Tabernacling While Quarantined

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3.6, 13-14
6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory…13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

John 7.37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Isaiah 55.1 (the scripture Jesus is quoting in the above passage)
“Come, all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters; 
you who have no money, 
buy and eat! 
buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Reflection: Tabernacling While Quarantined
By John Tillman

Hebrews tells us that we are God’s “house” which Jesus has been placed over. The concept is a repeated theme in other New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 3.16; 1 Timothy 3.15). 

No matter what the atmosphere of our quarantine, we can remember that Jesus dwells or “tabernacles” with us. (Leviticus 26.11; Ezekiel 37.27; John 1.14; Revelation 21.3) Whatever suffering we endure, he feels it with us. Whatever joys we experience, he is celebrating with us. 

In John 7, we read of a Feast of Tabernacles celebration during Jesus’ ministry. The Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder to Israel of their dependence on God in the wilderness. It recalled the years of wandering and being a people who dwelled in tents and who worshiped a God who dwelled in tents with them.

Jesus entered this festival secretly. He misled his brothers who did not believe in him, telling them that he would not go. Then he snuck in. He then revealed himself to call attention to elements of the festival that pointed to him.

In particular, Jesus called attention to one new element. Priests would dip water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar in the Temple. This symbolized salvation through the water from the rock in the desert.

In our “tents,” our quarantined homes, we may feel as if we are isolated in the wilderness. Like Israel we long for Egypt. In Egypt they didn’t know thirst. They didn’t know hunger. In the desert, Israel reevaluates Egypt. How bad was the subjugation and slavery really? 

We aren’t enslaved in our vocations in the same way Israel was. Our culture enslaves us with consumerism and greed, among other idols. We hang the carrot in front of ourselves on the treadmill and run ourselves to death. We forget our chains in our longing for chain restaurants. 

In the desert and in the Temple, Israel is offered something better. Water from the rock. The water of life. Jesus stands among us wanting to quench our thirst with Living Water. “Come to me!” Jesus cries. While we are tabernacled with him, take time to drink what he offers.

As with Jesus’ brothers, Jesus may sneak up on us and sneak into our “tabernacle.” Are we aware of him? Are we trusting in him? Will we come to him and drink?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 3 (Listen – 1:48) 
Hebrews 3 (Listen -2:25)

Read more about Presence is Precious
Practicing the presence of God means living as a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, making everywhere you set your feet holy ground.

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
Prayer is our tent of meeting, where the deepest thirsts of our souls may be satisfied.


Normal is Dead—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: 1 Timothy 5.22
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

John 21.17 
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

*This Easter week as we shelter in our homes due to COVID-19, we may feel more like the disciples than we ever have before. We continue to look this week at the appearances of Jesus, who comes to us as we seek normalcy to call us to something greater.

Reflection: Normal is Dead—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

Scripture doesn’t tell us why Peter went fishing but it is not hard to imagine he needed a touch of normalcy. 

The disciples had been through a panoply of trauma and the familiar labor would be calming to them. Rope and oar and sail and sea (whatever those are to us) can provide an escape and a rhythm of distraction amidst a world of confusion.

This was an outspoken group of disciples—the loudmouths and extroverts. Besides Peter, there was Nathaneal, the sarcastic wisecracker, Thomas, the last to believe and first to call Jesus “my God,” James and John, who thought they should be closest to Jesus on his throne, and two unnamed disciples, one of whom is probably Andrew, Peter’s brother.

From Jerusalem to the Sea of Tiberius was about a 100-mile walk. Perhaps they had already left the city to go home. Perhaps they had access to faster transportation. John doesn’t elaborate. But it wasn’t a casual afternoon of fishing as a pastime. Some believe this trip implied Peter was resuming his prior occupation and giving up the ministry.

Then Jesus appears, sitting on the shore, pointing out the flaws in their plan. “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” This appearance is a callback—a reminder—of the initial callings of these fishermen and particularly of Peter. “You are fishing in the wrong place again, Peter. You aren’t even fishing for the right species. I called you to fish for people, remember?”

We all feel the cry for normalcy rising in us now. We just want to go back to work. Back to school. Back to self-reliance. Back to the illusion of safety and security in our own power and the world’s systems.

No matter how much we long for normalcy, the life Jesus called us to is not normal. Many foundations we’ve built on are being swept away and we can’t go back to pretending that our sand was a firm foundation after all. There are things about our normal that shouldn’t return.

Peter was unworthy when Jesus first called him and unworthy when he was reinstated. So are we. But Jesus forgave and reinstated Peter with a new normal and he can do the same for us. 

What is the new normal that Jesus is calling you to? What new rhythms might you discover during this time that are healthier spiritually than what you were doing before quarantine? What has quarantine taken from you that you can now let go of?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 3 (Listen -3:02)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen -3:22)

Read more about Remember Jesus Christ
Remembering the good news of the risen Christ provides perspective for our lives.

Read more about Recalling the Failures
It is not just Peter who is reinstated in the last chapter of John’s gospel and our last reading of this year. Other disciples who failed famously are there—Thomas who doubted, Nathanael the cynical elitist, the power-hungry sons of Zebedee. These confused and doubtful disciples are going back to the familiar when they are met by a familiar face on the shore.

Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: John 20.27
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Reflection: Last to Believe—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

John, the first disciple to believe Jesus is alive without seeing him face-to-face has a purpose in recording the doubts of Thomas, the last disciple to believe Jesus is alive. 

Far from putting Thomas down, John treats Thomas’s journey from doubt to faith with respect and tenderness. It was not John’s intention to make Thomas the butt of pastors’ “doubt” jokes for millennia.

Every moment in John’s gospel is carefully crafted and chosen, appearing for a purpose. Where the synoptic gospel writers focus heavily on sequential timelines and explicitly tying events to historical markers, John does not. John’s gospel arrangement is thematic rather than chronological and pedagogical rather than historical. There are seven signs or miracles, seven “I am” statements by Jesus, seven “You are” statements of witnesses about Jesus, seven statements of aspects of Jesus’ equality with God, and seven word-pictures of faith.

John confesses that there are not enough books to contain an unabridged record of what Jesus did. Instead, John’s purpose is setting forth Christ’s deity that we may believe and have life. (John 20.31) Jesus also says to Thomas and the rest of the disciples, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

John was writing later than the other evangelists (between 85-95 A.D, 20 years after the synoptics) and probably from Ephesus. Other than the synoptics, his audience had little access to direct eyewitness accounts other than his own. This may be why John may have emphasized the importance of belief in Jesus without physically seeing him and he uses Thomas as his example.

Instead of being the butt of bad jokes about doubt Thomas could be held up as a model of how to seek to overcome doubt. It is easy to take shots at Thomas for not taking the other disciples at their word, however, none of them (except John) believed without seeing, and even John had the benefit of seeing the empty tomb. Thomas stayed near, continued searching, continued in fellowship with his friends for a week that must have seemed like a year before Jesus finally appears personally to him.

Encourage those in doubt to follow the path of Thomas. Stay connected. Keep seeking. Keep asking. Keep knocking. Those who truly wish to conquer doubt will not fail to find Jesus showing them his hands, feet, and side.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

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

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 2 (Listen -4:03)
1 Timothy 4 (Listen -2:05)

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful :: Readers’ Choice 
The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe

Read more about The Miracle of Faith
Jesus’ greatest miracles were not ones of stopping storms or diseases or demons. His greatest miracles were helping the faithless to believe again. Helping the cynical to trust again. Helping the hardened to love again.

First to Believe Without Seeing—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: John 20.3-9
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1 Timothy 3.16
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.

Reflection: First to Believe Without Seeing—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

Another “first” to note in the resurrection appearances of Jesus, is the first person to believe that Jesus was resurrected without seeing him.

After appearing first to the women and specifically to Mary Magdalene, Jesus appears to Peter, to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple (possibly Cleopas’s wife) on the Emmaus road, then he appears to some of the gathered disciples, and then again to the group of disciples when Thomas joins them. As far as we know, John did not see Jesus in the flesh until the first appearance of Jesus to the gathered disciples in the upper room.

John is the disciple who seemed closer to Jesus than any other. He is the one they sent to Jesus to ask questions they were afraid to ask. (John 13.22-24) He was the one who, along with his brother, James, expected to be closest to Jesus in his kingdom. (Mark 10.35-37) This was the disciple who wrote most passionately and poetically about the life and divinity of Jesus. (John 1.1-14) It was John who remembered and recorded the longest, most intimate and meaningful discourses of Jesus’ teaching, his struggles, and his demonstrations of love to the disciples. This disciple—the disciple whom Jesus loved—is one of the last to see him alive? 

Perhaps this was because he did not need to see to believe. John reports that he believed after seeing the empty tomb with its well-folded graveclothes, but before seeing Jesus alive. 

As Paul writes to Timothy, and to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15.3-8), Jesus did indeed appear “in the flesh,” not just to a few, but to many. This was an important distinction to dispel ideas about a “ghostly” Jesus and to dispute gnostic accounts that never believed Jesus had a physical body to begin with.

But John leads the way for us, being the first to believe without seeing him. As Jesus tells Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed..” (John 20.29)

There are real and tangible reasons and evidence to lead us toward belief—for John, the condition of the empty tomb or for us, the testimony of the early eyewitnesses—but the final line of belief can only be stepped over in faith.

*For information on the historical evidence of the consistency and reliability of the gospel message, see this video from scholar, Gary Habermas — 1:20

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14

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

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 1 (Listen -2:21)
1 Timothy 3 (Listen -2:10)

Read more about In the Face of Grief
The resurrected Christ seems to have a special preference for appearing to the grieving. Why then do we seem to assume that this stopped when he ascended?

Read more about Further up, Further in
The grave is open, that we may see He is risen.
The veil is open, that we may follow our High Priest.
Hell is open if we will but make for the exit.
Heaven is open, if we will but enter.

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

*This Easter week as we shelter in our homes due to COVID-19, we may feel more like the fearful gathered disciples than we ever have before. We will look this week at the appearances of Jesus, who comes to stand in our troubled midst and say, “Peace be with you.”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first, but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them, but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight, is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

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

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 31 (Listen -2:50)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen -1:38)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is not a happy ending. It is a happy beginning.

Read more about A New Day :: Worldwide Prayer
May we follow the example of the first witnesses: the women who were more faithful than the betrayers, braver than the soldiers, and the first to believe in and spread the gospel.


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