Through the Bible in a year – January 17

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 35-36; John 13; Psalm 23-24

Yesterday we noted how John only draws the disciples into the narrative as he needs them. Always the focus is Christ and it perhaps comes as some surprise to us to realise that we have got so far through the gospel and only hear the words of Peter for a second time. “Lord where are you going”. Jesus’ reply to Peter speaks deeply of the significance of His work that he will accomplish in ‘doing the will of the one who sent me’. “Where I am going, you cannot now come”

John’s focus is not discipleship, for we cannot now go where Jesus goes – he is The Way. At this point in the narrative he has not yet gone. It is only the completed work of Christ, Crucified and Risen that makes possible the life of the disciple. He is the door. His Life must be as it were laid open. He does it all.

Peter is revealed as utterly helpless. He cannot even bring himself to allow Christ to serve him in washing his feet. He who as yet cannot be the passive recipient of service must learn that he can only receive Life. It is Gift. It cannot be grasped, the way to that tree was barred to the sons of Adam.  Most especially, here he cannot grasp what it is to be a disciple. He cannot live as a disciple. He cannot take up his cross, he cannot lay down his life. For as yet he has no life of his own to lay down. The life of the disciple of Jesus is the Life of the Risen Christ set free in the world at his resurrection. There is no other Life, there is not other Way, there is no other Truth. It is Gift. It cannot be grasped.

“You have laid a table before me . . .”

Through the Bible in a Year – January 15

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 31-32; John 11:28-57; Psalm 20-21

In a sense what follows next in the story of Jacob foreshadows the Exodus. Jacob has entered the territory of Laban under one set of terms and found himself indentured. Yet as the Israelites plunder the Egyptians who first gave them hospitality and then enslaved them, so  Jacob plunders Laban and makes off, only to be pursued. The story parts company with the Exodus at this point, and in one other key respect – for in the story of the Exodus that is to come, God is more clearly to the forefront of the liberation. And in coming to the water, it is not the advancing Egyptians that strikes fear into ‘Israel’, but the angel of the LORD.

In the same way that the crossing of the Red Sea will irrevocably mark Israel as God’s chosen people, so Jacob is marked as he crosses the ford of the Jabbok at Penuel ‘ as the sun rose upon him . . . limping because of his hip’.

It is in this encounter with the Living God – which turns death to Life – one is encountered in the darkness of night – a voice breaking through into our consciousness like the sound of many waters – “Lazarus! Come out!”

How then can we ignore so great a Salvation – for we have seen the face of the Lord and Lived

Through the Bible in a Year – January 14

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Genesis 29-30; John 11:1-27; Psalm 19

Throughout the story of the Patriarchs there are rich elements which are as much comedic as anything – perhaps none less than the deceits between the deceiver Jacob and Laban, as they wrestle with one another (a foreshadowing of the life of Israel with the LORD). Not least in the wonderful set up of Jacob having laboured for seven years for Rachel, to wake up and find Leah in the marriage bed . . . Again there are common themes. Marriage within the broader family, the well, the two spouses echoing Hagar and Sarah, one barren the other blessed – yet as before the one who is barren finally gives birth to a ‘saviour’ in Joseph as Sarah had borne Isaac, the one who dies, yet he lives.

We would no doubt wish for a tidier picture – a neater engagement – a more moral story – but then of course it would truly bear little relevance to the story of our lives. However strange the story of the patriarchs is to us culturally, those who inhabit it are as recognisable to us as those who look us in the mirror. We can only wonder that the Holy One deigns to work out his purposes through frail human flesh. Wonder, and Worship. And certainly our reading from John blows all our senses of moral and right to the four winds

Wonder and Worship – perhaps the pre-eminent Christian posture – is all that we can do before the telling of the story of the death of Lazarus. We cannot hope that God will work in the messiness of our lives, if we hope at the same time he will dance to our tune. There is no neat and tidy healing for Lazarus. The Healer delays. His ways are not our ways. We would not come to save folk like ourselves. He does. We cannot but rush to try and help, he does not. What we do avails little. His Purpose overarches everything. His words leave us staggered. I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

That which is humanly impossible – coming to save faithless deceivers – refusing to do the obvious ‘Right’ thing. All we can do is worship and follow. We cannot see the way – Faith alone is an adequate response. “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, The Son of God, the one coming into the world”