The Words of Jesus

John

Reading the Word

John 12:44–50 (ESV)

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The word of God cuts two ways. For some, the word brings salvation and life. These are the people who hear the word and trust in it. They believe Jesus is the Savior of mankind and place their faith in his atoning sacrifice. They demonstrate this faith through obedience to God’s word.

On the other hand, the word of God also brings judgment and condemnation for some. Jesus warns in today’s passage that the Father will hold accountable those who reject Jesus and his message. Jesus came to bring light into a dark world. His message was that all have sinned and must repent and trust in Christ for salvation. To reject Jesus is to reject the message given from the Father.

We must never treat Jesus and his words as merely interesting sayings. He was not a philosophical guru. Yes, he said many wise things that were, and still are, challenging. The most challenging and the most important teaching of Jesus is that he is the eternal Son of God who speaks with the authority of God and came to bring salvation to a lost world. To reject Jesus is to reject the word of God and the only means of forgiveness and salvation. We must weigh the words of Jesus carefully.

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Sooner than Expected

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Reading the Word

Matthew 24:45–51 (ESV)

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Matthew 24-25 make up what is commonly referred to as the Olivet Discourse. In these chapters, Jesus gives us his most lengthy teaching on the end times. In the verses we have looked at so far, Jesus has emphasized that the timing of the end is to remain unknown to us, but we must be ready at all times by living holy lives and preaching the gospel to the world.

In today’s reading, Jesus changes his teaching method. He begins using parables to teach his disciples. Today’s parable is about a servant who is left in charge of his master’s household while the master goes away. While the master is away, the servant is unfaithful in his duties and even beats the other servants because he thinks that the master is going to be gone a long time. However, the master returned sooner than expected and saw what the wicked servant was doing. The servant was cut “in pieces and put with the hypocrites.”

This parable reinforces what Jesus has been teaching all along. We do not know the timing of our Lord’s return and we must be ready for him to come at any moment. He may come sooner than we expect. Will he find us being faithful to our task or will he find us unfaithful like the wicked servant? The one who truly belongs to Christ will remain faithful to his Master, while the unfaithful will be judged. We must not wait until later to serve the Lord. Later may never come.

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Are You Ready?

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Reading the Word

Luke 17:22–37 (ESV)

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his disciples that a day was coming when he would not be with them, but they would long to see him again. However, he warns them not to believe false teachers who claim that Jesus had returned in a secret or hidden way. His return will be known and visible to all, just as lightning that lights up the sky.

Jesus’ return will be open and known, but it will come suddenly and unexpectedly. Just as in Noah’s day before the floods came, the people of the earth were living life as usual and suddenly they were swept away. In Lot’s day, they were going about their normal lives until fire and sulfur destroyed them all. At Jesus’ return, it will catch many unprepared. Two will be in bed. One will be taken and one left. Two will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left.

The point of Jesus’ teaching here is to teach us that we must be prepared for Jesus’ return. He could return at any moment and when he does, some will be ready and others will not. We ready ourselves by repenting of our sin and trusting in Jesus Christ, the one who died as a sacrifice for sin and rose again victorious over death. When we repent and trust in Jesus our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled to God by grace, and we are promised eternal life in the presence of our Lord and gathered with the people of God.

Are you ready? What if Jesus returned today?

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The Shrewd Use of Possessions

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Reading the Word

Luke 16:1–9 (ESV)

1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a parable that lends itself to some debate. A manager is discovered mismanaging his master’s possessions. When this happens, the manager quickly goes to his master’s debtors and forgives portions of their debt. He does this to get into the good graces of others so he will have a better chance of employment when he loses his current position. When the master found out about this, he commended the manager for his shrewdness.

The parable poses difficulty because it is strange to us why the master would commend the manager for what he did. After all, he cost the master profit. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this is a parable and the details do not have to reflect what we would expect in real life. The story is meant to teach a specific lesson and the details point to that lesson. Also, the master does not commend the manager for his actions, but for his shrewdness. The manager acted in such a way to look out for his future. The master recognized this forward-looking behavior and acknowledged it.

Jesus finished the parable by telling his disciples that they too needed to be shrewd in how they used “unrighteous wealth”. Possessions have a way of being used for our own self interests and pulling us away from the most important things in life. Instead, we should be always looking to the future in our use of wealth and possessions, knowing that one day we will give an account before the Lord in how we have used these things for the glory of God and his kingdom. How can we use our possessions shrewdly for the Lord?

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The King’s Feast

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:1–14 (ESV)

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s passage shares some similarities with yesterday’s reading from Luke 14:15-24. Both parables speak of a host inviting guests to a celebration and both describe guests who are unwilling to come. In Luke, the reason some declined their invitation was because they had misplaced priorities. In Matthew, the rejections are much more aggressive, even resulting in the death of some of the king’s servants. In response, the king sent his armies to destroy the murderers and also invited others to fill his wedding feast. The king’s orders to gather other guests included both the “good and the bad.” This may be a reference to God’s kingdom invitation to both sinner and religious leader. At the feast, the king notices someone not dressed in proper attire and has him removed from the party.

This parable, as in Luke, deals with God’s invitation to mankind to enter into his kingdom. Matthew’s parable teaches us those who reject the Lord’s invitation do so in rebellion and will be judged for their response to the gospel. We also learn that entrance into the kingdom is on God’s terms, not our own. We must be in the proper attire.

God, in his love and grace, has invited us all to be a part of his kingdom. There is one, and only one, way we can do that. We must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, believing that his sacrificial death paid the price for our sins and that his resurrection is the assurance that we have eternal life through him. What will you do with God’s invitation?

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Fruitless Trees

The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree

The Vinedresser and the Fig Tree (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 13:6–9 (ESV)

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, Jesus taught about the need for repentance. In this parable, he continues with this theme with the example of a fig tree. In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree was often used to speak of one who was living a godly life (cf. Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7-8). A fig tree that was already three years old should have been producing fruit. Since it was not, it was time to cut it down. However, the vinedresser asked to give the tree one more year. The tree would get all it needed to produce. If it still did not, then the tree could be cut down.

The parable’s message is that God is patient towards us as he waits for us to produce the fruit of repentance. However, there is a time when that patience will end and judgment will come. We must produce fruit today while we still have opportunity. John the Baptist taught this lesson earlier in Luke 3:7-9 where he said, “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Jesus came preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (cf. Matthew 4:17)!” If you have not done so, will you today?

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Settle Your Debt Today

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:57–59 (ESV)

57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Getting entangled in a legal battle can be a costly affair. This is why it is best to settle matters before they go to court. It is of great benefit to work things out between the parties rather than allow a judge to make the decision, who may even sentence an offender to prison.

In the same way, it is better to settle matters with God before standing before him as Judge. Jesus’ message was that sinners can be reconciled to God through repentance and faith in Jesus and his teachings. Those who repent and believe are pardoned of their sins. Those who do not believe will stand before God and be judged. The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and that the punishment for sin is eternal separation from God in a place called hell.

So, we are given two options: We can settle our sin problem now by trusting in Christ. Or, we can stand before God later and be judged for our sin. It is much better to repent and turn to Christ now.

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Who Do You Serve?

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:41–48 (ESV)

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Peter wondered if Jesus’ former words (cf. Luke 12:1-40) regarding coveting and readiness were meant for all people or for “us.” By “us”, Peter is most likely referring to the disciples and their roles as leaders. Jesus’ response tells us what he expects of all of his followers; those is leadership and those who are not.

In his response, Jesus uses an illustration of a master who goes away and leaves a servant in charge. To leave a slave in charge while away was quite common practice. However, while the master was away, the servant left in charge beats the other slaves left in his care because he does not think the master will return very soon and he is not concerned with fulfilling his master’s desires. To the servant’s surprise, the master returns unexpectedly and learns what has been taking place. The result is sever punishment. Jesus says this is what it will be like for those who are entrusted with leadership over his people.

Jesus went on to say what it will be like for the other servants who are not in leadership roles. They too will give an account for their service. Those who knew their responsibility and refused to do it will receive a severe beating, while those who did not know and failed to do what was expected will also be punished, but less severely. What does this mean? Those who have been given much will have greater expectations. Those who have been placed in leadership, those who have greater understanding, and those who have been given greater opportunities and resources, will be judged by what they have done with what they have received. Those who have received less will also be judged, but the expectations will be less.

In the end, we must realize that we will all stand before our Lord and we will give an account of what we have done with all he has given us. What have we done with our time, our money, our possessions, our intellect, etc. Have we made the proclamation of the gospel our top priority? Have we fulfilled our leadership roles as those who are stewards of God’s people? Have we sought to spend our lives in the service of our Master so that he will be pleased when he returns to inspect our work? How are we living our lives? Who are we serving?

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Stay Ready

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:37–40 (ESV)

37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We must be ready at all times. Our Lord will return one day and we must not be caught unprepared. When he comes, those who have remained awake (i.e. those who are ready) will be rewarded for their service. He may come later than we expect, but we must remain diligent. We must be like a homeowner who is aware of a thief coming to break into his house. The homeowner would be ready when the thief came. So, we too know that the Lord will return and we must be ready.

Being ready is not a call for us to try to figure out the timing of Jesus’ return. It is a call for us to spend our lives in service to our Lord. Jesus began this chapter speaking about possessions and coveting. It is no accident that we are now reading about Jesus’ return. The two topics go hand-in-hand. When we have a proper understanding of the Lord’s return and when we focus our lives on what is truly important, coveting becomes less of an issue for us. Earthly possessions become less important when we consider them in the light of eternity. Our focus must always be on Jesus’ return and our service to him until that day. When our focus is on Christ our hearts turn to what truly matters.

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Ready for Christ’s Return

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:35–36 (ESV)

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus followed his teaching on possessions by telling his disciples that they must “stay dressed for action” and “keep your lamps burning.” Christ’s followers understand that there will be a day when he returns and mankind will be judged. Knowing this should affect how we live our lives today. We must live in such a way that we are ready to stand before the Lord when he returns.

The phrase “stay dressed for action” is literally “let your loins stay girded.” The imagery is of a man who has his long robe tucked into his belt so he is able to run. We must be ready at a moment’s notice. Jesus compares our readiness to that of servants waiting for their king to return from a wedding feast. The servants must be ready to serve with lamps burning to light the way no matter what time of the day or night the king returns. Servants who prove to be unready and unprepared are of no service to their king.

Scripture tells us that our Lord will one day return. We are not told when, but we are told to be ready. Being ready does not mean we should be trying to figure out when Jesus will return. It means that we live each day for Christ and place his plans and purposes as the priorities of our lives. Would you be found ready if Jesus came today? If not, what needs to change?

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