Your Son. Your Mother.

There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. ... When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. -John 19:18,26-27 NRSV

It is so easy to get wrapped up in all of the hoopla that is surrounding Jesus as he suffers on the cross and forget that one is watching him with a broken heart. What would it have been like to have been Mary? Can you even imagine watching your son being treated in such a vile fashion? What a nightmarish experience this must have been for Mary.

Yet another is also watching with a broken heart. John, the writer of the gospel, who describes himself as the disciple whom he loved, is standing next to Jesus' mom. He too cannot believe what he is seeing. His soul has been pierced and hope seems so far. To these two hurting souls Jesus speaks sweet words calling them into a family relationship.

With these words Christ speaks to us about finding comfort in each other when life seems out of control. In a sense we are God's familial gifts to each other. Lord, give me a heart for your family. Help us to share our pain with each other.

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

I have power to crucify you ...

“Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered [him], “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” ... They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” -John 19:9-11,15 NRSV

The trials are over and two courts have spoken. The Jews render a guilty verdict. Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus. He does not want to execute the man before him and tries to talk with him. In the end Pilate washes his hands of the matter and submits Christ to the court of public opinion. The verdict is rendered. Crucify him. Crucify him. Hate wins the day.

In the end it seems that Pilate's words were empty. He had no power. He was a pawn played by religious leaders and the power of public opinion. The greater sin was committed by them and not Pilate. Yet, even in such darkness, God was working. His power was on display. Love was overcoming hate. And the power of good turning evil inside out.

Help me Lord to see the power of good working in my life. Teach me to see love winning the day.

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

My kingdom is not from this world.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. -John 18:36-38 NRSV

Jesus stands before Pilate condemned to death by religious leaders who twist his words as they bring him to the governor. So Pilate asks Jesus if he sees himself as the King of the Jews. In a few sentences Jesus not only refutes the claims of his accusers but goes on to declare to Pilate who he really is and the sort of kingdom he rules over.

I love the phrase "For this I was born". Jesus came to tell humanity the truth. Some listened. Most refused to hear. Some, like Pilate, would not know truth if it stood before them. Yet the truth remains. The visible kingdoms of this world are subservient to the invisible kingdom of God. And Christ Jesus now sits as King of kings and Lord of lords.

We bow to you King Jesus. Open our eyes to the truth Lord. Help us to see the invisible kingdom.

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

Why do you ask me?

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together.
I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” -John 18:19-22 NRSV

Questions. Some arise from a good heart and a sincere motive. Some arise from evil hearts and motives. Yet a question, in an of itself, is (generally speaking) neither good nor bad. So when Jesus returns a question with a question he is addressing more than the question. He is speaking to the dark motives of the religious leaders that asked.

The reaction of the religious policeman speaks to how the words of Christ were received. Many then, and even today, respond by lashing out against those who would question those in authority. It is a sad commentary on the abuse of power and authority. It gives us cause to pause and weigh the intents of our heart when we ask questions.

Help us Lord to watch over our hearts. Teach us to really listen before we speak.

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

Am I not to drink the cup?

Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. ... Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” -John 18:4-6,10-11 NRSV

Such an interesting contrast of power in this passage. Peter, and all present, watch as soldiers twice recoil and fall as Jesus speaks the words "I am". It is a reminder that of the words that Jesus spoke about having angels at his disposal. Yet Peter, a fisherman, felt a need to swing a sword. He was ready to go to war. His messianic vision was earthly.

The words of Jesus challenge me. I wince when he speaks of drinking the cup of suffering. Sometimes the things we do for others come at great cost. In truth, I want to swing a proverbial sword of resistance. Yet love compels me to drink of the cup. To endure the suffering when I want to strike out. To patiently trust that God is at work in my pain.

I hurt and want your power Lord. Help me to remember that your power is made complete in my weakness.

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

That they may all be one ...

I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. ... I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
-John 17:15,20-21 NRSV    

It is moments before soldiers will come to take Jesus away. He is praying and his disciples are listening. And a main theme of his prayer is that these would stay together after he was gone. Looking back over the past two millennia, I have to wonder if this prayer was answered at all. Division, not unity, seems to have marked the history of his followers.

On this same night Jesus told his followers that outsiders would know that they followed him because these would see the way that they loved each other. Love for each other would protect them from the evil one. It would breed harmony and not dissension. It would create a bond. These followers would be one in heart and spirit if they would only love.

We have fallen so far Lord. We, your church, have chosen to divide instead of love. Forgive us. Make us one again.

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

This is eternal life ...

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. -John 17:3-5 NRSV

If ever one wondered about the nature of Jesus Christ they need only hear what he says here when he speaks of being with the Father before the world existed. Could ever a statement be clearer? In saying this Jesus gave us few options. He either lied, was a mad man or spoke the truth. How we respond is important to subject of eternal life.

So when we think about the whole idea of heaven and eternal life we must really begin with what Jesus says about knowing God. It is not enough to know about God. Not enough to be religious. According to this passage eternal life is all about knowing God now not later. Life that begins with a second birth before we die. A spiritual and eternal birth.

We pray as you prayed Jesus. To be people who glorify the Father by finishing the work you have given us.

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

I have said these things to you in figures of speech.

Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. I have said these things to you in figures of speech. -John 16:23b-25a NRSV

Many feel that the bible should be read literally and of course much of it should be. But there are times when a greater meaning can be learned from the scriptures when we allow ourselves to hear the words in a nonliteral fashion. These verses are certainly an example of this principle. Jesus invitation to ask anything in his name is not a carte blanche one.

His point in saying "ask anything" is not to invite genie in a bottle type of intercession or petition but to affirm the Father's love for us. It is analogous to a parent telling a child that they would do anything for them. It is understood that this is a figure of speech and the parent (i.e. the Father) will use discretion in what they do. Such is the nature of parenting.

Give us wisdom to know how to read the scriptures Lord. Help us to know how to pray.

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

No one will take your joy from you.

When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. -John 16:21-22 NRSV

The resurrection points us to this joy that Jesus speaks of. The disciples watched their Messiah die a torturous death. They felt such intense anguish as Jesus was beaten, unrighteously judged, sentenced to death and crucified. Hope was no where to be found as they gathered together after Jesus was buried. Then in an instant, he stood before them.

The resurrection of Jesus was a moment of pure joy. In a moment, anguish turned to joy. Hopelessness to hope. Because Jesus conquered death everything changed. Eyes were opened. Like the delivery of a baby, lives were forever changed. It is still that way. Joy comes when our eyes are opened to the resurrected Christ. How could it not?

Thank you for the joy of knowing you Jesus. There is no greater joy.

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

He will glorify me ...

“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, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. -John 16:12-14 NRSV

It is so remarkable that Jesus displays such care for the wellbeing of his friends in the hours before his torturous death. His words exude such a loving concern for these who he has been with these past years. He seems to understand the necessity of his absence and the Holy Spirit's presence. Yet his followers seem so clueless about their future.

I sometimes think that the book of Acts should have been titled the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In that book we see the things that Jesus speaks about in these verses come to fruition. Clueless people become spiritual leaders. Jesus is glorified as the Holy Spirit comes in the lives of the disciples. Eyes are opened to truth. And the message lives yet today.

Fall on us afresh dear Spirit of God. Open our eyes and guide us into truth. Glorify Jesus in us.

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

He will testify on my behalf.

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. -John 15:26-27

This is the last discourse that Jesus has with his disciples. He has eaten his last meal with them. Shortly soldiers will come to arrest him. He has been speaking of the hard times that are coming for his disciples. He is telling them of the division to come. They, like him, will be arrested and suffer from persecution. Following Jesus will not be an easy road.

Jesus knows, more than they know, that they will need help to carry on his mission. One who will continue their tutelage. Teach them how to abide in the love of God. Such is the role of the Advocate to come. The weak will be strong when he comes. The fearful, bold. The simple, wise. The ministry of Christ will multiply as these testify on his behalf.

Come Holy Spirit. Embolden us anew. Give us words to speak. Encouraging words. Words of love. We need you.

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

I have called you friends ...

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. ... Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. -John 15:15,20-21 NRSV
Friend. Servant. I love these two words. They speak to me about the nature of our relationship with God. On one hand, our relationship is a mutual loving friendship. Sharing a loving bond whereby we give our heart to God in response to having his heart in us. It is a voluntary engagement where God shares his mind with us and we with him.

On the other hand, our relationship is that of a father and a small child. A master and a slave. There is no equality between parties. Our job is to do the bidding of the Father regardless the results. And when things go bad in our lives we are often not given answers. Except the knowing that bad things once happened to the Master.

I am your servant Lord. Help me to be a better friend to you. Help me to walk in the way of love.

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

That my joy may be in you ...

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:11-13 NRSV

I often think that I would rather be happy than joyous. And then I read a few verses like this and I am challenged to think about the connection between joy and love. Unlike happiness, joy is not temporally connected to things that are happening. Joy is something more permanent. When we love we create an environment where joy can grow in us.

To be sure, Jesus is not speaking about joy coming from a love that costs us nothing. The love that causes joy to grow is the Jesus kind of love. The love that keeps giving. Sacrificial love. Unconditional love. Love that sometimes does not make us feel good. This is the kind of joy that Jesus had when he was crucified. This is the joy that he wants to be in us.

Remind me Lord that it is better to be filled with joy than happiness. Teach me to love as you love.

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

I am the true vine ...

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. ... Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. ... 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.
-John 15:1,5-5,10 NRSV    

A few verses back we read that Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." In calling himself the true vine he seems to double down on that idea with another "I am" statement. These words speak to me of what it means for Jesus to be the way. And about how important it is for me to abide in the love of God. And to love the people in my life.

I love this metaphor. I love the idea of being spiritually connected to God like branches of a tree. It speaks to me about the source of "the life" coming from our spiritual roots and not from just doing good things. When we love as Jesus loves we show ourselves as people connected to the life and love of God. It inspires me to be like the One who is called Love.

Remind us today Lord that you are the source of life and of love. Help us to bear much fruit today and tomorrow.

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

Do not let your hearts be troubled.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
-John 14:25-27 NRSV    

Jesus has made a stunning announcement. He is going to die and return to heaven. It is hard to imagine how this impacted his disciples. I imagine they sat bewildered. In a state of denial. How could they get their heads around such news. And what about this holy advocate? What is that all about? I cannot imagine the thoughts flooding their heads.

Two millennia later we look back thinking that we understand but often struggle to find that peace Jesus spoke about. We struggle to experience the peace of Christ. Things happen and we are afraid. Our hearts are troubled because we forget that the Advocate, the One who fights for us, is with us and is reminding us of the things that Jesus said.

Come Holy Advocate. Defend us. Speak for us. Teach us. Remind us of what Jesus said.

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

I will love them and reveal myself to them.

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. -John 14:22-24 NRSV

Judas is struggling to understand how the Messiah will not be revealed to everyone. He is wondering how the ascension to David's throne will not be seen by all in Jerusalem and even in Rome. Like many of his day, and perhaps in ours, the words of Christ perplexes him. Jesus tells him that love is the key that opens the door of our understanding.

God has always revealed himself to those who love. In a sense love is the revelation that opens our inner eyes. The love of my wife opened my eyes so many years ago to the love of God. Love continues to open my eyes in both small and large ways. When a person truly loves they keep Christ's commands. When they love they open a door of revelation.

Come Holy Spirit. Teach me to walk in the ways of love. Reveal yourself to me.

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