The kingdom of God is at hand ...

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

This is the first thing that Mark writes in his gospel after sharing a paragraph of text on John the Baptist. Jesus certainly knew John and possibly grew up regularly seeing his cousin. These two were very close in age. John had certainly heard the stories of Jesus' miraculous birth from his parents. Even so, I wonder what it was like for him to see that Dove land on his cousin and hear the Father speak from heaven calling Jesus his very own son?

Jesus' reaction to this revelation from heaven is telling as he removes himself from the crowds and the noise to seek the Lord alone in prayer and fasting. During this time alone with his Father the Lord is not only tested by Satan but empowered and called by the Holy Spirit to a new chapter in his earthly life. The heavenly revelation is refined and, from this point forward, he has a clear message concerning the kingdom of God.

Help me Lord. I need the power and leading of your Spirit.

My kingdom is not of this world.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?" 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." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, "I find no guilt in him.

The courage of Christ and the cowardice of man is on full display in this gospel passage. The religious cowards will not execute religious justice because they are afraid of the Romans and Pilate will not release Jesus for fear of the Jews. It is a sad commentary on humanity. Yet in the midst of this craziness stands a sane and courageous one who will not capitulate to the demands of unscrupulous men. Jesus refuses to bow to them.

The dialog between Pilate and Jesus is so telling. Pilate is confused yet Jesus speaks with such clarity. Pilate speaks of earthly authority while Christ proclaims a greater kingdom and a heavenly authority. Pilate loudly challenges the kingship of Christ but the Lord seems to whisper when he says that he was born to bear witness to truth. Sadly, as many have done since that time, Pilate rejects Truth Incarnate - the divine one who stands before him.

I bow before you O Son of God. You are worthy. I am in awe of you!

I have spoken openly to the world.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered him, "If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?"

God is on trial and the religious poobahs do not have a clue about what is really going on. Like many religious folks their whole life is focused on the externals and they are totally unaware of the spiritual aspects of their actions. I read this passage and I have a difficult time imagining spiritual leaders acting in such a violent way towards anyone much less a prophet of peace. Yet violence is the end result of a man made and man focused religion.

Do you hear the accusation in the Lord's words as he indicts them of acting cowardly. Spiritual people are marked by courage and always have been. Martin Luther would not kowtow to fleshly authority and centuries later Martin Luther King, Jr also would not. In contrast religious folks are often most comfortable acting in secret under the cover of closed doors. Jesus lays out for us an example of transparency and openness not only in the way that he taught but in how he lived. How can we live differently. It is time to open our doors.

Lord, help me live a courageous life of transparency and openness.

Shall I not drink the cup ...

So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" They answered him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus said to them, "I am he."

Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one."

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him.

The last prayer is finished and the last supper is digesting in the stomachs of the disciples. Judas has returned with armed soldiers and tension is in the air. Soldiers are falling down at the mere mention of the words "I Am". Swords are striking yet Jesus is healing. A storm is brewing and the glory of the Son of God is radiant in the midst of darkness. Thus begins the journey of Christ to the cross and the return of the Son of God to the glory of heaven.

The heart of Jesus is so evident in the way that he reacts to the assault of the soldiers. It is obvious that he could have eluded their grasp as he did many times before. Or he could have joined Peter and picked up a weapon. Yet Jesus knew that his time had come. This encounter did not surprise him. His whole life had prepared him for this moment. He was ready to drink the cup of death and would not fight it. His glory was blazing!

Help me Lord to know that you have prepared me for the time that I am living in.

You loved me before the foundation of the world ...

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

With these words the Lord Jesus finishes his last prayer before he walks the path to the cross. As he ends his prayer he asks the Father the reveal the glory of the Son for all to see. It reminds me of how John begins his gospel by saying:
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The hallmarks of the glory of the Son of God are love, grace and truth. Knowing God has always been about these things. When Jesus makes himself known to us he reveals a greater measure of love, grace and truth. Love to impel us, grace to empower us and truth to guide us. It is how He is glorified in our lives and in all the earth.

Lord Jesus, glorify your name in me and in all the earth.

Who will believe in me through their word ...

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

The rise of Christianity is nothing short of amazing. From small and humble beginnings the faith has been transferred from generation to generation to generation so that now Christians number in the billions. Much (maybe all) of that growth has come because of this simple seed of prayer that Jesus prayed so very long ago. It has always been the will of God that the faith be transmitted one heart at a time in a loving and relational context.

