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
kenm@christchapelbc.org

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Day 64 – Matthew 16:5-12; Mark 8:14-26

Deeper Truths.

Matthew 16:5-12; Mark 8:14-26

“You have eyes – can’t you see? You have ears – can’t you hear?” – Mark 8:18 NLT

The disciple were just ordinary men. Most of them were uneducated, even by the standards of their day. And each of them had willingly left behind whatever career they had chosen for themselves, in order to follow Jesus and learn from Him. It was a common practice for young men to follow a rabbi and become His disciples. But the disciples probably had no idea just what they were getting themselves into when they took up after Jesus. This was going to be one wild ride. Jesus was not like any other rabbi or teacher. He was the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah. He had unprecedented power and unparalleled teachings. Learning from Jesus was like drinking from a fire hose. There was more truth than they could handle. Everything He said and did caused them to have to rethink everything they thought they knew about God, religion, life, ministry, the Messiah, and His coming Kingdom.

But what I love about them is their ordinariness. These guys were just like me. They didn’t always come across as the brightest bulbs in the box. They could be stubborn, insensitive, uncaring, prideful, argumentative, overly competitive, and at times, just plain stupid. But then, so can I. Their hearts were in the right place, but they were having to deal with a lot of issues that sometimes blinded them to the truth of what Jesus was trying to teach them. They were just men, and they tended to get stuck on an earthly level, obsessing about things that didn’t really matter. Today’s passages share just such an occasion. They have crossed back over the lake, and when they arrive on the other side, Jesus makes a comment regarding the Pharisees, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6 NLT). Now the disciples were already a little put out, because they realized that they didn’t bring any bread with them. And what makes this particularly funny is that they had had seven baskets full of bread left over from when Jesus fed the 4,000. They just forgot to bring any of it with them. So, the disciples get into a heated argument over the fact that nobody had brought any bread. They somehow think that Jesus is talking about bread, and so they start passing blame and pointing fingers. Jesus stops them right in their tracks. “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread?” (Matthew 16:7-11 NLT). Ouch! That had to have hurt. But Jesus is trying to get them to understand something far more important and life threatening than a lack of bread. It is as if He is saying, “I can get you plenty of bread when you need it. That’s not a problem.” But the greatest threat to their lives was false teaching. The kind of false teaching that the Pharisees and Sadducees were spreading among the people under the guise of truth. Like yeast, this teaching was working its way through the nation of Israel, contaminating the minds of the people against Jesus and His teaching. Ultimately, they would turn the people against the disciples as well.

Their obsession with temporal, physical things was preventing them from understanding the more significant issues that threatened the cause of Christ. They were majoring on the minors. Jesus could provide them with plenty of bread. He had already shown His ability to do that. But He was much more concerned that they understood why He was so strongly opposed to the religious leadership of the day. They needed to see the danger of following their ways and listening to their teaching. Because they were wrong. Regardless of how spiritual and righteous they may appear, they were prideful, arrogant men who were teaching a different kingdom and rejecting the very Son of God. Better to go hungry than feed on the false food these men offered up on a daily basis.

Jesus wanted the disciples to listen and learn. He wanted them to see the world around them with new eyes. The message He would leave them to take to the world would be opposed by these same religious leaders. They would face ongoing resistance from the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus wanted them to understand just how dangerous these men were. They were not allies. They were not on the same team. Their message stood in direct opposition to that of Jesus. And they would continue to be a stumbling block for many when it came to the Good News of Jesus Christ. And that piece of information was far more important than who forgot to bring the bread.

Father, it is so easy to focus on the wrong thing in this life. We can easily take our eyes off the task at hand and obsess about things that have no eternal significance. Help us stay focused. Help us to see what is really important to You and Your Son. Because we are so effected by the physical, we can easily get distracted by physical things like food, clothes, money, shelter, etc. But there are far more dangerous and subtle threats to our lives and to Your Kingdom. Open our eyes so we can see what You see. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 54 – John 6:1-14

A Lesson In Limitlessness.

John 6:1-14

“Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?’” – John 6:5 NLT

John gives us a unique insight into this familiar story. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that as the day grew late, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to send the crowds away. It was getting close to dinner time and they would have to find someplace to eat. John gives us the added insight that “it was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration” (Luke 6:4 NLT). Which means that there were more people in this vicinity as Jews were making the long trek to Jerusalem for Passover. So that explains why the disciples mentioned the crowds having to find somewhere to buy food rather than simply return to their own homes. Many of these people would have been pilgrims, just passing through on their way to Jerusalem for Passover. Inns were few and far between. There would have been few places to eat or sleep. This only intensifies the need of the moment.

