Vs. 2, “so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what Sarai said.” From a logical point of view, Sarai seemed to be making the right choice. She was old and barren. How was the LORD God going to be able to fulfill His promise to Abram? If a woman could not bear a child, she was the one blamed and there would be much shame upon her. So Sarai took matters into her own hands. There might have been a fear that Abram might divorce her. So she reverted to a practice that would have been common in that day. Just as we have the technology for a surrogate mothers today, Sarai would have Hagar bear Abram his child. Bear in mind, it has been ten years since God first promised both of them a son. Unfortunately, Hagar began to get arrogant and prideful (vs. 4). Naturally, Sarai is beside herself with anger (vs. 5). Sadly, the whole situation was bad from the start. Abram was not an innocent bystander by any means. Question: Who is the angel of the Lord? Many scholars believe it is pre-incarnate Christ. The angel gives Hagar something of mixed blessing and curse (vs. 9-12). Ishmael would indeed become a numerous nation and their identity today lies with the Arabic descendants. The Islamic faith draws their beginnings with Ishmael while the Jews draw theirs from Isaac.
Regarding application…Living by Flesh. Vs. 6, “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.” Both Abram and Sarai did exactly what “they” thought best. Rather than seek the LORD from the onset, they lived by their fleshly nature. How strange that we celebrate the faith of Abram and also see the failings of Abram. That is part of the beauty of God’s wisdom in presenting to us Godly people, yet they make very human mistakes. There is a bit of solace in this for the sinner today. Yet, our mistakes are not without their consequences. Reminders of people in the Bible as well as our own mistakes should help keep us from desiring to live by the flesh rather than the Spirit. Yesterday, our Bible study was on Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus in the Gospel of John (3). Jesus would remind us as well that we must be born again and live by a new nature through the Spirit. Let us keep walk in step with the Spirit and flee from the temptations of the flesh!
Vs. 30, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” It is finished. It is said that Pilate had Jesus flogged so severely so that when he presented a beaten down and nearly dead Jesus to the Jewish mob, they would have compassion on Jesus and not choose to crucify Him (vs. 1-6). But the crowds still cried out crucify, crucify! There was so much pressure on Pilate to appease them and in his cowardice, Pilate buckled under the pressure (vs. 6-16). The best thing Pilate could do was have a sign of Jesus, King of Jews above his cross, but this did not make the Jews happy (vs. 19-22). So sad to see the hatred and anger the Jews had. They got what they wanted to see Jesus crucified, and yet they still complained. Once again, we see Jesus caring for others (in Mary), as He himself was dying on the cross for our sins (vs. 26). We also are reminded of the prophecies of Jesus being fulfilled in spearing his side, rather than breaking his legs (vs. 33-34). And lastly, we see Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus come out of the shadows of hiding their faith and make the request not to have Jesus’ body so they could do the right thing in a proper burial (vs. 38-42)
Regarding application…Taking the Risk. Vs. 38, “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.” Question: What is so significant here? Joseph of Arimathea as well as Nicodemus witnessed something as they saw Jesus crucified on the cross. It is here that Nicodemus realized what it means to be born again (John 3). Both men took a tremendous risk as Pharisee’s to now take care of the body of Jesus. I suppose, the saying, “Better late than never” is very true! It didn’t matter what the Sanhedrin would say, what their fellow Pharisees would say…they were going to do this for Jesus. It was their way of honoring Jesus for they themselves would witness the sacrifice on the cross. Question: What are you willing risk? If you believe in Jesus, don’t fear the opinion of others. Stand up for Him! Share His love and reach out to others in the name of Jesus. This first day of the week is a start of making this week a “Super” week for Jesus!
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!