The Household (Pt. 8)

The town of Magdala was on the west side of the lake of Galilee, it means “tower”, and in the 1970s archeological work revealed more of the ancient town. Mary’s name is always connected to this town, and not a family, which implies she was known as either a reputable public figure, possessed by demons possibly a fortune-teller, or she was a demonized homeless prostitute. Either way, the first lesson we learn is that God loves and is able to cleanse and forgive all kinds of sinners. After she was cleansed, her conversion was so complete that her devotion led her to be privileged in the event of the resurrection. “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils” (Mark 16:9). The Bible reveals that demons are very real. They are not a figment of creative imagination and we must stand guard against these minions of Satan. Thankfully, because of the resurrection the Bible tells us that demons are powerless as long as we are close to God. James 4:7 tells us: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. RESIST THE DEVIL, and he will flee from you.”

When Jesus was crucified, all of His male disciples except for one, deserted Him. However, this is not the case with Mary Magdalene and some other women. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the wife of Zebedee (Matthew 27:55-56). “Standing close to the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25). It takes courage to follow Christ. These women knew they were risking their lives in staying close to Jesus. When most men lost their courage, these women showed their devotion to Christ even if it meant putting their lives in danger.

When Mary Magdalene first saw the resurrected Christ she was in a state of depression having learnt his corpse had possibly been stolen, she craved his presence so much and missed him so deeply, that she felt sad & horrified that someone could treat him so bad! When she did first see him, she clung to Jesus. Her great desire to be with her Savior isn’t just a mental state of mind. Her actions showed what it really means to desire Christ’s presence. How much do we desire to be with God? However, Christ has a bigger plan for everyone including us, Christians today. When Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, He gave her an immediate mission to fulfill. We read: Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned toward him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Head-Teacher or Professor.”). “Do not hold on to me,” Jesus told her, “because I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their Father, my God and their God.” So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and related to them what he had told her (John 20:16-18). Jesus gave Mary a mission to proclaim the incredible news of His resurrection to others. The resurrection of Jesus is the infallible proof of His divine nature and being The Christ. This is a clear lesson God teaches us that the church as a whole, even our leadership, must always be prepared to learn the truth from disciples who are outwardly and emotionally affectionate towards Jesus. This is spiritual maturity from God’s perspective. Every Christian should define spiritual maturity as hallmarked by affectionate devotion to Jesus, spiritual maturity is not based solely  on how knowledgeable of Christ we are, but rather, how much we have grown in both His grace AND knowledge, 2nd Peter 3:18. The family & friends of Jesus should always respect our devoted sisters who are emotionally affectionate towards Christ and His cause! This is a strength we should all desire to grow in, see Romans 12:10 & 2nd Peter 1:7.

The Household (Pt. 7)

Martha seems to be the older of the three siblings, and her responsible nature made her take action in providing a meal, but it put her in a position of weariness.(Luke 10:38-42); Jesus did not rebuke her for wanting to help, nor for wanting to serve as host, what he criticized was that her “anxiety” led to her criticizing Jesus’ attitude or care towards her. Jesus did care, and cared enough to help her understand her need to rid herself of a stressed out anxious attitude. Being hospitable and serving a meal was practically a sacred duty in the culture of that time. Martha was doing a good thing, it is actually God’s will that we serve one another, but Mary had chosen the higher priority in God’s will. Mary had chosen the one thing that was really necessary: that is to be with Jesus and learn from him (Luke 10:42). If we believe we are hard workers like Martha was, in the church, we should never think that our Lord doesn’t care, simply because our work is so hard or seems to be of a lesser priority. He cares very much, in fact, this passage teaches us that it is God’s work, but we must never stress out and start complaining about God not caring. 1st Peter 5:6-7.  ​Mary and Martha were both devoted disciples of Jesus. Sitting at someone’s feet was the usual posture of a disciple who was being taught, and in Luke 10:39 we see Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps some of the other men and women who traveled with Jesus were also sitting with Mary while Martha was busy preparing a meal. Jesus promises that Mary’s choice to be personally trained as one of his disciples will not be taken away from her.

