Category Archives: Scripture Musings

Today’s Scripture – January 20, 2019

John 21:1-6 (NIV)
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He
said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

The disciples were back in Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee because Jesus had instructed them to meet Him at a nearby mountain. (Matthew 28:7, 16) After the meeting, they were still waiting for instructions to go back to Jerusalem, but no word had come to them yet.

Since they were back in familiar surroundings, with boats that he owned right down near the shore, Peter decided to go fishing. Not only would it relieve the tedium of waiting, it could provide them all with a bit of money from the catch.

But the fishing trip was a bust. Fishing was done in the nighttime, with torches or lamps hung on the sides of the boat to draw the fish into the nets. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee were professional fishermen who knew the ropes well. But as the eastern sky lit up with the approaching dawn, they had nothing to show for their efforts.

As the day grew lighter and they were folding their nets, they saw a man on the shore next to a fire. And He called out to them. The tenor of His question was presumptive: “You don’t have any fish, do you?” It was as if He knew that their whole night had been fruitless (or fishless!). When they replied, “No,” His advice was unorthodox to say the least: “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat (as opposed to the left side as usual).”

Though the sun was now up and the window for the best fishing was closed, they decided to try one more cast, following the advice of the man on the shore – what did they have to lose? But they didn’t imagine the catch of fish that was in their nets when it came time to haul them in. It was huge!

Father, thankfully, in their more than three years with Jesus these men had learned that blessings could flow from unexpected places, and they didn’t argue against the suggestion as Peter had at the beginning (Luke 5:4-5). And they were richly rewarded. Lord, help us to obey You completely, even when Your suggestions defy common knowledge or popular opinion, so that we can receive the unexpected blessings that stem from that solid obedience. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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 – January 18, 2019

John 20:30-31 (NIV)
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John concludes the main part of his gospel with a disclaimer: he didn’t include everything that Jesus said or did in his gospel. Instead, he focused on those signs and miracles that he found significant in building his own faith, and that he believed would help build the faith of those who read it later.

Every gospel writer had a focus, and agenda out of which each chose the events that were included in their gospel. The gospels were not designed to be biographies of Jesus in the modern sense. Instead, each writer included or omitted events or teachings depending on their purpose.

Matthew, for example, structured his gospel around five main discourses of Jesus, and focused on Jesus’ identity as the Jewish Messiah. Mark copied down what Peter taught and focused most strongly on the miracles Jesus did and a few of his key teachings. Luke focused on a historical presentation of Jesus’ life and ministry, replete with events and personages that anchor the events of Jesus’ life into their correct historical moments.

John wrote his gospel long after the other three gospels were written, after they were already in wide circulation. As the last living apostle, by the time he wrote, he had had five or six decades to process and meditate not only on what Jesus said and did, but on the deeper significance of His words and actions.

John didn’t include most of the things that the other gospel writers did, not because they didn’t happen, but simply because they had already been written down accurately by the other writers and were already widely known. In fact, outside of the resurrection, the only miracle John included that was already in the other gospels was the feeding of the five thousand. But even in that, John’s focus is not on the miracle itself, but on the meaning of it as contained in Jesus teaching that He delivered afterwards.

John organized these previously-unwritten-about miracles around seven signs, miracles that Jesus performed that proved to John, and that he believed would be persuasive to other as well, that Jesus was the Son of God, the eternal Word, the Savior, the Lord. He also includes several “I Am” statements that Jesus made which clearly identified Jesus’ mission and identity.

John knew that no amount of miracles or statements would persuade those who were determined to reject Jesus, people like the majority of the members of the Sanhedrin. But for those who were open to receiving Him, those signs and teachings, recorded by a reliable eyewitness, would be persuasive. And for those who already believed, they would provide confirmation of the faith that they already had in Jesus.

Father, it is true that for those who have determined to reject Jesus, no amount of information about Him will prove effective in persuading them. But John’s eyewitness account of Jesus’ words and actions, as well as his own mature reflections on them that he included in his gospel, really do help us to see Jesus more clearly. Thank You, Lord, for his faithful testimony. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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 – January 17, 2019

John 20:24-29 (NIV)
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This one event has given this disciple the unfortunate epithet of “doubting Thomas.” But it is important to realize that many of us would probably have reacted in much the same way if a group of our friends told us something so completely unrealistic and incredible. We would probably figure that they were pulling our leg!

