Flashback Episode — Avoiding the 1-Bag Trap: Matthew 25:14-30


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Shortly before switching away from Jesus’ teachings and onto sharing about the night Jesus was betrayed, Matthew shares in his gospel about a parable that shares several characteristics to one we looked at earlier this year from Luke’s gospel.

However, there are enough unique details in Matthew’s version of this parable to make me think Jesus spoke two similar parables at different times. While the parable in Luke is often called the parable of the ten servants, Matthew’s parable focuses in on three servants only, and because of this, it is known simply as the parable of the three servants.

Let’s read how Matthew shares this parable and discover some things we can learn from it. Our passage is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, and we will be reading from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 14, Jesus continues teaching the disciples saying:

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

One of the big, unique details in Matthew’s gospel is that each of the three servants received different amounts of money. This might not sound very fair, but Jesus shared in the opening of this parable that this decision was strategic. Verse 15 tells us that “He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities”.

While it might seem that this man is not being fair, this man is actually being fair and giving each servant according to the level of what each is able to manage. While we don’t have any context for what made the five-bag servant more capable than the 2-bag servant, or even the 1-bag servant, I’m sure you know people in your life who are more capable and wise with how they manage their money than others. We probably can look at these three servants in a similar way. One had shown excellent ingenuity, one was perhaps average, and one was afraid of risk.

We can learn an important point from this detail, which says that God is unlikely to give us more resources than we are able to handle. When we use what He has already given to us in a wise and productive way, He is likely to give us more resources as He sees fit.

The next detail we learn is that both the 5-bag servant and the 2-bag servant double the money they were gifted. Again, we don’t know how they did this, but the details of how are less relevant than the results – and that their results were accomplished in a way that didn’t land them in prison or dead, which means they were ethical with their investing and work strategy.

However, a lot of space is given to the 1-bag servant, who simply did nothing. This 1-bag servant is fearful of making a mistake, of losing the money, and of letting his master down. We see the master call this servant “wicked, lazy, and useless” because he did the worst possible thing with the money, which was nothing.

While the master in this parable suggested that a better place for this one bag of silver would have been in a bank where it could have collected some interest, I believe that even if this servant had tried something and failed, the response would have been better than the one he received.

Trying and failing is better than doing nothing because every time we try, we learn something new, and with every time we fail, we discover the limits to what we know and believe. Failure is not on the opposite side of success, it is simply a hurdle to jump over on our way to success.

As followers of Jesus, we have been given the best gift possible, and this gift is an invitation to heaven. This parable challenges us with the responsibility that we are to do something with this gift. Doing nothing only gets us tossed out. Doing something is the only way to move forward.

The last theme I will draw out in our time together is that even if the master didn’t have much faith in the 1-bag servant’s ability, he still entrusted 1 bag of silver to this servant. This means that if you feel left out on God’s blessings, like He is giving blessings to everyone else and you are left out on the sidelines, know that this is a lie.

The master, who represents God, has given everyone something, and He is watching to see what we do with what He has blessed us with. When Jesus returns, those who have done something will be rewarded, while those who were too fearful to do anything risk losing out on everything.

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

If you feel as though God hasn’t given you much to work with, determine to use what He has given you. If you don’t have much money, but you have some spare time, use some of your spare time to bless others. If you don’t have money or time, but you have some knowledge or an experience, look for ways you can help others with that information in time and cost efficient ways. God isn’t expecting us to multiply what He has given us exponentially, but to simply use what He has given us to bless others.

Also, as I regularly challenge you to do, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself so that you can keep your connection with God strong. When your connection and relationship with God is strong, I believe He will lead you along the path He created for you to walk, and along this path you will find out that He has given you everything you need to take the next step.

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

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 41: Jesus shares a parable where three servants are giving various bags of silver to use while their master is away on a trip. Discover what we can learn about each of these servants and how we can avoid being a 1-bag servant.

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Lessons Leading Up to a Miracle: John 11:1-44


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In our year moving through the gospels looking at Jesus’ miracles, we come to the miracle that takes up the greatest space of any single miracle in the gospels, and strangely this miracle is only included in John’s gospel. Part of me wondered if it was so well known of an event that the other gospel writers decided to exclude it because of its fame.

However, because it is such a long miracle, we’ll split our discussion on this miracle into two parts, because not only will that give us more time to understand Jesus’ teaching surrounding this miracle, but we can focus in on more than one theme that we can learn from this event.

So without further delay, let’s dive in to what we can learn from this miracle. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 11, and we will be reading from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

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.”

Let’s stop reading here for this episode, because we have hit a number of huge themes already, and we haven’t even hit the point in our event where the miracle happens.

The first thing I see is that looking at the spans of time given in the first part of the miracle, there would have been no way for Jesus to have arrived on time to save Lazarus – unless God had made the situation known to Jesus before the news officially arrived. We can conclude this using simple math: Jesus stayed where He was for two more days, and when He ultimately arrived, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. The best-case scenario was that Jesus arrived two days earlier and Lazarus had been buried the day or two before that. It’s likely that the messenger who brought the message to Jesus learned that Lazarus had died after arriving back telling those present that he found Jesus and gave Him the message.

It may have even been a four-day journey between where they were and where Lazarus was buried because it appears that Jesus didn’t even start traveling in that direction until after describing Lazarus as asleep, or more specifically as dead.

This leads us to conclude that sometimes when it feels as though God, or Jesus, arrives too late, it may be because Jesus has a miracle in mind. If we focus on what we think should have been, then we might miss the miracle God really wants to accomplish. John writes in verse 15 that Jesus tells the disciples this event will now give them the chance to put their faith in Jesus. Maybe the disciples had been hesitant about putting their faith in Jesus, or maybe Jesus is giving them one more reason to believe in Him. Regardless of the reason, this miracle that hasn’t actually happened at this point in our event is pointing us towards a reason to believe in Jesus!

We discover what Jesus may have wanted to teach the disciples in this event when He repeatedly uses the concept of sleep to describe death. If Jesus did not want His followers to connect the idea of sleep and death together, then this would have been a great opportunity for Him to stop the analogy. Instead, everything in this event points to a believer’s death being temporary, just like sleep is temporary, and that we don’t need to fear it.

For a follower of Christ, death is insignificant because it is temporary. Death simply pauses consciousness like sleep pauses consciousness. If Jesus didn’t want us to think this way, this event would have been the perfect place to correct His followers.

Instead, Jesus stresses the sleep metaphor in both His conversation with the disciples, and in His conversation with Martha, Jesus reiterates how death, like sleep, is temporary.

The last big idea that we have time for in this episode is the truth that Martha shares about Jesus before going to get Mary. Martha tells Jesus in verse 27, “I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.

Martha has one of the most powerful declarations about Jesus anywhere recorded in the gospels, and it’s likely Mary would have had a similar conversation except for the crowd of people present with Mary who weren’t there when Martha talked with Jesus.

In the first portion of this event, there is a lot we can discover, and when we pick back up with this event in our next episode, discover what else we can discover as we focus in on the longest miracle in the gospel record.

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

Always seek God first and put your hope, faith, trust, and belief in Him. Believe, like Martha, that Jesus is the One God sent into the world, and the One that God promised would come to pay the penalty for our sins. Trust in the ministry of Jesus, both the ministry that happened while He was here on earth, and the “ministry of intersession” He is doing now in heaven on our behalf.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God. Through the Bible, we can learn what God wants to teach us about life, and about the future life He has promised for all His followers.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 41: In the longest single miracle event recorded in the gospels, discover some big truths John included in His gospel leading up to what was likely the most famous miracle Jesus ever did leading up to the cross.

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Flashback Episode — Saved Till the End: Mark 13:14-23


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As we continue moving through the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we come to a portion of a larger teaching Jesus shares regarding the end times. While I will be the first to say that what Jesus has predicted may have already happened, I will also be among the first to say that what Jesus describes might still be something we should pay attention and watch for.

Some people might discount this passage as less relevant believing it has already been fulfilled, but personally, I am less certain and hold to a belief that some prophecies may be circular, and they may repeat at certain points of history.

Let’s read this passage and then talk for a few minutes about how this passage may still be applicable for our lives today. Our passage is found in the gospel of Mark, chapter 13, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Jumping into Jesus’ teaching at verse 14, He continues by saying:

14 “When you see the disgusting thing that will cause destruction standing where it should not (let the reader take note), those of you in Judea should flee to the mountains. 15 Those who are on the roof should not come down to get anything out of their houses. 16 Those who are in the field should not turn back to get their coats.

Let’s pause reading here to draw our attention onto a phrase Jesus uses in the first part of this passage. This passage opens with Jesus using a phrase to describe this event from the prophetic writings of Daniel. There is lots of speculation over what Jesus calls the “the disgusting thing that will cause destruction” or the “abomination of desolation” which is how this phrase is translated in more classic translations. The impression we learn from how the gospel writers describe this is it is something that we should make note of and pay attention to.

There are three primary viewpoints regarding this phrase. Some people believe it was fulfilled shortly after Daniel’s lifetime when one of the Greek emperors captured Jerusalem and set up an idol to the god Zeus and sacrificed a pig on the altar. Others, believe this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 when Jerusalem was captured by the Romans after a Jewish revolt. A similar event occurred where the Romans laid waste to the temple and tried to install an idol on the place where the temple was.

Still another group of people believe this phrase relates to something that hasn’t happened yet. For these people, we still should pay attention and be on the lookout for something like this to happen.

Is it possible for more than one of these interpretations to be correct? Let’s look at what this passage says after this phrase. Reading again from verse 14, Jesus tells us:

 14 “When you see the disgusting thing that will cause destruction standing where it should not (let the reader take note), those of you in Judea should flee to the mountains. 15 Those who are on the roof should not come down to get anything out of their houses. 16 Those who are in the field should not turn back to get their coats.

17 “How horrible it will be for the women who are pregnant or who are nursing babies in those days. 18 Pray that it will not be in winter. 19 It will be a time of misery that has not happened from the beginning of God’s creation until now, and will certainly never happen again. 20 If the Lord does not reduce that time, no one will be saved. But those days will be reduced because of those whom God has chosen.

Pausing reading again, we see an indicator that this is a one-time prophecy. Jesus describes this as “a time of misery that has not happened from the beginning of God’s creation until now, and will certainly never happen again”. While I don’t want to diminish anything we see in history, I picture what Jesus describes in this passage as being something that would clearly be visible within the pages of history. While this could be a description of the early church being persecuted by the Romans, the Romans only affected a small portion of the world. I wonder if the time of misery described here will be of a much larger, perhaps even a worldwide, scale.

The conclusion Jesus describes is clear. Verse 20 tells us that “If the Lord does not reduce that time, no one will be saved. But those days will be reduced because of those whom God has chosen.

However, Jesus isn’t finished describing the end. After God has reduced the time of misery for the benefit of His people, Jesus tells us in verse 21:

21 “At that time don’t believe anyone who tells you, ‘Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear. They will work miraculous signs and do wonderful things to deceive, if possible, those whom God has chosen. 23 Be on your guard! I have told you everything before it happens.

To conclude the portion of this passage we are focusing in on, Jesus describes how we should be on guard for false prophets and false messiahs appearing. Jesus describes a time when we should not believe anyone who tells us that the Messiah has returned and he is somewhere specific. The return of Jesus is something that will be so clear, distinct, and traumatic that it likely will end the world as we know it. Anyone claiming to be God’s messiah with any less significant of an entrance we could call a false messiah.

Jesus also tells us that the false prophets and false messiahs will work miraculous signs and do wonderful things in order to deceive. While I won’t speculate on what these things are, one test that is easy to use is simply asking if the miracle or sign points people back to the Jesus of the Bible. If not, it is not from God. God has told us that He will glorify Jesus, and anything that takes our focus off of the Jesus described in the gospels we are told is the work of the antichrist.

However, with all the talk of the end-times and times of misery, we can know that God is still in control. Just like He cuts the time of misery short because He can, He will be with His people and He will protect His people. While God’s protection might not mean all of His people will be spared from death, it does mean that God’s people are protected and saved for the future new heaven and new earth when sin has been destroyed.

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

Be sure to always seek God first and keep your focus on the Jesus of the Bible. It is by keeping our eyes focused on Him that will keep us safe when trouble, trials, and challenges come into our lives.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself because while a pastor or podcaster can share good ideas, it is always best to stay connected to the Source – and for us living today, the Source is God’s Holy Spirit that we can have through prayer and studying His word.

