The Pain Of Betrayal

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John 13:18-30

18 “I am not saying these things to all of you; I know the ones I have chosen. But this fulfills the Scripture that says, ‘The one who eats my food has turned against me.’ 19 I tell you this beforehand, so that when it happens you will believe that I Am the Messiah. 20 I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

21 Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” 22 The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. 23 The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. 27 When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” 28 None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. 29 Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. 30 So Judas left at once, going out into the night.

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The word “betrayal” is a unique word.  It implies that a person has been severely hurt by another.  It could have a physical side to this, but more often then not, it refers to being wounded relationally so that we feel “great emotional pain”.  Note this, we do not think of being betrayed by our enemies.  In fact, we actually expect to be mistreated by our enemies.

No, we feel the greatest pain when the one who has offended us is one of our family members, or one of those whom we have considered to be a close friend.  This is what makes “betrayal” such a unique and difficult word to handle.  It is our friends, not our enemies, who most possess the ability to betray us.  And in fact, the closer a person is to another, the deeper the wound will go when we feel betrayed by them.

Why is that?  Simply put, when we draw closer to a person, we reveal more of our inner soul to that person, and thereby entrust more of our heart to that person.  So when someone betrays that trust, it feels like a knife has pierced our heart and we become deeply wounded in our soul.

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This is what happened to Jesus the night that he was betrayed, the night before his death on the cross.  For over three years, Jesus had entrusted himself to twelve men.  He taught them all deep spiritual truths, he demonstrated his love and his power to them many times, and he shared a number of intimate moments with them.  These men were Jesus’ true brothers in this world.

But from our passage above, we know that one man, Judas, was willing to sell out this friendship.  In Matthew’s gospel, we are told that Judas was willing to betray Jesus for merely 30 pieces of silver money.  Surely that small amount of money could not come close to being the worth of a man, and especially the man Jesus, who came from God, and is God.

But Scripture tells us in John 13:2 that Satan has already persuaded Judas to hand over Jesus to his enemies.  One version says “Satan enticed him…” showing that the attraction to money was greater than his sense of loyalty to a friend.  The terrible deed began as a thought, and was realized through action as Judas left the meal to bring back Jesus’ enemies.

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What amazes me as I read this passage is that Jesus is fully aware of what is happening.  He even seems to be encouraging Judas to go and do his terrible deed.  And yet, Jesus is not unaffected by this emotionally.  Verse 21 says that Jesus was “deeply troubled.”  Jesus’ spirit within him was in great distress over what Judas would do to him.  But I don’t think that is the only reason that Jesus was “deeply troubled”.

Verse 1 of this chapter says, “Now he showed his disciples the full extent of this love.”  Even while knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus had love for him.  Wow!!  Could we ever be able to follow after Jesus’ example?  I know what my first reaction would be toward someone who had betrayed me.  I would not only feel angry, but I would want that other person to suffer for what he or she had done to me.

But that is not the way that Jesus handled his own betrayal by Judas.  No one but Jesus really knew what was going on that night.  But rather than respond out of anger or revenge, Jesus deeply felt and demonstrated his servant-love to all his disciples, including the one who would betray him.

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So what can we take away from this passage?  We all need to distinguish the difference between the acts that someone does against us or against God, and look toward the one who has committed the sin and still love that person.  As long as there are people around us, we will be vulnerable to being hurt, even betrayed at times.  But Jesus tells us to love one another, and even be willing to die for another, in order to forgive the sin, and save the sinner.  Can you do that?

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Who Are You Going To Follow In Life?

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John 13:1 – 17

13 1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love.  2 It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

6 When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now why I am doing it; someday you will.” 8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.” 9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

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10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you are clean, but that isn’t true of everyone here.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because it is true. 14 And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. 17 You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

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It is clear from this passage that Jesus knew with absolute certainty, where he had come from, and the authority that he possessed.  He states for us here in verse 14 that he is both the disciples’ Lord and their Teacher.  He is to be listened to and he is to be obeyed.  And he knew that he had come from God, his Father, and that he would be returning to heaven to be with his Father once again.

It would be great if all of us had this kind of certainty in our lives.  More importantly, it would be very good if more people would realize that this life is not “all there is” and then bang, nothing.  No, there is a reality beyond this life and this world, a spiritual realm where both God exists, but also his arch enemy, the Devil.  There are two great spiritual Beings that live in the beyond, and yet they are with us here in the present, in the “Now”.

