Wednesday 15 March 2023

John 14:8-14 - Making it clear

< Previous | Index | Next >

Bible text - Read it yourself (opens in a new tab)

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

< Previous | Index | Next >

Bible text - Read it yourself (opens in a new tab)

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.

< Previous | Index
 Next >

Sunday 3 May 2015

John 13:31-38 - Denied

< Previous | Index | Next >

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.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Sunday 12 April 2015

John 13:18-30 - Betrayed

< Previous | Index | Next >

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.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Sunday 29 March 2015

John 13:1-17 - A servant heart

< Previous | Index | Next >

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.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Tuesday 10 March 2015

John 12:44-50 - See me, see my Father

< Previous | Index | Next >

Some of the Jewish leaders believe in Yahshua but won't acknowledge him openly because of the Pharisees (verse 42). What a contrast with Yahshua himself here in verse 44! He 'cried out' that those who believe in him also believe in the Father who sent him. The Greek word for 'cried out' is ἔκραξεν (ekraxen), the same word used for a raven's piercing call. It's emphatic, 'Jesus yelled' or 'Jesus screamed' gives a better sense. It's as if he shouted 'Aarrgghh! Whoever believes in me...'

There are two differences between the leaders who believe in him but won't admit it, and Jesus himself. There is the difference between silence and a loud yell, but there are also different implications. Ignoring the Son is bad, but ignoring the Father is worse. Believing in the Father and seeing the Father is essential. In part that is why Yahshua came - to be the light that lets us see the Father as he really is. Jesus came to banish the darkness, the hiddenness of the Father. Yet these Jewish leaders hide what is in their hearts for fear of the Pharisees. If they allowed the inner light to burn and shine they would join him in shouting out the truth!

And although Jesus does not come to judge, the words he has spoken will certainly do so. There will be no escaping these words when the last day comes.

And what about us? Will I, will you, be like those Jewish religious leaders? Will we hide the truth in our hearts, fearful to share it because of what unbelievers might say or do? Or will we, following Jesus, scream out this truth as loudly as our lungs will permit?

< Previous | Index | Next >

Saturday 28 February 2015

John 12:37-43 - Believe it or not

< Previous | Index | Next >

Jesus has healed the unhealable, raised the dead, and performed all the miracles that, according to the best Jewish teaching, could only be done by the Messiah. And despite this the authorities still don't believe! Why not?

It's significant that in verse 36, Jesus 'finished speaking, left and hid himself from them'. He is acting out what is in their hearts; he is also fulfilling the words of Isaiah. Verse 39 tells us they could not believe, Jesus has chosen to hide himself from them by blinding them and hardening their hearts. This should sound familiar, it's exactly what Yahweh did to Pharaoh, hardening his heart (Exodus 11:9-10).

In much the same way, the Jewish authorities are not permitted to accept Jesus' teaching. Just as Pharaoh didn't want the Israelites to be free to leave Egypt, so the chief priests and teachers did not want them to follow Jesus into freedom from the Temple worship. They saw this as a dangerous, existential threat to their own power and privilege. And just as Pharaoh would not let the people go until the death of the firstborn and the first passover, so the Jewish powers will not let them go until the death of Jesus (the Firstborn, the Son himself) and the final passover with his followers.

Verses 43 and 44 are very striking. Many among the leaders did believe in him, but they loved human praise more than praise from the Almighty. They were afraid of being thrown out of their places of power and authority. Can you imagine their dilemma? They were thinking, 'Yes, this man Yahshua has done all the things the Messiah would do, the evidence is there, he must be the One to come. But if we admit this and accept him openly the Pharisees will kick us out of office.

Let's be careful that we don't think in this way. Jesus is far more important than any institution or tradition. We can cling to what we have always known and remain respectable, or we can risk everything to follow Jesus. Which do you value the most, people's respect and approval, or life in Christ?

< Previous | Index | Next >
Web Analytics