133. Men in the night.

[John 18]

We have come to the beginning of the end of a man’s life that changed the world forever.  It was to be the beginning of the unthinkable; impacting mankind into eternity. Events are set in motion by various groups of men in the night.

When the last meal was finished, Jesus and His disciples departed for the Garden of Gethsemane. They would have left by the gate of the city and go down the steep valley to cross the canal of the Kidron stream. It is into this stream that the blood of the Passover lambs would drain after their blood was sprinkled at the altar of the Temple.

On the slopes of the Mount of Olives lay a little garden. Gethsemane means oil-press. Oil was extracted from the olive trees there. Many wealthy people had private gardens there. Jerusalem was too crowded for gardens and the ceremonial rules forbade soil or manure in the sacred city.

Visitors to Jerusalem are shown a little garden of about eight olive trees; so old they look like rock. They can be traced back to the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem, not really to the time of Jesus, but the paths beneath them were surely trodden by the feet of Jesus.

Some wealthy friend of Jesus probably gave Him the key to this garden to use whenever He needed peace and quiet. Judas knew it and he planned the arrest there.

John states there was a company of soldiers plus the officers from the chief priests and Pharisees. The officers were the Temple police. The Temple had police to keep order and the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council of 70) had police to carry out their decrees. There was also a band of Roman soldiers.  The Greek word used is speira.  It had three meanings: a Roman cohort, which means 600 men or auxiliary soldiers of 1000 men (240 cavalry and 760 infantry). It is sometimes used for a detachment of 200 men.

Even the word in the last meaning indicated an overwhelming force to arrest a simple Galilean carpenter. The authorities were clearly very scared of Jesus and His influence and expected a small war. They sent an army to grab Him!! Just think how surprisingly simple the arrest took place – in surrender and peace – fully under the control of Jesus himself.

 

  • Jesus is courageous. They came with torches as if they had to search in dark places. Remember it was Passover and full moon. The night would have been very light. He was not hiding. He presented himself and declared himself to be the one they are looking for.

 

  • Jesus had the true authority. He stood while the army fell to the ground. His word bowled them over. It is always like that.

 

  • Jesus chose to die, He gave himself for the arrest. He helped them to put God’s plan in motion. This made Judas panic. He hoped for a miraculous confrontation with Roman authorities. [Pebbles 124]

 

  • His love protected his disciples. He presented himself to save His friends.

 

  • He was in full obedience – “drinking the cup of God”.

Peter drew his sword – he was willing to fight. He was willing to die right there and then.  He drew his sword against an overwhelming armed force. Peter’s was one of the lead characters of this night. We will discuss his role a bit later.

First, the authorities.

ANNAS (18:12-14 and 19-24)

In both these passages Jesus is before Annas. Only John mentions this. Annas was the power behind the throne of the high priest.  He was high priest from 6-15 AD. Four of his sons held the office and Caiaphas was his son-in-law.

There was a time when the office of the High Priest was held for life. It seems that at this time a system of rotation has been implemented. Caiaphas was the high priest that year. Because of all the intrigue, corruption and bribery, the priest had to be in line with the Romans. The high priest was a collaborator and lived in ease, comfort, prestige and power. The family of Annas was very rich and he was the power behind it all – knowing how to play the game.

The moneychangers and traders in the Court of the Gentiles were solely in the service of the high priest. One can just imagine the high profit margins of everything going on there. Do you remember Jesus’ anger when He cleaned them out? Can you imagine how Annas would have reacted to the reports of the cleansing-episodes? (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, John 2: 14,15) The shops inside the Temple were called the Bazaars of Annas. He was notorious.

Jesus was brought to Annas. He touched Annas directly with the cleansing of the Temple. Annas wanted to be the first to confront Him.

The questioning before Annas was a mockery of justice. A death sentence cannot be imposed on a person’s own testimony. One cannot ask questions by which a prisoner incriminates himself. Jesus says: Don’t ask Me, ask those who heard Me. He was saying: Handle the evidence in a proper and legal way. Ask the witnesses, you have no right to ask Me.

One of the officers slapped Him. He was in effect telling Jesus not to instruct the high priest how to conduct the trial. Jesus confronted the soldier and asked if he had said anything illegal. If this was going to be a credible trial, get the witnesses.

Jesus knew he had no hope of justice. He was condemned before he was tried. He had to be eliminated, so that their lifestyle was not to be threatened. Who cares whether the Galilean preacher receives justice?

A simple web search gives much information on the Sanhedrin. It was an established court based in Jerusalem with strict guidelines on how to function. Most probably a trial like this should not have been conducted in the night. The nightly trial, executed by Annas and Caiaphas was a strategy to exclude the members who sympathized with the teachings of Jesus, like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Jesus was condemned and sent to Pilate on his own words. No witnesses could be found and the concocted witnesses could not agree – a flagrant injustice by the highest law of Judaism.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus is asked to openly confess that He is the Son of God:

“If You are the Christ, tell us.”

But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 

And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 

 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”

So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”

And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

In the court of Pilate, the Jewish elders ask Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus, accusing him of claiming to be the King of the Jews. Such a claim would be considered as subversive since it would challenge the authority of the Romans.

In all four Gospels the denial of Peter is described within the narrative of the nightly trial. We will leave that for next time.

 

132. Words of glory and truth.

[John17]

In the very beginning of the study of John we have marveled at the miracle of a word becoming flesh. If I may repeat myself: St Augustine said in everything he ever knew about the world, everything he read and regarded as worth studying, he had never heard of a word becoming a man. [Pebbles 84]

If a word can become flesh, we must think hard and deep about the power of a word. God spoke the world into being. Prophecy, Holy Spirit-inspired words, declares the works and mind of God, today as always in the past. Just think of the mighty words of the prophets and Psalms that stayed with us through so many centuries, still bringing peace and miraculous outcome to our lives.

Worship-words describe the character of God and call the presence of the almighty God into our atmosphere. When we speak God, we build up, encourage, calm down, heal and convey the power of the invisible to transform for good. When we speak the slander, jealousy, greed, guilt and pride of our flesh, we break down in our own lives as well as those of everybody around us.

Words spoken become agreements with the powers of the invisible world. Words of confession will heal our inner being. Words of forgiveness will free our thinking and those who have wronged us. Words of celebration will defeat our jealous hearts and become the prayers of gratitude for the great works of God in us and for us.

How we look determine our words. Our perspective can defeat us, before we even venture out for the day. Jesus talked about our eyes many, many times. Let me quote just one example to illustrate our perspective.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22,23)

It calls for great reflection on what we speak. Jesus said:

But those things which proceed out of the mouthcome from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:18-20)

Our vile words become agreements in the invisible world with everything bad and invite the destruction of darkness into our lives. On the other hand, agreements with the Word of God is a force for good and invite the Holy Spirit to work powerfully on our behalf to build up and restore.

