- 2016Feb 14
“So they gave a dinner for Him there; Martha was serving them” (John 12:2).
There are many good examples of hospitality in the Bible, but perhaps none so interesting as the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. You remember that Jesus was coming to Bethany with his disciples. When Martha heard about it, she "opened her home to him" (Luke 10:38). Naturally she wanted everything to be just right so she spent her time bustling around cooking, cleaning, checking the silverware, and sweeping the floor. Meanwhile her sister Mary was just sitting there—crosslegged on the floor, no doubt—listening to Jesus talk.
Martha didn't like it. And the more she thought about it, the angrier she got. Finally she interrupted Jesus with a complaint we can all understand. "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tel her to help me!" (Luke 10:40)
Jesus' answer has often been construed as a rebuke to Martha’s busyness, but that’s not exactly right. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42). Martha's problem was not that she was bustling around getting things done. No, without Martha the meal would never be served. Jesus and his disciples would starve if they had to depend on dreamy-eyed Mary. Martha's problem was that she forgot why she was doing all the work in the first place. She was "distracted" and "worried" when she should have been glad that Jesus had come to
We thank God for those dedicated servers who focus on meeting physical needs, especially those who spontaneously and gladly open their homes to others. Who is ready to host a visiting missionary? Who will open their home for a Sunday School class social? Who is glad for the teenagers to come over? Who would make available a spare bedroom for an unwed mother waiting to have her baby? Who is ready to provide a meal on a moment's notice? Maybe the question is not who. Maybe the question is, should it be you?
God bless all the Marthas of the world. Nothing would get done without them. Someone has to visit the nursing home, someone has to knit blankets for the new babies, someone has to take a meal to a sick person.
When the story is told of Mary pouring oil on Jesus’ feet, we rightly focus on her extravagant generosity. But don’t forget her sister Martha. Who planned the meal? Martha. Who prepared it? Martha. Who served it? Martha. Who do we remember from that night? Mary. That’s how life is sometimes. I’m not sure what Martha thought about her emotionally-expressive sister. I imagine that sometimes she rolled her eyes, and sometimes she felt like saying, “Come back to the kitchen and give me a hand.”
It takes all kinds to make a world. Tomorrow we’ll talk more about Mary. But for today, let’s give three cheers for the Marthas of the world. They serve in the nursery, work in the kitchen, keep track of the supplies, and they organize the leaders who drive the kids to summer camp.
God bless all the Marthas in our midst. They too are serving the Lord, and without them nothing would get done.
Lord Jesus, I pray for a servant’s eyes to see the needs around me, and I pray for a servant’s heart to respond with servant hands, ready to do whatever needs to be done. Amen.
- 2016Feb 13
“All who saw it began to complain, ‘He’s gone to lodge with a sinful man!’” (Luke 19:7)
Zacchaeus never won the “Most Popular Man in Jericho” award.
He had three strikes against him. Strike one: He took money from hardworking people. That was bad enough. Strike two: He worked for the Romans, which made him suspect to every patriotic Jew. Strike three: He skimmed off some of the money for himself.
So he’s a tax collector working for Rome and lining his own pockets. No wonder people hated him.
Then along comes Jesus who not only calls him down from the tree, but invites himself over for a meal at Zacchaeus’ house. If you had taken a poll that day and asked, “Name the most hated man in Jericho,” Zacchaeus would have been named on 99% of the ballots. Virtually everybody would have said, “This is the worst man in town.” And then you’d ask the second question, “Who is the least likely person to want to see Jesus?” Zacchaeus would once again have been at the top of the list. People had written off this crooked tax collector long ago.
Sometimes we get discouraged when we share the gospel. We think our friends and loved ones are never going to listen. We try to share Christ at work. We try to share Christ with our friends and our neighbors. We try to build bridges. We try to get to know people who don’t know the Lord. We get discouraged when they don’t respond quickly. Sometimes they go months and years without responding at all. We look at them and conclude that they are hardened to God. Zacchaeus reminds us not to jump to hasty conclusions. If you had looked on the outside, you would have written him off because society had written him off. But all along the Holy Spirit was working, waiting for the day when Jesus would pass through Jericho.
