Embracing His Kingdom Part 2

In my last post I stated that in this one I would delve into how the kingdom of God functions and our role in it. The first thing to note is that the kingdom functions based on authority. That may seem too obvious but it is an important reality. Jesus operated under the Father’s authority in His earthly ministry. His submission in His humanity is what enabled Him to function. The key passage in scripture that relates to our role in the advancement of the kingdom is what we refer to as The Great Commission.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)

Here we see that all authority has been given to Jesus due to His sacrificial submission to the Father’s purpose in redemption. Next, we see that He has delegated to us the responsibility to extend His kingdom on the earth through two things. 1 – Evangelism, 2- Discipleship. Every time someone is newly born again the kingdom is extended or expanded in the earth. Every time someone grows in their faith and the application of it, the kingdom grows deeper in the earth.

            Practically we need to walk in submission, come under His authority, to operate in the authority He has delegated to us. We see this with Jesus when He submitted to baptism by John the Baptist and when He shared how He ministered in response to what the Father was showing Him.  

14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:14–15 (NKJV)

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NKJV)

The practical implication of these verses is that for us to walk in authority and live out The Great Commission we need to embrace submission to the Father’s heart and move as He directs us. When He prompts us to speak up, we need to speak up. When He prompts us to remain silent, we need to remain silent. When He nudges us to give a prophetic word to someone, we need to give the word.

            In my own experience I have ministered to a lot of people over the years through both teaching and prayer ministry. I have sought to be sensitive to His voice in the process. At times I have had words from the Lord for someone that I had to wait to share. At other times I have given words from the Lord when it was clear He had opened a door, a kairos moment. I have had things to share with individuals or groups that I knew needed to be bathed in intercession prior to being shared. Each of these moments were the extending of His kingdom and exercising His authority through submission to His word and presence.

The above illustrates some ways that He has called us to embrace His kingdom. They may be different for each of us. Some are called to focus on evangelism, some to focus on intercession, others on discipling others. I know in my own life my primary calling is to build His body through teaching and intercession.

            A key factor I referenced last week was the distinction between seeing and entering the kingdom as Jesus presented it to Nicodemus.

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5 (NKJV)

When we were born again, we perceived and became aware of the kingdom of God. Our next choice was whether we entered into it and became actively involved, whether we embraced the kingdom. I encourage you, ask Him how He wants you to be involved then walk in submission to Him exercising the authority He has given you to extend His kingdom.

Embracing the Kingdom Part 1

This verse, something Jesus spoke, relates to the time of His return and captures a key aspect of the gospel.

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NKJV)

            Nations here is the Greek word ethnos and refers to nationalities or ethnicities rather than national boundaries. While the Lord has set nations in place and set their boundaries (Acts 17:24-26) He wants the gospel of the kingdom to go to every nationality. Missiologists refer to unreached people groups rather than nations as they understand the import of the verse.

            While it is a noble goal to want to reach all people groups, we need to be clear on what we are reaching them with. Jesus referred to the ‘gospel of the kingdom.’ I am sure most if not all of us have prayed, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done’ from what we refer to as The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. While I think it is important to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done, I think it is more important to grasp what we are praying to happen.

            This points to the need for a bit of background around what the kingdom is and when we can expect to see it if we are to preach it. My goal here is to provide us with hope and encouragement. Thus, here is some scriptural perspective on the kingdom from something I wrote back in 2013.  

  1. What is the kingdom?
  1. A basic understanding comes from looking at the definition of the word. It is a compound word coming from two words, ‘king’ and ‘domain.’ At the most basic level, a kingdom is anywhere that falls under the king’s domain or rule or the exercise of the king’s dominion.
  2. The kingdom of God is where the King’s dominion is operating.
  3. We see in scripture that ‘The Kingdom of God’ and the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ are two ways of referring to the same thing. 

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) emphasis mine

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (NKJV) emphasis mine

  • How does the kingdom function?
  1. The kingdom operates through delegated authority. Yahweh is the source of all authority
  2. This takes us back to Genesis – what happened in Genesis

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (NKJV) emphasis mine

  • Adam and Eve committed treason and lost their delegated dominion (Genesis 3).
  • To come back into the place of delegated dominion we embrace the kingdom of God.

