WHO WERE the MAGI? — Matthew 2:2

“The Magi asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’”

Some believe that the Magi were Gentile wise men and the first Gentiles to worship Jesus. But the Magi could easily have been descendants of the Jews who did not return to Jerusalem after their seventy years of captivity in Babylon. Daniel and his three friends rose to high positions in the Babylonian court, and there is every reason to believe that they and others like them advised King Cyrus of Persia and many other subsequent rulers in the East where their descendants made their homes for the next 500 years. Some Jewish Magi probably knew to look for the Messiah and His star. The Hebrew Scriptures prophesied: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). When some of them saw the special star that announced the Messiah’s birth, they traveled perhaps 800 miles to find and worship Him. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, King Herod, the high priests, the teachers of the law, and the people were disturbed to learn of the Magi’s expectation of finding the newborn Messiah. The chief priests told King Herod and the Magi about the prophecy that predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. King Herod wanted to murder the Messiah, and we have no indication from Matthew that anyone other than these Magi sought Him to find Him to honor Him. When the star appeared again, the Magi found the house where Jesus and His family stayed. They were overjoyed, and they worshiped Him.

Study the International Bible Study
Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

GOD WITH US — Matthew 1:18-25

International Bible Lesson Commentary

(Matthew 1:18) Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Matthew’s gospel includes a short summary of facts about the birth of Jesus that highlighted important truths: the Messiah was to be named “Jesus;” He was born of a virgin named Mary; He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (not Joseph, who was only engaged to her at that time). Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, but Joseph took Mary as his wife and adopted her Son as his own son. Jesus was sent by God to save His people from their sins. Mary must have told Joseph about the angel’s appearance to her; perhaps after she had visited Elizabeth (as recorded by Luke).

(Matthew 1:19) Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

Though Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married and were not living together, the community considered their engagement as binding as a marriage. Perhaps Joseph felt unworthy to become the adopted father of the Messiah and wanted to dismiss her quietly so God could do what was best for Mary and His Son. Perhaps he was afraid (see Matthew 1:20) he would offend God if he went ahead and took Mary as his wife if God had other plans. Perhaps he wanted to open the way for God to care for His Son in the way God wanted without being a hindrance to God.

(Matthew 1:20) But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Joseph had Mary’s testimony to him as one fact to consider with regard to how he should proceed. As a righteous man, Joseph lived by faith, prayer, and true love for God and others; therefore, he probably thought he had made the right decision according to the law of God. In this verse, Matthew reaffirmed through the words of the angel that the adopted father of Jesus was of the line of David. The angel told Joseph that what Mary had told him was accurate and no delusion. Truly, Jesus really had been conceived by the Holy Spirit; and Mary and Jesus were both were also wholly within the will of God. Joseph should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because God the Father wanted him to raise the Son of God as his and Mary’s son. Knowing that Jesus was adopted by Joseph should encourage all who are adopted, and in the Bible all of Jesus’ true followers are called adopted children of God.

(Matthew 1:21) She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The angel said specifically that Mary would give birth to a male child. When Joseph took Him as his son, he was to name him “Jesus,” which means “God is salvation.” When the Messiah came, His primary purpose was to save God’s people from their sins (not overthrow the Roman Empire).  Jesus would save God’s people not only from the eternal consequences of their sins but also free them from slavery to sin and empower them to love and obey God according to the Bible’s teachings.

(Matthew 1:22) All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

 What the angel told Joseph would take place had been planned and prophesied for centuries before God scheduled Jesus to be born. Jesus came and throughout His life He fulfilled various prophecies, and He said that He had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. Jesus did what the Scriptures said the Messiah would do, and more remains for Him to do as priest and king in heaven between now and after He returns.

(Matthew 1:23) “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

Mary was more than just a young woman. In fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies, she had never done anything toward the physical conception of a child before the Holy Spirit overshadowed her as the angel told her and she conceived Jesus. Her Son would be “Emmanuel.” From what Jesus said about himself and did, He convinced people that He was God with them, the Son of God. When God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, God affirmed and endorsed all that Jesus said about himself and did. Jesus, God with us, humbled himself, came to serve us, and saves believers from their sins.

