Week Five of 42 Days through Good News according to John
Spiritual Practice of the Week: Fasting and Service
Fasting is giving up something to make more room for God in your life, or just to tell God, ‘You’re more important to me.’ Consider not eating a particular food or not doing a favorite activity this week. Use that time or space to have a conversation with God instead, or to serve another person. For example, you might give up TV or video games and use that time to pray or to help someone in your family by doing their chore, helping with their homework, or some other loving action. Or you could fast as an entire family, by eating an especially simple supper—bread and soup, for instance—and using the money that you would have spent on the rest of the meal to purchase canned goods to donate to the Food Bank. Keep your eyes and ears open for unexpected ways that God is speaking to you or multiplying your actions. At the end of the week, think about what you liked and what you might not have liked about this particular spiritual discipline. For groups and families, share your thoughts with each other.
Monday, March 23, 2015
John 12:34–50—Belief & Unbelief
34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”
After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.
37 But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. 38 This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted:
“Lord, who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?”
39 But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said,
40 “The Lord has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts—
so that their eyes cannot see,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and have me heal them.”
41 Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he said this, because he saw the future and spoke of the Messiah’s glory. 42 Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.
44 Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. 49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
Points of Interest
- ‘Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?’—what Jesus is saying doesn’t fit with their understanding of the Messiah. So, now they start to wonder if ‘Son of Man’ is a prophetic character distinct from the Messiah, one they somehow have missed up until now.
- ‘exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted’—Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10. We may be tempted to think that the people’s rejection of Jesus is a mark against him being the Messiah. Actually, this rejection is all a part of the script, as outlined by the prophets.
- ‘But they wouldn’t admit it for fear’—in their heart of hearts, more people believe in Jesus than are willing to admit it publicly. The political costs of coming out for Jesus are just too high for them. Sadly, they choose to pass up on the spiritual and eternal benefits Jesus is offering, because they’re unwilling to pay the price in their ordinary life.
- ‘will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken’—Jesus doesn’t have the time to or interest in judging people who don’t listen to him. He has better things to do: bring light into the lives of people who want him to do so. That doesn’t mean there are no consequences to refusing to listen. The consequences come in the fact that what Jesus is saying is actually true: ‘Those who love their life in this world will lose it’ (12:25). Eventually, everyone will run out of life of their own. If they haven’t asked Jesus for his eternal life, they won’t have any life at all.
Taking It Home
- For you: Are you intrigued by the religious leaders who believed in Jesus but were too scared to say so? We could talk for hours about how the whole story could have played out differently for everyone if these influential people had simply spoken up. What’s striking is the personal costs for them of being held back by fear for their reputation. Where in your life are you scared about what other people think? Are there aspects of your reputation that feel at stake because of Jesus in some way? Ask Jesus to show you if there are ways you are being held back by fear. If there are, tell him what you’re afraid of (I think he would want to know), and maybe tell him you’re sorry. Ask Jesus for his help in moving past that, and ask him to show you what he is offering you. Consider telling Jesus that you care more about him than whatever aspects of your reputation feel at stake.
- For your 6: In the same way that Jesus was hidden from the crowds that were out to destroy him, ask Jesus to hide your 6 from people or situations that are out to destroy them. Ask Jesus to let none of Satan’s plans for your 6 come to pass. Pray that your 6 would sense Jesus’ protection today.
- For our church: In our city, as in Jerusalem in Jesus’ time, there are all sorts of questions about who Jesus is and how exactly he fits in. In this passage, Jesus’ response seems to be simply, ‘Try me. You’ll like me’; for those who decide to trust him, it’ll be like the light is turned on in a dark place. Ask Jesus to strengthen our church’s trust in him. And pray that our life would indeed be brightened up in exactly the way he promises.