Reflection on John 19:1-16

Scripture

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

Observation

Pilate has Jesus flogged, and the soldiers mock Him, pretending to worship Him as King.

Pilate declares Jesus to be not guilty, but the priests shout “Crucify him!”

Pilate says, “You want me to crucify your king?”

“We have no king but Caesar,” the priests shout back.

Application

The priests and other leaders of the Jewish people are forced to choose between two competing claims of kingship- Jesus or Caesar.

Caesar is the might and glory of the Roman Empire. This is worldly power- dominion exercised by a greater power over a lesser power. At that time there was no greater power than Rome.

Jesus represents something entirely different. His kingdom is a voluntary kingdom, based on love not power. His reign is not imposed forcefully.

Battered and bleeding, already weakened by the scourging, Jesus must have looked very insignificant in front of Pilate, the guards and all the trappings of earthly glory.

When the priests rejected Jesus as their king, they were rejecting the Lord. Israel was supposed to be the kingdom where the Lord reigned. From the beginning they had wanted human kings, rejecting the Lord’s invisible kingship.

Now they rejected all forms of divine reign. “We have no king but Caesar” declared that Caesar alone, the rule of Rome, would be their authority.

It was a public repudiation of all that Israel was meant to be. It is no surprise that just 40 year later, the Lord allowed Rome to destroy the Temple and the whole of Jerusalem. Caesar gives and Caesar takes away.

We have to make this sort of decision every day. Who will be the Lord of my life? Will I let Jesus rule, or will I give in to my own sinful desires? Will I stand up as a follower of Jesus and declare that He is the King? Or will I follow the ways of the world, and say “We have no king but Caesar”?

Prayer

Lord, you are my God, you are my king. Help me to remember this in all the choices I make today. Amen.

Reflection on John 18:19-40

Scripture

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is not of this world.”

Observation

Jesus is interrogated by Annas before being sent to Caiphas, the high priest. While this is happening, Peter twice denies being a follower of Jesus.

After being questioned by Caiphas, they take Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asks them what charge they are bringing against Jesus. He wants them to judge Him by local laws, but they want Him crucified, which can only be authorised by Pilate.

So Pilate interrogates Jesus and finds out that although He is claimed to be a king, His idea of kingdom is not an earthly one.

Application

Jesus’ kingdom is different to all worldly kingdoms, because its king is different. Jesus is motivated by pure love for His people, a love so deep He will die for us,

The values of the Kingdom are so different from those of the world. We need to remember that following Jesus means obeying His commandments and taking on His way of doing things:

  • I exalt Jesus not myself
  • Humility and service are the keys to leadership, not bossing people around.
  • Love conquers hearts, not physical or military power.
  • Security comes in serving the Lord, not in accumulating great wealth
  • God is preparing us for eternity, not just for this life
  • God looks at the heart of a person, not just the outward appearance.

At every point, the values of Jesus’ kingdom are the opposite of the values of earthly kingdoms, because His kingdom is not from this world.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, please help me to see where I live by worldly priorities rather than kingdom priorities. Help me to trust you rather than in the things of this world. Amen.

Ephesians 1:16

Due to illness over the last few months, I have been unable to post these commentaries. I hope to now resume this more regularly.

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:16. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:16

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Since Paul heard of their great faith and love for all the saints, he never ceased to give thanks to God for them.

The saints of Ephesus were the real thing. They were the prototypes for all christians everywhere who have taken hold of the gospel. They were full of faith and love.

They were not perfect by any means, but they loved the Lord. For this reason Paul was continually thankful for them.

He didn’t just praise God for them once in a while. It was a regular part of his prayer life. He must have loved these people deeply, and they were always in his heart.

We know about Paul’s love for the Ephesians from the book of Acts. He wept when he left them for the last time on his way to Rome (Acts 21:36-37)

Paul was thankful for them and prayed daily for them. Being thankful for a person whom we are praying for is a very important attitude. It is so easy to approach a prayer task from a sense of duty, or worse still, a sense of superiority as if we are the ones with the direct line to heaven. If we are thankful for the people we are praying for, then we can pray from a place of real love.

Prayer experts always recommend thanksgiving before intercession. There is something about saying “Thank you” to God before interceding for them that bring both power and spiritual depth to our prayers. After all, is there any point praying for someone if we don’t really care that much for them?

We must find ways to “remember” people in our prayer. Many people have a random approach to praying for others. They pray for people who pop into their head at the time.

The great intercessors have a system in place that helps them to stay on track. A simple list of names of people in our family or church is a great place to start. Some people have a “Blessing List” of people who they want to turn to Jesus for salvation.

Some people use a prayer journal in which they write some of their more special prayers and record answers to prayer.

Whatever method we use to pray, we must not overlook the need to listen to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes there may be a urgent need for special prayer that the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts. In that case we drop everything and pray “in the Spirit.”

Key points from this verse:

  • Paul was full of thankfulness and diligent in prayer for the Ephesians.
  • We need to thank God for the people we are praying for.
  • A systematic approach to intercession is essential for all christians
  • Never neglect the leading of the Holy Spirit

Reflection on John 18:1-18

Scripture

As Jesus said “I AM he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground.

Observation

Jesus and His disciples (less Judas) go to an olive grove. Judas arrives with a contingent of guards. Jesus steps forward and asks, “Who are you looking for?” The guards reply, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

When Jesus replies, “I AM he,” all the guards fall to the ground. They repeat the exchange, but this time Jesus allows them to arrest Him.

They take Jesus to the home of the priest Annas. In the courtyard there, some people ask Peter if he is a follower of Jesus, but he denies this.

Application

There is power in the name of Jesus.

In this reading, when Jesus affirms His identity “I AM he,” that phrase “I AM” is actually the name of Yahweh (the Lord) in the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Jesus is saying here that He and the Father (Yahweh or “I AM”) are one. The God of the Old Testament is now revealed in Jesus the Son.

The guards and all who are opposed to Jesus fall down at this. They are utterly disarmed.

It is only that Jesus is in control of events, and allows them to arrest Him that they are able to do so.

The name of Jesus is powerful.

That is why satan strives to diminish the name of Jesus in our culture. The name that is above all names has become a swear word. It has become so debased in public usage that there is no power.

Even christians are guilty of reducing the name of Jesus. We do this by using it as a formula at the end of prayers.

The name of Jesus, when taken seriously, slays the opposition. Nothing can stand against the name because the name is the word, the message, the proclamation that points the whole of creation to the cross, to redemption and to eternal life.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I honour your name. Please show me how to live and speak in the awareness of the power of your name. Amen.

Reflection on John 17:1-26

Scripture

“I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will be one, just as you and I are one- as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us, so that the world will believe you sent me.”

Observation

Jesus now prays His concluding prayer.

He asks for the Father to glorify Him, so that He may glorify the Father.

He prays next for the disciples that the Father has given Him. He asks particularly for protection for them from the evil one. The world hates them because they follow Jesus.

Finally Jesus prays for those who believe in Him because of the message of the current disciples. He prays for unity that the world will believe in Him.

Application

Jesus’ prayer for His future disciples is simple- that they will be one in the same way that Jesus and the Father are one.

Of all the things that Jesus could pray for the future church, it is this one thing, unity.

He is not talking about a monolithic institution where there is a man heading up all the christians in the world, where only one style of worship and one kind of mission is allowed.

No, this is organic unity, where christian are so in love with Jesus, and therefore with one another, that we overlook the minor doctrinal and practical issues that keep us apart.

We must die to ourselves, laying our pride on the altar to be burned up by God’s Spirit- pastors especially must do this. How can we be “one” when church leaders are defensive to one another or play political games with one another?

As apostles are increasingly raised up to lead the church, they will provide Spirit-filled leadership which draws the Body of Christ together in new, grace- filled configurations.

Prayer

Lord, let the grace of your Holy Spirit pull down every wall that divides the church. May the church in every location know unprecedented unity in you. Amen.

Dorothea Mackellar: “My Country”

After one of the worst droughts and bushfire seasons in history, Dorothea Mackellar’s poem reminds us there is nothing new.

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.


I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!


A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
Dorothea Mackellar