have watered everything down so much that it doesn’t taste like anything at all. Sure, some Christians go there, but so do atheists and agnostics. How can it be a “church” if you can be a member and not even believe in God?

There is also going to be an Ostara celebration at the same place in the evening. This is the origin of the Easter celebration in Christian churches, where they celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. But Ostara is most certainly a pagan celebration, not Christian. Is it appropriate for me, a disciple of Jesus, to go to?

What does the Bible say? When in doubt, it is good to look to good examples.

Paul, when asked if it was OK for Christians in the early church to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols said that it would not harm them, but that it could cause other members to falter in their faith.

1 Corinthians 8
About food offered to idols: We know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. 2 If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. 4 About eating food offered to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”—
6 yet for us there is one God, the Father.
All things are from Him,
and we exist for Him.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.
All things are through Him,
and we exist through Him.
7 However, not everyone has this knowledge. In fact, some have been so used to idolatry up until now that when they eat food offered to an idol, their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not make us acceptable to God. We are not inferior if we don’t eat, and we are not better if we do eat. 9 But be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, the one who has this knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, won’t his weak conscience be encouraged to eat food offered to idols? 11 Then the weak person, the brother for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge. 12 Now when you sin like this against the brothers and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.

Jesus said after being resurrected from the dead that we wouldn’t be harmed, even if we drank poison or handled snakes.
Mark 16:17-18
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

Jesus did not separate himself from people and only associate with people who were “safe”. He constantly was challenged by the religious authorities who mocked him for “dining with sinners”. They said that if he was a prophet, he should know that the people he was hanging out with weren’t righteous. His answer to their challenge –

Mark 2:17
17 When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus touched and healed lepers. Nobody touched lepers – they lived apart from everyone else because their disease was so contagious. To touch a leper was to become one. Yet he touched them, along with those with other infirmities that were seen as socially stigmatizing.

Matthew 8:1-3
When He came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. 2 Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 3 Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his disease was healed.

I remember one time I went to a talk and guided meditation that was sponsored by a Hindu meditation group. The vast majority of the attendees were Caucasians. I felt OK listening to the talk, but very uncomfortable closing my eyes and participating in the group meditation, so I didn’t. Afterwards, the members all descended upon the newcomers and started questioning them in a manipulative way. Yet I had chosen to wear a necklace that had the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the image on the pendant. I used it as a way to show them a side of Jesus that they had never heard of, with Jesus being so open and vulnerable that he was willing to share his heart with the world. He didn’t hide who he was from people. He lived fearlessly.

So instead of being afraid that I’m going to be led astray by the Ostara celebration, perhaps I need to go as a representative of Christ. Perhaps I need to go in case there is an opportunity to show people who Jesus really is. But I still don’t know. I don’t want to “crash” their party. I don’t want to be “that Christian” who is rude and who covers over other traditions with her own. There are too many of those kinds of people. But, perhaps I am being called to go, to hang out with people who have either been excluded from the Church for being different, or have never heard the message of Jesus clearly.

I’m still praying about it, and I think this is always the path we need to take. We should always remember that it isn’t what we want to do, but what God wants us to do. Only through prayer and discernment can we know the difference. Only if we are truly following God can we do any good in this world.

(All Bible translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

Don’t worship the door.

“Jesus once said ‘I am the door’ – and he was correct. A door is something to go through. The church, however, has remained at the threshold of the door, worshiping it, afraid to enter.” – former Episcopal priest Peter Calhoun in his book “Soul on Fire”

“We worshipped Jesus instead of following him on his same path. We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God and everything else. This shift made us into a religion of ‘belonging and believing’ instead of a religion of transformation.” – Richard Rohr

“A rich young man approached Jesus, and kneeling down before him, said ‘Good Teacher, what do I have to do to attain eternal life?’ Jesus asked him “Why do you call me good? There’s only One who is good, and that is God. If you want to have eternal life, then keep the Commandments. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie about anyone, honor your parents, and love your neighbor as yourself.” — Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20 (from The Condensed Gospel rendition, in “The Rich Young Man”)

Jesus never wanted us to worship him. Jesus wants us to follow him to God. Only God is above us.

