Flashback Episode — Looking Forward to His Death: John 12:1-11

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First off, as we begin, happy new year to all of you. After having finished all four years of chronologically moving through Jesus’ life, I have to admit that it is a little weird to be beginning this year not actually looking at something from Jesus’ birth story. However, if your experience was anything like mine, we probably spent plenty of time focusing on Jesus’ birth this past Christmas season.

However, as I’m sure you know, the main reason Jesus’ birth was so special wasn’t just because of God stepping down and becoming human, as hard as that is for us to grasp. The main reason we should pay attention to Jesus’ entrance and time spent in our world is what we will be focusing on during this year of podcasts. This year, we will be focusing on the week leading up to the cross, and what we can learn about Jesus and God from this key piece of time in our world’s history.

To start our year of podcasting through the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we will turn our attention to John’s gospel, to a special supper that takes place in Jesus’ honor, and what we can learn about what happened. Our passage for this episode is found in John’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

In this passage, alongside Mary’s amazing gift of perfume, we discover how this event both predicts what is coming, as well as it setting the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion a little less than a week later.

To set the stage for this final week, the way John concludes this passage is about perfect. John reminds us that a large crowd found out Jesus was there and they came to see Him, and not just Jesus, but Lazarus as well. Because of Jesus’ renewed popularity and because this resurrection miracle was prompting people to believe in Jesus, the chief priests not only focused on looking for a way to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus as well. As we move from this point forward, we discover how everything the chief priests do is focused on trying to discredit Jesus, on planning His death, or both.

Also, the stage is set in this passage for Judas to betray Jesus. In this event, we discover that Jesus pushes back at Judas Iscariot over his condescending remarks about Mary’s gift. John tells us Judas did not say this because he was interested in helping the poor, but because he would help himself to the money they had collected for the poor. I don’t know how this wouldn’t have been obvious to the other disciples and to Jesus because they traveled everywhere together, but perhaps Judas thought he was being secretive, but instead, it was something that all the disciples knew, but that Judas simply denied regardless of the evidence.

Regardless of what had led to this point, Jesus’ response to Judas over Mary’s gift challenges Judas and it gives Judas the opportunity to take the challenge personally instead of focusing on what Jesus had just told everyone.

When we look at this passage, Jesus sets the stage for our whole year of podcasting the week leading up to His crucifixion by directly attributing Mary’s gift of perfume for the day He would be buried. Many of those present might have missed this foreshadowing, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t present. In Jesus’ statement, we see Him drawing attention to the idea they didn’t want to accept that He would die. This wasn’t the first time Jesus tried to forewarn the disciples about His upcoming crucifixion, but like many of the other times, the significance of Jesus’ words escaped those present.

With the stage set leading into the week of the cross, and our year of podcasting the events of this week, Jesus also shares a powerful statement that would be wise for us to keep in our minds. Jesus tells His followers in verse 8, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.

This phrase is powerful in my mind because it challenges our perspective in a number of ways. The first and most obvious way is that Jesus’ followers will not always have Jesus. This sounds counterintuitive because Jesus promised to be with His followers forever in the great commission, but the truth we must face in Jesus’ words is that we might not always feel or see Jesus’ presence. In a physical sense, Jesus is not always going to be visible in our lives or in our situations.

However, to contrast this, Jesus tells His followers that there will always be those who are poor living among us. Being poor is not a problem that can be solved because being poor is simply standing at a specific place on a scale of income or wealth. While we can look at those at the bottom and desire to help them increase their standard of living, this doesn’t change the definition of being poor as being at the bottom of the wealth spectrum.

However, feeling poor is a different story. Almost everyone feels poor, and that is because most people live right up to the edge of their income, and most people focus on looking at those who have more than they do – which makes most people feel poor even if they are among the richest people in the world.

But the biggest perspective challenge Jesus shares is a challenge to focus on what God has blessed us with and to focus on our relationship with Jesus above everything else. There will always be problems and challenges in our lives similar to how there will always be poor people living in the world. Jesus challenges His followers, you and I included, to focus on our relationship with Him first and then only after we have a strong relationship with Him should we then focus on helping those around us.

Yes we should help other people, but the truth of this life is that the most generous person who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus will be worse off when this life ends than the person who could have been more generous, but they chose instead to focus on and grow towards Jesus. We might not always feel God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit’s presence, but we know from Jesus’ challenge that this is where we should focus our attention.

