Monthly Archives: March 2013

3.25.13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Arrest, Trial and Crucifixion of the King

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

John 17:1-26

“Father, the time has come,” Jesus prayed. His teaching and healing ministry was over; the cross was just ahead. His prayer, as John recorded it, focused not on his own well-being but on his followers. He asked God to guard the disciples as they faced a hostile world. He also asked God to empower “those who believe in me because of their word”—i.e. Christians through the ages, including us—to live united in love.

TUESDAY

John 18:1-27

The authorities arrested Jesus, and his rigged trial began. Peter, who said, “I’ll give up my life for you” (John 13:37), bravely drew his sword to defend Jesus. But living for Jesus proved harder. Questioned by potentially hostile people, he three times denied that he knew Jesus—just as Jesus had warned him he would (cf. John 13:38).

WEDNESDAY

John 18:28-19:7

The Jewish leaders, staying ritually “clean” while seeking Jesus’ death, took him to Pilate, the Roman procurator. Jesus told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. Pilate tried to find a politically palatable way to free a clearly innocent man. The religious leaders insisted—“we have a Law, and according to this Law he ought to die because he made himself out to be God’s Son.” Locked in their earth-bound outlook, most of them never thought seriously that his claim might be credible.

THURSDAY

John 19:8-16

Jesus’ mockery of a trial was almost over. He had already suffered incredibly, flogged and abused by the Roman soldiers (cf. John 19:1-5). But the Jewish leaders wanted more. Pilate asked, “Do you want me to crucify your king?” Betraying not just their nation but their God, they said, “We have no king except the emperor.” Pilate sentenced Jesus to be crucified. God in the flesh, without sin or fault, was condemned to die a brutal death.

FRIDAY

John 19:17-30

With Jesus on the cross, Roman soldiers gambled for his clothes (cf. Psalm 22:18)—to them, crucifying criminals was routine. Jesus entrusted his mother to the care of “the disciple whom he loved.” He, the source of “living water” (cf. John 4:14) said he thirsted. John underlined Jesus’ identity as “our Passover lamb” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7) by specifying a hyssop branch (cf. Exodus 12:22). Then Jesus said, “It is completed” and died. At infinite cost, God’s great saving work for humanity was completed.

SATURDAY

John 19:31-42

In the Genesis 2 story, human life began in a garden. In John 18:1 John alluded to Genesis by saying Jesus went into a garden. (People often speak of the Garden of Gethsemane, but none of the other three gospels used the word “garden.”) After Jesus’ death, John recorded that two secret, wealthy followers of Jesus provided for his burial. Again he noted that there was a garden where Jesus body was laid to rest. Jesus’ post-resurrection life would begin in a garden—this would be humanity made new, creation set to rights.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

O God, we thank you for eternal life, for defeating evil and death. We recommit ourselves to our King, Jesus Christ. We thank you that you were willing to suffer and die for us; we are sorry for the times we have denied you for fear of ridicule or rejection. Lord, make us living, breathing answers to your prayer. We open ourselves to the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

The word “martyr” means “A person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.” Are there any American martyrs you can think of? Which ones do you particularly admire and why?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read John 17:1-26. Jesus asked to be glorified so that both he and the Father might be glorified before humankind. How could dying on a cross “glorify” anyone? What purpose did the glorification of the Father and the Son serve? Everything Jesus did was done to glorify God the Father. What does this say about how we should live our lives? Jesus said, “I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” What does “sanctify” mean? Was Jesus only referring to his disciples, or to all who would believe in him? How does this change how you think we should act toward one another?

 Read John 18:1-27. Why did the soldiers draw back and fall to the ground after Jesus said “I Am”? What do you imagine Peter thought as he shivered in the high priest’s courtyard? Peter was brave enough to draw his sword to defend Jesus, yet later denied being a follower. What was the difference? Can all of us see ourselves in these two sides of Peter? Did God forgive Peter for his weakness? Does God forgive us for our weaknesses? Are you, like Peter, ever intimidated by the influence or power of some non-believers? Does your faith grow as you learn from occasional feelings of intimidation?

 Read John 18:28-19:7. The Jewish leaders stayed “ritually clean” by not entering the Roman palace. In what ways were their actions unclean? Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” What did he mean? “The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God’” (verse 7). They found Jesus’ claims false. Do you know anyone who feels that way? What reasons lead you to find Jesus’ claims credible?

 Read John 19:8-16. The Jewish leaders insisted that Jesus be crucified for claiming to be the Son of God. Why did this make Pilate “even more afraid”? Politically, what did Pilate fear? Do you think something deeper also made Pilate afraid, as when he asked Jesus “Where are you from” (verse 9)? Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your king?” Why did he feel the need to ask permission? Was he laying potential blame on the Jewish leaders?

 Read John 19:17-30. Although the Jews protested, the sign on the cross read, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Was this sign correct? Why did Jesus say to John, “Here is your mother,” and why did John take her into his home? Had Joseph probably died? What about Jesus’ brothers (cf. John 7:5)? What was the significance of Jesus saying, just before he died, ‘I am thirsty”? Was he, at that moment, thirsty for God’s “living water”?

 Read John 19:31-42. In what ways did Jesus’ crucifixion fulfill Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah’s death? Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both Sanhedrin members, claimed Christ’s body, prepared it, and provided the tomb. Do you think they regretted their apparent silence during Christ’s trial? Was it risky for them even to claim Christ’s body? Did Christ’s followers expect his resurrection, or did they think his death, like any other death, was final?

From last week: Did you focus on this season of Lent? During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Did you do this? Share with the group how these practices affected your week.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, March 17, 2013:

One major theme in John’s account is that it is precisely in his suffering that Jesus is revealed to be the long-awaited messianic king. It is here we see his glory as he suffers and dies on the cross, giving himself to save the world….John says a “cohort” of soldiers came to arrest Jesus. A cohort was 200 soldiers at the very least. It was a dramatic number to show the perceived threat Jesus represented. In 18:4-6: [Jesus] asked, “Who are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said, “I Am.” We learned that the words, “I Am” in Greek–ego eimi—are equivalent to the Hebrew Yahweh—God’s personal name which means “I am that I am” or “I am life (or being) itself.” John says, “When Jesus said to them, ‘I Am,’ they shrank back and fell to the ground.” When Jesus speaks his name, 200 soldiers shrink back! I used to play a game with my small children. They would tackle me, wrap their arms and legs around my legs and say, “We’ve got you, Daddy!” I would toss them over my shoulders and say, “Now, who has who?” You have this Mighty King, the soldiers shrinking back, who then willingly presents himself for arrest….

15 times in the 30 verses that describe Jesus’ trial before Pilate and his crucifixion the word “king” or “kingdom” is used. Let’s turn to John 18:33-37. Listen: “Pilate entered the headquarters…summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’…Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.’”

Jesus acknowledges that he is a king, but his kingdom is not like those of this world. It transcends physical boundaries and even time. It is made up of all who believe in him and seek to love God and neighbor. It is a kingdom of truth, and light, and life.

Pilate repeatedly notes that he finds no basis for executing Jesus. But the religious leaders demand Jesus’ crucifixion. “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him.” I want to note that this wasn’t really the trial of Jesus. It was actually the trial of Pontius Pilate and of the religious leaders. Pilate talked with the King, sensed that he was more than he seemed, called him a king repeatedly, yet his concern for his own career led him to send Christ to die.

Many times members of our congregation have had to struggle with whether to do something they knew was wrong in order to keep their job, or to stand with Christ regardless of the cost. One of them I’ve been praying for this week. Some years ago he ran a small, struggling IT company. He was offered $100,000 to host a porn site. That money would have made the difference between staying in business and closing. He turned it down believing it would hurt others and compromise his faith. A saleswoman I know left a company because they were making false claims for their product. These trials come where we decide: career or Christ….

John 19:14 says: “Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon.” Here’s one place where John differs from the Synoptics. In Matthew Mark and Luke, Jesus is crucified on the first day of the Passover at 9:00 a.m. But John tells us he was crucified at noon on the Day of Preparation, the day before the first full day of Passover.

Your Jewish friends celebrate the Passover this week. What are they celebrating? 1,300 years before Jesus’ birth the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh refused to release them, until God sent a plague in which every firstborn animal and child would die. God told the Israelites to slaughter a lamb, roast and eat it. They were to take part of the blood, sprinkle the blood of the lamb on their doorposts with a hyssop branch, and the angel of death, seeing the blood, would pass over the house and spare the children and animals from death. From that time on Moses commanded the Israelites to mark this event, each year, in a meal that involved a slaughtered lamb to recall that the people were spared death and freed from slavery. This was the Passover meal.

Why does John say Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation at noon? It was at noon that Jewish families took their lambs to the priests in the temple to be slaughtered. As Jesus hung on the cross, John says, thousands of lambs are being slaughtered by the priests in the temple! John wants you to see that Jesus, like the Passover Lamb, liberates us from slavery or bondage….

Notice the sign placed over his head. It read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Only John tells us that this inscription was in three languages: Hebrew (likely Aramaic), the language of the near east, Greek, the language of the Helenistic world, and Latin, the language of the west. Why does John tell us this? Because in the inscription meant to name his crime, the Roman governor has inadvertently spoken the truth – Jesus, who hangs on the cross, is not just the king of the Jews, but of all the world….

As Jesus hangs on the cross John tells us those nearby affix a sponge to a branch of hyssop, dip it in sour wine and raise it to his lips. Do you find it odd that telling a story as important as Jesus’ death, he tells us the type of plant from which the branch to which the sponge was attached came?! Hyssop was used to place the blood of the lamb on the doorposts on the first Passover. It ensured the children of Israel didn’t die as they were being freed from slavery!…

Jesus then utters his final words from the cross….The Greek is just one word: TETELESTAI. It is a shout of victory announcing that a battle has been won, a mission finished. I’ve appreciated Will Willimon’s analogy: that this is the kind of word Michelangelo might have shouted after the final brushstroke of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted. Standing on the ground, looking up at his Masterpiece, he might have shouted, “Tetelestai!” A masterpiece has been completed. God’s saving mission is finished.

This is the death of our King, who has reached the apex of his glory by laying down his life for the human race, to free us, forgive us, and heal us. Though he was perfect and sinless, he comes as priest to offer himself for us. That’s our king.

Where was Jesus crucified and buried?

The New Testament says Jesus was crucified at a spot outside Jerusalem called Golgotha, which in Aramaic means “place of the skull.” The Latin word for skull is “calvaria,” and in English, many Christians refer to the site of the crucifixion as Calvary.

The Gospel of John says there was a garden at Golgotha, and a tomb which had never been used. Since the tomb was nearby, John says, that’s where Jesus’s body was placed. The Gospel writers say the tomb was owned by a prominent rich man, Joseph of Arimathea. They describe it as hewn from rock, with a large stone that could be rolled in front of the entrance.

“When he was crucified, (Jesus) was not really a significant feature in Israel,” said Rev. Mark Morozowich, acting dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. “Certainly there was jealousy, certainly he had his followers, but there was no church that was built immediately upon his death or to mark his resurrection.”

In the 4th Century, as Emperor Constantine was consolidating the Roman Empire under his newfound Christian faith, his mother, St. Helena, traveled to Jerusalem. According to tradition, she discovered relics of the cross upon which Jesus had been crucified. The spot had been venerated by early Christians, and she concluded it was Golgotha. Constantine ordered the construction of a basilica on the spot, which became known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Over the centuries, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was destroyed, rebuilt and renovated several times. There have been numerous power struggles over who should control it, and even today, sometimes violent squabbles can break out among the several Christian denominations that share jurisdiction. Still, it’s considered one of the holiest sites in Christianity, a place of pilgrimage and intense spiritual devotion. “What more of a moving place, to walk in Jerusalem, the place of the crucifixion, to meditate at Golgotha where Jesus Christ died, the place where he rose from the tomb,” Morozowich said.