I believe that this is why love is the banner that flies high over the Body of Christ. When Jesus prays "that they may become perfectly one" he speaks not of a fleshly perfection but a spiritual bond of love that transcends physical imperfections. Since Jesus prayed this prayer the predominance of love and the message of compassion has changed countless lives. When we sacrificially love hurting people they then understand that God loves them.

Lord, help me to love so much that people will believe and know that you love them.

The world has hated them ...

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

What do you think the Lord Jesus means when he says "They are not of the world". Certainly he is not saying that his disciples are not human or look different than others.
I think that he is speaking to the issue of identity and, in specific, spiritual identity. Those who have been born of the spirit are different than those who have not been born again.

For such as these the world is not home. The scriptures tell us that our citizenship is in heaven and our desire is to see the kingdom of God come on earth as it is in heaven. The heart of this is not theological but spiritual. We are in a daily spiritual battle and the evil one opposes us at every turn. It is why we the sanctification that comes through God's word.

Your word is truth Lord. Help me to be changed by it as I read and study your word.

I am praying for them.

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one,
even as we are one.

There is a glory present in we who believe in Jesus that is unmatched in the world. There is simply something beautiful when the ones who Jesus embraced as his own live in ways that glorify the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I believe that we most glorify God when we live in ways that exemply the words "that they may be one, even as we are one".

I love the way that the Lord Jesus speaks of his disciples, and we who have believed, as his very own. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the resurrected Christ ever lives to make intercession for us. In truth we are always in His heart. The Lord is with us and empowering us at every turn. We are not abandoned in this world and do not have to fight alone.

Lord Jesus, I am so comforted today knowing that you are interceding for me.

I have manifested your name ...

"I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

The loving relationship of the Son to the Father is so evident in this prayer. The heart cry of Christ to honor and glorify his Father rings loudly and true in these verses. There is such a humility evident in these words. It helps me to understand the attitude that I should have when I pray. When I embrace this part of the prayer I set my heart in line with his.

In these few words the Lord Jesus helps us to be thankful, even when we are in need, by showing us that everything we have is from God. He helps us to know that the purpose of our prayer life is manifest the name of God to those who hurt and are in need. And the Lord's words challenges us to believe by keeping the word of God in deed and prayer.

Dear Lord, please help me to manifest and glorify your name today.

This is eternal life ...

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

In an age where intellect and knowledge seem to be so important to us it is refreshing that Jesus tells his disciples that it is not what you know but who you know. He tells us in these few verses that eternal life is not about know the right words to say or embracing the correct theology. He says that eternal life is "that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent". Being a Christian has always been about a relationship with God.

Speaking of his life with the Father before the world existed the Lord Jesus reflects a relationship built on honor and glory. He teaches us in these few words about our relationship to God and how it is built on that foundation. In truth, the eternal life of a believer begins when they are born of the Spirit and reflects a life that produces spiritual fruit and is led by the Holy Spirit. This kind of life is eternal and glorifies the Father.

In Jesus Christ there is life eternal. Help me Holy Spirit to glorify the Father and the Son.

Take heart; I have overcome the world.

Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

These words move me deeply. In the times when I feel abandoned I take comfort that Jesus too was abandoned by his friends.  When I feel so alone in tribulation I am comforted knowing that God is with me. When my heart seems to fail I am encouraged in knowing that my Lord Jesus overcame temptation and prevailed against the dark forces of this age.

The message of the gospel is one of a conquering Messiah who faced down self-righteous religious leaders, demonic temptation, painful torture and undeserved death. It is the story of one who, against all odds, overcame these things and showed the world a better way. Jesus is the shining example of overcoming for those who suffer and are in pain.

I am in need today Lord. I need your comfort and your strength to overcome.

I came from the Father ... now I am leaving

"I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father."

The idea that the Lord Jesus existed in heaven and came to earth by way of Mary's womb is an amazing idea. Some believe that the Son of God appeared to mankind several times before he was born of the virgin. Many believe that he appeared to men as "the Angel of the Lord". Consider how Jacob is said to have wrestled with God or that Moses saw the Angel of the Lord in the burning bush. Jesus life before becoming human is a divine mystery.

So when Christ speaks of coming from, and returning to, the Father he gives us a glimpse of what he meant when he spoke of knowing Abraham. It is hard to imagine how much Jesus suffered on earth. Unlike heaven, on earth he was confined by the limitations of time and space. The relationship with the Father was so much different on earth. Considering this helps me to understand better his sacrifice and suffering for our salvation.

Thank you Lord for giving up heaven that I might gain heaven.

Whatever you ask ... in my name ...

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

There is something mysterious about the words "in that day". The Lord seems to be speaking of the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples in the upper room and, by extension, each of us when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the Lord is saying that it is only prayers initiated by the Spirit that are answered?

