Staying Righteous While He Is Silent: Luke 1:5-25

Focus Passage: Luke 1:5-25 (NIV)

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Read Luke 1:5-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, as Luke is setting the stage for what happened, he shares an interesting set of verses that we might miss if we are not paying close enough attention.

After setting the stage with a time period, and introducing Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, Luke briefly describes the couple, “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.” (v. 6-7)

In these two verses are some important pieces of information. While we might be quick to focus on Elizabeth’s inability to conceive and their elderly age, we should not skip over the earlier details that Luke shares. This couple was “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (v. 6)

For their entire lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth had faithfully followed God as best they could, but even with their righteousness and blamelessness, God never answered their prayers for a child. For decades of their lives, this couple must have prayed and wondered if God really cared about them personally. It would have seemed all that time that God was silent.

Too many of us try to barter with God. We might try to make a deal with Him that says we will be obedient to Him after He gives us something, or after He does something for us. While sometimes God accepts deals like this, there is no guarantee He will do so. If God waited patiently to answer the prayers of a righteous and blameless couple, who are we to think that He would answer our prayers when we are not even close to being righteous or blameless.

But the thing that stands out is Zechariah and Elizabeth’s character. While Zechariah displayed doubts when the angel appeared to Him, the many years of life and the majority of it facing God’s silence to his one big prayer had not turned Zechariah away from trusting God. Zechariah still obeyed even though it felt like God was ignoring his request.

However, God did answer Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer, but it was on His terms and in His timing. Nothing we can do or say can change God from answering our prayers in the best way possible for us. God waited because the time wasn’t right 20 years earlier, when Zechariah and his wife were younger, and perhaps when God is silent to our prayers, it is because the time isn’t right for us. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait 20 years for an answer, but whenever the answer does come, we can trust that the timing is better when it finally arrived than had it been when we first made the request.

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Flashback Episode — Letting Jesus Down: Luke 22:54-62


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In what was probably the longest night Peter experienced as a follower of Jesus, the night Jesus was arrested was likely also the most stress-filled. While Peter was one of Jesus’ closest followers, and one of the disciples that had been with Jesus the longest, the events of that night were almost overwhelming.

Earlier in the evening, at supper, Jesus had told Peter that before the night was out, he would deny Him three times. A rooster crowing would be the sign that the night had ended.

Then after they had walked to the garden, Jesus had asked Peter and the others to stay awake and pray, which they were too tired to do. Jesus even had told Peter that He was praying for him specifically, which may have given Peter some encouragement, but it may have also made Peter wonder.

However, when the mob arrived, Peter was ready to defend Jesus to the death – especially knowing Jesus could resurrect the dead – but his first act of defensive was a counter attack that Jesus reprimanded him for. Jesus even healed the man Peter had injured.

And then Jesus let Himself be arrested. The Messiah of the world had let Himself be taken by His enemies who wanted to end His life. But that wasn’t in the Messiah’s future. The Messiah was destined to live forever, and He couldn’t live forever if He died.

But Jesus had been talking to them about His death, not His eternal life. Many times up to this point, Jesus had shared with them about His upcoming death. Would Jesus allow Himself to be killed?

The whole evening and night had been a roller-coaster of highs and lows, and Peter was left with lots to think about.

These details set the stage for what happens in the passage we are focusing in on for this episode. We will be reading from the gospel of Luke, chapter 22, using the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 54, we read:

54 Having arrested Him [this is Jesus], they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. 55 After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.

A quick side-note here would be that Peter was likely thinking about all the things we had just discussed, while also wanting to be close enough to learn firsthand what Jesus’ fate would be. He wanted to be near Jesus if Jesus chose to escape, but not so near that he would be targeted and killed with Him.

Picking back up reading in verse 56:

56 And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” 58 A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

In this passage, whether Peter was taken off guard, or whether he was lost in thought and didn’t realize his words in the context of Jesus’ prediction, three separate times, Peter denied Jesus. Perhaps these were unintentional times, or maybe each denial was Peter telling himself something like, “Well, I’ll deny Jesus this time, but certainly not three times.”

However, not only did Jesus’ prediction come true, Luke tells us that through some set of circumstances, at the time the roster crowd, there was a break in the crowd that allowed Jesus and Peter to make eye contact. It was in this moment that Jesus’ prediction returned to Peter’s memory, and the realization that he had let Jesus down broke Peter’s heart.

Perhaps this is because Peter had talked up a good talk, and had denied the possibility of even coming close to denying Jesus when Jesus had made the prediction immediately, but whatever the case, Peter realized that Jesus knew him even better then he knew himself.

It is the same with us today.

While we know ourselves pretty well, it is pretty amazing to think that God knows us even better. What is even more amazing is that knowing who we are and what we would do, God still was willing to bring us into the world. Regardless of the mistakes we would make, and/or the times we would reject God, He is still willing to give us life and the chance to choose Him.

And probably the most amazing reality in all of this is that knowing everything we would do and all the ways we would make mistakes, Jesus still came and died for us. Jesus died for you and me, and this is because He loves us, and wants us to have the opportunity to choose eternal life with Him.

With all this in mind, here are the challenges I want to leave you with at the end of this podcast episode:

Wherever you are in life at this point, if you haven’t chosen to place your trust, faith, hope, and belief in Jesus, choose to do so now. Regardless of where you are in your life right now, or what you have done in the past, choosing Jesus is the only way to secure your future.

Also, intentionally study the Bible for yourself to learn firsthand what Jesus is like. While we can take another person’s word for it, nothing can replace a personal relationship with God.

And as I always finish every episode by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 2 – Episode 46: Cam discusses Peter’s denial in the courtyard on the night Jesus was arrested. Is there something we can learn about God in this event? If we are looking at this event, you can be sure that there is.

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

The God of Love: Matthew 4:23-25

Focus Passage: Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV)

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Read Matthew 4:23-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew’s gospel, Matthew shares with us a broad overview of what Jesus did. While Jesus would ultimately face death on the cross, there was much more to His ministry than simply slowly traveling towards the cross. In Jesus’ mind, there was likely a sense of urgency that there was too much to do and too little time to do it in.

In this broad overview passage we are focusing on, we see a simple three part plan for Jesus’ ministry. “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (v. 23)

Jesus taught in the local synagogues in the places He went. This would be like saying He was a traveling preacher or evangelist. But Jesus’ message was not to be only confined to a one day a weekend activity, because He also preached and taught in all the other places He went during the week as well.

Jesus shared with everyone He met about the good news about God’s kingdom. He wanted people to know that God loves each of us personally, and that we are all valuable to Him.

And most notably, Jesus healed every disease and sickness among the people.

This three part ministry, with the healing people being one of the foundations, had some side effects. The passage continues by saying, “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” (v. 24)

The miracles and healing attracted people who were hurting to Jesus. They came to be healed, they stayed to be loved on; Jesus first healed their physical bodies, then He healed their minds by sharing and showing people what God was really like.

Most people in that culture had a twisted idea of what God was like. Whether it was from the Roman and Greek influence with dozens of gods that controlled different aspects of life and death, or whether it was from the demanding legalistic Pharisees and Sadducees who were suppose to be representing the Jewish God, the one thing that nobody demonstrated was a God filled with love for His people.

Jesus came to change the stereotypes. He first loved by healing people, then He loved by teaching them about what God was really like. Jesus is our best example of who God is, and how He ministered to people is a model for us today: Love people and help them first, then teach them afterwards what God is really like.

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!

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Arresting God: John 18:3-11


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On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, at the point where the mob is confronting Jesus, we discover an amazing detail tucked within John’s gospel that shows us Jesus really does choose to face the cross. While skeptics might argue that the verse John includes is irrelevant, for those of us who like to see the nuances each gospel writer includes, this verse is fascinating.

Let’s read this event now and discover what John includes in this event that is significant for us to pay attention to. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 18, and we will be reading it from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 3, John tells us that:

The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?”

And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.”

“I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”

10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”

We’ll stop reading here. While John’s gospel gives the individual Peter attacked a name, Luke’s gospel describes how Jesus restored the slave’s ear on the spot. While this miracle and healing should have been enough to challenge the soldiers coming to arrest Jesus on their motives, while reading this passage just now, a different verse jumped out at me than the one I had originally planned to focus on.

The verse that stood out to me while we were reading the passage was the first verse. The opening verse tells us that, “the leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards…

This detail stands out in my mind because this means that Jesus’ arrest was at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles. The temple guards would have been Jewish for them to guard the innermost parts of the temple effectively, which was places where gentiles were not allowed to go, and Roman soldiers were not Jewish, making them gentile by definition. When we look at the details of the crucifixion, Jesus died at the hand of humanity, and not at the hand of one group of people.

While it might be easy to blame the Jews for their rejection of the God’s Messiah, that is only half of the details. Rome was active and present during Jesus’ arrest, Rome was present when the Jewish leaders had finished with their condemnation because Rome stood as a gatekeeper for the death penalty, and Roman soldiers were active in the crucifixion.

Not only were the Jews and Romans to blame, but Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was also present for Jesus’ arrest. The arrest could not have happened if it wasn’t for Judas’ betrayal, which brings a third group of people that could be blamed as well – specifically Jesus’ own disciples.

While you and I did not bring soldiers to arrest Jesus, our actions and our choices can be described by the actions or lack of actions we see among the disciples present. We could actively betray Jesus through how we act, we could lash out emotionally and/or violently against those who appear to be against us, we could be fearful and hide in the shadows, or we could run away and not stand by Jesus.

The death of Jesus was because of a disciple’s betrayal mixed with the hate and violence of sinful humanity. However, even though Jesus was crucified at the hands of Christians, Jews, and gentiles, Jesus chose to die.

Verses 4-6 describe Jesus fully having the power to avoid arrest. John tells us that:

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground!

This detail is something that we shouldn’t let slip by us unnoticed. When Jesus said, “I am He”, the logical response would have been to rush Him and overpower Him, but the opposite happened.

When Jesus spoke the word’s “I am He”, I wonder if a sliver of His divinity slipped out, whether it was through His appearance or simply His voice, and it knocked the soldiers back and to the ground. “I am” is one of the names given to God, and, at least in our English translations, this wordplay is clearly visible.

If three simple words could knock an angry mob of soldiers down, no one present could have even touched Jesus if He had not let them.

After Jesus had the mob’s attention, He restates the question, and then follows up with the request or command to let the disciples go. I’m not sure if the soldiers were already circling the whole group of disciples to arrest them all, or if that was on their minds, but Jesus simply short-circuits the idea of a group arrest with this direction.

Even after Peter gets violent in His defense of Jesus, we see Jesus responding in a calm way, and indicating that this entire event is a part of God’s plan. Our passage finishes of with Jesus’ rhetorical question in verse 11: “Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?

Everything in this passage draws our attention onto two huge truths. The first is that Jesus died at the hands of everyone in humanity. He was betrayed by one of His followers, and He was arrested, tried, and crucified by both Jews and gentiles working together.

The second big truth is that Jesus chose to die. While He could have avoided the cross, avoiding pain, suffering, and death was not a part of the Godhead’s plan. Jesus revealed just enough of His divinity that should have woken up everyone present to His divine nature and that they were arresting God, but they were already too set on arresting Jesus.

Jesus used this opportunity for one purpose: to follow through with the one death that leads to life. Jesus chose the cross and to die a sinner’s death so that we can accept the gift of His life and not die the death we deserve. While sinners killed Jesus, Jesus chose to die for those who God desires to save!

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

Remember and accept the gift that Jesus gave to each of us through His death. Realize that all of us are partially responsible for His crucifixion. If it weren’t for His desire to rescue us from sin, Jesus wouldn’t have faced the cross!

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself, and intentionally grow your relationship with God. Choose to take time each and every day to walk with, remember, and thank Jesus for what He has done for all of us! Without Jesus, our lives would be hopeless.

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

Year 4 – Episode 45: Included in the gospel of John, we find a powerful verse that describes Jesus having the power to avoid His arrest. Discover what that means for each of us, and who is truly responsible for the crucifixion that weekend.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.