Believe the works ...

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

Interesting how John the Baptist is compared to Jesus by John's followers. It reminds me of how diverse prophets were in the Old Testament. Elijah and Elisha were powerful men who performed amazing acts while the ministries of Isaiah and Jeremiah were more verbal in nature. It speaks to the multifaceted nature of prophetic ministry.

In the same way that the Jewish elders did not recognized John the Baptist as a prophet they also did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. To this Jesus points them to his miracles. One has to wonder how dark their hearts were to not see that the Father was in Jesus. How could they rationalize away the miracles? Sadly that rationalism remain to this day.

Like the followers of John the Baptist I confess my belief in you Jesus.

For which of them are you going to stone me?

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Do you ever wonder why Jesus referenced this verse from Psalm 82? Do you think that he was really calling his listeners gods or defending himself to them? Interesting how some take this passage and run with it saying that Jesus was speaking about the divine in all of us. My thinking is that the Lord was turning this verse from Psalms inside out. By using it in a literal way he was pointing to the Jews' proclivity to miss the point of the scripture.

I think that many, in their quest to understand the bible, fall into this same trap. For many years I looked at the bible as a book to be logically, and mostly literally, understood. For sure much of the bible is historical and literal. Yet there is much, especially in Jesus' teaching, that we miss when we interpret it literally. When he quotes from Psalm 82 he points to how the Jews miss the heart of the message by focusing on the legal details.

Help me Lord to read the scripture with my heart and not my head.

They will never perish ...

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

Eternal life is a gift that is given before we die. It is given with no strings attached yet it is not given to all. While some believe that all have been given this gift it is obvious from this passage that only those who know,  and consequentially follow, God are given life eternal. In my thinking only those who have been born of the Spirit possess eternal life and live past death. It is a controversial message because many have embraced the idea that all humans are eternal. Yet Jesus here says that eternal life is something given after we are born.

I love how this gift of eternal life is irrevocable. It is a logical thought because eternity, like God, exists outside of time - the concept of time is no longer relevant.. acts are permanent and not temporary. Once a person is born of the Spirit they become one with God. Interesting how the Jews did not understand this idea. When Jesus spoke of being one with the Father they believed he was blaspheming. Yet knowing God, and being one with Him, is a central theme of the Christian message. Interesting how times have changed.

Lord, thank you for the gift of eternal life and the security of knowing you.

I told you, and you do not believe.

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.

The conversation that Christ had with these Jews has been repeated over and over again since this passage was first penned. Since that day skeptics have wanted more evidence but the issue has never been about evidence. To the Jews, and modern skeptics, Jesus says that more evidence is not needed if one has an open mind and a willing heart.

Many take the Lord's words about being a part of his flock and interpret it to mean that God had preordained some to believe and some to not believe. My thinking is that all people have a seed of faith. God has given everyone the ability to respond to the Holy Spirit. If this were not so then who could condemn the unbelieving skepticism of the Jews?

Thank you for the evidence Lord. I accept the testimony of the resurrection. You are worthy.

I lay down my life ...

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Many years ago two strangers knocked on my door and proceeded to give me their spin on the gospel story. When I told them that my wife was healed of blindness they told me that they believed that the devil healed people to lead them astray. I imagine the Jews, who confronted Jesus at every turn, had similar concerns. Yet I think that the issue was not so much theological as it was one of control. These religious elders were not healers. They were simply scholars who felt that they were losing their influence on the masses.

These elders are not portrayed as humble men concerned with the lives of those who followed them. They laid heavy burdens on the masses and were strict legalists. In contrast Jesus seemed to be all about the masses - he taught in ways that the simplest among them could understand and was often moved by compassion when he saw people suffering. In contrast to the elders Jesus' ministry was not about protecting his reputation or image but it was about laying his life down. Even before the cross he laid his life down every day.

I offer my life to you Lord as a living sacrifice. Help me to deny myself and follow you.

