Elijah’s Ministry: Matthew 17:1-13

Focus Passage: Matthew 17:1-13 (GW)

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.

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.

Read Matthew 17:1-13 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wondered if Jesus said something before thinking it through?

Or perhaps wondered if Jesus ever stumbled over one of His main points and had to go back and restate it because it wasn’t worded correctly?

And if either of these ideas were true, could this misstep have been recorded in one or more gospels and then copied thousands of times throughout the ages?

Bible critics love to search out such mistakes and errors in order to discredit Christianity and/or Jesus, and in this passage may be one such slipup – or in it could be a hidden repeating prediction for the future.

In several translations, including the one we are using for this entry, Jesus says in verse 11, “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again.” But then He quickly follows up in verse 12 by saying, “Actually, I can guarantee that Elijah has already come.

So which is it?

Is Elijah still coming, or has He already come?

This is the sort of question that Bible critics like to pose towards how the Bible is written. Looking at the context and how the disciples understood this dialog, they conclude that this Elijah prediction represented the role and ministry of John the Baptist, who’s ministry got people thinking about and looking forward to Jesus’ arrival.

However, we also have a problem though, because at least with how these two verses are translated into English, it seems as though Jesus misspeaks and then restates what He meant to say. This may be the case, but it could also be Jesus hinting us to a larger, repeating truth: Before God does anything big in the world, He sends messengers to prompt us to pay attention:

  • Noah was sent to build the ark, but also to preach about the coming flood.

  • Moses was sent to deliver Israel from Egypt, but also to point the Egyptians towards the one true God.

  • Elijah was sent to the people of Israel at a time when they were far from God and in his ministry, he challenged the king, proclaimed a drought/famine, and challenged the false religion at the time in a very public way (i.e. fire from heaven).

  • Many of Old Testament prophets who have books named after them prophesied about the coming exile of the Jews for their unfaithfulness to God.

  • John the Baptist comes announcing that God is about to send the promised Messiah into the world.

There are lots of other examples we could look at, but it seems that God likes to send messages and/or messengers into the world when He is about to do something big. With this theme in mind, it is not unrealistic to look for other messenger examples throughout history following Jesus and the apostles.

Along these lines, when Jesus says in verse 11 that “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again,” we can see foreshadowing of future times when God send messengers to point people back to Him.

You and I can be “Elijah-like” when we point people to God and to Jesus. John the Baptist got many of the people in that generation ready to meet Jesus. In today’s world, you and I can help others meet Jesus and get ready for eternity.

Before God does anything big in the world, He sends messengers to prompt us to pay attention, and you and I can help our place in history by pointing people to Him.

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Choosing a Betrayer: Matthew 10:1-4

Focus Passage: Matthew 10:1-4 (NIrV)

Jesus called for his 12 disciples to come to him. He gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every illness and sickness.

Here are the names of the 12 apostles.

First there were Simon Peter and his brother Andrew.

Then came James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John.

Next were Philip and Bartholomew,

and also Thomas and Matthew the tax collector.

Two more were James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus.

The last were Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Judas was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.

Read Matthew 10:1-4 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, three of the four gospels describe Jesus standing on a mountainside and calling twelve of His followers to form a core group of “disciples”. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include unique details, they all contain one big similarity. This unifying characteristic is how they end their list of twelve names.

Matthew concludes the list of Jesus’ disciples by saying, “The last were Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot. Judas was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.” (v. 4)

Mark concludes his list of Jesus’ disciples by saying, “Judas Iscariot was one of them too. He was the one who was later going to hand Jesus over to his enemies.” (Mark 3:19)

And Luke concludes his list of Jesus’ disciples by saying, “Judas, son of James, and Judas Iscariot who would later hand Jesus over to his enemies.” (Luke 6:16)

All three of these gospel writers include Judas Iscariot by saying that he was the one who would betray Jesus. While none of the disciples knew this at the time, when they chose to communicate through their own gospels or share the gospel story with others, they conclude their lists of disciples with Judas Iscariot – the betrayer.

But what is amazing to me in these verses is not how each of the gospel writers frames Judas Iscariot. Instead, I am amazed that Jesus chose to include Judas Iscariot in the group – knowing from the start that it would be Judas who would betray Him. Through the act of inviting a betrayer into His core group of followers, even if the betrayer had no idea what he would become, Jesus is sending a message to all of us about God’s love. By inviting Judas Iscariot to be a disciple, Jesus demonstrates that God loves even those who are in active rebellion against Him.

This love extends beyond the core group of disciples. Jesus came to planet earth while humanity was fully rebelling against God. Through Jesus, we see a picture of God’s love that makes what we call “love” seem small. God’s example of love places a rebellion ahead of His own life – and Jesus, by choosing Judas Iscariot to be a disciple, emphasizes this example of love.

Also, because Judas Iscariot followed Jesus for 3+ years and still chose to betray Him, we can see that even being next to Jesus cannot change a stubborn or closed heart. I believe during the time Jesus spent with Judas Iscariot, Jesus tried everything He could to open Judas’ heart to His.

Even though Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, Jesus still loved Him – and by loving Judas and calling Him to be a disciple, Jesus shows us God’s love for even the most sinful humans.

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Flashback Episode — Praising Dishonesty: Luke 16:1-18


Read the Transcript

Of all the parables and illustrations Jesus shares in the gospels, one stands out above the rest when I think about those that are overly negative. On one hand, many of Jesus’ parables are meant to challenge individuals to live more Godly lives, but what if the parable Jesus shares appears to endorse or support some pretty negative and dishonest characteristics?

For those of you listeners who are familiar with Jesus’ parables in the Bible, you may have guessed that I am describing the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, and this is a parable that bothered me a little until I read it with an analytical frame of mind – looking specifically for why Jesus might have shared it.

Let’s read the parable together and discover why Jesus may have shared it. This parable is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 1, Luke begins by saying that:

Jesus also said to his followers, “Once there was a rich man who had a manager to take care of his business. This manager was accused of cheating him. So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of what you have done with my money, because you can’t be my manager any longer.’ The manager thought to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking my job away from me? I am not strong enough to dig ditches, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I lose my job people will welcome me into their homes.’

“So the manager called in everyone who owed the master any money. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe?’ He answered, ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write four hundred gallons.’ Then the manager asked another one, ‘How much do you owe?’ He answered, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’ Then the manager said to him, ‘Take your bill and write eight hundred bushels.’ So, the master praised the dishonest manager for being clever. Yes, worldly people are more clever with their own kind than spiritual people are.

Let’s pause reading for a moment because it is here at the conclusion of this parable that we get a hint about why Jesus told us this parable. Along with describing how the master praised the dishonest manager, Jesus tells His followers that “worldly people are more clever with their own kind than spiritual people are”.

But while we might be tempted to stop here and think Jesus simply wants us to be cleaver and sneaky for God, He continues by telling us exactly why He shared this parable, and the lesson we should learn from it. In verse 9, Luke tells us that Jesus continued by saying:

“I tell you, make friends for yourselves using worldly riches so that when those riches are gone, you will be welcomed in those homes that continue forever. 10 Whoever can be trusted with a little can also be trusted with a lot, and whoever is dishonest with a little is dishonest with a lot. 11 If you cannot be trusted with worldly riches, then who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you cannot be trusted with things that belong to someone else, who will give you things of your own?

Pausing our reading again, it is important for us to realize that Jesus does not praise the dishonest manager, and nothing implied in what Jesus described would indicate that this manager was able to keep his job.

Jesus actually describes the opposite when He says in verse 10 that “Whoever can be trusted with a little can also be trusted with a lot, and whoever is dishonest with a little is dishonest with a lot”.

In this parable and explanation, Jesus tells us that we are responsible for how we manage our lives and wealth on this earth. It is like Jesus is describing God looking down from heaven at those living on the earth, and He is specifically looking for people who are managing their lives, their money, and their gifts well and He chooses to give these people more of these blessings.

And before moving too far ahead, Jesus gives us instruction and guidance for how to use our earthly wealth in the best possible way. He tells us that the best use for it is to use it to make friends. However, before thinking Jesus is telling us to buy friendships, which is ironically impossible to do, Jesus describes a situation where the wealth is temporary, but the relationship lasts beyond it. The only way for this to happen is if the relationships and friendships we grow are not dependant on money.

What is the goal of these friendships? Jesus continues by stating something that might sound completely off topic, but His words actually contain the answer to this question.

Picking back up in verse 13, Jesus continues by saying:

13 “No servant can serve two masters. The servant will hate one master and love the other, or will follow one master and refuse to follow the other. You cannot serve both God and worldly riches.”

In this simple two-statement illustration, Jesus subtly sums up two big conflicting motivators for people. Some people are motivated by serving God; other people are motivated by money. This list is nowhere near mutually exclusive, because we all face other things that can motivate or demotivate us, but God and money happen to be two of the biggest motivators. Looking a little deeper at the motivation for serving God, it is true that we cannot be serving money at the same time.

How does this relate to our friendships, you might ask?

When our lives are serving God, we use our earthly money to help support and enrich friendships with others here on earth with the goal of being able to share Jesus and God with them. Money makes a great tool to help with relationships in many cases, but it makes a horrible foundation for a relationship to be built on. Jesus describes money being used as a tool and nothing more, whereas our Master and focus is on God.

We are not given license to use our money in dishonest ways, but instead to be creative with it while holding ourselves to the highest standards of integrity. Whoever is dishonest with a little will be dishonest with much, while whoever can be trusted with a little will be given more.

While Jesus does continue speaking and sharing, this seems like a good place to conclude, and with that said, here are the challenges I want to leave you with this week:

Continue seeking God first and placing Him first in your life. Learn to see money as a tool and know that if you have money in your life, it is only through using it wisely that you will be blessed with more.

Remember Jesus’ words in verse 11: “If you cannot be trusted with worldly riches, then who will trust you with true riches?” Use this as a guide to challenge yourself to live more trustworthy, with the highest standards of integrity and honesty that you can think of, because while this is a challenge Jesus shares, it is also a promise we can claim in our own lives.

Also, be sure to study the Bible for yourself. The Bible has a lot to say about money, and one reason for this might be because God knows that money is a sensitive topic for many people. God loves you more than He loves your money and He values your heart and soul more than your net worth. With regular prayer and Bible study, we can grow a personal relationship with Him.

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

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 31: Cam looks briefly at the Parable of the Dishonest Manager and he discusses several reasons why Jesus may have shared this parable with His followers.

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

Anonymous Jesus: John 5:1-15

Focus Passage: John 5:1-15 (HCSB)

After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed [—waiting for the moving of the water, because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had].

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

“Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.

Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”

11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 After this, Jesus found him in the temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” 15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Read John 5:1-15 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Aside from the disciples, of all the people in the gospels to be focused on Jesus, there was one group who seemed to be almost everywhere Jesus went. This group, known as the Pharisees, didn’t watch Jesus because they wanted to believe in Him. Instead, they watched Him because they wanted to catch Him breaking a law or saying something wrong.

However, during one of Jesus’ miracles, the Pharisees missed being present, even if they were present in the area where this healing took place. While John doesn’t specifically mention the Pharisees by name in this passage, he simply refers to them as Jews – and these were likely the Jewish religious leaders, and many of them would have been Pharisees.

John describes what happened immediately after Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda by saying, “Now that day was the Sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.’” (9b-10)

Now the healed man had a problem. He responded that he was basically just following directions. He replied saying, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” (v. 11)

‘Who is this man who told you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ they asked. But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” (v. 12-13)

The man didn’t know who Jesus was when he was healed. This is a powerful thought. In this miracle, we can see that Jesus heals based on our need and not on the condition that we respond by calling Him God. The man had no idea who Jesus was. He simply was obeying the instructions of someone he believed God had sent his way.

Reading this portion of Jesus’ miracle prompts me to wonder if God is willing to act and help anyone who needs help, regardless of their current attitude and regardless of whether they will acknowledge Him. The man who was healed didn’t praise God or worship Jesus following his healing. Instead, he was caught breaking the Jew’s legalistic Sabbath laws.

In this miracle, we can see a theme that is touched on in other parts of the Bible as well. This theme points us to God’s character and His love. Jesus came into this world to show God to us. This wasn’t because He wanted to help people on the condition that they would worship God with a correct frame of mind. Instead it was to counter the devil’s accusations about what God was like.

Satan has done a masterful job of presenting God as a villain, and Jesus came to simply show us a different picture of God – a picture that demonstrates selfless love, and a powerful invitation to respond to His love.

This miracle at Bethesda helps us see a loving Jesus and a loving God. God is Someone who is willing to help even if He doesn’t get the credit. God is willing to help even if we are trapped in rebellion against 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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