Remember all the times that Jesus walked away from the crowds who were trying to make him king? He didn’t want it. Even today, the Jews use the fact that he wasn’t an earthly king to prove that he was not the Messiah. They also say that it is idolatry to worship Jesus as God.

Jesus would agree.

Remember the commandment to “have no other Gods before Me”? That includes Jesus. He constantly pointed people back towards God. He didn’t want to be worshipped. He wanted people to follow him to God.

Christianity has made an idol out of Jesus, rather than seeing him as a teacher and a guide.

Trunk or Treat

Why do some Christian churches celebrate “Trunk or Treat” rather than Halloween? It is because some denominations are strongly opposed to the idea of Halloween because they think it is honoring the devil. They also are concerned about the safety of their children knocking on strange neighbor’s doors asking for candy. So they want to find a safe alternative.

Instead of having “Trunk or Treat”, perhaps would be better not to have anything at all. “Trunk or Treat” still gives reference to Halloween. Perhaps have a harvest festival if you have to have something. To observe even part of a holiday that you are opposed to is still acknowledging it. Referring to it gives it credence. If they are truly opposed to it, then don’t have any festival of any kind on Halloween or in the week before.

But there are other things to consider. As to worrying about the neighbors, remember that part of being a follower of Jesus means that you should treat your neighbors as you would like to be treated. So you want people to be afraid of you and to never talk to you? If not, then why would you treat the neighbors like that? Why is it that Halloween is the one time of year where we are encouraged to talk to our neighbors? Halloween is a great time to be a Christian. You can meet your neighbors and make new friends.

Another problem is that there is no “trick” in “Trunk or Treat”. It is all “treat”. There is no risk of anything unusual happening. The risk is part of Halloween. Halloween is about things being different, where the unexpected can happen. It is about acknowledging that we aren’t in control of our lives. This too is in line with the words of Jesus, who reminds us constantly that God is in charge, and we aren’t.

To Do List

God gives us a to-do list. We are told quite clearly what is expected of us, as servants of God. Those of us who have chosen to follow God don’t have to wonder what our role is. And we most certainly have a role. We are to be a force for good in the world.

Micah 6:8
“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Then Jesus gives out very specific instructions to his disciples as they go out into the world. These are the very same instructions he gives to us as well. We are those disciples. There is no difference between them and us.

Matthew 10:7-20
“7 As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge. 9 Don’t take along gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. 10 Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a walking stick, for the worker is worthy of his food. 11 “When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave.12 Greet a household when you enter it, 13 and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it. But if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. 16 “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. 17 Because people will hand you over to sanhedrins and flog you in their synagogues, beware of them. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and to the nations. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you should speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, 20 because you are not speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.”

Matthew 22:34-40
34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

When Jesus says this, he is echoing this verse from the Torah-

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
4 “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Matthew 25:31-40
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Jesus tells us how to recognize someone who believes –

Mark 16:17-18
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

And what is the last thing that Jesus asks Peter, and thus by extension, the whole church to do?

John 21:15-19
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Feed My lambs,” He told him.
16 A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”
“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. 18 “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God.[j] After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

This message is for many, but not all.

There is something that I came across in the Gospels that doesn’t make sense. Is Jesus for everybody, or just some people? Is his message for everyone, or just a select group? Did he come for all, or a few?

At times, Jesus seems to be misdirecting people. He had just given the parable of the sower. It is here –

Matt. 13:1-9
On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore. 3 Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. 4 As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep.6 But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered. 7 Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. 8 Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. 9 Anyone who has ears should listen!”

But his disciples – those people who he handpicked to help him and to spread His words, are confused. They wonder why He is using parables.

