Missing the Truth: John 14:15-31

Focus Passage: John 14:15-31 (GW)

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you all alone. I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live because I live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me and that I am in you. 21 Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus, “Lord, what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them. 24 A person who doesn’t love me doesn’t do what I say. I don’t make up what you hear me say. What I say comes from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have told you this while I’m still with you. 26 However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.

27 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly. 28 You heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, but I’m coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.

29 “I’m telling you this now before it happens. When it does happen, you will believe. 30 The ruler of this world has no power over me. But he’s coming, so I won’t talk with you much longer. 31 However, I want the world to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father has commanded me to do. Get up! We have to leave.”

Read John 14:15-31 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, the gospel of John spends a significant amount of space dedicated to the time between the last supper the disciples had with Jesus, and the time Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Part way through the last teaching opportunity Jesus had with the disciples prior to the cross, Jesus promises us that even though He is leaving, He will send us help. John records Jesus’ promise by saying: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.” (v. 16-17)

One big thing that I see in this description of the Spirit of Truth that Jesus promises us is that the world cannot accept Him because it doesn’t see or know Him. In contrast, Jesus tells the disciples that they will be able to know this Helper because He will live with them and be in them.

This prompts me to wonder if Jesus was simply promising this helper to those original disciples, or if Jesus’ promise extends beyond the first generation of believers. Tucked at the end of verse 16, is the timeframe for this promise. Jesus tells us that the helper that the Father sends to them “will be with you forever.” (v. 16)

Skeptics might say that the emphasis for this promise was on those original disciples, but Jesus uses the word “forever” which is significantly longer than “for the rest of your lives”, which is another time span that Jesus could have said.

I believe Jesus uses the word forever because as long as there are Christians alive on earth and who are sharing their faith with others, they will have help from the Spirit of Truth. The world doesn’t see or know God’s Holy Spirit, and because of this, the world cannot accept the truth about God, but this is because the world is not interested in Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, we have been called to live in a way that makes the Christian life look attractive to others. We are called to share our faith with those God brings into our lives. And we are called to depend on and learn from the Spirit of Truth as we go about our daily lives living for God.

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Flashback Episode — Thrown Out of His Kingdom: Matthew 22:1-14

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During Jesus’ final week leading up to the crucifixion, He shares a parable that has a number of fascinating characteristics. In this parable, we discover that simply having an invitation is not enough to guarantee our salvation. Instead, we discover that there is another detail present that we need to include when discussing salvation.

To set the stage for discovering this big truth, let’s read Jesus’ parable before unpacking what it means for each of us. Our passage is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

We can learn many things from this parable, but the one I want to focus our time on for this episode is specifically on the last section. While Jesus could have ended the parable after the banquet hall is filled with everyone the servants could find who were willing to come, He continues by describing how the king then enters the banquet only to find someone who isn’t properly dressed.

At this point in the parable, all the king’s “friends” who had rejected his invitation are dead and their city was burned, and the banquet hall is full of random people from off the streets and this assorted group of people contains both bad and good people.

Setting the stage in this way leads us to a somewhat obvious conclusion: I doubt any of those who ultimately came to the wedding hall were dressed for a wedding when they accepted the king’s invitation. The timetable of this parable suggests that those who were invited, if they were to get a place in the hall before it was full, would need to come immediately, and not go home to get ready for a wedding.

We find this idea in the detail that when a banquet is ready, there isn’t any time to stop to actually get ready. If those the king invited had gone home, taken showers, gotten into their best clothing, and then came, chances are the food that had been prepared would no longer be good. Those who were invited at the last minute only had time to come.

But this gets tricky when we transition to talking about the king’s harsh response to someone who is present who doesn’t have the proper clothing on. The only way this makes sense with the details included in this parable is if the king offers wedding clothing for everyone to change into when they arrive.

If the king invites anyone and everyone to fill his banquet hall, he shouldn’t be surprised if some of those he invited were not wealthy enough for clothing. We don’t know anything about the man who the king confronts, but the question the king asks seems ridiculous if the king expects something that the man could not afford while accepting the invitation that was “free”.

In contrast, if the king offered everyone wedding clothes on their arrival, then he does have a say regarding who should be included. Accepting the invitation is free and the wedding clothes the king offered are free as well. Why this man decided to accept one gift and not the other is as informative as his “speechless” response. The only rational explanation is that he believed one gift was significant while the other one was not.

