It’s Like Déjà vu All Over Again! (part 2) – John 21:15-25

In this 21st and final chapter of John’s gospel, we see how the Apostle Peter had two déjà vu experiences that would serve as faith builders for the rest of his life and ministry. Yesterday it was the second incredible catch of fish he had experienced with Jesus nearby, and today it will be a challenge while staring into a fire.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Recall the exact scene where Peter denied Christ three times – he was recognized and identified while warming himself with others around a fire. And now, in this scene of being with Jesus who had a fire going for the fish to be cooked, Jesus asks Peter three questions. There could be no doubt in Peter’s mind that he was being challenged in regard to his moment of great failure. Certainly any possibility of doubt is removed when the question is asked a third time – the text saying that he was greatly saddened by this repetition.

Much has been made of the two different Greek words for “love” that are used – “phileo” on the first two occasions, whereas “agapao” is used in the last question. The former speaks of a brotherly affection, whereas the latter of a deep and pure love. This device is to emphasize that on the final occasion the question was likely asked of Peter, “Do you LOVE me?”

There was no hiding truth from the Son of God. Peter knew that Jesus knew he truly loved him, but likely he was unsure of his fitness to carry out the commission of feeding Christ’s flock. Yet Jesus went through this to restore Peter to service which would prove extraordinary.

It would involve death however – in the end, crucifixion … as prophesied here by Jesus. The promise of God for those who follow is not that they will be spared even the worst experiences of life, but that God will enable them to endure through anything. It really is a “take up your cross” experience to live for the Lord.”

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

Peter sees John right there at that moment and asks about what is to become of him. Jesus rebukes this lack of focus and concern beyond Peter himself. Christ essentially says, “If he lives so long that he remains even until the time I return, what business it that for you?”  Jesus was not indicating that John would live through to the actual return – the way the story was related and errantly repeated over time.

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

There is a lot of information written in the Gospels about Jesus Christ. Yet John is saying that if everything that was said and done were to have been written and talked about, it would be beyond the books of the world to hold these truths. Indeed, even as it is, the Scriptures and the work of God are bottomless to know – beyond ever fully grasping.

But what can be known and taken from this passage today is that though we, like Peter, are prone to repeated failures, we may find forgiveness and restoration in Christ as we are repentant. This is because Jesus was God Up Close. He came to pay the penalty for sin; he shows us what God is like – the true bridegroom, temple, well, healer, bread, light, shepherd, vine, lamb, and above all – the true Life!

This brings us to the end of our 45-day adventure through John’s gospel. Chris Wiles and I trust that it has been an enriching experience for you. Our next series begins on January 12th and will talk about the idea of “exile” – of living in perilous times. We will look a good bit into some of the Old Testament prophets with some great biblical themes and timeless applications for our lives.

May you have a blessed Christmas season!

It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again! (part 1) – John 21:1-14

It is the popular old Yankees baseball player who was famous for his one-liners that stated an obvious truth in a unique way, and his quotes have become legendary … such as “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”  And again, talking about frequent back-to-back homers hit by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, “It’s like déjà vu all over again!”

In this 21st and final chapter of John’s gospel, and in today’s and tomorrow’s last two devotional readings, we are going to see how the Apostle Peter had two déjà vu experiences that would serve as faith builders for the rest of his life and ministry.

The scene today has the disciples now back in Galilee, sometime soon after their incredible experiences in Jerusalem of witnessing the death, burial, and resurrected person of Jesus Christ. Peter is not sure what is coming next in life, and so he reverts to doing the thing he knew how to do best before his life was rearranged by meeting the Messiah – “Let’s go fishing!” … So six of the other disciples (including John) join with him.

21:1  Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together.   “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

So, their fishing experience on this evening was like almost every experience I’ve ever had with fishing in my life – nothing caught! My son Ben could catch a fish in a rain puddle in the middle of town, but not me! The disciples were more like Ben – not used to getting shut out.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

The figure on the shore was not discernible apparently because of the distance and low light, but his voice carried out to them across the water. Calling them “friends” is a translation of a word that might be an endearing way of saying “boys” or “lads.”

Now really, in a large lake, what difference does it make whether you fish from the right side of the boat or the left side (I know there are some boat words for that, but I’m a land-lubber and can’t remember them.).  But, what is there to lose when you are batting .000?

And sure enough, there are so many fish that they cannot pull in the nets. This is incredible! This is beyond anything they’ve ever seen! Or is it? NO! There was one other time when Peter, James and John (fishing business partners) had an experience like this, just three years before. Luke tells that story in Luke 5:4-11…

4 When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

This was like déjà vu all over again. Peter must have looked up and thought, “This is just like that day when Jesus called me to be his disciple and follow him!”  (Back to John 21…)

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Peter’s impulsive personality is again on display … forget the fish, he was going to swim to shore to see Jesus. What an amazing experience! And Christ has breakfast already cooking for them.

And though amazing, it must have been a bit awkward as well. Most of us have not hung out with someone who was previously dead. I haven’t, have you? And there is the issue also of Peter having denied Christ just recently … that is still certainly a bit “in the air.”

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

The story of the fish is an illustration for the disciples of their task, as well as their empowerment for success in the task. The commission they had was to go and be fishers of men. But they must remember that their empowerment was by Christ’s divine enablement through the authority of the Holy Spirit in them.

We today sometimes today use the phrase “So, how’d that work out for ya?” to ask about something someone tried. So, how does serving God work out when you do it in the flesh? How does anything work out when we attempt to do it in our own power? Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.”  Nothing – Let me put that in Yogi Berra terms:  “Nothing means when you add all the somethings together you still don’t got anything!”

But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. That’s the truth of the resurrection life of Christ in us.

So, does this maybe help you with some thoughts about why something may not be working out just right in your life?

Come back tomorrow for another déjà vu all over again.

Faith Seeking Understanding (John 20:11-31)

Growing up faith seemed so easy.  It was about saying a “sinner’s prayer,” about “asking Jesus into your heart.”  It was the kind of faith that offered simple answers, but shattered on the rocks of modern complexity.  In John, faith is an organic thing.    For Jesus’ followers, faith is something that grows and develops as we are scraped raw by time and experience.  What starts as a faint mist eventually crescendos into waves of vivid understanding.

This is what happened when Jesus’ followers met the risen Christ.  Confusion precedes confession.  Faith develops as we grow in our understanding of Jesus.  The resurrection especially helps us understand that the gospel is indeed true.  Yes; Jesus is more than a historical figure.  But He’s not less.  For me, the resurrection holds the key to understanding just how much we can trust that the gospel story is true.


John 20:11-31   11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.  12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”  18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”–and that he had said these things to her.

First, Mary was an unlikely witness to the resurrection.  In the ancient world, women weren’t considered trustworthy witnesses.  So if John was fabricating this story, why wouldn’t he have invented some more credible witnesses?  Second, the Jewish understanding of resurrection was that it would be all people at the end of time—not one man in the middle.  Stories about the resurrection were unprecedented.  John would simply never make up a story this outlandish.

The resurrection changes the relationship of Jesus to His followers.  Though Mary clings to Jesus, it is not right that she does.  Everything has changed now.  Jesus is returning soon, and His followers have a mission to carry out.


19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

First of all: whoa.  The doors are locked.  How did Jesus get in?  On the one hand, Jesus’ body seems to be recognizable—it even bears the scars of His death. But at the same time, Jesus doesn’t seem limited by the laws of physics.  We have no way of knowing what this resurrected body must have been like, other than it is something radically different than the dust of which we’re currently made.

Jesus gives His followers their mission.  “As the Father has sent me…so I am sending you.”  New Testament scholar N.T. Wright says that a lifetime could be spent meditating on just the words as and so.  In the same, humiliating manner that Jesus was sent to earth, so too are we sent into the world.  When Jesus steps from earth to heaven it is called the incarnation.  So, too, must we exercise an incarnational presence in the world that we inhabit—literally becoming God with skin to a world that would see no God otherwise.


24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

In his defense, the text never uses the phrase “Doubting Thomas.”  Still, Thomas has become the patron saint of skepticism.  I think we should instead recognize him as the patron saint of a faith that seeks understanding.  And in this short exchange, we catch a glimpse of what faith truly means.

