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Habakkuk 1; Luke 20
1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.
The Lord's Answer
5 “Look among the nations, and see;
wonder and be astounded.
For I am doing a work in your days
that you would not believe if told.
6 For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,
that bitter and hasty nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth,
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are dreaded and fearsome;
their justice and dignity go forth from themselves.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more fierce than the evening wolves;
their horsemen press proudly on.
Their horsemen come from afar;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9 They all come for violence,
all their faces forward.
They gather captives like sand.
10 At kings they scoff,
and at rulers they laugh.
They laugh at every fortress,
for they pile up earth and take it.
11 Then they sweep by like the wind and go on,
guilty men, whose own might is their god!”
Habakkuk's Second Complaint
12 Are you not from everlasting,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
We shall not die.
O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
the man more righteous than he?
14 You make mankind like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.
15 He[a] brings all of them up with a hook;
he drags them out with his net;
he gathers them in his dragnet;
so he rejoices and is glad.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and makes offerings to his dragnet;
for by them he lives in luxury,[b]
and his food is rich.
17 Is he then to keep on emptying his net
and mercilessly killing nations forever?
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
1 One day, as Jesus[a] was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2 and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 3 He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, 4 was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 5 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant[b] to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?[c]
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Paying Taxes to Caesar
19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[d] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.
Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man[f] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons[g] of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.
Whose Son Is the Christ?
41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David's son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”
Beware of the Scribes
45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
THE PROPHECY OF HABAKKUK—or, more precisely, the “oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received”—is cast not as something he is to deliver to others, but as a response to his own complaint before the Lord. The fact that it was written down and preserved in the canon means that in God’s providence either Habakkuk or someone else thought it was so important others should read it. It should not remain a private communication (like the private revelations that Paul sometimes received, 2 Cor. 12:1-10).
The nature of Habakkuk’s protest is set out in Habakkuk 1. The setting is apparently about the time of the final Babylonian assault (1:6). Initially Habakkuk’s complaint concerns the decline of his own people and culture (1:2-5). He has cried to the Lord for help, and expects heaven-sent revival. “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (1:2). The rest of his complaint lists the symptoms of a culture in disintegration: violence, injustice, wrong, strife, conflict, and the Law of God paralyzed.
But God answers with words Habakkuk does not want to hear. Habakkuk wants revival; God promises judgment (1:6-11). If Habakkuk is so concerned about the injustice, he should know that God is going to do something about it: he is going to punish it. God will do something astonishing: he will raise up the Babylonians, “that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own” (1:6). They will come “bent on violence” and “gather prisoners like sand” (1:9). God does not pretend that the Babylonians are fine folk. After describing the massive strength of their armed forces, he scathingly calls them “guilty men, whose own strength is their god” (1:11). These guilty men, intoxicated by the ferocity of their own violence, are the people God is going to deploy to chasten his own covenant people—in response to Habakkuk’s prayer that God would do something about the injustice in the land.
God’s response does not satisfy Habakkuk. The second complaint (1:12—2:1) goes to the heart of the issue. Granted that God is eternal and faithful to his covenant people; granted too that he is “too pure to look on evil” (1:13) and therefore must punish his own covenant community, the burning question remains: “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (1:13, italics added). For however wicked the Judahites are, the Babylonians are worse. How can God use the more wicked to punish the less wicked?
What other examples of this are there in history, sacred and profane?
Habakkuk 2; Luke 21
1 I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
The Righteous Shall Live by His Faith
2 And the Lord answered me:
“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.
4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.[a]
5 “Moreover, wine[b] is a traitor,
an arrogant man who is never at rest.[c]
His greed is as wide as Sheol;
like death he has never enough.
He gathers for himself all nations
and collects as his own all peoples.”
Woe to the Chaldeans
6 Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say,
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
for how long?—
and loads himself with pledges!”
7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
and those awake who will make you tremble?
Then you will be spoil for them.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who dwell in them.
9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe from the reach of harm!
10 You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.
11 For the stone will cry out from the wall,
and the beam from the woodwork respond.
