May 24, 2020 TLW20A
Sunday after Ascension: Living in the power of God as those who are His
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 — The power of God the Lord Almighty
Praise for God’s might in historic acts and presence with us now
John 17:1-11 — Protected by the power of Jesus’ name
Our security is in what Jesus has done for us and knowing the Father
Acts 1:6-14 — Jesus promises the empowering of the Holy Spirit
He reveals the truth about God and enables us to tell others
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 — We resist the devil in God’s greater power
The enemy brings threats and tests but praise God for His power
Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35 — The power of God the Lord Almighty
Praise for God’s might in historic acts and presence with us now
1 May God arise, may His enemies be scattered; may His foes flee before Him.
“May God arise” – the voice of the worshipping community praises God’s glory going before them from Mount Sinai in the desert to Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
2 May you blow them away like smoke — as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God.
3 But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
“The righteous… rejoice” – God’s people. Early Christians saw Christ’s resurrection, ascension and present rule foreshadowed, Ephesians 4:8-13.
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before Him — His name is the LORD.
“His name is the Lord” – Yahweh. The psalm also uses five other names: elohim God (v.1), adonai Lord (v.11), shaddai Almighty (v.14), yah elohim Lord God (v.18) and Yahweh Adonai God the Lord (v.20).
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
“A father to the fatherless” – God’s character is to defend the defenceless. Knowing God as Father will be brought out by Jesus and in the NT.
6 God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
“Sun-scorched land” – barren, devoid of vegetation and water, a picture of alienation from God.
7-9 When You, God, went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. You gave abundant showers, O God; You refreshed Your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it, and from Your bounty, God, You provided for the poor.
“Marched through the wilderness” – journey from Red Sea to the Promised Land.
32-35 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to Him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice. Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens. You, God, are awesome in Your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to His people. Praise be to God!
You kingdoms of the earth” – appealing to all political powers to recognise God’s heavenly rule.
Israel’s security from surrounding nations was in God’s presence giving power and strength to His people, v.35.
This psalm may have been composed by David on the occasion of establishing the Ark of the Covenant in a permanent place of worship – remembering its long journey.
Life’s journey has threats and setbacks but the theme of the praise is clear. God is powerful and mighty but also caring, non-discriminatory and very fair.
What are the some of the ‘milestones of gratitude’ in your journey of life with Him?
John 17:1-11 — Protected by the power of Jesus’ name
Our security is in what Jesus has done for us and knowing the Father
1 After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that Your Son may glorify You.
“Jesus… looked toward heaven and prayed” – His longest recorded prayer.
2 For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.
“You granted… You have given” – this chapter emphasises God bestowing the path to salvation.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
“Eternal life” – which starts the moment we enter a personal relationship with the Father through believing, trusting and receiving Jesus Christ.
4 I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do.
5 And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.
“The glory I had with You before” – which Jesus gave up to be born as man, Philippians 2:6-8. Part of the divine exchange achieved by Jesus’ death and resurrection was His shame changed to exaltation and glory.
6 “I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me and they have obeyed Your word.
7 Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You. For I gave them the words You gave Me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me.
“They accepted… they knew… they believed” – unlike most of the Pharisees and religious leaders who heard Jesus’ words without believing, the disciples had shown that they accepted Jesus’ teaching, understood His divine origin, and had believed through a change of heart.
9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours.
“They are Yours” – those who accept Jesus and His message are born again into the family of God with the rights of His children.
• For further study, see John 1:12; 11:52; Romans 8:14-15; Galatians 4:5; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 3:1.
10 All I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine. And glory has come to Me through them.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name you gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.“
“Protect them… so that they may be one” – also vv. 21, 23 which emphasise being brought into unity, a work of the Holy Spirit. Essential to continuing the work and witness of Jesus, unity would also be a target of spiritual attack, as today.
Belonging to God through choosing to believe and receive Jesus is a privilege. The belonging is about the new life in relationship with Him, but it also spells protection.
The devil will do anything to try to spoil God’s offer of salvation to those who believe in His Son, which is where protection comes in. If Jesus prayed that we would have it, we need it!
We may feel powerless against the forces behind evil events, but we have been given the name of Jesus Christ – the Name that is above all names. We can try to live by our own power – or choose to overcome by His.
When things are turning pear-shaped, how long does it take us to recall that we are in a relationship where God is committed to respond and help?
Acts 1:6-14 — Jesus promises the empowering of the Holy Spirit
He reveals the truth about God and enables us to tell others
6 Then they gathered around Him and asked Him, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
“Restore the kingdom” – first-century Jews longed for the restoration of David’s kind of kingdom and believed the Messiah, a descendent of David, would do this. The kingdom Jesus spoke about was a spiritual kingdom, or rule, in the hearts and lives of believers. At Pentecost the misunderstanding would be corrected.
7-8 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“You will receive power… you will be My witnesses” – this verse summarises the story of Acts, and a task of unimaginable extent to these men. Acts describes the outward movement from Jerusalem of proclaiming salvation in Jesus in the power of the Spirit, to the known world.
9 After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
“A cloud hid him” – indicating the drawing near of the presence of God, Exodus 40:34; Luke 9:34-36.
10-11 They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”
“Two men dressed in white” – angels, also indicating heaven drawing near, foretell Jesus’s return in clouds and glory, and in the same resurrection body, Matthew 24:30.
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.