I know my own and my own know me,

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

The words of this passage bring to mind this refrain from an old praise chorus:
"Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you. There is no greater thing."
Knowing Jesus is not a theological theory or an abstract philosophy. There is no more important issue in life. Knowing Jesus transcends the theological, the intellectual and the emotional. Knowing Him is not limited to male or female, black or white and Jew or gentile.

To that last issue Jesus speaks and says that, at that time, there was sheep outside of the Jewish fold. God's desire from the very beginning has been to know every human being and for them to know Him. It has never been about gender, race or ethnicity because faith has no regard for such things. Knowing Jesus is not an issue of the flesh but one of the spirit.

Lord, I want to know you more. Open my inner eyes to see and my inner ears to hear.

The good shepherd lays down his life ...

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Jesus paints such a stark picture here. It is hard to read about the contrast of shepherd and hired hand and not think about King David when he was just a boy. Consider what he said to King Saul just before he fought the giant Goliath:
“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
When I read this and think of what it takes to lay down your life I think about courage. Often this quality is not considered when we speak of laying down our lives. I don't know about you but I sometimes define faith in very safe terms. Yet in these passages we see that faith is really not safe at all. I sometimes think that "risk" is the best synonym for faith.

To lay down your life.. to deny yourself and your safety.. is to risk the familiar for the unknown. To lay down our lives means that we lay down our reputation, our relationships and sometimes our livelihood for the sake of another. When we lay down our lives there is no assurance that things will be the same afterwards. It is an issue of genuine faith.

I want a safe faith Lord. Help me to embrace the courage of genuine faith.

I came that they may have life ...

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

These verses in the Gospel of John are some of the most frequently quoted in the bible. They beg the question of how an abundant life attained and what are the things that steal life. The Lord gives us a peek into why life sometimes feels empty and what leads life out of emptiness to abundance when he speaks of laying our lives down for each other. It reminds me that life can have so much meaning when it is shared with, and given to, others.

I think that this is the secret to finding life. Selfishness and selfcenteredness rob us of true life. When our lives are inward, and become all about us, our lives cease to have meaning. In contrast the abundant life that the Lord Jesus speaks of is one that involves loving God and loving each other in such a way that our focus turns outward. On the cross Jesus exemplified that an abundant life only comes when we lay our life down for another.

This is a hard message Lord. Help me today to die that I might truly live.

If anyone enters by me, he will be saved

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

The imagery in these verses speak deeply to me about the relational aspect of faith in Jesus. Consider how our Lord says that he is the door. While some may consider this to simply be the way in to the kingdom I think that it is so much more. Jesus is not simply a doorknob to be turned to get where you want to go or a portal to a greater inner consciousness. When I think of Jesus as a door my mind envisions him standing in a doorway and anyone who passes goes through him and not around him. It is in that moment of passing through the doorway that we become one in spirit with him.

As we pass through this spiritual doorway something happens to us on the inside. We hear his voice deep inside of us. We somehow understand things that have been hidden from us all of our lives. In this picture the pasture is not important but the way to it is. Later on in his gospel John tells us that Jesus says that he is the way to the Father.. Jesus is the spiritual door.. by passing through Jesus our inner eyes are opened and we are born of the Spirit. The invitation is to walk through that door and experience life like never before.

You are the door Lord Jesus. Help me to become one with you today.

I am the door of the sheep.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. 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. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

Many read this passage and immediately wax theological in a Christian sense. Yet the audience that Jesus spoke to was very Jewish. It begs the question of what Jesus means when he uses this metaphor and why he calls himself the door of the sheep. Firstly it seems that the sheepfold is not a reference to spiritual things like heaven or eternal life as thieves and robbers find a way to enter it. It does seem to indicate something fleshly though. Perhaps a place were a mixture of religious and spiritual people exist together?

Contrasting such a mixture Jesus says that spiritual sheep are categorized by two things: firstly they hear the voice of the true shepherd; secondly they follow the shepherd OUT of the fold. That second part gives us a glimpse into why Jesus says that he is the door. By saying that the real sheep are led OUT of the sheepfold he is not saying that he is the door in but the door out. Jesus is not about getting into something but getting free from it. He is the door that leads to life. People who follow him find freedom from the confines of the fold.

Life is in you Lord. My life is in you. Help me to hear your voice today.

If you were blind, you would have no guilt ...

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The prophet Isaiah looked centuries ahead and saw that Jesus would be "a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling". Jesus is a polarizing figure. There is really no middle ground position. In this passage he tells us that there are no excuses. Spiritual blindness cannot be blamed on God. There was ample evidence for the Pharisees and there is amble evidence for us. Only those who willfully close their eyes are blind to the identity of Christ Jesus. To these Jesus speaks words of guilt and judgment.

Yet the overwhelming message in the gospel stories is one of spiritually blind men and women who miraculously began to see for the very first time. It reminds me of an old Amy Grant song that describes having spiritual eyes that see for the very first time:
Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around;
Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can't be found;
Eyes full of compassion, Seeing every pain;
Being healed of spiritual blindness affects every aspect of our lives. We see things differently and respond to the world around us very differently. When our eyes are opened we see everything and everyone so differently because we see them as God sees them.

I am often blinded by my own eyes Lord. Help me to see all things with the eyes of my heart.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Skepticism about Jesus has been prolific since the days when he walked our dusty planet. Like the man who was healed of blindness I also sometimes marvel how some can blow off the story so casually. Many of the things written in the gospel accounts are unlike anything written anywhere. Yet the learned among us, like those who grilled the once blind man, are still indignant that simple people understand things that have escaped their understandings.

I love how Jesus comes to the once blind man. Seeing Jesus he does not even know that it was the man standing before him that healed him. The response of the man is so endearing. Once he understands who is speaking to him he responds with worship. Thanksgiving is the hallmark of faith. Those who have believed in Jesus understand the extent of their spiritual blindness and fall down in worship because they can now see.

I once was blind and now I see. Praise you Lord Jesus Christ.

Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.

Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

I must admit that, like those who did not recognize the healed man, I might have been skeptical too. When my wife Ellen was healed of blindness in 1975 I had a very difficult time coming to grips with it. She had been blind for three years and that was what I had become comfortable with. When she told me that she had passed the eye test for the driving exam I had no context for it. Such is the way that many back then, and now, deal with the miraculous. Interesting that the man who was blind did not know who Jesus was.

That was the atmosphere of Ellen's healing as well. In a church that was meeting in a grade school cafeteria the pastor asked a simple question. Before preaching his message he felt impressed to ask if anyone would like to invite Jesus into their heart. Ellen's hand went up and in an instant she could see. The interesting part was how Ellen, like this man in our passage, changed on the inside. She, like him, testified to everyone that she would meet. Jesus had done something amazing for her and she, like this man, would not be silent.

Help me to not be silenced today Lord. Open doors for me to testify of your love.

It was not that this man sinned ...

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

The subtle theme of the book of Job is basically that bad things happen because of sin. When tragedy struck Job his friends accused him of sin while Job pleaded his innocence. Both operated from the idea that bad things happen to people because of the bad things that they have done. Some may even read this passage from John and think that this man's blindness was planned by God so that He could garner acclaim for himself. The problem with much of this thinking is the idea that somehow God is the author of sin and bad things.

Some might think that the works of God that Jesus speaks of are all of the healings and miracles done at his hands. For sure, it was God's will to heal this man of blindness but was that the work that the Lord was referencing? If so then it is amply obvious that the light of the world is not shining as brightly as it did back then. Yet perhaps the work of God is the utter internal transformation that the blind man would soon experience. Perhaps God's work then, and now, is bringing his light to those who walk in darkness and are spiritually blind?

Lord, please help my friends who are internally blind and walk in spiritual darkness.

Before Abraham was, I am.

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

The question of immortality has puzzled mankind from the very beginning. Folks who espouse a belief in reincarnation think that we each existed in some earthly form before we were born. Some people of faith believe that we became immortal when we were born. Of course others believe that people cease to exist when they die. And some think that we take on immortality when we are born of the Spirit. In this passage Jesus speaks of Himself and gives us a peak into his life before becoming man. I believe he is unique in this.

Some are confused about Jesus and think that he was simply a man believing that Jesus never espoused to be God in flesh. The Jews in this passage would disagree with that perspective. When he speaks of knowing Abraham he begins to give them a glimpse into his life before becoming a man. When he uses the words "I am" they take up stones because they believed he had committed blasphemy by using the name of God. Will you, like them, pick up a stone today or will you raise your hands in worship to Jesus. The choice is yours.

I raise my hands. Along with you Father I glorify your Son. Help my life to bring glory to Him.

I do not have a demon ...

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”

This accusation of Jesus is beyond belief. The nastiness of the Jews who say this to him is unbelievable. Is this the way that religious act? Is this the level of discourse people of faith should have? The obvious answer is not only no but hell no! People who claim to follow God should not call each other names and should definitely not accuse others of having a demon. But such is the way that religious people have acted through out history. Instead of exemplifying the character of the Savior they sadly reveal the character of the Accuser.

And still today I find such discourse among religious people. It is like they do not understand that when they do this to each other they are doing it to Christ himself - for we are his body and his workmanship. When Jesus speaks of those who will never taste death he is speaking to such as these. The truth is that many, who religious people malign, will be in heaven with them. Calvinists will walk golden streets with Armenians. Baptists with Catholics. We will all be one on that day. No one will accuse then and no one should accuse now.

I repent Lord. I have accused. I need a savior. Save me from accusing my brother.

You are of your father the devil ...

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Jesus talked about the devil and cast out demons in the gospel accounts. It is part of the story. Yet it is difficult for many to accept because it is spiritual and not intellectual in nature. When he calls his listeners children of the devil he is speaking of how the devil opposes God in all things. He goes on to tell them, and us, that the principle tool of the devil is lies. In these few words Jesus lays bare the heart of those who were listening to him. When he speaks of the devil being a murderer he is condemning those who were seeking to kill him.

I admit that I find it troubling to consider that some are children of the devil. I want to say that all are children of God. Yet history proves to us that many follow in the steps of the one who is called a liar and a murderer. Those among us who continue to reject God in their heart continue to walk in spiritual in darkness and prove themselves to be children of the devil. Yet those who say a simple yes to the Holy Spirit experience glorious internal regeneration and become children of God. It is an issue of the new birth and of spiritual DNA.

Come Holy Spirit. Remove all lies from me and open my inner eyes to truth.

Why do you not understand what I say?

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

When I think about Abraham I think of a person that had a relationship with God. I also remember how he responded in faith when God directed him to leave his homeland and also when he believed that God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham was a very spiritual man. Yet the Jews who claimed him as their father seemed anything but spiritual. These who challenged Jesus at every turn were now seeking to kill him. These were absolutely not the spiritual descendants of Abraham. How could they be?

Since that time we have seen many spiritual men arise - the Protestant Reformation is rife with names like Luther, Wesley and others. These men had no intention of institutionalizing their life's work and having their names linked with specific denominations. Yet this is the way that fleshly minded people respond to such men. Instead of embracing their God, their faith and their heart they choose to embrace external ideologies and rites. Jesus responds to them, and to us, with the challenge to do the spiritual and loving work of Abraham.

Help me to follow you alone Lord. Help me to lean on you and not my flesh.

The truth will set you free.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Who does not remember the end of the Braveheart movie when William Wallace thunders the word "Freeeeeedom"? That ending echoed in all of our souls. There is something in all of us that wants to be free. People that live in totalitarian states long to taste freedom. Slaves want to be free from their masters. Addicts want to be free from the drugs that hold them captive. Apart from all of this external bondage there is an internal slavery that is greater. Being free on the inside is the freedom that Jesus speaks of.

