Category Archives: John

The Integrity of Grace

And Old Testament Verses 
— Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:  “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
— Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

John repeats some of the most troublesome Words in the Bible.  They are God’s judgement given to Isaiah to let unbelievers know He will use their unbelief for His purpose.  Not all judgment of God is punishment, but it is always reality.  God sets the rules.  He has judged this group of unbelievers will be made deaf, blind and dull of heart.  I see that, but I wish it weren’t so.  

What possible purpose could the Sovereign Lord have in making such a judgment?  Why has He identified these unbelievers in this way?  He’s obviously not punishing them for what He’s done.  I have an idea that this judgment has to do with the reality of grace and glory.

I wonder if what He has seen in this group of people is the nature of man’s heart to listen but not heed His truth and see that truth as a useful tool to manipulate life but not believe it’s His power.  The nature of God’s Sovereignty is driven by grace that must respond to belief.  Could it be that God has judged these unbelievers in order to protect the integrity of His grace for those who DO see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,and understand their transformed heart is for the sake of God’s glory and for His purpose.

“God is sovereign over all belief and unbelief.
He knows exactly how to plan both of them in ways
that exalt his sovereignty and preserve man’s accountability.”
[John Piper]

Moment of Obedience

I think I must have subconsciously remembered that the Feast of Dedication was also known as the Feast of Lights.  That got my attention. Don’t miss that timing here because I don’t  think Jesus did. The Feast of Lights is observed during the Winter solstice when the day with the least hours of light happens. The Light of the World choosing to be at the Feast of Lights during the darkest time of year to celebrate enduring light. Do you see where this is heading?

The Jews had been through a terrible time in their history when this feast first began. They’d endured nearly 200 years of wars, massacres, their faith being outlawed, the Temple in Jerusalem being desecrated and no new prophets raised to reveal new truths about God to them.  They were blinded by that loss until the Temple was recaptured and they were called to rebuild it and refocus themselves on the worship of the One true God, as instructed by Moses. The first Feast began as a commemoration to rededicate the Temple and themselves to God and to relight the menorah that was meant to provide light every day and night in the Temple.  The Jews knew they only had oil for one day but they chose to give that one day to God out of obedience.  And in that moment of obedience God gave them the miracle of enduring light that lasted eight days that they continued to celebrate each of the following 200 years.

Jesus is the new moment of obedience for them at this feast.  The same Lord they’ve honored every year since that first beginning has come into their midst.  Jesus, the Light of the World, has chosen to reveal the bold declaration of His identity: “I and the Father are one” and then later in verse 38 “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  At this point in time they’ve lived through a nearly 400-year period between the Old Testament ending with Malachi’s speaking of a new coming of the Lord and the New Testament’s beginning with John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus as the Messiah. Now God has proven His silence is over…and they’ve missed the moment.  

Reading John’s scripture passage is like reading a familiar pattern of daily life. The recorded wisdom of history and the reality of life are all rolled into the two Testaments of His Word. The Bible doesn’t put a pretty face on every experience of life.  Sometimes it includes the reality of how easy it is to miss the moment of obedience.  And then it speaks of a new moment of hope in Galatians 2:19 TLB…for it was through reading the Scripture that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ.


This “cliff note” idea is not meant to be a definitive commentary of these verses. What I see now is just that — what I see now,  I spend each day between posts reading and re-reading the current verses.  I’m concentrating on looking for what catches my interest enough to make me ask “is this the truth I believe?”  My confidence is in one important thing; the Spirit of God is at work.  He’s the door opener. AND I want to get it right.  When I “ink” what I think I know, in plain sight for you to read, it’s a risk of obedience. I know the Spirit’s work is to teach AND correct.  That’s not an either/or it’s an AND.

Today’s notes are about the Shepherd, the Gatekeeper, the Father and the sheep that recognize them. The Gatekeeper is the guard, the Shepherd manages the sheep and His charge from the Father is to find the “sheep that are not of this fold…so there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”  That’s spot on!  However, I wondered why I’d ignored the last three verses of this chosen passage and realized I didn’t want them to mess up all that lovely truth-teaching with the hard fact of division and doubt. That’s when the “teach AND correct” kicked in. Sometimes it’s the ugly Words that remind me how much I need the Shepherd, the Gatekeeper and the Father to open my own eyes so I can recognize division is the thief and robber who will never “open the eyes of the blind.”



