I have set you an example ...

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. -John 13:13-17 NRSV

I wonder if, in the early church, the disciples ever washed each other's feet. There is no record of it in Acts but I wonder if they did? For sure some modern denominations have foot washing ceremonies much in the way that many churches have communion services. Yet it seems that, in making these things ceremonial, we miss what Jesus was teaching.

Could it be that foot washing was simply an example of servanthood and communion a path to deeper relationships? Perhaps Jesus was not instituting a system of sacramental worship but showing us what it means to be his followers - people more concerned about following his examples of service and fellowship than making these things religious.

Awaken my heart Lord. Teach me what it means to wash the feet of your children.

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

I have come into the world as a light ...

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. ...
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. -John 12:37,44-46 NRSV

Do you find it odd that faith is the switch that turns on the lamp of God? Before I believed I could not see the truth about God because I was in darkness. Then in a moment something was born inside of me and my life changed. I was blind to many signs and then I bowed my heart and began to see. Faith had given me vision I previously lacked.

One of the things that I could not see was that God looked like Jesus. This is the thing that many of the Jews, and many today, stumble over. It is difficult for some to see a man like Jesus as the Messiah. Many people then, and people today, want Zeus not Jesus. They really want God to look like an avenging warrior and not a loving shepherd.

Open our eyes Lord that we may see the real you - that we may see Jesus.

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

It was for this very reason I came to this hour.

My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” -John 12:26-28 NRSV

Like Jesus, our soul can be troubled when we consider the difficult path that we are sometimes called to walk. The patient that has received a cancer diagnosis. The mom or the dad who watches their child battle an addiction. There are things in life that trouble our soul so much. Yet in the midst of it we sometimes hear a voice calling us to glory.

As I read these verses I remember that old hymn that refrains, "It is well with my soul". In times of gut-wrenching trouble we can know that all is well when we understand that the name of God is being glorified in our lives. This thought gives me so much courage to meet the challenges of my day. I long to one day hear the Father speak of how we glorified him.

We live our hearts to you dear Father. Help us to know that we are here to reflect your glory in our troubles.

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

Anyone who loves their life will lose it ...

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. -John 12:24-26 NRSV

What do you think it means to love or hate your life? Jesus certainly is not speaking about narcissism or some sort of self loathing. And I do not think that he is talking about self image or mental instability. He seems to be talking about denying ourselves and picking up our cross. In a sense this kind of seed planting is the only way to follow God.

Have you ever thought of self-denial as a way to plant a seed? Is it possible that our lives can be so much more when we serve others in this way? Could it be that this kind of death is synonymous with unconditional love? I wonder what kind of harvest could be reaped if we embraced this kind of seed sowing? Perhaps we can begin today with a solitary seed?

Teach us Lord to die to self in such a way that many seeds would be produced from a solitary seed.

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

Seated on a donkey’s colt ...

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” At first his disciples did not understand all this. -John 12:14-16 NRSV

Images of Palm Sunday come alive with shouts of Hosanna as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. But unlike powerful leaders before him, Jesus enters on a humble donkey and not a powerful steed. I think that the imagery could not be more accurate yet so unlike what his followers were wanting. Most were wanting a powerful Zealot and not a humble Messiah.

This image centers me. It is such an unwanted reality check. Knowing that Jesus would be slain within a week of his entrance sobers me. I really do not want that man on the donkey to lead me. In truth, I want that powerful Zealot. I want to gallop on a horse and not amble on a donkey. Jesus brings me back to reality and shows me what humility is all about.

Help me today Lord to humble myself, pick up my cross and follow you.

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

You will always have the poor among you ...

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” ... Jesus replied ... You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. -John 12:4-5,8 NRSV

Jesus words ring true some two millenia after he spoke them. Two thousand years of human progress. Centuries of Christianity. Yet the poor are still among us. Kids still go hungry. The disenfranchised and impoverished remind us that we have not come all that far. Millions of believers have closed their ears to the cries of the poor in their cities.

I write not to shame but to remind myself of how the presence of the poor is God's call for us to be like Jesus. We are called us to care for the least of those among us. God commands us to care for the sick, the thirsty, the hungry, the imprisoned and those without hope. These are our brothers and sisters. We are our brother's keeper.

Thy kingdom come Lord Jesus. As it is in heaven let it be here on earth. Help us to care for those you love.

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

It was worth a year’s wages.

Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ... “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” -John 12:3-5,7-8 NRSV

Ever wonder what prompted Mary to be so generous? Can you relate to this sort of extravagance? In an instant she poured out a year's wages. In an act of worship she wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. This speaks so deeply about her love for the One who returned her brother from the grave. Yet I think that most do not understand this kind of love and worship.

This has always been true about worship. Folks who have not had a spiritual birth find it difficult to understand worship - especially when it involves extravagance. Many are comfortable with a worship that gives what is required but few have experienced a form of worship that involves real sacrifice. It is what separates worshipers from religious people.

All to Jesus I surrender. All to you I freely give. Teach me Lord what it means to really worship.

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

He prophesied that Jesus would die ...