But they really had seen Jesus and were frustrated in their attempts to persuade Thomas. They had seen the nail marks; Thomas wanted to see them too, and even touch them. They had seen the spear wound in His side; Thomas wanted to see it for himself, and even to touch it to make sure that it was really Jesus.

A week later, when Thomas was with them, Jesus appeared again, just as He had the first time. The rest of the disciples, after their initial start at His sudden appearance, were not afraid as they had been before. But Thomas was gaping at Jesus in disbelief.

Jesus walked right up to him and held out His hands. “Thomas, you wanted to see and touch the nail holes in My wrists? Here they are.” He pulled His robe aside revealing the wound there. “You wanted to see and touch the spear wound in My side? Here it is.”

Thomas didn’t make a move to touch any of the wounds. He just stood there with his mouth hanging open, his eyes taking in all that his brain was having a hard time grasping. Then Jesus looked him squarely in the eyes, and simply said, “Stop doubting, and believe!”

Thomas believed, all right! He fell to his knees, his eyes still locked onto Jesus’, and said his well-known line: “My Lord and my God!”

Some have claimed that this was no theological statement, but merely an exclamation, a casual taking of the Lord’s name in vain out of shock. But using either the term Lord or God in that way would never have occurred to Thomas or any of the disciples, devout Jews that they were. In that single exclamation of faith, Thomas declared Jesus to be his Lord, the absolute boss of him, and his God, God in the flesh, as Jesus had taught them that He was.

A big part of the equation in Thomas’ mind was the fact that Jesus knew his exact words of disbelief spoken a week earlier. The only way that Jesus could have known what he had said was if, after He had disappeared from view, He was somehow still present in the room, watching and listening as the disciples shared their story, and as he had spoken his words of disbelief. Only God could pull off something like that!

Jesus’ final words on the subject that night were not words of shame, but of assurance. Thomas had seen and believed. But many would not have that opportunity. If they were to believe at all, it would have to be on the basis of the eyewitness testimony of those who had seen (as we have contained in the gospels), or on the basis of those whose lives had been changed through trusting in Jesus. Those who are willing to believe, even without being able to see Jesus’ wounds for themselves, will receive a great blessing in the form of salvation, transformation, and empowerment.

Father, like many, I would like to believe that if I had stood in Thomas’ shoes, I would have had enough faith to believe immediately, simply based on the testimony of my fellow disciples. But we don’t think about how insane this would all have sounded to his ears. He was, after all, a mere human being like us, and we shouldn’t throw epithets at him when we ourselves have been slow to believe much of Your word and many of Your promises. Thank You for Your grace that continues to draw us to You until we can believe. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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 – January 16, 2019

John 20:19-23 (NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

This first appearance of Jesus to the gathered disciples was a watershed moment for all of them. It was when the news of Jesus’ resurrection moved from second-hand information through Mary Magdalene to first-hand, personal experience.

They were still laying low, locked into the upper room out of fear that the Jewish leaders would come and arrest them now that they had disposed of Jesus. The news of Jesus’ resurrection brought them more confusion than comfort at this point.

Suddenly, Jesus was right there with them. Bypassing the locked door, He just seemed to “appear” in the room. All of them jumped with fright, crying out from the sheer suddenness of His appearance. And they all pulled back from where He stood.

But Jesus simply smiled and gave them a hearty “Shalom!” (“Peace be with you!”) It took a little encouraging, but He drew His followers closer to Him. He held out His hands and showed them the holes pierced through his wrists. He pulled aside His robe and showed them the spear wound in His side. All of this proved to them that He was no ghost; it was really Him in the flesh!

The disciples were thrilled. Everyone was talking at the same time, asking questions and exclaiming their pleasure at His being there. Jesus raised a hand to silence them. They still had much to learn, and much to relearn in this new context that would make a whole lot of things they had only dimly understood before a lot clearer.

