Not Guilty

Not guilty echos forward into eternity. A prophetic voice foreshadows what it to come. Our Abba and his Son look upon us and declare “Not Guilty”. There is to be no more blood shed to atone for sin. That way is done. And it is done now. What might it be
like to live “Not Guilty” today?
- free of guilt and shame?
- of not being enough?
- of messing up or making mistakes?
- of taking out our anger laced fear on others?
- of finding someone to blame?

John 19 contains the reality of great suffering. Please be gentle with yourself as you pray through these texts. Christ is with you.

John 19:1-6 (NLT)
Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

For Reflection and Prayer:

What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

Place yourself in this conversation. Who are you? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you want to say to Jesus? What does he in turn say to you?

This can be a painful passage to pray with. Invite Jesus to minister to you in your pain or just be with him in his pain. Together you are sharing in his suffering and he in yours.

print pdf

What is Truth?

Pilot's question deserves serious reflection for all of us. How do we know what is true? What has Jesus been showing us about truth with his life? There is much to notice in this passage about the process used to discern truth in the trial before Pilate.
How do you listen for truth? How do you recognize it? We cling to this hope which Jesus promised...that when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide us into all truth...He will take from what is mine and make it known to you (John 16:12-14).

John 18:28-40 (NLT)
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

If you were a character in this story, which one are you drawn to? Enter the story and observe the unfolding of events from that person’s perspective. What are you noticing and wondering about? Journal your experience of the story.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

print pdf

 

Invited to Tell Ourselves the Truth

A bystander, an enemy and an animal are the various voices which chose to speak and coax Peter to live into his reality. Rather than enemies, they are gifts in disguise which invited Peter to tell himself the truth. Which voices in our own lives seem like enemies who are only trying to expose our secrets and sequestered shame? What if:
- we could befriend them?
- listen to them?
- and discern if they are inviting us to be known in order to integrate and live out the truth of our lives in freedom and integrity?

John 18:25-27 (NLT)
Meanwhile, as Simon Peter was standing by the fire warming himself, they asked him again, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “No, I am not.”
26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” 27 Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What ‘shimmered’ as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer.

Reflect on a time when you have been startled into reality. What was that like for you? Where was the gift in it?

Rest in quiet trust in Jesus’ loving presence. Savor any consoling words or pictures given to you.

print pdf

Power and Spiritual Abuse

In just five short verses spiritual abuse is on full and undeniable display. What a gift it was that there were witnesses to see and record this scene. Again and again, Jesus asserts his power by allowing the oppressive behavior of the spiritual authorities to be seen for what it is. Earlier Jesus said that we would know his followers by the fruit of their heart and actions.

John 18:19-24 NLT
Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. 20 Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. 21 Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.”
22 Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded.
23 Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?”
24 Then Annas bound Jesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest.
John 18:19-24 TMG
Annas interrogated Jesus regarding his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, “I’ve spoken openly in public. I’ve taught regularly in meeting places and the Temple, where the Jews all come together. Everything has been out in the open. I’ve said nothing in secret. So why are you treating me like a conspirator? Question those who have been listening to me. They know well what I have said. My teachings have all been aboveboard.”
22 When he said this, one of the policemen standing there slapped Jesus across the face, saying, “How dare you speak to the Chief Priest like that!”
23 Jesus replied, “If I’ve said something wrong, prove it. But if I’ve spoken the plain truth, why this slapping around?”
24 Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to the Chief Priest Caiaphas.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened to the story? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Jesus to meet you in that feeling?

How does this story intersect with your own experience of getting to the truth? Or being questioned in the process? Bring Christ into that experience with you in prayer.

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

print pdf

Fear, Shame and Denial

How many sermons and bible studies have called us out on denying that we know Jesus? Yet heaping shame upon our denial only serves to keep us stuck and entrench us further. As we learn more about the impact which trauma or the threat of a traumatic experience has upon our body, including our brain, we learn that denial is an autonomic response to a traumatic event. Let's shift the focus here to wonder. What might it have been like for Peter to witness 200-600 armed Roman soldiers come to arrest Jesus? Can we stay with Peter by the fire and offer compassion to a brave disciple who is grappling with his fear? What comfort might he need from Jesus now?