(Matthew 1:24) When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,

Joseph believed what the angel told him. He acted in faith when he did what the angel told him to do. Joseph showed that he was a righteous man when he obeyed God. Joseph did not act only on the basis of what the angel said. The angel referred Joseph to what the Bible said through the prophets and the promises of God. So, Joseph had not only the words of the angel and Mary before he acted in faith; Joseph also had the words of God’s prophets. Joseph believed the Bible, the Word of God written, and the Bible confirmed what the angel told him; then, he acted in faith.

(Matthew 1:25) but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

As a righteous man, Joseph did not do anything that might hurt Mary or compromise the birth of the Son of God. The Bible certainly implies that Joseph and Mary maintained a normal, healthy marriage after Jesus was born, and they raised Jesus as devoted parents. Joseph named their Son “Jesus” as the angel commanded, and they raised Him in a devout home (for example, taking Jesus to the temple when He was 12).

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International Bible Study
Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Epitome of True Love — John 13:34

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34).

After Jesus had shown His disciples how much He loved them, and after Jesus had loved them perfectly for three years, Jesus gave them a new commandment. When Jesus gave His disciples this new commandment, He also expected them to love the LORD their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. Unhappily, we all love ourselves imperfectly and this affects how we love others. Jesus made His way of loving the perfect standard for Christian love. Jesus said that those who believe in Him needed to love their fellow believers as He loved all those who believe in Him. Jesus said that everyone should recognize Christians by the way they love one another. Christians love one another differently from the way they love others. For example, Jesus loved everyone, including the ones who wanted to kill Him or betray Him. He wanted what was best for everyone, so He told everyone the truth about God, the world, and how His Father loved them so much that He sent His Son to help people overcome their self-destructive tendencies and ways. Christians love others when they share this good news about God’s love in Jesus for everyone. When the followers of Jesus maintain a common faith in Jesus and the Bible, they love one another. They praise God and share their God-given joy and love with their fellow believers. Christian love enables Christians to feel heartfelt happiness when they gather to worship and work together. When serving others, Jesus’ love within Christians draws others into the circle of God’s love.

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and Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Have A Blessed Day! — John 13:17

If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (John 13:17)

As I walked out of a store recently, a customer behind me said to me, “Have a blessed day!” Though I have received that blessing before, I was truly blessed to hear it and receive it again, and I turned and thanked her. In today’s world where we hear so many cursing others, it is truly a blessing to hear someone bless you, for the blessing can send happiness into your heart. “Have a blessed day” is a Christian blessing; so how can we always enjoy a blessed day? After Jesus humbly washed His disciples’ feet, in John 13:13, Jesus said to them, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.” Jesus taught and showed His followers how to serve others, and He said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Three fundamental or key elements in the Christian faith bring blessings to Christians. First, Christians accept Jesus as their Teacher. They believe what He taught about God, himself, and reality as revealed in the Bible. Second, Christians accept Jesus as their Lord. Christians believe Jesus is the Lord over all of life, and they kneel before Jesus because they have received Him as the Lord over all their life. Third, Christians face the world and all they see and hear with hope and happiness because they know their everlasting future is secure in the hands of their Savior. Building their lives on these foundational truths, Christians receive God’s blessing when they live according to what they know and believe to be true; when they love and serve others as Jesus commanded. Have a blessed day!

Study the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Consequences for Loving Money — Acts 4:32-5:11

‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?’” (Acts 5:3).

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian. Ananias appeared to be a Christian. He went to church with the Apostle Peter, and he even gave some of the proceeds from a land sale to the church, but he sold the land for more than he said and kept the difference. Peter then explained that personal property and money belong to Christians to save, spend, or share as they choose. No Christian is under compulsion to give any of his money or property to the church. Ananias and Sapphira lied and gave because they wanted people’s praise for their giving, but Jesus taught that the best giving is done secretly (Matthew 6:3-4). Ananias committed a great sin by lying to the Holy Spirit and to the church, but why did Satan fill his heart to lie? Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Ananias loved money; so he came to hate and despise God just as Jesus warned. Therefore, Satan filled his heart and left no room for the love of God. Ananias became similar to Judas. Because Judas loved money he came to hate and despise Jesus; therefore, Satan entered him (John 13:27). Both proved that “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Acts 4:32-5:11 Archive

for November 22, 2020
(Scroll to Acts 4:32-5:11 )

Know the Son to Know the Father — John 12:44-50

And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me (John 12:50—NRSV).

