Wednesday, May 30, 2012

John 14:12-14

I’ve been preparing a slide show for Open House, which is tomorrow night. As I’ve been editing the slideshow and adding sentimental music, I’ve been tearing up looking at the cute faces of my students! Open House signals the end of the year! I love this night! It’s a time to celebrate the time we’ve had together in our classroom and to reflect on all they’ve accomplished. Yet, it’s a sad time, too, because these 30 students have truly worked their way into my heart this year (nine of them I’ve had for two years). It’s hard to say goodbye.

I can identify with the urgency Jesus had in wanting to impart last minute teaching to his disciples. When my students leave me, they are headed to middle school, with so many pitfalls and dangers awaiting them! I want them to be prepared - not just academically, but also emotionally, socially, and morally. They will be faced with so many important choices in middle school - many that will determine who they eventually will become. So I want them to be ready. I’m thinking about what more I must teach them before they leave me. This is how Jesus was feeling as He continued to prepare them.

So far, He has comforted them with the assurance of their place in Heaven with Him. And yesterday we read that He promised them that they can know the Father if they know Him. In today’s passage He talks with them about the privilege of prayer:

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-14) 

Jesus, our one and only Mediator (1 Tim 2:5), lives to intercede on our behalf with the Father. Because He is at the Father’s right hand, we can be assured that whatever we pray in His name, He will do. Now, the key is the phrase, “in my name.” This doesn’t mean that if we just tag, “in Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers that we have our wishes granted! Praying in Jesus’ name means that we acknowledge Who He is and all that His identity encompasses.

So, if you are praying for a new Lexus “in Jesus’ name,” are you praying in line with His teachings on priorities (“Seek first the kingdom of Heaven...” )? If you are praying that the LORD will take vengeance on your nasty neighbor, is your prayer full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness?? :) You get the idea! The better we know Jesus and His nature, the more our prayers will be in line with His will, and we can trust that He hears us and answers our prayers. Jesus’ presence before the Father guarantees that we will receive mercy and grace when we go before the throne. Therefore we can approach the throne boldly (Hebrews 4:16).

It’s not about taking a shopping list to God for all the goodies we need - it’s about praying for His Kingdom to come and for His will to be done. It’s praying for others to come to Christ. It’s praying that they may grow in Him and be protected from the evil one. It’s praying for healing - both physical and spiritual. It’s praying that the 30 students in my class will know His perfect will for their lives. Those are prayers that WILL be answered! Jesus guarantees it!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

John 14:7-11

Jesus had made the amazing claim to be the only way to the Father, and He continues preparing His disciples with extremely bold statements about Himself:

“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7)

This confuses Philip:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (vs. 8)

I’m not sure if Philip literally wanted Jesus to give them a peek into Heaven, or what, but Jesus seems to give Philip a gentle rebuke:

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (vs.9-11)

Philip, like the others, had been with Jesus for three years, seeing Him do a multitude of amazing miracles, including raising Lazarus just a week before this. Maybe Jesus wanted to thump Philip on the head at this point and say,”What aren’t you getting???” But He patiently and boldly explains to these beloved men exactly who He is: One with the Father. What He has said were the very words of the Father. What He has done He has done through the Father living in Him. The miracles He performed were confirmation of this.

When unbelievers state that Jesus never claimed to be God, they have not read His own word It was talk like this that put the price on His head. It enraged the Jewish leaders, to whom it was blasphemy! These are radical statements and crazy talk if they were not true!

Jon Courson makes an excellent point in his commentary on this passage (Courson, P. 556). He writes of how people in our times are so anxious to lay blame at their parents’ feet for all of their problems. They often say things like, “I can’t relate to the Father because my earthly father ignored me, abused me, or abandoned me.” Courson’s point is that we are not to look at our earthly parents to understand our Heavenly Father. Rather, we are to look to Christ. Learn about Jesus if you want to understand the Father. Courson says the character of your earthly father is “irrelevant.” Amen!

This is why reading and rereading the gospels is so important. These are accounts of men who walked with Jesus or with His original disciples. They give eyewitness testimony to the character and work of Jesus Christ. They include His very words. And if we want to understand the Father, we must know the Son. Thanks for meeting here each morning that we might all get to know Him better!  

Friday, May 25, 2012

John 14:4-6 Map to Heaven

Jesus had just assured the disciples that, even though He was going away, He would return and take them to their heavenly home. Now He tells them that they need not worry about how to get to heaven, because they already knew the way.

“You know the way to the place where I am going.” 

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Don’t you love that Thomas is not embarrassed to bring forth his questions? I’m sure the other ten were thinking, “What’s He talking about? I’ll just pretend I get it...” But Thomas rescues them all with his question. I always encourage my students to ask clarifying questions, because, as I tell them, “If you don’t understand it, there are at least five others with the same question, so we all gain from your questions.” And I’m so thankful that Thomas asked so that we could hear Jesus’ answer! Because Jesus gives the most emphatic declaration about Himself - one that causes nonbelievers to protest, “You Christians are too narrow and exclusive!”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:4-6)

It doesn’t get more narrow than that! I heard Billy Graham once asked, “Why are you Christians so narrow?” His answer was, “I’m stuck with what Jesus said: ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No ones comes to the Father except through me.’ Either He was telling the truth or He was lying.”

Peter said, in his first public sermon, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

Is it exclusive of God to provide just one way? Yes! It’s also SIMPLE! Too simple for some. There’s a story in the Old Testament (2 Kings 5) of an army commander of the king of Aram, Naaman, who is described as a “great man,” “highly regarded,” and as a “valiant soldier.” One problem: he had leprosy. He ends up going to Elisha, the prophet, to be cured. Elisha tells him to bathe in the Jordan River seven times and he will be healed. This angers Naaman, because it seems silly and the Jordan River was not a particularly clean river. In fact, he goes away in a rage! But his servants go to him and plead with him to obey Elisha’s simple command:

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”  So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. (2 Kings 5:13-14)

How like us! Give us something really hard to do! The idea of a difficult task or quest in order to prove ourselves worthy appeals to our pride. But, remember, when Jesus was asked what men should do to do the works of God, he answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29) God kept salvation simple for our simple brains! It is NOT exclusive! It’s available to ANYONE who believes. You don’t need the PhD in theology. You don’t have to spend your lifetime searching for God on some long spiritual journey. Even the uneducated woman in the field in Africa can believe!

Simple for us - but it cost Christ everything! Amazing!  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

John 14:1-3 Again!

I love Jon Courson’s reminder that while the 88% of us claim to believe in heaven, we are certainly not acting like we believe it! He writes, “Believers are sometimes accused of being so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good. The Bible, however, teaches just the opposite – that we won’t be any earthly good until we are heavenly-minded…” (Courson, P.559)

In the first three verses of chapter 14, we see Jesus trying to refocus the discouraged disciples with an eternal perspective:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

All of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ are headed home! Some will get there sooner than others, but in the light of eternity, it’s all a short blip of time before we will see Him face to face. That is our hope – it’s also our assurance. Jesus says that this hope should calm troubled hearts.

Now, if your image of heaven was formed by cartoons or Hollywood, and you have a picture of sitting on clouds playing a harp, you will probably NOT get jump-up-and-down excited about heaven. So what do we know about heaven? Well, God is there!! (See Deut 26:15, 1 Kings 8:30, 2 Chron 6, etc.) A topical search of “heaven” will bring up hundreds of references to God being on His throne in heaven. So, just to be where He is will be beyond what we can imagine!

John describes the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, and while we are not sure of what it will be like exactly (John was limited in his ability to completely describe it), we know it will be more beautiful and glorious than anything our puny minds can conceive. God’s presence will fill the city with light, since He IS Light, and with His glory. There will be no more tears, death, mourning, or pain (Rev 21:4) It will be a place for only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:27). So, there will be no sin or evil present. And, we will have glorified bodies like Christ’s (see 1 Cor 15)! No need for plastic surgery. Our bodies will be perfect!

But what I cannot get over is that Jesus is preparing a special place there just for me! It will be the perfect fit for who I am. No wonder Christians have comforted each other with these verses in John 14 for centuries! Our death will be a closing of the door on this crummy world, with an opening into our perfect place in His presence! Death, where is your sting??

How do we get there? Jesus makes that crystal clear in the next verses, which will look at tomorrow.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

John 14:1-3

Jesus knew that His disciples were in turmoil about what He had just told them - He was going away and they would all abandon Him! So He refocuses them by giving them the most amazing words of comfort. These verses are so special, we are going to park here for a while!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

Jesus first gives them the key to peace for a troubled heart: trust in God! I love to quote Psalm 37:3a as my “mental health” verse: Trust in the LORD and do good. It says to me that if we just trust or believe in God and in His Word, then get outside of ourselves to help others, we will be able to overcome internal turmoil. Jesus tells the disciples here that they need to refocus their thoughts on believing in God and in Jesus. If we just believe and trust in and rely on what the Word of God tells us, we will have the peace that passes all understanding.

So Jesus tells them that they need to believe that there IS a place for us in heaven. He promises them that if it weren’t true He would have told them. He was not making this stuff up! The Bible mentions heaven more than 550 times. It is a real place. Believe it! If we truly focus on our eternal destination, nothing will shake us.

Jon Courson writes that an article in the Washington Post in April, 2000, said that 88% of Americans believe in a literal place called heaven. Then he describes what life on earth would be like if people DIDN’T believe in heaven:

     A society that didn’t believe in heaven would be obsessed with youth. It would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to look, stay, and feel young through plastic surgery, diets, and exercise programs. A society that didn’t believe in heaven would spend billions of dollars on life support systems to delay facing an unknown future. In a society that didn’t believe in heaven, crime would soar without fear of eternal judgment. The theology of a society that didn’t believe in heaven would be based upon the here and now - on health and prosperity. 
     Wait a minute. We are that culture, because although our generation gives lip service to the idea of heaven, we do no live out the reality of heaven. (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 558)

There IS a heaven, and the really good news is that Jesus promises He is preparing a place there just for YOU! It is going to be specifically designed with you in mind, to fulfill your desires and potential. It will perfectly match your DNA! Imagine! We will look at this more tomorrow. Just want to briefly mention that third verse in this passage. Jesus promises that He will come back and take us to be with Him. I believe that will happen in one of two ways: either He will come personally at the hour of our deaths and usher us into heaven with Him, or we will meet Him in the air with His return. Wow! Lots more to say on these subjects!! This is good stuff!  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

John 13:36-38

We come to the end of Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before His death. As we began this chapter we noted that Jesus loved His disciples “unto the end.” He demonstrated it for them by humbling Himself and washing their feet, knowing that one had betrayed Him, one would deny Him that very night, and all would fall away. We’re going to first look at the different versions of the synoptic gospels recounting of this scene, beginning with Matthew’s:

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: 
“‘I will strike the shepherd,

    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Matthew 26:31-32)

Somehow all of them miss that last statement about His resurrection! :)

Luke tells us that Jesus warns Peter while attempting to encourage him at the same time. Again, Peter doesn’t hear the last part:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

I think Mark records the boldness of Peter the best:

Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” 

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 

But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:29-31)

The love Jesus shows His disciples here is amazing! They will let him down - and, in the case of Judas, actually betray Him, leading to His crucifixion, yet He loves them to the end! His grace is so beyond what we can fathom. His love is so deep that Paul tells us NOTHING - not even our biggest failures or our vilest sins - will separate us from the love He has for us. (Romans 8:38-39)

Do you have trouble believing that? Are you convinced down deep that you are not worthy and that surely, if Jesus really knew about you, there is no way He could love you? Well, the fact is that you are NOT worthy - none of us is! He DOES know ALL about you - more than you know about yourself. He knows all about the darkest crud in the deepest parts of your heart. Yet, He died for YOU to bring YOU into a righteous relationship with God! Talk about amazing grace!

I so relate with impulsive Peter here! He had all of the enthusiasm and intention to follow Christ to the very end. Yet that would not be enough to keep him from falling. Don’t you LOVE that Jesus tells Peter that He is praying for him? Guess what! He’s interceding for you, too! We will fail Christ so many times on a daily basis! Yet He loves us to the end! What a Savior!

Tomorrow we will begin one of the most exciting chapters as we see Jesus encourage the disciples, who are dejected after hearing that Jesus is about to leave them.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

John 13:31-35

Immediately after Judas left, Jesus honed in on his main message to the eleven:

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:31-35)

When Jesus affirmed here that the hour for which he was born had finally come, I wonder if He was not also steeling Himself with the reminder of His purpose: to glorify the Father. His gaze was upward. He was completely focused on giving His Father glory. This needs to be our focus, as well, no matter what trials we face. Jesus knew that, even though He was facing extreme suffering on the Cross, He was also going to be glorified in the end and many would be saved - that was the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). We are promised that when we see Him, we will be like Him. We, too, will receive glorified bodies. We know that God’s promises of heaven ahead of us are true, and if we will just keep our eyes on that prize, we will be able to endure whatever comes our way.

So in His final discourse in the Upper Room, what is it that Jesus wants His disciples to learn? What is the most important lesson that He can impart to them? That they must love one another! This was what would change the world: their love for one another would prove that they were His disciples. It was what would set them apart form all others. Jon Courson points out that in the Old Testament God had already commanded that we love our neighbor as ourself, and Jesus had reiterated the importance of that commandment, yet Jesus says this was a NEW commandment. How so? Well, he added that we are to love “as I have loved you.”

The love we are commanded to give is sacrificial. It requires that we die to ourselves. In order for there to be true reconciliation throughout the Old Testament, something had to die. A lamb or dove was sacrificed on the altar. So, just as Jesus was sacrificed for us to reconcile us to God, so we must sacrifice our own needs and pride to be reconciled to others. How does this work for us? If you have a strained relationship with someone (mother-in-law, co-worker, spouse, son...), the ONLY way that relationship will be healed is if someone dies! And it needs to be YOU! You will have to let go of the anger, resentment, hurt, or your need to be right in order to restore the relationship. God requires it of us! It is what will set you apart as one of His children!

When Jesus said, “all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” He was saying that this was going to be the single most important witness. Not how much tithe we pay, not how many good works we do, not the healings of the sick or other miraculous signs and wonders, not our church attendance, not our memorizing of scripture. It would be the way we demonstrated our love for each other that would be the evidence of our discipleship. This is a lesson the Church still needs to learn.

This morning, be asking God to show you how you can better demonstrate His love to those unlovable people in your life. Then pray for the courage to SHOW it - not feel it. Remember that the feelings always follow obedience! Ask God what you can do to show love to your spouse in a tangible way this week. What can you do or say to your mother-in-law that would be loving? How can you show love to that co-worker who bugs you the most?? Pray about it - then do it! Let us know what happens!  

Friday, May 18, 2012

John 13:18-30

One thing that just popped out at me in reading this next passage is that Jesus washed the feet of ALL TWELVE of the disciples, including Judas! Even knowing what Judas was about to do, even knowing that Judas, as the keeper of the purse, had been dipping into their funds, even knowing all of that, Jesus humbly knelt before Judas and washed his feet! You see, as Jon Courson writes, it’s not about us being lovable; it’s about Jesus being love incarnate.

In today’s passage, Jesus predicts the betrayal by one of their own, to the shock of the disciples:

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ 

“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.  I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” 

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” (John 13:18-21)

I so appreciate that Jesus felt the same way about this betrayal as we would. He was “troubled in spirit.” Because he loved Judas like the others, the hurt must have been so great! For three years they had walked, talked, eaten, slept, and ministered together. Jesus quoted Psalm 41:9 here, in which David laments the betrayal of Ahithophel. David’s son, Absalom, had rebelled against his father, and Ahithophel, who had been David’s trusted advisor jumped ship and went over to Absalom’s camp! David was crushed. Jesus quotes David to indicate the prophetic nature of the verse. Courson points out that Ahithophel came to the same end as Judas: overcome by his guilt, he hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23). I believe that knowing what would happen to Judas also greatly “troubled” Jesus.

