The Gospel of John

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Two Posts to Help You Get Started with John

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An Introduction to Reading the Gospels

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Getting Ready to Preach through John

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  • That We May Be One I experienced another happy convergence this morning. Our texts for the weekend are John 17:20-24, Acts 2:42, and Colossians 3:14-17. Our theme in this third week of A Deep Life is Growing Together. The Spiritual Journey is not a solo adventure. We are not lone rangers. We are created by the community of the Triune God to be in community with God, with each other, and with all of creation. Jesus says some alarming words as ...
  • What is A Deep Life? | A Sermon from Psalm 1:1-3 and John 15:1-5 This is the introductory sermon to the series A Deep Life and looks at Psalm 1:1-3 and John 15:1-5. We live in a busy world that pulls us in many directions. A Deep Life is one that takes a breath and sinks roots deeply into the Love of God, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the world. I invite you to take out a writing utensil. You ...
  • Walking in the Spirit What does it mean to walk in the Spirit, and, more importantly, how do we do it? That is the big question for our sermon this weekend. The primary text is Colossians 2:6-7, and the supplemental text is John 15:1-8. Here’s the Colossians image again. This verse summarizes the process needed to walk in the spirit. First, we must acknowledge that we follow a leader. Jesus is Lord. The Lord is not Caesar. It’s not the President. It’s ...
  • Upon the Resignation of our Lead Pastor Our lead pastor submitted her resignation last week after three months of being on medical leave. I have a myriad of responses. First, I grieve the loss of a colleague in ministry. Kris and I met at the Bishop’s Theological Conference of the Minneapolis Area Synod in September of 2016. She was a guest speaker, invited to present Easter’s story of community engagement. We happened to sit next to each other at a social event and ...
  • Overcome (by) Anger | A Sermon from the Overcome Series This is the next sermon in the Overcome Series. It deals with Anger. Jesus was angry. Paul said, “Be angry, but don’t sin.” Anger is a gift from God that alerts us to a threat or a violation. The real challenge is how to channel that anger into something constructive, not destructive. Read this post for notes.
  • Overcome (by) Anger Things changed this week and I will preach on anger for two services. We have a graduate recognition service during the 9:30 worship service at Easter by the Lake. Our youth director will preach at that one and will speak directly to the grads. We didn’t really want to bring anger into that service, so he’s off the hook. I will preach on anger at our Saturday Night 5:00 service and 11:00am Sunday. So, I dug ...
  • Talk About Anger The second topic in our Overcome Worship Series is Anger. I’m not preaching this weekend, but we will record the podcast in the morning, so I like to dwell in the texts a little regardless. Our two main texts are John 2:13-25 and Ephesians 4:25-32. One important thing to remember about anger is this: It is not, in itself, wrong. Anger is a natural emotion, and like fear last week, is a gift from God designed ...
  • What Does it Mean to Overcome? We begin a new worship series this weekend. It is called Overcome. The intent of this series is to address issues of mental health and deep emotions that are often met with negativity, shame, and stigma in our society. The topics include: Anxiety, Anger, Depression, Grief, and Trauma. I have received more pre-series feedback for this series than any other in my one year at Easter. Some people have said how excited they are they we ...
  • Come and See | the Graphic Novel A fun thing evolved this year. It is my weekly habit to create some form of mind map whenever I study a text to preach. Honestly, I make one whenever I think about anything, because I am a visual thinker. Our lead pastor asked if I would make one for every week’s sermon topic, even if I wasn’t preaching, so that it could be included in our resource called the Grow Guide. I was happy ...
  • Where Does New Life Dwell? | A Sermon for Easter from John 20:1-18 He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia! This is my first Easter sermon at Easter Lutheran Church. We have been following the Narrative Lectionary since Christmas as it tracks through the Gospel of John. The series is called Come and See. View all the sermons from both campuses here. There is no manuscript or PowerPoint for this sermon. I simply used the images from the Visual Meditation found below. Enjoy. https://www.stevethomason.net/2018/03/30/a-visual-meditation-on-the-resurrection-of-jesus-in-john-20/
  • A Visual Meditation on the Resurrection of Jesus in John 20 “After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus ...
  • Good Family Faith Friday We remember Jesus’ death on the cross today. We call it Good Friday, but I don’t think it was a good day for him or his friends and family. He died, remember. Think about that for a minute. Jesus died. In order for him to die, he had to be a real, physical human being, with a real, physical body. In order for him to be a real, physical human being, he had to be born. ...
  • A Visual Meditation on The Crucifixion in John 19:16-37 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the ...
  • What Were You Expecting? | A Sermon on the Triumphal Entry in John 12:12-27 What were the people of Jerusalem expecting the day Jesus rode into town? Did they want a King who would lead them into battle to finally defeat the Romans? Probably. That’s not what they got. Instead, they got a man riding on the back of a young donkey who was prepared to give up his life for the sake of the world. This sermon examines John 12:12-27 and shows three ways that Jesus may surprise us ...
  • A Visual Meditation on the Triumphal Entry The Narrative Lectionary snaps us backward in the storyline of John’s Gospel this week. I suppose the liturgical calendar overrides the Narrative Lectionary. Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry is a pretty big deal. That said, here is my visual meditation on the Triumphal Entry as it is recorded in the Gospel of John 12:12-27. We must start back in Chapter 11 in order to understand the tension of this story… John 11:45-57 is the key to ...
  • Karoline Lewis and the Last Words of Jesus We had a wonderful privilege and opportunity at Easter yesterday. Karoline Lewis led the women’s Bible Study. She is the author of the Commentary on John that we, the preachers at Easter, have been using during our Come and See series (she makes us sound like we know what we’re talking about). I had the honor to introduce her and sit in on the session. WOW! It was a wonderful Bible Nerd fest that engaged, encouraged, ...
  • Here, Your King | A Sermon on John 19:1-16a This sermon concludes the two-part exploration of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. Here we see scenes 4-7 of this story found in John 19:1-16a. Pilate ultimately condemns Jesus to death at the prompting of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. We encounter three truths about Jesus and one choice we all have to make. The presenting question of this sermon is: How far will fear drive us away from our core convictions? View the visual meditation that ...
  • Here, Your King | A Visual Meditation on John 19:1-16a The Narrative Lectionary takes us to John 19:1-16a this week. This is the second half of the trial of Jesus before Pilate. The story is divided into seven scenes. We looked at scenes 1-3 last week. This week we finish the story with scenes 4-7. Feel free to use these images in your teaching and preaching. Enjoy! Narrator: Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put ...
  • What is Truth? | A Sermon on John 18:28-40 The trial of Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, takes place in seven scenes. This sermon walks through the first three scenes in John 18:28-40. We explore that age old question, “What is Truth?” The answer might surprise you. View this post to see the images from the PowerPoint.
