New Testament Reading Plan: Week 8

Week 8 summary:

This week will finish half way through reading the New Testament.  What we read this week will define Christianity – the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, Halley's Bible Handbook says that the five most important chapters in the Bible may be Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21 because they tell us of the resurrection of Jesus – the capstone of the story of the entire Bible.

Day 1:   Exodus 12:1-28
We start this week by reading about the first Passover.  (By the way, Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover which was an annual custom for Jews.)  The first Passover occurred in Egypt as Moses was working to get Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.  The last plague that God brought through Moses was that the first-born of each household would die.  However, God gave instructions to the Israelites through Moses as to what they should do to prevent the death of the first-born.  It involved sacrificing a flawless lamb (without defect, without blemish).  Note that Jesus was called the “Lamb of God.”  If some blood of the lamb was spread on the doorposts  and beam above the door, this would cause the angel of death to “pass over” that house and the first-born will not die.  Note that Jesus shed His blood and that blood ended up on the cross.  There was no magical power in the blood of the lamb.  It was really the faith of those inside the house that the blood around the door would prevent their death.  Note that faith in the blood of Jesus is what causes “death to pass over us” and allows us to have life eternal.

Day 2:   Matthew 27; Mark15
Jesus was put on trial and found guilty.  However, He did not talk back to His accusers.  (See Isaiah 53:7.)  Pilate had Jesus whipped.  (See Isaiah 53:5.)  They mocked Him and spit on Jesus.  (See Isaiah 50:6.)  They lead Jesus away to be crucified.  As they are crucifying Him, they cast lots for his clothing.  (See Psalm 22:18.)  At noon, the sky becomes very dark and Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (See Psalm 22:1.)  As Jesus died at 3:00 pm, the curtain in the temple that separated the people from where God lived (symbolized by the ark of the covenant) tore in two, from top to bottom symbolizing that the separation of the people from God was no more.  (See Exodus 26:31-33.)

Day 3:    Luke 23; John 18-19
The passage from Luke 23 is similar to the passages from Matthew and Mark read yesterday.
The passage from John has a couple of extra pieces of information.  First, it was Jewish law that if someone is crucified, their body cannot hang on the “tree” overnight.  (See Deuteronomy 21:22-23.)  So they needed to make sure that all 3 people (the two criminals and Jesus) were dead and could be taken down and buried before night.  Since death by crucifixion really occurs by suffocation, by breaking the legs of the victims, they would not be able to push themselves up to take a breath and therefore, would die quicker.  The legs of the two criminals were broken.  But not the legs of Jesus.  (Read Exodus 12:46 to see how the Passover Lamb (remember, Jesus is the symbolic Passover Lamb) was to be prepared.  The answer:  the bones were not to be broken!)  Instead, the side of Jesus was pierced by a spear.  Out came blood and water, medically speaking a sign that Jesus had died.

Day 4:    Matthew 28; Mark 16
According to Matthew 28, Jesus tomb is found to be empty and He appears to the 11 disciples.  (Judas Iscariot, the traitor, is no longer...)  The last words of Jesus according to Matthew gives us the Great Commission:  go make disciples, baptize them, teach them to obey.  Why do we do this?  Because Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth.  How do we do it?  With the power of Jesus that is with us always to the end of the age.

Day 5:    Luke 24; John 20-21
In Luke 24, we learn of 2 of Jesus' disciples heading back home after the wild and unexpected events of the last few days.  They are saddened and dejected because they had placed their hope in Jesus as the Messiah (Savior) but their hope turned into hopelessness as Jesus was crucified.  A stranger comes up to them (who is Jesus but they don't recognize Him – they were prevented from recognizing Him, at least for a while).  Jesus proceeds to tell the disciples about all that the Hebrew Scriptures (the writings of Moses and the Prophets) had to say about the Messiah, in particular how He would need to suffer.  The disciples had thought Jesus was going to be a different kind of Savior – political and military.  But the Savior was really coming to save people from their sins and reconcile the relationship between people and God. As Jesus explained those facts, the disciples' hearts were burning.  As they recognized Jesus, they then understood and rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that they had seen the risen Jesus.
John 21:15-17 is a recommissioning of Peter – recommissioning him to serve Jesus by feeding Jesus' lambs and taking care of His sheep.  Some commentaries say that Jesus asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Jesus because Peter denied that he knew Jesus 3 times.

Day 6:  rest

Day 7:  rest

New Teastament Reading Plan: Week 7

Week 7 summary:

Readings this week are on the cusp of Jesus' betrayal and arrest.  So Jesus spends His last free time teaching His disciples about the events to come.  If someone is about to die, how much stock do you put into a person's last words so-to-speak?  A lot!
As we get to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus, we will see a lot of references back to prophecies in the Old Testament.

Day 1:   Mark 13
Mark 13 is very similar in nature and content to Luke 21 (read last week) and Matthew 24 (to be read tomorrow).  See notes from Day 2 readings.

Day 2:    Matthew 24
In Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, it is widely accepted that Jesus is speaking about two separate events:  the overthrow and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 but also the end times when Jesus comes again. 
(Remember that the Bible was written (especially apocalyptic literature – literature that uses all kinds of images to get the attention of the reader and to dramatize the message in a memorable way) to be understood by its 1st readers and that interpretations that would not be understood by its original readers in the 1st century are not correct interpretations.  So reading this material and trying to connect it directly to current events will not tell us when the end times will occur.  After all in Matthew 24:36, Jesus says that no one will know the hour except the Father, not even the Son.  If Jesus didn't know – can or should we?)
There are a couple of important points:  1)  there will be false prophets claiming to be the Christ – don't believe them;  2)  stay alert and be prepared – watch for the signs of Jesus’ 2nd coming;  3)  we should continue with our task of sharing the gospel to the nations – the end times will not come until that occurs (Matthew 24:14).

Day 3:    Matthew 25
The parable of the 10 bridesmaids (virgins):  This parable means that we should keep our minds on Jesus and be ready when He comes.
The parable of the talents (valuable coins, bags of gold):  Not only are we to be prepared for Jesus' return, but we are to improve our allotted “talents” until the day.  In other words, we may say that this is like “going on to perfection” as John Wesley would say (i.e., going on toward Christlikeness).
The sheep and the goats: God will separate His obedient followers from pretenders and unbelievers.  The real evidence of our belief is the way we act.  What we do for others demonstrates what we really think about Jesus' words to us.

Day 4:    Matthew 26; Mark 14
As you read the passages for today, also look up the following references to Old Testament prophecy that was coming true with Jesus and the events that are now surrounding His betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion.
Matthew 26:54 – see Psalm 22:7-8, Psalm 22:16-18, Isaiah 53:8-9
Matthew 26:56 – see Zechariah 13:7
Matthew 26:63 – see Isaiah 53:7
Matthew 26:64 – see Daniel 7:13-14

Day 5:    Luke 22; John 13
Luke 22:5 – see Zechariah 11:12

Day 6:    John 14-17
These 4 chapters of  John occur after the Passover meal and after Jesus has washed His disciple's feet – demonstrating the requirement to serve others.  In this last discourse with His disciples before Jesus is arrested, Jesus is compassionately spending time reassuring His disciples about what is to come.  Since they will hear about what is to come before it happens, another reason that Jesus is sharing is so that they will believe!  (See John 14:29.)  Some of what Jesus conveys in this conversation is:
·         Jesus is going away and will be preparing a place for His disciples.
·         Jesus says that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father.
·         Jesus will send the Holy Spirit (called the Companion, Counselor, Advocate, Friend) to be with his followers and to remind them of what Jesus has taught them.
·         Soon, even though the world would not see Jesus, His disciples will.
·         A disciple can't produce fruit unless the disciple “remains in”  Jesus.
·         A disciple will remain in Jesus' love if the disciple keeps Jesus' commandments.
·         We are called to love.
·         Disciples of Jesus will be persecuted because the ones doing the persecuting will think they are doing God's will.  But they aren't because they don't know God the Father or God the Son.
·         Jesus has conquered the world.
John 17 is a prayer from Jesus for His disciples.  As you read John 17, read it as if Jesus is praying for you right now!  He did pray for you (see John 17:20).  Jesus prays for His disciples then and for you and me now:
·         That God would watch over us as Jesus is leaving the world.
·         We will share completely in Jesus' joy.
·         That God would keep us safe from the evil one.
·         That we would be holy in the truth.
·         Jesus is sending us into the world.
·         That we will be one as Jesus and God the Father are one – unity.
·         God's love for Jesus will be in us.

