Day 119 – John 14:1-14

Knowing Jesus.

John 14:1-14

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am?” – John 14:9 NLT

Jesus had just informed Peter that he would deny Him three times, then He says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 NLT). Really? For the last few hours, He had been talking continuously about being betrayed, denied, having His body broken, His blood shed, and that He was going away, and where He was going they couldn’t go. So how could He tell them to not be troubled? There is much the disciples do not understand. And they would not understand it until some time after Jesus left and the Holy Spirit came. So until then, Jesus tried to assure them that, in spite of all the fear building up inside themselves, they could trust Him. In fact, He encouraged them to trust in God AND to trust in Him. Why? Because He and His Father were one. This was a joint plan, involving both the Son and the Father, and so the disciples had nothing to fear. Jesus assured them that He was going away, but that He was also returning for them, and when He did, He would take them to be with Him.

Thomas speaks up, expressing his confusion and concern. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5 NLT). You can sense the growing anxiety in Thomas’ reaction. He doesn’t understand WHERE Jesus is going or WHY He has to go. He can’t comprehend what is happening and what it is that Jesus seems to be inferring. This is NOT what he and the disciples had expected. But Jesus tells Him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT). With this one statement, Jesus summed up His entire ministry and message. It had always been about access. Jesus came to provide a way for men and women to be made right with God and to restore them to fellowship with Him. Sin had compromised their relationship with God. Sin had alienated them from God. The Law had showed them God’s holy standard and sin had caused them to rebel against it, preventing them from keeping His law perfectly. Jesus had come to remedy that. He had come to do what they couldn’t do: Keep the law perfectly. He came to live a sinless, holy, obedient life, so that He might be the perfect sin substitute and die in their place on the cross. In doing so, He would satisfy the just demands of a holy, righteous God. Jesus would take on our sin and suffer our punishment, and in return, we would receive His righteousness and God’s approval. So when Jesus told Thomas and the disciples that He was the way, the truth and the life and that no one could come to God any other way than through Him, this was radical news to them.

If You Had Known Me

Jesus followed this bombshell by bringing up the subject of the knowledge of Him. He said, “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is” (John 14:7 NLT). This had to have offended the disciples. Hadn’t they just spent the last three and a half years of their lives with Jesus, and now He was insinuating that they didn’t know Him? But in reality, they didn’t know Jesus. Up until that point, they hadn’t known Him as the way, the truth and the life. They knew Him as the Messiah, the healer, the Son of God, the teacher, rabbi, parable teller, and miracle worker. But there was so much they still didn’t know about Him. But Jesus assured them that even with their limited knowledge of Him, they knew God, because He was revealing God to them through His life and actions. He really was the way, the truth and the life. And He really was going to provide access to the Father through His coming death on the cross. It would all make sense to them eventually.

Philip, hearing all this talk of knowing God, asked Jesus to show the Father to them, and then they would be satisfied. Once again, Jesus responds with a statement that had to have deeply hurt Philip. “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am?” (John 14:9 NLT). The inference is that Philip still did not know or comprehend the deity of Jesus. He knew Him, but He didn’t know Him. His knowledge of Jesus was limited. Jesus told him, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? (John 14:9 NLT). What Jesus wants Philip and the other disciples to grasp is that He and the Father are one. He is not just a representative of God, He is God in human flesh. He is divine. Seeing Him is as good as seeing the Father. Hearing from Him is as good as hearing from the Father. “The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me” (John 14:10 NLT). This was news to the disciples. This intimate connection between Jesus and the Father had been unknown to them up until this point.

The main focus of this entire exchange between Jesus and the disciples seemed to be their knowledge of Him. Because ultimately, their belief about Jesus would need to be based on what they knew about Him. If their knowledge of Jesus was limited, so would their faith be. Jesus wanted them to know exactly who He was, so that they could believe. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the seame works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with my Father” (John 14:12 NLT). The belief Jesus spoke of had to be based on His identity as the Son of God. His unity with the Father was to be the foundation of that belief. And ultimately, the disciples would do greater works than Jesus. This is not talking about greater miracles, but it is speaking about the scope and reach of their ministry. Jesus’ ministry was limited to a specific geographic area and only impacted a limited number of people, but the disciples would be responsible for helping spread the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. Their efforts, when based on the name of Jesus, would be backed by the power of God and would therefore be unlimited. But it all began with their knowledge of who Jesus was.

And the same is true for us today. We must fully understand and grasp the significance of who Jesus is. For many of us, He is simply our Savior, which is important. But we must also recognize Him as our God and Sovereign. If we limit our understanding of Jesus, we will limit our belief in Jesus. If we fail to see Him as God and fully deserving of our full obedience, worship and honor, then our belief will be limited. Jesus came to provide us with more than just a ticket to heaven. He has given us access to God. We can know God through Him. We can experience the power of God because of Him. He is still the way, the truth and the life. It is still true that no one can come to the Father except through Him. No one can know the Father, but through Jesus. So the greater we grow to know Him, the more we will know God. And our belief will increase exponentially.

Father, help my unbelief. Help me to grow to know Jesus better and better every day. Open my eyes to the reality of who He is, the significance of His deity, His sovereignty and majesty. I want to know Him better so that I might know You more. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 118 – Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20

A New Covenant.

Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20

After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” – Luke 22:20 NLT

Those words, “A new covenant,” would have sounded strange to the ears of the disciples, because, as God’s people, they already had a covenant with God. It had been given by God to the people of Israel through Moses. We find it recorded in Exodus 24. “Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions.”  God had made a covenant with His people, confirmed by blood. It was to be a binding agreement. And according to the definition of a covenant, the people could accept or reject it, but could not alter it. So to hear Jesus talk of a new covenant would have probably seemed odd and even a bit sacrilegious to them. As with a lot of things Jesus seemed to say to them, it would have made little or no sense. For us, as Christ-followers, living on this side of the resurrection, it has a meaning all its own, but it probably lacks a proper foundation. In other words, because we do not fully understand the old covenant, we fail to fully appreciate the new one.

