Tag Archives: conversation with jesus

John 9, My favorite Jesus Story

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “what is your favorite Jesus story?”  (a trick I learned from my older brother Jeff)  I love this question because it tells us a great deal about each other.  It tells me if a person actually reads the Bible or if they just regurgitate stuff their pastor has said.  It tells me if they have certain theological dispositions and tendencies.  It lets me briefly peer into their inner workings and attitudes towards religion, faith, and culture.  I thought today I’d share one of my favorite Jesus stories with you.  It will come in multiple parts, this is part one.

In John 9 there is a man who was born blind begging on the side of the road.  Jesus’ disciples ask, “whose fault is this man’s blindness?  Did he do it or His parents?”  Now, this question indicates a very peculiar understanding of life.  These men believe that bad things happen as a direct result of our individual wickedness.  To be sure, sometimes we suffer consequences of our sin in a dramatic and dire way.  For example, you end up in Jail if you break the law.  You may get sick and not be able to think as clearly if you are enslaved to alcohol or mind altering drugs.  Or you may end up losing jobs and being broke because you cannot overcome some sort of addiction.  Whatever the case, there are certainly consequences for individual sin that sometimes have great ramifications.  But, this is not the case with every trial and infirmity.  This poor blind beggar is simply blind.  Sin exists in the world and as a result death and infirmities plague EVERYONE.  This man is not guilty of being blind.  He simply is blind.  His own guilt is no greater than anyone else’s and he may actually be more righteous than the disciples!

To be clear, the true indictment should be laid on the community that surrounds this man.  The question the disciples ask is, “why is he blind.”  The question Jesus would have them ask is, “why is no one doing anything about this?”  Jesus asserts, “This man is blind so that the works of God would be shown.”  Cases of infirmity, sickness, and disease exist so that we can show the love of God to one another and recognize our common need for Christ.  So this story begs the question, where is the community of redeemed believers who follow God?  Why have they not taken care of this one?  Jesus kneels down and heals the man.  In Jesus’ example, we are beckoned to do the same thing for the broken around us.

Read the scene carefully, He doesn’t say a word to the man.  Just puts some mud on his eyes and says, “go wash that off.”  It must have been the weirdest thing that man had ever had happen to him.  I’m a little surprised that there is no record of the blind man’s verbal response.  I imagine that this must have been almost offensive, as Jesus’ healings often seem to be.  (He is always initiating healing with a rather offensive statement.  C.f. Jn 5:6, “do you want to be well?” or Mt. 12:13 to the man with the crumpled hand, “stretch out your hand.”)  I can only imagine what he was thinking, “what do you mean, ‘go wash this off!?’ of course I’m going to wash this off, you just put cold wet mud in my face you big bully!”  And yet, once he has washed it off, he was healed.

We are called to work this mission.  We are called to bind up the broken and take care of those who have shattered souls and lives.  It is in these broken people that we find the love of God is most fruitful.  It is in the broken community gathered around to aid each other that we see the Life Eternal at work.  So, get to work Christian!  Find some broken people and lift them up!

What’s your favorite story?

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The Disciple John

fire_from_heaven

James and John often make me laugh.  Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down.  There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character.  One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56.  The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?”  I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus.  It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.”  What is even funnier is the story immediately before.  Jesus has just told them that the

greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48).  Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.”  Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on.  Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.

In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD.  Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus.  Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts.  They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who

would reject him.  They fail to see the love that Jesus has.  Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.”  So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem.  James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors!  But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world.  Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation.  Glory is found in making the enemy your family.  Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep.  James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength.  But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness.  Jesus is going to die, not kill.  James and John do not see

that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win.  But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved.  The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge.  They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will.  Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?

How does one know the will of God?  In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to

conform their life to the will of God.  Make your will to DO His will and you will know.  James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission.  Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart.   Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.

In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!”  Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here.  People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus.  But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda.  John was on the team, this other guy was not!  This other guy did not

follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped!  John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did.  Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing!  Again, Jesus corrects John.

You know…  the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them.  But I am

no different.  I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do.  They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly.  They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do.  They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer.   (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word!  But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.)  Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death.  Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision.  So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10

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The Day Jesus Got Mad Pt.1

I have had the privilege of counseling a great deal of angry people. Well, counseling angry people got me to thinking about the day Jesus got mad.  I’d like to look at this from three different perspectives.  Today will be the disciples perspective.

In John 2:13, we see Jesus and His disciples coming from Jesus’ first miracle into the temple for Passover.  Now, to set the stage:  This rag tag group of guys has been looking for a messiah and they believe they have found Him.  They were recently at a wedding party where Jesus turned nasty water into wine and then they spent a few days just chilling with Jesus’ family. (v.12)  I remember when I was young and my Father would have foreign dignitaries into our home for a few days at a time.  One time, the president of the World Health Organization spent a few days in our home.  I remember just sitting in the room and listening to this brilliant man discuss everything from classical music, to economics, to poverty, even basketball!  He sat at the piano and played Autumn Leaves, then he played it the way Bach would have, then he played it the way Chopin would have, then the way the Beatles would have, then the way a jazz pianist would have.  It was incredible.  So I wonder…  how stinking amazing would it be to spend a few days in casual conversation with Jesus, God in the flesh!