I used to feel frustrated by Jesus’ cryptic answer: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  To me it always sounded like a convenient way to justify faith in the absence of evidence.  In fact, if you ask the average person, they’d probably define faith as something along the lines of “believing in something you can’t prove.”  In the church world, we’ve come to admire “blind faith,” particularly potent in an age where feeling is believing.

But that simply won’t do.  Of course, relatively few people actually saw the risen Savior.  You won’t find a Youtube clip of Jesus eating broiled fish.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t follow a trail, a chain of evidence to reveal the reality of Jesus and His claims.

You see, Christianity is the only religion that can be proven wrong.  Let me explain.  Every other major religion is based around a founder’s personal experience.  Muhammad had a vision and created the Qur’an.  Joseph Smith was visited by an angel and crafted the book of Mormon.  Siddhartha Gautama achieved inner enlightenment and became the Buddha.   Did these experiences ever really happen?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I can’t prove to you either way whether Buddha really achieved enlightenment.  It’s subjective.  It’s personal.  The resurrection is entirely different.  A risen body, an empty grave—these things aren’t personal.  They can be proven or disproven in the pages of history.  Imagine I say to you, “My dead uncle appeared to me in a dream, and told me to start a religion.”  You can’t prove to me that my dream wasn’t real.  But if I say instead, “My dead uncle rose from the dead,” that changes everything.  Now, if you want to shut me up, all you need to do is show me my uncle’s remains, still lying in the casket.  If the Romans wanted to silence this early movement of “Christians,” all they needed to do was produce Jesus’ body.  The most shocking thing about Christianity is not that it makes claims that are open to being proven wrong.  The mist shocking thing is that no one ever has.

And yet at the end of it, we recognize that like Thomas, faith is more than merely intellectual agreement.  If we see God up close, it isn’t because we were smart enough to figure Him out; it’s because He cares enough to show us.  And that’s faith.  It is both a gift from God and a response to God.  It is what enables us to join Thomas in exclaiming with wide-eyed wonder: “My Lord and my God!”


30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John concludes the main part of his gospel by telling his readers why he wrote.  Every gospel writer had his own unique way of showing how Jesus fit into God’s overarching story.  John was the most unique.  Other writers described history; John reflected on its meaning.  If we follow John’s careful series of clues, we too can see God up close.

“Everything sad comes untrue” (John 20:1-10)

Winter has come upon us.  Autumn’s trees now stretch their bony fingers to the sky; the whole world seems stretched and thin.  Before long the joyous lights of the season will give way to endless weeks of dark nights, disruptions, and deep cold.  But as the last of the leaves lie beneath winter’s blankets, we must remember that winter speaks not so much of death, as dormancy.  Life is always there, silently waiting for spring to rouse it from its slumber, when beauty exchanges her sheathe of ice for morning’s fresh dew.

The gospel’s most shocking claim is that all death is only a form of dormancy.  When Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies, Jesus says that he “has fallen asleep….I go to awaken him” (John 11:11).  What Lazarus experienced in part, Jesus now reveals in full.


Jesus had previously vowed that his body would be raised “in three days” (John 2:19).  But when his resurrection is described, it is the “first day of the week.”

John 20:1-10  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early…

The gospel of John begins with an echo of Genesis: “In the beginning…”  In the Genesis story, God created the heavens and earth.  And each day he concludes the same way: “there was morning and there was night.” This happened for six days, up until God created man and woman.  On the seventh day, he rested—but the text never tells us that there was morning and night.  God’s original vision was a world of spectacular and unceasing intimacy between God and man.  But sin changed all that.  Sin brought death’s looming shadow into the world, resulting in alienation and estrangement.  Something had to happen to change all that.  There had to be a new “first day.”

On the cross, Jesus irrevocably solves the problem of sin.  In the empty tomb, Jesus conquers death itself.  The world, as we know it, is being made new.  It is in a state of dormancy; the risen Christ reminds us of the beauty that lies beneath its surface.


John’s text focuses on Mary Magdalene.

