Thanking the Source: Luke 5:17-26

Focus Passage: Luke 5:17-26 (CEV)

17 One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, 18 and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.

20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking that? 23 Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? 24 But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.”

25 At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. 26 Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, “We have seen a great miracle today!”

Read Luke 5:17-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Perhaps it is just a matter of semantics, or simply looking too closely at the details of this passage, but in this passage is a subtle shift of wording that I find very interesting. As our passage opens, Jesus is teaching in a crowded home, and it is much too crowded to bring someone in to be healed by Him on a stretcher or mat. But this does not discourage this crippled man’s friends because they realize that the roof is not as crowded, and that there is ample “airspace” to lower their friend right in front of the One they know can heal him.

And this is what they do. What I find interesting is not found in the persistence of this man’s friends, but in Jesus’ words surrounding this healing and in the crowd’s response.

We are unsure what Jesus was teaching on immediately before being interrupted by the man and his friends, but Jesus’ first words don’t relate to healing but to forgiveness of sins. This causes a significant stir amongst the leaders present, because forgiveness of sins is an ability reserved only for God, and Jesus seems to be claiming He is capable of it as well.

The phrase Jesus says that stands in contrast to what the crowd reacted to is this: “Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” (v. 23-24a)

This stands in contrast to what happens after the man is healed: “He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. Everyone was amazed and praised God.” (v. 25b-26a)

It seems as though Jesus was pushing the religious leaders about who He was, and subtly drawing the focus to His role and mission on earth. However, the crowd, and even the man who was healed, seemed to be more focused on praising the God behind the miracle instead of getting caught up in the tension present over Jesus’ forgiveness comments.

While the Pharisees and experts debated over Jesus, the crowd was praising God – and this is exactly what Jesus planned to happen. Jesus stumps the Pharisees while inspiring praise to God.

In my own life, when I see blessings come my way, it is less about thanking the specific source of the blessing and more about praising the God who is the ultimate source of this blessing. That is one lesson I see Jesus teaching us here.

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 Won the Debate: John 8:31-59

Focus Passage: John 8:31-59 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Read John 8:31-59 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While visiting Jerusalem part way through Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders in the temple get into a debate with Jesus. John’s gospel records this debate as well as what we can learn about the opposition Jesus faced.

As the leaders were getting more and more agitated at Jesus’ claims, we come to an interesting part of the conversation. After calling these Jews out for being children of the devil, Jesus says, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (v. 45-47)

It is important for us to pay attention to Jesus’ challenge here. If these leaders – or anyone – could prove that Jesus had sinned against God’s law, then they would have the right to judge Him. However, without proof, then they have no case. If there is no case that can be made against Jesus, then what He is telling them must be classified as true.

However, these people don’t hear/understand Jesus, and Jesus comes out and cleanly says this by telling them that they don’t belong to God.

The leaders respond by trying to change the subject: “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” (v. 48)

Before this point, the idea that Jesus was a Samaritan was not even in the discussion, and this attempted maneuver is a sign that these leaders have lost ground in their debate. They are now trying to grab whatever insults they can in order to save their reputation and worldview that said Jesus could not be from God.

Seeing what is happening, Jesus simply answers the question that they appear to have asked each other: “I am not possessed by a demon, but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.” (v. 49)

In every conversation Jesus had, in every healing Jesus did, and in every word Jesus taught, He gave honor to God the Father. Jesus received dishonor from those living in that century and that culture, and He receives dishonor from culture today.

As Jesus’ followers, we should not be surprised when the world discriminates against followers of Jesus. In some ways, we should expect to find plenty of examples of it. However, we should also remember that when the world throws everything at us to try and derail our focus from Jesus, we can know that when time and history have ended, those of us who have stood with Jesus will be standing with Him in a newly recreated earth.

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Flashback Episode — Looking Forward to His Death: John 12:1-11


Read the Transcript

First off, as we begin, happy new year to all of you. After having finished all four years of chronologically moving through Jesus’ life, I have to admit that it is a little weird to be beginning this year not actually looking at something from Jesus’ birth story. However, if your experience was anything like mine, we probably spent plenty of time focusing on Jesus’ birth this past Christmas season.

However, as I’m sure you know, the main reason Jesus’ birth was so special wasn’t just because of God stepping down and becoming human, as hard as that is for us to grasp. The main reason we should pay attention to Jesus’ entrance and time spent in our world is what we will be focusing on during this year of podcasts. This year, we will be focusing on the week leading up to the cross, and what we can learn about Jesus and God from this key piece of time in our world’s history.

To start our year of podcasting through the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we will turn our attention to John’s gospel, to a special supper that takes place in Jesus’ honor, and what we can learn about what happened. Our passage for this episode is found in John’s gospel, chapter 12, and we will be reading it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

In this passage, alongside Mary’s amazing gift of perfume, we discover how this event both predicts what is coming, as well as it setting the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion a little less than a week later.

To set the stage for this final week, the way John concludes this passage is about perfect. John reminds us that a large crowd found out Jesus was there and they came to see Him, and not just Jesus, but Lazarus as well. Because of Jesus’ renewed popularity and because this resurrection miracle was prompting people to believe in Jesus, the chief priests not only focused on looking for a way to kill Jesus, but to kill Lazarus as well. As we move from this point forward, we discover how everything the chief priests do is focused on trying to discredit Jesus, on planning His death, or both.