Matt. 13:10-15
10 Then the disciples came up and asked Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered them, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. 12 For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.13 For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. 14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You will listen and listen,
yet never understand;
and you will look and look,
yet never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn back—
and I would cure them.

This seems to not be inclusive at all, and in fact excludes some people. Aren’t all supposed to be cured? Isn’t the message for all?

He explains this parable to His disciples later –

Matt. 13:18-23
18 “You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.”

Then He tells another parable. This one is one about sowing seed as well.

Matt. 13:24-30
24 He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this!’ he told them.
“‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him.
29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”

His disciples still don’t get it. They’ve been given the template for understanding one of the parables, but they can’t make it fit for this one.

Matt. 13:36-43
36 Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”
37 He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

If his disciples can’t get it, even after having it explained to them, then what is the chance of anybody else understanding it? He used parables all the time, and explained them later. Sadly, those explanations aren’t recorded. Why? To further hide the message?

Mark 4:33-34
33 He would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand.34 And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples.

Matt. 13:34-35
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables, and He would not speak anything to them without a parable, 35 so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
I will open My mouth in parables;
I will declare things kept secret
from the foundation of the world.

Now, from this next verse, it seems that Jesus chooses who knows Him, and through Him, God the Father.

Matt. 11:25-27
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. 27 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.

Then, during the Last Supper, Jesus says something really interesting. In Matthew and Mark he says it is for “many” – not all. In Luke, he just says it is “for you.” The Last Supper is not in the Gospel of John.

Matt. 26:26-28
26 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.” 27 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 14:22-24
22 As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”
23 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it.24 He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.

Note that in this Gospel he doesn’t say “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Then lastly, we have –

Luke 22:19-20
19 And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
20 In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.

So, if Jesus’ message and sacrifice isn’t for everybody, then why do Christians get so upset about people not being Christian? From these verses it appears that it means that they haven’t been called to hear the message or be part of the new covenant. If so, then it isn’t for Christians to push the point. Sure – tell people about who Jesus is.

Once.

If they get it, then they were meant to. If they don’t, then it means they weren’t meant to.

This approach seems to me to be the most Christ-like of all. Don’t push. Let people approach you. Jesus never pushed His agenda on anybody. Neither should we.

(All Bible quotes come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, using the Bible Gateway website.)

Can I get an Amen?

I just read a news report about a pastor in Arizona who says that women shouldn’t even say “Amen” in church. He’s using the words of Paul in the first book of Corinthians to justify this.

In 1 Cor. 14:34-35, Paul says “…34 the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, they should ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church meeting.”

Once again, we see an example of someone who is a Paulian and not a Christian. Once again we see a pastor who isn’t spreading the Gospel. Once again we read a news report about someone who is making it hard to identify as Christian.

We have to distinguish between the words of Paul and the words of Jesus if we say we are Christians. Paul’s words are diluted. Jesus’ words are distilled. Jesus’ words are the very essence of love. Paul’s, not so much. Paul’s words are filtered through a very human person, a product of his time. Jesus’ words are filtered through someone whose words transcend time itself.

We don’t worship Paul. So why do people take his words as the Gospel, or as truth?

Jesus came to bring heaven to earth, not to bring us hell.

All bad reports about bad pastors just obscure the stories about the good ones. It is bad witness. We are fed trash by the news agencies and mislead. Why can’t “news” be good news instead of all bad? I feel like I’m constantly having to do damage control.

I will not defend Christianity. But I will defend Christ. The two aren’t the same at all. They were meant to be, and for some people they are. For some people who live the Word and have Jesus in their hearts, the two are the same. But for many, they aren’t.

Jesus says – 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus says – 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus says – “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:1-8)

Jesus is love. We have to be too. If what someone who says they are Christian does isn’t loving, then they aren’t connected to the source of love, which is Jesus. Just because they say they are Christian doesn’t mean they are. Look at what they do.