As we come to the end of our first episode in our year focusing on the cross, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always prioritize your relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit first. Accept Jesus’ challenge that helping others is important, but it should never take the place of our relationship with Him. Even the most generous life lived without Jesus is counted as a loss when we look at what is needed for salvation. Because of this, the challenge for all of us is to place and prioritize Jesus as first in our lives.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself because this is the best way to grow closer to God each and every day. While an author, speaker, pastor, or podcaster can give you things to think about, they should never replace your personal relationship with Jesus.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 1: Discover some things we can learn from a gift Jesus receives leading up to His crucifixion and how those present respond to the gift Jesus was given.

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

Year of Miracles – Finale: Part 2

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Last week we began our annual two-part finale by focusing on insights from the first half of this year podcasting through the gospels and focusing in on Jesus’ miracles.

However, before we dive back into the insights we’ve learned from looking at Jesus’ miracles, I’ve been thinking and debating in my head about what we should focus on for next year. A few years back, we had several years of chronologically moving through the Bible, and we just finished two awesome years focusing on the topic of Jesus’ final week leading up to the cross and now on Jesus’ miracles.

The debate in my head centered around trying to do another year focused on a specific topic, or perhaps if we should spend several years focusing on each gospel individually. While we often take each gospel for granted, and simply choose the one that we like the most or the one that includes the greatest detail, each author had a specific focus in mind when writing their story of Jesus. In many ways, we can discover a lot about Jesus through each gospel individually.

Well I think I may have just solved my dilemma. Starting next week, let’s dive into Matthew’s gospel and see what he can teach us about Jesus!

However, we still have a bunch of insights left to focus on from our year of miracles. So let’s pick back up where we left off at the end of our last episode.

Episodes 26 and 27 focused in on Jesus feeding the crowd of 5,000 people. However, Mark’s gospel taught us something we might not have noticed before in this event. From Marks’ gospel in episode 26, we learned that it is critically important for us to take time away from our mission in life to simply rest. We should never feel guilty taking time to rest and recharge, but we also should always be willing to help those God has brought into our lives.

From John’s gospel in episode 27, we also learned from the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus that when we sacrificially give, God is able to bless in extraordinary ways. Also Andrew teaches us that we should bring people to Jesus regardless of whether we believe the gifts they have to offer are significant or not. We should bring people to Jesus simply because we know that God loves them and that Jesus died for their sins. There’s no better reason to invite someone to God than because of what Jesus has already done for us.

Jumping ahead to episode 29, we learned from a few transitional verses that word had spread about the woman touching Jesus’ garment and how she was healed. From this episode, we discovered that faith, when added to just a sliver of Jesus, is capable of extraordinary miracles. The faith of all these people, when mixed with a momentary touch of Jesus’ garment, prompted their healing. With a Holy Spirit connection, we can have both the faith we need and the connection we need to see and experience miracles in our own lives. The big test of our faith is actually choosing to step out in faith that we will get answers and see the miracle.

In episode 30, it appeared as though Jesus made a special trip up to the Mediterranean coast just to insult a gentile woman who came asking Him for help. While Jesus appears to be very insensitive in this event, we discovered that Jesus may have ignored and insulted this woman to show everyone present that nothing would stop her, distract her, or shake her determination to get Jesus’ help. Regardless of whether we mess up, fall down, or fail God, the only way we truly fail is if we don’t get back up and press forward. If our faith disappears at the slightest push of resistance, it is worthless and weak.

While I don’t believe God likes to ignore us, and I don’t believe His desire is to insult us, I believe that the only way to truly test the strength of faith is by giving it resistance. Without pushback, it is impossible to test the strength of faith. Without resistance, it’s impossible to become like the first century church heroes and model Christ to a world needing a Savior.

Jumping forward to episode 35, we see Jesus being asked a perplexing question about what caused a man to be born blind. In that culture, it was seen as a punishment from God for sin, either from one’s actions, or from a parent or grandparent’s action. Jesus counters with a third option, that sometimes things happen so God can receive glory. We discovered in this episode that Jesus’ third option opens the door for us to be a blessing to others. If God is punishing someone for their sin, we would be unwise to get in the way of that punishment. However, if the bad that happens is God sending an opportunity for His people to step in and help, it becomes an opening for God to be praised through the good that happened in spite of the bad situation. If this is the case, then as Christians, when bad happens, we are to see this as God giving us an opportunity to get involved and challenging us to make a positive difference.

