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Monday, January 31, 2011

2/1/11 John 4:11-15 Spiritual Not Physical

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

(Woman at the Well J Tissot c. 1890)

Thoughts: The woman was so wrapped up in the physical that she didn't get the spiritual until it was repeated to her about three times by Jesus.  So many in our culture are the same way- we are really blind to the spiritual, and wrapped up in the things we have (or don't have).  But we don't need water- we need the deeper, more lasting, more satisfying living water of Christ.  Yet our physical needs can lead us (as in this instance) to a deeper spiritual answer.  The hunger for bread in Egypt and other Arab countries has led to a hunger for freedom- and even hunger for spiritual answers. 

Prayer: Open my heart O Lord, that I may not concentrate only on what I can see with my eyes.  Give me grace to have a pure heart that I may see your love and presence.

John Calvin Abridged Commentary: "Nothing to Draw with"- The woman knew Jesus was speaking figuratively, yet she mocked him by continuing to talk about the physical- as if he was promising more than he could deliver.  Yet Christ patiently teaches her the difference of the kinds of waters.  One kind lasts only for a time for the body.  The other lasts pepetually for the soul.  The living water gives us a continual, heavenly watering in this life. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

1/31/11- John 4:7-10 Doing Something for Jesus

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)  9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

(Greek Icon of Jesus and St. Photina- the Woman at the Well)
Thoughts: How can Jesus ask her for a drink?  He is the owner of the water.  He is the giver of water and the giver of life and eternal life.  The human barrier is an artificial one that Jesus does not reognize.  We are able to look on the other side of the cross and resurrection.  We know God offers the gift of life, and offers us living water that quenches our ultimate thirst. Jesus asked the woman to do something for Him.  It is an invitation that would change her life forever.  He asks us to do something for Him too.  Doing something for Jesus (as in doing for the least of these Mt. 25), allows us to enter into relationship with Him. 

Prayer: Lord you call me to serve you.  Give me grace to serve you.

John Calvin Abridged: Jesus did not merely want to teach her, but he also wanted to quench his thirst.  Yet in the end he laid aside his thirst to offer living water to the woman who would not offer him a drink.  The question Jesus asked next was "If you knew the gift of God- namely who it is that talks to you."  We only understand who Christ is when we understand what the Father has given to us in Him.  "He would have given you" indicates if we address our prayers to Christ, He will answer you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

1/30/11- John 4:1-6 Resting by the Well

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.  4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

(Anelika Kauffmann 1796)

Thoughts: We can learn much about Jesus here. 1) Jesus was tired.  John often emphasizes the divinity of Christ- and does so here- but he also recognizes that Jesus was tired, hot, and thirsty.  2) Jesus broke down barriers.  All people needed God and faith in God.  He was sympathetic to the Samaritans who were enemies of the Jews since 720 BC when the Assyrians brought them into the land.  The Samaritans mixed their religion with the Jewish one.  They set up a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim.  Yet Jesus refused to allow James and John to call thunder down on them.  It was a Samaritan leper who came back to give thanks- while the other nine Jewish lepers forgot.  It was the Good Samaritan who helped the wounded man.  Jesus went through Samaria not just for a shortcut, but with a purpose.  Jesus also spoke to a woman which was a bit unheard of- especially a woman who had so many different men.  3) We see Jesus' sympathy.  He reached out to her with his love and his living water.  Some may have thought her unworthy.  Jesus saw a sinner in need of salvation. 

Prayer: Lord, give me a heart for others.  Give me your sympathetic and barrier-breaking heart.  Make me more sympathetic and kind-hearted despite my human weaknesses.

John Calvin Abridged:  Jesus avoided becoming an enemy- for his time had not yet come.  We should learn to avoid trouble until the time God calls us to stand.  Simeon and Levi killed the early inhabitants of this place (Gen. 34:25).  Abimelech raised the place to the ground even though he was a naive (Judges 9:45).  Jacob bought a field here that he willed to Joseph (Gen. 48:22).  Christ did not pretend weariness, but was actually fatigued which led to his sitting. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

1/29/11 John 3:31-36 Truth From One Whose Been There

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Thoughts: For John, eternal life does not begin after we die, but right now.  The wrath of God, too, remains on us now if we do not escape it (36) by believing in the Son.  The Son has authority because He has a different perspective.  He did not come from earth, but from heaven.  He therefore can tell us what heaven is like, and in that sense He is different from the rest of us, and above the rest of us.  It is one thing to read about another country (say the Bahamas).  It is another to hear someone who has been there talk about its beautiful sand and clear water.  Unlike us, Jesus is not guessing about heaven, but talking about what He has experiecned.

Prayer:  Give me ears to hear you, and a heart to respond to you, Lord.

John Calvin's Commentary Abridged:  Jesus is clearly separated from all the rest as from above and from heaven.  Some could ask if John (the Baptist) was not also from heaven.  But the distinction is similar to how ministers speak as from heaven, but when contrasted to Christ they are nothing.  Christ wishes to be acknowledged in His ministers but in such a way that He remains the only Lord.  It is terribly sad that so many rejected his testimony.  Some did receive it, and they should not feel belittled as if their number meant they could not know the truth.  God was the author of salvation. Though the whole world fall away, this should not prevent good people from giving their assent to God.  Nothing is more dear to God than His truth.  We render Him no better sacrifice and no more acceptable worship than putting our faith in His truth.  On the other hand, we render Him no greater displeasure and insult than not believing the Gospel- for He cannot be deprived of His truth without taking away His glory and majesty.  God speaks to us by Christ (vs. 34).  He gives Him a full measure of the Spirit. The rest of us are given partial measures and gifts so that we have to mutually depend on each other.  The Father has given and continually gives all things to the Son.  God's wrath (36)- may speak of Augstine's idea that we are born in sin (Eph. 2:3).  Yet, it may also point out that death hangs over the unbeliever in such a way that they they can't escape it.  Those who shake off the high yoke of God bind themselves with the chains of death.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1/28/11 John 3:22-30 John's Humility

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

(Preaching of John the BaptistJan Brueghel 1568-1625)

Thoughts: Besides Jesus himself, John gives us the greatest example of humility in the Bible.  He did not seek to honor himself, and was able to fight all feelings of jealousy.  His disciples were a little jealous almost like "The Methodists have more cars in their parking lot than we do!"  But John was willing to accept his lot given to him by God (27).  He was able to rejoice in God's glory even if it meant the shrinking of his own glory.  Every Christian is called to do the same.  The more we grow in our faith, the less honor and glory we want, and the more honor and glory we want for God. 