  • Peter’s Denial | A Sermon on John 18:1-27 Do you ever feel like you have to pretend to be someone else in order to survive? This sermon explores the story of Peter’s Denial of Jesus and what leads us to do the things we don’t want to do. The good news is that Jesus waits for us on the other side of our fear and doubt. This sermon comes from John 18:1-27. Read Manuscript slide 01 Do you ever feel like you have to pretend ...
  • A Visual Meditation on John 18:28-32 | Jesus on trial before Pilate The Narrative Lectionary brings us to John 18:28-32 this week. This is the first half of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. The entire story can be broken into seven scenes. This week we look at the first three scenes. The scenes alternate between Pilate’s conversation with the crowd, who stands outside his headquarters, and Jesus, who is inside the headquarters. Feel free to use these images in your teaching or preaching. ...
  • The Family Bath Towel There are certain moments in a family’s regular routine that are often intimate and have certain rituals associated with them. I’m thinking especially about meal time, bath time, and bed time. Each of these moments bring parents and children into close, intimate contact. Bath time seems to be the most intimate and the most vulnerable. You wouldn’t want anybody giving your child a bath, would you? A child would definitely not want a stranger to give ...
  • What We’re Missing This Week The Narrative Lectionary skips from John 13 to John 18 this week. That makes me sad, because John 13-17 is my favorite part of the Bible. So, in honor of this text, I created an entire page in the Bible Bookshelf just for it. I will keep updating this page as more content comes. I invite you to view the page here.
  • A Visual Meditation on John 18:1-27 | Jesus and Peter on Trial The Narrative Lectionary brings us to the story of Peter’s Denial in John 18:12-27. I have chosen to start in John 18:1 with the scene of Jesus’ arrest. I think it is an important framing for the story. Below are my illustrations. Feel free to use them in your preaching or teaching. Enjoy! Notice the parallels between this scene and Jesus’ teaching in John 10. He is the gate to the sheepfold. He is the Good ...
  • The Family that Weeps Together… How does your family deal with loss? 2006 was a difficult year for my family. We call it the year of death. I had a good friend who took his own life. Both of my wife’s grandmothers died, the church we had started fours years earlier died. To top it all off, during Holy Week, my wife’s father died suddenly in his sleep. He was only 64 years old. That was a tough year. I remember ...
  • Resurrection and the Unfolding Universe Four things have converged this morning that make for an interesting question. How can we believe in the resurrection of the dead in this secular age? The four points of convergence: First, we read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from dead this past weekend, found in John 11:1-44. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” (John 11:25) The physical resurrection of the very ...
  • Stinky Feet, Clean People | A Meditation on John 13:1-17 We take a radical turn in our worship series through the Gospel of John this week. The past few weeks have addressed large passages of scripture that deal with complex stories: a conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42), Healing the Man born blind (John 9:1-10:21), the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). This week we look at a simple story where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet in John 13:1-17. There are ...
  • The Bread of Life | A Visual Meditation on John 6 What did Jesus mean when he said “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (John 6:54)? Does being a Christian mean we are supposed to be cannibals? It’s no wonder a bunch of his disciples left him after that zinger. If you’ve been following along in the Narrative Lectionary preaching series with us, then you realize that we skipped right over this whacky chapter. We skipped from the Woman at the ...
  • Come Alive! | A Visual Meditation on Lazarus in John 11:1-44 We come to the seventh and final sign in the Gospel of John this week. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Below are my visual meditations. Feel free to use any of these images in your study or teaching. It always starts with visually marking up the text. This is a perplexing passage. Jesus intentionally waits long enough to insure that Lazarus will be completely dead. The Jews believed that the soul completely leaves the dead body ...
  • Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and True Love How will you handle the confluence of traditions and romantic ideas today? On the one hand, it is Valentine’s Day. It is a celebration of romantic love and indulgence in chocolate, food, flowers, and all sorts of pleasure. On the other hand, it is Ash Wednesday. It is a day that marks the beginning of Jesus’ journey to the cross. It is a day when many Christians enter into a time of solemnity, contemplating our ...
  • What Does the Good Shepherd Have to Do With Ash Wednesday? Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. This is the day that begins the season of Lent. We traditionally smear black ashes on our foreheads, in the sign of the cross, and proclaim, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” over each other. It’s really an upbeat service! Tomorrow presents an interesting challenge to me as a preacher. We follow the Narrative Lectionary, and this year we are working through the Gospel of John. The Lectionary ...
  • The Woman at the Well | A Sermon on John 4:1-42 We continue the Come and See series through the Gospel of John this week by looking at John 4:1-42. Jesus had to go through Samaria because he had to show us where he abides. He sits in the light of day with a Samaritan Woman who has suffered the oppression of her male-dominated society and the schism between Jews and Samaritans. This woman shows us what true evangelism looks like. Follow the PowerPoint Watch the Movie I ...
  • A Visual Meditation on John 9:1-10:21 | The Healing of a Man Born Blind The following images will walk through John 9:1-10:21. This is the text from the Narrative Lectionary for this coming weekend. It tells the story of the sign Jesus gave by healing the man born blind. This sign points to the fact that Jesus is the Light of the World, the Gate for the Sheep, and the Shepherd whose voice the Sheep know and follow. Feel free to use these images in your teaching and preaching. Jesus ...
  • Family Tables and Holy Huddles Family Dinner is an important time of connection. It has always been a big part of my family’s life. Even today, my young adult children live with us and we still gather around the dinner table at 6:00pm. It is a physical space and family ritual that feeds both our bodies and our spirits. It creates space to discuss the events of the day, funny stories, and laughter. Of course, it has its moments of ...
  • What Does it Mean to Be Born Again? | A Sermon on John 3:1-21 This sermon continues the Come and See Series through the Gospel of John. Nicodemus visits Jesus at night in John 3:1-21. Jesus tells him that unless you are born again/from above you cannot see or enter the Kingdom of God. What does this mean? What does it mean to step out of the darkness and into the light? Read more in this post. Follow the PowerPoint
  • A Visual Meditation on John 4:1-42 Our text this week from the Narrative Lectionary is John 4:1-42. Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in the light of day.
  • What Makes God Angry? | A Sermon on John 2:13-22 This sermon continues the Come and See series through the Narrative Lectionary selections of the Gospel of John. Jesus’ angry cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem stands in stark contrast to his sign of abundance and grace at the wedding party in Cana of Galilee. Both stories illustrate where God abides; not in temples of stone, but in the hearts and lives of all kinds of people. There is no manuscript, but you can read the ...
