Archive for the ‘John 3’ Tag

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 10, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Nicodemus and Jesus on a Rooftop

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus on a Rooftop, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Image in the Public Domain

Timeless Principles

JULY 13, 2019


The Collect:

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care.

Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors

with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 19:1-4, 32-37

Psalm 25:1-10

John 3:16-21


Direct me in your paths, Yahweh,

and teach me your paths.

Encourage me to walk in your truth and teach me

since you are the God who saves me.

–Psalm 25:4-5, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The lection from Leviticus 19 commands the keeping of all of God’s laws.  The specific orders in the designated verses are:

  1. To belong to God (literally, to be holy),
  2. To honor one’s parents,
  3. To keep the Sabbath,
  4. To refrain from idolatry,
  5. To respect the elderly,
  6. To love strangers as one loves oneself, and
  7. To deal honestly in business.

In other words, God should be in all that one does.  These are some examples of how to live according to that principle, how to walk in the light, not the darkness.

Some people accused Jesus of violating the first and third items on the list above.  According to some, our Lord and Savior was in league with evil forces and committed blasphemy.  Furthermore, Jesus allegedly violated the Sabbath when he gathered food or healed someone on that day.  Were hunger and illness holy!

Timeless principles have culturally specific examples.  A common exegetical error is to confuse an example for a principle.  Legalism takes hold needlessly and unfortunately.  The grand organizing principles to follow are:

  1. Everybody depends on God completely,
  2. We depend on each other,
  3. We are responsible to each other,
  4. We are responsible for each other, and
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

All of those principles are compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fulfilling a goal as lofty as obeying God’s laws is impossible by human power alone.  Fortunately, we do not need to rely on our own power, for we have access to grace.  May we accept that grace and its accompanying obligations relative to other people.








Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 29, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Seleucid Empire

Above:  Map of the Seleucid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

Dashed Hopes and the Faithfulness of God

NOVEMBER 24, 2018


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 7:1-8, 15-18

Psalm 93

John 3:31-36


You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Sometimes our expectations exceed reality as events unfold.

The expectations in Daniel 7:1-8 and 15-18 was that, after the fall of the Seleucid Empire (extant 312-64 B.C.E.),

holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.

–Daniel 7:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Seleucid Empire fell for several reasons, including weak leadership, pressures from the Armenians, and the expansion of the Roman Republic, soon to become the Roman Empire.  The fully realized Kingdom of God on Earth did not come to pass in 64 B.C.E. or at any time between then and the day I am writing these words.

St. John the Baptist had apocalyptic expectations regarding Jesus (Luke 3).  The clearly labeled voice of the forerunner said in John 3:30 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),

He must increase, but I must decrease.

But who is speaking in John 3:31-36?  My reading has revealed three possibilities:

  1. St. John the Baptist, for the text indicates no change of speaker;
  2. Jesus, perhaps cut and pasted from the conversation with Nicodemus earlier in the chapter; or
  3. the author of the Fourth Gospel, making one of his occasional explanatory comments to the readers.

Either way, the pericope’s comment about the fidelity of God is what interest me.  Jesus did not fulfill the apocalyptic expectations of St. John the Baptist, but that fact did nothing to belie the fidelity of God.  The apocalyptic expectations of Daniel 7:1-8 and 15-18 proved baseless, but that fact has not disproved the fidelity of God.  Sometimes we human beings hope for events which never happen, at least as we anticipate.  Some of these dashed expectations have passed into the canon of scripture.  Nevertheless, the hope that one day God will abolish the world order built on violence and artificial scarcity and replace it with justice remains a valid promise.  God will keep it faithfully in divine time, if not according to human expectations.








Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 3, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Preaching of St. John the Baptist

Above:  The Preaching of St. John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1566

Image in the Public Domain

Clinging to the Faithfulness of God

MAY 30, 2018


The Collect:

 Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise

you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another

in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 45:6-17

John 3:22-36


Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your reign;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, Book of Common Worship (1993)


I have no idea who is speaking in John 3:31-36.  Father Raymond E. Brown’s Anchor Bible volume on John 1-12 (538 pages long!) claims that Jesus is the speaker and offers much textual evidence for that assertion.  John 3:31-36, Brown writes, is an isolated discourse of Jesus which the Evangelist placed behind the scene with St. John the Baptist to interpret it.  Brown might be correct.  Or the speaker might be St. John the Baptist, for there is thematic consistency in 3:22-30 and 3:31-36.  On a third hand, 3:31-36 might be in the voice of the Evangelist, addressing the audience directly.  I leave that dispute to New Testament scholars, for this is a devotional weblog.

Regardless of the identity of the speaker, John 3:31-36 exists in a theological context of living in exile in one’s homeland.  So does Isaiah 62:1-5, for life in the homeland after the Babylonian Exile was far from the idealized scenes some canonical texts predicted.  Judea was a backwater province in one empire after another for successive centuries, except for the period of the Hasmonean theocracy.

Yet the hopes for a bright future persisted.  Was Jesus the one to inaugurate that future?  Was the Messiah a political-military figure?  Many thought so, although Palestinian Jews were not of one mind regarding the nature of Messiahship, much less whether there would be a Messiah.  And Jesus became caught up in politics, which was intertwined with economics and religion.  The Roman Empire crucified him, so certain imperial authorities must have thought of him as a threat to law and order.

