John Day 131 - You Can't Get 'More Married'
13:10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet but is otherwise completely clean and you are clean but not all of you." 11 For He knew who would betray Him, therefore He said "you are not all clean".
We hinted at this yesterday but today we're going all the way to the only conclusion possible. When you choose Jesus you are clean. When you get married you are married. You can't get more married and you can't get more clean. You may "step in it" in your marriage and you may need to "wash each others feet" but you are no less married at any point or any more married at any point. Marriage will deepen and grow and go through a variety of seasons and changes but it's all marriage. The only alternative to marriage is divorce.
Judas is about to divorce Jesus. He has already made the arrangements. Peter and the others are about to fail Jesus. We'll come to all that. I only bring it up to contrast the difference between divorce and "stepping in it". One is a premeditated deliberate choice to sever a relationship. The other is a mistake made that is afterwards deeply regretted.
I remember when I was a teen my cousin asked our teacher at church if he would not go to heaven if Jesus came after he had done something wrong but before he had asked for forgiveness.
Jesus is not Santa Claus. He is not checking His list to find a loophole so He doesn't have to give you your "present". Religion fueled by our guilt laden nature has made God out to be some furrow browed judge anxious to catch you in some wrong act so He can scratch your name from the invitation list.
Jesus said "you are clean." "Stepping in it" does not change that fact. Peter argued with Jesus but he was still clean. Peter argued with the others about who was the greatest. Still clean. Peter refused to take up the basin and the towel. Still clean. Peter is about to "step in it" on a monumental scale. Still clean.
Remember religion is about what we do for God but the Truth is about what the Man who is the Truth has done and is doing and will continue to do for us.
Rev. 1:5 - He loved us and He washed us...
"What I am doing now you don't understand but you will after..." - Jesus
God calls all of this Good News for a reason.
John Day 132 - Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
13:12 "So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."
Last week we talked about Jesus' motive for washing their feet. Now He explains it plainly. "I am your Lord and Master and if I being in this position have washed your feet than you are not "too high" to be a servant either."
The lesson is deep and profound and goes far beyond washing feet or even serving others. Jesus is the Creator of our world. John makes that plain from the very beginning of his account. Jesus is also God. John makes that plain too.
The Twelve any others who choose to follow Him are to walk in His footsteps. We are to expect nothing more or less than the experiences He lived through. Think about that...
One of the most common questions I get asked is "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
We have this built in sense of justice. If someone is messing around with fire and gets burned we trace cause to effect and we have no issue with the fact the person got burned. We may feel badly but our sense of justice is not affected nor is our picture of God being good and loving called into question.
However if someone who is good and kind is walking down the street just as a gas line breaks causing a fireball explosion which leaves them scarred for life with debilitating 3rd degree burns we suddenly question everything. From Alzheimers to babies born with cancer it just seems the world is out of whack and if there is a God He is asleep at the wheel.
However this sense of justice and fairness we have could only be justified if there was an example somewhere of it playing out that way in our world. Surely if we were to choose a man that had the right to expect only good in life in proportion to His own goodness it would be Jesus right? A person who lived only for the benefit of others, denying Himself even the most basic essentials like a home and a bed of His own should be deserving of what in some circles is called 'good karma'.
Let's put His life to the test. In an extremely conservative and judgmental religious culture He was born to a teen mother and an unknown father. He grew up in a town that was considered the armpit of the nation. His mom and stepdad were poor. His younger siblings were not nice to Him. The religious world into which He was born was hostile to Him. Somewhere along the way the only father He knew died. As He was growing up His mother's story about His miraculous birth in combination with His study of the Scriptures and His communication with His heavenly Father brought Him to the realization of Who He really was and what His life mission was. He would never marry. No one would ever truly understand Him. He would never own anything or lead any kind of normal life. He was opposed and ridiculed and laughed at by people who were supposed to be supportive. His own mother questioned the path His life was taking. His siblings alienated Him. As He began His life mission His followers constantly questioned Him and at times openly opposed Him. On top of all this His life was headed straight for a Roman cross where He would die alone, abandoned by His closest friends, and almost entirely misunderstood.
Hardly sounds fair or just.
He said things like "They hate Me and they will hate you too." He said "You must take up your cross every day and follow Me." He said "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world."