“Mount of Olives” – above Bethany and part of the “come back in the same way” statement.
• For further study, see Zechariah 14:1-15; Luke 9:26.
13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.
“Judas” – not Iscariot, but also known as Thaddeus.
4 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
“Joined together constantly in prayer” – the Holy Spirit preparing them, bringing them into alignment with Him and hence unity with one another.
The resurrection and ascension of Jesus was an enthronement – exalted to the highest place in heaven, yet remaining closer than ever to the believers by spiritual impartation.
This is not a religion, but a relationship. Unlike a religion, it doesn’t give us an agenda to live up to, but confers supernatural ability we didn’t have before, to know God personally and live a renewed life.
It is also ” receiving power” to take the message to others – much needed by the early disciples moving out to other lands and cultures and facing murderous hostility at times.
As we face political correctness, social breakdown and spiritual diversity, we need that power to live confidently for Jesus and make Him real to others. And we can ask for more at any time, because it has been given.
Samaria was a challenging place for the Jewish disciples to tell people about God’s kingdom – where might ‘Samaria’ be for us?
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 — We resist the devil in God’s greater power
The enemy brings threats and tests but praise God for His power
12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.
“Do not be surprised” – attempting to lead a Christ-centred life is a threat and can be expected to bring hostility.
• For further study, see John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29.
14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.
“Under God’s mighty hand” – recalling God’s deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus, Exodus 3:19, 32:11, Deut. 4:34. Humiliation brings God’s affirmation for believers who don’t retaliate but submit to His deliverance and timing.
7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
“Your anxiety on Him” – actively trusting in God’s fatherly care.
8-9 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
“Your enemy the devil” – the adversary and accuser of every Christian, Satan’s repeated strategy is to “roar” and plant fear in our minds. Faith that speaks out the victory Jesus won and the power of His shed blood is effective, Ephesians 6:12-18.
10-11 And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
“Suffered a little while” –what to us can seem a long while, is momentary in the context of the promise of eternity spent with God.
• For further study, see 1 Peter 1:6; Romans 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18.
“Humble yourselves” – what does that mean? The opposite would be pretending we can put the enemy down.
We can’t – but Jesus already did. So when our ‘mouthy’ adversary has a go – making his threats or trying to place his fears – let him find Jesus with the scarred hands is the one he is talking to.
“Be alert,” says Peter, expecting us to be discerning about what we listen to, because the battle takes place mostly in our thought life – and in God’s power we can say ‘no’ to a thought that doesn’t belong.
How discerning are you about ‘your’ thoughts and where they come from?
Lord God Almighty, I humble myself before You in Your might, majesty, dominion and power.
When things get difficult, I often start by pretending that I can handle them. But when I step aside and trust You, I see Your power come through and the enemy silenced.
Be filling me with Your Holy Spirit, that I may be growing in You, and can be a channel of Your love and truth to others.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Easter 6 theme: Knowing God personally, and telling others
Psalm 66:8-20 — Praise for God who is known through His faithful love
John 14:15-21 — The promise of the Holy Spirit, the continuing presence of Jesus, who makes the reality of God known
Acts 17:22-31 — The Athenians discover how God is not “unknown” but known personally
1 Peter 3:13-22 — Baptism is a sign of coming to know God personally in rebirth, and opportunity to tell others why we belong to Christ
See also a short message on this theme: How God helps us know Him
Psalm 66:8-20 — Praise for God who is known through His faithful love
The psalmist’s testimony to what God has done in his life
8-9 Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of His praise be heard; He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.
“Preserved our lives” – praise, identifying God as the source of deliverance, beginning with the Red Sea miracle, Exodus 14, then more generally.
10 For You, God, tested us; You refined us like silver.
“Tested us” – God allows difficulties to refine faith, separating out the dross of our lack of trust and other sin.
• For further study see Psalm 17:3, 26:2, Proverbs 17:3; Jeremiah 9:7.
11-12 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
People ride over our heads” – a picture of submission to a foreign ruler.
13-14 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to You — vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.
15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats.
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.
“What He has done for me” – notwithstanding the testing of vv.10-12 the psalmist’s focus is on God’s goodness.
17 I cried out to him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue.
Cried out to Him… His praise” – prayer and praise went together in the OT but see Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1.
18-19 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
“Cherished sin” – or (lit.) aimed for sin: selfish prayer does not get heaven’s attention. This is not saying that sinless perfection is a condition, but that sincerity of heart is important.
20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!
The psalmist looks back on the great deliverances that tested the nation’s faith, and resolves to give praise and testimony for prayers mercifully and faithfully answered. The call, “Come and hear… let me tell you what He has done for me” headlines our theme this week.
How have we separated prayer, and praise, v.17? How might we better integrate prayer with praise?
John 14:15-21 — The promise of the Holy Spirit who makes God known
Jesus promises to be will be a continuing, living presence
15 “If you love Me, keep My commands.
“If you love Me” – Jesus uses the familiar language of the covenant, Deut. 5:10, 6:5-6, 10:12-13 but in the new context of the enabling of the Holy Spirit, v.16.
16-17 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.
“The Father… will give you” – first in a series of important passages about the Holy Spirit to be given, making v.15 more of a joyful consequence than a hard command.
“The Spirit of Truth – the Holy Spirit “who leads into all truth”, or communicates the truth about God.
“You know Him” – Judaism viewed the Holy Spirit as an aspect of God; now Jesus presents Him as a distinct spiritual person.
• For further study, see John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-15.
18-19 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see Me any more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.
“I will not leave you” – like Moses’ parting words to Israel, Deut 31:6; see also Joshua 1:5.
“You will see Me” – with the resurrection in mind. And see in the sense of strongly perceive, at Pentecost.
20 “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.
“On that day you will realise” – at Pentecost, what He had taught would fall into place for them, and the indwelling He refers to would become a reality. Here he rounds off His reply to Philip who had asked, “Show us the Father”, John 14:8.
21 “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.”
“Has My commands” – as v.15, the evidence of the “who loves Me” relationship is having taken to heart Jesus’ way of living and showing it in everyday life.
In this discourse, Jesus combines two different ideas which are actually closely related.
One is the evidence of knowing and loving Jesus being shown in lives that reflect Jesus’ teaching.
The other is the disciples knowing the Advocate and Helper, the Spirit of Truth, who leads us into the truth and reality of God.
So the reality of loving Jesus and keeping His commands – showing the evidence of being His – is what the Holy Spirit leads and enables. We come to Scripture after the resurrection, when everything changed. The letters to church were written in this context. For us, as for them, discovering the reality of living the way Jesus taught is a lot easier with the divine Coach working with us.
What are the most important commands for us to keep (hint, Jesus answered this, Matthew 22:36-40). How does knowing the Holy Spirit enable this?
Acts 17:22-31 — The Athenians discover God who is known and personal
Paul comments on having found an altar “to the unknown God”
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.
“People of Athens! I see…” – Paul, a Jew, shows respect for his Gentile hearers and a familiarity with the prevailing Stoic and Epicurean philosophies.
23 “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship — and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
“To an unknown God” – centuries before, when sacrifices to all the known gods had failed to avert a plague a Cretan poet, Epimanedes advised the Athenians to build altars to (any) unknown god: there were many that Paul could have noticed.
“This is what I am going to proclaim” – Paul presents the gospel by starting where his hearers are.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
“Does not live in temples” – a personal creator challenges the Stoics’ diversity of deities.
25 “And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
“He Himself gives” – God the creator and sustainer of all needs nothing from humans, but simply seeks relationship – and gives life.
26 “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
“From one man” – Adam
27-28 “God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Your own poets” – Paul also quotes Greek poets in 1 Cor. 15:33 and Titus 1:12.
29-30 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone — an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.
“In the past God overlooked” – and stayed judgment, but now full revelation has come with Jesus it is time to turn to Him, Acts 2:38, 3:19-21; Luke 3:7-9.
31 “For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.”
“He has set a day” – Greeks had no concept of a coming day of judgment.
The man He has appointed” – Jesus, the Son of Man, Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 25:31-46.
“By raising Him from the dead” – Jesus was not just a religious teacher; His resurrection and ascension to the place of authority sets Him apart.
What is the difference between all the world religious system and temples, and our coming to know God personally through faith in Jesus?
There is nothing unknown about our God, who is brought close to us by the Holy Spirit, changing from someone we know ABOUT, to One with whom we KNOW in an enjoyable, intimate relationship.
Paul points out another key difference: God does not have demands or needs that are served by us — it is the other way round, as He delights in giving us, His children, spiritual life and everything else.
Do we see our worship as something we ought to do to satisfy God’s needs, or part of our thanksgiving and relationship in which He draws close to meet our needs?
1 Peter 3:13-22 — Ready to tell others why we belong to Christ and call Him Lord
Baptism is a sign of coming to know God personally in rebirth
13-14 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
“Eager to do good” – even a hostile, pagan world generally has respect for those who are kind and caring. Ultimately if doing what is right does bring harm, God’s reward will be in it as well, Matt. 5:10-12, Romans 8:31.
15-16 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
“Revere Christ as Lord” – over and above Jesus Christ as Saviour. To be a disciple is to put yourself willingly under the master – and “give an answer” humbly, thoughtfully and biblically about why you have taken this step of commitment.
17-18 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
“Suffer for doing good” – not encouraging believers to seek situations which will bring them suffering, but to be sure that if they do it is through having been faithful to God, not a lapse into evil.
19-20a After being made alive, He went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits — to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
“Proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – difficult verses, usually understood as Christ declaring His victory on the Cross to the fallen angels of Hades (view supported by v.22); or Christ reaching through Noah to the disobedient unbelievers of his day.
20b-22 In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand — with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.
“Baptism… the pledge of a clear conscience” – the act and the water cannot save, as Peter says, it is not about “the removal of dirt”. But what is represented – inward faith appealing to God for forgiveness of sin and therefore regeneration – makes baptism an outward sign of salvation and new life. Christians have long disagreed about the mode of water baptism but have generally agreed across denominations that water baptism is the outward sign of the inward reality of regeneration, received through grace by faith.
Early on in the Reformation, Swiss and Dutch believers who took seriously the teaching to be baptised publicly as a testimony “of clear conscience toward God” were cruelly persecuted, and so put to the test of suffering for “doing good”.
Here and now, it takes some courage to stand up on the occasion of baptism and tell why, on life’s journey, you have come to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour and turn from the old, independent life to the new life that comes from rebirth.
These days some larger C of E churches have emulated Baptist and Pentecostal assemblies by gaining baptismal pools. People who find Christ want to mark the occasion, often by baptism, which gives them the opportunity before they go into the water to “give the reason for the hope that they have” by telling others how they came to know Him – our theme for this week.
How would you revere Christ by giving “the reason for the hope you have”?
Lord, I am so grateful I can know You through Jesus.
And I am thankful for You giving Your Holy Spirit so we are not left struggling on our own to live this new life.
Thank you that I can tell others what you have done, and are doing for me, through good times and difficult.
Thank you that knowing You makes all the difference in the twists of turns of life; give me opportunities to revere Christ and share my story with others, to Your glory. Amen.
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Theme: Anticipating heaven as ‘living stones’ on earth
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 — Jesus anticipates heaven, using David’s words to trust God’s unfailing love
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 NIV text
John 14:1-14 — Jesus reminds the disciples they have a place prepared in heaven because they know Him and He is the Way
Acts 7:55-60 — Stephen in his dying moments sees heaven open with Christ standing to welcome him
1 Peter 2:2-10 — Disciples are the new priesthood, living stones who create a heavenly temple of God’s presence
Psalm 31:1–5, 15–16 – Jesus anticipates heaven with David’s words
Putting our life and times in God’s hands is to trust His unfailing love
1-2 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
“Be my rock of refuge” – David laments abandonment by his closest friends in a devastating conspiracy.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
“For the sake of Your name” – it is God’s covenant reputation on the line, having promised through the prophet Nathan’s word to be with David, 2 Sam. 7:8–11.
4-5 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.
“Into Your hands” – For David, this was total dependence on God; also for Jesus, who spoke these words of David in His dying moments.
15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
“My times are in Your hands” – submitting to God all events, circumstances, and also timing.
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
“Let Your face shine” – an expression of God’s favour, as in Aaron’s blessing.
• For further study, see Numbers 6:24–26; Psalms 4:6; 67:1; 80:1, 3, 7, 19; 97:11; 118:27; 119:135.
Is trust like faith or more like hope? More the latter, which is a confident expectation in God’s faithfulness. This is what Jesus, racked with pain, was expressing in His dying moments.
We, too, can choose to put our times in God’s hands.
Lord, I trust You – but help me in my moments of not trusting very well. Amen.
John 14:1–14 — Disciples have a place prepared in heaven
Jesus reminds them that they know Him and He is the Way
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” – after difficult news, John 13:33,36.
“Believe in God… also in Me” – Jesus’ simple but also profound solution to heart anxiety. “Believe” means personal, relational trust, as in the OT, Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 26:3-4.
2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
“My Father’s house” – like the son’s return to his father’s house in Luke 15. Jesus promised followers a welcome into “eternal dwellings”.
• For further study, see Luke 15:11-32, Luke 16:9, Rev. 21.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.
“I will come back” – Jesus’ second coming. If we believe in Him (v.1) we will be expected and He will return for us.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going.
“You know the way” – or you know the Way, anticipating what He will say, v.6
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
“I AM the Way” – an answer rich with double meanings. Jesus’ I AM sayings echo God’s revelation of Himself to Moses, Exodus 3:13-15, and signal His divine origins as Messiah. The Early Church were first known as followers of the Way.
“Except through Me” – the only way to God is through Jesus, Acts 4:12, an exclusive claim which does not sit well with our culture, but our reasoning must not invalidate what Jesus plainly states. Those who claim to know God but reject Jesus, do not know Him, John 5:39-47.
7 If you really know Me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”
“Know Me… know My Father” – to know Jesus is to know the Father.
• For further study, see John 5:37–38, John 8:19; 1 John 2:21.
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
“Seen Me… seen the Father” – Jesus, facing Philip in His humanity, clearly sets out His deity. Philip has yet to grasp that Jesus came to reveal the Father, John 1:14, 18, John 12:44-45.
10-11 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you I do not speak on My own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
“I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” – as explained in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one” where “one” is the neuter ‘one thing’, not one person. So one in essence, will and purpose — not identical persons. With the Holy Spirit, Matt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 3:14, the three distinct Persons constitute only one Being.
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
“Works” – Greek erga, meaning as well as signs and miracles, all of Jesus’ mission, teaching and merciful acts would continue.
“Greater things” – the Holy Spirit yet to be given would replicate and multiply the ministry beyond Palestine, worldwide.
13-14 And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.
“Ask in My name” – meaning coming to God in the will authority of Jesus, as those that are His. Our alignment with Him is the key to this arresting promise, not the form of words.
It is easy to be down on Thomas and Philip, from our vantage point of hindsight.
However we could also say that they asked honest, good questions – which have given us some of the clearest and most memorable answers by Jesus.
Jesus is the Way in two senses: He is the exact representation of what God is like, and believing and trusting Him is the way – the only way – to God.
How would you answer someone who rejected the exclusivity of Jesus being the only way to God?
Acts 7:55–60 – Stephen in his dying moments sees heaven open
Through the pain he sees Christ standing to welcome him
55-56 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
“Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit” – in sharp contrast to the religiosity but spiritual lack of his Sanhedrin prosecutors, who reacted to his demeanour in uncontrolled rage.
“Son of Man”, Daniel 7:13-14; Luke 22:69.
57-58 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
“Began to stone him” – without trial and illegally, possibly supervised by the up-and-coming Pharisee Saul.