John 20:1-10  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

If you are a careful reader of scripture, you notice that John’s facts don’t line up with the other writers—Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  The others mention multiple women arriving at the empty tomb, but John gives them no mention.   Could Mary have made multiple visits?   Could John simply have neglected to mention the others?   Let’s remember to judge John’s gospel by the standards of ancient narrative—not our own.  Ancient biographies weren’t as devoted to chronological sequence and details.  Besides, if the story of the resurrection were merely a myth or legend, why didn’t the writers go to greater length to get their story straight?  The lack of perfect agreement doesn’t detract from John’s reliability; it enhances it.


Finally, we see the reactions of the other disciples:

John 20:1-10  Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.  4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,  7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Note that it was “still dark.”  John loves wordplay—could it be that he intended this setting to symbolize the disciples’ growing understanding?  Perhaps.  The disciples race to get to the empty tomb, but when they arrive they are dumbfounded.  Don’t miss verses 8-9.  John is actually present at this point.  He “saw and believed,” but “they did not understand.”   Faith and understanding aren’t always on the same page.  Some days we trust in God while it is “still dark,” trusting that His light will guide us to greater faith.


Lazarus had woken from death’s slumber only to stagger from the tomb with his grave clothes still on.   It must have been horrifying, really.  A strip of cloth would have held his jaw closed—he couldn’t even ask for help.  Lazarus would die again.  This wouldn’t be the first time he’d wear those strips of cloth.  But Jesus leaves His grave clothes behind.  He’d never need them again.

And so Jesus’ resurrection assures us that the winter of our discontent is followed by a hope that springs eternal.  Death doesn’t have the final word, nor is decay man’s true destiny.  In J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings series, we meet a group of characters who endure much in the face of evil.  Two of the lead characters—Frodo and Sam—can only watch in horror as Gandalf, their leader and mentor, sacrifices himself to ensure their safety.

Following the climax of the third book, Frodo and Sam are surprised to be reunited with Gandalf.  “I thought you were dead!” Sam cried.  “But then I thought I was dead myself!  Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

The resurrection of Jesus tells us that the answer is essentially yes.  There will be a new “first day.”  The pain of death will be over.  The fears, the sorrow, the shame, the bitterness of the present life will pass like a fever, ebbing into spring’s eternal season.

The Death and Burial of Jesus – John 19:28-42

Throughout the gospel of John, you may recall other events that John has not chosen to include. John is selecting his material to go along with the particular themes he is developing. Not all the trials details were included, nor does John give all of the “seven words from the cross.”  In today’s reading, we see what are known as the fifth and sixth statements – about thirsting, and the pronouncement that his work is finished.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus, even at the very end, is focused on fulfilling all of the prophesies of Scripture. And here with the vinegar he fulfills Psalm 69:21, “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

The hyssop branch being used continues the Passover theme, as this sturdy branch was used to mark the door frames … from Exodus 12:22, Take a branch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and apply to the top of the doorframe and the two side posts some of the blood that is in the basin. Not one of you is to go out the door of his house until morning.”  And we may also recall it being used in David’s Psalm of contrition (51:7), “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Notice that Jesus does not say that he is finished, but that IT is finished – the work of redemption that he was sent to accomplish.

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

The breaking of legs of crucifixion victims hastened their deaths in several physiological ways, including an inability to push upward and breathe. In 1968, the skeletal remains of a crucified person were found, and the legs were broken. This fulfilled another prophecy (Exodus 12:46; Num. 9:12; Psalm 34:20).

The piercing of the side by the sword – witnessed by the writer, John – gave testimony to the full humanity of Jesus Christ. By the time this gospel was written, the Gnostic movement was a current problem in the early church – denying the physical reality of Christ and claiming he was a sort of mystical, phantom, angelic figure that merely appeared human. Of course, for Christ to be a true and final sacrifice for us, it was necessary that he be fully man, yet without sin. This piercing also fulfilled detailed Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”

38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Some of the other gospel accounts give us a fuller picture of this Joseph of Arimathea – from a town about 20 miles distant. He was wealthy, and though a member of the Sanhedrin, he was described by Luke as “a good and upright man who had not consented to their decision.” He was also secretly a disciple of Jesus in this context where being an open follower was rather dangerous.

So this Joseph, along with Nicodemus, take the body of Jesus and use about 75 pounds of spices on it – rather excessive and costly. And they bury Jesus in a newly hewn tomb nearby – one that Matthew records was for Joseph personally. This too fulfilled another prophecy that though despised, he would be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). These details of the preparation and wrapping show that there is no possibility of someone who had just “swooned” and that the coolness of the grave would revive him to be able to push open the stone, etc., etc… all rumors from that day until now.

So Nicodemus and Joseph are fellows who arrived a bit late to the party of the followers of Jesus … but they got there. Doing what they did was dangerous and without any merit for personal gain.

Being identified with Christ is often costly. People daily in our world pay the martyr’s price for faith. Being so despised is normal. Our easy life for Christ in America is the exception more than the rule. It may not always be that way; and there may be a time when life circumstances will call us to be a modern Joseph or Nicodemus.

God – The Greatest Story Writer Ever – John 19:17-27

Most people think I’ve been more of a reader in my lifetime than facts would support, especially of fiction. I’ve read many of the classics, but I don’t tend to read much in that genre anymore, unless it is historical fiction. I always feel like there are so many historically true events that I still don’t know enough about that I don’t have time to deal with “just a story.”

But in any event, I know the best writers are those who build a complicated storyline with all sorts of threads and details; and then, as you work toward the end, all of those seemingly unconnected pieces are revealed to come together in the most wonderful way.

The Bible is like this – even though written by dozens of authors … though of course they were all united by the common inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Today’s passage tells John’s accounting of the crucifixion, and it brings together dozens of threads from the Scriptures – more details than we could begin to identify in this brief devotional. I’ll just mention a few …

Jesus is carrying his own cross to the place of the skull – a rock formation just outside Jerusalem that appears much like a skull. The image of the sacrifice carrying the wooden implement of his execution harks back to the Old Testament account of Isaac carrying the sticks for the sacrifice with his father Abraham. Where were they going? Where was this place of offering that God led them? Almost certainly it was to this very place where the true lamb – the true sacrifice – would give his life for the sin of the world.

This place is “outside the city.”  The sin offering on the Day of Atonement – the blood being used for the covering on the mercy seat in the most holy place – had the carcass of the sacrifice taken out the camp. The writer to the Hebrews (13:11-13) picks up on this theme – “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”

Christ Jesus was crucified in the midst of two criminals. It would not have had to be that way, but it was, and like everything else it fulfills a passage written hundreds of years earlier in Isaiah 53:12 – “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

The nakedness on the cross, and the division of his garments – all of this was foretold in Psalm 22 – “All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

But all of this is not a crafted story, that is, in the sense of a fictional piece of art and literature. Rather it is the story of stories – God’s Big Story, as we’ve often talked about it at Tri-State Fellowship. Jesus was the King of the Jews – and though rejected by his own, his sacrifice on the cross is the payment for the sin of all throughout all of time.

How can we not trust in one who has created this true story of life – of life eternal … that we who are lost may be found and reconnected to the True Shepherd. What a magnificent story the Scriptures present – one that is timeless and bottomless and boundless.

John 19:17-27

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Crucified by Political Pressure and Expediency – John 19:1-16

The ebb and flow of my life into and out of political circles has allowed me at times to see and hear some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on within what is truly an often ugly world.

“Whipping” the vote is not an action limited to one party, but being on the inside of a minority party, I would hear from my own guys about what was really going on “on the other side.”  There were times when it would seem that some of them would vote with us on a particular moral matter – as personally they agreed with our position and were convinced by the truth of the argument. But when their leadership realized they were critical swing votes hanging in the balance, they were called in, sat down, and read the riot act as to what would happen to them if they did not “go along with the team” and vote against their personal convictions. They were told they had NO future to ever hold any positions of influence or leadership, and that they would not be supported at all in future primaries or elections, etc.  Ultimately, the pressure was too much to bear, and they would cave in to it and vote opposite their personal beliefs.

This is essentially what happens to Pontius Pilate. He never comes to a point of truly believing that Jesus is guilty of a capital offense. But the Jews knew how to up the pressure. When their desire to see blood was not satiated by the horrors of a Roman flogging (that often did kill people), they pressed for crucifixion – a death generally reserved for the worst criminals, especially revolutionaries.

The Jewish argument was essentially that if Pilate allowed Jesus to go free, he was not a friend of Caesar … and that was scary. The current Caesar – Tiberius – was a sickly, violent, whacky guy not known for patience with uprisings. With Pilate facing the choice of following conviction to save some Jew he had no prior connection with, or having news of a riotous and ugly event in Jerusalem getting to the ears of Tiberius … well, Jesus was now headed for the cross. And of course, all of this was in the larger picture well within the sovereign hands of God.

John records some ironic statements (which he liked doing – like mentioning how Caiaphas said it was better for one person to die for the nation). Here in this passage we see the chief priests claiming they had no king but Caesar (a ridiculous statement given their values and beliefs), and we see Pilate calling Jesus the King of the Jews (which of course Christ is, though neither Pilate nor the religious establishment believed such a thing).

It was American essayist Charles Dudley Warner who wrote “politics makes strange bedfellows.”  Never was that more true than in the crucifixion of Christ … and our sins contributed to the crowed bed.

Jesus Sentenced to Be Crucified

19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Places to Go, Things to Do, People to See … So Leave Me Alone! – John 18:28-40

I again think it would be helpful to repeat this chart about the six trials of Jesus:


Trial Type

Presiding Official





John 18:12-14




Matthew 26:57-58



the Sanhedrin

Matthew 27:1-2




John 18:28-38




Luke 23:6-12




John 18:39–19:16

So we can see that today’s passage covers the fourth and (beginning of the) sixth trials, as John does not record the intervening appearance before Herod.

Many of you know of my long-term interest and research in Civil War history. I have had a particular topic of inquiry, doing a lot of extensive research on one Union General in particular – Abner Doubleday, the alleged inventor of the game of baseball. Over the years, I have found a lot of Doubleday writings in obscure libraries. One of these includes the following paragraph he wrote about his experiences in the latter half of the Civil War, which he spent mostly in Washington presiding over court martial matters and other U.S. Army affairs. He wrote:

The presumption is that an officer is a gentleman—even when he cannot spell. I had however some doubts upon the point during a court martial I once sat upon. Among my fellow members was a field officer notoriously illiterate. He paid scarcely any attention to the proceedings until it came time for the sentence. Almost invariably he said then: “Oh, Let’s hang the cuss.”

That is the attitude we essentially encounter in our reading today about Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor from A.D. 26-36.  He was not genuinely interested in justice; he simply wanted to be done with this Jewish irritation about this Jesus character as quickly and cleanly as possible. OK, just crucify him if you must!

Pilate actually resided in Caesarea. He came to Jerusalem during feasts in case there was a need to deal with some kind of uprising or insurrection from these perennially unhappy Jews. This had the greatest potentiality to occur during Passover – a feast that celebrated the Jewish nation’s liberation from bondage. Thinking about their past suffering in Egypt tended to annoy and magnify current feelings about bondage under the Romans.

So being in Jerusalem was surely an irritation for Pilate that took him away from his regular routine. He didn’t like the Jews, and they didn’t like him because of his heavy-handed way of dealing with them.

The Jewish rulers had limited powers of authority to enforce their own rules, but that did not include the ability to carry out an execution. So the leaders come to Roman rule for this, wanting the Romans to be ultimately blamed by any of Jesus’ followers for actually performing the execution.

Pilate was certainly not fooled by the scene before him as the religious leadership brings Christ to him. He knew it had to do with their internal squabbling, jealousies and limitless traditions. And in interviewing Jesus, he finds that though this man has a fantastical view of his mission in life, there is nothing worthy of death.

But Pilate really does not want to be bothered with this irritation and any pursuit of justice, and so he seeks for a way to move it off his plate as quickly as possible. Hearing that Jesus is from Galilee, he uses this information to pawn off Christ to King Herod. So Jesus goes before Herod (not recorded in John), only to be sent back to Pilate.

His second ploy was to take the matter to the crowds, offering them Barabbas – a true criminal – or Jesus, whom Pilate presumed to be preferred by the masses. But the crowd surprises him by wanting Jesus crucified instead and Barabbas released.

And thirdly – in the next chapter – he would have Jesus flogged, hoping that a bit of blood would satisfy the people.

