Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” John 21:20-21
For each of the three times Peter denied Jesus, Jesus offers Peter an assignment to feed and tend to His sheep. A beautiful calling to continue the Kingdom work. Jesus also tells Peter what his life will look like living for Him and what kind of death he will experience. With such a heavy calling, Jesus wants him to know what he is getting into. A life lived for the gospel isn’t always an easy one, but it is the most valuable, fulfilling and rewarding.
Fresh off this encounter of forgiveness, restoration, and anointing, Peter turns to John and asks Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus simply replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Even in the midst of a wonderful calling, why are we tempted to look to the right or left and compare the calling and circumstances of others? Instead of gratitude and diligence in our charge, why do we look at anyone else and wonder, “Why aren’t they suffering?”, “Why don’t I have what they have?”, “Why do they get to do that?”, “What about me?”
The truth is…it isn’t about us. We get to play a part in God’s incredible story, but it is all for His glory. We are all created in His image and likeness. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all created for good works. We are all made on purpose for purpose. Our race is our own, ordained and anointed by God. And it is good.
But of others, “what is that to you, [insert your name]?” Our charge: “You, [insert your name], follow me!”
Questions: Do you sometimes fall into the trap of comparing your calling or circumstances with others? What do you think the implications of this type of thinking and living are? How does it impede living your best life?
Simon Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” John 21:3a
Peter, still confused, afraid, and wondering what will come next, reverts to the familiar…”I’m going fishing,” he says. After hours of no fish, a voice from ashore instructs them to cast their nets on the right side. Suddenly John recognizes Him. “It is the Lord!”
Jesus makes breakfast with bread and the newly caught fish. It is beautiful and familiar and just feels right. But I imagine deep in the pit of Peter’s stomach he is wondering if the elephant in the room is going to be addressed. I wonder if he is living in the tension of joy that Jesus is here and shame for abandoning Him. I wonder if the pretending nothing happened is killing him. He doesn’t have to wait long.
After breakfast, Jesus turns to Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus continues, “Feed my lambs.” Three times Jesus asks Peter this same question.
Three times Peter denies Jesus… and three times Jesus offers Peter the chance to express his love. Three times Jesus gives Peter a mission. God is so gracious in His love, forgiveness, and constant pursuit of us.
Our ability to serve Him isn’t based on our successes, but on His. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. The same invitation to “Follow Me” that was given three years earlier remains, though this time through a new lens of what the good news and following Jesus looks like.
Like Peter, Jesus invites us to answer the question, “Do you love me?” followed by an invitation to FOLLOW HIM. Not because we are uber qualified, always do the right things, keep all our promises, or anything else rooted in who we are. It is all because of who He is. He is perfect FOR US and He invites us to be part of His mission on earth. He invites us to help continue to share the good news with those around us. To love and care for His sheep.
Questions: Why do you think Jesus repeated His question to Peter three times? Are you ready to say “yes” to Jesus and follow Him?
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20:19
“Peace be with you.” - In Jesus, we can have peace. When our hope, faith, trust is in Him, peace will prevail.
“…He showed them His hands and His side…” – Yes, we have faith. But along the way, we are given many proof points to bolster our faith. Many hints, foreshadowing and fulfilled prophecies. We have faith, and we can know. John ends this chapter saying these things/signs he has written, “…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” – We aren’t living an aimless, waiting-for-heaven existence. We have a purpose. To go and tell what we have seen and experienced. To show what it looks like to be forgiven, and to offer that forgiveness to others in the name and work of Jesus.
“Receive the Holy Spirit…” – Approximately seven weeks later Jesus will have ascended, and the Holy Spirit will come in a mighty way. And this same power is available to us when we believe.
God spoke through messengers and prophets in the Old Testament. The Gospels tell of the life and work of God in the flesh, His resurrection, and ascension back to His rightful throne. The story continues with the arrival of the Holy Spirit coming into each of us; God with us. In God’s great story, the baton is being passed, and it is currently in our hands. We have His peace, proof, power, and purpose. We have a commission to go and continue the work; to continue the story fueled by God in us. The face cloth is folded neatly in the tomb. The story is planned from the beginning and won’t be rushed. Step into it. Run the race set out for you to continue the story. There is still work to do, and we have been created for this purpose; for His glory. It is finished, but we are not as long as we have breath. For one day Jesus WILL return.
