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Bible Insights

Is It One Woman Who Anoints Jesus or Four Different Women?

The Four Gospels Each Have a Story of a Woman Who Worships Jesus

Each of the four accounts of Jesus’s life—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give a story about a woman who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, but the details in each report vary. It may be that this happens on four separate occasions. Or it could be the same story, with a few details that differ. Or it might be somewhere in between.

Matthew and Mark’s Version

Matthew and Mark’s accounts are the closest, with the only difference being who criticizes the woman for wasting expensive perfume: Matthew says it’s the disciples. Mark says it’s some people. Matthew and Mark likely cover the same event.

In these passages the woman anoints Jesus’s head. Some people think this symbolically prepares him for what he is about to endure: his death, burial, and resurrection.

John Says

In John’s version, the woman who anoints Jesus is Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, but in the other three reports, we don’t know the woman’s name. John’s version is like Matthew and Mark’s, but one key difference is that this woman anoints Jesus’s feet, not his head as in the first two accounts. Also, John names just one person who criticizes her: Judas Iscariot. Last, John says that Martha is serving dinner in Jesus’s honor, so we assume it’s at her home, while Matthew and Mark say Jesus is hanging out at Simon the leper’s house.

In anointing Jesus’s feet, some people think this symbolically prepares him for ministry.

Luke’s Account of the Woman Who Anoints Jesus

Luke’s version differs the most. First, he calls her a sinful woman, something not even hinted at in the other three accounts. Next, his version takes place at a Pharisee’s home. His name is Simon, but it doesn’t say he’s a leper. And there’s no mention of it being in Bethany, as with the other three versions.

In Luke’s story, a woman comes up behind Jesus as he reclines at the dinner table. She weeps at his feet, showing sorrow for her wayward actions. Her tears fall on him and she uses her hair to dry his feet. Then she dumps her perfume on his feet.

In this account, the woman doesn’t receive criticism, but Jesus does. The Pharisee thinks that Jesus should have known the woman touching him is a sinner. Jesus affirms the woman for washing his feet, something his host didn’t do. Then he forgives her for her many sins, confirms her saving faith, and sends her off in peace.

Luke’s account has enough differences that it’s likely a separate event.

Consider the lavish adoration given to Jesus. Click To Tweet

What Really Counts

It doesn’t really matter if this event happened once, twice, three times, or even four. It also doesn’t matter where it happened or who was involved.

What counts is the lavish adoration given to Jesus. This woman or these women really know how to worship Jesus. May this passage inspire us to do the same.

[Discover more about these stories in Matthew 26:6–13, Mark 14:3–9, Luke 7:36–50, and John 12:1–8.]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Peter DeHaan News

That You May Know

(Formerly published as Dear Theophilus, the Dear Theophilus series, book 1)

A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke

You’ve Never Seen the Gospel of Luke Quite Like This

You may have read the gospel of Luke. But you might have missed a few things. Maybe more than a few. Like:

  • The way Luke viewed God, and how his view might change your view
  • Why Luke’s book matters more today than ever
  • The people who angered Jesus the most, why they angered him, and how that applies to us
  • The Lord’s Prayer and Communion from a new perspective
  • The radical ways Jesus loved outsiders, outcasts, and those on the fringe of society.
That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke

In That You May Know, you’ll discover new insights from passages you thought were familiar, find fresh truths as you come to a deeper understanding of Luke’s gospel, and get a revitalized perspective on your faith and your life.

Warning! Not Your Typical Devotional

In That You May Know (formerly called Dear Theophilus), Peter DeHaan once again whacks a spiritual hornet’s nest, in order to bring us into a closer alignment with Jesus.

Bonus Material!

  • Overview of all the parables in the book of Luke
  • Summary of all Jesus’s miracles in Luke
  • How the Holy Spirit is a recurring character within Luke’s gospel

Get your copy of That You May Know today!

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Where Should We Go For Jesus?

Sometimes We May Need to Go Far Away for Jesus and Other Times We May Need to Go Home

Before Jesus returns to heaven, he tells his followers to go throughout the world and let others know about him (Matthew 28:19). Does that mean we’re all supposed to travel to a distant country for Jesus? Is that their mission field? It could be, but it might not.

Consider a different account, one where Jesus gives an alternate instruction.

Luke tells us the story of Jesus exorcising a legion of demons from a man. Jesus permits the displaced demons to enter into a herd of pigs. They do. The pigs go berserk, jump into the water, and drown.

(We know the pigs die, but I wonder if the demons die along with them. It’s an interesting thought, but that question has deep theological ramifications to consider at a different time.)

The demonic influence is now gone from the man. In his right mind, and likely full of gratitude, the man asks if he can hang out with Jesus. Jesus says “sure, why not . . .” No, that’s not what Jesus says at all.

Jesus tells the man no way. Instead Jesus instructs the restored man to simply go home and let his family and friends know about what God did for him by restoring him to full health. His hometown is his mission field. The man obeys and tells the whole town about Jesus.

Our mission field may be in a foreign country, but it might be in our own home or next door. Click To Tweet

In both accounts Jesus tells his followers to go. One time it is to go to all nations and the other time it is to go home. While our mission field may be in a foreign country, it might also be in our own home or right next door.

Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 7-9, and today’s post is on Luke 8:38-39.]

Read more about the book of Luke in That You May Know: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jesus’s Final Instructions as Found in the Four Gospels

Consider what Jesus expects of his followers—and us

A while ago we looked at the final words in each book of the New Testament. This provides us with interesting information. However, more enlightening is to look at the final words of Jesus in each of the four biographies of him in the Bible.

While you may be most familiar with what Matthew records as Jesus’s final instructions, let’s start with what John says.

John Writes to “Follow Jesus”

The Gospel of John ends, not with any profound instructions, but instead Jesus focuses on reinstating Peter to the group. Twice Jesus reminds Peter to “follow me” (John 21:19, 22).

By extension we can apply this to us today. Jesus’s most essential instruction, the foundational starting point, is for us to follow him.

Luke Writes to “Wait for the Holy Spirit”

Now let’s move to the book of Luke. Dr. Luke writes that Jesus reminds his disciples that he will send them a gift (the Holy Spirit) from Papa and that they are to return to Jerusalem and wait for that gift (Luke 24:49). Then Jesus ascends to heaven.

Dr. Luke picks up the story in Acts. There he writes that Jesus’s followers were in constant prayer as they waited for Jesus’s special gift (Acts 1:14). As they paused and prayed, the Holy Spirit showed up in an awesome display of supernatural power (Acts 2:1-13).

Mark Writes to “Go and Preach”

Mark’s account of Jesus has three different endings. As a writer I get this. It’s sometimes difficult to know how to end a book. So I’m okay with a few different attempts to get it right.

The oldest of manuscripts of Mark ends without Jesus giving any final instructions. It stops abruptly at Luke 16:8 with the women standing at Jesus’s empty tomb and an angel instructing them to tell the disciples. But they’re afraid and don’t. That’s not a good ending.

A few manuscripts of Mark, tack on an added passage after Luke 16:8: “After this, Jesus himself also sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” This helps some, but it feels rushed and is an unsatisfying ending.

Other manuscripts of Mark don’t contain that extra passage, but they do include versus 9–20, which reads like an epilogue. In this text, we do hear Jesus’s final instructions. He essentially says, “Go everywhere and tell everyone about me” (Mark 16:15).

Matthew Writes to “Go, Make Disciples, Baptize, and Teach”

Last, we get to Matthew’s more well-known account. In what’s often called The Great Commission, Jesus tells his followers, “Go everywhere, make disciples, baptize, and teach about me (Matthew 28:19-20).

Putting It All Together

Can we combine these four thoughts from John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew to provide one comprehensive instruction? How about a three-step procedure?

Jesus’s final instructions are to:

  1. Follow Jesus.
  2. Wait for Holy Spirit power.
  3. Go, make disciples, and then baptize and teach them.

It starts with us following Jesus, but we need to make sure we don’t do anything without the Holy Spirit. We need to make sure we don’t do anything without the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Should Paul’s Self-Description Inspire Our Faith Perspective?

Paul’s letter to the Romans opens with three traits for us to ponder

Paul begins his letter to the church in Rome by giving them an overview of his situation. He shares three characteristics about himself, his mission, and his calling.

