Trusting God with our Present: John 2:13-25

Focus Passage: John 2:13-25 (NIrV)

13 It was almost time for the Jewish Passover Feast. So Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courtyard he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves. Others were sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So Jesus made a whip out of ropes. He chased all the sheep and cattle from the temple courtyard. He scattered the coins of the people exchanging money. And he turned over their tables. 16 He told those who were selling doves, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered what had been written. It says, “My great love for your house will destroy me.”

18 Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “When you destroy this temple, I will raise it up again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple. Are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But the temple Jesus had spoken about was his body. 22 His disciples later remembered what he had said. That was after he had been raised from the dead. Then they believed the Scripture. They also believed the words that Jesus had spoken.

23 Meanwhile, he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast. Many people saw the signs he was doing. And they believed in his name. 24 But Jesus did not fully trust them. He knew what people are like. 25 He didn’t need anyone to tell him what people are like. He already knew why people do what they do.

Read John 2:13-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times Jesus was challenged by the Jewish leaders, Jesus shared a response that was intentionally given to be misunderstood in the moment. During this event, if the Jewish leaders had truly understood Jesus’ words, Jesus may not have ministered for three years before His crucifixion – these leaders may have tried to execute Him on the spot.

Tension was high immediately following Jesus chasing the people out of the temple courtyard early on in Jesus’ ministry. This was before He was well known and infamous among the religious leaders – but following His outburst in the temple, the temple leaders are furious with Jesus. The Jewish leaders race in to witness the scene and they challenge Jesus by asking Him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do this?” (v. 18)

In His response, Jesus shares a different angle than they were expecting to hear, and Jesus intentionally does this. Jesus answered them by saying, “When you destroy this temple, I will raise it up again in three days.” (v. 19)

Jesus’ response tells us that at the beginning of His ministry, He was well aware of the future resurrection that would come. Jesus even knew the timeframe was three days. In His response, Jesus gives them the sign they should be looking for, but they don’t understand what He was referring to. The Jewish leaders replied, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple. Are you going to raise it up in three days?” (v. 20)

In my mind, I imagine Jesus leaving silently at that final question. John, the writer of this event wants us to realize the meaning of these words, so he adds the next two verses as a note to the reader. John explains, “But the temple Jesus had spoken about was his body. His disciples later remembered what he had said. That was after he had been raised from the dead. Then they believed the Scripture. They also believed the words that Jesus had spoken.” (v. 21-22)

I imagine if these religious leaders actually had understood what Jesus’ words meant, one of these religious leaders may have tried to test Jesus’ words on the spot by killing Him to see if He would stay dead. At the very least, if they had understood Jesus’ words to them, they may have looked for ways to kill Him earlier on in His ministry instead of simply trying to discredit Him.

However, with all that said, the interesting observation I see is in John’s explanation and note for us. It was only after Jesus’ actual death and resurrection that the disciples finally understood this. Prior to the crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples had written off and/or forgotten this early statement Jesus made, but after Jesus had returned to life, it dawned on them that Jesus actually had predicted what would happen years before.

The big thing I see in this explanation is that it is easier to see and understand how God has been working when looking at the past. Depending on the past for our present faith is crucial. Understanding that God has directed our past and led us to our present helps us realize that He is trustworthy and He is still working in our situations today. Whether we feel Him or not is not what is important. What is important for us is that we trust Him with our present and future like we have seen Him help in our past.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — A Light to the Gentiles: Matthew 4:12-17


Read the Transcript

On returning from being tempted, Matthew’s gospel references a gap and transition before describing Jesus beginning His ministry, and I find what Matthew tells us fascinating, especially in light of the prophecy Matthew references, and the starting topic for Jesus’ preaching.

This passage is found immediately after the passage we looked at in our last episode, which was found in Matthew chapter 4. For this episode, we will read from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 12, Matthew tells us that:

12 John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee. 13 Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in the city of Capernaum. It was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 In that way, what the prophet Isaiah had said came true. He had said,

15 “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
    Galilee, where Gentiles live!
    Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River!
16 The people who are now living in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They are now living in a very dark land.
    But a light has shined on them.”

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach. “Turn away from your sins!” he said. “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

In this short passage, I am fascinated by a number of things.

First, I am curious about how much time passed between Jesus being tempted and John the Baptist being arrested. I would imagine it was no more than a few weeks. From the way Matthew frames this transition in his gospel, we could conclude that John was arrested while Jesus was being tempted, but this isn’t likely because John’s gospel, which doesn’t include Jesus’ baptism or temptation, has Jesus passing John while John is preaching, and in my mind, this likely was on Jesus’ return from the desert being tempted.

However, around that time was when John spoke out against Herod, and this message John shared led to his arrest.

But Matthew pays little attention to John. The only reason he includes this detail is to use it as a transition for Jesus returning to Galilee and ultimately Capernaum. Matthew includes this detail because he sees this decision as being a direct fulfillment of prophecy.

Before looking at the prophecy, I want to point out an interesting, and somewhat ironic, thought related to Matthew as a person, as a disciple, and as the author of this gospel. Matthew was previously a tax collector. Tax collectors were among the most hated and looked down on people in that society. Tax collectors were likely also the most secular.

It is interesting in my mind to think of Matthew, the tax collector, writing in his gospel narrative about all the ways Jesus fulfilled prophecies. Matthew and John are the disciples who focus in on the prophecies more than the other gospels, and I believe Matthew’s gospel draws our attention onto more prophecies than John.

The ironic part of this thought in my mind is that through his gospel, Matthew, the former hated and despised tax collector is teaching and challenging the Jews regarding who Jesus is, using the prophecies that they all may have known better than he should have known. However knowing and understanding are two different things, and Matthew rightly interprets the correct understanding of the prophecies even if he had been an outsider because of his occupation.

In the prophecy Matthew quotes here, we find an interesting focus. In this prophecy, we see allusion to God turning His attention onto the part of the country that was perhaps the least Jewish. Verses 15 and 16 tell us this prophecy:

 “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
    Galilee, where Gentiles live!
    Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River!
The people who are now living in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They are now living in a very dark land.
    But a light has shined on them.”
(v. 15-16)

I don’t know whether the Jewish leaders knew, understood, ignored, or simply rejected this prophecy from Isaiah’s writings, but this short prophecy gave Jesus direction for where He would live at the beginning of His ministry. In an interesting way, Jesus starts His ministry focusing on the exact opposite people than we might expect Him to focus on.

While the Jews would have had all the right knowledge regarding the Messiah, Jesus likely knows that they are blinded by their tradition and their closed-minded, single-track understanding of the Old Testament prophecies. Perhaps for this reason, or maybe simply because God likes to work in ways that we might not expect, Jesus begins His ministry among the least Jewish and most looked down on people in the country. One could say that Jesus started at the bottom of society’s ladder of status, and He kept a solid focus on the bottom rung of this ladder throughout His entire ministry.

When Jesus began speaking, preaching, and teaching, I am fascinated to learn Jesus’ beginning message. Verse 17 tells us that Jesus’ first preaching message was for people to “Turn away from your sins!” because “The kingdom of heaven has come near.

This message is exactly where John the Baptist’s message and ministry ended. John’s whole message was focused on getting people to repent, which is another way of saying to turn away from their sins, because the kingdom of heaven is coming.

In a subtle, but not that subtle, way, Jesus starts where John leaves off signaling that He is picking up the torch that John began with His ministry. When John was arrested, Jesus continues the message that John began. However, unlike John, Jesus could take the message of God’s kingdom further than John could because Jesus was the Messiah John was preparing the people for, and because Jesus had arrived, the kingdom of heaven had come near.

Overall, in this passage leading up to Jesus’ ministry in Matthew’s gospel, we see Jesus intentionally choosing to focus first on the most secular, least Jewish, and most looked down on people in society. In this way, we get a picture of God who loves and desires a relationship with anyone and everyone, not just those who are spiritual and close to Him.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to let Him show you what you should focus on and pay attention to. God has called us to be His representatives and part of this calling is focusing on loving those He has brought into our lives.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to keep your connection with God strong. While Jesus came to those who were the least connected to God, He didn’t want them to stay disconnected. Jesus kept His connection with God strong and He wanted to help those who God loves – which is everyone at every place of society – to have a strong connection with God like He did.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 5: When Jesus returns from being tempted, Matthew includes an interesting transition, prophecy, and message about where Jesus started His ministry, how Jesus began His ministry, and why Jesus started that way.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

A Trustworthy God: John 8:21-30

Focus Passage: John 8:21-30 (NIrV)

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away. You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I am going.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘You can’t come where I am going’?”

23 But Jesus said, “You are from below. I am from heaven. You are from this world. I am not from this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins. This will happen if you don’t believe that I am he. If you don’t believe, you will certainly die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that Jesus was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “You will lift up the Son of Man. Then you will know that I am he. You will also know that I do nothing on my own. I speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him.

Read John 8:21-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In a conversation Jesus has with a Jewish crowd, a statement Jesus makes sounds odd in my mind. In this statement, Jesus puts two ideas together that don’t seem to fit, but in some ways, when these two ideas are together, we can see a fascinating picture of God.

During this conversation, Jesus says, “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.” (v. 26)

In these three short sentences, and interesting idea begins to take shape. Jesus has a lot He can say that will judge us, but He only tells the world what He has heard from the Father (a.k.a. the One who sent Him), and the One who sent Him can be trusted.

Not only does this verse describe a trustworthy God the Father when many people picture Him as mean, it also describes a God full of grace, because God could tell Jesus to say many judgmental things to those in the world, but He doesn’t. Instead, the One who sent Jesus tells Jesus what to say, and the picture of Jesus that we have shared in the gospel is one that perfectly balances sharing truth with showing love.

While Jesus calls people out for their behavior, He always does so in a way that lifts them to a higher standard. Even when challenging the religious leaders, Jesus always is trying to get them to understand more about the Father.

Jesus could judge everyone in the world as guilty because the Father could judge everyone this way. But Jesus doesn’t. Instead, Jesus loves the world and gave His life for all of us. He did this because that is the only way He can help us understand just how much God the Father loves and values us. A God who loves us that much is definitely worthy of our trust!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Chosen By God: Luke 2:21-38


Read the Transcript

As we continue moving through Jesus’ birth story in Luke’s gospel, we arrive at a significant event in the story, but one that doesn’t fit very well if we try to condense and combine Matthew’s gospel with Luke’s gospel describing Jesus’ birth. While I believe both gospels are accurate, where things can get confusing is when we try to squish the details together and make two events into one.

Because of the event our passage includes for this episode, it is best to view Matthew and Luke’s gospels separately, and let Luke describe the events close to the night Jesus was born, and let Matthew fill us in on events that likely happened a few weeks after Jesus had entered this world as a baby.

Actually, it is fascinating to look at the event we are about to read while realizing that Herod was ruling Jerusalem and Judea, and that Herod was in Jerusalem directing the wise men towards Bethlehem not too long after this event happened.

Our passage for this episode is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 21, Luke tells us that

21 A week later [this would be a week after Jesus was born], when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

22 The time came for Joseph and Mary to perform the ceremony of purification, as the Law of Moses commanded. So they took the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every first-born male is to be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 They also went to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, as required by the law of the Lord.

25 At that time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem. He was a good, God-fearing man and was waiting for Israel to be saved. The Holy Spirit was with him 26 and had assured him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s promised Messiah. 27 Led by the Spirit, Simeon went into the Temple. When the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, 28 Simeon took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God:

29 “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise,
    and you may let your servant go in peace.
30 With my own eyes I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:
32 A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles
    and bring glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at the things Simeon said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against 35 and so reveal their secret thoughts. And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.”

36-37 There was a very old prophet, a widow named Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for only seven years and was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple; day and night she worshiped God, fasting and praying. 38 That very same hour she arrived and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.

In this passage, Jesus’ parents take Jesus to dedicate Him at the temple. It is amazing in my mind to think that Jesus would have been present in the temple, right under the noses of the religious leaders, Herod, and all the people, and most people simply didn’t pay that close attention.

According to this passage, only two people really take notice: Simeon, who the Bible simply describes as a man who had the Holy Spirit and who God had promised to reveal the Messiah to; and Anna, a widow who had dedicated herself to worshiping God in the temple. For a long time, I had assumed that Simeon was the priest on duty that day, but nothing in this passage implies this to be the case.

Nothing is really mentioned about the priest on duty, about Jesus parents actually giving the sacrifice, or about the response of those that Simeon and Anna told about Jesus.

However, in Simeon’s message to Mary, we can see three huge ideas that are incredibly powerful when we stop and look at what he told her. At the beginning of Simeon’s message to Mary in verse 34, God prophesies about Jesus’ life saying “This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel.

It would be very easy to latch on to the positive side of this message, but this message contains both positive and negative. Jesus came not only to save people living in Israel, but also for destruction.

To quantify the negative side of this promise, Simeon continues in the last part of verse 34 and into verse 35 saying, “He [Jesus] will be a sign from God which many people will speak against and so reveal their secret thoughts.

According to this second statement in Simeon’s message to Mary, Jesus is a sign from God that will polarize people and those who speak out against Jesus will reveal the secrets of their hearts. Those who speak out against Jesus show the universe that they have sided against God. It is powerful to realize that what we tell others about Jesus shows how loyal or disloyal we are to God. As we continue in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ presence clearly separates those who have sided with God vs. those who have decided to set themselves against Jesus.

The last part of Simeon’s message to Mary is directed specifically towards Mary. In the last portion of verse 35, Simeon tells Mary, “And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.

Whether we like to think of it or not, this statement predicts Jesus’ death. Before Jesus had fully stepped into history, Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, forewarns Mary that Jesus’ life as a Messiah would end in death. Jesus would die before she would.

However, this message, while it was challenging, does contain the promise that Jesus’ arrival signified the way God chose to open salvation for many people living in Israel. Actually, Jesus’ arrival signified the way God chose to open salvation for all His people living at any point in the history of our human race. Sin came in to this world through the actions of Adam and Eve, and through the actions and sacrifice of Jesus, God has made a way for us to outlast sin.

As we continue through our year focusing in on Luke’s gospel, expect to see this theme show up regularly. Through Jesus, we have the hope and assurance of a new life with God!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. Through what Jesus came to accomplish, we have the hope of salvation and a way out of facing the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus’ entrance into the world gives us an escape for a problem that we cannot solve on our own.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow closer to Jesus and to God. Through prayer and study, discover how we can open our hearts, minds, and lives to God and let His Holy Spirit transform us. Through the Holy Spirit, we can discover the truth God wants to teach us and we can discover how important Jesus’ sacrifice is for our future.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or turn away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 4: Luke’s gospel describes a message Mary received when taking Jesus to be dedicated. Discover in this message a prophecy and a warning that predicts the direction Jesus’ life will head!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.