In today’s Bible reading, Jesus points out that His Kingdom is not of this world. In fact, he demonstrates the point with, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36 CSB)
A short time earlier on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prophesied to His Disciples, “Tonight all of you will fall away because of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” Matthew 26:31 (CSB)
The Jewish leaders who expected the Disciples to run away if Jesus were to be arrested were very happy that night. Everything worked according to their plans. But they didn’t consider what might happen if Jesus was actually Who He claimed to be.
Everyone else ran. But John the Beloved Disciple and Peter secretly hung around to see what would happen to Jesus. And when pressed if he knew Jesus, Peter lied and called down curses on himself.
But Jesus’ Kingdom wasn’t like any other kingdom anyone had ever seen. If you look at Jesus’ “Kingdom” parables, it’s clear that God’s Kingdom doesn’t look anything like what someone would expect it to look. Those who are first are last; those who are last are first. And the greatest of all is a servant. So when the King was taken, the Disciples ran. His Kingdom is not of this world.
Jesus told His Disciples to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first. Not first as in before going to the next thing. But first as the only thing of importance. Rather than concerning themselves with the things of this world, Jesus tells His Disciples to concern themselves with the things of a different world. A world where He is King.
The Kingdom of God had already come. (Matthew 12:28) And yet, it hadn’t. Even today, we still live in a constant tension of God’s Kingdom as “already, but not yet.” And we await the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes in all of His glory to make all things right.
Are you a citizen of God’s Kingdom? Have you submitted to His Kingship and to His rule? I urge you do that today!
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
In today’s Bible reading, John tells us that Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet. All Twelve Disciples. Including Judas.
This is an Inconvenient Truth about Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. And yet, He served him. He washed Judas’ feet in the same way as He washed Simon Peter’s feet. And John the Beloved Disciple’s feet. Jesus knew their hearts completely. And yet, He served them all. Including Judas.
If Jesus knew His Disciples’ hearts completely, and yet washed their feet, then I — not knowing peoples’ hearts — don’t have a place to decide to whom I can/should minister.
And neither do you.
God doesn’t give me the choice of whom I minister to. When I said, “Yes” to Jesus’ call to discipleship, my answer was forever, “Yes”. My call to “The Ministry” is no different.
Jesus said that no student is greater than his master. (John 13:16) If Jesus had a Judas, how could I think that I am above having my own Judas(es)?
Jesus tells us to count the cost to be His disciple. And when I look at what Jesus’ death accomplished for me, what right could I possibly claim to exempt me from “having” to minister to anyone?
When it comes down to it, you really can never say, “No, Lord.” If Jesus is Lord, then the answer must be “Yes.” To answer, “No” is to deny Him as Lord.
Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders their eternal life is in their Scriptures, yet aren’t humble enough to come to Him, the One the Scriptures point to. (John 5:39-40) He points out that in their search for Truth, they ignore the One Who embodies it. They bury their faces in their scrolls looking for God. He stands right in the midst of them, and they completely miss the Truth by “that much”. Their preconceived conceptions of what God is supposed to be like doesn’t fit with what they hear Jesus saying and doing.
If your Bible has a list of crossreferences, glance through the Gospels. Look at how many references there are to the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, especially the Psalms. Over and over again, we see pages of Scripture pouring out of Jesus’ mouth. When you turn to the letters of Paul and the other Apostles, they are constantly quoting or alluding to Old Testament passages. Why? Because these men knew their Bible (which was the Old Testament). They saw Jesus as the fulfillment of every part of their Bible. Every page of their Bible pointed to Jesus. So why didn’t the Jewish leaders see Jesus in their Bible like the Apostles did? They were blind to the spiritual realities. (2 Corinthians 3:14–15)
Like in yesterday’s devotional and elsewhere this year, there is a tremendous theological truth at play called the Sovereignty of God. God is Sovereign. In other words, He is in control. Of everything. Nothing that happens catches Him off guard. And He is never surprised.
And when it comes to seeing God and hearing His voice in Scripture, unless God moves in a miraculous way, no one will find God, regardless of how much they search and where they search. Colleges, universities — and seminaries — are filled with men and women like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day who know their Bible. They study the original languages, archaeology, and history searching for answers. Yet, they have more questions that they have answers. Now, that can be a good thing. But when you refuse to come to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, you miss it — you miss everything — by that much.
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. God knew how fallen we are. He knew that our hearts are radically corrupt. (Jeremiah 17:9) He knew that if we could seek Him, we wouldn’t. (Psalm 14:1-3) He knew that if we were to know Him at all, He would have to make a way. And He did in Jesus Christ.
That any of us would believe is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.
If you know Him, it is only because you responded to His invitation. And that you were invited is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.
Spend a few minutes thanking Him for making Himself known in His Word. Read it. Cherish it. Share it with others.
And ask God to give them eyes to see, too.
Peter continues addressing his persecuted, exiled readers (1 Peter 2:11) in today’s Bible reading. Last month, I commented on the historical context around the middle of the First Century. I mentioned Nero was the Roman Emporer at the time. Under Nero’s reign, Christians were persecuted far beyond what many of us can imagine today. “Pure evil” is the only way I can describe it without going into the ugly details.
And yet… Peter tells his readers to submit to every human authority. And lest there be any confusion, Peter says clearly that his command includes the “emperor [Nero] as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.” (1 Peter 2:13–14 CSB)
So what does “submit” mean? Submit was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.
Submission is not a bad word. In fact, no military unit can properly function without it. No marriage can properly function without it. No church can properly function without it. And no country can properly function without it. There has to be a chain of command. The pastor who married Amy and me said, “Anything with more than one head is a monster.”
Peter gives his rationale for his command in verses 12 and 15. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” 1 Peter 2:12, 15 (CSB)
Did you catch that? Peter says the reason Believers should submit even to the evil Emperor Nero was so that God would be glorified. He adds that silencing foolish ignorance by doing good is God’s will. Well, you can’t argue with that!
Most of my readers live in the United States and do not have first-hand knowledge of real religious persecution. However, readers in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes may know people who have experienced persecution. They may have even had to alter their way of doing life — especially church life — in order to coexist in a restrictive environment. I have friends who live in one of those restrictive countries and they have to be very careful in the way they communicate prayer needs back to churches in the US. In fact, they don’t even use the words “pray”, “church”, or “Jesus Christ” in their email correspondence.
But regardless of where you live, Peter’s instructions are clear: Submit to every human authority. Every human authority. You may or may not like your President. You may or may not like your Chancellor. You may or may not like your Prime Minister. But regardless of how you feel about your leaders, if you are a Believer, you are obligated to submit to those authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14) and to pray for them. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
 Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon 1995 : n. pag. Print.
Next, John talks about the importance of hospitality toward other Believers. (3 John 1:5-8) People don’t talk much about hospitality these days. But it’s a very important character trait. Back in the First Century, especially as Roman religious persecution grew, it was crucial that Believers support each other as John says above. He concludes his thoughts, urging that Believers should financially support itenerant missionaries. By supporting these people, they actually become a coworker with them in God’s work.
I haven’t read it yet, but Rosaria Butterfield wrote an award-winning book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. In it, she talks about how she became a Christian in a large part because some Christian neighbors extended “radically ordinary” hospitality to her.
Think about that. By simply being hospitable, you can have an eternal impact on the lives of lost people. Maybe it’s gladly giving a neighbor a cup of sugar. Maybe it’s loaning a fan to a new neighbor who’s painting some rooms before they move. Definitely, it’s praying for your neighbors. Definitely, it’s being ready to share a “fresh word” of encouragement with them. Definitely, it’s giving a Bible to the coworker who doesn’t have one and is beginning their spiritual walk.
The saying, “Always share your faith and use words when necessary” forgets the fact that unless you use words, people will not know the Gospel. Sure, they may think, “Wow, what a nice gesture.” but they won’t know why you did what you did when you were hospitable. Peter urged his readers to always be ready to gently and respectfully explain your hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
And that requires that we use words.