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John 16:25-27, NIV25 "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God."
January 17, 2012Jesus himself admits what we have known from the beginning of John's gospel--he does not speak literally, plainly, or with clarity. He also said it is soon time for him to speak to his disciples in plain terms which they can understand with no mistaking what he means.
For starters, he repeats again what he had just told them. They will no longer need to address their requests to him. They will be able to go directly to the Father. Why? Because the Father holds a special love for them for believing Jesus came from God and for embracing and loving the one God sent to them.
Believing that Jesus was sent from God is the great truth the gospel writer wants us to take hold of and immerse our lives in. It is true God loves the whole wide world. It is also true God places special favor upon those who love and welcome Jesus into their lives. Those are the children of God, by choice not only by creation, whom God loves to invite into his presence.
It's as simple as that! And I must avoid the temptation to want to complicate its simplicity by trying to explain it more.
John 16:28-29, NIV28 "I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." 29 Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."
January 18, 2012So, the disciples think they get it! They finally understand what Jesus is telling them. Jesus came from the Father and is now returning to the Father. That sounds tame enough. He will soon just disappear from their sight and go back to where he came from.
Jesus did not elaborate. As he had said before, there is much more to say but the disciples could not bear to hear it. If we could know the future, would we want to hear what is coming our way?
I don't see why just these few words clarified so much for the disciples. Why did they suddenly "believe"? Surely long ago they believed Jesus came from God. Why else would they have left all and followed him for three years?
In my opinion this would have been a good time to ask all their unspoken questions. Yet it sounds like questions were no longer necessary. Whatever Jesus said is to be accepted? Or else questions were no longer necessary because Jesus was now speaking plainly?
If this was the time to speak plainly, does that mean the past three years were not the time to speak plainly? The gospel writer, Matthew, explained why Jesus spoke in parables by using a quote from the prophet Isaiah, which in brief was a perplexing statement--lest they hear and understand. John 12:37-41 records a similar explanation for why certain people did not believe in Jesus.
Even though Jesus said he is speaking plainly, there are still lots of questions.
John 16:31, NIV31 "You believe at last!" Jesus answered.
January 19, 2012 The disciples finally, really believed. I don't have a clue what Jesus meant by that. Or is it a question, "So, you finally think you understand and believe?" That would make more sense to me.
Right after this response, Jesus followed with a downer, the awful truth that the Twelve will all be scattered (literally, figuratively, physically and spiritually) when Jesus is arrested, tried, and crucified. I have noticed that spiritual highs are often followed by extremely trying times. Which makes me reluctant to acknowledge a high point for fear of what might come next.
Believing must have different levels of intensity. What determines when we believe a little or believe with our whole heart? I think often it depends on our emotions. Or when we perceive God to be especially near to us. Our faith can be confirmed and affirmed in many ways, at times in ways that seem very trivial to another person but yet hold much meaning to a person individually.
On the night before Jesus died, the disciples suddenly felt a surge of faith. They said it occurred because, when Jesus spoke plainly to them, they got a new insight into their "all-knowing" Lord and Master. He knew everything. They would no longer question him. Instead, they now trust Jesus completely. It sounds like they will no longer fear the future, but leave everything in his hands. They were fully committed to whatever Jesus said, whatever Jesus did, whatever was about to happen. Now they believed.
Everyone who ever believed, knows there is a "but" just around the corner.
John 16:32-33, NIV32 "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
January 20, 2012In the midst of all their human faults and failures, the disciples are reassured. In Jesus they can be at peace.
Here's what Jesus told them: When there's trouble all around you, find your peace in me. Never lose heart. Don't be afraid. I have conquered; therefore you can live as victors.
Their world was about to be shattered by Jesus' death and he was asking them to look at his crucifixion through eyes of faith and say, "Jesus' death is not a defeat, but a victory; he has conquered . . . ." Sin? Death? Darkness? The prince of darkness? All the negatives that life throws our way? We can triumph through Christ our Lord.
I don't know how this message would affect the lives of these disciples during the next few hours, but we do know in the next few years they did triumph even as they themselves were being persecuted for bearing witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
It's so interesting that as Jesus approached his own death, he speaks life to his disciples. His impending death did not curtail his message, rather it accented it to even greater heights. He invited his followers to share his life even as he was about to die!
Like a branch on a vine, so they were to grow in him, abide with him, bear fruit for him. It made no difference that he was about to die in a few hours. When he went back to the Father, he would send them the Holy Spirit to help them continue on. They would continue growing in wisdom, in knowledge, and in faith. Without him, yet very much with Jesus forevermore.
Who better than these disciples could proclaim the good news that indeed God is not absent, but is working still in the lives of all who love him? Who better than present-day disciples to assure those who are feeling abandoned that God is always near to everyone who seeks his grace?
We can find peace in Jesus when there's trouble all around. Let me listen once more to the words of Jesus: Never lose heart. Don't be afraid. I have conquered; therefore you can live as victors.