Gain Understanding

Read John 13:1-7

As humans, the scope of our understanding is finite. It is true that with age we gain increased understanding. Yet even at the most advanced age, we are limited. Adults often tell children that right now something may not make sense but with time they will understand. The struggle is often having the patience to wait. This struggle is not only for children but for adults as well.

We witness Jesus telling the disciples that they will have to wait for understanding. In all likelihood this could be applied to all of Jesus’s ministry and teaching while he was alive. Many times the followers struggled to understand. This specific time was at the start of the feast before Passover. By the end of the night the disciples would be even more confused as Jesus is arrested in the Mount of Olives. At the moment in our passage, Jesus has taken the role of the lowliest servant and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter begins to protect with a question about Jesus washing his feet. Jesus responds to Peter, and the confusion of all the disciples, by acknowledging that this may not make sense now but with time it will.

As believers there are situations when we witness aspects of life and are confused. Where is the Lord in this situation? How does this connect to the Lord’s purpose? How should I understand this in light of my belief in Jesus Christ? As Peter and the disciples were told on that night, we receive the same instruction from the Lord. Right now we lack understanding but there will be a time when we will understand. The time may be during our earthly life, or it may not be until we have crossed into our spiritual existence. Our challenge is to be patient and trust the Lord to make sense of it all.

Telling Our Story

Read John 4:39-42

The passage for today is one which always amazes me when I read it. The concept that by one person telling her story, a whole village is curious about Jesus, and many came to believe even before meeting him, is astonishing. The door of opportunity has been opened because instead of keeping silent, the woman shared her story.

This passage follows the telling of Jesus’s interaction with a woman at the well of Jacob. All of this takes place without any witnesses. It is recorded here only because the writer learned the story from the woman just as the villagers had learned it. If the woman had not shared this story of love and redemption, we would not have known about it.

The words in this passage convict us. When we choose not to share with others our stories regarding Jesus in our lives, we are preventing the possibility of others getting to know Jesus deeper. The Samaritan woman puts forth an example of how we are to share our encounters with the Lord. When we do, amazing results can occur as we read about here.

The Core

Read John 15:9-17

Yesterday I provided my readers with a series of questions to respond to after reading this passage. I benefited from the responses which I received. My promise yesterday was that I would write a response today.

This passage allows us to be insiders to a conversation Jesus is having with his disciples prior to his death and resurrection. He is trying to prepare them for what will come soon and how they are to respond. This conversation provides a core for us as we strive to live life post Jesus’s death and resurrection as well.

As I look at this passage, I have two images which emerge for me. The first image is one of a package completely wrapped in a red cellophane. The second image is one of dough with red food coloring flowing completely through it. Both images involve the color red because it is the color that for me is connected with love. Love is the main point of what Jesus says here. A love which surrounds and is fully integrated in a person’s life.

A friend of Jesus is anyone who is surrounded by and infused with the love belonging to the Lord. Since this person lives all of life in Jesus’s love, this love flows naturally out to others. Jesus chose us to be the recipients, receptacles, and bearers of love. Because this love became a part of who we are, we naturally share it with others. While we continue to be imperfect in consistently sharing love, we see here that the Lord desires us to continue in the effort.

We also see Jesus makes a connection between joy and love. Joy and love are expressions and experiences of the soul. Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is fleeting and is a reaction to events around us. Love can be an emotion which is also fleeting but the love Jesus references here is lasting as described above. When thus love envelopes us and penetrates us, as Jesus’s love does, it enhances and partners with the joy of our soul.

All of who Jesus is and does finds its core in love. Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, that anyone who is a friend of the Lord has love as their core. When love is your core, your life expresses it and your joy is complete.

Believing

Read John 20:24-29

People accept information in different ways. For some individuals, if a trusted friend or relative tells them something, they accept what is shared as truth. Other people need to see some type of physical evidence before they trust new information. In between are what may be referred to as “situational acceptors.” These individuals examine the situation, i.e., the person who is sharing, the circumstances surrounding the information, and the impact of the information upon them, before deciding if physical proof is necessary.

In the passage from John’s gospel account, we encounter Thomas who is definitely a physical evidence acceptor. Jesus had just appeared to the Apostles for one of the first times since his resurrection. Thomas was away doing something at the time of the appearance. When Thomas returns, the others tell Thomas that Jesus is alive and they have seen him. The information seems illogical to Thomas. Even though he has spent almost three years with the disciples, he was not willing to accept their verbal declaration of Jesus being alive. After all, he had watched him die on a cross. Thomas demands physical evidence that who they claim to have seen was truly Jesus and that he was indeed resurrected. Jesus appears again and provides Thomas with the physical evidence which he needs. Then Jesus refers to you and me.

