Tuesday, November 25, 2014

John 16:16-33

“Let not your heart be troubled…” these had been the words that Jesus started the conversation with on this dark, disconcerting night. He then explained that while He would go away for a while, it was necessary, because He had to prepare a place for His disciples. Losing Jesus was an understandably disheartening reality for the disciples, so Jesus addressed their concern by letting them know that He would not leave them comfortless. He would send the Holy Spirit to dwell with them and to dwell in them. He would give them strength, and He would guide them into the truth.
As Jesus finished addressing His disciples, He explained one last comforting truth to them, God the Father loves you. In essence Jesus said, “Your faith in me, ties you in an inseparable relationship with God the Father.” He further encouraged them that from now on, they should come to the Father in prayer and ask Him to provide for them, and protect them, and to accomplish His will in them. This was one of the greatest realities that Jesus could teach His disciples. After Jesus completed His work on the cross, believers could have unfettered access to God the Father.
In a couple hours, Jesus would be arrested and taken to His fake trial. Knowing that this would be devastating to the confidence of the disciples, Jesus forewarned them that they would all be scattered into the night. His comfort for them in light of this scattering was to tell them to not worry about Him. How selfless! “You are going to be scattered, but don’t worry about me.” He was telling them that while He was captured and being beaten, they didn’t need to worry for Him. In this selfless, loving moment with His disciples, Jesus taught what faith in God the Father looks like.
“Everyone will leave me, yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” During His final hours, as Jesus marched to the cross, God would be with Him. He would not be alone on this road, God the Father was with Him until the end. This confidence and assurance was what Jesus wanted His disciples to hear before they were forced to flee into the night. “These things have I spoken to you, that in me ye might have peace.” Because of Jesus, there would be no tribulation too great, no trial to disturbing, no long night too overwhelming that His love and grace could not offer peace to His followers.
So, how would the disciples respond on this night, after hearing the message of peace and access to God? By the time the night was over, Jesus would be bound, and on trial. The disciples would forget the teaching of Jesus, and would flee. The two that didn’t flee, Peter and John, would find an entirely different set of concerns as they followed Jesus from one hostile environment to the next. It would eventually be Peter, the bold one, that denied Jesus. The disciples would not learn it yet, but eventually they would. Eventually the Comforter would come, and would equip them with strength for moments like this.

Food For Thought: In His final teaching before going to the garden to pray and be arrested, what truth did Jesus reveal for His disciples?

Monday, November 24, 2014

John 16:12-15

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Hours before His capture and execution, Jesus reiterated a promise to His disciples. “The Spirit will come.” In John 14:16, He had already explained that upon His departure, He would send “another,’ a “Comforter.” Jesus referred to this Comforter as “the Spirit of Truth.” Now, again, Jesus reiterated this promise, but continued with a further explanation of the purpose for which He was sending the Spirit of truth.
According to Jesus, the Spirit (the Holy Spirit as He is commonly called) would come to guide the followers of Jesus in the truth. But what truth does He guide the followers of Jesus into? We can understand that the truth that Jesus is speaking of in this context is the truth about Himself. It would be the ministry of the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples in their understanding, assimilation and presentation of the Jesus.
Worded in a different way, it would be the job of the Holy Spirit to lead people to understand and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would further be the ministry of the Spirit to guide people in the truths of obedience to God, revealing at every turn what it means to be genuinely Christ-like. The Spirit would have the ministry of guiding people into the truth of the gospel and the truth of Christ-like sanctification.
When we see this ministry of the Spirit, we must further understand for us what that means. We are not to sit around waiting for the Holy Spirit to reveal to us new things from strange sources. We don’t need extra revelation, like the Book of Mormon, or publications from the Watchtower Society. We don’t need new revelation, we need illumination. We need the help of the Spirit of truth to teach us the truth that has already been revealed in ages past. So we must be actively pursuing that truth by reading the pages of Scripture, so that the Spirit of truth will teach us the truth of Jesus.
It is the ministry of the Spirit to teach us the truth that is found in the Scriptures. When we further realize that the Holy Spirit of God was at work in the writing of Scripture, we can understand that there is none more qualified to help us understand the true meaning of each text. Like Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote in 2 Timothy 3, it is through the Spirit-illumination of the Scriptures that followers of Jesus can live rightly and be equipped to do what God has called us to do.
It is by the Spirit that we understand the gospel, and it is by the Spirit that we obey the Word of God. The Spirit of truth truly is given as a gift from God for us. If we are followers of Jesus, He labored to draw us into the family of faith, and now, He labors to guide us in the truth.

Food For Thought: In what two areas does the “Spirit of truth” guide the followers of Jesus?

Friday, November 21, 2014

John 16:1-11

The angry crowd screamed murderous words as they moved down the dusty Jerusalem trail. It had been just over ten years since Jesus was led down the same streets to be executed by the Romans. Now, one of His closest followers, James the brother of John, was being physically and verbally tormented. King Herod of Judea had issued the order for his execution, and James refused to put up a fight. Church historian Clemens Alexandrinus writes that one of the executioners was so moved by the courage of James that after apologizing to James, he was forced to join him in execution. Moments later, James knelt, prayed, and felt the swift cold sword blade blow against the back of his neck.
Ten years later, as church history tells, Philip witnessed to the wife of the Roman Proconsul, and she was converted. Enraged by this, the Proconsul ordered that Philip not only be scourged and crucified, but that to increase the agony, Philip should be crucified upside-down. The apostle Philip was then savagely beaten, and dragged to the edge of a town called Hierapolis, in what is now modern-day Turkey. There in classic Roman fashion, the bloodied Philip was nailed to a cross to be crucified. As Philip died on the cross, he continued to preach the gospel to all those gathered around.
Around the same time, Nathaniel the brother of Philip, and by then a missionary along the Caspian Sea, was captured. Church history explains that the first stage of his torture was a practice known as "flaying," or being skinned alive. While still struggling in pain, he was then beheaded near the modern day capital city of Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Apostle Peter was eventually captured, tortured, and ordered to be crucified during the reign of Nero. When it became clear that he was going to be crucified, church historians tell us that Peter requested to be executed in the excruciating inverted position like Philip. His reason for the added torture- he did not count himself worthy to die in the same fashion as Jesus.
The Apostle Thomas labored in the region that is now modern day Iran and Iraq before travelling to southern India as a missionary. While ministering in India, he was run through by angry natives with multiple spears. Unrelenting in his preaching while he was assaulted, Thomas was eventually thrown into the flames of a burning oven where he finally died an agonizing death.
The night that Jesus was captured to be executed, He had explained to His disciples, "And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father...but these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them...Nevertheless...it is expedient for you that I go away."
Jesus knew that momentarily He would be taken from His disciples and they would be scattered. He knew also that eventually they would be strengthened and encouraged by His resurrection. However, the ultimate strength that they would receive would come in the form of the indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit. They could not receive this comforting Strengthener unless Jesus departed.
Having foretold of their coming persecution, Jesus then encouraged them with the promise of the coming Spirit. He would come to work in their hearts. He would give strength where there was weakness. He would reveal truth where there was darkness. And He would bring the words of Jesus to remembrance as each of the disciples were executed. This night and these words would never be forgotten. Rather, as each disciple met death at the hands of wicked men, their minds must have rushed back to this moment with Jesus as He explained the harrowing yet honoring future events for each of them.

Food For Thought: Why would Jesus tell His disciples that they would eventually be killed? Besides just telling them of their impending death, what did Jesus promise to do for them?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

John 15:18-27

“They will hate you.” These are not the words that the disciples wanted to hear from Jesus, but this was the truth. When the Holy Spirit came upon those whom Jesus had chosen, they would become proclaimers of the truth. They would be witnesses of the events and the power that they had experienced. But this witnessing would not be without a cost. For Jesus and any who would follow Him, this truth-proclamation had a certain end: persecution and death.
Jesus explained that a natural, sin-caused enmity exists between God and man. The world and those in it are naturally filled with animosity toward the three-fold message of the gospel. Because of rugged individuality, the first point of contention for the world is that they are owned by someone else, God. In self-justifying self-righteousness, they are further offended when they are accused of being sinners. Finally, their self-sufficiency is insulted when it is explained that they need to rely on someone else, Jesus, because they are not good enough on their own. To an unregenerate person, the entire gospel message is demeaning and defaming. Because of this, in hatred, nonbelievers hate gospel messengers.
Sadly, this hatred is compounded by some Christians who hear Jesus say, “they will hate you” and misunderstand Him to be saying, “and you should hate them.” Instead of living a life that is open and engaging and based on the love of God towards sinners, some who claim to be Christians live lives of hatred, constantly looking to tell people that God hates them, and that they hate them. In their minds, they erroneously imagine that Jesus taught that Christians should hate everyone who isn’t a Christian. They would go on to misquote passages like 1 John 2:15, “love not the world, nor things in the world.”
Failing to see what Jesus actually taught and even what Jesus demonstrated, they dismiss any who are non-Christians. Instead of building friendships with nonbelievers they isolate themselves with passages like James 4:4, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Instead of studying scripture, some ministers preach generic messages of heretical, hate-filled doctrine denying the gospel that saved them.
In Romans 5:8 Paul writes, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Furthermore, Paul explained in Romans 9:2-3, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Believers will be hated and abused but this does not give license for believers to be hateful and abusive. Rather, Jesus explained further in Luke 6:28, that when we are hated and abused we should “bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” Any reaction less than love is anti-Christ. In attempting to attack the world, some have inadvertently demonstrated the character of the sinful hating world.
The mark of a true believer is their love for others. It is not beneath a Christian to offer forgiveness and love to those around them. The example of Christ on the cross was not that of a spitting, cursing, angry Jesus, rather, 1 Peter 2:23 tells us that “when He was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” The basis for the silence of Jesus in the face of such hatred was His trust in the goodness and justice of God. As followers of Jesus we can respond with Paul in Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Declaring the truth will bring animosity, it always has. But let us love like Jesus, and let us trust in the God who will always judge rightly.

