Flashback Episode — Reasons to Believe: John 10:22-42

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When reading the gospels, it is easy to see that looking back on the events in Jesus’ life, He fulfilled all of prophecy’s requirements for the Messiah God would send. However, during Jesus’ life, only those who were truly paying attention to what was happening saw the parallels. In many cases, the Pharisees and other religious leaders saw many of the things Jesus did as trying to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, but they had already written Jesus off because He didn’t fit every characteristic of the Messiah that they had pieced together.

In our passage for this episode, which happens part way through Jesus’ ministry, enough time has passed for the people living in that part of the first century to know Jesus was special, and that He was sent from God. What they didn’t understand was whether He was truly the Messiah God had promised.

So in our passage, the crowd asks Jesus directly. Let’s read what happens and how Jesus responds. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 10, and we will be reading out of the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 22, John tells us that:

22 It was winter, and the Festival of the Dedication of the Temple was being celebrated in Jerusalem. 23 Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Porch in the Temple, 24 when the people gathered around him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us the plain truth: are you the Messiah?”

25 Jesus answered, “I have already told you, but you would not believe me. The deeds I do by my Father’s authority speak on my behalf; 26 but you will not believe, for you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than everything, and no one can snatch them away from the Father’s care.

If Jesus had stopped talking at this point, the crowd would have simply been offended that Jesus had just told them they were not part of God’s “family-gift” to Jesus. Jesus’ words up to this point are challenging, because they basically tell those present that their unbelief has already excluded them, and if they had been paying attention, they would already know the answer to their question. In some ways, this echoes the religious leaders demand for a sign – even though no sign could be powerful enough to convince their stubborn hearts.

But Jesus continues, because He wants to push this crowd deeper, and He wants to challenge their thinking. Picking back up in verse 30, Jesus continues by saying,

30 The Father and I are one.”

31 Then the people again picked up stones to throw at him. 32 Jesus said to them, “I have done many good deeds in your presence which the Father gave me to do; for which one of these do you want to stone me?”

33 They answered, “We do not want to stone you because of any good deeds, but because of your blasphemy! You are only a man, but you are trying to make yourself God!”

34 Jesus answered, “It is written in your own Law that God said, ‘You are gods.’ 35 We know that what the scripture says is true forever; and God called those people gods, the people to whom his message was given. 36 As for me, the Father chose me and sent me into the world. How, then, can you say that I blaspheme because I said that I am the Son of God? 37 Do not believe me, then, if I am not doing the things my Father wants me to do. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, you should at least believe my deeds, in order that you may know once and for all that the Father is in me and that I am in the Father.”

39 Once more they tried to seize Jesus, but he slipped out of their hands.

40 Jesus then went back again across the Jordan River to the place where John had been baptizing, and he stayed there. 41 Many people came to him. “John performed no miracles,” they said, “but everything he said about this man was true.” 42 And many people there believed in him.

The way John the apostle concludes this passage is powerful. In some ways, it echoes the conclusion of several previous events in his gospel. This conclusion draws our attention to the comparison between John the Baptist, who the people believed God had sent to point them to the Messiah, and Jesus Himself. When comparing Jesus and John the Baptist, the crowd observed that John the Baptist performed no miracles, but everything he had described to them about the coming Messiah directly described Jesus. It is for this reason John the gospel writer tells us that many more people believed in Jesus.

However, it is interesting to note Jesus’ closing argument as well, because it is powerful and it reveals some important pieces of human nature. Up to this point, the people wanted to grab Jesus and stone Him to death for claiming to be God, and blasphemy of this sort was punishable by death. But Jesus first diffuses their argument by pointing out that the writings of the Old Testament describes a certain group of individuals as gods (and this is gods with a lower case “g”).

Jesus then quickly backs up this statement with something they all can agree on, and that is what the scripture says is true forever. Jesus then qualifies this argument by describing how the people who received God with a capital “G”, are called gods with a lower case “g”.

Next, Jesus then draws the focus back onto His claim, and specifically the portion of it that simply said that God (capital “G”) had chosen Him and sent Him into the world. Jesus then finishes the counter-argument by stating that it is not blasphemy to claim something that has already been defined in the Old Testament scriptures.

But Jesus then goes on to give these people an escape clause, or an out. If those present believe that Jesus has drifted or gone against what God, with a capital “G”, would have Him do, then they should discount these claims and simply believe in Him based on the miracles and good things He has done.

