Vs. 1, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.” We now come to undoubtedly the most powerful miracle recorded as Jesus shows He has power over death and life in an indisputable resurrection of life in Lazarus (vs. 1-44). Upon receiving the message that Lazarus was sick, Jesus surprises us by not going to Bethany right away (vs. 4-6). It was a dangerous thing to go to Bethany (vs. 8, 16) for it was only a couple of miles away from Jerusalem. The disciples knew by this time how polarizing Jesus’ ministry was and how dangerous it would be to be so close the capital city where the opponents held the strongest influence. Upon arriving to Bethany (vs. 17-37), Jesus comforts the grieving sisters; Martha and Mary. John shares with us the fifth I AM statement as Jesus states, “I am the resurrection and the life…” (vs. 25). We are given quite a personal perspective on the emotions of our Lord (vs. 35). For the benefit of all of us, Jesus raises Lazarus (vs. 38-44); I wonder what kind of testimony Lazarus would have on what he might have remembered. However, all of these miracles culminated to the point that the enemies of the cross conspired to stop Jesus’ influence (vs. 45-57).
Regarding application…Man of Sorrow. Vs. 35, “Jesus wept.” Question: Why did Jesus weep? Certainly, He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised up to life again. However, this was a unique miracle and one that is certainly not going to be repeated until the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns again (I Thess. 4:13-18). There could have been many reasons Jesus wept. Perhaps he wept because He saw the pain of those he loved in sorrow, perhaps he wept because he knew that death was never something He intended for his creation. One of the members of my church recently lost a loved one. There was a beautiful service and as the eulogy was being shared, I couldn’t help but weep with the grieving. Fortunately, life is a vapor in the wind and death is but a entryway into eternal life for those who are saved. In the midst of all of our busyness, let’s take time to have our hearts reach out to others.
Vs. 3, “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus.” Through meticulous eyewitnesses (vs. 2) and investigative research, Luke now compiles all this intel to present the history of Jesus and His church (vs. 1-4). Question: Who is Theophilus? Some biblical scholars believe Theophilus was a Gentile who converted to Christianity but was among the Jews. Others believe Theophilus (friend of God), was a generic name that was written to many. Luke records in detail the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah in the temple regarding the coming birth of John the Baptist (vs. 5-25). We get a wider appreciation of how God was intricately working out the forerunner for Jesus. But Gabriel’s work was not yet finished, for he now comes to visit young Mary (vs. 26-38). It’s fitting that Luke the physician, who would have probably been the most suspicious of a virgin birth claim, records in detail Mary’s perspective. We then see a twist in the story for we now realize that Gabriel’s visit to both Zechariah and Mary was all within the family (vs. 36). After Mary was told her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant, she travels quickly to visit (vs. 39-45). How phenomenal to be told that baby John still in his mother’s womb leaped for joy upon Mary’s visit (vs. 44)! Certainly, Mary’s song/Magnificat (vs. 46-56) is a testament to why she was highly favored (vs. 28). As a very young teenager, her godliness and knowledge of Scripture is an example for all of us. We then fast-forward a bit to John the Baptist’s birth (vs. 57-66). Zechariah and Elizabeth stun the crowd as they come to celebrate John’s circumcision with naming him “John” rather than using a name from the family line. Remember, Gabriel gave specific instructions to name the baby John (vs. 13). And lastly, we are given a front row seat to another song: Zechariah’s song (vs. 67-80). Zechariah knowing that his baby boy would be preparing the way for Jesus, sings a beautiful song of faith and salvation!
Regarding application…Power of Singing. Twice we witness the natural response to God’s goodness was to sing. Both Mary and Zechariah can’t help but express their love for the Lord with a song. The power of song goes back to Moses & Miriam (Exodus 15) as God delivered them from the Egyptians after the crossing of the Red Sea. Throughout Scripture, we see how powerful songs of praise to God are. The 150 chapters of Psalms is a testament to that! Christian churches all over the world sings songs of praise in a response to who God is and what He has done! I still recall Luke’s later account in Acts 16 of Paul & Silas in prison singing hymns and the prisoners listening to them. As they worshipped, God brought upon an earthquake that shook the prison doors open! Brothers and sisters, there is so much joy and power in singing to the Lord! As you attend your churches this weekend, give an extra effort lifting up your voice to the Lord.
