The Rich, Secret Disciple: Luke 23:50-56

Focus Passage: Luke 23:50-56 (CEV)

50-51 There was a man named Joseph, who was from Arimathea in Judea. Joseph was a good and honest man, and he was eager for God’s kingdom to come. He was also a member of the council, but he did not agree with what they had decided.

52 Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 He took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in fine cloth. Then he put it in a tomb that had been cut out of solid rock and had never been used. 54 It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. 56 Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial. But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands.

Read Luke 23:50-56 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When we read the gospels, we may get the impression that every one of the religious leaders were completely opposed to Jesus. We see a picture of a corrupt religious system, and we may begin to believe that everyone within this system was as corrupt as it was.

However, several of the gospel writers draw our attention onto someone who doesn’t fit our stereotype during the final hours of the day Jesus died. Luke describes Joseph of Arimathea as “a good and honest man, and he was eager for God’s kingdom to come. He was also a member of the council, but he did not agree with what they had decided.” (v. 50-51)

When we read about the Jewish leader’s decisions against Jesus, we may think these were all unanimous decisions, but according to Luke, Joseph was at least one person who stood apart from the stereotype of Jesus-hate.

Mark describes Joseph in a similar way by saying he “was a highly respected member of the Jewish council, and he was also waiting for God’s kingdom to come” and he “was brave enough to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus.” (Mark 15:43)

Matthew describes Joseph as “a rich disciple” who asked for Jesus’ body. (Matthew 27:57-58)

John describes Joseph simply one of Jesus’ secret disciples. (John 19:38)

While Joseph was hesitant about going public with his belief in Jesus during Jesus’ ministry, following Jesus’ death, he gained the courage to come forward with a significant gift. Joseph gave Jesus his tomb.

It is uncertain if Joseph knew about Jesus’ prediction about rising on the third day, but even if the tomb was only a temporary resting place for Jesus, this makes Joseph’s gift no less significant.

Joseph’s position and secret belief in Jesus is an example of God setting the stage perfectly for what He wanted to do. Crucifixion victims were not cared for following their deaths, and none were given any respect. Some were cremated, others buried in shallow graves. Some were tossed into mass graves, while others were simply thrown to the dogs to eat.

None of these typical responses was part of God’s plan, so I believe this is why He placed a rich, secret disciple on the council. Joseph’s rank within the corrupt religious system is a testament to God’s power and ability to place us in exactly the right position. Joseph was high enough that he could speak directly to Pilate, and he was wealthy enough to have purchased a tomb for when he ultimately would die. Joseph was also genuinely interested in God’s kingdom coming, and he lived his life in a good, honest, and genuine way.

Reading about Joseph’s position and perspective teaches me that regardless of where I am placed by God, He has a plan for where I am currently. I might not always understand why I am where I am, but it is always with a purpose. I may need to grow personally. There may be someone who I need to help. Regardless of His reasons, God is busy working behind the scenes, placing us in the places and roles He created for us so that His Kingdom will grow, and lives will be saved.

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Receiving the Holy Spirit: John 20:19-23

Focus Passage: John 20:19-23 (GNT)

 19 It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them.
         Peace be with you, he said. 20 After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again,
         Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you. 22 Then he breathed on them and said,
         Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

Read John 20:19-23 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In today’s journal entry, we will be looking at one of the last passages in the gospels, and uncovering an idea that I have not heard discussed before. In this passage, we read the following words, “Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (verse 22).

Jesus “breathed on them”. This is one idea that we don’t find included in too many sermons. We like to focus on Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17), and we like to focus on the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples (Acts 2:1-13), but we often gloss over or ignore this key idea between the promise and the fulfillment of the promise.

In Jesus’ breath, I believe He is singling out the disciples for receiving the Holy Spirit. We may think of this as God placing His mark on each of them, and preparing them for when they receive the gift.

Also, Jesus says “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This is both a promise and a command. It is a promise because the Holy Spirit is coming to them, and it is also a command for them to receive the Holy Spirit when He comes.

This brings a number of other thoughts into my mind:

  • If we consciously receive the Spirit, we can consciously reject the Spirit.
  • Also, we must be ready to receive the Spirit for Him to come. In this promise, we have the command to “be ready”. This means that we may miss the Spirit if we are not ready to receive Him.
  • The Spirit was promised to ALL the disciples, and not just a select few. Was this only something for the eleven remaining disciples? No, because the Holy Spirit came to Paul, the apostle, who was not in the room and didn’t have Jesus’ breath on Him.

Paul is the clearest example that we, as followers of Jesus today, can also receive the Holy Spirit. However, we must remember Jesus’ words in this focus text: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Be conscious, be willing, and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit. Be in places that the Holy Spirit is more likely to be, and be available to be used by God to bring about His purposes and plan in the situation you are in.