Prayer:  May my life honor you.  May I decrease and your glory increase, O Lord.

John Calvin Abridged: As the groom invites his friends to partake in the wedding celebration in order to honor the marriage and not to prostitute the bride, so the ministers of Christ are called to not have dominion over the Church but to honor the Lord as Head of the Church.  People are appointed over the Church to represent Christ and may not appropriate to themselves what belongs exclusively to Christ.  All of our eminence, expertise, and education ought not to replace or hinder Christ's rule over the Church by and according to His Word. We are only friends of the bridegroom. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1/27/11 John 3:19-21 Loving Darkness

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

(Anglerfish or "Nemo" bottom dweller)

Thoughts: Why do people love darkness instead of light?  Why do people today reject Jesus?  The answer is here- "their deeds were evil."  We do not want our evil deeds exposed to the light.  We are more comfortable in darkness, and more comfortable with our evil deeds than giving them up.  Like someone whose eyes are used to being in darkness, the light hurts our eyes.  Like a heroin junkie who knows they want to be clean, but doesn't want to go through withdrawal.  We can develop all kinds of rational arguments against God if we don't want to give up our ways or our pride to walk in God's way.  The really scary thing is that we are so numb to our darkness in the West that we may hate repentance.  The more numb we are to sin, the harder it is to repent of it, thinking blindness or darkness is the norm.

Prayer: Give me a will, Lord, to love your light instead of my darkness.  Help me to walk in your paths.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ doesn't jus tpoint out our condemnation, but warns us through His rejection by others.  God does not treat them unjustly who 1) loved wickedenss; 2) prefer darkness to light; 3) refuse the light freely offered to them; and 4) the hatred of the light arises from a mind that is wicked and conscious of its guilt.  Many may appear holy and moral on the outside but their pride is their driving force on the inside.  Blinded by hypocrisy and pride, they delight in their crimes. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1/26/11- John 3:14-18 For God Loved

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

(The Brazen Serpent and Moses Nbrs. 21:9- James Tissot c. 1903)

Thoughts: The people of Israel were being bitten by snakes and many were dying (Nbrs. 21:8,9).  The Lord did something to solve the problem and a large bronze serpent was put on a pole and when people looked at this, they were healed.  Jesus used this story to indicate 1) the people have a problem- they are condemned already (vs. 18); 2) Jesus will be lifted up; 3) Those who look to Jesus will be healed as those in Moses' day were healed when they looked at the serpent.  The difference though, is that it is not a physical sickness, but a spiritual sickness; not a physical serpent, but a spiritual one; not a physical healing, but a spiritual and eternal healing (3:16- given "eternal life."  When we look to him- the one and only begotten Son- believing, we are given eternal life.  The love of God is found in his greatest sacrifice of Himself so we might live.
Prayer: I look to you, Lord.  Thank you for being lifted up so we might see you and live. 
John Calvin Abridged: He says that he will be openly manifested to all so that He brings to heaven all who are willing to follow Him as their guide.  By the preaching of the Gospel, Christ would be raised on high like a standard so that all will be directed to look at him (Isa. 2:2).  Christ uses the image of Moses' serpent (Nbrs. 21:8,9) to illustrate this.  Paul also says that a lively portrait of Christ is painted when Christ is truly preached (Gal. 3:1).  Until Christ shows his aid in rescuing the lost, all are destined to eternal destruction.  In this passage the importance to God of our ransom is indicated in that He gave His only begotten Son.  Faith frees us from everlasting destruction.  "Whosoever" means that all are invited, and also that no excuses will be allowed. Faith renews life in us because Christ renews us by His Spirit and cleanses us by His blood.  We are apt to not believe God loves us, so God states it plainly. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

1/25/11- John 3:9-13

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

(Nicodemus- John LaFarge 1880 Smithsonian Washington DC)
Thoughts: Jesus' answer to Nicodemus question "How can this be?"  Is His answer to our doubts as well: "Trust me."  He says that He speaks of what He knows, that this is simpler stuff than other things He knows, and that we should trust Him because He came from heaven.  Even lead teachers can be confused and wrong sometimes.  In the end, Nicodemus came to believe, and we should too. 
Prayer: In the midst of all the doubts cast around me, Lord, help me to believe.   Help me to continually grow in my trust in you.
John Calvin Commentary on John Abridged: Everything to Nicodemus appear monstrous because he is not able to see how it could happen.  There is no greater obstacle to faith than our own pride- wanting to know more than it is necessary or proper for us to know.  We cannot limit God to our poor capacity to understand.  Christ claims that he speaks only what he knows- that is what is certain and not conjecture. Though Nicodemus does not appear to receive Christ's doctrine, it remains certain nevertheless. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

1/24/11 John 3:3- 8 Born of the Spirit

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

(Nicodemus- Henry Ossawa Tanner 1889)

Thoughts: All who are alive are born to the flesh- physically.  But not all are born of the Spirit.   To be born of the Spirit means to open our heart to the Holy Spirit- asking Jesus in. Jesus expands this in vs. 5 where he speaks of being born of water and the Spirit.  In our baptism we are cleansed of the sins of the past.  In the Spriit we are strengthened to live for the future.  The Church in America today (not denominations and institutions, but the people of God) need to be born anew- with a new way of thinking.  Perhaps the recession is an opportunity for the Church to love things less and love the Spirit more.  The people of God need to be so changed and untangled from things that we are- in reality and in witness to the world- new creations, born again. 

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to be made alive to you.  Change me into a new creation that seeks you above all else.

