The Shepherd, The Flock, and the Lamb

Two shepherds were standing in the field leaning on their crooks at the end of a long day. After hours of silence the first asks the second, “So, how’s it going?” The second one sighed and shook his head, “Not good, I can’t pay my bills, my health isn’t good, my kids don’t respect me, and my wife is leaving me.” The first replied, “Well, don’t lose any sheep over it.” I know…that was really bahhhhhhd!

In our devotion for today we will be considering John 10 and the Good Shepherd. In our culture, we don’t run in to too many shepherds. It’s just not really part of our experience. But, in Jesus’ day, sheep and shepherds were quite prevalent. Jesus often taught using every day illustrations. But, as we will see, Jesus is tapping into something far deeper.

This idea of a Good Shepherd meant more than just a benevolent keeper of lovable little lambs. Ezekiel had prophesied about the coming of a Good Shepherd. As Jesus teaches about the Good Shepherd, realize that this is more than a lesson on agrarian life. Jesus is revealing foundational, transformational truths that help define our faith, the nature of the church and her mission, and our ultimate destiny. Jesus is also demonstrating without ambiguity that HE IS GOD!! As we focus on the Good Shepherd and His sheep, let’s open our hearts and minds to what the Spirit wants to teach us. 

Read John 10:14-15, 27-31 – The Good Shepherd

Verse 14 leaves no doubt that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and those who are following Jesus are His flock – that’s us! Notice that the Shepherd and Sheep have a relationship. Jesus said, “I know my own, and my own know me.” Are you aware that Biblical “knowing” suggests intimacy. To know Jesus – to truly know Him is far more than knowing about Him!

In verse 15, Jesus reveals to us the nature of our intimate relationship with Him. He says, I know my sheep, “…just as I know the Father and the Father knows me.” Do you grasp the unbelievable privilege we are given? God the Father and God the Son are inseparably united. Jesus says we are known just like that! John 14:20 helps me understand this. Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

This is far more than being a nameless face in the flock. He knows us, intimately. Jesus says in verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The sheep hear and know the Shepherd. Sheep are not the smartest animals. They have absolutely no defenses. Without the shepherd they would struggle to find food and water. Sometimes they can’t even figure out how to lie down! So, early on, they learn to hear the voice of their Shepherd. The familiar strains of his voice mean safety and sustenance. His commands are welcomed because, as Psalm 23 tells us, the shepherd leads them to green pastures and still waters. Rough waters and sheep don’t go together. Sheep go in the water to drink and if the water is rough, they may fall over. Their already heavy coats quickly become soaked and they are unable to get up. They drown because they don’t realize the danger. Sheep get into trouble when they wander off, or, when they are separated from their Shepherd. Sheep have been known to follow other sheep. One sheep might fall of a cliff, and like lemmings, the others follow right after. Sheep are safe only when they follow their shepherd. It is a matter of life and death to know him and to listen for his voice.

The sheep know the shepherd and the Shepherd knows the sheep. Have you ever had someone come up and enthusiastically greet you and call you by name? The only problem is – you have no idea who they are? They seem to know you – but you don’t know them! That’s really awkward. The sheep know the Good Shepherd, but, He also knows every one of the sheep. He knows their characteristics and quirks, and He knows them by name! The Shepherd is not a rock star with a nameless fan club. He is intimately familiar with every sheep. The sheep know the Shepherd and the Shepherd knows the sheep.

A famous actor was a guest of honor at a large gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An elderly pastor who was in the audience asked the actor to recite the 23rd Psalm. The actor agreed – but only on the condition that that pastor would also recite it. The actor went first, and his recitation was everything that you might expect. It was beautifully intoned, with great dramatic emphasis added to the words. When he was done, he received a thunderous round of applause. The elderly pastor went next. Age had taken a toll on his voice, …and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied: “I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

The Shepherd leads them the flock to eternal life.  Verse 28 reveals two vital truths about our faith: the giver and the gift. As sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd, we receive an amazing gift. We don’t earn this gift. In fact, we don’t deserve this gift. If we did earn it, it would cease to be a gift! What is the gift? It is nothing less than eternal life. What a blessing to be in the flock of the Good Shepherd. In this earthly life He leads us beside the still waters. He makes us lie down in green pastures. We have abundant life in the here and now. But, he also restores our soul!

Jesus said in John 10:15, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” By His atoning death, our sins are forgiven. By His resurrection to life, we too are raised to new life. This means Jesus will not only lead us to green meadows, He will lead us to the pastures of paradise. Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life.” He adds that we are held in the hands of God, and no one can remove us!! That is blessed assurance!

We have already seen that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Now, let’s see a clear presentation that the Good Shepherd is God. In John 10:30 Jesus says, …I and the Father are one.” Those who wish to dismiss the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity try to reinterpret this very clear verse. They say, Jesus is one in purpose with the Father, or, Jesus is one in agreement with the Father. Let’s not miss the simple, literal truth here. Jesus is saying that He is God. This is revealed by the reaction of the people. The Jewish people are furious with Jesus and pick up stones to kill him. Those who wanted to stone Jesus knew what He meant. They accused Jesus of blasphemy. Why would they do that? Because Jesus was claiming to be God! But, we have further compelling evidence of Jesus’ divinity. Read on…

Read Ezekiel 34:11-15 – The Bad Shepherds

In this passage, the Ezekiel prophesies that the Good Shepherd would come. God, through the prophet, rebukes the bad shepherds who happen to be the religious leaders. Those who should have cared for the flock have actually abused them. Rather than feed them, these men have fed on the sheep! A day was coming when those bad shepherds would be cast down. They would be replaced by the Good shepherd. And who would that shepherd be? God says that He, Himself will be the Shepherd of the sheep. He says, “I, myself will make them lie down”! Jesus, said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” As the Good Shepherd, He is the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, and without hesitation we can affirm that, Jesus is God!!

Now, let’s turn our attention to The Flock. In John 10:16, Jesus says, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Ezekiel prophesied that the flock would be restored. Now, Jesus tells us that the original flock will gain other sheep. There will ultimately be one flock and one shepherd. This flock is found in two places. Part of the flock is on earth and part of the flock is already in heaven.

Let’s look first at the Earthly Flock. Let’s see how the original flock is expanded with sheep not of this fold. In Acts 13:43 and following we read…

 “And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you.”

To the Jew first. Paul and Barnabus are in Antioch in Pisidia (Asia Minor). They have gone to the Jewish Synagogue to preach. The Gospel is for the Jew first. This was their pattern to preach to the Jewish people first. But, what happens when they share the Gospel. Many became followers. But verse 45 tells us that many others were filled with jealousy and contradicted Paul, rebuking him. Paul said their reaction was necessary because God’s plan was for the message to be taken to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles.

Acts 13:46 and following says, “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.”

From the time of Abraham, this was the plan. Abraham’s offspring would be blessed and then be a blessing to the entire world. The Gospel came to the Jews first. They are the first flock, then to the Gentile. The Gentiles are the sheep from the other fold. But, Jesus said, they would become one flock and have one shepherd – Jesus, the Good Shepherd! We are part of that flock here on earth. But, part of the one flock is not here. They have gone ahead to be part of…

The Heavenly Flock. In Revelation 7:10 we see the result of the Gospel message being shared with Jew and Gentile. In John’s great vision of heaven, listen to what he sees!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Here we see the flock in heaven. It was a great multitude that no one could number! This is Abraham’s promise fulfilled. God promised Abraham that, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. …and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Now, the one flock that Jesus described exists on earth and in heaven. At this very moment the saints of old, and our loved ones who died “in the Lord,” are standing with that great multitude around the throne. My mother and grandparents, and many other loved ones are there!! Imagine what they see. In the middle of the great throng, they see…

The Lamb who is a Shepherd. Revelation 7:13 says, “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

They are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Notice that we will not be there in filthy robes. But, they will be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, but, clothed in His righteousness, and washed by His blood, we can boldly come before God’s throne!

And notice one last – astounding truth: The Lamb is our Shepherd.  Revelation 7:15 states, “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The Lamb is our shepherd. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, God Himself, wants to know you, to guide and guard you, to bring you to eternal life. As we walk this Pathway to the Passion, realize that the Shepherd is leading us. He is leading us to green pastures where we will feed in peace. The upper room is just ahead where Jesus will share a sacred meal and give us His peace. The Shepherd will lead us beside the still waters. Soon, water and blood will flow from His side. The Shepherd will lead us with his wooden staff. Just over the hill, we see the wooden altar where the Lamb will be slain – the Lamb who is our Shepherd.


