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?

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

123. Washing the world off.

[John 13]

 “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” 

(Andrew Murray)

 

So often Christian principles and teaching contrast sharply with secular standards for advancement in life. Self-promotion, self-confidence and self-articulation applied with skillful boldness, are crucial for the fight to press forward. Goal setting is all-important, they say.

The idea of servant leadership has been analyzed extensively, to be used cunningly and overtly for the same advancement of self, as any arrogant, defiant and big mouth attitude of so called “strong” leadership could ever be. Servanthood can be faked. The attitude can be learnt without the heart of humility and love.

On the other hand, servant leadership with the love and servant-heart humility, the real thing, the original concept we learn in John 13, is a powerful life-changing act of greatness. It is refreshingly void of an earthly sense of achievement. It is a pouring out of self into a conscious response to provide comfort and show humble, authentic focus on another person.

It is an ancient exercise in the very modern buzzword:  mindfulness.

 To kneel down and wash somebody’s feet is the indisputable act of being in the moment.

Jesus knew the cross was near, but He also knew His glorification and victory were near. He acted in supreme humility with no pride.

To wash the feet of people attending a meal was a menial task for a slave. Feet were usually very dirty. They walked the dusty roads with sandals. At the door of most buildings were big pots for washing and a servant, mostly a slave with a towel, ready to wash the feet of anybody entering.

Jesus was near to God. That brought Him even closer to men. He performed a task that His disciples would not dream of doing. They were caught up in culture. Society dictated what is to be done, by whom and how.

Jesus was close to suffering and poverty throughout His ministry on earth. Proximity to the suffering and poverty of others brings us closer to humanity where we reflect His life, light and love (the theme of this Gospel).

He also washed the feet of Judas. It showed His love and forgiveness even while knowing he planned the betrayal.

The scene at this occasion, which might or might not be the Last Supper, was filled with competitive pride.  Maybe no one would have accepted the duty of feet washing. Jesus did that which none were prepared to do as an example of how we ought to behave towards one another.

So often in churches trouble arises over positions or the honour that goes with the office. This is a lesson in the greatness of service without any vision of position.

[In the British Army the ordinary troops eat before the officers when they are out on the battlefield]

The scene set by Jesus in this room with His closest friends is a dramatic and unforgettable lesson in humility.

Humility is counter-intuitive living. I can really recommend the book by John Dickson called Humilitas as well as Andrew Murray’s book on Humility – the Beauty of Holiness.  It is powerful and to the point analyses of the principle and the misconceptions of weakness associated with a worldly view.

Humility is the road to greatness and fulfilled content living. Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. Here is how Andrew Murray says it:

“Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.” 

It was not customary for the host to wash the feet of guests. You either did it yourself or a slave did it. Jesus is comfortable in ‘breaking the laws of custom’. He did it without flinching on quite a few occasions. (Jewish Sabbath (Mark 2:23-26); the Jewish fasts (Mark 2:18-22); the Jewish cleansings (Mark 7:1-20)).

Humility is a virtue in the Christian life (Luke 22:27; compare Matthew 5:523:11,12). The Greek philosophers mostly shunned humility and meekness as weak traits for good living.

Peter’s remark to be part of Jesus as a whole comes in the shock of what Jesus is doing. He wants this scene to be different from the well-known picture of a slave washing the feet, which they saw daily.

He wants to change the menial to something more. Jesus does not allow it. Peter wants a special touch from the Master.

Jesus’ remark on those who have been bathed refers to baptism. Baptism as the seal on a new life after rebirth brings us into the Kingdom. It is not repeated. It does not happen every time we approach God. We just need a washing of our feet, cleaning off the dust and grime of the paths we have to walk in the brokenness of this world each day.

Before the feast the people bathed as they obeyed the cleansing instructions of the law of Moses. When they arrived only the feet washing was necessary. Feet washing were part of the entrance to the house. If Peter were too proud to accept the washing, he would miss out on the touch of the Master.

Pride shuts you out, makes you to miss out, and makes you blind for provision and the small miracles in life.

We should accept the way Jesus chooses to make us part of Him and in so doing receive God.

Judas’ betrayal was foremost in Jesus’ mind. He suffered because He knew what was coming. (Psalm 41:9; 55:12-14)

Betrayal is an important theme here as it is the opposite of love and loyalty (2 Samuel 9:7,13).  By washing the feet of Judas, Jesus wanted to communicate that the occasion was more profound than Judas realized. Judas was so set on his own goals to use Jesus in a confrontation with the authorities and force His hand for his own goal of getting rid of Roman rule, that he completely missed the message in the action.

