1/31/15 Food For The Soul

The Samaritan woman is still standing there, staring at Jesus with a look of astonishment on her face, when the disciples return with lunch.  They see the two talking together, and stop short in surprise.  All of them are thinking, “What is He doing with that woman?  Doesn’t He know who she is?”  But they know better than to say anything.  The woman looks up, and seeing the disciples returning, drops her water jar and runs away.  The men go to Jesus and show Him the food they bought.  “Eat, please, Rabbi.  We know You must be very tired and hungry.”  What they are thinking is more like, “Maybe hunger and exhaustion have clouded His judgment.”  But Jesus is not ready to eat yet.  “It’s ok, my friends.  Thank you for getting the food, but I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”  “Did that woman give Him something to eat?  Where would He have gotten food?” they ask each other.  Jesus smiles at them and explains, “My food is doing God’s will.  When someone plants a field, often they hire others to help with the harvest, right?  And you can see by looking at the plants when they are ripe and ready to harvest.  Here, the seed has been planted and is already ripe for harvest.  I have brought you here with Me to help Me harvest eternal life for these people.  Even though you did not do the work of planting the seeds, you will get to harvest the crop, and the planter and harvester will be able to rejoice together with the people.”

John 4:27-38

1/29/15, 1/30/15 Jesus Knows, Jesus Is

“Why don’t you go and get your husband, and bring him here.  Then I will tell you both how you may get this living water,” Jesus tells the Samaritan woman.  She looks at Him, again wondering just who this strange Man is.  She has a feeling He can read her mind, and it is a bit unsettling.  She comes to the well when nobody else is there so she can avoid seeing or talking to people, and here He is, prying into her life.  She answers cautiously, thinking maybe this is the part of the conversation that turns into a trap for her.  “I have no husband…”  His eyes seem to be looking directly into her soul as He replies, “I know that you have no husband – in fact, you have had five husbands before this, and now you are living with a man who is not your husband!”

Her face red, the Samaritan woman squares her shoulders and attempts to change the subject, “I know You must be a prophet of the Lord, so tell me:  where should we be worshipping?  You Jews claim Jerusalem is the most holy place, but we worship on this mountain, as our forefathers did also.”  Jesus does not fall for her attempt, but knows her heart and answers her question.  “You worship blindly.  Jews worship in Jerusalem, and have at least an idea of Who they are worshipping.  But in time, you will all come to know God’s Truth, and you will no longer need a special place to worship.  Salvation will come to all people through the Jews.  Real worship will be in spirit and in truth – God’s Holy Spirit will be sent to you, and will help you to learn to worship God with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength, as He commanded Moses in the desert of Sinai.”  She didn’t understand anything this Man was saying to her.  Holy Spirit?  No special place to worship?  We worship blindly?  She thought maybe she should be offended, but wasn’t sure.  “I know Messiah is coming, and then He will explain everything to us,” she says, wanting to be polite but at the same time to let Him know He really wasn’t making any sense to her.  “I am He,” Jesus replies.

John 4:16-26

1/27/15, 1/28/15 Salvation For Everyone, Even Our Enemies

sychar map

Jesus finds out that the Pharisees (ultra-strict religious leaders of the Jews) have heard that He is still near Jerusalem, baptizing people in the river.  He knows they will try to kill Him if they get the chance, so He decides to go back to the Galilee region.  This time, He will not take the long route around to avoid Samaria, but will pass right through.  After Solomon, King David’s son, died in about 931 BC, the kingdom of Israel split in two.  The northern part of the kingdom was still called Israel, and the southern part was called Judah, after the name of the tribe that inhabited that area.  Israel, from that point on, began to turn away from following God and slid farther and farther into idol worship.  Samaria was the capitol of the region of Israel.  The north (Israel) was taken captive by the Assyrians, and almost 200 years later, the south (Judah) was invaded by the Babylonians, and the people taken captive.  When the people were eventually freed and allowed to return to their homeland, they went back to the areas they had previously inhabited, and also some of their previous practices.  For this reason, the people of Israel and those of Judah, now known as Samaritans and Jews, hate each other.  The Jews travel far to the east to go around Samaria instead of walking through it, in order to travel between Galilee and the rest of the region of Judea, so that they will not contaminate themselves with the dust of the region.

