Eastertide – The Women

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Eastertide is a new term for me. It applies to the forty days between Easter and Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. So let’s spend time reflecting on those days after the crucifixion.

We talked a few months ago about the way Jesus elevated the position of women from shame to honor. We see God doing that very thing again in the days after the resurrection—the women played a vital roll.

When Jesus breathed his last, the centurion . . .

. . . praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” Luke 23:47

Many of the men “beat their breasts” in a sign of anguish.

But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:49

They lingered to see what would happen next. It would have taken some time for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pilate to ask for the body, but the women were still there, waiting. Then,

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Luke 23:35

Why? So they would know where to come to prepare the body with spices and perfumes. Since the Sabbath was about to begin that Friday evening, they wouldn’t be able to do their work until Sunday morning.

Who were these women? They were those who had followed Jesus from time to time to help in the ministry, perhaps by caring for the people or preparing food for Jesus and his twelve disciples as well as other followers. Several women helped, but three were specifically named in Matthew and Mark. Perhaps these three served as  leaders.

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Matthew 27:56

Mark calls the second Mary, the mother of James the younger or as “The Chosen” puts it, James the short one. (big James and little James) The third woman is likely Salome, the mother of (big) James and John.  

Once Sabbath was over and true to their duty, the women went to the tomb early Sunday morning with their spices. It dawned on them that they would have trouble rolling that huge stone away from the tomb. To their amazement, they found the stone already rolled away, then they saw an angel with stunning white clothes. Luke tells us that the women “bowed down with their faces to the ground.” As with any angel appearance in the Bible, the first thing the angel must say is, “Do not be afraid—

“. . . for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead.'” Matthew 28:5-7

May that message continue to resonate with us long after our Easter celebrations. He is risen. He is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Kindness, Gentleness

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Recently, I taught our Sunday Bible study class. We had been studying the Holy Spirit and had a lesson on the fruit that the Spirit desires to produce in us. I realized my fruit branch was lacking in a couple of areas.

Jesus speaks of being connected to the vine. In fact, He spends over half of John 15 with a visual, almost a parable. Picture a thick grape vine with many branches. In his example, he wants us to label the thick vine “Jesus” and one of the branches “me.”

  JESUS

  ME

Jesus said,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

So, I must cling to this main vine (Jesus)—remain in Him, abide, dwell in Him. We know what it is to dwell on a thought. Your mind keeps coming back to that thought over and over. That’s what He wants us to do with Him. Dwell on Him, draw strength from Him, gain wisdom from Him, search for what He desires in us.

There’s a gardener in the parable. We’re to label him “God.”

 God

In your mind, draw a pair of pruning shears in God’s hand.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

With these thoughts in mind, I looked at the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

 I tend to have strong opinions which is fine, but at times, I may express them in a way that negates my good reasoning. I engaged in a discussion with a young family member about tattoos and went on about the disadvantages. It came across with bitterness and heat. I realized that the “gentle” grapes in my cluster were looking pretty drawn up and dry.

Gentleness is not milk toast, “mamby-pamby” behavior. It is strength—but under control, coupled with kindness. So, I wrote a letter to this dear one, giving examples of times when she had painted certain colors or symbols on things but grew tired of them. An emblem may not be as dear to us after ten years. Why not paint it on paper, frame it, hang it on a wall and enjoy seeing it all the time? When it becomes tiresome or out of date, one can take it down, put it in a memory box, give it away, or throw it away. But if it is tattooed on you, it is there forever. 

Well, you get the idea. I apologized for my previous quick words and harsh attitude. Kindness and gentleness goes a long way. It produces plump juicy fruit.

If the Lord has to prune us, it may be time for some self examination.

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes – Praise

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We think of negative attitudes and positive attitudes. We understand the attitude of bitterness or envy, the attitude of kindness or encouragement. But praise? Is that an attitude?

I believe it certainly is, particularly when we feel praise and speak our praise to God. It’s an attitude that pleases God and resonates a one-of-a-kind joy with in us as well.

I was preparing to teach this past week on that glorious day when King David completed the plans for building the first Temple. David stood before the crowd of leaders, his son by his side. He spoke words of encouragement and direction to Solomon and handed over the plans. 

He said to his son,

“Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, [Heart and mind—that means serve with all that is within you.] for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. [Yikes, even the motive in the heart!] If you seek him, he will be found by you.” I Chron. 28:9

Israel had accumulated much gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and valuable stones during David’s reign. David declared he would provide from his great store houses of resources for the new Temple. Not only that, he declared he would give tons (literally) of gold and silver from his personal treasures.

“Now who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?” I Chron. 29:5 

The leaders, commanders, and officials were so inspired that they also promised huge amounts too—willingly. David was so overwhelmed with joy that he burst forth with praise and thanksgiving to God, much like the many psalms he had written through the years.

Then David told the leaders to praise God as well. They lifted up their voices with enthusiasm and by the end, they fell down on their knees and finally lay prostrate, flat out, face down.

You may have experienced such demonstrative praise at a time in your past or at least felt emotionally moved. But what about your regular old Tuesdays or Wednesdays or the string of monotonous days we have had for a year? Has your enthusiasm for praise waned to point zero?

I challenge you to find a moment this week when you can be totally alone. Talk out loud to the Lord. Praise Him for His wonderful creation, the heavens, the stars and planets beyond our knowing, the sun to warm us, the beautiful blooming trees, the Forsythia spreading their yellow arms out to welcoming in the spring. Sing your favorite hymn or praise song. Sing it loud! Pour forth all the thanksgiving you can muster.

Fall to your knees, thank Him for the price He paid for you on Calvary, the pain and agony of taking on your sin. Then praise God for raising His Son from the dead, reminding us that we too will overcome the grave to join Him in paradise. Amen and amen. The Lord is risen indeed!

~ Joyce ~

Attitudes -Trusting

    Eyes to See

Multiple aspects are involved in the making of a book: researching, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Right now, I’m hanging in the publishing phase, waiting anxiously to hold that book in my hands. 

Meanwhile, I’m at the dreaded step of marketing. In recent years, I have actually used the word that I usually refrain from using about anything—the word “hate.” I would get in a tizzy every time I thought about marketing. But recently, I have been thinking more about that attitude. Of course, we tend not to like anything that is difficult for us to do.

Instead of fretting and dreading, God has been working on me (again!) to trust him with this. Trusting means no complaining. It means relinquishing your inaptitude, your fear, and your dread into his hands. Jesus reminds me,

“Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” John 14:1

Jesus says, “The issue is not your strength, but mine, which is limitless.” It demands that we seek Him in earnest and determine to follow the steps He brings to mind.

Sarah Young in “Jesus Calling” is my go-to lady for morning devotions. Seems like every other day the devotion centers on trusting. I guess God feels like I am a slow learner.

Sarah says, “Waiting, trusting, and hoping are intricately connected, like golden strands interwoven to form a strong chain.” Trusting is the central strand because it is the response God desires the most.

It reminds me of one of my life verses.

Those who wait (or hope) in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31

In the process of waiting and hoping in the Lord, we step back and let Him lead, trusting Him to control things, if you will. As Sarah would say, “Keep your antennae out to pick up even the faintest gimmer of His presence.” The Lord cries out to us,

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Remembering that,  

We walk by faith and not by sight. II Corinthians 5:7

Is something dragging you down? Are you growing to despise it, hate it? Is fixing it beyond you? Are you at the end of your rope with it?

Perhaps you need a new chain to wrap around you, a chain with strands of waiting and hoping and that important center strand of trust.

Breathe in His peace, breathe out your frustration. Place yourself in His hands.

~ Joyce~

“The Chosen”

      Eyes to See

 Perhaps you have heard of “The Chosen,” a popular video production. The first eight episodes have been out for awhile, with more to come. They portray the life of Christ, often from the view of his chosen disciples.

Jesus is depicted as winsome and sincere as he teaches, heals and performs amazing miracles in their midst. 

I highly recommend this series to you. It is very biblically based and is careful with the fictional parts. After the scenes with Nicodemus, I said, “That was really well done.” Of course, I have a special affinity for Nicodemus after writing my second book about him. (A Heart for Truth) 

Another episode is entirely about Jesus with a few children. All we have in Scripture about children is admonishing us to bring them up in the faith and Jesus’ words to “bring the little children to me.” This episode imagines how Jesus would react with only a group of children. It is quite delightful.

As John said,

Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

We may envision the disciples in different ways. I always pictured Peter as tall, big, and burly. “The Chosen” Peter is short and thin and a bit high strung. It is obvious that, even though he is portrayed as slowly emerging as leader, he has a way to go in understanding what this is all about. We read about Peter’s impetuous behavior in Scripture, so this portrayal makes sense.

The Matthew character is another story. Matthew does not match my imagined personality. “The Chosen” Matthew has Aspergers, a form of autism. He is very intelligent, lacking in social norms, and has slight nervous  movements with his head and hands. But then, Scripture gives us very little of the disciples’ personalities, so we may visualize them in different ways.

Two types of tax collectors were found in that day, the collector for the people of the city, as in the movie, or a collector on the trade route for traveling caravans. Several sources seemed to feel that Matthew was a trade route collector, so I followed that portrayal. 

Interestingly enough, we both portray Matthew as butting heads with his father. In my book, I begin with him as a child. In the movie, he is already becoming a disciple. I’m anxious to see how he will fare in the second season coming soon. I foresee that it will be a while before the other disciples accept him, just as I imagined in my story.

The producers offer the first eight episodes free at www.thechosen.com. It is free, because thousands of people (including my husband and me) have contributed money or bought the DVD or other products in order to get the story into as many homes as possible. I believe this is going to be an amazing tool for leading people into the Kingdom, just as I pray my book will be. 

Have any of you seen it?

Joyce

Matthew – Final Thoughts

    Eyes to See

         Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Matthew finally moved on from tax collector to disciple of Jesus in my new book, Eyes to See.

Mark 2 and Luke 5 both give nearly the same account of the sum total of information we have about Matthew, except they both refer to him as “Levi.” This was perhaps a former name and Matthew became another name. Therefore, in the first part of the book, I refer to him as Levi. In the Gospel of Matthew, however, he is called “Matthew.” So after he does life with Jesus, I refer to him as Matthew.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

This is so cut and dried. There is surely more to the story before this amazing call and response. That’s the story I wanted to tell so that we see the agony of sin in Matthew’s heart and perhaps ways Matthew watched Jesus teach the people by the shore not far from his tax collecting booth. No doubt his heart had been touched by Jesus’ teaching and his miracles. So, when Jesus gave him the invitation, he was ready.

Matthew’s only friends would likely have been other tax collectors and riffraff from the community. Maybe if his friends were to hear Jesus, they might come to believe as well. So Matthew had an idea—invite his friends to dinner and have Jesus there to talk to them.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew 9:10 

Unfortunately, some Pharisees made their way to the house as well and stood outside looking in with their critical remarks to the disciples who were likely not too happy either about this set up.

The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Matthew 9:11

The disciples did not seem to have an answer so Jesus responded to their question.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. But go and learn what this means; ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'” Matthew 9:12-13 

From this point on in my story, I had plenty of action pieces to draw from as Jesus took his disciples on amazing adventures, which included Matthew of course.

Writing conference leaders are always asking authors, “Who is your audience?” I would say, “Those who would like to have a fresh look at Scripture and its meaning and  to see Bible characters come alive so that readers may better identify with them.”

But my great desire is that people who have little to no relationship to God will come to realize that following sinful, self-centered ways drives them from the hope and salvation that can be theirs in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

~ Joyce ~

Matthew – Other Clues

    Eyes to See

   Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

As I continued looking for other clues into the life of Matthew for my, third book, Eyes to See, I looked in his gospel for passages that were unique to him.

In many of our Bibles, you see more than one heading in the chapters that describes what follows. In my Bible, other references are also given if that passage is found in one of the other gospels. If none are given, the information is found only in that gospel.

For instance, in Matthew, chapters 5 – 7, eleven sections were written only by Matthew. He consolidated several teachings of Jesus into these three chapters in what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount.

In chapter 13, he grouped six parables together. Three are only found in Matthew. In other places, he listed healings in a group. Matthew seemed to be organized, perhaps a list maker. That would fit well with a tax collector who kept tract of numbers.

I see Matthew as a detailed person, attentive to people, perhaps good with selling, a numbers man. So I developed Matthew’s bent toward these things as a child and a young man. Of course we always find an antagonist in a story and logically Matthew had one that effected his turn toward becoming a tax collector.

However, tax collecting would have been the last thing on Matthew’s list of ambitions. Tax collectors worked for the Roman government, and anyone who gave themselves to the brutal, domineering Romans would be despised by his fellow Jews. They were seen as traitors.

When Matthew repented and followed Jesus, leaving his tax collecting behind, the bitter stigma of being a tax man may have lingered in the minds of his fellow disciples. Perhaps Jesus’ reminder to “judge not, lest you be judged” would fit the disciples as well.

Ah, but I can’t give you all the story, can I? You will have to get the book!

One other clue, unique to Matthew, is found in Matthew 27:62-66 where the religious leaders went to Pilate.

“Sir, while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure. Otherwise, his disciples may steal the body and claim he has been raised from the dead. Matthew 27:63-64

Along with that clue (again unique to Matthew’s Gospel) the guards later found the tomb empty. The soldiers were afraid the centurion would have their heads, so they reported this to the religious leaders who made a clandestine arrangement with the soldiers and gave them money, assuring them that they would be protected if they would tell this story:

“You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.'” Matthew 28:13

How was Matthew privy to this information? Perhaps he had had a friendship with a Roman soldier during his tax days. You can bet that will be in the story, too!

