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?

I Surrender All

After watching the dedication of his baby brother in church, little Timmy sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally the boy replied, “Did you hear that pastor? He said he wanted us boys brought up in a Christian home. The father said, “Yes, I heard him say that. Is there something wrong?” “Well, I was really hoping to stay with you guys!” 

Imagine having to decide between your family and the Lord. There are places in the world where choosing to follow Jesus means losing your family. My aunt Mary Lou and uncle Wayne served as missionaries in Japan for over 40 years. During that time, when a Japanese person was led to Christ, their Buddhist families would have a funeral for them. They were completely cut off from their families. It was as if they had died! 

When adherents to Islam become Christians, according to Dr. Ergun Caner, a former Muslim who is now a Baptist preacher, those who convert to Christianity are immediately disowned. If they are married, their spouse is expected to divorce them. They lose all rights to their children, and in some cases, a death sentence is placed on their heads. 

For many around the world there is a great personal cost for following Jesus. David Platt, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, has written about visits he has taken to churches in Asia. He speaks of Christians gathering in unbearably hot, dimly lit rooms. They had to arrive at different times, often by foot or bike so as not to arouse suspicion. You see, it is illegal for Christians to meet there. Platt writes, “If caught, the people here could lose their land, their jobs, their families and even their lives.” 

Platt tells of one pastor who shared about his church members being kidnapped. Many of them would never speak the Gospel again because their tongues had been cut out. One pastor said, “I need to know how to lead my church to follow Christ even when it costs them everything!” When Platt returned to his church in America, he saw a very different level of faith. There were no dimly lit rooms. Instead there was theatrical lighting and air conditioning. No one walked or biked to worship. Instead the parking lot held millions of dollars worth of cars. “Everyone was dressed impeccably,” he said, “as we settled into our comfy padded seats.” As David Platt surveyed the scene, he saw a stark contrast between the church here and in the places he had visited. Platt began to ask himself what is Jesus worth to us?

 As we look to the Scriptures for today’s devotion, we will consider what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. As we respond to Jesus call to, “Follow me,” we must ask ourselves the question, “How much will it cost?”

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9 – How Much Love is Enough?

In this passage we find an admonition to keep the statutes of God. These laws are to be passed on from God to Moses, from Moses to the people and from one generation to the next. If they will keep these commands, they will live long in the land God will give them. These words are echoed in Ephesians 6:1-3 concerning children honoring their parents, which will lead to longevity.

Within today’s reading we find the Shema, which means to, “listen,” or “hear” (Deuteronomy 6:3-4). This statement of belief stands as the core prayer of the Jewish people. For many children, this statement of God’s oneness is the first prayer they learn. “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God is One.” The passage goes on, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Clearly, God has expectations for His people. They will be obedient to His commands. And, they will love Him with their whole being.

Were the Children of Israel faithful to this teaching? Did they live long in the land? Only a few generations later, in 722 BC, the Assyrians defeated the ten northern tribes of Israel. In 586 BC, the Babylonians overran the southern tribes of Judah. They were removed from the land and dispersed into foreign nations. Clearly, their unfaithfulness to God was met with righteous judgment.

One day, Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law.  Jesus offers a two part answer.  He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:17-20). According to Jesus, God’s expectations for His children have not changed. We are to love Him with all that we are. And, we are to love others. If we are going to follow Jesus, there is a cost involved. What will it cost? Read on…

Read Luke 14:25-33 – We Must Hate to Love?

What is the cost of discipleship? Jesus said we must, Hate our Family.” Did we hear that correctly? Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must hate his family, his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life!” Did Jesus really say that?How would that look on your church’s bumper sticker. Come to our church where we love Jesus and hate our families! Could the one who taught us how to love really say that we should hate our families in order to be His disciples? Here the word hate – miseo in the Greek means…well…to hate! But, why would Jesus say such a thing? We know that Jesus lived a sinless life, so He can’t be advocating the breaking of the 5th commandment, …to “honor your father and mother.” So, what does he mean?

There are two reasons Jesus would say this. First, Jesus uses the word “hate” to shake people up. He wants to get their undivided attention! This is a common teaching tool called hyperbole. It is Intentional exaggeration to make a point. This technique is very effective for its shock value. No doubt, Jesus got their attention. I pray that he has ours!

The second reason Jesus would have used the word hate, is that once he got their attention, once they thought deeply about what he has said, another meaning emerges. You see, “miseo”can also mean to “love someone less.” Allow me to give you an example of this. In Genesis 29 we read about Jacob being tricked into marrying Leah. You see, he really loved Rachel. Jacob committed to work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. But on the wedding night, when Rachel was to be offered to him, Leah was brought to his tent instead. Verse 25 says, “And in the morning, behold, it was Leah!” Behold indeed!! What an understatement!!! It took seven more years of work, then Jacob also married Rachel. After Jacob and Leah had two children, Leah said in verse 33, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” Did Jacob really hate his wife, Leah? If we look back three verses we discover the answer. In verse 30 of Genesis 29 we read that Jacob’s, “…love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah.” In order for this passage to be consistent, the word “hated” in verse 33 really means that Leah by comparison was loved less than Rachel.

