Receiving Authority and Power: John 13:1-17

Focus Passage: John 13:1-17 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Read John 13:1-17 in context and/or in other translations on!

As John’s gospel describes the last supper Jesus had with the disciples on the night He was betrayed, John shares an interesting set of verses that give us a big clue into Jesus’ character and His motivation for what was about to happen over the next 24 hour time period.

During this meal, John tells us: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (v. 3-5)

This set of verses is amazing in my mind for a number of reasons. First, John tells us in verse 3 that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power”. Reading this verse makes me a little curious: Did Jesus not have all things under His power prior to this point at the end of His ministry? Was the Father holding power back from Jesus while Jesus worked and ministered to the people?

While there are many questions I could ask about this one verse in John’s gospel, regardless of how or when Jesus received all things under His power, John tells us that at this point in His ministry, Jesus knew that all things were under His power. Reading what comes next is powerful.

Immediately after this realization, Jesus gets up, takes His outer garment off, and begins moving around the room washing the disciples’ feet. The most powerful Person in the room (Jesus) was taking the role of the least valued and least important servant.

Not only do these verses impress me about Jesus’ humility, but as we read the rest of the crucifixion event, it is powerful to think that everything that happens is chosen by Jesus. We know this because of what John initially says: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power”. (v. 3a)

Jesus chose the cross for you and for me. At the point when He realized He had been given the greatest amount of power, He chooses to humbly take on the role of a servant. Jesus is not interested in exercising His power and position over us. Instead, Jesus wants to serve us as a way of inspiring us to have a relationship with Him.

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Flashback Episode — The Law and the Prophet: Matthew 17:1-13

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Part way into Jesus’ ministry, we come to an event that many skeptics probably would eliminate from the Bible if they could. This event is one of the clearest examples in Jesus’ ministry that He was from God, but interestingly enough, Jesus asked the disciples who were present to keep the event a secret until after He was raised back to life.

As we read this event together, think about what you might have done if you were there with the disciples when it happened. Our event is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 17, and we will be reading from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1:

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.

Let’s pause reading here for a moment, because what just happened is very significant when we think about it. In this event, not only does Jesus temporarily reveal His glory to the three closest disciples, we also have confirmation from God the Father and two of the most prominent Old Testament figures.

I don’t think it was an accident that Moses and Elijah were the one’s present for this event. Moses, who died and was buried on a mountain just outside the Promised Land is one of the first in history to have been physically resurrected and taken to heaven. While Enoch lived a thousand or more years before Moses, Enoch never experienced death. Moses had. When we look at Moses being included in this event, we see foreshadowing of those who will face death looking forward to the opportunity of resurrection.

Including Elijah is also significant, because in some respects, he was the most famous and Holy Spirit filled prophet in the Old Testament history. Elijah is also significant because he is the only individual in Israel’s history to have never experienced death. God took him to heaven on a fiery chariot prior to his death.

When thinking of the phrase, “law and the prophets”, we can see Moses representing the law, and Elijah representing the prophets. In this event, both of these historical figures come and validate what Jesus is doing, and what He is here to accomplish. In the same way, both the law and the prophets point forward to Jesus, His mission, and His ministry.

Looking at the timetable of history, I wonder what sort of conversations Jesus had with both these men prior to coming to earth as a baby. Both these men would have been able to spend hundreds of years with Jesus in heaven prior to this brief moment on the mountain, and we really don’t know what they shared with Jesus while on the mountain in this passage.

Which makes me wonder, what would you have done if you were on the mountain there with Jesus, Moses, Elijah, and the three disciples? Peter impulsively says the first thing that comes to his mind, which while not bad, was not all that necessary. James and John on the other hand simply don’t say anything at all. If it weren’t for them being included in the verses leading up to this event, we wouldn’t even know they were there.

I’m not sure what I would have done, but I’d like to think I would have been more like James and John, who stayed silent and observed, rather than Peter, but it would be impossible to know for sure.

Let’s continue reading and see how this event ends. Picking back up in verse 9:

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.

One thing that amazes me about this trip down the mountain is that Jesus clearly gives an opening for these disciples to ask Him about the crucifixion-plus-resurrection weekend. Jesus asks these disciples to keep quiet about this event until after He was brought back to life, which would have been the perfect opening for one of the disciples to ask Him what He meant.

Instead, since Elijah is fresh on their minds, and since he was one of the unexpected guests on the mountain, the disciples ask Jesus about why the religious experts say Elijah is supposed to come first. Jesus gives a great answer, and the disciples realize that John the Baptizer fulfilled this prediction, but the disciples miss asking the big question that would have made crucifixion weekend significantly different for them.

If they had simply asked Jesus to teach them about what He meant when He referenced His death and coming back to life, I doubt the disciples would have been as sorrow-filled when Jesus actually died. Instead, the disciples would have been waiting expectantly for His resurrection. They might have even been present at the tomb to witness the angel.

However, they didn’t ask the question. For all the openings Jesus gave them to ask about His death and resurrection, the disciples didn’t ask Jesus to teach them about it until it was too late. Only after the resurrection and the confusion surrounding the weekend do the disciples actually stop and pay attention to what the scriptures actually predicted would happen. Only while Jesus is walking with disciples who don’t recognize who He is, do we see the disciples being open to learning what the scriptures predicted would happen that weekend.

In our own lives, God wants to teach us and show us amazing things, but we must be willing and open to what He wants to teach us. While Jesus is in heaven now preparing a place for each of us, we can look forward expectantly for the day He will return and bring us home to Him. We can look back in scriptures and discover who Jesus is and what He is like. We can look at Jesus’ life, love, and ministry, and discover what God the Father is like as well. And we can trust, believe, and have faith that God is doing everything He can to save us for eternity!

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

Be sure to seek God first in your live and be open to letting Him teach you what He wants you to learn. Be open to being used by God in amazing ways, for His purposes, and trust that He has your best future – your eternal future – secure. While crazy things might happen while sin is present in our world today, trust, believe, and look forward to the new heaven and new earth where sin will be a distant, forgotten memory.

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself so that you will learn and know what God and Jesus are like firsthand. While listening to pastors or podcasters can help you see the Bible in new ways, God wants to show you Himself through the pages of His word personally. Only through personal study can you grow a personal relationship with God, and a personal relationship with God is something you can start today. There’s no reason to wait until heaven to grow towards God.

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 reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 21: Discover how a secret meeting validates Jesus’ ministry, and how the several of the disciples miss the perfect opportunity to ask Jesus about crucifixion weekend.

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

Living Like Jesus: Matthew 20:20-28

Focus Passage: Matthew 20:20-28 (GW)

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her two sons. She bowed down in front of him to ask him for a favor.

21 “What do you want?” he asked her.

She said to him, “Promise that one of my sons will sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 Jesus replied, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink?”

“We can,” they told him.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will drink my cup. But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. My Father has already prepared these positions for certain people.”

24 When the other ten apostles heard about this, they were irritated with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. 26 But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. 27 Whoever wants to be most important among you will be your slave. 28 It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

Read Matthew 20:20-28 in context and/or in other translations on!

After sharing with the disciples about how they should be more focused on serving others rather than competing with each other for the best place and/or position, Jesus shifts the focus onto how He came to model the life He is describing. Matthew finishes this event off by telling us Jesus said: “Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. Whoever wants to be most important among you will be your slave. It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.” (v. 26b-28)

While it is one thing to simply tell the disciples how they should live, Jesus doesn’t stop there. Instead, Jesus finishes off by pointing the spotlight on Himself as an example – and He shares one more time that He would be facing death in the future.

Jesus being a servant to everyone is a significant detail that we should pay attention to. Jesus does not call us to do anything that He didn’t do Himself. The Pharisees and religious leaders were the ones in that culture who told others they needed to do a whole list of things that they were not willing to do themselves. In contrast, Jesus lived the life He wants us to live.

This might not be all that comforting for us when we think about it a little closer. Jesus faced voluntary death because He was that dedicated to serving humanity, and while we should be incredibly thankful to Him for this, Jesus’ sacrifice and voluntary death may be something that He calls us to as well. Remember, Jesus does not ask us to do anything that He wasn’t willing to do Himself. He gave up His life, and He might call us to give up ours as well.

We should be extraordinarily thankful towards Jesus for serving us in the way He did, and while it isn’t ideal to think about from this perspective, if Jesus calls us to give our lives up for Him, we can trust that He has something better in store for us when we arrive with Him in heaven. While Jesus doesn’t call us to do or give up anything He wasn’t willing to give up, everything that we give to Him will be returned in an exponentially better way when we arrive in heaven.

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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When Jesus Was Too Late: Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

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In our last episode, we focused in on the miracle where a woman pushed her way through a crowd just to touch the edge of Jesus’ garment. However, that miracle is part of a much bigger miracle, because when that miracle happened, Jesus was on His way to help a local synagogue leader.

Let’s read about what happened from Mark’s gospel, chapter 5, using the New Living Translation of the Bible. Starting in verse 21, Mark tells us that:

21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

24 Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him.

It is at this point in the event where we find the miracle we focused on in the last episode. While Jesus was headed to help Jairus, the woman from our last episode saw an opportunity to be healed without being noticed. However, Jesus did notice and He stopped everything and everyone in order to bring this woman’s story into the spotlight.

We don’t know how long this interruption lasted, but when we come back to Jairus’ portion of this event, we discover that it may now be too late. Continuing in verse 35, Mark tells us that:

35 While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”

37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”

40 The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. 41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed. 43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

In this passage and this event, several things stand out in my mind. The first one is that Jairus might not have heard or been certain if Jesus could raise someone from the dead. Prior to this, Jesus had raised a widow’s boy who was being carried out of town to be buried, but it is possible that this event had been glorified, glamorized, or simply shared so often that people weren’t fully sure what about it was truth verses exaggeration as the story spread.

We don’t know if the girl would have died before Jesus could have arrived if Jesus hadn’t stopped to draw attention onto the woman, but the implication I see when reading between the lines is that Jesus likely could have made it.

Because of this, we might end up feeling a little like Jairus did when receiving the news that his daughter was dead. At that moment, Jairus likely felt as though Jesus was too distracted to help him personally. At times in our own lives, we might feel as though God is too busy helping other people to help us personally.

However, while thinking this way is a temptation for us, nothing could be further from the truth. If we can push back from the situation where God appears to be silent, even if just for a moment or two, we might discover that if Jesus had arrived in time, both Jairus and everyone present would have missed experiencing another resurrection miracle. In a similar way, if God was always quick about answering some of our requests, we might never realize how much God wanted for us.

But this also leads us to an interesting detail present in this miracle, and some of the other ones where people are raised. In this miracle, Jesus refers to the child as sleeping, even if everyone present considers her dead. I cannot escape seeing the irony that if someone were to describe death as being like sleep in today’s culture, they would be laughed at by both major crowds of people. One crowd firmly believes that death is the end, while the other crowd things that death is a quick transition into eternal life in heaven or hell – though most people in this crowd focus on the heaven part.

It is likely for this reason that Jesus stopped the crowd from following Him after learning that the girl had died, and it is also the reason that He kicked everyone else out of the house when going in to see the girl. In the case of the crowd, there was likely enough faith and expectation to see a miracle that Jairus would not have needed to have faith personally. In contrast, those present at the house had lost all hope and their belief in the child being dead outweighed the faith in Jesus’ resurrecting ability.

In some ways, by describing death as a sleep, Jesus points us to the idea that it is simply a pause on consciousness. We can easily understand sleep as being a time of rest between two periods when we are awake and conscious, and understanding death as being simply a deeper sleep that only God can wake us up from is a peaceful way of describing death. By describing death as a sleep, Jesus aims to strengthen Jairus’ faith in the resurrection, and He aims to give us comfort in His resurrecting ability.

According to Jesus, when we face the sleep known as death, we will be resting until the time God wakes us up. In the case of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus wakes her up minutes after her last breath, and in our case, Jesus will wake us up when He returns with a shout.

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

Always seek God first and place your hope, faith, trust, and belief in Him. If you are fearful about death, take Jesus’ advice in this passage and think of death as a deep sleep. Jesus has fully shown that He is capable of waking people from this sleep, and because of this, we can be assured that when we have fallen into the sleep called death, that Jesus is fully capable of waking us up when the time is right.

As always, and especially since this is a very controversial topic, I challenge you to pray and study the Bible for yourself to discover what it teaches. If you want a balanced view on the subject, find two or three sources from each perspective and choose for yourself which one matches the Bible the best. As always, use the Bible as your guide, and focus on accepting the Bible for what it teaches and don’t filter the Bible through any of culture’s theories or ideas.

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

Year of Miracles – Episode 21: While being distracted by another miracle, the girl Jesus was on His way to heal dies. Discover what happened and how Jesus uses this tragedy to teach us some amazing things about God.

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