Saturday 20 April 2024

John 14:22-31 – Not to the world?

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‘Why are you showing yourself to us, but not to the world?’ This is such an interesting question, it’s also a natural question. Judas (not Iscariot) wants to know why Jesus shows himself to the twelve, but not to the world. The question suggests it’s Jesus’ choice to hide himself from most people but show himself to a few. Judas is right to find this strange! But it’s not what Jesus has in mind.

In verse 23, he responds by saying that for everyone who loves him, he and the Father will come and make their home in that person. In other words, it’s not just for the twelve, but for anyone in the world who loves Jesus. Or to put it another way, the answer is that he will reveal himself to anyone – if they love him. He doesn’t hide from anybody, but those who don’t love him can never truly see him.

Short of time - Jesus needs to wind the conversation up because he knows what will happen next. He reminds them again of the promised Spirit and tells them that he and his Father will live within them; and the Spirit will teach them and remind them of everything they need to know. He also promises to leave his peace with them, and tells them not to worry or be afraid. This seems to me particularly striking when you consider what Jesus is about to go through at the hands of the Sanhedrin and the Roman governor.

And finally, in verses 28 to 31, he reminds them that he’s going to the Father who is greater than he is, and they will be glad (once they understand the significance of this). So, in what way is the Father greater than the Son? Does this idea even make any sense when we know that Father, Son and Spirit are co-equal within the structure we call ‘trinity’, the three in oneness that they share together? Perhaps the answer is simply that Jesus has limited himself within a human body in order to reach us in this world. For more than 30 years he has remained limited, but in returning to the Father he will regain the ability to be present everywhere at every moment of time with all of his people. In his human body he is inevitably less powerful than the Father, only able to act in the one place and time where he finds himself. He took on our limitations so that he could reach us on our level, in ways we can understand. That time is coming to an end as he returns to the Father.

Time’s up - And then they leave, and the final act will open.

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John 14:15-21 - Promising the Spirit

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Verse 15 is a big ‘if’. Jesus doesn’t ask us to do what he tells us; he simply points out that, if we love him, we will do what he says. So we are faced with the reality of what is in our hearts where Jesus is concerned. Do I love him, or don’t I? How far will I go in following him? Some of the way? All of the way?

The Spirit of Truth - The Holy Spirit comes as a gift from the Father in answer to a request from Jesus. And the Spirit is pretty special because he speaks for us, helps us, and will always stay with us. Read this personally – The Spirit of Christ, sent by the Father, speaks for you, helps you, and will always stay with you. Has this been your experience? If not, perhaps you need to get to know Jesus even better and make sure that you truly love him and therefore keep his commands. Look deeper into your own heart and pay more attention to your daily experience on this journey with Jesus. (If you’re still in doubt, press the ‘Previous’ link twice and re-read the notes on verses 1-7.) The Spirit of Christ cannot be anything but the Spirit of Truth, because Jesus declared himself to be ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’.

Pity the poor world! - ‘The world’ is a way of saying ‘worldly people’ – in other words people who know the world, but have little or no clue about Jesus. Knowing the world is our default position, as we grow and experience life, we get to know the world and its ways better and better. That’s life! But this knowing provides no way to become familiar with the Spirit of Truth.

But if you are following Jesus, you will see and know his Spirit because the Spirit lives with you – inside you.

Leaving us? - The disciples didn’t yet fully understand what was happening. Jesus is going to leave them, but not like children without parents. Verse 18 is very clear, Jesus absolutely and explicitly tells them that he, the Son, and the Spirit (his Spirit) are one. They are not quite the same, but they cannot be separated. Jesus has a human bodily form and therefore lives with, but outside, the disciples; the Spirit has no bodily form and will live inside the disciples. Not only that: they will realise that Jesus is in his Father, and he is also in them. If Jesus is in us and he is also in the Father, then we too are somehow part of their oneness!

Back to verse 15 - Verse 15 is reiterated in verse 21. If we have and keep Jesus’ commands, then we love him. And if we love Jesus, the Father will love us, Jesus will love us, and he’ll show himself to us. We are in such a safe place! All our lives we existed in a physical reality, but now we live in a spiritual reality as well!

Wednesday 15 March 2023

John 14:8-14 - Making it clear

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This must have felt frustrating; Jesus has already explained to them all and then added more to help Thomas. But now Philip doesn't understand either. But Jesus is able to cope with anything, and in this he leads the way for us; frustration doesn't lead to impatience. We are called to be patient as he is patient.

Philip asks Jesus to show the Father to the puzzled, anxious disciples, and he adds that doing so will satisfy them. Jesus is surprised. I've been with you all this time, Philip: how can you not know me?

Simple truth - And he explains again the simple truth that he and his Father are one, 'I'm in the Father, and he's in me'. This simple truth is hard for Philip to grasp because it is so deep, so astonishing, yet so simple. Surely far too simple to be true, and far too shocking as well. Nobody has ever made claims like this before! It is either true, or Jesus is utterly deluded, or at worst he's a complete fraud. No wonder Philip struggles! Jesus tells him that if he can't believe what he says, he should certainly believe what he's been doing - healing the sick, raising the dead, forgiving the guilty. Who else but the Father himself could do this stuff?

