Category Archives: John

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

Sunday with John — Betrayal

John 18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.  ESV.

What is the general theme of the passage?
What has kept Peter there?  The words John records only support Peter’s choice to stay.   When he’ questioned a second time about being one of Jesus’s disciples he once again he denies it.  Then he’s recognized by a relative of the man whose ear he cut off in the garden.  Even standing face to face with someone who actually knows the truth, he lies a third time…”and at once a rooster crowed.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Nothing…John has successfully created a powerful mental picture of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus by doing just what Peter did, leaving Jesus out.

What does it say about people?
It’s easier for people to fool themselves than it is for them to fool others.

Is there truth here for me?
Peter has stayed, out of some sense of loyalty, but he doesn’t realize the only one he’s fooling is himself.  There’s several people there who have suspected Peter IS loyal to Jesus but all he’s done this night is prove them wrong three times.  And then there’s the wake-up-call.a

a John 13:38 Jesus answered [Peter], “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Wednesday with John — Verify

John 18:19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
These priests fear Jesus.  They’ve built their system of power and authority on their ability to verify the truth of God; how it’s to be taught and the proper ways to honor it. People are openly responding to what Jesus is teaching; God’s truth alone has the power and authority to the teach people the proper way to respond and honor Him.  The priest’s only hope is to expose Jesus and his disciples as dangerous deceivers determined to destroy their honor, and the authority of what they have built.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Why do you ask me to defend myself?  “Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said…I have said nothing in secret. ” 

What does it say about people?
People understand the need to respect authority, the problem is choosing which authority matters most.  “…one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Is there truth here for me?
How often have I depended on learning the truth of God from someone who’s authority I respect?  The answer is a lot, of course.  Respect is a good thing but it’s not the only part of the system created by God himself to teach us His truth.  These are Jesus’s words from John 14:26  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  You might be thinking, ‘but those respected people are educated.’ Think a little more about that.  Ask yourself where they’re getting the truth you’re putting your trust in?  Even respect requires verification.  Or you may be thinking ‘what if I don’t get the truth right?’  What makes you think that even the most respected human source always gets it right?  The beauty of the system Jesus has put it place is the Holy Spirit teaches you to verify your thinking.  He’s the one infallibly right source of truth that promises to confirm OR correct what you’re learning no matter where it’s from as long as you keep checking in for updates.

Sunday with John — Purposeful

John 18:15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Peter and another disciple are literally following Jesus as he’s taken to yet another place of judgement about his identity.  Out of deference to the identity of the other disciple, who is apparently known as a follower of Jesus, the door has been opened to Peter.  He’s been brought into this place where his identity is unknown, and his response to a simple question, “ I am not,” reveals he doesn’t know himself yet either.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
There is power in everything that is implied in this verses.  Peter thinks he’s followed Jesus here, but he’s been led to this place.  He could have been left outside the door, but he’s been brought in.  The Lord has a purpose for the simple question from a curious girl; to begin to reveal Peter’s identity to himself through a misspoken answer.

What does it say about people?
The strength of those who “purpose” to follow Jesus is not their innocence.  It’s their willingness to face Jesus with their imperfection knowing He will forgive because He has given them their purpose…and His love is the perfection they need.

Is there truth here for me?
I actually felt a physical twinge in my chest as I read Peter’s response to that servant girl. My heart made some connection between the odd exchange in John 13 at that special dinner where Peter asked John to ask Jesus who was going to betray Him. It’s always seemed odd to me he needed to ask what they were all wondering.  Peter wasn’t the only one that needed reassurance of his innocence that night but now in this place he’s heard his own misspoken words of denial, “I am not.”  It may not have happened right then but surely those three words became his own twinge of guilt…as he remembered that night and realized he wasn’t innocent after all…he was a betrayer! 

Peter’s misspoken words, “I am not,” have pierced my heart. I felt those words because I’ve heard my own.  I’ve realized it’s easy to excuse misspoken words as something other than betrayal and then accept my misplaced relief as the standard of my innocence.  I would like to be innocent but innocence was lost thousands of years ago. Instead Jesus has agreed to the truth of my purpose to follow him and offered to take my misspoken words and misplaced relief as an act of repentance and make them into something more purposeful than innocence…purity.

Wednesday with John — Proclaimed

John 18:12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews [Temple guards] arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The final act of the betrayal of Jesus has begun. The duty of the band of soldiers, their captain and the Temple guards is to arrest Jesus, but executing Jesus is a challenge for the line of authority.   Annas, the first in line doesn’t want to deal with Jesus and hands Him off to Caiaphas.  Caiaphas’s answer is not justice but convenience…sacrifice Jesus for the good of everyone involved.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
There are no additional words here from John to justify the tension between God’s heart and these unfolding circumstances as the death of His Son becomes the convenience of man.

What does it say about people?
Man’s nature of betrayal is the silent emphasis of why these two verses about Jesus’s death matter.

Is there truth here for me?
These two verses showed me how complicated it is to have to deal with God’s “silence.” I wanted John to give me inspired Words from God about His reaction to this betrayal but instead I had to consider His silence revealed His Sovereignty.  God knew exactly when, what and who would be involved in this part of Jesus’s story.  That didn’t mean He justified the evil betrayal or that His heart wasn’t broken by the reality of it.  It didn’t mean He’d overlooked the behavior of all those who took part in it just so His will would be done.  Trying to figure out why John chose to emphasize God’s silence in these two verses forced my mind to consider the wisdom of what God “didn’t say.” The God who is all knowing, ever present and all powerful chose “silence” to endure the anguish of watching every detail of the plan He knew was  coming to pass so His Son would be proclaimed “that one man [who] should die for the people.”

Sunday with John – The Control

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, I am he.”aJudas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” ESV
[a] Footnote: John 18:5 Greek I am; also verses 6, 8

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus is the only one who understands the Father is in complete control.  Everyone else is under the assumption they have some control over this situation. Judas has come to this familiar place prepared to betray Jesus.  The soldiers have come to this garden prepared to execute that betrayal once Jesus’s identity has been confirmed.  Peter has come prepared to fight to save Jesus.  Jesus “knowing all that would happen to him,” is the only one who’s come prepared with the truth of His identity.

“Jesus answered them with this curious phrase, two words in both English and in the original language (ego eimi). It is curious because Jesus didn’t say I am He, but simply I am – the He was added by the translators and is not in the original text. With this Jesus consciously proclaimed that He was God, connecting His words to the many previous I am statements recorded in the Gospel of John, especially in John 8:58 (but also John 6:48, 8:12, 9:5, 10:9, 10:11-14, 10:36, 11:25, 14:6).” Enduring Word

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, identifies Himself as I am!  In those two simple words He acknowledges His compete identity with the Father who IS in control; “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

What does it say about people?
People make decisions within the context of control.  It’s a human part of the reasoning nature the Father has built into His people.  Step 1: accumulate and compile information, Step 2: make an informed decision and Step 3: take action.

Is there truth here for me?
It’s not those three steps that are the problem, it’s the sin of losing sight of who’s in control of our identity.  Sin has distorted reasoning.  Judas for some inexplicable reason had accumulated and compiled his information, knowing Jesus considered him a friend, but chose to believe some lie of reasoning that could justify betraying his friend.  The soldiers chose to rely on the informed decisions of their leaders reasoning, but were knocked to the ground by their own. Peter in this context of wanting to save Jesus had no time to reason but chose violence as his knee-jerk reaction. 

None of these responses are unfamiliar to me.  John has continued to remind me how important it is to remember Jesus is THE control over the context of my identity.  I have a reasoning nature that is improving because of Jesus in my life but it is still distorted.  I can make informed decisions until I’m blue in the face but I just can’t trust they’ll all be perfect.  The one assurance I have is that Jesus is THE control over every action I take.  Jesus has promised He will inspect, correct and redirect every clumsy step I take in my journey with Him toward eternity “to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”