Tuesday, October 30, 2012

John 21:20-23 Part 3

One of the many things that blesses and encourages me about the many personalities of the Bible, whether Old or New Testament, is how God redeems and uses ALL kinds! Every one of them was flawed and sinful – each one had highs and lows. And, throughout their lives, the consistency was God’s faithfulness, not theirs. I am so thankful that God chooses regular folks like you and me. It’s through the ordinary that He does the extraordinary.

So today, as we look at this picture of Peter and John, we’ll focus on their different personalities and styles that God used to build His Church in the first century. We have already seen that Peter was not just interested in his own future with Jesus, but really wanted to know what was going to happen with John.

Jon Courson, in his Application Commentary: New Testament, points out that these disciples showed their unique personalities even when they were first called to discipleship. He writes, “Peter was casting his net into the sea (Matthew 4:18). ‘Follow Me and I’ll make you a fisher of men,’ Jesus said. And indeed Peter became an evangelist who would bring many people into the kingdom – three thousand saved during his first sermon alone. John, on the other hand, wasn’t casting his net. He was mending nets (Matthew 4:21). And John would go on to mend people, as he taught, preached, and practiced love. These two were very different in ministry, in mentality, in temperament, in personality. But you know what? God used them both.” (Courson, P. 607)

Peter was an activist. He was the one who would charge ahead to get things done. John, was a thinker and a watcher. He mulled things over for their significance. He filtered everything through love. There is a need for both personalities and ministry types.

I’m much more a Peter than a John. I used to bemoan that fact. I had such wonderful women role models in my church when I was a new Christian, 36 years ago. These women were humble, soft spoken, hard working servants of Christ, who quietly loved and served the LORD with all their hearts. I used to pray that God would make me more like them. I am anything BUT quiet! I was mistaking personality for character. It took me years to realize that I was NEVER going to be soft spoken or contemplative. I’m an activist through and through! But I’m so grateful for my dear friends who are “Johns.” I need their steady peace and loving support. They are the ones who hold me accountable!

Isn’t God amazing how He created such variety in His world? Not only in nature, but in the unique personalities that He knit into each of us. No two are alike! Thank you, LORD, that you used both Peter and John, and Paul, and Moses, and Abraham, and Esther, and David, and Rahab, and Joseph, and all the Marys, and Martha. And You use even me!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

John 21:20-23 Part 2

Last time we saw Peter stumble again when, after hearing what future Jesus had in mind for him, he turned and pointed to John and asked, “What about him?” It’s the most natural thing in the world to want to compare ourselves to others. And either way we measure up is a problem. We either decide that we aren’t as bad off as that other guy, and assume it’s because of something inherently better in ourselves (pride), or we whine because that other person’s life looks so much better (envy).

In Psalm 73 the psalmist went though a comparison of his life to the wicked and prosperous, and at first he judged them to be better off:

They have no struggles;
 their bodies are healthy and strong. 
They are free from the burdens common to man;
   they are not plagued by human ills. . . 
This is what the wicked are like—
  always carefree, they increase in wealth. 
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; 
 in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 
All day long I have been plagued;

   I have been punished every morning. (Psalm 73:4-5, 12-14)

When he saw that wicked men seemed to prosper, the psalmist came to the conclusion that he had wasted his life trying to do the right thing by living a godly life. What had it gotten him? Nothing but trouble! Meanwhile, the wicked were getting away with murder and had everything they could want! This thought oppressed him. As long as he was comparing his situation to others, he was in agony. But he had a revelation when he entered the sanctuary, when he looked to God:

When I tried to understand all this,
    it was oppressive to me 
till I entered the sanctuary of God;

   then I understood their final destiny. 
Surely you place them on slippery ground;
 you cast them down to ruin. 
How suddenly are they destroyed,

    completely swept away by terrors . . . 
Yet I am always with you;
 you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel,

    and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail,
 but God is the strength of my heart
 and my portion forever. (vs.16-19, 23-26)

The wicked have an ending of eternal damnation. They will be suddenly destroyed! But the psalmist not only had a future in glory with God, he also had the constant presence of God in this life as well. When he looked into the face of God, instead of at men, he realized just how blessed he was. That’s why Jesus told Peter, “Follow me!”

Jesus promises to be our all in all. He is the Alpha and the Omega, everything from A-Z. He fulfills every yearning we have to overflowing when we recognize that He is all we need.

