760.) John 14

March 30, 2012

John 14   (NRSV)

Jesus the Way to the Father

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

Take comfort; even as He prepares a place for us, He prepares us for that place.

–David Guzik

4And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

6Jesus said to him, “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Is Jesus the only way to God?

An often-heard disagreement with Christianity is “Jesus and Christianity are fine, and it is great that you have a way to God. But I have my own way, and the Muslim has his, and the Buddhist has his. All roads lead to God if we are sincere in seeking Him.”

If a Christian objects to such a statement, they are often met with the reply, “What right do you have to send me to Hell just because I don’t believe in Jesus the way you do?”

But the Bible tells us that Jesus is the only way to God. How can we say this? We begin with the basic truth that Jesus is at least a way to God. Was He a true or a false prophet? Was He at the very least an honest man? If Jesus is a true prophet – or at least an honest man – then what He said about Himself is true. Therefore, Jesus is the only way to God.

Simply put, if Jesus is not the only way to God, then He is not any way to God. If there are many roads to God, then Jesus is not one of them, because He absolutely claimed there was only one road to God, and He Himself was that road. If Jesus is not the only way to God, then He was not a honest man; He was most certainly not a true prophet. He then would either be a madman or a lying devil. There is no middle ground available to us.

Sometimes people object and say, “I believe Jesus was an honest man, and I believe He was a true prophet. But I don’t actually believe He said those things about Himself in the gospels. I believe Christians added those things in later on all by themselves.” But there is no objective reason for a person to make a distinction between “Jesus really said this” or “Jesus really didn’t say that.” We have no ancient texts showing us just the supposedly “true” sayings of Jesus. Any such distinction is based purely on subjective reasons – “I personally don’t think Jesus would have said that, therefore He did not say that – later Christians just put those words in His mouth.”

If it is all up to personal opinion – if we can determine what Jesus said or didn’t say on our own whims – then we can just throw out the gospels period. It really is an all-or-nothing deal. Either we take the words of Jesus as recorded by these historically reliable and accurate documents, or we throw it out all together.

To take it a step further, it is not enough to merely believe in Jesus. Shockingly, that isn’t narrow enough! The Bible also tells us the atoning work of Jesus on the cross was the only way salvation could be accomplished. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His death, Jesus prayed if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me (Matthew 26:39). Jesus asked the Father if there was any other way to accomplish the salvation of man other than His atoning work on the cross, other than Him drinking the “cup” of His sacrificial death on the cross in our place, let it be so. But there was no other way.

The idea that all religious beliefs are equally valid, and all that matters is that we be sincere in our beliefs is so absurd that people would only apply it to religion. If you thought you were a cow – sincerely, of course – and insisted that you should stay outside and eat the lawn, men in white coats would take you away. Why won’t they allow you to be sincere in your beliefs? Because they objectively know you are wrong. Why do we apply the same muddled thinking to religion?

But is Christianity bigoted? Certainly, there are some who claim to be Christians who are in fact bigots. But Biblical Christianity is the most pluralistic, tolerant, embracing of other cultures religion on earth. In fact, Christianity is rather pluralistic – it is the one religion to embrace other cultures, and has the most urgency to translate the Scriptures into other languages. A Christian can keep their native language and culture, and follow Jesus in the midst of it. An early criticism of Christianity was the observation that they would take anybody! Slave or free; rich or poor; man or woman; Greek or Barbarian. All were accepted, but on the common ground of the truth as revealed in Jesus Christ. To leave that common ground is spiritual suicide, for both now and eternity.

–David Guzik

7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

12“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.

–George Herbert

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

John 14:16 is one of the verses in the Bible that shows the underlying theme of the Trinity.  God the Son prays to God the Father that He might send God the Holy Spirit to us.

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17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

THE SAME SPIRIT

It took me some time to realize that the Spirit whom Jesus gave to his disciples was not just the third person of the Trinity; it was the Spirit who had empowered Jesus’ own life and ministry.  The secret to Jesus’ life was the Spirit, and the Spirit is anxious to be the secret of your life and mine.

The Spirit was the one who initiated Christ’s conception.  It was he who anointed Jesus at his baptism.  The word Christ means “anointed,” so it was the Spirit who made Jesus the Christ.  It was the Spirit who led Jesus and sustained him through his temptation  in the wilderness.  The Spirit was the source of Jesus’ power over the demonic, and the Spirit enabled him to endure the Cross.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of Christ as the one “who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9:14).  It was the Spirit who, with the Father, raised Jesus from the dead.  The Spirit was the key to the earthly life of Jesus.

Now on Jesus’ last night before the Cross, he told his disciples that he wanted them to have the same one in their lives who had been in his own.  He promised them the Holy Spirit.  And that promise is to you and me as well.  Have you received him?  Do you let him gently lead you?  This is your privilege as a believer in Jesus.  Read the promise in Luke 11:13:  “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”

23Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Isaiah 9:6   (NIV)

And he will be called . . . Prince of Peace.

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28“You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

“Rise, let us be on our way.”

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Music:

“Perfect Peace”  by Laura Story.  The song begins with a clap of thunder.

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Reflections:

1)   Do you believe that what Jesus said in verse 6 is true today, for all people — that “no one comes to the Father except through me”?

If you do believe that, what responsibility does that bestow upon you?

If you do not believe that, why do you think Jesus would say it?

2)   What do you find is the best thing to do when you feel un-peaceful?  Does reading and believing this chapter help you claim the fact of the peace of God, even in those times when you may not feel it?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Let not your heart be troubled.    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5yAd_znQqw0/S5xppngbYBI/AAAAAAAABmQ/RuZcX75WjpY/s640/Let+not+your+heart+be+troubled-3.jpg
Peace I leave with you.   http://glorycardskjv.com/images/My%20Peace%20I%20Give%20Unto%20You.jpg
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759.) John 13

March 29, 2012

“The Washing of the Feet” by Corinne Vonaesch (Swiss, b. 1970)

John 13   (NRSV)

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

It was customary that the lowest servant of the house would wash the feet of the guests as they came into the house, especially for a formal meal like this. For some reason, this didn’t happen when Jesus and the disciples came into the room. So they ate their meal with dirty feet.

This was more awkward than we might think. First, because of the sandals they wore and the roads they walked on, the feet would be dirty. Second, the disciples would eat a formal meal like this at a table known as a triclinium. This was a low (coffee-table height), U-shaped table. The guests would sit, and their status at the meal was reflected by how close they were seated to the host or leader of the meal. Because the table was low, they didn’t sit on chairs. They leaned on pillows, with their feet behind them. This meant that dirty feet could be unpleasantly close to the table during the meal. So the unwashed feet were conspicuous.

So why didn’t any of the disciples do this first? Any of the disciples would have gladly washed Jesus’ feet. But they could not wash His without having to be available to wash the others’ feet, and that would have been an intolerable admission of inferiority among their fellow competitors for the top positions in the disciples’ hierarchy. So no one’s feet got washed!

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus had loved His own. But He hadn’t finished loving them. He would love them to the end. The idea behind the phrase to the end is “to the fullest extent, to the uttermost.”

To the end means to the end of Jesus’ earthly life. Though the disciples gave up on Him, He never gave up on them. Though they stopped thinking about Jesus, and were only thinking of themselves, He never stopped thinking of them. Whose problems were worse – Jesus’ or the disciples’? Who was concerned more for the other? He loved them to the end.

To the end means a love that will never end. Jesus will never stop loving His own. It isn’t a love that comes and goes, that is here today and gone tomorrow.

To the end means a love that reaches to the fullest extent. Some translations have “He loved them to the uttermost.” Jesus poured out the cup of His love to the bottom for us.

–David Guzik

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2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

At this moment of deep meaning, Jesus did something that must have almost seemed crazy. He began to do the job of the lowest servant in the household. He began to wash the disciples’ feet.

At this critical moment, at this evening before the torture of the cross, Jesus doesn’t think of Himself. He thinks about His disciples. Truly, this is loving them to the end. After all, Jesus’ disciples treated Him badly – and were about to treat Him even worse, forsaking Him completely – yet He loved them.

