Luke 2:51-52: Treasuring the Moments

Read: Luke 2:51-52

Although Jesus knew that he was the Son of God, he didn’t claim this position while he was on earth. In fact, Jesus submitted himself to the same laws and customs that all good Jews would submitted themselves to, including honoring his father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Luke notes that Jesus was “submissive” to them – the idea that he was under their tutelage for the time he was a young man and young adult years. Jesus’ obedience to his parents was in line with his will to be baptized by John so that he might be able “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) and have the authority to send out the 12 to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus obedience didn’t go unnoticed either, as Luke notes that he grew in favor with God and man.

These glimpses into Jesus’ early life were small moments leading up to the ministry that he undertook during the three years leading up to his death, burial and resurrection. Luke in his effort to record a history about Jesus wanted to investigate Jesus to the fullest (Luke 1:1-4). He mentions “eyewitnesses” to events of Jesus life, and it is likely that the eyewitness for the accounts in Luke 2 is Jesus’ mother. Luke makes a special note in the midst of each of the three episodes in the chapter about Jesus’ mother reflecting on these events. She “ponders” and “treasures” the events about his his birth (Luke 2:19), along with Joseph “marvels” about what was said about him (Luke 2:32), and again “treasures” what happened in Jerusalem (Luke 2:51). These events were remarkable to her because she didn’t know what to make of them at the time they occurred, but nevertheless knew that Jesus was special.

While Jesus was on earth, he didn’t claim the authority that was rightfully his, rather he was obedient and humble even to the point of death (Philippians 2:1-12). Paul uses Jesus’ example to encourage the readers of his letter to do the same: be humble and obedient even if it means forfeiting something that is rightfully yours. When Christians do this, they do it out of a desire of love, and in doing so others take note. In many cases, those who later come to know Christ do so because they remember an episode where a Christian did something for them or someone else and it stuck with them and profound impact on their lives as the events of Jesus’ childhood did on Mary. Years later, even long after the person remembered may have forgotten, the one who does remember can testify to a moment and recall God at work in and through another person.

Lord help my obedience be a testimony that will lead others to you!

Joshua 4: Memorials and Testimonies

Read: Joshua 4

God gave very specific instructions about what to do after Israel crossed the Jordan. They appointed 12 men from each of the tribes of Israel, and they placed stones in the Jordan River to serve as a memorial to generations to come to remind the people of Israel about when God parted the waters of the Jordan as he had done the Red Sea. The memorial to God was also to be a monument to the power of God to all the nations of the world as to how mighty God is and so they would fear God forever.

Jesus gave Christians a memorial about what he did for all people on the cross. Jesus took two common elements – bread and wine – and used these elements to communicate the death of Jesus. The bread is the broken body of Jesus and the wine is the blood of Jesus showing that Jesus spilled blood for the forgiveness of sin (Matthew 26:26-29). The sign was given by Jesus so that Christians would remember what Jesus did for them, and Christians have been observing the memorial since the earliest churches.

The wine and the bread on a general memorial given to all, much like the memorial the God gave to individuals too. Paul, for instance, would often recall his conversion experience in Acts 9:1-8. Paul recalls this event in Acts 22:7-12 and Acts 26:12-18. This experience had a profound impact in the life of Paul and was an integral part of his testimony. In the same manner, God works in the lives of individual believers in such a way that the individual can never forget. People who experience mighty work will often tell others about this work as Paul did and these events serve as a memorial to the mightiness of God.

Whether the memorials in life are personal or general, memorials always point back to the mighty works of God in the lives of believers. When future generations ask about such memorials, the ones who know about the memorial can tell about God and how he worked mightily. These testimonies tell about God and will help declare the mighty works of God to all the nations so all will know and believe!

Lord, help me to remember what you have done and tell about it!

