Keeping It Simple… The Gospel isn’t complicated

The Gospel isn’t complicated. It’s easy to understand. Children can grasp it. Still, the good news that God shares with us in the Bible will be rejected by more people than those who will accept it.

People like to complicate

Left to their own devices, many people will complicate any topic. The Israelites took 10 commandments from God and created 613 rules and regulations. Every aspect of life came under the Law of Moses. The prophets came along and added to the mix. Religion was born.

Now there is nothing wrong with having religion. Certainly not. But religion and the Gospel are two different things. Religion dictates what man must do to be acceptable to God. The Gospel is what God did to make man acceptable to Him.

Those 613 laws were boiled down to one statement–

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not parish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus offered a clarifying statement when he said,

I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

He told the people that all of the law was still very much in force, but He was the one who would fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the law, so people who put their trust and faith in Him would be forever accepted into God’s family.

When I was a small child, I received a vaccination for polio. My parents didn’t know anything about the years that went into the development of the vaccine, or the science behind it, but they trusted that it would prevent the dreaded disease.

The law is impossible to follow. Every living human being has broken a commandment. The trouble is, Jesus said if you break one, you’ve broken them all. Breaking a commandment is sin, and the Apostle Paul wrote that

the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23)

So what’s the point? The point is simple– the law, the 10 Commandments, points us to Christ. Jesus did not sin. He paid the full price. That is an amazing statement. He fulfilled all of the requirements so that anyone who believes in Him will be guaranteed heaven. We can’t, He can.

It’s simple, straight forward and easy, at least on the surface. Paul said “all have sinned,” which can be a sticking point for some, who do not believe in sin and do not believe they have committed any transgression worthy of an eternal punishment. But he adds,

the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Those who acknowledge their sinfulness, big or small, and accept the gift of life through faith in Jesus, are welcomed with open arms, no strings attached. Jesus said,

I am the way the truth and the life. Nobody goes to the Father except by me.” ( John 14:6 )

In other words, there is no back door into heaven and no other way to satisfy God. It’s simple enough, yet so many choke on the idea that they have sinned. Call it pride, or maybe they just don’t understand, I have known some that seem incapable of understanding the simplest things of God. They scoff, they mock and completely dismiss the entire message of the Bible.

The Gospel offers salvation by grace and faith

There are many religions, but only one offers salvation by grace through faith. Christianity stands alone, completely alone. Judaism is the closest, and many Jewish people have accepted Jeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leadership. It was the same during the time of Christ.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the simple things. If you make up a religion and make it complicated, you just may find some followers. But God and the Gospel offer you a simple, straight forward invitation. Believe in My Son. Jesus gave Himself so you could live. He paid your debt in full… Simple.

Saul’s Conversion

Saul's conversion

What Happened

Saul of Tarsus was a prominent pharisee who took it upon himself to stop the Apostles from spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to the community, outlying areas and the rest of the nation.

Saul believed that the message of Jesus was heresy and that this new movement had to be obliterated to ensure the continuation of the Jewish tradition.

He went to the Jewish authorities to ask their cooperation in allowing him to travel north to Damascus to deliver letters to the synagogues in an effort to uncover anyone there who might be followers of “The Way,” as they were called. Saul would take them prisoner and return to Jerusalem for trial.

On his way to Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground. Saul heard a voice “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who it was. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” the voice replied.

Saul was taken to Damascus and cared for by a man named Ananias, whom had been told by God to attend to the pharisee.

God changed his name to Paul and he became a devoted follower of Jesus for the rest of his very difficult life. He is one of the most influential voices in all of Christianity even to this day.

Why it matters

It is one thing to change a man’s mind by force, or get him to bend to the will of another. But it is very different to change a man’s heart.

Saul had murdered and persecuted followers of Jesus, but on his way to Damascus, to do even more evil, God not only stopped him from doing what he had set out to do, God changed his heart and molded him into a great Apostle of Christ and a prolific writer.

Bible Verse

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-4

Why it matters to you

If God can take a murderer and turn him into a loving, gentle spokesman for the Kingdom, then God can take anybody to do His will and make them effective. Not everybody is going to be a priest, or pastor, or an elder, a deacon or a chaplain, but God uses everyone to be a part of His Kingdom.

God calls everyone to become a member of His family, even murderers and thieves. God is the one who administers justice and only God can take an evil man and convert him into one of His most powerful evangelists.

Paul wrote two thirds of the New Testament, and the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were largely influenced by Paul’s working relationship with Luke.

Paul would bring out the heart of the Gospel, emphasizing that man is saved by the grace of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and not by man’s own actions.

The salvation of man is to the glory of God. Man cannot boast of his accomplishment. Paul learned the hard way, that it is all God.


The incident on the road to Damascus was witnessed by Saul’s companions. They heard the entire conversation, but saw nothing, other than Saul on the ground.

Saul was blinded by the light, so the men took him by the hand and led him to Damascus. There he went to a house and was greeted my a disciple named Ananias.

It was not surprise that Ananias was not thrilled with the idea of dealing with Saul, as he told the Lord that he had heard of all the evil things the man had done. But God told him to go and help Saul, because God had chosen Saul to preach to the gentiles and to their kings and before the people of Israel.

God took the most dangerous enemy of new faith and turned him into its chief advocate. God would change his name to Paul and send him out to minister to the very people he set out to murder.

What you may not know

Saul described himself as a “pharisee.” He was well versed in the law, the writings and the prophets, but had seen this through the eyes of the Jewish authority. God would illuminate the Hebrew scriptures to his new Apostle, making him a very powerful voice for the Kingdom.

As an intellectual, Paul could converse with scholars and philosophers. He was able to make strong connections to the learned men wherever he went, because he understood their religions, their values and their culture.

His intellectual approach to the faith came through in the letters he wrote and to this day are studied by theologians and scholars.

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

Holy Spirit comes

What Happened

The disciples, now Apostles, were together in Jerusalem. They needed to select a replacement for Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord and subsequently killed himself. The choice was between Barnabas and Mathias, both had been with Jesus. Mathias was chosen.

As they gathered, God’s Holy Spirit came to them, just as Jesus had promised. They heard a sound like a blowing wind that filled the entire house where they were meeting. Things that looked like tongues of fire came and rested on their shoulders. Each of them was filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

Suddenly they were all able to speak in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them. The Apostles would travel out of the city and share the good news.

Why it matters

The coming of the Holy Spirit opened a new chapter in the lives of believers, as God was now personally available to anyone who needed wisdom, guidance and comfort. Jesus promised a counselor and He made good on His promise.

The work of the Holy Spirit, through the Apostles, would cause exponential growth in the faith. When Jesus was crucified, His real followers were few, but through the Apostles, the whole world would hear the story, a story that is still being told today all around the globe, in hundreds of languages.

Through the guidance and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, men and women have been able to create a written language for people who never had their own words written before. People still hear the word in their own tongue.

Bible Verse

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness  and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

Acts 2:17-21

Why it matters to you

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, man’s relationship with God has been changed forever. It is now personal and intimate. Not a distant, angry, foreboding God, but our Father in heaven who loves us and wants the best for us.

The Holy Spirit, the counselor that Jesus promised, is a wonderful teacher. The Spirit brings illumination to things you may never have understood, or gives you ideas or thoughts that you otherwise would ignore.

The same Holy Spirit that Jesus called upon for help is available to all of us today.


The Apostles were badly shaken at the crucifixion, amazed at the resurrection and both saddened and troubled when Jesus ascended to Heaven. Still afraid of being arrested or killed, they were living out of the public eye, not doing what they were charged to do by Jesus before He left.

But Jesus had promised a counselor and that is what happened in that house to all of the Apostles on that day.

From then on, a new boldness would take over and they would begin to preach the Gospel to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. Peter spoke to a crowd of people, from many nations, people who spoke many different languages, but each hear in his own language.

Peter spoke, likely in Aramaic, but each person heard in his own tongue. It was like each person had their own, personal interpreter.

What you may not know

People marvel at the miracles of Jesus and they should because healing the sick and all that happened during His ministry was of supernatural power. However, Jesus, while here on earth, was fully man.

He gave up His divinity and power to live a human life, subject to all the limitations of the human condition. His power came from the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that healed the sick and raised Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus was always obedient to the will of His Father and all that was accomplished was done in accordance with His Father’s will.

The Holy Spirit is widely misunderstood and there are some who believe that the Holy Spirit is not at work today. That is not true, because it is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide, inspire, educate, encourage and at times rebuke the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes people say a singer or preacher is anointed. We talk of “God-given” abilities That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Ascension

The Ascension of Jesus
The Ascension of Jesus

What Happened

After Jesus walked out of the tomb, he appeared before many people throughout the area. He instructed his disciples to go back to Galilee and await Him there.

It was in there, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, that he first met them. It had been forty days since Jesus had come back to life and left His tomb.

The final meeting took place where at all began at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus charged them with going out beyond the immediate boundaries of Israel to spread the Gospel throughout the known world.

Then Jesus went back up to heaven, where He sits on the right hand of God. Jesus was still with His disciples and He is still with us.

Why it matters

There had to be an eye witness to the resurrection of Christ, and it was especially necessary for Jesus to show Himself before his disciples. With their own eyes, they saw the risen Savior.

Bible Verse

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28: 16-20

4 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Mark 16:4-20

Why it matters to you

People actually saw Jesus alive and well after the crucifixion. But it was hard to believe. After all, people coming back from being dead is a very rare occurrence. Today we hear stories about people who make miraculous recoveries in hospitals, but not after taking a brutal beating and dying on a cross.

It matters because it is God’s way of showing the whole world that He will do what He says. God wants man to trust Him and to follow Jesus.


When Jesus finished his talk with the disciples, He was taken up into heaven, according to the Gospels. Jesus had told his disciples that he would return to the Father, to sit at the right hand of the throne of God.

His rightful place is with His father, where He has always been before and after taking human form. All told, Jesus appeared to people over a 40 days period before going back home.

What you may not know

Jesus had a glorified body after the resurrection. He could appear here and there, and effortlessly go from place to place and not have any of the worries of human life.

Shortly after the resurrection, he appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus, which was near Jerusalem, and taught them about the events that people had seen and had been talking about.

The two men, once they realized who was talking to them, immediately went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples. The disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene when she came back from the tomb, as they found the account unbelievable.

Only 11 disciples went to Galilee. Judas Iscariot committed suicide shortly after betraying Christ to the Jewish authorities. He never got to enjoy his 30 pieces of silver. Matthias was later chosen to join the group.

Jesus’ Resurrection

Jesus' Resurrection

What Happened

Jesus has risen: After being crucified on the cross, Jesus died after a few hours, while the two thieves executed with him, lingered in agony. Because of the Passover, not wanting any trouble from the bulging population of Jerusalem, the Romans opted to bring a quick death to the three convicted men.

The Roman guards broke the legs of the two thieves, which took away their ability to leverage themselves to take a breath. They died of asphyxiation.

When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, not surprising considering that he had taken a brutal beating at the hands of Pilate before even being tried. The Roman guards did not break his legs and that fulfilled a prophesy that foretold that no bone in His body would be broken. To make sure he was dead, they thrust a spear into his side.

They ask for Jesus’ body

A wealthy man Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate for the body. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, a preeminent Rabbi, who had visited with Jesus previously. Joseph had a burial tomb and the two men wrapped Jesus in cloth and anointed his body with herbs and spices, as was the Jewish custom. It was the Jewish day of preparation.

Meanwhile, the Jewish authorities had gone to Pilate to demand that a guard be placed at the tomb. Now that Jesus was dead, the authorities wanted Him to stay dead, and wanted to make sure that nobody took the body to claim that he had risen.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

“His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”

Jesus than met both Mary’s on the road and told them not to be afraid, and to go and tell His disciples that He had risen from the dead.

Why it matters

This is the single most important event in human history. Everything that was told, all of the prophesies, all of the writings, point to this remarkable occurrence.

By supernatural power, Jesus is brought back to life, in human form, but in a glorified body, one that will never grow old, get sick, or die. Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead, a promise that God gives to all who believe.

Bible Verse

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:1-10

Why it matters to you

Simply stated, if Jesus Christ did not rise on the third day and walked out of the tom. The prophets are all wrong, the New Testament is a myth and the Bible is a hoax. Without the resurrection, there is no hope for salvation and eternal life.


The Jewish authorities went to the Romans and demanded that a guard be placed on the tomb. They knew the prediction of Jesus rising from the dead and they wanted to squash that story.

The guards that were posted to the tomb were completely overwhelmed by the stone being rolled away. They were terrified and they knew that an empty tomb would mean their deaths.

Then they ran to the Jewish authorities, who told them to tell a lie about being attacked by the disciples. The guards were paid. The disciples were not anywhere near the tomb, too afraid to go out in public.

The Jewish authorities did not want the news of Jesus rising to get around. It would prove that He was right and they had missed His message. It would not have been good for them politically.

What you may not know

Mary Magdalene was the first person to declare the risen Christ. She ran back and met with the disciples, who were in hiding, and said “He is risen.”

The disciples did not believe her. Later Jesus appeared to them and at that point John was convinced. After Jesus let him touch His wrists and side. Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus has risen: The Jewish authorities had the most believable story for the Romans to swallow. Jesus’ body was stolen. But who could have taken it? Who ever did had to overcome the Roman guards, who were charged with killing anyone who dare to try.

The Romans guarding the tomb were no match for the earthquake that shook the stone lose and opened the tomb. Witnessing the awesome power of God, they took off like scared rabbits.

The least likely to have anything to do with the disappearance of Jesus were the disciples, who were in hiding.

The truth is, Jesus rose. And ss fantastic as that sounds, it is certainly consistent with everything that had happened between man and God since Adam and Eve.

Jesus’ Betrayal, Trail, Crucifixion

Jesus' Crucifixion

What Happened

Jesus took his disciples into the upper room of a house where he would share with them a ceremonial last supper. He would predict once again his death.

It was at this meeting that Judas Iscariot would make a hasty departure to inform the Jewish authorities where Jesus would be later that night. Jesus knew this was going to happen.

He took the group to the Garden of Gethsemane, just outside the city. Jesus prayed, as his disciples slept.

The guards came, Judas identified Jesus and he was arrested. Jesus was taken several places, before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders. The chief priest Ciaphas asked him directly if he was the Christ and Jesus “Yes, it is as you say.” Ciaphas was enraged, tore his clothes and called Jesus a blasphemer.

The authorities wanted Jesus killed. They handed him over to Pilate, the governor. Pilate questioned him, asking if he was the King of the Jews. Jesus affirmed this. Pilate found no criminal gilt in him, but the pressure from the Jewish authorities and the crowd that had gathered was great.

At first he ordered that Jesus be scourged, a brutal whipping that usually resulted in death. That did not satisfy the Jews. They wanted Him crucified. Pilate ordered the execution and Jesus was taken outside the walls of the city to be crucified.

He was executed along with two convicted criminals.

Why it matters

People read the account of the arrest and the trial and wonder how anybody could have found Jesus guilty of anything. But public opinion and political agenda can be very powerful.

Jesus was an inconvenient truth for the Jewish authorities, who had to protect their turf. Pilate didn’t want any trouble during the Passover, so he gave into the masses and let the crowd have its way.

All of the powerful Jews assembled at the trial of Jesus hated Him, because they believed that He was a threat to their authority. Jesus could perform miracles that they couldn’t explain. Jesus could discuss any religious issue with them with perfect reasoning. That’s why they wanted Him executed.

Jesus did not fight this because he knew that the only way to fulfill His Father’s plan of salvation was to offer his own life. He also knew that on the third day He would rise from the grave, and had actually predicted this to the authorities in the temple.

Bible Verse

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:32-34

Why it matters to you

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan for how he would reconcile man to Himself. Sin entered the world through man, and sin would be defeated by man.

Jesus, fully man and fully God, was sent by His Father to pay the penalty for sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except by me.” This selfless act of love is a gift, which cannot be purchased, earned or in any way deserved.


It was a bogus, kangaroo court. The arrest of Jesus was illegal. The trial was illegal, even under Jewish law. His crucifixion was a complete miscarriage of justice, yet his crucifixion is the single most loving act God had ever done for man.

Jesus willingly went to to the cross, in obedience to God, to offer his own life in sacrifice. Jesus paid the price that man could not, nor ever could pay himself. Jesus, just before he died, said “It is finished.” In the original Greek, the word used was “telelesti” which is a term used in commerce, meaning “paid in full.”

What you may not know

Crucifixion was a Roman form of punishment, designed to inflict maximum pain and suffering, as well as public humiliation. It was intended as a severe deterrent to any crime.

The person was nailed and tied to the cross, but a small foot plate was attached to give the person an opportunity to stretch and breathe. It would sometimes take days for a man to die, usually when he could no longer use his legs to get some relief. The man would die from lack of oxygen. He would suffocate.

The Roman guards broke the legs of the two thieves on either side of Jesus to expedite their deaths, due to the Passover. It was a way to control the people. When a Roman soldier thrust a spear into Jesus’ side, he was already dead. Water had built up in his lungs and came pouring out of the wound.

When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, was torn top to bottom. The curtain was woven and rather thick, so it would have taken supernatural power to tear it like a piece of paper.

While on the cross, one of the thieves sentenced to die mocked Jesus and said that if He were the Christ to save himself and the other two. The other thief rebuked the man and turned to Jesus and asked him to “remember me when you enter your kingdom.” Jesus promised that the man would be with Him in paradise that very day.

The man who asked Jesus to remember him, had never attended a synagogue, was never baptized, never given any money. He just acknowledged who Jesus was. By asking to be remembered, he acknowledged that Jesus was who He said he was. He was also acknowledging that Jesus had the authority to save him and had hope and trust that this would happen.

It was a very powerful, albeit short conversation, but it encapsulates the message that Jesus brought to the world, that “whosoever believes Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The thief on the cross was saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus.

The Triumphal Entry

Jesus enters Jerusalem

What Happened

It was the time for the Passover, so Jesus and His disciples went to Jerusalem. The reception Jesus received was grand indeed, as people spread palm leaves and cloaks over the rode as He entered. The large, cheering crowd welcomed Jesus, who immediately recognized the sadness of the moment and as He approached Jerusalem, He wept in sorrow.

He knew that the city would come to ruin because they did not recognize God’s coming to them personally. By 70 AD the temple would lay in ruins, as the city was completely overtaken by the Roman army.

Why it matters

For a short moment, during a very busy week in Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted as a king. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, people worshiped the Messiah’s entry into the city. This would all change too quickly.

His entry illustrates His true standing as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but the emotional reaction is shallow, like the adulation for a movie star or celebrity.

What matters here is the truth of who Jesus was and is, something that got lost in the shuffle as the events of the week progressed. His entry was triumphant, but by the end of the week, He was tried, beaten, dragged through the streets of the city, and crucified.

Bible Verse

37 When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Luke 19:37-38

Why it matters to you

Interestingly, there were people who greeted Jesus like a rock star of His day and were excited upon His entry into the city, but many of those same people turned their backs on Him in just a few, short days.

Bowing to the political will of the religious authorities, they went from cheering His entry into the city to shouting for his crucifixion. The truth didn’t matter. They got caught up in public opinion and were easily swayed. People today are not any different.


Just as crowds had gathered across the country to see Jesus, they were waiting for Him at the gates of Jerusalem. For those who regarded Him as the Christ, there was cheering and the spreading of palm leafs on the path where He rode into town on the back of a colt.

Shouts of “Hosanna” (acclimation and praise) greeting Him along the way. The triumphant entry did not escape the eyes of the Jewish elite. They wanted Jesus arrested and prosecuted, as they considered Him a huge threat to Jewish laws and traditions.

The Romans were actually not that interested prosecuting Jesus, as long as there was law and order and no disturbances. When Jesus went before the governor Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader could find no fault with Jesus, under Roman law.

But the Jewish elite insisted that Jesus be found guilty. Pilate tried to avoid the miscarriage of justice by offering to let the crowd choose between the criminal Barabbas and Jesus. The crowd chose to have Barabbas go free and shouted for the crucifixion of Jesus.

What you may not know

It was customary for Jews to go to Jerusalem for the Passover and visit the temple to make their sacrifices. The city would swell in population during the week.

Passover was a great opportunity for merchants to make money, selling doves and animals for sacrifice, or changing money at the temple for people who came from distant lands. The commercialization of Passover angered Jesus, who in a fiery rebuke, overturned the tables of the money changers.

In much the same way today, the commercialization of Christmas has all but taken out the true meaning of the birth of the Messiah.

The events of the Passover week were watched carefully by the religious authorities, as any disruption of business would be an expensive inconvenience. They gave His disciple Judas Iscariot 30 pieces of silver to identify Jesus and help the guards arrest Him.

Even though Jesus attracted crowds, His appearance, according to the prophet Isaiah, was ordinary. Because He didn’t stand out, they needed someone to identify Him for the authorities.

Sermon on the Mount

Jesus at the sermon on the mount

What Happened

Jesus had been going from town to town in Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and healing the sick. Word traveled fast and crowds would gather. One day, when he saw the crowd gathering, he went to a mountainside, sat down and began to teach.

His disciples were with Him and listened along with the masses. The account is a quote from beginning to end, not a report. Matthew, inspired and directed by God, gave his account.

Why it matters

The Bible is a handbook for the human condition, and in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks to the human condition. It was a message for all people, regardless of their walk of life, in all places and for all times.

The sermon brings out the differences between the strict legalism of the Jewish tradition, and the new way of faith and trust in God. God as our Father is highlighted by His sermon.

Jesus knew that he would someday be sacrificed, making this message even more poignant. His gentle, loving invitation for people to come to God is in direct contrast to the harshness of Jewish law.

Bible Verse

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mathew 5:3-10

Why it matters to you

The Sermon on the Mount is about the ethics of the Kingdom, as Jesus talks of purity of heart and the standards of righteousness before God. We are taught the “Lord’s Prayer” in this dissertation and Jesus teaches about God’s Law. It is a gentle, but very clear illustration of God’s expectations.

Jesus tells the people that he has not come to abolish the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. He added that until heaven and earth are gone, every letter of the law is in place. Jesus gives an invitation to ask God and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.

Those who seek God will find Him, but it is an individual journey. Each person has their own, unique relationship to God.


The main thrust of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was to herald the Kingdom of God. Jesus offers eight blessings, known as the Beatitudes, which are later chronicled in the Gospel of Luke.

Jesus talks of his fulfilling the Law, which is essential to man’s chances of being in God’s Kingdom. Man cannot, by his sinful nature, fulfill the Law. Therefore, God had to do it.

Just as God had supplied the sacrifice to Abraham and spared Isaac, God spared man and sacrificed His son. He talks of social issues, such as murder, divorce, taking oaths, caring for the needy, loving your enemies, not judging others.

What you may not know

The writer of this Gospel, Matthew, was writing to Jews, as evidenced by his references to Jewish Law and his using the term “Kingdom of God.” As a tax collector, Matthew was given a quota to collect for the Romans. Anything above that quota was his to keep.

The irony is apparent, as this beautiful Sermon on the Mount is shared by a Jewish outcast, one who was hated by society. Matthew is writing to prove to Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

Jesus with Disciples

What Happened

After being tempted in the desert, Jesus began his public ministry. There was no mass communication at the time, no newspapers, television or internet. Jesus needed to assemble a team to do the work. He called poor working men for the most part, men who were not educated or well connected in society.

They may not have been the most qualified, but they were willing to follow. They were “teachable” and eager to learn. His first two disciples were Peter and his brother Andrew, who were working at the time, casting their net into the lake (Sea of Galilee).

The brothers dropped what they were doing and went with Jesus. Others would follow as word got around. Jesus would hand pick these men and did so according to the plan of God the Father.

Why it matters

People are often reluctant to serve God by being an active part of a ministry. They do not feel qualified. Jesus said “follow me” and communicated rather effectively that this ministry would be about Him and not about the abilities or inabilities of his followers.