To Serve and Protect

Today we look back to the Garden, and we fast forward from creation to the cross. As we look back to Genesis 3, we see the first glimpse of the cross. And, as we approach Jerusalem on this Pathway to the Passion, on the horizon is the shadowy figure of the cross. What Jesus does on that instrument of Roman torture is to fulfill God’s prophecy in verse 15 of Genesis 3. In both of these scenes, a man is found who represents all of mankind. In creation, Adam goes to a tree and fails. At Calvary, Jesus goes to a tree and fulfills perfectly what God had sent Him to do. What did these men accomplish and what difference does it make in our lives? Read on…

Read Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-15 – A Bride Dies

            A man and his wife stood near a tree. Suddenly a serpent appeared to them. He tempted them to break the one commandment God had given them. The woman first, and then the man fell prey to Satan’s evil enticement. Adam committed a sin of commission by eating from the tree he was commanded not to eat. But, he also committed a sin of omission by not doing what God had required of him. He was instructed to work and protect the garden (Genesis 2:15). Adam stood at the tree and watched Eve fall into sin and death. He failed to protect his bride from the serpent. What a horrific moment in time! Not only did Adam and Eve die spiritually, but all of humanity died spiritually as well. Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). The man at the tree failed to save his bride!

From the very beginning, a showdown was prophesied and inevitable. After Adam and Eve succumbed to the snake’s seduction, ignoring God’s one prohibition, God spoke to the “woman” and the “serpent.” Genesis 3:15 records these prophetic Words of the Lord as He offers the first reference to the Gospel in the Scriptures. God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This primal picture of the Gospel offers faint glimpses of the ultimate face-off of good and evil. In that garden scene, God speaks prophetically of hostility that will exist between the seed of the woman and Satan. Her seed will somehow crush Satan’s head. This would be nothing less than a death blow. While Satan will strike at the seed of the woman, but only manage to wound his heal.  One day, this showdown between right and wrong, good and evil, holiness and wickedness, and heaven and hell would come to pass.

Read John 12:3-33, 19:17-18, 26-27 – A Bride is Saved

John 19 records the fulfillment of the prophecy offered in Genesis 3:15. We are told that Jesus, accompanied by the soldiers, carried His cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. It was there that they nailed him to that old rugged cross. Jesus, the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) was there at the tree. And what was the “God-man” accomplishing there? He was stepping in to protect and save His bride!

Notice that the same “characters” who stood at the tree in Genesis 3:15 are present at Calvary’s tree: the woman, her seed and the serpent.  As Jesus looked down from the cross, He said, Woman, behold your son.” In that “hour”, though Jesus’ heal was bruised, and though His death made it appear as if Satan had won, it was actually Jesus who was winning a decisive victory. For, even though He died on that cross, three days later, Jesus would be gloriously raised from the dead! Satan, that serpent of old and arch enemy of God, was dealt a death blow from which he would never recover. What God predicted from the beginning had come to pass, just as He said.

The irony of this scene is hard to miss. Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.” As Jesus was raised up on the tree, the One who knew no sin, became sin for us! Jesus really did resemble the bronze snake. In the very moment that Jesus defeated Satan, the wily old serpent must have looked at Jesus and thought, I have made Him into what I am! I have finally become greater than God and defeated the divine! What Satan failed to realize was that Jesus was destroying death by dying. He was conquering sin, by taking all of man’s sin upon Himself. And, He was crushing Satan’s head by wearing a crown of thorns on His own.

Though Adam stood at the tree and failed to save his bride…though Adam brought the curse of sin upon the entire human race…though Adam’s sin meant death for us all, because the wages of sin is death…it was the second Adam, Jesus Himself, who went to the tree and saved His bride, who reversed the curse of sin, and brought life to those who deserve death. What an epic moment in time! 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “As in Adam all die, but in Christ shall all be made alive.”

As we move ever nearer to the cross on the Pathway to the Passion, may the words of Genesis 3:15 echo in our ears. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did perfectly. Jesus said, “…when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” By going to the cross, Jesus opens the life gate that all may go in! And we who are drawn to Him are the bride He died to save.

No Turning Back!

In our readings for today, we see a pattern arise. God is faithful and we are unfaithful. Over and over throughout the Scriptures we see it. In Moses’ day, the people would not turn loose of the gods of Egypt. In Jesus’ day, the people wanted to hang on to the Old Covenant and dismiss the New. In our day, have things changed much? What should we do? Read on…

Read Exodus 32:7-14 – Turn Your Head and…Calf!

All Moses did was turn his head away and…voila…the people had fashioned a golden calf to worship! How did it comes to this?

After God had delivered Israel from Egypt, the people proceeded to Mount Sinai. They had witnessed God’s mighty hand move decisively as He had delivered them from Pharaoh. After ten plagues, culminating in the devastation to Egypt and her first born by the death angel, the pillar of fire, the parting of the Red Sea, manna and water from the rock, now they have arrived at Sinai. Through Moses, God has instituted a covenant relationship with the Children of Israel. Moses was called by God to come back up the mountain to receive further instructions.

While he is gone, Israel proves to be utterly unfaithful. Doubting that Moses will ever return from the mountain, they fashion a golden calf believing it will lead them on the remainder of their journey. Israel fell down before the god of Egypt and worshiped it.

Meanwhile up on he mountain and in great anger, God recounts Israel’s actions to Moses. It’s interesting that God blames Moses for bringing them out of Egypt! He says, “The people you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” God shares the details of the evil debauchery that is transpiring below. He details how Israel made the idol, sacrificed to it, and claimed that the idol had brought them out of Egypt. Clearly, they had left Egypt, but Egypt had not left them! God was furious and wanted to destroy these unfaithful reprobates! He would make a great nation out of Moses!

Moses appeals to God to spare his people. After all, what would the Egyptians think if God brings the people out of Egypt only to kill them in the desert. Then, Moses appeals to God’s covenant promises given to the Patriarchs so many centuries earlier. God relented from destroying Israel. Moses proved to be an effective mediator for his people. In verses 30-32, Moses offers himself to God as an atoning sacrifice for his people. One day, a deliverer would offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sake of His covenant family. But, God did not take Moses up on his offer.

The tragedy of this story is that they had seen the signs – the miracles – the demonstrations of God’s power. Yet, despite the new direction God had called them to take, the people denied God and wanted to rely on the ways of the past. Surely a great lesson would be learned from this. Read on…

Read Psalm 106:19-23 – It Was a Horeb Bull Decision

Our Psalm reading is a recounting of the story above, and the sinfulness of Israel.

Read John 5:31-47 – I’ll Be a Witness for My Lord!

Again, as Mark Twain was purported to have said, “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme!” What happened to Moses is happening to Jesus. The Children of Israel had seen so many expressions of God’s power. Yet, they turned back to their old ways of worship and reject Moses and God. Now, the Jews of Jesus day believe Moses, but reject Jesus. 2 Corinthians 13:1 states, “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”  Jesus begins to call witnesses to support Him.

John the Baptist had testified about Jesus. Jesus has a greater testimony than John! Yet, the people celebrated John and reject Jesus. Jesus goes on to say that His works give testimony to His identity. Yet, the people reject Jesus. Not only does John testify and Jesus works testify, but the Father testifies that Jesus is the Promised One – the Messiah – the Deliverer. But, once again, the people reject Jesus because they do not listen to the voice of God. Jesus goes so far as to say that they have searched the Scriptures thinking that they will save them – but they have done so in vain. Why? Because they have not read the Scriptures looking for Jesus, for the Scriptures testify about Jesus. Frankly, they don’t see Jesus in the Scriptures because they don’t want Jesus and the eternal life that He is offering.

Jesus takes the Jewish people to task, claiming that they are more interested in pleasing each other than pleasing God. They will accept one another but they won’t accept the one God has sent to them. In the final analysis, it won’t be Jesus who judges them, it will be Moses. Despite their stated allegiance to Moses and rejection of Jesus, it was Moses that also gave testimony to Jesus!

