Recognizing Jesus: Luke 19:41-44

Focus Passage: Luke 19:41-44 (GNT)

 41 He [Jesus] came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, 42 saying,
         If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! 43 The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. 44 They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!

Read Luke 19:41-44 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While this is a short, four verse passage, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t multiple things we can pull out of it. The one BIG idea that we can focus on today is what is implied by the very last phrase of verse 44: “. . . because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!”

This phrase jumped off the page (err screen) when I read it. With a simple “because”, Jesus hinges all the destruction of Jerusalem on their one failure to act/recognize/accept Him. Jesus is predicting Jerusalem’s destruction, which will happen a few decades from that point in history, but this phrase seems to indicate that if Jerusalem (we could probably include “Israel”) had accepted Him, God would have changed the course of history and Jerusalem would have been saved from destruction.

This big idea has real-time applications as well. We could ask ourselves the question, “Am I failing to recognize God moving in my life to save me?” Often times, we struggle with a nagging thought, a bad habit, or something else we would like to change, and while it is hard to admit, most of us do know what we need to do to remedy the situation. I might suggest that God has planted that knowledge in our mind (whether divinely or through observation/experience). By not moving towards the solution, are we delaying our spiritual growth – not to mention any physical, emotional, or relational growth that is also present?

We are holistic beings, and this means that our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives are connected. What we do in one area will affect the others. For example, if we are sick physically, it is going to be difficult to grow spiritually; or if we are locked up emotionally, it may affect our health long term.

In this passage, Jerusalem was spiritually locked and this caused them to not recognize Jesus. They were too set in their ideal image of a messiah that they missed the Messiah who came with a much bigger vision then they thought. Are we failing to recognize Jesus working in our lives to save us?

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Left but Not Abandoned: John 16:5-15

Focus Passage: John 16:5-15 (NCV)

Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Your hearts are filled with sadness because I have told you these things. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment. He will prove to them that sin is not believing in me. 10 He will prove to them that being right with God comes from my going to the Father and not being seen anymore. 11 And the Helper will prove to them that judgment happened when the ruler of this world was judged.

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. 13 But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words, but he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. 14 The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me, because he will take what I have to say and tell it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take what I have to say and tell it to you.

Read John 16:5-15 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the last night Jesus spent with the disciples prior to His arrest and crucifixion, John’s gospel shares a conversation Jesus shared with the remaining disciples (Judas Iscariot was with the Jewish leaders assembling a mob). In this conversation, Jesus shares a statement that makes the disciples sad, and while Jesus acknowledges their sadness, He tells them that what will happen will ultimately be better than what they wished would happen.

During this conversation, Jesus told the disciples, “Now I am going back to the One who sent me. But none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Your hearts are filled with sadness because I have told you these things. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away. When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come.” (v. 5-7)

The two statements that jump out in my mind as I read Jesus’ words are, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away”, and “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come” (the first and last phrases of verse 7).

While the disciples are sad at Jesus announcing His departure, He tells them that it is better for them if He leaves. While this sounds backwards, Jesus follows up by explaining that if He didn’t go away, the Helper would not come to them.

This prompts me to ask, “Why would the Holy Spirit not come to Jesus’ followers if Jesus was still around?” If God could do anything, and His is truly “everywhere” (i.e. omnipresent), then why would Jesus imply that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come to Jesus’ followers if Jesus were present?

The answer is amazingly simple. When we read lists and descriptions about what the Holy Spirit does, we learn that everything the Holy Spirit does leads and points people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s role is to draw people into a relationship with Jesus. This also means that the Holy Spirit won’t do anything that doesn’t support this objective.

With this in mind, while reading the gospels, it becomes clear that while Jesus is present, Jesus is the only One who is empowered to perform miracles. With Jesus present, the Holy Spirit moved exclusively through Him because that is who He wants us to pay attention to. The disciples never perform miracles while Jesus is present. However, part way through His ministry, Jesus sends pairs of followers out on a mission trip to nearby cities, and they return with stories of how they were able to cast demons out of people and heal others using Jesus’ name. These miracles were possible because the Holy Spirit came to them while Jesus was not present with them.