Question: Do you see yourself as part of God’s ongoing story?
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” John 20:2
Likely full of mixed emotions, Mary goes to get the others.
John and Peter go with her to the tomb. It is empty, as Mary said. They frantically look around assessing the situation. The linen grave clothes are tossed to the side, but the cloth that was on Jesus’ head is folded neatly in a place by itself. John made sure to preserve this for us to read thousands of years later. The God of order, the Prince of Peace, did not leave in a hurry. He took His time; he folded His face cloth.
Not sure what to make of it, the disciples retreat yet again into hiding, while Mary makes her way back to the tomb. In a conversation with who she thinks is the local gardener, she hears, “Mary.” Her heart skips a beat. She can hardly breathe. Immediately she knows with whom she is speaking. “Go, tell the others…,” Jesus proclaims.
Doors locked, huddled in fear, uncertainty, and a sprinkle of hope, the disciples gather and wait. Minutes feel like hours as time drips drips drips by. Day melts into evening.
Suddenly Jesus appears standing among them. “Peace be with you,” He says. His words proclaim the opposite of what they had been feeling. Still processing how in the world He got in through the locked doors, He shows them His hands and sides. Don’t be mistaken; this is no ghost or vision. This is the real thing. Again, “Peace be with you.” But this time He adds, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them. I imagine the intimacy of His presence and gift to them. Did he one by one gently grab them by the shoulders, lock eyes with them, and exhale?
There is no door, no barrier, no emotion Jesus can’t break through to get to us. Nothing is beyond His reach, even when we are too scared to seek Him at the moment. He comes with peace, proof, purpose, and power.
Question: Do you believe Jesus can meet you wherever you are?
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
Tetelestai….Greek for It. Is. Finished. The last words spoken by Jesus.
I am not finished, but IT IS FINISHED.
Sin debt paid in full. Tetelestai.
Debt wiped away completely and forever. Tetelestai.
Lost sought and saved. Tetelestai.
Atonement for sins of all who believed and will believe. Tetelestai.
Reconciliation of man with God. Tetelestai.
Old Testament prophecies and foreshadowing. Tetelestai.
Seed who would crush the serpent’s head. Tetelestai.
Power over sin and Satan. Tetelestai.
All that I set out to do in human flesh. Tetelestai.
Not abolishment, but full and complete fulfillment of the law. Tetelestai.
All works given to me by the Father. Tetelestai.
Bearing witness to Truth. Tetelestai.
Lighting the way, making the path known, becoming the path. Tetelestai.
Nothing more to add; nothing more to do. Tetelestai.
The final word in the redemption of humankind. Tetelestai.
Question: What does the finished work of Jesus mean to you?
Pilate said to him [Jesus], “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” John 18:38
“What is truth?” Pilate scoffs as he walks away. This in response to
Pilate asking Jesus if He was the king of the Jews and Jesus responding, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE TRUTH. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
What threat is this Jesus if his kingdom is TRUTH? I imagine Pilate is thinking.
God came to earth on a mission of truth. Jesus tells us He is the WAY, TRUTH, and LIFE. His kingdom is truth. And while this was not at all a threat to Pilate who was concerned only with his posh political status, it was offensive to the Jews, and it is just as offensive to many today.
Hating the idea of absolute truth, our culture likes to live in a kingdom of pragmatism (if it works, do it), relativism (no all-encompassing truth; your truth is your truth, and mine is mine), and inclusivism (all ways to “god” are equally valid and lead to the same place in the end). In fact, the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016 was “post-truth.”
So, what is truth? It isn’t cultural norms, the most followed news source, a celebrity opinion, a professor’s latest publication, our emotions, comfort or desires. It is Jesus…the WORD that became flesh…God’s Word. This is truth. Absolute truth. Truth that exists whether one believes it or not. If we want to know truth, we must know Jesus.
Questions: Do you believe in absolute truth? Do you believe that the Bible and God’s Word are truth? Why do you think people are threatened by and argue against absolute truth?
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” John 17:1
Roughly three years prior to this scene, Jesus, around age 30, begins to emerge as someone to keep an eye on. No longer just an ordinary Jewish boy/man in an ordinary Jewish community who was obedient, kind, respectful, but nothing special in the eyes of most. Things changed one day along the Jordan River when He was baptized by the one ordained to pave the way. This day the voice of God spoke while the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. It was the start of something, though not yet “the hour” the heavens had been eagerly anticipating.