Isaiah wrote about restoring the sight of the blind as part of the Messiah’s ability…And the Lord said:
— Isaiah 29:18 In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book,
and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness.
— 35:5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf.
— 42:7 You will open the eyes of the blind.  You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.   

 Jesus speaks to his disciples in a third party-like conversation about the cause of blindness and Him being the Light of the world.  That’s a Messianic claim!  Then He physically takes direct action by coating over the man’s eyes with clay he’s just made.  The mixing of the mud is evidence of “violation” of working on the Sabbath!  He never tells the blind man his sight is going to miraculously be restored.  The blind man must choose to risk responding to Jesus and go to the pool to wash.  That’s a step of faith!

The sticking point for the Pharisees was complicated. Twice Jesus had confronted the Pharisees hypocrisy [John 7:23 and Matthew 12:5].  Jewish rules had legitimate provisions for violating the Sabbath in specific cases like circumcision in order to obey Mosaic law, temple service or the birth of a baby.  Isaiah’s words, a broken rule, the eyes of a blind man being opened and an itinerant rabbi who claimed to be the Light of the world became their sticking point. Isaiah’s words were a trusted part of the Pharisees Messianic history and according to their own rules denying a miracle of God was unbelief.  The evidence of acknowledging this miracle might prove Jesus to be the Lord Isaiah wrote about.  That didn’t mesh with what they’d carefully mapped out for the coming Messiah. They couldn’t risk choosing to take that next step of faith. 

Highlights From John 9:1-5

1 As Jesus passed by,
2 his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned?

3 Jesus answered “It was that the works of God
might be displayed in him.
4 night is coming,
5 I am the light of the world.” 

The condition of the human mind is to connect sin to behavior.  That’s a much narrower view than connecting sin to darkness.  Jesus wants the disciples to recognize just how vast and real that difference is.  Opening this one man’s eyes is going to display Jesus as God’s connection that can overcome the pervasive darkness of sin with Light for those who dare to risk obedience to gain sight.  

Wednesday with John — Eyes to See

John 19…So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The chief priests of the Jews have their victory!  Pilate has agreed to the purposeful destruction of Jesus. In this place of death there are three men being crucified but Pilate chooses an inscription for only one — “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The Jews object to the wording but Pilate will not change what he has written in Aramaic [Hebrew], Latin and Greek.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
The Sovereignty of God allows Him to select anyone He chooses to complete His plan to identify Jesus.

What does it say about people?
God choses those who complete His plan to identify Jesus even if they happens to be someone who is only a powerful, pragmatic pawn of providence.[a]  

Is there truth here for me?
There’s a repeated pattern of “three” in the Bible that relates to God’s own identity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It begins in the book of Genesis.  God had completed a perfect creation as He spoke the life of man into being, “let us make man in our image, after our likeness”…and it was good…for a brief time.  Remember some of the other threes?  The iconic three of faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus’s three temptations, and Peter’s three denials?  Three times Pilate saw something in Jesus that made him unable to declare Jesus’s guilt but still he accepted the crowd’s hysterical condemnation of Him.  Pilate put that controversial sign the Jews objected to on Jesus’s cross — “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” — but is unwilling to defy them to save Jesus’s life.  People would read what Pilate had written in three languages; words that would either cause them to mock the man they saw pinned there or shock them into the realization that the sin of mankind had once again ruined any hopes they might have pinned on Jesus.  But there is another three to this story!  In three days Jesus will be the visible evidence of God’s miraculous intervention to restore people to His perfect creation. 

[a] Pilate


Sunday with John — Self Preservation

John 19:12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour [noon].  He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Jews have cleverly manipulated Pilate into a terrible spot with their charge that Jesus has called Himself a king.  Pilate’s job is to preserve Caesar’s absolute authority.  There must not be a king who opposes Caesar!  The truth is he’s found Jesus to be innocent of any political intent and rebellion against Rome but the longer this situation goes on the more likely it is Caesar will hear about it and that will be trouble.  The only evidence the Jews have produced to support their charge against Jesus is a loud and demanding crowd repeatedly calling for Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate brings Jesus before the mob one more time and demands “Behold your King!…Shall I crucify your King?”   And then the real truth of the evidence against Jesus came to him: the chief priests were just like him…willing to sacrifice Jesus for self-preservation.  They answered “we have no king but Caesar.  So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus did not need to speak to preserve His life.

