The Desire to Be Great

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Reading the Word

Luke 22:24–30 (ESV)

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He was the promised one from the line of David who would reign over Israel and restore it to its place of prominence as it enjoyed during David’s life. To his disciples, this meant that they were going to receive great benefits from their close relationship with Jesus. So, naturally, the disciples argued over who was going to get the most. Who was going to be the greatest?

Jesus told the disciples that things would be different in his kingdom, in contrast to the kingdoms of the world. The world desires power and authority, but the kingdom of Christ cherishes humility and servanthood. Just as Jesus would serve his people by going to the cross and offering his life for others, Jesus’ followers should follow his example and be willing to make sacrifices in service to others. Our goal is not to be greater than others, but to point them to our great Savior.

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The Identity of the Messiah

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:41–46 (ESV)

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Parallel Texts: Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44

Understanding and Applying the Word

After receiving multiple questions from the religious leaders, Jesus asked one of his own. He quizzed the leaders about the identity of the promised Messiah. Jesus asked, “Whose son is he?” The response of the Pharisees was that the Messiah was David’s son, which was true on one level. However, Jesus went on to ask why David would call the Messiah his “Lord” if the Messiah was David’s son. Jesus quoted from Psalm 110:1 to make his point, which was a psalm written by David and speaking of the Messiah.

The reason for Jesus’ question was to point out that while the Messiah was a son of David, he was also more than that. David himself points to this truth in a psalm he wrote “in the Spirit.” That David was in the Spirit tells us that his words were Scripture and authoritative truth given by God. The Messiah would also be the Son of God. This would make him David’s Lord. Jesus is that Lord.

Many in Jesus’ day had their own idea of what the Messiah would be and what he would do. Jesus was not the Messiah they expected and he tried frequently to help the people see from the Scriptures that they were mistaken. Some heard Jesus and recognized him as the promised Messiah. Many were never able to accept that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. We must be willing to turn to the Scriptures to see what they say about this matter. Read the four Gospels with an eye on how Jesus fulfills the Messianic promises. He is the one the world has been waiting for.

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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

Zechariah 99 [widescreen]

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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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

Matthew 2028 [widescreen]

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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The One You Love Is Ill

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Reading the Word

John 11:1–16 (ESV)

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus received word that his close friend, Lazarus, was very ill. We get a sense of the closeness of the relationship from both verse three and verse five, where we read of Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters. Does it seem strange to read that Jesus stayed two more days in the place where he was before going to see Lazarus (cf. John 11:6)? Why did Jesus remain so long? Why did he not go immediately to Lazarus?

The reason for Jesus’ delay is given in this passage. Jesus told the sisters, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The illness that Lazarus was dealing with was for the purpose of glorifying God and bring glory to Jesus Christ. Jesus went on to tell the disciples that it was for their sake that he was going to wake Lazarus from his sleep (John 11:15). The faith of the disciples was going to be strengthened through the coming events.

For the believer, all of life is about bringing glory to the Lord. In sickness or health, in times of plenty or times of need, we glorify God by continuing to trust in him. We know that he is able to fulfill his plans and purposes in our lives and we know those plans are good. And we know that in the end, we have an eternal home without pain or suffering or death, so our deliverance is guaranteed because of what Jesus has done for us. He bore our sins and died in our place and then rose victorious from the grave to give us life. May we live to glorify him!

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I and the Father Are One

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Reading the Word

John 10:22–39 (ESV)

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

Understanding and Applying the Word

During the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, Jesus was confronted about his identity. He was asked to just plainly state if he was the promised Messiah. His response was that he had told them, but they simply did not want to believe what he said. Jesus went on to tell them that if they did want to believe his words, they should at least believe the works that he was doing in their midst that gave evidence that what he said was true.

The Jews were greatly offended when Jesus proclaimed that “I and the Father are one.” They immediately picked up stones to stone him when they heard those words because Jesus made himself out to be equal to God. This was blasphemous and deserving of death. As the Jews readied to stone Jesus, he explained to them that if he truly was doing the works of God then his claims were not blasphemous, but it meant that he truly was the Son of God. Once again the Jews wanted to arrest him, but he escaped them.

Jesus said many things about his identity and made great claims. He claimed to be one with the Father and the Son of God. Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath and the great I Am. He not only made bold claims, but he performed great miracles to prove what he said was true. Many believed, but many did not. We must make a decision on who Jesus is also. Was he the Lord or was he an impostor? As C. S. Lewis stated in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

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Indecision about Jesus

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Reading the Word

John 7:40–52 (ESV)

40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

There was great debate and disagreement about Jesus. Some believed he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures regarding a prophet like Moses. Some thought he was the promised Messiah. Still others believed he was just an impostor and that he did not fulfill their understanding of the Scriptures.

In the end, every person must make a decision on who Jesus is. Was he a great prophet? Was he the promised Messiah? Was he both of these and more? Or, was he just an impostor? We must decide and there is no room for indecision because if he was who he claimed to be eternity is at stake. Who is Jesus?

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Where Did Jesus Come From?

But No Man Laid Hands Upon Him

But No Man Laid Hands upon Him (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

John 7:25–36 (ESV)

25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The people were discussing the identity of Jesus. They wondered why the religious authorities sought to kill him. Could it be that Jesus was the Christ and that is why? Why did the authorities not arrest him when they had such an opportunity. After all, Jesus was there and speaking openly.

The people wondered if Jesus really could be the Christ. They thought, “But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” They also thought, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs that this man has done.” Surely Jesus had performed many miracles before the people. Who could ever produce more evidence than Jesus that he was the true Messiah and Jesus was not?

The people thought that they knew where Jesus had come from: Nazareth. They saw him as a simple man, a carpenter, and a fellow Jew. They did not recognize him as the Son of God, divine, and the Savior of the whole world. He had come from the Father and was set to return to the Father. The people thought that they knew Jesus, but their relationship with him was insufficient. They needed to come to know him as the divine Savior.

Thinking of Jesus as simply a man, even a good man, is not enough. Yes, he came into the world as a man and died as a substitute for mankind to save us from our sins. But we also must know that Jesus is the God-man, which is why he could be the sacrifice that we needed. He could live a perfect sinless life because he was perfect in every way. We can trust in him and praise his name for our great salvation. He is worthy of worship and honor and blessing because of where he came from: he is God in the flesh (John 1:1)!

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