In the light of this enlightened understanding about the power of words, hear the words your Jesus prayed for you.

Hear, precious Pebblepal, and live!

These verses are awesome. (John 17:9-19)

If we could ever grasp the full meaning of these words we will have a heavenly life on earth.

We are given to Jesus by God. The Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to come to Jesus. (John 6:37,44)

Through the disciples (including us), glory comes to Jesus. Our redeemed lives give Him glory. We are given a task, a commission. We lead the world back to God.

We are the instruments of God in action.

Does this not put your whole life in another perspective? Place your circumstances into heavenly perspective and “see” how God deals with it according to His plan and for His glorification.

Jesus offers complete joy even while He is warning them about the stark contrast that their lives will be to the world around them. It does not matter how fierce our struggle is, it is full of His joy.

Jesus claims that all that He has is his Father’s and all that his Father has, is His. He declares His oneness with the Father. Jesus is the incarnation of God Himself.

Jesus prays further for His disciples:

There is no escape from the world, but there is victory in every struggle. We do not bury ourselves in monasteries. We live our Christian life in the rough and tumble of life in the storm waters of evil. We do shut the door for prayer and meditation, but just to be strong to face the world.  We are not to withdraw, but to be God in action in the world. We do not get release from problems but get to solve them through Christ.

We do not abandon the world; we win it for Christ.

He prays for unity.

Division implies exclusivity. Unity is a decision. We cannot “feel” one. We are to be made one. We change our hearts to love unconditionally, to forgive and to include. We follow the lead of the Holy Spirit to discern the spirits, which could be demonic deception or discord.

The unity for which Jesus prayed is not administrative or organizational. It is a unity of personal relationship, love and a heart to heart conversation with Him – ongoing and inexhaustible that would impact our relationship with our fellow humans.

Churches as organized religion may differ as much as the variety of the people that God created. People are different and the differences and variety always amaze me. God’s creation – mankind – is always expanding and always more than can be understood in a single take. So is the church. Only love for God and each other can tear down the barriers of hostility between the denominations.

It is after all more human to be divided; more natural to be hostile. Our unity will prove God’s work in our hearts. True unity can only be supernatural and be explained supernaturally.

He prays for protection from attacks of evil.The Word, the Bible as we have it, spells out all the strategies of the devil. Our enemy is not creative and he comes cunningly with the same things over and over. Learn and know how to resist. Rely on the protection of this prayer.

He prays for consecration by truth.

Consecration (Greek=hagiazein) means separate or different:  to be set apart for a specific purpose, an appointment by God.

 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.(Jeremiah 1:5)

(See also Exodus 28:41 where Aaron’s sons are anointed)

It also means: to be equipped with the necessary qualities for the task.

Jesus will not leave us. He gives us everything we need to come into victory.

In John 17:20 – 26 the prayer progresses. He prays for Himself and the cross.

He prays for His disciples and for the distant future, the ages to come and all those who enter the Christian faith. This is US!

Jesus has complete faith and radiant certainty in the future. He conveys His unshaken confidence in His mission and His men. He knew they did not fully understand the full implication of their chosen path, but He knew His father would empower them for the task – and also all who come after them.

Jesus gives us God’s glory. WOW!

The cross was Jesus’ glory. It was His honour to suffer.  It was not punishment for sin. It is a great effort to bring glory into evil. When a surgeon saves by difficult surgery, his glory is so much bigger than a prescription in a consulting room.

Perfect obedience was Jesus’ glory. To do the will of God is our glory. Our will leads to sorrow and disaster. His will leads to victory.

Jesus’ glory was grounded in His special relationship with God the Father. It was clear to all. So should our glory shine from our relationship with God. Glory is a word with a fullness of meaning, difficult to express. It is the substantial or “heavy” honour, splendour, power, wealth, authority, magnificence, dignity, riches and excellency of God – an effort with words to describe the indescribable.

Jesus said that the disciples (us included) shall see His glory in heavenly places.

 …and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6,7)

 We share the Cross of suffering, but also share the glory of victory.

This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him,    We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,    We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,    He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,    He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11,12)

Our joy now is just a glimpse of heavenly joy when we see Him face to face.

 Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

This prayer was the words before the betrayal and crucifixion. Precious last words of the greatest of men.

Words of glory and truth – words to live by – words to change us forever.

 

131. The prayer of prayers.

[John 17]

We have come to the end of the long summaries of Jesus’ conversations with His disciples. In this chapter He prays for them. It is remarkable that John records this prayer in so much detail. It is clear that Jesus’ words made a huge impression on him and it was part of the cherished words of Jesus he so lovingly preserved.

We also know that the Bible was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and He quickened things in John to write about this Man he so loved. We trust God wholly for the Word. Holy Scripture is a revelation of who Jesus is and by Him we know the heart of the Almighty God as well as everything we need to know how to live a life of victory in Jesus here on earth.

[I refer again to the miracle of Scripture so extensively researched in Josh McDowell’s book: Evidence that demands a verdict.]

Back to John 17.

It is the prayer of all times, a prayer reaching over centuries to touch our hearts, encourage us, and inspire us. It is the man Jesus praying for us.

Could you pause for a moment and use your imagination to make this a reality? Think of Jesus praying for you. It is difficult to “make” a picture, but I am a visual person and need a “faith” picture. I think of Jesus as the lovely man I learnt to know in my children’s Bible from long ago. I often imagine Him sitting somewhere in my house. Right now I “see” Him looking up and saying to His father: Dad, I lift Ansophie up before your throne.Just writing it, is overwhelming.

Always KNOW that Jesus wants all men to be saved. He is praying for you!

who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

The climax of the life of Jesus was the cross.

History shows that many great men found glory in death. How and when they died showed the people their inner convictions.

There at the cross the centurion cried out in a dramatic moment of conviction. Jesus was a magnet to men in life but also in His very public death.

The Cross was the completion of His work on earth. He showed that there is NO LIMIT to the love of God.

He walked in full obedience and through the Cross obeyed His father.

The Cross was not the end. The resurrection was the full glorification of the Father. Man could do their worst and still Jesus triumphs.

The Cross was the way back into the glory of the Father.

Jesus talks about eternal life.

The Greek is aionios meaning not so much duration but quality. Only God has eternal life and therefore for us it can only mean that God gives us HIS life, God-life, to live like Him.

Knowing God is a goal right through the Old Testament.  Knowledge of God is the highest life possible.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live; (Amos 5:4)

To know God through intellectual knowledge is to know what God is like. It will make all the difference to life. The most primitive people believe in a collection of gods in every tree, river, mountain and rock. All these gods are hostile and brings fear to the people. They must appease and live carefully not to offend. Missionaries tell of the immense relief when they surrender to One God. God is not stern and cruel, but loving and kind. Jesus is the ultimate example of this.

