Tag Archives: Jesus

Today’s Scripture – June 24, 2017

Luke 2:41-52 (NIV) Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

This small “slice of life” that Luke includes in his gospel gives a very small taste of who the boy Jesus was growing up to become. By the time He was twelve, Jesus knew a lot about the Scriptures, the history of the Jewish people, and theology. He was a strongly motivated student, partly because of what His parents had told Him about the circumstances surrounding His conception, birth, and first year of life (before life began to take on a normal rhythm in Nazareth), but also because of His own growing awareness of who He was, and what He had been born to do.

This was not Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem for the Passover. It was the norm for whole families to go to the festival together, and to travel in large groups of extended family and friends from the same village. That was the reason that Mary and Joseph did not miss Jesus on the return trip. Twelve-year-old’s had quite a bit of autonomy in that culture, and His parents reasonably assumed that He was traveling with friends or family somewhere in the larger group.

He wasn’t missed until they stopped for the night and inquiries revealed that no one had seen Him all day. Traveling after dark was slow and dangerous, so Mary and Joseph spent a restless night and left at first light, sending their other children on to Nazareth in the care of family members.

It was the following morning when they finally found Jesus in the temple courts, deeply involved in a theological discussion with the teachers of the law. He was listening with shining eyes and eager interest etched on His face. From time to time He contributed an opinion, or asked what the rabbis conceded were very good questions. To tell the truth, the rabbis were enjoying Him and His input into their discussions as much as Jesus was enjoying the spirited back-and-forth over each passage of Scripture.

Mary and Joseph were expecting to find Jesus terrified at being left behind in the big city, not enjoying a Scriptural debate! They stood and watched for a couple of moments in stunned silence. Mary was the first to find her voice, and she called His name, snapping His attention away from the discussion, and drawing Him over to where they stood, frowning, with arms crossed. A modern version of Mary’s speech would sound like: “Just what do you think you’re doing, young man? Your father and I have been worried sick! We’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

A small furrow appeared between Jesus’ brows as He processed this. The He asked in all innocence and sincerity, “Why were you looking all over for me? Doesn’t it make sense that I would be right here in my Father’s house?”

Mary and Joseph had no idea what to make of such an answer. Raising the Son of God definitely came with some unique challenges! So, for now, they just gathered Jesus, excused themselves as politely as they could, and started the long trip back to Nazareth. There was a lot of silent pondering along the way, as each of them looked long at this young man skipping along the road ahead of them, and then at each other with question after question in their eyes.

Father, Jesus’ growing sense of who He was in His relationship with You sparked a greater and greater hunger and thirst to study and understand Your word, and to be where You were present and working. May it be in my life that each day, as I understand more and more of who I am in my relationship with You, that it sparks exactly that same hunger and thirst in my own heart. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 23, 2017

Luke 2:36-40 (NIV) There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Anna was another person who was completely devoted to the Lord, and had been since her youth, even before her husband died when she was in her very early twenties. She spent her days in prayer and contemplation in the temple complex, also listening to such teaching as she could hear going on around her in the temple or in the synagogue services she attended on the Sabbath. Women in those days did not generally have an opportunity to read the Scriptures for themselves or to take classes like the men did. But every word she heard she treasured in her heart.

That morning God alerted Anna that the Messiah would be at the temple, so she went with great expectancy. When she heard the song that Simeon was chanting and the words that he spoke to Mary and Joseph, she knew that this child was the One. That started her own prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord, and then she started speaking to all of those passing by, pointing out the child to them as the Messiah. And, as usual, Mary and Joseph took careful note of all that was said about Jesus.

Mary and Joseph did not immediately return to Nazareth, although Luke does point out that they didn’t head back home until after they had completely fulfilled all of the requirements of the law of God. The wise men would soon show up, and immediately after that they would have to escape Herod’s clutches by fleeing to Egypt for a few months (Matthew 2:1-18). But when they came back to the land after Herod’s death, they went back to Nazareth and resettled there among their family and friends.

Jesus grew into a young man who was full of wisdom and grace. He was a quick pupil, whether the subject was the Scriptures or carpentry. Despite the fact that He was in fact God in the flesh, He was humble and obedient to His parents, and kind and gracious to those He met.

Father, it would probably be understandable to us if Jesus was a bit haughty from time to time, especially as He grew and became more and more aware of Who He was. But the fact is, You are not haughty or overbearing, but kind, gracious, loving, and forgiving to all who love You and want to know You. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see all of those positive traits beginning to show up in Jesus as He grew older. Help each of us to also reflect those traits in our own lives, so that we, too, can bring honor and glory to Your name. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 22, 2017

Luke 2:25-35 (NIV) Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Even in the darkest times in Israel’s history, God always preserved for Himself a remnant, a faithful few who kept the light of whole-hearted devotion burning. And He kept those faithful, righteous and devout people in the loop as to what He was doing.

Many in the days when Jesus was born were waiting for the Messiah, and believed that the day was drawing near. But a few, like Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Anna, and Simeon and Anna were waiting with a different kind of expectancy, because God was able to speak directly to their hearts and show them what He was doing. Simeon did not know the exact day that he would lay eyes on the Messiah, but he knew that it would be soon, before he died.

That morning, God spoke to his heart through the Holy Spirit and told him that the day was finally here. He rushed into the temple courts, his eyes sweeping continually from side to side, looking for some sign as to which of the hundreds of people gathered there was the One.

Finally he saw a man with a woman who was holding a child close in her arms, and the Holy Spirit said, “That’s Him; that’s the Messiah!” Simeon approached the family with tears rolling down his wrinkled cheeks. He had waited so long, and now here was the proof that God was still working His plan for His people. He held out his arms expectantly and, after only a brief hesitation, Mary handed the child to this stranger. He held the child securely, and caressed his tiny, smooth cheek. Then a sing-song chant of praise burst through his lips: “Sovereign Lord, You promised that I wouldn’t die until I had seen Your Messiah, Your Savior. Today I have seen Him, so now I can die in peace! This tiny child is the One! He will not only save Your people, Israel, and draw them into Your glory; He will even draw Gentiles to know You!”

The man seemed lost in a trance of ecstasy. But suddenly his eyes cleared and lowered to meet those of Jesus’ astounded parents. His voice was low but intense as he predicted that, in the course of His life, this child would not just be a beneficent religious figure, but would shake up the entire Jewish society and religion, and would end up on the hit list of some pretty powerful people, who would show what they really were by their intense opposition to Him.

But it was his final sentence, “And a sword will pierce you own soul, too.” that turned Mary’s blood cold and dimmed the joy of the day. Any mother has the potential to be crushed by tragedy that strikes her child. But few live with the certainty that that day will come.

Father, I am amazed at how many people You brought into the loop so that they knew who Jesus was, even as an infant. Some in the vicinity were likely skeptical of what they were hearing, and some were likely oblivious, so caught up in their own agendas that they didn’t even notice all of the buzz. But those with eyes to see and ears to hear got to experience the joy of hope realized, the exhilaration of knowing that You were on the move. And You are still moving today! Help me to stay tuned in to Your voice so that I can share the good news of all that You are up to with everyone around. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 18, 2017

Luke 2:1-7 (NIV) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

God continued to move the people into appropriate places through actions and events in order to make everything turn out just as He intended. He could have simply commanded Joseph to take Mary to Bethlehem for the birth of the baby, but He chose instead to put it into the mind of Caesar Augustus to hold a tax census, in order to demonstrate His ability to move the movers, even the great Caesar himself.

