Tag Archives: Jesus

Today’s Scripture – July 18, 2018

John 7:53-8:1 (NIV)
Then each went to his own home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

The meeting of the Pharisees was unproductive, as the group was divided. So, everyone simply went home. Jesus continued to teach in the temple until nearly sundown, then went to His usual campsite on the west slope of the Mount of Olives opposite the temple.

Opposition didn’t bother Jesus. In fact, He expected it and accepted it as simply a part of the work that He had been sent to do. He knew two things that helped Him to maintain His perspective. First, a key part of His work was overcoming the inertia that had set into God’s people and had cause them to stagnate in their spiritual progress. Overcoming inertia is always difficult in the beginning. Until enough momentum is built up, inertia “pushes back”, struggling to maintain the status quo. So, the resistance Jesus experienced didn’t discourage Him; it simply encouraged Him to continue pushing until things began to move.

The second thing Jesus knew was that a key part of His work involved recapturing territory that had been usurped by satan. You can see this easily when He confronted and cast out demons. But it is not as obvious when He took on the entrenched power structures that were not simply representative of inertia, but that had become positive tools of the enemy, leading God’s people into a fruitless legalism and urging them to reject God Himself by rejecting the one that He had sent as the Messiah.

Both of these were large-scale, long-term jobs that required Jesus to get up each morning ready to fully engage the mission. They required that He work strategically and never give up, even though the work was often tedious, repetitive, and tiring, and even though many days ended without any significant fruit to show for His labors. Each night He went to bed tired, slept well, and woke with His purpose and energy renewed, ready to move things forward, even if only slightly.

Father, so much is contained in these two small verses! We face the same two issues today. We also have far too many Christians who have grown complacent and satisfied, and who have developed a terrible inertia that resists change and improvement, satisfied with the status quo. We need Your guidance and power to overcome that inertia and help them to start moving again, and Your will to never give up until inertia is replaced by momentum in the right direction. We are also commissioned by You to recapture territory usurped by the enemy, enslaving the minds and souls of people all around us. We need Your power and guidance in this work as well, so that we can know the best ways to move forward, and faithfulness so that we don’t give up when we get push-back. Help us, Lord, to be faithful and true to our mission, just as Jesus was to His. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 16, 2018

John 7:40-44 (NIV)
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Christ.”
Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Even when Jesus was here on earth, his words and actions caused divisions among the people. Many were naturally skeptical of any claims to the Messiahship, having been disappointed before. Some were hopeful and primed to believe in Jesus. And others were just waiting until Jesus took control of the throne of Israel, then they would believe.

In this case, some were ready to receive Jesus as the Prophet that Moses had foretold (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), whom many taught as the forerunner of the Messiah. Still others were already prepared to receive Him as the Messiah Himself on the basis of not only His words, but also on the basis of His actions, His miracles, and the large crowd of followers He had been able to amass.

But the idea of Jesus being the Messiah ran into opposition from those who were educated in Messianic theology. They knew that the Messiah was prophesied to come from Bethlehem, and to be a descendant of King David (Micah 5:2). But, from all that they knew, Jesus was from Nazareth, way up north in Galilee. Therefore, they reasoned, either the very clear prophesies were wrong (unfathomable!), or Jesus was NOT the Messiah. Case closed!

But there was far more to Jesus that they did not know or understand. Yes, Jesus did grow up in Nazareth, but as both Matthew and Luke point out in their gospels, Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:4-7), and he was definitely in the line of King David, from both Joseph’s and Mary’s side (Matthew 1:6-16; Luke 3:23-31), so he met all of those qualifications (and all of the other scriptural qualifications) to the letter.

But rather than do the required research (which could have been has simple as asking Jesus Himself for His birthplace and genealogy), many, especially those with a bone to pick with Jesus, simply assumed that they knew all that was necessary to make an informed decision as to who Jesus was and where He had come from. And that was their big mistake.

Father, there is a ton of information in Your word, more that we can ever fully digest or retain. It is a big mistake if we ever assume that since we know some of it, we know all that is necessary to determine Your mind on a subject, or Your will for our day, or even our whole life. Help us to always stay open to truths that we have not yet really seen that are clearly contained in Your word, so that we can know them more, and thus know You more. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 12, 2018

John 7:33-36 (NIV)
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

While the plot against Jesus was unfolding, Jesus simply continued to teach the people in the temple courts. Woven into that teaching was the warning that the people would not have an unlimited amount of time to listen to Him and to believe in Him; there was a finite window. At this point, in fact, Jesus’ time among the people was already approaching the halfway point.

Of course, even though Jesus was very clear about the circumstances of His departure, the people did not get it. “I go to the one who sent me” is actually very clear IF you are willing to receive the fact that He was sent from God’s throne to do the work He was involved in. He was simply letting them know that He would not be around forever, as popular Messianic theology portrayed. His time on earth among God’s people would soon draw to a close, and then He would return to heaven from whence He had been sent.

But the people had no clear frame of reference from which to correctly interpret His words. Enoch and Elijah had both been taken bodily to heaven when their time on earth was completed, but those were incredibly rare exceptions. Everyone else, when they said that they were leaving, or were returning to the one who had sent them, were signaling that they would be leaving for another city, or maybe even another country.

Jesus’ words were so strong that the people interpreted His meaning in the most drastic way that they could imagine. They opined that He probably meant that He would be leaving the country to preach and heal among the Jewish people who lived elsewhere in the Roman Empire among the Greek-speaking gentiles. Maybe He would even teach those gentiles about the true God and His kingdom.

All of that fit into their information set and their worldview. But, like nearly all human reasoning applied to God and His kingdom, it was dead wrong. But Jesus still had a way to go. He would be back to the city several more times before the final scenes of His mission were played out.

Father, You make a really good point. Human reasoning, no matter how heartfelt or educated, is no substitute for Your clear revelation. We will always get it wrong, limit Your plans in our minds to what we see as necessary and achievable, and thus shoot far, far too low. Help us, Lord, to simply receive Your word, Your instruction, and Your promises as given, so that we can live every day in them. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 10, 2018

John 7:25-30 (NIV)
At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.

The people in the crowd noticed that the Jewish leaders were not responding to Jesus at all. What they couldn’t see was the anger seething beneath their placid expressions. Jesus was calling them out, and every one of His statements had hit its mark. They were more determined than ever to see Jesus done away with.

But the people saw the silence of the religious leaders as acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, as the miracles He had been doing clearly attested. But still, the people were troubled about Jesus. Many of them had been taught a version of the Messiah that was based mostly on man’s ideas rather than on Scripture. In that theology, the Messiah would be a mysterious stranger, an invincible heavenly messenger that would suddenly appear on earth, take up the throne of Israel, and return God’s people to the pomp and splendor of Solomon’s time.

Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t match that description very well. He could do miracles, sure. But He hadn’t just appeared out of nowhere. He was from Nazareth, up north in Galilee. And He didn’t look superhuman or invincible. His feet and the hem of His robe were just as dusty from the dirt roads as anyone else’s, His skin was darkened by the sun, and His hands had more the look of those of a tradesman than of a nobleman or a scholar. So how could He really be the Messiah?

Their discussion was cut short by Jesus’ answer. The fact that they knew where He had come from made Him no less a messenger of God, or the Messiah. In fact, Jesus claimed that He knew God in ways that were impossible for even the religious leaders to know Him. They had information about God that had been transmitted to them via the prophets and the Scriptures. But that was just head knowledge. He, on the other hand, claimed to know God relationally, to have come from His very presence.

That was too much for some of the leaders who wanted to take Him away right then and stone Him for blasphemy, for claiming to have come directly from God’s presence. But they couldn’t get past the crowd whose circle around Jesus suddenly seemed to be impenetrable. God was not going to let them get to Jesus before His time. So they just continued to stand there and seethe.

Father, it is still quite common today for us to believe that we know more about You than we really do, based on traditions and teachings that we have received that are not based on Scripture, but on human reasoning. Some of these traditions and teachings are true, and some are not. But we would do much better to simply allow the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to the truth in Your word, so that we can more fully understand what You have actually revealed to us, and leave speculation alone so that we don’t become misled ourselves, and in turn mislead others. Thank You that You do let Yourself be known through Your word to ALL who seek You wholeheartedly. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 4, 2018

Luke 24:50-53 (NIV)

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Luke finished his gospel with Jesus’ ascension. Jesus had appeared periodically to His followers over a 40-day period. He ate with them, He encouraged them, and He continued to teach them all that they needed to know.

His teaching took on new meaning for the disciples. The things that had bounced off their minds before were now sinking in, in large part because Jesus had risen from the dead and was patiently teaching them again Himself.

But the time eventually came, 40 days after the resurrection, when he would be taken from them and ascend into heaven. Jesus took them to a place on the south slope of the Mount of Olives near Bethany and blessed them with uplifted hands. And while He was blessing them, He suddenly lifted off the ground and shot straight up into the clouds.

Luke gives a fuller description of this event in Acts 1:9-12. After Jesus disappeared into the clouds, while they were all staring into the sky at the place where He had disappeared, they became aware of two men in white clothes who interrupted their reverie and worship by telling them that Jesus had indeed gone to heaven, but that He would return one day in the same way that they had seen Him go.

The disicples returned to Jerusalem, faces all aglow with smiles as they discussed among themselves all that they had learned, all that they had seen, and all that they had been promised. They had been told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come to them, so wait they would. And every day they continued to go to the temple to worship the God who had made them an important part of such a momentous event.

Father, an encounter with the risen Jesus really does change everything, really does make so much clear that had been hazy before. Before that encounter, we can read Your word, even read it diligently, but far too much just bounces off; it is just a book. But when we surrender ourselves to You and receive Your life in our hearts, the scales fall away from our eyes, and we can truly see. Our ears are unstopped, and we can hear Your voice in every word. Thank You for the wonder of salvation, thank You for the reality of the Holy Spirit in which we get to live, and for the promises of Jesus’ return, which moves us to action. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 29, 2018

Luke 24:28-35 (NIV)

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Cleopas and his companion, both disicples of Jesus, although they were both prevented from recognizing Him as He walked with them and taught them on the road to Emmaus, were completely fascinated with what He was teaching about the Messiah directly from the Scriptures. So, when they reached their house in Emmaus, and when Jesus simply said good-bye and started to continue down the road, the two disciples begged Him to stay with them for the night. Such hospitality was common in Israel, and He agreed to stay.

The first order of business was a simple evening meal, bread and vegetables, with maybe a small portion of meat or a cup of soup. They put the food out, then all gathered on cushions around the low table to eat. Before they started, Jesus picked up the bread, lifted it high, and chanted the prayer of thanksgiving. Then He broke the bread in half and gave it Cleopas and his friend.

As he chanted the prayer, the two disciples could feel goosebumps start to rise on their skin. The sound of His voice and the rhythm of the chant were eerily familiar. And when He broke the bread and leaned forward to hand it to them, He looked each directly in the eye for the briefest moment.

Suddenly they both recognized who it was that they had been walking with and talking with. It was like scales had fallen off their eyes so that they could see. They both leaped to their feet while shouting in unison, “Jesus!” And, at that moment, He simply vanished, leaving only a dent in the cushions where He had been sitting.

The room was as silent as a tomb for several seconds as their minds spun rapidly, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Then they looked at each other, each seeing their own dumb-struck wonder reflected in the other’s face. And then, finally, the words came, spilling out all at once: “That was Jesus! It had to be Him! That was why His words had such a powerful effect on us! He really has risen from the dead!”

In seconds they had grabbed their walking sticks and thrown their cloaks across their shoulders. But their sticks never touched the ground as they set off at a dead run in the fading daylight back toward Jerusalem. The others had to know about this!

When they arrived breathless in the city, they headed straight to the upper room, where they found the whole place already abuzz with excitement. Not only had Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18), He had appeared to Simon as well! They listened closely as the stories were told, their excitement steadily growing as the ramifications of all this sunk in. Then they shared their own experience with the risen Jesus while the rest of the people in the room sat in silent wonder.

Father, it strikes me as I witness these scenes that none of these men and women had taken an evangelism class, and I’m pretty sure none of them had had advanced theological training either. But when it came to sharing about Jesus, none of that slowed them down a bit! All they did was to share their own experience with the risen Jesus. And, in a very real sense, that’s all that You have called us to do as well. Lord, forgive us for allowing a lack of “credentials” to keep us silent. Our only necessary credential is experience with You. And forgive us for allowing ourselves to be intimidated by the idea of being a witness. We don’t need memorized presentations, lists of verses, and answers to commonly asked questions. All we really need is a life-transforming experience with You that we can share. Help us to just rely on that, and on Your loving presence, to help us. Amen.

 

For those of you who enjoy my meditations on the Scriptures, I have compiled, updated, and reformatted the meditations on the entire book of Mark in a single volume. Entitled “When We Listen, A Devotional Commentary on Mark,” it is available on Amazon.com (Search for William S. Robertson When We Listen) or on eagerpress.com (no search necessary – it comes up on the front page of the site!).

God bless you all!

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Today’s Scripture – June 27, 2018

Luke 24:13-16 (NIV)

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

This event happened early on Easter Sunday afternoon. At this point, Jesus had already appeared to Mary Magdalene at the tomb (John 20:14-18), but these two disicples had left before her report had been brought to the others in the upper room.

Now that the Sabbath was over, these two followers of Jesus, one of whom was Cleopas (verse 18), were going home to Emmaus, a few miles to the west of Jerusalem. As they walked, they had a lively discussion about the events that had recently taken place, and about what they might signify about Jesus.

Although not a part of the twelve apostles, Cleopas and his companion were disciples of Jesus who followed Him because they believed Him to be the Messiah. Luke doesn’t include the details of their conversation, but it is easy to surmise the content. There was no doubt that the miracles that Jesus had done validated Him as a messenger who had come from God (John 3:2; 9:30-33). But the popular belief was that the Messiah would take over the throne of Jerusalem as the true king of Israel, and that He would live forever, be completely invincible. But Jesus had seemingly not fulfilled either of those expectations. He had been arrested and killed, so clearly He was not invincible. And He had not made Himself king; the Romans were just a firmly in charge as ever.

Cleopas and His companion wanted to believe in Jesus. They even wanted to believe that He had risen from the dead that morning in fulfillment of His promise. But it was hard for them to come to terms with the seeming impossibility of all of that. So they discussed, they opined, they even argued (the Greek word includes all of these shades of meaning), trying to make sense of it all.

It was then that they realized that someone was walking right behind them. That didn’t puzzle or alarm them. This was a well-used road, and they hadn’t been walking very quickly as they talked. They glance back, but didn’t recognize the man who was strolling along at the same pace as they were going, just listening to them talk. Some have wondered whether it was the sun in their eyes that kept them from identifying Jesus, or whether it was simply the fact that they did not expect to see Him there. Some have even opined that Jesus’ appearance was changed. But the simple answer is given in Luke’s own words: “they were kept from recognizing him.” This was Jesus’ doing. He would reveal Himself to them soon. But first there were some things He had to teach them, and they would absorb them much better if they weren’t at the same time trying to come to terms with the reality of His resurrection.

Father, sometimes we fall into the same situation, arguing about theology or current events without realizing that You are right there with us, able to help us to understand, if only we would be quiet and listen to You! Thank You that You are always with us, able to teach us Your ways, able to help us understand Your word, and able to give us wisdom to see what is going on behind the scenes. Open our eyes, Lord, so that we can see You right there with us. Open our ears so that we can clearly hear Your voice. And open our hearts so that they can be instantly responsive to all that You want to show us. Amen.

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