Bible Study

I’m a Martha. There I Said It.

Sometimes I think Martha gets a bad deal.

In Mark 10:38-42, Jesus visits the home of Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. While Martha bustles around preparing food for their guest, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. When Martha complains that she’s doing all the work, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).

Most analyses of this passage end with the admonition to “be a Mary, not a Martha.” Women are especially plagued by this notion, often caveman-like in its simplicity: “Martha bad. Mary good.”

Now, I’m not contradicting Jesus here. Martha got it wrong—that time. But it doesn’t follow that Mary was a better person, or a more devoted follower of Jesus. Another Bible story offers a side-by-side view of Mary and Martha: the events leading to the raising of Lazarus in John 11.

A Different View of the Sisters

Jesus receives word that Lazarus is ill to the point of death. Instead of going to the aid of his friend, however, Jesus delays. When he finally does arrive, Lazarus has already died. The moment she learns of Jesus’ arrival, Martha rushes to him. In the midst of her grief, she makes a remarkable statement of deep faith: “Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you’”(John 11:21-22).

Where is Mary? In the house, mourning. She doesn’t come to Jesus until he calls for her (v. 29). She doesn’t make a great claim of faith like Martha. She isn’t there to hear one of Jesus’s most remarkable claims about himself, in verses 25-26: “I AM the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Mourning is not a sin. Neither is housework. I’m not highlighting these events to turn people against Mary in favor of Martha. Both were devoted followers of Christ. Neither of them were perfect.

We Need Martha and Mary

Martha is a “doer.” She has a take-charge attitude, and she will do whatever needs to be done. But when the chips are down and there’s nothing left to do, she knows that she can turn to Jesus. She loves to serve others—we see her three times in the Gospels, serving every time. She speaks her mind. Martha is dependable. If you need Martha to be somewhere, she’s probably already there, getting things done.

Mary is a woman of few words. She is not a typical leader, but she is a devoted follower. She doesn’t offer the kind of service or action that other people do, but she does offer herself, and she’s capable of tremendously beautiful acts of worship.

We need both Marys and Marthas. Say there’s a death in your family. Mary will sit with you and put her arms around you while you weep. But you still have to eat. Martha’s the one who brings you food, and makes sure someone waters the plants and walks the dog. Both of them are loving you. You need them both.

I can easily spend an hour or more in devotions every morning. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop studying Scripture so I can get other things done. That sounds very holy and spiritual, doesn’t it? But what if it makes me late for work? What if guests are coming and Daniel is left to do all the cleaning himself? What if I really needed to take the car to the shop—and now there’s no time?

The issue isn’t only whether Jesus is a higher priority. Of course, he is. But Jesus would never want me to sit there reading all day while my house falls apart and my family feels abandoned. Devotion can be an excuse for laziness, and allowing my life to become that imbalanced would not please the Lord.

Worship in All Things

We are told in Scripture to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). Is Christ less present in my life while I’m making the bed than when I’m reading the Bible? No. The life of the Christian should be characterized by worship in all things, not just obviously religious activity.

In Luke 10, Jesus doesn’t scold Martha for working around the house; that’s not the issue. The one necessary thing was attention and devotion to him. Mary could’ve been letting her mind wander while Jesus was speaking to her, just as Martha could’ve continued cooking and cleaning and setting a nice table as an honorable offering to Jesus.

But Martha expresses her frustrations with Mary, and that’s when Jesus rebukes her. Sitting at his feet isn’t holier than cooking in the kitchen. Jesus tells Martha not to worry about Mary, but to follow him while she cooks and cleans.

The Christian life is not a competition to see who the “best” Christian is. We all sin and fall short. Rather, it is a turning of all our earthly deeds and passions toward the Lord Jesus Christ. So if you’re a Martha, stay a Martha! She was no less devoted to Jesus than Mary. Love him in your work—do it with all your heart!

The good news of Jesus Christ is for all those who know their need for him. Mary is not our standard of living any more than the many other notable figures in the Bible story. I checked, and Hebrews 12:2 says quite clearly that it is Jesus who is the perfecter of our faith.

Whether you are a Martha or a Mary, look to Jesus, and follow him.

Bible Study faith

Chose life

Have you ever played “Would you rather”? My husband and I are youth directors at our church and if you’re around youth long enough, you will be drawn into a game. The rules are simple, someone listed two things and you choose which one you would rather do. Let’s play a quick game.

Would you rather be able to fly or read people’s minds?

* be blind or be deaf?

* eat skittles or m&ms?

* have a paper cut on your tongue or a booger you can’t reach all day?

* live or die?

If each of us were truly honest today, we would all say that we want to live? That’s a no-brainer! “I want to choose life!”

We are all very partial to the oxygen that we breathe and really prefer that our hearts continue to pump blood. So, why would I ask such a dumb question?

I was reading a book a while back and I came across a passage of Scripture in the book of Deuteronomy where God gives the choice to choose life.

Moses & the Israelites

In the events leading up to these verses, the Israelites were in slavery under Pharoah, led out by Moses, and were now grumbling and complaining. Once the Israelites have crossed the Red Sea, they are now on their way to the Promised Land. Because of their disobedience, an entire generation must wander in the desert and die before they would be allowed to cross into the Promised land. For the next 40 years, the Israelites wander around in the desert and wilderness. In order to claim the promised land, the people had to cross the Jordan River.

we are going to start with Moses giving a pep talk to the Israelite people. He has led them to the entrance of the Promised Land. It is now time to cross over the Jordan River and claim the land that God had given them. Moses begins his pep talk by telling the Israelites to obey the Lord God and follow His commands.

Moses explains to them the curses for disobedience and the blessings for obedience. He renews the covenant made that God had made saying that He would be their God and they would be His people.

He also reminds them of the miraculous things that God had already done for them. Sounds pretty good so far, right? Obey God, receive blessings. Disobey God, receive the curses. Then, Moses tells them a strange thing. He says that the Lord is giving to them an offer of life or death. Strange? Let’s pick up there and look at this offer to choose life or death.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that You shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go and possess. I call heaven and earth, as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Choose Eternal Life – Salvation

He tells them to choose life, that you may live.

Choose life. That you may live. What exactly does that mean?

Well, yeah, who wouldn’t want to do that? But, I think there is a little more to it than just breathing.

What does that look like? Choose life???

So, to find my answer, look to the Creator of Life. It says in Genesis 2:7 that “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

If God is the Creator of Life, and He is the one telling me to choose life, that I may live, then I think He should be the one that I should ask.

In Job 33:4, it says, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

1 John 5:12 says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

If we are to “choose life” we need to understand what it means. We all know that in life we have many choices to make. We have to choose what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, what to do this weekend, how we will act in a given situation. Life is full of choices.

Just as the game “would you rather” that we played earlier made you make some kind of choice. This is also what God calls us to do.

Because he loves man so much, He allows them to make a choice about where they will spend eternity. He allows us to choose to spend eternity with Him in Heaven or He allows us to choose to spend eternity in a place called Hell.

Simple as that. We have a choice. It is this choice that He is referring to in Deuteronomy. He has set before us life and death. In His love, He wants each of us to choose life, that we may live in eternity with Him. This is His desire.

It says in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

But, again, it is a choice. Do we wish to choose life and live? Or, do we choose to reject God and live a life completely separated from Him for eternity?

Bible Study Joy

Joyful Life

‘So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ Galatians 5:16-24

A joyful life in Christ is one that is characterized by walking by the Spirit. It is disciplined enough not to gratify the desires of the flesh. It is a life where the fruit of the Spirit is made visible.

In His letter to the Galatians, Paul listed the essential parts of the fruit of the Spirit. Oftentimes, I hear Christians mis-read this part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians as the fruits (plural) of the Spirit, but it clearly says the fruit (singular) of the Spirit.

The singular sense of the word ‘fruit’ suggests that the fruit of the Spirit is just one but it consists of all the listed virtues which are ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’, Galatians 5:22-23.

It is a complete package of virtues that should be evident in our lives as God’s children. This again implies that the life of a Christian is such that should constantly radiate the joy of the Lord as much as it does not preclude self-control from being an essential aspect. Christ told His disciples to be joyful because their names are written in heaven. This is the right reason to be joyful as people of God.

Nehemiah told the people of God that the joy of the Lord is their strength, Nehemiah 8:10. If this is true, why should God’s people not be joyful?

To the Romans, Paul says ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’, Romans 8:1. If there is no condemnation, then this calls for constant joy.

‘The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.’ Proverbs 10:28

‘The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ Luke 10:17-20

Bible Study faith Joy

Finding Joy

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
James 1:2–4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trials of life come in various forms, shapes and sizes and it is extremely difficult to be joyful when faced with various trials, but the outcome makes it inevitably important and hence, we should count it all joy because by the help the Spirit provides, we shall be victorious.

Steadfastness is inevitable to a viable Christian life. Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to be steadfast (or immovable). This suggests the idea of consistency in faith and in our resolve.

A rock-solid faith is one that demonstrates steadfastness in upholding the truth in word and in deed. However, steadfastness does not come by accident!

Most times, it is produced through the ability to endure trials. James persuades us to allow steadfastness to have its full effect as this brings completeness. Paul admonished the Christians at Philippi to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’.

This is critically important that it necessitates emphasis. He goes ahead to repeat it: ‘I will say it again, rejoice!’ The word ‘always’ implies that our rejoicing should be all the time. This includes times of trial because we know that the Lord will never forsake us and He will see us through just as He saw Job through.

James 1:2-12
‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.’

Every Christian will face hard times and trials, this is inevitable. However, how we face those trails and what we learn from them help us grow and builds our faith. Life is like a bed of roses, in the beauty of it all there are thorns. Don’t allow those thorns to scar you for life. Heal them through Jesus and come back stronger.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Peter Preaches to the Jews

Acts 3:11-26 New International Version (NIV)

Peter Speaks to the Onlookers

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’

24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Solomon’s Colonnade was like a long walkway with a wooden roof, on the east side of the Temple. Jesus had walked there and he had taught there (John 10:23).

In verse 12, the people were staring at Peter and John. They had just seen Peter and John heal the lame man. But Peter gave all the glory to God. God may use us to help someone or witness to someone. But we must remember to give all the glory to God. God is the one that gave us the means and opportunity to do what we do.

Peter used the words ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. These are the same words that God used in Exodus 3:6, This was when God introduced himself to Moses. The miracle here in Acts had happened because God had glorified Jesus. Jesus was in a special place in heaven. He had given power to his disciples to act in his name. When Jesus was on earth, he had done miracles. Now the disciples had his authority to do miracles like those.

Peter wanted to convince the Jews that Jesus was their Messiah. So, he used language from the book called Isaiah in the Old Testament. It was from a part where the writer describes the Lord as a Servant who suffers (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Like Isaiah, Peter said first that God had glorified his Servant (Jesus). Then Peter talked about how the Servant had suffered. He blamed the people for this. They were responsible. Pilate (a Roman ruler) had wanted to free Jesus. But the people had asked for Barabbas instead. They had wanted Jesus to die. Jesus was their Savior. He was completely good. But they had chosen a criminal instead.

The Jews had not expected the Messiah to die like a criminal. But Peter was saying that Jesus was innocent. God had known already how Jesus would die. The prophet Isaiah had described it all when he wrote about the Servant. This was the Servant who suffered. (See Isaiah chapters 42, 49, 50, 52 and 53.) The Servant who suffered was Jesus, the Messiah. God had proved this. He had made Jesus alive again after he had died. Peter and the apostles knew that this was true. They knew because they had seen it.

Everyone could see that the man’s legs were now strong. The man had not been able to walk. But Peter had told the man to walk by Jesus’ authority. And the man had done this. Christ’s power had made the man strong because of the man’s faith. Jesus was the Servant that God had glorified. This was evidence that they could all see.