Food For Thought: What will be the reaction of the world to the declaration of the truth? Why do you think that some people never feel any persecution in their lives?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

John 15:12-17

After explaining that He was the vine from which His followers gained strength enough to obey His commands, Jesus further explained that the evidence of a true disciple was that he was a fruit-bearing disciple. But what about those who came to every gathering in Jerusalem? What about those who watched the miracles of Jesus in Bethany and beyond? What about those who were the family members of Jesus? Jesus explained that all of these things could be true, but fruitless followers were not true disciples. The true disciples were the ones that obeyed the commandments of Jesus. (John 14:15)
The teaching of the delineation between true disciples and false disciples came on the night that one of the closest disciples to Jesus, Judas, would betray Him. Jesus was not oblivious to this, but instead, had been planning for the betrayal by Judas all along. Now, before the other disciples would learn of the treachery of Judas, Jesus explained that there was a distinction between true and false disciples.
What is the difference? Jesus explained that primarily, true disciples evidence their discipleship by bearing fruit. Jesus further explained that another major evidence of true discipleship is the relationship that the disciples have between each other. A true disciple loves the other disciples. There is no ill-will or defrauding, no, there is only love. A true follower of Jesus loves all other followers of Jesus.
I am certain that in a room with twelve people, there were strong personalities. I think of Peter and the boldness with which he often spoke. I recall the words of John and James, the sons of Thunder; Thomas with His impetuous questioning; and what about the disciples who never said anything? There were certainly differing personalities in the group, but difference was not reason enough, according to Jesus, for any of them to not love the others. Rather in spite of their diversity, they should love one another. According to Jesus, this is the mark of a true disciple, an unbridled compassion for all other disciples.
But why should we love all other believers this way? Didn’t Jesus know that there were going to be some difficult people who would become believers? Jesus gives two major reasons why we should unhinderingly love other followers of Jesus.
First, He chose them. If they had come to faith on their own, we could resent them sinfully wishing they had never become followers of Jesus. But according to Jesus, the only reason that they became followers of Jesus was the grace of God alone. How then can we pass judgment on those God has chosen to extend grace to? Second, not only did He choose them, but Jesus further explained that we should love others because He too loves them. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we would seek to do everything that He does. We would speak as He speaks, work as He works, and love as He loves. He is our great example, and there is not one believer whom He does not love. Therefore, it is our pattern to extend love to everyone whom Jesus loves, regardless of our sinful disposition or past experience. The pattern of life for a true disciple is an unwavering love for all other disciples.

Food For Thought: What two reasons does Jesus give for why we should love the other followers of Jesus?

Monday, November 17, 2014

John 15:1-11

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
We understand that it is based upon the saving work of Jesus Christ alone that we find forgiveness of our sins and peace with God. This means that we cannot earn salvation; rather, we must come in faith resting alone in the saving work that Jesus accomplished on our behalf. And that faith through which God extends His grace, in the words of Martin Luther, is faith alone, but not a faith that remains alone.
Ephesians 2:10 

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Following this conversion, believers are no longer what they once were. Elsewhere, Paul explains that “if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things become new.” What Paul is teaching is that the life of a believer is marked by more than faith. This truth mirrors the truth that we have already seen Jesus teach in John 8:31, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed.” Now, as we arrive at John 15, we see Jesus use another analogy to explain this process of Christian life and growth.
Jesus explained to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion that He was the true source of all life and good works. Those who were truly joined with Him produce fruit in His power alone, and not theirs. In the analogy, there are those that produce fruit and those who do not produce fruit. According to Jesus the fruitless branches are cast into the fire and are burned. In essence, those who are fruitless are the ones who are imposters and not truly believers.
They may have made a profession, or attended Sunday School, or been married to a really good Christian, but their lives were not marked by a constant fruitfulness. Instead, fruitlessly, they hung around, hoping to be mistaken by the pure-eyed husbandman, God, to be one of the fruit-bearing branches. But God is not duped. He can see clearly if there is any fruit on a branch, and ultimately He will cast away the fruitless branches into the fire.
So what about that guy that you know who “walked away from the faith”? He was such a good kid, and always sat up straight in church and mowed Widow So-and-So’s lawn. He was really a sweet guy, and unfortunately just got caught up with the wrong crowd. He always said that he was a Christian, and although he may not live like it now, doesn’t the Bible say, “Once saved, always saved.”?
While salvation is not contingent on our works, Jesus is also clear that fruitless branches are cast into the fire. In James 2:26, we find that just “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Faith in the present paired with evidential fruit is the assurance from Scripture that any person can have that God has truly saved them.

