Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Jn 1 — CREATION AND RE-CREATION
"In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God's presence, and the Word was God." 1:1
God created the world in seven days. Likewise, in seven days (see 1:29, 35, 43; 2:1), Jesus, God's Son, began the re-creation of the world by calling His first disciples and changing the water into wine (2:1ff).
Prayer: Jesus, may I be a new creation and be baptized "with the Holy Spirit" (1:33).
Promise: " 'Rabbi,' said Nathanael, 'You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.' Jesus responded: 'Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see much greater things than that.' " 1:49-50
Jn 2 — SIGN LANGUAGE
"Jesus performed this first of His signs at Cana in Galilee. Thus did He reveal His glory, and His disciples believed in Him." 2:11
In the first half of John's gospel, Jesus performs seven miraculous signs. These signs lead us to believe in Him, His authority, and the ultimate sign His resurrection from the dead.
Prayer: Jesus, may I believe in You enough to let You cleanse the temple of my body and raise me from the dead.
Promise: "Actually He was talking about the temple of His body. Only after Jesus had been raised from the dead did His disciples recall that He had said this, and come to believe the Scripture and the word He had spoken." 2:21-22
Jn 3 — BORN AGAIN
"Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life." 3:16
We may be like Nicodemus rich, powerful, educated, and prestigious but if we haven't believed in Jesus and been born anew (3-5; Gal 6:15), we are doomed and will not see the kingdom of God.
"The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to Him. Whoever believes in the Son has life eternal. Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God" (3:35-36).
Prayer: Jesus, You gave Your life for me. I give my life for You.
Promise: "He does not ration His gift of the Spirit." 3:34
Jn 4 — GOOD SAMARITANS
"Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him on the strength of the woman's word of testimony: 'He told me everything I ever did.' " 4:39
Jesus' first sign was changing water into wine (2:1ff). His second sign was healing the royal official's son through the faith of the official. Between these two signs, we meet Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Nicodemus, the religious leader, did not believe in Jesus to let Him change the water of the old nature into the wine of redeemed life. However, the sinful Samaritan woman by her faith let Jesus change and heal her. In fact, many other Samaritans also believed and received new life from Jesus. "Thus the last shall be first and the first shall be last" (Mt 20:16).
Prayer: Jesus, I repent of intellectual pride and an attitude of self-sufficiency. I need You desperately. I can't live without You (15:5).
Promise: "Open your eyes and see! The fields are shining for harvest!" 4:35
Jn 5 — DO YOU WANT TO?
"How can people like you believe, when you accept praise from one another yet do not seek the glory that comes from the One [God]?" 5:44
Jesus healed a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. After all this time, the man had no longer wanted to be healed, although he kept up appearances. When Jesus asked: "Do you want to be healed?", the man changed the subject to evade the question (5:6-7).
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and therefore God (5:18). Four witnesses John the Baptizer, Jesus' works, the Father's voice, and the Scriptures confirm that Jesus is God. However, many did not want to believe, as the lame man did not want to be healed.
Prayer: Jesus, may I want You and want what You want for every detail of my life.
Promise: "For an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear His voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live; the evildoers shall rise to be damned." 5:28-29
Jn 6 — BLOW MY MIND
"This is the work of God: have faith in the One Whom He sent." 6:29
Jesus miraculously multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men. Then He walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. After this awesome introduction, Jesus said some of the most amazing things ever said. He actually claimed: "I Myself am the Bread of life. No one who comes to Me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in Me shall ever thirst" (6:35). "The bread I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world" (6:51). "He who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has life eternal and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood real drink. The man who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him" (6:54-56).
"From this time on, many of His disciples broke away and would not remain in His company any longer. Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to leave Me too?' " (6:66-67)
Prayer: Lord God, may I not limit You to my human intelligence. Do in my life what is beyond my understanding (see Prv 3:5-6).
Promise: "No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws Him." 6:44
Jn 7 — ARRESTING OFFICERS
" 'No man ever spoke like that before,' the guards replied. 'Do not tell us you too have been taken in!' the Pharisees retorted. 'You do not see any of the Sanhedrin believing in Him, do you? Or the Pharisees? Only this lot, that knows nothing about the law and they are lost anyway!' " 7:46-49
Because Jesus' claims caused a great controversy, the police were called in to arrest Him. They returned empty-handed, so impressed were they by His words. Some of these impressive words were: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me; let him drink who believes in Me. Scripture has it: 'From within him rivers of living water shall flow.' (Here He was referring to the Spirit, Whom those that came to believe in Him were to receive)" (7:37-39).
