In John 10, we learn about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. NT Wright brings up how the word “Good” doesn’t do justice to the compelling power of Jesus’ love. He says,

All this should make it clear why Jesus refers to himself as the ‘good’ shepherd (verses 11 and 14). But our word ‘good’ doesn’t quite catch the full meaning of the word John has written here. For us, ‘good’ can sound a bit cold or hard, merely moralistic. The word John uses can also mean ‘beautiful’. This doesn’t refer to what Jesus looked like. It’s about the sheer attractiveness of what, as the shepherd, he was doing. When he calls, people want to come. When they realize he has died for them, they want to even more. The point of calling Jesus ‘the good shepherd’ is to emphasize the strange, compelling power of his love.

[Tom Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10, 153-54 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004).]

 
 
Quick thoughts, meant to encourage. That's what the blog will be about. I will do my best to write a quick and encouraging thought. That's what the blog should be about, and that's what it will be about. Subscribe if you would like.

First thought will come later today...hopefully :)
 
 
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What an interesting week we’ve had down here in Etna Green. The joy of the birth of my daughter was dampened slightly by the news that the church was vandalized in my absence. Someone decided they would get into the church at night and spray off a fire extinguisher throughout the church basement and steal some money from a Sunday school classroom. We had to steam clean the carpets and scrub the tables really well to get the gunk out. The basement is somewhat back to normal, but I’m still a little discouraged.

The mission of EGCC has been to put love where love is not. I’ve begun a big push in the last year or two to become more outward focused in our ministries at EGCC. Because we believe our mission is to put love where it isn’t, we do things like feed children meals, Monday through Friday throughout the summer. There are hungry kids in our community, so we open the doors to them and offer them a free meal. Parents are welcome to come along and we happily feed them too. It’s a good ministry that meets a practical need and it helps kids. We are putting love where it is needed.

I believe the culprits of the vandalism unlocked a door during lunch, which is never unlocked, and used that to sneak in, in the middle of the night. They came in for juice and money and decided that they never saw what a fire extinguisher did and wanted to try it out. They did it a little bit and thought it was fun and then they went crazy, spraying it everywhere. Leaving a giant mess for someone else to pick up.

My initial response is to lock the doors and stop our outreach all together. Thinking to myself “If this is how kids are going to respond to our love than we will shut the whole thing down and they can starve to death.” After more reflection, I’ve realized that it is because we love them that we must press on. It only affirms all the more that there are places within so many children’s hearts and lives where there isn’t love. They need a church to open their doors and love them. They need a church to spread their arms out and welcome them in and offer them salvation in Jesus Christ. The fire extinguisher won’t put out the fire that our church has for the lost. We put love where love is not, and sometimes it hurts.

It reminds me of a painting from Vincent Van Gogh. The Sower is Van Gogh’s interpretation of the Parable of the Sower. When Van Gogh uses the color yellow it implies the presence of God. The next time you check out Van Gogh’s starry night, you will see yellow throughout the sky and in the city, and hopefully you will notice yellow’s absence in the church. He makes a powerful point with his colors. In his work The Sower, Van Gogh implores the color yellow throughout. He uses it in the field as the wheat grows, and he covers the sky in yellow. Van Gogh is reminding us that God is at work. The painting depicts the sower dredging through the field, spreading the seeds everywhere; along the path, the rocks and the birds are shown as well. To sow the seed he isn’t meticulous in avoiding the trouble spots, he spreads it liberally and he seems to hope for the best. You can pick out in the painting where the seeds will grow and where it won’t. It’s a beautiful painting that I admire more and more each time I look at it.

I suspect that when you set out to put love where love is not, some love might fall on the path and get trampled, some birds may eat it up and other times it will land on a rock and never take deep enough root to really change a life. But the point is, that the seed, or word of God is spread, and given an opportunity to grow. Yeah it may get choked out, trampled, rejected or stolen, but it may take root, grow and mature.

