Flashback Episode — Greatness in God’s Eyes: Luke 9:46-48

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If you have ever believed the disciples were somehow spiritually superior to you or I because they walked with Jesus, you probably haven’t read much of the gospel record. When reading the gospels, it doesn’t take too long to discover a point where the disciples behave in a way that shows their flaws.

Our passage for this episode focuses in on one such time, and when we look at Jesus’ response, we discover a profound idea surrounding God’s character and some things He values when looking at our lives. While our passage for this episode isn’t very long, don’t let its length deceive you from thinking it isn’t relevant. This passage might contain one of the greatest spiritual, and non-spiritual, truths in the entire Bible.

This episode’s passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 9, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 46, we learn that:

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

In these three short verses, we not only see the disciples behaving like children by arguing about who would be the greatest among them, we also see Jesus step into their debate and reframe it with a concept that is quite powerful.

To set the stage for the big spiritual truth, Jesus calls a child over to Him. While we don’t know where this child even came from, or whether this child had been following Jesus from a distance, or if this was a toddler who was with his parents near Jesus, all of these details are irrelevant in the big scheme of things. Actually not knowing any details about this child is relevant to the truth Jesus is about to share.

The big idea Jesus wanted to illustrate in this passage is the contrast between where we think greatness is and where God sees greatness. While we see greatness as a stepping up and associating with people who are more important than we are, greatness in God’s eyes is the exact opposite. Greatness in God’s eyes has to do with stepping down and welcoming those who are unknown in Jesus’ name. It is when we welcome those into our lives who cannot do anything special for us that we welcome Jesus, and by welcoming Jesus into our lives in this way, we welcome God the Father, the One who sent Jesus, into our lives as well!

This is a huge spiritual truth, because in this first portion of verse 48, we discover the way to invite Jesus into our lives and hearts.

Jesus follows this truth up with a general principle that is both spiritual and non-spiritual, and while this truth doesn’t sound logical on the surface, it is actually very true. Jesus finishes verse 48 by saying: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” In Jesus’ statement, we are challenged with the truth that serving, helping, and welcoming the most outcast among us is where we develop greatness in God’s eyes.

While culture and society place a lot of emphasis on the people at the top being the greatest of any organization, company, or group that has a structure, the truth is that in any structure, the people who get things done are rarely high on the ladder of status. Those who serve well might be stars among their peer-group or team of employees, but they are likely still on the level of doing work rather than the alternate.

In this discussion, the alternate is the managerial group. While typical organizational charts place the managers “above” those doing the work, we would be mistaken to think that managers are more important than the workers are. A manager is only as good as the workers he or she has on their team, and this is true moving all the rest of the way up to the highest levels of management. While the top levels of management might look on the surface like they are important because they have greater responsibility and greater influence than the working group they are responsible for, the workers are still the most important part of the process.

While Jesus shares a counter-cultural truth about greatness in the last part of this verse, this truth is also very spiritual as well. When we look at this statement a little closer, we find the flaw present in the original sin and the self-focused attitude Lucifer had before being kicked out of heaven.

Jesus’ statement in this passage speaks to an eternal truth about God’s kingdom: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Lucifer pushed back at the idea of serving and stepping down being significant for gaining greatness in God’s eyes. Many Biblical scholars point to a passage in the book of Isaiah as describing Lucifer’s character and focus. In Isaiah 14, verses 12-14 we read:

How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”

In Lucifer’s mind, we see his desire to ascend higher than he was and to become like God. While this sounds ridiculous for us to think about, the principle in this attitude is where we will focus some time discussing. Jesus describes stepping down and serving as the path to greatness, while Lucifer is completely focused on stepping up and increasing his position in heaven.

Lucifer’s sin was pride – specifically a pride that focused on exalting himself above others. We could call this form of pride arrogance, and whether or not he displayed an outward form of arrogance when dealing with other angels, Isaiah’s prophecy and passage teach us that Lucifer’s heart was full of arrogant-pride that was counter to God’s path for greatness.

To contrast Lucifer, meet Jesus. Everything in Jesus’ life was aimed at stepping down and helping others. Jesus is God, and many Bible scholars understand that Jesus first chose to give up His divine form to become an angel (described at the angel Michael in parts of the Bible). When humanity was created, plans were made for Jesus to step down from His role in heaven and become human to teach us what God is like and to save us from sin.

