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November 19, 2017: Hosanna!

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 48, Job 17,  John 12:12-19, 1 John 5:6-12 John 12:12-19: Jesus is now greeted not just with pleasure, but with adulation, praise, and indeed worship. The extent of this fulfillment of Old Testament promises is not grasped at the time, but later the disciples realized all that had been spoken of Jesus was being fulfilled in this extraordinary triumphal entry. Praise and worship is an integral part of being human. Christian and non-Christian, religious and non-religious, are all built for worship. It is part of our imago dei, being made in the image of God. We long for transcendent, seek meaning and purpose, hunger for a point of adulation and ultimacy. That desire is attempted to be sated by many things: money, sensuality, fame, success, arts, literature, music. But it is at a moment like this that we see evidenced that the human condition finds it sole satisfaction in the...

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November 18, 2017: The Poor You Will Always Have with You

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 45-47, Job 16, John 12:1-11, 1 John 5:1-5 John 12:1-11: What a sweet and beautiful reunion meal this must have been. Jesus is with his friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. And there is Lazarus reclining at the table with them, back from the dead, good as new. Mary then took a pound of pure nard, a very expensive ointment, and anointed the feet of Jesus with the perfume and used her own hair to wipe his feet. The action was a statement of personal devotion to Jesus, as well as an indication of the coming burial of Jesus and being prepared for that moment. It was a beautiful deed. A special moment. A place filled now with the sweet aroma of spiritual worship and adoration. But not for Judas. He immediately thinks of the cost. John tells us that his concern over the expense was not because he was worried about...

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November 17, 2017: One Man Should Die

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 42-44, Job 15:17-35, John 11:45-57, 1 John 4:7-21 John 11:45-57: To dispel again any misunderstanding that John is somehow anti-Semitic (a strange idea given that John himself was a Jew), note that John is as careful to record the Jewish people who believed in Jesus as much as those who did not. Many Jews now “believed in him” (11:45). Would you now pray that God in his mercy would pour out his love and grace upon the Jewish people? Would you pray that, according to God’s gospel promises, that the hearts of many Jewish people would be for Jesus? Jesus has his opponents still, nonetheless. They are so exasperated by Jesus’ success that all they can do now is to gather in council and discuss together what to do about their problem. They are frightened that everyone will believe in Jesus. And they are frightened of this for reasons of popularity and...

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November 16, 2017: Lazarus, Come Out!

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 40-41, Job 15:1-16, John 11:38-44, 1 John 4:1-6 John 11:38-44: The emotion that Jesus feels at death is not yet ended. He is “deeply moved” again. Mourning comes in waves—sometimes wave after wave after wave. Even the strongest Christian can be hit by such “deep emotions,” for even Jesus experienced them. Take comfort, you who mourn: Jesus knows what it is to feel what you feel and can help you in your time of need. Ask him for help now. Jesus gives practical instruction: take away the stone. But practical only if taking into account his miraculous power to raise the dead. And so Martha intervenes, uber-practical as ever: “Lord, by now there will be a stench.” This Lazarus had not just deceased, was not only apparently dead, but had been dead four days. There was no doubt that he was dead, and indeed beginning to rot. Jesus simply replies to remind...

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November 15, 2017: I Am the Resurrection and the Life

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 38-39, Job 14, John 11:17-37, 1 John 3:19-24 John 11:17-37: No doubt, one of the hardest things to believe and accept is that we rise again from the dead. After all, who has been through death and come back again to tell us? As the atheist Bertrand Russell famously said when he was asked what he believed would happen to him after he died: “When I die, I believe I rot.” We have seen dead bodies. We are aware of the process of decay. Surely, it is simplest to believe the (perhaps unpalatable) fact that when we die we rot? But what if someone came back from the grave? And so we come to the extraordinary story of Lazarus. A man who died, was called back to life again by Jesus, only to die again before facing the coming final resurrection. In this context, Jesus first declares the beautiful words so often spoken...

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November 14, 2017: Two Days Longer

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 35-37, Job 13, John 11:1-16, 1 John 3:11-18 John 11:1-16: Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, close to him by personal connection, is sick (11:1). But, says Jesus, this sickness is not a disaster but a disseminator, not a defeat but an ascent, not a disgrace but a revealer of glory: “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (11:4). A Christian’s sufferings are not his shame but his opportunity to reveal God’s glory. The Puritans used to write to each other that they had had several “good deaths” recently, meaning that those in their parish had died with joy and eyes on glory. Such “good deaths” gave the lie to the claim that death is the end—they witnessed to a hope eternal. Perhaps you are being tested in the area of physical suffering. Remember that in Christ, even your physical pain, even...

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November 13, 2017: No One Can Snatch You from His Hand

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 33-34, Job 12, John 10:22-42, 1 John 3:1-10 John 10:22-42: John loves to throw in the evocative detail: “It was winter” (10:22). Yes, in so many ways. The winter of discontent, as Shakespeare called it; here we might call it the winter of disbelief. The Jewish leaders gather around Jesus and ask him to tell them plainly whether he is the Christ or not (10:24). This is an extraordinary thing to say, given how clear Jesus has been regarding his claims. Jesus replies, “I told you, and you do not believe” (10:25). Why did they not believe? Because they are not “his sheep” (10:26). This gives Jesus the opening to utter one of his most famous and most heartwarming statements: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one can snatch them out of my hand”...

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November 12, 2017: The Good Shepherd

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 31-32, Job 11, John 10:11-21, 1 John 2:24-29 John 10:11-21: Jesus is not just a shepherd, not merely a ruler. Nor is he only a good shepherd, a particularly good ruler. No, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. How do we know that Jesus is who he claims to be? How do we know that he fulfills the Messianic promise of David, that there would be a shepherd ruler like David who could rule his people in justice and peace, and extend God’s kingdom to all nations? How do we know that he is the Good Shepherd, that he is filled with righteousness and kindness and love and purity? The answer Jesus immediately supplies is this: “the good shepherd lays downs his life for the sheep.” It is a principle of all exemplary leadership that the leader serves the people he leads. That he does not fleece the flock for his own profit,...

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November 11, 2017: Life to the Full

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 29-30, Job 10, John 10:1-10, 1 John 2:18-23 John 10:1-10: One of the most well-loved images in the whole of the Bible is now before us: Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The “figure of speech” that Jesus is using is drawn from the imagery of the Old Testament shepherd king, David. We are the sheep. Jesus is now the Shepherd King, in fulfillment of that Old Testament shepherd king, and he is the Good Shepherd because (as we will see in verse 11) he lays down his life for the sheep. This was characteristic of David, in his care for Israel, his protection of them against Goliath, and his protection of the flock when he was growing up as a shepherd boy. It is preeminently found in Christ who gave his life for the sheep. It is also found in all true shepherds who follow after Christ as his under shepherds:...

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November 10, 2017: Blind Seeing; Seeing Blind

Today’s Bible Reading: Ezekiel 27-28, Job 9:21-35, John 9:26-41, 1 John 2:12-17 John 9:26-41: Tragedy and glory, sadness and empathy, passion and compassion—all bleed together into this closing section of this most extraordinary story of the man being born blind healed by Jesus. The disciples had asked whether the blind man or his parents had sinned (9:2). Jesus replied that neither, but rather that the works of God might be displayed in him (9:3). But now contrast the Pharisees! While Jesus has healed the blind man, the Pharisees are condemning the blind man for having been healed! They ask him again to tell them how he was healed (9:26). The blind man rightly replies that they have already heard the answer—and then with a touch of exasperation, if not cheek, inquires whether they too want to become Jesus’ disciples (9:27). This is too much for the Pharisees, and the veil covering their wrath and displeasure falls...

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