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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


November 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1293: Wednesday 30th November 2016: John 20:1-3: The day that changed the world.

John 20:1-3: The day that changed the world.(please click for todays passage)

WHAT MARY DID: Our last look at John 19 revealed two courageous men. Chapter 20 opens with a glimpse of a courageous woman. Her name was ”Mary of Magdala” (1), and it must have taken considerable courage to be out in Jerusalem that early morning, ”while it was still dark”. But those forgiven much, love much, and that was Mary Magdalene. Bob Goff wrote a book entitled, ”Love does”. Love cannot stand idly by when there are duties to be performed; good deeds to be done. What will your love drive you to do this day? It may take courage. (Incidentally, many Christians through the centuries have reported the wonderful spiritual revelations they have had in the early part of the day.)

WHAT MARY SAW: She ”saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (1). The tomb was a cave cut out of the rock. I have read that the stone placed in front of this tomb would have been heavy. It fitted into a groove that went slightly downhill, and probably took several men to roll it into place. This was a security measure to prevent grave-robbers from successfully pursuing their disgraceful aims. But Mary saw that the huge, heavy stone placed in front of Jesus’ grave had been rolled away. All four gospels report this to be the case, and the fact that the grave was empty. Someone observed, ”The stone was rolled away, not to let Jesus out, but the church in.”

WHAT MARY SAID: She hurried off and reported her staggering discovery ”to Simon Peter” and the beloved disciple (2a). She does not specify in her breathless outpouring who ”They” are, or who ”we” are (2b). We know from elsewhere that others were with Mary that morning (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:1). And we also know that no-one took Jesus out of the tomb except the Father and the Holy Spirit. Mary appears in John as the first apostle; an apostle to the apostles – a messenger, a ‘sent one’. It’s fascinating that the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, and a woman’s testimony was not accepted in a Jewish law court. You surely would not invent a story like this? Would you not try to edit out the unacceptable bits?

This I can say for sure: it’s good to make haste to spread the good news of the empty tomb. When we hear it we should ‘run’ to check it out; to examine the evidence. This matters so much.  It’s been pointed out that there is more running in John 20:1-10 than in the rest of the gospels put together. 

Professor Joad was a philosopher at London University, and a broadcaster. He was once asked, ”Which figure of history would you most like to meet, and what question would you put to him or her?” He replied, ”Jesus of Nazareth. And I would ask Him, ‘Did you or did you not rise from the dead?’ ”

RUN to see for yourself!

Daily Bible thoughts 1292: Tuesday 29th November 2016: John 19: 38-42: Out of hiding.

 John 19:38-42: Out of hiding.(please click for todays passage)

Some years ago, I was significantly affected by the writings of John White. He was a Christian and a psychiatrist, and he wrote some penetrating, insightful books about Christianity. His book, ‘The Fight’, remains a classic. I still remember many thoughts and ideas from another book of his, ‘The Race’. In one chapter he spoke about how evangelism is fundamentally about honesty. You are not in hiding. You are a Christian and you are not ashamed of the fact. You don’t wear a disguise. You are who you are. You let your light ”shine” rather than hiding it ”under a bushel”.

This lovely ending to John 19 shows the power of the Cross to put courage, nerve and sinew into timid souls. We are told that Joseph of Arimathea, who was evidently a wealthy man, ”was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (38). It is always fear of something or someone that causes a person to keep their faith under wraps. Previously, Nicodemus ”had visited Jesus at night” (39).  That may or not have been about fear. I’m not sure. But now, at a time when the majority of Disciples had run away; an uneasy time when a sense of danger hung in the air, these two men did a loving and brave thing. This was not about courting popularity. There was nothing in it for themselves as far as I can see. But they summoned courage to get the body of Jesus, with ”Pilate’s permission” (38b). They wanted to do the right thing (40b) – to give Jesus a decent burial. It’s a charming story of bravery, love and loyalty. I find in it an abiding to challenge to publicly identify with Christ in faithful witness, and to use what He blesses us with as good stewards. Our material blessings should all be consecrated to the service of Jesus. The tomb was Joseph’s. It would have been a cave hewn out of rock, and would have taken a considerable amount of work to create. But he gave this thing of value to Jesus. It has been pointed out that the spices brought were many times more than Mary’s earlier offering (12:3), and it was thought that she was extravagant. This was the kind of quantity (and quality) you would bring to a King. That is surely the point. These two men, on a united mission of love, agreed with Pilate’s notice, but for vastly different reasons.

Well, this quote seems a good way to prepare ourselves for the wonders ahead:

”John, we may be sure, intends us to remember the last time we stood before a tomb. Jesus wept outside Lazarus’s tomb (11.35), but when they rolled the stone away there was no smell of decomposition (11.41). Wait, John says to us. Watch with me through this sabbath, this quiet, sad rest. Wait for this, the final day, the seventh day, to pass. God rested on the seventh day. So must Jesus. But this whole book has been about new creation. Wait for the eighth day.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, p.139.

”It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I want to stand with with you and for the whole world to know that I am yours. Please forgive me for times when I have lacked courage and gone into hiding.

Daily Bible thoughts 1291: Monday 28th November 2016: John 19:31-37: Water and wine.

John 19:31-37: Water and wine.(please click for passage)

Here are some things to consider from this section of John 19:

The callousness of religion. Religion prioritises rules over people. In breaking the legs of the crucifixion victims their suffering was brought to a swift end. But I don’t believe this was in the mind of ”the Jews”. They had a religious preoccupation. The next day was not just a ”sabbath”, but a special one on their calendar. The Bible insisted that the bodies of executed people should not be left hanging overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23); it would pollute the land. They were concerned about that, but not what they had done to the innocent Jesus. We have already observed ,though, that Jesus was dead when they came to Him. No-one took His life from Him. He laid it down of His own accord (30). Does my faith show itself in genuine love for people? When you boil it all down, Christianity is about loving God and loving people. Whatever we do to ”the least” of His ”brothers” we do to Him (Matthew 25:31-46). If your religion puts rule-keeping before people, it’s not the genuine kind (James 5:27).
The note of fulfilment. It was necessary for Jesus to be ”already dead” when the soldiers came to break His legs. This was prophesied (see Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20). Jesus came into the world as the final and perfect ‘Passover’ offering (1 Corinthians 5:7).Another prophecy was fulfilled in the piercing of Jesus’ side (Zechariah 12:10). Again we see who is in control. It isn’t either the Jewish or Roman authorities. Bad stuff is happening to Jesus, but it’s all FOR good. God is on the throne as Jesus is on the Cross. So in bad times, we can take confidence that God rules all things.
The eye-witness account (35). The writer says, ”I was there.”
The transformation of our ‘watery’ lives, into wine, comes from the work of Jesus on the Cross (34). Tom Wright makes the point that throughout the fourth gospel, where water and blood are mentioned, they point to Jesus as the source of life, cleansing and purification. All those themes come together in this moment (see also Zechariah 13:1).The water and blood,in separation, show conclusively that Jesus was dead. The soldier was surprised to find that Jesus had died so soon. Part of the torture of crucifixion lay in the fact that the victims could linger for days on crosses. Suspended by their arms, they wouldn’t be able to breathe, so they had to push themselves up on their legs in order to get air. Therefore breaking the legs brought on a swift end. In Jesus’ case, the spear thrust was just to make sure. If he wasn’t really dead, He would be after that. The ”sudden flow of blood and water” (34) said that He was. That is important to understand, because from earliest times there were those who argued that Jesus did not die. That’s how they explained away the resurrection. They said things like, ‘Jesus didn’t die on the Cross; He just fainted. Later on He revived in the cool of the tomb, and made His escape!’ Oh really?!!

PRAYER: I thank you Lord Jesus, with wonder and gratitude, that you went through all of this for undeserving me.
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Daily Bible thoughts 1290: Friday 25th November 2016: John 19:28-30: His thirst – our satisfaction.

John 19:28-30: His thirst – our satisfaction.(please click for todays Bible passage)

The theme of prophetic fulfilment is threaded through this nineteenth chapter. God has His ways of showing us that He is still ‘on the Throne’ when it appears otherwise (28). When Jesus died, He was in total control: ”…he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” In fact, it looks like Jesus died sooner than anyone expected (33). It reminds me of words He spoke earlier: ”…I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:17b, 18). At the time Jesus said this, there were those who thought He was ”raving mad” (John 10:20). But He did it, as today’s passage shows. When Jesus said, ”It is finished” (30), it was not a statement of resignation. It was a triumphant announcement that everything He came to do was now completed. The single word used here in the original has been translated, ”It’s all done!” (Tom Wright). It’s the word people would write on a bill once it had been paid.

It is wonderful to be able to face our ‘crucifixion’ experiences in life with the conviction that God is in control, and to be sure that there are no accidents with Him (Romans 8:28). We will be able to do this more readily if we are immersed in the Bible , as our Lord was; if we ‘hide’ His Word in our hearts (see Psalm 69:21).

Jesus had also said on another occasion: ”If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37b). I can’t help but think that Jesus knew intense thirst on the cross for the satisfaction of our thirst. ”How marvellous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be. How marvellous, how wonderful, is my Saviour’s love for me.” It truly is. I remember one preacher saying that in crucifixion a person literally became ”dessicated” – they dried out. The thirst Jesus must have experienced is unimaginable. In fact the same preacher pointed out that this shows that, on the cross, Jesus went to Hell on our behalf. He pointed out that In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man, in Hell, cried out, ”…send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in the water and cool my tongue because I am in agony in this fire.” Tom Wright observes that Jesus, who earlier made the finest quality wine from water (John 2:10), was offered, in His hour of need, a most inferior kind of wine. ”He gave others the best wine, so good that people remarked on it. He himself, at this moment of agony, has the cheap stuff that the lower ranks in the army drank when on duty.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone, part 2’, p.130. But He is able to turn our ‘water’ into the finest quality vintage, because of His suffering on the cross. That ‘sign’ back in John 2, points to Jesus’ power to transform, according to Professor Leon Morriss. This water to wine transformation comes from what Jesus achieved at the cross. May we never lose the wonder. May we never grow overly familiar with sacred Calvary. May we never forget the price at which our salvation was bought.

Daily Bible thoughts 1289: Thursday 24th November 2016: John 19:25-27: True religion.

John 19:25-27: True religion.(please click for Bible passage)

Jesus has been described as ”the Man for others”. There is something about pain that can cause a person to turn inward; to become self-focussed. We tend to understand, though, that they need to summon all their energy to get through – to just survive. So the love of Jesus exhibited here is simply amazing. Even at this stage, whilst being in agony, He had a heart for others. He did not close in on Himself. He thought about His mother. He thought about His ‘beloved’ disciple. He made practical arrangements for them.

Paul, in writing to children in the Ephesians church, says ‘ ”Honour your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – ”that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on Earth” ‘ (Ephesians 6:2, 3). Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father/guardian, was dead. But his mother still lived, and He had her best interests at heart. In death, He honoured His mother. And if someone should protest that the aforementioned  ”promise” didn’t work in Jesus’ case, because He died young, I would want to ask, ”But isn’t He still alive?”

In 1 Timothy 5:8 we read: ”If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” These are challenging words, and not always easy to obey. But we cannot afford to ignore them. Jesus’ dying example points us in the right direction.  He is our pattern, our template for living. Our Christianity must be lived out at home. I realise, however, that it may well be the most difficult place to put the faith into practice.

Tom Wright mentions that this touching scene, full of pathos, has often been reflected in art. He says that he once worked at a church where, behind the altar, there was a large stained – glass window portraying the crucifixion, with Mary on the left and the beloved disciple on the right. He often drew attention to it when preaching at weddings: the man and the woman meet at the foot of the cross.

PRAYER: There is no love like yours Lord Jesus. Thank you for abundantly pouring it on undeserving me. Help me to share your love with all, and particularly with the members of my family.

Daily Bible thoughts 1288: Wednesday 23rd November 2016: John 19: 23-24: New clothes.

John 19: 23-24: New clothes.(please click here for todays offers)

This is an example of how brutal and callous people can become.Maybe the soldiers worked so regularly and closely with cruel death that they barely noticed the pain they inflicted. They were just doing their duty. It was all in a day’s work. So they took Jesus’ clothes, and had a gambling session for the ”undergarment” which may have been quite a quality item. We shout at the Bible text, ”How can you men be so heartless?” But they can. We won’t change hard men such as these. Only the mercy and grace of God can.

Yet even as we shake our heads over this scene, we can again see that God is in control. He has not been taken by surprise. This was prophesied hundreds of years earlier.

”One of the most popular of…Biblical prophecies among the early Christians was Psalm 22. That is the psalm from which, according to Matthew (27.46) and Mark (15.34), Jesus himself quoted, or perhaps we should say screamed out, at the moment of his greatest agony: ‘My God, my God, why did you abandon me?’ As that psalm continues its awful litany of suffering, one of the many horrors it describes is the moment when the sufferer is not only stripped naked but suffers the added indignity of seeing people gambling for his clothes. John doesn’t need to do more than give the briefest description of the gambling at the foot of the cross, and to draw our attention to the psalm in question.       He leaves us to think through the implication. Jesus is the fulfifilment of prophecy and sacred song. He is the righteous sufferer. He is the true King. He is the one through whose shameful death the weight of Israel’s sin, and behind that the sin of the whole world, is being dealt with. The King of the Jews is God’s chosen representative, not merely to rule the world but to redeem it.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part 2, p.127.

I was thinking, though, that Jesus leaves His ‘clothes’ to all who believe in Him. We can remove the ”filthy rags” of our own righteousness, and be clothed in Christ’s. What a precious gift this is, freely given to those who trust in Christ. There are other ways than theft and gambling to ‘take’ Jesus’ clothes. He wants us to have them.

PRAYER: ”In Royal robes I don’t deserve, I live to praise your majesty.”

Daily Bible thoughts 1287: Tuesday 22nd November 2016: John 19:19-22: The truth spoken in jest.

John 19:19-22: The truth spoken in jest.(please click for todays passage)

It was payback time!

The Jews had impaled Pilate on the horns of a dilemma and he resented being there. It made him terribly uncomfortable. So this, in a way, was Pilate’s revenge. It was time for the fight back to commence. It was his opportunity to make these despised Jews pay. This was calculated. He was mocking them. He was saying, in effect, ”What kind of people are you to have a King like this?!! Look at Him. He’s weak and despised.” Pilate was rubbing their noses in it. ”As far as I’m concerned, he really is ”The King of the Jews” – the only sort of King you crazy people deserve! This is what I’ve done to him, and this is what I’d be happy to do to the whole lot of you!” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, part two, p.126.

The preaching of the cross really did appear to be ”foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). A man crucified seemed to be the epitome of weakness, helplessness and shame. But those who believed the message found ”the power of God and the wisdom of God” in it. ”For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:24b, 25). There were plenty of sneering ‘Pilate’s’ in the ancient world, but the Lord had the last laugh (Psalm 2:4). He says, ”I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6). All the hostility and mockery in the world will not change that fact. Facts are stubborn things.

Jesus really is the King of the Jews. He came into the world as their long awaited Messiah, their anointed King. But they did not recognise Him as such. They did not receive Him but rejected Him (John 1:11). They did not want this Man to reign over them. But He is their King.

And Jesus really was Pilate’s King too. In writing the inscription in ”Latin” Pilate was affirming that there was a greater Emperor than Caesar. He was saying to his fellow-Romans, ”Here is our King”. He didn’t know that’s what he was doing. Of course he didn’t. But that is the implication of the inscription in the three major languages, as we have seen. Jesus is King of the entire world.

Is He your King? Have you surrendered your life to His reign? Or are you with the Jews in this story, pushing Him away? Are you with Pilate, treating Him as a bit of a joke?

Whatever anyone says or does, Jesus’ majesty shines out of these events.

Centuries earlier Isaiah had prophesied about the coming King: ”Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The Zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7) No-one will get in the way of God. Jesus did not need the affirmation of Pilate or the Jews in order to be King. He just is! He’s ”installed” (Psalm 2:6) and there is no uninstall button to click.

Daily Bible thoughts 1286: Monday 21st November 2016: John 19:20: The relevance of the Cross.

John 19:20: The relevance of the Cross.(please click here for todays passage)

”…the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city…”

”The only way to heaven is via King’s Cross!”

Let’s not divorce the Cross and the city. They are joined together in the purposes of God. This world’s system is likened to a city in the Bible – to Babylon – one of the greatest and most wicked cities of the ancient world.

The city is a sophisticated place. But it is not so cool, hip and trendy that it doesn’t need the message of the cross. The cross is never out of date. It is the unfailing remedy for all the ills of the city.

The city is a sinful place. It is grimy and grubby and needs to know about the cleansing blood of Jesus. It is covered in darkness. Indeed we can say that ”thick darkness” envelops it (Isaiah 60:1), but the light and glory of Calvary can penetrate it and illuminate it and replace it.

Crowds live in the city, and the gospel is for the masses.

The place for someone  to live who knows Christ is ”near the city”. By this I mean, we have to live out our Christian lives;speak out our  Christian message, in the real world. In your case it may be a village and not a city. But my point remains the same. You are not called to a convent or a monastery; to a cloistered existence. You are ”the salt of the earth” and ”the light of the world” (Matthew 5: 13, 14). God has so ordered it that there should be a definite connection between the disciple of Christ and the earth/the world. We are not live aloof from it, but to involve ourselves with it; to get our ”hands dirty”. This powerful message belongs out there on the mean and filthy streets. It must be spoken (and written) in the language of the people. It is to communicated. If the only way to heaven is via the cross of the King, the city needs to know. John Stott said that a prophet is someone with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. That is another way of saying that we must not lose the connection between the Cross and the city.

The city is the place to live a cross-shaped life;

The city is the place to speak clear words about the cross.

The city may also want to do to us what it did to our Lord (and may succeed in doing it). But our place is to be ‘out there’, on the street corners, and up the back alleyways. We are not called to the cosy safety of ‘in here’ – keeping what we have within the four walls of the church. Our work is ‘out there’, where it is difficult and dangerous. But that is where we will see the power of the cross unleashed. As David Wilkerson discovered on the mean streets of New York, the Cross has something to say to ‘the switchblade’ and, in the final analysis, proves mightier.

PRAYER: Help me Lord to keep together what you have joined together in your great, mysterious purposes.

Daily Bible thoughts1285: Friday 18th November 2016: John 19:19-20: Let the whole world know.

 John 19:19-20: Let the whole world know.(please click for todays passage)

”There was a shocking photograph in the newspaper the other day. A cart was being driven through the streets of a city in the Far East. On the cart were standing fifteen or twenty men. Round the neck of each, hanging from a string, was a notice. On the notice was written the particular crime they were accused of. When they reached the end of their journey, so the report said, they were taken off the cart. Two of the men were selected, and were publicly beheaded. The others were taken back to prison, to await the pleasure of the government. The purpose of the notices was obvious. They were to rub in the point to the people who were watching (and there were plenty of people watching): that’s what will happen if you get up to this sort of thing. The ‘sort of thing’ in question was actions or teachings which the government interpreted as being revolutionary. The Romans used more or less exactly the same system. That’s what’s going on when Pilate places a notice above Jesus’ head on the cross. Sometimes condemned Roman prisoners, like the ones in the newspaper, carried the notice around their neck on the way to the place of execution, so that all the more people could see, and take warning.” Tom Wright: ‘John for everyone’, Part 2, p.125.

It is interesting to note that ”the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.” It was Passover time in Jerusalem. The population of the city would be significantly swollen with pilgrims visiting from many parts. But wherever you came from in the world of that day, you would probably be able to speak one of these three languages. Aramaic was the local language; Greek was almost universal in the wider world (much like English is today), and Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. Jesus is for the world (John 3:16) and so the whole world must be able to hear about Him in intelligible terms. In order to bring a message to any people, we must speak their language. This short passage shows that Jesus is not just the ”King of the Jews”; He is the King of the world. We have a responsibility to make this message prominent; to make it plain and clear, so that ”Many” hear. In fact, here it says that ”Many of the Jews read…” This particular message was ”written.” There is not only a need for missionaries who will speak the word orally, but for writers who can communicate the Bible’s central message in written form.  You think, for example, of the on-going impact of the books of C.S. Lewis. There is, however, nothing better than putting God’s Word into the hands of as many people as possible, so they can read it for themselves. As with Pilate, what He has ”written” He has ”written” (see 22). It is unalterable, and it is powerful. As Spurgeon said, you no more need to defend the Bible than you do a lion. Just let it out of its cage!

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, picks up the idea of the notice above the cross (Colossians 2:14). He sees it as a record of our offences against the law of God. But Jesus takes these away. He nails all our ‘crimes’ to the cross, making forgiveness and freedom possible. Let this thought put a song in your heart today.

”Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ’s Cross.” The Message.

PRAYER: Lord, I know it is so important that the truth about Christ crucified should get out onto the streets. Help us to so speak, to so write in the language of the people, that your cross may be clearly seen in all its shining splendour.

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