Resurrection Doubt, Puzzle & Logic


What is the central basis of the Christian faith? Paul wrote that if Christ has not been raised our preaching is in vain and so is our faith (1 Corinthians 15:14).


Let’s discuss the central tenet of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus.


Let’s look at Luke 24:1-12 and the testimony of eyewitnesses.
Luke 24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Looking for Jesus

The women disciples went looking for the missing Jesus after his resurrection. They were at a loss because of the empty tomb. A couple of divine messengers pointed them in the right direction. “He is risen.” The women told the men disciples about their experience. Most of the men initially did not believe, thinking the women were talking nonsense. They did not look for Jesus. Peter was different. He ran to the tomb. Where do we look for Jesus? He tells us where he can be found today. He is with the hungry and thirsty, the foreigner and naked, the sick and imprisoned. Jesus is with his church and also out seeking lost sheep. Where are we looking for Jesus?

Resurrection Doubt

Was the resurrection just a metaphor for our social agendas, a resuscitation of a corpse or a myth? The central message of Christianity is that he is risen. Resurrection transformed Jesus’ body into something that is continuous with, but different from the body he had before death (1 Corinthians 15). His body was transformed like ours will be. The resurrection is a mystery, but we do know that if Christ is not raised, then our faith is futile. God has begun to form a new creation and we are included (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). What God promises to us is bigger than our greatest social agendas. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Resurrection Puzzle

The account of the empty tomb begins with five or more puzzled and perplexed women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women. The men thought this good news of his resurrection was nonsense. Resurrection is not a logical, scientific experiment. It is not something that we can reproduce in a test laboratory. Yet it is the basis of Christianity. It is something that we either believe or not. Certainly we are puzzled by it, but being perplexed does not mean disbelief. It simply means that we do not even have the same experience as those ancient witnesses. Yet, it is something that we believe in, an eternity beyond this life. We are people of the resurrection.

Resurrection Logic

Witnesses do not die for what they know is a lie. People may die for something they do not know is a lie, but these were eyewitnesses of the events. Eleven of the twelve disciples of Jesus were martyred for their faith. They gave personal testimony. They did not recant even 40 years later. The Watergate conspirators could not keep their lie for 3 weeks because they knew it was not true. Folktales grow over generations, but the resurrection accounts were written down within the lifetimes of witnesses. We know the Nazi Holocaust was real because eyewitnesses were still alive when it was written about. They said it happened because they were there. The resurrection stories are testimony, not legend.


And so we confess part of the Nicene Creed that: On the third day He rose again in accordance with the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

Why Maundy Thursday


What is Maundy Thursday all about?


Let’s look at Holy Thursday and see what it means.


Let’s examine John 13:1-17, 31b-35 and the events that happened on that Thursday before Christ died?
John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
31b “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1. Passover

The history of Maundy Thursday begins in the Jewish Passover, which finds its roots in the Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12). Passover was the 15th day of the first month in the Hebrew calendar. Jesus kept it before his crucifixion. However, instead of mandating a continued observance of the Passover lamb, he became our Passover Lamb (John 1:29-36, Revelation 7:16-17). During the first centuries some Christians observed the original date, but it was a different week day each year. Others found more meaning in observing the weekdays which would culminate in a resurrection Sunday. In teaching respect for different food choices in Romans 14, Paul also taught a non-judgmental attitude and freedom in different approaches to worship days.

2. Counting Days

Ancient counting was inclusive, meaning that today is day one, whereas modern counting is exclusive, meaning that tomorrow is day one. So when we read accounts of three days and three nights, the ancients would have easily recognized it being relevant to a Thursday night through Sunday morning scenario. Days began at sunset. The Christian Passover observance, called Easter in modern English, also celebrated something new, the resurrection of the Lamb. There was no such Old Testament celebration, except perhaps an imperceptible hint of resurrection in the wave sheaf offering, on the Sunday during the Passover week. Continuing to observe a calendar day would have meant observing the resurrection on a different weekday each year. Thus a change was wanted.

3. Triduum

The three days became known as the Paschal Triduum (the Great Three Days). Worship practices including the Great Fast (of Good Friday and Holy Saturday), the Great Silence (where non-essential talk is avoided) and the Great Prayer (a time of continued congregational prayer). The Triduum begins on the evening which remembers the original Passover, Maundy Thursday and culminates in Easter Sunday (Orthodox Pascha or Protestant Resurrection Sunday). Maundy Thursday remembers the Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist (thanksgiving). It also remembers Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s three denials and everyone else’s desertion of Jesus. This is a very important communion with its dual purpose in honoring Passover and a new Christian observance.

