Walk To Emmaus

 

The men who had been guarding Jesus’ tomb reported the disappearance of Jesus’ body (239). They were bribed by the Jewish religious leaders to say that Jesus’ body had been stolen by some of his students.

Later that same day, two of Jesus’ students were walking to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.

As they talked of all the things that had happened in recent days, Jesus drew near and walked along with them, but they didn’t recognize him. When Jesus greeted them & asked what they were discussing, they stopped & stood still, with sad faces. One of them, named Cleopas, asked Jesus, “Are you the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know about the things that have been happening there these last few days?” “What things?” Jesus asked.

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“The things that happened to Jesus of Nazareth,” they both answered.  “This man was a prophet; he was powerful in everything he said & did. Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified. And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free from the Roman occupation.

“Besides all that, this is now the third day since his execution. Some of the women of our group went to his tomb at dawn, but they couldn’t find his body. One came back saying she had seen Jesus, alive! Then Peter & John went to the tomb and found it empty, exactly as the woman had said!  But they didn’t see Jesus . . .”

Then Jesus said to them, “How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things before entering into glory?” Jesus went on to explain to them what was written about him in all the inspired scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.

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As they came near to Emmaus, Jesus seemed intent on going farther, but the two men said, “Stay with us; the day is almost over & it’s getting dark.” So Jesus went in to stay with them.

As they sat down to eat, Jesus took the bread & asked the blessing; then he broke the bread & gave it to them.

Suddenly their eyes were opened & they recognized him!  But then Jesus left them . . .

Jesus, please help us to love recognizing You in the simplest things.

(239) Matthew 28:11-15, Mark 16:12, Luke 24:13-31

Jurisdiction

 

The entire assembly of Jewish religious leaders then took Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor of Israel (227).

They made this false accusation: “This man has been telling our people not to pay taxes to the Roman emperor.  He claims that he’s the Messiah, the new king of Israel!”

Pilate turned to Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “It is as you say,” answered Jesus.

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Then Pilate, sensing no threat from Jesus, said to the chief priests & the crowd which had gathered, “I find no reason to condemn this man.” But the chief priests kept pressing the issue, “His teaching provokes people to riot, first in Galilee & now here!”

When Pilate learned that Jesus was from the region of Galilee, he sent him to Herod. Supported by the Roman occupiers, Herod was the ruler of Galilee; he was also in the city of Jerusalem at that time.

Herod had long wanted to meet Jesus because he hoped to see him do some sort of magical miracle.  Herod asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus made no answer.

The chief priests and the teachers of the law made strong accusations against Jesus, but Jesus made no answer.

Finally, Herod & his soldiers made fun of Jesus & mocked him.  They even put a fine purple robe on Jesus before sending him back to Pilate.

So that day Herod & Pilate, who had previously been rivals, became friends.

LORD, please help us to love keeping our eyes on You, in everything we go through.

(227) Luke 23:1-12

When The King Comes Back

 

Although many people were puzzling over the incident with Zacchaeus, they still followed Jesus as he walked along, because they expected Jesus to overthrow the Roman occupation forces & re-establish Israel as the independent kingdom of God on earth.  Sensing this, Jesus continued teaching with another story (181).

Jesus began, “Once there was a nobleman who was going to a country far away to be installed as king of his homeland, after which he planned to return there to rule. Before he left, he called in ten servants, gave them each a gold coin, and told them, ‘See what you can earn with this while I am gone.’

“Many people in his homeland hated this particular nobleman, so they lobbied against his being installed as their king.  But their efforts didn’t succeed.  The nobleman was installed as king, after which he returned to his homeland.

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“At once he ordered his ten servants to appear before him, in order to find out what they had accomplished for his kingdom. The first one came and said, ‘Sir, I have earned ten gold coins with the one you gave me.’  ‘Well done,’ said the newly-installed king; ‘you’re a good servant. Since you were faithful in these small matters, I am appointing you ruler of ten cities in my kingdom.’

“Then the second servant came and said, ‘Sir, I have earned five gold coins with the one you gave me.’   Again the king was pleased, so he told his servant, ‘You will be in charge of five cities in my kingdom.’

