Acts 4

Vs. 3, “They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.”  Jesus’ prophetic words are coming true as the disciples are now experiencing persecution for their faith (Matthew 10).  Peter and John are arrested that evening, however, this does not deter many more coming to faith (vs. 1-4).  In our previous chapter, they had healed the lame man and were now preaching the gospel in the Solomon’s Colonnade.  The following morning, Peter and John stand before Annas (former high priest), Caiaphas (current high priest), and the Sanhedrin; the same people who tried Jesus just weeks earlier (vs. 5-12).  The Holy Spirit filled Peter and gave him the words to respond before them (Matthew 10:19)!  These were the very people who rejected Jesus, but now Peter calls them out.  The opponents were in a dilemma, for it was undeniable that a miracle had occurred with the lame man (vs. 13-22).  If they let them go, they may continue to share.  But if they condemn them, there may be a public riot.  In our application section, we will discuss the disciple’s response.  When Peter and John returned, the early church responded with great faith and courage (vs. 23-31).  Their response and prayer was so powerful, that place they met was shaken by God (vs. 31)!  And we close our chapter (vs. 32-37) with another reminder how the early followers voluntarily shared their possessions.  It’s notable that Barnabas is mentioned.  In the next chapter, we will see why this reminder was placed contextually.

Regarding application…Who Do We Obey?  Vs. 19, “But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.”  We should be respectful citizens of the country we reside in.  The Apostle Paul gave us the right perspective (Romans 13:1-7) as well as Peter (I Peter 2:13-17) in laying down the foundation of civil obedience.  However, there is a caveat: If your countries laws go directly against God’s word, than we must obey God first!  In most cases, this will not apply to us.  For example, if your country is banning bibles and meeting together for worship, you are justified in breaking such a law.  Please pray for wisdom from the Spirit of God in how you respond.  We should do our best to obey the laws of our land!

Matthew 26

Vs. 2, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”  Jesus points to Thursday evening at sundown where they will celebrate the Passover supper; this would also become known as the Lord’s Supper.  However, at that same time the enemies were plotting ways to kill Jesus (vs. 3-5).  Matthew also records the anointing of Jesus by Mary in Bethany (vs. 6-13).  Bear in mind, Matthew does not place this chronologically for this happened the day before Jesus entered Jerusalem.  I preached on this a few weeks ago and it is a wonderful reminder of the sacrificial love she gave Jesus.  This nard (perfume) was the equivalent of about $60,000 in our present day (at least in LA county where I live).  Sadly, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests (vs. 14-16) and unknowingly fulfills prophesied scripture (Zechariah 11:12).  The thirty pieces of silver were about four months wages (a price of a slave) which would be the equivalent of $20,000.  As the disciples gather for the Passover supper, Jesus informs that He not only will be betrayed, but that the betrayer is one of them (vs. 20-25).  It is here that Jesus calls out Judas, but the disciples were probably confused with what was going on.  The Gospel of John (John 13:30) further sheds light and tells us that Judas left the supper that night to go prepare for the arrest.  Jesus than instructs the disciples that the bread would signify His body (vs. 26).  You may recall the Passover was commemorated when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.  Every home that had the lamb’s blood on the door, the Spirit of God would Passover that house and not kill the newborns.  Jesus was the Passover lamb (I Corinthians 5:7).  The cup (vs. 27-29) would signify the blood of Christ that would bring redemption to all.  Upon leaving the upper room, they travel over to Gethsemane a garden near the Mount of Olives to pray.  Sadly, Jesus predicts that not only was Judas a betrayer, but all of the other disciples will fall away and scatter (vs. 31-35).  Led by Peter protests, Jesus informs Peter he will deny Him three times.  It’s important also to note the others stated they too would not scatter.  The prayers at the Gethsemane (vs. 36-46) are incredibly intense as we get insight to the struggle Jesus was having.  He knew what He was about to face and it was going to be excruciating.  Being beaten and dying by crucifixion was intense, but nothing compared to bearing the sins of all and having the Father turn His face from His son.  The enemies temptation was strong for Satan early had tried to offer Jesus an easy way out (Matthew 4:8-9).  Judas now comes to the garden knowing the Jesus and the disciples would have been there.  He brings an angry mob ready to arrest Jesus (vs. 47-56).  Jesus accepts, Peter overreacts and all disciples scatter.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, broke even the Jewish laws by assembling a disgraceful trial at night and in his own home.  They even concoct bringing false witnesses to contrive lies.  They charge Jesus was blasphemy (speak contemptuously about God) and proceed to seek Jesus’ death.  It’s important to note that capital punishment was only delivered by the Romans (they gave the Jews some power, but not on this).  Additionally, blasphemy to the Romans was a not a legit reason for death.  And lastly, upon Peter witnessing the trial and seeing Jesus beaten, proceeds to deny he knows Jesus.

Regarding application…Overcoming Temptation.  Vs. 41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Question:  Since our body is weak, how then do we overcome temptation?  Watch and pray.  For believers, certainly our spirit is willing to do the will of God.  But our body/flesh lives by a different code.  Jesus gave us the ultimate example of surrender and trust in the Father.  We see His prayer to the Father if there was any other way, make it so, but if not…He was willing to go through with it.  Isn’t it amazing that the solution is simply prayer?  For in prayer, we surrender our will.  Not my will but yours be done (vs. 39).  We are one day before Easter and I’m so thankful for the resurrection and defeat of sin on the cross!  Last night, we had so many souls turn to the Lord in trust to Jesus at our Good Friday service!  Thank you Lord!

John 18

Vs. 3, “So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.”  This is very difficult passage to read as we come face to face with Jesus’ last night before the crucifixion.  It touched my heart to be reminded how Jesus cared for the disciples (vs. 8 ) and was looking out for them.  The soldier’s take Jesus to Annas, who used to be the high priest years earlier.  He is the father-in-law of Caiaphas who is the current high priest.  They illegally arrest and interrogate Jesus.  They want Jesus dead so they take Him to Pilate, a Roman leader who had the authority to have Jesus crucified.  Part of Pilate’s role was to govern the Jews and keep peace, so there was definite pressure to appease the Jews.  Yet, Pilate could not find a reasonable reason that Jesus be crucified.  Mixed in this chapter, we see Jesus’ words come true with Peter’s denial of Jesus three times.  As Jesus was put on trial, Peter also had his own trials before him this night.  My heart goes out to Peter for this would be very bitter and sad moment for him.  But, in Peter’s failure, we will soon be reminded of God’s grace in dealing with second chances.

Regarding application…What is Truth?  Vs. 38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”  A question posed by Pilate himself!  It’s one of those questions that mankind has been asking throughout the ages.  The truth Pilate asked was in the context of just who was Jesus?  Was He this false savior the Jews accused Him of?  Was this kingdom a real place?  Was Jesus a true king?  Pilate asks this question on behalf of all of us.  Question: Is Jesus telling the truth?  C.S. Lewis challenges us in his book Mere Christianity, that we must either decide Jesus was truly the Son of God or believe he was a madman or worse.  We can’t believe in half-truths and just say, Jesus was a good man or a good teacher.  The truth is will set us free.  Jesus is that truth (John 14:6)!