Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

6/1/11 Matthew 13:40-43 Separation at the end

40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
44Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

(Parable of the Sower)

Thoughts: Jesus points out that the church is separated into the righteous and unrighteous not now- but in the end by Him.  For this reason, all should make every effort to stay together, to keep "the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). 
The second things we see is that angels separate out "them that do iniquity" literally "those who commit lawlessness" (poinontas ten anomian )."  Christ is concerned about keeping the Law.  Those who ignore the law do so to their own peril.  The lawless ones contrast with the righteous ones.  It doesn't matter what motivation, temptation, or excuse the lawless ones have for breaking and ignoring the Law.  It does not matter if the whole culture becomes lawless.  We are called by this parable to follow the righteous and not the lawless. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to follow you by follwing your prescription and laws.  Help me to do my part for the unity of your church.

Monday, May 30, 2011

6/1/11 Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus Against Lawlessness

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

(Sermon on the Mount- Annigoni Pietro 1953)

Thoughts: The word "evildoers" is literally- "lawless ones" (ργαζόμενοι τν νομαν in the Greek).  It is obvious from these words of Jesus, that He has great concern for the keeping of His Law.  He was not so concerned about the washing and eating parts- the liturgical laws that seemed fulfilled in Him.  He was concerned about keeping the Moral Law (like the Ten Commandments).  Jesus was saying, people called Him their Lord, thinking they followed Him but they did not. This was because they did not do the will of His Father- they were lawless.  The Law is a gift from God that tells us what we are supposed to do- even if we do not do it perfectly. Just as a great citizen obeys the civil law, so a member of the kingdom of God is always listening for how they might please the King.  

Prayer: Help me to love your Law, O Lord.  Give me ears to hear and a heart to respond; but also give me strength to do what I know you wish me to do.

John Calvin Abridged:  He goes on to not only speak of false prophets but all hypocrites who deceive themselves.  He encrouages all believers not to estimate such masks beyond their proper value.  2 Timothy 2:19 says, "The Lord knows who are His and let everyone who calls on the Name of Christ depart from iniquity.

5/31/11 Matthew 5:17-18 Christ and the Law


17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

(Sermon on the Mount- Carl Henry Bloch d. 1890)

Thoughts: Christ did not come to eradicate, destroy the use and profitability of the Old Testament or the Law contained in it.  This is important.  I heard one political official lecture the crowd as he basically said we do not need to "Remember the Sabbath" anymore, by saying we live by grace and not by law.  I don't know that he would like to apply that same criteria to collecting taxes for his government.  I wonder if that criteria would work with speeding tickets?  The Law was given for our benefit- that we may know who God is, know God's will for us, and be able to keep the faith.  It is not that the Law is invalid for us anymore.  That is not what grace means.  It is not that holiness no longer has a place in our lives.  Rather, 1) we need grace to keep the law and ; 2) when we fail to keep the Law- and we all will fail- then we need God's mercy and grace to forgive us- so we may try again. 
     Jesus said this right after he had said the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-11).  The Beatitudes are not a new Law, but a compliment to the Law. The Beatitudes tell us how to be blessed of God- which was in some ways the point of the Law (we are blessed when we do what God says- thus pleasing, glorifying, and uniting with Him). 
     Christ also says that the smallest part of it will not disappear.  Christ was prophecying its continual relevance, and His desire to fulfill it.  "Until everything is accomplished" was not a reference to His life, death and resurrection, but the fulfillment of all prophecy- meaning the end of the world. The Law and Prophets last until the end of all things- when all things will be fulfilled in God's purpose for us. 
     Today there are some who are legalists- missing God's grace; there are others who are anti-nomianals (against the law).  In American culture today the pendalum has swung hard to those who do not keep the Law and thus think the Law is not valid for them. Calvin said the Law was a guide for us- to show us how to please God and know Him better. 

Prayer: Give me ears to hear and a heart to respond to you, O Lord, and your will for me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

5/30/11 Luke 22:14-20 Remembrance

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

(Greek icon- Last Supper)

Thoughts: God is concerned that we remember Him and His mighty acts of deliverance on our behalf. The very nature of the Passover that Jesus was celebrating was to remember God's deliverance (Ex. 12; Lev. 23; Dt. 16:1-8).  Jesus was identified as the Passover Lamb (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7). Jesus, the Passover Lamb, wanted his people to remember Him as well when they took part in the Lord's Supper.
On Memorial Day weekend, we stop to remember what is most important. We have many blessings.  We have freedom to worship God as we please. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to remember you- The Great Delverer- our Savior.  Help me not to take you for ganted, or to forget you.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ intended to place His death before them as in a mirror.  Since Christ was to die [and be remembered] and go to heaven, we are to direct our thoughts toward both the cross, the resurrection, and heaven. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

