Introduction: It is good to return to the mighty, saving work of Jesus on the Cross – as that work is the focus of John’s Gospel. After all, it is Christ’s commitment to living out the agony of His calling as the Suffering Servant which makes Christ the object of our faith: from His birth to His death, and all events in between! Let us make sure, then, that we grasp Christ’s dying love as the primary motivator for living the Christian life.
Mon/Tues: read John 1:42-45. We left Jesus in John 1 meeting Peter for the first time in John 1:42. What a meeting it was! Christ’s mighty determination to make Peter a rock in building His church is clear from the way in which Jesus gazes upon the one called Simon in verse 42. As Christ ‘beheld’ (KJV) Simon, He already knew how He would effectually call, convert, correct, chastise, humble and sanctify this fisherman, changing him to be the man whom He would call ‘Cephas’, (Peter), meaning rock (Matthew 16:17-20). On this ‘rock’ of his confessing Jesus to be the ‘Christ, Son of the living God’, God would build Peter’s life into something spiritually sound and foundational for the church’s future.
But alas, Simon is far from what Christ would make him to be in John 1:42. There are many failings on Simon’s part, and many rebukes upon his head which are to come later in the Gospel accounts. How beautiful it is, therefore, to see Christ behold him so lovingly… (even as, with the same verb of gazing used of Christ’s loving look in Mark 10:21, Christ looks upon Peter as He looks upon the rich young ruler: in his profound need for spiritual transformation and deliverance from sinful pride and blindness).
Meditate and Pray: Praise God for giving us a Savior who is omniscient in His understanding of our heart condition, our profound blindness and our daily need for His saving power! His eyes truly ‘burn’ with a holy love for His people, even as John describes our Ascended Savior in Revelation 2:18-19. He knows what makes us tick, and also what makes us soul-sick! Oh, may He search us and know us, and see if there be any wicked way in us, and then cleanse us in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24). Sing about God’s intimate knowledge of your life with the words of hymn # 36:
Lord, Thou hast searched me and dost know
Where’er I rest, where’er I go;
Thou knowest all that I have planned,
And all my ways are in Thy hand.
My words from Thee I cannot hide;
I feel Thy power on every side;
O wondrous knowledge, awful might,
Unfathomed depth, unmeasured height!
Wednesday: read John 1:42-45 and Job 7:17-20. Just as our Lord sovereignly gazed upon Peter, and in that gaze revealed His determination to claim Peter’s life for His own purposes, so God the Father is characterized in Job 7:20 as a ‘watcher’… with continual vigilance over each of His children – even over Job in all his trials and suffering. Though Job complains against God’s watch-care, his very complaint in Job 7:17-19 is proof of God’s intimate knowledge of every detail of his life!
Meditate and Pray: Give thanks that God never turns his eyes away from believers in Scripture, even when they bitterly disappointed Him either by their unbelieving complaints or their outright denial of His Lordship. Give thanks especially that it was the gaze of Jesus which reclaimed Peter from his words of betrayal in Luke 22:61! Truly God’s eyes range throughout the earth to save His own when they are about to fall forever!
Thursday: read John 12:25-33. The omniscience of God over our lives is a comfort, and a wonder to us, even as it was to the Psalmist in Psalm 139:6. Simply knowing that God the Father will never lose track of us, and will never fail to be there in control of every situation we face, is a great stabilizing factor in our lives.
But for Jesus, the holy eye of God becomes a fearful thing in John’s Gospel. As He walks the road to calvary, He increasingly experiences the searching judgment of the Father as He takes our place, and carries the burden and guilt of our sins to the Cross. This is why, on the way to the Cross, our Lord becomes increasingly troubled by what He faces. For example, see when Jesus says in John 12:27: “Now my heart is troubled…”. This word, “troubled,” means agitation, disquiet or perplexity and 3 times describes Jesus’ upset in the face of death: John 11:33, 12:27 & 13:21. As Warfield says of this troubling of Jesus’ soul, this word “always expresses the emotions which conflict with death stirred in Him.”
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus that He faced death as the curse due us for sin with a painful, serious commitment. He viewed it as an enemy to be overcome. Even more, thank Him that He not only was deeply troubled at His own upcoming death on the cross – He was also compassionately concerned with what death meant for others. In John 11:33-35, Jesus is disturbed even to tears at the grief which Lazarus’ death caused. In the same way, thank Jesus for His determination to die to destroy the hold which the fear of death has over us. Now we need not fear dying: it is safe for us because Jesus took so much trouble to die in our place! See also Hebrews 2:14-15.
Friday: read Romans 5:6-10 & John 20:19-27. The church in its hymnody and mission is to follow the example of Paul in magnifying the death of Jesus, as for example, in Romans 5:6-10, where the Apostle argues that it is through the blood death of Jesus that we are saved from the “wrath of God” (v.9). Then, tying Christ’s death to His resurrected life, Paul cannot contain himself in Romans 5:10 as he declares, “If by his death we were reconciled, how much more shall we be saved through His life” (v. 10)! Thus it is always the peace and forgiveness procured by Christ’s blood sacrifice which makes the resurrection such a joyful reality.
As we close our reflections on Christ’s Cross and His finished work of salvation for this week’s notes, ask yourself why it is that every time Christ appears in His resurrection body, the first words out of His mouth convey ‘peace’ as His greeting to and blessing upon the Apostles? The answer, as J.I. Packer points out in his book ‘Knowing God’ (p. 177), is that:
When Jesus came to His disciples in the upper room at evening on His resurrection day, He said, ‘Peace by unto you’; ‘and when He had so said, He showed them His hands and His side; (John 20:19f.). Why did He do that? Not just to establish His identity, but to remind them of the propitiatory death on the cross whereby He had made peace with His Father for them. Having suffered in their place, as their substitute, to make peace for them, He now came in His risen power to bring that peace to them. ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ It is here, in the recognition that, whereas we are by nature at odds with God, and God with us, Jesus has ‘made peace through the blood of His cross’ (Colossians 1:20), that true knowledge of the peace of God begins.
Meditate and Pray: Do you know this peace? Do your loved ones? For those being tossed and troubled in this peace-less world, let us ask the Lord Jesus through His gospel to come to such, “preaching peace to those far and near”, (Ephesians 2:17). He still speaks, and, hearing His voice, “new life the dead receive”.