November 6 — Ludicrous Leaders — Luke 20-22. Jesus’ religious opponents were constantly intent on out-smarting Him but they were always soundly silenced. They were stopped with Jesus’ question about John’s baptism (20:8); they “became silent” after their question about paying taxes (20:26); after their challenge about the resurrection, “they no longer dared to ask him any question” (20:40). They were at an infinite disadvantage, not only in that they were arguing with Omniscience, but because they were coming from a sinful basis. One way this was shown was in their being hypocritical: they “pretended to be sincere” (20:20). They were also proud and selfish, seeking “places of honor” (20:46). Thirdly, they were cowards: “they feared the people” (22:2). How is that for being religious leaders?! Although we also sometimes struggle with pretending, with pride, and with fear; we have not given in to those things, nor are we bent on opposing Jesus.
November 7 — Risen Indeed! — Luke 23-24. I was struck in our reading today by the loving, tender heart of Jesus. Even surrounding the monumental sacrifice of Himself for us, He showed concern for others. After being severely beaten and while struggling on His way to Golgotha, He showed concern for the “Daughters of Jerusalem” (23:28), many of whom would go through the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He showed concern for those who nailed Him to the cross by praying, “Father, forgive them” (23:34). After one of the thieves’ positive response, He promised, “today you will be with me in paradise” (23:43). He also showed concern by drawing near (24:15) to the sorrowful travelers on the road to Emmaus and “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:27). His concern was shown again when He appeared to the huddled disciples, declaring “Peace to you!” (24:36). From His suffering body to His resurrected one, He reached out in loving concern for others. Take this blessing with you today: “Peace to you!”
November 8 — John — John 1-3. The Gospel of John was written by the humbled Apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (21:20), and it was penned much later than the three other Gospels. John includes many acts and teachings of Jesus not contained in the Synoptic Gospels. Although John certainly had access to the books written by Mark, Matthew, and Luke, he repeated very little of their information. The stated purpose of this Gospel is, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Philip may have lacked a lot of knowledge about Jesus when Nathanael (aka Bartholomew) questioned his invitation, so Philip simply asked him to “Come and see” (1:46, emphasis added). Ironically, what immediately convinced Nathanael that Jesus was “the Son of God,” was when Jesus told him that He “saw” him (under the fig tree before Philip invited him). That was evidence of supernatural knowledge! Jesus sees everything in us as well (“he knew all people … he himself knew what was in man”—2:24-25).
November 9 — Worshiping While Reading — John 4-5. Jesus criticized the religious leaders (5:18) because, although they searched the Scriptures, they were thinking “that in them you have eternal life” (5:39). Perhaps they looked at reading the OT as something magical, or maybe mechanical—gaining “points” with God. But Jesus told them that those Scriptures “bear witness about me.” While we are in the process of reading through the rest of the Bible this year, we should remember to look for Jesus in it, not just informing ourselves about what He did and said, but discovering His Person—who He is. Seek a relationship as you read! Worship Him as you read! Jesus said that “the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (4:23). Let us not read mechanically but worshipfully.
November 10 — Spiritual Spectrum — John 6-7. A variety of people’s spiritual condition is shown in these two chapters. First, there were those who were attracted to Jesus by His miracles, and He said they were following Him only “because you ate your fill of the loaves” (6:26). There is some of that attitude today in people who go to church for entertainment or the promise of a better physical or material life. Secondly, there were the works-based people who asked, “What must we do …?” (6:28). Jesus’ response was that the only “work” God requires is, “that you believe” (6:29). Thirdly, there were disappointed people who couldn’t swallow Jesus’ words: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (6:66). They didn’t understand because their hearts were not right with God (“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God”—7:17). Finally, there were the brothers of Jesus who had not yet believed in him (7:5). In our day, we have people who have the post-Pentecost privilege of looking back on all these ignorant and distorted attitudes, being thankful that Jesus promised that “living water” (7:38) and “eternal life” (6:40) for us to enjoy.
November 11 — Who Is He? — John 8-9. If anyone doubted who Jesus was, these two chapters should have cleared it up. Twice Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (8:12, 9:5). He also identified Himself with the eternal “I AM” who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (Ex. 3:14). He said to the Jewish doubters, “before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), and warned them that they would die in their sins “unless you believe that I am he” (8:24). Exactly who was He? Seven times in chapters 8-9, Jesus spoke about “the Father” or “my Father” and claimed that “the Father … sent me” (8:18). Who was His Father? The Jewish leaders seemed confused but Jesus made it very clear to them, saying, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God” (8:42, emphasis added). Also, in 8:54, Jesus equated “my Father” with God. Jesus said there were two reasons for their confusion: “you cannot bear to hear my word” (8:43) and “you are not of God” (8:47). The world around us today is also confused for the same two reasons: They are not connected to God and they cannot bear to hear what His Word says.
November 12 — Glad and Sad — John 10-11. There are more “I am” statements by Jesus in this passage, describing Himself as “the door” (10:7, 9), “the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “the son of God” (10:36), and finally, “the resurrection and the life” (11:25). It is interesting that Jesus intentionally delayed going to Lazarus, telling His disciples that “I am glad that I was not there,” and then stating His reason: “so that you may believe” (11:14). He was glad even though it made Mary and Martha sad. Sometimes God’s purposes allow difficulties for us, like sorrow, in order to accomplish His greater and better plan. Was Jesus unmoved regarding their feelings? No, He even wept with them (11:35). His greater plan was that they “would see the glory of God” (11:40) and believe (11:14). The weekend before I wrote this in the Philippines, I attended a memorial service for a prominent 50-year-old Christian doctor in our city. The following week I spoke at the church where he was one of the elders. Several months ago, they had given me the theme: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving during a time of sorrow? Yes, it can happen because the loving God who allows our sorrow, points us to His glory through our tears.