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“But a third servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it hidden, because I was afraid of losing it.’ Then the king said to him angrily, ‘You should at least have put my money in the bank, so it could have earned a little interest for my kingdom!’

“Then the king ordered his officials: ‘Take the gold coin away from him and give it to the servant who has ten coins.’ Some of the officials questioned this: ‘Sir, he already has ten coins.’

“The king responded with three decrees:  ‘Every servant of mine, who works faithfully to increase my kingdom, will be given more responsibility in my kingdom.

‘And every servant of mine, who does nothing to increase my kingdom, will lose whatever responsibility he has had.

‘But all those people, who resisted my even becoming king, must now forfeit their lives & be removed from my presence forever.'”

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LORD, please help us to love serving You as our only King.

(181) Luke 19:11-27

Jude’s Letter To Christian Friends

The executions of Peter & Paul in Rome were part of a pattern of persecution of Christians that continued for some time throughout the Roman Empire.

In Israel, certain Jews rebelled against the cruel & heavy-handed rule of their Roman overlords.  But ultimately, their rebellion was crushed & the city of Jerusalem was obliterated by Roman armies.  This took place about 35 years after Jesus had returned to heaven, in partial fulfillment of things he had taught his witnesses about the end times.

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During this period of tumult, Jude wrote a letter to scattered Christian friends (338).  The inspired scriptures suggest that Jude was a close relative of Jesus, like James.  And like James & many other people, Jude didn’t realize that Jesus was the son of God until after he had been raised from death.  But then, Jude believed & became a strong witness for Jesus.

Jude’s short letter, like Peter’s last letter, contains strong warnings against false teachers, and lists some of their tactics for upsetting God’s work among believers.

 

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Jude emphasizes that the power to overcome the lies of false teachers is found only in Jesus.  He encourages believers to persevere in faith & prayer, insisting this is the key to serving other believers who are being led astray by false teachers.

  • To those beginning to doubt God’s truth, we are to show mercy as we  encourage their faith.
  • To those who have actually begun to embrace false teachings, we are to intervene more forcefully — contending for the faith & demolishing  the lies of false teachers.

Jude admonished his friends to respect the power of evil, even while hating the power of evil.

But he concluded by emphasizing the power of Jesus to bring faithful believers through all the evils of this world & ultimately home to heaven.

God, please help me to love contending for the faith.

(338) The letter is known simply as Jude.

Peter Insists On Holiness

Peter’s second & last letter to Christian friends was written at the end of his life, from Rome (336).  In this short letter, Peter gave Christians practical advice for our daily walk with Jesus, another warning against false teachers, and a reminder of the promises we have in Jesus.

Peter wrote this letter because his love for God inspired him to love us.  His prayer is that our love for God will inspire us to love other people.

God wants us to share in his divine nature, Peter said.  Jesus has made this possible, by his sacrificial death & by his resurrection.  The Holy Spirit is the divine nature of God, the living heart of the body of Christ.  But in order to grow in the divine nature of God, individual members of the body of Christ must be diligent in several things.  In other words, we have to cooperate with the leading of the Holy Spirit as we grow.

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  • Faith is first. We receive God’s grace by faith, not because of anything we are or do.  Faith is how our life in God begins.  Then, God expects us to grow in a variety of ways.
  • We are expected to pursue goodness (or virtue or purity), which is best done in daily fellowship with other members of the body.
  • We are expected to pursue knowledge of God’s nature & of his ways, which requires daily meditation on God’s word.
  • We are expected to pursue self-control (letting our spirit rule our flesh), which requires spending daily private time with God in prayer.
  • We are expected to pursue perseverance (or patience or longsuffering or endurance or steadfastness), by daily depending on God to work all things for our good at just the right time.
  • We are expected to pursue godliness, by daily letting God have his way in our lives. He’s the master; we’re his servants.
  • We are also expected to pursue kindness toward other believers every day —  especially toward newer believers.
  • The culmination of all this is love – both for other believers & for those who remain separated from God.