This means that when Jesus says, “it is better for you that I go away” because “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come”, Jesus is reminding these followers, and all of us followers living 2000 years ago that the Holy Spirit leads people to Jesus. If we want the Holy Spirit working within us and through us, we simply need to focus on Jesus, move towards Him, and help others do the same.

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

The First Commission: Matthew 10:16-42

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:16-42 (GNT)

16 “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. 17 Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. 18 For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. 19 When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. 20 For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “People will hand over their own brothers to be put to death, and fathers will do the same to their children; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22 Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, run away to another one. I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25 So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

26 “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27 What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. 33 But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Read Matthew 10:16-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the middle of Jesus’ ministry, He tells the disciples to travel around the countryside telling people about Him. In Jesus’ instructions to them, we can find some incredible warnings and concepts that can help us as followers of Jesus.

For example, at the beginning of our passage, which is part way into Jesus’ send-off remarks, He tells His disciples, “Listen! I am sending you out just like sheep to a pack of wolves. You must be as cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves. Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles. When they bring you to trial, do not worry about what you are going to say or how you will say it; when the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (v. 16-20)

What amazes me about Jesus’ words is that I would have expected them to have been given following the resurrection, and as part of the “Great Commission” that Jesus gave the disciples before He returned to heaven. Instead, these words are given relatively early in His ministry, right after He has selected the group of twelve disciples from a broader collection of followers.

This distinction makes me wonder if Jesus is speaking into the future here, or if some of these disciples were arrested and brought before the synagogues in the towns they visited, which gave them opportunities to speak for Jesus. As relatively new followers, it may have even been intimidating to talk about Jesus because some of them likely hadn’t spent much time with Him up to that point.

However, while we don’t know if the disciples received hostility on this short term mission trip early on in Jesus’ ministry, we do know from reading about the early church in the book of Acts that following Jesus’ return to heaven, Jesus’ followers did receive hostility from multiple directions.

But what is interesting is that Jesus tells us that hostility towards us is actually an opportunity. Jesus says that “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings…” (v. 18a)

What reason does Jesus give for us being brought to trial for Him?

Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering. He finishes the statement off with the reason: “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles.” (v. 18)

When this happens, Jesus tells us to be calm and not to worry about what to say. This is because if God brings us into a situation for His purposes, He will give us the words to say to bring Him glory.

This truth is the same for Jesus’ original twelve disciples as it is for us today. If we are brought before people because of our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will speak through us to point those present towards God. Trials and direct challenges to our faith are sometimes the best ways for God to connect people who have a testimony with those who have turned their back on 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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Everyone With Ears: Luke 14:25-35

Focus Passage: Luke 14:25-35 (TNIV)

    25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

    31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

    34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
       “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Read Luke 14:25-35 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

There are several ideas we could focus on in this passage, but the one big (though perhaps humorous) idea that I want to focus on is the closing phrase Jesus uses in this passage (and elsewhere in the Bible) which is found at the end of verse 35: “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

This phrase stands out to me because on the surface, it sounds exclusive. Is this teaching for everyone, or everyone except those who are deaf? Is Jesus really being discriminating towards a group of people who are different?

Let’s dig into this idea and see what might happen if a person who was deaf saw a crowd and showed up to see (though they couldn’t hear) Jesus. In many other cases where someone with a similar disability shows up, Jesus stops teaching, heals them, and then continues preaching.

So here, at the end of His message, as the concluding remarks after the climax of His sermon, Jesus makes a sweeping statement to everyone who is within earshot – perhaps even to some people in the crowd who were formerly deaf, but can now hear this teaching as one of the first things ever.

If someone who was deaf hung around Jesus, they would not have been deaf for long. If they instead preferred to be deaf, they probably wouldn’t have been interested in going anywhere near Jesus.

The big idea I see in this passage – and really in this phrase – is: Jesus is never interested in us staying where we are. He is always interested in helping us grow into the people He created us to be!

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.