The Epiphany of Christ
We’ve entered a new season in the Christian year: Epiphany! Epiphany celebrates the ways Jesus was made known to people, as if they received an “epiphany!” We know that word. We use it to describe those glimmering moments when something dawns on us, something becomes clear or makes sense. It seems that the ancient disciples were often confused about Jesus, misunderstanding his mission, teachings, and the relationship they were to experience with God the Father. However, there were moments of clarity along the way when the veil became thin and Jesus became luminous, transparent, clear in their minds and hearts and they named him as their Lord and followed him. In Epiphany, we look for glimmerings of God in the face of Jesus Christ; we discover ways to embrace and dwell with the Light we waited for in Advent and received at Christmas. Epiphany is a season when Christ’s followers intentionally ask for ever deepening clarity to see Jesus and intend whole-hearted followership.
The Season of Epiphany reminds me of the art medium of watercolors: the opaque becomes transparent with the addition of water. Watercolors are valued for their fluidity, transparency and luminosity. We begin Epiphany this year with the narrative of Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan. Water mingles with the Spirit’s decent and the voice of the Father makes clear the luminous beauty and identity of Jesus, the Beloved Son of God. We’ll end the season with a similar epiphany as the heavenly clouds part and we again hear the Father’s voice boom with pronouncement and invitation: This is my Son, whom I love…Listen to him!
We’ve shaped the seasonal liturgy around the Psalms and a breath prayer: Turn our hearts to your Word…and we’ll wonder together what might become clear, even luminous, in our own lives as we ask, seek and desire to see Jesus. We’ll embrace the ancient prayer found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for ourselves as we ask:
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know him better. We pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Monday: John 18:1-11
Tuesday: John 18:12-18
Wednesday: John 18:19-27
Thursday: John 18:28-32
Friday: John 18:33-40
1. Once Jesus is bound and taken away by the temple guard, the remaining disciples are left standing alone. Put yourself among them. What are the thoughts going through your mind? What do you think you might have lost?
2. In this text Peter appears to move from reckless courage (attacking the high priest’s servant with a sword) to tentative fear (his three denials). What do you think accounts for the shift in his behavior? Why do you think it is significant that both of these things take place as Peter positions himself in close proximity to Jesus?
3. When Jesus speaks of testifying and belonging to “the truth,” Pilate asks (probably in a rhetorical way), “What is truth?” Why do you think that no answer is provided to Pilate’s question? Does this say something to you about how you determine what is true in relationship to Jesus?
Monday: John 17:1-8
Tuesday: John 17:9-16
Wednesday: John 17:17-19
Thursday: John 17:20-24
Friday: John 17:25-26
1. What stands out to you—what even do you feel—as you become aware that here you are listening in on this most intimate of moments, often hidden in the Gospels: Jesus the Son actually praying to his Father?
2. As Jesus prays to be glorified that all might have “eternal life” (now and forever!), over which people and places is the Spirit prompting you to pray, “Hallowed be thy name, Lord”—that this person, these people, might glorify (“hallow”) and be saved by Jesus’ name?
3. As you hear Jesus pray for unity among all those who believe, what is the Spirit leading you to pray for other believers, of other denominations, in other countries or of other races (and ponder as you do so what work the Spirit may be doing in you)?
Monday: John 16:1-11
Tuesday: John 16:12-15
Wednesday: John 16:16-24
Thursday: John 16:25-28
Friday: John 16:29-33
1. Jesus went to the cross so that we could be “in Christ,” and in turn (from Pentecost forward) that Christ could be “in us” through His Spirit. How does it change your view of things to consider that God is not only “out there,” but “in here”—that we carry the Holy Spirit?
2. Jesus knows the disciples are about to be plunged into a painful period, but he compares it to the pain that precedes childbirth—a new birth. Imagine: as members of the kingdom of God, how could your pain or that of someone you know right now result in a new birth, even in joy, although there is sorrow now? Pray for that.
3. The new covenant reality is that we have direct access to the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty God. And although he is not our genie (thank God!), he is our Father and we can ask for anything. Do you do that? What sometimes keeps you from asking God for what you or others need?
Monday: John 15:1-11
Tuesday: John 15:12-17
Wednesday: John 15:18-25
Thursday: John 15:18-25
Friday: John 15:26-27
1. Take some time today to ponder some local plant or tree as you consider that you are the branch to Jesus’s vine. What does it tell you about how this connection is similar to but also different from other kinds of connection, say, a building set on a foundation, a cup filled with water, or two people holding hands?
2. How does it feel to be called a “friend” of God, and to have been “chosen” by him to bear fruit? What do you want to say to God as you ponder this?
3. Even when we do love and live well as Christians, we may still be misunderstood, rejected and suspect in the eyes of others (“the world hates you for this reason, that you’re not from the world” v. 19). How does this sit with you? Is this happening now? Talk to Jesus about it?
Monday: John 14:1-7
Tuesday: John 14:8-14
Wednesday: John 14:15-17
Thursday: John 14:18-24
Friday: John 14:25-31
1. If someone asked, what examples from your own life would you use to say, “Yes! Jesus is the way, the truth and life”?
2. The “Helper” (the Holy Spirit) has come to give us strength and energy (through His catalyzing love and presence) in order to keep his commands. Ponder with God, what is the help I need right now to keep one particular command before me? Ask for it.
3. Jesus joins the frequent refrain of Scripture in commanding us not to be afraid amid the conflicts and craziness of the world. Ask and ponder with God, “What is this peace that Jesus offers (“my own peace” he says)? How can I receive this gift?
Monday: John 13:1-11
Tuesday: John 13:12-17
Wednesday: John 13:18-30
Thursday: John 13:31-35
Friday: John 13:36-38
1. While we all like Peter imagine ourselves doing grand acts and gestures for God, what might be a more humble, daily, “footwashing” act or invitation that God is calling you to now?
2. While as believers we have been washed (“justified”) once for all by the blood of Christ, what part of you would you ask God to wash, clean or heal right now?
3. What is new about Jesus’ “new” command is that we have a human example of this love: “love one another! Just as I [Jesus] have loved you.” What is it about how Jesus loved that you love? What would loving this way look like in your life now?
Monday: John 12:1-11
Tuesday: John 12:12-19
Wednesday: John 12:20-26
Thursday: John 12:27-36a
Friday: John 12:36b-50
Mary broke an expensive jar of aromatic oils and massaged Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The disciples, especially Judas, were angry and critical of Mary, saying the oil could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus, in front of everyone, said, “Let her alone. She is doing a good thing for me.”
1. What do you feel as people start to complain about the woman and what she was doing? Why?
2. What did you experience as you watched her interact with Jesus? And as Jesus defended her?
3. Is there a situation in your life right now where Jesus is defending you? Are you able to hear and embrace his defense? What’s that like for you?
Monday: John 11:1-16
Tuesday: John 11:17-29
Wednesday: John 11:30-44
Thursday: John 11:45-53
Friday: John 11:54-57
Jesus heard his friend was very ill. Rather than leaving immediately, Jesus delayed his travel for 2 days.
1. How would you respond if you got word from dear friends that their brother was dying, knowing you had the power to make him well? What feelings do you think you’d be feeling upon receiving this word?
2. What do you think Mary and Martha might have felt, knowing that Jesus did not come in time to heal their brother?
3. Think of a time in your life when God seemed to delay his response to you. Maybe you’re experiencing this right now. What are your thoughts? What are your feelings? Express them to God.
Jesus said to Mary and Martha, “You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.” Is God inviting you into new territory, new grounds for believing? Perhaps they require something from you that feels impossible. Share this with God.
Monday: John 10:1-6
Tuesday: John 10:7-18
Wednesday: John 10:19-21
Thursday: John 10:22-30
Friday: John 10:31-42
John 10 invites us to know the voice of the Good Shepherd.
1. Do you feel you are more and more recognizing the Good Shepherd’s voice above the other voices in your life? Why or why not?
2. What other voices are you listening to today? Are they heading in a different direction than where Jesus is going? Share your thoughts and feelings with God.
3. Are you experiencing Jesus as a Good Shepherd? Why or why not?
4. Is there a quality of the Good Shepherd you’ve discovered that invites you to a deeper place of trust in God today? What prevents you from trusting?
Honestly talk with the Good Shepherd about these matters. Your honesty is where the he desires to meet you.
Monday: John 9:1-12
Tuesday: John 9:13-17
Wednesday: John 9:18-23
Thursday: John 9:24-34
Friday: John 9:35-41
Consider the following statements made in this chapter (from The Message version):
• “You’re asking the wrong question.” (Jesus to his disciples)
• “Obviously this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.” (Pharisees)
1. It seems it’s easy to focus on the “wrong” things. Slowly consider if there is anything in your life that has moved in a direction away from where Jesus is heading?
2. Notice the varied conversations taking place in John 9. Do any of them especially resonate with you today? Note one and spend some time pondering it. What may God be desiring to say to you through it? How might it look for you to live in response to these words today?
Monday: John 8:1-11
Tuesday: John 8:12-20
Wednesday: John 8:21-30
Thursday: John 8:31-47
Friday: John 8:48-59
John 8 includes the 2nd of Jesus’ 7 “I AM” statements: “I am the Light of the World.” Throughout this chapter we see Jesus connecting the ideas of light, life, truth, and freedom.
1. Who is Jesus speaking to in today’s passage and what does Jesus say to them about following Him?
2. What does Jesus have to say about light, life, truth or freedom?
3. Ask, “Lord, what might I learn from your words to these people about what it means to truly follow you?”
Monday: John 7:1-13
Tuesday: John 7:14-24
Wednesday: John 7:25-36
Thursday: John 7:37-44
Friday: John 7:45-53
The Feast of Booths was a celebratory feast in which the Jewish people remembered God’s provision for them as they were led out of Egyptian slavery by Moses and during their subsequent 40 years of wilderness wandering (Leviticus 23). It was a “pilgrim feast” wherein the people would pilgrimage to Jerusalem and stay outdoors in tents (or booths) as part of the festivities.
1. What questioning and opposition does Jesus encounter in these passages? How does he respond to it?
2. What is Jesus asking of or offering to those who are listening? If you were among those listening, what might you be thinking or feeling as you listen?
3. Ask God, “What truth about Jesus might I consider taking with me into my day?”
Monday: John 6:1-15
Tuesday: John 6:16-21
Wednesday: John 6:22-40
Thursday: John 6:41-59
Friday: John 6:60-71
In his Gospel, John illuminates Jesus’ identity through 7 of Jesus’ “I AM” statements, each illustrated by a miracle, and each intended to inspire in his reader faith that leads to life (John 20:31). John 6 contains the 1st of Jesus’ “I Am” statements: “I am the bread of life.”
1. Imagine yourself in the shoes of those responding to Jesus in this passage. How do they respond to his words or miracles? How would you respond if you were there?
2. What does this passage teach you about Jesus, the Bread of Life?
3. Ask, “Lord, what are you, the Bread of Life, asking of me today?”
Monday: John 5:1-15
Tuesday: John 5:16-18
Wednesday: John 5:19-29
Thursday: John 5:30-39
Friday: John 5:40-47
For a disciple of Jesus, there is no pattern in the New Testament more important that this: The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing. The Father loves you too and wants to include you, as his cooperative friend, in what he is doing in OC in 2013. This week just listen and observe; ask for discernment. Joyfully notice any promptings from God and act on them—see what happens!
Monday: John 4:1-26
Tuesday: John 4:27-38
Wednesday: John 4:39-42
Thursday: John 4:43-45
Friday: John 4:46-54
1. In addition to demonstrating Jesus having a radical impact on someone’s life, the story of The Woman at the Well is meant to rebuke hateful prejudice and to teach – by the exapmple of Jesus ministry – love of neighbor and love of one’s enemies. Is there someone or some group of people that you cannot love or forgive or serve? Ask Jesus to show you how you might have a moment of conversion, of repentance, of change of mind.
2. Jesus seemed to have a rich and full life. One might even say he was busy. But he was never out of control, never in a hurry. He mentioned his pace and his poise through an ongoing conversation with his Father. This week see if talking more to God can slow you down and make you more present to the people and events of your life.
Monday: John 3:1-10
Tuesday: John 3:11-15
Wednesday: John 3:16-21
Thursday: John 3:22-30
Friday: John 3:31-36
Perhaps this week could be a week of study, of thinking, of contemplation? Maybe like Nicodemus you know quite a bit about Jesus but there remain some questions, something that you just can’t figure out about him? Take the time this week, with a joyful, child-like, open mind to study it. (Talk to someone—like Todd or Beth, Dennis or others—if you would like some help.)
Monday: John 2:1-12
Tuesday: John 2:13-22
Wednesday: John 2:23-25
Changing water to wine was a genuine miracle. It also was a sign that Jesus was not merely a rabbi, that he was transformative in his power, that he came to reconstitute the Jews as the people of God. This week pick one area in your life that you would like Jesus to transform—and just pay attention to it. Don’t necessarily do anything. Just observe with Jesus—like two friends looking at a piece of art—and just see what happens!
Monday: John 1:1-18
Tuesday: John 1:19-28
Wednesday: John 1:29-28
Thursday: John 1:35-42
Friday: John 1:43-51
1. Our text says that nothing has come into being except through Christ. Reflect this week on any tendency in you to feel that you must create you?
2. How might you better let Christ create the you he intends?
3. Jesus was the Light of God coming into the world to reveal The Way and the dark places in us that lead us off that path. Is there something you need to bring into the light with God?