Praying the Message of Jesus

Daily devotions and thoughts from Eugene Peterson

December 1

Expose the Error

 

"When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted." JOHN 16:8-11

 

When Jesus left his disciples, he filled the gap of his absence with a new and better presence. The Holy Spirit (the "Friend," verse 7) was given to bring God's will to personal attention in regard to sin, righteousness, and judg­ment, three fundamental but easily overlooked realities in our lives.

 

What else does the Holy Spirit do?

 

Holy Spirit, I open myself to your presence so you can do your work: Show me my sin, create in me your righteousness, prepare me for judgment, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

December 2

Spirit of Truth

 

"I still have many things to tell you, but you can't handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is." JOHN 16:12-13

 

Another work of the Holy Spirit (in addition to "Friend") is truth-telling. The father of lies has formidable opposition as the Holy Spirit keeps the Word of God alive in the consciousness of each new generation.

 

What truth has the Holy Spirit brought home to you?

 

Grant, O Holy Spirit, that I may be quick to know the difference between truth and error; and then recognizing the truth, speedy to act upon it for Jesus' sake. Amen. 

December 3

Deliver It To You

 

Deliver It to You "He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I've said, 'He takes from me and delivers to you."' JOHN 16:14-15

 

The work of the Spirit is always practical: That which is in the Father and is revealed by the Son is applied by the Spirit. As the Spirit delivers to us the revelation of the Father through the Son, we are confronted and brought to faith.

 

What does the Spirit deliver to you today?

 

Without your Spirit, Lord, I would procrastinate endlessly. By your Spirit I am brought to daily decisions to Live by your truth and to grow in your grace. Help me to respond truly, in faith. Amen. 

December 4

Saddness Into Gladness

 

"In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me." That stirred up a hornet's nest of questions among the disciples: "What's he talking about: 'In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me'? And, 'Because I'm on my way to the Father'? What is this 'day or so'? We don't know what he's talking about." Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, "Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me'? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You're going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You'll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness." JOHN 16:16-20

 

The disciples would face difficult times ahead. They were going to feel abandoned and desperate, betrayed and helpless. But their feelings, while authentic enough, would not be the reality. The reality was with God. They would learn not to interpret God's word by their feelings but let their feelings be interpreted (and changed) by God's word.

 

What did Jesus mean by "in another day or so"?

 

Make the word of my Lord far more real to me, O Holy Spirit, than my feel­ings about those words. My feelings are fickle, up one day and down the next-God word is certain, steady, and true. Amen. 

December 5

Pain

 

"When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there's no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar." JOHN 16:21-22

 

No mature woman avoids childbirth because it is painful: The joy is worth the pain. Neither do mature Christians shun discipleship because it is ardu­ous: All the pains have a purpose and the outcome is eternally joyous.

 

What pains of faith are you temporarily feeling?

 

God, I don't want to go through my life always looking for easy, painless paths. I want to find the true way and the straight path. I know you will give me strength to accept whatever difficulties I meet and bring me to a full life of joyous fellowship with yott. Amen. 

December 6

Full of Joy

 

"When I see you again, you'll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You'll no longer be so full of questions. This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I've revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he'll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!" JOHN 16:23-24

 

Jesus directs our faith through suffering, persecution, and pain to the completion of joy. He wants us to set our goals on the highest kind of joy and shape our prayers around that. The resurrection shows us how joy is fulfilled.

 

What joy has God given you?

 

When I encounter difficulties, Lord, help me not to be blocked by them but rather to see through them to the joy that is prepared for me. Seeking your Easter strength, help me to find your resurrection grace adequate to my need. Amen. 

December 7

The Father

 

"I've used figures of speech in telling you these things. Soon I'll drop the figures and tell you about the Father in plain language." JOHN 16:25

 

In Jesus' day most people believed there was a God, but few thought of him kindly. For those who grudgingly respected him as a far-off lawgiver or timorously feared him as an angry judge, Jesus proclaimed him as Father and demonstrated a personal relationship with him in love.

 

How does the word "father" change your ideas of God?

 

"Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; do what's best-as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us sefe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes" (Matthew 6·9-13). Amen. 

