28 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 28 February 2013


Jesus responded to the Jewish leaders, “I assure you that the Son can’t do anything by himself except what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he does. He will show him greater works than these so that you will marvel. As the Father raises the dead and gives life, so too does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. The Father doesn’t judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son so that everyone will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent him.

“I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has [aiōnion] life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life.

“I assure you that the time is coming—and is here!—when the dead will hear the voice of God’s Son, and those who hear it will live. Just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. He gives the Son authority to judge, because he is the Human One. Don’t be surprised by this, because the time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice. Those who did good things will come out into the resurrection of life, and those who did wicked things into the resurrection of judgment.

Jesus’ response here, is due to the accusations from the previous reading. The Religious Elite accosted him for healing a man and telling the man to carry his mat on the Sabbath, breaking their traditional Laws. But there is something deeper going on here.

Notice the first couple of sentences: “I assure you that the Son can’t do anything by himself except what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” This is incredible!

Why?

Because so often people paint two different pictures of “the Father” and “the Son.” They say things like, “The God represented in the Jewish Scriptures seems to be a different God than the one Jesus portrays.” Or, “The God of the Jewish Scriptures seems to evolve over time.” Or, “The God in the Jewish Scriptures is a violent, bloodthirsty, hatefilled deity of vengeance.” Jesus completely shatters such a notion. If G_d was actually like the one sometimes seen the Jewish Scriptures, then Jesus would’ve acted (and would still act) that way. But he didn’t (and doesn’t). The mercy and peace and love that exuded from Jesus did so because those things exude from the Father-Mother.

It’s been said time and time again, if you want an accurate picture of what G_d is like, look to Jesus.

Also note that right now, this very moment, we can experience the Life made available by Christ. Jesus said, “I assure you that the time...is here when the dead will hear the voice of G_d’s Son [and] live.” This isn’t something that’s happens later. No. It’s available right now.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

27 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 27 February 2013


When these events were completed, Jesus led His followers to Jerusalem where they would celebrate a Jewish feast together.

In Jerusalem they came upon a pool by the sheep gate surrounded by five covered porches. In Hebrew this place is called Bethesda.

Crowds of people lined the area, lying around the porches. All of these people were disabled in some way; some were blind, lame, paralyzed, or plagued by diseases. In the crowd, Jesus noticed one particular man who had been living with his disability for 38 years. He knew this man had been waiting here a long time.

Jesus (to the disabled man): Are you here in this place hoping to be healed?

Disabled Man: Kind Sir, I wait, like all of these people, for the waters to stir; but I cannot walk. If I am to be healed in the waters, someone must carry me into the pool. Without a helping hand, someone else beats me to the water’s edge each time it is stirred.

Jesus: Stand up, carry your mat, and walk.

At the moment Jesus uttered these words, a healing energy coursed through the man and returned life to his limbs—he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years. But this was the Sabbath Day; and any work, including carrying a mat, was prohibited on this day.

Jewish Leaders (to the man who had been healed): Must you be reminded that it is the Sabbath? You are not allowed to carry your mat today!

Formerly Disabled Man: The man who healed me gave me specific instructions to carry my mat and go.

Jewish Leaders: Who is the man who gave you these instructions? How can we identify Him?

The man genuinely did not know who it was that healed him. In the midst of the crowd and the excitement of his renewed health, Jesus had slipped away. Some time later, Jesus found him in the temple and again spoke to him.

Jesus: Take a look at your body; it has been made whole and strong. So avoid a life of sin, or else a calamity greater than any disability may befall you.

The man went immediately to tell the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the mysterious healer. So they began pursuing and attacking Jesus because He performed these miracles on the Sabbath.

Jesus (to His attackers): My Father is at work. So I, too, am working.

He was justifying the importance of His work on the Sabbath, claiming God as His Father in ways that suggested He was equal to God. These pious religious leaders sought an opportunity to kill Jesus, and these words fueled their hatred.


