Duddingston KirkChurch of Scotland Burning Bush logo

Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

The Kirk and grounds are currently closed.

Bible Reading Notes

These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!

These guidelines may help you.

May 2020

The Gospel of John

May 28      John 11:45–57

Many today doubt if the miracle really took place, yet here we read that many of those who witnessed the event believed in Christ, and Christ’s main critics, the Pharisees and chief priests, were aware that miracles were happening. They lived in a land occupied by a foreign power. The Romans allowed them certain privileges not normally granted to subject nations. The only condition was that there should be no popular uprising or civil disturbance. The Pharisees realised that Jesus might become the focus of such a disturbance, and so bring down the wrath of Rome. Jesus, therefore, had to be ‘silenced’. Their attitude to Jesus was influenced by their fear of Rome.

May 29      John 12:1–11

Here is Mary’s extravagant act of love. Many today would sympathise with Judas’s reasoning. Jesus almost seems to be implying that poor people don’t matter! To help the poor find food and health, yet ignore their spiritual future and our own, helps neither them nor us. But if, instead, there is a vast outpouring of our love to God then we cannot ignore those who need our help. Real love to God must always be generous, even extravagant.

May 30      John 12:12–19

It may seem strange that he who so consistently preferred quietness should now appear to glory in the limelight! Christ’s entry into the holy City is really an acted parable. The prophet had spoken of a King entering the city of Zion, riding on a donkey. Jesus is really saying, ‘I am the One about whom the prophet is writing. I am the fulfilment of all the prophecies in ancient scripture’. The entry, like the earlier cleansing of the temple, was a symbolic act – it was a simple act pointing to a deeper and greater meaning.

May 31      John 12:20–26

Some Greeks want to see Jesus. We tend to think of Jesus in a purely Jewish context. This incident points to his importance, which transcends all national boundaries. Jesus now seems to be aware that ‘the hour has come’. Earlier we saw him holding back because the time was not yet right. It seems as though he has now decided that the moment of crisis is near, and while it will involve death, it will also lead to glory.

June 2020

June 1      John 12:27–36a

Note how Jesus’s teaching moves naturally into prayer. Every true prayer is answered, though not as suddenly or dramatically as this. God does answer prayer – in the way and at the time God sees to be best. Note also how some heard the voice from heaven, but thought it was thunder! Still today God’s voice is heard and not recognised.

June 2      John 12:36b–43

Jesus’ suffering has already begun, and it begins with the rejection of those who heard him and witnessed his miracles. They heard and saw, and completely failed to understand! This is exactly what Isaiah had predicted centuries before. We learn also that there were others who were impressed by what they heard and saw, but were afraid of what would happen if they came out in open support of Christ. Still today there are many who believe in Christ, but their involvement with other interests has a higher priority in their lives so that Christ never really becomes their Lord.

June 3      John 12:44–50

Those who believe in Christ will not remain in the darkness of sin, but will know the light of Christ. Equally, those who do not believe in Christ will be judged by the One who sent Christ into the world to save the world. In rejecting Christ we are not merely rejecting a man, but the very truth of God.

June 4      John 13:1–11

His washing of the disciples’ feet symbolises Jesus’s role as a servant and his total submission to his Father’s will. Some might wish to exonerate Judas of all blame since the thought of betrayal was placed in his mind by the Devil. This is false thinking. We are responsible for the thoughts we allow to enter our minds. As a follower of Jesus, Judas ought not to have allowed Satan to tempt him in this way.

June 5      John 13:12–20

Jesus saw how often those in positions of responsibility or authority adopted an arrogant manner. The Pharisees were obvious examples of that. Jesus knew that this was a danger into which his own disciples might fall, and so he left them this symbolic act of foot washing as a reminder that they were to be a Servant Church. They were not to be religious masters of their people, but humble servants of their God.

June 6      John 13:21–30

Even when Jesus made it perfectly clear that Judas was to betray him, some of the disciples still could not believe it. It could have been possible, even in that final moment, for Judas to repent and confess what he had done, and find forgiveness, but, instead, he is now so firmly under the control of evil that such repentance never occurred to him. He is now so firmly committed to his evil act that he had to leave ‘at once’. Those who have evil in their hearts can find no peace in the presence of Jesus.

June 7      John 13:31–38

Jesus tells them plainly that soon he will be with them no longer, and commands them to love one another even as he had loved them. Peter makes it quite clear that he simply doesn’t understand what Jesus is talking about! Jesus had already suffered through rejection, then betrayal, and now it is ignorance; and boastful ignorance at that. How sad Jesus must have been to realise that, even at this late hour, one of his own disciples still so misunderstood him and all that he tried to teach.

