A Bigger Vision: Matthew 15:21-28

Focus Passage: Matthew 15:21-28 (NIrV)

21 Jesus left Galilee and went to the area of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A woman from Canaan lived near Tyre and Sidon. She came to him and cried out, “Lord! Son of David! Have mercy on me! A demon controls my daughter. She is suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not say a word. So his disciples came to him. They begged him, “Send her away. She keeps crying out after us.”

24 Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the people of Israel. They are like lost sheep.”

25 Then the woman fell to her knees in front of him. “Lord! Help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she said. “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their owners’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! You will be given what you are asking for.” And her daughter was healed at that very moment.

Read Matthew 15:21-28 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

The dialog in this journal entry’s passage is one that has challenged many Bible students. While we are given a picture of an always kind and caring Jesus, it seems that in this case, Jesus was quite rude and insulting. First He ignores, then He dismisses, thirdly He insults, before finally granting the request.

Perhaps this was just as much of an object lesson for the disciples and teaching them about prejudice as it was about helping this woman with her request. After all, the disciples are the ones who prompt Jesus to stop ignoring the woman and move to dismissing her.

In His statement, Jesus states a piece of His mission, but it seems as though He chooses the most generic and popular way to describe it. In verse 24, Jesus responds to the woman, “I was sent only to the people of Israel. They are like lost sheep.

Now while this statement was the common perspective of the Messiah at that time, I find it difficult to truly think Jesus felt His mission was exclusively to Israel – except that I also do not think that Jesus would lie to the woman. This means that Jesus really was “sent” to the people of Israel. When Jesus says, “They are like lost sheep”, I can completely understand what He is saying.

But this idea also makes me wonder a little. If “God’s people” living at that time were “like lost sheep”, does that tell us anything about our lives today? Could this same phrase be used to describe the Christian church today – with hundreds, if not thousands, of groups claiming different beliefs, traditions, doctrines, and methods?

I also wonder about Jesus’ initial statement: “I was sent only to the people of Israel.

Does this mean that Jesus is only the Messiah for the Jews? On the surface, it might look like that, but take this phrase and apply it spiritually, and in the role of Messiah, only those who see their sin and need of a Savior will actively seek out Jesus.

The Greeks were not looking for a Savior or a Messiah, so they would not have understood the real reason Jesus came.

But Jesus helps this non-Jewish woman, which tells me that Jesus saw His mission as being broader than just the people of Israel. This woman needed help that only Jesus could supply, and He grants her request. If Jesus came to help “spiritual Israel”, who is everyone who seeks to follow the God of the Jews who know they need a Savior to bridge the gap sin has caused, then Jesus can fill that role. This also means Jesus is a stumbling block for those who think they can do it themselves.

Jesus was sent only to the people of Israel, but it seems He saw His mission as helping people of all nationalities who realized their need of a Savior.

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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Seeing the Father: John 14:1-14

Focus Passage: John 14:1-14 (CEV)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. You know the way to where I am going.”

Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered. “Without me, no one can go to the Father. If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”

Jesus replied:

Philip, I have been with you for a long time. Don’t you know who I am? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. How can you ask me to show you the Father? 10 Don’t you believe that I am one with the Father and that the Father is one with me? What I say isn’t said on my own. The Father who lives in me does these things.

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father. 13 Ask me, and I will do whatever you ask. This way the Son will bring honor to the Father. 14 I will do whatever you ask me to do.

Read John 14:1-14 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the night Jesus was arrested leading up to His trial and crucifixion less than 24 hours later, John’s gospel tells us about a profound conversation He has with His closest remaining disciples. In this conversation, Jesus promises His followers that while He is leaving and returning to heaven, He will come back to earth to bring them home with Him.

In this conversation, Jesus tells His followers, “If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.” (v. 7)

One of the disciples, Philip, speaks up and asks Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.” (v. 8)

Jesus responds to this request by simply saying, “Philip, I have been with you for a long time. Don’t you know who I am? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. How can you ask me to show you the Father? Don’t you believe that I am one with the Father and that the Father is one with me?” (v. 9-10a)

Jesus tells Philip and this whole group of disciples that by knowing Jesus, they now know the Father. Jesus tells them that He is one with the Father and the Father is one with Him. In some ways, if Jesus were to answer Philip’s request, all we might see is a mirror reflecting light back onto Jesus.