December 8

Directly

 

"Then you can make your requests directly to him in relation to this life I've revealed to you. I won't continue making requests of the Father on your behalf. I won't need to. Because you've gone out on a limb, committed yourselves to love and trust in me, believing I came directly from the Father, the Father loves you directly. First, I left the Father and arrived in the world; now I leave the world and travel to the Father." JOHN 16:26-28

 

Asking "directly" defines our expectations in terms of God's love as revealed in Jesus. It is not a way of getting everything we want-a kind of license for indulging in fantasy and greed-but a means of receiving what God wills for us.

 

What will you ask from God now?

 

Father in heaven: I want many things, but need very few. Jesus said that "one thing only is essential" (Luke 10:42). Show me that one thing so that I may ask and receive, lacking nothing of what you will for me in Jesus. Amen. 

December 9

Take Heart!

 

His disciples said, "Finally! You're giving it to us straight, in plain talk-no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything-it all comes together in you. You won't have to put up with our questions anymore. We're convinced you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you finally believe? In fact, you're about to make a run for it-saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I'm not abandoned. The Father is with me. I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world." JOHN 16:29-33

 

Jesus saw through the sudden enthusiasm of the disciples. He knew that they would falter and defect in the hours just ahead. But he didn't bawl them out; he anticipated their despair and promised his help to bring a cheerful victory in their lives.

 

What is the basis for the cheerful future?

 

You know, God, how quickly I can move from bold enthusiasm to cowering despair. Bring me through my episodes of unfaithfulness so that I may be counted among those who overcome through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

December 10

Glorify Your Son

 

Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said: "Father, it's time. Display the bright splendor of your Son so the Son in turn may show your bright splendor. You put him in charge of everything human so he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do. And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor, the very splendor I had in your presence before there was a world." JOHN 17:1-5

 

Jesus concluded his conversation with his disciples and began to talk to God; he prayed. This prayer (all of chapter 17) shows what Jesus cares about most: He traces his relationship with the Father and his intentions for people.

 

What is Jesus' relationship with God?

 

Father, thank you for letting me overhear this prayer of Jesus. It shows me what prayer can be when it matures. As I pray, bring to birth in my heart the things that really count in your eyes. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

December 11

The Men and Women You Gave Me

 

"I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; then you gave them to me, and they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you, for the message you gave me, I gave them; and they took it, and were convinced that I came from you." JOHN 17:6-8

 

Jesus' prayer demonstrates what Friedrich von Hugel called the "deep, great fact of intercessory Prayer: that souls-all human souls-are deeply interconnected." Eternal relationships are nurtured in the exchanges between Father, Son, and the men and women "you gave me."

 

Who prays for you?

 

Lord Jesus, keep me faithful in my prayers for those you have given to me: for family and friends, for neighbors and colleagues. Let my work in prayer sustain them in their work of love. Amen. 

December 12

I Pray For Them

 

"I pray for them. I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world but for those you gave me, for they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine, and my life is on display in them. For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world; they'll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind." JOHN 17:9-11

 

Jesus' ministry with us is not finished when he speaks God's word and demonstrates God's presence. He continues to guide and shape our lives by his prayers of intercession on our behalf.

 

How do Jesus' prayers affect you?

 

What a difference it makes as I pray, Father, to know that Jesus is praying for me and that my prayers to you are surrounded by his prayers for me. That makes me want to pray more than ever in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

December 13

Truth - Consecrated

 

"As long as I was with them, I guarded them in the pursuit of the life you gave through me; I even posted a night watch. And not one of them got away, except for the rebel bent on destruction (the exception that proved the rule of Scripture). Now I'm returning to you. I'm saying these things in the world's hearing so my people can experience my joy completed in them. I gave them your word; the godless world hated them because of it, because they didn't join the world's ways, just as I didn't join the world's ways. I'm not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world. Make them holy-consecrated-with the truth; your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I'm consecrating myself for their sakes so they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission." JOHN 17:12-19

 

Jesus' concern for us, expressed in his prayer to the Father, is that we be set apart ("consecrated") to be examples of God's truth in the world: each Christian an instance of something that God is doing in redeeming love.

 

What are you set apart for?

 

Dear Jesus, I see what you want me to become, but I have no power in myself to produce it. I depend wholly on you to bring about the consecration you desire. Continue your prayers for me, O Christ. Amen. 

December 14

One Heart and Mind

 

"I'm praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind - just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they'll be as unified and together as we are- I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you've sent me and loved them in the same way you've loved me." JOHN 17:20-23

 

Jesus expands his concern: Not only does he care about us as individuals, he wants us to be pleasing to God as a church so that the fellowship between the Son and the Father may be reflected in harmonious intimacy among Christians in the church.

 

What separates you from other Christians?

 

Lord, when I hear you praying as ardently for my unity with the other people you love as you do for my unity with you, I am jarred loose from my private piety. Fulfill your prayers for my oneness with others. Amen. 

December 15

Long Before There Was a World

 

"Father, I want those you gave me to be with me, right where I am, so they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me, having loved me long before there ever was a world. Righteous Father, the world has never known you, but I have known you, and these disciples know that you sent me on this mission." JOHN 17:24-25

 

The ministry of Jesus is not a hastily thought-up rescue operation, insti­gated by God when he saw everything was going to pieces. Jesus is the consummation of an original plan for our salvation, which was set in motion "long before there ever was a world."

 

Compare this with Colossians 1:15-20.

 

My part, O God, is not to second-guess you or offer spur-of the-moment advice to you on how to run your world. My part is to listen and accept your love, and walk in the glorious way that you have so elaborately planned for me in Jesus. Amen. 

December 16

I Am In Them

 

"I have made your very being known to them -who you are and what you do -and continue to make it known, so that your love for me might be in them exactly as I am in them." JOHN 17:26

 

A brilliant conclusion to a passionate prayer: Jesus' will for us is chat we be filled with the love of God, even as he himself experienced chat love. Jesus, living in us, will provide both the content and the motive for the experience.

 

What happens as Christ lives in you?

 

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the great intercessor through whom all the riches of God become available to me. Live ardently in me. Thank you for your gener­ous love and interceding grace. Amen. 

December 17

Over the Brook Kidron

 

Jesus, having prayed this prayer, left with his disciples and crossed over the brook Kidron at a place where there was a garden. He and his disciples entered it. Judas, his betrayer, knew the place because Jesus and his disciples went there often. So Judas led the way to the garden, and the Roman soldiers and police sent by the high priests and Pharisees followed. They arrived there with lan­terns and torches and swords. Jesus, knowing by now everything that was coming down on him, went out and met them. He said, "Who are you after?" They answered, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said, "That's me." The soldiers recoiled, totally taken aback. Judas, his betrayer, stood out like a sore thumb. Jesus asked again, "Who are you after?" They answered, "Jesus the Nazarene." "I told you," said Jesus, "that's me. I'm the one. So if it's me you're after, let these others go." JOHN 18:1-8

 

The garden, long a place of quiet prayer for Jesus, now is a place of strenu­ous temptation. Will he accept the Father's will? Will he submit to violence by those he came to save? He will and he does. Adam's disobedience (also in a garden!) is reversed in Jesus' act of obedience, and old sin becomes new righteousness.

 

Where is the Kidron?

 

I will never know, Lord Jesus, the powerful inner struggles that you endured that night; I do know that faithful prayer and a long obedience were the foun­dations for your victory. Use my place "over the brook Kidron" to prepare me for the testing and fit me for the final obedience. Amen. 

December 18

Openly

 

Then the Roman soldiers under their commander, joined by the Jewish police, seized Jesus and tied him up. They took him first to Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the Chief Priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it was to their advantage that one man die for the people. Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That other disciple was known to the Chief Priest, and so he went in with Jesus to the Chief Priest's courtyard. Peter had to stay outside. Then the other disciple went out, spoke to the doorkeeper, and got Peter in. The young woman who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, "Aren't you one of this man's disciples?" He said, "No, I'm not." The servants and police had made a fire because of the cold and were huddled there warming themselves. Peter stood with them, trying to get warm. Annas interrogated Jesus regarding his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, "I've spoken openly in public. I've taught regularly in meeting places and the Temple, where the Jews all come together. Everything has been out in the open. I've said nothing in secret. So why are you treating me like a conspirator? Question those who have been listening to me. They know well what I have said. My teachings have all been aboveboard." When he said this, one of the policemen standing there slapped Jesus across the face, saying, "How dare you speak to the Chief Priest like that!" Jesus replied, "If I've said something wrong, prove it. But if I've spoken the plain truth, why this slapping around?" Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to the Chief Priest Caiaphas. JOHN 18:12-24

 

It is characteristic for God to act openly and publicly. Righteousness is out in the open. Goodness takes place in a light-filled creation. It is evil that is furtively plotted behind closed doors and whispered in shadows. One strong shaft of sunlight exposes its tawdry unreality.

 

What was the purpose of Annas's questions?

 

God, help me to see and respond to what is obvious: the glories of your creation and the clarities of your revelation. I will avoid all evasive mystification and walk in the open, with Jesus. Amen. 

December 19

Barabbas

 

Meanwhile, Simon Peter was back at the fire, still trying to get warm. The others there said to him, "Aren't you one of his dis­ciples?" He denied it, "Not me." One of the Chief Priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, "Didn't I see you in the garden with him?" Again, Peter denied it. Just then a rooster crowed. They led Jesus then from Caiaphas to the Ro­man governor's palace. It was early morning. They themselves didn't enter the palace because they didn't want to be disqualified from eating the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and spoke. "What charge do you bring against this man?" They said, "If he hadn't been doing something evil, do you think we'd be here bothering you?" Pilate said, "You take him. Judge him by your law." The Jews said, "We're not allowed to kill anyone." (This would confirm Jesus' word indicating the way he would die.) Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, "Are you the 'King of the Jews'?" Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?" Pilate said, "Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?" "My kingdom," said Jesus, "doesn't consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn't be handed over to the Jews. But I'm not that kind of king, not the world's kind of king." Then Pilate said, "So, are you a king or not?" Jesus answered, "You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice." Pilate said, "What is truth?" Then he went back out to the Jews and told them, "I find nothing wrong in this man. It's your custom that I pardon one prisoner at Passover. Do you want me to pardon the 'King of the Jews'?" They shouted back, "Not this one, but Barabbas!" Barabbas was a Jewish free­dom fighter. JOHN 18:25-40 

 

The substitution of Jesus for Barabbas seems like a monstrous tragedy-a preference for mediocre evil over blazing goodness. But the substitution was not fatal, for God made an act of atonement out of it whereby Barabbas also might be saved.

 

How do you think Barabbas felt?

 

Lord, I pretend indignation at the crowd's choice of Barabbas, but I do it too, choosing dull mediocrities over blazing virtues, the familiar and comfortable ways of the world over the challenging, spirit-stretching way of Christ. Forgive me and train me in better choices. Amen. 

December 20

Here He Is: The Man

 

So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they greeted him with slaps in the face. Pilate went back out again and said to them, "I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime." Just then Jesus came out wearing the thorn crown and purple robe. Pilate an­nounced, "Here he is: the Man." When the high priests and police saw him, they shouted in a frenzy, "Crucify! Crucify!" Pilate told them, "You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him." The Jews answered, "We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God." JOHN 19:1-7

 

Jesus-scourged, mocked, and powerless-is still, even in the blurred vision of Pilate, the man. Just as the crowds inadvertently witnessed to Jesus' royalty, Pilate testified to his profound humanity-a complete expression of what it means to be a human being.

 

How are Jesus and Adam alike?

 

By your grace, O God, I will grow up into complete adulthood-into the measure and stature of Christ. Just as I learn the divine will from you, so I will also learn essential humanity from you, in Jesus. Amen. 

