Posts tagged jesus

Free Resource Friday

The Story Of Jesus As Told By His Friend John is the the Gospel of John put into contemporary English and told as a first-person account. Where John uses the pronoun “we/us/our” he is referring to himself and the other disciples. Let John be your narrator. He was there when it all happened and will tell you the story in his own words.


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Palm Sunday

This Sunday commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and is called Palm or Passion Sunday, depending on your tradition. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy.
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King that the Jews had been longing for but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied over 500 years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
I can imagine that Jewish theologians had been trying to reconcile their picture of a King (think David or Solomon) with the idea that he would ride in on a little colt, his feet barely off the ground. Yet here he was, having given his disciples an awkward command on how to get the colt, fulfilling prophecy that had been written centuries earlier. This was a plot twist that I don’t think even Hollywood could dream up.

What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings  chapter 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.

The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see here Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.

The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely some worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? It was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’.  He would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.

Where’s the Victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!

One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.

But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating this coming week. I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ” Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

That’s my King!

Where is Joy?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
- The Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23

The very nature of joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.
- C.S. Lewis in Surprised By Joy


Are you in a spot in your life where joy seems to be missing? Maybe it’s been so long you’re not sure if you’ve actually ever experienced joy?

Where do we find joy?
The message that popular culture communicates through music, movies, television, and the internet is a message of selfishness, yet this is where so many people turn to get answers for the deep questions of longing and belonging that they have. Popular culture answers our questions with another question: What do you need, want, or desire?
So for the person asking where to find hope, the culture answers, “The hope you need is found in you.” or “Just do what makes you feel good.” If the answer to our need for hope is ourselves, is it any wonder why suicide is at an all-time high in the U.S.?

Last week we heard the story of Nick Vujicic who responded to Jesus and found the hope he so desperately needed. The type of hope Nick found isn’t in anything our culture creates because it’s only found in Jesus. If you’re looking for joy in your life, the answer is the same. It’s only found in Jesus and it only remains when our perspective in this life is firmly rooted in him.


The Apostle Paul –in Galatians 5- talks about what happens when our relationship with Jesus takes over our life and the Holy Spirit becomes the source of life we draw from. This type of life source is evident by the fruit it produces in our lives. So how do we experience joy? Where do we find it? We find and experience it when we place our faith in Jesus and make him the foundation and source for our life. And this joy is different than what the world has to offer. We don’t have joy because of our circumstances, we have joy despite them.

One of my favorite examples of this is found in Acts 16:16. Paul and Silas had just been stripped naked, beaten by a mob and put in prison – all for helping a slave girl. How did they respond? Instead of having a ‘woe is me’ attitude we see them praying and worshiping God in their prison cell in the middle of the night! How many of us have a hard time singing on Sunday because of a rough week and here are Paul and Silas – having endured incredible physical pain – keeping their perspective not on their circumstance but on their Savior.

So what about me?
The challenge is the same for us today. Despite our circumstance, if we keep our focus on Jesus, our perspective will be long-term and we can see past the pains of today to the hope of tomorrow. This is where we find joy – in the assurance that our God reigns, he’s alive with us, and we will be with him forever! So despite what you’re going through take joy and no matter what, always keep your perspective on your Savior and not your circumstance. When believers do this the world takes notice and the real answer to the question is revealed: Jesus!

Making of a Champion

With our company being based in Washington State, quite a few of the Olive Tree staff are fans of the Seattle Seahawks football team. Whether or not you are, this short documentary is worth the watch as players and coaches talk about their relationship with Jesus.


3 Secrets To Effective Leadership

If you want to be an effective and influential leader, what should you do? Write a book? Start a church? Come up with a vision plan for [insert world-changing vision here]?

If you’re looking for influence and impact, don’t overlook the greatest leader who ever lived. He started a movement that has been growing ever since his birth and has now spread around the globe. Here are two statements that Jesus made that should be the foundation of our leadership and influence:

Matthew 23:11
The greatest among you shall be your servant.

Luke 22:26
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

In both passages Jesus takes the human picture of leadership and turns it on its head. In Luke 22:27, Jesus makes the most important leadership statement the world has ever heard: “But I am among you as the one who serves.”

Are you in a position of leadership right now? Here are three ways you can be an influential leader who serves:

1.  Learn to follow.sheep1
Being a leader is lonely because one of the definitions of leadership means you’re out in front, like a shepherd leading the way. But as followers of Jesus we’re not the chief shepherd. He is. Our ability to lead and influence is only as great as our dependence on Jesus. We never arrive in our process of becoming more like Him (in this life) and so we need to be expert followers to be good leaders. How does this affect our ability to serve those under our leadership? We need to be reminded that before God we are all sinners saved by grace and that our position before Him is the same.  This type of leading says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

2. Value everyone
In today’s culture, your position, title, and influence can often give you permission to separate yourself from others. Why should the CEO of a large company care about the individual factory worker who can easily be replaced? The farther you’re separated from those you lead, the easier it is to see others as a commodity as opposed to a uniquely created individual. As a Christian leader, if the vision or goal of your leadership becomes more important than the people you serve (lead) then you have a value problem.
The servant leader places high value on people by:

  • Seeing people as God sees them
  • Putting people over programs
  • Creating a culture of listening – not just directing
  • Being willing to extend grace and teach others, instead of creating rules that eliminate those with perceived weaknesses

3. Serving means doing
Do you remember the time when you had to stack chairs, clean toilets, or some other activity that you’re glad you don’t have to do anymore? While it’s true that roles change, leaders have to guard against the mentality of “I don’t do that anymore”. As a leader, people are counting on you and you do have to prioritize where you invest your time and energy. In light of this, how can you balance the unique role that only you can fill while still being a servant leader?
Do what you say.
Don’t preach anything you aren’t preaching to yourself and don’t recruit for a vision that you aren’t fully behind. Church leaders rely heavily on volunteers but rarely volunteer time themselves. Yes, practice what you preach.

