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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Read John

DAY 20 // FOR OUR GOOD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 

- JOHN 16:7 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

Most Christians have wondered at some point if it would be easier to follow Jesus if we lived when He did. We would get the benefit of seeing and hearing from Jesus personally. As we’ve seen, and will continue to discover throughout the book of John, this is not necessarily the case. Faith is neither automatic nor easy just because you are in the physical presence of Jesus. In the coming days, we will read stories about how some of Jesus’ closest disciples doubted, denied, and even totally betrayed Him. 

Christian living might actually be easier on this side of biblical history. Jesus says in John 16:7, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” What Jesus is saying is that His departure allowed for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. This Advocate, who is the third member of the Godhead, along with the Father and the Son, gives us greater and more immediate access to God. Unlike Jesus, who was limited to a single space by His humanity, the Holy Spirit is able to be “with” and “in” all believers, no matter where they are (John 14:17). In other words, through the Holy Spirit, we can always be near to God and we can experience God in ways that no one did prior to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. 

For Jesus’ disciples, the idea of losing their leader was distressing, so Jesus wanted them to be encouraged by His promise of the Spirit. Troubling days were ahead, but so were many amazing experiences. For those of us who will never encounter Jesus in the flesh, we are invited to get to know and experience Him more fully through the Spirit. He’s worth it! As Jesus said, being on this side of history “is for [our] good.” 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 15:18–16:33 

THE WORLD HATES THE DISCIPLES 

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ 

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. 

CHAPTER 16

1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” 

THE DISCIPLES’ GRIEF WILL TURN TO JOY 

16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” 

17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” 

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. 

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” 

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” 

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 


REFLECTION

1. John 15:18-20 isn’t exactly a convincing sales pitch of why you would want to become a Christian! As believers, persecution is a common experience. In some areas of the world, persecution literally involves fearing for your life, but for most of us, it means cultural persecution. Many Christians are wary of admitting their faith in certain circles, as they know they may be ridiculed, poked fun at, or ostracized. But, Jesus assures us that this is both normal and expected. In today’s context, what does persecution look like for you? Why do you think the world has always hated Christians? In order to live a life of bold faith, we must have courage. Spend some time today praying that God would give you courage to be true to your faith amidst persecution. 

2. Jesus predicted that the disciples would scatter after He was arrested (John 16:32). Jesus knew that fear would be the disciples’ weakness and that they still needed to grow into people who lived out their faith to the point of being willing to die for it. Jesus takes us through this same process. How well are you living out what yousay you believe about Jesus?

DAY 19 // A FRUIT-BEARING VINE AND BRANCH

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 

- JOHN 15:5 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

One of the primary crops grown in both ancient and modern Israel is grapes. A good portion of Israel is dominated by hills, and grapevines thrive on this rocky terrain in ways that other crops cannot. Because grapevines are so abundant in this region, these crops were often used as metaphors in the Bible to describe abstract, spiritual matters. Ancient Israel was frequently described as a vineyard or vine that God had prepared and planted. Unfortunately, the image did not always cast Israel in the most favorable light. Ancient Israel was often depicted as a vine which failed to bear fruit (e.g., Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21). This conveyed that they failed to live out their God-given calling. 

In John 15, Jesus picks up this familiar metaphor and instructs His disciples to bear fruit, just as God had instructed ancient Israel to bear fruit. But Jesus adapts the metaphor slightly. Ancient Israel repeatedly demonstrated through their shortcomings that people cannot “bear fruit” (i.e., fulfill their God-given callings) by their own power; we need the power of God in our lives. So Jesus says in verses 1 and 5, “I am the true vine . . . ; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” Here Jesus identifies Himself as both the “I AM” and the “true vine.” He is God in the flesh and the fulfillment of everything ancient Israel was supposed to be. He is the true vine which is able to bear fruit. He also adds that we can be part of this fruit-bearing vine as branches. We can live out our God-given calling, but we can’t do it on our own. We have to remain connected to Him, just as fruitful branches must remain connected to their vine. 

This metaphor served as a challenge for the disciples who would soon lose their firsthand access to Jesus. Only by staying connected to Him through avenues like prayer, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and community could they thrive in their lives and ministry. The same goes for us. If we want to grow into the people God has called us to be, it requires more than a one-time decision to believe. We must remain intimately connected to Him. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 14:15–15:17 

JESUS PROMISES THE HOLY SPIRIT 

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” 

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” 

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. 

“Come now; let us leave. 

15 THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES 

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. 


REFLECTION

1. In John 14:15-16, Jesus tells His disciples that He is soon going to leave, but that He would remain with them. While this was probably very confusing for the disciples, He was reassuring them that the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God – would come to care for and guide them. When we decide to follow Christ, the Holy Spirit is the presence of God that dwells within us, helping us live as God wants, and building Christ’s church on earth. How do you know that the Holy Spirit dwells within you? How do you experience Him in your life?

2. John 15:5-8 paints a metaphor that we are branches and Jesus is the vine. We have the potential to bear much fruit and bring glory to God when we stay connected to Him. But, this is entirely dependent on our choice to remain connected or not. When we cut ourselves off from Jesus, we cannot produce fruit, we cannot make disciples, and we won’t bring glory to God. What are the things that cut you off from the vine and prevent you from bearing fruit? What fruit does your life produce that brings glory to God?

DAY 18 // LOVE AS I HAVE LOVED YOU

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

- JOHN 13:34-35 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In today’s reading, Jesus continues His Farewell Discourse. He has already shown His disciples that following Him requires humble service for others, and now He gives another instruction. In John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” 

The command to “love one another” was nothing new for Jesus’ disciples. God had previously given a similar command to the Israelites: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). This was considered the second greatest commandment. The greatest commandment was very similar: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). 

Though the command to “love one another” was familiar to Jesus’ disciples, the degree to which He was calling His disciples and us to love is far beyond anything that had previously been commanded. In Leviticus, God’s people were commanded to love their neighbors as much as they loved themselves or would want to be loved. Jesus, however, commands us to love others as much as Jesus has loved us. One could argue that this is technically impossible. We can’t truly love others as much as Jesus has loved us. John writes in another letter, “God is love . . . . This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:8-10). God provided the highest expression of love through Jesus. The best we can do is follow His example. But if we hold Jesus as our example of how to love one another, we can offer the watching world a glimpse of the gospel and God’s sacrificial love. As Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 13:18–14:14 

JESUS PREDICTS HIS BETRAYAL 

18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ 

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. 20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” 

21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” 

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” 

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. 

