Not Getting It

Scripture Focus: John 12.16
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. 

Reflection: Not Getting It
By John Tillman

John tells us that nearly everything Jesus said and did, and what was done to him was written about in the scriptures. Yet, it still surprised everyone. They did not get it.

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know,” and in some ways that is true of all generations before Jesus.

In the stories of every patriarch, prophet, priest, or king, we see moments God surprised them. There were twists and turns in the biblical narrative when God’s unsuspected, and sometimes counterintuitive, plans and purposes were revealed.

Jesus’ enemies, disciples, and followers had been waiting for the Messiah to come. The religious leaders studied the scriptures diligently, searching for him. (John 5.39-40) The Samaritans, hated by the Jews, still believed in the Messiah and waited for him. (John 4.19-26) The Magi traveled from distant lands looking for him. (Matthew 2.1-2) They all had expectations that came from scripture and prophecy.

Some things nearly everyone got right, starting with the place of his birth, Bethlehem. Herod’s scholars knew exactly where to send the searching Magi. (Matthew 2.4-8) When Phillip told Nathanael that he thought Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, Nathanael scoffed that nothing good could come from Nazareth. (John 1.45-46) Later, opponents of Jesus also considered Nazareth, in Galilee, a location that disqualified Jesus from being taken seriously. (John 7.52)

Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.29) The disciples saw and touched Jesus, but in some ways, we see more of Jesus through the written gospels and the rest of the New Testament than they did at that time. There was more to be revealed.

“We did not get it,” John says. (John 12.16)  “We did not understand what Jesus was doing or saying. We did not understand what was happening because we did not understand what had been written.”

If the learned religious leaders who opposed Jesus and the earnest disciples who were so close to him could make errors, we can too. To take God seriously is to follow him humbly. To be surprised by God is to know him better than we did before.

If God surprised men and women all through the scriptures, he will surprise us. God has surprises in store for you this year. Humbly examine your assumptions and look for the unexpected.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 12 (Listen 2:21
John 12 (Listen 6:26)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 13 (Listen 2:27John 13 (Listen 5:06)
Job 14 (Listen 2:23John 14 (Listen 4:13)

Monday’s Readings
Job 15 (Listen 3:23John 15 (Listen 3:20)

New Pause To Read Episode Today!
The 3rd full podcast episode is out! Listen and share it with someone. Rate and review the podcast to spread the word.

Read more about Mary and Judas
Mary did the theological math. She gave her offering knowing Jesus was about to give his life. Judas did some math as well. He realized that he didn’t want to follow

Mary and Judas

Scripture Focus: John 12.4-9
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

Reflection: Mary and Judas
By John Tillman

The raising of Lazarus, in chapter 11, is the seventh sign John has arranged to tell us who Jesus is. After presenting these signs, John shows us the responses. He begins with the responses of two of his close followers, Mary and Judas.

I’ve written before that Mary seems to be the only one of Jesus’ friends to realize what the signs meant. She did the theological math. She gave her offering knowing Jesus was about to give his life.

Judas did some math as well. He realized that he didn’t want to follow the path Jesus was on. John tells us that Judas stole from the money bag. This highlights the difference between Mary and Judas. Her response to Jesus’ identity and to what Jesus is about to do was to say, “What can I give?” So she gave her all. Judas’s response was, “What can I get?”

He criticized Mary’s extravagance, but Jesus shut him down, saying, “Leave her alone.”  So he took what the world gave him: money, guilt, and death.

The detail of Judas being an embezzler hints that his betrayal of Jesus wasn’t an instant or impulsive decision. Betrayal kissed his heart long before he kissed Jesus’ face. 

When Jesus came to Bethany after Lazarus had died, Mary and Martha knew he had delayed. They knew he could have prevented Lazarus from dying. Mary wouldn’t come out to see Jesus until he called for her. Jesus wept with her in her grief before he raised Lazarus. Then she wept in grief over Jesus, before following him to the cross.

When we look at Jesus, we have a choice. It is our turn to respond. 

Like Mary, you may be in a moment of doubt or confusion. Like Judas, your heart may already hold sins and betrayals you are ashamed of. You may be unsure of Jesus or wondering about him. Or you may know someone who is.

Every rebuke from Jesus is also a call to come close. Come to him like Mary. Look again at the signs John described:
He makes something from nothing. (John 2.1-11)
He heals the dying. (John 4.46-54)
He motivates the paralyzed. (John 5.1-15)
He feeds the hungry. (John 6.5-14)
He delivers from chaos. (John 6.15-24)
He makes the blind see. (John 9.1-7)
He raises the dead. (John 11.1-45)

Who could this be except the Son of God? You can trust him and follow him, even to the cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah—that is, Christ—is coming; and when he comes he will explain everything.” Jesus said, “That is who I am, I who speak to you.” — John 4.25-26

Today’s Readings
Genesis 13 (Listen 2:16)
John 12 (Listen 6:26)

Read more about The Fragrance of Faith
Mary of Bethany’s anointing of Christ on his last trip to Jerusalem is intimately connected to the gospel—Christ said that it would be.

Read The Bible With Us
Now is a great time to invite someone on a joyful journey through scripture. Invite a friend to start reading with us today.

What Wondrous Love Is This? — Lenten Hymns

Scripture Focus: John 12.12-13
12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

Reflection: What Wondrous Love Is This? — Lenten Hymns
By Jon Polk

While the anonymous author of the hymn text “What Wondrous Love is This” may be lost to history, its lyrical beauty and simplicity are timeless.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

The hymn originates from the Appalachian region of the United States in the early 1800s. While hymnals were not commonplace at the time, the lyrics were first published in two different camp meeting songbooks in 1811, one in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the other in Lexington, Kentucky.

Because hymn books were rare, authors would often write lyrics that were simple and repetitive to aid congregations in learning the songs. This was not indicative of a poor writer, rather the repetition served to increase retention of the words and message.

The tune of the hymn was similar to a 1701 English song, “The Ballad of Captain Kidd,” which recounted the exploits of a sailor who had been executed for piracy. Many other popular songs had also been set to the same melody. In this way, the tune was memorable and easy to learn, much like singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling” or the old Gilligan’s Island TV show theme.

Furthermore, the song was discovered by composer William Walker during his travels in Appalachia and published in 1835 in his collection of shape note hymns, The Southern Harmony. Shape note singing was a popular form of musical notation using shapes to denote different pitches. Since most people in that day could not read music, shape notes made it possible for everyone to sing.

The season of Lent provides an opportunity for us as Christians to consider what messages we repeat over and over with our voices, actions, and attitudes. Do we present the simple message, “When I was sinking down, Christ laid aside His crown,” clearly and accessibly to those who have ears to hear?

Does the world hear a Church that repeats a message of its own selfish needs and demands, or do they hear us proclaim, “To God and to the Lamb, I will sing”?

Ultimately, what is the deep song in our hearts that we will repeat, not only in this life but through all eternity?

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Listen: What Wondrous Love is This? by Fernando Ortega
Lyrics: What Wondrous Love is This?, anonymous  — Lyrics from

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you, his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

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

Read more about Bearing Reproach
By these things, we are the Lord’s messengers, preparing the way, carrying the gospel to all around us.

Read more about Justice to Wormwood
It will not do for us to sing about justice without bringing it to pass.

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.