What’s Holding You Back?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 21:12–17 (ESV)

12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“ ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Parallel Text: Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Gospel of Mark puts the events of this passage on Monday morning. Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought. We are told that he overturned their tables and chairs and would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple (cf. Mark 11:16).

Based on Jesus’ words “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers”, the issue does not seem to be that there were money changers and those selling pigeons. Money changers were there to exchange currency so those traveling could pay the temple tax with appropriate money that lacked the image of pagan leaders. Also, those who sold pigeons did so for travelers who could not bring them on their journey. Jesus’ accusation that they were “robbers” indicates that the money changers and those selling pigeons were doing so at an unfair price. They were taking advantage of the people who had come to the temple for Passover week. It had become a place of profit rather than a place of worship.

The shocking and offensive part of Jesus’ action was that he claimed authority over the temple. He was in the domain of the chief priests and religious leaders, but he did not seek them out on this. He took control and pronounced judgment on those who had corrupted the temple and all it stood for. When the religious leaders confronted him about the praise of the children, Jesus quoted from the Old Testament and informed them that the children were doing what was right while the leaders had failed.

The religious leaders resisted and failed to understand who Jesus was. Why was that? Perhaps it was because they had their own agenda and they were committed to keeping it intact. They had positions of power and financial ease and it would have been hard to let that go, so they saw Jesus as a threat rather than as the Savior. The blind, the lame, the poor, the desperate, and the children had no agenda to protect. They simply trusted in Jesus based on what he said and all that he did. What is it that might be holding you back from turning to Jesus? Is it because the cost would be too high? Know that there is nothing in this world that is of greater value than knowing and being known by Jesus, the Messiah.

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Recognizing Jesus

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Reading the Word

Luke 19:41–44 (ESV)

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, the people were excited and praised him. However, unlike the crowds, Jesus wept. Jerusalem, the city of peace, was being visited by their Messiah, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), but the religious leaders had rejected Jesus. They did not understand that salvation had come to them in the person of Jesus, God in the flesh. Peace would not be theirs, but the city would be destroyed (as it was in A.D. 70).

The rejection of Jesus by the Jewish religious leaders and many of the people is a warning to us. We must be careful that we do not fail to know Jesus for who he truly is. The religious leaders and the Jewish people had the Scriptures and had been the recipients of God’s grace for many, many years. However, when the promised Messiah showed up, the majority failed to recognize him. We can make the same mistake if we do not know what the Scriptures say. Even Jesus said that there will be many who call out to him, “Lord, Lord!”, but he will say, “I never knew you.” Make it a point to know the word of God. It is through the word that we know our Savior and the Good News of salvation through his life, death, and resurrection. Study it on your own and go to a church that makes the teaching and preaching of the word its priority.

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The King on a Donkey

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Reading the Word

Luke 19:28–40 (ESV)

28 And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover. As he drew near, he sent two of his disciples ahead to bring a young donkey to him. The disciples went into the village and found a young donkey tied up as Jesus told them they would. When they began to untie the donkey, the owners asked them what they were doing. They replied, “The Lord has need of it.” Surprisingly, and miraculously, this was all that was necessary. The owners allowed them to take the donkey to Jesus.

When Jesus received the donkey he had sent his disciples to obtain, he sat on it and rode it into Jerusalem. As he rode, the people put their cloaks on the ground in the road in front of him and began to rejoice and praise God. They were saying things like “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew tells us that the people also waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” All of this fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 concerning the promised Messiah.

When the Pharisees heard this, they called on Jesus to stop his followers. Jesus should not allow his disciples to say such things. They needed to stop! Jesus’ response was that if the crowds were silenced the stones would cry out. Praise was the appropriate thing for this occasion!

The Messiah rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, which was a symbol of peace. Jesus came not as a warrior King on a horse, but as one who brought peace. This was contrary to the expectation of what the Messiah would do. He was expected to lead the Jewish people to freedom from Rome. However, Jesus came for a greater purpose. He came to deliver the people from their sin by going to the cross as a sacrifice. In doing this, he brought the people peace with God. He was not the Messiah the people expected, but he was the Messiah that mankind needed.

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Get Rid of the Evidence

The Chief Priests Take Counsel Together

The Chief Priests Take Counsel Together (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day as we read through the life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

John 12:9–11 (ESV)

9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

How Will You Honor Christ?

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Reading the Word

John 12:1–8 (ESV)

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus prepares to for his final week, he went to Bethany where Lazarus and his sisters stayed. They were close friends of Jesus. At the dinner, Martha served while Mary took a very expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ feet to anoint them. The fact that it could have been sold for “three hundred denarii” means that it was worth about $20,000 in today’s terms. After pouring out the perfume, Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair in a show of great humility and honor to Jesus.

Judas Iscariot, who we are told was about to betray Jesus and liked to steal from the finances, complained about Mary’s wasteful display. Jesus responded to Judas’ rebuke of Mary by commending Mary for doing what was right and proper for the situation. Jesus was with them now, but that would soon change. Now was the time to honor him.

Mary’s show of love and devotion to Jesus are a wonderful example to us. She took the opportunities that were given to her (cf. Luke 10:38-42) to honor Christ, knowing that those opportunities were limited and would eventually come to and end. We must do the same. We must serve and honor the Lord in all that we do, knowing that one day we will no longer have the opportunity. One day our lives will end and we will stand before our Savior. May the way we lived in this world reflect our love and devotion to him as a witness to others and as our worship of our Lord.

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Let Our Eyes Be Opened

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Reading the Word

Matthew 20:29–34 (ESV)

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus left Jericho and we are told that a large crowd followed him. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for Passover, which is probably why there was a large crowd along the way. As he went, two blind men along the roadside called out to Jesus to heal them. They addressed Jesus as “Son of David”, which is a Messianic title. Though blind, they recognized Jesus, which was something that many others failed to do.

The blind men may not have had their physical sight, but their spiritual eyes were open. They recognized Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah and they were ready and willing to shout it out to the crowds. The crowds, on the other hand, had their physical sight, but many were spiritually blind. They followed Jesus, but failed to recognize him for who he truly was.

Today, many speak nice things about Jesus. Some may say he was a good man or he was a good teacher. Many admire Jesus’ teaching on love for others and the fact that he has had such a lasting influence on the world. However, if that is all we see, we are spiritually blind. Yes, Jesus taught many good things, but he was more than just a good teacher. Jesus was the promised Messiah. He was the Son of God. He was the one who came to save mankind from our sins and give eternal life to all who believe in him. Let us call out to Jesus and ask him to open our eyes that we might see him for who he truly is!

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Called to Serve

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Reading the Word

Matthew 20:20–28 (ESV)

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Parallel Text: Mark 10:35-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

The mother of the sons of Zebedee (i.e. James and John) asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit at his right hand and his left hand in his kingdom. She desired what any mother would desire for her children: success. She believed Jesus to be the Messiah, though she misunderstood what was about to happen to Jesus. This is why Jesus responded, “You do not know what you are asking.” The other disciples were not happy to hear about this inquiry. They were likely wanting the same thing for themselves.

Jesus addressed the mindset of the disciples by explaining that ruling over others is not the way of his kingdom. The greatest in his kingdom are those who serve. Jesus, the Messiah, came not to be served, but to serve. He even went to the cross as a sacrifice for others. Those who belong to Jesus are called to give their lives for others.

Putting others first is not easy and it goes against everything the world teaches us. Let us be thankful that Jesus put us first and then let us look to serve those who the Lord has brought into our lives. Let us serve them by praying for them, loving them, and sharing the Good News of our Savior.

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Trouble Ahead

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Reading the Word

John 11:54–57 (ESV)

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus knew of the plot to kill him, so he he withdrew to Ephraim along with his disciples. Shortly after raising Lazarus, it was time for Passover. This Passover would be the one that all other Passovers had pointed to. The Lamb of God would be sacrificed to deliver the people of God from their sins. During this time, many Jews would travel to Jerusalem for the holiday and the population would go from around 70,000 to nearly 250,000.

As the people spent the week leading up to Passover in Jerusalem, many were wondering what Jesus would do. Would he dare show up? Would he stay away to avoid trouble? The religious leaders had put out word that if anyone saw Jesus, they should let the leaders know. They wanted to seize him when the opportunity presented itself.

This Passover would be the most important one in history. It would be the one that all of the others had looked forward to in anticipation of fulfillment. The true Lamb of God was about to be sacrificed for the sins of the people, which would bring eternal deliverance and life in a new world. Jesus would soon enter Jerusalem for the final time on his way to the cross where he would lay down his life for all who will believe. Have you ever stopped to consider why he would do this? It was all because of his love for you and me. That is an amazing thing!

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The Desire to Kill Jesus

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Reading the Word

John 11:45–53 (ESV)

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When the people saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the grave, many believed in him. When the religious leaders heard about Lazarus, they did not attempt to deny the legitimacy of the miracle. There was really no way for them to do that. Instead, they determined to put Jesus to death because they feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” The religious leaders feared that they would lose their power and influence over the Jewish people and their standing in the eyes of the Roman government. They wanted to keep things the way they were because it benefited them to do so. Jesus had to go.

Caiaphas, the high priest, commented that it would be better for one man (i.e. Jesus) to die for the people than for the whole nation to perish. Little did Caiaphas know that his words were prophetic and that Jesus would die for the people. The religious leaders conspired and sent Jesus to the cross where he died as a sacrifice for all of mankind. Through his death, Jesus saved all who will believe in him. He died so that many would live.

Since his arrival on this earth, Jesus has been a polarizing figure. People tend to either see Jesus as the Savior of the world or the biggest problem with the world. Some think the best thing for this world would be a turn to Christ in faith and obedience, while others think the best thing for our world would be to rid ourselves of Jesus, his teachings, and his followers. Some worship. Others scoff. The reason that Jesus will not go away is because of the testimony we have about the things he did while on this earth. Jesus healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, turned water into wine, calmed the storms, walked on water, raised a man who was in the grave for four days, and then rose from his own grave after being crucified on a cross. Such a man cannot simply be dismissed. We owe it to ourselves to look into these things. If these things are true, how can we do anything other than believe?

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Power Over the Grave

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Reading the Word

John 11:38–44 (ESV)

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus arrived on the scene. When he arrived at the tomb, Jesus gave instruction to move the stone away from the entrance of the cave. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, was concerned about this idea. After all, four days was enough time for decomposition to begin and the smell would be terrible. Jesus was undeterred and they removed the stone. After a short prayer, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb. To the amazement of everyone, Lazarus came forward still wrapped in his burial cloths, which Jesus gave instructions to remove.

What a shock this must have been for all! Perhaps you have witnessed or heard of someone being saved through CPR or an emergency surgery, but who can bring someone back from the dead after four days? Only someone with great power could do such a thing. Only someone with power over life and death could do such a thing. Jesus, the Son of God, once again proved that he was exactly who he claimed he was and his promise to give eternal life to all who believe in him were not just empty words. He has the power and the authority to do all he said. Do you believe?

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