40 DAYS READING THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
Welcome to our Lenten Devotional Series of reading through the gospel of John. The gospel of John is different from the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in that John shares stories about Jesus that are unique to the gospel of John. Only John tells us about the wedding miracle, a woman at a well and the brother of two sisters raised from the dead.
The gospel of John is written to help us see the humanity of Jesus and how Jesus is touched by the things that impact us. However, John also reminds us that Jesus is divine as well and in his divinity, will use his power to aid us.
Each day we will read an assigned passage from John and will have Sunday as a rest day or to catch up on missed readings. At the end of each week, I will post a reflection of the readings for the week with key takeaways.
In addition to reading the gospel of John, I am requesting that persons give one dollar each day during Lent. The dollar a day gift will be used at the end of Lent to support a mission project that will show our ongoing witness to the gospel. You may give your gift online, by cash app, by mail or drop off at the church. Please indicate your gift is for Lent.
Finally, for those who so desire, join us in a Daniel Fast during these 40 days. (Click Here for More Info)
I pray that our Lenten journey together through Bible reading, giving, prayer and fasting will further unite us as a congregation toward a common cause and a common goal--to be drawn near to Christ.
Let’s begin the journey with a prayer of commitment:
Lord, my desire is to be drawn closer to thee. I know my tendencies to do the things that please me and require less of me in terms of sacrifice, surrender, suffering and service. So, grant me the strength I need to honor my commitment to you. May I learn what you have waiting for those who will offer themselves to you and trust you to lead in paths of higher potential. Make me ready for the journey because of the promise of your presence. Amen
DR. RICKY A. WOODS
FBC-W SENIOR MINISTER
John in 40 Days (Ash Wednesday- Easter)
Tips for Bible Reading Success
- Set a time and place where you will do your reading
- Place your Bible someplace visible as a reminder.
- Print out the Bible chart and track your progress by marking off readings as you complete them.
- Make no exceptions! Vow to do it no matter what!
- If you blow the last tip, then just start over where you left off. Pick up on a light day or on Sunday.
- Think of this as a gift to God. Have fun giving it and share your story with others. Your accomplishment may inspire them.
The final reading leading up to Easter covers the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
The trial gives us insights into Pilate’s reluctance to prosecute Jesus although he gives in to political pressure applied by the Jewish leaders. The conviction of Jesus is not just a religious event but a political event as well. The power structures of the day that desired maintenance of the status quo work together to hand over an innocent man to death.
There may have been a different outcome if there was no death penalty. Far too often the death penalty has been used to put the innocent to death because of politics.
The crucifixion of Jesus demonstrates how cruel humanity can be. The purpose of crucifixion is to maximize pain, humility and suffering. Jesus is made to carry the instrument of his death to the place of death. Much like John Brown riding to his execution sitting on the coffin he was to be buried.
Jesus is nailed to the cross and placed between two thieves. The soldiers gamble over his garments and a spear is plunged through his side. After hours of prolonged suffering, Jesus dies. Upon Jesus’ death he placed in a borrowed tomb and his body buried according to the customs of the day.
The pronouncement of the resurrection does not come with a declaration of Jesus’ return from the grave. What occurs is a rumor that the body of Jesus has been moved. It is not until later that day that Jesus begins to show up to his followers to prove that he is alive. First to Mary and then to the disciples.
There are four post-resurrection appearances by Jesus in the gospel of John--by far more than any other gospel. In each post-resurrection appearance Jesus is comforting, teaching and providing something for the disciples to do. The followers of Jesus are not just to celebrate his victory over the grave nor simply wait for his return. There is work to be done after the resurrection by Jesus’ followers.
This is our time to work for Jesus. May we be found doing the work he expects of us until he comes again. Let’s celebrate the resurrection but also be busy doing the work that must be done.
The Reading continues what is commonly referred to as the “Discourse Narratives of Jesus.”
It is the longest continued teaching by Jesus without interruption found in scripture. In the Discourse Narrative we hear of Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and his prayer for the church as he prays for those who will come to believe in him because of the words of others about him.
The Discourse Narratives end with the trip to the Garden of Gethsemane and the betrayal of Jesus. Gethsemane is just below Jerusalem and from the garden persons could easily see a crowd leaving the city with torches during the night. There is no question that Jesus saw the crowd with torches and spears headed in his direction, but he did not retreat, and waited upon them.
Jesus does not resist being betrayed because it is a part of the plan of redemption.
Whereas much is said about the betrayal by Judas who led the soldiers to arrest Jesus, we should not forget the betrayal by Peter. Peter warms himself by the fire of the opposition and when noticed denies knowing Jesus not once but three times. It is not the betrayal of those who are on the margins of the relationships that grieves us most, it is the betrayal of those closest to us that brings the greatest hurt.
We would do well to remember that in our day Fred Hampton, the leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, was betrayed and murdered because his chief of security cooperated with a government-sponsored plot to eliminate him.
Even in betrayal Jesus demonstrates the grace of God by securing the freedom of the disciples. If you are looking for me, then let these go free. Then Jesus displays grace in the healing of a solider by replacing his ear after it was cut off by Peter. Grace is always present even in places of pain and grief.
The reading closes with a choice that confronts all of humanity – what will we do about Jesus? Will we accept him and his claims upon us or will we ask for an alternative such as Barabbas- the thief? Remember our enemy, who always works against us, is called a thief and a liar. Be careful to choose wisely.
The readings from last week brought us to the end of Jesus’ public ministry. He is in Jerusalem now during Passion Week--the week the Christian church acknowledges as the last week of his life before the events of the cross.
The time that Jesus spends in those last days are in close quarters with his disciples. There are no public appearances at the temple or in local synagogues. Jesus’ mood is noticeable different, and we hear of the heaviness in his spirit.
The big event that claims our attention most in this section of John is the last Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. During the meal Jesus teaches a lesson about service and humility in his willingness to wash the disciple’s feet. This task was normally done by a servant in the home of the host or by the host.
No servant or host was present when Jesus went into the upper room, so he did what others knew needed to be done but refused to do so. He took a towel, poured water into a basin and washed the disciples’ feet.
Service performed through humility is God’s expectation of those who claim allegiance to him.
The Passover Meal also informs us of the coming betrayal by one in the ranks of the disciples. The failure of Jesus to live up to the Messianic expectation of others plays a role in his betrayal. If Jesus will not use his power to overthrow the Romans, he is not the Messiah that some will follow.
This week’s reading showed us a variety of aspects to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is a healer, teacher, miracle worker and a simple guest in the home of friends.
In the healing of the man born blind, the Gospel of John helps us to see that the spiritual blindness of the disciples was a larger issue than the man’s physical blindness. We always do ourselves and others a disservice when we seek to blame victims for their difficulties--an experience that people of color know all too well.
Then there is the lesson about Jesus being the Good Shepherd. Shepherds were not always held in high regard in Middle Eastern culture and one of the reasons was because of how they would place profit over the welfare of the sheep. The shepherds did not always own the sheep they tended and got to the market for trade.
Jesus declared that he was not a shepherd driven by profits as the hireling. Jesus is the shepherd who places the welfare of the flock over every other consideration even if it means to sacrifice his life. The good shepherd is committed to the sheep and they know his voice.
The rising of Lazarus from the grave proves Jesus’ power over death. Not even the grave is a barrier to power of Christ. The miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection cannot be disputed because Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. Within four days of death the body would normally begin to decompose but Lazarus comes out of the grave at the call of Jesus without any sign of physical infirmities.
Finally, Jesus goes to the home of friends where he is an invited guest to rest and fellowship. In the midst of his time there, spontaneous worship erupts through the actions of Mary as she pours a precious ointment over the feet of Jesus and wipes them with her hair. Mary’s act of worship had a lingering effect for the aroma of the ointment remained with Jesus all the way to the cross.
Jesus is a healer, teacher, miracle worker and guest today as much as he was when John wrote these words. This is the Jesus we have with us on our Lenten journey.
This week we hear of the seven “I Am” sayings by Jesus in the gospel of John. The first-- I am the bread of life.
Bread was the essential diet in middle eastern culture. Bread was easily produced in a farm economy and an important commodity where food could be exchanged for goods. Jesus declared he was the bread of heaven, that what he provided was essential to life and that it was available to everyone.
According to John, the crowds followed because of the fish and loaves from the meal of a miracle and missed the real gift in their midst-- the bread of heaven that feeds a staving soul.
When the crowd discovered that Jesus would not continue to feed them with a miracle supply of food but wanted to teach them about the meaning of faith in God. many of them abandoned Jesus and went another way. We know that then and now God’s ways are not like the ways of humanity and God will not allow us to manipulate him for our purposes.
We also learned this week of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem where he challenged the thinking of the religious leaders. When Jesus refused to confirm to their way of thinking about how religion should work, they sent temple police to arrest him. However, the temple police were unable to seize Jesus because his time of sacrifice had not arrived.
The opposition to Jesus would continue to grow among the religious leaders in Jerusalem and Jesus retreated back to Galilee where the bulk of his ministry was performed.
Finally, we learn of the power of forgiveness that is offered to a woman caught in adultery. The community plan of action was to stone her and ignore the man not mentioned in the story. The woman’s misfortune was also used as an attempt to discredit Jesus by placing him in a no-win situation by asking Jesus if he disputed the law of Moses that called for stoning.
Jesus shined the light on the sin of all humanity and asked whoever was free of sin tocast the first stone. The forgiveness offered to the woman by Jesus helps us to see how change is possible when given another chance.
What Jesus did in this week’s reading was to show us how God is always making a way for us if we are willing to receive what God has to offer. Lent brings us face to face with God’s gracious gifts as we journey with him. He is the one who is always making a way even during a pandemic.
This week’s reading presents us with two opposing responses to Jesus and provides additional evidence that he is the Messiah.
The Samaritans rejoice and believe in Jesus because of the testimony of the woman at the well. Many more Samaritans come to believe in Jesus after spending time with Jesus and hearing him for themselves. The Samaritans are viewed as religious outsiders, excluded from Judaism because of mixed marriages and disputes about religious shines. However, it is the religious outsiders who are quick to accept the evidence that Jesus is the Messiah.
This is not the case with the Jews. When Jesus heals a man who had been crippled for 38 years, the Jews take exception that the healing takes places on the Sabbath. The Jews in John’s gospel are always presented as the opposition to Jesus. The keepers of the law are more concerned with rules than with transformation. No matter what Jesus will do going forward, the Jews will oppose him. No amount of healing, no miracle and no teaching will change their minds.
It is because of the religious opposition that comes from the Jewish leaders that Jesus retreats and does most of his ministry in remote locations. The feeding of the multitude with a single lunch occurs away from the city and masses in a remote location.
The feeding of the multitude and Jesus walking on water are additional signs to both disciples and the crowd that Jesus is the Messiah.
Will we accept the evidence?
The first week’s reading in the gospel of John introduced us to key characters and actions that would be repeated throughout the gospel story.
John the Baptist affirms that Jesus is the Messiah and although John has a religious following, he is clear on his role. He must decrease and Jesus must increase.
The gospel of John also presents us with an important theme to understanding the gospel--the invitation to come and see. The gospel provides what is referred to as signs and the signs are evidence to the claims of Jesus. The signs help us to see who Jesus is for no one can do the things he does unless God is with him.
There are multiple signs in this week’s reading. There is the sign of Jesus seeing Nathanael under the fig tree. There is the sign of Jesus cleansing the temple. There is the sign of Jesus turning the water to wine at the wedding in Cana. Each sign provides unique insight to the ministry of Jesus and its impact upon humanity.
The first sign demonstrates Jesus’ understanding of others as in the case of Nathanael. The second sign reveals the place of authentic and unencumbered worship where Go--not things--are central. The third sign affirms the importance of love and the celebration of community.
Understanding, worship and affirmation are the building blocks that John uses to introduce us to new ways of experiencing God’s love. The age of rules has passed and the dawn of grace has come.
Our reading concluded with the story of Nicodemus and perhaps the most quoted passage of scripture in the entire Bible- John 3:16-- For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Whereas we celebrate the witness of that love on Easter, we learn of the journey of that love on the way to the cross during Lent.