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Bible Narratives Devotional, Week 37: Jesus’s Early Ministry

This entry is part 37 of 52 in the series

"Bible Narratives Devotional"

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Week 37: Jesus’s Early Ministry

Weekly memory verse:

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Weekly hymn:

“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (free download)

Weekly catechism:

What is prayer?
Prayer is an offering up of my desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of my sins and thankfulness for his mercies.

Day 181: The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

Reading: Matthew 3:1–4:11, Psalm 104


Matthew 3, Verse 1. Wilderness of Judea. This was the region directly west of the Dead Sea.

Verse 2. Kingdom of heaven. Matthew uniquely uses this phrase, “heaven” being a poetic reference to God. The phrase “kingdom of God” is used everywhere else in Scripture.

Verse 3. The prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had prophesied the coming of John the Baptist in 40:3.

Verse 6. Baptized. The practice of baptism was already known in Judaism, as Gentile proselytes would be baptized to symbolize their entrance into the community.

Verse 7. Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisess were a “separated” sect of pious, legalistic orthodox Jews. The Sadducees were wealthy Levites who denied the supernatural, rejected Jewish tradition, and only accepted the Pentateuch as authoritative.

Verses 16–17. Jesus . . . Spirit . . . voice from heaven. This is one of the clearest evidences in Scripture that the One God exists in three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Spirit.

Verse 4. It is written. All of Jesus’s replies to Satan are quotes from Deuteronomy. The first is 8:3, the second 6:16, and the third is 6:13–14.


John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah, just as had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Jesus fulfilled all the Law of God by being baptized and resisting a three-fold temptation of Satan, temptation that parallels the kind of temptation that led to Adam and Eve’s fall. Jesus’s perfect life made possible the imputation of righteousness to those who trust him.

Discussion Questions

  1. What Old Testament prophet would have come to mind in the Jewish people when they saw John and how he lived?
  2. What was John’s essential message?
  3. What does Jesus’s baptism and temptation reveal about him?

Day 182: Jesus Wedding at Cana

Reading: John 1:35–2:11, Psalm 105


John 1, Verse 51. You will see. This likely alludes to Jacob’s dream about a ladder from heaven in Genesis 28:12, indicating that the disciples would likewise receive supernatural confirmation from God concerning who Jesus truly was.

Chapter 2, Verse 2. Wine. The Greek term for “wine” could refer to the juice freshly squeezed from grapes, to boiled wine, to fermented wine, or to fermented wine diluted with water. Since Scripture clearly prohibits intoxication (Prov 23:31), there is every reason to assume that what Jesus made from the water was fresh grape juice.

Verse 4. My hour. This phrase refers to Jesus’s death, resurrection, and exultation (see John 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 27, 13:1, 17:1). Old Testament prophecies promised that in the future kingdom, wine would flow freely (Jer 31:12, Hos 14:17, Amos 9:13–14). Jesus was telling Mary that his death needed to happen before the blessings of the kingdom.


Jesus began his earthly ministry by calling his disciples and by performing his first miracle, turning normal water into wine. Jesus promised his disciples very early that they would receive confirmation from God that he was truly the Messiah, and the miracle at Cana was only the first of many confirmations of his deity and purpose.

Discussion Questions

  1. How did Jesus’s disciples know that he was the Messiah?
  2. What did the fact that Mary went to Jesus for help reveal about what she thought of him?
  3. How did the miracle at Cana confirm that Jesus was the Messiah?

Day 183: Jesus Speaks with Nicodemus

Reading: John 2:13–3:21, Psalm 106


John 2, Verse 15. Drove them all. The cleansing of the temple marked the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry and affirmed the importance of pure worship. Jesus cleansed the temple a second time at the end of his ministry (Matt 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–18, Luke 19:45–46), further emphasizing how important true worship was to Jesus.

Verse 21. His body. The New Testament uses the temple as a metaphor for Jesus, for individual Christians (1 Cor 6:19), and for the church (1 Cor 3:16–17, Eph 2:19–22).

Chapter 3, Verse 3. Born again. In the Greek this phrase can mean both, “born again” and “born from above.” Jesus meant that latter, but Nicodemus clearly interpreted it as the former.

Verse 5. Water and the Spirit. The Greek construction here means “spiritual water,” that is, Jesus is stressing the necessity of spiritual cleansing from sin.


Although the Jews obeyed the letter of the Law, their worship was ultimately corrupt. Jesus displayed his anger toward such corruption by cleansing the temple, and his encounter with Nicodemus revealed what a right relationship with God required. In order to gain eternal life with God, a person must be born from above and spiritual cleansed, which happens only when one believes in Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Jesus cleanse the temple?
  2. Why must we be born from above?
  3. What brings spiritual cleansing form sin?

Day 184: The Woman at the Well

Reading: John 4:1–42


Verse 4. Samaria. Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom after the nation split (1 Kings 16:24). Later, the term came to describe the whole region. When Assyria invaded in 722 bc, they left some Jews in the region and brought other non-Jews into Samaria. This led to the Samaritans becomes a mixed group of Jews and non-Jews by intermarriage along with a syncretistic religion. For all of these reasons, the Samaritans came to be despised by pure Jews.

Verse 20. This mountain. The Samaritans had developed their own worship practices on Mt. Gerizim.

Verse 23. Spirit and truth. These are the two interconnected components of biblical worship. “Spirit” refers to the immaterial, inward response of a person’s heart, and “truth” refers to the correct object (God) and content of biblical worship. Worship is a spiritual response to God as a result of understanding biblical truth about God.


Worship is a spiritual response to God as a result of understanding biblical truth about God. Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan women gave him an opportunity to emphasize this essence of worship. With his coming, death, and resurrection, the essence of worship makes a specific location, like a mountain or temple, unnecessary when approaching God in worship. God is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and truth.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why was the fact that Jesus asked the woman for a drink so unusual?
  2. Why did the woman ask Jesus about the proper way to worship?
  3. What does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

Day 185: Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

Reading: Luke 4:14–32, Isaiah 61


Luke 4, Verse 15. Synagogues. These centers of worship and teaching originated either during or shortly after the Babylonian captivity, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. Even after the temple was rebuilt, they continued to be places where Jews would regularly gather in each town.

Verse 17. Scroll. It was customary in a synagogue service for a portion of Scripture to be read and then explained to the people. Jesus read from Isaiah 61.

Verse 23. Capernaum. Scripture does not give much information about what Christ did during his time in Capernaum, but John’s gospel does mention his visit there (2:12; see also 4:46–54).

Isaiah 61, Verse 2. Day of vengeance. When Jesus read this passage in the synagogue, he stopped reading in the middle of verse two since the rest of the passage refers to his second coming, not his first.


Although Jesus’s miracles confirmed that he was the Anointed One and his authoritative teaching astounded people, many of his own people rejected him. This was no surprise to God; he had predicted such a rejected in the Old Testament, a rejected that was indeed necessary so that Jesus could die in the place of sinners.

Discussion Questions

  1. What did Jesus mean when he said that Isaiah 61:1-2a was being fulfilled?
  2. Why did Jesus mention Elijah helping the widow of Zarephath and Elisha healing Naaman?
  3. Why did the people want to kill Jesus?
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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.