Category Archives: The Gospels

The Greater the Light, the Greater the Judgment! (Hebrews 1; Hebrews 2)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – Hebrews 1; Hebrews 2

Continuing our countdown to the conclusion of our two-year chronological Scriptures’ reading schedule, today’s devotional introduces the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The Author of Hebrews

Many have supposed the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul; however, I feel that is conjecture at best. If Paul was the author, he neglected to identify himself in the opening salutation as was his manner in his other epistles (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; and so on). Rather than speculate on the human author, let us content ourselves in accepting the Epistle to the Hebrews, like all Scripture: divinely inspired and its author the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Date of the Epistle to the Hebrews

The date for the writing of Hebrews is uncertain; however, it seems most scholars agree it was composed for Hebrew believers before A.D. 70, when the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem, and the city and Temple were destroyed. Before that date, persecution and imprisonment were widespread in the Roman empire, and Hebrews 13:23 indicates that Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith” (2 Timothy 1:2), had himself been imprisoned, and was expected to soon be “set at liberty” (Hebrews 13:23).

The Recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews

As stated in its title, Hebrews was addressed to those from a Hebrew background, and no doubt gave many of Judaism pause to consider Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies.  For others, sufferings and persecution of the 1st century might have caused some to doubt their faith in Christ, and return to the Temple and sacrificial offerings (Hebrews 10:1-11). To them, the Holy Spirit, through a human author, declared the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things (Hebrews 1:1-4; 10:12-13).

Setting the date of Hebrews to the mid to late 60’s A.D., many readers were probably second-generation believers of Hebrew ancestry. Tragically, the author takes them to task for their spiritual immaturity, and described them as “dull of hearing” (5:11), and in need of teachers when they should have been teaching (5:12).

A brief outline of Hebrews 1 and 2 will need to suffice for our study.

Hebrews 1 – The Supremacy of Jesus Christ

Down through the centuries, God sent His prophets to Israel to reveal His person and declare His Word (1:1). Yet, the purpose in the coming of the prophets was to prepare the way for the coming of the ultimate revelation of God…His Son (1:2). The prophets and writers of Scripture not only pointed to creation as a demonstration of the handiwork of God (Psalm 19:1; 97:6), but they declared His revelation in word and writing as His Spirit moved them (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Yet, the work of the prophets was partial.

The coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled not only the promises of a coming Messiah-Redeemer (Isaiah 53; Luke 19:10), but He revealed in His incarnation (human flesh) the glory of God the Father (1:2-3). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is revealed as “heir of all things,” and the Creator (1:2b). He was the “brightness” of God’s glory (1:3a), the image of God veiled in human flesh (1:3b; Colossians 1:15; Philippians 2:6, 9), and the Sustainer (the upholder of “all things,” 1:3c). By the shedding of His blood and death on the cross, Jesus “purged our sins,” as Redeemer (1:3d), and then “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high [God the Father]” (1:3e). Christ is exalted as Lord and Mediator of sinners (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12).

The balance of Hebrews 1 declared Christ’s preeminence over angels (1:4-7), and His person as Eternal God, and Sovereign of Creation (1:7-14).

Hebrews 2 – The Danger of Neglecting One’s Salvation

Hebrews 2 warned, God holds men accountable for the truths they have been taught (2:1-3). Christ taught, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). Stating the same truth in another way: The greater the light, the greater the judgment!

The Hebrews had the privilege of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the word of prophets. God then sent His Son, Jesus to Israel, to declare God’s love and the Gospel of His grace. The author reasoned: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?” (2:3).

Closing thoughts – So much more could be considered, but I conclude our study inviting you to consider Hebrews 2:1, where we read: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1).

Understanding those words were penned to Hebrews who had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, we understand the urgency to not only hear the Word of God, but heed its Truth. Surely that same warning might be declared to 21st century believers. Warning: There is a grave danger for those who have been privileged to grow up hearing the Word of God preached and the Gospel declared. It is the danger of hearing, and not heeding Truth. The writer warned, “lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1). Some who professed to be followers of Christ, had slipped, failed to heed the Truth, and were drifting away (backsliding) from their spiritual moorings (doctrine).

What about you? Are you anchored to God’s Word, or have you slipped away and are spiritually adrift? Have you allowed popularity, pleasures, lusts, busyness, sinful pride, or laziness cause you to slip? Won’t you turn from your sin, and return to the Lord?

* 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.

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.

The Ending was Just the Beginning! (Matthew 28)

Scripture reading – Matthew 28

Our chronological study of the Gospel of Matthew concludes today with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the commissioning of the disciples (less Judas who betrayed Him) to “Go…teach all nations” (28:19).

The Greatest News: “He is Risen, As He Said” (28:1-6)

“Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary” had followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to see the place where the body of Jesus was laid (27:61). When the Sabbath was past, several women began making their way to Christ’s tomb to anoint His body (although Matthew named only two in his Gospel, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary,” 28:1). Matthew records “there was a great earthquake [and] the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (28:2). The sight of the angel, whose “countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (28:3) terrified the guards who “did shake, and became as dead men” (28:4).

When the women arrived at the tomb where Jesus had been buried, they found it open, and an angel waiting. Luke identified two angels in his Gospel (Luke 24:4-5); however, Matthew only mentions the one who spoke to the women, and said, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified” (28:5). Calming their fears, the angel communicated an extraordinary message that not only changed their lives, but changed the course of history forever. The angel “said unto the women, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (28:5-6).

The Greatest Privilege (28:7-10)

With the command, “go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead” (28:7), a small handful of faithful women were entrusted with the greatest privilege…to tell others Christ was risen from the dead! As those same women departed, they came face-to-face with the risen Christ, who saluted them with the words, “All hail” (28:9). Imagine the joy, the hope, the emotions when they saw Christ! They fell before Him, and “held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (28:9). He then comforted them with the words, “Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (28:10).

The Great Dilemma (28:11-15)

The news of Christ’s resurrection was celebrated by the women, and the “eleven disciples [who] went away into Galilee” (28:16). Yet, when the soldiers reported to the chief priests “all the things that were done” (28:11), the religious leaders set in motion a plot that we would refer to today as “damage control” (28:11). No effort was made to locate Jesus, instead, the Sanhedrin was assembled and it was determined there was only two possible explanations for why the body was not in the tomb: either Christ rose bodily from the dead, or His body was stolen (28:12).

The elders then bribed the soldiers with a great sum of money, and charged them to say, “His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept” (28:13). A solider sleeping at his post was deemed a capital punishment offense, but the Jewish leaders urged the guards to lie, and assured them, “if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you” (28:14). The soldiers agreed to the bribe, “took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (28:15).

The Greatest Mission (28:16-20)

Our study of the Gospel of Matthew concludes with the disciples receiving their commission to spearhead the greatest mission of all…to tell the news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to the nations. With the assurance of Christ’s power and authority, the disciples were given a threefold mission that would be for all people, races, and nations:

Matthew 28:19–2019Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

* 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.

“Behold the Man!” (John 18; John 19)

Scripture reading – John 18; John 19

Our devotional readings in the Synoptic Gospels have followed Christ from His last supper (Passover) with the disciples, through Judas’ betrayal and His arrest (Matthew 26:47-49; Mark 14:43-45; Luke 22:47-49). Each human author brought his own perspective, and yet all are in harmony as they recount the trials that followed Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26:57-27:25; Mark 14:53-15; Luke 22:54-25).

John 18 – Jesus Betrayed, Arrested, and Tried

In his Gospel, the apostle John rendered an eyewitness account of Christ’s betrayal by Judas, and arrest (18:1-11). Jesus had warned Peter, he would deny Him three times before the crowing of a rooster announced the morning sunrise (13:36-38). Tragically, Peter fulfilled that prophecy (18:15-18, 25-27), and when he heard the cock crow, he went out and “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62).

Altogether, Jesus faced six trails before He was condemned to be crucified. The initial trials occurred while it was yet dark, with Annas, the former high priest presiding over the first (18:12-14). John did not record the second trial before the high priest Caiaphas, nor the trial before the Sanhedrin (though all were agreed Jesus must die). John picked up the narrative of Jesus’ trials with Jesus being led “from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment” (18:28).

Because it was the Passover, the religious leaders refused to enter Pilate’s Hall, lest they be ceremonially defiled (of course, those same hypocrites were plotting to stain their hands with Christ’s blood, 18:28). Pilate committed several legal maneuvers in an attempt to put a distance between himself, and the Jews’ demands that Jesus, an innocent man be put to death. He heard the accusations, nevertheless, judged Jesus had committed no crime that demanded His death (18:29-40).

When Pilate agreed to free a prisoner in honor of the Passover, he asked, “will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (18:39) Instead of Christ, the people were stirred by the chief priests to say, “Not this man [Christ], but Barabbas” (18:40). John wrote, “Now Barabbas was a robber” (18:40). So, Barabbas, an insurrectionist, murderer and robber, was set free as the Jews demanded.

John 19 – Jesus Scourged, Scorned, and Crucified

Hoping to appease the murderous Jews, Pilate ordered Jesus be scourged by his solders, who then “platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head” (19:1-2). “They put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands” (19:2b-3). Pilate declared to the mob, “I find no fault in him” (19:4), and then brought “Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!” (19:5)

The sight of Jesus beaten, and bloodied did not dissuade the crowd’s thirst for innocent blood. The chief priests and Sanhedrin officers cried out the more, “Crucify him, crucify him” (19:6). Hoping to devoid himself of responsibility for crucifying Jesus, “Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him” (19:6). Hypocritically, the Jews asserted, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (19:7).

Pilate was troubled when he heard Jesus had “made Himself the Son of God” (19:7). He questioned Jesus, saying, “Whence art thou?” (19:12) Implying, who are you? From where have you come?

When Jesus did not answer, Pilate was offended, and declared, “knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” (19:10) Then, Jesus rebuked Pilate, and asserted the sovereignty of God, and said to him, “Thou couldest have no power [no right; no authority] at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (19:11).

Closing thoughts (19:14-42) – Convinced Jesus was innocent, Pilate exhausted every means to release Jesus, until he succumbed to the pressure of the mob. When he declared to the people, “Behold your King!” (19:14), they answered, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him” (19:15).

The scene at the Cross, and its fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53) will be addressed at another time. For now, I close with a simple observation: Christ died on the cross that was intended to be Barabbas’ place of execution. Pilate, representing civil authority and the power to give or take life, judged Jesus was innocent, and by right should have been set free. Tragically, the Roman procurator made the fateful decision to not only crucify an innocent man, but sealed the fate of his own soul.

By dying on a cross reserved for a murderer, Jesus completed the portrait of a sinless, substitutionary sacrifice. He was innocent, and yet, He died not only in the place of Barabbas, but because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), He died for the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Is He your Savior? (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.

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.

Innocence Betrayed: Jesus Tried and Condemned (Matthew 27)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27

Rich with drama, the passage we are reading today brings us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. This is 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 (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:18-20). Our devotional could focus on many aspects of Jesus’ path to the Cross; however, I will limit myself to one thought: Judas: his remorse, and death.

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (27:1-10)

The chief priests and Sanhedrin had tried and condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2). They led Him away to the Roman governor’s palace where Pontius Pilate held court, and where Jesus would be tried, and sentenced to death by civil authority.

Judas watched the proceedings with regret, and the effect of his betrayal brought a wave of remorse over his soul (27:3). Perhaps it was when they led Jesus away to be tried by Pilate (27:2), that he realized the treachery of his betrayal. How could one privileged to be numbered among Christ’s Twelve, betray Him into the hands of His enemies? How could Judas, after enjoying the intimacy of Jesus’ company, now be His enemy? When they took Jesus away, Judas did not confess, “I made a mistake.” No, he said, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4). Nevertheless, Judas was like so many; a follower, but not a believer that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Poor, sad, miserable soul. Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but for him. They answered him with contempt, saying, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b). Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul, nor did they offer him counsel (27:5a). He realized too late 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 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 their hypocrisy (for they were determined to kill Jesus), those religious leaders disingenuously debated the lawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had hurled at them (27:6b). In an effort to conceal their sin, the chief priests and elders proposed an act of charity, and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, saying: “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 later learn the secret of their purchase, and did call the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

Closing thoughts – What sorrow and depravity. There was no justice that day, instead all was a charade of justice and pseudo-piety! Yet, such is the way of the wicked. Too many learn too late, the sorrow of remorse is not sincere repentance. Judas confessed to the religious leaders, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4); however, he failed to confess his sin to God. 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. I invite you to 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.

* 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.