Though he does this to establish credibility for his message, and thereby encourage the recipients to take his words seriously, the attributes seem like a mini-biography, one with spiritual importance.

In Paul’s self-assessment, he says he is:

A Servant of Jesus

I like to call myself a follower of Jesus—as opposed to the more general description of Christian, which means different things to different people. Being a follower of Jesus shows commitment, yet it still implies I have some say in the matter, that I made a choice.

Being a servant, however, carries with it a deeper commitment. I need to move my mindset from being a follower to becoming a servant. Maybe you do, too.

Called to be an Apostle

Instead of focusing on the meaning of the word apostle, which could suggest a missionary, a church leader, or a passionate adherent (all of which describe Paul), let’s instead focus on the word called. What does it mean to be called by God?

While we may not have a calling at the same high level as Paul, all Christians are called, first to follow Jesus (as in “Come and follow me,” Matthew 4:19) and then to obey him (John 8:51).

As we serve him he will tell us to do other things, too. These are our callings, even if we’re not traveling around the world as his missionary.

Everyone who follows Jesus should be set apart. Click To Tweet

Set Apart for the Gospel

While being set apart could be a Spirit-led summoning of the highest order (Acts 13:2), it could also be a simple command to set ourselves apart from the world, to not be conformed to it (Romans 12:2).

Everyone who follows Jesus should be set apart in this way, while being open for him to also set us apart for something greater.

If we are a true Christian (as opposed to being one in name only), we will do well to adopt the attitude of Paul: that through Jesus we are his servant, called, and set apart.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Romans 1-4, and today’s post is on Romans 1:1.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should We Embrace a Social Gospel?

Though many are quick to criticize the social gospel, we would be mistaken to do so

The primary way we learn words is through divining their meaning from context and everyday usage. That’s how children learn to talk and how most adults expand their vocabulary.

We presume their meaning, deduce their function, and discern how to use them. Basically we make educated guesses. And sometimes we make a wrong conclusion. Or at least I do.

Such is the case with the term social gospel.

Whenever I heard the phrase it was with negative connotations, so I assumed it was a bad thing. That was my first error.

Next, I assumed the negativity must arise from the social half of the term, certainly not the gospel half, the good news part. I then shifted social to socialize and envisioned a church that so majored in socializing that they forgot the gospel.

As a result I assumed the social gospel was a social church that had forgotten its original purpose, morphing into a purely social organization, like a country club. I wanted nothing to do with a country club church, so I dismissed the social gospel as meaningless. That was my second error.

As an aside, we need the social part of church. We call it community. Community is critical. Consider the directive in Hebrews to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).

This is a call to live in community more so than an order to go to church on Sunday morning. Also consider all the “one another” commands as a charge to pursue community.

Now back to the social gospel. I wouldn’t have shared my misunderstanding of the phrase except for the fact that I’ve met others who similarly reached the same wrong conclusion.

Is the social gospel about community or helping others? Yes! Click To Tweet

The social gospel, however, is actually a call to move faith beyond a personal conversion experience to help others on a grand scale, specifically through social reform.

While some Christians want to segregate the two or dismiss making an impact on the world in which we live, the Bible has other ideas. The first half of the above verse says we are to encourage one another to love others and to do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

Furthermore Paul tells the church in Galicia to persist in doing good (Galatians 6:9). James talks about the importance of proving our faith by what we do. He even says that faith without action is dead (James 2:14-26).

Whether we wrongly assume the social gospel is about community or rightly understand the social gospel as helping others, we need to do both. The Bible says so.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Read the Bible as Literature

Studying scripture teaches us about classic literature and writing to inform our literary perspective

My post “13 Reasons Why I Love the Bible” started out as a top ten list, but I couldn’t stop at a round number. I kept going and couldn’t pare my list down to just ten reasons. And if I had kept thinking about it, I would likely have come up with more.

A related topic is considering the Bible as literature, the classic of classics. So much of what we read today has allusions, though sometimes subtle, to scripture. We see biblical themes repeated in TV and movies.

Knowing the Bible helps us to more fully understand God but also to better appreciate literature and entertainment. Consider what the Bible has to offer:

Variety of Genres

The Bible contains different styles of writing. Much of it is history, with some biography and even autobiography. There are several poetry portions (albeit without rhyming and meter), which reveal ancient poetic styles and can inform modern day poets. The books of prophecy reveal the future, some of which has already come to pass and other portions, not. Books of wisdom give as wise advice. Other sections reveal God, serving as the first theology text. The Bible also contains letters from teachers to their students. There are epic dreams documented for us to ponder. And two books, Job and Song of Songs, read much like the modern-day screenplay.

The Bible contains: history, bios, poetry, prophecy, theology, letters, dreams, & screenplay. Click To Tweet

Multiple Viewpoints

The Bible contains four biographies of Jesus (gospels). The four respective authors reveal different aspects of Jesus based on their personal perception and target audience. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s writing contain the most similarities; John is the most different. Similarly, 1 and 2 Chronicles provides a counterpoint to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Last, some of the prophets provide additional historical accounts to round out what we learn from the prior six books of history (1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings)

Different Perspectives

Much of the Bible is written in the third person point of view, while some passages are in first person. I especially enjoy these first person accounts as it places me in the middle of the action, as if I am there, living it with the speaker.

Multiple Levels

Reading the Bible is analogous to peeling an onion. Each time we unwrap one layer, we find another that gives us additional insight and added meaning. There are many tiers, virtually unlimited. We will never know all of what the Bible says, but we do strive to learn more of what it reveals. With each successive read we are able to connect different passages together and glean deeper insight into its stories, lessons, and writers – as well as the God who inspired it.

The Bible has much to offer, not only from a spiritual perspective, but also from a literary one. Reading the Bible as literature will increase our appreciation of other things we read, what we write, and the world in which we live.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

John’s Unique Perspective of Jesus

Each of the four biographies of Jesus in the Bible reflect the perspective of its author. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain many similarities, John’s account is the most different. He offers a unique perspective on the life and teaching of Jesus.

Some refer to the book of John as the gospel of love because he mentions the word twenty times, more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In considering variations of the word, the total is thirty-nine times, more than the other three combined.

In his much shorter letter, called 1 John, love and its variations occur twenty-seven times. John, it seems, is all about love.

However, other keywords are even more prevalent in the book of John. The word know appears sixty-six times in this book, while believe occurs fifty-three times. It would seem that John’s chief desire is for us to know and believe in Jesus.

That would be a great reason for him to write an account of Jesus’ life.

John’s purpose in writing his biography of Jesus is so that we would know and believe in Jesus and to then live a life of love. Click To Tweet

We can also understand John’s unique perspective by looking at words he uses infrequently. For example, angel only appears three times in John, far less than Matthew’s nineteen times and Luke’s twenty-four times (Mark, five times).

The book of John contains only a few of Jesus’ parables. In fact, the word parable is not found at all in John, compared to sixty-six times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

So John’s purpose in writing his biography of Jesus is so that we would know and believe in Jesus and to then live a life of love. Angels and parables are not so important to these central themes of knowing, believing, and loving.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Feet that Bring the Good News of Peace

As I read the prophetic book of Nahum, I see a familiar sounding passage:
“Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” (Nahum 1:15).

I find a similar text in Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace…” (Isaiah 52:7).

The book of Romans even quotes Isaiah: “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:15).

But these are not what I am thinking of.  Knowing that good news means gospel, I do some searching and find: “Your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace”. (Ephesians 6:15).

I get excited when I see themes repeated throughout the Bible; it adds emphasis and reinforces the timelessness of the message.

May we all be people who bring peace!

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

What Does the Bible Say About Easter?

Happy Easter! And happy Resurrection Day!

Today is the time when we remember—and celebrate—Jesus overcoming death and rising from the dead.

Each account of Jesus in the Bible records this event:

Matthew

The angel said to the women, “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 and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him’’ (Matthew 28:5-7).

Mark

“Don’t be alarmed,” [the angel] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).

Luke

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’” (Luke 24:5-6).

John

Simply confirms that the tomb where Jesus’ body lay was found to be empty; recording that he then appeared to Mary Magdalene, ten of the disciples, and lastly to Thomas (John 20).

Have a Happy Easter!

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.