“That they may become perfectly one”

From today’s reading of John 14-17

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:20-26 (ESV)

So ends Jesus’ high priestly prayer.

How on earth to even make commentary on this? Jesus is here praying for not just his disciples, but for everyone throughout history called by his name. He’s praying for me here, and anyone else living today who is in Christ, along with all those who have gone before us.

It is astonishing when one considers the content of Jesus’ prayer. He is praying for our unity, our oneness. And the unity he prays for is not the unity of a club, or a group of like-minded friends, or even of a family:

“. . . that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us . . .”

The unity that Jesus prays for his church is the same unity he shares with the Father. It is an intimacy as close as the Father to the Son, “in” one another.

It is a sharing of everything, a bestowing of the same glory God has given Jesus onto us (!!), oneness. It is a bestowing of the same love the Father has for the Son onto us. And, trust me, we can’t even begin to imagine a love that big.

This prayer is a fulfillment of our deepest desires: to be fully known and fully loved, to partake in the glory and love of the Father to the Son and then to us. To be in deep, deep family, not just with the Lord but also with his people, our brothers and sisters throughout the world and throughout history. To be fully brought in the house, fully adopted, given a place at the table. To be seated at the heavenly feast of grace, love and glory!

True Greatness

From today’s reading of Luke 22 and John 13

But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Luke 22:21-30 (ESV)

We now enter into the accounts of the last supper Jesus would have with his disciples prior to his passion. The urgency of his final teachings to them is heightened, and in response we see the somewhat understandable confusion and denial of these men who were closest to him.

I can almost hear the conversation following Jesus’ shocking revelation that one of them would betray him to the authorities. Does it seem strange that they move straight from questioning who it might be to arguing about which of them is the greatest? This no longer seems strange to me. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Disciple 1: One of us will betray him? Could it be me? . . . . no, I don’t think so. I wonder if it’s you? I’ve always questioned your loyalty.

Disciple 2: Me? No, I would never betray him. I would go to prison and death for him!

Disciple 3: You? Neither one of you idiots knows what you’re talking about. No one worked harder on our mission trip through the towns of Israel than me. Did you see how many people I healed?

Disciple 2: Did you see how many demons I cast out? I think I made the greatest contribution.

Disciple 1: You are both delusional. I’m in his inner-circle. I’m certain to be given the greatest position of power next to him when he comes in his kingdom.

And so on. It’s not hard at all for us to move from wise self-inspection to unwise comparison of ourselves to those around us.

I admit it: I want to be great. I have dreams of greatness. I fantasize about being wiser, stronger, and braver than I am, of doing deeds that people will talk about after I’m gone. I’m no better than the disciples; In my best moments I know I’m capable of denying and betraying the Lord, but my best moments are few and far between.

In his amazing grace Jesus doesn’t kick them all (or me) out of the room. Instead he says this:

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”,

This is an absolutely amazing statement. “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials,” he says to those that he knows will very soon abandon him completely in the midst of his greatest trial. But this is the grace of our Lord. This is true greatness: Jesus. He is the God above all gods, the Man above all men, the one who not only saves us from all of our sins and foolishness but who will graciously fit us to reign with him in his glory. This is his last supper with them before his passion, but he promises them that they will eat and drink with him again in the kingdom.

In other words, they are all about to forsake him, but he will never forsake them. This is greatness. He is about to do everything, absolutely everything that can be done for their salvation, and he is going to restore every one of them but one to the true greatness that he has destined them for in a new mission, building the true kingdom in the power of his Spirit, each of them humbling themselves as the dregs of the earth so that the world could be turned right side up again through the good news of Jesus. This is greatness.

Glory Hallelujah!

All of it

From today’s reading of Matthew 26, Mark 14

And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:3-9 (ESV)

I love these close, tender moments in the gospels. This episode is one of the last of its kind; almost immediately after this the plot already hatched by the Jewish leaders is put in motion, and Jesus will be arrested and killed. That adds an incredible poignancy to what is described here.

John 12 tells us that the woman who broke the alabaster flask is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. She is the one who sat at Jesus’ feet while her sister bustled about, she is the one who wept in the house when Jesus arrived to grieve for her brother Lazarus and to show God’s glory. She is the one who groaned through her tears “if you have been here, my brother would not have died.” And she witnessed as our Lord commanded death to flee and called her brother forth to life.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem in kingly procession just a few days before this dinner in Bethany. It seems that only Mary understands that a King deserves anointing, even at the expense of a year’s worth of a laborer’s wages. Her King deserves absolutely all of the precious ointment poured on his royal head, a head that would very soon be bloodied by the blows and the thorns of those he came to save. Her King deserves all her love, all her devotion. All.

