Sticking With Jesus: Mark 10:32-34

Focus Passage: Mark 10:32-34 (NIV)

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

Read Mark 10:32-34 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus and the disciples were headed to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus pulls the disciples aside and tells them about what will happen to Him while they are there. Prior to this, Jesus’ followers already are aware that the Jewish leaders are looking for a way and time to arrest and kill Him, and it is likely that Jesus’ message here doesn’t ease their minds at all.

Mark’s gospel opens this event with an interesting description: “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” (v. 32a)

This introduction is amazing in my mind because not only does Jesus know exactly what is coming, He is blazing the trail ahead right on schedule for it to happen. While this makes sense in most circumstances, the trail Jesus is leading the disciples on is the trail He knows will bring Him pain and death – even if He also knows that resurrection is in His future.

Mark tells us the disciples were astonished at Jesus, and those who followed were fearful. The whole group knows that Jerusalem includes the most powerful people who opposed Jesus, and Jerusalem was the place in the entire country where Jesus would be most easily condemned to death. The disciples are astonished that Jesus actively is leading the group towards certain death, and those following along are fearful not just for Jesus, but for themselves as well.

Often when a high profile arrest happened, those following would be arrested too, and there had been times in Roman history where all of a leader’s followers were executed (even crucified) along with the leader the Romans wanted to kill. If Jesus was correct with His prediction that death would meet them in Jerusalem (and He was), then those following along were completely justified in their fear.

But while Jesus blazed the trail forward, while the disciples were astonished, and while those following along were fearful, we don’t see any indication that the astonishment or fear present in the group caused people to stop walking with Jesus. All the disciples and all those following in the large group stayed with Jesus and this is important for us to remember.

We can learn from Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem that sometimes we will be amazed, astonished, or even fearful when walking with Jesus, but we can trust that He knows the future, and that at the end of history, the safest place for us to be is beside Jesus – even if being beside Jesus has been scary at times.

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The Second Dream: Matthew 2:1-15


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Moving forward in Matthew’s gospel, we open chapter 2 looking at an event that happened shortly after Jesus was born, but also an event that is almost always included in the Christmas story. This event is the visit of the wise men, and as we will soon discover, this event shares a characteristic that our last passage and episode focused in on.

Let’s read what happened and draw out some things that we can learn from this event. Our passage and event are found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote,

’Bethlehem in the land
    of Judea,
you are very important
    among the towns of Judea.
From your town
    will come a leader,
who will be like a shepherd
    for my people Israel.’”

Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star. He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”

The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 They were thrilled and excited to see the star.

11 When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him. 12 Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road.

13 After the wise men had gone, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Hurry and take the child and his mother to Egypt! Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is looking for the child and wants to kill him.”

14 That night, Joseph got up and took his wife and the child to Egypt, 15 where they stayed until Herod died. So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, “I called my son out of Egypt.”

Let’s stop reading here because several details stood out to me while reading this passage.

First, I find it interesting that the wise men paid attention to the stars. While there has been much speculation regarding whether the star of Bethlehem was a true star, a planet, or even an angel or band of angels, it is interesting in my mind that the wise men made the connection to a coming king in Judea. Some people believe the wise men were people who had learned from the school Daniel likely founded in Babylon while he was a captive and wise man there many centuries earlier.

It’s also interesting that while the wise men accurately identify the purpose of the star signaling a coming king, they incorrectly assume that the child would be born in Jerusalem. I wonder if they assumed incorrectly, or if they simply did not know but they expected those in Jerusalem to be aware and preparing for the arrival of their Messiah. However, it appears as though those in Jerusalem were more ignorant of the signs of the Messiah’s arrival than they would have thought.

The religious leaders were unaware of anything special in the night sky, but they were very aware of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, especially the one concerning the place of His birth. With how this event is worded, I am curious if the religious leaders knew the purpose of the wise men’s arrival prior to being questioned by Herod. If the religious leaders knew Herod’s tendency towards violence against any threats against his rule, it wouldn’t have surprised them to learn of Herod’s march against the babies in Bethlehem. What is amazing in my mind is that the religious leaders simply hand this key piece of information over, which speaks both to their allegiance to the Roman government and to their ignorance of the Messiah’s arrival.

When reading this event, I am most amazed at Joseph. Just like we saw in the last episode, Joseph has a dream and it immediately prompts him to act. In our last episode, the dream he received changed his plans regarding sending Mary away to accepting Mary and her extraordinary pregnancy, and this dream prompts Joseph and the family to make a midnight escape.

From my understanding, Bethlehem isn’t too far away from Jerusalem, which prompts me to wonder how much lead time Joseph and Mary had to escape. If Joseph’s dream was the same night that the wise men were warned about not returning to Herod, then Joseph and Mary had maybe 6 hours or so to get out. If there was a gap of time between the wise men leaving the region and Herod learning about their departure without returning, then it’s possible Joseph and Mary were already out of the country by the time Herod realized what happened.

In the last passage and this one, we see that Joseph is a man of action, and he is more than willing to follow God’s plan for his life. When God gives Joseph a direction to take, Joseph heads full force in that direction, and this quality ultimately saves Jesus’ life from an early death at the hands of Herod.

In our own lives, we should be as dedicated to following God’s directions as Joseph was. While we might not have as significant of a role in history, God is willing to use us for His glory at the exact moment and place where He has brought us into His story.

