Week 8 Summaries and Questions of the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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Without question, the Sermon on the Mount is the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus but perhaps the least obeyed. Throughout the centuries untold numbers of people have dissected, analyzed, discussed, taught, and wrote about this magnum opus of Jesus. Yet, its message continues to challenge readers today. It’s the nearest thing to a manifesto that He ever uttered, for it is His own description of what He wanted his followers to be and to do. For the next few weeks we’ll explore this great teaching of our Lord one section at a time. It’s always a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 8 – February 24-28:

Monday – Matt. 5:1-12 (cf. Luke 6:20-26): Without question, the Sermon on the Mount is the best-known teaching of Jesus. Throughout the centuries untold numbers of people have dissected, analyzed, discussed, taught, and wrote about this magnum opus of Jesus. Yet, its message continues to challenge readers today. After the scene is set in vv. 1-2, Jesus begins His discourse with a series of nine Beatitudes (vv. 3-12), a declaration of blessed happiness and joy. The sharply paradoxical character of these statements runs counter to conventional values. Thus, the Beatitudes call on those who would be God’s people to stand out as different from those around them.

The Beatitudes describe the qualities Jesus requires of those who will follow Him. How would your life look different if you lived out these sayings to their fullest?

Tuesday – Matt. 5:13-16 (cf. Luke 14:34-35): Coming out of the Beatitudes Jesus summarizes Christianity and its relationship to the unbelieving world through the elements of salt and light. “You are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). Believers flavor the world in which they live and help prevent its corruption. “You are the light of the world” (v. 14). The world needs the light of the gospel of Jesus, and it is through the disciples that it must be made visible. Ultimately, the disciple whose salt is diluted or whose light is hidden is worthless. Nominal believers who do not live a life of discipleship will be “thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (v. 13); the phrase is intentionally graphic.

How are you “salt” and “light” in your community? List any areas in which your “salt” has lost its taste or your “light” may be hidden. What can you do today to change?

Wednesday – Matt. 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (v. 17). In this manner Jesus begins the second section of His sermon (5:17-48). Here He clarifies that He will neither give a new law nor modify the old, but rather explain the true significance of law and the prophets. Furthermore, Jesus “fulfills” the law by keeping it perfectly and embodying its types and symbols. With strong words, He warns against anyone breaking even the least of the commandments and teaching others to do the same. Lastly, the statement that the righteousness of those who enter the kingdom must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees must have come as a very surprising, if not alarming, piece of news to His audience.

Looking ahead at vv. 21-48, how does Jesus illustrate that one’s righteousness must exceed that of the religious elites of His day, the scribes and Pharisees?

Thursday – Matt. 5:21-26 (Luke 12:57-59): Once Jesus has made it clear that He is not opposing the law but fulfilling it, He shows how the customary practice of the law in His day, as interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees, is inadequate. Jesus uses six varied topics to illustrate the concept of a righteousness which goes beyond the legal correctness of the scribes and Pharisees (see v. 20). Each is presented in the form of a contrast between what the people had heard, “You have heard that it was said…” to Jesus’ more demanding ethic, “But I say…” The principle of vv. 21-22 is that the actual committing of murder is only the outward manifestation of an inward attitude which itself is culpable before God. Angry thoughts and contemptuous words deserve equally severe judgment Jesus declares; indeed, the “the fires of hell” goes beyond the human death penalty which the Old Testament declared for murder.

In what way(s), are Jesus’ words about anger shocking? Why do you think that it’s important to come to terms quickly with those who have “something against you” (v. 23)?

Friday – Matt. 5:27-30: In this second saying, Jesus addresses adultery and lust. His warning against lust challenges many. Of course the Lord is not referring to noticing a person’s beauty, but to imbibing it, meditating on it, harboring a desire for an illicit relationship. This, Jesus says is tantamount to adultery. We should note that Jesus squarely places the blame and responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting. Thus, Jesus declares in a graphic manner that by whatever means necessary, the lust-er should cast off the sin of lust. He doesn’t mean that one literally plucks out an eye or cut off one’s right hand to combat temptation. Rather His point is this, do everything you can to not sin; a partial loss, however painful, is preferable to the total loss of the body (and soul).

