Reflection on John 6:16-24

Scripture

Then they were willing to take him onto the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

Observation

At evening time the disciples cross the lake in a boat. A storm rises up and they have to strain to row.

After some time, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. At first they are terrified, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid. They let Him on board, and immediately they arrive at their destination.

The next morning, the crowds discover that Jesus and the disciples are missing, and so they head off to Capernaum by boat.

Application

The disciples find themselves on a boat on the water without Jesus at night. In John’s gospel the night time represents the world that is not surrendered to God, that is satan’s realm.

When Jesus comes on to the boat, He immediately calms the storm and the boat arrives at its destination.

When I try to control my “boat”, that is my life, it all gets very chaotic. Like the disciples rowing, I can work hard and not make much progress. Satan will resist me at every turn.

When Christ is on board, my life has purpose and direction, and satan’s resistance starts to be overcome.

It is not always effortless, even when Christ is steering my boat. Sometimes it seems that satanic efforts to impede me just increase. Even so, I need to obey Christ’s command, “Do not be afraid.”

The storm will subside. The boat will arrive at its destination. As long as Christ is the captain of my life.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the knowledge that you are in control. Even in the greatest storm I can know your peace. Help me to surrender control to you so that I can know your direction and your assurance. Amen.

Reflection on John 6:1-15

Scripture

When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away to the hills by himself.

Observation

Jesus goes across the lake, and he climbs a hill in order to teach His disciples. A crowd starts to gather, and Jesus asks His disciples where they might buy bread to feed them all.

Philip says it would take months of wages to feed them.

Andrew brings a young boy and his lunch. Jesus takes the lunch, gives thanks to God, and then everyone has enough to eat. The leftovers are enough to fill twelve baskets.

The people are amazed and try to force Jesus to be their king. He leaves and goes alone to the hills.

Application

Jesus will not be hijacked for human political programs.

The people wanted to make Him king, but an earthly kingdom is not what He intended; at least, not yet.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” He would later say to Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

The name of Jesus gets dragged into all kinds of causes- some of them good, but others not so good.

Whether it is climate change or refugees, or as a tool in a political campaign, the name of Jesus is often appropriated by activists and politicians.

Jesus will not be co-opted by any human political project. He refuses to be a King in that kind of way.

The kingship of Jesus is the opposite of political power. He seeks to change hearts, one at a time. He looks for people who will surrender everything to Him.

Out of that surrender, some people will be moved to work for political change. It will not be by appealing to Jesus as a political weapon. The weapons of the follower of Jesus are faith, compassion, prayer and persistence.

Prayer

King Jesus reign in my heart and mind. May my life be transformed by you. Amen.

Reflection on John 5:31-45

Scripture

“You read the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive eternal life.”

Observation

Jesus is telling the Jewish leaders that He is not testifying on His own behalf. John the Baptist testified about Him.

The Father also testifies concerning Jesus. Only those whose hearts are open to Him can hear His testimony.

Moses also testified about Jesus through the (Old Testament) Scriptures. The Scriptures testify about Jesus, and by rejecting Him they reject the Scriptures and therefore reject Moses.

Application

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, testify to Jesus as the Messiah or Son of God.

All scripture is breathed by God, and is interpreted to us by the Holy Spirit. Because it is God’s word, it all points to Jesus.

The Bible is not a magic guidebook t the afterlife . Reading it, learning it, and quoting it do not make you holy or bring you to eternal life.

The Bible is God’s love letter to us, and as such, it is meant to draw us to Him. If my thoughts and affections do not turn to God when I read the Bible then I am not doing it right.

Reading a passage or a devotional book to tick off our daily “To Do” list will not point us to Christ. Studying it for secret codes and messages will not bring us to eternal life.

Every time we read God’s word, our hearts should be raised in praise and worship to our glorious heavenly Father.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the Holy Scriptures that bring us to you, the source of eternal life. May I never be tempted to read your word as a religious ritual or academic exercise, but always find you in its message. Amen.

Reflection on John 5:16-30

Scripture

Jesus gave them his answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

Observation

The Jews are trying to find reasons to have Jesus killed, and they are offended by His references to God as His Father.

Jesus tells them He can only do what the Father does. Just as the Father raises people from the dead, the Son will do this too.

Whoever hears Jesus’ words and believes Him has crossed from death to eternal life. The time is coming when all who are in graves will come out- the righteous to eternal life, the wicked to be condemned.

Application

In Jesus we have a perfect representation of God. He and the Father are one, totally united in love.

Jesus only does what He sees the Father is doing. The deeds of Jesus are the deeds of the Father.

In Jesus we see a God who heals the sick, raises the dead,forgives sinners who repent, has compassion on the poor, loves everyone (especially the outcasts), and speaks out against all forms of evil.

As followers of Jesus- imitators of Christ- we should do the same kinds of things.

We can’t be like Jesus unless the Holy Spirit teaches us and empowers us to do the things Jesus did. Of course everyone who is a true disciple has the Holy Spirit living in them, transforming them to be like Jesus.

So Jesus does the work of the Father. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to imitate Christ and so to do the deeds God has called us to do.

Prayer

Lord, you are awesome! You show us in Christ what it means to live a life in communion with you, and you give us your Holy Spirit to enable us to do this. Thank you. Amen.

Reflection on John 5:1-15

Scripture

The Jewish leaders said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law does not allow you to carry that sleeping mat.”

Observation

Jesus goes to the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem where scores of people wait for the water to bubble up so they can be healed. He meets a man who has been sick for 38 years. He has no hope of being healed because he has nobody to help him get into the water.

Jesus tells the man to get up, pick up his may and walk. The man is instantly healed.

As he walks away, the Jewish leaders rebuke the man for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He tells them that the man who healed him had told him to do this, but he didn’t know who he was.

Application

When your whole vision of being holy boils down to rules, you will miss the amazing works of God when He steps out of the box you constructed for Him.

The Jewish leaders could not see the miracle of healing because they were obsessed with the man’s behaviour after the event.

Christians can be like that sometimes. An evangelist can win thousands of people to the Lord, but we get annoyed by his tattoos. Somebody is healed miraculously, but some believers can’t see it because their theology is that miracles don’t happen any more. A prostitute or alcoholic is rejected by a church because they are afraid their past sins might contaminate the congregation

We are not made holy by the outward observance of rules and regulations. We are made holy by the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit.

When people’s lives are changed by God in ways that run against our understanding then it is we who need to change, not God.

Prayer

Lord you save people when we least expect it. Your grace is wider than we imagine. So Lord please expand my way of thinking to embrace all that you want to do. Amen.

Ephesians 1:12

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:12. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:12

… we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory.

The “we” in this verse is widely believed to be the Jewish believers in Christ as opposed to the “you” in the next verse which refers to the Gentile believers in Ephesus. Some translations actually add the word “Jews” in this verse, even though it is not explicitly given in the original.

The first believers were Jewish, and it took some major revelations for Peter, Paul and the other apostles to realise that the gospel was for all people, and not just for the Jews.

These first believers put their hope in Christ. They realised that He was the Messiah long foretold by the prophets.

Their hope in Christ was firstly for salvation. They knew that they were sinners needing forgiveness because they could not keep the Law.

The Law as it was written was exacting enough, but Jesus made the heart of men the heart of the Law. Jesus said that an angry insult was like murder and a lascivious look was like adultery. Sin starts in the heart long before it comes out in an action.

They recognised that Jesus is the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

The Jewish believers were also looking for the salvation of Israel. Every Jew at that time longed for God’s Messiah to come and redeem Israel, setting them free from Roman occupation. There were countless attempted insurrections, but they were all put down with ruthless efficiency.

Jesus talked often about the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, that they realised that God’s Kingdom was not about a country on earth but something much bigger.

These first Jewish christians, according to Paul, were destined and appointed.

To be destined suggests that they were in a path or trajectory which they had no way of choosing. Before they were born, before the beginning of the world even, God set events in place that meant these people were on a particular path determined by Him. They were living in a kairos moment, and God had plans for them.

To be appointed suggests that they were chosen for a task and given authority to do it. Of all the christians and of all the Jews in history, these particular men and women have been chosen for a task and given authority by God Himself.

Their destiny, then, was not a blind force propelling them along the current of history. This is not “fate” or “karma” or “The Force” or any other term used by people to suggest an implacable, impersonal process that runs the universe. They were appointed by God the Father for this role.

That role is to live for God’s praise and glory. The phrase “to live for the praise of his glory” can be equally translated as “to live for his glory and praise.”

These Jewish believers, the first generation of believers, were assigned a task that is common to all believers in all time periods. We have been set apart to live for God’s glory.

In the Old Testament, the priests and Levites were set apart (or “appointed”) to live for God’s glory. They didn’t stop being priests when they left the Temple. Their whole life was appointed for God’s glory.

All christians are set apart- appointed- to give praise and glory to God. Our lives are meant to be a witness or a testimony of what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ.

When I walk in humble obedience to God, I am living for His praise and glory. My every word and action should show people “This is what God looks like.” Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we live for God, we bring glory and praise to Him.

These Jews who first hoped in Christ had a particular role. They were the first generation of disciples. They represented the redemption of Israel to the world and the redemption of the world to Israel.

Israel was established as a beach head for heaven’s invasion of earth. It was intended to be a light shining in a world corrupted by sin. It would show the world what it is like to live in holiness and in fellowship with God.

Israel failed in its purpose. Rather than being light in the darkness it became corrupted by sin. The Jewish christians were a sign to the world that in Christ the purpose of Israel was fulfilled.

Likewise, these same Jewish christians were a sign to Israel that its redemption had arrived and the salvation of the world, including Israel, was at hand.

Key points from this verse:

  • The first Jewish christians were chosen by God
  • Their role was to live for the praise and glory of God
  • Our role is exactly the same- to live for the praise and glory of God.

Reflection on John 4:43-54

Scripture

Yet the Galileans welcomed him, for they had been in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration and had seen what he did there.

Observation

Jesus moves on to Galilee where He is welcomed because of the things He had done in Jerusalem, where the Galileans had been for the Passover celebration.

A government official comes to Jesus and pleads with Him to heal his son who is near death. Jesus tells him his son will live, and at the exact time Jesus says this, the son gets better.

Application

There are two types of people who crop up repeatedly in the gospel- those who see Jesus and believe, and those who demand some sort of sign before they will believe.

The question I have to ask myself is this: Do I believe Jesus for who He is or do I demand some kind of sign or answers to prayer to validate my faith? In other words, is my faith about Jesus or about what He can do for me?

True followers of Jesus believe in Him, regardless of prayers that are answered to our preferences. The truth is that God is not our servant to direct our lives the way most comfortable or pleasant to us.

I pray and some people are healed. I pray and others are not. My faith in Jesus does not depend on whether people are healed.

God is God, and He is in control.

When people are healed, or miracles occur, that is grace. When people are not healed, or the miracle does not happen, that is sad, but it is for God to sort out not me.

My faith does not rest on a “sign” but on God’s faithfulness.

Prayer

Lord you call us to trust in you alone. Help me to entrust my own future and those of my family and friends to you. Amen.