February 28th  PEOPLE JESUS MET SAUL – His Conversion  

 

But I am whatever I am because of God’s unearned favor, and the favor He showed me was not for nothing [i.e., Paul made the most of his conversion by being extra diligent in his service to God]. But I worked harder than all the other apostles, yet it was not I, but God’s favor on me [that accomplished it]. 1 Corinthians 15:10, An Understandable Version

Profile: He was, religiously, a strict Jew who studied under Gamaliel to become a leading Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin; culturally, Greek in thinking, being from Tarsus; in citizenship, he benefitted from Roman citizenship from birth. He became the ‘pioneer persecutor’ of Christians. On his way to Damascus to capture Christians, he personally met the resurrected Christ who turned his life upside down. Some years later Barnabas found Paul and brought him to Antioch for a year. From there they were sent on a missionary journey, the first of three Paul would take across the Roman empire. Much of his work and writings centered on salvation being only through Christ and not based on one’s religiosity, law-keeping, or works. Paul worked hard to convince the Jews that Gentiles were acceptable to God, but even more time convincing the Gentiles of that fact.

Lessons:

  • Should you await a sudden “Damascus experience”? This direct personal contact between Saul and Jesus was not just a conversion of a man, it was the creation of an apostle – apostles needed to have met Christ (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor 15:1-11).
  • Through Paul, God taught that forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace received – not by our arduous obedience, but through faith in Christ.
  • God put Paul’s background, training, abilities and even his weaknesses to good use for the furtherance of the gospel. Invite God to work especially through your weaknesses so that He receives the glory.

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Grace turns calamity into even greater blessing.

February 27th  PEOPLE JESUS MET — THOMAS – Benefit of the Doubt

 

 Jesus said to him. “Happy are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” …  But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, and that in that faith you may have life as his disciples.  John 20:29-30, J.B. Phillips New Testament

Profile: This apostle of Jesus was called “The Twin,” or Didymus. We see evidence of his devotion to Christ on the occasion when Jesus proposed going to Judea, a danger zone, to raise Lazarus. It was only Thomas who boldly declared to the fearful others: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:7-8,16) Later, Thomas showed a doubting attitude in response to Jesus’ comment about going away to prepare a place for the apostles, saying: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?” (Joh 14:2-6) Similarly, after hearing about Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas stated: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails … and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.” Eight days later Thomas had the opportunity to do this. He became convinced and exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” Christ replied “Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.” (John 20:24-29)

Lessons:

  • Do you feel you need more evidence before believing? Prayerfully investigate for yourself. If this is done in honesty, Jesus will reveal himself with clarity.
  • What would make you believe? A supernatural sight or a dream? After the story of Thomas, John’s Gospel continues, “these things are written that you may believe” (John 20:31). The blessed way to encounter the risen Jesus is not by having a one-off apparition but by reading the Scriptures expectantly at any time of the day or night.

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Doubts – evidence of your hard heart or your searching mind?

February 26th PEOPLE JESUS MET — CLEOPAS – Eyes opened!   

 

They said to one another, ‘Did we not feel our hearts on fire as he talked with us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’ Luke 24:32, New English Bible

Profile: It was Sunday, resurrection day, Cleopas and his unnamed companion were walking to Emmaus, seven miles west of Jerusalem. Earlier they had heard the unbelievable news that Jesus’ body had gone. The risen Lord appeared as a stranger and asked them what they were discussing. After their explanation, he says, “How foolish and slow you are to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (vs 25) As he explained references in all Scripture about Christ, the fire of their faith that had died out on Golgotha came back to life and burned with hope. It was when the stranger broke bread with them that they realized his identity. Jesus vanished and they returned to Jerusalem to tell the others.

Lessons:

  • Are you Cleopas’ unnamed companion? Has Jesus opened up your eyes to the true interpretation of Scripture: Jesus Himself? You now read the Bible using ‘Jesus’ glasses’: Genesis and see Jesus as the Seed; Exodus as the Deliverer; Leviticus as Sacrificial Substitute; Numbers as the Rock; Deuteronomy as the Righteous One …
  • Help fellow travellers on Emmaus Road to see Christ through the Scriptures, to be set on fire for Him, so that they may come to know him personally (John 5:39; 1 Pet 1:10-12; Rev 19:10).
  • Prayer: ‘Please Lord open my mind by Holy Spirit to see you in all of scripture. Lead me thereby to true repentance and faith in you as my Lord and Saviour – to know that you have given your life for me, to live your life in me and through me to the glory of the Father.’

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           Do you see Jesus in all of Scripture?

February 25th  PEOPLE JESUS MET–THE DYING THIEF – Saved by Grace  

 

Jesus said to him, ‘Verily I say to thee, To-day with me thou shalt be in the paradise.’  Luke 23:43, Young’s Literal Translation

Profile: Both condemned criminals along with the watching elders, priests, soldiers, and crowds mocked Jesus. One criminal hurled insults at him, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!” But then the other rebuked him saying, “Don’t you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”. (vs 32-42) What joy those words must have brought to Jesus who responded with the assurance of being alongside the robber in paradise. We cannot be certain what brought this change of heart. Was it seeing Jesus not reacting in anger to insults, seeing the title “King of the Jews” above Jesus’ head, or hearing his prayer “Father, forgive them”?  He realised Jesus was King of a Kingdom beyond death.

