Read: John 20.24-29
Very often, doubting Thomas is spoken of in a negative connotation. “I’ll never be like him!” Even when I heard him mentioned in a recent sermon, my first thought was, “what an unfortunate way to be remembered.” Doubting. My next thought was that though he is known by that name, Doubting Thomas, he was still one of God’s twelve disciples and did believe in the risen Savior. Great news for us!
Thomas said that unless he has concrete proof that Jesus had resurrected, he would not be convinced. Think of this, how often does that happen in our own lives, both as lost people and as believers? Concrete proof. As if the breath in our lungs, the sun rising in the sky, the rain that waters this earth, or the very accurate and historically proven Word of God isn’t proof enough. Jesus tells Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen and do believe.” (vs 29) Do not the words of Jesus still ring true? All God wants is for us to believe, to trust, that what He already did for us is sufficient. It happened. whether or not a person thinks it did or even if someone decides to flat out reject God’s salvation. And he gives us constant and clear proof. And yet… sometimes when I can’t see how my problems will be remedied or how I will go on, I become “doubting Katie.” Even though God has proven His provision, His faithfulness, His love, and His mercy time and time and time again… I still have the audacity (and stupidity) to doubt God.
In what ways do you become a “doubting Thomas” and how many ways can you list how God has been faithful to you? At what point do we just trust God, which is one of many things that He is deserving of. Or will we be remembered as the doubting Christian?
Every day. Every circumstance. Every time.
Read: John 15.1-8
I’m not going to lie to you, this passage is very difficult for me. I have a hard time it, and the last thing I desire is to misinterpret God’s Word and then post it on the inter webs for all the world to see. At the same time, I think it would be an injustice to skip over it completely. It is okay for you to see me struggle, just as it is okay to not have the answers to everything. So I am going to put what is in my heart about it, and I hope that you look at it, pray about it, study it out for yourself, and let me know what you think about it!
There is such beautiful imagery here. I think of swirling and intricate vines spreading out and taking over. These vines all come from one source... Jesus. God is the husbandman, tending to the branches and the fruit that [should] come with. Where it gets a bit “choppy” for me is verse 2. I know, I didn’t have to go far to be confused! Verse 2 states, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he take the away...” and this sentiment is repeated again in verse 6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
I’m sorry...what? Now, I have heard these verses explain in two primary ways. The first being wrong, wrong, wrong. There are people who use this verse to support the heretical idea that you can lose your salvation. Let me state where I Biblically and firmly stand on that heresy: you CANNOT LOSE YOUR SALVATION. Listen, dears, you can’t save yourself so when did anyone become powerful enough to pluck themselves out of God’s hand. Anywhom, that isn’t the dead horse I want to beat today. Main point being I clearly don’t give any thought towards that interpretation of this passage.
The second way I’ve heard it explained is that the branches that are taken off of the Vine represent people who have made a profession of faith but aren’t really saved; people who are “playing” Christian. This is probably the most common way that I have heard it interpreted, and since I don’t agree with the alternative view concerning these verses (see above so I don’t hop back on that soapbox), I just went with this view. But upon closer examination, specifically while trying to write this post the first time what feels like a year ago, I had to halt because the explanation was giving me fits and some things just weren’t clicking for me. For this passage, the idea that gave me pause was the concept of “false” Christians being a part of the Vine that is Christ. So bear with me while I try to explain how I came to this conclusion.
Verse 4a says, “Abide in me (Jesus), and I in you.” That tells me that the branches on the Vine are abiding in Christ, pretty self explanatory at this point. Here is my question, how can someone who is NOT a Christian abide in Christ, or be on the Vine in the first place? I know that God is not deceived by people who claim to be Christian but are not, so how did they manage to get on the Vine? But then I thought about passages like Romans 11.11-24. (I urge you to go read the passage for yourself, this will be waiting here for you to return.) The passage talks about how through the failure of Israel to recognise Jesus as the Messiah, salvation is come to the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy and ultimately to repentance. Continuing on, it talks about some of the branches of that root/tree being broken off and us (Gentiles) as a wild olive tree, being graffed among the other branches of this tree.
I think it is important to remember that at the time Christ was speaking in John 15, he hadn’t died and resurrected yet, and His ministry was still to Israel. Everyone there during this conversation was an Old Testament Jew. Could it be then, that Jesus was talking about the branches being Israel? Because they have, since God ordained them as His chosen people long ago, abode in Christ. And if that is the case, then would it not make more sense for the branches that are broken off to represent Jewish people who rejected Jesus as the Messiah? For me, this makes more sense contextually, Biblically, and chronologically in the context of Christ’s conversation to not be aimed at Gentile Christians since that focus didn’t come until after His resurrection (think Paul, missionary to the Gentiles).
At at the end of the day, God meant what he meant no matter what any of us perceive it to be. And I do believe that we can look for practical applications of this passage as Gentile Christians, such as:
1. One of the marks of a Christian is that they bear fruit. If a person who claims to be Christian isn’t bearing fruit, maybe a good hard look at their faith is in order.
2. We may (as Christians) be purged or trimmed up to rid us of things that are distracting us or getting in the way of us bearing fruit.
3. Yes, being purged (which is not the same as a branch being taken away) will hurt, but we know that God has our best at heart.
I may may be right, I may be wrong, but I trust that God knows what it going on in the Word that He wrote. I am interested to read what you think these verses mean, leave a comment below!!!
Hey everybody. I’m Arielle and I will be your guide for John Ch. 14 this evening (morning, afternoon. Whatever floats your boat.) Katie was nice enough to let fill in for her this time :) So let’s get started shall we?
I want to say right of the bat that Chapter 14 is a continuation of 13. (I know, so obvious right?) What I mean by this is that there is no time lapse between the end of chapter 13 and the beginning of 14. I know for me the end of a chapter usually marks the end of a series of events. So I wanted to clarify that this is not the case. Jesus just dropped a major bombshell about future tragedy and betrayal and the disciples are shell shocked right now. Cue second act.
Chapter 14 begins with comfort and a promise.
“14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”
In the previous chapter Jesus revealed to Simon Peter that he was going to flake out on him not once but three times in the near future. I’m sure at this point Peter was quite upset. Jesus understood this. Verse one is Jesus telling Peter not to worry about it, He doesn’t doubt his faith. (For me this is more evidence of Jesus forgiving nature)
Verse two immediately dives into a promise. “I go to prepare a place for you; Where I am, there you will be as well.” Jesus is still speaking directly to Peter at this point. It’s a promise telling Peter that he still has a place at Jesus’ side despite everything that will be happening shortly. Verses two through four set the tone of comfort and reassurance for the rest of the chapter. A promise of not being abandoned.
The first four verses Jesus is laying to rest the fears of his followers. The next ten (5-14)
Jesus is preparing to shift the mindset of his disciples. When I read this the first time I shook my head because I love it when Jesus sasses the twelve. (It gives me hope for me own attitude some days) Thomas and Phillip both say things that at first made me want to bash my head against the wall. Thomas first with his question “How can we know where to go when we don’t know where you’re going?” Then Phillips arrogant (I felt) demand of “show us the father and it will be good enough for us. I really thought I understood Jesus’ exasperation with these two (vs. 7 and 9) But then I realized that my perspective is aided by hindsight. In the year of 2018 we have always had the benefit and presence of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection. For us it’s like watching a movie when you’ve already read the book. We already know.