Betrayal is often committed by the one who eats bread at your table.

It is Jesus’ last appeal to Judas.

There is often tragedy in the purpose of God and here it is accepted by Jesus because of Scripture. Redeeming the world cost the broken heart of God. Jesus was not killed – He chose to die. So many times we have to look back for understanding. Things are not so clear in the moment.

At this juncture the bitterness of disloyalty played out in the same moment as the glory of unfailing allegiance. All the faithful disciples became witnesses to the greatest message and man of all time and history.

We also need a washing to enter the house. The house is symbolic of the presence of God. The house that night was where Jesus was and He welcomed them to a meal with Him at the table with this most extraordinary deed. Could we submit to His methods? We might be shocked like Peter and try to reason it into something else.

Let us come with a humble heart and pray: Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven and then enter into the heaven of His presence.

 

 

122. Seeking a saviour.

[John12]

Do we really know what darkness is? When there is no hope of intervention or outcome in any way. I wonder whether our modern western world, in which Christianity and the doctrine of an almighty God is such an integral part of our culture that it is “to be had” even if a person does not believe, begin to understand the confusion of many gods and the bewilderment of mythological beliefs. There is profound uncertainty when we think about the deeper things in life. What is life? What is love? What is morality? What is influence? The more perplex thoughts are into the mysticism. How is it supposed to be? Is there perfection out there where we don’t know? How can we attain it?

The Greeks were good at thinking. Their philosophers of centuries before Jesus’ life on earth are honoured to this day. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are well known names in history. Plato in particular wrote about the unseen world as perfection to be attained through death.

It is in this atmosphere that John writes. As we have seen in the first chapter of the Gospel, John addresses the Plato question with his explanation of Jesus as logos. [Pebbles 83]

Here in John 12:20-26 the Greeks ask about Jesus. At this stage of his life, writing the Gospel, John lives in Ephesus and writes with the Greeks in mind. He records this incident in particular. The Greeks were ardent travelers of the time. They were all over the world. They traveled for trade and commerce, for philosophy, for new ideas – they were the ancient world’s most notable tourists.

The Greeks always sought truth. They checked out religions all over. Their seeking minds would enquire after Jesus.

Again Andrew brings them to Jesus. Maybe they spoke to Philip because he has Greek name, but Philip asks Andrew to bring them to Jesus. Andrew knew that Jesus is always open for enquiry. He led them to Him with great confidence knowing Jesus answered the enquiring mind.

Jesus says the crisis, the hour has come and speaks about death, which to the Greeks held particular significance. He calls Himself the

Son of man according to Daniel 7:13. In Daniel’s vision the world powers are described as wild animals because of their lust and cruelty. The new power was to be gentle and gracious – very unlike anything before or after. The symbol was a man not a wild beast.

The Jews expected the Son of man. So much literature were written during the 400 years of “prophetic silence” between the Old and New Testaments to keep the dream alive. He would be the undefeatable conqueror sent by God. Obviously the Greeks had no Messianic expectation.

Jesus talked to the Jews about His glorification on the Cross and they misunderstood. Jesus spoke of sacrifice and death and they were not willing to hear that. To them His words did not make sense.

He said to the Greeks: By death comes life just like the grain of wheat, buried in the ground, then follows life, growth and fruit.

By dying to self will come a life of understanding and insight.

Love of your own life will render you unfit for service. (Mark 8:35; Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24;17:33)

Men who serve are great in the Kingdom of God. For Jesus – greatness was in the Cross.

He brings a dazzling new view on life.

John does not tell about Gethsemane. Here (12:27-36) he records the human Jesus’ agony to avoid the Cross. It is the real cost of courage. He is very afraid of the horror of death. For Jesus it is weighed against obedience.

His words become triumphant to break the power of evil.

 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour28 Father, glorify Your name.”

He brings heavenly perspective. He would be the ultimate conqueror of men. It would be a greater conquest than the crowds ever imagined.

Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”

 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.

Fear becomes triumph when hearing the voice of God. The Jews believed that God spoke directly just like to Samuel, Elijah and Moses. By the time of Jesus nobody believed that anymore. God’s voice came to Jesus on special occasions: at baptism (Mark 1:11), on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:7) and it now came to Him to strengthen Him for what was lying ahead.

