Questioning Jesus

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Reading the Word

Matthew 21:23–27 (ESV)

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Parallel Texts: Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8

Understanding and Applying the Word

The last time Jesus was in the temple he had driven out the money changers and those selling pigeons. So when Jesus returned, the chief priests and elders were quick to confront him. Who did Jesus think he was? Who gave him the authority to do the things he was doing? After all, the temple was under the authority of the priests.

When Jesus heard their questions, he responded with a question of his own. He asked the priests and elders, “The baptism of John, from where did it come? From Heaven or man?” The priests and elders refused to answer this question because no matter how they would have answered it, they would have been in a difficult situation. On the one hand, they would admit that John acted on behalf of heaven (i.e. God), which means they should have listened to him. On the other hand, they would deny that John was a prophet and anger the people who believed John. Since the leaders would not answer Jesus, he refused to answer them.

If the priests and elders had been willing to acknowledge the source of John’s authority, they would have also known the source of Jesus’. John’s entire ministry emphasized that Jesus would come and he would be greater than John. The leaders were unwilling to see this even after all they had witnessed through John and also through Jesus. They had heard the teaching, witnessed or heard about the miracles, but they refused to believe. Their hearts were hardened to the truth.

Today, many have hardened their hearts towards Jesus in much the same way. Many refuse to see Jesus for who he is because they do not want to, regardless of the truth that is available. What should we do? We must continue to share the gospel and pray that the Lord would soften their hearts and open their eyes.

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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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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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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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They Understood None of These Things

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Reading the Word

Luke 18:31–34 (ESV)

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, Jesus predicted his death for the third time (cf. Luke 9:22 and Luke 9:43-45). In this third occurrence, Jesus also tells the disciples of his resurrection. However, they did not understand what he was telling them. It was hidden from them. It would not be until after the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection that the disciples would understand how Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures concerning the Messiah.

It can be easy for us to think poorly of the disciples, wondering why they seemed to miss it so often. Why did things seem to go right over their heads? It is easy for us who have the completed Scriptures and the ability to read the entire story to understand Jesus’ ministry. We understand that he entered the world and lived a sinless life so he could go to the cross as a sacrifice for sin. We understand that this had to happen if mankind was going to be saved. And we understand that the resurrection was essential if sin and death were to be defeated and if we were going to have hope.

The disciples did not have what we have today. They did not have the completed Bible. They were living in the middle of the events and they were trying to make sense of it all. It would take hindsight and Jesus explaining the events for them to understand (cf. Luke 24:13-35). Let us not take for granted the blessing we have in having the completed word of God available to us so easily, which teaches us about our Savior and the importance of all he said and did.

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Division over Jesus

John 11 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 10:19–21 (ESV)

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again the people were divided over Jesus. Some believed he was demon-possessed and that he was insane because of the things he was saying. This was not the first time he was accused of being possessed (cf. John 7:20 and 8:48). Others questioned how Jesus could teach such things and work great wonders if he was under the influence of a demon. Demons did not have such power. He must be from God.

John’s Gospel was written to give us the evidence of who Jesus was. He was God incarnate (cf. John 1:1, 14; John 20:30-31). As we examine this Gospel, we are not only presented with the evidence for Jesus, but also told of the reasons some resisted him. However, as in these verses, the reasons for doubt quickly fall away when the evidence is examined more closely. “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” Take the time to read the four Gospels, especially John. Ask yourself, given all that is recorded for us, who is Jesus?

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I Was Blind, Now I See

John 925 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 9:13–34 (ESV)

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees interrogated the blind man whom Jesus healed and the blind man’s parents. How was he healed? Was he really blind? Who is Jesus that he could do such a thing? The religious leaders were witness to all of Jesus’ signs and wonders, yet they refused to acknowledge who he was. They sought instead to condemn him. The blind man (now healed) and his parents simply accepted that Jesus was from God. How else could he do such wonderful things. When the Pharisees reached their full frustration, they kicked the healed man out of their midst.

For some, truth is not really what they are after. Some will question, argue, and debate with no intention of actually engaging in a search for the truth. In fact, no amount of truth will matter because their minds are already made up. This was the case with the religious leaders who wanted Jesus killed. It is the case with many today who spend time arguing over Jesus. Their minds are made up and no amount of discussion will ever be enough.

So what are we to do? As the man who had his sight restored, we must simply tell the truth that we know: we once were blind, but now we see. Through Jesus, we have had our eyes opened. We have been born again. Whatever the Pharisees thought of Jesus, they could not deny that the blind man could now see. Whatever people may think of Jesus today, they should see that his followers are changed people because of his powerful work in our lives.

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The Great I Am

Exodus 314 [widescreen]

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

Reading the Word

John 8:48–59 (ESV)

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

You Will Die in Your Sin

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Reading the Word

John 8:21–30 (ESV)

21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this dialogue with the Jewish leaders (cf. John 8:13), Jesus got right to the point with the Pharisees. If they did not believe in him, they would die in their sins. The Pharisees had continually sparred with Jesus and refused to accept him as the Messiah. Now Jesus warns them that if they continue to reject him, they would not be able to go where he was going (i.e. to the Father). As a result of Jesus’ pointed warning, some did respond in belief (cf. John 8:30).

Jesus and the entire New Testament teach us that we are all condemned because we are all sinners. Jesus came into the word to save us from our sin and the punishment we deserve, which is eternal separation from the holy God who created us. Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice for our sins and all who trust in Jesus’ sacrificial work on their behalf will be saved. However, those who do not trust in Jesus will die in their sins and will not be saved. Those people will not spend eternity in the presence of God.

Take this as a strong warning. Trust in Jesus Christ today and find forgiveness and salvation in his name.

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The Light of the World

Thanks for reading Shaped by the Word. I am at a conference this week and unable to post devotional content. I am still posting a suggested Scripture reading each day. My regular posts should resume tomorrow (Thursday).

John 8:12-20 (ESV)

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.