Eastertide — Week 3

This is the third week of Eastertide—fifty days that extend the celebration of resurrection from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.

 

Monday, May 6

Read: John 14:1-6

Consider: Today’s scripture reading locates us in those hours between Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples and the moment of his arrest. In this most peculiar and terrifying time, Jesus said to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (14:1). The words that followed were strange. It was not that the disciples had never heard these expressions, but they were surprised because they never expected them to come from Jesus or to be said in this context.

In those days, families built their houses as clusters. A house, called an insula, grew as the family grew. They would add rooms. The house would become a cluster of rooms where the whole extended family lived.

There would come a time in a young man’s life when he was going to take a wife, and his job was to build on to his father’s house. The rooms he would add would be the place where he could take his wife. It was a very formal thing. After the marriage had been arranged, they would sign a contract of betrothal. Then it was the young man’s assignment to prepare the living space for his bride. He would tell her, “I am going to my father’s house. There I will add on the rooms. I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am you will also be. And I am going to come back and take you to live with me there.”

Jesus said to his disciples…

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (14:2-3)

The disciples must have been confused. Why would Jesus use engagement and marriage language to tell them about their future?

Our New Testament speaks of us—the church—as the bride of Christ. It is a way of saying that nothing is more beautiful and precious to him than we are. Living in a world of chaos, confusion, disappointment, doubt and pain, we have a firm place to stand. That place in which we dwell is the love of Christ. His love is the reason he looks at us and says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Pray: “Lord, sometimes my greatest reality is the pain and difficulty of life. Help me to reorient my thinking. I want my greatest reality today to be the knowledge (regardless of my emotional state) that you love me more than I can imagine. As I try to grasp that with my mind—and, more importantly, with my spirit—I allow you to ease my troubled heart.”

 

Tuesday, May 7

Read: John 14:5-11

Consider: Sometimes our mental categories get in the way. We can’t help it. It’s the way we think. We categorize, define, describe and put labels on concepts in an effort to better understand them. The problem is, Jesus sometimes talks to us in language that defies our definitions and categories. And when we try to reduce his language to our points of reference, we miss what he has to say.

“Lord…how can we know the way?”

“I am the way…”

“Lord, show us the Father…”

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

These words were not easy for the disciples to grasp. But then Jesus went further. He used the language of location — “in” — to describe his relationship with the Father.

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me…” (14:10a, 11)

But if that was hard to grasp, listen to where Jesus went with that…

“…you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (14:20)

The belief that we can be “in Christ” is dominant in the writings of Paul. He uses en Christo around seventy times.

“He’s trying to describe this larger life in which we are participating. He speaks of belonging to Christ, of being possessed by Christ, captured by Christ, apprehended by Christ. He says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). Paul speaks of being clothed by Christ. He tells us to put on Christ. He says he suffers with Christ, he’s crucified with Christ, he dies with Christ, he’s buried with Christ. He’s raised up with Christ, he lives with Christ…” — Richard Rohr

All of that—which takes a lifetime to fully comprehend—is in Jesus’ simple, amazing statement…

“You are in me, and I am in you.” (14:20)

Pray: “Lord, to know that you are in me and I am in you is to see life from a new perspective. I open myself to you this day so that you can teach me to grasp this truth in my spirit and live it every moment.”

 

Wednesday, May 8

Read: John 14:12-14

Consider: Of all the things that Jesus taught his disciples that night, these words may have been the most baffling—to the point of being incomprehensible. They had witnessed so much. While walking with Jesus, they had seen the sick healed, the blind receive sight, the bread multiplied, and people raised from the dead. And now Jesus looked them in the eyes and said…

“…whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” (14:12)

They probably got stuck right there. What? How? Is that possible?

Jesus went on. The next phrase explains what he was saying — “because I am going to the Father” (14:12).

Jesus then went into detail, explaining this remarkable promise. His “going to the Father” meant that he was sending his Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to be with them and in them. While walking this earth Jesus inhabited a body. After leaving them, his Spirit would come to inhabit their bodies—including your body and my body. His people—the Body of Christ—would then collectively go on to do the works of Jesus Christ on this earth. The work that Jesus began has been done, is being done, and will be done through us. Not through one part of the body, but through the body as a whole.

It is hard to imagine the honor and privilege bestowed on us that we should be the agents of Christ’s kingdom on this earth. We’re humbled by that. And that humility helps us to grasp his promise that “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (14:14). This is not a matter of asking God for our own, personal successes. It is asking him to do the work of Christ through us so that the “Father may be glorified in the Son” (14:13).

Pray: “Lord, I’m humbled beyond words to know that you want to use me. My purpose comes from you and is fulfilled through your body—the church of Jesus Christ. Your perfect will for me is fulfilled by your Spirit’s presence in me and by my presence in your body. Thank you.”

