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John 12:1-8 – Mary annoints Jesus at Bethany

 

In John 12:1 we read that Jesus arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover.” This would have been on the Sabbath before His death. There are some that do not believe that Jesus would have made a long trip from Jericho to Bethany, but as we have seen elsewhere, Jesus was not concerned about with keeping the laws such as the Sabbath so it is not an issue that he had done this on the Sabbath. Also is He had left for Bethany early on Friday and arrived early on the Sabbath, He would have not violated the Sabbath law. Either of these answers I have no issue with.

 

A bigger issue many have with this is that of a chronological nature. It deals with the time of this supper and the anointing. Many argue that this banquet is the same that we read about in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 in the home of Simon the leper. Close reading of these Scriptures will show that although there are similarities in the passages John’s account as we see in 12:1 is on the Sabbath six days before prior to Passover. In both Matthew and Mark, the anointing occurred on the following Tuesday. Another area that shows these are two separate events is in John 12:3 it is the feet of Jesus that are anointed, where in Matthew and Mark His head is stressed.  (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3) This would not be an issue to have two separate events because it was common to have a number of banquets surrounded around the Passover because it was a festival that was important and friends were present form all over. (Deuteronomy 16:16)

 

When burying the dead, the Jews would typically anoint the body, wrap it in the grave clothes, and then anoint the body in the grave clothes a second time. The first anointing that is recorded by John was done by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea in John 19:38-40, but it was recorded in the synoptic Gospels the women who witnessed the burial went home and prepared spices and returned to the tomb Sunday to finish the anointing that the men began. (Matthew 27:61; 28:1; Mark 15:47-16:3; Luke 23:55-24:1) So in both type and fulfillment John records only the first anointing and the synoptic Gospels only record the second. Jesus was the fulfillment of the type of Passover Lamb. What is interesting is that the four days according to Jewish reckoning between the first and second anointing coincide with the four days between the initial selection and the final approval of the lamb for slaughter. (Exodus 12:3-6) Judas Iscariot contacted the Sanhedrin following the second anointment and made the arrangements to betray Jesus. (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11)

 

It was common to give a banquet for a means of honoring a guest in the Near East. Both of the anointing’s may have occurred at the same place since it is believed that Simon the leper was the father of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. In John’s gospel we find Martha portrayed as serving, Mary is found at Jesus’ feet where she is usually portrayed and Lazarus probably hosting the meal sat at the table with Jesus.

 

At some point during the dinner Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with “a pound of expensive ointment (perfume) made from pure nard.” (John 12:3) Looking at the description in John we see the word murou (ointment) is a generic term that would be a liquid perfume and nardou (nard) which would have derived from the Sanskirt term nalada which refers to a particular very fragrant plant grown in India. This plant may have been grown in or around Syria but the word pistikes which means faithful, reliable or genuine would suggest that this as the real thing most likely imported from India. This was an ointment that was used for both bodies and wine.  The pound of ointment would have cost about 300 denarii, which is the equivalent of six months’ pay. This may have meant that this ointment would have been in Mary’s family for some time and used only sparingly for special occasions.  John uses the adjective polutimou which means very costly.

 

If you can imagine growing up and smelling your favorite food your grandma made or the way her house smelled or a particular perfume a loved one wore, you can imagine when John wrote about this sixty years later he probably still had that smell of the fragrance of that very expensive perfume. He remembers the scent that filled the room and he wrote in John 12:3, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”  In the second anointing of Jesus it was the disciples who questioned why so much money was spent when the money could have been given to the poor, but here it is only Judas Iscariot who voiced his concern with this. John also points out that Judas was not concerned for the poor because he was a thief (kleptes) and was only concerned for himself. The second part of verse 6 gives a hint of Judas’ activities, the verb used is ebastazen which means to carry, beat or lift in the sense of taking away from. This is kind of in our context of embezzlement because Judas was not only in charge of the finances but he was stealing from the disciples as well.

 

Jesus defends Mary’s actions when He said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.” It seems that Mary may have taken Jesus’ talk about His death serious in which she may have first learned of at His feet in Luke 10:39-42. Jesus emphasized to His disciples to care for and help the poor. Here He is explaining to them that He alone is the center of their faith and their focus should be on Him. This would be especially the case when they are spending the last moments with Jesus as a man prior to His exalted form after His resurrection.

 

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The Gospel of John Part 1

Whenever I speak with a new believer or a person who is interested in the Christian faith I usually point them to the Gospel of John. The reason is because there is so much biblical theology within it and it is the “holy of holies” of the four Gospels.  This does not mean that the other Gospels are not important because they are also very important but John’s Gospel is simple in its language and very profound in its meaning.

First off the Gospel is unique in that it has a prologue as well as an epilogue. The prologue (John 1:1-18) is highly theological and introduces all the major themes in the book. The Gospel also has three major sections, 1. Christ’s revelation to Israel (John 1:19-12:50) which has seven signs within the book. It also has a private section (John 1:19-2:11) in relation to John the Baptist, the Disciples, and the first miracle (wedding feast in Cana).  2. Revelation to His Disciples (John 13:1-17:26) which includes the upper room discourse, prayer of the High Priest Jesus before He dies and revelation to the disciples. This is also the core teaching of the book. There are more “red letters” or Jesus speaking in this section of the book than any other. In chapters 13-15 Jesus gives instruction and in chapter 17 Jesus gives intercession. One of the chapters I love to read over and over is chapter 17. It is a wonderful prayer and it includes Jesus praying about us. 3. The redemption for the world (John 18:1-20:31), which we read of His death, resurrection. In John 20:31 we read the purpose statement of John, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” This is why this Gospel is known as the Gospel of belief. However the word belief or faith is not found in this Gospel as a noun, belief in John is not a concept (belief, faith) it is an action (believe, believing).

The purpose of the Gospel of John is that John recorded a select number of signs and sayings of Jesus in order to persuade his audience that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, who could give them eternal life if they would believe in Him. In this Gospel the signs always go with the sayings, and the structure of John goes back and forth from private to public. It starts out private (1:19-2:11), than public (2:12-12:50), than private (13:1-17:26), than public (18:1-19:42), than back to private (20:1-31) kind of like an accordion style. In the public sections there are three festivals that occur within them, the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Dedication (Hanuka).

In this Gospel there are seven miraculous signs:

  1. Turning water into wine chapter 2
  2. Healing the nobleman’s son chapter 4
  3. Healing the infirm man  chapter 5
  4. Feeding the 5,000 chapter 6
  5. Walking on water chapter 6
  6. Giving sight to the blind man chapter 9
  7. Raising of Lazarus chapter 11

There are also seven Messianic claims, and the signs always authenticate the sayings.

  1. I Am the Bread of Life chapter 6, this goes along with the feeding of the 5,000.
  2. I Am the Light of the world chapter 8, and in chapter 9 we see Jesus giving sight to the blind man.
  3. I Am the Door of the sheep chapter 10
  4. I Am the Good Shepherd chapter 10
  5. I Am the Resurrection and the Life chapter 11, three times the Gospels show Jesus bringing people back to life.
  6. I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life chapter 14, the dominate theme is life.
  7. I Am the True Vine chapter 15

Jesus offers spiritual life in His name. Christianity at its core is a Book (the Bible), a Person (Jesus), and an experience in order to have biblical Christianity you must have all three.

In the prologue of John he recorded it to lay the theological foundation for his Gospel in which he presented Jesus as the Logos who was sent from God as the Light and Life for man.  (John 1:1-18)

 

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John 14:28: Responding to Jehovah Witnesses

One of the verses that Jehovah Witnesses try to say shows that Jesus is not God is John 14:28. John 14:28 says, “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” So if Jesus is God why did He say the Father is greater than I?

Here in this verse Jesus is saying that His position is different fro God the Father, not His nature. In Hebrews 2:9 the writer says that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels. The author is explaining Psalm 8:5 here. In Galatians 4:4, we see that as a man Christ was under the law and so was for His time on earth a little lower than God the Father in position only not nature. During His time as a man He never lost His deity as God.

