Breakfast at the Beach

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I love breakfast. Breaking the fast begun the night before has a unique quality of anticipation and expectation. Eyes unfocused. Body disorganized. Mind perplexed. Stomach unfilled. The mind and body are screaming for fuel, empowerment for direction and focus for the day. Caffeine, carbs, and protein seem to fit the bill.

As the gospel of John comes to a close, Jesus has died, but death hasn’t won. The tomb is empty, but confusion remains. The disciples’ eyes are still blurry and their minds are still baffled as to what following a risen Lord looks like.   They don’t realize that what they need is a good breakfast, a breakfast on the beach.

The epilogue to Jesus’ story, John 21, opens on the Sea of Galilee sometime after Jesus’ resurrection.   Jesus shows up at work for Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathanael, and others.   Fishermen by trade, they’ve returned to familiar waters, unsure how to continuing “fishing” for men now that their rabbi has relocated.  Jesus returns to the very place that he called these guys to leave their nets and follow him, a place where they’ll recognize his voice and his fishing instructions. (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus finds them fasting, so to speak. They’ve been out all night and have been unproductive, no fish to speak of. At one word from Jesus and a change of direction for their nets that defies logic and common fishing sense, they haul in a mother-load.   Rather than the result of their own effort, this catch points only one direction, to Jesus himself. No one is going to beat Peter to his Lord and his God!  He grabs hold of his loin cloth, jumps in the water half-dressed, and swims ashore.

When the others meet Jesus on the beach, he’s waiting for them at a charcoal fire, a painfully familiar site for Peter. It’s here that Jesus calls them to eat with him, breaking their fast with the bread of life and living water. He restores the disarray their bodies are experiencing with fish and bread, but he heals their histories and renews their mind with the power of his Spirit!

It’s on this beach, around a warm fire and with a full belly, that Jesus lovingly restores Peter, giving him three opportunities to reverse his denials and declare his love for Jesus. Jesus empowers Peter to do kingdom work, to continue to fish for men and to tend to sheep, the church, and even to endure suffering in his name.   He empowers John and the others to do the same, and he does the same for us today. It would not be on Peter, John or any of the others’ skills or strength that the gospel would advance after Jesus’ departure, but on the collective work of the Spirit in each one as his remaining body, the church.

Peter and John understood that the Spirit is not merely a spiritual influence, but is rather the Spirit of Jesus himself living in his followers. In one of his letters, John said “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:24) Peter spoke of the Spirit of Christ in his followers that pointed the way that they should go in one of his letters of encouragement to the church. (I Peter 1:11)

Gary Burge said it this way, “The work of the church is not religious energy fueled by our sense of commission; it is a call to work, wed to a divine empowering; it is ministering knowing that Christ himself (through the Spirit) is ministering in and through our efforts.”

Just like breakfast fuels the mind and body, so the Spirit fuels the church. Jesus left both on the beach that day. Eat up and drink deeply!  Jesus is alive in you today!

Blood and Water

 

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It’s impossible for me to eat fried chicken and not think of my grandparents. Not only did my grandmother make the best fried chicken in the universe, but it’s also the only thing my grandparents ever went “out” to eat. Fried chicken and Mamaw and Grandaddy just go together.

For the apostle John, throughout his entire gospel, it’s impossible to read about water and not think about God’s Holy Spirit. The two simply go together for John, as they did for the Jews as well. When God inspired him to write his gospel, it’s no wonder that this rich symbolism would permeate the masterpiece, as he worked to define Jesus as God.

On the cross, John takes the symbolism even deeper. Water is now mixed with blood, and pours forth from Jesus’ dead side. (John 19:34) For a Jew, blood was the only appeasement for sin, as detailed in God’s Mosaic Law. Blood took on new meaning at the Feast of Passover. Just as a pure lamb, whose bones were not broken, was sacrificed in Egypt and its blood shielded a home from death (Exodus 12:45, Numbers 9:12, Dt. 21:23, Ps 34:20), so Jesus, on the day of preparation for Passover, presents himself as a Passover lamb, whose bones were not broken, producing precious, life-giving blood. This blood was shed once for all, a living stream of atonement for all who would take cover under its gracious protection. (Hebrews 9:13, 22)

For a Jew, water was a ritual source of purification in the Law, a washing and renewal system synonymous with the Spirit of God. For every condition of uncleanness, a washing with living water was required.   At Passover as at the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jews especially remembered the water that flowed from the rock for Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. It became a symbol of God’s abundant, life-sustaining provision for his people, a mark of their status as his chosen people. Out of Jesus abdomen flowed the water he had promised in John 7:37-39, part of himself, his Spirit, given to humanity upon his glorification to remain incarnate in each believer, his newly chosen people.

