Vs. 1, “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Our chapter today is one of the most pivotal chapters in the Bible; the meeting of the Jerusalem Council. Some men from Judea came unauthorized by the church in Jerusalem (vs. 24) to teach that new Gentile believers must adhere to the customs taught by Moses (vs. 1-2). Question: What is going on here? The Jewish Christian’s in Judea felt it was heresy for Paul and Barnabas to allow Gentiles to think they were saved by grace alone; they must adhere to circumcision and the Mosaic laws. Fortunately, they realize this is serious enough to take to the mother church in Jerusalem (vs. 3-4). The all gather in Jerusalem to discuss this deep theological issue of salvation (soteriology). Peter is first to respond and step for the Gentiles and the way of salvation for them (vs. 6-11). Certainly, we know God spoke to Peter clearly when he visited Cornelius’ house concerning salvation for all (Acts 10). After more witnessing from Paul & Barnabas (vs. 12), James (half-brother of Jesus) who has now taken the prominent role of leading the Jerusalem church speaks up (vs. 12-21). His speech affirms that Gentiles were always a part of God’s plan as attested from the Scriptures (Amos 9:11-12). Jesus’ sacrifice put everyone (Jew and Gentile) on the same level. The Law was setup to protect the Israelites and point them towards Christ, but it cannot save. The process of salvation is agreed upon, now they had to make some practical decisions (vs. 20-21) about how to live holy lives as a church (consisting of both Gentiles and Jewish believers). They also wisely sent Judas and Silas who would accompany Paul and Barnabas to help validate the council’s decision (vs. 22-35). And lastly, we see Paul and Barnabas split up due to an issue with John Mark. Fortunately, as the years went on, Paul and John Mark reconciled their differences (Colossians 4:10, II Timothy 4:11).
Regarding application…Accommodating Others. Vs. 19, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” This is a very difficult topic to address in the church. Question: Why and how should we accommodate others? Jesus tells us not to cause others to stumble (Matthew 18). And in our passage today, the Gentiles should make efforts to not cause the Jewish believers to stumble (vs. 20). A cultural example today would be the topic of alcohol. It is not a sin to drink, but we are warned throughout the bible not to get drunk. There are other cultures, religions, and Christians who choose to completely abstain from alcohol. As Christians, it would be wise to not drink around them and accommodate their sensitivities. Question: How can you set aside your freedoms to accommodate others this week? Whether in the workplace, church or home, we all could be more sensitive to others.
Vs. 1, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.” The timing is impeccable, as Jesus would become the Passover lamb whose blood was shed for the salvation of God’s people. Jesus goes on to display a part of this love by washing His disciple’s feet (vs. 1-17). Question: What was the significance of this? Only servants washed feet, what was Jesus doing? The washing also served as a sign of their spiritual lives being washed by the Living Water in Jesus. Jesus then quotes Psalm 41:9, as reference that prophecies concerning Judas Iscariot (vs. 18-30). The disciples didn’t completely realize the significance of the revealing of the traitor, but Judas has now made his decision. After Judas’s departure, Jesus begins to encourage the apostles for their road would also become very difficult (vs. 31-38)
Regarding application…Love One Another. Vs. 34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Question: What made this a new commandment? God gave this commandment previously to Moses. What gives? The old commandment was based on the law, but this new commandment to love is based on grace. This love would now be demonstrated on the cross. This is why we are now given a new definition of loving one another. Yesterday, I preached a message from John 4 with the topic of considering “our purpose.” The woman at the well couldn’t help but share this message of hope to the people in her town. She was once rejected, but now she understood her purpose. But this purpose must have a very important ingredient in it. Love must be mixed in with all that we do. Question: Are you loving as Jesus loved you?
Vs. 4, “And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.” The gauntlet has been thrown down and will of God is set in motion. What a tragic tale that Judas Iscariot brings to light. But that would not deter Jesus from fulfilling His Father’s will. As they celebrated Passover, it is no coincidence that Jesus (The Lamb of God) would shed His blood just as the lamb did in Egypt for God’s people. It really amazes me that in the midst of the last supper, that Jesus is so patient with his bickering apostles (vs. 24). Jesus would warn them there soon will be a time when people will no longer welcome them (vs. 36-38). Now we come to the events in the Garden of Gethsemane (vs. 39-53). Jesus teaches us all about life and dependence upon the Father. I always feel myself rooting for Peter’s courage in drawing his sword to defend Jesus (vs. 50). But, Jesus would not allow the enemy to get a foothold in God’s plan. The enemy probably thought he was winning, but God was and always is in ultimate control. Sadly, we see Jesus’ prophecy of Peter denying him three times come true (vs. 54-62). Even more excruciating, we must read about the mockery of trial(s) and the beating Jesus would endure (vs. 63-71)
Regarding application…Not My Will. Vs. 28, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Question: What is “my” will? My will can be our own desires whether we believe them to be selfish or even good intentioned. For example, let’s say a father is teaching his son how to build a shelf. He is giving him explicit instructions on building a strong base and using enough nails to strengthen the foundation. The son understands the father’s request, but is in a hurry and wants to play so he only uses four nails instead of the eight his father instructed him. The son had good intentions and technically did listen to his father and even did some of the instruction. But upon the completion of the shelf, it falls down because the son did not follow his father’s will. Question: How do we know the Father’s will? Know His word, pray daily and be connected to the church; so basic yet incredibly hard to do because we are selfish. Make today a day where you mirror the prayer of Jesus!