However, this detail is powerful for us to pay attention to because it describes how many Christians believe their faith in Jesus works. Many people today believe all they must do is accept God’s invitation through Jesus’ crucifixion. These Christians accept the first gift of salvation correctly, but when they are offered new clothing – the King’s clothing — which represents the King’s character, they determine this gift is optional. They are represented by this man who ends up standing speechless before the King of the universe when He calls them out for refusing one of His gifts.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to accept the invitation Jesus gives us through His death on the cross, and accept the gift of His character that is freely offered to all who decide to come to Christ. We accept the gift of clothing by intentionally focusing on God, on Jesus, and on growing closer to Him. We accept Jesus’ life when we put our sinful lives in the past and start fresh with God. When we accept Jesus’ invitation, we would be fools to not accept the free gift of His character, because Jesus’ character is sinless, perfect, and it is the only thing that makes us “safe to save for eternity”!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ invitation, or the gift of His character, do so today. Know that God has done everything necessary for our salvation, but we must accept His free gifts in order to be accepted into His kingdom.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself because it is through prayer, study, and walking with God that we demonstrate we have accepted His character and “clothing” into our lives.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or outright reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 38: During one of His parables leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus shares how someone gets invited to a banquet only to be kicked out for not wearing the proper clothing. Discover what this challenging parable means for us living today and how we can avoid making the same mistake.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Unexpected Arrival: 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!

As Jesus was teaching the disciples that they should always be ready for His return, Jesus illustrates this idea like a homeowner waiting for a thief. Luke’s gospel describes Jesus illustration like this: “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. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at a time when you don’t expect him!” (v. 39-40)

Reading these two verses might make me think that Jesus will return secretly, steal His people away from the earth, and leave everyone else behind. But while this does describe the behavior of a thief, it is not the characteristic of the thief that Jesus wants His disciples focusing on.

Both the context of this illustration as well as the immediate explanation for this parable focus our attention onto the unexpected nature of Jesus’ return. Thieves try to arrive when we don’t expect them and ideally while we are away or asleep. While Jesus isn’t waiting for us to leave Him or fall asleep before He returns, He tells all His disciples that His return will be at a time they did not expect.

This tells me that while Bible study is important, the goal of our studying should be focused on growing closer to Jesus and not on uncovering a secret code or explanation for a prophecy that would lead to setting a date for His return. Rarely does prophecy make sense before it has been fulfilled, and while God may have placed clues regarding His return in the Bible and/or in the natural world, it is foolish for us to focus on uncovering them.

Discovering the true date of Jesus’ return before it happens would be just as harmful as it would be helpful. If we knew Jesus was returning 40 years from now, we might let our relationship with Him slide, thinking we have time — but unknown to us is that we only might be alive for 10 of those years. The date our lives end should remain just as unknown as the date of Jesus return because when we don’t know the dates of each, we can better focus on building the relationship with God that He desires to have with us.

Jesus’ return will surprise everyone. It will be unexpected. And it has intentionally been set at a time that is unexpected for those living in the world, but will make perfect sense for those looking back on the event.

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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Freed to Praise God: Luke 13:10-17

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In our walk through the gospels looking at Jesus’ miracles, it seemed that a disproportionate number of miracles happened on the Sabbath. While this may accurately reflect what actually happened, this also could be because no other day of the week prompted the religious leaders to challenge Jesus on what He was doing. Perhaps the friction Jesus created because of His views regarding what was acceptable and not on the Sabbath pushed the miracles Jesus did on the Sabbath into the spotlight and memories of those present.

However, when Jesus healed people, rarely did He ever actually do something that would even remotely have been considered work. In the miracle for this episode, nothing even hints at Jesus doing any action that would be thought of as work, even though a healing took place. In this event, not only do we discover a miracle, but we also discover Jesus sharing a new picture regarding how we should view the Sabbath, or as our chosen translation describes it, as a day of rest – a holy day.

Let’s read what happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 10, Luke tells us that:

10 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the day of rest—a holy day [most other translations simply say on the Sabbath]11 A woman who was possessed by a spirit was there. The spirit had disabled her for 18 years. She was hunched over and couldn’t stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her to come to him and said, “Woman, you are free from your disability.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and she immediately stood up straight and praised God.

Let’s pause reading here for a moment because what this last verse said prompts us to why Jesus may have healed this woman on this occasion. This verse tells us that when the woman stood up straight, she “praised God”.

Probably the best reason Jesus healed and helped people was to bring God praise and glory, and this formerly disabled woman was happy to lead those present to praise God for what He had healed her of.

But not everyone present was happy with what happened. While the synagogue leader could not argue with praising God, he did take offense to Jesus healing on this day. Continuing in verse 14, we learn that:

14 The synagogue leader was irritated with Jesus for healing on the day of worship. The leader told the crowd, “There are six days when work can be done. So come on one of those days to be healed. Don’t come on the day of rest—a holy day.”

15 The Lord said, “You hypocrites! Don’t each of you free your ox or donkey on the day of rest—a holy day? Don’t you then take it out of its stall to give it some water to drink? 16 Now, here is a descendant of Abraham. Satan has kept her in this condition for 18 years. Isn’t it right to free her on the day of rest—a holy day?”

17 As he said this, everyone who opposed him felt ashamed. But the entire crowd was happy about the miraculous things he was doing.

In this event, Jesus challenges the notion of what is work and what isn’t. Nowhere in this miracle does Jesus deny the synagogue leader’s reference to the Sabbath commandment and it being a commandment about resting from work.

Instead, Jesus challenges the idea of what work included and what it didn’t include. The woman didn’t pay Jesus for the healing, and nowhere that I know of was Jesus ever paid for healing someone. In contrast, doctors earn a living through healing and helping others. By looking at the income angle of this passage, we can see one filter for what is work and what isn’t – and even though the synagogue leader had reduced Jesus to a doctor who could teach the scriptures, Jesus was more likely a teacher of the scriptures who healed people as a hobby.

The comparison Jesus makes in His reply is interesting. Jesus responds to the synagogue leader by first calling them hypocrites, then giving them an example of why. It is likely that everyone present would bring water to their animals on the Sabbath for the animals to drink. This isn’t work. Instead, this is kindness.

However, this act takes more time than Jesus took and more energy than Jesus exerted. But Jesus doesn’t challenge the idea of work based on the difficulty level or on the level of income earned. Jesus challenged the idea on the angle of freedom. If those in the first century were more than willing to untie their animals to let them get a drink, how much more applicable would it be for God, through Jesus, to untie this disabled woman who had been bound up for 18 years. In this miracle, Jesus not only redefined what was acceptable on the day of worship, but He also elevated this woman’s status above that of the animals.

All this is summarized nicely in the verse we focused on part way through this passage. Immediately when the woman was freed from her disability, she praised God, and she led those present who were willing in praising God as well. The only people present who were upset were the ones who held their opinions about what were acceptable activities for the Sabbath over the wellbeing of others.

This idea is powerful. It tells us that when we let our opinions of the world or of certain people become greater than our desire to help the world, this person, or this group of people, then we will become more hostile, bitter, angry, and withdrawn. We see this happen in people who are so far removed from those who struggle that they cannot even grasp what others are going through, and we also see this from people who have grown calloused towards helping others.

God doesn’t want His people to be calloused from helping others, but instead, He wants love, help, kindness, and compassion from all His people, and He has called us to help others because we can help. We are to help both Christians and non-Christians alike, and we are to be known for our love over our religion, our faith, our politics, or any other measure that we can think of.

We are Jesus’ representatives in the world today, and Jesus came and He loved and helped those who needed help.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and look for ways you can show love and help to others. Through Jesus, God stepped down to earth, down to the cross, and down to the grave for you and me. If we accurately model Jesus, we should be stepping down and helping wherever we can, and we should look for people we can help who need help, love, and encouragement.

Also, to better reflect Jesus to others, we should always pray and study the Bible for ourselves to learn what Jesus is like. While it is easy to take someone else’s word for it, the best, most trustworthy source for what Jesus is like is in the pages of the Bible, specifically the pages of the gospels, and in the Bible we can truly discover God’s love for each of us!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or ignore where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 38: In a Sabbath miracle, Jesus heals a woman who praises God, much to the dislike of the synagogue leader. Discover what we can learn about how the religious leaders viewed Jesus, and what this has to do with praising God, helping others, and working on the Sabbath.

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