Verse 7 sounds like something your mom or dad might say to you when they are telling you something that you really don’t want to hear – I know you don’t like this but it is for your own good that I am doing this.
The NIV says it like this, “It is for your good that I am going away…”
How could it possibly be good that Jesus is going away. The disciples can’t even imagine life without Jesus with them. And that’s the whole point. Jesus knows that He can’t physically be present with all of His disciples all of the time. And yet, He can – in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Here are some of the things the Newer Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit does in the life of a believer:
He brings about conviction of sin (Jn 16:8)
He guides us into all truth (Jn 16:13)
He reminds us of Jesus’ words (Jn 14:26)
He dwells within us and gives us life and peace (Romans 8:9)
He helps us to pray (Rom 8:27)
He enables us with gifts to serve the church (1 Cor 12)
He produces fruit is us that reflects the character of God (Gal 5)
He guarantees our salvation (Eph 1:14)
He empowers us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8)
If indeed He does all these things then it seems to me that we as believers need to pay more attention to the Spirit’s presence in our lives. I for one am guilty of trying to live out the Christian life in my own strength. I forget that I have the Spirit of the living God dwelling within me.
“Father, would you fill me and fuel me today with your Spirit that I might have all that I need to do all that You want me to do today.”
“If gold is what you prize so much, that you are willing to leave your distant homes and even risk life itself, I can tell you of a land where they drink out of golden vessels, and gold is as cheap as iron in your own country.”
These words were spoken to Vascco Nunez de Balboa and overheard by Francisco Pizzaro who was with Balboa when he “discovered” the Pacific Ocean in 1513. The land that was being talked about was Peru.
But it was another 12 years, not until after Magellan had sailed across the Pacific Ocean (1522), that Pizarro got his chance and started off from the little port of Panama in search of the golden kingdom of Peru.
His first expedition was a dismal failure; and after untold hardships Pizarro returned to Panama in a sorry state. Still undaunted in spirit, he again started forth. The land of gold was farther away than he had imagined, the coast was stormy and inhospitable, the natives unfriendly.
At last, however, an expedition was fitted out, and guided by the clever pilot Ruiz, who was well experienced in the navigation of the Pacific. They reached the island of Gallo, near the equator. Here they determined to wait, and send back for more troops from Panama, as there was clearly fighting to be done on the coast of Peru. But this proposal caused a great outcry.
“What,” faltered the faint-hearted, “are we to be left in this obscure spot to die of hunger?”
What did they care for lands of gold: they only wanted to go home. But the ships sailed away for help, and Pizarro was left alone on the far-off island with his discontented crew. They survived on crabs and shell-fish, picked up on the shore, till the two welcome ships returned well laden with food and men. By this time Pizarro’s men had made up their minds to return to Panama at all costs. Pizarro was determined to go on. Drawing his sword one day, he traced a line on the sand from east to west. Then turning to the south, he cried—
“Friends and comrades, on that side are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side ease and pleasure. There lies Peru with its riches: here Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Spaniard. For my part, I go south.”
Saying this, he stepped across the line. The brave pilot and twelve others followed him, while the rest turned their faces homewards.
It was the crisis of Pizarro’s life. The little band sailed southwards, 600 miles south of the equator. After a year and a half’s absence they found themselves once more in the port of Panama, telling their eager listeners that they had indeed found the land of gold, and they had only come back to fit out a new expedition to go and conquer it.
This story, to me, illustrates what Jesus is saying to his small band of disciples on this night before He faces the cross. He does not want them to be surprised by the difficulties that lay ahead. He wants to make sure that they know what they are getting to so that they will be ready and not turn back from the task before them.
“Father, would you remind me of the glories that lie ahead of me when the tough times come my way. And strengthen me for the calling You have given me as a believer to boldly take the Great Commission into uncharted territories.”