But all of this was to fulfill God’s plan that Jesus would die as the sacrificial lamb at Passover – the innocent in place of the guilty. The whole matter was more than Pilate wanted to deal with; after all, he had places to go, things to do, and people to see. Jesus was not worthy of his time or focus.

And that is how it remains with the majority of people to this day. They have no time or interest to focus upon who Jesus really is and what difference that makes for their lives. They’re busy and don’t want to be bothered with these seemingly endless religious details. Their attitude is, “I have places to go, things to do, and people to see. So leave me alone!”

How and where is your focus?

Jesus Before Pilate

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘The king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Peter Denying Christ: What a Total Loser! (John 18)

The old saying goes, “With friends like this, who needs enemies?” If anyone could have uttered those words, it is Jesus Christ.

Today’s passage in John 18 takes us quickly through the trial of Jesus before Annas, along with the three denials of Peter.

So Jesus is arrested and taken first to Annas – the former high priest. He was followed in office by five of his sons and ultimately his son-in-law Caiaphas – who was at this very moment the officially serving High Priest.

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

These trials of Jesus can be a bit confusing. Putting together the six total trials of Jesus and the corresponding passages, it looks like this:


Trial Type

Presiding Official





John 18:12-14




Matthew 26:57-58



the Sanhedrin

Matthew 27:1-2




John 18:28-38




Luke 23:6-12




John 18:39–19:16

So this first trial is before Annas – who is at this point a sort of “high priest emeritus.”  We will see that out of the 12 disciples, two are present here, one has betrayed Christ, and the other nine are nowhere to be seen!

Peter’s First Denial

15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

He replied, “I am not.”

18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

The unnamed “other disciple” in our author, John … who was somehow sufficiently known in the circles of Jewish leadership to get inside and to have Peter also allowed through the gates and into the courtyard. A servant girl allows this, and ponders with a question if Peter is one of Christ’s disciples – the question asked apparently with the tone of “You’re not one of the whackos who follow this nut-job Galilean preacher dude, are you?”  Luke’s gospel adds that she had seen him with Jesus.

He replied, “I am not.”  And we get the picture that on this chilly evening in Jerusalem in the middle of the night there is a group of standers-by who are warming themselves around a fire. And Peter is there, attempting desperately to blend in.

Annas Questions Jesus

19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

An interesting element we tend to overlook is that Annas is here presented as asking first about Jesus’ disciples – probably not referencing the 12 specifically, but rather the mass of people who accepted his teaching. Nonetheless, this must have been a creepy moment for both John and Peter standing within earshot of this exchange.

And of course Annas is interested in hearing about the teaching itself – seeking to evaluate the nature of this man’s message and what substance there may be to any feared insurrection.

Jesus affirms he has spoken the truth publically, and refers the question to the masses of the people and what they understood. The trials of Jesus were filled with a great number of illegalities. Here is a wrongful attempt at getting an accused person to self-incriminate.

Peter’s Second and Third Denials

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

A second time an individual begins to recognize that Peter was previously with Jesus. Peter’s cover was cracking. Surely his Galilean accent was giving him away as well.

The third accusation is from a relative of Malchus – the fellow whose ear had been sliced off his head. Surely the perpetrator of such a deed would be recognized and remembered. From the other gospels we know that Peter on this occasion very vehemently denied knowing Christ. The rooster crows as Jesus had predicted, and a synoptic account reveals that Jesus looked through the crowd and made eye contact at this very moment. Wow!

Peter – what a loser!  Or is he?  Surely not any one of us would have done the same thing in the same situation!  Or would we?  Would we even be there close enough to make a denial?

This was a failure on Peter’s part – without doubt. He had earlier proclaimed he would die for Christ (and ultimately he would). But recall this – though ill-conceived and foolish, it was Peter who was willing to swing a sword when a cohort of about 60 soldiers and others came to arrest Jesus.rooster-crowing-300x291

And while the bulk of the disciples were slinking about in the darkness on the other side of the Kidron Valley while Jesus is being put on trial, Peter is risking being nearby. Does close only count in horseshoes and hand grenades?

How close are you identified with Jesus? At work? On Facebook? At the Thanksgiving table? At the soccer club? In biology class? At your Rotarian luncheon? In the Board Room?