God will speak to anyone who is willing to listen.

Daniel 7 talks about an everlasting kingdom. How could it end in a Cross? He was supposed to be the Prince forever (Ezekiel 37:25). His government will have no end (Isaiah 9:7). He will reign on thrones over all generations (Psalm 89:4).

Jesus’ death on the Cross would crown Him in the hearts of men forever. It was so different from anything they expected. The contrast of His life to the community, in which He lived, was burnt into history forever. He was not just another conqueror who fought a great war and won. He was the Conqueror of all time and all people ever.

He promises light in the darkness, relief from the shadows. The shadow of fear, doubt, confusion and sorrow does not reign supreme over life. Jesus promises light in all of this with joy that cannot be taken away.

John quotes from Isaiah 53:1-2 and 6:9-10 in the following passage (12:37-41). It is all about unbelief and intentional blindness.

[Jesus mentions it often in Matthew 13:14,15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10 then Paul in Romans 11:8; 2 Corinthians 3:14.]

There are always people who will not believe.Isaiah was bewildered and heartbroken because of the unbelief of the people.

For the prophets God was the source of everything– even unbelief. They could not explain it otherwise. God is greater than any sin – so their unbelief must have come from God.

In 12:40 is a great truth stated:When you choose to see, you will see and experience the revelation. When you choose not to see, your eyes are blinded and your heart hardened. Life then does not make sense and nothing is significant, because understanding is already lost.

 No repentance – no revelation.

In actual fact our decisions and choices are God-given and does come from our Creator. That is why our refusal of His grace is so powerful. Our choices shape our lives. God has given us full power over our choices so that we are able to express love. Anything else would not be real passion. Choice enables love. He chose the Cross – He also had the alternative not to choose the Cross.

We choose Him and His expression of love on the Cross, because we have the choice to reject it. We consciously decide to love. Love changes us.

In the next passage (12:42- 50) the terrible cowardness and self-interest of men are described. They believed but could not go public. They feared the church.

 Secret discipleship is not possible. Someone said:  “either the secrecy kills the discipleship, or the discipleship kills the secrecy.”

For the people it is always the fear of losing what they gained in life.  They would lose profit and prestige. They chose men over God. God’s judgment matters for all eternity.  We have to look through heaven’s eyes.

If you choose people over God, then the people will judge you. It is always better to be judged by God. People are cruel and unjust.

What follow are Jesus’ last words of public teaching. He addresses the people and tells them about His father. He did not speak for Himself. In Him men are confronted with God. They listened to Him and at the same time knew what God was saying.

Jesus came to save – God wants to save. Love saves. Inevitably the same love judges the rejection of it.

The truth will judge. If you know the right thing and do not do it – you will be judged by the truth.

Our own knowledge will bear witness against us.

PRAYER: Lord speak into my heart. Show me Mary, Martha, Judas, the crowd, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the church leaders, the Greeks searching for truth and the impact their examples has on my life. Help me to learn from them.

Show me my armour against You my God, my lobster-shell, my hard heart, my obsession with prestige and honour and other stumbling blocks that deafen my hearing of the voice of God. Help me to express my love for You and to realize what the true significance of that expression is.

 

Jesus show me JESUS.

 

 

 

121. King of peace.

[John 12]

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.

To come to Jerusalem during the time of the Passover took great courage. Jesus knew He was already in big “trouble” with the authorities. Lodgings must have been a problem inside Jerusalem. Bethany was one of the places outside the city to stay when the visiting pilgrims flooded Jerusalem. Lazarus’ story spread fast.

The Romans loved a census. As we all know, Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem for a census when Mary’s time came and Jesus was born in Bethlehem just as the prophecies foretold. The Romans were particularly good at administration and a census made sure that every citizen and resident of the Empire paid the taxes due. In a Roman census taken shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, of the lambs slain at the Passover Feast, the number came to 256,000. There was usually a minimum of ten people sharing a lamb as sacrificial animal; and if that estimate is correct it means that there must have been as many as 2,700,000 people at that Passover Feast.

The characters in the story of Jesus are always notable. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit gave us so much colourful character shading of the people so that we could, even after so many centuries, identify with the people around our Lord.

Martha served a meal in their home.Maryanointed Him with a very expensive perfumed ointment. She poured out her best for Him.

In serving Martha also expressed her love. She was good at what she did and also gave her best. I can so identify with Martha since I also feel I should serve something for the conversation to flow. I know one of my Holy Spirit gifts is hospitality. I would have jumped at the opportunity to serve Jesus. Still I feel there is a silent criticism on Martha. As Barclay says her best took her out of earshot for His voice. Maybe there were no modern open plan kitchens! I love to cook, but I love to be part of the discussion.

As long as our gifting and even our ministry to Him do not take us out of the range of His voice, we are on the right track. I have often submitted my love of fabrics, decorating, art and fashion to be used in Kingdom service. In short I love beautiful things and I do not want that to keep me occupied. The most important thing in all my life always is to hear the voice of God. I want to hear when I read, hear when I work, hear when I write and hear when I have others around me. I want to hear Him in the ordinary things of my days.

What do you do to express your love for Jesus?

Remember it can be the most run of the mill thing, like caring lovingly for your family. That is our first calling always – to love – and to start with the closest. Jesus said to be His witnesses in Jerusalem(close family),Judaea(extended family and friends), Samaria(the people you do not like) and then the rest of the world (Acts 1:8).

Mary showed extravagance. It was a sign of honour to anoint a person’s head. (Psalm 23) Mary anointed His feet. Her humility shone through. In her own eyes, she was not good enough to honour Him.

Love made her bold. No respectable woman would let down her hair in public. When a girl married her hair was covered. Only prostitutes lured with their hair. May did not even think of that. She was not concerned about what others would think.

Her love filled the house with fragrance. In so many ways the church of Jesus followed her example. Her simple act of worship is recorded and still fills our minds with the lovely fragrance of love.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledgein every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Judas spoke very nobly of the poor and said the expensive perfume should have been sold. Jesus knew he was going to betray him. Jesus probably made him the treasurer to trust him and win him over. He expected the best from him. It was tempting to get more for the moneybox, which he was already misusing. His gift became his downfall because of conceited selfish goals.

The word used here is bastazein, which means to carry or to steal.

Judas missed Mary’s intention. His eye was on his own interests. He could not see beyond his obsession. He missed the timing, the action, and the revelation of love. He also missed Jesus’ words that He is going to leave them.

Judas uses the money and ultimately thinks he can “use” Jesus for his won political ambition. He wanted to get rid of the Romans and thought he could force the hand of Jesus in a confrontation with the authorities.

Timing is so important.

of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, (1 Chronicles 12:32)

What Mary did that day could never be repeated. She took the opportunity to express her love. I don’t think any of the people there realized how imminent the cross was.

Express love to God and to those around you. Grab the opportunity and serve with the best.

To mention the poor was Judas “noble” comment. Jesus quotes Scripture:

“The poor will never cease out of the land;therefore I command thee saying, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in the land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)

Opportunities to serve the poor never cease.

In the next verses (12:9-11) we meet the chief priests and Jewish authorities. The priests belonged to the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were the wealthy aristocratic class and they worked in close collaboration with the Roman government. Any outbreak of civil disorder brought down Rome’s hand heavily and cruelly with complete disregard for life and property. Those responsible for good government were dismissed without debate. The Sadducees saw Jesus as the possible leader of a rebellion.

 Politically they needed to get rid of Him.

 Theologically He was a big problem. They did not believe in life after death and the resurrection of the dead. Lazarus presented a big threat to them. There are theories that they could even have planned to kill Lazarus.

Truth was of no concern especially in conflict with their own interests.

In the meantime Jesus enters Jerusalem (12:12-19) like a king – just what they feared.

The crowds accompanying Him from Bethany and the others from Jerusalem, who heard He was coming, were rejoicing and singing.

The people received Him like a king and the authorities were in panic.

The crowds were made up of a variety of attitudes. Some were spectators only for curiosity; some have heard the rumours and would like to see. Others saw Him as a conqueror and brave enough to confront the church leaders.

Hosanna means save now in Hebrew.

They sang the words of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118), which is sung at thanksgiving in the Temple and part of the Passover. The children memorized it as part of religious training. They also sang it at the Feast of the Tabernacles. They sang the verses triumphantly. They sang it when Nehemiah restored the wall (Nehemiah 8:14-18).

The crowds sang in anticipation for a victory over the Romans, in expectation of the trumpet call to conquer and be restored. They were crowning Him for everything He resisted and refused to be. He had to serve their purposes.

Jesus could not speak.  He would not have been heard.

What He does speak loud and clear. He was riding on a donkey. It was a deliberate claim to be the Messiah.