June 8      John 14:1–7

Those who truly believe in Jesus have no need to be worried or anxious; they are to believe in Jesus as they believe in God; heaven is greater than they can imagine; Christ is to prepare a place in it for his followers; he will return for them so that they will be with him forever. All this seems so clear, yet Thomas fails to grasp its meaning. Like so many others, he failed to see that Christ was the Way, the Truth and the Life.

June 9      John 14:8–14

Judas betrayed, while Peter, Thomas and Philip failed to understand. True faith is not just one moment of belief. It is a developing relationship with Christ who is constantly trying to lead us into a deeper truth. Philip and the others had not been able to absorb all that Christ had taught them. When our faith doesn’t grow it can so easily disappear altogether.

June 10      John 14:15–21

Now Jesus introduces a new element into his teaching – the coming of the Holy Spirit. He understands the apparent faithlessness of his disciples. They had become so dependent on him that the thought of being left without him fills them with fear. Jesus is saying, in effect, ‘but you won’t be left alone. Though I leave you, our Father in heaven will send Someone Else to be with you.’ Those who do not know God will not know the Spirit.

June 11      John 14:22–31

Jesus is gradually leading his disciples to see that there is a significant difference between those who have faith in him and those who do not. Those with faith will know the love of God and the presence of God; they will know the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and they will know a peace which only Christ can give.

June 12      John 15:1–17

In this parable Jesus emphasises the close relationship which must exist between them and him. In all this, Jesus is simply using the normal practice of the vine grower and applying it to the life of faith. Here we see the close relationship that exists between Christ and his followers, and which ought to exist amongst the followers.

June 13      John 15:18–16.4a

While the followers of Christ are to love one another, yet they will be conscious of hatred from those who are opposed to them. It is this old distinction between those who respond to the love of God and those who do not. Christ clearly teaches that there are those in the world who not only fail to believe in God but also who actively oppose him and all who follow him. This is one of the ‘facts of life’ we must accept, and be prepared to face the inevitable opposition and even persecution.

June 14      John 16:4b–15

Christ did not tell his disciples those matters at the beginning for the simple reason that they were not ready for such teaching. However, even though he leaves them, the Holy Spirit will be their guide and lead them into new truth. Note also the close relationship between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. They are not three Gods in conflict with one another, but one God in perfect harmony and unity expressed in three identities.

June 15      John 16:16–24

We often envy the disciples for learning from Jesus at first hand. We think it must have been easy for them, yet here we see so clearly how they failed to understand him. Jesus taught that there would be a temporary period of suffering, followed by a time of great joy. This seemed impossible to them then. How often the teaching of Christ is rejected as being impossible, yet later events prove it true. Those who remain faithful to him will, one day, know the joy which faith in him brings.

June 16      John 16:25–33

Divine truth is not revealed in some cold logical argument, but through the revelation of the Holy Spirit operating on the heart of us. Every Christian knows moments like this – when what was previously impossible to understand suddenly becomes clear. As our faith grows so also does our awareness of how alien this world is to all that is of God. It is as though there is something ‘anti-God’ in the world. Every Christian is subjected to satanic attack. Our only comfort is that Christ had defeated the evil of this world. Whatever our present suffering, we are nevertheless on the winning side.

June 17      John 17:1–5

This chapter shows us Jesus at prayer, and we can ‘listen in’ to what must have been a very special time for our Lord. We may think it strange that he asks for glory, but he is only asking for what had been his already in the Kingdom of Heaven. He left that glory to share our earthly life. He had been given authority so that he might give eternal life. Christ did not come to earth for his own sake, but for ours!

June 18      John 17:6–19

How wonderful that Christ should pray for his disciples. Jesus’s bond with those who have received him is stronger than with those who reject him. Those who have accepted him he upholds in prayer before his Father. Jesus knew the dangers they would face, hence why he prayed for them.

June 19      John 17:20–26

Christ includes in his prayer those first disciples, and all who will believe in him through their missionary work – all through their missionary work, all succeeding generations of Christians. We too have the benefit of Christ’s prayer support! Note also that he prays that ‘They may be one’. That Christ and his Father have a unique unity does not surprise us, but what is almost unbelievable is that they are willing to include us in that same unity! Through the divine unity we come to have unity with one another. We must avoid the temptation to reverse that order. The greatest hope for this world comes through the acceptance, by all, of the new life that is offered in Christ.