When we read the gospels, we find Jesus loving and helping the lowest in society almost unquestioningly, and Jesus pushes back against the arrogant, religious elite. Jesus even stepped down so far that He took our punishment for sin when He didn’t deserve it.

Jesus models His statement the best, while culture leans towards a Lucifer-inspired model. Jesus modeled how to step down and serve the least among society the best – and Jesus has called His followers to model His life, His focus, and His character. Jesus has called each of us to step down and serve the least among us and when we do, we are seen as great in God’s eyes. When we welcome and serve others in Jesus’ name, we welcome Jesus into our lives, and God the Father with His Holy Spirit comes into our lives as well.

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

Seek God first in your life by serving others. As you move through life, pay attention to opportunities where you can serve others, and especially look for people who cannot repay you back for how you serve them. As God opens your eyes to opportunities where you can help others, know that when you serve and welcome others in Jesus’ name, you are serving and welcoming Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and even God the Father.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, pray and study the Bible for yourself, because in the pages of scripture, we can discover what God is like and we can grow a personal relationship with Him. While a pastor or podcaster can share what they have found that is fascinating and relevant to their own lives with you, only when you personally open the pages of scripture will you grow that personal relationship with God and learn His message for you!

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 drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 22: In three short verses, Jesus shares one of the biggest spiritual concepts in the entire Bible, and in what He shares, we can discover Lucifer’s error, and how Jesus modeled how God wants us to live!

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

Knowing Our Past: Mark 8:22-26

Focus Passage: Mark 8:22-26 (GNT)

22 They came to Bethsaida, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him,
         Can you see anything?

24 The man looked up and said,
         Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.

25 Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus then sent him home with the order,
         Don’t go back into the village.

Read Mark 8:22-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In a unique miracle that only Mark’s gospel includes, Jesus visits a town and meets a crowd bringing a blind man to Him. What makes this parable unique in my mind is that Jesus brings the man out of town, and that the healing isn’t entirely successful the first attempt.

However, one phrase at the conclusion of this miracle stands out as I read it. This passage ends by saying, “Jesus then sent him home with the order, ‘Don’t go back into the village.’” (v. 26)

On the surface, this command makes sense, because Jesus doesn’t want the man to meet back up with the crowd who simply wanted to experience a miracle and praise Jesus for it. However, what happens if we ask the question: “What if this man lived in the village?”

If the man lived in the village, then Jesus’ request to this man doesn’t make sense, but if the man lived in a different nearby village, then a couple of subtle insights appear that we can learn from.

First, if the man was from a nearby village, then this means that the crowd formed by either someone bringing the formerly blind man into the village before collecting a crowd, or, more likely, someone started bringing the formerly blind man to Jesus and on their journey to find Him, people who wanted to see a miracle joined the crowd. Either way, this detail gives support to the idea that the crowd was simply there to see a miracle rather than to praise God.

Secondly, and more importantly, this detail emphasizes the truth that Jesus knows where we live. While it may have been obvious by the man’s style of clothing or something else about his appearance, nothing in the passage aside from Jesus’ command implies this man lived elsewhere. This means that Jesus knew where the man came from even if most of those in the crowd that brought Him didn’t.

This second truth is significant for us to remember too. Jesus knows where you and I live, He knows  our past, and He chose to come to earth to give us the opportunity to have a new life with God. While we might have deep, dark, hidden secrets in our past, Jesus knows what they are – and regardless of what happened, Jesus invites us into a new life with 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!

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According to Your Faith: Matthew 9:27-31

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Continuing forward in the miracles of the gospels, we come to a short event and miracle where it appears as though Jesus ignored those asking Jesus for help for a period of time prior to actually healing them. Not only this, but Jesus heals them with a somewhat strange statement. This statement is worth us paying attention to because it gives us a clue into the importance of faith in our own lives.

As we read this event, let’s focus on what this event teaches us about Jesus, about God, and about the faith we are called to have. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 9, and we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 27, Matthew tells us that:

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: “See that no one knows about this!” 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

In these five short verses, we see a number of things that are worth paying attention to. In the opening two verses, we get the impression that Jesus was traveling between two places, and these two blind men were following behind Jesus crying out for help. If we didn’t know God’s love before this point, we might be tempted to think that Jesus, and by representation, that God too, is unloving. Why else would Jesus seem to ignore two people obviously crying out for Him to help them?

