This is Day Twenty-Seven of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Lia Williams.
Being in a culture of God-fearing Jews where the Spirit of God would have induced imagery of death, destruction and fear, to hear Jesus promise His indwelling must have rocked the disciples to the core. For many of us, a life with God without the manifest Spirit of God dwelling inside of us is difficult to ascertain or imagine.
Yet these disciples that Jesus was speaking to would have known nothing of what to expect or anticipate, except what Jesus spoke. The level of deep-seated trust these men had in Jesus is paramount. As many walked away, these twelve, soon to be eleven, stayed steadfast and despite what could have been some terrifying revelations. They listened and obeyed; carrying out Jesus’ instructions all the way to the upper room where this gift Jesus promises here was mightily fulfilled.
This whole passage is reaped with such love, Jesus words seem so tender and warm, despite the knife-edge challenges that sprout in their midst. Jesus is not speaking in parables here, He speaks with an intimate clarity, not seemingly wanting the disciples to miss a thing. It seems that every command Jesus gives here is backed up with an implication; not that Jesus’ promises are hinged on our behaviour or words or actions, but that a sincerity of heart in our pursuit of Christ is to accompany the unveiling of truth.
Jesus’ words are challenging, with disclosure that these men will be an unaccepted people, different, standing out and all too often misunderstood because of their Christ. These statements and declarations are communicated countless times by Jesus. He knew it would be what we would struggle with, so He makes His words clear, reinforcing the point. Yet, we too often continue to try and wrestle our way out of their implications, refusing to accept that along with true commitment to Christ, comes too His suffering and persecution. We want heaven on earth, instead of bringing heaven to earth – it sounds the same, but the effects of each transcends the previous and are contradictive in manner.
Jesus’ longing for His brothers is so intense and genuine, the beauty and zealous nature of His love is evident. His promise to return, be with them and be seen by them – showing Himself, granting them life, loving them and living within them is indescribably intimate and close. It is important to keep at the forefront that this is prior to His glorious resurrection. Here is a man who is baring His soul to His friends and unveiling a love we cannot truly comprehend. This is the true manhood of Christ who would declare fearlessly and unashamed His love for His friends, steeped and unveiled in the deep security He had in the love of His Father.
These words must each become so embedded in our being that we walk in the reality of their truth through belief. Believing that each promise nurtured here by Jesus is also for each one of us. This love is greatly emphasised by the very notion that beyond these words, it is Judas Iscariot himself who pipes up to challenge the words of Christ. Jesus spoke these words of love, not only to those of which would revolutionise the world with His message, but also to him that would betray Him. This is grace, this is Jesus, this is love; if only we would believe.
Jesus then reinstates that it is obedience to His commands that reveals love towards Him. The grappling notion that to obey is to love, is hard to fathom in our culture of me centered declarations of independence, self-reliancy, rebellion, defiance and pride. But these are of the world and not of Christ, and it is these very things that we must endeavour to shake off in order to receive Christ, our risen king.
Having spoken these words of supreme wisdom and inspiration, the humility of Christ is undeterred. His relation and sure standing with His Father is evidently reflected as He glories back to His Father. He endows to ensure that His claims are recognised not as His own, but His Father’s.
Jesus again reinstates His promise of the Spirit. The promise of a Teacher, which will remind us of great truths, of the Word, and bring revelations deep into our beings of the utterances of God. It is an incredible promise that must have been unfathomable for the disciples. Having hung on every word Christ spoke for years, the thought of Him leaving them for another Teacher could have stirred such fear. Surely anticipating such, the words of Christ still their souls with the insightful warmth and nurture only Christ can give, promising peace.
The gift of peace is a power all too often neglected amongst us, but it is something etched in Jesus’ ministry, and one we should carry and pursue seriously. Jesus commands ‘…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27b); yet how many of us heed such a clear instruction, that has no leeway or room for maneuvering, allowing fear and doubt and unrest to manifest violently in our hearts?
Jesus speaks insight of the future, prophetically declaring His death, forewarning the disciples and kindling that strange sense of comfort that foreknowledge brings. Perhaps Jesus was faithfully carving out truth into their hearts’ of what was about to occur, to equip their souls with a distant glimmer of hope amidst the chaos close to ensue; despite knowing full well where their fearful hearts would drive them in His moment of need.
As Jesus concludes this tender extract of affection and promise, it should be no surprise when He states that the cross is merely an instrument for God to display Jesus’ own love and submission towards His Father. Making great of love and lesser of evil, making glories of God and nothing of darkness. Jesus’ whole life reflects a life fully submitted to the Father. In that place the power and love of God flowed effortlessly through His every pore. His life was poured out on all that He met, yet He never came away drained, never lost hope, and never became overwhelmed. He did nothing in His own strength, but being fully submitted and obedient to the Father, the inexhaustible power of God was free to move through His body, a vessel of grace.
We cannot allow such passages as these to wash over us, and dismiss their power as for the times, and their relevance only for the disciples. We must dig deep and heed Jesus’ words until they become a part of our inner being, until we live out what He speaks into us, and He is always speaking unto us, if only we would listen. Jesus’ words are not unreachable but the example and instruction we have been given in order to live. His words must become our words, and His heart must become our heart. Fully submitted to the Father Jesus achieved much, but His efforts and life was never about such shallow things – they were for the love of His Father and the love for His friends and His brothers and sisters. Such, our call is simple – to know love, to be loved and to love.
‘Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell