Events of the Passion Week

Sapphire Sky

Acts 1:3 says that Jesus “presented himself alive to them after his suffering…”. The original term for Jesus’ suffering in the King James version is referred to as His “passion” (Acts 1:3, KJV). Therefore, most Bible teachers refer to the final week of Jesus’ suffering on earth as the “Passion Week”.

It is often difficult to compile the exact chronology of the events that happened during that week. None of the four gospel accounts are a complete biography of Jesus Christ and often time indicators are omitted.

The actual days of many of these events are often debated by Bible scholars. Below is my attempt to show the chronology of the events during the Passion week as we can best understand them.

I have also included links to blog posts about the subject(s) as the posts are available.

Sunday – Entry into Jerusalem

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The King has Come!

This post regarding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was from 6 years ago, but it is as much a part of Matthew’s account as it was in the study on John’s gospel account.

Previous post in Matthew: The King Came to Serve

Sapphire Sky


The East Gate of Jerusalem today

The first man and the first woman had a perfect life. They were free from any problems and would never die. They had a perfect relationship with God, and would personally walk with him in the garden.

Yet they destroyed all of that in their rebellion against God (Genesis 3). Now they faced hard labor, sickness, and death. Their relationship with God was permanently damaged, and they would be forever separated from God.

Their disobedience — their rebellion against God — was their sin. This sin would infect the entire human race through Adam’s descendants, leaving every person separated from God. Humans were no longer capable of having any relationship with God.

But God made a promise to this man and this woman. They would have a descendant who would save the human race from their sin. He would restore their relationship…

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What is God Doing Around Us?

Thoughts from Matthew 16…

We live in uncertain times. I am writing this from isolation as the virus pandemic is sweeping across the globe. We have many questions about what will happen — to our jobs, our health, or our loved ones? Will God take care of our needs during these times? Is it OK to question God?

It is easy to get so worried about our own lives that we miss what is happening around us. We can get so focused on our own world and our own needs that we miss what He is doing around us.

Jesus gave that same answer to both His enemies and His followers when He was confronted in Matthew 16. He had crossed the Sea of Galilee only to be met by His enemies when they landed on shore. They demanded a final proof. They wanted to be wowed before they would believe. 

But instead, Jesus showed them their blindness. They looked to the sky for the weather but they were blind to what God was doing in the world. The Kingdom of Heaven had come to them and they were missing it! 

And yet His own followers were worried about their bread supply. They had forgotten how Jesus had — twice — fed massive crowds with lots of leftovers. He will take care of the physical needs — they need to be concerned with the truth of His good news!

Matthew 16:1-12
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


The Initiation of the King

A modern baptism in the Jordan River


Thoughts from Matthew 3…


A few years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to the Jordan river and seeing the traditional site where Jesus was baptized. The river was actually very small in that area, but there were several markers to commemorate the spot. Shrines and churches filled the landscape, allowing people of all denominations to come and worship.

Most of us have heard about the scene where Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. There are pictures in children’s books and artist renderings, all seeking to capture the moment where God the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.

About 30 years have passed since the times when Jesus was born (Matthew 1), and when He was visited by the wise men (Matthew 2). Jesus’ relative, John the Baptist, was preaching in the wilderness that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. Therefore, the people needed to repent, and to be baptized in order to show that they were part of this kingdom (see here).

It was during this time that Jesus left his hometown of Nazareth, in Galilee, and came to the Jordan River in order to be baptized by John.

John had been preaching that the King was coming, but when he came face-to-face with Jesus, he refused to baptize him. Jesus was greater than him, and John did not consider himself worthy to baptize him. John only consented when Jesus told him that it was necessary in order to “fulfill all righteousness”.

What does this mean? Why did Jesus come to be baptized? Why was this necessary for Jesus, and for that matter, for John?

Bible scholars have long considered these questions and have produced a very large list of answers for why Jesus came to be baptized. The many explanations range from the very simplistic to the very complex, from the logical to the almost mystical. Many see in Jesus’ baptism a preview of His ministry to come, including identification with sinners, anticipation of the cross, his burial and resurrection, the preview of Christian baptism, and the validation of John’s ministry. 3

These explanations contain excellent theology and have been put forth by some of the finest Bible teachers of our time. But they are all deficient for a number of reasons.

First, they fail to explain why this was necessary for both Jesus and John, in order to for fill all righteousness. Why is John’s role important here?

Second, these answers are all based on assumptions, not from the text itself. These assumptions are based on the explainers’ understanding of theology and how the ministry of Jesus Christ unfolded. None of these explanations are given by Matthew, Mark, nor Luke at the time of Jesus‘ baptism.

Finally, these explanations are difficult to reconcile with Jesus being both fully God and fully man.

