Category Archives: Church

The Fury and Death of Herod, Enemy of God (Acts 12; Acts 13)

Scripture reading – Acts 12; Acts 13

Acts 12 begins with the phrase, “about that time,” and gives us cause to consider “the time” that was the setting for today’s devotional. Putting our Scripture reading in its historical context, it was “the time” that followed Peter learning the Gospel was to be preached to all men, Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:1-48). Peter had given a defense of his doctrine before the believers of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), and they “glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

The church in Jerusalem commissioned and “sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch” (11:22). The work was so great that Barnabas determined to travel to Tarsus, and invite Saul to minister with him in Antioch (11:25-26). It was also at the time when a believer named Agabus prophesied the world would experience a “great dearth” (a time of famine, 11:28). Exercising love and compassion for their brethren in Jerusalem, the believers in Antioch “determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea,” and “every man [gave] according to his ability” (11:29). Barnabas and Saul were sent with an offering for believers in Jerusalem (11:30).

Acts 12

Perhaps for political reasons, and to distract the people from the famine, king Herod (the grandson of Herod the Great), began a systematic pattern of persecuting the church. The king “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (making him the first of the apostles to be martyred, 12:2). When he realized his actions “pleased the Jews” (12:3), he determined “to take Peter” and would have put him to death had God not intervened (12:3-4).

With Peter in prison, the believers of the church began to pray “without ceasing” (12:5). While they prayed, “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison” (12:6). What faith, and confidence Peter had in God’s care and providences. Then, God miraculously intervened, and sent an angel who struck Peter in his side to awaken him, and commanded him, “Arise up quickly” (12:7). So deep was his sleep, the angel instructed him to put on his shoes and his garments. Even then, Peter believed it wasn’t so, and he was having a vision (12:8-9).

Peter was delivered from the prison by the angel, and then made his way through the streets to where believers were gathered to pray at the home of Mary, whose son was named “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12). (This is the same John Mark who would be the author of the Gospel of Mark).

Arriving at the house, Peter knocked and a young lady named Rhoda, answered the door (12:13). Hearing and recognizing his voice, Rhoda was so excited she neglected opening the door for Peter to enter the house (12:14). She told the believers Peter was outside the gate, but they accused her of being “mad” (literally out of her head or mind, 12:14). Some suggested she had seen Peter’s angel, though Peter continued to knock (12:16).

Finally opening the door, the believers rejoiced to find Peter standing before them! (12:16) He quieted their enthusiasm, and explained how he had been delivered from the prison (12:17). He then instructed them to send a message to “James, and to the brethren” (this is probably James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the son of Joseph and Mary, 12:17b). By this time, James appears to be the leader of the believers in the church in Jerusalem. Wisely, Peter departed from Jerusalem, “and went into another place” (12:17c).

Herod’s Fury and Death (12:18-23)

When it was day, the soldiers and keepers of the prison discovered Peter was missing (12:18). Those who slept in his cell, and those who stood guard at the door of the prison, had no explanation for Peter’s absence (12:19). Herod then ordered the execution of those men who failed to keep Peter prisoner (12:19).

The king then departed for Caesarea (a city on the Mediterranean Sea), and remained there (12:19b). Proud of his position and power, the king set a day of pageantry for himself, and “arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them” (12:21). The people flattered the foolish king, “saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (12:22). Herod accepted their blasphemy, and even as they praised him, an “angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (12:23). Imagine the horror of seeing the king struck down, and worms consuming him till he was dead! (12:23).

Closing thoughts (12:24-25) – While the persecution of believers increased, so did the reach of the “Word of God,” which increased more and more (12:24). Acts 12 concluded with Barnabas and Saul departing Jerusalem and returning to Antioch, and this time in the company of “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12, 25).

Though today’s Scripture reading continues with Acts 13, and the historical record of the beginning of modern missions, I must leave that study for another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Amazing Grace: From Saul the Persecutor, to Paul the Preacher (Acts 9)

Scripture reading – Acts 9

Our previous devotional concluded with Stephen being martyred for Christ (Acts 7:54-60). Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, records those who participated in the stoning “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (7:58). We next read, “Saul was consenting [approving] unto his death” (Acts 8:1). Yet, the persecution of believers had the effect of not only seeing them “scattered abroad” (8:4), but also “preaching the word” everywhere they went (8:4).

Coming to Acts 9, we find “Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, [and going] unto the high priest” (9:1). Under the deluded pretense he was serving God, Saul requested letters of authority to go to Damascus synagogues, and arrest men or women who identified with “this way” (9:2).  (The “way” being the name of any who identified Jesus Christ as the Messiah.) Driven by a religious zeal contrary to the Law and Commandments (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:16), Saul planned to drag followers of Christ out of the synagogues of Damascus, and take them bound by ropes and chains to Jerusalem, a journey of 175 miles.

As Saul “came near Damascus” (9:3), he encountered a light from heaven” (9:3). Blinded by the light (9:8), he fell to the earth “and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (9:4a). With humility, Saul answered, “Who art thou, Lord?” Then Jesus revealed Himself to Saul by name, and identified his persecution of believers as an offense against Himself.

“The Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (9:5b). Like an ox that is goaded with a long stick to prod it to obey its master, Saul had foolishly been goading God. “Trembling and astonished [amazed]” (9:6), he realized he had been persecuting the Son of God. Blind and shaken, Saul surrendered his will to God, and acknowledged Christ as Lord, saying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”(9:6a).

Unable to see, Saul was guided to Damascus by the very men he had chosen to persecute the followers of Christ. Though rendered “speechless” (for they had heard a voice, but saw no man), they were unchanged by the experience that transformed Saul’s heart and life (9:7). Saul arrived in Damascus; with the Lord’s promise he would be told what he must do (9:6c). For three days, the great persecutor of believers found himself blind, and with no appetite for food or drink (9:9).

While Saul waited, the Lord moved on the heart of Ananias, a devout man, and a follower of Christ (9:10). He learned the LORD had chosen him to restore Saul’s sight. He resisted the LORD, for he knew Saul’s reputation, and the path of death and destruction he had blazed. Ananias prayed, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name” (9:13-14). Then, the Lord revealed to Ananias how Saul was “a chosen vessel” and would bear Christ’s name “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (9:15). As he had persecuted believers, Saul would himself become an object of persecution, for the Lord would reveal to “him how great things he must suffer for [His] name’s sake” (9:16).

Ananias obeyed the Lord, “and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (9:17-18).

Closing thoughts – Because he was a Pharisee and trained in rabbinical schools, Saul had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. With not only his physical eyes restored, but his spiritual eyes open, he believed and began to preach Christ “is the Son of God” (9:20). The Jews of his day were amazed at the transformation in Saul’s life.

The transformation in Saul’s life was nothing short of radical. He had been transformed from the great persecutor of the followers of Christ, to a faithful apostle and preacher. What a testimony of saving, transforming grace! No wonder Paul would later write, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Join me for tonight’s final “Uncommon, Common Sense” lesson from Proverbs 31

You are invited to join me for tonight’s final lesson from the Book of Proverbs.

This verse-by-verse, proverb-by-proverb study began in 2020 (of course, with many interruptions along the way). To my knowledge, it is a “one of a kind” study that is “Uncommon, Common Sense.”

Tonight’s study will be taken from Proverbs 31:13-31, and the subject is The Virtuous Woman. The class will begin at 6:30pm, and be broadcast live on www.DailyTestify.com and www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

In the near future, I hope to publish this study of Proverbs in a format that will be a useful  resource for personal and family devotions, and group Bible studies.

See you tonight at 6:30!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Rejoicing in Suffering and Persecution (Acts 5; Acts 6)

Scripture reading – Acts 5; Acts 6

Our Scripture reading in the “Acts of the Apostles” continues with today’s study, Acts 5 and 6. Acts 4 chronicled the early stirrings of persecution against followers of Christ, and concluded with a testimony of love, unity, and selfless, sacrificial giving among the believers (4:32-35). One prominent example of generosity was displayed by Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, and a wealthy man. We read concerning Barnabas, he, “having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (4:37). (This is the same Barnabas who will be Paul’s fellow missionary.) Our devotional is taken from Acts 5.

Acts 5

There was a man in the Jerusalem congregation named Ananias, whose wife was Sapphira. Perhaps not to be outdone by Barnabas and others, it appears Ananias and Sapphira vowed to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the apostles. Tragically, they determined to portray they were giving all the earnings from the sale, and deceive other believers. Peter, though, discerned the disingenuousness of Ananias, and asked the man, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (5:3)

Ananias did not deny the deception, and Peter continued, “4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (5:4). God’s judgment was swift, and when “Ananias [heard those] words [he] fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things” (5:5). We are not told the physical cause of his death, but the spiritual cause was that he lied to the Holy Ghost (5:3).

Three hours past, and unknowingly Sapphira, now the widow of Ananias, entered the meeting. Sadly, it was apparent she was complicit in her husband’s sin (5:7-8), and Peter asked her, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out” (5:9). Because her sin was public, so was Peter’s judgment, who publicly denounced her sin, and Sapphira fell dead (5:10).

The effect on the congregation concerning the consequences of lying to the Holy Ghost, was immediate and understandable. We read, “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (5:11).

The balance of Acts 5 chronicled a single-hearted, vibrant growing body of believers (5:12-15). Yet, the blessing of the Spirit on the congregation was also accompanied by a growing persecution (5:17-27). Once again, the apostles were arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and questioned by the high priest (5:27). Stirred with indignation, the high priest asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (5:28).

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men!” (5:29) What a great model of courage, faith, and fortitude! Fearless and faithful, the apostles condemned those religious hypocrites, and ascribed to them the slaying of Jesus, and declared: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (5:31-32).

Closing thoughts (5:33-41) – What was the effect of that bold, unapologetic confrontation with the men who were guilty of the blood of Christ?

We read, “they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (5:33). They were convicted, but rather than humility, they were infuriated and renewed their determination to add to their guilt the blood of the apostles. There was no reasoning with calloused-hearted, wicked men of Jerusalem. They were murderers, and the spirit of murder was in their heart (John 8:44). Confronted by a message of truth that was powerful and unapologetic, they were incensed, and beat the apostles, warning them “they should not speak in the name of Jesus” (5:40).

How did the apostles respond? “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (5:41-42).

Lesson – If you find yourself suffering for your faith in Christ, remember to rejoice that God has chosen you to suffer for His name (5:41).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

We Will Obey God! (Acts 4)

Scripture reading – Acts 4

Our chronological study of the Scriptures is taking us through the first days and months of the early church following Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1). Christ’s final words to His apostles (literally, His messengers) comprised a promise, command, and the scope of their mission: “But ye shall receive power [might; strength], after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses [more than messengers; literally, martyrs] unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With that command, known by believers as “The Great Commission,” Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9)

It was on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days following the Passover, when the promise of the Holy Ghost’s coming was fulfilled (Acts 2). The filling of the Holy Ghost empowered the men from Galilee to “speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:4). Simon Peter had denied Jesus three times, but after witnessing the bodily resurrection of Christ, He was so transformed He would not be silent (2:14-21). He called upon the Jews to, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2:37-38).

In Acts 3, we find Peter and John making their way to the Temple as was their custom (3:1). Sitting in the gate of the Temple, they found a “man lame from his mother’s womb” (3:2-5). With the command, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,” the man leaped to his feet and entered the Temple “walking, leaping, and praising God” (3:8). The miraculous healing of the man whom everyone knew as a cripple, gave Peter an opportunity to confront those who were guilty of denying Christ, and demanding He be put to death (3:12-15). While none denied their guilt, Peter revealed Christ’s suffering and death were necessary that the prophecies be fulfilled (3:17-22).

Acts 4

The miraculous healing of the lame man (Acts 3), became the catalyst for stirring opposition to the apostles preaching the Gospel (Acts 3:2; 4:22). As Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were suddenly confronted by “the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees” (4:1).  Those men, all adversaries of Jesus and guilty of His blood, were stirred to indignation, knowing Peter and John “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (4:2). (Remember, the Sadducees taught there was no resurrection.)

Because it was late in the day, the religious leaders decided to arrest Peter and John, and hold them in prison for the night as they debated what they would do with them (4:3). In spite of the abuse, and opposition to the Gospel, we read “many of them which heard the word [the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection] believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (4:4).

The Interrogation (Acts 4:7-16)

The next day, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried by the same men who not long before presided over Christ’s trial, and demanded His crucifixion (4:5-7). The apostles were asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (4:7). Rather than fear and cower before Christ’s enemies, Peter and John were bold, and being “filled with the Holy Ghost” (4:8), declared their authority and power to heal the “impotent man” was done “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (4:10).

What a powerful moment in the Scriptures! Peter not only declared the power and authority Jesus promised they would be given, he dared to confront the wickedness and sin of those who crucified Him (4:10). Peter’s faith evoked boldness and courage (4:9-11). He did not shy from identifying Christ as the source of his power to heal the lame man. He leveled against his enemies the weight of their guilt in crucifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Then Peter, revealing an aptitude for the Scriptures exceeding a mere fisherman of Galilee, quoted a messianic prophecy from the Psalms: “22The stone which the builders refused Is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). With fortitude, Peter declared, Jesus “is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner” (4:11). Leaving no doubt forgiveness of sin is in Christ alone, Peter declared, “12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (4:12).

The religious leaders were amazed at “the boldness of Peter and John,” and marveled that “unlearned and ignorant men” (men who lacked rabbinical schooling, 4:13), would have insight and discernment into the Scriptures. What could explain their wisdom? The leaders, “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13).

The Intent of the Adversaries (Acts 4:16-18)

Unable to deny the miraculous healing of the man who had been lame since his birth (4:16), the Sanhedrin were pressed to agree on a solution to address Peter and John, and the spread of the Gospel (4:17). They finally determined to threaten them, and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18).

A Righteous Response to An Enemy of the Gospel (4:19-21)

Unwilling to be silenced by threats and intimidation, Peter and John answered their interrogators saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).

Closing thoughts (4:21-32) – God is the Judge of right and wrong, and His authority exceeds all human authority. Because Christ had commissioned, and empowered Peter and John to preach (1:8), they would not, and could not be silent. Rather than silencing them, Peter and John’s faith propelled many believers to glorify “God for that which was done” (4:21).

When Peter and John reported what had been said to them by “the chief priests and elders,” other believers “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (4:23-24). They prayed, acknowledging the LORD as Creator and Sovereign. They trusted Him, and prayed, “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (4:28).

Acknowledging the threats of their enemies, they prayed God would give them boldness to speak (4:29). As they prayed, the LORD confirmed His blessing, shaking the foundations of the place, and filling them with the Holy Ghost so that “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

Let us be so filled, and given over to the Holy Ghost, that we will speak with boldness even when men might seek to silence us.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today! (Acts 1)

Scripture reading – Acts 1

The “Book of Acts,” also known as the “The Acts of the Apostles,” is a pivotal book in the New Testament. The book is, as its name implies, a record of the actions and activities of the Apostles following Christ’s bodily resurrection.

 Jesus appeared to His followers on at least ten separate occasions following His resurrection from the dead.

He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9), and other women who came and found His tomb empty (Matthew 28:8-10).  He then appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5), and later to two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). He then appeared to ten of the disciples, less Thomas who was not present (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-29).  Eight days later, He appeared in the midst of the eleven disciples, and Thomas was present (John 20:24-29). Jesus also appeared to seven of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, which was known to the Jews as the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23).

In his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul chronicled Jesus’ appearance to five hundred followers at one time, and then to James (I Corinthians 15:6-7). Lastly, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus appeared to His disciples, and commissioned them to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Observations – The literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of believers (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3). Therefore, Jesus stayed with His disciples 40 days after His resurrection, and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs,” that forever changed their lives (Acts 1:3). After exhorting His disciples to “WAIT for the promise of the Father… [and] ye shall be BAPTIZED with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5),  Jesus “was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (1:9).

Then, two angels appeared to the disciples, and assured them with a promise that has been the hope of believers for 2,000 years: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (1:11).

Closing thoughts – The resurrection and promise of Christ’s imminent return forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their lives and ministry. They lived, ministered, and died in anticipation He would come again, and His coming would be sudden and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

 Are you ready for His coming? It may be today!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Back to the Future” – Your invitation to Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM worship service.

You are invited to join Hillsdale for today’s 10:30 AM worship service. Pastor Smith is continuing his prophetic series in the Book of Daniel.

Missionary Amanda Baker (England) will be speaking to the ladies at a 9:00 AM Ladies & Teens Girl’s Breakfast.

Live broadcast is on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Calling of a Shepherd: “Feed my sheep” (John 21; Acts 1)

Scripture reading – John 21; Acts 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Gospels, and introduces us to a book titled, “The Acts of the Apostles.” John 21, the final chapter in the Gospel of John, presents a unique perspective into the days and weeks that followed Christ’s resurrection, before His ascension to heaven. Jesus had promised to meet His disciples in Galilee, and they were to go “into a mountain where [He] had appointed them” (Matthew 28:16). Only seven of the eleven disciples are named (21:2), with no indication where the others might have been.

