Through the Bible, August 13

Reading: John 21

Summary: John finishes his gospel with the account of a resurrection of Jesus found only in his Gospel, which is typical. Ample space is devoted to the restoration of the broken relationship of Peter with Jesus—such a stark contrast to Judas’ failed response to his own failure.

Devotional Thought:

What’s My Job?

Sometimes a person can take on more responsibility than is really theirs. We try to fix the world. We try to correct the mistakes of others.  We want everyone else to be just as we are.

Now it is true that we do have the responsibility to “reprove” the unfruitful deeds of darkness and restore any brother who may be caught in any transgression (Eph. 5:11; Gal. 6:1).  Our highest priority and greatest good, though, is much simpler.

After Jesus spoke directly to Peter about his future Peter wanted to know about John and what would happen with him. In essence, Jesus told Peter not to worry about John but take care of his own responsibility.  “Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (John 21:22).

There is it. Our greatest responsibility is to follow Jesus.  It’s so easy for our attention and interest and concern to be focused on lots of other people and in all kinds of directions.  Really, it should only be for one thing; that I follow Jesus.

Through the Bible, August 12

Reading: John 19-20

Summary: The deed is finally done—in John’s record at least. The ruling religious authorities finally eliminate Jesus, or so they think, as His crucifixion is accomplished. The reality, though, is that it’s not done at all. As a matter of fact, they have only played into the hands of God’s eternal plan (see Acts 2:23). Because what appeared finished to them, is really only the beginning. God will raise His Son from the dead! This truly changes everything.

Devotional Thought:

Consider John

Think about the apostle John for just a moment.  Even in the two chapters of today’s reading, we learn what a remarkable disciple this was.

  • He’s called “the disciple whom He loved” (19:26). This isn’t the first or only time, but what an insight into this man’s close relationship with Jesus (see also 13:23; 20:2; etc.)
  • He is the only one of the apostles to make an appearance at the crucifixion (19:26). We know of no other who braved an appearance.
  • He, along with Peter, immediately ran to the tomb when Mary reported it to be empty (20:3).
  • He is the first disciple to believe without having yet seen the resurrected Christ (20:9).

Just as John says there were many other signs performed by Jesus not recorded in this gospel (20:30), there are many other notable and admirable features of John’s discipleship not recorded in just these two chapters.  These, though, are sufficient in themselves to impress us with this “son of thunder”.  No wonder Jesus loved and trusted him.  His example encourages and inspires us to follow Jesus more closely, to love Him more dearly, and to believe in Him more deeply.

Through the Bible, August 11

Reading: John 17-18

Summary: Jesus’ final words for the apostles from the upper room are His great prayer (17).  This is often referred to as his “High Priestly” prayer.  If any of His prayers deserve the title “Lord’s Prayer” this is the one.

Next, John begins to lay out the events of Jesus’ arrest and trial.

Devotional Thought:

Glory to God

You already know this, but God deserves praise and glory.  It’s what He continually receives in heaven.  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11).  “Glory to God in the highest” was the angel’s opening line in announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:14).  The Psalms are absolutely filled with the same message, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. (Psa. 146:1-2).

We know that, but do we know this, how we are to praise God?

Apparently, one way is to say it.  The Bible itself says it a lot and records these words often on the lips of men.   But God being praised is not measured by how often or how loud one might say it.

Jesus praised God, obviously.  How so?  “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).  There it is.  God is glorified when we do what He expects us to do.  It’s just like Jesus is Lord, not when we call Him that but when we do what He says (Luke 6:46).

What is the work God’s given us to do?  When Jesus was asked that specific question, He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29).  Believing in Him always entails our obedience (John 3:36), just as loving Him is impossible unless we obey Him (John 14:15).

So, glorify God?  He deserves nothing but.  Whether or not it happens comes back to my own willingness to do His work.  Can we say, “I have glorified You having accomplished the work You gave me to do”?

Through the Bible, August 10

Reading: John 15-16

Summary: Jesus continues His time in the upper room with the apostles giving them instruction and great promises in light of His impending departure.

Included in all of this are several statements regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Devotional Thought:

Your Favorite Picture of God

         What is your favorite picture of God?  Maybe as father?  The loving shepherd?  King?  Sovereign Lord?  Maybe it’s something else.  The truth is, there are many wonderful ways to think about and know God.

It would probably take a long time of asking before anyone would say their favorite picture of God is as vinedresser.  Yes, vinedresser.

In Jesus’ famous vine and the branches parable, He begins with “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).   What does the vinedresser do?  “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (v. 2).

God deals with all the branches (Christians).  The unfruitful ones He gets rid of and the fruitful ones He prunes.  What exactly is that pruning process?  We may not know a lot of specifics about that but we do know pruning has to do with cutting away and removing, sometimes substantial amounts.  And the pruning isn’t arbitrary.  It helps the branch to be even more fruitful.  For that to happen, some things just have to go.