As we are again running out of time, let’s jump over a bunch of episodes that had great insights to get to some extra significant ones that come later.

In episode 45, which focused on Jesus cursing a fig tree which shriveled up and died, we discovered a lesson about faith, prayer, and doubt. In this event, we learned that One might call doubt itself a negative faith. If something bad happens in our life, we can choose to hate God, or hate the sin-corrupted world that we live in. If we choose to hate God, then doubt gains a foothold in our hearts. However, if we choose to hate the sin-corrupted world, we naturally lean into God and more eagerly look forward to the day when Jesus returns and puts an end to sin.

Jumping forward to the miracle surrounding Jesus hanging on the cross in episode 47, while it isn’t generally listed as one of Jesus’ miracles, we discovered in this episode how Jesus truly is the Life-Giver. Jesus the Life-Giver’s death brings His people new life. As followers of Jesus, we not only have a new life in our current situation, but we also have the promise of a perfect, eternal life when Jesus returns.

To wrap up this year focusing on Jesus’ miracles that were recorded in the gospels, episodes 49 and 50 focused us on Jesus’ last official miracle, and on an often ignored or discounted miracle that is one of the most significant gifts Jesus offered to us. In this event we discovered forgiveness, and that no matter how far we have fallen away from God, He is willing to invite us back. No matter how badly we have messed up, while we have breath, we have been given the chance to return. Even if we think God no longer loves us, know that Jesus came to redeem sinners – and that includes whatever you feel you have done that isn’t forgivable. God wants to forgive you, and He is more than willing to invite you back into being one of His followers.

And with God’s forgiveness, Jesus trusts us with His people. Every believer, when they have received forgiveness is entrusted with feeding, taking care of, and helping other believers. God could have left the work of evangelism and helping others to the angels, but instead, He gives us the opportunity to join with Him and be a blessing to those He brings into our lives.

We spent an amazing year together looking at Jesus’ miracles. To end off this episode and this year of podcasting Jesus’ miracles, let’s focus on one last promise and challenge from episode 50: Jesus knows our future and He is passionate about seeing us saved for eternity. While Peter failed Jesus before the cross, Jesus gave Peter the greatest gift imaginable: Jesus gave Peter the assurance that his life would glorify God. We don’t know when our end will be, or even what the circumstances surrounding our end will be, but we know that Jesus knows, and that while He has work for us to do in this world, He will keep us safe to do His work in this world.

We also know and trust that when we are finished doing the work God has called us to do, He will give us the blessing of rest and keep us safe as we move together into eternity.

Year of Miracles – Finale: In the second part of our annual two-part finale, discover some of the biggest insights we discovered during the last half of this past year moving through the gospels and focusing in on the miracles Jesus performed.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Flashback Episode — Year 4 Finale: Part 2

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Last week, we began our annual two-part finale by looking at insights we discovered in the first half of this past year of moving through the gospels. In part 2, we’ll pick back up where we left off and focus in on insights we learned during the second half of this year moving through the gospels.

But before diving into the insights, I want to share briefly what’s planned for our next year in the gospel adventure podcast. We have just finished moving through four years of chronologically jumping through the gospels, and we have now finished this crazy idea I had several years ago when we began. While it would be easy to simply start over, I thought it might be fun to do a couple of years focusing on certain topics.

One topic that has been fresh on my mind, perhaps because all four gospels dedicate significant space to it, is the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. For this next year of episodes, this is where I’m thinking of taking us. However, for future years, be sure to email me and share your ideas. We may come back to doing chronological years in the future, but before that happens, let’s focus in on some topics.

However, while I’m excited to get started, we still have the second half of this past year to focus on in this episode. So let’s dive in, starting at what we learned in Episode 26.

In episode 26, we focused on Mary and Martha’s first encounter with Jesus, and how each of them interacted with Jesus. From this episode, we learned that “It is more important for us to focus on learning from Jesus than trying to please or impress Him through our actions.” We also learned that “God is never going to distract us away from spending time with Jesus.