To know means intimate knowledge and is used in a sexual context (Genesis 4:1). Knowledge between the husband and wife is the most intimate. They become one flesh. One flesh implies an intimacy of heart, mind and soul in which true love reigns. To know God is to have an intimate relationship with Him, not mere intellectual knowledge. It is only possible in Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has shown forth the Father’s name. (17: 6-8)

  1. A name is very important in the Old Testament and Jewish culture in the time of Jesus. The name contains the whole character of the person. Psalms 9:10 states that those who know God’s name will put their trust in Him. By His name they will know what God is like in His character and nature. (Psalms 20:7; 22:22)

My people shall know my Name. (Isaiah 52:6)

Jesus says that whoever saw Him, saw the Father (John 14:9).

  1. Another aspect of the name of God is that is was so sacred it was never used. Only the high priest going into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement, used the name of God – Yahweh. It was a name with no vowels in Hebrew and under it they wrote Adonai, so that the reader could talk about Adonai when he reads and not even say YHWH, which became Jehovah in English.

In the time of Jesus, God was so holy and so far away that ordinary people hardly talked about him. Jesus came and put the name of a sacred God on the lips of every person who could whisper a prayer to Him. He taught them to say our Father; actually it was even closer – calling God dad. It was unheard of. They never called God Father. To most people it was unthinkable, blasphemous and disrespectful.

But for those who accepted the teaching of Jesus, the unutterable became the beloved and powerful Father.

Jesus obeys God. Obedience is a natural consequence of following Jesus. Obedience is to be fully submitted to listening to His voice and following up in action.

The disciples were given to Jesus by God. He did not choose to call only those. He calls all, but only those who heed the call can enter into the special relationship.

Parents have dreams for their children and can do everything possible to enable them to have a wonderful life. In the end the child chooses. He can refuse and walk away. We can choose our destiny. We have free will. It is not forced upon us, but we all have the opportunity to choose God as a father for our lives.

In this prayer Jesus has confidence in the future. Nowhere is He gloomy or uncertain about the future. With the luxury of hindsight the church was off to a rocky start with severe persecution, and Jesus knew it.

Jesus had no doubt that the people He was praying for will carry His message no matter what.

He does not despise small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10) He had eleven men around Him after three years of ministry. Jesus knew His father and the fullness of His glory. He had no doubt that His mission was successful.

He puts His trust in men – it is almost unthinkable that a mission as great as the Christian church on earth was put in the hands of these fishermen.

What an encouragement!

Jesus was never daunted by human weakness and the evil of the world.

 

[This is a discussion of verses 1-8.]

130. A discussion about the future.

[John 16]

Anybody who reads my little pieces would know that I am fascinated by time. Past, present and future – oh how I had to study to express myself in English (not my mother tongue) with the intricacies of the past and future perfect, continuous tense in the past, present and future and the endless verb conjugation to be studied and memorized. So many words to express time past, time present and time ahead that we need to convey our chronicle. Rightly so. Time governs our lives, relentlessly, constantly without a blink of a change of pace. It is the rhythm of our existence, the beat of our days. It may feel cruelly slow in pain and fleetingly swift in joy, but scientifically firm and fixed throughout every day for centuries and millennia.

Growing up a Christian I was taught that the future belongs to God and that I cannot make claims about it in any way – again rightly so. In this tradition I respect the future as God’s territory, a time span for Him to direct. I hear the Word that says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little timeand then vanishes away.(James 4:13,14)

In Christian tradition there is a reverence for the future. We add the Latin DV (Deo Volenti), which means God willing, as a sign that we realize that the future is God’s territory and do not speak impertinently about it. It should, however, be added to our words about all time, as our past and present also belong to God! Serving a great God who stands outside time, we should recognize how brief our existence in this world is.

The future is uncertain. We control only our moment. It is only in this moment that we can make the wise decisions that will handle our past under the blood of Jesus and determine the future as a ” field of action for the promises of God” [Eugene Peterson]. What if our future outcome and victory can be guaranteed? This is the good news of the Gospel – it is!

Jesus tells of things beyond the present. He is already preparing the disciples for the time after the crucifixion. In Jewish thought there were two ages – the present age and the age to come.

The present was bad and under condemnation.

The age to come was the golden age of God.

In between the two ages was the Day of the Lord – a terrible day in which the world was shattered and destroyed to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and the dawn of the age to come.

Especially in the time between the Old and New Testament the prophecies of the Day of the Lord were rife and rough. They echoed the words of Isaiah 13:9:

Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate;
And He will destroy its sinners from it.

and Joel 2:1-2:

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the Lord is coming,for it is at hand:
A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.
A people come, great and strong,
The like of whom has never been;
Nor will there ever be any such after them,
Even for many successive generations.

Jesus promises a blessing on the ones who can endure the terrible days.

With the coming of the Messiah the trumpet has blown. The people great and strong are the church of Jesus, the invisible Kingdom of God on earth, the like of whom has never been.

Sorrow will turn to joy in a life filled with the Holy Spirit.  Faith endures to turn the world around.

Christian joy is independent of circumstances and changes. Worldly joy is attached to worldly things. Christian joy comes from Christ. Nothing in the world can take it away.

Our joy will be complete – lacking nothing with no regrets. It is perfect and to be found in the presence of God.

Pain is forgotten just as the pain at childbirth (16:21,22)

Jesus promises the fullness of knowledge (16:23). On earth there will always be unanswered questions and unsolved problems, but we walk by faith and not by sight. Full knowledge will bring new dimensions to our relationship with Christ. The door of heaven is open; therefore we van live with insight and understanding.

This fullness in relationship is only possible through Jesus. It is in His name that we ask and receive.

Jesus speaks in paroimia (Greek), which means it is obscured to the casual listener. It is veiled until revealed. It means that a statement demands more thought to become clear. The word is used for the parables of Jesus.

He says He is going to speak the truth unveiled. He tells them He comes from God and is going back to God. This is a tremendous claim. The cross is not the criminal’s death, which the world sees, but His way back to God.

The revelation to us is that through Jesus men can approach God directly because God loves them. Jesus changes the attitude of mankind to God. He reveals God’s heart and presents Him as a loving Father and not the angry God that the Old Testament prophets have portrayed. For this revelation Jesus died – to illustrate God’s love.

His work is now done. He comes from the Father and by the Cross He is going back. They are now the beloved of God since they are lovers of Christ.

The disciples surrender to everything Jesus said (16:29-33). They leap into faith of all the hard-to-understand-things. In verses 17-18 they are puzzled. In verse 19 Jesus answers the questions of their hearts without them asking them. This brings them to belief. He shows them the glory of God as well as the questions and doubts in their own hearts. He has full knowledge of God and the human heart.