Also, the stage is set in this passage for Judas to betray Jesus. In this event, we discover that Jesus pushes back at Judas Iscariot over his condescending remarks about Mary’s gift. John tells us Judas did not say this because he was interested in helping the poor, but because he would help himself to the money they had collected for the poor. I don’t know how this wouldn’t have been obvious to the other disciples and to Jesus because they traveled everywhere together, but perhaps Judas thought he was being secretive, but instead, it was something that all the disciples knew, but that Judas simply denied regardless of the evidence.

Regardless of what had led to this point, Jesus’ response to Judas over Mary’s gift challenges Judas and it gives Judas the opportunity to take the challenge personally instead of focusing on what Jesus had just told everyone.

When we look at this passage, Jesus sets the stage for our whole year of podcasting the week leading up to His crucifixion by directly attributing Mary’s gift of perfume for the day He would be buried. Many of those present might have missed this foreshadowing, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t present. In Jesus’ statement, we see Him drawing attention to the idea they didn’t want to accept that He would die. This wasn’t the first time Jesus tried to forewarn the disciples about His upcoming crucifixion, but like many of the other times, the significance of Jesus’ words escaped those present.

With the stage set leading into the week of the cross, and our year of podcasting the events of this week, Jesus also shares a powerful statement that would be wise for us to keep in our minds. Jesus tells His followers in verse 8, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.

This phrase is powerful in my mind because it challenges our perspective in a number of ways. The first and most obvious way is that Jesus’ followers will not always have Jesus. This sounds counterintuitive because Jesus promised to be with His followers forever in the great commission, but the truth we must face in Jesus’ words is that we might not always feel or see Jesus’ presence. In a physical sense, Jesus is not always going to be visible in our lives or in our situations.

However, to contrast this, Jesus tells His followers that there will always be those who are poor living among us. Being poor is not a problem that can be solved because being poor is simply standing at a specific place on a scale of income or wealth. While we can look at those at the bottom and desire to help them increase their standard of living, this doesn’t change the definition of being poor as being at the bottom of the wealth spectrum.

However, feeling poor is a different story. Almost everyone feels poor, and that is because most people live right up to the edge of their income, and most people focus on looking at those who have more than they do – which makes most people feel poor even if they are among the richest people in the world.

But the biggest perspective challenge Jesus shares is a challenge to focus on what God has blessed us with and to focus on our relationship with Jesus above everything else. There will always be problems and challenges in our lives similar to how there will always be poor people living in the world. Jesus challenges His followers, you and I included, to focus on our relationship with Him first and then only after we have a strong relationship with Him should we then focus on helping those around us.

Yes we should help other people, but the truth of this life is that the most generous person who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus will be worse off when this life ends than the person who could have been more generous, but they chose instead to focus on and grow towards Jesus. We might not always feel God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit’s presence, but we know from Jesus’ challenge that this is where we should focus our attention.

As we come to the end of our first episode in our year focusing on the cross, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always prioritize your relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit first. Accept Jesus’ challenge that helping others is important, but it should never take the place of our relationship with Him. Even the most generous life lived without Jesus is counted as a loss when we look at what is needed for salvation. Because of this, the challenge for all of us is to place and prioritize Jesus as first in our lives.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself because this is the best way to grow closer to God each and every day. While an author, speaker, pastor, or podcaster can give you things to think about, they should never replace your personal relationship with Jesus.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 1: Discover some things we can learn from a gift Jesus receives leading up to His crucifixion and how those present respond to the gift Jesus was given.

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

Blessed Through Obedience: 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 BibleGateway.com!

At the conclusion of His teaching the disciples about washing each other’s feet, Jesus shares a powerful statement that applies to not only what they just experienced and heard, but this statement also applies to basically everything else Jesus taught them over the previous 3+ years of ministry. John ends this portion of his gospel by telling us Jesus concluded by saying, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (v. 17)

The context of this verse is Jesus sharing about humbly following His example and washing the feet of other believers. In our discussion on this verse and promise, we must keep this context in our minds. At the most basic level, Jesus promises us that we will be blessed if we follow His example in our own lives.

Another teaching that is shared in this context is the one Jesus shares in the verse right before this one. In verse 16, Jesus tells His followers, “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” When we move through life with the idea in our minds that we are humbly following Jesus who is greater than we are, it frees us up when we face rejection or hostility because we can lean on the truth that we have something better waiting in our future.

But also, when we look at some other details and truth shared in this event, we can see even more context for this promise Jesus shares. Further down in the chapter, Jesus tells His followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

We can take Jesus’ promise about blessing us for obeying His words and apply it to this new command as well. In some ways, this promise in verse 17 becomes a key for gaining blessing from every teaching Jesus shared.

However, with this promise, we must not begin thinking that obedience will always immediately translate into the blessing that we desire. God has many ways of blessing us and it would be foolish of us to limit what we are willing to call blessings. Also, we should not obey simply to get a blessing. While we can start here, we must not stay here because this path leads to legalism.

Instead, the frame we must use when looking at this promise is obeying Jesus because we are amazed at what He has done for us. Our obedience is a “Thank You” for having already blessed us. Any future blessing God wants to bring into our lives as a result of our obedience is simply extra toppings on the big way He has already blessed everyone who follows Jesus and believes in Him: The biggest blessing is the assurance and gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. There is nothing God can bless us with that surpasses this, and nothing we can truly give Jesus that equals what He has already given to 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!

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