When Jesus announces the impending betrayal, the disciples immediately want to know which one will do the deed:

His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.  One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.  Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” (vs. 22-24)

Peter, having already put his foot in his mouth on this evening, gets John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” to ask the question they are all dying to ask! Jesus indicates that the one to whom he gives the dipped bread is the traitor. After dipping the bread and giving it to Judas, the passage turns ominous:

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. (vs. 27)

What a scary thought! Jesus tells Judas to go quickly to do what he planned.

As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (vs. 30)

You can just feel the darkness pressing in on Jesus’ spirit in His final hours. In His time of greatest need, Jesus would be let down by these men. If you have ever felt the hurt of betrayal you understand what Jesus was going through. Yet, what was His response? Jesus could have taken out Judas, or at least railed against him here in front of everyone. Instead He quietly tells Judas to go.

Jesus was fully trusting and fully obeying His Father at all times. He kept His focus on His purpose. He did not get sidetracked by personal feelings, even though they must have been intense. I don’t think this was passive resignation. It was active forgiveness and love - not just for Judas, but for all of us, because this betrayal happened to fulfill the prophecy, and Jesus had to die to rescue us from sin.

Next week we’ll read about Jesus’ prediction about Peter’s denial. The contrast between Judas and Peter is instructive!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

John 13:12-17

When we started this chapter I said that we needed to lean in to listen, because these are some of Jesus’ final teachings to His disciples before His death. So whatever He says, it has some urgency to it. He is imparting the lessons that He believes will be critical to the growth of these men and to the success of their ministry of spreading the gospel. So Jesus, having washed His disciples’ feet, now explains to them what it was all about:

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  (John 13:12-17)

Jesus is telling them that if they call Him “Teacher” and “Lord,” and MEAN it, then they will follow His example. We can’t say we have learned something from a teacher, then completely ignore the lesson! And yet, we do it all of the time!

Now, I expect that from some of my fifth graders! I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to explain how to find the area of a quadrilateral (Area = length x width ... remember?) You’d have to be there to see it, but I practically stand on my head to get this simple formula across to this group (I am currently teaching the ones who struggle with math). For days I made models with construction paper, gave them notes with the formula and examples in their math journals, used a video presentation to explain the concept of area, and checked for understanding using wipe boards. So on the day before the quiz, I was reviewing with them and asked one of the girls to give me the formula for area (we had just gone over it for the umpteenth time two minutes before this), and she said, “Meters???” AAUGHH!!! “Well, actually, that’s a unit of measure, not the formula...” I said patiently, while in my head I was shouting, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME???”

So I am totally amazed by the patience of Jesus as He explained to these men (like us, apparently sufferers of attention deficit), what He was trying to show them when He washed their feet: “Just as I am here to humbly serve others, even though I am your Lord and Teacher, you, too, must humbly serve others. And if you do this, you will be blessed!”

Note that Jesus said that it wasn’t enough to KNOW. It isn’t about memorizing scripture and studying what the Bible teaches for 36 years, it’s DOING what it says! James wrote in his letter that we need to be not just LEARNERS of the Word, but DOERS of the Word:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror  and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

These disciples would be having to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the gospel. They needed to learn that it was NOT all about them! They were on earth to pour out themselves for the glory of God. I was telling my girls in my class today that as women, they would never have a time in their lives when it was about them! It will always be about serving and taking care of others, their husbands, their children, etc. [The context of this lecture was that they were laughing about how I was trying to show a group of boys how to do something VERY simple - move something from one place to another - and the boys could NOT figure out an efficient way to do it - I had to show them. I told the girls, “Get used to this - you will be showing men how to do the simple stuff your whole life!”] I know - that was sexist - but it was soooo true! :)

So, as you can see, I need to learn the lessons myself!!! Can you tell it’s the end of the school year?? One more month to go! LORD, let me follow your example. I’ve seen you model it - now I need to do it!!!  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

John 13:6-11

Today we’ll see Peter being “classic” Peter! I find him one of the most encouraging people in the Bible, because I so identify with his passion coupled with impulsivity! Those of us who are passionate people often speak without putting our brains in gear, so we end up jumping in and out of trouble! Can anyone else relate?? In today’s passage, Jesus begins washing the feet of the disciples.

These men walked in sandals in very dirty places. So, it’s safe to say that they had filthy feet. Jon Courson points out that Jesus could have given them a sermon on the need for good personal hygiene, or he could have commended them to clean their feet. Instead, motivated by great love for His disciples, He got down on His hands and knees and did the job Himself. Courson writes, “If you are not willing to wash feet, then keep your mouth closed when you see dirt. When I see dirt, I can either talk about the dirt, which then is called judgment - or I can involve myself in that person’s life by tending to the situation on my knees in humility through intercession.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 553)

Now, let’s look at how Peter responds:

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

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” 

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

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:6-9)

Peter’s first reaction probably came from pride. He was embarrassed that Jesus was down at his stinky feet, and I’m guessing he wanted to hide his feet from Jesus. You know how you feel when you go into a nail salon for a pedicure after many months of feet neglect? And you are sure those ladies who are working over your feet are talking about your nasty feet? Peter was ashamed of his filthiness! He insisted that Jesus would NEVER wash His feet. Until Jesus points out that, unless Peter surrenders to foot washing, he will have not be one of Jesus’ own. Then Peter is ready to jump into the bathtub!

So many feel unworthy to come to Jesus for cleansing! We feel like we need to get our act together before we could ever be good enough to be called His own. But Jesus KNEW how filthy Peter was - and not just his feet! He knows how much dirt we carry around. But He came to cleanse us. That requires humility on our part. Satan knows just how to keep us away from Christ by accusing us of being filthy. He loves to bring up all of our dirt. But Jesus wants to remove all of that baggage from our past. It’s why He died! So, we need to let Him wash our feet and rejoice in the cleansing!