  • I’ve Never Met a Perfect Family I’ve never met a perfect family. My family is at the head of the line for imperfection. Don’t get me wrong. We’ve tried to be the perfect family. We’ve tried to present ourselves as having it all together. After all, I am a pastor. And now I am the “Pastor of Family Faith” at a large suburban church. If that’s not pressure to have a perfect family, I don’t know what is. Well, we’re not, and ...
  • What Does it Mean to Be Born Again? | A Visual Guide and Commentary on John 3:1-21 The following images are my storyboard commentary of John 3:1-21. This is our text for the upcoming sermon this weekend. We are following the Narrative Lectionary in a series called Come and See. It is important to remember that John tells stories in pairs. We can understand the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus best when we keep in mind the upcoming story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4:1-42. We’ll dig ...
  • A Visual Meditation on John 3:1-21 Our text for the weekend from the Narrative Lectionary is John 3:1-21. Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, a religious leader, about the Kingdom of God. This is my Monday morning visual meditation. More to come as the week unfolds. Enjoy!
  • A Visual Guide to John 2:13-22 | Jesus Cleanses the Temple These are the images I put together for the sermon this weekend on John 2:13-22 from the Narrative Lectionary and our worship series called Come and See. Much of this is a compilation of previous blogs this week ( see here and here). Anger is not bad. The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:26 to “be angry but do not sin.” Anger is not evil. Listen to this sermon on emotions from this past summer. Anger is a gift from God. We’re ...
  • What Makes You Angry? Jesus got angry in our text this week. Read John 2:13-25. He enters the temple and drives out the money changers with a whip and flips their tables over. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of this version of Jesus. He makes me uncomfortable. I’m a peacemaker by nature. Ask my kids, I never raise my voice and I was raised by a father who never did either. I like the peaceful Jesus ...
  • The Abundance of Creation | A Meditation on Psalm 104 God is about abundance, not scarcity. That is one of the key theological ideas that runs through our study of John’s Gospel. It came through clearly in the text from last weekend, John 2:1-11, where Jesus takes ordinary water and transforms it into extraordinary wine. Not only did Jesus rescue the host of the party from shame and scarcity, he lavished the best wine on the family to the point of overflowing. Each day during our ...
  • A Visual Meditation on John 2:13-25 | Jesus Cleanses the Temple Our text from the Narrative Lectionary for our next Come and See Sermon is found in John 2:13-25. The sign stories come in couplets. You can’t truly understand the temple cleansing scene without contrasting it to the Wedding in Cana from John 2:1-11. I invite you to soak in this text and in this image. More to come this week.
  • Come and See, Not Come and Look Is there a difference between seeing and looking? I ask this question because, once again, our worship theme interacts nicely with Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. Last weekend we preached from John 1:35-51 where Jesus invites the disciples to “come and see” where he abides. We also learned that Jesus “saw” Nathanael under the fig tree and, somehow, this revelation allowed Nathanael to see that Jesus is the Messiah. What is the difference, then, between seeing and ...
  • Come and See | A Sermon from John 1:35-51 from the Narrative Lectionary Four people encounter Jesus for the first time in John 1:35-51. Each of them have a different experience. Jesus invites each of them, not to memorize a creed or join an institution, but to follow him and to come and see where he abides. That is the invitation of the Gospel of John. Come and See who Jesus is and how we can abide with God each day. Follow the PowerPoint Read the Manuscript I hope you ...
  • A Visual Meditation on John 2:1-11 | Water into Wine Jesus is with his mother and his disciples at a wedding party in Cana. The host runs out of wine on day three of seven. Bad news. Jesus’ mother urges him to turn the water into wine. He does, and now there are 180 gallons of the best wine you’ve ever tasted. Thanks, Mom! This is Jesus’ first sign. It is a miracle of abundance. Where does Jesus abide? He abides with his mother and friends ...
  • John 1:35-51 Illustrated | Come and See The following is a frame-by-frame illustration of John 1:35-51 from the NRSV. This is our text for the Narrative Lectionary this weekend. “The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They ...
  • A Visual Meditation on John 1:35-51 | Narrative Lectionary Our text in the Narrative Lectionary this week is John 1:35-51.
  • A Visual Meditation on John 1:1-4, 14 A visual meditation on John 1:1-4, 14 in the NRSV. I also love The Message version, The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. If you’re wondering why the word flesh is inside a tent and surrounded by tents, here’s why. The Greek is literally translated, “he pitched his tent among us.” It is an allusion to the tabernacle in Exodus. The tribes of Israel pitched their tents around the tent of God. The glory ...
  • Getting Ready to Preach through John We start preaching through the Gospel of John this weekend, following the Narrative Lectionary. I’m very excited about this because it is my favorite Gospel (don’t tell Matthew, Mark, or Luke). Here is a list of resources to help you dig deeper into John. Resources I’ve created: The Bible Bookshelf One of the main reasons my website exists is to house the Bible Bookshelf. It is my ongoing project to create a visual resource for every book of ...
  • An Introduction to Reading the Gospels We are about to launch a worship series that walks through the Gospel of John, following the Narrative Lectionary (January – April, 2018). This post is designed to provide you with a general introduction and framework for how to approach the story of Jesus that we find in the Bible, in all of the Gospels. I’ll offer an overview of John soon. It begins with a countdown. 4 Voices One of the many amazing things about the Bible is ...
  • The Only Present We Need for Christmas (and some good advice for Thanksgiving) Thanksgiving is tomorrow and the Christmas songs are already filling the airwaves. You can feel the frenetic energy building in our society as the collective anxiety builds in anticipation of the holiday season. Is this how we are supposed to feel as we enter Thanksgiving and Advent? A nice convergence of ideas came upon me this morning. It started yesterday when Pastor Brandon showed us the Advent Conspiracy video during staff meeting. https://youtu.be/iuvAmknqiqQ?rel=0 We all marveled at the fact ...
  • The Power of Forgiveness Our CORE series continues this week with the topic of FORGIVENESS. The key texts are Psalm 51:1-12 and John 20:19-23. King David wrote the Psalm after he had been busted by the prophet Nathan for his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Would you be willing to forgive a man who used his power to seduce a woman, get her pregnant, then have her husband killed to cover it up? David was broken ...
  • Word Became Flesh Community Art Project The Table happened again last night. This was our second week experimenting with this new style of worship on Wednesday nights. The theme was The Bible. It is our second week of the CORE series. One of our values at The Table is to be creative and interactive for all ages. Here’s what we did: I drew an image on my iPad based on the text John 1:10-14. Then I traced the colors with a simple line. Then I ...
  • A Visual Meditation on the Good Life of Service Thinking about our worship weekend. Students and adults will give testimony to how they saw God at work on our youth mission trips this summer. This is my mind map from this morning.
  • The Blueprint for Creation Two readings converged on me this morning. The first was from Luke 18:31-19:10, because I will preach on the story of Zacchaeus this week. The second is from John 1:1-5 and Richard Rohr’s meditation in which Rohr provides an alternate translation. The first reading tells about when Jesus enters the city of Jericho. This is his last stop before he arrives at Jerusalem to begin “The Passion Week.” He has just told the disciples what will happen ...
  • Free to Fail | A Message for the Graduate It is graduation season and many young people are contemplating (and freaking out about) the next steps in their lives. Last night I had the privilege to speak at the Baccalaureate service for the high school from which I graduated. This is the transcript from that message… The class of 2016. Wow. Let me bask in your glory for a moment. Did you ever think this day would come? Some of your parents wondered. But here you are. I ...
  • The Healing Touch | An Illustrated Sermon from Acts 3:1-10 Watch the sermon The drawings were as important for this sermon as the words, so I decided to set the audio track to the PowerPoint and make it into a video. Enjoy. https://youtu.be/N-Ivulrn7N4 Read the sermon Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 3:1-10 When we started having kids in the early nineties, my wife and I made the decision to move into that next phase of life as a suburban family. We bought…a minivan. As an artist, I was somewhat reluctant to ...
  • How to Bring Down a Corrupt Political System During an election year, it is easy to get bewildered and discouraged by the politicking that fills the airwaves and clogs up the Internet. We watch in wonder as world leaders behave like children and street thugs, bullying each other, throwing around money, and allowing cruelty and injustice to go unchecked. What do we do about it? How should followers of Jesus respond? My devo reading today reminded me of the answer to that question. Our readings ...
  • Mind Your Own Journey | A Devo on John 21:20-25 Today marks the end of my reading of John in The Journey. The passage is John 21:20-25. We have been reading three small sections per week since September. We will read the entire book of Acts next before we finish the course in April. Two important things captured my imagination in this last chapter of John: Peter was forgiven. Peter is the loud-mouthed disciple who boasted that he would never deny Jesus and then denied that he ...
  • 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 ...
  • Haiti Day 7: It is Finished It is 5:30am on Friday morning. I sit at the desk in the upstairs common area at the World Wide Village guest house in Porta Prince, Haiti. The last seven days have been an amazing experience. I am extremely humbled and grateful to Greg and Lori Ackerson for inviting me and making it possible for me to be part of this team. The Journey reading for today is John 19:31-42. The disciples had just received a ...
  • Haiti Day 6: Best Day Ever and A Swift Kick to the Head We have a tradition regarding Wednesday’s on our youth mission trips at Grace. It started in 2011 when we were on a Youthworks trip to inner city Atlanta. Our trip leader sat us down on Tuesday night and warned us that Wednesday was the toughest day of the week. He wanted to mentally prepare us for everybody being tired and grouchy. Some of us didn’t want it to be that way, so we made a ...
  • Hait Day 5: Will the Real Power Please Stand Special thanks to Chrissy Petersen for these photos. Our time in Haiti continues to be a very good and educational experience. We got to work yesterday. My big job at the school in Williamson is to paint a mural on the main wall in the school yard. The pencil lines did not wash away over night, so we were very thankful for that. I and a group of hard-working girls from our team spent the entire ...
  • Haiti Day 4: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mural I learned a new Haitian expression today: degaje (day-gah-jay). It means something like, “whatever happens,” or “We’ll figure it out,” or “just go with it.” We had a plan. We really did. Chrissy, Lori, Harold, and I were supposed to get in the pickup with Robertson, leave early, go to the MSC (think Haitian Home Depot), pick up the paint for the mural and supplies for other projects, then meet up with the rest of the ...
  • Haiti Day 3: Sunday on the Mountain Top Our team meets each evening in the living room to debrief, reflect, and worship God. Greg asked two questions upon which I will reflect in this post. 1. What surprised you today? 2. Where did you see God today? At Church Sunday was like the quiet before the storm in our trip. It was a day of rest, worship, and site-seeing. First we went to worship at Mission of Hope. This is a huge mission complex that ...
  • This is Eternal Life | A Devo on John 17:1-10 What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “eternal life?” Maybe you have images of angels floating around in the clouds, strumming harps, stuck in choir practice forever. Perhaps you imagine walking through pearly gates on streets of gold. Or, if you drink from a different well of imagery, perhaps you imagine the undead hordes of vampires or zombies, condemned to roam the earth forever. Our reading for the Journey today comes from John 17:1-10. ...
  • Images of the Vine in John 15 The Journey reading for today brings us to my favorite passage of the entire Bible. It is the metaphor of the vine and the branches in John 15:1-10. I have been captivated by this image since I was a child. Do a search on my site for “John 15” and you will find pages of material. Today I want to pay tribute to this text by compiling all of the images I’ve made about it to ...
  • How Is Jesus Revealed to the World? | A Devo on John 14:22-31 The Journey reading for today is John 14:22-31. Here we see a classic dialogue between Jesus and a disciple. Judas (not the one who betrayed Jesus) asks a direct question and Jesus does not give a straight answer. Isn’t that frustrating? Let’s look at this passage in two ways. First, let’s address why Jesus never gave straight answers. Then we can look at the specific non-direct response to Judas’ question. Why does Jesus never give direct answers? ...
  • We Need a Helper | A Devo on John 14:11-21 We saw in yesterday’s reading that the key word to missional theology is dwelling. The dwelling place of God is not a physical location, but the dynamic relationship between God, Jesus, and the disciples. But, how do we do that? Today’s reading, John 14:11-21, gives us the key to dwelling. It has two parts: It is all about LOVE. Jesus said that if you obey his commandments then you will dwell with God and God will dwell with ...
  • Where Do You Dwell? | A Devo on John 14:1-10 The Journey readings for this month are from my favorite section of the entire Bible. It is the intimate conversation Jesus has with his disciples on the night he is betrayed and arrested. It starts in chapter 13 where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as a living example of what they are called to do for the world. Today’s reading, John 14:1-10, introduces a key word for understanding this whole text, and for understanding missional theology. ...
  • The Glory of Christmas What is glory? Tonight, on Christmas Eve, we will sing that word over and over in a long and lyrical line, to a classical rendition of what the Angels said on high. Glo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ria! The word is usually associated with bright lights, lots of fanfare, and one person being exalted above another. When something or someone is breathtaking and beyond good, we say, “that was glorious.” Most of Western society has tried to make the last month into ...
  • Fear and Doubt, Our Constant Companions Fear and doubt. They are conjoined twins that follow us around like a shadow. Whenever the bright light of God’s reality shines in our faces, we turn away and there they are. These faithful friends reach out to us and beckon us to retreat into the shadows where it is safe and familiar. “Don’t risk being exposed by the light,” they say. “Who knows what people might say and do if you let yourself hang out ...