2 Timothy 4:1-5: “Fulfill Your Ministry”

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul’s charge to Timothy is basically three words: “Preach the Word”. This charge comes on the heels of Paul’s admonition to Timothy to stay firmly planted in the scriptures and a description of the source and uses of scripture. Paul gives his charge to Timothy in the “presence” of God and Jesus and who will judge the living and dead. The strong command to preach is qualified with several commands:

  • Be ready in season and out of season. For the one preaching the word, game day is every day. One cannot be lax one day and on the next.
  • Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction. This comes on the heels of Paul telling Timothy about the uses of scripture which are the aforementioned things (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Scripture is useful for training in righteousness.
  • Be sober in all things. Paul is telling Timothy to not let anything cloud his mind.
  • Endure hardship. This is a guaranteed thing for those who wish to live lives of godliness (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • Do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is one who declares good news, and in New Testament terms, it is one who shares the good news about Jesus. Paul is charging Timothy to do this sort of work.
  • Fulfill his ministry. This is a command in the most general sense, just in case Paul left something out. Paul is telling Timothy to thoroughly accomplish all that he has been instructed to do.

Paul says that there will come a time when people will not endure sound doctrine, surrounding themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear. They will turn from truth and believe “myths”. The New Testament describes such things as cleverly devised tales (2 Peter 1:16) and fables (1 Timothy 4:7). These things stand in stark contrast to the words of truth from the scripture that Paul is telling Timothy to proclaim and the testimony of eyewitnesses that have been handed to Timothy and the many others concerning Jesus from the apostles.

This charge to Timothy is a popular passage for ordination services in many churches. The charge is very relevant to those who are starting out in the gospel ministry as it outlines what a pastor is supposed to do concerning his ministry. But the application of this text is not limited to just pastors – all Christians should be ready to do what these very things themselves. Most certainly, Christians today are living in a time when people not want to hear sound doctrine, but rather hear what they want to hear. This requires that Christians know sound doctrine and know how to correct and rebuke those who do not endure sound doctrine with patience and love. This way, one can fulfill one’s own ministry as Paul wanted Timothy to do.

Lord, help me to fulfill my ministry!

John 21:24-25: Scratching the Surface

Read: John 21:24-25

The purpose of John writing his gospel is found in John 20:29-30 where John states that he wrote the gospel so that its reader might believe in the name of Jesus. Here, in the last two verses John makes two final remarks concerning the veracity of the testimony that he had just written down. First, John says that the disciples testified and wrote these things, and that “we” know that his testimony is true. This seems to be a peculiar statement in some ways in that a John is self-validating. In other words, he’s saying that his statement is true because he said so. But rather than this, John is probably appealing to what others have said concerning Jesus as a witness of Jesus. When John says that they know his testimony to be true, he’s saying if you don’t believe him, just ask others. Second, John says that there were numerous other things that Jesus did that are not recorded. He supposes that there are not enough books in the world to contain all that Jesus did. John in a way then is only a highlights reel of what Jesus did. He’s just scratching the surface, as there are details that are not recorded concerning Jesus life. His hope is that what he has shown is sufficient to convince his readers to believe.

The eyewitnesses to Jesus have all passed away, but they did not leave their spiritual progeny empty handed concerning the works of Jesus. A few of them recorded what they saw themselves (as in parts of Matthew and John), and others reported it so that those collating these source could record it as in other parts of Matthew and the books of Mark and Luke. But the gospels are not the only records. In the Bible, there are the four gospels, Acts, and numerous letters by Paul, John, James, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews that all testify to Jesus and what he did. Outside the Bible are historians that account for Jesus as well. The biblical and extrabiblical accounts are corroborated with political history, social history and archaeology among other sources.

Skeptics today like to illustrate two problems they see with the Bible: the reliability of the documents that exist concerning the Bible and the historical accuracy. The Old Testament as delivered to the world today came by way of the work of the Masoretes. They meticulously copied the texts with a great deal of accuracy and attention to detail. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and compared to the Masoretic texts, the Dead Sea scrolls vindicated the reputation of the Masoretes reputation as the scrolls were almost exactly the same as the much later Hebrew texts available before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New Testament is a different story in that there are over 5000 documents that make up the body of available texts, making it the most well preserved ancient document known to exist. From these available texts, scholars have been able to produce what they believe to be an accurate representation of the original manuscripts through careful study of the texts. The historical reliability of both Old Testament and the New Testament are vindicated in a number of ways. First, the writers themselves do not seem to be reporting what they witnessed about Jesus as something that was fictional, rather they believed what they were reporting was true. They paid attention to details concerning people, places, and events such that the events of Jesus’ unfolded in the context of real history. Second, and in part of the attention to details, the history of the Bible is corroborated by archaeology. And third, as mentioned, the extrabiblical evidence, and social history, and political history vindicate this as well.

The witness of John is a part of the whole of the testimony concerning Jesus. At the end of the book, John wants to make known the way of salvation and way to abundant life that can only be found in Jesus. Christians today have this testimony in hand and can use to understand the way of salvation and also give it to others to use so they too can have eternal life that is only found in Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world, the way, the truth, and the life, the good shepherd, the bread of life, the source of living water, the lamb of God, the savior of the world, and ultimately God himself! Believe in Jesus and be saved!

Lord, your truth is revealed! Help all to know it and believe!

John 21:1-14: Telltale Signs

Read: John 21:1-14

The disciples had been out fishing all night. Apparently, they had returned to Galilee after the Passover and returned to fishing for a time. They had seen the risen Lord on two other occasions before this one according to the Gospel of John. John records the other in appearances in John 20 after the resurrection. Jesus had made his way up to Galilee and had a fire going on the shore. The disciples did not know who it was at first, but recognized it was Jesus after they pulled in 153 large fish after following the strangers instructions. They knew immediately that it was Jesus then, and none of them dare asked, “Who are you?” The disciples recognized Jesus by the telltale sign of a miraculous catch of fish. This catch certainly sparked a memory of many of the other miracles that Jesus had performed before this time.

John up to this point had recorded seven other miracles.

  • Turning water in wine (John 2:1-11)
  • Healing the officials son a distance (John 4:43-53)
  • The healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9)
  • The feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1-5)
  • Walking on water (John 6:16-25)
  • Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-41)
  • Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44)

Jesus had also raised from the dead and had already appeared to the disciples. There could be no doubt in the mind of the disciples that this miracle was from Jesus too. The purpose of miracles though was to establish that Jesus was one sent from God. These demonstrations of power were among the works that Jesus says was one of the witnesses to his authenticity (John 3:2, John 5:36, John 9:33, John 10:25-38). Elsewhere, Peter affirms these works as a means to authenticate the message he was preaching(Acts 2:22). The case for Jesus’ authenticity had been made and the disciples were well equipped with these accounts to testify about Jesus.

Miracles, however, are not the way that God primarily reveals himself to people today. Jesus performed miracles to authenticate himself. The disciples did perform miracles too, but they did so in the name of Jesus. But even so, the principal way that the disciples talked about Jesus was by going into all the world testifying about what Jesus had done. Many more believed because of the testimonies than they did from the miracles. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he told the disciples to “teach” (Matthew 28:19-20). Mark says go and “preach” (Mark 16:15-16). Luke says that this will be “proclaimed” in all nations (Luke 24:47). Acts 1:8 says that they will be Jesus’ witnesses – that is they will testify about him. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that Timothy should teach what he received from Paul to others who will be able to teach it to even more. The proclamation of the gospel is a verbal event, not by acts of power. Paul said in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing. If God wants to demonstrate his power, he can, and sometimes he does. But as a mode of operation, Christians are to be about the business of proclaiming the resurrected Christ to all nations rather than looking for signs and wonders or trying to do such things themselves. Besides, Jesus said the telltale sign of Christians will be their love for one another (John 13:35), not the signs and wonders they perform. In this form, the world will see the love of Christ and hear the witness of Christ!

Lord, help me to represent you well by loving others and proclaim your truth to the world too!

John 3:22-36: “He Must Increase”

Read: John 3:22-36

John was baptizing at Aenon (called, “The place of springs”) near Salim outside of Sychar, the village that converted after Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. This all happened before John was thrown in jail and executed (Mark 6:14-29). Jesus was baptizing somewhere nearby because and some of John’s disciples took note of this. That, and they were having a discussion over Jewish purification in the context of baptism.  The disciples asked John why people were going to Jesus instead of coming to John. Apparently, there was some issue raised as to who’s baptism was better in making one clean. This is the same problem that arose in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1:11-17) as they were claiming some sort of authority or propriety because of who baptized them. Paul attempts to smooth over the discord and unify the church as fellow workers centered on the work of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1-9). John makes a similar argument here in that he too points everything back to Christ. He claims that he is not the Christ, but was sent before to testify to the Christ. Paul claims to be mere preacher of the word (1 Corinthians 1:17), one who proclaims Christ and not a baptizer. In the same manner of concession, John says his mission was to prepare the way for the Christ, and was not the Christ himself. He says that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.

After saying these things, John gives another testimony about Jesus: Jesus is from above and Jesus is above all. God sent Jesus, and he tells people what God says because God gives the Spirit fully to Jesus, because God loves Jesus, and has given him power over everything. The one’s that do believe put there “seal” on the matter that this is the truth — that is, they testify to the truth of the matter. John says that “no one” has receives this testimony, but this does not mean that literally no single person has, rather only few have.  John sums up the matter by echoing Jesus’ words from John 3:16-18, saying the ones that believe have eternal life, but the ones that don’t believe are already condemned.

Often times, believers can get a “holier than thou” complex about themselves for any number of reasons. It could be who their family is, what church they go to, what version of the Bible they reads, what kind of cloths they wears, what kind of car they drives, where they works, among many other things. The fact of the matter though, is that next to Jesus, everyone is petty. Likewise, such complexes detract from the main thing. John acknowledges Jesus’ position: Jesus is from above and above all. For this reason, John says Jesus must increase and he must decrease. Christians too should be as John and acknowledge that Jesus is from above and is above all and get out of the way so Jesus can shine. Christians should set their seal on Jesus as the truth and testify to the matter so that some might believe and receive eternal life and not be condemned.

Lord, help me decrease so that you might increase so your testimony can be received by many!

John 1:30-34: A Testimony About Jesus

Read: John 1:29-34

The next day, Jesus comes and John announces to the world that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and reveals that his purpose was to reveal Jesus answering the investigators question. John gives the testimony to Jesus talking about the Spirit coming down and resting on Jesus. Jesus said to John that the one on whom the Spirit remains is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and that person was Jesus the Son of God. John witnessed this all when he baptized Jesus. (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11)

Baptism in New Testament times was a common practice that was often used as a rite in conversion to Judaism or a cleansing ritual performed by the Essene community. Given this, what John was doing was not something out of the ordinary, but perhaps something the people were used to seeing or at least had heard about. A baptism of repentance and forgiveness was somewhat of an anomaly because forgiveness of sin was something was seen as only coming through sacrifice at the temple. While water baptism was something that was common, Jesus’ baptism of the Spirit was something unique. The Bible asserts John baptized with water, but Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:15-16, Acts 19:2-9) differentiating these two, Acts 19:2-9 in particular. Some people in Ephesus had heard about John and were baptized for repentance, but were rebaptized in the name of Jesus at which they received the Holy Spirit.

While it is clear that Baptism of the Holy Spirit (that is, receiving the Holy Spirit) is distinct from water baptism, but this does not diminish the importance of water baptism for its symbolism. Romans 6:3-8 sees baptism as a picture of the death, burial and resurrection believers go through with Jesus for new life. Baptism is also a symbol of unity among believers that all baptized believers can identify with, no matter who they are or where they come from (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27-29, Ephesians 4:5). Given this, it is important that believers who identify with Christ undergo baptism in his name.

The testimony of John to surrounding Jesus’ baptism, John’s baptism of repentance, and water baptism in general were all given to point people towards belief in Jesus. The common rite is given new meaning under Jesus such that it unifies us around Jesus and testifies to what he did for us. When we think about our own lives, do we consider our lives a worthy testimony that would point people to Christ or turn them away? Is there blatant sin that needs confessing and repentance that needs to be administered? In any case, we need constant washing and renewal that only comes from Jesus whose grace is sufficient!

Lord, help me have a testimony that points people to you!