When blood and water flowed from Jesus’ pierced side on the cross, it more than displayed his humanity. It confirmed his divine purpose, and secured life for you and me. God the Son, fully man and capable of the cruel death sin demanded, and fully God, uniquely sinless and singularly qualified to reconcile himself to his people poured over and into us blood and water. Our part is to accept the gift and walk by the Spirit he left us.

John sums it up well in his first letter. “This is he who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree…And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:6-8, 11-12)

Paul says this way to Roman Christians and to us, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16-17) Fried chicken reminds me that I am loved and part of a wonderful family.  So water, a basic element of our bodies and our world, reminds us that we are loved by the King, who gave his blood and his Spirit to make us a part of his family forever!

The Cup Jesus Drank

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Several years ago, I had a colonoscopy and was asked to “prepare” for the event. The “cleanse” this preparation entailed was not as refreshing as it sounds. I was encouraged to drink a cup of liquid dynamite, so vile it made dirt seem sweet, every two hours for an entire day. The first few times seemed bearable compared to the violent convulsions and dry heaves my body displayed knowing the bitterness that was coming with every subsequent attempt.  Years later, my brain can still remember how rancorous that stuff tasted and the terror it unleashed on my insides. It was a bitter cup.

John’s mother once asked Jesus if her son could be Jesus’ right hand man in his kingdom. (Mt 20:20-24, Mk 10:38-39) Jesus’ response was curious. He said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” When John said yes, Jesus said, “You will drink my cup…”

This same John, in his gospel, refers to this “cup” again. After he describes Jesus’ arrest by Roman guards, and the subsequent attempt by Peter to turn the event into a brawl, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Put your sword in its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (Jn 18:11) This is John’s only reference to this cup, but the Synoptic gospel writers consistently report Jesus’ use and deepening of the metaphor.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe Jesus sharing a Passover meal with his disciples prior to his arrest. (Mt 26, Mk 14, Lk 22) Mark records Jesus’ words when he took the third of the four Seder cups of Passover, the cup of redemption, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (14:25-25) He asked them to drink it as well.

Passover was an exercise of shared remembering for the Jews. In Exodus 6:6-7, God made four promises to his people, Israel, that they remembered in four symbolic cups of wine at this special memory meal: (1) “I will take you out of Egypt,” (2) I will deliver you from Egyptian slavery,” (3) I will redeem you (from death) with a demonstration of my power, and (4) I will acquire you as a nation/make you my people.” Jesus drank the first three cups with his disciples, highlighting the third, but what about the fourth cup? Could it be the cup he claimed he would drink anew in the kingdom of God?

The “cup” metaphor is still in Jesus’ thoughts as he moved from the Passover meal to the Garden of Gethsemane. (Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Lk 22:42) In his heart-wrenching, bloody-teared prayer he says, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, but not as I will, but as you will…If this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Mt 26:39,42) The Old Testament is full of imagery of God’s cup of wrath, a bitter cup indeed. (Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 31:17, Jer 25:15-28, Revelation 14:10)

Finally, with Jesus hanging from a Roman cross suffering all the agony a human body and divine soul can endure, John brings his reader back to Jesus’ cup. (John 19:28-30) Near death, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Delivered to his lips on a hyssop branch (the same type of branch used to spread the Passover blood over the Israelites doors all those years ago) was sour wine. After he drank it, he said, “It is finished,” and breathed his last.  Could this be the fourth cup of Passover, ushering in the kingdom of God anew, and declaring all who would accept this sacrificial gift as children of God?

