Monday, September 27, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 13:18-30

““I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. ” (John 13:18–30, NIV)
We see from this passage that Jesus chose every disciple, even the one who would betray him, in order that scripture would be fulfilled. The point here is Jesus is not surprised by the betrayal. In fact, He chose Judas knowing He would betray. Jesus knew it would happen because God said it would happen. But where did God reveal this betrayal? The verse Jesus quotes out of Psalm 41 seems vague at best…or is it?
The verse Jesus uses is one written by David as he reflected on the betrayal of His friend Ahithopel. (You’ll find the details in 2 Samuel, chapters 16 and 17.) Ahithopel was a friend of David’s who used that friendship to gain information in order to inform David’s son, Absalom, in his sinful rebellion against his father. If you read that account of betrayal, you will find that the guilt of Ahithopel’s sin so overwhelmed him that it became more than he could bear. Guess what he did in the end?
He hung himself…just like Judas will do.
Jesus is reminding His disciples, you remember the events surrounding David and the betrayal of his friend? Watch closely…It’s about to happen again.
The disciples are all listening trying to make sense of what He is saying. All the disciples…including who? Judas!
Judas is still in the room and the passage says that Jesus was troubled in His Spirit. I believe Jesus was troubled because there was one He truly loved who would reject that love for personal gain…and it broke His heart.
You’ll notice that the disciples were quick to look at each other, not themselves. John (after being prompted by Peter) finally asks Jesus, “Lord, who is it?”
And look what Jesus does…he answers John by fulfilling the verse He quoted from Psalms. He takes the bread and he offers it to Judas.
It’s important to see: this as act of friendship. Jesus is fulfilling scripture but He is doing so through an act of love. One final offer to Judas, which he once again, refuses. Judas has been following Jesus for years. But throughout this time, he has been more interested in what he could gain than what he could give. In his pride, he pilfered money he had been given the responsibility to steward. Probably small compromises at first…but persistence disobedience hardened his heart to the point that his mind became calloused to the truth…the truth that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The truth that the verse Jesus just used was a verse about Him. Judas had let sin reign and he was responsible for his decisions. Jesus says, “Do quickly what YOU are about to do.”
Satan may be directing his path, but Judas is willing to follow, and both of them are doing what God knew would happen in order for His plan of redemption to be fulfilled.
Faithful obedience flows out of humility but pride comes before the fall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 13:1-17

“It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “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. I tell you the truth, 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. ” (John 13:1–17, NIV)
So, in case you didn’t know, the land of Palestine is basically a dusty desert. People walked around in sandals all day. It was hot and sweaty and so when you come into someone’s house, you basically had mud all over your feet. And so it was customary for the host of the house to provide a servant to wash people’s feet. It was a mark of honor and respect for your guest.
But in our passage, no one is willing to lower themselves to do this menial task because verse 2 says they were already eating supper. Instead of washing someone else’s feet, they decided to sit on the floor and eat with stinky, dirty feet. (Typical men, right)
Well, Jesus uses the occasion to teach a very important lesson. In the middle of supper, He stands up and the text says, “He laid aside his garments and girded himself with a towel.” Some versions say, “He removed his outer clothes” or “laid aside his robe”.
I don’t think Jesus had to do this. I think He did do it because He wanted to make sure His disciples didn’t miss the point. When He removed his robe and girded himself with a towel, he assumed the dress and posture of a slave – a servant for the guests. Had a servant been in the room, this is what it would have looked like and Jesus is saying, “I am that servant.”
And then He went to each disciple and washes their feet in a servant’s dress and a servant’s posture. I can only assume that there was complete silence in the room… until Jesus came to Peter.
Peter’s question was more of a protest. “Lord, you…wash my feet?” You notice that Jesus doesn’t try to explain. He just says, “It doesn’t make sense right now Peter, but it will soon enough. Just trust me.”
What does Peter say? “Never shall you wash my feet.” Peter challenges Jesus.
This was his pride talking. He was certain that He would never dishonor Jesus. Peter was saying, “Maybe these other guys in the room are willing to dishonor you, but not me! I’m different. I am uncompromising!”
We learn from the other gospel writers that during this same meal, Jesus will tell uncompromising Peter, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me 3 times.”
Pride comes before the fall…Faithfulness flows out of humility.
You see…When we think we have all the answers. When our theology is wrapped with a nice little bow. When we look at others and say, “Maybe them Lord, but not me!” Watch out!
If we are not humble in our relationship with God and with others, admitting that apart from Him we can do nothing, our enemy grabs a foothold that he will undoubtedly use against us.
He’ll convince you that community within the body of Christ is really not that big of a deal. That’s for people that are weak. I am strong enough to do this on my own. And when the lion can section you off, he will chase you down for the kill.
And what about our dependence on God? Isn’t it pride that keeps us from spending just 5 minutes a day in the truth of God’s Word? Let’s be honest. When we can’t seem to find time for God, what we are saying is “You know…I’m pretty good on my own. If I get in trouble, I’ll give you a call. And I will definitely see you on Sunday. But otherwise, I think I can do this without you.”
No you can’t! Be careful!
Pride comes before the fall…Faithfulness flows out of humility.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:37-50

“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” ” (John 12:27–50, NIV)
Dead, Playing Dead, or Living in the Light. Which one are you?
That’s what John describes in this passage. He turns first to those who refuse to believe. Their consistent denial of God’s truth has hardened their heart and their conscious has been seared. Truth is literally standing right in front of them as Jesus speaks, but just as the prophet said it would happen, they did not believe. Even the miracles of Jesus did not penetrate their hardened hearts. They were dead because of their choice to deny life in Christ.
But others decided to take the step of faith only to turn around and pretend like they were dead. They put their trust in the message of Jesus and His promise of redemption. And yet, because of their position of influence, they kept their decision a secret. The fear of man’s condemnation prevented their ability to rejoice in God’s redemption. How can this be!
If we live to please people, our reputation will be our only reward. Oh, we’ll get a pat on the back and an “attaboy” or two. We will receive some awards and recognition. But it will always fall short. It will never meet the need that our heart desires. It will always leave us wanting. Our strength will be reduced, our outlook confused and our joy taken from us.
Only when we walk in the light are we truly satisfied. Only then do we experience the love of God that is beyond all comprehension – exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. Only then do we truly live the life that He has made possible.
Make the choice today not to divide your life between the sacred and the secular. What you do Monday through Saturday is just as sacred as what you do on Sunday. This undivided life of Jesus is the perfect example. Everything He did was to please His Father. He did nothing on His own accord or out of selfish ambition. So should it be with us. May His kingdom in your heart be undivided.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life of Christ Devotional - John 12:20-26

“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. ” (John 12:20–26, NIV)
“Now there were some Greeks…”
What an interesting observation. Keep in mind that we are in the midst of preparation for the Passover Feast and there are thousands upon thousands of people who were arriving for the celebration. Jesus has already entered into town with a hero’s welcome as large masses of people laid palm branches at His feet and cried out in loud shouts, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
And then, almost as a side note, John tells us that there were some Greeks who went up to worship at the feast who wanted to see Jesus. Now we know this seemingly insignificant inquiry was actually a huge turning point in the Life of Jesus because up until this point, Jesus had consistently informed His disciples that “the time has not yet come.” And now, in response to having been told about the Greeks, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
What is so special about the Greeks? What was it about their inquiry that triggered this response from Jesus?
Perhaps we can get a clue from early in the life of Jesus. He calls His disciples together and He gives them instructions about how to spread the good news of the Messiah who came to seek and save that which was lost. He says, “Do not go to the Gentiles (Greeks), and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
You see, God came to call His chosen people to repentance. Not because He didn’t care about the others, but because they were established by God with a specific purpose in mind. God had set them apart, made them a great nation, so that they could represent and usher in the promised kingdom of God. The people of Israel were to be the megaphone through which Jesus would announce His plan and purpose for the world. And yet they turned from the blessing of God to do what was right in their own eyes. They lost sight of their mission and became a people who were righteous in their own eyes. They no longer depended upon God for redemption and so they rejected the offer of their Redeemer – Jesus.
And as a result, those that Jesus originally told His disciples to avoid, now became those most interested in seeking His truth. The rejection of the Jews swung the door wide open for Samaritans and Greeks. The time had arrived for the Son of Man to be glorified so that anyone who believes in Him shall be saved. From this point on, there was neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for all became one in Christ Jesus.
Some might look at this and suggest that Jesus had a “plan A” to usher in His kingdom through the nation of Israel. However, since they rejected His offer, He went to “plan B” to fulfill His mission. We should not make such an assumption. Jesus knew how the Jews would respond, and from eternity past, He has never deviated from “plan A”. He cannot deviate from doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. He only gives His very best…He knows no difference.
So you need to know, the same is true for your life. God is not restricted by your choices. He knows every decision you will make before you ever make it. In His perfect way, He has the ability to miraculously work all things together for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. He will always offer you His very best. Will you choose to follow Him or seek instead to do what is right in your own eyes?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)