The Soul of your Feet

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.– Luke 7:44 NLT.

We had taken a look at the sinful woman (Luke 7) washing the feet of Jesus. The Pharisee (Jesus’ host) had failed to extend the traditional courtesy to provide water to wash Jesus’ feet.  Jesus himself said, “You didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet but she has washed them with her tears.” The conversation might be seen to be about the soleof one’s feet but there is more to it. The soul of your feet is not at the base of your foot but where your heart is. In John 12 we find Mary of Bethany taking an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. In the very next chapter (John 13) we find Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  We find this event recorded by Matthew (26:14-39) and Luke (22:24-17) as well. So what was the big deal about the washing of feet?  At first sight, we might say that Jesus himself had highlighted the issue when he told Simon: “You didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet . . .” You see, we walk with our feet, taking us to places.  In the days of Jesus, people wore sandals.  The dust and the dirt along the way would contaminate our feet. So it was about where we walk as well. It was not just about the sole of your feetbut about your soul and your feet.


Blessings about the soul rather than the sole:

If Simon were a caring host he would have offered Jesus water to wash the dust from his feet.  Water cleanses and refreshes.  Where the sinful woman (Luke 7) has succeeded when she washedthe feet of Jesus, the righteous PhariseeSimon has failed to even provide Jesus with water. Here’s what the prophet Isaiah tells us what the Lord has to say, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land,and streams on the dry ground;I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,and my blessing on your descendants”.– Isaiah 44:3.  This is an important connection between the pouring of wateras it is compared to the pouring of God’s Spiriton your offspring,and my blessing on your descendants.  My take, to wash the feet with water is about the soul of our feet.  It is about our walk with the Lord.  It is about the spiritual soulrather than the physical soleof our feet that needs to be washed, cleansed and refreshed!


Water, a proxy for the Spirit of God:

God’s Spirit is compared to water for it’s cleansing and purifying effect upon all who seek His righteousness. In other words, water is a proxy for us to better understand the Spirit of God. Ezekiel establishes the relationship between water and the Spirit of God with great clarity, ”I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” – Eze 36:25-27 NIV. Jesus himself made the connection between waterand the Spiritthe pivotal issue concerning our salvation.   The heart of flesh is a servant’s heart.  The Pharisee Nicodemus came for an interview with Jesus.  Jesus talked to him about being born again.  “ . . . How can a man be born when he is old can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born . . . Jesus answered . . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”– John 3:4-6 KJV. Born of water is about a natural birth.  But what about born of the Spirit?  You see when you are washed by water you are only physically clean. But what about your inner person your spiritual being? Listen, natural water cannot clean your spirit.  Only the Spirit of God can.  I guess, Nicodemus must have thought that, as a Jew (a Pharisee) who keeps the laws, that itself is his ticketto heaven.


Think about your own water baptism.  You are immersed in water.  You witness to the fact that you rise up from the dead (from your sinful self) and emerge as a new person.  The water represents the Spirit of God that has cleansed you from your sins – – washed by the blood of the Lamb as it were. Just as water cleans your body of its dirt, the Spirit washes your soul from all its dirt – the sin within us!


The sole of the soul:

Let’s get back to the bottom (the sole) of sinful woman saga.  There, Jesus remarked, “You didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet but she has washed them with her tears.”  In other words, the host Simon had not extended the courtesy of receiving Jesus into his house. It would have been appropriate for Simon to personally wash Jesus’ feet but he did not even get his servant to give Jesus water for his feet. The washing of the feet here represents a welcome of a guest into his house. So whose house was Jesus going to welcome the disciples to when he washed their feet? Here was what Jesus himself had said, My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you . . . 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me . . .” – John 14:2-3 NIV. Wow, It was about the mansions in “My Father’s house” in heaven?


Cold feet:

Take note of the time sequence when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. – John 13:1 NIV. This was clear without your having to read the whole chapter (John 13 NIV).  Just read the sub-headings:

  • Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
  • Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
  • Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

So, it was merely hours before Jesus would be brought to the cross to suffer great humility, pain and the cruelest of deaths. That was the same night Jesus was to be betrayed.  Jesus knew all about it.  If we were in that position we would certainly get nervous or frightened, having cold feet! But not with Jesus, even though he knew that he had to lay down his life.  Remember, Jesus was in the upper roomfor the Last Supper with his disciples. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” – John 13 NIV. The failure of Peter, his inability to grasp the great significance of what Jesus was about do – – in the washing of his feet, this was a telling moment.  So Jesus had to clearly explain and it doesn’t get more serious than this,“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Peter had still failed to accept the extreme humility. Peter must have found it truly embarrassing. Wouldn’t your response be similar to Peter’s? My take, Peter was mindful of the physical, the sole of his feet being washed.  Jesus was on another dimension the spiritualand not the physical.  10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.  The betrayalwas about the uncleanness of the soulnot about the dirt on the soleof our feet. Jesus then  put together the significance of it all.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them. –John 13 NIV.


