Year A – Lent 2 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17  – Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Summary –  Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. Many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word in“again” (v3) in the popular phrase “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” Hence the NRSV has it as born from “above,” just as John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.” a) The cross as the basis of our kingdom acceptance (v15); b) God’s love is the motivation for kingdom salvation (v16); c) God’s kingdom purpose is that the world might be saved (v17).

Insight – Jesus came to bring a new age. Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.” Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). God’s action in sending Christ was “that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s purpose and intention is expressed as world salvation (1Jn 2). Like many kingdom promises, this can only be fulfilled progressively. Like the mustard seed, the leaven, the growth of the waters covering the sea and entrance of nations into the new Jerusalem, this is best understood as the cumulative outcome of all salvation history.

Child’s Catechism – Can your recite John 3:16? For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Discussion – Do you believe that God is good and that good will be ultimately seen in the world?

Prayer – God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

St John’s Gospel (31): Jesus Enters Jerusalem (John 12)

Mary Anoints Jesus . . . Again (vv1-11) – The previous chapter makes reference to an anointing of Jesus with costly perfume-oil. But which anointing is the referent (Mt. 26, Mk 14, Lk 7:36, Jn 12)? The puzzling one is in Luke 7:36ff, since it would seemingly be earlier in the ministry of Jesus, perhaps in Galilee (Lk 17:11). The best explanation is not that John “carefully combined details from the two anointing traditions because both stories had details that served his theological purposes” (NIB). Rather, it is like the temple cleansing which fulfills the pattern of cleansing a leprous/unclean House (Lev. 14:33-47; cf. John 2:13), it happened twice. The first anointing in his early ministry pictured forgiveness is fragrant aroma, the second as the basis for forgiveness in a burial fragrance, prior to his final entry into Jerusalem. Note: in Mt, Mk, & Jn it is for “burial,” but in Lk it is about the love arising from forgiveness with no mention of “burial.” This further explains Jn 11:2; this is the Mary who “anointed” Jesus (in the past, aorist vb; e.g., in Lk. 7). It could be objected that “Simon” is also there (in Lk 7), suggesting the same event. However, Simon is very common name (Simon Peter, Simon the Zealot, Simon the half brother of Jesus, Simon Iscariot, Simon the Pharisee*, Simon the leper, Simon of Cyrene, Simon Magus, and Simon the Tanner). The Simon of Luke 7 is “Simon” a Pharisee. The Simon of Mt/Mk/Jn is “Simon the leper.” It is unlikely that a leper is a “pure one” (“Pharisee”). The designation, “Simon the leper” is to distinguish him from the other “Simons” which are legion. With the anointing and “wiping” of Jesus feet, the worshipful Mary does more than sit at his feet to learn, she serves Jesus in the same way Jesus will serve the disciples in the next chapter. Jesus “wipes” (same term) the feet of the disciples. Only Mary, among all of the disciples, “gets” Jesus. This event not only foreshadows Christ’s humble service, it also discloses the haughty disservice traitor Judas. Judas had a “sharp sense of financial values and no appreciation of human values” (EBC). Christ’s proverbial response, “the poor you always have with you…” is an echo of Dt. 15:11, “There will always be poor people in the land.” If one truly desires to serve the poor, there will be abundant opportunity. Christ responds, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (NIV v7; cf 19:39ff). Word spreads that both Jesus and celebrity, mummy Lazarus were present, so crowds formed, preventing the Jewish leaders from killing both of them for the moment. (Poor Lazarus, how many times does this guy have to die?) This pericope at first glance may seem odd, but is an artful transition from the events of ch. 11 (Lazarus, Martha/Mary, and the plot to kill Jesus) to the events of Holy Week. Don’t Judas-ize, using pious reasons for greed.

Jesus Enters into Jerusalem . . . Again (vv12-36) – John alone provides the “Palm Sunday” chronology (“six days before the Passover” + “the next day” 12:1 & 12:12) embedded in Church Time. John’s “triumphal entry” also provides a strong rationale as to why the crowds hailed Jesus waving branches (unique to Jn), namely the raising of Lazarus (vv17-18). These branches under and waving around him provide a symbolic “riding in the clouds” (on the tops of the trees). This entry provides more fuel for the murderous fires in the Pharisees hearts (v19). They proclaim (rightly, but ironically) that the “world” (cosmos) has gone after Jesus; just at this point a group of cosmopolitan Greeks beseech Him (v20). Christ’s words explain the very heart of his mission: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (v24-25). Christ’s sacrificial and substitutionary death is for the cosmos. His disciples follow this pattern (v26). Jesus prays, “Father, glorify your name” (in all the cosmos v28). As in his baptism, a voice from the sky responded: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Christ’s explanation of this powerful word is: the near judgment of the world, the banishment of Satan as coterminous (now is the time) with his being “lifted up to draw all” to himself (v31). Because of the cross, Satan no longer has authority as a “prince” in the world; don’t be a devil-worshiper by believing Satan rules the world. The crowds once again raise doubts and Jesus speaks in “black and white” terms: there is Light in the world now, believe it because soon the darkness is coming. Believe the Light to become sons of Light. Don’t be a devil-worshiper by believing Satan rules the world.