59-60 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
“Do not hold this sin against them” – strikingly similar to Jesus’ words “Father, forgive them…” on the Cross, Luke 23:34. Jesus greatly emphasised forgiving others, Matt 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; also Luke 11:4; 17:3-4; Matthew 18:21-35.
“He fell asleep” – a common NT way of conveying that death for believers is a transition, Luke 8:52; John 11:11; 1 Thess. 4:14-15.
Not many of us see into heaven before we get there, although there are arresting testimonies written about some people’s experiences.
Stephen was one such a special case – an outstandingly fruitful and courageous evangelist who was so Christ-focused he attracted the same hatred that had put his Lord on the Cross.
As he looked up into heaven, it is striking that he caught and expressed heaven’s attitude of mercy towards those who were motivated by hell to kill him stone by stone. He forgave them publicly, leaving us his example. Jesus gave the highest priority to us extending His grace and forgiving others.
Who do you find impossible to forgive? How do you think Stephen would counsel you on this?
1 Peter 2:2–10 – Living stones make a heavenly temple here on earth
Every believer is part of the new priesthood representing God to men
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
“Grow up in your salvation” – as healthy children feed and grow. Salvation is both an event (on deciding to entrust your life to Christ) and a lifelong process of Holy Spirit healing and freedom on the road to spiritual maturity.
4-6 As you come to him, the Living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.
“The Living Stone… you also, like living stones” – Peter describes the church as the new temple inhabited by the Holy Spirit of God. Every believer is a living stone aligned with Christ as Cornerstone – a picture of dependence and connection like Paul’s teaching on parts of the body connected to the Head.
“A holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ” – in the OT, access to God was restricted to priests born into the tribe of Levi. In the NT, there is a shift under the New Covenant in Jesus in which believers are reborn into God’s family to become a new kind of priesthood. This is shared by each and every believer who has invited Jesus into their hearts and lives and has ‘priestly’ access through their relationship with Him, and the spiritual sacrifices are now Spirit-led worship and service.
7-8 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message — which is also what they were destined for.
“This stone… the cornerstone… a stone to stumble” – three quotations about Christ as the authentic, irreplaceable foundation stone of the new temple, rejected by those closely aligned with the old temple and a barrier for those unwilling to submit to Jesus as Lord. God foreknew that not everyone would receive His Son; however everyone has the choice not to stumble but to step up on the rock.
• For further study, see Psalm 118; Matt. 21:42; Isaiah 8:14, 28:16; Romans 9:33.
9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
“Chosen people, royal priesthood” – Peter redefines familiar OT labels. The people of Israel were the former “chosen people”, now in the NT they are the believers.
“God’s special possession” – all Christians are to be holy and set apart for service to the Lord as the OT priests were. Christians, through new birth, form a new ‘nation’ in enjoying a special and close relationship with God.
• For further study, read Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:20, 7:6, 14:2; Isaiah 43:10, 20-21; Malachi 3:17.
• See also page on ‘Explaining our identity as Christians – royal priesthood‘ which goes into more detail about the Bible teaching as distinct from historical church teaching.
Heaven is an attractive place – not because of the shining gold, or the brilliant light, or the incomparable praise and worship, but because heaven is full of the presence of God, full of the reality of the One who is the definition of love.
We are called to take a deep plunge of faith, trusting Jesus at the deepest level with our lives and being changed forever. It’s called being born again and it turns us into living stones, in Peter’s words, needed to take our place and be fitted with all the others that form this new temple of God’s presence on earth.
This is the way evangelism is designed to work – with us as this new priesthood between heaven and earth, showing the world a glimpse of something so attractive that it is hard to resist.
Does the way we do church and its language bear out Peter’s teaching on our status and call as people of light who are living in God’s mercy?
Lord Jesus, like Stephen we look up and we see Your scarred hands extended to us in welcome and we give our lives to You again. We put our times and our actions in Your hands, pledging to keep aligned with You as Your living stones, and to represent You to others as yet untouched by Your love. Thank You for being the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.
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Theme: Jesus the Good Shepherd is our entrance to new life
“You are with me” is the truth that counters fear and anxiety as we, like David, look to God as provider and protector.
Jesus teaches that He is the gate to an abundant and eternal life in which He knows us and we know Him
Acts 2:42-47 text
The call of Christ is the shared experience of new life in Him that brings brings real relationship and togetherness
Belonging to the Good Shepherd is a call that brings a cost, as the new life and freedom may be a threat to some
Psalm 23 — King David calls the Lord his provider and protector
“You are with me” is the truth that answers fear and anxiety
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
“My shepherd” – David used to keep sheep and knew how dependent sheep are on on the shepherd for guidance, provision and protection. “Shepherd” was often used of kings in the ancient Near East. David is saying, Yahweh rules his life.
2-3 He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
“Makes me lie down” – to rest like a sheep in safety. The LORD brings good provision and refreshment (sheep avoid lively water) and guidance. “For His name’s sake” – about who God is, His nature to give.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
“Darkest valley” – unlike “green pastures” and “quiet waters”, ravines in dark shadow are dangerous.
“You are with me” – not now talking ABOUT God, talking TO Him. The centre point and the headline.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
“Anoint my head” – like a specially honoured guest.
6 Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
“Goodness and love” – “goodness and mercy” (ESV)…unfailing love” (NLT), covenant language revealing what God is like.
“I will dwell” – points to Jesus who said “I am the good shepherd”, John 10:11 and 14, and who laid down His life so we could choose new and eternal life by believing in Him.
There’s a profound message in this familiar psalm. Sheep need help from the shepherd to find the good places to feed and drink, and to be protected from danger. They are reliant! God our Father is the very best kind of shepherd to us, “the people of His pasture, the flock under His care,” Psalm 95:7.
Implied rather than stated is our part in the relationship – trusting God with our lives.
Of these provisions, what might we take for granted? What do we ask for?
John 10:1-10 — Jesus is the gate into abundant and eternal life
Like sheep in a flock, we know His voice and He knows us
1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
“Sheep pen” – courtyard of stone walls topped with thorny branches and a single gate, offering security for several families’ flocks at night. Only a robber would enter by force.
2 “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
“The shepherd… the gatekeeper” – the gatekeeper was employed by the various families. Each shepherd knew and named his sheep, who would respond to their shepherd calling their name.
“He calls his own sheep” – Jesus knows and loves us as individuals who He has called to belong to Him; we choose to follow Him, recognising His voice as distinct from others.
4 “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
“Know his voice” – Middle Eastern sheep are obedient and follow the shepherd.
5 “But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.”
6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
“Figure of speech” – referring to the Pharisees’ dismissive treatment of ordinary people, similar to the abusive leadership of Ezekiel 34.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
8 “All who have come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.
“Thieves and robbers” – exploiting people as in Ezekiel 34:2-4; in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees.
9 “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.
“Whoever enters through Me will be saved” – clear teaching on Jesus being the one distinct route to salvation, also Acts 4:12.
10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
“The thief” – who takes life; by comparison, Jesus confers life, eternal life which starts immediately we turn to follow Him. The saying sets Satan’s strategy of robbing people of joy and keeping them in bondage, against Jesus’ teaching that He sets people free by His truth into “having [life] to the full.”
• For further study, compare John 10:10 with John 8:32, 36.
Jesus further reveals who He is with another of the “I am” sayings, reflecting on Psalm 23 — a description of God as the very best caring shepherd.
His “thieves and robbers” are the “harsh shepherds” of Ezekiel 34 who caused the exile and scattering of the flock. Ezekiel had prophesied, also reflecting Psalm 23, “I Myself will tend My sheep and have them lie down… I will place over them one shepherd, [of the line of] my servant David, and He will tend them… and be their shepherd,” Ezekiel 24:15 and 23.
Jesus’ hearers, many of them Pharisees who prided themselves on their knowledge of the Scriptures, could not have missed that reference as Jesus proclaimed, “I am the gate – whoever enters through Me will be saved.”
We live in a world of many voices demanding inclusivity in all things and despising the truth Jesus clearly taught, that He alone is the entrance to salvation, freedom and God’s provision – life to the full.
Jesus is the Way, not one of the ways, and He knows His flock in a personal relationship, as His flock also know His voice.
How do we recognise the voice of the shepherd and bringer of life, and how is it distinct from the voice of the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy?
Acts 2:42-47 — The call of Christ is togetherness in community
The shared experience of new life in Christ brings real relationship
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
“The apostles’ teaching” – like Peter’s message, e.g. vv. 22-41 which emphasised eyewitness testimony to His miraculous works and resurrection, the fulfilment of the OT prophecies about the Lord, also all that Jesus taught.
“Teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” – the four pillars of the Christian gathering, a relational, participative affair. Prayer was also worship; breaking of bread was essentially a fellowship meal which also remembered the Lord’s Supper.
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
“Many wonders and signs” – the ministry of Jesus continuing through the apostles and associates like Philip, the language of miracles occurring regularly, many more than recorded by Luke.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
“Everything in common” – the sense of possessions held lightly and used for others as needs arose. Not early communism: believers went on holding property, met in their homes, and giving was voluntary.
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…
“Continued to meet…in the temple courts” – the centre of community life. The believers were not starting a new religion but proclaiming the reality of the salvation promised to Israel. Their call was to love one another, John 13:34-35, and share lives in a community of teaching, prayer and worship, possessions and fellowship. They gathered en masse at the Temple for teaching and met in many homes, a pattern which continued, Acts 20:20.
47 …praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
“Added to their number daily” – in a short time (uninhibited by persecution) the 3,000 of Pentecost was 5,000 men, with women also playing their part.
However many times we re-read this passage about the first believers gathered in teaching, prayer and fellowship, we are struck by the way they related and joined together in community. They had the unity of a common, shared experience — knowing Jesus the ascended Lord of lords through the power of the Spirit.
Where denominations compete, and church attenders come together in friction rather than fellowship, we have to ask: what has been lost? Is that common experience of submitting to Jesus the ruling factor? Is the essential simplicity of the early believers’ worship and spiritual lives still what we seek, or has it become complicated through man-made constructions?
Do we meet in homes, eating together with glad and sincere hearts, or is it now all front-led ‘temple’ meetings?
Is it a realistic expectation that numbers should grow through people regularly coming to salvation? At a time of such marked decline among all the traditional denominations, what priorities might need to change?
1 Peter 2:19-25 — Belonging to the Shepherd is a call with a cost
The good news of freedom is not welcomed by all
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.
“Bears up… conscious of God” – slaves who had believed in Jesus were expected to follow the religion of the house. They showed the grace of God in their attitude to undeserved beatings.
20-21 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
“To this you were called” – to live for the Suffering Servant Jesus, who took persecution and unjust punishment. The good news of freedom in Jesus Christ often provokes the opposite kind of reactions.
• For further study, read Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
22-23 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.
“He did not retaliate” – ways in which Jesus revealed Himself as the foretold suffering servant. In that culture honour was defended by returning insults.
24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the Cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
“Die to sins and live for righteousness” – symbolised and made public in baptism. Jesus’ death breaks the power of sin in our lives, and His Spirit empowers us to live better in God’s sight, two vital factors that distinguish the new, regenerate life. Jesus is our substitute, not just our pattern.
“By His wounds you have been healed” – through Jesus’ physical suffering from flogging and crucifixion, our believing in Him is a healing of spirit, extending to soul and body. Matthew applies these words from Isaiah 53:4 to Jesus’ physical healings, Matthew 8:17.
25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
“Like sheep going astray” – like sheep that tend to wander, we need the guidance of the Shepherd.
• For further study, see Isaiah 53:6, Psalm 23:1, John 10:11, 14; Hebrews 13:20, also John 21:15-17.
New life in Christ brings not only different beliefs, but a different set of values – living for others and showing the grace and forbearance which was the mark of Jesus.
In a selfish, individualistic world this was, and still is, a culture clash. The slaves’ masters didn’t like it and neither do many employers, e.g. Christian nurses forbidden to wear crosses and teachers constrained by liberal views on marriage, gender and beliefs.
There’s a cost to the call and a cross to bear, as Jesus said, but the “example that you should follow” is not to seek holiness through suffering, as medieval religion taught. That is a man-centred approach which seeks to earn what can only be freely given.
The call is to accept graciously and with joy the suffering that may come BECAUSE we are holy and set apart – a very different response coming from the leading of the Spirit.
How will people see Jesus in us? How might our handling of life’s tough situations witness to Christ?
Lord Jesus, we are so grateful that You are the Good Shepherd we first meet in David’s psalm, and also our gateway into knowing the Father’s abundant life and eternal rest. We thank You, too, that we have been called into a body where everyone is valued, and the joys and setbacks of life are shared. May we reveal You by handling life’s injustices with Your grace, and by giving a good shepherd’s care to those who have needs — all to give glory and honour to You. Amen.
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The Living Word based on the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Sunday, April 26, 2020. New International Version (NIV). TLW16A
Theme: Changed lives show our thanks for the price God paid for us
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 – The psalmist praises God for deliverance and pledges to make a public thanksgiving
Psalm passage verse by verse
Luke 24:13-35 — Two disciples walking back to their village are changed by learning how all the events they had seen were foretold — then Jesus reveals Himself
Luke passage verse by verse
Acts 2:14, 36-41 — Peter’s message brings conviction to the crowd for a change of heart and they respond with baptisms
Acts passage verse by verse
1 Peter 1:17-23 — As believers we are urged live up to our changed lives, able to show others the same love that redeemed us
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 – Praise for God’s goodness in deliverance
The psalmist pledges to make a public thank offering
1 I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
“He heard my voice” – personal thanksgiving for deliverance from death. Possibly written by a king – see Hezekiah’s deliverance, Isaiah 38:10-20.
3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”
“Cords of death entangled me” – pulled towards the realm of the dead. Jonah prayed in a similar way, Jonah 2:5, also Psalm 18:4-5.
12 What shall I return to the LORD for all His goodness to me?
“What shall I return” – or render. The meaning is paying back positively. This verse acts as the the headline, or anchor verse.
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people.
“Cup of salvation” – after the Passover meal and following the third cup of wine, this psalm is read and Jesus would have shared this reminder of God’s salvation on the night he was betrayed, Matt. 26:27; Luke 22:14-22.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His faithful servants.
16 Truly I am Your servant, LORD; I serve You just as my mother did; You have freed me from my chains.
“I am Your servant” – words brought alive in John 13:1-17 by the Lord showing every disciple must be like a servant.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and call on the name of the LORD.
18-19 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the LORD — in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.
“Courts of the house of the Lord” – temple precincts.
The Hebrew Scriptures (OT), the good news of Jesus Christ (gospels) and Christian living in the power of the Spirit (Acts and letters) give us three different perspectives from the same author, the Holy Spirit. This OT poem of thankfulness for deliverance from death points to our living in gratitude to God for His reprieve of us, paid for in a servant-like way by the blood sacrifice of His Son.
How might the unbelieving world recognise in us thankfulness for what the Lord has done?
Luke 24:13-35 — Two disciples returning to their village get a Scripture lesson
They understand how recent events were foretold — then Jesus reveals Himself
13-14 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
“Two of them” – perhaps husband and wife, one named Cleopas, (v.18) perhaps mentioned in John 19:25. They were, by tradition, heading north-west of Jerusalem.
15-16 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognising Him.
“Kept from recognising” – Jesus needed them, first, to grasp how His life, death and resurrection were all part of God’s plan of wider salvation.
17-18 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“Who does not know” – crucifixions were carried out at main intersections, highly visible as a public deterrent.
19 “What things?” He asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
“A prophet” – perhaps unsure of ‘Messiah’, who in popular thought was seen as overcoming, not dying (v.21).
20-21 The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the One who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
“Redeem Israel” – Messiah, for them, would free them from Gentile rule; God’s redeeming purpose was freedom from slavery to sin.
22-24 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.
Did not see Jesus” – these two had not heard about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, John 20:1, 16-18.
25-27 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.
“The Messiah… suffer these things” – they thought the crucifixion negated Jesus being the Messiah. It confirmed it because it was foretold.
“Moses and all the prophets” – or all of what we call the OT. The whole OT points forward to Jesus.
• For a substantial further study! Read Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 2, Psalm 16, Psalm 22, Psalm 118 and see also Luke 18:32; 20:17, 23:37, Acts 2:25-28, Acts 4:25-26.
28-29 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if He were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.
“Stay with us” – hospitality was customary, but they wanted to know more.
30-31 When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him, and He disappeared from their sight.
“He took bread” – although not the host but the guest.
“He disappeared” – His resurrection body had different properties. He ate with the disciples, but also appeared, disappeared, and passed through walls and doors and covered distances in a moment. When the two had returned to Jerusalem, Jesus had already appeared to Peter (vv.33-35)
32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
“Opened” – interpreted. Scripture interprets Scripture.
33-35 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when He broke the bread.
“Appeared to Simon” – not told directly in the gospels but confirmed independently by Paul, 1 Cor. 15:5.
This in one of Luke’s longest and therefore most important stories. Two disciples, in shock after their Lord’s horrific torture and shame, are joined on their journey by someone who shares a different perspective – how this was foretold, something God knew that evil men would do. Understanding how God turns such evil to our good, and why His anointed One had to experience injustice and suffer – seeing Jesus become like a lamb made a sacrifice for our sin – changes our whole view of life. This is Jesus, who then revealed Himself as they ate together.
What is the difference between following the good example of someone who WAS, and receiving instruction and encouragement from the Lord who IS, with us?
Acts 2:14, 36-41 — Peter tells the crowd how they put to death their Lord and Messiah
Holy conviction comes on them and they respond in a mass baptism
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
“Peter stood up” – He was the first to recognise who Jesus was, Matthew 16:13-19, and led in bearing witness to Him.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
“Lord and Messiah” – Peter had already explained (vv.31-32) that Jesus, born to be Messiah and anointed at baptism, was raised to life, ascended to heaven and was now enthroned at the right hand of God.
• For further study, see Luke 2:11, 3:21-22, 4:18; Acts 2:32-33, 4:27.
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
“What shall we do?” – recognising their part in killing their Messiah: the moment of Holy Spirit conviction and new birth.
38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
“Repent” – implies believing. To repent is to change what we believe, from sin and independence, to God. For the Judeans in the crowd, changing former attitudes about Jesus.
“Be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ” – a public declaration of new allegiance to Jesus following a change of heart. Baptism (the word means ‘immerse’) in the Bible cannot be separated from the conscious decision to “repent”; it then follows as a symbol of being immersed in Jesus, washing off the old life and rising into the new.
40-41 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
“Three thousand” – from the visiting Passover throng. Archaeological research has revealed large bath structures in the temple precincts, enough to baptise this number in a few hours.
Peter’s message, which established the pattern for preaching in the early church, set out clearly who Jesus is, and how we should respond. The “repent” and “be baptised” is a call to submit, a cost the proud and independent part of us is never going to accept easily! But in the same breath, Peter mentioned something enriching, that enables us to live differently. This is “the gift of the Holy Spirit”, the power that raised Jesus from the dead. He empowers us to change and submit, and shows us how to live different, thankful lives that in many small ways show our inexpressible joy and recognition what Jesus did for us.
We don’t like change but we all welcome a promise. How does the word “repent” sit with you?
1 Peter 1:17-23 — The apostle calls believers to live up to who they are
We are empowered to show the same love, which redeemed us, to others
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.
“Since you call on a Father” – NASB “If you address as Father”, another way of saying ‘If you are a Christian’.
“Reverent fear” – respect for and deference to God; awe not terror.
18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
“You were redeemed” – slaves could be released for a ransom; “redeem” meant buying back a prisoner of war. Here we are prisoners of sin and sin’s curse, but we cannot raise the price. Only God can ransom us by payment in the blood of His Son, the ultimate sacrificial lamb.
20-21 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
“He was chosen” – God planned redemption through His Son from the beginning of time. Both the law and the coming of Christ were part of His plan.
“These last times” – inaugurated by the coming of Jesus the Messiah and until His return.
22-23 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
“For you have been born again” – Peter exhorts readers and hearers to ‘become what you are’. The evidence of becoming a Christian is the Holy Spirit’s transformation of character from within, hence “love from the heart”.
“Through the living… word of God” – God’s word is not magical but at the same time it has spiritual power, working in concert with the Holy Spirit.
To be “redeemed from the empty way of life” is by definition a release into new life, which is what happens when we face up to the truth about God and about ourselves, and know we have to do something about it – be born again spiritually. But is a new life that is not empty, but full – full of the awareness of God’s love for us, that redeemed us, undeserving as we were. The love that we experience, knowing God, is also the love that we give out. Any close relationship can bring friction as well as synergy. But knowing we are loved, is being able to love others, whatever is occurring.
What about God’s love for us is so special? How does His kind of love show up the gaps in our kind of love?
Lord God, we are so grateful that we can call on You as a loving and completely fair Father. And at this season of new life, new beginnings and new awareness of what Your Son Jesus has done for us, we thank you for the free choice we have. Once again we ask Jesus to take lordship of our lives so that we can believe in You, know Your love and security – and are free to share that love with others who need You. Amen.