Feats of blessing:

So, do you want to be blessedthen, do them? Do what, wash their feet? Not really. It’s not about your feet. What you do is spiritually about your feat.  The physical washing of feet in spiritual terms is about being a servant, aboutwelcoming guests into your home – – about your soulrather than your sole!


Here’s what Jesus himself has to say, 40Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me . . . 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”Matt 10:40-42 NIVThese little ones’in the NLT is translated ‘one of the least of my followers’.  The Cambridge Bible translated it to mean young disciples who were babes in Christ. So, the washing of the feet was about being a servant; not just to the mighty but right down the ranks to “the little ones”, the young disciples or new converts or the children.


So let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good toward all—especially those who belong to the household of faith.– Gal 6:9-10 TLV.


Silent Worship

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. –1 Cor. 11:14,15 NIV.


My first visit to a church was probably when I was about 6 years old – some nearly eighty years ago.  My mum would have a veil on her head and so would the other ladies in church.  When I grew up it gradually changed.  Some women would wear hats or scarfs instead of veils, I suppose in keeping with the times. The Apostle Paul says that the long hair is given to her as a covering.  How much things have changed today! Few churches nowadays will require their women to wear some kind of head covering when they go to church.

In the last exhortation we were talking about women anointing Jesus’ feet and the wiping of his feet with their hair.  What caught my attention in the verses above (1 Cor. 11:14,15 NIV) were the words, “ . . . but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” To be sure the apostle Paul was not talking about fashion, possibly not even about the covering of our heads physically with a veil but about headshipor leadership! Let me just restate the NIV version with what the Message Bible says:

13-16 Don’t you agree there is something naturally powerful in the symbolism—a woman, her beautiful hair reminiscent of angels, praying in adoration; a man, his head bared in reverence, praying in submission? I hope you’re not going to be argumentative about this. All God’s churches see it this way; I don’t want you standing out as an exception.  Have you thought of a woman’s hair as “something naturally powerful”, “reminiscent of angels”?  Let’s just go along with the other translations (NIV, KJV, ESV, NAS . . .) that a woman’s hair “is her glory”.

Interestingly enough, there were two women in the Bible both referred to as “Mary”.  Both had anointed the feet of Jesus and have wiped Jesus’ feet with their hair.   The first Mary(from Galilee, the Pharisee’s house, Luke 7) was thought to be Mary Magdalene.  But contrary to common thought, she was not Mary Magdalene.

The other Mary (from Bethany) was recorded by three of the Evangelists – – John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9.  They refer to the same person – the sister of Lazarus and Martha.  Jesus loved all three of them. Lets gather the pieces of information from John and Matthew together, so that we may get a better picture of her.


Mary from Bethany – at the leper’s house:

John 12 NIV:  Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, . . . 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor . . . 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Matthew 26:6 NIV:  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, 7a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.

Summary:  Both passages tell us about the place – Bethany.  But only John tells us when the event has taken place.  It is “Six days before the Passover.”  But it is Matthew who tells us more about the host of that dinner. He is “Simon the leper”.  Keep these pieces of information at the back of your mind.  They are important and we will revisit them a little later.

Mary’ from Galilee – at the Pharisee’s house:

In Luke 7 we find another story of another woman anointing Jesus (washing Jesus’s feet with perfume), but it took place in Galilee not Bethany. When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.– Luke 7:36-38 NIV.  Incidentally we learn from Jesus the name of that Pharisee when He says, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” – Luke 7:40 NIV. But we are not told the name of that woman.

Some older commentaries say that the woman is Mary Magdalene.  But this is not the case.  The commentator Wiesler says that it is in Nain, others say it is Magdala because they assume the woman to be Mary Magdalene or Mary from Magdala. But this cannot be.  You see, in the very next chapter (8), Luke introduces Mary Magdalene as a new character: “After this (the anointing at Bethany), Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God . . . 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out . . . These women were helping to support them out of their own means. – Luke 8:1-3 NIV.

Summary:  What is clearly common in the two stories is that, in each case a woman has anointed Jesus with perfume from an alabaster box. But only one of the women is named Mary.  The two women are clearly different persons.

But curiously, as it happened, both hosts of that somewhat similar event; concerning the anointing of Jesus were called by the same name, Simon.  Let’s try to get to know the Simons a little better.


Bethany – Simon the leper:

In those days, the name Simon was quite common in Palestine.  Simon was the Greek form of Simeon.  You would find at least nine Simons in the New Testament – Simon Peter possibly is the best known among them. Apparently Jesus must have healed Simon the leper.

Simon the Leper therefore knew how great a blessing it was to be a beneficiary of Jesus’ work of miracles.  Simon was naturally very excited when Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life.  So, Simon the leper threw a dinner with Jesus as the guest of honor to celebrate the event.