Jesus is realistic. He knows the dark time ahead around His Cross and death. He knew how they will react and still loved them, even in their failure and fear.He also still trusted them with His message and church to come – how amazing is that!!

Their desertion will not rob them of their victory in life.

In this unique historic moment – forgiveness and trust are integrated and combined. Trust in Jesus and from Jesus after the guilt of failure.

Jesus knew He would be alone on the Cross. He trusted God to take Him through – not man.

Jesus forgives – even ahead of time. He knew His best friends would abandon Him. He knew their weakness and still loved them.

He has sympathy for them and gives them peace. He told them that He knows about their coming failure and that it is fine. They did not fall into despair when they realized their own failure. Jesus displays the miracle of divine pity on mankind.

Jesus knows how your sin would hurt you. Your sin cannot hurt Him. He is above it and He knows His father. He wants us to conquer our sin and never let sin keep us away from Him. The devil will attack with guilt and shame, but His forgiveness is guaranteed.

The gift of Jesus in these last hours is courage and conquest.

The disciples will be witnesses of this fact: The world at its worst will not defeat Jesus.

Do you hear the word of the Lord over your future?

Your failures, life’s tragedies, the worst of the worst will not alter your ultimate outcome in victory. Life at its absolute worst will not defeat you.

You are a child of the most high God!

 

 

 

129. Revelation of truth.

[John 16]

It might have happened to you too. Somebody would say: don’t worry, this is the better way and you would gasp in exasperation and confusion as to how on earth this could be better. Maybe it happens to children more often, when they just cannot grasp the full extent of circumstances and adult decisions. We are God’s children and we often don’t understand. Sometimes we say things to superficially explain things with empty words. Success would come because of luck, good fortune, “things” working out, the stars lining up. Pain and failure would be ascribed to bad luck, misfortune or cruel judgments on a person’s own inability to handle life or cope with demands.

I have often made the case for revelation knowledge. It is one of the central themes of my life and the goal of all my study and writing.

My first experience of God’s word becoming the “spoken” word, “hearing” in my inner being and being aware that God is speaking into my specific moment and immediate situation, came when I was just 14 years old. For a few years of my elementary school we lived on a remote farm. I went to the local school, but when finances dwindled and my parents had to move back to the city, I was in Grade 7 back into the school I left four years previously, towards the end of the academic year. It was clear that I was academically far behind my peers. It took me all of Grade 8 to try and catch up and by the end of Grade 9 I felt a little more confident. Exams were formal and strict.

I was really stressed on the evening before I wrote Latin and Maths with just a short break in between the two papers. At the time my mother was studying the Bible with desperation to “hear” from God in our very severe financial crisis. That evening I took my Bible and thought I would open in the middle and read a Psalm, any Psalm to calm me down. I opened to the book of Isaiah, which I didn’t even know existed and read the first verse that my eye fell on. It was the following:

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God,

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Slowly the deep realization established itself in my heart that this was God speaking to me. Today I know it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit that communicates the truth of the Word to the inner man. I was overjoyed. My stress and fear were answered and I was calm to study further and sleep well. I had great success in that exam, but I cannot even remember the details. What I do remember is my experience that God spoke into my situation. My situation was not important in the greater scheme of things, not even particularly in my life, but God answered the cry of a stressed schoolgirl. On this day, 44 years later, this incident is fresh in my mind, quickened by the Holy Spirit to write as a testimony to God’s love and His provision in our lives.

It is here in John 16 that I much later learned the teaching of Jesus on my experience. He discussed the role of the Holy Spirit when His physical presence leaves earth.

In their grief-stricken bewilderment after the crucifixion, the disciples remembered that Jesus said it is good that He goes away because the Holy Spirit would come. In the body He was confined to place and time. In the Spirit there is no limitation.He is with us always, just as He promised in Matthew 28:20.

We have the gift of uninterrupted fellowship.

Jesus gives a perfect summary of the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit convicts. The word is elegchein in Greek and it was used in the cross-examination of a witness.

Questioning somebody until a person admits his errors or acknowledge the facts in such a way as to shed light on the case, often happens in court when human legal experts have to establish facts and truth. The testimony of a witness will convict of weakness or strength of argument.

We have the perfect litigator in the Holy Spirit who knows every detail of our hearts and lives better than we ever could. He convicts in love to show our weaknesses and failures to our own self in order to cleanse, redeem and restore.

1) The Holy Spirit will convict of sin [amartias = to miss the mark, failure in goal] in the most loving way so that our conviction will lead to restoration with God.

Sin is not always clear. The Jews were convinced they were doing the right thing to kill Jesus. Later, touched in their hearts (Acts 2:37) they confessed. Only the Holy Spirit can convince people they are sinners.

2) The Holy Spirit convinces of righteousness [dikaiosunēs = condition acceptable to God, a state approved of God, integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting].

 Just like the centurion at the Cross (Matthew 27:54) in that moment came to the supernatural conclusion that Jesus was the Son of God, the truth of who Jesus is, is ministered to our hearts. Isn’t it amazing that the trust of the church is in a Jewish criminal executed so long ago? Belief in the resurrection is a work of the Holy Spirit.

3) The Holy Spirit helps us to judge with insight and understanding [kriseos, krisis=selecting and distinguishing to make a decision].  Our circumstances and life situations are complicated and not always clear. We need true wisdom to make the right decisions.

By the Cross evil is condemned and defeated for all eternity. The discernment of evil is a work of the Holy Spirit.

All these together are our salvation and liberty in Jesus. He is our Saviour and our punishment for sin was on Him.

What is truth? The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Truth,who reveals to us who Jesus is.

Revelation is a process – it is more and deeper for those who seek it out. We start out with the basics and then move on to more life-changing revelation.

All revelation has consequences.

Faith explores revelation.

In truth we will understand the full revelation of God also in the more complex passages of the Old Testament. The wiping out of heathens and idols is for the preservation of the faith, to be interpreted spiritually as the discernment of evil and the full liberation of our lives from any bondage.

God’s revelation is dynamic. God speaks, God works, God saves and blesses continually. Jesus is alive and is therefore the living truth.

Truth is a gift from God. It is not man’s discovery. We learn it slowly, but it is there and the source of it is God.

Revelation of truth is to reveal the significance of Jesus to us. Jesus is inexhaustible. We will never fully grasp it; we will never know Him in full. The more we become like Him the more we know Him.

He is the only person on the face of the earth that ever said I am truth. All the people who claim to be God or the Messiah have never made such a bold, all-inclusive statement, to be remembered and upheld by so many over such a great span of time.

Can we be still, open our hearts and receive from the Holy Spirit the deep conviction of who Jesus is?

 

 

128. Let go of the stuff!

[John 15]

Deeper into truth, closer to God, further into love, more of true life is the path of Kingdom kids. So much more of the unimaginable mystery in Christ to live and love His way, is heaven on earth. This is the joy unspeakable and a glorious, superior life of being grafted into the True Vine.

Within the struggle, stress, bother and buzz of making a living and getting ahead in life, we hear the wise words that rinse us like a gushing cool shower on a hot day.

Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
    Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
    in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.(Proverbs 3:3-6, The Message)

The older version is well known:

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

The word for direct in Hebrew is: yeyasher (transliteration), which means to straighten, to smooth, to make right.

This is so contrary to what people around us say in conversations, formal seminars, and meeting agendas, absolutely everywhere. You have to be smart enough to figure things out. You have to make it on your own.

God will direct our paths. His hand will go before us. What a relief! He never asks us to switch of our minds, thinking or any operating or executing skills that we have, to do what we need to do. He will partner and guide in a surrendered life in love and grace. It is the guarantee for success. It is the assuranceof a reputation of living well in the eyes of the people as well as God.

God calls out to us:  for joy – independent of circumstances,                                                                     (Nehemiah 8:10)

                                    for love – laying down His life and our                                                            trademark of love to one another.

To be a slave to God was a title of honour. Moses, Joshua, David and Paul all described themselves by this title.

Jesus comes with a new concept – even greater: you are friends.

Abraham was called a friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). God talked to Moses like a friend. (Exodus 33:11)

In Roman times there was a select group of “friends of the Emperor” who had access to the ruler at all times. He talked to them before he talked to the generals and government. It was the closest and most intimate circle.

Friends are invited into the presence to enjoy conversation. It is very different from being a slave.

A slave could not speak his mind to his master. Jesus calls us to be His partners in His work. Jesus shares His heart, which is the heart of God, with us, to become full partakers in His missionof living the law His love-kingdom on earth. A slave was a living tool.

We are His ambassadors. Just think of the tremendous risk He took. We are His representatives. Our fruit bearing is His advertisement in this world.

We are members of the family of God. Whatever we ask in prayer He is ready to answer. Our prayers are to be rooted in the Word of God.

Prayers of faith (James 5:15) are not merely routine rhymes with empty words. Our words are the root of our belief in God. (Hebrews 11:6)

We pray in the name of Jesus.  We cannot pray against Him. It is not a magic phrase. The test of your prayer is to measure your words to His character.

Seek first the Kingdom of God…(Matthew 6:33) and the “other things” will be added unto you. How often our focus is on the “other things” when the character of Jesus taking shape in us through prayer, will give us all we ever needed and more than we ever imagined.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! (Ephesians 3:20, The Message)

God is good – always. Our prayer for provision is always in His will. He knows best. It is at times hard to see and explain, but to God belongs the mystery. We carry His mysterious ways in us. It will always remind us that we cannot explain God. He is God. He is a good parent and He will not, like some earthly parents give a sports car to an irresponsible 15-year old, trying to show off without a driving license, for whom it might be fatal.

We live in contrast to the world. We can never be in harmony with the world. Our values and principles for living are in stark contrast. In the first century Christianity was punishable by death. In the words of the English poet Sir William Watson: the panting huddled flock whose crime was Christ.

What about today?

We have been warned. Jesus said we would be beaten and hassled. Today it happens, not only physically in some parts of the world, but also in words and deeds, when society is organized directly against God’s principles.

The Romans hated the Christians because they thought them to be disloyal. The empire was vast. The Romans didn’t know God and the Jews were not sharing. It is very understandable that the emperor should think he himself is god. Caesar-worship was a unifying factor throughout a diverse empire. The spirit of Rome was the goddess Roma, symbolized in the emperor. Rome brought justice, kept the various national rulers intact, dealt with pirates and robbers. It was widespread peace, the Pax Romana, and it made a difference to ordinary men’s lives.

Caesar worship began in Asia Minor. Nobody could stop the movement. The advantages as a unifying principle were clear. Once a year all non-Romans had to burn incense to the Emperor and declare Caesar is god. They got a certificate from the local magistrate or legal officer and could then go and worship anything they choose. This annual ritual was the root of the persecution of the Christians.

The Jews spread slanderous things about the Christians. Nero’s favourite actor and his adulterous empress, Poppaea, were Jews. They whispered in his ear against the new movement around Jesus.

Christians were accused of being:

  • insurrectionaries because of their denial of Caesar-worship
  • cannibals because of the doctrine of communion
  • immorality because of the weekly meal called agape. The people greeted each other with a kiss of peace.
  • incendiaries because they were looking to the second coming of the Lord. They foretold destruction with the help of the elements. Nero blamed them for the destruction of Rome by fire.
  • divided families because Christianity sometimes brought division.

Today we experience a vicious attack against our values and way of life. It is a very different approach. Over many centuries society have felt judgment from organized religion. Now everybody wants to reject and trample the loveless religion that ruled. The secular world suspects the difference and non-conformity of true Christianity and hates the unavoidable judgment that true love has built in. The rejection of love is judgment. It is a natural consequence of the rejection and not intentional of the person that lives a godly life.

We have to live in the courage to be different. We know the truth. We have to live it in love and win the world with love.

Knowledge brings responsibility (John 15:22-25). Jesus brought us God’s heart.  We have no excuse. We know what God is like. Why would we reject Him? Jesus showed us unconditional, divine love and grace.

Jesus exposed sin and provided the remedy for sin. Do we go to the doctor, get the diagnosis and then ignore the prescription?

Again – we are not alone. We do not need to do it on our own. We have the promise of the Father, the HELPER – the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26-27).

What a comfort! It is not our own efforts – it is surrender. It is the Holy Spirit who moves us to respond to Jesus.

Being a witness can only happen when we practice the fellowship and intimacywith Jesus that the Holy Spirit enables us to have. Thus we can say: this is true – I know it.

Spirit words communicate truth subconsciously.

 Our inner conviction is true faith. It comes from the response to Christ so that the miracle in the inner man takes place.

 Our testimony is the words we are speaking in truth. It is a privilege to bring people the good news. The world is waiting…

 

 

127. Sing to the vineyard.

[John 15]

Jesus is using the images and ideas, which were part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. Many of His stories find their symbolism in agriculture or the timing of the agricultural year. The seasons of sowing and harvesting are often the foundation of Kingdom principles, those wonderful gears of life that rotate in our favour. Over and over again in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel(Isaiah 5:1-7).

Yet I planted you a choice vine (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel (15:18and 19:10) also likens Israel to the vine.

Israel empties his vine; He brings forth fruit for himself(Hosea 10:1).

You have brought a vine out of Egypt (Psalms 80:8).

My favourite vine-verse is Isaiah 27:2,3:

In that day sing to her,
“A vineyard of red wine!
 I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.

The vine had become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine upon the front of the Holy Place. Many a great man had counted it an honour to give gold to mould a new bunch of grapes or even a new grape on to that vine.

Vines grew all over Palestine and still do. It needs attention to yield the best. They grow in terraces to provide clean soil. Sometimes they grow over the doors of the cottages. They need pruning to flourish. Young vines are not allowed to produce fruit for three years. They are cut back to develop strength and roots. After three years it is pruned in December and bears fruit in the summer. Branches that do not bear fruit are cut back as to not sap the strength of the plant. Jesus knew that the vine could not bear fruit if it were not pruned.

The wood of the vine was good for nothing. It was too soft to use in anything other than maybe a decorative basket. No vine wood was ever used for the Temple altars. The vine wood would be burnt to ashes.

Jesus declares Himself as the source of true life. Only by abiding in Him, fruit will be produced. The Jews were vines, but fruitless. They refused to listen, and became withered and useless. Christians are also fruitless when they practice religion in name only, without the power. They are traitors to the faith.

Paul said it straight out to Timothy:

…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!(2 Timothy 3:5)

If Christianity is not a full commitment, there is no power. Rather be nothing than a double-minded, faithless, powerless Christian. [Church of Laodicea – Revelation 3:15,16]

When you hear the word pruning, what is your reaction? Is it negative or positive?

Pruning a vine to perfection for maximum yield is a finely tuned job for an expert and experienced vine grower. Just to get an idea of complexity Pliny the Elder, the Roman friend of Emperor Vespasian who wrote an encyclopedia on which many later encyclopedias were based, on Natural History explains:

Thus there are two kinds of main branches; the shoot which comes out of the hard timber and promises wood for the next year is called a leafy shoot or else when it is above the scar [caused by tying the branch to the trellis] a fruit- bearing shoot, whereas the other kind of shoot that springs from a year-old branch is always a fruit-bearer. There is also left underneath the cross-bar a shoot called the keeper—this is a young branch, not longer than three buds, which will provide wood next year if the vine’s luxurious growth has used itself up—and another shoot next to it, the size of a wart, called the pilferer is also left, in case the keeper-shoot should fail.

In the Greek text the words used for “prune” in verse 2 and “clean” in verse 3 are from a related root.  In verse 2 this root is kathairei (the verb) and in verse 3 katharoi (the adjective).

According to the dictionary kathaireimeans to cleanse from which our word catharsis is taken implying relief and release.

It carries the meaning, amongst others, of the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

Sometimes it might be used in a medical sense as a process of purging for the sake of being made whole, clean, or pure.

Eugene Peterson’s The Message captures the idea and feel of the passage much more effectively.

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of methat doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken . . . “ (John 15:1-3 (The Message))

Correction and cleansing by the Father is always done in perfect love. It is impossible to be otherwise, even when it does not feel like it. Our Father is love and everything He does, comes from the source of love. Therefore it is for our relief that He cleans us. It is to release us from the filth and waste of a sinful life that He prunes the branches. It is the only way we can live a life of excellence.

 We are already clean by the message…

 …that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,(Ephesians 5:26)

We are being cleansed for our release of our obsession with riches, status and attitude. We are constantly molded by a godless society into a life of care and worry. The cutting away of earthly obsession and sin, is to release us into a life of liberty and freedom in Christ.

Abiding in Christ is the secret and the mystery. The words of Christ are our cleansing.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life, which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.(Galatians 2:20)

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.(Galatians 3:27)

Our identity is in Christ:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Every blessing is ours in Christ so that we are full to bear fruit.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,(Ephesians 1:3)

A child needs constant support and communication, to live home and be guided and nurtured. Children will wither on their own.

Life in Christ needs the same things. There is nothing if there is not contact, experience and commitment. We cannot grow up in two houses. It only brings confusion and rejection. Only when we choose the house of God and be an obedient child submitted to the direction and correction of our loving Father, we shall be whole and able to face the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

126. Oh the wonder of the breath of God.

[John 14]

First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.  (Genesis 1:1,2, The Message)

He always was and always will be – this third person in the Trinity. I have to admit that the doctrine of the Trinity always was a tricky one for me to understand fully. I think to this day I feel there is something I do not really grasp. My dear Sunday school teacher explained it one way. He said it is like an apple – peel, pulp and core. Together they are an apple and one calls it an apple but separately they are called apple peel, apple pulp and apple pips. So it is with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Together they are God.

In my mind they were still three separate entities. Slowly I learnt more. I realized that the Holy Spirit is the breath of God, especially in the teaching on Ezekiel 37. Just read the lovely words with me from The Message:

God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of lifeto you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you.You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

More pronounced in the next verses the breath of the bones came from God.

“Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’ So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive!They stood up on their feet, a huge army.

 It is clear – just like Genesis 2:7 says:

God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!

Then I read the beautiful Christmas story of Max Lucado: An Angel’s Story, which I could recommend as a reading for Christmas gatherings. It was only then that I realized the full impact of Jesus being born as God’s seed and is therefore God Himself on earth. We need the Hoy Spirit to teach us the meaning of Immanuel – God with us.

At this stage of my life, I believe God Himself showed us His heart and nature in the man Jesus. Jesus lived and breathed the words of God’s heart to bring life and be God amongst the people. God did not let His child die, He Himself died for us as Jesus was the manifestation, the incarnation of God Himself.  The meaning of the relationship of parent to child was an illustration of the unbreakable and irreversible relationship of a father to his son. You can never undo a child.

The Holy Spirit is God’s breath, the universal source of all life.

Here in John 14 Jesus revives a lost consciousness of the Spirit of God. He explains the role of the Holy Spirit in us. He promises a Helper.

We do not live our lives alone.  The Holy Spirit is in us. The Greek word is parakletos.  It is a word full of meaning nuances and almost impossible to describe accurately. It includes comforter, helper, favourable witness, expert advisor, encourager, always a help in time of need.

Comforter comes from the Latin fortis, which means to be brave. The Holy Spirit helps us to be brave. He enables us to cope with life and to emerge as a conqueror. In our difficult life and the very hard tasks before us, we have supernatural help.

Jesus will never leave us forlorn – without a parent for which the Greek word is the easily recognizableorphanos. One hears teaching on Christians suffering an orphan spirit and who do not know the full inheritance in Christ as privileged children of God.

When Jesus talks about His coming back, He means after His resurrection and their experience of His risen presence. Jesus makes us spiritually alive when His spirit lives in us. We have resurrection power in us.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

In the next passage Jesus touches on important principles. (14:18-24)

Love is the basis of everything.

Obedience is the proof of love.

Love and obedience keep us safe in the full revelation of who Jesus is. Jesus as the resurrected Christ was the ultimate revelation of the power of God.

Keep the commandments. No evil can ever be a recipient of Christ.

In the next passage He talks again about the Holy Spirit. (14:25-31)

The Holy Spirit teaches us all things. To the end of our days we should be learners to be taught deeper and deeper truths of God. We can never ever sit back and be complacent about our knowledge. The adventure continues…

The Holy Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words. Jesus is truth and we need His words. His words are the Bread of Life. We need the Holy Spirit to remind and interpret towards our life’s practicalities.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.(John 6:63)

Truth applied is wisdom.

The Holy Spirit helps us to live the truth. Our conduct is in submission to His power and direction.

The gift of Jesus is peace. Shalom is not just the absence of trouble. It means so much more. It means everything for the highest good of the person you are addressing with this fullest of good words. Jesus’ peace is peace of conquest, the victor’s peace not the victim’s unwilling submission to stay out of trouble. It is a peace that rules in our hearts independent of outward circumstances.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:6.7)

Our destination is to be released from worldly limitations and being restored to His glory. After death we have the hope of something better. We enter into the fullest blessing possible, through the power of the Holy Spirit. He breathes God’s breath in us to give us the life of truth.

Jesus knew the cross was the final battle. His death was conquest, not despair.

The cross was His vindication. Yes, it was humiliation and shame, but it would become the most powerful symbol of obedience and love in all of history. Jesus’ whole life climaxed in the cross. Everything He stood for was illustrated in His death and resurrection.

 

“Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. . . . Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

CS LEWIS

 

125. Legacy of love.

[John 14]

It is almost impossible to express the beauty, power and love of the words of Jesus in Chapters 14-17 of John. There is not enough time in the life of any man to fully grasp and live the legacy Jesus left us in these passages.

We know that this Gospel was not written as a report of the life of Jesus, but as an interpretation of His life, many years after His ministry on earth. John wrote these chapters as a summary of the teaching over a three year period, quickened by the Holy Spirit on the most pressing subjects for profound change and victory over any matter whatsoever that life could throw at you.

Reading it is like visiting the Master over and over again – sitting at the table enjoying a meal together; sitting at His feet, listening to His voice; eating freshly caught fish on the beach at an impromptu BBQ; lying beside the still waters on the green pastures; feasting at the table He laid out; relaxing in the grip of His goodness and mercy chasing our lives.

This is the first of the longer discourses between Jesus and His disciples recorded by John. It is the core principles of His relationship with His Father and with them. It is the amazing and gracious farewell words of a Man about to die. He knew their world was about to collapse.

There is only one thing to do when life happens: trust God above all else. There comes a time when we have to believe what we cannot prove and to accept what we cannot understand.

If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that that purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God. (Psalms 27:13,14, The Message)

Close your eyes. Your prophetic word for now is:

 Let not your heart be troubled.

Jesus says: Believe in God, believe in Me. Jesus is the proof that God will give us everything.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Mansions are dwelling places, monai  in Greek.

Simply and beautifully it means there is room for all. It doesn’t matter how over-crowded earth may be, heaven is vast and will never be exhausted. You will never be shut out.

Jesus is honest – “if not, I would have told you so“. These are reliable words for all circumstances at all times.There are no false pretences. Jesus would say so and all the answers we ever need are in the words He said. He told them to be uncomfortable, when He discusses the cost of discipleship (Luke 9:57-62). He told them of persecution, hatred and punishment (Matthew 10:16-22). He told them about their cross to carry (Matthew 16:24).

He told them to expect glory and pain and challenged them into greatness.

Jesus is going to prepare a place. He opens up the way. He is the forerunner (Hebrews 6:20).

He speaks of His ultimate triumph – He is coming again. History is going somewhere. It has a climax.

Heaven is where Jesus is. It is a mystery but He is there and would welcome us – no fear, no troubled hearts.

Thomas questions. He does not understand the prediction of Jesus going away. The questions of man provoke deep and wonderful answers. Never be afraid to ask God. He is the great teacher. He will open His heart to you. Ask and it shall be given– He promised.

When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.” CS LEWIS

No one who seeks will not find more than he ever expected.

As the answer to Thomas’ question, Jesus makes another (one of seven in John)  I AM – declaration. He is all we need. He explains it in the three claims He makes here:

He is the WAY. He is the fulfillment of all the precepts of old. He walks in the ways of God (Deuteronomy 5:32,33). He does not turn aside from the way of God (Deuteronomy 31:29). God promises His voice to guide and direct: This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21). There is a Highway of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8).

Our prayer is with the Psalmist: Teach me your way O Lord. (Psalm 27:11)

He is the TRUTH as is echoed in the Psalms:

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.(86:11)

For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.(26:3)

I have chosen the way of truth;
Your judgments I have laid before me.(119:30)

A man’s character speaks more importantly than anything else. Moral truth cannot be conveyed in words only. Jesus is the perfect one. He is the embodiment of truth.

Truth is defined as: fidelity to an original or to a standard, sincerity in action, character, and utterance, the body of real things, events, and facts.There is after all only One who ever, in the history of mankind said: I am the truth. [Pebbles 114]

He is the LIFE.Love brought real life. Over centuries they were searching for the real thing. Now they have found it. He is the way to God therefore He brings true life.

For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,(Proverbs 6:23)

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.(Psalms 16:11)

John 14:7-11: We see God in Jesus

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

Truly amazing words to say. God is invisible. No man has seen God. The difference and the distance between man and God are just too vast. Here Jesus says simply that in Him they can see the Father. He is God on earth, God amongst the people, God in our homes, God amongst the sick and hurting; God in our feasts and successes.

God came down to be a man to fully identify with every possible struggle we might have. He knows the everyday.

IMAGINE: Jesus as a man in your everyday.

He knows our strife and fight with evil. God knows our pain. Love brings pain and He bears the scars of His love.

God on the Cross. There is nothing like it in all the world. No other religion has a god of love and sacrifice. It is easy to imagine a God of judgment and punishment. No one could ever dream of a God upon a cross to give His own life for love.

Jesus is tested by His words and His deeds.He said to John’s disciples to tell of His deeds (Matthew 11:1-6) He makes bad men good. Redemption is still the greatest miracle.

 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than thesehe will do, because I go to My Father. 

Greater works are almost unthinkable. Jesus was a miracle worker. He performed miracles in everyday life. Today we know God is the source of all healing – even that of medical science. Everything becomes better and better with the calling of science and technology to make life better. Every discovery and every building block in the improvement of life are under His control for our benefit.In all that we find the devil in everything trying to spoil and manipulate and we resist on every front.

We are part of the “making better” army of everybody who strives to enhance life and improve earth.

We are to win the world for Christ by our everyday lives, through the miracles we live, expect and testify to. The Christians went out into the Roman Empire and beyond, not Jesus Himself.

Prayer in His name

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

Every prayer will be answered. The qualification is to pray in His name. We should pray in full accordance with the Name of Jesus – that is in agreement with all that He is. His name is His life and character.

In Jesus name is not a magic wand.

It is the life source of greater works.

 

124. Bewitched to betray.

[John 13]

We have talked about Judas before. I have thought about him many times, maybe even more than about any of the other disciples. I have often wondered how it must have felt to know Jesus and experience His defiance of church and community. There is no doubt that Judas was very impressed with his friend Jesus and visualized the realization of Israel’s dream – restored rule and greatness amongst the nations.

Judas was fixated with this vision. Jesus gave him responsibility for the management of the money and there are indications that he was not a transparent modern financial administrator. He lived and walked with Jesus over a period of three years and saw many miracles. He chose his time to act, without listening to the words and discerning the times. He proceeded to set his plan in action without understanding the singularly unique point in time in the history of all mankind, the Jews included.

To understand the actions of Judas it is enlightening to go back to one of the conversations of Jesus with His disciples.

(Matthew 16:13-20)

Jesus asks an easy question: Who do the people say I am?The disciples answer: Elijah, Moses, a prophet, John the Baptist etc. That was the easy answer.

Suddenly Jesus turns around and makes it personal.

 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Trust the ever audacious Peter to blurt it out.

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This inspirational, Holy Spirit-infused answer prompts Jesus to speak an everlasting blessing upon Peter, that echoes throughout the church today.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 

 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This is the revelation-knowledge that we desire from God. Not the things that flesh and blood reveals. We want to speak what the Father in heaven reveals to us.

He pronounces the words of Peter as the rock on which the church will be built. Note, it is not the man Peter, but his revelation that is the rock on which the church is built. The church of Jesus is not built upon a man; it is built on the revelation of who Jesus is.

 The revelation of Jesus as the son of the living God is the rock on which the church is built.

Remember this rhema-word (the spoken word of God into a man’s heart) of Peter when we discuss Judas at the meal where Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.

Judas acts normal (John 13:21-30). If the other disciples might have grasped the full implication of the situation, they would have prevented him to go ahead.

John was closer to Jesus to ask Him who it was that Jesus indicated would betray Him. John calls himself the beloved disciple. He knew how much Jesus loved him. It was spiritual revelation knowledge of the love of God. Jesus did not love him more than the others. John was just very aware of the love of Jesus.

On the host’s left was the place for the guest of honour and that place was reserved for Judas. It was yet another appeal from Jesus to Judas to reconsider.

To offer the guest something from the meal was a special invitation to conversation. The host was saying, this is especially for you  – let’s talk. Jesus offered it to Judas. (Compare Ruth 2:14 – Boaz invites Ruth to dip her morsel into the wine)

Again and again the appeal came. The darkness and own agenda in Judas’ heart won him over.

Then Jesus admitted to the process of how things will play out and said to him – go and do what you need to do. Still the disciples did not catch on. They thought Jesus might send him out to prepare for the Passover and give to the poor, as was the custom at the time.

When Judas received the morsel from Jesus (an invitation to communicate) the devil entered him. He was so set on his own plan that he could not respond to Jesus’ many appeals.

John mentions that when Judas went out it was night. It is a very symbolic indication of his dark deed.Deeds of darkness take place in the dark. Leaving the presence of Jesus is darkness. Leaving Christ to follow your own plans is your soul’s night.

This is the deep disparity between Peter and Judas. Consider their roles in the dark hours of the trial of Jesus.

Judas was a zealot. He was part of a political party that aimed to overthrow the Romans by force. He walked with Jesus for three years and many times witnessed the anger of the Jewish leaders flare up against Him to the point of stoning and violence. Many times the Gospels state that Jesus just walked away. To Judas this was a miracle. Maybe if he forced the hand of the authorities against Jesus, Jesus might overthrow the Romans in a miracle-like way. Without even giving a second thought to the warnings of Jesus that He was on a collision course with the rulers and will be put to death and rise again (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; 10:33), Judas set his own plan in motion, “using” Jesus for his own goals.

He received the 30 shekels of silver (the price of a slave on the market at the time) from the High Priest and led the soldiers to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Very soon he saw that things were not going according to plan. He witnessed Jesus’ peaceful surrender to the soldiers to be led away to the house of the High Priest. Later that night Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, then to Herod and back to Pilate. Judas panicked. He saw that the whole thing was going wrong. He stumbled back to the leaders and uttered the words:

I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (Matthew 27:4)

To the very end Judas did not realize that he was a player in the life of the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, the one man the whole world was waiting for. He died a self-inflicted death alone in utter darkness.

As soon as Judas leaves the table, Jesus speaks from His heart to His loyal friends. He pours out His mission to them. He wills them to look out for His glorification to strengthen them through the dark days of the crucifixion.

The glory of the Cross is a certainty. Obedience to God is foremost. Glory comes through obedience. Trust is the foundation of obedience.

God is present in the utmost tragedy and “wrong” turn of events. God is being humiliated to be triumphant and take all those who are obedient with Him. Still, Jesus went to the cross alone.

His farewell command is to love one another.

 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In the light of the events at the supper – the prideful position arguments and Judas’ refusal to yield to Jesus, it is over all important that the farewell command is LOVE.

Jesus loved his disciples selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly (they were human) and forgivingly. There is no doubt that also Judas’ would have been forgiven had he asked.

Enduring love can only survive in an atmosphere of selflessness, sacrifice, understanding and forgiveness.

The last words of the chapter are all about Peter.

Judas betrayed, Peter denied – what is the difference?

Judas acted in cold blood, planned and deliberate. Peter was impulsive and weak on the spot and afterwards in a terrible state self-reproach and humiliation.

There is a difference between planned sin and a moment of weakness.

Jesus knew Peter’s weaknesses. He was impulsive, speaking his heart before thinking. Jesus also knew the strength of his loyalty.

Jesus loved Peter and knew Peter loved Him. He knew He would fail, but his failure was not the defining feature in Peter’s future, just as our failures do not determine our future. His love for Jesus defined him and his denial was a moment of weakness.

In the hour of Peter’s deepest humiliation and failure, his revelation knowledge of who Jesus truly is, saved him. He found his way back to his brothers and was present behind the closed doors, sharing their fear, when the shockingly wonderful news of the resurrection came. Jesus specially mentioned Peter to Mary, to make sure he gets the news.

Jesus knew what Peter would become. He knew that one day he would be brave enough to follow Him even unto death.

Jesus sees what nobody can see, what He is doing in our lives to make us what no one could ever imagine.