So what is it that needs pruned from my life to allow me to become even more fruitful?  It may be attitudes, habits, time wastes, people of negative influence, or who knows what else.  Another question is, how will the vinedresser go about the pruning process?  That one might make us nervous.  Pruning may not be a pleasant experience.  But no matter how difficult it may be it certainly better than the outcome for unfruitful branches—to be cut off, gathered up and thrown into the fire.

Are you ready to say, “Lord, prune me!”

Through the Bible, August 9

Reading: John 13-14

Summary: One of the key features in the Gospel of John is the concentration he places on Jesus’ time with the apostles in the upper room. Starting in chapter 13 and continuing through 17 the focus of attention is primarily on Jesus’ teaching these men—preparing them for His departure, which, despite His explicit explanations, they were not anticipating.

Devotional Thought:

Being Without Jesus

We’ve all experienced being without; without money, without time, without food, without water, without air, and so on.  None of those are pleasant or desirable circumstances.

Jesus knew the time was coming soon when His disciples would be without Him.  “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

So much of John’s account of the upper room is devoted to Jesus’ preparation of His disciples for His departure (chapters 13-17).  He knew this change would be dramatic and challenging.  Basically, His assurance to them was that though He would be gone physically, they would never be without Him. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).

Certainly Jesus fulfilled that promise and His further promises of going to prepare a place, His return to take them to Himself, the coming of the Helper—the Holy Spirit—and all He would do gave great assurance to these men (14:1-3, 26-27; 15:26-27; 16:13-14).

And we, though not apostles and having never been in Jesus’ presence like they, are not left out of this.  Jesus’ assurance is to be with us always, “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  Our assurance is that God provides for us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

Being without Jesus is only true for us if we choose it to be so.

Through the Bible, August 8

Reading: John 11-12

Summary: Among the incidents found only in John’s Gospel is the raising Lazarus from the dead. It’s remarkable that the others make no mention of this marvelous event.  One of the important points to notice is the affect this miracle had on the masses and that on the religious leaders.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the Passover knowing that His public ministry was all coming to a climax.  We’ve mentioned previously the “timing” aspect of Jesus’ work.  He has told people not to tell others about Him or stated that His time had not yet come (see John 2:4; 7:6, etc.).  But now, in Jerusalem, He states, “The hour has come…” (12:23).

Devotional Thought:

If Only

We can be pretty presumptuous, can’t we?  We think we know what God should do.  We might not come out and say that, but don’t sometimes wonder why God doesn’t address certain situations in certain ways?  Or do we get upset with God because of how some event or incident turned out in our own lives?

Whenever we get upset with God, no matter to what extent or degree, it’s an indication of our thinking we know better than God.  That’s cold, but it’s also true.

When Jesus came to Bethany after a two-day delay upon hearing of Lazarus’ serious illness and knowing his friend was now dead, Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).

To Martha’s way of thinking, preventing the death of her brother was what Jesus should have done.  We can hardly blame her for thinking that way.  But, obviously, she was not correct in that.  Of course, we have the benefit of knowing how the events would play out and the emotional insulation of being apart from the situation—hey, it’s not my brother we’re talking about.

It’s more difficult to see and understand when we’re the ones immersed in the pain and distress of our own life’s troubles.  But the fact remains, we don’t know what is best and we really don’t know exactly what God should do in our situation.  Our knowledge is quite limited and our thinking is driven by our emotions.

When our mind starts down the path of “If only God would…”, we should stop.  If God would do what I think He should do, then God would be no bigger or greater than me.  I need a bigger God than that.

Through the Bible, Week 2 Introduction

Week 2: Jesus’ Ministry (John 11-21)

August 8-14

         John gives great emphasis to the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Though the book contains 21 chapters, John tells of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem for the so-called “Passion Week” (the week leading up to His death) in the 12th chapter.  So, very nearly half of the Gospel deals with this one week.  Not only that, but the majority of that information focuses on Jesus’ discussion with the apostles in the upper room on the occasion of the Last Supper (chapters 13-17).

Through the Bible, August 7

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the regularly scheduled “Catch Up” day for the first week of August.  If needed use it to go back and cover some readings where you may have fallen behind—it happens.  Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

  1. In one respect the Gospel of John is the most simple of them all. It’s vocabulary and grammar are very basic.  When students of New Testament Greek begin working with the actual text, very frequently John’s Gospel is the place they begin.  In another respect, it is also the most profound in terms of the great themes and issues it addresses.
  2. Throughout this Gospel John refers to the miracles of Jesus as “signs.” Note Acts 2:22 that mentions the “miracles, wonders and signs” which Jesus did.  The other Gospels use the term “miracle.”  The significance of the word John uses is that it points to a reality about the one who performed it.  Just like a business’s sign is intended to point customers to the reality—the business itself.
  3. The term “Jews” is found in John more so than in any of the other 3 Gospels combined. Here it appears 70 times while only five in Matthew, six in Mark, and five in Luke (and most of these references in the Synoptics are in the phrase, “King of the Jews”).  In John, the term is used in the historical sense, for the ones who rejected Jesus’ claims, and also of the rulers who opposed Jesus.  Each occurrence must be studied individually for a sense of the term in that context.

Devotional Thought:

Is The Emphasis Right?

Everyone knows about John 3:16.  It is arguably the best-known verse in all of Scripture and it’s hard to argue with its unofficial title as “the golden text” of the Bible.

For all of the attention focused on this passage, one might wonder if the one that follows, John 3:17, is neglected?  “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Notice the emphasis of this passage, which also is God’s emphasis as well as Jesus’– salvation, not condemnation.  How easy it is for us to get that backward.

Granted, much sin and unrighteousness exist in the world.  In our efforts to respond to all of that as God’s children, as ones attempting to remain unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27), as ones who will not associate with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them (Eph. 5:11), we might unintentionally slip into the condemnation mode rather than salvation.

Is this emphasis not evident in Jesus’ life when sinners are drawn to Him?  How often He’s accused of being the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34).  While that’s not said in a complimentary way it does show that these people saw in Jesus hope for salvation, not fear of condemnation.

What is it that the world sees in us and through us as God’s children?  Is our emphasis such that we reflect our greatest blessing back to the world?  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

Through the Bible, August 6

Reading: John 9-10

Summary: When Jesus heals a man born blind it elicits a discussion regarding sin and its consequences, a question with which people struggle to this day.  Jesus also speaks to His role as the Good Shepherd.  What an encouraging and helpful picture of our Savior. Once again Jesus addresses His relationship with the Father, a truth that most of the Jews were unwilling to accept.

Devotional Thought:

God’s Glory Out of Tragedy

When is your appreciation for home at its highest?  Is it not when you are away and deprived of its pleasures?  When are you most aware of the blessing of a friendship?  It’s when distance or other circumstances make the close and desired association impossible.  The old saying is true, absence does make the heart grow fonder.  It’s in absence that sensitivity and hunger are most keen for that which we are without.  Beauty, goodness, and blessing are often most appreciated in the context of want, lacking, and need.

Might this truth be what is behind Jesus’ statement—at least in part—that the man born blind was in such a condition not because of either of his own or his parents’ sin, but “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3)?

It certainly is not the case that God brought misery and deprivation into the man’s life to provide the means by which His great power could be shown.  God doesn’t hurt people just to turn around and bless them–how capricious and small.  But it is true that God’s power and goodness are most evident when great blessing is brought into the life of one who suffers or has been without.

Just like a glorious light beaming out of the darkness; in reality, the light is no brighter than usual, but the context makes it appear so.  It’s more evident.  It’s more noticed and appreciated.  So too the glory and the power of God when evidenced in the life of the suffering, hurting, and deprived.

Through the Bible, August 5

Reading: John 7-8

Summary: It is interesting to see in John’s Gospel the conversation that goes on among the multitudes in trying to figure out what to make of Jesus.  There is no consensus opinion.   This gives us insight into the mistaken paths of thinking that people can pursue that will ultimately lead to wrong conclusions.  We should be duly warned.

Here also is the account of Jesus dealing with the woman taken in adultery followed by some of Jesus’ best-known words about being the light of the world as well as the importance of truth.  Finally, we see one of the very strongest explicit affirmations of Jesus’ deity to come from His own lips.

Devotional Thought:

Too Close?

It just does not seem possible that Jesus’ own brothers would not believe in Him (John 7:5).  How could someone with such intimate knowledge fail to come to faith?  Could it be that closeness might actually hamper one’s capacity for objective perception?

Think about the failure of the Jewish people to come to faith.  Was it not from these people that one would really expect a great outpouring of faith?  After all, these are the people with whom and through whom God had been at work for generations with the goal and purpose to bring Jesus into the world.  These were also the people to whom God had given Scripture and sent prophets to predict and prophecy and prepare them for His arrival.  These also the ones to whom God sent a special messenger to specifically ready them for the Messiah’s appearance.  Still, they rejected Him.

It appears that the closer one is the greater the challenge for an objective and appropriate response.  Instead of succumbing to the temptation to be critical of those who failed despite their great advantage with Jesus, some self-examination should be in order.  We should be asking ourselves about those relationships and areas of responsibility where we are very close and our knowledge is intimate.  Has our closeness actually become a hindrance?  What about with our spouse or children?  What about in our work or career?  What about our friendships and other relationships?   What about in our church family?  Might some input from an outsider be helpful?  Have I been rejecting the suggestions and recommendations of others because they “just don’t know”?  Might it be time to at least give them a hearing?

Don’t allow the beauty and advantage of closeness to become a detriment, especially when it comes to Christ.