There is nothing wrong with our sense of justice and fairness. It is the way things should be. However this planet is in the grip of war and things are not as they are supposed to be... not yet. And while the war is raging we cannot logically expect justice and fairness if the One who made everything experienced what He experienced. We are not greater than our Master.
The amazing thing is that even though He is greater, He has taken the brunt of the injustice because He loves us.
John Day 133 - Change: impossible?
13:17 "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." - Jesus
Context is important. It's a drum I beat often. In the context of chapter 13 Jesus is saying "I have lead you into servant leadership. Servant leadership is a blessing. True joy comes from bringing joy to others."
Then He concludes with one sentence that is more powerful than volumes of self help books or how to books etc...
The principle extracted from that one sentence and applied to all areas of life is at once painfully simple and shockingly serious. The blessing does not come from knowing, it comes from applying the knowledge through action.
Knowing the importance of proper hydration will not hydrate my body. Knowing how much water/fluids I need daily will not hydrate me. Knowing what things are healthy to put in my body and what things are not will not affect my body in any way.
I grew up in a religious culture and a society bent on acquiring knowledge. Education and information were and are highly valued in both spheres. Yet in spite of all the accumulated knowledge on health within my church there are still many suffering from poor health. With all the talk about the dangers of drinking and driving in the media and through our school systems etc... drunk drivers are still taking lives.
Why? Because the blessing that comes from knowledge is only received by those who put the knowledge into action.
Simple but not easy. Habits run deep. Pride runs deeper. Change is impossible.
"Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? Than can you do good who are accustomed to do evil?" - God
Until we face the reality of our impossible situation we will never be in a position to comprehend or receive what Jesus came to offer. Our knowledge will never move to action in any lasting way. Follow the Story. It's about to get intense.
See you tomorrow...
John Day 134 - Love Gives Every Opportunity
13:18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. 20 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.
25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.
The intensity is building. What intensity? The intensity of revelation of His love. We talk a lot about love. We love our car and our new shows. We love one girl today and another tomorrow. You get the picture. God's love is not left hanging as an undefined word that may mean vastly different things to different people. Love is an action word and Jesus is about to demonstrate His love in actions.
Today the spotlight is on Judas. You can search the four gospels backwards and forwards. You won't find anywhere where Jesus called Judas to follow Him as His disciple. What you will find is a singular instance where a man came and volunteered to be His disciple. That man was Judas. Jesus knew his heart. He read his motives. He knew how the story would end yet He allowed him to be part of the Twelve.
At this point you might be wondering what that has to do with love. Unselfish love allows opportunity. It makes room on the roster for a kid who desperately wants to play but isn't very good.
When I was 15 our small town organized a junior softball team for the first time. My old hockey coach came to the farm to ask me if I would play. I was called. That felt pretty special. It was a coed team and let's just say we had a broad range of skill levels. The season was 12 games plus the playoffs. We lost our first 6 games in a row. Inbetween the 6th and 7th game one of my best friends died. When the 7th game came it was a cold rainy miserable day. The weather reflected my mood. The other team (the best team in the league) wanted to know if we just wanted to forfeit. We declined. My friend would never have forfeited and he would never be able to play again rain or shine so we were going to play. We won the game. We won the next game. We won all 6 of our remaining games and made the playoffs. When the first playoff game came someone on our team suggested sitting the weaker players to give us a better chance to win. The coach asked us what we thought about that idea. Another player stood and said "No way. We got this far together and we're sticking together until the end."
That settled it even though not everyone agreed. We won that game and every game after. The team of misfits that lost their first 6 games in a row never lost another.
What I remember and cherish from that season is that love won. I remember the look in the eyes of one of the girls when it was suggested we sit the weaker players. She obviously felt she would be one of the cast offs. I also remember her face when we decided to stick together.
That meant more to me than the trophy we won later.
Love gives opportunity even when not deserved.
Never will Judas be able to say "I would have been loyal if Jesus had given me a legitimate opportunity." Jesus gave him full privileges as one of the Twelve even though He always knew. He even knelt and washed his feet while the silver coins Judas received to sell Him out were already in his pouch.
Judas was given every opportunity because that is what love does.
More on Judas and the love of God tomorrow...
John Day 135 - It Was Night
13:26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.
Satan entered him... and it was night.
Jesus is the Light that lights every man that comes into the world.
Night and day. Light and darkness. Good and evil. So very opposite. You would think it would be simple to distinguish between the two.
Consider these insights from the book 'Desire of Ages':
"Christ’s discourse in the synagogue concerning the bread of life was the turning point in the history of Judas. He heard the words, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53. He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather than worldly good. He regarded himself as farsighted, and thought he could see that Jesus would have no honor, and that He could bestow no high position upon His followers. He determined not to unite himself so closely to Christ but that he could draw away. He would watch. And he did watch.
From that time he expressed doubts that confused the disciples. He introduced controversies and misleading sentiments, repeating the arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ. All the little and large troubles and crosses, the difficulties and the apparent hindrances to the advancement of the gospel, Judas interpreted as evidences against its truthfulness. He would introduce texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths Christ was presenting. These texts, separated from their connection, perplexed the disciples, and increased the discouragement that was constantly pressing upon them. Yet all this was done by Judas in such a way as to make it appear that he was conscientious. And while the disciples were searching for evidence to confirm the words of the Great Teacher, Judas would lead them almost imperceptibly on another track. Thus in a very religious, and apparently wise, way he was presenting matters in a different light from that in which Jesus had given them, and attaching to His words a meaning that He had not conveyed. His suggestions were constantly exciting an ambitious desire for temporal preferment, and thus turning the disciples from the important things they should have considered. The dissension as to which of them should be greatest was generally excited by Judas.
When Jesus presented to the rich young ruler the condition of discipleship, Judas was displeased. He thought that a mistake had been made. If such men as this ruler could be connected with the believers, they would help sustain Christ’s cause. If Judas were only received as a counselor, he thought, he could suggest many plans for the advantage of the little church. His principles and methods would differ somewhat from Christ’s, but in these things he thought himself wiser than Christ."
With that glimpse into the dynamics among the Twelve consider day and night. They are different and opposite except at dawn and dusk when the two merge. Think about it. When Jesus came into the lives of these twelve men they were largely living in the dark. Even at night the moon reflects the light of the sun. Our eyes adjust to the poor lighting and we can function even if not nearly as well. Day does not come at once. The sun rises and as it does the shadows of night flee away.
As these twelve walked in the Light that Jesus was, new ideas began to take shape that challenged old ones. A transformation of character was taking place.
We have language around this theme. When we get a "bright" idea we say "Then it 'dawned' on me". When we don't understand something or we missed it we say "Boy I was in the dark on that one."
Judas saw the light but recoiled from it. He decided he preferred the darkness and even though he felt love for Jesus and was drawn to Him in the end he decided to embrace the greed and selfish ambition that was familiar to him.
When I pause and read between the lines I can feel the struggle at the table that night. The coins are in his pouch but can he really go through with it? He could take them back. Will Jesus wash his feet? Doesn't He know? Shouldn't He know if He is the One?
Then Jesus is suddenly there, right in front of him. Their eyes meet. The look on His face is one of pain and sorrow yet there is a love in His eyes Judas has never seen anywhere else. He knows. It's written all over His face. "Why is He washing my feet if He knows? Why does He love me still if He knows? This is why I can't be part of this any more. This is why I have to do this. He is a weak sentimental fool. He'll never succeed. He doesn't know how to succeed. If only He would have listened to me. I could have made Him great."
Suddenly his thoughts are interrupted by Jesus placing bread in his hands. He knew what he had to do. It was time.
Satan entered him... and it was night.
On Thursday a man with no criminal record who seemed to be just one of us finally succumbed to the darkness. His night killed 9 others and wounded several more physically and countless others mentally and emotionally. That's how the darkness is. No man is an island.
Now why did Jesus say "do it quickly"?
See you tomorrow...
John Day 136 - He's off the Script Isn't He?
Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him...
13:31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Let's not lose the context. Judas has just left the room. Jesus told him to go quickly? Is Jesus encouraging Judas? Is Jesus setting up His own death? Is Judas a mere puppet in a master plan?
Some would say yes. However notice what Jesus said: "What YOU do, do quickly". The Greek word for do can be best understood as make, construct, or manufacture. In other words "What you are making, make quickly or what you are constructing, construct quickly" etc...
Just get it over with. Rip the bandage off fast. Sign the papers. Close the deal. Stop prolonging the agony.
The eleven are clueless, even after Jesus gives him the bread indicating he is the betrayer. They can't process it. How could the most intelligent and capable of them be the one to turn against Jesus?
Now that we have that awful and confusing scene in our minds Jesus looks them each in the eye and begins to speak.
"This is the moment" He says. "Now the universe will see My character (glory).
Way back in Exodus Moses asked if he could see God's glory. What did Moses see while he was sheltered in the cleft of the Rock (Jesus)?
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
Moses didn't see some “thing” when he asked to see God's glory. He saw some “One”. More than seeing someone, he saw the essence of that Someone. Character. God's wealth, God's essence, God's indescribable glory is His character. Moses caught a glimpse. Jesus is about to put on a fireworks display that will reverberate throughout the universe. Angels will see a depth of His glory never yet known. The glory of the Father revealed in the Son, the glory of the Son revealed by the Father. Already the fireworks have begun. They began 3 decades earlier when the Prince of Peace consented and the Father permitted for Him to born among us, born in poverty and discomfort, almost on the side of the road. Born into questionable, even scandalous circumstances. Born with no fanfare from men. Born in the darkness, yet the first ray of Light shone on a nearby hill to humble shepherds. It shone in a light that looked like a star but was really a host of angels announcing His arrival. The light grew brighter when at 12 He began to stump the teachers with His vast knowledge of the Scriptures. It was His first of many visits to His Father's House of Prayer for all nations that in the darkness had become a den of prejudice and greed.
The light increased when John the Baptist began announcing His arrival - "The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."
Then He came out of the artisan shop and stepped into the waters of baptism. A dove came down. A voice from heaven spoke "This is My beloved Son in Whom I Am well pleased. Listen to Him."
The light is increasing. Miracles begin to happen. The greedy money changers and corrupted priests are driven from the Temple. Jesus is saying things no one has ever heard. People who have rarely or never been to a synagogue are flocking to hear Him. He preaches in the synagogues, in fields, on hillsides, on the beach. He touches lepers. He talks to women. He crosses borders Jews don't cross. He does things "good Jews" don't do, won't do, and don't believe should be done. The light is getting so bright that it's hurting their eyes. Some turn away in fear and confusion. They are used to such dim lighting. It's too much to take in. He eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. He heals heathens.
Yet compared to the Light that is about to shine these are just the first tame fireworks. There have been some bright ones, even some loud and fancy ones but nothing will compare to what is about to happen.
The eleven remaining men are confused. Nothing is going as they planned it. This was not what they were taught about the Messiah on their mother's knee or in Sabbath school.
Then to make matters worse He says "I'm leaving very soon and you can't come with Me..."
See you tomorrow as both the Light and the confusion intensify...
John Day 137 - Oh!?.... OHHH!?!?!?!!!
13:33 "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus is about to begin His farewell speech. He opens with a seemingly mundane almost meaningless command. "After I'm gone I want you to love each other." Even more strange is that he prefaces the statement by saying "I have a new commandment for you."
We like new rules. He has their attention. He had more questions about rules over the last 3.5 years than about anything else. Rules create a new rung on the ladder as we work our way into God's favour. Religious people love rules.
So they hear He has this new rule and their waiting to find out what it is. Maybe a day a week to fast until He returns? He had said the reason they weren't fasting now was because He was still with them so maybe that's what it was. Or maybe the new rule was that they weren't to argue any more about who was the greatest given their humiliating lesson in servant leadership as He washed their feet.
But before they had time to hatch too many theories He came right out with it. "I want you to love each other."
Love as a commandment? And what's new about that? Moses gave that command way back in Leviticus. Several times in my life I've been asked why Jesus called this a new commandment. It's a legitimate question. At first glance it doesn't make any sense to call it new. It's more like "Let me remind you of a really old commandment..."
However the truth is that this commandment is new. Very new. Shiny new. Why? Because of what Jesus said next. "As I have loved you."
See love is pretty vague. We all 'love' but our definitions vary. Our boundaries and limits vary. Some of us love based on colour, religion, nationality, even gender. Some of us love until... some of us love if... some of us love when... some of us treat love like a barter system: "I will do this for you if you do this for me."
The culture the disciples grew up in was very careful about who got any love. It was rationed out very sparingly and specifically as if there was an extreme shortage. However Jesus was very detailed about this "new commandment". There was not a lot of wiggle room. He very clearly and concisely defined the kind of love He was looking for: My kind. Love like I have loved you.
"But Jesus do I have to love people I don't agree with?"
"Did I love you when you didn't agree with Me?"
"Jesus do I have to love foreigners?"
"I crossed the universe to come and love you. I don't see borders."
"Jesus do I have to love those who oppose me?"
"You have opposed My mission from the beginning..."
"Jesus what about people who don't believe in You?"
"Have you always believed in Me? Did it stop Me from loving you?"
"Jesus do I have to...?"
"Love like I have loved. In all ways towards all people. Just do as I have done for you. When people see that kind of love in you they will know that you are Mine."
And the most amazing part is they have only seen glimpses of His love. The best is yet to come...
See you tomorrow...
John Day 139 - What Is He Doing?
14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many places to stay; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
A few years ago I was driving in the car when Nathaniel (our son) asked what was taking Jesus so long. I asked him what he meant. Turns out he was referring to these verses. He couldn't understand why it was taking Jesus so long to prepare places for us to stay.
His question got me thinking and the thinking has led to a book that is about half finished. What is taking so long? The first thing I noticed when I went back over these verses is that whatever Jesus is doing it has nothing to with building mansions or houses or even rooms. Jesus plainly says that the places to stay are already there. The physical accommodations have been there all along. "In my Father’s house ARE many mansions/rooms/places to stay etc..." In fact the Greek word (verb) used for 'are' is the same one for "I Am". It indicates limitlessness. Limitless in time and space. There has always been lots of places and there always will be.
There is no mistaking the fact that whatever Jesus is doing it has nothing to with building structures or interior decorating.
I can't tell you today what He is doing. That would take far too long. What I can tell you is that the Word of God is deep and wide and what often appears simple on the surface (Jesus is building our mansions or preparing our rooms) is actually something else entirely.
Remember the disciples and everyone else thought Jesus was here to build a kingdom like the kingdoms on earth when really He came to put love back in our hearts, a love we had never seen before. A Love that is determined to win us back.
I can give you a hint. The Bible says God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore so what He is doing now has something to do with what He was doing here 2000 years ago. It has something to do with love.
"Jesus is not slow in keeping His promises. He is longsuffering, not wanting anyone to perish."
See you tomorrow...
John Day 140 - Teachable Moments
14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves."
Teachable moments. They happen at different times for different reasons. A young guy has a flat tire and doesn't know how to change it. He calls his dad and his dad talks him through it. His dad had already taught him how to do it but his son was not really paying attention. In the back of his mind he didn't really believe he would ever need to know how to change a tire. Now the need is right in front of him and he's ready to learn. It's a teachable moment.
The disciples were not always paying full attention when Jesus talked to them. Often they didn't even agree with what He was saying. But this night was different. There was an urgency in the air. Jesus was leaving them. They didn't know where He was going or even why He was going. All they knew was that they didn't want Him to go or they wanted to follow Him. After all that's what they always did. Even the threat of being stoned to death didn't keep them from following Him back to Jerusalem. Now He was leaving and all they wanted to know was where He was going.
To make matters worse Jesus told them "You know where I'm going and you know the way."
Thomas argues. "How can we know how to get where you are going when we don't know where you are going?"
To this Jesus replies "I Am the Way..."
Clearly two different languages are being spoken here but Jesus has to use this teachable moment when He has their full attention to drive home a truth they haven't yet grasped. Even if they do not fully "get it" in the moment they will remember His words and piece it together later by the teaching of the Spirit of God who is about to come in full power.
The eleven are thinking literally. Jesus is not. Two different languages. The eleven were expecting an earthly king and kingdom. Jesus came to set up His reign in the human heart. The disciples were thinking of a literal destination and a literal road to get there when Jesus announced His departure. Jesus was speaking of the path of God's will. He was about to embark on the final phase of His mission. He was about to reveal the full character of God. He was about to display His glory. It was a journey He must make alone. It was a journey they would each take later at different times and in different ways.
Already they had started the journey. They knew the way. Peter, Andrew, James and John began the journey when they left their fishing boats to follow Jesus. Matthew began when he left his tax booth. Nathaniel began the day his private prayers were interrupted by the announcement the Messiah had been found and he was called to follow him.
Jesus journey had begun in eternity past. The journey, the path, the Way, is to follow the Shepherd. Jesus is following His Father and coming to the end of this phase of His journey. They can't join Him now because it's not their time yet.
Verse 7 is the pivotal teaching. He begins with "If you had known Me..." and then ends with "From now on you do know Me..."
What Jesus began by washing their feet is about to explode and they will know Him in a way they have never known Him before.
See the journey is not to learn information or master religion. It's not to find some secret that no one else knows that will "get you in". The journey is to know Him, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
Sometimes we wonder why trouble or tension comes into our lives. Sometimes it is to create teachable moments.
"Philip you know God because you know Me. Our hearts are exactly the same and that's all that matters..."
John Day 141 - Say What?
14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
Most assuredly: The strongest statement of something being true that the Greek language allows for.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away I was the pastor of a church. That church had an outspoken member who was convinced and then tried to convince everyone else that no prayer was valid unless it ended with "in Jesus name I pray, amen". If anyone in the church prayed publicly and left off that "all important" ending he would speak to them directly about it. Every. Time.
Some may know of whom I speak and let me say right away I am not attacking the man, but I am going to deconstruct and expose the thinking behind his theory. Thinking he himself may not have fully been aware of.
You see truth is only beneficial if we understand it. Jesus made an amazing promise here in this passage. Staggering actually. He said anything we ask in His name we will receive. Anything. He also said anyone who believes in Him and works in His name will do greater things than He did.
Greater than Jesus? The Man who walked on water, sent his disciple to catch a fish with money in it's mouth, felt the touch of a single person in a crowd where many were pressing against Him, controlled the weather, escaped murderous mobs undetected, stumped the smartest religious men and law makers, and that is just the small stuff. He healed diseases of any and every kind and raised the dead to life.
Then He, with the strongest language possible said his eleven would do greater things. Greater. In His Name.
Clearly there are two possible issues here (at least). We don't know what 'greater' means and/or we don't know what 'in His name' means. I suggest both are true.
For the man who created the world we inhabit and every creature on it, walking on water is literally child's play. So is healing the bodies He designed. For a Man who understood that love is 'the thing', the greatest act possible has nothing to do with weather manipulation or catching massive loads of fish. The greatest act possible is to turn a heart of hurt and hate into a heart of love and compassion. In heaven's eyes this is the greatest act of all. "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that turns around..."
The disciples dedicated the rest of their lives to turning sinners toward the Light. Yeah they did some miracles too but it was changed hearts that was the "greater work" as people began to realize who He was and gave their lives to Him.
Now back to that far away land where "in His name" or "in Jesus name" became the all important conclusion to any legitimate prayer.
The truth is "in His name" means "in His character". It means anyone who acts as He would act or asks for what He would ask for will receive what they asked for.
When I first came to Grande Prairie I told the church over a 3 week series of sermons that we're all pagans. Some didn't like it understandably. I don't like it either but it is the truth. See the root of paganism is the belief you can live any way you want and still get what you want from God or the gods or whatever that person worships by giving them what they want or following their system. Witches make potions and/or cast spells by following a very specific recipe or chant or process. Is that an extreme example? Sure it is. A much more subtle but very much the same system is a religious idea or practice used to essentially force God to do what we want. It may be counting rosary beads to exact forgiveness from an angry, reluctant God. It may be adhering to a specific set of beliefs. It may be accomplishing religious pilgrimages or doing great acts of service to buy God's favour or secure a place in heaven. Or it may be praying in a certain pattern or ending with a magical key phrase to get what we want.
In reality it makes God a puppet or an instrument. Pull the strings or play the strings just right and His power becomes subject to our demands. This is anything but truth.
Jesus is love and everything He does is motivated by love. Anyone who loves as He loves has the full support of all heavens resources. This is what it means to ask in His Name.
More on this tomorrow...
John Day 142 - 'Unanswered' Prayer
14:13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
God is not a puppet. God is not a genie in a bottle.
There are some in the Christian world who teach that if your prayers are not answered it's because you don't truly believe. This is not true.
The problem is not our faith because if we had none we wouldn't be praying at all and any faith is enough because Jesus said faith as tiny as a mustard seed could move mountains. Faith is not the inhibitor.
The real problem is that we don't understand what prayer is and how it works. Even the phrase "how it works" is both misleading and indicative of the problem. Prayer is not a mechanism. It's not a trigger. It's not a mystery that when solved makes God your "slave".
We could spend the next several hours going over 'unanswered prayers' in the Bible prayed by believing men and women. I call them unanswered not because they weren't answered but because they weren't answered in the way or at the time that matched the request.
Abraham and Sarah prayed for a child for 25 years after God has promised them one. That doesn't even count the years prior to that. The baby did come but after much heartache and after both of them had given up.
So then if believing people pray prayers that are in line with God's will and character (which is what "in My name" means) and get no apparent answer, what did Jesus mean when He said "ask anything and I'll do it."?
We could talk about Jonah's 'unanswered prayer' but that's too easy. We could talk about Paul’s unanswered prayer' too but since we're followers of Jesus why not talk about His 'unanswered prayer'. Jesus? He prayed and God didn't answer? Yes. More than once actually but let's talk about the big one. Jesus is facing death. He prays three times. "Father if it is possible let this cup pass from Me." Jesus does not want to face the cross. He pleads to be released from the excruciating pain of both carrying our guilt and being separated from His Father. I submit to you Jesus was more desperate about this request than any we have made. However you will note that Jesus prayed with a conditional clause. "If it is possible...". True prayer never boxes God in a corner. Jesus never forced His own will on His Father. He made His heart known yet left the decision to Dad.
Jesus is our example. He said "pray in My name". "Pray as I would pray". We're not praying to a genie. We're praying to our Father who loves us more than we love ourselves and knows the full story. Sometimes it appears that He answers immediately. Sometimes years and decades pass. Sometimes it appears He never answered at all. Eternity will tell the story and we'll thank Him for doing what was best rather than what we asked.
Make your heart known to God and then trust Him that He's doing what is best which might be far better than what you asked. This is what it means to pray like Jesus. I guarantee you Jesus is eternally grateful that God did not take that bitter cup from Him.
John Day 143 - Keeping His Commandments
14:15 “If you love Me you will keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
Our church divides the year into 4 quarters and we study a different book or theme from the Bible for each quarter. This quarter we're studying Jeremiah and I came across a light bulb statement in Jeremiah 2:8 that ties to what Jesus is saying here in John. Here it is:
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
And those who handle the law did not know Me;
The rulers also transgressed against Me;
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
And walked after things that do not profit.
Pretty significant problem when those leading the religious world have no connection to the God they profess to be teaching about. Talk about confusion and misrepresentation.
John 14:15 says literally in the Greek "If you keep on loving Me you will keep the fully intended purpose of My commandments." Or put another way: "You will always guard the end goal of My commandments."
Once the religious teachers (who handled the law but did not know the Author) came to Jesus trying to trick Him. Their question was "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied "Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength. The second is like it. Love your neighbours as yourself."
Love is the law. Jesus' response was unexpected. They did not see the law as love because they didn't know the Author. This lead to another question: "Who is my neighbour?"
The question itself betrays the fact they didn't know God. They had carefully categorized people. Different people had different value and some were neighbours and some were not. God has no such system. He has no favourites. Jesus demonstrated this over and over by crossing borders, both visible and invisible. He healed everyone in need regardless of class, colour, nationality, gender, or religion. Had these teachers of the law known the Author they would have known the law was love and that it applied equally to everyone.
By washing their feet Jesus had demonstrated class eliminating love. Now He says to them "If you continue to love Me as I have loved you, My law of love will play out through you just as I designed it to. And I will send you a Helper and He will lead you deeper and higher and wider into My love."
We'll talk more about this Helper tomorrow...
John Day 144 - Don't Settle
"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
Today I'm not interested in defining the distinctions or roles or identities of God thr Father, Jesus, and the Spirit. I have had such discussions and also studied deeply on my own. I am coming to the conclusion that it ends up being a search for what isn't there. Philip wanted to see God and Jesus basically said "I'm right here Philip". Now Jesus is saying He is leaving and the Spirit is coming to take His place. However His last comment is "I will not leave you alone, I will come to you." Mind bending. Jesus is leaving but Jesus is staying just in another way. He won't be visibly walking the dusty roads of Galilee or teaching in the Temple. He won't be touching blind eyes in a way that we can see or speaking audibly in a way that all can hear.
The point of this promise from Jesus to those who are seeking to follow Him is not about identifying the details of how or who or what. The point is that we won't be left alone.
When Jesus was baptized God spoke from heaven. Some heard what He said while others only heard what sounded like thunder. One voice, one sound, yet some heard words while others heard thunder. Now Jesus is saying that when He returns to them in the form of the Spirit of truth, some will be able to receive Him and some will not. This seems odd yet when we think about it the same was true when Jesus walked this earth. Some were open to Him while others were closed up like a vault. One God. Two reactions. Two kinds of people.
Now I want to focus in on an intriguing thing Jesus said to them. He said "He dwells with you, but He will be in you." A change is coming. God's Spirit has always been present with humanity. He is that inner voice that some follow and others try to silence. However God's Spirit is about to do something He has never been able to do. He I'd going to inhabit men and women. It's a truth I believe we have lost sight of. We have settled for ab experience with God that dare I say is an old testament experience. We cry out to Him when we are in trouble but then keep Him on the outside. We want His help but not His presence. The truth is that before the cross this deeper experience was not available to humanity. This is why Jesus said we would do greater things than He did. The cross would release a new dimension of connection between heaven and earth that was never possible before.
He is with you but He will be in you.
This truth was foreshadowed in the Old Testament when the presence of God manifested by the cloud and pillar of fire went from being with them to dwelling in their midst in the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary. This was only possible once the work of building the Sanctuary was complete. Jesus is the True Sanctuary and when His mission was complete a new closeness with heaven was unlocked.
When we finish the gospel of John we'll move right on to Acts and see what this new reality looked like. We'll also discover we've been settling for far less than God has for us. Some day their experience of the Spirit of truth living in them will be repeated just as God's presence entered the temple again in when Solomon's temple was completed.
He is with you but He will be in you.
Don't settle for less...
You will search for Me and you will find Me when you search with all your heart!
John Day 145 - 'Keep' His Commandments
19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me."
Jesus came and lived among us as one of us but did so with the character of His Father inside Him. It made Him radically different from us. He didn't seek position or applause, wealth or fame. He didn't favour some over others. He didn't base His decisions on popular opinion or on what He thought would get Him ahead. He was not arrogant or proud yet He was not weak or indecisive. Most of all everything He did was driven by selfless love.
Now as He is about to complete His mission He is telling His disciples that after He leaves He will only be known and experienced by some and not by all. There were two disciples named Judas, one has already left to betray Him. Now the other asks an obvious question. "Jesus if you are going to show Yourself again why to only us and not the world?"
Jesus' answer is deep. He was not saying He would only manifest Himself to the eleven. He was broadly dividing humanity into two groups. One group that embraces His word and the rest who reject it.
In fact, if you go back a couple of verses He talks about those who keep His commandments. We automatically assume this to be a behaviour statement. However the Greek word is defined as "keep, guard, watch over".
The truth is the law of God is a definition of both His character and how His government operates. That unchangeable law is constantly under attack. It is constantly being twisted and misrepresented. Religion has been and still is too often a haven for hatred, prejudice, bigotry, racism, nationalism, sexism, and division. As Jeremiah spoke about yesterday, too often those who handle His law do not know Him. His law becomes an ugly hammer held in the grip of hating hands.
The true nature of those who are His are those who guard and watch over His commandments. They keep or preserve the true meaning. These are the ones to whom Jesus will manifest Himself. When religion had become a house of hate and horrors in the dark ages Jesus manifested Himself to Martin Luther and others like him. Men who saw in the law the character of God and at the same time a church empty of it. These men rose up and spoke and lived with power.
In our day hatred is again rising. With it will rise the opposite. Men and women who will shine in the darkness because they have guarded the true meaning of His Word. They will be a light in the darkness. Jesus will manifest Himself to them and through them.