Jesus makes the point to the impulsive Peter that, once you have been cleansed by His blood, you don’t need to be completely cleansed over and over - just wash the dirt from the world off your feet daily:

Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. (vs. 10-11)

Even though we have been saved and cleansed by Jesus, our feet still pick up dirt from our involvement with the world every day! We don’t need to hide in shame when we fail. Jesus knows we will fail Him before we do! He waits each day for us to come to Him in humility to receive what we need. When we shy away from Him because Satan has told us we are unworthy (well, duh, of course we are), we miss out on that wonderful refreshing and renewal. Jesus chose people like Peter and like you and me. Passionate people who do, say, and think rash things!

The next time you go in for that pedicure, think of this passage and of Jesus who has cleansed ALL of you! Then thank God for that sweet woman before you who is cleaning the dirt off of your feet and pray that God would bless her - even if she is making fun of you in another language!  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

John 13:1-5

We have come to the passage of scripture that is called the “upper room discourse.” Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His disciples and was preparing them for what lay ahead. This is when He would teach them His most important lessons. This is when we want to lean in to listen!

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (John 13:1)

The King James Version translates that last phrase, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” Jesus knew these men better than anyone. He knew exactly what was in their hearts. He had seen them at their worst, knew that, even then, Judas had already betrayed him. He was aware of their impulsivity and rashness. James and John had wanted to call down fire from heaven on any who would not believe (Luke 9:54). He knew Peter would resort to violence (Mark 14:47). He knew how they would fail Him at the end (John 18:15-27; Matthew 26:36-45), and would hide for fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). Even on this very evening, they would be arguing over who among them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). But Jesus loved them to the end, stinky feet and all! Imagine that!

And that is how He loves you and me. He knows ALL about us - more than we even know ourselves. He has seen all our failings, past, present, and future. He knows when we have doubted and even denied Him by our actions. He has seen the deepest part of our hearts where we hide bitterness, jealousy, and resentment. Yet He loves us unconditionally - and endured the Cross for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2). He looked forward to that day when we would come to Him and receive Him as our LORD and Savior. Talk about AMAZING LOVE!

So, here in the Upper Room, Jesus would not only tell the disciples about the preeminence of love (vs.34-35), He would show them by adopting the posture of a servant, stooping to clean their feet.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (vs. 2-5)

The verse I’ve highlighted reminds us that Jesus KNEW exactly who He is. He is the Creator of the universe, the great I AM, the Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Rock of Ages, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, God the Son, the Alpha and Omega, the Prince of Peace, and the King of Kings. Knowing all of that, how amazing that the conjunction that joins the two clauses is “so.” In other words, BECAUSE of Who He is, He got up and served His disciples! His model turns the world’s view of leadership on its head. And in this final evening of fellowship with His disciples, He is giving the disciples, and us, a terrific lesson in humility as the ultimate Servant-Leader!

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Do you and I display this same attitude? When we complain because someone has taken “my” seat in the sanctuary? When we are upset with the pastor because his message “didn’t feed me” this morning? When the promotion goes to the other worker? When someone cuts us off on the freeway? When someone else on the committee gets all of the recognition? Our attitude really is evident in the little things that bother us, isn’t it? We need to constantly ask the Holy Spirit to check our attitudes throughout the day, so that we might become more and more like our wonderful Servant Savior!

Tomorrow we’ll see how humility is not only required of the servant, but of those being served.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

John 12:44-50

This has been a long chapter, but before we finish it, I want to remind you that it started with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The crowds hailed Him as their King, laying palm branches in front of Him and shouting “Hosanna!” This was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9. My dear friend, Carrol Velarde sent me an email about this which I want to share with you:

William Barclay pointed out that as you have talked about Jesus fulfilled prophecy in Zechariah 9, He also  gave them other signs as well. Traditionally in Biblical times, a king comes riding on a horse when He is bent on war:  In the East, an ass is considered a noble creature and many Biblical figures rode on asses' colts during peaceful times. Jair, the Judge had 30 sons who rode on them. Ahithophel and  Mephibosheth, son of Saul rode to King David upon an ass. This action of Jesus riding on an ass was another sign to the Jews that He was coming not as the warrior figure they dreamed of, but He was coming as the Prince of Peace. The Jews wanted a mighty conqueror, ironically they didn't understand that Jesus was exactly that!  Jesus wanted conquest, too. In fact, ( excuse my language here) He was Hell bent on seeing God's plan of salvation through to completion!  Jesus knew that as the Prince of Peace on the cross, He would conquer sin and death forever and if He be lifted up, He would draw all men to Him. Hallelujah!  One day we will behold this mighty conqueror, Jesus on a white horse.  What a glorious day that will be! 

Amen, Carrol! :)

Turning back to the final verses in this chapter, we read that Jesus shouted his last public message:

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:44-46)

When we believe in Jesus, we are believing in the Father; when we see Him, we see the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us and to be the only Way to the Father. When we follow Him we come out of darkness into His glorious light.

“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.  For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (vs.45-50)

This repeats the idea in John 3:17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

Jesus came to save us, but if we reject that gift, it isn’t Jesus who will condemn us, but His very Word. To this Jewish crowd, the words they heard every Sabbath from the Old Testament - the words they claimed to believe - and the words which Jesus spoke to them - the words which He said were not His own, but straight from the Father - these words would condemn them. They would be without excuse - and so will we.

