God-in-a-Box–Your Inbox… for appreciating God
Get a Cosmic View of Jesus' Life in Small Bytes

Apr
18

Image  Get to know God by meditating on Jesus’ life, 250 words a day, five days a week, Easter to Easter

Jul
07

Nicodemus leaves Jesus a changed man.

He begins reading scripture in a new way–not for discussing, but for knowing God–for receiving life, relationship, love.

Right at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus gives a detailed outline of His mission to a respected teacher of the Sanhedrin. Never again does He lay out such a complete picture of the process of choice and transformation that takes place in one who believes.

The best-known scripture, “God so loved the world that He gave His only born son…” (John 3:16) was spoken to Nicodemus, who told John, much later, about his visit with Jesus that night.

If you’ve never read John 3; verses 17-21 are rich but not often quoted. God made himself into a “Son of Man” (Jesus’ favorite title) and came to cancel the curse of the law of sin and death. God didn’t have a son so He could condemn us, but to rescue and restore us.*

The problem is that we don’t all want to be rescued, and that is what Jesus shared with Nicodemus. He says, “Here is the condemnation: No one likes to be corrected, but everyone who loves darkness hates The Light and will not come to it to be healed…”

From the Sanhedrin Nicodemus protected Jesus as long as he could, and after His ascension, when Jesus’ followers became a scorned and persecuted religion, Nicodemus was there, like a rock, with his money and influence. He was happy to become materially poor so that he might become truly rich.

John 3:16-21, *see also John 12:47 and Romans 7-8:1

Jul
06

In Jesus’ presence Nicodemus feels his need of change. The cloud lifts from his mind and he begins to understand Ezekiel’s promise of God gifting a new heart. He had never understood that the most careful obedience is worthless without a love relationship to God. He had read all the scriptures with a righteously closed mind.*

Jesus helps him with symbolism familiar to him, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”**

Nicodemus knows Israel’s history, that in breaking faith with God, the Israelites had forfeited God’s protection and were bitten by the serpents that lived in the wilderness.

Many were dying. So God had Moses make a brass serpent, and lift it high on two cross pieces of wood. All they had to do was acknowledge why they were dying, look at the cause, and acknowledge God’s provision for them. If they looked, they lived.

They knew there was no power in the serpent; it was a symbol of God’s enemy who had ruined His creation, but also a symbol of God’s provision–Messiah would come and die requiring only a look of faith.

Nicodemus gets it. Jesus is telling him that He is the Messiah and will die, becoming the offer of a remedy for separation from God to conquer death. By absorbing the serpent’s venom and dying, he defeats the destroyer, takes back the power over death and can offer us the choice of healing and life.

Obedience doesn’t save. Even faith doesn’t save–but faith is the necessary link, “the look” or choice, the hand reaching to accept the gift of life offered.

John 3:10-15   *Psalm 51:10, Isaiah 64:6, Ezekiel 36:26-27   **Numbers 21:4-8

Jul
05

Jesus knows Nicodemus feels secure in God’s favor, believing that his good deeds and liberal giving earn him a place in God’s kingdom. So Jesus goes deep, saying, “You can’t enter God’s kingdom unless you are born again.” Birth was a common metaphor used for converts to Judaism. This isn’t a foreign concept to him, but confrontation is.

Nicodemus is surprised and momentarily his composure slips. He shows his irritation in irony. “Seriously? Can a man get back into his mother’s womb when he is old?” He is astonished that his “righteousness” isn’t good enough.

Jesus saves his own irony for later, now He simply says, “Seriously, unless you are born of water and Spirit, you can’t even see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus knows that Jesus is talking about baptism and the Holy Ruach. He and his peers had rejected John’s baptism. They felt no need of repentance; they felt secure in doing everything right.

He is convicted that John’s message was preparation for Messiah. But he is confused.

So Jesus, loving this honest-hearted seeker, illustrates heart-religion using the wind. “Ruach works like the wind; you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes; you can hear it, but you can’t see it. You only see its results.” He knows Nicodemus has read about Ezekiel’s “new heart.”

Nicodemus can only reply, “How can this be?”

Now, Jesus’ irony, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you don’t understand this?”

Even though Jesus confronts him, his tone is kind, his look so full of love, it draws the rabbi to him.

John 3:1-9   Ezekiel 11:19, 18: 31, 36:26

Jul
02

Nicodemus was wealthy, educated, and  talented. An honored member of the Sanhedrin and a man of influence, he found himself drawn to this poor Galilean.

He had been concerned about the racketeering, and was there when Jesus cleared the temple. Secretly moved with gratitude, he had watched the people come and be healed; he saw their joy and heard their words, and his heart was lifted.

He had studied the prophecies again. A conviction was growing: He must be the Messiah! But he wasn’t ready to endorse Jesus. While most of the priests and rulers hated Jesus for his boldness, he and others in the Sanhedrin warned about their history of killing prophets and fighting against God. They knew they were under Roman rule because of rejecting reproofs sent by God, and they advocated caution.

Nicodemus greatly wants to talk with Jesus one on one. To avoid ridicule he secretly inquires, and goes to Jesus at his night retreat while the city sleeps.

Finding Jesus on Mount Olivet, he means to compliment him by calling him a “teacher sent by God.” But he does not recognize him as–the Messiah, exposing his fear and unbelief.

Jesus knows Nicodemus has come to play it safe and discuss safe things, like theory or doctrine, so he cuts straight to the heart of his need. Kindly, but with breath-taking directness, he honors him as a true seeker.

John 3:1-3

Jul
01

Finally the terrified priests and temple officers regain their composure and return to the temple.

What a difference they find! The temple is now filled with the praise of the healed. The blind see Jesus face, the deaf hear his voice, the mute shout his praise–the first healings of his ministry. Smiling children come and press in to touch him, eager to be noticed.

The priests are angry, embarrassed that they ran from a poor carpenter. For moments they are convicted and see themselves and their actions clearly; Jesus has given evidence that he is Messiah, fulfilling prophecies they know–the Holy Spirit bringing them to mind. But they choose to take offense, and with hate growing, they come back to question his authority.

They push away their convictions about him as this scene of true worship with its joy and thanksgiving, its hope and peace, confronts them.

“What authority do you have? Show us a sign,” they demand. (As if he hasn’t!)

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it,” Jesus answers with a parable, exposing their hatred.

He doesn’t intend for them to understand that he speaks of his body, but he knows his words will be repeated by them and his believers, and will be carried to many countries. After he has risen from death, these words will be remembered and understood.

He protects his disciples who aren’t ready to understand the pain and the power ahead. His death will destroy their dreams and their sacrificial system, and conquer the powers of darkness.*

John 2:18-22   *Colossians 2:15

Now on You Tube as The Desire of Hearts

Jun
30

The same commanding voice that made Mt. Sinai quake, now rings through the temple, “Get these things out of here!” Once again the people tremble.

The priests and vendors rush to get away. The cords in his hand seem like a terrible scourge even though no one is hit. The racketeers leave their money trying to get out of His presence, stumbling over each other, their guilt driving them.

With an energy and a command never before seen in Him, Jesus turns over the tables of the money changers and coins ring on the marble. The disciples are transfixed, dumfounded. They see divinity flash through this normally mild-mannered man, and they remember the scripture, “Zeal for Your house consumes me.”*

No one questions His authority. The presence that sanctified Mt. Sinai has cleared and sanctified the temple built in His honor.

Jesus announces himself as the Messiah with action that speaks to us. He comes to clean the temple of the heart. God designed every created being from archangels to humans to be a temple for His Spirit. His Presence is the only force strong enough to change the programming and desires that ruin and contaminate our minds, hearts, and bodies. His Presence is true worship.

However, he will not force His entrance. He is respectful. He says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears and opens it, I will come in…” Our choices will be honored. The power of choice is all-powerful.**

John 2:15-17   *Psalm 69:9   **Revelation 3:20

Jun
29

From the wedding, Jesus and his six friends spend a few days with his family in Capernaum.

Then leaving for Jerusalem to attend Passover–his first since entering his ministry–they walk with a large crowd. It’s Spring, the people are light-hearted, green grass and flowers decorate the countryside, and the conversation always goes to talking about Messiah and national greatness.

Jesus tries to open their minds to scripture. He can see how far they are from a true understanding of his mission. He also sees how much they want to believe what they believe.

Arriving at the temple in Jerusalem, its courts are full of cows, sheep, and doves being sold for sacrifice. The mooing, bleating and cooing, along with the voices of distressed or angry people, who know they are being robbed but are desperate because of their beliefs, and the clinking coins being exchanged for temple currency, make a din that drowns out the sounds of worship. The prayers inside can’t even be heard by the worshipers.