12 “Woe to him who builds a town with blood
and founds a city on iniquity!
13 Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts
that peoples labor merely for fire,
and nations weary themselves for nothing?
14 For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
15 “Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink—
you pour out your wrath and make them drunk,
in order to gaze at their nakedness!
16 You will have your fill of shame instead of glory.
Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision!
The cup in the Lord's right hand
will come around to you,
and utter shame will come upon your glory!
17 The violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you,
as will the destruction of the beasts that terrified them,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who dwell in them.
18 “What profit is an idol
when its maker has shaped it,
a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation
when he makes speechless idols!
19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
and there is no breath at all in it.
20 But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him.”
The Widow's Offering
1 Jesus[a] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.[b] 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple
5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[c] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The Coming of the Son of Man
25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.
GOD’S RESPONSE (HAB. 2) TO Habakkuk’s second complaint (see yesterday’s meditation) answers it in part and evades it in part. More precisely, it implicitly dismisses one part of Habakkuk’s question by putting all the weight on another part. Clearly God judges his answer to be so important that he wants it circulated (2:2), so what starts off as private communication takes the first step toward becoming incorporated into the canon.
God describes the “typical” Babylonian (2:4-5): puffed up, with corrupt desires, often intoxicated, arrogant, restless, greedy, violent, and oppressive. He is precisely the opposite of what God wants a human being, a divine image-bearer, to be: “the righteous will live by his faith” (2:4). There is a long-running dispute over whether the word for “faith” should properly be rendered “faithfulness,” not least because this line is quoted in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:37-38). Although there are strong voices on both sides, a good case can be made for preserving the ambiguity. Over against the person whose wretched conduct God lists in the surrounding lines, God certainly wants people to be “faithful.” On the other hand, the preceding two lines depict the wicked as “puffed up” and with desires “not upright”—just the opposite of a person with genuine “faith,” which in the Bible depends on God and therefore cannot be either puffed up (which presupposes independence from God) or corrupt.
Whatever the responsible way to take that line, the Babylonians themselves are so wicked, God says, that all of their erstwhile victims will one day rise up and taunt the oppressors with a long list of “woes” (2:6, 9, 12, 15, 19)—dramatic curses pronounced on them because of their grievous sins. These woes should be pondered by any nation that hungers to act justly. The last one is bound up with idolatry: “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.” By contrast: “But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (2:19-20). It is as if the wickedness of the Babylonians is traced back to their idolatry. The words are a powerful reminder that God reigns over all the nations, and he abhors the idolatry that drives people to pant after created things rather than the Creator who made them and to whom they owe everything (cf. Rom. 1:18ff.).
So God has not explained how he can use a more wicked nation to chasten a less wicked one. Rather, he has said that he knows more about Babylonian wickedness than Habakkuk does, that he keeps accounts, that justice will one day be meted out.
Habakkuk 3, Luke 22
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.
2 O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
3 God came from Teman,
and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
4 His brightness was like the light;
rays flashed from his hand;
and there he veiled his power.
5 Before him went pestilence,
and plague followed at his heels.[a]
6 He stood and measured the earth;
he looked and shook the nations;
then the eternal mountains were scattered;
the everlasting hills sank low.
His were the everlasting ways.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction;
the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble.
8 Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
Was your anger against the rivers,
or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
on your chariot of salvation?
9 You stripped the sheath from your bow,
calling for many arrows.[b] Selah
You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you and writhed;
the raging waters swept on;
the deep gave forth its voice;
it lifted its hands on high.
11 The sun and moon stood still in their place
at the light of your arrows as they sped,
at the flash of your glittering spear.
12 You marched through the earth in fury;
you threshed the nations in anger.
13 You went out for the salvation of your people,
for the salvation of your anointed.
You crushed the head of the house of the wicked,
laying him bare from thigh to neck.[c] Selah
14 You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors,
who came like a whirlwind to scatter me,
rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
the surging of mighty waters.
16 I hear, and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us.
Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
To the choirmaster: with stringed[d] instruments.
