pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Expect

Reading: John 21: 1-14

Verse 13: “Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish”.

In today’s passage from John, Jesus makes His third appearance. When Jesus arrives about seven of the disciples are out in a boat. They have fished all night and have caught nothing. Jesus stands on the shore and directs them to cast their empty nets on the right side of the boat. Then, once ashore, we read, “Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish”.

If we dig a little deeper, our passage reveals a few important things about Jesus and His relationship with His followers. First, He enters our lives at times unexpected. After a long and unsuccessful night of fishing, suddenly He is there on the shore. At times, Jesus will suddenly appear in our lives. Yes, He is always there. But at times that presence will be more – we can and do experience Jesus in a deeper or more meaningful way from time to time. Expect Jesus always.

The second thing we see is that Jesus is still in the miracle business. The large catch of 153 fish when there had been no fish for hours and hours triggers John to identify Jesus and Peter to leap into the lake. Yes, the risen Christ is still capable of miracles. This is not the answer to our prayers kind of miracle. It reminds the fishermen and it reminds us of just who our Jesus is – one who will surprise us now and then to help us along in our walk of faith. Maybe it will be a door opening to a new opportunity. Maybe it will be a revelation in a scripture or devotional that we are reading. Expect Jesus always.

The third thing we see is that Jesus continues to provide. He physically provides something of value and He spiritually provides for their faith too. The income from the fish will help the new ministry. The fact the Jesus comes and feeds them some bread and fish assures their faith. The risen and resurrected Lord will continue to be there, to care for His followers, to reveal Himself through acts of love. For us, it can be a neighbor or friend bringing something in a time of want or need. It can be that note or text or phone call when we need a little pick up or a little reminder of faith. It can be the Holy Spirit helping us to see with new eyes. Expect Jesus always.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for remaining present, for being there in my life in so many ways. I praise you for the unexpected visits, for the ways you work in and through me, for the love and care you pour into my life. Thank you, God. Amen.

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Personal Call

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Verse 15: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for”?

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early on the first day, prepared to visit the grave. She was present throughout the events of Thursday and Friday, when they tried, beat, and crucified her Lord. She was there when the stone was rolled in place, sealing the end of the story. Mary comes in the darkness, full of sorrow and grief and pain. She at first assumes Jesus’ enemies have stolen the body. Mary tells Peter and John; they run to the tomb and enter, finding just the linen and cloths lying there.

Peter and John return home, but Mary lingers. She stands outside the tomb crying. Grief has been added to grief. What else could she do but stand and weep? Two angels appear in the tomb and ask her why she weeps. Because they have taken the body of her Lord. A second question comes, this time from behind her: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for”? Maybe this is who took the body. Again, tell me where you have put the body. But then it happens. Jesus says to her, “Mary”. In that moment, in that personal and intimate moment, Mary knows it is Jesus. She cries out in recognition and hears the news from Jesus Himself. She goes and tells the disciples the good news: “I have seen the Lord”! Jesus is alive. He is risen!

As it was with Mary, so it is with us. Jesus calls out to each of us: Sue! Peter! Anna! Fred! Melanie! Steve! Beth! Mark! Hanna! Joshua! … When we search, Jesus calls out to us. He seeks us. He finds us. Some have walked a slow but pretty steady journey to the point that Jesus finally became personal, calling out our name. Some have had a sudden encounter with Jesus – unexpected and sudden, caused by situation or circumstance. The same Jesus called out your name. In that moment Jesus became your Lord and Savior. There are many ways to become friends with Jesus Christ. They all begin with the same question asked of Mary: whom are you looking for?

We are all looking for the same thing. All of humanity wants purpose and meaning and relationship. We find all this and more in Jesus Christ. In Him we find a deep satisfaction for all that our soul longs for. The eternal, big questions are all answered by the One who personally calls our name. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, open your heart to Him. He will find you. If you know the Lord, rejoice today because we celebrate: He is risen! He is alive! Thanks be to God! Jesus is alive!!

Prayer: Lord of all, you are risen, resurrected, and eternal. Yet you are intimately connected to each of us. Hallelujah! Amen.


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Too Good

Reading: Luke 24: 36b-40

Verse 38: “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds'”?