Jesus knew the bitterness of the contents, but he willingly drank the cup his Father gave him to drink, on our behalf, converting a cup of wrath into a cup of life.  John likely recalled that Jesus had told him he would drink this cup. It would be a cup of salvation and joy (Ps 116:13, Ps 23:5), but also one of suffering and death. He had told him earlier “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34) The irony of drinking this free cup of life, is that it costs the believer everything.

I drank a bitter drink once. It flushed out the junk, so that doctors could look inside my guts, and give me a clean bill of health.  Jesus drank the bitterness of the wrath of God. He drank every last drop of suffering and death that my sin deserved, and made it possible for God to look into my heart and declare me clean, his daughter, stamped with his unique seal of ownership, his Spirit. We can drink to that!

Why We Are All Thirsty People

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Isolation is catastrophic.   A baby cannot survive without human touch. Elderly people who are socially isolated are twice as likely to die prematurely. Loneliness impairs immune function and spikes inflammation, so it literally makes us sick. As human beings, made in the image of relational, three-persons-in-one God, we require connection.  We thirst for it with a primal intensity. We are all thirsty people.

John quotes Jesus as saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:35-37) John comments that Jesus said this in reference to someone who was coming later in the story, someone who would connect us to God in a most beautiful and intimate way.

John, one of Jesus’ closest personal friends, knew loss and loneliness well. He watched his friend writhe in agony on the cross. He took Jesus’ mother home at his friend’s dying request.  He marveled over breakfast on the beach with his risen Lord, but then watched him leave again, this time for good.  He carried on in Jesus’ name as a leader of the church in Ephesus.   He lived long past his martyred fellow apostles. He was exiled to an island where he saw a great vision from God. I think John had experienced the Holy Spirit in very personal ways throughout his lifetime. At least half a century after Jesus’ ascension, John is penning the words of this gospel account, an old man still waiting to see his friend again.

John remembers Jesus promise of the Holy Spirit throughout his gospel, always connected to a water motif, but in chapters 14-16 John highlights Jesus’ last words of encouragement to his followers before his death. These words have no doubt shaped John’s own personal relationship with God the Father and Son by God the Spirit ever since. In intimate fashion, John made clear that Jesus promised not to leave those who believed in him as orphans, isolated and alone. God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit would now incarnate themselves in the heart of every believer, an eternal presence, like a perpetual spring of living water.

Jesus makes startling claims in regard to his Spirit in five unique references in this text! He told his disciples (including John and now including us) that if they have faith, they will do the same things Jesus has done and even greater things than he did! Say what?! He said it as better if he left them, so that his own Spirit, the Counselor, would come to them. Could this be true?! This Counselor/Helper/Holy Spirit/Spirit of Truth, will dwell with/in each believer! He will continue to teach, remind, testify, convict, and guide into ALL TRUTH each individual who collectively form the body of Christ, his church!  The Spirit, alive in people, will bring glory to God on earth and in heaven, long after Jesus leaves the earth and returns to the Father.

It is this Spirit, Paul would say, that connects us to God as a child to his daddy. The Spirit gives us breath to cry out as Jesus did, “Abba Father” (Daddy God) as the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God. (Romans 8:15-17)  This is not just good news, it’s amazing news! Just like only water can quench a deep thirst, only the Spirit of God can fill the deepest desire for connection that is inherent to humanity. Not only did Jesus absorb the wrath of God that our sin demanded on the cross and overcome death in his resurrection, but he left his Spirit multiplied millions of times over in every believer who would follow him since. We are not alone. Ever.

 

References to the Spirit in John 14-16:

#1 – I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, because I am going to the Father…If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father to give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (14:12, 15-18)

 

#2 – All this I have spoken while with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (14:25-26)

 

#3 – When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (15:26-27)

 

#4 – But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I’m going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement, in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me, in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer, and in regard to judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:6-10)

 

#5 – I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16:12-14)

Water in a Basin

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“Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.” John 12:3

“Then he (Jesus) poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:5

Sacrifice hurts. Sacrifice is hard. Love is sacrifice.  In John’s gospel, Mary’s sacrifice foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice, both demonstrating the full extent of love.

Mary took a valuable possession, worth a year’s worth of common wages, and poured it over Jesus head, body, and feet, wiping his feet with part of herself. (See also Matthew 26; Mark 14) Her action was beyond convention or expectation.   It was done at the expense of her money, her pride, and her reputation. It was an act of adoration and love that was despised by man, but commended by her Lord and friend. Mary was already doing what Jesus would soon call his disciples to do.

Jesus’ took a towel and wrapped it around his waist. He poured water into a basin. He took the position of a Gentile slave, defying convention and expectation, and washed the feet of the friends who would soon reject him. It was done at the expense of his pride, his rights, and his dignity. It was an act that was defiantly despised by one of his best friends, Peter, but commended by his Father. It was an action that foreshadowed and symbolized the humiliation he was about to endure and the complete washing that his death and resurrection would secure. For John, years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, it also symbolized a washing away of sins that baptism would symbolize for Christ followers for years to come. (Same language is used for baptism in Acts 22:16, I Corinthians 6:11)

John records Jesus’ take on his own actions. He tells his friends, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Later he will tell them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you should love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:12-13)

The first commandment these disciples would have known was to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus gave a new commandment, upping the ante, and deepening the love requirement. Now he compelled them to love sacrificially, like he did when he washed their feet and like he will do by bearing the penalty for the vileness of their sin in his humiliating death on a cross.

Jesus asks all of us who choose to imitate and obey him to do the same, to love sacrificially by “washing one another’s feet.”  Washing feet may involve doing something you don’t want to do. It may involve not doing something you really want to do. It hurts. It’s hard. It requires confidence in the one who loves you so much that he would sacrifice for you. Will you humbly pour some water into a basin today?

Jesus’ Tears

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I don’t just cry; I weep. It’s not pretty or dainty. It’s ugly and raw. The sounds that accompany the outbursts are often guttural and unpleasant. Though it usually flows from something I see or hear at surface level, it always exposes something much deeper.   Tears, for me, are a passageway for joy or pain, an escape route to restore balance to my soul. I do this because I am an image bearer of a God who weeps.

Jesus said that the eyes are the lamp of the body. (Matthew 6:22) They reflect what our gaze is fixed upon. This light shines into the innermost places of our heart, revealing its condition. Jesus’ eyes, John tells us, spilled forth water mixed with proteins and oil. The living waters of Jesus’ Spirit were stirred. He wept. (John 11:35)

John reveals the scene that Jesus’ eyes gazed upon. It was a public display of mourning…for his beloved friend, Lazarus… who had been dead for four days.   Communal displays of grief were not uncommon in Jewish first century culture. Often professional mourners joined family and friends for seven loud days of weeping and wailing. For three days, however, the wailing had a distinct purpose; there was still hope that the spirit of the dead person would rejoin the body and live again. By day four, the tears turn to unabashed grief, sorrow over the finality of the situation.

John says that when Jesus saw this scene, especially the pain of Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (Jn 11:33, 38) The Greek verbs used here evoke a less serene image.   They reveal anger, literally the snorting sound a horse makes before a charge in battle, emotions so strong that they cannot be contained. They force action. Jesus demands that to see where they’ve laid him and to roll back the stone of the grave.

The verb translated “troubled” literally means agitated, the same word applied to the healing waters in John 5.   Jesus, who had just declared to Mary, “I am the resurrection and the life,” is staring down death and the “finality spell” it has cast over his followers.  He is agitated, riled up, angry no doubt, and he desperately wants those he loves to understand who he is and what he has come to do! His power (grace) could not be contained as he brought Lazarus back from being overwhelmingly dead, a foreshadowing of his ultimate victory over death through his own resurrection that was yet to come.

On another occasion, as he approached his own death, Jesus wept when he saw Jerusalem, lamenting over those who couldn’t understand the implications of his incarnation. (Luke 19:41) Jesus’ tears are a window into the indignation and compassion of God, troubled by the chaos, suffering and death that sin ushered into his creation, but overwhelmingly saddened by those will not accept Jesus Christ as his appointed pathway back to redemption and life, abundant and eternal.

My tears release the joy or pain deep within (literally the chemical remnants of stress) to restore homeostasis or balance to my physiological body.   God’s angry tears reveal his intention to restore balance to his fallen world.   Jesus, God with us, would lay down his life, a perfect sacrifice for sin, and utterly destroy death when he rose three days later, never to die again. A living Savior whose Spirit was stirred, now offers that same Spirit to those who will believe in Him, a guarantee of eternal life. Will you believe today? Death does not have to win. Jesus enables those who sow with tears to reap songs of joy!

 

 

Water of Consecration

The Jordan River

The Jordan River

My husband asked me to marry him on a rock. This wasn’t just any rock. It was specially chosen by him. The view from the rock framed a beautiful river valley, nestled in the Colorado Mountains. It represented his home, his history, a part of himself, and he hoped it would mark a start to our future together. More than anything, it was a place where we both felt the presence of God, and we sensed the Spirit leading us to commitment. We’ve since taken our children to that very rock, a place of consecration for our family. It was there that our family’s collective service to God began.

The Jordan River, in John’s gospel, frames Jesus’ ministry as a special place of consecration. It was in these waters that John the Baptist testified to the Holy Spirit’s consecration of Jesus as God’s chosen one. (John 1) It is back to these waters that Jesus returns at the end of John 10 to remain until the appointed time for his journey to the cross. It is no accident that Jesus returns to the Jordan River after a special Feast of Consecration, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, where he proclaimed himself the very dwelling place of God that the feast sought to commemorate.

The Jordan River was no stranger to consecration. It was at this same river more than 1000 years earlier that Joshua proclaimed to the Israelites, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5) And wonders He did, halting the waters as the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant hit the river bed and gathering them into a water wall so that the Israelites could pass through from wilderness wanderers into Promised Land dwellers. Reminiscent of the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites associated God’s deliverance with his power over water.

To consecrate means to set apart something or someone for the worship or service of God.   The Israelites were God’s chosen ones, agents of His glory! As a nation, they would suffer domination and occupation for centuries. Their temple, reclaimed from the pagan desecration of the Seleucid King, Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC by the Maccabees, became a symbol of God’s presence and miraculous power, consecrated for his glory! They celebrated it with the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah.) It was after this Maccabean retaking of the temple, that one single oil lamp miraculously burned in the temple for 8 days. As a part of Hanukkah, candles commemorated this event, lit for 8 days in November/December of each year, even to the time of Christ. As a Jew, Jesus recognized the great significance of this Feast.   Jesus longed for his followers to see and realize that He, the light of the world, was now the consecrated, chosen one of God to bring the miracle of redemption to his people. Later Peter told the early church that as believers in the atoning blood of Jesus and his resurrection victory over sin and death, we are now God’s consecrated ones, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people possessed by God to proclaim his glory! (I Peter 2:9)

The rock by the river in Colorado is a symbol of my covenant commitment to my God, my man, and my marriage. The waters of the Jordan are symbolic of God’s commitment to his people, his deliverance, his provision, and the way back to himself, his incarnate son as the agent of redemption and reclamation of his true dwelling place, the hearts of all who would believe in and trust him.

Spiritual Sight

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I recently read Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life. What struck me most was how uniquely and profoundly Helen could “see” the world despite being deaf and blind since infancy. Jesus seemed to talk about this ironic phenomenon a lot. He said the blind could often “see” (perceive or understand) what those with sight could not. Jesus recalled the words of Isaiah, as he attempted to reveal spiritual truth in story form to his followers in parables, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matthew 13:13-15)

The apostle John longs for his readers to “see” spiritual truth in his great narrative as well. In chapter nine, he concludes the events surrounding the Feast of Tabernacles and its unique way of revealing Jesus as the son of God. The last day of this feast included a great water ceremony where Jesus boldly declared himself the living water, which the Jews ceremonially poured out from the Pool of Siloam. (7:37-39) It was followed by a great light ceremony in the Temple court of women, where sixteen bowls were placed on four large stands, filled with oil and wicks, and the night sky of Jerusalem was lit up to singing and dancing. It was likely in this very place that Jesus declared in John 8:1, “I am the light of the world! Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”

Enter a blind man, who regularly walks in darkness, who will tie these great revelations of Jesus together in a profound way. He is enabled to see light in the world for the first time by the one who declared himself the light of the world. He is asked to wash spittled mud from his blind eyes in the same living water of the Pool of Siloam (which means sent) by the one who had been “sent” from God. (John 4:34, 5:23, 37, 7:28, 8:26, 12:44, 14:24) Again, Jesus heals him on the Sabbath, a day where only God should be at work, baffling the smartest guys on the street as to who Jesus really was, and leaving them spiritually blind!