  • Putting Salvation in its Proper Context | A Devo on John 10:1-10 The Journey reading for today comes from John 10:1-10. This passage is one part of the section generally known as “The Good Shepherd” text. Immediately, pastoral images of Jesus carrying a little lamb around his neck come to mind. Here are two interesting observations about this text, though. Jesus first claims that he is the gate, not the shepherd. The gate provides easy access for the sheep to come in and go out without fear. This passage is ...
  • Will the Real Blind Man Please Step Forward | A Devo on John 9:26-41 Today’s reading from The Journey is from John 9:26-41. It concludes this week’s reading of chapter 9, in which we find the story of Jesus healing the man who was born blind (see this post). This story is placed in stark contrast to the scene in chapter 8 where Jesus debates his identity with the religious leaders. It seems that what John does here is say, “The religious leaders think they “see,” or understand God clearly, ...
  • Who Has Sinned? | A Devo on John 9:1-12 It may seem strange to us to hear the words in John 9:1-12. Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who had been born blind and the knee-jerk response the disciples had to his condition was, “Who has sinned, him or his parents?” Why do you suppose they would have asked this question? I am currently toggling between two daily reading plans: one for The Journey and one for the Narrative Lectionary. The two readings for ...
  • The Gospel Acclamation Every Sunday, in the traditional liturgical services, we sing the Gospel Acclamation right before the Gospel text is read. Why do we do this? Today’s reading in The Journey is the source of that text. The reading is John 6:60-71. Many of Jesus’ disciples left him because his teaching was difficult to swallow. Jesus turned to the twelve and said, “Will you leave me, too?” “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” We ...
  • Crucified Bread | A Devo on John 6:16-59 The Journey Scripture reading for today is John 6:16-59. Jesus told the people that he is the bread from Heaven, and that his followers must eat his flesh. Ew. That’s just gross, and weird. Are Christians cannibals? Of course not. Yet, just so you know, they were actually accused of that by some people. What is Jesus talking about when he says that he is the bread of life, and that anyone who eats his flesh will never ...
  • Can You Force Jesus to be King? | A Devo on John 6:1-15 There is great irony in today’s reading for the Journey. In John 6:1-15 Jesus feeds the 5,000 people. They were hungry and angry at the current political situation for letting them be hungry. That means they were also hungry for a new leader who would get rid of the Roman oppressors and the puppet king who let the Greeks and Romans pollute their countryside. When the crowd saw that Jesus had the power to multiply a ...
  • Jesus is Everything…Literally | A Devo on John 5:16-30 The Journey scripture reading for today is John 5:16-30. It is no wonder the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus. If he actually said publicly what this passage records, then they must have thought he was a crazy man. He makes bold claims to be equal with God the Father. You cannot read this passage and deny that Jesus claimed to be God. Of course, you could deny that Jesus actually said these words and claim ...
  • Out of the Shadows, Into the Light | A Devo on John 3:9-21 The Journey reading for today is John 3:9-21. It comes at the same time that I am teaching the Torah, and specifically Genesis 2-3 this week in the Beginnings class. What happened to Adam and Eve after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? When they heard God walking in the garden, they knew they were naked, they were ashamed, and they hid themselves. They had entered into the knowledge ...
  • Reading John 3 with New Eyes The scripture reading for The Journey today is John 3:1-8. I saw something in this passage that I’ve never seen before (after 40+ years of reading this familiar text). Nicodemus says to Jesus, “we know that you are from God.” Then Jesus does not deny it, nor does he say that Nicodemus couldn’t know that. He simply states that only a person who has been born from above can see the Kingdom. In verse 8 ...
  • Bible Mania Session 8 Now Online! Crossing the Great Divide This is the first chance I have had to work on the Bible Mania editing project since January. I hope to get the rest of them done in the next couple weeks. This session moves us into the Gospels. https://youtu.be/fZ0fGpAoSUY
  • Brian McLaren at the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly Brian McLaren gave the plenary presentation last night at the Minneapolis Area Synod Assembly. Our theme this year is from The Message version of John 1, “and God became flesh…and moved into the neighborhood.” McLaren did a nice theological reflection on the Logos. He said it is like the inner logic, or the operating system of the universe. Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher said that the Logos is War and Strife. John offered an alternative ...
  • Abide in Me | Plugged In Here is an updated illustration of John 15:1-5. I’m trying to connect Jesus’ metaphor of the Vine to a contemporary metaphor of electricity. In John 15, the Creator is the Vinegrower, Jesus is the Vine, the Spirit is the power of life flowing from every direction, we are the branches, and the fruit is the result of the branch remaining in the vine. In the contemporary metaphor, the Creator is the generator, Jesus is the power ...
  • The Upper Room Discourse as a Framework for Missional Spirituality The Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) creates a model for how the missional church is called to dwell in God, each other, and the world. Mapping the Text Dwelling in the Tension of Love and Betrayal John 13:1-20 Jesus Washes Feet It is not an accident that the Upper Room Discourse begins with an action. God is not an object to be studied, or an idea or doctrine to be ascertained. God is love and love is action between ...
  • Trinitarian Praxis in the Upper Room Discourse One possible frame/theme I might explore in my dissertation is the observation that the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) demonstrates Trinitarian Praxis. Here is a rough sketch of how I see it working out in the passage.
  • A Meditation on 1 John 2:1-17 and the Trinity “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2) I read this passage this morning because we are studying it in our College Group on Tuesdays. There ...
  • What Palms Do You Bring? | A Sermon for Palm Sunday Narrative Lectionary Text: John 19:16-22 listen to the audio Have you ever been disappointed by something? One thing that I often find myself disappointed with is movies. Have you ever been disappointed by a movie. Anyone? Let’s try something. Take a moment and think of a movie that really disappointed you. Do you have it? Now, think about why it was disappointing. OK? Now, turn to the person next to you and tell them what movie it was and ...
  • What is Power? | A Sermon for Lent 5 on John 19:1-16a Narrative Lectionary Text: John 19:1-16a listen to the sermon audio Do you ever find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place? Do you ever find yourself caught in a situation where, no matter what decision you make, you feel like you are going to hurt someone, or lose somehow? Let me give you a classic example of this. How many of you would agree that the Bible tells us that it is a sin to lie? How ...
  • Peter’s Broken Journey | A Sermon for Lent 3 from John 18:12-27 The Narrative Lectionary Text is John 18:12-27. This is the story of Peter’s Denial of Jesus. It is our story, too. I invite you to look at this image for a moment. If you have a writing utensil, write down on your bulletin, or piece of paper, some of the times or places where you have felt the need to do this. You don’t have to share this with anyone, I just encourage you to really ...
  • A Sketch for Thinking about This Weekend’s Sermon about John 18 This weekend the Narrative Lectionary takes us to John 18:12-27. It contrasts Jesus’ trial before Annas (the big cheese, power broker behind the High Priesthood of Israel), and Peter’s “trial” before the servants and soldiers in the courtyard. I’m thinking about expanding the story to begin at last week’s reading where we see Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and fill in the space between with the story of Jesus’ arrest. Here we can contrast the model ...
  • Looking Death in the Face | A Sermon for Lent 1 from John 11:1-44 Two things converged on me this week that sparked some creativity-from-desperation for the sermon. The first was that I had two sermons to prepare–one on Ash Wednesday and one for the weekend. (Not to mention that I’m neck-deep in my Dissertation research…but now I’m just whining) The second was that the Gospel text is extremely long. I don’t care how dynamic the reader might be, that’s a lot of text to read in one shot. I ...
  • The Broken Journey | A Sermon for Ash Wednesday from John 8:1-11 Text: John 8:1-11 Have you ever been busted? When I was in fourth grade we moved back to the Detroit area. It was our fourth move in four years. That was hard on all of us. I was shy, a little chunky, and not very athletic. I didn’t have very many friends, didn’t think I could make friends. A kid down the street befriended me and invited me into his house. His house was the kind of ...
  • Two Sermons in Four Days This is going to be a big week. Last night we held our second of six Deep in the Burbs Research Team meetings. Those are going very well. I’m exicited to see where this research leads. Tomorrow night I am scheduled to preach for our Ash Wednesday service. Our theme this Lent is The Broken Journey. The text is John 8:1-11–The Woman Caught in Adultery–along with Psalm 51:3-9, Psalm 103:8-12, and Joel 2:12-17. All of these ...
  • Jesus Got Mad? | A Sermon on John 2:13-25 | Jesus Cleanses the Temple Narrative Lectionary Text: John 2:13-25 The first few seconds of this audio are hard to hear because I was in the Narthex throwing tables around and screaming. That’s why I ask the congregation to check their bodies. I scared a few people. 🙂 This audio also includes the children’s sermon at the beginning. listen to the audio Check your body right now. How do you feel? What I just ...
  • Water into Wine | A Sermon about God’s Abundance from John 2:1-11 Narrative Lectionary Text: John 2:1-11 I did not write a manuscript for this sermon. I had a basic outline and then went for it. Not best practice, but sometimes that’s how a pastor’s week works. 🙂 I make reference to a link to Walter Brueggemann’s article about God’s Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity.
  • God’s Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity: Revisiting Walter Breuggemann’s Teaching The text this weekend is the story of Jesus’ first miracle in John 2:1-11. Mary prompts Jesus to fix the embarrassing situation at the wedding and he transforms water into wine. This is the first sign of God’s kingdom. I think this story is a sign of God’s abundance. It is contrasted with next week’s story where Jesus cleanses the temple because the rich and powerful were extorting the poor. These thoughts of abundance drew ...
  • The Vine of John 15 https://youtu.be/UeYp6L-LXSA The vine is the central image of the Gospel. It demonstrates the perichoretic power of the Gospel. That is the power of indwelling the other as demonstrated in the Trinity.
  • Overflow 2.0 I’ve been thinking a lot about the overflow principle lately. I will be writing about it more in depth in the near future. For right now, here is a quick sketch I did today to think about it.
  • Called to Move – Sermon Manuscript Lectionary Texts: Genesis 12:1-4 John 3:1-17 My dog is a spaz. Meet Shasta. He’s my 12 pound ball of fur. He was traumatized as a small puppy. He loved running out of our sliding glass door to the back yard. One day we had the glass door open, but the screen door was closed. You can see it coming can’t you. That poor little guy built up a head of steam, barreled toward the door, and then, BAM! ...
  • The Word Became Flesh – John 1:14 This is the text of a message I gave today… It is the Second Sunday of Christmas and I have been looking for the perfect icon for Christmas. It is the 9th day of Christmas, so, on the 9th day of Christmas, my true gave to me…wait for it…Chile con Carne!  OK, so that’s not really a familiar icon of Christmas. It is actually more like a joke. What does chile con carne and Christmas have in common? Con carne ...
  • Week 44 Day 2 – The Power of the Kingdom (the Breath of Heaven) John 19:1-20:31 There is a key verse, full of intense theological meaning, nestled in the middle of chapter twenty. This verse is usually overshadowed by its parallel account reported to us by Luke in Acts. Read John 20:22. Here we see Jesus breathing on the disciples so that they will receive the Holy Spirit. At first glance this seems very strange, but upon further investigation this event proves to be the finale ...
  • Week 44 Day 1 – The Secret to the Kingdom John 15:1-17 Most Christians would say that they want to serve God and “make a difference” for Him. The problem is that few people really know what that means and what it looks like in their life. This little devotional will not answer that complex question, but, perhaps it will expose one fundamental misperception that may be blocking the flow of “difference making” ministry in your life. As goal-oriented, achievement/success-centered Americans, we have ...
  • Week 43 Day 5 – Stinky Feet, Clean Heart John 13:1-17 This passage demonstrates one of the fundamental themes of Jesus’ message. The Kingdom of God is inverted from the Kingdom of Man. Every Gospel records the conversations of the disciples regarding which one of them would be the greatest. In each account Jesus blasted them with the truth of His Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is not about greatness. It is not about power over others. It is not about ...
  • Week 43 Day 4 – Dead Man Walking John 11:1-44 This passage marks one of the many ways that John’s Gospel is radically different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In those three Gospels (called the Synoptics) the climax of Jesus’ early ministry was the transfiguration. Before the transfiguration Jesus was ministering in Galilee, doing great miracles, and experiencing popularity. After the transfiguration, when His disciples caught a glimpse of His true glory and mission, Jesus turned His face toward Jerusalem to ...
  • Week 43 Day 3 – Christian Cannibals? John 6:25-70 The title of this devotional could have also been “Thinning out the Crowd,” or, “Scaring off the looky-lous.” When Jesus told the people that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, did He mean that literally? Of course not. There are three reasons why this could not be literal. 1. If the consumption of Jesus’ body was going to be the means of salvation for the whole world, there just wouldn’t be ...
  • Week 43 Day 2 – Two Conversations John 3:1-4:42 When contrasting these two conversations we see the whole point of the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus came to preach the good news that He was the Messiah, the Light of the World, the Living Water, the Son of God, and that through believing in Him all men could enter into the Kingdom of God (eternal life). First He preached it to the Jews, and more specifically to the leaders and teachers ...
  • Week 43 Day 1 – A Double Blessing Read John 1:1-18 Read vv. 16-17 again. What if you read it this way, “Because God is so gracious, He has given us many blessings, one after the other. The first blessing was the Law, which came through Moses. The second blessing was Jesus Christ, who brought grace and truth into the world.” There is no contrast in v. 17 saying that the Law was bad and Jesus was good. John is acknowledging ...
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A Unique Gospel

Of the four Gospels, John’s is the most unique. As you can see in the drawing, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they share a very similar view of Jesus’ life and ministry. While each paints a slightly different portrait of Jesus, each is a variation of the same basic theme. In the Synoptics, Jesus spends the first half of His ministry in Galilee and then moves to Jerusalem for the final showdown. The Synoptic Gospels are all based upon this basic outline and share many of the same stories.

There are two important reasons why John’s Gospel is unique.

  1. The others had already told the same story in three different ways. It was time for a new angle on the story to give new perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus.
  2. John was an old man when he wrote the gospel. While the synoptics were written relatively soon after Jesus’ ministry (30 years), John wrote his 60 years after the events. When the synoptics were written, it is most likely that Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed. John, as an old man, having lived with Jesus, having been persecuted and exiled in His name, having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, he had a very different perspective on who Jesus really was. The Synoptic Gospels have a very earthly, physical quality to them. Especially Matthew’s Gospel is still wrapped up in a system of rewards and punishments, blessings and curses within the Kingdom of Heaven. John’s Gospel sees Jesus’ teaching at a deeper, spiritual level. John realized that Jesus never intended on setting up a physical kingdom but had been speaking, from day one, about the true, spiritual Kingdom of God which resides in the heart of man and flows outward. While this message is present in the synoptics, it is still somewhat obscured by the authors temporal perspective. John removes the veil of temporality and demonstrates that the Word – the eternal, life-giving essence of God — became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. Praise God for John’s vision

