Incriminating Yourself: Luke 11:37-54

Focus Passage: Luke 11:37-54 (NIrV)

37 Jesus finished speaking. Then a Pharisee invited him to eat with him. So Jesus went in and took his place at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised. He noticed that Jesus did not wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord spoke to him. “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish,” he said. “But inside you are full of greed and evil. 40 You foolish people! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 Give freely to poor people to show what is inside you. Then everything will be clean for you.

42 “How terrible it will be for you Pharisees! You give God a tenth of your garden plants, such as mint and rue. But you have forgotten to be fair and to love God. You should have practiced the last things without failing to do the first.

43 “How terrible for you Pharisees! You love the most important seats in the synagogues. You love having people greet you with respect in the market.

44 “How terrible for you! You are like graves that are not marked. People walk over them without knowing it.”

45 An authority on the law spoke to Jesus. He said, “Teacher, when you say things like that, you say bad things about us too.”

46 Jesus replied, “How terrible for you authorities on the law! You put such heavy loads on people that they can hardly carry them. But you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “How terrible for you! You build tombs for the prophets. It was your people of long ago who killed them. 48 So you show that you agree with what your people did long ago. They killed the prophets, and now you build the prophets’ tombs. 49 So God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them. They will kill some. And they will try to hurt others.’ 50 So the people of today will be punished. They will pay for all the prophets’ blood spilled since the world began. 51 I mean from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. He was killed between the altar and the temple. Yes, I tell you, the people of today will be punished for all these things.

52 “How terrible for you authorities on the law! You have taken away the key to the door of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered. And you have stood in the way of those who were entering.”

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law strongly opposed him. They threw a lot of questions at him. 54 They set traps for him. They wanted to catch him in something he might say.

Read Luke 11:37-54 in context and/or in other translations on!

During one of the meals Jesus was invited to with some Pharisees, Luke tells us that the host is surprised (and maybe even a little offended) when Jesus doesn’t ceremonially wash before the meal. In response Jesus challenges several issues that God had with how the Pharisees were living their lives and acting towards others.

However, at this meal were more than just Pharisees. Luke describes another group who were offended with Jesus’ words. “An authority on the law spoke to Jesus. He said, ‘Teacher, when you say things like that, you say bad things about us too.’” (v. 45)

Whether the authority on the law (i.e. a lawyer) expected Jesus to shift His attention onto his group or not, it seems as though this statement extends the invitation to challenge this other group of people present at this meal.

However, while Jesus has a challenge for this group, it is interesting in my mind that simply by speaking up, we see a subtle thing happening in what Jesus was doing. In Jesus’ challenges to the Pharisees, He was convicting those present of the sin in their lives, and He was challenging them all to live to a much higher standard than they were living at that time.

While the challenging statements Jesus made may have sounded mean, they are meant to redirect those present towards God’s ideal rather than simply being insults that have no redeemable characteristics.

In Jesus’ challenge, He opened the door for the Holy Spirit to convict those present of the sin in their lives, and when the lawyer speaks up about how Jesus’ remarks also sound relevant to him, this shows that the Holy Spirit was convicting him of sins that he was holding onto in his heart.

After this meal, Luke tells us that the Pharisees and lawyers set out to trick, trap, and oppose Jesus. Maybe Jesus came on too strong with His words, or maybe the Holy Spirit’s conviction hardened the hearts of these leaders and closed their minds off to the truth about who Jesus came to be.

Reading this event helps remind me that when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we can either choose to reject what the Holy Spirit is showing us (which is what these religious leaders did), or we can choose to reject the sin by repenting and move closer to Jesus. Jesus had intended to help these leaders grow towards God’s ideal, but they instead decided to keep their sin and reject God’s Messiah.

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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Trusting a Promise: John 4:46-54

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Following Jesus’ trip through Samaria and His encounter and conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus heads to Galilee, and specifically to Cana. While there, Jesus has the opportunity to help someone else while also challenging that individual’s faith.

Let’s read about what happened. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 4, and we will read from the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 46, John tells us that:

46 Jesus went again to visit Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. One of the king’s important officers lived in the city of Capernaum, and his son was sick. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum and heal his son, because his son was almost dead. 48 Jesus said to him, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me.”

49 The officer said, “Sir, come before my child dies.”

50 Jesus answered, “Go. Your son will live.”

The man believed what Jesus told him and went home. 51 On the way the man’s servants came and met him and told him, “Your son is alive.”

52 The man asked, “What time did my son begin to get well?”

They answered, “Yesterday at one o’clock the fever left him.”