December 21

Here is Your Mother

 

At this, Pilate tried his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: "If you pardon this man, you're no friend of Caesar's. Anyone setting himself up as 'king' defies Caesar." When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, "Here is your king." They shouted back, "Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!" Pilate said, "I am to crucify your king?" The high priests answered, "We have no king except Caesar." Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified. They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote a sign and had it placed on the cross. It read: "JESUS THE NAZARENE THE KING OF THE JEWS." Many of the Jews read the sign because the place where Jesus was crucified was right next to the city. It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish high priests objected. "Don't write," they said to Pilate, "'The King of the Jews.' Make it, 'This man said, "I am the King of the Jews."'" Pilate said, "What I've written, I've written." When they crucified him, the Roman soldiers took his clothes and divided them up four ways, to each soldier a fourth. But his robe was seamless, a single piece of weaving, so they said to each other, "Let's not tear it up. Let's throw dice to see who gets it." This confirmed the Scripture that said, "They divided up my clothes among them and threw dice for my coat." (The soldiers validated the Scriptures!) While the soldiers were looking after themselves, Jesus' mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her. He said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother. JOHN 19:12-27

 

Even while doing the cosmic work of atonement, Jesus attended to domestic details: He gave his mother another son, and his disciple a new mother. The gospel creates new family ties, both of affection and responsibility, for us.

 

Who was the "disciple he [Jesus] loved"?

 

Lord, whom do you want me to love? For whom do you want me to care? Enlarge my sense of family beyond the walls of this house; increase my capacity for affectionate responsibility beyond this immediate family. Amen. 

December 22

Complete

 

Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, "I'm thirsty." A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, "It's done ... complete." Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit. Then the Jews, since it was the day of Sabbath preparation, and so the bodies wouldn't stay on the crosses over the Sabbath (it was a high holy day that year), petitioned Pilate that their legs be broken to speed death, and the bodies taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man crucified with Jesus, and then the other. When they got to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn't break his legs. One of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with his spear. Blood and water gushed out. The eyewitness to these things has presented an accurate report. He saw it himself and is telling the truth so that you, also, will believe. These things that happened confirmed the Scripture, "Not a bone in his body was broken," and the other Scripture that reads, "They will stare at the one they pierced." After all this, Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. They took Jesus' body and, following the Jewish burial custom, wrapped it in linen with the spices. There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed. So, because it was Sabbath preparation for the Jews and the tomb was convenient, they placed Jesus in it. JOHN 19:28-42

 

"Complete" has a double meaning. It means ended-the hours of agony on the cross are over and death at hand. And it means finished-the work of redemption is wholly accomplished and eternal life begun.

 

What Scripture is quoted?

 

God, what you accomplished perfectly and completely in Jesus on the cross, accomplish in me. Complete and perfect that which you have begun, for ]esus' sake and by his grace. Amen. 

December 23

I Saw the Master

 

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, "They took the Master from the tomb. We don't know where they've put him." Peter and the other disciple left immedi­ately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths ly­ing there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home. But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus' body had been laid. They said to her, "Woman, why do you weep?" "They took my Master," she said, "and I don't know where they put him." After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn't recog­nize him. Jesus spoke to her, "Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?" She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, "Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him." Jesus said, "Mary." Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" meaning "Teacher!" Jesus said, "Don't cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God."' Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: "I saw the Master!" And she told them everything he said to her. JOHN 20:1-18

 

Mary was emptied of expectation, and she was devoid of hope. Every tie to Jesus was broken and every link to Jesus severed. Out of such emptiness and loss comes the fulfillment of God's promises. Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Only where graves are is resurrection."

 

What sorrow separates you from God?

 

Lord Jesus Christ, I think because you are not where I expect you that you are not anywhere; I think that because you do not appear in the way I last saw you that you are not to be seen. Yet you, praise God, are always sitrprising me with a resurrection appearance. Amen. 

December 24

Peace to You

 

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you." Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. JOHN 20:19-20

 

They supposed that the same forces that had crucified Jesus would now be directed to their destruction, and they were locked up by fear. But they were not left to such an imprisonment-Jesus released them from it with his word of peace.

 

Compare this with Jesus' promise in John 14:27.

 

Too much of my life, Lord, is lived under the fearful aspect of what others think and do; stand with me and dissolve my fears, freeing me to live in your peace. Amen. 

December 25

Receive the Holy Spirit

 

Jesus repeated his greeting: "Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you." Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said. "If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?" JOHN 20:21-23

 

The Holy Spirit is God active in us. He is not a feeling and not a sensation, but God at work in and through us. All who believe and live in the resur­rection ofJesus Christ become actual participants in the risen life.