However, later in his ministry, Martha made some astute statements of faith concerning the identity of Jesus and concerning eternal life. These statements are recorded in John 11:24-27.​ Her faith was rock solid in the resurrection and the fact of Jesus being the Christ, which is very similar to Peter’s statement in Matthew 16:15-17. God expects his family to fully accept and fully live out all the implications of what the world calls impossible. Firstly that Jesus is the Christ that came from God, and secondly that his Spirit is God with us today because of the resurrection. This is at the core of becoming, living and growing as a family member in His household. If you can’t do this, you’ll never be a friend to Jesus! See James 4:4.

Later, Mary would choose to do another ​beautiful act of worship when she anointed Jesus with her expensive ​oil​ in preparation for his ​death & burial​ (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 14: 3-9; John 12:1-8). Did Mary knowingly anoint Jesus as a prophetic act? (cf. John 12:7). Mary was criticized and misunderstood because of her extravagant act of ​worship​, but Jesus defended her actions and prophesied, “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Matt. 26:13; Mark 14:9). Mary and Martha would continue to be devoted friends of Jesus. We learn practically nothing for certain about ​the faith of ​Lazarus, or even his character and talents, but he does become a celebrity after Jesus raised him from death (John 12:1-2, 9). He then became the target of the chief priests’ plot to assassinate him (John 12:10-11).​ Can you imagine what it must be like to know that because of your friendship with Jesus, his enemies want to kill you so they can simply eliminate evidence of his proven claims?  WOULD THAT MAKE YOU BOLDER IN YOUR FAITH, OR CAUSE YOU TO RUN & HIDE YOUR FAITH?  Read Matthew 5:14-16. Christ’s family should stand-fast, even if we are not known to have any worldly significance, and might feel like God has painted a target on our back and given our enemies arrows to shoot us with. What happened to Lazarus? John 12:9-17. The same thing that will happen to any of his family members, we will be comforted by angels and received safe in the arms of Jesus.

The Household (Pt. 6)

Mary knew from Gabriel about her upcoming divine conception before Joseph did. (Luke 1:26-35) Why God had Luke record the inside scoop on this news is baffling to some readers, but if you consider the task we all have in building relationships, we can see a great godly example in Joseph & Mary, in how they handle trusting each other when trust seems broken. Can you think of areas of distrust in any close relationship? What can we do to increase our trust in each other?

Whenever or however Joseph learnt about her pregnancy, God knew Joseph’s heart and revealed to the world two facts about the attitude of Joseph, firstly, his high regard for Mary’s reputation, Mat. 1:19.  Secondly, God knew Joseph was sleeping on the intent of a secret divorce and in his dream, the angel calmed his spirit from fear with the news of divine conception, Mat. 1:20-24. He helped her through labor and helped her through childbirth with at least 6 more children, Mt. 13:55-56.  He supported them at least another 12 years or so, but after that, we  hear nothing more of Joseph. That is love. A plausible theory for his absence, is that his carpentry skills (Mark 6:3) would have been truly needed in the context of what happened during his lifetime in the nearby town of Sepphoris (4 miles NW of Nazareth) where the Romans were busy building and investing in the city.  Sepphoris in 63 BC held a synod of Roman influence in the Near East as an administrative center of Galilee. After Herod the Great’s death in 4 BC at Jericho, a rebel named Judas son of Ezekias, attacked Sepphoris, and destroyed its treasury and weapons, Judas led an armed revolt against Herodian rule. Then the Roman Governor in Syria, Varus, is reported by Josephus to have burnt Sepphoris down, and sold its inhabitants into slavery. When Herod’s son, Herod Antipas was made governor, he proclaimed the city’s new name to be Autocratoris, and rebuilt it as the “Ornament of Galilee” (Josephus, Ant. 18.27). The new population was loyal to Rome and might have ‘recruited’ Joseph the carpenter for his skill in the renovation of the city. This would explain his absence from the gospel narrative. If it is true, it would give Jesus the life experience behind one of his sayings in Matthew 5:38-45.

Joseph and Mary raised Jesus with the words of God from memory, directly from God’s angels, but to a larger degree they raised him with the words of the Old Testament. So just like us today, Mary and Joseph lived by faith in God, based on what was written. How did Mary and Joseph do as parents? We get a glimpse of their lives as faithful people and as parents in Luke 2:21-24 & 41. The legal guardian of Jesus ensured he was taught physical truths in their economy, helping him become a carpenter, and his mother taught spiritual truths with an emphasis on Scripture when rearing all their children, we know two of their sons (James & Jude) grew up to be Christians, authoring New Testament letters. They exalted their elder brother as the Christ!

Mary the mother of Jesus has the notable position in the New Testament of being called “highly favored” Luke 1:28, “blessed” Luke 1:42, and a “humble servant” Luke 1:48. Jesus refers to her motherhood as of equal importance to any sister that follows, trusts and obeys him, see Mark 3:35. In the mind of God, He obviously saw Mary redeemed by the same blood that redeems you and me, and would not elevate her in a position above any faithful sister, Ephesians 1:3-5. Jesus knew this is how Mary expected to be treated, because she knew that Jesus knew her sin and her need for salvation, just like any of us. The last we hear of Mary is that she steadfastly kept praying with the church, even after losing her son, she knew His Spirit would come! Acts 1:14. Parents would do their children a great service by being honest and open about their own need for forgiveness, teaching them to rely on the Scriptures for wisdom & salvation. The household of Christ ought to always have active parents with this emphasis in the church, they are essential and as equally important as Mary herself!

The Household (Pt. 5)

Zacharias, means “the Lord remembers.” Since the law of Moses insisted that a priest marry only a woman of good reputation, Zacharias had chosen the daughter of another priest to be his wife. Not only was she a descendant of Aaron, but she bore the name of Aaron’s own wife, Elisheba or Elizabeth, which means “the oath of God.” Their names would bring new significance before the sun set on their life together. “And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). The lives of both Zacharias and Elizabeth were pleasing to God. They submitted to the will of God and obeyed the Word of God. And they did it “in the sight of God,” and rather than making a good showing before people, their emphasis in life was to give God praise & glory for all they were. In that they were different from most of their contemporaries. They did not seem to care about the status that went with the priesthood. They lived in some obscure village in the hilly region south of Jerusalem rather than, as the other priests, in the elite section of the city itself, or in Jericho, the luxurious city of the palms. (Luke 1:39 & 65) Their piety was not just a show; they were in a relationship with God. But this righteous couple had a big problem. They were childless! Sometimes God does allow ugly problems to invade our lives for no other purpose but to help us grow, and no amount of obedience can bring immunity from trials. They had “…no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). Many Jewish Rabbis insisted that it was evidence of divine dislike. While Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous before God, some of their friends probably suspected them of serious secret sin. But regardless, they believed God knew their heart & daily life, and that was all that really mattered. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning of it and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit, Eccl. 7:8.

The encounter Zacharias had with the angel Gabriel (Dan. 8:16) was yet another trial, but this test too, he would pass! Returning home after his dutiful course had completed its ministry, (Luke 1:23-25) to his own house in the hill-country of Judah, his wife Elisabeth conceived a son, and spent five months following in retirement, until of course she couldn’t hide the pregnancy any longer. The nation had looked forward to this for centuries, and God had chosen this godly couple to be part of these thrilling events. Their excitement mounted daily, until “the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son” (Luke 1:57). They are a classic example of the mundane as far as the world was concerned, but one single event in their life is what they lived for, to see their son and raise him to be the Messiah’s fore-runner! Their introduction to this grand occasion was fraught with Zacharias being mute, and even deaf. (1:62-63) His lack of faith in his response to the detailed announcement, resulted in a “proof”, being a miraculous inability to speak or hear. We should not be too harsh on him, after all, the Apostles doubted the testimony of the women after the resurrection of Jesus, Mt. 28:17 & Mk. 16:11, and also Thomas doubted the testimony of the other apostles, Jn. 20:24-25. Sometimes we might be truly righteous, but one thoughtless act of doubt while in a panic can result in awful consequences, but even through this trial, if we remain faithful, the Lord’s promise is kept and we are blessed.

What do we live for? These family members of Christ, were not noteworthy by worldly standards, but what would the family of Christ be, without them? Do we have members like that today? This couple only had one talent between them, their love, which God turned into a baby! Please read the words of Jesus, Matthew 25:27, Are you making an investment in love?

The Household (Pt. 4)

Luke is the only known Gentile author in the New Testament, his name is unrelated to a Jewish family, it is a Greek name from western Europe and is vague in it’s definition, but probably is in connection with the thought of enlightenment. 52 Chapters of the New Testament are attributed to Luke, both his Gospel & Acts account for a 1/3 of the New Testament. His work includes more details about Christ’s infancy and miracles of healing than any other author, which is what we would expect from a doctor. We learn about Luke as a person from 5 passages.

Colossians 4:14, he was a dear friend and doctor to Paul the Apostle. On the subject of Luke being a doctor, you can see a relation between Mark 5:26 & Luke 8:43.  Mark had said that a certain woman needing healing ‘had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better, but rather grew worse.” Luke, perhaps trying to defend his professional colleagues, merely said that this same woman “could not be healed by anyone.’ That is, they had done their best, but it was an incurable disease.

Philemon 1:23-24, shows that Luke worked with Paul while in prison, enduring shame and risking his own welfare for the propagation of the gospel. In 2nd Timothy 4:9-11, Luke was the only person able to encourage Paul while he was incarcerated for a time, proving his faithfulness to both the Lord and Paul’s mission efforts against all odds. It is interesting to note that if not for Luke, we would not have any indication of how long it took for the work of the Apostles to reach Rome. Acts ends with the power of the gospel being preached at Rome, which by direct implication means the gospel has extended to the world, because for the civilized world, Rome was the superpower and center of their world. From there, the gospel would have free course!

From Luke 1:1-3 & Acts 1:1-2 we learn the purpose of his writings, which tells us a little about what kind of Christian he was. Luke seems to be the only New Testament writer that was interested in “an orderly account” of the life of Christ. He doesn’t say he wanted to write out a chronological order of events, but he does emphasize the need to describe it in a logical orderly way, so that a person by the name of Theophilus could ascertain exactly who the Christ is. This means Luke valued using logical reasoning for ascertaining facts about Christ and his Church. He did all this for just one person whose name was Theophilus!  But once Theophilus had received the message, understood the contents and deduced a conclusion, he was obviously convinced that anyone and everyone should have this account, turning it into public knowledge. The literary grammar and precise facts of the gospel of Luke are truly beautiful. The historian Sir William Ramsey proclaims his Greek syntax and accuracy of locations are geographically precise.

Luke was the kind of Christian that could have been very successful by the standards and definition of what the world called successful, but he obviously decided against that direction in life. His profession was used to support the missionary efforts of Paul & Silas & Timothy. He devoted himself to writing the gospel of Christ and recording the history of the church, and his professional skills in healthcare were used for his fellow Christians, if they were used at all. It is conjecture to suppose Luke practiced medicine as a priority, instead the New Testament makes it clear he used much of his time doing research, traveling, writing and practical support of the mission efforts of Paul. From God’s perspective, that is SUCCESS. Luke helps us understand how real success as a Christian is defined, or should be defined. Read 1st Corinthians 1:26-31