Tender Care for Christ's Body

Jesus freely taught and answered questions day and night to all regardless of position or status without evidence of acceptance or belief. In this passage, we see two individuals move beyond fear and secrets to publicly honor Jesus with a tender, lavish, and fragrant burial. We witness these powerful men leave their fears and secrets behind and begin living confidently in what they know to be true. Join them in the garden and share in their tender caring of Christ’s body.

John 19:38-42 (NLT)
Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. 39 With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. 40 Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. 42 And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

What emotions arise within you as you dwell in this text? How can you tenderly care for yourself as you feel them?

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

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Following the Sound of God's Voice

The eyes of a newborn baby will instinctively follow the sound of the people she knows. While in the safety of the womb, she grew to hear and recognize her mother's and possibly her father's voice. Similarly for us, we are invited to listen and remember the sound of the Voice who lovingly formed us. Jesus reminds us to return to that womb-like place of the Father's compassion - where we are fully known and loved - and literally hear God's heart as we listen to the words.

John 10:22-30 (NLT)
It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular?

Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

Place yourself in this conversation. Who are you? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you want to say to Jesus? What does he in turn say to you?

Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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Fully Known

The thought of being fully known sends most of us into hiding, cowering behind something in fear and shame. And yet being fully known and still loved is one of our deepest and most universal longings. As you pray with this passage, notice where your desire to be fully known is emerging in your life. And where are you finding the compassion and grace to be your real self - your vulnerable, weak, helpless and simply delightful real you?

John 10:11-21 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
19 When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him. 20 Some said, “He’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” 21 Others said, “This doesn’t sound like a man possessed by a demon! Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.
Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Without judgement, gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you?
Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

When Compassion Clothes Shame

In the midst of the religious exposition and exploitation of a highly vulnerable woman, we witness Jesus' embodied compassion in action. He is literally and figuratively teaching us how he goes about clothing the naked vulnerability of shame. We hear and see how Jesus responds in word and action to accusers.

This passage may trigger a traumatic response in those who have been exploited in similar ways. If this is you, be most compassionate with yourself. Ground and care for yourself in this present moment by placing your feet on the ground, tapping your arms and taking some deep, calming breaths. If you can, seek to find a safe place in your prayer where you most connect with the loving compassion of Jesus. Always you have freedom to step away from the prayer if that is what you need.

John 8:1-11 (NLT)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings. Ask for what you need. Ground yourself in the present moment.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

Words of Comfort

Spoken tenderly, God's voice comforts and calms us in times of abandonment, distress, fear, shame and sadness. The One who comes to dwell with us calls us home and holds us close. This is the Voice we are listening for, the One who knows us intimately by name. This is Good News for all people.

In this season of Advent, you are invited to be still and listen to how God's tender words are coming to you.

Isaiah 40:1-11 NLT
 “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
2 “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over for all her sins.”
3 Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.
5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
    The LORD has spoken!”
6 A voice said, “Shout!”
    I asked, “What should I shout?”
“Shout that people are like the grass.
    Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD.
    And so it is with people.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”
9 O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What phrase or word spoke to your heart as you listened/read?

Remember a time when God brought comfort especially to you. In your prayer revisit that experience of comfort.

What does God's tender voice sound like to you? What tone is used? any gestures? Be still and allow God to speak tenderly to you. Journal what you hear.

Invited To Be In The Story

You are invited to step into this familiar story of Jesus' miraculous  feeding, so that you become part of the action. Come alive to the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of the event. What might the disciples be feeling before they got away? What did they think of the crowd who followed them? Sense the excitement of the families as they sit in circles on the grass wondering what is going to happen. Watch Jesus as he prays to the Father, breaks the loaves, and gives the bread and the fish to each of the disciples. Notice the amazement of the disciples as they distribute what they have. Sit in one of the circles, taste the bread and the fish, enter into the astonishment of the people as they talk about the miracle. See the compassion Jesus has for the people. Let him look into your eyes as though you were there on that day. Feel the love he has for you now.

Alex Aronis in his book, Developing Intimacy with Christ, suggests that you ask yourself these questions, "What in the text moves me to want to attach myself to Christ? What causes me to appreciate or love Christ more?" Try to understand why he takes the action and says the words that he does. Seek intimate knowledge of Christ.

Mark 6:30-44 NIV
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What was it like for you to step into the story with Jesus? to be a part of the miracle?

Was there something in the text which moved you to want to attach yourself to Christ?

What caused you to appreciate or love Christ more?

Have a conversation with Jesus about these things.

Do You Want to Come Alive?

Still in the fray, Jesus speaks words of life to those who are blind to possibility. With a just a few gathered around him, Jesus compassionately extends his hands to a young girl, on the brink of womanhood and death, and he speaks words of life to her. He invites her and you and me to new life at every moment. We might be asleep to our own life; paralyzed by fear; stuck in our grief; numbing ourselves to pain through addictive behaviors; or frozen without hope of change. Jesus comes to us in that very place. Will you risk taking him by his hand and trusting in the love which dispels all fear? He is willing and waiting.

Mark 5:35-43 NLT
While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. 41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. 43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What word or phrase spoke to you as you listened/read?
Do you have something which you do not want to trouble the teacher with?
How are you called to, "just have faith?" Have a conversation with Jesus about how you feel about those words. What does he mean by them?
In your prayer, accept Jesus' invitation to take you by the hand and raise you from your stuck place to new life.

Compassionate Healing

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.   Isaiah 30:18-19

In the following deeply troubling story, Jesus displays his longing to be gracious and rises up to show compassion to a terrified and ostracized man living among the tombs. Jesus sees far beyond the shackles, chains, torment and despair. He recognizes and knows the true name of his beloved. He sees their essence and has great compassion on their longing for freedom. His ears are attentive to their cries. His perfect love - compassionate, true, and complete - is willing to heal their fears and restore their soul.

As you prepare to encounter Jesus in this story, ask him to open your eyes to see and your heart to know the tender compassion he has for you. Invite him to meet you where you really dwell.

Mark 5:1-20  NKJV  

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.  And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,  who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains,  because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.  When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.  And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”  For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!”  Then He asked him, “What is your name?”  And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.  Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.  So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”  And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.  So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.  And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.”  And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.
 



For Prayer and Reflection:
What did you hear or feel as you listened?  A word?  A phrase?  A sensation? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you noticed.
How have you experienced the compassionate healing of Jesus in the past? How does he show his compassion to you today?
What experiences have you had which seem like dwelling among the tombs? How has Jesus met you there?
Recall the "begging" prayers you have cried out to God. How has God answered them over time?

Coming to Jesus for Healing

The heart of God is moved as we come to Him asking for what we need, bringing these desires to God. We may need healing; we may want to feel clean, or we may long for freedom from isolation and bondage. Christ offers God's touch, God's power to heal and to cleanse.

The man in the following story experienced an instant healing at Jesus' words and touch. Our healing may not be instantaneous, but our desire for wholeness and freedom is always honored in God's way and time. The "disease" with which we struggle or suffer may be the very vehicle that brings us to desperately seek out Jesus.

What might you want to ask Jesus for today? Who might you tell about your experience with Jesus? 

Mark 1:40-45

Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. "If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean," he said.

Moved with compassion,** Jesus reached out and touched him. "I am willing," he said, "Be healed!" Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: "Don't tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed."

But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn't publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.

**Note: In the beginning of verse 41 the NRSV says "moved with pity," the New Living Translation says "moved with compassion," the New International Version says "was indignant." The Message says "deeply moved."

For Refection and Prayer:
What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?
What "leprosy" has Jesus healed in you?
What does this tell us about Jesus?
How do you hear God speaking to your life in this text?