Jesus began to call disciples; students to follow, fellowship, and learn from Him. Several days into His public ministry, Jesus and some of His disciples attend a wedding in Cana. The celebration is joyful… until the wine runs out. The mother of Jesus looks His direction…I picture that “do something” mom look. Jesus responds, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? MY HOUR HAS NOT YET COME.” Nevertheless, Jesus performs His first miracle…turning water set aside for ceremonial cleansing into wine.
Fast forward three years and Jesus is with many of those same disciples. The time that had not yet come at the wedding was upon them. Lifting His EYES UP, Jesus prays, “Father, THE HOUR HAS COME; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”
The hour has come. The cross and bloodshed will become the vehicle to glorify Jesus. The hour has come. The intersection of two pieces of wood will become the intersection of grace, mercy, love, and justice. The hour has come. What was set apart for cruelty, suffering and humiliation will be set apart for restoration. The hour has come. The water – the outward temporary cleansing – is about to be turned into wine – the perfect blood of the only spotless lamb of God. The final, FINISHED sacrifice for our salvation and redemption. The hour has come.
Challenge: Take time today to thank Jesus for submitting to sacrificial death for your sins and freedom.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13
I am terrible with directions. Awful. I can get lost anywhere. Imagine I had a guide. A wonderful person on one of my journeys that I trusted completely. All I had to do was follow him and I would never get lost. However, he could only help me when I was physically with him. But then, what if he implanted a spiritual GPS in me that was a manifestation of himself? He would always tell me where to go. He would alert me if I was going off track. He would even help me when I was confused and teach me things along the way. And when I was weary, He would fill in the gaps for what I needed on the journey. I never had to doubt a thing, He could not steer me wrong; it isn’t in his nature. But I had a part to play. I had to make sure he was activated in me. I also had to listen to him. When he told me where to go or what to/not to do, I had to listen. He couldn’t physically make me go there. I had to follow his directions.
This is the power of the Holy Spirit available to us. As much as I long to go back in time and physically walk with Jesus, this is a better thing for now. It is my fault if I am not activating Him in my life, or equally bad, not listening to Him. If we were chronically directionally-challenged and we had a fool-proof internal guide at our disposal, but refused to use it, we would be crazy. We have so much power available to us and I’m convinced too many of us are not recognizing the value, rendering it idle.
David Guzik points out, “Look at the disciples before Jesus left. Confused. Thick-headed. Afraid. Selfish and self-centered. Look at them after Jesus left, and after the Helper had come. They are wise, surrendered, bold, and giving. Truly it was ‘to your advantage’ that Jesus left!”
This. This is the power I want. I want to fully activate the Holy Spirit - God inside me - and never get lost again.
Questions: So how are you with directions? Would you love an implanted GPS for your life? How can you look at the Holy Spirit to be this person in your life?
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I [Jesus] go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
I don’t know about you, but I often wish I could transport in time and walk with Jesus. To hear Him teach, to watch the miracles, to just be near Him and know Him on that physical personal level. My daughter and I often talk about “movie time” in heaven where we imagine God pulling out the projector and letting us watch stories from the Bible as they actually played out…or better yet, to transport us to walk side-by-side with Adam when his eyes first opened and God was the first face he saw, Moses when the Red Sea parted, Ruth when she wed Boaz, Esther when she held her breath and walked in to address the king, David when he faced Goliath, Hosea as he faithfully stood by Gomer, Mary when the wise men came and worshipped her newborn son, the woman who had been bleeding 12 years when she was suddenly healed by Jesus, Martha when her brother was raised from the dead, the disciples when the risen Jesus first appeared and breathed on them …I could go on forever…
Jesus is telling His disciples – and us – there is something better. Something that can only come in His absence. The disciples don’t get it though. They are sad, confused, afraid, heartbroken over the idea. What could be better than the personal presence, protection, wisdom, guidance of Jesus Himself?
But Jesus insists. IT WILL BE BETTER.
The better person will be a helper, a guide, a convictor of sin, righteousness, and judgment, a voice of truth. But the best part…instead of being with us, He will be IN US. He will be with us always, wherever we find ourselves.
Questions: Do you ever imagine what it would be like to transport to one of your favorite Bible stories? Do you ever wish you could be with Jesus in person? How do you see the Holy Spirit as even better than that?
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11
“These things” Jesus is referring to are the reminders He had just given His followers about abiding in Him. About being the branch fully connected and dependent on the vine, joined in relationship and nourishment. About obeying His commands and soaking in HIS love.
THESE THINGS Jesus tells us SO THAT His joy may be in us; that our joy may be FULL. The abiding, connecting, depending, obeying…THESE THINGS lead to JOY. A lasting and fulfilling joy not found in striving, achievements, status, or circumstances.
Pastor Jack Wellman describes joy this way: “Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is an emotion that is acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.”
Rick Warren adds, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
This life is not easy, that is for sure. But in this passage, Jesus wants us to know that there is GREAT JOY to be had. Jesus wants us to be FULL OF JOY, and the way we have this joy is by truly KNOWING and BEING WITH Him.
Abiding in God, loving HIm, trusting Him, obeying Him, and bearing fruit in His kingdom isn't about adding more check marks to a list, but to experience true joy…something our hearts deeply desire.
Questions: Have you found joy in knowing Jesus? How can your life be full of joy even as things are hard and heavy around you?
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. John 15:1-2
I’m going out on a limb to declare that we ALL want to bear fruit. We all want our life to matter for something bigger than ourselves. We want to make a difference and we want to live a joy-filled life.
Jesus shows us how to get there, but there is a price…though not as high as doing nothing. The shears come out either way.
If we are not bearing fruit, we will ultimately get cut off the vine completely, left to wither, dry up, and die. But even when we are bearing fruit, the shears come out. This time for the purpose of pruning…SO THAT more fruit may be produced. No matter the size of the harvest, there is always opportunity for more fruit.
No one escapes the touch of the shears, but the outcome is vastly different.
Pruning takes on different forms depending on what we need in our fruit-bearing journey. And pruning, even with the promise of a beautiful outcome, is just plain hard.
But the alternative is never experiencing the fullness of joy He promises. It is remaining in just-okay-limbo-land…or worse.
Here's some good news: If we commit to the abiding in Him, in His Word, in His commandments, He promises to give us what we ask and need to stay there, to withstand the pruning, and to come out stronger and more fruitful on the other side.
Questions: Where are you today? Do you feel cut off? Are you in the middle of a beautiful harvest after a season of pruning (praise God!)? Are you in the midst of the pruning? Are things such a mess you don’t even know where you are? Wherever you are, commit to quiet time. Dig in His word. When He speaks, listen and obey…no matter how hard…trust He will be there to help as He promises
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13
About that “greater works” thing…John calls the miracles of Jesus signs. They pointed to who He was and what He would ultimately do. While He was walking the earth, the work wasn’t finished, but when He hung on the cross and breathed His last breath, taking the wrath for all of our sins, IT WAS FINISHED. It’s go time. Time for some new works, friends. Works that Jesus made way for and we get to be a part of. Works of sharing the Gospel and letting the Holy Spirit take hold of people. Works with an impact that will never run out or die. Eternal healing and raising from the dead. He doesn’t need us, but he ALLOWS us to be part of these greater works. What a blessing and privilege!
I often look at a loved one who is suffering, and I wish I could grab them, find Jesus on the dusty dirt road by the Jordan River, and touch the hem of his garment so they would be healed. But Jesus is telling us we can do even greater works than this. We can be a part of shining His light and pointing people to an eternal healing and restoration. It is so beautiful and overwhelming. I don’t want to miss any part of this incredible charge Jesus has given me.
And in this charge of greater works, Jesus gives us another promise: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
I think many people mistake this for a “name it and claim it” gospel, sometimes for noble things…sometimes for not so noble things. But it is actually in the context of taking the baton Jesus handed to the disciples… who handed it to the early Christians… who handed it on and on until we ran alongside and grabbed it for our leg of the race. He is for us. He sent us the Holy Spirit. He wants to equip us for the race and the good works He prepared in advance for us. It might not always look like we think it should, but He PROMISES, “I WILL DO IT.” I believe Him. Do you?
Challenge: Let’s not trade the good for the GREATER. Let’s be a part of these greater works. Let’s ask in His name and watch Him work!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, WHOEVER believes in me will also do the works that I do; and GREATER works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father…” John 14:12
During Jesus’s last meal with His disciples, He leaves them with powerful truths and promises.
If we believe the Bible is true, then promises such as this one – to do the works that Jesus does, greater works even – are true for us too. And I don’t know about you, but it fires me up!