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 6

Week 6 summary:

Mark 10:1b (which means the last part of verse 1) says (from the Common English Bible translation):  “Crowds gathered around Him again and, as usual, He taught them.”  Most of the gospel stories are about the crowds that gathered around Him.  Jesus didn't just make these times social events (although I am sure He built relationships).  His usual approach to the crowds was to teach them!  (The Message paraphrase says it this way:  A crowd of people, as was so often the case, went along, and he, as he so often did, taught them.”)
In this week's readings, Jesus will be entering Jerusalem for the last time on what we today call Palm Sunday.  So what Jesus is teaching will be some of His last teaching as the day of His crucifixion approaches.

A [rich] man approaches Jesus in these passages and wants to know what he has to do to have eternal life.  Jesus turns the tables and asks the man what the commandments say.  Read and compare Matthew 19:18-19 and Mark 10:19.  (Jesus is basically reciting commandments 5-10 of the Ten Commandments.  These 6 commandments are the ones that relate to our horizontal relationships with other people.)  The man says that he has been keeping those commandments, basically loving neighbor.  Note that the man says nothing about the first 4 commandments that are related to our vertical relationship – loving God.  Jesus knew this man was wealthy and knew his heart.  The man probably had allegiances to money that were getting in the way of his relationship with God.  For this man, selling his possessions was the way to be perfect or complete as Jesus said.  You can't serve two masters, God and money.  It is important to note that Jesus is not giving instruction to all disciples to sell all of their possessions.  He is speaking specifically to this individual, at this time, knowing this man's heart.  But, Jesus does call everyone to love God and love neighbor.  These commands probably have an impact on how we should use our resources (time, talent and treasure).

Day 2:    Matthew 20-21
One of God's many characteristics is His sovereignty (in other words, God can and will govern as He sees fit – as long as what He does fits in His overarching character).  See the parable of the workers in the vineyard – Matthew 20:1-16.
We are called to bear fruit – we are required to bear fruit for the Kingdom.  (See the story about the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22.)  Bearing fruit includes repenting of our sins and going in a new direction – going toward Jesus.  If we don't repent, we won't end up in God's Kingdom (see Matthew 21:28-32).  Those that don't heed the warnings given through the prophets in past times and through Jesus (the Son) in the current time will not enter God's Kingdom (Matthew 21:33-44).

Day 3:    Luke 18:15-19:48
Luke 18:24 - “It is very hard for the wealthy to enter God's Kingdom.” (CEB)  When we have wealth and are self-sufficient, it is hard for us to surrender ourselves and trust God.  Trusting God and knowing we need Him requires humility. 
But the good news comes in Luke 18:27 - “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”  In other words our salvation does not depend on us and what we do but is totally dependent on God!

Day 4:    Mark 11; Zechariah 9:9, John 12
In John 12:27, Jesus says that He is deeply troubled.  He knows what is about to happen to Him and wonders out loud if He should ask God to save Him from this hour.  But He answers His own question by saying that it is for this reason that He has come into the world.  He asks (again out loud) that He would be glorified and He and everyone else hears a voice from heaven.  Jesus says that He didn't need to hear the voice.  The voice was for everyone else to hear.
John also says (in John 12:37) that Jesus did many miraculous signs and yet people still did not believe.  This fulfilled prophecy from Isaiah.
John's entire gospel was written so that people would believe.  The miraculous signs written in the book are so that people would believe and be saved.  And yet some did not believe.  And some don't believe now.

Day 5:    Matthew 22; Mark 12
No additional comments.

Day 6:    Matthew 23; Luke 20-21
Hypocrites!  Blind guides!  Blind fools!  Snakes!  Brood of vipers!
In Matthew 23, as Jesus talks to the crowds, He tells them to do what the legal experts and Pharisees say, not what they do.  They know the law but don't obey it themselves.  They make it look like they do (on the outside) but on the inside, they are far from the law.  They are like white-washed tombs – pretty on the outside but full of dead bones and filth on the inside.  (Matthew 23:27-28)
They do everything for show.  But the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.  It is the heart (and our internal motivation) that John Wesley would say needs to change in order to keep “going on to perfection” (i.e., Christlikeness).

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 5

Week 5 summary:

More teaching from Jesus this week.  Jesus continually teaches about being His disciples.  Maybe another way to say that is that He teaches about being members of the Kingdom of God.  (A kingdom implies there is a king.  In this Kingdom, the King is Jesus.  What do you do for a King?  Obey him!)  Jesus is to the point in His teachings.  Even though He teaches in parables, there is no doubt what His expectations are for His disciples.

Luke 11:28 says that we should hear God's word and put it into practice (or in other words, obey it).
Starting in Luke 11:37, there are several verses where Jesus is confronting the beliefs of the Jewish leaders.  The section heading in the Bibles I looked at described this section of scripture these ways:  1) Jesus condemns Pharisees and the Legal Experts;  2) Woes on the Pharisees and Experts in the Law;  3) Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders.  Depending on the translation of the Bible you are using, you may find Jesus saying, “What sorrow awaits you...,” or “How terrible for you...,” or “Woe to you...”  Whichever translation you choose to use, Jesus' language is pretty clear.  The people He was talking to were severely missing the boat related to how to obey God's law.

Day 2:    Luke 12-13
Luke 12:10 talks about an unpardonable sin, attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil, which denies the work of God.  A person who commits this sin does not recognize sin at all and is far from God.  (If you are worried you have committed this sin, your very concern shows you have not.)
Because of Jesus' teachings about discipleship, He knows that following Him will cause conflict between people, even within families.  (See Luke 12:51-53.)
Jesus again talks about the need to change our hearts and lives – repent!  (Repent means to turn around 180 degrees and go in the other direction.)  (See Luke 13:1-9.
All of Jesus' teachings point to disciples needing to go through the “narrow gate” (Luke 13:24).  Disciples will take the narrow road/narrow gate and will follow by obeying Him.

Day 3:    Luke 14-15
There is a cost to discipleship – following Jesus.  Disciples of Jesus sometimes will need to make decisions that will cost them the friendship of family and friends (Luke 14:26-27).  As we make that decision to follow Jesus, we need to count the cost (knowing there is a cost and being willing to accept the cost – Luke 14:28-33).  But the rewards are great!
When a disciple chooses to following Jesus (knowing the cost and accepting the cost), there is great rejoicing in heaven because a person that was lost is now found.  (See the parables in Luke 15:3-24.)

Day 4:    Luke 16-17:10
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the poor man (Luke 16:19-31), there are two points to make.
1)                  First, the rich man was not taken up to be with Abraham when he died because he was rich.  He ended up elsewhere because he did not use his resources to take care of and love others.
2)                  The rich man was basically asking for a “sign” for his 5 brothers, Lazarus visiting them after he was dead.  This is similar to other passages in the gospels where the religious leaders in particular are always asking for another “sign” to show that Jesus is the Son of God.  The parable basically says what Jesus says elsewhere – you have had signs and whats more, Moses and the Prophets (what we would call the Old Testament consisting of the Law (the 1st 5 books of the Bible) and the Prophets) have already provided all of the information that is needed.

Day 5:    John 11
The entire chapter 11 of John details the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave.  You may be familiar with the story.  Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus (this is a different Lazarus from the parable of the rich man and the poor man Lazarus read yesterday) are good friends of Jesus.  Lazarus dies.  Mary and Martha send for Jesus because they know that Jesus can heal Lazarus.  Before Jesus gets there, Lazarus dies and has been in the grave 4 days. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  But if we read this story too fast, we miss some interesting parts of the story.
1)                  After hearing that Lazarus is ill, Jesus stays where He and His disciples  are for 2 more days before heading to his friends.  We learn that the illness Lazarus has won't lead to his death but will lead to glorifying God and the Son of God.  Later, we find out that Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead so that others will believe that God sent Jesus.
2)                  Lazarus dies before Jesus gets there and Jesus seems to tell His disciples that He is glad that He was not there to heal Lazarus so that they would believe in Jesus.
3)                  Mary and Martha both believe that there is life after death (at the end of times) but they were not understanding that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead now.
4)                  Jesus was disturbed and saddened at what was taking place.  He wept.
5)                  As Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, many Jews believed in Him. However, because many were believing in Jesus, the leaders from that day forward, plotted to kill Jesus.

Day 6:    Luke 17:11-18:14
People were interested and concerned about the coming of God's Kingdom.  But in Luke 17:21, Jesus says that God's Kingdom is already among them.  Jesus ushered in the Kingdom.

Day 7:  rest