Friday, May 29, 2020

I was blind, but now I see

Read John 9

As we move through chapter 9, I ask that we think about ourselves a little more that usual.  We see Jesus doing mighty acts, often on the Sabbath.  We see Scribes and Pharisees and very religious Jews not liking that this man is disrupting their well-established comfort zones. We see Jesus giving the Pharisees just what they deserve, and we usually like that part.

But, what about us?  Are there insights into our nature and lifestyle that we should be considering?  Let’s go back to John 4 and the woman at the well.  She wants to do anything other than talk about the way she lives.  She tries to avoid conversation with Jesus about how she is living by bringing up religious topics. 

Where is the right place to worship?  When the Christ comes, he will settle things.  Her attitude changed when he told her that she was speaking to the Christ, but do we still have similar attitudes? Do we avoid life’s tough questions?

How many times do we invite someone to church instead of inviting them to know Jesus as Lord?  The former is an easier task.  The latter is a real conversation.

How many times do we pick out a few verses in the Bible to the exclusion of others?  How many times do those few verses monopolize our response to God’s grace and mercy?

How many times do we point fingers instead of offering an outstretched hand?  Our sins are forgiven but we have not been made the judge.  Condemnation of others is not one of the perks of salvation.

In how many ways are we like the woman at the well?  I hope that we are like here in one way.  When Christ was revealed to her, her life changed in the moment.

How many of us are like the huge crowds in John 6, who upon being challenged with the bread of life thought the teaching too difficult and left?

When it’s a lunch in the middle of nowhere that’s one thing, but making Jesus your real sustenance is another.  How many of us bug out when following the Lord gets tough?

Let’s frame this in the context of what we have received and know today.  The statement that love fulfills the law may sound like an easy way out, but following rules about honoring your parents, resting one day a week, not profaning the name of God, and not stealing are pretty easy compared to loving your enemies or loving the least of these.

Do we bug out when following Jesus gets tough?

What about the woman caught in the act in chapter 8?  There was no defense.  By the law, she should have been stoned.  Only by mercy did she escape condemnation.

We are this woman.  We may not be doing the deed with our neighbor, but all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  We don’t have to be caught in the act.  Nothing is hidden from God.    Only his mercy and grace can rescue us from condemnation.

We sometimes think that if there isn’t a crowd dragging us into the courtyard to be stoned that we are doing fine.  We are told to stop judging on appearances.  God sees the heart.

How many ways are we like this woman?

We come to chapter 9, and there is so much in this chapter.  I hope you read it and listened to the messages, but for the moment, consider the crowd that followed the blind man to the pool and saw him healed when he washed.  Some doubted that it was the same man who had been begging on the side of the road all of these years.

How is that even possible?

Think to the story of the Good Samaritan.  The priest and the Levite see the wounded man up ahead and walk by on the other side of the road.  To them he was an inconvenience.  He was less than human.  They couldn’t be bothered with things that would take them away from their daily tasks.

Now think to the blind man who sat on the side of the road begging for years.  How many times, hundreds of times, had people walked by him.  He was always there.  Perhaps sometimes he changed location based on seasonal events.

If people were headed to atone for their sins, they might be more apt to throw a couple coins his way.  If you were a beggar, you wanted to be in that traffic pattern.  Mostly, he was in the same place day after day and year after year.

How could people not recognize him?

If you looked at a beggar as you passed by, you might be compelled to mercy.  You might give him something.  If you wanted to keep your money in your pocket, you did not make eye contact with the beggar, even with a blind one.

How often is this us?

We want to help the poor and disadvantaged but don’t really want to get to know them.  Here’s a hundred bucks to help those in need but I don’t want to get to know them.

You have heard me talking about breaking the vending machine a few times.  Many think it’s all about those being helped.  It’s not.

We are as apt to be transactional as those coming for help.  We will give money or buy stuff, but we don’t’ always want to get to know the least of these my brothers and sisters.

