Category Archives: The Gospels

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today! (Acts 1-3)

Scripture reading – Acts 1-3

Today’s Scripture reading brings our chronological study of the Bible to the “Acts of the Apostles.” Luke, whom Paul referred to as a physician (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24), is credited as the author of the Gospel that bears his name and the Book of Acts, where he introduced himself, not by name, but as the writer of a “former treatise” to a believer named Theophilus (Luke 1:1-3; Acts 1:1).

The Gospel of Luke gives us a historical record of Christ’s birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles records the actions and activities of the Apostles, beginning with Christ commissioning His disciples to preach the Gospel: “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), and concluding with Paul’s powerful prison witness in Rome, the capital city of the world in the first century (Acts 28:16, 30-31).

There are several foundational truths we should notice in this introduction to the Book of Acts.

Because the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of believers (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3), Jesus remained with His disciples forty days and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs,” an experience that imparted to them boldness and forever transformed their lives (Acts 1:3).

Assembling the disciples for His departure (1:4), Jesus exhorted them to wait for the promise of the Father…ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5). After promising them “power” and authority, He commissioned them to be witnesses (1:8), and as they watched, He “was taken up; , and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (1:9). Two angels, appearing as men in “white apparel,” appeared and gave the disciples 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).

The promise of the imminent return of Jesus Christ forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their lives and ministry. Often guilty of self-promotion and wondering which of them would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom (Luke 9:46, 22:24), their focus became preaching the Gospel and calling sinners to repent of their sins and turn to Christ (2:22-24, 32, 36-38).

Knowing Jesus Christ promised to return, but not knowing the hour, James exhorted believers:

James 5:7-9 – Be patient [longsuffering; slow to anger] therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early [autumn] and latter [spring] rain. 8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts [keep hope alive]: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9Grudge not [stop complaining & grumbling] one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

I do not know when the LORD will return (Acts 1:7), but I believe it is imminent, and will be sudden, and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You want Proof? I’ve Got Proof! (Luke 24, John 20-21)

Scripture reading – Luke 24, John 20-21

A shepherd’s memo and invitation to those who follow the 2020 edition of www.HeartofAShepherd.comToday’s Scripture reading is the 319th Bible reading of the year and is a milestone as we conclude our chronological study of the Gospels.

This year, 2020, brought not only a pandemic, but also unprecedented attacks on liberties I fear we too often take for granted. We have experienced an erosion of freedoms, as social mediums and news organizations joined forces to silence blogs and posts that are contrary to their social agenda and narrative. My Heart of a Shepherd’s Facebook Page was disabled without notice, and without any means of appeal. 

If you have not done so, I urge you to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and insure you will continue to receive these daily Bible devotionals.

The proofs of Christ’s resurrection, the Great Commission, and the command to preach the Gospel are the concluding themes in our study of the Gospels.

Luke and John record undeniable proofs of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. Mary Magdalene (John 20:1), and several other women, including Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:1, 10) had arrived at the tomb “the first day of the week, very early in the morning (Luke 24:1) and found “the stone rolled away from the sepulchre” (Luke 24:2).

Although Jesus had on several occasions prophesied His death, burial, and resurrection, Mary Magdalene had leapt to the conclusion that the Lord’s body had been removed by His enemies (John 20:1-2). Without waiting on the other women, Mary bolted from the tomb, taking news to Peter and John saying, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (20:2).

The other women had entered the tomb, and were frightened by the appearance of “two men,” two angels who “stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4) and asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (24:5)

Without waiting for the women to answer, the angels reminded them how Jesus had foretold His death, burial and resurrection, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7).

Those women, remembered “His words,” and with joy left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples the news that Jesus was risen. The disciples, however, “believed them not” (Luke 24:11). That “same day at evening,” being “the first day of the week” (John 20:19), Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “Peace be unto you” (20:19).

Proving His bodily resurrection from the dead, Jesus showed the disciples the physical scars of His crucifixion, in both “His hands and His side” (John 20:20). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not there when Jesus revealed himself, and expressed his unbelief saying, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (20:25).

Eight days later, Jesus appeared a second time to His disciples (John 20:26), and said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (20:27). Thomas, laying aside his unbelief, confessed his faith in Christ saying, “My Lord and my God” (20:28).

Jesus was more than a prophet, or a great teacher. No mortal man could die and be raised from the dead apart from God. The days that followed Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the signs and miracles He performed (20:30), enflamed the hearts of His followers to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with boldness and power.

John writes, “31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (20:31).

What do you believe? Do you believe the revelations of the written Word of God? Do you believe Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins, and on the third day was raised victorious from the dead? John wrote later in life his unwavering confidence in Christ:

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 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.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hope Renewed: “He Is Risen!” (Matthew 28; Mark 16)

Scripture reading – Matthew 28; Mark 16

Now Jesus had cried from the Cross with His dying breath, “It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). Removing any doubt that the Roman cross had not fulfilled its purpose, a soldier thrust his spear through our LORD’s side (John 19:34-37), and fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy, “they shall look upon me whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).

Departing Golgotha

The chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes might have been the first to depart Golgotha. They had plotted Jesus’ death, and after provoking the people to consent to His being crucified, went home bearing the guilt of innocent blood to begin the final preparations of the Passover Feast.

The last to leave the Cross were those closest to Jesus, including His mother Mary whom John led away to his own home (John 19:26-27), and the other women who had stood at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40). These followed Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who were members of the Sanhedrin (John 19:38-39), and placed the body of Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb (John 19:39).

The tomb was sealed and guards posted, to ensure that none of Jesus’ followers would steal His body, and then claim He had been raised from the dead as He had often taught (Matthew 27:62-66).

The Single Greatest Event in Human History: Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6)

A great earthquake occurred at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (28:1). The “angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came [came near] and rolled back [rolled away] the stone from the door [of the tomb], and sat [sat down] upon it” (28:2).

Arriving soon after the tomb was opened, the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body were shaken by the terrifying sight of the angel, and disheartened when they found the tomb was open and the body of Jesus was missing (28:3-4). Two angels appeared (Luke 24:4-5), and one said to the women, “Fear not ye [Don’t be frightened]: for I know [understand] that ye seek [enquiring after] Jesus, which was crucified” (28:5). The next words spoken by the angel were the greatest news ever men or women would hear:

Matthew 28:6 He is not here [not in this place]: for he is risen [raised up], as he said. Come [come here], see [look and know] the place where the Lord lay.

Christ’s resurrection was the pinnacle moment in God’s plan of redemption. Jesus Christ had been crucified, buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day. The penalty of sin had been paid in full (Romans 6:23), and His resurrection promised hope to all who would believe.

Writing to believers in the city of Corinth, many of whom were concerned with the deaths of their loved ones, and wondered what would become of their souls, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:12-1412  Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith isalso vain.

1 Corinthians 15:19–2219 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The apostle John would write at the close of his first epistle:

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?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” (Luke 23; John 18-19)

Scripture reading – Luke 23; John 18-19

Today’s Bible reading brings us to the third of the Gospel accounts concerning those things Christ suffered for our sins, according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53). Having declared Jesus was innocent of political sedition (Luke 23:4), the charge brought against Him by the chief priests (John 18:29-30), Pilate sought an escape from the demands of His accusers (23:1-5).

Declaring, “I find no fault in [Jesus]” (23:4), the chief priests defied Pilate saying, “He stirreth up the people…beginning from Galilee to this place” (23:5). When Pilate heard Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to King Herod, a puppet ruler of Galilee appointed by Caesar, and a man who was the Roman governor’s political nemesis (23:6-7).

Though his hands were bloodied from beheading John the Baptist, Herod had longed for an opportunity to encounter Jesus, and had hoped to witness one of His miracles (23:8). The King’s eagerness quickly soured when Jesus refused to answer or acknowledge his authority (23:9). Incensed by the snub, and having heard the charges brought against Jesus by the chief priests and scribes (23:10), Herod and his “men of war” began to mock and deride the LORD (23:11).

