Lord, I believe.

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” -John 9:37-39 NRSV

This passage speaks to me about how religious pride causes spiritually blindness. The setting reeks of Pharisaic arrogance as Jewish leaders grill a man healed of blindness about the One who gave him sight. Instead of rejoicing with this one who has never seen a day of his life they choose to belittle him and doubt him. Heartbreaking.

In stark contrast to this religious arrogance is the humility of one who falls down in worship and says “Lord, I believe.” Such a testimony speaks to how this man had more than his outer eyes opened. His worship tells us about the opening of his inner eyes. And Jesus' acceptance of his worship teaches us that He knew that he was God.

Lord, I believe.

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

Though I was blind, now I see.

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” ... So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” -John 9:16-17,24-25

Religious people are sometimes freaked out by things that cannot be naturally explained. I was freaked out when God healed my first wife - like the man in this story she was blind and began to see. And I was totally freaked out when she passed her driver's exam. Like the Pharisees, this quazi-religious Episcopalian was clueless about such things.

I love the simplicity of the healed man's responses. No theological mumbo-jumbo. He called Jesus a prophet but you get the sense that he was not sure what that meant. He stuck to his own experience and testified only about what happened to him. It is an example of how we should act. Tell people what you know. Stick to the facts and let God do the rest.

Open our eyes Lord. Expand our vision. Sharpen our inner sight. That we might see Jesus in our midst.

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

While it is Day

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.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent) ... they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” -John 9:4-7,10-11

Do you think it odd that Jesus did not just touch the blind man and make him whole. Certainly he could have simply spoke a word and his sight would have returned. Yet the Lord chose to involve the man in his own healing. How interesting that spit and mud would be the agents of healing. Perhaps the spit and mud are representative of the medicines that we are sometimes called to take? In truth, I struggle against taking my daily pills. What I want is a faster kind of healing.

Jesus seems to begin this passage with an acknowledgment that his days were numbered. In the same sense our lives are finite. Our capability to do good on earth is limited by the number of days in our life. Yet each day that we awake we have an opportunity to work the works of God. Each day we can bring a bit of healing to the lives of others. We can also bring a bit of healing to ourselves if we choose to see our pills as divine spit and mud.

Open our eyes Lord to the proverbial spit and mud all around us. And cause us to be agents of healing in the world.

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

Who Sinned?

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. -John 9:1-3 NRSV

This question plagues humanity yet today. Something bad happens and people want someone to blame. Earthquakes destroy villages, tsunamis flood coastal regions and people want to blame somebody. What is it in us that seeks to cast judgment in times when mercy is needed? Is it theology gone bad or something deeper that causes us to ask such questions? Have some embraced a weird form of karma or do we make up answers to unanswerable questions?

I love the way that Jesus answers the question. First he hits at the heart of the question ... no one sinned ... there is no one to blame. Secondly he teaches us that the works of God are not limited to the sinless. In saying that he does not say that sin is okay or that God makes people blind. He transcends a black/white cause/effect perspective and challenges us to go beyond our fleshly limitations. In both aspects of his answer he communicates a divine mercy and grace.

Help us Lord to fix our eyes on you instead of our failings and sins.

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

Who do you claim to be?

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be? ... Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell 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. -John 8:52,53,56-59 NRSV

With these words Jesus ends his interaction with the Jewish leaders. They claimed to be the true seed of Abraham while Jesus called them children of the father of lies. In response they called Jesus a demonized Samaritan. And now, with one breathtaking declaration, Jesus reveals the truth of who he really is. And the Jews understood him perfectly.

They understood that, with the words "I Am", Jesus was claiming to be God. This declaration is hard to get our minds around. It is difficult to understand the idea of the infinite God becoming a finite man. Yet the testimony is not from one of his followers but from Jesus himself. And our choice is to either believe him or pick up a stone to cast at him.

With the writers of the Nicene Creed we confess our belief "in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man."

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

This is not what Abraham did.

I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. -John 8:38-40 NRSV

I love how Abraham is called the Father of the faith. In his life we do not see a perfect man but a faithful follower of God. His entrance into the land of promise was a humble entry. No soldiers. No arrogance - he gave his nephew Lot the best land. He courageously defended his nephew (and his family) when others attacked and kidnapped them.

Yet somehow Abraham's example of faith was lost over the years. People seemed to change the focus to a faith in the Law of Moses instead of a faith (that Abraham had) in God. A hard evaluation for sure but one that we must always consider when use the scriptures, as these religious leaders did, to pronounce judgment on others.

Help me Lord to remember to focus my faith on Jesus and the divine image that he gives us in the gospels.

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

The truth will make you free.

Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” -John 8:28-32 NRSV

There is an interesting turn of the conversation in this passage. Up to now the discourse has been between Jesus and the religious leaders. Then, as faith seems to arise as people begin to actually hear him, Jesus turns his attention to believers speaking to them about continuing to believe in the things that he is teaching.

I love the way that he talks about truth. He could have waxed religious but chose to speak to a truth that makes people free. And in the verses following this passage he teaches them, and us, that truth releases us from the bondage of sin.

In my own life the truth that I am forgiven and adopted by God has turned my life inside out. The truth that God loves me affects my life in a way that causes me to act like his child. This is the freeing truth that Jesus speaks about. This divine love is "the light of life" that Jesus spoke about earlier. Love make us free and love keeps us free.

Thank you Lord for the truth that makes me free. May I ever live in that knowledge.

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

Why do I speak to you at all?

Then they said to him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” ... He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. ... They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? ... They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. -John 8:19,23,25,27 NRSV

I liken this exchange to one that I would have with a rocket scientist. I might understand (most of) the words that they are speaking to me but everything I hear is like a foreign language because I am unfamiliar with the scientific concepts. So it is with Jesus and his listeners. They understood the words that he spoke but not the concepts.

Yet unlike my problem understanding rocket science the Jews obstacle was one of the heart and not the head. Their hearts were inclined to the Law and not the Lawgiver. They had a zeal but not for God - a fundamental mistake that many make even today. It is why we must filter everything in scripture through the life, teachings and ministry of Christ.

Teach me Lord to read the scriptures with your eyes and your heart.

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

You judge by human standards; I judge no one.

You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; 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 witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.” -John 8:15-18 NRSV

It is a sobering to think that God came to us in human form and our response was to judge him. What is it about humanity that causes us to want to judge another human being? Do we not understand the folly of such activity? Each of understands, at some level, the superficiality of our judgment yet we continue to act as if we know another's heart.

And even worse, we find a way to use the bible (Jesus called it "your law") to support our bad behavior. Isn't it interesting how, time after time, Jesus refused to judge the adulterer, the drunkard and the prostitute but seemed to judge the hypocrisy of religious people at every turn? It speaks to me of the hypocrisy of my judging another person.

Forgive my hypocrisy Lord. Help me to love and not judge anyone.

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