Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Well, well, well (John 4:1-26)

     On Wednesday, I learned about the Women at the Well in John 4:1-26. I'm going to do the same thing I did last time and split it up verse by verse with the address (linked) starting each section. So, we'll start with John 4:1-3
     This is the background knowledge for the story. The Pharisees hear that Jesus is baptizing tons of disciples which means that less people will treat them like super stars (read last post for more info.) This isn't actually true, the disciples are baptizing people in Jesus' name, but nevertheless, Jesus decided to head out of town in order to avoid a big argument and keep the peace.
     John 4:4: The Jews and the Samaritans where enemies. After some debates on how to worship, the Jewish people kicked the Samaritans out of "the club." They didn't allow them into the Temples and went to great pains to avoid them even though they all worshiped God. So Jesus was headed to Galilee from Judea and Samaria was in the middle of these two places. The Bible says that Jesus had to pass through Samaria but literally, that's not true. He could have gone around Samaria like all the other Jews did but for some reason the Bible says He had to go through. It seems like the author made a mistake but just like being "born again,"  we have to dig a little deeper for this one! Jesus had to go through Samaria because it was His mission on earth to bring salvation to everyone. Not just the Jews but the Samaritans too! He couldn't go around because He would be ignoring God's call!
     John 4:5-7: Most women came to draw water in a group in the morning or evening. The fact that this women is here alone in the hottest part of the day shows that she is probably a social outcast, most likely because of things she has done. Jesus speaking to her is breaking 3 society rule with one sentence. 1) She's rejected yet Jesus is not rejecting her 2) She's a Samaritan and He's a Jew 3) Men and women don't talk but if they do the women always initiates the conversation. So here we have Jesus being the rebel once again. :)
      John 4:8-9: The women immediately sees the wreckage from the social barriers JC has just crashed through and asks Him why. (We also discover JC is alone with the women because His disciples are getting food in town.
      John 4:10-11: Jesus answers the women's question indirectly by saying He can give her living water. He means himself of course, He wants to give her himself. His Living Water (Him) fulfills our thirst for meaning because when we taste it we will have found meaning. His Living Water will wash us clean from the inside out. But clearly, the women doesn't know this and take Him literally.
      John 4:12: She then asks if He is greater than Jacob. She is referring to Jacob from the OT. (Read Genesis 29:1-12; it's a cool story so feel free to read the whole thing too! (Genesis 26-50 covers all of Jacobs life)) Jacob met Rachel at the well Jesus is at with Samaritan women right now. Because Jacob had 12 sons the sons each became and tribe of Isreal. Had Jacob not met Rachel at the well, the nation of Israel would not of been born. This makes Jacob's well the Israelites "well of life." Because the book of John revolves around Jesus turning the old to the new, the literal to the spiritual, the Israelites well of life has now become Jesus, the true well of life for all people of any background! But it is so cool that JC revealed Himself as the well of life at Jacob's well.
      John 4:13-15: Although the women took Him literally, Jesus immediately goes back to spiritual. He knows that she is lost and looking for happiness and fulfillment in things the won't and can't provide it, so He emphasize that His Living Water will quench that thrist. But she takes Him literally again so He try's a different approach.
       John 4:16-18: When Jesus asks her to go get her husband, He says it just to hear how she chooses to respond. Her response and His response to that tells us why she is getting water in the middle of the day and that she is turning to men for fulfillment. 
        John 4:19: Jesus didn't give up or balk at her sin (because He is always patient and forgiving with all of us!) and now, He is finally getting through!!!
       John 4:20-26: Jesus and the women pretty much go through her religious beliefs and the truth and then Jesus tells her flat out that He is the Christ whom she's been waiting for. Can you imagine being that women?! You're a big time sinner, shunned by your community, and then, the most unlikely of people starts to talk to you about all sorts of things that seem way beyond your understanding. Can you imagine suddenly finding out that this guy who has sought you out is the king of everything, your savior! Can you imagine  everything clicking in your head all at once, everything He's been saying finally making since! I can because it happens to me all the time and I know that if I were that women I would want to stand there gaping, trying to soak the whole moment in, for hours.
        So anyway, that's all for today but that is definitely one of my favorite stories now! I'm in love with how insanely smart God is so that He didn't just right a book that connected everywhere but wrote a true story that did! He's so awesome! :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nick at Night