Galilee – Simon the Pharisee:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. – Luke 7: 36 NIV. I don’t know about you.  But I am quite impressed by the host, Simon the Pharisee. Instead of sitting cross-legged around the table for dinner, as has been the custom of the Jews, Simon’s guests recline on a divan as the Persians, Greeks and Romans do.  So, Simon the Pharisee seems quite well to do!  I think he wants to know more about Jesus, the man with extraordinary deeds of miracles.

The two anointings

Throughout the New Testament we read about what Jesus has done for the Jews, the gentiles – – for all of us.  But the two anointings are about what the two women have done for Jesus. You see, when the women use their hair to wipe Jesus’ feet, they are really putting their glory at His feet. What seems powerful about the women anointing the feet of Jesus is this image, this picture. This is a great picture of worship – worship without words, silent worship!

We too can serve and be of service to Jesus.  You see the anointing of the two women are acts of worship. The perfumes are precious to the women personally. If you have ever struggled about making a love gift to Jesus through your church, remind yourselves how these two women put their treasured best – their perfumes and themselves at the feet of Jesus.  Make no mistake.  The whole room must have been filled with the fragrance of that perfumed worship.  The fragrance (that act of worship) will stick onto the clothes of those present (the guests) and that fragrance will surely follow each of them when they get to their homes.  Real worship has a ripple effect.  I believe its fragrance will begin to latch on to all those around us.



The Good Shepherd (Pt 5)

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them… I will shepherd the flock…   Ezekiel 34:11, 16

Not too many years ago we used to drop our grandchildren at a Sunday School class.  Only one door to the Sunday School class would be left opened so that every child was properly accounted for.  On top of that, we would have to register ourselves, leaving our identity card number with the shepherd or the teacher-in-charge.  The data would be stored in a computer.  We would then rush to attend the evening service at that same church. 

Guardians were not allowed to take their child out after Sunday School without checking with the teacher-shepherd stationed at the only door to the Sunday School class. We would have to stand in the queue with other parents while waiting for our turn.  Although we could see our grandchildren in the room, there was no way that our grandchildren could get through that door to us – – not until we had our identity cards scanned, and our grandchildren called by name to the door.  Was this a cumbersome process? But not for us! For us, this was a caring church, a church that shepherded the flock under its care, fully accountable. No stranger could get his hands on the children in their care. The children were safe!

The apostle Peter encourages the shepherd to diligently and responsibly, care for his sheep.  He says,  “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing eager to serve.”  The language here is straightforward, easy to understand except that here in Singapore we have no sheep farms and no shepherds!  So our appreciation of that relationship between the shepherd and sheep, well . . .  lots of gaps possibly! Sheep flock together.  They follow their shepherd.  They are obedient –  compliant if you will.  Now these are rare qualities.  They are not found in other animals.  The general tendency for most other animals is that, they would have their own minds, a bit rebellious even! I often take morning walks with my wife.  We often meet people taking their dogs for a walk in the cool of the morning.  In some cases, it seems to us, that the dog is taking his owner for a walk, pulling away in a different direction. 

Sheep and lambs may follow you, but they do go astray.  Lambs that go astray may be preyed by wolves.  That’s where the shepherd comes in. He needs to make sure that his sheep are gathered together and they do not go astray.  Peter tells us that there is a reward for the conscientious shepherd:  4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Note how quickly he shifts from the sheep metaphor to us, people (God’s sheep). In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5 NIV.  The exhortation “you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders” is meaningful to me.  It is important that new or young Christians look up to older Christians.  Here, Peter establishes a two-way interaction.  Inasmuch as your shepherd-pastor has a responsibility to care for you the sheep, it is clear we need to respond to our shepherds. Peter expresses it as,” you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.” Is this possible?  Of course, if “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” I remember a fellow pastorelder (shepherd) telling me that when we live closely to our sheep we smell like one.  He is right.  It needs humility to be a shepherd. You must be willing to leave the luxurious comforts of your homes  to be among your sheep. This is the reason for God to ask his prophet Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.

Sheep are all important to God.  Leaders are God’s under-shepherds.  They are charged with the responsibility to care for the sheep.  It is important that the sheep submit to their shepherds.  In the Old Testament God portrays Himself as a Shepherd. This shows how much God cares for his sheep, Israel.  The Bible also portrays Jesus as the Lamb of God that has come from heaven to redeem us. Jesus (our Shepherd) has to suffer the indignity of being exposed to the stench of sin among His sheep, Israel. The Word of the Lord came through Ezekiel showing God’s concern over His sheep, “6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.”–  Ezekiel 34:6, NIV.

Applying this to our times, we are God’s sheep too, lost in sin. God sends Jesus to look for us.  Those among us who are pastors and elders have to make sure that our sheep (our church members) are not scattered and left wandering over all the mountains. So, what happens when the leader or undershepherds of Israel fail? 