Lessons:

  • The evildoer was saved wholly by grace. He did not deserve it, and he could do nothing to earn it – no baptism, no religious observances, no good works, no period of holy living. We are saved the same way, wholly by grace.
  • Baptism invariably follows believing, but it is Christ’s blood that saves, not our water immersion (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).
  • See the love of the Father. He did not let His Son die alone. The Father gave him a believer to be with him. A believer with mighty faith.

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           It is never too late to repent, and to announce your faith in Jesus!

 

February 24th   PEOPLE JESUS MET — PILATE – The Compromiser  

After that Pilate began to seek to release him, but the Jews shouted out. “If you release this man you are no friend of the Emperor.  Any man who makes himself out to be king is a rebel against the Emperor.”  John 19:12, Montgomery New Testament

Profile: Roman governor of Judea for a turbulent ten years. He always had a stormy relationship with the Jews. In 33 C.E. Pilate found a crowd at his door demanding Jesus’ death. After questioning him a number of times, Pilate seven times declared Jesus innocent of the charges against him –  subversion, advocating non-payment of taxes, and was saying he was a king, thus rivalling Caesar. Eventually he succumbed to pressure from the Jews who said, “If you release this man, you aren’t Caesar’s friend! Everyone who makes himself a king speaks against Caesar!” Motivated by a strong sense of self-preservation Pilate went against what he knew was right. In desperation to keep his position he consented to the death penalty. He attempted to relieve his conscience by symbolically washing his hands and placing the sign above Jesus saying “This is Jesus, The King of the Jews.”

Lessons:

  • In many ways it was not Jesus on trial but Pilate and the accusers. Pilate washed his hands of the truth; Herod treated Jesus like an idle curiosity; Pilate’s wife regarded Jesus with fear and superstition and the angry mob rejected Jesus because He wasn’t the Messiah-King they wanted. While the trials of Jesus adjourned almost 2,000 years ago, each of us must render a verdict about Him in our own hearts. Only today, it is not His fate we decide; it is our own.
  • Does fear of man or consequences to our reputation lead us to compromise our open stand for Christ and who he is?

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We have no King but Jesus!

  February 23rd  PEOPLE JESUS MET — CAIAPHAS – A Religious Mis-leader  

 You have no idea what you are talking about; what you don’t understand is that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people so the whole nation won’t perish.  John 11:49-50, The Voice

 

Profile: Caiaphas, a Sadducee, was the high priest for 18 years, as well as a member of the Sanhedrin Council, the central ‘governing body’ of the Jewish nation. He gained great wealth through Temple trading. To maintain the status quo in cooperation with Rome, he became a ringleader in the plot to do away with Jesus – even prophesying his death for the sake of the nation. John adds a comment in his Gospel that unknowingly, the illegal and evil plot that Caiaphas proposed would become prophetically true – Jesus would die to gather the children of God! (John 11:49-53; 18:12-14). He was there presiding over the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus, where he ripped his garments and said: “He has blasphemed!”; he was there asking for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus; he was there shouting: “We have no king but Caesar”; he was also there protesting the sign over Jesus’ head: “The King of the Jews”. Caiaphas’ role as a chief persecutor of Christians continued after Jesus death, including the killing of Stephen and the arming of Saul with letters for his murderous campaign (Acts 4:5-7; 5:17-42).

 Lessons:

  • He came from a strongly religious family and invested his life fully into his religion and its responsibilities. Sadly, he closed his mind to the real Christ and the clear evidence of the resurrection.
  • God can use even the twisted motives and actions of enemies to bring about His will.
  • We cannot cover over selfish motives with a religious veneer of spirituality before God. Be open before Him.

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 The High Priest and Prophet who missed “the forest for the trees” – John 5:39-40 MSG

February 22nd   PEOPLE JESUS MET — JUDAS – The Masquerader  

 

 Then a diabolical plan came into the mind of Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve. Luke 22:3, J.B. Phillips New Testament

 

Profile: He was the only one of the 12 that was a non-Galilean – from the same royal tribe from which Jesus descended. He was entrusted with caring for the finances but became inexcusably corrupt. A year before the crucifixion, Jesus said: “One of you is a slanderer [Gr, di·aʹbo·los].” (John 6:64-71; Ps 41:9). Five days before Jesus’ death, when Mary anointed Jesus with very expensive oil, Judas strongly objected because he was a greedy, practising thief. ​Nisan 12, he went to the chief priests to see how much they would pay him to betray Jesus. Thirty pieces of silver the price of a slave was offered (Zech 11:12-13). Hypocritical Judas allowed Jesus to wash his feet at the Passover, then left to betray him. Later that night in Gethsemane, Judas “kissed him very tenderly,” thus identifying Jesus.  In the morning he attempted to return the money, but the chief priests refused. Judas threw the money into the temple and hanged himself.

