Tag Archives: disciples

Today’s Scripture – May 24, 2018

Luke 22:28-30 (NIV) “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

The disciples, even at this late hour, were still consumed by self-interest and self-promotion, trying to get ahead by dint of their own efforts. But, again, that is not the way of the kingdom of God.

Instead, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of grace and favor. No one will ever be allowed to seize or usurp power by force or might, because in God’s kingdom God alone is king. But He also delegates power, authority, and recognition to those who humbly submit themselves to His authority.

It is on the basis of that reality that Jesus could declare to His followers that they didn’t have to struggle and grapple with each other over the edges of the kingdom. Instead, as those who had stuck with Him through thick and thin, the power and authority of God’s kingdom was going to be graciously bestowed on them, not on the basis of merit or might, but on the basis of God’s grace.

This authority and power was symbolized by Jesus in His picture of the disciples eating at His table. That shows that the kingdom that they were to be given would not be their own, but would be a derivative kingdom. In a sense, they would serve as satraps, with authority to judge (not simply in the sense of a trial, but in the sense of ruling and leading, like the judges of ancient Israel), but ultimately subservient to the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, Jesus Himself. Jesus, as the supreme ruler of God’s kingdom, retained authority to empower anyone He chose, and He was letting them know that they could relax about their future, because He was choosing them.

It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, that they were finally able to understand what Jesus was telling them here. And it was only as they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit that they were able to successfully fulfill the roles that Jesus had called them to.

Father, this picture of authority and power was not just for those initial followers, but, through their ministry, it is for all of those who surrender to You, all who are filled by Your Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). But we always must remember that our authority, and any power that we have, is not ours, but is derived through our relationship with Jesus, and therefore must be used to bear witness to Him, and to glorify His name. Help us to live out these realities today and every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 21, 2018

Luke 18:31-34 (NIV) Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”
The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

If this scene was not so tragic, if there had not been so much riding on what Jesus was telling them, the incredulity of the disciples would be humorous. Events were taking place around them at a furious rate, plans were being made and attacks planned virtually in front of them, and they were completely blind to it all, focused only on the hero’s welcome that they believed was waiting for Jesus in Jerusalem.

The amazing thing is that, though they were trying hard to decode Jesus’ words to them, to dig below the surface, to decipher the deep meaning of what He was saying, Jesus wasn’t speaking in code. He was laying His meaning right on the surface, accessible to anyone who would simply listen.

They were headed up to Jerusalem, and would get there later that day, before sunset. And when they got there, all of the events prophesied for the suffering and death of the Messiah would quickly unroll, just as He had been teaching them over the last several weeks. And, in case they hadn’t been paying attention (they hadn’t), He laid it all out for them in a nutshell: He would be handed over to the Romans, who would mock Him, insult Him, spit on Him and flog Him. Then they would kill Him. But He would rise again on the third day.

Again, this was about as clear as anyone could possibly say it, and it wasn’t even the first time He had told the disciples what was coming. But their hearts were hard, their minds were closed, and they couldn’t figure out what he was trying to tell them. It was only after He rose from the dead that they would finally see that Jesus really had clearly foretold every event before it happened.

Father, I’m afraid we do the same thing today with Your word. Even where the words are perfectly clear and the meaning obviously, we ignore the plain meaning of what You say, and instead we look for hidden meanings that must be intricately interpreted. And when we can’t find any, we deem the words too deep for us, and move on, completely overlooking what You simply said. But, Lord, You most often say exactly what You mean, and You mean simply what You say. Help me to understand the clear meaning of Your word, to have eyes that clearly see, ears that clearly hear, and hearts that understand what You are saying to me each day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 13, 2017

Luke 10:22-24 (NIV) “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

The seventy-two had returned to Jesus with great rejoicing and reports of their successes in healing diseases and casting out demons. Jesus rejoiced along with them, praising the Father that these “little children” (v21) had “gotten it,” while the truth about who Jesus was and what He had been sent to do continued to elude the wise and learned religious leaders of the day.

But Jesus also realized that who he really was was in fact known only to the Father. Those followers, even His closest disciples, had only seen the faintest outline of His true nature, because, even though He existed in a human body at that time, His true identity was the eternally existent Son of God (John 1:1-5). Jesus’ followers knew that He was the Messiah, and they had started to see traces of what that meant. But more than that they could not even begin to imagine.

