Monthly Archives: October 2018

Today’s Scripture – October 30, 2018

John 13:36-38 (NIV)
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

The disicples had shared two previous Passover meals with Jesus, but they had never experienced ones like this! A somberness had descended over the whole group because of the predictions Jesus was making. His latest, that He was going away to a place where the disciples couldn’t follow Him really struck their hearts.

Peter gave voice to all their thoughts: “Lord, where are you going?” They had been together for so long, and the people seemed to be starting to catch on. Where would He go, and why now, when things were finally starting to move forward?

Jesus’ answer didn’t give the information that they all wanted. No destination was given, merely a restatement that He was leaving, and they would not be able to follow Him right then. He did hold out hope that they would follow Him to His new destination later, a statement that He further described in 14:1-3.

But Peter pushed back. He had followed Jesus for more than three years at this point and had left his family and his livelihood behind to do it (Mark 10:28). He surely wasn’t going to turn back now! He was even willing to die for Jesus, if necessary.

But Jesus had seen the future. He knew precisely what was in the hearts of Peter and the rest, and what they would do when the pressure was on. Despite their protestations of faithfulness, He knew that their instincts for self-preservation would quickly overrule their faithfulness when the chips were down.

Most painful for Peter was Jesus’ final prediction: that before the sun rose the following morning, Peter was going to deny even knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. At the moment Peter couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen. He believed that he knew his own heart. He believed every word when he said that he would die for Jesus in that very moment. But he was wrong.

Father, it is easy for all of us to believe we are more steadfast in our relationship with You than is really the case. But, if we try to stand on those declarations in our own strength, we are doomed to failure, something that Peter discovered too late. Lord, help us to stand for You, not in our own strength, but in Your strength, so that when the day of testing comes, we will stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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Today’s Scripture – October 29, 2018

John 13:31-35 (NIV)
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

With Judas gone into the night intent on leading the armed contingent from the high priest to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, God’s plan was now firmly set into motion, and Jesus was wholeheartedly committed to it.

There were still a couple of “exit ramps” that Jesus could take. He could avoid the garden campsite and stay somewhere else that night, resulting in Judas leading the mob to an empty camp. Or at the moment of betrayal He could call down legions of angels to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53-54).

But Jesus knew that the way to glorify the Father, and thus to have His own glory restored, was not to work around God’s plan, but to walk steadfastly through it. And that understanding kept Him steadfast at this time, through the time when dread threatened to upend everything in the garden, and all the way to the cross.

But no matter how steadfastly Jesus followed through on the Father’s plans for the next several days, He realized that the ensuing events were going to catch His followers completely off guard. When Judas showed up, they were going to feel as if the whole world had gone crazy, and that God had somehow lost control of everything.

So, one last time, Jesus tried to help them to see the outlines of God’s plan. He would only be with them a few hours longer, and then would be taken away from them to a place that they would be unable to follow. That included not merely His upcoming death, but many of the other places in between, including His trial before the Sanhedrin, all of His hearings before Pilate and King Herod, and his beating and humiliation with the Roman troops. During those times, His followers would run and go into hiding, leaving Him to face them all alone.

But in the meantime, Jesus reminded them of the one thing that would see them through not only the next several days, but through all that would happen to them in the future: love for each other. Not just brotherly love that was so liable to being tainted by fear and self-interest, but selfless agape loved, the same kind of love that Jesus had for each of them, and for all of them. Only agape love would hold them all together when circumstances conspired to tear them apart, and only true agape love would convince the rest of the world that they were truly followers of Jesus.

Father, it almost feels from reading this that Jesus was more worried about His followers and what could happen to them than He was for Himself. And that makes sense. He knew that He would be okay. But at the same time, He knew the doubts and fears that His followers had welling up in them even then, and wanted so badly to protect them from being overwhelmed by them between that night and His resurrection, when all things would become clear to them. It’s astounding to see that agape love in action, even in this. Lord, fill me with Your agape love, so that I, too, will be empowered to stand strong regardless of circumstances, and so that I will be clearly seen to belong to Jesus by all those around me.

 If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – October 24, 2018

John 13:22-30 (NIV)
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Jesus’ prediction that one of His closest followers would betray Him sent shock waves through the group and made each of them look at the others with suspicion. Jesus clearly knew who it was, or He would not have spoken with such certainty.

Simon Peter was sitting across from Jesus, with John (John 21:20-24) sitting right next to Jesus. From across the table, Simon caught John’s eye and prompted him to ask Jesus specifically who He was referring to. John then asked Jesus the question in hushed tones, unheard by the rest as they talked over what Jesus had said. Jesus quietly told him that He would show him by handing the guilty party a piece of bread dipped in meat juice.

Sharing food was a mark of true friendship, and this action would have been interpreted by the others as a sign of favor, not accusation. But for Judas, this was not a heart-warming moment. Instead, Jesus’ act of kindness further hardened his heart, and set his mind even more on opposing Jesus, noted by John as satan (“the adversary”) entering his heart.

Jesus sensed the hardening of Judas’ heart, and knew in that moment that nothing could be done to change it. His soft, “What you are about to do, do quickly,” was at one time both a sad acknowledgement and an ironic blessing. Even Jesus’ betrayal was part of God’s plan, and Jesus would fully submit to it, even though it broke His heart to lose one of those with whom He had lived and worked so closely over the last few years.

The other disicples, apart from John, and possibly Simon, were unaware of the significance of Jesus sharing the bread with Judas. They knew that Judas was in charge of the group’s money, so when they heard Jesus command him to act quickly, they assumed that he was being sent out to get something for the dinner, or to give a gift to the poor on Jesus’ behalf. They would fully understand in just a couple of hours when Judas showed up with a contingent of temple guards to arrest Jesus, but in the meantime, they simply continued to eat.

John’s statement that when Judas left the group it was night has both a literal and a spiritual meaning. Since the feast began at sunset, this far into the celebration it really would be dark night outside, the time when evil was typically done due to the cover it provided. But Jesus had also used the word “night” to contrast with His own claim to be the light of the world (John 9:4-5, 12:35-36). As Judas left, it was the first step toward the light of the world being snuffed out.

Father, so much was going on beneath the surface of this celebration, unseen by all but Jesus who knew what was in the heart of all people (John 2:25). Help me to keep my eyes fully open so that I am never blindsided by the events that go on around me. Instead, help me to walk in Your light every day. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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Today’s Scripture – October 23, 2018

John 13:18-21 (NIV)
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’
“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

Jesus had been very open with His inner circle of followers about what was going to happen in Jerusalem during this trip: He would be arrested, tried, and executed, but would then rise from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. But the disicples couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it. They saw no way for the terrible things that He was predicting to happen.

But now that they were mere hours away from the first event that would cascade into a complete fulfillment of everything He had foretold, He needed to warn the disicples. And the most stunning revelation of all was that His betrayal would come at the hands of one of the twelve men eating with Him right then.

This turn of events was foretold, for those with eyes to see, in Psalm 41:9, the Scripture quoted by Jesus. This was a Psalm written by David around 1000 years earlier. In it, David talks about the trials and troubles that he was experiencing, as well as his faith in God’s ability to see him through every one of them.

Jesus had known from the very beginning who would betray Him. But even so, at the Father’s direction, He had chosen Judas to be one of His closest followers. Over more than 2 ½ years, Judas had been as close to Jesus as anyone. He had seen Jesus perform thousands of miracles and had even been empowered himself to cast out demons and heal diseases (Luke 9:1-2). He had been privy to every teaching that Jesus had given. In short, he had had more than adequate time and opportunity to surrender his life and heart to Jesus, and every reason to do so. But he had resisted. His heart had grown increasingly hard as the days went by, and his mind was so full of his own agenda that it had pushed commitment to Jesus clear out.

It was no wonder that it broke Jesus’ heart to speak those words out loud: “One of you is going to betray me.”

Father, many of us have experienced betrayal in our own lives. But all of those combined pale in comparison to the heart-rending betrayal of Jesus by Judas. Lord, help keep our hearts soft and committed so that we will never turn away from You, or turn against your plan for our lives, so that we can continue to walk in Your ways forever. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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Today’s Scripture – October 22, 2018

John 13:12-17 (NIV)
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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Shortly before Jesus began to wash the feet of the disciples, they were arguing about which of them was the greatest, which of them deserved the top spots in Jesus’ kingdom (Luke 22:24). Jesus told them that they were not to seek the top spots but were to be servants of all (Luke 22:25-30). But often an illustration goes further than words. His washing their feet was designed to paint an indelible picture in their minds.

Now He followed the action up with teaching, and the lesson was very simple, one point. If Jesus, their Lord and Teacher, was willing to lower Himself to the spot of the lowliest slave and serve them, not one of them was too important to serve the others.

Some have taken Jesus ‘command that they should wash each other’s feet literally, holding foot-washing ceremonies, especially near Easter. But Jesus was actually speaking more generally. It wasn’t the literal act of foot washing that He was pointing to (something that is really not necessary today with our sidewalks and closed shoes), but all actions that served those who are also of the faith. Jesus was against anyone in the kingdom elevating themselves above another by title or rank, so that they saw themselves as holding a position that should be served rather than serve. This issue is still present in the Church today, which means, of course, that the lesson is still relevant today.

If Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, took on the form and substance of a servant, if He lowered Himself to willingly perform the most menial of ministries to those who were by rights far below Him in the hierarchy, then there is not a person in the Church, no matter what position or title they hold, who is too good or too high up to serve in any way that they can.

Father, the hardness of this lesson is because it militates against all our “upward mobility,” and our desire to climb the ladder of success so that we can eventually reach a point where others will serve us, and life will be easy. Jesus’ rule for His people is the exact opposite: the more Christlike we become, the more we should find ourselves serving, and the less we should look to be served. Thank You for this vital lesson, and for Jesus’ heart-penetrating illustration of it. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – October 19, 2018

John 13:6-11 (NIV)
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!”
Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

None of the disciples was sure what to do with Jesus washing their feet, the Master taking on the role of the servant. But it was Peter who spoke up and resisted.

Peter might be open to criticism in several areas, but here his motives were good, although he lacked understanding of what was really going on. Peter was suddenly ashamed that no one else had stepped up to this demeaning task, leaving Jesus to fill the gap. He was inwardly beating himself up that he wasn’t the one with the towel around his waist washing Jesus’ feet, which, in his mind, would have been much more appropriate.

The fact that his refusal was a refusal to accept the dynamics of the situation and not a rejection of Jesus Himself is clearly shown by his response when Jesus pointed out that if he didn’t allow Jesus to wash his feet, he would have no part in Him. At that point, Peter was all in. He not only would let Jesus wash his feet, but his hands and head as well.

Jesus’ laughter at Peter’s enthusiasm wasn’t noted by John, but you can be sure He laughed as He pointed out that if a person was already clean, a quick washing of dusty feet was all that was necessary. Jesus knew Peter’s soft and loyal heart. He knew that even though Peter would deny knowing Him three times before the sun rose, that forgiveness of that lapse, a kind of spiritual foot washing, would be able to completely restore him.

Father, we so easily fall into the ditch on either side of the road on this one. On one side is the error of thinking that our minor lapses don’t matter, that You are okay with them, so we don’t need to come to You to have our “feet” washed. On the other side is the error of believing that if we unintentionally stumble on the way, we are completely lost and have to start all over again. But as You showed Peter, if our hearts are right with You (like Peter, unlike Judas), unintentional sins can be quickly and completely washed away (1 John 1:9), and we can pick up again where we left off. Thank You for Your grace! Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all.

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Today’s Scripture – October 18, 2018

John 13:1-5 (NIV)
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, 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.

Jesus knew many things at this point. He knew that the time had come for Him to leave the world. He knew that before the sun rose in the morning, He would be in chains, standing beaten and bloody before the high priest. Before noon, He would be hanging nailed to a cross in excruciating agony. And before sunset, His body would be lying hastily buried in a borrowed tomb.

Jesus knew that satan had already moved Judas Iscariot to set up a betrayal that would unfold that very night, and that Peter would deny even knowing Him three times before the sun rose. And He knew that He had come from God and would soon be returning to Him.

With all those things on His mind and heart, it would be very understandable if Jesus was preoccupied that evening, lost in though and focused on Himself. But it was precisely all those things that He knew that moved Him to give His closest followers one final lesson.

The upper room where He was meeting with the disciples to share the Passover meal was comfortable, but there was no servant available to wash the dusty feet of those reclining at the table. Washing feet was a humiliating task, and none of the disicples, all focused on what exalted positions they would have in Jesus’ administration once He became king, were going to volunteer to do it. They felt that to intentionally lower themselves would make them look weak to Jesus and the rest and might keep them from gaining the most desirable positions.

But then Jesus suddenly rose and moved away from the table. He stripped off His cloak and wrapped a towel around His waist, filled the basin that had been made available for foot washing with water, and brought it back to the table and began to wash and dry the feet of His disicples.

Oddly enough, it was Jesus’ sure knowledge of who He was and the exalted state that He already had in God’s economy that enabled Him to humble Himself in this way. He had nothing to prove, and He knew that He would lose nothing important in the process of serving even those below Him, a lesson that the disicples vitally needed to learn.

Father, it is interesting but true that those who are truly great have no need to prove their greatness to others. They can serve others without it damaging their self-image, and they don’t have to care what others think. We can see it so easily in Jesus, but sometimes we have a hard time with it ourselves. But we are known by You, loved by You, and have been given a vital role to play in Your work of transforming the world by showing all of those around us how they can be redeemed. So, we don’t have to “keep up appearances.” We can serve everyone, knowing that any self-abasement will never lower our value in Your eyes. Thank you! Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my new book, When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Just follow this url: http://eagerpress.webstarts.com/ Thanks, and God bless you all!

 

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