The Father's glory - If you believe in me you'll do even greater things because, when I'm in the Father's presence, you'll be able to ask whatever is needed and I'll do it for you. Why? Because the Father's glory (the Presence that has long been in the holiest place in the Temple) will instead be in Jesus and his glory will no longer be contained in the Holy of Holies but will be contained in Jesus instead. And although Jesus doesn't say so here, the Father's glory will therefore be in the church because we, the church, are Jesus' body here in the world. Perhaps this is not fully understood or expressed until the Holy Spirit reveals it to Paul on the Damascus road. Paul knew only too well that the Presence had left the Holy Place, it was now desolate and empty, utterly destroyed by a Roman Army. There is a new Holy Place, the church, inhabited by the Son, and through him, by the Father too since they are one. Although this was plain to Paul after the Temple's destruction, it may have been far less clear to the disciples while the Temple still stood intact.

We carry an inestimable treasure with us wherever we go! And if that doesn't fill you with hope, joy, and encouragement, I don't know what will.

Friday 3 February 2023

John 14:1-7 - Troubled

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Jesus has been talking about his betrayal, I think we can assume that all those around him at the table will be alarmed, confused, and liable to ask questions. Perhaps some were afraid to show their ignorance by asking, so remained quiet. They were people just like us!

Trust - Jesus tells them not to be in so much turmoil, he reminds them that they have put their trust in the Father so they should put their trust in him too. This  is quite a stretch for people brought up in the Jewish tradition; hadn't they always been taught  there's a dualism here? On one hand there is the great creator Lord who brought everything into existence. On the other is the mass of humanity formed from dust, often evil, disobedient, untrustworthy. And between the two is a huge divide that cannot be crossed - isn't there? Jesus is effectively saying that they should trust him just like they would the Almighty himself!

Plenty of Room - Jesus refers to the Almighty as his Father! Maybe they were used to hearing this from him by now. But he says there's plenty of space in 'my Father's house' and that he's going to get places ready for them. I suspect most Jews, given the concept of Yahweh's house, would have immediately thought of the lavish Temple with its Holy Place where the glory of the Most High lived. Jesus is saying there's room for us in the Holy of Holies? Surely not! And Jesus adds, 'You know the way there'.

Surely Thomas speaks for most of them when he says, 'No idea what you are talking about, Rabbi'. Obviously Jesus can't mean the holy heart of the Temple, only the Chief Priest is allowed in there, and only once a year at that. Jesus' reply is fascinating.

Way, truth and life - He tells Thomas that he himself is the way to this holiest of places. In the same breath he says that he is also the truth, and the life. He is the way to the dwelling place of the Most High, he is the truth (much of which he's been teaching them by his words and examples for about three years), and he is also life itself. 'If you know me, you already know the Father. From now on', Jesus says, 'You do know the Father'.

It's the same for us today, isn't it? If you really know Jesus, you know the Father too. They are, in fact, one and the same. If you're not sure if you know the Father - then get to know Jesus better! He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. He is all you could possibly need.

Here's a secret to treasure. If the church is Christ's body (1 Cor 12:37), here in the world today, then Jesus is the Holy of Holies within the church, the place where Yahweh has made his home among us.

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Sunday 3 May 2015

John 13:31-38 - Denied

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There's a great deal to absorb in these eight verses. Jesus deals with three topics, and Peter has questions about  one of them.

Glory - The first topic is glory; he doesn't begin talking about this until Judas has left. Jesus tells them that the Son is glorified and the Almighty is glorified in him. And he explains that if this is so, the Almighty will glorify the Son in himself and will do so immediately. Do you see the symmetry here? The Father is glorified in the Son, and the Son is glorified in the Father - at the same time.

Can anyone, even Jesus, share the glory of the Father? Yes! The passage becomes clearer if we read some related material as well. Check out John 17:4-5, John 17:9-11 and John 17:20-23. Do you see how his disciples then and his disciples now (you and me!) all share in his glory? The glory of the Father is in and upon you! This is a mystery, incomprehensible to most of the Jewish religious leaders, yet it is what Jesus explicitly tells us.

Going - Jesus is soon going to leave them behind (John 13:33). He tells them this simply and plainly. They probably didn't like what they heard, but nor did they really understand what he meant. And Jesus isn't fazed by this. His followers still don't understand why he has come, his mission seems to teeter on the edge of failure. But he has done everything his Father said to do and he knows that is enough. Now that is faith!

A command - The third and final word he has for them is 'love'. They are to love one another in the same way that he has loved them. This will be the evidence that they are his followers.