There is a lot to be pondered in this passage. I will only comment on one thing. (I will, however, be preaching on this passage next Sunday, August 17 at RBC). This passage starts off with the last of what is known as the “I AM” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. There are 8 of them. Here they are…
John 6: 35, 48 – I am the bread of life
John 8: 12, 9:5 – I am the light of the world
John 8: 58 – Before Abraham was, I am
John 10:9 – I am the door
John 10:1 – I am the good shepherd
John 11:25 – I am the resurrection and the life
John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, and the life
John 15:1 – I am the true vine
Each of these in and of themselves are outrageous claims. This last statement, “I am the true vine,” would bring to mind a few references from the Older Testament. Both Psalm 80 and Isaiah 5 would no doubt have immediately sprung to the minds of Johns’ listeners. In the OT the vine represented Israel. The vine was loved by God, “the garden of His delight” (Is 5:7), but it was a wayward and unproductive vine, a vine doomed to destruction.
Jesus’ statement here in John 15 was a blatant Messianic claim. It was also a claim that would bring much needed encouragement to His disciples. He was getting them ready to live life and be on mission without His immediate presence. They were distraught and discouraged by this thought. But He was telling them that as long as they continued to abide in Him, whether He was with them physically or not, that they would be fruitful (v. 5), that they would see great answers to prayer (v. 7) , and that they would experience complete joy (v. 11).
It seems to me that those are great reasons for us to figure out how we can do a better job of daily, moment by moment, abiding in Him as well!
“Father, would You remind me all over again that apart from You I can do nothing. And as I learn to abide in You, would You indeed fuel me with Your joy, allow me to see great answers to prayer, and make my life and ministry more fruitful than it has ever been.”
Here at the end of chapter 14 Jesus comes full circle – He reiterates what He said at the beginning, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (v.1 and v.27). The word “let” catches my attention. We LET our hearts be troubled…
We let our hearts be troubled by the past and things that have already happened.
We let our hearts be troubled by the present and stuff going on right now.
We let our hearts be troubled by the future and things that haven’t even happened yet.
Our hearts don’t have to live in a state of troubledness – we LET our hearts be troubled. Note again verse 27:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The prescription for a troubled heart is peace. But not the kind of peace that the world offers. The world offers peace in the form of money, or drugs, or sex, or health, or success – all of which can give you temporary peace. But Jesus offers peace that can withstand the most troubling circumstances that the world. The kind of peace that will last. He offers it in Himself. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the incarnation of Jehovah-Shalom, God our Peace. Shalom is one of the great words in the Hebrew language.
Back in November of 2010 I wrote a blog post discussing this word. Here is an excerpt that will help you understand the power of knowing the Peace of God. It deals with the story of Gideon in Judges 6.
Gideon had only one thing going for him: God called him. God addressed him this way: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12) There was nothing in the natural to suggest that this was true. Gideon replies back to the Lord; “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15) He was just being honest. It sounds like Gideon was more realistic than the Lord in his self appraisal. In fact, when God appeared to him he was threshing wheat in secret inside a winepress so as not to be observed and possibly attacked by the Midianites who were riding roughshod all over Israel.
God saw Gideon differently than Gideon saw himself. God saw the secret weapon with which he had equipped Gideon: HIMSELF. God said; “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16) Oh my goodness, the stark terror that Gideon must have felt at that moment! I know I would have wanted to go running in the opposite direction with my ears covered. Probably as a delay tactic, Gideon asked for a sign about who was really speaking to him and then begged to prepare a meal for his guest. He probably hoped no one would be there when he got back with the meat and bread.
But God was still there, waiting, when Gideon returned. The Lord told him to lay the meal on a rock as an offering and pour the broth over it. Then God touched the sacrifice with the staff in his hand “and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread.” (Judges 6:21) Then he disappeared. Now Gideon understood beyond all doubt that he had been talking face to face with Jehovah. That scared him worse than what God was calling him to do.
So the Lord said to Gideon, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” And then Gideon built an alter in that place and called it THE-LORD-IS-PEACE: Jehovah-Shalom. Why did the Lord reveal himself as PEACE at that time? Why not “The Lord is Courage” or “The Lord is Strength”? I think it is because the Lord’s peace is so profound that it overcomes every other consideration. Peace was the real thing that Gideon needed. Peace is the real thing each of us needs when we are up against the wall. (This excerpt is from another bloggers post found HERE)
“Father, in the midst of this troubled world and in the midst of all my troubles, would You today reveal Yourself to me as Jehovah-Shalom. I need Your peace to sustain me and enable me to live as light and salt in a troubled world.”
