Devotions

Author Archives: Dr. Randy Johnson

The Resurrection • Devotion #2: Do Not Cling

I like idioms. I often wonder about the exact meaning or history involved. Here are some common examples.

The elephant in the room

Barking dogs seldom bite

Break the ice

Crack the whip

Heads will roll

Set the bar

Cross the line

To the nines

Without further ado

Rabbit hole

Fight tooth and nail

Topsy-turvy

Sticky fingers

Wear their shoes

The last one is common. It means that before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. It mandates empathy. It appears that it comes from a poem by Mary T. Lathrap which was published in 1895. The original title of the poem was ”Judge Softly,” later titled ”Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” (Grammarist.com). Often we forget to think from the other person’s perspective. Their past culture, upbringing, experiences, perspective, and what they have to gain or lose might help us better understand their actions.                     

I enjoy trying to put myself in someone else’s “scandals” when I read Scripture. When Jesus met with Mary Magdalene after the resurrection, the scene must have been packed with emotions. Jesus had changed Mary’s life forever and now was gone. Not only had He died, but now she was at an empty tomb. John 20:11-13 describes the scene, “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’” I do not know if we can fully comprehend the depth of uncertainty. The disciples had seemed to lose all purpose and perspective and were hiding. Mary and a few ladies went to make sure all the burial details were in order.

John 20:14-16 describes an amazing encounter, “Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” She knew His voice. I think she knew His dialect and tone but also heard His compassion. He always cared and cares.

Jesus makes an interesting statement in verse 17, “Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’’” Jesus did not say, “Do not cling to me” because He was of the “spirit world” and could not be touched. Nor did it have anything to do with fulfilling the symbolism of the Day of Atonement and presenting the blood to the Father. He had presented that on the cross when He was made sin for us. I think it is much more basic. Jesus knew Mary felt she had lost Jesus once before (at His crucifixion) and it was natural for her to have that same fear again. She was not going anywhere. She wanted to be near Him, but He knew He was not leaving yet. He had already chosen to stay on earth for another forty days. His practical advice was for her to go and tell others.

In verse 18, we read about Mary’s obedience, “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ – and that he had said these things to her.”

I think believers focus too much on “clinging” to Jesus. We only focus on prayer and reading the Word. It might sound good to say that it is just about us and Jesus, but this is not scriptural. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” We need to go and tell others. We need to be active. Sometimes we are praying about things that Jesus has already told us to act upon. It is time to get up and take action. We have heard the calling and now it is time to heed it. When we do this, we will be blessed (James 1:25). “You can bet your bottom dollar on that” (in no way is the author condoning gambling in the use of this idiom).

Jesus Betrayed • Devotion #1: I Am

I have heard people say, “Jesus never said that He was God.” Unfortunately, when this is said, most people do not make them prove it or know how to challenge the statement. There are numerous verses to look at, but I want to start with just a few.

In John chapter 8, the Jews were debating with Jesus whether He was from the devil or God. In the discussion, Abraham was referenced. Jesus said to them, “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:56-58). Jesus was boldly saying that He existed before His birth. He had existed two thousand years earlier during the time of Abraham and that He had always existed. He was God. By saying, “I am,” He was referencing God’s conversation with Moses at the Burning Bush. Moses was nervous about going to the people on God’s behalf, so he asked God who he should reference when the Jews questioned him. In Exodus 3:14, we read, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’’” In case you do not see the connection, I want to go back to John chapter 8 and show the response of the Jews to Jesus saying, “I am.” Verse 59 reads, “So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” The Jews knew Jesus was saying He is God. They were so convinced of what He was saying that they tried to kill Him for saying it.

This statement is also referenced hours before the crucifixion. In John 18:2-6, we read the story, “Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” This army of men came looking for Jesus. Jesus acknowledged who He was by saying, “I am he.” In Greek, the word “he” is not used. The literal Greek translation is “I am.” Not only did Jesus say He was God, He decided to give them a taste of His power. I would have loved to see the dominoes fall. I wonder how confident they were in arresting Him after that happened.

Jesus was God, is God, and forever will be God. He is infinite and eternal. He knew it and proclaimed it. He also knew His mission. He had the power to stop the process at any time but chose to go to the cross for us.

Praying at Gethsemane • Devotion #1: The Divine Workout

I own an exercise bike, elliptical runner, rowing machine, dumbbells, and a chin-up stand. However, the toughest part of my workout is the stairs. All my equipment is in the basement. I just need to go downstairs and then I have what I need for a good workout. I just need the motivation to go down the stairs.

I know there are all kinds of workouts. Maybe you have tried Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo videos, Jane Fonda’s Original Workout, a Boot Camp format, Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies, P90X, Insanity, Zumba, or just going for a brisk walk. I would like to suggest another plan.