But Philip’s request is a request that many of us have. Philip wanted certainty to back up His belief and Philip wanted to know the Father like he knew Jesus. Many of us living today desire a face-to-face level of certainty that God exists and that He loves us like we believe Jesus loves us.

Plenty of people living today have a picture in their minds of a cruel God the Father and a friendly Jesus. They imagine the Father and Son of the Godhead are the good and bad cops when the judgment comes.

However, this is not at all how Jesus describes the Father to Philip and the rest of the disciples. Jesus answers Philip’s request by letting Philip know that the Father and Him are identical. This doesn’t mean that they are the same person, but that they have the exact same character, focus, love, and compassion towards humanity. While I don’t fully understand the roles of each of the members of the Godhead, Jesus’ role included becoming human so we could better understand who God is and what He is like.

Jesus came and gave us a picture of God the Father, and everything Jesus shares about the Father speaks to a King who is kind, loving, and merciful towards those He rules, and since God is the King of the universe, we are included among His subjects. This means that God the Father loves us just like Jesus loves us – and Jesus loves us enough that He gave His life to save us from sin!

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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Flashback Episode — Faith like Peter: Luke 24:1-12

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When reading how the gospels describe the morning Jesus rose from the dead, we discover an interesting detail: none of Jesus’ followers expected Him to rise from the dead. While Jesus’ resurrection shouldn’t have surprised any of them, we learn that it surprised every single one of them.

For our episode today, let’s look at how Luke’s gospel described what happened, and then unpack some things we can apply into our own lives. Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 24, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

Very early on the first day of the week, at dawn, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the entrance of the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, two men in shining clothes suddenly stood beside them. The women were very afraid and bowed their heads to the ground. The men said to them, “Why are you looking for a living person in this place for the dead? He is not here; he has risen from the dead. Do you remember what he told you in Galilee? He said the Son of Man must be handed over to sinful people, be crucified, and rise from the dead on the third day.” Then the women remembered what Jesus had said.

The women left the tomb and told all these things to the eleven apostles and the other followers. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women who told the apostles everything that had happened at the tomb. 11 But they did not believe the women, because it sounded like nonsense. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. Bending down and looking in, he saw only the cloth that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in. Peter went away to his home, wondering about what had happened.

In the chaos of resurrection morning, we discover that the only reason word spreads about a resurrected Jesus is because some of the women who followed Jesus didn’t believe He would return to life. These women head to the tomb with spices they had prepared for Jesus’ body, possibly because they believed that the men who had hastily put Jesus into the tomb two days earlier had not done a very good job. John’s gospel described Joseph and Nicodemus taking Jesus’ body off the cross, placing it in Joseph’s tomb, and using the spices that they had, but whatever the reason, the women also want to prepare Jesus’ body for burial with their own spices.

While probably wondering how they would actually get to Jesus’ body with a huge stone rolled in front of the tomb, the last thing the women expect to find is an empty spot where they saw Jesus’ body lay. Also, the last thing they expected to experience are two angels reminding them of Jesus’ own words, predicting His death and resurrection.

However, after the angels had restated Jesus’ earlier message to them, the women remember Jesus’ words, they believe the angels, and they go tell the remaining disciples what they had experienced.

Now it’s the disciples’ turn for disbelief. Verse 11 describes that the disciples “did not believe the women, because it sounded like nonsense”.

However, according to Luke’s gospel, one disciple pushes past his disbelief. Peter, the disciple who had utterly failed Jesus only a few nights earlier, pushes past the doubts to go check out the situation for himself.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had challenged Peter regarding Peter’s disbelief over Jesus’ future death – even going as far as calling Peter Satan. Part of me wonders if Peter remembered this conversation, and if Peter was thinking about it as he ran to the tomb.

Our passage ends with Peter returning home, wondering about what had happened. We don’t see Peter return to validate the women’s testimony, and we don’t see Peter have an encounter with an angel to validate what the women describe.