And every one of us has got to make a choice as to whom we are going to serve with our lives, which will then determine for us our eternal destiny.  Will we choose a life of blessing with God the Father?  … or a life of bitter despair of helplessness, hopelessness and eternal separation from God?  These are the choices that face all of us now, and it is in fact the most important choice of our entire life.

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What prompts me to write these thoughts come from a few things in our passage above.  Notice how this English New Living Translation version identifies the Agent behind the betrayal of Jesus that Judas makes.  It says in verse 2, “The Devil had already enticed Judas….to betray Jesus.”  We don’t talk very much about the Devil in our churches today.  Why is that?  Have we forgotten that from the very beginning of time, the Devil, that evil serpent in the Garden, has been at work to lead all people into a rebellion against God, starting with Adam and Eve.

It says here that the Devil “enticed” Judas to betray Jesus for a little bit of money.  Judas will have to give account of himself when he stands before the judgment throne of God.  While it is true that Satan loves to lead people into sin, still it was Judas’ choice to give in to this temptation of desiring silver coins in his pocket rather than submission to Jesus as Lord.

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Jesus shows us the better way.  The path to a blessed life, right now and also in the life to come, is to submit to the Father in obedience, and to His Son Jesus.  And also to submit to serving others, rather than serving one’s self.  This passage above says that Jesus showed his disciples “the full extent of his love” for them.  How did he do that?  He gave them the example that even the greatest person is only truly great when he values others higher than himself and is willing to serve others out of a spirit of love and humility.

So ask yourself this question then?  Whose example are you following right now?  Are you like Judas and only looking out for yourself, even if it costs someone else dearly?  Or are you like Jesus, and walking the path of humility, love and helping to serve the needs of others around you.  The first path may benefit you in the short-term, but leads to death.  The second path will bring blessings now, and for all eternity.  I think the choice is very clear.

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Here Comes King Jesus

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John 12: 12 – 19

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”

 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”

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 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

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This short passage marks a significant turn in the life of Jesus and His ministry on earth.  Up to this point, whenever Jesus had performed a miracle, He kept asking the people to remain quiet concerning His identity.  Now Jesus knew who He was, the Son of God.  But He wanted people to know that there were many other aspects involved in who He was.

John accomplished this in his gospel account by using a number of “I am…” statement by Jesus.  Such as “I am the Good Shepherd,” “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  Each of these statements gives us more insight into the nature of who Jesus is, and what He can do for those who believe in Him.

John’s gospel also began with a statement made by John the Baptist, who said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)  And now we see Jesus being hailed by the people as “The King of Israel”.  Are these two ideas in conflict with each other? We know a lamb was brought to an altar to be killed as a sacrifice, and a king comes to a throne to rule.

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The incredible thing about Jesus is that He was both the Lamb and the King at the same time.  Once His first mission was accomplished of raising up a group of followers who believed in Him as their Messiah (the One whom God had chosen to save His people), then Jesus turned towards Jerusalem to be “crowned” as the King of Israel.

Notice His humility though as He rode in calmly and quietly on the back of a donkey.  He knew that what would await this new King of Israel would not be a throne, but a cross where He would be crucified.  The way He would lead His people would be through the road of sacrifice and death to self.  As verse 16 says above, even Jesus’ disciples, His closest friends and companions did not realize at that time what was happening that day, or in the week to follow.

But the people who welcomed Him into Jerusalem saw their hope of a new era to be ushered in for the Jewish people.  Many times before this passage, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had threatened to kill Jesus, and they had issued orders to the general populace that they would be thrown out of the Temple and synagogues if they followed after Jesus.  But even this threat could not stop the praise of the people on this “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem.

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What I think is worth commenting on now at this point is to consider the things that people offered to Jesus as they worshipped Him as their coming King.  I heard this in a sermon recently, and I think it’s worth passing along.  We know from the other gospel accounts (see Matthew 21:1-11 for example) that the disciples went ahead of Jesus to ask a man who owned at least two donkeys to give them up for Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem.

We can suppose that this man was wealthy, or at least well off, having multiple domesticated animals.  And so out of his wealth, he gave to Jesus as a way to honor His arrival.  Then we see a number of people taking off their outer cloaks and spreading them on top of the donkeys and on the road before Jesus as He rode along.  They gave out of what they personally owned that had value.

