Wednesday with John – Obedience

John 12:44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 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 commandmentwhat 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

What is the general theme of the passage?
It isn’t the still small voice this time, “Jesus cried out!”  Listen up…I am the Light God has given for you to believe and see Him.  I’m not your judge, the Word God has given me to speak will be your judge. My commandment is to say and speak His Words in order “to save the world.”  “His commandment is eternal life”…yours!

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus assurance to Himself is His obedience to His father’s commandment…“For I have not spoken on my own authority.” Of course that‘s His assurance to us too.

What does it say about people?
Is there anyone alive who can’t hear Jesus’s frustration in the words of that first phrase “And Jesus cried out”?  Is there any believer alive who doesn’t know first-hand the frustration of longing for someone we care about to believe, hear and accept the truth from Jesus about life from God’s viewpoint of forever?

Is there truth here for me?
This exercise of answering these questions each post is where I often learn the most.  I want to assure God of my commitment to Jesus so I write.  I want to assure you of the reality of Jesus so I write.  There is another truth I saw this morning about why I spend so many hours each week writing. I saw Jesus assuring Himself because of His obedience.  I write every day to assure myself I am obediently learning to be like more like Jesus and writing to you challenges me to find the truth.a  I have one prayer before I press “publish” each time.  Lord do not let your Word be voided by my thoughts.  If there is error, correct me and let it be so obvious to the one who reads that it compels them to find the truth in your Word.

a So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 2 Peter 1:12 NIV

Sunday with John — Need

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [Is 53:1] 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [Is 6:10] 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Sovereign Lord has set guidelines to control what is seen, heard and believed by every heart.  John records some of the most difficult Words in the Bible from Isaiah; that God will withhold Himself from those who’s heart’s desire would only lead them to abuse His Grace. God alone knows exactly who to reveal Himself to.  He alone knows the hearts that have created a lord of their own ideas to give them what they want.  Those hearts are not interested in wanting God who desires to give them what they need “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God sets the rules. His heart’s desire is to accept confession and heal but His perfect and timeless knowledge knows the reality of each heart.

What does it say about people?
It’s possible to know the reality of the Lord enough to know what His heart’s desires are, without understanding He knows the truth of what your heart wants and acts accordingly to preserve the integrity of His Grace.

Is there truth here for me?
I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “wants versus needs.” Usually it’s been cherry-picking that phrase in relation to accumulating “stuff.”  John and Isaiah have thrown Grace into that picture. Can I accept admitting my need for Jesus is part of the gift of Grace rather than a crutch or weakness?  Can you?  Now I think I see what Isaiah saw; when I confess my need for Jesus, the wants of my heart change and I experience the reality of “the glory that comes from God”…His Grace for my need…Jesus.

Thursday [this week] with John – Named

John 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”  When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus has come to this hour with a troubled soul and this prayer: “Father, glorify your name.”  The crowd has heard Jesus speak those words to His Father.  The voice of God responds in a shockwave of thunder to glorify His own name.  Those who’ve heard God’s answer understand He has glorified His name, in Jesus. People begin to respond to Jesus with more interest as He tells them the glory story of God’s plan to lift Him “up from the earth ”…to glorify God’s name, “again.” 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God speaks to confirm the glory of His own name — in Jesus.  Jesus has let God speak for Himself to the crowd.  The crowd has heard and now Jesus speaks for God. “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”  He speaks as the Son of Man and the Light God has placed among them…to “draw all people to myself.”

What does it say about people?
Some hear and understand the voice of God in the thunder is His answer for them, as well as for Jesus.  It’s for their sake His name has been glorified in Jesus. 

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus having a troubled soul would probably not be on any list of His attributes.  It just seems too human. And it is. Jesus has made a deliberate choice to exempt Himself from all the rights of His identity as God in order to complete His identity as the Son of Man.  God in a rare verbal display, thunders His acknowledgment that He’s glorified His name in Jesus’s life and is prepared to glorify His name again in Jesus’s death.  Jesus’s willing choice, despite His troubled soul, is to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice of their Grace.  ”Therefore, He elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other namesHis own.  

aPhil 2:9

Sunday with John — Purpose

John 12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There is life hidden in a hard nugget of grain that cannot be revealed until the hard outer shell is broken by the process of decay. That hard outer shell is the barrier to eternal life. “The hour has come for “the Son of Man” to break that barrier and reveal to His servants “the Father will honor” the life that “bears much fruit” in the presence of Jesus. 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus recognizes God’s timing “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” His purpose is to break through the hard outer shell that prevents life in this world from bearing fruit that the Father honors.

What does it say about people?
Some who have come to worship,“wish to see Jesus.”

Is there truth here for me?
The fruit of eternal life” is hidden in that phrase “whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.“ It’s a hard phrase with a simple “either/or.” EITHER we hate the decay of this world that is going to end, and take us with it, OR we trust Jesus has broken that barrier of decay and given us the fruit of His life to get us through ours in this world so we’ll live with Him forever in the next.  

Wednesday with John – The Sign

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
What seems like a victory parade for Jesus is really a crowd full of curious people.  Some in this crowd wave palms because they are Jesus’s friends and support Him though they don’t fully understand His mission.  Some in this crowd wave palms because they saw Jesus raise a man from death to life and it’s all they can talk about.  Some in this crowd wave palms because they are filled with a kind of nationalistic fervor that Jesus may be the one God has sent to be their king. Lastly there must surely be some in this crowd that wave palms to hide their identity as enemies of Jesus and gather evidence they can use against Him.  Jesus recognizes them all.  He deliberately chooses a donkey’s colt, the symbol of a king coming in peace, for His last journey into Jerusalem.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
This IS His time and His choice.  Jesus has thoughtfully managed His involvement with the crowd.  He’s chosen to enter into Jerusalem as a visible sign of Peace that is to come.

What does it say about people?
Whatever the underlying motives of the crowd; friendship or nationalistic fervor, the reason why they’ve come to usher Jesus into Jerusalem is “they heard” of the amazing sign he had done in raising Lazarus.

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus is going to give them another sign that will be life restoring  and make peace a part of their future. “Behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”  Though they “did not understand these things at first,” some will come to recognize Jesus IS the sign to remind them  “that these things had been written about Him and had been done to him” and prove the Pharisees prophetic words in a way they never intended “Look, the world has gone after him.”

Sunday with John – Evidence

John 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus and Lazarus are attracting too much attention. The people have heard of the power of Jesus’s life to destroy death and come to see for themselves.  They’ve believed. The chief priests have also seen…and believe death will preserve their power and have “made plans” to destroy life. 

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is there.  He is part of the large crowd.

What does it say about people?
People have heard of Lazarus having being raised from the dead.  They have seen Lazarus.  He’s the confirmation of what they’ve heard and they are “going away and believing in Jesus.”

Is there truth here for me?
The phrase “going away” is what has alarmed the chief priests.  Going away…from obedience to a powerful, well-developed and highly refined legal system designed to be their evidence that God verifies them. “Many of the Jews are going away” to follow this man, who the priests have identified as an itinerant outlaw, because they have believed Jesus is their evidence that verifies God.

Wednesday with John — A Final Choice

John 12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
What an unusual but familiar story this is.  It’s filled with facts that are puzzling.  Jesus is a fugitive from the law but this dinner is to honor Him.  Lazarus is evidence that honors God. Martha is honoring Jesus by serving. Mary honors Jesus’s in an unusual display of foot washing at the table.  Judas is blatantly showing the truth of what he honors most.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus’s choices have been perfect…so far.  He hasn’t made any mistakes in his choosing to confront the Pharisees unbelief or in the timing of raising Lazarus from the dead or in choosing how and why Mary will anoint Him.  But what about His choosing Judas Iscariot?

What does it say about people?
Each person in this story, Lazarus, Martha, Mary and Judas Iscariot, has had a very different experience with Jesus.  It makes me think of that brain game, “which of these does not fit?”     