June 20      John 18:1–14

Jesus made no attempt to avoid or resist arrest even though he knew the ordeal that lay before him. Peter tried to use force, and Jesus made it plain that such action was wrong. We think also of the Roman soldiers – doing a job without making any moral judgements. Also present at the arrest was Judas Iscariot. What was he thinking? Was his heart so turned against Jesus that it was for him a moment of victory? Finally, Annas represented the religious authority. How tragic that the Son of God should be judged, not by an enemy court, but by those who thought themselves loyal to God.

June 21      John 18:15–27

Peter was one of those whom Jesus had prayed would be kept safe from the Evil One, yet here he blatantly denies all knowledge of Jesus. It would be so easy to criticise him for that, yet who among us would dare to throw the first stone at him? We read of the High Priest treating the Son of God like some common criminal. We are shocked, but have we never treated holy matters in a profane way. It is easy to judge others and fail to see a similar fault in ourselves.

June 22      John 18:28–38a

It is clear what the crowd wants, yet Pilate knows that it is wrong. This is a dilemma we all know – pressure from family, friends, the latest craze or fashion. It can be difficult to resist such pressure and so we take the easy way and succumb. ‘What is the truth?’ asked Pilate. What IS trust? What the majority think or do, or what the inner conscience bids us do? Many a Christian has faced such a dilemma; many a life of faith has been wrecked by the wrong decision.

June 23      John 18:38b–19:11

Pilate now knows what he ought to do – there is no reason to condemn the prisoner before him. But there is a gap between knowing what to do, and having the moral courage to do it! This courage Pilate lacked. How often we try to avoid a painful decision by adopting some tactical manoeuvre that fails.

June 24      John 19:12–16a

Whatever the duplicity of Judas, the weakness of Peter and the indecision of Pilate, those who emerge with least credit are the religious authorities. So determined were they to have the death of Jesus that they were prepared to swear – ‘The only king we have is the Emperor.’ By those words they denied God. Here were men who saw themselves as the custodians of divine truth yet their spiritual blindness led them to kill the Son of God and also deny God himself.

June 25      John 19:16b–30

A man is about to die – yet the authorities argue about the notice to be placed on his cross, soldiers discuss the sharing of his few possessions, and grieving loved ones can only stand by and watch. Never forget that this dying man is none other than the Son of God. God was prepared to let his Son endure every indignity and barbarity man can devise. Some think this only reveals the helplessness of God! It reveals that God’s love for sinful man is so great that he was prepared to allow his Son to be crucified.

June 26      John 19:31–42

Later we learn of the resurrection, but there can be no resurrection unless Christ was really dead. There must be no thought of a pretend death or a swoon. Resurrection is only possible if Christ was truly dead. The soldiers, whose ‘job’ it was to kill him, were convinced he was dead; Joseph and Nicodemus were convinced they were handling a dead body. There must be no doubt in our minds on this – Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross.

June 27      John 20:1–10

Now we see the consternation caused by the ‘disappearance’ of Christ. Like Nicodemus, Joseph and the Roman soldiers, the disciples were convinced that Jesus had died. Hence their astonishment at finding the tomb empty. It is difficult to imagine what Peter and the other disciples thought as they went home. Here two men and one woman come face to face with the evidence of the resurrection, yet they failed to understand. This often happens – we see the reality of divine truth, yet are unable to grasp it.

June 28      John 20:11–18

While the men returned home, Mary remained. Who can tell what memories and emotions caused her tears? Certainly there would be sorrow at her dear friend’s death, and bewilderment at the disappearance of his body, but was she also remembering her own personal debt to Jesus and the love he revealed to her? In one word the risen Christ reveals himself to her. Can we blame the disciples for not believing the astonishing news the ecstatic Mary had to tell?

June 29      John 20:19–23

It was into that fear-filled room that Jesus came and said, ‘Peace’. So great was their disbelief that Christ identified himself by his nail-pierced hands – then they were filled with joy. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to forgive sins. This may seem blasphemous, but if we have Christ’s spirit in us we will also have his power.

June 30      John 20:24–31

Thomas was absent from that initial meeting and so refused to be convinced. He demanded proof, yet when the proof was offered he did not require it. Note Christ’s gentle rebuke – ‘stop your doubting and believe.’ Note Thomas’s response – ‘My Lord and my God’. The word lord denotes one who has absolute control over one’s life.