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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Short sighted


Luke 19:1-10…

Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus but he can’t, partly because of the crowd, but also because he was short. He was also hated. The tax collectors were despised because they were collecting money from other Jews and giving it to the Roman government. More than that, they were allowed to exact a tribute on top of the tax that they could keep for themselves. They got rich off their own people’s backs. Furthermore, Zacchaeus had other tax collectors under him, and so no doubt, he was among the wealthiest men of the region.

It may have seemed quite undignified for him to climb that tree, and certainly it invited more scorn. Jesus had healed a blind man on the way to Jericho, proving He was the Messiah, and the crowd loved it (Luke 18:43). But when Jesus carries out His messianic mission, saving vile, guilty sinners, like the chief tax collector, the praise of the crowd turns to protest.

Still, Zacchaeus did what it took to see Jesus. He was looking for the one thing that touches the heart of a righteous God toward an undeserving sinner, which is mercy. Zacchaeus had sought the Lord, but the Lord had also sought him. The Scriptures clearly teach that no one who truly comes to Jesus for mercy, on the basis of faith, will be turned away. They also teach that anyone who comes to Christ for salvation does not come on their own initiative, but is drawn by God. Zacchaeus didn’t offer restitution in order to be saved; he offered it because he was being saved. The heart that is moved by God will also move its hands. A saving faith leads to a living faith.

Children can identify with Zacchaeus because they know what it’s like to be too little to see what’s going on. But adults also know that feeling of being at the edge of the crowd, of being an outsider, of not being able to get a clear view. Yet too often what obscures our vision of Jesus is our tendency to blame external factors rather than internal affairs. Perhaps we have anger because of what God seems to be “doing for others”. Maybe we suffer from laziness, because God “doesn’t seem to be helping me”. Sometimes it is embarrassment, because God “makes me admit my problem before people”. Or pride, because God “couldn’t possibly think I’m worse than that other person”.  All these things cause us to be “short sighted” (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-9).

We should learn from Zacchaeus. His testimony stands tall. 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Seeing the point


Matthew 20:29-34 / Mark 10:46-52 / Luke 18:35-43…

Sometimes we can become so focused on minutiae that we miss the meaning of something. We miss the forest for the trees; we choke on the hors d’oeuvres, as it were, and miss the main course. Instead of being enriched by the added details we are bogged down in the incidental. And sometimes we might think that we are going deeper when we are actually becoming shallower.

Here is a case in point. In the gospel of Luke, we see Jesus healing a blind man. Mark gives his name (Mark 10:46). Yet Matthew mentions two blind men (Matthew 20:30). Mark and Matthew refer to the old Jericho, while Luke is speaking of the new Jericho, a mile or so south of the old town. Luke says He was approaching Jericho. Matthew and Mark say He was leaving Jericho. It is possible because you could be approaching the new Jericho leaving the old Jericho. We could get all worked up over some supposed contradiction between the stories instead of seeing them as complimentary. The biblical writers simply focused on different details.

The big picture is that this is actually the last of Jesus’ public miracles before reaching Jerusalem and the time of His crucifixion. The first miraculous sign Jesus performed was in the north at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11), and here, the last is in the south of Judea. He had filled Israel with signs and wonders, testifying to His divinity and role as Messiah. The blind beggars called out to the Messiah (son of David) and were healed. 

The crowd will try and crowd you out. But don’t let the religious crowd stop you from getting to Jesus. Using your intellect and being diligent to study are good and necessary things. However, the key to spiritual understanding is obedience and trust. Don’t be blind about how to understand spiritual truth. Get the big picture into your heart before you concern yourself with getting the details into your head.

Do you see the point?

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

The precedent for preeminence


Matthew 20:20-28 / Mark 10:35-45…

The ambition: Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.
The inquiry: Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?

The answer: We are able.
The insight: You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.

The anger: And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.
The implementation: whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.

It is not simply a matter of suffering, and not simply a matter of service, it is a matter of self-denying self-sacrifice, not self-indulgent service for self-exalting status. Submission makes us a servant to others; thus submission is the surrendering of our independence. In submission we place the interests of others above our own personal interests (Romans 15:1-2 / Philippians 2:1-4), which enables us to humble our thirst for recognition.

God is the key and Christ is the model and the means for submission. The submission we are to have one to another is to imitate Christ’s submission (Philippians 2:5-13). Peter also makes God the focus of submitting to governmental authority (1 Peter 2:13-17), to workplace authority (1 Peter 2:18-20), and to those who cause them suffering (1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:19).

In the eyes of the world, the greatest is the one who has no one over him. In the kingdom of God, Jesus said that whomever would be the greatest would be the servant of all (Mark 9:33-37). Submission is the attitude which underlies servant leadership. When we subordinate our interests to those of the ones we lead, we die to self (Matthew 10:38-39 / Mark 8:34-35 / Luke 9:23-24 / John 12:24-25). In this way we become models of submission to the church (1 Peter 5:1-7). 

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