Unless you eat ... you have no life in you.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

For centuries religious people have taken things meant to be spiritual and made them something physical. When Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood he is speaking a profound spiritual truth and not some twisted theological mumbo jumbo. Sadly many miss the point entirely. It was just a few verses back that Jesus spoke of how his food was doing the will of the Father. His declarations here are a mere continuance of that thought. We are challenged here to quench our appetites in similar manner.

When he talks of abiding Jesus speaks deeply to us of our need to find our very life and nourishment in doing his will. In the very same way that he abided in the Father we should abide in the Son. It is an issue of life. Do we get our life from our fleshly pursuits or do we experience life by walking in His Spirit? We cannot have it both ways. Our minds and our hearts must be set on feeding on the bread that came down from heaven. For this is the bread that will produce life today and will nourish us unto eternal life.

I need the Bread of Heaven Lord. I delight to do your will. Come Holy Spirit and fill me anew.

If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

I do not know how Jesus could make his message any clearer - whoever believes.. if anyone eats.. they will live forever. The gospel message is such a clear and concise proclamation of good news but somehow religious people have made it so hard. I have made it so hard.

Jesus wants us to be like believing children and we turn his message inside out and make believing some sort of work that we take credit for. He has given us all this magnificent ability to simply respond with a simple yes to the Holy Spirit and we have contorted it into theological nonsense. Man has exchanged the good news for something not so good.

Yet the message is there if we can get past our religious biases. Jesus is the bread that has come down from heaven to give us the news that God loves us with an everlasting love. His very own flesh was given in sacrifice so that we would have hope of a better resurrection - and not only that but a better life while we yet live.. and that is good news!

Hallelujah! Praise you Lord that your message is so simple. Help me to have childlike faith.

Do not grumble among yourselves.

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

How could the Jews have known that Joseph was just the adopted father of our Lord? In truth, the story of the virgin birth is a pretty wild story. I am sure that many who actually had heard the story did not believe it - many do not believe it even today. Yet in this passage Jesus affirms his miraculous entry into human form when he calls God his Father and says that he has come down from heaven. Astounding words for sure but spoken by one who has seen the Father and knows Him, and His heart, intimately.

Jesus speaks directly to the Jews when they grumble - he does not back down but responds speaking to them about how the Father draws believers to them. In his ministry Jesus often used the phrase "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" - he speaks similar words to us today. Throughout history this truth has been true - there are people who close their ears, their eyes and their hearts to God's message and God's Messiah. Yet the contrary is also true.. many have responded with faith.. many will be raised on that last day!

You have the words of life Lord Jesus. Help me to hear those words today.

This is the will of my Father ...

But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Thrice in this passage Jesus speaks of the will of the Father. First he says that his whole mission on earth is to do that will. He then speaks of holding on to all that the Father has given him. Lastly he speaks to us of our part in looking to Jesus and believing in him. What strikes me in this is how intentionally aggressive God's will is. It speaks to me of the way that God's kingdom works on planet earth. He actively initiates his will and requires us to actively, not passively, respond. It is why Jesus tells us to pray for his will to be done.

These three aspects of God's will are in harmony with each other. Without Jesus coming we would not have the message to believe in. Without his power to keep us our believing would be tenuous. And if no one believed in Jesus his coming would have been in vain. But, and this is a huge but, God's will has been, is being, and will be done. Jesus came on a rescue mission for all humanity. Millions, perhaps billions, of people throughout time have believed in Him and he has not lost one of them. This has always been God's will.

All I can say is thank you Lord for the gift of your son and his power to keep me.

I am the bread of life

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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.

The passage begins with a contrast between the religion of man and true religion. Man's religion focuses on a person, like Moses, and what God will do through them. Moses prayed and manna appeared. Jesus fed five thousand by multiplying fish and bread. The religious focus was on a man and on man's needs. It seems that man's religion has always been focused on the physical and not the invisible. And it seems to continue to this day as religious people still draw the attention to themselves rather than the Lord.

The great problem with this sort of religion is that it satisfies for only a moment.. the proverbial fishes and loaves fill our stomach for an afternoon.. but the hunger and thirst soon returns. Jesus speaks to them about never hungering or thirsting again.. he tells them that the focus must not be on the bread but on The Bread.. he says that the focus should be on The Man and not a man.. not on a priest but on The High Priest. He tells them that eternal satisfaction comes directly from God and not through a man.

Help me to look to you alone Lord. Help my focus to not be distracted by what I see.

This is the work of God

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Years ago I heard many tell me that I must believe for a miracle. It made so much sense then because I believed in the idea of seed faith - the idea that a miracle was only a seed away.. all I had to do was plant a seed of faith and I would reap something supernatural. Yet, in this passage, Jesus accurately shares that faith is not believing "for" something but believing "in" someone. The delineation can be a bit subtle but it is so important. The Lord gently rebukes those following him, even us, about working for things that are temporal.

What comes to your mind when Jesus speaks of "the food that endures to eternal life"? For me, this spiritual food is the Lord himself. Prayer is a way that we ingest this kind of food.. worship and the scriptures are too.. things that engage us in relationship with Jesus. These are invisible things.. things done in private.. humble things.. things that will survive our deaths.. things that transcend earth and heaven. When I think of this food I remember how the disciples grew in relationship with Jesus as they shared meals with him.

Lord, I want to share intimate fellowship with you. Fill me with the food that endures.

Do not be afraid.

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!" Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

It interests me how the Lord often withdrew to be by himself. Passages like this gives us a peek into what it must have been like to be Jesus. People were constantly pressing in on him.. every day they wanted more of him.. more signs.. more healings.. more miracles.. more teachings.. and in this passage they wanted to make him king. Small wonder why he needed times of solitude. Yet things change when he discerns that his disciples are in trouble.

Such is the image that Jesus paints of the God who hears the cries of struggling people - deep waters cannot stop him.. strong winds will not delay him.. rough waves do not hinder him as he travels to his friends. Can you imagine struggling in that boat.. feeling the pull of the waves and the spray of the waters? What would it have like to look up and see the image of a man coming towards you? And how welcome would Jesus' words be to you?

Come Lord Jesus and bring peace to the ship of my life.

Have the people sit down.

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii  would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

It is so easy for those of us who have heard this story so many times to gloss over it and not take in the extent of this amazing time in that meadow. I close my eyes and try to imagine the atmosphere in the crowd that day - unlike me these had never heard the story. What would it have been like for the disciples to experience this miracle? It is one thing to read of the miraculous in the scriptures but it is something else entirely to experience it. To taste that fish and bread must have been so surreal. To gather the leftovers would be amazing.

Yet I wonder how many of us read this passage, scratch our heads and discount such happenings in our reality. I wonder what my response would have been when Jesus said "Have the people sit down". Sadly, I have to admit that I do not think faith would arise in me today. Like so many, back then and even now, my experiences in life have hardened me to such miracles - I wish that it was not so. But perhaps one can never be prepared for a miracle? Maybe that is the message - that miracles come when they are not expected.

I will sit down Lord. I will wait on you. I will trust in your provision.

You do not have the love of God within you.

I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

In a very real sense the delineating factor between believers and others is the existence of the love of God in a person's heart. Love is what has always defined the people of God. From the very beginning love for God and for people have framed what it means to be a child of the Almighty. Love frames the ten commandments and yet it goes further because love is not about the negatives but about the positives. Jesus' indictment to the Jews was that, even though they were religious, they did not have God's love in them.

Jesus points to the lawgiver saying that Moses testifies to the coming of the Messiah. It is worthy to note that the writers of the Jewish scriptures looked forward to the coming of the Christ. These learned religious elders were not ignorant of the scriptures but were simply blinded because they sought their own fame rather than the glory and fame of God. It is a lesson for us today - religious pride will blind us.. seeking our own fame and reputation is a dark path.. a sad journey that leads us to fighting Him who we seek to serve.

I need your help Lord. Open my eyes to the ways that I am fighting against you.

His word abiding in you

And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The issue in these verses is life. Jesus knows these to whom he is speaking to. He knows that these are people of the book. These people know the scriptures and perhaps love the word of God. Yet in all of their reading and studying they have come away not knowing God when he appears to them in human form. It is an indictment of all religious folks who claim to know God because they know the scriptures. Sadly, these folks are rebuked by Jesus time after time because they knew the letter but not the spirit of the scriptures.

Jesus tells these religious folks, and many of us today, that it is not enough to intellectually search the scriptures. For if we search them only with our brains we will miss the God who permeates them between the words and between the lines. The scriptures must be embraced and consumed with the heart - his word must be living in us. If not we will miss the very essence of the word of God. This involves meditating, praying and living the words of Holy Writ. These are life giving things that will cause us to come to the author of life.

Teach me Lord how to embrace the scriptures with my heart.

I say these things so that you may be saved.

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

Jesus words give us a peek into his success. When he speaks of doing nothing on his own I realize that he was no rogue prophet but one connected to heaven. His words and his works are powerful because they are heavenly. His miracles and his words give us such a clear image of the Father. In these we get a glimpse into God's compassion for the helpless and the anger of God towards those who will not help the helpless. Yet the Lord gives us a peek into his humility when he points to the words of John the Baptist.

Was there ever a prophet like John the Baptist? Some may point to a miracle worker like Elijah and think a prophet is mainly marked by power. Others may point to Isaiah thinking that prophets are known by their ability to predict future events. But John the Baptist did neither - he simply called people to repent in the waters of baptism.. and oh so many lives were changed in those waters. In John we saw a simple but powerful man who, as Jesus said, burned brightly for God. Such is our call - to burn with the inner flame of God.

Reignite that inner flame in me Lord. Help me to burn in words and works.

The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

I find it so interested how Jesus' words have a double meaning in this passage. He first speaks to those who are spiritually dead but physically alive. He then speaks of those who have died physically. There seems to be a difference between those who hear his voice before death than those who hear after they die. Those who hear before they die will be resurrected to life and those who refuse to hear Him in this life will not.

This passage is good news for Christians who fear death and judgment. These verses are particularly good news to those believers who have images of appearing before the God's judgment seat. The truth is that we who have trusted in Christ will not face the Lord in judgment but in friendship because our sins have been judged and forgiven on the cross.

Thank you Lord for the day when I heard your voice. Thank you for the cross.

Whoever hears my word and believes ...

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Most of us really do not like to talk about judging, the judgment day or anything like that. I think that is because we all know ourselves and the things that we have done, said and thought. We all know that apart from grace we would be lost. Apart from the intervention and the intercession of Christ we would be without hope. So when we think about judgment our focus turns to verses like these and the cross where Jesus died for our sins.

I find it interesting how Jesus says that he alone is the judge. Perhaps this position was granted to him because he is the God-man. In a sense Jesus is the only one qualified to judge man because he was a man who was tempted as we are yet did not sin. In these verses Jesus speaks of not being judged and having eternal life. Perhaps that is something that we all need to hear - in honoring the son we have eternal life and we are not judged.

Lord, thank you for dying in my place and receiving my judgment.

The Son can do nothing of his own accord ...

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

Many still today stumble over Jesus' claims - they are a bit outrageous from a purely human point of view. Before him no one ever dared call God their Father. So, the reactions of the Jews were somewhat predictable.. many religious people, even today, are angered when they hear that Jesus is "the" way to God. Even so, Jesus is the gatekeeper to the sheepfold and no one enters the fold unless Jesus lets them in. It is a challenging thought for both Christians and others because it makes it all about Jesus and not about our doctrinal rules.

I think of intimate unity when Jesus speaks of only doing what the Father is doing. We see that intimacy reflected when the Son speaks of the love that he and the Father share. Even in the confines of human flesh Jesus shows us an intimacy that he has with the Father. In the gospels we see this intimate love poured out as Jesus is moved by compassion and lovingly touches so many. In this compassion we see the love of the Father and his purpose in doing greater works.. and I believe that those greater works continue yet today.

Help me to know you more intimately Lord. I long for you.

My Father is working ... and I am working.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

The context of the Jews' criticism of the man who has been healed blows me away! The man has been sick for 38 years! 38 years! Where were these Jews when this man struggled? Where were they when he cried? Who among them lifted one finger to help him in his suffering? Such is the demeanor and attitude of many religious people when something great happens to a person who has suffered so long. How is it possible for folks who purport to follow God to act in such an awful way? How could they treat him so badly?

In like manner these folks persecuted Jesus because he broke their rules by helping and healing hurting people. These religious folks felt totally justified in their criticism because their theology supported such actions. They preferred to cling to a caustic doctrine rather than encouraging people who were involved in God's work. And that is the question that must be asked of all religion - does it help or hinder the work of God on planet earth? Jesus speaks directly to this question and proclaims that God is working - and so should we be.

Help me Lord to not hide behind my doctrine when I see hurting people.

Do you want to be healed?

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. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

I have to come clean and say that this question of wanting to be healed troubles me. I experience intense arthritic pain at times. I watched my first wife die of diabetic complications. My wife Ann suffers from a nasty neurological disease. I pray all of the time - I want to be healed and I want Ann to be healed. So I find that my heart has to come to grips with Jesus' question and not take offense when the subject of healing comes up.

I begin by saying that Jesus knew that the man wanted to be healed and knew that it was the Father's will for him to be healed. His question was an honest one yet the man's answer is unexpected. Do you find it interesting how Jesus healed the man even though the man never answered the question? The expectation is that the man would have shouted "YES! I want to be healed" but instead says that he has no one to help him in his quest for healing.

My take away from the question and the answer is that Jesus' response is always compassionate to our pain and our suffering. The man was sick for almost forty years and wanted, dare I say prayed, to be healed for all of those years. Yet healing did not come until Jesus arrived on the scene. And so it is today. Though we desperately pray for it, healing will not come until the Holy Spirit comes on the scene and touches our bodies.

I want to be healed Lord. I want Ann to be healed. Come Holy Spirit and heal us.

Your son will live.

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

This exchange between Jesus and the official is a bit strange. It feels like Jesus pushes back on the man when he first asks Jesus to come heal his son. The man responds and then presses Jesus to come but Jesus does not come but merely speaks an encouraging word to him. To the naked eye it would seem that the Lord was dispassionate about the man's son in that he would not come with him. One observing the interaction might have a different perspective than we have today as we read the condensed version of the story.

I think that is one of the messages in this story for us today. Things are not always as they appear to us in our moment of crisis or pain. The official could have doubted Jesus' sincerity and demand that he come with him. He could have insisted that he have it his way but he opted to believe what Jesus told him and do it the Lord's way. Such is our challenge in every day life when "bad things" happen. We can insist in prayer that we have it "our way" or we can trust in the Lord and believe what he tells us in his word.

Lord, help me to remember this lesson and trust you when crisis and pain comes.

My food is to do the will of him who sent me

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

I can relate to doing things that quench my spiritual hunger. In times like that it seems that I forget about my physical needs all together as that which is spiritual seems to transcend that which is natural. There is just something other-worldly about engaging in work that you are made to do. And unless you read something into those words, I am definitely not speaking of religious work or activities. God's work is all about the relational stuff and when we lovingly interact with people we are doing the work of the kingdom.

Consider what Jesus says to his disciples about the harvesting of souls. Does anyone believe that a soul can be won for the kingdom without love? When I consider the ways that Jesus ministered I am brought to an understanding that kingdom work is all about compassion for those who are hurting, lost and in pain. Who among us ever came to the Savior for any reason other than someone loved us enough to tell us about him. The harvest is all about love - and so should we be.

Help me to love those who you love Lord. Please give me a heart of compassion.

I who speak to you am he.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well continues and she begins to sense that there is something special about the man she is talking to. He gets her attention as he speaks prophetically to her about living with a man who is not her husband. She immediately switches the subject to something religious yet the Lord turns it spiritual. Jesus informs her that worship is spiritual not geographical. We today would be wise to hear his words - it is not about where we worship.. it is not about the physical but about the spiritual.

The life of this simple woman is absolutely turned upside down when Jesus tells her who he is. Can you sense the amazement that she must have been feeling? The hope of all creation had appeared to her and she could not contain her excitement - her religious experience was turned inside out by the presence of the Ancient of Days. Such is the evidence of all of history - peoples of all genders, ages and ethnicity have been radically changed by an encounter with God. It is our spiritual heritage. I want such change.

Come Lord Jesus. I am thirsty. I need a drink from your life giving well.

Whoever drinks ... will never be thirsty again.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

My first reaction to this story is how a simple request can evolve into something greater. Does the conversation simply blow you away? I love the way that Jesus takes something so simple as a drink of water and turns it into something so profound. He turns something ordinary into something special. I think that is the way of the Spirit in our lives as well. Small things can take on profound meaning. An encouraging word or an act of kindness can have lasting consequences. Simple conversations can become so profound.

Can anyone doubt that Jesus believed that he was the Messiah? Could a mere man proclaim that he is the giver of living water? The identity of Christ is so evident in this reading. And who would not drink of this eternal well? I find this so true in my own life - even as I type these words I sense this living water welling up inside of me. Such is the difference between the religion of that Samaritan woman, and of many today, and what Jesus offers. The water he gives produces spiritual life. Come and drink from his fountain.

I am thirsty Lord. Fill me with your living water.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

This passage is a fitting follow-up to the conversation that Jesus had with the Pharisee. In these verses John the Baptist affirms the things that Jesus told Nicodemus. Consider these points that John makes as he shares with his disciples and others:
  • Spiritual wisdom is a gift from heaven. A person who understands this is able to receive it because they have placed themselves in a place of humility.
  • We are not God or the Messiah. It is lesson in humility for many with over-inflated pride but a needed one. Humility is a necessity, not an option, for a follower of Christ.
  • We are humble fore-runners. Like John it is our job to proclaim the good news about Jesus telling all that the Bridegroom will soon return for His bride.
  • We are friends of God who rejoice greatly at his voice. When we read the scriptures we rejoice over his words. Our relationship with God is a joy filled one.
  • His influence must increase in our lives. When we are born again we begin as spiritual infants and grow into mature children of God as we walk humbly before Him.
I love it how John ends this passage saying the same thing that Jesus told Nicodemus about eternal life. When I think of John I think of someone who had such a clear and humble understanding of his role in life and such an amazing insight into God.

Like John, I pray Lord that your influence would grow stronger in my life.

People loved the darkness rather than the light

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."

The setting for the coming of the Messiah is one of great spiritual darkness. Everyone is stumbling around in the dark - even the religious leaders struggle spiritually. This passage reminds me of this verse from the prophet Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.
Jesus is that great light that has come into the world and his light illuminated the dark ways of mankind. I find it interesting how, in the gospels, sinners repented and were made whole by this light while religious people preferred their darkness to the light of Christ.

It is a troubling thought for those of us who have followed God for a long time. Knowing how the darkness that Christ confronted most was that of religious people causes me to question and repent of the dark, arrogant and legalistic theologies that I once embraced.

Lord, I need your light. Please shine on all of my dark ways.

For God so loved the world ...

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The text of John 3:16 is the most well known verse in all of the bible but the verses surrounding it are not as well known. In these verses we see the way that God interacts with man. Consider how the Israelis acted, and how God responded, when their camp was infested with deadly snakes as they were headed to the promised land:
The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”
Did you notice the interaction? People acknowledged their sin then looked to God in the form of an image lifted high on a pole. Such is still the way today. The Israelis were saved from death by looking at the hoisted serpent and in the same way people today are saved when they confess their sin and look to Christ lifted up on the cross.

I believe in you Jesus. I confess my sins and look to your sacrifice on the cross.

You must be born again.

Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

As this fascinating dialog persists Jesus continues to press Nicodemus' understanding of spiritual matters. Do you find it interesting that Jesus speaks of the born again experience like it was something that a Jew would already know about? Is that a new thought? I mean isn't this born again stuff a Christian doctrine? Listening to Jesus one might argue that being born again is an idea that a Jewish teacher like Nicodemus should have been already acquainted with. And one need look no further than King David to see a born again Jew.

Jesus likens being born again to the wind. Thinking about that my mind travels to the devastation that the city of Joplin, Missouri recently experienced when a tornado leveled much of it. Winds are invisible but can have such an impact when they blow - such are the ways of the Spirit. In this passage Jesus teaches us that when we are born again the Spirit of God within us is powerful like the wind. And like the wind, that which is invisible exerts influence and power over that which is visible. It is why we need to be born again.

Thank you Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh ...

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Before 1975 I had never heard the phrase "Born Again". Like many I was a fairly religious person, although I had stopped going to church, but I had never read the bible - not even the gospel of John. So my reaction to this phrase was similar to Nicodemus in that my understanding of such matters was purely cerebral. So I can understand a bit how the Pharisee felt when Jesus began speaking to him about his need to be born spiritually.

Jesus clarifies what he means by "born of water and the Spirit" when he speaks of being born of the flesh and of the Spirit. Interesting when you consider his own birth where he had a fleshly birth combined with a spiritual one. Jesus is unique in all of history in that respect - his mother was flesh and his Father was Spirit. So it is that when we are born again we become like Jesus in that we have both fleshly and spiritual parents. It is amazing!

Thank you for the new birth Lord. I am blessed to have a Father like you.

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

It makes sense that the Jews questioned Jesus' authority here. After all, he had just cleared the temple court and challenged the way that they made money selling sheep, oxen and pigeons. They felt they had a right to see some authoritative sign to validate Jesus' right to do such a thing - such is the reasoning of many religious people when confronted by a prophet. Inwardly they knew that they were doing something wrong but their brainy rationalizations trumped their inner understandings.

Instead of trying to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them they jumped to a conclusion and missed the entire point. Perhaps if they would have questioned him further.. with sincere hearts.. Jesus would have told them that the temple that would be raised was the temple of his body. But such are the reactions of religious people when the conversation turns spiritual. They are comfortable speaking of religious rites and practices but struggle with spiritual things. Their focus is external when it should be internal.

Lord, help me to trust you with all of my heart and not lean on my own understanding.

Do not make my Father's house a house of trade.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

When considering the money-changers in the house of the Lord, I think that it is so tempting to speak of church foyers where money is changed as books, music and coffee are sold. It would be so easy to take pot shots at these things and miss the real issues of this passage. Jesus was not speaking to the legalities of this practice of selling sacrificial sheep, oxen and pigeons but to the heart of it. Man had made something profitable out of something that was meant to be prophetic. Man had taken something sacred and made it something crass.

When I think about things that are sacred I remember this question that the Apostle Paul asks in his first letter to the Corinthians: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" We who are born again are indwelt by the very Spirit of God. Our bodies house new hearts that have been fashioned for the sacred. When I think about my heart I remember that, like that ancient Jewish temple, Jesus is zealous for it - he will drive out things that hinder me from entering that holy place of prayer.

Lord, help me to remember that my new heart is prophetic and made for prayer.

My hour has not yet come.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

It is apparent that Mary had seen her son perform some amazing things before this day. I wonder if she had seen him heal someone in the quiet of their home as he was touched and moved by compassion.. or possibly perform some other miracle? And I wonder if such things were commonplace in their home. The interaction between Jesus and his mother is so interesting - I can almost sense a bit of annoyance in his response to her. Yet in that response we see that the Lord is preparing to take his private ministry public.

I wonder what was going through the servants' minds when Mary told them to follow Jesus' commands? And when do you think they saw the water turn to wine? Can you imagine the awe they felt in that moment? Interesting how John reports that Jesus "manifested his glory". Perhaps that is a definition of a miracle? Perhaps all miracles are simply manifestations of the glory of God? I wonder if such miracles are what John referred to when he said "we have seen his glory". I imagine that they never got used to such glorious things.

Like Moses we all say “Please show me your glory.”

You will see greater things than these.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

As I read this passage I am caught up in the excitement of the experience. Jesus is a virtual unknown and people are bringing their friends to meet him. And when these men meet him for the first time they are challenged - they did not think that the Messiah would appear first to them. Philip was probably invited by hometown friends and he is so excited he invites another friend to meet Jesus. Excitement is in the air. The Christ has come to earth and is befriending ordinary people. No one expected him to come in this way.

This is the gospel story. Friends bringing their friends to Jesus. I am so thankful that in my life friends brought me to Him. Yet this is merely the first step. Once Nathanael is in Christ's presence everything changes as the Lord speaks to him. It amazes me how Nathanael's attitude changes after Jesus speaks prophetically to him. Yet it does not really amaze me - I can relate to having my heart laid open that first time I prayed. Like him, meeting Jesus changed my life. Like him, Jesus brought greater things into my life.

Thank you Lord. I have seen great things since meeting you.

What are you seeking?

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.”

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

This passage, taken from the first chapter of John's gospel, follows the description of Jesus as the Word who was God and became flesh. It is in this context and understanding that John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God. It is in this context that these disciples leave the Baptist and follow Jesus. And it is in this context that disciples throughout the past two thousand years have followed Christ. We all follow Jesus because he is more than a great teacher or a great prophet - he is the Lamb of God. He is God in the flesh.

John tells this story in the first person because it was he and Andrew that were first drawn to Jesus that day. I love how these two knew immediately that Jesus was the Messiah and wanted a brother and a friend to meet him. Little did Simon know that this day would be the day that would change his life and future.. this day when the Lord changed his name. And such it is with all of us who meet Jesus for the very first time. We come ignorant of the affect he will have on us - how he will totally change us and call us by a new name.

Thank you for the day that Ellen brought me to meet you Lord. I have never been the same.

My kingdom is not of this world.

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders ... delivered him over to Pilate the governor. ... Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.”

The silence of Jesus during this time speaks volumes to mankind. During this whole process of judgment the Lord refuses to participate in this fleshly judgment and mistreatment. He does not make any statements in his defense and, in Matthew's gospel, only answers on two occasions when he is asked questions about his identity. In each response Jesus affirms his identity as the King. Consider this passage from John's account before Pilate:
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” ... Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “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.”
The placard that would hang over the head of Jesus on the cross would read "King of the Jews". Indeed he is a king like no other. In the book of Revelation he is called the King of kings and Lord of lords. He has always held this title. When Adam sinned in the garden he was the King. When Moses delivered the Israelis from bondage he was the King. And on that cross so many years ago he was the King. And I bow before his throne today.

You are worthy King Jesus! Of my strength, my mind, my love and all that I am.