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Introspection – April 17, 2020

When we go through a major experience we tend to do some introspection. So, during this time of worldwide pandemic one of the things you may be thinking about is what it is we’re meant to be doing with our lives. There’s not a lot we can do at the moment, stuck in our homes, other than of course making daring trips to the grocery store armed with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. We’re thankful for the technology like Zoom which allows us to do the readings together and hold Bible classes. We Christadelphians do like our Bible study and it seems that we’re doing a lot of Bible classes during this time and doing a lot more Bible reading than we might be doing if we were able to be out and about. If that’s what we’re doing with our time, it’s a good thing, obviously. There’s nothing negative about more Bible classes, reading and meditation. But the question we then need to ask ourselves is what are we meant to be doing with this knowledge?

There’s a clue for us in John 9, our reading for today. Jesus said something he also said in chapter 8 verse 12 – “I am the light of the world” (v.5). It’s a statement of our Lord which helps us see a theme hidden under the surface of John’s gospel record, a theme upon which his record of Christ’s life is built. And what John’s book is all about is how the words we read in the Bible turn into action. Look at what John says in his prologue – “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) followed by “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). What that means is Jesus lived out the word of God. He demonstrated what it should mean on a practical level. The analogy John uses is that of the tabernacle. You can begin to see this from that word “dwelt” in verse 14. It has the idea of pitching a tent, and the word “tabernacled” has been coined as a suitable translation. Then it says, “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus was full of God’s glory – his character – just as the tabernacle was full of God’s glory after it was built (Exo. 40:34-35). When John says “in the beginning was the Word” we can compare that to the pattern of the tabernacle (Exo. 25:9). The tabernacle was built according to the pattern God gave to Moses, and Jesus was “built”, or lived his life, according to the word of God.

John then proceeds to take us on a journey through the tabernacle, demonstrating how Jesus fulfils all the types that the furniture in the tabernacle represents. By the time we come to chapter 9 he’s reached the lampstand. There are many aspects to the lampstand which are interesting to study, but we need to put it into actual practice – what God is interested in is us taking that study of what the lampstand ultimately represents and shining as lights in a dark world. Jesus of course perfectly manifested the practical aspects of how to live God’s words with his life and shows us how.

Let’s think about some of the ways in which Jesus was the tabernacle made flesh. John begins at the front gate of the tabernacle where we find the altar of burnt offering. So, he describes Jesus in chapter 1 as “the Lamb of God” (v.29, 36). That’s going to be his theme for chapter 1 – Jesus as the sacrificial offering. The things to do with Jesus’ sacrificial offering, the atonement, is another interesting Bible study, but the point John makes is the example of his disciples, who he says when they heard John the Baptist say Jesus is the lamb of God “followed Jesus” (v.37). When we read and study about the lamb of God what is our reaction? “Wasn’t that an interesting Bible class”, and then we get on with our day? Or, having heard about the lamb of God do we “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Rev. 14:4)? Does the example of Christ prompt us into action so that the word becomes flesh in our lives too?

Well, let’s keep following the Lamb as he journeys through the tabernacle in John’s gospel. In chapter 2 we have the wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine. This is kind of like the crossover between the altar of burnt offering and the next item of furniture we come to – the laver, a symbol of baptism. Baptism is, of course, one of the practical things we do after we begin to follow the Lamb. But, again, we need to learn how to turn the word into action, or water into wine. Does our baptism in water, in which we profess to follow the Lamb, develop into the wine of a life poured out in service? You’ll notice in chapter 3 the theme of water continues, with Jesus telling Nicodemus about being born again of water, and then John baptizing. The water theme continues in chapters 4 and 5, first with Jesus talking about living water to the woman of Samaria and then healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.

Then in chapters 6 and 7 we enter the tabernacle itself where we encounter the table of showbread. Jesus feeds five thousand people with bread, and then talks about himself as the bread of life. He says of the one who follows him that he “feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood”. Another of our rituals that should be turned into action is the breaking of bread – a symbol of our lives taking up our cross and following Christ. By now hopefully we’ve got the point! Coming to chapters 8 and today’s reading in chapter 9 Jesus announces himself as the light of the world – the lampstand has become flesh.

There are lots of interesting things about the lampstand. Maybe you’ve heard a Bible class on it. But are you shining as a light? When people see you, are they enlightened about the things of God? You see, it’s all very well being enlightened by our reading of the word of God, but does that light become flesh in the way we live our lives? All the things the tabernacle teaches – the atonement, baptism, breaking of bread, light of the word of God, as well as the things John is going to talk about later when he finishes taking us on the journey – have no meaning without us following the Lamb, turning water into wine, living out the principles of Christ’s life and death and shining forth with the glory of God. As we tabernacle in our houses during this quarantine period let’s make sure we’re using this time to soak up the word of God but also to turn on the lights in our dwellings and share what we believe with the world around us. Let’s make sure it’s not just words on a page and thoughts in our heads. We’re only halfway through John’s gospel. Let’s actually take action so we’re really walking on that journey because there’s something spectacular at the end of the road and we don’t want to miss it…

Richard Morgan, 
Simi Valley, CA

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