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. 

JESUS PREDICTS PETER’S DENIAL 

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” 
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! 

14 JESUS COMFORTS HIS DISCIPLES 

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 

JESUS THE WAY TO THE FATHER 

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 


REFLECTION

1. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him and be the tip-off that would lead Him to His death. Yet, Jesus still loved Judas. In the same way, Jesus knows exactly what you will do to hurt Him, and He still loves you unconditionally. Why do you think Jesus allowed Judas to remain a part of His inner circle, knowing what he would do? How do you feel knowing that Jesus loves you despite any ways you might betray Him?

2. John 14:14 says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Some people read that verse and think that if we ask Jesus for something, He will give it to us. But, it’s important that we remember that God isn’t a genie granting wishes. When we ask Jesus for something, remember that it must be “in His name.” This means that it must be in line with His will for our lives. So, next time you ask God for something, consider whether it is a selfish desire or God’s will for your life. In what ways have you seen God answer your prayers that have clearly shown His will?

DAY 17 // AN ACT OF SHOCKING SERVICE

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

- JOHN 13:3-5 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 13 begins a five chapter-long teaching known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. This occurs in the context of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples. He uses this final meal as an opportunity to teach lessons He hoped they would never forget. 

Interestingly, the first lesson Jesus teaches during His final meal involves no words. Before He ever begins speaking, He takes a towel, gets on His knees, and washes His disciples’ feet. This was a shocking gesture. In that culture, people walked everywhere on dusty, garbage-laden roads in sandals. This made foot-washing a necessary but degrading task, reserved for household servants. Some Jewish teachers even taught that this task was too demeaning for Jewish servants, and suggested instead that it should be reserved for Gentiles. Yet here in John 13, the disciples’ leader and the Son of God willingly washes the feet of His friends. 

With this act, Jesus wanted to impress upon His disciples that the gospel is fundamentally an act of service. The Son of God willingly left the glory of heaven so that He could die a humiliating death. So if these disciples were to spread the good news about Jesus to others, they couldn’t detach the message from acts of humble service. The lesson is the same for us. If we want to effectively convey the message of the gospel to the world, the best way to start is to humble ourselves in the service of others. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 12:37–13:17 

BELIEF AND UNBELIEF AMONG THE JEWS 

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: 

“Lord, who has believed our message 
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 

40 “He has blinded their eyes 
and hardened their hearts, 
so they can neither see with their eyes, 
nor understand with their hearts, 
nor turn—and I would heal them.” 

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. 

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God. 

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” 

13 JESUS WASHES HIS DISCIPLES’ FEET 

1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” 
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. 


REFLECTION

1. John 12:39-40 quotes a passage from Isaiah 6 which talks about the hardening of hearts. What is the status of your heart today? Take some time to reflect on the status of your heart. Journal and confess to God those things that you are stubbornly holding onto that might be preventing you from a deeper relationship with God.

2. In a culture where hierarchical servanthood played a role, the washing of the disciples’ feet by Jesus would have had a deep and lasting impression to all who heard about it. Today, this act seems less extreme, however there are probably other things we feel we are above doing. Perhaps they are things that we choose not to do because we feel someone else could or should do them. Perhaps we choose not to do them because we would rather serve in a way that allows our strengths to shine. What are the things that you have said “no” to because you feel like they’re just “not for you”? Maybe it’s serving with children, visiting refugee families, or going on a mission trip? When might you be willing to take a step out of your comfort zone and in what way(s)?

DAY 16 // LIFE COMES THROUGH DEATH

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

~ JOHN 12:24-25

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

The last half of John 12 records the final stages of Jesus’ public ministry. Prior to this, Jesus had frequently stated that His “hour has not yet come” (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20). Here, for the first time, Jesus acknowledges that “the hour has come” (John 12:23). It is finally time for Him to die. This was difficult for those around Him to digest. In verse 29, Jesus Himself admits to agonizing over the prospect of being crucified: “Now my soul is troubled.” To help those around Him understand why He needed to die, Jesus shares a pair of proverbs.

In the first proverb, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). Jesus had grown up alongside the bread basket of the Holy Land, the Jezreel Valley. He knew that a single seed of wheat has within it the potential to give life to countless seeds, but it must “die” by being buried in the ground in order to give life. The point Jesus wanted to make is that He could bring life to countless people, but He needed to die to make this possible. His death was necessary so that we could have new life.

But it’s not just Jesus’ death that was required. In John 12:25, Jesus shares another proverb. He says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus is saying that we too must die to ourselves if we want to gain new life. We must be willing to surrender our old selves, our old values, and our old desires, so that we can embrace the new life Jesus promises us.

These proverbs were intended to push Jesus’ followers beyond their focus on Jesus’ death to the recognition that they too had to die a kind of death. We are also challenged to stop hanging on to temporary things in this life. If we want to have real life and have it for eternity, we must be willing to surrender our lives completely to the One who died for us.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 12:12–36

JESUS COMES TO JERUSALEM AS KING

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

JESUS PREDICTS HIS DEATH

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your ben- efit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness

overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.


REFLECTION

1. In John 12:25, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” This statement seems abstract because it’s a counter-cultural way of living life. For most of us, it is ingrained in us to work hard and succeed so we can we live a comfortable and secure life. But, Jesus calls us to sacrificial living. Where do your daily energy and resources go? What are you striving for to provide comfort and security in your life? How would you feel to give it all up to serve Him?

2. Jesus is referred to as “the light” many times throughout John. In John 12:36, “children of the light” referred to Jesus’ followers who pointed people to God. As Christians, we are to be Christ’s light bearers, brightly shining our light in the world around us. Think about a normal day in your life. List all of the ways that the people you interact with can see Christ in your actions? In what ways can you be more intentional about shining His light?

