Sunday School Lesson
Lesson 3 (KJV)
CALLED TO WORSHIP
DEVOTIONAL READING: Exodus 1:8–22
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2:7–15
MATTHEW 2:1–2, 7–15
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
When they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.—Matthew 2:11
CALL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Unit 1: The Beginning of a Call
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Identify the Old Testament sources used within the lesson text.
2. Compare and contrast the motives behind the two expressed desires to worship Jesus.
3. Worship the Lord in the reverent and sacrificial spirit of the wise men.
HOW TO SAY IT
Judaea (Judea) Joo-dee-uh.
- Mirror, Mirror
The 1937 Disney film Snow White has given us many lasting catchphrases, including the famous (misquoted) rhyme, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” In the movie, these words are spoken each day by the beautiful-but-evil queen to her magic mirror, which has knowledge of all things. The vain queen’s sense of prestige and self-worth are tied to the mirror’s daily affirmation that she herself is, in fact, “the fairest in the land.” So fragile is her ego that she becomes enraged beyond reason when the mirror finally says one day that a lowly peasant girl is now “the fairest in the land.” The powerful queen promptly disguised herself as a witch so she could destroy Snow White. Our passage today describes a similar scenario that also bore tragic and deadly fruit.
B. Lesson Context
Matthew and Luke provide unique details on the story of Jesus’ birth. Both contain genealogies that trace Jesus’ human heritage (see lesson 1). Both mention that angels announced Mary would conceive. Luke describes the message delivered to Mary before her pregnancy (Luke 1:26–38), while Matthew describes how Joseph learned of its origins after she was found to be with child (Matthew 1:18–25; see lesson 2). Luke then offers a detailed description of the events leading up to the night of Jesus’ birth, including Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the Roman tax census, the fact that the newborn child was laid in a manger, and the visit of the shepherds (Luke 2:1–20). Matthew skips the actual birth story to describe the strange appearance of wealthy and mysterious Gentiles to honor the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1–18; see lesson text). The two accounts broaden our awareness of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and also offer complementary perspectives on the implications of Christ’s coming. Luke’s focus on the manger and the shepherds anticipates Jesus’ later emphasis on the poor and outcast (example: Luke 6:20–21). Matthew’s story of the wise men shows how Christ’s life and death would reach far beyond the borders of Israel to bring salvation to people of many races and nationalities (example: Matthew 28:18–20). Taken together, the two Gospels underscore a key feature of Christ’s ministry: reaching across barriers to bring salvation to all (John 3:16–18).
I. Going West (MATTHEW 2:1–2)
A. The Journey (v. 1)
1a. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea.
Bethlehem (about six miles south of Jerusalem) was the site of many important events that Jewish audiences likely remembered. While Bethlehem was a small village in Jesus’ time, it was the place where Jacob’s wife Rachel—mother of 2 of the 12 patriarchs whose offspring became the 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:24; 49:1–28)—died in childbirth and was buried (35:19). The events of the book of Ruth are set in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:19). Ruth’s great-grandson, King David, was raised there (Ruth 4:21–22; 1 Samuel 16:4–13). Because God had promised David that one of his descendants would rule over God’s people forever (2 Samuel 7:8–16), it was widely understood that the Messiah—a descendant of David—would also be associated with Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2, 4; quoted in Matthew 2:6, not in today’s lesson text). The word Bethlehem means “house of bread.”
1b. In the days of Herod the king.
Herod was installed as king of Judea by Rome in about 38 BC. He reigned until his death in 4 BC. While powerful, Herod was never popular with traditional Jews, who questioned his lineage. (Herod was ethnically Idumean, native of what was called Edom in the Old Testament.) They resented his pro-Roman policies. Upon his death, widespread revolt erupted across Judea.
1c. Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
While the precise origin of the wise men is unknown, they are clearly portrayed as Gentiles (non-Jews). In ancient paganism, wise men were considered experts in discerning the will of the gods and divining the future. This was accomplished through observation of various elements of nature, such as stars, weather patterns, and the behavior of animals. Wise men commonly served as counselors at the courts of royalty, giving advice on the basis of their supposed supernatural insight (compare Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2:2–11).
