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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


Daily Devotional thoughts by Stephen Thompson

John 13:1: Endless love.

John 13:1: Endless love.

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

”There is no creature, regardless of its apparent insignificance, that fails to show us something of God’s goodness.” Thomas a Kempis.

Nothing takes Jesus by surprise. It is significant when we read that ”It was just before the Passover Festival.” Jesus was about to die as the ultimate ”Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7). His death was no accident. As we have seen many times in this gospel, the Father was in control. All Jesus’ movements, in life and death, were according to a Divine timetable. His dying was a deliberate act of sacrifice. The climax of His ministry was not a simple, straightforward tragedy, however it appears on the surface. It was a leaving of ”this world” to ”go to the Father”. Death is like this for every believer. It’s the ultimate house move. It’s moving home.                                                                                                                       There are many things we can say about the cross. In addition to being able to assert that:

  • it is significant (full of Old Testament sacrificial resonance); and that
  • It is under God’s sovereign governance;

We can also say:

  • it shows God’s heart. A preacher said, ”We talk about wearing the heart on the sleeve; God wore His heart on a cross. Calvary displays ”the full extent” of Jesus’ love.

I like the translation that says: ”Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” That challenges me like this: ‘Do I have a love that goes the distance with people?’ It’s easy to give up on difficult people and allow distance to grow between you. But this is not the way of Jesus.

”It must become a spiritual discipline to look for the good in people buried beneath the pettiness, resentments, and ambitions that irritate us about each other.” From ‘Subterranean’ by Dan White Jr.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, please help me to love like you.

John 12:37-50: Stubborn blindness.

John 12:37-50: Stubborn blindness.

“37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God. 44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” NIV

”Jesus is the window into God.” Michael Green.

John makes a remarkable statement about Isaiah (41), but it is even more a staggering assertion about Christ. It probably refers to the vision of God’s glory the prophet saw, recorded in chapter 6 of the book that bears his name. John says that in fact he ”saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” To see Jesus, is to see the Father (44, 45; 14:9).

I find it helpful, in looking at verses 37-41, to see that it first says ”they…would not believe in him” (37) before it says ”they could not believe” (39). There are ‘none so blind as those who will not see.’ You can’t see if you won’t see, and in the previous section Jesus had warned about making the most of ”the light” while they still had it (35, 36). There can come a time when our hearts are so hardened that we cannot repent, and ultimately all must face judgment (48). 

Yet again though, Jesus was not met with wall to wall spiritual blindness (42). There were ”many even among the leaders” who believed. However, it was a response without backbone. Something was lacking. As Bishop J.C. Ryle said, a soldier is not ashamed of his uniform.

John 12:31-36: The wondrous cross.

John 12:31-36: The wondrous cross.

“31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up[a] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Lawthat the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” NIV

Come with me, and let us ”survey” something of ”the wondrous cross”. See:

  1. The necessity of the cross: There is a ”must” about it (34b; see also 3:14,15). There can be no work of saving the human race apart from the cross.
  2. The glory of the cross: (32, 33, 34; see also verses 28-30). In John’s gospel, the cross is repeatedly spoken of in terms of lifting up. Of course, someone crucified was physically lifted up on a stake (33). But there is more to it than that. What,to men, was the ultimate in shame, Jesus saw as the utmost in glory. ”May I never boast (glory) except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14).
  3. The achievement of the cross: What Jesus achieved on the cross may be expressed in a number of ways. Here are two of those results (31): a.) the judgment upon all the world’s sin – and Jesus drank the cup of God’s anger against sin to its dregs, being substituted for us; b.) victory over Satan. The devil may not yet be driven out of the world, but Jesus won the decisive battle against him at the cross. The day Jesus died was ‘D day’. The final triumph is not in doubt.
  4. The magnetism of the cross: ”And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me” (32). Jesus wasn’t saying that everyone will be converted. We have to compare Scripture with Scripture, and not interpret one part of the Bible to the hurt of other parts. God’s Word does not say that all will be saved,but we can expect many to be drawn to the crucified Lord.
  5. The opportunity presented by the cross: It’s an opportunity that will only exist for ”just a little while longer” (35). If you do not respond to ”the light” God shows you while you still have the chance, you may find that a day comes when you want to search for Jesus, but you are unable to find Him (36b).

 As I have written these notes my own heart has been ‘strangely warmed’.                                I pray it is so for you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, once more I find myself asking that you will keep me near your cross.

John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.

John 12:27-30: Man of sorrows.

“27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” NIV

Isaiah saw Jesus as ”despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Have you ever felt so troubled that you didn’t know quite what to say? Jesus can sympathise; indeed, empathise (27). ”Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say?” The Message. Perhaps your heart is weighed down as you read this? Well, Jesus knows, and He cares. He is not sitting up in heaven watching impassively as you are buffeted by winds and waves of trouble.

