February 12, 2017
The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, had a custom of releasing a prisoner during the feast of Passover. He gave the unruly crowd a choice between Barabbas and Jesus, thinking they would choose Jesus and let him off the hook. But at the urging of the chief priests and elders, they chose Barabbas instead. Ironically, “Barabbas” is from the Aramaic, which means, “son of a father” (“bar” = “son of” + “abba” = “father”). So, the guilty “son of a father,” representing fallen humanity was released. And the innocent and holy, Son of the Father, was condemned in his place.
February 10, 2017
Before we judge the disciples too harshly, we must answer the question, “When have you forsaken Christ?” For even those of us with the most sturdy faith have certainly faltered at times. Simon Peter, still stinging from Christ’s prediction that he would deny him three times at sunset, pulled out his sword and cut off an ear of the high priest’s servant who had laid hands on Jesus. What did Peter get from Jesus for this protective action? Praise? No. He received a rebuke. Jesus didn’t need Peter’s protection. He could’ve called more than 12 legions (72,000+) of angels to His side, but instead He went willingly and obediently to the cross. Peter dropped his sword and fled along with the other disciples. Peter must’ve been overwrought with fear and confusion. Jesus wouldn’t listen when he tried to talk him out of going to the cross, calling him “Satan” in rebuke. And now, Jesus wouldn’t let him protect him, rebuking him for using his sword. Peter was at the end of his own wisdom and strength. “What does Jesus want from me?” He must’ve wondered. So he “forsook” and “fled,” instead of forsaking himself and following. Jesus does not need our protection, he wants us to deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23). Even the best of us have forsaken and fled at times, but Jesus prays for us as he did for Peter, that our faith should not fail; and that we return to him” (Luke 22:31).
February 9, 2017
We remember that Peter made this promise, but we forget that all the other disciples said the same, “I will not deny you.” Jesus had taught his disciples that the cost of discipleship involved denying oneself, taking up one’s own cross daily and following him (Luke 9:23). Yet, he predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. I think Peter meant it. And so did the other disciples. They all wanted to be able to deny themselves and follow Christ, even unto death. Their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak (Mark 14:38). It wasn’t until after the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, that Peter was able to truly deny himself and follow Jesus even unto death. We must be filled with the Spirit and walk in the Spirit in order to deny ourselves and truly follow Jesus.
February 7, 2017
Jesus gave his disciples this parable to illustrate the principle of stewardship in the kingdom of heaven. Several details of the parable offer instruction concerning stewardship, but the main point is that the Lord will return and ask his servants to give an account of how they have spent that which he entrusted to them.
So, regardless of the amount of talent we have be given, we must recognize …
1) God’s ownership. Everything we are and have comes from Him.
2) Our stewardship. We are managers of the Master’s stuff.
3) He gives differing amounts and expects appropriate return (i.e. “To whom much is given, much is required.” – Luke 12:48).
4) Everyone will one day give an account.
5) The Lord will reward or punish according to our faithfulness.
The greatest gift given is Christ Himself. What we do with Him and with His gospel are of utmost importance. One day, all will be asked, “What did you do with Jesus?”
February 4, 2017
Jesus grieved over Jerusalem and His people’s rejection of Him. How He wanted to “gather” them unto Himself to care for them as a “hen gathers her chicks.” But they were not “willing.” This is perhaps one of the clearest pictures of God’s heart of love and care revealed for humanity, and man’s unwillingness to respond to His call. Perhaps this verse was in Will Thompson’s mind when he penned the lyrics “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me… Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner, come home!” Are you willing to answer Christ’s tender call?
February 1, 2017
The chief priests and elders were the recognized religious authority in Israel. Yet, Jesus taught without their stamp of approval. Their authority came from men, but Christ’s came from God. If only they would have listened to His teaching, they would have recognized God’s approval upon it. But to listen and believe would have required them to humble themselves and accept His authority as Lord. Isn’t this the real problem for most?
January 31, 2017
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?
The morning after Jesus had overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple, reminding them that God’s house was to be a house of prayer, he was hungry and saw a fig tree along the way. Yet, even though it was green with leaves, it had no fruit. So, Jesus cursed the tree because of its lack of fruit. Was this the action of impatience or frustration because of His hunger? No. The fig tree is a symbol of fruitless Israel. They had the Law and the Prophets and the beautiful Temple with all of its sacrifices, yet they had filled the outer court, which was meant for the Gentiles’ prayer, with booths for commerce. And more than that, they had rejected the very Messiah for Whom all of these were given. Their leaves were green, but they did not bear fruit. By the end of the week, they would crucify Jesus. And before that generation passed, the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
But Jesus was raised and the gospel has gone out to the nations. And one day, the fig tree, which is Israel, will recognize Christ as Lord and be withered no more.
January 29, 2017
After a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what good thing he must do to have eternal life, the Lord told him to sell his possessions, give them to the poor and come follow Him. But the young man went away sorrowful, for he was very wealthy. As the rich young ruler walked away, Jesus told His disciples that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom. He then used a greater to lesser hyperbole to illustrate the problem. The camel represents the rich man, oversized and burdened with a load, while the eye of a needle represents the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom of God. Some have suggested that the “eye of the needle” referred to the small, narrow door within a city gate used for foot passengers, which even a man would need to bow low to enter. However, the metaphor still holds true. A large camel cannot enter through a small door nor a needle’s eye. It would need to shrink to enter either.
Riches have a way of owning us, rather than us owning them. To rely on worldly wealth, rather than God’s provision is idolatry. The rich young ruler who claimed to be a keeper of the commandments had actually failed to keep the first, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”