Consider how the religious leaders of his day were so enslaved to hatred that they were plotting to kill Jesus. This is the proverbial end to sin. The deception of sin is that you can dip your toe into its waters and not get wet all over. Such is the progression of the sickness of sin. What begins in jealousy morphs into hatred then blooms fully in murder. To this Jesus offers a truth that results in freedom. He says that the only way to be free is to be set free spiritually in the Son and in His word. There is no other way.

Your word sets me free Lord Jesus. Help me to abide daily in your word.

You are from below; I am from above.

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus say those words? I think that it would have been hard to grasp what he was saying. The Jews of his day had a very limited understanding of what it meant to die in their sins. I think that my reaction would have been similar to theirs. The testimony of Christ to them, and to us, is that faith is important and more importantly faith in One who is not of this world. “Who are you?” is the question of the ages and the answer is the most important that a person can give.

Jesus answers that question for us in a way that requires us to take a step of faith. He does not say that "I am the Messiah" but he refers them back to his message from the very beginning. These people who walked with Christ saw the miracles, heard his teaching and witnessed his compassion and yet they did not perceive that he was the Messiah because they expected a different kind of Messiah. In truth I want a different kind of Messiah. I want one that works in the physical plane rather the spiritual.

You are the Messiah Jesus. Open my eyes to see you working in my life.

My testimony is true ... My judgment is true ...

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

When I hear the word testimony I think of an eye witness testifying on the witness stand. They take the stand because of something that they have actually seen or experienced. Yet sometimes a witness testifies as an expert on a subject matter. And often the one accused testifies on their own behalf. Jesus testimony falls into all of these categories. He has seen what flesh has never seen. He testifies as an expert in all things spiritual. And he is the only one that can testify on his behalf of his life with the Father in heaven.

Yet there is a greater witness who takes the stand. Every time Jesus forgives the Father takes the stand. With each healing the Father witnesses for his Son. In the gospels we witness how God in Christ is both witness and judge. With each miracle the Son witnesses to the power of God. When Jesus teaches we witness the heart and wisdom of God. In the gospel accounts we understand that it is humanity, not God, who is on trial. To this day our response to his compassion, forgiveness, miracles and teachings are being judged.

I believe your testimony Lord. You are the Truth.

Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness ...

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

What does it mean when Jesus says that he is the light of the world and what does it mean that that we who follow him will walk in that light? Consider what the apostle John says about God, his followers and light in his first letter:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
The darkness spoken of in these verses is sin and the light is forgiveness of those sins. To walk in darkness is to walk in sin. To walk in the light is to walk in forgiveness. And the heart of this message is neither sin nor forgiveness but fellowship with God.

There is no darkness in God and there should be no darkness in we who follow him. Don't get me wrong - I am not speaking of some legalistic holiness theology that is all about following rules. I am speaking of a regenerated heart that is full of the light and life of God.

History has witnessed the emergence of such hearts. People who once walked in, and were consumed by, dark sin experienced God's light and were utterly changed. Jesus is the light of the world and all who follow him walk in his light. This is the gospel message.

Thank you for the light Lord. Help me to keep away from dark paths and walk in your light.

Let him who is without sin among you ...

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

In his book Ben Israel: Odyssey of a Modern Jew, Christian author Art Katz describes his reaction to this passage from the perspective of an unbelieving Jewish intellectual who reads this story for the very first time:
"The law said that the woman must be stoned. Yet Jesus had been teaching forgiveness, and earlier in the Book had actually said, "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Jesus was trapped. ... What would I say in Jesus' place? I searched my mind, exhausting my resources of logic and reason and finally conceded there was no answer. Fully expecting the worst, I reopened the book and read on. I found Jesus bending over, poking His finger in the dirt. ... And then came His answer, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." I gasped. A sword had been plunged deep into my own being. It was numbing and shocking, yet thrilling, because the answer was so utterly perfect. It defied cerebral examination. It cut across every major issue I had ever anguished upon in my life. Truth. Justice. Righteousness. Integrity. I knew that what I had read transcended human knowledge and comprehension. It had to be divine.''
I concur with Katz. There was absolutely no intellectual solution to the dilemma.

