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Jesus Answers 9 Essential Questions

Devotional: What is truth?

At the end of a grueling 40-day fast, Jesus must face the devil and endure a succession of temptations. Right out of the gate, the tempter offers this insinuating challenge: “If you are the Son of God, change these stones into loaves of bread.” The evil worming its way into the devil’s sly interaction with Jesus is this—“If you are….” He is challenging the truth of Jesus’ identity—a primary and consistent “weapon” in his mission to “kill, steal, and destroy” everything that matters to God.

At the core of this insinuation, Satan is questioning the very foundations of truth. And Jesus responds (quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) with an answer anchored in the bedrock of truth: “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.’” When human beings decide for themselves what truth is, we descend into brutality and confusion and hopelessness. When we look to God’s own words as the source of our truth, we find life and hope and redemption and courage and strength. All truths are tributaries of the massive river of Truth, who is Jesus himself—this is why he is called “the Word” (John 1:1).


Matthew 4:4

He answered, “The Scriptures say: Bread alone will not satisfy, but true life is found in every word, which constantly goes forth from God’s mouth.”  

John 1:1
In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God.

Devotional: Why do bad things happen?

When Jesus walks by a man who was born blind, his disciples ask the obvious question—why do bad things happen to people like this man? Their assumption is that bad things happen to people who do bad things: “Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?” Jesus debunks that equation, “de-coupling” the reality of the griefs we all experience from our own cause-and-effect behavior.

Rather, says Jesus, bad things are a normal aspect of our reality, and he intends to upend their destructive impact by making beauty out of ugly. “He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” And then he embodies those words by offering the man a chance to see for the first time in his life, if he will do what Jesus asks him to do.


John 9:1-5
1 Afterward, as Jesus walked down the street, he noticed a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused this guy’s blindness, his own, or the sin of his parents?” Jesus answered, “Neither. It happened to him so that you could watch him experience God’s miracle. While I am with you, it is daytime and we must do the works of God who sent me while the light shines. For there is coming a dark night when no one will be able to work. As long as I am with you my life is the light that pierces the world’s darkness.”

Devotional: What is love?

When Jesus sees Jerusalem, nearing the time of his crucifixion, he captures the core of God’s yearning for us: “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” God defines love as a pursuing force that is not dependent upon the beloved’s inviting response. Love pursues and protects and nurtures even when it is demeaned and rejected.


Matthew 23:37-39
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem—you are the city that murders your prophets! You are the city that stones the very messengers who were sent to deliver you! So many times I have longed to gather a wayward people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings—but you were too stubborn to let me. 38 And now it is too late, since your city will be left in ruins.  39 For you will not see me again until you are able to say, ‘welcome the one who comes to us in the name of the Lord.’”

Devotional: What’s my purpose in life?

When Jesus recruits his first followers—a close-knit group of small-business owners who run a fishing operation—he dangles his own enticing bait: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Like most people, these men identify themselves by their occupation—what we do defines who we are. So Jesus is appealing to the deepest place in their soul—the place where their identity lives—when he offers to reorient their purpose in life. What if, he asks, you could trade your small dreams for a big dream?

What if you were created to be a source, through me, of rescue and redemptive hope for others—to capture them from a dark sea of hopelessness and drag them into a boat of refuge, where they can find the life they were created to live? Our purpose in life is to love God with all that we are, and to love others with the same passion that Jesus has for them. We are all created to “fish for people,” no matter what our particular calling in life is.


Mark 1:16-20
As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he noticed two brothers fishing: Simon and Andrew. He watched them as they were casting their nets into the sea and said to them, “Come follow me and I will transform you into men who catch people instead of fish!” Immediately they dropped their nets and left everything behind to follow Jesus.  Walking a little farther, Jesus found two other brothers sitting in a boat, along with their father, mending their nets. Their names were Jacob and John, and their father Zebedee.  Jesus immediately walked up to them and invited the two brothers to become his followers. At once, Jacob and John dropped their nets, stood up, left their father in the boat with the hired men, and followed Jesus.

Devotional: Is this all there is?

In this short burst—a shotgun blast, really—of eternal truths, Jesus hits the reset button on our conventional expectations for success in life. In these rhythmic verses, he highlights qualities and characteristics that have little currency in our current world, but are priceless in the “Kingdom of God.” Here on earth, people who have strength of spirit often horde the treasure—but people who are poor in spirit gain the eternal treasure of the kingdom of heaven.

The same is true for mourners and the gentle and the desperate-for-justice and the merciful and the pure and the peacemakers and the persecuted. Be happy about it, says Jesus, because there is a real place (his “hometown”) where all of these denigrated characteristics are treated like the priceless treasures they are. No, the standards we’ve been taught to respect—the values that human beings typically reward—are often not the values that God rewards. This isn’t all there is, and we can live in that reality right now.


Luke 6:17-23
17 Jesus and his apostles came down from the hillside to a level field, where a large number of his disciples waited, along with a massive crowd of people who had gathered from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal district of Tyre and Sidon.  18 They had all come to listen to the Manifestation so that they could be healed of their diseases and be set free from the demonic powers that tormented them.  19 The entire crowd eagerly tried to come near Jesus so they could touch him and be healed, because a tangible supernatural power emanated from him, healing all who came close to him.

Jesus Taught Them What Matters Most
20 Looking intently at his followers, Jesus began his sermon. “How enriched you become when you are poor, for you will experience the reality of God’s kingdom realm. “How filled you become when you are consumed with hunger and desire, for you will be completely satisfied.  “How content you become when you weep with complete brokenness, for you will laugh with unrestrained joy.
22 “How favored you become when you are hated, excommunicated, or slandered, or when your name is spoken of as evil because of your love for me, the Son of Man.
23 “I promise you that as you experience these things, you will celebrate and dance with overflowing joy. And the heavenly reward of your faith will be abundant, because you are being treated the same way as your forefathers the prophets.

Devotional: Is God real?

Here Jesus has an interaction with a career soldier that leaves Jesus “amazed.” Wouldn’t you love to say or do something that amazes the most amazing person who ever walked the earth? At the heart of the officer’s startling response to Jesus is a simple truth: He believes Jesus is God. That means he believes Jesus has both the power and authority to do the impossible—to heal his beloved servant who is “sick and near death.” Only God can do such a thing, and the centurion knows it. So he does something that delights Jesus: He simply acts on what he knows to be true and asks Jesus for the kind of help only God can give.


Luke 7:1-10
1 After Jesus finished giving revelation to the people on the hillside, he went on to Capernaum. 2-3 There he found a Roman military captain who had a beloved servant he valued highly, and the servant was sick to the point of death. When the captain heard that Jesus was in the city, he sent some respected Jewish elders to plead with him to come and heal his dying servant. 4 So they came to Jesus and told him, “The Roman captain is a wonderful man. If anyone deserves to have a visit from you, it is him. Won’t you please come to his home and heal his servant? 5 For he loves the Jewish people, and he even built our meeting hall for us.”
6-7 Jesus started off with them, but on his way there, he was stopped by friends of the captain, who gave this message: “Master, don’t bother to come to me in person, for I am not good enough for you to enter my home. I’m not worthy enough to even come out to meet one like you. But if you would just release the manifestation of healing right where you are, I know that my young servant will be healed.
8 “Unlike you, I am just an ordinary man. Yet I understand the power of authority, and I see that authority operating through you. I have soldiers under me who obey my every command. I also have authorities over me whom I likewise obey. So Master, just speak the word and healing will flow.”
9 Jesus marveled at this. He turned around and said to the crowd who had followed him, “Listen, everyone! Never have I found even one among the people of God a man like this who believes so strongly in me.” 10 Jesus then spoke the healing word from a distance. When the man’s friends returned to the home, they found the servant completely healed and doing fine.

Devotional: What is right and wrong?

Jesus encounters a government official whose son is sick. The man asks Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus responds by asking, “Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?” Elsewhere in the Gospels, the Pharisees and teachers of the law ask Jesus to show them a miraculous sign—they want him to remove all doubt from the question. But Jesus calls them “evil” and “faithless” because of it (Matthew 12:38-45). Jesus came to re-establish a trusting, faithful relationship with God’s beloved children. But children who fold their arms and stamp their feet, demanding miraculous signs as a foundation for their trust, have missed something that is true of every relationship.

If your love is based on performance and not a commitment to your beloved’s heart, then it is no love at all. It’s wrong to treat our relationship with God like a business transaction—if you do this, then I’ll do this—because God is interested in restoring intimacy of the deepest kind with us. Demanding that God perform for us to win our love is wrong; trusting him because we’ve “tasted and seen” his heart is right.


John 4:43-54
43 On the third day Jesus left there and walked to the province of Galilee, where he was raised.  44 Now Jesus knew that prophets are honored everywhere they go except in their own hometown.  45 Even so, as Jesus arrived in the province of Galilee, he was welcomed by the people with open arms.  Many of them had been in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival and had witnessed firsthand the miracles he had performed.
46-47 Jesus entered the village of Cana of Galilee where he had transformed water into wine.  And there was a governmental official in Capernaum who had a son who was very sick and dying.  When he heard that Jesus had left Judea and was staying in Cana of Galilee, he decided to make the journey to Cana.  When he found Jesus he begged him, “You must come with me to Capernaum and heal my son!”
48 So Jesus said to him, “You never believe unless you see signs and wonders.”
49 But the man continued to plead, “You have to come with me to Capernaum before my little boy dies!”
50 Then Jesus looked him in the eyes and said, “Go back home now. I promise you, your son will live and not die.”
The man believed in his heart the words of Jesus and set off for home.  51 When he was still a distance from Capernaum, his servants met him on the road and told him the good news, “Your son is healed!  He’s alive!”
52 Overjoyed, the father asked his servants, “When did my son begin to recover?”
“Yesterday,” they said, “at one in the afternoon.  All at once his fever broke—and now he’s well!”
53 Then the father realized that it was at that very same hour that Jesus spoke the words to him, “Your son will live and not die.”  So from that day forward, the man and all his family and servants believed. 54 This was Jesus’ second extraordinary miracle in Galilee after coming from Judea.

