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image005April 2020

Daily Scripture and Prayer

Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church

Meditations from Eugenia 

This month we consider Jesus’ healing ministry and find the opposition to him growing. To understand these texts we need to first understand what it means ‘to believe’ or ‘to have faith’ in John’s gospel. John Sanford in his book Mystical Christianity puts it beautifully (p.124). He says, “In the Fourth Gospel especially, faith is not hostile to knowledge but is an adjunct to it.

Faith, as the early Christians understood it, had nothing to do with making oneself believe in things that could not be understood or blindly assenting to doctrinal formulations one could not understand. In this regard it is noteworthy that Jesus showed little interest in anyone’s theological beliefs, although he was greatly concerned with the quality of someone’s faith…..In the biblical view faith is not a category of the intellect but of the soul. The mind needs to know so it does not live in darkness, the soul needs faith or it loses its strength and will to live, the mind and the soul need each other and the gifts of knowledge and faith that they bring to one another.” The verb “pisteuo” means to believe, to be convinced of something, or to trust in something. John uses the phrase “pisteuo eis” 26 times in his work. It means to put trust into something. The noun form, “pistis”, is generally used in a special construction known as an object genitive. In English we tend to think of “having faith” as a simple possessive, a possession that one acquires. In Greek, however, it is more subtle and complex. Sometimes two nouns are combined in such a way that the second noun appears to be the object of the energy of the first noun, but it is also the source of the energy of the first noun. So, one has faith in God and that faith also comes from God. Greek scholar Samuel Green translates the command “have faith in God” as “have such faith as God’s character excites.” This kind of faith has a vital quality that grows out of a life nourished by God. This is the kind of faith that Jesus is speaking of in this text, the kind of faith out of which healing flows.

It is important also to understand Jewish views of Sabbath in order to see why Jesus gets in so much trouble for healing on that day. The Jews understand the complete and utter holiness of the Sabbath. It was to be a day set apart from all other days; a day for God to act and for people to stop all of the activity that filled their lives during the other days. It was a day not just to rest, but a day to rest IN GOD. They, like we, were often so confused about what was work, what was legitimate duty, and what was the work of God, that gradually, they needed specific guidance about how to accomplish that Sabbath rest. So the rabbis and leaders interpreted the law for them with great specificity. There were rules about how much one could carry, how far one could walk and on and on. It is important to note, however, that even with all of these very specific rules, human need took precedence over any prohibition of the Sabbath. The death threats that begin to emerge here are actually a result of Jesus faithfully keep the Law, not of him violating it. More on this as we go along.

2020 04 seaApril 1 – John 4:43-45 – “When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.” [After his time with the new believers in Samaria, Jesus continues his journey to Galilee. It is interesting that the proverb about a prophet being without honor is inserted here just before he gets a very warm welcome at home. Perhaps Jesus recognizes how shallow that welcome really is.]

Dear God, as you travel all of the corridors of our hearts, we know that our welcome can be shallow, too. We want what we want you to bring as you move in us, but we don’t want to change too much. Help us today to welcome your transforming presence in each moment and circumstance. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 2 – John 4:46-47 – Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. [There are several similar stories in both Mark and Luke. In John, the purpose is to bring ‘signs’ into the physical realm. Jesus has authority over spiritual things and that authority can also manifest in the physical world. The noun ‘official’ suggests royalty or a very high official. Note, as well, the father’s urgency in seeking out help for his son. The word ‘begging’ means to ask urgently and continually.]

Dear God, sometimes we don’t quite know how to pray for those we love who are in trouble. We are sometimes told to ask once and leave it with you. There is some value in that, as it forces us to trust and relinquish. And then we see this father who seeks urgently and continually for Jesus to help his son and we know that all of our need and emotion is acceptable to you, honored by you. Help us today to bring everything to you, over and over if we need to, and to trust that you will sort the best for the highest good of all concerned. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 3 – John 4:48 – Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” [There are a number of words for ‘see’ in Greek. This one is for seeing with the eyes. ‘Signs’ refers to something that points the one who sees to the nature and presence of God. ‘Wonders’ are concrete experiences of redemption. See intro about ‘believe.’ Jesus is reminding the man, and us, that sometimes dramatic manifestations of God’s power can distract people from the simple mystery of faith. When proofs are needed, faith weakens. When they are given as gifts, faith grows.]

Dear God, we so often put you to the test. We want the bells and whistles of faith that we somehow imagine others routinely get. Help us today to simply rest in you and to receive with joy whatever you offer us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 4 – John 4:49-50 – The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.[In John, the phrase ‘come down’ is a metaphor for Jesus’ actual coming down into the world as savior. As he is asked to come down and save the boy, he has already come down to save the world. The word ‘live’ that Jesus uses here means both to recover from sickness and to come back to life after death. The word ‘Go’ is a strong command.]