Lessons:

  • Judas was actively involved in ministry: chosen as treasurer over experienced Matthew, a preacher with the gift of healing and authority over demons (Luke 9:1-2). Active involvement in ministry is not, in itself, a guarantee of spiritual life.
  • We may grieve over someone we love and we taught but who has abandoned their faith. Judas spent 3 years in the company of Jesus himself yet turned away from him. Satan made a relentless assault on Judas’s soul; greed was the opening (Luke 22:2-4; John 13:2,27).

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Never prize anything higher than Jesus.

February 21st  PEOPLE JESUS MET –THE WIDOW AT THE TREASURY – Exploitation?  

 

But in their greed they rob widows of their houses …  A widow, obviously poor, came up and dropped two copper coins in one of the boxes.  Luke 20:46-21:5, The Voice

 

Profile: Jesus had just referred to pretentious law-loving scribes who, “love to parade around in their clergy robes so that they are honoured wherever they go”, adding that they would target “widows for an offering, cheating them out of their very livelihood.” (Luke 20:46-47 Passion) Right on cue, as if it had been pre-ordained as an object lesson of such exploitation, a poor widow entered the inner temple court and dropped in two copper coins. “Those two coins might not look like much,” said Jesus, “but that was her grocery money. She needed that to live, yet she gave it away. Now she has nothing left.” Jesus was not praising the widow’s undeniable generosity as much as rebuking the rich who steal from the poor. Jesus then continued to discuss the terrible future of the luxurious temple which, in part, was supported by such exploitation (Luke 21:5-6).

Lessons:

  • We could ask, according to the Law shouldn’t the giving have been reversed – the rich scribes providing materially for this poor widow? (Deut 15:11; Isa 10:2)
  • We see similar practices today when a religion acts more like a business corporation in using sneaky strategies to extract money, often from the poor. Constant strong appeals begging for financial support, some even with veiled threats: “If you don’t tithe, you’re robbing God.”
  • Jesus was watching her devotion, dependency, and her faith. How God dealt with her beyond her gift we do not know, and only in heaven may this be revealed.

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Pure religion relieves the orphans and widows in their affliction. (James 1:27 KJV)

February 20th  PEOPLE JESUS MET– ZACCHAEUS – Came up Short  

 

The Son of Man has come to ‘search for those who are lost’ and to save them.  Luke 19:10, Twentieth Century New Testament

Profile: Zacchaeus’ name means “righteous one”, but this chief supervisor of other tax-collectors was far from living up to his name. He would be the most hated little man in the district, risking being kicked and bruised when he mingled with the crowd. He climbed a tree to see Jesus who was on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus looked up into the tree, called “Zacchaeus” by his name and invited himself into his home. He accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour and as a consequence willingly gave to the poor and reimbursed four-fold anyone he had stolen from. This was far more than the Law demanded (Exod 22:1,4,7). He was a man lost to God whom Jesus “came to seek and save” (Luke 19:10).

Lessons:

  • In a spiritual sense we are all “too short” for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) No one measures up to God’s high standards. Like Zacchaeus, we are saved because of our response by faith to Christ’s gracious word to us – not because of any good works.
  • God first drew him to Jesus (John 6:44). He and we cannot hide from Jesus and he always knows exactly where we are and our name.
  • “Zacchaeus, hurry …” the only time Jesus is reported to have used this word. (Luke 19:15) When it comes to our salvation, there is no time to waste. He didn’t wait for Zacchaeus to get cleaned up and get his act together.

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              Jesus mission: to seek and save the lost.

 

 

February 19th PEOPLE JESUS MET –MARTHA – Distracted  

 

“Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:41-42, The Message

Profile: On all three occasions where Mary is mentioned in the Gospels, we find her ‘at the feet’ of the Lord (Luke 10:39; John 11:32; 12:3). On one occasion Martha and her sister Mary were serving guests in their home in Bethany, when Mary left off helping to listen to Jesus. Martha, though, was “distracted” by all the work, so complained about her sister. Jesus tenderly replied “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part.” The Lord’s preference is to serve and feed us rather than for us to run ragged constantly serving him. Prioritising on him as the “one thing” (Luke 18:22; Php 3:13) brings perspective and peace. Months later, in the account of the raising of Lazarus, it is Martha who went out to meet Jesus, whilst Mary stayed indoors.

Lessons:

  • Martha was open and honest enough to express her doubts to Jesus.
  • Jesus did not blame Martha for being concerned about household chores. He was only asking her to set priorities.
  • It is true that the Bible says, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When it comes to man, that is true. But when it comes to God, He wants to give and we need to receive. In fact, unless we learn how to receive from God, we will have nothing to give to man. Like Martha, we tend to reverse the roles.

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              Jesus is the best dish in the house!