Jesus is in no way saying that He is inferior to the Father, because earlier in the gospel of John He repeatedly claims equality with Him. In John 17:5 during His prayer before His death Jesus says, “Father glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Jesus is asking God to raise Him to the same position He had before entering into the world.

Another way to look at this verse is to take my son and I. We are both of the same nature, Man, but our position in the family is different. I have greater authority than he does but yet our natures are still the same. So Jesus’ nature is the same, but He in His Incarnation was sent by the Father.

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What do Jehovah Witnesses believe?

Many Jehovah Witnesses say they are Christians but they do not believe in some of the core doctrines of Christianity. Here I will write a few of their beliefs and you can decide for yourselves if they are Christian.

First the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses is Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), and later Joseph Rutherford (1869-1942). They began in 1879 in Pennsylvania, and have their headquarters to this day in Brooklyn, New York.

They are restricted to only read Watchtower publications and can only read from the New World Translation which is interpreted by them.

What do they believe about God? They believe one-person is God, they call him Jehovah. They do not believe in the Trinity, and they believe that Jesus is the first created thing by Jehovah.

They do not believe Jesus is God, and before he lived on earth he was Michael the archangel. They believe that Jehovah made the universe through him, and that he lived on earth as a perfect man. They believe that Jesus was crucified on a stake (not a cross), he was resurrected as a spirit, and his body was destroyed. They also believe that Jesus returned already invisibly in spirit in 194, and that he will not return in the second coming. They do somehow believe that one day Jesus and angels will destroy all non-Jehovah Witnesses.

What do they believe about the Holy Spirit? They believe that He is not God and that He is impersonal. They believe He is an active force from Jehovah and invisible.

They have a works based salvation which includes earning salvation by going door to door. Also to attain salvation you must be baptized a Jehovah Witness. They also believe that salvation in heaven is limited to the 144,00, and sadly for them that number has already been reached.  So what then happens to them when they die? Well the 144,000 live as spirits in heaven the rest who are the righteous or the great crowd live on earth, and must perfectly obey God for 1000 years or they will be annihilated.

 

This is just a brief overview of some of their beliefs to help you know what the people knocking at your door believe. We must stand strong and read the Word of God daily and not be afraid to talk to them and share the real gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

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Do the four Gospels contradict each other? Resurrection..

Many non-Christians attack the gospels and say that they contradict one another when it comes to the account of the resurrection of Jesus, is that true? Why do they believe this?

One of the reasons why non-Christians attack the accounts of the resurrection is because it is a fundamental truth of Christianity and is the most important event in history that shows irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, just as He said He was. Non-Christians know if they can attack the resurrection of Christ, or get us to doubt it than they can prove that Christianity is false.  The resurrection not only validates that Jesus is God, but it also shows that all of Scripture is true as well.

The resurrection events in the gospels is sometimes hard to piece together but we must remember a couple things. First when the resurrection happened imagine how chaotic this event would have been. Knowing Jesus died on the cross many of His followers were scared and many of them left in different groups, and I am sure that many of them visited His tomb on several different occasions hoping that what He said about His resurrection was true. Secondly, I don’t believe that the gospel writers at the time were worried about writing every single detail or even the order in which everything happened. Look at the news today or even an event that maybe you have witnessed yourself. If you were a witness to a robbery or a car accident I am sure you would have a completely different account of what happened or even the order in which it happened, but the one fact that would stay true and constant is that an accident or a robbery did happen. Just like with the resurrection, the different accounts do not discredit the resurrection the absolute fact is that it DID happen. This is one of those situations where if the gospels were in complete and perfect harmony with one another than it would be said that the writers conspired with each other or copied off one another, but if they believe they contradict one another they will say it is unreliable and therefore can not be trusted. Without going into great detail here I will try and give a timeline as to the way to harmonize the gospel accounts of the resurrection and I hope this will help you. If you would like a more exhaustive list please let me know. This list will only deal with the accounts of those who visited the tomb and saw Jesus on the resurrection morning:

1) Three women went to the tomb (Luke 23:55-24:1)

2) They find that the stone was rolled away (Luke 24:2-9)

3) Mary Magdalene leaves to go and tell the disciples (John 20:1-2)

