Fifth Sunday in Lent | March 29, 2020

Ezekiel 37:1-14 • Psalm 130 • Romans 8:6-11 • John 11:1-45

11 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”

Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.”

12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died.

14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.”

16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 28 Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” 29 So Mary immediately went to him.

30 Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. 31 When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

John 11:1-45 New Living Translation (NLT)

As you can see, today’s text is long. For those of us who grew up in Sunday School it is a very familiar story. I hope that you have taken the time to read the passage above – if not – take the time to more than scan it, but read it. If you are familiar with the story, slow down and read it like you are reading it for the first time.

This is a story of Jesus raising a good friend, Lazarus, from the dead. This is just one of the many miracles that Jesus did during his time on earth. Lazarus is one of several people that Jesus rose from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There’s an important sentence at the beginning. Mary and Martha send for Jesus because their brother was a close friend of Jesus. When Jesus receives the message, He says this:

Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.

John 11:4

As I said Jesus performed many miracles during his time on earth. Last week we looked at the healing of the blind man in John 9. I want you to compare the words Jesus spoke before he healed the blind man.

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.

John 9:3

I hope that you can see the similarities. Jesus did these miracles to display the power of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. Going back to Lazarus. You would think that Jesus would have immediately headed to Bethany, but He doesn’t…He delays and during that time his dear friend Lazarus dies. Did you ever feel like God didn’t hear you? I’m sure that’s how Mary and Martha felt about this time…like Jesus didn’t even care. John tells us differently because John tells us how much Jesus loved Lazarus. So why did Jesus wait?

It could be because the last time they were in the region, the people wanted to stone him. (vs 8) That would be a valid reason. Jesus makes a curious statement, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” The disciple are confused. What? They had waited a couple extra days because of the threat of stoning and now they were going anyway. One of them pipes up, “If he is only sleeping he will soon get better.”

Then Jesus tells them the real truth. Lazarus is dead. Here’s where it gets interesting. Jesus tells his disciples that He was glad they weren’t there because now they will really believe. Jesus must have still had some doubters in the crowd – doubters that He really was the Son of God. This idea of belief is a common one in the Gospel of John. He states in his epilogue that “These things are written so that you may believe.”

Both Martha and Mary question why Jesus didn’t come when He heard the news. Jesus meets them both separately. There response to seeing Jesus is almost identical, “Lord if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

They are both disappointed. Jesus delayed his visit. I’m sure both Martha and Mary knew that Jesus had the power to heal their brother. After all they had seen the miracles. They saw the blind healed – they saw the deaf hear – they saw the lame walk. They knew what Jesus could do – and yet their brother died. Jesus delayed – Jesus the Son of God delayed. What do we do with that? How does it feel when we think God delayed? How does it feel when we think that God isn’t answering our prayers?

Jesus reassures Martha with these words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?

Martha responds, “Yes!” She goes on to tell Jesus that she has always believed that He was the Messiah – the promised one. There’s that word again “believe.”

Jesus knows that this event will show God’s glory. They people are afraid – after all Lazarus has been in the grave for 4 days. Have you ever passed by a deer on the side of the road after it’s been there a couple days? I have during some of my runs. The smell is horrible. Jesus waited four days to show that Lazarus was really dead. You can only imagine the people’s horror when Jesus tells them to roll away the stone.

The people standing near had two thoughts: One group who had seen Jesus weeping for Lazarus said, “See how much he loved him!” While others – the skeptics said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Reluctantly the people roll away the stone. Jesus repeats:

Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?

John 11:40

Then they roll the stone aside and Jesus prays to the Father:

Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”

John 11:41b-43

Jesus would not have had to shout – but said these words loud – for the people in the back – so that they may believe! We often hear the phrase “Say it louder for the people in the back!” That is what Jesus did. Then he shouts “Lazarus, come out!” Scholars tell us he identified Lazarus, because if he hadn’t, all of the graves would have opened. Immediately, Lazarus comes out of the grave wrapped in cloths and the people unwrap him.