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

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Sleeping on the Job: Matthew 26:36-46

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:36-46 (GNT)

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Grief and anguish came over him, 38 and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went a little farther on, threw himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

40 Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Once more Jesus went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cup of suffering cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 He returned once more and found the disciples asleep; they could not keep their eyes open.

44 Again Jesus left them, went away, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. 46 Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!”

Read Matthew 26:36-46 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, while He was praying in the garden, Jesus’ disciples slept. While we don’t know if every single one of the eleven disciples slept when Jesus had asked them to stay awake, we do know that Jesus repeatedly returned to the disciples and found them sleeping.

It is interesting to me that Jesus specifically asks Peter a question that He answers for Peter. On waking the disciples up, Jesus says, “How is it that you three were not able to keep watch with me for even one hour? Keep watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (v. 40b-41)

Jesus draws our attention onto a key challenge that many of us face. All too often, our spirit is willing, but our bodies are weak. There are plenty of things we can do, and things that we know we should do, but when it comes down to actually doing them, we don’t follow through. In the moment, our body’s weakness takes power over our spirit’s will.

Part of me wonders if Satan helped encourage the drowsiness of these disciples to keep them from keeping watch. I wonder what would have happened if one or more of them had stayed awake and had seen the mob approaching from a distance. Would they have been more prepared to face what was coming?

Matthew tells us that the disciples slept up to the point when the mob arrived. This last time Jesus returned to the disciples after praying, He said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look! The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, here is the man who is betraying me!” (v. 45-46)

In His final words to the disciples, Jesus makes an interesting remark. Jesus stated that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to the power of sinners.” (v. 45b)

This phrase stands out to me because it demonstrates Jesus’ character and God’s humility. Jesus was willing to submit to be under the power of sinners. In a way, this echoes Jesus’ baptism at the opening of His ministry, where He submitted to John the Baptist (who was a sinner like we all are) to be placed under the water. These two events signify Jesus’ willingness to submit to those who believed He was God (John the Baptist), and those who believed He was their enemy (the Mob and religious leaders).

Jesus was willing to submit to all sinners as a way of showing us God’s love for each of us. We may end up sleeping on the job, but Jesus still loves us in spite of these mistakes. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. We stumble, fall, and mess up what we know we should do, but no mistake we can make has the power to stop Jesus from submitting to the cross to take the death we deserved!

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A Tale of Two Builders: Matthew 7:21-29

Focus Passage: Matthew 7:21-29 (GW)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ 23 Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock. 25 Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not collapse, because its foundation was on rock.

26 “Everyone who hears what I say but doesn’t obey it will be like a foolish person who built a house on sand. 27 Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and struck that house. It collapsed, and the result was a total disaster.”

28 When Jesus finished this speech, the crowds were amazed at his teachings. 29 Unlike their experts in Moses’ Teachings, he taught them with authority.

Read Matthew 7:21-29 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

At the close of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”, He draws our attention to an illustration contrasting what people who obey His words are like when compared to those who ignores Jesus’ teaching. This illustration is most famous because it has been turned into a children’s song. However, while the song is fun to sing with kids, the illustration itself is very powerful.

Matthew’s version of Jesus’ illustration is more popular. He begins by quoting Jesus as saying, “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock. Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not collapse, because its foundation was on rock.” (v. 24-25)

Jesus contrasts this wise builder with an example of a foolish one. He continues by saying, “Everyone who hears what I say but doesn’t obey it will be like a foolish person who built a house on sand. Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and struck that house. It collapsed, and the result was a total disaster.” (v. 26-27)

While it is easy for us to look at the illustration as a construction example, Jesus really is sharing it as a metaphor for laying the foundation of our lives: obedience to Jesus makes a strong foundation while ignoring Jesus makes a weak foundation.

In my mind’s eye, the builder who built the house on the rock built high above the waterline, perhaps near the edge of a cliff, where they would be plenty of protection from the waves. His house then overlooks the foolish builder who is building on a sandy beach.

But Luke also shares a version of this parable. He describes Jesus opening this parable with a question: “Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)

This question frames everything that Jesus is about to share. Then He continues by painting us a picture in our minds of two builders: “I will show you what everyone who comes to me, hears what I say, and obeys it is like. He is like a person who dug down to bedrock to lay the foundation of his home. When a flood came, the floodwaters pushed against that house. But the house couldn’t be washed away because it had a good foundation. The person who hears what I say but doesn’t obey it is like someone who built a house on the ground without any foundation. The floodwaters pushed against it, and that house quickly collapsed and was destroyed.” (Luke 6:47-49)

In Luke’s version, we have two homes that might look identical to a casual observer, but the thought process when building each of them was completely opposite. The wise builder focused on making his home strong in the non-visible areas. The foolish builder only cared about the parts of the home that could be seen.

The big key Jesus wants us to take from this illustration is that obedience to His teaching will result in a life that has a solid foundation. By obeying Jesus, we might not avoid challenges, but we will be able to withstand anything that comes our way. When we build our lives on the truth Jesus shared, our lives will be able to survive whatever storms life sends our way.

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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