The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection

gospels

“What am I – CHOPPED LIVER? The four Gospels in the New Testament are filled with the exploits and experiences of men disciples and their interactions with Jesus. The New Testament time period can be described as a male dominate world. After skimming through the Gospels, some may come away thinking that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were all about Jesus and His ministry and partnership and friendship with His men disciples. After all, the Gospels were written by men, Right? But, what about the women? Did Jesus have women disciples? In order to find out about Jesus’ women disciples, one must read the New Testament closely and with a focus on finding certain Scripture passages, some well known and others not so much.

imagesCAPBEZO8

First, we need to know what a “disciple” is. A disciple is a follower, a student, a learner, a believer. Jesus’ disciples believe that He is the “Way and the Truth and the Life” [Read John 14:6]. The disciples of Jesus learn from His teachings and by following His example. He is their Teacher, Savior and Lord. Disciples of Jesus have accepted His forgiveness through His death on the cross, believe that He rose from the dead and will someday return to make all things new. Jesus’ disciples have given their lives to Him and no longer want to follow the ways of the world. Jesus’ disciples want to love Him above all else and share His GOOD NEWS with the whole world.

According to the Gospels, who are the women disciples who followed Jesus? For some of the answer, let’s go to a Bible passage that is not talked about very much, at least in my experience:

c. praying prostrate

“Soon afterwards He [Jesus] went on through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve [men disciples] were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Suzanna, and many others, who provided for them [or Him] out of their means” [Luke 8:1-3].

glasses on Bible

According to Luke 8:3, the women who followed Jesus were His servants. They must have “bought the groceries” and prepared meals for Jesus and His men disciples. They must have did all the menial tasks in order to free Jesus and His men to do the work of spreading the Gospel. These menial tasks of cooking, doing the laundry, budgeting money for groceries, searching for good food at reasonable prices did not get much attention. They were thought of as unimportant way back then as they are even now. But, if you asked Jesus, He would say that being a servant is the most important role of a disciple of His: “If anyone would be first, he [she] must be last of all and servant of all…For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve, And to give His life for many” [read Mark 9:35-37 and 10:45]. These women served their Lord and their fellow disciples with the sacrificial love of Christ.

towel and basin

Being servants does not mean the women were not also students. I imagine whether they were serving or sitting, they were also listening to Jesus teachings. [Women are known to be able to multi-task.] Jesus lifted women up as being equals to men by giving them their rightful place, in being His students [disciples] and learning alongside men. This was different from the custom of the day. Men and women were not allowed to learn together in synagogues. Jesus’ women disciples were His students who listened intently and learned from the Master. In addition to the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the women might have even helped with the writing of the Gospels by providing important information only they knew about. For example, according to WIKIPEDIA, theologian Adrian Hastings suggests that Joanna was one of “Luke’s sources for information regarding the Herodian court.” Jesus’ women disciples were humble servants, devoted students, courageous followers and were just as important as the men in the spread of the Gospel [GOOD NEWS]. They were faithful to Jesus to the very end and beyond.

To be continued…

The Lyd

Lydia

 

Which Came First – The Repentant Heart or The Forgiveness of God?

lent

“Forgiveness” is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, especially when it comes to the forgiveness of God. It is very hard, for me at least, to wrap my head around God’s forgiveness. When does God forgive us? Do we have to “clean up our act” before God can forgive us? Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God? Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us? The Lenten Season is a good time to meditate [“chew on”] the awesome and unfathomable forgiveness of God.

ASH WEDNESDAY

When did God forgive us?

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – BUT GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE FOR US IN THAT WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Since, therefore, we have been now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” [Romans 5:6-9].

God planned to forgive us “while we were yet sinners” through the Christ’s Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. God’s plan to save sinners [I am a sinner] began “before the foundation of the world.” Sinners need only to get with God’s plan and accept His free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, in order to experience the joy of God‘s forgiveness of all their sins. [Read Romans 3:23 and 6:23]

wolman at the well

Do we have to “clean up our act” by not sinning anymore before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Bless be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as HE CHOSE US IN HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND BLAMESS BEFORE HIM” [Ephesians 1:3-4]

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [I Corinthians 15:56-57].

