109. And you? What do you have to say?

Talk is cheap, says the old saying. I know it refers to promises made in words and not kept in deeds. For me, it also implies the gossipy chatter about something or someone in the public domain; the safe talk of anonymity that could never commit any person to an opinion that might be quoted or published. Simply put, gossiping about someone famous.

Shakespeare was first to call a person a gossip, describing a person who delights in idle talk; also called a newsmonger or tattler. Very soon the word came to mean the talk about others as news in a small community almost always involved other people. Going so much further back than the times of Shakespeare, one can just imagine the talk in Judea. Maybe news travelled along the tell-a-woman-network, before the telegram or telephone and long before our cable news networks and smart phones with information overload today. The tell-a-woman-network was one of my dad’s favourite jokes.

Whatever we call the chatter, the babble, the prattle of people – it was alive and well in the first century and one of the most important news sources. No wonder Jesus was literally the “talk of the town”. There was just no escaping the lengthy conversations as well as the shorter “have you heard”-versions of any move He made.

People and their opinions were even more so during the times of Festivals. The Festival of the Tabernacles, mentioned here in John 7 took place at the end of September, beginning October, one of the three Fall festivals. Every adult male within a radius of 15 miles of Jerusalem was under obligation to go and all devout Jews from all over. The festival lasted eight days. Jesus’ brothers wanted to convince Him to go, but He was not doing anything He did not see fit for the moment.

He talks about “My time”. There are other places in John where he talks about time and uses the word ōra, which means God’s designated time. (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27). Such a time was not moveable or avoidable. Here He uses kairos, which means the opportune time, the best time, the fullness of time. He is saying this is not the time, which will give Him the best opportunity for what needs to be done.

So much of life is measured in time. It is luxury to have time off – literally. It gives us a few hours or days for relaxation. Our lives are truly “wound up” in time like old-fashioned clocks and “winding down” is what relax really means. We decide about time. Days are marked on the calendar for holiday, for birthdays, for weddings and other special occasions. That is our chronos time, countable time.

Jesus decides about His time on a much deeper level. His calling and ministry determines when He does something. He does not mark it on an earthly calendar. He lives according to God’s calendar – the best time (ōra). When God’s timing determines the outcome, it is in the fullness of time – kairos time.

Jesus goes to Jerusalem in His own time. He diligently attended the Festivals. He knew that everyone of them would be fulfilled in His life, death, resurrection and second coming. He went privately, avoiding public scrutiny by arriving late. By choosing His time and He will not be pressurized into anything He does not feel works the best for His mission.

This is important for our dedicated and full trusting relationship with our loving Father.

  • It is impossible to force the hand of Jesus. His disciples wanted Him to show what He can do in the greater Jerusalem. Jesus does not win people’s approval, but the people themselves. Jesus works God’s way.

 

  • It is impossible to treat Jesus with indifference. His brothers were in tune with the world and did not find it uncomfortable. Jesus’ life was a condemnation of the world and His presence would make a big difference in the ordinary ways of things.

In the next verses (7:10-13) various reactions and responses to Jesus are recorded.

  1. His brothers treat Him with tolerant contempt, almost mocking Him.

 

  1. The sheer hatred of the Pharisees and priests shows. Jesus eposes the rivalry between them. They are so desperate to unite against Jesus, they suddenly stand together. They loved their own systems and hated anything that could diminish their standing in society. The Sadducees were political. All the priests were Sadducees. They did not observe the Pharisaic rules. They collaborated with the Romans and lived very luxuriously. Their interests were much more important than God.

 

  1. The deep desire to eliminate Jesus (John 7:30,32) develops within the various groups. Every person can either submit or destroy. Christ is higher than anything else. Neutrality is not possible.

 

  1. An arrogant contempt for His teaching is expressed. Jesus had no right to lay down the law. He did not know the culture, no training in the rabbinic schools. They were academic snobs. We have to remember how many of the great poets, artists, writers and evangelists had no training at all. We never look down on training and studies, neither elevates it to superiority to save and redeem. It is not always the key.

 

  1. The reaction of the crowd is mixed. Some show interest (7:11) and some initiate discussion (7:12).

To argue the good and bad of a matter can shape your thoughts. Could a person progress from discussing to knowing? Religion can often be a matter of argument. There is an important difference between gossip and discussion.

What is gossip? Is it always negative? Maybe just that change of tone in the voice could make the tale your telling a lie. Do we always convey the words of others truthfully in the same spirit it was said? Difficult!

