- He reminded his reader that Jesus had risen from the dead. That he had conquered death, and that he demonstrated it by appearing to a number of people. For us everything hangs on the resurrection. As Paul says with out it our faith is pointless. We believe only because Jesus has risen. The evidence for it is an empty tomb, Jesus followers saw him and told others about him, and the church grew. None of this can be explained without a resurrection.
- Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit – wait, Jesus says, until the Spirit comes, then go and be my witnesses. In other words, ‘I’m not leaving you alone, I’m giving you the power you need to do what I’m asking you to do.
- Hope – Jesus has said he is coming back, and that those who believe in him will have eternal life. We have meaning and purpose for living. Life isn’t just about now, but about a certain and perfect future.
Matthew 26.6 “While Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon (known as the ‘the Leper’), a women came to him with an alabaster case of extremely valuable ointment. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table”.
On Sunday we began our journey looking at evangelism, that is telling people about Jesus, sharing with them who he is and what he is done and what he is doing and what he will do (it’s a little more nuanced than that, but that’s a general picture for the moment).
Evangelism is scary. For most of us it’s really difficult we’re not sure what to do or what to say.
In this passage in Matthew we get a picture of what it can be. An expression of gratitude, and honouring of Jesus, and the courage to not worry what others think. Here is this woman, not named by Matthew, what is significant is what she has done, not who she is. She comes into this home, and does something outrageous, she pours a bottle of perfume on Jesus’ head. No ordinary perfume, but top shelf stuff – a whole years wages is poured out and goes all over Jesus. We know this because in John 12 this story is told and the woman wipes Jesus feet with her hair. She drenches him in this stuff – she doesn’t hold anything back. Imagine doing that, in NZ $ we are talking about the equivalent of $52,000 spilt over Jesus and the ground. It’s a beautiful thing, she has done, says Jesus.
A beautiful thing – against the wishes and the wisdom of Jesus’ disciples, here is an expression of love, and honour and gratitude. Fearlessly displayed!!
How can we be a witness for Jesus? We could start by being grateful. We can be grateful and acknowledge what he has done for us. We fearlessly acknowledge our dependence on him. We don’t hold anything back – we are willing to give all we have for him – why? Because we know what he has done.
This women is grateful to Jesus for the difference made to her life, and yet the full power of Jesus was still a way off from being displayed. We know this Jesus as the one who died and rose again. The one who has conquered death, the one who has proven he is the longed for and promised saviour, the one who will put all things right, the one who said he would never leave us, and who said he is coming back to take us to be with him forever.
Isn’t that a whole lot to be grateful for?
What about us? Are we living lives of gratitude for all that Jesus has done? Are we letting people know how grateful we are for what he has done for us? Are we giving freely of what he has given to us?
Gratitude can be difficult In a sense, gratitude is an expression of modesty. In Hebrew, the word for gratitude – hoda’ah – is the same as the word for confession. To offer thanks is to confess dependence, to acknowledgment that others have the power to benefit you, to admit that your life is better because of their efforts.
By showing gratitude we speak of something beyond us. We point to something that is away from us but important to us. By gratitude we we note that we are not the centre of the universe. Are you willing to tell others how grateful you are for what God has done?
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” Or to paraphrase it, the good news of Jesus Christ Son of God begins here.“
This Jesus who revealed powerfully the love of God for us. This Jesus who comes to us in the din of huge crowds, soldiers shaking dice gambling for his clothing, and priests raging with hatred against him, crowds who at once loved him and were drawn to him, who later would turn against him.
This Jesus who was so misunderstood that in the midlde of a shouting and cursing crowd is spit at, flogged, treated with shame and dishonour. Has a thorn of crowns pushed onto his head, and in great darkness drinks the cup of suffering on a cross.
It is this Jesus that Mark begins his book by saying this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Mark was a witness to the power of God at work in and through Jesus.
What was the purpose of that work? To allow us to begin again. That is the wonderful good news for us. There is a new beginning. Not in our selfish desires, not in us having a God who will do what we want when we want it. Not in a God who fulfils our desires – NO because on our sinfulness we don’t understand what our greatest need is.
Our greatest need is a new relationship with God and a new relationship with each other. And our relationship to God is based on unmerited forgiveness. Jesus came to fill the gap – a Jesus who will transform our lives and who has begun a new Kingdom.
