Stealing Death’s Sting

John 12.27-33
“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. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Reflection: Stealing Death’s Sting
By John Tillman

Lent is often a time in which believers look, with the help of the Holy Spirit at sin in our individual lives and in our communities. This week we have looked at sin and its effects on us, on our world, on our relationship with God.

We learned sin is not something we can brush off or take lightly. There are no small sins, only sins the costs and consequences of which we have denied or grossly misunderstood.

We learned actions can be sins, but that sin is an overwhelming environmental poison and influence that we are all terminally irradiated with. We are steeped in sin and the brew grows stronger and stronger the longer we deny it.

We learned scripture is not a weapon we can disassemble, using some verses to accuse others, and ignoring ones that point to our own sin. The sword of scripture cuts to the heart. But we must start with our own.

We also saw that the resurrection of Lazarus demonstrates the glory of God. Like Moses, God hid Lazarus in a cleft in a rock, covered his face, and allowed him a glimpse of God’s glory as Jesus passed by on the way to Jerusalem and to the cross.

In today’s reading we see that glory coming into sharper focus.  God is glorified through Christ’s sacrifice. Sin is defeated by his death, and death is defeated in his resurrection. Christ conquers sin, stealing death’s sting and the grave’s victory. Christ is lifted up and we are drawn to him, leaving sin and death behind.

Pray this prayer over your sin and the sin of your community over this weekend:

Lord, we see ourselves in scriptures from this week.
Like the religious leaders, we protest our innocence with bloody hands.
Like the woman, we are naked, stripped, and discovered in sin.
Like the blind man, Lord, we are steeped in sin.
Like the dead man, Lord, we are dead in sin.

Lord, we want to see.
Heal our eyes so we can see our sin.
Lord, we want to confess.
Show us our sin so we can weep over it.
Lord, we want to sin no more.
Cover our nakedness and give us your purpose and power to live as we are called.
Lord, we want to wake up.
Call us from our whitewashed tombs of empty righteousness.
Untie our grave clothes and strip us of the trappings of this world.
Let us walk into the light and follow your loving voice.

* Ain’t No Grave, Cageless Birds

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

Today’s Readings
Exodus 33 (Listen – 3:49)
John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 34 (Listen – 5:48) John 13 (Listen – 5:06)
Exodus 35 (Listen – 4:31) John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about The Fragrance of Faith :: Readers’ Choice
Jesus makes clear that Mary has fulfilled the prophetic purpose of the gift as, “It was intended…for the day of my burial.“ Mary alone among the disciples has understood Christ’s prophecies.

Read more about Rend Your Hearts
Joel’s admonition is to go beyond public signals of mourning or confession. It is our heart that we must rend in mourning and confession, because God looks at the heart, not our outward appearance.

The Staggering Dead and the Glory of God

John 11.40
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Reflection: The Staggering Dead and the Glory of God
By John Tillman

We do not know when exactly Jesus told Martha that by believing, she would see the glory of God. Perhaps while waiting for Mary to join them. Perhaps during the walk to the tomb. Perhaps it was at an earlier visit. Whenever he told her this, it was a bold claim.

Glory was a general term for splendor and greatness. Jesus used this same word when comparing Solomon’s clothing to that of a flower of the field. But seeing God’s glory was not the same as seeing the glory of the flowers or the glory of an earthly king’s power and wealth.

It is in tomorrow’s reading from Exodus 33, that Moses asks to see God’s glory. His desire is only partially granted. Moses, the dedicated servant of God and archetypal messianic forerunner of Christ, is given only a glimpse of God’s glory passing by. Later on in Exodus, when God’s glory fills the Tabernacle, the priests had to stop working and leave the area. When seeing God’s glory, holy prophets of old hid their faces, fell to the ground, and confessed their sins. God’s glory is terrifying in its beauty. Mary and Martha see it not peeking from the cleft of a rock, but directly, and in a shocking manner.

The glory that Jesus sets out to show Martha and Mary is at first terrifying for the sisters. The gruesome realities of death are on Martha’s mind as she warns Jesus about the bad odor that will have developed over four days.

God’s glory is not always shining clouds or majestic pillars of fire. Sometimes it is a woman holding her nose against the smell of death, being surprised by the sounds of life. Sometimes God’s glory is a dead man, blindfolded and bound hand and foot, struggling toward the light to obey the voice of Jesus.

Just as John calls the blind man “the blind man” after his healing, he reports the “the dead man” came out of the grave. In this world, we may never completely escape the identity of what Christ saves us from. We are never not “sinners,” but we are to be ever staggering, struggling toward the light, toward Christ’s voice.

One day, as Lazarus and our dear Christ, himself, our grave clothes will be untied (or “set aside” lyō in Greek). We will leave our grave clothes behind. That is the glory of God.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 96.9

Today’s Readings
Exodus 32 (Listen – 5:47)
John 11 (Listen – 6:37)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
The Greek word translated “set aside,” (lyō) carries an implication beyond not ignoring the parts of the Bible we don’t like. It refers to unbinding or untying things bound together for a purpose. This would include untying the thongs of sandals (as used by John the Baptist), loosening bandages (as used by Jesus regarding Lazarus) or even the bonds of marriage (as referenced by Paul).

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/setting-aside-the-scriptures

Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
May Jesus, the strong man, the liberator, free us to see, to hear, and to speak.
May he kick open the gates of what paralyzes us and lead us out to do his work in the world. May we join the Uprising.

Setting Aside the Scriptures

John 10.35
Scripture cannot be set aside…

Reflection: Setting Aside the Scriptures
By John Tillman

The Greek word translated “set aside,” (lyō) carries an implication beyond not ignoring the parts of the Bible we don’t like. It refers to unbinding or untying things bound together for a purpose. This would include untying the thongs of sandals (as used by John the Baptist), loosening bandages (as used by Jesus regarding Lazarus) or even the bonds of marriage (as referenced by Paul). It also applies metaphorically to dissolving any kind of union or agreement, declaring something unlawful, dissolving the authority of someone or something, or destruction by breaking apart into pieces, a meaning Jesus used referring to the destruction of the temple.

The negative, that Scripture cannot be “untied,” implies the positive, that Scripture is tied together for a purpose. The reason that we cannot set aside the Scriptures that we don’t like, is that Scripture must be considered holistically. Each part is bound up with the others for a purpose.

Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture. The religious leaders were setting aside scriptures that were inconvenient or required sacrifice on their part. We do this as well, however modern Christians are “setting aside” the Scripture in a different way—by not reading it.

This is one of the reasons we desire to encourage daily Bible reading. Any increase of Bible reading is a benefit and blessing for the reader, but following a plan such as ours, that covers the entire Bible at a sustainable pace is helpful for our need to interpret the Bible together as one piece.

Jesus once chastised the Sadducees, saying ““You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God…” Are we in the same danger?

All devout Jews of that time discussed theology and spirituality based on a common, widespread knowledge of Scripture, and many would have large sections of the Pentateuch memorized. How well do we know the Scriptures?

Whether teaching his disciples, the crowds, or debating opponents, Jesus relied on his audiences’ deep familiarity with the Scriptures. Could Jesus do the same with us?  

Are we literate enough regarding Scripture to engage Jesus in a conversation about important theological concepts? Whatever your level of Bible literacy, ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you, as Jesus did with the Emmaus couple. Read as you walk and the Holy Spirit will help you understand the Scriptures.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

Today’s Readings
Exodus 31 (Listen – 2:32)
John 10 (Listen – 4:44)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about It’s In The Bible
“Well, it’s right there in the Bible, so it must not be a sin. But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick…” — Rich Mullins

Read more about Cultivation Is Supernatural
A stronger faith, and a greater crop yield comes when we invest in cultivation. Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural.

Steeped In Sin

John 9.34
“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”

Reflection: Steeped In Sin
By John Tillman

The Pharisees are partially correct in the above passage; the formerly blind man, was steeped in sin at birth. Where the Pharisees were in error was denying that they were also steeped in sin.

There are two ways of thinking about sin. One sees sins as individual actions. In this calculation, we total sins up, like fines in a legal system. We interpret sins as individual, unconnected actions that are less than perfect good.

This is the mode of sin evaluation favored by the Pharisees and many modern Christians. We prefer to think about sin in this manner because it is measurable and allows us to look at ourselves in comparison to others. No matter how bad we are, we can always find someone who makes us look good by comparison.

This thinking also leads us, like the Pharisees, to see those in difficulty or hardship as suffering from their own sin and wrongdoing. This allows us to further exclude and punish them while absolving ourselves from any responsibility to help them. Today, many view the poor through this lens, seeing generational poverty as the fault of the poor, and the community’s responsibility as minimal or non-existent. This view of the poor can’t be found anywhere in scripture—except perhaps in the views of the Pharisees.

Sin is not just some bad things that we sometimes do. Sinful actions are “sins” but sin is more than actions. It is a condition. It isn’t just a condition that we live with. It’s a condition that we live in. Paul tells us that creation groans to be released from sin, and we feel its effects. Sin is pervasive. It seeps into every crack and corner of our souls.

Sin isn’t like a disease, a condition inside our bodies, as much as it is like an environmental condition, an inescapable influence that surrounds and penetrates us.

Sin is gravity. It is our atmosphere. It is our water. We are radioactive with sin. It vibrates out of us in ways that damage and harm us and anyone we come near.

We need Jesus not to help us make better choices and “sin less.” We need Jesus because only his righteousness is the antidote to the radiation poisoning of rebellion.

We can blind ourselves, like the Pharisees, refusing to see our sin. Or we can admit our former blindness and seeing Jesus, we can say as the formerly blind man did, “Lord, I believe.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root our the remembrance of them from the earth. — Psalm 34.15-16

Today’s Readings
Exodus 30 (Listen – 5:06)
John 9 (Listen – 4:56)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Suffering and Sin
We feel less responsible for problems in the world when we can believe that only the lazy are poor, only the promiscuous are in danger of sexual assault or disease, only hedonists become addicts, and only nihilists suffer depression or have suicidal thoughts.

Read more about The Focus of Christ’s Anger
Jesus spent time with people who, by every cultural definition and religious law, would be under God’s wrath. Sinners. Heretics. Financial swindlers. Race traitors. Fallen women. Lepers. Foreign occupiers. Shouldn’t Jesus have been angry with them?

Taking Sin Seriously

John 8.11
Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Reflection: Taking Sin Seriously
By John Tillman

Some might summarize this passage like this: The Pharisees catch a woman in adultery but Jesus lets her go. Except that’s not what happened at all.

Jesus is not a kind, loving, pushover who winks at adultery and doesn’t take sin seriously. 

To think this, ignores Christ’s words to the woman, and his actions in the remainder of the gospel of John. Jesus takes sin far more seriously than anyone in this entire scene. (The absence of the woman’s sexual partner shows that the Pharisees don’t take the law or sin seriously. They are only using the woman as a prop—an object for their object lesson.)

But sin is deadly serious business to the one who came to die for sins.

“Go now and leave your life of sin,” is an unambiguous acknowledgement of the fact of the woman’s sin and an unmistakable command to repent. Christ does not condemn her, because he is taking her condemnation on himself.

Jesus is not a distributor of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would describe as “cheap grace:”

“Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.

Costly grace is…costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”


The true grace Jesus offers is costly. It is so costly that the wealthy, rich, powerful members of society drop their stones and walk away from it. They cannot bear the cost to their pride. It is so costly the lustful won’t look at it. It is too costly for them to give up their lusts.

Jesus doesn’t “let the woman go.” He sends her out. Jesus, instead of taking the woman’s life, redeems it. He buys it for his own.

When we see ourselves in this passage, we should not see ourselves as members of the crowd, shamed into forgiving the woman and dropping our stones. We should see ourselves as the shamed woman, freed and sent out to live anew.

We have been bought with a price and sent into the world, leaving our lives of sin.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. — Psalm 31.3

Today’s Readings
Exodus 29 (Listen – 6:23)
John 8 (Listen – 7:33)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about A Singular Plea In Prayer
Christ died for nobody but real sinners, those who feel that their sin is truly sin. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read more about Choosing Christ
Though it is fairly palatable to accept Jesus as a man, or even an inspiring moral teacher, choosing him as Christ and Lord comes at a cost—socially, professionally, and otherwise.

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