Instead, Peter is left to put the pieces together of an event that He isn’t sure what to make of. Peter was the most vocal disciple with regard to most things, and Peter was the most vocal about the Messiah not facing death.

In our own lives, we can learn from Peter’s experience that it is better to stop, wait, and pay attention – especially when things don’t make sense. Rushing into the chaos isn’t always the best approach. Peter blinded himself with His beliefs about the Messiah that kept Him from realizing the truth.

However, we can also learn from Peter, because when the rest of the disciples choose to remain doubtful when hearing about a possible resurrection, Peter doesn’t waste any time going to see the tomb for himself. Peter rushes to discover the truth for himself. He finds the tomb empty, which is what the women described, but he doesn’t get the same angelic visitors.

In a way, Peter’s experience models our own. When we have our eyes open to looking for evidence of God, and evidence to support our belief in Jesus, we will find reasons and evidence to support our faith. However, similar to Peter, it is unlikely that angelic visitors will appear as a piece of confirming evidence. In Peter’s experience, he finds enough evidence to support a belief in the resurrection, but not so much evidence that would eliminate the role of faith. Our experience is likely to reflect Peter’s.

God has called us to have faith in Jesus, and to trust in the promises of His word. It is unlikely He will remove all reasons for doubt, but He is more than willing to give us enough evidence that we can base our faith on. Let’s keep our eyes open for the evidence He shares, and walk forward in faith.

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

Be sure to intentionally place your faith in Jesus and keep your eyes open for the evidence God shares. While a skeptical mind is capable of discounting anything and everything, don’t be a skeptic. Choose to accept the evidence God shares and intentionally walk forward in life with Him.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself because prayer and Bible study are the best ways to grow personally closer to God. An author, pastor, or even a podcaster can give you ideas to think about, but only personal study leads to a personal relationship – and God wants a personal relationship with you!

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

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 48: In the chaos of resurrection morning, we discover through what happens that our faith might resemble the faith and experience of Peter the disciple, even if we are living over 2,000 years later.

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

Slavery or Adoption: John 8:31-59

Focus Passage: John 8:31-59 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Read John 8:31-59 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, as He was speaking to a crowd of Jews in the temple during a festival, Jesus shares a powerful statement about slavery and sin. John’s gospel includes this message Jesus shared, as well as some details the Jews might not have been ready to accept.

John tells us Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (v. 34-36)

The first statement Jesus makes in these verses is profound: “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” While we would like to think slavery is something that we are erasing from the world, perhaps it is something that is not possible to do while sin is present in the world. Jesus’ statement doesn’t leave any flexibility when it comes to freedom for someone who is actively sinning.

The next statement Jesus makes is powerful as well: “a slave has no permanent place in the family.” While this sounds cruel to think about, someone who is a slave or who has been hired to help in a home may develop close friendships with those in the family, but they are not a part of the family simply because they are present. In this second statement, Jesus is drawing a parallel that someone who sins is a slave and as a slave, he/she is not part of the family.

The third statement switches our perspective because Jesus then tells us: “a son belongs to it [the family] forever.” While Jesus is hinting at Himself as a member of the family, He is really setting the stage for former slaves being freed and adopted into His family. In the third statement, Jesus begins to give us hope that we are not always destined to be slaves to sin.

The last statement in these verses tell us: “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus draws our attention now onto Himself being the original Son (or first Son, or eldest Son) in God’s family. This last statement is a promise that Jesus can free us from sin, and that He is willing to adopt us into God’s family where we are truly free.

But the catch we don’t often realize is that the freedom we are invited into when God adopts us is a freedom from sinful desires and from choosing sin. Jesus can set us free, and when He does, if we choose to return to a life of sin with our freedom then we essentially are telling God we reject His offer and would rather be a slave.

With God through Jesus, a sinless life is possible. This does not mean we live a life without mistakes, but it does mean we live a life where our thoughts and desires are focused on God and living as He directs. Living an entire life without sinning at some point is not possible for us, but focusing on Jesus and on living for Him can make our future lives sinless even if our future lives are not “mistakeless”. Living with Jesus in this way tells God we accept the adoption He offers us into His family.

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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