The citizens of many nations were prophesied to come to Israel to worship when the Messiah appeared. This would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity as all joined as one people under God (compare Micah 4:1–5). The appearance of the Gentile wise men is the first indication of God’s intention to fulfill this prophecy through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and the church’s proclamation of those facts.
The east may refer to Babylon or Persia, which had been home to large numbers of Jews since the Babylonian exile. That was during the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel in the sixth century BC. Some scholars, noting that Herod attempted to kill Jesus by ordering the execution of all boys age 2 and under (Matthew 2:16–18), propose that the events of Luke 2 occurred around 6 BC.
One would think that Jesus could not have been born in any year BC, just by definition. The blame lies with a well-intentioned monk of the sixth century AD who made a mistake in computation. The wise men may have arrived as much as two years later, during the last year of Herod’s reign (see commentary on Matthew 2:11, below).
B. The Star (v. 2)
2a. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?
This is the first time in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus is referred to as King of the Jews. This title is a glimpse of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, torture, and execution (Matthew 27:11, 29, 37).
2b. For we have seen his star in the east.
The wise men witnessed an unusual astronomical phenomenon. It was widely believed in antiquity that stars, eclipses, comets, and other astral events heralded significant events. Attempts to explain away the star’s value by identifying it with datable astronomical events have often been little more that attempts to deny the miracle of the wise men’s travel.
The Law of Moses clearly forbids the occult practices in which the wise men were experts (Deuteronomy 4:19; 18:9–14). Still, God communicated with these pagan astrologers in terms they could understand. Since the wise men sought wisdom in the stars, God chose to speak to them through that medium, calling them to leave their home country in search of a newborn king. If it seems strange for God to speak through a forbidden practice, consider also that God forbade witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10) but chose to communicate with King Saul in such a setting (1 Samuel 28). His ways are not our ways. Clearly, God ensured that Gentiles were included on the momentous occasion of today’s text.
2c. And are come to worship him.
The wise men seemed aware of Scriptures that spoke of a coming King. They may have been sent by their own king to worship and pay the respects typical of royal births. Because this was a royal event, they went first to Jerusalem, the political and religious center of Judea.
Verse 3 (not included in the lesson text) indicates that Herod was deeply suspicious of the wise men. Herod had spent almost four decades establishing himself as king of the Jews, and in the process had undertaken a series of brutal military actions and massive civil works projects to convert Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Perea (east of the Jordan), and Batanea (east of the Sea of Galilee) into productive areas. Since Herod had no newborn children at this time, the notion that a royal messianic figure might be coming could only spell rebellion. He may have suspected that the wise men were impostors, involved in a plot to create dissent.
II. Seeking the King
A. Led by Men (vv. 7–8)
7. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
In Matthew 2:4–6 (not in our lesson text), Herod’s own religious experts advised him from Micah 5:2–4 that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, about six miles south of Jerusalem. Herod’s inquiry into the timing of the star’s appearance foreshadowed his intention to quell this threat (see Matthew 2:14, below; also 2:16).
8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Based on the information his own experts had provided, Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem in hopes that they would locate a potential political rival. The wise men, interpreting the situation in religious rather than political terms, appeared to be oblivious to his scheme. Herod spoke deceitfully when he claimed that he too wanted to worship this young child (Matthew 2:13).
B. Led by God (vv. 9–10)
9. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
The reference to the star going before the wise men has generated considerable discussion. Because Bethlehem was essentially a suburb of Jerusalem, it would seem unnecessary for the star to guide them there. Yet the wise men were clearly not from the area and would need guidance to find the young child, especially at night.
The star here functions in a way similar to the manger in Luke’s account. The shepherds were told to go into Bethlehem and look for a newborn child, not knowing the specific place. For the shepherds, the sign that they had found the right person took the form of a manger (Luke 2:8–16). The image of the star remaining over the place there Jesus was recalls the pillars of cloud and fire that guided the Israelites (Exodus 13:21).
10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. The wise men doubtless rejoiced because their confusion had been resolved. While their initial observations simply led them to Jerusalem, they certainly would have been surprised and confused to learn that there had been no royal births in Herod’s household. Some students propose that the travelers had not seen the star for some time; now its reappearance, framed by references to the prophecies of the sacred Scriptures, was clearly a direct sign from God. The long journey was reaching its goal.
What Do You Think?
With whom will you share the joy of the wise men this Christmas?
What can you do to create (not just expect) opportunities to do so?
C. The Joy of Discovery (v. 11)
11a. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.
Mary and Joseph, who were from Nazareth, were still in Bethlehem. The wise men first saw Jesus at a certain house rather than in the manger where the shepherds met the family (Luke 2:16). It is possible that the wise men saw the star and began their journey some months before Jesus was born; in that case, what they described in Matthew 2:2 would have occurred sometime before 2:1. The result would be to see Jesus days or weeks after His birth. Matthew 2:16 may indicate an even longer period of time (see on 2:1c, above).
The worship offered by the wise men does not mean they fully understood Jesus’ identity. In fact, almost no one seemed to grasp Jesus’ identity fully until after His resurrection (examples: Matthew 16:13–23; Acts 2:14–39). More likely their reverence reflects the typical gestures of obeisance that would be offered to any ancient king.
What Do You Think?
How do we convince others that a “mere human” is worthy of being worshipped?
Before engaging in such a conversation, how do we ensure that everyone in the discussion shares the same definition of worship?
11b. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The gifts offered were consistent with the mission of the wise men to honor a newborn king. Gold, of course, was precious. Frankincense and myrrh were rare and expensive items, imported from southern Arabia and what today is known as Somaliland. Matthew surely sees the actions of the wise men as a fulfillment of prophecies such as Isaiah 60:1–9.
The number of visitors is unknown. The common view is that there were three, which corresponds to the number of gifts. Even if only three dignitaries came to see Jesus, they certainly would have traveled with a large retinue of servants and security officers. Oddly, none of the Jewish advisers to Herod seemed to have been interested in this new king, since there is no record of their joining the foreign men in seeking Him.
What Do You Think?
What can we do to connect better our Christmas gift-giving with that of the wise men’s gifts to baby Jesus?
How will you deal with the tension between Matthew 5:16 and 6:1 in this regard?
D. The Return Home (v. 12)
12. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
God continued to communicate with the wise men in a way familiar to them. As a result, they departed the country secretly rather than reporting Jesus’ identity and location to Herod.
Herod was likely made aware that Micah 5 predicted that the Messiah from Bethlehem would destroy oppressors and their pagan religious customs. To Herod, this could only mean a challenge to his own pro-Roman policies. Periodic insurrections were not unknown in this time and place (compare Acts 5:36–37), and Herod was infamous for eliminating opposition.
What Do You Think?
How will you know when you should avoid someone rather than trying to confront or witness to him or her?
Which among 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 2:11–21; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; Titus 3:10; and 3 John 9–10 is most compelling to you in this regard? Why?
A DREAM COME TRUE
A Muslim friend of mine who was just beginning his walk with Jesus struggled with taking the final step because his mother did not approve of his affiliation with Christians. Once while he was contemplating Christianity, his mother traveled to a faraway city.
One night in that strange place, she got lost. Confused and afraid, she sat down on the corner and began to cry. She prayed that if the Jesus her son spoke about were real, He would help her get home. She then felt hands on her back, pushing her gently in one direction, all the way to her friend’s house. She never saw anyone behind her.
This woman returned to her son full of excitement and sure that Jesus himself had guided her. He had answered her prayer. She joined her son in his new faith.
God uses different methods to reach different people. Even so, His communication to the wise men through the star and then a dream was only a start. They needed more information later (see Romans 10:17; Hebrews 1:1–2). Where are you along this path? Where should you be? —L. M. W.
III. Fleeing to a Strange Land
A. The Warning (v. 13)
13a. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
The angel of the Lord had earlier appeared to Joseph in a dream to inform him that Mary’s pregnancy was indeed miraculous (Matthew 1:20–24; see lesson 2). This time the angel warned Joseph of the looming consequences of the wise men’s informing Herod about a new king.
The Roman province of Egypt was to be the place of refuge. It was home to a large and influential Jewish community at that time. Traffic between Israel and Egypt was common, and Joseph could easily find work and support there without drawing too much attention. The wise men’s gifts, especially the gold, would be a huge help to the family during the sojourn.
