The Request Jesus Cannot Grant: Mark 10:35-45

Focus Passage: Mark 10:35-45 (GW)

35 James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Jesus. They said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them.

37 They said to him, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 Jesus said, “You don’t realize what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I’m going to drink? Can you be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive?”

39 “We can,” they told him.

Jesus told them, “You will drink the cup that I’m going to drink. You will be baptized with the baptism that I’m going to receive. 40 But I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.”

41 When the other ten apostles heard about it, they were irritated with James and John. 42 Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the acknowledged rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. 43 But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. 44 Whoever wants to be most important among you will be a slave for everyone. 45 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 Mark 10:35-45 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As Jesus approached the last week before facing the cross, two of His disciples came to Him with a request. By this point, all the disciples likely were sensing Jesus’ ministry leading towards one single moment, and the only thing they could conclude based on their preconceived ideas is that He would launch the campaign against the Romans and make the nation of Israel independent again.

The request these two disciples make is selfish, but also understandable. They ask Jesus, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (v. 37)

However, Jesus’ response is interesting. First, He asks them a counter-question, which they respond to, and after this, Jesus responds to their initial request by saying: “I don’t have the authority to grant you a seat at my right or left. Those positions have already been prepared for certain people.” (v. 40)

When I read this event knowing that Jesus would be on a cross not to long afterwards, it is hard to not see the disconnect with what these disciples ask and what they think they are asking. These disciples think they are asking for the places of most honor in a typical king’s kingdom, but they don’t realize that Jesus’ kingdom is different, and that when He receives His glory, it will look entirely different.

Jesus breaks both sides of the bad news to these disciples by saying that He doesn’t have the authority to grant their request and that those positions have already been reserved for certain people.

This leads me to wonder who these “certain people” were.

The highest point in Jesus’ ministry where He has individuals on His left and His right happens not long after this event. During this high point, Jesus is hanging on the cross with two criminals, one on His right and one on His left. This means that the point when Jesus was glorified, He was among the worst people in society and among those that the world condemned.

I am sure that these two disciples would not have asked the question they did if they knew Jesus would be glorified on a cross. While these disciples each faced trials, persecution, and death because they dedicated their lives to Jesus, it was only after Jesus’ death on the cross that they truly began to understand what His true mission was.

For us living today, Jesus’ message to these disciples is as true for us as it was for them. Jesus warns His followers to not seek power, fame, or position over others, because they might not realize what they are truly asking for. Instead, Jesus tells each of His followers that they should focus on serving like He served, because when we ask God for help serving, He is more than willing to grant our request!

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Life after Death: John 11:1-44


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In our last episode, we began looking at the miracle surrounding Lazarus being raised from the dead. However, because this also happens to be the miracle that takes up the greatest number of verses of any other miracle in the gospels, we didn’t actually get to the miracle part of the event in the last episode.

However, in this episode, let me briefly summarize what we covered in the last episode, before jumping back into the narrative. This event begins with Jesus hearing about His friend Lazarus’ illness, and Jesus reassures those present that Lazarus’ sickness wouldn’t end in death. Instead, it would bring glory to God.

However, instead of leaving immediately to go help Lazarus, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days, before announcing to the disciples that Lazarus was now asleep, or in other words dead, and that Jesus was now going to go wake Him up.

When they arrive in Bethany, which was the town that Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived in, Martha comes out to meet Jesus.

Let’s jump into the event at this point. While we looked at some of Martha and Mary’s conversation with Jesus in the last episode, this will give us a great foundation leading into the big themes we’ll focus in on in this episode. Our passage and event is found in the gospel of John, chapter 11, and we will be reading it from the Contemporary English Version. Jumping into our event in verse 17, John tells us that:

17 When Jesus got to Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many people had come from the city to comfort Martha and Mary because their brother had died.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Yet even now I know that God will do anything you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will live again!”

24 Martha answered, “I know that he will be raised to life on the last day, when all the dead are raised.”

25 Jesus then said, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. 26 And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord!” she replied. “I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God. You are the one we hoped would come into the world.”

28 After Martha said this, she went and privately said to her sister Mary, “The Teacher is here, and he wants to see you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up and went out to Jesus. 30 He was still outside the village where Martha had gone to meet him. 31 Many people had come to comfort Mary, and when they saw her quickly leave the house, they thought she was going out to the tomb to cry. So they followed her.

32 Mary went to where Jesus was. Then as soon as she saw him, she knelt at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw that Mary and the people with her were crying, he was terribly upset 34 and asked, “Where have you put his body?”

They replied, “Lord, come and you will see.”

This is where we left off in our last episode. Continuing reading from verse 35:

35 Jesus started crying, 36 and the people said, “See how much he loved Lazarus.”

37 Some of them said, “He gives sight to the blind. Why couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still terribly upset. So he went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone rolled against the entrance. 39 Then he told the people to roll the stone away. But Martha said, “Lord, you know that Lazarus has been dead four days, and there will be a bad smell.”

40 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you had faith, you would see the glory of God?”

41 After the stone had been rolled aside, Jesus looked up toward heaven and prayed, “Father, I thank you for answering my prayer. 42 I know that you always answer my prayers. But I said this, so that the people here would believe that you sent me.”

43 When Jesus had finished praying, he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The man who had been dead came out. His hands and feet were wrapped with strips of burial cloth, and a cloth covered his face.

Jesus then told the people, “Untie him and let him go.”

In this miracle, one phrase stands out to me as the big theme throughout this entire event. Without this phrase, this miracle would simply be just a miracle, or something special Jesus did back then, but no real indication of Him wanting to do the same for us today. But with this phrase, suddenly this miracle becomes a foreshadowing promise for every believer who worries about or faces death.

While Jesus is talking with Martha, He tells her in verses 25 and 26, “I am the one who raises the dead to life! Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die. And everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.

There are three big truths centered in these three short statements, and they might sounds as though they contradict each other.

In the first statement, Jesus makes the bold claim that, “I am the one who raises the dead to life!” If you have ever been fearful about being stuck in the grave in death, or if you have doubts about whether God loves you, pay attention to the fact that Jesus is the one who does the resurrecting, and it is Jesus who died for you. There is nothing to fear in death because Jesus has the power over death to bring you back to life!

The next statement speaks to a future resurrection for everyone who has faith in Jesus. Jesus tells Martha, “Everyone who has faith in me will live, even if they die.” This verse speaks to the truth of the resurrection Jesus promises to every believer. Death isn’t something we should fear when we have faith in Jesus, because Jesus has promised us life. From Jesus’ perspective, the grave is not relevant, because He conquered death.

With the third statement, we might be tempted to believe Jesus then contradicts Himself. After saying that those who have faith in him will live even if they die, Jesus then promises that “everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.” While I can understand why some might see this verse supporting believers being swept up to heaven immediately at their death, this doesn’t match the context of Jesus’ words, and it negates the resurrection Jesus has just promised. The future resurrection Jesus promises us becomes irrelevant if at death we receive our rewards immediately.

Instead, Jesus centers our focus on the truth that when we sleep, a metaphor for the death before the resurrection, we don’t truly die because Jesus keeps us safe, and figuratively holds us in His hands. This first death is irrelevant for a believer to focus on because unless we are alive when Jesus returns, we will face this first death.

However, this first death is irrelevant because we look forward to the resurrection that brings us back to life, and there is a strong theme running through the Bible that when we face this first, sleep-like death, the next conscious event we will know is the resurrection.

So what is Jesus’ key idea in the third statement? Jesus promises us that “everyone who lives because of faith in me will never really die.” Following the sleep-death that ends with our resurrection, we are giving the gift of eternal life. Jesus purchased that gift for us with His death on the cross, and He is anxiously awaiting the day when He will give it to us. The day we all look forward to is resurrection day, the day of our rebirth into a new life with God!

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

Intentionally seek God first and place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. Live your life in a way that honors God as a way to say thank You for everything He has done. We can never be good enough to earn our salvation, but we keep getting back up when we stumble because we want to honor God with our lives, and we want to accurately reflect Jesus to our chaotic, crazy world.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and move closer to God each day. While death is not a pleasant subject for many people to think about, if you haven’t studied all the conflicting beliefs surrounding it, I challenge you to do so today. While most beliefs about death claim the Bible as their foundation, choose the belief that has the greatest weight of evidence behind it. Don’t pick a belief simply because I or another person think it. Pray and study it out for yourself with 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 walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 42: In this second episode focusing on the resurrection of Lazarus, discover the huge promise in what Jesus tells Martha leading up to the resurrection. You might be surprised to discover what Jesus has the power to do.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Focusing on the Lazy One: Matthew 25:14-30

Focus Passage: Matthew 25:14-30 (NLT)

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Read Matthew 25:14-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

In this journal entry’s passage/parable, a powerful challenge is given regarding our perspective on life. While most people simply think of this parable praising the two resourceful and talented servants, it also reveals something significant about how important our perspective is – both our perspective of God, and our perspective of His gifts.

The best reflection of this perspective comes from an unlikely source: the third, lazy servant. While the first two servants are praised, less space is reserved to discuss these resourceful servants than the third, unresourceful one. Four verses (verses 20-23) share the master’s response to both resourceful servants, but the third servant receives four verses just for the dialog (verses 24-27) and two of the last three verses entirely to him as well.

This detail regarding focus is important. It tells me that more people will likely struggle with being a third servant than being a five-bag or two-bag one, and that we can learn more from the mistakes of the third servant than from the successes of the first two.

A simple reading of this parable reveals that the third servant saw things differently. Verses 16-18 tell what each servant did with the money entrusted to him: “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

The first servant invested, the second servant worked, while the third servant hid. The first two servants saw this money as a blessing, an opportunity, and a responsibility. The third servant saw the money as a curse, an unreasonable test, and probably as unfair. He might have thought something like: “Well, I could definitely do something great with two or three bags of silver, but one bag is not enough.” Or he may have been observant to how much the other servants were given and upset that he received the least, thinking to himself “It’s not fair.”

The third servant’s perspective was different. The second servant received less than half of the first, but still had the same positive perspective. This means that perspective is as important as ability – maybe even more important. Any increase is better than no increase, and even if the money was spent on a poor investment, if knowledge increased, then the master may still have considered the test a success.

A fearful, inactive, lazy third-servant perspective is opposite to what God wants from us. He wants to be able to bless us in ways that double or triple the blessing’s effectiveness. This is only possible with a positive outlook on life, a positive view of our ability, and a right perspective regarding the Gift-Giver.

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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Inspiring a Gospel: 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 ultimately arrested, He promises to ask the Father to send the disciples help. The help Jesus promised comes from the Father in what Jesus describes as “the Spirit of Truth”. When describing how the Helper would come, Jesus tells His followers: “I have told you this while I’m still with you. 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.” (v. 25-26)

It seems interesting in my mind that Jesus would describe the Holy Spirit as being sent from the Father in His name. In this verse, while the Holy Spirit comes in Jesus’ name, the description Jesus shares is that the Holy Spirit clearly comes from the Father.

Also contained in this short description is one of the things the Holy Spirit would do. Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit “will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.” (v. 26)

This detail is significant for us to pay attention to if we ever have doubts about whether the gospel writers could be trusted to accurately share what they witnessed while writing their respective gospels decades after the events actually happened. In John’s case, his gospel was the last to be written, and it may have been written so late in his life that all the remaining original disciples had already died.

As an old man, some skeptics might believe that we cannot trust John’s gospel record because it was written so long after the events he describes actually took place. However, if we think like a skeptic in this case, we are actually discounting the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John says that the Holy Spirit’s role is reminding us of what Jesus has taught us, and this was true while he was writing his gospel record. John’s gospel shares a unique angle on Jesus’ ministry that can best be understood as simply inspired. While John may have held the pen, the Holy Spirit inspired the memories, events, and words that were written.

It is the same in our lives as well. While we were not present while Jesus walked the earth, the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to help us remember truth we learned while we were younger, and the Holy Spirit is happy to help redirect us back to focusing on Jesus. Jesus has offered to send the Holy Spirit to help us, and there are no downsides to accepting the Holy Spirit’s help with our lives.

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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