Acts, chapters 9-11

“When [Barnabas] arrived and saw the undeserved kindness of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all to continue in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.”
~Acts 11:23

The early Christian congregation was changing in the sense that it was no longer exclusive to Jews or Jewish proselytes.
Barnabas was a Levite who had converted to Christianity. (Acts 4:36)
He was appointed an apostle because holy spirit moved him to do missionary work. (Acts 13:4; 14:14)
When he saw the enthusiasm with which the new converts in Antioch received the good news of the kingdom, he sought out Paul and together they helped strengthen the congregation. (Acts 11:25,26)
It was there that “by divine providence” Christ’s disciples were first called “Christians.”
In Greek, the phrase translated “heartfelt resolve” literally means “purpose of the heart.”
Other synonyms could be: firmness, conviction, determination.
Barnabas not only told his new spiritual family to stay in the truth; he took them under his wing and nurtured their faith.
Through personal sacrifice, tolerance toward others, and a joyous spirit, he exemplified ‘continuing in the Lord with heartfelt resolve.’

John, chapters 20 & 21

“Jesus said to them: ‘Children, you do not have anything to eat, do you? […] Come, have your breakfast.'”
~John 21:5,12

I find it heartwarming that one of the last things Jesus did for his friends before leaving this world was to make them breakfast.
He had important instructions to give them, but he did not rush through his visit.
Jesus took the time to comfort them- particularly Peter, who was no doubt discouraged from having denied knowing him on the night of his death. (John 18:25-27; 21:15-19)
Jesus’ forgiving, patient, generous and industrious attitude is a fine benchmark for what type of friends we should strive to be.

John, chapters 18 & 19

“My Kingdom is no part of this world. If my Kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be handed over […].”
~John 18:36

Throughout history and throughout the world, true Christians have followed Christ’s courageous example of maintaining political neutrality at the cost of their freedom or even their lives.
Like Jesus, we trust that God’s solution to mankind’s problems will be brought about through his own means. (Dan. 2:44)
Prior to the messiah’s coming, servants of Jehovah sometimes held high government rankings, such as King David or the governor Zerubbabel.
But the priests who killed Jesus were hungry for more political power. (John 11:48)
Jesus made it clear that his followers were not to get involved in the political controversies of his time, and the same applies to us. (Mark 8:15; John 17:16)
We can instead participate in the sharing of the kingdom good news- the same “truth” Jesus said he came to bear witness to. (Matt. 6:33; John 18:37)

John, chapters 15-17

“[…] But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
~John 16:32

Jesus knew his closest friends were about to run away as he would be taken into custody, but he relied on his relationship with Jehovah to get him through that dark period of his life. (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31)
He had warned his disciples that one day they would face similar trials, but like him, they too could prevail. (John 16:2, 33)
No matter what this crazy world throws at us, when we take comfort in the peace that Jehovah gives us, nothing can ruin our faith. (Rom. 8:35-39; Php. 4:6,7)

John, chapters 13 & 14

“Now because he knew before the festival of the Passover that his hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father, Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end.”
~John 13:1

Few times in the history of literature has there been such a comparably beautiful phrase that encompasses so much meaning.
The Apostle John knew Jesus quite possibly his entire life, being a younger relative of his and then becoming one of his closer disciples. (John 13:23-25)
But Jesus’ disciples still resisted the idea that he was about to die. (John 13:36,37; 14:5)
I wonder what it was like, sixty-five years later, for the elderly John to reflect on Christ’s love during the last day of his life on earth, as he began to relate this part of his story.
The phrase reflects a great depth of tenderness, courage, unity and gratitude.
It is an example of man at his ultimate best: loyal, kind, spiritual, up building and self-sacrificing.
The love Jehovah and Jesus showed us long before we were even born is the closest thing there is to unconditional love. (Rom. 5:8)
We can glorify God by trying to follow Christ’s sublime example of love towards the congregation. (1 John 3:16)

John, chapters 11 & 12

“Let us also go, so that we may die with him.”
~John 11:16

While most Christians do not die as martyrs on account of their faith, the Apostle Thomas set a good example of willingness to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice.
Two attempts against Jesus’ life had already been made in Judea. (John 8:59; 10:31)
Still, Jesus courageously returned to the area with the intention of resurrecting his friend, Lazarus. (John 11:11,14,15)
Jesus later emphasized the need to be self-sacrificing when he returned to Jerusalem a week before his death.
He prayed, “Father, save me out of this hour. Nevertheless, this is why I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27,28)
Jesus knew he was about to endure a great deal of pain, but he put his Father’s plan before his own comfort.
He trusted his followers would be willing to do the same, and Jehovah blesses them for that. (John 12:25,26)

John, chapters 9 & 10

“At that time the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was wintertime, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon.”
~John 10:22,23

Should Christians celebrate Hanukkah?
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus after it had been desecrated and dedicated to Zeus three years earlier.
Unlike the previous two temple dedications, (Solomon’s and Zerubbabel’s), the Jews established a law which required everyone to celebrate the anniversary of this event.
They were not required to travel to Jerusalem, but in this particular case, Jesus did go to the temple for the celebration.
The temple had to be fully functional in Jehovah’s service in order for Bible prophecies to be fulfilled in Jesus. (Da. 9:27; Ps. 69:9; John 2:16,17)
But the Bible does not clarify whether those who had fought to reclaim the temple for Jehovah had accomplished this through divine intervention.
Either way, the temple sacrifices carried out in Jesus’ day served their purpose of being archetypes of Jesus’ sacrifice. (Gal. 3:23-25; Col. 2:13,14,17)
While early Christians were not to judge their brothers and sisters in matters of Jewish tradition, the Greek Scriptures far from encourage the continued observance of traditions relating to Jewish worship. (Col. 2:16; Gal. 4:10,11; Heb. 8:6)
Jesus had foretold the temple’s destruction and the end of traditional Jewish religion as they practiced it.
His prophecy was fulfilled 37 years after his death. (Luke 21:20-24; John 4:21-24; Awake. December 8, 1990. “Hanukkah—Is It a ‘Jewish Christmas'”?)