Who can read the Exodus account and not see Jesus? The Passover Lamb is an excellent example. A perfect male lamb had to be chosen. It had to dwell with the family. Then it had to be sacrificed, the blood applied, and it had to be eaten. Jesus was the only sinless human. Jesus, the Word made flesh, came to dwell among us. He was sacrificed, His blood applied, and we are told by Paul, that, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.” Or, what about the passing through the red sea? Who could miss the imagery of baptism? What a vivid demonstration of death to the old life in Egypt and coming through the waters to live a new life? Or, what about the manna in the wilderness – miraculous bread from heaven? Jesus said, “I am the true bread come down from heaven. I am the Bread of Life.”  Or, what about Deuteronomy 18:15 and 18 when Moses and God predict God will raise up a prophet like Moses. Moses says that when this new and greater prophet comes the people should, “listen to him.”  In the Transfiguration, Jesus talks to Moses about the “Exodus” He will lead from Jerusalem. And, the voice of God is heard saying, “This is my beloved son, listen to Him!” God has provided the deliverance and the deliverer, yet the people look back to the old comfortable ways of worship and reject the One who is worthy of worship.

As we travel the Pathway to the Passion, may we avoid the temptation to be satisfied with the ways of our old nature when Jesus calls us to the New and everlasting way. In Moses’ day, Israel wanted to return to Egypt. In Jesus’ day, the Jews wanted to cling to the Old Covenant. What is it that entices us to return to the old ways? Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). God has provided the deliverance and the deliverer. May we accept Him. May we embrace Him. May we worship Him. May we follow Him wherever He leads! As the old hymn says, “No turning back.”





How Should We Pray?

A young boy called the pastor of a church near his house. He asked the pastor to come by and pray for his mother. She had been very ill with the flu. The pastor knew the family and he was aware they had been attending another church. So the pastor asked, “Shouldn’t you be asking your new pastor, Brother Simon to come by and pray for your mom?”  The young boy replied, “Yeah, we thought of that, but we didn’t want to take the chance that he might catch whatever Mom has.”

Have you ever pondered, “What is the purpose of prayer?” As I have observed Christians through the years, it is apparent that the perceived purpose for prayer differs from person to person. For some, prayer is like a 9-1-1 call. If circumstances deteriorate into a crisis, well, then it’s time to pray. For others, prayer is like visiting Santa at the mall. God exists to give us what we want, and we are not too proud to ask. In fact, I had a training union leader who said, “Don’t just tell God what you want, tell him what color!”  Still others view prayer as a time to inform God. One man was praying and said, “Dear Lord, if you haven’t already, you need to read the front page article in the New York Times.”

9-1-1…Santa…Breaking the news to God…Is this why we pray? Just how should we pray? In our devotion today we will discover the priority and pattern of prayer. Read on…

Read Jeremiah 33:3, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – The Right Priority

From the beginning to the ending of the Scriptures we find prayer. According to the article, “All the Prayers in the Bible,” 61 of the 66 books either contain prayers or teach prayer. The Bible contains almost 1,100 references to prayer. Considering that we are restored to God in a covenant relationship, it stands to reason that the Lord would desire to commune with us. We are His children and He is our Heavenly Father.

In Jeremiah 33:3, God invites Jeremiah to call unto Him. Not only are God’s children invited to call unto Him, Colossians 4:2 teaches us to devote ourselves to prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reveals that prayer should be a priority. We are to pray without ceasing. This continual state of prayer means an ongoing dialogue with the Lord, recognizing that He is “with us always,” and the we are “temples of the Holy Spirit.”

With such a preponderance of prayer in the Scriptures, and with God’s invitation to make prayer a priority, just how is it that we should pray? Read on…

Read Luke 11:1-4, Matthew 6:5-13 – The Right Person and Pattern

If we want to know how to pray, we must be taught by the One who prays perfectly. We must learn from the Right Person.

When I was a student at Georgetown College, the President hosted an alumni dinner. I was asked to represent my class at this elegant event. When I sat down at the table, what lay before me was the most confusing array of forks, spoons, knives, multiple cups, plates and saucers. Everything appeared to have a purpose and be in its place. It was really quite impressive. As I pondered the place setting, it occurred to me – I had no idea what to do!! My confusion must have been apparent because a dear elderly lady across from me whispered, “Just watch what I do. You’ll be fine.” I didn’t know where to start until I looked to one who knew.

After Jesus prayed, the disciples were gathered around. One of them said to him, teach us how to pray. They had come to the right person. They were looking to the one who knew precisely what to do! Jesus was a man of prayer. He did absolutely nothing without consulting with His Father!

Before He chose the disciples he spent the night in prayer. Many times he withdrew from everyone to pray. Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring out His heart, or just before His arrest and crucifixion. As Jesus prayed, the disciples watched what He did! And they made a request of Him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” They had come to the right person.

Before we move on, let me offer a warning. There are many people today, even Christians, …who are adapting prayer techniques from other religions. This is not only dangerous – I believe it is idolatrous. When Kendall, my middle son, was in the 1st grade, I made a visit to his school. That day the children gathered on mats in a corner of the room. I asked the aid what was going on. She said the children were participating in yoga. She described it as “centering.”  The aid assured me it was not religious. She said it was just a harmless way for the children to relax and focus.

Contrary to her description, this adaptation of Eastern Religions and New Age Spirituality teaches that divinity is naturally within all of creation. So, prayer becomes an inward searching for harmony and oneness with the universe. This stands in contrast and is incompatible with Christian spirituality and prayer. Our spirituality is not born from within. It is offered to us by God’s grace through faith. It is formed as we are crucified with Christ, when we no longer live, but Christ lives within us! We don’t search inside ourselves for some cosmic connection. We are united to Christ by new birth. We don’t connect to God by meditating really intensely. Rather, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds! We don’t look within. we fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but by Him!!!  If we truly want to know how to pray, don’t look within – look to Jesus. He is the right person to teach us!!

So, they ask Jesus how to pray. Jesus shares with them the Right Pattern.  You may have noticed that Luke’s account of the Lord’s Prayer is sort of the “Reader’s Digest abridged” or shorter version. Matthew records the longer version. The differences are not contradictory. They reveal that two men were inspired to write different accounts. Of the Lord’s Prayer, theologian J. I. Packer said, “This prayer is a pattern for all Christian praying. Jesus is teaching that prayer will be acceptable when, and only when, the attitudes, thoughts, and desires expressed fit the pattern…

Let’s consider this pattern by focusing briefly on each part. Jesus begins by identifying the one to whom we pray. He said, “Our Father.” Many early manuscripts, and Matthew add, “who art in heaven.” These two statements communicate volumes. God is our “Father.” This speaks to God’s nearness to us – His immanence. We have a relationship with God as His children! In Jesus, this family bond is restored. Adam Hamilton tells the story of visiting a family in his church. The family included a single mom with two children. One was a 5 year old girl. The father had deserted them and moved to Texas to avoid paying child support. When Adam walked in, this little girl wrapped her arms around his leg and then said, “I got a birthday card from my daddy, do you want to see it?”  Adam said, “Absolutely.” She went to her bedroom and brought out a card which was torn and tattered. When he looked at it, he saw it was 2 years old. But she still carried that card with her wherever she went. She didn’t remember what her daddy looked like but she had a longing to be in relationship with her father. Pastor Tim Smith, who tells Adam’s story, points out, regardless of our relationship to our earthly fathers, or the lack of a relationship, deep within us is a longing to be in relationship to God the Father.

By uniting with God’s Son, we have become sons in the Son! God is indeed our father, but we must also recognize that God is in heaven. This speaks of His transcendent holiness. We must understand the balance of the two ideas. Yes, we are children of God, even allowed to call Him Abba – daddy or papa. But, God is still the all-powerful creator of the universe. Even though we have been invited to crawl up onto his lap, he still deserves our deepest reverence and worship. “Our Father, who art in Heaven hallowed be your name.”

I have a strong aversion to anyone calling God, “The man upstairs,” or, referring to the Lord as my good buddy. God’s name is not “the man” or “good buddy.” His name is to be holy above every other name! And so, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lord help me put your first!” Heavenly Father – I set you apart over my entire being. Without this priority – our lives are completely out of order.

Jesus then teaches us to pray, “Thy kingdom come…” Isn’t this what Jesus came to preach? This was His ministry. He proclaimed – The Kingdom is at hand – the Kingdom is near – the Kingdom is in your midst. Indeed the king had come – but few recognized His reign. As we pray, “Thy kingdom come…” We are praying for God’s purposes in Christ to take hold. For the Lord to reign in our hearts and in the hearts of an ever expanding kingdom! One day, God’s Kingdom will come in final consummation. On that day the tyrannical earthly regimes and corrupt kingdoms will fall and God’s Kingdom will be established forever! But, until that day, we pray that His kingdom will be known in the here and now as we carry on the ministry of Jesus. He is enthroned on our praise and in our lives. Where the King is, there is the Kingdom!!

