Mary – JESUS – Mary

Imagine a group of books being held upright by a bookend at each end.

Now make some changes to this image and create a spiritual picture.

Replace the books with the life of Jesus. (Maybe a collection of 33 books – one for each year of His life.)
Instead of bookends, imagine a woman named Mary at the beginning and another Mary
at the end of Jesus’ life. Two ladies supporting Jesus at His birth and death.

Let’s make some comparisons between the two Marys. I will refer to one as Mary Mom (the mother of Jesus) and the other as Mary Magdalene (a woman uniquely positioned in Jesus’ inner circle of followers).

  • The young Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of His Son, was from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. (see Luke 1:26)
    Mary, known as Mary Magdalene,
    was from Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of Lake Galilee. (denoted by her name)

  • Mary Mom was a pure virgin whose baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1:31)
    Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene – at one time she was not so pure. (see Luke 8:2)

  • Mary Mom encountered an angel (Gabriel) when told she would bear a son named Jesus. (see Luke 1:30-31)
    Mary Magdalene saw an angel (a young man wearing a white robe) at Jesus’ empty tomb. (see Mark 16:5-8.)

  • Mary Mom was fearful but was told not to be afraid. She was perplexed by Gabriel’s visitation and message. However, he told her not to be afraid because she had favor with God. (see Luke 1:26-38 esp. v30)
    Mary Magdalene was fearful but was told not to be afraid. When she saw the empty tomb, she was bewildered. Then the angel told her not to be alarmed because Jesus had risen. (see Mark 16:5-8 esp. v8)

  • Mary Mom would have been the first person to hold Jesus as a human baby. (Isn’t this the privilege of a mother?)
    Mary Magdalene had intended to be the last person to hold Jesus’ human body. (Had she fulfilled her plan of preparing His body for burial at the tomb, this would have been her privilege.)

  • Mary Mom anointed Jesus for life. I think Mary Mom may have anointed Jesus (with baby oil?) before she wrapped Him in warm blankets. (an assumption by author)
    Mary Magdalene desired to anoint Jesus after His death. Because she had spices with her, I believe Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. (see Mark 16:1)

  • Mary Mom wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling cloths before she laid Him in a manger. (see Luke 2:7)
    Although Joseph of Arimathea had already wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth, I believe Mary Magdalene had intended to provide a proper burial for the crucified Christ by wrapping His body in a linen shroud. (see Mark 16:46; John 19:25)

  • Both Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene were near the cross when Jesus was crucified.  (see John 19:25)

Looking closely at the spiritual image, I see one Mary holding baby Jesus at the beginning of His life and another Mary with the intent of holding His body at the end of His life. Jesus was surrounded and held by Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene. The words of Jesus in Revelation 1:17-18 seem an accurate description of Jesus’ life,Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One;  I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Living One. We no longer hold Jesus as a baby in our arms (as Mary Mom) and there is no need to hold His body in the grave (as Mary Magdalene).

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

Ownership of the Cross

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

take up your cross, and follow Me”

My Reader, join me in meditating on the conversation between Jesus and His disciples when He spoke these words.

This directive is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. We are going to focus on four specific words Jesus articulated.

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples over 2000 years ago. Today, hear Him speak them to you.

Take up your cross, and follow Me.

Jesus was explaining to His twelve followers that He would soon suffer, die upon the cross, be buried and then raised to new life three days later. They didn’t want to hear it! They didn’t understand it!

To the disciples, the cross meant the most painful death in the most humiliating way. Having spent the last 3 ½ years with Jesus, the disciples loved Him. They did not want to think about crucifixion.

They pictured how the Romans forced the criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion. In their minds, they heard the ridiculing comments shouted by the crowd as the convicted men shuffled to their execution. The Jesus the disciples knew did not deserve this!

Then, Jesus dropped another bombshell upon His disciples.

Jesus not only said that He would be crucified upon a cross – He told each of them to take up his own cross. This became more personal.

Was Jesus asking them to be crucified with Him? No.

However, in a sense, He was prophesying what was in store for His closest followers. Although not recorded in scripture, it is historically documented that 10 of the 12 disciples died as martyrs. Peter asked to be crucified upside down on the cross because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. Following Jesus cost these men their lives. Each man took up his cross and followed Jesus.

Take up your cross daily and follow Me.

Luke included the word “daily.”  A person only dies once. This eliminates the thought that Jesus was asking His disciples to follow Him to Golgotha when He would be nailed to the cross.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

For me, taking up my cross may mean dying to my desires rather than dying a physical death on the beam of a cross. The New Living Translation uses the words “turn from your selfish ways.”  Every day we are to live a selfless lifestyle of surrender and sacrifice. Colossians 3:5 NLT says, “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Then Galatians 5:24 NLT says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

Take up your cross and follow Me.

Jesus addressed the command “take up your cross” to anyone who wanted to be His disciple.

No longer was Jesus only talking with His twelve disciples. This becomes more personal! He is speaking to us, One on one.

When Jesus died on “the cross,” it became “my cross.” He took my sins when He was nailed to the wooden cross. His cross had my name upon it. Now it is my responsibility to accept Him as my personal savior. Ephesians 1:7 states, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Jesus extends the cross to you and me. We must personally embrace the cross. That is why Jesus calls it “your cross” that He invites us to take up.

Take up your cross and follow Me.”

After each of us accepts our cross, we are called to daily follow Jesus for the remainder of our lives. Galatians 2:20 NLT says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

We follow Jesus by stepping into His plans and purposes. Philippians 4:13 assures us of being able to follow His footsteps, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Neither you nor I know what will be required when we become His follower.

There are still martyrs today who are required to physically die for Christ. If you want a reminder of this, go to Voice of the Martyrs.  Please pray for these followers of Christ.

take up your cross, and follow Me”

My Reader, are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus whatever the cost?

Take up your cross and follow Me” involves embracing the totality of the cross. It means accepting  that Jesus died upon the cross paying the price for your sins. It means understanding the sacrifices it may require. It means following the path wherever Jesus leads. It may even cost your physical life.

Whatever “take up your cross, and follow Me” may entail, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

 

Find the Beauty in a Bruise

BLACK and BLUE

 Beauty in a Bruise

There was a bruise on my arm. A black and blue spot. I had no idea why it appeared. However, it made me think about bruises.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
h
e was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 NKJV

Isaiah prophesied that a suffering servant would be bruised. Almost 500 years later, Jesus was bruised.

A bruise is caused by an act that ruptures blood vessels underneath the skin. Jesus was bruised for our iniquities. Iniquity refers to our sinful nature. Jesus experienced internal injury for our internal sinfulness. Welts appeared as blood collected under His skin because of blows to His body. Bruises caused Jesus inward crushing and outward suffering.

Jesus was bruised for our iniquities – our sinful nature. We deserved the bruises – Jesus did not. Jesus suffered so we do not have to suffer. The blows inflicted upon Jesus did not puncture His skin, but the actions of those inflicting the blows penetrated His heart with sorrow. Jesus hurt – physically, emotionally, spiritually.

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Luke 22:44 NIV

Before Jesus was arrested and beaten, He prayed. Jesus prayed earnestly! I have heard it said that Jesus was suffering such grief and agony that internally His blood vessels may have burst while He was praying. Internal bleeding causes bruising. Could some of Jesus’ bruises occurred while He was intently praying?

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
Isaiah 42:3 NIV

Isaiah foretold another prophetic word about bruises. Again, there was reference to Jesus. This time Jesus was not bruised. Instead, He was the one who would not harm a bruised reed. We are the bruised reeds. Because Jesus was bruised, He understands the pain of our bruises.

Reeds” refer to the canes that grow in marshes. A reed denotes what is fragile or weak. Symbolically, a bruised reed is someone who has been hurt by sin. Reeds in marshland sway with gusts of wind. Wind storms cause reeds to wave while spiritual storms can cause our faith to waver.

A bruised reed alludes to what is broken or crushed, but not entirely broken off. Our sinful nature causes most of our bruises. Doubts and fears weaken our faith. Calamities and afflictions result in our being banged up with bruises. We become fragile and feeble.

Jesus knows our sins and sorrows, but He will not break us. He never lays His hand harshly upon us. His gentle touch extends healing and peace. Psalm 51:17 says that God does not despise a broken and contrite heart. According to Psalm 34:18, the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Jesus is like a soothing balm that heals the brokenhearted. We are anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual, There is a Balm in Gilead, comes to my mind. The refrain begins, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.” The first verse declares, “Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”

There are times when we as believers may feel like wavering reeds being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. We may be shaken by Satan’s temptations. Doubts and fears may cause our faith to sway. We may feel like a bruised reed almost broken in pieces. Our hearts may feel hopeless. We may feel worthless because of our wounded spirits.

BUT, Jesus will not break us. He was bruised for our bruises. There is beauty in knowing this.

Recycle Your Mistakes

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)

Even your mistakes can be recycled into something good through My transforming grace.”
(quote by Sarah Young in Jesus Lives.)

Is Jesus actually saying He will transform my goof-ups into good stuff? Will He convert my failings into something favorable if I give Him the chance? Romans 8:28 NLT says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Yes, “everything” includes my mistakes!

God convicts me of sin, but He does not condemn me. I may feel like I have committed an unforgivable sin. It may appear to me that my whole life should be thrown into a trash can. However, God sees my shortcomings differently. He desires for me to throw away my sin in the trash can by confessing it. But. He wants me to place my life in the recycling bin. 

To confess means to admit that I have done wrong. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

In addition to confessing my sin, I am to repent of my sins. To repent means to turn away from what I have confessed as sin. Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Recycling is repurposing. Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I make all things new.” When I dispose of my sinful habits, the Holy Spirit transforms my former life into a new life that glorifies Him. He recycles my habits.

When throwing something away, I have the choice of putting it in the trash can or in the recycling bin. There is no further use for what I throw in the trash can. If I place items in the recycling bin, they can potentially be used differently.

For example, did you know that recycled plastic bottles can be made into t-shirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, sleeping bags – even carpeting? Ten bottles make enough plastic fiber for a t-shirt and it only takes 63 bottles to make a sweater. I wonder how God will repurpose what I place in His recycling bin.

When a potter molds clay into a vessel, he reworks it numerous times. If it does not turn out exactly as he wants, he scrapes the clay off the potter’s wheel and begins again. Notice what he does with the clay. Rather than throwing it in the trash can, the potter repeatedly refashions it until it is exactly what he wants. He may trim off a few rough clay edges and throw them in the recycling bin.  Those he will reuse later. He never throws away a valuable piece of clay. He recycles.

This is a wonderful picture of what God does with our lives. Job 33:6 NLT says, “I was formed from clay.” Then Isaiah 64:8 declares, “Yet You, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” The Lord never throws us into a trash can. He always recycles us! He kneads our strengths and weaknesses, shaping the vessel He needs. II Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

 Relying on God’s grace, we can be recycled from imperfection to perfection – from trash to treasure. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” according to II Corinthians 12:9.

 Philippians 1:6 says,being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Christ is in the recycling business! 

My Reader, do you realize that God can use your imperfections in His kingdom? Learn from your mistakes and let the Lord recycle them. Do not throw your life in trash can. The recycling bin offers a better purpose.