Some people had come to Jerusalem ready to celebrate the coming of the Passover Festival and had not brought anything extra with which they could offer something to Jesus.  What were these people to do?  Did they have anything they could give to Jesus?  And the answer was yes, according to Matthew.  They went into the fields and cut down palm branches to wave over Jesus and spread on the road to make it a smooth ride for Him as he entered Jerusalem.

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And how about you?  Have you recognized Jesus for who He really is?  He is the Lord of Life, and Sacrificial Lamb who gave His life in order that we could live eternally.  And He is the Coming King, for He will come again one day to gather all those who believe in Him.

And all of us have something that we can offer to Jesus, even if we do not feel like we can offer much.  The most important thing we can offer is our own lives, being obedient to Him as our Lord.  In addition though, we all have some resources nearby, like those people who found the palm trees, that we can give to God as an act of worship.  And God is pleased with whatever it is that we give to honor Jesus, the King of the Universe.

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The Best Ways To Honor Jesus

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John 12: 1 – 11

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

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In these opening verses of chapter 12, we see once again the many different ways in which people responded towards Jesus.  There are many characters in this story.  We have Jesus’ friends, which included Lazarus and his sisters.  We see a contrast between the two sisters in the actions they take.  We gain more insight into one of Jesus’ disciples, namely Judas Iscariot.  And finally, we read a little bit about the Jewish people and their religious leaders.  All of these characters respond differently to Jesus.

Starting from the end of the story, we read that many people were coming out to see Jesus, the miracle worker, the One who had raised Lazarus from the dead.  Some may have come simply out of curiosity, as word-of-mouth spread about how Jesus had resurrected a man from the grave.  Even so, this sense of wonder and curiosity led many of them to believe in Jesus, when they saw with their own eyes what Jesus had done.

This is in such contrast to the religious leaders.  They too had heard the stories about Jesus’ miraculous powers, but this did not lead them to seek for truth or bring them to a faith in Jesus.  No, they were reacting more out of jealousy, seeing that the people were rejecting their authority and going over to Jesus.  They saw Jesus as a threat to their religious structure and order which gave them such purpose and such power.  They were thinking of themselves, not of what God was doing through Jesus.

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Meanwhile, back at this house where the party to honor Jesus was happening, most of the people were quite content to sit and listen to Jesus.  And this is a good place to be, close to the One who had come from God and had demonstrated that God was working through Him.  But notice the differences between the two sisters.

This day was a great day, a day to honor Jesus, and what do we see Mary and Martha doing?  Martha was busy preparing and serving all the guests who had come.  Now someone might say, “Well, someone had to do this.”  But we have reason to believe that this party is not taking place in their home, for it talks about Lazarus being one of those “reclining (relaxing) at the tables”.  Most likely, they were guests also in someone else’s home.

We read elsewhere (in Luke 10:38-42) almost the same thing, that Martha was “distracted” by all the preparations, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and soaked in all that Jesus said.  Both sisters loved Jesus as a very dear friend, but one was working to please Jesus, while the other was pleasing Jesus by her pure heart and devotion towards Him.

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Not much needs to be said about the last person, Judas.  His statement of offense at Mary’s actions might have the appearance of putting others first, namely the poor people of that area.  But all he really cared about was himself, and taking advantage of the position he had as the treasurer of the group.  As John states through hindsight, Judas was just a thief.

And this begs the question for all of us.  What are we doing when we come to Jesus today?  What is the intent of our hearts?  Are we hard-hearted like the religious leaders who are more concerned about religions rituals and regulations, than meeting the One from God face-to-face?  Are we involved in a church just because of the position of power and authority we can obtain, and seek to get all we can for ourselves?

Are we “busy” as Christians, but not taking time to develop our relationship with Christ? Are we at least coming to the table to listen to what Jesus is teaching us?  That is good, but it must not stop just there.  Can we be like Mary and find that which is most precious to us and offer it up to Jesus?  There are many ways in which we can honor Jesus in our lives.  The best ways will always involve doing things for God and others that come at some cost to ourselves.  This will show God exactly where our heart is towards Him and His Son, Jesus.

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Jesus Must Die To Save People

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John 11: 45 – 53

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

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49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

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They say that “seeing is believing”.  So it is not surprising that some people “believed in Jesus” after He caused Lazarus to come out alive from a tomb, who had been dead and buried for four days.  But notice what some other people did – they ran to Jerusalem (about 2 miles) to inform the religious leaders there of what had happened in Bethany.

This immediately caused the religious leaders to convene an emergency council of the highest ecclesiastical body of leaders called the Sanhedrin.  Consisting of 70 elders of Israel, they were like the religious Supreme Court of their day.  All final decisions for the Jewish people, both religiously and some times politically were determined by this group of men.

These leaders had not personally seen the miracles that Jesus had performed, but they certainly had enough eye witnesses come to them to know that Jesus was a man who performed “great signs”.  This is another way to say that Jesus was filled with supernatural power to accomplish the miraculous.  This should have led these men also to come to a point of believing in Jesus.

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It’s interesting to see that they did not deny the facts that Jesus was able to perform miracles, “Here is this man performing many signs.”   But rather than praise God for the miraculous deeds that Jesus was doing, they saw His actions as being a serious threat to them.  Religiously, they were concerned that many more people would “believe in Him”.  Politically, they were afraid that the Romans would come in force and threaten to destroy their Temple and their nation of Israel.

To understand these fears, it would be necessary to study the 200 years prior to Christ to see what was happening religiously and politically within Israel and within throughout the Roman Empire.  After Alexander the Great had conquered most of their then known world, from Greece to India, Israel was made subject to them. But some rebel Jews rose up, brothers whom we call “the Maccabees”, who won their freedom from Greece.

But rivalries over who would become the next leaders of Israel led to more fighting and a chaotic period resulted.  As a pretence, the Romans who were now subjugating countries under the new Roman Empire, came into Jerusalem to help establish “peace”.  This peace was a fragile thing and required an “occupying force” of Roman garrisons of soldiers.  The Jewish king, like King Herod, had to be appointed by Rome, and the religious leaders had to agree to keep the people in line to not form a rebellion against Rome, or suffer the “Fist of Rome” by having their people captured and made into slaves, and their cities and their Temple smashed into the ground.

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The threat to the Jews was very real.  But these leaders took this threat personally, “the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”  Notice the pronoun “our” in their statement.  So Jesus’ popularity was seen to be a threat to this fragile peace, so he was a threat to them.  If Jesus was being hailed as the “coming Messiah” it would lead to people wanting Jesus to be their political king who ruled over a religiously free Jewish state.

Therefore, in the minds of the religious leaders, there was only one way they could see to save themselves and to save, in their opinion, the people and their religious ways, was to have Jesus killed.  If He were removed out of the picture, then no uprising or open rebellion would be presented against Rome.  They would be safe, or so they thought.

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They believed that Jesus’ death would be the end of His ministry among the Jews.  But they were wrong, oh so wrong.  We have the privilege to look forward and know that Jesus would rise again from the grave.  Jesus would demonstrate that He had the power to conquer death, and by His example, give us hope that we too will one day be resurrected from death.

But much more than that, we know from Scripture that when Jesus died on the Cross, He accepted this penalty of death for the sins that every man and woman have committed against God.  He opened up the way for men to be reconciled back into a relationship with God.  So even though the  High Priest was acting out of selfish motives, He was still used by God to declare a deep spiritual truth, “one man [must] die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Let us always be thankful that Jesus was willing to die, so that we who believe in Him will be able to live with Him forever.

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Jesus A Mere Man, Claimed To Be God!

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John 10:31 – 42

31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” 33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.”

34 Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 

37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”

39 Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them. 40 He went beyond the Jordan River near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. 41 And many followed him. “John didn’t perform miraculous signs,” they remarked to one another, “but everything he said about this man has come true.” 42 And many who were there believed in Jesus.

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This is a very difficult passage to understand as there is so much going on here that is tied in together with the history and the theology of the Jewish people.  Take for example the reaction of the crowd in verse 31.  What in the world had Jesus done that prompted the people to pick up stones and want to kill him?  And we are not talking little pebbles here, but large stones as big as a grapefruit.  It wouldn’t take many of these to hit a man and kill him.

We must look back at the previous verse, where Jesus said in verse 30, “I and the Father are One.”  It was quickly understood by the Jews that Jesus was not talking about sharing the same purpose of God, but rather the very identity or being of God.  And that would go against one of their most sacred Scriptures of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear O Israel, the LORD of God, the LORD is one,” and the First Commandment of Exodus 20:2, “You shall have no other gods besides Me.”

Now if we look at the history of Israel after they came out of Egypt in the book of Exodus, we see that they were not very good about keeping these commandments, for they fell so easily into worshipping the many Canaanite gods when they took over the land of Palestine.  They eventually suffered deportation to Babylon and slavery for their polytheistic practices.

    

When they came back from the Exile seventy years later though, they became (for the most) a very devout, even fanatical, monotheistic people.  They had recognized that their worship of false gods had brought about their captivity.  So they would have been greatly opposed to anyone suggesting that any other person other than YHWH (the LORD) could be His equal and worthy of worship and obedience.

The people there had finally caught clearly what Jesus had been alluding to for some time, namely that He was talking about Himself as if He were in fact God.  That’s why they wanted to kill him.  Jesus quickly pointed out again, just like in our last passage, that the miracles that He had been doing should have been enough testimony to His divinity, or at least that God had sent Him to earth as His representative.

    

The people did not accept this though, so Jesus did something that was very Jewish in nature.  He used the Old Testament Scriptures to back up His claim.  This is explained well in “The Translator’s Handbook”:

to assume that Jesus is doing no more than claiming an equal status with the people addressed in that Psalm is to miss the entire point of the passage.  Jesus’ argument is, in fact, a typically rabbinical one by which the speaker argues from the lesser to the greater.

According to the rabbis, Psalm 82 was addressed to Israel when they received the Law at Mount Sinai.  Jesus’ argument proceeds in this way. If those persons who received God’s Law on Mount Sinai could be spoken of as “gods,” how much more can the one whom the Father has chosen and sent into the world claim to be “the Son of God.”

    

I believe that Jesus’ argument for his divinity is logically sound.  But we have to realize that a belief in Jesus as being an equal partner in the Godhead, such that He can say, “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father,” has to accepted at a faith level, and not just at an intellectual level.  There is so much about God, and His nature, that we will never really understand.  At least not until we get to eternity beyond this life.

The question is whether we can accept what Jesus claimed about Himself, or if we dismiss it from the beginning as impossible.  If we are open to consider His claims, then the rest of the story about Jesus’ life, His recorded miracles, the idea of being resurrected back from the dead, also become possible to us.

It is my belief that there is enough corroborating testimony and evidence that what Jesus claimed that He could and would do actually did happen as recorded in the Gospels.  And if He could perform acts (like the miracles, and especially His resurrection) that speak of divine powers, then I can accept His testimony about Himself, that He is in fact Divine.  What do you think?

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Celebrating Christmas With Family

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Family Christmas 2012

It is quite natural for family members to get together and celebrate Christmas together.  And yet, we hear of so many families that are not able to do this either because of certain family dynamics, or simply because so many people are mobile and spread out to live in places that are far away from each other.

Less than two weeks ago, our family was spread out between Alberta, Ontario and Texas.  So I realize what a blessing it has been for all of us to be able to come together here in Calgary to be with each other.  It was so wonderful to come home on the 18th and be with my family after being away for two months.  And seeing the decorated tree encouraged my heart to know we had entered into the Christmas season.

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This particular Christmas tree has special meaning for us. When we were in Papua New Guinea years ago, a church in America sent this artificial tree to us so that we could have a Christmas tree in the village way out in the jungles of PNG.  We decorated up the tree in the front lobby area of our house so children in the village could see it, and it became quite the center piece for many discussions with the people and the children.

We had kept many of our special ornaments with us that reminded us of previous Christmas times together.  What a treat though, for us to have a tree from back home to be able to hang all our special decorations.  And of course, as many parents do, we stayed up late on Christmas Eve to wrap up presents to surprise our boys the next morning.

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Even with all the gifts that seemed to multiply around the tree each year, we still made sure we had taught our boys the true message of Christmas, of Jesus who was born as a baby, but who would one day die for us and be raised as our Lord and Savior.  We always tried to have special gifts for each other which we names as our “gold, frankincense and myrrh” gifts.

Now that our boys are young men (one is married and one is in the Canadian Army), we tend to buy less and less gifts and put the emphasis more on the message of Christmas and just being together.  It was still nice to give gifts to each other, (for the very spirit of Christmas is that of giving), and it’s amazing to see how creative we can all be after we said, “Let’s not spend much on gifts this year.”

