I found John 18 to be the chapter that, so far, has given me the most to think about. I mean, it's all about Jesus getting arrested and as a follower of Jesus this is the pivotal part of the New Testament. This is the beginning. This is where the climax of His story starts to move. We hear of the denial by Peter three times that is predicted by Jesus. We read about Jesus being questioned by the High Priest. Lastly, we learn about Jesus' conversation with Pontius Pilate. This is the chapter that marks... I want to say the beginning of the end... but we know there's no end. So I guess it should be... the beginning of the beginning? I'm not sure. All I know is that in my heart, this chapter moved me.
It moved me to dig deeper. To study things I didn't look at before. It moved me read and re-read passages. To look at word definitions. To recall, ponder and process conversations. First he is taken to the High Priest. When Jesus is questioned about his teachings he answers plainly. I've done everything out in the open. There were no secrets (paraphrase). He healed people. He taught about God. The real God, not the lies and the laws that the "Leaders" were following. He spoke of the Father. In the temple, right under the noses of the Leaders.
The whole interaction with Pilate and his reactions though, that's what really got to me. When Jesus is brought before Pilate, the governor of Jerusalem, he asks the leaders why he should charge him when they can charge him by their own laws. Why should he be involved? Jerusalem at the time had been conquered and was run by the Roman empire. Hence, a Roman governor to settle disputes. The leaders make it clear that they want Jesus executed. They want to get rid of him. Take him out of the picture completely and wipe their hands of him and his followers. Get rid of the leader and wipe out the followers, right? Wrong!
So Pilate goes back inside the palace and summons Jesus to speak with him privately. This is where I perked up and really started to pour over the scripture and study. To me it seems that Pilate really doesn't want anything to do with this whole situation. He questions Jesus a bit, then goes out and basically tells the leaders, there is no reason to charge Jesus. Here is the actual scripture:
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
John 18: 33-38
The thing that really grabbed my attention is when Pilate says "What is truth?". So many of us wonder the same things. When I was wandering around as a very proud atheist the truth is what I was searching for. Maybe Pilate is searching for that to? Maybe he has seen and done so much, like so many of us have, that he feels there are no chances left for him. Maybe he's looking at this man, who had performed miracles, waiting for him to perform a miracle on him. On his heart. The search for truth can have such a compelling impact on us. On our inner beings. On our hearts. I pray so often that my loved ones who don't know Jesus have the eyes of their hearts opened. I want them to see things like I see them. I want them to know what I know and hope what I hope.
So... what is truth? The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines it as- real facts about something; a quality or state of being true; a statement of idea accepted as true. I looked further into it and defined the word true- in accordance with fact or reality; accurate or exact; steadfast, loyal and honest. The truth is a statement that accepted as fact or reality.
I don't think that Pilate really wanted that question to remain rhetorical. I think maybe he did want an answer. But he was part of God's ultimate rescue plan for His people. He was being used by God to carry out the ultimate sacrifice. I believe that Pilate gets a bad rap because of what happened. I don't think that he deserves it. I think that he was in a bad position. He had been brought something that he ultimately didn't agree with but had to complete as a result of his place in the Roman empire. I don't hate Pilate. I almost pity him. There are so many of us that ask what truth is all the time. Here is a man that had the Truth brought right in front of him.
Things get even more interesting in John 19. I have spent a lot of time there this week. What started as a 21 Day Challenge has broadened into so much more. It has helped me to remember things when I'm upset. I have started reading Isaiah and Psalms at night and hope to continue writing posts on those books. I have to admit that I didn't think this would happen when I started this challenge. I've read John a few times. This time though, I am studying it... and I am loving every second.
How is the challenge going for you?
What do you think "truth" is?
I have to admit that the last couple of days I haven't read the morning scripture. I have stopped at John 19. Not because I don't want to read anymore, because I hit a part in John that has me pondering for a couple days. I have read and re-read a part of John 19 a few times and recalled it many times to go over it. That is a couple posts away and I will go more in depth into what I read and why I have been reflecting on it so much. I can't believe that I'm over 2 weeks into this challenge and how it has shaped me. When I started I was reading and finding interesting things that reflected how I feel about present circumstances. While this still happens I actually find myself studying parts of the scripture. Today is about John 17, let's dive in.
