Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly® 

Unreality

from the Golden Text

John 12:23

The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

With these words, Jesus announces the imminent culmination of his ministry. He has entered Jerusalem for the last time and been publicly honored by crowds of people upon his arrival (see vv. 12, 13). Now, however, he is describing spiritual glorification—God’s exalting of His Son, which will be illustrated in the Master’s resurrection and ascension. 

Jesus repeats the theme of glorification in his final address to his disciples (see 13:31, 3217:1, 4, 5) and prays to God for all believers, “that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me” (17:24).

from the Responsive Reading

Matthew 4:17

Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

repent: deeply regret wrongdoing, with a change of heart and action 

Matthew 5:1, 2, 14, 16

Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, . . . Ye are the light of the world. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Mountains are vital sites in the Bible as places of refuge and communion with God (see Old Testament examples in Genesis 14:10Exodus 34:1–28). Christ Jesus’ transfiguration occurs on a mountain, and he often chooses mountainsides for prayer and refreshment (see Matthew 14:23Mark 9:2Luke 19:29). Bible authorities compare Jesus’ teaching on this hillside to Moses’ delivery of the law from Mount Sinai, one source designating the location “the Sinai of the New Testament.”

In Scripture, light symbolizes not only knowledge but salvation—especially with reference to Christ Jesus and his adherents. The book of Isaiah depicts the long-awaited Messiah as “a light to the Gentiles” (49:6). And Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). Here the portrayal is extended to believers, as later conveyed by the author of Ephesians: “Now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (5:8). 

multitudes: large crowds of people

Luke 10:1, 17, 18

After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. . . . And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Christ Jesus’ commissioning of seventy disciples (recorded only in Luke’s Gospel) takes place after he sends out his twelve closest followers (see 9:1–6). Commentators surmise that sending out twelve may have represented outreach to Israel—and seventy, outreach to Gentiles (an allusion to seventy nations some believe to be listed in Genesis, chap. 10). 

The number seventy brings to mind other groups entrusted with sacred tasks—such as the seventy elders of Israel appointed to assist Moses (see Numbers 11:24, 25), the seventy members of the Jewish governing council known as the Sanhedrin, and the seventy scholars said to have translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek.

Jesus’ victorious exclamation in verse 18 echoes the resounding Old Testament prophecy: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12). As meaningful as this triumph is, though, the Savior points to a higher outcome for the faithful (see Luke 10:20). A scholar explains: “More important than the disciples’ authority over spirits was their position as God’s children. Their names were known to God and were written in God’s book. This was the disciples’ greatest blessing.”

Luke 10:21

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

Sources indicate that Jesus is identifying the “wise and prudent” with Pharisees and scribes, but the characterization fits everyone who values worldly learning over childlike simplicity and teachability. Jesus’ praise for babes accords with his teaching that “whosoever . . . shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me” (Matthew 18:4, 5).

from Section 1

1 | Romans 12:2

Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Translation

. . . do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

—Amplified® Bible

Prove (Greek, dokimazō) suggests examining or approving something as genuine. Spiritual transformation—“the renewing of your mind”—brings to light “proof” of the genuine nature of God’s goodness.

“Three qualities,” offers a scriptural authority, “are specified in determining the will of God: the ‘good and acceptable and perfect.’ The gift of discernment enables the community to separate the important from the trivial, the genuine from the bogus, good from evil.” 

conformed: shaped; made to fit with something

2 | I Corinthians 13:12

Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Translation

Now we see a blurred image in a mirror. Then we will see very clearly. Now my knowledge is incomplete. Then I will have complete knowledge as God has complete knowledge of me.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Glasses, or mirrors, of Paul’s day were usually of bronze and polished with pumice stone—but even the most highly polished bronze mirrors were probably less accurate than mirrors of today. Seeing “darkly” symbolizes the imperfect human perspective, in contrast to God’s perfect view. The Greek word ainigma, part of the phrase rendered darkly, is the source of the English word enigma. Other translations refer to dimness and obscurity.

To see God “face to face” signifies a deep understanding of His nature—in earlier times, considered impossible for most people. In Exodus 33:20, God proclaims, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Yet other passages make it clear that this divinely inspired vision is attainable. The patriarch Jacob attests to having “seen God face to face” (Genesis 32:30). And Revelation 22:4 affirms that in the New Jerusalem, God’s servants “shall see his face.” Paul’s message to the Corinthians promises not partial but full knowledge of God—“even as also I am known.”

3 | James 3:11, 12

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Translation

3 | James 3:11, 12, 17

Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. . . . The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

• • •

Do good and bad water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree make olives, or can a grapevine make figs? No! And a well full of salty water cannot give good water. . . . the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help those who are troubled and to do good for others. It is always fair and honest.

—New Century Version

Early in his career, Jesus warns against false seers with this saying: “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). Now this writer—believed to be a respected Christian leader, possibly a brother of Jesus—uses the common image to argue for consistency in Christian speech and action.

from Section 2

4 | Revelation 3:7, 8

These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

In these verses, the Revelator echoes Hebrew Bible prophecy: “The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut” (Isaiah 22:22). “He that hath the key of David” is seen as pointing to Jesus’ God-given power—only Christ opens the door of God’s kingdom to humanity.

5 | I Samuel 17:4, 10

There went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. . . . And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

A race of giants is noted in Israelite prehistory, just before the story of Noah (see Genesis 6:4). Later, at the end of the Exodus, Hebrew spies sent to view the land of Canaan report seeing giants there (see Numbers 13:17–33). Known as “the sons of Anak,” these frightening warriors were largely vanquished by Joshua (see Joshua 11:21, 22). Goliath is thought to be part of a remnant of the Anakim.

Goliath was so intimidating that his challenge went unanswered for forty days (see I Samuel 17:16). Opinions vary as to his actual size, but most commentators agree on a height of nine to nearly ten and a half feet (2.75 to 3.2 meters). (A cubit was the approximate length from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger, about 18 inches or 43 cm. A span, equal to half a cubit, measured about nine inches or 22.5 cm.) At the time, the average height of a male was about five and a half feet (1.7 meters).

In this story, champion is translated from a combined Hebrew term, îš habbēnayim, meaning literally “man between two.” Goliath was chosen to stand between two armies—to engage in single combat with an enemy warrior to determine the outcome of the battle.

5 | I Samuel 17:11, 32, 45

When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. . . . And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. . . . Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

Though King Saul was commander of the Hebrew troops, only David calls them “the armies of the living God” (v. 36)—the standpoint that ensured victory. And only David trusts in God’s covenant with Israel, articulated in such divine pledges as “The Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:4). 

5 | I Samuel 17:49

David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth.

slang: hurled from a slingshot
smote: hit sharply

Translation

6 | II Samuel 22:29, 30

Thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will lighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.

• • •

O LORD, you are my lamp. 
The LORD lights up my darkness. 
In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.

—New Living Translation

from Section 3

7 | Revelation 22:16

I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

offspring: descendant; family member

Translation

8 | John 4:35

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

• • •

Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then it’s time for harvest’? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest. 

—Common English Bible

9 | Matthew 4:24

They brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

divers: various; different

from Section 4

10 | Proverbs 3:25, 26

Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.

Translation

You won’t need to be afraid of trouble coming suddenly. 
You won’t need to fear the ruin that comes to the wicked. 
The Lord will keep you safe. 
He will keep you from being trapped.

—International Children’s Bible

desolation: complete destruction

11 | Matthew 20:17–19

Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Christ Jesus has foretold his death and resurrection twice before, predictions recorded in Matthew 16:21 and 17:22, 23 as well as in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. In this instance, he names Gentiles for the first time as complicit in the killing—and he specifies crucifixion, a largely Roman form of execution for criminals.

Predicting his death, points out one scholar, “was not the end of his words, for he finished with the confident assertion of the resurrection. Beyond the curtain of suffering lay the revelation of glory; beyond the cross was the crown; . . . and beyond death was life.”

Jesus’ expected resurrection was well enough known that his enemies requested guards posted at his sepulcher, saying, “We remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again” (see Matthew 27:62–66).

betrayed: delivered to an enemy by trickery
condemn: declare to be guilty
mock: make fun of; laugh at
scourge: whip

12 | John 14:27

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Translation

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]

—Amplified® Bible Classic

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus talks at length with his closest followers, preparing them for the hours and days to come. Peace here is not merely the traditional Jewish word of greeting and farewell, nor is it the guarantee of an end to conflict. Angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth included the promise of peace (see Luke 2:8–14); now it is presented as a spiritual bequest. One source explains, “The term speaks, in effect, of the salvation that Christ’s redemptive work will achieve for his disciples—total well-being and inner rest of spirit, in fellowship with God.”