Matthew 1 (see here) shows that Jesus was born fully human, and he was also fully God. We cannot fully comprehend how an infinite God can live within the confines of finite humanity, yet this was the life of Jesus Christ on earth. The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all show this in Jesus’ life. He was holy God, and so he was unblemished by the sin that has plagued the human race. Yet he was a lowly human, so he could be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

Jesus lived with all of the authority and power of God himself. As it says in Colossians, “in him is all the fullness of God” (Colossians 1:19).

Yet Jesus was also fully human. As it says in Philippians 2, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. Jesus Christ, the Almighty God, laid aside the voluntary use of his attributes, living fully in the form of finite mankind, relying totally upon the Holy Spirit.

How could Jesus be both divine and human? This paradox is difficult to reconcile. Many theologians and Bible scholars have sought a simple explanation by emphasizing either His divinity or His humanity.

There are those who have elevated Jesus’ humanity at the expense of His deity. Some have either minimized it or outright denied the fact that Jesus was God. They portray Him as a normal human going through daily life with the same weaknesses and failures as you and I. But to deny Jesus’ deity is to deny the words from the New Testament Gospels and the Epistles. The Gospel of John starts out with, “the Word was with God, and the word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus said about himself, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus also taught that he descended from heaven (John 3:13), and Jesus’ prayer in John 17 tells of His oneness with the Father (John 17:20-21). One of the most eloquent sections of the epistles that tell of the greatness of Jesus Christ is Colossians 1:15-20, where Jesus is above creation, the author of creation, the head of the church, and in Him is all of the essence of deity. Both His followers and His enemies recognized that Jesus said that He was God (Matthew 16:16-17, John 5:18). You cannot deny His deity.

But others have focused on Jesus’ divinity, forgetting that he was also very much human. He was hungry, thirsty, tired, and he felt physical and emotional pain (e.g. Matthew 4:2, John 4:6-7, John 11:33-35). We see Him act with apparently limited knowledge, such as going to a barren fig tree when He was hungry (Matthew 21:18-19), or by leading his disciples to a quiet retreat, only to be surrounded by over 5,000 people who followed him from the city (Mark 6:30-44). The simplest explanation is that Jesus’ knowledge was limited while He was on earth. He had set aside His omniscience and was relying totally on the direction and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, growing in both wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). The best understanding of why Jesus came to John’s baptism was not because He was orchestrating all of the finer points of theology, but rather that he had submitted fully to God. God had led John to baptize and Jesus was prepared to follow everything that God had instituted. John preached about the kingdom of heaven and offered baptism to identify those who were ready to be part of this kingdom. Hence the reason to “fulfill all righteousness“, was that it was right for John to baptize Jesus. It was the right thing for them to do.

Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus was challenged by the Jewish Priests who asked him by what authority He was teaching? Jesus answered them with a question of His own, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or from man?“ (Matthew 21:23-27). The rhetorical answer was that John’s baptism was from heaven.

After Jesus was baptized, His ministry showed the results of his baptism. It was the last act of His private life and the beginning of his public ministry. Jesus was personally verified by God the Father. The Holy Spirit came to rest on Him, and would direct and empower Him for the rest of his life on earth.

All of the theological facts pointed out above came about as a result of Jesus’ baptism. He identified with believing sinners, He validated John’s ministry, and His ultimate sacrifice allowed any who believed in Him to become sons of God (John 1:12). The present Christian baptism does not identify with the baptism of John, but rather illustrates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.



Jesus Christ is beyond our understanding!

The scenes of history may be interesting, but let us not forget Jesus Christ Himself! He is the most important one!


Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Previous post: The Herald of the King

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The Coming King


“And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”

Jesus spoke these words to his closest friends shortly before leaving earth (John 14:29).

Within hours, Jesus Christ would be arrested by the Jewish authorities, tried by an illegal court, and crucified like a lowly criminal.

He was the one sent by God to save His people. He was the chosen one, the “anointed one”, or as is said in Hebrew, he was the Messiah.

To the religious Jews of Jesus’ day, this was preposterous. This man could not be their Messiah. They were looking for a commanding king who would validate the true children of Abraham and lead them in victory over their Roman oppressors.

Instead, they found a country preacher. He didn’t revere their nationality. He didn’t obey their Sabbath traditions. He didn’t respect their temple hierarchy. He told them that they were wrong!

So they killed Him.

But these men knew their scriptures. They studied the law and the prophets as they looked for their Messiah king. How could they know that it was Jesus?

Almost 600 years earlier, one of their greatest prophets wrote about the Messiah. Daniel was one of the wisest men of his day. He was revered by counselors, wise men, kings, and emperors.

But Daniel was also a man of prayer. He prayed every day, even if it was against the law (see here). He prayed earnestly for his people, taking responsibility for their failures, and imploring God for forgiveness (see here).

God answered Daniel’s prayer in ways that no one else had ever seen. His answer was immediate and very specific. Daniel asked God about the seventy years when his people had been captive in Babylon. God’s answer was that there was yet another seventy times seven years for His people. God had reserved this time for the Jews to end their wickedness, pay for their sins, commission the perfect sanctuary, and to bring in the perfect kingdom.

During this seventy times seven years:

  • His people, the Jews, would return back to their native land. They would rebuild their city and the temple.

    There were (at least) four edicts by the Persian emperors, allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. The first edict would have happened shortly after Daniel’s prayer in 536 B.C., and the final culmination would have been the command to restore both the city and the temple in 444 B.C.

  • They would live in their city for 69 weeks (483 years), through times of trouble.

    The Jews returned to their homeland, but they were persecuted under both the Greek and the Roman rulers during the final four centuries B.C.

  • The Messiah, the anointed one, would come to his people at the end of the 483 years.

    Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in 33 A.D., exactly 483 years after the edict of 444 B.C. (see below).

  • After the 483 years, the Messiah would be executed like a criminal (see here and here).

    Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans within a week after His entry into Jerusalem, in 33 A.D.

  • Also after the 483 years, people would destroy the city and the temple.

    The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.

  • A future prince will make a treaty with the Jews for seven years, and then break his promises after three and a half years. This is still in the future.

Daniel was shown 70 “weeks” (groups of seven years). 69 of these weeks have already passed, and the 70th week is still to come.

We can fall in the same trap as the religious Jews of Jesus’ day. They knew their Bible, but they only looked for what they wanted to see. God came to earth, as He promised, and they completely missed Him!

John 5:39-40
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The prophecy of the “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9 is very popular among theologians and religious speculators. There are countless predictions, interpretations, and speculations about what everything can possibly mean. False teachers have used Daniel 9 as a means to authenticate their own beliefs, leading to such sects and cults as the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Branch Davidian.

So how are we supposed to read this prophecy and not be caught up in some twisted teaching? Can we really understand it?

The answer is actually very simple. Like all of God’s word (scripture), we need to simply read it. Set aside our own preconceptions on how a prophecy should all fit together, and trust that the words mean what they say.

Above all, have the humility to admit that you won’t have it all figured out. Even the prophets themselves did not fully understand what they were writing:

1 Peter 1:10-11
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

See the section below for more detail about basic rules for understanding Scripture.

What is the main point of prophecy? Going back to Jesus’ words to His disciples, one of the most important points about future prophecy is to remind us that God is in control. He shows us what is happening before it takes place so that we can know that He is not surprised by these events.


Previous post: Do We Pray?


A Different Kind of Love

From my gorgeous, eldest daughter ….

adoption Life! love marriage and family Uncategorized

4 things my little siblings have taught me

Smelly shoes lined the floor. My bare feet stick to the dirty surface that hadn’t been swept since breakfast. As socks are always missing, they are a rare delicacy only to be enjoyed on speci…

Source: 4 things my little siblings have taught me


A letter from a Christian teen

When I was in elementary school, one of my greatest enjoyments was driving past the high school on my way to violin lessons. Why? Teenagers. To me, a young naive child, teenagers were weird, messed…

Source: A letter from a Christian teen

encouragement theology Uncategorized

Just a little while longer

Koksan gun barrel
This will not be easy.

We can easily get caught up in our current events. Hatred is an all-time high. Biblical morals are at an all-time low.

Americans are vocally showing their hatred for Christians and anything different from them.

Religious zealots around the world are looking to kill and destroy Christians and anything associated with them.

Our government often acts like it is paralyzed. At best, it is doing nothing. At worst, is the cause of the problems.

These thoughts were written almost 70 years ago. This was from a pastor in the 1940’s. [3]

Two other teachers also shared the exact same thoughts. One taught this same message in the 1970’s [6] and the other in the 1990’s [1].

Jesus promises that the world will hate us. The world’s system of belief has been set up by the devil and will always be opposed to Jesus Christ.

During his final time of teaching, Jesus has used the most personal and comforting words to encourage his terrified disciples.

He gave encouragement:

  • He will be glorified (magnified) and God the Father will be glorified in him (John 13:31-32, see here).
  • He will come back for us like a bridegroom returning for his bride (John 14:1-4, see here).
  • He is the only way to God (John 14:5-7).
  • He will send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will teach us, guide us, and will never leave us (see here).
  • He will answer our prayer (John 14:13-14; John 15:16; John 16:23-24).
  • He gives us a peace that is beyond anything the world can offer (John 14:27).

He left instructions:

He also warned Peter that he did not know his own weakness (John 13:36-38). But there is a greater warning for all of us.

We are to abide in Him and to love each other because the world will be our enemy.

Jesus never promises an easy life. The world will hate those who claim Jesus Christ as Lord. They hated Him and they will hate us when we represent Him.

The world will hate us because we are not part of this world.

The world will hate us because we show them that they are guilty. Jesus came to earth almost 2,000 years ago and they rejected Him. Even today, people still refuse to believe in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit within us will show Jesus Christ to the world. He will show people their sin of rejecting Jesus Christ. He will either convince them or judge them (see here).

Followers of Jesus will be thrown out social, political, and religious circles. Just like Saul in the New Testament (see here), they will kill Christian men and women, thinking that they are serving God by killing them.

Jesus says, “Remember that I told you, it will get rough”.

So how can we respond to this?

It is popular to curse the darkness. Should we fight back?

Should we live in fear?

Jesus takes the last part of his final sermon to tell his disciples how to respond. These words for them are just as appropriate today. The threats may have changed since Jesus’ day, but the same devil controls the people of the world today as he did 2,000 years ago.

Jesus tells us the following:


Leave them to the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit will convict the people who do not believe in Jesus Christ. As discussed here, the Holy Spirit will show each man and woman the truth about Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who will convince those who believe, and it is the Holy Spirit who will pass judgment on those who refuse to believe.

It is not for us to personally convince people of Jesus Christ. We need to stay close to Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit work through us.


The sorrow is temporary

Jesus was arrested, tortured, and executed while his enemies celebrated. Yet the Roman cross — the instrument of His execution — is our cause for joy. We can look back and see how God used the anguish and sorrow of the cross to defeat death and crush Satan. It is because of this cross that we have hope of life in Jesus Christ.

In the same way, the horrors and the sorrow that we experience today will someday cause us to rejoice. Like the pains of childbirth, Jesus promises that there will be a time when our pain will end and it will be replaced by joy.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Jesus promises that when he comes back, he will give us joy that no one can take away!

“Sorrow can crush us if we don’t view it as temporary, allowed, and designed for our spiritual growth.” – Stephen Davey [4]


We have direct access to God the Father

We are the friends of God (John 15:15-16). There is no longer any need for parables or figures of speech. We can learn directly about God. We can pray directly to God!


We will fail

It is comforting to know that Jesus predicted that his followers would all run away. They thought they had it all figured out, but they did not know the enemy who is against them.

Jesus knew that they would fail when he gave all of these promises. Not one of these promises were broken by their failure. There is nothing that we can do to break the promises of God!


“I have overcome the world”

We will have tribulation. Literally, this word means to “be pressed together”. We will have distress, affliction, anguish, pressure in this world, but Jesus is greater!

John 16:33
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”


Previous post: The Vine and the Branches


Welcome to the New

I remember exactly where I was on September 11th 2001. I was leaving my biblical Hebrew class in seminary when another student approached the prof and told him what had taken place. As news of the events unfolded I remember this sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. When I heard the news that the Supreme Court ruled to make gay-marriage legal, I had that same feeling. On September 11th the twin towers fell. Today, two great towers of American culture have fallen.

Where America once had great respect for moral truth, today that tower is lying in a heap of rubble. And where America once had respect for the things of God, and even had a semblance of the “Fear of the Lord” that tower also is lying in a heap of rubble. Admittedly, one has to go back at least an entire generation to find those towers standing strong. But, for the majority of American history those two towers had a profound effect on the fiber of the American Republic. America is America only with those towers standing strong.

The founders of our republic understood the necessity of religion for a functional democracy. They believed that America would only be as strong as the people had a healthy love for the virtues and principles of religious truth. Sure, they were not all evangelical Christians, as we understood the term today. But, even those who were Deists believed in a God that created laws which govern civilization. In fact, it was those very laws that framed the bases for our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. They expected each person in the republic to self-govern themselves according to those “self-evident” truths of nature and nature’s God.

America has a history that is unparalleled in the history of the world. No other nation has enjoyed the peace and prosperity that America has experienced. One of the reasons 9/11 was so shocking was that it was the first time America suffered loss on her own soil. With the Supreme Court’s ruling today, America has suffered another loss – but this one is a self-inflicted wound.

The two great towers of moral truth and fear of God have fallen. Upon those twin towers America’s peace and prosperity were built. But, the tragedy is not just that those towers have fallen. The greater tragedy are the new towers that replace the old.

The reality is that those towers were in decay and disrepair for at least a generation. Where they were once the proud monuments of the American conscious, over the past generation, as they became neglected, they began to be seen as an unseemly eyesore in the new moral landscape that our generation was building.

Over the last three decades as the new morality was being built, people began to grumble about the old buildings that were ruining the new skyline. At first there was an uneasy toleration for the old towers. Some wanted to keep them as a monument to the past. Many were more than happy to turn them into museum.  But, they learned that those twin towers were functional; and as long as they stood they kept people from embracing the new towers. Since those towers refused to become a relic of the past, they were targeted for demolition. Today that demolition is complete.

With the dust settling from the towers collapse, the new landscape is clear to see. In the place of the old, the new twin towers dominate the landscape. The two towers that now define the American landscape are the towers of Defiance against God, and Depravity in the name of God. The word America will remain, but her heart has been given to another. In time the moral and spiritual fabric of the new America will look nothing like the Republic of old.

The first tower, Defiance, receives her name from the statue that decorates the rooftop. The statue is of a woman who represents justice. However, instead of the old statue where the woman wears a blindfold and has a pair of scales, the new one has a woman, holding the hand of another woman, and with her free hand she is shaking her fist at God. And instead of a blindfold, she has a pair of binoculars hung around her neck, so when needed, she is able to clearly see all around her who dare to stand against her. She is called “justice” because she will, at once, bring all non-conformists to the bar of gay-wrath where their sentence will be swift and without mercy.

The second tower, Depravity, derives its name from the many plaques that decorate the great halls of this tower. Whereas the old towers had many verses from the Bible reminding its visitors of those great truths that guided the nation to greatness, this new tower has many aphorisms and platitudes intimidating the citizenry to rejoice over iniquity and sin.

What was once seen as wrong is now celebrated as good; and what was once embraced as good is now vilified as evil. Further, where, in the past, divine love was celebrate as truth which reveals reality, the new “divine” love demands that all be given acceptance and affirmation as it seeks to create a new reality. The old love revealed sin so those entrapped by its devices may repent and turn back to God. The new love demands that all declarations of sin become sin itself. To declare a protected act sinful is to engage in the worst sin possible. And where the God of the old age allowed differences of opinion and was willing to allow dissenters their own place, the gods of new age will in no way tolerate opposing points of view, and instead will work diligently to uproot all opposition. Justice is ready to serve.

Today begins a new age for this country. We have crossed a line that will forever define the new from the old.


The Competition

Thanks to John’s gospel account, we have been able to see the Son of God in both words  and action.  He has quietly called his first disciples, and then confirmed their belief in him at a wedding celebration.  He has shown his authority and his opposition to the religious elite as he throws out the corruption at Passover.  We are even able to witness his counsel to one of the elite rulers.

But now comes the first competition between ministries.  Jesus has left Jerusalem and his followers have only increased.  John the Baptist, the great teacher who initiated Jesus’ ministry with his baptism, can only watch on the sidelines as Jesus’ ministry threatens to eclipse his own. 

But John was not idle.  As Jesus was teaching and baptizing, John was sending people to him.  John’s message about the Messiah was now that he was here.  Yet you still see the disappointment in John’s followers.  Their leader was now losing followers to this new teacher.  When they confront John with this news, John does one of the greatest things in his career.

He quits.

This is the last recorded words of the greatest prophet who has ever lived, as he surrenders to Jesus’ growing influence.  John has no personal hold on his ministry.  Instead, he admits that it was only given him from God.

We would do well to put ourselves into John’s words here: “He must increase, but I must decrease”.


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encouragement theology Uncategorized

The Corrupted Worship

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Malachi 3:1-2

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

I am often reminded of a familiar picture of Jesus: he is wearing a spotless robe with a purple sash, looking sweetly and serenely into the distance.  These next events in John’s account show Jesus to be anything but sweet and serene. One of Jesus’ first public acts is to go into the temple and directly confront the corruption within the current religious system [2].  Jesus also fulfills the prophecy of Malachi 3:1, where the Messiah is promised to “suddenly come to his temple”.

 Passover was the greatest of the Jewish celebrations.  Jews from all over the world would congregate in Jerusalem in order to make a sacrifice in the temple at this time.

The temple was led by a ruthless group of priests at this time.  Led by Annas, the former high priest (and father-in-law to the current high priest), they had devised a system to make a massive profit off of the Passover pilgrims.  Most notably, their profit came in two ways:

  • All sacrifices must be certified as clean by the priests.  The priests would sit in the outer court of the temple and check each animal that was brought in for a sacrifice.  At this time, the priests would require the pilgrims to buy or trade their animals from only the local certified merchants.  The certified merchants would charge a huge markup, thus forcing the pilgrims to pay much more for what they already had.
  • All Jewish men were required by law to pay a temple tax.  This tax must be paid in the local currency and with exact change.  The traveling pilgrims would have a large variety of different currencies (both local and foreign) so the money changers would be available to convert to local currency and make change.  The abuse of this tax came in with the hume fees that the temple changers would charge in order to both convert currencies and to make change.

It is important to know that many of the local Jews hated the temple priests and they way they had corrupted their system of worship.  When Jesus cleansed the temple of these abuses, he gained instant popularity with the local Jews who also despised the corrupt priests in the temple.  While he had made enemies with the priestly leadership, his fame among the people would have protected him from any revenge from the priests for his actions. [1]

 In this brief scene, Jesus makes the statement twice that he is the Messiah.  First, he does the actions of the Messiah as predicted by Malachi.  He comes suddenly and purifies his temple.  This statement would not have been lost on his religious listeners, who knew the Old Testament prophets very well.  This was already a sign for the Jews yet they demanded more.

His second statement would only be understood by his disciples, and only much later.  Jesus promises that if they destroy this temple, he would raise it up on the third day.  The will try to destroy him, yet Jesus will triumph [1].  Even here at the start of his ministry, we see Jesus giving a message of hope that will only be received much later.


John 2:23-25

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 The same original word Is used here for both “believe” and “entrust”. A better translation of this second sentence would read, “But Jesus on his part was not committing himself to them…”  Many people believed in Jesus when the saw his signs in Jerusalem. But Jesus knew that their beliefs were shallow and short-lived. Therefore he did not commit to them.

Jesus is reserving the core of his message to only those who believe.  This happened earlier in Cana (John 2:11), but it happens even more in this scene.  Jesus provides an invitation for all men, but he is looking for more than those with a passing fancy, or for those who are merely excited about what they have seen.  Jesus is looking for those who truly believe him and will completely trust him.

Previous Post: The Wedding Miracle


The Wedding Miracle

We use the term miracle today to describe something amazing or extraordinary.  Yet the miracles mentioned in The Bible were much more than what we talk about today.  God used a human messenger to deliver his message, but he would then give that messenger some power so that he could prove that the message was true.

Acts 2:22 ” “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—”

The New Testament uses three words for miracles [1]:

  • Miracles – (δύναμις) dunamis – powers or mighty works; never used in the Gospel of John
  • Wonders – (τέρας) teras – a wonder; used only once in John
  • Signs – (σημεῖον) sēmeion – sign; used several times through John, starting in chapter 2

As we follow John’s narrative to Jesus’ first miracle, let us first point out why:

John 2:11 ” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

Jesus performed this miracle so that people could see his glory, i.e. could see who he really was.  Even more specifically, this was so that his new disciples would believe in him.

One of the bright spots for the poor farmers in Galilee was the occasional wedding celebration.  The contracts were already made, the promises already committed, and now it was time for the groom to go and fetch the bride.  He would lead her to the home that he had prepared for them with the entire town following in the procession.  They marriage contract was completed and all invited guests would join in a large feast.  Depending on the wealth of the families, the marriage feast could last for several days.

But the wedding held much deeper meaning to the Jews than just the celebration.  Both the Old Testament scriptures and Rabbinic tradition taught that marriage symbolized God’s relationship with his people.  The more devout Jews would prepare for the wedding with fasting.  Some even believed that the wedding ceremony would forgive sins [3]  All faithful Jews would enter the ceremony with a ceremonial washing.

The narrative of the wedding in John 2 is very concise.  The entire scene of the wedding is more of a summary with few specific details.  Much has been written to try and “fill in the blanks” but this is what we know from the Gospel of John:

John 2:1-2
​ On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

The setting is in town of Cana.  Mary is at the wedding in a position of responsibility (v.3).  Jesus is invited and travels up from Judea with his disciples.  (Note that Jesus’ disciple Nathanael is from Cana.) Cana is not far from Jesus’ home town of Nazareth.

John 2:3
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

The crisis comes when the wine runs out. This was more than a social failure but a great humiliation to the new couple. This was a culture where hospitality is very important and they have just failed.

Mary comes to Jesus with the problem.  We are not told what she expects of Jesus: Is she asking her oldest son to take care of the problem [4]?  She clearly knows that Jesus is the Messiah, so does she now expect that he will perform a miracle?  Either way, we are not told what Mary is thinking.  Jesus’ immediate response makes Mary’s thoughts irrelevant.

John 2:4-5
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus’ reply respectfully puts her in her place.  He replies with two brief statements:

Woman, what does this have to do with with me?

Jesus’ response is respectful, but he does not refer to her as his mother.  Instead, Jesus is telling her that he is no longer submitting to her as her son.  They have a new relationship now that he has begun his ministry.  The comment, “what does this have to do with me”, could be translated as “You misunderstand our relationship”. [5]

My Hour has not yet come.

Jesus further emphasizes that he now is taking direction from the Holy Spirit.  He will only act on the Spirit’s timing and not take orders from his mother. [6]

John 2:6-8
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

As mentioned above, it was expected for the Jews to purify themselves (ceremonially wash their hands) before entering the wedding ceremony.  This would have been a very devout family to gather this much water (120-180 gallons) for the guests’ purification.

John 2:9-10
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

John makes a point to note here that the master of the feast was oblivious to what was going on.  All he knew was that now, at the end of the feast, they come out with the best wine.

This is Jesus’ first public act in his ministry and he starts at a celebration.  But as I reflect on this passage, it shows that Jesus is still working through personal connections with people.  In the previous chapter, we see Jesus call Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael through personal encounters.  Now, we see Jesus using a family celebration to show who he is, and to draw his disciples to him.

John 2:11
” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”


Previous post: Introduction to Jesus


Introduction to Jesus

2014-07-26 16.25.26
The Jordan River, near the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism

John’s Gospel narrative opens with the scene of a man preaching in the desert.  He has gained so many followers that he now has the attention of the religious establishment.  Who is this man? This man, John, is leading and baptizing new disciples every day, yet he has no connection to any of the leading religious parties.

I often wonder what it would have been like to be with John at this time. He captivated multitudes yet he had a simple message: “Repent, for the Messiah is coming!” [1]  But John’s excitement has only intensified.  It has been close to 6 weeks earlier [2] when Jesus had come to John, requesting to be baptized.  Here was the coming king that John had been preaching about, and he was requesting that John baptize him.  Jesus had abruptly left after his baptism, leaving John to only reflect on the encounter.