Who is it for? WHOEVER believes in Jesus…that is me, and you if you are a believer.
What will we do? ALSO do the works that Jesus did…scratch that…GREATER works than these.
How? Because Jesus (God the Son) went to God the Father, and in doing so, the power of God the Holy Spirit comes into us.
So, lets back up to that greater works thing. Greater than feeding 5,000? Greater than walking on water? Greater than turning water into wine? Greater than healing all manner of disease and illness? Greater than raising the dead?
While I’m guessing we will never match the physical miracles performed by Jesus, they were temporary. The 5,000 were hungry again the next day. The wine eventually ran out. The healed people – even raised Lazarus – ultimately died. There are greater works than these that Jesus ushered in, and we get to be a part of seeing them explode.
J.C. Ryle says, “There is no greater work possible than the conversion of a soul.”
Questions: Do you believe in the power of God you can do the greater works Jesus mentions? What do you think this looks like? Is this exciting to you?
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” John 13:8
“You shall never wash my feet,” Peter declares. He doesn’t understand. He can’t accept his Lord stooping to such a lowly position. The pride that kept him from initially being the one to step up among all the others and wash feet is now keeping him from allowing Jesus to serve him in this way.
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with me,” Jesus responds.
“Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head,” Peter swings at breakneck speed in the complete opposite direction, still woefully off track. He is taking what he hears Jesus say and deciding how it should happen.
Peter struggled to just be still, listen, trust, and obey Jesus on many occasions. He was often impulsive. He often reacted based on emotion. He wasn’t intending to fight Jesus on this, he just hadn’t learned how to surrender. He still wanted his share of control over how it would all go down.
I deeply relate to Peter. Like Peter, I really do love Jesus. A lot. But also like Peter, pride keeps me from sacrificially serving others and pride keeps me from allowing others to serve me. Pride keeps me wanting control of how things should happen instead of fully leaning into Jesus’s ways. My will keeps me from sitting still long enough to listen to ALL of what God has to say...instead, my typical M.O. is hearing a few words and running while His voice trails behind until inaudible.
I’m so thankful that God still used Peter—and still uses us – in amazing ways for His glory. Praying today to fully step into God’s plans, God’s timing, God’s direction. Thank you, God, for your patience, persistence, and beautiful example of how to serve and love well.
Questions: Do you see any of yourself in Peter? Are you quick to try to control the narrative around you? What makes it hard for you to be still, listen, trust, and obey Jesus?
“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities BELIEVED in him, but for FEAR of the Pharisees they did NOT confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from MAN more than the glory that comes from GOD.” John 12:43-44
I fear many of us get to the point of belief, but we are stuck there. The glory of man seductively slips its way into first place in our hearts. We’re not afraid to be put out of the Jewish synagogue, but we have our own “synagogues” we aren’t willing to sacrifice…things we prioritize that are keeping Jesus from His rightful Lordship position in our lives.
As the brother of Jesus reminded us, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19)
Belief is not the same as declaring – confessing – Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The devil believes and still remains his own lord.
What does it look like to have Jesus as the Lord of our lives? He is the ruler, master, authority, and boss. Of. Everything; All. Of. Us. It is yielding our lives to Him. Absolute and total surrender. We are not our own. He is the one we want to impress. He is the voice we want to listen to above all others.
S.M. Zwemer says, “Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” Ouch!
I fear we believe in Jesus, but our heart is still in a full-on battle with the world. And we can’t successfully serve two masters. We like the idea of Jesus as Savior, but not so much of Jesus as LORD OF OUR LIFE. We love the identity we try to create, copy and portray more than we love the identity given to us by our Creator. We love the purpose we covet more than the greater purpose we were designed for. We love the glory that comes from peers, status, comfort, control, worldly achievement, human accolades more than the glory that comes from God for God.
Questions: How do we break free? How do we love God more than the world? How do we move from belief to surrender? How do we make God first?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:24-26
Only by a seed “dying” or being buried in the ground – willing to transform – will it grow and bear fruit. Remaining just a seed, it sits alone and unproductive, not fulfilling the purpose of its creation.
Jesus is saying that unless we are willing to lose our life, we will never keep it for eternity. As long as we cling to ourselves as our own lord, we lose.
And think about it…we are terrible lords. On our own, we are just unplanted seeds being carried away by the latest gust of wind. Unfulfilled, stuck in a cycle of striving, comparison, envy, pride, dissatisfaction. Wondering why nothing is growing.
The answer to true life is in the dying. Being buried to take root in Jesus. Dying to us as lord of our lives and blooming with Jesus as Lord.
It seems terrifying and unknown and counter-cultural, so we cling to what we know, chasing the fake bright lights and bling that are the devil’s crafty distortion of the true light.
The upside-down kingdom of God is so different than the world we live in. The world that tells us to love and protect our life, even if it means stepping on everyone else to get there. The world tells us people should serve us…we deserve it. But God says, lose your life to gain it. Serve others. Love others more than yourself. And in this, we find a full life and fulfillment.
Questions: Think about the seed analogy…how it must die to transform and to bloom into what it was created to do. How can you relate this to your life? What things must die to bloom?
“Unbind him and let him go,” Jesus commands. John 11:44b
No longer dead, Lazarus emerges from the tomb he was in for four days. Hands and feet still bound; face still wrapped with cloth.
Jesus instructs the men to unbind him; to take off the burial clothes.
Pastor Joby Martin says, “Living people don’t wear dead people clothes; they don’t fit anymore.”
We too have experienced death – death to our sins; death to our old ways; death to trying to do the impossible on our own; death to condemnation and shame – when we put our faith in the work of Jesus. We can walk out of that pit of death and into a new life of freedom and purpose.
Do we live like it? Are we still walking around in dead people clothes, doing the same things, wallowing in the same weak faith, striving for the same worldly things that disappointed us in the past, prioritizing the same shallow tasks?
You don’t have to do the things you used to do because you are not the person that you used to be. Not only are you forgiven and free, but you are also now imputed with the righteousness of Jesus. When God looks at you, He sees His Son.
Time to shed the burial clothes and walk in the redemptive freedom of Jesus.
Question: Imagine Jesus saying to you, “______ [your name], come out of the grave! Unbind yourself. Take off those dead people clothes…they don’t quite suit you anymore!” What things might you need to take off to live the life God has called you to?
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died”… John 11:14
Sometimes we just need to Jesus to tell us plainly what is up. And bonus, He sometimes tells us why. In this instance, with the death of his friend Lazarus, “so the Son of God may be glorified through it…so that you may believe.” This thing that is happening…that is about to happen…It’s not just for Lazarus or his loved ones; it is for us too.
For four days the body of Lazarus has laid in the tomb. Mary and Martha are heart-broken over the death of their brother, while simultaneously conflicted over why Jesus did nothing about it when they called for Him nearly a week earlier, in plenty of time to fix things. They have full confidence that Jesus had the power to prevent his death; to heal him. But there Lazarus lays in the tomb. They have no idea the extent of Jesus’ power. It doesn’t end with healing the sick and casting out demons. While they are worried about the odor after four days, Jesus is about to blow their mind. Never underestimate the power of Jesus or the purpose of His timing.
Looking to Heaven, Jesus gives thanks to God for what is to come. Gratitude before the miracle. Then looking to the grave, Jesus cries out with a LOUD voice, “Lazarus, come out.” Sometimes we also need Jesus to yell at us. We are stuck in a pit with the linens of the world covering our eyes and ears.
All heads whip toward the tomb. Eyes glued to the entrance. Postures leaning in. Lazarus – still tightly wrapped in burial clothes -- hopping out. Could it be?
Questions: What in the world do you do when you are dead for four days and find yourself alive? How does your life change? How does your perspective change? How does your faith change? How do your priorities change? Stop for a moment and think about this. Things would never be the same.
The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. John 10:3b-4
We are bombarded by messages. How do we hear and listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd over all the others? We NEED to hear the Shepherd’s voice. It is the only voice that leads to truth and life.
It is hard to grow up in this crazy social media world. The voices and messages are everywhere, and they are often louder than the Shepherd’s voice; they are laced with captivating hooks; they are disguised as intelligent voices and quick fixes; they sound smart and savvy and sexy. But they lead to utter destruction. The result is anxiety that is not from God; seeking validation from every voice except the ONE that is light and life.
How can we keep from being buried under Satan’s voices blasting so loud we can’t hear the sweet sound of the Good Shepherd?
Satan’s voice is slowly killing us while we continue to play the game. We are deceived and we in turn deceive. It is madness!
One thing we can do immediately is to begin to recognize whose voice we are hearing and heeding. We can tell by the tone and the impact on us.
God’s voice stills, leads, restores, enlightens, encourages, comforts, uplifts, calms, and convicts.
Satan’s voice rushes, pushes, frightens, confuses, discourages, worries, compares, obsesses, and condemns. Who needs it!
Challenge: Listen to the voices you hear as you go through the day. Are they in the “God’s voice” or “Satan’s voice” category? Any time you hear words not from God, immediately recognize it and turn the “channel”. Tune your ears to the Good Shepherd’s voice.
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2
Whose sin? they ask; who made him blind?
Someone caused this. Blame to find.
I want you to see purpose. You are stuck on cause.
Instead of opportunity, you look for flaws.
Neither sinned. That isn’t the lead story.
Through this man, you’ll see God’s glory.
Watch what my presence in a life can do.
It’s not just for him; it’s also for you.
Mud from saliva on his eyes anointed.
Now wash in the pool, over there He pointed.
A step of faith the blind man takes.
From his eyes, sight awakes.
Who fixed you? Who made you see?
The man called Jesus; He healed me.
He doesn’t understand much. His eyes have been closed.
Only the name of the healer he knows.
That man is not from God they say.
They are focused only on the healing day.
How can this happen? Again, they ask.
More time to ponder who performed such a task.
With each attack the man’s faith grows.
He is starting to see what before he didn’t know.
Again, they question how it could be.
I only know I was blind, but now I see.
Calling him a sinner, they cast him out for good.
But Jesus finds him; I suspect he knew Jesus would.
Do you believe in the Son of Man?
Who is He that before Him I may stand?
You have seen Him. It is I speaking to you.
Lord, I believe! Worship ensues.
The Messiah He comes to open our eyes.
He wants us to see fully; to change our lives.
Challenge: Read this story in John 9:1-41.
Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come… John 7:6a
You can’t be famous if you hide like this! If you’re so great, prove it to the world, Jesus’s skeptical brothers prod Him to go to Judea to the masses.
The parents of Jesus received incredible promises about their son prior to His birth. No doubt they also saw incredible hints of who He was as He was growing up. He had a calling, and He was exceptional. How would parents today respond? Enroll Him immediately in a highly selective & competitive gifted program? Hire private trainers to hone His skills? Contact the best PR firm to craft His image? Reach out to the acclaimed consultant? Ensure the world knows just how special He is.
But this isn’t at all how Jesus lived. His childhood was uneventful. He doesn't rush things. He spends quality time with people. He retreats to be alone and pray. He withdraws from attention and praise. He is patient and purposeful.
We live in a world of immediacy. Instant food. Instant communications. Next-day Amazon delivery. Instant gratification. And we expect the same from God, but that isn’t how He works. God gives us hopes, dreams, and passions, but He rarely gives us a glimpse into His timing. In the waiting, we begin to question and doubt. We begin to look to others instead of God, both for advice and comparison. We start to orchestrate things on our own. And before we know it, we are on a path waaaaay off course.
God’s timing is perfect and purposeful. The waiting tests us. The waiting prepares us. The waiting grows us. The waiting humbles us. We need our wilderness time to fulfill our calling. The wait helps us to face what is coming that only God can now see. The sooner we come to peace with this truth, the sooner we will have peace. We don’t stop dreaming, rather we lean into the places and roles God puts us in, and instead of grumbling, we make sure we learn everything we can in them. We don’t waste one minute of our precious God-ordained waiting time.
Questions: Are there things you have been waiting on for a long time? Do you try to force things to happen? Has it ever backfired? How can you know when something is God’s timing?
So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
Speaking for the group, Peter responds to Jesus asking if they too want to walk away from Him. “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
“You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God,” Peter continues.
Life is hard. Some things in the Bible are hard to understand. Some of the words feel uncomfortable, demanding, convicting, confusing. Many want what Jesus offers, but not on His terms. The idea of taking up our cross and following Him is not what they had in mind. The idea of surrendering to Him rubs their ego the wrong way. The idea of Him as the only way to eternal life goes against their reason.
But to whom else would we go? We might think we want to have some control over saving ourselves…but do we really? It is impossible!
We might think we want a God who never punishes or expects hard things from us…but do we really? We crave a just God who can make all wrongs right.
We might think we want a God who looks the other way on sin – after all, the world tells us it is a personal decision; no one else’s business….but do we really? That only leads to suffering and bondage, not freedom.
We might wonder if God really exists; if it is all just a big cosmic accident…but do we really? Our souls desire purpose and order.
On this side of heaven, we will never have all the answers or understand the fullness of a big God, but to whom else would we go? Truth is truth, and truth is life. Where else would we go?
Question: How do you generally react when things don’t make sense to you and God doesn’t seem to do things the way you think He should?
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst... John 6:35
Tens of thousands are following Jesus after being the recipients of an incredible miracle. All fed in abundance – with leftovers even – from only five loaves of bread and several fish. THIS is who they want to follow. The man with the miracles and baskets of bread.
But Jesus has something to say about that. The bread – even miraculous bread; even the manna their ancestors received daily from God – will not ultimately satisfy. The bread will digest. The day will pass. They will be hungry yet again.
He wants them to be crystal clear about who and what they are following. Jesus – His body; His being – is the bread of life.
Confused still, they ask what they must do to work the works of God. In essence saying, “show us the formula so that we may follow it and never be hungry.”
Jesus again seeks to clarify... It is not in the doing; it is in the believing. In His flesh, sent from heaven, is the bread of life. Upon this, they must eat.
“This is a hard saying,” the chorus, once passionately chasing after Him, cry out. “Who can listen to it,” they shout as one by one they walk away.
Thousands reduced to handfuls. But Jesus isn’t about numbers; He is about truth and followers who know what they are getting into.
“Do you want to go away as well?” Jesus asks the Twelve remaining.
Questions: Why do you think most people follow Jesus? Why do think some people are so quick to walk away from Jesus?
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your mat, and walk.” John 5:8
Still on the mat, you shift your eyes from the “magic” pool – the thing you thought would heal you, but only left you in the same miserable place -- to the eyes of Jesus.
And at once you know you are healed.
Louie Giglio says, “Every day we hold on to something with a clenched fist is a day we miss the possibility of God putting something amazing in our hands. When we let go, we don’t lose out.”
What keeps us stuck on our metaphorical mat? Things that keep us hanging out in circles that bring us down instead of lift us up. Things that make us feel unsatisfied, rather than grateful. Things that make us hate things about ourselves instead of realizing God can’t wait to use them for a purpose designed for us. Things that make us keep going back to what we know we shouldn’t do…what we know doesn’t work.
What are we looking to as the “magic” pool…the “if only” and “what if” we think is the answer? What if we slowly unclenched our cramped hands from around the edges of the mat and looked instead to Jesus?
And when we turn to Jesus, then we get the power we need to get off our mat. We can do the impossible. We can walk in freedom and healing. We can be who God created us to be.
Then we pick our mat up and carry it instead of letting it carry us. We carry it not to shame us, but to remind us from where we have come. And in the same power that got us up off the mat, we never lay back down on that dirty, smelly, wretched, battered mat. God, let it be so.
Challenge: Where are you currently feeling dissatisfied with yourself or your circumstances? Think of what you have been trying to do about these things in your own power. Now decide to look to Jesus. Talk to Him about how to help you see the circumstances and solutions through His eyes.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. John 5:2-3
Thirty-eight years lying on a mat, unable to walk. Imagine the things that mat has seen. Though you are desperate to get off the mat, the mat has become quite comfortable to you in a sick sort of way. It is almost part of you now…your identity; who you are. You despise the mat and cling to the mat at the same time.
“Do you want to get well?” That is the question Jesus asks.
Of course! The impulse reaction. But then you start thinking about life up from the mat. Unknown. Scary. Unpredictable. You start to wonder if the misery of the mat is preferred to the messy unknown. You start to wonder if you will make it apart from the mat. You rationalize that laying by the pool and living off of scraps and handouts isn’t so bad. The real truth is, it seems so impossible.
“I have no one to help me….” “If I could just….” “If only….”
The thing that put you on the mat isn’t in your head. It is real. It is hard. It is painful.
You’ve been trying to get off the mat for So. Many. Years. You know what it takes to get off the mat, and you know you don’t have it. You’ve long given up, but yet you keep at it nonetheless.
Are you willing to try something else? To loosen the grip on the familiar and what you think you need to get well? Jesus comes to show us another way.
Questions: What things are holding you back from the things God has for you? What are your “if I could just ____” or “If only I _______”?
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