When the decree was issued, it caused quite a stir, as every male had to go to his ancestral inheritance to be registered. That meant the wholesale, albeit temporary, relocation of pretty much everyone in the north part of the country to the south, plus a more limited shuffling of the people who already lived in the south. The reason for this was that the vast majority of those whose ancestral holdings were in the north had been taken into captivity into Assyria more than 700 years before, and had never come back. During the tumultuous years after the southern tribes had come back from Babylon, some had chosen to vacate their more populated family properties in the south to settle in the largely vacated country around the Sea of Galilee, leaving alone a swath in the middle of the country inhabited by the pagan Samaritans.

Even though Joseph was a common man, a carpenter by trade, the blood of kings pulsed through his veins. In fact, he was a direct descendant of King David, so his ancestral inheritance lay to the south, in David’s hometown of Bethlehem. Of course, that was where God had predicted that the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2). Even though Mary was getting close to her delivery date, Joseph took her along. Most of the people for their town of Nazareth were heading south, too. Plus, on trips like this opportunities for craftsmen like Joseph arose, making it advantageous to extend one’s stay, and it didn’t make sense to leave his wife behind if that were to happen.

As was noted, most of Nazareth was heading south at the same time, so Mary and Joseph didn’t have to make the trip alone, making the journey safe. And, despite popular imagery, Mary did not go into labor while they were still on the road. Luke carefully recorded Mary’s recollection that the time for the baby to be born came “while they were there.” The houses were crowded with all of the relocation, so in the house where Mary and Joseph were staying the guest rooms (the best translation of the Greek word often translated “inn,” and used also by Luke in 22:11) were full. So Mary gave birth in the regular living quarters of the house. The baby was snugly wrapped in swaddling cloths, and a manger was pressed into service as a makeshift cradle.

So was born the Son of God, right on time, and in exactly the place to which God had pointed in the Scriptures.

Father, sometimes we think that You just patiently sit and watch while we unfold our stories here on earth. But one thing that is clearly taught all through Scripture is that You are moving history somewhere, and You are continually at work moving people, events, whole societies to make sure it all happens just the way You planned. Help me, like Mary and Joseph, to fit myself into the flow of Your plan and flow along with it, instead of trying to fight it, and thus break myself on it. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 29, 2017

Matthew 28:8-10 (NIV) So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This is the first of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His followers – the first of many. The women, prepared for seeing Him alive again because of the angel’s announcement at the tomb, were not terrified by the sight of Him, but were filled with awe, and fell at His feet in worship.

All throughout Scripture, people, and even angels refused worship offered to them by people as completely inappropriate, redirecting people to worship God instead. But Jesus did not redirect the worship of these women. That is because worship of Jesus is actually entirely appropriate, because He is, in fact, God in the flesh. Jesus’ only response to the worship of these women was to tell them not to be afraid, and to reiterate the commission given to them by the angel: to remind the disciples to go up to Galilee for a meeting that had been arranged before Jesus had been arrested.

In all of this interaction with the women, note the swirling of intense feelings that ran through the whole event: fear, joy, and awe were intermixed, sometimes overlapping, as they often are when people are confronted with the Divine. But in it all, the emotions were overridden by the women’s devotion to Jesus, and their eager obedience to His commands.

Father, I see three things in this encounter that really stand out to me.  First, the women encountered the risen Jesus as they were already on their way to the disciples in obedience to the angel’s command. We, too will tend to encounter Jesus in the midst of obeying Your commands. Second, the appropriate response to Jesus’ presence is not to pull out our demands and our prayer lists, but to bow down in awe and worship. And finally, our actions need to be continually fed by our absolute devotion to Jesus, and our complete obedience to Your commands. Help me to keep all three of these truths at the center of my life, today and every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 26, 2017

Matthew 27:57-61 (NIV) As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

Joseph from Arimathea was a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:34), and also a member of the Sanhedrin who had voted against condemning Him (Luke 23:50-51). He took it up on himself to see to the burial of Jesus’ body. If no one came forward, the bodies of the crucified would often be buried unceremoniously in a common grave. But Joseph was a follower of Jesus, and believer in what He stood for, and was unwilling to let His body be disgraced.

So after obtaining permission from Pilate (Mark 15:43-45), Joseph, assisted by Nicodemus (John 19:39-40), carefully wrapped the battered and bloody body in fine linen, wrapping in aloes and costly herbs and spices. They didn’t have time to give the body a proper washing and the normal preparation, because their work had to be completed by sunset, when the Sabbath would start. They cut it close, but thankfully Joseph’s tomb was very close to the execution spot, and they were able to roll the stone across the tomb opening just before the sun sank below the horizon to the west.

Their hearts were heavy as they walked away from the tomb. They were deeply grieved at the corruption that they had seen in the Sanhedrin, supposedly the most holy body of leaders in the world. They had watched the animosity of the group toward Jesus grow as His popularity had expanded, so these two faithful men kept their faith in Him quiet. But they had hoped that Jesus would be the One who would restore, not just international power to Israel, but the presence and glory of God. But now it looked like their hopes were in vain.

As they left, two women, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’ mother were sitting opposite the tomb watching the preparation and burial of the body. It broke their hearts that the preparations had to be made so quickly and incompletely, but they understood; their eyes were also on the setting sun that would soon signal the onset of the Sabbath. So they quietly made plans to come back early Sunday morning, as soon as it was light, so that they could properly bathe the body, and rewrap it with a little more care. It seemed only right to do so.

Father, so much devotion shown by these people! So many, even among those who believed in Jesus, could watch Him die, and then shrug and walk away figuring that He wasn’t really the One after all. But even though they weren’t expecting a resurrection, these four people still hung around to show their final respects to this man who had meant so much to them. Even today, when people don’t get the answers to their prayers that they expect, far too many simply shrug and walk away, figuring that either You don’t exist, or that You don’t actually answer prayers. Help me, instead, to always be among those who continue to hold on to You, to continue to do all I need to do, and to continue to be entirely devoted to you and Your cause. Then, because I stay close, I will be able to see what else you will do. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 23, 2017

Matthew 27:51-56 (NIV) At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Just as Jesus’ dying hours were accompanied by signs the heavens, His death was accompanied by signs on earth. Those who wanted to see Elijah swoop down in a fiery chariot and rescue Jesus from the cross were momentarily disappointed, and then were terrified as the ground beneath their feet began to tremble, and the rocks all along the hills, including those covering the openings to tombs, began to tumble down into the valleys.

At that moment, the thick veil in the temple that shut the Holy of Holies away from view was torn in half, from the top down to the bottom, exposing to the eyes of the regular priests the room that had before been reserved for the eyes of the high priest alone, and that only on the Day of Atonement, when he sprinkled before God the blood of the sin offering. This tearing of the veil, not a result of the earthquake, but actually torn by God’s own hand, symbolized the fact that God had brought the blood of His own sin offering into the heavenly Holy of Holies, thus opening the way into His presence, not just to high priests but all people.

The resurrection of the holy people in the tombs around Jerusalem is only reported by Matthew, but was experienced by many others. These were not zombies, but saints of old who were raised from the dead and came out of their tombs as a sign of the new life and resurrection power that was unleashed by the death of Jesus.

Both the soldiers at the cross and the women who were watching from a distance saw the earthquake and the people walking out of the tombs – the execution site was near some tombs that were carved into the rock cliffs on top of which sat the city. (See John 19:41-42.) And they were terrified. They had no idea what these strange events actually meant, but they knew that the confluence of events was no coincidence. Even the pagan centurion realized at that moment that Jesus had been no ordinary man, and the very idea shook him to his core.

Father, even at Jesus’ death You had the last word, as the response of both heaven and earth bore witness to who Jesus was. The people, even His own followers, didn’t yet get it, but more and more would start to put the pieces together after the resurrection, and they would then put their faith in Jesus. Help me to never lose track of who Jesus is in all of the hectic and distracting moments in life, and let that knowledge inform my every thought, word, and deed. Amen.

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