Do you hear the crowing of a rooster?

Walking Toward the Barking Dog – John 18:1-14

There is a saying that is used sometimes in leadership circles – that the good and healthy leader is one who “walks toward the barking dog.”  By this, it is most often referring to the inevitability of conflict in any leadership endeavor, and that the wise leader is one who does not ignore problems or hope they will solve themselves. Rather, the good leader moves wisely and deftly toward the issue to deal with it in a resolute way.

It is difficult to walk toward barking dogs – literally or figuratively. It is fearful. It might not go well, and the chained anger and barking is most likely more tolerable than the risk of being bitten and mauled – literally or figuratively.

But what does it take to walk forward toward some situation when you know for a fact that it is going to end painfully and poorly?  I have previously in devotionals written about my admiration for Civil War soldiers who walked straight into the face of a cannon – seeing the enemy double-charge it with canister shot – knowing life will end in the next 30 to 60 seconds … yet walking toward that gun.

This is the situation we see in the passage today in John 18. Jesus has turned the corner and is walking irretrievably toward the cross … not by lack of knowledge, but rather with a full understanding of what awaits him there. This time, there will be no “escape through the crowd.” Jesus will be arrested and sacrificed for the sins of mankind. The path is set and the road established; Jesus is walking into it – face forward.

18:1  When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

The garden spoken of here is the Mount of Olives, located across a valley from the city of Jerusalem and opposite the temple mount. It was a gathering place for the disciples when in Jerusalem for feasts, and of course Judas was privy to this information.

Here Judas arrives with a detachment of soldiers (probably about 60, according to the word used in the Greek language) and some muckety-mucks of Jewish religious leadership. These leaders, who had become tired of this Jesus character and were now committed to his disposal, had gotten the Romans to go along with the arrest of an insurrectionist fellow who threatened the peace.

It is interesting that it was in a garden that Satan came to the first Adam and tempted him to fall into sin and death, and in another garden the “second Adam” begins the journey that will lead him to a death that will bring life.

Another interesting element in this story is that this very location was where King David was betrayed by his friend Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15), even now as Jesus was being betrayed by his friend Judas.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

In verse four, we see the clear statement of John that Jesus knew everything that was going to happen, and yet he willingly submitted himself to it in obedience to the father.

The answer to their question of seeking Jesus of Nazareth – “I am he,” – causes the whole gang to apparently get knocked backward onto their tuchuses!  I confess to forgetting about this entire part of the story, but it is pretty amazing. Yet it does not seem to faze them a bit, and they must have just picked themselves up and continued as it nothing happened (oops, we all fell over an olive root at the same time!).

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Here is another part of the story that always amazes me – in that it did not amaze them! Actually, we need the additional information supplied by Luke’s Gospel for me to make this point about the ear of Malchus – where Jesus picks up the bloody thing and puts it back on the guy’s head! I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a detached body part put back on someone’s frame – and if I did, I think I’d be a bit impressed.

And again we see in the story that Jesus is walking toward the barking dog. He has “a cup to drink” that has been given him, and as the perfect Lamb of God, he is going to drink it fully and willingly.

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

So Jesus is arrested and taken first to Annas. These trials of Jesus can be a bit confusing. Annas was appointed as the High Priest in A.D. 6 and served through A.D. 15.  According to Jewish law, this was supposed to be a position for life. But the Romans would never allow a single person to have such a position; and so he was followed in office by five of his sons and ultimately his son-in-law Caiaphas – who was at this very moment the officially serving High Priest.

John gives another of his “explanations” as to what was happening, reminding the reader that Caiaphas had made the statement that it would be better for one person to die than to have the Romans come in and bust up the place because of an insurrectionist and his mob. He had no idea how prophetic and prescient were his words.

There are times in life and service to the Lord when we are called to walk toward barking dogs – to do something that is difficult, maybe even painful. We may be called to break off a bad relationship, or perhaps to confront a sinful situation. The Lord may lead us to speak the message of the Gospel to people who will not likely receive it well. We may have to stand for righteousness and truth in a work setting where doing so is going cause us to have to pay a personal price. But Jesus walked toward the dog – toward a hill while carrying a cross … and we are admonished as his followers to take up our cross and follow him.