The story culminates when Jesus meets with the newly seeing blind man privately to expose the spiritual sight he has received! After the man had boldly proclaimed Jesus to be God and been subsequently kicked out of the synagogue, Jesus asks him a more probing question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He had made a reasoned conclusion in his head; now Jesus was asking him about the condition of his heart. The man’s confession of faith, “Lord, I believe” and his worship of Jesus reveal an open embrace of Jesus as Messiah. He is certainly not walking in spiritual “darkness” anymore.

What about you? Are you able to see, but still walking around in the dark? Have you allowed the living water, the Spirit, to open your eyes so that you can understand with your heart the healing power of Jesus Christ? He longs to shine his light into your dark places.

 

Drink Up

Offering Living Water

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 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. –John 7:37-39

Have you ever been really thirsty? To say that we “need” water is an understatement. Dehydration is fatal and the symptoms experienced are brutal. As a person loses only 2% of their total body fluid, (we are literally made of water) the symptoms are subtle.   You may feel thirst, loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, chills, dry skin, dark colored urine, dry mouth, and headache. But the longer you go without water, the more urgent the need becomes. When you reach 5% fluid loss, you can’t deny that something is wrong. You feel your heart rate racing and your temperature rising, you can’t sweat or urinate, and extreme fatigue and muscle cramps takes over and demand you take notice. At this point you are actively seeking water. If it’s nowhere to be found, at 10% fluid loss, death is imminent. You can’t walk, see, or urinate. Your skin starts to shrivel, pain overtakes you, breathing slows, and you finally succumb to unconsciousness. To be thirsty, quite literally, means you are on a path to death and need to access water in a hurry!

To be spiritually dehydrated is no less fatal, and the symptoms start out just as subtly. Maybe you have lost your appetite for God’s word; reading it just doesn’t taste as good as it used to? You question if words written thousands of years ago can really “speak” into your life; alter your difficult circumstances? Maybe you’re questioning whether your faith is really accomplishing anything? You feel dry, complacent, and unable to pray. You’re going through the religious motions because they are what you’ve always done. Maybe you’re just tired, weak…worn out?  The longer you go without a drink, or the longer you go trying to satiate your spiritual thirst with fleshly drinks, the more intense these symptoms become.  You struggle to find peace, purpose, even hope? Are you thirsty?

Jesus claimed to offer living water to the thirsty, a continuous source of hydration from within, his very Spirit to drink.  John records Jesus’ offer pre-sacrificial death; pre-glorification, so he offers us a commentary on Jesus’ claim. John said that Jesus was speaking of the Spirit that he was yet to pour out to those who would believe.

These words of Jesus had all sorts of implications to John’s audience, because the context of the claim was an important Jewish Festival, the Feast of Tabernacles. One of three yearly pilgrimage festivals for the Jews to Jerusalem, this one celebrated the fall harvest and recalled the provisions of God in the wilderness wanderings of the Jews, when they lived in temporary shelters and their breakfast, lunch and dinner fell from the sky and their water poured out of rocks. On the last day of the Festival of Tabernacles, in Jerusalem, an important ritual ensued. A mass of worshippers followed their high priest who took a golden pitcher, filled it with water from the Pool of Siloam, walked back up the steps of the temple, and poured it out in front of the people, recalling God’s promises to pour out His Spirit on his people. Jesus boldly interrupted this ritual when he screamed out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him COME TO ME and drink.” It was if he was saying, “I’m the water you’ve been waiting for!”

Close to 2000 years on the other side of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, witness and ascension back to the Father, you and I still have access to this spiritual drink, the very Spirit of God the Son, Jesus Christ, and God our Father. The offer is a free gift, a complete filling, a loving response to our belief in him, our complete trust in his saving, redemptive work on the cross, but it demands that we drink.  Paul said to our Christian ancestors, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (I Cor 12:13) Later, he told believers to be filled with the Spirit instead of getting drunk on other kinds of “spirits.”