Van Gogh understands the parable; it’s God  that does the mysterious growth, not the sower. Van Gogh teaches us that the Sowers job is a simple one; spread the seeds and let God do the rest.

I am reminded this week that our job is to keep spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. There is an absence of love in this world, and God showed us that love through Jesus Christ. His Kingdom is upon us; it is here and coming in full. No amount of vandalism will keep us from our mission to love the world as Jesus loves this world. The love we offer this community may get trampled again. It may get vandalized, threatened or stolen, but our source of love is mighty and awesome. We are filled and led by the Spirit. We won’t let a little fire extinguisher extinguish the burning desire we have in our hearts for the world to know the love of God.
 
 
Mark 3

Jesus is the Deliverer and Rescuer of the world.

The scribes who came from Jerusalem were saying of Jesus “He is possessed by Beelzebul, by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 3:22-23.

“How can Satan cast out Satan?” – Jesus begins the logical argument of how and why would Satan cast out Satan? For one, it doesn’t make any sense and Satan fighting against himself would make his throne significantly weaker.

Jesus explains it in a parable:

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but its coming to an end.”

Jesus elaborates further on his point about Satan casting out Satan: kingdoms and homes, divided against each other, cannot stand. This is both logical and historical. We see throughout history the validity of this parable in our experiences. When there is mutiny in the camp, or on the boat, disaster soon follows. The same is true here. Jesus cannot logically be of Satan, because Satan divided would be weaker.

Verse 27 can be confusing for interpretation. But I say with confidence that the strong man is referring back to Satan. It reads “But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

If Satan in fact is the strong man, Jesus is telling his adversaries his intentions to bind Satan and free the world from its slavery to sin. I don’t know that his audience realizes this initially.

We can draw at least two conclusions come from this parable. Jesus is not in collusion with Satan and Jesus is the deliverer and rescuer of the souls of humankind.

A question we may be asking is how and when does Jesus tie the hands of the strong man? Jesus ties the hands of Satan when he goes to the cross and offers us forgiveness of sin. Satan’s grip on humanity is our addiction and slavery to sin. Jesus on the cross provides atonement for that sin and frees us from it all at the same time.

I think its important to realize what enables Jesus to forgive us and free us.

How Jesus bound the hands of Satan was when he was tempted in the wilderness and later in the garden of Gethsemane facing temptation. When Jesus faced the temptation of the evil one and remained faithful he overcame the ploys of the evil one. Satan’s ploys have captured every man before and after Jesus. But it didn’t work on Jesus because Jesus is more powerful than Satan. Jesus overcame the temptation of the evil one and showed that Satan had no power over him. Jesus was human in every way and remained faithful to God. Jesus' faithfulness puts him in a unique position to go into the house of Satan, bind his hands and feet and take for his Father the spoils of victory, the souls of men.

What matters most from this text is this: Jesus has provided for humanity a way out of the grips of the evil one. Satan’s hands are still tied and the name that binds them is the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus may overcome the most powerful of demons. The name of Jesus frees men and women enslaved to the evil one because of their sin. The name of Jesus is the name of deliverance. That’s the point. Jesus is the forgiver of souls and redeems and saves humankind. All people may be saved and be reconciled back to their heavenly Father because Jesus is more powerful than the evil one.

Jesus isn’t satisfied with only tying the hands of the strong man; he ransacks his house and saves us. Call on the name of Jesus, for he is the Savior of the world.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, you have made possible through your Son, Jesus Christ atonement and freedom from sin. I know that every person to ever live sinned, except for one, my deliverer, Jesus. I praise you and thank you for him. may my life make known to others that freedom and eternal life made available in him. I ask this in the powerful name above all names, Jesus, amen.

 
 
Mark 2

I can tell already that this is going to be difficult to write through the book of Mark. Mark is going through the life of Christ at an almost staggering pace that offers plenty to reflect on. There is a lot to talk about from Chapter 2, like the concern over the Sabbath, Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors and even the old wineskin discussion. But my heart always goes to the four faithful men who did whatever they had to, to get their friend to Jesus.

I am enamored by their faith and gumption to go through a crowd of people, dig through a roof and lower their friend down to Jesus. Never mind what people may have thought. Never mind how much work it was going to be to carry and lower the paralyzed man as they did. Never mind all of the reasons why they shouldn’t go through what they did, they did it anyways.

I love this story of faithful men; it offers an incredible challenge to me. Am I willing to do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus? No matter what the obstacles are, am I willing to do what I need to get people to Jesus? An even more difficult question might be, do I believe that it is Jesus that people actually need? When I see the struggles of people around me, do I immediately think that Jesus is what they need most or is what they need most is a warm cooked meal?

A warm-cooked meal may help you lead people to Christ, don’t get me wrong, my point is this though; sometimes we do what we think is most important and forget who offers New Life. People come to me all the time with physical needs, and the root of the problem is almost always a spiritual need. They, of course, only want for me to meet that physical need and want me to leave the sin problems swept under the rug. Jesus saw the same situation, a man presented to him with a physical need, and instead he offers the spiritual help the man truly needs, the forgiveness of his sins.

The four faithful men responded to the need for the paralyzed man to be healed. They brought him to Jesus. They knew where to go for help and the response of the Helper could never have been predicted.

Perhaps that is where I am heading with all of this, we need to get people to Jesus and let the real physician do the work of healing people where they need the most healing.

I don’t always know what that looks like. It’s easy to make a statement like “we need to get people to Jesus” and not put it into application.

I imagine, it’s a community of people making it a priority of their own to go before Jesus and seek forgiveness and healing for themselves. What might work best is an example of faithful people, faithfully seeking Jesus frequently.

Or it might be people being Jesus to others, offering forgiveness and love to the people around them. I’m sure we all have love and forgiveness that needs distribution.

It might be simply praying for people to come to Christ. What I like about the four faithful men is they saw a need, they saw the answer, and they responded.

The next time you see a person in need, remember that it is Jesus they need, and do whatever it is you have to do to get them to Jesus.

The Good Samaritan might be the best illustration of seeing a need and meeting it in a loving way.

Are we introducing our world to its loving Savior, Jesus Christ?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, I do not always consider your Son the answer to pains and struggles of this world. For that, I repent and ask for forgiveness. When the needs and hurts of others are before me, may I respond as the four faithful men did, who were willing to go through significant obstacles to get the paralytic to your Son. As they were faithful, may I be faithful in bringing people to the healer and great physician of our souls, Jesus Christ. As your servant, I pray this in Jesus name, Amen.


 
 
Mark 1 - The Gospel in 140 characters or less

After reading through the book of John and then Acts, the writing style is noticeably different in the book of Mark. Attention to detail seems to be lost on Mark’s Gospel, his job is to get to the point, as quickly as possible, conveying only the most essential information concerning Jesus. You could almost call it the Twitter Gospel. Mark writes as though he has limited space and is going to say everything you need to know about Jesus, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This has me thinking, what if you could have only one Twitter update to describe the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Would you mention sin, the cross, or the need for atonement from that sin? Would you simply describe it as “Good News”? Would you reference John 3:16? In a few words, a twitter of facebook update, how would you describe the Gospel?

Mark 1:14-15 captures the Gospel here, “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

That’s 132 characters if you care. Just enough for a twitter update or a facebook news feed.

While Mark is lacking in flowery description and elaborate story, he covers the essentials of Jesus’ life with precision. When it came to writing about the Gospel, Mark chose Jesus’ sermon that began with these words, “The kingdom of God has come near.”

