grasping at straws

marmsky May (27)

grasping at straws

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2394

John 5:1-9

Joh 5:1 After these events, it was Jewish festival time, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Joh 5:2 By the Sheep Gate in the Jerusalem complex there is a pool, called Bethesda in Aramaic, which has five porticoes.
Joh 5:3 Within these a large number of the disabled– blind, lame, and paralyzed had been placed.
Joh 5:4
Joh 5:5 One man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years.
Joh 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to become whole?”
Joh 5:7 “Sir,” the disabled man answered, “I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, another goes down ahead of me.”
Joh 5:8 Jesus says to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and start walking.”
Joh 5:9 Instantly the man became whole, picked up his mat, and started to walk. But it was the Sabbath on that day.

grasping at straws

I have had some friends who have faced long periods of terminal illness. It was a sad and terrible time for all of them, and those of us who waited and prayed with them. I do not know why our prayers went unanswered. Someday I will know.

In a desperate attempt to reverse their conditions, my friends usually started taking more vitamins, doing certain exercises — anything that might make a difference. We call it “grasping at straws” which the Cambridge dictionary defines as “trying to find some way to succeed when nothing you choose is likely to work.”

Verse four of this text does not appear in the best manuscripts, but it was probably an accurate description of the reason that the man had been placed among the porticoes.

John included this story to set up the stories of the Sabbath controversies. But it also tells us that Jesus is the one who can make us whole when nothing else works.

Thank you , LORD, for giving us a way when there is no other way.

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no longer dying

marmsky May (26)

no longer dying

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2393

John 4:46-54

Joh 4:46 That was why he went again to Cana of Galilee, where he had made the water wine. There was this royal whose son was sick at Capernaum.
Joh 4:47 When this royal heard that Jesus has come from Judea into Galilee, he went to him and pleaded with him to come down and heal his son, since he was about to die.
Joh 4:48 Jesus told him, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you people will not believe.”
Joh 4:49 “Sir,” the royal said to him, “come down before my boy dies.”
Joh 4:50 “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son is living.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and departed.
Joh 4:51 While he was still going down, his servants met him saying that his boy is living.
Joh 4:52 That was why he inquired of them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him,” they answered.
Joh 4:53 The father realized this was that very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son is living.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household.
Joh 4:54 This was also the second sign which Jesus performed again after he came from Judea to Galilee.

no longer dying

Occasionally, some theologians wonder about the meaning of life — literally. They wonder if the words “life,” “alive,” and “living” might mean some kind of esoteric spiritual experience instead of the concept of health and breathing. I direct those wondering theologians to this passage. When Jesus told the royal that his son was living, it was not an esoteric spiritual experience or relationship that he referred to. He meant that the young man got better. He was no longer dying.

The permanent life that is promised in the New Testament is always a permanent reversal of the dying-toward-inevitable-death process. It never means anything else.

LORD, thank you for the promise of permanent life that believers have in Christ.

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Hometown disadvantage

marmsky May (25)

Hometown disadvantage

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2392

John 4:43-45

Joh 4:43 So after two days he left there for Galilee.

Joh 4:44 (since Jesus himself had testified that a prophet in his own country has no honor.)

Joh 4:45 When they entered Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him because they had seen everything he did in Jerusalem during the festival. Because they also had gone to the festival.

Hometown disadvantage

We encounter a bit of reluctance on the part of Jesus and his disciples to go back home to Galilee. In fact, they appear to delay their trip two whole days, desiring to stay in the Samaritan region – a place where Jews normally go out of their way to avoid.

I understand the reluctance perfectly. I have often wanted to stay on the field, and not go “home” to do deputation. Ministering where you are appreciated is so much more enjoyable.

Fortunately for Jesus and his disciples, they were welcomed back to Galilee with honor, because the Galileans had experienced their ministry in Jerusalem.

LORD, lead us where you want us to go, and help us honor you even in places where we have not always been appreciated.

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the boost and the battery

marmsky May (24)

the boost and the battery

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2391

John 4:39-42

Joh 4:39 Now many from that town believed in him among the Samaritans because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me all the things I did.”

Joh 4:40 Therefore when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.

Joh 4:41 Many more believed because of what he said.

Joh 4:42 And they told the woman, “We are no longer believing because of what you said, since we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.”

the boost and the battery

Something of the nature of evangelism is being described in this passage. It took a courageous evangelist to first break the ice and share the good news of Jesus Christ to these Samaritans. It took that woman who had met Christ herself, and dared to share what she had experienced.

But then it took another step. These Samaritan men would also be called on to reach more people for Christ. That would take their own personal experience with Christ himself.

The Samaritan woman’s testimony was the boost that awakened the spiritual lives of these men. Their own time with Christ was the battery that kept them going.

LORD, thank you spiritual strength that comes from knowing you, yourself. Show us how to make that strength the energy that drives our evangelistic work.

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others who care and share

marmsky May (23)

others who care and share

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2390

Joh 4:31 Meanwhile, the disciples kept requesting him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

Joh 4:32 But he said, “I am having food to eat that you don’t know about.”

Joh 4:33 The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him food to eat?”

Joh 4:34 “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus told them.

Joh 4:35 “Aren’t you saying, ‘There are still four more months, and then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Lift your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest.

Joh 4:36 The harvester is already receiving wages and gathering fruit for permanent life, so that the planter and harvester can rejoice together.

Joh 4:37 Because in this case the saying is true: ‘One is planting while another is harvesting.’

Joh 4:38 I sent you to harvest what you didn’t work for; others have worked, and you have benefited from their work.”

others who care and share

It seems that Jesus is making a point to his disciples that while they were out harvesting (buying food for their meal) he was planting the gospel in the heart of this Samaritan woman. Now, while they are eating the result of someone else’s harvest (the food the disciples bought) she’s back in town, evangelizing (planting the word in) the men of Sychar. So, instead of a long distance between planting and harvest, they are happening concurrently.

This is how evangelism works. We do not have to worry about starting from scratch with most people. If we are concerned about someone’s relationship with God, we can assume that we are not the only one. We can boldly plant the gospel in their hearts, and – quite possibly – we will find that they are already receptive because of someone else’s previous work.

LORD, thank you for the others who care, and share your word to those we seek to win.

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Egalitarian Savior

marmsky May (22)

Egalitarian Savior

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2389

John 4:27-30

Joh 4:27 At this point, his disciples arrived, and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do you seeking?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Joh 4:28 Then the woman let go of her water jar, and went into town, and spoke told the men,

Joh 4:29 “Come, see a man who said to me all the things I ever did. Could this one be the Messiah?”

Joh 4:30 They left the town and came to him.

Egalitarian Savior

Our Lord not only broke cultural taboos by sharing spiritual things with a Samaritan, he broke gender taboos by teaching a woman, and then that woman followed suit by immediately going into town and evangelizing (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις) the men!

Sisters, there are a lot of Christians who will tell you that God plays favorites. Do not believe it. Christ’s gospel is for all people, and you have every right to share it to whomever will listen to you.

LORD, thank you for pouring out your Spirit on your sons and daughters, and giving us all your precious gospel to preach.

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hiding behind the lie

marmsky May (21)

hiding behind the lie

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2388

John 4:15-22

Joh 4:15 “Sir,” the woman said to him, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to pass through here to take out water.”

Joh 4:16 “Go call your husband,” he says to her, “and come back here.”

Joh 4:17 “I don’t have a husband,” she answered. Jesus said “You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,

Joh 4:18 Because you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

Joh 4:19 “Sir,” the woman says, “I infer that you are a prophet.

Joh 4:20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you people are saying that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Joh 4:21 Jesus says to her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will neither worship the Father on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

Joh 4:22 You Samaritans are worshiping what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.

Joh 4:23 But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. And the Father is looking for worshipers like this.

Joh 4:24 God is a spirit, and those who worship him must worship spiritually and truthfully.”

Joh 4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming” (the one being called Christ). “Whenever that one comes, he will report everything to us.”

Joh 4:26 Jesus told her, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

hiding behind the lie

The Samaritan woman appears to have been trying to deflect from her own uncomfortable moral situation by bringing up a theological disagreement between the Jews and the her people. She was happy to defer to the future Messiah to sort the disagreement out. That way, she could avoid the question. The problem was, the Messiah was already there. Jesus, the great I AM (Ἐγώ εἰμι) was the one speaking with her.

We do not have to wait for Christ to come again to solve our theological problems. We have the definitive Word from God in Christ himself, and he points us to the scripture, which he says cannot be broken (John 10:35). We can know the truth.

LORD, keep us from hiding behind the lie that your truth cannot be known.

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her questions

marmsky May (20)

her questions

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2387

John 4:7-15

Joh 4:7 A woman from Samaria came to take out water. “Give me something to drink,” Jesus said to her,

Joh 4:8 because his disciples had gone away into town so they could buy food.

Joh 4:9 The Samaritan woman asked him “How can you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me,?” Because Jews do not have dealings with Samaritans.

Joh 4:10 Jesus answered, and this is what he said to her, “If you knew God’s gift, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me something to drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”

Joh 4:11 “Sir,” she said, “you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where, then, do you get this ‘living water’?

Joh 4:12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, and his sons and livestock.”

Joh 4:13 Jesus said, “Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again.

Joh 4:14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will not get thirsty for the age. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for permanent life.”

Joh 4:15 “Sir,” the woman said to him, “give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to pass through here to take out water.”

her questions

The Samaritan woman at the well asked Jesus two questions, which are very revealing. First, she asked him how he could ask her for a drink, because any self-respecting Jew would refuse to function together with (συγχρῶνται) the Samaritan people. The situation was so much more extreme than even she understood. This was the creator of all things, and she was part of a world who had rebelled against him. How could he have any dealings with us? The answer is that he stoops to our level in order to restore us to God’s favor. He loves us.

The second question was one about who Jesus is. Is he greater than “our father Jacob?” Yes, he is. He is the greatest. There is no tradition, and no heritage greater that Jesus himself.

LORD, when people ask questions about you, give us wisdom so that our answers reflect what you are really doing, and who you really are.

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sharing life with us

marmsky May (19)

sharing life with us

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2386

John 4:1-6

Joh 4:1 After Jesus learned that the Pharisees heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John

Joh 4:2 (and yet Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were),

Joh 4:3 he left Judea and went again to Galilee.

Joh 4:4 He had to pass through Samaria;

Joh 4:5 so he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the place that Jacob had given his son Joseph.

Joh 4:6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from his hike, sat down at the well. It was about noon.

sharing life with us

John had been making a good case in his narrative that Jesus was the most amazing spiritual being – God become flesh, the gift from the Father in whom anyone who believes can receive permanent life.

Now, John backs up and tells the other side of the story. This Jesus decides to step away from the Judean limelight and go back to Galilee and work there for a while, away from the spies of the Pharisees and their politics. That I can understand. Maybe Jesus is more like me than I thought.

And what do I find him doing on his hike (ὁδοιπορίας)? He stops for a rest. He got tired of walking. I can certainly relate to that.

I know Jesus is going to drop a huge spiritual bomb in a few minutes when he encounters that Samaritan woman. But for now, I enjoy resting with him. He is an approachable Savior.

LORD, thank you for sharing life with us, as well as for offering life to us.

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Certifying that God is true

marmsky May (18)

Certifying that God is true

Devotions from Jefferson Vann # 2385

John 3:31-36

Joh 3:31 The one coming from above is over all things. The one being from the land is worldly and is speaking in worldly terms. The one coming from the sky is over all things.

Joh 3:32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, and yet no one welcomes his testimony.

Joh 3:33 The one who has welcomed his testimony has certified that God is true.

Joh 3:34 Because the one God sent speaks God’s words, since he gives the Spirit without measure.

Joh 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hands.

Joh 3:36 The one believing in the Son has permanent life, but the one resisting the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God stays over him.

Certifying that God is true

John began his Gospel by identifying Jesus as the incarnation of God – the Word. John the Baptist could only talk about worldly, mundane things, but Jesus could explain his Father’s heart.

Now, John says that Jesus testifies to what he has seen and heard from above. How people respond to that testimony will determine their eternal destiny. If people resist the gospel, only God’s wrath, and its consequential permanent destruction await them. But anyone who welcomes the testimony of Christ about God’s love and gift, will receive that gift – permanent life.

How does a person welcome God’s testimony through Christ? By certifying that God’s gospel is true.

LORD, we affirm and certify that your gospel about Jesus Christ is true.

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