5/28/11 John 9:39-41 Christ the blinding light

39 Jesus said,“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains

(Jesus Christ the blinding light)

Thoughts: Jesus came to change things for the better.  The status quo, the definition of what is normal and proper, was changing.  The proud would need to be humbled.  The humble would be lifted up (Mary's song Lk. 1).  Those who would save their lives would lose them.  Those who would lose them for the Gospel would save them.  Those who mourned would be comforted, while those who were comfortable would be mourning.  Those who were comfortable with this life would find discomfort in the face of Christ.  Those who thought they knew it all- had it all together, who thought they saw clearly (the Pharisees) would be told they did not know- they were blind.  To seek God, we must humble ourselves.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to humble myself before you. 

John Calvin Abridged: Those who see are made blind by the light of the world.  Thsi sounds unreasonable. The blindness does not proceed from Christ but from human fault. There is nothing the reprobate want more than to extinguish the light.  The eyes of their mind, which are diseased through malice and depravity, are dazzled by the light which is exhibited to them.  Unbelievers, though they are blind, think that their sight is uncommonly acute and powerful; and elated by this confidence,
they do not try listen to God.  We are all born blind, but some spark continues in the darkness that distinguishes us from brute beasts.  A person who is confident in their own opinion may seem wise, but when the light of the wisdom of Christ shines on them, their blindness is evident. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

5/27/11 John 9:35-38 Jesus visits the outcast

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

(Untouchable Caste members who became Christians-literally outcasts; ""; Untoucables are told they cannot have proper names, good jobs, or even a religion)

Thoughts;  Jesus healed him once, but now he seeks him out to help him again.  The man had been thrown out- a literal outcast.  He had been yelled at and called names because he had stood up for Jesus.  Jesus did not abandon the man.  When we feel that we have stood our ground for what is right, threatened, abandoned, we should remember that Jesus will find us.  Not only did he find him, but he became an evangelist to the man so that the man could see more clearly who God is and worship God properly.

Prayer: Lord, may I remember you will never leave me nor forsake me. 

John Calvin Abridged: They excommunicated him (rather than physically casting him out) which gave a semblance of law.  From this we learn how little the excommunication of the enemies of Christ is to be dreaded.  Christ meets him, raises him up, and offers him life.  Dr. Martin Luther began to purify the church best after he had been cast out by the Pope.  When we are at variance with the enemies of the Gospel, we are nearer to Christ.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

5/26/11 John 9:29-34 Blaming Blindness

God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
(William Holman Hunt d. 1910
"Christ Light of the World")

Thoughts; When your argument is weak, become loud and attack the person.  That is what the debate coach said.  In our day the most common personal attack is the accusation of some kind of prejudice- religious, civil, sexual ("You're a heretic!"'  "You're a fundy!"; "You're a bigot!"; "You're narrow!" You're a homophobe!").  So here, this man was said to be "steeped in sin" and therefore not worth hearing.  They were blaming his blindness on his karma or sin.  Christ does not play a part in the blaming game.  He takes people as they are, pours grace and healing upon them, and gives them a second chance.  We can blame blindness on many things, but we need to make sure we get the plank out of our own eye before we take the speck out of another's eye.

Prayer: Help me Lord, to focus on you rather than the weakness of others.

John Calvin Abridged: When we see the wicked so energized to do evil, we should be convicted of our own slothfulness to do good. Though they were a hundred times convinced, because of their own prejudice, they would not be convinced.  These men wanted to separate the following of the Law (Moses) from the following of Christ.  But the law is dead without Christ.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5/25/11 John 9:24-29 This One Thing I Know

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
(Jesus Heals Blind Man on Sabbath- Del Parsons)

Thoughts: The greatness of this passage is that it is a reminder that we don't have all the answers. Here was a simple man brought before the highly educated leaders of his country.  He didn't have the answer to their theological questions, but he did have something to say.  So we can talk to anyone about our faith- simply by speaking of what we really do know- Christ is our help, our strength, our healer and deliverer.

Prayer: Give me grace, O Lord, to testify to your great help and love.