Well certainly the disciples had a lot that could give them heart trouble. They had left their jobs to follow an itinerant preacher around. Jesus had told them about His imminent death. One of them would betray Jesus. One of them would deny Jesus. I suspect my heart might be a bit troubled also. Jesus went on to say, “Trust in God, trust also in me.”
So on what basis, at the most troubling time of their lives, were the disciples supposed to trust in God? For that matter, how are we supposed to trust God when it seems like our world is crumbling around around us.
Here are a few trust-isms that have come to mind as I have pondered on this:
1) I trust those that I know well. For instance I trust my wife. I have a 35 year history with her. I know that she will do what she says. She is a woman of integrity and has shown herself to be trustworthy over the years. If we have trouble trusting God it may be that we don’t really know Him as well as we should. I know that in my own life He has demonstrated over and over that I can trust my life to Him. Because I know Him, even when life is hard I know that He is still in control and walking with me every step of the way.
2) I trust those whom I trust, trust. I know that sentence sounds kind of funny but here’s what I mean. I have a friend who is great at fixing stuff and has fixed lots of stuff for me because I am a fix-it klutz. I have tremendous trust in him. But if there is something that he cannot do I will ask for a recommendation of someone who can do it. And almost always I will go with his recommendation. Because I trust him, I trust those that he would trust. In the same way, I know that I can trust God because people who I have complete trust in have shown me that they trust Him even when, and especially when, they are in crisis mode. Because I trust them, and they trust Him, I can trust Him. Kind of like the math principle: if a=b and b=c then a=c.
3) I trust God because I know that I can’t trust myself . I am often reminded (by my own actions and thoughts) that my “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). If it were up to me I would always choose the easy way. I would look out for #1. I would always make decisions based on what is best for Me Me Me. Because if I did not or could not trust God, it would all be about me. And if there were no God to trust, why it shouldn’t it be. But because God has shown me that there is a better way to live – a way that brings me satisfaction and joy and purpose and hope – I can’t help but to put my trust in Him.
“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelms us.” ― Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts
“Father, I am very grateful that You are a God that I can trust. And I know that even when life seems out of control that You are still in control and I can find peace and joy in the midst of craziness.”
Think about what Jesus was dealing with emotionally on this night. The cross loomed right before Him. He knew He would soon experience the devastation of being separated from God. He was having His “last supper” with friends that He had spent three years pouring His life into. He knew that one of them was preparing to betray Him. He knew that one of them would soon deny Him. Verse 21 says that Jesus was “troubled in spirit.” I can’t even imagine what He was going through.
Think about what Peter was dealing with emotionally on this night. He had just recently heard Jesus predict His imminent death. That had to be unsettling. He knew that the Pharisees had taken out a hit on Jesus. He had just watched Jesus wash his feet and didn’t quite know how to deal with it. And now he is learning that there is a betrayer in their company. These 11 other men that are his best friends on the face of the earth – and one of them is about to sell Jesus out. Peter wants to know who it is so he can stop it from happening – this is the kind of thing Peter does. He reacts! And then finally Jesus looks Peter in the eye and says, “before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” No doubt this got his blood pressure higher than it should be. There had to be so many different emotions that he was feeling.
Think about what Judas was dealing with emotionally on this night. Had he already made up his mind that he was going to betray Jesus? Was his resolve set? Or was he still trying to decide if he would betray this man who had done nothing but show him love for 30 pieces of silver. Was the foot washing the last straw for Judas? Did he see Jesus as weak – not as the kind of Messiah who could lead a revolt against Rome? He knew that he was about to commit an act of betrayal against a friend. He knew that none of the other disciples would ever forgive him. I can’t even imagine how fast his heart was beating as Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
There is a lot of emotion in this passage. But there is also a lot that baffles me – especially regarding Judas – because I fear that there is something of Judas in me.
“It is a terrible thing that what was meant to be love’s appeal became hate’s dynamic.” This quote is from William Barclay’s Commentary on John 13:26-27. Presumably, John is reclining on Jesus’ right and Judas is reclining on Jesus’ left. It is a place of honor. And Jesus makes one last loving gesture towards Judas when He offers him bread that had been dipped. John 13:29 records that, “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.”
How could a man who had watched Jesus and talked with Jesus for as long as Judas had decide to betray Him? It would seem that he was disappointed and disillusioned. For all of Judas’ hopes, Jesus was not the kind of Messiah he was looking for. Jesus, as it turned out, was not fulfilling the dreams that Judas had. Now isn’t that the reason that so many in our world today are disillusioned with Jesus. He is not making their dreams come true.
But Jesus did not come to fulfill our dreams. The narcissistic brand of faith that is so prevalent today is not only shallow but also unfulfilling and unsatisfying. Our world has been so taken in by the lures of this world that we cannot see how empty our dreams have become. It is only when when we begin to dream dreams that are Spirit inspired that we will find the kind of life we are longing for. It is as sad thing that Judas never found this.
“Father, I don’t want to pursue my dreams because I know they will leave me unfulfilled. Would You give me Spirit inspired dreams that will thrill my soul in the days that I have left.”
After Jesus finished washing the feet of His disciples he went back to His place at the table and asked them a question:
“Do you understand what I have done for you?”
Certainly He was referring to what He had just done – but in the broader context of His life, death, and resurrection I think it is a legitimate question to ask. And a question that I have been pondering this week. Here are the questions I keep hearing Him ask:
Do you understand the price that was paid for your salvation?
Do you understand that though salvation is a free gift to you, it cost me my life?
Do you understand that you were doomed to spend eternity in hell if I had not gone to the cross on your behalf?
Do you understand that your life no longer belongs to you? It has been redeemed – bought and paid for with my blood.
Do you understand the amazing gift of grace and that you were completely undeserving of this gift?
Do you understand the incredible power of forgiveness – and now that you have been forgiven you can offer forgiveness to those who have hurt and wronged you?
Do you understand that you are now a new creation – that your life has purpose; it is not a waste?
Do you understand that you have been blessed so that you can be a blessing to others?
Do you understand that now there is great hope for the future, whereas before there was only despair.
Do you understand that there is absolutely no reason to fear death any longer?
Do you understand that there is a reason for everyday to be a day of joy and gladness?
Do you understand that you are loved beyond your wildest imagination?
Do you understand that you have been reconciled to the God that created you – though once you were far away from Him, now you have been brought near?
“Do you understand what I have done for you?”
“Father, would you remind me to preach the gospel to myself everyday lest I ever forget all that You have done for me”
There are two things that immediately struck me when I read this passage…
1) I was baffled by the way that Jesus responded to questions that he was asked on two occasions. The first was a request by some Greeks who asked if they could see Jesus (vs 20-22). Jesus’ reply had nothing to do with this request. The second was a question put to Him by people in the crowd that He was addressing regarding His reference to Himself as “The Son of Man” (v.34). Again His reply seemingly had nothing to do with the question.
It’s as if at this point in the unfolding drama, that Jesus is so focused on what lies before Him that he will not allow anything to distract Him. He knows that His time is short. And whereas in earlier passages He took as much time as was needed for people and “divine interruptions”, now His priority is the cross and He will not be deterred.
I am the same way at times. There are times (as my wife will attest to) that I become so focused on something that I don’t hear anything that anybody is saying. Unfortunately my focus is generally not for so noble a cause as the cross and the redemption of man. It takes people who have a fierce, undeterred focus to change the world. This is what Jesus had.
2) As best I can find there are only 3 instances in the Newer Testament where the Voice of God thunders out loud from the heavens. It was heard at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11). And it was heard at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:7). And it was heard here (verse 28). God chose 3 pivotal times to speak. The first time was for the sake of Jesus – “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” The second time was for the sake of the disciples – “This is my Son whom I love. Listen to Him.” And this third time was again for the sake of Jesus and was confirmation that what He was doing was God honoring and God glorifying – “I have glorified it (your name) and will glorify it again.”
This third time was in response to a prayer that Jesus prayed. He was conflicted in His soul as we see Jesus the man and Jesus the Son of God having an emotional battle. Is this not what we deal with all the time? In our flesh we grow weary and want to quit but in the Spirit we are buoyed to press on and find strength for the journey before us.And it is often in prayer that we find what we need from God. It is when we forget or fail to come before God that our flesh will often get the better of us.
“Father, thank You for the gift of prayer and how You delight for me to come to You with all my cares and worries and weariness. And thank You that You fuel me daily with the strength and the joy that I need for each new day.”
The thing that strikes me about this passage is what is NOT recorded. If I was at that dinner with Jesus and Lazarus, given that I am by nature a question-asker, you can bet that I would be peppering Lazarus with questions. Here are a few that I would love for him to answer:
Describe what you experienced during the 4 days that you were “dead”?
What is heaven like?
Did you see people that you knew? Did you get to talk to them?
Did you see God? What was that like?
What about angels? What do they look like? What were they doing?
What is it like to be in a place where there is no sin or suffering?
What were you thinking when you heard Jesus’ voice calling you back into this world?
Given what you experienced, how has it changed you now that you are back on earth?
What do I need to know now that will better prepare me for “death”?
Are you going to write a book about your experiences? Are you planning a speaking tour?
That last question was written in jest. Not only am I a question-asker by nature, but I am also skeptical by nature. I have always been skeptical about books and people who claim to have had afterlife experiences. But if I had been sitting at that table, and if I had watched Lazarus die, and if I knew that he had been wrapped up in grave clothes and been 4 days in the grave, and if I had been there when Jesus said, “Lazarus, come out!” then I would have been hanging on every word that Lazarus said. And I would also have been talking about it with everyone that I met. I love verse 17:
“Now the crowd that was with Him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.”
Now, since the resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of my faith, the question for me is this: Do I not just believe that Lazarus was raised from the dead but that Jesus was raised from the dead – and if so to what extent am I spreading the word.
“Father, thank You for the reminder that my faith is founded on the fact of the resurrection. And would You empower me to spread the word with passion and enthusiasm.”
As a result of “the Lazarus Incident” Jesus vaulted to the top of the Sanhedrin’s Ten Most Wanted List. He was now a marked man with a death sentence hanging over His head. (v. 53)
What I find interesting about this passage is the different reactions that people had to what they saw happen right before their very eyes. Verse 45 tells us that many of the Jews saw what Jesus did and put their faith in Him. But some (verse 46) were so outraged they went to the Pharisees and told them what they saw.
You would think that having seen Jesus raise a man from the dead would inspire awe and belief not anger and unbelief. How is it that people can see the exact same thing and come to two very different conclusions? Here are a few of my thoughts…
When it comes to Jesus, people have already made up their minds about what they will believe or not believe – Jesus is very polarizing. He always has been and I suspect He always will be. Whether it is because of their upbringing or a “bad religious experience” or because of a hardened heart, a lot of people have made up their minds about Jesus and have determined they will not be swayed in any way. No matter what they might see with their own eyes.
For many people, truth is relative – The argument goes like this… I have my truth and you have your truth. You saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. I saw a really cool magic trick. You believe what you want and I’ll believe what I want and we’ll get along just fine. Just don’t try to make your truth better than my version of truth or try to make me believe that my truth is not truth at all. All truth is relative. There are no absolutes, of this I am absolutely positive.
Many people value position and power and prestige more than they value what is right or wrong – The Pharisees were worried that this Jesus cult was going to keep growing until it usurped the power of the Sanhedrin. They were worried that Rome would strip them of their authority over religious matters concerning the Jews. They were worried that their prestige as the Jewish elite would be taken away. So it did not matter what they might have seen Jesus do, they would have nothing to do with it.
Jealousy is indeed a monster – Some people just can’t stand to see other people succeed. It’s as if their success somehow diminishes them. When life is all about “me”, then other people are a threat. And when I feel threatened I get angry. And when I get angry people get hurt. The only way the Pharisees knew how to deal with the threat of Jesus was to get rid of Him. That way they could maintain their status and keep up their charade of success in the Jewish community.
“Father, would You open my eyes so that I can see and understand truth. And would You soften my heart so that I value what is right more than I value what others think of me.”