Posts

Showing posts from September, 2013

The Best We Have to Give

Image
It was, by any standards, an enormously generous expression of gratitude.

Just before the Passover, Jesus arrived in Bethany to visit his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. His last visit had been marked by a funeral and a celebration of resurrection life. The Lord has brought Lazarus back from the death and all three were grateful. We don’t know how Lazarus expressed his personal gratitude to the Lord and we have only a glimpse of how Martha did it. But Mary, well, Mary found a special way to say thank you for her brother’s life.

John 12:2 tells us that a special dinner was held in Jesus’ honour when he arrived in Bethany. That was Martha’s expression for thankfulness. Serving was her forte and this time, I suspect, she did it with a spring in her step and joy in her heart.

But Mary, who had been commended for sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to what He had to say, what was she to do to say thank you?

It was customary to make guests comfortable. Since people reclined to visit and…

On the Way to Worship

Image
One of things I made a BIG point about when I was training Sunday School teachers had to do with what they should NOT be doing on the way to church. Three guesses what that might be? No clue? Well, it might not be the first thing on the list of Sunday morning priorities, but preparing your lesson on the way to church was never a good plan.

But there is something else we shouldn’t be doing on the way to church on Sunday morning. In fact, we shouldn’t be doing it at all, but especially not on our way to worship the Lord.

In John 11, right at the end of the chapter, we discover some of the Jews, particularly the religious authorities, plotting how they could get rid of Jesus (11:46-48). That was bad enough. But as the Passover approached—one of the holiest of all Jewish celebrations—things got worse. The text tells us that in preparation for the Passover, people were expected to go through a ceremonial purification (11:55). If you are going to worship God, you need to “get all your spiri…

Doing a Martha

Image
Martha is much maligned. Yes, the Lord did rebuke her for getting so uptight about the meal she was preparing for thirteen men (and what hostess wouldn’t be?) that she missed the spiritual meal that came from sitting at Jesus’ feet. Yes, she did that.

But by the time we get to John 11, we find a different Martha. We find a woman with whom Jesus discussed the resurrection. Hmmmm, she must have been sitting at Jesus’ feet to have gotten that intelligent in a world where women were hardly educated in anything but washing, cooking, hauling water, and having babies.

It was Martha who said: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:27). Martha didn’t pick up that bit of good theology by scrubbing floors.

As Jesus and His disciples approached Bethany, His arrival was announced at the house where Mary and Martha were mourning the loss of their brother, Lazarus. This time it was Martha who dropped everything and rushed out to meet Him. It was…

To God Be The Glory

Image
...it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).

Not long before this incident in John 11, the disciples had met a blind man and learned a lesson (John 9:3). They had thought that sickness was the obvious consequence of sin. Jesus disabused them of that notion. “...this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

A short time later the news came that Lazarus, a close friend of the Lord's, was sick. Though this time the disciples didn’t question the reasons for the sickness, the Lord quickly assured them that God would be glorified through it, just had He had been glorified through the healing of the blind man. The disciples may have assumed that Lazarus too would be healed. Little did they anticipate that Jesus would wait until his friend had died before going to Bethany.

Sickness and death—we rarely say those two words in the same sentence as we say “the glory of God.” After the fact, we can understand how the healing of th…

A True Hero

Image
I caught a bit of a news report this morning out of New York. A man was trying to escape from one of the upper floors of a burning building. To jump would have been suicidal; to stay wasn’t an option. Neighbours saw the dilemma and found a ladder that they could lay alongside the window. I didn’t catch exactly what one rescuer did but the reporter said that he risked his life to help the man in the window to safety. A heroic deed.

When some people look at Jesus’ life, or more specifically, his death, they see no hero. They see weakness, foolishness, and helplessness. The Pharisees taunted Him as He hung on the cross. “If you are God,” they said, “come down and save yourself.”

Here in John 10, Jesus sets the record straight. It was His choice, and His choice alone, to sacrifice Himself. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it…

Life In Spite of Death

Image
Death is all around us. Yesterday’s terrible events in the Navy yard in Washington once again illustrate too graphically that we are a society in deep trouble. Twelve people are dead because someone snapped and was unable to come up with a better way to solve his problems than to take an arsenal of weapons and to kill everything in sight.

The doctor at the trauma centre who helped to treat the wounded spoke passionately about the need to do something to stop this senseless waste of life. Gun control is a sensitive issue. It’s a messy issue. It’s a political death sentence for the authorities brave enough to deal with it. But in the end, how does the death of ambition stack up against the death of the innocent? Unhappily, even the strictest gun control is not enough to guarantee life.

Yes, death is all around us. But life is the subject of Jesus’ remarks in John 10. However death happens to us, in Christ, that fleeting moment is just a last bump in the road before eternity.

Jesus said…

Watch The Gate

Image
Most of us are familiar with the word pictures that Jesus used to describe Himself. As the Shepherd, as Living Water, as the Resurrection and the Life, we know Him. But here, at the beginning of John 10, is a picture that we don't often hear much about even though its truth is understood by probably all believers.

Therefore Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep...I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:7, 9).

Before making this magnificent statement, the Lord describes those who come into the sheepfold by any other way as thieves and robbers (10:1), making it clear that it is only through Christ that we can enter the Kingdom, and reminding us that it is possible for pseudo-sheep to sneak in among the real flock of God.

Jesus also gave a brief mention to the “watchman,” the one who minds the gate (10:3). This gives a nod to those who bring the good news of Jesus to those outside th…

Seeing Jesus

Image
Born blind.

That was the situation of the man who encountered Jesus in John 9.

As keen as his other senses might have been, he had never seen a sunrise, or watched the wind blow gently blow through fields of ripened grain. He had never seen the faces of those who stepped out of his way on the streets, or the colour of his mother’s eyes.

The disciples considered it a punishment, but Jesus told them: “...this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).

Twenty, thirty, forty years wondering “why?” If someone had said to this blind man that his sightlessness would bring glory to God, the logical question would have been “how?” How can such a thing be glorifying to God?

The questions remain the same today. My prayer list is long with the names of people who are sick or who have been terribly hurt by others. I listen to the news and shake my head at the evil that men do. Closer to home, I am wounded by the evil that men do to me. The “why?” question is answered …

Follow Me, I Know (Not) Where I'm Going

Image
“Follow us on TWITTER.” “Follow us on FACEBOOK.” Follow the trends. Follow the news. Follow the crowd. Follow the leader. Follow...

Everywhere we look something, or someone, wants us to follow.

In Jesus’ discussion with the crowd in Jerusalem, He spoke these key words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Men are “blessed” with great ideas, usually built around their own agendas and their own ambitions. A following helps them achieve at least the appearance of success. They may even be so bold (and deluded) to promise light and life to those who follow them. But only Jesus can make the promise of light and life and actually keep that promise.

Later in the discussion, the Lord speaks more key words: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31, 32).

Light.

Life.

Truth.

Freedom.

Sounds like a good person to follow…

That Pesky "S" Word

Image
I once won a contest by spelling out the word, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (from Mary Poppins, for those of you old enough to remember). At least I think that was the word. At any rate it was a really long one!

Here’s a short word that most people can spell but don’t seem to be able to say: SIN. It’s a simple word, one syllable, no complications—at least you wouldn’t think so.

Jesus, addressing the crowds in Jerusalem, said: “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).

Wow, twice in one sentence. That must have been difficult!

All sarcasm aside, while it wasn’t hard for Jesus to say (after all, He had come to save us from our sins), it seems that the people of the Lord’s day had a similar problem to ours—acknowledging sinfulness.

I’m not talking about going around beating our breasts and bemoaning the fact that we are evil (though a little more of that might be appropriate). A …