Earlier in this passage, the people had already validated their idea that Jesus’ deeds were good. It was not for any “thing” Jesus had done that they wanted to stone Him for, but simply for the words that He spoke. Here at the end of Jesus’ challenge to them, Jesus tells them that if they still don’t believe in His claims, that they should at least believe in the truth that He was sent by God the Father because of the miracles they had witnessed. Only then would they begin to realize the truth about Him, specifically that there was an undeniable connection between Jesus and God the Father.

But the people were not ready to make that leap of faith towards Jesus, and they tried to grab Jesus to stone Him, but they were unable to. After making His statement and challenge, Jesus left there and went to another place. Jesus wanted to give these people time to think about what He had said.

What Jesus describes in this passage is powerful for all of us. In essence, Jesus says that a person’s reason for believing in Him doesn’t matter. What matters is simply that someone believes in Him. People could believe in Jesus based on His teaching; or based on what John described Jesus to be; or because Jesus was a miracle worker; or because they believed the symbol of the lamb that had been sacrificed pointed forward to Someone taking their place.

For all those living prior to Jesus’ ministry, they only had the symbol of the Lamb, but after Jesus, we now have numerous other reasons to believe. According to what Jesus tells this crowd, it doesn’t matter which reason (or reasons) we choose to believe. What matters is that we put our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him.

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

Continue to seek God first and pick a reason, really any reason, to put your faith in Jesus. Instead of taking the skeptic’s route and looking for ways we should not believe, take the friend’s route and look for ways and things that we can believe in about Jesus. When we look for belief-worthy aspects of Jesus and His character, we are able to find plenty of validation.

Also, continue studying the Bible for yourself to learn just who Jesus was, and who He is. Jesus is living forever in Heaven, and aside from His body undergoing a restoration at His resurrection, Jesus’ love, character, mission, and heart have not changed from when He was walking around with the disciples in the first century. The description of Jesus in the gospels, and what the early church modeled are the two best examples we have to learn who Jesus is and what He is like.

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

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 29: Cam discusses an event where those in the crowd want to stone Jesus because of what He was preaching, and what we can learn about Him from His message to this group of people.

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

Locking Out Evil Spirits: Matthew 12:38-45

Focus Passage: Matthew 12:38-45 (GW)

38 Then some experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign.”

39 He responded, “The people of an evil and unfaithful era look for a miraculous sign. But the only sign they will get is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 Just as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with you at the time of judgment and will condemn you, because they turned to God and changed the way they thought and acted when Jonah spoke his message. But look, someone greater than Jonah is here! 42 The queen from the south will stand up at the time of judgment with you. She will condemn you, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom. But look, someone greater than Solomon is here!

43 “When an evil spirit comes out of a person, it goes through dry places looking for a place to rest. But it doesn’t find any. 44 Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to the home I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself. They enter and take up permanent residence there. In the end the condition of that person is worse than it was before. That is what will happen to the evil people of this day.”

Read Matthew 12:38-45 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Perhaps one of the most troubling spiritual pictures Jesus ever gives comes following His response to some religious leaders and Pharisees who request to see a miraculous sign. After responding directly to them, Matthew tells us that Jesus follows up by giving us a picture into the spiritual realm – and this picture is challenging but also powerful when we look at its implications.

Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus describes the following scenario: “When an evil spirit comes out of a person, it goes through dry places looking for a place to rest. But it doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to the home I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself. They enter and take up permanent residence there. In the end the condition of that person is worse than it was before. That is what will happen to the evil people of this day.” (v. 43-45)

The first thing we should note is that this is a description of what will happen to evil people. God’s people appear to be excluded from this. While this is great news for those who have placed their faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus, the question lingering in the back of my mind when I read this is what makes these “orderly” evil people different from those who are simple-living Godly people? What is the difference between the evil people this illustration describes and God’s people who have been freed from evil spirits?

One word in the description I believe holds the key. When the evil spirit returns, Matthew draws our attention onto Jesus’ description of the person as a house that is “unoccupied, swept clean, and in order.” (v. 44b)

The key word in this description is “unoccupied”. By using this word, Jesus describes a segment of evil people who have focused on cleaning up their lives. These evil people have done a masterful job of emptying their lives of all the negatives and all the bad in them, but by doing so, they leave themselves “empty” or “unoccupied”. This description is of a group of people who have placed a significant amount of time focusing on what to get rid of from their lives, and very little time focusing on what to bring in – in the spiritual sense.

When an evil spirit returns to an evil person who has cleaned up his/her life, the big indicator whether they will be able to capture the person again is whether their lives are “unoccupied”. By only focusing on cleaning the bad from one’s life, an individual only does half of what is necessary to stay clean.