What type of person are you when it comes to believing information? Are you like Thomas who demanded the physical evidence before accepting? Maybe you are a situational acceptor. Jesus says to us that it is great if you come to believe after seeing but it is even better to believe without seeing. Belief in Jeans requires us to go beyond the evidence and to see with the heart, or spirit. Belief in Jesus must be within our very spirit; it must be deeper than just a factual knowledge.

The Introduction

Read John 17:20-26

You are probably familiar with the saying, “It is not what you know but who you know that matters.” In truth this is not entirely true but there is some reality to the saying. A person may have a vast amount of content knowledge but is unable to demonstrate their knowledge without a personal connection which leads to the opportunity. This is why a wise person cultivates a network of personal and professional relationships. Having a person who can introduce you to others with authority and resources has the potential to bring about benefits.

In today’s passage, Jesus is offering a prayer as he prepares to start the path toward his death and resurrection. We enter the second half of his prayer. He had been praying on behalf of his disciples, asking the Father to protect them. Jesus then prays for those who believe in him through the message which the disciples share, for us. He prays that we may be introduced to the Father through him as the disciples introduce him to us. Through this introduction, all believers will be of one knowledge and know the love of the Father and Son.

Jesus offers a prayer on our behalf that emphasizes it is who you know which makes a difference. We come to know Jesus through the message of the prophets, apostles, and modern disciples, Through Scripture and the sharing of the message, we are introduced to Jesus. Jesus is the greatest revelation of the Father. Having come to know Jesus, we are given the opportunity to know God. We then introduce Jesus to others by our words and actions.

A Different Peace

Read John 14:25-27

In light of recent events in our world, Russia’s attack and invasion of Ukraine, I went to Scripture for guidance. The desire of most people throughout the world is to live a life in peace and fulfillment. While we have different understandings of what those words mean or look like, the general desire is to have what we need to survive without concern for our safety. This seems to be something which should be easily attainable. The problem is that human sin is a part of life. Greed, deception, hatred, and selfishness inject themselves into daily living. These sins lead to actions which do not ensure the peace and safety of all people.

The passage which I was drawn to today is a portion of a conversation which Jesus is having with his closest disciples. In John’s version of the gospel, Jesus is always trying to prepare his disciples for his death. He seeks to assure them and provide them comfort. Here Jesus promises them the Holy Spirit. He also tells them that he will leave them a peace far different than the world’s peace. This peace is enduring unlike the fleeting peace we experience in our lives. This peace is not just an absence of conflict and physical violence  but a calmness of spirit even in the midst of conflict and violence. The peace which Jesus provides, and the Holy Spirit reminds us about, is one which overcomes worry and fear.

While world leaders attempt to bring the latest eruption of violence and death under control, we are mindful that our Lord overcomes all violence and death. We are offered a peace of spirit and reassurance that transcends our earthly experience. It is wise, and our duty, to continue to pray for Ukraine’s people in the midst of these events. We also pray for the overcoming of human sin and its impact upon us and all people. Even as we pray, we know that what the world offers is fleeting but what the Lord offes is eternal. The peace which Jesus gives to us provides us comfort and reassurance because it reminds us that he has already overcome the sin of this world.

The Big House

Read John 14:1-3

There are many varieties of houses in this world. Some people live in small, one-room homes while others have places to live which have over twenty rooms. The materials used to build houses may depend on factors  such as location, climate, resource availability, financial resources, and/or the owner’s needs. Some houses are single-storied, while others have two or more stories. Just as individuals vary, so do the houses in which each person lives.

In an attempt to reduce the anxiety of his disciples, Jesus tells them about a house with plenty of room which he is going to prepare for them and others. Prior to this passage, Jesus had told his disciples that he would not be with them much longer. After having followed Jesus around for almost three years, the disciples want to follow him wherever he is going next. They are afraid of being left on their own. So Jesus assured them that he is going to prepare their place where the Father dwells. He also tells them that there is plenty of room for them and he will return to take them to the place.

During Advent, part of our focus was on this promise of Jesus’s return. In today’s passage we hear of this promised return. The promise speaks of a big house where all are welcomed. Through other passages in Scripture, we gain an understanding that there will be abundance at this place. Sadness, pain, and suffering will be replaced with joy and uninhibited life. The place of Jesus’s promise is clearly a place we all would desire to experience. This place is also a home to which we should want to invite others.

Audio Adrenaline captured the promise of Jesus and created images to which we can relate today in their song, Big House. I invite you to consider the promise, the invitation, and the images which form in your mind as you listen to this song today.

Incarnation

Read John 1:1-14

John’s gospel account does not contain the narrative of Jesus’s birth like Matthew and Luke have done. Instead, the incarnation story is contained in what biblical scholars refer to as John’s prologue. In the prologue we hear of the Son, or Word, existing from the beginning. John tells us that the Son and God are one. The other significant aspects of the passage are the concepts of light and flesh.

John refers to Jesus as light shining unhindered into the darkness. This reminds us that the incarnation was an abrupt intrusion into the world. There is power in this light shining into the world. The light spreads to others as well. One of the reasons the Church chose to celebrate the incarnation on December 25 is because this is the darkest time for those living in the northern hemisphere where the Church was centered. The idea of light shining into their darkness was a meaningful illustration as presented by John’s gospel.

In this passage, John also speaks of the Word, or Son, becoming flesh. That is what we know as the incarnation, a deity taking on human flesh. No other faith tradition records an occurrence of this. There is a distinct separation of a god and humanity in all other religious systems. The concept that God became human and lived among humanity as Jesus is beyond understanding outside of Christianity.

John may not include the narrative of Matthew or Luke which included Jesus’s parents, shepherds, a stable, angels and a chorus of praise but John tells of the incarnation. God has become human and lived with humanity. God is as a bright, unquenchable light piercing into the darkness of the world and the lives of humans. This is what we celebrate on December 25.

The Well

Read John 4:11-15

In our family there are stories of the many times my dad would run out of gas when driving the car. He seemed to like to wait until the last possible moment to put gas in the car. Probably he thought he could find it at a cheaper price at the next station. Mom enjoyed telling one particular story from when they had lived in California. They had decided to take my visiting grandparents up into the mountains to see the beauty. Before they went, grandpa told dad that he had better fill up the car with gas but dad said it was not necessary. As they passed gas stations along the way, grandpa would mention getting gas and dad would refuse. The car made the trip up the mountain but as they started the descent it ran out of gas. They had to coast down the mountain with the engine not running. Dad ran out of gas. The good news was there was a station at the bottom where they were able to fill the tank.

Like the car of my parents, we can run out of gas. Our spirits may be running on empty. We may be physically and emotionally exhausted. Jesus gave an invitation to the Samaritan woman which exists for us today — come to the well. The well of Jesus is full of living water which quenches the thirst of our souls. We can refill our dry lives with this water from the well. We can be renewed and restored. The well never runs empty. Just come to the well of Jesus.

Attaching the Name

Read John 14:12-14

In the mid-19th century, comprehensive trademark laws began to emerge internationally. The concept behind trademarks laws is to protect names, labels and icons from being used by multiple people, organizations or companies. The originator of a label, name or icon desires to protect the trademark  from misuse and misrepresentation. The trademarks are intended for individuals to easily associate the person to the company, organization, product or service in their mind when it is seen. Understandably, if the trademark is used by someone else, confusion may occur at the very least or harm of the entity’s image may be the greatest damage. Attaching one’s trademark to something communicates ownership or, at a minimum, endorsement.

The passage from John’s gospel account speaks of attaching Jesus’s name to a prayer or request. Jesus is in a conversation with the twelve about his leaving but returning later to take them with him. Thomas is confused about knowing where Jesus is going so they can follow. Then when Jesus states  he is the way, the truth and the life, along with providing access to the Father, Philip asks to see the Father. Jesus tells them if they have seen him, they have seen the Father. This leads to the three verses we have just read.

Often these statements, and similar ones, by Jesus have caused people to conclude that anything we ask will occur if we attach the phrase, “in Jesus’s name.” When young children are taught to pray, they are taught to end each prayer with “in Jesus’s name. Amen.” This practice is directly related to conversations as we find in this John passage. Unfortunately, the perception that this is some magic incantation to make all desires come true exists in many minds. Cynics point out how often this does not work. Believers can become disillusioned when it appears to fail.

There are many reasons why a prayer request appears to go unfulfilled. The issue may be that God knows the request will not benefit the petitioner in the long run. Maybe the requestcould bring a negative impact on the well-being of another. Or the problem with the fulfillment could be the motivation behind the request.  The timing of the request may not be right and it may be fulfilled later or throughout a period of time. Truly, only God understands why some requests are not granted immediately after they are made.

A valuable measuring stick in regard to requests a person might make of the Lord is to ask what it means to attach Jesus’s name to the request. Is what I am asking for in alignment with how Jesus lived his life? Does this request fit in the teachings Jesus shared? Are my intentions behind the request in agreement with the love and service heart Jesus demonstrated? Would Jesus be proud to have his name connected to this request? These questions will help a person determine if the request should be made. The answers may also provide some insight into why some requests are not fulfilled.