Thursday, April 30, 2009

John, chapter 6 part 2

As a writer, I like using metaphors. When I do an article at my other site, Hammer & Rails, I like to use funny metaphors that end up usually being wild comparisons involving football or basketball. Here, metaphors still play an important role. Jesus often taught using metaphors, but they often don’t have much meaning unless we fully understand them. There is no humor if no one understands my funny metaphor. It is often not the fault of the speaker if his audience does not understand the metaphor, either.

That is what we are dealing with here in the second part of John 6. We see Jesus teaching in the synagogue about how is the bread of life. The focus on the sermon is where he gets his power from, yet those in the audience did not understand what he was talking about. They could not see past their human limitations to the heart of the message. In a way, they took Him literally instead of thinking deeper into the meaning of His words.

35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

41At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" – John 6:35-42

This is a large passage, but it illustrates my point very well. Jesus is trying to speak of his divine nature here. He talks of where He came from and why He has the power to do what He is doing. His audience, however, doesn’t look deeper. They just see him as a man, and in their human minds they view Him as the son of Joseph, not the Son of God. They may have seen some of his miracles to the point, but they still did not believe. It was extraordinary, and even blasphemous, for someone to claim they were the Son of God. Unlike a regular man, however, Jesus could back it up.

As this chapter says, many disciples ended up leaving Jesus because He asked them to walk a harder road. I don’t see where that road is difficult. He simply asked them to believe in Him so they might find eternal life. What can make it hard, however, is that we have to break from the norms of society in order to follow Him. We have to think for ourselves, look deeper, and seek meaning from the Word of Life. If you listen to the world, the Bible is a dusty book of stories. The world is also a place where it becomes easier every day to not think for yourself.

I am not that type of person. I know there is more to this life. I have seen it because of my relationship with Christ. I see people that walk through life with their eyes closed, happy to not think for themselves and grow and it drives me crazy. This very chapter shows us that Christ wants us to grow with Him. He wants us to constantly, even dangerously, seek out knowledge for ourselves. If we’re not growing we might as well be dead.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

John, Chapter 6 part 1

My apologies for the sporadic publishing schedule of late. My work schedule has been incredibly hectic and it doesn't allow me to publish until the evenings, at least for the next few days. As a result, I haven't been able to write what I have wanted to write lately, but I do want to publish when I can. When we left off, we were talking about the book of John. Chapter 6 continues the author's theme of concentrating on Jesus' divine nature by focusing on the miracles He performed. The two that we see in the first part of this chapter are the feeding of the five thousand and Him walking on water.

 5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

 7Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

 8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

 10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. – John 6:5-11

Notice the attitude the disciples took here. Philip immediately thought it was impossible to feed this multitude. Andrew saw a possible way, but he was still skeptical. This reflects the usual attitudes of each disciple, but Jesus uses this as an opportunity for teaching. That Andrew had some faith went a long way. He helped pave the way for the solutions by finding the boy with the fishes and loaves. Though he didn't know how Jesus was going to solve the problem, He knew that He could solve it.

I find myself in need of a similar sign at the moment. I have my own overwhelming problems facing me at the moment. I have no idea how they are going to be solved, either. I've been searching for an answer, but I keep finding none in my own capacity. Essentially, I feel like I need to take my own fishes and loaves, that being the gifts God has given me, and give them back in search of a solution.

When it comes to walking on water, we have yet another Jesus triumphing in the face of a lack of faith. Here, the disciples were fearful until Jesus performed a miracle right in front of them. To me, that would be enough to never doubt him again. Unfortunately, we see that the disciples will fail to have faith again many times.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

John, chapter 5

Today's lesson focuses on the hypocrisy of mankind. Whenever I read about the Pharisees I can't help but get angry. These were people that were supposedly men of God. They were responsible for leading the faith of Israel, yet they were corrupt and blind. They led thousands, if not millions of people, yet they were such a poor example that they chose to persecute and eventually kill the very Son of God in their midst. They were so focused on their own power and greed that they failed to recognize the very reason they held that power in the first place. A prime example is the story that is the focus of today's lesson.

7"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." – John 5: 7-10

Are you serious? I cannot believe the short-sightedness here. Jesus performs a miracle, proving that he has divine power, and they are more concerned that this guy is carrying a mat on the Sabbath. Sure it is fine for them to conspire to kill someone (grossly ignoring that little 'Thou Shalt not kill' rule they believe in), but how dare someone perform work on the Sabbath. They are ignoring one of the Ten Commandments to come down heavily enforcing another. I can't believe the ridculousness in this. Jesus even had a great answer for them.

19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. – John 5:19-23

This is how we know the authority that Jesus carried. It came directly from the Father. He wouldn't have been able to do anything that he did without the authority of the Father. This is where the fully god, yet fully man paradox comes in. We know that Christ was not boasting in these statements. He is fulfilling prophesy by simply stating where His power came from. He backs it up too, and there was nothing the Pharisees could do to stop it. As we know, even the grave couldn't contain Him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

John, chapter 4 part 2

Even the smallest conversations can have far-reaching impact. I have inherited my mother’s gift for speaking to random strangers. She is the type of person that will talk your ear off. I am a little different in that my conversations are shorter, but I believe in brightening each person’s day with a joke or something. I talk to clerks at stores, ticket-takers, you name it. I try to make them laugh when their jobs are often pretty bland. I say this because Jesus was a similar type of person. He liked to talk to people, often when other didn’t want him to talk to them. Be it the Pharisees or his own disciples, people often didn’t see why Jesus wanted to engage in such conversation. We saw an example of that yesterday with his conversation at the well, and it continues today.

39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.
42They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." – John 4:39-41

This is all the result of one conversation. It is the simplest form of human interaction. Jesus did not have the internet to spread His ministry around the world in an instant. He wasn’t a blogger that could post His thoughts and wait for comments to roll in. He was someone who wanted to speak with each person on an individual, one-on-one level. That attitude often led to many being saved because they kept their ears open to listen. This is what we see here with the Samaritans. They were actually shunned by most of Israel’s society, but Jesus went directly to them. As a result, many were saved and the point that Jesus came to serve for ALL mankind was made.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

John, chapter 4 part 1

There are people in this world that would disapprove of the marriage I have. My wife and I are both intelligent, college-educated people. We both love sports. We both love traveling, specifically to Miami. We both are hard workers and have a relationship that is on solid footing with Christ at the center. Why would people not approve of our marriage? Some would look down on us because ours is technically an inter-racial marriage. I am about as white as one can be, and she is Hispanic. Her parents are from Colombia, and move here before she was born. Never mind that we are still human beings. Simply because there is a very minor difference that neither of us even gives a thought to, some would say our marriage is unholy. Do you not see the ridiculousness in this?

I reference this because in the first part of John we have a similar situation. Jesus is sitting by a well in Galilee and begins a conversation with a Samaritan woman. As they start this conversation, this is what first comes out of the woman’s mouth:

9The 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.) – John 4:9

This is proof enough to refute all those who believe Jesus came just for them. At the time, it was a major taboo for Jesus to even be near this woman, let alone speak to her. Did He care? No! Though Jesus gives a great message of Salvation to this woman, who was a grave sinner in that society because of her adultery, it is a message that relates to all of us. Jesus did not die for just those who follow a certain thing, or have a certain skin color. He died for EVERYONE. This is not a difficult concept to understand, but it amazing to me that there are many groups that fail to see this simple point.

Monday, April 20, 2009

John, chapter 3 part 2

I apologize for missing Friday’s message, but I wasn’t in a place where I could access the internet and post. I do feel refreshed after a very encouraging message over the weekend, however. While attending church yesterday I was reminded that staying on the correct path is not something that is done with grand gestures. We have to do lots of little things in order to make sure we are on the correct path. Even though we have a goal, without constant little checks for direction we can easily get off the path we want to be on. By checking in little by little we see all the little guideposts that make sure we stay on the right path.

That relates somewhat today to the second part of John 3. When we left off, Jesus was teaching Nicodemus about the Light of the World. This section has some of the most quoted verses in all of Scripture because it essentially outlines Jesus’ entire mission. The second part deals with the testimony of John the Baptist. In this day, John the Baptist was viewed as a powerful prophet. He was a man that held a lot of earthly power, but he also knew his limits. He did not seek to hold on to his congregation because he knew it was not his. Once he checked and saw that Christ had arrived and begun His public ministry, John the Baptist knew his ministry was essentially done.

27To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29The 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. 30He must become greater; I must become less. – John 3:27-30

This is an important lesson in humility. John the Baptist saw the signs along his journey that told him it was time to step aside for Christ. He had been a leader, now it was time for him to become a follower. Few people, myself included, see things this clearly, however. That is why all the little things, like daily time in the Scriptures, prayer, and worship are so important. Those things are what keep us grounded and on the right path, like constant GPS directions. Occasionally we get these grand, John the Baptist-type revelations. Most of the time, however, we have to rely on the little things to keep us on the right path so we end up where we are supposed to be.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

John, chapter 3 part 1

The first half of John 3 deserves its own separate entry. In it, we have Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. This may be one of the most important passages of the Word because it explains the entire argument for Christ in just 20 verses. We have this argument from Jesus Himself too. This is not some speech from a prophet. It is straight from the source about why we have a need for Christ and how to gain salvation through the Spirit.