So, Jesus is not saying we are to despise our families in order to be His true followers. But rather, we must love Him first and foremost – even more than we love our families?

Read Matthew 10:37-38 – Oh…We Must Love Him More!

This parallel passage should clear up any misunderstanding. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Jesus is saying that to be Jesus’ disciple, we must love Jesus above all…more than our father or mother…our spouse or our children…or even ourselves! That is an amazing and demanding expectation! What kind of teacher would make such a requirement, that we should love Him more than our families? 

If Jesus was just a good teacher, this would be scandalous. But, Jesus is not just another rabbi. Jesus is teaching the same thing that God the Father said to Israel in the Old Testament. As we saw, Deuteronomy 6:5 says, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. What God is claiming in the Old Testament, Jesus is claiming in the New. He is to be loved above all other relationships. To any Jew, this would have been another shock! Jesus is saying that we should love him as we do God!! There is a simple reason for this – Jesus is God!!! 

The question I have for you  is this, “Do you love Jesus more than anyone else in your life?” Do you love Him more than your parents…more than your spouse…more than your children…More than yourself? What is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? We must love Him supremely. Jesus goes on to say, if you want to be my disciple…you must take up your cross.This had to be another absolutely stunning statement! You want to be my disciple…Love me more than anyone – including yourself, Love me as God, and now He says – take up your cross. Remember, this is before Jesus’ crucifixion. Anyone listening to Jesus would have known about crosses. They meant Roman execution. Those who carry their cross were processing to their death. And what’s worse – according to Deuteronomy 21, “anyone hung on a tree is cursed!”

So, what does Jesus mean? If you want to follow me – it will cost you your life!! In a day when preachers are telling people that following Jesus is a matter of saying a few words in prayer, Jesus says, “take up a cross”. In a day when crosses are worn as fashion accessories, Jesus says, “carry your cross!” In a day when people want all the benefits of commitment without all the cost, Jesus says, “It will cost you your life!”

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran Pastor who lived in Germany during World War II. Because he opposed Adolf Hitler, he was executed by the Nazis in 1945. Bonhoeffer knew a little something about laying down his life and he had no tolerance for those who would make following Jesus little more than obtaining an insurance policy from hell. In his famous book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” Bonhoeffer wrote…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness, without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ. In contrast, He writes, Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'” 

It’s really quite simple. If you want to follow Jesus – you must die to yourself. For it is in dying that we are raised to new life – real life – in Christ.  

Mark 8:34-36 states it perfectly. And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Jesus gives us two examples of counting the Cost. First, He tells us to consider the builder of a tower. When our family lived in Saint Augustine, we had a house built – it was our dream house. We were told that nothing tests a marriage like that does. After it was finished it became clear why Renee’ liked this floor plan. It had separate closets in the master bedroom. We learned quickly that everything that went into the plan had an expense. We had to count the cost very carefully! Jesus is making it very clear – if we are going to follow him we must count the cost!

His second example is of a King going in to battle. The message is the same. Before the king commits his forces, he must count the cost. Verse 33 begins with, “so therefore”.  Whenever we see therefore, we must ask, “What is it there for?” Therefore links what Jesus has just said with what’s coming. Now, Jesus is going to reveal the point of his two examples. …and in so doing, He will reveal the cost of being His disciple. Verse 33 says, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

What does Jesus require of you to be His disciple? Jim Elliott understood. He went to Ecuador back in the 1950s to minister to a violent tribe called the Aucas. His parents thought he should go into youth ministry in the States. But, Jim felt like the home folks were already “well fed.” His desire was to share the Gospel with those who had never heard it. On January 8, 1956, while on mission in Ecuador, ten Auca warriors ambushed Jim and his four companions. Jim’s slain body was found floating down the river. In his journal Jim wrote that, “Work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life” Jim also said this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

What is the true cost of being a disciple of Jesus? Far more than saying a few words in a prepared prayer, or signing a commitment card, or even walking down the aisle, the bottom line is this: Jesus requires nothing less than all of you! If you want to be my disciple, Jesus said, It will cost you EVERYTHING! 

We must love Jesus above all other relationships, and we must value Jesus more than our resources. He must be preeminent. As we journey toward Jerusalem on this Pathway to the Passion, may we learn to sing with all of our hearts, souls and might…All to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him. In His Presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed Savior. I surrender all.


A Son, A Sanctuary and a Seat

“Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Why is this significant? Jesus taught Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus all about Himself using the writings of Moses and the Prophets – that’s the Old Testament. In this passage, we see that what Augustine taught about studying the Bible was exactly right. The great church leader of the late fourth and early fifth centuries, said, “The New Testament is in the Old concealed and the Old Testament is in the New revealed.” As we look at our readings from 2 Samuel and then Luke 2, significant truths will leap from the page – if we will study the Old with an eye toward the New. Read on…

Read 2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16 – An “Heir” Raising Experience

King David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). From shepherd boy, to slayer of a giant, to mighty warrior and King of Israel, David had been highly favored and blessed of God. But, David had also sinned grievously. By following his own desires, he had conceived a child out of wedlock by an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. He compounded his sin by effectively murdering her husband. When Uriah would not come home for a visit with his wife, providing cover for David’s sinful actions, the King had him sent to the front of the battle lines. This ensured Uriah’s death.