The physical symptoms of dehydration demand we go on a hunt for water and then get it into our system!   The good news for the believer in Jesus is that we already have a continuous stream of living water, the Holy Spirit residing inside of us! We have all of the Spirit, but the Spirit may not have all of us. If you are experiencing the symptoms of spiritual dehydration today, drink deeply! Cry out to God in prayer, asking him to help you pour out the junk in your heart and mind that is blocking the cleansing, empowering work of the Spirit within you. Seek him… in the words of Scripture, through the counsel of a Spirit-filled friend, in heart felt worship via song, poetry, dance…and you will find him, when you seek Him with all your heart. (Jer 29:13)

Overcoming Waters of Fear

I fight with fear…a knock-down, drag out fist fight of the mind. The waters of self-doubt seem to swell most at night, when the enemy convinces me that I’m not good enough as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, or friend. My body convinces me that I am in danger. Fear convinces me to trust my own instincts of self-preservation in order to remain safe and secure, either fighting to defend myself against rejection or taking flight when the water threatens to get over my head. The apostle John presents Jesus calming the waters of fear and doubt in John 6 to show his followers that He is the same God who had delivered them through the dangerous waters of their past.

John chapter 6 brings us to the Jewish feast of Passover, a time of great remembrance and celebration for the Jews, recalling God’s protection and provision when he led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery and into their promised land of Canaan. The apostle John masterfully blends elements of this week long ritual observance with the work of Jesus,  proving him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the perfect object of their Passover observance! Just as God proved himself powerful over water by parting the Red Sea, enabling the Israelites to walk through on dry ground to escape their Egyptian enemy, Jesus walks on water and calms a storm in the presence of his disciples. Just as God provided manna and quail daily in the wilderness to provide for his people, Jesus multiplies a few pieces of bread and fish to feed the multitudes. Finally, as the culmination of the observance, John will have Jesus referencing his own flesh and blood as the bread and wine of the Passover meal, which was consumed to remind the people of the redemption they experienced when the angel of death passed over their doors in Egypt, prompting their release from slavery.

From this context, let’s consider Jesus’ command over the Sea of Galilee, dispelling the fear of his followers.  In John 6:16, His disciples were no doubt exhausted and confused, pursued by a crowd of people who had witnessed some amazing miracles and were ready to make Jesus king by force! Facing a riled up mob, their leader withdraws to pray and leaves them to fend for themselves after dark, in a meager boat on an angry sea.   Put some creepy background music to this scene, and you have the elements for a good horror flick!  Faced with a fight or flight response, they take the flight option, flying by the seat of their pants, and rowing for 3 ½ miles into blackness, wind and swells.   I think John was kind to describe them as “terrified” when they saw Jesus approaching the boat and walking on water. They were probably screaming like little girls, out of their minds and their bodily functions with sheer horror and panic.   Just as the Israelites faced fear as an entire Egyptian army approached and pinned them in at the Red Sea, with nowhere to go but to their assured death in the waters before them, the disciples likely feared for their lives.  Jesus uses the same type of phrase to describe himself as God used with the Hebrews, “It is I” (John 6:20) is reminiscent of “I am that I am,” (Exodus 3:14) and the message was the same as it was to Moses, “Do not be afraid.” The disciples are persuaded to take him into the boat… faith in the grip of fear.   Immediately, the boat reaches the shore… fear abated.  Perfect love, indeed, drives out fear. (I John 4:18)

The message is unchanged for you and me as Christ followers, today. The perfect Passover lamb has been sacrificed on our behalf and rose again to conquer fear and death once and for all, leaving his very Spirit residing in us as believers! When fear grips us, and fight or flight tempts us, Jesus says, “I am here; don’t be afraid.”  If God, the Father, Son and Spirit has power over the elements of nature, over his very grave, do you not think He can handle the people, diseases, and circumstances that threaten us today? Paul put it this way, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) The storm may still rage and our bodies may or not be spared, but we are promised that our hearts and minds are always guarded in Christ Jesus. This is the weapon I fight with on my fearful nights. I envision Jesus calming the storm in my mind, and taking my meager boat to the shore where I’m heading. May you find his peace today in the middle of your storm!