Tomorrow, before leaving this gospel, we will look at Peter and John, their personalities and their ministries, and see how God had a special plan and purpose for each of them, and for each of us.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

John 21:20-23

Yesterday we looked at what Jesus told Peter about how the end of his life would be. And before moving on, I just wanted to say how this passage hit me personally. Jesus told Peter, “…when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” While this was a reference to his death on the cross (the stretched out hands), what really jumped out at me was the image of an old man being dressed by someone and being lead (or pushed in a wheelchair) to a place in life that no one wants to go.

Don and I have been caring for his father, Frank, who is currently in an assisted living center near us, since 2009. It is really difficult to watch the deterioration of aging parents who used to be the ones who cared for you. That role reversal is scary and often frustrating. One thing that has amazed me from the beginning of this process has been the way Frank has accepted the help (bathing, dressing, etc) with humility and grace. He is definitely in a time of life where none of us wants to go, yet he is grateful for the care he is receiving.

Dad has been a good role model for Don and me, and we are so thankful that we have been able to be involved in this process – even though it is stressful and difficult. One day, soon, it will be our turn, God willing. And like, Peter – and Dad - we will need to completely trust God as we follow Him to that place! May we, too, show humility and grace!

Now, back to our scripture for today. After hearing about his own future, Peter began to look around at his fellow disciples. His eyes landed on John, who was following behind.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:20-23)

“Hey! What about HIM???” “What’s going to happen to him??” Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter… I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful for Peter! He said what everyone else would be thinking! So he got the rebuke. Now this is the final rebuke of this gospel, but he received further correction later, in Acts 9, for his disdain for the Gentiles. Just like the rest of us, he was so flawed!!! And Jesus basically tells him, “MYOB!! Whatever I have planned for John has nothing to do with you. You just follow me!” OUCH!

How much trouble do we get into when we begin the comparing? “Why does she seem to have such a blissful life when I’m sinking here?” “Why has my life been full of trials, while everyone else is doing just fine?” Goodness! We have NO idea what things God has planned for anyone else or why. We only know that He is completely loving, fair, merciful, good, and sovereign. We need to get our eyes off of others, and let God be God.

This is such an important concept, and there are so many wonderful promises related to it, that I’m saving it all for next time! In the meantime, today would be a great day for realigning our focus. Keep those eyes straight ahead – don’t look to the left or to the right, but straight into the eyes of Jesus. And follow Him! And pray for every older person you see today!!!  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

John 21:18-19

After affirming His love and His mission for Peter, Jesus gives Peter a peek into what lies ahead of him:

“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

Now, this doesn’t seem real specific to me, but somehow Peter got the message that he would live to be old and that his end would not be pleasant or something he would want, since he was told here he would be lead, apparently forcibly, to “where you do not want to go.” We know form church history that Peter was crucified upside down by Nero. But Jesus doesn’t give Peter that specific detail. He tells Peter only what he needs to know: it will be a while from now, and it won’t be pleasant. The good news? Peter’s death would glorify God!

But, Jesus encourages Peter to do one thing: “Follow me!” “Keep your eyes on me, Peter! Don’t turn to the right or left, just keep looking to me and walk, step by step, where I lead!” Now, Peter was the passionate, devoted disciple, who was best known by his highs and lows. One minute he was proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, for which he received a commendation from Jesus, and the next he was being rebuked for speaking the words of Satan!

Peter was the one who jumped out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus, then began to sink as soon as he took his eyes off of Him. He proclaimed his undying loyalty at the Last Supper, rashly took out the sword to defend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, then cowered before a servant girl and denied even knowing Christ, all in the same evening.

How was this impulsive “bumbler and stumbler,” as Jon Courson refers to him, going to make it through the hard times of ministry? How would he remain faithful in service to Jesus? The same way you and I can – by following Jesus. By making the willful, determined, intentional choice to abide in Christ through His Word and to minute by minute decide to glorify God with our whole life. The really good news is that neither Peter nor we do this in our own strength. We don’t hold on to God with all of our might, because He is holding onto us with all of His! What a relief!!!

