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Author: V John

Lenten Reflections 2021: Who did They See with Jesus on the Mountain?

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 @johnvinod | March 23, 2021

Let us begin by reading Matthew 17: 1-13. When Jesus’ suffering and death were imminent, Jesus shared this with the Twelve in no uncertain terms. Jesus might have also been tempted to withdraw from it all, God permitting, in light of the looming suffering and a cruel death. If not, he was willing to obey the will of God in everything. Therefore, he aspired for much needed strength from his Father before the descent, from now onward, into the dark valley of loneliness, misunderstanding, and suffering that awaits him.

He often withdrew from the demands of his busy ministry to spend time in communion with his Father. So, one day, Jesus went up a mountain, taking with him only three of his closest disciples—Peter, James, and John.

As soon as Jesus knelt down in the posture of prayer, I assume, the trio of weary disciples fell asleep in the cool breeze of the serene mountain top. They were woken up by a burst of intense light around them. Luke states, “Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him (Luke 9: 32 ESV).

They could not believe their eyes and must have immediately jumped to their feet as they saw Jesus completely transformed in his appearance. A form they had never seen before. “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matthew 17: 2 NRSV).

As though this transfiguration was not sufficient, when the disciples adjust their sleepy eyes to the bright light around them, they “see” Jesus engaged in a conversation with Moses and Elijah. What a fabulous privilege of the trio to witness a glimpse of God’s glory.

However, the main question to reflect for me today is: How did the trio recognize who the other two persons were with Jesus? There was no photography then and the Jewish people were forbidden from making images. There could be several conjectures:

  • Jesus himself shared with his stunned disciples, as he introduced his visitors, Moses and Elijah, to them.
  • They probably heard it announced. For the sake of Jesus’ disciples, a heavenly voice revealed the identity of the two visitors to further affirm Jesus’ divine glory (Matthew 17:5).
  • Perhaps, the disciples recognized the two most renowned celebrities of Judaism through the conversations they overheard among Jesus and his visitors. Only Luke gives us a glimpse of their conversation saying, “They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9: 31 NRSV). Any Jewish child could associate it with the memories of the great “exodus” under Moses, and Elijah’s departure from earth without facing death.
  • Perhaps, Jesus himself was talking to his visitors by their names that the disciples overheard and believed.
  • I would like to go with yet another possibility: Remember, the disciples wrote down this account after quite some time. When the four of them were descending down from the mountain, Jesus clearly instructed the trio not to share this “vision” with anyone else until after his resurrection. The word “vision” holds the key for this possibility:

“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matthew 17: 9 NRSV).

Therefore, I think, more than a literal, physical appearance per se, it was a spiritual “vision” of Moses (the Lawgiver) and Elijah (the Prophet) conversing with Jesus (the Messiah) to confirm him as the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Just as in a dream, no one tells us who we “saw” or “met,” we just know it, and we also recall having conversations with people dead or alive. Likewise, in a spiritual vision on the mountain top, the disciples just knew it, by the nature of the vision, who they had “seen”! They celebrated the confirmation of their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Subsequently, they were willing to lay down their lives later for the sake of Jesus’ mission. May they inspire us, too, today.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: What does Following Jesus Have to do with Racism?

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 @johnvinod | March 22, 2021

In an unending series of racial violence and hate crimes, the latest to break our hearts is a young Christian man in Georgia, USA, last week. He went on a killing spree, especially targeting Asian women. One of his victims was a single mother of South Korean descent, Hyun Jung Grant, who was raising two young boys working hard in a spa. As the followers of Christ, we cannot overlook this when members of our own families and churches pick up guns and go around destroying innocent families and leaving young orphans in its aftermath. Let us, therefore, read today Luke 10: 25-37.

One of the reasons, racial violence and hate crimes go on unabated in the majority Christian countries, targeting people of color, is because our churches have not been bold enough to teach or preach on the issues of racism and ethnocentrism. Not just churches, but it is rare to find among the luminaries of western theologians, in the past centuries, who have included the issues of racism or colonialism in their theological treatises. The reason is simple: it was not an issue they had to deal with.