Jesus Summarizes His Teaching . . . Again (vv36-50) – John explains that Jesus spoke these things and then temporarily removed Himself from their clawing grasps (not unlike 6:14ff). John’s summary is that the signs were abundant, but the crowds were faithless. This fulfills the hard words of Isaiah (53) in the rejection of the Servant. He also cites Is. 6:10; God blinded Israel from “seeing” him (Jn 1:11). John emphasizes “seeing” in the quote, cutting out the “hearing” phrases. Seeing is supposed to be “believing” – signs are visible. Amazingly, John identifies Isaiah’s paramount vision of seeing the Lord with seeing Jesus (v41).“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Is. 6; Jn 12:41). This qualifies as a superlative example of “Jesus = God” teaching in the NT. Despite this glory, John reports that even Jewish believers lacked courage to confess him (v42). Jesus final words of his public ministry sum up his message (vv44ff): believing in Me is believing in the Father; seeing Me is seeing the Father; rejecting my word is judgment by the Father, whose commandment purposed eternal life. Jesus came not to judge the world, but to save the world (v47). Don’t lie about Jesus’s mission which was to save the world.

Year C – 6th Sunday of Easter – John 5:1-9

Text–After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  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 going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.  Now that day was the Sabbath. (John 5:1-9)

Summary–Here we read John’s third account of a miracle by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Remember that John doesn’t write a full biography of Jesus.  That would simply not be possible.  He tells that the whole world could not contain the books if everything had been recorded.  Rather, John writes to confirm that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The miracle of the healing of the man at Bethzatha shows us two aspects about Jesus that are important.  First, this miracle highlights the love of Jesus in his humanity.  He came to save the weak and the suffering.  Those waiting at the pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem were described as blind, lame and paralyzed.  They could not heal themselves and were getting no help from the world around them.  They needed a savior to heal them.  Second, this miracle shows us the power of Jesus in his divinity.  This miracle validates Christ as the Son of God who cares and heals the sick.  Jesus being fully human in his compassion and fully divine in his power intersects at this miracle to tell each of us that apart from him, we are equally lost and without hope, like the beggar at the well.

Insight–The beggar at the well is a pitiful sight.  He is surrounded by others equally pitiful and without hope.  Maybe you think that this picture at the well is sad but not relevant to your circumstance.  After all, you can see the world around you.   You can run with your friends.  You can feel pleasure and pain; your not paralyzed at all. Friend, you must realize that apart of the saving work of Jesus Christ, you too would be blind, lame and paralyzed.  The beggar represents the whole human race apart from Christ and his righteousness freely offered to you through grace by faith alone.  How does God see people before he saves us?  Romans 5:6 tells us that it was when we were “powerless”, Christ died for the ungodly.  Powerless here means, “infirm, feeble, unable to achieve anything great, destitute of power among men, sluggish in doing right.”  In other words, God tells us that when we could not do a thing for ourselves spiritually, Christ died for us.  Before Christ called you to himself, you too were blind.  Jesus said this to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 when he said, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Before God saved you, you were lame.  In Matthew 9 we read of the paralytic man who could not come on his own to be healed.  Finally, Romans 7:18 explains that you are paralyzed.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  But take hope, it is at the time of your greatest weakness that Christ came to save you.  He came to save the blind, the lame and the paralyzed.  He came to find you.  Will you argue that you are not helpless, that you are able to come before God on your own and be judged righteous?  There will be only one verdict apart from trusting in Christ for your salvation.  Know that your sins have been dealt with in Christ and that he gives you new life when you put your trust in him.  What a glorious God we serve!

Catechism–(Q) Who did Christ come to save? (A) The blind, the lame and the paralyzed.

Discussion–Who is suffering in your neighborhood that you need to share this message of joy with?  Can you think of anyone who needs to be picked up and carried into the water of salvation? 

