Recognizing Jesus: Luke 19:41-44

Focus Passage: Luke 19:41-44 (GNT)

 41 He [Jesus] came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, 42 saying,
         If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! 43 The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. 44 They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!

Read Luke 19:41-44 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While this is a short, four verse passage, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t multiple things we can pull out of it. The one BIG idea that we can focus on today is what is implied by the very last phrase of verse 44: “. . . because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!”

This phrase jumped off the page (err screen) when I read it. With a simple “because”, Jesus hinges all the destruction of Jerusalem on their one failure to act/recognize/accept Him. Jesus is predicting Jerusalem’s destruction, which will happen a few decades from that point in history, but this phrase seems to indicate that if Jerusalem (we could probably include “Israel”) had accepted Him, God would have changed the course of history and Jerusalem would have been saved from destruction.

This big idea has real-time applications as well. We could ask ourselves the question, “Am I failing to recognize God moving in my life to save me?” Often times, we struggle with a nagging thought, a bad habit, or something else we would like to change, and while it is hard to admit, most of us do know what we need to do to remedy the situation. I might suggest that God has planted that knowledge in our mind (whether divinely or through observation/experience). By not moving towards the solution, are we delaying our spiritual growth – not to mention any physical, emotional, or relational growth that is also present?

We are holistic beings, and this means that our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives are connected. What we do in one area will affect the others. For example, if we are sick physically, it is going to be difficult to grow spiritually; or if we are locked up emotionally, it may affect our health long term.

In this passage, Jerusalem was spiritually locked and this caused them to not recognize Jesus. They were too set in their ideal image of a messiah that they missed the Messiah who came with a much bigger vision then they thought. Are we failing to recognize Jesus working in our lives to save us?

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.

Left but Not Abandoned: John 16:5-15

Focus Passage: John 16:5-15 (NCV)

Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Your hearts are filled with sadness because I have told you these things. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment. He will prove to them that sin is not believing in me. 10 He will prove to them that being right with God comes from my going to the Father and not being seen anymore. 11 And the Helper will prove to them that judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged.

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. 13 But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words, but he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. 14 The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me, because he will take what I have to say and tell it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take what I have to say and tell it to you.

Read John 16:5-15 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the last night Jesus spent with the disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion, John’s gospel shares a conversation Jesus shared with the remaining disciples (Judas Iscariot was with the Jewish leaders assembling a mob). In this conversation, Jesus shares a statement that makes the disciples sad, and while Jesus acknowledges their sadness, He tells them that what will happen will ultimately be better than what they wished would happen.

During this conversation, Jesus told the disciples, “Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Your hearts are filled with sadness because I have told you these things. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come.” (v. 5-7)

The two statements that jump out in my mind as I read Jesus’ words are, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away”, and “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come” (the first and last phrases of verse 7).

While the disciples are sad at Jesus announcing His departure, He tells them that it is better for them if He leaves. While this sounds backwards, Jesus follows up by explaining that if He didn’t go away, the Helper would not come to them.

This prompts me to ask, “Why would the Holy Spirit not come to Jesus’ followers if Jesus was still around?” If God could do anything, and His is truly “everywhere” (i.e. omnipresent), then why would Jesus imply that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come to Jesus’ followers if Jesus were present?

The answer is amazingly simple. When we read lists and descriptions about what the Holy Spirit does, we learn that everything the Holy Spirit does leads and points people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s role is to draw people into a relationship with Jesus. This also means that the Holy Spirit won’t do anything that doesn’t support this objective.

With this in mind, while reading the gospels, it becomes clear that while Jesus is present, Jesus is the only One who is empowered to perform miracles. With Jesus present, the Holy Spirit moved exclusively through Him because that is who He wants us to pay attention to. The disciples never perform miracles while Jesus is present. However, part way through His ministry, Jesus sends pairs of followers out on a mission trip to nearby cities, and they return with stories of how they were able to cast demons out of people and heal others using Jesus’ name. These miracles were possible because the Holy Spirit came to them while Jesus was not present with them.

This means that when Jesus says, “it is better for you that I go away” because “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come”, Jesus is reminding these followers, and all of us followers living 2000 years ago that the Holy Spirit leads people to Jesus. If we want the Holy Spirit working within us and through us, we simply need to focus on Jesus, move towards Him, and help others do the same.

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 — Cheap, Hollow Worship: Mark 15:16-20


Read the Transcript

After Jesus had been tried by the religious leaders as guilty and by Pilate and Herod as somewhat guilty but guilty because it was easier than dealing with a riot, the soldiers lead Jesus away to crucify Him. However, before Jesus faces the cross, or even the long road to the hill where He will be crucified, there is one last stop to make, and this stop is not an easy one for Jesus, and it’s not a pleasant one for us to read either.

Our passage comes from Mark’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 16, Mark tells us that:

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

These five short verses contain one of the cruelest portions of the entire Bible, but pushing past the cruelty, we discover some amazing ideas – especially after what we have read leading up to this point.

First, Mark tells us that the soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus. Whether this was put on over the robe that Herod had put on Jesus, or whether this was a different robe entirely, we don’t know, but similar to Herod dressing Jesus up like a king, these soldiers do the same thing.