John squeezed a whole evening’s worth of teaching into one short paragraph. But he hit all the essentials. Jesus commissioned the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” These men, “apostles,” or “sent ones,” would now fully live up to that title. Before, Jesus had sent them on a couple of what we might call “short-term mission trips.” But now the mission would occupy the entire rest of their lives. As long as there was someone who had not heard the good news of the kingdom, as long as there was a single captive remaining in satan’s grip, they were to consider themselves on duty.

Jesus breathed on them to confer on them the Holy Spirit. This was a precursor to the complete filling that they would receive on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) but was necessary so that they could more fully understand all that He needed to teach them.

Finally, Jesus gave them great authority. This authority to pronounce forgiveness of sins ties in closely with His words to Peter (Matthew 16:19): “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” He also said essentially the same thing to all of the disciples a little later in Matthew 18:18 in the context of forgiving the brother who sins against them. The upshot is that, as the people of the kingdom, they would have the authority to forgive sins committed against them, and those sins would be forgiven by God. Conversely, they could withhold forgiveness, and that person would have to deal with God to have their sins forgiven.

A really good example of this in action (an example which shows that this promise is not just for the original apostles, but for all the people of the kingdom) is seen in Acts 7:60, where Stephen, dying from being stoned by the Sanhedrin, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” In that moment, based on his prayer and Jesus’ promise, that sin was not recorded against them in God’s record.

Father…WOW! I had never thought of it that way before. What an amazing thing we can do, just like Jesus did on the cross, praying for those who had hung Him up there, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Of course, it is clear that we can only forgive as Your representatives those sins committed against us, not simply issue a blanket forgiveness for the whole world. But still, that is a mind-boggling thing – a great privilege and a great responsibility. Help me to be more forgiving of others on the spot, realizing as I do now the power that that forgiveness can hold. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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 – January 15, 2019

John 20:17-18 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

When Mary Magdalene looked up and discovered that the man she was talking to outside the empty tomb was Jesus, alive again after being crucified, dead, and buried, she was completely overwhelmed with joy. She embraced Him in a tight hug that threatened to smother Him.

Jesus let her hold onto Him for just a moment, but then pulled Himself away. There was much to do now that He had risen, and of first importance was letting the disciples know that His body hadn’t simply vanished, but that He was really alive again, just as He had foretold.

So, He cautioned Mary that, joyful as she was, she needed to not stand there hugging Him. She needed to go and tell the disciples that He had risen, and that she had seen Him in person.

Jesus’ statement about returning to His Father seems confusing, especially the way that Jesus worded it. Even though people usually think of the Father living “up” somewhere beyond earth’s atmosphere, God’s presence is everywhere. So, Jesus wasn’t talking here about the ascension, which would come later. Jesus had risen from the dead, not simply like Jairus’ daughter, the widow of Nain’s son, or even Lazarus, whose spirits were enabled to reanimate their current, albeit healed, bodies. Instead, He had risen and experienced the transformation of His physical body into the form that everyone will receive at the general resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42-55).

In that new form, His body itself was able make a smooth transition to standing in God’s presence. And He would be doing that right away, not permanently, as He would after the ascension, but for a time, in order to receive His marching orders for the next forty days. Then He would be back to speak with His followers.

In the meantime, He gave Mary the task of immediately going and delivering the good news to Peter, John and the rest that Jesus had truly risen!

Father, it would have been very easy for Mary, in her joy, to try to move Jesus into her agenda now that He was back. But even then, Jesus was only focused on doing Your will completely. Help each of us to have that same intensity of focus, that same dedication to your will that Jesus had, every moment, regardless of the circumstances. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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 – January 14, 2019

John 20:11b-16 (NIV)
As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Peter and John had left the tomb, shaking their heads in puzzlement over what had happened to Jesus’ body. Who would want to steal a body?! Nothing was making any sense.

Mary Magdalene stayed behind weeping at the tomb. Her heart had broken at Jesus’ arrest and execution, but this new development dismayed her beyond telling. She bent over and looked into the empty tomb again. She was so distraught that she wasn’t even shocked to see two glowing, white-clad men sitting on the slab, one at the head, the other at the foot. At some level it registered in her mind that these were more than just men, but that consideration found no place to stick in the middle of the haze that had taken over her mind.

