32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:32–36, NKJV)
The Son of God was deeply touched in His spirit when He saw the sorrow of Mary and Martha and those comforting them over the death of their brother, Lazarus. Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, weeping and confessing her faith in Him. If only Jesus had been there four days earlier, her brother would still be alive. Jesus knew Mary would soon embrace her beloved brother. Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead (Jno. 11:38-44). Moved by their grief, the loving Savior wept. He is moved when we face the death of loved ones. Our assurance that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” soothes us in moments of death’s sorrowful separation (Jno. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). Death’s sorrow gives way to life eternal for God’s faithful. Jesus faced the agony of death for us. He knows death’s painful grief. He also knows victory over death by His resurrection. We share in His victory over death with confident hope as we weep when death takes those we love because Jesus knows and cares (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. (Matthew 14:27–29, NKJV)
Would we have faith to step out of the boat? Peter did. He heard the Lord’s command to “come,” and he trusted Jesus. To “be of good cheer” means to be confident instead of fearful. Faith is in a struggle with fear. When we “step out of the boat” (as it were), we are replacing fear with trust and confidence in the word and power of Jesus. If Peter put his faith in himself when he stepped out of the boat, he would sink. When we trust in ourselves instead of the Savior, we also sink. Christians confidently “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7, 8). So, when Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life,” do we “step out of the boat” and trust God’s provisions (Matt. 6:25)? When He says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” do we “step out of the boat” and confidently sacrifice ourselves for Christ (Lk. 9:23)? When He says, “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” do we “step out of the boat” to love Jesus more than those most precious to us (Matt. 10:37)? Confidently do what Jesus commands. When you do, faith overcomes fear and seizes the spiritual victory in Christ (1 Jno. 5:4-5).
29 And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. (Luke 7:29–30, NKJV)
Scripture says, “John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk. 1:4). Sinners justified God when John baptized them. Their submission to baptism showed God to be just (righteous) in demanding their repentance and baptism to remove their sins. By contrast, the Pharisees and lawyers “rejected the will of God for themselves” and were not baptized by John. Like those unbelievers, refusing to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus is a rejection of the will of God (Acts 10:48; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). John’s baptism required repentance as its prerequisite and prepared the people to believe in Christ Jesus who came after John (Jno. 3:22-36; Acts 19:4). God linked John’s baptism to remission of sins (Mk. 1:4). God also links Christ’s baptism to our remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Refusing baptism for the remission of sins is rejecting the will of God. Have you “justified God” by being baptized into Christ to be saved? Or, do you consider God unjust by commanding repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27–28, NKJV)
King David looked beyond his rule over Israel to the kingdom over which his seed, the Messiah, would rule (Psa. 89:3-4, 34-36). The nations would turn to God and worship before Him (Matt. 8:11). Christ’s messengers, the apostles, called the nations to the Lord’s kingdom by preaching the gospel of the kingdom to the world (Isa. 2:2-3; Matt. 13:18-23; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:1-7; 16:25-27). Preaching the same gospel continues to draw people of every nation to worship before the Lord and King, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:32-41). The church built by Jesus is the kingdom of prophecy (Matt. 16:18-19; Mk. 9:1; Col. 1:13-14). Christ the King adds lost souls to His church (His kingdom) when they believe and obey the gospel (Acts 2:40-41, 47). King David knew God rules over the nations of men (Psa. 22:28). We (and our rulers) do well to remember the Lord God is Sovereign of every nation, and He rules in the affairs of men (Dan. 4:25, 32, 35). History is a boneyard of kingdoms, weak and strong. God’s kingdom is the only one that endures (Dan. 2:44). The Son of God reigns today at God’s right hand in righteousness (Psa. 110:1-2; Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:8-9). The gospel calls us to bow our knee to Jesus to be blessed by Him with salvation. To fight against Him and His gospel brings inevitable, eternal defeat (Psa. 2:10-12; Rom. 2:4-11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” 39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. (Mark 1:36–39, NKJV)
Many people still look for Jesus. He said, “seek, and you will find” (Matt. 7:7). If you are not looking for Jesus, you should be (cf. Jno. 1:45). Scripture says God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you are searching for Him, then the relevant question is, “Where are you looking for Jesus?” Some think they find Jesus through religious tradition (cf. Matt. 15:7-14). Others, through an unexpected, even extraordinary personal experience (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9-12). Some preachers tell people belief, and the sinner’s prayer is the way to find Jesus (cf. Acts 9:9, 11; 22:16). I wonder, how many people say they found Jesus through gospel preaching (1 Cor. 1:21-24)? Yet, Jesus said that is why He came to earth (Mk. 1:38, 14-15). People “found” Jesus (they believed and followed Him) when He preached the gospel of the kingdom. If you want to find Jesus, you can (Matt. 10:28-30). Open the gospel He preached and read it, believe it, and obey it (Rom. 10:17; Lk. 6:46; Acts 10:34-35; 2:36-41). Seek, and you will find.
17 Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region. 18 And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. 19 However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” 20 And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.” (Mark 5:17–20, NKJV)
Jesus had just healed a man possessed by Legion (many demons, Mk. 5:1-13). Instead of rejoicing, in fear, the people pleaded with Jesus to leave (Mk. 5:14-16, 17). So, Jesus went away (v. 18, 20). Jesus will not stay where He is not welcomed and wanted. Like that day on the seashore, Jesus does not abide with us when we choose unbelief and sinful disregard of Him and His will (Jno. 14:21, 23-24). Conversely, the healed man begged Jesus to allow him to travel with Him (v. 18). But Jesus urged him to stay and tell his friends about the compassion he had received from the Lord. Without resistance, he announced to the region’s ten cities all Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Like him, we have received God’s compassionate mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:4-10). May we, in turn, proclaim the good news of salvation to others, that they too may be saved (Acts 8:4).
33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. (Mark 4:33–34, NKJV)
Jesus was the Master Teacher. He used parables to teach the gospel of the kingdom to the multitudes that gathered to Him in Galilee (Mk. 4:1-2). Then, away from the crowds, He explained the parables to His disciples (Mk. 4:10-12). Jesus knew His audience. He spoke the word “as they were able to hear it” to the crowd (v. 33). He did not impress them with scholarship or eloquence (a healthy reminder to preachers and teachers today, 1 Cor. 2:1). He was not condescending toward His audience. His goal was to teach them by planting the seed of God’s word into their hearts (Matt. 13:34-35). A godly woman once told young preachers, “Put the hay down where the calves can reach it, and the cows will have no trouble getting their fill.” Good advice. The parables challenged the crowd to ponder and prioritize God’s will. How people responded to Christ’s teachings exposed their hearts, and it still does (Mk. 4:11-12, 13-20). Away from the crowd, Jesus also took the time to explain the parables to His disciples (v. 34). He unraveled the parables’ meanings to them as He prepared them to take the gospel to the world (Mk. 16:15-16). We benefit from Jesus’ teaching style as we listen to His words and the explanations of truth His apostles, in turn, gave to the world (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:8-13).
10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11, NKJV)
The Bible records prophecies, preparations, proclamations, and praises of the birth of “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” But the Bible nowhere pronounces and propagates a religious holiday that celebrates that great event. Interesting, isn’t it? The Bible does not tell us the day of His birth. Unlike many historical events in Israel’s history (cf. the Passover, etc.), Scripture does not assign an annual day of celebration for Christ’s birth. The Bible is silent on observing a yearly religious holiday called Christmas (“Cristes Maesse” or “Mass of Christ,” from A.D. 1038, Catholic Encyclopedia). “There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post-apostolic times” (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, III:47). The earliest record recognizing December 25 as a church festival is from the mid-fourth century, a full 300 years after Christ’s birth (Ibid). Indeed, “There can be little doubt that the Church was anxious to distract the attention of Christians from the old heathen feast days by celebrating Christian festivals on the same days (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, III:607). Undeniably, men invented the religious festival of Christmas; it cannot be found in the word of God. Galatians 1:6-9 pronounces God’s curse on every human change of the gospel. Yes, we rejoice in the birth of the Savior with angels, shepherds, and Magi (Lk. 2:8-20; Matt. 2:9-11). But we dare not devise and demand worship from our own hearts that God has not revealed (remember Jeroboam, 1 Kgs. 12:28-33).
15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.’” (Acts 26:15–16, NKJV)
Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus with authority to seize Christians in the synagogues when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:1-6, 13-14). Saul will go from being faithless to being faithful, from a persecutor to a preacher, from an antagonist to an apostle. His conversion is a touchstone of God’s mercy, grace, and longsuffering. It serves as “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him (Christ, JRP) for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:12-16). Therefore, it is essential to expose and reject the assumption that Jesus saved Saul on the road to Damascus. That was not the purpose for which Christ appeared to Saul. Jesus plainly stated why He appeared to Saul: to make him “a minister and a witness” of Christ (Acts 26:16; 22:14-15; 9:15). Jesus appeared to Saul to appoint him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-11). Saul was a believer after this miraculous event. And he was repentant toward God, as demonstrated by his praying and fasting (Acts 9:9, 11). But in Damascus, three days later, his sins still needed to be washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Jesus saved Saul on the road, what sins needed washing away? Since Saul still needed cleansing from his sins, it is apparent he was not saved on the road. To follow the pattern of Saul’s conversion includes being baptized to wash away sins (by Christ’s blood, Rom. 6:3). Why are you waiting?