Moved to WordPress

I’ve recently moved the blog from Blogspot to WordPress, hosted on my website. Blogspot (Blogger) was getting next to impossible to write with – and the visual editor generated some nasty looking HTML.

WordPress looks to be a lot nicer, much more flexible, and behaves itself better. I cleaned up the HTML in all the posts I’ve imported from Blogspot, and I’ll do the Discipleship Resources next. I still don’t have the site completely the way I’d like it but it’s getting close.

I’m also thinking about converting my main website over to WordPress, so I’m using this blog to get some experience.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing lately. Hopefully I’ll return to (semi)regular posting shortly.

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A Successful Failure

After the talk with Nicodemus, Jesus and his disciples walked down to Judea to stay for a while and baptize. Emmanuel abided with them (John 3:22).

John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.

John 3:23-25 (ESV)

All this free-lance baptism activity going on at the Jordan was arousing attention. First John, and now Jesus, were baptizing people apart from the authority of the temple. This brought up questions, perhaps such as: What benefit did John’s baptism have over the temple ritual cleansing? Was Jesus’ baptism somehow better than both? Did it make you more pure? Why get baptized by John when you can get baptized by Jesus?

Things were simpler before Jesus came along.

And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

John 3:26 (ESV)

From a business perspective, the news was not good. John’s baptism enterprise had been going strong for a while, with crowds of people showing up. But now, even though they had plenty of product (water), the flow of customers was shrinking. More and more people were flocking to the new competitor in town. Perhaps John’s employees had hoped Jesus would sign up with them to help their monopoly expand even more. But now, with Jesus baptising on his own, they saw the writing on the wall. Disturbed, they go tell John.

It must have been hard to be a disciple of John, desiring to see your master’s ministry grow, and instead seeing it fade. Perhaps they were using the ministry for future personal glory (like an excellent retirement plan), just as Jesus’ disciples did later (Mark 10:37, Luke 22:24).

It was time for John to have a little talk with them (John 3:27-36)…

“Guys, you know everything we’re received comes from God. It’s not different with this ministry. I’m just a steward of what God has given me.

“I’ve been given a charge to proclaim the coming Messiah, which I’ve done to the best of my ability. He’s the Bridegroom, if you will. I’m merely the best man, getting things ready for the wedding.

“Now that Messiah is here, you should be happy He’s receiving more attention than we are! My mission is a success! To live in a day when we can see and hear the promised One speak… doesn’t that thrill you?

“So, while the ministry has been a success, I’m delighted to see it going away. I don’t want anything to detract from Jesus’ glory. The more you and I fade into the background, and the greater He becomes, the happier I’ll be.

“You all know I’m an imperfect human. I’ve spoken only what I’ve learned here on earth, or what God has told me to speak. This Jesus, on the other hand, literally came from heaven and is above us all. He’s a direct witness to heavenly things. Not even Moses saw the things Jesus did. Too bad most people don’t believe what He says!

“You should be like the few who do believe Him, because then you’ll be agreeing with God. This is important because Jesus, having the full measure of God’s Spirit, speaks God’s words.

“More than that, God the Father loves His Son Jesus, and has given all authority into His hands… even the exclusive right to give eternal life to those who believe in Him! If you refuse to believe, if you continue to call God a liar, then there’s no hope for you. You’ll remain under God’s wrath.”

This was John’s last recorded testimony of Jesus. Soon he would be imprisoned and beheaded.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

In this passage I’ve noticed how John continued to do the work God gave him, even though his ministry was winding down. He knew that the work he had to do was for a limited time, and he was ok with that.

It seems to me all God-given ministries have a limited lifespan. God calls someone to a work and it continues for a time – a few years, maybe a few generations – and then that ministry ends. In the meantime, God calls others to serve in other ways. Ministries come and ministries go. The problem is not that they come to an end, but that oftentimes we hang on to them, artificially extending their lives beyond what they should be. When that happens, the ministries become dead, lifeless organizations.

God will supply the needs of the ministries He wants to continue. And when it comes time for a ministry to end, rejoice! Take a lesson from John the baptist. He had the same attitude as Job:

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Job 1:21 (ESV)

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An Evening With Nicodemus – part 3

It was the third time Jesus urged Nicodemus to believe the truth:

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

John 3:11-12 (ESV)

In the past, God had sent prophets who spoke of temporal issues: sin and its earthly consequences; obedience and the resultant material blessings (Deuteronomy 28, Jeremiah 6:12,7:3-7). Through the Holy Spirit, many prophets foresaw what would happen and spoke their message. But even though there was a multitude of these witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15), the Jewish leaders didn’t believe them.