I wonder if Jesus prayed as he bent down? His answer was amazingly divine. Who would have expected him to turn the tables on those who sought to trip him up? And what of the reaction of the Jews? The oldest left first - speaks volumes about how we grow in our understanding of our own sin. And what of Jesus' response to the woman? What would it have been like to have heard Jesus' words. The story is so amazing. It teaches us about ourselves and about God. When we condemn He is there to restore and comfort.

Save me Lord from my desire to condemn those who hurt. Help me to love.

Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

This is one of my favorite passages because it speaks of the heart, or innermost being, as a wellspring of spiritual life. In just a few words Jesus tells us what it means to be born again. Many argue about the theology of salvation and seem to skim over this aspect. I once heard a pastor put it this way: No Jesus = No Change; No Change = No Jesus. There is a symbiotic relationship between believing in Jesus and a changed life. Yet some do not understand this dynamic of a heart radically changed and reborn by God's Spirit.

In the last sentence of our passage John tells us that Jesus was alluding to the coming day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would come in an amazing and powerful way. As he writes the apostle looks back to that day when he himself was radically changed. In hindsight he understands that Jesus was speaking of how the Spirit would be poured out on those praying in the upper room. And that is the message in these words - when we believe in Jesus the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and radically changes us from the inside out.

Come Holy Spirit. I need you today. I yield. Baptize me afresh.

I am going to him who sent me.

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

Sometimes it is so hard to think in spiritual terms. It seems that the Jews were a very sensual people in that they took everything that Jesus said in a physically literal way. I think that many today also gravitate towards literal interpretations and by doing that they often miss the greater spiritual message. So often religious people find themselves arguing over whether the creation story was literal and they miss the fact that they agree on the idea that God actually created everything that we see. Such was the literalism of Jesus' times.

I believe that the struggle we see in this passage is the ongoing war between evil and good.. carnal and spiritual.. mind and heart. Here is the way that Jesus explains it in another place:
"seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand"
There are things that can only be discerned spiritually and if we do not approach them in that way we will, like the Pharisees, be angry enough to take things in our own hands. And when we take spiritual matters in our own fleshly hands we will find ourselves (like the Pharisees) fighting against, rather than flowing with, God. It is a sobering message.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord. I want to see life from your perspective.

You know where I come from?

Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

I find it so interesting how the religious authorities went after Jesus. It seems that even people outside of the inner circles of authority knew that Jesus had a proverbial target on his back. It speaks volumes to me about the atmosphere in Judea that day and the audiences that Jesus spoke to. Despite the threats and the danger the Lord pressed on because he understood that his mission was not earthly but heavenly. He saw past the danger and to those that would believe his message. He trusted his Father to protect him.

That last sentence of our passage is so revealing. In essence the people who believed in Jesus were saying that they believed because they of what they saw with their eyes. I wonder how many of those fell away when they saw Jesus crucified? One has to really wonder if they really knew him at all? My thinking is that their understanding was superficial at best. Knowing Jesus has never been about his miracles but about his love. The miracles were a demonstration of his love and compassion. Miracles always have been about love.

Help me to see with an inner eye Lord. Help me to look not on what is seen but is unseen.

Do not judge by appearances ...

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

The way that the religious elders treated Jesus was never about anything that Moses ever wrote. Their rejection of the Son of God was always about them. Nothing in the scriptures ever substantiated their actions. Their hatred of their Messiah is evident in every interaction with Jesus. These often hid behind accusations like the one here - a demon? Seriously? How could anyone take them seriously? Their indictments reveal an illogical spin that resembles the political rhetoric of our day. Perhaps this demonization of Christ is just spin?

