This week’s reading is from John 19:39-40. When Jesus was taken from the cross and put in the tomb, He was wrapped in “strips of linen” with one hundred pounds of spices. So what did the two disciples actually see when they went into the tomb? Most of the Easter pictures that we see show an empty tomb with a white sheet lying on the ground. But this could not be what the two disciples saw on that Easter morning. We read in verse 5 that John “saw” or looked at the linen clothes. The Greek word for “saw” used here is blepo. It means he just took a quick look, not with deep thought or understanding. He stooped and looked in, and he saw the linen clothes, but what made him stop short of going into the tomb for a closer look? I believe that John was momentarily shaken by what he saw. He probably could not believe his eyes. In verse 6 we read that Peter pushes John out of the way and barges right in. We read that he “saw the linen cloths lying there.” The Greek word used here for saw is “theoreo” which means he beheld with careful observation, or looked with the intent of apprehending. We get the word theorize from “theoreo.” It means close contemplation. He was staring there with his mouth and eyes wide open. What was he trying to figure out?
In verse 8 we read that John “saw and believed.” The Greek word used here is “eido.” This is not a casual glance; this is a slow careful observation. We have phrases today to explain this word like, “It clicked” or “I see it now” or “Oh, now I get it,” it all made sense!” What did they both see? The key is found in verse 7. “A handkerchief folded up.” Now if you saw a sheet laying on the floor and a folded up handkerchief would you conclude that Jesus rose from the dead? No. Verse 7 says “They saw the head covering folded, off by itself.” Some translations read ‘folded’ like the NIV and the NKJ version. Others translate the word as ‘rolled up” NAS, AS, Revised Standard. The KJ says ‘wrapped together.” The Greek word for ‘folded’ is ‘entylisso.’ It means twisted or entwined, rolled up, or wrapped together, rather than “neatly folded.” It was not folded up like a nice neat napkin. It was an empty mummy head! The head-cloth still retained its wrapped form, as if it was still wrapped about the head of Jesus, forming a sort of empty chrysalis left behind when He rose from the dead. It was folded or wrapped up like a mask or helmet that was empty. What they saw was an empty mummy shell and off to the side they saw and empty head casing. Jesus’ body must have passed right through it! Jesus’ body came out of a mummy case and there was no head casing, so the disciples could look right in and see it was empty. This shoots down anyone stealing the body. How could they get the body out without cutting the strips? No wonder they “believed” Jesus rose from the dead! What else could you conclude? This empty mummy shell is our guarantee that Jesus death was enough to pay for all of our sins. We can never be good enough to pay for our sins, but we can have our sins forgiven as we accept Jesus sacrifice on the cross as payment for us. His resurrection proves that He was sinless, so death could not hold Him down. Aren’t you glad this mummy came back to life?
This week’s reading is from John chapter 18:22-23. It is about Jesus’ arrest. In the trial, Jesus answers the high priest in what was considered a disrespectful way and one of the officers slaps Jesus in the face. Jesus answered right back. “If I have spoken evil, tell Me what I did. If I spoke the truth why did you slap Me?” Now it seems to me this would have been a great time for Jesus to “turn the other cheek” and let the officer slap His other cheek, but He didn’t. There has been much misunderstanding about Jesus’ words when He told His followers to “turn the other cheek.” We can see clearly here that Jesus did not mean that whenever someone hits us we are to let them hit us again. When Jesus taught about turning the other cheek, He was teaching His disciples about not seeking revenge or about not seeking to get back at someone who is doing them wrong. He was not teaching His followers that they could never defend themselves or that they could never fight back if they were being attacked. Self-defense is a common sense response when attacked and it is clearly taught in the Bible. I have written a book which deals with this subject in great detail. The title of it is, “Turning the Other Cheek and Civil Disobedience.” I highly recommend it, especially for Christian parents raising young boys. There is a time to “turn the other cheek” and there is a time to defend yourself. It is time that Christians learned how to tell time!
This week’s reading is from the Gospel of John chapter 15:2. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” It seems pretty clear here that Jesus is expecting His followers to bear fruit. There are only two options mentioned here, if we don’t bear fruit, He will cut us off and if we do bear fruit, He will prune us so that we can bring forth more fruit! Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be cut off, so that means I need to be pruned. Now if you have never pruned fruit trees what this means is that the branches are continually cut back, especially the inside branches that generally do not produce much fruit. This is an on-going process if you want to make sure your trees produce good fruit and an abundance of it. Trees that are not pruned, have a much shorter lifespan and generally produce a lot less fruit.
Jesus says later in this chapter that the way we produce the fruit is that we abide in Him or abide more specifically, in His love. He says if we abide in His love we will naturally produce fruit. So just like with a healthy tree, fruit production is a natural process. There have been a lot of sermons on what exactly Jesus meant by “producing fruit.” I lean towards Paul’s explanation in Galatians chapter 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” It might be good to take inventory every now and then and ask God to do a little more pruning so we can produce more of this kind of fruit. The world surely could use some of this fresh fruit!
This week’s reading is from John chapter 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” A while back I was with a fishing buddy, who is not a born-again Christian. He goes to a Christian church but he has not had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. As we were eating dinner he turned to me and asked, “Dave, do you really believe there is ONLY one way to heaven?” I was chewing a nice piece of steak and almost choked on it, but as I finished chewing it, I said a quick prayer, “Oh Lord help me say the right words!”
Here is my response, “Well, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. That means that I believe in Him and I believe in what He said. Jesus said many times and in many different ways that He was the ONLY way to heaven. Now whether I like that or don’t like that, does not matter. The only thing that matters is whether I believe in Him and what He said or whether I don’t. I have chosen to believe in Him and I believe He made it very clear, there is ONLY one way to heaven and that is through Him.” My friend shook his head and we began a lengthy conversation about how that is considered a close-minded statement and is somewhat arrogant to state that there is ONLY one way to heaven and all the other religions of the world are wrong. Many people who profess to be Christian struggle with this concept. They want to believe that good Muslims and good Jews and good Hindus will all get to heaven somehow. But according to Jesus unless they go through Him, no one is going to be allowed into heaven. Where do you stand on this issue?
This week’s devotional is found in the Gospel of John chapter 10:7-8. Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” In Jesus’ day when the flock was in the field or the countryside, the shepherd would make a makeshift pen for his sheep. It usually did not have a door, just an opening. The shepherd would literally become the door to keep the sheep in and the wild animals out. So now Jesus is saying, “You know that door that I have been talking about? The one that gets you into the sheep pen. I’m it! There is no other way to get there.” Jesus was warning about the false shepherds whose purpose is the exploitation of the sheep. They have no concern for the well-being of the sheep. In contrast, His purpose for us is ‘fullness of life.’
If you try to get into heaven through some other way Jesus says you are a thief and a robber. This has to be one of the more politically incorrect statements that Jesus ever made. This is similar to when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me!” He was saying He was the only way! Jesus said ALL who came before Him were thieves and robbers. What He was emphasizing was the method a person used to try to get into heaven. So if a person tells you that you can get into heaven through some other means, he is a thief and robber. This means that all the other religions in the world are false! No inclusiveness here. There are not many paths to heaven. All who came before Him, and this would include all who would come after Him, are thieves and robbers. This means Buddha is a thief and robber and so are Buddhist monks. This means the Hindu religious leaders are thieves and robbers. This means that Moslem Imams, Muftis, and Mullahs are thieves and robbers. This means that Jewish rabbis are thieves and robbers.
Today diversity is extolled as one of the supreme characteristics a person should learn. But when it comes to salvation, according to Jesus, there is no diversity. There is only one way! What door are you going through?