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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Month

March 2020

John 19:7-16: ”Finally…”

John 19:7-16: ”Finally…”

“7 The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’11 Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.15 But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” NIV

”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.

John 19:1-6: What fear can do.

John 19:1-6: What fear can do.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’ NIV

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.

John 18:33-40: The truth about Jesus.

John 18:33-40: The truth about Jesus.

“33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’34 ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’35 ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’36 Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’38 ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’40 They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.” NIV

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.

John 18:28-32: True to life.

John 18:28-32: True to life

“28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’30 ‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’31 Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. 32 This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.”

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!

John 18:28: Hypocrisy.

John 18:28: Hypocrisy.

“28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.” NIV

We can easily be blind to the glaring hypocrisy in our lives. Others may be able to see most clearly what we can’t. As I read this verse today, the blatant hypocrisy of ”the Jews” slaps me about the face. I can’t miss it. But I may yet fail to see the ways in which I’m playing a game.

Basically, the Jewish people wanted to be religious. They wanted to keep the religious rules and remain part of the religious club. They were happy to settle for religion without transformation. So long as they could have the benefits of their faith, they were content to do without repentance and heart change. They were truly concerned, in their ‘washing up’ exercise, to clean the outside of the cup but leave the inside filthy. It was okay in their thinking to kill Jesus, but not to enter Pilate’s palace. Hypocrisy can take us to some tragic, sad and ridiculous places.

To paraphrase Burns, ‘O would that God the gift would give us, to see ourselves as He sees us.’

PRAYER: I recognise that I can be like this. I want to be part of the church, and break bread with brothers and sisters; I desire to share in fellowship. But I don’t really want to be challenged, and I don’t want to change. I want to have my cake and eat it. I want to keep my God and my sin at the same time. From such corrupt and flawed thinking deliver me dear Lord, that my hypocrisy might not bring your Name into disrepute.

John 18:12-27: It’s cold outside!

John 18:12-27: It’s cold outside!

“12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant-girl on duty there and brought Peter in.17 ‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ she asked Peter.He replied, ‘I am not.’18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood round a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.20 ‘I have spoken openly to the world,’ Jesus replied. ‘I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.’22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials near by slapped him in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded.23 ‘If I said something wrong,’ Jesus replied, ‘testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’ 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, ‘You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?’ He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?’ 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a cock began to crow.” NIV

In this touching story, with its many details, a human picture is painted of people huddled around a fire for warmth on a cold night (18). Of course, it was cold in more ways than one. Jesus was treated frostily by callous people who were just determined to nail Him.

I was thinking that this world has a ‘fire’ and it offers ‘warmth’ amid the chill of our lives. It not only offers it; it does give off a certain ‘heat’. I am certainly not denying that the world can supply a form of pleasure. But it is hollow. It is empty. It doesn’t satisfy and it doesn’t last. It may warm you for a moment, and then you will realise you are cold again.

It is no place for a disciple of Christ – to be by the world’s fire. And you may be more likely to deny your Lord there.

Thought: are you ready to be questioned about your relationship to Jesus this week? Peter later wrote: ”Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Was he remembering his experience in the courtyard, I wonder?

Prayer: Lord help me to be ‘ever ready’ to say that I’m one of your band of followers.

John 18:1-11: Who’s in charge around here?

John 18:1-11: Who’s in charge around here?

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am he,’ Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.Again he asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they said.Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.’This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: ‘I have not lost one of those you gave me.’10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)11 Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’NIV 

At one level, you could say that Jesus is the victim here. The plot hatched against him, aided and abetted by Judas, begins to unfold. But it doesn’t FEEL like Jesus is the victim. He is presented as the Victor (4-6). The Christ we see in these words is a commanding figure. He is portrayed as in control. He’s the One in charge, even as He is arrested. He appears as a majestic figure, inspiring awe and fear. Clearly there was no lasting change in Jesus’ assailants. At least, the text gives no good reason to think that there was. They quickly recovered their composure and got on with the task in hand. But let’s not lose our grip on this great truth that even when it looks like the opposite, Jesus is Sovereign. He is always in charge around here.