God lovingly steps in.  For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.
I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered…
I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and
I will bring them into their own land.
I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel…
I will tend them in a good pasture,…
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,
I will shepherd the flock with justice. – Ezekiel 34:11.

You will find no less than ten “I will…” statements above. Note the emphasis and determination in verse 6, “I myself will search…” Not “I shall” but the emphatic future tense “I will…
When God says, “I myself will…” it is even more emphatic.
It denotes that it is a personal matter with God. It is all-important to God. Now we find another string of I will… that God has promised. You see our Shepherd is faithful. God loves His sheep. God will search, rescue, bring them into their own land where they belong, pasture them, tend them and shepherd them.  So the list of God’s good shepherding continues:

I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered.
I will judge between one sheep and another.
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.
I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them…
I will make a covenant of peace with them…
I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.
I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.
– Ezekiel 34:22 – 26 NIV

In verse 16 God says, “I will shepherd the flock.”  Not only that, in verse 23 God promises to place over them one shepherd the son of David on the throne. God will send them a Good Shepherd.  Shepherds are pivotal to God’s plan.  With this as background why don’t you read John 10?  It’s a great exposition by Jesus himself concerning the Good Shepherd.  That’s our topic for our next exhortation too. 

Meanwhile,28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28 – 31 NIV.


The Good Shepherd (Pt 4): Caring for the Shepherd

“Look, the Lamb of God!” – John 1:36 NIV

This short sentence caught my notice, “I pray, not wish because I have a God not a Genie.” God compared to a Genie, strange?  To think of it we could get easily confused.  I know of only one God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. But I know of at least two genies.  One was from the Middle Eastern folklore.  Aladdin had a magic lamp.  The genie appears when he rubbed the lamp.  The genie would compliantly appear saying, “What is your wish my master?”  And the genie would grant Aladdin his wish!

The other genie was from the American TV sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie.” An astronaut, Captain Tony Nelson found a mysterious bottle.  He opened it and released a genie called Jeannie.  She was not quite the counterpart of the genie in Aladdin.  She just needed to wink and her master’s wish would be granted. She would of course try her best to please her master by giving him all might wish for except that she was an attractive woman and had her own mind.


That was how we sometimes treat our prayers. The prayer list is our wish list. But God is not a Genie. So keep your wishes for your genie and your prayers for your God. Put bluntly, whether you are thinking of Aladdin’s Genie or Nelson’s Jeannie you are talking about slaves serving their masters. Let’s be clear.  God is not our slave. God is our creator.  He is our Savior-Redeemer from our slavery to sin.  To help us get to know Him better, God describes himself as our Shepherd. He cares and provides.  The Apostle Paul says, “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. Yes.”(Philippians 4:19 MSG)


Why did God speak of Himself as a Shepherd instead of a fisherman or a hunter or whatever? In my view, it was because God saw us as his sheep, his lambs to be precise. This is a precious picture of our relationship with God.  You know what God calls his son Jesus?  That’s right, “The Lamb of God” – (John 1:29, John 1:36). It is a precious relationship because the Shepherd-Lamb relationship explains His Father-Son relationship with us too. God is Shepherd and we are His sheep, His lambs.  This Shepherd imagery establishes that father-son bond.  This can be found in the very first book of the Bible where the word lamb appears for the first time.  Remember this conversation between Isaac and his dad Abraham?


“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”- Gen 22:7 NIV

Notice the words, “Father,”my son” and “the lamb.  There is no question, the Shepherd is about the Father, the son (the Lamb of God).  What a privilege that we should be God’s sheep or lamb along side Jesus, God’s Lamb and God Himself as our Shepherd.


The second mention of lamb in the Bible is in Exodus.  God instructs Moses and Aaron while they were still in Egypt, “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house… And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” – Exodus 12:3,7 KJV. This is the Lord’s Passover. The blood on the doorposts pictures the power of the blood (in anticipation of) the blood of the Lamb of God upon the cross).  In love, God shepherds an entire herd of sheep (the Israelites) from bondage out of Egypt.  The shepherd is responsible for his sheep.  When we think of God as our Shepherd we know that God cares for us, just as we find in John 10. Sheep without the care of a shepherd are exposed to all sorts of danger. God calls His leaders (priest, pastors, elders or cell-group leaders –shepherds) to feed His sheep, to be guardians of his flock.


The sad truth is, shepherds may fail. The prophet Ezekiel speaks clearly on this subject on God’s behalf, Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock… – Eze 34:7,8 NIV. Take note of the phrase my flock lacks a shepherd.

