Common English Bible (CEB)
Pretenders of sharing
5 However, a man named Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.2 With his wife’s knowledge, he withheld some of the proceeds from the sale. He brought the rest and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles. 3 Peter asked, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has influenced you to lie to the Holy Spirit by withholding some of the proceeds from the sale of your land? 4 Wasn’t that property yours to keep? After you sold it, wasn’t the money yours to do with whatever you wanted? What made you think of such a thing? You haven’t lied to other people but to God!” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he dropped dead. Everyone who heard this conversation was terrified. 6 Some young men stood up, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him.
7 About three hours later, his wife entered, but she didn’t know what had happened to her husband. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, did you and your husband receive this price for the field?”
She responded, “Yes, that’s the amount.”
9 He replied, “How could you scheme with each other to challenge the Lord’s Spirit? Look! The feet of those who buried your husband are at the door. They will carry you out too.” 10 At that very moment, she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men entered and found her dead, they carried her out and buried her with her husband. 11 Trepidation and dread seized the whole church and all who heard what had happened.
Responses to the church
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. They would come together regularly at Solomon’s Porch. 13 No one from outside the church dared to join them, even though the people spoke highly of them. 14 Indeed, more and more believers in the Lord, large numbers of both men and women, were added to the church. 15 As a result, they would even bring the sick out into the main streets and lay them on cots and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow could fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Even large numbers of persons from towns around Jerusalem would gather, bringing the sick and those harassed by unclean spirits. Everyone was healed.
The Jerusalem Council harasses the apostles
17 The high priest, together with his allies, the Sadducees, was overcome with jealousy.18 They seized the apostles and made a public show of putting them in prison. 19 An angel from the Lord opened the prison doors during the night and led them out. The angel told them, 20 “Go, take your place in the temple, and tell the people everything about this new life.” 21 Early in the morning, they went into the temple as they had been told and began to teach.
When the high priest and his colleagues gathered, they convened the Jerusalem Council, that is, the full assembly of Israel’s elders. They sent word to the prison to have the apostles brought before them. 22 However, the guards didn’t find them in the prison. They returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison locked and well-secured, with guards standing at the doors, but when we opened the doors we found no one inside!” 24 When they received this news, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were baffled and wondered what might be happening. 25 Just then, someone arrived and announced, “Look! The people you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain left with his guards and brought the apostles back. They didn’t use force because they were afraid the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought before the council where the high priest confronted them: 28 “In no uncertain terms, we demanded that you not teach in this name. And look at you! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. And you are determined to hold us responsible for this man’s death.”
29 Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than humans! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God has exalted Jesus to his right side as leader and savior so that he could enable Israel to change its heart and life and to find forgiveness for sins. 32 We are witnesses of such things, as is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When the council members heard this, they became furious and wanted to kill the apostles.34 One council member, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law named Gamaliel, well-respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be taken outside for a few moments.35 He said, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you intend to do to these people.36 Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and some four hundred men joined him. After he was killed, all of his followers scattered, and nothing came of that.37 Afterward, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and got some people to follow him in a revolt. He was killed too, and all his followers scattered far and wide. 38 Here’s my recommendation in this case: Distance yourselves from these men. Let them go! If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. 39 If it originates with God, you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!” The council was convinced by his reasoning. 40 After calling the apostles back, they had them beaten. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. 41 The apostles left the council rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name. 42 Every day they continued to teach and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the Christ, both in the temple and in houses.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Peter and John questioned
4 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them. 2 They were incensed that the apostles were teaching the people and announcing that the resurrection of the dead was happening because of Jesus. 3 They seized Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day. (It was already evening.) 4 Many who heard the word became believers, and their number grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, 6 along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family.7 They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, 9 are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? 10 If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! 12 Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.”
