Friday, June 26, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-26 [John's Portraits of Christ] 7. Water of Life

7. Water of Life

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John7:37-39
John 7 is all about Jesus attending the Feast of Tabernacles which is one of the three main festivals in Israel's liturgical calendar and took place around end September. The feast is both agricultural in that it celebrates the in-gathering of the harvest and spiritual in that it commemorates the time that God provided for the Israelites as they travelled for 40 years from Egypt to the promised land.

It is the most joyful of the three major feasts. A significant part of the proceedings was that the priests would collect water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out as a libation (drink offering) in the temple courts. During the pouring of water (and wine) it was tradition to sing Ps 118 which is a Messianic Psalm (parts of which were quoted at the triumphal entry.)

Jesus' brothers had urged him to perform His miracles in Jerusalem at the feast. Jesus declined and only joined the week long feast toward the end. He didn't perform any miracles, but there was fierce debate and although Jesus clearly hinted at His identity as the Messiah, He was not arrested. When the Pharisees asked the "temple police" why they didn't arrest Him, their answer was: "No one ever spoke the way this man does."

On the last day of the Feast, and we can only imagine that it was as the water libation was being poured out that Jesus shouted out the powerful invitation to come to Him for living water.

Living Water.
This is a theme that already came up in John 4 with the Samaritan woman. It's a theme that goes back to Ezekiel 47 where we find a vision of water flowing from the temple, getting deeper and deeper and bringing life wherever it goes.

  • Those who drink it, like the Samaritan woman, find their thirst quenched.
  • Those who drink it find themselves going deeper and deeper in their relationship with God.
  • Those who drink it find that the deserts bloom around them and that dead seas come to life.

Jesus gives Living Water - He gives us His Spirit. When we come to Him - Living water will flow from us.
EmmDevs will take a break for the school hols. I have included the chart from Thompson's Chain Reference Bible so that you can continue reading John if you would like. I'll pick up from ch.8 in the third term. God bless and much love, Theo

Thursday, June 25, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-25 [John's Portraits of Christ] 6. The Bread of Life

6. The Bread of Life

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. John6:10-11
This is the second of three miracles of provision in John: Water into wine, the feeding of the 5000 and the big catch of fish in ch.21.

The miracle is the enacted parable of what Jesus would announce later in the chapter: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

Bread. Even today it is a significant staple foodstuff - but it was even more so in Palestine. It represented survival and people needed it day by day. When Jesus makes reference to Moses and bread from heaven He is referring to the manna that sustained the Israelites in the desert.

But Jesus extends the metaphor from provision to something even deeper. He is not only the bread in the sense of being the provider. He is the bread from heaven come down to earth who will be sacrificed for the sins of the people. In Leviticus bread is also featured in the sacrifices people made in the temple.

And then He takes the image one step further: We have to eat of this bread, we have to partake of Him, we have to participate.

Jesus is the Bread of Life:
- He is the provider and the sustenance of life
- He is the sacrifice that satisfies
- We need to participate in Him and connect to His amazing love.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-24 [John's Portraits of Christ] 5. Great Physician

5. Great Physician

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. John5:5-9
There are many stories of Jesus healing people.
This account of the healing of the paralysed man is a happy-sad one...

The paralysed man is by the pool of Bethesda where, from time to time, the waters of the pool would be stirred and the first person to get into the water would be healed.

Jesus asks the man "Do you want to get well?"
Instead of answering "Yes please - of course I want to get well!" The man launches into a complaint that there was no one to help him get into the water. The man has a shrunken spirit - he believes that the world owes him a favour and he is angry that it won't help him!

But Jesus heals him. There's just one problem though... the healing takes place on a Sabbath and the man gets into trouble with the Pharisees (John calls them "the Jews") for breaking the fourth commandment by picking up his mat on the Sabbath.

The man immediately blames the man who healed him but he doesn't even know who Jesus is and he can't point Him out to the Pharisees.

If we read on in the chapter, we see the sad twist to the story:
"Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well."

Here we see the full extent of Jesus care and love. Not only does Jesus want to heal the man's body, but He wants to heal him from the bitter cynicism that seems to rule his soul. He seeks the man out, and, when He finds him, He warns him to soften his heart. The man, however, decides to throw his lot in with the Pharisees and acts as an informer, betraying Jesus to them.

It's a sad end to the man's story but a beautiful insight into Jesus' persistent pursuit of us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-23 [John's Portraits of Christ] 4. Soul Winner

4. Soul Winner

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."
32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"
34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. John4:28-35
The background to our passage is that Jesus has chosen to walk through Samaria instead of going around it as many Jews would have. He has walked through the heat of the day to get to Sychar in time (He's tired when He gets there) to encounter a woman who avoids the rest of the town by going to draw water in the middle of the day when everyone else is in "siesta mode." He has started a conversation about living water and spiritual thirst and revealed Himself to the woman as the long-awaited Messiah who is available to all who are willing to worship in truthful sincerity. This is a transformational moment for the woman and she leaves her water-fetching task undone to go and tell others the good news.