Jesus graphically illustrates the importance of dealing with sin in one’s life. What difference might His teaching make in the way that you consider your own personal conduct and decisions?

The Temptation of Jesus


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We all struggle with various temptations. Maybe you’re tempted to cheat, lie, or steal. Maybe your greatest temptation is indifference to those around you. Maybe the siren song of lust and sexual temptations are an allurement for you. Maybe your primary temptation is an angry outburst and an uncontrolled tongue. Maybe pride and a judgmental attitude are your temptation du jour. We could go on and on listing various temptations. Whatever sinful enticements you or I struggle with, the temptation of Jesus gives us an example, the ultimate example, of resisting the devil’s schemes to entrap our souls. Let’s begin by reading Matthew 4:1-11

(1) “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ (4) But he answered, ‘It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

(5) Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple (6) and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” (7) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

(8) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (9) And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (10) Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” (11) Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”

1. His Temptations Were God-Ordained But Not God-Inflicted:

  • v. 1| The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it was Satan who did the tempting.
  • Job 1:6-12| It’s not unlike Job’s experience.
  • James 1:13-15| James reminds us that God does not tempt us.

2. He Was Tempted When He Was Most Susceptible:

  • vv. 1-3| Jesus had been fasting, miraculously, for 40 days. He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually susceptible to Satan’s temptations
  • Matthew 26:40-41| Our Lord reminds the disciples, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is so weak.” Despite our willingness to follow Jesus, Satan will attack us at our weakest point.
  • Matthew 6:13| This informs us on why we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9| If we resist Satan he will flee from us. However, we must not let our guard down because he will look for a “more opportune time” (Luke 4:13) to attack us again.

3. His Experience Was Unique Yet Universal:

  • vv. 3-9| Jesus’ temptations were unique in nature. I doubt any of us have ever been tempted directly by Satan in the same way Jesus was, yet, our Savior’s temptations are universal.
  • 1 John 2:16| All temptations (whether Jesus’ or our own) can be boiled down to lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
  • Hebrews 2:18; 4:15| We can take strength from the fact that our Lord Jesus knows how we are tempted. We can go to Him for grace because His temptation experience was universal in nature.

4. He Resisted Temptations With The Word Of God:

  • vv. 4, 7, 10| Jesus thwarted each temptation by quoting scripture. There’s a model here for us to follow.
  • Ephesians 6:16, 17b| In the whole armor of God passage, we attack evil with “the sword of the spirit, the word of God” but we defend ourselves through the “shield of faith” because we believe God’s word.
  • Romans 10:17| The faith needed to confront Satan with God’s word comes from getting into God’s word.

5. His Temptations Were Tough But Temporary:

  • v. 11| Jesus’ temptations were no doubt tough. So tough, “angels came and were ministering to Him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13| God promises we will not tempted beyond what we can bear. There is always a way of escape.
  • Jams 4:7| If we resist the Devil he will flee from us.
  • Hebrews 1:14| Angels are ministering spirits. Perhaps there a connection here. As angels ministered to Jesus following His temptation, then after we do battle with Satan God will send us heavenly help.

Jesus came in human form. He knows the weight of sin and the heaviness of temptation. He was not shadowboxing with the devil. Our Lord Jesus was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin. We sinners must learn from our Lord and cling to Him, that we might by faith win the victory for His glory and our good.

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Week 7 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 7 – February 17-21:

Monday – Matt. 4:12-17 (Mark 1:14): As Jesus starts His ministry, Matthew first sets the time frame, “when He heard that John had been arrested” (v. 12; cf. Mark 6:14-29 we’ll discuss John’s arrest and death with May 26th’s reading). Then he sets the geographical scene, “leaving Nazareth [Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum by the sea” (v. 13), followed by the theological significance “so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled” (v. 14). Lastly, Matthew summarizes Jesus’ message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 17).

One feature of Matthew’s gospel is that he constantly connects Jesus’ life back to prophecy from the Old Testament (ref. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9). What does Matthew want you, his reader, to see with the references?

Tuesday – John 4:46-54: Nothing can shatter a parent more quickly or more completely than affliction falling upon their child. Regardless of one’s station in life, trouble, sorrow, and death come to us all. Death was knocking at the door of an “official” (literally a noble-man or king’s-man perhaps from Herod Antipas’ court). Desperate, he comes to Jesus and begs, “Sir, come down [to Capernaum] before my child dies” (v. 49). Note Jesus’ reply in the first part of v. 50a, “Go; your son will live.” These words contain a partial granting and a partial denial. Jesus granted the healing, but He refused to go do to Capernaum. He gave the man no sign, He simply gave him His word. “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way” (v. 50b). Believing is seeing!

Many were believing in Jesus because they saw His “signs and wonders” (v. 48). How did Jesus require a deeper faith from the official? In what way(s), is Jesus requiring a deeper faith from you?

Wednesday – Luke 5:1-11 (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20): Jesus already knew these men. He met them some time ago (cf. John 1:35-42).  Jesus had performed a miraculous sign in their presence (cf. John 2:1-11), and He even had them baptize believers for Him (cf. John 3:22; 4:12), but now He’s going to call them to a greater work. Luke’s account makes Simon (“who is called Peter” Matthew 4:18) central to the call of discipleship as he alone records the miraculous catch of fish and Peter’s reaction. Jesus begins Peter’s journey of discipleship not by calling him away from his profession but by challenging him to a bolder practice of it, “From now on you will be catching men” (v. 10). When the boats reached land, Peter and his partners left “everything and followed Him” (v. 11).

Jesus seized Simon Peter’s attention when He demonstrated His authority not just in religious teaching, but over fish. Why do you think authority over fish affected Simon so much more profoundly that what he had already witnessed? What kind of authority would get your attention that strongly?

Thursday – Mark 1:21-34 (Matt. 8:14-17; Luke 4:31-41): With the four disciples in tow, Jesus “went into Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching” (v. 21). As the people sat thunderstruck by His teaching, “immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?’” (v. 23). The Christ has been challenged. Very likely there was stone-silence for a moment in the synagogue by the sea. Then Jesus responds, “Be silent and come out of him!” (v. 25). With wild convulsions the man was loosed from his demonic tormentor. Dumbfounded, the crowd questions, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!” (v. 27a). The same measure of authority with which they had been confronted by His teaching was the same word of command to the demon, “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (v. 27b). 

Imagine yourself there at the synagogue that Sabbath day and in Peter’s home afterwards, describe what you see, hear and witness, along with how you and others respond.

Friday – Mark 1:35-39 (Matt. 4:23-25; Luke 4:42-44): The early days of Jesus’ ministry were spent going from town-to-town “throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (v. 39). Matthew’s parallel account gives us a glimpse at our Lord’s exhausting travels, healing work, and the swelling crowds that followed Him. Yet, Mark shows us what sustained Jesus during this time, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (v. 35).

From both a practical and spiritual point-of-view, why do you think Jesus needed to do this? How do His actions speak to you?

The Flood: Judgment and Salvation


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The account of the flood is one of those biblical stories that changes as we grow older. As children we saw the flood story through the lens of pastel colors and soft edges. A big wooden boat, happy smiling animals, and a color rainbow completed the scene. But as we’ve grown up the story has come into sharper focus. Darker hues of sin, and the hard edges of death and destruction form the picture we see. For our lesson let’s blend the two images together. Let’s see the dark hues of judgment against a sinful world, but let’s retain the rosy picture of salvation. Because one without the other is an incomplete picture of God’s glorious work of judgment and salvation. Let’s begin with an overview of the text.

The Flood Story From Genesis:

  • 6:1-8 | A Wicked World Is Judged
  • 6:9-22 | God Gives Noah Instructions for His Salvation
  • 7:1-24 | The Earth Is Destroyed by Water
  • 8:1-19 | The Flood Subsides
  • 8:209:17 | God’s Covenant Rainbow

In the New Testament, the story of the flood is mentioned once by both Jesus and the Hebrew writer, but three times by Peter.