Devotional: Will everything be okay?

What’s the recipe for terror? Well, make the setting a stormy sea in the predawn night, then mix in a ghost striding across the water toward your boat—that would scare even seasoned fishermen who’ve “seen it all.” And it did. When we are terrified by something, we’re fully convinced that everything will not be okay. And here Jesus not only enters into his disciples’ fear, he causes it. His answer to their terror is subtly profound, and important for us to grasp—he does not explain himself; he reveals himself. “It’s all right, I am here! Don’t be afraid.” Our assurance that everything in life will be okay has nothing to do with optimistic explanations about outcomes; it has everything to do with the presence of Jesus in the midst of our fear. And more than quelling our fears, he will invite us to walk into them, always with him right by our side.


Matthew 14:22-33
22 As soon as the people were fed, Jesus told his disciples to get into their boat and to go to the other side of the lake while he stayed behind to dismiss the people.  23 After the crowds dispersed, Jesus went up into the hills to pray. And as night fell he was there praying alone with God.
24 But the disciples, who were now in the middle of the lake, ran into trouble, for their boat was tossed about by the high winds and heavy seas.
25 At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves!  26 When the disciples saw him walking on top of the water, they were terrified and screamed, “A ghost!”
27 Then Jesus said, “Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here!”
28 Peter shouted out, “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”
29 “Come and join me,” Jesus replied.
So Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk toward Jesus.  30 But when he realized how high the waves were, he became frightened and started to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he cried out.
31 Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and lifted him up and said, “What little faith you have! Why would you let doubt win?”
32 And the very moment they both stepped into the boat, the raging wind ceased.  33 Then all the disciples crouched down before him and worshiped Jesus. They said in adoration, “You are truly the Son of God!”

Devotional: What Is the meaning of life?

The parable of the farmer scattering seed is one of the best-known of Jesus’ teaching parables. Jesus told parables for two reasons: (1) to help us understand the heart of God; and (2) to help us understand how things work in the kingdom of God. In this parable, he is describing the true meaning of our life: to cultivate a heart that is receptive to hearing and accepting the redemptive message of Jesus’ death and resurrection, then to live a life that produces a huge harvest that can “feed” a multitude.

Our lives are intended to be a source of life-giving “nutrition” for everyone around us, and the only way we can produce that kind of fruit is to provide “good soil” for the “seeds” God wants to plant in us. The meaning of our life, according to Jesus, is to do whatever it takes to continually offer him “fertile soil”—to give ourselves to understanding him and his kingdom, to continuously deepen our soul by pursuing the truth about ourselves and about God, and to set aside our worries and our material ambitions so that we trust God above all.


Mark 4:1-20
1 Once again Jesus went to teach the people on the shore of Lake Galilee and a massive crowd surrounded him.  The crowd was so huge that he had to get into a boat and teach the people from there.  2 He taught them many things by using parables to illustrate spiritual truths, saying:
3 “Consider this: A farmer went out to sow seeds.  4 As he cast his seeds some of it fell along the beaten path and soon the birds came and ate it.  5 Other seeds fell onto gravel with no topsoil and the seeds quickly sprouted since the soil had no depth.  6 But when the days grew hot, the sprouts were scorched and withered because they had insufficient roots.  7 Other seeds fell among the thorns, so when the seeds sprouted so did the thorns, crowding out the young plants so that they could produce no grain.  8 But some of the seeds fell onto good, rich soil that kept producing a good harvest. Some yielded thirty, some sixty—and some even one hundred times as much as was planted!  9 If you understand this, then you need to respond.”

The Purpose of Parables
10 Afterwards, Jesus, his disciples and those close to him remained behind to ask Jesus about his parables.  11 He said to them, “The privilege of intimately knowing the mystery of God’s kingdom realm has been granted to you, but not to the others, where everything is revealed in parables.
12 “For even when they see what I do, they will not understand, and when they, hear what I say, they will learn nothing, otherwise they would repent and be forgiven.”
13 Then he said to them, “If you don’t understand this parable, how will you understand any parable?  14 Let me explain: The farmer sows the Word as seed, 15 and what falls on the beaten path represents those who hear the Word, but immediately Satan appears and snatches it from their hearts.  16 The seed sown on gravel represents those who hear the Word and receive it joyfully, 17 but because their hearts fail to sink a deep root into the Word, they don’t endure for long. For when trouble or persecution comes on account of the Word, they immediately wilt and fall away.  18 And the seed sown among thorns represents those who hear the Word, 19 but they allow the cares of this life and the seduction of wealth and the desires for other things to crowd out and choke the Word so that it produces nothing.
20 “But the seed sown on good soil represents those who open their hearts to receive the Word and their lives bear good fruit—some yield a harvest of thirty, sixty, even one hundred times more than was sown!”

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