5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' – John 3:5-7

This is a very important setup here. Jesus tells us that we cannot be reconciled of ourselves. I have seen this in my own life. Even though I try to deepen my walk with Christ, I am frustrated with failure because of my flesh. Inherently, I have no hope of saving myself because I am born of flesh. The part of me that has been reborn of the Spirit has been reconciled, however. When we are born again we are different. Part of the struggle from that point forward comes from the fact that we are still human as long as we are a part of this world. We can still fall, and will fall. Perfection cannot be attained this side of heaven, but once we recognize Christ and are born again in His forgiveness we see that. We then act in faith that He can achieve much in our failure.

19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. – John 3:19-20

Even though I have accepted Christ, I still fear what His light will expose in my life. We all do. As is explained here, it is our human nature to still keep things hidden in darkness. The beauty of Christ’s forgiveness is that once exposed to His light, that which we keep in darkness is forgiven. He knows we are frail, weak creatures. He knows we have failures. Still, He offers His forgiveness. He takes what is impure and purifies it. That is the essence of of being born again because we then can be reconciled of our sins.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John, chapter 2

I need the Word today. Before I even opened my Bible (or, in this case, brought it up on the screen) I knew I needed some encouragement from the Word. I feel like I have made some short term bad decisions the past couple of days. They aren’t major mistakes and in the end mean very little, but I tend to let these things eat at me until I think about nothing else but those mistakes.

Today’s word continues in the theme that John laid out of Jesus’ divinity. We see Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine and we also see him clearing the temple of money changers and thieves. In both, the focus is Jesus’ divine glory. We see that Jesus does both with confidence and authority. This authority is incredibly important because He needed to have that backing in order to pull off these audacious stunts.

And they were audacious. Turning water into wine isn’t exactly a common job skill. As far as clearing the temple, that was about as bold as Jesus ever got in human form. He stood up to the authorities that were allegedly in charge of His Father’s house and coldly corrected what they were doing wrong. WE can learn from this by boldly following in His teachings.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

John, chapter 1 part 2

Unlike the other gospels, John does not have a record of Jesus as a child. We saw yesterday that John the Baptist and the author John concentrated on pointing out Jesus’ divinity. We had yet to see Jesus make His entrance in this gospel, so to speak. We see that entrance in today’s passage, and the author of this Gospel does not spare any expense in introducing him.

29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." – John 1:29-31

There is something to be said for a great introduction. Some memorable ones include, “A 6’6” shooting guard from North Carolina, number 23, Michael Jordan!” It is simple, but the way it is said pays great homage tot eh greatest basketball player of all time. This introduction is not simple. John wastes few words in describing Jesus and why He was there. John the Baptist was a pretty popular man at the time, but he never pretended that he was above Christ.

While we have seen other gospels that talk about Jesus’ humanity, this gospel continues to speak of His divinity. We need to see both sides, because they are critical in understanding Christ’s message. Jesus could not have died for the sins of the world if He wasn’t both. We needed a human sacrifice because we are human, yet Only He had the power to take on the sins of the world and absolve them through that sacrifice.

The remainder of this chapter speaks of Jesus gathering the first of his disciples. While John glosses over the details a bit, the selection of the twelve is important because they were just as human as you or I. They were not among society’s elite. Many of them were uneducated and indeed outside of mainstream society. This is further testimony to Christ’s divinity because he accomplished so much with human frailty.

Monday, April 13, 2009

John, chapter 1 part 1

This morning is interesting. It is the first time I have turned to the Scriptures in two weeks. Because of my vacation, I stepped away from the Word and did not keep up with my devotions. I did not realize how much I needed to spend regular time in the Word until these past two weeks. As we step into the final of the four gospels I see just how important it is to stay in that walk with the Word. It is refreshing to be back even though I was burned out before.

Today, we step back into the Word with the John chapter 1. This is a unique gospel, as its author takes on a different tone than the other three of Matthew, mark, and Luke. In this gospel, John seeks to present Christ as the beginning of all things. It still tells the story of His life on earth, but it focuses primarily on his identity and the fact that he is equal with God. In this, we are shown our need for salvation and through which that salvation may come.

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:10-14

John refers to Christ here as the Word. We tend to think of the Word as the Bible itself, but this is still an apt description for Christ. I say this because the Word is a living, breathing thing that teaches and comforts us. Christ is merely the Word personified. He is the ultimate source of Truth and he literally became the promise of the Word when he came to earth to die for our sins. He is the beginning of the Word as well as the ultimate fulfillment of its promise. That is what John is trying to tell us here.