Peter's question - It's always Peter! He's not afraid to say what he thinks at times when others are inclined to wonder silently. Peter wants to know where exactly Jesus is planning to go. And Jesus' answer, that Peter can't follow him now, is as perplexing as the knowledge that he is going. This provokes Peter into a further question, 'Why can't I?' And he claims that he will even die for Jesus.

But of course, it is Jesus who must die for Peter, and for all of us. Jesus tells Peter that instead he will disown him three times before the first hint of morning twilight. Jesus goes on immediately to tell them not to be anxious, but this is easily overlooked because of the unfortunate placement of the chapter heading. They are anxious at the tone of this conversation; they need reassurance and Jesus reassures them right away.

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Sunday 12 April 2015

John 13:18-30 - Betrayed

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This is such a well-known passage. Is there anything here to consider, apart from the bare fact that Jesus knows who will identify him to the authorities? I think there is much more, these poignant verses are loaded with fascinating detail.

Yahshua has already shown that he knows who will betray him, just read verses 10 and 11; now he speaks of this again. And he says it is to fulfil Psalm 41:9. So much that he does and says is to fulfil the Law, the Prophets and the other writings of the Tanakh. And then he says something very striking.

'Whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.' (Verse 20) In other words, the Father sends the Son and the Son sends us. And if someone accepts us they are accepting Christ because he has sent us.  And if they accept Christ they are accepting the Father. This is essentially who Yahshua is. He is the very image of the Father and we, in turn, are the image of Jesus! He is telling the disciples about Judas in advance so that they will believe that 'I am who I am'. He is the embodiment of the Father, and we are the embodiment of the Son. Or as Paul has it, we are his body and he is the Head. If we don't understand these things at a deep, deep level we understand very little.

The simple phrase 'I am who I am' (verse 19) is enough to convict him of blasphemy in the eyes of the Chief Priest and Sanhedrin. Check out John 18:5-6 and Mark 14:61-63. The expression 'I am' might be just an innocent phrase, or it might be regarded as the Name that can never be uttered, the name Yahweh. To utter the Name was itself an act of blasphemy according to the Jewish leaders. To this day, Jews refer to him as Elohim (the Almighty), Adonai (The Lord) or  Ha Shem (The Name).

Of course, the disciples want to know who this betrayer will be. They are more than curious! John, prompted by Peter, asks the question. And Jesus tells him, 'It's the one I give this piece of bread to'. He dips the bread and hands it to Judas. He is one of those who shares Jesus' bread (verse 18). Jesus tells him to 'do it quickly' and Judas leaves. But the disciples still have little idea of what is going on, assuming that Judas has gone to buy supplies or donate to those in need. At this very late stage - almost the end of the final act - they are still unable to grasp even the most important things.

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Sunday 29 March 2015

John 13:1-17 - A servant heart

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Jesus and his disciples were sharing an evening meal shortly before Passover. Jesus knew it was almost time to leave this world and return to the Father, but he loved his followers deeply and wanted to show them this in a way they would remember. Not only that, he wanted them to learn that they must be servants to one another.

He knew that he had all power and authority from the Father, and he did something extraordinary and very unexpected. Quietly, he left the table and removed his outer robe and possibly his tunic too. Every eye would have been watching him and every mind wondering, 'What is the Master doing?'

Jesus picked up a towel and wrapped it around his waist, then he filled a bowl with water and started washing the disciple's feet and drying them on the towel. This was the humbling and degrading work of a lowly servant; feet were regarded as lacking in honour, dusty as they would have been from the road. To this day Muslims remove their shoes before entering a mosque, and throwing shoes at someone is a calculated insult. The disciples seem to have taken Jesus' unexpected behaviour quietly and without making a fuss. But then Jesus comes to Peter.

Peter was clearly one of those people who just said what was on his mind when others would ponder it quietly. He was not afraid to be wrong. So he came right out with it, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?' It doesn't make sense to Peter! It's not quite a refusal to be washed, but it comes pretty close. The question implies incredulity and a sense that this is an utterly inappropriate thing for Jesus to do. So Jesus explains, 'You don't understand this right now, but you will later.'

But Peter isn't ready to give way. He knows the truth, he is the servant, Jesus is the Master. What Jesus is doing is back to front. (It so often is!) Peter declares, probably loudly, that he will not allow Jesus to wash his feet. But then Jesus puts it more starkly, 'Unless I wash you, you have no part with me'.

This is too much for Peter who now declares he wants to be washed from head to toe! But the point of washing the feet is not to cleanse the whole body, it was a custom used to welcome honoured guests to your home (Luke 7:44). Jesus is welcoming the disciples into his Father's house, he is acting as a lowly servant in his Father's household and he is declaring the disciples to be honoured guests. In effect, he's saying that in his Father's house, they are more honoured than he is. This is an extraordinary statement and I suppose most of us feel about it much as Peter might have done. Yet this is what Jesus did!

But then Jesus clarifies everything for them, and for us. He explains that he has demonstrated servanthood towards them so that they will remember to do the same for one another. Father, may we always be ready to have servant hearts towards one another.

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