Next, Jesus teaches them to say, “Give us each day our daily bread.”  This phrase is a fascinating one! For any Hebrew, “daily bread” would have carried extra meaning. They would think about “manna,” which was miraculous bread given to them daily. So, this could mean to pray for our ordinary everyday provisions. But, manna was no ordinary bread – it was bread from heaven. In John 6:31-35, there is an interesting parallel. Jesus is approached by thousands whom he has just fed with five loaves and two fish with 12 baskets left over.

The people say to Jesus, Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;”

Is it possible that praying for our “daily bread” means praying for more of Jesus in our lives? Lord, every day, we want to feast on your Word!! When tempted to turn stones into bread, Jesus said to Satan, quoting the words of Moses, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God!”  So, Jesus teaches us to pray for more than our daily portion of bread. We are to pray daily for the Bread of Life!! Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more…

Jesus then teaches them to pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Uh oh…this one starts to get really personal. I read a story about a little boy was sitting on a park bench in obvious pain and he was filled with anger.  A man walking by asked him what was wrong. The young boy said, “I’m sitting on a bumble bee.” The man urgently asked, “Then why don’t you get up?” The boy replied, “Because I figure I’m hurting him more than he is hurting me!”

How many of us handle forgiveness like this little boy? We endure pain for the sadistic satisfaction of believing we are hurting our offender more than he is hurting us. When we get off the bench of un-forgiveness, both of us can begin to realize relief from our pain. Jesus teaches us to pray for God to forgive us just as we forgive others. For some of us, this brings great comfort – we forgive easily. For others of us, who hold grudges. This should be horrifying! Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Who do you need to forgive?

Finally, we are to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” It was Satan who tempted Jesus. It is Satan who tempts us. The story is told of four high school boys who couldn’t resist the temptation to skip morning classes. Each had been smitten with a bad case of spring fever. After lunch they showed up at school and reported to the teacher that their car had a flat tire. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a quiz this morning, so take your seats and get out a pencil and paper.” Still smiling, she waited as they settled down and got ready for her questions. Then she said, “First question—which tire was flat?” Lord, please lead us not into temptation. We are to ask God to keep us from wandering into the mine field of Satan’s malicious intent. Sometimes the temptation is of our own choosing!

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray No doubt they saw a connection between his public power and His private prayer. Jesus offered them this beautiful prayer. Elmer Towns said of it, “The Lord’s Prayer includes everything you need to ask when you talk to God. It is a model prayer that teaches us how to pray.”  N. T. Wright made this observation, “For the Lord’s Prayer is not so much a command as an invitation: an invitation to share in the prayer-life of Jesus himself.”

During these days of Journeying to Jerusalem, we are following the footsteps of Jesus. As we move ever closer to the cross, may we also be brought to our knees. By following Jesus on the Pathway to the Passion, may we rediscover the priority and pattern of prayer.


Two 38s

Israel languished in the wilderness for 38 years as the last of the unfaithful generation died off. Crippled as they were, after almost four decades, they were finally rid of their malady. God’s chosen people got up and followed Joshua into the land of their inheritance – the Promised Land. This narrative of Israel’s unfaithfulness, invalid status in the desert and eventual rising up to enter the Holy Land, has an important part to play in our understanding of John 5. Read on…

Read Deuteronomy 1:19-46 2:14-15 – A 38 Year Sentence

While we don’t know for certain which feast is referred to in John 5, most scholars believe it is the Feast of Pentecost.

A Look at Pentecost

Acts 2 records the first Christian Pentecost which signifies the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and the 120 in the Upper Room. However, the Pentecost of the Jews was a feast celebrating the grain harvest in the spring. Pentecost also celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses and Israel on Mount Sinai. There are multiple levels of significance.

Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover, which was a feast of unleavened bread lasting for seven days? In 50 days there are seven weeks. Seven weeks is one seventh of the year. Seven was an extremely important number for the Jews. It was the number of covenant completion and perfection. Pentecost, the 50th day, after 7 weeks and the 7 days of Passover sounds a lot like a miniature Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-22)! It was decreed that every seven years a Sabbath Year was to be celebrated. The land was to lay fallow, and debts were forgiven. But, every seven times seven years, on the fiftieth year, the debts were to be forgiven, the land was to lie fallow, and the Law of this Jubilee decreed that one went back to where his family had been given land, their ancestral inheritance when Israel first entered the Promised land.

In this scene with the blind man, we will see that the concept of restoration (a Sabbath and Jubilee concept) is front and center as we see healing on the Sabbath. Pentecost is the Sabbath of the Sabbath!

John 5:1-2Passing the Pool

As Jesus enters the Holy City for the Feast of Pentecost, he walked by the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda means – “the house of flowing.” Archeologists have found this pool and its five porticos. Some theologians point to the five colonnades as symbolic of the Pentateuch – the five books of the Law. If this is true, this would suggest another connection to the feast of Pentecost when the Law, given to Moses, was celebrated.  

John 5:3-6  – Paralyzed at the Pool

What’s strange about the length of the paralytic man’s condition? Why not say he was there for “decades” or “most of his life”, or perhaps the years could be rounded up to 40. Why does John tell us he was there for precisely “38 years”? Numbers are very important in John’s gospel. There is, no doubt, a reason for the inclusion of this detail.

 In the book “The Genius of John” Peter Ellis writes, “The number thirty eight may be an allusion to the 40 years that the Jews spent in the desert according to Deuteronomy 2:14-15, and thus may symbolize Judaism’s incapacity to do anything without (the Lord).” But, wait a minute. We must admit, 38 is not quite 40, right? Look at verse 14…

Deuteronomy 2:14 Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them.

The incident at Kadesh Barnea is our Old Testament reading for today found in Deuteronomy 1:19-46. God saw the sinfulness of Israel. His judgment fell on them. They fashioned a golden calf, one of the gods of Egypt and worshiped it. They would wander in the wilderness because they had rebelled against God while Moses was on Mount Sinai.

After Moses had renewed the covenant with the Lord, he sent twelve spies into the Promised Land according to the Lord’s command. When the twelve spies returned, ten of them cried out in fear, “This is a trap, the Lord led us out of Egypt to get us slaughtered in Canaan.”  But Joshua and Caleb, had faith. They declared, “The Lord will deliver our enemies into our hands.” Israel opted to follow the ten cowardly spies. Their decision revealed their hearts. They believed God had evil intentions toward them and actually wanted to murder them.

So, once again, God declares His judgement on the Children of Israel. Those who have stood opposed to Him and failed to trust Him shall never enter His Promised Land. Thirty-eight years passed before the covenant cripples perished, and a new generation emerged. Led by Joshua, they entered the Promised Land (the Greek for Joshua is Jesus). It took 38 years for the Israelites to be raised up again to be properly disposed toward God and to be renewed to spiritual health so that they could finally receive the land God intended for them.

Is it possible that the reason John mentions that the crippled man has been there for 38 years is a connection to Israel? Is it possible that Israel pre-figures the paralytic man? Much like the crippled man had waited 38 years to enter his healing, the Israelites were crippled in the desert waiting to enter their Promised Land?

John 5:6-7 – Do You Want to be Healed?

Jesus’ question to the man who has been crippled for 38 years seems rather strange! “Do you want to be healed?”  Really! He has been trying for decades, but he can never quite get to the pool. This may seem odd, but there are times when we get used to and almost enjoy the pity party we throw for ourselves. It may also be true that we want what we know. This man had known his disability for so long that it may have become almost intimidating to think what might happen if he were he first to the water. Besides, he had no one to move him to the pool. Jesus says, “Do you want to be healed? ” This is a good question for us as well. Far too often we become accustomed to our ways. We become fond of our pet sins and our selfish proclivities. If Jesus is truly going to heal us, we must willfully repent and turn to him. That old sinful and unfaithful man within us must die off. Then, we must turn away from the old way and be raised up with Jesus to walk in a new life and a new man! This was true of the paralyzed man. It was also true of Israel.

If the paralyzed man symbolizes Israel, then this takes on a much deeper meaning and significance. It is as if Jesus is really standing before the paralyzed nation of Israel saying to them, “Your long wait for the real Messiah, the real Joshua, the one who is to deliver you into the real Promised Land is here…do you want to be healed spiritually?”

John 5:8-18 – Jubilee! Healed on the Sabbath!!