That’s the exciting good news. We believe in a Jesus who has conquered death, who has shown us there is an eternal purpose to life. A Jesus who loves us so completely that he humbled himself to be with us – to show us we are valued.
‘That is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ son of God. Are you excited? Then make it your goal this Christmas to tell someone who it is you believe in.
This past Sunday we looked at Mary’s response to receiving the news that her life was about to drastically and dramatically change. It was a three-fold response starting with astonishment. Astonishment that someone so unremarkable, so ordinary, would be the recipient of such incredible grace. A grace that would change her life. She then wrestled with what this meant as it seemed impossible and her wrestling with God’s truth led to her place of acceptance. Acceptance was not a passive response, rather it was an act of surrender. And her wrestling with this happened in community with the friendship of her cousin, Elizabeth. By working through these various stages, Mary’s response was one of adoration, or worship. But she needed to process. She needed to ask questions. She needed the support of someone who could walk alongside her.
Sometimes it is difficult to know how to respond to what is happening around us and to see where God is at work. But, as Henri Nouwen says “True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveller. This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.”
We have the unique privilege of being in a faith community together. We journey through some dark valleys and see some glorious sunrises together. We do so because we are brothers and sisters in Christ and, because we have the wonderful reassurance that Jesus was, is and forever will be God-with-us. Because we have this wonderful assurance that we don’t have to face life alone, we can offer our adoration, our gift of joy, despite what circumstances or situations we find ourselves facing. As you reflect on Mary’s response, how might God want to speak to you today? And what does it take, for you, to be able to say “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47)
Our first Christmas, when we moved back to Nelson in 2005, was spent at the hospice where my mum lost her battle with cancer. Christmas, for me personally, is always bittersweet. It’s a time of celebration as we remember the birth of our Lord, Jesus, but it’s also a time of sadness as I remember the passing of my mum. For some of you, Christmas may not be an easy time. It can be financially stretching or stressful negotiating oftentimes strained relationships with differing expectations. Sometimes it can be really lonely.
Last Sunday I shared Elizabeth’s story from Luke 1:13, 18-25. She experienced the loneliness of infertility, the disappointment of unmet dreams yet her attitude was one of hope because she knew that God was good. Elizabeth eventually conceived in remarkable circumstances as an old woman, and gave birth to John the Baptist. Her story is one of hope: hope because God is still at work even when we don’t know the outcome; hope because God is good and knows the big picture for our lives; hope because Jesus who knows the frailty and vulnerability of being human, knows what we are going through.
There is a quote from an author I read this week, which says:
Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.
I would like to encourage you that God knows the coordinates for your life and has found you in the middle of your forest and is standing there, right beside you.
Hebrews 6:19 says “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” As you read this, I pray you will know the comfort of the Holy Spirit and experience the hope that comes from knowing you are deeply loved by God. You matter. Your life matters.
Last Sunday I spoke about Loving the Ordinary and Zechariah’s encounter with the angel as he was performing his once-in-a-lifetime priestly duties. The angel said to Zechariah ‘God has heard your prayer’ (Luke 1:13) and told Zechariah he was going to father John the Baptist. It is a remarkable story of our remarkable God who has a much bigger plan, a much bigger story that He is inviting you to join. Zechariah was doing what was expected of him yet God already had a plan that would change his life, the lives of those around him and ultimately, all of humanity.
We might find ourselves in less remarkable situations than Zechariah. In fact, most days are fairly ordinary, and often repetitive. Yet the ordinary of our lives allows us the time and space to develop trust, patience and joy. It is also an opportunity to develop a spiritual habit, such as prayer. But learning to love the ordinary takes determination, and courage. Sometimes the ordinary of our lives is preparing us for the extraordinary.
This week as I did a google search for something unrelated, I found this quote:
“Let’s see the divine in the ordinary, the big in the small, the meaningful in the mundane and the holy in all things humble.”
How do you see God at work in your ordinary?
Who are those ordinary people God is asking you to love, or walk alongside?
What spiritual habit could you grow in those ordinary activities?
What is God’s story for your life?
Ephesians 4:1 encourages us to “lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”
Remember, your ordinary is extraordinary in God’s hands. You have been called by God, for God. May God bless you as you continue to seek Him and may you know the presence of the Holy Spirit as you faithfully do what is in front of you to do.
even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too