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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 25, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  John 12:36b–43

While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.

Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. (NRSV)

With prickly passages like this one, I sometimes start back at the beginning of the book and then jump forward to the end. This helps me understand how passages like this might fit. The Gospel of John starts us off with: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This story doesn’t begin in a manger or on the banks of the Jordan River. This story began at the origin of time. It has always been God. And God becomes human in Jesus. Then if we skip to almost the end of John, we find the purpose of the Gospel: “these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

So what exactly do we do with the people who don’t fit nicely into our story and purpose? Sometimes we find other parts of the Bible to support our narrative. And when we do that, people are harmed rather than made whole. We’ve seen this happen with all sorts of people throughout time. Did God actually close eyes and harden hearts? That doesn’t square with the God I know through Jesus.

If people don’t respond in my time and in the way I expect, sometimes I’m tempted to make all sorts of judgments too. I’m not proud of that. Eventually what I realize and hold onto is that it has always been God and that God desires our wholeness. We don’t all respond or act in the same way. That’s OK. I trust that God works it out, and sometimes I get to be a witness to the healing and wholeness. Sometimes I don’t get to, and that’s alright too. It has always been about God anyway.

God of all time, help me focus on my own closed eyes and hardened heart and allow me to be an agent of your wholeness. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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