Jesus completely gave Himself to washing their feet. Look at how thorough He was in this work. First, He rose from supper. Then Jesus laid aside His garments, which had to remind Him of what waited in just a few hours, when He would be stripped of His garments and be crucified. Jesus then took a towel and girded Himself. Finally Jesus poured water into a basin. If Jesus wanted to just display the image of a servant, He would have had a servant or one of the disciples do all this preparation work. He then would have quickly wiped a damp cloth on a few dirty feet and consider the job done. That would give the image of servanthood and loving leadership, but Jesus gave Himself completely to this work.

This was an extreme act of servanthood. According to the Jewish laws and traditions regarding the relationship between a teacher and his disciples, a teacher had no right to demand or expect that his disciples would do such a lowly thing as wash his feet. How much more unthinkable was it that the Master would wash His disciple’s feet?

–David Guzik

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6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.

“When I am clean, Lord, keep me too,
For that is more than I can do.”

And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. 20Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

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Music:

Scripture is full of references to washing and cleansing.  Here is a song that references Psalm 51: 7 — Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

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Jesus Foretells His Betrayal

21After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

25So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him.

Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

The New Commandment

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”

37Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”

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Reflections:

1)  Have you ever been part of a foot-washing ceremony?  How did it feel?  I have, and I find it a lesson in humility.  (Many churches include this in their Maundy Thursday services.)

2)  What can we do daily to wash one another’s feet?  Or in other words — How can we love one another with Christ-like humility and kindness?  What specific thing could you do for someone today in obedience to these commands (see verses 14 and 34) from Christ?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Vonaesch.    http://www.c-vonaesch.ch/imgcolcoulevan/index.htm
world without end.   http://www.lybrary.com/images/dummy_9781920502164.jpg
foot washing.  http://swd.lcms.org/Portals/0/EditorRoot/departments/missions/Foot%20washing%20Web.jpg
love one another.   http://biblicalchiasmus.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/love_one_another_.jpg

758.) John 12: 20-50

March 28, 2012

"We would see Jesus." What a wonderful thought for pastors as they step into their pulpits. And what a wonderful thought for each of us as we live our lives in front of our families, our neighbors, our co-workers.

John 12:20-50   (NRSV)

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Do you remember?  Jesus previously said that the time was not ready (John 2:4 and 7:6).  And the fact that His hour had not yet come had delivered Him from violence before (John 7:30, 8:20). Now that the hour has come, it is time for Jesus to make the final sacrifice.

–David Guzik

24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.”

“Thy will be done.”  Sometimes those are hard words to say.  Yet — if we believe that God is who he says he is, that he is infinitely loving and willing to sacrifice his own Son for our sakes — these words are the easiest words to say.  Joyfully I tell you again, God is for you!  He loves you!  You can trust him!

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Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

The people had been taught  the passages from “the law” (the Old Testament) which speak of the triumph of the Messiah.  They were seemingly unaware of the passages that speak of His suffering (such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53).  This crowd who waved palm branches with such enthusiasm thought they were welcoming a Messiah who would set up a political, earthly kingdom.  They didn’t want to consider His sacrificial death.  It didn’t fit in with their idea of what a Messiah should be.

35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”  After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

“Today is the day of salvation,” Scripture says several times.  Do not delay your faithfulness, your obedience, your service to the Lord!

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The Unbelief of the People

37Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

“Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,

40“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.”

41Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.

42Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Summary of Jesus’ Teaching

"The Light of the World" by William Holman Hunt, 1853 (Ashmolean Museum in England)

44Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

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

So Jesus reviews his teachings for the people:
that he is one with the Father,
that he has come to bring light and life to people and with his love to save them,
that there are consequences for not believing, and
that all he is speaking is truth.

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Music:

Yes, Lord, we do believe in you!  You are the light of the world!

One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite groups — “Here I Am to Worship”  by the Oslo Gospel Choir.

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Reflections:

1)   How can we do as Jesus says in verse 25 and “hate” our lives?  See Hebrews 11:13-16 for one idea . . .

2)   In verses 44 and 45 we read of the leaders who were “secret followers” of Jesus because they were afraid they would lose their positions.  Is it possible to be a secret follower of Jesus?  One commentator wrote, “Only temporarily; either the secrecy will cancel out the belief, or the belief will cancel out the secrecy.”  What do you think?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
“We would see Jesus” pulpit.  http://johna.ca/imagesJohn/imagesDay18-Thru_the_Bible/25-Pulpit-Sir_We_Would_See_Jesus-400.jpg
Thy will be done.   http://ppt.fellowshipenglewood.com/images/ThyWillBeDone.jpg
Hunt.   http://www.oceansbridge.com/oil-paintings/product/74574/thelightoftheworld185153

757.) John 12:1-19

March 27, 2012

"The Anointing" by Meer Gyan, 2006.

John 12:1-19   (NRSV)

Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Let’s look at each part:

“Costly perfume” — According to the Archaeological Study Bible, one pint of nard would have cost about a year’s wage for a day-laborer.  Cheaper by far is one of the most expensive perfumes in the world today — Joy, by Jean Patou.  Henri Alméras designed and brewed the perfume in 1929. He mixed jasmine odor and rose in the perfume. Each 30 ml perfume in the bottle includes the extraction of 10,000 jasmine flowers combined with 28 dozen roses.  It sells for only (!) $800 per ounce.

“anointed Jesus’ feet” — This was unusual.  Usually the head was anointed.

“wiped them with her hair” — This is almost scandalous.  A proper woman would not show her hair in a public setting.

4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

His objection is so self-serving, and his soon-to-be-accomplished betrayal of Jesus seems even darker when compared to Mary’s extravagant love!

7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Mary is a model for us in devotion to Christ.  We see her three times in Scripture. 

1)  In Luke 10:38-42, her sister Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is shirking her household duties by sitting at Jesus’ feet; Jesus replies that Mary has chosen the better part. 

2)  In John 11, Mary drops to her knees in her grief at the death of her brother and tells Jesus she wishes he had been there earlier.

3)  Here in John 12, Mary understands something the disciples do not — that Jesus is soon going to die.  She prepares his body for burial by anointing it with precious oil. 

Note that in all three stories, we find Mary at the feet of Jesus.

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Music:

In the parallel accounts of this event in Matthew 26 and Mark 14, the perfume is poured on Jesus’ head.

“Broken and Spilled Out” sung by Steve Green.

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The Plot to Kill Lazarus

Put picture of Lazarus here.

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9When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Many of the “chief priests” were Sadducees, and they did not believe in the resurrection, or miracles.  Lazarus was a living example that their theology was wrong!

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

First Presbyterian Church, Belmont, NC

12The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”

Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, Great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed, His reign on Earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free,
To take away transgression, and rule in equity.

He comes with succour speedy, to those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying, were precious in His sight

He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope like flowers, spring in His path to birth;
Before Him on the mountains shall peace the herald go;
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.

To Him shall prayer unceasing and daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing, a kingdom without end;
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever, His name to us is Love

–by James Montgomery, 1821

14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

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Reflections:

1)   Do you, like Mary, sit at Jesus’ feet, learning to know him? Do you wish you could do that more?  Pray for his help; God has said, “Those who seek me, will find me.”

2)   “The world has gone after him!” the Pharisees complain.  Why do you think the common people responded so enthusiastically to Jesus?  Why were the Jewish leaders so negative?  And — What draws you to Jesus?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Gyan.   http://www.lelavementdespieds.com/portfolio/onction/
Jesus entering Jerusalem stained glass window.   http://images.acswebnetworks.com/1/410/EntryIntoJerusalemB.jpg

756.) John 11

March 26, 2012

In the Catacombs of Rome, more than 40 images of this event, the raising of Lazarus, have been found.