12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Colossians 1:12-18 (NKJV)

  • What is our role in the kingdom?
  1. Jesus laid out our role in Matthew 28:18-20, The Great Commission, our responsibility to preach, demonstrate and model the kingdom.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (NKJV)

  • Jesus differentiated between seeing and entering the kingdom

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:3-5 (NKJV)

This provides background and context for how we are to function as representatives of Jesus the king. In my next post I will look at the application of these ideas to our lives.  

Presence Centred Repose

As a follow up to my last post I want to touch on a phrase from my regular prayer list. In recent years I wrote down this phrase, an aspirational goal really, of how I want to live. The phrase was generated when a friend presented three questions to me as an assessment tool. You will find them further down. The first question was, “What does my ideal day look like?” After reflection I wrote this down for myself, ‘Walking in Presence Centred repose throughout the day.’ What I mean by that is having my heart at rest in His presence and my thoughts centred on Him in my thoughts and actions. I believe that is how Jesus walked with His Father and it is how I desire to walk. I haven’t ever achieved it for an entire day but I have had varying periods of time throughout days that I have walked this way. Even reflecting on the idea brings a sense of rest.

One of my favourite verses from Proverbs is below.

33 Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

My focus is on the first phrase, wisdom resting in an understanding heart. Proverbs 14:33 is what led me to write the phrase, “walking in Presence Centred repose throughout the day” in my prayer list. The three questions are below, and because I have a tendency to take on too much, I added the fourth. The idea of Presence Centred repose is similar to an expression I came across many years ago, ‘Live from a great depth of being.’  The questions are below.

What does my ideal day look like? 

What gives me life?

Who do I need to talk to?

What do I need to stop doing?

            These questions are a tool we can use to anchor our days, which anchor our weeks, which anchor our months – you get the picture. We can build a life of our hearts resting in Jesus and Jesus in us because He is wisdom (Proverbs 8, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 2:3).

            I believe scripture points us in this direction because Jesus told us how He lived.

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NKJV)

30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:30 (NKJV)

In these verses I see that Jesus lived in and from ‘presence centred repose’ because His focus was always on the Father’s heart. Thus, I believe that we can live like this if our focus is on Jesus’ heart, seeking to see and hear what He would have us do and how He would have us respond in the many interactions we have throughout the day.

Fixed on You

            Written by 40 authors over a period of about 1,500 years the scriptures are remarkably consistent in their message, as they are inspired by the Spirit. One area of consistency is what the scriptures have to say about where and how our mind and heart are to be fixed, where they are to come to rest. That is what we will examine.

First, allow me to illustrate my point. I coached basketball for a decade and I grew up with the expression, ‘practice makes perfect.’ Partway through my coaching tenure it was wisely changed to ‘practice makes permanent.’ I used to tell the players, “You can get really good at doing the wrong thing.” It is similar to the old idea, ‘experience is the best teacher.’ That one is also well intentioned but insufficient. The best teacher is guided experience. That is why we have teachers and coaches.

            Now we will look at the scriptures.

 7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NKJV)

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)

The message in each of the passages is essentially the same. We are called to set our minds on things that are good and right and the result will be experiencing His peace and rest. This takes us back to the ideas of ‘practice making permanent’ and ‘guided experience.’ To get there we need to dig into the first verse I posted, Proverbs 23:7.

            Proverbs 23:7 is a fascinating verse when viewed in context. This means going a bit broader followed by digging into the meaning of some Hebrew words.

6 Do not eat the bread of a miser, Nor desire his delicacies; 7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. 8 The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up, And waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6–8 (NKJV)

The context is a warning to not eat with a miser or selfish person. The key phrase is, “as he thinks in his heart’ with the key words ‘thinks’ and ‘heart.’ Thinks is the Hebrew shaar, which means to calculate or think. Heart is literally nephesh or soul. The New American Standard translates the phrase ‘as he thinks within himself.’ While the focus is on a miser or stingy person the message of this passage is that our behaviour flows from how we think about or measure things in our thought life.

            Now back to our other verses. What determines our peace and rest is how we think. Isaiah noted that we will experience peace, shalom, by setting our minds on the Lord and trusting Him. We see the same message in Matthew. When we take Jesus’ yoke, culturally, when we become His disciple, we find rest for our souls. Inwardly we have peace. Paul provided the same message. When our thoughts are deeply set on what He defines as good, true and right and those things govern our behaviour, we have peace.

            Now to the practical issue, guided experience and practice making permanent. My experience is that when I take these verses at face value and intentionally focus my heart on Jesus, the Father or the Spirit, I experience His presence and His peace resting upon and in me. That may include praying out loud, thanking Him for His presence or simply sitting listening for His voice. We live in a noisy busy culture and distractions abound. Yet whenever I choose to set my mind and focus my heart on Jesus His presence and peace come. This can be in a worship service or sitting on my own, the latter being the more frequent experience. I can then carry His presence into whatever activities I am engaged in. Whenever I become aware of His peace not being there, I need only turn my heart back to Him and He is present. The more I do this the more it becomes simply a habit of the heart.  

            I share this as an encouragement. If you need His peace, look to His presence and let your heart and mind rest there.

3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

I Never Knew You

Numerous times over the years, yes, I have a few behind me now, I have heard Matthew 7 referred to regarding those who did things in Jesus name being rejected because they didn’t actually ‘know’ Jesus. That is, they never developed an actual intimate relationship with Jesus. I agree. At the same time, I want to look at the broader context. First the well-known verses.

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. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21–23 (NKJV)

It is obvious from these verses that moving in sign gifts and affirming that Jesus is the Lord is not a guarantee of entering the kingdom of heaven. However, the issue in the passage  isn’t whether someone was moving in sign gifts, it is about the relationship with Jesus that they demonstrated. Scripture is clear that we are to both pursue love and desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). We are to make love our priority and use His gifts to demonstrate it.

In the broader context in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus tells us that we can discern true and false followers by the fruit they produce. After His subsequent warning about the need for intimacy in doing works He goes on to highlight in verses 24-27 the importance of heeding what He taught (Matthew 5-7. The summation of the Sermon on the Mount). Obeying Jesus words is like building our house/life on a firm foundation while ignoring His teaching is building our house/life on shifting sand, which lead to it collapsing.  

Now let’s take a closer look at the context of what Jesus taught. First, a phrase you may be familiar with, that it is important to repeat. Broadly the scriptures were written for us, not to us. In this case Jesus taught these things on the other side of the cross to an Israeli audience. Yet contextually it is clear that Jesus was looking ahead beyond the cross because He was referencing end of the age events in terms of a coming judgment.

For us, we need to read and heed this looking back. It isn’t enough to do things for Jesus, we are called to do things in partnership with Jesus. Part of that is understanding the cultural context of those who heard Jesus. His hearers were intimately familiar with the Great Shema. It is rooted in Deuteronomy 6:4 and begins ‘Hear O’ Israel.’ The Hebrew word for ‘hear’ is Shema and means to hear with the intent to obey. The regular morning and evening prayers began with that phrase. The hearers of the Sermon on the Mount understood that love was an action. To love Jesus was to obey Jesus. You could not separate the two. Intimacy was about walking together, being yoked with Jesus and doing works for and with Him rather than for attention or to make a name for ourselves. 

That is the real warning of Matthew 7. If we are wise, we will walk with Him doing works as He leads while remaining attentive and obedient to His voice. When we are seeking His face and walking in what He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) we can be confident of the ultimate results of our faith and obedience.

On Time

            In business in recent decades there was a movement to the practice of ‘just on time’ inventory. Rather than businesses needing to stockpile parts and take up warehouse space they planned for when they would need their inventory and ordered it for that time period. It was a way to save money and function more efficiently. Covid kicked that idea to the curb. The shutdowns created massive backlogs in both the creation of needed products and their shipping and delivery. When goods began moving again antiquated port systems were clogged with container ships waiting weeks, at times months, to unload their cargo. I watched a 60 minutes episode and there were problems up and down the system with the separate parts all pointing the finger at one another. I recall talking to the owner of a local bike shop who lamented that his orders were two years behind! ‘Just on time’ just wasn’t working!  

            Now to the scriptures. There are different names for time in the New Testament. We have chronos, chronological or sequential time, and kairos, things that take place at just the right time, the opportune moment. As Christians we assert that God is outside of time. That makes sense given that time, space and matter all began at the moment of creation. At the same time (yes the pun is intentional) Jesus is always on time now that we have it. Let’s look at that a bit.

Scripture tells us that Jesus was born in the fullness of time, a kairos moment.

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4–5 (NKJV)

Creation was pregnant with opportunity and Jesus showed up on the scene. The Greek word that fullness expresses is the same word used for being ‘filled’ with the Spirit. The planet was ready for the arrival of the Messiah and Jesus appeared on the scene.

Now we will look at an example in the life of Lazarus. Jesus was informed that Lazarus was ill and Mary and Martha were asking for His help, so He rushed off to heal Lazarus. Actually no, He stayed for two more days (John 11:1-6). When Jesus finally arrived, it was too late.

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. John 11:17 (NKJV)

At least from the perspective of Mary and Martha, I’m not so sure about Lazarus, Jesus was too late. In verses 21 and 32 Martha, then Mary, both point out to Jesus that if He had been there Lazarus would not have died. I am sure you know the rest of the story; Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

            The important part is the reason behind Jesus waiting. In the cultural tradition the Jewish mystical teaching was that a person’s spirit stayed around their body for three days then departed for Sheol. After that only the Messiah could raise someone. Jesus was demonstrating who He was in raising Lazarus. It was a kairos moment.           

Now to apply this to our lives. I think there are a variety of ways to present this but I will focus in on one. Are there dreams in your life that have died with the passage (chronos) of time? I know I have them. Yet because I trust Jesus I know that if those dreams are from Him then if I hold on to them and remain focused on Him they will come to pass in the fullness of time, my karios moment. I pray we can all bring our hearts to a place of rest in Him as we wait and seek to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Following Part 2

            In the verses below I want to focus on a single phrase that I will address below.

14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28:14 (NKJV)

1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 2 Chronicles 34:1–2 (NKJV)

27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27 (NKJV)

Not turning aside ‘to the right or the left’ is the phrase. Let me give you my paraphrase, ‘Ignore distractions and remained focused on the task at hand.’ When it comes to following Jesus, this is sound advice.  

When we choose to follow Him this is what He desires to do in our lives, lead us in the way of wisdom and follow the path He is leading us on. An interesting analogy I see comes from my hiking. I have hiked up a lot of mountains and sometimes there is a clear view of the trail ahead and other times you can hardly see around the next bend. When the trail narrows in the trees you can see the person in front of you, often not beyond them or very little. You stay on the path by focusing on the person ahead of you and trusting their leading. If we take that back to following Jesus there is an important truth. As we walk through life when we will encounter difficult times and it becomes difficult to see the road ahead. This is when we need to be more aware of and dependent on His leading.

As you walk with and seek to follow Him here are some things you may find helpful. I regularly focus on them in prayer and they are rooted in my awareness of Ephesians 2:10. He has works and a plan for me so I want to discern and walk it out with Him each day. My goal is to be sensitive to His leading and respond with obedience. To that end I reflect on or pray about these areas.

  • Jesus, I begin my day connecting to Your presence and focusing on You aligning me for today.
  • Holy Spirit, as I sit and walk with Jesus, I ask You to draw me into the subtleties of the interaction that I might deepen my awareness of Your presence and leading.
  • Father/Jesus, I thank You that You are here. I give myself to You afresh today. What do You have for me to do today? (Over saturating our soul with activity dulls our spirit.)

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

            If we approach our walk with Him with this type of perspective, I think we will find ourselves not ‘turning to the right of the left.’ I don’t anticipate any of us will do this perfectly but I believe doing it will lead to us staying focused on and attentive to His agenda and avoiding distractions.

Following Part 1

We may desire to follow Jesus but doing so is a daily choice as we compete with the siren call of our culture. Jesus has called each of us to daily follow Him and He expressed it this way.

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. Luke 9:23–24 (NKJV)

            We need to do a little excavating of the context and text to understand this passage (see also Matthew 16 and Mark 8). Jesus presented this challenge just after the 12 recognized Jesus as the Messiah and He predicted His pending death and resurrection. The larger context is that while the 12 and the crowd were familiar with crucifixion, they didn’t understand at the time that Jesus was to be crucified so Jesus wasn’t calling them, or by extension us, to crucifixion. He was calling us to follow Him.

            Matthew, Mark and Luke were all pointing to something and all wrote on this side of the cross, while Jesus spoke these words on the other side of the cross. He told us that we needed to deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Him. Bear in mind, many of His hearers had already sacrificed a great deal to follow Him. What was put before them here was the need to maintain this heart attitude of daily choosing to follow.

Jesus’ cross was His purpose. We see this as He begins His final journey to Jerusalem.

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51 (NKJV)

At this point nothing was going to deter Jesus from His purpose. He was headed to Jerusalem where He knew crucifixion and death awaited, followed by a resurrection. Our following Him doesn’t mean literal death, though in some cases it may. It means laying down our agenda and taking up His. This is where the denying part comes in. For some of us in our day it may mean openly sharing our faith at work when we think it safer to remain silent. For some of us denying ourselves will mean remaining silent when we want to speak up. For others it may mean standing against oppression or tyranny.

            The cross may be different for each of us. Where it is the same is in our need to lay down our agenda and take up His. It is counting the cost and setting our face to follow Jesus. I close this post with a brief illustration. Many years ago, my friend Evelyn (who is now with the Lord) shared an encounter she had. She was in the spirit realm and Jesus appeared to her. She said He never said anything, He simply looked at her then turned around and started walking. She said she knew what it meant; He was calling her to follow Him so she did. I won’t share all the details but she lived her life denying herself and following Him and the fruit was very evident to all who knew her. I pray we each make that same daily choice.  

            Next week I will go more into some practical details around how to follow. However, today we are between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so listen to Forever by Kari Jobe as she captures the significance of both events.

Kari Jobe – Forever (Live) – Bing video

A Fragrance Poured Forth

Easter looms large for the church each year as we celebrate Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection. As we prepare for Easter it is helpful to reflect on an event. In the days leading to Jesus sacrifice we have the oft told story of Mary anointing Jesus with oil. I don’t know about you, but had I been in Jesus’ place I would have been very uncomfortable with this level of public attention and public demonstration. Embarrassment would have likely been my response. Yet Jesus not only accepted the attention, He embraced it. I think there were two reasons for that. Frist, when we view Jesus’ interactions in the gospels He presents as utterly unselfconscious. Second, He knew the prophetic purpose of Mary’s anointing, preparation for His crucifixion and burial.

8 “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.”  Mark 14:8 NKJV

To go deeper let’s set the stage a bit. We know from the different gospel accounts that the event took place at the house of Simon the Leper/Pharisee (the passages from Matthew, Mark and John are below). We can safely conclude that Jesus had healed him or there would have only been the two of them at the meal given the culture of the day! We also know that Judas was Simon’s son (John 12:4) so this event appears to have taken place in his family home. This explains Judas taking such offense when publicly rebuked by Jesus. Judas being the son of a Pharisee also explains his easy access to the religious leaders to betray Jesus.

Having set the stage consider the event. The main characters are Mary and Jesus. The others have a role but Mary takes centre stage by way of her sacrifice. She breaks an alabaster box filled with spikenard. Referred to as spikenard or nard, this costly oil was made from the dried roots and stems of the nard plant and imported from India. Not only does Mary engage in an extravagant financial sacrifice, she engages in an extravagant social sacrifice.

Mary defies convention, and out of love for Jesus violates custom and interrupts both the meal and the discourse. She pours the fragrant oil on Jesus’ head and feet and cleans His feet with her hair. The fragrance would have permeated the room and since she poured it on Him, then rubbed it in, the fragrance would have lingered for days on Jesus’ hair and clothes (They didn’t get up and have a hot shower every day in that time and culture).

Now we come to us. What Mary really poured out on Jesus was her love and devotion and the fragrance spread to others. She was willing to sacrifice to love Jesus and He calls us to do the same. I am confident that Mary was directed by the Spirit in what she did, simply based on Jesus’ response. Mary’s sacrifice cost her something precious that she poured out on someone she considered more precious.

As we are in this season of reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection let’s consider what we have or are willing to sacrifice out of love for Jesus. I know I have poured out my worship on Him, I can’t say that I have loved and worshipped like Mary. When she did this nothing in scripture suggests Mary had any awareness of Jesus pending crucifixion and resurrection. I believe her love for Jesus caused her to act. We don’t know how she felt as she stepped into the room and all eyes turned to her as she broke this box, we do know that her focus was on Jesus not the other guests. Let’s focus on Him and see where it leads us as we seek to leave a lingering fragrance through our worship.

John 12:1–7 (NKJV)

1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.

Mark 14:1–10 (NKJV)

1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.

Matthew 26:6–16 (NKJV)

6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

Jesus Culture Look to the Lamb


            Here we will look at intimacy, more specifically intimacy with Jesus using a practical approach. I have heard intimacy described as ‘into me see.’ It may seem cute or trite but I think it is an apt description. Those in an intimate relationship can see into one another. At times my wife teases me and tells me to ‘quit reading her mind’ as on occasion we find ourselves thinking about or planning the same thing. However, that is the fruit of spending decades getting to know one another.

            Now to Jesus, intimacy implies a two-way seeing, us seeing His heart and Jesus seeing ours. Obviously, He knows what we are thinking and feeling, He can see into us. What we need to consider is how well we can see into Him. William Wilberforce is famous for being an abolitionist and overturning slavery in England. He was also a social reformer. He saw into Jesus’ heart regarding these issues. The same is true of William Booth. Years ago I heard a story of him taking his son Bramwell Booth into a pub in an impoverished area and showing Bramwell the terrible conditions then saying, “Bramwell get used to this. These are our people. This is who the Lord has called us to.” Booth also saw into Jesus’ heart and stories are told of him wrapping his arms around the globe and weeping over the lost and praying for the gospel to be sent to them.

            These are dramatic stories yet also practical examples of the fruit of intimacy with Jesus. Now back to us. Though some of us may do things this dramatic, most of us are unlikely to lead something like an abolitionist movement or change the social landscape of a nation. We can however change the landscape of hearts, ours and those around us. All that is required is willing hearts. Here are two verses that speak to the how.  

2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

            When we choose to faithfully come and sit with Jesus, opening our hearts to Him and seeking to hear and see His heart He will stir things in us. It may be a reminder to reach out and encourage someone. It may be a call to help a stranger or it may be an encouragement to do something with or for our spouse or another family member. When we respond with obedience with are responding out of an encounter with His heart – living from a place of intimacy. From here He may continue to speak to us about small things or He may enlarge what we are doing. As we remain faithful stewards, we are walking in what Jesus said, being faithful with the little, which positions us to be faithful with more if He leads us that way (Luke 16:10 NKJV). If He simply calls us to be faithful in little then we remain in that place content with our interactions with His heart.

            There is another aspect of intimacy that isn’t about doing something in response to encountering His heart. It is the intimacy of just being together. Whether your spouse or a close friend if you have experienced just being with or around someone without the need to do anything in particular then you know the intimacy of friendship. Jesus seeks this with us.

            For myself, a couple of days before writing this I went and wandered around the woods with my son’s dog, had lunch by an outdoor fire sitting on a chair in the snow and worshipped. When I walked Jesus walked with me. I have learned over the years to at times simply allow my heart be drawn toward Him and rest in the awareness of His presence. I am not doing anything in particular at these times, simply being sensitive to His presence. I believe we can all walk in this if we desire intimacy with Jesus. Let’s pursue it.  

NOTE for more on the subject in 2019 I did a brief five-part series called Intimate One, you can find it on my blog here: http://wisdomfromtheword.ca/intimate-one-part-1/