With an eye on the future of our nation, I did not find this past week an encouraging one. In his inauguration address our president spoke of a resolve “that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune”–but government policies make clear that yet to be born babies and some at the other end of the age spectrum are excluded from that care and protection. Biblical, and even messianic language is nothing new in politics, but I was struck by a carefully crafted sentence: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.” As one of the geographic references implies, and the following paragraph makes explicit, this is endorsement at the highest level of conduct that the Scriptures call sin. Examples could be multiplied. I’m sorry–I can’t see this as a star guiding us, but rather a further descent into darkness. Why the darkness? It’s not because of the outcome of an election–the ideas that are molding our society have plenty of support in both political parties. At heart the problem is a matter of faith.

As God commissioned Isaiah, recorded in Isaiah 6, the prophet was told that his prophetic ministry would result in darkness, in judicial blindness. In John 12:37-50 the apostle picks up that prophecy to describe the rejection of the words of Jesus by his covenant people, Continue reading “Darkness!”

The Son of Man Glorified

After my first year in seminary I served a summer internship in a church in Iowa. On my side of the pulpit was a brass plaque with the words, “Sir, we would see Jesus,” which I recognized from today’s text. At first glance, the quote might seem out of context, but both that summer and through the years since I have appreciated how profoundly appropriate it was and how crucial for the preaching and hearing of the Word of God–and how important it is for your life as a child of God.

In John 12:20-36, John provides an account of Greeks coming to Philip with the request, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip consults Andrew, and they convey the request to Jesus. The Greeks were not Greek-speaking Jews, but apparently Gentiles who had been attracted to the worship of the God of Israel. Something about Israel’s God and his Law contrasted with the polytheism and immorality of pagan life. Continue reading “The Son of Man Glorified”

The Triumphal Entry from a Post-Resurrection Perspective

John 12:12-19 is John’s description of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. John presents his eyewitness account, but emphasizes how a historical perspective gave him insight into the significance of the events. That perspective is crucial if you are to understand how you relate to Jesus.

“The next day” puts us in the middle of a story. In John 11 Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the last of the signs of Jesus before John records his suffering and death. This was a great sign and attracted the curiosity, awe, and even faith (John 11:45) of many. It also increased the hatred of the chief priests and Pharisees, prompting an ironically accurate prophecy by the chief priest, John 11:49-52. Jesus had withdrawn to a desert area.

Now Jesus had returned to the area around Jerusalem, yes to attend a dinner at Bethany (where you see Mary anointing him for his death), but for the larger purpose of Continue reading “The Triumphal Entry from a Post-Resurrection Perspective”

Funereal Perfume

The sense of smell can evoke powerful memories. The scent of perfume may bring to mind festive occasions. But here in John 12:1-11 Jesus associates the rich aroma of expensive perfume with a funeral–with his own burial.

Appreciate the appropriateness of Mary’s extravagant gift. The value of the rich perfume which Mary poured over the feet of Jesus was, estimated by an expert, at a year’s wages for a laboring man, the equivalent of thousands of dollars.

Matthew and Mark’s Gospels record what is probably the same anointing, but Luke includes an earlier, different one. John ties this incident with the raising Continue reading “Funereal Perfume”