1. Water Is a Part of Salvation (1 Pet 3:21 | Gen 7:17 | Heb 11:7)

2. God Won’t Spare the Ungodly But Will Preserve the Godly (2 Pet 2:5, 9-10 | Gen 6:5-8)

3. Jesus Will Return a Second Time (2 Pet 3:4-7 | Gen 7:1-10 | Mat 24:37-39)

In the flood story God judged the sinful world but graciously saved Noah and his family. On one level the flood account is a re-creation story; through the waters of the flood God swept away sin to usher in a new beginning. As Peter states in 2 Peter 3:11-13, once again God will re-create, not with water, but with fire. If we want to rise above the judgment to come, if we want to live in God’s new creation, then we must live lives of holiness and godliness and trust in our gracious God to preserve us. That’s what saved Noah, it’s what will save you and me. 

Week 6 Summaries and Questions for The Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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So if you’re one of those people who thought reading the Bible cover-to-cover was a great idea you’ve probably hit a brick wall in Leviticus. Let’s face it, Leviticus is some hard reading. May I make a suggestion? Don’t give up on reading, shelve the cover-to-cover plan and start reading some more familiar material (and might I add more life changing). It’s not too late to pick up The Life and Teachings of Jesus reading plan. Download your copy today, I promise it’s a whole lot better than reading about how to spot leprosy.

Week 6 – February 10-14:

Monday – John 3:1-21: He was an earnest “Pharisee,” an aristocratic “ruler of the Jews” (v. 1) and “the teacher of Israel” (v. 10) and yet he had questions. Nicodemus couldn’t overlook the weight of the evidence, “we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with Him” (v. 2). Today’s text is rich in truth.  Two popular verses are a part of this exchange, “You must be born again…” (v. 3) and “For God so loved the world…” (v. 16). Throughout their discussion (one-sided as John records it), our Lord brings Nicodemus face-to-face with the necessity of breaking from religious norms and giving one’s self wholly to God’s transforming love.

Meditate on the truths that Jesus reveals to Nicodemus. What difference does (or should) it make to your attitudes and priorities that God calls for us to live renewed lives because of His great love for you?

Tuesday – John 3:22-36: As the popularity of Jesus grows, the many crowds that flock to Him to be baptized cause some to be jealous. A few of John’s disciples go to him complaining, “Rabbi, He who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness – look, He is baptizing, and all are going to Him” (v. 26). Rather than responding with jealous fear or anger, John displays the proper philosophy (vv. 27-28), proper attitude (v. 29), and the proper conduct (v. 30). Then, in vv. 31-36, he continues his ministry of bearing witness of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

Does John’s attitude toward himself and his own ministry, and toward Jesus and His ministry, suggest any example for you to follow? How do your actions reflect v. 30? Pray about how you can further grow in this area.

Wednesday – John 4:1-30: Samaria… any good Jew would spit as that word slid through their lips. The hatred between Samaritans and Jews was legendary (cf. Luke 9:53-54; John 8:48). Nevertheless, at times Samaritans featured prominently in Jesus’ ministry (cf. Luke 10:33-36; 17:16-18) and in the early church (cf. Acts 8:1, 4-8; 9:31). Looking past any animosity held between their peoples, the Lord Jesus reached out to this nameless woman sharing with her the satisfying “living waters” (v. 10) of the gospel.

Who are the “Samaritans” in your world – the people with whom decent or orthodox people have nothing to do with? How can you treat one of them as Jesus treated the woman of Sychar? What can you do to help such a person to recognize and believe in Jesus?

Thursday – John 4:31-45: When the Samaritan woman left Jesus she was happy. Her interaction with Christ stirred her very soul. Regrettably, the disciples evidently had not moved beyond the social and cultural conventions about the woman, as we see in v. 27, “Just then His disciples came back. They marveled that He was talking with a woman.” So we have a vivid contrast between the disciples’ narrow incredulity and the woman’s happy enthusiasm: they brought no one to see the Christ, but she brought the entire village (vv. 39-42).

After His encounter with the Samaritan woman, what specific lessons does Jesus teach to His disciples and to us?

