Not the Christ: John 1:19-34

Focus Passage: John 1:19-34 (NASB)

In this passage, John, the disciple of Jesus and the author of the gospel that is named after him, shares about John the Baptist – Jesus’ forerunner in ministry. John’s role that we learn in this passage is to help straighten the path of the Messiah, however, this didn’t come as an easy task.

Similar to what would happen with Jesus, John was called to answer for what He was doing in the wilderness by the Jordan River. The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask Him a simple question, “Who are you?” (v. 19)

On the surface, this seems kind of obvious. This man was John the Baptizer. But under the surface is a challenge: “Who are you to be doing what you are doing?” is likely what they were asking. Under the surface, these messengers wanted to have the question answered: “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Christ?”

John responded, “I am not the Christ.” (v. 20)

However, these messengers were not fazed. A number of others prophesied about individuals from Israel’s past, so “they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ And he [John the Baptist] said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’” (v. 21)

This is significant in the minds of those living at that time, because prior to this, God had been silent for close to 400 years. God had not left His people, nor had He stopped stepping in to help, but He had stopped sending prophets with messages from Him to the people.

But then John steps onto the scene in a public way, and he was the son of a priest, which likely perplexed the spiritual community in Jerusalem. If John was not the Messiah, or one of the other prominent men who were prophesied about, then these messengers have a problem. “Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’” (v. 22)

In John’s reply we discover our big truth. John responds by saying, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (v. 23)

John’s example is important for us today. John knew exactly what his role was in history. He was to be the one to call the people back to God and prepare their hearts and minds to meet the Messiah. Our role in history is similar to John’s. While we cannot prepare for an upcoming Messiah, while we are here on earth, we can point people to Jesus, and help them prepare their hearts and minds for His second coming. In this way, we are all called to be like John the Baptist.

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.

Giving Ourselves to God: Mark 8:1-9

Read the Transcript

Continuing our journey through the gospel of Mark, we come to a miracle where it appears Jesus helps those with Him simply because He can and because He knows that there are people who need His help even if they haven’t asked. Jesus also appears to help because He feels somewhat responsible for the less than ideal situation those who are with them are in.

Let’s read this event from Mark’s gospel, and discover what we can learn about Jesus and God through this situation. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 8, and we will read it from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

“Seven loaves,” they replied.

So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them.

They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. 

In this short miracle, I am amazed that this crowd of over 4,000 people stayed with Jesus in the wilderness for 3 days, and everyone in this group stayed a significant amount of time past the food running out. Jesus states at the opening of our passage that He was concerned that some of those present might faint from hunger on their trip home because they had not eaten that recently. Either Jesus knew of some elderly people in the crowd, or most of those present had not planned for an extended trip, while those that did plan were generous and shared.

From the way Mark describes this miracle, I can see a big truth in this event which tells us that God will help us when we have aligned ourselves with Him. While this doesn’t mean that God will give us fame, fortune, or a long healthy life when we are living within His plan, I believe that when we are living fully within God’s will, God will not allow us to die before we have accomplished what He has called us to do in this world.

While death seems to strike indiscriminately, and while good people seem to die early while evil people seem to live a long time, no one on this planet is outside of God’s frame of view. God values every individual on this planet, and while tragedy happens, I trust that God is keeping those He needs alive as alive, and those who have fulfilled what God has called them to accomplish on this planet are given the opportunity to rest.

However, in this miracle in the wilderness, I am drawn to another detail. This detail is where the source of the bread for the miracle came from. While the more famous miracle where Jesus fed 5,000 has the small lunch being donated by someone outside the group of disciples, every indication in this event suggests that the disciples found these last loaves of bread to give to Jesus from their own reserve supply of food. This tells me that God will sometimes call me to give something of value that is part of what I own in order for Him to work a miracle in the world around me. While every situation is truly different, I should be willing to let God use my skills, my talents, and especially the things He has trusted me with for His glory and His will.

Also, while reading this miracle, it is interesting to see what characteristic is not present in the disciples’ response. In the earlier feeding the crowd of over 5,000 miracle, at least one of the gospels record a statement of disbelief at the overwhelming need when compared with the small lunch that was donated by the small child. In contrast, we don’t see any doubt or disbelief in the disciples response following Jesus asking for the small amount of bread. The disciples understood Jesus could multiply this food and they know that is what He intended to do.

The last big idea I see in this miracle event is focused on who Jesus decided to help. While this miracle is prompted by Jesus knowing that some people might faint before arriving somewhere where they could get food to eat, Jesus doesn’t help only those who needed it the most. This miracle was for everyone present, regardless of their level of hunger, and everyone benefitted. This tells me that if we want to see miracles in our lives, we must be spending time with Jesus.

While I’m sure it is possible to see a miracle without Jesus present in our lives, without Jesus, the tendency for people would be to discount the miracle, ignore it, or give it some scientific explanation. However, just because something has an explanation for how it happened does not invalidate a miracle taking place.

Without Jesus in our lives, the world is full of coincidences and things that we might consider lucky. However, with Jesus in our lives, we see divine providence everywhere. With Jesus, there are no coincidences. Instead, we choose to see God’s hand at work in the world today. While things are getting more polarized, God has not given up on this world or on His people. Instead, Jesus came to redeem this world, and while there are people left in this world who God knows He can redeem, He gives the world more time.

Those who were with Jesus, and who stayed with Jesus even after their food ran out experienced a miracle. Even when our lives get tough or challenging, we are called to stay with Jesus, because when we are allied and aligned to Jesus in this life, we can be certain we will share in Jesus’ future life to come.

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, seek God first in your life and choose to ally and align your life to Jesus and God’s will. Choose to live your life for God and trust that even if things don’t always make sense, God has a plan, and His plan is for you and as many people as possible to be saved from sin. When we don’t have answers, this isn’t an excuse to doubt. When we don’t have answers, this is an opportunity to trust.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself, and while studying, pay attention to the situations in the Bible where there weren’t clear answers given to prayers and determine if God had a plan. While doubt is easy to do, doubt sabotages our trust and our faith. When given the opportunity to doubt, choose faith instead, regardless of what others try to tell you.

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 abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 20: In a less famous miracle, discover some big truths in Jesus feeding a smaller crowd of over 4,000 people, and how this miracle challenges us living today.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

A Full Day’s Pay: Matthew 20:1-16

Focus Passage: Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV)

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Read Matthew 20:1-16 in context and/or in other translations on!

There are a few big ideas I saw in today’s passage, and the big idea I want to focus on today is something that I would be surprised if it will happen at the end of time. In this parable, God, represented by the landowner, pays all of his workers equally, even though they all work for different lengths of time.

It is fairly easy to see a parallel in the people who grew up as Christ-followers and are saved as being those who were “hired” early. We also can see the contrasting parallel in the people who live their whole life not knowing Jesus, but who right before death, turn to Jesus, and are saved (i.e. the thief on the cross).

When we get to Heaven, what this parable implies is that those who followed Jesus all their lives will be jealous and envious of those who lived sinfully for 99.9999999% of their lives. I don’t really see this as happening when we all get to Heaven because we will be thrilled to be there, we will be focused on Jesus, and we will be happy meeting those who we are able to share eternity with.

Why would we be jealous? At that point in time, the past is over, and we’ve won. It really doesn’t matter.

However, what if someone we really didn’t like, or who we thought was a horrible person is in Heaven? Will that bother us? Looking at it from our perspective on earth, while we are still “working in the field”, it is easy to be jealous and/or envious of those who are no longer in the field—especially if we believe they made it to Heaven after something horrible they had done. But when we are looking from the heavenly perspective, and we’re together with them in Heaven, I still have a difficult time thinking I would be jealous.

However, I do feel that this misses the point of the parable. This parable isn’t as much about the reward as it is about God’s generosity. God rewards everyone who worked in the field with a full day’s work even though none of us deserve a full day’s pay. That in my mind is an amazing thought and one that it is hard to feel any jealousy about.

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.

Revealing Your Secrets: Luke 8:16-18

Focus Passage: Luke 8:16-18 (NASB)

During one of the times that Jesus preached, Jesus points our attention to a very insightful truth that is incredibly challenging to every single person who has ever lived. While Jesus was talking about light, He makes the following statement, “For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (v. 17)

In essence, Jesus is saying that no matter how dark your secret is, no matter how far down you have buried it, no matter if everyone has forgotten about it, there will be a point when your secret will be revealed. A shorter way to say this is simply: All secrets will eventually be revealed.

Now this is a challenging truth for every one of us. Many of us have secrets we don’t really want others to know about. Perhaps there are even some secrets that we want no one to discover. However, what we don’t have control over in Jesus’ words is whether these secrets stay hidden.

But we do have control over something: We can let time reveal our secrets on its terms, or we can reveal our own secrets on our own terms. While sharing secrets is never easy, and often times pain and tears follow, almost always is it better to reveal secrets on our own terms, because when we reveal it on our own terms, we give ourselves release from the pressure of keeping the secret.

While it might be a little obvious when I share it, there is another angle to secrets that we have control over. In your life and in my life, we can choose to make choices that are not secret-worthy. If we consistently act in a way that we don’t mind other people being aware of, then there is freedom from the need for secrecy. Some might call this “integrity” – living the same way in private as you do in public.

Jesus promises us that every secret ever kept will eventually be revealed. We have the choice to share our secrets on our own terms now, or let time spontaneously reveal our secrets on its terms.

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.