2283.) John 11:1-37

January 31, 2018

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

John 11:1-37   (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.”

Which is to say — Jesus knows that to go to Bethany and to cure Lazarus would be a step that would lead inexorably to the cross.

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.”

This passage was meaningful to my mother. She took it to mean that while there are twelve hours of daylight, and plenty of time to get work done, there are only twelve hours, so time is not to be wasted, or the work may remain woefully undone. Mother wanted to hear her Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and so she was diligent in her duties. I have no doubt that she is now enjoying her eternal rest in heaven while at the same time joyfully serving her Savior there.

  1. Work, for the night is coming,
    Work through the morning hours;
    Work while the dew is sparkling,
    Work ’mid springing flow’rs.
    Work when the day grows brighter,
    Work in the glowing sun;
    Work, for the night is coming,
    When man’s work is done.

  2. Work, for the night is coming,
    Work through the sunny noon;
    Fill brightest hours with labor,
    Rest comes sure and soon.
    Give every flying minute
    Something to keep in store;
    Work, for the night is coming,
    When man works no more.

  3. Work, for the night is coming,
    Under the sunset skies;
    While their bright tints are glowing,
    Work, for daylight flies.
    Work till the last beam fadeth,
    Fadeth to shine no more;
    Work, while the night is dark’ning,
    When man’s work is o’er.

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 be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more–and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. 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

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

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

“There was not expectant faith, but loyal despair.”

–R. H. Strachan

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.

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?”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Esther Mui and “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” What a wonderful promise Jesus gives us!

_________________________

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.  https://i.pinimg.com/736x/d8/1c/ee/d81cee9e9fab5bca2c3bd7fcd30c4f10–byzantine-icons-byzantine-art.jpg
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.   https://images.prod.meredith.com/product/5718e72db1f68dbe1e67f6f29c9593ac/1501253338949/m/close-up-of-a-son-sitting-on-his-fathers-lap-reading-a-book-poster-print
Jesus weeping.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/jesuswept1.jpg
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2282.) John 10:22-42

January 30, 2018

John 10:22-42   (NRSV)

Jesus Is Rejected by the Jews

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

This feast was Hanukkah, also known as The Festival of Lights, celebrating the cleansing and re-dedication of the temple after three years of desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria. He had wanted to eliminate Judaism entirely and replace it with Greek thinking and Greek gods. So he sold thousands of Jews into slavery, stole significant money from the temple, and made it illegal to circumcise a baby boy or possess a copy of the law. He finally offered a pig as a sacrifice to Zeus on the altar of the temple. That was too much! 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.”

No doubt some of the questioners were genuine in their desire (hope?) to know. But doubtless there were others who were framing this question as a trap for Jesus.

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.

Jesus says, My words and my deeds show the truth!  And to those who believe, Jesus promises eternal life.

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.

Jesus knows his time is drawing close. So he returns to the place where it all started, the place where he was baptized and the Holy Spirit dove descended upon him. And there he prepares himself for what is to come.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Cliff Richard and “The King of Love my Shepherd Is.”

_________________________

Reflections:

1)  How can we learn to better hear the voice of Jesus, our shepherd?

2)  How can we better display to our family and friends that we listen to Jesus and try to obey him? Can you think of two specific things you will do today in order to honor our Lord?

_________________________

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:
 My sheep hear my voice.    https://biblia.com/bible/images/640×480/Jn10.27?extension=png&fallbackOnFailure=false
Hanukkah candles.   http://thepetrock.20m.com/images/hanukkah.jpg
I and the Father are one.   http://markryman.com/BLOG/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/john10-30.jpg

2281.) John 10:1-21

January 29, 2018

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

John 10:1-21   (NRSV)

Jesus the Good Shepherd

9 “Good Shepherd” statements 
Jesus makes about himself

1. I call my own sheep by name.

2. I lead them.

3. I gather my sheep.

4. I walk ahead of them.

5. My voice is familiar to my sheep.

6. I am the way of salvation.

7. I give a rich and satisfying life.

8. I am a good shepherd.

9. I sacrifice myself for my sheep voluntarily.

–RealinginLife.com

“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

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

PRAY REGULARLY, FERVENTLY, FOR YOUR PASTOR!

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?”

_________________________

Music:

There are not many pieces of music more beautiful than this one.  HERE  is 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.

_________________________

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
Psalm 23.   http://meaningfulmama.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/The-LORD-is-my-shepherd-printable-1.jpg

2280.) Psalm 119:113-128

January 26, 2018

P119 window

Psalm 119:113-136

New Living Translation

Samekh

113 I hate those with divided loyalties,
but I love your instructions.

“I hate the double minded, but I love your law,” the ESV has it.

Spurgeon says, “When we love the law it becomes a law of love, and we cling to it with our whole heart.”

114 You are my refuge and my shield;
your word is my source of hope.
115 Get out of my life, you evil-minded people,
for I intend to obey the commands of my God.

How careful we must be in the choosing of our friends! 

“It is better to be alone than in bad company.”
~George Washington

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”
~Henry Ford

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

116 Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live!
Do not let my hope be crushed.

P119 hope

Everything that is done in the world
is done by hope.
~Martin Luther

117 Sustain me, and I will be rescued;
then I will meditate continually on your decrees.
118 But you have rejected all who stray from your decrees.
They are only fooling themselves.
119 You skim off the wicked of the earth like scum;
no wonder I love to obey your laws!

The fall of the wicked is the work of God.
~William Cowper

120 I tremble in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your regulations.

Ayin

121 Don’t leave me to the mercy of my enemies,
for I have done what is just and right.
122 Please guarantee a blessing for me.

P119 guarantee

The Psalmist cried out to God as Job did:
Now put down a pledge for me with Yourself.

(Job 17:3)

Don’t let the arrogant oppress me!
123 My eyes strain to see your rescue,
to see the truth of your promise fulfilled.
124 I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love,
and teach me your decrees.
125 Give discernment to me, your servant;
then I will understand your laws.
126 Lord, it is time for you to act,
for these evil people have violated your instructions.

Some read it, and the original will bear it,
It is time to work for thee, O Lord!
It is time for every one in his place to appear on the Lord’s side

— against the threatening growth of profaneness and immorality.
We must do what we can for the support
of the sinking interests of religion.
~Matthew Henry

127 Truly, I love your commands
more than gold, even the finest gold.

“Should I not love them? Can gold, yea, fine gold, offer to me blessings such as these? Can it heal my broken heart Can it give relief to my wounded spirit? Has it any peace or prospect of comfort for me on my death bed?”
~Charles Bridges

128 Each of your commandments is right.
That is why I hate every false way.

_________________________

Music:

One of my favorite hymns and well suited to Psalm 119 — “How Firm a Foundation.”  Click  HERE  to hear an orchestral arrangement.

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He has said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

–London pastor John Rippon, 1787

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
light through the window.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/bethlehemblogentrycopy.jpg
hope candle.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/hope-in-focus.jpg
only with thine eyes.    http://slideplayer.com/slide/3517764/12/images/70/8Only+with+thine+eyes+shalt+thou+behold+and+see+the+reward+of+the+wicked..jpg
guarantee.   http://www.integrityinspection.com/images/guarantee.jpg
Psalm 37:9.    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/_AR859BnfKU/maxresdefault.jpg

2279.) John 9

January 25, 2018

“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 than 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

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 (NIV)

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, Act 3, 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.

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.”

Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus,
To reach out and touch Him
And say that we love Him.

Open our ears Lord
And help us to listen,
Open our eyes Lord
We want to see Jesus.

_________________________

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.

_________________________

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?

_________________________

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.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/lindegaard-l-aveugle-de-naissance1.jpg
Jesus puts mud in the blind man’s eyes.   https://tillchrist.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/lazfam-ru.jpg
Tissot.    http://truthbook.com/images/gallery/James_Tissot_Blind_Man_Tells_His_Story_to_the_Jews_525.jpg
I went and washed.    http://carolinasnalc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/John-9_11.jpg
healed man worships Jesus.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/john-9-blind-man.jpg

2278.) John 8:31-59

January 24, 2018

John 8:31-59   (NRSV)

True Disciples

31Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

TRUTH SETS YOU FREE

God’s truth never restricts you; it always sets you free! Are you discouraged? Is there a sense of bondage in a particular area in your life? A lack of victory over a certain sin? A harmful addiction? It is possible that you do not yet understand a truth about God that can release you.

If you feel powerless to meet the challenges before you, take encouragement from the promise of Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me. If you are defeated by circumstance, hold on to the truth of Romans 8:28 that God can work your most difficult situation into His good. If you are enslaved to a particular sin, work the truth of 1 John 1:9 into your life, which promises that if you confess your sin, God is faithful to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. All of these truths await the Holy Spirit’s implementation into your life.

It is one thing to know about the truth. It is yet another thing to experience the truth of God being worked out in your life. God’s truth will have no effect upon you unless you accept it and believe it. Perhaps you have already read and heard accounts of God working mightily in the lives of others. But have you allowed God to implement those truths into your life? What truth about God would you like to be experiencing in your life? Ask Him to implement that truth into your life today.

33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

What?! They are forgetting the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and the 70 years of exile to Babylon, and even the present occupation of their land by the Romans! By denying their enslavement, whether political or spiritual, they are denying their need for Jesus and the true freedom he can give them. And isn’t it amazing how easily we will believe a lie if it suits us.

34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

_________________________

Music:

Praise God!  “I am Free!”  Click  HERE  and join in the celebration!

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37I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”

Jesus and Abraham

39They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”

Genesis 15:5-6 (NIV)

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are indeed doing what your father does.”

They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.”

42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. 44You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John8 devil-liar

I love how the NIV puts it:  When he lies, he speaks his native language  . . .

45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.

46Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”

48The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

By calling Jesus a Samaritan, they are claiming he is not a true Jew, not a true son of Abraham. By saying Jesus has a demon, they are connecting Jesus with the devil instead of with God.

49Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. 51Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”

52The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?”

54Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ 55though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

58Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.

This is the third time in this chapter Jesus uses the phrase I Am (John 8:24, 8:28), and here in John 8:58.

I Am: The ancient Greek phrase is ego emi, which is the same term used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Jesus’ day to describe the Voice from the burning bush.

In using the phrase I Am (John 8:24, 8:58, 13:19) Jesus used a clear divine title belonging to Yahweh alone (Exodus 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 43:10) and was interpreted as such by Jesus’ listeners (John 8:58-59).

–David Guzik

59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

_________________________

Reflections:

1)   Jesus says anyone who commits a sin is “a slave to sin.” Some of my readers may remember saying this confession in church: “We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Have there been times in your life when you have felt the weight of that bondage? Thank God for the gloriousness of his forgiveness!

2)   Galatians 3:26-29 says:  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. So through Christ, Abraham is your father, too! What does this mean? What fullness of blessing does this bring?

_________________________

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:
dove.    https://missionventureministries.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/john-8-vs-32.jpg
Continue in My Word.   https://i.pinimg.com/736x/29/0c/d2/290cd2f6983d96d2ee98fe0562b52c21–john–king-of-kings.jpg
Abraham and the stars.   http://www.preceptaustin.org/sites/www.preceptaustin.org/files/images/abramstars.jpg
the devil is a liar.    http://blogs.psychcentral.com/amazed-by-grace/files/2013/03/devil-liar.jpg
I AM.   http://www.mccahon.co.nz/sites/all/files/images/m000828_0.jpg

2277.) John 8:12-30

January 23, 2018

John 8:12-30   (NRSV)

The scene of this argument with the Jewish authorities was in the Temple treasury, which was in the Court of the Women. The first Temple court was the Court of the Gentiles; the second was the Court of the Women. It was so called because women might not pass beyond it unless they were actually about to offer sacrifice on the altar which was in the Court of the Priests. Round the Court of the Women there was a colonnade or porch; and, in that porch, set against the wall, there were thirteen treasure chests into which people dropped their offerings. These were called The Trumpets because they were shaped like trumpets, narrow at the top and swelling out towards the foot.

The thirteen treasure chests all had their allotted offering. Into the first two were dropped the half shekels which every Jew had to pay towards the upkeep of the Temple. Into the third and fourth were dropped sums which would purchase the two pigeons which a woman had to offer for her purification after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12:8). Into the fifth were put contributions towards the cost of the wood which was needed to keep the altar fire alight. Into the sixth were dropped contributions towards the cost of the incense which was used at the Temple services. Into the seventh went contributions towards the upkeep of the golden vessels which were used at these services. Sometimes a man or a family set apart a certain sum to make some trespass or thank-offering; into the remaining six trumpets people dropped any money which remained after such an offering had been made, or anything extra which they wished to offer.

Clearly the Temple treasury would be a busy place, with a constant flow of worshippers coming and going. There would be no better place to collect an audience of devout people and to teach them than the Temple treasury.

–William Barclay

12Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”


Since Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), it follows that he is also the light.

13Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.”

14Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I judge no one. 16Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. 18I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.”

Jesus can testify about Himself because He, not they, has view of eternity: I know where I came from and where I am going.

Jesus can testify about Himself because He, not they, judges righteously: You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

Jesus can testify about Himself because His testimony is fully supported by God the Father: My judgment is true; for I am not alone.

–David Guzik

19Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?”

Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

21Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”

22Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

23He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.”

The word “he” is added by translators so the sentence will make sense in English. Jesus calls them to “believe that I am,” which the Jews would hear as a claim to deity, since that is the name God called himself when he spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

25They said to him, “Who are you?”

This question of the Pharisees comes from a combination of willful confusion and contempt. Though Jesus has told them over and over who He is, they will continue to ask until they get an answer they can use to condemn Him.

Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? 26I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

27They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. 28So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.

When Jesus says he will be “lifted up,” he means “lifted up” off the ground on a cross. When Jesus is crucified, they will see the perfect obedience of the Son to the Father. And that obedience will lead to another elevation:

Philippians 2:5-11   (NIV)

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

29And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” 30As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a Charles Wesley hymn — “Christ, whose glory fills the skies,” sung by the Washington Choral Arts Society. What a good prayer to sing every morning!

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true and only Light,
Sun of righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shade of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by Thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till Thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine,
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more Thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

_________________________

Reflections:

1)   If an unbeliever asked you, “Who is Jesus?” — how would you answer? Would today’s passage help you explain more clearly who Christ is? How?

2)   Jesus and his opponents argue by often asking questions. Consider this statement about Judaism:

It is a faith based on asking questions, sometimes deep and difficult ones that seem to shake the very foundations of faith itself. “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” asked Abraham. “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?” asked Moses. “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” asked Jeremiah. The book of Job is largely constructed out of questions, and God’s answer consists of four chapters of yet deeper questions: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? … Can you catch Leviathan with a hook? … Will it make an agreement with you and let you take it as your slave for life?”

If you and Jesus were to have a discussion today, what questions would you want to ask him?

_________________________

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:
 I AM the light.    http://www.armenhareyan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/what-did-Jesus-mean-by-I-am-the-light-of-the-world.jpg
Psalm 119:105.   https://i.pinimg.com/736x/39/48/24/394824b02466e67ed71c02d36f7a134b–jesus-bible-jesus-christ.jpg
Be still and know that I AM.    http://www.basil-ltd.com/files/1764012/uploaded/WG-317BZ.jpg
Jesus on the cross.    http://cocorioko.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/jesus-on-the-cross-678×381.jpg