So, in order to understand just what Jesus said that night and what that new covenant should mean to us, we need to take a look at the historical and spiritual significance of just what was happening. As stated earlier, a covenant was an arrangement made by one party, which the other party involved could accept or reject but could not alter. It was NOT a contract agreed upon and signed by two co-equals. This covenant was authored by God and was not something to be taken lightly.

To see the old covenant in its full context, take a look at Exodus 24:1-8.

Then the Lord instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the Lord. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.”

Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the Lord had given him. All the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.”

Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord’s instructions. Early the next morning Moses got up and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He also set up twelve pillars, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent some of the young Israelite men to present burnt offerings and to sacrifice bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Moses drained half the blood from these animals into basins. The other half he splattered against the altar.

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey.”

Then Moses took the blood from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, “Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions.” – Exodus 24:1-8 NLT

God had made a covenant with the people and confirmed it with the shedding of blood. This “book of the covenant” contained God’s written laws for living life in this world on His terms. It contained the Ten Commandments, but a list of other rules and regulations regarding human conduct. This old covenant revealed the holiness of God by articulating His righteous standards and requirements for human interaction. And this was a bilateral, conditionl covenant. In other words, it placed requirements on both parties. It required obedience on the part of the people. “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me” (Exodus 19:5 NLT).

God told the people that as long as they obeyed it, they would be blessed (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). But if they chose to disobey it, they would be cursed (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). This old covenant was what the Israelites had lived under for generations. It was demanding and difficult. It was impossible. So why did God give them a set of rules they could never keep? Why did He demand from them what they couldn’t deliver? Why would He give them a law they couldn’t obey? This is key to understanding all that goes on in the New Testament. It is essential to understanding all that took place during Jesus’ 3-1/2 years of ministry.

Over in Romans 7, Paul gives a better understanding of just why the law or old covenant was given by God.

Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.”But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. – Romans 7:7-14 NLT

The law, which is holy and righteous, produced unholiness in men. The law, or old covenant, revealed God’s standard. It established a non-negotiable criteria for acceptance with God. Because God is holy, He demands holiness from His people. The law made holiness measurable and God’s standards for holiness tangible. The law was good, but our sin used it against us. Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is refusing to live life according to God’s standards or law.

The Promise of God

There is another important aspect of God’s plan that we need to understand. Long before God gave Moses the covenant, He had made a promise to Abraham. We find it recorded in Genesis 12:7: “And the Lord came to Abram, and said, I will give all this land to your seed; then Abram made an altar there to the Lord who had let himself be seen by him” (Genesis 12:7 BBE). The apostle Paul helps us understand the significance of this promise. “Dear brothers and sisters,here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say ‘to his children,’ as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says ‘to his child’— and that, of course, means Christ” (Galatians 3:15-16 NLT). God had made a promise to Abraham that would be fulfilled through his “offspring” – singular, not plural. Paul makes it clear that this was a reference to Jesus. He goes on to say, “This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise” (Galatians 3:17 NLT). The original covenant was based on the promise of God and would be fulfilled through the Son of God. If man could have kept the law, the promise would have been unnecessary. If the people could have kept the law and EARNED the inheritance, Jesus would never have come. But He did. So why was the law given? GREAT QUESTION! And Paul has a great answer.

Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham. – Galatians 3:18-20 NLT

The new covenant would be a unilateral covenant, NOT a bilateral one. This covenant would be based on God’s grace, mercy, and faithfulness, not man’s obedience.

Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises?Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. – Galatians 3:21-22 NLT

The law was never intended to save us. Keeping it could not make us right with God, because we could not keep it.

Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.  And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. – Galatians 3: 23-24 NLT

The law was our guardian or tutor. It revealed the righteousness of God. It articulated the expectations of God. “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children(Galatians 4:4-5 NLT). This was the new covenant in a nutshell. God was going to fulfill the promise He had made to Abraham. When He had told Abraham that “all the families on earth will be blessed through you,” He was speaking of His own Son. Jesus, was born of a woman and, as a result, was subject to the law. He came to do what no other man had ever done or would ever be able to do – He kept God’s law perfectly and completely. Which meant that He was unblemished and sinless, and therefore was the perfect sacrificial “lamb” to shed His blood for the sins of mankind. This new covenant would be based on His blood. His death would guarantee our life. This new covenant in His blood would eliminate the need for the old covenant. Jesus’ death would provide a new way for men to have access to God and a new means by which they might be restored to a right relationship with God. No more works-based righteousness. No more attempting to earn favor with God through human effort. But was we read earlier, “If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:21-22 NLT). Jesus was going to pour out His blood as a sacrifice and, as a result, mankind could be made right with God based no His obedience, not our own. That is the significance of the new covenant. It was a new ballgame. It was a new day. The old was passing away and the new had come. The disciples didn’t understand it at the time, but they would. And it is on this new covenant that the Church has been built. It is our foundation, hope, and the heart of the Gospel we believe, teach and share.

Father, I can’t thank You enough for the new covenant. It is only as I realize that without it, I would be living under the weight and requirement of the law, unable to save myself anymore than the people of Israel could. But because Jesus came, lived, died and rose again, I have eternal life through His shed blood. I live because He died. I am covered in His blood and purified by His obedient, sinless sacrifice. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 117 – Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38; John 13:31-38

Ready To Die.

Matthew 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-38; John 13:31-38

“But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” – John 13:37 NLT

I love the impetuousness of Peter. He was a speak-before-you-think kind of a guy. Too often he put his mouth in gear before his brain was engaged. And this was another one of those times. Peter was constantly speaking up. He wasn’t afraid to share his views or speak his mind. And it oftentimes got him in trouble. Jesus knew that his last days were going to be difficult for the disciples. As He drew nearer to the culmination of His ministry here on earth and His divine appointment with the cross, the pressure on the disciples was going to increase dramatically. So He warned Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and returned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22: 31-32 NLT). This statement had to have hit Peter like a fist to the stomach. It took the wind out of him and sent him reeling in confusion. He immediately defended himself and denied that he was a liability or a potential quitter. He responded, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you” (Luke 22:33 NLT). It all sounded so good. Not only was Peter NOT going to do anything worthy of needing repentance, he was willing to give his life for Jesus. Or so he said. But Jesus knew better. He knew Peter better than Peter knew himself. He regretfully, but accurately informed Peter exactly just how he was going to deny Him. “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny me three times that you even know me” (Luke 22:34 NLT). Again, Peter speaks before he thinks. He doesn’t stop and consider that Jesus, the Messiah and the Son of God, might know something he doesn’t know. Instead, he vehemently denies Jesus’ words, in essence, calling Him a liar to His face. “No! Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (Mark 14:31 NLT). The others heartily agreed with Peter, not wanting to look like they were any less committed than he was.

