We have heard for ourselves ...

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” -John 4:39-42 NRSV

In the late 1970s my wife Ellen and I frequently traveled and told groups our salvation story. Each of us told it from a different perspective. Ellen told of how she was blind for three years and how God touched and healed her in a church service. My story was more of how Ellen's changed life impacted me and brought me to the cross.

I love how different our stories were and yet how similar they were. We both experienced and witnessed the power of God in our lives. And like our gospel story today, I came to a point where my story was not so much about Ellen but about God and his Word working in my life. In the end we all must be confronted and changed by the living Word.

Lord, may we be like the woman at the well. May we burn with your message. May our lives point others to you.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Look around you ...

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” -John 4:34-38 NRSV

The words "look around you" speaks to me of our need to know those who are in our lives. When Jesus speaks of fields that "are ripe for harvesting" he is not speaking so much of giving an altar call but of touching lives the way that he touched them. He is saying: look at these with eyes of love and be moved by compassion to minister his grace.

That said, I love the idea of planting divine seeds into people's lives. Being patient with a frustrated cashier can be an instrument of grace. Speaking a word of encouragement to a hurting coworker can turn their hearts towards heaven. We really do not know how our lives will impact others when we are led by the Spirit and manifest His fruit.

Give us eyes to see and hearts to hear Lord. Fill us afresh with compassion that we might minister your grace.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

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

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. -John 4:31-34 NRSV

The words of Christ in this passage speaks to me about the things that nourish and sustain us. I have experienced times of spiritual nourishment as I sat in pastoral counseling sessions. To see the transformation on a person's face in those meetings fed something deep inside of me. Seeing the woman at the well begin to receive the good news fed Jesus.

I think that most of us can relate to times when we felt this way. Sometimes just a simple act of kindness can fill our innermost being. It is like the Holy Spirit is training us to find nourishment in the things that he leads us to do. And yet, like the disciples, we sometimes focus all of our attention on temporal things when the eternal is so close.

Help us Lord to follow the your leading and find the food that satisfies forever.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

I am he

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” ... Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. -John 4:25-26, 28-30 NRSV

I love how Jesus interacts with the woman at the well. Their conversation comes across as a blend of idle chatter and deep conversation. It seems that there was probably more to their talk than what is reported by John. He spoke to her not only about who she was but about who he is. And in a very rare occurrence Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah.

Many messianic figures have arisen in history. Some accompanied by great works. Even today men rise up and claim the mantle of prophet or messiah. Since ancient times men and women have looked forward to the coming of such people. Even politicians get labeled as messiahs. Yet no one in history has ever impacted lives like Jesus of Nazareth.

Come Holy Spirit. Come Lord Jesus Christ. Speak to us. Change us. That we might leave all and tell your story.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Worship in spirit and truth

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” -John 4:21-24 NRSV

Don't you love how Jesus tells the Samaritan that worship is not about where we worship but how we worship. Throughout history humans have always wanted to make worship about a place. About Jerusalem, Mecca or Rome. About a Temple, Mosque or Cathedral. About a Priest, Imam or Pastor. Jesus tells us that the place is not important.

So what does it mean to "worship in spirit and truth"? I think that it first acknowledges that God is a spirit that does not live in a place such as a Temple, Mosque or Cathedral. God is everywhere. No one can put God in a holy box. As such our worship must be reflected in everything we do and everyplace we go. It must be a reflection of the spirit that lives in us and be filled with truthful integrity. Our outside must match our inside when we worship the Lord.

Come Spirit of the Living God. Fill us. Renew us. Live in our daily praises and worship. Teach us to live.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

I see that you are a prophet.

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
-John 4:15-20 NRSV

The conversation goes on. The woman at the well presses Jesus about this water he can give that will quench her thirst forever. Then it gets personal. Jesus begins to speak to her of what is going on in her life. She quickly changes the subject. His prophetic insight is a bit too much for her. She did not want to speak of the man she was living with.

It is so like us ... like me ... to change the subject when things get uncomfortable. It is so much easier to speak about theology when I really need to talk about my pain and my troubles. I think that Jesus wanted to talk to this woman about how hard and painful her life had been but she couldn't get there then. But God had other plans for her.

