A New Name: John 1:35-51

Focus Passage: John 1:35-51 (CEV)

35 The next day, John was there again, and two of his followers were with him. 36 When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Here is the Lamb of God!” 37 John’s two followers heard him, and they went with Jesus.

38 When Jesus turned and saw them, he asked, “What do you want?”

They answered, “Rabbi, where do you live?” The Hebrew word “Rabbi” means “Teacher.”

39 Jesus replied, “Come and see!” It was already about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him and saw where he lived. So they stayed on for the rest of the day.

40 One of the two men who had heard John and had gone with Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” The Hebrew word “Messiah” means the same as the Greek word “Christ.”

42 Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”

43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he met Philip, who was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me.”

45 Philip then found Nathanael and said, “We have found the one that Moses and the Prophets wrote about. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

46 Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Philip answered, “Come and see.”

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said, “Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel. And he isn’t deceitful.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

49 Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel!”

50 Jesus answered, “Did you believe me just because I said that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see something even greater. 51 I tell you for certain that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”

Read John 1:35-51 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One of the most intriguing things Jesus did in His ministry was giving one of His disciples a new name – and it seems as though Simon, son of John, was the only disciple Jesus “renamed” – though we might simply say Jesus gave him a nickname. This disciple is more famously known as the name Jesus gave him, Peter, and many times both names are used together to form “Simon Peter”.

Not only is giving Simon a new name an interesting thing to do, Jesus does this almost immediately after meeting him. Verse 42 of our passage describes this: “Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, ‘Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.’ This name can be translated as ‘Peter.’

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ first disciples, and while there would be another disciple named Simon in the core group of twelve, this other Simon almost certainly would not have been a follower of Jesus at that time.

So why might Jesus give Simon Peter the new name – immediately after meeting Him?

In my mind, this is because Jesus saw the potential in this Simon, and the name Cephas (i.e. Peter) was a much better name for him knowing what he would become in the future.

While Simon Peter was the only disciples we know of that Jesus gave a new name to, we can take this detail of this event and apply it to our own lives.

Jesus does not see us simply where we are today; He sees us through the eyes of what we will become in the future. If our current name doesn’t fit us, He will give us a new name when He returns – and the name He gives us will fit us perfectly!

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Close To Us: Matthew 26:1-5

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:1-5 (NCV)

After Jesus finished saying all these things, he told his followers, “You know that the day after tomorrow is the day of the Passover Feast. On that day the Son of Man will be given to his enemies to be crucified.”

Then the leading priests and the elders had a meeting at the palace of the high priest, named Caiaphas. At the meeting, they planned to set a trap to arrest Jesus and kill him. But they said, “We must not do it during the feast, because the people might cause a riot.”

Read Matthew 26:1-5 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Every so often, a detail that I never noticed before jumps out at me in an unassuming passage. This “conspiracy passage” where the leading priests and elders meet to discuss how to arrest Jesus is no exception.

Depending on the translation used, we find that the high priest lived in a palace. Many translations use this word, while a few simply say home, court, or another similar word. The implication in Matthew’s passage is that the priests (especially the high priest) were getting wealthy off of the people. By living in a luxurious home, the high priest was separating himself from the people with his wealth.

This is not a statement on whether wealth is good or bad. It is more a statement on focus and generosity. As the Jewish nation grew, it would become more prosperous, and as the leader in any area (in this case the spiritual area), the more people you have influence over, the more money would come your way. But as the leader of the spiritual area in culture, the high priest would be a clear representative of God, and living in a palace, separated from the people, is not an accurate representation of God’s character.

Jesus came and changed that. He came to show us that God is not a “distant” God, but that He wants to live with us. God does live in a palace, but He wants us to join Him in it. I’m doubtful if the high priest was all that willing to open their home to anyone/everyone.

The high priest probably was tempted by greed. Greed is an issue for almost all people who live in cultures that have a monetary exchange system. One doesn’t have to have money to be greedy, but when one does have money, the greed is amplified all the more.

Jesus’ presence in culture, and His focus on the people, challenged the priests’ position and the status quo that had placed them on top of both the spiritual and economic ladders. They did not like Jesus’ growing influence, so they plotted against Him.

But even though they plotted Jesus’ death, Jesus still came – and death was at the core of His mission. This is because God does not want to be seen as a distant God, but as a God that reaches out to us, who takes the first step, who wants to restore the broken relationship. This is before we have “done” anything.

God is wealthy. He does live in a palace in heaven. But instead of increasing the distance we would have to travel, He especially wants to be close to us and He bridged the gap that sin caused.

Jesus came and He won.

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Challenging Our Minds: John 7:25-36

Focus Passage: John 7:25-36 (NCV)

25 Then some of the people who lived in Jerusalem said, “This is the man they are trying to kill. 26 But he is teaching where everyone can see and hear him, and no one is trying to stop him. Maybe the leaders have decided he really is the Christ. 27 But we know where this man is from. Yet when the real Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from.”