However, from Jesus’ conversation with Pilate, we discover that Jesus doesn’t see Himself as a king, even though He tells Pilate that He has a kingdom. While Jesus is headed towards the cross, He is fulfilling the mission He came into this world to accomplish, and while this mission ultimately ends with Him being crowned King in Heaven after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the premise that Jesus came to be a king on earth was a man-made twisting and misinterpreting of the Old Testament scriptures. Jesus came to lift God up and not to draw people to focus on Him, and in this mission, we discover another amazing idea tucked within this short, dark passage.

When the soldiers dress Jesus up as a king to mock Him, they do so using the man-made premise that Jesus came to be the king of the Jews and the passage tells us that they paid homage to Him. Other words we could use in the place of homage are respect, reverence, honor, and even worship. However, with whatever word we use to describe the soldiers attitude towards Jesus, the homage they paid Jesus was empty. Not only did the soldiers shallowly point the focus on Jesus, which is something Jesus never came to receive, they also give Him shallow, empty worship – which is fascinating, since Jesus, as a member of the Godhead, would be worthy of true, heartfelt worship.

While the soldiers are behind the abuse and the mocking of Jesus, I am sure that Satan was behind the empty worship, because Satan knows that Jesus deserved more. Satan knows that Jesus deserves true, heartfelt, genuine worship, and when given the opportunity, Satan is more than willing to cheapen the worship God receives in any way he can.

Not only did Satan cheapen the worship that the soldiers mockingly gave Jesus, he tries to do the same with each of us today. Satan first will try to get us to discount coming to God. If this doesn’t work, then he will try to crowd our lives with so much busyness that we don’t have any time to come to God. If this doesn’t work, he sends distractions our way to cheapen the time we spend with God. And if this doesn’t work, he will send people to ridicule and mock us for following God. When we come to worship God, the last thing Satan wants us to give to God is the one thing that God wants when we come to worship Him – and that one thing is our hearts.

Jesus came as God’s Messiah not just for the Jews, but for the entire human race. While the Jews were God’s people, God never intended for the Jews to arrogantly live out this calling. God chose a people to be a representative for Him for the world and to show the world what He is like. The Jews failed God in this regard, and I’m not so sure that many Christians today are doing any better.

There are plenty of Christians who get this right, but there are plenty of self-proclaimed “Christians” who don’t understand God’s mission for His people. God isn’t interested in seeing His people debate with each other over non-trivial issues. Instead, God wants a people who reflect His character to the world while obeying His commandments because they have been transformed through His love. God’s character is love, God’s commandments are built on the foundation of love, and the Holy Spirit is the only Source we have for truly living out God’s love in the world today.

While Jesus received empty homage from the soldiers leading up to the cross, when we come to Jesus to give him honor, respect, love, and worship, let’s genuinely and humbly give Him our lives, our minds, our attitude, and most importantly, our hearts!

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

Always seek God first in your life. When you come before God to worship Him, be humble, be present, and be willing to give Him the gift He wants the most. The gift God wants isn’t our money or our stuff; the gift God wants is our hearts. When we worship God, with every gift we bring, we should include our heart with it.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow a personal relationship with God. A personal relationship with God is the best way to know God’s will for your life, and a personal relationship with God is the best way to learn what He wants to teach you. While pastors, speakers, authors, or even podcasters can give you ideas to think about, only the Holy Spirit can direct you to what God wants to teach you personally through His Word.

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 even get distracted away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 42: During the last stop Jesus makes before heading down the road to Calvary, we discover an amazing, subtle theme within one of the cruelest passages in the entire Bible.

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

The First Commission: Matthew 10:16-42

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:16-42 (GNT)

16 “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. 17 Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. 18 For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. 19 When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. 20 For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “People will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22 Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25 So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

26 “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27 What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. 33 But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Read Matthew 10:16-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the middle of Jesus’ ministry, He tells the disciples to travel around the countryside telling people about Him. In Jesus’ instructions to them, we can find some incredible warnings and concepts that can help us as followers of Jesus.

For example, at the beginning of our passage, which is part way into Jesus’ send-off remarks, He tells His disciples, “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (v. 16-20)

What amazes me about Jesus’ words is that I would have expected them to have been given following the resurrection, and as part of the “Great Commission” that Jesus gave the disciples before He returned to heaven. Instead, these words are given relatively early in His ministry, right after He has selected the group of twelve disciples from a broader collection of followers.

This distinction makes me wonder if Jesus is speaking into the future here, or if some of these disciples were arrested and brought before the synagogues in the towns they visited, which gave them opportunities to speak for Jesus. As relatively new followers, it may have even been intimidating to talk about Jesus because some of them likely hadn’t spent much time with Him up to that point.

However, while we don’t know if the disciples received hostility on this short term mission trip early on in Jesus’ ministry, we do know from reading about the early church in the book of Acts that following Jesus’ return to heaven, Jesus’ followers did receive hostility from multiple directions.

But what is interesting is that Jesus tells us that hostility towards us is actually an opportunity. Jesus says that “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings…” (v. 18a)

What reason does Jesus give for us being brought to trial for Him?

Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering. He finishes the statement off with the reason: “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles.” (v. 18)

When this happens, Jesus tells us to be calm and not to worry about what to say. This is because if God brings us into a situation for His purposes, He will give us the words to say to bring Him glory.

This truth is the same for Jesus’ original twelve disciples as it is for us today. If we are brought before people because of our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will speak through us to point those present towards God. Trials and direct challenges to our faith are sometimes the best ways for God to connect people who have a testimony with those who have turned their back on Him.

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.