Trusting God with our Present: John 2:13-25

Focus Passage: John 2:13-25 (NIrV)

13 It was almost time for the Jewish Passover Feast. So Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courtyard he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves. Others were sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So Jesus made a whip out of ropes. He chased all the sheep and cattle from the temple courtyard. He scattered the coins of the people exchanging money. And he turned over their tables. 16 He told those who were selling doves, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered what had been written. It says, “My great love for your house will destroy me.”

18 Then the Jewish leaders asked him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “When you destroy this temple, I will raise it up again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple. Are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But the temple Jesus had spoken about was his body. 22 His disciples later remembered what he had said. That was after he had been raised from the dead. Then they believed the Scripture. They also believed the words that Jesus had spoken.

23 Meanwhile, he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast. Many people saw the signs he was doing. And they believed in his name. 24 But Jesus did not fully trust them. He knew what people are like. 25 He didn’t need anyone to tell him what people are like. He already knew why people do what they do.

Read John 2:13-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times Jesus was challenged by the Jewish leaders, Jesus shared a response that was intentionally given to be misunderstood in the moment. During this event, if the Jewish leaders had truly understood Jesus’ words, Jesus may not have ministered for three years before His crucifixion – these leaders may have tried to execute Him on the spot.

Tension was high immediately following Jesus chasing the people out of the temple courtyard early on in Jesus’ ministry. This was before He was well known and infamous among the religious leaders – but following His outburst in the temple, the temple leaders are furious with Jesus. The Jewish leaders race in to witness the scene and they challenge Jesus by asking Him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do this?” (v. 18)

In His response, Jesus shares a different angle than they were expecting to hear, and Jesus intentionally does this. Jesus answered them by saying, “When you destroy this temple, I will raise it up again in three days.” (v. 19)

Jesus’ response tells us that at the beginning of His ministry, He was well aware of the future resurrection that would come. Jesus even knew the timeframe was three days. In His response, Jesus gives them the sign they should be looking for, but they don’t understand what He was referring to. The Jewish leaders replied, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple. Are you going to raise it up in three days?” (v. 20)

In my mind, I imagine Jesus leaving silently at that final question. John, the writer of this event wants us to realize the meaning of these words, so he adds the next two verses as a note to the reader. John explains, “But the temple Jesus had spoken about was his body. His disciples later remembered what he had said. That was after he had been raised from the dead. Then they believed the Scripture. They also believed the words that Jesus had spoken.” (v. 21-22)

I imagine if these religious leaders actually had understood what Jesus’ words meant, one of these religious leaders may have tried to test Jesus’ words on the spot by killing Him to see if He would stay dead. At the very least, if they had understood Jesus’ words to them, they may have looked for ways to kill Him earlier on in His ministry instead of simply trying to discredit Him.

However, with all that said, the interesting observation I see is in John’s explanation and note for us. It was only after Jesus’ actual death and resurrection that the disciples finally understood this. Prior to the crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples had written off and/or forgotten this early statement Jesus made, but after Jesus had returned to life, it dawned on them that Jesus actually had predicted what would happen years before.

The big thing I see in this explanation is that it is easier to see and understand how God has been working when looking at the past. Depending on the past for our present faith is crucial. Understanding that God has directed our past and led us to our present helps us realize that He is trustworthy and He is still working in our situations today. Whether we feel Him or not is not what is important. What is important for us is that we trust Him with our present and future like we have seen Him help in our past.

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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A Trustworthy God: John 8:21-30

Focus Passage: John 8:21-30 (NIrV)

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away. You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I am going.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘You can’t come where I am going’?”

23 But Jesus said, “You are from below. I am from heaven. You are from this world. I am not from this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins. This will happen if you don’t believe that I am he. If you don’t believe, you will certainly die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that Jesus was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “You will lift up the Son of Man. Then you will know that I am he. You will also know that I do nothing on my own. I speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him.

Read John 8:21-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In a conversation Jesus has with a Jewish crowd, a statement Jesus makes sounds odd in my mind. In this statement, Jesus puts two ideas together that don’t seem to fit, but in some ways, when these two ideas are together, we can see a fascinating picture of God.

During this conversation, Jesus says, “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.” (v. 26)

In these three short sentences, and interesting idea begins to take shape. Jesus has a lot He can say that will judge us, but He only tells the world what He has heard from the Father (a.k.a. the One who sent Him), and the One who sent Him can be trusted.

Not only does this verse describe a trustworthy God the Father when many people picture Him as mean, it also describes a God full of grace, because God could tell Jesus to say many judgmental things to those in the world, but He doesn’t. Instead, the One who sent Jesus tells Jesus what to say, and the picture of Jesus that we have shared in the gospel is one that perfectly balances sharing truth with showing love.

While Jesus calls people out for their behavior, He always does so in a way that lifts them to a higher standard. Even when challenging the religious leaders, Jesus always is trying to get them to understand more about the Father.

Jesus could judge everyone in the world as guilty because the Father could judge everyone this way. But Jesus doesn’t. Instead, Jesus loves the world and gave His life for all of us. He did this because that is the only way He can help us understand just how much God the Father loves and values us. A God who loves us that much is definitely worthy of our trust!

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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Humility and Maturity: Luke 15:11-32

Focus Passage: Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
      “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

Read Luke 15:11-32 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In today’s journal entry, we are going to be touching on one of Jesus’ most famous parables – the parable of the lost son. However, while we could focus on the lost son, or on the Father character, the big idea I want to bring out from this parable comes from the character of the older brother.

At the beginning of the parable, we get a pretty strong impression that the younger (rebellious) son is immature, because demanding his inheritance early is similar to saying that his father is dying too slowly. He then proceeds to leave town and waste the money on wild living.

Back at home, we can only imagine the older brother to be way more mature, having chosen to stay and continue working in the family business.

However, when famine strikes and the younger son hits bottom and makes his way home, we get a glimpse into both brothers’ characters. We see the younger brother, with a lot more life experience (and maturity), practicing a speech that is a complete 180 degree shift from his earlier demands. Life has taught this son something the father was never able to – maturity.

In contrast, the older son, who never left the business, reveals his character when the father chooses to celebrate the return of his younger brother. The older brother becomes jealous, resentful, and angry at the thought of celebrating.

Both sons really wanted the same thing, but the Father sees and knows something that both sons don’t realize: Humility is a sign of maturity. By getting angry at the celebration, the older son reveals how immature he really is. He isn’t gutsy enough to demand his inheritance early (like the younger son), but he was missing opportunities to grow while at home. At the close of this parable, we find the younger son having matured significantly more than the older son, something I am sure the father has picked up on.

So what about in our own lives?

Do we live and act out of an inner humility – which helps reveal our real maturity level – or do we live and act in a way that reveals how immature we really are?

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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Comparing Forgiveness: Luke 7:36-50

Focus Passage: Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Read Luke 7:36-50 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Way too frequently, we are tempted to skip over some parts of scripture in favor of focusing on other parts. This is also a temptation in the gospels – and even in the teaching portion of our passage in this journal entry, but if we skip to Jesus’ explanation, we may miss out on a subtle truth that Jesus included, but that He doesn’t emphasize in His concluding remarks.

The teaching we are referring to is the short parable and question that concludes it. Jesus says, “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (v. 41-42)

We are tempted to see this illustration as a setup to teach Simon a lesson about forgiveness and about God’s character – and Jesus shared it for this very reason. But also in this illustration is an important truth: Both people in debt in this parable were forgiven.

This parable doesn’t have Jesus forgiving one and not forgiving another, or Jesus forgiving each one up to a point. Instead, this parable demonstrates how God forgave each one at the same percentage level – 100%.

In this passage, we can conclude that Simon was the one who was forgiven for less sin/debt because that was all he owed, but it would be a mistake for us to skip over the detail that he was still forgiven.

God’s forgiveness is not a comparison game of who can be forgiven more. God forgives at 100% and He calls us to leave that sinful life to enter a new life with Him.

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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