1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years
2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).
Some other housecleaning:
A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.
B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.
C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.
D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.
As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.
There’s not a lot of Scripture to read today, because I want us to focus just for a moment on this one word—peace—and what our Savior is telling us about it in these two verses. I’m really reluctant to pretend like I’m adding anything to them, but here are my thoughts:
• He’s leaving us, at least physically. His physical body is not here, but he’s leaving something behind: peace. And how? How can he guarantee this? Well, the verse prior to 27 tells us: His Spirit. He’s not here physically, but he’s here in the Person of his Spirit.
• And what type of peace is this? Well, in verse 27 he defines by contrast. He doesn't give us peace (or anything else, by the way) like the world gives. What type of peace does the world “give”? First and foremost, the peace of the world is temporary at best. Nations which we used to be allies with (like Russia) turned into enemies as soon as their interests called for it. That’s because the leaders of most of the nations are not out for the public interest, and they’re not guided by high-minded ideals. At best they’re looking out for the interests of their own nation, and more often than not they’re only looking out for their own selfish desires. What’s called “peace” is often nothing more than a period while the nations reload.
• And this is true in our personal lives as well. Why do most people want to be rich (or at least richer)? Is it just a desire for money? Or is money something that promises something else—security? Folks tend to think that if they just have enough money, they’ll be safe from all (or more of) life’s dangers. But you can read the biographies of the extremely wealthy, and you’ll discover really quickly that this is a lie. No amount of money will grant a good night’s sleep, and it never will. The only true “fortress” that really offers safety is not found in anything you can buy.
• That’s because the way the world defines peace and the way our Lord defines it are very different. They define it as “the absence of open conflict.” If they’re not actively shooting at each other, then they claim that they’re at “peace.” But the Hebrew word Shalom captures God’s idea of peace much better. Shalom means everything where it’s supposed to be. Imagine a house where there’s chaos: Laundry is all over the floor, food is spilled out on the table, the furniture is scattered all over and is blocking people’s way. Then imagine a house in the opposite condition: The laundry is on hangers and in drawers, the food is put away, the furniture is arranged in an orderly fashion. That’s Shalom: Everything in its place. In the spiritual realm, this is a helpful concept. What’s supposed to be in the center of everything? Our Lord. He’s on the throne, and everything revolves around him, and is in complete submission to his expressed will. To the degree you have that, you have peace. To the degree you don’t have that, you have chaos.
• There are at least two products of his peace, two major benefits which we can enjoy when we’re in sync with him. First, our hearts won’t be troubled. As a bit of trivia (as pointed out to me from R. C. Sproul), what’s the most repeated command of Jesus? What does he command us to do more times than anything else? His most repeated command is “Don’t be afraid.”
• The other benefit is victory over this world. It doesn’t matter what the world throws at us: a lost job, a broken marriage, declining health, financial catastrophe, or anything else. What could the world possibly throw at me which could possibly be compared with what the world threw at Jesus? The Enemy and the world system threw its worst at him, and he overcame it all. And the good news? His victory is ours. He promised A) We will have trouble in this world, and B) We can take heart in the midst of that trouble, because he’s here with us.
Aren’t you glad?
Lord Jesus, thank you so much for your promises. I know I’m going to have trouble here, but I don’t have to be troubled in heart. You’re here, and all is well.
So Jesus made these momentous claim regarding himself: No one comes to the Father except through him, and he is the Way (not a way), the Truth (not a bearer of truth), and the Life. And he told his disciples that from that point forward they knew the Father and have seen him (not going to see him, but have seen him).
I love Philip in vs. 8: He might be sticking his foot in his mouth, but he was saying something a lot of them were probably thinking: "We have seen him? So where is he?"
Our Lord’s answer is simple: Right here. When you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father. Everything that the Father is--in his nature, his character, and in his works—the Son is. If anyone wants to see God without going through Jesus, they’re wasting their time.
Now we come to mysterious verses which need to be examined carefully. I personally am trying to be cautious to say what the Scriptures say, nothing more and nothing less. First off, what does our Lord mean when he says that we (as his followers) will perform “greater works than these”? He healed lepers and blind men and crippled men with a word! At his command, demons fled out of poor people whom they'd possessed for years. Hello, he raised the dead! I haven’t done that lately, have you? How can we say that the Church is performing “greater” works that what Jesus did while on earth?
There are two ways to interpret this. Now, some people say that the problem is a lack of faith. If we aren’t healing people in the exact same way as Jesus did, then something’s wrong with us. Nope, don’t buy it. In the two thousand years since Jesus walked around, there's never been a time that’s been recorded with the quality and quantity of Jesus’ miracles. Has everyone been completely out to lunch since he left? Every single believer?
Maybe, just maybe, we need to reexamine our definition of “greater.” Notice that he didn’t say “as good as mine.” He said “greater.” What could be greater than raising the dead or healing with a word?
Well, I have two answers to that. First, there's the simple answer of extent and scope. During his earthly ministry, our Lord limited his ministry to a small back-water province that most people in the world had never heard of. On top of that, he mostly worked among Jews--not because he loved us Gentiles any less, but because that was the Father's plan and timetable. So he was touching a sliver of one percent of the world's population. But now, all such limits are gone as of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit--sent by Jesus after he returned to the Father--empowers and spurs the Church to reach out to all the world in the Name of our Savior. Ultimately there will be no corner of the world where people aren't touched by his grace and power.
Second, there is a greater work than physically raising people from the dead. Lazarus died again. The lepers whom he cleansed? Their bodies eventually fell apart again. All of his physical miracles only had a temporary effect. But if someone is resurrected spiritually, if they’re raised to new life in Christ, that’s permanent. And just as miraculous.
And we have a part in that. When you share the Good News (in the power of the Spirit, so Christ is really doing it through you), then you have a part in doing something greater than any physical miracle which Jesus performed on earth.
Now, how’s about this seemingly unlimited promise: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Two quick points:
• We need to clarify “in my name.” It's not just tacking Jesus’ name onto the end of your prayer and expecting him to leap forward like a starving waiter to serve you. Praying is not magic or a science, where you submit the right input or formula and thus get the output you desire. “In my name” means praying--asking--with his interests in mind, praying for things he wants. You don't get a new Ferrari because you end with your prayer with “in Jesus’ name, amen.”
• And why is Jesus going to do as we ask when we truly ask “in his name”? So that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Not so you can gratify your personal desires.
Having said that, I think I might be too cautious. I was raised in an atmosphere in which I was warned repeatedly against the excesses of the Pentecostal/Charismatic side of Christianity, so I’m instinctively always on guard against the extremes to which their belief system is inherent. But are my prayers bold enough? Do I really believe that he can do anything he wants, and he delights in answering the prayers of his children? Maybe my view of my Savior is too small.
Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I don’t want to sell you short. You're Almighty God, and you’re intimately involved in the lives of your children. May my prayers reflect that.
Like I said before, this is one of the most meaningful scenes in the Gospels for me, and I really wanted to spend a couple of days on it. There are two major applications that I’ve noticed here, and we discussed one of them yesterday: The fact that Jesus—our Lord and Master—took upon himself the role of a slave in order to serve his disciples. Therefore I have no right to complain about any calling to serve.
But there’s another meaning in this passage, and it has to do with Peter’s short conversation with the Savior. Jesus is kneeling in front of him with a towel and water basin, and Peter strenuously objects. He knows—with a good understanding of who Jesus is and who he is—that it isn’t right for Jesus to be serving him. Jesus is the Lord, and everyone should be serving him. So Peter refuses the offer of having his feet washed.
Jesus impressed on him the absolute necessity of having this done: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” So Peter—as he often did—overreacts. “Well, if we’re actually going to do this, then wash my hands and head as well!”
