Flashback Episode — Stepping Into Greatness: John 13:1-17

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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 to 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!

Flashback Episode: 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.

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Honoring the Sabbath Day: Matthew 12:1-21

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As we continue moving through Matthew’s gospel, we come to a set of events where Jesus challenges the religious leaders while defending those who followed Him and those who needed healing. In the context of Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders disagreed with Jesus the most on one, single point: which was the Sabbath. As we will see while reading our passage, the religious leaders’ biggest issue over Jesus and His followers actions related to what they did and did not do on the day of worship.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn about what Jesus believed from this set of events. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will read it from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

At that time Jesus was walking through some fields of grain on a Sabbath day. His followers were hungry, so they began to pick the grain and eat it. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, “Look! Your followers are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath day.”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and the people with him were hungry? He went into God’s house, and he and those with him ate the holy bread, which was lawful only for priests to eat. And have you not read in the law of Moses that on every Sabbath day the priests in the Temple break this law about the Sabbath day? But the priests are not wrong for doing that. I tell you that there is something here that is greater than the Temple. The Scripture says, ‘I want kindness more than I want animal sacrifices.’ You don’t really know what those words mean. If you understood them, you would not judge those who have done nothing wrong.

“So the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath day.”

Jesus left there and went into their synagogue, 10 where there was a man with a crippled hand. They were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they asked him, “Is it right to heal on the Sabbath day?”

11 Jesus answered, “If any of you has a sheep, and it falls into a ditch on the Sabbath day, you will help it out of the ditch. 12 Surely a human being is more important than a sheep. So it is lawful to do good things on the Sabbath day.”

13 Then Jesus said to the man with the crippled hand, “Hold out your hand.” The man held out his hand, and it became well again, like the other hand. 14 But the Pharisees left and made plans to kill Jesus.

Let’s pause reading here to draw our attention onto two big things we can learn from these two events. In the first event, Jesus defends His disciples’ actions by contrasting what they did with even worse actions from the great king David in Israel’s history. And, Jesus contrasts His disciples’ actions against what the priests and religious leaders who serve in the temple did every Sabbath. In both scenarios, what the disciples did is easily excusable because God had excused much more significant things.

In a single phrase, Jesus challenges the legalism of the Pharisees by quoting the Old Testament to them that God is more interested in kindness than in receiving animal sacrifices. In the culture leading up to that time period, a greater and greater focus was being placed on obeying the details of the law that the big themes of the law that focused on being kind and loving towards others were being pushed aside.

Also, it is interesting to note that what the disciples did was step over a self-imposed barrier that the Pharisees had set up to protect the people from coming close to breaking the actual law. What the disciples did is easily understood to not fall under the category of work, but in the legalistic minds of the Pharisees, they had placed the definition of work so low that almost nothing would be allowed. While there were many reasons they chose to do this, the religious leaders lost the love of the law when they focused so heavily on the letter of the law.

It’s interesting that when we move into the second event, it is as though these Pharisees set the trap for Jesus regarding work. When they ask Jesus if it was right to heal on the Sabbath, they viewed Jesus as simply an above-average doctor and healing would be His “job”.

However, Jesus answers their challenge by raising the value of humanity and by telling them that helping a fellow human is just as permissible on the Sabbath as helping one’s own animal. Jesus challenges them on their understanding of the Sabbath by saying, “it is lawful to do good things on the Sabbath day”.

For the religious leaders, the Sabbath was a day of avoiding work and avoiding anything that could even remotely resemble work. The Sabbath had descended into a list of activities to avoid. The Sabbath was not a blessing away from work; it had become a curse and a burden regarding avoiding work or work-like activities.

It is interesting to note that Jesus does not answer any challenge regarding the significance of the Sabbath day. Jesus did not ignore the intent of the Sabbath, or the reason this day of rest and worship was given. Instead, Jesus honored the Sabbath day the way God wanted His people to honor it. Jesus wanted the Sabbath to be filled with worshiping God and helping others. The Sabbath was intended to be a reminder that God supplies our needs while also giving us the rest we need to be more productive during the rest of our week. Jesus did not come to replace the Sabbath; He came to restore it.