The Plot to Kill Jesus
1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
Judas to Betray Jesus
3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
The Passover with the Disciples
7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[a] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Institution of the Lord's Supper
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[c] 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Who Is the Greatest?
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus Foretells Peter's Denial
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[d] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter[e] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[f] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Scripture Must Be Fulfilled in Jesus
35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.[g] 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant[h] of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Peter Denies Jesus
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus Is Mocked
63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
Jesus Before the Council
66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
HABAKKUK’S FINAL PRAYER (HAB. 3) is in large measure a response to the Lord’s perspective in chapter 2. It is a wonderful model of how to respond to God’s revelation when it says things we may not like. Dominant themes include the following:
(1) Habakkuk continues to pray for revival. Who knows whether or not this is one of the instances when God will respond to fervent intercession? In the preceding chapter God does not absolutely rule out the possibility of such a visitation. So Habakkuk prays: “ LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (3:2).
(2) In highly poetic language, Habakkuk then recalls a number of instances in the past when God did in fact save his covenant people by thrashing their opponents. “In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations,” Habakkuk recalls (3:12), clearly intimating, “So why not do it again?” After all, he adds, on those occasions, “You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one” (3:13—note how “anointed one” here apparently refers to the entire people of God, not just the Davidic king).
(3) Yet Habakkuk has heard what God has said on this occasion. As much as it makes his heart pound and his legs shake (3:16), he resolves to pursue the only wise course: “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (3:16). In other words, he will wait for what God has promised— the righteous judgment of God upon the oppressors, even if the people of God have to suffer judgment first.
(4) Yet the loveliest and most insightful part of Habakkuk’s prayer is reserved for the end. His ultimate confidence does not rest on the prospect of judgment on Babylon. At one level his ultimate confidence is utterly detached from political circumstances and from the material well-being of his own people. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,” he writes, “though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18).
That kind of faith can live without knowing; it can triumph when there is no revival; it can rejoice in God even when the culture is in decline. “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (3:19).
Zephaniah 1, Luke 23
1 The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
The Coming Judgment on Judah
2 “I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
3 “I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble[a] with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
5 those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom,
6 those who have turned back from following the Lord,
who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”
The Day of the Lord Is Near
7 Be silent before the Lord God!
For the day of the Lord is near;
the Lord has prepared a sacrifice
and consecrated his guests.
8 And on the day of the Lord's sacrifice—
“I will punish the officials and the king's sons
and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
9 On that day I will punish
everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master's[b] house
with violence and fraud.
10 “On that day,” declares the Lord,
“a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
a wail from the Second Quarter,
a loud crash from the hills.
11 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!
For all the traders[c] are no more;
all who weigh out silver are cut off.
12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the men
who are complacent,[d]
those who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good,
nor will he do ill.’
13 Their goods shall be plundered,
and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
they shall not drink wine from them.”
14 The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.
17 I will bring distress on mankind,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
shall be able to deliver them
on the day of the wrath of the Lord.
In the fire of his jealousy,
all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
Jesus Before Pilate
1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” 5 But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
Jesus Before Herod
6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.”[a]
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
18 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[b] And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him,[c] “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[d] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about the sixth hour,[e] and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,[f] 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Jesus Is Buried
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning.[g] 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
I WANT TO COME AT ZEPHANIAH 1:12-13 rather obliquely.
There is more than one way to relegate God to the sidelines of history. Some do so by arguing that God acts intermittently. When good things happen, that’s God; when bad things happen, that’s the devil—and there is no sense in which God remains sovereign over the devil. Others argue that God’s providence arches over everything, but invariably in line with what takes place in the natural order. For instance, in the past most theistic evolutionists argued that God intervened at dramatic moments in the process of evolution. Nowadays, there is a rising number of theistic evolutionists who say that, at the level of the actual physical processes, their position is undifferentiable from that of the atheist who understands what took place exclusively in term of natural processes. The theistic evolutionists, of course, insist that God’s providence was operating throughout the process. But they say that if God had actually intervened we would be returning to some discredited “God-of-the-gaps” scenario. They can be quite vehemently opposed to those who cite the rising evidence for design in the created order, for that simple notion would radically transform naturalistic assumptions and change the mechanisms that naturalistic scientists are forced to espouse. But are they sure they want to go down this route? Would they apply the same reasoning to the resurrection of Jesus? Would they want to propose that all the forces that brought Jesus back from the dead with a resurrection body can be explained on purely “natural” terms? Or would they say that in this case God dramatically intervened, setting aside the structures of normal physical forces to introduce a stunning miracle? And if God did so in this case, why should it be so difficult to imagine that he did so in connection with the creation—especially when the evidence for design, evidence from the physical order, is multiplying? Transparently, there are many ways of relegating God to the periphery.
But perhaps the worst is simpler and far more damaging than either of the two ways I have mentioned so far. The two that I have mentioned involve a well-thought-out scheme, a worldview. But the worst is rarely systematic or intentional. It simply ignores God. It may formally espouse providence, but in practice it thinks through none of the implications of serving and obeying a God who is irrevocably in charge. It may happily confess the resurrection of Jesus, but expects no other interventions by God. It reads history, but learns nothing that is in line with holy Scripture.
Now meditate on Zephaniah 1:12-13.
Zephaniah 2, Luke 24
Judgment on Judah's Enemies
1 Gather together, yes, gather,
O shameless nation,
2 before the decree takes effect[a]
—before the day passes away like chaff—
before there comes upon you
the burning anger of the Lord,
before there comes upon you
the day of the anger of the Lord.
3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;[b]
seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the Lord.
4 For Gaza shall be deserted,
and Ashkelon shall become a desolation;
Ashdod's people shall be driven out at noon,
and Ekron shall be uprooted.
5 Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast,
you nation of the Cherethites!
The word of the Lord is against you,
O Canaan, land of the Philistines;
and I will destroy you until no inhabitant is left.
6 And you, O seacoast, shall be pastures,
with meadows[c] for shepherds
and folds for flocks.
7 The seacoast shall become the possession
of the remnant of the house of Judah,
on which they shall graze,
and in the houses of Ashkelon
they shall lie down at evening.
For the Lord their God will be mindful of them
and restore their fortunes.
8 “I have heard the taunts of Moab
and the revilings of the Ammonites,
how they have taunted my people
and made boasts against their territory.
9 Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts,
the God of Israel,
“Moab shall become like Sodom,
and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,
a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,
and a waste forever.
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”
10 This shall be their lot in return for their pride,
because they taunted and boasted
against the people of the Lord of hosts.
11 The Lord will be awesome against them;
for he will famish all the gods of the earth,
and to him shall bow down,
each in its place,
all the lands of the nations.
12 You also, O Cushites,
shall be slain by my sword.
13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north
and destroy Assyria,
and he will make Nineveh a desolation,
a dry waste like the desert.
14 Herds shall lie down in her midst,
all kinds of beasts;[d]
even the owl and the hedgehog[e]
shall lodge in her capitals;
a voice shall hoot in the window;
devastation will be on the threshold;
for her cedar work will be laid bare.
15 This is the exultant city
that lived securely,
that said in her heart,
“I am, and there is no one else.”
What a desolation she has become,
a lair for wild beasts!
Everyone who passes by her
hisses and shakes his fist.
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
On the Road to Emmaus
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and[c] forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
THE RESURRECTED JESUS APPEARED to his disciples on several occasions. Here we reflect on Luke 24:36-49.
Notwithstanding what the Bible says about the transformed nature of the resurrection body (especially 1 Cor. 15), in this section Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate that he is not a dematerialized body or a disembodied spirit. He can be touched; the scars of the nails can be seen (that is the significance of his words, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!” [24:39]); he speaks of himself as having “flesh and bones” (24:39); he eats some food in the presence of his disciples (24:42-43). This is entirely consistent with other voices in New Testament witness. It is unimaginably glorious: death has been beaten, and the long-promised king, once crucified, is now alive.
But Jesus insists that at one level his disciples should not have been surprised. He had been predicting for some time that he would die and rise again, but they had no categories for accepting his words at face value. Now he goes further: what has happened to him has fulfilled what was written about him “in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (24:44—i.e., in all three divisions of the Hebrew canon, which were often referred to in just this way). That Jesus has to explain this to them presupposes, of course, that as far as he is concerned they really have not properly understood the Scriptures up to this point. So now he opens their minds in order to overcome this deficiency (24:45). He does this by synopsizing what the Scriptures say—just as on the road to Emmaus he explained to the two disciples precisely the same thing. On that occasion he began with Moses and all the Prophets and explained “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (24:27).
Clearly Jesus read the Old Testament in an integrated way, with himself at the center of it. From the New Testament records written by Jesus’ immediate disciples and heirs, we can gain a pretty comprehensive glimpse of his self-understanding in this regard. He saw himself not only as the rightful messianic king in the line of David, but also as the suffering servant who would be wounded for our transgressions. He knew he was not only the atoning sacrifice but also the priest who offered the sacrifice. He was not only the obedient Son who discharged the mission his Father assigned him, but also the eternal Word made flesh who disclosed the Father perfectly to a generation of rebellious image-bearers. And so much more. And all of these things we should see, too, and bow in solemn, joy- ful worship.
Zephaniah 3, John 1
Judgment on Jerusalem and the Nations
1 Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!
2 She listens to no voice;
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord;
she does not draw near to her God.
3 Her officials within her
are roaring lions;
her judges are evening wolves
that leave nothing till the morning.
4 Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men;
her priests profane what is holy;
they do violence to the law.
5 The Lord within her is righteous;
he does no injustice;
every morning he shows forth his justice;
each dawn he does not fail;
but the unjust knows no shame.
6 “I have cut off nations;
their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
so that no one walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate,
without a man, without an inhabitant.
7 I said, ‘Surely you will fear me;
you will accept correction.
Then your[a] dwelling would not be cut off
according to all that I have appointed against you.’[b]
But all the more they were eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.
8 “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord,
“for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.
For my decision is to gather nations,
to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
all my burning anger;
for in the fire of my jealousy
all the earth shall be consumed.
The Conversion of the Nations
9 “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
to a pure speech,
that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord
and serve him with one accord.
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush
my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones,
shall bring my offering.
11 “On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain.
12 But I will leave in your midst
a people humble and lowly.
They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
13 those who are left in Israel;
they shall do no injustice
and speak no lies,
nor shall there be found in their mouth
a deceitful tongue.
For they shall graze and lie down,
and none shall make them afraid.”
Israel's Joy and Restoration
14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.[c]
19 Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
20 At that time I will bring you in,
at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes,” says the Lord.
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[d] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[e] who is at the Father's side,[f] he has made him known.
The Testimony of John the Baptist
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[g] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.[h] 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[i] was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter[j]).
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[k] you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
JOHN’S PROLOGUE (JOHN 1:1-18) is one of the richest quarries in the Bible for the mining of wonderful truths about Christ. Here there is space for only the most introductory reflections.
(1) In the first verse, the one who is eventually said to become flesh, the Lord Jesus himself, is called the “Word.” The label is not only intrinsically peculiar, but at first glance is especially odd because it is not taken up in the rest of the Gospel of John. But perhaps that is the first clue. If in this first verse John had used one of the titles ascribed to Christ throughout the book (son of God, Son of Man, King of Israel, Messiah, and so forth), that title would have been elevated to the place of first importance. Instead, John uses an expression that encompasses all of them. He recalls that in the Old Testament God’s “word” is regularly the means by which he discloses himself in creation, redemption, and revelation. “The word of the Lord” comes to prophets; by the word of the Lord the heavens were made; God sends forth his word and heals the people. John finds it wonderfully appropriate: in the eternal “Word” that becomes flesh, God discloses himself in creation, revelation, and redemption. Even the word Word is evocative. We might paraphrase, “In the beginning God disclosed himself, and that self-disclosure was with God, and that self-disclosure was God.”
(2) If God’s “Word” was with God even in the remotest beginning, that Word was God’s own fellow, and distinguishable from him. If God’s “Word” was God even in the remotest beginning, that Word was God’s own self, and identified with him. Here are rudimentary pieces of what comes to be called the doctrine of the Trinity. From the beginning, God has always been a complex unity.