“I Go a Fishing” (21:3-11)

Simon Peter, ever the impulsive one, and possibly weary of waiting on Jesus, announced to the others, “I go a fishing” (21:3a). Rather than dissuade him from leaving the place Jesus had asked them to wait, the other disciples said to Peter, “We also go with thee” (21:3). So, they all went down to the “sea of Tiberias” (the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee), and fished through the night and “caught nothing” (21:3).

When it was morning, the disciples saw a man standing on the shore, but did not know “it was Jesus” (21:4). Jesus called to the men, “Children, have ye any meat?” (21:5), and then commanded them, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find” (21:6). Desperate and weary, the disciples did as they were told, and the catch of fish was so great “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (21:7).

John, once again describing himself as “that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord” (21:5a). Without hesitation, Peter gathered his outer robe (for he had probably worn only a loin cloth in the boat), and “did cast himself into the sea” (21:7) and came to Jesus. The other disciples followed Peter by boat, “dragging the net with fishes” (21:8). When they came to shore, “they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (21:9) Jesus asked, “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught” (21:10). Then, Peter went to assist the disciples, and dragging the net to shore, found they had drawn up 153 large fish, and “yet was not the net broken” (21:11).

What lessons might we take from this occasion? (21:9-13)

Several spiritual truths come to mind, with the first being particularly obvious…Peter and the other disciples had failed to wait on the Lord. They were commanded to go “into a mountain” (Matthew 28:16), but instead they abandoned their place and went to the lake to fish. Having disobeyed the LORD, the disciples fished all night, but all they had to show for their labor were empty nets.

As they came to Jesus, they heard Him say, “Come and dine” (21:12). Jesus had wonderfully, and graciously prepared to care for their needs. Fish and bread warmed over hot coals were waiting for them! What a wonderful reminder, God will supply our needs if only we will trust and obey Him! (21:13) We are reminded, this occasion was “the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” (21:14).

Closing thoughts (21:14-25) – The balance of the chapter records the dramatic moment between Jesus and Peter, when the LORD asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (21:15) More than what? Perhaps it was the boat and nets of Peter’s former profession, for he was a fisherman when Jesus called him to be His disciple (Matthew 4:18-19).

Three times Jesus asked Peter, “lovest thou me?” (21:15, 16, 17). We read, “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (21:17). The essence of Jesus’ question was this: Do you love me enough to leave everything, and be a shepherd to my sheep?

I wonder, have you been called to serve the LORD, but like Peter, have left His will and said, “I go a fishing” (21:3)

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

I Serve a Risen Savior! (John 20)

Scripture reading – John 20

We are once again privileged to reflect on the stunning revelation of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (John 20). Like the Synoptics, we find John’s Gospel in perfect harmony with Matthew, Mark, and Luke (a wonderful testimony to the divine inspiration of the Scriptures; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

John was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life, ministry, and agonizing death on the Cross (John 19:33-35). What a blessed joy to share in his firsthand account of Christ’s resurrection, and His physical appearances that followed Him being raised from the dead! I believe John remained near the Cross until Jesus “bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (19:30, 35). With love and compassion, he led Mary, the mother of Jesus from the Cross (19:26-27), as other women followed Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-39), who placed the body of Jesus in Joseph’s tomb (John 19:39).

John 20

The other Gospel writers focused on two or more women who found the tomb empty, John, however, focused on Mary Magdalene (20:1). She came to the tomb early on the first day of the week, “when it was yet dark” (20:1). Much to her grief, she found the stone that sealed the tomb was “taken away from the sepulchre” (20:1). Without waiting on the other women, she left the tomb hastily, and ran to “Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, who Jesus loved” (John’s typical reference to himself, 20:2).

Mary left before the angels revealed themselves to her, and thought the worst had happened. Supposing Jesus’ body was stolen, she said to Peter and John, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (20:2b). Peter and John ran to the sepulchre, and the latter apparently being younger, came to the tomb first and stood without peering inside (20:4-5). Peter entered the tomb, and found it empty, and the linens that had wrapped Jesus’ body in place, and the napkin that had been about his head “in a place by itself” (20:7).

Peter was perplexed, for if the body had been stolen by Jesus’ enemies, surely, they would have taken it away wrapped as it had been buried. Though the Lord had often foretold His death and resurrection, those disciples did not understand “the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (20:9). We read how Peter and John departed, and “went away again unto their own home” (20:10).

Mary lingered “at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre” (20:11). She “seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (20:12). The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why weepest thou?” (20:13). Because they appeared as men, she did not yet understand they were angels (20:13). In her anguish, Mary confessed, “they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (20:13).

Then, turning from the tomb, Mary came face-to-face with Jesus. With her eyes clouded by tears, she did not recognize Him and supposed he was a garden keeper (20:15). Jesus then asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” (20:15). Mary implored Him, saying, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away” (20:15).

Jesus then said her name, “Mary,” and her heart resonated with joy and affection. She answered Jesus, and said, “Rabboni; which is to say, Master” (Rabboni being a title of honor and deep respect, 20:16).

Closing thoughts (20:17-18) – Of all men and women, Jesus chose to first appear to Mary (Mark 16:9). Imagine Mary’s profound joy when she understood Jesus was more than an apparition! Surely, she might have clung to Him out of joy, but He said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (20:17). Obeying Jesus, Mary departed immediately and “came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her” (20:18).

Like many who hear, but refuse to believe, the disciples doubted Mary and the accounts of the other women. When Jesus appeared to His disciples that evening, He rebuked them for “their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:14). Of course, Thomas even doubted the witness of the disciples (20:24-29).

I close, inviting you to put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, raised from the dead, and victorious over sin and the grave! (20:31)

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Eyewitness Accounts of Christ’s Resurrection (Mark 16; Luke 24)

Scripture reading – Mark 16; Luke 24

With the cry, “It is finished,” Jesus “bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). Soldiers were ordered to hasten the deaths of those on the crosses, and they broke the legs of the thieves to speed along their demise. When they came to Jesus, they found He was already dead. Rather than break his legs, a soldier thrust his spear through Christ’s side (John 19:34-37), and thus fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy, “they shall look upon me whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).

Departing Golgotha

The chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes, must have been the first to leave Golgotha. Like politicians, they had plotted Jesus’ death, and stirred the people to consent, crying, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:13-14; Luke 23:21; John 19:6, 15). Those who lifted their voices against Jesus, went to their homes with hands stained with the blood of an innocent, sinless man. Spiritually blind, they observed the Passover, not understanding they had sacrificed the “Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ (John 1:29, 36).

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who “had not consented to the counsel (Sanhedrin) and deed of them” (Luke 23:51), had gone to Pilate and courageously “begged the body of Jesus” (Luke 23:52). With love and tenderness, he claimed Jesus’ lifeless body, and “wrapped it in linen, and laid it” in his sepulchre (Luke 23:53). With the tomb sealed and guards posted, the high priests and elders were confident the tomb was secure. They had done what they could to ensure Jesus’ followers would not steal His body, and then claim He had been raised from the dead as He had taught (Matthew 27:62-66).

He is Risen! (Mark 16; Luke 24:44-49)

We have considered the historical details that give numerous proofs concerning the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Matthew 28). Mark 16:1-14 and Luke 24:1-12 offer us a perspective of their authors, and together the absolute harmony of the greatest event in human history… “Jesus was risen early the first day of the week” and He appeared to Mary Magdalene (16:9), two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus (16:12; Luke 24:13-32), and then to “the eleven as they sat at meat” (16:14).

The fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead forever changed the lives of His disciples.  They were commissioned to preach the news of Christ’s suffering for sin (24:26), and to preach in His name a message of repentance and remission of sins “among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). Of those things, Jesus commanded, “ye are witnesses of these things” (24:48). With a blessing, and promise they would go in His power and authority, Jesus ascended to heaven (24:50-51). The hearts of the disciples were filled with joy, and “they worshipped” Him, “and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” (24:53). With the exception of John who was exiled (Revelation 1), each of the disciples faced a martyr’s death. Yet, their tongues could not be silenced, and each died giving testimony that they served a risen Savior!

Closing thoughts – Christ’s resurrection was the pinnacle moment in God’s redemptive plan. Jesus was crucified, died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day was raised from the dead as He foretold. His sacrificial death paid the penalty of sin in full (Romans 6:23), and His resurrection promises hope to all who believe.

I close with the apostle John’s eyewitness testimony:

1 John 5:1313 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.