”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:15).

In trouble, you can follow His pattern, and just raise your eyes towards heaven and say, ”Father…” (27).

But in Jesus’ own case, He knew He would not ask to escape from the net (27b). The shadow of the cross falls over the whole passage from (20-36). Jesus was well aware of His destiny. He knew why He had come into the world. As He began to feel the darkness closing in more and more He would not request an exit strategy.

There is such help here.

You find yourself in trouble, and it may be that God does want to save you from it. He often does – but not always.

It may also be the case that He has a great destiny for you in your trial. Whether in or out of trouble ( and ”In this world you will have trouble…” 16:33) it is always right to pray that God will glorify His Name in your life. When Jesus prayed this prayer (28a), it was clear that the Father had answered it (29), and it is for our ”benefit” that He did.

Pray it again! It’s a prayer the Father always delights to answer.

”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 5:9).

John 12:20-26: Who do you want to be like?

John 12:20-26: Who do you want to be like?

“20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” NIV

”Entrance to the kingdom of God is free, but the annual subscription is all you’ve got.”

I want to be like Andrew (22): I remember some words written by a commentator on John’s gospel. He said Andrew is mentioned only three times in this gospel, but on each occasion he is bringing someone to Jesus (see 1:40,41; 6:8,9 and here!) In that sense I would like to be like Andrew. My desire is to see many people come to know Jesus through my life and ministry

But most of all, I want to be like Jesus (23-26). Who would not desire the honour God the Father puts on those who truly serve Jesus the Son (26b)? To live under Heaven’s smile is a prospect to be coveted.However, here’s the challenge I face. Do I really want to be like Jesus in His death? The only way to have the effectiveness of Andrew; the only way to produce ”many seeds” (24b) is to fall into the ground and die. You have to die to the life you want and embrace the life Jesus calls you to. This cannot be done without pain. But it leads to a rich harvest.

”When Jesus bids a man come follow Him, He bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

So what will such dying mean for you today? I realise that the call to die must be answered every single day and many times a day. In which area(s) of your life do you need to feel the nails and thorns in order to live the resurrection life with Jesus? There are no doubt certain things you don’t want to do, but you know God wants you to do them. It won’t be easy, but the Holy Spirit will help you to go to the cross, just as He did with Jesus (Hebrews 9:14).Where your will crosses God’s will, there you experience a crucifixion – and the other side of it there will be a glorious resurrection.

It’s been said that Christianity does not mean pinning the cross, like a badge, to your old way of life; but nailing your old life to the cross daily.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to do the things I know I need to do today, even though they may be painful. Enable me, please, to do the right things, trusting in you.

John 12:17-19: Word of mouth.

John 12:17-19: Word of mouth.

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

A song says ”It’s only words…”

But words are important. They are powerful. The Bible has so much to say about words.

It says, for example, that ”The tongue has the power of life and death…” (Proverbs 18:21a).

It says, for example, that ”…men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36).

It says for example that ”Not many…should presume to be teachers…” Because those who teach will be ”judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

It says so much about words.

And words are important in our testimony about Christ. There has to be a vital combination of both life and lip. So here are two thoughts from today’s reading:

  1. Persevere in witness to Jesus (17): ”continued” – there was consistency in their speaking. They did not give up, even though hostility buzzed around their heads like mosquitoes. There were people who were not happy about what they were doing (19), but they would not be silenced.
  1. Persevere in verbal witness to Jesus (17, 18): ”continued to spread the word”… Listen to the impact: ”because they had heard…went out to meet him.” (See also John 4:30/39-42).

You never know what impact you may have. The Pharisees may have been exaggerating in their frustrated exclamation (19), but see behind it the ”Many people” (18) who were being impacted. These outstanding results came from persevering verbal witness to Jesus. As our church’s youth pastor reminded me in a recent conversation, the seed is the Word. ”Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”  (Mark 4:27). There is life in the seed; there is power in the seed. So let’s keep sowing.

John 12:12-16: The palm and the donkey!

John 12:12-16: The palm and the donkey!