Is there truth here for me?
The answer to that question seems so obvious, but is it?  Jesus did not make a mistake in choosing Judas, nor did He choose Judas to be his betrayer. Judas chose to betray Jesus, the one who’d chosen him!  I believe Jesus chose Judas to teach us a truth that is so simple and so painful that our hearts cannot miss the message…that Jesus chooses to give even betrayer’s a final choice.

Sunday with John — Surrender

John 11:54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Passover is the annual “first-month” commemoration for the Jews of God’s provision of redemption for their ancestors.  It’s an affirmation of a communal history but it’s also a time of instruction for the oldest to the youngest to remember and proclaim. “In every generation a man is bound to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt.”a   Passover is their personal commemoration of God’s intervention where death passed over His people to give them life free of slavery and the weight of history, to seek purity in their new beginning, from one year to the next.  “Now the “Passover of the Jews” was at hand…They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?”  

a Rabbi Gamaliel, Mishnah 116b.  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus has returned to “the region near the wilderness” to complete His last Passover preparation.

What does it say about people?
There’s several amazing details in this story.  They [the people] have come “to purify themselves…they were looking for Jesus” AND they’re talking  to one another about it “as they stood in the temple.” Sometimes even in our ignorance we ask the right question at the right time in the right place: What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?”    

Is there truth here for me?
It’s so like God to redefine life in “the region near the wilderness” — an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region — a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town — a position of disfavor, especially in a political contextb — into the place Jesus is prepared to complete the purpose of his last Passover: that my life might be Passed over from death to eternity, Prepared to live now in freedom, my heart changed to desire Purity and finally able to surrender the weight of sin to Jesus, the New Passover, once and for all.

b Oxford Languages definitions

Wednesday with John — Gathered In

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There are two damming verses in this passage for those chief priests and Pharisees.  Verse 47 is not about the people impacted by Jesus’s “many signs” but that those miracles have narrowed the Pharisees focus to themselves and a different set of personal pronouns; “we and our” in Verse 48. They have forgotten what their God-given purpose IS.  No longer are they maintaining God’s place and God’s nation for God’s purpose.  They think the real threat to their future is Jesus, not that God remembers His plan.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God never forgets His purpose is Jesus, “and not for the nation only.”  Jesus’s death IS the miracle of life that will display His purpose “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” throughout history.

What does it say about people?
God will reveal His truth even in the perverted context of man’s reasoning and the human tendency to focus on “we and our” instead of God and Jesus.

Is there truth here for me?
Many of those same people who “had seen what he [Jesus] did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees” and told them what Jesus had done.  They’d all seen Lazarus come out of the tomb with their own eyes but now they’ve separated into two groups.  I know there were other miracles where life was restored but the truth here seems particularly clear; “resurrection” is the dramatic separation between those who believe and those who need an expert to validate what they believe.  Resurrection is how God has gathered in His children to validate their faith and make it personal!

Sunday with John + Abundant

John 11:38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The mourners are standing around at the tomb.  The tomb is the physical evidence of  the separation between life and death.  There’s been a proper burial so for Jesus to ask for the stone to be taken away seems shocking.  There are rules that must be observed once the tomb is sealed. These mourners are about to see Jesus challenge the power of death with the glory of God…life.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus has promised Martha that belief would let her see the glory of God.   Jesus prays aloud for the crowd.  They need to hear and understand the miracle Jesus is about to do is undeniable proof for them that He has been sent by His Father to overcome the defilement of death with God’s glory…life for Lazarus.

What does it say about people?
The people have come to mourn Lazarus.  There’s an unusual backstory here; moving that stone away is risky business.  Jewish law stated mere nearness to a corpse could render a Jew unclean [Numbers 19] and sometimes the tomb stone would be painted white as courtesy alert for passers-by to take a wide berth because the defilement of death was catching and one person could pass it to another. 

Is there truth here for me?
“Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.”  It wasn’t the mourning of Lazarus that troubled Jesus, it was that death had the power to defile life that was meant to represent the glory of God.  Jesus came to this open tomb to prove He was both the Power of God that could raise Lazarus and the Glory of God, who by a simple two-word command “unbind him” could overcome the defilement of death with abundant life.