4) Mary, the mother of James, sees the angels (Matthew 28:1-2)

5) Peter and John arrive and look in the tomb (John 20:3-10)

6) Mary Magdalene comes back, sees the angel and then sees Jesus (John 20:11-18)

7) Mary, the mother of James, comes back with other women and see the stone rolled away (Luke 24:1-4)

8) These women also see the angels (Mark 16:5; Luke 24:5)

9) They are told by the angel that Jesus has risen (Matthew 28:6-8)

10) They leave and met by Jesus, they worship at His feet (Matthew 28:9-10)

 

As I wrote earlier this is not an exhaustive list of how the gospels compliment and not contradict each other, this actually happens a lot. Each of the gospels give a testimony of Jesus from different perspectives, but they tell the same story. So when someone tries to tell you that the gospels contradict one another and attempt to discredit the Bible point out to them that they are actually in harmony with one another and any differences they may find are minor in details and many times new information is provided from one account to another. These are accurate accounts of Jesus and are all “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).

 

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Jehovah Witness Part 2 – The Watchtower Society

I am going to be writing some blogs ever so often about the Jehovah Witnesses. It is important to know the history of the organization, as well as what they believe. As you read in my first blog about them from their own website they deny that Jesus id God, so to call themselves Christian is false. In this blog I will write a little about the Watchtower Society.

The Watchtower Society has complete and all authority over all Jehovah Witnesses. Not the Bible, but the Watchtower Society. The Jehovah Witnesses receive their direction from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society which is located in Brooklyn, New York. In the 1939 yearbook of Jehovah Witnesses they write, It should be expected that the Lord would have a means of communication to his people on earth, and he has clearly shown that the magazine called The Watchtower is used for that purpose.” Really? The Watchtower is the Lord’s way to communicate to his people not the Bible?

In the Watchtower magazine February 15 1981 it says, “We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet’ slave organization.” So what is the faithful and discreet slave organization they are speaking of?  It used to be the select group of 144,000 that were known as the “anointed Christians” and they were the “faithful and discreet slaves” of Matthew 24:45. Now the organization has changed their minds and as of July 15 2013 the faithful slave is now the governing body. (Watchtower, July 15, 2013)

The Watchtower was also founded by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916). He was raised a Presbyterian and his main problem with the Christian doctrine was predestination and eternal punishment (hell). When he left the faith he tried many other religions, when he came to know some Adventists which is when he began to have a great interest in prophecy. He began publishing a magazine in 1879 and called it Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. This is what would come to be known as the magazine of the Jehovah Witnesses called The Watchtower. In 1881, Charles Russell founded Zion’s Watchtower Tract Society in Pittsburgh. This is when he began the door to door evangelism, as well as handing out the literature that his group published. They later placed their home office in New York. Russell began writing and published several books including his six volume Studies in the Scriptures in 1904. He wanted his followers to read these six volumes, and did not want them to look in the Bible at all. As you can tell the beginnings of this group, as it is today not a Christian group. Any group or religion that tells you to NOT read the Bible, and to read only the books written by their founder is a big red flag that it is a cult and not part of Christianity. He even went so far as to tell his followers that they would be in darkness for two years if they read only the Bible and did not read his books.

Joseph “Judge” Rutherford (1869-1942) became the leader after Charles Russel died. It is at this time that when they were going door to door that they would play recordings of Joseph Rutherford’s sermons at people’s doorstep. When Rutherford died, Nathan Knorr (1905-1977) became the president of the organization. Knorr stopped the recordings of the sermons at the doors and this is when the training of the Jehovah Witnesses began. They were trained to engage people at their doors with the message of the Watchtower. This is also when the New World Translation was made, which is the official and only Jehovah Witness Bible.