The power behind our faith and our leadership is action, and leaders who shepherd like Jesus aren’t afraid to get dirty, smell like sheep, and serve with all their heart.

Did Jesus Lead the Israelites out of Captivity?

Jude 5 in the NA28

By Olive Tree Staff: Matt Jonas

Olive Tree recently released the NA28 for the Bible Study App and some of you may be wondering “why all the fuss”?  I wrote a blog post covering some of the major differences between the NA28 and the previous edition.  However, there was one very specific change that I didn’t mention in that article that is of great significance to me and all other Bible-believing Christians.  It is a change in Jude 5 that has great implications for the current discussion regarding the “historical Jesus” and the early church’s views on the divinity of Christ.

The Greek text of Jude 5 in the NA27 reads as follows:
“ Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς] πάντα ὅτι [ὁ] κύριος ἅπαξ λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,”

Here’s how the NRSV translates this verse into English:

“Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

The NA28, however, has  Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) in place of κύριος (Lord).  Here’s the same passage from the NA28:

“ Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας [ὑμᾶς] ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι  Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν,”

Interestingly, the ESV already translated the passage this way on the basis of the better manuscript evidence for the reading used by the NA28.  I believe this is the only place where the ESV translators departed from the main text of the NA27 and used a “variant” reading instead.  It is a little ironic, in my opinion, that the “variant” reading they chose is now in the main text of the NA28.

Here’s how the ESV translates Jude 5:
“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

In the book of Exodus, it was the Lord (YHWH) who led the Israelites out of Egypt.  If Jude is claiming that it was Jesus who led the Israelites out of captivity, then he is apparently identifying Jesus with the Lord.

It is interesting to note that this change was made because it is the” best attested reading” for this passage.  Bruce Metzger even said as much in his Textual Commentary, but regardless, the editors of the NA27 still chose the reading “Lord” rather than “Jesus”.

Here are Metzger’s own words:

“Critical principles seem to require the adoption of Ἰησοῦς, which admittedly is the best attested reading among Greek and versional witnesses…” (Metzger, 657).

At the beginning of the same note, Metzger explained the reading used in the main text of the NA27 in this way:

“Despite the weighty attestation supporting  Ἰησοῦς … a majority of the Committee was of the opinion that this reading was difficult to the point of impossibility, and explained its origin in terms of transcriptional oversight…”(Metzger, 657).

The NA28 has reversed this decision, going with the “best attested reading” even though it might be theologically objectionable to those who wish to claim that Christ’s divinity was not a belief held by the early church and was instead a later invention.

This view even became a part of our popular culture recently due to Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code.”  Among other things, the novel claims that Emperor Constantine I suppressed Gnosticism and promoted the deity of Christ for political reasons.  Brown’s view is presented as fiction (which it clearly is due to the numerous historical inaccuracies), but there have been other more scholarly attempts to support similar claims.

Thomas Jefferson famously cut-and-pasted pieces from his collection of Bibles to create “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazereth,” better known as the Jefferson Bible.  In this harmony of the gospels, he complete eliminated all references to Christ’s divinity and his miracles (including, of course, his resurrection).

More recently, the Jesus Seminar did something similar, voting on whether they believed that the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospels were authentic.  Not surprisingly, passages in which Jesus claims divinity (such as John 14), didn’t make the cut.

In his recent book Misquoting Jesus, Bart Ehrman even claims that early Christian scribes altered the text of the New Testament to support their views, such as the deity of Christ.  Ironically, Jude 5 (in the NA27) may be an example of the opposite phenomenon, in which modern “scribes” altered the text in a way that deemphasized this doctrine.  It’s refreshing to see that the editors of the NA28 have corrected this bias and have ruled simply in favor of the textual evidence, even though the resulting reading may be troubling to some.

Hopefully, the choice to include this reading marks the beginning of a trend against the bias that I mentioned above.  In his talk on the NA28 at the 2012 SBL national conference in Chicago, Klaus Wachtel noted that the NA27 showed bias against the Byzantine tradition. He also claimed that NA28 by contrast recognizes the reliability of the mainstream tradition.  This respect for the mainstream tradition is evident in how the editors of the NA28 chose to handle Jude 5.  The textual evidence has always been on the side of the reading that was chosen, and yet previous editions used a less well attested variant instead because of the theological implications.  How the NA28 handles Jude 5 may not “disprove” the claims of Dan Brown, or Thomas Jefferson, the Jesus Seminar, or Bart Ehrman, but  it is still a step in the right direction.

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