It was an invitation for seemingly insignificant men to be a part of the greatest movement in human history. God’s unfolding plan was coming to it’s most dramatic chapter and regular people, ordinary men and women, would follow the plan. God was in control.

It was all by design. Most of them were willing followers, but did not understand what was really going on. Some doubted Jesus. Still another would betray Jesus to the religious authorities, who would turn him over to the Romans.

Some who were the most unlikely people to play a significant role in the ministry were men who made the greatest impact.

Bible Verse

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4: 18-22

Why it matters to you

God uses regular people to do His work and advance his Kingdom. It’s not how smart, or how rich or how important they are. It’s all about a person’s willingness to follow and serve.

The disciples that Jesus selected were not at all impressive, but like other men that God has called, they were willing and obedient. They learned “on the job” and asked a lot of questions. Jesus was a patient and thoughtful teacher, allowing them to be themselves.


After being tempted in the desert, Jesus returned home, to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He spotted two fishermen and called to them to follow. That was the beginning. From there, he gathered ten others to follow him and be a part of his ministry.

They were: Simon (Peter), Andrew, James Zebedee, John, Levi (Matthew), Philip, Nathaniel, Thomas, James Alpheus, Judas Alpheus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot.

What you may not know

In Israel, during the time of Christ, it was customary that only the best and brightest would study to be a Rabbi. Students came to the Rabbi and were selected according to their abilities, and of course, their ability to pay for the educational opportunity.

The students would live with the Rabbi, study every move and mannerism, and in many cases become a kind of clone of the teacher. Jesus, on the other hand, took the opposite approach. He gathered from poor fishermen, who were rough around the edges and not educated.

He even called a tax collector, who was the scourge of Jewish society, a social outcast. He also called a Zealot, who was fiercely against the Roman occupation of Israel and the Zealot would have hated the tax collector.

He selected ordinary men to do an extraordinary job.

The Baptism of Jesus

Baptism of Jesus

What Happened

John the baptist had been preaching in the wilderness for several months. Jesus was just beginning his public ministry. He had been living in Nazareth with his mother and earthly father Joseph, working as a carpenter.

When it was time for him to begin his public ministry, it was necessary to go to John, whose ministry would soon come to an end. He met John at the Jordan River and was baptized.

John foretold of Jesus, who would now begin to usher in the Kingdom of God.

Why it matters

Jesus did nothing out of impulse. It was all by design. It was all in obedience to God, His Father. People heard the preaching of John and were hearing the message. Jesus, although fully God, was also fully man.

Therefore, he would do what others did in submitting to baptism. John was actually taken by surprise and said that Jesus should, by rights, baptism him. Jesus declined and said He would be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. In front of the people, Jesus was baptized.

Bible Verse

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.

John 1:29-34

Why it matters to you

Jesus did not need to repent for sins, because he was without sin. He did not need to be baptized at all, but did it as an act of obedience. Baptism does not wash away sins and is not a necessary element for salvation. It is an act of obedience to God.

Baptism is important because it is a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew writes that people should be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, is our high priest, and as a man, he was obedient.

Jesus does not ask anything of us that he is not willing to do himself. Interestingly, Jesus was baptized as an adult, a believer. He was not baptized as a baby, but taken to the Temple to be presented for circumcision.


John had been out in the wilderness, preaching to the people about the need to repent and turn to the Lord. His preaching was fiery and often offended the religious authorities. John even rebuked the king, an offense that would later cost him his life. But John was preparing the way for the Messiah, and boldly proclaimed Jesus as the promised savior.

John was reluctant to baptize Jesus, telling Jesus that he should be the one to baptize him. Jesus told him to proceed and submitted to the baptism. John knew that his ministry must decrease and that Jesus was one the people should follow.

This was the changing of the guard, the handing of the torch. John had foretold of the coming Messiah, and now Jesus the Messiah was here with us. It was the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry… the ministry that would change the world.

What you may not know

John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin and six months older. John was the son of Elizabeth, who was either a cousin or an aunt to Mary.

John was a kind of miracle baby, as Mary and her husband Zechariah, a priest, did not think they could have children. But God had other ideas. John, in obedience, would be the man God used to tell people of the coming of the Messiah.