Then the Lord makes a rather cryptic statement which I think we need to unpack: “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you,” an obvious reference to Judas. So how do we interpret this?
I’m trying not to be dogmatic about something that isn’t explicitly explained in Scripture, so I’m open to another interpretation if someone provides it. Until then, here’s my understanding: Jesus is talking about two types of cleansing, and he’s not referring to the physical.
When someone comes to a saving faith in Christ, he’s cleansed from “head to toe” in the spiritual realm. All of his sins—past, present, and future—are covered by the blood of Jesus, and as far as God’s justice is concerned, that person is declared “totally righteous” in the final courtroom.
And this is a once-and-for-all cleansing. You have it one time, and then it’s done forever. This only needs to happen once. You can’t lose your salvation or give it away or throw it away. That’s why when Peter asked for his head and hands to be cleaned as well, Jesus told him he didn’t need it, since the Savior was relating what he was doing physically (with a basin and towel) to what he does for us in the spiritual realm, and for Peter’s whole body to be cleaned would violate the symbolism.
But we still need a foot-washing. As believers, we still sin. It doesn’t affect our position in Christ, but it does affect our relationship with him. Let’s say that Bill Gates has an argument with his son. The son and father exchange harsh words, and the son storms out. Then the son falls on hard times, and ends up eating Ramen Noodles in a seedy motel room, fighting off the rats and roaches. If you took blood out of the son and blood out of the father and tested for DNA, what would the test tell you? Duh, the test would say that the young man is still the son of Bill Gates. But is he living like a son of Bill Gates? Should a son of Bill Gates be fighting off roaches for Ramen Noodles? Of course not. What needs to happen is for the son and father to be reconciled. In our case, we need to approach our Father and confess to him that we've done wrong. Until then, the young man isn't living how a son of Bill Gates should live.
As often as I sin, I need my Savior to cleanse me. The reason this is so poignant for me is the image this story presents regarding my cleansing as a believer. When I do wrong, when I sin, when I disobey, he—the wounded party—stoops down in front of me. And he cleans the dirt off. Once again.
Lord Jesus, may I never take lightly what you do for me. It costs you. And you do it gladly. Thank you.
I recently found out about a show called Dirty Jobs. This is a show on the Discovery Channel where the host finds the nastiest and smelliest jobs he can find. He then spends the day working with the guy (usually a male) who's doing the jobs none of us would ever dream of doing. If you thought a garbage collector—sorry, sanitation engineer—had the smelliest job in the world, apparently you were badly misinformed. Of course that’s our segue (such as it is) into today’s passage
I love John’s Gospel for many reasons, one of which is the uniqueness of his material. The reason the other Gospels are called “Synoptics” is because they have the “same view,” in other words a lot of material in common with each other. John’s narrative has by far the longest, most detailed, and most intimate rendition of the Last Supper which the Savior had with his disciples in his last hours before the Passion.
This is so momentous an occasion that we’re going to spend two days on it, focusing on one major aspect of it today and the other one tomorrow.
First off, we’re going to look at the literal foot-washing and what it means to us today as believers. I’ve actually had a figurative foot-washing. I’ve heard of some churches who do literal foot-washings, and I have nothing but respect for them. My only concern for them--and it’s a small one--is that they miss the meaning behind it by focusing on the ritual and instead of what it represents. Here are my thoughts:
I find an extremely poignant point which John makes in his commentary at the beginning of the passage: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he'd come from God and was returning to God” so he proceeded to get up, take off his outer garments, take a towel and wash basin, and wash his disciple’s feet. Please keep in mind that this is the pre-shoe era. I personally wouldn’t want to wash someone else’s feet even with shoes. But don’t just shoot over what John said. Jesus knew these things about himself and his relationship with the Father, and therefore he felt completely secure in serving others. If you’re called to serve, and you hesitate because it’s “beneath my dignity,” that shows that you don’t feel secure in your position in the Kingdom.
We’re heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. What he owns, we share in it, which is everything in the universe. We have privileges as his children that angels don’t even dream about. When all that we see in this world--the cars, the houses, the skyscrapers and castles, the money and gold—are nothing but dust and ashes, our inheritance will be secure.
And there’s something else we might miss here. The Lord of Heaven--the One who spoke creation into existence and before whom angels bow and don’t even dare to look in the face—took off his outer garments, took up a wash basin and a towel, and washed his disciples' feet. This was the job of the lowliest slave. And what does he say once he’s done? Let these words wash over you: "You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
So what rights do I have to complain about some job that’s supposedly beneath my dignity? None. I have no rights. Only privileges which come from grace, from unearned favor.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some examination to do. I think this is going to hurt.
Father, I’m so sorry for and repent from any thoughts of what I deserve. I deserve nothing from you but judgment. Please forgive, and please change me.
Of course, you’ve heard it as a kid: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Oh please. That’s got to be the biggest lie ever foisted on kids, right up there next to “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Anyone who’s been a kid knows what a lie it is.
But there’s another sense in which it’s not true besides the obvious way. As far as we know, these are the last words of Jesus made in public before the Passion. In the last appearance of Jesus in John’s Gospel, he gave a final warning to his listeners. Let’s unpack it.
First, we need to understand that Jesus is the full representation of the Father. He was sent personally by the Father to perform a mission. He was the Father’s fully invested ambassador from the God of Israel. As vs. 50 says, he didn’t speak anything on his own accord, but only what the Father told him to say.
So why is this important? Because if you reject Jesus, you’re not just rejecting him, but the Father who sent him. If you believe in Jesus, you’re accepting the authority of the One who sent him. The Father and the Son stand together.
I listen to some talk radio hosts who are practicing Jews. They’re wonderful people, and I’ve learned a lot from them. One of them in particular, Dennis Prager, has taught me a lot from his studies of the Torah. But they’ve rejected Jesus (or Yeshua) as the Messiah, so what can I say? Either they’re correct, or my Savior is.
But now we come to my point about today’s title. Have you ever had words come back to haunt you? Maybe you made a prediction about a sports event, or maybe in a moment of foolishness you spewed words that you later regretted.
There’s a sense in which words will “come back to haunt” people someday in a much worse and permanent way. Not their own words, but someone else’s.
When someone stands before the Throne, and they’re not one of God’s children through faith, they stand condemned. Yes, the Lord Jesus will stand in judgment over them. But in a real sense, the words of Jesus will be the prosecuting attorney. Just like a recorder or a video camera, the Message of Jesus which they heard will be played back for them. It’ll be read into the record: All the times they heard the Good News and rejected it.
Does that apply to someone who’s reading this? If you are, it’s not by chance. I’m a very imperfect messenger, but I have a perfect Message for you. He loves you, and he died for you. Just like he made an appeal to his audience long ago, he’s making an appeal to you right now. And you never know—this might be his final appeal to you as well. Don’t let it be entered someday in exhibit A. Read this please.
Lord Jesus, I know that I’m saved by your grace. But sometimes you words come back to haunt me too. May your words not fall on deaf ears or on a hardened heart, but on ears and heart ready to receive what you have to say.
Why does someone receive Christ as Lord, while another rejects him? We can easily find examples of parents with multiple children who provide a test case. They’re the same parents, with the same parenting style, the same home environment, and the same basic genetics. Their kids attend the same church as children. But one of the children grows up to be a fervent follower of Jesus, while the other turns his back on it and becomes a reprobate.
Theologians from different backgrounds have different answers to this question. Some of them point to certain verses which seem to indicate that God has chosen—from before the beginning of time—who’s going to respond to his offer of salvation, and those who aren’t. If you believe in Jesus, then it’s because he chose you. If you don’t, then it’s because he didn’t choose you. Others point to other verses that seem to indicate that the ultimate decision to receive or reject Christ rests with that person.
Quite frankly, I don’t think that either side has the whole story. The reason the debate hasn’t been settled for so long is because, as I stated before, both sides have verses which seem to back them up. Here’s what the Bible clearly teaches: God is sovereign, and each individual person is responsible for his/her own decision. And the Scriptures make no attempt to logically reconcile those seemingly contradictory statements.
So how I handle this? On what side do I come down?
I don’t. I simply say what the Bible says: God is sovereign, and humanity is responsible for its choices. How exactly his sovereignty and our decision-making process work together is a mystery which we’re not supposed to understand in this life, apparently.
Why do I bring this up, and what does it have to do with today’s passage and the title for today’s reading?
In today’s Scripture reading, we see the two halves of this mystery. As he often did, John provided a summary of how different people responded to Jesus. Their responses ranged from violent hatred and rejection to wholehearted acceptance and belief and submission. Most people were somewhere in between: They respected him and heard inspiring things about him, but they weren’t ready to make a full commitment.
And why did the people who rejected him reject him? Well, from God’s eternal purposes, John quoted from the prophet Isaiah, who said that the Lord had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. Otherwise, they would turn to the Lord and he would heal them.
But some—even among the religious leadership—believed in him. They knew he was the Messiah. But they weren’t ready to make a public acknowledgement of this. And why not? Because they made a conscious choice to value the praise of men over the praise of God. No mention of any Grand Divine Plan. They made a decision, and John’s condemnation of them makes it clear what the Lord thought of this. He would hold them to account. They wanted a pat on the back, the praise of men. And in doing so they forfeited something much more precious: God’s approval.
No matter what we might think about God’s eternal plan, what he’s doing behind the scenes, it doesn’t really matter. Quit worrying about it. Be concerned with what you know that God wants you to do. Make choices based on what’s eternal, not on what’s going to be dust and ashes someday. Once again, I’m going to repeat my favorite aphorism: No one in the history of mankind ever did things God’s way who regretted it in the end.
Father God, your ways are so far above my ways, and your thoughts are so far above my thoughts. How’s about I leave you to your job—running the universe, and I do my job—doing what you tell me to do? By your grace, I’ll do it.
If you’ve read this blog for a while or if you’re familiar with my teaching, you might know about a certain quirk of mine. I find myself fascinated by “last words.” When Jesus or Paul or Joshua or someone else in Scripture knows that they’re about to die or otherwise be separated from their audience for a long period of time, I attribute a lot of weight to their last words on that occasion. If you knew you were about to die and only had a few moments to spend with your loved ones, you probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time on the weather and sports. One of my favorite aphorisms is from Samuel Johnson: “The gallows doth wonderfully concentrate the mind.”
This is one of Jesus’ last public appearances before the Passion. The book of John has spent a lot of time on private conversations—more so than the other Gospel writers—but there are some public scenes as well. Most of these are actually confrontations: Jesus is confronting his enemies and/or a generally hostile audience.
Before he left the public eye, he had some final words for them. Here are some of my thoughts.
First, I find it interesting that Jesus says that now is the time for judgment on the Prince of this world. Obviously he’s referring to Satan, who holds the entire world in his sway. But wait a minute—isn’t Satan going to be judged in the future? This is something John has addressed before in his Gospel: According to Jesus, if someone doesn’t believe in him, it’s not an question of that person being judged in the future. They’re condemned now. The verdict is already in—they’re guilty. John the Baptist said that God’s wrath (his righteous anger) remains on that person, not that it will come upon him in the future.
Now to be sure, the consummation of something might be in the future. As Jesus said this, he was yet to be crucified, let alone return in glory. But as far as God was concerned, the Adversary was already defeated. To use a World War 2 analogy, Berlin was already surrounded by the Allies.
I need to make a comment on the “lifted up” phrase. First, I need to concede that a lot of preachers and teachers whom I highly respect disagree with me, and it’s certainly not an essential issue. But I can't escape the conclusion that when people quote Jesus as saying “When I’m lifted up, I’ll draw all people to myself” and pray aloud “We’re lifting you up Jesus, right now. We’re going to praise and honor your name,” they’re yanking the verse out of context. The very next verse says that by saying this Jesus was telling them how he was going to die. He was not referring to being “lifted up” in the sense of being praised or exalted. He was talking about being “lifted up” in the sense of being crucified.
And then we come to what I call the second judgment noted in this passage. Yes, the Prince of the world was being judged. His final fate was completely set. His final defeat was (and is) sure. But Jesus leaves them with a word of warning: Make sure you’re on the right side of the conflict. The Light is going to win over the darkness. To whom to you belong?
And how do you cross over from darkness to light? By believing in the Light of the World. By trusting in him and by submitting to him.
And time was running out. Right here, right now, they have the light. That might not be true tomorrow.
For the children of light (every believer), this is a word of hope: You’re on the right side of history. You’re not on the winning side, you’re on the side that’s already won.
For anyone’s who's not child of the light, I have to lovingly tell you that your time is running out. The Enemy's judgment is as sure as if he was being thrown into the Lake of Fire this very moment. And everyone who hasn't placed their faith in Christ share in his condemnation and thus share in his eternal destiny. But your judgment/condemnation doesn't have to end up like his. His fate doesn't have to be yours. Place your trust in the Lord Jesus, please.
Lord Jesus, it’s so true that apart from you I’m just stumbling around in the dark. Thank you so much that your victory is mine.
We’ve discussed this concept before, but I wanted to take a close look at this passage, since it reveals so much about how God works in the world.
Remember the story of Balaam as he prophesied? God sometimes reveals his truth in ways you don’t expect. He primarily speaks to us through his word, through the Holy Spirit, and through other believers. But there are times in which he speaks to humanity in ways he doesn’t usually utilize. Let’s look at bit closer at what’s happening in today's passage and see what we can learn from it.
The Jewish Sanhedrin (the religious leadership) met to discuss what to do about Jesus. They obviously wanted to get rid of him for a host of reasons, but they were reluctant to arrest him publicly because they were afraid of rioting. They recognized the frightening possibility that if they didn’t handle Jesus, then Rome would step in and destroy their nation. Rome didn’t really care all that much about your religious beliefs or how you worshiped. But they had a serious zero-tolerance policy when it came to inciting sedition. Anyone going around calling himself the King of the Jews would--sooner or later--gain Rome’s attention, and not in a good way.
Then steps in Caiaphas, the high priest. Was he a follower of Jesus? Of course not. I sincerely doubt that he was an open and honest seeker of the truth, like Nicodemus. But he prophesied. The Holy Spirit spoke through him just as much as through Paul writing the book of Romans. Through Caiaphas, the Spirit revealed that the Messiah would die for the entire nation, in fact the entire world.
Now, what was on Caiaphas’s mind when he was saying this? Did he mean that Jesus was going to die for the sins of the entire world? No. When he said this, the only thing he was thinking about was the political expediency of executing Jesus in order to keep Rome off their backs. In his mind, when he said that Jesus was going to die “for the people,” he was only thinking about being saved from the wrath of Rome. But behind his words lay deeper and greater truth, namely that Jesus was going to die in the place of Israel (and the world) in order to save us from the wrath of the Almighty.
So what’s my point here? God can use even nonbelievers, even people opposed to his cause, in order to reveal his truth. Let’s take for example person X, who happens to be a movie producer in Hollywood. He’s not a Christian; in fact, you’d never catch him dead in a church. But he has an idea for a movie about redemptive love, and he gets it made. And God can use that to draw people towards himself, or at least prepare them for the Good News of Christ. I personally think that this is precisely happened in regards to Forrest Gump, my favorite movie of all time. Maybe someday I’ll go into more detail as to why it’s my favorite and why it’s so illustrative of God’s love for us.
