Category Archives: Sunday

Sunday with John – Access

John 7
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him[Jesus]. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Every day of this Festival there was a ritual water drawing that reminded people how important God’s provision of access to good water had been to their history with Him and that His provision for the survival of their ordinary daily lives still depended on that access.  The “hope” of this week was that God might choose this water offering as a means of access to the Messianic age.  The Festival water was drawn each day from the Pool of Siloam, known as the “well of salvation,” and poured into a bowl that drained onto the altar.a  “On the last and greatest day of the Festival Jesus compared Himself to that water…“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”  That made Jesus a problem the Pharisees couldn’t ignore. Some remembered Isaiah’s promise when like water poured “…on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants [44:3]…and they were talking!  Some saw beyond the ritual of that poured water flowing through that bowl onto the altar of God for exactly what it was; Jesus was the bowl that promised access to the future Spirit of God.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus’s time of physical accessibility to them is short.  God has sent Him and He is returning to that certain and exclusive place.  That place is a destination even thirsty and curious people will not be able to find without Jesus.

What does it say about people?
What thirsty people need is a willingness to accept the water…and drink! 

Is there truth here for me?
I think Jesus could add “I am the bowl” to His identity statements.  Jesus is the “bowl” that directs the living water drawn from God’s own heart to the Holy Spirit. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV

a Water Libation Ceremony

 

Sunday with John – The Eighth Day

John 7: 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning,[this man knows his letters] when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The theme of the Feast of Tabernacles/Booths was expectation and restoration.  This could be the very week the Messianic Kingdom would be established!  It was an annual feast that required Jewish men to make the pilgrimage into Jerusalem. Jesus has chosen to wait until the middle of the feast to go.  He’s chosen to emphasize it’s His singular identity with God that is His authority to speak, not the size of his entourage. He’s chosen this Feast to give the people who are most conflicted about His purposes and His power a recognizable connection to the symbols of this week of ceremony.  Jesus has chosen to reveal a hard truth to people who’ve come expecting this very week they might become part of the Messianic Kingdom by telling them; “…none of you keeps the law.”

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.  Malachi 3:1 1  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God has given Jesus the authority to speak on His behalf.  Jesus’s presence is to affirm that His identity is the purpose of this feast.  He challenges their own purposes in attending the Feast.  “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will,” and then He challenges their response “he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” Jesus has no illusions about the intent of these people “Why do you seek to kill me?” 

What does it say about people?
The nature of the human heart is to assume the best about their own behavior; “Who is seeking to kill you?” and the worst about authority that challenges it “You have a demon!”  Wisdom from a good pastor:  “we judge ourselves by our intent, and other’s by their behavior.”  But an even wiser Pastor says “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”  [This man knows his letters]…“and in him there is no falsehood!”

Is there truth here for me?
There are parts of this ceremonial Feast that sound very familiar to me:[a]
– At the appropriate time pilgrims would wave a palm branch [part of a lulav] before the Lord in a spirit of thankfulness. [Remember Palm Sunday?]
– Water drawn every day from the pool of Siloam.  [Remember where blind eyes were restored?]  A priest spoke these words as he drew that special water out “Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”  [Remember what Jesus said about water and thirst?] Then that water was mixed together with a a drink offering of wine. The mixture of the water and wine at the altar symbolized the life and joy associated with the Holy Spirit. [Remember this wine is my blood?]
– Each afternoon there was a ceremony of “light” to symbolize two realities; the Light of all Lights to fill the Temple with the presence of God, and the Great Light who would soon come and bring light to those who were spiritually dead and dwelling in darkness. [Remember I am the Light of the world?]
– The Eighth Day —“Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  John 7:37-39.                                                                                 [Remember where all these promises are made real today?]

[a] https://israelmyglory.org/article/the-feast-of-tabernacles-in-the-days-of-jesus/

Sunday with John — Flesh and Blood

John 6
60 When many of his disciples heard it [55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.], they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

What is the general theme of the passage?
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “flesh and blood? “Relatives and family, right?   That’s exactly what Jesus is aiming for — a family that will interact, hear, debate and accept His truth about walking through life in relationship with Him.  Jesus means to challenge all the faulty assumptions about what He has come to give them with this “hard saying.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus, knowing — some would “take offense at this” spoke this “hard saying.”   Jesus, knowing — “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus, knowing —”It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all,” was forcing them to identify themselves because Jesus knew — He was going to have to love them enough to tell them truth that would make many walk away. “(…from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him) and that even His own God-given flesh was not going to be enough to convince them in that moment that He was the true food and the true drink that would make God and their eternity inseparable.

What does it say about people?
They walked away from Jesus because the truth He spoke was not just “hard,” it was literally shocking. It was certainly a far cry from the miracles they’d hoped to receive.  The only reference they would have had to flesh and blood were the temple sacrifices and by the law, that process kept them completely separated from any personal experience. They were comfortable with that separation.