Prayer–Father God we magnify your glorious son who you sent to save us from our hopelessness.  Lord, open our eyes to your beauty.  Give us new hearts to live in a manner worthy of your calling which you have called us.  We praise you, Father, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday of Easter – John 13:31-35

Text–31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 ESV)

Summary–Up to this point in the upper room, Jesus’ teachings to his disciples had been veiled and somewhat guarded.  Not all of those who were present with him were of the same spirit.  Judas was about to give Jesus over to his enemies.  As long as Judas was there, Christ seemed to hold back his teaching until the traitor departed.  With Judas gone, the die was cast and the atmosphere was cleared.  Jesus could tell them more clearly what was about to happen in his coming glory and what that would mean for them.  Christ was going to be cruxified, and they would not be able to follow him.  But as we shall read, the pattern of self-sacrificial love will be set for his disciples to follow in a way previously not asked of them.  They would receive a “new commandment” to love one another as Christ loved them to the glory of the father through the Christ the son.

Insight–So much confusion surrounds the idea of love.  What does it really mean anyway?  Is it mutual affection between two parties?  Our government would define love in these terms as it walks down the path to destruction on defining marriage.  Who cares who the parties are in the marriage bond, so long as they love each other.  Do you love him or her or them or it, then go right ahead and marry them.  But this is where they get it all wrong.  Love is not about being able to do whatever you feel like so long as it makes you happy.  Jesus is love and defines it for us here in this text.  John calls this a new commandment which really isn’t new at all.  The summary of the Old Testament law is to love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourselves.  So what is so new about this commandment?  The answer in large measure comes from John’s first epistle.  He tells us in 1 Jn 3:16-18, “This is how we know what love is; Jesus laid down his life for us.  And we out to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity for him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”  By Jesus coming into this world and taking on our nature, and dying on the cross, his example is a new commandment.  Up to this point, all was shadow and pointed to a future understanding of love.   This is what makes it new.  Here is the new pattern; we love sacrificially and by our actions will we show ourselves truly to be Christ’s disciples.  God grant that we stop loving ourselves and start loving according to Christ’s new commandment. 

Catechism–(Q) How does the world know you are a Christian? (A) That you love one another.

Discussion–What ways can you love those around you as Christ loved his disciples?  Do you have to die for your neighbor in order to love him like Christ describes in this text? 

Prayer–Father God how amazing it is to realize how much you loved us by sending your own son to leave the majesty of heaven to save us from your wrath.  Lord God give us new hearts to love what we previously hated.  Awaken us to love you by loving our neighbors as Christ loved his church.  Let the world glorify you in seeing how we love one another.  Father it is in your name that we pray through the mediator of your Son by the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 4th Sunday of Easter – John 10:22-30

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 ESV)

Summary–John often uses scenes and seasons to build on his explanation that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.  Here in our text, John uses the timeframe of the feast of lights or Dedication to teach how Jesus’ enemies misunderstood all the words and works of Jesus.  While celebrating a festival surrounded by light, these Jews were in the dark and completely missed what Jesus taught and did about himself.  The scene begins “at the time the feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem” (vv.1) which commemorated the purification of the temple by Judas the Maccabee in the year 165 B.C. after it had been defiled by the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes.   By keeping lamps lit seven days when there was only enough oil for one day, Jews remembered God’s protection for them.  By this one miracle, Jews looked to him coming back to rescue them from their enemies.  With this backdrop in mind, John recounts the confrontation between the Jews who wanted another miracle, and Jesus, who for the past three years gave enough miracles to fill the candlesticks of the temple 70 x 7 days.

Insight–When was the last time you spoke to an unbeliever who just wanted some clear evidence for the existence of God?  “I want to believe”, they say, “but their just isn’t enough proof for me to believe.  These questions might be valid if evidence or plain speech were lacking.  But if there is enough evidence and they still don’t want to believe, then all that is going on here is an attempt to avoid responsibility and shift blame away from their prideful rebellion.  This is exactly what is going on in the text before us.  John’s gospel is filled with evidence (what he calls signs) to  make his point that Christ is indeed the Son of God.  John records the miracle at Cana of changing water into wine (2:1-11).  He told of the healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54).  He told of the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-14) as well as the healing of the blind man from birth (9:1-41).  The greatest miracle up to this point was the raising of Lazarus (11:1-44).  Each miracle pointed to Jesus that he was the Messiah.  Yet this is not enough, the Jews wanted more.  “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (vv.24). 

People in our day want the same evidence.  They can’t believe the Scriptures because they are full of error and can’t be proven.  How blind these people are to the truth.  There are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of various books of the Bible, manywithin 50-150 years of the original documents being written, yet there is not enough proof.  But how much evidence do we have for Plato’s works?  The earliest copy we have for Plato was written 1200 years after he lived and there are only 7 copies of his works in exidence  and yet there is no question that these texts are true. 

If the evidence is so plain, why doesn’t everyone believe?  The Jews ask for a plain answer, and Jesus gives it to them.  He tells them that on their own, they will not believe that he is God.  Only those who are called by him graciously will ever believe this to be true.  We are blinded by our sin until he calls us.  We can’t see until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes.  Do you believe?  Are you His sheep?  Have you been baptised into his body and called into his fold?  If you have, trust the words of the Bible and the works of our Lord.  If you are not, then ask for mercy and grace to see this reality.  Jesus is the Christ.  God grant that it might be so increasingly for Jesus’ sake.

Catechism–(Q) How do we know that Jesus is the Christ?  (A) By his words and works we plainly know that he is God.

Discussion–Why did Jesus answer John the Baptist the way he did in Matthew 11 when asked if Jesus was the Messiah?  Why didn’t he just plainly say, “yes”? 

Prayer–Father God, we thank you for calling us out of darkness and into the light of your son.  Lord give us the strength to proclaim your love to our friends and neighbors knowing that you alone can heal their blind eyes and break their hard hearts.  We pray for a more manifestly glorious church that would confidently take your image to the world, that your glory would fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 3rd Sunday of Easter – John 21:1-19

Text–(John 21:1-19 ESV) After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Summary–Here is the book end of John’s gospel to the church.  The key to understanding this chapter is to see it as a parallel to the first part of chapter 1.  John 1:1-14 is the prologue in which the pre-incarnate activity of the Lord is summarzied.  John 21 is the epilogue which emphasizes the post-resurrection ministry of the Lord in which he rules his church and directs its members in their Christian growth and service.  Here we read of Peter’s restoration to Christ after rejecting him during Christ’s trial and crucifixion.  Here also we learn that, like Peter, we must never rely on our own strength in serving Christ for without our Lord, we will fall.  With our Lord, we will have the strength to follow him in righteousness to glorify the father and serve our neighor. 

Insight–Church history is full of stories about heroic figures who stand in the face of God’s enemies without faultering.  How many Christians went to their deaths being burned at the stake, eaten by lions, torn to pieces all for the sake of Christ?  But Church history also records those who refused to stand under the pressure of persecution.  How many Christians chose to bow before Ceasar so as to avoid the hungry lions?  These don’t make good stories to tell our children but they must be told.  Otherwise when we face challenges and fail in them, we feel as if there is no way back into God’s favor.  But there is a way back.  We read of such a path in this last chapter of John.  To understand why Jesus asks Peter what he does, and asks him the way he does it, we need to see that Peter failed him.  Headstrong Peter told Christ that he would follow him anywhere, even to death itself in need be.  Matthew records Peter’s claim, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt 26:33).   But while Christ faced his accusers that would eventually lead to his death, Peter waited next to a charcoal fire and denied him.  He denied him three times.  Peter’s self-confidence was toppled in a matter of minutes when he said, “I don’t know the man, I don’t know what you are talking about, I am not his disciple.”  Christ stood next to another charcoal fire and asked Simon, son of John, three times, “Do you love me?”  Christ restored Peter to service of his flock by reversing the three denials with three affirmations.  Headstrong Peter was humbled.  He was stripped of his selfish pride and showed what it takes to truly follow Christ.  There will be times when you will be asked to stand firm in your faith.  When that happens, what will you rely on?  Will you lean on your own strength?  If you do, be ready to fall.  Your own strength did not give you the ability to trust Christ and it won’t get you through whatever trial you may face.   If  you follow Peter’s example in John’s account, and love the Lord above everything else, you will be able to stand even if you stumbled in the past.   

Catechism–(Q) How many times did Peter reject Christ and how many times did Christ restore Peter? (A) Three times

Discussion–What do you do when you stumble in your faith?  Do you go fishing like Peter?  How can Christ restore you to himself when you fail in your faith?

