John 21 B

I liked Carly’s thoughts on 21:22 and our tendency to get caught up in God’s dealings with others.

Every time I read this story, my attention goes to the disciple’s immediate return to life before Jesus. After they see the empty tomb, they just go home. A few days later, “Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.” (3)

They have spent the last three years of their lives with Jesus, their Rabbi and Messiah. Then He died, and now He’s alive? Thomas just touched His scars.

What does it mean? What do they do? It’s overwhelming, they default back to what they would have done three years ago before their worlds were turned upside down.

Peter is feeling especially blue. Jesus is back, and doesn’t He know about the cowardly thing Peter did: denying Him three times?

This brings me to another thing I ponder, which is, why does Jesus say “feed my sheep” or “tend my lambs” after each assertion of love? Maybe it’s to encourage Peter to know and remember, you’ve got a new job. Stop fishing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with fishing, it’s just that encountering Jesus, being called by Him and knowing Him, means “same old same old” is over. Who He is and what He’s done makes a difference.

What difference has He made in your life? We start Deuteronomy tomorrow.

-Bethany

John 19-20 B

I love the intimate details we get from the book of John. Jesus handing off his mother to be cared of by John hours before he dies? I could weep. Joseph isn’t mentioned, and considering the age difference between Mary and him, it’s safe to assume he has already passed away. Since Mary is most likely widowed and about to lose her oldest son, she is culturally doomed. Jesus works towards the big picture (redeeming humanity) while also deeply caring about redeeming his mother. This is our God: he sees and cares about the big and small things. You can count on him for this. He cares about the outcome of your soul, but he also cares about the job interview you’re nervous about.

I noticed that Jesus repeatedly greeted the disciples with “peace be with you!”. They were the first words out of his mouth when he magically appeared among them.

I looked up “peace be with you”, or shalom, and it’s described as complete well-being. Wholeness.

Take a minute and reflect on this: Jesus defeated sin, sorrow, suffering and death, and came back for us. He doesn’t come back, finger-pointing and shaming. He comes back to his people and proclaims ”peace be with you”. He comes back and extends wholeness to their brokenness. 

Are you taking him up on this offer?

 

-Carly

 

John 17-18 B

As I read today, I couldn’t seem to escape how often the word “world” was used. Upon further investigation, I find out, yes, John really loves using this word. He uses the Greek word “kosmos” 57 times in this gospel! That’s the most it’s used in any NT book, with second place being a tie between 1 Corinthians and (you guessed it) 1 John, with 17 uses! Pretty amazing when you consider 1 Corinthians is three times as long as 1 John. He loves saying it, repeating it, emphasizing it.

When I think of “the world” I am prone to imagine “the secular world”, or Gentiles, all nations, plants and animals, media, pop culture or Hellenization (back then). However, when I read, starting in chapter 15, I see Jesus saying “the world”, but using it and it’s pronoun they, to describe things the religious leaders were doing or would do (ie. rejecting, persecuting, throwing out of the synagogue). It suddenly felt very personal. They were the powers of the disciple’s world. These were the people who could really shake up their lives and cast them out, but these were not secular groups.

I found that the word “kosmos” most literally means “order”. It was starting to feel more like a reference to existing power structures, the way things are, and not a nod to plants, animals or Greeks.

As this theme manages to float through the following chapters, 18:35-36 started to pack a different punch:

 “Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief of priests delivered You to me; what have You done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.'”

What’s that? He switches up the wordage at the end, there, and doesn’t say kosmos! Now He’s referencing just how outside the boarders of Israel His jurisdiction goes.

He’s might also be saying, “Don’t be confused, this power structure is not my power structure.” Maybe I could even go on speculating that He’s making a dig at the whole thing by saying, “If my servants were from this power structure, they would be out there fighting, but they’re not, because they’re not from this structure either.”

The kingdom of Jesus doesn’t need to practice violence to assert dominance. 

In fact, Jesus is about to ascend to the right hand of the Father by absorbing violence and not fighting back. He’s about to receive the name above all names through humility–the highest kind–laying down His own life.

This totally changes the way I think about being “in and not of” the world. I might live within these power structures, but I don’t govern myself by their rules. I don’t have to fight or struggle in the way it does.

The disciples found themselves in a world of laws, rituals, looking WAAY DOWN on others, and people who could shut the doors of the temple in their face. They would very soon lose good standing with this world. By way of contrast, Jesus first revealed Himself as Messiah to a Samaritan woman who already had that world shutting the doors of the temple in her face. And what did Jesus say to her? The Father is looking for people like her.

Jesus said a lot of things that went straight over everyone in this world’s head. They couldn’t trap Him in their games, because He was on a whole other level. While we still, from 2000 years away, have a hard time perceiving all Jesus said and meant, we can start to piece together the otherness–the holiness–of this new kingdom.

Thank God it’s the One without end.

-Bethany

John 15-16 B

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” 15:10

I’m not a very good friend. Or at least, I wasn’t before I started following Jesus. I’d be pretty selfish, I usually gossiped easily and would choose whatever boy I had a crush on over my friends if it came down to it. But the more I got to know Jesus, the more I realized being Christ-like means being a good friend.

In 15:10-15, He urges the disciples to love each other unconditionally and sacrificially, pouring out their lives for one another and serving each other whole-heartedly. Friendship does not take a back seat to marriage. From what we can tell in the Bible, Jesus was unmarried. He reflected God’s love through his relationship with the disciples constantly!

What does it look like to be a friend like Jesus?

  1. Share meals together. This requires intention, a freed up schedule and expanding the grocery budget a little. Keep it simple, but it’s not going to happen on it’s own. Save room in your schedule so that if someone invites you over, you’re available. And extend invites as well! Jesus always had a way of extending hospitality even though he was always the guest in other people’s homes.
  2. Celebrate with them. Jesus was regularly attending weddings, meals, festivals, etc.
  3. Mourn with them. Being a good friend means meeting them in their sorrows, and grieving their loss alongside them.
  4. Be generous with your time. Jesus was with his people, he took opportunities when he had them, he asked thought-provoking questions and told good stories.
  5. He prioritized his relationship with God. Jesus regularly slipped off to pray or be alone. He sabbathed, fasted and rested. Being a godly friend requires healthy disciplines.

Who in your life has modeled godly friendship to you? Take a minute and let them know! And thank God for them. 

 

-Carly

John 13-14 B

The two thoughts which sandwich the washing of the disciples feet seemed significant to me this time around.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.” (13:3-4‬)

I think we’re supposed to notice Jesus’ confidence in who He was and where He was going. This gives Him the powerful foundation to choose the position as a servant. I think this is what Paul picks up on and mentions in one of my favorite passages, Philippians 2:5-7.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

It also ties in with the application Jesus gives his disciples as soon as He’s done it.

“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” (13:14-15‬)

It wasn’t just a one-off, special thing He decided to do for His friends before dying, He was creating an example of humility and service. He even goes on to say that love will be what makes people able to identify His disciples.

In order to follow this example, truly, I think we need to be anchored in an understanding of who we are and where we’re going.

Becoming a servant, or prescribing servanthood to others, can be a recipe for disaster if pride, insecurity or purposelessness seeps in.

To best love and serve one another, we need to get our identity sorted. Do you know who you are? Do you know why you exist in the time and place God placed you? Ask Him about it today.

-Bethany

John 11-12 B

Something I love about God is how much he hates death.

“When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. ‘Where have you put him?’ he asked them.” 11:33-34

I’ve heard some (shame-based) suggestions over the years that the anger Jesus expressed is because his friends doubted him and his ability to save Lazarus. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Jesus was irritated by the lack of faith in people who should know better. But after poking around a few commentaries, and feeling more confident about how God relates to his people these days, I don’t see that. I see someone advocating for his mortal people, foreshadowing his plan to conquer death.

Jesus, emotionally moved, storms past his wailing people, brought to their knees by grief. “Roll the stone aside”, he orders. “Lazarus, come out!”

This is our God; He commands the dead to come alive. 

About 10 years ago, after a good friend of mine died, I struggled to engage with certain worship songs. I was uncomfortable with the lyrics from “Mighty to Save”. Yes, I believed Jesus could move mountains, and yes, he conquered the grave. But why didn’t he keep my troubled, young friend alive past his 20th birthday? Could he? Yes. Did he? No.

I remember asking him this when the song played during a worship service I was in. Still raw from mourning, I was overwhelmed when God vividly answered me, I didn’t save Michael from taking his own life, I saved Michael from death by sending him Jesus. Even though he was riddled with hurt and addiction, Michael loved Jesus. God is mighty to save, and I am confident that ultimately, he rescued Michael from death.

Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?’ “ 11:25

How has God overcome death in your life? 

We all hate death. How can you, in a holy manner, defy it? 

 

-Carly

 

 

John 9-10 B

Carly’s reflections on these resounded with me as well.

This blind guy ended up paying a strange price for being healed. His family became surrounded by a controversy they would have preferred to stay out of, and he was cast out.

There is so much Mosaic Law principles Jesus seems to be attempting to unteach. His disciples have been indoctrinated to assume someone’s sin is directly responsible for this man’s physical ailment (9:2). It was a major part of Israel’s understanding, post exile, that bad things happen to bad people.

This was because they knew the Exile was a direct promise of punishment from Deuteronomy 27, stating what would inevitably happen if they ignored YHWH. After the siege of Jerusalem, and the long road to rebuild after Exile, the Jews kind of over corrected. They weren’t going to make this mistake twice. Obeying the LORD would equal blessing, and disobeying would equal curses. While in one moment a child wasn’t punished for “the sins of their father”, a mans consequences could result in a generational curse. See how this is confusing?

What does Jesus say?

“it was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (9:3)

I think it’s funny how I can habitually pray for God to be glorified in my life, and then later, be annoyed and feel He’s making some object lesson out of my suffering.

There’s the flip side of that too.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (10:10b-11)

While it can sometimes feel like we sacrifice our lives to make God look good–the hero in our stories–the truth is, He sacrificed Himself to give us abundant life.

Mind blown.

Don’t succumb to the philosophy that knowing Jesus is only beneficial on judgement day. We miss a huge thread of Scripture if we don’t see how it nurtures us now to know Him.

What does this bring to mind in your own life?

-Bethany