The plan I am suggesting is found in Luke 22:39-46, “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’”

Did you catch the workout? It was in verse 44 when Jesus was praying so earnestly that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Jesus was praying so intently that He was sweating. His brow did not just feel warm. Sweat was dripping on the ground. It was a workout that would have our tank top drenched. We would fist pump friends while saying with a little pride, “Sorry. Don’t hug me, I’m really sweaty.”

Are we so purposeful, focused, and passionate about prayer that it literally drains us emotionally and physically? I believe when Jesus said “rise and pray,” it was not intended for us to just do a quick, convenient prayer while our mind races all over the place.

Jesus taught and modeled prayer. We are called to times of extended, intensive prayer. Start today – start right now.

“Watch and pray

that you may not enter into temptation.

The spirit indeed is willing,

but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:41

His Towel • Devotion #2: Afikomen

The Last Supper of Jesus was the Seder meal that celebrated something that God had accomplished some 1,500 years earlier. It involved the Passover meal which was soon followed by the crossing through the Red Sea. The more we study these traditions, the more we will be blessed with the highly symbolic elements that are nuggets of truth.

Unleavened bread was used as yeast and can symbolize sin and how it spreads. On the table was a “matzah tosh.” It is a special pouch with three compartments in which a piece of matzah was placed in each section.

The second (middle) piece of unleavened bread (the afikomen) was taken from the matzah tosh during the Seder. The matzah is removed, broken, wrapped in cloth, and is “buried” or hidden from view. This happened early in the meal (which can be a two to three hour time of fellowship, eating, reading, and singing). Later on in the evening, the children would search for the afikomen. Whoever found it would raise it up and take it to the host where they would be given a prize.

The Jews did not know what to do with the word “afikomen.” They assumed it meant “dessert” as it was something that was coming later in the meal. However, the Greek word actually means the “coming one.”

For those of us who know Jesus, it is clear that our Messiah’s sinless body was broken (death), wrapped in a cloth, hidden in burial, and then raised up by the power of God. The one who finds Him will be rewarded with the free gift of eternal life.

I think it is intriguing that people kept these traditions without knowing their fulfillment until they met Jesus the Messiah. There is no other clear explanation for this afikomen.

Please take a fresh look at how Jesus instituted the church’s observance of the Lord’s Supper. Matthew 26:26-29 says,          “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’”

I envision Jesus reaching into matzah tosh (with its three compartments representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), taking out the centerpiece of unleavened bread (afikomen), and showing it to the disciples as their eyes are glued to Him. He then “broke it.” This was not surprising as that was the natural step. He then “gave it to the disciples.” That may have confused them as they knew the process. However, he then turns on the lights when He said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” When I first heard this, my jaw dropped in amazement. I imagine the disciples experienced it then and even more so the next year when they celebrated Passover.

Afikomen means the “coming one.” I want to remind you, He is coming again!

Cleansing the Temple • Devotion #2: Praying not

Jesus cleansed the Temple twice – once at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13–22), and again at the end of His ministry. He started and ended with a focus on prayer and worship. Luke 19:45-48 records, “And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.’’ And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”

Typical of Jesus’ actions, there were corresponding verses from the Old Testament that foretold what the Messiah would do or expressed the heart of the issue from God’s perspective. In this situation, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 as He was driving out the people who were selling in the Temple.

Warren Wiersbe made a clever but sad observation, “Instead of praying for the people, the priests were preying on the people!” Their words fells to the ground unclaimed as they bartered over prices, while Jesus’ words floated through the air as “all the people were hanging on his words.” His words were lifting them up and they wanted more. We know that God’s Word will not return void.

What is meant by a “house of prayer?” Prayer is a word that is used about 316 times in the Bible. In its purest form, it is a conversation with God. A conversation implies or entails speaking and listening.

When you come for a Sunday gathering do you place yourself in the mindset of being in a “house of prayer?”

As you are singing, are you thinking through the words, speaking the words confidently, while yet listening to that still small voice inside of you?

During the message, do you process the sermon with its interpretation and application? Do you strive to understand what God is saying through the Pastor? Are you listening to the Holy Spirit and dialoguing with Him on what you need to do?

During prayer, do you think through what you say and do you allow for time to listen to what He might say?

In giving, do we follow God’s lead through conversation with Him? Do we care what He thinks?

During communion, do we actively listen to the story and again affirm our faith?

If we do not handle these questions correctly, then maybe we just come to church to get something. It is a sort of preying on God instead of praying to God.

“Watch and pray

that you may not enter into temptation.

The spirit indeed is willing,



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