The people in Jerusalem had killed their Messiah. But they had not known that he was their Messiah. Even their rulers had not realized this. They had not expected that their Messiah would suffer. Jesus’ death on a cross was one part in God’s purpose. Isaiah spoke about God’s Servant who suffered. The Old Testament also contains the stories about men like Joseph (Jacob’s son) and Elijah. These are examples of God’s servants who suffered. So, it should not surprise the people that the Messiah should suffer too.

They knew that they had done a terrible thing. They did not have an excuse. God wanted to forgive them. But first, they had to repent.

To repent means to realize you have sinned and turn away from that sin. We apologize for sins that we have done. And we decide not to do any more sins. We do what God wants. We change how we think and we change how we live.

Peter said that if the Jews repented, three good things would happen.

1.  God would forgive their sins (verse 19). The Greek word here for ‘forgive’ means that God will ‘wipe off’ their sins.

2. The Lord will give to you times when you have spiritual strength (verse 19). God would not just take away their sins. He would give rest to their spirits. And he would give relief to them.

3.  He would send Jesus. Jesus was the Messiah that God had already chosen for them (verse 20). Jesus will forgive them and he will give them strength. But he ‘must remain in heaven until a certain time. Then God will put all things back as they should be’ (verse 21). Christ would return. Then God would do wonderful things (Romans 8:19-21; Isaiah 11:6-9).

Moses was the first prophet for the Israelites. The words in verses 22-23 are from Deuteronomy 18:15. People believed that these verses were a prophecy about one particular prophet. This prophet would be like Moses. He would be like a bridge between God and the people. He would tell the people what God was saying. And he would tell God what the people wanted to say.

Samuel was the prophet who anointed David as king. To anoint means to mark a person with oil. And this shows that God has chosen that person. God made promises to David about a new kingdom. These promises became true when Jesus came. Many things that the other prophets had said about God’s kingdom happened, too.

Peter called the Jews the ‘sons of the prophets’. He meant that God’s promises belonged to them too. Abraham’s ‘children’ meant the Jews. Jesus, the Servant who came to save all the people on earth, was a Jew. He had gone to the Jews first but they had rejected him. God was giving a second chance to them. They had to accept Jesus as their Saviour. Otherwise they would not share in the blessing that God had promised.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: A New Disciple

Acts 1:21-26

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The 11  disciples that remained had been very close to Jesus all the time. He had taught them when they were away from the crowds. They had helped him in his special work on earth. They had also seen him many times after his resurrection. They had watched him leave the earth. And they had watched him go up to heaven. They wanted the new disciple to be someone who had known Jesus like this. He must tell everyone that Jesus had beaten death. So, he needed to have seen with his own eyes that Jesus was alive.

Barsabbas means ‘son of the  Sabbath’. Maybe he was born on the Sabbath day. Justus is a Gentile name. Many  Jews had both a  Jewish name and a  Gentile name.

Eusebius lived from about  AD 260 to  AD 340. He wrote history. He said that the 70 disciples in Luke 10:1 included Matthias and Barsabbas. But we do not really know that. Luke does not write about Matthias and Barsabbas again.

Verse 24 ‘Then they prayed’. The  disciples asked God to choose between Matthias and Barsabbas. God always knows what is best. Therefore, we should pray about everything that we do.

Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Judas chose to leave his life as a disciple. Therefore, the place ‘where he belongs’ was not with the disciples. He had been chosen into one place by Jesus, but had made another choice for himself, which had ended in destruction. That “his own place” when thus used was, to the Jewish mind, an equivalent for Gehenna = the place of torment, may be seen from the Baal Haturim on Numbers 24:25, where it is said “Balaam went to his own place, i.e. to Gehenna.”

‘Then they cast lots.’ This was the usual way for  Jews to make a choice. It was used many times in the Old Testament.

The practice of casting lots is mentioned 70 times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. In spite of the many references to casting lots in the Old Testament, nothing is known about the actual lots themselves. They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice; but their exact nature is unknown. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.

The practice of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapters 14-21), a procedure that God instructed the Israelites on several times in the book of Numbers (Numbers 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; 36:2). God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will for a given situation (Joshua 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5,31). Various offices and functions in the temple were also determined by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14). The sailors on Jonah’s ship (Jonah 1:7) also cast lots to determine who had brought God’s wrath upon their ship. The eleven apostles cast lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26). Casting lots eventually became a game people played and made wagers on. This is seen in the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35).

The New Testament nowhere instructs Christians to use a method similar to casting lots to help with decision-making. Now that we have the completed Word of God, as well as the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us, there is no reason to be using games of chance to make decisions. The Word, the Spirit, and prayer are sufficient for discerning God’s will today—not casting lots, rolling dice, or flipping a coin.

When people ‘cast lots’, they wrote people’s names on stones. They put the stones in a jar. Then they shook the jar until a stone fell out. The name on the stone was the person that they must choose. This was the last time when they cast lots in the New Testament. After the Holy Spirit came, the  disciples did not need to do this. Instead, the  Holy Spirit guided them.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: The Return to Jerusalem

Acts 1:12-14

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Verse 12 ‘The Mount of Olives’ was very significant in the Bible.

Old Testament references

The Mount of Olives is first mentioned in 2 Sammuel15:30, David’s flight from Absalom: “And David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up.” The ascent was probably east of the City of David, near the village of Silwan. The sacred character of the mount is alluded to in the Book of Ezekiel (11:23): “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.”

The biblical designation Mount of Corruption, or in Hebrew Har HaMashchit (I Kings 11:7–8), derives from the idol worship there, begun by King Solomon building altars to the gods of his Moabite and Ammonite wives on the southern peak, “on the mountain which is before (east of) Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:7), just outside the limits of the holy city. This site was known for idol worship throughout the First Temple period, until king of Judah, Josiah, finally destroyed “the high places that were before Jerusalem, to the right of Har HaMashchit…”(II Kings 23:13)

An apocalyptic prophecy in the Book of Zechariah states that YHWH will stand on the Mount of Olives and the mountain will split in two, with one half shifting north and one half shifting south (Zechariah 14:4).

Many Jews have wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives since antiquity, based on the Jewish tradition (from the Biblical verse Zechariah 14:4) that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin there. There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount, including tombs traditionally associated with Zechariah and Absalom. On the upper slope, the traditional Tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi is situated. Notable rabbis buried on the mount include Chaim ibn Attar and others from the 15th century to the present day.

New Testament references

The Mount of Olives is frequently mentioned in the New Testament as part of the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin).

Jesus is said to have spent time on the mount, teaching and prophesying to his disciples (Matthew 24–25), returning after each day to rest (Luke 21:37, and John 8:1, and also coming there on the night of his betrayal. At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. The New Testament tells how Jesus and his disciples sang together – “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” Gospel of Matthew 26:30. Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives according to Acts 1:9–12.

‘A Sabbath day’s walk’ was the distance that Jews could walk on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is the day when Jews rest. On that day, they must not walk further than 2000 cubits. (This is about two thirds of a mile.)

Verse 13 The disciples had eaten the Passover meal with Jesus in a room upstairs (Luke 22:7-13). This was probably the same room.

Here Luke names all the disciples except Judas Iscariot. But he mentions only Peter, James and John again in Acts.

Verse 14 Luke shows that women were important. These women had traveled to Jerusalem from Galilee with Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:2-3, 23-55). Mary, Jesus’ mother, was also there. This is the last time that anyone mentions her in the New Testament. For the first time, Jesus’ brothers were together with the disciples. Jesus’ brother James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18).

The disciples were doing actually as they were told. They were to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem and they were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come on them.

Think about the last three months or so of these peoples lives and what an emotional roller-coaster it was? They were 3 months earlier listening to Jesus teach and watching him perform miracles. Then he was betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified. Then they had buried him, he arose and had fellowship with him for 40 days. Finally they saw him ascend into heaven.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Jesus Returns to Heaven

Acts 1:9-11

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Verse 9 Luke also described this event in his Gospel (Luke 24:50-53). Jesus had showed his disciples that he was alive, over a period of 40 days. The cloud contained God’s glory. The last time when the disciples saw Jesus on earth, God’s glory surrounded him.

Verse 10 They were ‘staring up at the sky’. Some students say that Jesus did not actually rise up to heaven. But Luke uses words like ‘watched’, ‘see’, ‘staring’, ‘look’ and ‘seen’. With their own eyes, the disciples saw everything that happened!

The ‘two men in white clothes’ were angels with a message. Two men also appeared in front of the women in Luke 24:4. These men in Acts were like them. Luke wants us to consider them as witnesses. There had to be two witnesses that saw an event. (Two was the minimum number.) Only then, people would believe that the event had happened (Deuteronomy 19:15).

Verse 11 Jesus went from the earth in power. And he went with glory. He will return to the earth in power. And he will return with glory. Nobody knows when that will be. Until then, the Holy Spirit is here. The Holy Spirit lives in people believe in Jesus and they trust in him. Our Lord is alive and he is in heaven. We can talk to him. We can do this by means of the Holy Spirit.

Stop and think about the impact of these 3 verses. Jesus had died for our sins and come back for 40 days. Now He has returned to heaven, but that is not the end, he is coming back. Praise God! Jesus is Coming Back!

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Why the Book is Important

Acts 1:1-3

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Verse 1 Luke referred to his Gospel here as ‘my former book’. Acts is the second book in the history that Luke wrote. He wrote both books for Theophilus. This Greek name means ‘someone who loves God’. Perhaps Luke was using it to mean any Christian reader. But it is more likely that Theophilus was a real person. In Luke 1:3, Luke called him ‘most excellent’. Therefore, Theophilus might have been an important man that worked for the government.

Verse 2 Luke wrote that his Gospel was about everything that Jesus began to do. And it was about everything that Jesus began to teach. After he had returned to his Father, Jesus continued to do things. And he continued to teach. Luke’s second book describes these things. Jesus continued his work by his Holy Spirit, by means of his apostles. The Greek word ‘apostolos’ means a person with a message. That person (an apostle) had special authority from the person who had sent him. Therefore an apostle could act for the person who sent him. So, the apostles too would be leaders of Christians, as Jesus was their leader. Jesus chose his 12 disciples to be his apostles.

Verse 3 The disciples were sure that Jesus had overcome death. He had proved to them many times that he was still alive. His resurrection had really happened. It was true. This was the most important part in their message.

Jesus continued to teach them about his favorite subject. This was God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom had come by means of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Acts 1:4-8

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Verse 4 Jesus was eating with his disciples after his resurrection. He also did this on other occasions after the*resurrection (Luke 24:30-31, 42-43). This was not because he needed food. It was to prove that he was real.

In his Gospel, Luke recorded the Father’s (God’s) promise. The Father had promised that power from above would come to the disciples (Luke 24:49).

Verse 5 In this verse, Luke reminds us about John the Baptist’s words. John said this about Jesus: ‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and he will baptise you with fire’ (Luke 3:16).

Verse 6 The Jews were proud that God had chosen them as his people. They wanted other nations to know that they (the Jews) were important. The Jews seemed weak and the Romans ruled over them. The Jews wanted God to prove that they were superior. They wanted him to give them power over all the other nations. So, the disciples asked Jesus, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

Verse 7 Jesus did not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the disciples’ question. Instead, he said that this information belonged to the Father only. He did not want them to think about political power. He wanted them to preach the gospel. He wanted them to concentrate on that.

Verse 8 The power that they would receive was not power over other people. Instead, it was power from heaven. This power would make them able to continue Christ’s work on earth.

‘You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will also be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria, and all over the earth.’ A witness has seen something with his own eyes. Therefore, he knows that it is true. The Greek word for ‘witness’ is ‘martus’. It also means ‘*martyr’ (a person who is willing to die for his or her beliefs). A witness must be willing to die for Christ if this is necessary. In verse 8, Luke tells us what the whole book is about. In the first 7 chapters, he describes how the good news spread in Jerusalem. In Acts 8:11-11:18, he describes what happened in Judea and Samaria. In the last part, he describes how the gospel spread through the Gentile world.

