Pondering John 21:15-25


You can click HERE to read the passage.

The question that comes to my mind after reading and pondering this passage is this: If I were sitting around a campfire with Jesus and He were to ask me, “Do you love me?”, how would I respond?

I would be tempted to answer something like this: Of course I love You. I’ve been to seminary and I’m a pastor and have worked in a church for over 30 years. I’ve preached, I’ve read the Bible many times, I tithe faithfully, I love my family, I pray regularly. Isn’t it obvious that I love You?

But then I started thinking – that answer sounds a lot like what the Pharisees answer was, and Jesus said something like their hearts were far from God.

So I know that it is not a matter of what I have done, but why I have done these things. It is a matter of where my heart is. And do I do all those things because I love Jesus or because I’m trying to earn His favor and impress Him with all my good works.

Perhaps this is why I love Peter’s answer. It was a simple, “Yes Lord You know I love You.” He didn’t try to justify his answer. There was no need to. The Lord knew his heart.

Perhaps this is also why I love this prayer that I heard several years ago and that I find myself praying often, “Lord would You capture my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection.”



So this brings us to the end of the Gospel of John. For those of you who have been pondering along with me this year I hope you have enjoyed the journey. I will be blogging  rather randomly between now and the end of the year but will begin a new Pondering Project in January. You are, of course, invited to join me for the adventure. Stay tuned!


Pondering John 21:1-14


You can click HERE to read the passage.

Spoiler alert – this post will be a bit different. It borders on comedy. It centers around the fact that John took the time to mention exactly how many fish were caught… 153. It got me thinking about one of my favorite TV shows. I confess that I am indeed a fan of The Big Bang Theory. There is an episode where Sheldon discusses why 73 is the perfect number…

Sheldon: “The best number is 73. Why? 73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror, 37, is the 12th and its mirror, 21, is the product of multiplying 7 and 3… and in binary 73 is a palindrome, 1001001, which backwards is 1001001.”

Leonard: “73 is the Chuck Norris of numbers!”

Sheldon: “Chuck Norris wishes… all Chuck Norris backwards gets you is Sirron Kcuhc!”‘

As I was reading what some commentators said about this passage in John I found it kind of funny what explanations they came up with as to why John used the number 153.

(i) Cyril of Alexandria said that the number 153 is made up of three things. First, there is 100; and that represents “the fullness of the Gentiles.” 100, he says, is the fullest number. The shepherd’s full flock is 100 (Matthew 18:12). The seed’s full fertility is 100-fold. So the 100 stands for the fullness of the Gentiles who will be gathered in to Christ. Second, there is the 50; and the 50 stands for the remnant of Israel who will be gathered in. Third, there is the 3; and the 3 stands for the Trinity to whose glory all things are done.

(ii) Augustine has another ingenious explanation. he says that 10 is the number of the Law, for there are ten commandments; 7 is the number of grace, for the gifts of the Spirit are sevenfold.

“Thou the anointing Spirit art, Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.”

Now 7+10 makes 17; and 153 is the sum of all the figures, 1+2+3+4…, up to 17. Thus 153 stands for all those who either by Law or by grace have been moved to come to Jesus Christ.

(iii) The simplest of the explanations is that given by Jerome. He said that in the sea there are 153 different kinds of fishes; and that the catch is one which includes every kind of fish; and that therefore the number symbolizes the fact that some day all men of all nations will be gathered together to Jesus Christ. (William Barclay)

My explanation is much simpler. There were 12 disciples and there were 12 tribes of Israel. 12 x 12 =144. There were 5 books of the Law and 4 gospels. 144 + 5 + 4 = 153.

Okay, I jest! I think there really were 153 fish caught. Seems to me like the best answer… and the perfect number for John to use as he told his story.

Next Week’s Passage: John 21: 15-25

Pondering John 20:19-31


You can click HERE to read the passage.

2 things that catch my attention from this passage…

1) Three times in a matter of 8 verses Jesus says “Peace be with you!” Sort of makes you think these guys were struggling with experiencing peace with all that was going on. There is still a lot of that going around today. Both believers and unbelievers alike are often overwhelmed by worry and anxiety and have a hard time experiencing the peace of God. The key, I think, to knowing the peace of God in your life is to know the God of peace. God identifies Himself in Judges 6 as Jehovah Shalom. (You can read about this encounter that Gideon had with God by clicking HERE where I blogged about it a few years ago.) Jesus is identified as the Prince of Peace. To know God is to know peace. There used to be a sign that I would see around from time to time that has a lot of truth to it: “No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know peace.” Whenever I am assaulted by worry I try to remind myself that God is in control, that He is with me, and that I can rest in Him and let Him deal with the troubling details of life.

2) Thomas, I think, kind of gets a bad rap by being referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” I’m pretty sure that if I had not been around when Jesus presented himself the first time to the disciples that I would have had my doubts too. The thing that I appreciate about Thomas is that he did not pretend his doubts did not exist. He owned them and confronted them and when they were allayed he was strengthened in his faith and became a powerful ambassador for the gospel. My concern is that we do not do this in the church. We have our doubts but we just sweep them under the spiritual carpet, act like they are not there, and then try to live out our faith the best that we can. Meanwhile, those nagging doubts are still there for us to stumble over. Better to confront them head on and get on about the kingdom’s business with confidence and joy.

Next Week’s Passage: John 21:1-4

Pondering John 20:1-18


You can click HERE to read the passage.

There comes a point in every believer’s life when he has an “AHA” moment. It is that moment when everything that you have heard and seen finally makes sense and you begin to really believe what you believe. There are two AHA moments recorded in this passage:

1) John’s AHA moment came when he first looked into the tomb, saw that Jesus was not there and noted how the grave clothes had been arranged. The Scripture simply says at this point, “He saw and believed.” (v.8)

2) Mary also had an AHA moment. It was at her 2nd trip to the tomb that morning. She had had an encounter with  2 angels – which I’m pretty sure would have been an AHA moment for me – and then had a conversation with Jesus without knowing it was Him. But when He said her name, “Mary“, it was as if the light went on and all was clear to her. (v.16)

My AHA moment came when I was about 16 years old. After spending my first 14 years without any religious indoctrination at all I began hanging around my best friend’s church in the 9th grade. After about 2 years of exposure to the gospel and to people that loved God everything finally clicked in my mind and my heart responded by crying out to God to rescue me from darkness and bring me into the light of His Son. And my life was never the same.

Do you remember what your AHA moment was like? Today might be a good day to reflect back on how the Lord brought you to your moment of belief and then thank Him for rescuing you and filling you with LIFE!

Next Week’s Passage: John 20:19-31

Pondering John 19:28-42


You can click HERE to read the passage.

The actions of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are interesting to me. So evidently both of these men were followers of Jesus, though “secretly” according to verse 28. And both of these men were influential Jews as they were members of the Sanhedrin. What I find interesting is why they have decided upon Jesus’ death to “come out” so to speak as ardent disciples. Why all of a sudden do they have the courage to do what they do? I could understand their actions if it was post resurrection – at least then they would know that everything Jesus had preached about Himself was true. But this is pre-resurrection. As far as they know, Jesus is dead. They don’t yet know the rest of the story. And yet here they are boldly identifying themselves with this man who was so despised by their colleagues.

Perhaps it was their love for Jesus that prompted them to act. Perhaps it was the injustice that they had witnessed that prompted them to act. Perhaps it was their guilty conscience at not having come out sooner that prompted them to act. Or perhaps it was their faith. Perhaps they decided that if their faith in Jesus was really real then it was now or never to do something about it.

Here are two application questions that I find myself pondering:

1) To what degree am I secretly following Jesus, not letting others know that I am a bona fide disciple?

2) What courageous act can I do this week to demonstrate (both to myself and to the world) that I am indeed a fervent follower of Jesus?

Next Week’s Passage: John 20:1-18

Pondering John 19:17-27


You can click HERE to read the passage.

I do not take any credit at all for what follows. It is  a portion of an article by a physician (Dr C. Truman Davis) describing in detail the crucifixion. It is long but worth the full read. When we understand what Jesus went through on our behalf, it helps us to better appreciate the price He was willing to pay for our sin.

…In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. You are, of course, familiar with Pilate’s action in attempting to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate.

It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.  There is much disagreement among authorities about the unusual scourging as a prelude to crucifixion. Most Roman writers from this period do not associate the two. Many scholars believe that Pilate originally ordered Jesus scourged as his full punishment and that the death sentence by crucifixion came only in response to the taunt by the mob that the Procurator was not properly defending Caesar against this pretender who allegedly claimed to be the King of the Jews. Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes.  The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs.

At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.  The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped.  The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.

The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.

After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed.  In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross is tied across His shoulders, and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion begins its slow journey along the Via Dolorosa.

In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance.  The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650 yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed.  Jesus is offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic mixture. He refuses to drink. Simon is ordered to place the patibulum on the ground and Jesus quickly thrown backward with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed in place.

The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain — the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.

As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.  At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded:

The first, looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The second, to the penitent thief, “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

The third, looking down at the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John — the beloved Apostle — he said, “Behold thy mother.” Then, looking to His mother Mary, “Woman behold thy son.”

The fourth cry is from the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Jesus experienced hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins — a terrible crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.  One remembers again the 22nd Psalm, the 14th verse: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”

It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasps His fifth cry, “I thirst.”  One remembers another verse from the prophetic 22nd Psalm: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death.” A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine which is the staple drink of the Roman legionaries, is lifted to His lips. He apparently doesn’t take any of the liquid.

The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth words, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, “It is finished.”  His mission of atonement has completed. Finally He can allow his body to die.

With one last surge of strength, he once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, “Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”

Next Week’s Passage: John 19:28-42

Pondering John 19:1-16


You can click HERE to read the passage.

Here is my definition of a coward: Someone who is not willing to do the right thing because other people are egging you on to do the wrong thing.

Pilate was a coward. Clearly he knew what the right thing to do was. He was more concerned about keeping the peace and keeping his job than he was about doing the right thing. I’m sure he had no idea that the fateful decision he made to turn Jesus over to be crucified would still be being talked about 2000 years later. I’m sure that he hoped that the mark he left on history would be as “the best governor the Roman Empire ever had” not the man who had the Savior of the world crucified. I’m sure that he had no idea that his legacy would be defined by one bad, people-pleasing decision.

Admittedly, I am a people pleaser. I like for people to think well of me and to like me. But I hope that does not get in the way of doing the right thing when it goes against the grain. I hope at least part of my legacy will be that I was not afraid to the the right thing. I pray that I will have the courage to stand up for right and not take the easy way out, the coward’s way out, of doing the wrong thing when I clearly know the right thing to do.

Next Week’s Passage: John 19:17-27

Pondering John 18:28-40


You can click HERE to read the passage.

Two things from this passage:

1) Verse 28 would be comical if it were not so sad. “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.”

The Jewish leaders have just finished plotting murder and physically abusing Jesus and committing perjury and yet they are concerned about ceremonial uncleanness. Somehow, in their own minds, they have rationalized that what they were doing with Jesus was right. That they were still clean in the eyes of God. But before I get all high and holy I have to remind myself that I do the very same thing. Perhaps not to the point of killing someone, but I still find ways to justify my sin and make myself (at least in my own mind) clean before God.

2) Verse 38 is a question that has been around for a long time. “What is truth?”  Most people in today’s world have framed the answer in subjective terms. What is true for you may or may not be true for me. But believers take a much more objective approach to this question. Truth is the Word of God! The written and incarnate Word of God. We base our lives on what the Bible says and on who Jesus is. They provide the objective framework for who we are and what we do.

Or at least that’s what we say. Sometimes we act as if the Truth is subjective much like the Jewish leaders did in verse 28. We make it say what we want it to say not what it really says. And in doing so, we grieve the heart of God.

Next Week’s Passage: John 19:1-16

Pondering John 18:15-27


You can click HERE to read the passage.

I’m struck in this passage, not by the 3 denials, but by how much Peter loved Jesus. There are two indications of this  that stand out to me…

1) Peter and the un-named disciple are the only ones that that have the courage to follow Jesus when He is taken to the high priest. Peter would never have been in a position to deny Jesus if he had not followed Jesus. Where did this courage come from. It was fueled by the love that he had for the Lord. I’m sure the other disciples loved Jesus too – but not to the extent that Peter did.

2) After Peter denies knowing Jesus for the third time, and after the rooster began to crow, the Scriptures tell us that Peter “wept bitterly”. This passage does not give us this information but it is recorded in all three parallel passages in the other gospels. Why John chose not to record it I do not know. I’m sure that with each denial there was this growing tension inside of Peter as he realized what he had just said and done. Then with the crowing of the rooster and the memory of what Jesus had said to him, Peter just could not keep his emotions in check any longer. He loved Jesus so much and knew that he had disappointed Him and the weeping of bitter tears was the only outlet he had.

I wonder  why there are so few tears in my life. As often as I disappoint my Savior why do I not weep? What does this say about my love for Jesus?

Next Week’s Passage: John 18:28-40


Pondering John 18:1-18


You can click HERE to read the passage.

I’ve been thinking about Judas this week. There are a couple of questions that keep running through my mind that I want to try to answer as best I can.

1) What was it that led Judas to the point that he would betray Jesus? The obvious answer is greed, he did it for the money. But I think there was more behind it than just greed. I think his greed was fueled by disappointment. Judas had been disappointed by Jesus. Jesus did not live up to Judas’ expectations. It had become obvious to Judas that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. As far as Judas was concerned Jesus was not the Messiah at all. He didn’t talk like a Messiah. He didn’t lead like a Messiah. And He certainly didn’t act like a Messiah. At least not like a Messiah that Judas was looking for. So when it became apparent to Judas that Jesus was not who he thought He was, why not try to profit from His undoing.

2) Why did Jesus choose Judas as a disciple? I can think of at least 2 reasons. First, He did so to demonstrate the magnanimity of His love. Think about it. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him and still he loved him and gave him every opportunity to turn from his wicked ways and choose Life. It is easy to love those that love you. It is far more difficult to love those that despise you and what you stand for. And yet that is what Jesus did. Secondly, Jesus chose Judas that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. John MacArthur puts it like this:

Prophecy was clear that Christ would be betrayed by a close friend. Why did Jesus choose Judas, then? He chose him to fulfill prophecy–not only the prophecy specifically about Judas, but also the prophecies of His own death. Somebody had to bring it to pass, and Judas was more than willing. God used the wrath of Judas to praise Him, and through the deed that Judas did, He brought salvation. Judas meant it for evil, but God used it for good.

Psalm 41:9, Psalm 55, Zechariah 11:12-13 were all fulfilled in the betrayal.

“Father, again I am reminded of how great Your love is for me in Jesus. And may I always be aware of the great price that was paid for my salvation.”

Next Week’s Passage: John 18:15-27