Predicting the Great Failure: John 13:31-38

Focus Passage: John 13:31-38 (NIV)

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Read John 13:31-38 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One of the greatest examples of failure in the entire Bible comes through what happens to Jesus’ “star” disciple. Simon Peter was one member of Jesus’ inner circle of three disciples, and he was way more vocal than James and John, who were the other two members in this group.

During the supper Jesus had with His disciples on the night He was betrayed and arrested, John tells us that Jesus let the disciples know that He is going away, and He is going to a place they cannot come. Simon Peter speaks up and asks, “Lord, where are you going?” (v. 36a)

Jesus answers, but doesn’t really answer, Peter’s question by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (v. 36b)

In this response, Jesus hints at Him facing death, and it seems as though Peter picks up on this with his follow-up statement, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (v. 37)

As I read this event in the other gospels, I imagine that Jesus’ next statement is the one Luke records at this point in his gospel. Luke tells us Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

According to Luke, Simon Peter next responds by saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)

In our blend of these two gospels, Simon Peter emphasizes his loyalty to Jesus twice, in two different ways, in about as devoted as he knows how to say it. Peter tells everyone present that he is willing to give his life for Jesus.

But Jesus’ final words are among the most challenging for Peter to hear. Jesus responds to Peter’s declaration saying, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (v. 38)

What Jesus predicted happened. Peter ran away with the rest of the disciples when Jesus was arrested, and when He follows at a distance, he also distanced himself from Jesus three times that night out of fear.

But Peter’s story doesn’t end negatively. Jesus’ prayer in Luke’s gospel is answered, and following Peter’s denial and Jesus’ resurrection, Peter is found with the rest of the disciples, and Jesus forgives him.

When we stumble, fall, fail, and mess up our walk with Jesus, it helps to know that Jesus has prayed for us. Our real failure never comes from falling down or messing up, it comes from not stepping back up, not forgiving ourselves, and not recommitting to continue moving forward towards Jesus. God is ready to forgive us when we stumble, but we must be willing to get back up and continue moving forward with Him!

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His Story Includes Our Story: Matthew 24:26-35

Focus Passage: Matthew 24:26-35 (NIV)

 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days
     ‘the sun will be darkened,
      and the moon will not give its light;
   the stars will fall from the sky,
      and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

 30 “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Read Matthew 24:26-35 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Today’s entry focuses on a small part of a much longer teaching of Jesus about the state of the world. This broader teaching is so significant that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include it their gospels. There is a lot we can uncover or focus on, but in today’s entry, we will zero in on a phrase that boggles my mind, and one that could easily be misunderstood.

Near the end of this teaching, Jesus told His disciples, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”(v.34)

This phrase baffles my mind because now, close to 2,000 years later, it has appeared to us living on earth that everyone from that generation, and dozens of later generations since that time, have died. This makes me wonder about what this phrase means, and after thinking about it while studying, I believe there are three possible conclusions I can see being meant here:

  1. The traditional Christian view is that following Jesus’ resurrection, followers of Jesus never die, but rise to be with Jesus in heaven. This is one text that on the surface could support this idea, but when we look a little closer and ask a few questions, applying this idea to that belief does not work well.

    The generation Jesus was talking to was filled with more people who didn’t believe in Jesus than who did, and there were also those who were extremely opposed to Jesus. It doesn’t make sense for Jesus to promise them heaven. However, if we look closely, this text also isn’t promising never-ending life, but a delay of “passing away”, so we must then move to the next possible conclusion.

  2. The next view we could use when looking at this passage is a lot stronger, because it says that this generation won’t pass away because it lives on through the written words collected together and called The Bible. We know more about that generation in history from what was written than really any other time period. There is ample evidence (5,686 Greek New Testament manuscripts) that the generation Jesus was talking about lived, and every time we open the New Testament and read about what happened, they live on.

    What still challenges me about this view is that there were thousands of people in that “generation” who never were recorded about in the Bible. The generation was much larger than what the Bible can record, which prompts us to the third view.

  3. The third view is a matter of perspective, and instead of looking at this phrase from our human perspective, we should imagine looking at it from Jesus’ (or God’s) perspective, and meld it with the following verse: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (v. 35)

    In this view, we are looking at the universe and history outside of the span of time. Jesus says that “this generation” won’t pass away until the things He previously talked about happens, and this passing away will be the same type of passing away that heaven and earth will do when God recreates the universe. Looking at the timeline of history from God’s perspective (outside of that timeline), every generation that has ever lived has not yet “passed away” because they are awaiting the Day of Judgment (or “Last Judgment”), which happens at the end of time. After that last judgment, sin and its history can truly “pass away” along with all the evil deeds of that generation.