John 11   (NRSV)

The Death of Lazarus

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”

9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”

12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”

To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

–William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act Three, scene 1

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13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

I remember years ago reading a sermon by Peter Marshall, when he was Chaplain to the United States Senate. He told of a boy of 12 who knew he was dying. The boy asked his father, “What is it like to die?” His father said to him, “Son, do you remember when you were little how you used to come and sit on my lap in the big chair in the living room? I would tell you a story, read you a book or sing you a song and you would go to sleep in my arms, and when you woke up you were in your own bed. That is the way death is.” When you wake you are not where you were. You are in a place of security and safety and beauty and rest. That, Jesus declares, is what death is. All through the account of the gospels we get this, so that even the apostles pick it up later and say, “Them that sleep in Jesus will Christ bring with him when he comes” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

–Ray Stedman

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16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

25Jesus said to her, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Look at the icon above, and see Mary and Martha kneeling at Jesus’ feet.  Despite their profound sorrow at their brother’s death, they are worshiping the Lord.

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

35Jesus began to weep.

Hebrews 4:15   (NLT)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.

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36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Lazarus raised from the dead today — and in just a few days — JESUS!

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38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”

40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone.

Look at the icon above, and see one man struggling to roll the stone away.

And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.

Look at the icon above, and see Jesus, strong and sure, the resurrection and the life forever.

43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Look at the icon above, and see the man covering his nose at the stench of death, yet already beginning to take off Lazarus’ grave cloths.

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Music:

From the 80’s —  Carmen sings “Lazarus, Come Forth.”  What a great way to tell the story!!

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The Plot to Kill Jesus

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

Of course, the irony here is that the Romans came and did just that, in AD 70.

49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53So from that day on they planned to put him to death. 54Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

55Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Put picture of Jesus here.

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Reflections:

1)   Read John 11:1-16 again.  What clues foreshadowing Jesus’ own death do you see?

2)   How hard it is for us when God does not do what we want him to do, or what we think he should do!  What can Mary and Martha teach you about faith in Jesus through this story?

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
raising of Lazarus icon.  http://deviantmonk.com/2010/11/07/the-resurrection-and-the-life/
Hamlet.  https://fluwiki.wikispaces.com/file/view/Hamlet-to-be-or-not-to-be.jpg/231647106/512×287/Hamlet-to-be-or-not-to-be.jpg
son in his father’s lap.   http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/1×6769459/close-up_of_a_son_sitting_on_his_fathers_lap_255-3401.jpg
Jesus weeping.  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-TdBwLyKkRNM/TxD129SPMDI/AAAAAAAABFo/t17viegXIMQ/s1600/JesusWept.jpg

755.) John 10

March 23, 2012

“The Good Shepherd” by Bernhard Plockhorst (1825-1907)

John 10   (NRSV)

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

In the common sheepfolds of ancient times, the shepherd merely gave his distinctive call and his sheep came out from the others, following him out of the sheepfold.  Sheep are experts at discerning their shepherd’s voice.

During World War I, the story goes, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem.  The shepherd, who had been sleeping, awoke to find his flock being driven off.  He couldn’t recapture them by force, so he called out to his flock with his distinctive call.  The sheep listened, and returned to their rightful owner.  The soldiers couldn’t stop the sheep from returning to their shepherd’s voice.

–David Guzik

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7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.

9I AM THE GATE. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


11
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.

The bad shepherd thinks the flock exists for his benefit, but the good shepherd lives (and dies) for the good of the sheep.

  • The good shepherd sacrifices for the sheep
  • The good shepherd knows his sheep
  • The good shepherd is known by the sheep

The faithful pastor will, as an under-shepherd, display the same characteristics as the Good Shepherd. He will sacrifice for the sheep, know the sheep, and be known by them. He will be a shepherd and not a hireling who does not care about the sheep.

The title pastor translates the same ancient Greek word used here for shepherd.

–David Guzik

14“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”

19Again the Jews were divided because of these words. 20Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?”

21Others were saying, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

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Music:

There are not many pieces of music more beautiful than this — Handel’s “He Shall Feed His Flock like a Shepherd.”  Blythe Gaissert, Mezzo-Soprano; Mary Petro, Soprano; Brian Paul Thomas, Conductor; Choir of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, New Canaan, CT.

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Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews

22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem.

This feast was Hanukkah, celebrating the cleansing and re-dedication of the temple after three years of desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria.  He had offered a pig as a sacrifice to Zeus on the altar of the temple.  After a guerrilla war by folks known as the Maccabees, Jerusalem was freed and the temple was cleansed (around 164 BCE).

_________________________

It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

31The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?”