From this point on, as Jesus was just days from the Cross, Jesus turned away from the unbelieving crowd and focused on preparing His disciples. It’s time to listen closely!  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

John 12:42-43

Yesterday’s verses spoke of the danger of rejecting God to the point where He hardens your heart. Today we’ll look at John’s observation about why men will reject Christ.

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43)

Oh man! This is just so sad, because it’s so true! How often do we worry about what others think of us? In this case, those who could clearly see that Jesus was the Messiah, nevertheless denied their faith for fear of being excommunicated. Their place in the religious community was more important than Truth. They were afraid of the religious leaders - the very men who should have been leading them to the Truth.

Embracing the Truth means having to let go of lies. Sometimes those lies are important rituals that we have been raised in and cling to. Yet anything which denies even in the smallest way Who Jesus is and what He completed on the Cross, anything that says I must add something to His work of salvation, anything that says there is any other mediator between man and God is a lie. It says that Jesus didn’t do enough; He is not enough.

When Jesus died on the cross He said, “It is finished,” not “It’s just begun.” He did not say, “Okay, people, now get busy doing things in the temple to get right with God.” He came to remove the burdens that had been place on us, not to add to them. The religious leaders, as we have seen, had an agenda. They were out to murder Jesus, because He was interfering with their hold on the people. He was taking away their power over the people. And, apparently, those in this particular crowd who rejected Christ’s claims, did so because they feared that power.

The Bible tells us to fear God, not man. Where in your life can you see evidence that the opinion of men has more sway over you? Is it at work, where you hide your faith for fear of what your boss or coworkers would think? Is it within your family? Is it even within your church?

Maybe you have been drawn to Christ, but you fear making that step of complete commitment because you are afraid of how it will turn your life upside down. You fear that it will ruin your marriage (hey, God loves your marriage way more than you do), or you fear it will ruin your social ties. Yes, it probably will ruin some. There is a cost to following Christ. But the payoff is eternal life that begins NOW and a relationship with your Heavenly Father that surpasses anything the world has to offer.

Let’s be on guard against that fear of men. It sneaks in so easily and feeds on our insecurities. Satan knows just how to get to us, doesn’t he?    

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

John 12:37-43

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (John 12:37)

John tells us, in chapter 20, verses 30-31, that Jesus did many more miracles. But he chose to write about certain ones in order that we might believe. Even though these crowds had seen more than enough evidence, including the resurrection of Lazarus, they would not believe. It’s not that they, or anyone else, would be convinced if they just had enough evidence. There is PLENTY of evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son. It’s not that they CAN’T believe, it’s that they WON’T believe. Well, Jon Courson writes that if people WON’T believe, eventually there will come a day when they CAN’T believe, because God will close their eyes to the truth. And John tells us that very thing in this passage:

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 
“He has blinded their eyes

    and deadened their hearts,

so they can neither see with their eyes,

    nor understand with their hearts,

    nor turn—and I would heal them.” 

 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. (vs.39-41)

This is a sobering truth. You can reject the message of Christ only so many times before God will harden your heart so that you CAN’T believe!

When I was a teenager and in college, I was approached three times by those “pesky” Campus Crusade for Christ people that confronted kids on the beach during spring break or on campus at UCLA with the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract! [You need to know that I now financially support two missionaries for this organization :) ] Each time I somehow got rid of them without them “closing the deal.”

I was even once accosted by a hippie member of the cult “Children of God” on Bruin Walk one day. Now HE was persistent!! He was part of this group out of Texas that went around the country in a hippie bus picking up teens from college campuses to join their cult. Just to get rid of him, I prayed with him to receive Christ right there in the middle of campus! He instructed me afterwards to meet him the next morning to get on the bus! He called my sorority house looking for me the next morning when I didn’t show. My sorority sister informed him that I was at the football game. He was angry and said, “She’s supposed to be with us telling people about Jesus!” My sorority sister answered, “Maybe she’s telling people about Jesus at the football game!”

I laugh about that now, but it scares me to think how many times I did not want to be “bothered” with the truth! There came a day, however, when I knew for certain that I needed to make a real decision. When my older daughter, Molly, was a baby, I realized how important it was that I raise her the right way. I desperately wanted to raise her in the Truth - and I knew there could only be one, since God is not a God of confusion. There couldn’t be MANY different, conflicting ways to God. During my search, I met a woman who read convincing scriptures to me, and she ended with Revelation 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (KJV)

Somehow I KNEW when she read that verse that if I said, “No,” to this invitation, I would truly be saying, “NO,” and closing the door of my heart. I’m so thankful to God that He was so patient with me and that He had not already hardened my heart to the point that I could not believe!

How about you? Have you heard the gospel message many times and not responded because it just wasn’t the right time, you didn’t want to be bothered, or you were afraid you’d become one of those “Jesus freaks?” Don’t mess with God! If you continue to say “No,” there will come a day when you CANNOT say, “Yes!”    

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

John 12:31-36

Jesus finishes this discourse with the crowd by pointing them to the Cross.

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31-33)

Jesus was telling them that finally sin was about to be judged. I think we tend to forget that ALL sin - the sins of the entire world, encompassing all of history - past, present, and future - would be laid upon Jesus to be judged. All of us have felt the incredible burden of the guilt of even one sin. When we think back (and maybe not so far back), we can think of something (or many things) we did that caused us absolute agony because of the guilt and shame. Now think about how that horrible feeling for ALL of humanity was heaped on our LORD, who was Himself innocent! The Cross would actually separate Him from His Father!