It wasn’t until college that I really understood the Gospel as the in-breaking kingdom of God. This changed how I viewed my life in Christ. My life as a follower of Christ took on a whole new meaning because of more developed understanding of the Gospel. At least three convictions come from this perspective of the Good News. As a follower of Christ then, 1) I announce the availability of the kingdom of God where Jesus reigns. 2) I show people the way of the kingdom by following Jesus’ teaching and example. And 3) I also give the world a taste of what God’s Kingdom will be like by belonging to body of believers in Jesus Christ who live out the way of the kingdom together, known as the Church.

The Gospel in a few words is this: God’s Kingdom is now available and brought near because of Jesus Christ, through his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

Our response to the nearness of God’s kingdom is to do what Jesus says, “Repent and Believe the Good News!”

A good practice for you might be to write out how you understand the good news in a short, concise statement, that is easy to remember. Publish the Gospel message to twitter, to facebook, or just go down to the coffee shop and share it with a friend!

Prayer – Heavenly Father, I praise and thank you for sending your Son. Through him there is forgiveness and new life, in your kingdom. I long for the day your kingdom will come in full. Until then, I ask for strength by the encouragement of your Spirit to live a faithful life that brings you both honor and glory. Father, forgive me of my sins, lead me in the way of Truth, and most of all, let Your kingdom come and Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven, in Jesus name, Amen.

 
 
As we gather together to read through the wonderful book of Acts about the very first community of believers, let us be encouraged by the spiritual progression of the Apostles. One of the most obvious progressions in faith is that of Peter.

In Chapter 2 of Acts we read about Pentecost the sermon Peter preached to thousands of people that day. Acts 2:38 is the response to the question from the crowd, “What do we do in response to the Gospel?” (my paraphrase) And Peter responds, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Peter’s response is repentance and baptism. I could get carried away with the importance of the first part of his response, but it is the second part that I would like to pay particular attention to. “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.”

I love that the Gospel is Good News for everyone, not just a particular people, age group, racial group or gender. It is for all people. Peter says this now, but I don’t know that he fully realizes the type of rift raft that is involved in “all who are far off.”

In Acts 10 and 11 we see the interesting story of Peter’s vision and visit with Cornelius the Centurion. Cornelius is one you might consider as far off racially as it might get. He was a Gentile that Peter and other Jewish men would have avoided previously according to Jewish law and customs. After prodding from Jesus to take the Gospel to all people, Peter obliged and spoke with Cornelius, who was a godly man in the first place, and baptized and converted his whole family.

When Peter is asked by his friends to give an account for the type of rift raft he was associating with, he retells the story of Jesus coming to him in a vision and what happened. The people are compelled and they respond in this way in Acts 11:18 “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘ So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Peter preached that the promise was for those who were both near and far away from God. It took some strong convincing on Jesus’ part to convince Peter that was true. Three times in fact. And their was Peter’s fellow Apostles, they were uncomfortable with the notion that the Gospel might spread to the likes of the Gentiles, or why else question Peter, their beloved friend? It turns out, “God has granted repentance that leads to life.” When they understand this clearly, I think the whole Christianity and following Jesus thing makes sense. The parables start coming to life when you realize the Gospel is for all people.

The Gospel is for everyone. I am a believer today because of it. I can be a believer because of it. As can you and your neighbor. Your brother or sister may believe as can your mother or father. All can believe and have life in Jesus Christ because God’s love stretches beyond our divisions, yes, “even to Gentiles” like you and me.

It was a process for Peter and his fellow Apostles to realize the Gospel is for everyone. Do you believe the Gospel is for all people? Do your actions match up with what you believe?

These are important questions to ask if we are going to progress in our faith like the Apostles.

The best question might be more of a prayer, asking God simply this, “Where do you want me to take the message of salvation Lord God?” And take some time to listen.

 
 
John 21

Well I wanted to wait to post on John 21 until this morning. It’s been a great journey together through the text. I know that I’ve benefited greatly by reading the scriptures together in community. I’m glad I waited to post until today because something unexpected happened yesterday.

Do you suffer from guilt? I do. From as long as I can remember I’ve always had a guilty conscience. I rarely break rules because my conscience won’t let me (unless its speeding, I do that all the time). The moment I do something I know I shouldn’t, my conscience goes into overdrive.

There are a couple of things from my high school years that I would like to totally forget. One of those moments was in my Senior year of high school. I was having a terrible day after someone was making fun of me endlessly. I shouldered most of it, until one of my good friends said something to me and I totally flipped out. I slammed him up to the lockers and I’m pretty sure I cussed him out.

This was not normal for me. I was typically pretty easy going, but my anger inside overflowed and it hurt someone, someone I considered a good friend.

I almost immediately asked for forgiveness if I remember correctly, but my friend was rightfully angry with me. I didn’t think forgiveness would ever be available.

I have lived with that guilt for a long, long time.

My friend and I got along better, but there was always a degree of separation.

He went to the same church as I did, and one Sunday I had the opportunity to preach. He was in the audience, and I had the guilt of the world on my shoulders that day. I thought to myself, “What will he think? He knows I’m not a very good person.” I felt like I was the most two-faced preacher ever to exist.

We went our separate ways after graduating from high school. I can’t remember a time we spoke since then.

On the occasions that I would go home, I would see my friend’s grandfather. I would ask how his grandson was doing and he often expressed concern for him and wanted me to pray for him and talk to him.

I prayed for him, I didn’t think he wanted to talk to me, and I didn’t know how to get a hold of him even if I did want to call.

It’s been almost eight years since I spoke with him. I’ve carried guilt with me that whole time. My guilty conscience had me thinking that my friend had run away from God because of my sin, my hypocrisy, my hurting him.

John 21 is the concluding chapter of what is an amazing discourse on the identity of Jesus Christ. In this chapter, we see Peter, who undoubtedly was filled with guilt after his mishap from a few days prior.

He denied knowing Jesus, three times. Peter was telling Jesus just days prior that he would never forsake him and the next we know he is denying him when it matters most. The guilt must have weighed heavy on the shoulders of Peter in the days following. Perhaps he was trying to forget about it by going back to fishing, or maybe he didn’t think he was worthy of ministry because of his sin.

God’s grace is sufficient for my sin. John captures this in Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter:

Jesus Reinstates Peter

 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

   “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

   Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter would go from this interaction with Jesus and play a significant role in the advancement of the Gospel and establishment of the Church.

Jesus reinstates Peter to ministry, instructing him to “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” and “follow me.”

Jesus reinstitutes Peter with a question, “do you love me?”

Let’s quickly go back to my story. Yesterday, I received a friend request on facebook from my friend in high school that I slammed into the lockers. It turns out, he’s still a Christian, he’s doing well, he’s getting married, he’s going to church. And in our conversation catching up, he said, “I hope all is going well for you and your family. Keep doing the Lord's work and God Bless”

My guilty conscience had him far away from God, never to return. What my guilt was really doing was keeping a part of me away from God. I learned something about the sufficiency of God’s grace yesterday. I cannot put into words the feeling I have today that my friend remains a Christian.

John 21 changed my life yesterday. When I read it the first time, in the morning Peter’s reinstatement didn’t mean nearly as much as when I read it later in the evening.

I’m a new person today because when Jesus reinstated Peter for ministry, he reinstated me too. Because of the forgiveness for Peter I know the guilt and inadequacy I felt because of past sins are forgiven in Christ.

I’m still going to work on my friendship with my friend, and pursue forgiveness with him. I pray it goes well.

I don’t know that my sin is quite comparable to that of Peter’s denial of Jesus, but in my actions towards my friend, I certainly denied Jesus’ Lordship over my life.

That happens from time to time for all of us. But as John’s Gospel has so beautifully reminded me, Jesus forgives. He forgives and he reinstates us to the task of ministry and calls us to follow him.

My prayer is this:

Heavenly Father, merciful  and mighty God,

            I Love you Lord. Your grace is sufficient for my sin. Lord, you well know that I am a recovering sinner, prone to lapses in judgment, hurtful speech and actions. You know that on any given moment I may deny the Lordship of Jesus by my words and deeds. Yet you forgive because you are a patient and loving God. You are longsuffering for your creation to return to you. For that, may my love for you Lord be undeniable.

           I praise you for these things: Your mercy, Your Grace, Your Love, exemplified and poured out for me in the life, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Forgive me as I forgive others. Lead me Lord and be my help that I may preach of you and your Son Jesus Christ to the very end of my days. I choose to follow you Jesus, you know that I love you Lord, Amen.


 
 
John 20
The resurrected Lord’s announcement to his disciples is “Peace be with you!” (19,21,26) I would also argue that when Jesus calls Mary by name, he offers her peace as well. A result of the resurrection is Peace. The victory over death is ultimately what will bring reconciliation and peace to the entire world. God’s redemption agenda is ultimately made possible because the grave couldn’t hold Jesus. Peace, or as the Hebrew word “Shalom” means “Peace, Wholeness.” That wholeness, not previously available because of the brokenness of sin, is made possible in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (see also, Colossians 1:20)

My thoughts for today turn to John’s Gospel as a whole. John gives a summarizing statement to his writing: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (20:30-31)

John’s intention of writing is so people would believe in Jesus Christ and have life in his name. We’ve gone through quite the journey to get to this point. John has painted a beautiful picture of who Jesus truly was. The question is for those who have gone through this text, if you haven’t responded to Christ, will you now? Will you believe in Jesus and respond to that belief in obedience? Will you seek out a community of believers (a church) who will cultivate and encourage that belief in Jesus?

The time to respond is now. Thomas, he wouldn’t believe until he touched the wounds of Christ. But Jesus tells us “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (29) Jesus is talking about me. I haven’t seen him, but I choose to believe. He’s talking about the Church over the last 2000 years, those who believe, even though they do not see. The Bible teaches us that one day, “every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2) The question is, will you believe in response to this Gospel? Will you believe in Jesus now or later? Jesus offers us an incentive for believing now, blessings. He does not elaborate specifically of what that blessing is, but with the help of Peter, we see that that at least one of those blessings is joy. 1 Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Are you filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy? Do you want to be?

Genuine joy is available to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

We’ve been reading the book of John with a few questions in mind: what does John reveal about Jesus, what do we learn about Godliness from the text, how does it apply to our world and how does it apply to our life.

In summary, we learn that Godliness is Jesus, and Jesus is Godliness. When we want to know what a God-honoring manner of life looks like, we look to Jesus. What John ultimately reveals about Jesus is that Jesus truly is the Messiah the Son of God. The Gospel of John is an overwhelming discourse on the character, nature and identity of the Messiah.

Ultimately, the application for all of us is belief. There is nothing of benefit here for those who do not choose to believe in Jesus. The New Life in Jesus is available for those who believe. If people refuse to, there is no life in him, period.

What will our response be to the Gospel of John, is it faith and belief?

We have one more day left in our reading. It’s hard to believe that our 21 day challenge is nearly over. My hope and my prayer is this:

Heavenly Father, you have given us your Word in human form, in the person Jesus Christ. I’ve spent 20 days reading of Jesus Christ, who he was, where he went, what he said, what he believed, what he endured and who he kept in his company. I’ve read of miracles and the wonderful miracle of the resurrection. I choose today and each and every day to follow, to believe in you and your Son, Jesus Christ. Because I believe I know that I have life in Jesus. May I be formed into his image and into his likeness. May my ways be conformed to His ways. I desire to believe in more than my word only, may my whole life be conformed to Jesus’ way. I pray for those who are on the brink of believing but want to see the scars of Jesus. I pray for those who desire more proof. Let the word of God lived out in your church be enough evidence of the Savior. Let the church be a witness to your love revealed in Jesus Christ. I pray this, and for my fellow believers to hold strong in the faith, in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.


 
 
John 19

Even with all the preparation on John’s part, preparing his readers for the crucifixion, it still arrives suddenly. You are left wondering and hoping “Is he going to get out of this?” Jesus doesn’t get out of the crucifixion. Chapter 19 is the last story of the last hours of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion.

John does an excellent job capturing his readers and pointing them to the fulfillment of prophecy. There are too many things to be chalked up as coincidental. Conspiracy theorists may conspire of cover-ups, but you cannot deny the evidence compiled in John’s Gospel alone.

On a different note, but regarding the crucifixion, Pope Benedict has written a new book, and in it he briefly describes who is responsible for the death of Christ. He places the blame squarely on all of our shoulders. It wasn’t the Jews alone that crucified Christ, but the crowd who shouted for the release of Barabbas, not Jesus. It was the Roman soldiers who carried out the punishment and built the cross that held him as well. And above all, it was all of our sin. The Pope only affirms what I viewed anyways. But it was a helpful reminder that my place in the story is among many who turned on Christ and let him die on the cross.

Something new jumped out to me in this all-too familiar story. I never noticed what Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had in common. They both were, in a way, ashamed of being a follower of Jesus. It’s speculation on my part for both. But Joseph feared the Jewish leaders (39) and Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (I suppose so he wouldn’t be seen by fellow Jewish leaders). I don’t know the implications here, I’m just saying it jumped out to me that these two men would take it upon themselves to bury Jesus. Was his death what needed to happen to overcome their concerns? Was the gruesome nature of the previous hours enough to bring about true conviction in Christ? I don’t know the motivation; all we see is a dramatic change from borderline ashamed private following to an honorable public burial. They both honored Jesus by following the burial customs of the day. They ensured the body of Christ was given full respect.

Perhaps this is the spiritual journey we join together in pursuing. We go from infants in the faith, not so certain about who Jesus is, to full-fledged devotion where we serve Christ in the most honoring of ways. John doesn’t unpack their spiritual journey, he merely shows an inquisitive Nicodemus who later discovers what it means to truly be born again (John 3).

Another thought from the text regards the three languages written on the cross. For some reason, I don’t remember this, or I thought it was just one. But John’s gospel records the cross having a sign that stated “Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews” in three languages; Aramaic, Latin and Greek. I am uncertain of the importance of this. Matthew, Mark and Luke fail to mention that it is written in three languages. Why does John feel it necessary to add that to the story? Something inclines me to think that it’s John’s way of drawing our attention to the comprehensive and inclusive nature of the gospel. The sign said “King of the Jews”, but it was written for everybody to read. Why? What Pilate may have meant for harm, God used for his glory. Jesus of Nazareth would prove to not only be king of the Jews, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Today, that is written in hundreds of languages (maybe thousands, I don’t know) and it increases in number each day.

Today’s text has me eagerly waiting for Easter Sunday. It also has me thinking about a song that I’m in love right now, “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher. I love the line in it, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death, Come awake, come awake! Come and rise up from the grave!”

Our hope today is simply this: Jesus dies on Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

My Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that each time I return to the crucifixion story you open my eyes to more of your incomprehensible grace and love. I may spend the rest of my days dwelling on your Word and I will only scratch the surface of understanding the depth of your love. You revealed that love for the world through the death of your Son. I praise and thank you for the Good News that Christ is Risen, that the Gospel of John doesn’t stop at Chapter 19. There is more to the story, of Christ conquering death and bringing salvation for all. I, Father, am on a journey like Joseph and Nicodemus. May I be willing to honor Christ with my life, just as they did with theirs. Thank you for the victory of Jesus. We all put Jesus on the cross, and You raised him from the dead. Thank you that you have made the spoils of Jesus’ victory over death available to his persecutors. For That I praise you. May all glory and honor be given to you. Amen.