28 Jesus, teaching in the Temple, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. But I have not come by my own authority. I was sent by the One who is true, whom you don’t know. 29 But I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

30 When Jesus said this, they tried to seize him. But no one was able to touch him, because it was not yet the right time. 31 But many of the people believed in Jesus. They said, “When the Christ comes, will he do more miracles than this man has done?”

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering these things about Jesus. So the leading priests and the Pharisees sent some Temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I will be with you a little while longer. Then I will go back to the One who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me. And you cannot come where I am.”

35 Some people said to each other, “Where will this man go so we cannot find him? Will he go to the Greek cities where our people live and teach the Greek people there? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘You cannot come where I am’?”

Read John 7:25-36 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In Jesus’ ministry, it seems that He tried to minimize what He did in secret. The gospel of John draws our attention to this during one of the times Jesus was preaching in the temple during a major festival. While Jesus acted like He wasn’t going to go in order to arrive undetected, when He was ready to teach and preach, He made no secret moves.

In John’s gospel, we catch a glimpse of the crowd’s reaction. Some of the people living in Jerusalem who were in the temple when Jesus got up to preach wondered among themselves, “This is the man they are trying to kill. But he is teaching where everyone can see and hear him, and no one is trying to stop him. Maybe the leaders have decided he really is the Christ.” (v. 25-26)

“If the priests and leaders are not actively trying to stop Jesus from talking, might they believe that He is really the Messiah.” This is the essence of their question.

However, it doesn’t stop there. The people continue analyzing what they know: “But we know where this man is from. Yet when the real Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from.” (v. 27)

We can see a tension growing in the minds of those in the crowd. The tension is wondering if Jesus really could be the Messiah.

Jesus speaks into this tension by drawing out the dilemma the people are wrestling with. He says, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. But I have not come by my own authority. I was sent by the One who is true, whom you don’t know. But I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me. . . I will be with you a little while longer. Then I will go back to the One who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me. And you cannot come where I am.” (v. 28-29, 33-34)

Jesus challenges the crowd’s assumption of His origin, and in doing so, He draws their attention to the truth that He came from God the Father. This heightens the tension because some believed this claim made Jesus worthy of death, while others concluded that this made Him even more worthy of their faith and trust.

What Jesus successfully does in this event is get everyone in the crowd of listeners to think about who He truly is. This tells me that Jesus wants us to rationally choose to follow Him. He doesn’t want blind followers simply looking for insurance from God’s Judgment. Jesus wants followers who are choosing Him because they want a relationship with Him and with God the Father who sent Him.

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Life is a Parable: Mark 4:30-34

Focus Passage: Mark 4:30-34 (NCV)

30 Then Jesus said, “How can I show you what the kingdom of God is like? What story can I use to explain it? 31 The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest seed you plant in the ground. 32 But when planted, this seed grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. It produces large branches, and the wild birds can make nests in its shade.”

33 Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. 34 He always used stories to teach them. But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.

Read Mark 4:30-34 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

One of Jesus’ foundational methods of teaching people was through stories and parables. The goal of these stories was to help those listening understand truths and ideas that might otherwise be too big or abstract to understand.

The gospel of Matthew draws our attention onto this method of teaching when Matthew adds the footnote that: “Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people; he always used stories to teach them. This is as the prophet said: ‘I will speak using stories; I will tell things that have been secret since the world was made.’” (Matthew 13:34-35)

While Jesus used stories throughout His ministry while teaching, not all of them were understood by those listening. However, since Jesus using stories and metaphors was prophesied, I wonder how much of life and the physical world is a metaphor for the spiritual world. In other words, I wonder if God purposely created parallels between the unseen spiritual world and the visible physical world to help us connect the two together and to help us understand Him better.

If this is the case, our whole lives become a learning tool. With every action we make or avoid, we are learning something positive or experiencing the results of something negative. However, not everyone is able to comprehend or understand everything.

Mark’s gospel draws us to this point when he tells us that “Jesus used many stories like these to teach the crowd God’s message—as much as they could understand. He always used stories to teach them.” (v. 33-34a)

The stories Jesus shared were intended to help people learn God’s message, but since God’s message is so big and overwhelming, the stories were designed to share small details, pieces, and segments of God’s message – as much as we could understand. By sharing many stories that helped describe the different parts of God’s message, Jesus was helping expand His audience’s mind to what God wants for them as part of His plan.

However, since not everyone understood every story Jesus shared, Mark follows up by saying, “But when he and his followers were alone, Jesus explained everything to them.” (v. 34b)

Jesus made it a point to explain all the parables to His followers while they were alone. Jesus’ stories were not meant to hide truth but instead to remind us of His truth. When the gospel writers share parables Jesus shared with them, it is to help them remember the big spiritual truths that Jesus taught them, and it is to help remind them about how our physical lives reflect our spiritual lives.

Similar to how it was in the first century, not everyone living today will understand everything that Jesus taught. However, while the temptation for us living over 2,000 years later would be to ignore and dismiss Jesus’ truth, the best way to test whether it is still relevant for us today is to prayerfully study it and try it out in our lives. If the truth that Jesus taught is still valid today, then it is also still relevant for our lives.

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