 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

 He claimed to be a particular kind of Messiah. The donkey was a noble animal and not at all despised (2 Samuel 17:23; 19:26). Mephiboset, the royal prince and son of Saul, rode on a donkey when he came to David. It was a sign to come in peace.

Riding a horse would signal war; riding on a donkey signaled peace. He was truly the Prince of Peace. The crowd missed the sign and symbolism of the donkey. They wanted war. They wanted their own goals.

Jewish leaders in frustration called out prophetically:

See! The whole world has gone after Him.

Jesus showed magnificent courage. He knew they were after Him and still He enters very publicly in defiance of what they could do to Him.

 

120. God in action!

[John 11]

What is a miracle? It is an event in the lives of men that can only be explained in supernatural terms. The official definition underlines the mystery aspect of a highly improbable or extraordinary event.

As the dictionary puts it: It is a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

 A miracle is described as surprising and welcome, a positive outcome. It is the opposite of the crisis or circumstances that gave rise to the need for divine intervention. In other words, it is the inexplicable rectification of a catastrophic or heartbreaking situation.

A miracle is God in action. It is our loving Father, almighty creator-God, who intervenes and does the impossible for our benefit. A miracle is welcomed as a relief where relief was not humanly possible.

Miracles are answered prayers.

God is a mystery, operating in the unseen. Where shall we find Him and how will we “see” His action. God is the God of His people. We “see” Him active His community.

William Barclay explained how a certain Rabbi expounded the text in Deuteronomy 13:4:”You shall walk after the Lord your God.” He said that text commands us to imitate the things, which God is depicted as doing in scripture. God clothed the naked (Genesis 3:21); God visited the sick (Genesis 18:1). God comforted the mourners (Genesis 25:11); God buried the dead (Deuteronomy 34:6). In all these things we must imitate the actions of God.

In this section of John 11:17-27 we meet the household of Jesus’ friends in Bethany. Martha is true to character (Luke 10:38-42).  Martha loved action, and Mary sat still. Martha was up to meet Jesus.

When Martha met Jesus her heart spoke through her lips. Martha’s words were half reproach that came out in desperation and half with faith that is now so disappointed:

If you had been here,”she said, “my brother would not have died.”

Through her words she is asking: “Jesus, why are you late. If you had come when we sent the message, Lazarus would live.” Still there is faith in her words: I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Martha mentioned the general resurrection on the last day. It is very important words from Martha:

One of the strangest things in scripture is the fact that the saints of the Old Testament had practically no belief in any real life after death. In the early days, the Hebrews believed that the soul of every man, good and bad alike, went to Sheol or Hades. Sheol is wrongly translated Hell; for it was not a place of torture, it was the land of the shades. All alike went there and they lived a vague, shadowy, strengthless, joyless ghostly kind of life. (Psalms 6:5;30:9and many others). It is Hezekiah’s pessimistic belief that:

“For Sheol cannot thank You,

Death cannot praise You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.(Isaiah 38:18).

In Psalms 16:9-11and 73:23-24 the Psalmist wants to believe that not even death can separate him from God. This immortal hope we find in Job. While facing all his disasters, Job cried out:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;

And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,   (Job 19:25-26)

In the time of Jesus the Sadducees did not believe in life after death, but the Pharisees and the great majority of the Jews did. Those who died saw God, and they refused to call them the dead but called them the living. Martha reached out in faith to this belief.

Jesus answered:

I am the Resurrection and the Life,” We have faith in Him for life. His life in us makes NO provision for death of any kind.

Not even a lifetime’s thinking will reveal the full meaning of this; but we must try to grasp as much of it as we can.[William Barclay]

Life is so much more than physical. Even if life is so hard, it makes it almost not worth living, Jesus can make him alive again.”

There is life to come. Death is not the end. Death is just a door into the invisible.

Physical death is the sunrise, the dawn of eternity.

It was the custom, especially for the women, to go to the tomb to weep on every possible occasion, for a week after the burial. Mary’s greeting was exactly the same as that of Martha.

We must remember that this would be no gentle shedding of tears. It would be almost hysterical wailing and shrieking, for it was the Jewish point of view that the more unrestrained the weeping, the more honour it paid to the dead.

Jesus was deeply moved in spirit. The word comes from the verbembrimasthai. It is used three other times in the New Testament. It means rather to rebuke, to give a stern order to.

Why the anger? It is suggested that the display of tears by the Jewish visitors to Bethany was sheer hypocrisy – artificial grief raised Jesus’ wrath. In ordinary classical Greek the usual usage of embrimasthaiis a horse snorting. Such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from his heart.