13 The council was caught by surprise by the confidence with which Peter and John spoke. After all, they understood that these apostles were uneducated and inexperienced. They also recognized that they had been followers of Jesus. 14 However, since the healed man was standing with Peter and John before their own eyes, they had no rebuttal. 15 After ordering them to wait outside, the council members began to confer with each other. 16 “What should we do with these men? Everyone living in Jerusalem is aware of the sign performed through them. It’s obvious to everyone and we can’t deny it. 17 To keep it from spreading further among the people, we need to warn them not to speak to anyone in this name.” 18 When they called Peter and John back, they demanded that they stop all speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus.
19 Peter and John responded, “It’s up to you to determine whether it’s right before God to obey you rather than God. 20 As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 They threatened them further, then released them. Because of public support for Peter and John, they couldn’t find a way to punish them. Everyone was praising God for what had happened, 22 because the man who had experienced this sign of healing was over 40 years old.
The believers pray
23 After their release, Peter and John returned to the brothers and sisters and reported everything the chief priests and elders had said. 24 They listened, then lifted their voices in unison to God, “Master, you are the one who created the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. 25 You are the one who spoke by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:
Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth took their stand
and the rulers gathered together as one
against the Lord and against his Christ.[a]
27 Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with Gentiles and Israelites, did gather in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and plan had already determined would happen. 29 Now, Lord, take note of their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence. 30 Stretch out your hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus, your holy servant.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence.
Sharing among the believers
32 The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.
36 Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. 37 He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Healing of a crippled man
3 Peter and John were going up to the temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the established prayer time. 2 Meanwhile, a man crippled since birth was being carried in. Every day, people would place him at the temple gate known as the Beautiful Gate so he could ask for money from those entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he began to ask them for a gift. 4 Peter and John stared at him. Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gazed at them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise up and walk!” 7 Then he grasped the man’s right hand and raised him up. At once his feet and ankles became strong. 8 Jumping up, he began to walk around. He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him as the same one who used to sit at the temple’s Beautiful Gate asking for money. They were filled with amazement and surprise at what had happened to him.
11 While the healed man clung to Peter and John, all the people rushed toward them at Solomon’s Porch, completely amazed. 12 Seeing this, Peter addressed the people: “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this? Why are you staring at us as if we made him walk by our own power or piety? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of our ancestors—has glorified his servant Jesus. This is the one you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, even though he had already decided to release him. 14 You rejected the holy and righteous one, and asked that a murderer be released to you instead. 15 You killed the author of life, the very one whom God raised from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 His name itself has made this man strong. That is, because of faith in Jesus’ name, God has strengthened this man whom you see and know. The faith that comes through Jesus gave him complete health right before your eyes.
17 “Brothers and sisters, I know you acted in ignorance. So did your rulers. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he foretold through all the prophets: that his Christ would suffer. 19 Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then the Lord will provide a season of relief from the distress of this age and he will send Jesus, whom he handpicked to be your Christ. 21 Jesus must remain in heaven until the restoration of all things, about which God spoke long ago through his holy prophets. 22 Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up from your own people a prophet like me. Listen to whatever he tells you. 23 Whoever doesn’t listen to that prophet will be totally cut off from the people.[a] 24 All the prophets who spoke—from Samuel forward—announced these days. 25 You are the heirs of the prophets and the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he told Abraham,Through your descendants, all the families on earth will be blessed.[b] 26 After God raised his servant, he sent him to you first—to bless you by enabling each of you to turn from your evil ways.”
Common English Bible (CEB)
2 When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
5 There were pious Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered. They were mystified because everyone heard them speaking in their native languages. 7 They were surprised and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all the people who are speaking Galileans, every one of them? 8 How then can each of us hear them speaking in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; as well as residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the regions of Libya bordering Cyrene; and visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the mighty works of God in our own languages!” 12 They were all surprised and bewildered. Some asked each other, “What does this mean?” 13 Others jeered at them, saying, “They’re full of new wine!”
14 Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, “Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! 15 These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16 Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.