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. -John 11:49-53 NRSV

I think that most of us are somewhat shocked by the idea that religious leaders would plot such a heinous murder. The rationalization of their high priest reeks of cowardice. Yet in the midst of such vile behavior we can see God working behind the scenes. Though we, like the writer of this gospel, can only see it in a historical sense.

This gives me hope. When we are experiencing awful things ... when the actions of other people are causing us pain and suffering ... it is comforting to know that God is working behind the scenes to bring about something good. For sure, we need hearts of faith to believe something this outrageous but perhaps this is what it means to trust with all of our heart?

I am reminded Lord that you are our strong tower. We who trust in you will not be ashamed.

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

I thank you that you have heard me.

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. -John 11:41-44 NRSV

How interesting the way that Jesus prays before he raises his friend. You get the impression that Jesus had already prayed and understood that it was God's will to bring Lazarus back to life. In other places Jesus speaks of only doing what he sees the Father doing. Through prayer Jesus seemed to have a close and intimate connection with God.

It speaks to me of the importance of training our senses, through prayer, to be aware of the presence of God. Instead of walking through life reacting to our circumstances these verses call us to be "prayed up" and sensitive to the voice and heart of the Father. In a sense, prayer prepares our heart for the things that come our way as we walk with Him.

Dear Lord, open our senses up that we might with Jesus say: "Father, I thank you that you have heard me."

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

Jesus wept.

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. ... When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ... Jesus wept. -John 11:17,32-33,35 NRSV

Jesus delayed coming when Lazarus was sick. The man's sisters did not understand why. He previously had a somewhat theological discussion with sister Martha but dogma was set aside when he saw Mary and her friends grieving. Jesus was moved deeply at their suffering and wept with them. There is such vulnerability in this passage.

Reminds me of a scene in the movie Selma where Dr King is comforting a man who had just lost his son to police violence. Martin tells the man that "God was the first to cry". Sometimes we forget how God is "deeply moved" by our grief, our tears and our heartaches. The image of Jesus weeping reminds me of my need to pray.

You Lord are touched when I pray. Like Mary, I weep for my losses knowing that you understand and are deeply moved.

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

Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?

The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” -John 10:19-21 NRSV

I think that we have always had a tendency to mock what we do not understand. Modern Pentecostals are sometimes derided for their belief in spiritual gifts. Folks who disagree with other believers sometimes call them heretics. And here some Jews called Jesus crazy and demonized. Yet standing before them was a man who only did good to people.

I think that we would do well to learn from this passage. Perhaps we could focus more on the spiritual fruit in a person's life rather than our theological differences? Instead of holding conferences that focus on our disagreements maybe we should find ways to inspire each other to love and good works? In the end, what we say about others is our choice.

Teach us Lord to see past our differences and find Jesus in each other.

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

I know my sheep and my sheep know me ...

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. -John 10:14-16 NRSV

It would be hard to find a clearer passage to support the idea that true spirituality is actually knowing God. Yet even today, many years after I first came to know God, I find it surprising that Jesus speaks of our relationship with him in the same light as his with the Father. I know him more today than yesterday but feel that I have so much more to know.

I love how Jesus speaks of having "other sheep". In my thinking he is speaking of the gentiles, non-Jews who would hear his voice and follow him. Yet, in the end, the Lord Jesus speaks to us of belonging to one flock following one Shepherd. That thought reminds me that there will be a day when our theological differences will melt into the light of God.

Help those who know you, and hear your voice, to find paths of unity and blessing.

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

The Good Shepherd.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. -John 10:10-12 NRSV

I wonder if folks hearing Jesus speak these words were reminded of the Shepherd of Psalm 23? Did they understand that David's divine shepherd, the restorer of souls, stood before them? Could they have imagined how he would lay down his life? When I think of Jesus as my shepherd, my mind flashes back to a vision I had in 1993. Here is my story.
At thirty-nine years old my first wife, Ellen, had heart and kidney failure. At the brink of her death I found myself begging God to not let her die. I could not accept her situation or the possibility of her death. Three and a half years later after praying almost daily for her healing I found myself again faced with the possibility of her dying. Driving to work one day, racked with the agony of thoughts of a world without Ellen, I began to pray. I saw a picture in my mind. In this vision I saw myself standing on a mountain looking down at a valley. Somehow I knew it was the valley of the shadow of Ellen's death. As I looked into the vision I saw Jesus come to my side, take my hand, and walk with me into the valley. It was a comforting picture. God was trying to tell me that he would be with me when Ellen died and that I would be okay.
Jesus is the good shepherd. He promises to be with us both in sunny green pastures and in dark valleys. The presence of this Good Shepherd comforts and encourages me yet today. I pray that you will sense his presence today.

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

I am the gate for the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ... and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. ... Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. -John 10:3-4,6-9 NRSV

I love the way that Jesus taught using stories of things familiar to his audiences. The stories drew them in and caused them to ask questions. And often his answers were as confusing as his stories. You have to wonder what they were thinking when he called himself "the gate for the sheep". Did they understand what he was teaching them?

A few things come to mind when I think about a gate or a door. Both convey the sense of separation. Each speaks of transition from one place to another. Jesus' life seems to embody that sense of separation and transition. He is the one who sees the heart and opens the portal to new life. Yet not all who hear his voice follow and are saved.

Help us Lord to hear your voice and follow you to loving pastures.

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