Those of a more practical mindset (John 12 implicates Judas in this) were more focused on the loss of 300 denarii that might have been used to more noble, less wasteful purpose. The Lord Jesus will have none of it.

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Such honor from the Savior of the world! I’ve written before of my respect and admiration for Mary’s sister Martha. Here Jesus honors Mary with kingly decree. She has done a beautiful thing for him by anointing his body beforehand for burial.

Everyone else has missed that. You get the sense that they are all thinking about next week, next month, where they were going to go, what they were going to do, continuing on in the ministry with Jesus. The plan of the Father is about to blow that to pieces. Jesus is about to die and be buried and rise again. There is no next week, at least not when it comes to their plans. Everything is about to change.

It’s time to throw plans and schemes aside, our system of priorities, our trust in our own abilities to evaluate what’s important. Jesus has made it clear: where the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. Yes, because what she did was amazing and she was unfairly raked over the coals for it by those who should have known better. Yes, because Jesus loves to exalt those who have been placed low by the world’s system. Yes, because it was a beautiful act of love (and the only act of true perception recorded here) toward Jesus himself.

But also because in her act the gospel and a right response to it is beautifully depicted. The one who has brought the dead to life is anointed for his own death and burial, not with just part of what she has at hand but with all. He will be raised and in him so will she, and so will we. What manner of love is this?

Break the jar. Pour the oil, all of it, over the beloved, blessed head of our Savior.

Matthew 25

From today’s reading of Matthew 25

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.” – Matthew 25:1 (ESV)

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” – Matthew 25:14 (ESV)

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Matthew 25:31-32 (ESV)

Throughout the gospels Jesus seems keenly interested in giving his followers a picture of the coming Kingdom. He does this through parables that each give a glimpse of the many sided jewel that is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 present both the beauty of being let in and the horror of being cast out. A unifying thread in these stories is the idea of value. What do we do with the riches Jesus has bestowed upon us?

In the parable of the ten virgins there is the treasure of oil. Oil in scripture usually represents anointing, selection, or the Spirit of God. Five of the virgins had the oil burning in their lamps and were let in. Five did not and were cast out.

In the parable of the master of the servants, there is the treasure of talents; weighed-out money. Two of the servants used the treasures the master had given them to expand the master’s kingdom. One of them had an incorrect/distorted view of the master, the wrong kind of fear of him, and buried the treasure to be safe. He was cast out and even what he had was taken from him.

The final discourse is not a parable, it is a description of what will happen when King Jesus comes in the final judgement, dividing all of humanity like a shepherd would divide sheep and goats. What is the treasure here that the “sheep” valued and the “goats” did not? The treasure is Jesus himself, a King in disguise, as he identifies himself with the hungry and thirsty poor, the unclothed poor, the sick, the ones in prison. He is a King who has humbled himself beyond our comprehension, having left his throne to come to us, we hungry and thirsty poor, we naked paupers, a sin-sick people imprisoned by our trespasses. The citizens of his kingdom follow and emulate their King in his humility and, in small and near ways, reflect the deep dive of humility that Jesus has already undergone as they serve those who are like they were before he rescued them; poor, thirsty, hungry, naked, imprisoned. They may not realize it, but in doing so they are serving the King himself.

Those who do not and have not were never citizens, having devoted their lives to serving other kingdoms that are not of Jesus. They find themselves in the end cast out.

“To give them their food at the proper time”

From today’s reading of Matthew 24

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matthew 24:45-51 (ESV)

Have you ever noticed how much the New Testament references food? It is full of talk of fruit, bread, wine, water, fish, feasts, multiplication of food, hunger satiated and thirst quenched.

In the metaphor of the vine and branches we are to bear fruit as we abide in him. Jesus tells us that we will have springing out of us rivers of living water. He calls himself the bread that came down from heaven. His repeated promise is that in him we will never hunger and thirst again. He calls his disciples “fishers of men” and even gives them advice on where to place their nets. He multiplies bread and fish for his hungry followers, turns water into wine, and even compares the gospel to new wine in new wineskins. Jesus declares that his food is to do the work of his Father. In a resurrection appearance to the disciples he eats broiled fish, and at the home of the Emmaus walkers he breaks bread. The New Testament culminates in the wedding feast of Christ and his church.