4. Foot Washing

Foot washing was an ancient custom of hospitality when roads were dusty and guests wore sandals. Many Christians honor Jesus’ words to “do as I have done” and literally wash each other’s feet. Others honor the intent of his words in service to each other, love in action. Maundy Thursday derives its name from the Latin mandatum, meaning mandate or commandment. It reminds us of the new mandate to love one another. The washing of feet exemplifies love as not just an emotion, but an action. Jesus’ example also reminds us of the kind of leadership that he expects in his Church, that the greatest among us ought to be the servant of all. Holy Thursday is a somber reminder.


So Maundy Thursday reminds us of the Last Supper, Jesus love for us, his example of servant leadership, and that love of neighbor is not just an emotional feeling, but something that involves action.

Big Pool Discipleship 101 Week 08

Numbers 18-34 from the Priests to Israel’s Borders

In Numbers 18 how were the Priests and Levites separated? Do we have similar separation of duties in the church? What makes something holy? Why did the Levites have no land inheritance? What was their inheritance? To whom was the tithe of the tithe given? How can this relate to paying bishops? In Numbers 19 how do washing ceremonies relate to today’s pastors? How could sacrifice ashes and water relate to Jesus and baptism? In Numbers 20 how did Moses disobey God? Why did God still bring forth water? Is this a lesson for church leaders today? How did God punish Moses?
In Numbers 21 how does the bronze snake relate to modern medicine? To whom did Israel give credit for winning their battles? In Numbers 22 how was Balaam disobedient to God? What was the story of the donkey? Does God have a sense of humor? In Numbers 23 what was Balaam’s first message? What was his second message?
In Numbers 24 what was his third message? What were his fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh messages? How long do we ask God before we realize something is against his will? In Numbers 25 how did Moab seduce Israel? How does this relate to destruction of our nation today? In Numbers 26 how is the definition of family different than ours today? Do you notice how some smaller tribes have grown larger than some once larger tribes? How was the land apportioned among them? Did you notice how the original complainers had all died out?
In Numbers 27 how was justice given to the daughters of Zelophehad? When are exceptions good? How was Moses’ successor chosen? What does this say for democracy? In Numbers 28 what were the daily offerings? Why were there more offerings on the day of rest? What were the new moon offerings? What does the Passover relate to in Christian worship? What does it remember? Why is Pentecost here referred to as the feast of weeks? What does Christian Pentecost celebrate? In Numbers 29 what date is the feast of trumpets? What future event is celebrated with trumpets? What date is Atonement? Who is our Atonement? What were the dates of the feast of tabernacles? What two days were special assemblies?
In Numbers 30 how important does God take vows, many of which involved pledges to make offerings? In Numbers 31 why did God command war (see chapter 25)? How did Balaam figure into it? Why did he sabotage Israel with prostitution and idolatry? Why did they adopt little girls but not the boys? Could the boys have presented a future threat of insurgency? In Numbers 32 what duty did the 2½ tribes have to perform before inheritance? Does this relate to our Christian duty before receiving our eternal inheritance?

In Numbers 33 how do Israel’s many wanderings relate to our life’s journey? How does Israel’s driving out the Canaanites relate to our driving out sin? In Numbers 34 how do Israel’s borders relate to her borders today? How were the details of tribal allotments decided? Why did God give Israel a semi-arid land instead of a green land?

Big Pool Discipleship 101 Week 07

Numbers 3-17 from the Levites to Aaron’s Staff

In Numbers 3 why did God choose the Levites instead of the firstborn to be priests? How did they prove their loyalty when Israel built a golden calf? How was Israel’s primogeniture (laws of the firstborn) more just than other nations? How was Israel God’s firstborn? How does the law of the firstborn now apply to Jesus and the church? In Numbers 4 name the sons of Levi? What were their various duties? What years of age did the Levites serve? In Numbers 5 what was the percent added to restitution of a wrong? How did the ritual of unfaithfulness protect a woman from false accusation? Did it leave any punishment up to God’s perfect justice rather than human injustice? How could this be a commentary on Jesus and the church?
In Numbers 6 how did God open priestly service to other tribes? What was required? Do you recognize the priestly blessing still used today? In Numbers 7 how are offerings different than tithes? In Numbers 8 who laid hands on them when the Levites were ordained? Is there significance to this? At what age did their apprenticeship begin? When was mandatory retirement?
In Numbers 9 what is twilight? When did a day begin? When was the second Passover? When did the Israelites move camp? In Numbers 10 what were the trumpets for? Why do we use bells instead? Is transportability a difference? What were the ritual words for when the ark moved or came to rest? Does that give permission for ritual words in the church? In Numbers 11 what do we learn about complaining?
In Numbers 12 what do we learn from the rebellion of Moses’ siblings? Is there a lesson for church leaders here? In Numbers 13 why did 10 of 12 scouts give a bad report? What is a lesson from Joshua and Caleb’s report? In Numbers 14 is Israel’s rebellion a commentary on democracy, Protestantism, America’s rebellion against England? Is Israel leaving Egypt related to the Protestant Reformation or America’s Revolution?
In Numbers 15 do we moderns bristle if God prescribes an offering? Why? What is an unintentional sin? Why was a Sabbath breaker given the death penalty? What was the purpose of tassels? In Numbers 16 what does the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram teach us? Should we be surprised when there are conflicts among church leaders? Is there a proper process for addressing accusations of corruption among church leaders? For the sake of peace and unity what must happen? In Numbers 17 what is the significance of the budding of Aaron’s staff? How important is it to God that we respect the appointed offices in his church?

Big Pool Discipleship 101 Week 06

Leviticus 14-27; Numbers 1-2 from Cleansing to a Camp Map

In Leviticus 14-15 what rules of cleanliness were health related and what were worship related? What role did faith play in rules of cleanliness? In Leviticus 16 what was the Day of Atonement? Does it somehow relate to Good Friday? What is the most holy place? What happened in the most holy place in the Temple at the death of Christ? What did the veil being ripped at Christ’s death represent?
In Leviticus 17 how does deep respect for the life in the blood relate to the cross? Is God teaching Israel to respect all life even though they ate meat? In Leviticus 18 how does respecting sexual boundaries preserve a society? In Leviticus 20 how were various capital crimes designed to preserve the nation? In practice was capital punishment carried out often?
In Leviticus 21-22 how do exacting rules for priests relate to Christ’s perfect priesthood? Do they apply in any way to Christian pastors? Was Hosea an exception? In Leviticus 22 why was God so specific about sacrifices? In Leviticus 23 can you name the Festivals in the Jewish liturgical calendar? Which was the spring, early summer and which were fall feasts? How can each feast relate to the Gospel?
In Leviticus 24 what do olive oil and bread symbolize? How lightly do we treat blasphemy today? In Leviticus 25 what was a land sabbath? What was the Jubilee? How is Jubilee redistribution different from socialist and/or communist redistribution? Could principles of the Jubilee be applied nationally today? In Leviticus 26 what are the national blessings and cursings?
In Leviticus 27 why is God so detailed about the value of vowed offerings? If our churches do not make pledges do we personally make pledges to God? How flippantly or seriously do we treat our church offerings today? Congratulations we have finished Leviticus for now.

In Numbers 1 why was there a census of males 20 and above? Why were the women and children not counted? Why were the Levites not counted? In Numbers 2 draw up a map of the camping layout of the tribes of Israel with the tabernacle in the middle. What four tribes headed each three-tribe camp at the compass points east, south, west and north? Which tribe camped in the middle by the tabernacle? For in-depth study what are the symbols for the tribes of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan? Notice how the cherubs in Ezekiel 10 with four faces also had these same faces. Just for fun, can we divide all Christendom into 12 tribes?

Big Pool Discipleship 101 Week 05

Exodus 33-40; Leviticus 1-13 from Horeb to Quarantine Laws

In Exodus 33 what does stiff-necked mean? What was the Tent of Meeting? What happened with Moses and God’s glory? In Exodus 34 why did God require Moses to chisel out new stone tablets? Why was Moses not to make treaties with nations in the land? How do Christians still keep the spirit of the festival of unleavened bread (1 Corinthians 5:8)? In Exodus 35 how did God expect Israel to keep the rest day? Why was Bezalel filled with the Holy Spirit?
In Exodus 36 where do our skills come from? What is a cubit? In Hebrew cherub is pronounced kerub. What is the significance of the colors blue, purple and scarlet? In Exodus 37 how big was the ark? Why were the covering cherubs not considered idols? What could the showbread portray? What could the lamp portray? What does incense picture? In Exodus 38 what did burnt offerings picture? What did the washing picture? What was the courtyard for?
In Exodus 39 what was the ephod? What was on the breastpiece? How was the robe constructed? Does this teach us anything about our dress for church services? In what ways would our attire make newcomers feel welcome or unwelcome? In Exodus 40 how was the tabernacle set up? Do these details teach us anything about the importance of church maintenance?
In Leviticus 1 what aspects of Christ did the burnt offering picture? In Leviticus 2 what aspects of Christ did the grain offering picture? In Leviticus 3 what aspects of Christ did the fellowship offering picture? In Leviticus 4 what aspects of Christ did the sin offering picture? In Leviticus 5 what aspects of Christ did the guilt offering picture?
In Leviticus 6-7 what are further details about the five offerings? Why were eating road kill, fat and blood forbidden? Why was the priest’s share important? In Leviticus 8 what pictures of Christ do we see in the ordination of Aaron? What did the sacrifices picture? What did the olive oil picture?
In Leviticus 9 where do we see aspects of Christian worship? In Leviticus 10 what is the significance of the death of Nadab and Abihu? How important is it to God to do church services in a right manner? In Leviticus 11 which animals were considered kosher and not kosher?
In Leviticus 12 how important is it to give a woman’s body time to recover after childbirth? In Leviticus 13 how important is quarantine for skin diseases? How big a problem can molds cause?

Big Pool Discipleship 101 Week 04

Exodus 13-32 from the Exodus to the Golden Calf

In Exodus 13 what could unleavened bread symbolize? What could the firstborn male symbolize? The first month is Abib or Aviv (Nisan in Babylonian). When is that on our calendar? In Exodus 14 why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? What Red Seas do we face whereby only God can make a way through? Why did God ask Moses to put his hands out? In Exodus 15 how will eternity deal with those dead Egyptians? What role could God’s grace play? Even if we don’t know all the answers, can we trust in God’s mercy? What lesson can we learn from the bitter water?
In Exodus 16 what can we learn from Israel’s grumbling? How important is taking a rest day? In Exodus 17 what can we learn from Israel’s grumbling? Why did God make them hold up Moses’ hands? In Exodus 18 how important was Jethro’s advice to Moses?
In Exodus 19 how important was it for Moses to get agreement from leaders? How important is it to respect that which is holy? In Exodus 20 can you name the Ten Commandments? They are also called the decalogue (ten words). Which ones show specific love to God and which to neighbor? What was the significance of building an altar of natural stones? In Exodus 21 what were the slave laws and personal injury laws? Slavery by kidnapping was forbidden. It was term-limited to pay off debts, and a penalty for civil and war crimes.
In Exodus 22 what were the personal property laws? Were they better than jail? What were laws of social responsibility? In Exodus 23 what were various laws of justice and mercy? Does not oppressing a foreigner relate to today? Would a land sabbath work today? How do the three festival seasons relate to Christian festivals? How important is an angel preparing the way for God’s plans? In Exodus 24 does the blood of the covenant relate to Christ?
In Exodus 25 how important is our heart in an offering? What three things did the ark contain? Were cherub statues idolatry? What did the bread picture? What could the seven lamps picture? In Exodus 26 what did the tabernacle picture? Were tapestries of cherubs idolatry? These instructions clarify the command against idolatry, that statues and pictures are only idols if they are bowed down to or served. In Exodus 27 what principles do we see about how our church buildings look?
In Exodus 28 why does God detail the priest’s garments? In Exodus 29 how was Aaron anointed for office? In Exodus 30 what do incense, atonement money, washing and anointing oil picture for Christians?
In Exodus 31 what does being filled with the Holy Spirit give Bezalel? What does this say about limiting spiritual gifts to a particular list? Why is God so insistent about a day of rest? In Exodus 32 what is the significance of the golden calf? What does this say about pastoral leadership?

Father Forgive Them

How different is God’s government? Can we experience it now?
Let’s learn that only God’s government can truly bless humanity and how two of its best qualities of giving and forgiving are available to us now.
Sermon Plan
Let’s read Luke 23:33-43 and contrast human governments and Christ’s government.
Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”1

1. Forgiveness (vs. 34)

Jesus was born to die for all our sins, but also to forgive perhaps one of the hardest things imaginable, those who would murder him. One of the most remarkable sayings of Jesus is, “Father forgive them.” Why? They didn’t know what they were doing. It takes a strong person to apologize and ask forgiveness. Weak people don’t apologize. Many of us will forgive others only after they apologize. Weak people may never forgive even with an apology. Some Christians believe that forgiveness can only be granted by God after repentance. However, here Jesus teaches us a new level of forgiveness, before repentance, before a change of heart, forgiveness because of a deed done in ignorance. What a strange idea!

2. Unrealistic Expectations (vs. 34, 35, 39)

At the cross, human leadership failed: Romans, Jews, and the Disciples. Jesus said: Father forgive them. Why do intelligent, well-educated leaders continually disappoint? They/we do not know what they/we are doing. We say of the suffering Jesus, “Let him save himself.” Human governments are pictured as devouring beasts. Israel rejected God, wanting human leadership like other nations. 1 Samuel 8 says, “He will TAKE.” Human governments take, not give. A king “will TAKE your sons and MAKE them serve… TAKE your daughters… the best of YOUR fields… take for HIS own use… and you yourselves will become his slaves.”1 Luke 23 describes Christ’s government, giving and forgiving. He gave his life for the whole world and forgave sins.

3. Overconfidence (vs. 42)

We have all experienced the overconfidence of youthful zeal. We believe we could do better than our forebears or those currently in leadership. Every generation starts moving into adult life about the same way, thinking that they can create a better world and do a better job than their parents or national leaders. By the time we reach middle age, that optimism can turn to pessimism as we are forced to face life’s many failures. By the time we are old, we begin to see the reality of death. We learn that our generation too has not solved the world’s problems. We don’t need to fret or turn to pessimism and despair. We just need to pray, “Jesus, remember me”.

4. Kingdom Now (vs. 34, 35, 43)

Jesus conquered the gates of hell at his crucifixion and resurrection. He ushered in a new government, a forgiving government, forgiving those who planned his death. His government willingly sacrificed for all. His government forgave a criminal based on his attitude alone. We represent that eternal government whenever we forgive and sacrifice for others. Jesus government forgave persecutors before any change of heart, based on they did not know what they were doing. Jesus’ government sacrificed for everyone else. Where are today’s world leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves? The head of God’s government forgave a criminal hanging on a cross beside him, based entirely upon his attitude. We live that government now by giving and forgiving, hallmarks of Christ’s government.
Outro/Take Home
A truly happy society is not one that has perfect citizens and perfect leaders, but one that is learning to give and forgive. Jesus showed us the way by giving his life for us and forgiving all our sins. What are we going to do?
1 Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. (emphasis mine)

Extravagant Faith (John 12:1-8)

How important are giving to the poor and giving to the church?
Let’s discuss giving and discover what priority Jesus taught.
Let’s look at John 12:1-8 and see what we can learn about Mary’s anointing of Jesus with very expensive muskroot oil.
John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Beautiful Churches
Church buildings are among the most beautiful structures on earth, a testimony to Christians who loved God so much they gave their worldly goods to build in his honor. They built Paris’ Sacre-Coeur and Notre Dame, London’s Westminster Cathedral and Saint Paul’s, Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Cologne’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Annunciation, Brazil’s Cathedral of Brasilia, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral, Rome’s Sistine Chapel, France’s Mont St Michel, the Sagrada Familia, the Palma de Mallorca, and the Salzburg Cathedral to name just a few. Most of these churches contain priceless treasures that have been donated over centuries. Should they be sold to give to the poor? What about Mary anointing Jesus with outrageously expensive perfume?
Extravagant Giving
After the story of a reckless son and a father’s fabulous forgiveness let’s look at extravagant giving. Mary was the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had brought back to life and naturally was very grateful. How grateful is measured by her lavish giving. Notice what she gave! The perfume was contained in an alabaster box, an expensive stone vase. The amount used was about a litra, a Roman pound of around 12 oz. It was worth about 300 denarius, perhaps 300 day’s wages, a year’s income. Why so valuable? In those days spikenard or nard was only found on the slopes of the Himalaya’s and had to be imported a long, long way. How extravagant is our giving to Jesus?
What is a Rich Person’s Role in the Church?
Is a wealthy person’s role in the church to be a bully? As of this writing 16 ounces of spikenard essential oil from was advertised at $609.08. A Roman pound was about 12 ounces. So that may be about $456.81 and still an expensive offering at today’s prices. In ancient times the transportation cost from the Himalayas would have been very expensive indeed and Judas gave a price of about 300 denarii or 300 times a worker’s day’s wage. At time of writing, the US federal minimum wage is $7.25 times 8 hours times 300 days equals $17,400. Quite the opposite of a bully, Mary humbly got on her knees and extravagantly served Jesus.
Extravagant Faith
A family wanted to donate their old furniture to a church and was offended when the church turned them down. Have you ever wondered about the treasures in churches? Should they be sold and the money given to the poor? Jesus’ opinion on the topic may be interesting. Mary’s anointing of him was an over-the-top expensive act. Ought we give Jesus second best? In the Old Testament’s worship, God expected people to give their best animals and best produce. Next time we visit a beautiful church with lavish treasures let’s think of the extravagant faith of the givers. Do we believe we are giving to a club or organization of mere human beings or the Church of the living God?

Let’s understand that there is no command here for us to give so extravagantly, but there is permission. If someone has it in their heart to give a wonderful gift to Jesus instead of to the poor, they have his permission. Let’s remember that the one who criticized this gift was a thief. In life some are thieves and some are very generous. Most of us are somewhere in between, we are not thieves, but maybe not so generous. May we all learn to be a little more like Mary.

Two Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

What would be our attitude towards someone who comes to us that everyone knew had been very hurtful to his family, been regularly with prostitutes and was dressed in rags covered in pig dung?
Just such a story is ours today.
Let’s review the well-known parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 and what the father and two sons can teach us.
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The Greedy Child (Luke 15:11-16)
A lazy and greedy second child wants to bleed his father dry, taking what he can of his inheritance before his father’s death. In our society as well as theirs that would be presumptuous. Verse 12 reveals that he divided the inheritance between them. Both children received their inheritance as a result. If most of the inheritance was land, it would have meant selling part of a farm for cash. The son squandered the money traveling to a distant country. Unlike the Jews, whose law required them giving to the poor, not many Greeks and Romans believed in giving alms. Verse 16 confirms that no one gave him anything. He was in a desperate situation on the edge of death.
The Turning Point (Luke 15:17-20)
We see the beginning of repentance in the prodigal son, coming to a better mind. Repentance is a change of mind, but as Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism, bring forth fruits of repentance. And so the younger son made the difficult journey home in shame. Would his father turn his back and disown him, demand he wash the pig dirt off before touching him? Would the father demand the son enter a probation period instead of a party? Would he accuse the wasteful son of embarrassing him and the family name? How do we treat those who are taking cautious, awkward steps out of the stench of life's tragically bad decisions back to God?
A Father’s Love (Luke 15:20-24)
Like the prodigal son, we have all distanced ourselves from God at times. We have turned our back on him and put heaven to shame. Yet, all that is forgotten in an instant when we make any effort to return. Even while the son was a long way off, his return brought great joy to his father. Even if we are still a long way off, let us begin making just a few steps in return to God. This parable shows how God will run to greet us with great joy. Though probably well-rehearsed, the son’s confession was interrupted by his father’s jubilant plans for a homecoming party. As we begin to pray again, God forgives before we even finish.
A Son’s Anger (Luke 15:25-32)
The story of the prodigal son is about two lost sons. The older son who did not squander his inheritance on prostitutes but rather faithfully served his father was also lost. His anger revealed that he was lost because he did not understand mercy and grace. Instead, he only understood hard heartedness and unwillingness to forgive a brother. Are some of us in the Church, who have perhaps not strayed as far as others, in that same frame of mind? Do we carry a grudge against anyone who has left and is trying to find their way back home? Are our judgmental attitudes an obstacle between others and God? Let's rejoice because he was lost, but now he is found.
Next time we see someone trying to rekindle a relationship with us who has hurt us deeply and hurt the family and is trying to find a way back, let’s welcome them with open arms and throw a party. Next time we sin greatly, let’s know ahead of time that God will welcome us back with open arms the minute we repent.
References: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.; Wilkins, Michael J. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.; Nolland, J. Vol. 35B: Word Biblical Commentary : Luke. 2002. Dallas: Word, Incorporated. 497.; R.T. France. NICNT. The Gospel of Matthew; William L. Lane. NICNT. The Gospel of Mark; Green, Joel B. NICNT. The Gospel of Luke; J. Ramsey Michaels. NICNT. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Mich. W.B. Eerdmans. 2007; 1974; 1997; 2010.; Brian Stoffregen. Exegetical Notes.