(3) Verse 2 picks up the middle clause of verse 1, in preparation for verse 3. In other words, the fact that the Word was with God in the beginning makes it possible for him to be God’s agent in the creation of everything. Moreover, the insistence that God created absolutely everything by means of the Word’s agency drives the conclusion that neither God nor the Word is part of the creation; pantheism is ruled out, as well as any suggestion that the Word is a created being, an inferior god.
(4) In verse 14, John declares that the Word became flesh (i.e., a human being) and (literally) “tabernacled” among us. Readers of the Old Testament instantly see that this means that in some sense Jesus, for John, is a new tabernacle, a new temple (cf. John 2:13-25). Indeed, there are half a dozen allusions to Exodus 32—34 in John 1:14-18. Find them. What do they mean?
Haggai 1, John 2
The Command to Rebuild the Temple
1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
The People Obey the Lord
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” 14 And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
The Wedding at Cana
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,[c] and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Jesus Knows What Is in Man
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
THE PROPHET HAGGAI IS ONE of several “postexilic prophets,” i.e., prophets who addressed the covenant people of God who returned to the Promised Land after the exile. Haggai 1 can be dated to about August 520 B.C., almost twenty years after the first groups of Jews returned home. Although initially addressed to Zerubbabel and Joshua (1:1), almost immediately it is clear that the message is intended for everyone (1:3-4), for “the whole remnant of the people” (1:14).
Zerubbabel was a grandson of King Jehoiachin, who had been taken to exile in 597. He was thus the heir apparent to the throne of David. Zerubbabel was the son of Pedaiah, Jehoiachin’s third son (1 Chron. 3:19); apparently the first son, Shealtiel, was childless. Perhaps Shealtiel adopted his eldest nephew, who would thereafter be called by his name (as in 1:1). In any case, Zerubbabel was “governor of Judah.” This would have allowed him very little freedom, as the relationship of his authority to that of the governor of Samaria, the provincial center, and the borders of their respective territories, were ill-defined. Joshua was son of Jehozadak the priest, who was taken captive in 587 (1 Chron. 6:15). He was responsible for the religious affairs of the community.
The burden of this first chapter, set out in the challenge of the prophet’s message (1:1-11) and the response of Zerubbabel and the people (1:12-15), is that they have delayed far too long in building the new temple. They have had enough time and energy to build their own nicely paneled homes (1:4), but not enough to get on with the temple. That is the reason, God says, why the previous twenty years have been as hard as they have been. He refuses to pour out great blessings on them when they have been so short-sighted with respect to that which should have been at the very heart of their enterprise: the joyful and committed worship of Almighty God. “Give careful thought,” the prophet repeats (1:5, 7), and they will find this assessment of their recent past entirely realistic. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? . . . Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (1:9).
The fundamental issue is not one of buildings, but of priorities. Our generation faces this challenge no less than any other. Why bother to ask God to bless us unless our priorities are conscientiously aligned with his? That will affect our conduct and speech, our pocketbooks and our imaginations, our vocation and our retirement, where we live and what we do and how we do it.
Pray for the Church
Praise God for lovingly pursuing us despite our sin. Ask God to keep us focused on Christ throughout this holiday season. Pray we will grow in awareness of our need for Christ and in our gratitude for all He has done for us. Pray for opportunities for us to maximize this Christmas season to introduce others to who Jesus is and their need for His grace. Pray for the lost to recognize their need of a Savior and for God to lead them to faith. Pray we will all represent Jesus and His love to a lost and hurting world.
Pray for the City
This week we are praying for Pathways, a United Way agency dedicated to serving homeless women and their children in Birmingham and putting an end to homelessness through hospitality, housing, and hope. Pathways offers a range of emergency, transitional, and long-term services for 12,000-15,000 women and their children each year. They welcome Christian ministries to serve the families staying there. We are also praying for Urban Hope Community Church, Fairfield and Alton Hardy, Pastor.
