Thursday, January 28, 2021

Heaven and Earth: Jesus and John the Baptist (John 3:22-36)

 This particular situation might be confusing: two unique people, who seem to have truth from God are both preaching and baptizing. John the Baptist notices that people seem to be more drawn to Jesus. John's disciples notice, too. John the Baptist reminds them and us that he is not the Messiah, but that he was given the task of proclaiming His coming. He uses the analogy of a wedding. In our terms, John the Baptist is saying that he is the best man. The best man's job is to celebrate his friend, the groom, and to do whatever he can to help the guests celebrate and enjoy the wedding. Our culture isn't much different than theirs in this. The best man is usually the closest friend that the man getting married has in the world. Any solid best man will be thrilled for his buddy, and once it's over, his job is done. That's exactly what John the Baptist is saying.

There is a fair amount of discussion about whether verses 31 through 36 is still John the Baptist talking, or whether St. John is explaining what we just read or heard. There are no quotation marks in the original Greek. In these cultures, the people didn't use them. They are given to us as a help, because we live in a written culture, and we quote people who say things, especially if they are being reported to us by someone else.

In any case, this part is a contrast between John the Baptist, and Jesus. St. John wants us to know that Jesus comes from above, and John the Baptist is from below. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with John the Baptist; it simply means that Jesus is going to reveal things about the Father that no one else would be able to know. Friendship with God, and to be in the family of God, is beyond the power that we have in ourselves. God can give us the power, but we must ask. It is our destiny to be in God's family. Anything less is a waste of our lives.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

For God So Loved The World (John 3:16-21)

 The mystery to end them all is this: Jesus came into the world to die for us, because He loves us. The Father sent the Son to us, because He loves us. The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, because He loves us.

There is a mystery in the word "believe." What does it mean to believe? It can't be just knowing and acknowledging something to be true. We know of people who know many things to be true, but they choose to do something opposite of what they know to be true. But think about a time that you heard someone say to someone else, "I believe in you." A person who says this has complete trust in that person. They are not saying, "I acknowledge the reality that you exist." They are saying that they trust such a person with something or someone that is very important to them.

Believing in Jesus is a total trust that changes how we understand our entire lives. We can trust Jesus with everything that we are. It's a lot like a baseball team that sends its best starting pitcher to the mound in a deciding game. When the ace is on the mound, everyone plays better, and is full of confidence. Jesus is our ace, but unlike even the greatest pitchers, he never loses. That's how he wants us to trust him.

What about this condemnation? Isn't it a little wrong for the supposed God of love to condemn people? Yet we know that we are sinners, and we should think about what would happen if we were measured against perfection. Jesus has told us that he will answer for us before the Father. He has told us that no mistake we could ever make is too big for him to take away. There is only one thing that could happen, if we--who have no righteousness or justice of our own--tried to answer for ourselves: we would be condemned. Therefore, it's not so much that the God of love is sending us away; rather, He is giving us the right to choose to stand on our own, even though that is foolish.

We know what happens when we are ashamed: we run and hide. Adam and Eve did this, after they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. But it's very different when we know that God loves us and forgives us. We come into the light, because everything good that we are gives praise to God.