A Greater Hope in Christ

Weathered Cross Title

Reading the Word

Mark 9:30–32 (ESV)

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 17:22-23; Luke 9:43-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was spending time with his disciples and trying to stay away from the crowds because he wanted time to teach his disciples and prepare them for the days ahead. Jesus had already told them that he was going to die (Mark 8:31), but the disciples continued to miss this. Luke’s account tells us that this teaching was concealed from them, indicating that God’s sovereign purposes were in action.

Jesus not only told the disciples of his coming death, but also of the resurrection. The point in telling the disciples these things is so they would know that these things happened in accord with God’s plans and purposes and so they would be encouraged when the events transpired. However, they did not understand and were afraid to ask Jesus to clarify.

For Jesus to say that he was going to die seemed to go against everything that the disciples understood about the Messiah. In their understanding, the Messiah was going to come and set up a political kingdom and reign over a restored Israel. How could Jesus do that if he was dead? Jesus’ death would mean the end of their hopes.

In reality, the death and resurrection of Jesus is precisely the thing that brings true hope to mankind. His death was the payment for our sin and his resurrection assures us that sin and death have been conquered and that Jesus truly is who he claimed to be: the Son of God. This means that his promise of eternal life to all who trust in him is for real. Have you trusted in the risen Son of God?

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Help My Unbelief!

Mark 924 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:14–20 (ESV)

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today, we read of Jesus healing a demon-possessed boy. The boy’s father went to Jesus because his son’s symptoms were very violent and because Jesus’ disciples were unable to drive out the demon.

The accounts written in Matthew and in Mark seem to give different reasons for why the disciples were not able to effectively handle the demon. In Matthew, Jesus says the problem was the disciples had “little faith” and that if they had the faith of a mustard seed they would be able to move mountains. In Mark, Jesus tells the disciples that the only way to drive out a demon of this nature is through prayer. So, which is it? Why are there seemingly different reasons given by Jesus?

At first glance, Matthew and Mark may seem to be at odds, but when we better understand them both, we see that they are, in fact, in agreement. In Matthew, we must understand that Jesus is not speaking about the disciples ability to muster a certain quantity of faith. Consider the words from David Turner in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Matthew and Mark:

The issue is not the intensity or amount of faith but the degree to which that faith perceives its object. The power of faith is in the person in whom it is placed. Jesus’ disciples were unable to heal the epileptic boy because they had taken their eyes off of Jesus and looked at the obstacles, just as Peter did during the storm when he began to sink (14:31). Faith is not believing in faith but in the heavenly Father.

When we consider this understanding with Jesus’ comment on prayer in Mark 9:29, we see how the two accounts compliment each other. The disciples’ faith had failed because their eyes were not on Jesus and this is evidenced by their lack of prayer and trust in God.

Prayer tells us a great deal about our faith. Are we trusting in ourselves and our own strength and abilities or are we trusting in God and his plans and purposes? How does your prayer life reflect where your faith truly lies?

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The Son of Man Will Suffer

backlit cemetery christianity clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:9–13 (ESV)

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Parallel Text: Mark 9:11-13

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the Transfiguration, Jesus tells the disciples not to say anything about what they witnessed until after he is raised from the dead. Of course, they obviously did not fully understand what he meant by this because the resurrection will be an unexpected surprise when it happens.

The disciples did take an opportunity to ask Jesus a question regarding prophecy and the coming of the Messiah. The scribes, the teachers of the Old Testament to the people, had taught that Elijah must come before the Messiah. If this is true, where is Elijah? How can Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah has not come? This understanding comes from Malachi 4:4-5 and Isaiah 40:3.

Jesus responded that Elijah had indeed come. John the Baptist was the one who fulfilled the prophecy. It was not that Elijah himself was going to return, but one who would come in the spirit of Elijah (cf. Luke 1:17 and John 1:21). John appeared as a forerunner of Jesus to prepare the way for Christ’s ministry to the people.

John the Baptist not only served to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry, but he also served as an example of how Jesus would be received. John was rejected, imprisoned, and later beheaded for his ministry. Likewise, Jesus too was rejected, arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified. And Jesus tells all of his followers that if the world rejected him, it will also reject his disciples:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)

Lord, grant us the strength and grace to serve you each day as we live in this world as your people. Amen.

