Flashback Episode — Hiding From Fame: John 7:1-9

Read the Transcript

When we imagine Jesus traveling throughout the countryside healing, teaching, and preaching to the crowds, in our minds, we always see the rag-tag group of disciples traveling alongside with Him. We don’t ever get the picture that the disciples were anywhere but with Jesus.

However, in an odd turn of events, the gospel of John gives us a glimpse into a brief moment where Jesus was not with His disciples, but instead, He was with His brothers. While I don’t know what the context for this event was, it is interesting in my mind that John chose to include it in his gospel.

Our event can be found in the gospel of John, chapter 7, and for our time together, we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. 3 Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. 6 So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil. 8 Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.” 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee.

The big thing I find fascinating in this passage is what Jesus’ brothers imply through their words. In verse 4, Jesus’ brothers challenge Jesus by saying, “no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly”.

In essence, while Jesus’ brothers probably realize that Jesus is significant, and they probably grew up with the knowledge of Jesus extraordinary birth, and they also probably grew up hearing from Mary and Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah God had promised, none of these extraordinary things from Jesus’ past or present made sense to them when Jesus was not willing to be open or public about who He was.

In Jesus’ brothers’ minds, Jesus was going about the role of Messiah in the completely wrong way. If He was to be rallying people together in an effort to overthrow the Romans, staying out of Judea was not a practical plan, because while Judea included people who wanted to kill Him, it also contained some of the people who were most likely to join a rebellion. In Galilee, which had a much higher concentration of Gentiles than other parts of the country, Jesus wouldn’t have as much support, nor would He be as visible to the Jews that Jesus’ brothers believed He came to exclusively save.

But the error Jesus’ brothers make is that Jesus wanted to be known publicly. It is this error that catches many Christians and believers off guard, because while Jesus was famous because of the counter-cultural message He was sharing, and because He was able to heal almost anyone from almost anything that was bothering them, Christians today might incorrectly assume that fame was part of Jesus’ goals.

However, Jesus counters this very point by saying in verse 7, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it”. In these words, Jesus separates those present into two groups: Others and Himself. In this statement, Jesus also gives the counter-cultural message that the world hates Him.

Not everyone living in the first century hated Jesus, but there was a significant number of people who did. Probably the biggest source of hate towards Jesus both then and now is that His perfect life and selfless character conflict with the sin inside all of us. To reconcile this, we have to either accept Jesus’ offer of His new life, or try and fail to live up to the standard that He set through His life, or give up and not even try at all.

Jesus is hated because He calls evil by its true name, and His perfect life was modeled after the idea of loving the sinner while rejecting the sin. Jesus saw people as special, regardless of their past choices and sinful lifestyles. This love resonated with some, while it repelled a majority of others.

The majority of people who rejected Jesus did so because He either said things they did not agree with or feel they could live up to, or because they routinely built themselves up by putting others down.

Any fame Jesus received through His counter-cultural message and through the miracles He performed was not because He was trying to build a name for Himself. Instead, everything He did was because God directed Him to do so and because He wanted to give the glory to God. None of Jesus’ miracles was intended to bring glory or praise onto Himself; but every one of Jesus’ miracles was intended to focus the glory onto God who had worked in a mighty and powerful way.

In our own lives, for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, Christians, or disciples, we are to reflect Jesus in our daily lives, and the only way we can truly reflect Him is if we are focused on Him, if we regularly spend time with Him, and if we intentionally love others like Him. The only way we can hope to accomplish anything for God is by doing what Jesus did and living like Jesus lived: Jesus depended on God for direction, guidance, power, love, humility, and He gave up self at every opportunity He could. When tempted, Jesus always pointed the focus elsewhere, and He never directed glory towards Himself.

Jesus’ brothers did not understand this because His brothers didn’t understand what God’s Messiah would be like. Similar to most everyone living in the first century, Jesus’ brothers believed He would be the military leader who would overthrow the Romans.

Only after Jesus’ death and the mold for their idea of Messiah was broken do His closest followers, friends, and family realize that God’s Messiah came in a different way than they had imagined.

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

Continue to place God first and seek to do His will. Commit each day to living as selflessly as Jesus lived and loving others like Jesus loved. Know that you cannot succeed without God’s help, so lean on Him for the strength to reflect Jesus each day.

Also, prayerfully study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow more like Jesus. The only way for you to truly be like Jesus is to learn, and discover who Jesus was. While you could take a podcaster’s or pastor’s word for it, it’s much better to study and learn personally, because God wants to know you personally and not as a “friend of a friend”.

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

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 23: Cam discusses a rare moment when Jesus was with His brothers and His disciples were elsewhere. Learn why even Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him, and why this matters to us living today.

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

The Fateful Choice: John 13:18-30

Read the Transcript

On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He shared a supper with His followers. During this supper, Jesus tells His followers that one of them would betray Him, and He singles that person out. However, in spite of how clear this all is described, we discover that the disciples still did not understand what was happening until it was too late.

Let’s read what happened when Jesus singles out the betrayer, and see what we can discover. Our passage picks up right where our last episode’s passage ended, and it’s found in John’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 18, Jesus continues speaking to the disciples while eating supper, saying:

18 “I am not talking about all of you. I know those I have chosen. But this is to bring about what the Scripture said: ‘The man who ate at my table has turned against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now before it happens so that when it happens, you will believe that I am he. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the One who sent me.”

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto two big ideas. First is that Jesus knows He will be betrayed, and He is clearly aware of who the betrayer is. Jesus states clearly that He knows who He has chosen, and this statement implies that Judas Iscariot may have been brought into the twelve disciples through an invitation Jesus gave, but something was missing after the three years that kept Judas from being “chosen”.

However, we can get a clue about Judas Iscariot in the second big idea. Jesus finished this section off by saying that whoever accepts Him also accepts the One who sent Him. Earlier in John’s gospel, we discover in one of the most famous verses, that God – and this is reference to God the Father – loved humanity so much that He gave us His Son, so that those who chose to believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. By accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives, we are also accepting the One who sent Jesus, and this is God the Father, and His Holy Spirit.

However, did Judas Iscariot accept Jesus?

Let’s continue reading to see if John tells us the answer. Continuing in verse 21, John tells us that:

21 After Jesus said this, he was very troubled. He said openly, “I tell you the truth, one of you will turn against me.”

22 The followers all looked at each other, because they did not know whom Jesus was talking about. 23 One of the followers sitting next to Jesus was the follower Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus whom he was talking about.

25 That follower leaned closer to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “I will dip this bread into the dish. The man I give it to is the man who will turn against me.” So Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus said to him, “The thing that you will do—do it quickly.” 28 No one at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Since he was the one who kept the money box, some of the followers thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the feast or to give something to the poor.

30 Judas took the bread Jesus gave him and immediately went out. It was night.

In this last portion of our passage, a number of things stood out in my mind as we read it. However, the first big thing is the answer to the question I asked earlier. Verse 27 started by telling us that “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

This verse gives us the key piece of the puzzle when asking the question about whether Judas had accepted Jesus or not. If Judas had accepted Jesus into His heart, God would have been present there, and if God was present there, Satan could not have entered Judas. Instead, we discover that even after three or more years being a disciple of Jesus, Judas perhaps was well aware of Jesus’ miraculous support from God, but he had not taken the step towards letting his belief rest on Jesus and He had not spiritually let Jesus into His heart.

In last week’s passage, John told us about Peter and his response to Jesus’ foot washing. I believe that John is subtly contrasting Peter with Judas here, because Peter was all in. While Peter initially wasn’t willing to accept Jesus’ gift of foot washing, when Jesus explained the necessity of it, Peter wants Jesus to wash more of him than just his feet. While Peter stumbled in many ways, we can see from his actions that He was passionate about Jesus.

On the other hand, we don’t discover much about Judas Iscariot, except that most of the gospel writers tell us repeatedly that He would be the one who betrayed Jesus. John tells us that Judas was a thief, and that Jesus challenged Judas’ condescending remarks towards Mary about her gift.

But another interesting observation I had when reading this is that Judas had the choice whether or not to accept the bread from Jesus. While Judas was on the path of betrayal, he could have refused the bread Jesus was handing him. While the other disciples seem clueless that Jesus is exposing the traitor, Judas would have clearly understood what accepting the bread meant.

If God had been in Judas’ heart, Judas would have politely refused, and we would not have the first part of verse 27 in our Bibles. Verse 27 begins by telling us: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

If we remove the first conditional statement in this sentence, the second one disappears. If Judas refused the bread, Satan would not have entered Him, and it is possible this would be the beginning of Judas letting Jesus into His heart. Judas had the choice whether to accept the bread from Jesus, and Judas accepted both the bread and the role of betrayer in one instant. After Judas had accepted this role, Satan entered him and the last stages leading up to the cross begin.

Judas Iscariot was not forced to accept the role of betrayer. God did not predestine him to this role. Jesus did not invite him to be a disciple on the condition that three years later, he would betray Him. Judas chose the role of his own free will, and simply because God saw this happen, and because it was predicted before the events took place, everything hinges on Judas’ choice to accept the bread.

This means for you and I that even though God knows us so well that He knows what we will choose, we still have the freedom to choose when the moment comes. When we face temptation, regardless of our past, we can choose a new path moving forward. While our past lives might be full of sinful decisions, Jesus came to take care of our past when we choose to accept Him into our lives, accept the One who sent Him, and to turn away from the sin in our past. Jesus came to give us a new life with God, and God is inviting us to grow with Him for eternity.

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

As always, be sure to seek God first and when faced with the choice, always choose to do God’s will, to make the decision that will please God, and/or to choose to love and help others. Trust Jesus that our past has been dealt with when we make the choice to accept Jesus into our lives, and to move forward with Him.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow closer to God each and every day. Intentionally strengthen your personal relationship with God and let Him lead you into the truth He wants to teach you through His Word.

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 23: When Jesus offered Judas a piece of bread at the last supper, did Judas have to accept it? If Judas had refused this gift, would that have changed His life? Discover what we can learn from Judas Iscariot and his fateful choice.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Taught By A Fish: Matthew 17:24-27

Read the Transcript

Over the past few years of sharing insights that I have found while reading and studying in the gospels, I have realized that when someone is looking for things that are special, significant, relevant, or even relatable, every one of the passages in the gospels has something that is worthy of paying attention to.

However, sometimes while reading a passage, I am inspired on a whole other level than on the surface of what the passage says. The passage and event we are focusing on is one such passage. Found only in Matthew’s gospel, while studying it, I came to the realization that in these four short verses, we have an almost perfect reflection of the salvation plan illustrated in a unique way.

I’m not sure why Matthew was the only one to include this event, but I am glad He did, because without this event, we would miss discovering a powerful lesson that the disciples learned. Let’s read what happened, from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 17 using the New Century Version. Starting in verse 24, Matthew tells us:

24 When Jesus and his followers came to Capernaum, the men who collected the Temple tax came to Peter. They asked, “Does your teacher pay the Temple tax?”

25 Peter answered, “Yes, Jesus pays the tax.”

Peter went into the house, but before he could speak, Jesus said to him, “What do you think? The kings of the earth collect different kinds of taxes. But who pays the taxes—the king’s children or others?”

26 Peter answered, “Other people pay the taxes.”

Jesus said to Peter, “Then the children of the king don’t have to pay taxes. 27 But we don’t want to upset these tax collectors. So go to the lake and fish. After you catch the first fish, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin and give it to the tax collectors for you and me.”

And this is how this event ends. Part of me wishes for another verse that simply said that Peter did everything that Jesus had instructed him to do and he found it exactly like Jesus had described. But Matthew doesn’t say this. In some ways, like Peter leaving the house and going down to the lake, we must believe that what Jesus described actually happened.

There are plenty of other events in the gospels where Jesus describes an upcoming event or interaction that plays out exactly as He describes. One example is with getting the donkey He rode into Jerusalem on; another is His death and resurrection.

However, even more significant in my mind than taking Jesus’ description to Peter on faith is looking exactly at what is described in this event – and exactly what takes place. But before digging into the passage again, let’s frame how we read this passage by asking ourselves the question, “Who exactly paid the temple tax?”

Some might be quick to point out that it was Peter, for Peter and Jesus, but the coin used to pay the tax didn’t come from Peter’s savings or checking wallet. Instead, it came from somewhere else. What does Jesus instruct Peter to do? Verse 27 tells us that Jesus told Peter to “go to the lake and fish. After you catch the first fish, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin and give it to the tax collectors for you and me.

Now I am not good at calculating the odds of something, but this instruction is pretty unlikely. First, in order for a fish to get a coin stuck in its mouth, a coin would have to fall into the water somehow. Perhaps this happened days or weeks earlier, and, as a merchant or traveler was crossing the lake, the coin, or perhaps a money bag fell into the lake. This isn’t too unbelievable. It may have even been a moneybag lost during a flash storm as a boat was crossing the lake.

However, next, a fish would then need to find the coin or bag of money and think it was food, and try to eat it. I don’t know much about fish or fishing, but this seems unlikely to happen naturally. I would imagine that fish don’t try to bite more than they can chew, and a coin that is too big to swallow may have fit that bill. But even this is plausible in light of the next thing that would have needed to happen.

Next, that fish would have needed to swim over to the dock where Peter was getting ready to fish at, and be the first fish, with its mouth already full, to think about biting the hook or bait that Peter was using. Of all the fish in the lake, only one fit the description of having a specific coin stuck in its mouth.

When we look at the back-story of what would need to happen in order for Jesus’ description to come true for Peter, we cannot escape the probability that God orchestrated this entire event, and that means that essentially He (God) paid the temple tax.

Now why is this significant? Let’s look earlier at a question in the conversation Jesus has with Peter. Verse 25 describes Jesus’ question to Peter. Jesus asks Peter: “What do you think? The kings of the earth collect different kinds of taxes. But who pays the taxes—the king’s children or others?”

This question is significant because we are all adopted into God’s family, and the temple tax was a requirement to help maintain the temple in Jerusalem. We could call this temple God’s house on earth – because, at least at that time, this is what the purpose of the temple was.

Peter’s answer that other people pay the tax is correct, but this would then mean that Jesus, being part of God’s family, would be exempt from the tax — just after Peter had said that Jesus does pay the tax.

In an instant, Peter realizes that he had spoken incorrectly and had potentially incriminated Jesus. However, Jesus is quick to supply a solution. Peter doesn’t get off without having to do something, but he does get to keep his reputation and his word by delivering the money for the tax he said that Jesus supported.

In this event is a parallel of the entire gospel story. We could summarize it like this: We mess up, God provides a solution. Adam and Eve sinned and infected the entire human race with evil. Jesus came with the solution that He would take our place and our punishment onto Himself. We mess up, God provides a solution. Peter speaks without realizing the implication. Jesus steps in with a solution on how to get the coin to pay what Peter promised would be paid.

In both these cases, God provides the solution when we don’t deserve to be helped. In each case, we can see God’s love for us and how much He cares for us even though we don’t, or even can’t, thank Him enough for what He has done.

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

Always place God first in your life and lean on Him to help you find solutions to the problems we face. While sometimes it may feel like He is silent, know that He has a solution to every problem, and His solutions will always conclude with you choosing a new life with Him – specifically a new life that leads into an eternal life with Him.

Also, study the Bible to learn more about God and more about Jesus. As you pray, read, and study, look for examples of God’s love and God’s character. While God doesn’t always brush sin aside, we can find grace in every place He steps into history – but don’t take my word for it, pray, read, and study it yourself and discover if I’m correct.

And in addition to everything else, as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 22: Cam discusses a short event that only happens in Matthew’s gospel, and what we can learn from the conversation and instructions that Jesus gave to Peter regarding paying a tax they did not owe.

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

Stepping Into Greatness: John 13:1-17

Read the Transcript

We’ve now come to the point in the gospels where all four writers slow down and describe the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples. Jesus knew that the next 12 hours would change everything and challenge much of what these disciples believed about the Messiah’s role.

However, Jesus does something interesting during this meal that catches the disciples off guard. Let’s read about what happened. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, John begins sharing about the Last Supper by saying:

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Pausing really quickly, I find that last phrase amazing. John tells us that Jesus loved His own who were in the world to the end. While this could be simply saying that Jesus loved them enough to face death, I wonder if it also means that Jesus loves all of His people through to the end of the world.

When challenges and trials come to God’s people in this life, know that Jesus loves you, and He will keep loving you till the end!

Picking back up in verse 2, John continues by telling us that:

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Before continuing further, I want to draw your attention onto an amazing truth Jesus lives out through what John has just shared. After describing how Judas Iscariot was already on the path towards being the betrayer, John tells us that the Father had put all things under Jesus’ power and that Jesus was aware of this.

This statement has two huge implications. The first is that everything that happens following this moment in Jesus’ life is 100% within His control. This means that even though Jesus’ prayer in the garden was for God’s will to be done, God gave Jesus the freedom to choose whether or not to go through with the betrayal, arrest, abuse, rejection, and ultimate death on the cross. The idea that Jesus wanted to avoid the cross and that Judas Iscariot cut Jesus’ life short fails the simple reading of this verse.

If Jesus wanted to avoid the cross, there was dozens of ways He could have done so because God had put all things under His power!

The second amazing implication is that knowing or realizing that all things were put within His power, the first thing Jesus does is get up, take His outer robe off, wrap a towel around His waist, and step into the lowest possible role a person could have in that society. The role of a foot washer was the very bottom of the roles for servants, and Jesus, when He was at His greatest, steps into the lowest role to teach the disciples a powerful truth about humility and service.

As Jesus went around the room washing feet, He would have washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Him, and even this act of humility would not be enough to break Judas Iscariot off of the path he had chosen.

However, one disciple protests Jesus’ actions. Continuing in verse 6, we read that:

He [Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

In this passage and Jesus’ teaching, He sets a new bar for humility. After Jesus was finished washing the disciple’s feet, He tells them that no servant is greater than his master is. Jesus, the Master, has just stepped into the lowest role imaginable in the disciples’ minds, and now Jesus is challenging them, and us, to step into an even lower role.

While I don’t know about your experience, every time I have washed someone else’s feet as part of a communion ceremony, it is both a very humbling experience, and it is a little awkward. From the perspective Jesus shares after this illustration, we are challenged to serve others at the lowest levels of society, and to never think of ourselves as above any level of service.

Jesus never thought He was above any task that needed to be done, and He challenges His disciples in the same way. If Jesus was willing to do anything and everything to save God’s people from sin, we should be willing to step down and serve in any and every way God has called us to.

Jesus modeled stepping down through His life. He stepped down from heaven to come to earth as a baby. He steps down to humanity, specifically John the Baptist, by being baptized at the start of His ministry. He steps down into the lowest role of a servant after serving as a teacher, healer, and giver throughout his time on earth. And Jesus stepped down into death in the most painful, humiliating way that society has created, because that is how much God loves you and I!

While there is still plenty of details left to discover along the path leading to the cross, Jesus begins this night by demonstrating service in one of the most profound ways.

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

Always seek God first and accept His challenge to you in the areas of service, humility, and helping others. Never think of yourself as above a certain type of help or service. If Jesus ever thought He was above something or someone, He intentionally stepped under them, and He has called us to do the same. As followers of Jesus, we should focus on ways we can step down and serve instead of stepping up for status. If God wants to bless us with status, it should be only because we are serving others that well.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself to keep your personal connection to Jesus strong. A personal relationship with God is possible today, and a personal relationship leads us from this point forward into eternity. Never let your personal relationship rest or be dependent on someone else’s relationship with God. God loves you personally and He wants a personal relationship with you without anyone else getting in the way.

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

Year of the Cross – Episode 22: While we might often think the greatest person is the one with the most status, Jesus challenges this idea through one of the things He modeled during the Last Supper with the disciples. Discover how Jesus uses this personal illustration to challenge all of His followers throughout history.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.