In how many ways are we like the crowd of people who did not recognize the man who was blind and now could see?  How many times do we not want to see the least of these?

Now we come to the blind man.  Jesus put mud in his eyes.  He washed them as instructed.  He could see.  He had never been able to see before but now he could see.

One of the things that he saw very soon after receiving his sight was that the religious leaders did not like the man who healed him.  He knew his name was Jesus but he didn’t know much more than that.

He was brought before the Pharisees and questioned.  He answered everything that he knew.  He was dismissed and his parents were called in.  They confirmed that he was their son and was born blind.  As far as the healing stuff, you need to ask him.  He is old enough to answer for himself.

So, the man who can now see is brought back before the Pharisees.  They decide to help this man get closer to the right answer, that is, the answer they wanted to hear.  You have seen enough courtroom dramas to know how lawyers like to frame their questions.

The man was not interested in playing games.  He answered the Pharisees who had proclaimed Jesus to be a sinner by saying, I don’t know if he is a sinner or not.  What I do know is that I was blind and now I see.

I was blind but now I see.

This is irrefutable testimony.  It comes with no agenda.  It does not take sides.  It surely was not what the Pharisees wanted to hear.

They asked him the same questions they did before.  Superimposing a little courtroom vernacular over the man’s response, we get:  Asked and answered!

Then the man who can now see takes the offensive.  No sinner could do what this man did.

Why do you want to know so much?  Do you want to be his disciples too?

That sent the Pharisees through the roof.  They had no appropriate response other than to call him a child of sin and kick him out of their courtroom.

This man had not only offered irrefutable testimony, but he had also out lawyered the lawyers. 

Jesus met him later.  He asked him if he wanted to believe in the Son of Man.

He replied:  Just tell me who he is.

Jesus said:  You are talking to him.

The man believed in Jesus and worshiped.  He believed and worshiped.
You have to love this story I was once lost but now and found, was blind but now I see.

I have been asking you to look at yourselves from the perspective of many different people.  Now I ask you to put yourselves in the place of the blind man healed by Jesus.

But, I was never blind.

But, his story is so unique.


But, we too have been healed by Jesus.  By his wounds we are healed.  We were lost in sin.  We were dead.  He has rescued us an delivered us.  He brought us from death to life.

Remember the song Reckless Love.  Remember the words, Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.  It’s powerful.  God loves with abandon.  He pours out his love not only on those who deserve it but on those who don’t.

Shouldn’t our response be Reckless Worship.  Shouldn’t we worship without regard to what the world thinks or who says you should do this or not that?

The man that Jesus healed knew that the religious leaders of the day would put anyone out of the synagogue if they spoke in favor of Jesus.

Worshiping him may have more dire consequences.  He might have been able to see for less than a day before he was stoned to death.

But he didn’t care.  He knew the one who gave him sight.  He knew who held the words of life.  He knew who his Lord was.

He worshiped!

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  We often don’t want to know the least of these.  Sometimes, we think the teachings of Jesus to be too hard.

Sometimes, we do a cost-benefit analysis on following Jesus and try to hedge our bets a little with the ways of the world.

This man said, I don’t care what the world thinks.  I was once lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

I will worship without reservation.

In the oath of officers of the United States of America, which includes not only the top officials but every commissioned officer, are these words:  I take this oath freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

It’s an all-in sort of deal.  I don’t hold back anything and I have no ulterior motives. 

This is how we are called to worship.  This is worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.  This is worship with abandon. 

Is this how we worship?  Are we like the man who was blind but now can see?


Friday, May 22, 2020

Before Abraham was, I Am

Read John 8

What do you do when Jesus tells you that your father is the Devil?

You fire back that he is a demon.  He is a Samaritan.  He’s a Longhorn.  He’s from California.  He does drink Dr. Pepper.

The problem was that Jesus spoke the truth and the Jews were grasping at straws.  The Jews wanted to claim God as their Father but Jesus had called them out.  He said that God sent him, he did the Father’s will, and you dishonored him.

I will give you the same theological term as before:  Ouch!

Jesus told them again that life—eternal life—was in him.  Believe and you will not die.  He did not come to condemn the world but to save it.

That set them off.  Everybody has died.  All the patriarchs died.  Are you greater than them?

Jesus told them that Abraham rejoiced at seeing his day.

That set the sparks a flyin’. Now we know that you are possessed by a demon.  You are not even 50 years old.  Abraham lived a long, long time ago.  You are saying things that you can’t possibly know. We gotcha now!

There is no subtlety here.  This is not the non-confrontation approach we saw at the beginning of the chapter with the woman brought before Jesus.  This is in your face:  I Am!

Now they were ready to kill Jesus for sure.  He could not say this unless he was indeed the Son of God and they were not going to believe that.

Jesus slipped away before anyone could do anything.  We know from our other reading that his time had not yet come.

Think on these words:  Before Abraham was, I am.

We often think of the 7 I Am statements in John, but there are many more.  The 7 statements are metaphors that Jesus used, but he used the words egō eimi or I Am more than within those 7 statements.  Each time they speak the words that God spoke to Moses. 

Jesus is proclaiming his divinity.  He is affirming he is of the Father and sent by the Father.  The truth that could set these men free from sin stood before them as the promised Anointed One, but their hearts had already been hardened and all they wanted to do was kill him.

What should we receive from this pericope?  It should give us a great perspective on Philippians 2 for one thing.  Jesus has always been.  He stepped out of heaven to live as a man, even from birth, to fulfill the law and the prophets, and go to the cross as the unblemished Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

Later in John’s gospel, Jesus confided in his disciples that he is in the Father and the Father in him.  If you know Jesus, then you know the Father.  They speak the same language:  I Am.  They go by the same name:  I Am.

The Jews were so wanting to claim God and Abraham as their Fathers.  They wanted to be counted righteous because of their efforts to follow the law that came through Moses, yet they were blind to the truth and he was standing right in front of them.

Jesus gave them the name that his Father sent with Moses to deliver the slaves from Egypt.  It did not resonate with the Jews because they were not seeking after God.

For some time, the Jews had been asking:  Just who is this man?

Is he prophet?  Is he demon?

Does he come in the name of God?  Does he come only on his own behalf?

Is he the Christ?  Is he an imposter?

How can one from Galilee be who he says 
he is?

He is the carpenter’s kid, right?

Why have we not been able to trap him with our questions?

Can he be from God and be at work on the Sabbath?

Just who is this man?

In two words, egō eimi, know that Jesus is exactly who he said he is.

In two words, I Am, know that he was, is, and forever will be God.  He is the God who made us.  He is the God who has and always will love us.  He is the God who has redeemed us from our sin and has made a place with him for ever and ever.


Facts or Purpose?

Read John 8

Because it’s about John 3:17...

Jesus was teaching and the religious leaders brought before him a woman caught in the act of adultery.  She was caught in the act!  There is no way he is going to get out of this without losing some credibility.

We could have hauled her before the Sanhedrin, but you were in the neighborhood and some are saying you are the Son of God, so we will just leave her with you.  What are you going to do?

We have 1 count of #7 of the Decalogue, Second Printing.  OK, Son of God, how do you find?

Among those who brought the woman, were the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.  These were the lawyers for the prosecution asking Jesus to stand in judgment.

It could have gone this way:

So, this woman was caught in the act?

Yes sir!

And you bring her before me based upon the seventh commandment?

Yes sir!  Moses would demand that she be stoned.

So, you want this judgment in accordance with the law that you received from Moses?

Yes sir!

Then where is her partner?

Are we doing this according to the law that you received from Moses?

Then where is her partner?  As directed in Leviticus 20:10, both partners are to receive the death sentence.


OK.  You call it V'yakra and you don’t have any number references for citations, but they are coming.

How do you know that?

Yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever… Hey, I know.  Where’s the partner?

We don’t have the man.

I thought she was caught in the act?

Well, err, it’s just that…

Case dismissed!

It could have gone that way, but it didn’t.  Jesus could have played the lawyer game and won.

My facts are better than your facts.  My facts are better than yours.  My facts are better…

He could have beaten them at their own game, but he didn’t.  Why?

Jesus didn’t come to win arguments but to win souls.  He did not come to prove himself right and others wrong.  His purpose was to bring life to the lifeless.

He came to help people cross over from death to life.

He was qualified to shred the arguments of the Pharisees, Teachers, and Sadducees.  Sometimes he did.  Here we see Jesus focusing on salvation not condemnation.

We know the story.  Let he who is without sin cast out the first stone.  Slowly from oldest to youngest, the rocks hit the ground and not the woman.

When it’s just Jesus and the woman, he asked her:  Who is left to condemn you?

She replied:  No one sir.

Jesus said that neither did he.  Now go live your life the way God has commanded.

Jesus came to save and not condemn.

Here’s another example where Jesus did not let the factual ineptitude get in the way of his mission, even though the Jews seemed ignorant of their own history.  Some people believed in Jesus and were ready to follow him.  To them he said:

If you abide in my words, you are my disciples indeed,
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

The Jews who did not believe were offended that someone, especially this someone, would think that they needed to be set free.
We have never been slaves!

It could have gone this way.

Never been slaves, really?
Really.  We are Abraham’s children.

Do you remember what God told Abraham would happen to his children?

They would be more than we could number.  Father Abraham had many sons.  Many sons had Father…

Yes, that’s what my Father told Abraham.  I witnessed it.  We will get into that later, but for now think to the part where he said that for 400 years you would be slaves.

Yeah, ok, well there’s that.

And did it happen just as God told Abraham?

Yes, but Moses delivered us.  We crossed the Red Sea and the Jordan on dry land!

And did that fix everything?

We received the law!

Yes, you did but you neither understood it nor did you obey it.  You sought other gods and despite multiple warnings, you were exiled to slavery in Babylon.  Some of the northern tribes were taken by the Assyrians.   

Jesus could have handed these know-it-alls a heavy dose of humility.  He could have crushed them with the facts that they knew so well.  They had crossed over out of slavery into freedom once before, but Jesus came so they could cross over from death to life.

Jesus came to set them free from their sin.  He did not come to condemn but to save.

The people were slaves to sin.  Jesus came to liberate them, not to condemn them.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Jesus didn’t come to win arguments—which he surely could have done.  He came to save lives.  He came to rescue us from death and bring us to life, life abundant, and life eternal.


This is one that you know so very well.  For God so loved…

Thanks be to God that Jesus came to save and not condemn.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Read John 8

This part of this chapter contains some of my favorite words from our Master.  Many had rejected him.  Many challenged him.  Many were just blind to the truth, but some believed and wanted to follow him.  So, to them he said.

If you abide in my words, you are my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set your free.

If you believe in Jesus, that he is the Son of God, and comes with the authority of the Father, and your sound mind tells you to follow him and do what he says, then you are his disciple. It’s not just knowing the words.  It’s knowing their author and committing to being his disciple.  You follow him by following what he taught you.

Then, you shall know the truth.  What truth?  Truth, as we know it from falsehood, is certainly within this promise, but you also get to know Truth with a capital T.  You know God through Jesus Christ.  In that intimate relationship, you are free from sin and free from death.

You will live eternally, but most of all, you are free to live as God designed you to live.  It’s the most important thing that you will do.

Many of the Jews were not up to this commitment.  They were Abraham’s children.  That checked the box as far as they were concerned.  When they heard the words set free, they countered, who are we that we need to be set free.  We were never slaves!

