Jesus is risen and He is alive forevermore! We read that Jesus was alive as the disciples “mourned and wept” (Mark 16:10) not realizing what had happened. That is the condition of many “disciples” today also. They mourn and weep about many things not realizing what they have been given through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Are you mourning and weeping today? He has been raised and you have been raised with Him. Hallelujah! The Lord always confirms His word; Mark 16:20 says, “They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”
Jesus came to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matt 15:24). John 1:11-12 says, “He came to His own (Israel), and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” When Israel, as a whole, rejected Jesus as their King, He died for the whole world on the cross. When He died on the cross, for all nations, the Father gave Him authority over all nations. Paul refers to this in Philippians 2:8-10: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” This is one of the points Jesus was making in Matthew 28:18-19 when He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” This is what people call the “great commission.” Jesus has been made King over all nations by the Father and He is coming soon to rule and to reign. It is our job to prepare the nations for His kingdom by teaching them to observe all things that He has commanded us. He will be with us till the end of the age (when He returns) helping us to do what He has asked.
Matthew 27:37 says, “they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Jesus’ “crime” was claiming to be the King of the Jews and acknowledging He was the Son of God, even though all the evidence showed it was truth. It seems crazy that they would reject Him, but the same thing happens today; the evidence it there, but people reject Him as their King. People don’t reject Him because there isn't enough evidence; they reject Him because they harden their own heart; they don’t want Him as King. The Jewish leaders in the day of Jesus couldn't just say, “I don’t believe in Him;” He was right in front of their faces doing miracles; their rejection had to take a more dramatic approach. They falsely convicted Him so they could get rid of Him; they lied after lying to themselves. It wasn't that they couldn't believe; they didn't want to believe. We all must make sure our heart is soft and pliable to the Lord in humility; we should not resist His Lordship over our own lives; He wants what is best for us. Those in the Kingdom will honor the Lord Jesus willfully; forced honor isn’t honor. Do you “believe” He is King when He leads you down a path you didn't want to go down, or when things become difficult? Do you “believe” He is King when you’re forced to humble yourself more to follow Him? Belief has corresponding actions; when we believe, we will obey.
Matthew 26:37 says Jesus, “…took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” In verse 38 Jesus says, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” Before one blow to His face had come, before the crown of thorns was pressed into His skull, before they whipped the skin off His back, and before they drove the nails into Him, the sorrow of Jesus was so great that it brought Him close to death. Here in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would be prepared to walk out what He was being asked to do by His Father. It appears that Jesus began to feel the weight of the sin of the world upon Himself and He consecrated Himself to the will of the Father in that distress. When Jesus found His disciples sleeping, He said to them, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." He pleaded for them to do what He was doing: to pray. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but we find strength in God through prayer to stand against all life’s temptations. Jesus had to continue to press during this exceedingly distressful time of prayer, but as He did, He found strength to willingly lay down His life. Glory to God! He is able to keep us from stumbling as seek Him in prayer.
Luke 21:34 is a verse that stuck out to me today. Jesus says, "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” When we let the pursuit of temporal desires and the “cares of this life” fill our heart, our heart will be “weighted down.” In other words, we won’t be able to perceive the reality of the day; we will have a misconstrued perception of reality and we won't see what Jesus is doing. The picture that Jesus gives us in this verse is of a person who is drunk, hung over, and not aware of what is going on, so is overtaken by the destruction that a sober person could see coming. Let’s look at the same verse in two other translations:
Jesus tells us what to do instead in Mark 13:33, “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”
Israel had to take one lamb per household on the tenth day of the first month (Exodus 12:3) and they needed to inspect it to make sure there was no blemish in it before killing it on the fourteenth day (Passover). In these two chapters we see the people testing Jesus looking for fault in Him, but they couldn’t find any fault. Thou they couldn’t find any sin in Him, they killed Him, and He laid down His life for the world.
Jesus says in John 12:25, that the only way to “keep” our life for eternity is to “hate” our life in this world. Those are some strong words that we need to take heed to. We must have no esteem for this life; eternity is what matters. We mustn’t have esteem for what we have to go through or what we will miss out on in this life; if we do, we will miss out on what God has for us for eternity.
Jesus goes on to say in John 12:27, "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” Notice what caused His soul to be “troubled;” it was His very “purpose” that He had come to earth. If we think the plans and purposes of God for our life won’t cause us trouble in our soul, we are greatly mistaken. He has given us joy and He wants the fruit of joy to grow in our life, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be difficult times.
In both of these chapters we see the story of a very rich man who came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” After the man said he kept the commandments of God, Jesus told him he still lacked one thing. It stuck out to me that he lacked only “one thing.” In other words, he was doing many things right, but he couldn’t rely on those good works. There was something that needed to change in his life, staring him in the face; it was his reliance on this worlds goods. It was going to take major spiritual surgery to amputate this from him. Would he go under the knife, or would he continue to let this issue affect (and infect) the rest of his being? When Jesus told him to sell everything, give away the proceeds and then follow Him, the Bible says he walked away sorrowful. It would be like a man who is not willing to lose his limb which has Gangrene… sure you’re going to lose something precious to you, but it’s something that’s going to kill you if you keep it. Is there “one thing” in your life that you need to walk away from; “one thing” that's been bringing death. Jesus loves you just like he loved this man and will lead you out from death and into life if you let Him.
Bringing the Kingdom to earth
Matthew 17 and Mark 9 records when Peter, James and John “see the kingdom of God present with power” on top of the mountain. After their amazing experience, they come down from the mountain to see what it looks like when “disciples” fail to bring the kingdom to earth. A man had brought his son to get freedom from a demon that controlled him from birth, but the disciples could not cast it out. Why couldn’t they do it? Was it God’s will to teach this man humility? Was it just one of those things we “don’t understand?” Jesus states plainly what the problem was; Jesus says in Matthew 17:17 "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." It was faithless and perverse thinking that stood in the way of this boy receiving freedom, not the will of God; God is a giver and healer. Matthew 17:19-20 says, “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus essentially tells them the same thing, but expounds a little more. What is the lesson for us? If we “see” people getting healed, saved, and delivered on the inside, we will see it on the outside. Jesus further counseled them that prayer and fasting will extinguish unbelief and perverse thinking in the heart. Let’s not settle for status quo; the “kingdom of God is at hand” (It is within reach).
There is a mindset that will keep you from fulfilling God’s will. Peter had this destructive mindset in Matthew 16 and he was trying to convince Jesus to have it too. This was so serious that Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
What was this mindset? Jesus had told his disciples that He would “suffer many things… and be killed, and be raised the third day," and Peter responded “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" In Peter’s mind, Father God would never let this happen to Jesus. He knew there would be trying days, but in his mind never would He let Jesus suffer and die.
We will never be “mindful of the things God” if we confuse happiness with the success God has for us. We will never be “mindful of the things of God” when our focus for achievement is in this life instead of in the age to come. We must be willing to surrender this life to God’s will because we believe the light afflictions are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. We must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The Father perfectly loved His Son and led Him to the cross for the joy that would come after. The Father loves you and is leading you to pick up your cross and follow in the steps of Jesus because of what He has planned for you.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Jesus says it isn’t the things that a man puts into his mouth to eat that defile (pollute, make unclean) him, but it’s the things that come out of a man’s mouth because the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart. Religion likes to set up outward procedures so we can feel good about ourselves as we do them, but God is concerned with our heart. Jesus said in Matthew 15:19, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (evil speaking).” The Word of God has the power to change our heart as we receive it with meekness and truly believe it.
Jesus said in John 15:3 (Amplified version), “You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].”
James 1:21-22 says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Read through the Bible with us in 2012! The reading plan can be downloaded below; we are reading in chronological order. Check back often to read the blog posts on the Bible readings and discuss things in the "comments" section.
2012 Bible Plan