This is such a moving story. How can someone not be moved by this scene. I like the way The Voice put this. It paints the picture very well. I can just see the pool and people with all kinds of disabilities setting in the shade from the covered porches. As Jesus scans the crowd, he sees someone he recognizes. Apparently, this man has been disabled for all of Jesus’ life.

Jesus approaches the man and asks him an interesting question, “Are you here in this place hoping to be healed?” Isn’t that odd? Why would Jesus ask if the man wanted to be healed? I mean, he was there with the rest of the people. The pool is known for it’s healing properties. So why did Jesus ask him if he wanted to be healed?

I’m not really sure. There’s a lot of speculation (to see if the man had faith, some people don’t really want to be healed, etc.), but, frankly, I find them all a little shallow. I mean, the man doesn’t need to have faith. There’s that one story where the faith of some friends healed a man who was also crippled. And I have never met someone who was disabled who wouldn’t want to have their disability healed. There might be some people that are like that, but, as I said, I’ve never met them. The people I know would give just about anything to be made whole.

Whatever Jesus meant by his question, the man seemed to interpret it as an offer to help him get to the pool when the waters are stirring. But Jesus tells him something else, “Stand up, grab your stuff, and go home.”

Isn’t that shocking? I mean, if I was lying there, would I think he was telling me I was going to be healed or I was faking it?

I like how The Voice explains it, “At the moment Jesus uttered these words, a healing energy coursed through the man and returned life to his limbs—he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years.” Granted, this is all read into the text. But it paints the picture of what happened in a fresh way, especially the last part, “he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years.” That really struck me.

For those who don’t know, I’m legally blind in my right eye. When I was a infant, I had some sort of allergic reaction and my eye swelled shut. When the swelling went down, my eye had crossed so severely that one could barely see the iris (the colored part of the eye). Surgery was done to correct the problem. Some of the muscles that move the eye were shortened and the eye was realigned. But there was another issue. The retina (the “screen” on the back of the eye where the images are displayed) had some scarring on it. The eye turned to find a “clear screen.” However, since my right eye couldn’t move to the left, it wandered to the right. And stayed there. The furthest my right eye turns to the left is to the middle.

I got my first pair of glasses on my second birthday. I’m not sure if the corrective surgery happened before or after that (I think it was before, but things like that get fuzzy as I get older). And I’ve worn them every day since then. Because of the inability to see properly from my right eye, things like sports were pretty much impossible for me. And 3-D movies? Until recently, they were like looking at bad reception on a color television.

So, while I haven’t been disabled like the man in the story, I can relate to having a disability for quite a long time. And the process to heal me would be nothing short of a miracle. Talking with one of my doctors, he told me, “Even if we could replace the entire eye, it probably wouldn’t work. In fact, it might be worse. Your brain would say, ‘I haven’t needed that eye for over forty years, so why start using it now.’” My healing, then, would need to be a complete rewiring of my brain in addition to the total restoration of my eye. Plus, there would be a huge learning curve as I had to adjust to seeing things that most people take for granted.

I say all of this to say that I might just be like the man carrying his mat. I might be so moved by what G_d did for me that I might break a few “doctrines” or “church rules.” Heck, I do that now so I’m quite sure I would do so even more!

But look at the response he gets. As he’s walking home (he might have even been dancing and singing!), the Religious Elite accost him for breaking a Sabbath law! They don’t even ask him what’s going on or why he’s carrying his belongs. They don’t take the time to find out his situation. They just assume that he should know better. Can you imagine? It’s only after he explains that he’s been healed do they know part of his story. And what do they do? Do they celebrate with him? Nope. The only want to know who it was that told him to break the Law! Their concern is not for the man or his healing. Their only concern is for the religious traditions and the power and positions they hold over the people, as the last part of the story shows.

