John 1:6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 , who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. NLT
I don’t think there has ever been a time when I have more clearly seen the “Light.” I really can’t even understand it myself. As odd as it is to write these words in the midst of grief over my husbands death, I feel the power of love, life, and thankfulness and light more completely than ever before.
This is my important testimony to you: The Light that has broken through the darkness of grief reminds me the “birth that comes from God” does so much more than overcome the darkness of death. You can depend on Jesus’s promise to give light to every circumstance of life…even death…so you can be comforted to continue.
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. [NLT]
It’s almost a month since my husband was killed. I have been so blessed and comforted by my family. They have buffered the reality of my loss with their presence. They’ve flown in from around the country to help me navigate the unthinkable reality of death with the basics of life; food, activity and the practical and legal details that are now a part of my life. What was previously “normal” activity has now become a reminder of being alone but they have been the hands-on proof of God’s assurance that is not the case. One by one they’ve returned to their own homes and this week I finally have to face learning to live alone in mine.
It’s scary because I’ve realized I have never actually lived “alone” before. I moved from my parents home to my marital home nearly 63 years ago. I chose this book of John to read and ponder in these next weeks because it was important to my husband and the book of John is where my life of faith began long ago. I wasn’t physically alone then, but it was the place I first read the words that revealed Jesus gives life that spans all time, circumstances and relationships. What was true then is still truth now. “The Word already existed…with God… The Word gave life to everything…and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
John 19:28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ words “It is finished” are an important reality of our life in Christ. I thought about their importance to the personal drama of my own “first” Easter with Jesus. It felt so big, so dramatic, so epic…and so complete…but it had just barely begun.
I wonder why it’s so easy to look at epic moments in our life of faith as finales when beginning right there on that cross, our hope lies in exactly the opposite being true. That’s the truth of Jesus words “It is finished.” Easter was not an epic finale but The Crescendo of a New Beginning.
18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)
21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
One of the most important lessons the “heroes” of the Bible teach us is that Jesus loves, and puts His trust in, people who aren’t perfect. Those Biblical giants also show us the effects of human nature on our relationship with Jesus by example. My next sentence changed after an early morning review of a question asked last Sunday; “What would it take for you to believe in Jesus Christ as the King? a
I was going to write “I think it’s pretty safe to assume Peter’s recognition of his need resulted in growth and faith.” Instead it’s become the far more complex option “I think it’s pretty safe to assume Peter’s recognition of Jesus resulted in his need for growth and faith.”
The first option infers that Peter’s recent vows were all it took to overcome his human nature and result in growth and faith. The second version is God’s truth that Jesus’s choice for Peter was a relationship with Him that would overcome human nature and make Peter’s vows a reality of growth and faith. Salvation is the Lords, but human nature is a challenge that lasts a lifetime.
It only took a few verses between Peter’s vows and Jesus’s responses for Peter’s human nature to kick back in with his defensive response in verse 21; “Lord, what about him?” My mind is blown by how easily human nature can become our baseline of growth and faith. But my heart is relieved to remember by the Grace of God we recognize that what it would take to believe in Jesus Christ as the King – is a resurrection!
a Pastor David Camera, River Oaks Presbyterian, Lake Mary, FL
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Real life has provided me an opportunity to remember how wide the separation between what I believe and what my response to circumstances can be. Today I feel like Peter, sputtering my assurances to justify my lack of strength, peace and joy even at the same time I’m convinced of my own repentance. It’s a mystery isn’t it?
Even a life of faith and absolute commitment has moments when facing your own brokenness is a harsh reality. I’ve read these verses countless times before but today Peter’s attempt to reassure Jesus of his love has become more real because it seems like mine too. “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Simon Peter knew the harsh reality of his brokenness. The intensity of his words is almost tangible as he responds to Jesus taking him through that progression of the same question over and over; “do you love me?” Jesus could just as easily have said “I forgive you.” Peter would have expected that forgiveness, and been comforted…but Jesus had something more to give Peter during that early morning confrontation of vows and responses. There was one thing that would ultimately forgive Peter’s lack of strength, comfort his loss of peace and restore his joy too.
Jesus’s gave Peter His trust!
…knowing Peter would complete his vows of love and
“feed my lambs…take care of my sheep…feed my sheep.”
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
These verses seem very familiar. Jesus is providing a meal of fish and bread, but the details are very different than the feeding of thousands. There is not a massive crowd involved in this scene. The servants then, are the receivers now. Now it’s a small group of tired and hungry men in a boat returning from a long night of fishing with only an empty net and a man on the shore cooking a breakfast of fish and bread.
Maybe it was the unfamiliar circumstances or just the distance between them “but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus.” These men had been “caught” and taught by Jesus but now there’s this “recognition” issue. It’s easy to understand the physical presence of Jesus on that beach was unexpected but were they already losing their sense of intimacy with Him too? I wonder about that. “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
Most of these fishermen/disciples would have seen the Risen Jesus with their own eyes at least once before this moment. But it took the filling of that empty net to trigger the memory of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” to recognize “It is the Lord!” The most overlooked mystery of faith may well be that “None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord” because of what they remembered.
That seems like an object lesson for why we set aside these 40 days of Lent. We need to know and remember “WHO” Jesus is, not just that He IS, in order to have an intimate relationship with Him. Intimacy with Jesus is the byproduct of remembering what He’s already done so even in the most the unexpected circumstances of life we’re able to recognize His presence.
25…But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Ransom; a payment for the release of a prisoner
Thomas shared a real-time relationship with Jesus, but all these centuries later the nickname “doubting” is still the first thing we remember about him. “Doubting is a nickname that doesn’t really fit because as the verses show, in that moment he was absolutely certain. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Each heart of those friends closest to Jesus had been wounded by the betrayal that led to Jesus’s death. For Thomas that wound had festered into doubt. Some of the disciples had seen Jesus, but not him. “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then Jesus singled out Thomas.
The beauty of this story is that Thomas’s doubts have became incidental. Jesus showed Thomas the scars of His own wounds one-by-one for a specific purpose; that his wounded heart might be ransomed from doubt and healed. That makes scars the most important point of this story.
Wounds often leave a scar and healed scars still have a purpose for friends of Jesus today. Scars can tell a story of healing that has the power to ransom someone else’s doubt and lead them to repentance. Scars are not to be wasted. They are the evidence that Jesus heals wounded hearts and gives them a sign to share of the resurrecting love of God Almighty, Alleluia!
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit
Who came to mind when you read these three
words chosen for this post?
I’m willing to bet your answer was the same as mine. It’s Jesus…and that’s absolutely right! I pondered these verses and those three words and realized Comforter, Counselor and Rescuer are nouns that we all identify as interchangeable with Jesus Himself. What caught my attention was those same three words can also be used as verbs that describe an action if you just change the ending to “ing.”
I am confident every one of those frightened men would have answered my first question in the same way we did, it’s Jesus! They certainly recognized Jesus as Comforter, Counselor and Rescuer. What may seem like subtle shades of difference between a noun and a verb has helped me recognize knowing the identity of Jesus is vital but it’s incomplete without the personal experience of His purpose for our life.
- Jesus’s identity is Comforter, but His purpose is comforting so we may be comforted
- Jesus’s identity is Counselor, but His purpose is counseling so we may be taught
- Jesus’s identity is Rescuer, but His purpose is rescuing so we may be saved
The hope for those men as they hid behind “doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” was summed up in one simple phrase; “Jesus came and stood among them…” Jesus came to verify his identity as Comforter, Counselor and Rescuer AND put His purpose for their lives into action by comforting frightened people with His presence, counseling them with His peace and rescuing them with His Spirit. Thanks be to God, Jesus has become our hope for completeness too.
8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
These verses reminded me of this screen shot I took last Easter from the live broadcast of Gracepoint Church in Sturgis, Michigan. That empty tomb for those closest to Jesus resulted in fear, not hope. Hindsight has proved God’s plan for the salvation of many, became a reality despite those frightened people caught in desperate circumstances. Jesus’s body had disappeared from that fortress of stone. How could that possibly be anything but bad? “(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)”
That parenthetic verse 9 has become a modern-day lesson for me. As odd as it is to type this sentence; doubt and fear have always been a part of faith, even for those closest to Jesus. Even the “other” disciple, the one Jesus loved, hesitated. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.”…and
“Thomas felt a surge of shock and unbelief…Then he felt regret for having left. Then he felt isolated. He was the only one who hadn’t seen Jesus. He had seen so many things that would have been unbelievable if he hadn’t seen them. Most haunting right now was Lazarus. And then it happened. Thomas was staring at the floor, sinking again under the fear that maybe Jesus had rejected him because of his stubborn unbelief. If so, he knew he deserved it. Then someone gasped. He looked up and his heart leaped into his throat! Jesus was standing across the room looking at him. “Peace be with you”a
Faith is what gives us the courage to come out of our hiding place, confront our fears and doubts and to believe Jesus’s words are meant to shield us today, too – “peace be with you.” These two verses have become my reminder that recognizing the reality of an empty burial tomb is more than evidence of my faith…it’s evidence of God’s faith in me! “Finally” I “saw and believed” and He turned that stone cave into a fortress of hope that “the LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”b
a When it’s Hard to Believe
b Psalm 18:2
John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
We know Lent is leading us, first to the Tomb, then to the Cross and finally to examine our heart. It seems like the empty tomb has come too soon in my readings. I’m still in preparation mode. “The stone” is the thing that has repeatedly caught my attention. In all four Gospel versions the story is about the empty and open tomb with specific mention of the stone and how it was moved.
My Cliff Notes:
– God chose “stone” to write His most important Words on
– Living stones
– Stone: a hard substance that comes from the ground, used for building of carving, used for a particular purpose.
It’s not too big a stretch of faith to associate these two verses and the mystery of that heavy “stone” having been moved. God’s first choice of material to write the 10 most important things He wanted His people to know was stone. Jesus is described as the Cornerstone,a and you are described as living stones. That’s in the Bible too. The wonder of the stone being moved is that once again God used a “Stone” to reveal exactly what He wanted His people to know. We know, thanks be to God, that it was His Breath of Life that moved Jesus from the tomb to His place in us. “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
a 1 Peter 2:4-7