Herod is often portrayed as attempting to fight against God himself. How could any human being hope to thwart the divine plan by killing the Christ, whom God had sent? Nothing in Matthew’s account, however, suggests that Herod believed God was behind the appearance of the wise men. In his view, they were either crackpot pagans or, more likely and more seriously, foreign agents involved in an elaborate hoax to generate unrest among the Jewish people. His failure to see the hand of God in the situation stands as a timeless lesson on the need to be mindful of God’s movement at all times.
B. The Flight to Egypt
14–15. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Prophecies are often explicitly cited in Matthew’s Gospel. For instance, Matthew 1:23 connects the angel’s announcement to Joseph with Isaiah 7:14 (compare Matthew 2:6). The verses before us quote Hosea 11:1 to explain why Jesus had to be taken to Egypt. Matthew 2:18 connects the massacre of the infants to Jeremiah 31:15, and an otherwise unknown prophecy explains why Jesus grew up in Nazareth (Matthew 2:21–23). These references to Scripture, combined with the various dreams (1:20; 2:12–13, 19) and unusual star, work together to stress the unique role of Jesus in God’s total plan of salvation.
What Do You Think?
Which do you have the most problem with: jumping the gun and starting too soon or procrastinating and starting too late?
How can you solve this problem?
When the Bible college where I work relocated from a small town to a larger city a couple of hours away, the faculty and staff faced a huge decision. Would they also move?
Many had children in schools in the area. The cost of living was higher in the city, and a booming housing market meant they’d get less house for more money. They believed that the move would be good for the college and its students. But did they believe it enough to make changes in their personal lives?
Most of the faculty and staff did decide to go. They stepped out in faith. They acted in the assurance that God would work through the move and would provide for their families in the city. They believed in the mission of the school enough to sacrifice for it. It is easy to sit back and say we’d give up everything for Jesus. But when we have the opportunity to sacrifice, do we take it? —L. M. W.
Expect the Unexpected
Matthew’s account foreshadows a deep tragedy of Christ’s ministry: those who should have been most prepared to accept Him did not (John 1:11). Instead, pagan astrologers welcomed Him with worship and expensive gifts!
This story is filled with the unexpected. No one expected pagan wise men to appear at Herod’s palace with congratulations on the birth of a royal child, especially since no such child had been born in Jerusalem! The wise men certainly did not expect to find the king of the Jews in a peasant’s house outside the capital. Jews did not expect the Christ to be born into danger so that His parents would need to flee to Egypt to protect Him. Most significantly, one would assume that the chief priests and appointed king of Judea would welcome the newborn Messiah.
Matthew’s account thus demonstrates the need to remain open to the unexpected. It encourages us to watch for God in action, even when (or especially when) He acts through people we might not anticipate. We still need eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:16–17).
Father, help us to interpret Your Word correctly and to listen carefully for Your voice. Give us the strength to follow Your call whenever and however it comes. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
C. Thought to Remember
Those who faithfully seek Jesus find Him.
God’s Solution to Our Troubles
Sunday, December 20, 2020
(John 14:1) “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
As we have seen, Jesus felt and experienced trouble, and with trouble come various temptations; for example, the temptation to not trust God or to stop believing in God and Jesus in times of trouble. Because Jesus is fully human, Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, but Jesus never sinned. Jesus always trusted in God the Father, and His Father never failed Him.
In Job 5:6-8, Eliphaz gave his opinion about trouble and what he would do if troubled: “For misery does not come from the earth, nor does trouble sprout from the ground; but human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward. As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause.” As human beings living in this world, we will have troubles, and Eliphaz told Job that he would seek God and commit his cause to God.
Jesus told His followers what to do when their hearts were troubled: “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Because Jesus had found His followers, was with His followers, and had revealed the Father and himself to His followers, they did not need to “seek God,” but they did need to keep believing in God and believing in Jesus. Very soon, they would experience trouble when Jesus died and was no longer with them. And as Jesus foretold them in John 13:33, “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” After Jesus died on the cross, they would particularly need to keep believing in God and believing in Jesus. Then, when they could not find Jesus, Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them. When we feel troubled, we need to “commit our cause” to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus did exactly what He taught when He was dying on the cross and quoted Psalm 31:5, “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God” (see Luke 23:46). God the Father was faithful to Jesus, and He rose from the dead.
Just as Jesus quoted Psalm 31:5, many Psalms remind us to trust in God in times of trouble. Consider these few examples and you will discover many more when you read the Psalms during your devotional times: Psalm 9:9, “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” Psalm 34:6, “This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble;” Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;” Psalm 50:15, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me;” Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble.”
Jesus is fully God and throughout Jesus’ ministry, He showed and told many reasons for us to also believe in Him and call on Him in times of trouble. In John 8:12, Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life. In Psalm 27:1, the Psalmist said, “The LORD is my light.” God the Father and God the Son are the light that Jesus told us to believe in, and Jesus is the light at the end of the tunnel when our hearts are troubled. In John 4:22, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” Jesus is our salvation, so we can worship the Father and the Son with all the words of Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Prior to Jesus’ arrest, He knew His disciples would flee in fear when He allowed himself to be taken away for trial and crucifixion, so He shared these truths for them and for all who would follow Him later. Whenever His followers faced troubles or crises, Jesus wanted them to not let their hearts be troubled, whether He was personally with them or hanging from a cross. Jesus gave them good reasons not to be troubled. Jesus’ followers are the children of God; God is their heavenly Father. Even if Jesus were hanging on a cross (as He soon would be), His followers were to keep trusting in their heavenly Father and in Him. He wanted His followers to keep believing in Him, for He would soon be raised from the dead and be with them again. No matter what the fearful or troubling situation, Jesus’ followers need to keep believing in God and believing in Jesus; then, their hearts will not remain troubled. Jesus rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus personally dwells in the hearts of all His followers; He and their heavenly Father will take care of them—Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God and believe in Jesus!
(John 14:2) “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
When the Jews of Jesus’ day thought of God’s house, they thought of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus called the temple His Father’s house in John 2:16, saying, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” But Jesus knew that in about forty years the Romans would destroy their temple and Jerusalem. As followers of Jesus, we can think of the Father’s house in heaven when we read some of the Psalms, for example, Psalms 26:8, “O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides;” and Psalms 27:4, “One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” We can ask ourselves if we really feel and think about the Father’s house as did the Psalmist.
When Jesus said He was going to the Father, He was going to the Father in the Father’s house, which we also know as heaven. Most of Jesus’ disciples died a martyr’s death, and these words would comfort them. If we, His followers, die physically; that is, when our bodies die and we become separated from our bodies, we have a specific place to go—a dwelling place—a place to stay and live with God and Jesus in the Father’s house. Jesus taught that the end of life in the world does not mean the end of life. Jesus went to heaven to personally prepare a special place for all His followers, a far better place to live than living in this world. Jesus loves us and knows us intimately, and Jesus knows what will make us happy. Jesus will create a special place for us in the Father’s house that will give us happiness far beyond what we can understand now. Being with the Father and the Son throughout eternity will make us the happiest.
(John 14:3) “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Jesus was going to rise from the dead and ascend back into heaven, from where He lived with the Father before He came into the world. After Jesus has prepared a place for all those who believe in Him, He will return and take them to heaven. When we separate from our bodies that die physically, Jesus comes to us (if we believe in Him) to take us to be with Him. Jesus’ words encouraged His disciples when they faced physical death, and for almost 2000 years they have encouraged all who have followed Him. Physical death is not the end of life but the beginning of a glorious eternal future with the Father and the Son and all who love God and one another.
(John 14:4) “And you know the way where I am going.”