Dear God, when the father turns to go at Jesus’ command, when he has no evidence at all that his son is even alive, his dreams are fulfilled. Today, Lord, help us to go as you command trusting that our deepest longings will then, and only then, be met. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 5 – John 4:51-54 – As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee. [The official comes to trust in Jesus. Notice, though, that he acted in obedience before the trust came! Remember, too, that signs always point people to a new understanding of Jesus’ identity. The trip from Cana to Capernaum was about 20 miles.]

Dear God, each day you sprinkle our ordinary lives with pointers to your love and greatness. Maybe it is the way the light catches the sea foam. Maybe it is the aroma of bread baking. Maybe it is the bitter and sweet of memories. Maybe it is a wisp of energy when we thought we had none. Maybe it is a squeal of a child’s laughter or the gentle banter of a beloved partner. Thank you, God of grace, for the moments of awareness that help us to trust you alone. On this holy Palm Sunday, help us to lay our cloaks before you and say Hosanna! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

[A little additional background to the upcoming story may be helpful. From the earliest days of God’s work with God’s people, the Hebrews recognized that there was some relationship between sin and illness. At certain times in our history we believed that sin was the cause of illness. Wholeness was God’s will; and so, if it was not experienced then it must be a punishment from God for living outside of God’s will. For that reason, many who were ill or disabled were held in contempt by their communities and cut off from the means of grace in worship. In John 9:2f, Jesus rather clearly rejects that one to one connection. Still, in this passage, he recognizes that there is some connection, at least for this man, and his situation. It may help to understand the words used in Greek that we translate into English as “sin.” There are 8 different words in Greek for sin. The one used here is “harmartano”. It is a word from archery. It literally means, “to miss the mark or for one’s aim to be off”. It is a way of describing the condition that results from not hitting the targets God has set for life. The companion word “tynchano” means, “to hit an object” and is sometimes translated as “salvation” (see 2 Timothy 2:10). Early on, our ancestors understood that wrong actions and attitudes spring from a wrong inner condition and cause us to miss the mark as surely as if someone moved our hand when on the bow. While Jesus rejects the notion that all illness is punishment for sin, he acknowledges that our inward condition can result in outward manifestations of illness and disease. In this passage, the man’s “harmartano” was his passivity and excuse making. They were what were truly disabling his life. They were what had to be dealt with if he was ever going to live healed.]

April 6 – John 5:1 – After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.[The festival is not named but it is probably the Jewish feast of Pentecost or Weeks. This was the second great feast of the Jewish year and marked the end of the grain harvest which begins at Passover. This is an important detail because it reminds us that Jesus takes this healing action in the midst of the life and practice of the faith.]

Dear God, we know that we are not alone in this life. We thank you that you have placed us in a network of relationships that support and sustain us. We are especially grateful for our church family. It is in and with those who worship together that we face and, with your grace, meet our challenges. Thank you! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

2020 04 valleyApril 7 – John 5:2 – Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. [The Sheep Gate was an entrance into the city near the Temple through which sheep were brought for sacrifice. Bethzatha is sometime called Bethesda. This pool, which has been found and excavated, was large, 200’ by 300’. It lay below street level and had steps descending into it.]

Dear God, we are not at Bethzatha today but we thank you that there are ‘pools of healing’ available for us as well. Help us not to lie inches away from the life you have for us because we cannot figure out how to reach your transformative love, or, worse yet, no longer believe that there is finer and greater life available for us right here and right now. Open our eyes to the habits of mind that hold us back. Take our hands and lead us to your grace. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 8 – John 5:3 – In these lay many invalids – blind, lame, and paralyzed. [To be an invalid could be a death sentence if there was no family to help. These hardships were harshly judged.]

Dear God, there is need everywhere! In our community, and even in our own homes sometimes, your children languish in the stew of despair and desperate hope. Today, please help us to see need and not turn away, so that we can be light to the blind, a steading arm to the lame, and hope for those who feel stuck. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 9 – John 5:4 – waiting for the stirring of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had. [The very earliest known manuscripts of John do not include this verse and it is omitted from many English translations. It does occur in whole or in part in a number of early manuscripts. This well-known tradition helps to explain the response of the man later. The ancients believed that everything that happened was the activity of God. There was a long tradition of healing at the pool of Bethzatha, which could only be the activity of God directly or through God’s angels. The disturbance of the water was believed to signal the activity of the angels.]