If they didn’t believe the Old Testament prophets who spoke of things that came to pass for all on earth to see, how would they believe the One who truly came from God and witnessed heavenly things no man saw?

And no one has gone up into heaven, save he who came down out of heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.

John 3:13 (ESV)

Nathaneal’s ears perked up. Jesus’ words echoed in his mind: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”. The disciples knew Jesus spoke of Himself. But Nicodemus wasn’t so sure.

“Jesus I see right in front of me. Who is this ‘Son of man’ he speaks of?”

And yet the disciples were also confused. How can their Master be both here and in heaven at the same time? Jesus didn’t explain.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of man be lifted up, that every one who believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal.

John 3:14-15 (ESV)

They all remembered the story…

Before their fathers had reached the Promised Land, they had to go around the land of Edom. Life in the wilderness was tough – like a 40-year long camping trip in the desert. The people weren’t happy and they let God and Moses know it.

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

God said He was bringing them out of Egypt to save them, but they called Him a liar. For their lack of faith, God sent poisonous snakes that bit the people. When many of them died, a quick change of mind occurred:

“We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.”

Numbers 21:7 (ESV)

In response to their plea, God gave them salvation in the form of their curse: a brass snake mounted high on a pole for anyone to see who would. Those who repented of their unbelief would look in simple, unquestioning faith at the snake and live. But for those who didn’t look, the snake would remain a curse to them: they would die in their sin.

And now, living in the land of promise, some of the descendants of those who looked at the snake in faith were listening to Jesus.

In this second reference to His death, Jesus said He was going to be like the brass snake. He was going to be lifted up for all to see. Those who believe would not die but have eternal life. To those who refuse to believe, He would be a curse.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:18 (ESV)

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An Evening With Nicodemus – part 2

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

John 3:9 (ESV)

Jesus had just explained the spiritual birds and bees to Nicodemus, and the rabbi was struggling to understand how it all worked. This wasn’t a good thing for someone whom all Israel looked up to for spiritual truth…

Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

John 3:10 (ESV)

This was embarrassing. “How can you teach if you don’t know this?” Wasn’t it obvious that God created the world in such a way that each living thing reproduces itself in kind?

Olive trees only come from olive trees.

Donkeys only come from donkeys.

Humans only come from humans.

And spiritual life only comes from the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit that gave both physical and spiritual life to man in the beginning (Genesis 2:7) gives spiritual life back to fallen man (John 6:63).

Nicodemus wanted to know how it all worked… the mechanics as it were, before he would believe. Jesus, on the other hand, was concerned only with belief:

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

John 3:11-12 (ESV)

The rabbi acknowledged Jesus to be a teacher from God, and yet was not willing to believe what He said without some kind of logical explanation. This lack of belief was hindering him and his fellow Jews from progressing, not just towards more significant spiritual knowledge: it was keeping them from spiritual life.

Contrast this with the disciples who didn’t understand, and yet believed. Both the disciples and Nicodemus knew that Jesus was from God. The only difference was in their faith.

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An Evening With Nicodemus – part 1

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night …

John 3:1-2a (ESV)

One evening, when the disciples were with Jesus, there was a knock at the door. Who should it be but a well-known and highly-respected member of the Sanhedrim. He hadn’t come to chit-chat – it was obvious he had something on his mind.

…”Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

John 3:2b (ESV)

John tells us at the end of the last chapter that many believed in Jesus’ name when they saw the signs He did (John 2:23). Nicodemus was one such man, and he came on behalf of others who also believed… who knew Jesus was from God.

To confirm Nicodemus’ statement, Jesus goes directly into another teaching from God:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3

I suppose Jesus responded this way because the kingdom of God was on Nicodemus’ mind. John the Baptist proclaimed the coming kingdom and many people followed. Jesus spoke the same message, and also told His disciples to do so. The Jews were obsessed with the coming kingdom (i.e. Matthew 18:1, Mark 11:10, 15:43, Luke 13:23).