But Jesus had already told them that they would all desert Him in His hour of greatest need. He quoted from Zechariah 13:7, “God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Mark 14:27 NLT). They would all scatter like cockroaches in the sudden glare of light. This would be a wholesale desertion of Jesus by the disciples. In fact, the only one we know for certain was at the site of the crucifixion during Jesus’ final moments, was John. No one else was anywhere to be found. But Jesus told Peter He was praying for him. He told him that, in spite of his denial, he would repent and return to Jesus. He would also serve as a source of encouragement to the other disciples.

One of the most encouraging stories in all of Scripture is the one that reveals the depths of Peter’s denial and the joy of his return. What Peter did that night in the garden was indefensible. It was incomprehensible. But it was forgivable. Peter would ultimately deny that he even knew Jesus. Not once, but three times. The man he claimed he would die for, he denied even knowing. His human nature would get the better of him. In the face of fear and possible death, he would forget all about his promise to die with Jesus and run for his life. But Jesus understood. He was gracious and kind, merciful and forgiving. Peter would be given a second chance. The real key to service for Jesus is not in our ability to remain steadfast and faithful, never failing or falling, but in our willingness to repent and return to Him. We will let Him down. In spite of the greatest of intentions, we will let sometimes end up denying the very one we way we love and to whom we have committed our lives. But just as Jesus had prayed for Peter, He has prayed for us. “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify themin the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:14-17 NLT). Jesus knows we live in a difficult environment, surrounded by a world that hates us. He knows that because we belong to Him, we are no longer of this world. So He has asked God to protect us and to sanctify us with the Word. Jesus does not expect perfection from us. He knows we will struggle and sometimes stumble and fall. But each time, when we repent and return we will find forgiveness and restored usefulness.

Father, like Peter, I sometimes talk a bold game, but then fail to come through in the clutch. I can come across as super-faithful in the good times, but when things get a bit tough, I can easily turn and run. But thank You that there is always forgiveness each time I return and repent. I can never wear out my usefulness to You, as long as I never stop remembering my complete dependence on You. I can’t live this life on my own. I can’t remain faithful on my own. I need Your strength, Your Spirit, Your Word, and the body of Jesus Christ, Your Church, to help me. Keep me dependent and repentant. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 116 – Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30

God’s Perfect Plan.

Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30

Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him.” – John 13:26-27 NLT

It is easy to read the account of Jesus and His disciples having their Passover meal together and treat each of the various elements as separate incidents. We see the washing of the feet as one scene. Then we see Jesus breaking the bread and giving it to His disciples as another. The revealing by Jesus that one of them would betray Him is yet another separate scene in our minds. But they are all part of a whole. This was one solitary evening that revolved around the Passover meal. In and of itself, this was a significant occasion, one that held great value in the hearts and minds of the disciples. But on this particular evening, it had taken on much greater significance because of what was about to happen. There is a tension in the room that, for the most part, goes unnoticed by the disciples. They are oblivious to all that is happening behind the scenes on both an earthly and spiritual level, that will bring this week and Jesus’ life to a climax.

It is important to remember that this was a spiritual battle. It had been since the day Jesus was born. Satan had been out to destroy Jesus from the moment He arrived in Bethlehem as a baby. You recall the efforts of Herod when he received news from the Magi that a king of the Jews had been born. This would have been up to two years after Jesus’ birth. As the Roman-appointed king of the Jews, Herod took this news badly and had all the baby boys two-years and younger living in the vicinity of Bethlehem killed. Who was driving his actions? Satan. Because he knew who Jesus was and he was desperate to eliminate Jesus. At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, immediately after His baptism, He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where He spent 40 days and nights fasting. At the end of that time, weakened by thirst and hunger, Satan showed up. His mission was to convince Jesus to give up His mission. He offered Him alternatives. He appealed to His senses, His vanity, His pride. All things any normal human being would have given in to. But Jesus was the God-man, and would not listen to the lies of the enemy. Eventually, Satan left Him, but he never gave up his quest to eliminate Jesus. He used the religious leaders to attack Him. He attempted over and over again to discredit Him. And finally, Satan would put it into the hearts of men to destroy Him. He believed that by killing Jesus he could destroy God’s plan. By eliminating the messenger, he could stop the message. You see, even Satan had a limited perspective. He didn’t know the end of the story.

It was in the middle of the Passover meal that Jesus chose to reveal the sobering news that one of their own would betray Him. “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” (Luke 22:21 NLT). This news was shocking to the disciples. John records, “The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean” (John 13:22 NLT). Peter got John’s attention and had him ask Jesus who He was talking about? They wanted to know who it was who would do such a thing. A few even asked if it was them. Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl” (John 13:26 NLT). This is significant.

There are many elements to the Passover meal that carried special significance and meaning. Everything had a purpose and was a symbol that was meant to communicate a spiritual truth. At this point in the meal, Jesus more than likely took a piece of unleavened bread, wrapped in around a small portion of the sacrificial lamb and then dipped it into a solution made with bitter herbs. Each of these elements on their own would have carried specific symbolism related to the release of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The lamb represented the innocent, spotless lambs the people had killed and whose blood they had sprinkled on the door posts and lintels of their homes in order to turn away God’s wrath in the form of the death angel. The unleavened bread had always represented the haste by which the people departed Egypt. They had no time to add yeast to their flour. But during the meal, Jesus would state that the unleavened bread now represented His own body, which was going to be broken for them. The bitter herbs were symbolic of the suffering of the people. Do you catch the symbolism as it relates to Jesus? The broken body of the sacrificed lamb, wrapped in sinlessness and dipped in suffering.

It says that Jesus took the bread, dipped it into the bowl and handed to it Judas. What is amazing is that Judas ate it. You would have thought that he would have rejected it and vehemently denied that he was the one. But instead, he took the bread, wrapped around the small piece of lamb, dipped in the bitter herbs and ate it. And John makes it clear that it was at this point that Satan entered into him. He had already made up his mind to do what he was going to do long before Satan entered into him. But Satan is an opportunist and he sought to utilize Judas’ hardened heart to his advantage. The deal between Judas and the high priest had already been struck. Now it was just a matter of following through on his commitment. “So Judas left at once, going out into the night” (John 13:30 NLT). The sinless, innocent Son of God, was about to have His body broken and undergo the most severe suffering known to man. Satan thought this was all his doing. He thought he had come up with the perfect plan, but little did he know that this was all the preordained work of God Himself. Peter makes this point clear in his sermon preached immediately after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Addressing the predominantly Jewish audience, he said, “But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed” (Acts 2:23 NLT). This was all part of God’s perfect plan. It all happened just as God had orchestrated it, long before the foundation of the world. We don’t know what Judas was thinking or what his motivation was. But he had a limited perspective. So did Satan. He is not omniscient or all-knowing. He truly believed this was the beginning of the end of Jesus, but he would prove to be so wrong. This was beginning, but of the end of him. Jesus was going to conquer sin, death and Satan with His actions. His betrayal was part of the plan. It had to happen just the way it did. And Jesus had to die in just the way He did. It was all part of God’s perfect plan of redemption.

Father, I can’t thank You enough for what You planned and Your Son accomplished. At no point were you ever out of control. There was never a moment when Satan had the upper hand. You were working Your plan to perfection, down to the last detail. And so I should trust that You are still working Your perfect plan perfectly today. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 115 – Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30; John 13:1-20

An Example To Follow.

Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30; John 13:1-20

“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” – John 13:15 NLT

There is so much going on in this scene. As Jesus eats the Passover meal with His disciples one last time, the occasion is overflowing with symbolism. Here was Jesus, the real Passover Lamb, taking this meal one last time with His disciples. He knows what lies ahead, and it is an emotion-filled time for Him. He knew that He was the fulfillment of all for which the Passover celebration stood. In just a few short hours, He would be offering up His life as a sinless sacrifice. He would be shedding His blood. He would be dying for the men who were sharing that last meal with Him. Jesus had a mission to accomplish. He had a final task to perform before His job was complete. “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God(John 13:1-3 NLT).

One of the things we must recognize in order to understand the significance of this event is the critical nature of purity and holiness to the Passover celebration. A great emphasis was placed on cleansing. The two disciples who were sent to prepare for the meal would have spent a great deal of time ceremonially cleansing the room in which they were to take the Passover meal together. Everything in the house would have been cleansed. All leaven would have had to have been removed from the house. Each man would have had to ceremonially wash his hands before eating the meal. But the disciples had evidently missed one thing: No one had washed their feet. Why? More than likely because there was no household servant to do it. They were in a borrowed room. Normally, a household servant or slave would have performed this demeaning task. So when they entered the room, they simply overlooked this detail. More than likely because each of them were too prideful to do it themselves. That’s what makes what happened next so significant. “So he [Jesus] got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him” (John 13:4-5 NLT).

Jesus did what they would NOT do. Here was their leader and master, their teacher and their self-confessed Messiah, stooping down to do the one task that none of them would do. He humbled Himself and slowly, methodically went from disciple to disciple, washing their filthy feet. Peter, probably embarrassed, tried to keep Jesus from washing his feet. He protested, “No, you will never wash my feet!” (John 13:8 NLT). But Jesus told him, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me” (John 13:7 NLT). Upon hearing this, Peter demands that Jesus wash his hands and head as well! But Jesus told him that was unnecessary. His feet were what needed washing and Jesus was taking care of that neglected, but essential oversight. Purity, cleanliness and holiness were essential to the Passover meal, but these men had neglected something important. All out of pride.

Peter didn’t understand. None of the disciples did. This was an illustration. Jesus was acting out for them what it was He was about to do for them in just a few hours. He was going to serve them in death. He was going to sacrifice Himself on their behalf. All so that they might be fully clean. Jesus was demonstrating for them the kind of attitude or mindset that He wanted them to have. He was showing them the true nature of His Kingdom. It would be one of servant leadership. It would be marked by humility and not pride. It would be characterized by humble, sacrificial service. Paul reminds us, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8 NLT). Jesus Himself had said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT).

Jesus came to serve. He came in humility. He came to sacrifice Himself on behalf of others. He came to provide cleansing. He came to make us righteous and acceptable before God. The true significance of what Jesus was doing would hit them later. “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important that the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them” (John 13:12-17 NLT).

All of these men, except for Judas, would eventually do just as Jesus did. They would end up serving others. Fifty days after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit would descend and fill these men with power, equipping them to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. They would suffer greatly for the cause of Christ. They would sacrifice their time, energy and talents to make sure that the Good News was spread around the known world at that time. They would be persecuted, misunderstood, arrested, beaten and, in time, each of them would end up sacrificing their lives so that others might be cleansed. They would end up as martyrs for the cause of Christ. They would do as Jesus had done. This was not about the washing of feet. It was about humility and selfless service for the cause of the Kingdom. It was about purity, cleansing, and holiness. It was about the need to ensure that all men received the cleansing made available to them through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We cannot afford to let our pride get in the way. We can’t let embarrassment or ego prevent us from doing what needs to be done. We must have the mind of Christ. We must share His attitude of selfless, sacrificial service and an unflinching willingness to do the will of our Father.

Father, I want to have the same attitude that Christ had. I want to see my pride increasingly diminish so that I might do as Jesus did. I want to learn to serve selflessly, even doing those things that no one else will do. I want to serve in ways that mean I don’t get any credit and I don’t receive any accolades. Jesus did the unthinkable. He did the distasteful. He lowered Himself and did what no one else could or would do. May I be willing to do as He did. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 114 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13

My Time Has Come.

Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13

“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” – Matthew 26:18-20 NLT

The timing of Jesus’ triumphal entry, betrayal, trial and crucifixion was no fluke. The fact that this all happened during the celebration of Passover was no coincidence. This was the high holy week for all Jews and the city of Jerusalem would have been filled to capacity with pilgrims coming from all over the known world at that time. Luke tells us in Acts that there were “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11 NLT). The city would have been a melting pot of different nationalities, consisting of all those who had converted to Judaism. Passover was a seven-day celebration that was followed 50 days later with the celebration of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the Law on Sinai. The energy level within the city would have been at an all-time high. People were everywhere. It was a festival and celebration, that would have had a holiday feel about it, much like Christmas does for us.

As the day for the celebration of the Passover meal approached, the disciples went to Jesus and asked Him where He wanted them to prepare the meal. This would not have been the first time they had celebrated Passover together. Ever since Jesus chose them as His followers, they would have made their way to Jerusalem each year, and eaten this meal together, much like a family, with Jesus as the head of the household. What the disciples didn’t know was that this particular Passover meal was going to be a radical departure from all those they had participated in before – all the way back to their childhoods. The entire last week of Jesus’ life, commonly referred to as Passion Week, was filled with significant allusions to the Old Testament celebration of Passover, most of which would have escaped the notice of the disciples. In Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, he said, “My time has come…” Jesus fully grasped the significance of what was about to happen and what it had to do with the Passover. He knew He was about to play the part of the innocent lamb, sacrificing His life in order that men might escape the grasp of death – just as in the days of the original Passover in Egypt.

His time had come. The climax of His earthly life was fast approaching. And as He sent the two disciples to make preparations for what would be His last Passover meal, His mind had to be swimming with thoughts regarding what was about to take place in the days ahead. Meanwhile the disciples who had been tasked with the preparations for the meal would have had their hands full. In reading the different accounts of this story in the Gospels, it appears as if all they had to do was procure a room. But there were extensive rituals to be performed. There was an unblemished lamb to purchase, sacrifice and prepare. In fact, these two disciples would have been the ones to actually take the life of the lamb they had chosen. There in the Temple grounds, along with thousands of other pilgrims, they would have watched as the life blood of their lamb was drained into a vessel, and then poured out at the foot of the altar. Then the lamb was “skinned, and cut open, the fat, the kidney’s, and liver, set apart for the altar; the rest wrapped in the skin, and carried home from the Temple.… As the new day approached, at sunset, the carcass was trussed for roasting, with two skewers of pomegranate wood, so that they formed a cross in the lamb. It was then put in an earthen oven of a special kind, resting, without bottom, on the ground, and was roasted in the earth” (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ).

Prior to this, they would have had to prepare the house in which they would be taking their meal together. They would have had to have removed all leaven, fermented grain or liquid, and anything that might defile the house. All the vessels to be used in preparation of the meal had to be painstakingly cleansed. This would have been an all-day affair. A blast from the silver trumpets in the Temple would have announced to all Jerusalem that the Passover had arrived. The time had come, just as it had over the years. But this time it was going to be different. This time there would be a new Lamb. This would be the final Passover. Once this week ended, there would never be a need for another lamb to ever be sacrificed again. No more blood would need to be shed. No more sacrifices would need to be made. A new covenant was going to be instituted. And while all of this escaped the notice of the disciples, Jesus was fully aware of what was going on and the eternal significance of the role He was about to play. It was for this moment He had come and the time had come for Him to do what only He could do.

Father, it is difficult to understand what these final days would have been like for Your Son. It is impossible to grasp what was going through His mind and heart as He drew closer to those final moments of His life. What He did, He did willingly. He was not forced or coerced. He was not made to die in our place. He did it gladly and out of love for us – in spite of our unlovableness. Thank You for sending Him to die in my place. Jesus, thank You for being willing to be obedient, even unto death – just for me. I know I didn’t deserve. I know I had done nothing to earn it. But You did it anyway. And I am eternally grateful. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 113 – Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6


Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6

“Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.” – Luke 22:3-4 NLT

Judas Iscariot. He is one of the most infamous characters in all of history. He is forever labeled as the dark-hearted, evil individual who betrayed the innocent Son of God and sealed His death. No one names their son, Judas. In fact, his very name is so synonymous with betrayal, that to be called “a Judas” would be an insult to most of us. Yet, this man was hand-picked by Jesus Himself. He was one of the original twelve Jesus chose to follow Him. Of course, he comes at the end of each of the gospel writer’s lists of disciples, and always with the disclaimer, “who later betrayed him.” At what point Jesus knew that Judas would be His betrayer, we are not told. We only know that this man was chosen along with the others, spent more than three years of his life living with and learning from Jesus. He became friends with the disciples. He was the official treasurer for the group and handled all their funds. It would not be until the latter part of His life that Jesus would begin to discuss His coming betrayal, and He spoke of it in fairly vague terms, saying, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law” (Mark 10:33 NLT). He didn’t say who would betray Him or how. We’re not told whether He knew or not. I have a suspicion that, because of His divine nature, and the fact that Jesus had exhibited the ability to look into the hearts of men on previous occasions, He probably knew that Judas was the one. But Judas had no idea. He was oblivious to the fact that the role of betrayer was out there in his future.

I truly believe that Judas followed Jesus with many of the same intentions and aspirations as the other disciples. He had hoped that Jesus truly was the Messiah. But, like the others, he had a very narrow understanding of what that meant. Their view of the Messiah was based on the concept of a conquering king and military emancipator. He was to be a warrior like David who would lead his people to victory over the Romans and reestablish the might and majesty of the Jewish nation. He would expand the borders of Israel once again. They would become a force to be reckoned with in that region of the world once again. But when Jesus failed to exhibit the characteristics of a king or do anything about gathering an army or planning an insurrection, the disciples became confused. Judas became impatient. Perhaps he did what he did in an attempt to force Jesus’ hand. We are not given the motivation behind his actions. Luke alone tells us that “Satan entered into Judas Iscariot.” Which could easily lead us to believe that Judas was an innocent pawn in the hands of the enemy. But his heart had become fertile ground for Satan’s influence. This was probably not the first time that Satan had entered into Judas. When Mary anointed Jesus with the costly perfume, John records that it was Judas who spoke up and complained that this was a wasteful extravagance and that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But John states, “Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself” (John 12:6 NLT). Judas had a heart that had been hardened over time. He had heard the teachings of Jesus, but had failed to listen to them. He was dishonest, self-centered, self-seeking and seemed to have been interested in only one thing: Living his life according to his own terms and for his own sake.

The Scriptures make it clear that what Judas did was in fulfillment of prophecy. After Jesus’ ascension, as the disciples waited in a closed room as Jesus had commanded them to dt, Peter spoke up and said,

“Brothers, the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.”(Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’” (Acts 1:16-20 NLT).

In this little speech, Peter refers to a passage in Psalm 41 written by David that he believed to be a prediction of what Judas had done. It reads, “Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me” (Psalm 41:9 NLT). So even the disciples believed that the actions of Judas were a part of God’s foreordained plan. The night Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples for the last time, He stated, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:23-24 NLT). Interestingly enough, Judas asked Jesus the question, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.” I think this was simply an attempt on Judas’ part to see if Jesus knew who it was who was going to do the dirty deed. He had already made his plans and negotiated his payment with the religious leaders. Now it was just a matter of timing. Judas was destined to betray Jesus. But it was not an act outside of his control. He knew full well what he was doing. He was a willing, active participant in the process. His meeting with the religious leaders was not motivated by Satan. He came up with that plan all on his own. He determined to profit off of his relationship with Jesus. If He wasn’t going to declare Himself King and whisk His disciples into roles of leadership and power, Judas was going to make the best out of a disappointing situation.

It would be easy to vilify Judas and make him the poster boy for evil. But if you think about it, all of us betray Jesus on a daily basis. That word “betray” seems so harsh and violent. But the word can actually be translated “to turn over” or “deliver up.” Judas turned over Jesus. He handed Him over so that he could gain a profit. He let Jesus go just so he could gain. Did he fully understand what he was doing and what the end result of his actions would be? Probably not. When he saw how his betrayal impacted the life of Jesus, he attempted to return his ill-gotten gain and repent of his actions. He ultimately took his own life. But the bottom line is that he was willing to deliver Jesus up, turn Him over, and sacrifice his relationship with Him, just out of selfish greed. How many times have you turned over your relationship with Jesus just so you could get a promotion, have a good time, make a little extra money, enjoy a little “forbidden fruit,” or dabble in some pleasure that He might deny you?

As evil as Judas’ actions may appear to us, the truth is that each of us betray Jesus daily – in little, seemingly insignificant ways. We deny Him. We hand Him over to the enemy, and in exchange we get some benefit that ends up being short-lived and that fails to deliver what we had hoped. When we refuse to spend time in the Word, because we would rather work, sleep, or play, we turn Jesus over. We exchange Him for something else that we deem to be of greater value. For Judas, 30 pieces of silver had greater value than his 3-year relationship with Jesus. He sacrificed Jesus for money. Don’t we do the same thing? When we would rather work than worship? When we would rather make money than spend time with Jesus? When we would rather play and be entertained than sit at His feet?

Judas had spent more than three years in the company and companionship of Jesus. But when it all came down to it, his desire for worldly things far outweighed his love for and appreciation of Jesus. What would you be willing to exchange for Jesus? What do you want so badly that you would turn over Jesus just to have it?

Father, betrayal seems like such an ugly term. But the reality is that I betray Your Son every day of my life in so many subtle and seemingly simple ways. Any time I give something else in my life greater value than my relationship with Him, I betray Jesus. I turn Him over in order to get what I want in return. Help me to see my heart. Don’t let me make a villain out of Judas and fail to see my own guiltiness. Help me hold on to Jesus and to never exchange Him for anything, no matter how valuable it may appear. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 112 – Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:2-8

Anointed For Death While Alive.

Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:2-8

“She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time.” – Mark 14:9 NLT

There has always been a fascinating story to me. It is full of interesting turns and twists and raises more than just a few questions. One of the most intriguing things about this passage is a statement by Jesus. It is one that I overlooked for years. After having been anointed and hearing the protests of Judas about the wastefulness of this action, Jesus responds by saying, “I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed” (Mark 14:9 NLT). I can’t help but read that statement and ask, “Was He right?” Have the actions of this woman been remembered and discussed wherever the Good News has been preached? There is no doubt that this passage has been preached and the events contained in it have been discussed, but I really question whether her deed has been remembered and discussed. I am not saying that Jesus was wrong, but I am suggesting that we have perhaps missed the significance of the moment as Jesus saw it. His statement suggests that the actions of Mary were not to be overlooked or misunderstood. The disciples, especially Judas, saw what she did as wasteful and unnecessary. It seemed extravagant and a tad over-zealous on Mary’s part. But Jesus said that what she did should be remembered and discussed among all believers everywhere for all time. Why?

I think there are several things going on here. First of all, it is just days before Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and death. He has told His disciples what is going to happen in Jerusalem, but they are refusing to believe it. Jesus has His attention focused on the task at hand – His sacrificial death for the sins of all mankind. The disciples are focused on the Kingdom. They are still anticipating that Jesus is going to establish His earthly Kingdom and they are going to rule and reign at His side. They have no room in their plans for a suffering Savior or a martyred Messiah. Jesus is fully aware of all that is about to happen to Him. He knows Judas is going to betray Him. He is painfully aware that Peter is going to deny Him. He knows that every one of the disciples will desert Him. So when He walked into the home of Simon the leper in order to attend a special dinner held in His honor, His mind was on the events that faced Him in just days. But this dinner was a celebration. Simon, the host of this event, had been healed from leprosy by Jesus. In attendance was Lazarus, who Jesus had miraculously raised from the dead just days before. Along with him are his sisters, Mary and Martha. This was a joyous occasion, and all in attendance were celebrating the life, health, and wholeness of these two men: Simon and Lazarus. Jesus was the center of attention, because He had made it all possible. It was a feast, complete with fine food and good wine. And then, in the middle of it all, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, stood up and took a bottle of costly perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head and feet. This would have been a stop-down moment. The smell would have been overwhelming, as the pungent aroma of essence of nard filled the room. All eyes would have been riveted on Mary as she knelt at Jesus feet, weeping and wiping up the excess perfume with her own hair. Jaws would have dropped. Whispers would have been passed back and forth. Mark tells us that some at the table were indignant at what they saw. Judas, the treasurer of the disciples, spoke up and commented on the wastefulness of it all. “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor” (John 12:5 NLT).

But why did Mary do what she did? Jesus seemed to indicate that Mary knew what she was doing. He said, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial” (John 12:7 NLT). But I don’t think that was Mary’s intent. I don’t believe she anointed Jesus, aware that He was going to be dead in just a few days. Her action was purely out of gratitude for what Jesus had done for her brother. He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and she was overwhelmed with gratitude. So she took the best that she had and gave it to the Lord. She blessed Him for having been a blessing to her. Unknowingly, she was anointing Jesus for burial – while He was still alive. The fragrance of that perfume would have been with Jesus even when He hung on the cross. The oil from the essence of nard would have mixed with His blood as He was scourged by the Roman guards. It would have mingled with His sweat as He hung on the cross, enduring the physical pain and the verbal abuse of the religious leaders. And as Jesus breathed His last breath, the smell of that perfume would have filled His nostrils.

This selfless, sacrificial gift would last much longer than the meal or the accolades of the guests. Even the shouts of “Hosanna” that had accompanied Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that previous Sunday would soon be changed to screams of “Crucify Him!” The people at that dinner were there because they had either seen or heard about Jesus’ miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was a celebrity. He was a rock star. But none of them went out of their way to sacrificially thank Him for all that He had one. One person, Mary, took the time and sacrificed her resources, to express gratitude to Jesus for His ministry in her life. And her thankful actions were seen by Jesus as a preparation for His coming death.

Jesus was on His way to die – on their behalf. The disciples were busy planning for the Kingdom, even debating who would have the highest positions in Jesus’ new administration. The people were thinking that things were looking up. The Messiah was here and, once He claimed His rightful throne, He was going to get rid of the Romans once and for all. But Mary could think of nothing else than expressing thanks for what Jesus had already done in her life. She expressed gratitude.

Jesus made a point of saying that what Mary had done for Him should be remembered and discussed among believers everywhere and for all time. Why? Because she alone expressed the proper response to Him. She was not asking for more. She was not demanding that He set up His Kingdom. She was not wanting Him to perform more miracles or prove Himself in any other way. He had already done more than enough for Mary and she showed Him just how grateful she was. And in doing so, she helped prepare His living body for His coming death. Her action of gratitude would have more impact than even she intended. She did what she could. She gave what she had. She showed how she felt. And she should be remembered.

Father, how quickly we blow past this story. Or we get hung up on the wrong things. This woman’s simple, sacrificial act of thanksgiving to Jesus would have a long-lasting impact on Him. He would remember what she did in the days ahead as the aroma of the perfume helped encourage Him during the darkest moments of His life. She anointed for death while He was still living by expressing her love and gratitude for what He had already done. May I learn to do the same. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 111 – Matthew 25:1-26:5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

The King And His Kingdom!

Matthew 25:1-26:5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.” – Matthew 25:31 NLT

One of the themes of the Gospels that most of us seem to overlook or simply ignore is that of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we think of the Gospels, we tend to concentrate on Jesus as the Savior of the world. Because we are 21st-Century believers living in a western context, the whole idea of a King and a Kingdom does not resonate with us. But we have to remember that the New Testament is in harmony with and a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus was the one who had been promised by God to Abraham. “And the Lord came to Abram, and said, I will give all this land to your seed; then Abram made an altar there to the Lord who had let himself be seen by him(Genesis 12:7 BBE). That word translated “seed” is important. It can be translated “seed, offspring, or even descendants.” So it would be natural to assume that God is promising the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. And that would be a right assumption. But Paul gives us an even better understanding of this passage. He writes, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:15-16 NASB). In other words, when God made His promise to Abraham, He was saying that, ultimately, He was going to give the land to Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, but also the Son of God and the King of kings. The land would belong to Him as its rightful ruler.

The Gospels are full of references to the Kingdom. In fact, when Jesus came into the world He was a fulfillment of countless Old Testament prophecies that predicted and promised the coming of a King, a descendant of David, who would sit on his throne forever. God had promised David, “Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you – a dynasty of kings!…Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for al time, and your throne will be secure forever” (2 Samuel 7:11, 16 NLT). But it had been hundreds of years since a descendant of David had ruled from a throne in Jerusalem. In fact, since their return from exile in Babylon, Israel had had no king at all. Then there was a 400 year period of oppression under a string of different countries, most recently Rome. The king who sat on the throne when Jesus was born was Herod, an Edomite, and not a descendant of David. But Jesus WAS a descendant of David. The lineage of Jesus found in Luke traces His line back to David through Mary. This establishes Jesus’ legal claim to the throne. The lineage found in Matthew traces the line of Jesus through Mary. This establishes Jesus’ hereditary claim to the throne. When Mary and Joseph obeyed the decree to go to their ancestral home for taxation purposes, they went to Bethlehem. “And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home” (Luke 2: 4 NLT). Jesus was of royal pedigree.

What did the angel tell Mary when he announced to her God’s plan? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33 NLT). Her son would be a king. He would rule just like David did, but His kingdom would be everlasting. Some time after Jesus’ birth, even the magi came looking for a king. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NLT). At the birth of John the Baptist, his father, Zechariah prophesied about the royalty of Jesus even before He was born. ”Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David” (Luke 1:67-68 NLT).

Why is this so important? Because Jesus was not just born to be our Savior, but to be King. The reality is that, one day, He will be King over all mankind whether they believe in Him or not. Paul reminds us, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 NLT). But we will not all worship Him in the same way. Some will be His loyal subjects. Others will bow in subjugation. Some will be citizens. Others will be slaves – the captives of war. Some will be welcomed into His presence. Others will be cast out. Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, made it possible for men to be restored to a right relationship with God, so that we might live in His eternal Kingdom, under the righteous rule of Jesus Christ, forever. He will be our Savior AND our King. In fact, He is our Savior and King even today. But the problem is that, too often, we want to welcome Jesus as Savior, but refuse to let Him rule in our lives. We accept His gracious offer of eternal life, but we want to be the ones who rule and reign over our own lives.

Jesus spent a great deal of time teaching about the Kingdom. It was going to be drastically different than the one the Jews were anticipating. They were looking for a conquering king who would establish His kingdom on earth and set them free from subjugation to Rome. But Jesus came to establish a different kind of Kingdom. He came to set them free from slavery to sin. He came to release them from captivity to Satan and to release them from the condemnation of death as rebels against God. So much of what Jesus said about the Kingdom had to do with His future return. He was going to come back. And when He did, He would set up the kind of Kingdom the Jewish people had long been waiting for. Jesus taught about His eminent return as King. But it would not take place until He had suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of mankind. He would have to redeem mankind before they would accept His rule over them. Without His offer of salvation, we would never accept Him as sovereign. But the whole story of the Bible is about the righteous rule and reign of God over His creation. Jesus was born as King and He was crucified as King. At His trial, the soldiers mocked Him as King. “They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove a thorn branch into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” (Mark 15:17-18 NLT). On the cross, the sign that was nailed above His head carried the charge, “The King of the Jews.” As He hung on the cross, the religious leaders mocked Him as King. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe in him!” (Mark 15:31-32 NLT). Jesus died because He was King. But He is coming again because He is King.

The Return of the King!

Jesus had taught His disciples that He would die, but He would rise again. He also told them that He would go away, but He would return some day. And when He did, He would establish His Kingdom once and for all. The Messianic Kingdom they anticipated would come, but not when they expected it.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” –  Matthew 25:31-34 NLT

The Gospels record the arrival of the King and the beginning of His Kingdom. They record Jesus’ teaching regarding the Kingdom. They contrast the false view with the true image of the Kingdom. They establish Jesus as the King. It was for His claim to be King that He died. And it will be as a King that He returns.

Father, too often I am more than willing to acknowledge Jesus as my Savior, but refuse to let Him be my King. I take on that responsibility, attempting to rule my life according to my own standards and in an effort to live life on my own terms. But He died that I might live, and do so as His subject, a citizen of His Kingdom, submitting myself to His righteous rule over my life. Show me how to live, not just because of Him, but for Him. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 110 – Luke 21:5-36

Watch Out!

Luke 21:5-26

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” – Luke 21:34-36 NLT

This is Luke’s account of the very same message given by Jesus and recorded by Matthew and Mark. So rather than go back over the content that I covered the last two days, I want to concentrate on how Jesus closed His teaching to His disciples. It is clear that some of what He told them was going to take place within their lifetimes, once He had been crucified, resurrected and ascended. He had warned them of this before. When Jesus had sent them out two by two, He had told them, “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues.You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time” (Matthew 10:16-19 NLT). If you read further in Matthew’s account, you realize that none of this took place while they were out ministering, so Jesus was talking about some future time. It would all be fulfilled once they began their ministry in His absence. The book of Acts records the death of the apostles James and of Peter’s imprisonment. “About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover” (Acts 12:1-4 NLT).

Church history records that most, if not all, of the apostles died martyr’s deaths. So what Jesus told them did come to pass. But in this passage in Luke, Jesus is telling them about things that were going to happen long after they were gone. And yet, He closes His message to them with the words, “Watch out!” He tells them to be alert. Why would He tell them to “pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man”? (Luke 21:36 NLT) The fact is that every generation will suffer their fair share of trials. Jesus had told the disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). James wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4 NLT). Paul echoed the same theme: “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits arebeing renewed every day.For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT).

Trials are part of life. Difficulties will come. Persecution may be our lot in life. But Jesus told His disciples to watch out. He told them to keep alert. He told them to pray for strength. They were to keep their eyes on the end. They were to live like Jesus was going to come back any day. They were to be prepared for His appearance. Their lives were to be marked by an attitude of anticipation. That’s why He told them to not let their hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness. There is no time to get distracted or have your senses dulled by the things of this world. It’s interesting that he adds to the somewhat negative acts of carousing and drunkenness, the worries of this life. Jesus had earlier told the disciples, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT). Then He went on to say, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of Godabove all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT). It is so easy to let the worries and cares of this life get us off task and distract us from what we are really to be doing. We can lose sight of our true purpose as God’s people and begin to live as if this is all there is. Rather than live for His coming Kingdom, we try to establish our own little sovereignties right here on earth, with ourselves serving as king and lord of our own domain.

But Jesus said, “Don’t let that day catch you unaware” (Luke 21:34 NLT). We are to live in a state of readiness, as if Jesus could appear any day. We need to be alert and diligent. We can’t afford to fall asleep at our post or get distracted by the cares of this world. Paul told his young protege, Timothy, “Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them” (2 Timothy 2:3-4 NLT). Paul wanted Timothy to be ready. He wanted him to take his role seriously as a servant of Jesus Christ. He had been commissioned for service by the Lord Himself, and Paul wanted Timothy to serve well. That is what Jesus wants from each of us who call ourselves His followers. The world is going to try to distract us. The enemy is going to try and discourage us. Our own sin nature is going to attempt to defeat us. But we must watch. We must remain alert. And we must pray for strength. But we must also remind one another and encourage each other of the reality that Jesus is coming again. This is NOT all there is. He is not done yet. We have been saved. We are being sanctified. But one day we will all be glorified. Jesus Christ is going to come again and complete what He has begun. That is our hope. That is where we need to keep our focus. One day we will stand before the Son of Man, and all of this will have been worth it all.

Father, thank You that You are not done. Help me to keep my eyes focused on the end. Give me the strength to stand firm, remain alert, to keep my eyes open and to stay faithful. Don’t allow me to get distracted by this world. Don’t let me get dulled by all that this life offers than can take my eyes off of the hope of Christ’s return. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men