Elijah’s Ministry: Matthew 17:1-13

Focus Passage: Matthew 17:1-13 (GW)

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.

Jesus’ appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll put up three tents here—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He was still speaking when a bright cloud overshadowed them. Then a voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love and with whom I am pleased. Listen to him!”

The disciples were terrified when they heard this and fell facedown on the ground. But Jesus touched them and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid!” As they raised their heads, they saw no one but Jesus.

On their way down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen. Wait until the Son of Man has been brought back to life.”

10 So the disciples asked him, “Why do the experts in Moses’ Teachings say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus answered, “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again. 12 Actually, I can guarantee that Elijah has already come. Yet, people treated him as they pleased because they didn’t recognize him. In the same way they’re going to make the Son of Man suffer.”

13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptizer.

Read Matthew 17:1-13 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wondered if Jesus said something before thinking it through?

Or perhaps wondered if Jesus ever stumbled over one of His main points and had to go back and restate it because it wasn’t worded correctly?

And if either of these ideas were true, could this misstep have been recorded in one or more gospels and then copied thousands of times throughout the ages?

Bible critics love to search out such mistakes and errors in order to discredit Christianity and/or Jesus, and in this passage may be one such slipup – or in it could be a hidden repeating prediction for the future.

In several translations, including the one we are using for this entry, Jesus says in verse 11, “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again.” But then He quickly follows up in verse 12 by saying, “Actually, I can guarantee that Elijah has already come.

So which is it?

Is Elijah still coming, or has He already come?

This is the sort of question that Bible critics like to pose towards how the Bible is written. Looking at the context and how the disciples understood this dialog, they conclude that this Elijah prediction represented the role and ministry of John the Baptist, who’s ministry got people thinking about and looking forward to Jesus’ arrival.

However, we also have a problem though, because at least with how these two verses are translated into English, it seems as though Jesus misspeaks and then restates what He meant to say. This may be the case, but it could also be Jesus hinting us to a larger, repeating truth: Before God does anything big in the world, He sends messengers to prompt us to pay attention:

  • Noah was sent to build the ark, but also to preach about the coming flood.

  • Moses was sent to deliver Israel from Egypt, but also to point the Egyptians towards the one true God.

  • Elijah was sent to the people of Israel at a time when they were far from God and in his ministry, he challenged the king, proclaimed a drought/famine, and challenged the false religion at the time in a very public way (i.e. fire from heaven).

  • Many of Old Testament prophets who have books named after them prophesied about the coming exile of the Jews for their unfaithfulness to God.

  • John the Baptist comes announcing that God is about to send the promised Messiah into the world.

There are lots of other examples we could look at, but it seems that God likes to send messages and/or messengers into the world when He is about to do something big. With this theme in mind, it is not unrealistic to look for other messenger examples throughout history following Jesus and the apostles.

Along these lines, when Jesus says in verse 11 that “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again,” we can see foreshadowing of future times when God send messengers to point people back to Him.

You and I can be “Elijah-like” when we point people to God and to Jesus. John the Baptist got many of the people in that generation ready to meet Jesus. In today’s world, you and I can help others meet Jesus and get ready for eternity.

Before God does anything big in the world, He sends messengers to prompt us to pay attention, and you and I can help our place in history by pointing people to Him.

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Choosing a Betrayer: Matthew 10:1-4

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:1-4 (NIrV)

Jesus called for his 12 disciples to come to him. He gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every illness and sickness.

Here are the names of the 12 apostles.

First there were Simon Peter and his brother Andrew.

Then came James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

Next were Philip and Bartholomew,

and also Thomas and Matthew the tax collector.

Two more were James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus.

The last were Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Judas was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.

Read Matthew 10:1-4 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, three of the four gospels describe Jesus standing on a mountainside and calling twelve of His followers to form a core group of “disciples”. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include unique details, they all contain one big similarity. This unifying characteristic is how they end their list of twelve names.

Matthew concludes the list of Jesus’ disciples by saying, “The last were Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Judas was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.” (v. 4)

Mark concludes his list of Jesus’ disciples by saying, “Judas Iscariot was one of them too. He was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.” (Mark 3:19)

And Luke concludes his list of Jesus’ disciples by saying, “Judas, son of James, and Judas Iscariot who would later hand Jesus over to his enemies.” (Luke 6:16)

All three of these gospel writers include Judas Iscariot by saying that he was the one who would betray Jesus. While none of the disciples knew this at the time, when they chose to communicate through their own gospels or share the gospel story with others, they conclude their lists of disciples with Judas Iscariot – the betrayer.