But despite the history and devotion, some Christians — including many Protestants — believe Jesus could have been crucified and buried at a different place in Jerusalem known as the Hill of the Skull and the Garden Tomb.

Source: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-04-03/national/35452230_1_garden-tomb-christians-jerusalem

Final application:

Again this week focus on this season of Lent. During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Do this and next week share with the group how these practices affected your week.

Advertisements

3/18/13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Farewell Discourse

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

John 12:1-36

John devoted 30-40% of his story to the crucifixion week, starting at John 12:1 (“six days before Passover”). Mary, Lazarus’ sister, anointed Jesus before his death. Jesus rode into Jerusalem, praised by a crowd (including some who saw him raise Lazarus). John wrote that “some Greeks” sought Jesus. That moved Jesus to say “The time has come”—the time he’d waited for (cf. John 7:6) to move to the climax of his public career. He added that when he was “lifted up,” he would draw all people to him.

 

TUESDAY

John 12:37-13:11

John returned to the sad question of why many did not accept Jesus (cf. John 1:10-11). He echoed Isaiah 6:10, using the quotation to mean, not that God kept people from believing, but that their response to God’s light in Jesus hardened rather than softened their hearts. Jesus preached a final “summary” sermon. Then, to the disciples, he proclaimed his saving servant message in action as he did a slave’s job and washed their feet.

 

WEDNESDAY

John 13:12-38

John showed that Jesus didn’t stumble into his saving death, but chose that course (cf. John 10:17-18), by stressing that Jesus knew who would betray him. The spiritual message was clear: when Judas left to betray Jesus, “it was night” (verse 30). But as night fell, Jesus gave his followers a new commandment filled with heaven’s light: “As I have loved you, so you must love each other. This is how everyone will know you are my disciples.”

 

THURSDAY

John 14:1-31

Jesus’ talk of going away puzzled the disciples, who did not yet “get” that he was going to the cross, rising again and returning to God’s side. But he promised to return so his followers could be with him. He said that in him, they’d seen the Father. In a further glimpse into the mysteries of God, he promised not to leave them orphans, but to send the “paraclete” (a Greek word that meant companion, helper, advocate and comforter)—the Holy Spirit.

 

FRIDAY

John 15:1-27

In Jesus’ day, Israelites often pictured themselves as vines in a vineyard God tended (cf. Psalm 80:8-18, Isaiah 5:1-7). Jesus adapted and expanded that image. When his followers stayed united to him like branches to a vine, Jesus said, they would love each other as he loved them. “The world” (those who rejected Jesus) would hate them, but that was not cause for concern. They were citizens of God’s eternal kingdom.

 

SATURDAY

John 16:1-33

Jesus had only hours left to live, and he knew it. He had told his disciples that he would give his life for them and the whole world. He loved them, and tried to prepare them before he had to leave them. He knew they were about to be tested and devastated by what they couldn’t understand. He said, “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from www.cor.org/guide.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for the comfort of your presence within us when the world hands us strife. Thank you for the strength and courage the Companion and Comforter brings us. We offer ourselves to your service, with whatever gifts you have given us. We are your disciples. Cleanse us from the dirt of this world and may we loyally draw others to your banquet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Philosophers have often described, using various terms, humans as made up of three components: body, mind and soul (or spirit). What kinds of “food” are necessary to sustain the body? The mind? The soul?

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read John 12:1-36. Even though Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled…” he chose to endure his suffering and death for the ultimate good–that is, the salvation of many. Can you remember things you determined to endure, knowing that good would come from your suffering? Was your courage worth the ultimate results? How was your faith and moral courage affected? Are Christians better off if they are rigidly fixed in their beliefs, or more flexible and willing to learn new lessons?

 Read John 12:37-13:11. Why is it that some people hear the message of Jesus and believe, while others hear the same message and don’t believe? Do they harden their own hearts to the message of Christ, or does God prevent them from believing? How do you continue to believe? Do you see how, even though Christ has washed you clean, your “feet” need to be constantly washed from walking in this world? How do you continually open yourself to Christ’s refreshment?

 Read John 13:12-38. In what ways do we all need to help each other (“wash each other’s feet”) as we trudge through this life? Do some people today turn around and betray the message of Christ in much the same way as Judas Iscariot? Peter denied Christ. Did that end Peter’s spiritual life? Was he forgiven? How does Peter’s story of denial and renewal give you hope in your spiritual life? Does Christ have a caring, sympathetic heart about our difficulties avoiding sin and maintaining our faith? How can you, in your group, your family, and in other settings, treat others who fail as Jesus does?

 Read John 14:1-31. Do some of us believe in God, but have trouble embracing the concept that Jesus himself is fully God? What is your mental image of the place Jesus has prepared for us in heaven? What do you make of Jesus’ challenging statement, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”? What does it mean to you to pray “in Jesus’ name”? Jesus said he gave us peace. When and how has the peace of Christ been evident in your life?

 Read John 15:1-27. Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” How do we remain in Christ? Jesus said, “I chose you”. Was he speaking only of the apostles, or was he speaking of all believers? Do you believe that Jesus personally chose you? Jesus said the world hates us. How do you understand this statement? Jesus also said, “And you also must testify” (about me). In what ways are we called to “testify”?

 Read John 16:1-33. Jesus said that, after he was gone, the Holy Spirit would come and teach us even more. How has that come to pass? Why did Jesus need to tell the disciples that he was leaving them? Jesus said they would suffer, but that it would not last forever. Did that happen? Has this been your experience in life? Jesus said an “Advocate” would come after him. Did he? Who was Jesus referring to?