DAY 15 // COMPLETE AND HUMBLE THANKSGIVING

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 

- JOHN 12:3 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In John 12, Jesus is honored at a dinner hosted by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. The dinner was presumably a way of thanking Jesus for what He had done for them. In the course of the dinner, Mary does something extravagant. She takes a pint of perfume, pours it entirely on Jesus’ feet, and then cleans His feet with her hair. John 12:3 says that as a result, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” This display is reminiscent of the fellowship offerings that ancient Israelites would present to God as a way to thank Him for what He had done for them. Those offerings also happened in the context of a meal. The best parts of an animal were burnt up completely for God, just as Mary completely poured the bottle of perfume on Jesus. Also, these offerings produced a fragrance which pleased God like the fragrance of Mary’s perfume (Leviticus 3, 7:11-15). In fact, the word translated in John as “fragrance” is the same word used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to the fragrance of these offerings. 

But Mary’s offering goes well beyond what people would typically offer in a fellowship offering. The perfume she pours out is worth 300 denarii, an entire year’s income for the typical day laborer. Also, her act not only involves a monetary sacrifice, it involves a self-humbling sacrifice. In that culture, the washing of feet was considered a task reserved for lowly household servants, not dinner hosts like Mary. Mary does not care. She humbles herself to thank and honor Jesus. 

Mary shows that she wasn’t concerned about the cost of the perfume or what other people would think. She acted entirely out of her thankfulness to Jesus. Mary’s selfless act should prompt us to reflect on what we are willing to lay down at Jesus’ feet, and whether our self-image prevents us from offering complete and humble thanksgiving to Him. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 11:45–12:11 

THE PLOT TO KILL JESUS 

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” 

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him. 

JOHN 12 

JESUS ANOINTED AT BETHANY 

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him. 


REFLECTION

1. The cost of the perfume used to wash Jesus’ feet was worth a year’s wages for a typical laborer of the time. Consider something in your possession that is worth a year of your income. What would it take for you to donate that item with a moment’s notice? What might you need to sacrifice or surrender to Jesus to show Him your full devotion and worship? 

2. One of the gravest sins we see displayed by the religious leaders and Pharisees is pride. In John 11:45-53, the religious leaders refused to believe in the deity of Jesus, despite being eyewitnesses to His miracles and teachings. They were so hardened that they preferred to reject God’s Son than to admit that they were wrong and they plotted to kill Him. Pride has a way of creeping in, taking root, and causing enormous sin in our lives. In what areas of your life do you struggle with pride? Confess this to God today and ask Him to give you a humble heart in these areas. 

DAY 14 // RESURRECTION THEN AND NOW

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this? 

- JOHN 11:25-26 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 11 records the story of one of Jesus’ most powerful signs, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In the middle of this story, Jesus has a profound conversation that demonstrates the significance of the sign and also captures two of Christianity’s most important doctrines. Speaking with Martha, the sister of Lazarus, Jesus says, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Martha responds to Him, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). Martha’s response here is consistent with one of the core convictions of the Christian faith. At the end of days there will be a resurrection of the dead back to life. Jesus taught this very thing earlier in His Bread of Life discourse: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40). 

But Jesus wants to make sure Martha doesn’t miss the fact that resurrection is also a present reality. In John 11:25-26, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Here, Jesus affirms that Martha’s statement is true, but He adds that those who believe can experience new life now. We can have an inner, spiritual resurrection and experience some of the benefits of Jesus’ resurrection power in our lives today. 

This is what Lazarus’ resurrection symbolizes. New life isn’t just something that is reserved exclusively for the end of days. It is something we get to experience in our hearts right now. The problem for some of us is that even though we believe, we live as though nothing has changed. We live as though we are still dead in our sins. Jesus’ invitation to those of us who believe in Him is to live as though we’ve been reborn. He wants to unleash His resurrection power in our lives right now. Other people have yet to make a decision about Jesus. If that’s you, Jesus’ question to Martha is also an invitation to you. What’s holding you back? “Do you believe this?” 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 11:1–44 

11 

THE DEATH OF LAZARUS 

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” 

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” 

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 

JESUS COMFORTS THE SISTERS OF LAZARUS 

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 

35 Jesus wept. 

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 

JESUS RAISES LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD 

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. 

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. 

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” 


REFLECTION

1. Based on John 11:5-7, we can infer that Jesus loved Lazarus’ family and often stayed with them. They were close friends and He cared deeply for them, yet He did not come immediately when He received the news from Mary and Martha. His delay had a specific purpose. This is a great reminder to us that God’s timing has a purpose outside of our understanding. Reflect on a time when God didn’t respond to your prayers on your timetable. Looking back, what did God do and what can you learn from it?

2. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” This is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it is very powerful. In this verse, we are reminded that Jesus was fully human with deep emotions. Because of this, He understands our emotions. Often, we feel that when we approach God, we need be polished and without emotion. But, God doesn’t want us to hold anything back from Him. What emotions are you feeling today? Share them with God and ask Him for what you need. Remember, He understands.

DAY 13 // I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 

- JOHN 10:11 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In John 10, Jesus continues His dialogue with some Pharisees who questioned His identity and had thrown the man born blind out of the local synagogue. While speaking with these Pharisees, Jesus uses shepherd imagery. To fully appreciate Jesus’ words, it can be helpful to understand that shepherd imagery is used frequently in the Bible to refer to leaders and the people they oversee. Kings and spiritual leaders are often referred to as shepherds in the Bible. Their job is to protect and provide for their people, just as shepherds protect and provide for their flocks. Some biblical leaders are celebrated for being good shepherds. Others are called out for failing to care for their sheep. In one particular passage found in Ezekiel 34, God calls out the “shepherds of Israel” who allowed their sheep to be scattered and only cared for themselves. In this passage, God says that because Israel’s shepherds had failed them, He would step in and be the shepherd that these people needed. “Because my flock lacks a shepherd . . . I myself will search for my sheep and look after them” (Ezekiel 34:8-11). 

In Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees, He once again sees leaders failing to care for their sheep. These Pharisees abandoned the man born blind by removing him from their synagogue and their community (John 9:22, 9:34). To the Pharisees, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11). Here, Jesus again reveals His divine identity, “I AM,” to the confused Pharisees. He also promises to be, in the way God had done in the past, the shepherd that the man born blind really needed. 

Jesus’ lesson here should challenge us to consider how we are doing as shepherds. All of us have people that God has entrusted to our care. If we aren’t protecting and investing in our people, we’re no better than these Pharisees. This passage can also be a source of encouragement when we feel let down by our own leaders. Jesus is our ultimate shepherd and He demonstrated this when He laid “down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 10

THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND HIS SHEEP 

1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father— and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” 

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” 

21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 

FURTHER CONFLICT OVER JESUS’ CLAIMS 

22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 

34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods” ’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. 

40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, 41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” 42 And in that place many believed in Jesus. 


REFLECTION

1. Who are the people in your life that God has entrusted you to care for. In other words, who is your flock? It could be your family, friends, co-workers, or a group you lead at church. Why do you think God has entrusted you with them? How do you think you are doing at shepherding the flock?

2. John 10:30 is one the clearest statements of Jesus’ divinity that He ever made. Jesus and His Father are not the same person, but they have one purpose and essence. In your own words, describe Jesus’ purpose here on earth.

DAY 12 // SO THAT THE WORKS OF GOD MIGHT BE DISPLAYED

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

- JOHN 9:3 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In John 9, Jesus and His disciples come across a man who was born blind. This encounter with the man prompts a question from the disciples. They ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Their question here is consistent with a longstanding assumption in ancient Near Eastern history. This assumption was that if a person was suffering, that person or someone in their life must have committed a sin. 

Despite the pervasiveness of this view, a view held by even some of Jesus’ closest followers, it is not a biblical teaching. Scripture teaches that good things do tend to happen to those who do right, and that bad things do tend to happen to those who do wrong. This is portrayed in proverbs like “a man reaps what he sows” or “the wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death” (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 10:16). But Scripture also teaches that we can’t flip that logic and assume that because someone is suffering, it is the result of their own sin or the sin of someone they know. In fact, one of the longest books in the Bible, the book of Job, was written for the purpose of undermining this incorrect assumption. Job endures great suffering despite the fact that he is “blameless” (Job 1:1). The point is that suffering is oftentimes inexplicable. We aren’t in a position to determine its causes, if there are any. Only God can. 

In John 9:3, Jesus reframes the disciples’ question and instead directs their attention to how God might respond to such suffering. He says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus’ point is that we don’t always understand the causes of our suffering and we certainly aren’t in a position to draw assumptions about other people’s suffering. But we can find comfort in knowing that God can redeem our suffering for good and use it to reveal His glory. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 9 

JESUS HEALS A MAN BORN BLIND 

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 

8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. 

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” 

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. 

“I don’t know,” he said. 

THE PHARISEES INVESTIGATE THE HEALING 

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” 

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” 

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. 

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” 

The man replied, “He is a prophet.” 

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” 

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” 

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. 

SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS 

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. 


REFLECTION

1. In today’s passage, Jesus used the man’s suffering to teach about faith and glorifying God. We might wonder why God allows suffering to happen, but if God took away our pain whenever we asked, we would follow Him for comfort and convenience, not out of love and devotion. Regardless of the reason for our suffering, Jesus has the power to help us deal with it. Instead of asking, “Why me?”, about the struggles in your life, what can you ask God for today to give you strength and perspective? 

2. The healed man in today’s passage didn’t know how or why he was healed. Scripture doesn’t say if he knew who Jesus was, but what he did know is that his life had been miraculously changed, and he was not afraid to proclaim the truth (John 9:25). This is a great reminder to us that we don’t need all of the answers in order to share Christ with others. The most important thing is to tell others how He has changed your life and trust God to use your words. Do you feel like you need to know more about the Bible in order to start serving, join a group, or share your faith? Your testimony is the most powerful thing you can share, so stop holding yourself back! Who can you share with today about what God has done in your life?

DAY 11 // Freedom Through Christ

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

~ JOHN 8:34-36

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In John 8:31, Jesus begins to teach people at the Festival of Tabernacles who had recently come to “believe.” Jesus says to them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus promises these believers that they can experience freedom if they continue to cling to His Word, to the truth. To most, freedom might sound like a good thing. Unfortunately, this offends these new believers. In John 8:33, they respond, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” They protest that they have never been slaves, which is odd. Perhaps the most well-known story in their nation’s history was of the time God rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 1-15). Even during Jesus’ day, they were under Roman control. Of course they had been slaves! What they probably meant was that they had never been captive to anyone in a spiritual sense. They thought that they were spiritually free because they were children of Abraham.

Ironically, this is exactly the idea that Jesus wanted to confront. They needed spiritual freedom. He goes on to say in John 8:34, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” This is what the people found so offensive. They did not want to accept the fact that they needed liberation from sin. They thought they were in right standing with God because they were children of Abraham, because of their heritage.

We’re not so different in our own culture today. Many of us are either totally unaware or unwilling to accept that we may be spiritual captives. We think we are free because of our own family backgrounds, religious traditions, or good works. We feel free. Jesus’ point is that sin is like a slave driver and all humanity is held in bondage.

The good news is that we can experience freedom from that bondage, from shame, from bitterness, and from pride. What Jesus asks is that we cling to the “word” and know “the truth,” both of which are perfectly embodied by Jesus (John 1:1, 1:14; 14:6). Those who are faithful to Jesus are welcomed as sons and daughters into eternal, spiritual freedom.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 8:21–59

DISPUTE OVER WHO JESUS IS

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father

has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

DISPUTE OVER WHOSE CHILDREN JESUS’ OPPONENTS ARE

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, every- one who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

JESUS’ CLAIMS ABOUT HIMSELF

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dis- honor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.


REFLECTION

1. The religious leaders’ actions and attitudes clearly identified them as being followers of the devil (John 8:43-45). They may not have been conscious of this, but their hatred, lies, and murderous intentions indicated how much the devil had control over them. The devil is still at work today and wants nothing more than for each of us to miss an opportunity to share Christ’s love. The devil prevents us from witnessing to others by planting seeds of frustration, anger, bitterness, and deceit in our hearts. Can you identify how the devil might be trying to take control over you and limit your influence for Christ?

2. In John 8:46-47, Jesus intentionally challenged His listeners to test Him. He welcomed those who wanted to question His claims and character as long as they were willing to follow through on what they discovered. But, the people either never accepted His challenge to test Him, or they weren’t willing to believe what they discovered. If you are ever in the place of doubting the identity of Christ, how can you test Him? What is required of you if you do?