Baby with lamb

We cannot stop sinning in our own strength because we are weak. For example, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when we see a sign that reads, “DO NOT TOUCH – WET PAINT.” We cannot make ourselves perfect before God. Jesus, the “Spotless Lamb of God” who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, is the One who makes us “holy and blameless before [the Father]” When God looks at a sinner who has accepted His Son’s Perfect Sacrifice, He no longer looks at the sin; The Heavenly Father sees His Son the “blameless Lamb of God.” Jesus is the Only One who gives us His power over sin and death. [Read John 1:29 and I Peter 1:18-19].

the truth shall set you free

Do we have to confess our sins before we have a chance to be forgiven by God?

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will become like wool” [Isaiah 1:18].

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [I John 1:8-9].

casting crowns 2

God calls us to be truthful with ourselves and with Him. He wants us to be aware of our sins in order to know how much we have been forgiven and how much we need Jesus’ once-for-all Perfect Sacrifice, which cleanses us and makes us whole. When we become aware of our sins, it is only then that we can truly be grateful for God’s forgiveness through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. God‘s forgiveness of all our sins causes our heart of stone to turn into a “repentant heart”. God is always waiting for us to come to Him, to confess our sins to Him, to accept His forgiveness of all our sins and receive His power to begin the journey of repentance [turning away from sin] and a new life in Christ. I believe that God‘s forgiveness leads to repentance and not the other way around. It is God Who takes the first step.

casting crowns 1.

Do we have to perform some sort of penance in order for God to forgive us?

“For the death [Jesus] died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” [Romans 6:10-11].

“And just as is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” [Hebrews 9:27-28].

“Where there is forgiveness of these [sins], there is no longer any offering [penance] for sin” [Hebrews 10:18].

“For Christ also suffered once for sin, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” [I Peter 3:18).

Christ Crucified

God doesn’t want us to perform an impersonal penance, such as reciting prayers by rote or doing self-righteous acts of charity or even by denying ourselves of something we enjoy, in order appease God by paying for our own sins. The above Scriptures tell us that Jesus did what we could never do on our own. Jesus paid for all our sins by shedding His own blood on the cross and died for all our sins ONCE AND FOR ALL. Instead of doing periodical penance, God wants us to be “dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Instead of giving God our imperfect [dead] sacrifices, God wants us to give our entire lives to Him. He wants us to be “living sacrifices” by accepting His forgiveness, which leads to our NEW LIVES IN CHRIST. The NEW LIFE IN CHRIST is not motivated by guilt or false piety, but by LOVE and GRATITUDE and THANKFULNESS for what Jesus has done for us on the cross. This New Life is lived through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [rational] worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” [Romans 12:1-2].

forgiveness 2

During this Lenten Season I am meditating on the Forgiveness of God. Although my thinking is limited to human understanding and vocabulary, the Holy Spirit is not limited to human words or comprehension. I do not perfectly understand the infinite things of God. With God’s leading, I am growing into a deeper relationship with Him as I meditate on His ways.

a. praying hands

 

DEAR FATHER GOD, MAY WE TRULY UNDERSTAND YOUR UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS TOWARD YOUR FOLLOWERS, THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD AND IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.

The Lyd

                                                      Lydia
This may be my last blog post for awhile because my 9-year-old computer is running on fumes. I may be looking for a new computer sooner than later.

They Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly!

p and j

Prayer and Fasting go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, poor choice of words, since this post is about FASTING. However, prayer and fasting are closely linked together. I wrote about PRAYER in my last blog post. Prayer is talking with God, the Creator of heaven and earth; talking with Jesus, God’s One and Only Perfect Sacrifice, who died for the forgiveness of my sins, rose from the dead, and will come again to someday take me and all His believers Home with Him for all eternity. Prayer is also listening to the Holy Spirit who helps me to pray when I don‘t have the words to say. I can freely express myself to my Wonderful Counselor because He loves me unconditionally and forever. Sometimes I pray in church, with many people, or in a small group Bible study or prayer group. However, something else is also extremely important and crucial for my spiritual growth. In order to grow in my “relationship” with Jesus, I need to spend time praying [talking] with my Forever Friend alone in SOLITUDE [another spiritual discipline]. It is also where I spend time listening to Him, by reading His Word, enjoying His creation or just closing my eyes to see God’s love and faithfulness for me in a more intimate and personal way.

christ in desert

Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before He began His ministry [Matthew 4 and Luke 4].

FASTING is generally abstaining from food, such as meat or snacks or a whole meal or not eating food for one day or many days. Fasting is usually done for spiritual reasons. Fasting by abstaining from food is just one part of this spiritual discipline. If I am fasting from food, I just don’t sit there and wait for breakfast time or lunch time or dinner time to go by. Instead of eating, I want to make good use of that time. That’s where PRAYING comes in. During the time I usually eat food, I may pray and read the Bible or devotional book. Also, I may use mealtime as a time to help others. For example, I may use the money I save from not buying food to contribute to a worthy cause or buy food for a homeless shelter. This also is done in an attitude of PRAYER. I may visit someone who needs a visit or help someone who has a project to finish. Through PRAYER and FASTING, the Lord will show me what I need to be doing for His glory and for the good of others or He may want me to simply be alone with Him for a time.

imagesCAPBEZO8

Jesus links PRAYER and FASTING together in “His Sermon on the Mount” [Matthew 5-7]:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint you head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” [Matthew 6:5-6 and 16-18].

[In Matthew 6 Jesus also teaches how to give to the needy (1-4), He gives us “the Lord’s Prayer” (9-13), instructs us on how to forgive (14-15) and He talks about having our “treasure” in Heaven and not on earth (19-24).

c. praying prostrateb. kneeing in prayer

According to Jesus, both PRAYER and FASTING are done with an attitude of GRATITUDE, HUMILITY and LOVE, knowing that our reward is waiting for us in Heaven. PRAYER and FASTING are not practiced out of legalism or to demonstrate piety, so others may praise us for our public displays of self-righteousness.

messy eaters

But what if someone cannot fast from food? What does a person do who has a medical condition which prohibits fasting? On the other side of the spectrum, what if someone has a physically demanding job and needs energy from the food to be able to do his/her job well? What do the parents who cook meals for their small children do? They need to help their picky kids to eat healthy meals. There are many examples of people whose physical conditions or lifestyles make fasting impractical. For these people [me included] I have some practical solutions.

“For I [God] desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” [Hosea 6:6]. (Also I Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6, Psalm 51:1, Isaiah 1:11)

Christmas ScrabbleELDERS PRAYING FOR THE SICK

Instead of fasting from food, believers of the Lord Jesus may choose fasting from TV, video games, sports radio or time on the computer. They may abstain from going to restaurants or Dunkin Donuts or going to movies. They may choose to go without candy and snacks and eating small simple meals. They may choose to give up one of their usual recreational activities to do something for someone in need. Again, giving up these things is not to gain brownie points to pay for their own salvation with their own sacrifices. Substituting these things with spending more time with God and seeking to glorify Him in the things they do and don’t do is what Fasting is all about. For example, giving up watching TV gives worshipers of God more time to pray in “quietness and rest” [Isaiah 30:15]. There are many ways to fast, but only one motive and purpose behind it:

THOSE WHO LOVE JESUS FAST TO DISCOVER WAYS TO GLORIFY GOD BY DOING WHAT PLEASES HIM OUT OF AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE AND PRAISE!

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (or ‘rational service‘)” [Romans 12:1].

“And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” [Colossians 3:17].

(Also read Hebrews 10.)

The Lyd

Lydia