     Please read John 2:23-25(and all other verses throughout this post so that you know what I'm talking about.) This passage is the bridge between "The Whip" and "Nick at Night." It clarifies for us that Jesus not only knows all people, He knows what's inside all people which is awesome since I often don't know exactly what's inside myself! :) 
     Now for the actual story in John 3:1-15 but we'll start with John 3:1-3. We now know that Nicodemus is a Pharisee, about equal to a pro football player in Jewish society. These guys weren't just the priests who knew all about the Old Testament and made sacrifices, they were the big shots for the Jewish people and they hated Jesus because His power and message threatened to take away their "status." John tells us all about how everything that Jesus does has deeper meaning than just the literal definitions. The New Testament relates back to the old showing that centuries before JC, God's plan was in the works and He was giving hints and symbols about what was to come. However, the pharisees didn't exactly look at the Old Testament that way. They preferred to take the more literal interpretation instead of discovering the deeper, richer meaning God also intended. This literal interpretation allowed them to turn the word of God into the Jewish law book and while God did and does want us to follow His commandments, a law book is not what He wrote for us. So here we have Nicodemus, the surface level big shot coming to Jesus by night.
     There are a lot of reasons Nicodemus may have chose to come by night (I personally think it was because he didn't want his fellow Pharisees to judge him) but there's also reasons why God planed for Nicodemus to come at night (Nick at Night). Night and day are the same type of opposites a dark and light, night clearly being dark. Dark is used a symbol a lot in the Bible for being lost. Seeing as Nicodemus was lost in the dark, not seeing the light (Jesus) although it was standing right in front of him, we can congratulate God on some more awesome symbolism not only in His word but in real life (because this did actually happen!!!). 
     Now, although Nick(because that is what we are going to call him now) is lost, he's clearly on his way out because he came to Jesus. But when he got there, instead of asking questions he informed Jesus that "we know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus response to the random comment is even more random, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."  To anyone listening (and us reading) this seems to be an extremely odd way to begin a conversation however to Jesus and Nick it wasn't. You see, as we learned in the bridge at the beginning of this post, Jesus knows what's inside all of us. We can pretty well assume that Nick wanted to ask about getting into God's kingdom but felt awkward about asking or Jesus knew Nick better than Nick knew himself and, therefore, told him what Nick needed to hear. Either way, Jesus knew and that's what matters!
     John 3:4-7 is some more of the conversation. Nick is confused because when Jesus says "born again" he is thinking of literally crawling back inside his mother (because, as we know, the pharisees are very literal) but that is NOT what Jesus is saying! :) Jesus clarifies by saying that one must be born of water and the Spirit (not that that is much clarification :)). But what I think it is referring to is baptism. No, you don't have to be baptized to be a believer but the water's of baptism are symbolic of the blood of Jesus, it washes you clean. The Spirit is God. When we are born the first time we are flesh or human because we are born from our parents bodies which is flesh. However, when we are washed clean by "water" and the Spirit comes into us making us a new person belonging to another family, we are born again! 
     Then Jesus shifts the conversation a bit in John 3:8 and starts talking about the wind. He explains to Nick that the wind is like life with God. It is in us and around us, strong and gentle, and altogether beautifully unpredictable. Jesus is telling Nick that their is a new way of connecting with God, a new way of seeing and entering His kingdom. This newness is like the wind and above all else, it will never end!
     Now the conversation really shifts directions due to Nick's confusion in John 3:9-13. Nick's confused, Jesus slightly reprimands him and the other Jews for missing the point (and the Messiah). He then makes His point by saying that non of these people on earth have ever been in heaven accept for Himself (Jesus) because He is the Son of Man (God's son in human form come as a sacrifice for us) and came from Heaven. If Jesus is the only one who's been in heaven there is no reason for the people to doubt His word. 
     Now we get tied back to the OT with John 3:14-15 (last section I promise! :)) To truly understand this we have to read Numbers 21:4-9. (And no, Jesus wasn't being stupid to tell Nick something he wouldn't be able to connect. Remember, Nick was a pharisee one of his job requirements was to know the OT inside and out so he knew exactly what JC was talking about.) So, Israelites complain, God sends snakes, snakes bite, bitten die, people repent, God tells Moses to make a model of the snake so that when people are bitten they look at their death to avoid dying. When Jesus says He will be lifted up like the serpent this can mean his death, resurrection and ascension since all three are part of the recipe eternal life with Him. However, being lifted up onto the cross is what I really see relating back to the snakes in Numbers. We are all sinners many time over and in comparison to God's righteousness we are all nasty criminals who deserve death and hell. Now, before Jesus saved us on the cross, the cross was a symbol of death and evil since it was where the worst criminals died. Since we are all nasty criminals it can also be a symbol of our death. Because Jesus was lifted up onto the cross, those who look at the death and suffering that should be ours will avoid it and be born again instead! (Don't you love how things come full circle.)
     Sorry for the book but it has come to it's conclusion...for now! :) If you are reading this I congratulate you on spending so much time learning about this part of the Bible and hope it will help you stay strong in your faith walk!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Whip (John 2:13-12)

     Last night, my Bible Study leader taught from John 2:13-22. I learned so much from her so I decided to write about that passage. Please click here to read it (or turn their in your paper Bible) before reading the rest of this post.
     I'm going to break the passage down bit by bit in effort to include everything I learned so get comfy, this will be a long post! :)
     13: The passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
     This is just background information. It's passover(a huge jewish holiday that celebrates God freeing them from bondage in Egypt, click here for the full story) so it's very crowded and there are people from all over filling Jerusalem, particularly the temple, to sacrifice animals to God. 
   14: In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.
     So here's Jesus, He walks into the temple and instead of seeing bunches of people worshiping God and making sacrifices, He sees people buying animals to sacrifice and exchanging money with the "money-changers" so they would have the right currency to buy the animals with. 
   15: And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. (16) And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade." 
     Many people say that it is okay to be angry, Jesus was angry and this story is proof of it, but the thing is, this story never says Jesus was angry. Sure it seems like He was but the more I think about it, the less I think He was truly angry with the people. First off, nothing Jesus did cost the people around Him anything. He did not set the animals free, he made the sellers of of animals to leave with their animals. He flipped over the table and poured out the coins of the money-changers so that they could no longer do business but hurt no one in the process. Jesus was perfect and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still doing the wrong thing so nothing he did could have damaged anyone. Rather than angry, I think Jesus was appalled. The temple was supposed to be a place to focus on God yet the people had created so many distractions. Jesus wanted to get rid his father's house of distractions for the sake of the righteousness of God and His people.
   17: His disciples remembered that is was written, "Zeal for you house will consume me."
     This is found in Psalm 69:9. It is saying that Jesus was so fired up about keeping God's house pure and holy that it didn't matter what others thought of Him. The dictionary's definitions of zeal is "enthusiastic diligence." I think that's what Jesus had toward righteousness.
   18: So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?"
     The Jews reaction to Jesus follows their typical pattern, they are shocked by His behavior and immediately begin to question and doubt Him. Because of they basically ask Him what gives Him the right to do what He did. Yet, as always, Jesus had an answer for them! :)
   19: Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (20) The jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in tree days?" (21) But He was speaking about the temple of His body.
     The Jews are confused by Jesus response because they don't think it is possible for Jesus to rebuild the temple 16,787 days faster than they did. What they don't realize is that Jesus is not talking about the building. You see, the definition of temple is "place where God dwells." Because Jesus is God, God dwells in Him, making Him the temple. (Colossians 1:19) Jesus has the authority to clean the temple of distractions because He is the temple! 
   22: When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word the Jesus had spoken.
     What Jesus essentially did for the people questioning Him in the Temple is predict the future. Jesus told them that they were going to destroy the Temple but He would raise it up in 3 days. Unfortunately, no one understood what He meant until later when He returned to Jerusalem and was killed by the people only to rise again 3 days later! 