So keep on the lookout for God’s truth which he’s scattered all over this world. You never know: You might find his truth in the most unlikely of places, whether on the lips of a murderous high priest or hidden in the midst of our popular culture.
Father, you’re reaching out to this fallen world, and your ways of doing so are pretty unexpected at times. How can I help?
Now we get to the shortest verse in the Bible, and one of the most mysterious. Of course, the immediate meaning is pretty clear. For some reason, Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb. Now, we know that he planned to raise his friend from the dead and give him back to his sisters. So that raises the question: Why did he weep? If he really is the Resurrection and the Life, then why the tears at a funeral? There are at least three explanations I’ve found, and all of them have a case to make. I also want to point out that these explanations are not mutually contradictory at all.
It’s funny how effective some advertising can be. I don’t know if you can recognize this slogan, but if you’ve ever seen it on TV, then you probably will never forget it: “You’re in good hands. . . with All State.” In other words, this insurance company wants you to trust it. When you need it, it’ll be there.
I think of that slogan every time I read today’s passage, and with good reason. Chapter 10 really is a series of confrontations Jesus had with the religious leaders. In the midst of this passage, Jesus is contrasting his opponents with his sheep, his true followers. And it’s in the midst of this confrontation, almost as a side-issue, that he gives us some of the most comforting verses in all Scripture.
Before we get into that, notice the reason why they don’t believe in him. They’re not part of his flock. They'd seen plenty of miracles, and they'd listened to his teaching. If they had any openness of mind at all, they would've realized who he was. Now, it's true that he'd never publicly proclaimed himself as the Messiah, because that wasn't the Father's plan. But he'd fulfilled Scripture right in front of their eyes, he'd performed miracles (there’s a reason they’re called “signs” in John’s Gospel), and he'd strongly hinted at who he was. When it comes to belief in Jesus, you’re either one of his sheep, or you’re not.
But now let’s get to the positive side of this passage. Let’s see what he says about his sheep:
• His sheep listen to his voice. How do we listen to his voice today? Well, he can lead us by his Spirit, but the primary (and the only 100% reliable) way he speaks to us is through the Scriptures. As we read more and more of his word, and as we learn to listen to the Spirit’s calling, we understand it better. Also we learn to better distinguish it from a false shepherd’s.
• He knows them. Not just about them, but he knows them, like a parent knows a child.
• They follow him. What’s the surest sign that you’re one of his sheep? That you follow him. Not perfectly, because we all sin and disobey at times. But we’re talking about the general direction of your life.
• He gives them eternal life, life that never ends.
• And as a result, they'll never perish. However many sheep Jesus claims as his own, none of them shall perish.
• No one can snatch them out of his hand.
• The Father, who's greater than all, holds us in his hand as well, and no one can snatch them out of his hand either. The best explanation I’ve heard of this is that Jesus is in the Father’s hand, and we’re in Jesus’ hand. Notice that all of us have been given to Jesus from the Father. We're the Father’s presents to the Son.
And then we see one of the most shocking statements ever uttered by human lips. Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” They’re one in purpose, one in agenda, and one in nature. We’ll get into this next month when we discuss the nature of Christ, but for now, let’s just understand that whatever the Father is in his nature, Jesus is.
So what does this mean to you and me? We're doubly protected. We’re in Jesus’ hand, and Jesus is in the Father’s hand. Someone might say “Well, Satan can’t snatch you out of his hand, but maybe you can jump out.” When Jesus said no one can snatch me out of his hand, he included me in that list. I’m forever safe and secure, and I'll never perish. I can count on that.
Lord Jesus, thank you so much for the security I have in you. No matter how little I deserve it, you claim me as one of your own, both now and forever. Help me to show that.
Lord Jesus, words fail me. Except. . .maybe. . .thank you.