Frederick Franz (1893-1992) became the leader after Knorr died. Franz is known today as the most theologically astute president in the history of the Watchtower Society. In 1992 when Franz died, Milton Henschel became president and in 2000 Don Adams became president. Today all the Jehovah Witnesses are governed by the Watchtower Society. The Watchtower Society claims to be God’s visible representation on earth and they believe that it is only through this organization that God speaks to His people and that they are the one and only”channel which the Lord has used in dispensing his truth continually since the beginning of the harvest period.” They believe that no one can truly understand the Bible without the literature that comes from the Watchtower Society. The Watchtower completely controls its followers and they do not allow their followers to rightly interpret the Bible without the aid of the Watchtower Society. In the Watchtower, October 1, 1967 on page 587 it says, “Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe they can interpret the Bible.”  In the Watchtower February 15, 1981 it says, “We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet” slave organization. This means that you can not think for yourself, and if you do not agree with what the Watchtower Society says about Scripture then you are an apostate.

So as you can see the Watchtower Society believes they are the mouthpiece or prophet on earth for Jehovah, and is you do not agree with what they tell you Scripture says or if you belong to any other Christian denomination you are an apostate and of the devil. They also believe that if you read the Bible alone, without the aid of the Watchtower than you will be confused and be led astray. We must remember that The Watchtower Society is a human institution and it is in no way the “mouthpiece” for God and does not speak for God. The way that they control their members is by telling them this. They misinterpret Scripture and the translation of the New World Translation has so many misinterpreted verses that is only used to try to gain support for their complete authority over their followers. If you are involved in the Jehovah Witness organization I urge you to seek guidance and read the Bible alone for yourself to see what God has to say, not what the organization does. I would also ask you to look at a few things within the organization such as the many failed prophecies , the altered Bible verses in their translation, and why does the Watchtower Society have to tell you what the Bible means and why they have to tell you what you think and do?

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Training our children for the spiritual battle’s they will face

Our families today are in a war, much more today more than ever. Our children are being attacked from all sides, be it celebrities trying to tell them how to live and what clothes they should be wearing, or video games and television misrepresenting what reality truly is. We as Christian’s tend to try to escape this battle by trying to remove all the “worldly” things that might tempt our children, or spend all of our time in church and only with our church friends. Being this way is not entirely wrong, we should keep an eye on what our children are watching and doing, and we should be in church and have church friends, but there will come a time when we will no longer be able to keep a close eye on our children and what they are doing and seeing. Our children will grow up, they will go away to school, they will get married, they will move out-of-state for jobs, and it is then that we all hope that we raised them correctly for the spiritual war and the offers the world has to give them. It is God’s design that Christian households and churches should not be shelters from conflict, but they should be gospel-empowered training bases for the conflict.(Stinson)

So what are we to do? How do we prepare our children for this real battle that is raging? First, we should keep our family rooted in the Word of God. Secondly, we are to make our households training grounds so that they may always be able to stand against the powers of darkness. The primary responsibility for the spiritual formation of children DOES rest squarely in the hands of the parents. (Stinson) This is very important. So many today send their children off to church camp, youth groups and expect pastors and counselors to be the sole spiritual source for their children. This is not Scriptural. Does this mean that parents should be on their own in the teaching of their children? NO. God has adopted a community of sisters and brothers to partner with us as we train our children in the fear of God. (Stinson) The church also has a responsibility to train up passionate followers of Christ. It upsets me when I hear people say, “We don’t need to go to church, we can do it right here at home,” or “I haven’t found a good church yet, so I am just going to stop looking for a while.” It seems to me so many people are making excuses for not going to or having a church to call home. A church should be a big part of family ministry. In the book “Trained in the Fear of God” the author’s define family ministry as this: “the process of intentionally and persistently coordinating a congregation’s proclamation and practices so that parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.” In other words family ministry is how a church partners with parents so that the Christian formation of children occurs not only at church but also in the household. (Stinson)

Unfortunately today many parents do not see their homes as a training ground for their children. It is God’s intent to have the spiritual battle training start in the home, but it seems so many today have either stopped or have given up completely on this God-ordained role. It is important that parents speak about and show their children by example what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ, it is important that you have devotionals with your children, and to be able to answer questions your children may have. You do not have to be a student of the Bible or a theologian to do this. There are so many great resources available. This is also why it is important to find a good church, that teaches and preaches the Bible and that have pastors that are passionate about preaching and teaching the Word of God that you can partner up with in the formation of your children’s spiritual formation.

2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to Him be glory both now and forever.”

Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

Trained in the Fear of God, Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones.

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