What does it say about people?
Angry people create mobs to protect themselves.

Is there truth here for me?
Self-preservation is an instinctual defense mechanism that can be good or bad.  It can result in protection or become self-justification. Self-justification for self-preservation is the sad part of this story.  Pilate justified his part in the killing of Jesus because he wanted to protect his loyalty to Caesar alone.  The Jews justified their part in the killing of Jesus because they wanted to protect God’s loyalty to them alone.

Wednesday with John —

John 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus’s brutally beaten body has been clothed as a grisly parody of a king to be brought before the crowd again.  Pilate asks a troublesome question; is this your king?  But the Jews have finally made a real charge against Jesus that frightens him: “He has made himself the Son of God.”  Pilate pleads with Jesus to defend Himself.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
When Jesus finally speaks, His words seem more like assurance to Pilate than a defense of Himself.  “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

What does it say about people?
The only person in this story that isn’t trying to manipulate this situation is Jesus.

Is there truth here for me
Pilate is “even more afraid” and hoping the crowd will release both Jesus, and him, from this death sentence because “every Roman of that day knew of stories of the gods or their offspring appearing in human guise.”[a]  

[a] Leon Lamb Morris

Sunday with John — What is Truth?

John 18:33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber [g]or an insurrectionist. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus didn’t say yes or no when Pilate asked “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Instead He tells Pilate His defense for His Kingship.  His kingdom is “not OF this world” and “not FROM the world.”  It’s a truth Pilate can’t comprehend but he does recognize Jesus is not guilty of trying to overthrow either the Roman political system, or the Jewish system of religious governance.  Pilate goes back outside “to the Jews” to recommend Jesus be released.  The secret judgement of Jesus has now become the public judgment of a crowd that cries out “again” to save the wrong condemned man.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus answers Pilate’s question about whether He’s the King of the Jews with a question of His own.  “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?…You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.

What does it say about people?
They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” 

Is there truth here for me?
It’s always seemed like this crowd,”the Jews,” were in a frenzy to chose to punish Jesus.  That certainly was the outcome but I wonder if they were all caught up in the same question Pilate had, “What is truth?”  Maybe in this awful moment the only “truth” they cared about was a way to get their revenge against Roman authority by forcing them to release Barabbas, a notorious criminal they’d already condemned to be crucified for murder and insurrection against the Roman Empire.  Maybe they just didn’t care about defending “truth,” OR Jesus…but thanks be to God He did “bear witness to the truth.”

Wednesday with John – Only One Reason

John 18:28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The two sides of this evil intrigue continue their back and forth debate about Jesus.    The Romans want evidence to prove Jesus’s guilt but the Jews want Jesus’s death to prove His guilt.  Pilate challenges the action and the timing of these leaders.  “The Romans allowed them [the Jews] a good deal of self-government, but they had not the right to carry out the death penalty. The ius gladii, as it was called, the right of the sword, belonged only to the Romans.” [a]   Neither of these two sides will win. No matter how cleverly debated, their actions are going “to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is the only one who understands the purpose of this struggle.  God is not fooled into having to work around the deceit and guile of human beings.  No matter what these two power groups do or how they may protest in the future, history will be written to record how man’s evidence, intrigues, manipulations, and laws may effectively fool each other but God is always going to be the winner.

What does it say about people?
The Jews main concern is to get rid of Jesus and not be defiled by entering a gentile house when they are busy defiling themselves by their intent to kill Him.  Pilate is no fool.  He knows guilt is not the reason Jesus has been brought before him.  It’s an attempt to manipulate the law so the Romans will be guilty of Jesus’s death, not them.

Is there truth here for me?
Pilate certainly knows of many good things Jesus has done and is well aware that he’s being manipulated to murder by proxy.  The Jews have no evidence to give other than Jesus is “doing evil.” Jesus is an uncomfortable inconvenience neither side wants to deal with.   Everyone involved has missed a night’s sleep and that may be part of the Jew’s plan.  They know many people who might have stood up for Jesus are still in bed.   Pilate recognizes he’s being manipulated for only one reason: if he kills Jesus it will lessen the backlash for the Chief Priests and judges from the growing crowd of Jesus’s followers. 

[a] William Barclay