Friday – Luke 4:14-30: Following Jesus’ fairly extensive ministry in Jerusalem and Judea (cf. John 2:1-4:1), He returns to his home region of Galilee where news of His teaching and healing exploit quickly spread throughout the countryside (v. 14b, 23). Then one Sabbath, at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read a Messianic passage from Isaiah and made an unambiguous claim that He was the Messiah who fulfilled the prophecy. Then He highlighted that He will be rejected by the Jews (vv. 23-24) and accepted by faithful Gentiles (vv. 25-27). These two themes run throughout the book of Acts and part of the Epistles. At this word the crowd wants to kill Him, but Jesus will have none of this ethno-nonsense, so miraculously He passed through the raging mob and went his way.

Observe the Nazarenes’ swiftly-changing attitudes toward Jesus – from praise in v. 22 to fury in v. 28. How do you account for the change? If you could address a person who made such a radical shift of faith, what would you say to them?

Week 5 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 5 – February 3-7:

If you haven’t downloaded your copy of The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan it’s not to late. Take this opportunity as the first of the month to get started on a journey of discovery and of faith. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Monday – John 1:19-28: In John’s prologue (1:1-18), he tells us that John the Baptist came “to bear witness of the light” (1:7). Now the gospel writer fleshes out John’s testimony in three-parts. Part one (today’s reading) is for a religious delegation and is negative in nature. Part-two (tomorrow’s reading) is for a general audience with a positive message. Then, part-three (Wednesday’s reading) John’s testimony specifically targets two of his disciples. The negative testimony in vv. 19-28 has a specific setting in an encounter between John and a delegation from Jerusalem to question him. John’s preaching and baptizing had come to the attention of the Jewish religious leaders. A group of priests and Levites were dispatched to investigate. John answered each question with great humility. The popular preachers go so far as to state that he, unlike a slave who was required to remove his master’s sandals, was not even worthy of performing this action in relationship to the Messiah.

In your own words, restate John’s mission. In what way(s) is this to be your own personal mission as a believer?

Tuesday – John 1:29-34: Following the religious delegation’s departure, John saw “Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (v. 29).  This is the second testimony of John regarding Jesus. Unlike our previous reading, John’s declarations here are positive in tone. The use of a lamb for sacrifice was very familiar to Jews. John uses this expression as a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the whole world.

How did Jesus take away the sins of the world like a sacrificial lamb? (see John 19:17-30; Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 9:1-10:18)

Wednesday – John 1:35-51: As the sequence of days continues (cf. 1:29, 35), John’s testimony targets the hearts of two of his disciples, Andrew and an unnamed man (presumably John, the author of the gospel).  These two seek out Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael to come see Jesus.  Together this group of men becomes Jesus’ first disciples.  This is the “call” of the disciples according to this gospel account, not by their fishing nets and boats such as in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Moreover, in contrast to the other gospel accounts, their reason for following Jesus are given.

In today’s reading, Jesus gathers His first disciples. How does each man respond to the testimony he hears about Jesus? What factors do you think influenced each man’s response? In what way(s) can you relate?

Thursday – John 2:1-12: John relates the first great sign performed by Jesus to demonstrate His deity, the turning of water to wine. Only God can create something from nothing. John uses the word “sign” (v. 11) to show that Jesus’ miracles were not merely displays of power but had significance beyond the mere acts themselves. There are seven signs in John’s gospel (see: 2:1-12; 4:46-54; 5:1-17; 6:1-14, 5-21; 9:1-41; 11:17-45). According to John, he records these signs “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

According to v. 11, the purpose of Jesus’ miracle is not to save the groom from embarrassment but to display Jesus’ glory. What aspects of Christ’s glory does this miracle reveal to you?

Friday – John 2:13-25: When you picture Jesus what do you see? Perhaps you see a Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild. (Or maybe you see Jim Caviezel.) Regardless, the picture that we have of Jesus, in today’s reading is an angry Jesus with a whip in His hand. During the Jewish feast, worshipers came from all over Israel and the Roman Empire to Jerusalem. Because many traveled long distances, it was inconvenient to bring their sacrificial animals with them. Opportunistic merchants sold over priced animals, while money-changers charged exorbitant fees to acquire the proper coins for the temple tax. The religious leaders (no doubt getting a kickback) allowed the temple to become “a house of trade” (v. 16) instead of “a house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13). Jesus corrected the situation in dramatic fashion.