I struggle with the hyperbolic nature of the words whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Frankly, I have prayed much but have not seen many answers that have made my joy full. Yet I still pray because I embrace an image of God that is greater than my prayers. In His timing I believe that I will see answers to my prayers.

I surrender to your timing Lord and to the way that you desire to answer my prayers.

Your sorrow will turn into joy.

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me'? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

This is an amazing prophetic passage about what the disciples would experience as they would soon watch Jesus be arrested, scourged, tried, convicted and crucified. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to watch that happen but I do remember vividly what it was like to watch my dear wife Ellen pass from this life to the next. In the coming days the sorrow seemed so unbearable. Such is the experience that Jesus told his disciples about.

Looking back I imagine the disciples began to understand that all of Jesus' ministry was leading up, like the growth of a baby inside their mother, to the resurrection. When I think about a baby's growth in the womb I think about how the parents don't really have a clue as to what the baby will be like when they are born. Such is the image I see in the gospels. Who could have really imagined a world filled with disciples simply because of the resurrection?

Sorrowful death could not hold you Lord. I rejoice in that you are alive in me today!

He will take what is mine and declare it to you.

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The is a symbiotic relationship between time and learning. There are things that I can bear to hear now that I was unable to when I was younger. There is something about maturity and the learning process - truth must build on truth.. you must learn to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. As it is in the natural it is so in the spiritual as well.

I wonder what truth Jesus wanted to teach them that they could not bear? Could it be that some of that truth is revealed in the writings of the apostles? Or is it the simple truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to us each in our daily lives as we seek God? Either way, as Jesus tells us in this passage, the truth that the Spirit reveals will always glorify and honor him.

Teach me Lord for I am in need of truth today.

He will convict the world ...

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

When we think of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost we rarely think of sin and righteousness and judgment. Yet in this passage our Lord speaks to us of the convicting presence of Spirit of God. I remember the day I first closed my eyes in prayer. I was trying to bargain with the Almighty and asking Him to heal my wife. As I began to pray a presence came over me and I understood that I was a sinful man. It changed me.

So I understand what Jesus means when he speaks of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He is not only the divine comforter and counselor but he is also the holy convictor. This is really good news for Christians and non-Christians alike. Since that first prayer so many years ago I have experienced the conviction of the Spirit in times that I have sinned. It is such a comfort to know that we are not alone and on our own. God loves us and will never leave us.

Blessed Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence in my life.

It is to your advantage that I go away ...

But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

How could the disciples know that the death of Christ would result in a glorious resurrection? Or how the Holy Spirit would come because the Son was with the Father? If I were there I would have been filled with sorrow too. It reminds me of how fleeting sorrow can be and how the sadness of my first wife's passing gave way to the joy of meeting and marrying Ann. The psalmist reminds us that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Jesus' prophetic words are true. While he was in the flesh his ministry was limited to all who could hear his voice and feel his touch. When the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost the ministry of Christ was expanded and multiplied to those who could hear the voices and feel the touch of the disciples. The ministry of the mystical body of Christ continues today because God the Son is at the right hand of the Father. It is as Jesus predicted.

Thank you Holy Spirit for Your ministry in my life.

They have not known the Father, nor me.

I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

Religion can be a dangerous thing. Under the influence of religious fervor Saul of Tarsus (before he became Paul) chased down and imprisoned Jews for believing in Jesus. In modern times misguided Muslims bomb and murder innocent victims in the name of God. These things all happen mainly because those religious people do not know God. For if they knew God they would have acted in ways commensurate with the character of God.

This idea that religious people would do such things is so ludicrous that Jesus had to warn his disciples beforehand so that they would be prepared when persecution by religious people commenced. Who could have imagined that Jews who are commanded to love God and their neighbors would have acted in such a hateful way. These who were supposedly God's people would act in such a way that revealed that they did not know God at all.

I love you Lord. Help me to know you better and reflect your character in my life.

The Spirit of truth ... he will bear witness about me.

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

For the believer there is something deep within us that rings true to truth. There is a discernment given to each of us that helps us to delineate between truth and error. Yet in my life, and I suspect in yours, I have believed things to be truth which I have later discovered to be error. This discovery caused me to better understand the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart and how I suppressed His witness in me with my own understanding.

In the third chapter of Proverbs Solomon warns us to trust God with all of our heart and to not lean on our own understanding. It is a very simple message yet one that is so hard for people, like me, who have spent their whole lives relying on what their brains tell them. It is the problem that we have in common with skeptics, agnostics and atheists. Even so, the Holy Spirit is not weak or unable to speak truth to us when we open our heart to Him.

