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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

November 2016

Daily Bible thoughts 1284: Thursday 17th November 2016: John 19:16b – 18: On which side are you?

John 19:16b – 18: On which side are you?(please click for today’s passage)

There is such irony in the words:

”So the soldiers took charge of Jesus” (16b). 

We have seen throughout chapters 18 and 19 that it is in fact Jesus who is in control, despite all appearances to the opposite. Reading this section of John, it looks, superficially, like the powers that be are in control; but between the lines, between the cracks, you can feel the message seeping out that they are not. Sometimes, in the church, we try to ‘take charge’. It may not be our intention, but it can happen. We start to use Jesus for our own ends. We treat the church like a business and ‘run’ it as we would any other organisation. When we stop praying; or when we are not as prayerful as we should be, we will be in danger of taking over – if such a thing were possible.

I hear that close to the bus station in Jerusalem there is a place called ‘Gordon’s Calvary’. It is a skull shaped rock that General Gordon came across, and thought might be the site of the crucifixion. We cannot know for sure, but this is certain: Jesus died, and in order to be His disciple we must carry our cross (17). Christianity begins with the ‘death’ of repentance, and entails a multitude of deaths every single day.

Jesus divides (18). The cross divides. He is still ”in the middle”, and we are either side of Him. Some of us line up with the thief who repented and cried out to Jesus for mercy. That is the only safe place to be. But many others align themselves with the scornful, rude, mocking and rejecting thief. They don’t want anything to do with Christ. This eighteenth verse provides a graphic picture of what is going in the world as the gospel is preached. There is a dividing line running through history and we are all on the right side or the wrong side.

On which side are you?

Daily Bible thoughts 1283: Wednesday 16th November 2016: John 19:14-16: Further hypocrisy.

 John 19:14-16: Further hypocrisy.(please click here for today’s passage)

We have noted the hypocrisy of the Jews in a recent ‘thought’ (18:28). Here is a further manifestation of it.

The Jews hated Rome. Understandably, they loathed being under the iron heel of the oppressor. Who would not want freedom in such circumstances. They were looking for the coming of a Messiah who would be a political deliverer, who would overthrow Roman rule. They had no love for Caesar; felt little loyalty towards him, if any at all. Yet in these moments they say, ”We have no King but Caesar” (15). We know they don’t mean it. But it is expedient for them to say it at this time.

What hypocrites we all can be! At times people will articulate things they really don’t believe, if it will help them to have their own way. A classic example is to be found in the realm of politics where candidates ”campaign in poetry but govern in prose.” So many election promises, bountifully scattered over cheering crowds, never come to fulfilment. There are always reasons ‘discovered’ later why what was promised could not be delivered.

Hypocrisy is just one manifestation of sin; one way this ugly weed buds and shows itself above ground; and sin is the chief malady of the human heart. There is no hope for we sinners to be forgiven; no possibility of hypocrites becoming people of integrity, apart from the saving work of Jesus on the cross. So today we must be deeply grateful for all we are reading in this nineteenth chapter of John.

We read this and we say their hypocrisy crucified Jesus.

But we also know that our hypocrisy crucified Him.

However, had He not been crucified there would be no hope for any of us.

So once again we ”survey the wondrous cross” and marvel.

Daily Bible thoughts 1282: Tuesday 15th November 2016: John 19:11: Secure in His Sovereignty.

John 19:11: Secure in His Sovereignty.(please click here for todays passage)

”You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

Jesus faced the most difficult, the most painful time in His life (although it was what He had come into the world for) trusting in the Sovereignty of God. As His followers, we need to get there too.

Things will come into your life that hurt you. You won’t like them. You won’t want them. You will recoil from the pain. But you and I need to be able to look our biggest problems in the eye and say, ‘The only power you have over me is a loaned power. It comes from the highest Power of all.’ As Joseph came to see, there are things that people mean for harm that God means for good.

Two days ago, as I write, the American election took place. Beforehand, a lot of people were in consternation, and the sense of anxiety has perhaps heightened since the result. But the day before the election, a young American, a member of our family, wrote on ‘Facebook’ words to this effect that ”whatever happens tomorrow, Jesus is still Lord.” That is just about the most important pronouncement I have read about these recent political happenings.

If we had an election in the UK today, and woke up tomorrow morning to find Pontius Pilate in ‘number 10’; if in the wake of the American election Pontius Pilate entered the White House, I don’t think any of us, on either side of the Atlantic, would be too happy. But the truth remains that the ‘Pilate’s’ of this world only wield power that is given to them from above. God has a purpose in raising them up. But after a time He will replace them. He’s in charge; He’s running the show, not them. So let’s keep things in perspective.

As I prayed, after hearing that Donald Trump was about to win the election, I also felt rebuked. The news announcement that he was on his way to victory felt like a physical slap in the face. I could feel the shock hit my body. But in prayer, I thought, the only things I know about this man is what the media tells me. I have never met him. There is a real danger that I am judging someone when I don’t really know them. I remind myself today that wherever we live in the world, our responsibility is to pray for those in power. Jesus loves them, died for them, and wants to save them. We pray to the highest Power who put them in to office. He holds the king’s heart in His hand and can turn it like a watercourse wherever He wills. The American missionary, Frank Laubach, wrote many years ago about how we can enter the White House every day and influence proceedings by our prayers. Let’s resolve to pick up our prayer responsibility – starting now.

PRAYER: Lord, in your Sovereignty, you have raised up our leaders. I pray that you will bless them with your wisdom, and in your grace and mercy grant them the gift of salvation. Cause them to seek you.

Daily Bible thoughts 1281: Monday 14th November 2016: John 19:7: The satisfaction of the law.

John 19:7: The satisfaction of the law.(please click here for today’s Bible passage)

”We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

There is no doubt that Jesus died because He claimed to be God. Whatever other reasons His enemies may have given; whatever other charges they brought, this was why they wanted Him dead. He claimed divinity, and that was just beyond the pale. He was a blasphemer and too bad for this world. That was their viewpoint. (Don’t forget that in the resurrection and ascension a ‘higher court’ was overturning the human verdict.)

It is ironic that Jesus died ”because he claimed to be the Son of God.” The truth is, only the Son of God could die for our sins. The hymn writer got to the heart of the matter:

”There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.”

It was not their law! We have a way of calling ours what really belongs to God. For example we speak of ‘my’ church, or ‘our’ church, and we often behave like it is. But it’s not ours. And it was not their law. It was (and is) God’s law. According to this law we must die. We have broken it. We are ‘criminals’ before the law of God. But Jesus became the willing substitute to die in our place, taking for us the punishment our ‘crimes’ deserve.

God has a law and according to that law we must die. But now we can live because of the sacrifice of Jesus.

This is amazing grace.

PRAYER: ”Thank you Jesus for your love for me; thank you Jesus for your grace so free.”

Daily Bible thoughts 1280: Friday 11th November 2016: John 19:8-10: Silence is golden.

 John 19:8-10: Silence is golden.(please click here for todays passage)

”…but Jesus gave him no answer” (9b)

Here’s a saying I heard a few years back: ”No answer was the stern reply.” There is a place for such silence in human interactions.

There is no doubt about who is in control here and it is not Pilate. Silence can be intimidating. Pilate was no doubt used to people flattering him or fearing him, and perhaps a mixture of both. But Jesus was not scared of him, and that was possibly unnerving for Pilate. He wasn’t used to this. He seems out of his depth; way out of his comfort zone; thrown to some extent by the unique and mysterious figure stood before him – a man who ”claimed to be the Son of God” (7). I think Pilate sensed something very different in Jesus.

There is ”…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). It takes wisdom to know the difference.

We are not obligated to reply to every question.

We certainly don’t have to answer immediately.

On the other side of this, when asking questions of other people we can be too quick to fill in the silences. Perhaps It makes us feel awkward or embarrassed. But learn to let the question hang in the air sometimes.

Silence can be powerful.

”Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19; see Ecclesiastes 5:2)

Daily Bible thoughts 1279: Thursday 10th November 2016: John 19:7-16: ”Finally…”

 John 19:7-16: ”Finally…”(please click for todays passage)

”The Jews insisted…the Jews kept shouting…But they shouted…” (7, 12 & 15).

You feel the insistence of the Jewish people as you read through this passage. Pilate doesn’t want them to win, but they just won’t back down. As we have seen, he first compromises, but then he capitulates. He has resisted to some extent; he has held out for a while. But there comes the dreadful, fateful ”Finally” (16)

”Pilate caved in to their demand” (The Message).

This is is how it is with us, is it not?

The voice of the WORLD is so insistent, telling us how we should look and what we ought to desire; where we should go and what we must do; attempting to squeeze us into its mould.

The voice of the FLESH is so insistent, craving within us, often with a red hot destructive desire, for things God forbids and knows will do us harm. We know we shouldn’t. It didn’t satisfy before, and really we know it will prove futile and shameful again. But still we head to the banks of the polluted stream, and stoop to drink the muddy waters. That voice cajoling us; seducing us into believing it’s a fresh, sparkling stream, is so insistent.

The voice of TEMPTATION is so insistent. The old serpent slithers once more into your garden, casts doubt on God’s Word, and proffers forbidden fruit. And we know the story well. We know it doesn’t have a good ending. But still we sink our teeth into the juicy looking specimen held out for the titillation of our taste buds…and again we are poisoned.

Like Pilate, if we first start to compromise with the insistent voices, we will end up capitulating, caving in. We will arrive at our ”Finally” moment.

But isn’t this inevitable? Frail, fallen, fragile creatures that we are, can anything better be expected of us?

Well I suppose the reality is that as broken people living in a broken world, we will often eat the food of failure. But that said, I have to believe that the victory of Christ on the cross means something for my daily life and my on-going struggle with temptation and sin. It is possible to refuse, to resist, to not give in to these raised, clamouring voices of the world, the flesh and the devil. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:1-11). If the devil and the powers are under Jesus’ feet, and we are ”in” Him, they are under our feet also. Therefore a different ”Finally” is possible (Ephesians 6:10ff). Don’t settle for a defeatist attitude. Jesus’ death deserves a different response.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that my fight is not for victory but FROM victory. Teach me please to stand in your triumph.

Daily Bible thoughts 1278: Wednesday 9th November 2016: John 19:1-6: What fear can do.

John 19:1-6: What fear can do.(please click here for todays passage)

It is obvious that Pontius Pilate was afraid (8), and fear can be a dangerous thing. 

”Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

Out of fear, Pilate went along with the crowd (18:40 – 19:1). He was swayed by the loudest voices (12, 13). As powerfully as the voice of conscience spoke to him, the voices in the angry mob registered more deeply. He was scared. He sought to save his life (12) – to protect what he had: position, influence, privilege etc. But He lost it. He heard the implicit threat in their shouted words, and he backed off. He wanted to save Jesus; but he wanted his life in the governor’s palace even more.

Out of fear, Pilate did not live up to his deepest, truest convictions. He knew that Jesus was innocent (4,6). He was without excuse. The Lord should not have been ”flogged” (1), let alone crucified. Pilate knew something important and true about Jesus, but He did not act according to that knowledge. There was a credibility gap between what his head and heart most assuredly knew and where his feet went. Does this remind you of anyone. I heard Rick Warren highlight a problem we have in the evangelical world, namely that we know far more than we do.

I was thinking also that there is a form of ‘worship’, where we repeatedly gather and use the right words, and we try to dress Jesus in ”purple” robes of praise, but it will be like a slap in the face to Him if our hearts are not right. From such outward forms, without real power, may God the Holy Spirit deliver us.

Daily Bible thoughts 1277: Tuesday 8th November 2016: John 18:33-40: The truth about Jesus.

John 18:33-40: The truth about Jesus.(please click here for today’s passage)

Pilate’s somewhat cynical sounding question (38a) follows an important statement by Jesus: ”Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognises my voice” (37) ‘The Message’. If you are a sincere seeker after truth, read the words of Jesus. Look at the life of Jesus, and then tell me that He doesn’t ‘ring’ true. I read a book by a seasoned missionary/Bible teacher, in which he said that, in his experience, it is rare for an adult to take a serious look at Jesus and not be converted. Here is ultimate reality in human form.

Throughout this chapter we have seen the majesty of Christ. He is the one being hounded, arrested and abused, yet there is no doubt that He is in control and that God’s overall plan is unfolding. Prophecy is being fulfilled. Although He seems to be the one on trial, it is in fact Pilate and His other Jewish accusers who are in the dock. Here is a King of a different kind (36;see 2 Corinthians 10:4) – a King who wasn’t just ”born” but who came ”into the world” (37). He is pre-existent. He has always been, the eternal Son of God. But at a certain point in time He stepped into history. He is a King like no other, and He has left huge ‘footprints’ on the shores of time.

However, we can reject the reign of this King. That is what happened then (39, 40). It is still happening today. Many people now will opt for ”Barabbas” over Jesus. They choose another who, they imagine, will be the easier option; more comfortable to live with. They do this even though it may seem to be an obviously damaging choice. In the rejection of our true King – the One for whose reign we were created – we are self-condemned (John 3:18). Barabbas is also a ‘type’ of the human race. He was guilty. He should have died. But the innocent Jesus died in his place (38-40). This is the heart of the gospel.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord Jesus for dying in the place of this rebel. I look at Barabbas and I see myself.

Daily Bible thoughts 1266: Monday 7th November 2016: John 18:28-32: True to life.

John 18:28-32: True to life.(please click for today’s passage)

There is a story, probably apocryphal, about a preacher who wrote a note to self at a particular point in the margin of his manuscript. It said, ‘Argument weak; shout louder!’

There is something so true to life as we know it in this reading. When Pilate asked the Jewish leaders what charge they were bringing against Jesus, they didn’t answer his question. Instead they bridled; they got prickly. ”If he were not a criminal…we would not have handed him over to you” (30). Their argument was flimsy (in fact they didn’t have a leg to stand on), so they ratcheted up the volume. Doesn’t this resonate with what we know of life? Maybe in conversation with someone you expose the weakness of their position. But instead of conceding the point; rather than proving teachable, they get angry instead and come out fighting. By trying to shout louder than anyone else they fight to bolster their untenable position.

But Pilate’s further words revealed what was truly going on (31, 32). They weren’t interested in truth. They didn’t want to be bothered with the facts. They just wanted Jesus dead. The Jews did not have the power of the death penalty, so they needed the rubber stamp from Rome.

The gospel account emphasises the point that Pilate knew he was punishing an innocent man (29, 38). Jesus was sacrificed to the malice of His enemies and the expediency of the Roman governor. Whatever truth was, Pilate was not sufficiently concerned about it to lose his job.

Yet even against such a dark back drop the truth shines out that God is in control (32). He always is. So shout as loudly as you wish. You will never get rid of Christ. Even when you think you’ve succeeded, you will find that He is back come the third day!

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