     So, now my lengthy break down of the passage draws to a close and I'll start in on what we can apply to our lives from this passage. A major thing that spoke to me in this passage is that a temple is a place where God dwells. Because the holy spirit dwells in us, our bodies are temples! (1 Corinthians 6:19) Now, lately I've been feeling God talking to me about putting aways some of the things that are taking my focus off Him, clearing the distractions out of my life! (This lesson actually followed up a church retreat where we studied idols though our leader wasn't aware of that. Such a cool God thing! He's a great planner!:) ) This was  further reinforcement of that, more proof of what God is asking me to do in order to gain the closeness with Him I have been asking Him to give! After all, relationships are two sided! 
     There are a lot of big distractions in my temple right now and last night I prayed that God would come in and help me drive out all of them just like He did in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago! I now have all whole bunch of new things I need to work on but I filled with peace and joy because I know that a fuller, deeper connection with God will make me much happier than any of "the distractions." I also know that I will have to stay strong in my effort to get rid of the distractions and that it will not be very fun, but I also know that If God is for me, nothing can stand against me(Romans 8:31) and that the end result will be more than worth it! 
When the Romans came the destroyed a lot of the temple where the story took place. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-23)

Facts about The Beatitudes: 

  • JC's words
  • Tell about the relationship between Heaven and earth
  • Found in Luke 6:20-23
  • Show us the opposite nature in Heaven than on earth
  • The word Beatitude means extreme blessedness and/or happiness
With these facts in mind please click on the link for Luke 6:20-23 and read the beatitudes to familiarize or "refamiliarize" yourself with them before reading the rest of the post.

   So, I read them these verses this morning and started to think about how I know many people who aren't hungry or poor or weeping or hated but definitely love God and are working the further His kingdom, what about them? Are they blessed? Will they by satisfied? The answer is yes, but why?
   I think that when we truly follow Jesus with all our being we will be poor and hungry and sad, just not always in the traditional context.

  • "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."                                                                Being poor doesn't always mean lacking money, it just means lacking. As Christians we may lack in all sorts of worldly things such as endless friends or party invitations but the sadness we may feel because of what we lack will completely disappear when we are blessed in Heaven.
  • Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied."                                                           This could be taken literally but I know that in my case it isn't. There isn't a day when I don't get all the food I need but I can be hungry for other things like Jesus. The more "hungry" we are for Jesus, the more we recognize our need for Him and spend time with Him, the more He will fill us up now but more important satisfy us eternally in heaven!
  • Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh."                  I personally am under the impression that no matter who you are and what your story is, you've cried (or at least been sad). The thing is, in a world of sin there is a lot of stuff that can hurt us but God promises that if we put ourselves out there for His good and get hurt because of it He'll make it up to us.
  • Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!                                                            This is similar to the weeping one in my opinion but it emphasizes the point that we must do things for His kingdom if we want these things to be part of our story. If someone buys you a shirt you might right them a thank-you note and your gratefulness would bless them but if the bought themselves a shirt you won't write them a note because you have no part in that. It's like that with God to, if we get hurt trying to help ourselves, why would that put you a position to receive God's blessings? 
Anyway, I'd always thought they were pretty but never read them with that mindset before. I hope this helped you understand them better too! :)