April 3:"Whose Side Are You On, Anyway?"
Do you ever find yourself in the middle of uncomfortable situations where you feel you are being forced to choose a side? In John 11:45-57, we find the chief priests deliberating over what to do with Jesus. This is the central question for each and every person from that day until this. In the name of protecting what in their minds was "true religion" (or, were they just maintaining their power?), they decide to actively oppose him and work for his demise. Sometimes today our opposition of Jesus is more subtle, but we dare not forget that Jesus said, "he who is not for me (actively) is against me." So, while we must be careful not to "stand in the way" of God's agenda in the world, that is NOT enough. We must be change agents.
April 10:"The Sweet Smell of Excess"
Many people feel driven to success. However, in our culture is it really success, or is it excess that we are pursuing? In John 12:1-11, there is the story of the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany. A theme of the story is the extravagant (some would say "excessive") loving action of Mary. But in this case, excess is "just right." The cast of characters in the story is interesting. Of course, there is Jesus and Mary . . . but also prominent are Judas, the chief priests, and the crowd. Do we see ourselves in the
extravagant love of Mary for Jesus? The evangelistic zeal of Lazarus? The greed of Judas? There's another interesting twist. Jesus says, "the poor you will always have with you." From Matthew 25, we can conclude that--in this present day--the best way for us to anoint the feet of Jesus is by anointing the feet of the poor. "Anointers" who have been with Christ carry the sweet aroma.
Palm Sunday, April 17:"When You've Said Enough"
Have you, like me, ever had difficulty keeping your mouth shut? Have you ever said too much? Have you ever had a parent, a principal, a policeman or a judge offer a warning by saying, "you've said enough"? In the closing chapters of the Gospel of John, there are a lot of things said about Jesus. In the story of the Triumphal Entry (John 12-19), the crowd says three specific things that stand out. The people shouted, "hosanna". The meaning of the word in Hebrew points to Jesus' work as Savior. Secondly, when they said, "blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord," one can see an allusion to the divinity of Christ. Thirdly, when they shouted, "blessed is the King of Israel," we are compelled to consider the authority Jesus Christ holds. (Afterall, a person really should do what the King says!) When you connect all of these affirmations together...Jesus Christ is Savior, Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, and Jesus Christ is King--the One to be honored and obeyed--you really have said enough.
Good Friday, April 22:"The Shout Heard Round the World"
In this series, "Easter Changes Everything," we have been following the events of Easter in the Gospel according to John. John is the only writer who records the phrase of Jesus from the cross, "It is finished," or, what I am calling "the shout heard round the world." With these words, Jesus is marking the decisive point in all of history. What Christ accomplished by dying on the cross is the reason we can say that Easter changes everything. How we view the death of Jesus on the cross has relevancy for us in relation to how we live, how we die, and what happens to us after we die.
Easter Sunday, April 24:"A Gardener, A Ghost, or a God?"
The 20th chapter of John deals with the resurrection of Jesus, both the culmination and the climactic episode of all the Easter week events. The resurrection of Jesus Christ surely proves that "Easter Changes Everything." However, those who encountered the Risen Christ had different initial reactions. It could be said that the same is true today. Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus as "the gardener" (verse 15). Many today see the Lord as one who should be at our beck and call, ready to do our bidding (like a gardener). To others, like Thomas, he is a ghost, a strange, disembodied spirit, and "until I can put my fingers where the nails were I will not believe" (verse 25). To put it another way, God scares some people and they are unwilling to follow the Lord by faith. Still others stand ready to make the declaration of verse 28 concerning the Risen Christ, "my Lord and my God"! For these, the Living Lord--through the Holy Spirit--offers to become a daily and abiding presence (verses 21-22). Which is it for you?