John 18:12-18 (NLT)
So the soldiers, their commanding officer, and the Temple guards arrested Jesus and tied him up. 13 First they took him to Annas, since he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had told the other Jewish leaders, “It’s better that one man should die for the people.”
15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, as did another of the disciples. That other disciple was acquainted with the high priest, so he was allowed to enter the high priest’s courtyard with Jesus. 16 Peter had to stay outside the gate. Then the disciple who knew the high priest spoke to the woman watching at the gate, and she let Peter in. 17 The woman asked Peter, “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?”
“No,” he said, “I am not.”
18 Because it was cold, the household servants and the guards had made a charcoal fire. They stood around it, warming themselves, and Peter stood with them, warming himself.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

What feelings – either comfortable or uncomfortable - are rising up in you as you listen to this story? Where do you feel what you feel? Refrain from judging the feeling and gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus. Listen for how he meets you in these feelings.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God’s compassion for you.

print pdf

 

Our Own Betrayals

Amidst the pain of betrayal in this passage emerges the knowing of a place of intimate trust which Jesus shared with his father and closest friends. This garden was his place of prayer, his safe place, his vulnerable place. Within this cocoon of intimacy, Jesus bravely faced his betrayer - his friend. This can be a painfully hard passage to enter in our prayer. Perhaps the invitation is to simply trust that such a place exists for us too in our prayer. 

John 18:1-11 (NLT)
After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. 2 Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. 3 The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
4 Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.
5 “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) 6 As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! 7 Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?”
And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
8 “I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” 9 He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.”
10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened to the text? Did a word or phrase stand out in particular? Meditate on this word, phrase or picture. Is there more God wants to say to you?

This passage might guide you to reflect on your own experience of betrayal including times when you have betrayed yourself. What do you notice inside of you as reflect? How do you most need Jesus to be with you in this moment? Take some deep breaths remembering that God’s Spirit breathes in you. Be very, very gentle with yourself and simply ask for what you need.  You might hold your own hand, or lay your hand upon your heart in your prayer as an extension of compassion towards your pain and need.

Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

print pdf

Longing to be One

Jesus is emphatic and clear in his prayer with the Father. He longs for us to experience the same perfect unity and love which he shares with the Father. This text is one of the profoundly deep mysteries of God. Yet we can be confident of this - Jesus is praying for us and actively working to bring about this oneness in our lives.

John 17:20-26 (NLT)
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you. Journal what you hear and your response.

Where have you experienced this oneness with God and also with others? What has that been like for you? Where do you long to experience oneness? Write about these experiences and longings and talk it over in prayer with God.

Quietly rest with God and any consoling words or images given to you in this time of prayer.

print pdf

 

Belonging to God

Every thing we have is gift. Though we tirelessly try at times, our sense of belonging is given to us. Choice by choice we are invited to trust that we belong to God and that this God - Father, Son and Spirit - will actively guard us and keep us close.

John 17:6-19 (NLT)
“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.
13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture?
Journal about it. Where do you sense that emotion in your body? What does that emotion tell you about your need?

Reflect on your belonging to God. Where are you most aware of belonging to God? and least aware? Where or when do you long to belong to God?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

print pdf

 

Completing the Work

The complete confidence with which Jesus lived out his assignment from his Father is inspiring and compelling. How often do we long to have such confidence in living out our purpose? All along Jesus has kept his ears tuned to his Father's voice and has simply enjoyed the company of his Father. He shows us how to listen, trust and act, moment by moment. In this 17th chapter of John he will let us hear the longings of his heart expressed to his Father.

John 17:1-5 (NLT)
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
John 17:1-5 (TMG)
Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it’s time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear as you listened or read the text? Did something particular catch your attention? Bring it into conversation with Jesus.

Give yourself room for the word to affect you. What are you feeling or sensing? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

What is it like for you to listen in on Jesus’ prayer with his Father? What do you notice?
Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

print pdf

 

The Father Loves You Dearly

Plain talk: the Father loves you dearly.
It's that simple.
For many of us, it seems to take nearly a lifetime or an unbearable sorrow or an excruciating trial to come to know this in the depths of our being. Yet this is the love which heals, comforts and transforms us at our core where head knowledge becomes heart knowledge. Be extremely gentle and compassionate with yourself in the process. We cannot make ourselves get there. Yet we can, moment by moment, surrender to the love of the Father and rely on God's love to take us there.

John 16:25-33 (NLT)
 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture? Pause to listen to it. Bring it into your prayer

Is there a place where you are feeling scattered or alone? What do you need from God in that place?

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

print pdf