Category Archives: Scripture Musings

Today’s Scripture – October 14, 2018

John 12:31-33 (NIV)
“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Jesus had just received comfort and reassurance from God that He was on the right track, and directly in the center of His will. Other things were already starting to drop in importance in His sight. His life was even then being stripped down to essentials.

One of those essentials was that His death on the cross would be the cause of judgment on the world. From that moment all of humanity would be divided into two, and only two, groups: those who trust in Jesus for salvation, and those who don’t. Those who trust in Him will experience both salvation and eternal life. Those who don’t, who trust in someone or something else, or who simply refuse to submit to His lordship in their lives, will experience judgment and eternal condemnation.

The second essential was that His death on the cross would be the ultimate nail in satan’s coffin. Up to this time, satan had had the run of the world, creating havoc, leading people astray, and even accusing the people of God. But when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, satan’s power and his ability to accuse would be stripped away, at least as far as the people of God were concerned. Instead, his ultimate doom would be solidly sealed. Events leading to that doom would still have to play out, but his fate, his condemnation to suffer eternally in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10) would be a done deal with no escape for him possible.

The third essential was that His death on the cross would enable all people to be drawn to Him. Prior to the cross (John 6:44), Jesus stated that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” But when he looked forward to His death on the cross, He could already see that the gates to the kingdom would be open to all people – they would all be drawn to Him, and whoever responds in faith and surrender will be saved. (John 3:16)

Jesus also clearly indicated by these words the kind of death He would soon die. The words “lifted up from the earth” communicated clearly the concept of crucifixion to the people of the day (Also see John 3:14 and 8:28.) But He could also see that being lifted up on the cross was only going to be a prelude to being lifted up clear into heaven, and then being lifted up, exalted by the people of the world, people from every nation, and tribe, and people, and language (Revelation 7:9).

Father, this illuminates another passage, that it was for the joy that was set before Him that Jesus “endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Help me, Lord, every day, to look past the trials and pains of this world, of this life, to the joys that await me in Your presence forever, so that I can persevere, overcome, and gain the victory. 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 12, 2018

John 12:27-30 (NIV)
“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.”

Even though Jesus knew precisely where His path lay, even though He was confident that He was right in the center of God’s will, His whole being pulled away from the suffering that lay in store for Him, and His heart was deeply troubled by the foreknowledge that one of His closest associates would betray Him, another would deny Him, and all the rest would run and hide when He needed them the most.

But even with all of this in view, He was completely sold out to the Father’s agenda. Indeed, He realized that His whole life was finding its ultimate purpose in the next few days. So, He pushed His whole self to one side, and made the conscious decision to put God’s glory ahead of everything else.

The voice from heaven that answered His prayer stunned those who stood nearby. Even though God had spoken directly to His people at one time in the past (Exodus 20:1-17), since then the people had not heard His voice directly, all the way up to Jesus’ day. Even on Mount Sinai the people didn’t want to hear from God directly. They wanted Him to speak to them through prophets who would act as a buffer between them and Him (Exodus 20:18-19)

Some in the crowd rationalized that the sound they heard was only a crash of thunder, although there had been no lightning. Others, who distinctly heard the words that were spoken, determined that it was the voice of an angel.

Jesus’ statement that the voice was for the benefit of those in the crowd and not for Him was referring to the fact that the Father had already spoken to His heart, calming His unease, and reassuring Him that He was indeed right were the Father had called Him to be, even before the voice came from Heaven. He didn’t need that audible assurance, but for many the crowd, it cemented in their hearts the amazing fact that Jesus had made a request of God, and heaven itself had answered.

Father, in one sense it is comforting to see this glimpse of Jesus’ humanity, to realize that He wasn’t some automaton or superhuman who was unfazed by the things that lay before Him. There’s no relating to someone like that. But Jesus was genuinely human in the truest sense. On the other hand, it is essential for us to see how He handled it when faced with such horrific prospects. He surrendered Himself anew to Your will and sought to bring You glory above all else. That’s our model. Help us, Lord, to live every moment in exactly that way. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 11, 2018

John 12:23-26 (NIV)
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Jesus was very aware that, despite the wave of popularity that He was riding, despite the kudos He had received, and even despite the rapt attention that was being paid to Him by this crowd that was currently hanging on His every word, this was not a public relations tour that He was on. Even the word that the Greek-speaking Jews who had come from so far away wanted to meet with Him could not sway Him from the reality of what He was there to do.

The glorification that many of His followers were looking for would come, but it was on the far side of a dark, pain-filled chasm, and could not be accessed without descending into that chasm and ascending on the far side. Jesus had come to Jerusalem this time specifically to be arrested, beaten, killed and buried. Yes, he would rise again as He knew very well, but not until after He had willingly gone through the other things first.