Some final thoughts next week.

~ Joyce ~

Matthew – Prophecies

     Eyes to See  

  Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

We’re thinking about my third book, “Eyes to See” (now being published.)

We continue looking for clues about Matthew, his life and thoughts—anything that we can find to help us know the make up of this disciple. 

Last week, we observed that the first thing recorded in his Book of Matthew was the lineage of Jesus , obviously important to him.  Luke also included a lineage. From Abraham to David, the names were the same in both records. But from David on down to Jesus, the names differed. Many scholars believe Luke was tracing the lineage of Mary, while Matthew traced to Joseph. Either way, we see that Jesus was the prophesied “Son of David.”

Speaking of prophesies, we will note today that Matthew includes many fulfilled prophecies in his Gospel.

Matthew is the only one who gives us the story about the Magi coming to Jerusalem asking,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

King Herod is rightly puzzled and disturbed by this question. He wonders if this is about the Christ, the Messiah that the people have anticipated for centuries. When he gathers the religious leaders together, he asks where the Christ is to be born.

“In Bethlehem, in Judea,” they replied. Matthew 2:6 [Micah 5:2]

When Jesus begins his ministry in Capernaum of Galilee , Matthew quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that the Christ will go to—

. . . Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:15-16 (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Matthew reports about the many people Jesus healed and how this fulfills prophecy.

He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” Matthew 8:17 [Isaiah 53:4]

After Jesus speaks in parables, Matthew reminds us that this is once again a fulfillment of prophecy.

“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” Matthew 13:35 [Psalm 78:2]

Matthew alone tells of a time when Jesus is using a parable to make a point to the chief priests and elders. After he told the parable,

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.'” Matthew 21:42 [Psalm 118:22,23]

Twelve times Matthew related prophecy that was fulfilled in Jesus. He used some thirty other quotations from the Old Testament to support other points. while the other three gospel writers used very few if any.

My point is that undoubtedly, Matthew had a concentrated background in the Holy Scriptures and was smart enough to relate them to Jesus. He wanted to send the message that indeed Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

So, you may be asking the question I have asked, “Why did this good Jewish boy become a hated tax collector?”

What else can we learn about Matthew? Next week!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Matthew – Boring Lineages

    Eyes to See

   Searching His Word, Seeking His Heart

Okay, my friends, I’m going to share some behind-the-scenes secrets of “Eyes to See”, soon-to-be published book about Matthew.

I wanted us to see Matthew as the real person he was, to get to know him up close. The problem was, we have very little written in the Scriptures specifically about him, or for that matter, most of the other disciples as well.

I wanted to give background in the first part of the book leading up to the big scene where Jesus approaches Matthew’s tax booth and says,

“Follow me.” Matthew 9:9

Unfortunately for me, we have nothing in Scripture about Matthew’s life before that moment.

But fortunately, in the case of Matthew, we have the Gospel written by him—the Book of Matthew.

So, I searched his writing to see if I could understand more of the man. He began his gospel with a typical Jewish tradition by giving the lineage of Jesus. Lineage was important to the Jews. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we read of this one who was the son of that one who was the son of the next one. etc. If you saw “Schindler’s List” with Liam Neeson, you may remember how they were careful to keep names of their fellow Jews. 

Matthew’s lineage begins with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, then down fourteen generations to David. (Remember how Jesus was often called the son of David?) From David to the exile is a another fourteen generations. After the exile, yet another fourteen generations to—

. . . Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:16

Matthew wants to be sure we know that Jesus is the son of David, as prophesied, and is born with a legal Jewish father, even though Joseph is not the birth father.

All these numbers! And in very strict form. Hmm, fourteens are double sevens, the complete or perfect number. Numbers seemed to be important to Matthew.

I know all those “begats” we used to read in the King James version seemed endless. But if you were a student of the Law, these things were important.

Exactly! That’s why I believe Matthew had much study, perhaps in a yeshiva, a school for boys and young men. He seemed Jewish through and through.

In keeping with our previous study of Jesus where he incorporated women into his teachings, parables, and healings, Matthew seems to have captured this concept of including women even in the lineage. Only Matthew records: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and of course Mary. Some of these women were even outside the Jewish camp. Matthew, like his master, Jesus, lifted up these women from a place of shame or lowliness to a place of honor.

What else can we discover about Matthew in his writings? Tune in next week.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

 

Prepost

Dear blog friends,

I will be taking you on an adventure through a writer’s mind for the next four weeks. How does a biblical historic writer fill in a story when the Bible leaves much of it out? Does Scripture give us other hints? We will explore that.

See you tomorrow.

~ Joyce ~