John 17 is amazing in so many ways. First and foremost on my list is that this chapter is composed of prayer. This whole chapter is one big prayer from Jesus to God. Let me tell you right now that I don't know if I have ever prayed the way that Jesus prayed. My prayer life is pretty standard. Thanks for the day, please help in different things, amen. Those are my prayers in a nutshell. Throughout the day I will send short prayers that are maybe a sentence long of blessings, thanks or aid in situations as they arise. I find most often when I'm dealing with my kids it goes something like this "Please God, give me patience." I pray for patience a lot. What are your prayers like? Let's take the a few minutes to look at how my (maybe our?) prayers are different from Jesus'.
The first thing I noticed about Jesus' prayer is that his whole object is to bring glory to God. He wants God to be glorified through his actions. While I often thank God for the day and the many blessings he has given me, I rarely ask that my actions glorify Him. I don't often come full circle and bring everything back to God. I hope that my actions glorify God, but I don't often ask that what I'm about to do will bring glory to Him. For instance, this year (2016) has been financially very stressful and strained for us. First we fixed our van not once, but twice within a short period of time. After that, within the next couple of weeks (on the coldest day in January) our furnace stopped working so we had to replace it. That pretty used all the savings and more we had set aside to go to Cuba. Bummer! This summer our septic system backed up into our basement bedroom. We needed a whole new septic bed so we had to do that. Our bed is still set up in the guest room and I have a table, not a dresser to store my clothes on. All of this culminated in our signing of a Consumer Proposal. Basically baby bankruptcy. Yet when people ask me how I got through it all my answer was very simple. He knows the plans He's made for me, I just have to trust Him. Sometimes that isn't so easy. This week I'm not sure that we're going to have enough money to put gas in our cars so that we can go to work. I have begun incorporating more of Gods word into my prayers. My more recent ones go something like this:
God, I know you are good and I know you will take care of me. Just like you took care of your
people while they were in the desert and how you make sure that all the animals and plants
have what they need, you will make sure I have what I need too. This week, Lord, our funds are
super low. Please help us get through this Lord. A gas card would be great. In Jesus' name, Amen.
I have an assurance that God will provide for us, it's right in the bible. I just have to trust.
The second part of Jesus' prayer is for his disciples. He doesn't pray for the world because he knows that the world doesn't understand him. He also knows what's going to happen next and how much these people will need to rely on God. He prays for their unity together, with God. According to my Google search on unity here is the definition of unity - a state of being united or joined as a whole. To further that I looked up united - in harmony or agreed. Therefore unity means a stated of being in harmony. A state of working well together because you agree. Unity is important in the bible because God wants us to have a united front. If His people have a problem holding together of course they're going to be called hypocrites. We need to put ourselves aside, and let God be shown. Easier said that done. That's where the Holy Spirit comes in. Maybe you refer to it as a conscience? He directs you down the right path.
The concept of unity comes back again in the final section of Jesus' prayer. As he is prayer for all believers, that includes you and me, he prayers for unity. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-- I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (v. 22-23). It's not just a passing phase, it's a way of life. To live in unity with others. It's hard, I know. Trust me, I know. Perhaps the first step is to pick up the phone and apologize to someone. Maybe it's going to see that family member that really upset you or vice versa. After all, how are we supposed to show unity when we have conflict in our own lives? If you are convicted to give someone a call or go see them, do it. Put your pride aside and listen to the Holy Spirit. He is guiding you down the path where your actions will glorify God in so many ways.
I feel as though I should make a disclaimer right off the hop here. I have fallen behind in writing posts to match up with the daily readings. However! I am still completing the daily readings. The time change has certainly helped because it's not dark at 7am anymore so I get up a lot easier. So while I'm not keeping up with this part of the challenge I do make a point to complete the readings before I leave for work in the morning. I can truthfully say that it has helped me stay grounded and close to God throughout the day. Here's a great example.
On Saturday I got pulled over by a police officer. What makes it weird for me is that I wasn't speeding and I was obeying all the laws of the road. I actually thought it was a joke (I have a joker cousin who is an officer) and when he pulled in behind me I thought perhaps something terrible had happened and this was the only way I could be reached. Don't laugh. It happens. Anyway, long story short (too late) my license had expired. I had no idea. None. Zip. Zilch. Nadda. Imagine my chagrin when this lovely officer handed me a ticket... for $325. Ugh!! While he had been writing the ticket I used the opportunity to explain to my children that even though I didn't realize my license was expired it was my responsibility to keep my ID's up to date. We have been trying to teach them responsibility for a long time and this was a great object lesson. When he handed me the ticket I didn't get angry (I was still in shock) and I didn't say anything rude. Perhaps I made a comment about a $325 ticket right before Christmas. I mean, come on! That's a huge slice of the pie of our income. So the officer started telling me about Option 2 (guilty but hoping for a lesser fine). From the backseat we hear a very exasperated "UGGHHH!!! We're NEVER going to get home!!!" My son, who's 6. I turned and assured him it wouldn't be much longer then turned back to the officer and muttered a "Sorry about that". Looking back I'm glad I was able to model my walk with Jesus in that situation. Afterwards, well, I'm afraid to say my mind got away from me and I couldn't control it so I eventually went for a nap.
I'm using this example because this chapter in John talks about the Holy Spirit and how it will work in your life. The world will persecute us. Satan will target us, much like I felt targeted on Saturday but we can't let the world bring us down. This chapter ends with one of my favourite verses. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world! (v. 33) The world will try to hurt you and bring you down but take heart, Jesus has already taken care of all of that. We just need to know to put our trust in Him.
This is a short entry and maybe I didn't do John 16 justice. Help me out by sharing some of the things that you took away from this chapter.
In case you didn't know, John 15 is where we find the speech Jesus makes about being the vine and God being the true gardener. I'm one of those people that knows the stories of the bible and I know roughly where to find them (Joseph is in Genesis) but when it comes to the new testament I flounder a bit. I know what the bible says, just not where it says it. That is why this study in John has helped me so much! I can associate great teachings with the chapter to find them in. I think this is a big step. It's neat that in my prayers I can now pray actual verses instead of floundering through and making references to stories.
In this reference to vines and branches Jesus wasn't talking about an actual tree. He was talking about his followers. Even the branches that bear fruit will be pruned so as to be more fruitful. Do you know what pruning is? It's cutting parts of a tree off with a sharp implement. I'm not a tree, but I'd have to imagine that having pieces of me cut away would be quite painful. I think that's the point. In the book of Job, Job suffers. A lot. Why? Because he's seen as a righteous man. It's easy to be righteous when everything is going well for you, argues Satan. As a result many, many trials and tribulations happen to Job. I'm not going to spoil it for you, you'll have to read it yourself. I do know that the end result of pruning is that the plant bears more fruit. That means that during trials we turn to God and continue to glorify Him even when things aren't going great for us. It can be hard yet this is done so that we can become more fruitful. We may not know why something is happening for a long time. I have faith that God will use my situations to bring glory to Him and that's all that matters to me.
One of the verses that grabbed my attention was verse thirteen. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew that the sentiment he had just shared was going to be carried out by him. That he was going to die for his friends. How many of us, knowing something like this in advance, would be willing to go through with it? I mean, lets face it. Sometimes our friends, well, they don't turn out to be our friends. How many of us have felt the sting of Judas' in our lives? Yet Jesus is willing to go to his death, even for Judas. For people he had never met, but knew the number of hairs on their head.
I know that I have a pretty checkered past. I did some really stupid things in the era of irresponsibility. Sure, I loved it then. Not now though. That's why I volunteer my Thursday evenings to work with the teenagers of my church. I don't want them to make the same decisions I made. I want to help them anyway I can to steer them away from the path I went down and stay true to themselves and to God. Yet even before all of my past Jesus hung on that cross for me. Knowing what choices I would make. Staying in spite of my shortcomings. That is greater love.
Jesus loves us and he appoints us. He wants us to go and share his story. How? By sharing our story. You don't have to know the bible, you just have to know yourself. Jesus came to teach us. To show us the way to interact with each other and the world. He didn't come because we already knew. People will wear you down arguing the bible with you but they can't argue your experience. They can't say you didn't go through something or that your story is fake. Especially if they knew you before you started to follow Jesus. The changes in you will speak more than your words. Set an example with how Jesus changed your life. Jesus finishes in John 15 by talking about how the world hates him. They have seen and yet they have hated both me and my Father (v. 24). I want to live a life that people wonder what's wrong with me. Yesterday I talked about forgiving a man who sexually abused me. Who does that!? A person who wants to walk closer with Jesus and become more like Him. That's who.
Is this something you strive for? What did you take away from John 15?
Do not let your hearts be troubled. That is how John 14 starts. Friends, sometimes it is so easy to let our minds be hurt by the world. We worry. We stew. We formulate ways we would have handled situations better. I have a really bad way of letting things get to me. Add to that that I have been clinically diagnosed with depression and it can be hard to stay afloat. My reaction to big events that upset me is to go have a nap because when I'm sleeping I don't have to think about what's bothering me. It's actually a symptom of depression. Some people choose to drink their problems away, I just sleep. Neither one of these options is following the command in verse 1. If you think about it, it is a command. Don't let things of the world trouble your hearts. Believe in God, believe in Jesus. Cast your cares at the foot of the cross.
This is also the chapter in John where Jesus makes the statement I am the way, the truth and the life (v. 6). Yet even after saying all that he's still met with unbelief. Show us the father, says Philip. We need another miracle, we don't quite believe just yet (opinion, not fact). Do something more for our benefit so that we can see unbelievable things. Isn't that just like us? I know I have this problem. It's like "Ok God, you did a great thing back there, but if you could just do some more, that'd be great." God isn't at our beck and call though and he shouldn't be. What He does is amazing. Look around you and see all the wonderful miracles. For me, it was calling me back, taming my potty mouth and so many other events both before and after he called me. My husband often shares the story of how when we met he had this "just wait and see" feeling about me. (I was an atheist.) Seven years later I did a complete about face. It was nothing short of a "God thing" because there's no way I could have done that on my own.
One of the verses that I really liked was You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (v. 14). I don't take this as an invitation to ask for everything. I think it's cool that Jesus intercedes for us with God. When we ask in his name it's like adding that final bam to our prayer. Thanks God for all you do, please bless so and so, please do this, please do that - In the name of Jesus. Boom! Amen, so be it. Jesus cares about what occupies our hearts. Maybe it's a mission trip to another country, or help in your own home with your kids. Jesus sees it all and he knows what your heart song is. All you have to do is ask in his name. Now don't get me wrong. We may ask, but the answer may be no or not now. I think that God wants us in certain places before granting our prayers. Diamonds need pressure to materialize. Sand needs heat to become glass. We need shaping to become more like Jesus and isn't that what we, as Christians, are really striving for?
The last part of John 14 is speaking about the Holy Spirit. I think it's interesting that Jesus actually references the fact that the world doesn't know the Holy Spirit. It makes sense doesn't it? A lot of people don't understand how followers of Jesus can withstand some trials and still have hope. Sometimes people come to Jesus because they see something in their friend and they want it. I want to be the type of person that's like that. I want people to look at me and think - I want what she has. That doesn't mean losing myself completely, just smoothing some of the rough parts. The Holy Spirit is in us to convict us. Have you every experienced that? Sometimes it's like a punch in the gut. Sometimes it's bringing someone from your past back into your life so that you can process bad emotions and offer forgiveness.
That happened to me. When I was 12 my grandfather's best friend "noticed" me. One evening at their house my grandfather left the room and his friend saw the opportunity and took it. It didn't last long, but I was violated and I knew what happened was wrong. Fast forward about 16=17 years and I walked into my church and right into the same man. He was over 90 years old now, but for me, the time hadn't passed. The emotions were still there and still raw. I went straight to my pastor with what had happened. Not just for me, for the young girls of the church. I didn't want this man to have the opportunity with them that he'd had with me. My pastor told me I had 2 choices; I could forgive as Jesus forgave me which would be great. Or I could not offer forgiveness, which was completely acceptable given what happened between us. After 8 months I went to see the man, with my pastor at my side, and offered him forgiveness. Not only that, I had made a forgiveness shawl especially for him as a token of my forgiveness. The next night he called my pastor to come back to see him and recommitted himself to Jesus. The man passed away a few months ago. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to offer my forgiveness.
God has a way of working everything in our life for His glory. Even the bad things. That's when God is truly glorified.
How has the Holy Spirit worked in your life lately? What did you think of John 14 - any favourite passages? Share them in the comments.
You know the saying, the grass is always greener on the other side? This is my attempt to find greener grass right where I am in my life.
BTW - I'm the one on the right, just in case you didn't already know that.