How to Study the Bible Part 1 – Just Pick it Up and Read It :-)

Do you shy away from reading the Bible because you don’t think you’ll understand what you read?

Are you worried because there are lots of weird names and hard-to-pronounce words?

Maybe you haven’t read the Bible because you don’t own one?

Maybe you don’t think you’re supposed read it because you’re not a “born-again Christian.”

Let me tell you – all you have to do to get started is pick it up and read it – or download a version to read on your phone. 😉

Image Credit: Verse of the Day

It is difficult to understand what’s going on in some places. There are lots of hard-to-pronounce names of people and places. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It’s imperative that you read it for yourself – especially if you’re telling people you’re a Christian. You can’t rely on what other people tell you about the Bible. Even the most trusted pastor would advise you to read and study the Bible on your own, in addition to listening to sermons and messages from those trained to teach from it.

Aside from simply gaining knowledge about biblical things, reading your Bible is a way to grow closer in your relationship with God. He can and will speak to you when you spend time in the Bible.

Even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a believer, you can read the Bible. Even if you’ve never accepted His offer of salvation, you can read the Bible. The Bible was written for you, too.

There are tools within most Bibles to help you when you’re ready to dig in and study what it has to say.

But first, here are pointers to keep in mind:

  • PRAY. Talk to God before you start to read the Bible – every time you start to read. Thank Him for giving you His written word so you can learn about who He is. Thank Him for giving you His written word so you can learn how He wants you to live. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins so you won’t be separated from Him, so that you can hear Him when He talks to you about what you’re reading and so you can understand things about God’s kingdom. Ask Him to open your eyes and soften your heart. Then, tell Him you will submit to His will. Ask Him to open your mind and your heart to read and understand what the Bible says. Ask Him to show you where to go and who to talk to when you need help. Ask Him to help you yield to Him when He shows you things in your life that you need to turn away from. {Hint – you aren’t going to like or agree with everything He tells you to turn from, so praying for His help to yield to His commands is important}.
  • Read and reread. It’s ok if you don’t understand what you read the first or even the fifth time. Read it again and again. Reread it even if you did understand it. Meditate on what you read – think about what it said over and over in your head. You can even use apps that will read the verses to you so you can listen to scripture.
  • Read the same thing in different translations. This is particularly easy if you have access to a smartphone or the internet. Many versions of the Bible are accessible through their own websites and there are also apps that offer different versions within the same app – you can switch back and forth by clicking on the version you want to read.
  • Ask a trusted Christian friend when you need help. Don’t have any Christians in your circle that you could go to with questions? I’m available to talk with you. Contact me through my blog, and I’ll do all I can to help.

Now, let’s look at some of the research tools available in many versions of the Bible:

  • Once you’ve prayed and God has pointed you toward the particular book to study, read the introduction to that book (if your version of the Bible offers that). I do this in my print Bibles. I have an English Standard Version (ESV) Personal Size Study Bible and a New American Standard MacArthur Study Bible (MSB). Both offer introductions at the start of each book that include information such as the author and date of the book, background and setting, key themes of the book, an outline, etc. Reading the introduction first gives you context and helps you place the information you’re about to read in the overall timeline of biblical (and sometimes broader historical) events. I do this every time I read a book for the first time.
  • Many Bible translations also offer commentary. This is extra information and insight from theologians and biblical scholars about specific verses and passages. It is important to make the distinction, however, between the scripture itself and the commentary. Scripture is the Word of God; it came from God. Commentary comes from man. It is meant to give us extra insight and help us get a better understanding of what we read, but it isn’t meant to be taken as 100% accurate like we would scripture. We must always go back to prayer and scripture for our final understanding.
The commentary in my ESV is at the bottom of each page below the scripture. Scripture font is larger than commentary font and a line separates the two in order to signify the distinction between scripture and commentary.
  • The concordance is another helpful tool found in many versions of the Bible. It’s located at the back of the Bible and is similar to an index and a glossary in reference books. Let’s say you want to study fasting. Turn to your Bible’s concordance, find the “f’s”, and find “fast” or “fasting.” (Words are listed in alphabetical order). Now you have a list of other verses in the Bible that include the word “fast” or “fasting.” You can go to those verses and read more about biblical fasting (and the accompanying commentary for those verses). I do this when I want to focus my study on a word or concept and learn more about it from a biblical standpoint.
MSB Concordance
  • Cross-references are similar to the concordance and help us locate more scripture about a particular word or concept. Note the picture below. The arrow in the middle of the page points to a tiny “t” superscript in front of the name Apollos in Acts 19:1. In the left margin, another arrow points to the corresponding “t” meaning the name Apollos is mentioned again in Acts 18:24. If I want more information about Apollos, I can use this cross reference to read the scripture and any corresponding commentary about him.
Cross references are signified in the verses with superscripts (tiny letters above and to the left of the word or idea). The corresponding cross references verses are found in the inside-facing margin of each page.

Next week in “How to Study the Bible Part 2,” we’ll discuss studying words from the Bible in their original languages – Greek and Hebrew. You don’t have to have a seminary degree to be able to do this 🙂 Come back next week, and I’ll show you.

(***I’m going to do something I’ve never done – read the introduction to the Bible. I imagine that will give me even more resources the bibles offer for study that I didn’t even know where there 🙂 I hope you’ll read the introduction to your Bible as well. I’ll tell you what I learned).

When God Changes Your Plans

I should be packing the last item in my carry-on bag and checking that I have enough changes of clean underwear 😉

But, I’m not. I emptied what I’d already packed and put away my bags last night.

I should be checking into my flight on the American Airlines app.

But, I’m not. I canceled my flight yesterday.

I should be flying out of Charlotte tomorrow morning at 9:40 and landing in Cincinnati around 11:30am.

But, I’m not. I’ll be home in Monroe instead.

Image Credit: Bing Images

Three friends and I began planning this trip in January. We met when we started Flourish Writers Academy at the beginning of 2021 (part of Flourish Writers). After we got connected and started meeting regularly outside of academy events to talk about our writing and to share prayer requests and praises, we decided to travel from our home states (NC, FL, CA, and MI), spend the weekend of April 30-May 2 together in Cincinnati, and attend Flourish Writers LIVE on May 1.

But we aren’t.

One friend tested positive for Covid-19 this past Monday and began the necessary 10-day quarantine.

Another friend’s mom fell over the weekend and had surgery for her injuries on Tuesday. Our friend decided she needed to stay with her mom to help in her recovery.

That left two of us.

Officially, we could have still gone. But part of the reason we were so excited about going was to get to meet each other in person and spend time together. When it became obvious that everyone couldn’t go, she and I decided we’d cancel our plans as well.

Let’s be honest: We really didn’t cancel our plans though.

God did.

At this point, I don’t know His reason for doing it. I may never know why, or He may reveal it at some future time.

But, I can tell you this, I am at peace with it.

I eagerly anticipated this trip since I bought my plane ticket in March. I was looking forward to the content of the writers conference itself. I was also excited to meet Mindy and Jenny – the women who created Flourish Writers and who would lead the event. I was looking forward to being refreshed, encouraged, and inspired anew in my writing.

However, I trust God. If this trip didn’t happen, it was for my good – it was for the good of my three friends as well. There was something else we needed to do this weekend or something God was protecting us from. Or it just wasn’t in God’s timing for us to go right now. Or some other reason that only God knows.

Has God ever canceled your plans?

Maybe it was something relatively small like my current example – a weekend trip with friends.

Or maybe it was something big.

You expected to be married by a certain age, but you’re still single.

You assumed marriage would last forever, but you’re divorced.

You planned to have children, but you’re still childless.

You thought your child would stay on the right path but now he or she is wayward.

You wanted a certain job or a promotion, but those doors haven’t opened.

You thought a move to a new house or a new town or a new state would make things better, but the move didn’t happen or your situation didn’t change even when your address did.

God interrupts.

God cancels plans.

God changes plans.

God makes new plans.

The next time God cancels your plans, it’s ok to be disappointed. It’s ok to be upset or even angry. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to scream. But don’t stay in that dry, dreary place.

Take some time in quiet to talk with Him. You can express your feelings. God can handle your anger, frustration, or hurt feelings. He isn’t surprised by your response. In fact, He already knows how you feel; he’s just waiting for you to talk to Him about it so He can show you what He has planned instead.

Image Credit: pinimg.com

Ask Him to reveal to you why you missed the opportunity. Why things didn’t go according to your plan. Then wait and listen to what He has to say. Ask Him to help you accept what He has to say. Ask Him to help you trust Him more. Ask Him to help you with your unbelief. He is faithful to hear His children and to respond when we cry out to Him.

Live in Peace

“God allows the awareness of…distance [from Him] at times; it’s a wake-up call for the ones who care. It drives us back to Him.” Jessie North – Cultivating Holy Beauty Book 3: Walking in the New

Some friends and I recently finished Cultivating Holy Beauty Book 3: Walking in the New by Jessie North. It was part of a 3-book Bible study series that we started a year or so ago. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a group Bible study. North offers so many useful tools to help you gain intimacy with God; she teaches you a quiet time method as well as how to write Hurt Letters to God and how to hear Love Letters from Him.

Before we completed the last lesson in Book 3, my friends and I had already started to talk about what we would do after this book. Officially, our church’s women’s ministry, which heads our group Bible study, won’t start another study until the fall, but my friends and I wanted to keep something going. Many expressed worry over maintaining the closeness to God they felt while doing the group study once we were finished and headed into summer with nothing formal planned.

And God is so good! The last lesson in the book was titled “Sustaining Through Seasons”, and North addressed maintaining closeness with God during dry seasons, “off” seasons, dark seasons, etc. It was an answer to prayer.

We started with a 4-day bible study plan through Bible App/YouVersion called God’s Peace. Several of the ladies in our group had done individual studies through this app and suggested with try it as a group. There is a feature where you can post comments about what you’re learning during the study. We discovered once we started that our plan was from Focus on the Family and was meant to be completed with your children. However, we continued it together this past week focusing on the assigned Bible readings for each day. Some of us even used techniques we learned from the quiet time method Jessie North taught in Cultivating Holy Beauty Book 1: Intimacy with Jesus as we did the Bible readings each day.

My main takeaways from the 4-day plan were as follows:

  • Peace comes when you realize you are safe with God.
  • Peace comes “through following God’s rules.”
  • Peace comes when there is well being at home (when family members reflect the character of God).
  • Peace comes through a strong faith.

Here are some of the verses that stood out to me from the readings this week as well as some songs that came to mind when I meditated on the verses.

Isaiah 32:17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Romans 12:18 – Do all you can to live in peace with everyone.

Col 3:15 – and let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Psalm 4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

https://youtu.be/6kj8pzDLcc8

https://youtu.be/rn9-UNer6MQ

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G2XtRuPfaAU


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VBzg4B3_yS8

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fhtI-xhVXWI


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KHMVSdIjBcg


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YihKbG8-X3U


https://youtu.be/R0gu0nOaFsI

How to Be a Godly Woman – Esther’s Example

I want to be a godly woman, a woman whose life has been visibly impacted by the gospel message. This type of life brings glory to God, and that is a Christian’s purpose.

I want that for your life as well.

Let’s be women whose lives please God. Let’s be women who respond with humble obedience to the Good News that Jesus gave His life for our salvation…

Ok, whoa. Time out. Let’s stop here. This sounds great and all, but what does it mean? HOW do we live godly lives? It’s great to want to, but how do we live it out?

We’ll look to God’s word for examples.  Queen Esther, a Jew who became a queen of Persia, showed herself to be a godly woman many times throughout her story in the book of Esther in the Old Testament.

Image Credit: KnowingJesus.com

God gifted Esther with a personality and beauty that won her favor with many people she met in her life including the King of Persia, who “loved her more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight…so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen…” (excerpts from Esther 2:17, ESV)

Even more impressive than being able to make the king fall in love with her, was Esther’s faith in God. Her faith propelled her to act on behalf of her people when her uncle Mordecai discovered a plot against them. When Mordecai uncovered the plot, he shared that knowledge with Esther, asking her to go to the king and beg him to help the Jews.

Truthfully, Esther was fearful at first.  She knew that taking matters into her own hands and speaking to the king before he called for her company would mean certain death.  (There was a law that said no one, not even the king’s wives, could go to the king unless he summonsed them).  She initially told her uncle she couldn’t help.  However, he reminded her to trust in God’s providential timing and to fulfill her personal calling.  In Esther 4:14b, Mordecai points out to Esther, although indirectly, that God made wife to the king of Persia during a very specific time and for a definite reason – so He could save His children, the Jews, through her.

Image Credit: faithit.com

Esther showed herself to be a godly woman in her response to the request from her uncle.  She chose to trust God’s will for her life and to take courage and do what was right for God’s people.  She said, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat and drink for three days, nights or day.  I and my young women will also fast as you do.  Then, I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

Basically, she said, “Bring it on. I trust God’s will for my life and His timing.  I choose to bloom where I’m planted.”

But seriously, this is what we learn from Esther about how to be godly women: godly women submit to God’s will for their lives, like Jesus’ mother Mary didThey also trust God’s providence and His timing, and they are willing to work for God’s kingdom in their places of influence.

Godly women yield to what God has planned for us. We say yes to where He leads us. We allow Him to carry out His will through our lives. We are productive for the Kingdom in the places God puts us. Submitting to God involves trust in who God is. It involves confidence that He is sovereign and good and just. Again, this sounds good, but how exactly do we get to this point? Pray. Ask God to help us do this. Ask God to have his way in our lives. (Then be ready to yield when He directs you). Listen. How does God respond to your request? Where does He say to go? What does He say to do? Read. Go to scripture and read about other godly women for more examples of holy living. Talk. Seek out women who are leading godly lives. Consider why you think they’re godly? What about their lives leads you to believe they are living a life pleasing to God? What behaviors do they model? Ask them to describe times in their lives when God has required them to submit. Find out what obedience to God looks like and feels like in their experiences. Respond.  Do what God directs you to do.  Live the way He has told you to live.  Turn away from the things He tells you to turn away from.  Be productive for the Kingdom of God in your places of influence. This isn’t something that will happen in a day or two. This will take repeated time alone with God in prayer and in reading His word. This will mean praying daily for God to help you submit to His will…even after you think you’ve submitted, pray each day that God will help you submit to Him that particular day. I passionately encourage you to pursue a deeper relationship with God in this way.  Submit to His will for your life.  Adorn the gospel with your behavior.  Let the world see how your faith has impacted your life.  Be joyful and act on what is right in the places He has put you. Guided Prayer: Father, Thank you for sending your Son to die for me. Thank you for making a way for me to have eternal life with you. Thank you for pursuing me and for bringing me to yourself. I want people to see that your sacrifice has impacted my life. I want people to see that you have changed me. I am your servant girl, Lord. I believe that you have me in this place at this time for a purpose.  You created me for this.  You have shown me that I can trust you. I want to submit my life to you, Lord. I don’t know what that looks like, but you do. I don’t know how to do it, but you do. Help me to do it, Lord. Help me to yield my plans and my agenda and my schedule and my to-do list to you. Make me humbly obedient. Make me your servant girl every day of my life. Amen

 

 

Thoughts – Does it say that in the Bible?  See – https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/biblical-say-bloom-youre-planted/

What If You Had Been There?

Imagine you’re Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, Mary the mother of James, or any of the woman who closely followed Jesus and were there in Jerusalem during Holy Week.

Image Credit:
WordPress Blog

Focus on Jesus, the one you followed, talked to, learned from, believed in, loved…

Now see him snatched from the garden by torchlight.

See him dragged around the city and subjected to illegal trials.

Now he’s beaten and spat on. See his bloody and broken body.

See him on the cross.

Now he’s dead. See his body wrapped in cloth and laid in a cave in the side of a hill.

All is lost. How can this be? You don’t understand. Were you wrong to follow him? You were convinced he was going to save you, but he couldn’t even save himself.

Now, the angels say he’s alive!

Now he appears before you – whole, healthy, breathing, eating, speaking!

Now he tells you to go, teach, baptize, and make more disciples.

See him lifted from the mountain and watch him be carried into heaven.

You have been saved. Everything he said is true. He is alive. He is the Christ!

Now you are sure.

Now you will tell everyone you meet about what he did to free people from sin.

Now you will live the rest of your life for him.

Then, you will spend eternity with him…

On this Maundy Thursday, spend time in quiet with Jesus thanking him for the sacrifice he made for you. If you haven’t been following along with us as we focused on Holy Week during the month of March, here are the reading lists:

What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died

What Happened The Week Before Jesus Died – Triumphal Entry

What Happened the Day Before Jesus Died

What Happened the Day Jesus Died

What Happened Three Days After Jesus Died

What Happened Three Days After Jesus Died – Resurrection and Ascension*

{If this is your first “What Happened” post, go back to the introductory post for the survey of the major events of Holy week that we’re doing together on Servant Girl Stories during March. Then, read the post detailing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Next, read the post about the night before Jesus died. Finally, read the post describing Jesus’ trials and crucifixion. After that, you’re ready for this post}.

The women find Jesus’s tomb empty. Image credit: 1stbiblical blog

As early as possible on the first day of the week, you gather with the other women to take more spices to the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed.

Nicodemus and Joseph already covered his body in myrrh and aloes before binding him and laying him in Joseph’s tomb three days ago. But the women agreed to take more spices as soon as the Sabbath was over, and you want to go with them.

One last chance to be near Jesus.

It seems right that he should be honored this way.

The sweet aroma of the burial spices forces you to confront the truth – their scent is meant to cover the stench of a dead body as it decomposes. Jesus is dead. You are going to anoint his dead body with these spices. You have helped anoint dead bodies of loved ones before, but you never really noticed how the spices smelled. Not so keenly as you do now. But the odor is overwhelming. Your eyes burn, and your nose and throat sting.

Thinking of him and how much you loved and were devoted to him, hot tears pour from your eyes again. You haven’t stopped crying since Friday. Since you witnessed his gruesome death. Something you will never forget for the rest of your life.

You still cannot believe the teacher is gone.

Quietly, you and the other women gather the spices and make your way to the tomb. You don’t look at each other. You don’t speak to each other.

How can he be dead? You ask yourself for the millionth time. How could someone that good… be gone?

On the day he removed the demons that possessed and tormented you for so long, you vowed to follow him to the ends of the earth.

You just never expected the end to come so quickly…and in Jerusalem.

“How will we move the stone?” Someone asks, snatching you back to the present.

You’d been blindly following the group in a trance of disbelief, despair, and devastation.

How will we move the stone? You wonder, your forehead furrowing. Panic begins to rise. We must be allowed to anoint his body! You think as your heart begins to race. Blood pounds loudly in your ears.

From the front of the cluster of your friends, Joanna gasps loudly and stops so quickly that Salome bumps into her and you bump into Salome. The other women behind you crowd close.

“Look!” Joanna’s voice is barely above a whisper.

Glancing past the women in front of you, you see it. But you don’t believe it. You squint and blink against the sun just beginning to rise over the tombs.

The stone has already been rolled away…

The empty tomb/Image Credit: istockphoto

Readings for the fourth week of March

*As you read each account, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the arrest in the garden, see the soldiers’ torchlight dancing off their armor, hear the worried voices of the disciples as they realize what the soldiers have come to do…imagine you are there in the scene as it unfolds.

Sunday – Jesus resurrects and appears to various people. 

READ:

  • Matthew 28:1-20
  • Mark 16:1-9
  • Luke 24:1-53
  • John 20:1-31

Other Accounts of Jesus’ Appearances after His Resurrection

Optional Reading

READ:

  • John 21:1-25

The remaining 11 disciples speak with Jesus before he ascends.  Soon after that, the disciples return to the upper room (where the Last Supper was held) for a prayer meeting. 

Jesus ascends into heaven. Image Credit: pinimg.com

Optional Reading

  • Acts 1:1-14

Everything we have read about Jesus’ Passion week should point us to Jesus, the cross, salvation, and penitence. It should make it even more grateful for what he did and what it means in our lives.

During the week, reread the verses as many times as possible. Try to read them in different translations as well. Also, read commentary on these verses. Listen to them on a Bible app that will read them aloud. This will help you visualize everything and write the events on your heart. Journal your thoughts on the questions to consider above. Share our survey of events with a friend so you can discuss together what God is showing you as you pray and read.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

Image Credit: elevatechristiannetwork.com

How have you been impacted by studying accounts of Easter events in the 4 Gospels? I would love to hear about your experience reading about Easter week.

*Along with the Bible verses listed above, the following articles helped inform the narrative at the beginning of this study:

https://www.gotquestions.org/anointing-spices.html

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/678-the-sweet-fragrance-of-a-subtle-argument

https://godasagardener.com/2016/03/25/aloe-and-myrrh-wrapped-body/

What Happened the Day Before Jesus Died – Passover and Prayer in the Garden*

{Read the introductory post for the survey of the major events of Holy week that we’re doing together on Servant Girl Stories during March. Then, read the previous post – detailing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.}

The Jaffa Gate – Jerusalem/Image Credit: holy-landpilgrmage.com

Two things made it clear that the Passover Celebration was at hand in Jerusalem – extra Roman soldiers and extra sheep. The increased presence of soldiers was to quell uprisings that threatened to flare up as the number of people in the city swelled close to 2 million (and since Jesus had made his presence known earlier in the week). Pilate didn’t want to have to deal with any overzealous Jews.

As for the sheep, they would be ritually sacrificed and eaten during the Passover meal.

When Peter and John arrived in Jerusalem Thursday morning, the streets were jammed with people making their last-minute preparations for the evening’s Passover meal. With the city’s population at about 6 times more than normal, the two men were concerned they wouldn’t be able to find the place Jesus had chosen to eat the meal. He had sent them into the city early to prepare it, giving them instructions about who to find and what to say.

Fortunately, it did not take them long to locate the person Jesus told them to look for: a man carrying a water jug. This man stood out from the bustling crowd since it was usually a woman’s duty to fetch the water.

Peter and John followed the man through the packed streets until he entered a three-story house. Once inside, they greeted the owner of the house and said, “The Teacher wants to eat the Passover meal in your guest room.”

A Proposed Site of the Upper Room – Jerusalem/Image Credit: steemit.com/travel

The owner showed them up the stairs to a large, furnished, upper room. There, Peter and John began preparations for the meal.

Readings for the second week of March

*As you read the various accounts of each event this week, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the arrest in the garden, see the soldiers’ torchlight dancing off their armor, hear the worried voices of the disciples as they realize what the soldiers have come to do…imagine you are there in the scene as it unfolds.

Thursday, morning – Jesus and his disciples prepare for the Passover meal in the “Upper Room.” 

READ:

  • Matthew 26: 17-19
  • Mark 14:12-16
  • Luke 22:7-13

Thursday, after sunset – Jesus and his disciples eat the Passover meal in the “Upper Room.” 

We see the Last Supper in our minds with the men sitting in chairs at a table (because this is how much of the artwork depicts it). However, the Bible describes the men as “reclining” at the table. The above image is more like how they would have sat to eat the Passover meal. This was customary for this culture at this time. Image Credit: lessonsnblessings.com

READ:

  • Matthew 26:20-29
  • Mark 14:17-25
  • Luke 22: 14-23
  • John 13:1-30 – John’s gospel does not describe the meal in the Upper Room, but it provides the only account of the Master washing the feet of his disciples after supper. 

Consider this:

  • Scripture and prophecy predicted Jesus’ death, so we know God ordered these events. However, Judas is still responsible for his part in betraying Jesus to the religious leaders (see Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21 and Luke 22:22).  How do we reconcile God’s sovereignty with human responsibility – the fact that God is in control of all things, but we are still held responsible for our actions?  (Read also Genesis 50:18-21; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28, Acts 18:9-11, and 2 Timothy 2:10 for other scripture references that affirm God’s sovereign ordering of events while at the same time pointing to human responsibility for those events).

Thursday, late in the night and into early Friday morning – Jesus and some disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested.

Olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane – Jerusalem/Image Credit: beinharimtours.com

READ:

  • Matthew 26:30-56
  • Mark 14:26-50
  • Luke 22: 39-53
  • John 18:1-12

Consider this:

  • Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ arrest give details about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  (ESV translations are used here) – Matthew 26:37-38 describe Jesus as “sorrowful and troubled” and “sorrowful even to death.”  Mark 14:33, 34 uses the terms “distressed and troubled,” and Luke 22:44 describes him as being in “agony.”  These are strong descriptions, but maybe the original language can give us an even clearer picture of Jesus’ state of mind in the garden.  Use the Blue Letter Bible app, your Bible’s commentary or other source to look up the original Greek words for “sorrowful,” “troubled,” distressed,” and “agony” as they were used in these specific verses.  What do these words mean?  What insight do they give you into Jesus’ emotions at that point?  Why does he feel this way?
Jesus arrested in Gethsemane – Image Credit: biblestudy1.com

During the week, reread the verses as many times as possible. Try to read them in different translations as well. Also, read commentary on these verses. Listen to them on a Bible app that will read them aloud. This will help you visualize everything and write the events on your heart. Journal your thoughts on the questions to consider above. Share our survey of events with a friend so you can discuss together what God is showing you as you pray and read.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