Jesus’ disciples are not happy about traveling through Samaria.  “Why do we have to breathe the same air as those Samaritan pigs?” asks Peter, but seeing Jesus’ face, keeps further thoughts to himself.  They walk in relative silence, brooding to themselves, until midday, when they finally reach the small town of Sychar.  This was part of the land that the Patriarch Jacob had given to his son Joseph, and there he had dug a well that is still known as Jacob’s Well.  Jesus sits at the well to rest while the rest of the disciples go in search of something to eat.  A woman comes to the well and sees Jesus sitting there.  She can tell by His clothing that He is a Jew, and is greatly surprised when He says, “Hello!  Will you give me a drink of water from the well?”  Doesn’t He know that she is a Samaritan?  And won’t He defile Himself by drinking out of her water bucket?  She hesitates, wondering if it is a trap of some sort.  “How can I give You a drink?  You are a Jew, I am a Samaritan.”  He replies, “If you knew who I AM, you would have asked me for a drink, and I would have given you living water.”  “Our forefather, Jacob, gave us this well.  Are You greater than he is?  Besides, You have nothing to draw water with, how would You get this living water?  Who are You?” she asks Him.  “If you drink the water of this well, or any other, you will be thirsty again soon.  But whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again,” He tells her.  “Please!  Give me this living water so I won’t have to keep coming to this well to get it!” she says.

John 4:1-15, http://www.bible-history.com/…/israel-first-century.html

1/26/15 A Lesson In Humility From The Greatest Prophet Ever

John tells his disciples, “Don’t you remember what I told you?  He is greater than I am.  I only baptize people with water, to prepare their hearts to receive the Greater Baptism of the Holy Spirit that the Son of Man gives.  It’s like being the best man at a wedding.  I am His best man.  I help Him, and am excited and happy for Him, but He is the most important one at the wedding.  He is from Heaven, I am from earth.  Anything He says and does is greater than anything I can say or do.  And that is how it is meant to be.  If you listen to Him and believe what He says, you declare that you believe and trust in God, because He is sent by God to declare God’s word and to do God’s work here on earth.  And if you believe in Him you will have life, because He is of God, and God is life.  In the same way, if you do not believe in Him, you will only have death, because life only comes from God, through His Son.”  John’s disciples listen, trying to understand.  But God’s Holy Spirit, who helps all of us understand what God says, is not yet with them.  So they wait to learn more.

John 3:27-36

1/24/15, 1/25/15 Surrounded By Dangers – What To Do, Whom To Trust?

aenon map

The Passover Festival has now come and gone, and the people who had thronged into Jerusalem to celebrate are starting on their way back home.  Many of them have been coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover because it is traditionally expected of them, but are eager to leave and get back to small-town life again.  Jerusalem has too many scrutinizing eyes for their liking, and they have to be careful of everything they say or do.  If the Romans soldiers or Herodian spies hear anything against Rome or King Herod Antipas, the offender could be thrown in prison or even crucified on the spot!  Not to mention the corruption of the religious officials in the temple, from High Priest Caiaphas down to even some of the priests handling the people’s sacrifices.  Jesus and His disciples are among those on their way out of the city.  Heading back into the Judean countryside, the disciples are discussing what happened during Passover.  “What do you think He meant when He said that we have to put our faith in the Son of Man to forgive our sins in order to be holy?” asked Andrew.  “I don’t know,” replies Peter, “I hope he will help us understand.  It sounds like He’s going against the Law of Moses, and that will get all of us in trouble!”  Jesus, walking a little ahead of them and appearing to be deep in thought, hears them but knows this is not the time to explain.  All will be clear to them eventually.

As they reach the Jordan River, they come upon a group of people who are gathered, waiting to see Jesus.  Word has quickly spread about what He had done in Jerusalem, and the people want to see for themselves who this strange Man is.  They have heard John’s preaching of repentance and wonder if Jesus is going to preach a similar message.  He obliges by giving a brief teaching and then asks, Would any of you here now like to repent of your sins and be baptized?”  Many say, “Yes, we would like that very much!”  And so Jesus teaches His disciples to baptize, and they begin baptizing people in the river, much like John.  Now John (not yet imprisoned) is also baptizing people at Aenon near the town of Salem.  His disciples come to him and report, “Teacher, the Man who you baptized and testified about, saying that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – He is baptizing people as well!  What should we do?”

John 3:22-26, map from http://www.bible-history.com/…/israel-first-century.html

1/22/15, 1/23/15 The Only Way To Be Perfectly Holy

Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Here is a story you should be familiar with:  The people of Israel were wandering with Moses in the wilderness, and began to be rebellious in their hearts (and some in deed as well) against the Lord who had just saved them from their slavery and miraculously brought them out of Egypt.  So the Lord sent poisonous snakes to bite those who were rebellious.  But because He still loved them, He commanded Moses to make a bronze snake and hold it up high on a pole, so that all who looked at the snake, were sorry for their rebellion, and believed the Lord could heal them were healed.  This story is a foreshadowing of what the Son of Man will do.  The Son of Man will have to be put on a high pole so that all who believe and look upon Him will receive eternal life.  Because just as God loved the people of Israel who rebelled against Him in the wilderness, He also loves everyone in the world.  And so He sent His only Son, the Son of Man, to save all who believe in Him, and to give them eternal life in Heaven.  God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge, but to save.”

Nicodemus is listening intently, trying to understand.  Jesus continues, “Even though every person in this world is a sinner, if you believe in the Son of Man, you will not be judged.  But if you do not believe, you will not be able to enter Heaven.  God is Holy, and you are not.  You cannot enter Heaven unless you become Holy yourselves, and how can sinners do this by themselves?  There is nothing you can do by yourselves that will be good enough to make you Holy.  Only by putting your trust and faith in the Son of Man to pay the debt for your sins can you become holy.  People are judged by this:  whether you love the light or the darkness.  If you love the darkness, you will stay in the darkness.  You will continue to do what is wrong because that is what you love.  God is light, and there is no darkness at all in Him.  So if you love the darkness and hate the light, you will not want anything to do with God, and will exclude yourself from eternal life in Heaven.  But if you love the light, you will come to the light, and through the Holy Spirit you will be reborn of light, and will begin to love the things of God instead of the things of this world.”

John 3:14-21

1/21/15 To Be A Child Of God

One evening, after hearing of and then witnessing some of Jesus’ miracles, a Pharisee (one of the rulers of the Jews) comes to see Jesus.  His name is Nicodemus.  “I know that You are from God, because no one could do what You do unless sent by God,” he begins.  Jesus knows where Nicodemus is going with this flattery and cuts to the chase.  He says, “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  Nicodemus is confused.  “Born again?  How can someone re-enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time?”  “You must be born of water and the Holy Spirit.  This is the only way to enter Heaven.  It is a mystery of God, this birth of the Spirit, but it must be for everyone who wishes to enter Heaven.  When you were born the first time, it was from your earthly mother, in the flesh.  But to enter God’s kingdom, you must be born of the Spirit also,” Jesus replies.  Nicodemus is astonished at what he is hearing.  He steps back to consider this for a moment, saying, almost unconsciously, “How can this be?”  Jesus reprimands him, “I thought you were a ruler of Israel!  How can you be a teacher of Israel and not know something as basic as this?  You people don’t believe what I say when I tell you about things on the earth!  You’re not going to believe anything I say about Heaven, because nobody’s ever been there and come back to tell about it except the Messiah, the Son of Man.”

John 2:23-3:13

1/20/15 The King Nobody Expects

passover info

The disciples are torn between relief that nobody was hurt and disappointment that Jesus did nothing to challenge Rome’s authority over Israel.  They are also amazed that Jesus was able to just walk right out of the temple as if nothing had happened.  “That in itself is a miracle,” says Nathanael.  The others agree.  Jesus shows some other miraculous signs during the Passover week, and some who are there for the holiday begin to believe in Him.  But He knows their hearts, that they have a very different sort of Messiah in mind.  The Messiah they are looking for is the perfect king – riding in on a white horse to overthrow the Romans in one day with no blood shed by the people, giving them everything they need to be wealthy and prosperous, and giving His best friends places of honor in His Royal Court.