18 Even upon my servants, men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will cause wonders to occur in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed into darkness,
and the moon will be changed into blood,
before the great and spectacular day of the Lord comes.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.[a]
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene was a man whose credentials God proved to you through miracles, wonders, and signs, which God performed through him among you. You yourselves know this. 23 In accordance with God’s established plan and foreknowledge, he was betrayed. You, with the help of wicked men, had Jesus killed by nailing him to a cross. 24 God raised him up! God freed him from death’s dreadful grip, since it was impossible for death to hang on to him. 25 David says about him,
I foresaw that the Lord was always with me;
because he is at my right hand I won’t be shaken.
26 Therefore, my heart was glad
and my tongue rejoiced.
Moreover, my body will live in hope,
nor permit your holy one to experience decay.
28 You have shown me the paths of life;
your presence will fill me with happiness.[b]
29 “Brothers and sisters, I can speak confidently about the patriarch David. He died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this very day. 30 Because he was a prophet, he knew that God promised him with a solemn pledge to seat one of his descendants on his throne.31 Having seen this beforehand, David spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he wasn’t abandoned to the grave, nor did his body experience decay.[c] 32 This Jesus, God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact. 33 He was exalted to God’s right side and received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit, and you are seeing and hearing the results of his having done so. 34 David didn’t ascend into heaven. Yet he says,
The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right side,
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’[d]
36 “Therefore, let all Israel know beyond question that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.
Community of believers
42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.
Common English Bible (CEB)
The risen Jesus with his disciples
1 Theophilus, the first scroll I wrote concerned everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning, 2 right up to the day when he was taken up into heaven. Before he was taken up, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. 4 While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: 5 John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
7 Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
9 After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them. 11 They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James, Alphaeus’ son; Simon the zealot; and Judas, James’ son— 14 all were united in their devotion to prayer, along with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
A replacement for Judas
15 During this time, the family of believers was a company of about one hundred twenty persons. Peter stood among them and said, 16 “Brothers and sisters, the scripture that the Holy Spirit announced beforehand through David had to be fulfilled. This was the scripture concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 This happened even though he was one of us and received a share of this ministry.” (18 In fact, he bought a field with the payment he received for his injustice. Falling headfirst, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines spilled out. 19 This became known to everyone living in Jerusalem, so they called that field in their own language Hakeldama, or “Field of Blood.”) 20 “It is written in the Psalms scroll,
Let his home become deserted and let there be no one living in it;[a]
Give his position of leadership to another.[b]
21 “Therefore, we must select one of those who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus lived among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when Jesus was taken from us. This person must become along with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 So they nominated two: Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
24 They prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s deepest thoughts and desires. Show us clearly which one you have chosen from among these two 25 to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” 26 When they cast lots, the lot fell on Matthias. He was added to the eleven apostles.
Guest Blogger: Reverend Randy Brown
It was a day that I didn’t see coming but I can now look back on it and see God’s hand in it. Years ago in a different appointment, I was asked to take the months of August and September and teach a Bible Study with some of the inmates at the county jail who were in the re-entry program of which one of my church members was the director. At first it was with fear, trembling, and hesitation on my part that I agreed to serve in that capacity. Each year I was in that appointment when my months rolled around, I met those weekly meetings with excitement.
Moving to a different appointment last year, I wondered how and where God would open a door in the community for me to serve, in addition to the local church to which I am appointed. Through conversations and God moments, our local Police Chief (who is very active in Manchester First United Methodist Church) has a use for me to serve in a Chaplains role and has given my name to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which has a great need for Chaplains for the troopers who are out on our interstate roads and highways. They are looking for at least one Chaplain in each county, and I believe there is a calling for United Methodist Pastors in the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences to help meet that need.
The Troopers and their families are the THP Chaplains main emphasis. Many of them that I have met are very active in their local churches and are grateful for the spiritual support that a Chaplain will give to them.
