Lenten Journey Through the Gospel of John
March 12, 2017
That You Might Have Life
Scripture: On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ – John 2:1-5
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.’ – John 9:1-3
What do these stories tell us about Jesus?
… about how he changes our lives?
… about ourselves and what he asks of us?
“Do you want to get well?” Many people in Jesus’ day thought the pool of Bethesda (or Bethsaida) had healing power. It hadn’t worked for the man Jesus met—he’d been there for 38 years! Jesus asked him, “Do you WANT to get well?” He healed him on the Sabbath, and his critics fussed about rule-breaking rather than celebrating the man’s healing. Jesus responded by declaring that his power and mission came from his divine Father—which only upset them more.
• John called Jesus the Creator (cf. John 1:1-3), and said Jesus’ mission was to remake the world as God wanted it. Healing the sick man at the pool was a sign of what that new world was like. In what ways did the question “Do you WANT to get well?” and the command “Get up” both invite and empower the man to team up with God in his own renewal? In what ways have you been healed and freed (or do you want to be healed and freed) as you take part in Jesus’ new creation?
• In verses 24-25, John had Jesus using the present tense: “I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me HAS eternal life … HAS passed from death into life.” How have you “passed from death into life”? What is one aspect of your life where you are experiencing the eternal quality of life now, before your physical death ever happens?
Prayer: Lord God, I want to “get well”—I want to pass from death into life, in this life. Please keep on quietly, powerfully creating in me the whole new quality of “eternal life.” Empower me to choose you and your kingdom more and more. Amen.
“These works I do testify about me” This section almost sounds as though Jesus was on trial—and, in one sense, he was. He said he had many witnesses to show that he was who he said: his works, John the Baptist, his Father, and Moses’ words in Scripture. Many people were positively impressed when Jesus fed them miraculously—but they wanted him to be a political king who changed their circumstances, not a spiritual king who changed their hearts.
• Jesus told his critics that they had been reading the right book, but had been reading it in the wrong way (John 5:39-40). Read rightly, he said, the Scriptures testified of him. How, when, where and for what purpose(s) do you read the Bible? Pastor Hamilton has taught us to avoid getting stuck on things we don’t understand in the Bible, but to focus on what we do understand, and submit to God’s leading in those areas.
• Feeding the huge crowd seemed impossible to the disciples. Andrew brought a lad’s small lunch saying, “But what good is that for a crowd like this?” As you consider what Jesus did with that small lunch, what talents and resources do you have that you might offer to Jesus, trusting him to creatively multiply your gift and bless others through it?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you’ve blessed me with gifts and talents. Help me appreciate them, and offer them to you today, as the lad offered what he had. Use and multiply my abilities to bless others, and thank you that I’m blessed in the giving. Amen.
“I am the bread of life” Jesus’ ministry grabbed the attention of many. If he were ministering today, you might expect the major news networks to be talking about his latest miracle or healing. But John sharply contrasted the people’s earthbound outlook and Jesus' desire to share the truth of God’s eternal world. “Believe in him whom God sent,” he pleaded. “I am the bread of life.”
• Jesus challenged his listeners to consider what kind of “food” they were working for: “Don't work for the food that doesn't last but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (verse 27). Physical food wasn’t bad—he’d just fed the hungry crowd with bread and fish—but it doesn’t give lasting life. How clear is your sense of the two worlds, the two kinds of food, Jesus spoke of? Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” In what ways are you consistently nourishing yourself spiritually on him?
• Scholar N. T. Wright noted that the story of Jesus walking on water can be a metaphor for our journey through life. Many times life’s waters get rough, and a strong wind is blowing. Yet in the midst of the rough waters Jesus is there, even walking on water to help and comfort you. When have you faced “rough waters”? How did Jesus help you “reach the land” on the other side? If you’re dealing with rough waters right now, how can you remain open to seeing Jesus helping you reach the shore?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for offering yourself as the bread of life. Help me to trust you with my heart, my life. Satisfy my inner hunger—fill the God-shaped hole inside me. Amen.
“You have the words of eternal life” Jesus’ words in this section echoed his talk with the woman at the well (cf. John 4), but now he used the image of bread rather than of water. His vivid imagery about eating his flesh and drinking his blood made people squirm. Many turned away. But he was describing the spiritual reality we act out in the Lord’s Supper—taking Jesus in to nourish our eternal life. Some “got it”—the Twelve didn’t turn away. “Lord, where would we go?” Peter asked.
• In John 6:35 (yesterday’s reading) and verses 48 and 51, Jesus used the words “I AM.” This was loaded language—“I am” was a central meaning of YHWH, the divine name God told Moses about in Exodus 3:14. Watch for this in the rest of John —Jesus made major “I am” claims six more times. How did Jesus’ use of “I am” stress his astonishing claim to tell us about God from direct knowledge? How easy or hard do you find it to accept, and live into, what Jesus claimed when he identified himself as the “I am”?
• This passage is typical of John’s desire to show us what Jesus’ life meant, rather than just what happened. John didn’t include the story of Jesus eating the Passover with the disciples, but here he showed Jesus teaching the Supper’s meaning. In what ways does taking part in the Lord’s Supper mysteriously nourish your spiritual growth?
Prayer: Lord God, you showed your eternity and power in the Hebrew name “I am.” Walking this earth in Jesus, you again identified yourself with that name. You assured me that I can be your child, and I’m thankful that I am. Amen.
“The one who sent me is true” Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him (verse 5), the crowds had mixed views (verse 12), and Jewish leaders wanted to kill him (verse 1, 25). Jesus was inner-directed, and chose his own course under God. He clarified the true purpose of the Sabbath (verse 23). He spoke firmly of his heavenly origin and life-giving mission, saying “I haven’t come on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. I know him because I am from him and he sent me” (verse 28, 29).
• It’s worth noting how John used the word “world.” Jesus’ brothers used “world” to mean the physical planet Earth and all who live in it (verse 4). But Jesus used it to mean an inner spiritual orientation that turns away from God and tries to live without God and God’s values (verse 7). In what ways does “the world” (in that second sense) try to draw you into its values and way of life today? How is your life better when you live in Jesus’ world, rather than in “the world” that hates him?
• John was a master at showing denial (what we today might call “cognitive dissonance”). Verses 1 and 25 recognized that leaders wanted to kill Jesus. Yet when he spoke of it openly, there was heated denial: “You have a demon. Who wants to kill you?” (verse 20) When have you been in settings where you or others wanted to deny “the elephant in the room”? How can you and Jesus face any issues in your life more honestly?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to be a citizen of your world, to know you and the one who sent you. Guide me as dayby-day I submit my heart to your kingship. Amen.
“Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone” Jesus’ enemies were bitterly frustrated when their own Temple guards wouldn’t arrest Jesus, and Nicodemus asked for a fair hearing. The story in John 8:1-11 wasn’t in that spot in the earliest manuscripts we have, but it fits well. The Pharisees set an ugly trap—they were okay with shaming, even killing, a woman they had probably lured into the act of adultery. (Where was her partner? You can’t commit adultery alone.) Jesus disarmed them and gave their victim a new start.
• The Temple guards listened to Jesus, and said, “No one has ever spoken the way he does” (John 7:46). When the leaders mocked them, Nicodemus asked, “Our Law doesn’t judge someone without first hearing him and learning what he is doing, does it?” (verse 51) But instead of listening, the leaders set a deadly trap for Jesus, using a nameless woman as their pawn. What daily choices and disciplines do you find most helpful in listening to Jesus? When have you needed to hear, and heard, Jesus say to you, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore”?
Prayer: God, I’m listening. Please continue to speak to me through the gospel of John, and in any other way that you need to touch and guide my heart. Amen.
In the gospel of John, Jesus healed people, walked on water, turned water into wine and fed 5000 with just a few loaves of bread and fish. Often we think people who lived in the time of Jesus were the only ones who saw and experienced these signs, but with open hearts and minds, we can see them today, too. Purchase a sketch book or journal for the family. Decorate the cover, and title the book, “Jesus is Alive!” or “Jesus in our Lives.” Invite each person in the family to write or draw about times they see Jesus working in the world around them and in their own lives. Include everyday moments as well as more unique happenings. Pray with a thankful heart about Jesus’ constant presence and work around us.