Five Senses – Taste

For a little change of pace, we’ve taken a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He 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!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus Reinstates Peter

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 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. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
(John 21:4-19 NIV)

It was hard to choose a Scripture passage for this one.  There are many passages in the four Gospels where Jesus shared a meal with others.  In Jesus’ day, hospitality and food were such a rich part of their culture.

After much prayer and several false starts on my part, I landed on this passage of Jesus fixing a shore breakfast for His disciples.

At this point, as John points out, Jesus had been crucified, had died, and was resurrected from the dead.  This was the third time that Jesus had revealed His resurrected self to His disciples.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, John Chapter 20 tells us that the disciples had sequestered themselves into a house and had locked the door for fear of the Jewish leaders also coming after them.  However, Jesus had commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for Him to give them further instructions.

In the beginning of John Chapter 21, Peter announces that he’s going fishing.  For a guy that is used to being outside and able to go anywhere he wishes, a week inside a locked house likely made Peter feel like a caged animal yearning to break out.

Let’s step into the scene for a few moments.  Peter had denied Jesus 3 times while Jesus was on trial.  Then the rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words to him. Peter went out and wept bitterly after he realized what he had done.

Peter likely replayed his denial of Jesus over and over in his heart and mind.  Peter felt he had failed the Lord, and was now a broken man.  Even thought Jesus had appeared to the disciples twice since His resurrection, Peter and the other disciples were unsure of their calling and worth.  Not knowing what else to do, Peter resorted to what he knew – back to his “happy place” – fishing.

After a fruitless night casting their nets, the early morning hours began with someone on shore inquiring about the catch.  John realizes that it’s Jesus, and Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.

Jesus has fixed a shore breakfast for the disciples – some fish cooked over a fire, and some bread.  The disciples had likely eaten this breakfast many times, but I can imagine this breakfast was particularly special.

After breakfast, Jesus spent some time talking to Peter.  Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times, the same number of times Peter had denied Jesus.

Jesus asked Peter the first time: “Do you love Me more than these?”  By “these”, Jesus was referring to the boat, the nets, the fish, and Peter’s successful fishing career.  Remember that Jesus had called Peter to follow Him in a very similar situation – and Peter had left everything behind to follow Jesus before.  Now Jesus was re-issuing His original call to Peter.

Jesus asked Peter two more times, “Do you love me?”  And Peter’s answer was yes both times.  Notice Jesus’ commands to Peter after Peter affirmed his love and friendship to Jesus:

“Take care of my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”

Once again, by example, Jesus had given Peter and the other disciples a taste of a life lived for Him – caring for others, feeding them, loving them unconditionally through good times and bad.

Decades later, as Peter penned a letter to the churches in Asia Minor, reminding them to remain steadfast in the Lord, I can imagine Peter recalling the shore breakfast with Jesus that morning, being restored and re-commissioned, and the new calling and purpose that gave to his life.  I can imagine that Peter then wrote verse 3:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
(1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV)

That shore breakfast with Jesus still tasted so good after all those years ago:

  • physically, to a bone-weary fisherman who had been up all night
  • emotionally, to a man who had denied even knowing Jesus, and was forgiven
  • spiritually, to a broken man who thought he had destroyed his testimony and ministry, and was now restored and one of the leaders of the new movement

As the ancient psalmist wrote:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
(Psalm 34:8 NIV)

May we do the same today.


Five Senses – Hearing

For a little change of pace, we’re taking a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
(Matthew 8:5-13 NIV)

When you think about Jesus’ emotional responses, what do you think of first?

  • His love toward so many, including children, outcasts, and misfits?
  • His empathy, when He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus?
  • His sorrow, when He was praying in Gethsemane before His arrest?
  • His righteous anger, when he cleared the temple of the money changers?
  • His compassion, when He healed many everywhere He went?
  • His joy, when He attended the wedding and turned water into fine wine?

Obviously, the list could go on and on as we read the pages of Scripture.

When we consider Jesus’ emotional responses, today’s passage is not typically one that is top of mind.

As we step into this story, we smile as we read the happy ending – the centurion’s beloved servant is restored to health and Jesus has another teachable moment with His followers.

However, like many of the stories in the four Gospel accounts, this story has multiple layers, additional narratives that are easy to name but are often glossed over.

For instance, another layer that is fairly obvious is this centurion’s faith.  Jesus offered to come to the centurion’s house and heal the boy.  The centurion, however, let Jesus know that a home visit (and all the social implications of a Jewish person entering into a non-Jewish home) was not necessary.  The centurion simply asked Jesus to heal him by saying the word (by saying so).

The larger narrative that I find captivating is Jesus’ response to the centurion’s answer.  Verse 10 says that when Jesus heard the centurion’s reply, He was amazed.

Think about that for a moment.

Jesus, the Son of God, who existed from before the beginning of time, the same One who created all things and knows all things, is surprised by something, by anything!

Yes, when Jesus heard the centurion’s reply, He was surprised, amazed, marveled at and admired the man’s answer.

So what would your response be if you were standing there?  What would you say or do, or would you have any words at all?

Jesus, always being present in the moment, was not dumbfounded or lacking words.  His response to hearing the centurion was to turn to those following Him and use it as a teachable moment about faith in God.

Jesus said that He had never found anyone in Israel with such great faith as this Gentile, this Roman man, this leader of Roman soldiers.  The Israelites were to be the great people of faith, the living examples of the kindness and goodness and dependability and trustworthiness of the One True God.

And yet, this humble soldier’s faith in Jesus outshone them all.

May our deep conviction of who Jesus is and His readiness to walk with us through all of life’s journeys cause us to put our faith and trust in Him like this Roman centurion did.

And may we be surprised by the joy of walking in deep faith with Jesus, as much as Jesus was amazed by the centurion’s faith.


Five Senses – Smell

For a little change of pace, we’re taking a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 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.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
(John 12:1-8 NIV)

Today’s passage picks up the same main cast of characters as John Chapter 11:  Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead in Chapter 11; after a brief time away from Bethany, Jesus was back in town and spending time with his friends.

Jesus knew His time was short; in less than a week, He would be dead.  Trying to stay away from the crowds, Jesus attended a private dinner given in His honor.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were there, among others.  Lazarus was at the table with Jesus, no doubt thankful to be alive and basking in Jesus’ presence.  Martha was showing her love for Jesus by doing, by serving Him.  And Mary was there, showing her love for Jesus by abiding, by being with Him.  Mary had been brokenhearted over her brother’s death; now she was overjoyed at what Jesus had done for them and hung on His every word.

Then Mary does something quite uncharacteristic for what we know of her.  She takes out a jar of expensive perfume and starts pouring it on Jesus’ feet.  And not only that, but she lets down her hair (which was NOT something proper Jewish women did in public, especially in the presence of other men) and uses her hair like a cloth to wipe Jesus’ feet.

John records that this perfume was a pint jar of nard, which was a rare herb grown in the high pasture lands of India and China, likely in the foothills of the Himalayas.  This perfume was then put into alabaster jars and sealed for transport.  The caravan traders would then load these jars and other spices on their camels and begin the months-long trek back to the Middle East.

John also records the value of the perfume, as known by Judas.  This was a year’s wages in their day; using our minimum wage calculation for the United States in 2019, it would amount to somewhere around $15,000 to $20,000.  Even in our modern-day economy, that’s a LOT of money!

In verse 3, John tells us that as Mary applied the perfume on Jesus’ feet, the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  The earthy musk permeated the air, the house furnishings, and everyone’s clothes, hair, and skin with its wonderful essence.

When Judas complained about Mary not selling the perfume and giving the money to the poor, Jesus stopped him and reminded everyone that He would not always be physically present with them.  Mary was doing a really good thing by honoring Him before His death.

Mary’s extravagance toward Jesus was her way of showing her love to Him.  This was likely a nest egg that she had, her life savings all contained in one pint jar.  And she willingly, humbly, and quietly gave it all to her Lord.  And Jesus loved her heart and actions, calling off the naysayers, telling them to leave her alone and let her finish what she was doing because it was her way of honoring Him:

  • Mary gave the Best her best from a deep heart of love and gratitude
  • Mary gave the Best her best humbly, and without regard to her critics
  • Mary gave the Best her best willingly, without prompting, reluctance, or hesitation

Can you remember a time when someone did something that they didn’t have to do… and you will never forget it?

  • Someone from across the country showed up to be with you in your pain and anguish, just because they cared about you?
  • You witnessed a husband or wife sit beside their spouse in the hospital for days and nights on end, just to be with them and comfort them?
  • You received a card with a hand-written note that touched your soul?
  • You witnessed an impossible need met by a person or group or community?
  • Someone was able to experience a dream for which they had given up hope, because of the goodness of others?

The essence of those times and memories stick with us for a lifetime like Mary’s perfume, don’t they?

May we love God extravagantly in the here and now like Mary, breaking open and pouring out the best of ourselves for Him, not because we expect anything in return, but because He has already given His Best to us in His Son Jesus.

And may we also learn to love others extravagantly and without regard to the critics, carrying with us the wonderful aroma of Christ everywhere we go, just as Mary’s perfume infused everyone and everything that special night.

The apostle Paul uses this same imagery of smell to express a life lived fully for Christ:

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV

May the essence of our life be the pleasing, pervasive aroma of Christ for all.


Five Senses – Touch

For a little change of pace, we’re taking a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
(Matthew 8:2-4 NIV)

Today’s passage is one of many where Jesus touched people to heal them.  In other passages, Jesus healed people with just His spoken word, so touch was not required for healing.

What drew my attention to this passage was the nature of the man’s affliction and Jesus’ interactions with the man.

Leprosy is an infectious skin disease that was incurable in Jesus’ day.  In today’s world, leprosy is known to be caused by a bacteria, and is treatable by medicine.  The World Health Organization estimates that only 3 people in every 100,000 people has leprosy.

In the Old testament and in Jesus’ day, skin diseases were not uncommon.  Not all skins diseases were leprosy; some were a rash or other non-infectious conditions.

In Leviticus chapter 13 , the Lord gave the priests specific instructions on how to categorize various skin diseases, and whether a person was to be classified as “clean” or “unclean”.  If the skin condition was classified as “unclean”, the person had to be separated from the general population for the overall health of the community.

Once exiled from the general populace, lepers had to pronounce themselves unclean if anyone came near them.  This was to prevent the spread of the disease to others.  Imagine having to yell “Unclean! Unclean!” any time someone came near you… not exactly a ego-boosting moment, to say the least.

If the person’s skin condition changed, the person could ask the priest to re-examine them.  If the priest determined that the person could now be classified as “clean”, then the person would follow the Lord’s instructions in Leviticus Chapter 14 for the offering to be made.

Notice how the man came to Jesus in humility and worship.  The man knelt before Jesus and called Him “Lord”.   The man came in great faith – he never doubted that Jesus could heal him; he asked only for God’s grace and mercy and willingness to do so.

Jesus responded compassionately, and told that man that He was willing to heal him.  But before Jesus spoke the words to heal the man physically, Jesus reached out and touched the man physically.

By touching this leper, Jesus healed the man in so many other ways – socially, relationally, mentally, psychologically, spiritually.  The text does not say how long this man had leprosy – only that he had it.  The man likely longed for human touch again – to shake hands with someone, to hug his family members, to simply be back in the community and not living in exile outside the town.

Jesus knew what this man needed, both physically and spiritually, and He used a simple touch to make the man whole again.

When I read this, I stopped to think about my body language, especially how I communicate with people:

  • What is this person longing for?  Maybe not a flood of words, but simply a hug?
  • Do I present an invisible “wall” to someone that communicates unwillingness to have appropriate physical contact (even a simple handshake), or do I communicate openness and God’s love via appropriate touch?
  • Have I replaced direct human interaction such as appropriate physical touch with technology (for example, sending a picture of a hug or texting “hugs” to someone who is nearby)?

May we remember to listen to and observe the longings of another person’s heart as shown by Jesus in today’s passage.

And when fitting, may we make ourselves vulnerable and use appropriate physical touch to communicate God’s love and acceptance to those who are hurting.


Five Senses – Sight

For a little change of pace, let’s take a few sessions and see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
(Mark 10:17-21 NIV)

For many, this is a familiar story from the Gospel of Mark.

A rich young man runs up to Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life.

Jesus plays along with the man and reminds him of six of the Ten Commandments in verse 19.  The man assures Jesus that he has kept all of those commandments since he was a boy.

This man was measuring his relationship to God through his performance – what he could do to earn or inherit eternal life.  This man likely felt he needed to work his way into heaven.  He probably saw God as an exacting taskmaster, requiring strict adherence to Jewish laws and traditions in order to merit eternal life.

Notice the first sentence in verse 21:  “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

Here, Mark captures the facial expression and body language that Jesus used to communicate with this man.  What Jesus was about to say was preceded by the expression on his face, specifically, through the look in his eyes.

As Jesus and this man looked at each other eye-to-eye, Jesus communicated the most important thing this man needed to experience – God’s love.

When Jesus communicated love toward this man, He was changing the dynamic of the conversation.  Jesus told the man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor, not because the man was too rich, but because Jesus was saying the man’s possessions and money didn’t earn him a way into heaven.  What mattered most was the man’s relationship with God.

Jesus offered a radical alternative to this man’s view of God.  The man was focused on performance – earning so he could give, keeping the laws and traditions of his people.  Jesus countered the endless demands of performance with an offer of loving relationship, free of the burden of performance.  And it started with a loving expression communicated through Jesus’ eyes.

When I read this, I stopped to think about my body language, especially my eyes as I communicate with people:

  • Am I aware of my facial expressions?
  • What do I say with my eyes before words come out of my mouth?
  • Do my eyes and my mouth communicate the same thing?
  • Do both my eyes and my mouth communicate God’s love?

As I write this, I am reminded that my eyes are really a window to my soul, my heart, the deeper place of who I am.  If my eyes communicate love, it’s because my soul is centered on God and at rest.  If my eyes communicate anything else, it’s because my soul is not centered on the Lord.  Our eyes tell of the condition of our hearts.

As you look in the mirror today, may you experience God’s favor and forgiveness, and see Him looking at you with love, just as Jesus looked at the man in today’s passage and loved him.

As you experience God’s love, may you share His love for others through your facial expressions, through the look in your eyes before you say the first word.