DAY 10 // A LIGHT FOR THE WORLD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

- JOHN 8:12 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 8 continues to record Jesus’ teachings during the Festival of Tabernacles. We have already seen Jesus play off the well-known water imagery associated with this festival to make the point that He can provide spiritual water that never runs dry. In this chapter, He turns His attention to another prominent component of this Festival—light. The Festival of Tabernacles included a light ceremony in which four enormous lamps were set aflame within the Court of Women, located in the temple area. Jewish literature from around this time tells us that these lamps were so bright that they illuminated every courtyard in Jerusalem. It must have been an amazing sight! 

While standing “in the place where the offerings were put”, next to the Court of Women where these four great lamps burned, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, 8:20). With this declaration, Jesus presents another one of His famous “I am” statements. He also identifies Himself as a source of light that outshines these fantastic lamps. He is more than just a lamp for Jerusalem, He is a light for the world. 

In one sense, Jesus’ statement anticipates a coming time when He will truly be a light for the whole world. John writes in another book that at the end of days, “there will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5). But Jesus’ statement isn’t just about the future, it also addresses the present. Jesus is inviting those who would believe in Him to step out of spiritual darkness and into His spiritual light. This can be a difficult thing because this light exposes our shortcomings and reveals our sins (John 3:20). Still, it’s worth it because it allows us to form authentic and honest community and offers us freedom from sin (1 John 1:5-7). 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 7:45–8:20

UNBELIEF OF THE JEWISH LEADERS 

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. 

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” 

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” 

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” 

[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53–8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.] 

CHAPTER 8 

53 Then they all went home, 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. 

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

11 “No one, sir,” she said. 

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” 

DISPUTE OVER JESUS’ TESTIMONY 

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” 

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.


REFLECTION

1. The Pharisees saw themselves as an elite group who alone knew the truth, which is why they resisted Jesus’ teachings because it wasn’t theirs (John 7:46-49). It’s easy to think that we know the “right way” and when people disagree with us, we assume they’re wrong. This is how some people view Christians and it’s why they avoid anyone who professes to be a Christ-follower. You can start to see how they feel by reflecting on a time that someone treated you poorly because they thought you were “wrong.” How can you share what you believe without making someone feel like you think you have the “right” answer?

2. John 8:7 makes a significant statement about judging others. It is God’s role to judge, not ours. Our role is to show forgiveness and compassion. Jesus models how to do this in the story of the woman caught in adultery. First, He gives the woman grace, but then He calls her to something greater – God’s standard for her life. Where in your life can you model grace while calling someone to something greater? 

DAY 9 // LIVING WATER FOR A DRY LAND

Willow Creek Community Church

 

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 

- JOHN 7:37-38 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In John 7, Jesus returns to Jerusalem to celebrate a holiday, the Festival of Tabernacles. This was an annual, weeklong festival that marked an important point in Israel’s agricultural calendar. It marked the end of the dry season when the last of the summer fruits were gathered and the people celebrated the conclusion of the harvest (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). This festival also looked forward to the arrival of the early winter rains which marked the beginning of the new agricultural year. These rains were critical. They made it possible for farmers to plow the dry, hardened soil and plant it with the next year’s crops. Because of this need for rain, the Festival of Tabernacles typically included a daily water-pouring ritual along with prayers that God would once again provide rain in the coming year. 

With the backdrop of the Festival of Tabernacles and the people’s pleas for God to send rain to their dry and thirsty land, Jesus stands up on “the last and greatest day of the festival” and says, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38). Jesus is saying that He is the ultimate fulfillment of what the Festival of Tabernacles was all about. These people had come to celebrate God’s provision and pray for more water. Jesus declares that God has provided Him as a source of life-giving water for dry and barren souls. 

Jesus’ invitation here is similar to what He taught in the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:35). He is capable of meeting our physical needs, whether they are bread or rain, but He can also do so much more. If our souls feel emotionally and spiritually parched, we can turn to Him for refreshment. He is the source of live-giving rivers that will never run dry. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 7:1–44 

JESUS GOES TO THE FESTIVAL OF TABERNACLES 

1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. 

6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee. 

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?” 

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders. 

JESUS TEACHES AT THE FESTIVAL 

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” 

16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” 

20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?” 

21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” 

DIVISION OVER WHO JESUS IS 

25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” 

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” 

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 

33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 

35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” 

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” 

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. 


REFLECTION

1. In John 7:21-24, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. In verse 24, He says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” The Jewish leaders had an expectation for Jesus that they themselves were not upholding. And, to Jesus’ point, if they didn’t have to abide by their own rules, why did He? In what areas of your life do you place a higher expectation on someone or something else than you place on yourself? What judgements have you made on appearances only that would be different if you looked beneath the surface? 

2. Jesus’ boldness in teaching infuriated the religious leaders. Despite all of their religious knowledge, they simply couldn’t see who Jesus really was. Their focus on laws and judgement prevented them from being able to identify the heart of God standing right in front of them! Today, we have to be careful that in our pursuit to live a holy life, we don’t miss the heart behind the Bible’s teachings. In what ways do you find it hard to uphold the teachings of Scripture while not allowing judgement to creep in? 

DAY 8 // I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 

- JOHN 6:35 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

Today’s reading begins with Jesus being discovered by the people He had fed in the feeding of the 5,000. These people had been on a search for Jesus, but for the wrong reasons. Jesus says in John 6:26, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” In other words, they weren’t looking for Jesus because of who He was. They were looking for Jesus simply because He had given them bread and they hoped to get more. 

Wanting to help these people see the deeper significance of what the miracle conveyed, Jesus proceeds to teach them that He can offer so much more than physical bread that spoils and never fully satisfies. He can offer bread “that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). The reason this bread endures to eternal life is because it comes from God, and in fact, it is God. Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” With this statement, Jesus shares something about His own divine identity. The first two words in this phrase, “I am”, allude to the name by which God was known to Jesus’ followers: I AM (Exodus 3:14). This is actually one of many times Jesus uses this terminology to reveal His divine identity (John 4:26; 6:20; 8:12; 8:58; 10:9-11; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:5; 18:5). Jesus is saying that He can offer a lasting and life-giving sort of spiritual food because He is more than a magician or masterchef. He is the Son of God. 

In our day, some of the reasons people have for following Jesus may not be much better than those in this story. They sought Jesus out for physical bread. How often do we go through the motions of faith because of worldly benefits we hope they might bring us? If that’s our motivation, we’re missing out. Jesus challenges us not to settle for less than the best He has to offer, and He invites us to know what it’s like to be fully satisfied through Him. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 6:25–71 

JESUS THE BREAD OF LIFE 

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” 

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 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’?” 

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 

MANY DISCIPLES DESERT JESUS 

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 

70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) 


REFLECTION

1. In John 6:26, Jesus reveals that the true motivation of His followers was self-centered and consumeristic. They had listened to His teachings and watched Him live as they followed Him, yet somehow still missed the point! After Jesus challenged their motivation, Scripture says many of them stopped following Him. Why do you think after all of that time, they decided to walk away? Today, we can easily fall into the temptation that our church, our serving, and even our relationship with Jesus is for us to get something in return. Take a moment to confess to God your selfish motivations about church, serving, and following Him, and ask Him to give you a heart focused on worship. 

2. Jesus’ teaching in John 6:53-59 was probably a shocking message for the disciples to hear. Eating flesh and drinking blood sounded cannibalistic! But, Jesus wasn’t talking about literal flesh or blood. In your own words, describe the message of what Jesus was saying to His followers. 

DAY 7 // KING OF ALL

Willow Creek Community Church

 

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. 

- JOHN 6:14-15 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 6:1-24 shares the stories of two of Jesus’ most well-known miracles: the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the water. John 6:4 tells us that these miracles occurred when the “Jewish Passover Festival was near.” This detail is significant because this was a time of year when nationalistic feelings were high. The Passover was an annual celebration of a time when God had liberated the nation of Israel in the past. Each year at this time, people hoped that God would once again free the Jewish people from the oppression they were experiencing at the hands of Rome. So, not surprisingly, we learn that the crowds try to “make [Jesus] king by force” after witnessing the first of these two miracles (John 6:15). Their thinking was that if God was ever going to free the Jewish people, it would happen under the leadership of someone with this kind of power. 

Jesus rejects their attempts to make Him king. On the one hand, He does this because He knows that the “hour has not yet come” for Him to leave the world (John 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23). Being set-up as a king almost certainly would have led to an early death for Jesus at the hands of Roman authorities. On the other hand, He also rejects their efforts because this is not the type of king He came to be. 

Jesus illustrates this in His next miracle, a miracle that He performs for His disciples. While they are out on a boat, in a raging storm, Jesus walks on the water toward them. This miracle is loaded with symbolism. Scripture teaches us that only God can control raging waters like this and that His control of raging waters signifies that He is King of all (Genesis 1:1-2, 6; Psalm 29:10; Psalm 77:13-19; Psalm 93:1-4). The point Jesus makes by walking over the stormy waters is that He didn’t come to be the type of king they wanted. He can’t be forced or exploited into serving our own personal or political agendas. He’s bigger and better than that. Jesus came to liberate the entire world from sin and death, and to form a new people who acknowledge Him as King of all. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 6:1–24 

JESUS FEEDS THE FIVE THOUSAND 

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 

8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. 

JESUS WALKS ON THE WATER 

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. 

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 


REFLECTION

1. Although Jesus had already performed several miracles, His disciples’ first response to their lack of lunch was that they didn’t have enough money to feed 5,000 people! You’d think they would have just asked Jesus to perform a miracle! They limited what they thought Jesus could do, and the truth is, we do that too. Perhaps there is an impossible task that you believe God wants you to do, or something you want to ask God for but have been hesitating because it’s too big. God can do all things. What do you need to entrust to Him today? 

2. Jesus knew before He could even see the disciples in the boat that they were afraid, so He called out to comfort them, and the text says, “they were willing to let Him in.” Jesus knows what we are feeling and experiencing before we ever tell Him, yet we still have to invite Him into our lives to receive His comfort and direction. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Is every area of your life faithful and expectant, or are there some areas that are off limits? God already knows it all, so how do you think it would affect you if you were faithful to God with your whole life? 

DAY 6 // JESUS ON TRIAL

Willow Creek Community Church

 

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 

- JOHN 5:16 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

At the end of our last reading, Jesus drew the indignation of Jewish religious authorities for healing a man on the Sabbath day and then instructing the man to “pick up” his mat and “walk” (John 5:8). Both of these actions, providing non-urgent medical treatment and carrying a mat on the Sabbath, were considered punishable crimes in Jewish society at that time. It’s important to note that nowhere in Scripture are these actions outlawed. In Scripture, God commanded the Israelites to do no work on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, so that they might remember that He is in control and the Creator of life (Exodus 20:9-11). But, other than a few prescriptions about what can and cannot be done, Scripture is remarkably ambiguous about what constitutes “work.” Because of this ambiguity, religious leaders during Jesus’ day sought to clarify the situation by spelling out explicitly what was not allowed on the Sabbath—things like carrying mats and providing non-urgent medical treatment. 

In today’s reading, Jesus is put on trial by religious authorities for these crimes and He provides a fascinating defense. Part of His defense involves calling forward the witness of Scripture. Jesus says, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40). Jesus is pointing out that the Scriptures these religious leaders sought to clarify, actually anticipate everything He is doing. These experts failed to understand this. They thought they could preserve their lives and the lives of others by enforcing their own legalistic interpretations of biblical Law. But they were blind to the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17). He came to restore life and offer true Sabbath rest (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Jesus’ defense here serves as yet another reminder that He is the source of life that our world so desperately needs. His defense should also be read as a warning for the church today. We must be careful not to let our own Sunday morning traditions cause us to miss the true message of Scripture or the fresh work Jesus may be doing in people’s lives. Jesus is looking for a transformation of the heart, not just an outward conformity to rules. If we follow the rules without showing love for Jesus and others, we’re no different than these ancient religious authorities. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 5:16–47 

THE AUTHORITY OF THE SON 

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. 

TESTIMONIES ABOUT JESUS 

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true. 

33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 

35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” 


REFLECTION

1. Genesis 2:2 says that God rested on the seventh day. John 5:17 says, “My Father is always at his work.” How do you think God’s rest is different than the rest He commands us to observe on the Sabbath? What do you think Jesus means when He says that His Father is always working? How do you compare and contrast God’s Sabbath rest with His never-ending work?

2. The Pharisees were more concerned with the prestige and acceptance of their peers and leaders than they were of God’s. Although it didn’t help His cause, in John 5:41-44, Jesus tells them that their approval meant nothing to Him. He was only concerned with God’s approval. In your life, whose approval is really important to you? Maybe it’s your spouse, parents, or boss? What might you do differently if the only approval you cared about was God’s?

DAY 5 // TAKING JESUS AT HIS WORD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 

~ JOHN 4:48–50 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 4:43-52 narrates the story of Jesus’ second great “sign” in the book of John. Like His first sign, Jesus performs this miracle in the town of Cana in Galilee. Also like His first sign, Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson through the miracle. 

In this story, Jesus is welcomed by a crowd of Galileans who are eager to see Him perform more miracles. These Galileans had seen His power on display in Jerusalem at the Passover festival (John 2:23, 4:45). We might presume that some of them had even come to believe as a result of His past work (John 2:23-25). But Jesus isn’t certain their belief is directed toward Him so much as it is toward the visible expressions of His power. As Jesus says in John 4:48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders . . . you will never believe”. 

For this misguided crowd, Jesus performs a counterintuitive kind of sign. To a man who begs Jesus to come to his house and heal his sick son, Jesus says, “Go . . . your son will live” (John 4:50). This sign is counterintuitive because it can’t be seen immediately. Signs by their very nature are supposed to be visible, pointing to something beyond themselves. But this sign is invisible. It can only be seen if the man and those in the crowd take Jesus at His word and go to see it. In other words, it challenges them to believe without seeing the miracle, to believe in Jesus because He is trustworthy. 

This is relevant for us today because some people are still waiting for a miracle to believe. What Jesus conveys here is that the signs He performs are not always immediately visible to us. The challenge for us is to have a greater kind of faith and to take Him at His word. If we do, we might discover that He is working miracles behind the scenes in ways we didn’t see at first. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 4:39–5:15 

MANY SAMARITANS BELIEVE 

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” 

JESUS HEALS AN OFFICIAL’S SON 

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 

48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee. 

5 THE HEALING AT THE POOL 

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. 

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. 


REFLECTION

1. Like the unseen miracle in John 4:50, God is always at work in our lives. How have you seen God at work in your life, maybe even behind the scenes? What made it possible for you to “see” and acknowledge the things He is doing for you? 

2. In John 5:10, it’s almost shocking to read the reaction of the Pharisees as they disregarded the miraculous healing of this man and instead focused on petty rules! However, if we’re honest with ourselves, we often overlook the people around us in an effort to please ourselves or follow certain patterns or rules in life. What are some ways that you get caught up in structures, rules, or policies and forget the people involved? How can you be more present with the people around you at work, running errands, or at church?

DAY 4 // A SURPRISING CONVERSATION, A MORE EXPANSIVE VIEW OF THE CHURCH

Willow Creek Community Church

 

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 

~ JOHN 4:9 

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 4 details a surprising conversation Jesus has while traveling from the region of Judea to Galilee. This conversation is surprising for a few reasons. First, it is between Jesus and a Samaritan in the region of Samaria. At that time in history, Jews and Samaritans despised each other for both religious and political reasons. Because of this mutual animosity, Jews traveling from Judea to Galilee would often go out of their way to bypass Samaria, which was located in between the two regions (see map on page 7). In John 4, Jesus chooses to walk straight through Samaria. In fact, verse 4 says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It may be that Jesus “had to” walk through this region for logistical reasons, but perhaps He was compelled to take this route for divine reasons: Jesus wanted to have this conversation. 

This conversation is also surprising because it is between Jesus and a woman. During that time and place, it was frowned upon for men, especially those of Jesus’ stature, to converse with women. This was perceived as a waste of time and a potential source of trouble. As John 4:27 indicates, even Jesus’ disciples “were surprised to find him talking with a woman.” Jesus had little regard for how culture viewed women, and instead invested in this woman because He saw her true value. 

Lastly, this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is surprising because she was an ostracized person, rejected by her own community. Jesus encounters this Samaritan woman when she comes to draw water by herself at noon. Typically, women would draw water with other women at dawn or dusk, not during the heat of the day (Genesis 24:11). This suggests that she was a woman who lived on the margins of society, likely because of past mistakes. But Jesus isn’t derailed by her history or social standing. He speaks with her and even explicitly reveals His messianic identity to her because Jesus wants His community of followers, His church, to include people like her. Jesus’ example here ought to challenge us to have a more expansive view of the church, and to invest in people we might normally neglect. Jesus didn’t come to save just certain people. He came to save the whole world. 


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 4:1-38

JESUS TALKS WITH A SAMARITAN WOMAN 

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 

17 “I have no husband,” she replied. 

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 

THE DISCIPLES REJOIN JESUS 

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” 


REFLECTION

1. In John 4:34, Jesus speaks symbolically about food, saying that His nourishment comes from doing the will of God. In this passage, Jesus is talking about a spiritual nourishment we receive when we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. When we think about spiritual nourishment, we often think of Bible study, prayer, and attending church. But Jesus reminds us that we are not only nourished by what we take in, but also by what we give out. In what ways are you serving others and expanding God’s kingdom? How are you living out God’s purpose for your life?

2. After the encounter with Jesus, the woman at the well went back to her village and told as many people as she could about her experience. This woman, who was likely an outcast in her community, boldly and courageously spread the gospel. Why do you think she was so eager to tell even those who had ostracized her about Jesus? How have you seen God work through unlikely people or circumstances in your own life?

DAY 3 // FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD

Willow Creek Community Church

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

~ JOHN 3:16

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

Today’s reading contains one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This verse has been a favorite of Christians for millennia. One reason why Christians are so drawn to it is because it presents a stunning depiction of God’s love.

This verse teaches us that God’s love is universal. It is given to the entire “world.” This would have been a big deal to the first century Jews reading the book of John. Rabbis, like the one with whom Jesus is speaking in John 3, often emphasized God’s love for Israel. Here, God’s love is portrayed as being without borders.

We also learn that God’s love is unconditional—it is given to people whether or not they reciprocate the love back to Him. In fact, in the book of John, the word translated as “world” oftentimes refers to people who actually hate God (e.g., John 7:7, 14:30, 15:18, 17:14). When God showed His love to the world through Jesus, He did so because of His commitment to us, not because we loved Him first.

Finally, we learn that God’s love is self-sacrificial. The word translated as “gave” in the phrase “gave His one and only Son” is a word that is used in other places in reference to Old Testament sacrifices. This word points to the meaning of Jesus’ death. He was given up like a sacrifice to deal with the problem that our sins presented, even though Jesus had done nothing to deserve that penalty.

This is why the picture of God’s love in John 3:16 is so stunning. We may never choose to love or believe in God, but that didn’t stop Him from showing the greatest expression of love to us. He was willing to do whatever it took, and pay whatever the cost, to offer humanity a relationship with Him. If God could love the whole world that much, He’s worthy of our faith.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 3 

JESUS TEACHES NICODEMUS 

1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 

JOHN TESTIFIES AGAIN ABOUT JESUS 

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” 

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.” 

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. 


REFLECTION

1. In John 3:3, Jesus clears up any confusion for Nicodemus about who will have access to the kingdom of God. He wants Nicodemus to know that following religious rules aren’t the ticket into heaven, but rather, only those who are “born again” can see the kingdom of God. When we think about who will spend eternity with God, it should motivate us to want everyone to be “born again!” It’s our job to spread the good news! Who in your life needs to hear the gospel? What can you do to expose them to God’s unconditional love?

2. Jesus’ testimony was trustworthy because He was an eyewitness from heaven and His words were the very words of God (John 3:31-35). One of the central truths in the book of John is the fact that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the Messiah, and Savior. When we understand who Jesus is, we should be compelled to believe what He said! In your own words, answer this question – “Who is Jesus Christ?”

DAY 2 // THE BEST IN ABUNDANCE

Willow Creek Community Church

 

“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

~ JOHN 2:10

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

John 2:1-11 records a story about how Jesus helped a friend overcome a social blunder by turning water into wine at a wedding. This miracle is the first of seven “signs” recorded in the book of John that Jesus uses to reveal His glory (John 2:11). Through this miracle, Jesus shows that He is more than just a normal man, He is the Son of God.

Not only this, a number of interesting details in the story suggest that Jesus had a further message He wanted to teach. First, we are told that the context of this miracle is a wedding and that the result of this miracle is wine. Wine and weddings are familiar images from everyday life, but it’s worth noting that in the Bible, these images are often symbolic of abundance and of the last days (Amos 9:13; Revelation 19:7-9). We are also told that Jesus performed this miracle after having “six stone water jars . . . used for ceremonial washing” filled to the brim (John 2:6-7). The number seven is symbolic of wholeness or perfection in the Bible, and we see this used often in the book of John. The number six here gives the sense that there is something imperfect about these jars. This seems significant because these jars were originally designed to restore people to spiritual wholeness through ceremonial washing with the water they contained.

Finally, it’s worth noting that these jars needed to be filled, which implies that they were depleted. This physical description may symbolize a spiritual reality. These jars lacked the power to bring lasting wholeness to people.

Read together, these details may suggest that this miracle was not only intended to put Jesus’ power on display. This first sign was also intended to show that He has the ability to fill what has been emptied and depleted. Jesus provided superior and overflowing wine when it had run dry, and He conveyed that He could fulfill and complete what was inadequate in religious traditions. Jesus’ point is that we may look to many different sources to meet our deepest needs, but He alone can meet our spiritual needs in a lasting way. He offers what is best for us, and He offers it in abundance.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 1:35–2:25

JOHN’S DISCIPLES FOLLOW JESUS

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

JESUS CALLS PHILIP AND NATHANAEL

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

JESUS CHANGES WATER INTO WINE

1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

JESUS CLEARS THE TEMPLE COURTS

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.


REFLECTION

1. John the Baptist’s purpose in ministry was to prepare the way for Jesus, including preparing Jesus’ first disciples. These disciples were excited and eager to learn from Jesus (John 1:37-38). What is it that you hope to learn from Jesus today? How are you positioning your life to hear from Him?

2. In John 2:23-25, Jesus discerned that the faith of some believers was superficial. He knew that it is human nature to go along with the crowd when everyone else is on board too! It’s easy to live out our faith at church or with our Christian friends, but it’s hard to do in places where it isn’t popular to be a Christ-follower. Where do you struggle to live out your faith? What steps might you need to take to live more boldly?

DAY 1 // GOD MADE KNOWN

Willow Creek Community Church

 

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

- JOHN 1:18

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

The book of John begins differently than the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. Rather than beginning with a genealogy like Matthew, or with a few brief comments from the author like Mark and Luke, the book of John begins with a poetic reflection about Jesus. John tells us who Jesus is and what His purpose was in a style that is as beautiful as the message he’s sharing.

John starts this reflection by identifying Jesus, whom John refers to as “the Word”, as someone who is distinct from God, and at the same time as someone who paradoxically is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

John then goes on to tell us that one of Jesus’ primary purposes as the Son of God is to reveal, in a clear and unmistakable way, what God is like. In fact, this is one reason why John refers to Jesus throughout chapter 1 as “the Word.” Just as we might use our words to clearly share about ourselves with another person, Jesus reveals to us what God is like as the Word of God. Through His life, teachings, and actions, Jesus allowed people to see the unseen God (John 1:8, 1:14; Exodus 33:18-23).

This reveals a lot about God. It tells us that God wants to be known. He wants to have a personal relationship with us, so He sent Jesus to earth to make Himself known to us. This also serves as an invitation for us to read on in the book of John. If we want to know more about what God is like and to personally know God in relationship, there is no better place to start than by exploring how Jesus makes God known to humanity through the stories recorded in the book of John.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 1:1–34

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

JOHN THE BAPTIST DENIES BEING THE MESSIAH

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


REFLECTION

1. The phrase “the Word” is mentioned repeatedly in the first chapter of John as a way to draw readers to a reference they would understand. While we may find “the Word” slightly confusing today, it was a reference known by Greeks and Jews as the source of God’s message, His standard of holiness, and a principle of reason. What do you think John is trying to say about Jesus in John 1:1? Why do you think this is important to open his gospel?

2. In John 1:12-13, John states that all who welcome Jesus as the Lord of their lives are reborn spiritually, receiving new life from God. This is why many Christians describe themselves as being “born again” after deciding to follow Christ. How would you describe the “new life” you receive when you are reborn through Christ? If you are a follower of Jesus, describe your own personal decision to invite Jesus into your life. What prompted you to do it?