At some point, Jesus turns to Philip and asks, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (John 6:5 NLT). We’re not told why Jesus singled out Philip, but it was probably because he was from the town of Capernaum, which was about nine miles from where they were standing. He would have known all the towns and villages in the area. Interestingly enough, Philip’s response didn’t bring up the fact that there weren’t enough places around there to buy food. Instead, he pointed out that their real problem was a lack of resources. They didn’t have enough money to buy the food to feed that many people. So he simply responded, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” (Luke 6:7 NLT). We don’t know why the other Gospel writers didn’t record this exchange. It may have been that Jesus did it in private and only John was there to overhear it. John had a unique relationship with Jesus and always seemed to be at His side. So he could have been there when Jesus had this conversation with Philip. But we’re told that Jesus was simply testing Philip, to see what he would say and do, given the circumstances. Jesus already knew what He was going to do. Remember, the disciples had just returned from their short-term mission trip where they had experienced first-hand the power and authority given to them by Jesus. They had cast out demons and healed all kinds of diseases. Now they found themselves facing a new kind of problem, a different kind of need. How would they respond? What would they do?

Philips response is totally normal and natural, but it reveals a limited perspective. He was judging their capacity to solve the problem based on human and physical limits. There were too many people and not enough money. Case closed. The need outweighed their resources. Even when they found a young boy with five barley loaves and two small fish, Andrew said, “What good is that with this huge crowd?” (Luke 6:9 NLT). They had limited resources. But Jesus was about to show them new way of looking at things. He was going to change their perspective by taking what little they had and doing much with it. The real lesson was going to be that nothing can limit God. Jesus had everyone sit down. We don’t know the exact number of people, but chances are, if there were 5,000 men alone, there were probably at least an additional 5,000 women and children present. So at minimum, there were 10,000 plus people in the crowd that day. Jesus took the fives loaves and the two fish, gave thanks to God, then began breaking them apart, giving them to the disciples to distribute among the people. “And they all ate as much as they wanted” (Luke 6:11 NLT). John tells us that Jesus did not stop until everyone was completely full and satisfied. This was not a case of careful rationing of what they had. It was a miraculous multiplying of what appeared to be not enough. Jesus used the limitless power of God to produce a limitless supply of food. Nobody went without. And nothing was wasted. Jesus had the disciples pick up what was not eaten and there were twelve baskets filled with the leftover scraps the people didn’t eat. No money was used to solve this problem. There was no pooling of resources in order to produce a solution. Surely the disciples could have come up with a plan to take up an offering and then use that money to go and buy food for the people. And if they had succeeded, they would have taken credit for having solved the problem on their own. But Jesus wasn’t really interested in how or what they could do. He was trying to get them to understand that God solves human problems by heavenly means. I have to believe that there was subtle message from Jesus to the disciples in all of this. He was breaking bread and handing it to the disciples, who then passed it out among the people. The day was coming when Jesus, the Bread of Life, would be broken on a Roman cross, and the disciples would be tasked with passing on the message of His death and resurrection to people in need all around the world. And the day right after this event happened, Jesus would say, “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33 NLT). The people responded by asking Jesus to give them some of this bread. To which He replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NLT). Jesus would go on to tell them, “Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh” (John 6:48-51 NLT).

The real message on the hillside that day wasn’t just about Jesus being able to miraculously feed thousands of people with next to nothing at His disposal. It was about something far greater and more important. The people who ate the food that day would have been hungry again in just a few hours. Their satisfaction would only have lasted a little while. They were amazed at Jesus had done and wanted to crown Him king right then and there. But they had yet to eat of the Bread of Life. They were still spiritually needy and condemned by their own sin. But not long from this moment, the disciples would be handing out a new form of sustenance and salvation that would have the potential to change the lives of these people forever. Jesus would give His life so that others may live. He would be broken so that others might be healed. He would suffer so that others would not have to. That’s the real message behind the miracle. We can’t save ourselves. Our resources are limited. But God has a plan to meet our need, and His name is Jesus.

Father, thank You Jesus. Thank You for providing a solution to my problem. My sin was great, but Your solution was greater. You provided a way to satisfy my spiritual hunger and give me life when I was faced with certain death. Never let me lose sight of the real message of this story. It isn’t about bread and fishes, but about the Bread of Life – Jesus Christ – the only answer to the spiritual hunger of the world. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org