I John was written 70-90 years after the ascension of Jesus. This means that few of the readers of this letter were adults in the time Jesus walked the earth. They probably came to know through 3rd or 4th party voices – those who originally heard about the resurrection from the apostle or even from those who heard from the apostles. Their perspective is from time of persecution not just towards the Christians but also the Jews – the second temple has been destroyed….it is a difficult for any person of faith.
This passage is a reminder to the readers that they are on a never ending journey. Much like the life of Abraham and Sarah who were seeking all the way to, and through, death. However, this passage also guarantees that there will be a day when they see God clearly. Contemplate verse 2 today asking ‘what does this promise mean to me?’
You may remember that for these weeks prior to Pentecost Sunday we will using Acts as our Monday passage rather than an old testament passage. This week we see Peter’s first major sermon. He is on the east side of the temple speaking particularly to a group of people who have come to him after Peter and John healed a crippled man. Immediately, as Peter speaks we are able to see a running theme throughout Acts “This is all about Jesus so Trust in him.”
Acts never really tells us why Jesus had to die only that he did and then he was resurrected. Although there are assuredly many in the crowd who saw Jesus crucified and die – there are few there that saw Jesus after he was resurrected. This is the calling of the apostles, it is the calling of us – a calling to live out and share our story.
‘Acts tells believers that they are part of an ongoing quest to discover, steward, and share the good news that through Jesus Christ God has changed the world and made a pledge about the future. The quest begins in trust. Theology is what you discover as a result.’
Thursdays we look at our gospel reading, which for today is John 20:19-31
This week we focus in on the disciples who are in hiding but once they were ready Jesus appears to them.
Being ready is a big element of seeing and believing in Jesus. Our choice is our choice long before we are ever given the opportunity. As the disciples were justifiably hiding, not knowing their own fate with the outside world, Jesus appears among them. His first words to them are ‘Peace’. At this appearance they are convinced of what Mary has said, ‘Jesus is alive!’ However, one disciple, Thomas, is not with the group at that time and does not believe when they tell him about the appearance. He needs proof. Later, when Thomas is with the group, Jesus appears to them again and again says ‘Peace’.
As you read verses 25-31, try to change your filter of interpretation. Instead of looking at this exchange between Jesus and Thomas as a reprimand, look at it as a gentle moment which Jesus uses for Thomas’ preparation for what future followers will have to journey through.
Today is Psalm Wednesday, our Psalm for today is Psalm 133.
Psalm 133 is a Psalm of Ascent, it would have been sung as the people walked up to the temple for worship. Although this is a very short Psalm, it contains three powerful themes:
1. A theme of unity. The people are coming up to the temple together while recognizing the importance of this community. This unity is based on one thing – their shared faith, their shared God.
2. A theme of abundance. Oil is an important factor in worship, but also in survival as the oil is a valuable and essential element of cooking. And, for Christians, we see Mary anoint Jesus with valuable oil. The visual of oil in this Psalm is one of overflowing abundance, dripping off the priest’s beard.
3. A theme of provision. Mt. Hermon was about 175 miles north of Jerusalem, to walk the distance would have been at least a week’s journey, however, the snow melt and dew (basically all water sources) poured water into the Jordan River which would then quickly distribute this life nourishing element to many of the desert landscapes to the south. There was always enough and always the availability of water thanks to Mt. Hermon.
I John is written to a community of believers who are being swayed away from Truth and, instead, to a false version of Christianity. This false teaching is stressing that Jesus was not really a physical human, that Jesus only seemed to be human. The danger in the belief is, if Jesus was not human then there could be no crucifixion and no resurrection. The author continues by pointing out the end results of such a false belief.
An arrogance that you have a higher knowledge and deeper spirituality – that you, because you are so smart and enlightened, are not vulnerable to sin.
A piety/disdain that leads to hatred rather than love for others.
A focus on self that makes you oblivious to the needs and misery of other, accompanied by an attitude that denies the existence of injustice towards others.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God”
You will notice today, and in the coming weeks, that we will not have our usual Old Testament passage, but instead we will be spending some time in the book of Acts. From a chronological perspective this is strange. If we were really following the timeline after easter we would wait 40 days after the resurrection before we even opened the book of Acts. That is what the followers of Christ did, they hid out, hoping to go unnoticed, until the helper arrived (the helper that Jesus promised, the helper we know as the Holy Spirit. However, we are jumping into Acts this week, the first week following the resurrection.
This is not without reason. By looking ahead we will see the different characters and events that will make up the church, things that could only happen because before it all, the Spirit arrived.
In this passage we see one of those things that could not happen had it not been for the Spirit’s arrival. The greek words ‘kardia kai psuchē’, meaning heart and soul – specifically in describing the diverse group from different nations, different religious backgrounds, different everything, this different and diverse group would be the avenue for the spread of the message of Jesus Christ, specially because of ‘kardia kai psuchē’, they were of one heart and soul.
This is going to be an exciting journey, I hope you will be a part of it. Have a great day and we will see you tomorrow.
Our passages today covering the words of Jesus at the Passover table with his disciples.
John’s narrative of the disciples observing the passover with Jesus contains a unique perspective not found in the other gospels. This passage begins with a heavy hearted, troubled, Jesus, and ends with a glorified Jesus. While it is difficult to understand how those sitting at the table did not recognize the enormity of Jesus handing the dipped bread to Judas – it is very clear that the exit of Judas was enormous. At that point we see Jesus give away his right to defense and to rescue from the agony ahead. Even though we next see him in the garden asking God this could be avoided, it it definite that as he hands Judas the bread, he is sacrificing his own body. At this moment Jesus proclaims that he has, at this point, been glorified, and that God has been glorified.
Also significant in John’s account is what he details before and after this passover observance. Before Jesus and his disciples sat at the table, Jesus ‘served’ them by washing their feet – a very physical metaphor for him being the sacrificial servant he will soon show himself to be on the cross. Then, after the meal, and after Judas has exited, Jesus warns the disciples of their humanity. He is warning them against becoming self centered and driven by personal agendas which lead to divisive disagreements – we see this happened almost immediately and then continue through their careers as apostles.
Holy Week Tuesday, John 12:20-36 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
On this Tuesday of Holy Week we focus on understanding the ‘why’ of the cross, as in, ‘Why did there have to be a cross, a brutal and humiliating death, Why?!’ It is not a bad question, as we saw Sunday, even Jesus asked it?
This is going to give you a headache (I say this because I now have a headache) but here it goes…possibly the greatest threat to our faith is arrogance, the audacity to think we know everything…the other is ignorance that comes out of a false humility or sheer laziness. Satan uses both of these while the apostle Paul attempted to rid us of both of these.
‘someday we are going to see God in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.’
I Corinthians 13:12 (the Message)
Paul calls ‘those who are wise’ foolish, but he is not saying wisdom is foolish, nor is he saying that we should live in a blissful ignorance. ‘Those that are wise’ is speaking to those who are arrogant, who fail to seek truth but instead think they already know all truth, they have quit seeking and searching for truth. Paul is calling us to ‘know’ even while we ‘know’ that there will be things that we will not ‘know’ yet, but, when we see God face to face, then we will ‘know’. So wisdom is a positive, being arrogant is a negative.
Take some time today, read these passages and ponder why?’
6 days before passover, and just a day before Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was sitting at Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ table with the hosts and guests, Mary brought out a valuable perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet. While, in that time, it was not as unusual of an act as we would think it – the other guests acted shocked. They judged, condemned, and quickly criticized. Jesus response was, as usual, revealing.
To those saying this as a waste, Jesus responded to their words even though he knew their deceitful hearts.
To those who attacked Mary, Jesus defended her heart.
And, to those who attempted to hide their own dirty hearts by appealing to Jesus’ compassion and mercy, Jesus confronted their perversion of his character and mission.
Jennifer T. Kaalund, Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College sets a perfect contextual foundation for us as we read the apostle Paul encouragement to the believers in Philippi, She says that believers, all through the new testament, are encouraged to be imitators of God, to be like Jesus. To walk, love, and forgive like Jesus, to be kind to one another like Jesus.
’In Philippians 2:5-11 Paul encourages us to have the same mind as Christ. The Greek here can also be translated as thinking. So, it can be understood as a directive for us to think as Jesus thought.’
Jennifer T. Kaalund
As you read, take note of the special words such as humility, obedience, and form.
Have a great day and I hope to see you tonight and this coming Sunday!