God Steps Into Third Place: Luke 6:1-5

Focus Passage: Luke 6:1-5 (NCV)

One Sabbath day Jesus was walking through some fields of grain. His followers picked the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. Some Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? He went into God’s house and took and ate the holy bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he gave some to the people who were with him.” Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath day.”

Read Luke 6:1-5 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Almost everywhere Jesus and His followers traveled, another group of people seemed to continually show up. While these people were not followers of Jesus in the typical sense, it would seem that they definitely followed Him around. Their goal was to catch Jesus doing something wrong.

This group of people were the Pharisees, and one Sabbath Jesus and His followers were walking through a grain field. A few of Jesus’ followers picked some grain, rubbed it in their hands to remove the husk, and ate it. While this was low on the scale of effort, it was still classified as work, so the Pharisees who were following along challenged the group of followers by saying, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath day?” (v. 2)

Instead of focusing in on Jesus’ response, which doesn’t excuse His follower’s actions, but challenges the position these Pharisees had taken towards the law, let’s focus on the challenge these Pharisees gave.

The Pharisees had created so many rules that they had laws to keep them from breaking other laws. The “unlawful” action these followers did was one such law that was intended to keep them from breaking the very sacred Sabbath rest that God had commanded. Where the Pharisees’ became legalistic and critical was that they elevated their set of laws to be equal with God’s laws. The Pharisees expected the people to obey the laws that they had created so there would be no possible way to break God’s laws.

However, this was more of an outward projection rather than them living to their own standard. If a Pharisee slipped and broke one of their rules, then they could be forgiven, because at least they didn’t break God’s law. If someone else broke a Pharisee’s rule, then they were treated like they had broken God’s law. In a Pharisee’s mind, obeying the rules was more important than building a relationship.

In our own lives two thousand years later, there are people who follow this same train of thought. In the 21st century, there are people who would prefer to project their beliefs onto others as though they were speaking on God’s behalf.

But God doesn’t put rules ahead of relationships. Jesus came to show us that God values us just as much as He values His rules. Jesus came to take our place because God loves us so much. God doesn’t simply put us ahead of the rules, He placed the rules ahead of Himself, before also placing us ahead of Himself too. God placed us ahead of Himself, and He demonstrated this through Jesus coming on the cross to die for our sins.

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.

Flashback Episode — The Fateful Choice: John 13:18-30


Read the Transcript

On the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He shared a supper with His followers. During this supper, Jesus tells His followers that one of them would betray Him, and He singles that person out. However, in spite of how clear this all is described, we discover that the disciples still did not understand what was happening until it was too late.

Let’s read what happened when Jesus singles out the betrayer, and see what we can discover. Our passage picks up right where our last episode’s passage ended, and it’s found in John’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 18, Jesus continues speaking to the disciples while eating supper, saying:

18 “I am not talking about all of you. I know those I have chosen. But this is to bring about what the Scripture said: ‘The man who ate at my table has turned against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now before it happens so that when it happens, you will believe that I am he. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the One who sent me.”

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto two big ideas. First is that Jesus knows He will be betrayed, and He is clearly aware of who the betrayer is. Jesus states clearly that He knows who He has chosen, and this statement implies that Judas Iscariot may have been brought into the twelve disciples through an invitation Jesus gave, but something was missing after the three years that kept Judas from being “chosen”.

However, we can get a clue about Judas Iscariot in the second big idea. Jesus finished this section off by saying that whoever accepts Him also accepts the One who sent Him. Earlier in John’s gospel, we discover in one of the most famous verses, that God – and this refers to God the Father – loved humanity so much that He gave us His Son, so that those who chose to believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. By accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives, we are also accepting the One who sent Jesus, and this is God the Father, and His Holy Spirit.

However, did Judas Iscariot accept Jesus?

Let’s continue reading to see if John tells us the answer. Continuing in verse 21, John tells us that:

21 After Jesus said this, he was very troubled. He said openly, “I tell you the truth, one of you will turn against me.”

22 The followers all looked at each other, because they did not know whom Jesus was talking about. 23 One of the followers sitting next to Jesus was the follower Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus whom he was talking about.

25 That follower leaned closer to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “I will dip this bread into the dish. The man I give it to is the man who will turn against me.” So Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus said to him, “The thing that you will do—do it quickly.” 28 No one at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. 29 Since he was the one who kept the money box, some of the followers thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the feast or to give something to the poor.

30 Judas took the bread Jesus gave him and immediately went out. It was night.

In this last portion of our passage, a number of things stood out in my mind as we read it. However, the first big thing is the answer to the question I asked earlier. Verse 27 started by telling us that “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

This verse gives us the key piece of the puzzle when asking the question about whether Judas had accepted Jesus or not. If Judas had accepted Jesus into His heart, God would have been present there, and if God was present there, Satan could not have entered Judas. Instead, we discover that even after three or more years being a disciple of Jesus, Judas Iscariot was well aware of Jesus’ miraculous support from God, but he had not taken the step towards letting his belief rest on Jesus and He had not spiritually let Jesus into His heart.