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 and choose to obey His will for your life. Don’t let indecision get in the way of following God’s Word and His will for you.

Unsure of what God’s Word says and what His will is for your life. The best place to turn is to prayer and to Bible study. Through prayer and studying the Bible for yourself, you open the door to learning from God’s Holy Spirit and you are better able to grow the personal relationship with God that helps you see His will for your life. While other people can help point you in the right direction, God wants a personal relationship with you without anyone else in the place of a middleman.

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

Year in Matthew – Episode 2: As Matthew continues describing Jesus’ birth, we learn of a second dream that changes the lives of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, and we discover a little bit more of the character of Jesus’ earthly dad.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Not Abolished, But Satisfied: Matthew 5:13-37

Focus Passage: Matthew 5:13-37 (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Read Matthew 5:13-37 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One thing that has both intrigued me and bothered me is where this post’s passage fits within Christianity today. It is found neatly within Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, but it seems to be mostly forgotten – or at least discounted by many.

In this passage Jesus directly tells everyone present (and those who read about this later): “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (v. 17-18)

There are two ideas present in these verses that some might confuse the meaning of. The first idea is “abolish”, which would be another way of saying “eliminate”, “get rid of”, or simply “erase.” The second idea is “fulfill”, which would be another way of saying “complete”, “accomplish”, or simply “satisfy”.

Now if Jesus “fulfilled” or “completed” the law, wouldn’t that be the same as “abolishing” or “eliminating” it?

This is what many people seem to think Jesus said, except that He is says the opposite: “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (v. 17)

This must mean that Jesus satisfied the Law’s requirements, while not really removing them – except that Jesus does suggest a time when the law will have elements of it that disappear. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (v. 18)

In this passage, we get a picture of the time frame for the Law: it lasts for the length of heaven and earth and until everything is accomplished. Jesus accomplished a righteous sacrifice that paved the way for us to be saved while He was here on earth, but don’t confuse that with everything. In God’s perfect heaven and earth, there will be no sin, pain, death, or evil and since we have these things in our world today, everything cannot be accomplished according to God’s plan. When Jesus returns, we will get a better picture of His plan, and we can witness God recreating heaven and earth into the original, perfect world that He intended the first one to be.

But does this passage condemn those who break the Law? Not directly.

“Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 19)

This says that there will be those who set aside commands who will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. They are not outside of it, but in it – because they understand the biggest issue: Accepting Jesus’ righteousness and sacrifice as payment for their sins.

Legalism excludes people based on their actions/disobedience, and following a legalistic path does not lead into heaven. The most legalistic people in Jesus’ day still did not have the righteousness necessary to gain entrance into heaven.

Instead, Jesus made a way available through His perfection, and He made it available to everyone as a gift. We can choose to try and fail on our own, or lean into Jesus and be accepted.

The Law has not been abolished, but it has been satisfied through Jesus’ life and death.

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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The Power of Persistence: Luke 11:1-13

Focus Passage: Luke 11:1-13 (GNT)

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this:
 ‘Father:
    May your holy name be honored;
    may your Kingdom come.

3 Give us day by day the food we need.

4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we forgive everyone who does us wrong.
    And do not bring us to hard testing.’”

5 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. 6 A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ 7 And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking. 9 And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks. 11 Would any of you who are fathers give your son a snake when he asks for fish? 12 Or would you give him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? 13 As bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Read Luke 11:1-13 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While teaching the disciples how to pray in Luke’s gospel, Jesus first gives them a model prayer before quickly transitioning into an intriguing parable-illustration that on the surface implies that God can be pestered into answering our requests.

In this illustration, Jesus tells His disciples, “Suppose one of you should go to a friend’s house at midnight and say, ‘Friend, let me borrow three loaves of bread. A friend of mine who is on a trip has just come to my house, and I don’t have any food for him!’ And suppose your friend should answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Well, what then? I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.” (v. 5-8)

This parable amazes me because it appears to encourage us to be extra persistent – even annoying at times – when asking God for something. In some ways, God is way more loving than I am because if a “friend” kept pestering me at midnight for some loaves of bread, I am uncertain if he/she would remain a friend. While they might eventually pester their way into getting bread, it would probably cost a friendship.

However, thankfully God is more loving and merciful than me, and when Jesus shares this passage, He frames it along the lines of us doing the asking and persisting, rather than us being the friend who is woken up at midnight.

While on the surface, this parable is pretty powerful, hidden in the details is an even more amazing truth that anyone, anywhere in the world can claim and act upon – regardless of if they are a Christian or not. As Christians and followers of Jesus, we can consider ourselves friends of God. In Jesus’ concluding line, He sweeps our friendship aside when He says, “I tell you that even if he will not get up and give you the bread because you are his friend, yet he will get up and give you everything you need because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.” (v. 8)

Jesus tells these disciples that regardless of a person’s view of God or of the strength of their relationship, persistence in their prayers will lead to answers – and this is even for those who are not considered friends of God. As I write this, I wonder if more people would see more blessings added to their lives if they would simply persist with heartfelt prayers, regardless of their view of God, their level of faith in Him, or their belief about whether or not He exists.

Persistent, sincere prayers appear to be one thing God wants His followers to model for others. Tucked inside this parable is the promise that anyone, anywhere can start being persistent with their prayers and can expect God to answer with a gift of what they need – which may look different from what they were asking for to begin with.

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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