Moving into episode 27, we looked at a passage Jesus shares about faith, and how faith must be visible. In this episode, we saw that “Those who publicly side with Jesus will be acknowledged by God throughout the universe.” We also learned that “secret faith is worthless; faith that is valuable is one that stands for God when challenges come; and that the more we reject the Holy Spirit in our lives, the less connected to Jesus we will be.

Jumping to episode 29, we focused on a passage where Jesus describes how some people will ultimately miss out on salvation even though they believed themselves to be ready. In this passage and episode, we learned that “there will be a time when salvation’s door is closed. After this point, those who knock on the door are not allowed to enter. This is because the homeowner does not know them. This tells us that it is very important that God knows us, and this is accomplished by regularly spending time with Him.” This passage also taught us that “people who do evil are excluded. This passage strongly suggests that doing evil will forfeit your salvation.” Overall, what matters most is what we choose to do in the present, and not on what we have done in the past. Our present choices are more important than our past failures.

Jumping forward a couple of episodes to episode 31, we spent some time talking about the rich man and Lazarus illustration Jesus shared. Regardless of what you believe about this illustrations regarding it’s teaching on the state of the dead, we concluded that one of the biggest themes it tells us is that “after someone has died, they cannot change their decisions from this life. This makes our decisions today especially important.” We also can all agree that “the next conscious thought someone has following their death will be one of regret when realizing they didn’t choose correctly.”

In episode 32, we looked at Jesus healing 12 lepers. We learned that “there is never a wrong time to stop and be grateful towards God for what He has done in our lives.” Also in this passage, we see the big truth that “sometimes we must obey before we are able to see God’s hand working in our lives.

Episode 33 might have been the most controversial episode this year because it focused in on Jesus’ teaching on the topic of marriage and divorce. While our current generation has wrestled with this, we discover from this passage in Matthew’s gospel, that every generation since sin entered the world has been challenged by God’s ideal for marriage. Jesus tells us that while not everyone can or will marry, those who do will be held to the truth He teaches us about marriage.

Jumping up to episode 35, we discovered in the parable of the ten servants that “the important man who left returned as king. In spite of his enemies’ wishes, this man becomes king. This teaches us that Jesus will one day return as King. Jesus had enemies while here on earth because He wasn’t impressed by ambitious spiritual ladder-climbers. Now is the best time to ally with Jesus because we don’t know when He will actually return.” Also, looking at this parable we discover that “it is important to be fruitful with what God has blessed us with. The worst thing we can do is nothing.

In episode 36, we discovered a short passage where Jesus cried when approaching Jerusalem. Among the things we discovered in this passage, we concluded that “as followers of Jesus, we should spend 5-10x more time praying than we do seeking influence among other people. Seeking influence shouldn’t even be a measurable goal for a follower of Jesus.” Also tucked in Jesus’ message for Jerusalem is the truth that “the only place where peace can be found is by seeking God through Jesus, learning to depend on Him for everything, and praying like crazy for His will to be done in the world today.

Episode 38 challenged us again when we read Jesus’ parable about a man being kicked out of a wedding banquet. We discovered in this episode that accepting the invitation is a great first step, but also equally important is accepting the free gift of wedding clothes that the king would have offered when the last minute guests arrived. We accept the gift of clothing when we put our sinful lives in the past and let God replace our sinful characters with Jesus’ sinless character.

The next episode, number 39, found us looking a little closer at Jesus stumping the Pharisees with a question of His own. Ultimately, we concluded that “the Bible gives us plenty of evidence we can use to base our faith on, and we can use what the Bible says to know everything we need to know to be saved.

Jumping ahead to episode 41, we looked at the parable of the three servants, which shares several characteristics with episode 35’s parable of the ten servants. In the parable of the three servants, we learned that God, “the master, gave everyone something, and He is watching to see what we will do with what He has blessed us with. When Jesus returns, those who have done something will be rewarded, while those who were fearful of making a mistake will lose out on everything.

Moving forward to episode 43, we discovered three levels of faith in what Jesus shared with the eleven disciples as they were headed to the garden on the night He was betrayed and arrested. In Jesus’ conversation with the disciples, we learn that “God has called us to three distinct levels of faith: We should have faith in who Jesus is as God’s Son and a member of the Godhead; we should have faith in what Jesus has done for us, especially focusing in on what He accomplished on the cross; and we should have faith in Jesus’ working in our lives in both our present and our future.

Episodes 44 and 45, which also focused on the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, focused us onto the truths that “History is ‘His Story’, specifically Jesus’ story, and it is a story of redemption. While sinners killed Jesus, Jesus chose to die for those who God desires to save.

Moving forward, while being led to the cross in episode 47, Jesus shared a challenge to some women who were following the procession. We learned in this episode that “we shouldn’t feel sad that Jesus faced the cross, we should be glad – we should be grateful for what Jesus’ death accomplished for each of us!

Just a few short weeks ago, we looked at episode 48, and discovered that “In Peter’s experience on the morning Jesus was raised to life, we have a model for what we may experience. Peter found enough evidence to support a belief in the resurrection, but not so much evidence that would eliminate the need and role of faith. God has called us to have faith in Jesus, and to trust His promises. It is unlikely He will remove every reason for doubt, but He is more than willing to give us enough evidence for us to base our faith on.

As we wrap up this episode, and this year of podcasting chronologically through Jesus’ life, I want to leave you with the main insight and challenge we wrapped up episode 50 with:

If those in the first century lived so close with God that they had the Holy Spirit show up in their lives in visible, miraculous ways, and these early church leaders didn’t believe themselves to be special or exclusively picked to receive the Holy Spirit, we can conclude that each of us living 2,000+ years later is capable of living lives like Jesus’ first followers and receive the Holy Spirit like they did. Knowing this, let’s intentionally live our lives so focused on growing closer to God that the Holy Spirit cannot help but show up in miraculous ways.

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Finale: In the second part of our annual two-part finale, discover some of the biggest insights we discovered during the last half of this past year chronologically moving through the gospels.

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

Year of Miracles – Finale: Part 1

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As we begin our special two-part finale for this year of podcasting, first off I want to wish all of you an extra special and merry Christmas. I hope that while you are spending time with friends and family, that you also take some time to remember Jesus and what He stepped into this world to accomplish. Without Jesus, life would have no reason for hope, and we would be lost in our sin.

However, because of Christmas, we are reminded that Jesus did come, and that He came to show us how much God loves each of us. Seeing how God loved people through Jesus is one of the big themes we focused in on this past year of podcasting through the gospels looking at Jesus’ miracles. As always, there is way more than I could cover in one, or even two, finale episodes if I were to try to recap everything, but as always, I’m here to share with you the insights that stood out to me the most.

With that said, let’s dive into some of the biggest and best insights, at least in my own mind, that we discovered this past year focusing in on Jesus’ miracles.

Let’s start off by focusing in on what we learned in episode 1. In our first episode, we looked at God miraculously protecting Jesus when those in the Nazareth synagogue wanted to kill Jesus for offending them. In this episode, we learned that while none of us knows exactly when we will die, we can trust that God will keep us safe through everything that comes our way as we move through fulfilling the mission He has for our lives. Regardless of whether our lives are going well, or whether we are facing hard times, and regardless of whether things are calm or chaotic, we can trust that God is in control and that He is moving history towards the end of sin and the salvation of His people.

Continuing forward, the next two episodes focused in on Jesus turning water into wine. In episode 3, we learned that culture pressures people to live by the philosophy “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”—which is ultimately a recipe for living hopeless lives. But the symbolic counter-cultural message here is that Jesus flips this idea upside down. When Jesus is involved, what we thought was good wine was served first, but what comes next is infinitely better. While those living without Jesus live hopeless lives believing that times are good then worse, when we live with Jesus, we can face the good and bad times in this life knowing that the best is still to come.

Episodes 4 and 5 focused on Jesus healing an official’s son in Capernaum. In this miracle, we learned that when we pray to God, know that He does not delay answering our prayers. Like the official did, we should trust that God has answered our prayers at the exact moment we pray them. However, we should also move forward with the faith that we might not always see God’s answers to prayers at the moment we pray them, or in the way we expect them to be answered.

Episode 6 was one of the first times we looked at miracles where Jesus cast demons out of people where the demons tried to tell those present who Jesus was. In this episode, we are reminded that Jesus, as the Holy One of God, is stronger than Satan and his force of evil angels. The demon obeyed Jesus, and this detail proves that Jesus is stronger than the devil. We should never listen to Satan because he is an untrustworthy source. Satan can share truth, but because Satan is known for lying, anything we listen to becomes suspect simply because of the source. It is much safer to acknowledge but ignore Satan.

I promise we won’t cover something from every miracle, but in episode 7, where Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, we learned that one of the most appropriate ways of saying “thank you” to Jesus and to God for everything He has done for you and I is through serving Him. Peter’s mother-in-law served Jesus following being healed. In the case of us living over 2,000 years later, we serve God through serving others, and when we serve those who cannot repay us with more than a “thank you”, we are serving as God has called us to serve.

In episode 9, we looked at the miracle of fish that prompted the invitation of some of the first disciples. We discovered that Jesus was willing to trust His message with a bunch of not-so-religious fishermen. These four men were the least qualified men from a religious perspective, but in God’s eyes, they were perfectly qualified because they had willing, teachable hearts. God uses the willing and teachable heart to train and equip an individual for His purposes, and these closest disciples step up to lead the church in powerful ways after the Holy Spirit entered their lives.

Jumping forward to episode 11, we discovered some powerful truths when learning about Jesus healing a man with leprosy. We learned that sometimes bad things happen simply because we live in a sinful world. In contrast, sometimes bad things happen because God chooses to withdraw His protection. When we are living apart from God, it makes logical sense that God is not obligated to protect us from the sin in this world. God’s protection is a gift, and when we realize this, we should be grateful when we are protected, not angry when bad enters our lives.

And in this same episode, we are reminded that when we make mistakes in life, and when we sin, it is easy to think that God no longer loves us. However, God is more than willing to forgive you and me than we are willing to admit. God loves you and I so much that nothing could stop Jesus from coming down to take the punishment for our sins. Jesus forgives us because He wants to forgive us, and because He knows that His forgiveness is a big part of the way we receive eternal life.

Wow, we are running out of time. Let’s jump forward and focus on just two or three more episodes before wrapping up part 1.

In episode 20, when Jesus is interrupted on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter by a woman wanting to be secretly healed of a bleeding condition, Jesus stopped and brings this miracle to the forefront. We learned in this miracle, through this woman’s faith in Jesus that God is looking for a people who are determined, persistent, and won’t back down when their faith is challenged. God is looking for His people, living today, to be persistent, passionate, and determined to live our lives with a faith that will not be shaken by anything that comes our way. We are called to live with a faith that leads us into eternity.

A few episodes later in episode number 23, we discovered when looking at Jesus healing a mute man and receiving pushback from the Pharisees that history has proved repeatedly that when the Bible is filtered through anything else, people are deceived and they give up on God’s truth. Tradition is only as good as it is grounded in scriptures. If a traditional belief or idea counters what the Bible teaches, then we must discard the tradition in favor of the Bible in order to have a clear conscience.

Following tradition is easy, but tradition caused the people who should have recognized Jesus, namely the religious leaders who knew the prophecies and the scriptures the best, to reject Him instead. Tradition threatens us in the same way today when we don’t remain grounded in God’s Word!

The last episode we’ll look at in part 1 of our finale is a truth that we discovered in episode 24, in the miracle by the pool at Bethesda. In this event, it appears as though Jesus may have ignored many sick or ill people while He came to help this one man. We discovered in this episode that some times God chooses not to heal someone instead of healing them. Some people choose to discount God’s love or His existence because of this dilemma, but this dilemma only is unsolvable when we see this life as all there is to live. Instead, God wants as many people as possible in the new heaven and new earth, and He wants sin gone forever, never to reappear. God is more focused on bringing people safely into eternity than on minimizing the destructive nature of sin while it exists.

This concludes our first half of this finale. The closing thought and challenge I’ll leave you as we head into our Christmas celebration together is that God wants to answer our prayers, but He also wants us to give Him gratitude, thanks, and love for being our Provider. When we are grateful to God for everything He has done for us, and when we open our eyes to how He often works, we will begin to see answered prayers, blessings, and evidence for His existence everywhere.

Let’s thank God today and this season for everything He has done for us!

Year of Miracles – Finale: In the first part of our annual two-part finale, discover some of the biggest insights we discovered during the first half of this past year moving through the gospels and focusing in on the miracles Jesus performed.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.