Dear God, on this Holy Thursday ruffle the waters of our souls with the sights, sounds, and tastes of that long ago Upper Room. Fill us with the grace of bread broken, wine poured, feet washed. Help us to watch with you, wide awake to your anguish and awed by your love. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 10 – John 5:5 – One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. [This was close to life expectancy in those days. This suggests that the man has no idea what health and wholeness are like.]

Dear God, the man in our text had been ill his whole life. When Jesus met him, the man had already lived longer than Jesus would. Today as we ponder your love for us on the cross, help us not to squander our days, but rather to live fully awake, exquisitely present, eternally alive. It is for this privilege that you died. We are awed and grateful. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 11 – John 5:6 – When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” [This verse emphasizes Jesus’ special insight into the human condition. The word for ‘see’ implies both physical and mental seeing. The word ‘knew’ is a form of the word in Greek that means ‘to take in knowledge, recognize and understand.’ It also indicates a relationship between the one who is knowing and the object that is known. In this usage, the person that is known is of value or importance to the one that knows. This makes Jesus’ question to the man both poignant and to the heart of the matter. The word ‘want’ means ‘to will and exercise conscious volition.’ It does not simply mean ‘desire.’ The word for ‘well’ come from the word that means ‘sound or whole’ and often refers to doctrine. Jesus is asking the man if he is ready to do what it takes to become sound and whole in both body and thinking. Wow.]

Dear God, Jesus’ question to the man at Bethzatha rings in our ears today! During this Holy Week we have seen again the lengths to which you will go for our healing. Are we ready to do our part? Do we want to be made truly and fully well? Help us, Lord, on this somber Holy Saturday to ponder this question deeply and for ourselves. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 12 – John 5:7 – The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” [The people believed that only the first one in the pool when it rippled would be healed.

What is important here, though, is that when Jesus asks him if he is ready to do what it takes to change his circumstances, he comes up with excuses.]

Dear God, you have nailed our excuses with your Son to the cross and he has triumphed over all of our egoistic, self-pitying, evasions. They never served us and we do not need them anymore. All of life in its eternal abundance stretches before us today. Please do not allow us, today of all days, to linger in helplessness when we have been set free. Alleluia! Amen.

April 13 – John 5:8-9 – Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk. At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. [We have already seen that the man is valuable to Jesus, so valuable that he won’t even address his excuses but moves to action. By telling the man to stand and take his mat he us pushing him to take his wholeness into his own actions. Jesus’ words are in the imperative. “Get up right now and do it!” This is not a suggestion. It is a strong command. Notice that the man does not ask for healing nor does he thank Jesus. That suggests that, while his body may be restored, he is not yet sound.]

Dear God, on this fresh new day, help us to hear and heed Jesus’ command to ‘Get up right now and do it!’ No longer are we bound by sin and fear. Today we start over whole. Help us to claim this reality as the deep truth of our lives and to spread this news to our community. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

2020 04 rainbowApril 14 - John 5:9b-10 – Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry that mat.” [Unfortunately, this is where Jesus gets into trouble. The rabbis did argue that human need took precedence over work prohibitions so a case could be made for the legality of the healing. But when you have already decided to convict, a sound legal case is rarely heeded. Remember also that, in John, when he refers to the Jews, he nearly always is referring to the powerful establishment.]

Dear God, in the presence of your astounding healing love, we also look for ways to discredit who you are and where you are trying to take us. We resist when you push us to a new and wider truth, a more expansive love, a more uncomfortable mission. Help us, in this holy Easter season, to live as people brought back to life. Remove destructive habits of mind from us and banish all toxic beliefs that hamper our joy and make your work for us harder. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 15 – John 5:11-13 – But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. [A different word is used here for ‘healed.’ It is the word for physical cure. Notice that the man is still taking no responsibility for his life or actions. Could part of the problem be that he really does not know Jesus and has no curiosity about him?]

Dear God, how often we take your work in our lives for granted! We show no curiosity about you and want to make excuses to avoid being seen as your disciples among those who do not believe in you. We are sorry, Lord. Open our eyes today and fill us with courage to learn of you and proclaim you proudly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

April 16 – John 5:14 – Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” [Jesus uses the larger word for being made ‘whole and sound’ in this verse. The word ‘found’ means to seek out, not to stumble upon. Jesus wants the healing to be complete. See above for connection of sin and illness. Here, notice the exclamation point. Jesus is making a fierce declaration of the man’s state and urging him to live into it and not go back to his limiting beliefs and conditions. In John’s theology, nothing is worse that choosing not to live the full life offered by Christ once it becomes available.]

