Category Archives: Prayer

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.

Inquisition of Jesus, and a Cross-Bearer (Mark 15; Luke 23)

Scripture reading – Mark 15; Luke 23

The Middle East has always been a boiling caldron mixed with violence, rebellion, and nation seeking to conquer nation.  In Jesus’ day, the Romans were imposing their “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace) on Israel, but many Jews were unhappy under Rome’s oppression. They despised paying Roman taxes and disdained the presence of Roman soldiers.

For Rome, the threat of rebellion was constant and no Roman official was more efficient at putting down insurrection than Pilate, the Roman procurator appointed by Caesar Tiberius. Pilate’s harsh rule fueled rebellion and fanned revolution among the people. The news of his excessive cruelties even reached to the ears of Caesar.

Trials under the cloak of darkness were illegal, and forbidden by the law, but the chief priests, elders, and scribes were not interested in the smallest pretense of justice or law. Their goal was to see Jesus put to death, and the slightest formality would not stand in their way. The Gospel of John recorded the first trial held covertly in the darkness of the night. Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of the ruling high priest, was the presiding judge (John 18:12-23). The second trial, as illegal as the first, was held before Caiaphas, the current high priest (Matthew 26:57-68).

The Inquisition Before Pilate (15:1-15)

The third trial occurred “straightway in the morning” (15:1), and was before the Sanhedrin, the 70-member tribunal that consisted of the high priest, elders, scribes, and other wealthy Jewish leaders. Having ruled Jesus must be put to death, but lacking the authority to do so under Roman law, the “whole council” “delivered [Jesus] to Pilate” for sentencing (15:1b).

Pilate entertained the accusations against Jesus that were brought by the chief priests, elders and scribes. The powerful Roman procurator was amazed Jesus was silent, and refused to answer His accusers (15:2-5).  Pilate understood Jesus’ adversaries were not interested in justice, and were motivated by “envy” and spite (15:10). He unsuccessfully attempted to free Jesus from the entanglement of Jewish injustice (15:6-9).

Because there was a tradition to free a prisoner during the Passover, Pilate suggested Jesus be freed (15:9). Yet, the chief priests stirred up the people to demand he “release Barabbas unto them” (15:11), a notorious robber, insurrectionist and murderer (15:7, 11).

A Travesty of Judgment: Innocence Condemned (15:14-20)

Though he declared Jesus to be innocent, saying, “I find no fault” in Him (Luke 23:4), Pilate nevertheless yielded to the cry of the bloodthirsty mob (15:14). He made the fateful decision against his own soul, and “willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified” (15:15).

The Lord’s fate being decided, Roman soldiers led Jesus to a judgment hall called the Praetorium (15:16). They called “together the whole band” of soldiers (some 40-60 men), and began to mock and humiliate Jesus (15:16). They adorned Him in a robe of purple, “and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head” (15:17). They mocked and hailed him as, “King of the Jews!” (15:18). They struck Him about the head, spat upon Him, and made a pretense of “bowing their knees” and worshipping Jesus (15:19). Stripping Him of the purple robe, they then “led Him out to crucify Him” (15:20).

Simon a Cyrenian: Bearer of Christ’s Cross (15:21-22)

The scourging, beatings, and loss of blood had left Jesus weakened and unable to bear the beam of the Cross to Golgotha (the place of the skull, 15:22). Along the way, a man named “Simon a Cyrenian” was compelled to assist Jesus with His Cross (15:21). It is on that fact; I invite you to pause and ponder a question: “What became of Simon after he helped bear the cross on which Jesus was crucified?” 

I invite you to consider Mark 15:21 to address that question: “And they [the Roman soldiers] compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross” (15:21).

Mark gave the names of Simon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus. First century believers apparently knew those men. It is only my speculation, but I wonder if Alexander and Rufus, like their father Simon, became believers and followers of Christ. I cannot prove that point; however, of the thousands saved following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the mention of that father and his sons by name, gives me hope they were well known believers in that day.

Closing thoughts (15:27-34) – I do not know what became of Simon after he bore the cross to Golgotha, but I like to think he stood near the cross and observed Jesus, an innocent, sinless man, dying and bearing the sins of those who crucified Him.  Simon’s Passover pilgrimage from Cyrene (northwest Africa, our modern Libya) providentially led him to the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36).