An ancient adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” comes to mind when I read Luke 23:12: “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”

Pilate and Herod became friends, because they shared in the greatest travesty of justice in human history. They were forever guilty of the most egregious act, having condemned the holy, altogether sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Pilate, having declared, “I find no fault” in Him (23:4), attempted to shirk his responsibility to exercise judicial integrity (23:13-16). Unfortunately, when he failed, he lacked the moral character and fortitude to do the right thing, and release Jesus (23:17-23).

Luke 23:24–2524 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they [chief priests and scribes] required. 25 And he [Pilate] released unto them him [Barabbas] that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will [to be crucified].

As much as we might be tempted to look upon Pilate with disdain, and wonder about his sudden friendship with the likes of Herod, we should look into our own souls. The pressure to compromise with evil men and women, is never too far from any of us.

How often have you denied Jesus because you lacked the courage and moral fortitude to do right, even while others were choosing to do wrong? How easy is it to long for popularity and acceptance, at the sacrifice of obeying God’s Word and walking in His Truth?

Tradition insinuates that Pilate died an insane, broken, miserable soul. His conscience was no more able to bear his guilt, than his soul could escape God’s judgment.

Romans 12:1–2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 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.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

JESUS CHRIST: The Way, The Truth, The Life (John 14-17)

Scripture reading – John 14-17

The setting of today’s Scripture is in the midst of our LORD’S final Passover with His disciples, and precedes His departure from the house to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Having washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:4-12), and Judas having gone out into the night to betray Him (13:21-30), Jesus told His followers He was to depart (13:33). Peter asked, “Lord, whither goest thou?” to which “Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards” (13:36).

Christ’s revelation that He was going away, and the disciples could not follow, was distressing (13:31-36).  When Jesus foretold that Peter, the most outspoken of the Twelve, would deny the LORD three times that very night (13:38), the disciples were well-nigh overcome with fear and anxiety.

They had believed, as had many in Israel, that the Messiah would be a political Savior, and would free the nation from servitude to Rome. They were not looking for a Redeemer who would save them from their sins; they were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow Rome and restore the sovereignty of the nation. They had left everything, and everyone to follow Jesus. How could He say He was leaving them, and they could not go with Him?

Jesus answered the fears of His disciples with assurances that have been a comfort for believers for nearly 2,000 years (14:1-6). Consider three comforts found in Jesus’ promises.

The first was an Earthly [present; immediate; temporal] Comfort: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (14:1). Don’t allow your heart to be overcome with fear and anxiety. If you trust God, whom you have not seen, trust in Christ whom you have known and seen. Christ promised, comfort in troubles and trials, and comfort in sickness and death. David wrote of that same comfort in Psalm 23.

Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod [protects] and thy staff [guides] they comfort me.”

John 14:2-3, promised the disciples an Enduring Comfort.  It is a comfort to have a place you can call home; a place to “hang your hat,” and “lay your head at night.” Although He was going away, Jesus calmed His disciples’ fears, promising them an eternal home.

John 14:2–3In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Finally, Jesus promised an Eternal Comfort that we can find in Christ alone (14:5-6). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was shaken by the news of Jesus’ departure, and asked: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (14:5).

Jesus’ answer provided Thomas with three assurances: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (14:6).

1) Jesus is the ONLY Way. He is “the door” and by Christ alone can a “man enter in, [and] be saved” (John 10:9).

2) Jesus is the TRUTH. There can be only One TRUTH; everything and everyone else is a LIE. (John 1:14; 17:17)

3) Jesus is the Promise of LIFE. In Christ alone is the promise of a blessed, and eternal life. (John 3:16, 18)

Acts 4:12 – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The World Always Has Room for One More Servant” (Luke 22; John 13)

Scripture reading – Luke 22; John 13

The setting of today’s Scripture reading (Luke 22 and John 13) is our LORD’S final observance of the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” and the Passover with His disciples (Luke 22:1; John 13:1).