What an epic scene was playing out at he pool. Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat and walk. This is high drama! Surely everyone will be ecstatic that this one who has waited so long has been healed. But, the Jewish leaders didn’t see it that way. They were not concerned about the cure – they were consumed with criticism and legalism. The healed man had the audacity to carry his mat on the Sabbath. This was, according to the leaders, a violation of the law. Rightfully, the man says that the One who healed him instructed him to pick up his mat. Those religious elitists demanded to know who had given him this instruction. Presumably, they already knew and were simply trying to accuse Jesus, the trouble maker, of law breaking. Jesus, meanwhile, had slipped into the crowd.

Was Jesus violating the Sabbath and causing the healed man to do the same? Not in the least. Instead, Jesus is defining the Sabbath. Because of the fall of man, we lost our familial relationship with God. Only in Christ are we made sons in the son. This is not our work, it is the atoning, healing work of Christ. Therefore, we rest on the Sabbath to worship, remember, and to find repose in the Saving work of Christ. On the Sabbath, we cease from our labors precisely to show our dependence on God. We are reminded to cease from sinning, precisely because we have been healed by God. The Sabbath is a day of “Jubilee,” if you will. We rest, not from our healing, but because of it – to celebrate it and renew it!

Later, Jesus found the man he had healed and instructed him to stop sinning or something worse than physical disability would befall him. Far worse than being crippled was being condemned in your sin. This was true for him and for the Jewish people. It would be some 38 years later, in 70 A.D. that Jerusalem would come under God’s judgment. The Romans would lay siege to the Holy City and utterly destroy it and its temple. They did not stop sinning, and the result was tragic.

The man went to tell the leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. From that point on, the religious leaders were bent on destroying Jesus. In the end, they would destroy themselves!

As we journey to Jerusalem on the Pathway to the Passion, may we reflect on our own healing. In futility does mankind attempt to heal himself. Only when Jesus passes by and we respond to his invitation will we find true healing. His healing calls us to holy living and away from sin. His calling will also lead us to be ridiculed by those who are Jesus’ enemies. May we stay on this straight and narrow path – a path that leads to the true instrument of healing – the cross.

























I Once Was Blind (2)

Read John 9:1-8 – I Once Was Blind (Review)

As a quick review of our reading from yesterday, we read that Jesus meets a man born blind. The disciples ask Jesus why he is blind. Is it because of his own sin or the sin of his parents? Jesus says, “neither.” His blindness would be utilized by God for a higher purpose. In this man’s life, the works of God would be on display. It is important that we do the work of God, Jesus says, because the night is coming when we can no longer work.

Jesus then unleashes a barrage of “Genesis 1 and 2/Creation” themes that lay a foundation for what he is doing. For instance, Jesus says, I Am the light of the world.” I Am, is the name of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is claiming to be God! Then, by saying He is the light of the world, Jesus reminds us that after the heavens and earth were created, God filled the void and the darkness with light by the power of His Word! Then, Jesus spit on the ground and made clay from the dust. He anointed the blind man’s eyes with the dust. This reminds us of God forming man from the dust of the earth. After applying the mud, Jesus tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This pool was filled with water from the spring of Gihon. Gihon is another “creation” connection. The spring in Jerusalem was named after one of the rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:13). When the man came up from the water, he could see!

What had just happened. With all of these connections to creation – Jesus has offered this man recreation. But, the deeper message applies to all mankind. For, this man represents all of us. We are all born blind spiritually. We all need recreation! What Jesus offered the man born blind, he also offers to us.

With the healing of the blind man, the people and the religious leaders were delighted by this development, right? In reality, they went into panic mode. This did not fit their narrative! They wanted to get rid of Jesus not celebrate Him. This would require a rapid response. Their first approach was to utilize incorrect identification.

Read John 9:8-12 – Incorrect Identification

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”     

Some of those from his community denied that this was the man was the one born blind. Some thought it was him. But, the idea was introduced that he just looks like the man born blind. The healed man kept saying, “I am the man!” His repetition reveals that the people were reluctant to recognize him. Strategy number one was to deny that the man who was healed was the man born blind and thereby discredit the miracle.  

John 9:13-17 – Sinning on the Sabbath

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Strategy two of the rapid response was to take the focus of off the miracle and to draw attention to Jesus. All they had to do was accuse him of being a lawbreaker. After all, Jesus had healed on the Sabbath! Clearly,  Jesus was  sinning on the Sabbath. By undermining Jesus’ credibility, they wouldn’t have to deal with the miracle.  

The healed man was brought to the Pharisees. Did they rejoice in this miraculous display of God’s power?  To the contrary. They executed their plan and claimed that Jesus was a law breaker and not from God. The implication is that Jesus is from Satan! Others realized that this healing is a sign though they are unsure of its origin.

What are they demonstrating? We see their disbelief displayed.

John 9:18-23 – Disbelief Displayed

            The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The Jews, meaning the religious leaders and people, did not believe – even after interviewing him twice. So, they went to his parents. Look at the response of the parents. They are not celebrating Jesus either. Their blind son – blind from his birth – was healed. Do they thank Jesus and lift Him up? No, they respond carefully for fear of being thrown out of the synagogue. They deny knowing anything about Jesus. They said, they didn’t know who did this or how. Why? They were afraid of what others would think! And they certainly didn’t want to lose their place at the synagogue.

The responses of the people are instructive. From denying that the miracle occurred by claiming that the seeing man was not the blind man, to discrediting Jesus and calling Him a sinner, to the parents claiming not to know Jesus for fear of what others would think – what we see is a group of folks “walking in darkness.” John 1:4-5 tells us, “In [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it.” Compare their response to that of the man born blind.

 Read John 9:24-34 – Belief is Born

            So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

In the healed man we see that belief is born. Again the man is called before the religious men. They want him to swear an oath that Jesus is a sinner. This “one who was blind but now can see” is ready to take them on!

It’s like when the young boy traveling by airplane to visit his grandparents sat beside a man who happened to be a seminary professor. The boy was reading a Sunday school take-home paper. The professor thought he would have some fun with the lad. “Young man,” said the professor, “if you can tell me something God can do I will give you a big, shiny apple.” The boy thought for a moment and then replied, “Mister, if you can tell me something God can’t do, I’ll give you a whole barrel of apples!”

The healed man was about to teach the seminary professors! First, he invites the Pharisees to become followers of Jesus! That didn’t sit too well. The Pharisees claim allegiance to Moses. They can be sure that God spoke to him. But, this Jesus, we don’t know about him! Then, the blind man offers a blistering sermon. He says, “I am a living witness of this man’s power! If Jesus were not from God – could he do this?” The Pharisees respond – you were born in sin. In other words – you are still blind! Only we can see clearly! They are so smug.

While the religious leaders are demonstrating their lack of faith, do you see what’s happening with the healed man? There is a clear progression presented. He is growing in his faith.

Read John 9:10-11 – Progression Presented

So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes.

First, recognized Jesus as, “The man called Jesus”

Read John 9:17

17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Notice how his faith is growing. First he was the “man called Jesus”. Then, the healed man says, “He is a prophet”.

Read John 9:35-38

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

You can see the progression. From man to prophet. Now, in verse 38, he calls Jesus, “Lord”. He says, “I believe” and he worshipped Jesus! His physical eyes were opened. But far more important, this man could see spiritually!

Finally, in this account we find an astounding reversal of roles. 

Read John 9:39-41 – Reversal of Roles

            38 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

 How tragic that the religious leaders and the people were not able to celebrate God’s hand at work. Instead, those who should have seen were blinded to truth. But, the one born blind – he can see so clearly!

What about you?  As you travel the Pathway to the Passion, do you realize that you were born blind? Have you ever been “healed” by Jesus. Maybe you are like the healed man’s family. You are more concerned about what others think, than what God thinks. You may be like the religious leaders who were consumed with their own agenda. They think they can see – but they are blind. They are relying on their own understanding, and their eyes and minds are darkened. If you are still blind – realize that though you are blind – Jesus will give you sight.

One final point. In verse 9, the healed man was asked by the people if he was really the man born blind. He kept saying, I am the man.” As we saw earlier, I Am is a name for God. Is there something for us to learn by this? Indeed there is. When we come to Jesus and obey His instructions, He will open our eyes. He will change our darkness to light. He will transform our blindness to sight! When this happens, we are brought into God’s covenant family. As Peter wrote, we share in God’s divine nature. The blind man kept saying, “I Am the man.” He had become a true man of God. He once was blind – but now he could see.



I Once Was Blind (Part 1)

Gertrude and Mildred were driving to their Sunday school party.The two elderly sisters were thankful they could still drive and took turns driving the Buick they shared. Gertrude became very nervous after Mildred ran through two red lights. As they approached the next light Mildred was talking nonstop and gave no indication that she would stop. Gertrude shouted, “Mildred, the light is red!” Mildred immediately slammed on the brakes. As she stared at the red light she said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were driving.”

Have you been around folks who are blind to reality? Let me give you an example. There are many in our world who are blind to the reality that in our natural state mankind is inherently sinful. They do not see that we are sinful by nature and by choice. In fact, they are blinded by their own since that, at heart, we are good.

In our Gospel reading from John 9, we find two kinds of blindness. First, we meet a man born blind physically who will be made to see physically and spiritually. Second, we will confront the Pharisees who can see physically, but who are blind spiritually.  

Read Genesis 1:1-2, 2:7-14 – From Darkness to Light

These passages are foundational for our mediation on John 9. Notice that God created the heavens and the earth and then filled the void of darkness with light! Notice also that God used the dust of the earth to form man. And finally, notice the river Gihon flowing out of Eden. All of this will help us understand John 9.

Read John 9:1-7 – From Blindness to Sight

In John 9 and we meet a man who is Blind from Birth.  This man did not incur an injury that blinded him. He did not have an illness that caused his blindness. He was blind from birth. The disciples wondered why he was blind. Have you ever wondered, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Jesus followers wondered about the origin of Sin. There was a common belief in that day that sickness or serious health conditions were the rather direct result of sin. The disciples ask Jesus, who is the resident expert on all things theological, whose fault is it that he is blind? Did he sin – or did his parents sin?

Jesus dismisses their false choice. It was neither! Why was this man born blind? It’s because God had a higher purpose for his infliction. At the end of verse 3 we see that God brings good out of this. This man has was born blind so that the work of God might be manifest in His life. You see, in a real sense all of us are born blind. We are all “walking in darkness” as Isaiah wrote. Romans 5:12 says, Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men… In Ephesians 2:1-3 we find that we, …were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

 This sin nature infecting all of us is called Original Sin. This man, born blind from birth, was a real man. But, he happens to represent all of us, for we were all born spiritually blind! What we need is exactly what happened to the blind man. He became a new creation and it was offered to him as a miracle from mud. 

In verse 4 we see a clear connection to creation. Jesus compels them to do the works of the Father. Like the old hymn say. “Work for the night is coming, when man works no more.” Then, Jesus goes on to say in verse 5, “I Am…” Is there anything significant about that? I Am is the name of God. Jesus is identifying Himself as God. He goes on, “I Am the light of the world!” In the beginning God created. What did He do first after creating the heavens and the earth? He filled the darkness with light! Now, Jesus says, “I am God and I am the light shining in the darkness!” 

In Genesis one, mankind was created from clay.  In John 9, After Jesus said these things, He spit into the dust and made mud or clay. Jesus then anointed the man’s eyes with the clay. Why did he do this? He had healed others simply by speaking over them. Surely there is something else going on here! This is an unmistakable connection to God’s creation of man. Genesis 2:7 says, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground…” Genesis 3:19 says, For you are dust and to dust you shall return. In the Dead Sea Scrolls a Jewish tradition was uncovered that Adam was made from dust and spit. They believed man was created when God “kneaded Him from the dust…he is so much spit”  So, what is Jesus doing by spitting in the clay? Just like God created Adam, now, Jesus is recreating the man born blind! Just as God brought the creation from darkness to light, so, Jesus is bringing this man from blindness to sight.

Next, he is purified in the pool. New creation themes are evident here as well. After Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes, He sends him to the Pool of Siloam to wash. The pool of Siloam was important for many reasons. First, it received its water from the Gihon, a spring which served as the water source for Jerusalem. According to Genesis 2:13, it was named the Gihon after one of the rivers of Eden. Scholars believe that the Jewish people thought of Jerusalem as a new “Eden.” With this additional connection to creation, it seems quite clear that Jesus is making this man into a new creation. After he is anointed by Jesus, he dips in the pool and returns seeing! Into his darkness came the light. And into His heart and soul came the Light of the World! 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed, the new has come.”

As we follow the Pathway to the Passion, let’s understand that what happened in the life of the blind man is why Jesus has turned his face resolutely toward Jerusalem. He wants all of us wandering in darkness to see the Light. He wants all of the blind to regain their sight.

In our meditation for tomorrow, we will look at the rapid response of the Pharisees and the progression of faith in the man healed of his blindness.


The Line in the Sand

Do you know people who live in the past? They long for things to be exactly like they used to be. They tend to dwell on yesterday’s triumphs and trophies. And they spend much of their time trying to recreate a bygone era, when times were better and life was sweeter. Remembering is vitally important, but, our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 43 helps us recognize an important truth. God says, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” Do you think it is possible that we become so obsessed with what God has done in the past that we miss what He is doing in the present? As we will read in Isaiah 43, God is doing a New Thing!

…let’s set the stage. In chapters 1 through 39 of Isaiah’ great book, Isaiah prophesied that God’s judgment would fall on His unfaithful people. As we have noted, In 722 BC – Israel and the ten northern tribes fell to the Assyrians. In 586 BC – Judah and the two southern tribes fell to Babylon. Beginning in chapter 40, Isaiah’s message changes from doom to hope!! Isaiah prophesied of a time when God’s judgment would be lifted. A time was coming when God would renew His people. What they have to do to perceive the new thing God was doing? Read on…

Read Isaiah 43:16-21 – Put Away the Past

If Israel is going to perceive the new thing God is doing, they must put away the past. When did God make a way through the sea? Of course, this refers to the Exodus. God parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Children of Israel could pass through on dry ground. Egypt’s pursuing chariots were swallowed up as the raging torrent was released. According to the Apostle Paul, this is an amazing picture of baptism (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Burying the old way of life – and being raised to a new life. The Passover and Exodus were central to Israel’s identity.

In verse 18, God reminds the people what He has done for them. “Hey, do you remember when I did all of these miraculous things for you? Good Now, forget about it!” Why would God tell them this? This is critical!! He is forbidding His people from looking backward constantly! Many of them were so obsessed with their past that they were oblivious to the present, not to mention the future!

A man said to his friend: “Say, you look depressed. What are you thinking about?” “My future,” he replied. “What makes it look so hopeless?” “My past.” Was he really thinking about his future? Not at all. He was hung up on history, locked up in a prison of the past.

Let me ask you – are we ever so preoccupied with the past that we fail to occupy the present? Have we ever missed where God is leading us because we are looking in the rear view mirror. Some might say, “I remember the heyday of our church. I long for those first days, when everything was perfect. I Just wish we could have it like that again. If that is our mindset then we need to hear the Word of the Lord…“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

We would do well to heed the words of the Apostle Paul who said in Philippians 3:13-14. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. God was telling them not to dwell on the past.

God says, “Now, see something new!” God instructs them to behold! Watch what I am about to do. Something new is coming. What is it going to be. Well, we will never know if we are looking behind us. What new thing is God going to show them? If God is telling them put the first Exodus behind them, what must be ahead of them? God is revealing that a New Exodus is coming.

What are they to look for in this New Exodus? Three clues are given. First, there will be “a way in the wilderness.” Second, there will be “rivers and in the desert.” Third, “wild animals” will be part of this emerging Exodus. How do we interpret this? Let’s allow the Scripture to interpret Scripture. What about the “way in the wilderness”? John the Baptist said in John 1:23, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John was announcing the arrival of Jesus – the Messiah. Our first clue is solved.

What about the, “rivers and water in the desert”? Isaiah 44:3 reveals to us that this is the pouring out of the Spirit of God. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” As Jesus ushered in the New Covenant, so, too, the Spirit was given. First to the Apostles in John 20, then the Church was born in Acts 2. And the Spirit was then poured out on the Gentiles in Acts 10. The rivers and water represent the coming of the Holy Spirit. The second clue is solved.

Third, what about the wild beasts that will honor God? In Peter’s vision in Acts 10, the animals represent the Gentiles. A day was surely coming when the Gentiles would worship God as well! Galatians 3:28 declares, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The third clue is solved

So, what was the “new thing” God was promising in Isaiah 43? God was sending the Messiah – the way in the wilderness! He would pour out the Holy Spirit on His people, and His people would include both Jews and Gentiles. It’s so clear. Surely, everyone would recognize Jesus when He arrived. But, is that what happened? John 8 reveals to how Jesus was received when He appeared.

Read John 8:1-11 – What’s New?

God’s glory in the Temple.In John 8:1-3 we read, “…but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.”

God’s glory was gone from the Temple long before Jesus arrived. “Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.” In Ezekiel 11:23 we read, “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.”

God’s glory had gone out from the Temple. But, in John 8, we see God’s glory is regained.  John 8:1-2 tell us that Jesus came from the Mount of Olives. He would have moved through the East Gate, and then on to the temple. Do you see what’s happening here? Why would John include such minute details in his account. This is the reverse path of Ezekiel 10 when God’s glory exited. So, what’s happening? God’s glory is returning to the Temple in the form of Jesus!! The Lord was in His Holy Temple again, only this time, He had come in the flesh. The Word became flesh and tabernacle among us!! Go was doing a new thing. Surely everyone would rejoice. God’s Word and Work were unfolding before there very eyes. How did they respond?

A group of Pharisees and Scribes sets a Trap. Rather than embrace the “New Thing” God is doing, they have been plotting and planning Jesus’ demise! Rather than praise the New Moses, who has come to deliver them, they look back and appeal to the First Moses. Rather than welcome God’s glorious appearing in their midst, the religious elitists try to manipulate the Messiah. They have set a trap that they believe is foolproof.

They bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. And what about this woman? Do you think that her accusers, these pious, self-righteous religious men were concerned about her spiritual condition? Heavens no. She was nothing more than a prop to be used to further their nefarious scheme. So, what would Jesus do? The question they posed was unanswerable! Teacher, they said, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says we must stone her. What do you say? The trap is set. And Jesus has no way out! If he says, “have mercy on her,” they will accuse him of being a law breaker. If Jesus says, “stone her to death as the law requires,” the Pharisees will accuse him of breaking Roman law. Only the Romans had authority to execute criminals.

What would Jesus do? The unanswerable is answered perfectly. “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.”

I am a Star Trek fan. If you are too, you will remember when Captain Kirk was a cadet at Star Fleet Academy. All officer candidates were given a battle simulation test called the Kobayashi Maru. In this test there was no way out. Everyone who took the test faced certain death. The test revealed which death the candidate would choose. And yet, Captain Kirk defeated the test. He had done the impossible. Only later do we realize that he reprogrammed the simulation. He cheated.

As the Pharisees waited for Jesus to choose his demise, either break Moses Law or Roman Law, Jesus doesn’t have to cheat to defeat them. He says to them, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Imagine the stunned silence. In that moment, the elitists are exposed. They began to walk away. The older ones first and then the younger ones followed. Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Some have said, they walked away confessing their sinfulness. I am quite sure that is not why they walked away. These holier than thou elitists thought they were righteous. Why would they walk away? Jesus has utterly turned the test around on them. If they take up stones to execute her, they would have been the ones breaking Roman law. Yet, if they walk away, they appear to everyone as sinners. They were expertly exposed by the One who truly knows our hearts. Now the trap had been sprung on them!

Notice that after they walked away, Jesus and the accused woman were the only ones left. In the Law of Moses, Deuteronomy 19:15 states that two or three witnesses are required to convict. Her accusers were gone. It’s no surprise that Jesus is about to offer something NEW. The way of Grace is given. Jesus stood up and asked her where her accusers were? Is no one left to condemn you? She said to him, that there was no one left.  Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

What’s happening here? Jesus offers her mercy and GRACE instead of condemnation. God’s new thing – the new way in the wilderness would be the way of Grace. Paul said, “We are saved by grace through faith…”. But, this is not what Bonhoeffer would call, “cheap grace.” Jesus instructs her to “go and sin no more.” Jesus has drawn a line in the sand – God was doing something new!

Have you ever wondered what Jesus was writing in the dust? He does this not once, but twice. I want to suggest two possible interpretations. In Jeremiah 17:13 we read that those who turn away from the Lord shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water. The “stuck in the past” religious leaders were indeed put to shame as Jesus wrote them into the earth! This is an act of condemnation based on their rejection!

Let me suggest one other possibility. Exodus 31 speaks of God writing the Law with His finger. It was in the Ten Commandments that we find, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” This was written by the finger of God. Now, God the Son, writes a new law with His finger, a law of mercy and grace. God was doing a new thing – but they did not perceive it!They were stuck in the past.

What about us? As members of His Body, the Church, we must perceive the new thing God is doing: Strengthening marriages, encouraging and equipping parents to disciple their children, sending us forth to reach the lost. A new day is dawning. God is doing something new and exciting. He is building His church, and it may not look like it did before, and that’s okay!

Finally, God wants to do a new thing in your life. Those Pharisees looked to the past and thought they were good and righteous. The truth is, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Psalm 14:3 says that, “there is none who does good, not even one.”We have all turned aside; together [we] have become corrupt.” Sadly, “the wages of our sin is death…”

“the gift of God is eternal life through Christ our Lord!” Don’t be locked up in the sinfulness of your past.

As we travel this Pathway to the Passion, won’t you step over that line in the sand? The cross awaits as the New Exodus begins! Paul put it this way, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Enter Through the One Door

Since the first century, Christian orthodoxy has presented Jesus as the only door. While this has been a central tenant of Christianity for two thousand years, today, there is great confusion on just how many doors exist. According to Dr. Dennis Hollinger, “…the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a major study on religious affiliation, beliefs and practices in the United States. One of the significant findings was that 70 percent of all Americans believe that many religions can lead to eternal life, including 65 percent of all self-identifying Christians. Perhaps the most surprising finding was that 56 percent of all Evangelical Christians believe that there are many paths, other than faith in Christ, to God and eternal life.”

Oh, how we need to hear again the words of Jesus, “Enter through the narrow door.” That door is not accessed by a sincere faith in some religion. That door is not entered by being a really good person, or doing wonderful things. That door is not opened by being in the right family or going to the right church. Jesus is the door! Read on…

Read Genesis 7:11-24 – The Door was Shut

Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God desired to recreate after His creation had become utterly corrupt. To further His plan, God commanded Noah to build the ark. He was the only living man who found favor with God. Noah was given very specific instructions about building this great ship. He was then instructed to fill the boat with two animals of every kind. There were two of every living creature, but only one door. When the day came, God commanded Moses and his family to go aboard. They entered through the one door. Then, the door was shut. Those who were aboard were saved. Those on the outside were not.

Read Luke 13:22-30 – The Door is Open

If you study the Bible long enough you will run into difficult sayings or teachings. What do we usually say when that happens? When I get to heaven, I am going to ask the Lord about that. Have you ever said that? Maybe you have a list of questions. Let’s say that you have been invited to ask Jesus one question right now. What question would you ask him? No, you can’t ask Him what the winning lottery numbers are. Some might ask about when is He coming back. Others might want to know what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is. Still others of us might inquire about the Nephilim. Or we might ask about dinosaurs.

As we saw in our reading from Luke 13, someone takes the opportunity to ask Jesus a great question. We are not told who the questioner is. But, we do have a record of his question. Essentially, he asks, “Lord, how many will be saved?” Did you notice that Jesus doesn’t answer the question? It seems like a really good one! Why didn’t Jesus answer him? It is very likely that Jesus is making an important point by not answering! You see, it doesn’t do us a lot of good to know how many will be saved. We need to see every person as a possibility. 2 Peter 3:9 declares that, God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come unto repentance.

For some reason, mankind enjoys the thought of being in the select few, the frozen chosen. Allow me to illustrate this. A minister colleague of mine was working on his master of divinity. As part of is degree he had to attend a Jehovah’s Witness meeting. The message that night dealt with the 144,000 elect who would be in heaven. After the meeting, my friend went to the speaker and asked “How do you know if you are in the 144,000 who will be saved?” The man said, “If you have to ask, you aren’t one of them.”

Rather than focusing on how many will be saved, Jesus focuses on the way to be saved! How are we to be saved? We must enter through the narrow door. When Jesus says, enter through the narrow door, the word door is singular. He speaks of one door – not multiple doors. We must not miss this! There is only one door. It is said that the ancient city of Troy had only one entrance and that from whatever direction travelers approached the city they could only enter through that one legally-appointed entrance. This is the idea that Jesus is communicating. There is only one door – singular!

Aren’t you glad that truth is not based on polls and trends? God’s objective truth is timeless and changeless. The world may believe that there are a hundred doors, or a thousand or a million doors. But, Jesus said Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the only door! Acts 4:12 says without ambiguity, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus is the only door. Jesus alone is God Incarnate – fully God fully man. Jesus alone was born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus alone lived a sinless life. Jesus alone took upon Himself the sin of the world. Jesus alone died as the atonement for our sin. Jesus alone reversed the curse of Adam. Jesus alone arose from the grave on the third day. Jesus alone ascended to the Father. Jesus alone stands at this very moment as the Mediator between God and man. No other man can claim to be God. No other man can make any of these claims. No other man has the power to redeem, restore and recreate us. Jesus alone is the doorway to salvation.

Oh what glorious “Good News” is the Gospel of Jesus. And yet, despite God’s gracious provision for us, Jesus said that many will seek their own way. In Luke 13:24 Jesus offers a warning! “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Notice that Jesus says many will seek to enter but they won’t be able. Why won’t they be able? Because they will try to enter in their own way. They will try to find another door. They are convinced they can be saved without a Savior! I have a non-Christian friend who is asking a lot of questions. He is searching for answers in all of the wrong places. We ought not trust our eternal souls to the History Channel and lost secrets of the Bible, or some discredited Gnostic Gospel of Thomas that just happens to be at Barnes and Knobles in the religious aisle.

Do you know what’s trending these days in religious practice? A growing number of people, even those who claim to be Christians, are combining Christianity with other religions to create their own customized, personalized religion. Jesus warns us, there is one narrow door, and many will miss it because they are trying to find their own door. One day, the one door will be closed. I can’t help but imagine Noah and the Ark. With his family safely gathered inside, imagine the pandemonium when the rain started and the door was shut. It was too late for those who had seen no need for the ark! On that day they will not be allowed in.

Verse 25 tells us, “When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.” How tragic is this scene? When we die, the door will be eternally shut, and those crying out for entry will not be permitted to enter. Why? They are not allowed because they will not be recognized. You see, in order to enter the Master’s house we must have a covenant relationship with Him. We must be part of the family! Those locked outside then argue, “We ate and drank with you – we heard your teaching!” Is it possible that even some of those who attend church will not be allowed in?

Matthew 7:21-22 makes it clear! “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” What’s missing? The Lord says, “I never knew you.” There was no relationship. We must be reconciled to the Father by uniting with the Son. The Son of God became a son of man so that the sons of men might become sons of God!

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” What must we do to be “in Christ”? What does it take for us to become new creations and to be reconciled to God? We must repent, or turn away from sin and evil, and, we must turn to Jesus by faith, believing we are: redeemed by His blood, restored by His sacrifice, and raised to new life by His resurrection. We must commit our lives to Jesus as His disciples, taking up our cross daily, denying ourselves and following Him. Romans 10:9 says, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” You see, this is the door! And this is the only way – through Jesus!

With this truth established…Jesus takes it a step farther in verse 29. Who will sit at God’s table? “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” The Lord desires people at His banquet table from the north, south, east and west. God’s covenant love is ever expanding to the nations. This was promised from the beginning. In Genesis 12, God promised Abraham: In your family line all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Israel was to be a light to the Gentiles. Is that what they did? Instead, they grew to despise the Gentiles. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. In 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians. What was God doing? The Assyrians and Babylonians dispersed God’s people all over the known world. Though it was painful and tragic, God’s chosen ones became missionaries to the world.

That is the heart of God – that all nations will hear. In the mid-sixth century – Jerusalem was resettled and rebuilt. And, almost immediately, the Jewish people began to revile the Goyim – the other nations. The Gentiles were called dogs!! The Samaritans their cousins, were half breeds!! Into this exclusivism and inward focus, Jesus came. What was Jesus’ mission? He came to seek and save the lost!

Ephesians 2:17 states, “[Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off (the Gentiles) and peace to those who were near (The Jewish People). For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” In Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. You see, Jesus came to save those from every nation.

Let’s conclude with verse 30. “And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Recognize this – what causes many to miss the one door, what makes it almost impossible for people to receive God’s gift of grace is pride! Jesus says, the first will be last! But, the last will be first. A Sunday school teacher was telling the story of the rich man and Lazarus. She said that Lazarus sat outside the rich man’s gate covered with sores and begging for food. And that the rich man passed Lazarus without even seeing him. But when they both died Lazarus went to Heaven, while the rich man found himself in hades, which the teacher described most graphically. When she had finished, she asked the children, “Now which would you rather be—the rich man or Lazarus?” One little fellow answered, “I would like to be the rich man until I die and then Lazarus afterwards.”

That’s not how it works. The proud will be cast down. But the humble – will be raised up. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will raise you up! God is looking for those who are humble. We began with Jesus being asked a question. We will conclude this devotion with Jesus asking us a question. In John 11, Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosever lives and believeth in me will never die. Do you believe this?” As we walk this journey to Jesus and follow the pathway to the Passion, we must realize that Jesus is not only the destination, He is also the Way, and Jesus is the only door. Do you believe this?

Are You Listening?

Have you ever had the experience of talking to your children and after you finish your detailed statement or request, they look up and say, “What?” Or, they might sit quietly while you are speaking to them. You ask them, “Did you hear what I said?” They respond, “Uh…yeah, sure.” When you ask them to repeat it back to you, they have no idea what you said. In our reading from Jeremiah, God, the Father, speaks to the Children of Israel about listening to His voice and following His commands. They have not listened!

Similarly, Luke records a narrative of selective hearing. The people claim that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Apparently, they have not heard the message Jesus has been preaching.

In a day that is filled with noise and multiple and mixed messages, we must ask ourselves, “Are we listening? What is God saying to us?” Read on…

Read Jeremiah 7:23-28 – Can You Hear Me?

Have you heard the expression, “It all went downhill from there!”? When Israel came out of Egypt, God made them His Covenant people at Mount Sinai. He said to them, “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper.”  The people were quick to respond, “We will do everything You have spoken.” Essentially, it was one of those, “Uh, yeah, sure…we’ll do whatever it was you said,” responses. God said to Jeremiah, “They did not obey, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to Me.”  Is it easier to hear someone speaking to you when you face them or when your back is turned? Israel had turned their back.

After the covenant with God was established, Moses returned up the mountain to receive God’s instructions. In the meantime, the people built a golden calf out of their jewelry and worshiped a god of Egypt. Their unfaithfulness over the generations seemed to accelerate as the “snowball” of sinfulness rolled downhill. The sons had done even worse than their fathers!

God sent His servants and they were ignored. God sent his prophets and their message was dismissed. Now, in Jeremiah’s day, God is addressing the unfaithfulness of the current generation. They have worshiped false gods, adopted pagan practices – they worshiped the “queen of heaven” (Astarte/Ishtar) and made child sacrifices, shed innocent blood, took advantage of foreigners, neglected widows and orphans, were involved in adultery, thievery, insincere worship of Yahweh and more. Despite God’s warnings, they were the nation that, “does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction.”

Can you hear Me, God asks? The unfaithful children say, “What?” 

Read Luke 11:14-23 – Can You Hear Me, Now?

Jesus was driving out a demon that had rendered a man unable to speak. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke and everyone was “amazed”! What a glorious demonstration of God’s power over the forces of darkness. Surely, the people would see that the “Light of the World” was standing before them, overcoming the darkness. Surely they will respond with affirmation and worship of One who has the power of God.

Instead, they accuse Jesus of casting out the demon by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. They believe that Jesus is aligned with the kingdom of darkness. Their response reminds me of Israel’s response at Meribah and Massah (Exodus 17:1-7). They accused Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them. In striking similarity to Luke 11, they ascribe to Moses and God the motives of Satan. Can God be an instrument of Satan? Never!!  The response of the people to Jesus’ reveals that they have closed their ears to His message and ministry. John 1:5 states, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (NASB)

Jesus demonstrates the clear contradiction of their position. He says, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. If Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” Why would Satan use Jesus to destroy his own evil kingdom? Jesus goes on to question them about their own exorcists. Do they cast out demons by the power of Satan? Surely the people don’t believe that. Why, then, would they make this illogical claim about Jesus?

Their logical fallacy laid bare, now they must come to grips with the truth. If Jesus drives out demons by the “finger of God,” then God’s Kingdom has arrived. Jesus is the stronger man who is breaking down the strongholds of Satan. They must listen carefully to the claims being made. Jesus represents the coming of the Kingdom of God. Either they will hear him and choose to follow Him, or they will stand against Him.

It is the same message that God spoke on the Mountain. We know the reception of the Children of Israel. Now, Jesus calls to them again. “Can you hear me, now?” Sadly, Jesus ministry and message will fall on many deaf ears. A majority will continue to claim that Jesus is doing the work of the devil.

Many in our world make the same claims today. Jesus and His followers are extremists, immoral bigots and every “phobe” you can name. The question for us is simple. Will we listen to the world and turn our back on the Lord. Or, will we turn our face to Him, fixing our eyes on Jesus, and listen to His voice! Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Are you listening?