However, the Pharisees were stuck in their legalism and hostility towards anyone who challenged their picture of God’s demands for the Sabbath, and this leads them to begin plotting Jesus’ death.

After this event, it is interesting in my mind to read a quotation Matthew includes from the prophet Isaiah. Continuing in verse 15, we learn that:

15 Jesus knew what the Pharisees were doing, so he left that place. Many people followed him, and he healed all who were sick. 16 But Jesus warned the people not to tell who he was. 17 He did these things to bring about what Isaiah the prophet had said:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen.
    I love him, and I am pleased with him.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will tell of my justice to all people.
19 He will not argue or cry out;
    no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a crushed blade of grass
    or put out even a weak flame
until he makes justice win the victory.
21 In him will the non-Jewish people find hope.”

The very last phrase of Isaiah’s prophecy is amazing in my mind. In Jesus, all the non-Jewish people find hope! This means that Jesus is the Messiah for the world, not just for a certain race or nationality. Jesus came for everyone, and He longs to save anyone and everyone from the curse of sin.

Jesus’ death on the cross opens the way for you and me to experience forgiveness for our sins and the hope of an eternal life with God. Even in the Old Testament we discover Jesus’ mission was to everyone regardless of race, nationality, or any other dividing line. Jesus came for everyone!

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, be sure to intentionally seek God first each and every day of your life and to place your focus on Him. Choose to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus and live your life as a thank You to Jesus.

Also, be sure to do good on the Sabbath like Jesus showed us. While we might not do miracles or heal people on God’s day of rest and worship, we can be helpful, kind, and loving to others. This is God’s ideal for His special day!

If you have any doubts about what Jesus felt about the Sabbath, take your concerns to God in prayer and Bible study. Pray and study the Bible for yourself to discover the truth about this truth for yourself. Listen to a variety of different opinions on the Sabbath and test these different views with what the Bible teaches. Like many other beliefs, there is a wide range of views on the Sabbath, and we can best learn through listening to many people and filtering everything they say through what the Bible teaches. Don’t hesitate to ask others about the Bible’s teaching on this subject, but be sure to take what they say and filter it through what you see written in the Bible.

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 21: In two similar events, Jesus is challenged over what are lawful and not lawful activities for the Sabbath day. You may be surprised with what we learn from Jesus’ response.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Seeing the Future: Luke 22:7-13

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We started this year at the beginning of the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, and we have now come to the night Jesus is betrayed and arrested. This weekend marked the Jewish Passover, and before His arrest, Jesus wants to eat a special Passover supper with His disciples.

However, where would they eat it? The city of Jerusalem was not only crowded with people coming in for this holy day, but the religious leaders were on the lookout to find Jesus, making it a not very safe place for Him to be.

All these challenges were no match for divine providence. Jesus knew the details of that night better than anyone else involved, and He knows that God had a special spot already preplanned for them to eat together. Let’s read how God solved this problem.

Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 7, Luke tells us that:

Then the day of Unleavened Bread came. That was the time the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John on ahead. “Go,” he told them. “Prepare for us to eat the Passover meal.”

“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

10 Jesus replied, “When you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters. 11 Then say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, “Where is the guest room? Where can I eat the Passover meal with my disciples?” ’ 12 He will show you a large upstairs room with furniture already in it. Prepare for us to eat there.”

13 Peter and John left. They found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover meal.

Several things stand out in my mind when I read this passage. Probably first on the list is how Jesus knew exactly how to direct Peter and John to find the place for them to prepare the meal. While the instructions are specific, they aren’t super detailed.

Would there only be one man carrying a water pot when they entered the city?

Were they to enter the city and look for a man with a water pot to acknowledge their presence?

Would it look weird to follow this man to where he was going?

Would the owner of the home know who the disciples meant when they asked the question from the “Teacher”?

Using the very generic term teacher makes me wonder if someone in this home was secretly against Jesus. Perhaps it wasn’t someone from the homeowner’s own family, but someone who happened to be visiting briefly, or someone who was walking by within earshot.

However, all of these questions are not answerable, except to say that however Jesus described the details to the disciples, they understood and found things exactly as He described.