I pray that we take the time to get to know people instead of  judging them. We might find that by listening to their story we, too, might act the way they acted.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


~~~
The Voice Bible. Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

26 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 26 February 2013


After two days Jesus left for Galilee. (Jesus himself had testified that prophets have no honor in their own country.) When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him because they had seen all the things he had done in Jerusalem during the festival, for they also had been at the festival.

He returned to Cana in Galilee where he had turned the water into wine. In Capernaum there was a certain royal official whose son was sick. When he heard that Jesus was coming from Judea to Galilee, he went out to meet him and asked Jesus if he would come and heal his son, for his son was about to die. Jesus said to him, “Unless you see miraculous signs and wonders, you won’t believe.”

The royal official said to him, “Lord, come before my son dies.”

Jesus replied, “Go home. Your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and set out for his home.

While he was on his way, his servants were already coming to meet him. They said, “Your son lives!” So he asked them at what time his son had started to get better. And they said, “The fever left him yesterday at about one o’clock in the afternoon.” Then the father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son lives.” And he and his entire household believed in Jesus. This was the second miraculous sign Jesus did while going from Judea to Galilee.

I think this can be read in a different way. When Jesus said, “Unless you see miraculous signs and wonders, you won’t believe,” a lot of us see this as a slight to the official (and, indeed, that might have been the intention).

But what if we see this as something deeper?

What if Jesus was actually saying that people aren’t able to believe until their “felt needs” are met? As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Perhaps the pangs of the official’s hunger were growing stronger with each passing moment as he watched death stealing life from his son. He couldn’t see G_d except in the form of his son. If his son died, he knew that the hole it would leave in his heart and life would never be filled (not in this world’s realm, anyway).

The official ran to meet Jesus. Once he found him, he fell to his knees and begged for just a morsel, a crumb, of hope. Jesus gave him a seed of life - “Your son lives.” He took the seed Jesus gave him and carried it home with the full intention that his hunger would be satisfied.

And “while he was on his way,” his servants rushed to meet him with the news that the seed had taken root, grown, was harvested, ground down, made into dough, and baked to a golden brown. And it was waiting for him. Because his hunger was satisfied, “he and his entire household believed in Jesus.”

Yeah. I think that can be seen here.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

25 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 25 February 2013

The disciples returned to Him and gathered around Him in amazement that He would openly break their customs by speaking to this woman, but none of them would ask Him what He was looking for or why He was speaking with her. [Photine] went back to the town, leaving her water pot behind. She stopped men and women on the streets and told them about what had happened.
Photine: I met a stranger who knew everything about me. Come and see for yourselves; can He be the Anointed One?

A crowd came out of the city and approached Jesus. During all of this, the disciples were urging Jesus to eat the food they gathered.

Jesus: I have food to eat that you know nothing about.

Disciples (to one another): Is it possible someone else has brought Him food while we were away?

Jesus: I receive My nourishment by serving the will of the Father who sent Me and completing His work. You have heard others say, “Be patient; we have four more months to wait until the crops are ready for the harvest.” I say, take a closer look and you will see that the fields are ripe and ready for the harvest. The harvester is collecting his pay, harvesting fruit ripe for [aiōnion] life. So even now, he and the sower are celebrating their fortune. The saying may be old, but it is true: “One person sows, and another reaps.” I sent you to harvest where you have not labored; someone else took the time to plant and cultivate, and you feast on the fruit of their labor.

Meanwhile, because [Photine] shared with her neighbors how Jesus exposed her past and present, the village of Sychar was transformed—many Samaritans heard and believed. The Samaritans approached Jesus and repeatedly invited Him to stay with them, so He lingered there for two days on their account. With the words that came from His mouth, there were many more believing Samaritans. They began their faith journey because of the testimony of [Photine]; but when they heard for themselves, they were convinced the One they were hearing was and is God’s Anointed, the Liberating King, sent to rescue the entire world.

The “fields are ripe and ready for the harvest.” Let’s pause for a moment and think about this. All throughout Jesus’ ministry (and his cousin John’s, too), there has been an immediacy. History reached a point, the “fullness of time,” when everything needed to change. The moment to act was then present. Jesus arrived to usher in the long awaited promise of G_d’s Realm, the New Creation. It is the same here. The “harvest” is not in the future. It’s present. Now. As Jesus said when he started his ministry, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

Today, we are so like the disciples. We just don’t get what Jesus could possibly mean. We look at the world around us and think, “Is this possible? Surely he’s mistaken. Right?” Time and time again, we have missed the revelation that the people of Sychar understood. G_d’s Realm was unfolding all around them. And Jesus “was and is G_d’s Anointed, the Liberating King, sent to rescue the entire world.”



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