But what Jesus said about entering God’s kingdom astounded Nicodemus. He didn’t say “unless you keep the Law”. He didn’t say “unless you love the Lord your God with all your heart” or “unless you repent and are baptised”. He said the kingdom of God can only be seen by those who have been born “from above”. (It’s the same Greek word translated “from above” used to describe Jesus’ origin in verse 31.)

Jesus declared that nothing we do can open the door to the kingdom of heaven.

“Yes, Nicodemus. I am come from God. But you cannot go where I came from without being born from above.”

God would have to do something to make us fit for His kingdom.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

John 3:4 (ESV)

Nick knew that wasn’t what Jesus meant. Yet, he couldn’t figure out Jesus’ meaning. So Jesus helped him out:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.'”

John 3:5-7

(Note: My personal belief is that “water” here refers to natural birth and corresponds to “flesh” in the next verse. If baptism were meant and required to enter the kingdom of God, I think Jesus would have spoken of it also in some detail, just as He did about the Holy Spirit’s part. However, whether “water” refers to natural birth or baptism, it is not from above: it is something man does. Jesus wants us to see that salvation is entirely something God does.)

Actually, “born” from above is somewhat misleading. What Jesus spoke of is a new conception (1 Peter 1:23, 1 John 3:9). The Greek word translated “born” in this passage means to procreate or to conceive. It’s the same word sometimes translated “begat”.

We talk about the miracle of the virgin birth, but there was nothing unusual about it. Mary gave birth to Jesus the same way every mother does. It was Jesus’ conception that was miraculous: He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

The One who was begotten of the Holy Spirit told Nicodemus he also needed to be miraculously begotten of the Holy Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8

At this time, only Jesus was “born of the Spirit”, so He was describing Himself. Nicodemus understood Jesus as having come from God in only a shallow sense (verse 2). He thought of Jesus merely as a man whom God raised up to be a prophet. He didn’t truly realize where Jesus came from (or where He was going). He did not realize he was having a conversation with God in human flesh.

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

John 3:9

Mary asked a similar question in Luke 1:34, and the angel responded “nothing God says shall be impossible.”

Nicodemus could have learned something from believing Mary (“be it to me according to your word”), who trusted in God to work out the details.

Maybe he did learn something, for it appears that Nicodemus eventually became a follower of Jesus (albeit a secret one).

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Undercover Boss’ Son Revealed

…”Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:16-17

The synoptic gospels record Jesus at a similar incident crying out, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples, but you have made it a den of robbers”. Their focus is more on the house of God and prayer. But John’s focus is on Jesus Himself. He records what the disciples remembered about Jesus, quoted from Psalm 69:9. This prophetic scripture is not about an incident, but about Jesus’ life attitude towards the things of His Father. He was always zealous for the glory and honor of God. It was very evident in this, His first confrontation with the religious establishment.

The Jews were also concerned more about Jesus than what He said.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”

John 2:18

A fair enough question for those who aren’t sure. But these Jews weren’t willing to believe. They didn’t care about the desecration of the temple, but they did about brazen meddlers into their domain.

As I said earlier, John likes to fill in details that the other gospel writers left out. While they mention Jesus cleansing the temple, their accounts say nothing of Jesus’ claim be God’s Son (vs. 16), or the Jew’s demand for a sign of His authority. (Luke has the question come later – apparently days later.)

When Jesus called God His Father, He claimed equality with God, and with that, authority from God. When He cast the merchants out of the temple, it was as if His Father, the Owner of the house, did it. He was the Undercover Boss’ Son.

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

John 2:19

The disciples got a little more uncomfortable and confused here. Their Master had just drawn unfavorable attention on Himself (and themselves as well). Now He made this brash, impossible claim. “Did Jesus just say what I thought He said?”

The confusing part is that Jesus had just acted to protect His Father’s house. Now He says He’s going to destroy it?

The Judaical leaders expressed what was going through their minds…

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

John 2:20-21

…not that John understood this at the time. It would take Jesus’ death and resurrection before this incident came to mind and the disciples understood.

When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 2:22

Jesus was just scattering seed that would sprout and flourish later. In three years Jesus would rise from the grave and appear to hundreds of people. It would be a sign much greater than merely destroying and rebuilding the temple in three days.

The resurrection would reveal His authority to cast out the buyers and sellers from the temple.

The resurrection would reveal His authority to judge the whole world – to let them into heaven or send them to hell.

And as John wants us to see, the resurrection would lead many to faith in Jesus.

A couple random thoughts on this passage:

Is there any significance to the fact Jesus always cleans the temple around Passover? Why not some other time? The central picture of this holiday was the lamb that was slain in exchange for the life of the firstborn when Israel was in Egypt. It must have angered Jesus, who would offer His life freely, to see people making money off of those symbols of Himself.

How does this passage relate to us today? Some see similarities between the merchants in the temple and bookstores and coffee shops in some large church buildings. Maybe they have a point, but church buildings are not temples. All of the saved are part of the Body of Christ. We are God’s temple, His place of worship. So we need to apply this passage primarily to ourselves. Jesus called His body a temple. His whole life was spent in communion with His Father in heaven. His body was a holy “house of prayer”. Can this be said of us?

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Market Crash

After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

John 2:12

The wedding was over and Jesus, His family and disciples went down to Capernaum by the sea of Galilee. This would become Jesus’ base of operations, although much of His time would be spent elsewhere. He didn’t stay long in Capernaum this time because the Passover was approaching.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

John 2:13

John and the others followed Jesus. I picture them travelling to Jerusalem with a sense of pride and optimism. They have found the Messiah and enjoy being identified as His closest disciples. When they get to the big city and the temple, everyone will be able to see and hear Jesus for themselves and believe. They look forward not only to seeing Jesus honored, but themselves as well.

In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

John 2:14-16

Hmmm… perhaps this wasn’t the kind of fame they were looking for. The boat should have been rocked a little more gently. If Jesus would only have spent some time teaching and doing a few miracles first, maybe everyone would have come around to His point of view, and this uncomfortable situation would have been avoided.

Whatever they were thinking at the moment, eventually a phrase from the Psalms came to mind…

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:17

Have you ever seen pictures of some great natural wonder, then be disappointed when you finally get to see it for real? My wife and I went to Niagara Falls several years ago. The falls were awesome – better than expected, but the commercialization was very disappointing to me. There was all the glitz of Las Vegas, everything was expensive, and the food quality was unimpressive. This detracted from the whole experience. But the disappointment I felt was nothing like what Jesus felt at the commercialization of His Father’s house.

David wrote much of God’s dwelling place in Jerusalem. Even before Solomon replaced the tabernacle with a more majestic structure, David wrote of the temple of God’s holiness (Psalm 5:7, 11:4, 65:4, 138:2). He longed to live there so he could always see the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4).

The descendants of Korah also spoke of the blessing of living continually in God’s house (Psalm 84:4). They said, “a day in your courts is better than a thousand. I had rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10).

When the Son of David entered the temple, instead of the smell of incense, there was the smell of manure. Instead of quiet reverence, prayer, and talk of the Lord, there was the sound of bargaining and the clink-clink of money changing hands. The Lamb of God was born in a stable, and it became a place of worship. Now He visits the center of Jewish worship and finds it has become a stable. Jesus was incensed. Making a whip He chased the drachma-worshippers out of the temple.

I like to think the temple cleansing became an annual event for the next few years. The buyers and sellers would see Jesus coming and quickly try to grab their things before they were chased out.

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First Sign – First Faith

When John wrote his gospel, he decided to include details the other gospel writers left out. It appears from Matthew’s account that John the baptist was already in prison when Jesus began His public ministry (Matthew 4:11-12), but John clarifies this misconception, filling in the missing details from what he witnessed. There was a period of time when Jesus and John the baptist were both ministering (John 3:22-23).

John felt no need to repeat most of the details mentioned in the other gospels. Instead he wrote of the things he saw Jesus do that made an impact on him, hoping that they would make the same impact on us (John 20:30-31). Chapter 2 is his eyewitness account of the first of Jesus’ miracles.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

John 2:1-2

Three days after Jesus’ cryptic prophecy to Nathaneal, there was a wedding in Nate’s home town. Among the guests were Mary (John never mentions her by name), Jesus, Andrew, Simon, John, Philip, and Nathaneal.

If I told you I had attended a wedding recently, the first thing you’d ask is the name of the happy couple. A wedding’s focus of attention is supposed to be on the bride and groom, but in this case they remain nameless. No doubt John knew who they were, but he didn’t want to tell us about a wedding. He wanted us to see Jesus.

When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

John 2:3

Running out of wine at a wedding was a serious problem. It was embarrassing to the groom, and would possibly involve him in legal and financial liability to his guests. Aware of the problem, Mary went to the one Person she knew would be able to do something about it.

Mary didn’t complain about the lack of planning. She didn’t tell Jesus what to do. She merely informed Him of the situation.

And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

John 2:4

His response appears indifferent. “I didn’t come to make a name for myself by saving everyone’s party. I and my purpose will be revealed later.”

But because she knew her son so well, Mary trusted He would do something to get the groom out of his predicament. In faith, she put the servants under His full authority.

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

John 2:5-8

Jesus took charge of the problem from behind the scenes. Without explaining to anyone what He was going to do, He gave orders to the servants to completely fill six large containers with water. The containers held two to three metretes (18 to 27 gallons) apiece, for a total of 108 to 162 gallons. Then Jesus commanded them to draw some out and let the feast master have the first taste. I don’t know what was going through the servant’s heads, but surely they must have had their doubts. Water is a poor substitute for wine!

But by the time the feast master tasted it, it was no longer water but wine… and no doubt the best wine that he had ever tasted!

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

John 2:9-11

It was customary for wedding guests to provide some of the wine for a wedding. Jesus provided at least 108 gallons of the best… more than enough for all the guests. I wonder what the newlyweds did with the excess? Did they sell it at a profit (2 Kings 4:1-7)?

(I find it interesting that the wine came out of jars used for ritual cleansing. Perhaps it symbolized the Holy Spirit?)

Jesus’ miracle was behind the scenes. He didn’t draw attention to Himself publicly for His time had not yet come. Only the servants, disciples and (probably) Mary knew where the wine came from.

Jesus revealed Himself to them, and the thing John remembered most about this event happened: they first believed in Him.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.

John 20:30-31

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A Skeptic Believes

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

John 1:47-48

Andrew, Peter, John, and Philip are excited about Jesus and can’t hold it in. Nathanael – he’s more of a realist, a skeptic, someone I can identify with. And he isn’t afraid to let people know what he really thinks on the inside (… something I less identify with).

“Sure, the Messiah could in theory come from Nazareth… but you and I know Jerusalem or Bethlehem’s the more likely place.”

Philip leads the still doubting Nathanael to Jesus. Before he has a chance to make the introductions, Jesus calls out to those around Him: “Look! A true Israelite, inside and out!”

That was awkward. Nathanael knew nothing of this Man, and yet Jesus spoke as one intimately familiar him. How could that be?

“I saw you under the fig tree, Nathanael… before Philip called you to see Me.”

We’re not given any details of what went on under that tree. Nathanael was quite possibly praying or meditating on scripture under there, but that’s just speculation.

We also don’t have enough information in these couple of verses to convince us who Jesus is, but it was more than enough for Nathanael.

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

John 1:49

Even though Nathanael doubted at first, he had good reason to. He hadn’t seen Jesus till then. But all it took was a simple “I saw you” (it’s that word ‘eido‘ again) for him to go from skepticism to full faith. Nathanael now knew Jesus of Nazareth to be the Son of God and the Messiah.

Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

John 1:50-51

Nathanael was given a promise that he would see even greater wonders to confirm his new found faith. This was only the beginning.

Contrast this with another disciple who spent three years with Jesus: heard Him teach, saw Him perform many miracles and signs, and heard Him say He would die and be raised to life three days later. Yet when Jesus was raised from the dead, Thomas refused to believe without absolute physical proof. What a contrast between these two disciples: Nathanael believing at the beginning of his walk with the Lord, and Thomas disbelieving after being with Him for years.

Some people are more stubborn than others. But we’re all stubborn to some degree. All the disciples doubted at times… even after they came to faith. And Jesus bore with their lack of faith, and proved Himself to them over and over again.

There’s hope even for the stubborn ones. After Thomas expressed his complete lack of faith, Jesus revealed Himself to him one more time. And Thomas’ faith came to life (John 20:26-29).

Jesus knows the kind of revelation each one of us needs to come to Him… to have our eyes opened. Just as He knew Nathanael and Thomas, He knows you and me. We’re given enough evidence to convince us. It’s just a matter of choosing or refusing to believe.

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The Descent

(Previously posted at, Sept. 18, 2011)

For let this mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus, who subsisting in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, having become in the likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient until death, even the death of a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (Green)

The journey of the Son of God from heaven to earth can be described in one word: humbling. The One who created all there is and holds everything together became a helpless baby. Even if Jesus were born into great royalty, it would be a mind-boggling descent from where He was before. But He was born in a stable, into a poor family. He was laid in a dirty cattle trough. He began His human life in very mean circumstances.