In last week’s passage, John told us about Peter and his response to Jesus’ foot washing. I believe that John is subtly contrasting Peter with Judas here, because Peter was all in. While Peter initially wasn’t willing to accept Jesus’ gift of foot washing, when Jesus explained the necessity of it, Peter wants Jesus to wash more of him than just his feet. While Peter stumbled in many ways, we can see from his actions that He was passionate about Jesus.

On the other hand, we don’t discover much about Judas Iscariot, except that most of the gospel writers tell us repeatedly that He would be the one who betrayed Jesus. John tells us that Judas was a thief, and that Jesus challenged Judas’ condescending remarks towards Mary about her gift.

But another interesting observation I had when reading this is that Judas had the choice whether or not to accept the bread from Jesus. While Judas was on the path of betrayal, he could have refused the bread Jesus was handing him. While the other disciples seem clueless that Jesus is exposing the traitor, Judas would have clearly understood what accepting the bread meant.

If God had been in Judas’ heart, Judas would have politely refused, and we would not have the first part of verse 27 in our Bibles. Verse 27 begins by telling us: “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him.

If we remove the first conditional statement in this sentence, the second one disappears. If Judas refused the bread, Satan would not have entered Him, and it is possible this would be the beginning of Judas letting Jesus into His heart. Judas had the choice whether to accept the bread from Jesus, and Judas accepted both the bread and the role of betrayer in one instant. After Judas had accepted this role, Satan entered him and the last stages leading up to the cross begin.

Judas Iscariot was not forced to accept the role of betrayer. God did not predestine him to this role. Jesus did not invite him to be a disciple on the condition that three years later, he would betray Him. Judas chose the role of his own free will, and simply because God saw this happen, and because it was predicted before the events took place, everything hinges on Judas’ choice to accept the bread.

This means for you and I that even though God knows us so well that He knows what we will choose, we still have the freedom to choose when the moment comes. When we face temptation, regardless of our past, we can choose a new path moving forward. While our past lives might be full of sinful decisions, Jesus came to take care of our past when we choose to accept Him into our lives, accept the One who sent Him, and to turn away from the sin in our past. Jesus came to give us a new life with God, and God is inviting us to grow with Him for eternity.

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

As always, be sure to seek God first and when faced with the choice, always choose to do God’s will, to make the decision that will please God, and/or to choose to love and help others. Trust Jesus that our past has been dealt with when we make the choice to accept Jesus into our lives, and to move forward with Him.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow closer to God each and every day. Intentionally strengthen your personal relationship with God and let Him lead you into the truth He wants to teach you through His Word.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 23: When Jesus offered Judas a piece of bread at the last supper, did Judas have to accept it? If Judas had refused this gift, would that have changed His life? Discover what we can learn from Judas Iscariot and his fateful choice.

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

Rumors about Jesus: Matthew 16:13-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Read Matthew 16:13-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the times Jesus was traveling with His disciples, He asks them a question that is both insightful and profound. While this question leads into another question and ultimately into a response Peter gives that Jesus praises him for, the first “lead-in” question, is very interesting in my mind.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’” (v. 13)

This question stands out in my mind because by this time in Jesus’ ministry, His disciples had been with Him for more than a year or two, and they had traveled around to enough places that the whole country knew about Him. However, Jesus’ question is more about wanting to know what people think. With everything that He has done, Jesus wants to know the general consensus surrounding who the crowds think He is.

The response the disciples give is interesting as well. They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (v. 14)

Some might point to the response the disciples give as pointing to a belief during that time in reincarnation. This would imply that Jesus reincarnated from one of these historical figures. But while this is a possible theory, a stronger theory is that these people believed in God’s ability to restore life (i.e. to resurrect someone). There are examples of resurrection in the Old Testament, and several of Jesus’ conversations center around the theme of resurrection.

But the big thing I see in this initial question and the disciple’s response is this: If we choose to stand out from the crowd by doing or saying anything significant, people will talk and rumors will circulate. None of the theories surrounding Jesus in the disciple’s response were correct, but that didn’t stop Jesus. If we stand out from the crowd, people might believe and/or spread lies about us as well. It is up to us to not let the rumors irritate us or knock us off the track God has placed before each of 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.

Forgiven or Unforgivable: Matthew 12:22-37


Read the Transcript

As we continue moving through Matthew’s gospel, we come to another miracle Jesus did that led into Jesus teaching and challenging those present. From one simple miracle, we find a powerful teaching that forces us over 2,000 years later to make a choice.

Let’s read what happened and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will read it from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 22, Matthew tells us that:

22 Some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon in him. Jesus healed the man, and then he was able to talk and see. 23 The crowds were so amazed that they asked, “Could Jesus be the Son of David?”

24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “He forces out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!”

25 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said to them:

Any kingdom where people fight each other will end up ruined. And a town or family that fights will soon destroy itself. 26 So if Satan fights against himself, how can his kingdom last? 27 If I use the power of Beelzebul to force out demons, whose power do your own followers use to force them out? Your followers are the ones who will judge you. 28 But when I force out demons by the power of God’s Spirit, it proves that God’s kingdom has already come to you. 29 How can anyone break into a strong man’s house and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.