This isn’t true for the disciples. At this point in their lives everything pertaining to their faith has been tangible. Before Jesus arrived on the scene they had to give sacrifices and strictly observe the Sabbath and other holy holidays. Then when they met Jesus they witnessed first hand his power. Presented with such concrete evidence they had no reason not to expect anything else. So the idea of no longer having a physical presence to follow was actually pretty hard to swallow. Furthermore at this point they had very little interaction with the Father and absolutely none with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is mentally prepping the disciples for this dramatic shift in their faith because it was a major step forward for them. This also cements how Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. (I think Jesus’ life motto is forewarned is fair armed.) Jesus has already dropped several hints before this (not to mention flat out statements) to this effect but it still hadn’t fully sunk in. (Hence sassy Jesus)
The latter half of the chapter focuses on (vs. 15-31) future events. Verses 15-18 is a more in depth explanation of the function and role of the Holy Spirit. The Comforter that will abide with us and in us forever. An entity especially for all believers. Basically the Holy Spirit is stepping into the vacancy that Jesus will leave behind. Once he explains the function of the Spirit to the disciples Jesus begins to outline his future plans in exact detail. How he will be back but only for a little while. What I think is hilarious is how Jesus specifically tells the disciples all of these things with the express purpose of being able to say “I told you so” later. (19-20)
Judas NOT Iscariot asks an important question in verse 22. “How will you manifest to us and not the world?” (verbatim) Jesus answered by saying if you love him you’ll keep his commandments and in turn the Father will love you and abide with you. And vice versa. Now this sounds very conditional “I’ll love you if you love me” but I don’t think that is the case. I think that our love for Christ is His manifestation. Have you ever met someone and after only a few minutes of being with them you realize beyond a shadow of doubt that this person loves Jesus? You just want to stand next to them and bask in their zeal for the Lord because it feels so wholesome. God’s love for us is unconditional but it’s only truly felt when we open ourselves up to it. That’s the impression I’m left with anyways. (Feel free to comment your opinions!) (22-25)
I have to tell you, verse 26 is extremely comforting for me. The Comforter will be sent and he will teach you ALL things. Not just teach you but also brings things to your remembrance. Basically the Holy Spirit is your daily reminder for all things important. I appreciate this so much simply because brain farts are my worst enemy. I live in South Korea and am attempting to learn the language. I have sat in classes. I have textbooks and podcasts. None of that does me any good when I’m staring the cashier in the face and cannot for the life of me remember the word for trash bag. It’s hard. So the promise of not just being taught but reminded when I need it is incredible. (disclaimer: Being reminded doesn’t do you any good if you ignore it. Kinda like turning off your alarm and rolling back over to sleep.)
What really stood out to me at the end of this chapter is Jesus’ care and consideration for his followers. At this point he was literally days away from being hung on a cross but he used his remaining time to care and soothe the twelve. Verse 27 to the end of the chapter Jesus is reassuring them. He is promising them peace; not just any peace or peace as we understand it but His peace. (The best kind) Naturally this is followed by the encouragement to not be afraid.
He finishes his speech (and meal) by bringing everything full circle.
“ Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence”
“Yes I’m leaving. Yes I’ll be back. Yes I’ll say I told you so. (with love of course) Don’t panic, It’s all under control. Jesus’ message in a nutshell. It still applies today though. It might not feel like it some days but Jesus has given us everything we need to follow him. He really is the ultimate teacher. He answered all of his disciples questions. Gave them opportunities to grow and reassurance that everything will be ok; because of this we should confidently live our lives in Christ.
P.S. Guys when I asked Katie if I could write this commentary for her I thought it would take me two days tops. A week and a half later I finally finished. This was super hard so mad props to Katie for everything she has done for us.
Read: John 13.18-38
Imagine being at a party know someone their would be the catalyst for your death. How would you behave? Would you treat that person any differently?
This is exactly Jesus’ situation. He is observing the Passover dinner with His twelve disciples, one of which will betray Him. He does call out him out not by name, but rather by action. Jesus states who it is so they may have yet have another thing by which to believe Jesus is the Messiah.
John - “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus - “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.”
Immediately after this public revelation to the group, Jesus tells Judas to go do what he must do. And get this… though the question was answered directly, the disciples still had NO clue who the betrayer was!
I personally believe that we Jesus said there was someone in that room who would betray Him, there was enough uproar, pointing fingers, and defending self, that they just plain missed it.
This reminds me of my own life. How many times God give us instruction, but we make such a big deal of it, that we actually miss what He is trying to show us? In my life, too many times.
Or we can go the route of Peter and be haughty in our declarations of loyalty. “Well, I would never betray you” or “I would die for you!” Words are nice, but we have always been taught that actions speak louder than words. And we ought to remember that God can see straight through into our hearts. I can think of so many stories where people promise something to God even up to giving up our lives and surrendering to His will, but when the time comes and it is required of us, we hold on a little harder or try to talk our way out of the situation.
This is a lesson Peter himself had to learn. I can just see Him, chest puffed out, “I will lay down my life for thy sake.” And Jesus knowingly, and probably a bit sadly, tells Peter that He will deny Him three times before the morning comes. Now, it doesn't have Peter’s response, but I wouldn't be surprised if he inwardly rolled his eyes, or scoffed to himself thinking that would never happen. But as most of us know, this prophesy does come true.
Just as Jesus humbly washed the disciples feet, let us humbly give our lives to Christ. Dear friend, we are not doing God any favors; it is our privilege to serve the Almighty.
Finally, Jesus takes some time to lay out a new commandment to the disciples, to love one another as Christ loved them. This is so practical in our daily lives. Love isn't easy but it is required. Let’s ask ourselves, do we love others like Christ loves us? Can you imagine what the world would look like if we did? Not in a kumbaya sense like one might think because Jesus did reprove and rebuke His disciples and others, but it was all done in love.
Jesus says the world would know that we are His disciples, by our love. I look at the world today and see that for the most part, this isn't the picture Christians are sending out. We are not responsible for all, but we can control ourselves. Let us actively try to show love to each and every person we come across so that we may show them Christ.
Read: John 13.1-17
Passover dinner. A room of 13. Jesus’ last free moments with His disciples.
One might think that Jesus would spend this time for many other things like witnessing or ministering. Instead, one of the first things that Jesus does in these moments is to wash the feet of His disciples. These men who wholeheartedly dedicated the last three years of their lives to literally follow Christ. These men who by all means should be washing the feet of Jesus. And yet, Jesus takes the time to SERVE them, even Judas who he knew would betray Him.
There are so many things that could be unpacked from this passage, but I'd like to keep it simple. Jesus did not shy away from serving others, He didn't even think He was above serving others. He gladly served, and He should be our example.
In a world that is run by a selfish this for that system, when was the last time you served someone with no expectation of a return or even without desiring a pat on the back? It's so simple. Just a task here or there. Reaching something for someone on a high shelf, taking a meal to a family, doing something sweet for a loved one just because.
There is a way to be be like Jesus… Simply Serve.
This week, I challenge you to do something, or better yet, several somethings, for others without any expectation.
Read John 12.10-18
From verses 10-11, we know (and have known) that the chief priests have been conspiring to kill Jesus. But verse 12 is sort of a plot twist. As Jesus was coming into Jerusalem, the people threw down palm branches to make way for the Lord and cried Hosanna to praise Him.
Jesus knew the time was coming for His death, but the people were praising Him because they thought He was coming as a literal ruler to break them from Roman rule. As per usual, the people were looking for an immediate and physical fix to their problems. Jesus was trying to point them to the eternal solution.
Unfortunately, this is how society treats Jesus today. They want Jesus to heal, fix, and give RIGHT NOW! And those Jesus can do these things and does answer prayers, it is so important for Christians to remember that the end game is saving souls from an eternity separated from God. We shouldn't let our praise to God be situational and only when we think He has done well by us and “earned” it. We should praise God continually.
Each breath is a gift, and each day is a blessing, even in impossibly hard situations. Compared to eternity, when we look back at our lives now, we will see how quick this life was even if it feels like forever now.
Read: John 12.1-9
Many times, when doing things for God, we, as Christians, are ridiculed and mocked. Or sometimes, people criticize our deeds because they don’t understand or for many other reasons.
That must have been how Mary, Lazarus’ sister, felt at the beginning of this chapter… ridiculed and mocked. During a dinner, Mary brought in some very expensive and fragrant ointment and used it to annoint Jesus’ feet. Afterwards, she used her hair to wipe His feet off. Nowadays in orthodox Jewish culture, a woman’s hair is meant for her husband’s eyes only. The women will oftentimes wear a wig in public. I can’t say for this specific time in history, but I think that we can agree that this was a very intimate act of humility. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people at that dinner were curious and maybe a little uncomfortable at what was happening in front of them, and one person even said something out loud.
Judas, the betrayer, pipes up and exclaims that Mary should have sold that ointment for quite a bit of money and given it to the poor. You may initially agree with Judas, but he mainly vocalized this because he was the keeper of the purse, a snake, and a thief.
Notice Mary’s response.
Exactly. Nothing. She may not have known the significance of her actions. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were doing this to praise Jesus because He brought her brother, Lazarus, back to life. But when someone stood against her actions, instead of getting loud mouthed and spouting back, she just silently endured. And you know what? Jesus came to her defense. He honored her actions, knew she was sincere in her worship, surveyed what was happening, and stood up for Mary.
When God calls us to action, we may be scared of what others think, but it doesn’t really matter. Being obedient to God’s call is more important than others opinions. We can also remember that when people speak out against us for standing for God, we don’t have to worry about defending ourselves and our situation, God can do that all on His own.
The events in John 11 are so powerful, and if we are willing, it can teach us a lesson. This story of Lazarus and Jesus is typically well known and well preached. There are even songs written about it!
For some reason though, when I read this passage, prayer comes to mind. Which seems like a stretch or maybe you can see the connection right off, but I hope to make it very clear by the end of this.
At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus receives news that Lazarus is sick. It is then observed that Jesus stayed two more day where He was. I think we all know that Jesus could have healed Lazarus, and that he loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha very well. So why did He tarry?
The answer is given in verses 4 and 11. Jesus declares that this sickness was unto the glory of God and that He would “awake him out of sleep.” Please remember that often in the Bible, “sleep” refers to death. Even the disciples had to be told by Jesus that Lazarus was dead and not resting.
Fast forward. Jesus shows up. Martha runs to meet Jesus and says that if He’d only been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus assures Martha that if she believes in Him, she will see her brother again. And in a rare turn of events, Martha was thinking the very future resurrection of the saints while Jesus was talking presently and literally.
Mary then runs to Jesus and basically says the same thing, “if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!” (loosely paraphrased) She begins to weep and so does Jesus. He was greatly troubled at the sadness of those around Him. They take Him to the grave, He prays, and then He speaks, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus does is fact come out, even bound in his grave clothes.
Mary and Martha called upon Jesus knowing He could change the situation. Jesus answered, but He did so in His own time. The women were distraught because Jesus didn’t come right away, but in His delayed answer, Jesus was able to bring glory to God.
We, as Christians, pray and pray and pray. We often want God to answer RIGHT NOW!!! And we are usually so disappointed when He doesn’t immediately give us our desires. But what we don’t realize is that God knows all things, including every outcome of our prayers. We may see “no” or “not right now” but we have no idea what God is doing. He might be protecting us from something or growing us in a specific area for a purpose, or any number of things really. We just have to trust that God knows what He’s doing and acknowledge that His way is infinitely better than what we could dream up for ourselves.
So now, when I pray, I pray that overall, God’s will is done. Because you never know when God is going to do something miraculous, you just have to be willing to let it happen.