I can remember when I first re-met my wife. I had a big crush on her in high school and then we went off to college and to begin adult life thereafter. Then one night her and a friend happened into the place I and a friend were. Without going into much detail, I found myself on a late night stroll at the camp she was working at that summer. I could not believe what was happening. My head reeled as I drove home.

It had been three great years with Jesus. The things He taught and did would stay with them forever. But then there was the trial and the crucifixion and placing the definitely dead body in the tomb. And oh the hurt that was felt and the tears that were cried these last three days. What they could not believe could ever happen now felt so real and permanent. Then there were some saying Jesus was risen and two others said they met and walked and talked with Him. But the last three days are so real.

Jesus steps into the disciples’ presence and says, “Peace be with you”. The disciples were startled and frightened. The last three days felt so real. They had begun to have those ‘what now?’ conversations and to consider the possibility of what they would do or return to. Jesus entering their lives again was not one of the things they considered.

As I drove home that night, I thought it all too good to be true. I was sure she would not even take my phone call asking for a date. And I was more sure she would not say yes.

“He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds'”? The better question is why wouldn’t they be troubled and doubting. We too would have been in the same place mentally and emotionally. So Jesus offers them some proofs, saying, “Look at my hands and feet” – don’t you remember where they put the nails? And then Jesus invites them closer: “Touch and see”! He is among them, flesh and bones and all. It is not a ghost. Touch and feel and see Jesus right then and there.

The men and women in the room that day will take what they see and touch and feel and they will go out into the world to witness to what they know. They will go forth to share the good news that Jesus defeated sin and death and will help all who believe to do the same. It is good news still today – yes, almost too good to be true. We too are called to help all to hear this good news, to know the risen Christ. May we go forth to bear witness this day and every day.


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He Is Alive!

Reading: John 20: 1-18

Verse 18: Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, “I have seen the Lord”!

In the original garden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  They had a close, personal relationship.  Their sin cost them much: they were forced from the garden.  With sin, death also entered the world.  We fast forward to another garden, this time the garden of Gethsemane.  In a moment of weakness, we find a human Jesus worried about death.  He does not want to die.  The physical part of Jesus knows what it will be like to be crucified.  But Jesus masters the fear and prepares to walk to the cross.  The divine Jesus triumphs and He is willing to drink of the cup for us.  The cup represents the new covenant, made with His blood.  This cup of forgiveness is for all who call on Jesus as Lord and Savior.  His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  The sin that had entered in the first garden is defeated by Christ on the cross.  In the new covenant, we are freed from the power of sin.

Today’s story takes place in another garden.  Hope seemed lost.  Mary and the disciples have seen that the tomb is empty, but the do not understand.  The one they called “Messiah” – Savior of the world – was gone.  Mary stands alone, weeping.  Then angels appear, almost to announce what happens next.  Mary turns and asks for the body.  “Mary”.  Jesus speaks her name.  “Mary”.  With her name spoken, suddenly she knows it is Jesus.  She knows His voice.  He calls her by name.  In John 10:14, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”.  At His voice, Mary knows it is Jesus.  On the cross, Jesus defeated sin.  From the grave, He defeats death.

Jesus continues to call out, calling us each by name.  He calls us by name, into a personal relationship with Him.  When we open our hearts to Jesus, He comes and dwells within us.  In this relationship, we know Jesus, just as He knows us.  In this relationship, we experience what He experienced – victory over sin and death.  May we join many, proclaiming what Mary proclaimed: “I have seen the Lord”!  Hallelujah and amen!  He is risen!  He is alive!!


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Lent and Ashes

Reading: Psalm 51: 1-17

Lent begins today on Ash Wednesday.  We mirror Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness with a season in which we too prepare ourselves and look forward to Easter, when we celebrate our risen Lord.  On this Lenten journey we pray, study, meditate, fast, and repent as means of preparation.  We begin this journey with ashes.  As we repent and work to mirror Jesus, we must work to prune away all that is impure and force certain parts of ourselves to die.  The mark of the cross on our foreheads reminds us that we belong to Jesus.  The one we seek to follow and emulate walks with us.  As we undertake this Lenten journey, we know that we do not walk alone.