After this retreat, the disciples must have felt like they could fly!  The things they would have learned, the joys they would have seen, the simple time spent in communion with Jesus after a miraculous experience would have made them want to dance into the temple musical style.  Imagine the confidence.  We’ve found the Messiah and we’re on His crew!  Yeah!  So, they head to Jerusalem… (notice in verse 13, John doesn’t include the disciples in this story.  I think it’s because he’s a little scared of this side of Jesus and he wants to emphasize that the disciples didn’t really get it yet.) Jesus walks into the temple and sees the money changers and makes a whip.  Now it takes a few minutes to make a whip.  Not a half an hour or anything like that, but a few minutes.  Can you imagine walking into worship with the most holy person you know?  Imagine the discomfort when you are planning on worship, hoping to introduce this Messiah to your friends (some of whom volunteer at the money changing table occasionally), and you see the change in His eyes and you realize that you’ve missed something.  This holy man you were walking with has suddenly become upset about something you didn’t even notice.  Have you been there?  You feel utterly sunk.

I can even imagine the conversation:

Peter: Dude, John…  what’d you do?  Why’s He all ticked off? (Peter would totally say “Dude”)

John: I didn’t say a word, I don’t know what He’s mad about. He just walked over there muttering something about prayer and oxen.

Peter: Did we forget the bread again?

John: Don’t bring that up, you’ll just get Him going on the Pharisees again.

Peter: Ask Him what’s wrong!

John: I’m not crazy bro.  You ask him! (John would totally call Peter “bro” but in a cynical mocking way)

Andrew: Hey guys, why is Jesus making a whip?

Peter: A what?

John: Yeah man, He’s making a whip.

Thomas: I refuse to believe that it’s a whip until He hits someone with it.

Andrew: I think we should move over there where He won’t hit us with what Thomas refuses to believe is a whip.

James: (Laughing) Why is Jesus mad?  Was Peter asking about bread again?

Peter: I still don’t get it, why’s He so…  oh dang, He just flipped over that table…  ouch, that must of hurt… I’m with Andrew… run away!

I’m being a little silly, but just think about it.  That uncomfortable feeling that you get when you’ve missed something critical and you’re afraid you may be absolutely in the wrong.  If you’re like me, you begin to catalog every bad thing you have ever done and trying to find a connection.  That sick feeling you get in your stomach seems to affect everything.  Your arms go weak, your mouth goes dry, your head begins to spin, and you feel the weight of failure beyond what you can stand because of something you can’t even see.  You stand by and watch as the King walks over to the side of the room, muttering under his breath and begins to fashion a whip.  It doesn’t take long, but you wait awkwardly not sure what to do.  Those brief moments feel like an eternity and you are acutely aware that you smell a little odd, desperately need a drink, and are beginning to sweat.  And then He explodes, beating people and flipping tables, yelling about righteousness.  Some of your friends get beat out of the temple, maybe even one of your childhood buddies that you were hoping to introduce Jesus to.

All of a sudden, John tells us in verse 17, you remember the Bible and suddenly realize what you missed.  The root of this anger is the House of God.  Shame fills you for a moment as you realize that you were blind to something that has been dreadfully wrong all your life.  Peter hangs his head and kicks a pebble on the ground and says something like, “I shoulda made a whip.”  Then some of the men you used to admire come stomping up in anger demanding Jesus answer for His actions.  It’s that moment when I imagine the urge to disown Jesus.  You’re standing right next to Him, obviously His friend, near tears already, and your favorite pastors come walking up, stammering to try and contain their anger, and they demand an answer.  I want you to imagine Sealy Smith, or Herman Coe, or Greg, or Mike, or Chuck, or Me walking up with a list of reasons that Jesus was in the wrong.  (Though I am certain we would agree with Jesus, for the purpose of illustration, that is who the disciples saw stomping up to their Messiah.)  Jesus, your King, answers these pastors, these second most holy people you’ve ever known, with a bizarre statement about razing the temple and rebuilding it.  His answer doesn’t even make since!  (We know this didn’t make since because John tells us they don’t get it until Jesus rises again. v.22)

Now let’s be honest, Peter’s taking some steps off to the side and looking at the wall as if he doesn’t know Jesus and so are we.  Sometimes God’s anger doesn’t seem to make since to us.  Sometimes Jesus says stuff that we really just don’t want to deal with.  Sometimes what is true is far too inconvenient for us to even want to recognize.  Maybe Jesus has said some things to you lately?  Maybe you’ve seen some things in yourself that you would rather He not beat out of you?  How are you going to respond?  Are you going to admit that you were in the wrong, and maybe you need to start a repentance tour to all the people you have wronged?  Are you going to insist that Jesus answer for His cleansing anger?  Are you going to stare at the wall and hope Jesus doesn’t turn to talk to you?

You see, we like anger.  But only when we’re the angry one and when we’re in the right.  But what about when Jesus is angry and we’ve missed it?  What do we do then?  We can pretend that we are righteous.  We can dismiss Jesus’ word as if He never made comments about our own wickedness and sin.  We can pretend that Jesus never got angry and was all smiles, hugs, and candy.   Or… we can be honest with ourselves and God, repent from our sins, repent from our failure to notice something so important about the God we say we love, and commit to obey and be more attentive to God’s word.