The Rich, Secret Disciple: Luke 23:50-56

Focus Passage: Luke 23:50-56 (CEV)

50-51 There was a man named Joseph, who was from Arimathea in Judea. Joseph was a good and honest man, and he was eager for God’s kingdom to come. He was also a member of the council, but he did not agree with what they had decided.

52 Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 He took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in fine cloth. Then he put it in a tomb that had been cut out of solid rock and had never been used. 54 It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. 56 Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial. But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands.

Read Luke 23:50-56 in context and/or in other translations on!

When we read the gospels, we may get the impression that every one of the religious leaders were completely opposed to Jesus. We see a picture of a corrupt religious system, and we may begin to believe that everyone within this system was as corrupt as it was.

However, several of the gospel writers draw our attention onto someone who doesn’t fit our stereotype during the final hours of the day Jesus died. Luke describes Joseph of Arimathea as “a good and honest man, and he was eager for God’s kingdom to come. He was also a member of the council, but he did not agree with what they had decided.” (v. 50-51)

When we read about the Jewish leader’s decisions against Jesus, we may think these were all unanimous decisions, but according to Luke, Joseph was at least one person who stood apart from the stereotype of Jesus-hate.

Mark describes Joseph in a similar way by saying he “was a highly respected member of the Jewish council, and he was also waiting for God’s kingdom to come” and he “was brave enough to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus.” (Mark 15:43)

Matthew describes Joseph as “a rich disciple” who asked for Jesus’ body. (Matthew 27:57-58)

John describes Joseph simply one of Jesus’ secret disciples. (John 19:38)

While Joseph was hesitant about going public with his belief in Jesus during Jesus’ ministry, following Jesus’ death, he gained the courage to come forward with a significant gift. Joseph gave Jesus his tomb.

It is uncertain if Joseph knew about Jesus’ prediction about rising on the third day, but even if the tomb was only a temporary resting place for Jesus, this makes Joseph’s gift no less significant.

Joseph’s position and secret belief in Jesus is an example of God setting the stage perfectly for what He wanted to do. Crucifixion victims were not cared for following their deaths, and none were given any respect. Some were cremated, others buried in shallow graves. Some were tossed into mass graves, while others were simply thrown to the dogs to eat.

None of these typical responses was part of God’s plan, so I believe this is why He placed a rich, secret disciple on the council. Joseph’s rank within the corrupt religious system is a testament to God’s power and ability to place us in exactly the right position. Joseph was high enough that he could speak directly to Pilate, and he was wealthy enough to have purchased a tomb for when he ultimately would die. Joseph was also genuinely interested in God’s kingdom coming, and he lived his life in a good, honest, and genuine way.

Reading about Joseph’s position and perspective teaches me that regardless of where I am placed by God, He has a plan for where I am currently. I might not always understand why I am where I am, but it is always with a purpose. I may need to grow personally. There may be someone who I need to help. Regardless of His reasons, God is busy working behind the scenes, placing us in the places and roles He created for us so that His Kingdom will grow, and lives will be saved.

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A Greater Miracle than Healing: Mark 2:1-12

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Continuing moving forward in Mark’s gospel, we come to a miracle Mark includes that probably was the only one like it ever in Jesus’ ministry. One thing I find fascinating about this event is that it didn’t appear as though Jesus was actively healing people, and it is interesting who happens to be inside the home near Jesus when this event takes place.

Let’s continue reading and discover what happened. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read it from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us that:

Jesus went back to Capernaum, and a few days later people heard that he was at home. Then so many of them came to the house that there wasn’t even standing room left in front of the door.

Jesus was still teaching when four people came up, carrying a crippled man on a mat. But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they made a hole in the roof above him and let the man down in front of everyone.

When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some of the teachers of the Law of Moses were sitting there. They started wondering, “Why would he say such a thing? He must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

Right away, Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking such things? Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and pick up his mat and go on home? 10 I will show you that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” So Jesus said to the man, 11 “Get up! Pick up your mat and go on home.”