Had Jesus been inclined to dispute facts instead of bringing life, he might have pointed out the more than 400 years of slavery in Egypt to the people claiming to be Abraham’s children and followers of the Law of Moses.

It seems that four centuries slipped their minds.  They had also been captive in Babylon for a good stretch.  Slaves, captives, prisoners, and other terms of subjugation fit this group extremely well, but the real condition from which they needed emancipation was sin.

Jesus confronted them boldly about their predicament. 

I am from above.  You are from below.

My Father is in heaven.  Yours is the Devil!  

Ouch! Just Ouch!

Who is your daddy? 

He continued this discourse on the ignorance of many of God’s Chosen People.  The reason that you don’t believe is that you belong to the Devil.  Here is your chance to remedy that situation, that incarceration, that condemnation that subjugates you, but you won’t recognize the Illumination before you.

Here is the dichotomy.  You follow God or you follow the Devil.  There is no middle ground, no sitting on the fence, and no procrastination. There is no undecided category!  You are dead or you are alive.

Jesus is the light of the world.  In him is life.  He is our Lord.  Let this never be a question in our lives.  Let it always be an affirmation.

Jesus is light.
Jesus is life.
Jesus is Lord.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Light of the World

Read John 8

Jesus continued to teach.  Earlier he declared himself to be the Bread of Life.  He lost a lot of followers after that discourse.  In this chapter he said:  I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows him walks in light, not in darkness.  Think back to chapter 1 where this light and darkness discourse began.

Light came into the world.  The darkness could not overcome it, but the world did not recognize it.  Chapter 8 picks up on that introduction with Jesus stating that he is the Light of the World.

The religious leaders and many lay persons had too much of an investment in this dark world to want to hear what Jesus told them.  He was from the Father.  His testimony was enough on its own but if you needed more, the Father testified to the same things.

Jesus told them that he was from above and they were from below.  Without his light—without believing he was of God and from God—they would remain in darkness.  They would exist without life. They were already dead.

Discord reigned among the Jewish leaders.  Who is this guy?  Where is he going that we can’t go?  Why should we believe what he has to say?

This discussion was consistent with those before as was the answer Jesus gave them.  I am who I said I am all along.  You don’t need more information.  You need to believe.

I love the short quote that makes the rounds via various memes these days.  It says something along the lines of:

We are overwhelmed with information but have a dearth of wisdom.

Everyone seems to want more information but few seek wisdom.  Our craving for information causes us to rubberneck when there is an accident scene with flashing lights all around.  Wisdom guides us to keep our eyes on the road so as not to become accident site number two at the same mile marker.

People crave more information.  Consider the 24-hour news cycle.  On any given day, there is probably enough news to fill an hour’s worth of broadcasting, but you are going to get 24 hours and so many people watch for that little tidbit that seems new.

I can only roll my eyes when the Breaking News logo scrolls across my screen.  I would kick myself if I could when it reads:  What we told you 20 minutes ago remains unchanged.

So many were asking for more information not so they could believe but so they could come up with new questions in an effort to delay having to process the information they had already been given.  Jesus had given them enough to believe in him, especially the leaders who knew the scriptures well and should have been expecting him.

In spite of the hard-heartedness of the leaders, many did come to believe.
To those who had not yet believed, Jesus told them they would get another chance.  When the Son of Man is lifted up then you will know that I am who I claim to be.  The question was, would they believe?

We know the story from prophecies to birth and to death and to resurrection.  We did not hear any parts first hand, but if it is information that drives us, we have all the information that we need.  But receiving Jesus as Lord is not about information.

So it really comes down to faith.  Do we believe?  We are told at this point in John’s account, many did come to believe in the One who called himself the Light of the World.

We say that we also believe.  Information will come and go and remain constant or be changed, but our belief—our faith in what is not seen—must not waiver.  God is our constant, our Rock and our Redeemer.  We believe.

Jesus is Light.
Jesus is Life.
Jesus is Lord.