While it isn’t in our text for this morning, I want to continue to verse 45. “Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.” What was the purpose of Lazarus’ sickness, death, and subsequent – yet temporary resurrection? There are two that come to mind:

  1. To show the glory of God.
  2. That people would believe that Jesus is who he said he was.

There are times that it is hard to see God’s big picture. Sometimes it’s hard waiting on God. Waiting on God can be frustrating. Pam and I have been there. We wonder why God doesn’t move to our timetable. Sometimes God’s apparent delay causes the death of our plans. It’s frustrating to wait on God to bring healing and resurrection. Mary and Martha were frustrated that Jesus didn’t show up on time. Here it is important to remember that Jesus loves us – even to the point of weeping. Remember that Jesus came into our world – full of pain and death.

This week it seems that I have come back to this passage numerous times:

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-17

He longs to come into our lives to bring us life – to bring us into his light – for us to believe that He indeed is the Son of God. He desires to bring us to a point of spiritual resurrection. None of us were able to take the first steps of this spiritual journey from death to life apart from Christ. We did not pull ourselves up from the grave by our own bootstraps. But as Jesus called Lazarus into new life, he calls us to do the same. He calls us to call those in spiritual darkness and spiritual death into new life in Jesus Christ and walk in the newness of life.

Do Not Be Afraid

The Annunciation of the Lord | March 25, 2020

Isaiah 7:10-14 • Psalm 45 • Hebrews 10:4-10 • Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38 New Living Translation (NLT)

Imagine being a young girl in 1st Century Israel. You knew that at some point the promised Messiah would arrive. You also know that this is a very dark time. Israel had suffered under one occupation after another since the time of Nebuchadnezzar. They hadn’t heard from God via the prophets for over 400 years.

Now, God breaks the silence – first to Zechariah, then to Mary. Gabriel’s visit comes as a surprise. We often think of angels as meek and mild creatures, but as Pam reminded us on Sunday, angels are part of the armies of heaven. I think this is a good representation of an angel:

No wonder the angel’s first words were “Do not be afraid.” I certainly would be afraid to see the creature above. Not only is the appearance frightening, but the angel brings unbelievable news. Mary learns that she – a virgin and pledged to Joseph was going to have a baby. This baby would be the promised Messiah.

She still doesn’t understand and asks for more detail. The angel obliges. Gives her the details and offers reassurance.

Mary’s response is this: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

The times we are living in try our souls. The angel’s message to us would be the same, “Do not be afraid.”

We need to remember that God is with us through His Son, Jesus. John writes: 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14)

Jesus has experienced the things that we are experiencing.

The writer of Hebrews writes: 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. (Hebrews 2:16-18)

We are reminded that since he has gone through the same sufferings and testings we have gone through – Jesus is able to help us. The angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Today we remember that when we need comfort…when we need Jesus’ help, he is there. He is our great high priest and we are encouraged to boldly go to the throne of our gracious God – who desires to give us grace when we need it the most.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

So today – just nine months before Christmas, we celebrate the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, telling her, “Do not be afraid” because the Son of God is coming in the flesh and Jesus came to save us and give us eternal life. This same Jesus can give us comfort in our times of trials.

Do Not Be Afraid! Why?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)


Prayer for the Week

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Blind But Now I See…

Fourth Sunday In Lent | March 22, 2020

Ban, Shigeru, 1957-. “Cardboard Cathedral,” transitional Christchurch Cathedral, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved March 20, 2020]. Original source:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 • Psalm 23 • Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

10 They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”

11 He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”

12 “Where is he now?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

13 Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, 14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. 15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

17 Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”

The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”

18 The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. 19 They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

20 His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

26 “But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27 “Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

28 Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! 29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”

30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

34 “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”

41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.

John 9 New Living Translation (NLT)

I really hope that you took the time to read through the entire 41 verses above. If you didn’t, go back and read through them. This is a truly amazing story. One of the themes that John likes to contrast is this light vs. dark. In the previous chapter, Jesus has announced that He was the light of the world.

In this passage, Jesus teaches his disciples about spiritual blindness. His disciples as the question, “Why was this man born blind?”

Jesus replies, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” Jesus then admonishes his disciples that the night is coming – and that we must quickly carry out our assigned tasks. Wow! So relevant to our time today.

Yesterday, the state of Pennsylvania was essentially closed and today New York told all non-essential workers to stay home. These are peculiar times indeed. I know that I along with many of my co-laborers in the gospel are trying to figure out how we minister in these days. We have no idea how long this will last.