Food For Thought: If a person is fruitless and has no evidence of God’s grace working in them, what does Jesus say God will do with them?

Friday, November 14, 2014

John 14:27-31

“I’m leaving you, and you should be happy for me!”
This was the latest conclusion that Jesus offered His disciples in the upper room on the evening before Passover in Jerusalem. He had begun with “Let not your hearts be troubled,” and had continued on to explain that there would be “another” who would come and bring strength and comfort for the disciples after Jesus left. But now, Jesus had reiterated “let not your heart be troubled,” and followed it up with, and “if you love me, you will rejoice for me that I get to leave you.”
The disciples had learned to trust Jesus in their hour of need. There were numerous occasions where enraged mobs had rushed upon them, and with supernatural power Jesus held back the mobs so that He and His disciples could escape. On the Sea of Galilee the storms had arisen and multiple times Jesus calmed the storms rescuing His disciples. When they were hungry He provided them with food. He was truly everything they needed. Now, He was going to leave them. And to complicate things, when they were obviously beginning to show signs of sorrow, He told them that they should rejoice for Him.
Before we see His reason for why they should rejoice, we must understand what it means, biblically, to love someone. 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly referred to as the “love chapter” of Scripture. In it Paul articulates what love looks like. One of the defining characteristics about love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:5, “[Love]…seeketh not her own…” In other words, love is not self-seeking or self-serving, but rather as Paul later explains in Philippians 2:4, love is concerned with others’ interests.
Here, Jesus explains to His disciples that if they truly loved Him, they would be thrilled for Him that He finally will be glorified and that He would be with the Father. Jesus loved God so much, and now, He would be with God. So, as He looks at His disciples, He explains to them, rejoice for me that I get to go. Perhaps they were not ready to rejoice because they were self-seeking. They wanted Jesus to be there with them. They didn’t have any regard for what was good for Him; they cared about what was good for them. They should have been excited, but they were not. They failed to share in His joy because they feared it meant the loss of their joy. They did not love Him, they were selfish.
I think that if we are not careful, we can end up having the same bad theology as the disciples. Instead of rejoicing at what Jesus was going to heaven to accomplish for them, they were concerned with having Jesus there with them as their pocket-god to rescue them from peril and provide the next meal for them. Heaven is a terrific place where all who enter are immediately ushered into the presence of the perfect and holy God.
Understanding this could perhaps shift our thinking when it comes to the passing of those we love. There is always grief, and that is natural. But there should not be a long-lasting depression and devastation at the loss of a believing loved one or friend. The separation felt is genuine and should cause a bit of pain, but the separation from a believer is only temporary. Ultimately we can rejoice that they will be enjoying themselves much more now that they have arrived in the presence of God. This should be liberating and exciting for us as we seek to love those who have passed and as we look forward to the day that we too can join them in the joy of heaven.

Food For Thought: What did Jesus mean when He said “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice.”?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

John 14:15-31

Recently Graham and Cecelia have been watching a PBS show called Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This show is a sequel to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, with a matching theme song and a very similar purpose – teaching manners and morals to young children. At random, I hear Daniel Tiger, the main character, singing a little jingle to teach the kids a new moral lesson. Graham and Cecelia really enjoy these, so often I hear them singing along and sometimes even a few days later as we are driving down the road. A recent one that has stuck with them goes like this, “Making something is one way to say, ‘I love you.’”
"Making Something" - Daniel Tiger Video

It has been pretty cool seeing Graham thinking this one through. Having “made” something for his mommy, he will get excited and be ready to give it to her so that she can see that he loves her. “Daddy, I made this for mommy because I love her.” He may be only 3, but he gets the lesson that he learned from Daniel Tiger that if you want to show your love, there should be some action to match the words.
With a greater force than a fluffy, animated, cardigan-wearing, cartoon tiger, Jesus addressed His disciples in the upper room on the night before Passover. His premise was a similar one, but with much more weight - “If you love me, keep my commandments.” With this one statement, He had raised the bar above a children’s song, and brought gravity to the calling of discipleship. There is perhaps a number of ways that you can show love for someone, but when it comes to loving Jesus, this is the one way that He gives us to demonstrate our love for Him. We have one option. Obedience is the only way of love.
But if the disciples were honest, this was an overwhelming task. They had tried to live by the law of Moses, and had failed. Now, Jesus had come and had through clarification helped them to understand that in and of themselves they could not obey His commands. So how could they demonstrate their love? But Jesus continued on, “I will send you another Comforter to abide with you forever.”
There are two words in this verse that are of massive importance. The first is “another,” this word is not a generic word in the Greek with broad meanings like in English, rather in Greek, this word “another” literally means “one who is exactly the same in essence.” Jesus was promising to send one who was going to be there for the disciples as He had been. The second word of massive importance is “Comforter.” This word has a two-fold idea: 1) one who comforts and consoles, 2) one who strengthens. The word “comfort” itself even comes from two Latin words: 1) com - with, 2) fortis - strength. This Comforter would be one who could come along side the disciples and endue them with His strength.
It was true that in and of themselves they could not obey God, but with the indwelling Holy Spirit, they could receive the strength to obey. He could teach them the truth of God, and help them obey God, so that they could fully love God. The command of Jesus to love through obedience was not an impossible command, rather, He would equip believers with the ability to obey what He commanded.
And why was Jesus saying this to them on this night? Because He had just explained that He was going away. Their hearts were troubled, and they were upset. In loving them unto the end, He spoke these words of truth to encourage the disciples and dispel their fears of abandonment. He would give them His Spirit so that they would never be alone and so that He could abide in them forever.