Come Holy Spirit. I need you. Please witness within me and lead me into truth.

They hated me without a cause.

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'

Sin is filled with rationalizations but sin is not a rational idea. One does not sin because it is the rational thing to do. One sins because they have chosen themselves over God and over other people. Sin is the opposite of love and therefore sin is synonymous with hate and that hate is directed at God and his creation. The tendency of man is to defend and dismiss sin calling it an error in judgment or a mere character flaw. Jesus has a different idea.

In our passage today Jesus is very clear. The rejection of Christ as Lord is the heart of sin. He tells us that we reject the Father when we reject him and this rejection, at it's core, is motivated by hatred. Some may consider this to be an extreme position but the words of Christ here lay us bare and reveal to us the true nature and motivation of sin. Sin has its roots in hatred and we are wise when we recognize the seriousness of such hatred.

Forgive me Lord for the times that I have chosen hate over love.

A servant is not greater than his master.

Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Jesus never asks us to go to places where he did not go. In that sense he was a front-line general and not one who leads us from the safety of a command center as some generals are known to do. Jesus leads us by example.. his courage inspires courage in us.. his prayer filled relationship with the Father is an example for our relationship with him.. his love amazes us and elevates the way that we lay down our lives for others.

When I consider the way that many of the apostles died I am brought to the reality that a discipleship that costs us nothing is not true Christian discipleship. It reminds me that Jesus laid it all down for us - he laid down his life in heaven to become a man and he laid down his earthly life on the cross to become the savior of all mankind. The apostles understood the message of the cross. They knew that they were not greater than their master.

I bow to you Lord Jesus. Forgive my grumbling when I suffer. Thank you for your example.

I chose you out of the world ...

These things I command you, so that you will love one another. "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

What do you think of when you read the words "the world"? These words are used six times in this short passage and seem to reference a fleshly kingdom. Three times in John's gospel our Lord speaks of "the ruler of this world" giving us a glimpse into the nature and influence of Satan on fleshly life. Make no mistake about it, the kingdom of God is at war with the fleshly kingdom. Consider what Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians:
For though we walk in the flesh,
    we are not waging war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh
    but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
The words of Christ in our passage today calls us up to kingdom life and calls us out from fleshly living. The contrast is stark. Hatred of God's kingdom pervades worldly behavior. But loving your enemies is the banner that flies high in His kingdom. When we pray Thy kingdom come we entreat the Lord to empower us to love.. to motivate us to compassion.. to cause us to live as ones who have been called out from fleshly living.

Dear Lord, empower me to return love for hatred today.

You did not choose me, but I chose you ...

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go
and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father
in my name, he may give it to you.

The inclination of many when they read this verse is to go all theological. I have gone there and it is usually, in light of bearing fruit, an unfruitful discussion. But what does thrill me about this verse is that we, who name the name of Christ, have been chosen and appointed to carry on the ministry of Jesus who proclained this to be his mission:
“The Spirit of the Lord zis upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and crecovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
This is the ministry that will bear much fruit and and cause our prayers to be answered. This is the  mission statement that elevates us as believers and as human beings as a whole. The word Christ in Greek means anointed one and we who are Christians are marked by the same anointing to proclaim the same good news that our Lord speaks of in this verse.

Thank you Lord for choosing and anointing me to bear fruit and share the good news.

No longer do I call you servants ...

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

When I think of the difference between the words friend and servant I consider the word peer. Servants are subservient to their masters but friends stand on equal ground with each other. It reminds me of the friendship that Abraham had with God. On the way to judge Sodom God stopped and spoke with His friend Abraham. Here is what God was thinking:
Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do ...
The attitude of friendship they have is reflected in the words of Jesus here. I believe that friendship with man has always been in the heart of God. The openness of God with Abraham is the kind that He wants to have with us. Yet I wonder if we are ready for such an open friendship or if we prefer the safety of one that is not so open?

Help me Lord to keep my heart open to your friendship by keeping your command to love.

Greater love has no one than this ...

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.

Many look back to the day that Jesus was crucified and blame the Jews or the Romans for his death. These embrace the idea that the life of Christ was extinguished by godless men. Even so, here what Jesus says to his disciples about his life:
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.
In like manner our lives are ours to lay down and Jesus challenges us to lay down our lives for our friends. I believe that our Lord tells us how this is done when he says:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Greater love is demonstrated when we deny ourselves and lay down our lives for others in small and mundane sacrificial acts. To follow Jesus requires the same kind of love that He displayed on the cross when he forgave those who drove spikes into his body.

I need you Lord. Help me to love others the way that you love them.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide ...

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Love is the hallmark message of the gospels. In these apostolic writings we read that God so loved the world that He sent His Son and how Christ commanded his disciples to love as he loves. The heart and soul of the Christian message is love. It is impossible to abide in Christ and not lead a life of love for God and for each other. 

Yet the love that Christ speaks of here is the kind that keeps commandments. Once cannot love and commit murder.. neither can they love and bear false witness.. and who can love their spouse and commit adultery? In tying together love and obedience Jesus helps us to know what true love is. This beloved, is the love that brings a fullness of joy.

Lord, help me to remember that I love when I keep your commandments.

By this my Father is glorified ...

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Have you ever thought about the idea that the things we do can bring glory to God? Consider these verses in John's gospel that speak of Jesus:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
The glory of God can be seen in us in the same way that it was in Jesus. When our lives evidence the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit God receives glory. When the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives the glory of God is on display for everyone to see. We become the city on a hill that Jesus speaks of when we let our light shine brightly.

I think that our tenancy is to separate the glory of God from the mundane activities of our lives and defer it to the "glorious" and spectacular. Yet our verse today speaks to how God is involved and receives glory when we love.. when we are patient with each other.. when we exercise self control. It reminds me of the importance of being faithful in the little things.

Help me to shine today Lord. Help me to bring glory to you by the way that I live and love.

Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Apart from the hyperbolic nature of it, on face value this verse seems to reflect a quid pro quo mindset - the idea that God will answer my prayer if I just act the way He wants me too. I think that, at the heart of it, this verse says little to me about quid pro quo. In reality this verse speaks to me of knowing God and understanding His will. In reality abiding in Christ is all about knowing God and understanding how to pray in accord with His revealed will.

I think that one who knows God will never make prayer about silly things like expensive cars and getting rich. To know God is to know His will and how to pray in accordance with it. Where it gets complicated is when we try to understand His will with regard to things like the healing of a difficult illness. In matters such as this it is best to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His will to us. And sometimes all we can do is pray Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.

Your will is enough Lord. Teach me to pray in accordance with it.

The branch cannot bear fruit by itself ...

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches.

Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Jesus continues to explain the metaphor of the vine further to his friends. Using the analogy of life flowing from the roots through the vine he speaks about staying spiritually connected to God. The Greek word translated abide is sometimes translated as live, dwell, continue, stay or remain and communicates a sense of perseverance. Endurance is a tough sell these days in this age of tolerance and understanding. Telling someone to believe even while enduring hardship is hard. Yet this is a message that calls us up to a higher place.

It is in such places of trial that fruit grows in our lives. As God's plow of affliction runs through our lives it gives us opportunity to sow heavenly seeds. Once the seeds are sown we are charged to water and cultivate the ground as we wait for fruit to emerge. Fruit takes time to grow and there are no shortcuts to the ripening of love, peace and joy. Yet it is essential to remember that fruit comes forth only when we are spiritually connected to the source of life. If we do not persevere in faith we are as useless as the withered branch.

Lord, you are the source of life. While I wait I will stay connected to you.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away,
and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Much is often made of what Paul says in the eleventh chapter of Romans about how gentiles were grafted in as wild branches to the olive tree that previously produced only Jewish branches. The focus of those discussions is often more about the branches than the tree or the vine. Jesus brings the attention first to the essence of life - the vine. He tells us that the heart of spiritual life is all about being connected to the source of all spiritual life.

Jesus takes the metaphor a bit further when he shifts from internal spiritual connection to the external evidences, or lack of them, of that connection. Interesting how he contrasts the lopping off of unfruitful branches and the pruning of fruitful ones. It is a stark contrast and one that speaks to me of how different those who evidence this connection are treated from those who fail to display spiritual fruit. Perhaps the issue is the quality of connection?

With trepidation I pray that you would prune me Lord that I would bear more fruit.

I am going to the Father ...

You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

How could his disciples really understand what he was trying to say to them. If I were there I would have been confused. You can hear it in their questions and sense it in their immediate actions when Christ was arrested in the garden. I think that his predictions of going to the Father had to go over their heads - who could have imagined that he was speaking of his own death. THIS WAS NOT HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!

Such is the confusion that many have when life turns traumatic and dreams of earthly messianic salvation seems so far away. Such is the frustration many experience when trials come and prayers are not answered the way we hoped that they would be. Such is the atmosphere that Jesus speaks of when he references the ruler of this world. Hope in this age is often so hard to grasp but hope is what we have because Jesus is with the Father.

My hope is in you Lord.. in your love.. in your sovereignty. I trust in you my beloved Jesus.