Prayer: Jesus, there are still many who are trying to arrest the movement of the Spirit. I stir into flame the gift of the Spirit (2 Tm 1:6-7).
Promise: "When the Messiah comes, can He be expected to perform more signs than this Man?" 7:31
Jn 8 — THE GREAT "I AM"
"At that they picked up rocks to throw at Jesus, but He hid Himself and slipped out of the temple precincts." 8:59
Jesus claimed: "I am the Light of the world. No follower of Mine shall ever walk in darkness; no, he shall possess the light of life" (8:12). "You will surely die in your sins unless you come to believe that I AM" (8:24). "If the Son frees you, you will really be free" (8:36). "I solemnly assure you, if a man is true to My word he shall never see death" (8:51). "I solemnly declare it: before Abraham came to be, I AM" (8:58). After these claims, we must either adore Jesus as God or crucify Him as a blasphemer.
Prayer: Jesus, "my Lord and my God!" (20:28)
Promise: "Whoever is of God hears every word God speaks. The reason you do not hear is that you are not of God." 8:47
Jn 9 — BLIND, BLINDER, BLINDEST
"I came into this world to divide it, to make the sightless see and the seeing blind." 9:39
Jesus healed the physical blindness of the man born blind. He did not heal the spiritual blindness of the religious leaders, however, because they would not admit their blindness. They were blind to being blind.
Prayer: "Jesus asked him, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' 'Rabboni,' the blind man said, 'I want to see' " (Mk 10:51).
Promise: " 'I do believe, Lord', he said, and bowed down to worship Him." 9:38
Jn 10 — SHEPHERDS ARE SHEEP
"I am the Good Shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me in the same way that the Father knows Me and I know the Father; for these sheep I will give My life." 10:14-15
There are wolves in sheep's clothing (Mt 7:15), and wolves in shepherd's clothing. True shepherds are those who enter the Church through the gate of total commitment to Jesus. Good shepherds know their sheep by name and walk in front of them. They don't work for pay but for God. Good shepherds work for Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Good shepherds are first of all good sheep.
Prayer: Jesus, may I discern those people and things leading me close to You and those leading me away from You.
Promise: "The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy, I came that they might have life and have it to the full." 10:10
Jn 11 — RAISING THE DEAD
"Jesus told her: 'I am the Resurrection and the Life: whoever believes in Me, though he should die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?' 'Yes, Lord,' she replied." 11:25-27
Jesus kept working miraculous signs and claiming to be God. Finally, He raised the dead Lazarus, who had been buried for four days. No one could do that but God (5:21). "This caused many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, to put their faith in Him" (11:45).
However, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin reacted negatively to the resurrection of Lazarus. They unknowingly prophesied: "If we let Him go on like this, the whole world will believe in Him" (11:48).
Prayer: Jesus, may I believe in You as God, even if my whole life is changed.
Promise: " 'Untie him,' Jesus told them, 'and let him go free.' " 11:44
Jn 12 — ALL OR NOTHING
"I solemnly assure you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to life eternal." 12:24-25
After all that Jesus did and said, we, like Mary of Bethany, must throw ourselves at His feet, give Him everything, and abandon our lives to Him. To give the crucified Jesus anything less than everything seems blasphemous.
Prayer: Jesus, may every moment, action, word, and thought of my life be worship of You.
Promise: "I once I am lifted up from earth will draw all men to Myself." 12:32
Jn 13 — "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST"
"Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him. (If God has been glorified in Him,) God will, in turn, glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him soon." 13:31-32
The second half of John's gospel is called "The Book of Glory." But what's so glorious about washing the apostles' feet and dying as a criminal on a cross? Look at a picture of the crucified Jesus and ask Him this question.
Prayer: Jesus, I follow Your example and wash others' feet, even if I have to die.
Promise: "This is how all will know you for My disciples: your love for one another." 13:35
Jn 14 — LOVE SUPREME
"He who obeys the commandments he has from Me is the man who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal Myself to him." 14:21
In the next four chapters, we read Jesus' last will and testament, in which Jesus says some of the most amazing things ever said. Jesus said: "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (14:6). "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me" (14:11). "I solemnly assure you, the man who has faith in Me will do the works I do, and greater far than these. Why? Because I go to the Father, and whatever you ask in My name I will do, so as to glorify the Father in the Son. Anything you ask Me in My name I will do" (14:12-14). "Anyone who loves Me will be true to My word, and My Father will love him; We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him" (14:23). "The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My name, will instruct you in everything, and remind you of all that I told you" (14:26). 'Peace' is My farewell to you, My peace is My gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace" (14:27). The Lord has promised us more than we can ever ask for or imagine (Eph 3:20).
Prayer: Jesus, why do You love me so much?
Promise: "I will not leave you orphaned; I will come back to you." 14:18
Jn 15 — ATTACHÉ CASE
"All this I tell you that My joy may be yours and your joy may be complete." 15:11
We must be attached to Jesus the True Vine, for apart from Him we can do nothing (15:5). We must be detached from the world, for Jesus chose us out of the world. To be attached to the Lord is to be detached from the world.
Prayer: Father, I put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh (Rm 13:14).
Promise: "When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth Who comes from the Father and Whom I Myself will send from the Father He will bear witness on My behalf. You must bear witness as well." 15:26-27
Jn 16 — TO GO
"Yet I tell you the sober truth: It is much better for you that I go. If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you, w
Jesus told His apostles He was leaving. They would weep, mourn, and grieve for a time, but their grief would be turned into joy a joy no one could take from them. It was better for us that Jesus go because He sent the Holy Spirit Who proves the world wrong and guides us to all truth.
Prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest, and in our hearts take up Thy rest."
Promise: "I tell you all this that in Me you may find peace. You will suffer in the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world." 16:33
Jn 17 — ANSWERING GOD'S PRAYERS
"I do not pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their word." 17:20
Jesus, the eternal High Priest, prays for Christians of all times. He prays for us to be guarded from the evil one and united by the Holy Spirit. If we are made one as Jesus and the Father are One, the world will believe in Jesus sent from the Father. This has been Jesus' prayer for us for almost 2000 years. He answered our prayers. Let's answer His.
Prayer: Jesus, I repent of the disunity and division, which is contrary to Your will.
Promise: "Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ." 17:3
Jn 18 — FALL OUT
"My kingdom does not belong to this world." 18:36
Jesus is clearly God, Lord of lords, and King of kings. Even when He was arrested, the cohort and the guards retreated and fell to the ground when Jesus said: "I AM He" (18:6). Even Pilate knew Jesus was a King but, like Peter and most of us, he refused to acknowledge Jesus before men (Lk 12:8).
Prayer: Jesus, I will die rather than deny You.
Promise: "The reason I was born, the reason why I came into the world, is to testify to the truth. Anyone committed to the truth hears My voice." 18:37
Jn 19 — THE PENTECOST OF CALVARY
"Then He bowed His head, and delivered over His Spirit." 19:30
John says that Jesus "delivered over His Spirit". This phrase has a double meaning. It means Jesus died and also gave us the Holy Spirit. However, few received the Spirit on Calvary because few were near the cross. It may be the same today. "Near the cross, near the cross, there's a precious fountain."
Prayer: Father, may I deny myself, take up the cross daily, and receive the fullness of the Spirit (Lk 9:23).
Promise: "One of the soldiers thrust a lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out." 19:34
Jn 20 — SEEING, NOT SEEING, AND BELIEVING
"These have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messsiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in His name." 20:31
John "saw and believed" (20:8). Mary Magdelene announced to the disciples: "I have seen the Lord!" (20:18) The disciples told Thomas: "We have seen the Lord !"(20:25) Thomas could have believed based on their word, but instead he had to see for himself. Jesus then said to him: "You became a believer because you saw Me. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed" (20:20). We can receive the blessing Thomas missed by believing without seeing and by hearing God's word (Rm 10:17).
Prayer: Risen Jesus, may Your word burn in my heart (Lk 24:32). May I recognized You in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:35). May the Spirit empower me to be Your witness (Acts 1:8).
Jn 21 — GONE FISHIN'?
"Simon Peter said to them, 'I am going out to fish.' 'We will join you,' they replied, and went off to get into their boat. All through the night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak Jesus was standing on the shore." 21:3-4
This chapter is an appendix to John's gospel. It shows that Thomas wasn't the only doubter among the apostles. Peter and several other apostles went back into the fishing business in direct rebellion against Jesus' calling that they be fishers of men (see Mt 4:29). They, like many of us, were going about their business as if Jesus didn't rise from the dead. Jesus came to Peter and the other apostles and told them to feed the sheep and not catch the fish, if they truly loved Him. If we love Jesus and believe He's risen from the dead, we're not doing "business as usual" but doing our Father's business (see Lk 2:49).
Prayer: Jesus, may my way of living make no sense unless You've risen from the dead.
Promise: "There are still many other things that Jesus did, yet if they were written about in detail, I doubt there would be room enough in the entire world to hold the books to record them." 21:25
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, August 8, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 12, 1996
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