Psalm 51, the Ash Wednesday choice forever, opens with, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love”.  Verse three reminds us, “My sin is always before me”.  We live each and every day with this reality.  We are always in a battle with temptation and sin; Satan remains vigilant, always seeking to derail us, to draw us away from God.  We seek and desperately need God’s mercy because we fail.  We are assured of God’s unfailing love.  This is a beautiful thing.  In verse ten we read, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”.  These words will be said often tonight.  This is our goal in this life – to live with a pure heart.  Creating a pure heart is the focus of our Lenten journey.  May we use verse ten often as a prayer to God in this holy season of Lent.

Lent is certainly a time to look inward and to prepare for the risen Christ.  But we must also look outward.  We do not live in a vacuum.  We live as a part of humanity.  As such, we are all connected together.  Verse thirteen reads, “then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you”.  We are called as Christians to shine the light of Jesus out into the world.  Many are broken and hurting.  Each needs to experience God’s unlimited mercy, unfailing love, and endless forgiveness.  As we journey through Lent, preparing ourselves, may we also help others on their journey, bringing friends and strangers alike to the cross so that they too can know our risen Savior.


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D

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 16-18

Like almost all the other stories of Jesus, someone was there to remember the event, to tell others about it, to one day record it.  I’d imagine most of the stories, particularly the miracles, were talked about quite a bit.  This is a large part of why Jesus drew such a crowd at times.  They had heard.  At Jesus’ baptism there were some onlookers there to see the Spirit descended and to hear the “this is my Son” declaration.  But the transfiguration story is so much more.  Jesus’ appearance changes, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus, the voice of God again speaks.  In all of this, we gain confirmation of Jesus’ divinity and authority.  But, for the time being, this story goes untold, as per Jesus’ instructions.

In the transfiguration account, we see that the God we adore and worship and praise is the same as the the One who came in the flesh.  In the power and divine majesty of the transfiguration, we see a glimpse of the Messiah who will one day return again to restore all things as He establishes the new heaven and earth.  The image in 2nd Peter also connects forward to the vision of Jesus that John has in Revelation.  Both Peter and John are so in awe of what they see that they both have trouble putting words to what they see and experience.  In between these two events we have he risen Lord, appearing in the garden, in a room, on the seashore,…  We see a loving God who reassures His closest friends that He is going back to be with His Father, but also promising to one day return in glory.

As we prepare to enter Lent, we embrace all of this – the Christ who was here before time, the human Jesus who walked the earth and was crucified for our sins, and the risen Messiah that will one day return to make all things new.  As faithful and obedient disciples, we cry out, “Come Lord Jesus, come!”


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The Solution

Reading: John 21: 1-14

In the Gospel of John, Jesus has already appeared to the disciples two times, but they have not yet been empowered.  They are still in the “now what?” stage.  Jesus is indeed risen, but…  Fear of the authorities is maybe a little less now, but it is still real.  In the midst of all this waiting around behind locked doors, Peter announces that he is going fishing.  The combination of knowing Jesus is alive and being couped up for a while may explain his decision.  But for Peter, part of it may be the emotions he is personally dealing with.  Bold and fiery Peter swore allegiance to Jesus at all costs, even death, but had denied even knowing Jesus three times that last night.

So maybe Peter was seeking to return to something he knew, to his roots.  Up until meeting Jesus he had always been a fisherman.  We all find comfort in knowing what we are doing, in the familiar.  Out on the water with his friends, Peter probably found a measure of peace.  Doing something familiar probably took his mind off his guilt.

Sometimes we are not unlike Peter.  After a tough day a big bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips sure can help a lot.  For some, addictive or destructive habits can be where they turn.  We run the gamut with our coping mechanisms.  But our root cause and solution are the same: something has created tension or angst and we want to occupy ourselves somehow, so we reach out for what we know.

When Peter is in the boat and he comes to recognize it is Jesus on the shore, he immediately jumps into the water to get to Jesus quickly.  His fishing trip didn’t really fix anything.  Peter knows Jesus can.  In our times of trial may we too quickly look to Jesus.  May we too go to Him without hesitation.  Jesus is always the solution.  Always.