The Judge

John 12:47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” ESV

These Words are the last thing Jesus says before separating himself from his public ministry to begin this very personal “Passover” preparation.  Jesus speaks these Words as a commandment from His father.  They are the judge, not Jesus.  God’s commandment is eternal life and He has given Jesus the power to Pass Over His judgment to liberate those who will hear and keep His Word.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise,
as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake.
He does not want anyone to be destroyed,
but wants everyone to repent. NLT

 

Purification

John 11:54 As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples.  55 It was now almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, and many people from all over the country arrived in Jerusalem several days early so they could go through the purification ceremony before Passover began. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?” NLT 

The Jews carved out a convenient and workable system of government for themselves even though they were actually under Roman rule.  It’s a system dependent on being able to exercise their authority by maintaining a low profile.  People are coming into Jerusalem from “all over the country” to ceremonially purify themselves before Passover begins.  The stories of Jesus and his miracles are being repeated and many believe.  Jesus has become an inconvenient attention-getting detail that has too many people talking.  

They gather because this preparation is a necessary prerequisite to their eligibility to participate in the week of Passover.  There are ceremonial washings in small pools filled by “living waters” fed by a nearby spring or well.  In a land of dust and heat that baptismal-type of cleansing has become both a sign of their repentance from ceremonial pollution and an official pardon for their separation from God.  They have evidence from their own Scripture that God has acted on their behalf.  They have awareness of needing purity.  They have the desire for holiness. They have firsthand stories of miracles people have seen Jesus do with their own eyes.  They have the right question: “What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?”  Only one right response is missing in all their devoted preparation …Come, Lord Jesus!

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 NLT

Bound by Jesus

John 10:1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.  

John’s reference to ”anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate” is about a thief and a robber who looks for opportunity to attack.  When your heart is broken you are vulnerable to attack.  That’s where I am right now because of grief.  My natural inclination when searching for words was to use the old familiar language of protection…to “bind” Satan.  Then I realized I don’t want to attribute any power at all to that thief and robber  so I’ve chosen my words carefully for this prayer of protection, Bound by Jesus.    “… The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd” who will protect my heart, mind and body.  These words are the “gatekeeper” beside my bed that opens the gate for the shepherd as the first and the last thing of my day.  I’ve only just realized it may be so much more than a prayer for protection in grief.  It may be a prayer for life.

“Come to me, Shepherd!
Come quickly! Make no tarrying, O my Lord.” 
a
Come to protect my heart, mind and body
from the enemy as only you can.
Be the shield that deflects the enemy’s clever
use of weapons that destroy my heart.
Let my mind recognize ”you will” before
the enemy tells me “I should.”
Help me be satisfied in my weakness
because of your strength.

a quote from Hind’s Feet on High Places

Purpose

John 9:1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” NLT

Real life is less than a perfect display place but
The purpose of Jesus was not limited by “dis-ability”
so the power of God could be seen.”
“But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world”
[And Now]
“You are the light of the world.
—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden…
 so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”a

aMatthew 5:14

 

Power

John 8:51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. 52 At this they exclaimed, ‘Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’

These verses are such an odd exchange.  It reminded me that the politics of power is nothing new.  It can even impact faith.  No I’m not talking about the “R” or “D” kind of politics but the dictionary kind: “activities associated with governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having, or hoping to, achieve power.” 

Jesus’ words: “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death” challenged the Jew’s power over their people and that was the real conflict they had with Him.  Their political authority gave them the ultimate power to end life, but Jesus continued to proclaim He had the ultimate power to end death. 

Believers in Jesus Christ already have been given the promise of the power over death wrapped in the mystery of being “born again.”  Born again is the indefinable personal moment of  recognition that Jesus Christ guarantees your “new” life will not see or taste death.  That life has already begun in you.  You are living it right now.   It doesn’t promise you won’t die but that by obeying His word in this life you will be able to see and taste the power of life that continues beyond death.

Shelter

John 7:10 But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. 11 The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.  14 Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. NLT

Why didn’t Jesus go to the Feast of Shelters with his brothers?  This feast was one of three required pilgrimages for all Jews.  It was their remembrance of the temporary dwellings they lived in for all those years in the desert.  Why did He change his mind and go?

Shelter:
Noun: A place providing food and accommodations for the homeless.
Verb: To protect or shield from something harmful

Jesus WAS the Shelter!  The miracles were a mixed blessing that could lead people to the Shelter or keep them from Him.  For some miracles were signs of power that verified Jesus’s claim that He was sent from God, but for others they were signs of power that threatened their own reputation.  “Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach.”  Jesus chose to go public at this important festival, not with miraclesa  but with teaching.  A miracle was an improbable display of power in a given moment to direct the focus of those who saw and heard.  Jesus chose to teach them something even more extraordinary; the provision of God that would shelter His people for all time.  

Jesus IS the Shelter that transitions our life into eternity.  He has chosen to “teach” us by His Word that reaches through the ages and redirects our focus to provide nourishment for us that is more than food and to be our Shelter for the circumstances of daily life so we might “honor the one who sent him.”  That’s a miracle!

a John Piper

Mindset

John 7:1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”

The voices in these verses are different but they are reminiscent of that “snake” in the garden assuring Adam and Eve to take that first step that would change the created mindset of man from contentment with, and dependence on, the glory of God to the tempting awareness of self.  “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”  Thank God that Jesus the man had heard it all before.

Works

John 6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Every person of faith is told we should read the Bible, pray, love, serve and meet together.  We’ve prioritized those more tangible expressions of our faith as requirements God has given that will lead us to Jesus. Many of us could truthfully confess at times we’ve experienced those foundations of faith as the burden of works, the “shoulds.”  Even the faith that is a gift of God does not make us immune to the flaws of a human nature that wants an answer to the wrong question; “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

It’s entirely possible the purpose of the struggle we have with those foundational parts of our faith is to help us recognize we are unable to do the work God requires.  The right question for us to ask is: WHO must do “the works God requires?”  And the answer is right there for us…”The work of God is this: to believe in [Jesus] the one he has sent.”

Shared Glory

John 5:44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 

Glory: high renown or honor won by notable achievements.

This one verse is part of Jesus’s fairly long indictment of the brokenness of human nature.  As hard as it is to read, it’s also encouragement to respond.  From the moment of our birth we begin to understand “notable achievements” can make people respond positively to us.  Even a toddler can enchant us with their response to the right encouragement.  We clearly have a built-in nature that still recognizes “notable achievements” can result in glory for this life.

Jesus is determined to remind us it’s our remembrance of what glory is meant to be that is broken.  Our glory will not be complete until we “seek the glory that comes from the only God” who’s most “notable achievements” were to create mankind and this world so His glory might become part of our shared glory that would honor Him.  

How can you believe, when you receive “high renown or honor won by notable achievements” from one another and do not seek the “high renown or honor won by notable achievements” that comes from the only God?

In Himself

John 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

Is this one verse saying God granted a self-contained life to Jesus similar to what He did for Adam?  OR Is this verse saying Jesus’s life was “God in himself?” That is a bigger truth worth pondering.

The repetition of “in himself” slips by so quickly it’s easy to read it without questioning if there might be something more.  It’s easy to accept Jesus being the living example of the perfection of God, His emissary if you will, sent to be like an extension cord that would connect us to the power of God.  That is the truth of experience but words are gifts I believe God uses to direct devotional thoughts. The idea of “in himself” identifying Jesus as both the extension cord and the power made me think about Jesus as the sacrifice God made for our life on earth even before His sacrifice on the cross.

God “in himself” as Jesus was sacrificed on a cross to assure us there was a  connection that would lead to eternity.  Heaven is surely a blessing to look forward to but we live life our life on earth.  The first sacrifice of God “in Himself” was Jesus living on earth to become the connection of this life and eternity.  God “in himself” as Jesus on earth could teach us by example how to experience a connection to God that would turn every day of life, here and now, into the beginning of an eternity to come.