As we put on these Christ-like characteristics, we bear fruit for God’s kingdom; otherwise, we remain barren.

False teachers were not only barren but also dangerous.  They tended in various ways to keep the people’s focus on themselves, instead of on Jesus.  They were more interested in their own material welfare, than in the spiritual welfare of the believers in their care.  Peter warns the members of the body of Christ to be aware of the ever-present danger posed by false teachers.

By contrast, Jesus died for our spiritual welfare — in this life & the next.  He has promised that our earthly lives will ultimately give way to life in heaven, our ultimate welfare.  Until that day, our part is to live holy lives, dedicated to God, here on earth.

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God, please help me to love holiness in this life.

(336) 2 Peter 1-3

Servants Of Jesus: Peter & Mark

From various clues in the inspired scriptures, we can piece together certain key events in the life of Mark:

  • John Mark was a son of Mary, a woman whose home in Jerusalem was a meeting place for the followers of Jesus (Acts 12).
  • Mark went with Paul & Barnabas on their first mission trip to Turkish Antioch (Acts 12), but he later turned back to Jerusalem (Acts 13).

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  • Mark wanted to go with Paul on his second mission trip, but Paul refused. So Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15).
  • About 10 years later, Mark was reunited with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4 & Philemon).
  • As he neared the end of his life, Paul wanted Mark to return to him in Rome (2 Timothy 4).

At about this time, perhaps 35 years after Jesus had returned to heaven from earth, Peter was also in Rome — awaiting execution for the crime of being a Christian.  (Several early church leaders record that Peter was singled out for execution because of his leadership role in the church at Rome.)

Possibly, it was at this time that the Holy Spirit inspired Peter & Mark to record their testimony of the good news of Jesus, which we know as the Gospel of Mark (335).

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However, many contemporary Bible students date Mark’s gospel narrative much earlier & view it as the basis for subsequent gospel narratives.

Precise dating of the document is difficult, but it remains as a significant means by which the Holy Spirit helped Peter & Mark do their jobs for Jesus.

God, please help me to love simply telling Your story.

(335) This testimony is incorporated into previous posts on this site.

Paul’s Later Life & Ministry

Our best understanding is that Paul was released from minimum security confinement in Rome after about 2 years, when he was approaching 60 years of age.  Clues in his letters suggest that the Holy Spirit may have led Paul to travel to the following places during the next few years — to strengthen existing churches & perhaps to plant more churches.

  • In Romans, Paul twice had mentioned his desire to go to Spain to plant churches there. (It is conceivable that God sent Paul to Spain by means of exile from Rome, just as he had sent Paul to Rome by means of persecution from Jerusalem.)

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  • In Philippians, Paul had mentioned his desire to re-visit that church (northeastern Greece).
  • In Philemon, Paul had mentioned his desire to visit his friend in Colosse (southern Turkey).
  • In Hebrews (if Paul wrote that letter), the writer had mentioned his desire to visit the Jewish Christians to whom he was writing – who perhaps were in Rome (Italy) or Jerusalem (Israel) or Cyrene (North Africa).
  • In his first letter to Timothy, Paul mentioned his desire to visit Ephesus (western Turkey).
  • In his letter to Titus, Paul mentioned his plans to visit Crete (the Greek island) & Nicopolis (probably the Greek city).
  • In his last letter to Timothy, Paul reported on the location of three of their friends; Carpas was in Troas (northwestern Turkey), Erastus was in Corinth (Greece) & Trophimus was in Miletus (southwestern Turkey). So it’s possible that Paul had recently visited all three places.

But since we have nothing like Luke’s detailed record of Paul’s earlier travels, we cannot be certain of Paul’s later travels.

Two of Paul’s letters seem to have been written after he was released from prison in Rome & before he was re-imprisoned a few years later.  Paul wrote these letters to young church leaders.

  • One was written to Timothy in the Turkish city of Ephesus.
  • Another was written to Titus on the Greek island of Crete.

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A second letter would be written to Timothy — after Paul was re-imprisoned in Rome, while he awaited execution there for the crime of being a slave of Jesus Christ.

God, please help me to love having no place to lay my head.