Peter will receive one last rebuke from Jesus before this encounter is over. We’ll look at that tomorrow!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John 21:15-17

In this scene between Jesus and Peter, at the campfire on the beach, Jesus extends His amazing grace to Peter as He affirms Peter’s place in ministry. Remember that, only hours after Peter boldly claimed that he would never desert Jesus, Peter denied Jesus three times to a servant girl at another campfire. I love how the LORD calls Peter back again here:

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

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

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

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

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

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 

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

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

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."  (John 21:15-17)

Peter had denied Jesus three times, so here Jesus gave him three times to declare his love for Jesus. Two different words are used for love here. In the first question, when Jesus asks, “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus uses the word agape, which indicates an unselfish, unconditional love, the kind of love God has for us. He’s asking Peter, “Do you still think you are more devoted to me than to anything else or more than anyone else is devoted to me?”

Peter responds with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” This is a brotherly love. Why didn’t Peter respond back using agape? Jon Courson suggests that Peter finally knew that he could not respond truthfully with that kind of godly love, because he had already come up short. He knew he did not have it in his own power to promise that kind of devotion. Possibly, he finally had been humbled enough to understand his limitations.

Jesus responds by giving Peter a mission: Feed my lambs. What a great honor to be given the task of looking out for the first believers. Peter would, indeed be one of the first church leaders. In fact, he was the first to preach the gospel after Pentecost (Acts 2), when three thousand become believers!

Back to the campfire. Jesus asks Peter a second time, “Do you agape me?” And again Peter responds emphatically, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” And again, Jesus confirms Peter’s ministry: Take care of my sheep. Tend to their needs, Peter.

Finally, Jesus asks Peter a third time if he loves Him, but this time Jesus meets Peter where he’s at, and in his question, He uses Peter’s word: “Do you phileo me?” Don’t you love that He doesn’t demand that Peter be perfect before He will accept him? Jesus takes us right where we are. He doesn’t ask us to clean up our act, because He knows we can’t! That is what He does for us! Peter would come to the place of agape, but not through his own efforts. The LORD would be doing a heart transplant on Peter, as He has promised to do with us:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
 (Ezekial 36:26)

This is such an encouraging, sweet picture of restoration for Peter, whom Jesus loved so dearly. And it’s exactly the same kind o restoration He does with us. Even though we may have gone for most of our lives denying Him, when we finally come to the campfire for fellowship, Jesus accepts us just as we are! Look at this great invitation:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

This is the open invitation He extends to each of us. Have you responded yet?

I’m so grateful that John did not finish his gospel without including this scene!  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

John 21:7-14

Yesterday we saw Jesus abundantly supply more fish than the disciples were able to handle. As soon as this miracle occurred, John figured out that it was Jesus on the shore. We aren’t sure why Jesus wasn’t immediately recognized by the disciples here. The same was true when Mary Magdalene first encountered Him outside the tomb, and when the two men walked with Him on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Whether there was something different about His appearance, or whether He just withheld their ability to recognize Him, we don’t know. But as soon as John saw the fish in the net, he knew. This had happened before! (Luke 5)

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. (John 21:7-9)

Impulsive Peter, of course, immediately jumps into the water instead of just rowing the boat the 100 yards onto shore! Isn’t it amazing that although they had been fishing all night, when they get to shore, Jesus was cooking the fish that He provided? Even so, He invites them to bring in their catch.

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (vs. 10-14)

Jon Courson points out here that all of a sudden Peter was able to do alone what the group could not do together – haul in the net full of fish! Why was he able to do this? Because the LORD had told him to do it! When God asks us to do something, He also provides the power to accomplish it! If God is calling you to do something which you can’t even imagine accomplishing with the help of a huge committee, don’t be afraid. Just go and do what He asks. He will provide all you need!

The really lovely picture here is of Jesus just sharing a meal with His disciples – with those whom He called, “Friends!” I love that Jesus still ate in His glorified body! I don’t know about you, but I LOVE to eat, so the thought that we will be banqueting in Heaven is so exciting to me! We will sit and eat with our LORD! Amazing!

Tomorrow we will see a wonderful moment between Jesus and Peter.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

John 21:1-6

Before ending his gospel, John records one more day that the disciples had with the resurrected Jesus:

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” 

“No,” they answered. 

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:1-6)

The disciples were apparently waiting around on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias, when Peter decided to do something. Courson points out that these disciples were not doing what Jesus had told them to do in Matthew 28:16, when He told them to go to a mountain in Galilee to wait for Him. Instead, they went to the beach. In fact, Peter decided to turn back to his old life as a fisherman. I wonder if Peter maybe had a little ADHD with his need to take action of some kind. We know he was impulsive! So he said, “I’m going fishing! Who’s with me?”

He jumped in the boat, and the others followed. They fished all night, but caught nothing – not one little fish! Isn’t that the way? We get tired of waiting on God, so we just jump in and start to do something – anything but sit around and wait. The results of our own efforts? Zilch!

But Jesus appeared in the morning and called to them, “Friends…” He did not chide them, He called them “Friends!” He told them to try the right side of the boat, to just move their nets by about five feet. And what do you know? More fish than they could manage! When the LORD tells us to do something, He will provide “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Does God have you in a holding pattern right now? Is He asking you to wait? If so, WAIT! He has a plan and a purpose for you. He knows where to help you find the biggest catch. The disciples went back to what they knew – to what was comfortable. But Jesus had a bigger and better plan. He had told them three years earlier that He would make them fishers of men. The time was coming. But they would have to wait.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

John 20:30-31

I cannot believe we are almost at the end of the Gospel of John! There is only one chapter left! So you would think John would not throw in these final verses we find in John 20 until the very end, because they look like a closing:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

John was very selective in the things he chose to include in his gospel, because there was so much material to choose from. Everything he chose to include in here was written with that one purpose in mind: that we might believe!

In this instance, he specifically refers to the fact that Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of his disciples. So, in addition to appearing out of nowhere in His resurrected body, He performed other miracles before them. They were eyewitnesses!  In fact, John says Jesus performed MANY other miracles. But THESE, that are recorded in John so we might BELIEVE!

You might be wondering now, why I’m making such a big deal out of this. Well, the reason I chose to study John at all this year was because of the visit we had late last year from a dear young woman, who told us that she really did not have a belief system anymore. She wasn’t sure what she believed – and I don’t think she thought it mattered WHAT she believed. She seemed convinced, like so many in the world today, that we all are worshiping the same God anyway. You see, she had been hurt by the church. She felt rejected by the very people who should have been loving her, after she divorced her first husband. She felt judged. And so, she turned away.

It made me so sad to see. And I wanted to turn her focus away from all those sinners in the church, and back to Jesus. Only Jesus is perfect. Only He never lets us down! John’s gospel completely focuses on Jesus – who He is and what He accomplished. It’s the gospel written to promote believing. That’s why, whenever someone is new to the faith, or is still in a state of seeking, we generally point them to start their Bible reading in his gospel. If you want to know who Jesus is, this is the book that says it best. John wanted us to BELIEVE CORRECTLY “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we might] have life in His name.” Peter concurred with John:

“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)

Biblical believing is not just giving mental assent to a set of facts. It is a commitment to, reliance upon, and trusting in Christ alone. It is the kind of believing that causes one to worship!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

John 20:24-29, Part 2

When Thomas had the irrefutable proof of the resurrected Christ right in front of Him, He immediately worshiped: “My Lord and my God!” This was not a casual, “OMG!” This was downright worship of Jesus as God. Notice that Jesus did NOT rebuke Him, but, in fact, accepted the worship. Had Jesus NOT been God the Son, this statement by Thomas would have been blasphemous. Jesus would have had to reprimand him. But instead, He received the worship due Him. Courson reminds us of three other instances in the Bible when people were admonished for worshiping anyone other than God. When Peter was worshiped by Cornelius, he immediately corrected him:

As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” (Acts 10:25-26)

And when Paul and Barnabus were worshiped by a crowd in Lystra, they were greatly disturbed by it and vehemently rebuked the people:

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you." (Acts 14:11-15)

Even an angel will not accept worship. Twice, when John fell in worship before the angel who had been with him while John received the Revelation, the angel protested.

At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

And the second time:

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9)

But Jesus received the worship from Thomas here in John 20, because He IS God the Son. He also received worship from Peter in Luke 5:9, and from the crowds on His entry to Jerusalem before His crucifixion in Luke 19:28-40. Had Jesus merely been a man, a son of God, He would have been committing blasphemy to receive any form of worship from other men. But because Jesus is not just THE Son of God, but also God the Son, Thomas was right to worship! And we should, too!

When people tell you that Jesus never claimed to be God, point them to Thomas! Not “doubting Thomas,” but “believing Thomas!”  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

John 20:24-29

This morning, as I sat down to my study, I attempted to open my document that contains everything I’ve written so far this year on the Gospel of John - and it was gone! The entire file has vanished! Poof! Gone! I guess it was a good thing that Don subscribed to an online backup system just last week (they finished the complete backup of our computer just this past Sunday)! So, I imagine it’s there somewhere... Just a reminder that even though we lose everything we do, the Word of God does NOT fade away! He doesn’t need my help to accomplish His purposes! :)

This morning we are going to look at another flawed character of the New Testament. I think he probably ranks right up there with impulsive Peter and zealous Paul. His name has forever been linked to doubt: that’s right, doubting Thomas! And haven’t we all been just as defiant in our attitudes towards God at one time or another? Let’s see!

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” 

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

Jon Courson points out that, when Jesus first appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, Thomas missed the meeting! What conclusion can we draw about Thomas because he wasn’t in hiding behind locked doors with the others? Well, it’s possible that he was not afraid to be outside. In John 11:16, when Jesus announced he was heading to Jerusalem, Thomas boldly proposed, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” He was not a coward!

Maybe he was like “Lone Ranger” Christians, who think they can go it alone, and don’t need the fellowship of the church to worship God. Whatever the reason, Thomas posed a challenge to Jesus in declaring he would not believe unless he could also see and touch. So when Jesus appeared a week later, He spoke directly to Thomas’ doubts. In fact He challenges Thomas to “Stop doubting and believe.” It’s a choice!

Thomas made the choice - to worship! While Jesus commends his decision to believe after seeing, He nonetheless offers a mild rebuke when He tells Thomas that the ones who are truly blessed are those who believe BEFORE they see - that’s you and me! The world tells us, “Seeing is believing!” But Christ tells us, “Believing is seeing!” Believing is not a matter of having enough facts - although the evidence for Christ is overwhelming. Believing is an act of the will. It’s an act of obedience.

Perhaps you have not yet come to the place where you have committed yourself to Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. What is it that holds you back? You may be thinking, “Show me!” Jesus says, “Believe!” Just like Thomas, once you have made that decision to believe, you, too, will proclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

Tomorrow we will look at the implications of Thomas’ declaration. In the meantime, I’m going to try to track down the rest of this study... :)  

Monday, October 15, 2012

John 20:19-23

First, I wanted to give you a couple of updates on prayer requests. I spoke to Jodi yesterday, and while her lesions from the shingles are all gone, she still has pain, and apparently she has a form of shingles that basically lays dormant and then rears its ugly head unexpectedly. Please pray for relief from pain! She and Ed had a wonderful visit with their grandchildren (Justin’s family), and precious daughter-in-law, Stephanie. Jodi is resting up now, as she continues to regain strength. Then, continue to pray for Jacob, my former student, who goes in today for a CT scan and PET scan to see how the two rounds of chemo have affected the tumors. The scans will determine how to proceed with round three. Please pray for clear scans and complete healing!

In today’s portion of John’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples where they are hiding in fear:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)

Note that it is still Sunday. Jesus did not keep them in suspense. And even though they were apparently in confusion, sorrow, and great fear - to the point that they had locked the doors - Jesus does not chide them for lack of faith. Instead He calms their fear, saying “Peace be with you!” After He proved His identity, by showing them the nail marks of the crucifixion, they were overjoyed!  I can imagine them whooping and hollering, laughing, crying, jumping up and down and hugging each other, for Jesus had to calm them down with another, “Peace be with you!”

Jesus commissioned them to reach out with the gospel message. They were being sent! And so, He breathes on them, giving them life through the Holy Spirit, even as we saw God breathe life into Adam in Genesis 2:7. Remember that John lproclaimed Jesus as Creator and Life Giver in the first verses of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

I read some other commentaries this morning on this act of breathing into them the Holy Spirit. Jon Courson says this is the point that the disciples were born again and others agree. One commentator said this was when the disciples received the life of the Holy Spirit, but Pentecost was when they received the power.

Then Jesus appears to give them the authority to forgive or withhold forgiveness. However, every commentary I looked at agreed with Jon Courson, that Mark 2:7 makes it clear that only God can forgive (this was one of Jesus’ claims to deity that so outraged the Jewish leaders). So what exactly does this mean? Well, all commentators I looked at believed that this was part of the commissioning to go out with the message of forgiveness. They were to assure people that forgiveness of sins was guaranteed to those who believed in Christ. The disciples were, and ALL of Christ’s followers are ambassadors to the world, who are to proclaim the message of reconciliation to God.

To those who feel completely unworthy, who feel they could never be forgiven, we need to proclaim that Jesus’ death on the cross completely paid the price for their sins IN FULL. And the Resurrection is proof that the sacrifice was fully accepted. This is SUCH good news to a dying world. We need to shout it from the rooftops! And we also need to appropriate it for ourselves. To be burdened with feelings of guilt and worthlessness is to deny what Christ accomplished. We’ve been given a terrific message of hope. We need to believe it, walk in it, and share it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

John 20:10-18

This morning we’ll look at the special encounter Mary Magdalene had with the risen Christ.

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” 

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 

“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” 

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” 

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:10-16)

When Mary first arrived at the tomb, she was unconsolably weeping - so much so that she apparently wasn’t overly impressed by the appearance of angels. She was still focused on the loss of her Lord. And notice that she personalized her relationship with Jesus when she said, “They have taken my Lord away.”

 When she turned from the tomb, she saw Jesus, but did not recognize Him. Maybe having been looking into the dark tomb, then turning to the morning light behind Jesus temporarily limited her vision, or maybe her tears prevented her from seeing clearly. At any rate, she didn’t know it was Jesus - until He said her name! And that was all He said. And she knew instantly that it was her LORD! In John 10, when Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd, He said that He knew His sheep by name and that they knew His voice. When Mary heard Him say her name - and nothing more - she instantly knew.

What a precious moment between Mary and her LORD! He had chosen to appear to her first! She had waited at the tomb, while the disciples went back home. And He very tenderly rewarded her by gently saying her name! Oh, if we would just wait on the LORD to hear Him call our name! We are so busy rushing here and there - even to do His will - that we don’t stay still long enough to hear Him call our name. Each morning, as we read His Word, if we will just sit long enough to let it soak into us, we, too, will hear Him say our name as He applies the Scripture directly to our own lives and situations. He will personalize it for us so that we know without a doubt that He is speaking His Word directly to us!

After this encounter, Mary rushed to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” (vs. 18) She was the first to give out the gospel message! When you have heard directly from the LORD through His Word, you can’t help but want to rush to tell others - to share what He has said to you.

Let’s remember that Jesus had released Mary from bondage to seven demons. She had been completely transformed by her Lord! She had experienced overflowing grace! She knew what it was to be cleansed and forgiven from the inside out. No wonder she was so devoted to Jesus! No wonder she ran to tell the good news! Shouldn’t we be like Mary?  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

John 20:1-9 with Matthew 27:62-66

After Jesus’ death, Matthew records an interesting scene with the Pharisees, who pay Pilate a visit:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matthew 27:62-66)

Isn’t it interesting that the Jewish leaders were better “believers” here than the disciples? They remembered Jesus’ words about raising Himself up after three days - and here they actually apply it to His body instead of the Temple. Meanwhile, the disciples, had they truly believed Jesus, should have been camped outside the tomb to witness the event! Instead, it’s the Pharisees who insist on having a seal on the tomb along with a contingent of soldiers to secure it. This actually provided the evidence that Jesus had, indeed, been resurrected.

How many guards were actually dispatched? We don’t know for sure, but most agree that there were between 16 and 50 guards sent to protect the tomb from tampering. The tomb probably had a rope around the stone that was given the Roman seal of wax to keep anyone from messing with it. Had the disciples attempted to steal the body, even if all the guards were asleep, they would have surely awakened the guards with the noise required to break the seal, move the heavy stone with some kind of tool, then carry the body out. One thing everyone agreed on: the tomb was empty!

In John’s account, we see Mary Magdalene, who was completely devoted to Jesus, seeking to be with Him first thing in the morning, while it was still dark:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (John 20:1-2)

Now, Mary assumes someone else has taken the body, so she runs to get Peter and John. Even having seen the stone rolled away, she doesn’t get it yet!

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (vs. 3-9)

Jon Courson points out that the verbs which are used for “looked” and “saw” are different. When John looked in to see the linen strips, the verb is blepo, which means “to look at, to see visibly.” When Peter “saw” the strips, the verb is theoreo, meaning “to study more carefully” (it’s where we get out word “theory”). Then, when John “saw and believed”, the word for “saw” is eido, from which we get the word “idea.” (Courson, P. 594) It means that John got it. John saw the empty tomb and he believed. Now, he says that they still did not get how it all was prophesied in the Scripture and how it all tied in, but he knew Jesus was alive. So, verse 10, which follows, is pretty funny:

Then the disciples went back to their homes...

Huh? I’m thinking they needed to cogitate on what it all meant... But we are told that Mary lingered at the tomb. And because she did, she was the first to see the resurrected Christ! We’ll look at that precious encounter next!  

Monday, October 8, 2012

John 19:31-42

Proving the death of Jesus would be crucial to the power of the Resurrection. Had Christ not died, but merely passed out on the cross, then just woke up three days later, the sacrifice would not have been made and we would still be dead in our sin. So, these final verses in John 20 are crucial.

With the Sabbath approaching, the Jewish leaders wished to get finish this execution and have the bodies removed. So they asked that the legs of the thieves and Jesus be broken to hasten their deaths. With broken legs, they would be unable to push up to get a breath. The soldiers indeed broke the legs of the thieves, but not Jesus‘ legs:

But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (John 19:34-37)

Notice that John insists that this is a true testimony, his eyewitness testimony, given so that you may believe.

Then, two respected Jewish religious leaders, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, appeared, risking their status and reputations, to take care of the burial of Jesus. They wrapped Jesus’ body in linen and spices (weighing 75 pounds). They laid Him in a new tomb.

Jon Courson points out here that on the Jewish holy day - Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement - the high priest took off his priestly robes and put on a robe of linen (like the linen that wrapped Jesus) and went into the Holy of Holies to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. If the priest had gone in while defiled himself, he would instantly die, so he went in with a rope tied around his waist, so he could be pulled out if necessary! If he came out alive, then the people rejoiced, because they knew the sacrifice had been accepted and they were forgiven for another year.

Courson writes, “Here, our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, is inside the tomb. Would He emerge? Did the sacrifice work? Are we free? Only if He came out among the people as He had prophesied could there truly be celebration and could we know that our sins are forgiven - not just for one year, but forever.” (Courson, Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 590)

Tomorrow we will visit the tomb with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John. I can’t wait!  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

John 19:28-30 with Matthew 27:45-54

Jesus was born to die. He came to earth, Emmanuel, God with us, for the specific purpose of paying the price for our sin, so that we might be reconciled to the Father. Everything He said and did during His life here on Earth pointed to this one event. We’ll look at it with some help from Matthew:

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

Jon Courson reminds us that when Jesus “became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), the Father had to turn His back on the Son, because He could look on iniquity. At this point Jesus was completely alone. The atmosphere mirrored the judgment as darkness overtook the land. When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was not only expressing His agony, but He was, in mercy, pointing the people to Psalm 22, which begins with that cry, and which describes in detail the crucifixion, hundreds of years before it was a form of execution.  He was pointing to the fulfillment of that prophecy.

John tells us what happened at the end:

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30)

 “It is finished.”

The significance of that statement is huge! The work of salvation was completed. The price for ALL our sin, past, present, and future was PAID IN FULL! There is nothing left to do - neither Jesus nor we can add anything to that work. The message of the good news is not DO, but DONE!

As proof that the sacrifice had satisfied the debt, Matthew tells us that the veil in the temple that separated the people from God in the Holy of Holies was ripped in two, from top to bottom! (Matthew 27:51) The way to God had been opened forever through Christ’s sacrifice. I love that Matthew gives the detail that the veil split from top to bottom, because it signifies that the work of salvation is God reaching down to us, not us trying to reach up to Him.

Matthew further tells us that there was an enormous earthquake that even opened up graves! (vs.46). It was enough to completely shake up one of the centurions standing guard at the cross:

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

To that I add, Hallelujah!  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

John 19 - a side trip to Luke 23:35-43

This morning we are turning back to Luke’s account of the crucifixion, because he adds another viewpoint of the crowd and gives the most detail about the thieves who were on either side of Jesus:

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” 

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:35-43)

I think this account really displays the level of disdain that the crowd felt toward Jesus. Those around Him were sneering, mocking, and hurling insults. “He saved others; let him save himself.” And, of course we know that had He saved Himself, which He could easily have done, He could not have saved anyone!

Only the one thief on the cross seemed to recognize what was happening. He recognized his own guilt and the innocence of Jesus. He demonstrated repentance when he accepted responsibility for his sins. He humbly asked Jesus to remember him. And Jesus, even in His agony, offered mercy!

The thief had no opportunity to be baptized or to take communion, to get involved in a Bible study, or to join a church. He merely repented and acknowledged the lordship of Jesus at the very hour of his own death. And Jesus promised him he would, indeed be remembered. In fact, that very day, the thief would join his Savior in paradise!

Jon Courson points out that Jesus was born in a stable among animals, and he died between criminals. Both thieves were dying the same death, and they were equally close to the Lord. But one remained lost and the other was saved! One chose to reject Christ, the other chose to believe. It really is that simple!

We’ve been looking at those who were part of this scene. Where do you think you would be standing? Would you be callously ignoring the truth like the soldiers who cast lots for His clothing? Would you be trying to play both sides and absolve yourself of guilt like Pilate? Would you be among the crowd sneering at the “ridiculous” idea that this simple man could possibly be a king? Would you be with the religious leaders who refused His authority over them and demanded He be crucified? Would you be with the women and John at the cross, confused, hurt, and distraught because of the circumstances, wondering why God would allow such a terrible thing? Or would you be with the thief who humbly acknowledged his guilt and called out for mercy?

I think there are times in our lives when we have actually been at each of these places. Sometimes we ignore Him as we go about our own business, callously ignoring those in need around us. When was the last time we paid attention to the woman holding a sign in front of Costco asking for money? Jesus was so clear that we needed to take care of the “least of these.” Can’t we give to them out of our own abundance then leave to Jesus what they do with the money? How often do we deny Jesus by our actions, like Pilate, in order to preserve the good opinion of men?

At some point in our lives, many of us stubbornly refused to acknowledge His authority over us, because we didn’t want ANYONE telling us what to do - not even Jesus! And even those of us who are believers have moments of doubt and confusion, like the women and John, because we find ourselves in circumstances that seem hopeless. We wonder what has happened. We begin to doubt.

We need to return to that simple plea of the dying thief, “Jesus, remember me!”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

John 19:23-27

Jesus fulfilled more than 300 Old Testament prophecies at his first coming. Psalm 22, in particular focuses on the details of the crucifixion, including one fulfilled in this morning’s section from John 19. Let’s focus on this small part of the larger scene of the crucifixion:

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” 

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, 

“They divided my garments among them

   and cast lots for my clothing.” 

 So this is what the soldiers did. (John 19:23-24)

The soldiers had no idea that what they were so callously doing at the foot of the cross was fulfilling prophecy. They cast lots, or gambled, for Jesus’ undergarment, completely clueless to the fact that King David had predicted hundreds of years before that they would do this. It is a seemingly small detail included in this large picture, but every detail of scripture had to be fulfilled!

Then let’s pull back the camera to see who else is standing near the cross:

 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)

We see gathered here the remnant of Jesus’ followers. While Jesus began his public ministry, the crowds who followed Him grew as they saw the miracles He performed. They were drawn to His power as displayed in both His teaching and His miracles, and certainly to His provision of food! But as His teaching became more difficult, the crowds dropped away. Even though it had been less than a week since they had hailed Him as King when He entered Jerusalem on the donkey, they had quickly turned on Him and began shouting, “Crucify him!” The true followers had whittled down to just the 11 disciples, but even they scattered after His arrest. The only one remaining at the cross was John, the beloved disciple. And there were the four women.

It’s impossible to imagine the pain of Mary, as she watched her son hanging on the cross. With her was her sister. Tradition says that Mary’s sister, Salome, was the mother of John and James, the sons of Zebedee. Courson points out that Salome had been the one who asked Jesus to let her sons sit at His right and His left when He came into His kingdom (Matthew 20:20). Here, as she looked at the thieves on the crosses at Jesus’ right and left, she must have been struck by the irony of that request.

Two other Marys were there: Mary, the wife of Clopas (only mentioned here in John’s gospel), and Mary Magdalene, the woman who had been delivered of seven demons. She had experienced life-changing grace and was devoted to Jesus. This small band was all that remained with Jesus to the end. In the midst of his agony, Jesus spoke to His mother and John, committing Mary to John’s care. And we are told that John took her into his home from then on. I find that really interesting, since Mary had at least four other sons, Jesus’ half-brothers, including James, who wrote the book of James in the New Testament (Matthew 13:55-56). But it wasn’t until after the Resurrection that His brothers would believe in Jesus, so here, He turns Mary over to John.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the two thieves crucified with Jesus, and then we’ll try to figure out where we would have been that day had we been there to witness Jesus’ death. You can see why this scene has been the subject of so much artwork! There is so much to take in! So much was going on at this pivotal point in history. It almost defies description!