We should stay away from idle talk says Timothy (1:6) and Titus (1:10) and categorize the idle talkers with the deceivers.

Not everything we say about other people is necessarily bad. I have often complimented someone knowing that it will be repeated to that person. It was my way of showing appreciation for someone. Words could be so wonderful and encouraging, building up instead of breaking down. Please read James 3.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is on talking about the Lord and the magnificent consequences of “good gossip”. A wonderful action by the Scribe of Heaven when the Lord listened in to a “good gossip” – for sure not idle talk, which is defined as foolish and irrelevant talk.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name. (Malachi 3:16, also 17,18)

Let us go back to John 7 and look at the outcome of the discussion and the verdict. Some said:

  1. He is a good man (7:12). He was so much more than that.

 

  1. He is a prophet (7:40). A prophet says: God says. Jesus says: I say. Jesus was not acting in delegated authority. He was indeed God Himself.

 

  1. He is a deluded madman (7:20). He was either the only sane person or mad. He chose a cross over power. He was a suffering servant instead of a conquering king. He turned the world’s standards upside down. He brought supreme sanity into a mad world.

 

  1. He was a seducer. He was leading people away from true religion. He was accused of every crime against the religion of the day: Sabbath-breaker, glutton and drunkard, having disreputable friends and destroying orthodoxy.

 

  1. He was a man of courage (7:26). He defied convention and was different. He had the physical courage to bear pain. He had the courage to stay the course when people abandoned Him. When He entered Jerusalem triumphantly, He knew He was entering the lion’s den. He feared God so much; he never feared the face of any man.

 

  1. He had a most dynamic personality (7:46). He went into His arrest empty-handed. Power flowed from Him. His arresting contingent was more bewildered.

 

  1. He was Christ – the anointed One. It is a fact – plain and simple.

 

There were other reactions as well:

  1. The crowds reacted in fear (7:13). The word used for talking is literally “murmuring”. It was muttering, jumbled speech just like the grumbling of Israel in the desert. We should not be afraid to speak out.

 

  1. A certain number of the crowd believed (7:31). They could not deny the evidence. They overcame the prejudice and fear.

 

  1. Nicodemus defended Jesus (7:50). He was a lone voice. If we stand up for Jesus it is for our own strength, not for Him. God does not need us as His vindication. Our own testimonies as well as those of others strengthen us. When we talk about the Lord, our own spirit and soul benefit.

 

The words of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things;
For my mouth will speak truth;
Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness;

Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.

 

Pray with me the words of the Psalmist (19:14):

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

 

 

 

 

 

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108. Do you believe in fairytales?

We are inundated with fantasy these days. Books and movies created a new and vibrant wave of the genre in literature defined as:

the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.

There are so many titles to name. Older ones like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, newer ones like Harry Potter and all sorts of dragon stories are all prominent in the libraries of children and adults alike. Critics are rife. Do we so desperately need to escape reality that we need the impossible to relieve our minds of the struggle of life? We are, after all, the post-modern society, bathed in the actual, the factual, the authentic and the scientific validity of the real. We do not give ourselves over to the childish belief in some murky product of someone’s imagination.

Do we really need orcs to visualize the face and agenda of evil and destruction? Do we rely on an army of fawns to encourage in battle? Did you not breathe an audible sigh of relief when the eagles saved Frodo and Sam in the overwhelming hordes of Mordor?

I want to believe in the eagles that come when the battle looks grim. I want al the amazing characteristics of an eagle at my disposal. I want to BE an eagle. Yeah, I declare I AM an eagle. I can, because I believe absolutely every symbol and powerful promise of the words of THE Word.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles…
(Isaiah 40:31)

The author of Narnia said this:

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance, which has been hidden by “the veil of familiarity”. The child enjoys his gold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.

(CS Lewis – On stories) [My emphasis]

The crowd demands a sign. They want to see the impossible, the improbable. They know in their own effort to hold on to hope, that their Messiah should be able to do the unattainable.

Jesus claims He is the Messiah. (John 6:30-40)

Now He has to prove it.

The wonder of their experience in the feeding of the crowd, made them think of the manna in the desert, which was regarded as the bread of God. The Messiah would bring that again. They did not regard the bread of the feeding as heavenly. The manna that was hidden by Jeremiah, had to be produced. They wanted heavenly bread, not the miracle coming from earthly things.

Jesus reminded them that the manna was not from Moses, but from God. The manna was the symbol of the bread of God. He was the real bread of God that will satisfy their inner hunger. Physical hunger is superficial.

The bread of life sustains life. Jesus as the Bread of Life gives so much more than physical life. Real life is a relationship with God and it is only possible through Jesus. Without Jesus there is no life, even if you have bread to eat every day. He is the essential food – the Bread that gives true life.

Jesus invites us to see Him in the Scriptures, then come to Him, as He is accessible, then believe in Him and submit to Him, to share the life that He promises, so that we are liberated to find God. God begins the whole process to draw us through the Holy Spirit.

True life brings true satisfaction. Deep soul hunger is satisfied in this life. More than life on this earth we are safe in death. We have everlasting life, God-life.

Do we recognize God’s message in an envelope we do not like? (6:41-51)

We cling desperately to our own private arguments, our private prejudices and private goals for our private victory in life. Holding on to our own ideas is a sure path of defeat.

We listen without learning, in criticism and resentment, our superiority, indifference and self-importance blind us to truth.

God draws us. The word used is helkuein, which means to draw with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3). The word implies resistance. The same word is used to draw a heavy-laden fish net at shore, the drawing of a sword (John 18:10), and Paul and Silas drawn before the magistrate (Acts 16:19).

If you cannot enter into the promised land you will wander in the wilderness. If you fear the giants and pagan nations of the promised land, you will have no part in the promise.

The people were hearing familiar things (6:51-59)

In the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice, part of the flesh was given to the priests and part to the worshipper for a feast. At the feast the god himself was invited as a guest. Even the pagans believed that the god entered the meat and they were literally eating the god. The meal left them god-filled to have the dynamic vitality of the god.

The mystery religions of the first century had the story of a god who suffered, died and rose again. It was often shown in a passion play and the believer had to learn from it so that the identity of the god could be taken on. He had to identify with life and death and rebirth. When he and the god became one, he was safe from death.

Ancient people dreamed of becoming one with a god. They were longing for it. Their eating and drinking in religious ritual symbolized true union. They understood the language. John is interpreting the words of Jesus with the deep inner results that the Holy Spirit intended.

The flesh of Jesus was the mind of God taking human shape. Accepting Jesus was to become one with God.

Blood is life. Without blood there is no life. The Jews believed the blood belonged to God. They could not eat the blood of an animal. (Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 15:23)

Jesus remains external until we make Him part of us. We must feed our hearts and minds and souls on Him until we are filled with the life of God.

Here is the true teaching of the Lord’s supper. Not only the bread and wine, but also every meal where we sit and enjoy the humblest of food, we become part of God who provides it. God is not limited to church-life. He is all life. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper is expanded to include our entire being and existence, everywhere we go and with everyone we meet.

Some found it difficult to believe. It presented as an intellectual stumbling block. (6:59-65)

At the heart of a religion there must be mystery, for the simple reason that at that heart there is God. In the nature of things man cannot ever fully understand God. Any honest thinker will accept that there must be mystery. [William Barclay – Daily Study Bible]

There must be surrender to accept Him as final authority. It is the acceptance of a mystery revealed in Jesus.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Jesus Himself said:

And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God… (Mark 4:11)

Paul revels in the mystery of Jesus. How beautiful he describes it in Ephesians (1:9 and most of the third chapter). In Colossians he continues to develop this theme. (Colossians 1:26,27; 4:3)

…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, (Colossians 2:2)

The proof for this mystery is the Resurrection and the Ascension.

The power to believe comes from the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit comes the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God. Human life is only worth it, if lived with a heavenly perspective. Think of eating, drinking, sport, work, business, even love. It is all trivial without the Source.

My WORDS, says Jesus are Spirit and life. (6:63)

Jesus was aware of the resistance and rejection.

Even here in this chapter of John we sense the beginning of the end (6:66-71). Jesus predicts the actions of Judas and the coming of the Cross.

The crowds are worked up; great things are happening; many are baptized (John 4:1-3). The tongues are active all over the land – Jerusalem, Samaria, Galilee.

Now, some are drifting away. They saw where this is heading. They knew He was on a collision course with the authorities. Better to stay out of trouble and not collide with the iron fist of the Romans.

They are the fair-weather followers. A cross is to be avoided at any cost. They are challenged.

They have come to get something, but did not reckon it could be the cross.

Years can be cruel, suffering lasts longer than expected. Dreams die, enthusiasm withers, loyalty suffers. We become small and bitter.

Only the love of Jesus can make us expand with honour as was originally intended.

Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;

(Isaiah 43:4)