They also had a growing understanding of who the Father was, because Jesus had been revealing Him from His earliest days with them. God, the God of Israel, was barely known by the people of Israel. They had know Him by reputation; they had heard of all of His amazing acts in the days of their forefathers. But none of the religious leaders, none of the priests, not even any of the high priests, had a real relationship with the God that they served so diligently. Their knowledge of Him was limited to what He had revealed of Himself in the Old Covenant, and they refused to receive the messenger of the New Covenant. So Jesus refused to reveal more of God to them than what they already believed.

Jesus also pointed out that the things that the people of the Old Testament times never go to see the things that they longed to see, and they never got to witness the fulfillment of the promises God had made to them, because those things were not for their times, but for the future. But the disciples were living in the days of the fulfillment of all of those prophecies and promises, as was evidenced by the abilities that Jesus had, and that they had through association with Him. They needed to realize that fully, and to praise the Father who Had enabled them to be a part of all that He was doing in the world right then.

Father, that last part really hits me right in the heart. As a Christian, it is easy for me to take my salvation for granted, and to wish that I had lived in the “glory days” when Jesu walked the earth. But I need to be reminded that for me to know You at all is an amazing miracle, an act of grace on Your part, and I need to thank You for that frequently. (Thank You!) I also need to be reminded that with me living actively in Your kingdom, with Jesus in my heart and the Holy Spirit directing my steps and empowering my life, these can be the “glory days” as well, where You will continue to show me things that people in other ages could only wish to see, and to hear You speaking things to my heart that they could only wish to hear. O Lord, make it so! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 21, 2017

Luke 9:57-58 (NIV) As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Many people wanted to follow Jesus, to become His disciple, and even more so as they got closer to Jerusalem, and what they believed would be His coronation as king. In a sense, many of them were not so much longing to be a disciple, but were making a bid to be part of Jesus’ cabinet when He became king.

This man volunteered to go with Jesus wherever He went. But he had no idea where Jesus was actually going, where this road would ultimately lead. He, like the disciples, believed that the path that He was taking would lead Him to adulation and glory.

But Jesus wanted to set Him straight. Jesus owned nothing more than the clothes on His back. (And even those would, in just a couple of weeks, be divided among the guards who had crucified Him!) He didn’t have a fine palace to live in, or even a humble shack in which to lay His weary head. His only home was in heaven, and He had some long days to go before He returned there.

Jesus wanted to make it clear that anyone who chose to follow Him had to be willing to live the same kind of rootless, homeless, unsettled life that He was living, going wherever the Father sent Him to go on a moment’s notice, doing whatever the Father told Him to do immediately and without question, satisfied without any stabilizing possessions of His own.

The same is true today. Those who follow Jesus wholeheartedly must be willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, whatever that leading is, and wherever that leading may take them. To follow Jesus means to set aside every personal agenda, and the security that most people derive from possessions, and from having whatever the latest “stuff” happens to be. To follow Jesus, in the end, means to live His life alongside of Him.

Father, Jesus was much clearer about what it means to follow Him than we generally are with those we try to reach with the gospel. He leveled with people completely, and urged them to count the cost before signing on. The life of Jesus is not one of comfort, and ease, and pleasure. It is a life of absolute obedience and self-denial. But it is also a blessed life, because it is lived consciously in Your presence every day. Lord, I choose that life. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 18, 2017

Luke 9:46-48 (NIV) An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”

Jesus’ time was short, and the disciples still had not caught the vision of who He really was and what He had really come to do. Their minds were still focused on the hope that Jesus, as the Messiah, was going to establish the kingdom of Israel as soon as they got to Jerusalem, oust the Romans, depose the Herods and, buoyed by a rising tide of popularity, set Himself up as king on the throne of David.

Of course, as Jesus’ elite lieutenants, the hand-picked twelve out of the multitudes that regularly followed Jesus, the most natural turn of events would be for all of them to take the top spots in the new administration. The only question was what the internal pecking order would be. Hence the discussion of who would be the greatest, Jesus’ second in command, and who would have to take the other, lower spots. Each of them could muster a convincing argument as to why they should be at the top of the heap.

But when Jesus heard this discussion, He knew that He had to stop this line of thinking cold, and redirect the discussion immediately. So he brought a little child to His side, and used that child as an exemplar of the greatest in God’s kingdom.

In Matthew’s fuller telling of the event, Jesus tells the disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4 NIV) He was telling them that their whole focus was wrong. Little children in the home of loving parents don’t strive to put themselves first or to convince their parents that they should love them the most. A small child, secure in the love of his or her parents, merely exists in that love, obeys what is commanded, receives what is graciously given, learns what is taught, and is satisfied.

Likewise, those in the kingdom should be as humble and unassuming as that child, not pushing themselves forward or striving to be counted as the first and best. Instead, secure in the love of God, they should merely exist in that love, obeying what is commanded, receiving what is generously given, learning what is taught, and being satisfied that they are deemed worthy to be God’s people. The one who ceases striving for power and position is the greatest in the kingdom of God, and will receive both power and position in return.

Father, this is completely counterintuitive to the natural human spirit that wants to be recognized and advance up the ranks, and can’t see how that can happen without actively pursuing it. But the rules of Your kingdom are NOT the rules of the world. Help me to rest, to exist like a child in Your love, to obey instead of pushing, to receive rather than pursuing, and to be thankful that I am loved and accepted as one of Your own. Amen.

 

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Today’s Scripture – October 17, 2017

Luke 9:43b-45 (NIV) While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

The crowd was busy oohing and aahing over the young man from whom the demon had been expelled, but Jesus moved a short distance away from all of the excitement and gathered His disciples close to Him. The disciples were curious as to why they had been unable to cast out the demon, and Jesus told them that they had relied on their own abilities instead of on faith in what the Father could do through them (Matthew 17:19-21).

But then Jesus’ voice took on a deep urgency, as He looked each of His chosen followers squarely in the eyes and said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” He was not merely repeating an earlier teaching or prophecy like a mantra. The intensity shows that HIs meaning was actually something more like: “Listen! You guys have got to get it together. The time is short. We are headed to Jerusalem, and at that point I’m going to be arrested and killed, and you-all will be given the responsibility to demonstrate, direct, and grow the kingdom. The fact that you just got bested by a demon shows that there is a long way to go, and we have a very short time to get you there! So no more messing around. Get with the program now!”

Jesus’ intensity startled the disciples, but they couldn’t process what He was telling them. Their view of who Jesus was and what He had come to do allowed no room for Him to be betrayed, arrested, or killed. And the idea that they would be left with responsibility for the kingdom would not fit into their heads at all at this point.

Father, it is mind blowing to all of us what You have in mind for us as Your people: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19 NIV) “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We figure that you must mean someone else, some other followers of Yours. And we go on with our lives in general. But we, like those first disciples, need to see the intensity in Your eyes when You see all of the lost souls heading for hell. We need to hear the intensity in Your voice when You tell us to “Get moving!” The time is short, and there is much to do. You have done all you need to do to save the people of the world, and the rest is up to us (with your guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit, of course!). We need to get with the program NOW! Forgive our lack of passion, Lord, and our complacency in the face of Your agenda for our lives as Your people, and fill us all with the fire of Your Spirit. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 7, 2017

Luke 6:17-19 (NIV) He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

When most people think of Jesus’ disciples, they picture the Twelve. But there were actually multitudes who followed Him as disciples. Jesus had selected the Twelve out of all of those who followed Him to be His inner circle and, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, to lead the work of continuing to grow the kingdom after His departure.

But in the meantime, ALL of His disciples needed to learn more about the kingdom, how it operated, and what the people of the kingdom were to be like. But before He taught them, He saw to the needs of those who had come from all around the area to be healed of their diseases or to be set free from evil spirits.

Notice that the healing of the people and setting them free from evil influences was not a separate thing from Jesus teaching them about the kingdom. The two went hand in glove. Jesus, the very embodiment of the kingdom, healed the people and set them free as a sign that God’s kingdom was becoming a reality right in front to them. Then He taught them what the kingdom was all about, and how to live in it.

Later, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and after the Holy Spirit filled His followers on the day of Pentecost, the disciples often used the same process: they healed someone, or several people, and when a crowd had gathered, they used the miracle that had been done as a springboard to tell the people about Jesus and about the kingdom of God, and how to live in it. And, because of the power that was being demonstrated through the lives of these men, the people listened and believed, and great numbers flocked into the kingdom.

Father, thank You for this example from Jesus. Lord, we need that same power flowing through our lives today to help us to be powerful and effective witnesses of Your kingdom. Sadly, the lives of many people who go by the name of Christian are very little different than the lives of those we are trying to reach with the gospel; very little different in power, in purity, or in Your evident presence. So we are often seen as offering nothing to these people that they don’t already have. Those first disciples’ lives were of a completely different kind, a different quality than the lives of those around them due to the presence of Your Holy Spirit. And that difference was immediately apparent to everyone around them. Lord, unleash Your Holy Spirit in my life today, so that the whole world can see the difference, and hunger for You, the One who makes that difference. Amen.

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