Category Archives: Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – May 21, 2018

Luke 22:19-20 (NIV) And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

During the meal, Jesus gave His followers new meanings for some of the elements of the Passover meal. Originally the bread eaten in the Passover event, and in the days that followed, was not leavened (raised with yeast) because the Israelites had to pack up and eat quickly, because they would soon be driven out of Egypt, and thus had no time to let their bread rise (Exodus 12:33-34, 39). No yeast was allowed to be used in bread that was offered to the Lord (Leviticus 2:11), because yeast was used as a strong symbol for sin, based on its ability to spread quickly, and to profoundly change the character of the bread it was added to. (See Matthew 16:6 for an example of Jesus’ use of yeast in this way.)

Jesus, in holding up the loaf of unleavened bread and declaring that it was His body, was not making a metaphysical statement, but an illustrative one. Jesus had never sinned a single time in His whole life (2 Corinthians 5:21), and so bread without yeast was the perfect symbol for His owns sinlessness. Since Jesus had no sin of His own to pay the penalty for, His bodily suffering and death would be accepted by God as payment in full for the sins of all who would come to God through faith in Him.

The participants in the Passover feast traditionally drank from four cups of wine throughout the meal, one after the other. Each cup represented one aspect of God’s saving grace that was extended to the Israelites when he redeemed them from Egypt. The fourth cup symbolized God covenant, made on Mount Sinai, claiming this people as His own. That covenant was sealed with the blood of animals. But now Jesus reinterpreted that cup. For His followers, it was now to represent the New Covenant, made on the cross, redeeming them from sin, and sealed with His own blood.

For the disciples, to eat the bread and to drink the wine that night was to accept the fresh significance that Jesus had poured into those elements. And they were to remember that new significance every time they ate this memorial meal together, and thus to reinforce in their own minds and hearts the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf.

Father, these were and are very simple symbols. But Jesus filled them with such deep significance that it should cause us all to pause in holy reverence before we dare to lift the bread and wine to our lips. Thank You for these amazing symbols, and thank You for the profound reality that lies behind them. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 19, 2018

Luke 22:14-18 (NIV) When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Jesus was acutely aware of how short His time was. He knew that He had only a matter of hours before He would be arrested, and that, from that moment on, He would only experience profoundly increasing pain and suffering until He died. So, before all of that happened, He craved this time of intimacy around the table, eating the Seder, the Passover memorial meal, with His closest followers.

This meal, as opposed to its memorial that we do in the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, was a real meal, a ritual feast, including lamb roasted and served with bitter herbs like onion, garlic, horseradish and parsley. It was served with unleavened bread, just as God had directed 1500 years before, when He brought His people out of Egypt (Exodus 12), and with several cups of wine.

Jesus knew that He was on His way to death. But He also knew that He was on His way to resurrection and glorification on the other side of all of the pain and suffering. He also knew that with His resurrection, living actively in the kingdom of God would become a real possibility for the people of the world. And with His ascension and glorification, when He would pour out the Holy Spirit on His people, it would actually become a reality for many.

This reality is behind Jesus’ seemingly cryptic sayings here. He was sharing the Passover with His disciples, but would not eat it again, or any of its elements, the bread and the wine, until those symbols had been made real through His suffering and death. Some have questioned Jesus saying that He would not drink any of the wine that night, or until the kingdom had come. They point to the fact that He was given sour wine while He was on the cross (Matthew 27:48). But Jesus was determined to go through all of His sufferings completely alert, without any dullness that wine would bring. That was also why he refused the wine mixed with myrrh that was offered to Him at the start of the crucifixion to dull the pain (Matthew 27:34). The sour wine that He did drink was basically wine vinegar, whose alcohol content was negligible.

So Jesus shared this special last meal with His closest followers. Included in this intimate meal was Judas. Jesus knew that Judas was moments away from betraying Him, but still did not exclude him or hold him at arm’s length. Judas would do what he was going to do, but he would never be able to claim estrangement from Jesus as justification for his actions.

Father, it is touching to see Jesus so loving toward these followers of His, most of whom still didn’t understand Him, and one of whom was even then in the midst of the most foul betrayal in human history. But, that all notwithstanding, He longed to share this last special meal with them. That kind of deep love is hard for us to get our heads around, but it is the kind of love that You shed abroad in our hearts if we will let You. Help me to love like Jesus. Help me to care for others like Him. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 16, 2018

Luke 22:7-13 (NIV) Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

The disciples were all observant Jews, and at the Passover every year in Jerusalem. For the last three years, they had eaten it with Jesus. But this year was different. There was a great sense of expectation among the disciples.

