John 18

Vs. 1, “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.”  Many of us are quite familiar with Jesus and the disciples going to pray at the garden in Gethsemane (vs. 1-11).  Because the synoptic Gospel’s thoroughly cover the prayer, John gives us more details to the arrest that night.  It a dramatic scene as a detachment of Roman soldiers along with some of the chief priests and Pharisees come to capture Jesus.  Jesus’ response to affirm His identity was a revelation that caused the whole group of arresting men to draw back and fall to the ground (vs. 6)!  Jesus knew this was going to transpire and was ready.  Notice how the Shepherd was prepared to protect His sheep (vs. 9).  Upon the arrest, they first send Jesus to one of the former high priest, Annas (vs. 12-14, 19-24).  This is an unlawful interrogation and a violation of their own laws.  Meanwhile, Peter is fulfilling Jesus’ prophetic words that he will deny Him three times (vs. 15-18, 25-27).  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 28-40), Jesus stands before Pilate the Roman Governor.  Though the Israelites had their own ruling council in the Sanhedrin, they did not have full autonomy from Rome.  They could not sentence a person to die (vs. 31), except for only law if a person violated the sanctity of the temple.  Pontius Pilate was known as a brutal man who controlled Judea with a strong arm.  Perhaps the Sanhedrin could uses his history of violence for their motive.  However, upon questioning Jesus, Pilate has found no reason to convict Jesus of their accusations.  We are informed in the Gospel of Luke that Pilate also sought a second opinion from Herod who ruled over Galilee.  Once his enemy, Herod didn’t find any reason to convict Jesus either.  In a final move, Pilate used the annual practice of granting pardon to a prisoner and surely though they would release Jesus over a Barabbas (vs. 39-40).

Regarding application…Are You Listening?  Vs. 37, “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  It is ironic that Jesus is seemingly on trial, but the tables are turned spiritually.  It is Pilate, the Jews, and all of us who are on trial.  Question: Will we accept the testimony of truth?  If we do not, we will stand condemned.  Which side are you on?  When Jesus speaks, those who believe will listen.  This past Sunday, the message at Roots was in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.  Matthew heard Jesus’ voice, the Shepherds voice and he followed him.  There are many voices in this world that will try to have you hear them out.  Take time today to drown out the noise and listen to the voice of truth!

Luke 3

Vs. 4, “As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”  Luke now takes us forward to the beginning ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus.  Luke gives us some insightful information into the ministry of John (vs. 1-20).  Question: What was the purpose of John’s ministry?  Part of preparing the way (vs. 4) and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy was to begin softening the hearts of the people.  That is why John preached a message of repentance (vs. 8).  John’s ministry was a beautiful example of how we must give all credit to the Lord (vs. 16).   And in a short synopsis, Luke records Jesus’ baptism by John (vs. 21-22).  The latter half of our chapter is the genealogy of Jesus (vs. 23-38).  Certainly, we notice that Luke’s genealogy is not at the start of His gospel like Matthew’s.  Question: Why record Jesus’ genealogy?  Genealogies were a big part of a person’s identity and the Bible is presenting the facts that Jesus is the Son of God.  Luke’s genealogy goes backwards (present to past) while Matthew goes forward (past to present).  It’s also notable that Luke records Jesus’ genealogy all the way to Matthew.

Regarding application…Produce Fruit.  Vs. 9, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  The ministry I serve in is called “Roots.”  Certainly, it pictures our church and members rooted in the foundation of Jesus.  However, there is a danger in that we are so focused on being rooted on the word, prayer, and attending church, we then forget to do the other half of our Christian life.  We are also exhorted to bear fruit, which is best described as the living evidence of God’s love in our life.  Question: Are you bearing fruit?  Our church has their VBS this week.  It is wonderful to see volunteers doing whatever they can to help produce fruit and love our children.  Find a way to bear fruit in a specific way this week!

Matthew 2

Vs. 1, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.”  An estimated two years have transpired; Joseph and Mary are living in Bethlehem.  Magi from the east have come to pay homage to the king of the Jews.  It is believed these Magi (magicians, eastern wise men, astrologers) came from Babylon which is about 900 miles!  We are not given the number of wise men, but they more than likely traveled in quite large groups.  The tradition of three comes from the three types of gifts presented to Jesus (vs. 11).  Question: How would they have known about this?  The dispersed Jews certainly would have shared the story of Balaam (Numbers 24:17) and his prophecy of a star that will come out of Jacob.  Herod felt quite pressured knowing that he was not the true rightful heir of the Jews, because he was only half-Jew.  Herod the Great ruled Judea and had the favor of both Rome and the leading Jews.  Yet, the baby Jesus was under the protection of His Father!  How interesting that Jesus’ life parallels the Jewish history; Jesus would also travel down to Egypt, and would return back to the land of Canaan.  The Holy Spirit guides Matthew in selecting OT scripture that reminds us (especially the Jews) that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies.  The order to kill the baby boys two years and younger (vs. 16-18) would have been an estimated ten to thirty boys because Bethlehem was a very small town.  Lastly we see, Jesus and family return to region of Galilee in the town of Nazareth (vs. 21-23).

Regarding application…A Right Response.  Vs. 11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  What a contrast when you compare the magi to the response of Herod and all of Jerusalem (vs. 3).  Though Matthew’s gospel is targeted towards Jews, the ones who respond right are Gentiles.  We don’t know the magi’s hearts when they bowed down to worship or if they even knew the ramifications of it.  However, their response reminds all of us that Jesus is not only the king of the Jews, but came to save the whole world.  Question: How do you respond when you come before the Lord?  God’s response was to give His one and only Son (John 3:16).  Let us consider how we respond.  In a world that is often me-centric, it’s time to be a giver rather than a taker.

Luke 23

Vs. 14-15,and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death.”  What a dark day in the history of God’s creation.  At Jesus’ trial, we see Pilate and then Herod find no basis for death, but God’s own chosen would yell out crucify him (vs. 20).  The same crowds that were praising Jesus a week earlier were now condemning Him.  Think of Jesus at this time.  He had no sleep all night, , ridiculed, humiliated, abandoned, beaten and scourged so badly that He couldn’t even carry his own cross all the way.  And speaking of crucifixion, it is only one of the worst ways to die.  During that day, it was reserved only for the worst criminals.  Even during the death process of our Lord on the cross, His love and concern for those around him (the thief, his mother, forgiving others) are amazing.

Regarding application…Grace Given.  Vs. 34, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”  Here we see Jesus’ love in action.  Grace is God’s undeserved love and forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not guarantee salvation, but the first step was initiated for us.  We can’t repent and receive salvation if we are not forgiven.  As we soberly are reminded of the death of our Lord Jesus today, we want to ask ourselves; How will this apply to me?  Just as you have been given grace, now it is time for you to extend grace to another.  Forgiveness breaks down the walls of hostility.  Question: Who can you give grace to today?