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,“Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;see, your king is coming,seated on a donkey’s colt.”16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. NIV

As I read this passage it struck me forcibly that here are two keys to living the Christian life, in all circumstances:

  1. Wave the palm branch (12, 13): Choose to be a praising person. And realise that praising Jesus also involves ‘going public’ about your faith in Him. It says here that ”the great crowd” were ”shouting”.  Later on we read that they ”continued to spread the word that he had called Lazarus from the tomb” (17).They were not ashamed to identify themselves with the Lord – to speak to Him and to speak about Him in praise. Their allegiance was highly audible and visible. I know it is sometimes said that the people in this welcoming group on Palm Sunday later were part of the throng baying for Jesus’ blood. But I don’t think the Bible ever explicitly says so. That may be the case. Or it may be true of some of them. But we cannot say it with any certainty. Taking this passage at face value, I simply want to highlight the good things we see here, and say, ”May we also wave our palm branches.” Jesus is worthy of all our praise.
  2. Ride the donkey (14-16). Take the humble, lowly path. True, in the Bible, the donkey is a magisterial beast, but less obviously so than a white charger! Jesus took the basin and towel and washed the feet of His disciples. He deliberately took upon Himself the task that was entrusted to the ‘least’ person. He came among us as One who serves, and He calls us to follow Him along this meek roadway (John 13:12-17). It does not lessen our authority in Christ, but all the more clearly defines it.

So, in all circumstances, choose to wave the palm branch and ride the donkey.

John 11:28-37: Tears.

John 11:28-37: Tears.

28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”NIV

This ‘vale of tears’ they sometimes call it. 

I know the world is filled with laughter, but it is also flooded with tears. Rivers of tears will be shed in the next 24 hours.

This section of John 11 is tear-stained. In particular, do you see how the tears of Mary encounter the tears of Jesus? It’s like they mingle. He is ”touched with the feelings our infirmities.” The Lord keeps our tears in His bottle. I don’t think ”Jesus wept” because He was bereaved. He knew He was about to raise this beloved man (36). Jesus was not powerless, frustrated and defeated in the face of mankind’s last great enemy. But maybe He wept to see the pain of His loved one’s? Maybe He wept as He saw what death has done to the world? Maybe He wept to think that He would bring Lazarus back, only for His friend to have to go through all of this trauma again? (I believe there is a really strong word in verse 33, translated ”deeply moved”, sometimes used of a snorting horse. It’s like you can feel His anger towards death too.)

PRAYER: Lord, I would like to be like Mary:

  • even in tears, she heard your voice, and eagerly responded to your call (28, 29);
  • Even in sorrow, she was at your feet in adoration (32).

Help me to follow her example too (31). May tears never blind me to the overwhelming reality of your Lordship.

John 11: 17-22: Even now.

John 11: 17-22: Even now.

17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.” NIV

This was a grave situation! Literally!!

You will note:

  1. The gravity of the problem. Verse 17 underlines just how serious matters were from a Jewish point of view. It wasn’t just that Lazarus was in the grave. That was serious enough. But there was a Jewish belief that when someone died, their soul hung around the grave for three days, hoping to re-enter the body. But on day 4 the soul moved on. So Lazarus, from a Jewish angle, had reached the point of no return. We are being prepared for something remarkable. Jesus can do the impossible.
  2. The gravity of the danger. The Jewish people took seriously the responsibility to comfort the bereaved. Verses 18, 19 speak of friends and neighbours carrying out this solemn duty. (By the way, it is a very special and important ministry to care for those who have lost loved ones. It’s all too easy to avoid them, or to not talk to them about the deceased, out of fear or embarrassment and the like.) But they also remind us that in going to Bethany, Jesus was putting His head close to the lion’s mouth (see 7, 8 and 16). Jerusalem crackled with the electricity of danger. Jerusalem and Judea were the focus of concentrated hostility towards the Lord. In going to help Lazarus, Jesus placed Himself in grave danger. Indeed, the raising of this man from death was going to precipitate plans that would lead to Jesus’ own death (45ff.)
  3. The gravity of her greeting. Maybe there was a gentle rebuke in verse 21 (see also 32)? It’s hard to say. But I know that we can misjudge others because we do not fully understand the inner workings of anyone else’s mind. There is always a danger that we will fill in the gaps and wrongly attribute motives and meanings that are not there. We can also find ourselves similarly misjudged. It’s not nice. Martha could not read the greater purpose which had caused Jesus to delay. (Perhaps she hadn’t heard that Jesus could heal at a distance (Matthew 8:5-13; Mark 7:24-30.) But a verse that speaks of the gravity of her greeting, also indicates the greatness of her faith. This short section we are concentrating on today begins and ends with the message that Jesus can do the impossible, and ”even now” things can change. Even on the fourth day – when all seems lost – Jesus is able. This was a great expression of faith on Martha’s part. (Although see also verse 39. At best our faith is often tinged with doubt. That’s reality. That’s how it is. But our wavering does not diminish the resurrection power of Christ one iota.)

Prayer: Lord increase our faith. In the ‘even now’ situations, when all looks lost and bleak, please give to us more faith.

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