It can be argued that the sole duty of a follower of Jesus is to be a feeder of others, to invite others to the smorgasbord of Jesus’ grace and to serve up heaping helpings of same.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?”

Following his resurrection, in John 21 Jesus meets his followers on the beach, having prepared for them a meal of fish and bread (also, his helpful fishing tips have just provided them with the biggest haul of fish they’d ever seen). In his restorative conversation with Peter he commands him three times to “feed my sheep”. Not organize a church. Not get a degree. Not develop creative strategies. The prime focus of what Peter is to do involves feeding. Those other things: the degree, organization, creativity, strategic thinking, are not bad in themselves and are actually quite helpful and wise, provided they serve the mission of serving the bread of Heaven to those who are Christ’s sheep.

We’re to be feeders. And for one who might think that’s just a suggestion, an option, one way among many to go as a follower of Jesus, the final two sentences of the quoted passage above are a good corrective, and emphasize and illustrate the passion (it wouldn’t be off-base to use the word “ferocity” here) that our Father has for the feeding of his people.

“They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds”

From today’s reading of Mark 13

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. – Mark 13:24-27 (ESV)

I don’t generally have a strong confidence in my ability to interpret eschatological texts.

But let’s set aside interpretation for a moment. As Augustine said, “Let others wrangle, I will wonder.”

Our dear Lord Jesus; you are going to come back to earth some day, making your royal entrance in clouds, power, and glory. What a privilege it will be to see that! I may already be dead by then and if so that will be my moment of resurrection. If I am still living, I will be caught up to meet you in the air.

“. . . and so we will always be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4.

Always with you! Lord when you return to make all things new, dear Savior, we will be forever in your presence as you forever reign.

Wonderful Counselor! Mighty God! Everlasting Father! Prince of Peace! You who bring us wisdom in our darkness, you who battle passionately and victoriously on behalf of your people, you who have always been and always will be! You, dear Jesus, author and finisher of faith, bringer of the peace that passes understanding.



You, creator of the universe, sustainer of all, rescuing hero, sacrificing Savior, King of kings and Lord of lords. You will reign forever judging all things rightly. making all things new.

You who chose the lowly over the mighty, who chose the last over the first, who honored widows and prostitutes and tax collectors and spoke in righteous anger against the powers of this world who were eating up your people. You who toiled and suffered and prayed and strove and fed and healed and taught and loved. You who were delivered up for my many sins and the sins of all the earth, to be tortured and killed. You who were raised up on the third day and appeared to your astonished followers, the Risen Lord. You who sent the promised Holy Spirit to your people and gave them the power to turn the world upside down in your name.

You! We can’t wait to see you!

Come quickly Lord Jesus!

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others”

From today’s reading of Matthew 23, Luke 20-21

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long . . . – Matthew 23:1-5 (ESV)

It’s easy when reading the gospels to just assume the scribes and Pharisees were wrong through and through. But Jesus here affirms that their teaching was not wrong. They were sitting on Moses’ seat, teaching the law given by God. The law is good.

And yet, in a very crucial way, their teaching was wrong. They showed by their own lives that keeping God’s law is impossible in our own power, and yet still taught that salvation comes through keeping the whole law. This kind of teaching will do a number on the teacher, and it had developed in the Pharisees an exquisite blindness to their own hypocrisy.

Jesus is, of course, the great Light who gives sight to the blind. He decides to shed some light on the situation and so in Matthew 23 he lays into the scribes and Pharisees with brutal precision.

The Pharisees in their teaching had made it a habit to tie up their people with the heavy burden of keeping a law that in our fallen state we are incapable of keeping. Out of the cognitive dissonance that followed, within the heart of each scribe and Pharisee it seems that the mission changed for them. Deep in their hearts this statement took hold.

“I can’t keep this law I am teaching. The second best thing will be to at least look like I’m keeping it.”

I’ve engaged in that deadly logic myself, many times. The law of God is good. But in a cage match against my flesh, obedience to the law is going to get trounced. Paul writes the following in Romans 8:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:3-4 (ESV)

The Pharisees weren’t completely wrong. The righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled in us. But the only hope of that happening is to throw ourselves upon Jesus, the Gift of God. In a completely unfair trade, we give him our weakness, our hypocrisy, our show-morality, our flesh, our sin, and we get his righteousness, his Spirit, and most of all, we get all of him!


The wedding feast

From today’s reading of Matthew 22, Mark 12

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV)

The Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus describes it is counter-intuitive. Where we expect a boot-camp, the invitation is to a wedding feast. Where we expect the best and the brightest, Jesus here and in many other places affirms that many of the guests are the worst and the darkest.

The Lord has prepared the feast. He has addressed and sent the invitations. The best and the brightest have too many other things vying for their attention, so they react with either indifference or hostility; Indifference because our own well-integrated, ordered lives running on our schedule and toward our own goals are shiny and alluring enough to capture and keep our attention. The wedding of the Son of a King that we don’t really know rates low on that priority list.

Hostility for much the same reason. He is infringing . . .

And he will infringe. He is God! This is his right. The parable recounts the destruction of the city of those who had ignored him and had attacked and killed his servants, clearly implicating the people of the King, Israel, with a history of repeated apostasy, destruction, exile and restoration. The phrasing is harsh because what’s at stake is so incredibly valuable. All of history is progressing toward the wedding feast of the Son of the King. It will usher in the age of ages, the eternal reign of Jesus in which he makes all things new, forever.

Why would anyone run from this invitation? Yet we do. I know this past week in particular I have, in multiple ways, been ducking God. I don’t even know why. I have been invited to the wedding feast of the One who is infinitely valuable. There is another one who opposes this, and in combination with my flesh he will attempt to slow, redirect, or cripple my walk. He will attempt to distract me from my true life’s calling, which is preparation for the feast, inviting others to it, and learning to wear well the wedding garments of righteousness that Jesus has so graciously given me.

Lord, I need you.

“When I am lifted up”

From today’s reading of Mark 11 and John 12

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” – John 12:27-32 (ESV)

On the threshold of his passion and suffering, Jesus is troubled. He can pray one of two ways: “Father, save me from this hour” or “Father, glorify your name”. His heart, his mission, the entirety of who he is makes the choice not a choice at all. Father, glorify your name! This foreshadows the more intense struggle in the garden in a few days, but it seems the victory is already won. Jesus is already declaring the good news of this victory to his listeners.

He ties his impending crucifixion to the defeat of satan, to a kingdom wrested back from his scaly clutches, and speaks of himself as a battle banner raised that all people will flock to. Never before had anyone spoken of their crucifixion as a personal triumph. Crucifixion was the cruelest of punishments, created and refined by the Romans who had become very, very good at it. It was a statement of their power and a demonstration of what they did to those who defied them.

A real king wouldn’t allow that to happen to himself, would he?

Yes! Praise his name!

Now is the judgement of the world.

Now is the ruler of this world cast out.

Now I will draw all men to myself.

The world is judged in the person of Jesus on the cross, God’s wrath poured out on him for our sins. The world is judged righteously, and the Righteous One absorbs and endures it all, on our behalf.

Satan, the usurper, is cast out, because the true King has come, has fought bravely to glorious victory, and is alive forevermore!

And all who are his are drawn to him, to our beautiful Savior, our Redeemer, our Rescuer, our Hero, lifted high on the cross and now exalted to the highest place. His mission was to glorify his Father’s name.

Mission accomplished!

Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Jesus wept

From today’s reading of Luke 18:15-19:48

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” – Luke 19:41-44 (ESV)

Jesus is weeping as he says these words. It reminds me of another recent episode in his earthly ministry, the raising of Lazarus. Jesus wept then too.

But the grief before Lazarus’ tomb was a different type of grief. There have been many debates as to why Jesus wept over Lazarus, because he knew that he was going to raise him up. I think he wept because of the terrible grief of death that his friends were experiencing; I think he wept because death is so unnatural and so against his desires for his people. I think he wept for the love he had for Mary and Martha and Lazarus and also for the unbelief of the people; a people who would not believe even if one were raised from the dead.

Jesus here weeps for Jerusalem. It is a different kind of grief. He weeps because Jerusalem is going to experience a death that is not going to be quickly reversed. The reason Jerusalem is about to die is because she doesn’t know the time of her visitation. The Lord of glory has ridden into her gates and she has not recognized him.

Jesus speaks here of barricades and sieges and stones. He had recently ordered a stone of death to be rolled away to reveal the raised life inside. Here he speaks of stones coming apart, falling, crumbling, dying. In raising Lazarus Jesus had come to a people, to dear friends of his, who knew who was in their midst. They knew the time of their visitation and knew who had the only answer to their grief.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” – John 11:21-22 (ESV)

Jerusalem was visited by the same life-giving, life-restoring Lord. She just didn’t know him. If only she had recognized him!

Jesus wept.