The disciples knew the way, Jesus, but they did not know that they knew the way was Jesus. Some might think of “the way” as a road to travel, a way of living, a religious organization, or a rule or set of rules to follow. Jesus did not mean any of these things, but they did not understand. The place Jesus was going to was heaven to be with His Father in a different way than when He ministered to people and served His Father on Earth. His different way was dying on a cross, rising again, and ascending into heaven. Again, we can look at the Psalms for guidance. For example, in Psalm 25:4, David wrote, “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.” Jesus was going to teach His disciples that going to the Father was not by knowing some ways or paths to follow, or some commandments to obey; rather, going to the Father would be to follow Him and if a believer follows Jesus He will do as Jesus did and even greater works than Jesus did (see John 14:12). As the Son of God, Jesus is greater than the ways, paths, and commandments of God that He expects us to obey even as He obeyed. Consider Psalm 25:8, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.” Jesus identified himself as the LORD, as the “I Am.” Jesus instructs sinners in the way when He says believers are to follow Him who is the Way. Believers keep their spiritual eyes on Jesus, keep close to Jesus, and follow Jesus to always be with Jesus on earth and in heaven.
(John 14:5) Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
Thomas was the disciple who mournfully declared that if the disciples went back to Bethany, even though they went to help Martha and Mary whose brother, Lazarus, had died, that they would die with Jesus: “Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’” (John 11:16). After Jesus was crucified, Thomas also doubted Jesus’ resurrection until he saw Jesus raised from the dead. In John 20:27, Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” So, along with the other disciples at dinner with Jesus, Thomas certainly did not know or understand that Jesus planned to die, rise again, and ascend to heaven; nor did the disciples know the way or road to take to follow Jesus. In the next verse, Jesus revealed an astounding truth to them that gave good reasons for people to believe in God and believe in Jesus (see John 14:1).
(John 14:6) Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Jesus told them that He was not speaking of a road to travel, a way to live, or a new religion. Rather, Jesus himself was and still is the way to God the Father. By Jesus clinging to us and by our clinging to Jesus in faith as Jesus enables us, He becomes the way to eternal life with God in heaven. Just as getting in a spacecraft is the only way to go to the moon, the only way to God the Father, the only way to know the truth (the true facts) about God and reality, the only way to have both the physical and spiritual life God wants us to enjoy forever is in a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. More than this, only way for a believer to come to the Father is to have Jesus Christ living within them. The Apostle Paul summarized this in Colossians 1:27, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” People need to believe what Jesus said about himself in the Bible and what the Bible says about Jesus. The first step in learning more truth about Jesus is believing the Bible is true. In Psalms 25:5, we read the prayer, “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” Jesus claimed to be the way and He also claimed to be the truth that people should believe in and follow. Believers in Jesus can pray through this verse during their devotions: “Lead me Jesus, because You are the truth; teach me more about You, because You are the God of my salvation. I wait for You to take all who believe in You to be with You and our Father in heaven.” In John 1:4, John introduced Jesus to His readers, writing, “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” The way to the Father is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who guides and empowers believers in Him. Jesus is our life now and forever, and we depend absolutely in Him for life.
(John 14:7) “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Jesus reminded His disciples that God the Father and God the Son were so perfectly united in heart and in mind, in purpose and in truth, that to know the Father was to know the Son, and to know the Son was to know the Father. Jesus wanted them to know that from their past relationship with Him, and from that time forward, they had seen and would see the purposes, the divine nature, and the loving character of the Father perfectly revealed in all Jesus had said and did and would say and do in the future.
God’s Solution to Our Troubles
Sunday, December 20, 2020
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1—KJV).
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me (John 14:1—NASB).
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1—NRSV).
Jesus gave the ultimate solution for facing our fears and overcoming our problems. He commanded, “Do not let your hearts be troubled;” then, He told us how to live untroubled by past, present, or future events that we have experienced or might experience. Believers in Jesus can handle every troubling person or situation with composure, because Jesus gave them reasons for not allowing themselves to become overwhelmed with events and people beyond their control. He commanded, “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus Christ came into the world to show and tell the truth about God the Father and himself. By the way Jesus lived, died sacrificially, and rose from the dead, He revealed the breadth and depth of God’s gracious love. He demonstrated the character and true nature of God perfectly throughout His life; then, He declared, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). In Jesus Christ, we see the perfect, wise, and loving concern of God the Father for everyone. If we believe in God and Jesus, we have many reasons for hopefulness. Moreover, those who believe in God and Jesus can help those with a weak or no faith in God. They can demonstrate the faithfulness of God and Jesus by their words and acts of faith. When people see the peace and joy that the indwelling Holy Spirit gives Jesus’ followers, God the Father has shown them the results of trusting in Him and His Son. Even if believers suffer disaster and death before Jesus returns, through believing in God and Jesus they will not perish but enjoy eternal life in the paradise Jesus has prepared for them.