Later, when David desired to build God a permanent dwelling, the Temple, God declined his offer. However, God did make a covenant promise to David before He died. God assured the great King of Israel that He would raise up an heir for David. This son of David would be the one to build the temple, establish David’s Kingdom and inhabit his throne forever. David’s son Solomon, the wisest man in the world, was the one to partially fulfill God’s promise. But, there was another Davidic Son who would fulfill God’s promise to David perfectly. Who is it? Read on…

Read Luke 2:41-51 – Losing Your “Heir” (At least for a few days)

Jesus and his parents went to Jerusalem for Passover, as they did every year. Usually, pilgrims would travel in a family or community caravan. There was safety in numbers, and the children could be together to entertain themselves. This is most likely why Jesus was not missed for a day after Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem with their cadre of travelling companions. Jesus had remained in Jerusalem at the Temple. Once they realized He was not in their caravan, they decided to retrace their steps back to Jerusalem. After three days of searching for their boy, they finally found Jesus in the Temple. What was Jesus doing? He was sitting among the teachers, astounding them with His insightful questions and His deep understanding and wisdom.

You can imagine how they must have felt when they discovered Him at long last. They had to be feeling a mixture of relief, incredulity and irritation. Mary asks, “How could you have done this to us? Your father has been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus responds with words that stand among his most remembered and cherished. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus returned to His home and was obedient to His parents.

Anyone who has children understands the fear of losing your child, even if for a few minutes. Whether it is in a crowd or on a hike, to lose track of your little ones is traumatic. Mary and Joseph were perplexed. Why would Jesus do this? Well, there are some astounding truths that come from this passage. But let’s go back twelve years and begin to put this all together.

Twelve years earlier a virgin girl named Mary received a visit from the Angel Gabriel. Luke makes clear that she was betrothed to Joseph, of the house and lineage of David. “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 

Joseph was betrothed to Mary. All was going well, until Mary became pregnant. Joseph, who was an honorable man, was thinking about putting her away privately. An angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Matthew 1:20). The angel addressed Joseph as “son of David.” Truth be told, Joseph and Mary were both in the line of David. This means that Jesus was a son of David by lineage and by law, for Joseph was his step-father. To confirm this, Matthew 1:1 begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David…”

David was promised that He would have a Son in his royal line. Wasn’t that Solomon? Well, Solomon was the son of David, but David was promised that his son would make his kingdom “firm,” and that he would build a house for God – the Temple. What’s more, the Son of David would sit on David’s throne forever. But that is not what happened! In 586 BC, the Babylonians defeated Judah, destroyed Jerusalem and demolished the Temple. The last Davidic King, Zedekiah was deposed and his sons were killed in the Babylonian uprising. Was God being dishonest with David? Absolutely not!

The Son that David was promised would fulfill God’s promises eternally. The One to fulfill God’s covenant vows can’t possibly be Solomon. Listen to Gabriel’s description of Mary’s Son. He said she would bear a son and, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’” (Luke 1:32-33). So, Jesus, the Son of David, would be the One. He will sit on David’s throne forever. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. He will make David’s kingdom firm. But, what about the Temple. Wasn’t the Son supposed to build the Dwelling of God?

In John 2:18-22 we find our answer. Jesus has just cleansed the Temple. The people want to know by what authority He has done this. So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. Jesus would indeed “build the Temple” for the Temple was His resurrected body. In 70 AD, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The only Temple that remained was “The Body of Christ!” I can’t help but think of Revelation 21:22 when the New Heavens and the New Earth appear. John wrote, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”

What have we learned? God promised David a Son who would build a Sanctuary, and take His Seat forever. Jesus fulfills all of these promises perfectly. He may be considered the new Solomon. For, Solomon was the wisest man in the world. At 12 years old, Jesus was in the Temple teaching the teachers. What Solomon did imperfectly, Jesus does perfectly. He is the Son, the Sanctuary and He is the Lamb standing as if slain on Heaven’s throne. And He shall reign forever and ever.

What a journey we are on. As we make our way to Jerusalem, we begin to recognize that the Son of David must become a sacrifice. That the Sanctuary must be torn down to be rebuilt. And the royal Seat will include a crown of thorns and a blood stained robe. At first glance, this royal Son is not what we expected. But, He is exactly what we need!




Worship in Spirit and Truth

God seeks worshipers. That’s what Jesus says in our Gospel reading. Israel was called out of Egypt to worship. But, at Sinai, they proved unfaithful. The Samaritans, who worshiped on Mount Gerizim, incorporated foreign gods, along with Yahweh in their sacred assemblies. The Jews worshiped God in Jerusalem. But, even in the Holy City, worship of God was not pure. Many laws had been added to God’s commands and statutes. The leaders became legalistic and power hungry. When the Messiah came, they did not worship Him. Rather, they rejected Him. Would mankind ever truly worship God in a way pleasing to Him? An hour was coming and has indeed come! Read on…

Read Exodus 3:1-18 – Come and Worship

Exodus 3 contains the famous “burning bush” meeting of God and Moses. In this encounter, Moses receives a commissioning from God to return to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God is moving to fulfill His promise to Abraham – that His people will have a land. Genesis 17:8 reiterates God’s vow. “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

But God’s purpose for the Exodus was more than just a “get out of jail free” card. And it was more than setting up his covenant family in a prime location with a view. Exodus 3:18 reveals another intention behind the extraction of the children of Israel from Egypt. God instructs Moses and the elders to, “…go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’After 400 years of living as slaves in a foreign land, the people had adopted pagan practices and worshiped the false gods of Egypt. Hosea 11:1 states, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.” So, it should come as no surprise that the first matter at hand is leading the Israelites into the wilderness so that they might sacrifice to the Lord and return to the exclusive worship of God.

God desired for the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to be His faithful worshipers. But, even after God extracted His people from their plight in Egypt by dramatic and unmistakable signs and miracles, within days, they returned to worshiping a golden calf – a god of the Egyptians. God’s anger burned against the people because of their unfaithfulness, but Moses reminded God of the covenant He had established with Abraham – to multiply his offspring and give them a land. Moses inquired what kind of testimony it would be to bring the Israelites into freedom merely to slay them in the wilderness. God relented, but a plague fell on His people because of their sin (Genesis 32). In this horrendous scene of false worship and unfaithfulness, a pattern was set in place for generations. God would deliver His people and they would be faithful for a time. But as they grew complacent, they turned to other gods and other ways. God would bring judgment. The people would repent and return to God. God would restore them. The people would become complacent. And so it goes. Would the people ever learn to follow the covenant perfectly? Frankly, no they wouldn’t. Not ever. NEVER.

Now, before we become too pious, we cannot keep the covenant perfectly either. We also have things which take the place of God. They go by different names than Baal, Dagon or Ashteroth. But they are worshiped nonetheless. We bow down to sports, technology, entertainment, leisure, prestige, beauty, food, fame, fortune and everything that goes with it. So, what is the answer for unfaithful humanity? We are unable to relate to God on our own merits. Our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We turn back to Egypt and the old way of life every time. So, how will we be set free from our bondage to the repeated pattern of infidelity? We need someone who will accomplish this for us! Wouldn’t it be great to have Someone who could take our place and represent us before God? Someone who could lead us into a purity and holiness that we would never discover on our own!

Read John 4:19-26 – Come and Worship in Spirit and Truth

In Jesus’ amazing discussion with the Samaritan woman, after offering her “living water” and confronting her sinful lifestyle, they turn to a discussion of right worship. What a jarring transition! They were talking about her five husbands and she changes the subject to worship. There may be a very good reason for this. You see, the Canaanite word for “husbands” is “Baals.” This is the same word for the male gods of the Samaritans. 2 Kings 17:28-31 reveals to us that the Israelites dispersed to Samaria adopted the 5 male “Baals” or false gods of five foreign nations. Jesus was obviously talking to the Samaritan woman about her dysfunctional family life and her five husbands. But, could there also be a deeper meaning. Let’s substitute “god” for “husband” since the word “Baal” can be translated either way. Could Jesus have also communicated to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no god;  for you have had five gods, and the one you are with now (Jesus was with her at that time) is not your God. What you have said is true” (John 4:17-18).  This reading makes for a much smoother transition to a discussion of right worship!

John 4:21-24 contains their dialogue. “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This passage reveals several fascinating truths. Foremost, God is still interested in having faithful worshipers. In fact, God “seeks” worshipers. But the worshipers God desires must worship “in spirit” and “in truth”. Through the annals of history, mankind has proven that we lack the capacity to worship as God desires. So, God gives us exactly what we need. He sends Himself to us through the Incarnation of His only begotten Son. Jesus comes as our representative head and to restore us to right standing before His Father. Our only hope to worship as God desires is to approach Him through Christ in the power of the Spirit. This means that we need an Exodus from sin and into the Savior. It requires dying to the old way of bondage to sin, and being raised from death to life. But how is this New Exodus accomplished? It is accomplished by being united to Christ.

Paul writes in Romans 6:6-11, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Our Exodus from sin and death is exclusively established in unity with Christ. In verse 5 of Romans 6 Paul says, For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

If we are to worship God as He desires, that is,  in “Spirit and Truth”, then we must crucify our old selves and the old ways, and be raised up to new life in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). In Christ, we are in the Truth! And those who are in Christ also have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17). Herein is the requirement met and the blessing given so that we may worship in the Spirit and in the Truth!

The Israelites could be taken out of Egypt, but could Egypt be taken out of the Israelites? The answer was, “No!” What about us? For us to break free from the old ways, we must be buried with Christ, and raised with Christ to walk in newness of life. If we are truly to worship God as He desires, it must be “in Christ” – for Jesus is the only One who gets it right! As we walk this pathway to the Passion, may each step become a further immersion into the story of Jesus.




Living Water From the Rock

Today’s readings are intricately linked! Exodus 17 is the story of water coming from the Rock to quench the thirst of the Israelites. Our Gospel reading from John 4 is a compelling one about “Living Water”. If we will look deeply, we’ll discover that more is going on here than meets the eye. Foreign men, and women at wells meant something very special to the Jewish folk of Jesus’ day. Let’s discover how all of this is connected. Read on…

Read Exodus 17:3-7 – Water from the Rock

As the Israelites begin their Exodus journey from Egypt, they are confronted with a problem. They are thirsty. Sadly, they seem to doubt God. Why had Moses brought them out in the desert to die. How sad that they had so quickly forgotten God’s provision for them. Moses cries out to God. They are about to stone the one God sent to deliver them. In His gracious forbearance, God directs Moses to strike a rock with his staff. Water flowed from the Rock, quenching the thirst of the people. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul tells us that that Rock that provided spiritual drink for the Israelites was none other than Jesus! As we will see, Jesus is the source of living water – that springs up to eternal life.

Read John 4:5-42 – Living Water from the Rock

In our reading from John 4, we find Jesus involved in a bit of a scandal. Jesus is travelling through Samaria. On his way, he has an encounter that would have caused quite a stir. What we just read was worthy of being on the front page of the Hebrew National Inquirer. It was not that Jesus talked to a woman. He talked to many women on His journeys, without accusations. But, this meeting was different. You see, a Jewish man, meeting a Samaritan woman equals a scandal! Every year when the University of Kentucky plays the University of Louisville, (or pick your favorite rivalry) the media has to pan the crowd to find that special couple. You know – He is in a UK shirt – She is in Cardinal Red. For that one day, they may sit together, but it’s obvious, there is no unity!! That is a tiny glimpse into the division and hatred between Jews and Samaritans!

Why all of the animosity? In 722 BC, the Assyrians defeated the northern Kingdom of Israel. The ten northern tribes of Israel were dispersed into Assyrian territory. They began to intermarry with people from five other nationalities. They also adopted their ways and worshiped their gods. So, despite the fact that Samaritans were half-brothers and sisters to the Jews, their half breed status and their compromise with foreign religions made them totally unacceptable! What’s more, they denied that Jerusalem and the Temple were the rightful place to worship God and make sacrifice to Him. Instead, they set up a place to worship Yahweh on Mount Gerizim. They had their own priests. They had their own version of the Bible, and they had their own temple. in fact, Archaeologists have recently uncovered remains of a temple there. It’s interesting to note, however, that they were looking for the Messiah.

In verse 5 of John 4, Jesus, a Jew, meets a Samaritan woman. She has come to Jacob’s well to draw water. This was a difficult daily task, reserved very often for the women of that day. She comes at noon – the hottest part of the day! As she approaches, what does Jesus do? Most Jewish men would walk away. But, Jesus not only stays put, He requests of her a drink of water! This is a complete and utter scandal!! No Jewish man would do this, unless He is Jesus. You see, this is no “chance” meeting. This is nothing less than a divine appointment.

In verse 27, the disciples had gone away to buy food. When they arrive back at the well, their response to the “scandal” is very instructive. 27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

How do the disciples respond to Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman? They marveled!! About what did they marvel? Verse 27 says, “That Jesus was talking with a woman!” Notice that they did not say, “A Samaritan woman!” What else is going on here?  Well, to those Jewish men, to see a man and a woman at a well meant a wedding might be coming! A man, plus a woman at a well meant a wedding! Any Jewish person seeing Jesus, and the woman, at the well would have remembered several key Biblical accounts in which a man meets a woman at a well and the result is a betrothal.  

In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant meets Isaac’s future wife Rebecca at a well.

In Genesis 29, Jacob meets his future wife, Rachel at a well.

In Exodus 4, Moses meets his future wife, Zipporah at a well. 

In those days, they didn’t go to karaoke night at the oasis to find eligible women. They didn’t log on to Bibleheroesonly.com. Isaac, Jacob and Moses all found their wives at a well! And notice that in each instance the men were in a foreign land when their wives were discovered. Is it possible that Jesus meeting this woman at the well of Jacob is also the scene of a “betrothal”? Let’s remember some critical factors: God considered Himself the husband to Israel. Jesus, came to claim His bride – we speak of it often.

But, who will this bride be? In Ephesians 5, Husbands loving their wives is compared to Jesus loving the Church, and giving up his life for her. In verses 30-31 we read that the church is one with Jesus. Clear marital language. Then, this marital union is spelled out in Ephesians 2:12-14: …remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…

 The bride of Christ will be made up of Jews and Gentiles. United to Christ, those who were far off, the Gentiles, are brought near by the blood of Jesus. Jesus, the groom, has made both Jew and Gentile one. He has broken down the bitter divide that separates. Consider the Samaritan Woman. She is both Israelite and Gentile. Could it be that Jesus has come seeking His bride, and this Samaritan woman is the perfect representative of who His bride will be?

 Let’s see what else we can learn. In verse 10 of John 4, she has just asked Jesus why a Jew would request a drink from a Samaritan! Jesus says some fascinating things here. First, he refers to the gift of God. In that day, and ours, no groom would be taken seriously with giving the bride a gift. In our day, it is a usually a ring. For instance, Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, received a gold ring and two bracelets. Jesus says, God will give her a gift!  

Jesus speaks to her of a gift. Then he offers her “living water.” What is living water? There were several understandings of this. First it could be water from a spring – as opposed to a pond. It would be running water rather than stagnant. This is clearly what she thought Jesus meant. But, Jesus adds, this living water will lead to eternal life! The Song of Solomon and Hebrew tradition reveal another meaning of “living water”. Brides were to bathe on their wedding day in “living water.” This bath was to ensure that the bride was ceremonially pure and prepared for her groom. I am reminded of Revelation 19:7: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” 

Could Jesus’ proposal of living water be the offer of a bridal bath? As his bride, Jesus was offering her a gift. He knew that she needed to be cleansed from her impurity. Starting in verse 16, Jesus confronts her about her lifestyle. How would you feel if a stranger started recounting your sins? Jesus knew all about her. She had been married five times. And the one she was with now was not her husband. As we are beginning to understand, this woman, part Israelite, part Gentile, represents the bride of Christ. She also represents us because of her unfaithfulness and her sin. Like her, all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. What we need is to be washed in the blood of the lamb. We need to be purified in living water – just as she did. But, when does that living water flow over us – and make us pure? 

John 7:37-38 helps us understand: On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

 For those who believe in Jesus, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water! When Jesus was on the cross, below him was a bowl of wine. Just before He died, his words were eerily similar to those He spoke to the Samaritan woman. He said, “I Thirst.” After he drank some of the wine, He said, “it is finished…”.  Jesus bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. A Roman soldier proceeded to pierce Jesus side with a spear. From his side flowed blood and water – living water, springing up to eternal life! What we have is a pierced side which is a cleansing flow!

Just as Jesus said, “Out of [my] heart will flow rivers of living water!”  What the Samaritan woman needed, what we need – all of us who would be the bride of Christ – is the precious blood of Jesus, and the living water that flowed from His bleeding side.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.

No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

I don’t know about you, but, when Jesus says, do you want the living water. The only answer to give is, “I Do.”

The rest of this glorious passage reveals the ministry of the Church – the bride of Christ. We are to worship in Spirit and Truth. And we are to go and share our faith. The Samaritan woman left her water pot (no need for that now that she had living water), and went immediately to share the good news. She was acting so much like a young fiance’, wanting everyone to know about her “gift” – living water from the Rock.

Come Home!

God, the Father, has been dealing with rebellious children since the Garden of Eden. Adam, the first created son (Luke 3:38), chose to disobey his Father. Once the Father instituted a covenant with Israel, His “first born son” (Exodus 4:22), a pattern of rebellion and unfaithfulness appears. The Father had every reason and right to give up on His son. Instead, time and time again, the Father extends His mercy and grace. God desires for His children to “come home.” It was true in the beginning and remains true to this very day. Read on…

Read Psalm 103: 1-4, 9-12 – Amazing Grace

Our Psalm reading underscores God’s kindness and mercy. Given that “all of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6), the Lord could wash his hands of us. Rather than lock us up and throw the key away, He offers us pardon from our iniquities. Rather than letting us waste away in the disease of our sin, He offers us healing. Rather than letting us destroy ourselves with the growing debt of our sin, the Lord redeems us – meaning He pays our debt for us. God doesn’t give us what we have earned, rather, he crowns us with kindness and compassion.

God has myriad reasons to rail against us. Yet, he doesn’t constantly ride us. He has abundant reasons to be angry with us. Though we have broken His covenant and proved ourselves most unfaithful, God does not retain His wrath forever. His response to us is not in keeping with our depravity, nor does he repay us based on our sins against Him.

If we will return to Him, His kindness and grace to us will exceed the distance from the earth to the highest heavens. If we will repent, God will remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. The Lord is kind and merciful to us. This is the opposite of what we deserve. Read on…

Read Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 – Coming Home

Jesus, as He is wont to do, is spending time with the social outcasts. Jesus is speaking with the tax collectors and sinners who have all gathered close to hear. Despite Jesus’ noble mission to, “seek and save the lost” (John 3:17), the Pharisees and scribes don’t see His cause. They choose to criticize and condemn. “How can Jesus welcome these dregs of society? He even eats with them!” Their pious arrogance is on full display. These religious elitists represent Israel, a most unfaithful son. Surveying the scene, it is not Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who has strayed from the Father. It is the religious leaders in all their self-righteous judgment who demonstrate their outright rebellion.