The subtle key and insight I see in this passage separating the evil people Jesus is describing and the righteous people who are excluded from this picture is that those who are righteous will not have empty lives/hearts. This tells me that in order to finish the process of life change and “life cleanup”, I must intentionally choose what to place into my life and heart that will take residence there – making my life look occupied and not empty. The only truly evil spirit-proof One to invite is God – specifically God’s Holy Spirit. With Him in my life and heart, Satan doesn’t have the chance of regaining a foothold in my life.

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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Facing Hate: John 15:18-16:4

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As we keep moving through Jesus’ last big message to His disciples on the night He was arrested, we come to an interesting idea that many Christians today either miss or choose to ignore. This idea is one that is both counter-cultural, as well as one that pushes against our human nature, even if we can see on the surface that it is logical.

Let’s dive in and discover what Jesus told His followers after describing and reemphasizing His command to love one another. Our passage for this episode is found in John’s gospel, chapter 15, and we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Jumping into Jesus’ teaching in verse 18, He tells the disciples:

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

Let’s pause briefly here to draw our attention onto a big counter-intuitive idea that we might be tempted to believe. This idea is simply that a side effect of following Jesus and loving others is that other people will love us in return. Jesus never hints at the idea that His followers would be loved or even liked by the world. Jesus tells His followers very clearly that the world would hate His people, but that shouldn’t bother or surprise us because the world hated Jesus first.

Jesus faced the worst death imaginable during that era of history, and He tells us that because He was persecuted, we should expect nothing less than persecution as well.

Why does the world hate Jesus and His followers?

Some people have claimed that the Bible is filled with hate and because of this, all those who follow the Bible are filled with hate, but this in itself doesn’t translate into a reason to hate the Bible, or those who follow it, as a response.

There are plenty of reasons that someone could hate Jesus, the Bible, or His followers. However, the last phrase we read before pausing is fascinating to me. Verse 25 tells us that those who hated Jesus fulfilled the prediction in a very specific way. This verse says that “They hated Me without a cause.

This verse and phrase gives us two frames of reference for the hate the world will throw our way.

The first is that they hate us because they don’t understand us, nor do they want to understand us. They may have heard or seen someone claiming to be a follower of Jesus who acts in a hateful way, and then conclude that every follower of Jesus is like this. In a similar way, they could have read a verse or story from the Bible that depicts God or His people as unloving and conclude from this that God is hateful and not worthy of love. In this frame of reference, there might be a reason for someone to hate Jesus, or some of His followers, but this hate is based on faulty assumptions. It might feel like hate in this way is justified through logic, but it is not. Hating someone based on what someone else has done is illogical at best.

The other frame of reference is that it is simply easier to follow the crowd and if someone is vocal about their hate for the Christian faith, then it is easy for someone without knowledge or an opinion of it to silently side with the vocal opinion. People who hate Christianity because the culture has placed a target on Christians are guilty of hating Jesus without cause. Open the pages of the Bible and search for a reason to hate Jesus. It is better to hate Jesus with a reason than to simply drift with culture. Drifting is easy, but it will never lead you to anywhere positive.

However, Jesus isn’t finished sharing with the disciples. He wants to emphasize and remind His followers that even if they will be abused and hated like He was, they will never be alone. Picking back up in verse 26, Jesus reminds His followers of the promise He shared earlier. Jesus tells them:

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

16:1 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Let’s stop reading here. Jesus tells us that His followers will be hated and killed, and He tells us that when this happens, those filled with hate who are doing the abuse will believe they are serving God. They do these things thinking they know God, but the reality is that they do not know God or Jesus. We can see hinted in these verses a warning against anything that tries to come between us and God.

If we let any person, idea, tradition, or logical idea filter our picture or opinion of God and the truth He reveals in the Bible, we are warned in these verses that we might ultimately become the guilty party thinking we offer a service to God when we don’t really know Him. Those who don’t know Jesus and who have not placed their belief in Him are susceptible of believing anything and everything, regardless of whether it is valid.

The solution to this dilemma is one reason why I challenge you every episode to pray and study the Bible for yourself. Through prayer and Bible study, God will lead us personally through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and He will teach us what He wants us to learn. Learning directly from the Bible is the safest way to know God and to be lead by Him!

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

As always, be sure to seek God first and place Him first in your life. Be sure to place God ahead of the ideas and traditions in the culture you live in, and be sure to stay focused on His command to love others. Don’t worry if people hate you. Don’t be surprised when it happens. Jesus warned us that we will be hated because He was hated, but we can look past the hate and abuse to a world where sin has been destroyed and is gone forever.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow that personal relationship with God. While a pastor, speaker, author, or podcaster can give you ideas to think about, filter everything through the simple reading of God’s Word, the Bible, and don’t use other people’s ideas to cloud your picture of what the Bible teaches. As a side-note: I designed Reflective Bible Study as a way to study with as little bias as possible, because this is how I wanted to study personally!

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 29: Jesus warns His followers that the world will hate them because the world hated Him. Should we respond to hate with hate, or should we follow Jesus’ command to love even when others hate? Discover this and more as Cam continues unpacking this last big teaching leading up to Jesus’ betrayal and arrest.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Pointing Upward: Luke 14:7-24

Focus Passage: Luke 14:7-24 (GW)

Then Jesus noticed how the guests always chose the places of honor. So he used this illustration when he spoke to them: “When someone invites you to a wedding, don’t take the place of honor. Maybe someone more important than you was invited. Then your host would say to you, ‘Give this person your place.’ Embarrassed, you would have to take the place of least honor. 10 So when you’re invited, take the place of least honor. Then, when your host comes, he will tell you, ‘Friend, move to a more honorable place.’ Then all the other guests will see how you are honored. 11 Those who honor themselves will be humbled, but people who humble themselves will be honored.”

12 Then he told the man who had invited him, “When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don’t invite only your friends, family, other relatives, or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they will return the favor. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the handicapped, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then you will be blessed because they don’t have any way to pay you back. You will be paid back when those who have God’s approval come back to life.”

15 One of those eating with him heard this. So he said to Jesus, “The person who will be at the banquet in God’s kingdom is blessed.”

16 Jesus said to him, “A man gave a large banquet and invited many people. 17 When it was time for the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come! Everything is ready now.’

18 “Everyone asked to be excused. The first said to him, ‘I bought a field, and I need to see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I bought five pairs of oxen, and I’m on my way to see how well they plow. Please excuse me.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I recently got married, and that’s why I can’t come.’

21 “The servant went back to report this to his master. Then the master of the house became angry. He told his servant, ‘Run to every street and alley in the city! Bring back the poor, the handicapped, the blind, and the lame.’

22 “The servant said, ‘Sir, what you’ve ordered has been done. But there is still room for more people.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go to the roads and paths! Urge the people to come to my house. I want it to be full. 24 I can guarantee that none of those invited earlier will taste any food at my banquet.’”

Read Luke 14:7-24 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

This passage is one of the richest passages in the gospels for learning ideas about who God is and what He is like. Most often, we like to jump into the parable and into the heart of what Jesus is revealing about God.

However, in this post, let’s look at how Jesus sets up this parable. He probably was seated in a large room at one of the places of honor, and there were probably many people who were making a mad dash to sit near Him or at other prominent places.

In setting up this illustration, Jesus directs His first words to the guests of this meal: Don’t seek out the places of honor – because you don’t know if someone more honorable is running late. The worst thing you can face as a guest at a banquet is choosing a seat and then being asked to move down in position. That is public humiliation that you brought on yourself. It would be better to take the worst seat in the room, that way when the host sees you, you will get public recognition and be honored to a better place.

Now I don’t know if I have ever witnessed someone being asked to move where they were seated, but I do know that I have set myself up for this type of humiliation. At a special event I attended while in college, I was not asked to move, but I did inch my way into a more prominent seat that what would not normally have happened. Perhaps it was the host wanting to be nice, or the environment that allowed for an extra seat, but in reality, I know I probably should have been asked to move down in status.

However, the truth Jesus is trying to teach is broader than simply seat position. He is teaching us a truth about life. Choose to be humble and let others do the exalting. There is nothing appealing about someone who thinks they are more special than they really are. Those who have figuratively “big heads” are not people who we like being around.

However, those who choose humility and to lift others up are people who we do like to spend time with. They are people who help others be better and who help you feel happier after having spent a few moments together. These people have an inner spirit that is attractive and positive.

I believe Jesus was this type of person. I don’t remember seeing anything that makes me think that He played the position “God”-card in any situation. Satan tempted Him to do so numerous times, but He never fell for this trap.

Instead, Jesus exalted God the Father and the Holy Spirit whenever He was praised. People praised God when they witnessed Jesus perform miracles. Jesus never let the glory rest on Himself; He always pointed it upward.

And this leads us to our own lives. We too should always choose humility over exaltation and forwarding the glory onward and upward. It is what Jesus did, and He called us to be like Him. We should never seek glory for ourselves, but point others to the One who really deserves the glory.

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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