When I have asked the troopers, “How can a Chaplain be of most help to you?”, the answer has almost immediately been, “Marriage and Family Counseling.” These troopers deal with stressful situations that are hard for us to imagine. There is a very high divorce rate among law enforcement personnel. At the end of an eight to twelve hour shift, they go back to a loving family and the environment is different, but they are still dealing with the situations they faced while on the road that day. We all know that sometimes that is hard to handle.
To understand this better, one of the opportunities that THP Chaplains have is to do a “Ride-Along” with a trooper for part or all of their shift. June 18, 2014, was the day I did my first “Ride-Along”. You cannot describe it, you just need to experience it. You go where they go, you watch them do their job, etc. This is where you build relationships, trust, and begin to understand just a little of what the troopers go through. Their job is a lot like our ministry, we never know from day to day what we will be called on to do. As time goes on and this program grows, THP hopes to provide training and certification for all volunteer chaplains. I hope that each one of you will prayerfully consider this ministry as you look to have influence and impact beyond the walls of your local church appointment.
May we prayerfully support our Troopers, and all other First Responders as they serve to keep us safe. Some times they feel forgotten and undervalued. I am not sure, but I think they might need to be added to the list of the forgotten ones that appear in the last part of Matthew 25. Who better to show them appreciation than United Methodist Clergy.
If you are interested in volunteering and serving this way, please let me know and I can put you in contact with the proper folks.
Rev. Randy Brown
First United Methodist Church
Common English Bible (CEB)
The empty tomb
24 Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. 5 The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Human One[a]must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. 12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened.
Encounter on the Emmaus road
13 On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. 15 While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. 16 They were prevented from recognizing him.
17 He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast.
18 The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”
19 He said to them, “What things?”
They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. 20 But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago.22 But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.
28 When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. 29 But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
33 They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
Jesus appears to the disciples
36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 37 They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” 40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish. 43 Taking it, he ate it in front of them.
44 Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 He said to them,“This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”
Ascension of Jesus
50 He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. 53 And they were continuously in the temple praising God.
- Luke 24:7 Or Son of Man
Common English Bible (CEB)
Jesus before Pilate
23 The whole assembly got up and led Jesus to Pilate and 2 began to accuse him. They said, “We have found this man misleading our people, opposing the payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming that he is the Christ, a king.”
3 Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.”
4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no legal basis for action against this man.”
5 But they objected strenuously, saying, “He agitates the people with his teaching throughout Judea—starting from Galilee all the way here.”
Jesus before Herod
6 Hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was from Herod’s district, Pilate sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 8 Herod was very glad to see Jesus, for he had heard about Jesus and had wanted to see him for quite some time. He was hoping to see Jesus perform some sign. 9 Herod questioned Jesus at length, but Jesus didn’t respond to him. 10 The chief priests and the legal experts were there, fiercely accusing Jesus. 11 Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt. Herod mocked him by dressing Jesus in elegant clothes and sent him back to Pilate. 12 Pilate and Herod became friends with each other that day. Before this, they had been enemies.
Jesus and Barabbas
13 Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people. 14 He said to them, “You brought this man before me as one who was misleading the people. I have questioned him in your presence and found nothing in this man’s conduct that provides a legal basis for the charges you have brought against him. 15 Neither did Herod, because Herod returned him to us. He’s done nothing that deserves death. 16 Therefore, I’ll have him whipped, then let him go.”[a]
18 But with one voice they shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”(19 Barabbas had been thrown into prison because of a riot that had occurred in the city, and for murder.)
20 Pilate addressed them again because he wanted to release Jesus.
21 They kept shouting out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
22 For the third time, Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I’ve found no legal basis for the death penalty in his case. Therefore, I will have him whipped, then let him go.”
23 But they were adamant, shouting their demand that Jesus be crucified. Their voices won out. 24 Pilate issued his decision to grant their request. 25 He released the one they asked for, who had been thrown into prison because of a riot and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.