John 2:23-24, http://visual.ly/let-my-people-passover

1/18/15, 1/19/15 The Temple

herod's temple 1 herod's temple 2

Psalm 69:9

After several days of travel, they reach the top of a hill and see the gleaming golden temple ahead of them.  They are dusty and weary, and that is a very welcome sight!  Everyone wants to find a place to rest for the night and something to eat, but Jesus’ first priority is to get to the temple and pray.  He leaves His family and goes with His disciples to the temple.  But when He gets there, what He sees makes him forget His original intent.  His disciples see the look of outrage on His face, and wonder what is going to happen.  “Rabbi, what is wrong?” they ask Him.  He looks at them, and then back to the temple.  “My Father’s House.  It should be a House of Prayer for all the nations.  And look what they have done with it.  It has been turned into a den of thieves!”  He starts to walk purposefully toward the temple, and the disciples turn to each other with looks of apprehension on their faces.  “What will He do?  The Romans have a large presence here, especially now at Passover.  Any unrest and people will be rounded up and crucified.  Should we stay and witness…whatever is about to happen, or should we flee before it’s too late?  Roman soldiers, not to mention the temple guards, are not known for their willingness to assess the situation before acting with violence,” says Andrew.  “Let’s stay,” says Peter.  “If He truly is the Messiah, this could be the time when He will overthrow the Romans!  We could be witnesses to the start of the revolution!”  So the disciples stay and watch, expecting Jesus to conform to their idea of what the Messiah should be and should do.

As Jesus walks towards the temple, His hands are busy working, braiding a whip out of some leather cords He is carrying.  He enters, and turns to the table of the money changers.  Only Jewish coins are accepted here, so anyone carrying any other form of currency must first stop at this table and exchange it.  Jesus snaps His whip at the table and the money goes flying everywhere.  The money changers jump out of their seats, mouths agape, and stare at Him.  “What are you doing?” they ask, incredulous.  He does not answer them, but turns to the cages full of doves and pigeons, ready to be purchased for sacrifices.  Snap!  The whip lashes out again, and the cage doors open, releasing the birds.  Then, another snap!  The sheep pen opens, releasing hundreds of bleating sheep into the temple area.  Snap!  The cattle are released.  As people everywhere realize what is happening, they all turn to stare at this Man.  Who is He?  Some look at His face and are startled to see the fire in His eyes.  Finishing with His task, Jesus proclaims to the people in attendance, “Get out of here, you wicked men!  You claim to be holy, but you steal from the Lord your God!”  “What are You saying?  Are You a prophet?  Show us a sign, if You are!” someone in the crowd says.  “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in 3 days,” Jesus says to them.  “Impossible!” scoffs another observer, “It has taken 46 years of hard labor, worked on by hundreds of laborers, to build this temple.  How can You destroy it and build it up again in 3 days?”  Jesus turns and leaves without another word, as the people start passing the rumors of what has just happened.  Their words are full of derision for this lunatic they have just seen.  They don’t realize that Jesus is talking about raising up His Body, not the temple building that they were standing in.  And His act of fury fulfills a prophecy about Messiah, that “Zeal for Your House consumed Him.”

John 2:13-21, Psalm 69:9, www.letterofrepentance.com,nearemmaus.wordpress.com

1/17/15 Rest Before Beginning

cana to capernaum map Capernaum to Jerusalem map

Mary gathers her family together, now including Jesus’ disciples, and they start on their journey to Capernaum.  Jesus’s brothers love Him, but do not believe He is the Messiah yet.  They walk together on one side of their mother, and Jesus and His disciples walk together on her other side.  Jesus is always teaching, revealing God’s Truth as they go along.  They stay in Capernaum, a little fishing village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, for only a few days.  It is a nice place to rest before Jesus begins His public ministry.  “Will you all go with Me to Jerusalem for the Passover?”  Jesus asks all in His company.  “We will,” they answer, and they set off for Jerusalem.

maps from http://www.bible-history.com/…/israel-first-century.html, Biblical reference from John 2:12-13