Photo by Joel Mott on Unsplash

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.” MSG

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Congress and Supreme Court of Judah. The Sanhedrin had spies follow Jesus, they sent members to test Jesus, and eventually they put Jesus on trial. Yet, Nicodemus does not seem to be a part of that effort.

Bede, in the Eighth Century, had this to say. Nicodemus was one of the many who believed in Jesus, and therefore he came at night, and not during the day because he was not yet illumined with the gracious heavenly lightACCS John was fond of including just that kind of imagery; still being in the dark, Nicodemus approached Jesus in the dark.

Nicodemus alone approached Jesus when there were no crowds. This exchange has the appearance of a genuine wish to understand Jesus, not to try to trip him up. Yet, the phrase, we all know, suggests that others, perhaps many others, among the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin realized that Jesus was in some way connected to God.

What it suggests is that the Pharisees and Sadducees recognized Jesus as a great teacher and man of God, but his teachings upset their understanding of the world. They saw him as a threat to their comfortable positions. So, man of God or not, he had to stop the nonsense; only teach things they already believed.

Imagine Nicodemus returning home after this exchange, he has a new vision, perhaps a new understanding. I see him unable to sleep as he ponders Jesus’ words. I think he did all he could to keep up with Jesus and to better understand his teachings. We know that he saw Jesus on the cross and took upon himself the dangerous obligation of providing a grave for him. We learn nothing else about him in the NT, but I like to think he joined the followers at or after Pentecost.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right againMSG

Let us praise the Son first of all, venerating the blood that expiated our sins. He lost nothing of his divinity when he saved me, when like a good physician he stooped to my festering wounds. He was a mortal man, but he was also God. He was of the race of David abut Adam’s creator. He who has no body clothed himself with flesh. He had a mother who, nonetheless, was a virgin. He who is without bounds bound himself with the cords of our humanity. He was victim and high priest—yet he was God. He offered up his blood and cleansed the whole world. He was lifted up on the cross, but it was sin that was nailed to it. He became as one among the dead, but he rose from the dead, raising to life also many who had died before him. On the one hand, there is the poverty of his humanity; on the other, the riches of his divinity. Do not let what is human in the Son permit you wrongfully to detract from what is divine. For the sake of the divine, hold in the greatest honor the humanity, which the immortal Son took on himself for love of youACCS So wrote Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople in the Fourth Century.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Spirit of Truth

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 


Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104: 25-37
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-16:15

This passage of GJohn should be taken in context of the whole of chapter 15. The chapter begins with the last of the seven I Am’s of Jesus. I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardenerCJB The image of Israel as a grape vine is found in Psalms, Isaiah, Jeramiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea. Sadly, the image is generally spoken of as a failed vine; that is, the unfaithful and fruitless vine of Israel must be cut off and thrown into the fire.

As we read the Gospels, the image of the vine is not common. The Synoptics record a couple of parables; only John makes such a strong connection with Jesus being the vine, and only at the end of his ministry.

We read also that God is the gardener now. In Genesis we find that Adam was given the job of God’s gardener, but he failed. Too bad because the work was almost effortless. He might have had a good set of Feelme Electric Pruning Shears, Cordless Electric Pruning Shears with backup batteries.

This is how my Father will be glorified—in your becoming fruitful and being my disciples…There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends…But because you do not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of it, the world will hate you. Phillips

We would rather skip that last part. What, I must give up my twenty-room house with air-conditioning and three-car garage? Jesus, tell me the only people in heaven will be WASPs.

Bearing fruit on the Jesus vine has nothing to do with the how much money we have, how many vacations we take, how many times we eat at nice restaurants (ouch). Yes, we have to work a job we may or may not like to put food on the table and clothes on the kids, but that is not being fruitful.

While you are working, or in the break room, how often to you listen to other people’s problems and commensurate with them? How often do you make remarks about the failings of people you know? How often do you build up other’s morale? It is these innocent interactions that make up fruit bearing, or lack of same.

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. NIV That same Spirit is given to each of us to help us see the truth of others.

One of the earliest non-Apostolic authors, writing about 195, made this comment on this verse. The Lord promised to send the Comforter who would join us to God. For as a compacted lump of dough cannot be formed of dry wheat without liquid, nor can a loaf possess unity, so, in the same way, neither could we, being many, be made one in Christ Jesus without the water from heaven. And as dry earth does not produce fruit unless it receives moisture, in the same way we also, being originally a dry tree, could never have produced life-bearing fruit without the voluntary rain from AboveACCS

At the Council of Constantinople in 381, the following Greed was agreed upon.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord and giver of live,

who proceeds from the Father,

who with the Father and Son

together is worshiped and glorified;

who spoke by the prophets. ACCS

And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginningNIV You might assume this verse applies only to the Twelve; think again. Yes, Jesus was speaking to the Twelve and he meant it for them, but only for the early decades. Once the Twelve had died, the testifying was taken over by the next generation. And the next, down to you and me.

Yet I am telling you the simple truth when I assure you that it is a good thing for you that I should go away. For if I did not go away, the divine helper would not come to you. But if I go, then I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convince the world of the meaning of sin, of true goodness and of judgmentPhillips

Jesus leaves his ministry in our hands, but only if we listen to his guidance through the Spirit.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence