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The Intensity of John
I was reading the Book of John in a hospital waiting area recently while my husband underwent surgery. There is something about a loved one being put to sleep and operated on that makes the Word that much more vivid. I clung to the Word and its Truth a little more tightly as I prayed that all would go well for my husband. As I got further into the stories, the intensity seemed to pick up. I felt as if I was watching a wide-screen movie as I saw the plot develop before my mind’s eye.I noticed that when all was good, all was good. What I mean by that is that when there was no major pressure, and Jesus was performing miracles, all was right with the crowd and the disciples, but when danger came and persecution surfaced, the crowds dispersed and the disciples grumbled.
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven.’” Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The Jews began to argue among themselves. Then, the scene switched to the disciples:
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”
As I continued to read John, I noticed that the people were trying to make sense of what they knew about Jesus - that He was born of Joseph and Mary - but they were confused because He spoke of His Father in heaven. As I read about their struggle, I was reminded that the knowledge of the world is so vastly different (and falls grossly short) than the knowledge of faith based in God. As the people grumbled among themselves, their intensity and frustration increased. They wanted an answer and the Pharisees wanted Jesus to stop what He was doing. As a result, they began to lay plans to seize Him!
I noticed something else about Jesus: He is not moved. He knows the intensity is increasing, but He continues to stand up for the underdog (the woman caught in adultery in chapter eight), they call him a false prophet, a liar and He continues on – not moved. At the end of this chapter, they pick up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus slips away. At the beginning of chapter nine, He heals a man who was born blind.
As He went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
I love this verse. I noticed two things. One, Jesus was nearly stoned, and as He is slipping away, He takes the time to stop and help someone else. I am reminded that when we are under attack, it is easy to get so caught up in our own trials that we don’t notice people along our path that God put before us who may need our help. We must be focused on the Father’s work, rather than our own despair and heartache, if we are to see, with eyes of faith, the people and blessings before us in the midst of our own battles. I can just imagine Jesus escaping a crowd who desired to stone him, walking quickly away, but noticing a blind man along His path. Of course He stops to heal him. What would you or I have done in that instance? I think it’s human nature to sprint 90 miles an hour, kicking up dust the entire way, getting as far away to safety as we can get. And in our heated dash for our own security, we don’t notice the physically, emotionally or spiritually disabled people along our path who need our assistance.
The second thing I noticed is that the disciples are confused because they are thinking in earthly terms. They are wondering what in the world this man or his parents did that causedhim to be born blind. The answer Jesus gives is not of this world. “Neither this man or his parents sinned,” Jesus said, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) Isn’t it also human nature to look at our struggles or someone else’s and think, “What did I do, or what did they do, that they would be punished in this way?”
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible because my son was born profoundly deaf and he has been diagnosed to go blind (though God has impressed upon me that it will never happen). I have found great comfort in these words because I am reminded that we are all vehicles through which He works, and He is the one who chooses the type of vehicle we will inhabit on this earth. He gives us the exact vehicle He designed for us to carry out the work that He has predestined for us to do.
If all of us were born in fancy, red Corvette types of bodies, there wouldn’t be any work-trucks or love-bugs to deliver a different message. And He’s given us all gifts and messages unique to us. Besides, it would be pretty boring if all we saw were people who, by man’s definition, were perfect, shiny and fancy. Jesus didn’t show up as an earthly King with riches and fancy clothes and fancy chariots. No, He came to serve. If you have ever struggled with the type of body you were born into, I pray you focus on this verse and then get really, really excited about the plans God has for you (Jeremiah 29:11).
As the Book of John continues, Lazarus dies and Jesus comforts his sisters, Jesus brings Lazarus back to life,the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus, Jesus stands up for Mary - who poured expensive perfume onHis feet, while unbelief and plots continue. Then Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, Jesus comforts His disciples, He talks of the vine and the branches, He reminds His disciples that the world hates them (because of His Father). Jesus prays for Himself and all believers. He is arrested, Peter denies Him, Jesus is questioned by the high priests, Peter denies Him again and again, Jesus goes before Pilate, Jesus is sentenced and crucified, and Jesus dies.
As I sat in that hospital lobby and finished the Book of John, I noticed that situations continued to get worse and worse for Jesus – in the physical – earthly realm. By man’s definition, He was defeated. Jesus, however, sacrificed the physical for the sake of the spiritual. And although it was darkest before the dawn, dawn did come. On the third day, He rose again!
While reading the Book of John, the intensity of each moment reminded me of the pattern of battles. One battle comes, then another, then another, then another, and just when we “feel” as if we can’t take one step further, we remember that this is not a physical war we are fighting anyway! It’s not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. So, we sacrifice something in the physical realm in order to gain the spiritual victory. As a result of that sacrifice, we receive countless blessings, gain insight, our faith increases, and we are renewed. As God pulls us up with His righteous right hand, we gain new footing, claim new territory, and persevere to a new level of faith-conquering mentality!
The older I become, and the more I endure, I am drawn to the Word with a new intensity. I want to encourage you to pop some popcorn, put on your comfy clothes and read the Book of John. Oh, and you might want to buckle up; your faith will be catapulted to new heights as you cling to the Word as if your very life depended on it – because it does!
There’s Strong. Then There’s God-Strong.
Warrior Moms Unite!
The Warrior Mom Ministry was founded by Kristina Seymour, author of The Warrior Mom Handbook – Equipping Women through the Word, a Bible study for moms who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. Kristina has learned that moms can't survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about The Warrior Mom Handbook, the Warrior Mom Ministry, and to sign up for daily encouragement, visit, www.warriormoms.net.