Prayer–Heavenly Father, you are our rock and our fortress.  Before you spoke the world into existence, you chose us and adopted us throught Jesus Christ by the good pleasure of your Holy will.  While we rebelled against you, you loved us.  Lord, grant us the grace to reflect your love to the world by serving you with our whole hearts.  Lord, we ask this in your perfect name, through Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 2nd Sunday in Easter – John 20:19-31

Text–19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Summary–This narrative concerns the meeting of Jesus and Thomas a week after Christ’s resurrection.  Thomas had not been present with the other disciples when Christ first appeared to them in the upper room.  Upon hearing that Christ had indeed risen from the dead and had appeared to the rest, Thomas doubted.  He replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers into his side, I will not believe it” (vv. 25). Jesus appears to Thomas and offers up proof that he was raised from the dead.  In a glorious transformation from doubt to joy following Christ’s appearance to him, Thomas professes his faith that Jesus is his Lord and his God.  This declaration is the greatest profession of faith recorded in the gospels. 

Insight–Are there ever times in your Christian walk when you question God?  Are you ever suspicious about what you read in the Bible, especially in such matters as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?  Well you are not alone in this.  Thomas questioned God at this very point.  He doubted what everyone else seemed to believe, that Jesus was risen from the dead.   He had the gall to ask for a sign on what the disciples were claiming.  He went so far as to say that he wouldn’t believe it until he personally placed his fingers into the very wounds that secured Christ to the cross.  How much patience and love does Christ show when we doubt him?  For he could have let Thomas falter in his unbelief, writing him off that he should have known that the tomb would be empty.  But instead, our Lord fixed his eyes on Thomas and told him to go ahead, put his hands into the nail holes; put them into his side where others had thrust a spear.   The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon argued, “Our Lord does not always act towards us according to his own dignity, but according to our necessity; and if we really are so weak that nothing will do but thrusting a hand into his side, he will let us do it.”  Thomas was given the chance to put his fingers into the nail prints in order to cure his doubt.  Maybe you want the same opportunity.  Maybe you ask for just one visible sign that will remove all doubt.  You have that sign at your fingertips.  Quoting Augustine, “take up and read”.  Reread the gospel account of Christ’s suffering and death for your sake.  Picture the very holes that Christ offered to Thomas to alleviate his doubt.  Be strengthened that Christ did this for you.  John wrote this account so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that you would have life in His name.

Catechism–(Q) Why was the book of John written? (A) So that we will believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Discussion–Where can you turn when you doubt that Jesus was raised from the dead for you? 

Prayer–Heavenly Father, we praise you that you raised your Son from the dead that we would live.  We thank you for your Word that strengthens us when we doubt.  Keep us in your hands, Lord.  Let us grow in faith every day as we read your Word and pray to you.  We ask this in that name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday In Lent – John 12:1-9

Gospel Lesson – John 12:1-9 NRSV

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Summary – It was six days before the Passover, and Mary and Martha and Lazarus had Jesus over for dinner. Many of the Jews were looking to kill Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and as a result, many were believing in him. So this was most likely an intimate and low profile Sabbath dinner. Martha served, like usual, and Mary sat at Jesus feet, like usual (Luke 10:38ff). Here, Mary shows her love and devotion for Jesus by pouring a very expensive perfume onto his feet and wiping his feet with her hair. The scent of the perfume filled the house, much like Mary’s love for Jesus. Judas grumbled, saying that she should have sold the ointment and given the money to the poor. He didn’t actually care about the poor, he wanted the money for himself. Jesus tells Judas, “Leave her alone, she intended to keep it for the day of my burial.”  

Insight – “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Mary’s love for Jesus was known to all in that room that evening. It was so real you could smell it. Her heart was so overwhelmed with love that she freely and joyfully took her most precious and expensive gift and lavished it on Jesus. But contrasted with Mary’s love, is Judas’ heart, which is found cold and calculating, diabolical and thieving. His is a love of self. Not thinking about giving, only about taking. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” By entertaining Christ in our hearts and homes, having Him always as the guest of honor, we spread the beautiful fragrance of His love everywhere we go. This Lent, may we be like Mary who has once again chosen the good portion, by filling the room with the fragrance of her love for Christ. By doing so, she blesses everyone in the room, and is an aroma of life. Let us seek to do the same, and find real tangible ways we can anoint Christ in each other through acts of love and devotion.

 Catechism – What does Mary’s perfume remind us of? That we are the aroma of Christ, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Discussion – Discuss the amount of love that Mary had for Jesus. Discuss how our lives give off “aromas.” How can this aroma be unto life or unto death?

Prayer – Almighty and Most Magnificent Father, we praise you this day, with hearts full of the fragrance of love for the Blessed Lord Jesus. Give us grace to anoint the Lord with love and thanksgiving, that we might accompany Him in His death, and rise to life with Him in His resurrection, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, as life unto those who are being saved. In Jesus Holy Name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover