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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

John Days 71 to 90

John Day 71 - Bubble Wrapped Boxes
7:25 Now some of them from Jerusalem said, “Is this not He whom they seek to kill? 26 But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ? 27 However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.”
28 Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know. 29 But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.”
30 Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. 31 And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”
We all think. We all have a frame of reference, a lense through which we see the world. Some of us don't like thinking so we recoil into a comfortable bubble and resist any ideas that threaten our bubble. Some of us are raised in such a bubble and think and question just enough to leave that bubble only to settle into a different one. Some of us live in a bubble that has a picture painted of the future and we interpret all new data through that lense.
Jesus can only be described as a needle in a culture full of bubbles. Like a spiky blade of grass in a lawn covered in balloons Jesus is a bubble wrecker. The Jews lived in fortified bubbles with a clear and minutely defined picture of the future. A hero, a Messiah, was going to come and soon. He would perform signs and wonders. He would rise to the top of the religious world with the help and support of the religious leaders. He would rise to the top of the political world and reclaim the throne of David. He would be a mysterious figure having neither father nor mother nor a hometown. He would just appear on the scene and save the day. Most importantly by far, he would not disturb, much less burst any bubbles. In the greatest coup of all time He would change everything without changing anything...
Then came Jesus. He did perform signs and wonders but beyond that He just didn't fit the bubble, the mould, the criteria they had carefully crafted. No matter how hard they tried to shove Him into the bubble wrapped box of their preconceived ideas and expectations He just wouldn't fit.
Think about it - many rejected Him simply because they knew His parents and where He was from. They had a mental checklist and this one criteria was a deal breaker.
Jesus the Sabbath Maker was to them a Sabbath breaker. Jesus crossed borders man had erected but His world was borderless. Jesus saw no gender barriers in a culture where gender was everything. Jesus hailed from the north in a culture where the south was kingdom land. Jesus had no political aspirations when that was to be His primary role. Jesus was a God fearing Jew yet seemingly anti Jewish in so many ways.
He just didn't fit... and all they could think to do to solve the incongruity was to kill Him so they could retreat back into their bubble wrapped boxes and wait for the real Messiah.
What about us? Do we think we can hunker down into our bubble wrapped boxes and find the real Jesus at the same time?
Seems highly unlikely...

John Day 72 - The Curse of Insecurity
7:32 "The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. 33 Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.”
35 Then the Jews said among themselves, “Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What is this thing that He said, ‘You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?”"
More tension. More confusion. More revealing of the control the religious leaders had over the people. However the most revealing thing in today's passage is the insecurity of those religious leaders. In fact if you are paying attention in life you will always find insecurity and control tightly linked together. One leads to the other and then feeds the latter.
We saw a couple of days ago that the general population were also confused by Jesus. Because He didn't fit the mould of their preconceived ideas some flat out rejected Him but others saw the things He did and the person He was and believed He was Someone special at the very least and quite likely the Messiah. In our western culture editorials would be flying, bloggers blogging, talk shows would be talking, and radio call in shows would be buzzing. Not in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem people were afraid to utter His name because it was strictly off topic. However He was so magnetic and controversial that they had to talk about Him. Eventually like kids in a classroom the whispered chat and passing of notes catches the attention of the teacher and he/she reacts.
The reaction of the leaders is swift. He must be stopped. He must be apprehended. He must be silenced. Their insecurity leaps from the page. This is why they are so controlling. This is why all the rules and all the fear mongering. A person who is secure in themselves has no need to control situations or people. They are confident in who and what they are.
A spouse who trusts has no need to control their partner. An employer who trusts has no need to spy on employees. A religious leader who is confident in the message they carry has no need to censor other messages. Truth will prevail. Right will always come out on top.
Insecurity is the opposite. It is a toxic soup. It is a relentless foe. The Bible describes it this way: "And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul."
Israel was in the wrong place. The result of this "being out of sync with God" was no rest, a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.
After 16 years in pastoral ministry I can tell you of all the things that are hard to deal with when working with others, insecurity is the worst. It leads to affairs, toxic relationships, anger issues, fear, and all kinds of other problems. The Scriptures reveal the root cause of insecurity is being out of sync with God. He's in one place and we're bubbled wrapped in a box somewhere else. Try extracting a fearful insecure person with a trembling heart and anguish of soul from their bubble wrapped box... Have you ever dealt with a terrified animal trapped in a corner?
Jesus actually tries to comfort them while opening their box at the same time. He assures them they don't need to get rid of Him because He is leaving anyway and returning to His Father. In one statement He both disarms their need to get rid of Him while restating His true identity. They miss it though because part of their condition is "failing eyes" - insecure people wrapped up in their fears can't see what is right in front of them.
Tomorrow we'll see what happens next.

John Day 73 - Thirst Quenchers
7:37 "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
40 Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him."
45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”
46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
In case you haven't noticed the tension over the true identity of Jesus is reaching the boiling point. The crowds are debating even though they are not supposed to be talking about Him. Officers have been dispatched by the religious leaders to arrest Him. The conflict between His undeniable "differentness" and their bubbled wrapped boxes of precise expectations continue to be at odds. In the midst of all this Jesus stands in His temple built according to a model He gave to Moses centuries before and cried out "If anyone thirsts let Him come to Me..."
There are two simple qualifications for coming to Jesus. First you must be part of "anyone" and second you must be thirsty. Now if you're locked into human thinking you're saying to yourself "I just have to turn the tap and fill a glass and I can drink whenever I want."
Clearly this is not the thirsty He speaks of.
When I was 18 God taught me a lesson I pray I never forget. I grew up around cars. Specifically we were raised to love V8 rear wheel drive Fords. My first year at CUC at the very end of the school year I found an old Capri for sale for almost nothing that had absolutely no rust on it. For a kid from the east this was like gold. A Capri was Mercury's version of the iconic Ford Mustang. Like Achan of old I saw it and I had to have it. I was thirsty for it. My first date with my wife was the trip to pick it up in Spruce Grove.
Long story short I took it across Canada (10 litres of oil) and spent from after supper until midnight every night of the week and all day on Sundays building this car. In late August I headed back across the country with a new engine, shiny black paint, and a smile on my face.
For years I had dreamed of this. I had been thirsty for it and had pursued it. Now I had it and I soon realizes I was really no happier...
The Lesson I learned is that we can pursue and attain what we want and in the end be no better off.
If you are anyone and despite all your pursuits you are still thirsty you qualify to come to Jesus. Nicodemus tried to satisfy his unquenchable thirst with religion. The Samaritan woman tried men. The man by the pool put his hope in the superstitious rippling of the waters. Perhaps you have a thirst quencher in sight and are in hot pursuit.
Here is a spoiler alert. If Jesus is not the object of your pursuit you will remain empty and unsatisfied but if you find Him... no one will ever have the power to empty you again...
See you tomorrow

John Day 74 - We Tried But...
7:45 "Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”
46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”"
It might not be immediately obvious but I love this passage. It is one of my favourites. Why? Because officers were sent to arrest Jesus earlier in the chapter and now they return empty handed. It's possible and even likely that these officers had never seen Jesus before.
These were not Roman officials. These were temple officers. They were the policemen or security detail for the temple. They were sent on a mission to bring Jesus before the council on a technicality. Like a cop harassing a person for tinted windows or exhaust they deem too loud or stereo playing too loud or some other incidental offense, these officers were sent to find an excuse to drag Jesus before the ruling council. The goal of course was simple. By dragging Jesus before the council He would no longer be speaking to the people. That was the goal. The amusing part is the officers returned empty handed. Jesus was still on the loose. Jesus was still opening bubble wrapped boxes in the temple. He was still freeing minds and opening them to a much greater reality.
These officers were trained for moments like this. Renegade preachers with radical ideas trying to gather a following were not new. The Scriptures open to us that several have risen up previously trying to influence the people. One of the main jobs of these officers is to deal with such people and get them down off their soapbox.
The officers return empty handed. The ruling council is ticked off. They demand an explanation. The officers quickly give it: "No man speaks like this Man." The implication is clear. The officers are saying "If you had listened to Him you would not have harassed or arrested Him either."
I love it. They were tasked to listen and catch Him on some technicality so they would have an excuse to arrest Him. They listened. In their listening the unexpected happened - They actually heard Him.
Hearing Him was all it took for them to conclude that He was not to be interrupted. They turned and returned empty handed.
Notice the response of the hard hearted council: "Are you deceived also?"
Fascinating. Those drunk on power and control. Those obsessed with a turf war. Those determined to maintain their profitable grip on the masses. Those intent on murder. These are the ones calling others deceived.
The world is full of theories. Full of men who claim all the answers. Full of men who desire to control the thinking of others. On the flip side Jesus forced no one. He didn't insist on getting His way. He didn't manipulate or use fear to motivate. He simply said if you Allee thirsty come. If you recognize you need more, different, better than the empty and unsatisfying answers the culture pushing on you and religion is pushing on you come to Me."
For officers familiar only with being told what to think and what to do His message and His very presence and person offered something much different. Risking their employment and perhaps even their lives they returned empty handed with a simple explanation. "We heard Him and if you heard Him you would have left Him alone too."
Have you heard Him? Have you really given Him a chance or are you stubbornly clinging to your bubble wrapped box? It's entirely up to us. We can listen or not. We can consider or not. We can be challenged and changed or we can dig in and deceive ourselves that He has nothing to offer. The choice is entirely ours.
Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart...

John Day 75 - Out of the Shadows...
7:45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”
46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”
50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
52 They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.”"
Focus on verses 47 to 49. The rulers are boiling. They sent the officers to accomplish a simple task and all they have to say is "no one speaks like this Man."
The response of the council is quick and definitive. "Are you fools deceived too? Have you seen anyone with a brain who believes this imposter? We expect this kind of foolishness from the uneducated masses but have you found a single Pharisee or ruler of any kind that believes this insanity?!!!"
Picture the scene. The officers are huddled together in stunned silence. They thought their explanation was a good one but now they feel shame and doubt. The rulers are glaring at them with an intense contempt and hatred they have never seen before.
There is a long uncomfortable pause. As one of the officers looks up wondering what will happen next he notices one of the rulers is shifting uncomfortably and suddenly he breaks the awkward silence. The ruler is Nicodemus. The man who came to Jesus at night with his questions now is forced to play his hand. He can't stay in the shadows any longer. For months now his body has been on the ruling council but his head and heart have been with Jesus. Stepping forward he breaks the ominous silence.
7:51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
In one simple sentence there appears a crack in the wall. Until now the ruling council, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, and the lawyers have stood in solidarity. They had many issues they did not agree on at all but up until this moment they had appeared unanimous that Jesus was a fraud that needed to be stopped.
Their argument to the officers was simple "Anyone with any position, influence, and intelligence knows this guy is a joke. Do you really want to side with the uneducated masses on this one?"
You must consider this pivotal moment. The officers stand next to the door where they first entered the room. The ruling council stand shoulder to shoulder glaring at them. Between the two groups appears to be not just some empty floor space but a huge invisible wall that can be felt if not seen. The challenge of the ruling council hangs heavy in the air: "Are you fools really going to let yourselves be deceived like the stupid crowds?"
The deafening silence is broken by a lone voice, a single voice, one man. He steps from the shadows into the empty space between the two groups. Suddenly there is a crack in the wall.
When I was in Berlin I saw the wall. A wall that used to divide the city and the nation. The wall is no longer standing except for a few sections preserved as historical monuments. In fact all through the city there are bricks in the pavement to mark out where the wall used to be so it is not forgotten. How did the wall come down? By hammer blows. The people tore down the wall. How did it start? What precipitated the tearing down of that seemingly impregnable wall? One ruler stepped forward. One man (Ronald Reagan) said what many hearts were already believing. He stood in Berlin at the wall among rulers and the masses and said "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall".
One sentence and the wall almost came down by itself.
Nicodemus stepped from the shadows and shattered the silence and put the first crack in the wall.
Are you standing in the shadows? The time will come when you will have to step into the awkward silence and play your hand. None of us can remain in the shadows forever. At some point the love that is growing for Jesus within us will overpower any fears and resistance around us. Nicodemus couldn't remain silent any longer. The injustice constantly leveled at Jesus couldn't be tolerated any more.
Someday we'll be the Nicodemus in the silence. It may be in our own home or family. It may be in church. In may be in the workplace. It may be among friends. Who knows where and when but at some point the love for Jesus within us will overpower any resistance around us and the dam will break.
Light overcomes darkness.
The kingdom we couldn't see becomes all we can see.
The shadows flee.
The silence breaks.
The wall cracks.
Through the crack someone else sees the light you have seen.
Praise God for men like Nicodemus who can't stay quiet any more...

John Day 76 - Alone Time
7:52 "They answered and said to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.
53 And everyone went to his own house."
I was eager this morning to begin chapter 8 but He has stopped me right here. Two simple verses that would be easy to pass by quickly.
As we know Nicodemus has stepped from the shadows. He now stands alone in the middle between the bewildered officers who clearly saw something more than ordinary in Jesus and the incensed ruling council who just want Jesus gone.
He stands and points out that they have already determined the sentence upon Jesus without even hearing Him out properly.
The response is not expected. The council points out that Jesus is from Galilee as if that is decisive proof that He can't be anyone of significance much less the One they have been waiting for.
It reeks of desperation. It has lame written all over it. Nicodemus put a crack in the wall by stepping out of the shadows. Now with this ignorant statement dripping in prejudice and arrogance the unnamed council member who said it has opened the crack wider.
Desperate people with no substance behind their position eventually do and say desperate things that betray their darkness. Error eventually exposes itself.
I have no definite number of prophets God had sent to His people by that point. Most were men but some were women. Many were descendants of Abraham but not all were. The truth is there is no bubble wrapped box you could design that would create definite boundaries around who could be and who could not be called as a prophet. Most were adults but some were children. Age, gender, race, birthplace, class, education, none of these or any other distinctions either qualified or disqualified a person from being called by God to be His voice to the world.
All this being obviously the case from the historical record found in their own Scriptures this unnamed member of the ruling council proclaimed with attempted finality that Jesus did not qualify as a prophet because he came from Nazareth in Galilee.
Desperate foolishness that actually served to weaken the wall in which Nicodemus had already put a crack.
Notice what happens next. The officers are not punished or fired as at first seemed imminent. In fact nothing happens. In stunned and even embarrassed silence the council dismisses and each one goes to his own home.
Think about that. As brief as the Bible account is an entire verse is dedicated to the line (7:53) "And everyone went to his own house."
The verse jumped out at me this morning. My mind was entirely captivated and locked in on it. I envisioned the silent shuffling of feet, the uncertain fleeting glances as eyes caught eyes before looking down and away. Everyone knew it but no one said it. "Our strong united front is no longer strong or united." What to do? They didn't know what to do so they just went home. Suddenly each man was left alone with his thoughts. 'Group think' was shattered. The force of the peer pressure of the majority has been broken at least temporarily. Now each man is left with his own thoughts and walks home.
'Group think' is what makes cults possible. It is what makes mobs possible. It is what keeps religions alive long after their true purpose and identity is over and gone. Until this moment it had appeared that the religious leaders stood as one. So powerful and determined was their stand against Jesus that it created a tide of complete conformity.
However even as that was the official position and appeared to be the truth Nicodemus was not fully convinced. He had dared to think for himself. He had dared to investigate for himself even if it was done in the shadows. Now he has stepped from the shadows and by one step and one sentence he has at least momentarily broken the power of 'group think'.
Then each man went home by himself.
I cannot emphasize this enough. There are times in our life journey when we need to hit the pause button. There are times we need to step out of and back from 'group think'. We need to evaluate where we stand. We need to consider the other side of the wall. We need to open ourselves to the possibility that the very things we are fighting against are the truths we need.
Maybe your wife/husband has been right all along despite your determined resistance. Maybe your pastor has a point you have been unwilling to consider or maybe you've accepted a point that you shouldn't have accepted at all. Maybe your political views need a second look. Maybe your attention to politics needs to be questioned entirely. Maybe you've taken at position against your children that needs to be reviewed. I don't know where you are or what you are struggling with but when Nicodemus spoke in that room it awakened voices of conscience that until that moment those men had never allowed to speak.
God wants to talk to us all. He wants to shift our thinking. He wants to realign our views and opinions. His thoughts and our thoughts are as far apart as the east is from the west in so many ways and areas yet we are convinced we are right in all things.
Never be afraid to take a quiet walk by yourself. Go "home" and let God examine your position. Let Him check your mind and heart.
"Examine my heart oh God and see if there be any wicked way in me..."

John Day 77 - Naked In The Temple
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
So yesterday after Nicodemus dropped his bomb on the council everyone went home but not Jesus. He went to the Mount of Olives. That's code for He spent the night with His Father praying. The tension and hatred are building and Jesus needs the wisdom and strength of His Father - Wisdom to know how to handle His enemies and the strength to keep returning to the battlefield. It takes a lot of strength to continually face opposition and a lot of wisdom to handle it.
It turns out Jesus was going to need that wisdom and that strength. The next morning he returned to the Temple and again taught those eager to learn. Suddenly He was interrupted. Into the Temple and through the listening crowd came a group of pompous religious men dragging a shamed and naked woman. If she wasn't physically naked she was certainly exposed in the most shameful way possible. It was announced in the midst of everyone that she had been caught in the very act of adultery. There could be no greater shame. There she was thrown at the feet of Jesus in the Temple of God in the middle of the worshippers.
With feigned holiness and concern that couldn't conceal their venemous intentions they asked what should be done with her. They didn't stop there either. They framed their question very carefully. "Moses wrote that she should be stoned..." they pointed out, "but what do You say?"
This is a carefully crafted trap. Apparently on their humiliating walk home the day before one of the ruling council was inspired with a devilish scheme, a seemingly airtight way to frame Jesus and finally turn the tables. If they could entice Him to break the laws of Moses, they could prove He wasn't from God. I mean how could God tell Moses one thing and now send this hillbilly Galilean to teach something else?
If the interruption wasn't enough to shock the listening and watching crowd the question certainly was. Like an unexpected gun shot at a picnic everyone froze. What would happen next?
She was trembling, waiting to be dragged away again and stoned to death. Rules are rules right? God has standards. Sin is sin and must be dealt with.
The silence is not broken by Jesus. He says nothing. Instead He stoops down beside her and begins to write in the sand on the stone floor. The silence is so complete that He can hear her trembling and she can hear every scratch of every grain of sand that is dragged over the stone floor by His constantly moving finger.
Finally the men who brought her can't stand the silence any longer and demand an answer. Jesus stands and speaks...
We will continue the story tomorrow but I want to leave you with one thought today. It is the thought He brought to me as I read this familiar story: "If you are going to demand an answer from Me be prepared for what comes..."
Sometimes we have a picture of God that is carefully defined and bubbled wrapped in a sealed crate. Then He says or does or reveals something that blows the crate open shattering it into splinters. Be prepared for it.
Consider this quote:
"We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed."
These men came to trap Jesus with what they thought was an airtight case. He had to keep the law or He was a fraud...
See you tomorrow.

John Day 78 - Naked In The Temple Part II
8:1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
"What shall be done to her Teacher? Something must be done!!!"
Jesus isn't deaf. He also hasn't been fooled by their pretended concern for upholding the law. He can see right past their words to their murderous hearts. Standing up He finally speaks. "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone." Then He quietly returned to writing on the ground. The silence was deafening.
What had he written? What was He writing now? We are never told. Whatever it was it convicted those men of their hypocritical position. Some say it was a list of their own sins and perhaps it was. Others say perhaps He was writing out all the laws they had broken which in the end is really the same thing. Still others get more creative and say perhaps He was writing a list of times, dates, and events from their own lives that they thought no one knew about. No matter what He wrote, we know the results - they were brought face to face with their personal record.
I don't know about you but had I been there I would have been forced to turn and flee in embarrassment and humility was well.
Jesus was not fooled by the trap. They said she was caught in the very act. Was she committing adultery all by herself? If not where is the other person? They had no concern for the law or for breaking it. They just needed a victim to use as a trap to force Jesus to either break Jewish law by not stoning her or Roman law by stoning her. However with the wisdom He received on the Mount of Olives the night before Jesus quickly turned the tables back on them.
"Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one Lord." She called Him Lord!!! The religious leaders who should have known who He was were trying to discredit Him but this woman they felt was so worthless she called Him Lord.
"Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin".
Now for the first time in the story there is a legit problem. Jesus said the one without sin was to throw the first stone. Is Jesus a sinner? Why didn't He throw the first stone? Did He break the law of Moses? Moses did say adultery carried the death penalty. Somehow we're missing something. Let me tell you what is clear. She did sin and sin needs to stop. That's why Jesus sent her away with the final words "Go and leave your life of sin". He said the same thing to the man he healed by the pool. Sin is not some arbitrary list of rules. Sins are actions that bring pain, regret, shame, and destruction. Find me someone who will say "I committed adultery and it was the best decision I ever made".
So she was guilty and there was a law broken and it carried a penalty. All that being the case why did Jesus let her walk away?
Now some disagree with me on this point but I believe it is the answer. As we've seen throughout the gospel of John we have a problem with literalism. Jesus says "be born again" and we think of the uterus and birth canal. Jesus says "eat my flesh and drink me blood" and we think of cannibalism. We struggle to see true meaning in what God says because we don't know the heart of God.
Stone her. Jesus did stone her. She left that day with the Rock imprinted on her heart and mind forever. Is Jesus not the Stone? Did not the Psalmist write "He alone is my Rock and my salvation"? Did not Moses get life giving water from the Rock? Did not Moses sit on the Rock while the battle raged in the valley? Was he not sheltered by the Rock when God's glory passed by? Did not Daniel describe the return to earth of Jesus at His second coming as "a Rock cut out without human hands"? Are we not told that we must fall on the Rock and be broken or the Rock will fall on us and we will be crushed? Is He not described as the Chief Cornerstone? Did not the hymn writer declare "Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee"?
Jesus did stone her. While she was placed humiliated before the crowd He sheltered her. She was protected in the cleft of the Rock. When guilt seemed sure to seal her doom He poured new life from Himself offering a new chance. When she left she not only had new life but something much more. She experienced a love and compassion she'd never known. He had become her Rock and her salvation, her mighty fortress and strong tower.
Now she knew the truth of the words "I have come to save and not to condemn."
Sin needs no added punishment. Sin is evil precisely because it is its own destroyer. If Jesus came as the Rock of ages to offer shelter from the storm of guilt and shame and offer hope to the sin burdened masses what should we who profess to be His followers be doing?
There is a reason why His Book is called Good News...

John Day 79 - The Pot Is Boiling
8:10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Things are now beyond tense in Jerusalem. I know I've used the word tense several times and it was an appropriate word but we're past tense now. The desire to get rid of Jesus has been building among the religious leaders but now it's at a fever pitch. One of the most consistent criticisms religion is that more lives have been lost through religion than by any other single impetus.
They are so desperate now that they have agreed together to have this woman set up and taken in the very act of adultery and then brought into the temple, God's sacred dwelling, and thrown at the feet of Jesus. As the Scriptures tell us their motive was singular. They wanted to trap Jesus, have a reason to accuse Him, and then discredit Him and get rid of Him.
Let's think about this. The religious leaders did this. The men who wear the "sacred" robes and pretend to be holy and demand holiness of others conspired together to eliminate a man who so far is only "guilty" in Jerusalem for healing a man on the Sabbath who had been crippled for 38 years.
Does that make sense? It doesn't in our culture. We don't live in a country where religion and government are one. We don't live in a place where religious laws are more strictly upheld then ordinary secular laws. We don't live in a place where our leaders power, prestige, and control is primarily derived from occupying the position of God on earth. In our culture we elect leaders so they derive their power and popularity from making us happy. One wise person in history said democracy will always end in failure because it requires leaders to buy popularity by pleasing the people which always ends in financial disaster. Seems to describe our government quite well.
What is interesting is that the book of Revelation says we're going to migrate toward and end up living in a culture where religion rules the government again.
Now why am I talking about government? Because you have to understand their culture to understand what is happening. Then and ONLY then can we apply what we're reading to our lives. Jesus healing on Sabbath is not an issue for us but it was a HUGE issue for them! It was huge because it went against the law. Going against the law was more than an infraction. It undermined the power of the government and their control over the people. If Jesus is permitted to continue His renegade behaviour unchecked it will lead to religious, political, and social chaos. See if Jesus was really the Messiah (in their eyes) He would affirm and strengthen their power and laws and turn His "guns" on Rome and the Gentile world.
They are so desperate to maintain their control and power that now they have thrown this woman "under the bus", they have done it in the Temple, and when the trap was set and Jesus seemed caught, suddenly the tables turned and they were forced to leave humiliated and defeated again without Jesus ever saying a word against them.
Now if the council broke up in silence after what Nicodemus said and each man went home alone, what do you think they did now? However they didn't stay home long did they? They quickly regrouped and mounted another attack. Now that this attack has been thwarted do you think they will quietly surrender and admit defeat? Not a chance...
Now what does all this mean for us? Yesterday I heard a story shared where a man prayed and prayed and got others to pray for a specific outcome. He didn't get what he wanted and it created a barrier between him and God. He came to Jesus with a trap and left angry. Have you left the presence of God angry? Have you come to Him with a trap? Have you painted a scenario where God only has one option and if He fails to meet your requirements then you walk away satisfied He is a fraud?
See the culture of Jesus' day had a very definite and narrow view of what God was like and it was for Jesus to fit their picture. Any colouring outside the lines was evidence enough that He was an imposter. We may not yet live in such a culture where the laws of a particular religion rule the land but you and I have very definite ideas in the government of our heart and mind of what God is like and when He does not meet our demands and expectations we feel justified and satisfied in writing him off. Maybe we don't do it to God directly but maybe we do it to men and women He sends to speak for Him. We hear a preacher who doesn't express things just as we would and we write him or her off. We hear a new idea that grates against our comfortable well worn perspective and we rise up against it.
Several years ago I went to visit my grandma and took her to church. It was a church I had attended many times over the years as it was my grandmas home church. We were invited for lunch to members homes and I soon realized we had been invited into a lynching meeting. The church had a new pastor. He along with some of the members had introduced some new songs that weren't in the hymnal. It was for this infraction that they were conspiring together to "lynch" the pastor. I was appalled. They turned to me and asked what I thought about the whole mess. I calmly as possible shared that music was a matter of taste and as long as the songs were uplifting and supported the gospel story we should have room to "sing a new song". My opinion created some awkward silence before the conspiring ensued. I followed the situation and it wasn't long before the group succeeded in getting the pastor moved out. If a professed Bible believing, Jesus following church could go down that road over a simple preference in music imagine the vitriol Jesus has created in Jerusalem where in one healing He threatened both the foundations of the church and the government in one blow.
The question is what will we do when Jesus rocks our world with a perspective we either aren't familiar with or don't like? Will we write Him off or shoot His messengers?

John Day 80 - Resistance or Surrender?
8:12 "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
13 The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”
14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. 17 It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”
19 Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?”
Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.”
20 These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come."
Today we're going to review a little since we've reached the boiling point. Others may disagree with me but I believe John chapter 8 is the breaking point in His ministry. From the beginning until now the tension has been building over who He is and what He is about. However we must be clear that His "hidden identity" is not on Him. He has been quite clear over and over that He is the Son of God.
Nicodemus was a religious ruler and teacher and he couldn't see it. The woman at the well could even though she was a Samaritan and had lived a less than ideal life. The Temple officers could see it in Him but the Council members could not. His uneducated disciples could see it but the Pharisees who memorized the Scriptures could not.
The pattern is unmistakeable. Those who should be able to see can't and those who seem like they might not get it do. Why?
Chapter 8 reveals why: The Pharisees come at Jesus again and say "You are the only one promoting yourself so it has no merit. Time after time they come at Him with some new reason why they shouldn't listen to Him. Here is the plain, simple, painful truth. It's not that they don't see it, it's that they don't want to see it. Desperately they are looking for an out. Desperately they are looking for some reason, any reason to get out of admitting that Jesus is the Son of God.
Why are they so opposed?
We saw in the story of the woman brought to Jesus that each of those accusing men trying to trap Jesus walked away because of a guilty conscience. This means they had a conscience. This means the voice of God was still penetrating their darkened minds and touching their calloused hearts. That's why Jesus said "I am not the only witness speaking on My behalf. My Father witnesses of Me." Jesus was saying "It's not just My voice that is telling you the truth about Me. My Father is talking to you about Me also."
That was the most maddening thing about Jesus. They could leave His presence but they could never get Him from their minds. They went to sleep thinking about Him. They woke up thinking about Him. His message and His very Person was shaking them to the very core. Nicodemus has already started to melt. The crack has opened in the wall. The bubble wrapped box is opening at least for some of them.
Will they soften fully? Will they surrender their stubbornness and opposition?
What about us? When Jesus challenges us with ideas and perspectives that fly in the face of our preconceived ideas and make us uncomfortable will we resist or surrender? Will we dig in or let Him plant His seeds of character into our very being?
It's plain from the story that I'm more likely to resist than surrender, more likely to defend the status quo than step from the shadows.
Have Your way with us Jesus.

John Day 81 - Many Believe Him
8:21 "Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.”
22 So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?”
23 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
25 Then they said to Him, “Who are You?”
And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”
27 They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.
28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him."
We are the midst of the longest back and forth dialogue between Jesus and the people that we have in Scripture. This is the moment of truth for many of them. Many will be making their decision in this chapter, the decision that will determine their eternal destiny. I don't want you to miss the flow of Jesus' words. He is leading this conversation. He is doing everything He can to break down the wall and open blind eyes. When He tells them He is leaving and going to a place where they cannot come they immediately think suicide. The truth is they are on the right track. Jesus is going to die but not by His own hand.
Jesus goes on and says "You are from beneath and I am from above. You are of this world but I am not of this world."
It's important to understand that the Jews had developed an earthbound theology. They did not speak of heaven. They had no view of living with God forever. God for them existed to improve their fortunes on earth. Their religion centered around behaving better so God could bless them more. Like the older son in the story Jesus tells in Luke of the two sons they did not want the Father, they were just working so they could get His blessings, His wealth, their inheritance.
Their eyes, ears, and hearts were tied to the earth, locked in to the here and now.
I was at JFK airport a few years ago going through security. As I approached there was a small elderly asian woman in front of me. The security person asked her to remove her shoes. She did not move. The security person repeated herself with more volume. Nothing happened. Then with anger in her voice and almost yelling she repeated herself again. Nothing happened. I finally clued in to the problem and I stepped forward and tapped the lady on the shoulder. This little asian grandma looked around and up at me with fear and bewilderment in her eyes. I smiled and motioned with my hands and foot to remove her shoe. Suddenly the fear and confusion in her eyes turned to recognition and understanding and she turned back around and removed her shoes.
She did not understand the security guard. It was a language she had no knowledge of. The Jews were like that little Asian grandma. They had spent their centuries learning one language. Jesus came speaking another. They had an understanding and world view but Jesus just brought confusion to it. Now He explains why. They are from two different places. He is in all practical sense an alien speaking a completely different language.
The strangest part is that He is speaking their language but from a perspective that is entirely foreign. They were expecting a Messiah, a hero, but they did not expect him to be anything but human. Like past heroes David and Solomon they expected a man, extraordinary yes, but no less just a man. They expected him to improve their fortunes here on earth, to raise the nation to the top of the world and bring back the glory days and surpass them. This was a language they could understand. However Jesus did not speak this language. He flashed the ability to be the great hero they longed for but refused to become him. Instead He spoke of strange things like being God's Son and even worse He broke the sacred laws of Sabbath observance and paid little regard to the religious practices or the religious leaders.
In a word Jesus was a confusing character to them. They couldn't figure Him out. Finally they blurt out "Who are you?!!" and it's actually a sincere question. Jesus answers it by saying "I am who I have been saying I am all along". Like the security guard He has one message and He keeps repeating it but they just can't understand.
Further down in verse 28 He says "When YOU lift up the Son of Man you will know that I AM."
Guess what happens?! "Many believed". The crack Nicodemus created is letting light through. For the first time they are, like the officers did, beginning to listen. See they don't have the problem that asian grandma did. They understand His language. It's the concept they can't grasp but now the lights are coming on. When Jesus said "I Am" suddenly their knowledge of the Scriptures began to connect with His words.
Tomorrow we'll go deeper as Jesus makes connections that will turn the lights on in full brightness.

John Day 82 - Roaring Lion
8:31 "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
If we can grasp what Jesus is saying here the power of bad religion will be forever broken in our lives. Notice who He is addressing. We saw yesterday that many in Jerusalem for the first time are starting to believe Him. He turns to these ones - to the believers - do not miss this. Jesus is talking to the believers and His first word is "if".
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
If you abide, remain, stay, do not move, then you are my disciples and you will know the truth and be set free...
Later in the new testament Peter writes that the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Lions don't roar when they hunt - well almost never. There is one exception. If a lion finds prey that are in a safe spot, in a spot not accessible to the lion, the lion will roar. The lion knows that he has an accomplice inside his prey. That accomplice is fear. Fear once awakened will override common sense. The prey is safe but it sees the lion and it's pulse quickens. Then lion looks into it's eyes and lets out a mighty roar. His teeth are sharp. His muscles bulge. Suddenly they prey can see nothing else but the threat of death at the claws of this mighty lion. Gripped with fear the prey runs for it's life. It runs from it's place of safety and is now exposed and vulnerable and the lion takes up the chase.
The devil goes about as a roaring lion. He is only interested in the safe prey. He is only interested in intimidating those who have found refuge and inciting fear so they will run in an attempt to save themselves.
"Stay, abide, remain, do not move." That's what Jesus said to the believers. If you stay you'll know and by knowing become free. See the prey was safe but did not know it and since it did not know it was not free. Free from what you ask. Free from fear. See bad religion has only one currency. That currency is our fears. "Do this or else." "If you don't do this and this and this watch out." If you don't follow our system you will be shunned, hopeless, excommunicated, and you will burn forever and ever - Daniel 3 - bow or burn. Fear is the currency of bad religion. Truth is the antidote.
Their response is quick. "We don't need freedom. We're not in bondage. We've never been in bondage to anyone." It's an insane response. First it shows they don't understand and secondly it isn't true. The nation was very much in bondage in Egypt and now they are under Roman control. However none of that is what Jesus is talking about. He is not speaking about physical bondage to an oppressor. He is speaking of bondage to fear and bad religion. These people have been so bound by it that they didn't even dare discuss who Jesus might be for fear of the religious leaders. Their entire existence is governed by fear.
Jesus responds by saying "anyone who sins is a slave of sin..." What sin is this?
Tomorrow we'll find out the rest of the story…

John Day 83 - Slave of Sin
8:34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
37 “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”
39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.”
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
I apologize for the longer passage but finding a spot to stop was tough. The entire chapter from the end of the story of the woman caught in adultery onward is one conversation and the most intense conversation in the entire gospel. It begins where we ended yesterday. Jesus tells them that they need freedom from bondage which offends them. They deny they need freedom. Then he tells them anyone who sins is a slave of sin. What sin is He referring to?
From there the conversation erupts into one of identity. The Jews insist they are children of Abraham and ultimately of God. Jesus insists neither are true and that they are children of the devil.
Before you get the idea that Jesus is trashing them remember He came to seek and save. Remember He is the one who prayed on the cross while dying "Forgive them for they know not what they do." Jesus is the one who sat alone looking over the city of Jerusalem weeping because He longed to save them but they refused to believe Him.
Jesus is not telling them they are children of the devil to humiliate them or put them in their place or cut them down to size. He is exposing their true condition in a desperate attempt to wake them up and open their eyes so they can see things as they really are.
"Anyone who sins is a slave to sin." What did He mean? From a religious law perspective Jesus was the sinner. He was the one breaking the Sabbath and touching the unclean and disrespecting the religious customs and leaders. From their point of view He is out of line yet He is calling them sinners. What is the sin that holds them hostage?
Remember the roaring lion yesterday? Remember the prey that was safe yet ran because of fear? Fear is a byproduct of unbelief. First you don't believe you are safe, then you fear, then you run.
This whole conversation began with Jesus saying to those who were believing Him: "If you remain..."
It's one thing to believe for a few minutes or a few hours or a few days but if we only believe until the roaring starts and then we fear and flee what good did the believing do us? Either we believe we're safe with Jesus all the time or we really don't believe at all.
Abraham believed and it was counted as righteousness. His descendants are those who believe as he believed. Those who constantly submit to the roaring lion are the children of the devil. Believing, truly believing, in Jesus means we listen to no other. The traditions and traps of bad religion must be let go of. We can't serve two masters. We can't remain and flee. Every understanding we have must be brought to the light of God's examination and kept or let go of according to His Word, and not our traditions or cultural norms etc... To change is frightening but if we believe what is there to be scared of?
Jesus had no need to bend to the roar of peer pressure and cultural norms and religious rules because He was remaining in His Father.
You will find no rest, no peace, no freedom, until you find it in Him and Him alone.

John Day 84 - Thankfully We Aren't Like Them...
8:52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
"They picked up stones to stone Him."
Before we get all judgmental it would do is well to remember that Jesus was seemingly just a man, born under questionable circumstances to parents from the wrong side of the tracks. To take that bio and stretch it to say He was really God's Son is understandably hard to believe. They were not expecting God in the flesh. They were expecting another hero like King David had been.
In addition to the unlikelyhood that a kid from Nazareth is actually God's Son, He did Himself no favours by bucking the established norms of right and wrong at seemingly every turn.
On the flip side He healed diseases and fed thousands with a one lunch. This evidence combined with His deep knowledge of the Scriptures and spiritual truths were made a compelling case that He was no ordinary man.
Many were convinced not least among them Nicodemus, a high profile member of the ruling council. Now the tension has reached a fever pitch. There is no where to hide for Jesus or His followers and the lines in the sand were being drawn.
In this most intense back and forth of His ministry Jesus tells the people that they aren't Abraham’s offspring. This is like telling Abraham Lincoln he isn't American or Nelson Mandela that he has no ties to South Africa. Furthermore being Jewish was not just a national or cultural identity. It was also a spiritual birthright virtually guaranteeing the favour of God. Into this mindset comes Jesus and declares they aren't children of Abraham but rather children of the devil!
To this bombshell He adds - "Abraham longed to see My day and he saw it and was glad."
Abraham has been dead for roughly 2000 years at this point. The people are incredulous. "You are not yet 50 years old and you have seen Abraham?!" they respond. The ridicule us palpable. Who does this guy think he is?
To this Jesus drops the final bomb: "Before Abraham was, I AM."
This was the final straw. In one sentence of 5 words Jesus declared both His eternal existence and His Divinity. To these claims He tied Himself to the burning bush encounter that Moses had and the near offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah by Abraham. Essentially He was saying "I've been walking with your ancestors and prophets all along and if you knew God or them you would know Me but since you don't you are not Abraham’s children."
When they heard it they picked up stones to stone Him.
Fascinating. A religion completely disconnected from it's God and it's prophets. Is that possible? Still carrying the flag and honouring the names and places but devoid of the true character and identity it all represents. Could that happen again? Could history repeat itself? The Bible says "What has been will be again and what's been done will be done again for there is nothing new under the sun."
Not only were they completely disconnected from God and His true followers but they were so committed to the wrong way that when God's Son showed up Himself to repaint the picture they picked up stones to stone Him.
Thankfully we are never like this. Thankfully we never are so committed to our own ideas that we murderously refuse to consider anything else. Thankfully we don't create religions that carry God's name while promoting racism and prejudice and hatred and division. Thankfully we don't have racially segregated and sexist church structures and policies. Thankfully we perfectly reflect the character of a God who sits down by a well in a foreign country full of worthless half breeds and offers eternal life to a woman who's life is in shambles.
"God forgive us for our blindness and do whatever it takes to help us see with Your eyes and develop a heart like yours."

John Day 85 - He Saw It
"Abraham longed to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
Truth be told we could spend many days exploring this 8th chapter of John. Jesus refers back to their own history and their own ancestor/heroes to reveal more of who He is.
The reference to Abraham wanting to "see His day" and then "seeing it" is unmistakable. The reality is that Abraham too was a product of bad religion. The Bible tells us his father was an idol worshipper. In general terms the philosophy of idolatry is to form a god that through give and take will provide what you want - you scratch his back and he will scratch yours.
Abraham was raised under this view of the gods yet aware that there was supposedly a Great God who made the earth and then flooded it with water etc. God came to Abraham and spoke the language Abraham understood. He said "Go to a land I will show, leave everything and everyone behind. In exchange I will make you a great nation."
Abraham lived in a time when success was measured by the size of your family. His was easy to count. He had no children, zip, nada and he was already 75 years old. The offer of many children was an appeal he could not resist and so he went. Theologically flawed but believing that the God of Noah and Shem could keep His promise Abraham followed. Through a series of ups and downs that spanned about 37 years Abraham finally had his promised son and he was about 12. God was still eager to have Abraham understand the truth about Himself. It was a mystery Abraham had not yet solved. One of the central practices of worshipping the Great God of Noah was altar building and the sacrificing of animals. However it was a practice that was grossly misunderstood. One of my favourite authors describes it this way: "The sacrifices that were meant to demonstrate His love were offered instead to appease His wrath."
For generations since the dawn of time worshippers of this Great God had been building altars and offering animal sacrifices thinking it was a payment to God so He wouldn't be angry and/or so He would give them what they wanted. Abraham was raises to think this way. Finally one night God spoke to him and asked him to go to Mount Moriah and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Now among the pagan idol worshippers child sacrifice was common. The idea was that the more valuable the sacrifice, the more effect it had on the gods. Abraham worships the Great God but his view of Him is the same - pay Him and He will pay you back. God was longing to reveal His true character to Abraham and this was the means by which He did it.
Abraham longed to see the Truth, to understand God, and see His plan. Watch why Jesus declared 2000 years later that Abraham saw His day and was glad:
In both stories…
"The father leads his son to be sacrificed.
A donkey is involved on the road to the sacrifice.
They leave their “homeland” to go to the place of sacrifice (Abraham & Isaac travel to the mountain, Jesus leaves heaven to come to earth).
To get from where they are to the place of sacrifice requires a journey.
Each son is the “one and only son” of his father.
The son is a descendant of Abraham.
The son had been born with divine intervention.
The sacrifices take place on the same mountain (called Mt. Moriah in the Old Testament, called Mt. Calvary in the New Testament — also known as Mt. Zion, by the way)
The companions that were with them stayed behind (most likely on the hill across the valley, called the Mt. of Olives) when the son went with the father for the sacrifice.
The son carried the wood/cross to the place of sacrifice.
The son asked questions of the father.
The father knew what he was called to do.
The son was submissive to the will of the father.
The father believed in resurrection.
The father loved the son.
A resurrection was prophesied (Abraham said, “we’ll come back to you.” Jesus said, “I will rise on the third day.”)
The son was laid upon the wood/cross.
The son was bound to the wood/cross.
Abraham had a knife to pierce his son, Jesus’ skin was pierced by whips laced with bones, glass and rocks and His side with a spear.
The Lord Himself provided the sacrifice (the ram, Jesus). [Note, the word order in the Hebrew text of Genesis 22:8 could read, “The Lord will provide Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” - a foreshadowing of Jesus
Blood was shed.
The sacrifice was a substitute (ram a substitute for Isaac, Jesus a substitute for us).
The sacrifice was a demonstration of love for God.
Both men had great faith in God and were committed obediently to the will of God.
The ram was caught in the thorns, and Jesus had a crown of thorns on his head.
Abundant blessings flow because of the sacrifice (abundant life).
Abraham was tested, Jesus was tested.
The son ultimately survived the sacrifice.
The son was resurrected on the third day.
This last one requires a little explanation. Jesus was literally resurrected on the third day. As for Isaac: Abraham heard from the Lord that he was to sacrifice his son. As far as he was concerned, Isaac was as good as dead at that point. The journey from their home to the place of sacrifice took three days. On the third day, God provided the ram so that Isaac was spared his life, i.e., he was “resurrected” on the third day. The Bible tells us that Abraham had great faith all along, believing that even if God did call him to slay his son that God would bring his son back to life!" http://derekspain.com/2014/…/10/the-answers-30-similarities/
See you tomorrow

John Day 86 - "I Am"
8:56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."
One last day in chapter 8. One more look back into the old testament connections Jesus is making here. We've hinted around at this but have never made it the focus of our look into what John is trying to tell us. The phrase is so short and compact that it is easy to miss. Two words, three letters, yet jam packed with deep significance - I AM.
Here is the deepest significance of all in these two little words: Jesus speaks our language.
You weren't expecting that were you? See the Bible says God's ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours. Sometimes my dad will come in from working in the garage and engage my wife in detailed conversation about what he is working on. It is a language she does not speak. He could be speaking Mandarin Chinese and her level of comprehension would be about the same. Imagine if Jesus had communicated on God's level? Who could have ever understood Him? So what does God do? He sends Himself in a package we can relate to and understand. Jesus became one of us and one with us. Then Jesus went a step further. He connected His teaching to things the people were super familiar with. When we read and get confused or feel like we're out of the loop it's because we probably are. We are not Jews living 2000 years ago. If Jesus were here now He would speak our language. Actually He is here speaking our language but that's a topic for another day...
Notice that when Jesus says "Before Abraham was, I AM" they immediately pick up stones to stone Him. This means they immediately understood. No explanation or deep thinking was required for them to "get it". The question is, what did they get? Why were they incited to commit murder over two tiny words?
Let's review what was for them a familiar story:
Exodus 3:1 "Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am.”"
3:13 "Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
14 And God said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Now fast forward to John's account of Jesus' life. At least twenty-three times in all we find His meaningful “I AM” (ego eimi, Gk.) in the Greek text of this Gospel (4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:16; 15:1, 5; 18:5, 6, 8).
In several of these He joins His “I AM” with seven tremendous metaphors which are expressive of his saving relationship toward the world: “I AM the Bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51).“I AM the Light of the world” (8:12).“I AM the Door of the sheep” (10:7, 9).“I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14).“I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25).“I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life” (14:6).“I AM the true Vine” (15:1, 5).
They wanted to stone Him because He flat out declared "I was the One speaking to Moses at the burning bush" and by implication and extension "I have been here all along because I Am God".
Now before you get bogged down here is the point. God sent Himself in a Person we could relate to and understand. A person we could see and touch. A person who taught things we had never heard or known in a language we could grasp. He did this by using the familiar and known to teach the unfamiliar and unknown. This is why when Jesus taught He often began by saying "The kingdom of heaven is like..." and then speaking about something they were very familiar with. He always begins where we are and then takes us to where we've never been.
For communication to be effective both communicators need common ground to work from. This is why reading the Bible is so important. Much more than a religious duty or exercise, it is giving us a place to create common ground with God. By familiarizing ourselves with His Word we have more in common with Him. He has more material to draw from to communicate with us the things He wants us to know. Abraham understood his inability to have children and God used that as the common ground from which to get his attention. Moses understood the hopeless slavery of the Egyptians and his inability to help them and God used that as the common ground from which to get his attention.
God sees and knows us and He will meet us where we are. He will use the circumstances of our lives to get our attention. He will come in a way that makes sense to us. It may be through a tragedy. It may be through a need. It may be through a common friend. However He comes the reality is He will come because His love for us is immeasurable. I hope when He does come we don't stone Him for saying something we think is crazy...

John Day 87 - Who is to blame?
9:1 "Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
There is some deep deep stuff going on here. After the intensity of chapter 8 as Jesus plainly exposed the darkness of the religion of the time, chapter 9 takes the theme of light and darkness to a whole new level. In order to do that he "uses" the case of a man born physically blind. This chapter has personal significance for me having worked many summers at a camp for blind people. I remain friends with many to this day. The fact that Jesus healed blindness more than any other affliction is a fact not lost on me. There are in fact 7 different times where Jesus healed blind people. I have also noticed with great interest that He never healed blindness the same way twice.
However to begin this chapter about the most detailed and prolonged healing of a blind person we have to deal with the elephant in the room and that is the blame game. His disciples see the man and clearly he is known by at least one or some of them because they know his story. He is not just blind in the present. He was born blind. This created cognitive dissonance in the minds of the disciples. They couldn't figure it out. It was a puzzle piece that didn't fit in their picture.
Picture? Yes. We all have one. It is a conscious and sometimes unconscious view we have of the world and how it works. The play and interplay of events and circumstances are all explained or rationalized or categorized according to the view we have. For the disciples, pain, suffering, and disease were explained as punishment. God was the punisher and he handed out afflictions and trouble on people according to what they deserved.
With this view, the blind man presented a problem. Had he become blind later in life they would have accepted it as a result of his own wrong actions. However he was born blind. Can he or did he sin pre birth? That seems odd and unlikely. If not him than did his parents sin and he was born blind as a punishment for their actions? This seems cruel and unfair for the poor man to suffer on their account.
The cognitive dissonance is palpable and they have to know the answer.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
They call Him Rabbi because it means teacher and they need to learn. They want an answer. We hate to not know. It is our nature to seek answers that resolve our cognitive dissonances so we can make sense of the world again and be at peace.
Notice they give Jesus only two choices for an answer. Notice that neither answer is outside of their picture. Somehow this incongruous piece of the puzzle is going to be forced to fit their picture which is safely tucked away inside their bubble wrapped box.
Jesus' answer is unexpected. The answer is neither. The answer is no. The answer is that they need to reconfigure their entire picture. The answer is that the piece does not fit because the puzzle is wrong. The answer is that blame is not always the answer. Some things that happen cannot be pinned on anyone. They aren't a reaction or a result of some inaction or wrong action. Some things have a deeper purpose that we can't see or comprehend in the present...
This man was born blind. It was nobody's fault.
Next time a piece doesn't fit your puzzle bring the entire puzzle to Jesus without the bubble wrap or the box...
See you tomorrow.

John Day 88 - I'm Right and You Are Wrong
9:4 "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”
9 Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.”
He said, “I am he.”
10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”
11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”
12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?”
He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”
Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them."
Yesterday the disciples were confused. Today the Pharisees are confused. The cause of the confusion is different yet the same. The disciples were confused over why this man was born blind. The Pharisees are confused over how he can see. Different but the same. The same because both groups are confused based on false assumptions. The disciples assumed someone was to blame for his blindness and his condition was a punishment. The Pharisees assumed healing on Sabbath was a sin.
It is amazing to me how one false assumption can skew everything and send us down a path to a conclusion that is totally warped. In this case all the Pharisees would have written Jesus off as a sinner for "breaking" the Sabbath except for one rather large detail - a man born blind can now see. John tells us because of the conflicting evidence the Pharisees were divided.
You will remember that up until recently the Pharisees were never divided when it came to Jesus. They had all been certain or at least appeared certain that He was a law breaking fraud. This united front continued until Nicodemus stepped out of the shadows and questioned their methodology and certainty. That one man being willing to question the group has now opened the way for others to consider Him more fairly.
You may feel I'm being repetitive but it's the Bible that keeps bringing us back to the same point. The same tension is raised again and again. The tension between the real Jesus and our personal and/or religious views of who we think He should be.
Look at Christianity today. Far from homogenous, there are Christians of all viewpoints. There are professed Christians who are diametrically opposed on some pretty major issues. How is that possible? How can we all be following the same Jesus and be headed in opposite directions? Name the topic and you find groups of "Christians" on either side. The young "man" who opened fire and murdered 9 people at a prayer meeting in Charleston was raised a Christian and claims to be one himself. Bible based racism is nothing new. Hatred in the name of religion is nothing new. How many times already in the gospel of John have religious leaders attempted to kill Jesus? We all know these ideologies exist but how does it happen? How can one person who "follows God" have polar opposite views with another person who also "follows God"?
The answer is quite simple. Too many of us are following ideas that we hold tightly in our bubble wrapped boxes. Ideas we have assumed are truth that we won't allow to be scrutinized by the Light. We are so sure we're correct that no questioning is necessary. We even take the position that to question is a betrayal of faith.
It is past time that we learn to distrust ourselves and our 'sacred views'. Jesus warned His disciples: "The day will come when men will kill you and think they are doing God a favour". We always assume we'll be in the right and someone else will be the bad guy. We assume this because we assume we're right in every position we hold.
John chapter 9 is not about physical blindness at all. It's much deeper than that. See you tomorrow...

John Day 89 - Bad Religion
9:13 "They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”
Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.
17 They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that Hewas Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
You don't have to be an expert on the life and times of Jesus to deduce how much control the Pharisees had over the people in religious matters. Imagine being in a culture where people on the street would see you doing something they didn't think you should be doing and then hauling you off to the church to be grilled by the religious leaders.
The leaders were confused because making mud and healing on Sabbath were both violations of the law so how could a law breaker be a healer or a prophet or anything of the sort? To explain the apparent incongruity of the story they decided the man must have never been blind to begin with. To confirm this theory they now called in his parents. This is where we find out just how deep the religious control is. The parents confirm that the man is their son and that he was born blind but refuse to say any more. They are afraid to say anything because they know if they give any indication that they believe in Jesus or in what He did they will be cut off from the synagogue and essentially shunned.
To avoid that potential outcome they refuse to say any more and tell them to cross examine their son again instead because "He is of age and can speak for himself."
Fear. The foundation of the religious system of the Jews was fear. You either conform to the demands of the church or else... This fear based religious economy then leads to a fixation on self preservation. "I belong to this religion to save my soul and do whatever they tell me to preserve my position because my soul is in their hands, my standing in the community is in their hands, my everything is in their hands." The fear is so deep that parents will throw their own child "under the bus" to save their own skin.
The sickest part of all this is that God is portrayed as the One running this fear based religious system. He is the tyrant at the top. He is the One saying: "Conform or else".
Question: "How can you love someone who relates to you this way? How can you truly believe He loves you?"
The answer of course is that you can't. A husband who rules his wife with fear and control might be obeyed but he won't be loved by her. She will never feel safe in his arms. Parents who rule by fear may be obeyed for a time but those children will flee when the opportunity comes.
It was a dark, sick, and twisted world at that time in Judea and it was all done in the name of God. Dark things continue to be done in this world in the name of God. Jesus came to turn the light on and expose the evil for what it was.
We have a choice. If our choice is made out of fear, we're making the wrong one. The Bible says "Perfect love casts out fear..."
See you tomorrow.

John Day 90 - An Investigation?
24 "So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”
25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”
28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”
30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out."
Interrogation round 2. Today is going to be short simply because it doesn't need to be long. Here's the problem: The rulers launched an investigation. Nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem is that it wasn't really an investigation at all. An investigation follows the evidence wherever it leads and comes to an unbiased hypothesis or conclusion based on the evidence. The investigation in this story was never about following evidence or arriving at truth. It was only ever about finding a way to maintain control by discrediting any evidence that implied anything other than their bubbled wrapped tightly closed box view of the world.
First they denied Jesus healed him, then they admitted He did heal him by asking how it was done. Finally when they couldn't avoid the truth through argument they "got rid" of the truth by throwing the man out.
Some claim following God is for superstitious people who lack intelligence. This is a denial of the evidence since some of the most brilliant minds ever to be part of the human race were passionate believers. Some say the miracles of the Bible are bogus and such things don't and never happened. This too is a denial of the evidence for miracles still happen today.
Some judge others as not true believers because they don't understand or follow God exactly as they do.
Jesus was rejected by His own simply because He didn't conform to their man made rules and traditions despite the massive evidence that He had a living connection with God.
Are we open to truth wherever it leads or do we stubbornly cling to our box no matter what? The truth is that this is not so much a religious problem as it is a heart/pride problem.

See you tomorrow as the story continues.

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