Judas had agreed with the chief priests, to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Luke 22:2-5), fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12b).

John 13 – “His hour was come”

Jesus was mindful that the day had come when He would be betrayed, and die on the Cross (13:1). Moved by His love for sinners, He would soon express that love in His suffering, humiliation, and death (13:2).

When the Passover supper was ended, Jesus rose from the table, laid aside His robe, girded Himself in a towel, and began to wash the feet of His disciples (13:4). Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet. When He came to Peter, he objected to this act of servitude and asked, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (13:6)

Foot washing was a cultural practice in that day, as households lacked plumbing and running water. Wealthy citizens of towns and villages bathed in public baths, and after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who washed their feet in a basin of water and dried them with a towel. Washing feet was the work of the lowest servant of a household.

Remember, as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, among them was Judas, the one who would betray Him that night! It was one thing to stoop and wash the feet of His disciples; however, to wash the feet of an enemy was an act of love and grace! (13:2, 11)

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture:

Salvation: The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (13:10-11).

Sanctification:  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is a reminder that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John would write, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Service (13:1, 5, 12-16). To bear a servant’s towel requires at least three things in my estimation:

Persevering love: Jesus “loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (13:1).

Unpretentious humility: Jesus washed “the disciples’ feet [and] wiped them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (13:5). Paul exhorted believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility: “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… 7 [Who] took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]” (Philippians 2:5, 7b).

Enduring commitment to follow Christ’s example.  Jesus commanded His disciples: “If I then, yourLord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (13:14-15).

The world will always make room for one more servant

Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer (Matthew 26; Mark 14)

Scripture reading assignment: Matthew 26; Mark 14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a captivating reading of historical events that took place in the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry. We have considered the LORD’s teachings on “Eschatology,” the Biblical doctrine of “Last Things,” including His revelation of universal occurrences that will precede His Second Coming (Mark 13).

The record in Mark 14 begins with supper at the home of Simon, the leper (Mark 14:3-9), followed by the Passover meal (Mark 14:16-28), prior to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-65), and Peter’s threefold denial of Christ (Mark 14:66-72). Understanding a commentary of those historical events in the confines of a devotional is impossible, I will limit today’s devotional to an examination of the betrayer Judas, and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD and His disciples having dinner at the home of Simon the leper (14:3). Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of the feast was probably a celebration of our Lord healing Simon, and a festive occasion for Lazarus being raised from the dead. The central focus of the feast became a sacrificial gift that was offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary had entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating, and breaking the neck of an alabaster jar (a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard), she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head and feet (14:3b; John 12:3).  John identified “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led a chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions. Judas had suggested the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty, and in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes,  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality, he was a thief, a traitor, and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion. Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, we read that the disciples “murmured against her” (14:5).

Jesus rebuked the disciples, and silenced them saying, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (14:6).  Affirming Mary’s act of sacrificial love, Jesus once again spoke of His imminent death and burial (14:7-8; John 12:7), and revealed Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (14:8-9).

I close on a practical note, challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man, for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!

Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; dispute; quarrel].” 

A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and organization, as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest. An angry, contentious spirit has the potential of destroying everything, and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Watch! Make Ready, Before It is Too Late! (Matthew 25)

Scripture reading – Matthew 25

We noticed in Matthew 24 the signs of the Second Coming of Christ at the close of the Tribulation. Matthew 25 urges believers to not only understand the signs of the times, but also to be prepared and living in expectation of Christ’s coming.

Continuing His discourse on the Mount of Olives, Jesus taught three parables: “The Parable of the Ten Virgins” (25:1-13) and “The Parable of the Talents” (25:14-30) illustrated the urgency of being prepared for Christ’s sudden return, since no man could know the day or the hour He would appear. The third parable, The Parable of the Sheep and Goats, illustrates God’s final judgment of nations (25:31-46). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the first of the three parables.

Matthew 25:1-13 – The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Jesus revealed to His disciples the signs that would mark the close of the Great Tribulation, and precede His coming (24:6-30). Understanding the LORD’S return would be sudden, The Parable of the Ten Virgins emphasized the need to be ready, and looking for Christ to come.

