How to Spot a Jesus Follower

John 1335 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 13:31–35 (ESV)

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

After Judas had gone out from the group, Jesus spoke of his coming glorification. He was looking ahead to the cross and also the resurrection and ascension, which would confirm that Jesus was who he claimed to be and that his words were true.

As Jesus prepared to depart from this world, he left his disciples with the command to love one another. They were to love one another as Jesus had loved them, which was marked by humility and sacrifice. Through this display of love, the world would know that the disciples belonged to Jesus.

Those who belong to Jesus are called to be like him. Others should not only hear us say that we are Christians, but they should be able to observe our actions and know that we are different than the world. Jesus is no longer on earth, but his followers are many and serve as his representatives. We do this by proclaiming his word and by living as he lived. We are to love others just as he has loved us.

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The Desire to Be Great

man wearing blue suit jacket beside woman with gray suit jacket

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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 God Who Washes Feet

John 135 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 13:1–11 (ESV)

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before the meal, Jesus did something unexpected. He washed his disciples’ feet. This turned contemporary expectations upside down! Jesus was the teacher. He was the master of this group. It was the job of the students to wash Jesus’ feet or do the work of servants. At least, this is what the culture of the day said. However, Jesus tied a towel around his waist and washed feet.

Peter realized that this was not right. This is why he asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus’ reply pointed forward to a greater service that Jesus would do for his followers. Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross to die for his people. Philippians 2:6-8 reflects on Jesus as servant as he willingly died for mankind:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus had to become a servant for his people or we could not be saved. We had to be “washed” by Jesus through his sacrificial death or our sins could not be cleansed. The Creator came into the world to be our servant. He put aside his glory and died as a criminal on a cross. Jesus paid the price that we never could and unless we are washed by him, we remain unclean. As the great hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

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Oh, How He Loves Us

John 131 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Mark 14:12–17 (ESV)

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 26:17-20; Luke 22:7-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus approached the cross, we are reminded that he was fully aware and fully in control of the events at hand. The disciples asked about preparations for the Passover. Jesus sent them ahead with very specific instructions regarding who would give them a place to gather and also what words to speak to the man. The disciples found everything just as Jesus had told them they would and they prepared the Passover.

When Jesus went to the cross, it was not because he had failed. It was the central part of God’s plan to redeem mankind. Jesus went to the cross willingly, knowing exactly what lay ahead, just as he knew about the man who would give them a place to prepare for the Passover meal. By doing this, he continued to show his gracious love for his people. He knew he had to suffer and die and he was willing to do it for each of us. Praise the Lord!

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Amazing Love

1 John 410 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 26:1–5 (ESV)

1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Passover approached, Jesus again told his disciples that he would soon be crucified. As Jesus told this to his disciples, the chief priests and elders were gathered at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, to discuss how they could rid themselves of Jesus. They planned how they could arrest him and kill him, but they knew they had to plan carefully because Jesus was very popular and the crowds gathered to celebrate Passover would be large.

Jesus knew what was coming yet he offered himself voluntarily. The crucifixion was no surprise to Jesus. It was all a part of the plan that God had put in place for the deliverance of sinful mankind. Jesus was only two days from his arrest and going to the cross, but he was not deterred from his mission. We must not miss this. Jesus’ commitment to our salvation is a wonderful demonstration of God’s love for each and every one of us. Christ did everything he could for our salvation. He gave his very life so that we could have eternal life. It reminds me of the old hymn, And Can It Be?:

Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

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It Had To Be this Way

Purple Cross

Reading the Word

John 12:27–36 (ESV)

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus’ journey to the cross was coming to an end, he felt the weight of the circumstances. His soul was troubled. The crucifixion was no small thing for Jesus. He was concerned to his very core. However, he was not going to ask the Father to take the hour away. Jesus knew that he had to go to the cross. It was the very reason he came. It was through the cross that mankind would be saved and there was no other way.

One common question that readers of the Bible often have is if there is any other way for people to be saved other than faith in Jesus. There are two things to be said about this. First: Jesus said that he is the only way to the Father in John 14:6:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Second: if there was another way that we might be saved, then Jesus did not have to die. To say that there are ways of salvation other than through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is to devalue what Jesus did at Calvary. Jesus went to the cross precisely because there was no other way for us to be reconciled to God and have eternal life. The cross shows us just how serious our sin problem is and the great cost of our redemption. Jesus, the Son of God, had to die. It was the only way.

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Life for All through Death

wheat

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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Not to Offend

Obol in the Mouth of the Fish

The Miracle of the Obol in the Mouth of the Fish (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 17:24–27 (ESV)

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We are not told the identity of the tax collectors who approached Peter. Some argue that they were likely collecting a Roman civil tax. However, it seems more likely, and is the traditional view, that the collectors were Jewish and that they were visiting the residents of Capernaum (like Peter and Jesus) to collect a temple tax that would have been sent to Jerusalem in time for Passover. When asked if Jesus would pay the tax, Peter affirmed that he would. We then read Jesus’ words to Peter about the tax.

Jesus asked Peter if kings taxed their own sons. Of course they do not. They tax those outside of their own families. The royal family would not pay taxes to the king. Jesus then replies, “Then the sons are free.” The point is that the true King and his family do not pay taxes. Of course, Jesus and his disciples are in view here. Jesus is the true King and the disciples are his children. However, Jesus explained to Peter that they would pay the tax, not out of obligation, but in order not to offend.

As followers of Christ, the disciples were free from the authority of the Jewish religious leaders and the religious system of the temple. With Jesus, the temple system was finding its fulfillment (cf. Matthew 12:5-6, 41-42; Mark 7:19). Yet, it was important not to offend in order to show love and make it possible to speak the truth of the gospel.

As Christ’s followers in the world today, we also must be willing to give up our rights for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 8-9). We do this so that we can gain every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and so that we can show the same kind of love towards others that the Lord has shown to us. May God help us to put his plans before our own and to put others before ourselves.

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What Is Man?

Paper Christmas Title

 

Reading the Word

Psalm 144:1–8 (ESV)

1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
2 he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

3 O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.

5 Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
6 Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
send out your arrows and rout them!
7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
from the hand of foreigners,
8 whose mouths speak lies
and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, David gives credit to God for his strength and military successes. It is only because of God that David has accomplished all that he has. In verses 5-8, David once again calls on God to come to his assistance.

In verses 3-4, we find David asking an important question: “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” In other words, why does God care about mankind? In the vast scheme of all of creation, why does God take interest in the affairs of humanity. We are so small and seemingly insignificant!

Have you ever wondered about this? Why does God care so much about us? Christmas is a wonderful time to think about this. After all, this is the season when we remember and celebrate the incarnation. God came into the world as man. This is amazing in and of itself, but when we also consider that Jesus gave up his life for the salvation of mankind, it is truly a cause for wonder and worship. God entered the world and died to save mankind from our sin. What is man, O Lord, that you regard him? As the great hymn asks:

What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse
for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

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The Lord Who Is on Our Side

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Psalm 124:1–8 (ESV)

1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side— let Israel now say— 2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, 3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; 4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; 5 then over us would have gone the raging waters. 6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! 7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm observes that if the Lord had not been on the side of Israel, they would have been defeated. The enemy would have triumphed over the people and destroyed them. But God was on the side of Israel and the people escaped.

Romans 8:31 states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The Apostle Paul’s point in this verse is that if the sovereign God stands on our side, we are assured victory. Paul goes on to say that this is the same God who sent his Son to die for us. And if God was willing to pay such a huge price to save us, he is not going to just give us up. When we trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are brought into the family of God. We are his and he stands on our side. Let us go into the world with confidence knowing that our salvation is secure and we have nothing to fear.

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