On the way to the cross
26 As they led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a man from Cyrene, who was coming in from the countryside. They put the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him.28 Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. 29 The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ 30 Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’[b] 31 If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Jesus on the cross
32 They also led two other criminals to be executed with Jesus. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.
35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”
36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”
44 It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock,45 while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle.46 Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.”[c] After he said this, he breathed for the last time.
47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” 48 All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. 49 And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things.
50 Now there was a man named Joseph who was a member of the council. He was a good and righteous man. 51 He hadn’t agreed with the plan and actions of the council. He was from the Jewish city of Arimathea and eagerly anticipated God’s kingdom. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Taking it down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid it in a tomb carved out of the rock, in which no one had ever been buried. 54 It was the Preparation Day for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was quickly approaching. 55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph. They saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it, 56 then they went away and prepared fragrant spices and perfumed oils. They rested on the Sabbath, in keeping with the commandment.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Plot to kill Jesus
The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called Passover, was approaching. 2 The chief priests and the legal experts were looking for a way to kill Jesus, because they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve. 4 He went out and discussed with the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard how he could hand Jesus over to them. 5 They were delighted and arranged payment for him. 6 He agreed and began looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them—a time when the crowds would be absent.
Disciples prepare for the Passover
7 The Day of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John with this task: “Go and prepare for us to eat the Passover meal.”
9 They said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?”
10 Jesus replied, “When you go into the city, a man carrying a water jar will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters. 11 Say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher says to you, “Where is the guestroom where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?” ’ 12 He will show you a large upstairs room, already furnished. Make preparations there.” 13 They went and found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
The Passover meal
14 When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him. 15 He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 I tell you, I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom.” 17 After taking a cup and giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you that from now on I won’t drink from the fruit of the vine until God’s kingdom has come.” 19 After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.
21 “But look! My betrayer is with me; his hand is on this table. 22 The Human One[a] goes just as it has been determined. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays him.” 23 They began to argue among themselves about which of them it could possibly be who would do this.
The disciples debate greatness
24 An argument broke out among the disciples over which one of them should be regarded as the greatest.
25 But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles rule over their subjects, and those in authority over them are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant. 27 So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
28 “You are the ones who have continued with me in my trials. 29 And I confer royal power on you just as my Father granted royal power to me. 30 Thus you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones overseeing the twelve tribes of Israel.
Peter’s denial predicted
31 “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has asserted the right to sift you all like wheat. 32 However, I have prayed for you that your faith won’t fail. When you have returned, strengthen your brothers and sisters.”
33 Peter responded, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!”
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster won’t crow today before you have denied three times that you know me.”
Call for preparedness
35 Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out without a wallet, bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?”
They said, “Nothing.”
36 Then he said to them, “But now, whoever has a wallet must take it, and likewise a bag. And those who don’t own a sword must sell their clothes and buy one. 37 I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in relation to me: And he was counted among criminals.[b] Indeed, what’s written about me is nearing completion.”
38 They said to him, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”
He replied, “Enough of that!”
Jesus in prayer
39 Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. 40 When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.” 41 He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. 42 He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” 43 Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. 45 When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. 46 He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation.”
47 While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd appeared, and the one called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him.
48 Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Human One[c] with a kiss?”
49 When those around him recognized what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we fight with our swords?” 50 One of them struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.
51 Jesus responded, “Stop! No more of this!” He touched the slave’s ear and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come to get him, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, as though I were a thief? 53 Day after day I was with you in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But this is your time, when darkness rules.”
Peter denies knowing Jesus
54 After they arrested Jesus, they led him away and brought him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed from a distance. 55 When they lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.
56 Then a servant woman saw him sitting in the firelight. She stared at him and said, “This man was with him too.”
57 But Peter denied it, saying, “Woman, I don’t know him!”
58 A little while later, someone else saw him and said, “You are one of them too.”
But Peter said, “Man, I’m not!”
59 An hour or so later, someone else insisted, “This man must have been with him, because he is a Galilean too.”
60 Peter responded, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about!” At that very moment, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the Lord’s words: “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And Peter went out and cried uncontrollably.
63 The men who were holding Jesus in custody taunted him while they beat him. 64 They blindfolded him and asked him repeatedly, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 Insulting him, they said many other horrible things against him.
Jesus before the Jerusalem leadership
66 As morning came, the elders of the people, both chief priests and legal experts, came together, and Jesus was brought before their council.
67 They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us!”
70 They all said, “Are you God’s Son, then?”
He replied, “You say that I am.”
71 Then they said, “Why do we need further testimony? We’ve heard it from his own lips.”
Most gracious and loving Heavenly Father, we have come together in reflection and prayer as your people across the Nashville Episcopal area of the United Methodist Church during these past forty days. We worship you and praise you as we now prepare to move into our Annual Conferences. You are an awesome and mighty God, more eager to give than we are to receive, more willing to forgive than we are to repent, more eager to heal than we are willing to pray for healing. You are awesome in your holiness, you are flawless in your righteousness, and you are never exhaustive in your grace and love. You are magnificent in splendor and ever-present through our times of trial, as well as in our times of mountaintop exuberance. You are closer than the air we breathe, and you are the Faithful One who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
Forgive us, we pray, for the times when we have put our own agendas before your will. Forgive us for making our decisions without consulting and yielding to your direction. Forgive us failing to respect and submit to one another out of love. Forgive us for allowing the enemy to break into our camp and to cause disharmony and division. Forgive us for living and thinking at the level that “it’s all about me.” Forgive us for failing to feed you when you were hungry, for failing to give you a drink when you were thirsty. Forgive us for failing to welcome you when we you were a stranger among us. Forgive us for leaving you naked, and for ignoring you when you were sick, and for failing to visit you when you sat all alone in a prison cell. Forgive us, we pray, and restore us to that place of holy favor with you, as you move in and through us, and make yourself known to us by your Holy Presence. We thank you, Lord, that you have promised if we will confess our sins, you are faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We thank you for the simple words we hear, “You are forgiven.” We shout, “Hallelujah,” as we move forth into this new season, redeemed, forgiven and set free to be your agents of love and grace to one another and to the world around us.
We thank you for your faithfulness to meet us, as you have promised, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.” We thank you for drawing our hearts together around a common purpose, as we have invited you to invade our personal and corporate space. We thank you for your promise that if even one person would pray and seek your face, you would heal our land. We thank you that your healing and restorative power has gone forth “to bring good news to the poor, to bind up our broken hearts, to proclaim release for the captives, and liberation for prisoners…to comfort all who mourn…to give us a crown of beauty in place of ashes, to soak us with the oil of joy in place of mourning, and to place upon us a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.”
We ask you now to bless our spiritual leader, Bishop McAlilly, and all of our conference leaders. Bless our pastors and their families. Bless our congregations, and bless our mission posts near and far. Bring healing, restoration, and power to your people who will be gathering together in conference, and then going forth to carry your presence and power back to the local churches. May your glory cloud fill the temple as we come to meet you in this holy time and space. Bless us with your favor, bless us with your presence, bless us with the peace that passes all understanding as we go forth now to conference together in your name. All of this we pray to you, Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in Jesus precious and holy name. AMEN!
The LORD God’s spirit is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn… to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the LORD to glorify himself. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past.
The concept of having a Spiritual Director was something new to me back in 2004, but it was very obvious that God had orchestrated and maneuvered my life to receive the healing and transforming grace of such a relationship. My life had taken some difficult dips and turns through cancer, divorce, and the devastation of church conflict. In the depth of my pain, God sent a Spiritual Director into my life who literally became “Jesus with skin on.” I am alive today because of the restorative power of God’s grace that came to me through spiritual direction.
I was at a conference during the midst of my pain in which the Bible teacher was walking us through the Song of Solomon. He was opening the scriptures that speak of God’s desire for deep intimacy with each of us within the Body of Christ. We then stood to sing, as we moved into a time of worship. During the worship, God gave me a vision, but I tried to fight it off, believing that it was, instead, a ploy of the enemy. I saw myself in a beautiful wedding chamber with dark, richly paneled walls, bold crown molding around the ceiling of the room, and wide, wooden planks on the floor. In the wedding chamber was an eloquent pillared post bed, covered with a beautiful white chenille bedspread. In my vision, I was dancing with my Spiritual Director. I immediately sat down holding my head in my hands, silently repeating scriptures over and over in rapid-fire succession in an effort to erase the thoughts, as I was claiming the authority of the Word over what I thought was an attack of the enemy.
Then, the most amazing thing happened. In the vision, Jesus entered the wedding chamber, he tapped my Spiritual Director on the shoulder, and he took the dance. I found myself in the arms of Jesus as we danced with grace around the room. What I had thought was the enemy, was actually God, wooing me into a place of deep intimacy. I have never been the same since that day when I danced with Jesus!
God loves each of us so much, and God desires for us to walk in the fullness of who we are in Christ Jesus; redeemed, restored, renewed, and made whole to be all that God has called and created us to be. I am so thankful for a Spiritual Director who ushered me into the arms of Jesus.
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”
Loving God, sweep us off our feet with your love. Hold us in your embrace as you transform and re-form our lives into the beautiful creations that we are, made in Your image to transform the world by Your love. In Jesus’ holy and precious name we pray. AMEN.
The Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Executive Director Aspen Tree Ministries
Chairperson Spiritual Formation Team, Tennessee Conference
The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people.
When I was a teenager, I was kind of a mess. Oh, I wasn’t that different from any other fifteen or sixteen year old boy in the 70’s – in fact, I was a pretty good kid by some standards. But I was a fearful kid who had anger issues, and I tried to cover up my insecurities with a know-it-all attitude. There were real opportunities to go down difficult paths, and yet God continued to put saints in my way that saw the real me, and loved me into the Kingdom.
When I think back on those faithful influencers, what I remember the most is that they were people of peace and gratitude. They were people who knew who and whose they were, and in that knowledge they weren’t easily tossed to and fro by the winds of chaos and emotion. As important, they were always thankful for God’s gifts, however small they were, and their spirit of gratitude was contagious, always pointing to the positive instead of the negative.
These days, it seems, many of our churches are more taken with the spirit of fear and scarcity than peace and gratitude. Given the chaos of the world, it’s easy to understand why, but as Paul told the Colossian church, peace and gratitude are characteristics of what it means to be the Church together. When we live out these values, we proclaim to the world our assurance that we worship a God who transforms the turmoil of the world into serenity, and the scarcity of the world into abundance.
Does your church reflect peace and gratitude? If not, what could you do to make those values more a part of your communal life?
Lord, thank you for the influencers in our lives who point us to you, and who set for us an example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Help me to do my part, so that the world may know peace, and be transformed by your love.
In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The Rev. Jay Voorhees
Interim Coordinator of Communications, Tennessee Conference
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.
She was one of those people that I would see “around,” but not see. She was one of the haggard-old-before-her-time-women who survived day-to-day on the street. She did not come to the Sunday community meal, but she did start showing up at the Urban Ministries office to get food and help. And then she started showing up to help. In some setting, she had discovered Jesus, and her whole life changed. The day dawned, not just another few hours to survive, but the day dawned to serve others like Jesus.
She was sent to me when she started talking about being baptized. She sat in my office, so small and hesitant at first. Then the story started pouring out, a story so filled with brokenness and pain that it was all I could do to hear it, much less imagine anyone having lived through it. But now things were different. She had found Jesus. She had found a purpose in life trying to help others on the street.
She wanted to be baptized, but wasn’t sure she was “worthy.” I talked to her about baptism being a sign of God’s grace that none of us “deserved,” but rather all of us, everyone of us, received as a gift of love poured out from the heart of God. She exclaimed, “I want that. I need that. I want to be put into the water, all the way. I want to be made clean and have all the dirt washed away. I want a new life, and I want my daughter that I haven’t seen for years to come.”
About fifteen minutes before the scheduled baptism, the pastor of the neighboring church where I had made arrangements for us to use the baptistery called with panic in his voice. When he had gone to check the water temperature in the baptistery, he found that it was empty, having sprung a major leak. There she stood, holding the hand of her daughter, so ready to be made new through the power of water and the Holy Spirit, looking at me with unbelief and disappointment.
“Come, take a walk with me,” I said. I took her out to the church prayer garden. In the middle is a beautiful fountain. I told her that the fountain had been constructed from pieces of the old church building that had survived the crushing wind of a tornado a few years before. “After the storm, all that was left were bits and pieces, but they took those broken pieces and made them into something new and beautiful. That’s what baptism is all about, I told her. Would you like to baptized there? Her eyes lit up with understanding and joy. We both climbed into that fountain, and I know that there was singing in heaven that day! Transformation took place, for both of us!
Loving and gracious God, thank you for the gift of baptism. Thank you for adopting us into your family–all of us. Thank you for making a way for us to have life and to have it in abundance. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The Rev. LeNoir Culbertson
Murfreesboro District Superintendent, Tennessee Conference
The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for Zion’s mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
We most often hear or read parts of this scripture from Luke 4:18-19. Jesus read these verses in the synagogue at Nazareth, his hometown, on the Sabbath. When we hear the verses from Luke we see that Jesus is describing himself. But when we read the scripture in Isaiah, we get a sense that the words are more applicable to us.
While the prophet, Isaiah, may have been talking about himself, we get a feeling that the scripture is talking to us and inviting us to let the Holy Spirit lead us to proclaim, bind up, liberate, comfort, provide, and give, to people that are hurting and in need.
In Luke, Jesus was talking about himself, but as Jesus’ disciples we are to join Jesus in these pastoral ministries to people. We live in a world in which there is pain, sorrow, fear, and imprisonment. The Holy Spirit invites us to join with Jesus and minister to the needs and concerns that people have in life.
Let us remember, Jesus is not only our Savior, but also our model for mission and ministry. After all, the highest form of flattery is imitation.
Holy Spirit, as I seek to follow Jesus, give me eyes to see and ears to hear opportunities to be like Jesus, so that I may proclaim, bind up, liberate, comfort, provide, and give to people and enable them to become “Oaks of Righteousness.” In the Holy name of Jesus. AMEN.
The Rev. Dr. Ron Brown
Spiritual Formation Team, Tennessee Conference
Jerusalem, the Holy City! Since the earliest days of Christianity, pilgrims have made their way to this place. In February 2015, we will again follow in the ancient and venerated footsteps of these faithful Christians.
As we travel together, we will worship and learn. We will visit the sites where Jesus walked, where he taught and prayed. We will discover the images that he used to illustrate His parables. We will come closer to understanding Him as we gain understanding of the world in which He conducted His ministry.
I hope many of you will accompany us on this spiritual pilgrimage. This will not be a commercial tour! This will be a true faith experience and I would consider it a privilege to share this journey with you.
The Nashville Area Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
February 16- 25, 2015
Brochures, Tour Host information and general information will be available
at our upcoming Annual Conference and/or by contacting the following persons:
Project Coordinator (Contact Person) for the Tennessee Conference is Randall Ganues, email@example.com or 615.804.5345.
Project Coordinator (Contact Person) for the Memphis Conference is Philip and Vida McClure, firstname.lastname@example.org or 270.653.3352.