Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who was this Woman?

There is a passage recorded in all the gospels that is very intriguing. It tells of an incident in which an unknown woman came up to Jesus and poured out her affection on Jesus in a very dramatic way. In response, Jesus told all the people who witnessed this incident, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Matt.26:13

See corresponding passages in Mark14:3-9, Matt.26:6-13, Lk.7:36-47, Jn.11:1-2, Jn.12:1-7, Lk.10:38-42

Who was this woman? Why did she show such an outpouring of affection on Jesus? And why did Jesus say that wherever the gospel is preached, what she did will also be told in memory of her? Have any of us done that? Many of us have preached the gospel many times, but have any of us in sharing the gospel ever added to it this story of what she did? What is the connection between the gospel and what she did? Could it be that we have been missing something vital? Could it be that our understanding of the gospel falls short of what Jesus meant by the gospel?

To find answers to this, first we need to ask if there is anything in the record of the gospels that might give us a clue as to why this woman would show such an outpouring of affection on Jesus. Perhaps there is. I believe it is very possible that this woman could very well be the same woman who was caught in adultery in the account in Jn 8:1-11. There is a hint in the Luke passage that lends some weight to this. Luke describes her as a woman who had a lived a very sinful life. And Simon the leper thinks to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman this is – that she is a sinner.”

Here’s the scenario. Her partner got away with not even a mention. She however was caught and dragged out to be humiliated in public. Where were all her “lovers”? Did no one love her enough to come forward to speak up on her behalf? This was the crunch. Not only was she shamefully exposed, she was being condemned to death. In her hour of crisis, condemned to the punishment of being stoned to death, no one showed her the kind of love like Jesus did. Not only did Jesus save her from being stoned to death, we can imagine how touched she was by Jesus’ kindness and love. That could give the background to why one day, she could hold it no more but she just showed up all of a sudden, uninvited, unannounced, and lavished her love upon Jesus. Her breaking of the alabaster box and the outpouring of the perfume symbolized so dramatically the breaking and outpouring of her passion from deep within her for Jesus.

It is quite possible too that this woman was Mary Magdalene who apparently had a very close relationship with the Lord. That however is another issue, which unfortunately has been twisted by Dan Brown in the Da Vincci Code.

OK, we can understand that Jesus would have been touched by her dramatic show of gratitude. But Jesus makes no mention of that. Instead He links what she did with the gospel. What is the connection between her show of affection and the gospel?

I could be wrong, but this is how I read it. I believe this is the picture that Jesus was giving us of the end goal of the Gospel – of a woman pouring out her love and passion upon Jesus. This is what the gospel is all about. It is not so much about eternal salvation as it is about God’s long lost bride forsaking all other love, leaving her adultery, and returning to Him and lavishing her love upon her Bridegroom. Throughout the ages, God has been looking for a bride – a people who will fall hopelessly in love with Him – a people who will forsake all, give all and lose themselves in response to His love.

Unfortunately most of what church is today has been built around nothing more than "fire insurance". Sadly, evangelical Christianity's focus on salvation, seems to appreciate nothing else for why Jesus came except to save us from hell. Evangelical Christianity that makes correct doctrine its cornerstone has no idea of a Jesus who came to die and win back His bride for Himself.

Why did God create us in the first place? Why a man and a woman - a husband and wife, as the image of God? Why did God call Israel His wife? Why did God say that Israel had committed adultery against Him? Were these just strange inappropriate metaphors that crazy wild eyed prophets conjured up in their minds on their own, or could it be that they understood just how hurt and jealous God felt for us and how passionately He longs for us to return to Him?

Have you ever fallen in love before? When you fall in love, madly in love, you become crazy. You become beside yourself. All decorum is swept aside for a display of what is raging in the heart. I believe that this is the crazy love that God is looking for. Does the present day church understand this?

Make no mistake but it is quite possible that there can be people who are committed and zealous for God but not know Him personally : “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Rom.10:2. Paul himself knew this - when Jesus appeared to Paul the first time, he asked, ”Who are You Lord?” Acts 9:5.

What do christians today understand of being filled with the Spirit? Being filled with the Holy Spirit is usually understood only in terms of power and anointing; not intimacy with God. I dare say many Christians, have never experienced being filled with God’s love. What do we know of God's love? Suppose I were to say to you, “God loves you.” What would come to your mind? God’s provision of food and shelter for you? His giving you a good family? His protection over you daily? His dying on the cross for you, saving you from hell, and giving you eternal life? These are what most christians would think about when they think about God’s love for them. In the Bible however, God’s love for us is described not only in terms of how He cares for us and provides for us, and how He saves us and gives us eternal life, but also in romantic terms :

• As a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isa.62:5
• I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you to Myself. Jer.31:3
• The Lord your God will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing. Zeph.3:17

Various pictures are given to us in the Bible of God’s relationship with us : Shepherd and sheep, Master and servant, Commander of the Army and soldiers, Vine and branches, Potter and clay, etc. but the final picture in Revelations is the Bridegroom and His Bride. That is really the ultimate relationship the Lord seeks of us. Right from the very beginning we were made in the image of God – male and female (not only male) : Gen.5:2. In our earthly human relationship with each other as males and females, we have a picture and understanding of the relationship that God seeks from us. All through the Old Testament, God spoke of Israel as his wife who had deserted Him and committed adultery with other lovers.