~~~
* The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

24 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 24 February 2013


When Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived, they couldn’t break through the crowd, so they sent word in to Jesus that He should come out to them. The crowd was pressed in tight around Him when He received the message, “Your mother and brothers are waiting outside for You.”

Jesus looked around.

Jesus (answering them): Who are My mother and brothers?

He called into the silence. No one spoke.

At last His gaze swept across those gathered close, and Jesus smiled.

Jesus: You, here, are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My true family.

Jesus went out again to teach by the Sea of Galilee. When the crowd became unmanageable, He climbed aboard a boat and sat down to teach the people listening on the shore by telling them parables. One of His teachings went like this:

Jesus: Listen! A farmer went out and sowed his seed. As he scattered it, one seed fell along the hardened path, and a bird flapped down and snapped it up. One seed fell onto rocky places where the soil was thin, so it sprang up quickly. But when the hot sun scorched the fragile stems and leaves, the seedling withered because its roots didn’t go deep in the soil. One of the seeds fell among the weeds and thorns, which crowded the seedling out of producing a crop. And the rest of the seeds fell in good, rich soil. When they sprouted, the plants grew and produced a crop 30, 60, even 100 times larger than expected for every seed that the farmer had sown.

All who have ears to hear, let them listen.

This is another one of those poorly cut up stories. In verses 20 and 21, we read:

Jesus and His disciples went into a house to eat, but so many people pressed in to see Jesus that they could not be served. When Jesus’ family heard about this craziness, they went to drag Him out of that place.

Jesus’ Family (to one another): Jesus has lost His mind.

And in chapter 2, we find out that Jesus and his followers were in Capernaum, which was a fishing village on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee (or Lake Kinneret). That’s the setting of the first part of our story. Jesus was traveling through the region and stopped at a home to eat. But, just like clockwork, news spread that he was there and the place became packed with people.

Word reaches his family and they are fearful for his sanity and safety. The decide to go get him. But, when they arrive, they can’t even get inside because of the crowds. A message finally reaches Jesus that his family is waiting outside for him. And then something strange happens.

Jesus says that the people who do G_d’s will are his family.

Notice what he didn’t say.

He didn’t say Jewish people. Or non-Jewish people. He said, “Whoever...” That’s anybody and everybody. There’s no exclusion here. Anyone can be a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t matter what religious tradition you belong to. It doesn’t matter if you don’t belong to a religious tradition. If you are doing G_d’s will, then you are part of G_d’s family. You are sibling of Jesus.

So, the big question is:

What is G_d’s will?

That’s a great question. And I find it interesting that the disciples didn’t ask it. Jesus answered that question in John’s telling of the Gospel, “This is G_d’s will: that all who see the Son and believe in him will have [aiónios] life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (amended).

As we noted previously, belief in Jesus is tied to our actions. That is, we decide to live the way he lived, because we believe that his way of being human is the better way. The best way, in fact. When we do that, when we “repent” - cast aside our way of being - and take up The Way Jesus exemplified, we will have the life of the ages now, in this world’s realm. The life that fills us up and transcends anything we imagine can be experienced right now. But we have to leave behind our way of doing things; our way of being. That’s not an easy thing. Which is the point of the rest of our story.