53 The father knew that one o’clock was the exact time that Jesus had said, “Your son will live.” So the man and all the people who lived in his house believed in Jesus.

54 That was the second miracle Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

While reading this event just now, I find it interesting what the man’s request is to Jesus, how Jesus responds, how the man replies to Jesus’ response, and what ultimately happens.

First, the man comes from the nearby town of Capernaum to ask Jesus to come and heal his son. This official wants Jesus to physically travel with Him to Capernaum so that Jesus can personally heal his son.

In response, Jesus makes an insensitive remark towards this official and to whatever stereotype we might want to group this official into. It is likely Jesus was speaking towards this entire generation, including everyone within earshot. It is also likely that Jesus was speaking to every single person in sinful humanity. The temptation for every single person at every point in history is that we must see a sign before we belief in Jesus.

However, like I probably would have done if I was in this official’s place, this official ignores Jesus’ insensitive response and asks for help a second time.

Jesus then tells the official that his son will live. The official’s big worry was that his son’s illness would end his son’s life, and Jesus reassures him that this illness will not end in his son’s death.

The official then leaves without Jesus, taking Jesus at His word, and ultimately discovers after meeting the messengers that were coming to find him, that at the exact point when Jesus told him that his son would live, his son’s fever left and that his son was recovering.

This event is amazing in my mind because of how everything takes place. While there likely were different ways Jesus could have said what He said about people needing to see in order to believe, and perhaps some of the other ways would have been more sensitive, I wonder if this was a challenge directly to this father who earnestly wanted help for his son. I suspect that this father only knew of miracles where Jesus had laid His hands on people to heal them, and if this is the case, I wonder if that was as far as this man’s faith in Jesus had grown.

However, Jesus pushes this man’s faith by pressing him to believe Jesus’ words without seeing them directly come to pass. With what happens, the man must believe Jesus and begin to head home before finding out whether Jesus’ promise would happen. In some ways, having faith stretched in this way is one of the most emotionally challenging things for us, because there is a period of unknown and a period of time when doubt like to crowd in.

From the point when this father leaves Jesus and up to learning the news about his son, I’m certain that Satan threw as much doubt his way to try to discourage him that his trip to Jesus was a failed trip where Jesus insulted him rather than helped him.

However, any doubts Satan threw this man’s way were lies and at the moment the servants met the man on his way home, all the doubts running through this man’s mind were exposed as lies in the face of the truth.

To contrast this miracle, we have a miracle in Matthew and Luke about a centurion who has almost the exact opposite conversation with Jesus. In that miracle, Jesus offers to come and lay His hands on the centurion’s servant to heal him, and the centurion pushes back saying that all he needs is Jesus’ word that his servant would be healed. These two miracles are the perfect opposites in many ways because each man requesting the miracle had Jesus respond in a way that he was not expecting.

This mirrors what we may face in our own lives.

When looking at Jesus’ miracles, sometimes Jesus personally goes to touch the person, while other times, Jesus says the word and we are called to have faith in Jesus’ promise. This is powerful for us to keep in mind, because when we pray and ask Jesus for help with something, sometimes we will directly see Jesus’ answer to our prayers, while other times the answer might be a long time in coming.

Know that just like the official in our passage had a period of time between leaving Jesus with a promise, and then receiving confirmation that his request had been answered, we also will have a period of time between our request and seeing confirmation of a response. We can claim Jesus’ promises in our own lives, but often there is a period of time after we have claimed God’s promise before we see confirmation of His response.

The challenges every one of us face when in this waiting period are to trust God during this period of unknown, to push back against the doubts Satan pushes at us, and to press forward knowing that God will reveal His answer to our prayer when the time is right for us. While all this takes trust, we can look to all of Jesus’ promises in the Bible and realize that no word from God will ever fail. If God has promised something, it will come to pass. We might not know when or how, but we can trust that God’s promises are solid and trustworthy because He has never failed those who place their trust in Him!

Just remember that when we trust God, we trust that He knows best and we understand that His perspective and goal for our lives are bigger than we can comprehend, and His desire for us extends beyond what we can even being to imagine.

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 trust His promises and His perspective over what Satan tries to doubt us into believing. Satan’s doubts are lies, and we can trust God because God’s promises will never fail us from eternity’s perspective. With God, we will outlast sin, Satan, and whatever challenge that is prompting us to doubt.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to keep your personal connection with God strong. While pastors or podcasters can give you ideas to think about, never let your relationship with God rest on someone else. Always take what you learn, see, or hear and test it personally against God’s Word. Discover in the Bible the truth about a God who gives everything to redeem humanity from sin and a God who wants you saved out of sin for eternity!

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 doubt yourself out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in John – Episode 9: When an official comes to Jesus with a request for help, discover how Jesus pushes this man’s faith while also not directly answering His request. Discover how this event teaches us about faith in God more than 2,000 years after it happened!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

God’s Choice: Luke 9:28-36

Focus Passage: Luke 9:28-36 (GW)

28 About eight days after he had said this, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a mountain to pray. 29 While Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, both Moses and Elijah were talking with him. 31 They appeared in heavenly glory and were discussing Jesus’ approaching death and what he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.

32 Peter and the men with him were sleeping soundly. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Teacher, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s put up three tents—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter didn’t know what he was saying.

34 While he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them. They were frightened as they went into the cloud. 35 A voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!”

36 After the voice had spoken, they saw that Jesus was alone. The disciples said nothing, and for some time they told no one about what they had seen.

Read Luke 9:28-36 in context and/or in other translations on!

Often, when I am reading a passage in the Bible about a specific event, and then compare it with other gospels that also include it, a word or phrase in one of the gospel accounts jumps out at me. With the transfiguration event on the mountain – something that three of the four gospels include – Luke’s gospel wins with a unique phrase that the other gospel’s don’t include.

In Luke’s gospel, we read that when God the Father comes in the cloud and speaks in verse 35, He says, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen . . .” Some other translations say instead “My chosen One”, while the other two gospels instead say “whom I love”.

Don’t miss this distinction, because it is powerful: God chose Jesus. God chooses people who He loves and He loves people who He chooses.

It is easy for us to picture God the Father having love for Jesus the Son, but too often we stop there and miss the other side of the coin: God chose Jesus. Perhaps we don’t like thinking about this idea from this angle, because it implies that God could have chosen to not choose Jesus, but even on this line of thinking, we see a powerful part of God’s character. God chooses people based on His view of history, not based on our view – and once He has chosen someone, He will not “unchoose” them.

This is easy to grasp when looking at God the Father, and at Jesus the Son, but what about you and me? Are we left to wonder where we stand in God’s eyes?

Nope. Jesus came to show us the Father, and He died to show us how much love the Father has for each of us. This demonstration of God’s love has other implications: God chooses people who He loves and He loves people who He chooses.

If Jesus came and died for you (which is 100% true), then equally true is the idea that God loves you – and if God loves you, then He has chosen you. This could be choosing you to be someone special/significant, to do something subtle/important for Him, or to be an example for others by leaning on Him for strength in your weakness.

God chose Jesus for a task that only He could do. God chooses you and I for tasks that He specifically created us to do.

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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Giving Anonymously: Matthew 6:1-4

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:1-4 (GW)

“Be careful not to do your good works in public in order to attract attention. If you do, your Father in heaven will not reward you. So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it with trumpet fanfare. This is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets in order to be praised by people. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.

Read Matthew 6:1-4 in context and/or in other translations on!

During Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He covers a number of broad topics. Matthew, one of Jesus’ followers and the author of one of the four gospels, dedicates a good portion of his gospel to sharing the details of this famous message. In this message, Jesus taught briefly on the subject of giving, and about the significance of giving anonymously.

One statement that strikes me as interesting is when Jesus says, “When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (v. 3)

While this statement is most likely figurative – representing the “body” of the church (also called the “body of Christ”), is there a practical reason for being anonymous other than simply to avoid receiving praise from others?

As I think about it, not only does anonymous giving help keep one clear of the appearance of hypocrisy and pride, it also keeps the giver in control regarding the giving. A gift that is received anonymously is harder to track and it can deter the one receiving the gift from becoming entitled. Perhaps if many people anonymously gave to the one individual over the course of time, they could become entitled, but they really wouldn’t know who or where to go to receive more help. Giving anonymously makes it harder for the one receiving the gift to become entitled and try to “milk” the generosity by asking for more.

But while this is very practical, Jesus is talking to those who are the givers in the crowd. He concludes by telling us to “Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” (v. 4)

When we give and help others privately, it changes us as individuals. Jesus (i.e. God) wants us to be givers by nature. He wants giving to be a central part of our character. If our good deeds always became public knowledge, and they were a part of our character, then we may become a target for those with an entitlement mentality.

Our good deeds should be common place in our lives, not one or two big fanfare-laced events for the crowds to look and speak in awe. Many of those who glorify their good acts are likely to have very few good acts, because if their acts become too regular, then they would lose their audience because it will have been expected. If you do something in secret, then there is no limit on what you can do (only your available resources would limit you then). You may even have more fun giving as well.

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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