John Calvin Abridged: The expression "born again" means not the correction of one part but the renovation of the whole nature. It is not translated "born from above" for then Nicodemus would not have questioned a second birth of the flesh.   Christ was not talking about a natural way of being born again (as Pythagorus' transmigration of souls), but that we are born when we are renewed in heart and mind by the Spirit. By "water" is not meant baptism, but an inner purification of the Spirit.  We cannot enter the kingdom unless we are spiritual- though we are naturally only physical.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

1/23/11 John 3:1-2 Hidden Believers

 1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

(Nicodemus and Christ Crjn Hendricksz 1616-1645)

Thoughts: Nicodemus was like those who believed in him because of his signs (2:23; 3:2).  Nicodemus knew Jesus was from God, but he was not an open follower of Christ for fear of others on the ruling council- so he came at night.  In a world in which it is becoming increasingly unpopular to practice the Christian faith- many are hiding their faith by not associating with others in the Church.  The image of being a Christian to the outsider has gone from a person to be admired to a mean-spirited hypocrite.  Too often it is the Christian who is the villain in the murder mystery, the soap opera.  On the other hand, going to church can be a hassle- not just getting up but getting along with people who may think differently.  So, many choose to stay home where it is safe- and the illusion- sinless.  But our Lord calls us out of the darkness of sin, and the darkness of hiding our faith into the light of fellowship ("If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another" 1 Jn. 1:7).   Jesus said, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words... I will be ashamed of them before my Father and the holy angels" (Mk. 8:38).  It is one thing to believe in Christ intellectually- it is another to make Him Lord and give Him worship.

Prayer:  Lord, help me to walk in your light and follow you with my whole heart.  Let me never be ashamed of you or hide my light under a bushel.  Instead, help me to shine your light, and to enjoy the fellowship of others who also walk with you in the light.

John Calvin Abridged: In the person of Nicodemus the evangelist illustrates how vain and fleeting is the faith of those who-excited by miracles- claim to be disciples of Christ.  Since he as a ruling Pharisee, he must have been a cut above the average person who believed because of miracles.  Those who occupy a loft station in the world are often entangled by dangerous snares.  He came to Jesus at night because his timidity was excessive and he was dazzled by his own greatness and reputation.  Yet there is a seed of piety in Nicodemus that though laid concealed for a long time bore some fruit after Jesus died (Jn. 19:39).

Friday, January 21, 2011

1/22/11- John 2:23-25 Miracles and Faith

 23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.  24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

("Healing of Ten Lepers" James Tissot 1886-1896, Brooklyn)

Thoughts: I once knew a young man who had witnessed a healing miracle.  He insisted he had seen it.  His friend who had been crippled from birth was healed in a camp meeting, and he "actually watched his leg grow", he said.  But while such a miracle had made an impression on him, it did not keep him from wandering away when he graduated from high school.  Miracles wow us for a moment but they are soon forgotten.  If you don't believe me, then think about how many miracles the people of Israel saw in Egypt- the ten plagues and the Passover, that parting of the waters.  Yet time after time they wanted to go back to Egypt and doubted God.  Many of us have experienced dramatic and unusual answered prayer but we quickly forget these things in the face of temptation or hard times.  So Jesus did not put his trust in people who believed in him because they had seen him perform a miracle.  Jesus knew how fickle popularity of people is, and did not depend on it in his ministry.  The crowds that would hail him as King on Palm Sunday would shout "crucify" later that week.  God uses miracles, but they are to be combined with faith and faithfulness.

Prayer: Lord, though people are fickle, and I am not as steadfast as I should be, thank you for your faithfulness and constant love.

John Calvin Abridged:  It was some fruit of his signs that many wished to follow his doctrines and name.  "Name" means the same as "authority."  Their faith was not a pretended faith, but was based on worldly and earthly reasons.  Hypocrites assent to the Gospel- not that they may devote themselves in obedience to Christ, but because they do not wish to reject all of it, or they cannot think of reason enough to reject it.  While they may not wish to make war on God, yet when they see that faith opposes their lusts, they are offended or withdraw from the faith.  Miracles may assist us in faith, but they are not substitutes for faith.  There is a faith that is made of only understanding and not of the heart.  It quickly fades and is described as "dead" by James (2:17). Christ did not reckon them as genuine disciples, but saw them as volatile and unsteady.  Some ask if we too should hold people as suspect until they prove their faith.  But Christ saw the very roots of the trees whereas we are only able to see the fruit.  We should not be overly-suspiscious of others.  Yet Christ gives us a spirit of discernment that the Church may be protected.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

1/21/11- John 2:18- 22 Raising of the Real Temple

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

(Destruction of Jerusalem AD 70;
David Roberts 1850)
Thoughts: Jesus had predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple elsewhere (Mt. 24:1; Mk. 13:1; Lk. 21:5).  Here in John he subtley speaks of the Jerusalem Temple's destruction.  This was misquoted by Jesus' accusers at His death (Mt. 26:61; 27:40). In John the Jews clearly thought he was talking about the destruction of Herod's Temple- which would be the ultimate cleansing of the Temple.  They thought that for good reason for they were standing in the Temple, and Jesus had just driven the money-changers out of the Temple (which prompted the question that began this conversation with Jesus).  I believe Jesus was really talking about destroying Herod's Temple, but raising his body as a substitute Temple.  The Temple was a visible sign of the presence of God.  Jesus' body was also a visible sign of the presence of God (Immanuel).   Jesus was also predicting his resurrection in three days.  Later Paul adds a third Temple.  He said, "You yourselves are God's Temple and that God's Spirit lives in you" (1 Cor. 3:16). The structure of the Temple changed- from the tabernacle, to Solomon's Temple, to Zerubabbel's Temple, to Herod's Temple, to Jesus as the Temple, to our bodies as a Temple for the Holy Spirit.  The meaning is all the same- God seeks to dwell with us, and wants us to receive Him. 

Prayer: Lord, may my life be a temple for you.  Dwell in me and may I dwell in you.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ spoke with obscurity and allegory because they were not worthy and unable to comprehend his words.  No greater sign could be given however than the resurrection of Christ. In not offering them a sign he 1) shows that the resurection was enough to silent their questions; 2) He was unwilling to expose the power or miracles of God to their ridicule; and 3) He shows His power over the Temple.  God dwells in us by the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; 1 Cor 6:19; 3 Cor. 6:16) but the fullness of the Divinity dwells in Him (1 Tim. 3:16).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1/20/11- John 2:12-17 Cleaning Up Worship

12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
(Cleansing the Temple Luca fa Presto 1660
Bob Jones Art Gallery Greenville, SC USA)
Thoughts: The cleansing of Jesus here and also in the synoptics (Mt. 21:12; Mk. 11:15; Lk. 19:45) takes place during the Passover. He was upset at the same thing the taking advantage of worshipers by merchants in the Temple.  Jesus would later (in all the gospels) predict the destruction of the Temple.  This cleansing of the Temple is a reminder of the corruption of the worship of that day, and also a warning that we should make sure our own worship is done in spirit and truth.  Worship should be according to God's Word and not just convenience or the experts. 
Prayer: May zeal for your truth, your Word, your purity and holiness consume me too, Lord.  Remove the impurities from my love for you. 
John Calvin Abridged: John relates a similar event to the cleansing of the Temple recorded in the other three gospels.  They represent two different cleansings- one at the beginning of his ministry (John), and the other at before he was leaving this world and going to the Father (Mt., Mk. Lk).  The merchandise here was not irreligious, but was related to the sacrifice, and made it convenient for those who were coming to worship and offer a sacrifice.  Why did Christ condemn them?  First, because of the priests abused the merchandise for their own gain and greed. Second because they strayed from God's command and turned the place into a merchant shop. Nothing should be admitted into the Church that is at variance with the Word of God.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1/19/11- John 2:6-11 An Abundance for Us

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

("Wedding at Cana" Karl Bloch 1870s)

Thoughts: This was the first of the signs- may mean that it was the first in a series, or even one of the primary miracles of Jesus.  This is a wonderful miracle for us for several reasons.  1) Jesus blesses a wedding- making a plain or even disgraceful occasion full of joy; 2) Jesus shows his control over elements- showing his divine power and witnessed by many at the wedding feast; 3) Jesus is not just content with the plain necessities of life- but adds joy.   My puritan-pietistic side has made me wonder why Jesus bothered with this miracle.  I think as a father of the bride (twice in three years) I might have said- "OK, if you blow the wine budget, then you'll just all have to drink good old H2O."  Sure, the people could survive on water.  But Jesus wants us to do more than just survive.  He came to give us the abundant life.  Water is okay at a wedding, but wine is more fitting.  Without Jesus life maybe okay, but it is not what it is meant to be.

Prayer: Thank you for the joy you add to life, Lord.  Transform my life beyond what I think is possible.

John Calvin Abridged:  The water pots were very large [30 gallons] so Christ supplied them with an abundance of good wine.  If there were only one or two pots someone may have said they were brought in from somewhere else.  The servants may have thought it was absurd to fill the pots with water as they already had enough.  But this is how God works with us so that his power shows itself through an unexpected result.  It is a wonder that Christ who teaches us sobriety provides a large abundance of the very best wine.  It is our own fault if His kindness makes us think of over-indulging in luxury.  But it is a trial of our own sobriety if we are able to be moderate and sparing in the midst of abundance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

1/18/11 John 2:1-5 His Timing

1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

(The author and his daughter inside Cana Church in Galilee 6/2010)

Thoughts: A good mother encourages her son to do a little bit more.  So even Jesus is encouraged to "get out there" by Mary.  The occasion was a grand one in which resources were depleted.  It is a little reminiscent of Elisha's making the widow's oil continue until she had enough (2 Kgs. 4).  It is a nature miracle, in which Jesus showed his control over the elements.  But in these verses we are reminded of Jesus' timing.  When my resources are running out, I want Jesus to help me before they actually give out.  Jesus helps in his timing and in his way.  While his mother encouraged him, she did not force him.  Part of being our Lord and our God is that He is in charge and we are not.  Our duty is to call out our need to Him and then trust Him the rest of the way. 

Prayer: Give me grace, O God, to trust you in times in which my resources are running out.  Show yourself to me as Jehovah Jireh- the Lord who provides.

John Calvin Abridged: Probably one of Christ's near relatives was marrying a wife.  We may think it strange that not only Christ but his disciples were invited by a man who ran out of wine.  Often the poor are less worried about being disgraced but also have extended friends.  Mary may not have expected Jesus to do a miracle.  Her statement to Christ was one of sympathy for the bridegroom who was in danger of being disgraced.  She may have wanted Christ to say something that would ease the awkwardness of the situation.  Christ's reply to her was an indication that the miracle was not performed in obedience to her.  Why is Christ reluctant to her when he freely gives miracles at the request of others?  Why does He not call her "mother" but relegates her to a common "woman?" Christ says this so that we would not superstitiously give to Mary what belongs solely to God.  His divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honor paid to his mother.  When Christ states that his "hour has not yet come" he is saying he is not ignoring the situation only delaying it to the proper time.  From these words Mary expects something so she tells the servants to "do whatever he tells you."  Whenever the Lord holds us in suspense, delaying his aid, we should not think that He is asleep.  Christ chooses the proper time according to His providence for working and displaying the Divine power. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

1/17/11- John 1:47-51 A Use of a Compliment

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

(Calling of Phillip and Nathanael- William Hole c. 1906)

Thoughts: Jesus who knew Nathanael was under the fig tree, and knew Nathanael's character also no doubt knew (and maybe even overheard) that Nathanael had just said, "Can any thing good come out of Nazareth?"  Yet Jesus did not slight him, but melted his anathema with a compliment.  In the end Nathanael would see God's presence in Jesus as well as in his works and teachings.  If anyone had a right to be afronted, it would be Jesus who was both innocent and totally powerful; Jesus swallowed any desire to strike back showing his grace, mercy and patience.  So we too should be kind to those who criticize us, our family, or our town/land. 

Prayer: Thank you for your patience with me, O Lord.  May I find patience with others. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

1/16/11 John 1:43-46 Come and See vs. Prejudice

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

("The Last Judgment"- Michelangelo 1535-41- Batholomew (Nathanael) holding a skinning knife and his own skin indicating the kind of death he died in Armenia)

Thoughts: Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee (John 21:2) where Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding.  Philip, Andrew, and Peter were from Bethsaida.  Today Bethsaida is ruins as prophesied by Jesus, Cana has a population of 8,500, and Nazareth has a population of over 64,000.  Nathanael had his own prejudices against people from Nazareth.  The good thing is that when Philip told Nathanael to "come and see", Nathanael went.  Nathanael listened to Philip's invitation and refused to stay in his prejudice.  On Martin Luther King weekend, perhaps this is a good occassion to investigate instead of staying stuck believing the labels.   Prejudice is a sin that almost kept Nathanael from coming to Jesus himself.  We need to be like Philip inviting people away from their prejudice against Christ and others and into love for neighbor and God. 

Prayer: Help me, O Lord to come and see.  Help me to invite others to come and see as well. 

John Calvin Abridged: The calling of all of us is illustrated by this calling of Jesus.  The external preaching or call of the Word is not effectual in and of itself.  For some hear it and do not respond, and are only rendered without an excuse.  We need to pray that Christ will display the same power in us.  Bethsaida is mentioned on purpose as the place Jesus cursed (Mt. 11:21; Lk. 10:13).  When Christ draws us, it is as if he draws us from hell itself no matter where we are from.  Philip was not completely accurate about Christ for he was not in the ultimate sense from Joseph or from Nazareth, yet God used his sincerity to bring Nathanael.  There are many educated and eloquent people who do not make Christ known faithfully as Philip.  We also can learn not to treat with disdain those who in their ignorance reject Christ.  Nathanael almost did not come to Christ because of Philip's mis-statement about Jesus' orign in Nazareth and because of his preconceived notion.  Satan is continually looking for lies that would keep us from Christ. Philip invited him to come and see, not trying to argue- but fostering inquiry. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

1/15/11- John 1:40-42 Andrew- Servant Behind the Scenes

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

(Calling of Peter and Andrew- Michael Caravaggio d. 1610)

Thoughts: We know little about Andrew other than this one great act.  He is in his brother's shadow otherwise.  Often Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with him places but Andrew is somehow left out.  Yet Andrew remains fairly close for he leads a group of Greeks to Jesus (Jn. 12:20f.), and he counts the number of fish leftover after feeding the 5,000 (John 6:8).  All three of these recordings of Andrew's exploits come from the Gospel of John.  If John wrote this, it would make sense as Andrew and Peter were business/fishing partners with James and John.  Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.  He is one who didn't mind being behind the scenes serving others.  We would not have had Peter as the leader without Andrew's getting him. We could learn a lesson from Andrew's humility, service, and sharing his faith with those he knew. 

Prayer: Show me today, O Lord, how I might serve you by reaching out to others.

John Calvin Abridged: The design of the Evangelist is to give us an idea of how the good news of Christ gradually spread.  This also tells us of the nature of faith which does not try to quench the light, but spreads it in every direction.  Andrew scarcely has a spark yet he enlightens his brother.  Woe to us if we do not spread the light after having known for so long.  Andrew does two things that Isaiah commends: 1) he takes his brother by the hand  and 2) says "come."  (Isa. 2:3,4).  Christ gives Simon the name Peter because of his unshaken courage. Peter should not be put in the place of Christ who is the Head of the Church.  All of us may be little Peters (stones) as we are stones that build up the temple of Christ. 

1/14/11 John 1:35- 39 Come and See

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

(John points to the Lamb- Jusepe de Ribera 1591-1652, NC Museum of Art)

Thoughts: This is the equivalent of Matthew 4:18,19 when Jesus told his new disciples to drop their nets and follow him. Again John says, "Behold the Lamb of God" (referring to Christ as our Passover Lamb- cf. 1:29).  There were two disciples mentioned here.  Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, and another unnamed (most think the Apostle John).  When Jesus saw them following him, he wanted to make sure of their calling so he asked them a question that we need to answer as well.  What do we want?  Do we want to half follow Christ, or fully follow Him?  Do we want just a little bit of seasoning of Christ in our lives, or do we want Christ to be the main ingredient in our lives?  If we want Him, then we must come to Him and taste and see that He is good.  John would never forget his first day with Christ- even to the hour.  It is memorable to begin the journey of eternity.  Some must decide to take the first step.  Others need to get back on the right path.  Some need to be reminded to remain firmly on the way, despite the many calls to leave the path of Christ.  All of us need to come and see. 

Prayer: Where you go, Lord, I will go.  Where you stay, I will stay.  Your people will be my people, and your God my God.  Help me to get on and stay on your path, for you are my teacher and my sacrifice.

John Calvin Abridged:  John earnestly and on successive days gave his testimony to Christ as he knew his day was coming to an end.  We see too, how small and fragile the beginning of the church was.  Christ does not wait for them to say something, but begins to ask what they seek.  When we may wonder if Christ will accept us or leave us, He extends His hand to us and asks us to come.  There are many who smell the gospel at a distance and allow Christ to pass away.  We ought not to be satisfied with a mere passing look at Christ, but should seek to dwell with Him.  It is apparent that these two disciples were not concerned so much with convenience as with seeking to be with Christ, for they stayed with him late in the afternoon not caring for their physical lodging. (Agnus Dei soundtrack by Samuel Barber- Trinity College Choir)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1/13/11- John 1:32-34 Known in Baptism

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

(Baptism of Christ Carl Bloch)

Thoughts: John's baptism with water is contrasted with the baptism of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.  John saw a sign from the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the Chosen One of God.  John recognized Jesus in his baptism.  We also gain our identity from our baptism- we become God's chosen ones- his children.  But Jesus is the ultimate Chosen One who is the only begotten Son of God.   While we are adopted children, He is the begotten One.  While we are chosen in Christ, He is the firstborn.  But we also are claimed in baptism, named in baptism, and commissioned to do His work in our baptism.

Prayer: In my baptism, Lord, you claim me and invited me to be a part of your family. 
John Calvin Abridged: John did not literally see the Spirit descending like a dove, for what eyes can see the Spirit?  But the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit as bread is a symbol of Christ in the sacrament. John seemed to be able to know Christ when he showed up, but he did not know of his ministry until Christ was baptized.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/12 John 1:29-31 Behold the Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

(John the Baptist- Da Vinci 1513-16; John is pointing to the cross)

Thoughts: Some say John the Baptist was no prophet, but he was a prophet in that he identified the purpose and mission of Jesus.  John's vision of Jesus was true of Jesus as The Messiah, The Passover Lamb and The Suffering Servant in one person.  Isaiah 53 also prophesies that by the Messiah's wounds we are healed and that he was led like a sheep to the slaughter (53:7) and bore the sins of many (53:10).  As the blood of the Passover Lamb protected the people of God from death (Ex. 12).  John points out the great news to his disciples that is the same great news to us.  The great news for us is that Jesus is the One who takes away our sins so that we might not suffer the consequences of them- but even have eternal life because we are forgiven (Jn. 3:16).   Our response is to believe John's testimony and believe in the ability of Christ to take away our sins.  

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you not only came, but you came to take away our sin by sacrificing your life.

John Calvin Abridged: The time had come for John's ministry to end and Christ's ministry to begin.  It was as if the sun were rising and the dawn was disappearing.  The principle office and chief favor of Christ was by the sacrifice of his death to reconcile us to God.  By appeasing the wrath of God He makes us holy and righteous.  There are other blessings from Christ but from this single source flow all the other blessings of Christ.  By using the description "Lamb" he reminds us of the sacrifices prescribed by the Law.  The Jews understood atonement happens by sacrifice, and John may have been referring to the paschal (Passover) lamb.  Similarly, we see baptism as a symbol that our sins are washed away.  The Baptist indicates that it is not just every kind of sin that alienates us from God that is removed, but also of the whole world and not just those of the Jews.  John says that Christ is to be preferred to him, and that he did not know him by human knowledge, but this was revealed to him from God. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

1/11/11 John 1:24-28 Just His Instrument

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

(Bethany beyond the Jordan- near Jericho.  This was also near the traditional site where Elijah- whom John represented- ascended into heaven)

Thoughts: Why was John baptizing?  This was the question asked by the religious leaders. What was his authority to do so?  There were lots of people who baptized in that day.  The Essenes baptized for forgiveness and cleansing.  Some scholars point out that it was fairly common for female converts to Judaism to be baptized while male converts were circumcised.  But the question was really not about whether baptism should occur but John's authority.  John vested his authority in the one who comes after him (Christ) for whom he is a forerunner.  All Christian authority is wrapped up not in our abilities, degrees, training, but in Christ.  We should not claim dignity and place for ourselves.  John has much to teach us about humility and glorifying God.  After winning the national NCAA football championship tonight, Cam Newton of Auburn was asked, You have had so much adversity- but you've fought through it... How would you describe your own journey?"  Cam answered, "It's just a God thing... I was just his instrument and He's using me on a consistent basis daily."  This was a John the Baptist-like statement.  We are indeed just His instruments!

Prayer: May I not elevate myself, O Lord.  My honor lies with you, and I seek to glorify you above all else for myself.

John Calvin Abridged: They accuse John of beginning a new institution without any special kind of authority.  John's answer is twofold: 1) that Christ is the author of his baptism; and 2) he is only the administrator of the outward sign.  The whole power and efficacy of his baptism lies in Christ alone.  John's baptism does not differ from our own.  Christ alone performs what baptism figuratively represents, and we have no part beyond the bare administration of the sign.  Sometimes scripture speaks of the sacraments as if the power of Christ is tied to the human hands that administer it (Ti. 3:5; 1 Pt 3:21).  But the second way (to avoid superstition and blasphemy) is that human ministers are nothing and can do nothing (as pointed out in this passage).  John says Christ was behind him in time, but before him in rank and dignity.  The name of the place (Bethany) was given to affirm the historicity of the narrative and to call attention to the witness of the crowd that gathered there.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

1/10/11 John 1:19-23 Being a Voice for God

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

(John the Baptist, Titian 1542)

Thoughts: John the Baptist was a priest- descended from the line of Aaron (Zechariah his father was one).  Yet crowds were attracted to John, and he was not behaving according to the norm of his day.  The priests and Levites thought John was someone famous predicted about in scripture.  John was too humble to assume any of these titles, but would only claim that he was a voice of repentance asking people to become straight.  Today we need more Christians who live their faith sacrificially as John did.  John said he must become greater and I lesser.  Yesterday in Tuscon, Darwin Stoddard maintenance minister at the Mountain Ave. Church of Christ died shielding his wife from bullets.  On the web page for the church it says, "As believers, the members of the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ seek to model the self-giving life of Christ through service to each other and to our greater community."  Mr. Stoddard proved himself to be a servant, a voice for what is right in this life.  He elevated love and sacrifice above our innate desire for self-preservation and selfishness.

Prayer:  Help me, O Lord, to be a voice for you, calling attention to your righteousness.

John Calvin abridged:  It had been a long time since the people had heard a prophet.  John was different from what they expected, and they were aroused to expect the Messiah's coming.  John had already begun to change the way things were done by the church of that time.  So they began their inquiry not out of malice but out of a desire for redemption.  They asked if he was Elijah because of the prophecy (Malachi 4:2,5) that Elijah would come as the morning star before the Sun of Righteousness comes.  They were expecting the same Elijah that was in the days of Ahab.  So when John answered that he was not Elijah in that sense, he was speaking the truth.  While Jesus gave John the authority of a prophet (Mt. 11:9), John was trying not to boast about his identity.  So John calls himself a voice- which is more like a minister than a prophet.  If a ruler sends two ambassadors- one to go ahead and herald the second messenger, and one with the message itself.  So John goes ahead of Christ and his message is absorbed into Christ's. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

John 1:17,18 Seeing God in Seeing Jesus

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

(Incarnation Piero di Cosimo Uffizi in Florence, Italy)
Thoughts: How do you know what God is like- or that He even exists?  The 2010 NIV has a particularly powerful translation of 1:18- "but the one and only Son who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known."  God is made known to us visibly, physically- in the person of Jesus.  If you want to know that God is love- look at the love of Jesus.  If you want to know that God is caring- look how Jesus healed people in their suffering and suffers with us.  If you want to know that God is good- look at the goodness of Jesus.  It is not some abstract debate anymore.  If you believe Jesus is God- and in closest relationship with the Father, then you will see He makes God known to us.  In the movie "Avatar" a man squeezes himself into a body of a being but his soul comes with him.  Jesus is the Avatar of God- but not in a strict sense.  We do not worship the body of Jesus.  Yet the personality and love of Jesus shows us what God is like. 

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that we know you, and that you want us to know you.  Thank you for paying the cost to come to us so that we might know who you are and worship you in spirit and truth.

John Calvin Abridged: The Evangelist lifts up Moses but also points out how inferior Moses is to Christ in ministry.  "Truth" is a permanent state of things.  "Grace" is a fulfillment of those things- the letter of which is found in "the Law."  The knowledge of God is the door by which we enjoy all the blessings.  By Christ alone is God truly known to us, so we should seek all things from Christ.  Christ is the living image of God. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

John 1:15,16 Glorifying Christ

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

(John the Baptist in the Wilderness- Isaacsz Dutch 1569-162 Bob Jones Art gallery)
Thoughts: John was recognizing Jesus as the Messiah who was pouring out grace upon us.  John's humility is an amazing example for us.  His pure, unselfish love for the glory of God gets Jesus' ministry off on the right foot.  He knew Jesus would "surpass" him.  John records the Baptizer saying, "He must become greater, I must become less" (3:30).  He said that he was not worthy to untie his sandals.  All people, but especially ministers, can learn from John the Baptist who gave all the glory to the Lord.

Prayer: In my life, Lord, be glorified.  May your name increase and my name fade.  Use me, as you used the Baptizer, to draw attention to yourself.

John Calvin Abridged: John testifies (Marturei in the continual present sense- as if John's voice continually speaks to us).  This indicates John was sent for the purpose of witnessing to Christ so that Christ is magnified and John grows less in focus.  Though John the Baptist is older than Jesus by several months, Christ preceded John in eternity, and followed John in time of ministry.  Yet John speaks of Christ being preferred to John. John is here passing the torch to Christ. Augustine explains this passage (grace upon grace) by saying that all the blessings we receive are not because of our own merits, but because of God's liberal generosity. For my part, I think this speaks of the graces which are poured upon us through Christ as the channel for that pouring.  Christ as the anointed one (the messiah) anoints us with grace.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

1/7/11 John 1:14 God Became Flesh

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Madonna and child Adriaen_Isenbrant_1530

Thoughts: There are four parts to this brief but very powerful verse:
1) The Word became flesh- that is God became human.  The Divine intersected humanity. 
2) He made His dwelling among us- the word is "tablernacled" or "tented" (ESKENOSIN).   God came to be with us- to live among us, walk among us, breathe our air, feel our pain, experience the joys and sorrows of being human.
3) We have seen his glory.  Here the author testifies that he is an eyewitness.  He saw with his own eyes that Jesus was not an ordinary man, but indeed God in the flesh.
4) Came from the Father full of grace and truth- Jesus had a strong sense of mission.  Part of that mission was to be gracious and truthful. But God's grace and truth were very manifest in Christ's coming. 
John is adding amazement after amazement- miracle after miracle here.

Prayer: Lord, we believe the witness for we too have experienced your grace and truth first hand.  Thank you for coming to us.

John Calvin Abridged: That the evangelist says the Speech was "made flesh" and not just "made man" tells us even more about Christ's humility for us.  For the word "flesh" (not the corruption of the flesh used by Paul) refers to our mortality.  So Ps. 78:39 says "He rembers that we are flesh" or Isaiah 40:6 "All flesh is grass."  Christ is seen here as true God and true man with each nature distinct from the other.  Christ remained in the flesh as a guest (tabernacled), not that his flesh was his permanent home.  He is the fount of all grace and truth.

1/6/11 John 1:12-13 Becoming His Child

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

(Little Orphan Annie and her adopted father Daddy Warbucks ran by Tribune Media 1924-2010)

Thoughts: In the very beginning of John's Gospel we hear about being born again.  This not only emphasizes change, but it also emphasizes (especially here) belonging.  Jesus came that we who were orphans would have the opportunity to be part of the family of God.  Adoption was even more important in those days.  A key example would be that Julius Caesar adopted his great nephew Augustus.  From then on it was common for the emperor of Rome to adopt the heir to his throne (so Augustus adopted Tiberius his successor).  So the true King of Kings comes to find us and adopts us.  That old comic strip, "Little Orphan Annie" has a lot of images that would apply here- Daddy Warbucks coming down to find her and blessing her.  For Gentiles, this was especially important, because we were not part of the ancient adopted people, but were ingrafted into the family (Rom. 11:17).  We are not alone and on our own as the atheist indicates.  Rather God has come; He has spoken; He has adopted those who welcome Him into their hearts and lives. 
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for coming down to find me.  Thank you for your offer of adoption.  May I live as your true child, not dishonoring your name today.
John Calvin Abridged: Obviously some of the children of God rejected Christ.  Their rejection meant that God would set up his kingdom elsewhere- opening up the gospel to all nations.  This transfers the right of adoption, as it were to strangers (Rom. 11:12).  "Gave the right" does not mean we choose by ourselves, for later it says "born not of human decision."  Rather it is that Christ comes and claims us as his adopted children. Matthew 3:9 says that God raises "out of stones" children of God.  We receive Christ by believing in Him.  Thus we are engrafted into Him by faith. (which is also a gift from the Holy Spirit). It may seem that the Evangelist is reversing the natural order with faith preceding regeneration.  But it is by faith that we receive the incorruptible seed (1 Pt. 1:23).  When the Lord breathes faith into us, he regenerates us by some method that is hidden and unknown to us; but after we have received faith, we perceive, by a lively feeling of conscience, not only the grace of adoption, but also newness of life and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. For since faith, as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all his blessings.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1/5/11- John 1:9-11 He came to His Own

 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

(Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee- taken by the author)

Thoughts: Of course, Jesus is the true light that came to us.  The goodness and truth of Christ has affected the world- even those who do not believe.  A blind person is still affected by the sun's rising.  However, we willfully refuse to look at the light.  The creature did not recognize the Creator.  The painting did not recognize the artist.  The baby did not recognize the parent.  It is akin to ingratitude.  We  should be able to recognize the one who brought us life.  We are the stewards of creation who did not recognize the owner.  The innkeeper casts out the real owner of the town the inn is in.  Jesus gave the parable of the vineyard in which the son of the owner came back to his own property and those who were renting or taking care of the property killed him thinking they would then do as they please and even perhaps own it.  We are stewards of the earth who are called to recognize the owner. 

Prayer: Lord, let me recognize your presence and rightful claims.  Everything I see is yours.  Help me to receive you, seek you, and follow your will for me.

John Calvin Abridged: The evangelist was not intending to contrast the true light from the false, but was trying to distinguish Christ's light from all others.  Whatever is luminous in heaven or earth borrows its light (or power) from something else- except Christ.  In what sense does the light come to "everyone"?  Some say the writer intends this to be those on whom the Spirit falls.  Augustine uses the imagery of the only schoolteacher in town being called the teacher of everyone- even though not all attend the school.  I think that the other interpretation is better that the rays of Christ are diffused over all people.  There is no one who doesn't have some perception of the eternal light- and in that sense His light has reached them.  We need to clarify that this is the common light of nature and not saving faith that is equally offered to all.  No one by the light of reason and their own wisdom will be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

1/4/11 John 1:6-8 Pointing to the Light

In 2011 we will be going slowly through the Gospel of John

 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

(John the Baptist in the Wilderness; Bachiacca 1522; Bob Jones Art Gallery)

Thoughts: The Word was sent into the world, and John was sent into the world as well.  The difference that this Gospel makes clear is that John was a man and claimed no divinity- but Jesus was not only sent from God, but was God.  John is the first witness spoken of in this gospel.  In that sense, John the Baptist is our example.  He did not want glory for Himself, but was unabashedly bold in his witness to Christ.  We are called to point to the light that is shining in the darkness. 

Prayer: Help me, O Light of the world, to point to you this day.

John Calvin Abridged: God not only sent His Son, but He also sent John the Baptist as a witness that we might more readily receive the salvation offered by Him.  The Baptist was sent from God.  All who minister in God's name must likewise be called by God to the ministry so that their authority rests on no other than God alone.  The evangelist reminds us that John was not the light- lest his excessive brightness obscure the glory of Christ.  There is a sense in which all who believe are light (Eph. 5:18), and that the apostles are lights (Mt. 5:14), but Christ is the only eternal source of illumination.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

1/3/11- John 1:4-5,9 The Light Shines

In 2011 we will be doing devotions on the Gospel of John. 

 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ... 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

(Sunrise on Garden City Beach SC 12/28/10)

Thoughts: This is similar to John 8;12 (Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”).  The assumption is that we  are in the darkness of sin, of doubt, of blindness to God.  Jesus comes to bring light in the midst of the darkness.  Darkness naturally resists light.  And those in darkness naturally resist those in light.  Perhaps this is why we should pray for the Christians of Egypt whose church was blown up on New Year's Day; or the Christians of Iraq whose church (Our Lady of Salvation) was attacked in December killing 58; or the Christians in Bhpatian Pakistan who had their church bulldozed down by Muslim extremists; or the Christians in southern Sudan who foresee war if they vote to secede from the Muslim north next Sunday.  Darkness resists the light.  Yet, light has come in Jesus.  Jesus brings us abundant life now and the hope of eternal life to come.  You would think that it would be easy to understand that seeing is better than groping in the darkness.  In the movie "The Dawn Treader" it is hard for the dragon to peel off his scales in order to become clean as the Lord wants.  Perhaps another image is of someone who has been sitting in a movie theater and suddenly the lights come on brightly.  We are used to darkness and coming into the light is painful and so we resist. 

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who are resisting you- neighbors here and those around the world.

John Calvin abridged: It is well known that many times people are described as blind and in darkness.  The human mind is blinded. Yet there is a small measure of light in humans left given by God that enables us to respond to the light of Christ. It shows in some seed of religion and in a conscience that is able to distinguish good and evil.  God does not leave us as beasts, but gives us the light of reason inside of us, however darkened.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/2/11 John 1:3 Maker of Heaven and Earth

 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

(Black Hole in space- apod.nasa.gove 9/04 bthorus)

Thoughts: John was writing this in part against the Gnostics (or proto-Gnostics) who believed that the world was evil and that an evil emanation from God created it.  But here John is saying that the loving, pure, forgiving, healing Jesus was the One who created the world. We should not blame the evil in the world on God, but rather on sin that has polluted and distorted the world.
As we begin a new year, it is important to know that the loving God is in control- for He made all things and cares for all creation enough to come down and be a part of it. 

Prayer:  Help me, O Lord, to make your world that has been distorted a better place  Thank you for making the world, but also caring for it enough to come down to it.

John Calvin Abridged: John proves the divinity of Christ by His works. Paul says that "all things are of God" (Rom. 11:36).  But here the Son is given the glory for creation.  The Father made all things by the Son, and that all things are by God through the Son. The Son or Speech of God became practically known by the effect of his power over creation.  God is not just the Master Builder as some philosophers say, but also has revealed Himself to the world so that we do not need to speculate about Him.  The writer insures that no glory be taken away from Christ by saying, "without him nothing was made that has been made." 

P.S.- Pray for the Christians in Egypt, Iran, the Sudan who are being persecuted.  Pray also for the Christians in America who are being eroded by an increasingly secular and immoral society.