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!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 40: Discover a phrase Jesus borrows from the prophet Daniel, and how we can be ready for the end-time when it comes!

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

Praising God through Jesus: Luke 17:11-19


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As we move through the miracles in the gospels, we come to the point in Jesus’ miracles where He makes His way towards Jerusalem leading up to the crucifixion. Early on in this trip, we come to an event that is interesting, because in it, those present are healed without Jesus’ presence and after they begin following Jesus’ instructions.

However, one of those present in the group risks everything because he chooses to deviate from Jesus’ instructions in order to do something he feels is more important than finishing the task Jesus had sent him on.

Let’s read about what happened, and discover some things we can apply in our own life from what took place. Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 17, and we will be reading it from the New American Standard Bible. Starting in verse 11, Luke tells us that:

11 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

I am always a little surprised in this event. The implication in what is written is that the other nine former lepers were not thankful, but that is unlikely the case. I’m sure that all ten men were overjoyed at the realization that they were healed. While Luke’s gospel condenses this event to help us see the overall picture, I am a little curious how much time passed between the men being sent by Jesus to Jerusalem, and when the one man ultimately arrived back to thank Jesus.

This could have been hours later, or even days. When I look at a map of New Testament Israel, it is likely that these lepers had to travel about 50 miles on foot from where Jesus met them to ultimately reach Jerusalem. This would have then been at least a two-day journey. I suspect that this Samaritan arrived back to thank Jesus maybe a few hours later. Because while the group hurried towards Jerusalem, I’m pretty sure the Samaritan ran back to find Jesus.

We don’t know if the other lepers ever made it back to thank Jesus. It is possible that they did. It is also possible that they didn’t turn back because they were fearful that any deviation from Jesus’ command to go to show themselves to the priests in Jerusalem would result in the leprosy returning. This Samaritan risked losing his healing in order to thank Jesus.

Another unknown in this event is if the Samaritan then went to finish the mission of seeing a priest. We don’t have any indication of this in the scriptures, but part of me thinks that he did because that would be a smart, safe thing to do, not just because Jesus had told him to do so, but also because the priests were the official gatekeepers who declared the diseased people healed and able to return to society.

In this event, we discover that there is never a bad time to pause and give thanks to God for what He has done for us. While driving might come close to a bad time if it causes us to pay less attention to the road, nothing in giving thanks to God says it has to involve closed eyes or even take more than a few words. This event, and specifically Jesus’ response, highlights the importance of giving thanks for what God has done for us.

However, it is also interesting that when we read this event, the Samaritan returns to Jesus, “glorifying God with a loud voice”. In Jesus’ reply, we see where Jesus focused as well, because Jesus asked the question “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?

This distinction is significant in my mind. While the former leper thanks Jesus personally, he is much more interested in giving God the glory and credit for the miracle. While Jesus attributes the healing to the man’s faith, from the man’s praise, we see that his faith was in God and in God blessing Jesus’ ministry.

The other nine former lepers may have ultimately been thankful, but they might have simply attributed their thanks to Jesus and not to God. I wonder how many in the first century, like those living today, believe God the Father is unhappy with them, but that Jesus came to stand between us and an angry God. While there is scattered evidence throughout the Bible that a belief could be created from, this belief runs counter to the broader truth that Jesus’ love for us is the same as the Father’s love for us.

In this event, Jesus didn’t come seeking praise for Himself. Instead, Jesus came to give people the opportunity to give glory to God the Father, and to show the world what the Father is really like. If you or I are ever doubtful of what the Father is like, we don’t need to look any further than Jesus and what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross!

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

Always seek God first and give Him thanks when He brings blessings into your life. If there is a coincidence, a bit of luck, or something that simply went your way when it didn’t have to, give God thanks regardless of whether He was involved or not. When in doubt, it is always better to thank God because we don’t always know what He is up to in our lives.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to discover what God wants to teach you through the pages of His Word. While you can learn many things from many people, filter everything you see, hear, or read through the filter of the Bible to discover whether it is truth or not. If an idea conflicts with the Bible’s teaching, it is not a worthwhile idea from eternity’s perspective.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 40: When Jesus sent ten lepers on a mission, only one returned to give thanks. Discover some things we can learn from this amazing miracle, and what the one man risked when he returned to thank Jesus.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.