The Friend of Christ: John 3:23-36

Focus Passage: John 3:23-36 (NCV)

23 John was also baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People were going there to be baptized. 24 (This was before John was put into prison.)

25 Some of John’s followers had an argument with a Jew about religious washing. 26 So they came to John and said, “Teacher, remember the man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you spoke about so much? He is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 John answered, “A man can get only what God gives him. 28 You yourselves heard me say, ‘I am not the Christ, but I am the one sent to prepare the way for him.’ 29 The bride belongs only to the bridegroom. But the friend who helps the bridegroom stands by and listens to him. He is thrilled that he gets to hear the bridegroom’s voice. In the same way, I am really happy. 30 He must become greater, and I must become less important.

31 “The One who comes from above is greater than all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and talks about things on the earth. But the One who comes from heaven is greater than all. 32 He tells what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts what he says. 33 Whoever accepts what he says has proven that God is true. 34 The One whom God sent speaks the words of God, because God gives him the Spirit fully. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given him power over everything. 36 Those who believe in the Son have eternal life, but those who do not obey the Son will never have life. God’s anger stays on them.”

Read John 3:23-36 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

If there was anyone who had a great and important mission, it was John the Baptizer. Not only was his mission prophesied about before his birth, he was also “the guy” to prepare the Jewish nation for the Messiah.

And it was a successful mission; perhaps even too successful since people seemed to keep asking him whether he was the messiah.

In this passage, and in my mind’s eye, every time John received this question, he responded in a similar way: “I am not the Christ, but I am the one sent to prepare the way for him.” (v. 28b)

In this passage, after Jesus had began His ministry, John repeatedly directs and points people to Him. He even says, “The bride belongs only to the bridegroom. But the friend who helps the bridegroom stands by and listens to him. He is thrilled that he gets to hear the bridegroom’s voice. In the same way, I am really happy. He must become greater, and I must become less important.” (v. 29-30)

This prompts me to wonder if Jesus’ followers today are called to a similar role. While as a group, we are called the “bride” of Christ, I wonder if we are also called to be friends of the bridegroom as well. In a typical marriage, the bride would ideally be friends with the bridegroom before the marriage, and I hope that the “bride” of Christ is friends with Him before the ceremony or that would be an awkward marriage.

If we are called to be friends of Christ like John was, then it is our responsibility to point people to Him like John did. While Jesus has not returned yet, each of us has an opportunity, like John, to point people to Jesus – and ultimately become part of the church that will be known throughout the universe as Jesus’ “bride”.

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 Master Serves: Luke 12:35-59

Focus Passage: Luke 12:35-59 (NCV)

 35 “Be dressed, ready for service, and have your lamps shining. 36 Be like servants who are waiting for their master to come home from a wedding party. When he comes and knocks, the servants immediately open the door for him. 37 They will be blessed when their master comes home, because he sees that they were watching for him. I tell you the truth, the master will dress himself to serve and tell the servants to sit at the table, and he will serve them. 38 Those servants will be blessed when he comes in and finds them still waiting, even if it is midnight or later.

    39 “Remember this: If the owner of the house knew what time a thief was coming, he would not allow the thief to enter his house. 40 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at a time when you don’t expect him!”

 41 Peter said, “Lord, did you tell this story to us or to all people?”

 42 The Lord said, “Who is the wise and trusted servant that the master trusts to give the other servants their food at the right time? 43 When the master comes and finds the servant doing his work, the servant will be blessed. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will choose that servant to take care of everything he owns. 45 But suppose the servant thinks to himself, ‘My master will not come back soon,’ and he begins to beat the other servants, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master will come when that servant is not ready and is not expecting him. Then the master will cut him in pieces and send him away to be with the others who don’t obey.

    47 “The servant who knows what his master wants but is not ready, or who does not do what the master wants, will be beaten with many blows! 48 But the servant who does not know what his master wants and does things that should be punished will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected.

    49 “I came to set fire to the world, and I wish it were already burning! 50 I have a baptism to suffer through, and I feel very troubled until it is over. 51 Do you think I came to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I came to divide it. 52 From now on, a family with five people will be divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 They will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

 54 Then Jesus said to the people, “When you see clouds coming up in the west, you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it happens. 55 When you feel the wind begin to blow from the south, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it happens. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to understand the appearance of the earth and sky. Why don’t you understand what is happening now?

    57 “Why can’t you decide for yourselves what is right? 58 If your enemy is taking you to court, try hard to settle it on the way. If you don’t, your enemy might take you to the judge, and the judge might turn you over to the officer, and the officer might throw you into jail. 59 I tell you, you will not get out of there until you have paid everything you owe.”

Read Luke 12:35-59 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Depending on the translation, the big idea I want to focus on in this journal entry can appear clearly, or it can be vague. Fortunately, the translation we are using states it quite clearly, which is important, because this idea runs very counter-cultural – but perfectly aligned with God’s character:

“I tell you the truth, the master will dress himself to serve and tell the servants to sit at the table, and he will serve them.” (v. 37)

What I see being so amazing about this verse and idea is that God/Jesus (represented by a master who has been gone a long time) serves us when He returns. This is the opposite of what I would expect to see happen.

In today’s culture, if a leader returned from a trip, he would expect his assistants and aids to serve him first. After all, he has just returned from a trip and is probably tired from traveling.

However, this is not the case with God. God travels the length of the universe in order to bring us home to be with Him, and the first thing that happens when He arrives is that He serves us. (Can you see a parallel to this idea in Jesus’ life and ministry?)

With God, it really is “all about us” because He loves us. This doesn’t mean that we are to be all about us (a.k.a. conceited), but instead, we are to love God back with the same selfless love that He has shown us.