From last week: Did you focus on this season of Lent? During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Did you do this? Share with the group how these practices affected your week.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, March 17, 2013:

In John 13-17, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. Though they did not understand it, Jesus knew that following the supper he would be arrested, and the next day he would be crucified. There is an urgency on this night—these are the last things that Jesus will tell his disciples before his death. Imagine if you were speaking to your closest friends, or your children, knowing you would be arrested and killed shortly, both the urgency you would feel and the kinds of things you would say.

Open your Bible with me to John 13. John’s account of the Farewell Discourse begins with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. In the first-century world people wore sandals all day on dusty roads. Their feet were tired and dirty when they came in for supper, which is why water was set by the door with a towel and basin so that people could wash their feet before sitting down for supper. IF one had servants, it would be the job of the lowest of servants to wash the feet of the master of the house and the guests.

In John’s gospel, after Jesus takes the role of the lowest servant and, to the shock and horror of his disciples, washes their feet, he says to them, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you…If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Jesus tells his disciples that blessings (the Greek word is makarios, which means happiness or a sense of well being) come from serving others, not waiting to be served. This is fundamental principle of the Christian faith.

This week saw the election of a new Roman Catholic pope. Many agreed that they admired the Pope’s humility, his concern for the poor. What stood out to me were reports from the poor villages near Buenos Aries where many would not go, considering it too dangerous. Each year Catholics remember the footwashing during a service commemorating the Last Supper—the priest washes the feet of some of the church members. Cristian Marcelo Reynoso is a garbage collector in one of these poor villages. He described how then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio came to his village for mass one year. He said, “Four years ago, I was at my worst and I needed help. When the Mass started he knelt down and washed my feet. It hit me hard. It was such a beautiful experience.” He also washed the feet of AIDS patients, drug addicts and the poor as he sought to demonstrate the love of Christ.

Jesus wanted to make sure his disciples got it. So this story in John 13 is meant to lead us to ask this question: Are you—am I—worried about which one of us appears to be the greatest, or are we focused on humbly serving others?…

Repeatedly in these chapters Jesus promises that, after his death, God will send the Holy Spirit….John alone records Jesus calling the Holy Spirit the paraclete. It was a term for a defense attorney in trials—someone who was on your side, advocating for you, helping. It can be translated as Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, Helper or Encourager. The word has all these connotations.

The important thing here is to recognize that God is still at work in us. We experience his indwelling presence. It is the Spirit that draws us to God, that changes us as we put our trust in Christ, that nudges us in the right direction when we’re paying attention, and that comforts us when we feel God’s presence holding and keeping us. So here’s my question: Are you paying attention to the Spirit? Are you open and inviting the Spirit to work through you?…

That leads me to John chapter 15. We find the last of Jesus’ “I Am” statements in chapter 15:1-5 where Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.…Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.” In the Old Testament Israel is the vineyard or the vine, and God is the vinedresser. God tends her and prunes her so that she might bear fruit. Here Jesus changes the metaphor. He says that he is the vine, and his followers are the branches. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It needs to stay firmly attached to the vine.…

How do we abide in Christ? We talk to him. We worship. We pray. We read scripture. We do his work. We invite the Spirit to abide in us. We abide in Christ as the Spirit abides in us. In the synoptic Gospels Jesus says to remember him as often as they break bread and wine. Bread and wine were a part of nearly every meal. Jesus might not have originally intended a special meal, or Holy Communion, but that every time we break bread we remember to abide with him. Pausing to say your mealtime blessing is a moment to abide in him….

Okay, so what is the fruit that we are meant to bear? It is keeping his commandments. Jesus mentions this over and over in chapters 13-17. This is what he requires of his disciples. So what are his commandments that constitute the fruit we’re meant to bear? There are many things, but they all seem to come down to one thing. Look at 15:12-13: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Christian ethics come down to this question, “What is the most loving thing to do?” In every situation we ask this. It is not always easy to tell, which takes us right back to Jesus washing of feet. To love is to serve, to seek to bless, to seek to give life. It is to desire the best for the other. Paul tells us that love is the more excellent way. Jesus tells us the entire Old Testament comes down to loving God and loving neighbor. James calls this the “royal law of love.” This is the essence of our faith. I don’t care how much you know, how correct your theology, how much money you give, if you don’t practice love you’ve missed the mark!…

Most of us will not have the opportunity to lay down our lives for another, but we can live, daily, selflessly, sacrificially, consider the needs of others before our own. And as we do that, we fulfill Christ’s command to love and we bear much fruit. But we find the strength to do that as we abide in Christ and pay attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

And that is what Christ teaches us in the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper is the final meal that, according to Christian belief, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is commemorated by Christians especially on Maundy Thursday. Moreover, the Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as “Holy Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper.”

The First Epistle to the Corinthians is the earliest known mention of the Last Supper. It emphasizes the theological basis rather than giving a detailed description of the event or its background. The four canonical Gospels all say that the Last Supper took place toward the end of the week…and that Jesus and his Apostles shared a meal shortly before Jesus was crucified at the end of that week (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-39 and John 13:1-17:26). During the meal Jesus predicts his betrayal by one of the Apostles, and foretells that, before next morning, Peter will deny knowing him.

The three Synoptic Gospels and the First Epistle to the Corinthians include the account of the institution of the Eucharist in which Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to the Apostles, saying: “This is my body which is given for you”. The Gospel of John does not include this episode, but tells of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles, giving the new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you”, and has a detailed farewell discourse by Jesus, calling the Apostles who follow his teachings “friends and not servants”, as he prepares them for his departure…..

The term “Last Supper” does not appear in the New Testament, but traditionally many Christians refer to the New Testament accounts of the last meal Jesus shared with his Apostles as the Last Supper.

Anglicans and Presbyterians use the term “Lord’s Supper”, stating that the term “last” suggests this was one of several meals and not the meal. The term “Lord’s Supper” refers both to the biblical event and the act of Eucharistic celebration within liturgy. Many Protestants also use the term Lord’s Supper. The Eastern Orthodox use the term “Mystical Supper.” This refers both to the biblical event and the act of Eucharistic celebration within liturgy.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Supper

 

Final application:

Again this week focus on this season of Lent. During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Do this and next week share with the group how these practices affected your week.

 

 

 

3/11/13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The “I Am” Sayings of Jesus

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

John 8:12-59

This section begins with Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world” (verse 12) and ends with his amazing statement, “Before Abraham was, I Am” (verse 58). Between these two “I Am” sayings (associating himself with God’s name in Exodus 3:14), he declared that he was “from above” and his foes “from below” (verse 23). His self-righteous enemies were furious, ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy.

 

TUESDAY

John 9:1-38

John again echoed the creation story. In it, God formed humans from dust (cf. Genesis 2:7). John said Jesus created sight for a blind man using mud made from dust (verse 6). Then John portrayed the difference between physical and spiritual blindness. Rather than admit anything good about Jesus, the religious leaders scrambled to deny the plain fact that a man born blind could now see! In his beautiful confession of faith in verse 25, the man showed that he could “see” more clearly than the religious leaders.

 

WEDNESDAY

John 9:39-10:21

Jesus said the spiritual blindness of Israel’s leaders hurt, not only them, but the human “flock” God had entrusted to their care. (His words strongly echoed those of the prophet Ezekiel—cf. Ezekiel 34:1-16.) But God had promised Israel that he would shepherd them himself, and Jesus came as “the good shepherd” who would safely guide and protect all who trusted him.

 

THURSDAY

John 10:22-42

John described the behavior of Jesus’ foes in aggressive language, writing that they “circled around him.” They asked a serious-enough question: “If you are the Christ (Greek for “anointed one,” i.e. the Messiah), tell us plainly.” The problem was that they’d already settled on a negative answer. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (verse 30), they picked up stones with the intention of stoning him to death!

 

FRIDAY

John 11:1-27

Bethany is just a few miles from Jerusalem. Going there could expose Jesus to the malice of his enemies again (verse 8, 16). Jesus intentionally waited before going to where his friend lay deathly ill (verse 15). By the time he reached Bethany, Lazarus had died. Grieving her brother’s death, Martha told Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” He answered with one of his greatest “I am” sayings: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

 

SATURDAY

John 11:28-57

Jesus’ seventh miraculous sign was his mightiest: Lazarus, who had been dead for four days (verse 39), was restored to life. His act also gave Mary and Martha back the chance to live a decent life—in their world, a woman with no living male relative had no legal standing. Yet the darkness hated the light more than ever, and Jesus’ enemies increased their efforts to kill the one who gave life.

 

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.

 

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord, help us to feel as you feel and see as you see. Thank you for feeling our pains and sorrows. Help us to trust in your ways and in your timing. May all our lives and our efforts glorify you and bring others to faith. Continue to restore our spiritual blindness and allow us to always hear your voice as we struggle in our lives. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

 

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do our lives seem to have “seasons”? If our four ages are childhood, youth, adulthood and old age, which ones would you rename as spring, summer, fall and winter? Do some people seem to get “stuck” in one “season” or another?

Note: The Voyage of Life series, painted by Thomas Cole in 1842, is a series of paintings that represent an allegory of the four stages of human life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. The paintings are shown at the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.

For more information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Voyage_of_Life

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read John 8:12-59. Jesus said that our sin made us slaves to sin and that belief in him would set us free. Have you felt freer of sin as a result of your faith? At what point will we be fully free from sin? Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” What does this mean to you? If Jesus walked up to you on the street today, would you recognize him and if so, what would be your clues? Is Jesus asking us to change our whole life in one instant or more gradually, over time?

 Read John 9:1-38. What is the significance of Jesus healing the blind man by using mud? In this story, who was physically blind and who was spiritually blind? Have you ever felt that Christ, in some way, healed your blindness? What if, at some time in the future, society discriminated against you in a significant way for confessing your faith? Do you think you would still have the courage to profess your faith? Where would your courage come from?

 Read John 9:39-10:21. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” How do today’s advertisements try to say the same thing? Do most Christians feel that Jesus really offers the best life, or do we feel equally or more that way about homes, cars and “stuff”? How easy is it to become trapped in the lure of today’s materialistic world? Who chooses which people will become Christians? Do Christians universally accept one another? What tends to pull us apart?

 Read John 10:22-42. Was Jesus unclear about who he said he was? What was Jesus’ claim? Why did the people ask him to repeat his claim? Why did they want to stone him? Do you fully believe that Jesus is God, or do you have trouble with this claim? Do you think some Christians see Jesus as separate from God? Specifically what are we saying we believe when we say we believe in Jesus? Jesus said we can tell the difference between false and true prophets by the kind of fruit they bear. What “fruit” can we see in Jesus’ life?

 Read John 11:1-27. What great statement or statements of faith did Martha make in this reading? Why do you think Lazarus died, when Jesus knew he was going to raise him up again? What was the “I am” statement that Jesus made which spoke to the death of Lazarus? How does this statement relate to all of us? Before Lazarus died, what were Martha and Mary praying for? Was their prayer answered exactly as they asked? Was it answered? Do you think that sometimes we think our prayer wasn’t answered and much later, fail to realize that it really was answered?

 Read John 11:28-57. Why was Jesus’ seventh miraculous sign, the raising of Lazarus, the greatest sign? Jesus demonstrated that he even overcame death. Why were the Pharisees so upset by this? Where in this reading is a clue that the Pharisees were not upset merely on religious grounds? Why did the Pharisees say, “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”? Why did Jesus weep? Did he feel the hurt in the hearts of his friends upon Lazarus’ death? What does this say about the heart of God and how he feels when we are suffering?