The outline

John

John’s gospel is radically different. While he still shows a thematic contrast between the freshness and life of Galilee as opposed to the death and oppression of Jerusalem, John shows Jesus bouncing back and forth between. Actually, the book can be divided into its major sections based upon Jesus’ movement between these two regions.

Introduction (John 1)

In this section John sets the theological tone of the book from the outset. He is not mincing any words or holding anything for the punchline. Jesus is the Son of God, the light of the World, the Word became Flesh.

Two Dwelling Places (John 2)

In this section we see our first contrast between Galilee and Jerusalem. In the preceding scene at the end of John 1, the disciples ask Jesus, “Where do you abide,” or “where are you staying?” Chapter 2 answers that question. Jesus abides in places like a wedding celebration, where he lavishes the best wine in great abundance. He then goes to Jerusalem where he says that God does not dwell in the temple and the commercialization of worship, but dwells in the body of Christ.

Two Conversations (John 3-4)

In this section John contrasts the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, with one He had with a Samaritan women by a well. These conversations typify the message and the intended audience of the Word. The Jews did not understand and rejected the Word, the Samaritans and the “rejects” accepted the Word and found eternal life.

The Testimony of the Word (John 5-6)

In these two chapters Jesus demonstrates the evidence that He is who He says He is. In Jerusalem He demonstrates that Moses testified about Him in the Law. In Galilee His miracles are testimony to His power and authority over nature.

The Word vs. The Teachers (John 7-11)

In this group of scenes and exchanges between Jesus and the teachers of the Law, we find Jesus condemning the leaders of Israel. Simply put, Jesus says, “I AM the leader, you aren’t.” Obviously the leaders did not like this very much and they came after Jesus. Jesus then fled across the Jordan, not to Galilee, but to another region outside Judea called Ephraim. From here He launches His final approach to Jerusalem to bring fulfillment to His mission.

The Climax of the Story

In a wonderful scene of emotion, tension, and victory, we find John presenting an alternate climactic peak in the story. Where the Synoptic Gospels led the first half of the story up to a peak moment at Jesus’ transfiguration, John leads the readers to a peak moment at Lazarus’ resurrection. Here Jesus presents the true nature of His mission and His Kingdom. He has come to bring LIFE!

The Triumph of the Word (John 12-21)

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the fickle crowd greets Him with shouts of “Hosanna” while Jesus knows that the plot to kill Him is already underfoot. Quickly the crowd turns on Him, He is arrested, tried, and crucified. After He is buried, He conquers death and rises from the tomb. Jesus then, being the Word, breathes the Holy Spirit onto His disciples and empowers them to be His witness and Light in the world. The final scene shows the “resurrection” of Peter as he is reinstated into the charge of feeding Jesus’ sheep. In this final scene, we see the commission and challenge to the church today. We are to be fishers of men and feeders of sheep. We bring them in and we raise them up!

The Word in the Upper Room (John 14-17)

This picture of the Upper Room Discourse from the Gospel of John provides a model for how the missional church is called to dwell in God in the world.

This picture of the Upper Room Discourse from the Gospel of John provides a model for how the missional church is called to dwell in God in the world.

Read more about Jesus’ Farewell Speech In these four chapters, John takes an opportunity to teach us what the true nature of the Kingdom of God is all about. Jesus teaches the disciples in the upper room about being servant leaders, about remaining in the Vine, about the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, and about the charge to bring light to the world and to glorify the Father. Intense study of these chapters is essential for all church leaders.

Watch the Bible Project Videos on John

read the Bible Project’s Intro to John

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