Psalm 119:89-96; 2 Samuel 18:31-19:30; John 10:11-21

Psalm 119:89-96: Although the psalmist predates John by hundreds of years, one is reminded of John 1:1: “Your word stands high in the heavens.” (89) There is no way the psalmist meant anything besides God’s Law when he wrote “your word,” but for John, who surely knew this psalm, this verse may have been his inspiration to transform “word” to capital-W “Word.”

Reading the OT through the lens of Jesus Christ is one of the joys of Bible reading. Yes, I know that we believe the entire scriptures point forward to God’s capital-W Word, but it’s fun to discover these small places for ourselves.

The other verse that resonates for me is the psalmist’s reference to God’s creation: “You made the earth firm and it stood. By Your laws they stand this day,” (91) For me, anyway, “Your laws” does not refer to the written laws for Israel, but to the laws of physics, which indeed hold the earth–and everything else–“firm.” As physicists delve ever deeper into creation and astronomers look ever farther into the heavens there is just no question for me that this magnificence is far, far greater than a random series of quantum events. There is evidence of God’s creative power everywhere we look.

2 Samuel 18:31-19:30: David learns that Absalom is dead, and we read the most famous words of mourning in all the Bible: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33). The troops, who had expected David to be glad that the rebellion had been put down and David would be overjoyed, instead find that “the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops;”  They are ashamed in victory and “the troops stole into the city that day as soldiers steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.” (19:3)

But ever practical Joab–who has not admitted he is the one who struck down Absalom–comes to David and basically says, “Buck up, David.” pointing out that “ you have covered with shame the faces of all your officers who have saved your life today, and the lives of your sons and your daughters, and the lives of your wives and your concubines, for love of those who hate you and for hatred of those who love you.” (19:6) and even boldly asserts to David “You have made it clear today that commanders and officers are nothing to you; for I perceive that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.” (19:6), asserting that unless David makes an appearance before the troops they will desert him. David takes Joab’s advice.

There is a powerful lesson for leaders here. David was so absorbed in his own sorrow that he forgot his role as king; that he had a responsibility to those he led to encourage and build up, not drag them down. Too often, we witness leaders whose own ego needs trump their responsibility to those they lead. Like David, they feel sorry for themselves at the price of abandoning the needs of those whom they lead. This happens in politics for sure; but it also happens in churches.

John 10:11-21: Unlike the synoptics where Jesus’ parables may seem obscure, but are eventually clarified, John’s Jesus speaks in soaring metaphors of high theology. Jesus says, “ I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (14). OK, I get that: you’re my savior and protector and I know who you are and you know who I am. We are in relationship.

But then Jesus says immediately, “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” (15) Huh? How did “my Father” get in here? Then there’s a veiled reference to his coming death and resurrection: “I lay down my life in order to take it up again.” And what follows is equally obscure: “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”  Once again, John is casting Jesus in his divine role as the Word who has come down form the father.

Well, John’s readers and we know what Jesus was talking about, but the people actually listening to Jesus, who have no idea what he’s talking about, seem somewhat justified to think he’s crazy and demon-possessed. But others say, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (21) And they have a point.

In the end, John is telling us, Jesus is not crazy; Jesus is so completely unexpected, so surprising, so beyond us, that we can perceive his true nature only dimly. This is what comes of Jesus being fully human and fully God. John tells us: Jesus is Word; Light; Bread of life, and now Shepherd. We simply cannot wrap our minds around this. Which is why our hearts and our faith must also be involved.


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