From last week: Did you focus on this season of Lent? During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Did you do this? Share with the group how these practices affected your week.

 

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

 

From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, March 10, 2013:

Today we turn our attention to the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus recorded in John. Each points to the way Jesus gives life to everyone who believes in him. They also point to the divinity of Christ. Before delving into these statements, I want to take a moment to look at the first two words in these statements. In Greek they are: EGO EIMI.

Ego eimi on the one hand simply means, “I am” or “I exist.” Ego (we pronounce it ego in English) is the self—it is I. Eimi is from the verb “to be.” To see why these two words are important in John it is helpful to go back to Exodus 3:13-14 where God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush. God has called Moses to go to Egypt and to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Listen again to our scripture: “But Moses said to God, If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you, and they ask me, What is his name? what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you.’”

In Hebrew the word translated I AM WHO I AM is the Hebrew word YAHWEH or it is sometimes pronounced JEHOVAH. This is the personal name for God in the Old Testament. When Moses pressed God for his name God said, “I am who I am.” In essence, he was saying, “I am being (or life) itself.” Everything that exists is contingent upon God. He is the source of life, of existence, of being. Which is why Paul, quoting the Greek poet Epimenedes could say, “In him we live and move and have our being.” God says to Moses, “Tell the Israelites I AM has sent you.”

Now, if you have your Bible turn to John 8:56-59. Here Jesus says, “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad. Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus bears witness to his connection with God here. Notice what these Jewish leaders seek to do after hearing Jesus say, “I AM.” They pick up stones to kill Jesus. This is the punishment for blasphemy in the Hebrew Bible. In John’s gospel I Am appears on the lips of Jesus over 70 times.

With this as a bit of backdrop, let’s turn to a particular set of “I Am” sayings of Jesus—sayings in which Jesus defines how his life brings life to our lives. I’d remind you that in John 20:31 John tells his readers why he has written the gospel: “These [things] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” These seven statements clearly articulate what it means to “have life in his name.”

I want you to notice that each of these is rooted in the Old Testament, drawing from Old Testament, stories, images of God, or images of Israel:

Jesus said to them,

–I am the bread of life

–I am the light of the world

–I am the door for the sheep

–I am the good shepherd

–I am the resurrection and the life

–I am the way, and the truth, and the life

–I am the true vine

Each of these is rooted in Old Testament images of God, and each points to how Jesus gives life to those who trust in him….

In our scripture today we find Jesus claiming to be the I Am in human flesh. He is the way, the truth and the life. And no one will come to the Father except by means of the love, grace and mercy he offers. For those who did not understand, I trust in God’s justice and mercy. But to you today, who hear this message, I would give this invitation: trust him! There is no other way or truth that leads to life, and he stands offering his life for you.

 

“I Am the Resurrection and the Life”

You know the sickening sense of wanting to turn the clock back. That’s why movies are made, like that Back to the Future series, in which people do just that, moving this way and that within the long history of time, changing something in a previous generation which will mean that now everything in the present—and the future—can be different. It’s a wistful dream. It’s a kind of nostalgia, not for the past as it was, but for the present that could have been, if only the past had just been a little bit different. Like all nostalgia, it’s a bitter—sweet feeling, caressing the moment that might have been, while knowing it’s all fantasy.

All of that and more is here (verse 21) in Martha’s ‘if only’ to Jesus. She knows that if Jesus had been there he would have cured Lazarus. And she probably knows, too, that it had taken Jesus at least two days longer to get there than she had hoped. Lazarus, as we discover later, has already been dead for three days, but perhaps…he might just have made it…if only…

Jesus’ reply to her, and the conversation they then have, show that the ‘back to the future’ idea isn’t entirely a moviemaker’s fantasy. Instead of looking at the past, and dreaming about what might have been (but now can’t be), he invites her to look to the future. Then, having looked to the future, he asks her to imagine that the future is suddenly brought forwards into the present. This, in fact, is central to all early Christian beliefs about Jesus, and the present passage makes the point as clearly and vividly as anywhere in the whole New Testament.

First, he points her to the future. ‘Your brother will rise again.’ She knows, as well as Jesus does, that this is standard Jewish teaching. (Some Jews, particularly the Sadducees, didn’t believe in a future resurrection, but at this period most Jews did, following Daniel 12:3 and other key Old Testament passages.) They shared the vision of Isaiah 65 and 66: a vision of new heavens and new earth, God’s whole new world, a world like ours only with its beauty and power enhanced and its pain, ugliness and grief abolished. Within that new world, they believed, all God’s people from ancient times to the present would be given new bodies, to share and relish the life of the new creation.

Martha believes this, but her rather flat response in verse 24 shows that it isn’t at the moment very comforting. But she isn’t prepared for Jesus’ response. The future has burst into the present. The new creation, and with it the resurrection, has come forward from the end of time into the middle of time. Jesus has not just come, as we sometimes say or sing, ‘from heaven to earth’; it is equally true to say that he has come from God’s future into the present, into the mess and muddle of the world we know. ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ he says. ‘Resurrection’ isn’t just a doctrine. It isn’t just a future fact. It’s a person, and here he is standing in front of Martha, teasing her to make the huge jump of trust and hope.

He is challenging her, urging her, to exchange her ‘if only…’ for an ‘if Jesus…’.

If Jesus is who she is coming to believe he is…

If Jesus is the Messiah, the one who was promised by the prophets, the one who was to come into the world…

If he is God’s own son, the one in whom the living God is strangely and newly present…

If he is resurrection-in-person, life-come-to-life…

(From N. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 11–21, 2004, pp. 7-8)

 

Final application:

Again this week focus on this season of Lent. During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Do this and next week share with the group how these practices affected your week.

 

3/4/13 Weekly Small Groups GPS Guide

(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)

The Miraculous Signs of Jesus

A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.

