It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What was it that Jesus declared as "beautiful" and others called a "waste"? Out of love for her Lord, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, poured an expensive perfume over Jesus’ head and onto His feet. As the fragrance filled the house, Judas and others were quick to criticize Mary, pointing out that the perfume was worth more than a years' wages. (Mark 14:1-11) When you see that Judas' next act was to arrange to betray Jesus, you realize that his criticism was actually aimed at Jesus. Jesus wasn’t living up to Judas' ideal of the Messiah. More bluntly, Judas wasn’t getting what he expected from Jesus. …Is there a Judas within you? Think of the times you’ve been frustrated with Jesus, times He has not met your expectations. Think of the times you’ve criticized and questioned life but you were really criticizing and questioning Jesus. Just like Judas and the other disciples showed at times, we tend to forget why Jesus really came.
Then there is Mary, of whom Jesus said, "She has done a beautiful thing." Focus not on what she did but on WHY she did it. For all the times Jesus said He had to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, for all the times the disciples refused to accept this and so failed to understand it, Mary heard and believed. It is just as Jesus said: "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." By grace, Mary knew why Jesus came and what He came to do, and it’s a beautiful thing to see the effect it had on her. Her extravagant outpouring was an expression of love to the One who would pour out His life on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus said that Mary’s story would be told along with the Gospel throughout the world. What He said is being fulfilled right now that you also may know why Jesus came. Come and see why FAITH IN JESUS IS A BEAUTIFUL THING.
In nearly every sport, close doesn’t count. It does no good to say, 'I almost made that goal,' or 'We almost won,' when you didn’t. A miss is a miss. A loss is a loss. Close doesn’t count. This is also true when it comes to entering the kingdom of God. 'I’m almost in,' or 'I think I’m in' are no consolation. You’re either in or you’re not. In is in. Out is out. Close doesn’t count. Think of what that means when Jesus tells an expert religious teacher, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Wait...this expert wasn’t in? This had to have startled him as well as others on the scene. Some would think, 'If this religious leader isn’t in, who is?' Others likely thought, 'Who is Jesus to determine who’s in and who isn’t?' Still others would wonder why he wasn’t in since the man just agreed with Jesus when He stated that the most important commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:28-34)
Does God have all of your heart? You are not in the kingdom of God merely by agreeing with Jesus about the commandments; God demands obedience. You are not in if you think the obedience God expects and deserves is attainable, especially when we are so often guilty of loving ourselves above God and our fellowman. You are not in if you fail to see your helplessness to enter by anything you can do, offer, or give. It was essential for the expert to see he needed more than a clarification of the commandments; He needed a Savior, a divine rescue. So do you and I. Please take this to heart: If you think you are in the kingdom of God because you are a good person or because you haven’t done anything too bad, you are not in. Close doesn’t count. Good isn’t good enough. God only accepts wholehearted, perfect love from you. But take heart, for the One who clarified the Law perfectly is the One who lived the Law perfectly, and He did so for you, to offer up His life as the perfect sacrifice that cleanses you from all sin. Close doesn’t count, but WHAT JESUS DID COUNTS FOR YOU. Through faith in Him, His perfect life counts as your perfect life. Through faith in Jesus, you are IN - you are in the kingdom of God!
'Unwritten rules' are basic standards of behavior that are widely assumed and generally accepted. One of them is that there are many settings in which you simply don’t talk politics or religion. But Jesus didn’t hesitate to speak on these matters, and to speak boldly at that. His enemies asked Him, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" They were trying to force Jesus to choose between Rome and Israel, and to do so would make Him an enemy of the people or an enemy of the state. But Jesus amazed and silenced them by answering, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s." (Mark 12:13-17)
To the shock of all who thought Jesus would free God’s people from godless Roman rule, He actually said (and obediently lived!), "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s." More than just paying taxes, this means giving honor and obedience to the authority God has established. We have great freedoms in our democracy, but we are not free to slander or disrespect the government. But as much as "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s" may offend our pride, "Give to God what is God’s" ought to crush our hearts, for who of us has given God what is due Him? Everything we have comes from Him; our very lives belong to Him. Does He get our faithfulness, our selflessness, our sacrifice, our unwavering love? Does He get our best in every area and aspect of our lives? We must admit that we have cheated God, withholding what is rightfully His. Yet the One who has been cheated is the One who gave His entire life for us, in our place, shedding His own blood to forgive our sins and to give us eternal salvation. May this move us to GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S and GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S with newfound gratitude.
"By what authority are you doing these things?" Unless you’re the boss, you will face that question if you start firing people or changing long-standing practices at your workplace. Jesus faces that question after He forcefully drives buyers and sellers out of the temple for turning God’s house of prayer into a place of profit. "Who gave you authority to do this?" seems like a legit question from the religious leaders in charge of the temple. But Jesus knew their evil intent to try to trap Him in what He said in order to put Him to death. So He asks them a question: "John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men?" John’s ministry was all about pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Savior. So to say that John’s baptism was from God was to say that Jesus was who John said He was, the Son of God, who indeed has all authority in heaven and on earth. Do you see how Jesus mercifully tries to lead them to repentance? But they valued their own authority more than the plain truth in front of them, so they sheepishly and dishonestly answer, "We don’t know." (Mark 11:27-33)
Facing Jesus’ authority means facing our sins. It does us no good to try to claim ignorance like those religious leaders; the Lord knows the evil intents of our hearts too. He knows when we have questioned and resisted and rebelled against His authority to live life on our own terms. He knows our self-centeredness and defensiveness. But listen to His authority as He cries from the cross, "It is finished," cancelling the entire debt of our sin. Listen to His authority as our risen Lord says, "Peace be with you," dispelling all our fears. For all the suspicions of authority we have in the world today, we do not need to be suspicious of Jesus’ authority. His authority is liberating, forgiving us all of our sins. Come and see that JESUS’ AUTHORITY LEAVES A LASTING IMPRESSION.
Come visit us at CHRIST OUR REDEEMER for more of this message of God's grace!
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.