(Song "This One Thing I Know")

5/24/11- John 9:18-23 Fear Burying Grace

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

Thoughts: The parents knew of the past, but had no real hope for the future for their son.  They also were afraid of any change- especially being kicked out of their synagogue where their friends attended.  The previous generation needs to be careful not to slow down the next one out of mere fear. We should also not be afraid of religious powers- that- be when they threaten to kick out.  Jesus was excommunicated, Paul was stoned by religious leaders, Stephen was stoned, Luther was hunted as a heretic, and John Calvin fled for his life from France because of a sermon he helped write.  Calvin was kicked out of Geneva then brought back in- and Geneva became a city on a hill.  Athanasius was kicked out of the church, but was brought back in and was used of God to help save the church (helping to author and uphold the Nicean creed).  But if we should be kicked out, it should be for being faithful to God, not for unbelief.  The power of God to change the world goes on despite those who will not believe.  The blind man knew the power of God, and would not back down from testifying to what he knew even though he might have consequences for his faithfulness. 

Prayer: May I be strong for you, O Lord.  May I be aware of what you have done in my life- how you have helped me along my way, protected me, strengthened me, encouraged me, healed me- so that I will testify to you.  Keep me from being afraid of what people can do to me.

John Calvin Abridged: The religious leaders 1) do not believe a miracle was performed and 2) out of hatred for Christ, they do not perceive what was manifested right in front of them.  Their blindness was voluntary- caused by an inward malice of their hearts.  To keep the truth from being heard, the leaders ask a multitude of questions, and the parents answer only half.  In their acknowledgement that he was their son and was born blind, they subtly but not openly, acknowledge the miracle.  But the way they answer shows their ingratitude to Christ.  Struck with terror, they bury the grace of God. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

5/23/11 John 9:17 Jesus the Prophet

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

(Blind Man Tells His Story- James J Tissot

Thoughts: Why would the man born blind say that Jesus was a prophet?  For most of us the prophet is the one who foretells the future or speaks forth the Word of the Lord.  But prophets also were so close to God, and God used them to do mighty works.  So, Moses, the ultimate prophet, was used to provide water in the desert, a serpent on a pole to heal those bitten; So Elijah raised the widow's son; Elisha healing the Shunamite's son and healing Naaman's leprosy; Isaiah healed Hezekiah.  The work of healing and helping were not isolated from a prophet, but were part of the work.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism (below) speaks of Christ as a prophet because He reveals God's will for our salvation.  God is here to help us, to save us.  The healing of a blind man was part of the message of God's care for our needs. 

John Calvin Abridged: The more diligently they inquire, the more impressively does the truth of God appear.  They act as those who are trying to blow out a strong flame, but only make it higher.  So we do not need to be afraid when the wicked try to snuff out the truth of God- they will only succeed in making it stronger.  This blind man acknowledged Christ as much as he could (as a prophet) without knowing Christ is the Son of God.  How shameful it is for those who deny Christ when they know He sits at the right hand of the Father and will come back as Judge of the whole world.  The blind man did not quench the small spark of knowledge but openly confessed it.  We ought also to openly acknowledge the faith that blazes inside our hearts.

Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A24: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

5/22/11 John 9:13- 16

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

Thoughts: False expectations can blind us.  The Pharisees were called "blind guides" by Jesus (Mt. 15:14; 23:16,24) because they were supposed to lead the people but they were stuck in their ideology so that they could not hear the Spirit speaking in the Word of God.  Some Christians hold onto their ideology so tightly that they lose their balance and ability to hear God's simple, clear Word.  The Pharisees had complicated God's Word with their tradition.  Reformation and renewal often happen when the Church gets back to basics.  Yesterday some said that they knew the day and hour that Jesus was coming back (something Jesus said no one can know- Mt. 24:36).  Their expectations were not met.  Some of their group may lose faith.  Humanists and unbelivers will scoff more and become more blind themselves (2 Pt 3:2-4; Jude 1:18).  The Lord's Day is a day of rest, but also a day of healing and hope.  The Day of the Lord is the end of this world, but also the beginning of healing and hope.

Prayer: May I be open to hear your Word speaking to my life through your Spirit, Lord. 

5/21/11 The Second Coming Matthew 24:24-28, 36-44

24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away...
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

(Second Coming, Harry Anderson 20th century)

Thoughts: Harold Camping says he has mathematically figured it out: the world will end today- according to his calculations from the seventy weeks of Daniel.  With the number of natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes), the global economic recession, the reaching of all nations with the gospel in our generation, the re-establishment of Israel, many think we are near the end.  But Jesus has warned of false prophets predicting His coming (24,26), and that "no one knows" (36) and that He comes like a thief in the night (43).  Thoughts of Christ's coming hopefully spur us to honor, worship, and serve Him.  However, false prophets make the truth seem irrelevant too.  Perhaps today you may use Mr. Camping's signs to broker a conversation with a neighbor, friend, or family member about Christ.  Christ is real, and not dead.  One day we will all meet Him either in death or when He comes back.  No one knows- not even Mr. Camping.

Prayer: Lord, may I always be trusting and not afraid of meeting you.  May I always love you and your presence more than anything or anyone else in the world.  May I always have the desire to speak of you- your love, grace, and mercy to others.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ warns many times against false prophets and Antichrists in this passage so that the elect would be on their guard.  Those who are careless and inattentive will be entangled by their snares.  At the same time Christ tells them to keep watch but not be troubled at the sight of false prophets who may even perform miracles.,8599,2072748,00.html

Thursday, May 19, 2011

5/19/11 John 9:10-12

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.

(Pool of Siloam re-discovered 2004; Photos Charles Lee Feiberg)

Thoughts: Three things are important here, and they have to do with how God often works even today.
1) Jesus said to do something that would help; 2) The man obeyed; 3) The actual presence of Christ was unseen.  We do not always see God's presence, but we see God's hand.  Our duty is to listen and obey. 

Prayer;  Help me to hear your voice and obey, O Lord. 

John Calvin Abridged:Isaiah (8:6) said, "They despise the waters of Siloam that flow softly. Jesus was rebuking the Jews for not being able to see the power of God at work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5/19/11 John 9:6- 9

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

(Pool of Siloam, Todd Bolen)

Thoughts: Jesus spit- made a salve and put it on the man's eyes.  Jesus was not opposed to salves, or potions or medicine that we know of.  But in a time in which medicine and knowledge were weak, Jesus helped beyond what humans could dream to do.  One missionary long ago told me of a South American tribe that had a missionary for many years, but would not respond to the gospel.  One day the missionary read this passage and hundreds came to Christ.  The tribes witchdoctors were called "spitters" because they would spit and heal people.  When they read this, they said aloud, "Jesus is the Chief Spitter!"  The missionary said he didn't know for sure why Jesus spit to heal this man, but maybe it was to reach that tribe with the love of God.  Jesus heals- not only with spittle, but most of all with His Good News.

Prayer:  Strengthen me with your love and grace, O Lord. 

John Calvin Abridged: Jesus appears to heal the eyes in an absurd way.  For he anoints them with clay blocking even more vision.  The blind man, by faith in the simple word of God, is fully convinced of Christ's healing he hastens to go to the place commanded and washes. As God the Father made us from clay, so Christ heals with clay. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

5/18/11 John 9:1-5

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

(Jesus the Lighthosue)

Thoughts: Jesus is the light of the world, and He made this visual when he healed the man born blind.  Christ opens our eyes to God.  He not only says He is the light of the world, but He tells us He is the light of the world "while" He is in the world.  In other words, while He walked the earth, Christ physically revealed the invisible God.  Light enables the eyes to see reality.  So Christ enables us to see what God is like.  The Pharisees were all wrapped up in how this man became blind- and (they thought) surely it was because of some wrong done.  Jesus focus is not on the man's sin or innocense, but on the glory of God - which was recealed when He healed the blind man.

Prayer: Open my eyes to you, O Lord.  Help me to look to you as my light and my salvation.

John Calvin Abridged: This man's blindness is incurable by human skill, so here Jesus proves His divininty.  Scripture testifies that all the sufferings the human race endures proceed from sin, so we tend to think that others suffer because of their individual sin. But this is wrong in three ways:
1) We judge others more severely than we judge ourselves; 2) We tend to turn others' small offenses into severe crimes. 3) We pronounce guilt on all without exception.  But sometimes God delays anothers' punishment; sometimes (as with Job), the faith and patience of the innocent are tested;  Christ does not say that the man was free from all blame, but says we should not seek the blame in the man's sin.  Consequently, when the cause of God's affliction is hidden from us, we should not jump to quick judgments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

5/17/11 John 8:48-53 Who Do You Think you Are?

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

(Pharisees in the Temple, Rembrandt)

Thoughts: The question that keeps resurfacing to Jesus is "Who do you think you are?"  John spends three chapters focusing on the answer to this question.  In chapter 8 Jesus is the light of the world, the truth, and even greater than Abraham.  Jesus said that these unbelieving Jews had the devil as their father.  The unbelievers responded by saying he was a hated Samaritan and demon-possessed himself.  Jesus appeals to God as the judge between them.  But He also appeals to the power of obeying Him.  Obeying Christ leads to eternal life, for the first item of obedience if believing and trusting in who He is- not the son of the devil, but the Son of God.

Prayer: My life depends on my trust in you, Lord.  Help me to grow in my belief and trust in you.

John Calvin Abridged: The Jews reckoned the Samaritans as apostates and heretics.  Having no more rational argument, they chose to randomly pull a taunt from the air.  They basically curse him because they cannot find anything to say.  Christ refutes both charges (Samaritan and demoniac) when he says he honors the Father.  Because Christ connects himself to honoring God- when they dishonor Him they dishonor God.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5/16/11 John 8:41-47 Belonging to the Father or Not

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

(Robert Schuller and son Robert A. Schuller)

Thoughts: Today, to prove paternity, all we have to do is have DNA testing.  It was not so in Jesus' day. In verse 39 the people claimed to have Abraham as their father.  In verse 40 they claimed to have God as their father.  But Jesus claims in verse 44 that their real father is the devil.  Jesus gave some criteria for being from and belonging to God- that 1) they would recognize him- who was sent from God; that 2) they would be able to hear and respond to His words (which are truth).  To really belong to our Father, we should imitate His works by imitating His visible Son, Jesus.  If we cannot see that Jesus shows us God- how can we imitate the Father?  How can we do His will?  The greatest lie is to not recognize holiness when it is right in front of us.  Jesus was saying if they lied about Him they lied about God, and the father (beginner) of all lies is the devil.  It is important to believe in the holiness and truth of God's revelation in Christ. 

Prayer: May my life reflect you, Father.  May people be able to look at me and see you in me.

John Calvin Abridged: He calls them of "their father the devil"- the ultimate enemy of God- because they imitate the devil and are instigated by him to fight against Christ.  When the scripture calls us "children of God" it is not because of some transmission of substance (as the Manichees believe), but the grace of His Spirit which gives us new life.  When we are born children of the devil it is not creation's fault, but sin's fault.  The two faults of the devil mentioned by Christ are cruelty and falsehood. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

5/15/11a John 8:31-41 Truth Sets us Free

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

(You will know the truth and the truth will set you free)

Thoughts: "Hold to my teaching" has been traditionally translated "continue in my word."  It is not enough to believe in the beginning.  To be a real disciple we must continue to hold onto the teaching of Christ.  Not just the meat of His teaching (like love and kindness), but also the specifics of His teaching.
If we lose his teaching, we become slaves to sin.  There are many who are so enslaved of sin, they seek justification for it rather than give it up.  We would rather be told that we shouldn't feel guilty than be told that our behavior is wrong and we need to change our behavior.  Abraham, by contrast, would do anything God said- even if it didn't make sense.  He would move to a new land; fight outnumbered against trained soldiers; and even be willing to sacrifice his only son.  His desire was to do God's will.  As His children of faith- we are called to not follow sin, but listen to Jesus teaching- hold to it, and follow God.

Prayer: Help me to hold, Lord, to your whole teaching. 

John Calvin Abridged: Though the Jews at that time resembled barren soil, the Lord did not permit the seed of His Word to be entirely lost.  Christ warns that it is not enough to begin well if we don't persevere.  The knowledge of the Gospel restores freedom.  Nothing is more valuable or blessed than the Gospel which delivers us from slavery.

5/14/11 John 8:25-30 Who is Jesus

25 “Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

(Presbyterian Disaster Volunteers help clean up storm damage from southern tornado 4/2011)

Thoughts: Who is Jesus, really, and what difference does that make?  Of course, Jesus is the Son of the Father- God in the flesh.  But here Jesus emphasizes that as His Son, Jesus does the will of the Father.  A few days ago a preacher was killed in Columbia, SC (Billy Dean Randall) driving his car back from a repair shop by a 20 year old college student who was driving while drunk.  The preacher was known for flying medical supplies to Haiti and people in need.  The family and church spoke words of mercy and forgiveness in court.  Who is Jesus- He is the One who sacrifices and forgives, and changes us so we may do so as well.  Thousands of volunteers from churches are pouring into the flood swept plains of middle America and the tornado swept areas of Alabama.  They take their time to go to a different land to help strangers, easing their plight.  Who is Jesus?  He is the one who was "sent" and whose God never left Him.  He was the One who always sought to please God even to the point of being "lifted up" on the cross to help others out of their ultimate tragedy of sin.

Prayer: May people be able to see who you are, Lord, by looking at my life.  May my attitude to those around me glorify you- reflecting who you are as in a mirror.

John Calvin Abridged: Jesus has spoken plainly of his identity, and the prophets had spoken of him since the beginning of scriptural revelation.  God, as judge, will vindicate himself and his truth against the wicked in the end, as He is the author of the truth.  Christ is singing as it were, to the deaf, so he stops arguing and leaves their judgment to God. As Christ speaks only what He gets from the Father, so ministers are not to speak beyond what God has said.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5/12/11 John 8:21-24

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
(Bronzino 1545)
Thoughts: Jesus talked three times here about dying in sin.  Dying in sin is staying in this life and not making it to the next.  It is like we are almost tied or trapped by a barrier of sin that keeps us from going to the next place where Jesus is.  Belief that Jesus is the saving Messiah (the "he" of vs. 24) ties us to the One who can enable us to be where He is.  He is the key to the door of heaven that keeps us from dying in our sins.  He died in our sin so that we would not have to die in our sin.

Prayer: Keep me Lord, from dying in sin.  Help me to believe in you and be set free.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ does not say this lightly.  We must breathe either the odor of life or death (2 Cor. 2:16).  The meaning of these words  amounts to this. “The wicked will at length feel how great loss they have suffered by rejecting Christ, when he freely offers himself
to them. They will feel it, but it will be too late, for there will be no more room for repentance.”  Therefore, when Christ knocks at the door, we should open it, for now is the time of salvation.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

5/11/11 John 8:19,20 How to Find the Father

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

(Jesus teaching in the Temple Tissot)

Thoughts: Not having a father in those days was seen as a curse.  Sometimes the father wouldn't claim the son.  To be without a father at that time meant struggle and poverty.  Jesus' reply was that they did not know who they were accusing.  Jesus was not fatherless, He had the greatest Father of all in God.  Jesus also replied if they could not even recognize their own Messiah, it meant they had blinded themselves to God Himself- for He and the Father were one.  If you want to find the Father, then you must look at the One who reveals Him- the Son.

Prayer: May we see the Father working in you, Jesus. May we grow in knowledge and trust in you.

John Calvin Abridged: Their question to Jesus was mocking, not believing what Christ had said about his heavenly Father.  Too many despise Christ today because they do not recognize from where He comes.  They inquired about the Father, but they had the Son before their eyes.  Seeing they did not see. How can anyone ascend on high to God unless they are raised by the hand of His Son?  Whoever desires to know God but does not start with Christ will wander as in a labyrinth. 

5/10/11 John 8:13-18 Jesus' Testimony

For the next few weeks I will be going back over the Gospel of John chapters 8 & 9- impotant passages about Jesus' authority.

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.

(Jesus teaching in the Temple- pointing up- James Jaques Tissot 19th cent).

Thoughts: How do we know Jesus is the Son of God?  Is it by our guesses?  Is it by what His friends say?  Is it because He says so?  The Gospel of John is written that we might believe and then have life (20:31).  John makes it clear that this great teacher made his own claim about his divinity- and that it was not just made up for him.  Jesus here points out that the only two really valid witnesses needed are his and the Father's witness.  Other witnesses may be distorted, blinded, corrupt.  Jesus is the true discerner of truth and falsehood- the ultimate judge of right and wrong.  The One who came from God and heaven can tell us more validly about such things than we who are only guessing about them (vs. 14).  The real question, is can we trust what Jesus says?  Can we trust that what John (an eyewitness) says Jesus said is true?  In the end, it is a matter of faith in His testimony. The resurrection adds power to the already powerful words of Jesus.  Faith is more than just guessing or thinking really hard in the dark.  Jesus came as the light to show us to God. 

Prayer: Lord, give me faith to believe your testimony. 

John Calvin Abridged: The Pharisess object that no one person ought to be trusted when they are speaking of their own cause.  Jesus' answer is that He is not just a single person among many- just a common man.  Jesus' status is above the whole world and common human standards.  Jesus was now clothed in the form of a servant, and they could not perceive His glory.  But He infers to His future glory in the resurrection as a proof of his testimony. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

5/9/11 John 21:23-25 The Never-Ending Story

He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

(St, John the Evangelist-
Il Domenichino 1625-8 Bob Jones art gallery)

Thoughts: The story of Jesus does not end with this writing of John.  John also admits this gospel is incomplete in the sense that it is not exhaustive- it doesn't contain every single thing Jesus did or said.  John admits to editing in what he saw were the main things and leaving out secondary things.  The story of how God's love works in the world is never fully comprehended or completed either.  God works often in hidden ways.  Even in heaven there appears to be a process of continual enjoyment, and continual learning.  There is more to God than meets the eye.  He still works today. 

Prayer: Work in me, O Lord.  Help me to never tire of you.  Help me to grow in my hunger for knowledge of you and the creation you have made.  Help me to have an appreciation for your work in the world. 

John Calvin Abridged: John relates that an error arose by misunderstanding Christ's words.  Those who had heard them interpreted them wrongly- believing John would not die.  If they could interpret Christ's words in error- how much more we can who are far away from Christ in time, and have not been better schooled? The teaching of Christ is simple and plain, but we obscure his teaching by our wicked inventions.  Christ was not giving a definite time for John, but was affirming his power over his life and death.  We will never cease to err unless we unreservedly receive what Christ has for us, and avoid human inventions.  The hyperbole John uses comes from the infinite work of Christ which work is not always visible.  John anticipates that some would object that he left some things out.  John admits that he has included what is necessary for our salvation and for the glory of God.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

5/8/11- Mother's Day John 20:25-27

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

See my previous blog on this passage: with a picture of Mary's house in Ephesus.

Thoughts: Jesus, as the eldest son, sought to care for his mother, even as he lay dying on the cross.  He entrusted her to his youngest disciple, John.  John, though young, came from a wealthy family that did business with the high priest (he got Peter into Caiaphas's courtyard (Jn. 18:15).  Jesus did not call out to his mother in pain and misery as some sons might do.  He perhaps eased her hurt not by complaining, but by helping her even when he was on the cross.  The sacrifice He was making there was not only for all the world- it was also for His mother.  So, we should seek to be blessings to our mothers, if they are alive, and seek to support the calling of our children if we are mothers. Calvin said the commandment to honor fathers and mothers is a command to respect authority of those God has placed over us. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to honor my mother as you honored Mary.  Help me to give of myself sacrificially for her as you gave of yourself for Mary.

John Calvin abridged: While Christ obeyed God the Father, he did not fail to perform the duty which he owed as a son, towards his mother. True he forgot himself, and he forgot everything, so far as was necessary for the discharge of obedience to his Father. But having performed his mission, he did not neglect what he owed to his mother. So we can learn how we should discharge our duty toward God and people. Sometimes families call us to do something in the opposite direction of God's call for us. If we place people in the same status as God, we misjudge. Though Christ was suffering unbelievable torture, grief, mockings, blasphemies and spiritual struggle with the devil, yet none of these things kept him from being concerned about his mother. John's obedience to Christ teaches us to revere him as well. Jesus probably called her "woman" instead of a more endearing term because he did not want to make it harder for her, and because he was leaving this world with its human relationships. That John was able to take her into his home shows that he was able to afford a house and may have had other means of employment and family. It also shows that John did not give up all of his property as some say we should do.

(Mary at cross- William Blake 1805)

Friday, May 6, 2011

5/7/11 John 21:20-23

20 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?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers 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 the Evangelist- Greek icon 18th century)

Thoughts: "The disciple whom Jesus loved" is a title clothed in secrecy.  Yet it is a secret that everyone knows. It is a title humble, yet proud.  It is humble in that the writer is in a sense, anonymous.  Yet it is amazingly proud, yet true that John could be so assured of Christ's love.  In some ways, to make the claim that Christ loves us and we can actually know God- is an astounding and bold claim.  But it is a claim confirmed by faith combined with the knowledge of who Christ is.  To say that there is any meaning or hope in life is also a bold claim.  John was the last of the disciples, perhaps the last eyewitness to Christ's earthly ministry.  Jesus asks Peter not to compare, but to find contentment in God's will. 

Prayer: May I live assured of your love, content with your will for me.

John Calvin Abridged: In Peter, we have an example of the danger and harm of curiosity, when we forget to find peace in our own duty to God (Gal. 6:5).  This is a reproof to those who would look all around in curiosity.  We all face different trials and times of ease, but we should be concerned what God calls us to face.  Christ cuts him short by reminding he must face his own calling, and he has no right to inquire what other people will do. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

5/6/11 John 21:18-19 Peter's death

18 Very truly I tell you, 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.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

(Peter's Crucifixion, Carravagio)

Thoughts: John was the last apostle alive.  He remembered this conversation with Jesus about Peter's demise as well as his own.  Strong tradition says that the Apostle Peter was killed 67 AD by Nero at the site of Nero Circus Maximus.  Today that is the site of St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world.  Though Jesus was restoring Peter, he knew that Peter would live with the guilt of his denials until his last breath.  Tradition says Peter requested to be crucified upside down as he was not worthy to die rightside up as his Lord died.  But Jesus commanded Peter here to not only feed His sheep, but also to follow Him. 

Prayer:  Give me grace, Lord to follow you no matter what. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

5/5/11 National Day of Prayer John 16:23,24

23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

(Albrecht Durer Praying Hands- 15th century)

Thoughts: Jesus was about to go to heaven.  The asking of the disciples would change.  They wouldn't ask the physical Jesus directly for advice or for help.  Instead, they would ask the Father in the name of His Son.  Prayer is not just about meditating or lowering our blood pressure.  It is talking to God.  But we have an "in" with God- we know His Son.  On this National Day of Prayer, we are called to pray.  But to whom and how?  Jesus said for his disciples to pray to His Father in His name and then they will receive- that their joy may be complete. 

Prayer: Hear my prayer, O Lord. Incline your ear to us and grant us your peace. 

John Calvin Abridged: It is a wicked defiling of the name of God when we leave Christ out of view, but approach the throne of God.  If we believe that God will give us whatever we ask in the name of His Son, then we will not go here and there looking for other advocates. When We pray in His name, we take Him as our advocate to labor faithfully on our behalf that we might find favor with God- even though we may not expressly mention his name with our lips.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5/4/11 John 21:16-17, Pastor's Work

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 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.”
(Peter restored, Raphael)

Thoughts: The opposite of denial is love.  Peter denied that he even knew Christ.  Now Jesus asked beyond just knowledge to love.  The question for each of us is not whether we know there is a God or know that Christ exists- or even is God-in-the-flesh.  The question is do we love Him with all our hear, soul, mind, and strength?

Prayer:  Help me, Lord, to know you more.  Help me, Lord to love you and be ever-growing in love with you.

John Calvin Abridged: "Feed" means to govern.  Christ is the only true shepherd (Jn. 10) as He is the only true food for the soul.  People are given the term "Pastor" as they govern under the Head who is Christ.  Christ's pastors are called not to feed anyone- but to feed His own sheep- His own people. While pastors should try to gather all in, and cannot easily distinguish between the wolves and the sheep, their labor will only be effective to those who are elect. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

5/3/11 John 21:15

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

(Peter Paul Rubens 1616)

Thoughts: What are the "these" here- that tempted Peter?  It probably was the food that they had just finished eating, or the fish- (and fishing profession) that he was dropping his nets for to follow Christ.  Jesus was asking him if he could leave his fishing profession to enter into the calling of a shepherd, a pastor.  As he had dropped his nets (Mt. 4:19, Lk. 5) to follow Christ, now he was dropping his nets to go into all the world feeding the sheep and spreading the good news.  Christ calls all of us to not love the world more than Him.  His constant question to us is, "Do you love me more than the things of this world?"  It is a call to walk by faith and not by sight.

Prayer: Help me to lvoe you, Lord with my hwole heart, sould, mind, and strength. 

John Calvin Abridged:  The Evangelist now relates how Peter was restored to the rank from which he had fallen.  He had been made an apostle along with Judas, but had abandoned his post. Peter was restored to give himself confidence, and so that the Gospel would not be despised.  The office of feeding is laborious and troublesome.  Those who are called to govern the Church are asked to love Christ.  For without the love of Christ, we can do nothing. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

5-2-11 John 21:10-14

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught. 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

(Joachim Beuekelaer 1563 Antwerp- J Paul Getty)
Thoughts: How many resurrection appearances are associated with the breaking of bread.  The two walking to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until He broke bread with them.  Luke 24 speaks of Jesus appearing to the disciples, telling them he was not a ghost, and then asking them for something to eat (24:41).  Ironically, some think we eat only to live.  But the scriptures speak of the resurrected Christ eating and the great heavenly banquet (Lk. 14:15; 22:16,30; Rev. 19:9).  There appears to be a more eternal purpose for eating than just physical survival.  Recognition and fellowship are important reasons for eating.  Communion (Eucharist) are fellowship meals more than meals for physical nourishment. 

Be Known to Us in Breaking Bread (Song- Youtube lyrics):

O Thou Mysterious Bread (Wesley's song):

John Calvin Abridged: The fishes they caught were caught quickly, and not by their own effort.  So we call the bread we eat "Our bread"  yet we ask God for it.  The disciples didn't ask Christ of his identity because they were embarrassed to do so and did not want to dishonor Him.  This was the seventh time Christ appeared, but the Evangelist grouped them into three times (one for each day).