Yet even in these times we are called to be Children of Light – just as Jesus is the light of the world. We should take Jesus’ words to heart…to use this time…so that the power of God may be seen in us – the Church. We must quickly carry out our tasks.

The Lord has been speaking to me about obedience. One of the things that was required of the blind man was to go wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. Immediately, he was able to see. If had not been obedient, he would have stayed in his blinded state. We need to be obedient in order to be faithful to God. Obedience is the key to unlocking faith. There are times that I wonder if that’s not the reason that the church at times is powerless.

Later in the story, the Pharisees find out that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus has already caused quite a stir and this healing adds fuel to the fire. The Pharisees track down the former blind man and question him, not once, not twice, even question his parents and then question him a third time.

Remember that Jesus said that this happened so the power of God could be seen in this man? One of the things that is very clear is that the blind man – as a result of the healing – had a God-encounter. I love his answer when the Pharisees ask, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.” Wow! strong words from the Pharisees.

The former blind man answers, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner, but I know this: I was blind but now I can see!” He really didn’t care how Jesus healed him, he only knew that he was healed. He continues with his testimony until the Pharisees throw him out. Accusing him of being a sinner.

The blind man has already had a God-encounter when he meets Jesus again. Jesus asks if he believes in the Son of Man. The man wants to know who he is and Jesus reveals Himself to the man and he becomes a Christ-follower. Jesus commends the man for his spiritual sight. That day, he not only received his physical sight but spiritual sight. What a day!

There is no great witness than that of a changed life. The blind man’s life was changed in an instant and he became an instant witness. Each one of us who have followed Jesus at one time were blind in our sins, but when Jesus was revealed to us our eyes were opened. Because of that we should shout it from the rooftops, “But I know this: I was blind, but now I see!”

An Encounter With Jesus

Third Sunday in Lent | March 15, 2020

Exodus 17:1-7 • Psalm 95 • Romans 5:1-11 • John 4:5-42

Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

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

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. 20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

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

26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”

33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.

34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 4:5-42 New Living Translation (NLT)

This really is an amazing story that John tells. It comes on the heels of the story of Nicodemus. According to John these events happen early in Jesus’ ministry. As we begin this story, we find Jesus and his disciples headed back to Galilee. While it’s not included in the text above, John tells us that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Did Jesus know the encounter that was about to happen? We do know that there was no love lost between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Jesus instead of taking the usual, long er route from Jerusalem to Galilee, takes the short route through Samaria.

On this journey they stop in a town called Sychar, which happens to be near Jacob’s well. Jacob was the father of Joseph. The disciples head into town and Jesus sits at the well – in the dessert heat. It’s then He sees her. Why would she come to the well in the middle of the day? Jesus already knew something about the woman. While we’ve often surmised that she may have been promiscuous, there is a real possibility according to some scholars that she may have been barren – unable to have children and this may be why she had been married five times. This would have also been reason for her to avoid the cool of the day and all the women who gathered at the beginning and end of the day.

Jesus begins an encounter with this woman. She is shocked. Men don’t talk to women…Jews don’t talk to Samaritans…and certainly Rabbis don’t talk to random strangers – only to their disciples. Yet, Jesus asks the woman for a drink. They have a discussion about water – living water – not the kind you can get from the store – or a well – but living water. Jesus claims that He is the living water that can give life – that you will never thirst again.

We find again that Jesus is speaking about spiritual things and he is misunderstood. The woman thinks, like Nicodemus that Jesus is talking about physical things. Finally the woman thinks she understands – ah, but no. Jesus reveals that He knows things about her – things that she has hidden deep – because of the shame.

She quickly changes the subject – to worship. She asks Jesus where the correct place to worship is. Jesus replies:

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

John 4:23-24

She is amazed at Jesus teaching and sticks her neck out and says, “I know the Messiah is coming-the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Can you imagine her reaction when Jesus says, “I AM the Messiah!”

Woah! Jesus has dropped a bombshell on this woman and she has a living encounter with Jesus – and it literally changes her whole life. No longer is she ashamed but tells people that the Messiah is out at Jacob’s well. Jesus changed her life.