The angels questioned her as to why she was crying. She should be rejoicing! The concrete fact of Jesus’ resurrection should have surged up in her mind in an unconquerable joy! They were more than a little puzzled when she responded with nearly the same words that she had used to deliver the news to the disciples: “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put Him.”

Without waiting for any additional input from the angels, Mary straightened up and turned away, nearly running into Jesus Himself, who was standing right behind her. Lowering her eyes in shame and confusion, her eyes so dimmed and blurred by her tears that she had no idea who the man was. But His presence in the garden at that time of the day caused her to figure that He was the gardener, who might know what had happened here.

Jesus was puzzled, and even slightly amused, that this woman who had known Him so well for more than two years didn’t recognize Him. So, He asked her straight out, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Mary’s answer was a heart-breaking plea for help: “If you have moved Him for some reason, show me where you have put Him, and I’ll go and get Him.” She had no idea what she would do with the body if this “gardener” did take her to Jesus, but she would figure it out.

All it took was one word, spoken softly and a bit teasingly, but in the voice that cut through the fog in her grief-addled brain and struck an instant note of recognition: “Mary.”

Mary couldn’t believe it! She quickly looked up into the smiling face that she knew on sight, even through her tears. It was Jesus! She gasped out her recognition: “Rabboni!” Then she threw her arms around Him, holding Him so tight that He could barely breathe.”

Father, it is interesting for me to consider the fact that the angels, and even Jesus Himself, were amazed, and even a little amused at the grief Mary was showing while standing in front of the proof of Jesus’ promised resurrection that was literally staring her in the face. She was so blinded by her grief that she was missing out on the sheer, mind-boggling joy that she should have been experiencing instead. But we humans tend to do that. We allow our fears, our frustrations, even our sadness, to dim our eyes and prevent us from seeing all that You are doing that could instead bring us great joy and strengthen our faith. Help me to see, Lord, past all the events of our day and my emotions about them, to what You are accomplishing, so that my heart can experience all the true joy that You have for me. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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 – January 13, 2019

John 20:3-11a (NIV)
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.

Mary Magdalene had brought the news that Jesus’ body had been taken away, and after only a moment, both Peter and John had rushed off to the garden tomb outside the city wall to see for themselves. They were both running, but John, in a small point of pride, points out that he outran Peter and got to the tomb first.

To touch or enter a tomb or come into contact with a dead body would make a person ceremonially unclean for seven days. To become clean, they also had to undergo two ceremonial washings with the water of purification on days three and seven (Numbers 19:11-13). So, when John came to the tomb, he stood outside the door and just stooped down to look in, carful to not touch the rock face. Peter, on the other hand, arrived a few seconds after John and strode right into the tomb, determined to check things out for himself. And, with a shrug, John followed him in.

There was the slab with the grave clothes lying empty. In addition, the cloth that Joseph and Nicodemus had passed under Jesus’ chin and tied over His head to keep His mouth closed was folded up and laid on the slab apart from the rest of the pieces of linen. John indicates that the two disciples saw the empty cloths and believed. But all that they believed at that time was that the body was no longer in the tomb. John carefully notes that they did not yet grasp that Jesus had risen from the dead.

As they left the tomb to walk back to town to tell the others, they passed Mary Magdalene, who had followed them back there. There was nothing they could say by way of explanation. They simply nodded their heads solemnly to confirm the absence of the body, shrugged their shoulders helplessly, and walked past her, leaving her weeping at the empty tomb.

Father, knowing “the rest of the story,” it is tragic that Peter and John left so soon. If they had stayed just a few moments longer, they would have seen the risen Jesus Himself when he came back to the tomb and talked to Mary. But they had news that they believed couldn’t wait, so they left. How often do we behave similarly and, in our lack of patience, miss out on what You are doing where we had been just moments before! Give us patience, Lord, so that we don’t move away from where You are working before You are done, so that we can see the whole scope of what Your hand has accomplished. Amen.

If you are enjoying my blog, I invite you to check out my 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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