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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 5- The Beloved Disciple Reclines Next to Jesus

John 13:21-30

When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, 8 was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel 9 after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and (took it and) handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." (Now) none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

In his commentary, Binz points out the two disciples contrasted in this passage- the beloved disciple and Judas, the betrayer.  The beloved disciple is never identified but many scholars belive that it is John. The gospel writer(John) wanted the beloved disciple to remain annoymous because he is the model disciple for us.  He represents all Jesus' faithful disciples.  It is also interesting that Binz pointed out how Jesus gave both disciples (The Beloved and Judas) gestures of his affections.  The beloved lying next to Jesus' heart while Judas recieves the morsal.  What these two disciples do after these gestures is contrasting- the beloved stays with Jesus all the way to the cross and resurrection while Judas leaves Jesus right after he takes the morsal.

I think there are times in all our lives when we have enjoyed the closeness Jesus shares with us (like the beloved disciple) and times when we have walked away from Him and denied His love and affection.  If we read the verse before this passage, we see that Jesus was deeply troubled that Judas was going to betray Him.  I can only assume that he feels the same way when we turn our backs on him.  Judas didn't exactly know what was going to happen to Jesus or exactly why Jesus was going to die.  But we do.  We know.  And yet we turn our backs anyway.  Maybe we hurt Jesus more than Judas did.  I wonder if Judas were to be in our shoes and were to know what he didn't know, if he would be a better disciple then us. 

One of the questions in the study guide is "How have times of trial brought out both the best and worst in me?"  I think that the trials of faith tend to bring out the best in me.  I don't know why, but with each new trial, I seem to come out closer to His heart in the end.  But, the trials of the last two weeks have not brought out the best in me.  It started out with a sinus infection.  The first thing I started to do was sleep through my quiet time in the morning.  And in the past two days, I have had the worst hives of my entire life.  Instead of getting on my knees and asking God for mercy, I have not prayed, I have been short tempered with my family, and I am generally miserable and not in the mood to "recline next to Jesus" like the beloved disciple.  It seems that the trials of my health send me running back into the darkness.  I have a much greater respect for those who physically suffer with real illness and even greater respect for those who suffer and still recline close to our Lord.  May Our Lord have mercy on my soul.

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