God’s Solution to Our Troubles
Sunday, December 20, 2020
1. What are some concerns or events that trouble some people today?
2. How can believing in God the Father and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior help people not to be troubled about the concerns and events they listed in answer to question one?
3. Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life. How does knowing this help you in your daily life?
4. How do Jesus’ words help you when you are facing death – the death of a friend, loved one, or yourself?
5. How can you see and know the Father?
Discussion and Thinking Further
1. What are some concerns or events that trouble some people today? The economy, moral and spiritual decline, disease, divisions, war.
2. How can believing in God the Father and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior help people not to be troubled about the concerns and events they listed in answer to question one? Jesus promised that God will care for us and meet our needs; just as He cares for and meets the needs of the animals, the birds, and the flowers. Jesus has told us to be His witnesses, but also said in the Sermon on the Mount that His followers would be persecuted for righteousness sake. As a result of our telling others about Jesus, some will repent and come to faith in Jesus and be saved. Jesus has called us (His followers) to make the effort to be peacemakers, but even if we are killed in war, Jesus has prepared a place for us (His followers).
3. Jesus said He was the way, the truth, and the life. How does knowing this help you in your daily life? When we need to know the way to God, the way to heaven, or the way to go whenever we are lost, we can call upon Jesus, who will help us. When we need to know the ultimate truth about God and reality, we can ask Jesus to help us understand what the Bible teaches. When we need what will help us in our spiritual or physical life or help us have greater assurance of eternal life, we can pray to Jesus, who will help us.
4. How do Jesus’ words help you when you are facing death – the death of a friend, loved one, or yourself? Jesus promised that He has prepared a special place in heaven for all who believe in Him. We know that when any of His followers die, He comes to take them to heaven to be with Him and His heavenly Father forever.
5. How can you see and know the Father? By looking at Jesus and seeing and knowing the Father through Jesus’ words and works as recorded in the Bible. We do not see with physical eyes but with our spiritual “eyes” or discernment.
God’s Solution to Our Troubles
Sunday, December 20, 2020
S Y L O Y M Y K E S E A Q D C
P U P T Z P V N A K I T W X Y
E X S N D Y L F V S M E H Z R
S A Q E F H I K P O L G E C E
K P M R J X F R D L Z S H V H
D Z T B W J E J I G U R Q T T
Y E O E E L W N E O W D F R A
Q S L S V B G R H M A T Z U F
J X U B G E A J S X Y D K T R
E S E Q U P I A Y N O R S H F
T R F C E O M L K I W N T J R
B X G R A O R G E H O D R N S
E L P K H L U T D B N G A I R
K Z O T S Z P W R V K O E O Z
E T R W A K Q B T D A D H W C
True and False Test
God’s Solution to Our Troubles
Sunday, December 20, 2020
Circle the True or False answers. Correct the False statements by restating them.
1. To be martyrs, Christians should always seek out problems to worry about so they can always feel troubled about something. True or False
2. If you really believe in someone or something bigger than yourself, you will never have troubles. True or False
3. When you feel troubled, as a believer in Jesus, you need to keep believing in God and Jesus. True or False
4. For real lasting help in time of trouble, you need to believe in the true God and the true Jesus as the Bible teaches. True or False
5. The Father’s house is heaven and Jesus will prepare a place in heaven for all who believe in Him. True or False
6. If we know Jesus, we know the way to heaven, where Jesus went. True or False
7. Because Jesus is the Truth, everything He taught and revealed to people by what He said and did is true and right. True or False
8. To know the most important truths about reality, God, and ourselves, we must become committed students of philosophy and comparative religions. True or False
9. No one can come to the Father except through Jesus. True or False
10. If you know Jesus, you know the Father. To know the Father, you must believe Jesus. True or False
True and False Test Answers
Father, help us to interpret Your Word correctly and to listen carefully for Your voice. Give us the strength to follow Your call whenever and however it comes. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen