The

Here’s an interesting game to play.  Someone shout out a word… what’s the first Bible passage that springs to mind?

Perhaps someday I’ll study enough Hebrew and Greek to attempt an original language word study.  But for now, here is a word study in English.  Stick with me here, this is cool.

When I think of “The” the first passage that springs to mind is John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” Every third word is “the!”  Is this repetition important?  Probably.

Jesus is claiming that He is not just one way to know God.  Jesus is claiming He is the way.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus said.  And then He continued, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  Definitive, declarative statements.

This was not the only time Jesus refered to Himself in such definitive terms.  Earlier, before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:27).  And before that, when Jesus was travelling with his disciples into Caesarea-Philippi after performing many miracles in the surrounding countryside, He asked his disciples, “Who do you say I that am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 15:15-16).

Did you catch that?  The Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter’s proclamation is recorded in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  And it is at this point in the story that an important narrative turn occurs.  From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21).  Jesus repeats this lesson several times (e.g, Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-20).  But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him (Mark 9:32).

Throughout the rest of the story, the disciples struggle to understand what Jesus told them.  When He was captured in the Garden of Gethsemene, they scattered.  When He was put to death, they feared for their own lives.  Even after the tomb was reported empty, they hid behind locked doors.  They knew He was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  He was the way, the truth, and the life.  He was the death and the resurrection.  More than anyone else, His disciples should have understood.  But they did not.

Until Jesus appeared to them again.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

My Bible then says the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  I can’t help but think “glad” is a bit of an understatement, but regardless, they were finally beginning to understand what it meant that Jesus was the Christ.  All except for poor Thomas, who had missed the visit.  The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe (John 20:25).

Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:26).  Jesus showed Thomas His hands and His side and Thomas no longer disbelieved.  “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Here is the most fascinating part of this word study.  The disciples knew long before Jesus’ death and resurrection that He was the Christ.  But simply knowing that He was the Christ was not enough.  It took a personal encounter for them to truly understand.  And it took a personal encounter for that tiny definite article “the” to transform into an even more powerful little word.  Did you catch that transition?

Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  But like the disciples, we can know all that and still not really know Christ.  The transition happens when we declare not only that Jesus is the Lord and the God, but that He is my Lord and my God.

Jesus will not be coming to each of us in the same manner that He came to Thomas.  After 40 days of teaching His disciples, He ascended into heaven and the Bible suggests He will come again only at the end of this world.  But Jesus also promised that when He went, He would send the Holy Spirit to abide with each one of us and draw us into a personal understanding of Him.  And in this way, Jesus does appear to each one of us.  To each one of us He says, “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27b).

Jesus does not want us to respond with a definite article.  He wants us to respond with a personal one.  Because Jesus is not simply the way, the truth, and the life.  He is my way, my truth, and my life.

Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

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The Other Christian

Along one of my favorite hiking trails there is a bench that overlooks a little pond.  Sometimes there are swans there.  I’ve yet to determine whether they are naturally migrating swans or if they were deposited here, but I often like to pause on my hike and sit to watch them.  This past weekend as I approached my bench, I noticed something different: the graffiti artists had been out.  Not just with ink, but with a knife.  There were the ubiquitous carved initials and secret codes and then one that made me angrier than all the others combined.  Someone had carved into the seat the Christian fish symbol with a tiny cross in the middle.

Now I suppose a non-Christian could have done this, but my assumption is that it was a Christian.  Someone who tried his/her hand at evangelizing through destruction of property.  That’s just great.

I stewed about this for the rest of my hike.  This is precisely the kind of nonsense that leads folks to sagely quote Ghandi: I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

The Bible is pretty clear about how Christians should act: with love, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).  We should be taking care of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:26-31).  We should be thankful for the gifts He has bestowed (Psalm 107). We should not be partaking in idiotic gestures like carving fish symbols into public property.

And we should not be publicly calling our Christian brothers and sisters idiots.

That last part, in case you were wondering, was written for me.  Because here’s another thing the Bible is pretty clear about: we should examine our own heart before we examine someone else’s. “First take the log out of your own eye,” Jesus told his followers. “and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of  your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). 

How often am I that Christian that someone is watching, thinking, wow, she certainly doesn’t act Christian?  Maybe I don’t deface property, but there are plenty of times when I’m preoccupied, self-absorbed, angry, selfish, frustrated… shall I go on?

First take the log out of your own eye, Jesus said.

I get easily frustrated when I see Christians acting “so unlike your Christ.”  But as I was trudging back to my car, it suddenly occurred to me: other Christians are not the benchmark of Christianity anymore than I am.  We are unlike our Christ.  This should not make us run from Christianity.  It should make us run to it.  In fact, the entire foundation of Christianity rests upon the recognition that we are fallen human beings.  We sin.  We do idiotic things.  We are unlike our Christ.  And this is exactly why we need Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit, Paul wrote, is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).  The fruit of the Spirit.  These are not things we accomplish on our own.  These are things that Christ accomplishes within us.

The foundation of Christianity is not other Christians; it is Christ Himself. We do not come to Christianity because we want to be like other Christians; we come to Christianity so that we may become like Christ.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8b-9).

Have you observed an un-Christlike Christian lately?  Rather than getting angry, take a moment to look in the mirror.  If you’re anything like me, it will be a humbling experience.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1). 

Spring Blooms

I was taking my morning walk this morning as I usually do – with my eyes half shut.  Someplace between leaving my front door and returning is where I typically wake up.  This morning my point of waking up occurred when I was turning for home and noticed someone standing off the road taking a picture.  I stopped to see what she was photographing.  There was a beautiful tree in full blossom.  This tree was so full of flowers, I don’t think there was room for even one more bloom.  In the early morning light, the white blossoms practically glowed.  So I went home and got my camera and took a picture, too.

a tree full of white blossoms

The tree in full bloom.

white blossoms

Glowing Blossoms

White blossoms and sky

Blooms to the sky!

Here was a piece of God’s beautiful creation that I almost walked right by.  What other beauty did I miss this morning?

What a shame it is to go through our days and never even see the beauty that is around us!  Today, make it a point to keep your eyes open as you go about your usual routine.  Be a witness to God’s creation.  Stop and take a picture.  Perhaps you will inspire someone else to do the same.

This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24 ESV)