I believe the answer to this challenge is found in Jesus’ question and response to them. Verse 28 contains Jesus’ question and the blind men’s response: “Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’

While I don’t know why it wasn’t already evident through their seeking Jesus out and following Him asking for help, Jesus asks these two men plainly if they believe that He is able to do this. In their response, which is just two words long, we see an amazing display of faith. It is easy to discount the response they give, which is simply, “Yes, Lord,” as something that is said with humility and respect to someone with authority. However, by using the word “Lord,” I see in this response that these men believe Jesus to be from God, and that the healing they desperately want to have will be from God as well.

To wrap up this healing, Matthew describes in verse 29 that Jesus then “touched their eyes, saying, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith.’

Interestingly enough, these blind men had clearly demonstrated their faith. They persisted when it appeared as though Jesus was ignoring them, and they acknowledged their faith in Jesus and God when asked. It almost seems redundant for Jesus, who would know they had plenty of faith, to tell them they would be healed “according to [their] faith”. It should not surprise anyone reading this event to learn that these men were healed.

In this event, we see an amazing truth that the level of faith we have in God will directly determine how clearly we see God working in our lives – and it may even directly affect how God is able or not able to work in us and through us. The faith of these blind men is clearly visible both before they are healed, and it is confirmed after they have been healed. This makes Jesus’ message to them a principle and a promise we can live by: Our requests of God will be done to us according to our faith.

While we are encouraged to pray for other people, this principle focuses on our personally focused prayers. If we want healing, freedom, or a specific opportunity, we must be willing to display a visible faith before we can expect it to happen.

However, the last portion of our passage is interesting as well. After healing these men, Matthew tells us in verse 30 that “Jesus sternly warned them: ‘See that no one knows about this!” Since we are reading from the New American Standard Bible, there are two words in this command that are italicized. This means that they are not included in the original language, but have been added to smooth the reading. The literal response Jesus gives is simply, “See that no one knows”. While the context can imply that Jesus is telling these men to keep silent about this healing, it could also simply be Jesus telling these men to keep secret this extreme truth about faith.

Faith is powerful; more powerful than we realize. Faith can be placed in many things, and persistent faith is powerful enough to conquer virtually anything we face in this life. However, faith, when it is not placed in what God did for us through Jesus on the cross, is worthless in the context of eternity. These men experience healing because they had amazing, persistent faith and because they placed their faith in Jesus.

Matthew’s final statement in this event is that these men go and do the exact opposite of what it seems like Jesus asked them to do. Matthew tells us that these healed men “went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land”. If Jesus wanted them to stay silent so He wouldn’t be flooded with people needing help, we can understand His reasoning. And we can contrast this with also realizing that the formerly blind men’s enthusiasm to share what Jesus had done for them was their way of saying thank you to Jesus and to God for healing them.

But it is also possible that these men shared what Jesus had done for them without sharing that Jesus attributed their healing to their level of faith in Him. In this regard, it can be said that these men obeyed Jesus, while also enthusiastically giving thanks to God for healing them.

The big thing for us to remember in this passage and this healing is that our faith is a powerful tool that we are called to place in Jesus. Faith in many other things can be productive in this life, but only when our faith is in Jesus will we discover a future, eternal life with God in heaven.

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

Always seek God first and place your faith in Him. Bring your questions, problems, challenges, and concerns to Him and trust, believe, and move forward knowing that God will take care of them. Have faith that God works with a bigger picture in mind than we can even begin to imagine, and that His goal is as many people to be saved with Him as possible.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and mature towards God in your own life. While other people can give you ideas to think about, always filter what you learn, see, or discover through the pages of God’s Word to know whether it is something worthy of eternity. God’s goals is saving us for eternity, and the Bible teaches us everything we need to know to accept this gift He has offered us.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 22: When two blind men follow Jesus asking for His help, we discover an amazing truth about faith within this miraculous healing, and a truth we can apply in our own lives related to our faith in God.

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Faith-Worthy: John 11:1-44

Focus Passage: John 11:1-44 (CEV)

1-2 A man by the name of Lazarus was sick in the village of Bethany. He had two sisters, Mary and Martha. This was the same Mary who later poured perfume on the Lord’s head and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent a message to the Lord and told him that his good friend Lazarus was sick.

When Jesus heard this, he said, “His sickness won’t end in death. It will bring glory to God and his Son.”

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and brother. But he stayed where he was for two more days. Then he said to his disciples, “Now we will go back to Judea.”

“Teacher,” they said, “the people there want to stone you to death! Why do you want to go back?”

Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in each day? If you walk during the day, you will have light from the sun, and you won’t stumble. 10 But if you walk during the night, you will stumble, because you don’t have any light.” 11 Then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, and I am going there to wake him up.”

12 They replied, “Lord, if he is asleep, he will get better.” 13 Jesus really meant that Lazarus was dead, but they thought he was talking only about sleep.

14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead! 15 I am glad that I wasn’t there, because now you will have a chance to put your faith in me. Let’s go to him.”

16 Thomas, whose nickname was “Twin,” said to the other disciples, “Come on. Let’s go, so we can die with him.”

17 When Jesus got to Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many people had come from the city to comfort Martha and Mary because their brother had died.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Yet even now I know that God will do anything you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will live again!”

24 Martha answered, “I know that he will be raised to life on the last day, when all the dead are raised.”

25 Jesus then said, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. 26 And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord!” she replied. “I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.”

28 After Martha said this, she went and privately said to her sister Mary, “The Teacher is here, and he wants to see you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up and went out to Jesus. 30 He was still outside the village where Martha had gone to meet him. 31 Many people had come to comfort Mary, and when they saw her quickly leave the house, they thought she was going out to the tomb to cry. So they followed her.

32 Mary went to where Jesus was. Then as soon as she saw him, she knelt at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw that Mary and the people with her were crying, he was terribly upset 34 and asked, “Where have you put his body?”

They replied, “Lord, come and you will see.”

35 Jesus started crying, 36 and the people said, “See how much he loved Lazarus.”

37 Some of them said, “He gives sight to the blind. Why couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still terribly upset. So he went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone rolled against the entrance. 39 Then he told the people to roll the stone away. But Martha said, “Lord, you know that Lazarus has been dead four days, and there will be a bad smell.”

40 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you had faith, you would see the glory of God?”

41 After the stone had been rolled aside, Jesus looked up toward heaven and prayed, “Father, I thank you for answering my prayer. 42 I know that you always answer my prayers. But I said this, so that the people here would believe that you sent me.”

43 When Jesus had finished praying, he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The man who had been dead came out. His hands and feet were wrapped with strips of burial cloth, and a cloth covered his face.

Jesus then told the people, “Untie him and let him go.”

Read John 11:1-44 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While reading about the events that happen in the gospels, and specifically about the lives that were affected by Jesus, I often take a moment or two and ask myself the following question: “Where is faith present (or not present) in this event/passage?” In our passage for this journal entry, faith is a big theme that is woven through a number of different interactions.

The first hint at faith comes immediately after Jesus tells the disciples plainly that Lazarus was dead. He continues in verse 15 by saying, “I am glad that I wasn’t there, because now you will have a chance to put your faith in me.”

Apparently there must have been a lack of faith in the disciples for Jesus to have challenged them with these words. After all the teaching, healing, and miracles, some of the disciples must have still been second guessing if Jesus was worthy of their faith or not. This seems most evident a few verses prior to this when Jesus announces that they will go back to Judea to wake Lazarus up and the disciples hesitate fearing for their lives.

Jesus hits the disciples with the statement that He is glad they were not there for Lazarus’ sickness/death, and it must be because He wants to mentally prepare them for an even bigger truth: Jesus is “faith-worthy”.

This section of the passage concludes on a very pessimistic note. Thomas says in verse 16, “Come on. Let’s go, so we can die with him.” But behind Thomas’ pessimistic statement is the action of following Jesus to the end – and that in itself displays a pretty significant level of faith.

When the disciples arrive at Bethany, Jesus meets with both Martha and with Mary separately, but each sister gets a different response in proportion to the level of faith. While both Mary and Martha begin by saying to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” in verses 21 and 32, Martha doesn’t stop there. Mary seems to have about the same level of faith as the disciples, which is about enough to frustrate Jesus, but Martha demonstrates a greater faith.

We often fault Martha for being the busy, distracted sister during one of Jesus’ earlier visits, but in this event, Martha definitely redeems herself by displaying a great level of faith, leading her to say in verse 27, “I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.”

Even though her practicality would return a few verses later by commenting that rolling away the stone would release a bad odor, Martha saw Jesus as being “faith-worthy”, and she trusted that Lazarus would be resurrected when God’s timing was right. While Mary can be our example for setting good priorities and putting Jesus first, Martha is our example for putting our faith in Jesus when all hope seems lost.

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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