God, I love how you interact with us and do not allow us to stay in dark places. Thank you for loving us that much.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

A spring of water gushing up ...

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” -John 4:10-15 NRSV

I love the message in this passage about how life is really about what is living inside and gushing out of us. It speaks to me about a life lived with passion and zeal. In another place Jesus spoke about how the abundance of the heart would spill out into our speech. The gospel message is that God comes and fills us with the living water of his Spirit.

Yet so often, like this woman of Samaria, we are more interested in waters that will quench our fleshly thirst. Ignorant of the water that gives us life we search for the experiences of waters that appeal to our earthly senses. In doing so we risk damming up the life of God that lives in our innermost being - the water that is able to satisfy our souls.

Teach us to release control Lord. Cause the living water to flow and touch those whom you love.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Living Water

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” -John 4:5-10 NRSV

Do you not love the way that a tired and thirsty Jesus begins a conversation with such an ordinary woman. If it were me I would not wanted to be bothered. I would have got the water myself. Yet later in the narrative Jesus gives us a peak into his actions when he tells his disciples that his nourishment came from doing the will and work of the Father.

I love how Jesus gives us the example of one filled with the life of God and how such inner life spills out to others. He tells the Samaritan woman, and I believe us as well, that the living water of heaven is available to anyone (of any nationality, gender or race) when we simply ask for it. And perhaps that is the message that the world needs the most.

We are thirsty Lord. Fill us today with your living water. Let a river of life flow from us.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

He gives the Spirit without measure.

The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. -John 3:31-36 NRSV

To believe in Jesus is to believe in his teaching - to accept what he said as truth. John says here that when we do this we certify that God is true. Yet many in John's day did not accept the words of Christ but chose to believe the teachings of the Jewish leaders. And some simply rejected his message because they refused to pick up their cross.

Interesting how the passage speaks of the Son giving the Spirit without measure. I love the idea that this measureless Spirit lives in all who simply accept Jesus and the words that he spoke. When one believes in the Son they receive the gift of an eternal Spirit - they are born from above and will transcend death because their new heart cannot die.

Praise you Lord Jesus Christ for giving us the Spirit without measure.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

The one who comes from above ...

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. -John 3:31 NRSV

John, the author of this gospel account, seems to pick up from where he left off in chapter one. He follows up the Baptist's assertion that he was not the Messiah by asserting that Jesus was the one who came from heaven. In these few words he reaffirms the idea of the virgin birth saying that Jesus was not from earth but from heaven.

A while back I asked a group of friends what it was that made Jesus special and different from all other teachers and prophets. I mean was it the resurrection that differentiated him? My view is what John writes here is what makes him unique in all of human history. The virgin birth, coming from heaven, makes him unique and above all others.

You are worthy Lord Jesus Christ. You are the one who has come from heaven. I worship you my Lord and God.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” -John 3:27-30 NRSV

Until Jesus appeared, the spotlight shone solely on John the Baptist. Crowds from all over the area flocked to his ministry. Now his disciples have come to him and tell John that all are going to Jesus to be baptized. His answer is so heavenly and lacks any trace of jealousy or pride. His humility is an example for each of us who minister the gospel.

In these few words John teaches us how to respond when another's ministry is succeeding. He tells us to acknowledge their success as a gift from heaven and rejoice with them in it. To see ourselves as servants of God and friends of the one whose ministry is increasing. It takes a work of humility to see the ministry of Christ increase in another and decrease in us. Yet it is this very thing that brings unity. For both he who increases and he who decreases work for God.

Lord, help those who minister all over the world understand that you desire them to work in unison for Christ.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

The light has come into the world ...

Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” -John 3:19-21 NRSV

I love the way that Jesus speaks about judgment in these few verses saying that it is like a light that shines in the darkness. The life, ministry and teachings of Christ shines a spotlight on all that is not of God. He shines a light on hate when he tells us to love and forgive those who hurt us. He shines on our self-centeredness when he tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. An eternal floodlight glows as he hangs on the cross and suffers in our place.

