I like comedies better than tragedies. Stories with warm, fuzzy endings where they all live happily ever after get me every time. I shy away from stories that end in defeat, death-beds, and despair. What about you? There are lots of warm, fuzzy stories in the Bible—the grand epic or meta-narrative that we call the Bible is the greatest comedy of them all. But there are some tragic episodes in the biblical saga of redemption, episodes like the one we find in John 5. Evidently we need tragedies too.
The brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other recent racially-centered incidents have raised tensions in the USA to the boiling point. Racial animus is a sad part of American history—the “melting pot” can get very ugly. The story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman in John 4 shows that we can overcome racial prejudice if we focus on God’s plan to unite people from all the branches of the human family in true worship through the Spirit sent by Jesus. All humans were originally made in the image of God, and God is at work today through the good news about Jesus to create a new humanity that worships God together in Spirit and truth, not in isolated ethnic enclaves.
Nicodemus is not just another leader of Israel who ganged up on Jesus. He’s a complicated guy whose story leaves us with questions. His kin are still to be found in churches today, leaving pastors with difficult soul-care questions.
Images of an empty tomb, viewed “from the outside in,” are common. Like the first followers of Jesus, we look into the empty tomb as spectators of a historical event. But there’s more to the resurrection than this. We also need to picture the resurrection “from the inside out,” as participants in its power. The resurrection transforms us internally when we open ourselves to God in faith. We need to think of ourselves as looking out of the empty tomb of our past life toward our new life with Christ. We’re not just watching what happened to someone else a long time ago, we are sharing in that experience today. We have risen with Christ!
Weddings are wonderful times of celebration that promise future blessings and happiness. Everything needs to be just right, and if something major goes wrong, it can be heartbreaking for the families involved. According to John 2:1-11, Jesus attended such a wedding in Cana of Galilee. He did a miracle there that prevented a disaster, but we’re missing the point if we leave it at that. We can learn a lot about prayer from this passage.
John tells us of a surprisingly human Jesus who experienced many of the circumstances we struggle with, and, more importantly, who showed us how to deal with what may actually be the most difficult time of the year.