For more information on the promised Messiah, see the link here.

The narrative of John 1 (v. 19-51) gives a very specific succession of days as we see the focus move from John now to Jesus:


Thursday: John is confronted about who he is 

(v. 19-28) At some time during the day on Thursday [4], a delegation reaches John as he is teaching by the Jordan.  This is a group of priests and levites who have been sent from the top religious governing body (the Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem.  Their line of questions is straightforward: “Who are you?”

“Are you the Messiah?”

John’s response is redundant.  He confesses, does not deny, but confesses that he is NOT the messiah (the Christ).

“Are you Elijah?”

Malachi 4:5 promises that Elijah will return before the Messiah.  In Luke (1:17) the angel tells that John will be in the spirit and power of Elijah.  But John is not the answer of Elijah to these people. [5]  His answer is in less detail, “I am not!”

“Are you the Prophet?”

Near his death, Moses promised to the Israelites that God would raise up a prophet like him, who would tell them God’s word (Deut 18:15-18).  The Jews evidently saw in this promise another prophet of Moses’ stature who would come (separate from Elijah or the Messiah).  (Both Peter and Stephen apply this promise to Jesus as the Messiah, Acts 3:22, 7:37). John’s answer is very abrupt, “No!”.

“Who are you”

The delegation needs to give an answer back their senders.  John quotes Isaiah 40:3, saying that he is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is the herald who is to come before the king’s visit to get things ready.

“Why do you baptize, then?”

John replies with, “I baptize you with water but a greater one is among you.”  John has seen the Messiah by this time and is waiting for him to reveal himself.

John seems to become increasingly reactive to all of the questions about him.  It is like he is fighting the temptation himself.


Friday: John sees Jesus

 (v 29-34) John sees Jesus on the next day after the delegation (Friday), and publicly announces him as “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.  The depiction of a lamb would be well known to the Jews who were listening to John.  The sacrificed lamb for sin was an essential part of the Jewish beliefs.  However, John also mentions that Jesus is not only for the Jews but for the whole world.  In case the readers were still unsure what John was talking about, he concludes his message on Friday saying, “this is the Son of God”.

John emphasizes his points about Jesus on that day: Jesus outranks him, John did not know Jesus beforehand, but his entire purpose was to reveal the Messiah to Israel.

Jesus has just been on a 40-day fast and would be on the brink of death by the time it ended.  He is still probably very weak and sickly when he comes up while John is announcing him.  He is already defying the Jewish expectations of the Messiah.  They are looking for a magnificent, conquering king, but instead stumbles in a man who has been ignored by the religious authorities and is only announced by this lone preacher in the middle of the wilderness. [6]


Saturday: “We have found the Messiah!”

(v. 35-42) John is spending time on a Sabbath morning with two of his disciples. They would have been especially close to John if they had come to join him on a Sabbath day. [3][4]  We know that one of the disciples was Andrew and the other disciple is traditionally believed to be John (the author of this book).  John points out Jesus to them and indicates again that he is the Lamb of God.

The conversation is almost awkward between the two disciples and Jesus.  Jesus says to them, “What are you looking for?”  They respond with, “Teacher, where are you staying?”, indicating that they want to spend time with him [7].  Jesus invites them to come and they stay with him that day.

Any doubts that Andrew and John may have had that day are erased after spending time with Jesus.  Andrew gets his brother Simon and tells him, We have found the Messiah”.

Jesus looks at Simon, as if studying him him [7], and then changes his name.  Simon will become one of the Jesus’ closest and most well-known of his disciples, yet he is now better known by the new name that Jesus gave him, “Peter” (or Rock).


Sunday: Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael

Jesus is traveling North to Galilee on the next day.  He first finds Philip and simply directs him to “Follow Me”.  Don’t just follow me once, but continually follow me. We learn later about Philip and find that he is one who wants to carefully measure the facts.  Jesus asks Philip to follow him and to stay with him even when he doesn’t understand. [7]

Philip brings Nathanael, who is hesitant.  Jesus is from Nazareth, but can any good come out of Nazareth?  Nazareth was a wicked city with a reputation for trouble.  Jews of his day did not believe that any prophet would come from Galilee (John 7:52), and there was no prophecy pertaining to Nazareth.

Jesus commends Nathanael for his frankness, but Jesus goes further.  Jesus tells Nathanael that he knows that he has been meditating on God, and about the way to God.  Sitting under the fig tree was a colloquial term for spiritual mediation. The reference to angels ascending and descending would be connected to the common thoughts of his day, that Jacob’s ladder was the way to God (See Genesis 28). [7]  Jesus tells Nathanael that he knows what he was doing, what he was thinking, and that Jesus is the way to God!

Jesus commonly referred to himself as the “Son of Man”.  The “Son of Man” was a recognized Messianic title from the Old Testament (See Dan 7:13-14) [8]  Note that Nathanael is called Bartholomew in the other gospel accounts.

Jesus may have been given divine insight into his other disciples as he called them, knowing the right words to say to bring them.  However, Nathanael’s response alone shows that Jesus is given divine insight into this latest encounter.

Previous post: The Word

praise theology Uncategorized

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus?

There may be no one in history with more written about than this man.  Authors have been busy for almost 2,000 years writing pages and volumes that reflect their thoughts of Jesus Christ.

Like the people who lived 2000 years ago, everybody today seems to have an opinion.   He is often called a great teacher, a miracle worker, a martyr. Some say that he was God.

The more I hear from people, the more I see that most people are trying to reinterpret the life of Jesus Christ into a person that they would like to see based on their own wants and needs. Lonely people want a friend. Hurting people want a miracle worker. Liberals like the one who opposed the religious and political establishment. Conservatives like the one who promised to uphold the law. Everybody likes the message of love, although few agree on what it means. The list goes on.

But we have missed the point.  We are looking at Jesus as if he was a cosmic force that exists for our own personal needs. He was a real man. He lived. He died. He came to life again.

Even in Jesus’ own day, people were filled with expectations of who he should be and what he should do for them. One thing is for certain: people who came to Jesus with preconceived notions all went away greatly disappointed.

So who is this man?  The first four books of the New Testament, known as The Gospels, tell us about the life of Christ Jesus and provide excerpts of his work.  The Fourth Gospel, written by John, provides some of the most personal glimpses of Jesus’ life on earth.

John was one of Jesus’ disciples and one of his closest friends. He does not attempt a biography but writes with the point:

 John 20:30-31

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John’s point is twofold: (a) believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and (b) have life when you believe.

I have been challenged to write down what I encounter as I study through John’s book over the next several weeks.  I will try to use this blog as a means to share the most significant discoveries.


encouragement theology Uncategorized

Jesus Between the Criminals

Commentary from the Desiring God web site for Easter:

Jesus Between the Criminals

Crucifixion in the ancient world was intended to take as long as possible. No vital organs were damaged, so it took two or three days to die, often from shock or asphyxiation, as muscles used for breathing grew weak.

Luke 23:39–43 is a conversation between Jesus and the criminals crucified alongside him, and it is in the Bible because crucifixion was slow. There was time to talk. This conversation is surely one of the most extraordinary in the Bible. It shows us the similarities of these three dying men, and yet, at the same time, how very different Jesus is.

I encourage you to read the rest of the article:

praise sports Uncategorized World etc.

Escaping to Fly High Over Mont Blanc

This is much more satisfying and inspirational than reading about the Zimmerman-Martin case or the most recent Roberts Court jurisprudential disaster:


Happy Valentines Day!

Sapphire Sky

The Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus, AD 268-70, is said to have been a large and fierce man.  In his efforts to fight the invading Goths and Germans, he attempted to increase the size of the Roman army.  Volunteers were few, due largely to what was essentially a life-long commitment of being a Roman soldier. Legend has it that the Emperor believed young men weren’t joining because they were too comfortable and too interested in pursuing women.  (Some things never change.  My classmates in college often were incredulous that I was volunteering for military service. I was often asked “Why?!”.)  With dictatorial efficiency, Claudius solved that problem by simply outlawing marriage.

One problem, legend has it that the Priest Valentinus continued to marry Christians.  When called before the Emperor, Valentinus refused to acknowledge the Roman Gods and reportedly witnessed to Claudius the truths of Jesus Christ.  Claudius had Valentinus killed.


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This is a time to refocus on goals that I had set in a recent year.

Sapphire Sky

This is the time of the year when we tend to take stock of ourselves and our lives.  We often make promises on things that we try to improve – many of which we never complete.

In the early 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards compiled a list of 70 resolutions. While we may review our resolutions every year, Edwards committed to reviewing his resolutions every week! You can read Edwards’ complete list here.

Instead of making yet another annual list of promises that I cannot keep, here is my list of resolutions for this year and following:

1. Resolved to seek Christ as the top priority in my life.

All other priorities must take a secondary role after Christ.

Matthew 6:33
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.


2. Resolved to developing spiritual growth in myself, my family, and…

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praise theology Uncategorized

The greatest miracle … Merry Christmas!

Sapphire Sky

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  John 1:10

The infinite and awesome creator of the cosmos took the form of his own creation and subjected himself to the laws of time and death, to save those who rebelled against him.  God’s voluntary subjection to the rebellious brutality of His creation demonstrates the degree to which God hates original sin – pride and conceit.  He did not take the form of an invincible champion to subdue this treacherous and wicked world.  He did not condescend in regal majesty to awe mankind.  Although a tiny nation of chosen people anticipated his arrival, he did not arrive as a heralded conqueror.

Jesus came in the middle of the night as a helpless child.  To the world, God was born a poor child, not in a palace, but in a…

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