130. A discussion about the future.

[John 16]

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

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

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

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

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

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

The present was bad and under condemnation.

The age to come was the golden age of God.

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

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

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

and Joel 2:1-2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are a child of the most high God!

 

 

 

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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.