*Along with the Bible verses listed above, the following articles helped inform the narrative at the beginning of this study:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-jesus-celebrated-passover-11555685683

https://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Jesus%20Last%20Week%20in%20Jerusalem.htm

https://www.chosenpeople.com/site/passover-in-israel-past-and-present/

https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/6-jesuss-last-journey-to-jerusalem/the-last-supper/

What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died – Triumphal Entry

{Read the previous post – an introduction to the posts I’ll be sharing this month as we lead up to Easter}

It’s midday on Monday, springtime in the city of Jerusalem. People bustle in the streets, preparing to celebrate the Passover. You’ve been observing the feast your entire life, commemorating the night the Angel of Death passed over the houses of your ancestors and killed all the firstborn in Egypt.

You hear a commotion in the street ahead and follow the noise and other curious people until you come to a place where the crowd has stopped to watch a man riding by on a donkey colt. Some of the people begin waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks into the road for the donkey to walk over. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed if he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, ESV). Your eyes widen as you realize the man is Jesus of Nazareth! You’ve heard about his miracles and his teaching, but you’ve never seen him before.

You watch him ride slowly by and continue looking until he’s out of sight. Then, you return to your work, too busy with your preparations to realize that something life-changing is about to happen…

Image Credit: pinimg.com

Readings for the first week of March

*As you read the various accounts of each event this week, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the Triumphal Entry, see Jesus on the donkey, hear the crowd shouting Hosanna…imagine you are there in the scene as it happens.

Monday, midday – Jesus enters Jerusalem.  It is springtime, and the city is preparing to celebrate the Passover.

READ:

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Luke 19:28-44
  • John 12:12-19

Things to Consider:

  • Why do you think it was significant that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  • Some accounts say the people shouted “Hosanna” as Jesus entered the city.  Use the Blue Letter Bible app, your Bible’s commentary or other source to look up the original Greek word for Hosanna.  What does it mean?  What were the people saying?
  • What is the overall feeling of “the people” or “the crowd” (not the religious leaders) in the city as Jesus entered?

Tuesday – After spending the night in Bethany, Jesus returns to Jerusalem and cleanses the temple*.

READ:

  • Matthew 21:12-17
  • Mark 11:15-19
  • Luke 19:45-48
Image Credit: hearthymn.com

*Just a little piece of geographical information – Bethany is roughly a 2-mile walk from Jerusalem (cited in John 11:18. It would have taken about an hour to walk at a decent pace). Details from several writers show that, rather than staying in the city, Jesus went back to Bethany at night to rest. Some speculate he may have even stayed with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, his dear friends, who lived in Bethany.

{Optional Event and Reading}

Wednesday, midday – Jesus enters the temple in Jerusalem to teach and is challenged by chief priests and elders. 

  • Matthew 21:23-22:14 (Chapter 21 verse 23-Chapter 22 verse 14)
  • Mark 11:27-12:12 (see above)
  • Luke 20:1-19

Wednesday, evening – Back in Bethany, Jesus is anointed by Mary at dinner and Judas conspires to betray Jesus.

READ:

  • Matthew 26:6-16
  • Mark 14:1-11
  • Luke 22:3-6
  • John 12:2-8
Image Credit: pinterest.com

During the week, reread the verses as many times as you can. Read them in different versions of the Bible. Listen to the verses on a Bible app that will read them to you. This will help you visualize everything and really write the events on your heart.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died?

The triumphal entry. The Last Supper. The Garden of Gethsemane. The illegal trial. Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

Image Credit: bible.com

It’s likely you’re familiar with the events. You’ve been to church or Sunday school or Bible school or youth camp. You’ve heard the stories. But have you ever explored them on your own? Would you like to get a fuller picture of what happened to Jesus in the week before He died and after His death and resurrection?

We celebrate Easter in 4 weeks (Sunday, April 4, 2021) , so let’s start now to prepare our hearts.

Over the next 4 weeks, I’ll post guided readings from the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – as well as questions to consider that will help you survey the events of Jesus’ Passion week – the week before he was crucified – through His resurrection and ascension. We’ll get a fuller perspective of the events of his last days in the flesh by reading accounts of the events as described in three and sometimes all 4 gospels. This allows us to do a side-by-side comparison and to contrast the information – not to find contradictions, but to give us a more well-rounded look at what took place.

Image Credit: biblegateway.com

What to do before and during the study:

  • Pray to prepare your heart. Ask God to show you new information, something you haven’t seen before in stories that are well-known.
  • Read the listed verses. (Reread if you have time). If a verse or group of verses stands out to you, make note in your Bible or your journal.
  • Study words in the original Greek that catch your attention or that you’d like to understand better using apps like Blue Letter Bible.
  • Follow the cross references listed in your Bible.
  • Read commentary on the verses.
  • Pray some more.
  • Journal about what you’re reading and learning. About what stood out that you hadn’t noticed before. Note any questions you still have.
  • If you’d like to engage with me or other readers, comment on the blog or on Facebook when I publish the posts.
  • Reach out to me personally through the blog or through Facebook if you’d like to talk about anything.

As you read the gospels remember:

  • They highlight major events in Jesus’ life as he carried out his Father’s will.
  • They are historical writings – told by eye witnesses or collected from eye witnesses.
  • Most are organized topically rather than chronologically. (This is the way many people talked and wrote at the time. They grouped events together that were similar in topic – not necessarily based on the order in which they happened. This is why events aren’t always in the same order in the different books).

{The following are short introductions of each of the four gospels and their authors. Information is taken from the English Standard Version Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible}.

Matthew

Image Credit: Steppesoffaith.com
  • one of Jesus’ 12 disciples – an eye-witness to Jesus life. Matthew saw first-hand the things he wrote about because he was there – talking with Jesus, eating with Jesus, walking with Jesus, healing with Jesus, learning from Jesus.
  • a former tax collector – a Jew by birth – would have been familiar with Jewish law, the books we call the Old Testament, etc.
  • also called Levi
  • gospel written between late 50’s and early 60’s AD (after Jesus died)
  • Matthew’s purpose in writing down his gospel was to persuade Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Events are organized topically. Matthew’s gospel is known for not having events in the same order as the other gospels.
  • Although the exact way Matthew died is unknown, it is accepted that he was martyred (died for preaching and teaching the gospel). Many accounts say he was in Ethiopia at the time of his death.

Mark

Image Credit: flickr.com
  • not an eye-witness to Jesus’ life, but a close friend and companion to Peter – one of Jesus’ disciples. Mark was Peter’s writer – he wrote down many of the letters and things that Peter dictated to him. He is mentioned in Acts and other New Testament books.
  • also called John-Mark
  • He wrote his gospel mostly for Gentiles emphasizing discipleship, having a relationship with Christ, trusting God, and letting Jesus be Lord and Savior of believers’ lives.
  • gospel written in mid-50’s AD – likely in Rome while working with Peter

Luke

Image Credit: pinimg.com
  • a Gentile who converted to Christianity (the only Gentile to write any book of the Bible).
  • originally a physician/doctor from Antioch
  • a close friend of Paul’s
  • His gospel isn’t a first-hand account as he was not an eye-witness to the events he wrote about. However, he was known to have researched by talking to people who had been with Jesus and had seen the things Jesus did during his ministry.
  • also wrote the book of Acts
  • gospel written in 60 of 61 AD in Rome at the same time as Acts was written.
  • Luke wrote his gospel for Gentiles. He wanted people to know that the Good News was for everyone.
  • {interesting side note – Luke emphasized the central role of women in Christ’s ministry – he talked at length about the women who supported Jesus ministry with money or other forms of assistance}

John

Image Credit: bible.com
  • one of Jesus’ 12 disciples (His gospel is eye-witness testimony.)
  • the brother of James – also a disciple. They were known as the sons of Zebedee.
  • known as “the beloved” and “the disciple who Jesus loved.” {side note – From the cross, Jesus requested his mother Mary be cared for by John}.
  • time frame of writing is hard to pin down – some scholars say between 70 and 100 AD. Others say between 80 and 90 AD
  • gospel written well after the other 3 – Matthew, Mark, and Luke, known as the Synoptic Gospels
  • John’s gospel supplemented and complimented the other 3 gospels. His account of the events added a unique perspective and fill in other details that aren’t found in the synoptic gospels.
  • Most scholars believe John was the only disciple to die of old age although he did spend time exiled on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel.
Image Credit: zazzle.com

I’ll send out the first official readings tomorrow evening, but I wanted to share with you an optional reading to provide some more context for the next 4 weeks of study.

John 11 tells the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. The chapter ends with the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus as the Passover week is about to begin.

John provides the only account of this event.