Have you been to Golgotha, the place the Romans called Calvary? Have you gazed upon the man dying in the midst of two thieves (15:27-28; Isaiah 53:9a)?  Have you listened as the crowd cried for His crucifixion, listened as He prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34)?  Behold the man, not only forsaken by those whom He loved, but in the darkness praying as He bears the penalty of our sins, praying, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Is He your Savior? If not, I invite you to confess you are a sinner, and “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

* 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.

Christ alone is the Prince of Peace! (John 16; John 17)

Scripture reading – John 16; John 17

We continue our study of the latter chapters of the Gospels. John 16 and 17 give us a record of those things Jesus taught His disciples after they observed the Passover, and were making their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. With passionate fervor, knowing His hour was come (16:32), Christ taught His disciples some of the great principles of our faith. Remembering this was His last speech to His followers, we should pay special attention to the truths contained in today’s Scripture reading. Our devotional challenge is taken from John 16.

John 16

Jesus warned His disciples, when He was gone out of the world, they would face persecution and be “put out of the synagogues” (16:2a). Some would be put to death by those who believed they were serving and pleasing God (16:2b). Religious zealots would commit gross wickedness against believers, for they neither knew God the Father or His Son (16:3-4). Jesus was departing, and the hearts of His disciples were filled with fear, and sorrow (16:5-6). Yet, He promised they would not be alone.

The Work of the Holy Spirit (16:5-15)

Jesus had promised He would send a Comforter (14:16-17), and in John 16 rehearsed with them the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives: “when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove [convict] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged [the fate of the devil would be sealed]” (16:7-11).

What is the work of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (16:9), and of righteousness, and of judgment (16:10-11). The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth,” a guide to truth, and a teacher and revealer of things to come (16:13). The work of the Holy Spirit is also to glorify Christ (16:14). What a blessed Comforter believers have in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

The Central Doctrine of the Resurrection (16:16-33)

The disciples had yet to understand Christ must die according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53), and “go to the Father” (16:16). Foretelling His death, Jesus warned they would “weep and lament [His death], but the world would rejoice” (16:20a). While they would sorrow, Jesus promised, “your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (16:20b).

Like a mother suffers labor pangs before she rejoices in the birth of her infant, Jesus promised after a season of sorrow, the disciples would see Him again, and their hearts would be turned to rejoicing (16:22). Notice the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only gives believers cause for rejoicing, but also gives us an assurance of answered prayers (16:23-24). What a wonderful promise we have when we read, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you…ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (16:23-24).

Closing thoughts – How did the disciples respond to Jesus revealing He would die, and after that be raised from the dead? They affirmed they believed He was the Christ; and yet, Christ asked: “Do ye now believe?” (16:30-31).

The disciples were unaware Judas was gone to the high priests, and would be leading soldiers to the Garden to arrest Jesus. He warned them, “the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (16:32). Though their hearts would soon be overwhelmed with sorrow, Jesus promised, 33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (16:33).

Tragically, there are many looking to the philosophies and pleasures of the world, to fill the emptiness of their hearts (1 John 2:15-17). Lest we be tempted, Jesus warned the world brings trouble and tribulations (16:33b). Christ, however, promised peace that overcomes the world (16:33c). After all, He alone is the “Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6).

* 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.

Love = Obedience (John 14; John 15)

Scripture reading – John 14; John 15

John 14 continued Christ’s conversation with His disciples, after the Passover meal was ended. Fear rose up among the disciples when they heard Jesus say, “one of you shall betray me” (13:21). Although Judas was dismissed from the table and departed, none suspected he was the traitor in their midst (13:22-30).

Fear then turned to dread, when the disciples heard Jesus say, “Whither I go, ye cannot come” (13:33). Understanding His death was imminent, the LORD urged His followers to “love one another” as He had loved them (13:34-35). Peter, ever the impetuous one, spoke up, and asked, “Lord, whither goest thou? I will lay down my life for thy sake” (13:36). Imagine the moment when Jesus questioned Peter, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?”, and then declared, “The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (13:38).

The narrative that followed Jesus’ ominous declaration, that He was going away and Peter would betray Him, embodies some of the most beloved promises in the New Testament. John 14-17 chronicled what Christ taught His disciples as they departed the Upper Room. Having observed His last Passover, Jesus taught His followers as He led them to the entrance of the garden where He prayed (18:1).

John 14

Apart from John 3:16, the sentiments found in John 14:1-6 convey some of the most beloved and comforting promises in the Gospels. While John 3:16 encourages the hearts of sinners with the promise of God’s love and eternal life through Christ, John 14 comforts the saints with the promise of an eternal place Christ has gone before and prepared for His children (14:2). What a wonderful truth we have, when we read, “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” (14:6)

Jesus Christ and God, the Father are One (14:8-12)

Philip, one of the disciples, intreated Jesus saying, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us [i.e., we will be satisfied]” (14:8). Christ answered Philip’s request with a loving rebuke, and asked, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?” (14:9) Jesus then declared, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (14:9). What an amazing revelation! Affirming He was incarnate God, Jesus said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (14:11). In other words, hear my words, and see my works [miracles], and believe! (14:12)

Closing thoughts (14:16-31)

So much more could be written, but I will conclude today’s devotional with two great spiritual truths. The first truth is the revelation of the person and work of the Holy Spirit (known as the doctrine of pneumatology). Christ promised His disciples, when He was gone out of the world, He would send“another Comforter,” the “Spirit of truth” (14:16-17). Who is this Comforter? He “is the Holy Ghost” whom Christ promised would not only be a Comforter, but also a Counselor [i.e., Teacher]. We read, “He [the Holy Ghost]shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (14:26).

Notice also a simple, but profound truth: Love = Obedience. (14:15, 23, 31). Let’s be honest; the love of the 21stcentury is shallow, self-serving, and typically driven by emotions and physical passions. When people say, “I love you,” they are not saying, “I love you enough to sacrifice my all for you.” Yet, that is the Scriptural definition of the highest form of love. Biblical love is not self-serving, it is self-sacrificing (10:15, 17; 15:13; 1 John 3:16).

Jesus challenged His disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (14:15). Someone might profess with their lips a love of God; however, the test is not what they say, but whether or not they obey, and keep the LORD’s commandments. Jesus expressed the same truth in John 14:23-24 where we read, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.” (14:23-24)

A son or daughter cannot pretend to love his or her parents, if they do not obey them. The same is true for God. If you love the LORD, you will keep His commandments.

* 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.

What Manner of Man is This? (Mark 14; Luke 22)

Scripture reading – Mark 14; Luke 22

The Gospels of Mark and Luke again present us with a parallel of events we have considered in our earlier readings in the Gospel of Matthew. Today’s devotional will focus upon Mark 14.

Mark 14

Mark set the scene for when Jesus had supper at the home of Simon the leper. This was the meal Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, interrupted when she anointed Jesus for His death and burial (14:1-9). Mark chronicled Judas’ arrangement with the chief priest to betray Jesus (14:10-11), and the disciples’ plans for the Passover meal (14:12-16). As we read in Matthew, Mark gives us the conversations at the table where Jesus observed the Passover, which was His last supper before He was betrayed, tried, and condemned to die (14:17-25).

Walking into the darkness of the night, Jesus and His disciples made their way to the Mount of Olives (14:26). Along the way, He warned them the night would not pass before the prophecy of Zechariah would be fulfilled which said, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (14:27; Zechariah 13:7). Yet, with that warning He gave them hope, saying, “after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee” (14:28).

Understanding Jesus was saying all would abandon Him, and He would be left alone to suffer, Peter protested, saying, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” (14:29). His boast was answered by Christ predicting he would deny him three times that night “before the cock crow twice” (14:30).

Arriving at the garden called Gethsemane, Jesus asked His disciples, “Sit ye here, while I pray” (14:32). He then took Peter, James, and John with Him, and went further into the garden to pray (14:33). Surely, the disciples sensed the LORD’s sadness before He confessed, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch” (14:34). Though He asked them to pray while He prayed, Jesus came to the disciples three times and found them asleep (14:35-41). With earnest resignation, Jesus confessed to his sleepy disciples, “the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand” (14:41b-42).

Even as He spoke, Judas came into the garden, and with him “a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” (14:43). With a kiss, Judas betrayed Jesus, saying, “Master, master” (14:45). His enemies took hold of our LORD, and Peter momentarily took courage and “drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear” (14:47; John 18:10; Luke 22:50), only to be rebuked by Jesus who said, “Suffer ye thus far” (meaning permit them to do as they will), “and he touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51).

Christ challenged the cowardly act of betrayal and arrest by those who arrested Him, and asked, “Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? 49I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled” (14:48-49)

What manner of man was Jesus? (John 18:3-6)

 His enemies had long plotted His arrest and death. Though His life and ministry had been one of love and gentleness, His enemies came with a great entourage of soldiers and officers (John 18:3). When Jesus asked, “Who seek ye?” (John 18:4), they answered “Jesus of Nazareth” (John 18:5). When Christ confessed, “I am he,” they could not stand in His presence (John 18:6). Jesus Christ was the incarnate, sinless Son of God. No man could bind Him without His permission. Rather than flee His enemies, He submitted to their will, saying, “the scriptures must be fulfilled” (14:49).

Fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah, “all forsook Him, and fled” (14:50; Zechariah 13:7), and they led Jesus away to be tried. Only Mark gives a record of a “certain young man” who was present that night, and when an attempt was made to take him, he fled and “left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (14:52). Who was that young man? I cannot be certain, but I wonder if he was not John Mark, the author of the Gospel that bears His name.

The balance of the Gospel of Mark follows our LORD’s trial before the Sanhedrin (14:53), and the travesty of justice that took place in the early morning hours of that Friday. As Peter watched from a distance (14:54), false witnesses were brought to testify against Jesus, yet their testimonies did not agree (14:55-60). Jesus had answered not a word in His own defense, until He was asked by the high priest, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed [meaning, God the Father]?” (14:61) Jesus answered saying, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (14:62).

With those words, Jesus was accused of blasphemy, which is under Hebrew law, a capital crime punishable by death (14:63-64). (Of course, He had not committed blasphemy, for He was the Christ, the Son of God). Falsely charged, and physically abused, Jesus was condemned to die, even as it had been prophesied (Isaiah 53).

Closing thoughts – Three times Peter denied being a follower and disciple of Christ (14:66-71). That Friday morning, even before the sun began to rise in the east, the crowing of a rooster drove home a conviction as powerful as any message that has ever been preached (14:72), Peter had denied Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. Yet, unlike Judas who went out and hung himself, Peter wept his way back to his Lord.

If you have not yet, I invite you to follow Peter’s example of brokenness over your sin, for you are promised, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

* 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.

What Will You Do with Jesus? (Matthew 26)

Scripture reading – Matthew 26

Jesus had been teaching His disciples from the Mount of Olives (24:3), and as He looked east, He gazed upon the glorious Temple on the highest peak in His beloved  city of Jerusalem. He had taught them the signs that pointed to His Second Coming. Yet, the disciples were blinded by their ambitions and did not grasp the imminence of events that would soon cause them to flee and deny the LORD. Finally, leaving no doubt of His appointment with the Cross, Jesus said plainly, 2Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (26:2).

Three Scenes in Matthew’s Narrative (26:3-16)

In the first scene we find an assembly of the Sanhedrin, that represented four offices of religious leaders. There was Caiaphas the high priest (26:3), the chief priests (the religious nobility of Israel), the scribes (the majority of whom were Pharisees, and experts in the Law), and the elders (wealthy laymen who held a powerful presence in Jewish society). These had assembled for one purpose—“that they might take Jesus by subtility [guise; deceit] and kill him” (26:4).

The second scene was a “throw back” to an event that occurred at a Sabbath meal with his friends six days before the Passover (26:6-9) when Mary anointed Jesus for His burial (John 12:1-6; Mark 14). Matthew recalled this scene, for Mary had anointed Jesus in anticipation of His death. Matthew continued his recollection of the supper at the home of Simon the leper (26:6), and remembered how Jesus rebuked the disciples, and said, “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial” (26:12).

Chaffing for the rebuke he had rightfully received for his greed and protests, Judas brings us to the third scene in Matthew 26. We read: “Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver” (26:14b-15).

Matthew records the preparation for the Passover meal (26:17-19), which was the LORD’s last supper with His disciples (26:20). Jesus foretold He would be betrayed by one of His disciples, yet none suspected Judas (26:21-25). What believers observe today as “The LORD’s Supper,” was instituted that same evening as a perpetual memorial to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

When Christ’s observance of the Passover was ended, He and the disciples “sung an hymn [and] went out into the mount of Olives” (26:30). They retreated into the garden called Gethsemane (26:36-46). There, the disciples slept as Jesus prayed until the hour He was betrayed into the hands of His enemies who led Him away to be tried (26:47-56).

Closing thoughts – As Judas closed His heart to Christ, he opened his heart to Satan (Luke 22:3), and betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver (Exodus 21:32). His name has come to embody sin, wickedness, and the villainy of rejecting Jesus Christ. Tragically, he turned his back on God, and rejected Christ and salvation, and the LORD rejected him.

What about you? Have you opened your heart to Christ, believed, and received Him as 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.

The Tribulation and the Signs of Christ’s Coming (Matthew 24, Matthew 25)

Scripture reading – Matthew 24, Matthew 25

Today’s Scripture reading is a parallel passage to our earlier devotional commentary over Mark 13 and Luke 21. The focus of this devotional is Matthew 24.

Jesus and His disciples were departing the Temple, when the disciples commented to Him regarding the great stones of the Temple (24:1; Mark 13:1; Luke 21:5). Jesus then prophesied the destruction of the Temple, saying, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (24:2).

Stunned by His prophesy, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Tell us, when [what time; how long] shall these things be [i.e. when will they come to pass]? and what shall be the sign [token; i.e. distinguishing mark] of Thy coming [advent; return], and of the end [completion; consummation] of the world [age]?” (Matthew 24:3).

Christ answered the disciples’ questions with a sweeping prophecy that fills the balance of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25. He identified eight signs as “the beginning [i.e. the birth pangs] of sorrows” (24:8), signs and events that will precede His Second Coming.

Eight Signs the Second Coming of Christ is Near: 1) A great deception led by a proliferation of “false Christs” who will deceive many (24:5); 2) International conflicts described as “wars and rumors of wars [and] nation shall rise against nation, and kingdoms against kingdom” (24:6-7a); 3) Universal, natural disasters: “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places” (24:7b); 4) An increase in persecution, martyrdom, and hatred for believers (24:9-10); 5) A great apostasy and falling away of pseudo-believers (24:10); 6) An increase in false prophets who “shall deceive many” (24:11); 7) An allure of sin that will diminish a love for righteousness and Truth (24:12); 8) The universal declaration and proliferation of the Gospel of the kingdom to all nations and people (24:14).

Yet, with all the signs the coming of Christ is near, the worst is yet to be. There will follow a period of Tribulation the prophet Daniel described as the “abomination that maketh desolate” (24:15; Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Jesus warned, “For then shall be [shall come to pass] great [high; large; prolonged] tribulation [affliction; distress; trouble], such as was not since [from] the beginning of the world to this [until] time, no, nor ever shall be”(24:21). The world will witness unparalleled sorrows as the end draws near (24:21) and believers who live in the tribulation are urged to be cautious, for “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible [which it is not, because God will protect His people], they shall deceive the very elect” (24:23-24).

Many “false Christs will arise” (24:24); however, when He returns, His coming will be unmistakable. He will come “as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (24:27).

Signs in the heavens will precede Christ’s coming (24:29-30). The world will be shadowed with the terror of darkness, for “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light” (24:29a). The solar system will fail, for “the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (24:29b). In that day, as the earth is shrouded in terrifying darkness, Jesus Christ, the “Son of man in heaven,” will be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30). His coming will strike terror in the hearts of men as “all the tribes of the earth mourn” (24:30).

Closing thoughts – To the saints who believed in Christ during the Tribulation, His coming will be glorious. Christ will “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (24:31). What a glorious day that will be!

Are you ready for His coming?

* 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.

The Power of Persevering Prayer (Luke 18)

Scripture reading – Luke 18

We continue our study of the Gospel of Luke, but I remind you the chapter breaks in the four Gospels will not be as exacting as the historical timeline that led Jesus to His appointment with the Cross. That explanation is not meant to confuse you; but to remind you that the numbering of verses and chapters in your Bible have been added by translators and editors to assist students of the Scriptures in private study and public worship. For example, today’s Scripture reading is Luke 18 and chronicles Christ’s oft repeated prophecy of His arrest, suffering, death, and resurrection (18:31-34). A parallel record of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, and the prophecy of His betrayal, suffering, death, and resurrection is also recorded in Matthew 20:17-19.

Luke 18

Luke 18 opened with a principle on prayer followed by a parable that illustrated both the privilege, and power of persevering prayer.

The Duty of Prayer (18:1)

Jesus began His parable by saying, “men ought always to pray and not to faint” (18:1b). The word, “ought,” indicates prayer is a perpetual necessity. In essence, discouragement and weariness are never cause for neglecting prayer. In principle and practice, we are to persevere in prayer, and never grow discouraged or lose heart, because our answers are sent from the Lord. Be confident of this, God hears and answers prayer!

The Parable: A Widow’s Appeal to a Heartless Judge (18:2-5)

Following His exhortation to always pray, and not lose heart, Jesus illustrated the power of persistent prayer (18:2-5). He told a parable of a widow who petitioned a heartless judge for relief from her poverty, but the man neither feared God nor revered men (18:2).

Widows in 1st century Israel were often poor, and relied on numerous sanctions for their care. Because some sons and daughters neglected the command, “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16), widows would often fall to being dependent on charity. In Christ’s parable, the judge did not fear God’s judgment (18:2), and had little regard for his petitioners; in fact, he had even less concern for fairness or justice. Though tasked with a charge to dole out justice, such a judge would often be calloused, and spurious in matters of the law.

Though the identity of the widow’s “adversary” was not revealed (18:3), her perseverance in demanding of the judge her right to justice, was finally heeded when he succumbed to her endless appeals (18:4a). Admitting he was unmoved by a fear of God or man (18:4b), the judge nevertheless yielded to the widow’s demand, and reasoned: “Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (18:5).

The Purpose and Application (18:6-8)

If a heartless, unjust, and wicked judge could be moved to justice and action by a poor widow’s appeal, imagine how much the heart of a loving God is moved by the persistent petitions of His people (18:7-8a). We have here a great promise: God hears the prayers of His people (“His own elect” – 18:7a), and in His season, exacts revenge against their enemies.

Closing thoughts – Will you pray, and trust the LORD to answer your prayer in due season? Will you commit to not “faint” or grow weary, believing God hears and answers prayers? Though your adversaries boast, be sure the LORD will answer prayer, and His judgment will fall upon your enemies “speedily,” and without warning (18:8a).

Heed the Widow’s Example, Don’t Lose Faith!

* 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.

Dead Man Walking (John 11)

Scripture reading – John 11; Luke 18

The Resurrection: Dead Men Will Walk Again! (11:1-45)

Bethany, the hometown of three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, is the setting of our devotional study in John 11. Verse 2 reminds us this was the same Mary who anointed Jesus “with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair (11:2). The scene is one of a crisis and desperation, for “Lazarus was sick” (11:2). His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for Jesus, and said “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (11:3).

Surely, Mary and Martha believed Jesus would come quickly to their home in Bethany, and heal Lazarus whom they believed was terminally ill. Nevertheless, Jesus expressed with certainty: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (11:4b). Though He tarried, John 11:5 assures us, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Still, Jesus’ love did not spare Lazarus of his illness, nor move Him to leave with haste to where Lazarus resided. Two days passed, when Jesus suddenly announced to His disciples, “Let us go into Judaea” (11:6).

The mention of going to Judaea raised alarm with the disciples. Knowing the village of Bethany was to the east of Jerusalem, the disciples desired to dissuade Jesus from going (11:8). They reminded the LORD His enemies had threatened to stone Him (John 10:31; 11:8). Then, Jesus announced plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (11:14).

After a day’s journey, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the outskirts of Bethany, about “fifteen furlongs off” (i.e., 2 miles out, 11:18). They were met by some who informed Him Lazarus was dead, and had been “lain in the grave four days already” (11:17). When Martha heard Jesus was close by, she came to Him and complained, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:21). Nonetheless, Martha expressed her faith that, with God’s power, Jesus could perform a miracle. Jesus answered her faith, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23).

Martha stated her faith in the “resurrection at the last day” (11:24); however, Jesus encouraged her weak faith saying, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (11:25-26)

Confessing faith that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of God” (11:27), Martha rushed back to the house, and finding Mary, whispered, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (11:28). Mary instantly rushed out of the house, and came to Jesus overcome with sorrow, and through tears said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:32). Moved by her tears and sorrow, Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” (11:34). The Scriptures, wonderfully and tenderly recorded the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (11:35).

Martha protested when Jesus commanded the removal of the stone that sealed the cave where Lazarus was buried (11:39), saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (11:39). Jesus lovingly rebuked Martha when He asked, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (11:40).

Then, lifting His eyes up to heaven, Jesus prayed, and with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (11:43). Miraculously, Lazarus came from the tomb, his hands and feet bound “with graveclothes: and his face…bound with a napkin” (11:44a). Jesus then said to the people, “Loose him, and let him go” (11:44b).