Is there truth here for me?
Have you ever balked at Jesus’s truth that’s hard to hear?  Here’s my Good News: I have and I’m here!  I was slow to give up my separation and accept that my choice had already been the Lord’s choice for my salvation; “…I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  I’ve discovered I finally have “free will.” I am awestruck by the faith God must have had in me to give me the ability to think. It was Jesus’s faith, not mine, that I would finallly begin to understand the freedom to interact, hear, debate and accept His truth about walking through life in relationship with Him knowing separation is no longer an option.

Sunday – ABBA

John 6
28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do?
31 After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven.
33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” They said, “give us that bread every day.”

What is the general theme of the passage?
The crowd was fed but Jesus knows they still don’t understand the purpose of His miracles.  They’ve found Him and have come up with a plan: encourage Jesus to “give us that bread every day” like Moses did, because we want “to perform God’s works, too.”  “If you want us to believe in you” we need more! Jesus reminds them God is offering them a lifetime of more…because He is “the true bread from heaven.” 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus understands what it is the people are committed to — getting more for themself!  Jesus is aware of their obvious needs.  What they intend as manipulation, Jesus turns into the opportunity to tell them the truth they need to know.

What does it say about people?
Sin’s intent has found a way to program people with a split personality of faith that desires to A) “perform God’s works” at the same B) it looks for the reward it thinks it deserves.

Is there truth here for me?
There are sincere moments when I want “to perform God’s works, too,” but there is also evidence that sinful split personality still exists in me.  The sting I experience when a really good deed I’ve done, in secret, is attributed to someone else is the reality of truth Jesus uses as opportunity to show me truth I need to know.  I am not immune to trying to manipulate God for more…even in the sincere goodness of a secret moment of grace extended to someone else!  The “True Bread of Heaven,” has seen the need of a heart locked in A) and B).  Jesus has transformed that heart’s desire and an undeserved reward into the Life God has promised for those who “believe in the one he has sent, ”…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “ABBA! Father!”  Romans 8:15b

Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022 – MORE

John 6:15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. “ 

What are your perceptions about Jesus this Easter Morning?  I’m guessing they’re like mine.  It is good to celebrate this glorious day because our hearts have responded to the Savior whose purpose was to give His life for ours.  We celebrate because Jesus’s death on a cross has been honored by God, who has come to us now as a Resurrected Savior.  We celebrate because that Savior, whose power now extends beyond the grave, has chosen to give us MORE; his life within us.  

MORE is the one word I wrote that makes John 6:15 both difficult and meaningful to consider.  It’s an odd thing to find myself  this special Easter morning asking “why?”   Why did Jesus withdraw from the crowd that wanted to force Him to be their king?  I think my answer lies in that “MORE…”

MORE was indeed what the people wanted.  They knew that much!  But Jesus had come for something MORE than the useful byproduct of miracles. MORE miracles could not transform a life. Transformation was something MORE than a heart recognizing Jesus did have miraculous power. Jesus would not settle for being their king. There was something MORE to that purposeful separation. 

This Resurrection Day
I have remembered giving MORE is still God’s useful purpose.
Jesus’s purposeful separation between the cross and the grave
has become the MORE of my own salvation.
MORE is not just the useful byproduct of
the miraculous sign of resurrection.
MORE this Resurrection Day IS Jesus!
Jesus is The Road Out from the slavery of my separation from God
and The Road In to new life in a different Kingdom
MORE than that…Today I remember
The Resurrected Jesus is THE MIRACLE!

Exodus [The Road Out] – The Promise

Exodus 40:
33 Then he [Moses] hung the curtains forming the courtyard around the Tabernacle and the altar. And he set up the curtain at the entrance of the courtyard. So at last Moses finished the work.
34 Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
35 Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
36 Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it.
37 But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.
38 The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys. NLT

The tabernacle is being set up for the first time. God has given Moses all the plans for the tabernacle that are recorded in Exodus.  They have been skillfully created with precise and lavish detail.  At this moment of completion, though, the tabernacle is still only an elaborate tent…waiting for that “cloud” cover.

That cloud had first appeared behind the people of Israel as they fled, like a barrier of fog to confuse the Egyptian army.  Then the cloud was ahead of them leading by day and night toward an unseen promise. Those are two very significant aspects of that cloud they would always remember.  The cloud HAD protected their back as they fled from the enemy and the cloud was NOW actively leading them to freedom.  That moment in time when Moses hangs that final curtain at the entrance, and that cloud settles “down over” the tabernacle foreshadowing something that would FOREVER change the history of their future, as well as ours.

Long before the cross, there was the Exodus where one final curtain and the “glory of the Lord” changed an elaborate tent into a tabernacle of promise.  The place where God began to reveal His precise and lavish plan of restoration for living and walking among His people once again… Jesus!

