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

Unreality

from the Golden Text

Job 34:4

Let us judge for ourselves what is right; let us decide together what is good.

—Christian Standard Bible

Part of a six-chapter discourse, these words are spoken by Elihu—the last person to talk with Job before God addresses him. In this verse he advocates for wise judgment about the opinions expressed earlier by Job’s friends (see, for instance, chaps. 202225). One interpretation of this admonition has, “Consider the evidence carefully, and on the basis of sound reason and high moral and religious principles reach a verdict.”

from the Responsive Reading

James 3:11–13

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. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? 

Early in his career, Christ Jesus warns against false prophets 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— a respected leader of believers in Jerusalem and thought to be a brother of Jesus—employs the metaphor to argue for consistency in speech and action.

Psalms 37:3–6

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. 

Psalm 37 is a collection of proverbs arranged as an acrostic (each section beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Its forty verses alternate between exhortations to godliness and promises of rewards for obedience to them. In this passage, trust in God—a theme in dozens of psalms—is shown to guarantee divine provision, security, and justice.

from Section 1

3 | Psalms 119:65, 66

Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according unto thy word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.

Translation

LORD,  be good to me
     as you have promised.
Increase my knowledge and give me good sense,
     because I trust your commands.

—New International Reader’s Version

4 | Psalms 40:4, 5

Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward.

Translation

You bless all of those
      who trust you, LORD,
and refuse to worship idols
      or follow false gods.
You, LORD  God, have done 
      many wonderful things,
and you have planned
      marvelous things for us.

—Contemporary English Version

“The proud,” translated from the Hebrew adjective rāhāb, refers to idols. Describing the blessed person as “more concerned with God’s approval than with man’s,” a commentator reflects that “fullness of joy is found only in God’s presence—not in the company of those who worship at idol shrines.”

from Section 2

6 | II Timothy 3:16, 17

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Translation

Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval. They equip God’s servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

8 | Micah 6:8

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Translation

The Lord has told you what is good.
      He has told you what he wants from you:
Do what is right to other people.
      Love being kind to others.
      And live humbly, trusting your God.

—International Children’s Bible

With this question, the prophet foreshadows the two great commandments Jesus highlighted—to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself (see Matthew 22:36–39). Micah’s charge represents a definitive break with some views of religion as mere ritual. Devotion to God, he affirms, is a matter of one’s entire heart, character, and life.

Sources compare Micah’s assertion to that of Hosea: “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me” (Hosea 6:6, The Living Bible).

10 | Psalms 37:37 

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

Šāmar, the Hebrew word rendered mark, means to guard, protect, or watch. Earlier, it is translated keep: “Wait on the Lord, and keep [šāmar] his way” (v. 34).

Verse 37 stands in contrast to the preceding text about the wicked man: “He passed away, and, lo, he was not” (v. 36). End is translated from the Hebrew noun ’aha rît, alluding to future reward or outcome. The upright will enjoy the completeness, soundness, and well-being encompassed in the concept of peace (šālôm).

from Section 3

11 | Jeremiah 31:34

They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

After introducing a new covenant between God and His people (see vv. 31–33), Jeremiah foretells a radical outcome: No one will need to be reminded or taught to understand God. Each of His children will know Him in their heart as an all-forgiving God. 

Counsel and prophecy about knowing God are found throughout the Bible. Psalms 46:10 instructs, “Be still, and know that I am God”; Jeremiah 24:7 promises, “I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord”; Hosea 6:6 confesses, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

Christ Jesus equates knowledge of God with immortality: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). And Second Peter offers this prayer: “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (1:2).

12 | John 7:14–16

Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

Some degree of literacy was common among Hebrew men. But Jesus’ listeners wondered at the depth of his understanding of Scripture. The Savior’s response redefines doctrine (translated from the Greek noun didakhē, or teachings) solely as knowledge of his heavenly Father.

13 | Luke 5:18–25

Men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

By this point in Jesus’ ministry, news of his healing work has spread widely, reaching the attention of Jewish religious officials. At this event healing is expected, as is apparent in the public arrival of the paralyzed man. Yet Jesus initially responds with forgiveness of sin, no doubt a surprise to everyone there.

Considering his words blasphemy, the Pharisees mutter indignantly. Jesus then poses a question sometimes viewed as a riddle or conundrum: Is it easier to say that sins are forgiven or to command that a lame person stand and walk? Forgiving sins seemed easier, since its results weren’t visible; the command to walk appeared more difficult because its effects needed to be seen. Theologically, however, forgiveness of wrongdoing was deemed the harder task. Whatever the prevailing opinion, the Master demonstrates his authority over both sin and disease.

Here, in the first of over two dozen mentions of “Son of man” in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus announces his status as God’s chosen emissary to humanity.

from Section 4

14 | Amos 5:14, 15

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.

Translation

Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil, so that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty really will be with you, as you claim he is. Hate what is evil, love what is right, and see that justice prevails in the courts.

—Good News Translation

Though originally from the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos was called to prophesy circa 760 bc  in the northern kingdom of Israel. There he found egregious social injustice, including oppression of the poor by the wealthy. Amos declares that sacrifices and songs of praise are worth nothing without the justice and righteousness expected of God’s people.

While likely edited multiple times, the book of Amos is thought to include some of the most ancient scriptural texts—and was perhaps the first prophetic message to be written down rather than only spoken. According to a Bible expert, Amos initiated the practice of establishing his credentials by recounting his call (see 1:1)—a tradition that enabled true prophets of God to distinguish themselves from “professional” seers, who made predictions without divine sanction.

“As you have spoken” refers to spoken prayers, believed to invoke God’s presence during worship. To hate evil and love good, several sources surmise, goes beyond a mere change of attitude to decisive action. One suggests, “To seek good rather than evil is to make a decision for Yahweh . . . and therefore will bring blessing, but to decide for evil is to decide against Yahweh and will bring about His judgment.”

15 | Psalms 1:1

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Translation

Oh, the joys of those who do not
      follow the advice of the wicked,
      or stand around with sinners,
      or join in with mockers.

—New Living Translation

16 | Psalms 112:4, 7

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: . . . He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. 

Translation

A light shines in the dark for honest people, . . .
They won’t be afraid of bad news;
      their hearts are steady because they trust the LORD.

—New Century Version

17 | Psalms 143:7, 8, 10

Hear me speedily, O Lord: . . . Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. . . . Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

Translation

Answer me, LORD —and quickly! . . .
Tell me all about your faithful love come morning time,
      because I trust you.
Show me the way I should go,
      because I offer my life up to you. . . .
Teach me to do what pleases you,
      because you are my God.
Guide me by your good spirit
      into good land.

—Common English Bible

from Section 5

18 | Psalms 103:6

The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

Translation

For all who are mistreated,
      the LORD  brings justice.

—Contemporary English Version

19 | Psalms 107:13–15, 20

They cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! . . . He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 

Translation

. . . they cried in their trouble,
      and he saved them from their distress.
He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom;
      he snapped their chains.
Let them praise the LORD  for his great love
      and for the wonderful things he has done for them. . . .
He sent out his word and healed them,
      snatching them from the door of death.

—New Living Translation

20 | John 8:32

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Translation

“. . . you will know the truth [regarding salvation], and the truth will set you free [from the penalty of sin].”

—Amplified® Bible

21 | Acts 12:1, 3–11 

Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. . . . And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. . . . And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

King Agrippa I of Judea, called Herod in the New Testament, courted popularity with the Israelites even as he worked to maintain good relations with Rome. Peter’s standing in the young Christian community made him a natural target of the king’s political expediency.

Peter’s arrest at this time is his third (see also 4:35:18). It takes place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, mistakenly given the much later Christian designation Easter in this King James Version account. Many Jews would have been in Jerusalem for this Passover celebration, just as they were at the Master’s crucifixion. Agrippa likely anticipates that there will be a large crowd when he brings Peter before the people. 

On the night before the intended execution, the king secures Peter with “four quaternions of soldiers.” These 16 soldiers, divided into squads of four, guard him in shifts—with two of them chained to him—around the clock. “The first and the second ward” implies either that Peter is detained in an innermost cell or that jailers are placed at additional posts.

Given Agrippa’s recent murder of the Apostle James (see v. 2), the community of believers must have indeed prayed fervently for the imprisoned Peter. Nevertheless, his divinely accomplished release is at first doubted. Peter himself initially thinks he is experiencing a vision, and his friends need persuading (see vv. 13–16). While the story doesn’t record their joy, it would surely have been boundless.

22 | Psalms 91:2, 11

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. . . . For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Translation

I will say about the LORD,
      “He is my place of safety.
He is like a fort to me.
      He is my God. I trust in him.” . . .
The LORD  will command his angels
      to take good care of you.

—New International Reader’s Version

from Section 6

24 | Isaiah 51:4

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people. 

Translation

“Listen to me, my people,
      listen to what I say:
I give my teaching to the nations;
      my laws will bring them light.”

—Good News Translation

25 | Matthew 13:16

Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Eyes and ears are frequent images for discernment in Scripture. Just before this declaration, Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9, 10 to explain the people’s lack of spiritual understanding. Then he blesses his disciples, who—though largely uneducated—perceive his God-given message. One commentary remarks: “. . . if a person’s heart is open to Jesus’ message, he or she will come to Jesus for further clarification about its meaning, as the disciples do (13:10). Jesus’ revelation of truth and the disciples’ obedient receptivity is the required distinction in understanding and not understanding.” Another scholar adds, “Understanding is not a human accomplishment, but a gift of God.”


Read a related article, “What I learned from a weekend in jail” by John Quincy Adams III, at jsh.christianscience.com/what-i-learned-from-a-weekend-in-jail.

from the Golden Text

Job 34:4

Let us judge for ourselves what is right; let us decide together what is good.

—Christian Standard Bible

Part of a six-chapter discourse, these words are spoken by Elihu—the last person to talk with Job before God addresses him. In this verse he advocates for wise judgment about the opinions expressed earlier by Job’s friends (see, for instance, chaps. 202225). One interpretation of this admonition has, “Consider the evidence carefully, and on the basis of sound reason and high moral and religious principles reach a verdict.”

from the Responsive Reading

James 3:11–13

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. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? 

Early in his career, Christ Jesus warns against false prophets 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— a respected leader of believers in Jerusalem and thought to be a brother of Jesus—employs the metaphor to argue for consistency in speech and action.

Psalms 37:3–6

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. 

Psalm 37 is a collection of proverbs arranged as an acrostic (each section beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet). Its forty verses alternate between exhortations to godliness and promises of rewards for obedience to them. In this passage, trust in God—a theme in dozens of psalms—is shown to guarantee divine provision, security, and justice.

from Section 1

4 | Psalms 40:4, 5

Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward.

“The proud,” translated from the Hebrew adjective rāhāb, refers to idols. Describing the blessed person as “more concerned with God’s approval than with man’s,” a commentator reflects that “fullness of joy is found only in God’s presence—not in the company of those who worship at idol shrines.”

from Section 2

8 | Micah 6:8

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

With this question, the prophet foreshadows the two great commandments Jesus highlighted—to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself (see Matthew 22:36–39). Micah’s charge represents a definitive break with some views of religion as mere ritual. Devotion to God, he affirms, is a matter of one’s entire heart, character, and life.

Sources compare Micah’s assertion to that of Hosea: “I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me” (Hosea 6:6, The Living Bible).

10 | Psalms 37:37 

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

Šāmar, the Hebrew word rendered mark, means to guard, protect, or watch. Earlier, it is translated keep: “Wait on the Lord, and keep [šāmar] his way” (v. 34).

Verse 37 stands in contrast to the preceding text about the wicked man: “He passed away, and, lo, he was not” (v. 36). End is translated from the Hebrew noun ’aha rît, alluding to future reward or outcome. The upright will enjoy the completeness, soundness, and well-being encompassed in the concept of peace (šālôm).

from Section 3

11 | Jeremiah 31:34

They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

After introducing a new covenant between God and His people (see vv. 31–33), Jeremiah foretells a radical outcome: No one will need to be reminded or taught to understand God. Each of His children will know Him in their heart as an all-forgiving God. 

Counsel and prophecy about knowing God are found throughout the Bible. Psalms 46:10 instructs, “Be still, and know that I am God”; Jeremiah 24:7 promises, “I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord”; Hosea 6:6 confesses, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

Christ Jesus equates knowledge of God with immortality: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). And Second Peter offers this prayer: “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (1:2).

12 | John 7:14–16

Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

Some degree of literacy was common among Hebrew men. But Jesus’ listeners wondered at the depth of his understanding of Scripture. The Savior’s response redefines doctrine (translated from the Greek noun didakhē, or teachings) solely as knowledge of his heavenly Father.

13 | Luke 5:18–25

Men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

By this point in Jesus’ ministry, news of his healing work has spread widely, reaching the attention of Jewish religious officials. At this event healing is expected, as is apparent in the public arrival of the paralyzed man. Yet Jesus initially responds with forgiveness of sin, no doubt a surprise to everyone there.

Considering his words blasphemy, the Pharisees mutter indignantly. Jesus then poses a question sometimes viewed as a riddle or conundrum: Is it easier to say that sins are forgiven or to command that a lame person stand and walk? Forgiving sins seemed easier, since its results weren’t visible; the command to walk appeared more difficult because its effects needed to be seen. Theologically, however, forgiveness of wrongdoing was deemed the harder task. Whatever the prevailing opinion, the Master demonstrates his authority over both sin and disease.

Here, in the first of over two dozen mentions of “Son of man” in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus announces his status as God’s chosen emissary to humanity.

from Section 4

14 | Amos 5:14, 15

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.

Though originally from the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos was called to prophesy circa 760 bc  in the northern kingdom of Israel. There he found egregious social injustice, including oppression of the poor by the wealthy. Amos declares that sacrifices and songs of praise are worth nothing without the justice and righteousness expected of God’s people.

While likely edited multiple times, the book of Amos is thought to include some of the most ancient scriptural texts—and was perhaps the first prophetic message to be written down rather than only spoken. According to a Bible expert, Amos initiated the practice of establishing his credentials by recounting his call (see 1:1)—a tradition that enabled true prophets of God to distinguish themselves from “professional” seers, who made predictions without divine sanction.

“As you have spoken” refers to spoken prayers, believed to invoke God’s presence during worship. To hate evil and love good, several sources surmise, goes beyond a mere change of attitude to decisive action. One suggests, “To seek good rather than evil is to make a decision for Yahweh . . . and therefore will bring blessing, but to decide for evil is to decide against Yahweh and will bring about His judgment.”

from Section 5

21 | Acts 12:1, 3–11 

Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. . . . And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. . . . And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

King Agrippa I of Judea, called Herod in the New Testament, courted popularity with the Israelites even as he worked to maintain good relations with Rome. Peter’s standing in the young Christian community made him a natural target of the king’s political expediency.

Peter’s arrest at this time is his third (see also 4:35:18). It takes place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, mistakenly given the much later Christian designation Easter in this King James Version account. Many Jews would have been in Jerusalem for this Passover celebration, just as they were at the Master’s crucifixion. Agrippa likely anticipates that there will be a large crowd when he brings Peter before the people. 

On the night before the intended execution, the king secures Peter with “four quaternions of soldiers.” These 16 soldiers, divided into squads of four, guard him in shifts—with two of them chained to him—around the clock. “The first and the second ward” implies either that Peter is detained in an innermost cell or that jailers are placed at additional posts.

Given Agrippa’s recent murder of the Apostle James (see v. 2), the community of believers must have indeed prayed fervently for the imprisoned Peter. Nevertheless, his divinely accomplished release is at first doubted. Peter himself initially thinks he is experiencing a vision, and his friends need persuading (see vv. 13–16). While the story doesn’t record their joy, it would surely have been boundless.

from Section 6

25 | Matthew 13:16

Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

Eyes and ears are frequent images for discernment in Scripture. Just before this declaration, Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9, 10 to explain the people’s lack of spiritual understanding. Then he blesses his disciples, who—though largely uneducated—perceive his God-given message. One commentary remarks: “. . . if a person’s heart is open to Jesus’ message, he or she will come to Jesus for further clarification about its meaning, as the disciples do (13:10). Jesus’ revelation of truth and the disciples’ obedient receptivity is the required distinction in understanding and not understanding.” Another scholar adds, “Understanding is not a human accomplishment, but a gift of God.”


Read a related article, “What I learned from a weekend in jail” by John Quincy Adams III, at jsh.christianscience.com/what-i-learned-from-a-weekend-in-jail.

Resources quoted in this issue

GT: Christian Standard Bible®, copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission; Buttrick, George Arthur, Nolan B. Harmon, et al., eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 3, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job. Nashville: Abingdon, 1951–57.

Cit. 4: Macdonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, 2016.

Cit. 8: The Living Bible, copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL. All rights reserved.

Cit. 14: jewishencyclopedia.com. Accessed July 21, 2022. https://jewishencyclopedia.com/; Bruce, F. F. Zondervan Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Cit. 25: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7, The Gospels and Narrative Literature, Jesus and the Gospels, Matthew, Mark. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015; Wilkins, Michael J. NIV Application Commentary: From Biblical Text . . . to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

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