Jesus takes in the scene, anger at the greed and sadness for their ignorance mixing and rising. His presence is felt. Ruach’s glorious power flashes through the man. It fills the place. A hush falls. The noise stops as all eyes are drawn to him. He seems larger than life. They can’t look away. The silence is painful.

Slowly coming down the steps, his face illumined, his hand holding cords he has gathered, he speaks, his raised voice ringing through temple arches. “You’ve made my Father’s house into a market!”

John 2:12-16

Jun
28

Who would have thought that Jesus’ first public appearance, after being announced Messiah, would be to attend a wedding!

His plan to show what God was like consisted of coming and being with us as a man; but his first event, a wedding? his first miracle, blessing human joy? How unreligious!

Religious leaders at that time were focused on keeping themselves from being defiled. What a contrast! They considered themselves too holy to mingle with the commoners, especially the lower class. Compassion, hospitality, joy were not their focus.

Yet this is exactly where Jesus starts communicating God–mingling with guests at a wedding, providing more than is needed.

All of religion’s rules and regulations had caused people to stop thinking and acting for themselves. Minds had become cramped and narrow. But Jesus comes as one who cares, who listens, who talks, who celebrates with people.

Imagine growing up with religion as rules, and then getting the message God cares what you think and feel; God loves your happiness! Wow!

After expressing excitement over the new wine, people begin looking for him. He has quietly withdrawn and the disciples get to share their own personal experience, their faith that he is the long-anticipated Messiah.

Jesus reaches hearts so he can free minds and enlarge both. He is full of life and love and laughter. He wants us to show that our hearts have been refreshed by knowing Him, that our actions are full of the light of God’s love for us, that we are not self-absorbed, but enjoy sharing our blessings with others.

John 2:9-11,  Isaiah 62:5,  Zephaniah 3:17

Jun
25

Jesus’ boundary for his mother, “This is not my concern, nor my time,” were about her expectation, not her request.

Everyone expected the Messiah to set up his kingdom then. His words address this expectation–it is not time to be king. They don’t understand that first Jesus has to show the universe God’s love, and that separation from God (Love) causes death. God doesn’t want anyone to die.

But Jesus gets the “go-ahead” from his Father, Abba, to honor his mother’s faith, and responds to her belief in him, for her and for his followers whose faith and joy will soon confront the painful unbelief and opposition of their religious leaders.

Mary has taken no offense, and tells the servants, “Do whatever he says.”

As to the wine, Jesus has the servants fill six huge jars with water and then take some to the caterer, who goes to the bridegroom and says “Most people serve their best wine first, but you have kept the best until last.”

Without refrigeration, fresh juice was only available shortly after grape harvest. The rest was stored–fermented. This was a spring wedding, so “new wine,” as fresh juice was called, would be a surprise.*

Guessing that Jesus doesn’t contradict his own advice in scripture by creating old wine, the miracle is all the more awe-inspiring.”**

Don’t miss the symbolism, Jesus’ gifts are always fresh and new, adding value, not turning on you, as do “gifts” or pleasures from the other side.

John 2:5-11  *Isaiah 65:8  **Proverbs 20:1, Genesis 9, Numbers 6, Judges 13, Daniel 1,

Jun
24

Jesus’ mother also knew of John’s ministry; she remembered his birth and the prophecies about him. She wondered… but was glad to have Jesus with her, especially after Joseph’s death.

Such mixed feelings come when he kisses her good-by to go find John.

Now she hears of his baptism and that he hasn’t been seen since. She longs for word that he is OK. It helps to be involved in the wedding relatives are planning.

Then she gets word–he will be at the wedding! Can he bring friends?

Overjoyed, she can’t wait to see him again!

At the wedding they embrace, the bond between them as strong and tender as ever. But he is different, not just worn and thin, but with an understated power.

She loves listening to his friends share their experiences. They are convinced they have found the Messiah. Secretly, with a mother’s love, she hopes there will be an opportunity for him to work a miracle, to prove himself as the Messiah.

And then it happens. A server says to her “How embarrassing! They are out of wine.”

Seeing her opportunity, she immediately goes to Jesus and tells him, hoping he will supply it.

His reply, “Your concern is not mine; it’s not time yet,” recalls to her mind another response when He was 12.* Again he respectfully sets a boundary. He knows what she wants, but she is not in charge of proving his identity or his ministry. God is in command, and she must recognize that she no longer has control.

John 2:1-4  *Luke 2:49