Food For Thought: What two words from John 14:16 are of massive importance when truly understood? What do they mean?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

John 14:5-14

We often find the disciples asking questions to further understand the words that Jesus has spoken. I think if we were honest, if we had been with Jesus and heard Him speak it the first time, perhaps we too would have the same questions that the disciples had. But, thankfully, we have the words recorded, so that we can study them and learn them and have the Holy Spirit illumine them now.
As Jesus foretold of His departure to His disciples, Thomas voiced a concern that probably many of them were feeling, “We don’t understand where you are going, and how will we get there?” Jesus had just finished saying He was going to His “Father’s house” which we understand clearly to be Heaven. If Thomas had known that Jesus was talking about Heaven, he could have asked instead, “How can I go to Heaven?” Jesus answered Philip’s question by giving one of the most exclusive statements of the entire Bible, “I am the way…no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus left no wiggle room for any to think that He was simply “one of the ways,” no, He claimed with confidence that He was the only way.
Philip then asked Jesus to show him signs that demonstrated that Jesus was in fact from God and that this was true. After following Jesus for nearly three years, through this question we can see that there were still some disciples who had not fully understood the truth about Jesus. Now, Philip asked Jesus to show him how that Jesus was God. Lovingly, Jesus would take the time to teach Philip that he didn’t need Jesus to demonstrate anything.
The time for demonstrations was over. Jesus went on to teach Philip a great truth about his reaction to the claims of Jesus. In verse 11, Jesus says, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” Philip expected to see the deity of Jesus in this moment, but Jesus explained that Philip should already be past seeing and what he really needed was faith in what he had already seen. But why didn’t Jesus just do something spectacular to convince Philip in this moment?
Jesus had already done unbelievable things: healing the lame, healing the blind, raising the dead. This was not the time for more demonstrations, the demonstrations were done, now was the time for belief. Philip’s request was laced a thread of disbelief that if he had voiced more clearly would have sounded something like this, “I know you raised Lazarus from the dead and have power over a raging storm, but show us that you really are God.” What else could Jesus do? What else did Jesus need to do? It wasn’t for lack of evidence that Philip asked the question, it was because of his lack of faith in what he had already witnessed Jesus do.
In the end, Jesus made a promise that extended to His Apostles, “the works that I do, you will be able to do.” We will eventually see these same faithless disciples filled with faith accomplishing the miraculous in the name of Jesus. Having understood the truth and believed it, they became signal bearers of the same, carrying the truths of Jesus throughout the entire world to the glory of God and of Jesus.
Food For Thought: What did Jesus tell Thomas was the only way to get to the place that He was going? Why didn’t Jesus do a massive demonstration of divine power for Philip? What was Philip lacking?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

