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“Tell me about Epiphany,” I asked my friends.
I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that celebrated Epiphany, so my knowledge about the day and its traditions is very limited. A quick search on the Internet told me that, in the Western church, Epiphany marks the visitation of the Magi to the baby Jesus. Eastern Christian traditions, remember Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist during Epiphany.
When we hear about Jesus’s “words of eternal life,” we tend to think that these are words that get us to Heaven. There is some truth in this interpretation, though it misses much of what is meant by “eternal life.”
If I were to ask you what the common bond was between pastors, politicians, and physicians, what would your answer be? The connection is that all of these professions deal intimately with human beings. Pastors deal with humans in the midst of personal tragedy; politicians and advocates with those who have been unjustly impacted by the societal and constitutional system; and, finally, physicians see people in the middle of bouts with physical ailments. Why do I bring this up? Because dealing with humanity takes a huge toll on us emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually. In fact, if we are not careful we will often experience burnout and cease to be as effective as we can be.
In today’s text from John, Jesus makes the outrageous claim that whoever doesn’t believe him is a slave to sin. How do we as leaders continue to hold onto these essential beliefs like sin without alienating the very people we are trying to reach, people who think of sin as an antiquated or even oppressive idea? In a pluralistic world that increasingly considers Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy a form of “extremism,” keeping right beliefs connected to right actions is a formidable challenge.
John’s gospel portrays Jesus as a new kind of Moses who brings bread and light as well as shepherding Israel in the wilderness. In the raising of Lazarus, Jesus is shown as someone who is Lord over life and death—something only God can do! To top it off, Jesus implies in John 8 that he is even greater than Father Abraham by invoking the revered name for God, Yahweh, by saying “I am”. That’s why these listeners were going to kill him: for calling himself equal with God. These are people who earlier demonstrated some level of admiration for Jesus but now wanted to kill him. Jesus seems to be forcing them to decide if they truly want to be followers of him or are content simply admiring him.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8 (ESV) In yesterday’s devotion, we considered how leaders in the church and marketplace are facing incredible challenges in leading others. Jesus’ final “I am” statement emphasizes that we can do nothing of lasting significance […]
Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus has been using important symbols from Israel’s history and Scriptures (shepherd, bread, water, light). Jesus now uses some of the most powerful images in Jewish culture to talk about himself: “I am the true vine….” The vineyard was one of Israel’s most prized historic symbols of its nationhood and inheritance.
Perhaps this is what Jesus was doing when he stated “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him”. The bond between God the Father and Jesus the Son was so strong that people could identify the characteristics of God by following and watching Jesus. Our Savior was showing us the best way to honor God the Father and all fathers.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I talked about Jesus’ claim to be the resurrection and the life, and the implications of this truth in my personal life and in the lives of all leaders. Verse 33 comes after Jesus’ claim to be the resurrection and the life. It precedes the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead and is followed by John 11:35, which is famously the shortest verse in the bible: “Jesus wept.” These two verses hint that Jesus was not overcome with grief over the death of Lazarus (whom he knew he was going to bring back to life), but rather deeply grieved over the state of humanity. There is so much pain and heartache in this world and Jesus is grieving that his resurrection life is not yet fully realized in the creation that he so lovingly made. Jesus will give a glimpse of his glory to come in the raising of Lazarus, yet here he weeps because death still reigns until he comes again to eradicate it in full.
John 11 highlights two contrasting themes of life and death, where Jesus is seen as the master of both. Ironically, the raising of Lazarus brought a death sentence on Jesus’ life (11:53) and on Lazarus’ life as well (12:10). But right in the midst of these words of death, Jesus offers life. Two thousand years after Jesus said these words, his resurrection life continues to pour into peoples’ lives.
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