 

This Is My Beloved Son

Matthew 175 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:1–8 (ESV)

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Parallel Texts: Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read here that Jesus went into a high mountain and took three of his disciples with him. Peter, James, and John seemed to make up an inner circle within the twelve who Jesus took along at times when the entire group was not present. In this passage, we read that Jesus was transfigured as the three looked on. Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Jesus and a voice from heaven called out, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Peter, not really knowing how to respond to this event, asked if he should make tents (or booths) for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. When the three disciples heard the voice from heaven, they fell to the ground terrified. Jesus then assured them that they had no reason to fear, so they got up and they were alone again with Jesus.

This event is commonly referred to as the Transfiguration. The word “transfigure” is translated from the Greek word metamorphoo, which is the word we get metamorphosis from. Jesus was changed before their eyes. The disciples caught a glimpse of the glory of Jesus as his face “shone like the sun” and his clothes “became white as light.” Moses and Elijah’s appearance represented the law and the prophets of the Old Testament and pointed to Jesus’ fulfillment of the Scriptures. Through this the disciples received confirmation that Jesus was indeed the Messiah in fulfillment of the Scriptures and that they should trust him and obey him.

All of the Bible points us to Jesus Christ. The Old Testament points to his future coming, while the New Testament tells us of his advent and also points us ahead to his eventual return. All that we find recorded in Scripture is to assure us that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that we can trust in him for salvation and eternal life. God tells us through his written word, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!”

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Take Up Your Cross

Luke 923 [widescreen]

Thanks for reading Shaped by the Word. This is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day as we read God’s word together. We are currently reading through the life of Jesus.

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:24–28 (ESV)

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:34-9:1; Luke 9:23-27

Set Your Mind on the Things of God

Get Thee Behind Me Satan

Get Thee behind Me Satan (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:21–23 (ESV)

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Parallel Text: Mark 8:31-33

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah that the Jewish people had been waiting for in the previous verses (see yesterday’s post), Jesus began to teach the disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and be killed. This was surprising news to Jesus’ followers because this is not what they expected when the Messiah came. They expected he would establish the nation of Israel as a great power, throw off the bonds of Rome, and restore Israel to a place of prominence like it enjoyed under the reign of King David. How could Jesus, the Messiah, need to go to Jerusalem to die?

When Peter heard these words from Jesus, he spoke up and declared that this would never happen to Jesus! Peter surely believed he would defend and protect Jesus from such a thing. He must have been quite surprised at Jesus’ words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Why did Jesus respond to Peter in this manner?

Jesus’ words to Peter were pointed, but they were designed to drive home a point to Peter and the disciples. Jesus wanted them to understand that submission to the plans and purposes of God is the most important thing, even if it means death. Peter was only concerned with the fulfillment of his personal desires. Jesus was concerned with doing the will of the Father. God was bringing salvation to mankind through the suffering and death of Jesus.

Are we ready and willing to submit to the will of God in our own lives? What if that means we have to move out of our comfort zones? What if it means suffering? What if it means loss of freedom or even loss of life? Do we trust in the plans and purposes of God enough to lay aside our own desires for his?

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Who Is Jesus?

Matthew 1616 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:13–20 (ESV)

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

Who is Jesus? That’s an important question and it’s the question Jesus put to his disciples. First, he asked the disciples what the people were saying about him. It seems that the people were convinced Jesus was some sort of prophet, but they were unsure of exactly which prophet. Perhaps he was one of the great prophets from the Old Testament come back to life?

After Jesus’ initial question about what the people were saying, he asked his disciples who they thought Jesus was. Peter replied, “You are the Christ (i.e. Messiah), the Son of the living God.” With this statement, Peter affirmed his belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah from the line of David who would deliver and save his people. Jesus responded to Peter by calling him “blessed” because no person (i.e. flesh and blood) had revealed this truth to Peter, it had been revealed by God. This truly was a divine blessing!

Today, every person must answer the same question posed to the disciples. Who is Jesus? There are many responses to this question. Some say Jesus was a great teacher, others say he was simply a man that legend has inflated through the years, and still others try to say he did not exist at all (even the overwhelming majority of secular scholars admit that Jesus really existed). However, there are some today that echo the words of Peter. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He came to save his people and deliver them and he did just that by going to a cross and dying as a sacrifice for sins. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day authenticated who he was and his life, death, and resurrection give hope to all who recognize him and trust in his name.

We are entering into the Easter season over the next two weeks where Christians remember the death of Jesus on the cross and celebrate his resurrection. There is no better time than now to ask this question: Who do you say Jesus is? It is the most important question you will ever answer. You owe it to yourself to seek out the answer and pray that God would open your eyes to the truth.

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Beware of False Teaching

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Reading the Word

Matthew 16:5–12 (ESV)

5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:14-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign and he refused, Jesus and the disciples departed by boat (Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13). When the boat landed, the disciples realized that they had forgotten to bring bread to eat. Jesus, knowing the disciples were worried about bread, used it as an opportunity to teach. He warned them about the “leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Leaven is yeast, which is a key ingredient in bread. It causes bread to rise and is often used as a symbol for evil in the Bible. The disciples did not understand Jesus’ lesson at first, but were stuck on literal yeast and bread. Jesus had to tell them that he was not talking about actual bread, but speaking figuratively (verse 11). The disciples then realized Jesus was speaking about the things that the Pharisees and Sadducees taught. Like yeast, the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees had permeated all of Jewish society and had led many people astray. Jesus warned his followers not to be taken in by such teaching.

As we reflect on Jesus’ words, we must realize that false teaching is dangerous. It can lead people away from the true gospel. When someone teaches something contrary to the central doctrines of the Christian faith it is a serious matter and should be addressed rather than ignored. Far too often, undiscerning Christians fall prey to teachers who twist Scripture and sprinkle just enough truth into their teachings to sound believable. This is why it is so important to learn doctrine and theology and why belonging to a church that is committed to the teaching and preaching of Scripture is vital to a healthy Christian life. If you hear something that sounds wrong, look into it and be sure to attend a good church.

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An Evil Generation Seeks a Sign

Empty Tomb

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:1–4 (ESV)

1 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

Parallel Text: Mark 8:10-12

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees and Sadducees were not friends. They were at odds with each other over religious disputes. However, they agreed on one thing: they did not like Jesus! He had come and undermined all of their authority by teaching things that went against their own teaching. So, in order to put Jesus in his place, they came to ask for a sign from heaven. Such a sign would validate that Jesus had the authority to say the things he was saying. How many signs did they need? Jesus had been performing many. The crowds were certainly aware of them!

Jesus’ response to the religious leaders was that he would not perform a sign for them. The only sign they would receive would be “the sign of Jonah.” Jesus had said the same thing earlier in Matthew 12:40, where he also gave more information about what he meant by this statement. There he said:

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)

So, Jesus was referring to his death and resurrection as the sign that all people would receive.

Think about this: Jesus died and rose from the dead! What other sign is needed? In his resurrection, Jesus showed that he is who he claimed to be and he has the authority he claimed to have. He has the power to grant eternal life to all who believe and the authority to judge sin. Those who seek further signs do so out of hardness of heart. We have been given the greatest sign that could be given: a risen Lord!

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Jesus Had Compassion for the Crowd

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Reading the Word

Mark 8:1–10 (ESV)

1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

Parallel Text: Matthew 15:32-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again we read an account of Jesus feeding a large crowd. The first was a crowd of five thousand men plus women and children. This time we have four thousand. Matthew’s account tells us it was also four thousand men plus women and children. It is interesting to note the response of the disciples when they were told by Jesus to feed the people. Even after witnessing the first feeding, they still did not know how they were going to feed such a large crowd with so little food!

Of particular interest, though, is the motivation Jesus had for feeding the crowd. We often put on special events or free meals in our churches with the hopes that they will draw larger crowds. This gives us the opportunity to communicate with people we would otherwise have no opportunity to speak to. This was not Jesus’ motivation. He was not hoping to draw a greater crowd to hear him preach. We read that he was moved with compassion for the crowd. He cared about the people and desired to meet their need of food. He simply cared.

As believers, we do well to desire to share the Good News with people and to look for opportunities to do that. Special events and dinners are good things. However, we must first care about the people we desire to reach. Otherwise, our motivation is simply to draw a bigger crowd. We must be careful not to get caught up in chasing numbers. Let us seek to minister to others because we care about them and let us point them to Jesus because he is the source of true life and joy.

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