Thank God, there are hungry hearts everywhere. Just because you don’t see the signs on the outside doesn’t mean that on the inside your friends and loved ones haven’t climbed up in a tree to see Jesus as he passes by. On the outside it may not look like anything is happening, but on the inside God is at work.
Evidently Jesus stayed at his home. No wonder people got upset. Religious types often get offended at the people Jesus chooses to be his followers. Isn’t it true, then as now, that some people are offended by the fact that our Lord loved to be with the worst of sinners?
There are no hopeless cases with Jesus. He’s not ashamed to hang out with drunkards and prostitutes and crooked tax collectors. Here’s a real shocker: He’ll even spend time with religious people if they want to spend time with him.
I’m glad Jesus hung out with Zacchaeus. If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for me too. We all get to heaven the same way: the free grace of God.
You never know when Jesus may find another Zacchaeus up a tree.
Thank you, Lord, for amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. Help me to keep believing for those who don’t know you yet. Amen.
- 2016Feb 12
“It is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation” (John 11:50-51).
Raising the dead is risky business.
You never know how people will respond.
You would think that everyone would be delighted to have Lazarus back again. Certainly his friends and neighbors were glad to see him, and Mary and Martha rejoiced in their brother’s return from the grave. As word spread that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, thousands flocked to him.
And why not?
No one ever came back from the dead. You lived, you died, and that was the end of the story. But then Jesus came along and rewrote the ending. Suddenly life came forth from death.
But not everyone was happy. The Jewish leaders hated the news because they couldn’t handle a big “Jesus movement” in Israel. Apparently no one questioned the miracle itself. No one claimed that Lazarus had never died or that somehow they swapped the body or faked his return from the dead. As the Jewish leaders admitted in John 11:47, Jesus had done many signs that proved his divine origin. The problem became partly political. How could they manage this “Jesus movement” so it didn’t upset the Romans whose main interest was not religious but practical. They wanted to keep the peace so that taxes would continue flowing to Rome.
Enter Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest. He suggested killing Jesus in order to keep the peace. Better one man die than the whole nation perish. It reminds me of Mr. Spock’s famous remark in one of the Star Trek movies, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Caiaphas is willing to have Jesus murdered in order to keep the peace so that Rome didn’t get upset.
But here’s the fascinating point. When John records the story, he adds the comment that Caiaphas was actually predicting the substitutionary atonement of Christ. The Jewish leaders thought by killing Jesus, they were saving the nation from the wrath of Rome. So they killed him, and in A.D. 70 the thing they feared happened anyway when the Roman army burned Jerusalem and destroyed the.
It turns out Caiaphas was right, but not in the way he thought. Through his death, Christ brought salvation not only to Israel but to the whole world.
John Piper offers this comment:
In the mind of Caiaphas, the substitution was this: We kill Jesus so the Romans won’t kill us. We substitute Jesus for ourselves. In the mind of God, the substitution was this: I will kill my Son so I don’t have to kill you. God substitutes Jesus for his enemies.
This event took place about a week before the crucifixion. Sooner than he knows, Caiaphas will come face to face with Jesus. Little does he know that his words predict the true meaning of Christ’s death on the cross.
But God knew!
As we continue this Lenten journey, each day will bring us a little closer to the cross. But in these early days, let’s remember that though wicked men put our Lord to death for sinful reasons, God overruled it all to accomplish his great plan of salvation. He used Caiaphas’ unconscious prophecy to let us know that the hand of God was at work. Out of man’s greatest evil, God wrought the greatest good. We are saved by what bad men did to the Son.
There is no greater proof of Romans 8:28 than the bloody cross of Christ.
Lord God, you are amazing! Even the wrath of man must praise you. What men meant for evil, you meant for good. Tattoo this truth on my heart today. Amen.