I still have questions about this idea, however what all of these ideas tell me is that Jesus holds history (“His Story”) in His hands, and history includes our story!

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Three Angles of Temptation: Matthew 4:1-11

Focus Passage: Matthew 4:1-11 (GNT)

Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,

‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
    they will hold you up with their hands,
    so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”

Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’”

11 Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.

Read Matthew 4:1-11 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While reading what the gospels share about Jesus’ temptations at the start of His ministry, I am amazed to see three distinct types of temptations present. These three temptations mirror three broad areas of life, and when looking at Jesus’ temptations with this framework, we are able to see how Satan tries to knock us off course and out of God’s will.

In the first temptation, Satan challenges Jesus by saying, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” (v. 3b)

This first temptation challenges Jesus regarding His immediate, physical need. After fasting for 40 days and nights, Jesus was hungry, and this temptation was simply to use some of His creative power to provide food for Himself.

Satan’s temptations often come to us in ways that focus on helping ourselves in the moment or challenge we are in. Satan’s temptations try to get us to shortcut and give up what is best for us in the long term.

The second temptation Satan challenges Jesus with in Matthew’s gospel is, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,

 ‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
    they will hold you up with their hands,
    so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’
” (v. 6)

This second temptation challenges Jesus’ acceptance (or lack thereof) with the spiritual leaders, and it is a challenge for Jesus to take advantage of God’s protection. This temptation comes when Satan and Jesus are standing at the highest point of the temple, and if Jesus had jumped off and God had kept the promise to protect Him, Jesus would have been using this knowledge to draw attention onto Himself.

We could then categorize this temptation as a social, intellectual, or mental temptation. Jesus did not come to draw a crowd or to draw attention onto Himself. He came to glorify God and to give His life for our sins. Satan’s temptations towards us often come in ways that make us want others to focus and pay attention to us instead of getting others to look through us to Jesus/God.

The third temptation Matthew shares Satan challenging Jesus with is, “All this I will give you, if you kneel down and worship me.” (v. 9)

The third temptation is a spiritual one. In a potentially supernatural way, Satan has taken Jesus to a high mountain and shown Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the offer is one to shortcut His spiritual mission. Satan wanted Jesus to deviate from the path of the cross – which was the path God had placed before Him.

In a similar way, Satan challenges us to shortcut, deviate, or give up the mission God has placed before us. If Satan can get us to give up on God’s plan and His will, then he will throw spiritual temptations at us to do so!

In these three temptations are three types of attempts to get Jesus to deviate from God’s will and to draw attention to Himself. Satan uses these three types of temptations against us as well, but with God’s help, we can avoid falling for his tricks, and we can continue pressing forward on the mission He has given each of us to live.

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Taking Simple Steps: John 5:1-15

Focus Passage: John 5:1-15 (HCSB)

After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed [—waiting for the moving of the water, because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had].

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

“Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.

Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”

11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 After this, Jesus found him in the temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” 15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Read John 5:1-15 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the miracles that John selected for his gospel, Jesus visits a sick man lying next to a pool. However, instead of simply healing the man, Jesus asks him a question, “Do you want to get well?” (v. 6b)

The man responds by saying, “Sir, I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.” (v. 7)

While the man doesn’t respond directly to Jesus’ question, he does indicate that he tries to get to the pool when the water is stirred. This answer does indicate that he wants to get well. We don’t know how often the water of the pool was stirred, but in 38 years, the man likely missed out on at least several dozen chances of healing.

In response, Jesus simply tells the man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk!” (v. 8)

The challenge was simple but also impossible. If the man had been able to get up and walk, he would have easily been able to get to the pool in time and he wouldn’t have been stuck at the pool for close to four decades of his life. But the task was worth the effort. John describes what happened next by saying, “Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.” (v. 9a)

Standing up and picking up his sleeping mat is something that sounds small, but it was a huge “simple” step forward towards being healed. In my mind’s eye, the healing the man experienced happened as he tried to stand up. The more energy he put towards getting up, the more strength he had to fully stand.

Following standing, the only things left to do were to pick up his mat – something that would take a little bit of balance and coordination, and then to walk. When the man ultimately left the pool area, he was completely healed and back to full strength.

I see a parallel in this healing to our own lives. Chances are God won’t bring us a vision, mission, or purpose into our lives before we have taken any steps. If He were to do this, chances are that we would run away like Jonah being sent to Nineveh. God also typically doesn’t heal people from 100% sick to 100% well. Usually there is a transition period as we are learning what “well” really is like.

This miracle points me to the truth that God directs our path as we choose to walk down it. God shows up as we move towards Him and His will. As we move along the path God has for our lives, He brings the next step of that path into view. As this man put forth energy and strength towards standing, picking up his mat, and then ultimately walking, God gave him healing, restored muscles, and strength to accomplish each task.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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