John 14:1-4

The night was young as Jesus began teaching His disciples, “Whither I go you cannot come.” After years of faithfully following Jesus, Peter answered Jesus with anxiety and emotion, “Lord, whither goest thou?” Peter obviously struggled to understand Jesus, so He clarified His statement further, “Whither I go, thou cannot follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.” Even the proposition to eventually be able to follow Jesus was not good enough for Peter, “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.”
The next phrase that Jesus spoke must have been unnerving for everyone in the upper room. Before Judas left, Jesus had said, “one of you shall betray me.” When Judas departed, the majority of the disciples assumed that he was just going to prepare for the Passover feast or to give money to the poor. They were not yet thinking that Judas was going to betray Jesus. This misconceived notion was probably furthered by the next statement of Jesus to Peter, “The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” In essence, Jesus just explained to the boldest disciple, Peter, that by the next morning he would disclaim and reject Jesus not just once, as if it were an accident, but three separate times.
This was a nuclear reality. As it seemed to the disciples, it was Peter who would betray Jesus. Peter was one of the closest to Jesus, how could this be? Certainly the tension was thick in the room as Peter reeled from the unhesitatingly accusing prophecy of Jesus.
While the burn was stinging, Jesus poured an ointment of comfort to settle all the hearts of those at the table. “Let not your heart be troubled.” Their hearts were certainly troubled. Jesus was about to leave and go away without them. He had been talking about dying, and now, He was talking about betrayal and Peter falling away from the faith. John began chapter 13 with, “He loved them unto the end.” Certainly as they sat around on this dark night, He was there to speak comfort into their darkness.
The loving, empathetic, compassionate Jesus gave them hope. “You believe in God, believe also in me.” For centuries, the people of God had learned to rely on God. It was ingrained in their genes to constantly look to the God Who had delivered their forefathers. Now, Jesus was telling them that as much as they trusted God, they could trust Him.
There was a purpose for His leaving them. He was leaving them for a short time so that He could accomplish an incredible opportunity for them. He was leaving so that He could create a place in Heaven for them. For us, the word “mansion” is a bit misleading or even distracting. Jesus’ point wasn’t that they would have a giant house with a butler, statues, and a wrought-iron gate, rather, the word used by Jesus and the word chosen by the translators simply stated would be “Heaven is filled with places for you to stay.”
Jesus went on further to explain that He was the one who was preparing the places for them to stay, and that He would come back again so that He could take them there. Again, they could trust Him, as much as they trusted God the Father. He would do this. By His death He would accomplish this for them.

Food For Thought: Why perhaps were the disciples “troubled” as we enter chapter 14? What is a “mansion” in old English?

Monday, November 10, 2014

John 13:31-38

Judas hurried out of the room into the darkness of the night. Jesus sat with the other eleven disciples in the upper room. He had many things that He wanted to teach them in this last night together before His crucifixion. As soon as Judas disappeared, Jesus began teaching what would eventually be John 13-16.
“Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” To be glorified simply means that all of the realities and attributes of a person are revealed or demonstrated. In this instance, Jesus is referencing the fact that momentarily, He will die on the cross and He and God will be glorified. In other words, the attributes and character of God and Jesus are about to be carried out on the cross. But which attributes?
In the crucifixion we see clearly the Holiness of God. God hates sin. Sin is antithetical to His very nature. Because of His Holiness, He pours out His unbridled wrath on all sin. When Jesus offered Himself on the cross, He became the propitiation for our sins. 

“The doctrine of the propitiation is precisely this that God loved the objects of His wrath so much that He gave His own Son to the end that He by His blood should make provision for the removal of this wrath…” - John Murray, The Atonement
In propitiation, God’s wrath was diverted from believers and to the crucified Christ on behalf of those who were formerly at enmity with God. In God’s execution of wrath on sin, even at the expense of His own son, His Holiness was glorified or demonstrated. Also, by executing His wrath on Jesus, He demonstrated His Justice in forgiving us of the sins for which Christ had paid. In Christ on the cross, God would be glorified as Holy and Just.
And on the cross, Jesus would be glorified as a loving Savior. His love had been demonstrated in the countless interactions He had with the social misfits and rejects of Judea, but now, He would act out the greatest demonstration of love. On the cross, He would be glorified as He demonstrated His love by substituting Himself for all those who would believe in Him. The cost to Him, the unbridled wrath of God, was worth the glory for Him in the end. His love would be undeniably demonstrated for all to see.
This vociferous love would become the defining characteristic of Jesus. It is no wonder then, that He would explain that any who would follow Him must have this same self-sacrificial lifestyle. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

"God gave the world the right to judge us on our love." - Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of a Christian
If you claim to be a believer and a disciple of Jesus, there will be a great amount of evidence. Your lifestyle will demonstrate whether or not you are a true disciple of Jesus by the love you have for those around you. Inspect your own life, realize that you are not judged by how well you love the few closest to you, but rather by the way you love everyone else, especially those who do not often love you in return. Believers are loving and kind even in the face of being defrauded, mistreated, and maligned.

Food for thought: Who is someone who seriously bothers you? If you were given a letter grade for how well you are demonstrating your love to them, what would that grade be? What should you do about it?

Friday, November 7, 2014

John 13:21-30

Jesus loved perfectly. As we read John 13, this limitless love is contrasted immediately with the wickedness of Judas. As penman of this gospel account, John included details that would later come to light, but that while he was yet a character in the story he did not know. At the time, no one suspected Judas, so much so, that even after Jesus made it explicit that it was Judas that would betray Him, the disciples still missed it.
It was one of the most intimate nights between Jesus and His disciples. He knew that He was going to be executed very soon, and He wanted to give some last words to His disciples. He knew that their faith in Him was going to be shaken when He was beaten and crucified. He knew that many of them were fixated on a Messiah that was crowned and enthroned in Jerusalem. He knew that the shock of His arrest and mock trial would be enough to melt their hearts and make even the most faithful become doubters.
So He taught truth. There is nothing that anchors the soul in hard times like Truth. In the season of life when the wind blows and the torrent pours sorrow upon sorrow, the one who is fixed on Truth will be able to survive. There were several doctrines that He would teach on this night, and this Truth would resonate in the minds of the disciples for the rest of their lives. “Serve one another.” “Trust in God and trust in Me.” “Love one another.” These were the words that He would equip them with for the most harrowing day of their lives. But not everyone at the table was interested in the Truth that Jesus was teaching.
“One of you will betray me.” As Jesus spoke the words, it must have been strange for all sitting there except Judas. With a lump in his throat and his guilty mind swirling, he must have played innocent for a moment or two, since the other disciples apparently never suspected him. Jesus then indicated that it was Judas and gave the permission, “Go do what you have planned.” That was the entire interchange, and it was lost on all of the disciples. Judas left, and did not return for the rest of the evening.
What type of bitterness and anger would have to be in a person for them to hear the words of Jesus and choose to betray Him? How evil would you have to be to give the pretense of friendship while all the while subversively plotting to destroy someone? So Judas walked out into the night, and surrendered himself to the will of Satan. Together, Judas and Satan would seek to rid the planet of the Son of God. They would have Him murdered so that He would no longer be a problem. Unbeknownst to them, their act of extreme depravity would simply serve to accomplish the very plan of God. They were not going to overthrow Jesus; they were merely lending themselves as servants of His will.

Food for Thought: What were the two reasons that John gives for the disciples thinking that Judas was leaving the table?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

John 13:1-20

Jesus was clearly God. His works demonstrated it. But stop and think about that for a moment. Jesus is God. Mankind and God could not be more different in their attributes. But Jesus as God limited Himself, and came to the earth for a great purpose. God, the omnipotent, took on frail human form. The one who created galaxies, confined himself to a flesh and blood body. Think about that! God who inhabits the far reaches of the universe and of heaven, bound himself to a tiny speck of dust planet that He had created. This is impressive to think about. The great Divine draped in humanity.
When we come to John 13, we find the clear demonstration of what this great truth looks like. Jesus had finished His public earthly ministry, and now, He sat at the table with His disciples for the Passover supper. It was finally the night that He would be betrayed and arrested, and by the next sunset, He would be killed. John pens the beautiful reality that was driving the mission of Jesus on the planet, “Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world, unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
The life of Jesus was marked by His love for others. In John 3:16, Jesus had told Nicodemus that it was love that had motivated God to send Jesus into the world. Now, we see that the ministry of Jesus could be summed up in love. He loved “His own.” Those who, according to John 6, the Father has given to Jesus would come to Him and He would offer them His love. Now, the night before His upcoming death, He gave one last great demonstration of Who He is, and what He came to do.
Rising from the supper table, John writes that Jesus “laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.” He was the Rabbi. His clothes were the distinct garments of authority, power, and position. But in this instance, He removed the distinctive clothes of power, and wrapped Himself with a servant’s towel. It was the common slave who would wear a towel, not the Rabbi. Not even the disciples were expected to wash feet, it was a job reserved for the lowest of the low. But Jesus, the most revered, set aside His power and authority, humbled Himself, and served those He loved.
But this was just a picture, an image, of what Jesus had already done in coming to earth. By coming to earth, Jesus had already humbled Himself immeasurably. The difference between God and man is a gap of infinite dissimilarity. When Jesus had come to the earth, He had removed His Sovereign robe of divinity. He willingly set aside His position and power and was bound in the form of a servant.
Mankind was to serve God. Humanity was nothing more than a race of servants. But God, in Jesus, came and took on the form of a man, and humbled Himself becoming the perfect servant. Having come to serve God perfectly, He also served others perfectly. But why would Jesus give up everything? Why would He come to earth and be abused by those around Him? Why would He suffer estrangement and hatred? Love. The driving reason always was love. From the beginning He loved. To the end, He loved. Even now, He loves. This is Jesus, the loving, humble, self-sacrificing, serving Messiah.

Food For Thought: Read Philippians 2:2-8. What similarities do you see between what Jesus did in John 13 and what Paul explains Jesus did in Philippians 2?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

John 12:34-50

Imagine with me for a moment that you and I walk to the street in front of your house. As we approach the curb, you notice a little Ford Escort. It is tan, a bit rusty, and about thirty years old, nothing really to oogle over. As we walk around the car, you notice that this car is the most basic car ever, perhaps even a bit underwhelming. However, when we climb into the car, I explain to you that under the hood is a brand new modified engine from a Ferrari Enzo. I further explain that while this car doesn’t look like much, the engine on this car can take us over 200 mph. Clicking the seatbelts, you chuckle with doubt as I brag that we could cover a quarter of a mile start to finish in 11 seconds.
As soon as we click the seatbelts in, I insert my key into the ignition and turn it. Roaring with power that was completely unexpected for this little car, the engine begins to purr like nothing you’ve ever heard before. For the first time since we walked outside you actually start to think that my Ferrari claim is possible. As I double check that you are wearing your seatbelt, I reach into the back seat and grab a couple of helmets, and hand one to you. You laugh as you ask me, “What, am I supposed to wear this?” Without responding I put your helmet in your lap and begin strapping mine on. Not fully convinced but a little bit nervous about the purring engine, you quickly follow suit.
Through my helmet, you hear me holler out, “Let’s do this,” as I slam the car into gear and shove the pedal to the floor. In an instant, you are pinned to your seat with your head thrown back against the head rest. In the next ten seconds you realize that the screaming tires have caught enough traction to propel us hundreds of yards down the road as we head onto the open highway. Slapping from gear to gear, you hear the growl of the engine increase and decrease all the way up through all seven gears. Glancing over at the dashboard, you see the needle on the speedometer inching past 204, 205, 206…and I finally let off the accelerator allowing the car to slow down until we eventually stop.
As we get out of the car, you are gasping for breath as you kiss the pavement, glad to have survived one of the scariest moments of your life. Now, the moment of truth comes. I remind you that one minute earlier you laughed at me when I told you I had a Ferrari Enzo engine in this hoopty looking car, now the evidence had started to stack up. The acceleration, the 200 mph speeds, the growl of the engine, everything seemed to indicate that I was telling the truth. Popping the hood, I show you the engine emblazoned with the word Ferrari and the new bright red and black paint on it. Clearly, my claims were real.
This is what Jesus had done. He had come and demonstrated that His claims were undeniable. He truly was God. He had done everything that would prove that He was God. He demonstrated immense power over nature, healed the lame, cured the blind, and He had finally raised the dead. There was no denying that He was indeed God. He may not have looked like much, but the miracles were undeniable. However, there were those who refused to believe the evidence. It may have been hard to believe at first, just like me with a Ferrari engine in my Ford Escort, but after they had seen everything, there was no excuse for not believing. Then why didn’t everyone believe He was who He said He was? Why does John say, “they could not believe”? Why don’t people believe now that He is who He said He was?

Food For Thought: In today’s text, John quotes Isaiah 6:10. Who does John say has purposed for the unbelieving to remain in unbelief? What reasons were given for the silence of those who actually did believe?

Monday, November 3, 2014

John 12:20-33

The crowds roared with “Hosanna!!! Hosanna!!!” as Jesus meandered His way along the dusty path into Jerusalem. It must have been a spectacle to see so many hundreds or thousands of people with palm branches hurrying to line the way and cheer Jesus as He entered the city. The trap that was set by the religious leaders to capture Jesus quietly would certainly not work with this large crowd worshipping Him. If they tried to arrest Him in this moment, they would certainly be torn to pieces by the mob.
Along the path, as Jesus made His way into the city, a group of Greeks, probably proselytes (converts to the Jewish faith), approached Philip. “We would like to speak to Jesus,” they said as they came close. The request probably caught Philip off guard, since the entire procession was a little bit loud and he wouldn’t know if Jesus wanted to stop to talk to this little group of Gentiles. Philip asked Andrew for some advice, and Andrew and Philip finally took these Greeks to Jesus. John doesn’t record what their question was, but he does record what the answer of Jesus was to them.
“The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” This must have seemed obvious to them. “Glorified” carries with it the idea of “crowned, anointed, coronated,” and now Jesus was saying that He was going to be glorified. Everyone who had seen the procession and understood that King Solomon had ridden into Jerusalem on a mule when he was crowned King of Israel, could see that Jesus was going to be glorified. But their understanding of “glorified” was a bit short-sighted. They imagined that He would be establishing His throne and would be throwing off the Roman oppressors. In their minds, no longer would the filthy Roman rabble be dominating the Jewish people, rather Jesus would become the rightful ruler from the throne in Jerusalem.
With the thinking that Jesus had come as the prophesied Messiah to set their people free, it must have been confusing when He said the next statement, “Except a kernel of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” He continued on with, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” He finished with, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” In this one series of statements, Jesus was unfolding how He was the true Messiah.
He had come to bring liberty, but not temporal liberty from the oppressors that would eventually grow old and die themselves, but rather, liberty from the indomitable oppressors, death and sin. Jesus had come to die. It was the purpose for which He came to earth; Scripture tells us that He was “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.” His glorification would come through His death. He would be raised by God and seated above every throne, including the one in Rome. He would conquer all, but first, He had to be obedient to God and become like a kernel of wheat. When planted in the ground, a kernel, or a seed , first decomposes a bit before the life inside of it can be opened and carried out into a manifold harvest. Similarly, Jesus prophesied that through His death, many would come in faith and receive eternal life. Many could come, including these Greek proselytes. Jesus had come as the Messiah for the whole world. His salvation would be for any and all who would come in faith relying only on the saving work that He would accomplish on the cross.

Food For Thought: What is a proselyte? What did Jesus prophecy about to these Greek proselytes?