Read: John 10.15-40
As we continue in verse 15, Jesus is stating that He will lay down His life for the sheep. I love the important truth that Jesus has for us in verse 17-18, “...because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again…”
We have got to understand that Jesus was making a sacrifice for us. He knew that He must die, and He chose to die knowing that He would rise again and that we may live eternally with HIm. Moreover, He even gives us a choice as well. Jesus doesn’t force us to accept His gift no matter how much it must hurt to see people throw His sacrifice away.
Jesus goes on to explain in verses 27-29 that His sheep will not perish, and get this, no man will be able to pluck His sheep out of His hand. Please hear this, if you are a Christian, a true follower of Christ, no one can take your salvation or make you unsaved.... Not even yourself.
There are a lot of religions and even “Christian” denominations out there that teach their people that you can lose your salvation. Let me ask you this, who are we to think that we are more powerful than God?
We are just men whose salvation depends on the Faithful One. Our only choice is to accept or reject His gift. Christianity is not works based because there is NOTHING we could to earn God’s favor. To think we can work or earn our way to heaven or that we could lose our salvation is to think very highly of ourselves and not very highly of God.
God is more powerful, more loving, more just than anything we could imagine. So I pray that the choice you’ve made is with our Creator, to follow Him to eternity. I also pray that as believers, we can be CONFIDENT that Christ took care of it all on the cross, and that God can handle anything we throw at Him.
Jesus goes through all of this with the crowds, which seems like great news, but to them, it was blasphemy. They actually took up stones to cast at Jesus (verse 31). The pattern never changes. Jesus is the Savior of the world, yet when He is around, most people were aiming to harm or be rid of Him. It is the same today, more so in other countries but even in our own. The presence of Jesus in our lives and our very faith cause people to “take up arms” whether that be literally (as in China or many Middle Eastern countries) or legally (like we’ve seen here in America). It is prudent that as Christians, we realize that Jesus never said following Him was going to be a cake walk filled with health, wealth, and prosperity. He said if the world hated Him, they most surely will hate us for His sake. That doesn’t mean we should walk around being hateful or ridiculous since they will do the same to us. It just means to not be surprised when people don’t respond to the cross or the faith like we think they should and don’t be offended when people are offended by the things of Christ. Do your duty as a Christ follower and let God handle everything else.
Read: John 10.1-14
There are so many awesome things in this chapter and really noteable and well known verses such as John 10.10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and the they might have it more abundantly.” That’ll preach. But for today, there are some other things I’d like to bring our attention to.
The chapter is opened up by a comparison to sheep and how sheep know their shepherd’s voice. Now this may not have any relevant meaning to us, but i believe it is always important to look at what Jesus was saying to the people with cultural lenses on. Remember that the people to whom Jesus was speaking with would have completely understood His references because it would have been a part of everyday life for them. I have a story that I hope with clarify how literally the “sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice” parable is.
I had a college professor who was previously a missionary to Israel. He told us that while he was in Israel, he was walking down a road at the same time as a shepherd that was leading his sheep. My professor thought of this passage of scripture and decided to try out and see if sheep really knew their shepherd’s voice.
He asked the shepherd to go up the road a short distance and call the sheep to him. Sure enough, they moseyed up the road to the shepherd. He then asked the shepherd if he could try the same thing. My professor went up the road and called the sheep… lo and behold, they did not move. He tried this back and forth with the shepherd a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. But the sheep never did follow after my professor.
I love that story because it is a reminder that Jesus was speaking on a very understandable level for the people. He didn’t come to impress people with His knowledge and PhD, He came for real people. All that to say this… only those who truly belong to Christ will follow Him. Like the beginning of the chapter lays out, others may try to come and assume the shepherd’s position or take the sheep, but only the true shepherd will be followed and protect His own. John 10.11 says, “ I (Jesus) am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” and on further in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
Jesus knows His followers and cannot be tricked into taking those who aren’t His, just as no one can truly steal sheep from His fold. Sure, we may wander or lag behind, but we are still Christ’s and He won’t ever let us be lost to Him. Let us make sure that we are following Christ as our shepherd over all.