However, reading the gospels, we come across Jesus who was born, raised, and ministered during the Roman colonization of Israel. Even within Israel, he was aware of the racial intolerance among the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Samaritans. Therefore, Jesus made it his business to address the issue of racial discrimination and hatred throughout his ministry. One such teaching is in today’s text in Luke 10: 25-37. It is a familiar parable of Jesus found only in Luke’s gospel. Everything in his story was going normal until Jesus introduced a Samaritan. The lawyer who was testing him, Jesus’ disciples, and the those who were listening in were all Jewish people and they did not anticipate that Jesus, being a Jewish guru, would show the Samaritan in the limelight as he did.

Imagine the predicament of the lawyer. He had to answer Jesus’ probing question after listening to the shocking parable of the Samaritan who showed compassion and mercy to the Jewish man, he had found laying wounded on the side of the road. The lawyer knew the honest answer to Jesus’s question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10: 36). However, he could not bring himself up to openly say, “the Samaritan”! His prejudices of the Samaritan people would not permit him to agree with Jesus’ proposition that a Samaritan would demonstrate how to value human life in need, irrespective his ethnic differences with the needy. He did not expect the Samaritan man to come out as the hero of the story because he had always stereotyped them as evil and unclean people who would never do good for the Jewish people. It was Jesus’ purpose to shatter such prejudices and stereotypes about the other.

Jesus dumbfounded not only the lawyer, but each of us today who reads this story by saying, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 ESV). This parable forces listeners to decide what they should be doing. Do like the Samaritan, not like what your own people are doing. The lawyer had asked Jesus what he should do, Jesus told him exactly what to do, i.e., get in the habit of demonstrating your mercy like the Samaritan did for the needy and wounded people on the margins of your busy life. Permit such people often to interrupt and pause our schedules and business as usual rut. So that we may reach out to them to be good neighbors irrespective of their color of skin, physical appearance, social status, or ethnic background.

To “what must I do,” even today Jesus replies: “Go, and do likewise,” as the Samaritan man did. May we choose to follow Jesus Christ.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Jesus and an Unnamed, Unwanted, Uninvited, Unacceptable Woman

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@johnvinod | March 20, 2021

Continuing our focus on Jesus Christ reaching out to the rejected and socially marginalized men and women of his time, let us begin by reading Luke 7: 36-50. It is a familiar story of an unnamed, unwanted, and uninvited woman. She came to Jesus at a dinner party hosted by a self-righteous Pharisee named Simon.

In the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus’ time, such dinners were open to the public. They normally had large courtyards where anyone could walk in uninvited and sit around observing and listening to a guest as the meal progressed. This woman seized the opportunity upon learning that Jesus was in her neighborhood. And she brought one of her most precious possessions, an alabaster flask full of expensive perfume, for the guest of honor. Obviously, she must have learned who Jesus was and what he has been doing.

The people in Jesus’ time did not sit at a dining table with upright chairs with their feet stuck underneath the table, as all western painters would have us believe. Instead, the Jews reclined/leaned on cushions around a low-rise platform/table, leaving their feet stretched out behind them and away from the table. The original text states, Jesus reclined on the couch at a table (Luke 7: 36-37). His feet must have been bare as it was customary to leave the sandals at the entrance and wash one’s feet before entering the house (Luke 7: 44). This is the kind of arrangement which made it easy for Jesus to go around as he washed his disciple’s feet in John 13: 1-7. And in our story today, for this unnamed woman to walk in and approach Jesus’ feet:

She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment (Luke 7: 38 NRSV).

This woman is introduced as a “sinner” (Luke 7: 37 & 39), but the nature of her sin is not revealed. Whatsoever it may have been, a conviction and remorse for her sins were evoked in the presence of Jesus Christ and it flowed through her tears. She kept wiping her tears off Jesus’ feet with her hair and kissing them fervently as she applied the highly scented oil/perfume/ointment.

The Pharisee host was scandalized by what he saw happening at his dining table. He doubted Jesus’ identity as a prophet because he did not shrink from the woman’s presence and actions that others perceived as immodest.

The story ends with Jesus teaching Simon and others more than one lesson. Despite knowing her sins, Jesus did not shrink from her adoration. Instead, he declared: “Your sins are forgiven!” (Luke 7: 48). What an assurance to someone who was being whispered about and weeping with penitence at the savior’s feet. You can imagine her joy. Not only forgiven, but she was also sent home with the assurance of salvation and wholesome peace (Luke 7:50).   

Jesus teaches us that anyone rejected and unacceptable by the society and their religious leaders can be accepted and loved in his presence. People gossiped about her, made her feel unwanted and unworthy. They wanted her condemned and would have hailed Jesus for condemning her. However, Christ’s presence induced conviction of her sins, and his acceptance gave her a fresh start in life. Despite her past life Jesus offered her acceptance, forgiveness, salvation, and peace.

