He Cannot Save Himself

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Reading the Word

Matthew 27:33–44 (ESV)

33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Parallel Texts: Mark 15:22-32; Luke 23:33-38

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus hung on the cross, the mocking and verbal abuse continued. The religious leaders were offended that Pilate had placed a sign above Jesus that read “King of the Jews.” However, Pilate would not remove or change it. Instead, many made fun of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah by telling him to “come down from the cross” with a promise to believe if he did so.

The religious leaders mocked because they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God. But they were wrong. Jesus was who he claimed to be. He could not come down from the cross because his death was needed to bring salvation to the world. However, in just a couple of days, he was going to do something greater than coming down from the cross. Jesus was going to rise from the grave. Yet, even with the miracle of the resurrection, many would refuse to believe.

Jesus made many grand claims while he was on this earth. He claimed to be the Messiah and the Son of God. Such claims are difficult to believe, but the resurrection is the evidence of the truth of his claims. However, even with this evidence, many continue to reject Jesus. Why? Because if he is who he claimed to be, then our lives can never be the same. Our sin must be dealt with. We must repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

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The Difference a Few Days Can Make

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Reading the Word

John 16:16–22 (ESV)

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his disciples of his coming death and resurrection, but they did not understand him. He told them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” They would not see him because he would be dead and buried. However, they would see him again as he would be resurrected on the third day. The disciples would weep over Jesus’ death while the world celebrated that he was gone, but the disciples would experience great joy when they saw him alive again!

Imagine the emotional roller coaster that the disciples experienced when Jesus was first crucified and buried, but then rose from the dead. At his crucifixion, the disciples would have felt that the time they had spent with Jesus was all for nothing. They thought he was the promised Messiah, but now he was dead and nothing had changed. Then, when they saw him alive again, there would have been great joy and final confirmation that Jesus was who he had claimed to be.

The disciples were so emboldened by the resurrection that they went into the world telling everyone about it. They proclaimed the name of Jesus at the cost of beatings, imprisonments, and death. Why were they so driven and willing to die? Because they knew that Jesus had changed the world. He had made forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God possible. They had to preach this news! It was too important to keep quiet. We too should be emboldened because our Savior is risen! Christ has come and his life, death, and resurrection have changed everything. The news is too good to stay quiet.

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Life for All through Death

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Reading the Word

John 12:20–26 (ESV)

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In John 12:19, the religious leaders state the need to get rid of Jesus because the “whole world has gone after him.” In the very next verse, we read that there were some Greeks who had come to worship and wanted to see Jesus. By telling us they were Greeks, John informs us that these visitors were Gentile converts, likely converted because of what they had heard from or about Jesus. The whole world truly was going after him!

Word reached Jesus that the visitors wanted to see him. It may seem that Jesus’ response had nothing to do with his Greek visitors, but his response is actually very fitting. He spoke of his coming death and resurrection by using the illustration of a grain of wheat. It is through the death and resurrection of Christ that all believers find salvation and eternal life in the presence of the Lord. This is true for everyone, both Jew and Greek. So, when this group came seeking Jesus, his response was to tell them how to find life. It would come through what was about to take place over the next several days.

For all people, salvation comes through the One who lived a perfect, sinless life and gave himself as a sacrifice. He was crucified and placed in a tomb, but death did not hold him. He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death and now gives life to all who will turn in repentance and faith. Jesus had to die and be resurrected so that we could have life through him.

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Marriage in Heaven?

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:23–33 (ESV)

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Parallel Texts: Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Sadducees were religious leaders who denied that there would be a resurrection of the dead. They were at odds with the Pharisees, who did believe in a future resurrection. So, the Sadducees approached Jesus to ask him about this topic. In order to make their point on the ridiculousness of a future resurrection, they framed their question in a far-fetched manner. Suppose there was a woman who had been married seven times to seven brothers. She remarried each time her husband died to arrive at the seven marriages. When the future resurrection of the dead takes place, who will be her husband?

This seems like a good question on the surface. It may even seem to point out the silliness of belief in a future resurrection. However, the Sadducees were wrong about both the resurrection and marriage in the eternal state. Jesus acknowledged that there will be a resurrection of the dead, but there will be no marriage.

I often get questions about this teaching of Jesus. Many are disappointed to hear that there will be no marriage in the new heavens and new earth. I am always reminded of C. S. Lewis’ comments on this:

I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard the absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.

There will be no marriage, but we can trust that there is something even better. There is a future resurrection for all believers. Our bodies will raised and fit for an eternal existence with our Lord in a new creation (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). What a wonderful day that will be!

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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.

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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Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?

Luke 245–6 [widescreen]

Today is a special day as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. May we all be encouraged as we consider what this event means for all of mankind. Be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day as we read through the life of Jesus.

Luke 24:1–12 (ESV)

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

A Greater Hope in Christ

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Reading the Word

Mark 9:30–32 (ESV)

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

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

Understanding and Applying the Word

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

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

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

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

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Who Is Jesus?

Matthew 1616 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:13–20 (ESV)

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

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

Understanding and Applying the Word

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

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

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

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

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