Dear God, we are awed by your passionate desire for our wholeness! You seek diligently for us even when we are confused or living a kind of half alive life. Help us today to stop our flapping around and allow you to find us where we are and continue your healing work in us. Help us to hear your command to re-aim our lives and focus on your goals. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 17 – John 5:15-16 – The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.[This is a strange verse. Why would the man rat Jesus out? Was he afraid? Was he trying to curry favor? Was he so unused to wholeness he had no idea which way to hop? Was he just mean? If he had wanted to betray Jesus, he could not have done a better job of it. He now uses the word for ‘healed’ that Jesus used earlier. He basically tells the authorities that Jesus broke the law and did so in the context of not just healing his body but straightening out his doctrine. That is a prescription for persecution!]

Dear God, sometimes we have conflicting allegiances, too. We want to live into your radical love for our lives but we also don’t want to upset anybody. Help us today to think about our actions and to see clearly how they affect your mission in our community and the growth of your church. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 18 – John 5:17-18 – But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. [If Jesus was trying to defend himself he needed a better lawyer. His defense is to equate himself with God. Clearly he is not trying to mount a defense, although one could be made. He is declaring himself and the authorities know it.]

Dear God, today, if we face the opposition that comes from closed minds and entrenched habits, help us to boldly stand on your truth in our lives. You love. You make us whole and sound. Help us to rest on this knowledge and live it lovingly and winsomely no matter the consequences. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

[The theme of Jesus’ identity and the way he fulfills Torah is spelled out in more detail in the following verses.]

April 19 – John 5:19 – Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. [When Jesus begins a saying with ‘very truly, I tell you’, (literally Amen! Amen!), it is a signal that what he says is deep and authoritative. Here he is speaking to his detractors. The word ‘sees’ in this verse is linked with ‘shows’ in tomorrow’s verse to stress the unique relationship between Jesus and the Father. No Jew before ever claimed to see the Father face to face. Here Jesus claims he is in a state of perpetual communion with God in a way no one else has ever claimed. There are two words for ‘to do’. The one used here is to do something creative that requires effort.]

Dear God, you are constantly working creatively for the good of all your children. Fill us with your grace so that we, your church, may look more and more like your son Jesus and also work creatively for the good of all. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 20 – John 5:20 – “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; And he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.” [The special relationship between Jesus and the Father is reciprocal and results from God’s love for Jesus. ‘Greater works’ refer to both the signs and to the revelation of the true nature of the kingdom of God that Jesus reveals. The doing word here is, again, the word for creative doing that requires effort.]

Dear God, when we look to Jesus we see all that you value, all the creativity, sacrifice and love that is your essence. Thank you for coming to us in flesh and bone so that we can see exactly what matters in our lives and world. Help us, Lord, to embody the creative power that you show us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

2020 04 waveApril 21 – John 5:21 – “Indeed just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.” [This refers to life in the here and now and in the hereafter. God is the only life giver and has empowered Jesus to give life in God’s name. The word for ‘give life’ also implies creative action. The ‘he’ in the last phrase refers to God.]

Dear God, you are the lavish life giver! The only source of life and joy! You raise us from the death dealing habits of our lives and the horrifying hurts of the world so that we can shed your healing love and partner with you in your constant re-creation. We thank you for the trust you place in us and we rely on your grace for every good act. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 22 – John 5:22-23 – “The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father who sent him. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” [Judgment here seems to mean ‘to pronounce sentence upon, to mete out a sentence.’ ‘Honor’ means to place a high value upon. Again Jesus places himself as an equal with the Father.]

Dear God, we cannot help but fall to our knees when we read this verse, especially in the holy season of Easter. You do not judge anyone and Jesus’ took our well-deserved sentence upon himself on the cross. When he said ‘it is finished’, he meant it. All of it. We are set free and all that is left for us to do is honor you in mind, body and spirit. Help us to put your son first in our lives that we may honor him in all we do. Thank you! Alleluia! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 23 – John 5:24 – “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.” [This is one of the most important verses in the New Testament! It is the heart of the Good News for John. It is the strongest statement of ‘realized eschatology’ in scripture. That simply means that the end result of salvation is already realized now. ‘Has’ is in the present tense.

Judgment is over and done for believers. We now stand on the other side of it. We already live eternal life. Even death, in any real sense, is behind us. Take a couple of minutes to ponder that and let it sink in. Remember that ‘hear’ means ‘to receive a message.’ ‘Believes’ is the trust word we’ve talked about. ‘Eternal life’ (zoe) is the eternal life force. The sentencing phase is over. We have been acquitted.]

