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Tag: Lent Devotions

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: Calling all ministers of the Lord to Repentance!

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

By Vinod John @johnvinod | February 19, 2021

Joel is an atypical prophet in a long line of Old Testament prophets. He does not identify himself, his background, or the period of his ministry except that he is the son of Pethuel (Joel 1: 1) in order to distinguish himself from other Joels. He is entirely focused on his calling and ministry to the One who called him to prophecy. Interestingly, his name “Jo-el” means Jehovah is God! Therefore, Joel wants to divert our attention away from him to the message and His God who has commissioned him. Quite a contrast to many who call themselves “prophets” these days!

In the first chapter of Joel, the prophet describes a plague of locusts that ravaged through Israel damaging everything on its way. Joel refers in 1: 4 and 2: 25 to four species or four different stages of the insects (depending upon the translation that you read) that landed upon Israel:

  1. the gnawing/cutting/devouring locust/palmerworm;
  2. the swarming/great locust;
  3. the licking/hopping/young locust/cankerworm;
  4. the consuming/destroying locust/caterpillar;

In Joel 2: 25, the locusts are mentioned in reverse order compared to the order in 1: 4. These locusts, I think, were literally insects and the devastation they had caused was real. What Joel described has contemporary parallels of the swarm of locusts wrecking havoc in Africa and many parts of Asia. However, this plague is not just about the literal locusts destroying Israel’s crops. Rather, it figuratively represents the various invading armies of Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans who caused Israel’s successive destruction over the years. It is conceivable that Joel meant locusts both in its physical and figurative sense, as the ensuing devastation was substantially calamitous (1:6-7). However, the terms that Joel employs in describing this scourge definitely points to something worse than literal insects.

The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off  from the house of the Lord.
The priests mourn,  the ministers of the Lord.
The fields are destroyed,  the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up, the oil languishes. (Joel 1: 9-10 ESV).

Besides the agricultural devastation, another major aftereffect of the plague was the cessation of continual offerings at the Temple.

The interruption of liturgical worship at the Temple was one of most tragic calamities for the worshippers of Jehovah God because it dramatically implied that their God has rejected his people, leading to a situation where “the priests mourn, the ministers of the Lord” (1:9). Alas! They were instead supposed to celebrate and delight in the presence and service of the Lord and bring encouragement to other worshippers.

Joel refers specifically to three staple crops of Israel that had failed—the (wheat/barley) grain, the (grape) wine, and the (olive) oil. They were not only staple on every dining table but were also crucial part of the failed grain and drink offerings at the Temple. Therefore, while Joel narrates how the farmers were dismayed and the vinedressers were ashamed and the tillers of the soil wailed; the prophet singles out the priests calling them to not just lament, rather he directs them to undertake a discipline of fasting, penitence with sack clothes, prayer, and consecration:

Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests;
    wail, O ministers of the altar.
Go in, pass the night in sackcloth,
    O ministers of my God!
Because grain offering and drink offering
    are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast;
    call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
    and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
    and cry out to the Lord. (Joel 1: 13-14 ESV).

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