Vs. 17, “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.” Question: Why would Matthew open up with a genealogy? Genealogies were very important in the biblical world and the Jews kept extensive records of their family history. It was important for Matthew to trace Jesus’ genealogy to Abraham (vs. 2) and David (vs. 6). Bear in mind, this is not an exhaustive genealogy and Matthew did omit some names. The Gospels of Matthew & Luke both record genealogies and it is believed Matthew focuses on Jesus’ line through Joseph while Luke focuses Jesus’ line through Mary. The genealogy would prove to the meticulous Jews that Jesus was indeed the true heir of the kingly throne and Messiah! In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 18-25), Matthew gives us insight into the drama surrounding the birth of Jesus. Certainly, many of us read this account without too much thought because we know it so well. However, Joseph found out Mary was with child and was ready to break off the betrothal! And then he gets visit by an unnamed Angel (probably Gabriel) in which he is told Mary is conceived via a miracle through the Holy Spirit! It is here that Joseph is instructed to give the name Jesus to the baby. Jesus was a popular name at that time and it was the Greek form of the name Joshua which means “The LORD Saves.” Isaiah is quoted (Isaiah 7:14) and we see the one of the proofs that Jesus is the fulfillment of Immanuel (God with us).
Regarding application…God With Us. Vs. 23, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” God’s promises are true. Recently, we were reminded in the Old Testament in Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” Though the temple of Jerusalem (symbol of God’s presence) would be destroyed in 70 AD, Jesus is the reminder to the Jews that God is always among them. Certainly, this reminder is not reserved for just the Jews, but to all of us! What a wonderful privilege to know in faith that we are never alone! I encourage you to take time to chew on this. God is not someone who restricted by space or time. He is with you always. There are moments in our lives where we feel alone and even desperate for love or answers to life. God is not just a phone call of QT away, He is always present and faithful.
Vs. 23, “Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” It’s always difficult to come upon these passages of the last week before Jesus was crucified. Yet, in these accounts, we are reminded of beautiful faith. Mary’s anointing of Jesus is an incredible picture of understanding what it means to sacrifice (vs. 1-8). But the enemy was on the move and with Passover week just around the corner, the Jews were looking for Jesus coming to their trap in Jerusalem (vs. 10). After the Triumphant Entry (vs. 12-19), we see Jesus continue to minister to the lost. Yet, the lost sheep of Israel were hardening their hearts as prophesied by Isaiah (vs. 37-50). What’s striking to me is that some of the leaders believed, but would not put their faith into action due to fear of men (vs. 42-43). I wonder how often this transpires in our own lives.
Regarding application…Following Jesus. Vs. 26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Question: What does this look like? Does it mean sell everything and live a transient lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with nothing but the clothes on your back? God has called each of us to a unique life and way that is specially made for us. The prophet Daniel at a young age was deported to Babylon, but following God meant he must acclimate to a new culture. In the last prophet before Jesus, John the Baptist, following Jesus was shown by living out in the desert. Following Jesus is going to look different for each person. I believe that prayer, bible and the church are wonderful tools and road signs to guide us down the path less traveled. Let the peace of God work in your heart to determine the path in which you follow Jesus. Have a blessed start of your week as you take the step of faith and dine at the table of our King each day!
Vs. 3, “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Question: How can you be born again? You see, the real miracle happens everyday. The miracle of belief! Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus is a lesson for many of us today (vs. 1-21). Nicodemus came to Jesus in darkness and we also come to him first in spiritual darkness. Nicodemus grew up knowing about God, but was not born again. Many also start out this way. Of course, one of the most beloved passages in the Bible is here in our reading today, John 3:16. And then we have John the apostle giving us some insight on John the Baptist supporting and testifying as to who Jesus was (vs. 22-36). It’s important to see how John the Baptist continued to support Jesus. Remember, when John and Jesus first met? John leapt in his mother’s womb when Elizabeth was next to Mary (Luke 1:41).
Regarding application. It’s Not About Me. Vs. 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” We expect Jesus to say and do the right things. After all, He is part of the Triune God! But when a mere man like John the Baptist can have such incredible insight, it gives me hope! Hope because it is possible! Hope because John’s belief in Jesus sets an example for all of us. Those who assisted John did not understand this (vs. 25). We live in a world where self-promotion is king. Kobe Bryant recently was ranked by ESPN as the 7th best player in the NBA. That didn’t set well for Bryant and even at the detriment of his own team, he stated he deserved to have the ball as many times as he wanted. It’s important to note, Kobe has two All-Star big men that he could feed the ball to in Gasol and Bynum, but it’s not about them, it’s about him. I don’t know Kobe, but his actions are an example of most of us who live this life. It’s about me. John the Baptist could have had resentment towards Jesus, but understood his role in the story of salvation. Question: Do you know your role? No matter what role we play, whether big or small, Jesus must become greater!
Vs. 11, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” Question: Why would turning water to wine be Jesus’ first miracle (vs. 1-11)? First off, remember that this was a wedding (vs. 1). Just like in our society today, weddings were huge celebrations! And don’t forget, the picture of a wedding relationship is how Yahweh and Israel were and now how we the church and Jesus are. Some believe Mary might have been the host of the wedding and therefore that was why she was concerned. Other believe Nathaniel was the one who invited them. Jesus’ response to Mary was not referring to the wedding, but to the time when He would fulfill the prophecies through the cross. Notice how many at the wedding did not know where this new wine came from (vs. 9). It was for a select group of people to help them realize who Jesus really was. We then proceed to the first temple clearing (vs. 12-16). Question: Why did Jesus clear the temple out? Greed. The priests were corrupt and rejecting animal sacrifices by the people because of declared blemishes and then selling supposed unblemished animals at outrageous prices. And then lastly, Jesus refers to the temple being destroyed and rebuilt in three days (vs. 18-22).
Regarding application…Calling Others Out. Vs. 16, “To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” That’s what I’m talking about! Whoo-rah! Go Jesus! We build up this misconception about Jesus. Jesus is not to be pushed around, but Jesus isn’t in some unrighteous rage either. There is such a thing as Godly anger. The application for us today is not to sit idly by with no care about how others act in the fellowship of God’s people. We build up this attitude that it’s not our place to say anything. Brothers & Sisters, we are to sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17) and have a certain accountability in respecting God. Stand up for what is right. Stand up for giving respect to our God, especially in the church! Question: Will you have the courage to stand up and not be like others? Will you have the courage to call others out? And remember, we do so out of love and respect for God and others. So, let’s be more sensitive to a world that makes us desensitized.
Vs. 2, “He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In our previous chapter, sending out the twelve was not enough. Jesus needed more, so we see that seventy-two (or seventy) will help spread the Gospel (vs. 1-24). It’s important to note a couple of things going on here; there is danger in ministry, that’s why we should not do it alone. And also, they were not just planting the seed of truth, they were to literally reap of the harvest (salvation)! The more I read Jesus’ ministry, I realize how he ensured that all were reached out to both the poor and educated. The Parable of the Good Samaritan was a response from an educated teacher of the law with a salvation question (vs. 25-37). But Jesus uses this a reminder to all that we are to love others as God loved us. Simple, huh? And lastly, we come to our dear Martha and Mary account of beings so worried about serving Jesus that we forget to spend time with him (vs. 38-42).
Regarding application…Being with Jesus. Vs. 39, “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Question: What was Martha doing? She was very busy doing all the work to prepare for the Lord. Question: Are you busy in your life these days? The Holiday seasons always seem to be synonymous with busyness. Yet, we have a beautiful picture of what it is all about. Martha was not wrong, there is a time to prepare. But she was so busy worrying about that, she didn’t have time to just sit and be with Jesus like Mary. For myself, I find I like to do tangible things to help the Lord. Like a good solider, I’m ready for battle, just tell me what you want me to do! Yet, my leader just wants to spend time with me? Dearest brothers & sisters…Jesus is our commander and chief, but more importantly, He loves us so much that he actually wants to spend time with you. That’s what this QT blog is all about, reminding us of the importance of being with Jesus!
Vs. 1 “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us.” Bear in mind, Luke did not ever meet Jesus physically. Luke gathered eyewitness testimonies to bring into account the life of our Lord Jesus. The original receiver of this letter was Theophilus, not much is known of him. Let’s jump into the narrative. It was difficult times for God’s people. Some four hundred years have gone by without directly hearing from any prophet of God. It is here that the archangel Gabriel comes to pay a visit to the priest Zechariah. He brings a message of not just a baby boy, but a very special boy that would come in the spirit of Elijah. John the Baptist would come to help prepare the way. We also have the account of Gabriel coming to young Mary with the message of the baby Jesus! Here we see Mary’s beautiful song “The Magnificat” and her very rich knowledge of Scripture. Additionally, we see the birth of John the Baptist and Zechariah’s own song of praise.
Regarding application…Nothing is Impossible. Vs. 37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” I preached from this passage this past Sunday concerning Gabriel’s visit to Mary. Question: What was this impossibility that Mary faced? The virgin birth. A truth so often taken for granted. This impossible scenario would be a part of the proof that Jesus was both God and man. God fulfilled His promises to all of us through the miracle birth of Jesus. It’s worth noting how young Mary, just a teenager responded to this seemingly impossible promise with complete faith. While we contrast that to the priest Zechariah who doubted and God would strike him with being mute until after John’s birth. This profound truth that God can do the impossible stands true to us today. What obstacles in your life do you face with doubt and fear? Praise the Lord that we have a God that is in the business of doing the impossible!