The words that Jesus spoke here would have struck the people who were listening to Him as odd, inscrutable. And they would have struck His disicples the same way, because they could not hear them in the context in which Jesus spoke them.

Jesus knew that new and expanded life could only come through death and transformation. If a person tries to keep a kernel of wheat, it will ultimately rot away. The things of the earth are not built to last forever. It is only as the kernel is buried in the ground and transformed that it will sprout and grow new kernels, many times more than what was planted.

Jesus knew that for God’s plan to go forward, He had to lay His life down, be willing to die, to be buried and, in the process, allow His body to be transformed into one that would be able to ascend into heaven and last forever. By grasping life and the fame He was experiencing right then, He could continue to gather a crowd, maybe even rise to temporary power in the hierarchy of the world, a rise that would ultimately be snuffed out by His eventual death. But if He followed God’s plan, laying His life down deliberately so that He could take it up later, His influence and the reach of the kingdom would extend to the ends of the earth and last forever.

The same was true of those who intend to follow Jesus. Those who play it safe in order to hold on to their earthly lives will ultimately lose their lives anyway, and will also lose any chance of powerfully impacting the world for the kingdom of God. But those who follow Jesus, who walk boldly forward in obedience to God’s commands and leading, even into the very jaws of death, will find abundant life on the other side of the chasm, and will have an influence for the kingdom beyond anything they could ever imagine.

Father, this is an amazing promise that we, as Your people, really need to understand and take hold of. But, at the same time, we must realize that the way to receiving the fulfillment of this promise is the way of the cross, the way of total surrender, the way of death. Ye it is also the way of glory, the way of victory, and the way to transformation and eternal life. I choose that way! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 10, 2018

John 12:17-22 (NIV)

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

There were quite a few people who had been at Lazarus’ tomb when Jesus raised him from the dead. Many of those had gone to the dinner at Lazarus’ house the night before His triumphal entry and had accompanied Jesus as he rode into the city, waving palm branches, and shouting praises to God.

When people in Jerusalem asked them what the big deal was, they told them about Lazarus, and about all the other things that Jesus had done. These new people then flocked to Jesus to see and her Him.

All of this dismayed the Pharisees, who were watching Jesus’ entrance with a mixture of fear and disgust. They had hoped to have Jesus quietly arrested the moment He came into town for the feast, but that plan was absolutely out the window now. There was no way that they could arrest Jesus from out of the midst of this excited crowd without causing a riot. It was back to the drawing board.

Among those swept up in the excitement were some Greek-speaking Jews who had come from the western reaches of the empire to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Embarrassed by their poor Aramaic skills, they wouldn’t just go to Jesus. Instead, they approached Philip and asked for an introduction. The draw to Philip was two-fold. First, his name, Philip, was a Greek name, not a Hebrew one. Second, coming from Galilee, a much more cosmopolitan part of the country, he spoke Greek quite well.

Jesus was surrounded by people, so getting to Him in this crush was no small feat. While the Greek-speakers waited on the edge of the crowd, Philip found Andrew, and together the two of them worked their way over to where Jesus was teaching and passed the request to Him.

Father, seeing and hearing about Jesus and the wonders He has done still inspires excitement and causes people to want to meet Him for themselves. Thus, the importance of our witness – not just of Jesus’ historical wonders, but of the wonders that He is doing in our own lives right now. And people still need someone who already knows Jesus to make the introduction, to bring them to Jesus so that they can establish their own relationship with Him. Help me, Lord, to always keep in mind these two vital roles that I am commanded to play as part of Your kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20). Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 9, 2018

John 12:12-16 (NIV)
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

The time had finally come. The Passover was only a few days away when Jesus would allow Himself to be arrested and executed. But in the meantime, there were a few messianic prophesies that had not yet been fulfilled.

One of those prophesies was, of course, the Messiah riding into Jerusalem, not on a war horse, symbolizing conquest, but on a donkey colt (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus fulfilled this one completely as He rode down the Mount of Olives and into the city gates, surrounded by cheering crowds. Those same crowds unconsciously fulfilled a messianic prophecy from Psalm 118:25-27 with their cries of adoration and the waving of palm branches.

John was entirely open when he wrote that Jesus’ disciples had no idea that the things that they were witnessing were direct fulfillments of Scriptures that they had known since childhood. It was only later, after Jesus was glorified (which, to His followers, pointed to the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all – John 7:39), that they suddenly realized that everything that had happened was precisely a part of God’s plan.