 

Thursday, May 9

Read: John 21:1-14

Consider: How do we respond to the resurrection? If that’s a difficult question for us, imagine how confusing it was for Jesus’ first disciples. He had appeared to them twice, but he didn’t stay with them. He would be with them for a very brief time and then leave. This was so thrilling and yet it was so different from their previous life with him. Before his death and resurrection, they travelled together, ate together, and shared every aspect of their lives with Jesus. Now he was back, but it wasn’t the same.

So, what do you do? Well, you do what you know how to do. Peter said, “I’m going out to fish” (21:3). It’s difficult to know exactly what Peter had in mind. Was he simply saying that they needed food and they had time that day to fish? Or was he stating that he was returning to his previous life—the life he knew before Jesus met him on the shore and called him away from his nets to a new and different journey?

So, for a brief time, Peter and the others returned to an old, familiar routine. Fishing. And they began to re-live the old frustrations—the long hours on the boat, the fatigue, the aching of body and spirit when the nets keep coming up empty. I’m sure those hours were filled with questions. In their hearts they were wondering if this is what life would be from this point on. They may have wondered if they were ever going to see Jesus again. Did they feel satisfaction with going back to the old normal, or did it seem empty after all that had been shown to them?

And there he was again! Once Peter realized it was Jesus, he couldn’t even wait for the boat to go the final hundred yards back to shore. He jumped in, which is what Peter usually did. He was always all in.

I think Peter was relieved. I think he was filled with joy. Because once you “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) there is no going back.

Pray: “Lord, I know the new life is not the same as the old. I am a new creation. When I’m tempted to look back, remind me of the resurrection life I now live. And help me to see it for all that it truly is.”

 

Friday, May 10

Read: John 21:15-19

Consider: Three times Simon Peter denied knowing Jesus. At the lowest moment of Peter’s life, he failed. He failed miserably. But we know that in Christ, failure is not the final word. And Jesus gave Peter the wonderful opportunity to affirm his love for Christ—three times!

Jesus didn’t need this. He had already forgiven Peter. But he knew that Peter needed it. You see, Peter was still struggling. He didn’t yet trust himself. He didn’t know if he loved Jesus enough to stand with him in the face of severe trial.

The first two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, John conveys it with the Greek word, agape, which denoted a self-giving, Christ-like love. “Simon,” Jesus asked, “Do you agapas me?”

But Peter wasn’t ready to use that word. He replied with a different word for love—phileo. This word conveys the love between friends, not a lay-down-your-life, Christ-like love. Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I philo you.” Three times Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, but not in the manner that he wished he could.

Our walk with Christ is just that—a walk, a journey. Jesus didn’t seem to be troubled at Peter’s fear and hesitancy. But when he asked Peter about his love, he told him to give himself fully to the life and care of Jesus’ people. Peter was not being called to simply speak up for Jesus, as he failed to do when he denied him. Peter was being called to love Jesus by laying down his own life.

Jesus knew that Peter would do that very thing. At that very moment Jesus foretold “the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” (21:19). Jesus knew that Peter’s courage would be greater than Peter could imagine.

But for now, to a weak, struggling fisherman, Jesus repeated the very first words he ever said to Peter — “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19 and John 21:19).

Pray: “Lord, I love you. But sometimes I don’t think I love you enough. Thank you for your patience with me as I journey with you. I know my faith, commitment, and love for you will grow higher and deeper. But, for now—from where I am—I choose to simply walk as close to you as I can. I choose to follow you.”

 

Saturday, May 11

Read: John 21:20-25

Consider: As we’ve seen this week, those days after Jesus’ resurrection were a very confusing time for the disciples. John focused particularly on how Simon Peter was trying to make sense of it all. Jesus pressed Peter. He did it with great patience, but he knew that Peter needed to deal with his fears and failures. As Jesus called Peter to a lay-down-your-life commitment, Peter said what we feel so many times. Pointing to John, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (21:21).

Perhaps Peter thought that Jesus was asking for more from him than from the others. Maybe he was afraid that it was just too much. I can picture Jesus placing is hand on Peter’s shoulder, lovingly looking him in the eyes and softly asking, “What is that to you? You must follow me” (21:22).

Our life in Christ is a shared life. Peter and John would be forever bound to each other, just as we are bound to one another. And yet our shared life proceeds from our individual relationships with Jesus Christ. Our commitment to one another is based on our commitment to him. So, we don’t ask, “What about him?” or “What about her?” We ask, “What about me?” and “How can I empower us?”

Peter came to understand this. And because the Spirit of Christ filled him on Pentecost, he did lay down his life for Jesus. And for us. We stand on the shoulders of men and women who were given the courage to go beyond their fears and followed Christ no matter what it would cost.

Pray: “Lord, I may not feel prepared now for the rigors that will be demanded of me in the future. But I will follow you with the confidence that your Spirit will empower me for all that you call me to be and to do.”