When we think of a commandment, we sometimes think of the Ten Commandments that the LORD gave Moses. We know that Jews and Christians have an obligation to obey the Ten Commandments because they are the Moral Law of God or Law of Love. We do not often remember that God the Father gave a commandment to His only Son before He sent Him into the world. Jesus served as a perfect example by obeying all the commandments of God. In John 12:49, we learn the special commandment that the Father gave Jesus was “about what to say and what to speak.” We know that the Father’s commandment was vitally important because Jesus told the crowd when He spoke to the masses for the last time that He came to save the world, and “on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge” (John 12:48). Jesus spoke what His Father commanded Him to speak to save people from destruction. When Jesus declared that God the Father’s commandment is eternal life, we need to know what Jesus taught about eternal life. In John 17:3, speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” To “know” does not just mean intellectual knowledge. Jesus meant that eternal life involves a personal relationship with the Father and the Son based on knowing God as revealed in the Bible. In John 12:45, we learn how to know them both, for Jesus said, “Whoever sees me sees Him who sent me.”

Thinking Further

1. If you believe in Jesus, who did Jesus say you also believe in? If you see Jesus, who did Jesus say you also see?

2. How did Jesus come into the world?

3. Why did Jesus come in that way into the world?

4. On the last day, what will serve as judge of those who reject Jesus?

5. What commandment did the Father give Jesus? What did Jesus say about His Father’s commandment?

Discuss the above questions by making a comment
Study the International Bible Study Commentary
and Lesson on John 12:44-50

Believing In Jesus but Afraid to Confess Him — John 12:37-43

Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in Jesus. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God (John 12:42-43—NRSV).

Most of the elite in Judea did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah or a prophet. They loved the power, prestige, and position this world offers too much to risk all they valued to follow a poor Galilean carpenter turned preacher and kingdom-wide sensation because of His many signs. The people followed Jesus gladly and openly because of His loving and powerful works that only God would and could do. The elite ignored them, but they knew God loved them. Jesus showed divine compassion to the blind, the lame, and the bereaved that He healed and raised from the dead. Jesus went from town to town to teach the truth about God and the Scriptures to any who had ears to hear, whereas many of the elite thought thinking about the disadvantaged was not worth their time. Still, John reported that some of the elite did believe in Jesus. They knew Jesus was worthy to be followed as one sent from God. However, John also said that some of these elite believers would not confess their faith in Jesus and openly follow Jesus because they did not want to suffer separation from their friends and fellow rulers in the synagogue. They loved to seek the success this world offers to those who conform to the values held by those of this world, so they

refused to seek honor from God and the gift of eternal life that Jesus offers to all who truly believe in Him.

Thinking Further

1. What should have convinced those who saw Jesus to believe in Him?

2. What questions did Isaiah ask? How were these questions answered?

3. Why were some people unable to believe in Jesus?

4. Why do you think the Lord did this to these people?

5. Why did some who believed in Jesus prefer not to confess it? Do some still have this problem today?

Discuss the above questions by making a comment
Study the International Bible Study Commentary
and Lesson on John 12:37-43

Only Jesus Can Unite (Political) Enemies – John 12:35-36

“Jesus said to the crowd, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’ After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them” (John 12:35-36).

In the United States two political parties represent most Americans in two almost equal groups of millions of people. What these two parties believe, what they say, and how they act are vastly different. And within each of these two parties their may be one or two groups of people, but from what the Bible teaches no more than one or two groups of people can be in each of these two parties.

Some, perhaps the majority, in each party think those in the other party are evil for a variety of different reasons, and perhaps they are right. In various ways, some in each party think people in both parties should come together, unite, and be at peace. Which really means for some in each group: in order to stop the fighting and have peace and unity you must agree with what our party says and does and leave your tent (party) and come into our tent (party). But this cannot happen when many people in both parties think the other party and the people in it are evil. Each party has different goals and objectives and different ways of trying to meet their objectives that contradict one another—they cannot come together without the help of Jesus.

Reason tells us that both parties with their opposite views and behaviors cannot both be right. Reason also tells us that they could both be wrong. So, we need to ask the question, “Can Jesus Unite Enemies?” And the answer is, “ONLY Jesus can Unite Enemies.” Only Jesus can stop the fighting and bring peace, and He has shown us it can be done and with His help we can do it too.

As we have studied in the Gospel of John the last twelve months, we have learned that there are two groups of human beings and only two, not three. Jesus taught that He is the Light, the Son of the Father, the Word made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life; therefore, as we have learned, Jesus can and did unite enemies that hated one another. Because of Jesus, some people from these two groups came together and when they did, they ceased to be enemies because they had all become friends of Jesus. They came together on Jesus’ terms, not their terms. They put Jesus first ahead of their party and ahead of themselves.

Let’s look more closely at the two groups of people that Jesus united.

First: Jesus is the Light, and those who truly believe in and follow Jesus are children of light. Among other truths about Light (the Light that is Jesus), LIGHT means TRUE TRUTH. Children of light believe in Jesus, believe what Jesus taught, believe the Bible is true in all it affirms, try to obey and follow Jesus and His teachings with the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus obeyed the Father. They love God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They love one another, and even their enemies, for God is love. They have come out of the tent that Jesus called “this world” and into His tent that He called the Kingdom of God.

Second: As we have seen from our study, the other group of people are those who walk in darkness. Those who walk in darkness and some of the children of light are in both political parties for different reasons. Let’s briefly condense what Paul wrote and see how the Bible describes the group that walks in darkness. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul wrote that those who walk in darkness are ungodly, unrighteous, and they suppress the truth (they lie by commission and omission). They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and they worship the creature (creation) rather than the Creator.

The Bible constantly warns the children of light not to be deceived by those who walk in darkness. To avoid being deceived, the children of light must follow the advice that Paul told Timothy to remember in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, “. . . . the sacred writings are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” The children of light build their lives on faith in Christ Jesus and following the Scriptures in every area of their lives with the help of the Holy Spirit who indwells them. Children of light do not abandon their faith, their obedience to Jesus Christ in all things, and their commitment to stand up for an proclaim the truth when they work within a political party.

Notice: I did not call the children of light “Christians,” for not all “Christians” are children of light. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?” And Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12-14, “Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” Those who walk in darkness do persecute the children of light, but they are deceived and deceiving others. You will find “Christians” in both political parties, but you cannot expect “Christians” who walk in darkness to behave, think, and talk like children of light. They don’t have the truth, the mind of Christ, and the other needed equipment that Jesus has given to the children of light.

Only Jesus Christ can draw someone who is deceived and walking in darkness to Him and only Jesus Christ can make someone a child of light. Jesus came into the world to do exactly that for in John 3:16, Jesus promised, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” And in John 6:37, Jesus promised, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” Children of light can help others see and come into the Light that is Jesus Christ, who will lead them out of the darkness and into the light.

Only Jesus can unite enemies, and He does so by making them children of God, children of light, on His terms when they enter the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, children of light will be friends with God and friends with one another forever. With the help of Jesus and the truth of the Bible, we can unite enemies, but we can only unite them when they become friends of Jesus and choose to come out of the darkness to live inside His big tent, the Kingdom of God.

To learn more about Jesus and the Gospel of John, visit the International Bible Study Commentary.

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Love Lasts Forever — John 15:4-17 for November 8, 2020

The International Uniform Lesson Series Commentary and Activities
From the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson Archives
on John 15:1-17
Links to ALL November Lessons are below

King James Version

John 15:1-17 KJV Easy-Print Commentary

John 15:1-17 KJV Easy-Print Large Print Commentary

King James Version Student Study Handout for John 15:1-17

New American Standard Bible

John 15:1-17 NASB Easy-Print Commentary

John 15:1-17 NASB Easy-Print Large Print Commentary

New American Standard Bible Student Study Handout for John 15:1-17

New International Version

John 15:1-17 NIV Easy-Print Commentary

John 15:1-17 NIV Easy-Print Large Print Commentary

New International Version Student Study Handout for John 15:1-17

New Revised Standard Version

John 15:1-17 NRSV Easy-Print Commentary

John 15:1-17 NRSV Easy-Print Large Print Commentary

New Revised Standard Version Student Study Handout for John 15:1-17

Audio Edition John 15:1-17 Commentary and Lesson

Audio Edition John 15:1-17 Commentary and Lesson

Student Handouts for This or Next Week’s Lesson

Verse-by-Verse KJV Handout for John 15:1-17

Verse-by-Verse NASB Handout for John 15:1-17

Verse-by-Verse NIV Handout for John 15:1-17

Verse-by-Verse NRSV Handout for John 15:1-17

Can Be Used At the Beginning of Class or Handed out for Next Week’s Lesson


You did not choose me,
but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit
—fruit that will last—
and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you

John 15:16).

God’s Many Gifts to His Children

God’s Many Gifts to His Children – Large Print

God’s Many Gifts to His Children – Bulletin Size

Teacher Study Hints for Thinking Further

Study Hints for Thinking Further on John 15:1-17

Study Hints for Thinking Further on John 15:1-17 (Large Print)

Application for John 15:1-17

Application — Five Takeaways for John 15:1-17

Application — Five Takeaways for John 15:1-17 (Large Print)

Easy-Print Bible Activities for Student Lesson Review

Crossword Puzzle for John 15:1-17

True and False Test for John 15:1-17

Word Search Puzzle for John 15:1-17

Praying Through John 15:1-17

Praying Through John 15:1-17

Praying Through John 15:1-17 (Large Print)

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 John 3:11-24 Archive

for November 15, 2020

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Acts 4:32-5:11 Archive

for November 22, 2020
(Scroll to Acts 4:32-5:11 )

International Bible Lesson Commentary
James 2:1-13 Archive

for November 29, 2020
(Scroll to James 2:1-13)

How To Avoid Deception and Darkness — John 12:27-36

Jesus said to the crowd, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going” (John 12:35—NRSV).

Between Palm Sunday and the day Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, Jesus told the crowd that “the light is with you for a little longer.” Jesus used the word “light” to refer to himself. In John 14:6, Jesus used the divine name “I Am” and the word “truth” to refer to himself. Sometimes the word “light” is a substitute for “truth.” The word “walk” often means “practice.” Jesus warned the crowd that they needed to practice living and walking in the light, meaning the truth of His teachings and the truth of who He claimed to be: the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Son of God that His heavenly Father sent to save the world. In only a few days, the light was taken from the crowd. Those who had continued walking in darkness did not know where they were headed when they called out to Pilate, the Roman governor, “Crucify Him!” Of course, Jesus spoke spiritually. Today, when people hear the truth or “see the light” some choose to do what Jesus asserted in John 12:36, “Believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” When darkness descends, the children of light know the truth of the Scriptures, so they can recognize deception. Because they believe in Jesus, the darkness will not overtake them. They will follow Jesus and His teachings as the Holy Spirit shines the light of understanding and shows the way through the darkness.

Thinking Further

1. Since Jesus is the Son of God, why do you think His soul was troubled about His coming crucifixion and death?

2. Did Jesus pray to the Father that He would not die? If not, why not? How did Jesus pray to His Father?

3. What or who is the ruler of this world? What is his destiny?

4. What did Jesus mean when He said that He would be lifted up from the earth? What else might He have meant that He did not tell the crowd?

5. As the Son of Man, how did Jesus describe himself to the crowd?

Discuss the above questions by making a comment
Read the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson on John 12:27-36