12 The man got right up. He picked up his mat and went out while everyone watched in amazement. They praised God and said, “We have never seen anything like this!”

In this passage and event, we find something amazing. While those present watch in amazement as the crippled man gets up and walks out of the house, this detail did not stand out to me when reading this event this time. While this healing was amazing, a different detail in this passage stands out as being very significant.

Also significant in this passage is the faith and determination of this man’s friends. When the friends cannot get the man into the home using normal methods, they resort to something very abnormal, which ultimately was successful. But while this was amazing, it did not stand out to me when reading the passage this time.

In this passage, another detail I notice is that the crowd would not let the man’s friends carry him to Jesus. This is interesting, since the crowd would have probably liked to see Jesus perform a miracle, but they were too preoccupied with what Jesus was saying to realize the opportunity they were turning away. While this is also significant, this isn’t the big detail that stood out to me while reading this passage.

Instead, when reading this passage, I was amazed that those in the home next to Jesus were the religious leaders and teachers of the Law. While these religious teachers criticize Jesus claiming to have the power to forgive sins, the only reason they could have done this is if they were present, within earshot, and within conversational distance from Jesus. This means that some of the first people to come see Jesus when He had returned to Capernaum were the religious leaders living in this city.

While we stereotypically think the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus from the very beginning of His ministry, I think this stereotype is not entirely true. While some of the religious leaders simply disliked Jesus for His popularity because it stole from their own popularity, I believe that early on in Jesus’ ministry, everyone from the most religious and spiritual to the least religious and spiritual person took note of Jesus. With the Holy Spirit filling Jesus’ life, which happened at Jesus’ baptism, Jesus showed God’s love in powerful, miraculous ways.

Stepping back to one of the earlier details we skipped over, while the crowd did not let the crippled man’s friends enter the home with him, this was likely a God directed obstacle because it demonstrated to everyone present that these friends had so much faith in Jesus that they would stop at nothing to get their friend to Him.

I imagine the man’s friends stayed behind to fix the hole they made, but even if they didn’t, a hole in a home is less significant in God’s eyes than a healed person giving God thanks, praise, and glory, and a hole in a home is less significant than a person being forgiven of their sins.

In this event, I am amazed at the faith of the man’s friends. However, nowhere do we see any indication of the crippled man’s faith. Instead, all we see is Jesus proclaiming that the crippled man’s sins are forgiven. While Jesus might have said this because it tied into what He was already speaking about, or because He knew that it would get the religious leaders’ attention, I wonder if Jesus actually said this to the crippled man because that is what this man needed to hear.

Nothing in this event indicates the crippled man had faith in Jesus. Instead, I wonder if the crippled man believed God’s punishment was on him and that his disability was a punishment from God because of something that he had done, because of a sin he had committed, or because of something that had happened. While being healed is nice, I wonder if the real miracle in this event was the proof that this man’s sins were forgiven, and the healing solidified this truth in this man’s mind.

In this healing, Jesus not only healed this man’s disability, He also gave peace to this man’s soul that God was not angry with him, God was not mad at him, and God was not judging him. While sometimes we have to face the consequences of our own actions and our own sins, God is not mad at us or eagerly waiting to judge and condemn us. Instead, God loves us so much that He let Jesus come and take the punishment we deserved for our sins so that we can have a restored relationship with Him!

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 understand that when we come to God asking for forgiveness, God has already forgiven us. While we might have to live with the natural consequences of our actions, God isn’t interested in punishing us more than our actions require. Instead, God is more interested in saving us for eternity, and bringing us home to a recreated world without sin, pain, or death.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Don’t take my word or any pastor, speaker, author, or podcaster’s word for what the Bible teaches. Instead, study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God and to discover God’s truth for yourself.

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

Year in Mark – Episode 4: When a crippled man is brought to Jesus, discover some amazing truths about this miracle that we might easily overlook or miss if we aren’t paying attention.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Receiving the Holy Spirit: John 20:19-23

Focus Passage: John 20:19-23 (GNT)

 19 It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them.
         Peace be with you, he said. 20 After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again,
         Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you. 22 Then he breathed on them and said,
         Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

Read John 20:19-23 in context and/or in other translations on!

In today’s journal entry, we will be looking at one of the last passages in the gospels, and uncovering an idea that I have not heard discussed before. In this passage, we read the following words, “Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (verse 22).

Jesus “breathed on them”. This is one idea that we don’t find included in too many sermons. We like to focus on Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), and we like to focus on the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples (Acts 2:1-13), but we often gloss over or ignore this key idea between the promise and the fulfillment of the promise.

In Jesus’ breath, I believe He is singling out the disciples for receiving the Holy Spirit. We may think of this as God placing His mark on each of them, and preparing them for when they receive the gift.

Also, Jesus says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is both a promise and a command. It is a promise because the Holy Spirit is coming to them, and it is also a command for them to receive the Holy Spirit when He comes.

This brings a number of other thoughts into my mind:

  • If we consciously receive the Spirit, we can consciously reject the Spirit.
  • Also, we must be ready to receive the Spirit for Him to come. In this promise, we have the command to “be ready”. This means that we may miss the Spirit if we are not ready to receive Him.
  • The Spirit was promised to ALL the disciples, and not just a select few. Was this only something for the eleven remaining disciples? No, because the Holy Spirit came to Paul, the apostle, who was not in the room and didn’t have Jesus’ breath on Him.

Paul is the clearest example that we, as followers of Jesus today, can also receive the Holy Spirit. However, we must remember Jesus’ words in this focus text: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Be conscious, be willing, and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Be in places that the Holy Spirit is more likely to be, and be available to be used by God to bring about His purposes and plan in the situation you are in.

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

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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Sleeping on the Job: Matthew 26:36-46

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:36-46 (GNT)

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Grief and anguish came over him, 38 and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went a little farther on, threw himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

40 Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Once more Jesus went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 He returned once more and found the disciples asleep; they could not keep their eyes open.

44 Again Jesus left them, went away, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. 46 Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

Read Matthew 26:36-46 in context and/or in other translations on!

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, while He was praying in the garden, Jesus’ disciples slept. While we don’t know if every single one of the eleven disciples slept when Jesus had asked them to stay awake, we do know that Jesus repeatedly returned to the disciples and found them sleeping.

It is interesting to me that Jesus specifically asks Peter a question that He answers for Peter. On waking the disciples up, Jesus says, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (v. 40b-41)

Jesus draws our attention onto a key challenge that many of us face. All too often, our spirit is willing, but our bodies are weak. There are plenty of things we can do, and things that we know we should do, but when it comes down to actually doing them, we don’t follow through. In the moment, our body’s weakness takes power over our spirit’s will.

Part of me wonders if Satan helped encourage the drowsiness of these disciples to keep them from keeping watch. I wonder what would have happened if one or more of them had stayed awake and had seen the mob approaching from a distance. Would they have been more prepared to face what was coming?

Matthew tells us that the disciples slept up to the point when the mob arrived. This last time Jesus returned to the disciples after praying, He said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!” (v. 45-46)

In His final words to the disciples, Jesus makes an interesting remark. Jesus stated that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners.” (v. 45b)

This phrase stands out to me because it demonstrates Jesus’ character and God’s humility. Jesus was willing to submit to be under the power of sinners. In a way, this echoes Jesus’ baptism at the opening of His ministry, where He submitted to John the Baptist (who was a sinner like we all are) to be placed under the water. These two events signify Jesus’ willingness to submit to those who believed He was God (John the Baptist), and those who believed He was their enemy (the Mob and religious leaders).

Jesus was willing to submit to all sinners as a way of showing us God’s love for each of us. We may end up sleeping on the job, but Jesus still loves us in spite of these mistakes. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. We stumble, fall, and mess up what we know we should do, but no mistake we can make has the power to stop Jesus from submitting to the cross to take the death we deserved!

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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