Five days earlier, Jesus had ridden into town to jubilant crowds proclaiming Him to be the Messiah, and He had accepted the title. Then He had cleared the temple courts of the merchants, and had stared down those who confronted Him about it. Finally, the number of those who were gathering around Jesus and listening to Him was rapidly increasing. It looked like His ascension to the throne was imminent.

So they were anticipating that the Passover dinner this year would be extraordinary. They were excited about all the possibilities, and when Jesus instructed them to go and start the preparations, they were ready to get moving. All they needed to know was the place that He had arranged.

Jesus gave them peculiar directions that were entirely in keeping with His character. Instead of telling them a street name or giving them a landmark to look for, they were told to look for the unusual sight of a man carrying a water jar. (It was normally women who did that work.) They were to follow him, and the house that he entered would be the place that the feast was to be prepared.

Of course, when they obeyed Jesus, they found that everything was exactly as He told them that it would be. And they got everything ready for what they believed would be a banner event.

Father, I have found in so many cases that when I obey You precisely, I discover that You have gone ahead of me to prepare the way before me. Lord, even in places where the mission seems impossible, help me to simply trust, and to follow Your guidance. Then I can know that I will see Your will fulfilled in miraculous ways. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 15, 2018

Luke 22:1-6 (NIV) Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

The chief priests and scribes were in a terrible spot. Jesus was continuing to make inroads with the people, and was gaining more and more followers, all of which they felt was cutting them off at the knees. But they were powerless to do anything about it. They believed that if they tried to stop Him or take Him into custody, the people would come to His defense and rise up against them. And with the crowds present for the Passover, the number of people who were constantly surrounding Him was multiplied.

Satan used this opportunity to seize the heart of Judas Iscariot, who was already irritated with Jesus for taking Mary’s side in the dispute over her using precious spikenard oil to anoint Jesus’ feet at a dinner (John 12:1-8). Satan used that irritation, and turned Judas’ heart away from Jesus, to the point that he became convinced that Jesus needed to be stopped.

So Judas agreed to lead the chief priests and scribes to Jesus ‘campsite on the Mount of Olives where they could arrest Him away from the eyes of the public, for thirty pieces of silver, the amount, incidentally, foretold in Zechariah 11:12-13. To Judas, this made up for the money that he would have been able to skim from the money bag had Mary’s ointment been sold and the money given to him to “give to the poor” (John 12:6).

Judas’ betrayal did fill his pockets with silver. But he couldn’t foresee the consequences of his actions, the guilt that would seize him when he saw that Jesus had been condemned, and that would ultimately lead to his own death. Satan had blinded his eyes with anger, and with the lust for silver, so that that was all that he could see.

Father, it is so easy for our emotions, especially strong emotions like anger and lust, to take us over and blind us to all else, including where You are trying to lead us. We are not immune even from betraying You if the circumstances are right. But with Your help, we can hold on to You, even when satan tries his hardest to waylay us. Help us to hold on, Lord, no matter what, so that when the time of testing comes, we will honor You with our every thought, word, and deed. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 14, 2018

Luke 21:37-38 (NIV) Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

Despite the fact that Jesus knew that in a couple of days He would be crucified, He still spent His days, all the time left to Him, teaching in the temple courts. It would have been understandable if, instead, He had holed up somewhere, psyching Himself up for what was coming.

But a big chunk of Jesus’ mission before He went to the cross was to teach all who would listen about the kingdom of God. So, until darkness fell on the night He was betrayed, wherever He could find people, He taught them.

Jesus never had anything on His agenda that was more important than obeying the Father and doing what He commanded Him to do. He never balanced out His time between God and family, God and work, God and recreation. He simply lived full-time in God’s kingdom, seeking God’s will for the day each morning, obeying it all day long, and then falling asleep in His presence, assured of His watch care all night long, and His provision for the following day. And so He lived constantly in God’s presence, His provision, and His power every day.

People today wonder why they don’t see miracles like were done in the first century of the Church. It is not because God is done doing miracles, or because He has grown weak or feeble over the centuries. In fact, many Christians around the world do experience miracles. It is simply that God works miracles through those who are actively following His lead in working to expand His kingdom, as signs to both those workers, and to those that they are reaching out to. But far too few Christians these days make the work of God’s kingdom and instant obedience to His commands the top priority in their lives. Instead, they prioritize their work, their families, and their pastimes ahead of God’s agenda. Some even shy away from asking God first thing in the morning what He wants them to do that day, afraid that He will call them to do something that could cost them their jobs (and He might). But fearing to even ask, or shying away from instant obedience to the things that God calls them to do, puts them outside of the place where they will experience any miracles.

Father, this makes a lot of sense. You don’t do miracles to impress us, or for our convenience, but to further Your agenda. And if we are not working on Your agenda, we are not where miracles are most likely to occur. Help us every day, Lord, to boldly seek Your will for us for that day, and then to commit ourselves to instantly and completely obeying that will, so that we, like Jesus, can live, work, and even sleep, in Your presence, Your power, and Your provision. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 13, 2018

Luke 21:34-36 (NIV) “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Jesus had given His followers very clear signs so that they would be able to see the destruction of Jerusalem coming and get out of the city before it got closed off by the siege. But in addition, He also warned them, and all of us through them, to say alert for the greater judgment that would come in the last days, at the time of Jesus’ return.

It is significant to note that the Greek word translated “earth” in this passage was also commonly understood by the Jewish people to mean “land,” as in “the Promised Land,” as opposed to the whole earth. Thus in this single saying, Jesus encompassed the double scope of His prophecy. In the near-term, the judgment would fall on all of those who lived in the land of Israel. In the future, it would fall on all the inhabitants of the earth.

The trap that is to be avoided by God’s people in both cases is a dull mind, occupied by distractions, sensual pleasures, indulgences, and worries. Instead, God’s people are to stay alert, because otherwise they will miss the signs and react too late. They are to remain constantly in prayer, not meaning that they are to be continually asking God for things, but that they are to constantly keep the lines of communication open between God and themselves, so that He can speak to them and have them hear Him all day, every day.

The same snares have been laid for the people of God today, threating to dull our minds, distracting us from God’s mission, and clogging our spiritual ears so that very few Christians today are in a place to be able to hear respond immediately to His call. Too many of us have allowed our minds to become dulled by the flood of information that constantly flows toward us from our technology. Too many of us are occupied by distractions and amusements, so that God’s agenda finds no place in our minds. Too many of us have lost ourselves in indulging ourselves in sensual pleasures, both real and virtual. And far too many of us are lost in a perpetual state of worry, terrified by constant news of wars and rumors of impending wars.

Even though the same snares exist, so do the same solutions. God’s people are to resist the mind-numbing effects of information overload and stay alert. And we are to pray constantly, keeping the communication lines between God and us open at all times, so that when He speaks, we are able to instantly hear and respond.

Father, this warning and these solutions really are powerful for us today. I know personally how mind-numbing (and addictive) the constant influx of information to our eyes and ears is. And I know personally how easy it is to grow distracted and fearful, keeping our eyes and our attention constantly glued to our computers and phones lest we miss anything important. And the whole time, Your work, the work of the kingdom, remains undone. Forgive us, Lord, for falling prey to these traps, and help us to refocus our minds, our hearts, our very lives, on You, Your voice, and Your agenda, so that we won’t be caught unawares when Jesus returns. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 11, 2018

Luke 21:29-33 (NIV) He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
“I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Here Jesus’ words once again have a two-fold fulfillment in mind. Jesus is answering directly the question about the impending fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, but He is also looking past that event to His eventual return at the end of time.

Jesus’ parable helps His followers to understand that, as always, when God’s judgment falls on a place or a people, He will alert those of His people in harm’s way, giving them an opportunity to get out. And when the disciples and their disciples see around them the signs He is pointing out, they will know that His judgment is about to fall.

Some confusion has been caused by Jesus’ choice of words: “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” This has been interpreted as referring solely to Jesus’ second coming. But the words “kingdom of God” can also signify God’s kingdom being manifested through His judgment on those who reject Him, exercising His divine sovereignty to take back the vineyard that He had leased to the Jewish people, and giving it to others. In this sense, the words of Jesus that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” proved to be accurate. The destruction of the city and the temple occurred a mere forty years in the future, when many of the current generation were still alive to witness it or hear about it.

Some, in the belief that Jesus’ words are limited to His second coming, have retranslated the word “generation,” its most natural meaning, as “race” or “people,” also possible, but less intuitive in this context. But this additional possible translation is not out of line if one keeps in mind Jesus’ dual context. The current generation of people would not die off before God’s judgement brought the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. And, despite that destruction, the Jewish people as a race will not completely disappear before Jesus’ return. A clear example where both/and are true.

This also provides a longer-range context for Jesus’ closing words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Even though nearly 2000 years have passed since Jesus spoke those words, the immediate aspect of the prophecy occurred just as He predicted, and in the precise time-frame He indicated. Therefore, the people of the kingdom can rest assured that the more distant aspect of the prophecy associated with Jesus’ return, will also come as predicted, even though that time has not yet come.

Father, thank You for these sure words of Jesus, made even more sure because the near aspect of His prophecy was completely and precisely fulfilled. That shows conclusively that we can take the rest to the bank! Thank You for Your grace, and for Your love for us that keeps us moving in Your direction. Amen.

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