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John 14:22-24, NIV22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" 23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
December 22, 2011Judas asked a good question. In order for Jesus to make himself known, it requires belief and more than that, love. Love is the key, Judas. Jesus won't make himself known to those who don't love him. Just as the miracles of Jesus required faith on the part of the petitioner, so now "seeing" Jesus in spirit requires a relationship of love. It's not that Jesus did not want to reveal himself to the world, it's that those who do not believe can not "see" him because seeing him in spirit requires a commitment to faithful obedience.
Here's a followup question which Judas did not ask: Where does this faith come from which makes seeing and believing possible? If we can't see and obey Jesus without love, how is that first spark of recognition ignited?
I'm thinking back to some of the stories in the Bible wherein individuals responded to God's claim on their lives. At age seventy-five Abraham heard a voice so compelling that he followed the instructions to leave the homeland of his fathers and travel the rest of his life throughout the length and breadth of what we know today as the country of Israel.
Moses turned aside to watch a burning bush that was not consumed; out of that bush God spoke with him. In the tragic year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord "high and lifted up with a train that filled the temple"; in that dazzling light Isaiah volunteered to do whatever his Lord asked of him.
Jonah recognized God's voice but ran off in the opposite direction until his harrowing experience of being swallowed alive by some huge sea creature; then he changed his tune, was grateful for God's "salvation" and took his message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to the people of Nineveh.
Disciples James and John simply responded in the affirmative when Jesus said to them, "Follow me"; not so simple for them though, it meant leaving their father and the fishing business. Although Timothy had a Greek father he had been instructed in the Jewish holy Scriptures from birth by his mother and grandmother; his life and words live on today in the Christian Bible because he cast his lot with the apostle Paul in spreading the love and teachings of Jesus throughout the Gentile territories of the Roman Empire.
As in all those stories, faith begins whenever we open the door a little and allow the presence of God to invade our space. Being sensitive within our spirit to the concept of God, however we define God, seems to be natural to many people across differing cultures and nationalities. We want to believe in something better and greater than ourselves, and open the door to that possibility.
Jesus instructed his disciples to keep on believing in him, and keep on loving him, after his death. And to obey his teachings. He invites us to do likewise and gives us the same promise--Our God in heaven will come and make his home with us.
John 14:25-26, NIV25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
December 23, 2011Here is the teaching of Jesus regarding the Holy Spirit. Given by God the Father, sent to earth in the name of Jesus the Son, to inhabit or abide with, humans. A teacher of all things necessary for living a life pleasing to God. A helper who will remind us, cause us to remember, everything spoken by Jesus.
Both holy and spirit. Holy because the Counselor pertains to everything that is God. And spirit because that's the best, maybe the only, way to be Immanuel--God with us--for everyone, at all times and at the same time.
Anyone could predict this experiment will have its difficulties. It's not that hard to believe there was a historical Jesus, and to read his words and stories and marvel at his wisdom. Many people have no difficulty believing this world didn't just happen, but had a grand mind, design and/or purpose which sparked the big bang. These ideas are objective and general in nature. But when you look at the concept of a Holy Spirit who abides within us, all objectivity ends. This is personal, and requires from us a response not only from our head but from our heart and gut. If/When we keep the Holy Spirit at arms length, we have no Holy Spirit. It's no wonder Jesus said, "If you love me, you will receive the Spirit."
John 14:27, NIV27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
December 26, 2011Once more, Jesus reiterates something he told his disciples many times before--Don't be afraid. He offers peace instead of fear. As though we could trade in our fears for peace! Peace is something Jesus wanted to leave behind for them. A gift for anyone who will receive it. Maybe in the mind of Jesus, peace was very much associated with the Holy Spirit abiding within us.
Jesus knew the next dozen hours would be very difficult for these disciples. Jesus was going to suffer terribly. For the disciples to watch their beloved Teacher go through this perversion of justice, what could be more horrible. I can't imagine what it would be like to stand by helplessly while a loved one was mistreated, brutalized and killed.
Jesus knew death could not separate him from these loyal followers. They had not yet grasped that idea. Peace is in the larger picture, it overrides the troubling details. On the other side of this harrowing ordeal, they would arrive at peace.
Belief is not once and done, it's a continuous process. We have to believe in the peace of Jesus before we can possess it. Peace is freedom from fear. It's the legacy of Jesus. Don't be afraid or daunted. Don't get strangled by the details of any one moment. Here's the bigger picture: I am going away; I am coming back for you.
We just passed the dark night of the winter solstice. That means we in the Northeastern part of the United States are on another long, cold journey toward spring. Each day will be a little longer, until whoopee, the snow geese will migrate over our heads, the skunk cabbage will emerge from the frozen ground and the spring bulbs will awaken. Peace.
John 14:28-31, NIV28 "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave."
December 27, 2011I know you are not happy now, but maybe you could be just a little glad for me because I'm going home to my Father. Look! This dark night has a bright side. I'm going to be with my Father, the one who sent me. When my task is complete, I'm going home. Be happy for me in that.
His Father was King of the Universe. But there was also a prince of this world. Again the good vs. evil theme. The evil one had no power over Jesus. The evil one did not take Jesus' life; Jesus gave his life voluntarily. His life was a gift of love from birth to death.
Jesus links obedience with love. As long as these two are linked, there can be no oppression. The end result is joy, as followers of Jesus can attest to.
Chapter 14 is a "trust me" chapter and these are some of the main points: --I will come back some day and take you with me. --I and the Father are one; we will be with you always in the spirit. --I am the way, continue to live through me. --When I leave you for awhile you will continue to do what I did. --Ask, and I will do it. --Love me. --Obey my commands. --Know the Spirit living within you. --Peace I leave with you. --Don't be afraid. Trust me.
When these final instructions were complete, Jesus said one last time, "Come now." Get up; let us leave. All this transpired at the table in the upper room which we know as the Last Supper. And so, nourished by the Passover meal and the conversation around the table, they walkedout into a strange and unfamiliar night. Chapters 15-17 also contain final words for the disciples. I don't know where that took place?
Even though Jesus told the disciples all this, their faith was still shaken when he left them. Some of them even went back to where they had been before they met Jesus, to their old jobs as fishermen.
The idea of loving God may seem to be a natural reaction, or it may sound bizarre. One old adage says, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"; another one suggests, "Out of sight, out of mind." In a lifetime of religious experience, people move back and forth between similar poles, between fondness and neglect.