Using the example of Sabbath circumcisions he points out the utter craziness of their objection to healing a man on the Sabbath. The lesson from this passage is that people, even religious people, are not qualified to judge because our senses are limited to externals. Only God can see beyond our externals. The exception is ourselves. To judge with right judgment we must first judge what is in our own hearts. The religious leaders would have been wise to judge their own hearts before they judged the actions of Jesus.

Lord, help me to remove the log that obstructs my vision and causes bad judgment.

My teaching is not mine ...

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

For all of their lives Jewish people went to the temple and heard their leaders teach them primarily about the law of Moses, the prophets and their own interpretations of those scriptures. Jesus' teaching was so different from the status quo. I wonder if the religious teaching was very similar to what you hear today where a teacher reads and interprets the scriptures for the unlearned? Hearing Jesus must have been so refreshing as he generally taught using stories (i.e. parables) that even children could understand.

Yet not only was his method different but his message radically departed from the leaders of that day. Instead of teaching people to follow the letter of the law he spoke to them about the spirit of the law. The sermon on the mount stands as the greatest sermon of all time because it focused on the internal, rather than the external, aspects of what it means to follow God. Jesus' teaching was so radically different because it revealed the heart of the Father and His pursuit of our hearts - with love front and center.

Help me to not seek my own glory today Lord. Guide me in ways that honor and glorify you.

My time has not yet come ...

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

There is an interesting and continuing dialog that takes place in the gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry and we see it in this passage. The first time we saw it was when Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness and tried to force Jesus to reveal himself through the miraculous. We again see it here as the brothers of Jesus tell him to reveal himself in a dangerous place. Such is the way that unbelievers put God on trial - they love to taunt Him and challenge Him to act in a way that is not in accord with His will.

As he speaks of waiting Jesus teaches them, and us, about timing and the will of God. I struggle, as I suspect many do, with this idea of timing. In truth I do not want to wait for God's timing but prefer that He act in accord with my schedule. Such impatience disregards the importance of patience and endurance in our lives. Interesting how it was Jesus' plan all along to go to the dangerous place. I love how his courage was not foolhardy but wise. Perhaps courage is mostly an issue of wisdom, patience, endurance and timing?

Help me to wait Lord. You make all things beautiful in your time.

One of you is a devil.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 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.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

I cannot imagine how Jesus felt as he watched those who were following him suddenly walk away. You can sense a feeling of rejection in his words as he speaks to the Twelve. Peter responds and speaks what many of them, and many of us, feel about Jesus. His words are like no others and his character is matchless. Jesus is an inspiration to everyone and anyone who really hears his words and observes his actions. There is no one and no place to go because there has never been, and never will be, anyone like the Lord Jesus.

Yet today, and even way back then, a few of those who Jesus chooses turn their backs on him. It is a sobering fact that Judas was there and "personally" heard him speak and watched him do miraculous things. Likewise many of those who walked away that day "personally" saw and heard those same things. Their actions teach us that it is not about what we see and hear with our heads that matter but those things that we embrace deep in our hearts. It always has been and always will be.

You have the words of life Lord Jesus. You are the Holy One of God.

It is the Spirit who gives life ...

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

In what is perhaps the scariest passage in all of the bible.. for religious people anyways.. Jesus speaks of Judas. Here is a man who by every single "appearance" seemed to be a true follower of Christ. It shakes me to think that some who seem to be so religious do not even believe at all. Does it shake you? I wonder if Judas was listening at all when Jesus was speaking of some (I think that means more than just Judas) who do not believe. Such has been, and is, the state of religious groups. A mixture of believers and unbelievers.

Religious people are often very happy and comfortable to speak of the outward things - like helping the poor or raising money for this or that. Yet these, like Judas, take offence when they are confronted with spiritual things. Back then they took offence when the Lord spoke of eating his flesh and drinking his blood because they were blinded to the spiritual aspects of what he was saying. Even today they make something carnal from that which is spiritual. Understandable because it is the Spirit who gives life and the flesh is no help at all.

Help me to never be offended by your words Lord. Teach me your ways.