MONDAY

John 5:1-30

Many people in Jesus’ day thought the pool of Bethesda (or Bethsaida) had healing power. It hadn’t worked for the man Jesus met—he’d been there for 38 years! Jesus asked him, “Do you WANT to get well?” He healed him on the Sabbath, and his critics fussed about rule-breaking rather than celebrating the man’s healing. Jesus responded by declaring that his power and mission came from his divine Father—which only upset them more.

TUESDAY

John 5:31-6:15

This section almost sounds as though Jesus was on trial—and, in one sense, he was. He said he had many witnesses to show that he was who he said: his works, John the Baptist, his Father, and Moses’ words in Scripture. Many people were positively impressed when Jesus fed them miraculously—but they wanted him to be a political king who changed their circumstances, not a spiritual king who changed their hearts

WEDNESDAY

John 6:16-40

Jesus’ ministry grabbed the attention of many. If he were ministering today, you might expect the major news networks to be talking about his latest miracle or healing. But John sharply contrasted the people’s earthbound outlook and Jesus’ desire to share the truth of God’s eternal world. “Believe in him whom God sent,” he pleaded. “I am the bread of life.”

THURSDAY

John 6:41-71

Jesus’ words in this section echoed his talk with the woman at the well (cf. John 4), but now he used the image of bread rather than of water. His vivid imagery about eating his flesh and drinking his blood made people squirm. Many turned away. But he was describing the spiritual reality we act out in the Lord’s Supper—taking Jesus in to nourish our eternal life. Some “got it”—the Twelve didn’t turn away. “Lord, where would we go?” Peter asked.

FRIDAY

John 7:1-30

Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him (verse 5), the crowds had mixed views (verse 12), and Jewish leaders wanted to kill him (verse 1, 25). Jesus was inner-directed, and chose his own course under God. He clarified the true purpose of the Sabbath (verse 23). He spoke firmly of his heavenly origin and life-giving mission, saying “I haven’t come on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. I know him because I am from him and he sent me” (verse 28, 29).

SATURDAY

John 7:31-8:11

Jesus’ enemies were bitterly frustrated when their own Temple guards wouldn’t arrest Jesus, and Nicodemus asked for a fair hearing. The story in John 8:1-11 wasn’t in that spot in the earliest manuscripts we have, but it fits well. The Pharisees set an ugly trap—they were okay with shaming, even killing, a woman they had probably lured into the act of adultery. (Where was her partner? You can’t commit adultery alone.) Jesus disarmed them and gave their victim a new start.

To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for John’s gospel, which gives us different insights from the other gospels. We choose to live, not in this world of sin and death, but in the infinitely grander world of Jesus. Thank you for making yourself known to us in Christ and for embracing us as your children. Fill us with your bread of life. Help us to multiply the gifts we have received. In Jesus name, Amen.

CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)

Do we see the world that same way(s) that our parents and grandparents saw it? Why would we see the world differently? How would we describe it differently? In what ways does that make our Christian faith different from theirs? How is it similar to theirs?

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY

 Read John 5:1-30. Why did Jesus ask the crippled man whether he wanted to get well? How important is our desire to get well in recovering from ill health? How important is our desire to be healed to our spiritual salvation? Notice that in verse 24, Jesus used the present tense when he said “has eternal life…has passed from death into life.” What is this telling us? In what ways do Christians experience this miracle of “eternal life” before their physical death? Why were the Jewish leaders so critical of the man who was carrying his mat on the Sabbath? Have you ever seen situations where people criticized others, thinking that by doing so, no one would notice their own flaws?

 Read John 5:31-6:15. Jesus told his critics that, although they had been reading the scriptures, they had been reading them in the wrong way. Why do you read the Bible? For what other reasons do people read the Bible? Jesus used a small thing like the food the boy carried, and transformed it into a miracle that led many to believe. What kinds of small things can we do that Jesus might turn into significant “miracles”? Can our individual gifts have power and meaning beyond the obvious? Do we always get to see the final results of our efforts to serve God?

 Read John 6:16-40. What significance do you draw from the story of the disciples rowing on rough, stormy water, having Jesus enter their boat and immediately reaching the far shore? How might this give us hope when we face storms in life? How would you compare the miracle of Jesus walking on the water to the miracle of the gift of eternal life, offered even when we have failed him in this life? What is the “bread of God”? What kinds of things do we tend to long for in this life? How do we go about feeding our soul with the “bread of life” Jesus offers?

 Read John 6:41-71. Jesus’ imagery about eating his flesh and drinking his blood made people squirm, and many turned away. What was Jesus really referring to? How would you describe the act of receiving Holy Communion? We also use the term Eucharist which stems from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning “thanksgiving.” In receiving the elements of communion, what is the meaning or significance of “thanksgiving”? Do you think partaking of the Lord’s Supper mysteriously nourishes your soul and spiritual growth, or is it merely a ritual?

 Read John 7:1-30. Jesus used the term “world” to mean an inner, spiritual orientation that turns away from God. How does “the world” try to draw us into its values and way of life today? How are our lives better when we live in the world of Christ, rather than being absorbed by the world that avoids and rejects him and his teaching? How often do we actually take notice of when and how “the world” tries to destroy our faith and our godly efforts? Should we try to be more aware of these threats? If so, how could we do this?

 Read John 7:31-8:11. Why didn’t the Temple guards arrest Jesus? Why didn’t Jesus look at the woman’s accusers, instead choosing to look down and write on the ground? Did Jesus choose to confront the accusers directly and as a group, or to allow each accuser to confront his own, inner self? Do you ever hear Jesus as he challenges you to confront your inner motives?

From last week: Did you focus on this season of Lent? During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Did you do this? Share with the group how these practices affected your week.

FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT

From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, March 3, 2013:

When you read a story in John, part of what makes it interesting and even fun is asking, is there more to the story than meets the eye? Does this or that detail mean something? There are always two levels at which each story can be read: There is the straightforward level in which water is changed into wine, or the eyes of a blind man are opened. But often there is a deeper level which is answering the questions, “Who is this man Jesus? How does he affect our lives? And what is required of us?”…

Jewish wedding banquets in the first century period often lasted seven days. Like weddings and wedding receptions today, they were one of the great moments in the life of a family, and one of the most joyful times in any community. It’s for this reason that the Bible often associates heaven with a wedding banquet. Remember, there is always a deeper meaning to John’s stories. This story is not only about Jesus providing wine for a wedding, but about the life he offers to each of us.

At this particular wedding, the wine gives out. This is very embarrassing for the host. Jesus’ mother tells him the wine has given out. Then she tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” We don’t know that Mary is expecting a miracle at this point, only that Jesus will solve the wine problem. But this phrase is important and John includes it for a reason. Today, who are the servants of Christ? We are, of course. With that in mind, let’s read verse five together once again: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” Part of the key to having the abundant life Jesus offers is found in doing whatever he tells you to do.

What happens next? “Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification.” I’ll point out a couple of things. Why does John say these jars are used for Jewish rites of purification? He could have just said, “There were six stone jars there.” He’s wants you to understand the deeper meaning. This story is not just about Jesus changing water into wine, but about how life in Christ is richer and more joyful than the ritualistic religion of first century Judaism….

Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem, and see a blind beggar. The disciples ask: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The Jewish mindset for many was that if something bad happened to you it was a punishment for something you did wrong. This is a major assumption in much of the Old Testament—adversity is a punishment for sin. Yet Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that Gods works might be revealed in him.” I love this. Jesus is clear that this man’s blindness is not a punishment from God, but instead it is an opportunity for the work of God to be revealed….

John devotes so much time to this story because the blind beggar represents each of us. Our eyes are opened as we hear his voice, trust him and do as he commands. Our washing—our baptisms—are a part of our journey, whether they happen as small children when our parents pledge to raise us to walk in the light of Christ, or if we come to Christ when we’re older….

Now what happens next is what I want you to notice. The once blind man who now can see creates quite a stir. It seems that Jesus healed him on the Sabbath, and the ritual Judaism of the day forbade healing the sick on the Sabbath (unless their life was in danger). This man had been blind since birth; his life was not in danger. The religious leaders demanded an explanation. When he told them that Jesus had healed him, they said Jesus was a sinner because he’d done this on the Sabbath. One of my favorite verses in this story is verse 25, where we read: “He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’” The religious leaders drove him out of the synagogue.

The chapter paints a powerful contrast between the blind man who listened to Jesus voice, trusted him, obeyed his commands and thus came to see, and the religious leaders who refused to listen to Jesus and condemned him as a sinner, who are shown to be the truly blind ones. The chapter asks its readers, are you blind, or can you see? Jesus opens our eyes as we trust in him and seek to do what he asks, just as in our first story we learned that he fills us with the best wine when we trust and obey. Both stories ultimately point to the same message: Christ offers life. His life is richer, more meaningful than the life Bacchus offers. Christ is the light of the world. As you trust him and do as he asks, your eyes are opened to see life as it is and to see God as he is.

Which leads me to the story of John Newton, who was a sailor working in the slave trade in the mid 1700’s. His story is well- known. You may not know that he was upbraided by his captain for being even more profane than the other sailors in his language, his drinking, his character. But he began reading books on the life of Christ, and after a storm that nearly killed the entire crew of his ship at sea, he put his trust in Christ. Over the years he laid aside his profanity, his drunkenness, and then the slave trade. He eventually became a pastor. As he pondered the plight of the slaves, he joined William Wilberforce in seeking an end to the slave trade in the British Empire. He wrote a pamphlet that was sent to every member of Parliament and was reproduced in the tens of thousands and he lived long enough to see the official end of the trade in 1807.

In 1779 he penned a poem, a prayer that he invited his congregation to recite with him at the end of his sermon one Sunday. The words described the change that comes when we trust in Christ and obey his words. They were later set to music. Join me in reciting these words you likely know by heart: AMAZING GRACE! HOW SWEET THE SOUND, THAT SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME. I ONCE WAS LOST BUT NOW AM FOUND; WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I SEE.

Our task is to trust Christ, to believe in him, and to do what he asks us to do. As we do this we walk in the light of his love.

What is Eucharist?

The Eucharist, also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord’s Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance. It is reenacted in accordance with Jesus’ instruction at the Last Supper as recorded in several books of the New Testament, that his followers do in remembrance of Him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, “This is my body,” and gave them wine, saying: “This is my blood.”

There are different interpretations of the significance of the Eucharist, but according to the Encyclopedia Britannica “there is more of a consensus among Christians about the meaning of the Eucharist than would appear from the confessional debates over the sacramental presence, the effects of the Eucharist, and the proper auspices under which it may be celebrated.” The term eucharist may refer not only to the rite but also to the consecrated bread (leavened or unleavened) and wine (or unfermented grape juice in some Protestant denominations, water in the LDS Church’s sacrament) used in the rite. In this sense, communicants (that is, those who partake of the communion elements) may speak of “receiving the Eucharist”, as well as “celebrating the Eucharist.”

The Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning “thanksgiving,” is not used in the New Testament as a name for the rite. It is the term by which the rite is referred to by the Didache (late 1st or early 2nd century), Ignatius of Antioch (who died between 98 and 117) and Justin Martyr (writing between 147 and 167). Today, “the Eucharist” is the name still used by the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Reformed/Presbyterian, United Methodists, and Lutherans. Other Protestant traditions rarely use this term, preferring either “Communion”, “the Lord’s Supper”, or “the Breaking of Bread”. The Lord’s Supper is a name used in the early 50s of the first century as witnessed by the First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:20-21).

More at the source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucharist

Final application:

Again this week focus on this season of Lent. During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Do this and next week share with the group how these practices affected your week.