Just another thought. It’s good to have a familiar meeting place with the Lord (2). It can be indoors. It may be outdoors. Do you have a ‘garden’ where you regularly meet with Christ? Although it’s important to meet with Jesus alone, don’t neglect meeting with Him together with other disciples (Hebrews 10:25). Such meetings are precious and lie at the heart of what it means to be the church. You don’t have to have a building. You don’t even need to have large numbers. Two or three will do, so long as you come together in Jesus’ Name (Matthew 18:20).

John 17: 20-26: On Jesus’ prayer list.

John 17: 20-26: On Jesus’ prayer list.

“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory,the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” NIV

It is an incredible thought, is it not, that just before He died on the cross, Jesus prayed for all those who would come to believe through the preaching of the first disciples (20)? This includes you and me. The apostles ‘set the ball rolling’ in terms of announcing the good news; it eventually reached us, and we responded in repentance and faith.

You can’t read this prayer without seeing that, for Jesus, the unity of His followers was very important. It was on His prayer agenda for His first disciples (11), and it was very much on His heart for we believers living in later generations (21, 22 and 23). Jesus saw that the unity among His people should reflect the unity in the Godhead, and it is enabled by our relationship with the Godhead. It is an expression of God’s own love which is planted within us. We can love each other like the members of the Trinity when God sheds His love abroad in our hearts. Furthermore, this unity carries evangelistic clout. As we read in ‘The Message’, it gives ”the godless world evidence”. Church historians tell us how the ancient world was so impacted by the witness of the early church, it caused them to exclaim, ”See how these Christians love one another!”

Every Christian must surely take to heart the words of Jesus in this great prayer. If He cared so much for the unity of the church, how can we care less? Let’s join Him in this prayer for ”complete unity” (23), at the same time doing all we can to ”maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Work at mending fences and preparing broken bridges. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger and thereby give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Be an agent of reconciliation. And look beyond the borders of your own local church and denomination. Seek to have unified relationships with all who truly know and love Jesus. Go as far as you can, without compromising the truth. Some Christians are strong on love, but can be doctrinally woolly; others are strong on truth, but seem hard and even aggressive. We actually need to be strong on both, for finally there can only be real unity in the truth.

PRAYER: Lord, I need to ask your forgiveness for not caring enough about the unity of your church, and for not always living in a way that will promote peace and harmony. I repent, asking for mercy, and that you will make me a ”channel of your peace”.

John 17: 6-19: The Lord’s Prayer.

John 17: 6-19: The Lord’s Prayer.

“6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me,for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of  your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by  that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” NIV

Again, we are reminded that the life of discipleship begins with the action of sovereign grace (6-8). God takes the initiative.

It could be said that this chapter also contains ‘the Lord’s prayer’. In today’s verses we overhear Jesus’ prayer for the 11 (as they now were: verse 12b). It provides an insight into his heart; we get to feel His pulse, and this can surely helps us to know how to pray for fellow-Christ followers.

He prayed for:

PROTECTION

Protection by the Name of Jesus (11, 12). The Name stands for all that He really and truly is. It’s more than a label. The Name ‘Jesus’ means ‘Saviour’, ‘Deliverer’, ‘Rescuer’.

Jesus prayed for protection:

 because they were ”still in the world” (11), and the world is a dangerous place for disciples of Christ (14). We are ‘in’ it, but not ‘of’ it (16). It is the Word of God that makes the difference. Life lived according to Christ’s Word marks us out as different. We become travellers in an opposite direction. It puts us on a collision course with the  current, evil world system: ”I gave them your word; the godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn’t join the world’s ways, Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways…They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world.” The Message. The world hates and persecutes such people;

from the devil (15). As in the other Lord’s Prayer, He prays for deliverance from the evil one. He does not ask for their removal from the world. They are sent on a mission into it, as He was (18). He just asks for their protection from Satan;

for unity (11b). How insightful was this prayer of our Lord. He knew that relationships among disciples would always be under threat from the evil one, and He prayed for protection in this area.

JOY (13)

It was obviously going to be a difficult life for Jesus’ disciples. He was only too aware of the fact. But He wanted them to experience the joy He Himself had in the face of the trials, the temptations, the onslaught of evil.

SANCTIFICATION (17)

The Word of God may get us persecuted, as we have seen. But it also brings purity into our lives. It is God’s main way of shaping, forming His people into the image of Christ. So let’s give ourselves to reading, studying, knowing and living the Book of God.

”Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).

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