Of course, the story did not end there. Today, Christians must continue to tell people in every nation about Jesus. God wants everyone in the world to hear the good news.

Luke is writing Acts as a continuation of his Gospel that recorded the life of Christ. Acts is to be a record of the acts of the apostles after Christ’s death and resurrection.

Acts Bible Study

Acts: Introduction

We are about to embark on a study into the book of Acts. But before we delve into the book, we will be getting some background on the book.

The writer

Most people agree that Luke wrote Acts. Luke also wrote the Gospel of Luke. In Acts, he told how the good news about Jesus Christ spread to the world beyond Jerusalem.

Luke was a Gentile and he was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He worked with Paul and he traveled with Paul (Philemon 1:24).

Luke was very careful about what he wrote. At the beginning of his Gospel, he wrote, ‘You have heard many things. I am writing this account so that you will know the truth about them’ (Luke 1:4). In Acts, he continued with this account.

Luke was traveling with Paul. Luke wrote about what happened during that time (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). In these verses, he used ‘we’ instead of ‘they’ or ‘he’. So, we know that Luke was there at those times.

After Luke had arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17), he stayed in Judea. He stayed there for two years. Then he left to travel to Rome (Acts 27:1). He went to Rome with Paul. While Luke was in Judea, he probably spoke to other witnesses. They told him about the other events that he describes.

The purpose of the book

Luke had several reasons why he wrote Acts. People were telling false stories about Christians. They were afraid that Christians wanted to make trouble. Luke wanted the Roman rulers to know that this was not true. Christians helped other people. He wanted to show that to the rulers. It was good for the Roman government.

Luke wrote about many miracles. God gave to Christians the power to cure people, for example. Also, God rescued Peter from prison by a miracle. So, anyone who opposed the Christians was opposing God. He also wanted to show to the Jews that the Christian faith was not a separate religion. Instead, it made Judaism complete, because Jesus is the Messiah.

However, Luke had one main reason why he wrote this book. The good news about Jesus had traveled from Jerusalem to Rome. Luke wanted to record how that happened. Rome was the most important city in the world. Luke showed that the gospel was for all people in every nation. It was for Jews and it was also for Gentiles.

We can divide Acts into 6 parts. Each part ends with a report that more people were joining the church.

1. Acts 1:1-6:7

In the first part, Luke describes how the church grew in Jerusalem. This part ends like this: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

2. Acts 6:8-9:31

From this part, we learn how the good news reached Samaria because of Stephen’s death. This part ends like this: ‘Meanwhile, the church all over Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a peaceful period. The Holy Spirit made the church strong and he encouraged the Christians. They respected the Lord and more people joined the church.’

3. Acts 9:32-12:24

In this part, the writer tells us how Paul met Jesus. This happened on the road to Damascus. Damascus is a city in Syria. We learn how the gospel reached Antioch, the capital city in Syria. Also, we learn how Peter accepted Cornelius into the church. Cornelius was a Gentile. This part ends like this: ‘God’s message continued to grow and it continued to spread.’

4. Acts 12:25-16:5

In this part, Luke describes how the gospel spread through more countries. It ends like this: ‘So, the Christians became stronger in the faith and more people joined the churches daily.’

5. Acts 16:6-19:20

We learn from this part how the good news about Jesus reached Europe. Paul started a new church in Corinth, a city in Greece. He also started a new church in Ephesus. Ephesus was a very important city. It was in the same country that is called Turkey today. It is near Greece. This part ends like this: ‘In this manner, the Lord’s message continued to increase in power and it spread widely.’

6. Acts 19:21-28:31

In the final part, Luke tells us that Paul reached Rome. When it ends, Paul is in prison. There, ‘he preached boldly about God’s kingdom. He taught the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ and nobody tried to stop him.’

When Luke wrote Acts

When the book ends, Paul is in Rome. The Romans had arrested him. Luke does not say what happened to Paul next. So, many students think that Luke completed Acts very soon after this. Also, he said nothing about Nero. Nero was an Emperor. He killed many Christians in AD 64. Probably Luke had finished the book in AD 62. But we do not know the exact date.