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One thing we got this year to add to our Christmas tree was a special ornament.  We had found this beautiful ornament of the nativity scene, placed within a small hand-crafted gourd.  It has the family scene of Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus, who are surrounded by the shepherds and the stable animals.

Just about any nativity scene touches my heart.  But when we saw this scene carved and placed within the little painted gourd, it reminded us of the fact that Jesus came to earth for men and women of every culture.  And gourds are something that we would associate with tropical countries, like that of Papua New Guinea, where this Christmas story needs to be shared with all the people who live on that tropical jungle island.

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And that brings me back to my first thought, of how special it is to celebrate Christmas with one’s family.  I am so thankful that I was able to return from my time down in Texas, and that our son in the military was able to get three weeks off for the Christmas break to come home to be with us.

We never know in this life when we will all be able to be together like this, now that we are all adults and leading very diverse lives.  We have a very short time together, but we are trying to make the very most of these few weeks.  It is my prayer that you too have been able to be reunited with family members this Christmas.  And I pray that Jesus is the center of your family, just as He is the center of ours.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND MAY YOU HAVE A BLESSED AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Jesus Is The Great “I AM”

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John 8:48 – 59

48 The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?” 49 “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50 And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge. 51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52 The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57 The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” 59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

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It’s clear that the conversation Jesus had with the Jewish people throughout John chapter eight continued to go from bad to worse.  Even though these people possessed the first seeds of faith (see verse 30), it becomes apparent as the chapter goes on that these people were still depending upon their Jewish heritage and religious practices to be the basis of their relationship with God.

It got to the point that Jesus accused them not only with the charge that they do not know or belong to God the Father, but that in fact they are really followers of Satan himself.  No wonder the people reacted with such hostility towards Jesus in verse 48.  They doubly insulted Jesus by saying that He was a “Samaritan devil” and was possessed by a demon.

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To appreciate the force of the first insult, it is helpful to know the historical background of the Samaritans.  Going back to the time of Solomon, we read of the breakup of the Kingdom of Israel.  When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took the throne, he tried to impose harsher labor policies over the people and the ten northern tribes broke away to form the Northern Kingdom (Israel) while Judah and Benjamin became the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

The rebel leader, Jeroboam, not only set up a northern kingdom in opposition to Rehoboam, but he also set up a substitute religion. In this northern region, also known as Samaria, King Jeroboam set up golden calves for people to worship at rather than risk that they go back to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem.  He ordained common people rather than Levites to be the priests, and he set up pagan shrines and substitute festivals to keep people from returning to Jerusalem.

This began the institution of idolatry among the Jewish people of the north.  Then when the Northern Kingdom was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C., the Assyrians polluted the Jewish blood line by scattering many of them among the provinces of Assyria and also by bringing in outside people into the land of Samaria so that there was a lot of intermixed marriages which led to further idolatrous worship.

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So for the Jewish people to call Jesus a “Samaritan devil”, they were accusing Him of being an idolator and a religiously impure person.  And if that was not bad enough, they then said that He was possessed by a demon, which would mean that Jesus was being accused of being under the control of Satan and everything He taught and did was of satanic origin.

How backwards could it get?  The truth was the exact opposite of what the people were saying.  They were the ones who were blindly following the path of religious ritualism, which does not allow room for a living relationship with God.  They were the ones who had “hearts of stone” as Isaiah prophesied, and were not walking on the path of “righteousness by faith” as Abraham demonstrated.

And it was this very faith of Abraham which looked forward and saw that ultimately there would come a day when there would be the One who would finally deal with the problem of human sin through the giving of His life to pay the penalty of sin on behalf of all people who would put their trust in Him.

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If we can accept the fact that Jesus is one Person of the divine Godhead who came to earth to help bring people back to God, then it should not be hard to believe that through the eyes of faith, Abraham knew of the Savior who was to come.  And Jesus makes this claim to be such a One when he stated that “before Abraham was even born, I AM”, meaning that Jesus existed even before the time of Abraham.

The people who were so blind to the truth of who Jesus was, did at least catch the implications of what He was saying.  Jesus finally used the personal name of God (see Exodus 6:2-3) to explain His eternal nature as God.  They could not accept that truth and would rather have killed Jesus by stoning Him, than to change their views and beliefs.  I pray that you, my reader, would not be blind as well to this truth that Jesus always exists as the ever-present “I AM”.

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300 Articles – Let’s Celebrate!

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Praise God from whom all blessing flow!

Praise Him all creatures here below!

Praise Him above ye Heavenly Hosts!

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

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It has been my privilege and my honor to write articles that bring honor to my God, and to Jesus, my Lord and King.  May He give me the grace to write 300 more stories for Him.

“This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

Jesus Is The Light Of The World

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John 8:12 – 20

12 Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.” 13 The Pharisees objected, “You are the only one speaking for yourself, and what you say isn’t true!”

14 Jesus replied: Even if I do speak for myself, what I say is true! I know where I came from and where I am going. But you don’t know where I am from or where I am going. 15 You judge in the same way that everyone else does, but I don’t judge anyone. 16 If I did judge, I would judge fairly, because I would not be doing it alone. The Father who sent me is here with me. 17 Your Law requires two witnesses to prove that something is true. 18 I am one of my witnesses, and the Father who sent me is the other one.

19 “Where is your Father?” they asked. “You don’t know me or my Father!” Jesus answered. “If you knew me, you would know my Father.” 20 Jesus said this while he was still teaching in the place where the temple treasures were stored. But no one arrested him, because his time had not yet come.

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Our passage above starts with “Once again Jesus spoke to the people…”  The event of bringing the woman caught in adultery (7:53 – 8:11) was a sidebar to the larger story which began in chapter 7 with Jesus standing up at the Feast of Tabernacles to teach the people.  We now return to some powerful teachings of Jesus while He was in Jerusalem.

From this point on, we will often come across topics and themes that have come up before within the Gospel of John.  It will not be difficult to see these major threads of divine truth that are woven through the book.  The bold statement of Jesus, “I am the light of the world” and that those who follow Him will “never walk in darkness” takes us all the way back to 1:4–5:

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

According to John, light equals life and darkness equals all that is sinful and evil.  The Pharisees who were listening heard this and immediately challenged Jesus.  They cannot accept Him as the ultimate source of light and life.  When they say this cannot be true and that Jesus is [wrongfully] speaking for Himself, they are actually challenging His authority to be able to make such a claim.

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In verses 14–18, Jesus goes on to give four reasons as to why He had every right to claim that He was the true source of Life for all mankind.  First of all, He knows with absolute certainty what His true origin is and what His ultimate destiny is.  Looking ahead to 16:28, Jesus said, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”  As God’s Son, Jesus had a divine origin and later returned back to His divine realm united with God the Father.

Secondly, Jesus’ standards for His moral life and His teachings have always been far above human standards.  In verse 15, Jesus basically says that we all will make subjective and flawed judgments when evaluating others and spiritual truth.  In the Greek, He literally says, “you judge according to the flesh.”  And the Bible is quite clear that the human flesh is flawed by being worldly and sinful.  But Jesus was never flawed in this way, and so He could speak about Himself with such divine authority.

Jesus goes on though to say that even if He were to condemn another, just like the Pharisees were trying to do to Him, Jesus is able to do it in a fair and just manner for He has God the Father on His side helping Him to speak and to do all that He came to do.  Even though Jesus left the realm of Heaven, the Father never left His side, and so as a fourth proof of His divine authority, Jesus stated as required by Jewish Law, that two witnesses (His own and that of God’s) qualified Jesus to be One who spoke the truth, that is, that He is the source of eternal life which becomes the Light for all mankind.

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Wow!!  This is powerful stuff!  Unfortunately for the Pharisees, they had never really developed a personal relationship with God.  So when they challenged Jesus with regards to His paternity (“Where is your father?”) they thought they might trap Jesus to admit to the popular scandal that He was born illegitimately by Joseph out of wedlock, but they in fact indict themselves that they know very little about who Jesus really is and who His real Father is, that is, God the Father.

The Pharisees were spiritually blind with regards to Jesus’ true identity and authority.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  He is the source of true spiritual Life.  At some point, every person will have to make a decision as to who Jesus is.  Human sinfulness continues to keep people blind to this spiritual truth.  But it does not have to remain this way.

My friend, have you come into the light of Truth and discovered Jesus’ true identity?  I’m glad you are reading this article.  But even better would be if you would open the Gospel accounts of the New Testament and read for yourself to find out who Jesus is.  He is calling even now, “Come to Me, and come into the Light of Life.”

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