Jesus tells a story to help people grasp what he’s talking about. As we find out later, this story represents people who hear and respond to the Gospel, the good news that Jesus was ushering in G_d’s promised Realm. Some people just don’t get it. For a number of reasons, they just can’t grasp that G_d’s Realm is now a present reality. Others get caught up in in the excitement and join in. But once the hardships come, the quickly bail out. Another group sticks it out but soon those in the family become irritants and they can’t seem to see past them - they can’t grow. All they see are the problems and lump the whole thing in as a hopeless, hurtful, place. They suffocate and leave.

But there’s another group. This group hears the story of G_d’s Realm unfolding in history and embraces it. Their eyes are opened and they can see the multitude of G_d’s workers.

Also, I think this can be seen as the stages of spiritual growth. The first stage can be flat out rejection of the things we are being taught. I remember when I was taking a course in the Jewish Scriptures, all of my previous understanding were being shattered at my feet. I just couldn’t believe what they were telling me. It didn’t make any sense at the time. But when I managed to make it through that, I was a little too naive and stopped questioning things they were telling me. So much of it was making sense that I could see how my way of thinking beforehand was so off kilter. But then I hit a huge snag. As my studies continued, the questions the instructors were posing were very uncomfortable for me. There are a handful of things that I think are non-negotiable when it comes to faith. And these teachers were trying to get me to shatter those foundational things. I then felt trapped. Like their plan all along was to choke out any critical thinking on my part just so I could fit into what they thought clergy should be. But, I didn’t throw it all away. I hung in there, loaded with reason and questioning their questions. I have no problem with readdressing my primary positions. However, I can’t, in good conscience, remove some positions and continue call myself a follower of Jesus. During this process, however, I have grown deeper in my understandings and practices. Deeper than I would have ever thought possible before.

Lastly, with the idea of the seeds being stages of spiritual growth, I see them as cyclic, too. That is, those four stages happen over and over again. New thoughts, new teachings pop up and the old ones have to be reassessed. There will be periods of growth and stagnation. But the key, I believe, is too hang on, to continue the journey. If we are truly following Jesus, the Spirit of G_d will lead us deeper into G_d.



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC


~~~
The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

23 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 23 February 2013


Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was making more disciples and baptizing more than John (although Jesus’ disciples were baptizing, not Jesus himself). Therefore, he left Judea and went back to Galilee.

Jesus had to go through Samaria. He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.

The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)

Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into [aiónios] life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”

Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.”

The woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.”

“You are right to say, ‘I don’t have a husband,’” Jesus answered. “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn’t your husband. You’ve spoken the truth.”

The woman said, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you and your people say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem.”

Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you and your people will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You and your people worship what you don’t know; we worship what we know because salvation is from the Jews. But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”

The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.”

Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.”

Before I say anything today, I want to wish my beautiful daughter happy twenty-first birthday! I can still catch glimpses of the wee sprite in “dog-ears” in her every now and then. But, I’m in awe of the beautiful, creative, passionate, and strong, young woman she is. I love you, Princess, and am so very proud of you.

There is a lot of shock and awe in this story. This first part, obviously, is the fourth paragraph. There’s the statement from Photine, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” And then there’s the editor’s commentary, “Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.” I don’t know about you, but I just love this exchange! If you think about the women in the Bible, not one of them seems shy or timid or “under the boot” of men. They speak out. The stand up for themselves and the marginalized. Even the woman with the issue of blood was brassy enough to approach Jesus. And who cares that she did it in secret? It was still a gutsy move on her part. The same thing is going on here. Just look at Photine’s response! Instead of giving him a drink, she sides the issue and calls him out for breaking social standards! And then calling into questions his ego? Wow. No one in any other story talked to Jesus this way.

The next shocking thing about this story comes when Photine changes the subject (again, who else ever did that to Jesus?!*). And this is a critical exchange. In fact, it should have been a game changer for us, but we’ve missed it (or perhaps we ignored it).

Photine inquired about the correct place to worship G_d; about whose religious tradition is right. Did you ever think of her question in that way? “Whose tradition is right?” We automatically assume that it’s ours. The only problem we have is Jesus’ answer. We really don’t know what to do with it. “Woman,” he said, “I tell you that neither is so. Believe this: a new day is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the importance will not be placed on the time and place of worship but on the truthful hearts of worshipers...The Father-Mother is spirit, and is seeking followers whose worship is sourced in truth and deeply spiritual as well. Regardless of whether you are in Jerusalem or on this mountain...” (The Voice, amended**).

Did you see it? Jesus said that our religious traditions aren’t the answers we think they are. They were supposed to point us to something deeper. In fact, he said that they should have been gone a long time ago. During his time, a new day was already present when our places and modes of tradition were no longer important. What is important is our intentions. True worship comes when we are seeking G_d through deep spiritual practices with the knowledge that all truth is G_d’s truth. That is the place where G_d meets us.




~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

~~~
* Oh! Wait! I just thought of someone else who talked similarly to Jesus...his MOM!

**The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

22 February 2013

Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 22 February 2013


After this Jesus and his disciples went into Judea, where he spent some time with them and was baptizing. John was baptizing at Aenon near Salem because there was a lot of water there, and people were coming to him and being baptized. (John hadn’t yet been thrown into prison.)

A debate started between John’s disciples and a certain Jew about cleansing rituals. They came to John and said, “Rabbi, look! The man who was with you across the Jordan, the one about whom you testified, is baptizing and everyone is flocking to him.”

John replied, “No one can receive anything unless it is given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I’m not the Christ but that I’m the one sent before him. The groom is the one who is getting married. The friend of the groom stands close by and, when he hears him, is overjoyed at the groom’s voice. Therefore, my joy is now complete. He must increase and I must decrease. The one who comes from above is above all things. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all things. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever accepts his testimony confirms that God is true. The one whom God sent speaks God’s words because God gives the Spirit generously. The Father loves the Son and gives everything into his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has [aiónios, age-long] life. Whoever doesn’t believe in the Son won’t see life, but the angry judgment of God remains on them.”

One of the most famous sentences ever recorded is found in this passage - “He must increase and I must decrease.” What is John getting at? Is he just talking about his service of baptism? Or is there something deeper going on?

Certainly, the response is to the question about Jesus baptizing people (we find out later that it wasn’t Jesus doing the baptizing but his disciples). But John expounds on his response. Like Jesus, he digs deeper into his meaning.

To use a theatre metaphor, John is speaking about his role in this act of the play. He had a major part to play - announcing the arrival of G_d’s Messiah (Christ, anointed one). And once that person emerged, he would no longer be needed. His work was coming to a close.

But he doesn’t stop there. He then goes on to a deeper understanding about life in the current age and the life in the coming age - the age of the Messiah. He sees that, not only was his role coming to an end, but his part was the end of that act of the play. The whole act was coming to an end and a new act was forming, right in front of their eyes. They were witnessing, not just the age of the Messiah, but the age of G_d’s Realm coming into the next act. The curtain would be coming down soon and people needed to decide if they were going to either stay in the current act or audition for roles in the next act.

And the curtain certainly fell. Roughly forty years later, the Romans came in a wiped “biblical Judaism” off the map. There would be no going back.

Now, taking all of that for a poetic image for our time, for our scenes in the play, how does that pan out?

It means that, like we’ve seen already in John’s telling of the Jesus story, there is life as we know it now and there is the life of G_d’s Realm now. People who follow the way of Jesus (whether they realize it or not) are odd creatures. In fact, they are part of the New Creation in the midst of the Old Creation. Like Jesus, they’re actors in both ages. However, their roles in the Old Creation must continually decrease. They must continually strive to become more and more like Jesus of the New Creation until they get to the point where they can join others in saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me.”



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC