Sunday, May 31, 2009

John 16

The name for the Holy Spirit used here means "encourager". He comes alongside and makes us remember Jesus. I think I need more of that. Discouragement is a Holy Spirit shortage.

The Father is our friend because we are friends with his Son. Our prayers are heard because we ask in the name of his Son.

The resurrection of Jesus means joy that cannot be taken away from us. We pray so that our joy might be made full. We pray because our asking and his answering brings us complete joy. Wow! God wants me to be happy, really, really, happy!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

John 15

Spiritual life and vitality sing off this page! This is a fruitful, meaningful life. This is the very life of Christ coursing through me, a branch, bearing fruit. Oh, God, this is how I long to be fruitful.

The world loves its own. Jesus has called us out, so they won't love us. We've not chosen him, but he's chosen us. He's not kept God a secret, but has made him known to us. Wow, almost every sentence in this chapter is life-changing.

Things I love about this chapter:
  • My job is to remain in Christ.
  • I do this by remaining in his word.
  • That's the only way any life or fruit comes to me.
  • I have carte blanche if I abide -- ask ANYTHING!
  • Much fruit glorifies the Father.
  • Love for other people is the result of abiding.
  • This identification with Jesus will cause those who hate him to hate me.
  • The Holy Spirit witnesses to Jesus. . . and helps me abide.
  • I can do nothing without Jesus.

Friday, May 29, 2009

John 14

Jesus' theme is to encourage the disciples. He uses several lines of thought:
  • He and the Father are one. He is on God's agenda. Nothing, however terrible, will destroy their unity.
  • There is a future for them. He is going and will return, having prepared an eternal dwelling.
  • He will send them a Comforter from the Father.
  • You have unlimited access in prayer.
  • You will do greater works than mine.
The disciples questions miss the mark by a large margin. They are not even close to the right idea and Jesus seems impatient with them. Paying attention to this chapter will help me not miss the mark.

God answers prayer to be glorified by the Son and to be glorified in the Son. Love between the Father and the Son is at stake in His answering prayer (John 14:13).

If you love the Father, keep his commands (John 14:15, 21, 23). This is word for word-for-word the same as 1 John 5:1-5.

So much of this is directed at their hearts. They are responsible for the condition of their heart, "Don't let your heart be troubled."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

John 13

There is an intensity about this meal that sets it apart from every other meal. It seems like every word and action counts. Jesus was troubled in his spirit -- another idiosyncrasy of John's account. And. . . the disciples began to be troubled, too.

Jesus washed their feet and told them they would understand it later. If Jesus does this, no one is above serving! Peter is "all in". He doesn't want Jesus to serve, then he wants to be washed, hands and head. Then he'll lay down his life. However immature and untested his commitment to Jesus, he nonetheless communicates that he wants desperately to follow Jesus.

The disciples didn't understand why Jesus told Judas to do his thing quickly. John records a couple of their guesses. They thought Jesus had sent him on an errand, even though they'd just asked who would betray him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

John 12

It wasn't until later that the disciples recognized the significance of the words of the crowd at the triumphal entry. But, they did remember!

Whoever serves me honors the Father. (John 12:26) What an encouragement!

Jesus and the Father are on the same page implicitly (thunder and voice from heaven)and explicitly (If you've seen me, you've seen the one who sent me).

Because of the hardening work of God, some were not able to believe (John 12:39). This look on the outside like they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God (John 12:43). How can they believe and not confess? What nuance is John explaining here (John 12:42)?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

John 11:38-12:11

The pace against Jesus is picking up. People reported the Lazarus affair to the religious leaders. Now they want to kill Lazarus, too.

I had always thought of Caiaphas' words as a clear statement of substitutionary atonement. But they look much more sinister, like a murderous motivational speech. After this they set out to kill Jesus themselves. These were the determining words in the death sentence of Jesus!

Jesus protected Mary for her extravagant worship. People who would go all the way with Jesus may need protection from their critics. John and Jesus both expose the hypocrisy of Judas about the money spent on the perfume.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

John 11:1-37

This is such a comfort. Much like the man born blind, Lazarus dies so they can see the glory of God. There is purpose in the pain. The text is very deliberate about telling us He loved Lazarus and his sisters. The delay was a loving delay.

As Jesus got closer to their pain he began to be troubled inside. The closer he got to their brokenness the closer he comes to breaking. The result is, "Behold how he loved him."

Mary and Martha had obviously talked about the role Jesus could have played in keeping Lazarus alive because the expressions are exactly the same.

Martha serves up a very clear statement about the person of Christ and about her confidence for Lazarus in the final resurrection. I would hope for that kind of confidence at every funeral I do.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

John 10

This is such an interesting passage, one packed with such love and comfort and theology. I did not realize Jesus spoke all of it to explain to the Pharisees and Jews why they didn't believe. The did not believe because they were not his sheep.

The order of things is often unnoticed. People hear his voice -- because they are his sheep -- not the other way around! When he says he has other sheep that are not of this fold and he must go gather them, they are his sheep before they are in his fold! Wow!

Three times he speaks of laying down his life for the sheep.

They asked him to speak plainly whether he was the Christ. . . and when he did, they tried to stone him. The Jews clearly understood his statements to communicate that he was equal with God. His "you are gods" reference is a grammatical argument. I think it was designed to slow them down, but not stop them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

John 9

This man born blind is a big deal. He's a big deal because since forever, no on ehas ever healed a man born blind.

Things I love about this story:
  • He was blind so the glory of God could be seen. What a good reason to be blind!
  • The man grows impatient with the religious leaders and asks them if they, too, want to be disciples of Jesus.
  • When Jesus finds him, he recognizes Jesus' voice when Jesus asks if he believes!
  • Of course, this happened on the Sabbath.
  • I love that they are fighting over something that is so obviously wonderful!
  • People do irrational things to justify themselves and to keep from surrendering to Jesus.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

John 8:31-61

Jesus addressed this conversation to the Jews who believed in him. It doesn't sound to me like a conversation you have with true believers. Perhaps they are like the believers in John 2:23-25, to whom Jesus didn't entrust himself.

You would do the works of Abraham if you were his children. This is the same message as 1 John. Their relationship to Abraham is a big hangup for them. Sometimes a great heritage can be a liability to an unregenerate heart. You are not from God because you do not hear my words.

That the truth will set you free from sin that enslaves you is a great insight, completely lost on the original hearers. The issue was slavery to sin, not to a foreign power. Jesus is very clear with them -- you will die in your sin. Ouch!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

John 8:1-30

The woman caught in adultery, like the ending of Mark, is not original. It shows Jesus vividly expressing wisdom and grace. I think that's why it is such a memorable story and is used so often to describe Jesus. I am sensitive about how portions of the Bible, especially ones like this, can be taken to construct an inadequate view of Jesus. This is done from this passage frequently.

Jesus summons God, who he says they do not know, as his witness. They think he is suicidal. This discussion is even less clear to me than chapter six. Some left him, and others believed. I don't think they get, "the one who sent me" talk.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

John 7:26-53

Everyone is talking about Jesus. The crowd seems to be making an honest attempt at inquiry and they are being condemned by the leaders for being ignorant of the law. It sounds like bullying on a play ground. They disqualified Jesus on account of where he grew up. Nazareth is no place for a Messiah.

Jesus promises that if anyone is spiritually thirsty and comes to drink the result will be that rivers of life will flow from him. The spiritually thirsty person will be overwhelmed by the refreshment that takes up residence in him that he will become a source of refreshment. Only the Holy Spirit can make a parched soul into a source of spiritual life! Wow!

Monday, May 18, 2009

John 7:1-25

It doesn't seem like much happens here. Jesus' brothers don't believe. They bait him into going to the festival. He said, "No. My time hasn't come." And, then he went. Hmmm. The temptation, that lasted from his temptation in the wilderness by Satan to his last moments on the cross, to prove himself had to be hard. He heard it all the time!

They marveled at his lack of formal education, yet the quality of his knowledge. He told his brothers that "Now was your time." That's why the world didn't hate them.

His argument from circumcision to healing on the Sabbath is an interesting one.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

John 6:35-71

Four times (John 6:35, John 6:41, John 6:51, and John 6:58) Jesus says, "I am the bread of life." Like his conversation with the woman in John 4, Jesus uses their misguided desire for food to describe his mission.

His contrast with manna, which they had heard of and which their fathers ate, should have been clarifying, but it wasn't. It became difficult to deal with when he talked about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Who wouldn't think he's a crazy-man? While many take those words sacramentally (they think he's talking about the Lord's Supper), it is much easier to understand that faith or belief is like eating. It is a metaphor for faith.

His claim of immense sovereignty is even harder to handle. Twice he says no one is able to come unless the Father draws them (John 6:44, John 6:65). They found this saying difficult because they were not being drawn and were unable to accept it. We must have a God who pursues us and drags us into faith, or we won't come!

The words "I will make him stand in the last day," tell us that nothing will ever defeat Jesus! Nothing! He will not fail in the end!

I love Peter's confession, "Where else will we go? You have the words of eternal life!" It has kept me in times of doubt. While I may not get everything, there is not a better alternative!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

John 6:1-34

Jesus asked Philip about food in order to test him because, John tells us, Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Made me wonder how many times I am clueless when God already knows what we wants to do in my situation. Andrew was the man with the connection to the little peddler with the fish and bread.

In the end, they picked up leftovers so it wouldn't be wasted! Not wasted? They're in the middle of nowhere! Everyone there had eaten their fill. What were they going to do with it?

The people followed Jesus to the wilderness because of his miracles. They followed after this meal because of what he did with the bread. They sought a meal, a handout or a trick, not eternal life. People haven't changed too much.

Friday, May 15, 2009

John 5

I want to be hard on this man who can get into the pool fast enough. He waited on a superstition for 38 years. . . 38 years. Then, Jesus healed him and he turned Jesus in to the authorities!

I had not noticed John 5:18 before. Clearly the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming equality with God (cf. John 8:58; John 10:30).

John 5:24 is a great gospel verse. What great news!

The witness thing I don't exactly get. John the Baptist, God, his works and the scriptures all witness for him. That should be sufficient. It works for me anyway.

John 5:30 tells us that Jesus did not act independently from the Holy Spirit. He did only what the Father directed him. He was not a free-lance deity. John 3:34 says that God gave the Holy Spirit to Jesus without limit. Much of what he did was because he was filled with the Spirit, not only because he was God. This has wonderful implications for those of us who follow him!

John 5:44, "How can you believe. . .?" This is a great question. It shows us that some of the things we do actually make it hard, if not impossible, to believe. They way you relate to other people makes a difference in how you relate to God! How many things can you think of that destroy faith in a similar way?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

John 4:31-54

I wonder what the connection is between food and doing the will of God. Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me." Did he find it satisfying, like a good meal? Did it nourish his heart like food would nourish his body? Why did he say it like that?

Lift up your eyes to the harvest. Some sow, others reap. You are coming into someone else's work. I am convinced that we have a far to limited perspective on kingdom work. We need a bigger team. Jesus said this as the dust stirred up from the whole town walking out to see him gathered on the horizon.

John records the healing of the nobleman's son as the second miracle. How did they verify it? The man himself wasn't even there. He did, however, inquire about the time his son got better. He told his family and they believed in Jesus. Beyond that it was a private miracle.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

John 4:1-30

This woman has a dull, dull heart. Her questions are all about herself. Jesus got her attention with the question about her husband.

The part no one talks about seems to be the heart of this conversation -- God is seeking worshipers. That's it. Why else would a messiah and an immoral Samaritan woman meet at a well in the middle of the day. The Father is seeking her! When she saw God was a seeker she wanted to talk about the Messiah. . . finally!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John 3

No wonder this is the most favorite passage for many people. It's got a ton of great things to say.

The word for born "again" is usually the word for "above". Nicodemus understands it to be "again." Otherwise, his questions wouldn't make sense.

Moses in the wilderness with the snake is the only Old Testament that Jesus references in this discussion with the Jewish religious leader. It is perfect! (Numbers 21:8-9).

John noted very clearly, "You can't receive anything unless it has been given you from heaven." This is as clear a statement of the need for grace as there is in the whole Bible.

John's response, "He must increase and I must decrease," comes after a disciple feels sorry for him. The pharisees had taken note that Jesus was surpassing John! "Lots of water" indicates that the baptism was by immersion. Otherwise, it wouldn't make any sense to say that.

God did not give the Spirit to Jesus with any limits! That is the key to much of His life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

John 2

This must have been a family wedding since Jesus' mother was there. She traveled with them briefly afterward. Jesus command over the simplest thing here impressed everyone.

This chapter is an introduction to the the development of the faith of the disciples. They believed after the miracle. They remembered the Scripture as he was cleansing the temple. They believed the Scripture and Jesus' words about raising the temple. . . after Jesus arose. John seems to want us to see what caused them to believe in Jesus.

Jesus did not entrust himself to them. Literally, "he did not believe himself to them," even though they believed. There is a belief that is inadequate for knowing Jesus. Yikes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

John 1:29-51

Have I ever read this before? That's how I feel. John doesn't describe Jesus baptism, only John the Baptist's narrative about it. John the Baptist says that God had revealed that the Holy Spirit would be a sign that Jesus is the one. John baptized to reveal the Messiah -- a very deliberate purpose.

The word "eurisko" (to find) from which we get "eureka" is used of Andrew finding Peter and Philip finding Nathaniel and by both of them in explaining that they had found the Christ. Who am I finding?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

John 1:1-28

This is a dense introduction. How tragic -- these people were 'his own', but they didn't receive him; This world was made by him, yet it did not know him. John 1:12 is a categorical statement about those who did receive him.

"From his fulness we have received grace upon grace (John 1:16)." All the grace we experience springs from Christ. The overflow of his righteousness, love, peace, etc. is the source of our blessings. This places Jesus at the center of our spiritual existence.

The official curiosity about John the Baptist is part of his preparation for Jesus. He garnered enough attention that he could pass it on to Jesus. John denied being Elijah (though Jesus identified him as such), yet he identified himself as the messianic forerunner from Isaiah 40:1-3.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Luke 24:36-53

Two things strike me:
  • Jesus was going out of his way to show and explain the resurrection. He showed them his scars. He ate. The text is deliberate about both and that he did this in front of them.
  • He opened their minds to understand the Scripture. What was this like? Did he wave his hand? Sprinkle pixie dust? Clap twice? Somehow he flipped a switch and they immediately "got it" when they hadn't gotten it before. His life was anchored to the Scriptures.
They didn't believe (surprise, surprise) Jesus on account joy and wonder. If you are ever going to disbelieve Jesus, that would be as good a reason as any.

They were to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed in power. Even their experience of the resurrection was no substitute for the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Luke 24:1-35

Every account of the resurrection is full of unbelief. No one believes the women. They didn't believe the scriptures. How is it that the resurrection presents the same crisis of faith as Jesus' life does. Year after year we here the same thing, we hear the same thing at Easter. We expect a resurrection after a cross. What an incredible thing it would be to be discovering it that first day. Their attempts to figure it out must have been so emotional, so confused and ultimately so weak compared to the hope!

I love the road to Emmaus. Jesus declared the scriptures to explain the crucifixion and resurrection. Their hearts burned. And they recognized him in the bread. Cool!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Luke 23:26-56

The mockery alone would have made the crucifixion unbearable. "Save yourself," would have cut to the heart when you knew you were hanging there to save others and you were, in fact, saving them by not saving yourself. The Greek language has many words for ridicule and making fun of someone. They must have been a sarcastic bunch.

The details Luke chose to include give us all we need to believe, yet are somewhat mysterious. No one else records the speech with the daughters of Jerusalem nor the criminals repentance. This is here that we might know it is never too late! Jesus came into his kingdom that very day. And the thief on the cross came with him.

The soldier and the crowd were affected by the eclipse and the experience of watching Jesus die. This was not a normal execution.

Luke is very explicit about the tomb. He describes the construction of it (hewn out of a rock), the newness, the location (the women followed to see for future reference). He is explicit about the linen cloth. He is setting us up for the resurrection!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Luke 23:1-25

Pilate tried three times to release Jesus and the people wouldn't have him. Finally, tragically, he caved in. He was clear that neither he nor Herod found any reason to condemn Jesus. Both found him innocent, but consented to his death nonetheless.

Interestingly, Herod and Pilate became friends. Two men with similar ambitions, lack of scruples, and common character discovered in each other a kindred spirit.

The specific accusations against Jesus were interesting -- he turned your people away, forbade them to pay taxes, saying Christ is king.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Luke 22:36-73

Luke seems far less concerned with the failure of the disciples in prayer than Matthew and Mark were. The disciples slept on account of grief. The description of Jesus sweating great drops of bloos may be a textual variant and may not be original.

He points out the Jesus went out to pray on the Mount of Olives because it was his "Ethos". Oh God, make it my ethos to pray. Make it the ethos of our church to pray.

During the arrest, Jesus asked why they didn't take him during the day at the temple, then he said, "This is your hour and the authority of darkness." Creepy!

The denials are more matter of fact here than in Mark, until the end when Luke records Jesus looking at Peter after the rooster crows!

At the trial Jesus said, "If I answer you, you won't believe me and you'll condemn me." Then he answered them and they condemned him. Hmmm.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Luke 22:1-35

You can feel the tension throughout this chapter. The scribes 'rejoiced' at a plan to capture Jesus when he was away from the crowd.

I'd never noticed that Jesus sent Peter and John to make the preparations. He sent his best troops on a routine mission where he'd already paved the way. The encounter in the city seems spontaneous when they meet a guy with a pot on his head. How do you stage that?

There is a lot of kingdom talk here. Jesus wouldn't eat again until he was in his kingdom. You all will drink around my table in the kingdom. I confer on you a kingdom. The one who leads is as the one serves.

Peter's arrogance in not on display here as much as Jesus' sovereignty over Satan. Such sovereign strength and resolve, "Satan has asked. . . I have prayed for your faith. . . when you return strengthen your brothers."

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Luke 21:20-38

I am really struggling with this text. Jesus places all these events in his generation. My upbringing placed them all in the future! And, some of them, like heavenly catastrophes, do seem future.

Jesus uses the same word for the generation passing away that he uses for the world passing away. That seems significant to me. And Jesus warns us not to be caught off-guard by world events.

In previous readings, I missed that Jesus spent the night camping on the Mount of Olives, before crowds gathered early in the morning to hear him teach. I wonder what that was like for him given how important that place would be in the next few days!