33The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”

“In defending himself against the charge of blasphemy, Jesus does not deny his basic equality with God.  Instead, he points to the validity of his work—a proof of his identity and his relationship with God.  By doing God’s works, he validates his own work.  His works, his signs, point to his identity.  In them he reveals his glory, his equality with God, and his status as Son of God.”

–Mark A. Matson

34Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ —and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”39Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

40He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. 41Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42And many believed in him there.

_________________________

Reflections:

1)  How does Jesus differentiate himself from others who claim to be shepherds?

2)  The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one of the most popular (if you’ll forgive that word) portrayals of Jesus.  We have seen that image on everything from baptismal certificates to stained glass windows at church to  funeral bulletins.  We are no longer an agrarian society, so why the love for this image of Jesus, do you think?

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Plockhorst.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/Bernhard_Plockhorst_-_Good_Shephard.jpg
flock of sheep.  http://www.cc.gatech.edu/cpl/projects/graphcuttextures/data/herd_of_sheep/herd_of_sheep.gif
Hanukkah candles.   http://thepetrock.20m.com/images/hanukkah.jpg

754.) John 9

March 22, 2012

“The Man Born Blind” by Henri Lindegaard, 2003.

John 9   (NRSV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,

Not many people would appreciate having mud made with spit rubbed in their eyes!  Some would look at how Jesus did this miracle and object, saying that it was offensive, inadequate, or even harmful to rub mud made with spit in a man’s eyes.

In the same way, some feel that the gospel is offensive.  It is true that it offends man’s pride and human wisdom, but it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

In the same way, some feel that the gospel is inadequate.  But have all the psychiatric and political and social programs in the world done more good that the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ?

In the same way, some feel that the gospel is harmful, that the free offer of grace in Jesus will cause people to sin that grace may abound.  But the gospel changes our life for the good and the pure, not unto wickedness.

–David Guzik

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7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

Psalm 146:8 (New International Version)

The LORD sets prisoners free,
  the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
   the LORD loves the righteous.

8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”

11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”

12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

“The Blind Man Tells his Story to the Jews” by James Tissot, 1898.

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”

16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.”

They ignore the wonderful healing and focus on the day that it happened.  How silly we are when we major in the minors!

But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.

17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

I am almost impressed by how thoroughly they investigate this situation, looking for holes in the story!  How diligent we are when we seek to believe what we want to believe, against all evidence otherwise!

20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God!

Shakespeare gave us a similar idea but with different phrasing:

“And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil
By telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil.”

from Henry IV, Part One, 1597

We know that this man is a sinner.”

25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

My mother used to say, “There is none so blind as him who will not see.”  How arrogant we are when we think we alone know the truth!

Spiritual Blindness

35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”

37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”

Asking the question is more than half way to having the answer.  How privileged we are when Jesus reveals himself to us!

38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

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39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

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Music:

I once was blind, but now I see.  “Amazing Grace” is sung here by Nana Mouskouri.  This woman with the beautiful voice was born in Greece in 1934.  She has recorded music in fifteen languages over five decades and has sold more than 400 million discs.

.

HERE  is “Open Our Eyes, Lord,”  by the Maranatha Singers.

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Reflections:

1)  Verse 3 could be rephrased to read:  You were born so that God’s works might be revealed in you.   Look a moment at your own life.  Thank God for where you see his works in you and through you.  Ask him to show you more clearly what else he would like to do in your life.  What else would you like to do for the Lord?  Pray bold prayers to an infinitely loving, infinitely able God!

2)   The hymn “Amazing Grace” was written in 1779 by slave-trader-turned-clergyman John Newton.  It is estimated that it is performed about 10 million times annually!  What is it about that hymn which makes it so popular, do you think?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Lindegaard.    http://www.artbible.net/3JC/-luk-18,35-Healing%20Blindness-Guerissant%20les%20aveugles/20%20LINDEGAARD%20L%20AVEUGLE%20DE%20NAISSANCE.jpg
Tissot.  http://home.halden.net/vibeke/tissot/76.jpg
healed man worships Jesus.  http://www.togethertocelebrate.com.au/17CuaresmaA4.jpg