Reading through the book of John - written by one of Jesus's best friends, what an intimate perspective! - all consecutively and somewhat quickly was great for me! This was probably the first time I'd really studied it all together without bouncing back and forth between other gospel accounts.
Less than two weeks into my reading, I received (by email) a passage from a book that really shook me up. I'll share a part of it here.
From Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell Moore (Crossway, 2011):
Part of the curse Jesus would bear for us on Golgotha was the taunting and testing by God’s enemies. As he drowned in his own blood, the spectators yelled words quite similar to those of Satan in the desert: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). But he didn’t jump down. He didn’t ascend to the skies. He just writhed there. And, after it all, the bloated corpse of Jesus hit the ground as he was pulled off the stake, spattering warm blood and water on the faces of the crowd.
That night the religious leaders probably read Deuteronomy 21 to their families, warning them about the curse of God on those who are “hanged on a tree.” Fathers probably told their sons, “Watch out that you don’t ever wind up like him.” ...
This passage absolutely devastated me. I wept for those religious leaders, so physically close to Jesus but so blind! The fact that, in their focus on religion and maintaining the status quo, they had missed Jesus! For those of us who eagerly await a time when we can sit at Jesus' feet to worship him, and see him face to face ... this is an atrocity!
But these were 'good' people - strong leaders in their families, leaders of the church (temple). They read the Law to their families. They defended their beliefs. But they were misguided, fallen individuals who - as a group - failed to embrace the Messiah because he didn't look enough like their 'god' to be the true Messiah.
This image stuck with me throughout the rest of my reading of the Gospel of John. And it changed my prayers from "God help those who are misguided!" to "God, help me -- help our church -- to cling to Jesus much more than we do our methodologies." In my own power, I can be a 'good' person - in the same way the Pharisees were 'good'. But 'good' didn't cut it then, and it's not cutting it now!
So, unlike the idea of the fathers who told their sons "Watch that you don't ever wind up like him," my final thought is, "Watch (be intentional) that you are becoming more like him."
- Rita Polk, Church Secretary