Jesus did this willingly, because we needed salvation. He was about to break Satan’s hold over those who would believe. He was going to completely cleanse and make righteous those who had been in bondage. And He promised here that He would draw all men to Himself on that Cross. Courson writes about how it truly is the message of the Cross - forgiveness and cleansing from sin - that draws people into our churches. It’s not the hip youth group or the rockin’ music - it’s the message of the Cross. People are so hungry to hear it!

The crowd was confused by Jesus reference to His death, because they were looking for a Messiah who would save them politically. They only saw the one coming of the Messiah. They missed the Lamb of God who would be slain, because they were expecting the Lion of Judah.

The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” 

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.  Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (vs.34-36)

Courson writes, “Jesus doesn’t answer them directly, because, you see, He Himself is the Answer. He answers as if to say, ‘You guys want to talk about theology, but I want to talk about relationship. While you have Me, link yourselves to Me. Stay close to Me. Enjoy Me.” (Courson, P. 543)

In other words, walk in the Light while you can! And He could say that to us today! We’ll see tomorrow that TODAY is the day of salvation. You can’t put it off, because none of us knows when our time on earth will be up. This has been brought home to me so much this past year. I’ll soon be attending my sixth funeral of the year - and only one of those was for an elderly person!

Yesterday our school staff lost a very dear, gentle teacher after a long battle with cancer. Jenny was only 48. This has been an extremely difficult year for our school. Death sucks! For those who go to be with the LORD there is celebration, but for those left behind there is mourning. Thank you, LORD Jesus, that your death guaranteed our eternal life when we put our faith in You.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

John 12:27-30

We have a Savior who understands us. As Jesus turned toward the Cross, He struggled, just like we do!

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28a)

If Jesus could take His struggles to the Father, so can we! I have not met the challenge of a terminal illness, but I’m imagining that the struggle for a Christian might be like we see here. We KNOW that what awaits us on the other side is beyond anything we could ever imagine. When we see Him face to face it will be glorious. But because we have not passed through the portal of death yet, we DON’T know what that passage will be like. We cling to what we know and the pull of earth is strong. At the same time, however, our hearts yearn for our eternal home. How did Jesus get beyond this? He remembered what His purpose was: to SAVE us by taking the judgment for our sin on the Cross and to glorify the Father in it.

And note that He says, “Father, glorify your name,” not, “Glorify my name!” We live in a time in which everyone wants his OWN name glorified! Everyone wants his 15 minutes of fame - and Satan has provided the means to keep us focused in that direction with social media. You can be out to the world via Facebook, Twitter, texting, YouTube - and, yes, blogging! While I believe God can and does redeem the media for His purposes, since He is sovereign and cannot be thwarted, Satan, nevertheless, makes good use of our desire to glorify our own names.

 As believers, we have the certainty of being disciplined by our Father whenever we step out of His will in this way. He has a way of pulling us back and reminding us whose we are and why we’re here! Sometimes it just takes a gentle nudging from the Holy Spirit, but sometimes it takes a trip to the shed! As soon as Jesus said, “No it was for this very reason I came to this hour,” He was again resolute in His determination to finish the job He came to do. May we always remember His example!

As soon as He refocused and prayed, the Father answered - the third time in His ministry that the Father affirmed Him publicly (at His baptism, the Transfiguration, then here).

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. (vs.28b-30)

The world does not hear God speak to you, and people may tell you, when you feel God’s call on you life, that you are just imagining it. If God is speaking to your heart, asking you to step out in some kind of ministry, and you are sure it is Him, you can bet your boots that immediately there will be those who will try to rob you of that joy and that mission. Be prepared for it!

If your goal is to glorify the Father, don’t let anyone keep you from that path. We know that even the disciples, who loved Him, tried to keep Him from the Cross. But it was for the Cross that He came. How wonderful that the Father affirmed His mission once more to help Him move forward. He will do that for you, too. If you are questioning whether or not that voice you are hearing is His, ask Him for confirmation in His Word and through His people. He will provide it!  

Friday, May 4, 2012

John 12:20-26

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. (John 12:20-22)

It would be so easy to just skip past these verses, but remembering that John was extremely selective I checked out what Jon Courson had to say about this group of Greeks coming to see Jesus. Glad I did! He points out that at Jesus’ birth, the Gentile Magi came from the East to seek Him out and worship Him. Here, just before His death, Gentiles come from the West. Whether or not they came to worship or just out of intellectual curiosity (which would be a Greek mindset), Jesus makes it clear that the only way to truly follow Him is the way of death.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (vs.23-26)

God’s ways are so not our ways! And unless we view everything from the perspective of the Cross, we’ll miss what He has for us. When He divides, He does it to multiply; when He subtracts, He does it to add; and if we want life, it must be through death. Jon Courson writes that in this final public discourse Jesus gives the secret of life: “Get a life,” people say. And Jesus tells us how. “Get a life,” He says, “not by asserting yourself, not by pampering your self, not by changing yourself - but by dying to self.” (Courson, Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 540).

If we live only for self - that’s all we’ll get: one life that ends in death. But if we die to self, we will not only find eternal life, but there will be multiplication of life as we bring others to Christ. If we want eternal life, we must follow Jesus into death. Courson points out that there are so many questions we will have throughout our lives, for which we may never get answers. “Why did my child die, Lord?” “Why am I in this loveless marriage?” “Why didn’t I get that job I’ve been praying for?” “Why did the cancer return?” If we will just take it all to the Cross, and remember that it is in dying that we live, we will be able to trust Him. How can we NOT trust the One Who loved us so much that He resolutely turned toward the Cross, knowing the agony He faced there, in order to bring us to the Father?

In the next passage we will get a glimpse of His agony, along with His focus.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

John 12:12-19

In John 5, when Jesus was answering the Jewish leaders who had questioned His credentials for claiming to be God, Jesus pointed them to the Scriptures which testified of Him. More than 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming - with many more yet to be fulfilled at His return. Here, in today’s passage, we see some that were when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, being hailed as the King who had come to save His people.

Remember that Jesus had been visiting Lazarus and his sisters in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. The buzz about Lazarus had reached the masses gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. According to projections based on what the Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote, there were possibly more than two million in the city observing Passover week. And then Jesus comes:

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, 
    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
    “Blessed is the King of Israel!”  Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,
    “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
   see, your king is coming,
   seated on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:12-15)

Most of us will find a reference in our Bible’s to Psalm 118 here. Particularly, verses 19-25 of that Psalm speak to this event.

Open for me the gates of righteousness;
   I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
 This is the gate of the LORD
   through which the righteous may enter.
 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
   you have become my salvation.

   The stone the builders rejected
   has become the capstone;
 the LORD has done this,
   and it is marvelous in our eyes.
 This is the day the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

   O LORD, save us;
   O LORD, grant us success.
 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
   From the house of the LORD we bless you. 

The word for “save us” in this Psalm is the word, “Hosanna.” The Jews in Jerusalem that Sunday were welcoming Jesus as their Savior, the “gate of the LORD.” Other Old Testament prophecies fulfilled on this day were from Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11. The crowds greeted Jesus with worship and praise. And yet, these are the same who would cry, “Crucify him!” just a few days later!

My pastor, when teaching on this passage just this past Palm Sunday, pointed out that It’s not shouting ‘Hosanna’ on Sunday that matters - it’s following the Light on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, as well! How many of us who claim to be followers of Christ prefer to keep Him in a Sunday box? We faithfully go to church each Sunday, but leave Him there as they go through the rest of their week not giving Him a thought. Are we truly walking in the awareness of His presence each day? Do we give thank and praise throughout our days, even when our days seem to go completely awry? Are we trusting Him to save us, or are we looking to our jobs, our own skills, or our families as the source of our strength?

While I’m certain the disciples were blown away by the reception Jesus was getting, John tells us that they did not really comprehend this event until later. The fickle crowd was so excited to see Him, but the Pharisees not so much:

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. 

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:16-19)

Standing in that crowd that day were a group which was NOT happy! The religious leaders, who should have been shouting praises the loudest, were instead whispering murderous plots!  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

John 12:3-11

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3)

Mary adored Jesus! She loved being at His feet, not only to listen attentively to His every word, but just to unashamedly worship Him. Here she brought out her extremely costly jar of perfume, probably her precious dowry, and lavished it on Jesus’ feet. Such perfume was used in burial, and, in fact Jesus affirms that this jar was intended for his burial (vs. 7). But she was using it early in preparation.

It seems that Mary was one of the few who understood. During all of that sitting at Jesus’ feet she had learned what the disciples had not yet caught: Jesus was going to Jerusalem to die. Jon Courson reminds us that Mary of Bethany would NOT be one of the Marys at the cross. He conjectures that she must have known that the cross was not the end of the story. So she used up the perfume before Jesus died. What an act of worship! That worship was costly, not only because of the price of the perfume, but because it also brought her criticism:

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (vs.4-6)

When we worship unashamedly, we can also expect some criticism. Courson remind us that this was also true of David. When he danced in joy before the LORD, wearing only his undergarments (2 Sam 6), his wife, Michal, who was Saul’s daughter, mocked him, disgusted by his display. She remained barren until the end of her life, whereas David continued to worship his God. In the same way, Judas, motivated by money, rather than worship, came to a pathetic end. Courson writes, “Those who critique or find fault with worship will experience barrenness, dryness, and a lack of productivity.” (Application Commentary: New Testament. P. 538) Those who think you are some crazy fanatic because you love Jesus miss out on the joy of the LORD!

Judas acted disgusted about the “waste” of money when there were so many poor who could have benefitted from the sale of the perfume. But Jesus rebuked him, knowing Judas had no real concern for the poor:

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (vs.7-8)

Mary understood this. She seized the moment to show her love for Jesus. Having “wasted” the perfume, she may have even cost herself a future husband! She was trusting that God, Who had provided the money to buy the perfume, would also provide everything else that she needed. This is what tithing is: an act of worship that trusts that God will provide everything for us financially, even as He provides the means for us to worship Him with our giving. We can never outgive God! As Mary worshiped Jesus with the perfume, the fragrance not only blessed Jesus, but herself and all who were present as the sweet smell permeated the house. Do you hold onto your money to protect it or does it freely flow through your hands in worship as you bless others in Jesus’ name?

Remember that Bethany was only two miles from Jerusalem. And as Jesus and his friends enjoyed the fellowship and the joy of Lazarus’ resurrection, people who had heard Lazarus’ story began to gather outside:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (vs.9-11)

Now the religious leaders had a growing problem. They not only plotted to kill Jesus, but they would have to also murder Lazarus in order to end the whole movement! Where would it stop? Tomorrow we’ll see the crowds welcoming their Messiah as Jesus enters Jerusalem.