Helping Because You Can: Matthew 25:31-46

Focus Passage: Matthew 25:31-46 (HCSB)

 31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

    35 For I was hungry
    and you gave Me something to eat;
    I was thirsty
    and you gave Me something to drink;
    I was a stranger and you took Me in;
    36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
    I was sick and you took care of Me;
    I was in prison and you visited Me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

    40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

    42 For I was hungry
    and you gave Me nothing to eat;
    I was thirsty
    and you gave Me nothing to drink;
    43 I was a stranger
    and you didn’t take Me in;
    I was naked
    and you didn’t clothe Me,
    sick and in prison
    and you didn’t take care of Me.’

    44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

    45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

    46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Read Matthew 25:31-46 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In our passage for this journal entry, we read one of Jesus’ descriptions of His return and the judgment that takes place. The big thing I want to focus on is the idea that both groups of people do not know their actions (or lack thereof) are towards Jesus. Those people who help others are in reality helping Jesus, while those who don’t help have neglected to help Jesus.

It is as though the group of people who are determined to help others do so without really even thinking about the reward of heaven, while the group who missed out on heaven is equally surprised when they learn why they missed out.

This passage tells me that both groups have determined, by having previously focused on developing both habit and character, whether they are interested in helping those who are hurting. The group who helps those in need does so because they can, and not because they see a reward coming in the distant future.

This is the big thought: Have you determined what type of person you will be, starting today? Will you be someone who helps, for no other reason than because you can? Even if heaven wasn’t a potential reward for your help, you are still making a positive impact with each act of kindness you show.

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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The Ultimate Life-Giver: Luke 7:11-17

Focus Passage: Luke 7:11-17 (NIrV)

11 Some time later, Jesus went to a town called Nain. His disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 He approached the town gate. Just then, a dead person was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother. She was a widow. A large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, he felt sorry for her. So he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the coffin. Those carrying it stood still. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 The people were all filled with wonder and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread all through Judea and the whole country.

Read Luke 7:11-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In a very counter cultural move, Jesus and His crowd of followers interrupt a funeral procession. While it may have been appropriate for Him to wait and let the funeral pass by, we read that Jesus felt sorry for the mother who had just lost her son, and this prompts Him to break from formalities.

What probably made this incredibly uncomfortable was when Jesus walks right up to those carrying the coffin. He even reaches out and touches the coffin, prompting those carrying it to stop. In this moment, it is as though time stops and all eyes are on Jesus.

Then with a loud voice, Jesus talks directly at the coffin saying, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (v. 14)

The people living at that time knew when people were dead vs. simply being unconscious, and it is incredibly unlikely for them to have given up on the young man before being absolutely certain that he was dead – with no hope of resuscitation.

But before anyone in the crowd could question Jesus or even think He had gone crazy, we read, “The dead man sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus gave him back to his mother.” (v. 15)

In this event, Jesus demonstrates that He has the power to restore life. Another way to say this is that He has power over death.

We have no idea if the young man died because He was sick or if it was because of an animal or snake attack. We have no idea if the young man died because he was doing something wrong, or if it was a fluke accident.

Whatever the reason for his death, this young man’s death helps us discover that Jesus has power over death and life. From that point onward, another title for Jesus could be “Life-Giver”. While Jesus gave life before this point, it is only after this point that He ultimately gives His own life for each of us.

Jesus gives life to those who are dead, and He gave His own life for all who want to leave their life of sin and exchange it for God’s promise of eternal 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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Famous Last Words: Luke 1:5-25

Focus Passage: Luke 1:5-25 (NIV)

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Read Luke 1:5-25 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Probably the one thing Zechariah, the priest and father of John the Baptist, is known for the most is questioning the angel that appears to him in the temple while he was preparing to burn incense.

The gospel of Luke shares what happened. Zechariah was chosen by lot to be the one to go in and burn the incense, and an angel appears to him with the promise of an answer to his prayer. But immediately following the angel’s message, Zechariah taints his reputation by asking, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (v. 18)

Zechariah’s question is self defeating. By asking for more proof, he shows the lack of belief he really has. At this point in his life, he has given up hope for ever having a child, and the angel’s promise seems too unbelievable. Had the angel come ten years earlier, it would have at least been feasible in his mind, but Zechariah has already resigned himself to die childless.

His question of doubt would be the last words he would speak until the birth of his child. In an unexpected turn of events, the angel does give Zechariah a second form of confirmation. He responds by saying, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (v. 19-20)

Zechariah probably thought the entire 10 months or so between when this happened and when his son was born about the foolishness of his questioning God’s promise. If Zechariah were alive to give us a message, it would likely be something along the lines of, “When God gives you a promise, you should simply believe it.

However, in Zechariah’s doubt, we also see an amazing picture of God. God gives Zechariah a very tangible sign that the promise would come true – and it is a sign that would stand out to everyone who knew this elderly couple. Zechariah’s doubt opened the door for God to draw more attention to the birth of the man who would prepare the people of Israel for the Messiah’s arrival.

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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Confirming Our Faith: Luke 18:31-34

Focus Passage: Luke 18:31-34 (NIV)

 31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again.”

 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

Read Luke 18:31-34 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In today’s journal entry, we’ll be looking at just one of the many verses where Jesus directly tells His disciples that He will be arrested, sentenced, abused, killed, and then be raised from the dead. It seems shocking that the disciples don’t understand any of this, especially when it seems so clear to us looking back on this event.

Which leads me to the one idea I want to focus on in this passage: Jesus does not want us to be surprised by the future. He wants to share with us what will happen, both as a way of confirming our faith in Him, and so that we won’t be scared when what He has predicted will come to pass.

The Bible, including the gospels, are filled with prophecy and foreshadowing about what the future will hold. Too many people seem to forget this, or they rationalize away these prophecies saying that they have already been fulfilled.

I will agree that many Biblical prophecies have been fulfilled already in the timeline of history, but this doesn’t diminish the remaining prophecies. Instead, it enhances them, and our faith in the entire message of the Bible. Prophecy is given primarily to strengthen the faith of those within the church, and only secondarily to impress those outside of the church.

Prophecy is much less impressing to a secular person than our actions and attitudes towards them and each other. It is completely possible for us to have an accurate understanding of prophecy, and repel everyone we meet when we share it. Our best witness is the personal witness of our lives and how we treat each other, and only after this are we able to share faith building truth – such as what we find in this passage.

Jesus didn’t share this message with the broader crowd, but with His close followers. It is unclear all the different reasons, but one reason He did this was to strengthen their faith in Him after it was shattered during the fact.

Jesus does not want the future to scare us, because He has seen it, knows what will happen, and will be with us all the way through it.

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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