Dear God, we are awed by the depth and breadth of your saving love! There is nothing in all the universe left for us to fear. Words fail me in the presence of this amazing truth. All that we can say is thank you! Thank you! Thank you! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 24 – John 5:25-29 – “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” [There is much to ponder in these verses. It can be confusing so just let it unfold and don’t allow yourself to get tangled up or unduly upset. ‘Hour’ here refers to a particular time period, otherwise often referred to as the New Age. The ‘dead’ refers to the masses of those who are spiritually dead in the first verses and the physically dead in the later verses. ‘Come out’ means to be exposed. “Done good’ uses the word we’ve already learned for creative doing that requires effort. ‘Good’ refers to moral goodness. ‘Done’ evil uses a different word. It means to do something that comes easily and is repeated. It is doing something carelessly or repetitively because it is the easy way. ‘Condemnation (krisis) refers to a separation or sundering. It is not used in Greek the way we use it in English. It implies a self torn in two. In other words, he is saying that an amazing life giving future lies ahead, even for the dead. Goodness will be revealed and honored. The all too easy evil will also be revealed. This is not the same as saying that those who have done evil will go to hell. It says that in the general resurrection they will see clearly their choices that separated them from God and tore themselves apart. It does not talk about what happens next.]

Dear God, please protect us from casual and unthinking actions that tear our lives and world apart. The easy way, the little compromise that leads to the larger one, can become a habit with truly evil results. Keep us, O Lord, in the creative way of love even if it is a harder path. In Jesus’ holy name we pray.

April 25 – John 5:30 – “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” [Jesus reiterates his closeness to God. His sole purpose is to do on earth what God wants done. The word for ‘judge’ again comes from krisis, to sort or separate.]

Dear God, we want to live like Jesus, seeking nothing but your will in our lives. Help us today to discern the evil from the good, the good from the best, that we may further your work and honor your name. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 26 – John 5:31-32 - “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true.” [These verses initiate a courtroom scene in which Jesus is answering the Jews indictment, particularly about his claims to authority. The word ‘true’ refers to the essence of truth, that which lies at the core of a thing. It means the absolute force of a thing. Jesus is saying that if he speaks up for himself alone that it will not have the absolute force of the truth that will come when God testifies for him. The ‘other’ is God, but his opponents do not recognize this so he moves on to provide other evidence.]

Dear God, how often we do not understand what you tell us. Help us today to have ears that hear, hearts that are softened and wills that can be molded toward your ways. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 27 – John 5:33-36 – “You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that my Father has given to me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.” [Jesus calls on the testimony of John the Baptist to give his opponents something concrete that they can understand. John was widely seen to be a prophet who spoke for God but they did not believe him about Jesus. The word ‘save’ (sozo) means to be made whole, put back together. ‘Very works’ is the same word Jesus uses elsewhere that we translate as ‘signs.’ In Jewish court, two witnesses had to agree for testimony to be valid.]

Dear God, what will it take for us to trust in you? Each and every day is evidence of your grace and glory. If we stop and look back we can see you miraculously at work in our lives and yet on a daily basis we sometimes feel you are far away, absent or unconcerned. Help us today to rest in the testimony of your son and to then do the works you have set for us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

2020 04 sunsetApril 28 – John 5:37-38 – “And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.” [Jesus’ final witness in this courtroom scene is the Father. The authorities do not accept this witness because, according to Jesus, they don’t know the Father or recognize Jesus as the Son.]

Dear God, help us never to hear these words from Jesus applied to us! Where we are blind to you, or misunderstand you, or make you smaller by our prejudices, open our eyes and help us to trust your never ending and always expanding love. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 29 – John 5:39-42 – “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you.” [This is a very harsh statement. He is saying that his opponents do not have the word, love or life of God in them. They misuse the scriptures. The scriptures are given as a witness to Christ so that people will come into relationship with him, not as an end in and of themselves. To search scripture and reject its testimony to Christ is to frustrate its intended purpose.]

Dear God, we know that sometimes we use the words of scripture not as a pointer toward divine grace but as a weapon to gain or maintain power. Forgive us, Lord, for this grave misuse of your gift. Help us to awaken to scripture as a tool for deepening love and understanding but never as an idol that we use to vainly try to contain all of who you are! Fill us with the your love! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

April 30 – John 5:43-44 “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” [The imagery here is of an ambassador. For example, to come in the name of the United States is to function as the United States. To come in the name of the Father is to function as the Father. The authorities are refusing to accept Jesus’ credentials.]

Dear God, help us this day to live as your ambassadors in the world. If we have a chance for kindness, be kind through us. If we have a chance to give, give through us. If we have a chance to speak truth to power, speak through us. If we have a chance to choose the good over the expedient, choose the good through us. We are yours and we want to live as you in the world. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.