But another detail stands out in my mind, and this detail relates to what we focused on last week. Judas Iscariot was secretly plotting against Jesus and looking for a way to hand Him over to the Jewish leaders. It is amazing in my mind that he would witness this foreknowledge, more than once, and believe that his plotting would remain secret.

Sending the disciples to prepare the Passover meal is not the first time Jesus sent some disciples ahead with specific tasks using foreknowledge. Jesus did something similar when sending the disciples ahead to get a donkey for Him to ride into Jerusalem on. We looked at this event earlier this year. Jesus had also given Peter a set of instructions that required amazing foreknowledge for Peter to pay the temple tax.

Judas Iscariot would have been blind to believe Jesus did not know his plot especially when Jesus could direct the disciples in incredible, extraordinary ways. Why he believed he could plot against Jesus is amazing in itself.

It is possible that Judas believed that Jesus knew the plot, He would let the betrayal happen, and then He would reveal His glory. Judas may have believed that being the betrayer was a good thing if it would ultimately get Jesus to reveal to the world that He was the Messiah.

However, this belief runs counter to what Jesus had been telling the disciples all along. Jesus kept telling them He was to be betrayed, then killed, and then after death, He would be raised back to life. It appears as though none of the disciples really understood or believed Jesus’ words here until after it happened. If Judas had heard and understood Jesus’ message, then the results of His betrayal would not have been a surprise.

Jesus knew what would happen better than the disciples were willing to understand all that Jesus wanted to teach them. Jesus tried to share his foreknowledge with them about that weekend, but all His warnings and predictions fell on deaf ears – which is an odd idea to think about since these disciples had witnessed Jesus healing every sort of ailment, and deafness was probably included at some point.

In our passage, Jesus displays and incredible foreknowledge of what would happen. We could say that Jesus knows the future. If Jesus knew the future when He was walking here on this earth, He knows the future today.

Nothing that is happening in the world today is surprising Him. While the world is a mix of bad and good, none of it is catching Jesus off guard.

When something in the world surprises us, catches us off guard, or challenges us, we know that Jesus knew it would happen, and He has prepared a response for us to walk. While we might not always know why something happened the way it did, we can know and trust that with whatever happens in this life, God is keeping us safe for eternity. God loves you and I and He wants to see us with Him in Heaven!

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

Always seek God first and trust that He knows the future. Trust that He wants You to be in heaven with Him, and trust that when we draw close to Him, He will lead each of us into a saving relationship with Him.

Also, pray and study the Bible for yourself to discover what the Bible really teaches, and learn to trust the Bible over tradition. While tradition can be helpful, over time, it can begin to contradict the Bible. This happened in the Old Testament times with the religious leaders, and there are plenty of cases where it has happened in the New Testament church as well. Only through personally praying and studying the Bible can you discover what the Bible teaches for yourself.

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!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 21: Leading up to the last supper with the disciples, Jesus sends two of them ahead with some strange instructions about where to find the place to prepare the meal. Discover what we can learn about Jesus and about God in this event leading into the Last Supper.

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

The Warning and the Invitation: Matthew 11:20-30

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As we continue moving through Matthew’s gospel, we come to another place where Jesus has some challenging words to say to several groups of people. While we might be tempted to think that Jesus’ message is not relevant for us, under the surface of Jesus words is a powerful theme that is relevant for every point in history.

Let’s read what Jesus challenged those in the first century by saying and discover what we can learn that is applicable for our own lives. Our passage is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, and we will read it using the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 20, Matthew tells us that:

20 Jesus began to speak against the towns where he had done most of his miracles. The people there had not turned away from their sins. So he said, 21 “How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida! Suppose the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon. They would have turned away from their sins long ago. They would have put on clothes for mourning. They would have sat down in ashes. 22 But I tell you this. On judgment day it will be easier for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And what about you, Capernaum? Will you be lifted to the heavens? No! You will go down to the place of the dead. Suppose the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom. It would still be here today. 24 But I tell you this. On judgment day it will be easier for Sodom than for you.”

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto something that might be easy to ignore or miss. In this section of our passage, Matthew tells us that Jesus speaks these messages against the towns where He had done the most miracles. This means that these towns, even with Jesus healing the sick, preaching, and working powerfully for God, simply ignored what God was doing in their midst. Jesus compares their ignoring attitude as being worse than some of the worst towns in history.