In response to the “holy” men, Jesus offers a parable. In Jesus story, a man had two sons. The younger son does the unthinkable. He asks to receive his inheritance now, while his father is very much alive! How must the father have felt? And yet, his son wants to receive “what’s coming to him.” It’s as if the father is already dead and gone. Without hesitation the father fulfills the request. Perhaps his way of dealing with rebellion children, was similar to what Harry Truman believed. The late president said, “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”

Even worse than the rebellious act of asking for his inheritance, tragically we see a relationship surrendered. In verse 13 we read, “Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country…”  To go “into a far country” is covenant language. It means to depart the protection of the covenant land and it means to venture into the place of the pagans. The son was cutting himself off from his father. In effect, he wanted all the blessings of the father without having to bother with the relationship. Pastor Simon Perry noted, Many who claim to be Christians want to have the blessings of obedience without walking the pathway of obedience. As we consider this rebellious son, recognize that there are many like him, maybe even some of us. We want the benefits from the heavenly father without the relationship. We want the promises of the Bible, without the discipline to read it. We want the best of the faith, without the commitment of believe it or live it. We want the assurance of heaven, without the call to holiness. We want the blessings of Calvary, without having to carry a cross. we want to be wise and discerning, without the practice of prayer. We want the sense of belonging and purpose, without making church a priority. We want the pot luck and the perks, without preparing and bringing anything ourselves. We desire the benefits of religion, without giving ourselves to the relationship. How heart breaking for the father. The younger son collected the father’s riches and he left home to seek his own way. Can this also be said of us?

What the younger son failed to realize was that this path would lead to profound poverty. All too soon, the son would find his father’s riches squandered. Soon after leaving the father, the son’s life begins to go downhill. Jesus tells us that in that far country he wasted his inheritance recklessly. His older brother would later accuse him of squandering his resources on prostitutes. Don’t you know that once the money was gone, the party was over! His newfound friends disappeared like dust in the wind. How far he has fallen. From the covenant embrace of his loving Father into the alluring arms of prostitutes and pariahs. His was a life of desperation and depravity. And then, to make matters worse, famine grips the land! Just how low could he go?

His next step leads to righteousness sacrificed. In his desperate need for food, the younger son takes a meager job feeding pigs. Oh, the depths to which he has fallen! There is a reason there were no Jewish pig farmers. The law included a strong prohibition against eating pork. Pigs were unclean animals. After living “high on the hog” now he is feeding the pigs!! In fact, he was willing to sacrifice any pretense to righteousness if he could eat some of the pigs food! He was self-exiled…outside the covenant…in a pagan land – but he was actually beneath the pagans. He was longing to eat the supper of the swine, but no one would even give him the pods of the pigs. He is desperately destitute. The lost son has hit rock bottom, stripped of all pride.

It is from this utter humiliation we see hope of the return of the son. Verse 17 says, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!'” What an amazing statement of self awareness. “He came to himself”. He had a sudden return of his senses. In that instant, the truth became clear. It was a moment of metanoia – a transformation in his thinking! His life, done his way had led to complete disaster. The same is true for us! The lost son remembered his father’s love. Even the servants in my father’s house have it better than this!! Those hired by the father have plenty of bread while I am starving for the slop of the swine. The lost son then took the first step away from rebellion and toward restoration.

What happens next is critical, as the Psalmist pointed out in our first reading. The son repented of his sinfulness. Verse 18, say, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’”  Peter preached at Pentecost, “Repent…for the forgiveness of sins!!” Repentance is absolutely necessary if restoration is to occur. For repentance requires a change of direction. And that’s exactly happens with the lost son. “I will arise and go to my father!” In his book, I Surrender, Patrick Morley claims that many folks who attend church today believe incorrectly, “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.” He goes on to say, “It is revival without reformation, without repentance.”  So, the prodigal son heard the still small voice of the Father within,  “Softly and tenderly…come home, come home.”

And, while he would have been content to become a servant he was about to receive full restoration to sonship. While his son was in the far country, the Father was looking for his lost son. While the son was heading home, but still “far off,” two things happened. The father was looking for his son. No doubt, he was longing for his son to come home. When the father saw the boy coming, dispensing with propriety and protocol, he ran to welcome his lost son! There on that dusty road the son’s prepared mea culpa had to wait. As the arms of the father engulfed his son, his kisses revealed his heart of mercy and love. After the son cried out for mercy the father rejoiced. His son would NOT be a servant. He would be fully restored to sonship. This required the best robe and a ring and shoes.

Jesus’ parable should speak to all of us. It reveals the love of the heavenly father. For we were all created to be sons of God. But, by our rebellion and sin, we were cut off in the far country of own depravity and desire. God had blessed us with every blessing, but we squandered it in riotous living. He even gave us His only begotten Son, and we crucified Him. I wonder if we have come to your senses. Have we repented of our sins. Have we heard the still small voice? Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me. Come home, come home, all who are weary, come home! If we will repent and return to the God, the Father, He will wrap us in His divine embrace! He will restore to us what was lost because of our sin. We, too, can receive a robe and a ring. And like the lost son, we can have a seat of honor at a feast prepared for us! We can be what we were meant to be – sons of God!

As we walk the Pathway to the Passion, may we repent of our rebellion. God is gracious. He is longing for us to come home!












Well Water and Wine

In our readings for today, we find an excellent pairing of related stories. Both speak of betrayal – the first by brothers, the second by tenants. In each narrative we find the beloved son of the father being assaulted. In the first story, the son is sold into slavery. In the second story, the son is murdered. In each account, God’s redemptive plan is furthered, despite the evil plot of those perpetrating such heinous acts of evil. As we read today, remember the words of Joseph to his brothers as found in Genesis 50:20. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” As you meditate on God’s Word, be alert for God’s Providential hand at work. Read on…

Read Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a – Brothers and a Cistern

Joseph is the beloved son of his father, Israel (Jacob). In honor of Joseph’s favored status, Israel made a special tunic for his son. This preferential treatment infuriated his brothers. Their hatred raged within them, to the point they would not even greet Joseph. He was despised and utterly rejected. One day, when Joseph’s brothers had gone out to feed the sheep in the pasture, Israel sent Joseph out to meet them. When the brothers spotted Joseph, they began to plot his demise. They had only words of disdain and mockery for their younger sibling. “Here comes the master dreamer, now! Why don’t we just kill him and throw him into the cistern here?” They could kill him and claim that a wild beast had slain him and devoured his body. They surmised that his death would stop all of the non-sense, the special privileges and those horrible dreams. How they hated his abhorrent self-serving visions where all of them where bowing down to him – like wheat in the wind. Or another dream where all of the heavenly hosts were bowing to him. His dreams drove them crazy with jealousy. To kill Joseph would end his arrogant displays and vile visions.

Reuben, one of the brothers, didn’t approve of their plot. Instead, he proposed that they throw him into the cistern but not kill him. Reuben intended to save his brother and return the favored son to the loving arms of his father. So, upon Joseph’s arrival, the brothers stripped him of his tunic and threw him into the cistern. Of course, dispensing with your younger sibling can make a brother hungry. So, as they sat down to eat, a caravan of Ishmaelites was passing by on the way to Egypt. Judah came up with a novel idea. Rather than killing Joseph, let’s sell him to these passing by. In love and grace typical of many brothers, Judah said, “After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” They all agreed and Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

The children of Israel betraying a favored son…plotting to kill him…selling him out for pieces of silver. This is all sounding strangely familiar. Read on…

Read Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 – Grapes and Wrath

Jesus shares another parable with the Pharisees and the elders. In his story, a landowner plants a vineyard, places a hedge around it, digs a wine press and builds a tower. This is a clear reference to God establishing Jerusalem (See Psalm 80).

The Master leased his vineyard to tenants and went on a journey. When time came to harvest the grapes, the owner sent his servants to bring in the harvest. The tenants attacked the servants. They beat one, killed one and another they stoned. The Master, undeterred, sent other servants. In fact, he sent more servants than the first time. They were treated identically to the first servants.

This refers to God entrusting His Kingdom to Israel, His chosen people. He had given them a charge to bring all nations to worship in Jerusalem. They were to be a “light unto the Gentiles.” But, when the time came for the fruit to be harvested, the servants sent to represent the Master, namely, His prophets, were rejected and abused.

Jesus continues the story. The Master, after two rounds of servants have been dispatched and dealt with harshly, he sends his own beloved son. What do the tenants do? They plot to kill the son and take his inheritance. So, they throw the son out of the vineyard and killed him. What would be the response of the Master. He would kill the unfaithful tenants, entrust the vineyard to new tenants and receive the harvest that was his.

How clearly can we see God the Father sending His Son. Rather than respect and receive Jesus, the Son of God, he is betrayed by Judas and by Peter – two of his “brothers”. Then, the religious leaders and the children of Israel reject Him, accuse Him falsely, have him condemned, take him outside the city gates to Calvary and they crucify Him on an old rugged cross. As the son was thrown outside the vineyard, so Jesus is killed outside Jerusalem. Jesus goes on to say that the Kingdom will be taken away from those who reject the servants of God and killed His Son. The wrath of God would fall on those who slew his servants and His Son, rather than tread grapes into wine! Indeed, in 70 AD, Jerusalem was laid waste by the Romans. From the smoldering embers of their rejection emerged a New Covenant people who would produce the fruit of the Father.

As we reflect on the echoes from the past – the story of Joseph and its typological fulfillment in the Gospel of Jesus – may we be encouraged by the fact that God is working all of this out for good (Romans 8:28). He is not caught unaware. Despite the seeming injustice, God is bringing to pass His Providential plan for the salvation of His covenant family. “What man has meant for evil, God meant for good,” to bring about His purposes. From a band of brothers and a cistern, to the grapes and wrath, and from well water to wine, God’s will is being done. May we walk this pathway with the assurance that gives us!