God, the master of the universe, is willing to serve us – even when we are the ones who technically should be “serving” 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.

Planting God’s Church: Matthew 13:31-35

Focus Passage: Matthew 13:31-35 (NCV)

31 Then Jesus told another story: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field. 32 That seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows, it is one of the largest garden plants. It becomes big enough for the wild birds to come and build nests in its branches.”

33 Then Jesus told another story: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in a large tub of flour until it made all the dough rise.”

34 Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people; he always used stories to teach them. 35 This is as the prophet said:

“I will speak using stories;
    I will tell things that have been secret since the world was made.”

Read Matthew 13:31-35 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Sometime during the middle of Jesus’ ministry, He shares a series of parables that teach about the kingdom of heaven. Some of these parables were long and detailed, while others were short and simple. However, regardless of the length of each parable, a key spiritual truth is conveyed that we can discover if we look carefully.

Our passage includes two short parables, and while both parables are excellent, one contains a key principle that can help shift our mindset and our focus. This principle is found in the first of these to parables, in the one most commonly known as the parable of the mustard seed: “Then Jesus told another story: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field. That seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows, it is one of the largest garden plants. It becomes big enough for the wild birds to come and build nests in its branches.’” (v. 31-32)

From my earlier studies and analysis of Jesus’ parables regarding the kingdom of heaven, I have learned to look for a character or item that represents God from within the parable. In this parable, we have two options that could represent God.

Our first candidate for representing God is the man who planted the mustard seed. In my mind, this makes the most logical sense. I can see God as planting someone, something, or some idea in order to help it grow. From my experience and observation, it seems as though God likes taking people who are otherwise believed to be insignificant and turning their lives and stories into testimonies that have a much larger impact.

Our second candidate for representing God is the mustard seed that was planted. I don’t think this is as logical, however if it were the case, since God is a Creator, His kingdom is always growing and expanding – which means that it did start small and it has grown ever since. In some ways, this conclusion does make sense, especially when we look at how the mustard plant benefits the wildlife around it.

However, what if the mustard seed represented something different? What if the mustard seed that God planted was a small group of disciples?

Running this idea to its conclusion, we see the group of disciples forming the early church (with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit), and the church has grown ever since. If the mustard seed represents the church then tucked within this parable is a mission and identity for the church – at least the “church” that God planted.

This parable ends by saying that the mustard plant “becomes big enough for the wild birds to come and build nests in its branches.” (v.32b)

With this conclusion, we see that the mustard seed was not planted to produce mustard or because of anything it produces itself. Instead the mustard seed was planted to benefit the creatures that lived near it. The parable specifically mentions wild birds, which could easily mean people who are not God’s followers.  

In this parable, I see a mission that says the church should be known as a place that is safe for outsiders to come; I see a mission that says the church should be a place where people can come to grow closer to God and experience His love; I see a mission that says the church should be a place where people realize that people are broken, hurting, and sin-filled, but that together, we are also united by what God has done for each of us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In this parable, I see a challenge for us to be outward focused and loving like God has loved 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.

Changing Names: Mark 3:13-19

Focus Passage: Mark 3:13-19 (NIrV)

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside. He called for certain people to come to him, and they came. 14 He appointed 12 of them so that they would be with him. He would also send them out to preach. 15 And he gave them authority to drive out demons.

16 So Jesus appointed the 12 disciples.

Simon was one of them. Jesus gave him the name Peter.

17 There were James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John. Jesus gave them the name Boanerges. Boanerges means Sons of Thunder.

18 There were also Andrew,

Philip,

Bartholomew,

Matthew,

Thomas,

and James, son of Alphaeus.

And there were Thaddaeus

and Simon the Zealot.

19 Judas Iscariot was one of them too. He was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.

Read Mark 3:13-19 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Near the beginning of His ministry, three of the four gospels describe the point when Jesus chose the core group of twelve disciples. However, Mark’s gospel includes a detail that the other two gospels don’t, and this detail fascinates me.

Within the twelve disciples, there was a smaller group of three disciples, and this small group, from the point when Jesus called the disciples together, was set apart from the rest. Mark draws our attention onto this distinctive detail at the beginning of his list of Jesus’ chosen twelve. He tells us, “So Jesus appointed the 12 disciples. Simon was one of them. Jesus gave him the name Peter. There were James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John. Jesus gave them the name Boanerges. Boanerges means Sons of Thunder.” (v. 16-17)

From the point when Jesus chose the disciples, He gives three of them new names. Simon (not the Zealot) was given the name Peter. Then the brothers James and John were given the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder.

Perhaps the names Jesus gave related to the place each of these disciples were in when He called them. Maybe when Jesus first met Simon, the name Peter fit him better, and it is possible that Jesus met James and John while they were arguing/debating with each other.

Or maybe, Jesus didn’t rename these three disciples because of who they were when He met them. What if Jesus gave these disciples new names because of what He saw these three men becoming? What if Jesus looked at Simon-Peter, and before Simon even knew what God had in mind for him, Jesus could see his place in God’s master plan? What if James and John would ultimately rock the course of history with their gospel, their preaching, and their life’s witness?

While the reason for Jesus giving these three disciples new names is not shared directly, we do know that He did it for a reason. Just because we don’t understand or have an answer for this question doesn’t mean that He acted illogically. Jesus had a reason for renaming these three disciples and it may be a question we have to wait for heaven to get answered.

But changing names doesn’t stop with these three disciples. When Jesus returns and we enter into our new lives with Him, He promises each of us a new name. The name Jesus will give to us will be a part of us, rich with significance, and it will identify who we are in Christ throughout eternity.

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.