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South Fellowship Church

Now That is Funny

Does this sound like the punch line of a joke?

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” – John 21:22

It may not be a joke directly, but I still laughed aloud when I reread this verse this week. In fact, our Daily Devotional Team laughed quite a bit as we read this chapter in the book of John. We decided to point out the subtle humor in this chapter and acknowledge the value of humor in the scriptures.

The scriptures are masterfully written. The longer you spend studying them, the more nuanced, delighting, challenging, and even humor you notice in them. As you learn about ancient Jewish culture, figures of speech in Greek and Hebrew, and the various characters found in the text, you also begin to appreciate the depth of these texts.

I challenge you to make the scriptures a part of your lifelong study program. Thank God for giving us such a beautiful gift to begin to learn who he is and how humans are. With that said, I’ll point out a few funny observations we notice in John 21

The punch line of the text I quoted above is that Jesus keeps asking Peter to “Follow Me.” Then the text tells us that there is a disciple following Jesus even as he and Peter are trying to have a conversation. The moral of the story is that Peter should be doing what this disciple is modeling. The punch line is that John is the one both writing this text and offering himself as an example that Peter should follow. The humor is increased because John makes editorial notes throughout his gospel.

We also enjoyed John’s commentary that he noticed Jesus before all the other disciples. We appreciated John’s closing lines in the chapter. It is as if John’s hand is cramping, so he casually tells us that Jesus did and taught lots of things.

Again, these slightly comical observations are subtle, sometimes tertiary to the point of the passage, but they also bring us joy. It’s a blessing to have such masterfully crafted scriptures with life’s natural humor, and character quirks included. This is just an invitation to continue to learn and enjoy these texts.

Now That is Funny2022-05-22T20:56:09-06:00

Breakfast With Jesus

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:10-14)

Something is comforting about Jesus being God. It means he is strong, wise, and in control. Yet, there is just as much comfort in the humanity of Jesus. He understands us; he isn’t distant. Instead, he is near. In this story, Jesus draws from his genuine human relationship with the disciples. He knows them. Jesus knows their stories, and he knows how to connect with them. In light of that, he makes breakfast. It’s such an everyday activity, so familiar, so disarming. These disciples had shared countless meals with Jesus over the years, and when he invited them to do it again, the light bulb went on.

The image of his hands breaking bread, and the sound of his voice blessing the food, must have been a bit of glorious Deja Vu. It is with this beach breakfast that Jesus decided to re-invite them to the story. Aren’t you glad that he knows you just as well? This is the kind of God we follow, patient, familiar, yet completely different from others.

Where might Jesus be inviting you into the story of his world? What is the beach breakfast that he is offering to you? You may wish he would show up with flashes of lightning and a booming voice, but he may decide to be more covert than that. Are you paying attention to his invitation to breakfast? One way to heighten your awareness of Jesus’ presence in your everyday life is to set aside time to pray a Prayer of Examen at the end of your day.

How to Pray the Examen
1. Place yourself in God’s presence. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.
2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
3. Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time.
4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away?
5. Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God’s plan. Be specific, and conclude with the “Our Father.”

Breakfast With Jesus2022-05-15T21:14:10-06:00

How Many Fish?

[Jesus] called out to [the fishermen], “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” … Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. – John 21:5-7a,10-11

This story sounds all too familiar to another story of Peter fishing and catching nothing. Luke 5:4-6 recounts Jesus telling Simon Peter to, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”

Here, we see Peter fishing all night, catching nothing, until Jesus comes along. In today’s text, Peter is back fishing, catching nothing, until Jesus comes along. As the Apostle John tells this second miracle concerning fish, he adds some intriguing details. He specifically mentions 153 fish and that the nets do not break. Some scholars wonder what this specificity means. What does the number symbolize? What does it mean about Peter’s ministry or Jesus’ Kingdom?

But, as we see with both miracles concerning fish, the purpose was never really about fish. Although the nets were bursting with swarms of fish in the first miracle, the sign pointed to a calling. Jesus prophesied over Simon Peter, “from now on, you will fish for people” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭5:10‬). And in the second miracle, although the nets stayed intact with an overwhelming number of fish, the sign pointed directly back to his original calling.

The miracle that day was that Peter’s calling to fish for people was still intact. The number of fish was likely only to prove the amazing strength of the net intact after carrying over 150 fish.Peter felt weak after denying his Lord, but Jesus returns to miraculously remind him of his unique calling to fish for people and the miracle demonstrates how Peter’s calling would still hold up with the help of his Lord, even though tested by trial.

Have you heard God’s voice speak a specific calling over your life? If so, remember what he’s said to you today and praise him that your calling is still intact, no matter what’s been happening in your life. If not, ask God to speak over you. Ask him, “Who do you say I am?”

How Many Fish?2022-05-17T21:36:14-06:00

CARRYING EXTRA WEIGHT?

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. (John 21:5-9 NIV)

Like the majority of first century men, Peter and other disciples of Jesus were laborers working physical jobs. As did the rest of the culture, they wore both outer and inner tunics. While working, men would often remove the longer outer tunic to allow greater freedom of movement. If a man wore only his knee-length inner tunic, he was said to be “naked”.

This description of Peter wrapping his outer garment around his waist prior to jumping into the water to swim toward Jesus raises my curiosity. Why did John mention it? Strapping on extra encumbrance to swim is counterintuitive.

What could we, two millenia removed from this scene, miss about this detail? Let’s skip to the end of this scene after the disciples’ breakfast with the risen Jesus on the shore of Lake Galilee:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
….The [second and] 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.”
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15…17-19 NIV)

How can we interpret these references to Peter putting on bulky clothing before a swim in his zeal to greet Jesus, his loving Jesus, and following Jesus? Consider these ideas:

Prior to this breakfast, evidently Peter hadn’t yet felt fully restored to fellowship with Jesus after the shame of denying Him three times. Peter carried the unnecessary burden of this failure. The weight of his water soaked outer garment reflected that impediment. Jesus’ three questions restored Peter’s focus to the love relationship between them.

Jesus also wanted Peter to know the Holy Spirit would provide the kind of energy needed to “feed my lambs”.

Finally, Jesus wanted Peter to be aware of difficulties ahead that would be unique to him. The human strength and freedom Peter enjoyed as a young man would be increasingly met by limitations. Peter would develop more reliance upon the Holy Spirit as that happened.

As you contemplate things that seemingly limit your relationship with Jesus, listen to this familiar song composed by Bill Gaither. He Touched Me

CARRYING EXTRA WEIGHT?2022-05-15T21:08:32-06:00

Encounter with a Holy God

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. John 21:4-7 NIV

When we read John’s account of the disciples fishing all night, but catching nothing, then Jesus telling these experienced fishermen to put their nets down on the other side of the boat – resulting in catching an extremely large number of fish – it sounds familiar doesn’t it? It should, we have seen this miracle before. Luke describes a similar scene in Luke 5:1-11. In Luke’s account Peter says and does something that I think is key in our relationship with Jesus.

“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,” Luke 5:8-9.

What is going on here? I believe it is a recognition of Peter’s humanity, sinfulness and unworthiness when he is suddenly confronted with the incredible power of a Holy God. Peter recognizes this catch of fish as miraculous – only possible by an act of God.

We have other accounts in the Bible of men who were considered righteous – by God – declaring themselves to be sinful, nothing, dust – when confronted with the holiness of Almighty God. Abraham, Job, and Isaiah each expressed similar ideas in similar circumstances.

In John 21 the disciples have returned to what they know, to what they are familiar with – fishing. At this point in the story, John, the son of Zebedee, “the disciple whom Jesus loved declares to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” John 21:7a. John has recognized Jesus – as often occurred in the post resurrection appearances of Jesus to his followers – recognition was a bit delayed, but once they recognized Jesus, lives were touched, changed and important teaching and understanding followed.

What about for you and for me? Have you encountered God’s holiness, His incredible power, his healing in your life or in the life of someone you know recently? Look at these passages in Luke 5:1-11, in Genesis 18:27, in Isaiah 6:1-5, and Job 30:19 & Job 42:1-6. Ask God to reveal to you what you need to see, hear and understand about the powerful, Holy God we serve and how we might show proper reverence, love and devotion to Him. Thank Jesus for loving you, for dying for you, for providing a way to be in the presence of a Holy God. It is an incredible gift!

Encounter with a Holy God2022-05-15T21:06:15-06:00

Familiar and Physical

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with Joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10) NIV

After this Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. (John 21:1-3) – The Message

The disciples went back to Galilee from Jerusalem, because Jesus had told the women to tell his brothers that he would see them there. There were a lot of memories attached to Galilee for the brothers. The disciples named were Galileans and had been called from their occupations there to follow Jesus. There is speculation about the unnamed two in this report, but one of them was likely Peter’s brother Andrew, because Jesus called them while they were fishing. (Matthew 4:18-19)

Galilee is roughly 76 miles from Jerusalem. I wish it were possible to have heard what they talked about as they walked to their destination. Given the few hints we have as to the unique character of each of these men, some would be talkative and others would find it hard to say anything. Certainly they were all mentally and emotionally worn down and stressed about what might happen next. When Peter said, “I’m going fishing”, it may well have been a relief to do something familiar and very physical. And, if they caught something, it would provide them something to eat the next morning.

In a way I can relate. When life has caved in on me the greatest comfort at times has been the ordinary routine of doing something physical that meets my own or someone else’s needs. Sometimes it has been being in the sound booth at church making it possible for someone to be seen and heard as they led worship for Rock Solid High School or Teenage Community Bible Study. Other times it is simply to engage in a frenzy of house cleaning or gardening.

How about you? When you are mentally and emotionally exhausted is there some ordinary routine that tires you physically and releases stress in the process? Think about what it might be and plan to take one step toward doing that something. Ask Jesus to show what is causing mental and emotional stress in you. Often he tells you something you already know.Write down what you hear.Thank him for his care for you. Pray for grace to act on what you hear.

Familiar and Physical2022-05-15T21:04:34-06:00

Jesus Prepares for Us

Then Jesus told him,(Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many more miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. (John 20:29-31) NIV

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” Jesus provided far more God revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
(John 20:29-31) The Message

I do not believe Jesus was condemning Thomas when he said that those who believe without having seen the resurrected Jesus would be blessed. Jesus was telling him and the other disciples that their witness and the message they carry will be how other people would come to believe and trust in Jesus.

Jesus came to them and said, ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,”
(Matthew 28:18-20). NIV

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,(John 17:20a).

Because of the riches of the written scriptures available to us and a multitude of study and informational tools available, it is hard to imagine when all the words we read, the disciples heard directly from Jesus. They saw his facial expression, the look in his eyes, and heard the tone of his voice. They had his presence in the room with them.

I have to ask myself what would I have heard, what would I grasp, what would I remember? Would I have known Jesus as “My Lord and my God”?

I am grateful that Jesus prepared a way for those of us who would come to believe in him even though we have not seen him. I am grateful for the disciples whose living witness and gospel message went out and ultimately provided written testimony for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus.

Join me in thanking Jesus, the Living Word of God, for providing for all of us who come to believe in him through the witness of those disciples and for the scriptures that are available to strengthen and delight us.

Jesus Prepares for Us2022-05-08T20:26:50-06:00

Questioning God

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 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.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29 NIV

Thomas had questions that he wanted answered. He was not able to believe his beloved Lord and Rabbi was alive – simply based on another’s eyewitness testimony. Thomas did not understand events of the preceding week – the triumphal entry, the Last Supper, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion of Jesus, and then the burial of His body. Even though Jesus had told his disciples that He came to suffer, to die and would rise again, Thomas still had questions.

Let’s look at another person who had questions. Job was a wise, wealthy, respected and righteous man who suddenly and without warning lost all his material possessions and all his children in one day. Then he was plagued by painful boils all over his body. Job had questions. He did not understand. Throughout the book of Job asked God what he had done to deserve the punishment he was enduring

“If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” Job 7:20.

Job is unique – in that we as readers have the eternal perspective throughout the book. Job, on the other hand, did not. At the end of the book, God spoke to Job and gave him a better understanding of God’s sovereignty over everything. Job said it this way, 

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” Job 42:2-3,5.

Job was never given a direct answer to his “why” questions, BUT he WAS given a better understanding of God, how he works and who He is.

Thomas was granted the answers he sought; he was given the exact proof he asked for. Do you ask God questions? When you do – know that God often answers us in different ways than we asked, or than we expected. But rest assured, know that if we continue to ask God our questions, HE WILL ANSWER. God will give us the answers WE NEED but not necessarily the answers we want.

Questioning God2022-05-08T20:25:08-06:00

FoMO & Facts

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!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

…Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you! ”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.” (Mark 20:19-27 NIV)

When reading this passage it’s easy to miss this detail: Thomas, who is often called “Doubting Thomas”, apparently was the only one of the remainder of the Twelve who missed seeing Jesus when He first passed through a locked door to give His disciples encouragement and instruction. 

How could our sovereign leader (Jesus) not make sure everyone in his intimate circle was present when He made His first appearance to the group? Wasn’t FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) a thing – even then? No wonder Thomas declared: 

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  (Mark 20:25 NIV)

After all, hadn’t Jesus already done this for the remainder of the Twelve?

So I’m inclined to wonder if Jesus had a special reason for appearing to ten of the Twelve when Thomas was elsewhere. What did Thomas need to wrestle with as he waited a week for Jesus to grant him the vital experience of being an eyewitness to the resurrection?

This deep need to have a legitimate question answered along with a valid personal experience with the Living God isn’t limited to Thomas. We like to say “I have a personal relationship with Jesus”. We often say “Christianity isn’t just a religion”. So doesn’t it follow that we need something besides Christian ancestors, our imagination, or the testimony of our friends to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead?

I may be wrong, but Thomas may have been one of those personalities who needed straightforward, no nonsense facts to move forward in his faith. As Sergeant Joe Friday of the 1950s TV series Dragnet always said when interviewing a female witness, “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.”

In any event, Jesus generously and graciously accommodated Thomas’ genuine need to see and touch the evidence of His resurrection: 

Stop doubting and believe.”

Reflect on times Jesus has made you wait for confirmation of His presence or His direction, but later accommodated and met you in the way you needed.

FoMO & Facts2022-05-08T20:23:07-06:00

Present and Eternal Scars

But [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” – John 20:25

[Jesus] 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.” – John 20:27

Too often, we give Thomas a hard time for asking to see Jesus’ scars, but this request brings out an intriguing thought: Jesus would be eternally marked by his suffering.

Wounds remind us of what a person’s suffered and since Jesus’ glorified body carries these markers, Jesus’ body forever illustrates his victorious testimony.

Do you envision Jesus as a scarred human forever? Perhaps you assume his humanness ceased to exist when he ascended to Heaven or simply because he’s divine. But, Jesus is and always will be the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15-19).

In this post resurrection moment, Jesus lovingly shows Thomas evidence of his human suffering. Perhaps because Jesus is eager to testify of his triumphant story. As he lets Thomas put hands on his wounds, it’s as if he’s saying, “Evil has left its mark but everyone who overcomes lives to tell the story.”

When Jesus returns, he will show us the same marks of his selfless, sacrificial story. As he establishes his kingdom, his scars will eternally remind us of his humanness.

Consider the reality of Jesus showing you his human scars one day – whether that be when you reach glory at the end of your life or when glory returns to us. What significance are Jesus’ eternal scars to you?

Present and Eternal Scars2022-05-08T20:19:31-06:00
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