This whole encounter confused the disciples, especially they had went into town to get food – and Jesus says “I’m satisfied!” Again Jesus is speaking in spiritual terms and the disciples are speaking in the physical.

Jesus explains that He is there to provide spiritual nourishment to those who are dying spiritually – just like the woman at the well. Jesus tells his disciples that the time is short. That He needs more laborers in the field to work the harvest. How about it? The same could be said now. The Wesleyan Church has a strategy statement that says:

“Celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and the church multiplies itself until the Wesleyan Church has a presence in every ZIP code.”

We are in desperate need of workers – the fields are truly ripe for the harvest, but the workers are few. We are called to sow, water, and reap. Sometimes we get the pleasure of doing all three and sometimes we play a part in only one – but the thing is – we are still called to work the fields. Without that we can never reach all the people in all the ZIP codes throughout this land.

Is God calling you to join His work? Each and every believer has a call to go and make disciples and teach those disciples everything that Jesus taught us. The question is: “Are you willing?”

Prayer for the Week

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2nd Sunday in Lent | March 8, 2020

Genesis 12:1-4a • Psalm 121 • Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 • John 3:1-17

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:1-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

This week’s reading brings us to John 3. The story of Jesus and Nicodemus. I find it interesting that in the next chapter we find the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. John gives us several of these encounters with Jesus. Sometimes the person is seeking Jesus out to ask a question, other times – in a way – Jesus seeks the person out. And in a least one case the person is brought to him.

This time however, Jesus is being sought out by a seeker – a Jewish religious leader. This event happens not long after Jesus cleansed the temple, so there has already been an encounter between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus. Perhaps Nicodemus was there when Jesus drove out the buyers and sellers – perhaps he was intrigued at Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

We don’t know exactly why Nicodemus showed up, but we know that he wanted to find out more about this Jesus. From John’s account, we do know that he was a religious man – and perhaps in the back of his mind – he remembered the words of the prophets. He knows – based on what he has heard – that Jesus is sent from God.

Nicodemus wants to know more about the Kingdom of God and Jesus says these familiar words, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

This confuses Nicodemus greatly. After all, this is the first time this terminology has been used. In 21st Century America, we are familiar with this phrase. But Nicodemus is new to this. In John’s description of the discussion it’s tough to know tone, but I believe that Jesus patiently explained what He meant.

He explained that Nicodemus must be transformed spiritually from the old, natural person to the new, Spirit-birthed person. The reason that Jesus came is that we can be transformed from our selfish old life into a life that reflects the creator of life Himself. Jesus also came that we might have life – and have it to the full – and He came that we may live with Him forever in heaven.

We are promised in this scripture that those who believe in Jesus – the one lifted up on a tree or pole to die – will have eternal life.

We are reminded once again. A passage that used to be seen on TV often:

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

So many people think that God is out to judge them. If He wanted to do that He could – after all He is God. But He loved His creation so much that He wanted to make a way. That Way is Jesus. John reminds us through Jesus’ words that Jesus didn’t come to judge the world but to save it. Jesus came for sinners like you and me. On my very best day, I am a sinner saved by grace. Jesus invites us to come – be transformed by the cross – be transformed by belief in Jesus – and receive a beautiful – abundant – full – eternal life.

Prayer for the Week

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

40 Days

First Sunday In Lent | March 1, 2020

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 • Psalm 32 • Romans 5:12-19 • Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

On Wednesday evening, we kicked-off the season of Lent. It is a 40 day season of preparation – a season of prayer, fasting, and giving – a season of renewal. Now, if you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you will find that there are 46 days. But, we don’t count Sundays, because those are feast days during this season of fasting.

We had a moving Ash Wednesday Service. As the minister, it was I who placed the ashes on each person who attended. We had some from our church and some from another local church. It is a service that reminds us that we need to be faithful to the Good News about Jesus. This season reminds us that we can make a mid-course correction. Since it comes around yearly, it allows us to examine ourselves and make sure that we are the Christ-followers that Jesus has called us to be.

As I’ve said, Lent is a 40 day season of preparation. The number 40 is significant in the Bible. 40 days and 40 nights of the flood. 40 years of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. 40 days elapsed between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

The number 40 signifies a period of waiting – a long period of waiting. We often hear of holding on a moment – or being placed on hold for a moment. These are short moments of waiting and if we are in a hurry they can be trying. But what about waiting 40 seconds, 40 minutes, 40 hours, 40 days, 40 weeks, 40 years…it is a significant period of waiting.

I find it very interesting that at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry – just after He has been baptized, Jesus enters a period of significant waiting and testing. After Jesus is baptized, He is led into the wilderness, by the very same Spirit who fell from heaven during his baptism. For forty days and nights, Jesus fasted and prayed. It was significant. Imagine if you had fasted all food for that amount of time?

It is when we are needy – that we often yield to temptation. At the end of 40 days, Jesus is needy – Jesus is hungry – remember Jesus was human as we are. He experienced the same testings – the same trials – the same aches and pains that we did while on this earth. I’m sure Jesus was famished. It is in these weak times that the devil often does his most diabolical work.

In the Old Testament reading, we have the account of Adam and Eve and their temptation in the Garden of Eden. They had everything they could have wanted. God gives them one command not to eat of one tree – in the abundance of the garden.

The devil – in the form of the serpent – knows the human’s weaknesses. He knows our weakness and he will prey on those weaknesses every time. He plays the “God doesn’t have your best interests at heart” card. He tells Adam and Eve that God is holding back on them – that they don’t have all the knowledge that they need.

The devil likes to tempt us. He tempted Jesus who was human in every way. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our great high priest because he experienced humanness in all of its form and still remained sinless.

The devil tempts Jesus with the same thing that he tempts us with today. There are three things and I’m not usually much on alliteration, but they all begin with P:

  • Provision – Jesus was tempted with food as if God wasn’t taken proper care of Jesus. The devil tempts us the same way.
  • Protection – The devil tempted Jesus with the idea that God wouldn’t protect him.
  • Position – The American dream is looking out #1.

Jesus was able to refute the devil, because, as the Word of God come in the flesh – he knew what the Word of God was. Even when the devil twisted God’s holy writings, Jesus was able to defend himself from the fiery darts of the devil.

In some ways, these 40 days can seem like a wilderness experience – when we will be tested and tried. The devil will use every available tool, especially the desires lurking in our hearts.

James writes:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15

The devil will use these tricks – especially as we are fasting during this 40 days of preparation – to trip us up. Remember the key is to persevere – to remember that God does have your best interests at heart.

God desires that we love Him with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In order to do that, we need to strip away all those things that can distract us from being a completely devoted, cross-bearing, Christ-following, child of God. My prayer is during this Lenten season – this 40 days of preparation – 40 days of a wilderness experience that you would prepare your heart, much like those who were being ready to be baptized into the church on Easter Sunday – to be reconciled to God – renewed in your heart – ready to serve Jesus with everything you have.

Ash Wednesday

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12 • Psalm 51:1-17 • 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 • Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 6:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting. Our gospel reading today reminds us of the importance of prayer and fasting. It’s a reading that reminds us of the humility that is needed in being a Christ-follower. It’s hard not to want to blow our own horn. Jesus reminds us in the first part of today’s reading that humility is needed when giving to others. We don’t need to broadcast it all over the place. Interestingly enough, in chapter 5 which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and in the same way that a lamp shines out its light, we are to let our good deeds shine out for all to see…Wait…that almost sounds like a contradiction of sorts. First, Jesus tells us let our good deeds shine…then he says, “Do your good deeds in private.” What’s going on here?

Part of our answer can be found in verse 21 of Matthew 6: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” What should be the purpose of doing good deeds? So that everybody knows what a great Christian I am? Of course not! We do our good deeds to glorify our heavenly Father…We do our good deeds so that everyone will praise God. There are far too many Christ-followers who do good so they can put the attention on themselves. That is what Jesus is warning us against. We don’t need to get the glory. If we get the glory here on Earth…that will be the only reward we will receive. Again, it’s all about our humility…it’s all about our heart.

What is your heart’s attitude toward God today? Is it about making yourself known – or is it about making God known.

Paul said: For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

The heart cry of Paul, should be the heart cry of all of us as we enter this season of Lent – a time when we remember the price that Jesus paid for us.