Yet many turn their backs on the light and choose to live in the shadows. These rationalize their bad behavior and reject the invitations of the Holy Spirit to repent of deeds done in darkness. These are judged not because of their darkness but because they refuse to simply turn towards the light. Yet some turn. Some repent. Some love light more than darkness.

Come Holy Spirit. Help us to believe. Help us to reject darkness and to walk in the Light.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

For God so loved the world ...

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. -John 3:16-18 NRSV

As one reads through the Old Testament it is clear to see that even the most spiritual of humans did not really understand who God is. It had to break God's heart to see himself portrayed as One who does not love. In the most famous verse in the bible Jesus, God himself, tells us why he came. It was not condemnation but love that caused him to come.

And he follows up this magnificent verse by telling of the importance of our reaction to his coming. He tells us that he came to save us and to free us from condemnation. When we believe in him we are born from above and freed of the guilt and shame that comes from sin. If we resist the Holy Spirit and refuse to believe we are left in our condemnation.

Lord, thank you for loving us so much that you came to set us free and show us the way.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

The Son of Man be lifted up ...

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. -John 3:11-15 NRSV

What must it have like for God to visit earth and have spiritual leaders categorically reject him and his message. He wanted to speak to them about heavenly things and they closed their ears to earthly things. I think that it broke his heart. One like Nicodemus, one called to help and teach the poor, seems utterly clueless about matters like love, forgiveness and mercy. Easy to understand why Jesus was so frustrated with the religious establishment of his day.

Interesting how this passage does not speak of believing in the Father but of believing in Jesus. One can only conclude from this that Jesus believed that he was God in human form. Like the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up, one need only embrace the cross of Christ to be whole. Unlike the serpent, one does not have to actually see the cross but embrace the one who offers forgiveness as he hangs on it. The bronze serpent was a foreshadow ot the cross that Jesus hung on.

Open our hearts Lord that we might receive your testimony about matters of earth and heaven.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

The wind blows where it chooses ...

Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? -John 3:7-10 NRSV

Education and training will get you so far in life. Like Nicodemus we are all unable to see and understand the important things in life with our natural eyes. There is an entire world we are unable to discern until we are born from above. Yet when the Holy Spirit comes everything changes as our inner eyes are opened and our lives are turned upside down.

Yet many are not really prepared for this wild ride. I had a powerful new birth experience when I was young. My reaction was to contain it and cloak it in religion. I was not ready for this powerful blowing wind. Perhaps no one really is. Maybe it is a matter of trusting the Holy Spirit to take us to unknown places as we cede control of our lives to Him?

Lord, I am a control freak. I am uncomfortable not being in control. Help me to surrender to the wind of your Spirit.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Born of water and Spirit

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ -John 3:4-7 NRSV

Can you relate to the carnal mindset of the Pharisee? He seems to have absolutely no clue about what Jesus is speaking to him about. He digresses into a weird question about a grown person being naturally born again. It is a strange reaction but not a surprising one. Many very religious people are clueless concerning spiritual matters.

Yet even today there exists an ideology and theology that embraces the idea that all humans are born with immortal spirits. On all sides of the religious spectrum folks embrace the idea that we are all born with something immortal inside of us. Jesus contradicts this widespread thought of natural immortality when he says: ‘You must be born from above.’

Dear Lord, please open our hearts and minds to really understand what it means to be born from above.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Without being born from above ...

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” -John 3:1-3 NRSV

Without a doubt this chapter of John is my favorite in holy writ. I love this conversation between a leader of the Jews and the King of the Jews. Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was a great teacher. He also acknowledged that he was a man sent from God. In saying this he uttered what so many have said about Christ since then - great teacher and prophet.

Yet Jesus saw through the flattery and went right to the heart of the issue. Nicodemus, like many of the religious leaders, was absolutely blind with regard to who Jesus was. He lacked the inner vision that comes only from a heavenly birth. Apart from this second, and spiritual, birth he was, and all of humanity is, unable to see who Jesus really is.

Dear Lord, thank you for the new birth. Praise you for the day that I my inner eyes opened to see your kingdom.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

Because they saw the signs ...

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. -John 2:23-25 NRSV

This passage reminds me of what Jesus told Thomas after the resurrection: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” The folks in this passage were like Thomas in that they believed more in what they saw with their outer eyes than with their inner ones.

John writes that such people are those whom Jesus would not entrust himself to. Does this speak to you about the importance of faith? It does me. Just this morning I was begging God for a healing sign. It is in me to want a sign - that part of me is not trustable. Yet somehow I know that trust does not require miracles or signs.

Lord, help me to not need a sign to believe. Author faith in me today where there is doubt.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

After he was raised from the dead ...

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. -John 2:18-22 NRSV

Don't you love the ways that Jesus speaks in metaphors. Must have driven the fundamentalist Jews crazy. The Jewish religious leaders has such a literal/narrow black and white view of the scriptures and of life. So much of their problems with Jesus is that the Lord spoke of deeper things that the law. They had no idea that they were so far off base.

Don't you love that even his disciples did not understand what Jesus meant by raising his body up in three days. Like the religious leaders they were clueless. Only in hindsight could they understand what he meant. And that is so true for us today. Sometimes we can only understand our lives in reverse. When we look back we can see his hand in our lives.

Help us to not forgot all of the times that your words came true in our lives Lord. Encourage us to remember.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

He drove all of them out of the temple ...

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” -John 2:13-17

I recently read an opinion of this passage where the writer posited that Jesus was acting like a zealot when he drove out the marketeers. His point was that Jesus was motivated by something other than love. I reject that idea. As I read these sentences I see the love of Christ for those who were being abused by the temple market system. With each crack of the whip he was saying that religious leaders must not abuse the people whom he loves.

The temple was a symbol of God's presence - his earthly house. Seeing the corrupt system of religion at the temple angered the Lord. I think that God is often angered when it comes to religious leaders making a profit from religion. It is a good thing to remember when we gather with other believers. Do our religious practices help or hinder people coming into the presence of God? If Jesus showed up, would he enter in or break out a whip?

Open my eyes Lord to the ways that I have hindered myself and others from coming into your presence.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

His signs ... revealed his glory.

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. -John 2:5-11 NRSV

It is so interesting how Jesus started his ministry. Not with much fanfare or hoopla. He didn't wave his hands over the water or say some magical words. He simply and quietly turned ordinary water into the best wine of the day. It speaks much about the invisible ways that God works in our lives every day. The steward had no idea what just happened. He was totally clueless about the miraculous source of the wine. All he knew was that the need was met.

I wonder if we are like that steward? How many times has God worked in secret, all around us, and we had no idea that his glory was being revealed to us? Could it be that we have also tasted this proverbial wine and had no idea that God was showing his glory to us? It makes me want to believe in him even more. And trust him with my ordinary water.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord that I might see your glory in the ordinary things of my life.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

My hour has not yet come.

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” -John 2:1-4 NRSV

None of the other gospels report on this event. Understandable as the event is so normal - who has not been to a wedding reception? And who knows how long this one went on before the wine gave out? So it seems like such an odd request for Mary to involve her son in this. I wonder what she had seen before that led her to believe that he could help?

It begs the question of how long Jesus had been doing miraculous things. When was the first time that Mary saw her son do something amazing? Yet still, the Lord was aware of a timetable for his ministry. Like many of us, he was aware that God has a plan and he did not want to rush the Father. In these few words he makes us aware that patience is required in our lives. When answers to prayers are slow in coming these words of Christ encourage us to wait upon the Lord.

We so need to learn patience Father. Help us to wait upon you. And cause us to embrace your promises as we wait.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

You will see greater things ...

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:48-51 NRSV

I love how Jesus responds to Nathanael. What do you think he means when he speaks of angels ascending and descending? Perhaps he is only waxing poetic? Or possibly he is preparing this man for the ride of his life? In the gospels we certainly see a glimpse of what "heaven opened" must be like. In a tangible sense the ministry of Christ shows us what it is like if God visited planet earth. Through the compassion of Jesus the eternal One is revealed.