30 If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you don’t gather in the harvest with me, you scatter it. 31-32 I tell you that any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

33 A good tree produces only good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. 34 You are a bunch of evil snakes, so how can you say anything good? Your words show what is in your hearts. 35 Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts. 36 I promise you that on the day of judgment, everyone will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. 37 On that day they will be told that they are either innocent or guilty because of the things they have said.

In this passage, we find what is often referred to as the unpardonable sin, and we find a challenge for us that we will have to account for every careless word we have spoken. Unlike other passages where people are judged based on their actions, this passage challenges us with the truth that we are also judged innocent or guilty because of our words.

This passage is challenging on a number of levels and in a number of ways, but that shouldn’t stop us from digging in and seeing what we can learn.

At the start of this passage, when Jesus casts the demon out and heals the man, the people wonder out loud if Jesus could be the “Son of David”. This reference is clearly Messianic because the Jews believed at that time that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.

However, the Pharisees heard what they were saying and were quick to challenge this idea. They show their prejudice by not looking at what Jesus was doing, but by attributing Jesus’ good works to Satan.

This is where I am amazed at Jesus’ response. First, Jesus challenges the logic of the Pharisees. If Satan has somehow decided to fight himself, then he is his own worst enemy and his kingdom won’t last. Also, Jesus wasn’t the only one in the first century casting demons out of people. There were even Pharisees in other parts of the country who healed people in this way. Jesus challenges the logic of the Pharisees that some people used God’s power, but other people used Satan’s power. This doesn’t make much sense when brought to light.

Then Jesus gets even more challenging. Jesus polarizes the conversation by saying that either you are on His side, gathering in the harvest with Him, or you are against Him and scattering the harvest. There is no middle ground.

However, Jesus then promises forgiveness, but He does so in an interesting way. He tells those present in verses 31 and 32 that “any sinful thing you do or say can be forgiven. Even if you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven, either in this life or in the life to come.

We can be forgiven if we decide to come to Christ after being against Him. However, if we ally ourselves against the Holy Spirit, we will never be forgiven according to Jesus’ teaching. This is what is often known as the unpardonable sin. I’ve heard many different ideas regarding this verse over the years, but the biggest challenge I see included here relates to where we choose to place our focus.

For many of God’s people who are paying attention to the world’s events, we can see glimpses of how God is moving in the world today in order to bring everything towards a conclusion. This moving of God is another way of saying that we see evidence of His Holy Spirit moving in the world around us. When we see spiritual things happening and are openly skeptical about it, our skepticism pushes God away. If we continually push God further and further away, we have alienated our only hope of salvation.

Another way to say this is that by pushing the Holy Spirit out of our lives, we are also pushing away the only Source that can lead us to forgiveness and repentance. Speaking against the Holy Spirit pushes Him away and by pushing the Holy Spirit away, we reject God and His offer of Salvation. Salvation is found through believing in Jesus and placing our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Him. This can only be done when we ally ourselves with the Holy Spirit and let Him lead our lives and our focus. Without the Holy Spirit, we are lost in our sin and destined to pay the penalty for our rejection of God.

Jesus finishes off by challenging us to pay attention to the actions, words, and attitudes of those in the world around us. Someone who is good is going to produce positive things, while someone who is bad is going to produce negative things. “Good people bring good things out of their hearts, but evil people bring evil things out of their hearts.” (v. 35)

While life appears to be a lot more complicated than Jesus tells us in this passage, this truth is intuitively understood. When Jesus returns and the world is judged, our only hope is Jesus. While this passage doesn’t share how God can change people’s hearts, their minds, or their attitudes, when we let the Holy Spirit into our lives, we let God transform us into the people He created us to be. With the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will have placed our faith, hope, belief, and trust in Jesus.

If you are worried or concerned about having committed the unpardonable sin, let me put your mind at ease by saying that your worry or concern is the Holy Spirit trying to draw you into a relationship with God. Someone who commits the unpardonable sin is unlikely to ever care about committing it.

However, it is also worth noting that Jesus did not share this message to people who were on the fence about believing in Him or not. Jesus spoke this challenge to a group of Pharisees who were already prejudiced in their opposition of Jesus, and who were trying to tell others that the Holy Spirit’s power that Jesus used to heal and help others was really the power of Satan. If you haven’t told others that Jesus came from Satan and used Satan’s power to heal people, then you shouldn’t be concerned about breaking this unpardonable sin.

Instead, let right now be an opportunity to return to God if you are on the fence, ask Him for forgiveness for your past sins, and choose intentionally to step into a new life with Him!

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

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. If you are concerned about having sinned, take time right now to ask God for forgiveness. If God has been challenging you about a part of your life that He doesn’t like, choose to repent and to turn away from whatever that thing is. God wants the best for you, and sin is never a blessing.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and study, discover what God wants to teach you from His Word and grow your personal relationship with God closer and stronger with every minute spent together.

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 worry yourself away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 22: After healing a demon-possessed man, Jesus is challenged by a group of Pharisees over where He gets His power to heal and help people. You may be surprised at the strong language Jesus challenges this group of Pharisees with, and how this message is relevant for our lives today!

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.