But what is amazing to me in these verses is not how each of the gospel writers frames Judas Iscariot. Instead, I am amazed that Jesus chose to include Judas Iscariot in the group – knowing from the start that it would be Judas who would betray Him. Through the act of inviting a betrayer into His core group of followers, even if the betrayer had no idea what he would become, Jesus is sending a message to all of us about God’s love. By inviting Judas Iscariot to be a disciple, Jesus demonstrates that God loves even those who are in active rebellion against Him.

This love extends beyond the core group of disciples. Jesus came to planet earth while humanity was fully rebelling against God. Through Jesus, we see a picture of God’s love that makes what we call “love” seem small. God’s example of love places a rebellion ahead of His own life – and Jesus, by choosing Judas Iscariot to be a disciple, emphasizes this example of love.

Also, because Judas Iscariot followed Jesus for 3+ years and still chose to betray Him, we can see that even being next to Jesus cannot change a stubborn or closed heart. I believe during the time Jesus spent with Judas Iscariot, Jesus tried everything He could to open Judas’ heart to His.

Even though Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, Jesus still loved Him – and by loving Judas and calling Him to be a disciple, Jesus shows us God’s love for even the most sinful humans.

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Anonymous Jesus: 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!

Aside from the disciples, of all the people in the gospels to be focused on Jesus, there was one group who seemed to be almost everywhere Jesus went. This group, known as the Pharisees, didn’t watch Jesus because they wanted to believe in Him. Instead, they watched Him because they wanted to catch Him breaking a law or saying something wrong.

However, during one of Jesus’ miracles, the Pharisees missed being present, even if they were present in the area where this healing took place. While John doesn’t specifically mention the Pharisees by name in this passage, he simply refers to them as Jews – and these were likely the Jewish religious leaders, and many of them would have been Pharisees.

John describes what happened immediately after Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda by saying, “Now that day was the Sabbath, 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.’” (9b-10)

Now the healed man had a problem. He responded that he was basically just following directions. He replied saying, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” (v. 11)

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

The man didn’t know who Jesus was when he was healed. This is a powerful thought. In this miracle, we can see that Jesus heals based on our need and not on the condition that we respond by calling Him God. The man had no idea who Jesus was. He simply was obeying the instructions of someone he believed God had sent his way.

Reading this portion of Jesus’ miracle prompts me to wonder if God is willing to act and help anyone who needs help, regardless of their current attitude and regardless of whether they will acknowledge Him. The man who was healed didn’t praise God or worship Jesus following his healing. Instead, he was caught breaking the Jew’s legalistic Sabbath laws.

In this miracle, we can see a theme that is touched on in other parts of the Bible as well. This theme points us to God’s character and His love. Jesus came into this world to show God to us. This wasn’t because He wanted to help people on the condition that they would worship God with a correct frame of mind. Instead it was to counter the devil’s accusations about what God was like.

Satan has done a masterful job of presenting God as a villain, and Jesus came to simply show us a different picture of God – a picture that demonstrates selfless love, and a powerful invitation to respond to His love.

This miracle at Bethesda helps us see a loving Jesus and a loving God. God is Someone who is willing to help even if He doesn’t get the credit. God is willing to help even if we are trapped in rebellion against Him.

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God in the Present: Luke 20:27-40

Focus Passage: Luke 20:27-40 (TNIV)

    27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

    34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

    39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Read Luke 20:27-40 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wished for life to be like some point in the past?

Perhaps you remember “the good old days” and you’d like life to return to that simpler time, or perhaps you wished you could have been alive when Jesus was walking around on earth?

In this passage, we find a truth, just under the surface of what is said, that directly relates to these longings and questions.

In His response to the question about the resurrection, Jesus says in verses 37-38, “But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.”

In His response, Jesus mentions someone who lived long ago (Moses), who referenced people who lived even longer before (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and He makes the statement that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The strong implication here is to stop looking for God in the past, and start looking for Him in the present.

The Sadducees were focused and looking at how God moved and how He worked in the past, while at the same time ignoring and/or choosing to miss out on what He is choosing to do in the present. In Jesus’ response, which also deals with the issue of the resurrection, He also challenges these spiritual leaders on where they have placed their focus. Yes, God has worked in the past, but that doesn’t stop Him from working miracles today.

This truth is just as important for us living in the 21st century as it was for the Sadducees in the 1st century: God worked powerfully for 4,000ish years in the Old and New Testaments. It doesn’t make any sense for Him to stop there. If God worked then, and He doesn’t change, we should expect that He is still working today!

What are some ways that God has worked (or is currently working) in your life this decade?

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