The throne of David remained vacant after exiles began to return to their ancestral homeland.  The revival of the Davidic Dynasty, as predicted in Hosea 3:5, never happened.  The Roman Empire crucified Jesus, but God resurrected him.  Nevertheless, the Roman Empire remained in power.  Hoped-for happy futures remain unrealized dreams of better times.  Yet we must, if we are to persevere faithfully, trust that God will remain faithful.  Perhaps we have misunderstood.  Maybe we are simply impatient.  But God is faithful and reliable.









Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Thursday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

Born from Above

AUGUST 8 and 9, 2018


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.



Jeremiah 31:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At that time

–declares the LORD–

I will be God to all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people.

Thus said the LORD:

The people escaped from the sword,

Found favor in the wilderness;

When Israel was marching homeward

The LORD revealed Himself to me of old.

Eternal love I conceived for you then;

Therefore I continue My grace to you.

I will build you firmly again,

O Maiden Israel!

Again you shall take up your timbrels

And go forth to the rhythm of the dancers.

Again you shall plant vineyards

On the hills of Samaria;

Men shall plant and live to enjoy them.

For the day is coming when watchmen

Shall proclaim on the heights of Ephraim:

Come, let us go up to Zion,

To the LORD our God!

For thus said the LORD:

Cry out in joy for Jacob,

Shout at the crossroads of the nations!

Sing aloud in praise, and say:

Save, O LORD, Your people,

The remnant of Israel.


Jeremiah 31:31-34 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

See, a time is coming

–declares the LORD–

when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I espoused them

–declares the LORD.

But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days

–declares the LORD:

I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts.  Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, “Heed the LORD”; for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me

–declares the LORD.

For I will forgive their iniquities,

And remember their sins no more.


Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.


Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


Matthew 15:21-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Jesus then left that place and retired into the Tyre and Sidon district.  There a Canaanite woman from those parts came to him crying at the top of her voice,

Lord, son of David, have pity on me!  My daughter is in a terrible state–a devil has got into her!

Jesus made no answer, and the disciples came up to him and said,

Do not send her away–she’s still following us and calling out.

Jesus replied,

I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Then the woman came and knelt at his feet.

Lord, help me,

she said.

It is not right, you know,

Jesus replied,

to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

She returned,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs live on the scraps that fall from their master’s table!

Jesus returned,

You certainly don’t lack faith; it shall be as you wish.

And at that moment her daughter was healed.


Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.


The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I solemnly assure you,

no one can see the kingdom of God

without being begotten from above.

–John 3:3, The Anchor Bible

Jeremiah 31 speaks of, among other things, an internalized relationship and covenant with God.  Words will cease to be necessary, for the relationship will be intrinsic.  Both passages from that chapter remind me of an often misunderstood concept from John 3.  The Evangelical misapprehension of “born from above,” thereby transforming it into “born again,” as in the perceived necessity of a dramatic or defined conversion experience, is an error.  There are many of us who lack such an experience yet who are close to God, and who are hopefully getting nearer.

The Gentile woman understood something profound.  So did Simon Peter, although he had no idea of the full implication of what he confessed.  At least it was a start.  We humans are spiritual beings having physical experiences, so how can we not brush up against God?

And it is no wonder to me that God slips into our minds, bypassing our five senses.  I have assumed this for years, and circumstances (inside my cranium) have confirmed my conclusion.  If we are open to God, we will learn quite a bit just by being quiet.  And not all of us will require metaphorical conks over the heard to draw nearer and nearer to God.  Yes, some people do have dramatic experiences with God, and therefore clearly defined conversions.  Yet one ought not to assume that one cannot be a Christian without such an experience.

Perhaps Single Predestination applies to this theme.  Some of us come to God via the witness of the Holy Spirit, which works in many ways, some of them subtle.  Others of us are among the predestined to Heaven.  There is no need for a conversion experience in such cases, is there?


Trinity Sunday, Year B   16 comments

Above:  A Father and His Son

Image Source = Onkelbo

Members of the Family


MAY 27, 2018


The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 29 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-17

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Trinity Sunday, Year A:

John 3:

Romans 8:

Alta Trinita Beata:


Trinity Sunday is a potentially awkward time, one at which a person might feel the temptation to try to explain the Holy Trinity.  This temptation has given rise to a host of heresies, including Adoptionism and Arianism.  The Trinity is a mystery; may we be content with that.  As far as I am concerned, the concept of the Holy Trinity, as we have it, comes as close as any human idea can to summarizing God.  Yet there must be far more than what we can possibly imagine.

Yet we can make some statements confidently.  As Paul reminds us, God has adopted us into the family.  And, as the Johannine Gospel tells us, God seeks to redeem, not condemn,us.  We occupy a seat of privilege because God has placed us in it.  This status brings with it certain responsibilities.  We need, for example, to love one another, not fear, hate, and loathe each other.  We need to treat others as fellow members of the family of God.  Obeying this mandate will reform us and our societies, challenge mores (and perhaps laws), and maybe place us in harm’s way.  There are, unfortunately, those who find simple compassion threatening–sometimes to the extent of being willing to commit or condone violence.

God loves even those who find love so baffling that they are willing to kill to resist it.  And we must love and bless them too, by grace.  Jesus did no less.  And, if we are to follow our Lord, we must do as he did.

Adoption into the family of God can be a joy, but it can also lead to much grief in this life.  Such is the world as it is, but not as it needs to remain.  We can make this world a better place simply by being better people in it.  This is part of of our call from God.  Redeeming the world is God’s task, for which we are not equipped.  Yet the inability to do everything is no excuse to do nothing, so may we do what God commands us; may we love one another and act accordingly.  May we be salt and light.