Even though they spent the vast majority of their time with Jesus stumbling along in the dark, following Jesus and, at times, trying to persuade Him to do things their way, Jesus had always walked in the pure light of God’s will, listening every day, every moment, for His direction, and fully obeying His every command as soon as He knew it (John 5:19-20). Thus, Jesus walked in God’s power, and in all of His wisdom, the perfect model of what God wants ALL of His people to do.

Father, I don’t think I have ever seen this so clearly! How often have I stumbled along in the dark, trying to persuade You of what You should be doing, instead of merely walking in Your light, listening and fully obeying? And what a difference it makes when I do simply listen and obey! Forgive me, Lord, for not taking full advantage of ALL the light that You make available to me. Help me to do better from now on, all the rest of my life. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 8, 2018

John 12:9-11 (NIV)
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. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

In this passage, we can easily see how evil grows and spreads if it is allowed to take root in the human heart.

Word spread quickly that Jesus was at the house of Lazarus and his sisters, so many people from the surrounding area, including Jerusalem, headed for Bethany. Their main goal was to see Jesus and to hear Him teach, maybe see or receive a miracle. But the fact that they could also see Lazarus, the man who was four days dead when Jesus brought him back to life, was an additional attraction.

The whole thing dismayed the chief priests beyond imagination. Even with all their harsh denunciation of Jesus, even with their stern commands that anyone who knew where He could be found was required to let them know so that they could arrest Him, His influence on the people and His draw on their hearts and minds continued unabated.

It had only been a few weeks since Lazarus had been raised, but the story of the outstanding miracle had spread far and wide, inspiring awe, and bolstering Jesus’ reputation as a godly man and a great prophet. That worked in direct opposition to the high priests’ agenda to destroy His reputation and to smear Him as a renegade, a Sabbath breaker, and a sinner who was intent on leading God’s people astray.

In their desperate casting about for an alternate strategy, the high priests actually determined that it would be best if Lazarus were killed as well. If the principle exhibit of Jesus’ power was taken down, if his resurrection could be shown to be only temporary, they believed it would destroy an important part of the narrative that was currently exalting Him in the minds and hearts of the people.

Father, the depths of human depravity, even among some who were looked up to as the spiritual leaders of the people, is dismaying. But in these few short verses is a clear warning for all Your people. If we allow our own agendas to take priority over Your agenda, we will enter onto a path that will quickly draw us far out of Your way, even to the point where we could consider character assassination, and even physical assassination, justified. Protect us, Lord, from any such turning from Your way. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 7, 2018

John 12:1-8 (NIV)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at 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.”

In all the tumult after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and due to His rather hasty departure due to the plotting of the Jewish religious leaders, Mary and Martha felt that they had not thanked Him appropriately – all of their focus at the time had been on Lazarus. But now that Jesus was passing through on His way back into Jerusalem, all three of them wanted to have a dinner for Him and His disicples.

While the guests were all reclining at the table, tender-hearted Mary poured a pint of expensive spikenard perfume on Jesus feet and head, wiping up the excess with her long hair. This perfume was quite expensive, worth about a year’s wages, showing that this family was not without means. But the cost didn’t matter to Mary. She was so grateful for what Jesus had done for her family that even this extravagant show of gratitude seemed insignificant.

The perfume was very concentrated, and the strong aroma instantly drew the attention of those throughout the dining area. One of them, Judas, quickly expressed his dismay with the entire proceedings. The perfume was valuable. If Mary had wanted to honor Jesus with it, she should have just given it to Him. He then could have sold it and used the money to finance His ministry for some time.

While that might have sounded logical, both John and Jesus saw a problem with his argument. John noted that while Judas was in charge of the money bag for their group, he was also a thief, and regularly dipped into the funds for his own benefit. So, when he saw the broken alabaster jar (Mark 14:3), he saw the sacrifice only what would not be available to him in terms of money.

But Jesus also had some input. He knew that no more was needed to finance His ministry, since it was only going to last a few more days until He was arrested and crucified on the Passover. Instead, Mary’s use of the perfume was entirely appropriate. Jesus’ body would be buried so hurriedly due to the approaching Sabbath that there would be no time to properly anoint it with sweet-smelling oils. So, He accepted this anointing as an appropriate preparation for His soon-to-come burial.

Father, it seems like any time we focus on the things of this world, like Judas, we become short-sighted. But Jesus always kept the big picture in view. And because of that, He never had to second guess what might be a better use of resources. He lived for each day in the calm assurance of Your provision, and so was able to fully receive this offering of devotion given to Him out of sincere love and appreciation. Lord, help my devotion to You be just as free, just as generous, maybe even as extravagant as Mary’s was. You have done no less for me that You did for her. Amen.

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