Day 1: Pray for the eradication of homelessness in our city. Pray for The Church and others to have compassion for the homeless and mentally ill and give generously toward efforts to resolve this crisis affecting thousands each year.
Day 2: Pray for the families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. Pray for us, as the Body of Christ, to be attentive to the needs of those around us and generous with our time, money, and resources.
Day 3: Pray for the staff and volunteers at Pathways who face the arduous task of addressing the problem of homelessness with wisdom and grace. Pray for God to inspire their efforts and bless their work.
Day 4: Pray for the women and children living at the Pathways Home to be loved, educated, and connected with the resources and encouragement needed to move forward toward the freedom of economic stability, and most importantly the freedom of Christ.
Day 5: Pray for the staff and volunteers encountering suffering and brokenness each day to be strengthened by God, to share His heart for the oppressed, and to be encouraged by His promise of blessing to those who care for the poor.
Day 6: Pray for the kindness and love of The Father for all people would be made evident through the work of Pathways Home.
Pray for the World
This week as we begin our month-long celebration of all God has done through our giving to the Global Offering, we focus on Brook Hills personnel and field partners who are working in Nepal. Two years ago at a church-wide Prayer Gathering, our faith family prayed for Tibetan Buddhist peoples of Nepal and for God to open doors for our faith family to participate there. He has done this in more ways than we could imagine. So join us in praying for Nepal and praising God for the way He is using the Global Offering.
Day 1: Praise God for the opportunity we had through the Global Offering to send four Mid-Termers to Nepal, three of whom are currently serving there. Pray for Rachel B., Nicole R., and Michelle M. to boldly proclaim the gospel.
Day 2: Thank God for our field partners Ryan and Kristin P. whose business employs and empowers Nepalese women living in poverty. Pray for their continued success and for open hearts to the gospel as they daily share Christ.
Day 3: Pray for the people of Nepal as they continue to recover from the devastating earthquake. The country is still in a state of crisis as the infrastructure is being rebuilt. Pray for the safety of our personnel and partners as they push forward despite the realities of living in post-earthquake Nepal.
Day 4: Pray for our partner organization, Mountain Child. Pray for their leadership to have wisdom as they continue to help with relief work in Nepal. Pray for God to sustain them and allow them to press on, even when things look bleak.
Day 5: Many Brook Hills Short-Term teams were able to go and work in Nepal this year. Pray for God to plant the seed of the gospel in the hearts of the men and women who heard from our Short-Term teams.
Day 6: Nepal is home to the most isolated and unreached people groups in the world; often they are difficult to reach. Praise God that He has given our church an open door in Nepal. Pray for the gospel to spread among the Tibetan Buddhist peoples of Nepal and to continue to allow our faith family the opportunity to participate in this work.
O Come All Ye Faithful
O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord
Sing choirs of angels
Sing in exultation
O sing all ye bright
Hosts of heav'n above
Glory to God all
Glory in the highest
Yea Lord we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus to Thee be all glory giv'n
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing
God With Us
Little town of Bethlehem
Out of you shall come the greatest love the world has ever seen
He’ll shepherd all who’ve lost their way
Lamb of God, His life to pay for sinners and wash them clean
Glory, glory in the highest
All the earth praise the one who comes to take our sins away
Emmanuel, oh what a love to come from heaven to be God with us
Son of Man, He humbly came to sinners who would scoff His name
And in their place He’d hang upon a tree
A crown of thorns pierced His head and for our sins His blood was shed
But from the grave He rose the Savior King
The light is brightly shining, the sound of good news rising
Chains of sin unlocked, His bride bought at the cross
All you nations praise Him, every tribe and tongue
For sin and Satan have been overcome
He became sin who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness
He humbled Himself and carried the cross
Love so amazing love so amazing
Jesus Messiah Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer Emmanuel
The Rescue for sinners
The Ransom from heaven
Jesus Messiah Lord of all
His body the bread His blood the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn
Love so amazing love so amazing
All our hope is in You
All our hope is in You
All the glory to You God
The Light of the world
Lord of all
The Lord of all
The Lord of all