How does John’s picture of Jesus thrashing a whip either fit with, or not fit with, today’s popular concept of Him? Explain your own reaction to this picture of Jesus.

Week 4 Summaries and Questions for The Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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If you haven’t downloaded your copy of The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan it’s always a good time to get started.

Week 4 – January 27-31:

Monday – Mark 1:1-8 (cf. Matthew 3:1-6; Luke 3:1-6): If Mark intends for his gospel to have a title, this is probably it, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (v. 1). Echoing Genesis 1:1, the introduction of Jesus is no less momentous than the creation of the world. Then Mark quickly moves to discussing the work of John the Baptist. John is important in all the gospels, not for his own sake, but as the beginning of the unfolding story of redemption which centers on Jesus.

In your own words, describe John’s mission (vv. 2-3), work (vv. 4-5), appearance (vv. 6), and preaching (vv. 7-8). What do you think it would be like to meet John?

Tuesday – Luke 3:7-18 (cf. Matthew 3:7-12): With a forceful and uncompromising tone, John bursts on the scene proclaiming a message of repentance and judgment. As the “crowds” flock to John, he challenges their motives (vv. 7-9; cf. to Matthew 3:7, “Pharisees and Sadducees”), calls for them to live out their repentant spirit by “bearing fruit of repentance” (vv. 10-14), deflects their Messianic expectations from himself (vv. 15-16) and warns them of the Messiah’s judgment to come (v. 17). Luke summarizes John’s work by saying, “With many exhortations he preached good news to the people” (v. 18).

Repentance and judgement aren’t always popular topics. How could you explain that these two elements of John’s message are indeed “good news” (v. 18)?

Wednesday – Matthew 3:13-17 (cf. Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22): The first appearance of John in Matthew’s gospel takes place in the context of John’s baptism. Unique to Matthew’s account is the exchange between John and Jesus in vv. 14-15. John, recognizing his inferior state (ref. Matthew 3:11-12) to the Savior states, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (v. 14). The substance of Jesus’ reply is clear enough: John is to overcome his objections and carry out the baptism as requested, “Let it be so not, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). Jesus never rebelled against the Father’s will (see: 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22), so He did not need to be baptized for repentance of sin. However, the exact why behind Jesus’ words to John, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” is not spelled out in Matthew.

Using the following verses: John 1:31-34; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:3-11; Hebrews 2:17, how would you answer someone you questioned why Jesus was baptized?

Thursday – Luke 3:23-38: Whereas Matthew records Jesus’ lineage from Abraham thru David to emphasize Jesus’ Jewish heritage, Luke traces Jesus through seventy-seven men back to Adam to connect the Savior with all of humanity. From Matthew’s perspective, Jesus is the fulfillment of Abrahamic and Davidic promises, but in Luke, Jesus is the fulfillment of humanity’s hope of redemption. By placing Jesus in a human lineage that ends with God, Luke signals His dual identity, human yet divine, both Son of Man and “Son of God.”

Reflect on this idea, Jesus is one of us! He stands with humanity, sinful humanity nonetheless, which He came to redeem. How does this idea deepen your appreciation of Him?

Friday – Matthew 4:1-11 (cf. Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13): Immediately after identifying with humanity through baptism and heritage, Jesus goes into the wilderness to be tempted as a man. Three times the Devil tempts Jesus (vv. 3, 6, 9), three times He counters with the authority of Scripture (vv. 4, 6, 10; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13, 16). The scriptures make God (the Holy Spirit here in Matthew) the author of “testing” (see: Genesis 22:11; Deuteronomy 13:3; Psalm 81:7), not in seeking to make a person fall but in the sense that He proves the depth of a person’s commitment. Having proven His commitment to God’s plan, Jesus will now embark on His public ministry. Jesus’ temptations appear to have little resemblance to ours. Yet, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He was “in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Think of your fiercest temptation. In what way(s) is it like one of Jesus’ temptations? How will you combat your temptations in the same way Jesus did?