Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: John 1-2
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of God from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1.14)
Whereas the other gospels drive their narrative towards the declaration of Jesus as the Messiah, John offers no suspense about the identity of Jesus. He opens with a poetic depiction of Jesus as the eternal Son of God who empowers and enlightens men to the will of God (John 1.1-18). This section is somewhat enigmatic, but offers clear connections to Jesus' role in God’s work throughout history. Jesus was there in creation (John 1.1-3), he builds on the work of Moses (John. 1.17) and he fulfills what the prophets said regarding the One to come (John 1.15).
John is definitive and deliberate from the start because he is convinced Jesus is the Son of God and he wants you to believe. Everything John records must be read in this context.
To persuade us of this point, John highlights the clarity Jesus had about his own identity. Jesus never wonders what he will do or why he will do it. He is deliberate and even adamant at times with his message as he carries out his mission. There is uniformity with Jesus’ words and works that mirror those of the Father. His resolve to please his Father is unaltered by even the most hostile circumstances.
Jesus' precision is both is enticing and polarizing. He will not apologize for his claims. He is not worried about your fickle emotions. He did not come to haggle with the religious. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19.10).
You may have questions regarding your own faith and purpose. You may struggle to understand the Word of God and what to do with it. John presents Jesus as the one you can trust to help you. He is not swayed by opinion. He doesn’t lack understanding. He cuts right to the heart of what matters. He is not simply a good moral teacher; he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14.6). The way to God is clearly seen through Jesus, the Son of God, if one is willing to “come and see” (John 1.46).
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!... I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1.29, 34)
BIBLE READING: Luke 24
Can you imagine living before Jesus and trying to decipher the Law and the prophecies and what they all meant? The language of the Old Testament made it clear someone was coming, but how were the Jews to reconcile depictions of a suffering servant, an eternal priest, and a conquering king? On this side of the cross we see the fulfillment of God's plan through Christ, but many Jews wrestled with how many figures there would be, and what sort of person the Messiah would be.
In our reading this week, Luke describes a scene that surely categorized many of the Jewish disciples following the death of Jesus. Jesus unknowingly speaks with two disciples, who wanted Jesus to be the Messiah but were perplexed at his death. In fact, they had almost given up hope (Luke 24.21); but then Jesus responds:
“‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into ‘his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24.26-27)
There are two critical things for us to see here: (1) Jesus teaches it was “necessary” for him to suffer because (2) this is what Moses and the Prophets taught.
Here, Jesus uses the imperative “δεῖ” (necessary; Luke 24.26) to emphasize the inevitability of these things. The career that Scripture outlines for the Messiah is suffering and then glory (eg. Isaiah 53). This was a fresh understanding of the Jewish Scriptures but should come as no surprise to a modern reader. Jesus' death was the dramatically awesome segue to his glorious resurrection and ascent to power.
However, we must recognize the significance of Moses and the Prophets to our understanding of Jesus. The Old Testament is the basis for belief in Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus did not show up and offer new information; he brought fulfilment to God’s eternal plan. His life without the prerogative of God and His eternal word fueling Jesus' every move would lack power. But because Jesus “was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15.4) we have reason to believe.
And so, it is imperative for us to learn and study the Old Testament as we follow Jesus. It is what brings us truly know Christ (Galatians 3.24). There is no better commentary on this passage than Hebrew 1.1-4. God revealed himself in a lot of ways throughout history; but now he has definitively and finally spoken to us by his Son. There is no greater privilege than knowing the Son of God. He is the fulfillment of God's promise and plan.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53.10)
BIBLE READING: Luke 22-23
“The chief priests and scribes were seeking how to put him to death… Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot… and they were glad and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought and opportunity to betray him…” (Luke 22.2-3, 5-6)
The blindness of the religious leader to reality always sickens me. The Jewish leadership had been powerless to do anything about Jesus because of his popularity, and so they had to resort to fabrication and blatant cunning to even get Jesus to trial. The irony in most of the events surrounding Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion is that those who appear to be in control are not. They happen only because Jesus allows them to proceed.
The injustice is obvious, but the lack of concern for another human is just beyond what I can comprehend. They wanted so badly for Jesus not to be who he claimed to be that they missed the very Son of God. But not only that, they undertook to destroy him by the most severe means possible. All the plotting and hypocrisy surrounding these events are a disgustingly accurate depiction of the degeneration of human selfishness.
The actions of Jesus’ enemies are a graph of how sin does its work. Someone has once said, “Sin always takes you farther than you want to go; keeps you longer than you want to stay; costs you more than you want to pay.” In the background stands the presence and influence of Satan. These events remind us that people can be led by forces that pull them in destructive directions (Ephesians 2.1-3).
What is so tragic is that if we stop and analyze the role of sin in our own lives, we see the same types of behavior and choices. The deceptive nature of sin is that it aligns with our wants and feeds our logic. Even things we would dare not speak aloud can be justified if no one or only a few select people see.
This passage is not just a history lesson, but a study of human nature at its worst, revealing the form sin takes as it compounds itself in action. In our lives, what may seem like an insignificant glance, thought, or action can quickly escalate as we become callous to where it leads. How often, for example, has someone engaged in an affair without considering its devastating effect on their families? When unchecked, the consequences of sin have a ripple effect that encompasses those around us.
We must always be aware of what we are looking for because we are sure to find it. Just like these men, we are not helpless to sin, but our desires can blind us to reality at times. Paul would admonish us to expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5.11). Peter would encourage us to resist the Devil by being firm in our faith. Any time we make excuses for sin, we give Satan a place to operate (Ephesians 4.27).
BIBLE READING: Luke 20
There is something fundamentally evasive about the Jewish leadership's dealings with Jesus. When confronted with a simple question, they do not want to answer him honestly or directly (Luke 20.7). In fact, the issue they discuss amongst themselves is not the truth but appearances; what will others think of our decision? (Luke 20.5-6).
The episodes of Luke 20 provide us with a strong warning about pretense and false religion. These leaders wanted to justify their own actions, discredit the work of Jesus, and just argue their beliefs. Jesus has no desire to do any of these things (Luke 20.8).
Luke seems to highlight that it is not uncommon for those within a religious system to miss the proverbial “forest for the trees” because of preconceived ideas. The religious leaders were often blinded by their own agendas when confronting Jesus (see Luke 13.14-17; 14.1-6; 20.19). There is a power play and manipulation in this text that reveals how sin often operates not overtly but covertly. The leadership's behind-the-scenes dialogue to justify lack of public declaration is too often the case in our relationships. Honestly declaring where we stand and why is stifled by concern for how others may view us.
As always, Jesus is pushing for self-examination from believers as we process information. A key indicator of our motivation is how we deal with objective information. For example, the religious leaders had all the information they needed about John, but they weighed the options to determine which position would be most advantageous (Luke 20.4-6). I think sometimes we do the same thing in the presence of others. We guard the way we speak, or we do not clearly state what we believe because we are concerned with what others will think. Or maybe we invest ourselves in certain activities such as worship or service to others because we know that it will garner a positive response from others.
Whatever the case, we need to be aware of our motivations, especially when it comes to our public worship. Worship is about God. The tendecy of those within a religious system, and the reason Jesus needed to cleanse the temple was because the system had become the object instead of what it was designed to be: a means for the worshipper to honor God (Luke 19.46). The whole point of the law and the religious system given to Israel was to honor God (see Isaiah 58 and Malachi 1).
We would do well to remember these things as we live our lives according to what God has given to us. Our submission to what God says is good, but it is never about simply following these things as rote activities, but as a means of honoring God with our lives.
Who are you trying to please?
“Beware of those who like to walk around in fancy clothes, like greetings in public places and the best places at social gatherings… in pretense they look religious. They will receive the greater condemnation” (paraphrased from Luke 20.46-47)
BIBLE READING: Luke 18-19
It is hard to take the Bible seriously if you ignore its discussion about the end, since a significant portion of the Bible touches on eschatological themes and the promises of God. The only way for us to make sense of life today is to appreciate where the future is going. The return of Jesus is serious business, a time when God will be engaged in definitive judgment.
“But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19.27)
Jesus talks about the end in grim terms and gruesome detail to make it clear how serious an issue judgment is for God (see also Luke 17.37). Judgment means accountability. In a society that tends to view adults as accountable only to their own consciences, it is a critical reminder that God does hold us responsible for our actions. That is why Jesus, in Luke 18.8, asks if he will find faith on the earth when he returns. Those who recognize their accountability to God will go through life with discretion and foresight.
We know the gospel is a call to faithfulness; but consider the measure of faithfulness set forth in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18.1-8). Her faithfulness is marked by persistent prayer and patience. It is expressed as a hope of vindication as she bothers the judge and trusts that justice will be given to her.
The challenge in Luke 18.8 cannot be deflected from our personal reflection. Jesus is not speaking to the collective... he is looking at you! As people of God we must be marked by our constant prayer (1 Thessalonians 5.17) and actions of faith (James 2), but not simply for our personal gain. Just as with the widow, we must be intent on God’s presence to be manifested in our vindication. In other words, if our intentions are self-serving, we are missing the point!
The world is headed towards an end when many will simply engage in life without concern for God. It will be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17.28-32). This should not surprise us (2 Timothy 3.1-7), but it also should not lead us to apathy. The longer time goes on until the Lord’s return, the more relevant Jesus’ parable becomes.
Jesus’ admonition is that we pray always and do not lose heart (Luke 18.1). The judgment of God will come and those opposed to him will be destroyed. The question is, when he returns, will he find us faithful?
“…what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… according to his promise we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot of blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3.12-14, paraphrased)