Here is one of the most precious things in the gospel. So deeply did Jesus enter into men’s sorrows that his heart was wrung with anguish.

John had written his whole gospel on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of God. To the Greek the primary characteristic of God was what he called which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever. 

If we can feel sorrow or joy, gladness or grief, it means that someone can have an effect upon us. Now, if a person has an effect upon us, it means that for the moment that person has power over us. No one can have any power over God; and this must mean that God is essentially incapable of feeling any emotion whatsoever.

The Greeks believed in an isolated, passionless and compassionless God. 

What a different picture Jesus gave! God’s heart is wrung with compassion for the anguish of his people. God cares.

The usual Palestinian tomb was a natural cave or a space hewn out of the rock. The bodies were wrapped in linen but the hands and feet were enfolded in bandage-like wrappings and the head was wrapped separately. In front of the opening ran a groove in which a great stone like a cartwheel was rolled across the entrance to seal the grave.

Jesus asked the stone to be moved. Martha thought that Jesus wished to look on the face of his dead friend for the last time. She did not think this a good idea and pointed out that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. It was Jewish belief that the spirit of the departed hovered around his tomb for three days, seeking re-entrance. But after three days the spirit finally left. A decayed face was not easily recognizable.

Then Jesus spoke his word of command which even death was powerless to oppose. 

Lazarus came forth.It is weird to think of the bandaged figure staggering out from the tomb. Jesus told them to loosen the grave-clothes and wrappings and let him go. Most probably everybody around the grave stood stunned and just stared, not believing their eyes and not moving.

When Jesus spoke the power of God flowed through him.

Jesus spoke this miracle into being to honour God, just like Elijah when he prayed: “Answer me, O Lord, that this people may know that you are God”(1 Kings 18:37).

In the other three gospels there are accounts of people being raised from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56) and the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-16). In both cases the raising followed immediately after death. It might be possible to believe that in both these miracles the person raised was in a coma.

Burial had to take place quickly in the hot climate of Palestine. Evidence in graves pointed to the fact that people were sometimes buried alive. It could well be that these were miracles of diagnosis in which Jesus saved two young people from a dreadful death.

But there is no parallel for the raising of a man who had been dead for four days and whose body had begun to putrefy.

The Sanhedrin was called to deal with the situation. The miracle of Lazarus forced their hand.

In the Sanhedrin there were bothPharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were not a political party. They lived the law. The Sadducees were political. They were wealthy and aristocratic. To retain their wealth, comfort and position of authority, they collaborated with Rome. All the priests were Sadducees. They did all the talking.

They were notoriously discourteous. Their contemptuous arrogance is a stark contrast to the accents of love of Jesus. 

They were set on the retention of their political and social power and prestige. Jesus might gain a following and raise a rebellion against the government. Rome could never afford civil disorder and always quelled it with a firm and merciless hand. The Sadducees would be dismissed. It never even occurred to them to ask whether Jesus was right or wrong.

A man can set his own career before the will of God. 

History shows an example of dramatic irony. The Sadducees insisted that Jesus must be eliminated to prevent the Romans to take their authority away. In 70AD that is exactly what happened. The Romans besieged Jerusalem and left it a heap of ruins. How different things might have been if the Jews had accepted Jesus!

Caiaphas, the High Priest, made his very ironic, very true statement: Better that one man should perish than that the whole nation should perish.

The High Priest’s role was to ask God’s counsel for the nation. Moses told Joshua when he wished for God’s counsel he was to go to Eleazar the High Priest. (Numbers 27:18-21)

God can speak through the most unlikely people.Sometimes He sends his message through a man without the man being aware. He can use even the words of bad men.

Jesus was to die for the Jewish nation and the world.

By this time Jerusalem was beginning to fill up with people for the Passover. The Jews had to be ceremonially clean for the Feast. Any person would become unclean by touching a corpse. Purifications were carried out in the Temple.

One can just imagine the talk. The people knew what was going on. People are always interested in the man who bravely and stubbornly faces fearful odds. This was Jesus against the authorities.

The conclusion of the gossip was that Jesus could not possibly come to Jerusalem. He could not take on the whole might of Jewish leaders and political authorities.

But they had underrated Jesus. Nothing on earth would stop Him coming. Jesus came to Jerusalem openly. He drew attention upon himself with death-defying courage.