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.

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Encouraged to Ask

Somewhere along the way, many of us became afraid to ask - afraid to ask for clarification and understanding, afraid to ask for what we need, afraid to ask for help, and afraid to ask because we might be shamed for asking. Jesus affirms our need to ask questions of one another, of him and especially of his Father. Let's bring our questions. Allow ourselves to be known in our questions. Feel our need and dependence on God. Listen for the Father's heart in the answer which comes and in the waiting for an answer which can seem like forever. Then let's watch to see what happens to our joy.

John 16: 17-24 (NLT)
Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. 23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, or an image that stood out as you listened? Linger there awhile with Jesus.
Consider your familiarity with grief and with joy and how the Lord feels present to you there. What do you notice? Do any invitations rise to the surface?

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Just Who Are You, Jesus?

The question and answer session carries on between Jesus, the Pharisees and the crowd in John 8. Can you imagine being a first time participant in a rabbi study with Jesus, where the Scriptures, the questions and the answers are the learning process?
In the search to know Jesus, they and we may find his answers to the questions not easily understood or comprehended. Can we be compassionate with ourselves in the process of seeking understanding? Or give ourselves permission to wrestle with the questions, the answers, and the lack of immediate or understandable answers? Or with the very person of Jesus himself? It is in the wrestling that we come to discover the presence and trustworthiness of God - Father, Son and Spirit.

John 8:21-30 (NLT)
Later Jesus said to them again, “I am going away. You will search for me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going.”
22 The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?”
23 Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. 24 That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they demanded.
Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. 26 I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” 27 But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father.
28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” 30 Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.

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.

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

When We Want To Truly Hear

When we want to truly hear we can ask any question and give ourselves permission to wait for the answer. Mysteriously, God's Spirit in us helps us know when we hear that answer. We can wonder what those temple guards heard Jesus say, which compelled them to refuse a direct order from the chief priests. Who were those guards guarding?
This recorded dialogue offers us a front row seat to observing a religious system. It is teeming with a mixture of sublime, subversive and controlling questions. Notice the questions and the freedom surrounding them. Stay curious and allow the conversation to intersect with your own life and story.

John 7:45-53 NLT
When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.
47 “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. 48 “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!”
50 Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”
53 Then the meeting broke up, and everybody went home.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention as you listened to the text? A word, a phrase, an image? 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?

This text is full of questions. What do you notice about them? How do they affect you?

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

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Jesus asks this question in two different ways; one, he asks about who others say he is, and second, who the disciples say he is. What is Jesus really asking? Was he trying out what they were really thinking? Was he looking for perceptions that they had of him, of who he was, who they knew him to be?  What is it?  Even in Peter's answer, "You are the Christ," one wonders what Peter's understanding of "the Christ" was. 

The question is important for us as well.  It matters who we say that Jesus is. Was Jesus a holy man, a prophet, a teacher? Yes, but is that all? As we read and study the Scriptures we come to greater understanding of who Jesus was and is as God in human form. As we encounter the living Christ in our lives we have real experience of who he is. Who do you say that Jesus is when you bear witness to his presence in your life? Who is "the Christ" to you?

You might ask Christ the same question for yourself, "Jesus, who do you say that I am?"

Mark 8:27-30 (NKJV)

Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, "Who do men say that I am?"

So they answered, "John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ."

Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

For Reflection and Prayer:
As you have been listening in the silence, sound and spoken Word, what has come to your attention: a word, a phrase, a feeling, a sensation in your body, something you have been observing that has suddenly changed, a revelation?

Jesus seems to have been quite persistent with His disciples, at times pointing out their fear, their lack of faith, their hard hearts, and their failure to understand. This time and for the very first time out of the group a single disciple speaks up. What is happening in Peter's life? Are the eyes of his heart beginning to open slightly? Is he having a new revelation of who Jesus is?

Think of a time when, after observing something for a long time, it suddenly changes becoming deeper in its meaning and importance to you. How would you answer, "But who do you say that I am?"