We often tend to label and stereotype people like this woman whom we consider worthless. Jesus teaches us once again to reach out to such misfits with the message of love, grace, and forgiveness, if we are to follow Christ. If we are ever tempted to think of our faith as too sophisticated, pure, and self-righteous like the Pharisee, which can only accept perfect saints, may we be reminded how Jesus dealt with people like Zacchaeus and this unnamed woman.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Jesus Turns the Tables in Favor of the Underprivileged Women

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@johnvinod | March 19, 2021

Jesus Christ reached out to the rejected and marginalized people in his society. Like we noticed yesterday in Zacchaeus’ case in Jericho, Jesus did the same to a woman at the temple in Jerusalem. Please read John 8: 1-11.

Jesus was teaching in the temple courtyard surrounded by an eager crowd. A commotion interrupted Jesus’ teaching. Everyone looked in the direction of uproar. The scribes (experts in Jewish law) and the Pharisees (part of a Jewish sect demanding strict observance of the Mosaic law) dragged a woman and brought her in front of Jesus. Their motive was to test Jesus’ response and so condemn him. The charge against the woman was quite serious: She was “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8: 4b). They were also quick to remind Jesus that the Mosaic Law demanded such women should be stoned to death. “So what do you say?” they asked Jesus Christ putting him in a quandary.

This is where we notice Jesus did what he was always acted in his ministry—reaching out to the rejected, condemned, sinful, and marginalized men and women living on the edge at the mercy of others. Her life depended on what Jesus would say.

Jesus, brilliant as he always was in such circumstances, turned the tables. His response upheld the law, but also went deeper and revealed the grace of God, saying, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8: 7). It was impossible to follow this rule in practice; therefore, making her execution impossible to carry out. The embarrassment was no longer hers, but theirs now. After her accusers left one by one, John records:

“And Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him” (John 8: 9)

Hence, Jesus saved her life and upheld the Mosaic law killing two birds with one stone. How? Well, Jesus realized what the religious authorities deliberately did was to leave out the vital part of the demand of the Mosaic law. That is, Leviticus 20:10 required that both partners caught in adultery should be stoned to death. The man was, however, completely missing from the story. Jesus saw through their deception and the simple fact that the “act of adultery” could not be committed by the woman in solitude. Why was the man allowed to escape from the scene and facing judgement? If his life could be spared, so should be her life, equally created in the image of God.

Nevertheless, I expected that Jesus would condemn the sinful woman in private instead of embarrassing her in public. However, thank God that Jesus is not like you or me. Jesus categorically said that he did not condemn her… neither in public nor in private! This does not mean he declared her guiltless. Instead, he asserted, “for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12: 47, 3:16). He also commanded her to stop sleeping around; saying, “sin no more” and get on with her life.

Jesus once again saw value in the life of an adulterous woman who was completely dejected. When everyone thought she did not deserve to live, Jesus saw worth in her life and believed in her to give her a second chance. Therefore, when we come across people feeling left out and worthless due to their gender, ethnicity, or bad choices, let us follow Jesus and help them see that they are valuable in God’s eyes. They deserve God’s grace and forgiveness. They are worthy of second chances, an opportunity to turn around from sin, and live by the grace of God. Will we decide today to follow Jesus in his footsteps and bring hope, forgiveness, and grace in many a life like this unnamed woman of Jerusalem?


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Jesus Went About Befriending and Believing People

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 @johnvinod | March 18, 2021

During the pandemic, which we have been coping with for over a year now, so many people around the world are feeling miserable. Some are struggling with mental issues. We are all mostly social beings, and the isolation is excruciating for so many around us. Today, I am reminded of Jesus Christ’s ministry. In his day, too, there were lonely, neglected, rejected, and marginalized people in the society. However, the gospels show us that Jesus went about their villages looking for such people. He even went a step ahead in befriending and believing those who could not be befriended otherwise. Let us read Luke 19: 1-10, for one such ministry of Jesus.

One warm day, Jesus arrives in Jericho on the bank of the river Jordan. As the word spread around the town, people were flocking to get close to Jesus. Zacchaeus was one of the persons who could not get close to Jesus, so he climbed up a tree. He was considered a betrayer by his Jewish people. Obviously, it is difficult to like a person who collected taxes from his own people for the Roman colonizers keeping a sizable amount for himself. Not only his work, but also his short stature led most people to dislike him even though he was a man of means.

Jesus Christ makes an abrupt stop under the tree where he spotted Zacchaeus. He must have startled him with his announcement: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19: 5 ESV).

Luke also records for us:

And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7 ESV)

However, in the ears of Zacchaeus, the unexpected words were something he had not heard in a long time. It might have sounded to him: “Zacchaeus, I value you, and I believe in you. Out of all these people, you are important. Therefore, I want to be your friend and your guest to spend time with you.”

That night, at Zacchaeus’ house, not only did Jesus ate and drank, but also showered his abundant grace on someone who was rejected and unloved. Jesus lifted him up from rejection, might have hugged and kissed him while entering his spacious house, and sat down to dine with his family. He also led him to true repentance to an extent that Zacchaeus was willing to make fourfold reparations for his extortions of people in the past. And Jesus calls it “salvation”!

As Jesus’ followers, we are called to this mission. Especially now that we are surrounded by scores of people struggling with loneliness, rejection, racial violence, marginalization, and loss of loved ones, who is he/she that the Holy Spirit might be leading you to, today? Is there someone who could benefit from a message of worth if they are feeling worthless? Is there someone who needs your friendship? Would you be willing to risk befriending someone today, in an age of blocking people on social media who do not look or think like you? Would you risk believing in someone’s story today and saying to them, yes, I believe in your experience even though it is not exactly like mine? Would you consider saying to someone today that it is worth spending time with them and listening to their stories? May the salvation indeed mean this to us and to others through us. Amen.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: How did Jesus Use His Privileges?

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@johnvinod | March 17, 2021

On March 16th, in a racially charged hate crime, several Asian women were shot dead by a young white man in a shooting spree at massage parlors in Georgia, USA. This is just one of the numerous incidents during a recent spike in the racist anti-Asian hate crimes in the USA and Canada during the pandemic. This leads me to reflect on how did Jesus deal with his privilege and race.

Did Jesus Christ acknowledge that these issues existed during his time? Was he privileged? What did he do with his privileged position, power, and authority? What can we learn from Jesus’ life and mission today, especially during this Lenten season? In the past few days, we have been reflecting on Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. The question for me is: why did he go through this experience? Was there no other way to save his Jewish people and then the rest of humanity?

Jesus Christ was indeed privileged in more than ways than one. First, he was divine. Even when he took flesh like you and me, he was still divine. That is why he could do those miracles, signs, and wonders. That is why he was able to overcome death through his resurrection. Jesus Christ was also privileged to be born in a Jewish family as a male. He understood he was a privileged Jewish man, and it showed through some of his sayings and views toward other people groups.

However, the question is: What did Jesus do with his privileged position? First, the Bible tells us that he humbled himself to the point of suffering in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil. The book of Hebrews reminds us what this means for us who may be bewildered by the racially prejudiced acts and hatred of some privileged Christians. If you are at a point that continuing to follow Jesus seems unbearable, listen to this encouragement from Jesus’ wilderness:

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 12-16 ESV).

Second, the Apostle Paul writes that Jesus emptied himself and his privileged position and status. He laid aside his glory and the privileges that come with being God.

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 4: 3-8 ESV).

Friends, we are all privileged in one or the other area of our life. It could be the pigment of our skin, family, upbringing, education, language skills, or something else. Instead of denying bigotry and denying the inherent privileges and certain systems that help us maintain our privileges; as the followers of Christ, we must ask ourselves: Are we following Christ and his example? Are we willing to humble ourselves to the extent of laying aside our privileges and make way for non-privileged people?

Permit Jesus, who suffered in the wilderness and on the cross, confront and challenge us today. May we acknowledge and use our privilege, as children of God, in making our world more acceptable and livable for others who do not look like us. May we use our privilege to walk alongside the people from a different ethnic group than our own because that is the way to demonstrate that we follow Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Do You Have the Resources to Win?

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@johnvinod | March 16, 2021

Jesus Christ thwarted all attempts of the devil in the wilderness with a robust twofold strategy: 1. Quoting the Scriptures, and 2. Prayers. Jesus said: “It is written” and repeated it in all three of his responses to Satan’s tests in Matthew 4: 1-11

4 But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

From the life of Jesus, we learn that to be tempted is not a sin. Jesus was tempted and yet he remained without sin. If Jesus had committed any sin, he could not be our savior. Thus, to live and become like Jesus, we should also adopt his strategy to overcome our temptations.