Jesus' invitation to walk with him has never been one to live an ordinary life. Our confession of his kingship, like that of Nathanael, opens a door to a life, and a God, that we never knew existed. Acknowledging Jesus as King is a proclamation that changes our life forever and causes us to pray for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord, You are the King! I need you so much today. I want to see the greater things of heaven opened in my life.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

We have found him ... Come and see ...

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” -John 1:43-49 NRSV

Seems like I remember something from my early days of faith called "Friendship Evangelism". Not sure what the program was all about but those words seems to describe what is going on in these verses. The excitement appears so tangible and real. Andrew finds Simon and Jesus calls him Peter. Philip finds Nathanael and Jesus stuns him as he calls out the real man inside of him. Peter and Nathanael are experiencing something so new and refreshing.

I love how Nathanael responds - such honesty as he tells Philip about his experiences with people from Nazareth. I think that Jesus saw that in him. Sad that we often mistake this lack of deceit as negativity or cynicism. Would that we would come to love such people and embrace them the way that the Lord did (and does). Perhaps, if we did, we would see more skeptics, like Nathanael, become believers as they simply come and see.

Help me Lord to see past the facade that people communicate. Give me eyes of faith to see, and call out, the inner self.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

We have found the Messiah

He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). -John 1:39-42 NRSV

Reading these words gives me such a sense of community. Before the hoopla of the crowds and the miracles Jesus was building loving relationships with ordinary people. Friendships seemed to be so important to him as he started his ministry. Even though he was the Son of God, Jesus needed and desired friends and friendship.

This speaks to me of our need to have relationships with others. Perhaps it is in such settings that we too can experience God in our midst the ways that these men did? Maybe community is the place where we can bring friends to the Messiah - the One who can call out the Peter (the rock or the true self) in each of us?

We need each other Lord. Lead us to places of community where we can be vulnerable and transparent with others.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

What are you looking for?

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” -John 1:35-39

Does it ever amaze you how people just followed Jesus without a lot of probing questions. I wonder what it was about him that caused so many to leave all and follow him. In this passage he did not answer their question but simply invited them to come. I find that this is true for us. God rarely answers our questions but simply invites us to come and see.

Even still, I wonder how some of us would answer the question: “What are you looking for?” And more specifically, what are we looking for in Jesus? Are we wanting a magician who can provide us with entertainment? Or maybe a benefactor who can provide us with stuff? Or possibly a genie in a bottle who can give us what we want? Or maybe just a friend who is there for us in the good times and the bad? I find this last answer to be the most compelling one.

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that you are my friend. Give me the courage to simply "come and see".

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

I saw the Spirit descending from heaven ...

He saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” -John 1: 29-34 NRSV

John the Baptist had been waiting for the Messiah. He may have even had an inkling that his cousin Jesus was the One. Yet he so desired confirmation. He wanted more than his own intuition. And in a manner like the fleece that Gideon laid out before the Lord, God confirmed his word in the form of a heavenly dove as John saw the Spirit come upon Jesus.

I love that John knew that he himself was not the Messiah. This humble man understood that the Christ was so much more than one who immersed people in water.  Somehow he understood that the it would take so much more than what he had. He knew that people needed a spiritual baptism and birth. He knew that it would take a heavenly lamb to take away the sins that people were being baptized for. His baptism could not do what the baptism of the Holy Spirit could.

Oh sweet Lamb of God. Take away my sins today. Wash me in your blood and make me clean.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

I am not worthy ...

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. -John 1:24-28 NRSV

There is a popular book circulating these days that proposes a Jesus who was mentored by John the Baptist. The author's perspective is that Jesus was one of John's disciples. This passage, and many others, contradicts that view. It is hard to see the Baptist speaking of not being worthy to untie the sandals of a person whom he saw as a follower.

These verses points us to the uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah. John certainly knew Jesus. They were cousins after all and probably grew up together. Yet the one sent to baptize with water certainly saw Jesus as more than a man. The testimony of John shouts to us of the divinity of his cousin. John knew Jesus well and came to understand his own unworthiness. That revelation is true even today. The more we know Him the more we know that we are not worthy.

I am such a proud Pharisee Lord. Teach me to embrace the humility that John the Baptist displayed.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.