Facing the impending events with spiritual resolve (see John 12:27, 28), the Savior arms his disciples with courage as well, twice urging them not to be afraid (see also 14:1). Another authority writes: “[He] exhorts them to stand firm in the face of his departure, when the events may look to them as if evil and death are having their way. It is a rallying cry for strength.”

from Section 5

13 | Matthew 26:3, 4

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.

Caiaphas, son-in-law of the Rome-appointed high priest Annas (see John 18:13), became high priest in 18 AD. It is he who proposes the death of Jesus, saying, “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (John 11:50). He later takes part in the questioning of John and Peter (see Acts 4:1–21).

13 | Matthew 26:14–16, 49, 50

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. . . . And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

Translation

13 | Matthew 26:49, 50

Forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

• • •

At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

—New Revised Standard Version

Judas’ motivation has been debated for centuries. Of the few details given in Scripture, those in verse 15 imply greed. The value of the silver pieces isn’t clear, but it has been compared to the compensation paid for an injured slave (see Exodus 21:32)—and to the amount given to Zechariah, apparently in scant appreciation of his prophetic work (see Zechariah 11:12, 13).

The traitor arranges to identify Jesus with a kiss (see Mark 14:44), the most common sign of affection and friendship. Two Gospels describe Judas also addressing Jesus with the respectful title “Master” (see Matthew 26:49Mark 14:45). Jesus’ question “Wherefore art thou come?” is sometimes interpreted as the command “Do what you came to do.”

covenanted: made an agreement
forthwith: immediately 

14 | Matthew 27:1–4

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: and when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us?

That this meeting happens in the morning is believed to underscore the illegitimacy of the previous night’s council, since under Jewish law such meetings were not to be held at night. Understanding that only Rome could sentence a man to death, the synagogue leaders deviously frame Jesus with charges that he has broken Roman law (see Luke 23:1, 2). As governor of Judea, Pilate represents Rome—and Judas would know that killing Jesus is well within Pilate’s authority. 

In attempting to return the pieces of silver, Judas refers to innocent blood—a possible allusion to Deuteronomy 19:10: “that innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.” The synagogue rulers dismiss Judas’ regret, but they consider the money he returns “the price of blood.” Rather than placing it in the treasury, they use it to purchase a field for the burial of strangers. This parcel of land becomes known as “the field of blood” from then on (see Matthew 27:6–8).

from Section 6

15 | Acts 2:22–24

Hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Translation

“. . . 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. 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. God raised him up! God freed him from death’s dreadful grip, since it was impossible for death to hang on to him.”

—Common English Bible

determinate: deliberate; planned
foreknowledge: knowledge of something before it happens
holden of: held or controlled by

16 | I Corinthians 15:12, 20, 22

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? . . . But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. . . . in Christ shall all be made alive.

Translation

. . . tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? . . . But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. . . . everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

—New Living Translation

Paul is responding to a claim in the Corinthian church that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” His logic is compelling: With Christ’s resurrection came the assurance of resurrection for all. Rejection of universal resurrection is a tacit rejection of that pivotal event—and an undermining of all Christian faith and preaching (see vv. 13, 14).

17 | Ephesians 4:8

He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

In this passage, the writer recalls Psalms 68:18, which in turn echoes the prophetess Deborah’s song in Judges 5:12. Both of these citations speak about leading “captivity captive.” Though commentators disagree on the meaning of the phrase, several take it to depict capturing or leading away one’s enemies.

The giving of gifts, according to several sources, is similar to the distribution of rewards to victors after a battle. Christ’s triumphant ascension results in rich gifts to the faithful (see Ephesians 4:9–13). “The gift of God,” declares Paul, “is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, citation 18).

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Kids' article

Read a related article at jsh.christianscience.com/charlie-s-armor.

The Bible Lessons serve as weekly study guides as well as the sermon in every Christian Science Sunday church service. Learn more at BibleLesson.com

Resources quoted in this issue

RR: Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. New York: Scribner, 1887. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries; Radmacher, Earl D., Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House. The NKJV Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

Cit. 1: Gaventa, Beverly Roberts. The New Interpreter’s Bible: One-Volume Commentary. Nashville, Tenn: Abingdon Press, 2010.

Cit. 11: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

Cit. 12: Barker, Kenneth, et al., eds. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995; Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 9, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996–2001.

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