First, the retort of Jesus, “it is written,” spontaneously sprang up from a deep spirituality developed spending time in the scriptures for the past thirty years of his life. Even when Satan himself employed the same phrase in Matthew 4: 5 by quoting him the Scriptures, Jesus immediately seemed to have said, well, what you are quoting to me must be explained in light of another passage, for it is written….” (Matthew 4: 7). Thus, Jesus set an example for us to read ALL Scripture and be so immersed in the whole counsel of the Word that we will be quick to recognize when someone misquotes it or uses it out of context for their selfish purposes.

Often what fills our minds and thoughts shapes us, our speech, and our response when we are tempted. What occupies your mind these days? What spontaneously comes out when we have an opportunity to respond to the temptations and tests this world constantly presents us? The response, “it is written,” must become a continual application in our lives as we face our wilderness.

Second, before and during the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus had spent most of his time in prayer. He was constantly in communion with his father, even though at times it appeared that God was not present with him. Therefore, soon after he had called his disciples, Jesus instructed them to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). So, we are not isolated in our daily battles with the temptations. Through Jesus’ example, we have two remarkable resources—the Word and the prayers. During this Lenten season, let us develop a habit of using these for bolstering our defenses and for winning battles in our own wilderness.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Being Watchful After Every Victory

@johnvinod | March 15, 2021

After Jesus’ victory over his temptations in the wilderness, the devil left him. We should never assume that it was the end of temptations in Jesus’ life. Let us not imagine that Jesus went out of the wilderness, launched his ministry, and that was it, and he never had to face such crisis again. Jesus indeed came out of the desert a victor, but that does not mean Satan gave up. Rather, Jesus continued enduring temptations at different times and in various areas of his life and ministry, all through the next couple of years until his death on the cross. There is a tiny but significant statement in Matthew 4: 11 and Luke 4: 13. Various translations help bring out the meaning of these verses:

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and began ministering to him (Matthew 4:11 ESV).

Only Luke mentions an additional detail:

Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time (Luke 4: 13 NKJV).

And when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him for a season (Luke 4:13 ESV).

“Every” does not mean there were no other temptations that Jesus ever faced later on. It means every kind of temptation. As we saw in the last week’s reflections, the devil tried different types of tests and tricks to trap Jesus. His temptations addressed all crucial areas of his life as a human being, but Jesus foiled all of them. Jesus’ tests were comprehensive in nature appealing to the basic human passions and weaknesses. The devil, at that time, ran out of all the darts in his bucket. So, when he knew that he was not having his way with him, he left Jesus.

But then in Luke 4:13, he quickly adds, that Satan only left “for a season” or “until an opportune time.” It means he came back at a convenient time to try to lead Jesus into temptation. On many occasions, Jesus faced the temptation of taking the easy way or to take a short cut to success and popularity. These were the instances when the devil had returned to do his job. For example, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the devil went at it hammer and tongs. What should encourage us today is that there is no atypical temptation or a mysterious stunt of the devil from which we cannot learn to defend ourselves through Jesus’ example. Jesus had faced all of the same darts and more to teach his followers to prepare for all conditions. Therefore, Jesus fully knows what you may be facing today or tomorrow. “Every temptation” of Jesus made him the “one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15); therefore, making us also capable of victory over every manner of temptation. Praise God that Jesus made a way for us all and gave us the Holy Spirit so that we do not have to fight temptations only in our own strength. Therefore, following Jesus, as Andrew Bonar rightly said, “let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle!” Amen.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Do You Want Your Best Life Now?

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   @johnvinod | March 13, 2021

The third temptation of Jesus recorded in the three gospels is quite subtly deceptive. Let us see it according to Matthew:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (Matthew 4: 8-10 CSB).

It appears that the entire world with its diversity, rich cultures, wealth, and splendor were flashed before Jesus’ eyes in a panoramic view or vision. All the absolute best that you can imagine from all cultures, peoples, philosophies, throughout the history, …all of this and more was offered to Jesus with this suggestion: “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me.”

You would think that Satan offered it to Jesus for self-aggrandizement. No, he had already done that and miserably failed twice. Therefore, he attempts his final yet very subtle suggestion: Jesus, you know you have a ministry ahead of you. You want to be the Savior of the world. Great! But no one knows you yet. You have no followers and no disciples. Even your own family does not believe who you claim to be. You have so many needs for your forthcoming ministry as your mission encompasses the universe, but you have no resources. The vicious resentment, suffering, and persecution await you in the days to come. If you really want to accomplish all of this and usher in your Kingdom, here is your key: Just worship me, and you will have everything you have come to accomplish on earth. Just make this little compromise and you will be set for “Your Best Life Now”!

The offer is very appealing as it provides an easy short cut to the incredible name, fame, wealth, and absolute power. Also, it is effortless: fall and worship me and receive everything possible as a reward for whatever you want to be and wish to accomplish in your life. A little compromise is incredibly rewarding. And it will ultimately provide the means to accomplish the mission of Jesus.

Nevertheless, Jesus immediately found it so repulsive that he rebuked Satan and ordered him to “Go away!” He was able to see through its subtlety that Satan is asking him to do ministry and missions as per the world’s expectations of a Savior. A Messiah who works for the name, fame, and is accepted by everyone without challenging their traditions, cultures, religions, and assumptions.

Not only that day, but Jesus faced such temptations throughout his ministry. He was desired as the king that the Jewish people wished he would be. And every time Jesus walked away from them. Instead, he continued to expose their hypocrisy and denounce their moral bankruptcy. He continued to invite people to his Kingdom on his own terms. He literally ran away from popularity. He refused to be crowned without the cross. He went on to build his Kingdom of truth and righteousness with his suffering, toils, and even death on the cross. He resigned all power and superiority of all sorts and went on to win people’s hearts rather than their land, cities, or cultures! And that is how Jesus Christ wrests the Kingdom from Satan’s hand, although it was already his, but Satan had falsely presumed as his own.

Today, we have similar temptations as Jesus did. Many of us want, on the pretext of doing his ministry and missions, what Satan offers us…popularity and having all resources for our missions and no pain or suffering. If we face these challenges and temptations today that have the potential of driving us away from Jesus’ Kingdom and its values, may we press the pause button now. The missions/ministry can wait! But we must withdraw, evaluate our motives, and recommit to follow the example of Jesus. Amen.


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Lenten Reflections 2021: Am I God, Or Are You Your Own God?

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@johnvinod | March 12, 2021

I invite you today once again to read the temptations of Jesus in the desert from Matthew 4: 1-11. Apart from trying to sow the seeds of doubt in Jesus’ mind, notice here that Satan’s purpose, in all three temptations, is to divert Jesus’ attention away from God. He tried to tempt Jesus to leave his relationship with God aside and turn inward to only think of himself.

That is why in the first two temptations, the devil says, “If you are the Son of God” then do this or that. Satan is suggesting that Jesus turn his eyes, feelings, mind and thoughts, and his filial relationship away from his heavenly Father. Then he wants Jesus to turn and look only within and for himself. This is an old trick of the devil. He has tried it before and has been successful in leading many religious seers and philosophers to do exactly what he suggested to Jesus. Some religious traditions and philosophical systems teach this very thing. Some of them discourage their followers from seeking God outside of themselves; instead, their Nondualist concept encourages searching and finding God within ourselves. In fact, some teach that “I myself am God” or “You are your own God.” Thus, it eliminates the difference between human beings and God and between the creation and the Creator. They are taught to be one and the same being.

In the third temptation also, Satan proposes that Jesus turns his back on God and instead worship Satan to enrich himself. Satan assumes that “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” belonged to him and if only Jesus would turn away from God, he could glorify himself by receiving these as his reward (Matthew 4: 8).

Jesus Christ’s response to all these suggestions is quite similar as he addresses the devil’s fundamental suggestion—to turn away from God and think only of himself. In all three responses, Jesus makes it a point to bring God back to the center where he belongs. Jesus makes his steadfast faith in God unambiguously clear to Satan. Jesus asserts that doing the will of God and worshipping God alone were absolutely essential to him. See in Matthew 4: 4, 7, and 10:

4 But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God

    and him only shall you serve.’”

Since we, too, are tempted today with the same old tricks of the devil, let us learn today from the example of Jesus Christ. In the midst of our own temptations and storms of life, let us refocus our eyes on the biblical God. Let us look beyond ourselves and our selfish ambitions. Instead, let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Let us recommit to keep God in the center of our lives, our decisions, and our actions. This will ensure that like Jesus, we, too, may outwit Satan and live a victorious life in Christ. Amen.

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