Jesus’ journey of humility only started in Bethlehem. His whole life was a continual descent into humility.

Soon after birth, the sovereign, all-powerful King of the Universe in human flesh had to be taken to Egypt by Mary and Joseph to protect Him from one man intent on killing Him. At twelve, He submitted Himself to His earthly parents upon being discovered doing His heavenly Father’s business.

At the beginning of His ministry He was baptized by one who did so to repentant sinners. Jesus had no need repent, but this baptism was His formal, public declaration that He lived to serve His Father, not Himself.

During His ministry, He associated Himself with the outcasts of society: the poor, sick, and unclean, sinners and those possessed by demons.

He also gathered to Himself disciples of the common people. He was their Master, their Lord. But at the end of His ministry, He told them:

I no longer call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his lord does. But I called you friends, because all things which I heard from My Father I made known to you.

John 15:15 (Green)

It was not so much that Jesus raised His disciples up to His level, but that He stooped down to theirs – even below theirs, for He said this after He had washed His disciples’ feet.

In the garden, Jesus was repulsed by the thought of what He was about to go through. The physical suffering was bad enough, but the knowledge that He would be separated from His Father for the first time in all of eternity was almost too much for Him. He did not have to go through with it, but He continued His journey into the depths of humility, denying His desires and submitting to His Father’s will.

It was not enough that Jesus died to accomplish our redemption. He was mocked, spit at, punched, beaten, scourged, mocked again and abused, stripped, nailed to a cross, mocked some more, and abandoned by His disciples. No sacrificial animal went through what He did. But even though He was unjustly, painfully, and shamefully executed, His humility forbade any kind of self-pity or anger. He continued to see to it that His Father’s will was carried out, even after His Father had to turn His face away from Him.

And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani; that is, “My God, My God, why did You forsake Me?”

Matthew 27:46 (Green)

This was the only time that the Trinity was suspended: Jesus was not any less deity, but the unity of God was interrupted.

I’ve been wondering why Jesus would say this. Surely as Son of God He knew it would come to this point. God cannot look on sin, so as He became sin for us, He knew His Father would have to look away. It wasn’t a surprise. And yet, Jesus wasn’t acting out a part, saying His lines just for our benefit and to fulfill a prophecy.

No, I believe the human side of Jesus could not have been prepared for the shock of experiencing separation from His Father. This was real anguish, and it could only be expressed in this way. And yet, even though this was unbearable, He sacrificed His emotional well-being and remained humble to the point of death, “even the death of a cross”.

The earthly life of Jesus was a continual descent into humility. And after that life was over, He finished His journey on this road with His descent into someone else’s grave.

All of this is very relevant to me, for when Jesus said “Follow Me”, He put me on the same road of humility He traveled. I must descend with Him. As John the Baptist said:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30 (Green)

The Philippians 2 passage I quoted at the beginning speaks of the Son of God as the model for our lives. When Jesus found Himself in the form of man, He humbled Himself. Seeing this is the appropriate response to take for one found in human form, I also must humble myself.

I also must submit to those in authority over me, just as Jesus did to His parents.

I am no longer to live for self-interests, but to do my heavenly Father’s will. I am to die to self. This is what my baptism meant, too.

After Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He told them He gave this example that they should do likewise. I must humble myself even more and lovingly serve others – even those that, like Judas, might hurt me. I must continue to love from the heart those who betray me.

Even though I will never be separated from my heavenly Father, it may be God’s will to bring me where I don’t want to go, that may be a horror to me. I must humble myself and to go through the trials anyway. I must continue to trust and obey God anyway.

I must be willing and humble enough to lay down my life also for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the sake of the kingdom of God.

As a disciple of Christ, I’ve been standing on the ever-descending road of humility for a long time. It’s a road that takes a lifetime to travel. It’s time I started walking it.

Likewise, younger ones be subject to older ones; and all being subject to one another. Put on humility, because God sets Himself against proud ones, but He gives grace to humble ones.

1 Peter 5:5 (Green)

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not take thought beforehand for the lusts of the flesh.

Romans 13:14 (Green)

So therefore we also, having so great cloud of witnesses lying around us, having laid aside every weight and the easily surrounding sin, through patience let us also run the race set before us, looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (Green)

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