Point of View – “One will betray me”

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In our point of view this week, we step into the upper room where the disciples are celebrating the Passover meal with Jesus.  

At one point, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. This stirs up the group to question, “Am I the one?” Jesus says to them;

“It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” Mark 14:20-21

Matthew would actually have been at the table and must have been sitting close to Judas. 

Judas, the one who would betray him, asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.” Matthew 26:25

Luke, likely getting some of his information from Peter, reports some of the same things, but their attention takes a twisted turn.

The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. (Moving right along…) Then they began to argue among themselves who would be the greatest among them. Luke 22:21-24

What a motley crew Jesus had. Here He has given this dreadful news, but shortly some are more consumed with their “place” rather than a betrayal of Jesus. And these are the ones who are to turn the world upside down! Once again, Jesus patiently reminds them that they are to have servant hearts.

John gives us quite the inside scoop as he becomes a particular part of the dialogue. Intuitive John tells that Jesus is “deeply troubled” and then shares about the betrayal.

The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple whom Jesus loved (John) was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So John leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I have give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas. John 13:22-26

Each one hears, sees, or learns about a different part of the conversation or actions. We are like that at times. We become fixed on a driving force in our lives and only see that, like Luke’s version, where a few briefly wondered about the betrayal but were fixed on who would be greatest in Christ’s kingdom.

Today, I was about to pull out of my subdivision with my mind fixed on an oncoming car. I decided  I had plenty of time and started rolling out. I almost failed to see a bicyclist who was only a feet feet away from me. When I realized he was approaching, I quickly put on the breaks.

My lesson—don’t let your vision get so mesmerized by a distant thing that you fail to see what’s right in front of you.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Point of View – Ear Cut Off

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps you remember the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had taken the disciples with him at a late hour to pray and to prepare for what He knew would be his most difficult task yet, his crucifixion.

He asks his followers to pray and watch and takes Peter, James, and John further into the garden. Then, He goes even further for his own private time.

Eventually, the temple guards, along with the religious leaders, and the high priest’s servants come with their clubs and swords to arrest Jesus.

Matthew would have been there but farther back from Jesus. He reports it this way:

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Matthew 26:50-51

Mark basically reports the same information as Matthew.

Dr. Luke, however, has an interest in what happened to this servant’s ear. As he investigates the details, he discovers two new things.

…one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51

So, we learn from Luke that it is the right ear (whatever that matters) and, more importantly, that Jesus heals the man. Even in the midst of the turmoil and danger, Jesus cares for this enemy who has been injured.

And now, we go to John’s description.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) John 18:10

Ah, two more pieces of the puzzle. Peter was the one swinging the sword and Malchus was the name of the poor recipient of the sword. Thank you, John, for once again giving us names.

John was closer in proximity to Jesus, thus observing Peter and Malchus. In addition, it seems that John had a relationship to Caiaphas, the high priest, and others in the court.

Simon Peter and another disciple [John] were following Jesus. Because this disciple [John] was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus to the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside the door. [John] came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. John 18:15-16

Apparently, John knew Malchus and also one of Malchus’ relatives. John mentions this relative as one of Peter’s accusers in the courtyard scene. (John 18:26)

Once again, we see different points of view. Matthew and Mark mention the incident in passing. Luke investigates his interest as a doctor. But John has personal information. Our views are valued more when we personally know those involved and have done reliable investigation. Something good to remember as we give our points of view.

~ Joyce ~  

Point of View – Feeding the 5,000

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We love the happy surprise story of the feeding of the five thousand. Let’s take a look at the points of view from the gospel writers. This is one incident that all four record.

They all agree that Jesus and the disciples have been out on a boat and find a huge crowd gathered on the shore waiting for him. Each writer gives responses from Jesus as he sees the crowd. 

…he had compassion on them and healed their sickMatthew 14:14

…he had compassion on them, because they were like a sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34

Luke mentions both healing and teaching, a common practice for Jesus.

John jumps right into the concern for the people’s food. The other writers mention that “the disciples” tell Jesus to send the people home because they don’t have enough food to feed everyone. John keys in on what is to be the big lesson for the day and gives us specific names

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” John 6:5-7

The other writers tell us that Jesus says, “You feed them.” But John gives us that wonderful little part of the story we enjoy telling children to demonstrate how children can be of help to Jesus.

Andrew spoke up, (Thank you, John, for another specific name) “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:8-9

Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit on the grass and specifically in groups of 50. Why sit? And in groups? This is a wonderful example of Jesus’ organizational skills. It will make the “passing around” part more manageable. 

Oh, there are so many more lessons to learn in this whole miraculous setting. This may become my next series soon!

Of course, the dynamic part of the day is when Jesus begins to multiply the bread and fish then feed the multitude, and yes, even have leftovers—enough for all twelve disciples to have a basket to bring in. 

Another time, we’ll look at the final insight John gives us. For now,  just think of the impact this “all hands on deck” lesson in faith might have had on the disciples. Powerful and dramatic as it was, within the night they would be scared by the sight of Jesus walking on water. They hadn’t totally learned the faith lesson.

But then, we too see God’s powerful hand at work in our lives, only to worry, doubt, and forget as well. How patient is our God with his weak children.

~ Joyce ~

 

Point of View – Walking on Water

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We saw Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s “Point of View – Healing the Paralytic” last week. This week, we will look at the accounts of Jesus walking on the water.

You know the basic story—it follows the feeding of the five thousand. Lest the people try to make Jesus a king, he scoots the disciples out on a boat. Jesus manages to slip off and up a mountain away from the crowd to pray. Late into the night, a few hours before morning, the waves pick and the disciples are “straining at the oars” when they see Jesus walking on the water toward them.

…but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Mark 6:49-50

They recognize his voice. Oh, the comfort of a familiar voice.

Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, Mark 6:51

Keep in mind that the disciples had seen many miracles, not the least of which they had just witnessed with the feeding of the five thousand. Mark is amazed that they were amazed, so here comes Mark’s take away;

…for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:52

John, on the other hand, tells us;

…and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, (Remember, John was a fisherman. He could gauge this kind of thing.) they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water, and they were terrified. (You just don’t see this everyday.) But he said to them, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing (not amazed or in awe, but “willing”) to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. John 6:18-21

Fisherman John seems to have been more consumed with the hard rowing and the safe landing!

But it is Matthew who gives us the long version, complete with the extra piece of the story about Peter. After Jesus assures them that it is he, impetuous Peter pipes up;

“Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:28-30

Jesus catches his Peter’s hand and rebukes him for his little faith and doubt. They climb in the boat and the wind dies down. Perhaps Matthew finds Peter’s boldness admirable, but also notes his failures. In spite of the incident, Matthew’s closing thought is;

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:31

For Matthew, this has been, not just an amazing thing to watch, it has been a worship experience.  

Luke opts out of telling this incident. Perhaps Peter never told him about it!

What is Jesus to you? An amazing character? One who gets the job done? Or does He bring you to the point of worship?

~ Joyce ~

Points of View – Healing the Paralytic

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A family attends a wedding. The teenage daughter sees a fairy tale wedding with a handsome groom and beautiful bride in a Cinderella gown. The middle school brother eyes the snacks and cake. The mother notices all the special touches and the well organized work in putting it all together.

The dad wonders, “How much did all this cost?”

We all have our points of view about things—this includes the synoptic Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

For instance, let’s look at the healing of the paralytic man. The man can’t walk, so four friends carry him to Jesus for healing. The problem is they can’t get in the crowded house where Jesus is teaching. The friends are so determined that they carry his pallet up the side steps to the roof and let him down through the roof right to Jesus. 

Jesus notices the faith of the friends to go to all this trouble and says,

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Listen to the thoughts of the teachers of the law as they watch this startling scene unfold.

“Why does he [Jesus] talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 5:7

Knowing these thoughts, Jesus says, 

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘You sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that  you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” Mark 2:8-12

When the paralytic does exactly that, the crowd is totally amazed, and we hear no further comment from the teachers of the law. 

Now here’s the point of view from each of the writers: Mark is from Galilee where this event takes place. Flat roofs are made with mats of branches spread across wood crossbeams. On top of the mats is a thick layer of clay packed down with a stone roller. Hence,

…they made an opening above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat… Mark 2:4 

Luke, on the other hand, is from Greek territory and is primarily writing to Gentiles. Their roofs are generally made of tiles. In order to make sense to his readers, Luke describes the scene this way;

…they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd… Luke 5:19

As for Matthew, the lowering of the mat from the roof was not of particular interest to him. He is more concerned with the other parts of the story, so he doesn’t even mention the roof!

This is one of many incidents where it is helpful for us to read each account because we might learn fresh perspectives from each one. I will relate a few more in coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.

~ Joyce ~

 

Nehemiah – Celebration!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As we close our 6-week study of Nehemiah, it is time to celebrate! Many Jews have returned from the exile, the temple has been rebuilt, the wall rebuilt in spite of great obstacles, and the people have returned to the Word of God and consecrated themselves to follow Him. (Nehemiah – A Time of Consecration)

To celebrate this grand occasion, Nehemiah plans a huge processional. He calls out the Levites to come into Jerusalem—

… to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. Nehemiah 12:27

These were small harps, not sit-on-the-floor kind of harps like we have today. Think David-on-the-hillside kind of harp—one he could sling over his shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

Groups of singers had built villages around Jerusalem. They, too, were called in to practice and form two large choirs. The two choirs met at a designated gate and split apart. One choir led the procession going south along with Ezra and half the leaders. 

The other choir headed north with Nehemiah and the other half of the leaders. When the priests blew the trumpets, the procession began. Apparently, many (at least the choirs and leaders) processed on top of the wall. Others may have walked along side the wall. They planned to meet at the temple with all the wall builders and their families joining in.

I can just imagine the fun and excitement as the children skipped along, loving the vibrant musical atmosphere of singing and playing. Perhaps some women brought their tambourines as they danced behind the processional route.

Both groups finally met at “the house of God,” the temple.

And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Nehemiah 12:43

It is good to rejoice and be thankful, to celebrate wonderful happenings—weddings and anniversaries, birthdays and graduations, promotions, retirement, even in a quiet sort of way, we celebrate a life well-lived at the death of a dedicated loved one.

It is good to celebrate other accomplishments: learning to walk for the first time, learning to walk after an accident or surgery, moving a grade up from a C to an A, overcoming a sinful deed or an aggravating habit, having a breakthrough in a tedious project or completing a project, searching diligently for the Lord’s will then sensing that He has opened the door! Or even the simple joy of finally cleaning out a closet.

We may not have choirs and instruments or even parades at our victories, but let us determine to find something this week to celebrate and to give God thanksgiving and glory.

~ Joyce ~ 

  

 

 

Nehemiah – A Time of Consecration

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

In spite of the obstacles (Nehemiah – Obstacles), the wall around Jerusalem was completed in 52 days. Amazing!

Now the people are hungry for the Word of God. It seems that it has been a very long time since “The Book of the Law” (the first five books of the Old Testament) has been opened to them. Everyone gathers in Jerusalem to hear Ezra read. The Levites spread among the people to explain different parts of “The Book.” 

They hear about the creation and respond,

“You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens and all the starry host, the earth and the seas. You gave life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:6

They listen to the stories of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the Israelites suffering in Egypt, and the miraculous signs against Pharoah. They hear of the parting of the Red Sea and of Moses coming down the mountain with God’s commandments.

Their hearts mourn over the disobedience of the people and give thanks for God’s patience. They weep over continued disobedience and realize anew God’s cleansing power when the people ask for forgiveness.

Those listening rejoice when the children of Israel finally reach the promised land, but once again they hear how the people fall into sinful, idolatrous ways. They realize that justice finally reigned down on their ancestors when they were taken into captivity and they cry out not only for their fathers’ sins but for their own.

They stood for hours listening to the Word of God. Oh, that we would have such hunger for Scripture. They fasted and prayed, reinstated their festivals that recalled times of God’s great intervention in their lives as a people.

Finally, they put in writing a binding agreement—

“…with an oath to follow the law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands of the Lord our Lord.” Nehemiah 10:29

 

And so, as important and significant as the wall might have been, the people have embraced and consecrated themselves to the most important thing, their relationship to God.

Let us take note. We can engage in many very important, worthy matters, but a commitment to study the Bible is a must. It is one of the most dynamic ways God provides a direct word to us. We must read it, meditate on it, study it alone and with others.

God’s Word brings comfort and direction. It is one way God speaks to us and brings clarity. It promises to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Thank you, wall builders, for giving us an example.

~ Joyce ~

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

 

  

Nehemiah – Planning and Action

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

God has given Nehemiah a concern for his Jerusalem homeland. He feels called to do something about the crumbling wall around the city.

During four months of prayer, God led him to make plans. Last week (Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity), we saw that King Artaxerxes dropped opportunity right in his lap. 

Since Nehemiah has been cooking up his plans, he’s ready.

“If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so they will provide me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah?”

Nehemiah thinks logically of what’s needed to get him safely there.

And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?

In his mind, he’s already there, thinking through what he will need. Planners do that! Nehemiah sees that God’s gracious hand was upon him because the king grants his requests.

Praying, planning, and then the action. Off he goes, beyond the Euphrates River, across the desert, to the land of Judah accompanied by the king’s cavalry, no less. 

After this grueling four-month journey, he rests for three days and makes plans to evaluate the crumbling wall. He purposely didn’t enter with a bang or even tell anybody why he was there. He plans to quietly assess the damage at night, by himself.

This is not a one-man job, so it is time to gather the troops. Here’s what we have recorded of his motivational speech to the priest, nobles, officials, and people:

“You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and it’s gates have been burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

He also gave them his personal testimony of how God’s hand was upon him with the king. The result?

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. Nehemiah 2:7-18

What a great formula for us when God lays a task upon our hearts—pray, plan, wait patiently for opportunity, move into action, rest, evaluate, share our own testimony of God’s hand at work, and inspire others to join in the task.

Tuck Nehemiah’s example away in your mind.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Last week, we found Nehemiah weeping, mourning and fasting over the devastation of the wall in Jerusalem. Four months later, he continues praying about the matter and senses that God is leading him to do something about the crumbling wall.

There’s a gigantic problem with this calling. Nehemiah is cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, a high and prestigious position. Only the king could grant such a request and the king’s already listened to complainers back in Jerusalem and commanded that all rebuilding stop. Double whammy! 

Nehemiah faithfully performs his duties to the king, perhaps even serves as an adviser in certain situations. He dare not point blank ask the king for permission to leave for an extended time to build a wall that the king himself  has already put to an end.

It’s hard for Nehemiah to be cheerful everyday when his heart is aching. One day as he serves the king, Artaxerxes asks him,

“Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” 

Fear strikes Nehemiah, nevertheless he draws in a deep breath and takes the plunge. 

“May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad when the city where my forefathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 

There, he said it. He holds his breath wondering how the king will respond. What comes next is more than he could have hoped for. The king asks,

“What is it you want?”

Hardly able to believe how this opportunity has been dropped in his lap, he shoots up one of those quick prayers. You know the ones, “Help me, Lord.” His face is flushed, his breath shallow, but he pushes forward.

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city of Judah where my fathers are buried so I can rebuild it.”

“How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” Nehemiah 2:1-6

“Whew!” I wrote in my Bible margin. Have you ever had an opportunity open up suddenly, one you’ve been mulling over for some time? You may have asked, “Is this really happening?”

Keep in mind that Nehemiah has been praying about this for four months. God provided the opportunity and Nehemiah took the plunge!

Oh the things He has for us when we go to Him in earnest prayer.

Can you share one of your aha moments?

~ Joyce ~