To understand the parable, we must first identify its symbolisms. The bridegroom is Jesus Christ, and the ten virgins represent professing believers (25:1) who are waiting on the groom (Jesus Christ) to come for His bride. The lamps, I believe, are symbolic of the lives of the virgins, and the oil for the lamps is the Holy Spirit.

I have stated in earlier devotions that it was the custom of the bridegroom to provide wedding garments for his guest. We find in this parable, ten virgins who were outwardly, appropriately dressed for a wedding; however, they are identified as five who were wise and five who were foolish (25:2).

The difference in the wise and foolish virgins was not their dress, but the provision of oil for their lamps. The foolish virgins came to meet the groom; however, they had failed to make provision to have oil for their lamps (25:3). The wise virgins came as well, and had oil for their lamps, anticipating the groom might appear at any hour (25:4).

Not knowing when the groom would come for his bride, he appeared to delay his coming, and the virgins fell asleep. At midnight, the virgins were awakened by a loud cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (25:6).

Rising from their sleep to meet the groom, the virgins trimmed the wicks of their lamps. The foolish virgins, however, realized too late that they had failed to acquire oil for their lamps. They began to plead with the wise virgins, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out” (25:8).

The wise virgins, knowing they had only enough oil for themselves, refused the request of the foolish virgins (25:9). Their denial was not out of callousness, but because they had only enough oil for themselves. The wise urged the foolish to go, and purchase oil for themselves (25:9). Sadly, the foolish virgins soon realized it was too late, and the sellers of oil had closed their shops.

The bridegroom appeared while the foolish virgins were away, and he invited the wise virgins to join him, and then shut the door (25:10). When the foolish virgins returned to the wedding, they found the door of the house was closed. Though they begged urgently, “Lord, Lord, open to us” (25:11), their pleadings had come too late, and the groom answered them, “I know you not” (25:12).

The five virgins were foolish, not because of the company they kept. They were in the presence of sincere believers whose lamps were filled with oil (representing the Holy Spirit, and were faithfully watching and waiting for the Lord to come for His people). They were foolish because they were insincere in their profession, and had not prepared their hearts by trusting the LORD for their salvation, and having the oil of His Spirit fill their souls.

Friend, there is an overriding truth that is the subject of this parable and it is found in the concluding verse: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (25:13).

Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ? Is He your Savior? If so, His Holy Spirit, like oil in a lamp, has filled your soul. If not, you risk finding one day that you have waited too late. When Christ comes, the door to heaven and eternal life will be barred to your entrance.

Watch! Be Ready! Be prepared, for the LORD is coming; however, no man knows the day or the hour He will appear (25:30, 36).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Matthew 24

Today’s Scripture reading is a parallel passage to an earlier devotional from Mark 13. The geographical setting of Matthew 24 is the Mount of Olives, and the passage of Scripture is known as “The Olivet Discourse.”

Jesus, having prophesied the destruction of the Temple, was asked by His disciples (Mark 13:3), “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. Jesus identified eight signs as “the beginning [i.e. the birth pangs] of sorrows” (24:8) that will precede His Second Coming. There will be:

1) A great deception led by a proliferation of “false Christs” who will deceive many (24:5).

2) International conflicts: “wars and rumors of wars” (24:6-7a)

3) Universal, natural disasters: “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes” (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 of the Gospel to all nations and people (24:14)

Far from the utopia liberal progressives have promised for more than a century, the world has grown more volatile and violent. We are witnessing the inevitable abyss of atheism and moral depravity (Romans 3:10, 23). And yet, the worst is yet to be.

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 in that day are urged to be cautious, knowing “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).

The saints in that day will be looking for the coming of Christ. Many “false Christ’s 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).

The end of the Tribulation will be marked by signs in the heavens. There will be the terror of darkness, when “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light” (24:29a), and the solar system fails when “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).

To those saints who believed in Christ during the Tribulation, His coming will be glorious, for He 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?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith