Wednesday 27 August 2014

Bible Book:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (v. 23)

John 14:15-31 Wednesday 27 August 2014


Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for what's to come. Heknows that over the hours ahead as he is taken away and killed, andthen in the years that follow his ascension, they will have to getused to him not being around physically. He assures them that theywill see him again in just a little while (verse 19, talking abouthis resurrection appearances), but the general sense of this'farewell speech' is that he is preparing them for the time when heis "going to the Father" (John14:12). Later, in chapter 20, when he appears to Mary Magdalenein his risen state, Jesus says that he hasn't yet returned to theFather (John 20:17). We know that comes with hisAscension (Acts 1:6-11). And it's around that point thatmuch of this beautiful and awe-inspiring relationship here spokenof plays out: the Son reunited with his Father, the sending of theSpirit, and the layer-upon-layer of love that joins Father, Son andSpirit moving back and forth from the church of the disciples,enfolding them completely. In this way, as they continue in aliving relationship with God, in this family of God, the disciplesare most certainly not left as orphans.

The Holy Spirit is so important in all that is to come, and theSpirit will provide the comfort needed in the absence of Jesus. Notcomfort like you might find in your favourite armchair, but comfortas you might find in the arms of loved ones in times of grief ortrouble: the strength to get through day to day, minute-by-minute.In some translations the Spirit is called "the Comforter", inothers "the Advocate", and there are many layers of meaning to theGreek word "Paraclete", each with the sense that there is alwaysmore to discover. The Spirit comes as comforter, teacher, bringerof truth and the one who seals that commandment of Jesus: to loveone another as he has loved us (John15:12). The Spirit also channels the peace that Jesus leavesbehind. It is "the peace of God which passes all understanding",which will "keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

At the heart of this passage is a question from a little-knowndisciple named Judas (verse 22). He has the same name as the onewho has already left them and will shortly return to complete histreacherous work, but it's another Judas (named in Luke6:12-16 and Acts 1:13) who speaks here. And it's a goodquestion. Why, or how, is it that Jesus will appear to them and notto the rest of the world? Why, in the resurrection appearances, didhe only appear to his disciples? Why does he remain in heaven, outof sight, when it would seem so much easier to appear in glory tothe whole world? Why must we go on in faith, relying on the unseenSpirit, to convince the world of the truth of his love? Jesusanswer seems cryptic, but it hints at God's great purposes for theworld. He speaks of the ongoing witness of those who love him, andof the Father and the Son coming to make their home in thebeliever, through the Spirit. This is the beginning of the NewCreation, expressed in so many places throughout the Bible (eg Isaiah65:17-25, Romans 8:18-22Revelation 21-22). The believer being renewedby the in-dwelling of God is what the whole creation is waiting for(Romans 8:18-23) and the start of what God hasplanned for all (Ephesians 1:3-10). The prophet Zechariahexpressed the hopes of God's people in the times following theirheart-breaking exile: "Shout and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo,I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Many nationsshall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be mypeople; and I will dwell in your midst. And you will know that theLord of hosts has sent me to you" (Zechariah 2:10-11). In the New Creation, theloving God will no longer be just a distant idea, but a permanentliving reality. It begins with those who make home for him in theirhearts today.

Jesus' final words in this chapter point hauntingly to theordeal to come. He says that "the ruler of this world is coming"(v. 30). This is the power behind Caesar, the power behind the evilempire, the power behind all oppressive regimes - whether 'state'or 'religion' - who will send their representatives to arrestJesus, using (as they do) the guise of friendship and the notionthat 'it's all for the best'. Now Jesus commands the disciples torise up and follow him. We can assume they go on their way toGethsemane at this point, but Jesus remains in complete control andcomplete obedience to his Father's will. It has to be this way. Hisdecisive battle is looming; he goes to confront it.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever had a farewell conversation with someone who knewthey were dying? How did it make you feel? How might the disciplesbe feeling as Jesus said all this to them?
  • Can you think of a time when frightening or troublesome eventswere fast approaching but you knew a sense of peace deep down thatyou couldn't explain? What happened?
  • We believe that Jesus reigns in heaven with the Father andsends his Spirit to help us here on earth. Where, however, do westill see the work of the "ruler of this world", and how can westand firm in the light of Jesus' victory?
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