Our reading picks up where the disciples come back having found provisions but Jesus isn't hungry. He has found satisfaction on a deeper level. I'm convinced that when He said "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" He was looking at the abandoned water jar with a satisfied smile.

Jesus passion was to reach others with God's love.
When we watch Jesus interact with the woman we learn a number of things about His kind of soul-winning:

  1. He was willing to cross barriers. Jews and Samaritans hated each other, but Jesus reaches out to her.
  2. He was willing to put in effort. He walked in the heat of the day to get to Sychar on time to find her at the well.
  3. He initiates a conversation and builds a bridge to her.
  4. He comes across humbly
  5. He confronts her brokenness gently and offers powerful hope.
  6. He leaves the results to the Holy Spirit when He lets her go back into town - as it turns out she brings the whole town back to Him and they too are brought to faith.

How do we feel about reaching others with the gospel?
The closer we are to Jesus, the more important this will be to us...

Friday, June 19, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-19 [John's Portraits of Christ] Divine Teacher

Divine Teacher

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit....
8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.
10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things?....
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John3:5-17
I regularly ask people the following question:
"Who were the teachers that had the most impact on you?"
Almost without fail, the answer boils down to the thought that the teachers who leave the most lasting impression on us are the ones that really cared about us.

Nicodemus was a teacher of the law - supposedly he knew how people could get through to God - but he didn't.

Jesus teaches him:

  • About the Trinity: That the Father is a loving father who gives the Son, who, in spite of being the one and only Son, is lifted up (on the cross) and that the Spirit is at work in our lives like the wind - we can't box Him, predict Him or limit Him.
  • About the need to be born of water and the Spirit - that there has to be a spiritual awakening in our lives. We can't live an earthly life (born of water) and ignore the reality of eternity being whispered in the Wind rustling in the leaves of our lives (to open our hearts to the God of eternity is to be born of Spirit).
  • That God is more about saving than He is about condemning

These lessons were a paradigm change for Nicodemus.
Nicodemus might be tempted to write Jesus off as a crazy nutter.
He might consider Jesus' teachings as pie in the sky or idealistic pipe dreams.

But we meet Nicodemus again... there at the grave of Joseph of Arimithea where they bury the body of Jesus the Teacher. There Nicodemus is confronted with the physical proof that:

  • The Teacher believed so strongly in the Kingdom He proclaimed that He suffered and died for it.
  • The Teacher, like the Father, cared for and loved us enough to die for us.
  • The Teacher, by being condemned in our place, demonstrated in actions that God's agenda is to save.

Jesus is the ultimate Teacher: Genuine, Caring and Consistent.
He gave His life because He loved us!!!
Let's worship Him with love, gratitude and adoration!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-18 [John's Portraits of Christ] 2. Son of Man

2. Son of Man

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." 4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." John2:1-4
We know the story of the wedding feast in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine to rescue a young couple from the embarrassment of being bad hosts. It is the first of Jesus' public miracles recorded by John (and in his gospel John only records seven miracles).

At the end of ch.1, just before this account, Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Then John takes us straight into the wedding feast account and he will go on to use this phrase a dozen times.

What does the phrase mean?
In the Old Testament the phrase also appears often in the book of Ezekial and is commonly translated "mortal man". This gives us a useful insight: The idea behind "Son of Man" is someone who is very very human. Someone who is connected to the frailty and mortality of human kind.

When used of Jesus the phrase is even more poignant because, although He takes on our humanity, He does so without the self-centredness that plagues our sin-broken humanness. Mark reminds us that the "Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

Jesus and all his disciples have been invited to the wedding. His disciples were a rag-tag bunch, fisherman, tax-collectors and zealots and yet Jesus was so loved by this couple that they invited his disciples too. "If they're good enough to be his disciples then they're welcome at our wedding." This gives us a picture of the attractive humanity of Jesus.

Jesus' apparent resistance to helping is only apparent, because He provides abundant wine for the wedding. The issue is that He is thinking of another wedding, where the Church is the Bride and He is the Groom. To provide wine for that wedding was going to cost His body and blood and Jesus is very aware of that cost. It's a time that He knows is coming.

Son of Man.
Really human.
Attractively human.
Unselfishly human.
Giving this couple wine for their celebration knowing that one day He will pay a big price.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-17 [John's Portraits of Christ] 1. Son of God

(Apologies for the delay in the re-start of the EmmDevs - I was struggling to choose the next theme!)

I eventually settled on looking at 21 portraits of Jesus from the 21 chapters in John's gospel. The inspiration for this comes from a chart in the the reference tools found in the Thompson's Chain Reference Bible...)

1. Son of God

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John1:14

John 1 is like the overture of a theatrical musical. An overture is the introduction and sets the stage and mood, but it also gives one some sense of the main moments of the story.

John's prologue in ch.1 does this magnificently. Here are some highlights from the chapter as a whole:

  • He opens with "In the beginning was the Word..." and we are taken all the way back to Genesis 1.
  • We are reminded of John the Baptist who is Jesus' forerunner and gives the gospel story historical credibility. John the Baptist is also the one who reveals God's agenda for us - to be witnesses of the light.
  • Jesus is introduced as the Light of the world, the God revealer and the very life of humankind,
  • He is the un-understood and un-recognised Messiah who was crucified by a corrupt and blind religious system
  • He transforms people bringing them from death to life - to being born of God.

But I want to concentrate on our verse for the day:
John has already told us that Jesus is the Word who is with God and is God. He has told us that Jesus is the light and life of humanity. But there's a twist to this majestic tale: The Son of God, magnificent and mighty, humbles Himself to become flesh - to enter Mary's womb, to be a holy embryo, to dwell among us. Eugene Peterson translates this thought as "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood."

One would think that moving into the neighbourhood would lower Him to our standards - that'd He'd be cheapened by His connection with us. But this is not the case: John declares that the "divine self-lowering" of Jesus actually exalts Him.
And here's why: Where Adam and Eve grabbed for more power, Jesus chose to obey God even if it meant humbling Himself and having less power.

Jesus obeyed His Father and, for our sake, He gave His life.
Jesus deity is recognised by John, not only because of His divine identity, but also because of His sacrifice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-03 [Pentecost 2015] Yes, but how??

Yes, but how??

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.     (Ephesians 5:18)
Leading up to and following Pentecost we've looked at the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. We've explored various images that help us understand His work in our lives.

The question that remains is, how does this happen?
How do we experience the working of the Spirit?

The biblical answer is that we must be filled with the Spirit.
Paul uses a helpful analogy: Being filled with the Spirit is similar to intoxication. To be full of alcohol is to be controlled by it - to a great degree you don't have the alcohol, it has you. To be full of alcohol is to keep drinking.

The same is true of the Spirit.
Being filled with the Spirit is to let Him have control in your life.
To be filled is to keep drinking.
To be filled is not so much how much of the Spirit you have, but how much He has of you.

Other biblical concepts are: trust, waiting, abiding (remaining), being baptised (immersed, soaked, saturated) and keeping in step. That's what these verses are about:

  • Isaiah 30:15: This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
    "In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
  • Isaiah 49:29-31: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
    30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
    31 but those who hope (wait) in the LORD will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
  • John 15:5-7: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains(abides) in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
  • Acts 1:4-5: On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
  • Galatians 5:25: Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

It's all about a relationship. About responding.

  • Letting the wind blow in your sails,
  • allowing the stream to flow from your life
  • giving the fire space to burn in your heart because it won't consume you
  • trusting the One who walks beside you
  • being confident that you are sealed as a son or daughter
  • knowing that He will give you the language to cross the gaps
  • being transformed by His love.

You've had the theory and some idea of the practice - no recipes and no incantations - now take the risks and invite Him in.
Raise your sail and see where the Wind takes you!!!
That concludes our Pentecost series. We'll take a break until Tuesday... Any suggestions for the next series?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

EmmDev 2015-06-02 [Pentecost 2015] Transformation


Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans8:5
How long do your new year's resolutions last?

Most of us will admit that we promise to do all sorts of things: Eat less, exercise more, stress less and so on... but we struggle to act on our good intentions. We tend to struggle to cultivate good habits and easily fall into bad ones.

While many of us would argue that we are generally good, it seems that brokenness is like a gorilla that hides in the cupboard and jumps out when we least expect it. We want to be pleasing to God, but then we do things that sabotage the progress we have made.

It's easy to get depressed and frustrated by this. Paul calls the cupboard gorilla the "old man" and he wrestles with the brokenness and darkness that his sinful nature brings into his life. In Romans 7 he comes to the peak of his frustration and exclaims - "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

Then, in ch.8 he introduces us to the beautiful and comforting truth that we do not have to try and be good and righteous and holy by ourselves, but that we can live by the transforming power of God's Spirit. We can make better choices and answer to a higher calling.

This doesn't happen instantly and it isn't that the Holy Spirit is a body snatcher, but rather that we learn to walk in step with the Spirit, listening to His prompting and waiting for His strength.

And so the promise in Philippians 1:6 is very apt: [Paul prays...] "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."