 

Compare this with Jesus' promise in John 14:25-31.

 

''Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with Thee I will one will, to do and to endure. Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly Thine, until this earthly part of me glows with Thy fire divine." Amen. 

December 26

Don't Be Unbelieving

 

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, "We saw the Master." But he said, "Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you." Then he focused his attention on Thomas. "Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe." Thomas said, "My Master! My God!" Jesus said, "So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing." JOHN 20:24-29

 

Thomas was treated with great gentleness by Jesus, but yet with real firm­ness. His doubts were met and dealt with, but they were not made into virtues. Immaturity, while in one degree or another inevitable, is not admirable.

 

How are you like Thomas?

 

God, lead me into an Abrahamic faith that believes before it sees. Accompany me as I travel an uncertain path in the light of your certain promises and in the strong name of Jesus. Amen. 

December 27

It's the Master!

 

After this, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed "Twin"), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, "I'm going fishing." The rest of them replied, "We're going with you." They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. When the sun came up, Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn't recognize him. Jesus spoke to them: "Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?" They answered, "No." He said, "Throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens." They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren't strong enough to pull it in. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "It's the Master!" When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. JOHN 21:1-8

 

The sunrise appearance of Jesus breaks in upon our lives with explosive force. Work that was futile apart from Christ becomes successful in his presence.

 

How did Peter know it was Jesus?

 

Your resurrection life, Lord Jesus, is like a sunrise in work that has lost mean­ing and in routines that have become pointless. Whatever my work today, I will do it in the recognition of your presence and under your command. Amen. 

December 28

Net Full of Fish

 

The other disciples came in by boat for they weren't far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it. Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you've just caught." Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore-153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn't rip. Jesus said, "Breakfast is ready." Not one of the disciples dared ask, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Master. Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead. JOHN 21:9-14

 

The catch of fish demonstrated that the risen Christ was among them in their daily work, giving completion and meaning to it. The resurrection transforms Monday work as much as Sunday worship.

 

What resurrection appearances preceded this one?

 

Lord, in my unbelief I don't expect you to take an interest in my workday routines; your appearance is a welcome surprise, commanding, transforming, sustaining. All praise to you, risen Christ. Amen. 

December 29

Yes Master

 

After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, Master, you know I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." He then asked a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Master, you know I love you." Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep." Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you." JOHN 21:15-11

 

The patient persistence of Jesus' questions probed beneath the sin and guilt of Peter's recent denials (see John 18:15-27) and built a new identity as Christ's disciple. The triple affirmation of love matched and overcame the triple denial. Peter was restored.

 

Why was Peter singled out?

 

How grateful I am, Father, that you do not "treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in fuLL for our wrongs" (Psalm 103:10) but treat us with mercy and grace. Restore me to your feLLowship and make me strong in your service. Amen. 

December 30

What's That To You?

 

Turning his head, Peter noticed the disciple Jesus loved following right behind. When Peter noticed him, he asked Jesus, "Master, what's going to happen to him?" Jesus said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you? You-follow me." That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn't die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, "If I want him to live until I come again, what's that to you?" JOHN 21:20-23

 

It is not given to us to know what God is doing with others; we need to pay attention to what he is doing with us. Disciples are not permitted to gossip, even if the gossip is about God. It is enough to know that he says to us, "Follow me" (verse 19).

 

What did Jesus mean? 

 

Dear God, deliver me from the curiosity that asks questions about what is none of my business. Bring me back to the point of faith where I respond to you, the place of obedience where I believe in you, and the path of Love where I follow you, in Jesus' name. Amen. 

December 31

So Many Other Things


This is the same disciple who was eyewitness to all these things and wrote them down. And we all know that his eyewitness account is reliable and accurate. There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can't imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books. JOHN 21:24-25


With wonderful skill and impeccable veracity, John has written what we need to know of Jesus and our salvation. He has not indulged our curiosity. He has not overloaded us with information and incident. From now on all our energy goes into belief and obedience and praise.


Do you ever find yourself wondering about the things you don't know instead of obeying the things right before you?


Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for giving me enough but not too much. Now keep me believing and obedient before this spare and inviting story. Help me to assimilate your life into my life and daily live praising your glory. Amen.