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He Breathed on Them | A Devo on John 20:11-23 and Mark 12:28-44

This morning I am struck by the simplicity and quiet nature of the Gospel. I read two passages. The first was Mark 12:28-44, since I am preaching on that passage this coming weekend. the second was John 20:11-23, since this is my next reading in The Journey.

Both passages drove home a difficult reminder for me. Following Jesus is not about being important, or building big buildings, or making your mark on the world. It is about humble service that usually goes unnoticed.

The Mark passage has three sections.

  1. Jesus summarizes the Law into Love God and Love Neighbor
  2. Jesus warns the disciples to not be like the scribes who are fixated on their importance in the church hierarchy
  3. Jesus shows that the widow who gave two copper coins (a true sacrifice) is the real hero of the story.

The passage from John tells of Jesus’ visit to the upper room after he rose from the dead. There he is, alive again, standing among the bewildered disciples. Then the most underwhelming thing happens.

He breathes on them.

“Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says.

This is such a different version from Acts 2 where the earth shakes, tongues of fire appear, and the disciples can speak in different languages.

Here, Jesus simply breathes on them.

I reflect on these passages after having preached yesterday on the monstrous temple that Herod built and after having recently visited Haiti. The things we care about in our privileged lives more often fall into the category of the scribe who cares about his long tassels than into the category of the poor widow whose house the scribes devour. I worry in Andover about my fourth car breaking down and whether my church parking lot is ugly while my brothers and sisters in Haiti squat in the dirt and wonder where the next meal or cup of water will be.

Lord, how can I not be the scribe?

John’s Gospel reminds me that following Jesus is as simple and as vital as breathing.

Breathe in the love of God. Give thanks for the gift of life. Breathe it out and share it with everyone.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Lord, help me to love you with all my heart and love my neighbor this week.

Amen.

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