As a church pastor or group leader (no matter how humble that role may be) we are called to be shepherds. Ezekiel says that God’s flock lacks a shepherd, why?  Becausemy shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock.  You see, our church members, our flock of sheep may have problems. So, they go to their shepherd-leaders (to you and me) for help.  But what happens when the shepherd-leaders themselves have problems?  They lose their authority as shepherds.  So, their flock is left without a shepherd.  While we care for the sheep let us not forget that shepherds are appoint a part of the flock too. Here’s a great exhortation to all shepherds from the Apostle Paul,  28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock… 31 So be on your guard!  Acts 20:28 – 31 NIV. Shepherds need to keep watch over themselves.


Jesus himself took great care of his leaders (shepherds). Do you remember the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand?  Many of us would start from Mark 6:34.When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. We overlook the fact that Jesus cares for his shepherd-leaders – his apostles – the Twelve too.  We seem to forget why Jesus was on the other side of the lake. Let me take you to just three verses earlier, Then, because so many people were coming and going that they (the apostles with Jesus) 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.”” Mark 6:31 NIV.  The apostle Paul clearly established this very same principle on the importance of not just the flock, but the under-shepherds when he says to the elders from the church at Ephesus, Keep watch over yourselves. The leadership (under-shepherds) comes first or we will have the situation of a flock without a shepherd. 


Then comes “all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God” – Acts 20:28 NIV.  It is Christ who appoints and gave us pastors.  John Piper concludes that, “The New Testament only refers to the office of pastor one time (Ephesians 4:11). It is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the care and feeding of the church as God’s flock, just as “bishop/overseer” is a functional description of the role of elder perhaps stressing the governing of the church.  Pastor and elder and bishop/overseer refer in the New Testament to the same office.” (John Piper, “Elders, Pastors, Bishops, and Bethlehem” Sunday Evening Message MARCH 2, 1987.)

While we expect our elders and pastors to care for our needs, may I urge you to stand by them.  Care for them.  They need your care more than you think!  It will make a big difference to have a caring flock; as it will be; for us to have a caring shepherd-pastor.  Believe me, your elders-pastors need your prayers most urgently than you may think.  It is your plea for God’s grace, that will provide us leaders with vision and a ministry that grow from strength to strength.


The Good Shepherd (Pt 3): Believing In Miracles

The Lord is my shepherd . . . 3 He restores my soul. –  Psalm 23 ESV.


Believing in miracles.

In the last verse of his Gospel John writes, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  John 20:31NIV. “These things,” in our verse above, refer to the works of Jesus, His life and His miracles.  Incidentally, do you believe in miracles? John 9, the chapter before the account of The Good Shepherd (chapter 10) is about miracles.  The religious Pharisees, have resisted believing that the blind man has been healed.  Here’s what the Bible says, They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents.” John 9:18 NIV.  They need to be given the evidence before they believed. So, how important is it for us to believe in miracles? It is common sense that we accept miracles when we encounter them firsthand, because then, we have no chance to deny them.  In the same way, the Pharisees believe in the miracle concerning the blind man receiving his sight, because that is what the facts say. The blind man of course also believes in the miracle because the miracle has happened to him.  He is not just a witness. He is the beneficiary of the miracle, the subject and object so to speak.


The Shepherd – looking for His sheep.

Now if our focus was on the miracle only, we might miss the point.  We would allow ourselves to be distracted from the main issue!  When Jesus heard that the Pharisees had thrown the blind man out, he went out and looked for the blind man.  Jesus found him.  Jesus did not ask him about the miracle, instead Jesus asked,  “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” John 9:35 NIV. Why? Is there a connection between Jesus being the Son of Man and that miracle? Do, you remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and the goose that laid the golden eggs. Jack knew better. Jack wanted the goose that laid the golden eggs rather than the golden eggs themselves. The logic is simple, if you have the goose you would have the golden eggs. 

In the same way, we could be distracted by the miracles (the golden eggs as it were) and forget that it was Jesus that caused miracles to happen. To the question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” this was the answer: 36 “Who is he, sir?” the (blind) man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. John 9:36-38 NIV.  Receiving his sight meant so much to that blind man. Yes, the blind man worshiped him, worshipped Jesus.  His focus was on Jesus, his healer not on his newly found sight, the miracle.

Now, let’s slow down a little to gather our thoughts together. John 9 is about miracles. John 10 is about Jesus – the Good Shepherd. That is the connection between John 9 and John 10. John clearly and rightly shifts our focus from the miracles Jesus did (in John 9) to where our focus should really be, on the Shepherd, on Jesus (John 10). 


John the Baptist – looking for the Shepherd.

This was what Jesus said of John: “Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.”Matt 11:11 MSG.

Now, John the Baptist was very interested in the miracles of Jesus.  Was it because John himself had never performed any miracles? – John 10:41.  Not really, you see, when John was in prison he heard about the miracles of Jesus.  He asked his followers to find out from Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” – Matt 11:3, Living Bible.  You see, John saw the connection between miracles as evidence of Jesus being the Messiah. 

4 Jesus replied, “go back and report to John what you hear and see 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”Matt 11:4-6 NIV.

This was what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied, Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. – Isaiah 35:5.  In fact the entire prophecy of Isaiah was about the miracle of healing and restoration; as stated in the headline of that chapter “Joy of the Redeemed.” – NIV.  The miracles were possible because of Jesus the Messiah. We need to establish our priorities on firm ground. Miracles are important because they point us to Jesus. The focus has to be on Jesus Christ the Son of God.


Miracles – the Christ connection.

Here’s an example we can learn from.  Remember the woman caught in adultery who was brought before Jesus?  This was the accusation, “Teacher (Jesus), this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.  But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. John 8:4-6 NIV. We write with a pen, a pencil or a Chinese brush perhaps, but Jesus wrote with his finger.  That was what his Father in heaven had done. Here was what Moses recorded “18 And he (God) gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets . . . written with the finger of God. – Ex. 31:18 ESV.  Yes, God also wrote with his finger the seventh Commandment, 14 You shall not commit adultery.” – Exodus 20:14.  But the Ten Commandments are not a part of the Laws of Moses.  And there was no mention of stoning to death for adultery anywhere in the Bible much less in the Ten Commandments.  However there was mention of punishment of death for adultery in the Laws of Moses: ‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death’Lev 20:10 NIV. But there is no mention of the method, death by stoning.  So the Jews who claimed that the woman caught in adultery has to be stoned according to the Laws of Moses, were completely wrong. They were blind-sided by their own prejudice.    

Without going to town to argue whether the Ten Commandments were a part of the Law of Moses, let me just point out that the Bible had clearly made the distinction between the Ten Commandments and the Laws of Moses.  Here was what Moses himself commanded the Levites carrying the ark of God to do, “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.” Deut 31:26 ESV. The Laws of Moses had to be separated from the Ten Commandments – the covenant of the Lord our God!  The Ten Commandments were placed inside the ark of God and the Laws of Moses outside, by the side of the ark. Now, it was Moses who wrote The Lows of Moses as God had given him (Deut 31:24).  But God with His finger wrote the Ten Commandments. There was a huge difference!

Too often we are like the Jews who asked Jesus to pass judgment on the woman caught in adultery.  We tend to be self-righteous and judgmental. How did Jesus respond?

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”- John 8 NIV.

What a great example! 


Our trustworthy and dependable Shepherd.

If you were brought up with the King James Bible then you will be familiar with this verse from Hebrews.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Heb 12:2 KJV.

Now to a more contemporary translation of that same verse: 

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. – Heb 12:2 The Message Bible.


So, don’t lose sight of that exhilarating finish in and with God. Don’t be distracted by miracles.

 Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

    all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

    forever.Psalm 23:6 NIV.


The Good Shepherd (Pt 2): The Fisherman-Shepherd

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” –  John 21:17 NIV.


The Shepherd:
Sometimes when we do our quiet time in the mornings or listen to a sermon on a Sunday church service, we think, “Oh, I’ve read that before,” or “I’ve heard that sermon before.” When that happens pause a moment. Don’t dismiss it. Get fed not fed-up. You see, the more we read the Bible, the more we discover, the more we learn and the more we’re blessed. Bertrand Russell sums it up this way, “All knowledge is more or less uncertain and more or less vague.” So be patient, read through that familiar Bible passage; sit through that sermon you thought you knew. You’ll be surprised. There are new revelations to be gathered, a new idea to the Bible passage we’ve just read or new lessons to be learnt from that sermon we thought we’ve heard before.

To be a Christian is to be a sheep with God as our Shepherd. In my last exhortation we talked about the shepherd – “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd . . .” (Isaiah 40:11 KJV) and we reminded ourselves of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd . . . He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:” Let me share with you what else I have learnt from reading these great passages this time.

Isaiah’s picture of the shepherd is of one who shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. – Isaiah 40:11 KJV. It is an unusual picture of a leader because the shepherd does not issue judgment like a judge, or manage a ministry like a government minister, or win great victories like a four star general. Like a shepherd is more about caring for others, to be loved, and for the sheep; to be loved!

The shepherd guards his sheep. He is the guardian who takes responsibility for the well-being of his sheep. King David tells us that, “He (the Shepherd) makes me to lie down in green pastures.” – Ps 23. And the prophet Isaiah says that He (God) shall feed his flock. This is more than a matter of providing His flock with grass to feed on. I came across “Albert Barnes Notes.” He explains, “The verb translated ‘to feed’ (yire‛eh ), denotes more than our word feed at present. It refers to all the care of a shepherd over his flock. it means to tend, to guard, to govern, to provide pasture, to defend from danger, as a shepherd does his flock.” You see, the word feed represents a complete package able to meet all your needs. If the Lord is your Shepherd then you are under His protection or his guardianship. So the imagery of the shepherd in the Old Testament gives a complete picture of who our God is – the Good and perfect Shepherd. Isn’t that great!

Peter’s moment of truth:
The leaders God had chosen in the New Testament were by background, quite varied, different. They were not shepherds like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Moses or King David. They were generally fishermen like Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John and two more disciples possibly Philip and Andrew (John 21:2). They were together with Peter. Then, Jesus appeared before them. That was before He ascended to heaven. Here was how the Bible recorded the event. Jesus said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”– John 21:6 NIV. They had a breakfast barbecue over a charcoal fire at the beach after that. The last time when Peter was at a charcoal fire it was at the high priest’s courtyard. That was a shameful moment for Peter, because he had denied Jesus three times. Now he found himself face-to-face, one-on-one with Jesus. Embarrassing? No, it was a powerful moment! The question this time (these three times) was about Peter. Peter was asked three times if he loved Jesus! When my wife called my daughter (when she was a little girl) using her name in full – her Christian name, her Chinese name and her surname. You know that it had to be a serious moment.

From fisherman to shepherd . . .
When the disciples had finished their meal with Jesus, that was how Jesus called Peter by his name in full, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” – John 21:15, 16 17. Want to know how serious this encounter was? The second question Jesus asked Peter was exactly the same as the first. And the third question was exactly like the first and the second, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter responded with some embarrassment, and he was of course somewhat exasperated too. But this was a defining moment for Peter the fisherman. Why? Jesus had responded to Peter with, “Feed my lambs,” (John 21:15 NIV), “Take care of my sheep” (john 21:16 NIV) and “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17 NIV). All three times, the same question and the same response! This had to be important, as I had described it – surely a life-changing moment for Peter as he stood there on his seafaring legs. I believe that when Jesus asked Peter to throw his net to the right of his boat that was Peter’s last fishing trip as a fisherman. Jesus was now asking the fisherman to be a shepherd – “Feed my sheep.”

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 21:11 NIV
We had already learnt that to feed means “to provide all the care of a shepherd over his flock, to tend, to guard, to govern, to provide pasture, to defend from danger” even to the point of laying his life for his sheep. That was what being a shepherd was all about. Remember how Jesus called Peter when they first met?

Here is that account. Peter and his brother Andrew “were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people (to be ‘fishers of men’ – KJV).” – Matt. 4:18-23 NIV. Here’s an interesting observation. At this very first meeting of Peter with Jesus, Jesus says to Peter, “Come, follow me.” After his resurrection from the dead, guess what Jesus says to Peter before he leaves for heaven? Again Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me!” It seems quite incredible that Jesus greeting and goodbye to Peter makes use of these same two words, “Follow me”. From fisherman to shepherd! That seems to be the transition of Peter – – from a worker (fisherman) to a leader (a shepherd). Of course, Jesus is the ultimate shepherd of people. To follow Jesus is to be a shepherd like Jesus. Like Jesus, the shepherd must be willing to give his life for his sheep. Jesus clearly explains to Peter what to follow and to be a shepherd means. 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” – John 21:19 NIV.

The two “Follow me” calls:
So, “Follow me” was more than just keeping pace with Jesus as he journeys along the road. It was about following or mirroring the life of Jesus, to do what Jesus had done, to adopt Jesus’ attitude – His care, His love and His willingness to give His life for his sheep. If Peter had not been too certain what Jesus meant when Jesus said, “Follow me” at first, Peter now understood.


To witness and disciple:
The very first, “Follow me” from Jesus was a call for Peter to be fishers of men. It was a call to be a witness and to win souls for the kingdom of God. The second “Follow me” was a call for him to be a shepherd. This was not just a call for witnessing or evangelizing but shepherding. It was about making disciples of the converts – feed my sheep. Peter understood this. In 1 Peter 5:2 he instructed his team “Tend the flock of God,” that means, take up the shepherd’s staff to tend and to feed the sheep in the fold.

The word ‘tend’ had come from the Greek word ‘poimaino’ to shepherd and to feed the flock of God. We belong to that flock of God. We are God’s sheep. Many of us who are Christians accept our call to be witnesses, that is, to be fishers of men. But what about the second call to be shepherds, to disciple? To be shepherds requires us to feed His sheep.

The next time you meet your pastor, honor him/her. Your pastor is following both calls from Jesus. Your pastor tends the flock of God in your church. He needs you to work alongside him. He needs your support and your love. Uphold your pastor in all your prayers and shower him with your personal care. If you have heard God’s call to be fishers of men, I pray that you will respond to His call to be shepherds alongside your pastor.


The Good Shepherd (Pt 1): My Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10: 14,15

What distinguishes a Christian from other people? And we all have our own picture of what the Christian should look like in our minds. The picture that relates best to me is that described by the Apostle John. In the tenth chapter of his Gospel he paints a pastoral picture, a sheepfold with a gate. He talks about the shepherd, about sheep, thieves, robbers and the gatekeeper. Here then, are the first two verses,
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” – John 10:1,2 NIV.

It is a simple picture, a pastoral scene – the picture of a rather quiet countryside, a low fence yet high enough so that the sheep cannot get over it. The time of day . . .? Let’s say early in the morning, sunrise! Somewhere along the enclosure is a lamb, a gate, lots of sheep and a shepherd keeping watch over his sheep. But wait a minute. There is someone in the shadows. What’s he doing there? John clearly states that he is not an innocent by-stander but a thief and a robber. Look at the picture again. Can you see yourself there? No? Do you remember Psalm 23? Of course, it says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Metaphorically then, you and I are represented in one of the sheep in the picture. Christians are sheep under the loving care of Jesus our Shepherd. How can any Christian forget Psalm 23 or John 3:16! It is about the Shepherd and His love for His sheep – us Christians! David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul . . .”

In sheep’s clothing:
The use of the word soul in “he refreshes my soul” is a direct reference to the creation of man not sheep “ . . . the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Gen. 2:7 NIV. The King James Bible says, “and the man became a living soul.” Here’s what Watchman Nee has to say about the soul. “Man is composed of two independent kinds of material: spirit and body. When the spirit entered the body of dust the soul was produced.” So there are two elements in Man, the physical and the spiritual. So, when the Shepherd leads you to green pastures beside the quiet waters He meets all your physical needs. He meets your spiritual needs when he refreshes your soul. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” is a hymn King David wrote for his God but it has inspired Christians in all generations. Among them was Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836 – 1887) the daughter of a Church of Scotland parish minister who served at Crimond in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She composed “Crimond” the tune to David’s Psalm “The Lord is my Shepherd”. It is a great picture of Psalm 23 painted not with the colors from the painter’s brush but sounds from the voice and musical instruments.

As I write about “The Lord is my Shepherd,” Handel’s alto airs from Handel’s great work the “Messiah” simply keep sneaking into my mind. It was Charles Jennens who assembled the scriptures from the Bible for Handel’s great oratorio, the “Messiah.” One of the most beautiful airs (songs) in the oratorio explains the picture in David’s Psalm 23. Handel brought in the two lovely airs sung by an alto and a soprano voice (unless of course you were Barbara Bonney who took on both airs singlehandedly). For me the words from prophet Isaiah and the Psalmist, when placed side-by-side, or together present to us a great picture of our Shepherd. Here are the words of Isaiah followed by the words of the apostle Matthew:

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11 KJV
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matt 11:28,29 KJV.

Whether it is John 10 or Psalm 23 or Isaiah 40, it is all about the Good Shepherd who makes us to lie down in green pastures who leads us beside quiet waters, who restores our soul, who feed us like a shepherd, who gather us with his arm, and carry us in his bosom and ye shall find rest unto your souls. What beautiful expressions of God’s tender and loving care for us – always keeping watch over us His sheep.

Here’s another curious thought! Jennens not only chose the words from the Isaiah 40 but also inserted Isaiah 35 in his recitative that introduced the two alto airs (songs) – “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing. “ – Isaiah 35:5,6.

Here’s an interesting question, “What has the words, “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened . . .” in the recitative to do with, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd . . .” in the two arias or airs following? Remember that we started this exhortation with John 10 and it was about the Good Shepherd. It’s like asking what has John 9 to do with John 10. You see John 9 is about a man born blind. He received healing from Jesus. The apostle John writes, “Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.” – John 9:32 NIV. The following chapter, John 10 is about something else. It is about “The Good Shepherd.” There seems to be a serious disconnect. This is the exact same sequence adopted by Handel-Jennings. His recitative is about the blind made to see – “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened . . .” (as in Isaiah 35) is followed by the Shepherd – – “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd . . .” (as in Isaiah 40). So, is there a connection between the blind and the shepherd?

Let us return to John 9. Jesus heard that they had thrown him (the blind man) out. But Jesus found him. The Good Shepherd found the blind man. The blind man would never have recognized Jesus because he could not see the man who had healed him before he received his sight from Jesus. But then Jesus took the trouble to look for him as a shepherd would look for his lost sheep. Then, he (Jesus) said (to the blind man), “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The blind man could not recognize Jesus by sight. But the blind man recognized Jesus’ voice, ‘My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’ – John 10:27 NIV. Here is that conversation between the man born blind and Jesus:

36 “Who is he (the Son of Man, the Healer), sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. – John 9:35-38 NIV.

Question, “Who is He?” “Do you recognize your Shepherd so that you may believe in Him? King David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” He is the one who brings healing, who restores your soul, and guides you along the right paths for His name’s sake. He is the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13,14), the one given dominion and glory and a kingdom. He is the son of David (Matt 21:9), the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David, the son of God (Psalm 2:7), the promised Messiah. That’s who He is. Praise the Lord God Almighty!

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