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Monday, July 21, Chapter 16
In verse 2 Jesus predicts Paul’s actions, and all the others, who killed the early followers of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit help us understand what is sin, righteousness and judgment. The last is not our concern but that of God. As Jesus said, But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. If we trust, have faith, in God, the Spirit will lead us in the Right Path. Jesus does not intend to leave us alone.
Grief will come into all our lives. We can identify with the disciples in that loss. To mix quotes from A Tale of Two Cities: My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I have heard and read many comments by veterans of wars who said it was the most exciting and exhilarating times of their lives; not because of the tremendous pain and suffer, but because of the sense of doing good for other people, if only for their fellow soldiers.
Paul Tillich reminds us that the lack of joy is a consequence of man’s separation from God, and the presence of joy is a consequence of the reunion with God. Humans want that joy, we crave it. In our efforts to experience it we all too often use other people in ways that demean both ourselves and the others. Joy can only be experienced by me when my actions bring joy to the others. Everything I do must be done with others in mind. We should, as Christians, follow the guide of The Hippocratic writing Epidemics: to do good or to do no harm.
I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.
Tuesday, July 22, Chapter 17
Three prayers make up this chapter.
The first is a prayer for Jesus by Jesus. He asks only that he may glorify God in his final hours on earth as he has already glorified Him in his first 33 years.
His second prayer is for his disciples, those who followed him through three years of learning. Jesus thanks God for them and for their belief in him and in God. He also asks that God continue to support the disciples when Jesus dies. Jesus asks for protection from Satan, but does not otherwise ask that his followers be excused from living in the world.
It would be nice to be immune to all diseases by being a Christian. It would be nice to live in comfort year around. No, we have to live in the world and tolerate its unpleasantness. But we also get to find real joy in its beauty. We share in the creativeness of our fellow humans. We get to laugh as well as cry with them. For Christians, life in this world is the best of times and the worst of times.
His final prayer is for us, those who have heard of Jesus second-hand and have come to believe in him. We are to receive the blessing of disciples.
Wednesday, July 23, Chapter 18
Have you noticed? John did not in any way suggest that chapters 13-17 occurred on Passover. We will see it specifically later, but John has Jesus arrested on what we call Wednesday night and crucified on Thursday, the day of the slaughter of the Passover lambs.
Which details are correct? Do Matthew, Mark and Luke have it right or wrong? I think they are both correct in that what we think of as important details (at 9:06 AM, Jesus said,) were not important to any of the Four Gospel Authors. John is writing about Jesus fulfilling the Word of God and bringing glory to God in all his actions. John is revealing the Word of God as a human, the Son of Man. John is describing the Lamb of God sacrificed for the whole world. The death of the Lamb occurred at the time of the deaths of the lambs of the Passover so that the Angel of Death will pass over us as well.
John describes the arrest and trial in much the same way as the other Gospels with only a few details added. Consider the crowd this time. It is often pointed out in sermons that these same people were shouting Hosanna on Sunday and Crucify today. There is some truth in that, but most of the crowd had been brought in by the leaders to make sure Pilate ordered execution. We see that most clearly in John’s account.
Thursday, July 24, Chapter 19
The crucifixion is also described much the same. Pilate comes out looking better than anyone else except Jesus, but the result is the same.
Verses 25-27 names four women at the cross. There may have been others. Mary, wife of Clopas is not otherwise known in the scriptures. In the history of the church we learn that her son replaced James as the leader of the church in Jerusalem upon James’ death.
Mary the Mother of Jesus we know.
Mary from Magdala had seven demons removed from her by Jesus. Her devotion is understandable.
With the three Marys was the sister of Jesus’ Mother. We know from Matthew and Mark that her name is Salome and that her sons are the Apostles James and John, the John of the Gospel of John. John’s face was probably well covered by his prayer shawl because all of them were risking arrest and death just by being there. But he could not allow his mother to go unprotected to such a place. I suspect he tried in vain to keep her away.
There are two more points with this short passage. Jesus asks John to take care of his mother. The responsibility would fall to James, the brother of Jesus, to care for Mary, but Jesus did not want that until James became a believer, as he knew he would. Also, Jesus loved John and trusted him in ways that had nothing to do with his trust of Peter and the others. Perhaps because he knew already that John would write two of the greatest books of the Bible.
The second point is that this picture has such a strong feeling of first-hand knowledge that it supports the contention that the Apostle John wrote the Gospel.
Psalm 69:21 is played out in verses 28-29. John adds the symbolic touch that the sponge was lifted to Jesus on a limb of the hyssop, the very plant that had to be used at the time of the first Passover to smear the blood of the lamb on the post and lintel of each Jewish home.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are described as tending to the body of Jesus. Both were Pharisees and on the day before Passover, it seems almost beyond belief that either of them would have touched the body. Since it was common usage in ancient times to credit the master with the work of a slave, it is probably slaves who placed the body in the tomb. Still, these two men were taking a great risk and deserve our respect. I believe they became true believers and followers, even though we have no record of that happening.
Friday, July 25, Chapter 20
In John’s account, Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb and ran to tell Peter and John. Compare all four accounts and some people have trouble believing any of the story. Consider this: Mary Magdalene came first followed by Peter and John. They left in time for some women to come and encounter the angels of Luke. In Mark, we find Mary, Mary and Salome arriving, just missing the others. Matthew has much the same as Mark. It is all possible.
More importantly, this was the single biggest event in the Gospels. Everyone was so excited by the news that the details quickly faded. I clearly remember hearing of the death of President Kennedy. I remember several details of those minutes. My next memory is sitting in front of the TV, along with most of the nation. I have no idea what happened in between and it does not matter.
John adds a note in verse 9 that he and Peter still did not understand that Jesus had promised his resurrection. With all they knew and with all their faith, they still missed the most important points. That should give us all hope for our own lack of understanding.
John says that Jesus spoke with Mary Magdalene. He does not say that she was the only one; he simply records what the others had not shared.
That Sunday night, after a day of excitement that must have left them confused and exhausted, Jesus appeared in a locked room where most of the Apostles were in hiding. In that meeting, John contradicts Luke by writing, And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Luke made it very clear that the Holy Spirit did not come to them until Pentecost, fifty days later.
John likely had Genesis in mind when God breathed life into Adam. Using that same sense, Jesus breathed his spirit into the Apostles. The big descending of the Holy Spirit of God was yet to come.
As to Thomas, here is part of a sermon from Peter Marshall given in the 1940’s. When Thomas returned to join the group, he heard the announcement told breathlessly with shining eyes as they gripped him by the arm that the Master had appeared unto them, and that they knew—beyond any doubt—that He was alive. Partly because of his overwhelming grief, and partly because he was by nature and disposition a skeptic, Thomas would not believe them. He was, as it were, from some Palestinian Missouri, he had to be shown, he demanded proof, he insisted that he would not be swept off his feet by any emotional reaction, he would have to be sure and he refused to believe until the Lord should appear before him and until he could stick his unbelieving finger into the nailprints of the hands of the Son of God. Seeing the hands of Jesus, Thomas believed.
We can believe because Thomas and John and thousands of others have given us the Word.
Be righteous and do good.