1 John 5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
This has been called “the most perplexing passage in the Epistle, and one of the most perplexing in the New Testament” (Barclay 127). If water represents baptism and blood the crucifixion this verse would indicate that there were some who believed Jesus became divine at his baptism and that the divine quality didn’t really participate in the death on the cross (after all, how can God die?). It is hard for us to wrap our minds around the statement that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. It is as hard as comprehending the Trinity and the church struggled to find adequate terminology. In the above passage the writer is saying God’s Spirit helps reveal the truth that Jesus was human just like us and died a death in that human body for us. If you have been present at the time of a baby’s birth you may remember water and blood being part of that process as well. Human life is a messy affair. How glorious of God to meet us in that mess!
1 John 4:17, 18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, (The Message Bible)
Is anything as comforting as home? Robert Frost once wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” (The Death of the Hired Man). If you know of homes where love is dominant you know how it embraces all that come to it and emits a measure of grace that says “you are welcome here,” “you are wanted here,” “this is where you belong in this moment.” John says that the ultimate home is not a place per se but the God of love, the God who forgives, the God who says “come to me.” When we are at home in God’s love, we are not trying to earn our keep or prove our worth or live up to some standard. We are where we ought to be and we have something wonderful to share.
1 John 3:23 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. (The Message Bible)
Last night was the Oscars with the famous Red-Carpet show, even if it was a little different this year. These are the beautiful people of Hollywood who embody the look that so many use as a standard and consequently find themselves lacking. Behind the glitz and the glamour is too often the worship of celebrity and the desire to approach it by imitating it or criticizing it. But the really beautiful people are the ones that are unselfconscious, who don’t ask to be admired or esteemed but who are so comfortable with themselves that they make others comfortable too. When we lose ourselves, we often find so much more, like God. It is a wonderfully challenging thought that we get what we ask for because we have developed a heart that wants what it has been given. Not an easy thing to do by human standards, but one of those impossible things the Bible says God makes possible. Bold and free before God! Isn’t that what you really want?
1 John 3:1 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to. (The Message Bible)
When you listen to the news on the radio or TV or check it our online that source will tell you what is important to know and take seriously from their point of view. They think they know what you want to know- after all, their income is based on the amount of the viewers- or, perhaps, they have a vision for the world that they wish you to encounter and adopt. In any event, very little of it all has anything to do with God. Even though most people say they believe in God (87% according to https://news.gallup.com/poll/268205/americans-believe-god.aspx), it doesn’t seem to be the guiding principle behind their thoughts or actions. Certainly nothing newsworthy. People who are committed to attending church regularly are often viewed as on the fringe. Many religious folk find it infuriating that they are not “taken seriously.” But according to what the above passage says, they shouldn’t be surprised. Apparently, it was the same in the first century AD. Believers in Christ have often been counter-cultural. How important is it for you to blend in with the world around you?
1 John 1:2 And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. (The Message Bible) The Christian faith is based on people bearing witness to what God did. Right from the beginning we have creation- that God made everything. We have the Exodus- that God brought his people out of slavery. We have the return from Babylon- that God judged his people but brought them back to their land. And now, in the New Testament, to Jesus- that God was present in a unique way in Jesus, forgiving sin and initiating new, resurrected life. You may say that a resurrection can’t happen, but it is hard to believe that these New Testament folks didn’t believe it really happened. The infinite Life of God himself to shape before us, they claimed. This is what has been passed on to us. Were they mistaken? Were they making up a story they thought we should all believe? Or were they passing on what happened as best they understood it in the events of Easter? Given that we are still here talking about it 2000 years later and half a world away, I think the last answer has the most merit. How about you?
Mark 16:11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
Did you like looking for Easter eggs as a child? There is something wonderful in finding an object, even a colored egg, in a place where it normally wouldn’t be. The older I get the more I value “sameness.” Keep me in my routines. Let my mechanical devices perform as they always have with no glitches. Keep my world running smoothly. The seasons and rhythms of life are beautiful and comforting. But they are never enough by themselves. We want Easter eggs. We want there to be hidden treasures out there that let us know that there is more than just the repetitive. Even when, like the disciples in the above verse, we find it hard to believe it is possible, we still want more… more possibilities, more life, more love. We want resurrection. We long for it in the deepest recesses of our being. And God gives it to us! The great surprise, which the women embraced more readily than the twelve, that Jesus had not fallen victim to the way of all flesh but had done what, by our meager minds, could not be done, fills a place in our hearts, minds and imaginations that so desperately needs filled.
Mark 11:8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
You may have seen awards shows on TV where they have a “red carpet.” Celebrates parade down them often waving to fans in bleacher seats erected for the occasion. There is generally a station where interviews are conducted and we hear all about the dress or outfit the star is wearing that evening. The crowd along the route from the Mt. of Olives to the Temple in Jerusalem which Jesus rode down on Palm Sunday didn’t have a red carpet. So, they improvised. I can just imagine some mother complaining to her child when they returned home that evening, “What happened to your brand-new cloak! It looks like a donkey walked all over it!” There was a lot going on during this two-mile trek to the Temple, but one aspect was the excitement of the crowd. Here was someone special. They wanted to be part of it all so they spread their clothes and whatever branch they had in their hands. They gave what they had to greet this most important person. What do you have to give in celebration this year? What about Jesus excites you?
John 12:27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
This is Jesus speaking to his followers after Palm Sunday, the beginning of that last week of his earthly life. He is portrayed as a man who sees the signs of rejection and death looming ahead and part of his humanity understands a desire to avoid it all. But, as we have followed the picture of Jesus during Lent, we have seen right from the beginning in the wilderness, his conviction to live out his destiny faithfully to the end as a display of God’s love. How many good ideas or deep convictions have you had late at night that didn’t seem quite the same in the light of day or when it came to actually act on them? Humans can be very lofty in thought but unable or unwilling to come through when action is required. Not so with Jesus. He was willing to do what was required even to the extent of laying down his life. He knew what he was about and saw it through to the end. What is your life about? What is the reason God has put you here in this time and place?
Exodus 20:2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
This is the introductory statement to the Ten Commandments. We are so focused on individuality and self-determination in our culture that commandments seem like unjust impositions to most people. “I’ll do what I want” is the rallying cry today. But these commandments were given by the God who had just set the people free. As Kris Kristofferson wrote and Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” We want to believe we are a solid and will keep our shape no matter what. The truth is, we are a liquid and without a container, something setting our limits and conditions, we will flow, shapeless and undefined. The commandments are given to us to show us who we can become and how we can get there. They are more of a gift than a responsibility. May you use them as such this Lent.