Exodus [The Road Out] – Three Curtains

Exodus 40 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Set up the Tabernacle on the first day of the new year.  3 Place the Ark of the Covenant inside, and install the inner curtain to enclose the Ark within the Most Holy Place. 4 Then bring in the table, and arrange the utensils on it. And bring in the lampstand, and set up the lamps. 5 “Place the gold incense altar in front of the Ark of the Covenant. Then hang the curtain at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 6 Place the altar of burnt offering in front of the Tabernacle entrance. 7 Set the washbasin between the Tabernacle and the altar, and fill it with water. 8 Then set up the courtyard around the outside of the tent, and hang the curtain for the courtyard entrance.  NLT

Each of those three curtains: the entrance to the courtyard, the entrance to the Tabernacle within, and finally the entrance into the Holy of Holies – were designed to reveal God’s identity to people caught in the wilderness.  The purpose of each curtain was to make them physically aware of the separation between the wilderness of man and the Holiness of God.  The people’s words often proclaimed their desire to worship God and do all that He asked, but in reality they needed physical reminders it wasn’t their words that separated them from the presence of God but their actions, and so he gave them three curtains. The first curtain was at the entrance gate to the courtyard.
#1 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

They had to physically pass through that first curtain, with their offering, into a courtyard filled with visceral reminders of sin.  Sin that required a substitute of blood for God’s forgiveness. In that first-step place they would “see” the second barrier; the curtain before the Holy Place that only priests could enter.
#2 for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. 1 Peter 2:9

An finally, beyond their sight, but not their imagination was the last curtain. The curtain that hid the presence of God from them.  A presence so fearful that even the high priest entered with a rope tied about him so he could be pulled out in case he would be struck down because the blood of their sacrifices did not please God; the last barrier to forgiveness.
#3 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark 15:37-38
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  Hebrews 10:19-20

Exodus [The Road Out] — The Rock

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “I pray thee, show me thy glory.” 19 And he[the Lord] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.”

“Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee”

21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

The old hymn, Rock of Ages, is what inspired my painting.  God chose to reveal the truth of His moral code, written from His heart on a surface physically made by His own hand.  Can you imagine the Lord of all Creation busily speaking every perfect thing into reality; and yet purposefully carving broken fissures and clefts into that solid, immovable mass of rock and calling it “good?” 

We don’t have those stone tablets but we still have the ten truths for life that were on them.  Can you imagine the permanence of God’s message as much more than two [or four] lost tablets but a message from the stone itself?  Those Words have never been lost!  Instead they have become a good and perfect place to hide as the Lord of all Creation passes by to reveal Himself amid the broken fissures and clefts. It’s a very different solid, permanent and immovable place of safety from which to witness the Glory we cannot bear to see — THE Rock.

Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:4

 

Exodus [The Road Out] – Jesus

Exodus 32:7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; RSV

It’s easy to see how obvious the idolatry of THOSE people is.  How in the world could they miss that the golden calf looked just like the idol the Egyptians worshipped? These are the same people who’d repeatedly sworn to Moses that whatever God told them to do, they would do.  These are the people who knew they were to serve God on this mountain.  These are the people who were willing to settle for making the Glory of God into their own image.

Imagine the heartbreak Moses must have felt as he began his journey down the mountain after being told by the Lord “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”    Therein lies the lesson of how waiting, suspicion and impatience can so easily become the sin that corrupts the mind first and then the heart.  This golden calf was made from the willing offering of the people’s treasure.  Their treasure was what they chose to worship as the god that brought them out of Egypt even though only one day before that idol hadn’t even existed.  

The challenge of my mind and heart as a descendant of THOSE people, who’s inherited this sad and shameful moment as part of my history, is to find the thread that connects those truths to the truth of the Sovereign and Eternal Glory of God revealed in Jesus for believers today. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[as a sin offering] he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8

“Fallen people are capable of great sacrifices,
but not out of love for God.”
 John Piper

Exodus [The Road Out] – Direct Access

Exodus 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to  the children of Israel.”

This is my poetic representation of God’s word using verbatim phrases from this portion of Exodus 19 with the goal of seeing the place God is creating for Jesus.  I have the advantage of hindsight and knowing the reality of God’s desire is to make a place for Himself within the people of His own heart.  Moses hoped the Instructions God gave him to give to the people he’d led to this mountain would become a convenient working arrangement between them, but God had something greater in mind.  He intended those Ten Words to become the promise of direct priestly access. 

The third new moon after
the land of Egypt,
they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
There Israel encamped before the mountain.
Moses went up to God.
The Lord called to him
saying, Thus you shall say –
You have seen what I did
how I bore you on eagles’ wings
and brought you to myself.
Now therefore,
if you will obey my voice
and keep my covenant,
you shall be my own possession among all peoples
you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. RSV

It’s taken three months to get to this place of wilderness at the foot of the Mountain of God. “The word conventionally translated ‘wilderness’ is not a sandy desert, but grazing country, not settled by man.”a  Some scholars believe God has brought Moses back to the same place of the burning bush where He first spoke audibly to Moses.  Now Moses has heard the voice of God for a second time and been given the Ten Commands from God that are meant to offer tired, hungry, irritable and lost people a place of worship where they will finally have direct access to God within their memory, their mind and their heart.  Come, Lord Jesus!

aEnduring Word commentary