The towns of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were all judged and condemned by God but Jesus tells these people that if He had been sent to those towns and done what He had done for them in the first century, those towns would have changed. Jesus tells the people living in the first century that it would be easier on judgment day for those who were evil while Jesus wasn’t present in the world than for those who ignored Him while He was here.

However, it is tempting for us to look down on those in the first century and believe we are exempt from Jesus’ warning. If we choose to do this, then we run into the trap of ignoring what God is doing in our world today. The underlying theme in Jesus’ warning is to be aware and to pay attention to what God is doing in your life, in your world, during the time you are alive living in the world, and to acknowledge and accept God into your heart and life.

We run the risk of being judged by God while we judge those in the first century and ignore everything God is doing today. While those in the first century ignored Jesus, we don’t have to make the same mistake they did.

However, Jesus isn’t finished sharing, and like our passage in our last episode, Jesus ends by giving us some encouragement. Continuing in verse 25:

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father. You are Lord of heaven and earth. You have hidden these things from wise and educated people. But you have shown them to little children. 26 Yes, Father. This is what you wanted to do.

27 “My Father has given all things to me. The Father is the only one who knows the Son. And the only ones who know the Father are the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to make him known.

28 “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. 30 Serving me is easy, and my load is light.”

In this concluding message, Jesus shares an amazing promise that is perhaps more relevant for us living today than it was during the first century when He said it. Jesus’ message for everyone living in today’s world is to come to Him if we are tired and carrying a heavy burden and He will give you rest.

If your life is so busy that you feel you are drowning under the weight of your obligations, then Jesus offers you rest. The rest Jesus offers you isn’t just physical rest, but also rest for your soul. While at times it is challenging, Jesus tells us that serving Him is easy, and His load is light.

This promise at the end of Jesus’ message is very welcoming and very inviting, but it also doesn’t take into account all the crazy challenging messages Jesus has shared before about how being a disciple requires dedication and how it costs everything.

How can following Jesus be easy and His load be light when following Jesus costs us everything?

As I have followed Jesus in my own life, I have learned that following Jesus gives us rest and the rest Jesus gives is rest that helps us balance the craziness of our lives. Much of the stress in our lives is fake stress that is self-imposed. This stress comes from worrying about things we cannot change, or even from things that don’t matter. Worrying about what will happen in the next episode of a TV drama or the next installment of a movie franchise only hurts your life. This is fake stress that has real consequences.

If we strip away all the stress and worry in our lives that relates to things we cannot change or affect, instantly our loads are lighter. We can do this without even coming to Jesus.

However, the real blessing that Jesus offers us is the truth that we don’t have to worry about appeasing an angry God who wants to punish us. Instead, Jesus came to satisfy the requirements of the law so that God can love us even more. Jesus does not stand in the way of an angry God. Instead, the Godhead decided together that Jesus would come take the punishment for our sins because every member of the Godhead loves us more than we could imagine. Jesus came representing God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and His love for us shows us how much God loves us.

The light load Jesus offers us is a load where He already took the heavy requirements on Himself, and He leaves us with a gift if we are willing to accept it. The gift Jesus offers us is His life in exchange for ours, and His life gives us eternal life while our lives bring Him death. While it is crazy to think that God would give us this choice, this is the amazing news of the gospel message, and the load Jesus promises us when we come to Him.

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 and purposefully seek God first in your life. Choose to accept Jesus into your life if you haven’t already and stop trying to live up to the expectations of a God who loves you. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law because there was no way we could ever do this, and Jesus offers us His perfect life in exchange for our sin-stained lives. We accept Jesus’ gift by living our lives for God, obeying Him as a way of saying thank you for what He has done. Our lives lived as a thank you won’t be perfect, but perfection isn’t our goal. Our goal is saying thank you to God!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and Bible study, discover how much God loves you through what Jesus did for you, and discover how God wants you to live your life as a thank you to Him for everything He has done for us and for everything He has blessed us with.

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

Year in Matthew – Episode 20: In another place where Jesus shares a message with His followers, He decides to speak out against the places where He did the most of His miracles, and following this message of condemnation, Jesus gives everyone present an amazing invitation.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.