God desires a passionate relationship with us. God longs to be intimate with us and us with Him. Eternal life is described by Jesus not in terms of length of time, but as “knowing” (ginosko) God : Jn.17:3 That is the same Greek word used for how Adam knew Eve his wife, in the Septuagint.

Though the Ephesian church was zealous for Jesus and totally committed to Him, yet they had “left their first love” : Rev.2:1-7. Look at how Jesus described the church of Ephesus. Is there any church you know of today that comes close to the dedication, commitment and zeal of the Ephesian church as described by Jesus Himself? I was baffled, so one day I asked the Lord what He meant by “first love”. In reply, the Lord asked me, “How did you love your wife when you first fell in love with her?” Ha! I immediately understood. I remembered how I longed to be with her all the time, how I could not bear being apart from her, how I would be dying to see her again whenever we had to be separated even for a few hours, how hours with her would feel like just minutes, how I delighted in her, how I dreamt of her all the time with open eyes, how crazy I was about her .... Yes there was a time I loved Jesus this way. Do I still love Jesus this way today?

Jesus is not looking for Marthas, but for Marys : Lk.38-42. God does not just want commitment and a sense of duty from us. In the story Jesus told of the two sons, contrary to the popular way it is understood, I believe the main character of the story is not the prodigal son. Some say it is about the father and his love. Perhaps so, however I ask what the main point of the story is about and I find that it is more about the elder son because Jesus was trying to tell the Jews how they were so much like the elder son. It was tragic that the elder son served his father obediently, even slaved for him, but did not know his father’s heart : Lk.15:11-32.

In Jn.4:24, John says that God seeks worshippers. In Acts13:22, it says that God found David a man after His own heart. What was it about David that God could say that of him? David said, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek : that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” Ps.27:4. Not 5 things, not 3 things, but 1 thing. In Ps.63:1 David said, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

I believe that God wants us to go to Him in prayer not just as a time to request and petition Him for things, but as a time to enjoy being with Him, expressing our love for Him. That is what God ultimately desires and wants to move us towards – knowing His love and loving Him in return, as a bride would be in love with her bridegroom. Just enraptured in love and delight in each other.

God will not be satisfied with anything less than all of our hearts :

Search for me with all your heart : Jer.29:13
Return to Me with all your heart : Joel 2:12
Trust in the Lord with all your heart : Pr.3:5-6
Love the Lord with all your heart : Mark 12:30

Jesus reminded the pharisees that life is not found in the knowledge of the Scriptures. Life is found in Jesus. Jesus told the Pharisees : “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jn.5:39-40.

Someone said this : “The Word did not become a philosophy, theory or a concept to be discussed, debated or pondered. The Word became a person to be followed, enjoyed and loved.”

Like lovers in love, when this love rages on in our hearts, it will compel us to be fools for Christ. Paul spoke of even being mad : “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us .. “ 2 Cor.5:13-14. True ministry is an outflow of this love.

How can we have this love? Dare we ask God for it? When a woman marries a man, she surrenders herself completely to him. She henceforth no longer belongs to any other, not even herself but to him. No doubt the liberated women of today would be upset with this, but I believe that that is because there is so little real love these days. I dare say things would immediately change if someone who would die for his woman were to show up in her life. That of course is our Jesus. The question for us is this : Are we willing to be possessed by His love with all the consequences that follow – that we will lose ourselves and our lives to Him?

So much of teaching in church encourages people to love more, to pray more, to fast more, to evangelize more, study more of the Bible, give more, attend more of this, get involved in more of that, go on more mission trips, etc. but where do we find the impetus to do more of all these? I see many church workers especially flat out trying to keep up with more of everything. It is no wonder that for many people, if we were to ask them what their picture of God is, quite honestly they will tell you it is Someone sitting supreme on His throne demanding more holiness and more of everything from us.

How about a change of picture? I want to share with you the Jesus who loves you romantically, who even now longs for you to just be alone with Him and immerse yourself in His love.

Who was this woman? This woman is the true church, His bride, who loves Him like crazy, that Jesus is coming back for.

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