An Intolerable Crisis (11:45-57)

Looking back, the apostle John realized Jesus raising Lazarus after he had been dead four days was the zenith of Jesus’ miracles. Two responses to Lazarus being raised from the dead are noted (11:45-46). The miracle gave cause for many Jews to believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (11:45).  For His enemies, however, the miracle was intolerable and they determined Jesus must be die, or else their power and position among the people would be lost (11:46-53).

Jesus withdrew from Jerusalem, for He knew the hearts of His enemies were against Him (11:54). Only when it was time to present Himself as the Passover Lamb did He return to Jerusalem, and present Himself as the Christ, the Son of David, and heir to the throne of Israel (11:54-57).

Closing thoughts – God has appointed a day when Christ will return, and on that day: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Are You Ready for His Coming?

* 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.

The Good Shepherd, and the Great Commission (John 10; Luke 10)

Scripture reading – John 10; Luke 10

Our Scripture reading covers two wonderful passages that are not only familiar to believers, but also known to many non-believers. The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, records what is often referenced as a model for the Great Commission (Luke 10:1-20), addresses life’s most important question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:25-29), and presents the Parable of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37).

The Gospel of John, chapter 10 is also a favorite of believers. Here Christ taught on the sheep and the shepherd, and introduced Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). As you read both Luke 10 and John 10, remember Jesus’ appointment with the Cross is only six months in the future. Rather than an extended commentary, I will limit today’s devotional to a highlight of these well-known passages of Scripture.

John 10 – The Good Shepherd

Let’s remember chapter breaks and numbered verses have been added by men to assist in charting our way through the Scriptures. Sometimes chapter breaks interrupt the flow of a passage or event, and such is the case as we transition from John 9 to John 10. In other words, the context for understanding Jesus introducing Himself as the “Door” of the sheepfold (10:1), and the “Shepherd of the sheep” (10:2), is part of a continuing narrative that began in chapter 9.

In John 9, Jesus showed compassion on a blind man, and healed him (9:1-7). That chapter concluded with Jesus having searched for and found the man who had been blind (9:35a). When He found Him, Christ asked, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (9:35). The man responded, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” (9:36). Christ then revealed Himself to the man, saying, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee” (9:37). The man confessed, “Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (9:38).

Now, the Pharisees, heard and witnessed the dialog between Jesus and the man who had been blind (9:39), and they surmised Christ considered them blind, not physically, but spiritually (9:40). What followed added to Jesus introducing Himself in chapter 9 as “the light of the world” (9:5). Jesus next told the Parable of the Good Shepherd (10:1-18), and announced, “11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (10:11).

Understanding John 10 is well known to most, I will save a thorough commentary for another time.

Luke 10Pray for Laborers!

Scripture reading – Luke 10

Luke 10 began with Jesus appointing “seventy” (i.e. seventy disciples), and sending them out “two and two…into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (10:1). The number of disciples sent out, being seventy, no doubt surprises some believers. There were many who followed Jesus, besides the Twelve He had called to be His disciples. Consider the verses that preceded the commissioning of the seventy (Luke 9:57-62), and be reminded not all who followed Jesus were sincere believers.

Having chosen seventy disciples out of the multitude that followed Him, Jesus instructed them to go before Him, two by two, into every city and village where He would soon come and minister (10:1). He then challenged the seventy with the spiritual need of those among whom they would labor (10:2).

Luke 10:2 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

Those sent out were challenged with the image of the opportunity (“The harvest [of needy souls] truly is great” – 10:2a), the magnitude of the need (“but the labourers [preachers and teachers of the Truth] are few” – 10:2b), and the challenge to do something every believer is compelled to do: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Knowing He was within months of the Cross, there was an urgency for the Gospel to be taken far and wide throughout the villages and cities of Israel (Matthew 9:37-38). Though the opportunity to reach lost souls was stunning, the reality was few would be willing to take the Gospel to them. John wrote in His Gospel: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields [of lost souls]; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35).

Closing thoughts – What can a believer do in the face of so great a need of lost souls? “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c). Pray for laborers. Pray for men and women who will dedicate their lives to serve the LORD, and take the Gospel.

Pray with urgency, knowing “the harvest truly is great” (10:2a). Pray with fervency, for “the laborers are few”(10:2b). Pray perpetually, until the LORD answers your prayer and sends forth laborers (preachers, teachers, and missionaries) who will faithfully sow the seed of the Gospel.

As you pray, ponder the question: Are you willing to go?

* 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.