Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 70 - John 17:1

Strange glory



Chapter 17 is the final prayer of Jesus. It was the custom in those days to record a final prayer like this of notable people and John followed that practice, presumably gathering the recollections of the disciples of what Jesus actually said – they often prayed aloud in those days.

Jesus begins by praying for himself, saying “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”What a strange thing to say! He was expecting to die the next day the most excruciating and demeaning of deaths by crucifixion. We think of glory as receiving praise and honour, even adoration and worship. Jesus was asking God the Father to glorify him that rather different way. How amazing! What could he possibly have been thinking? The way he worded his request it certainly refers to that terrible next day. A very few verses later he does say, “now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” and there he is looking forward to when he returns to heaven and sits down at the right hand of the Father, receiving the honour and glory of that position. But not here – here he sees glory in what was about to happen in his death in the next 24 hours and then 3 days later in his resurrection.

Jesus was taking the long view, which in view of the torture he knew he was about to have to endure is quite amazing. He knew, as the disciples didn’t, that his tomorrow, his hour as he called it, was going to be the most glorious day in the history of the world. He, God, was about to die for the salvation of mankind. His tomorrow would be the dividing point of history. Up to that day nobody had had anything more than hope that the Lord God would accept them. From that tomorrow onwards those who turned to him in humility and faith would begin to understand that they would be accepted in his name, on the basis of his sacrificial work on the Cross. Then a few days later they would learn that they had the Holy Spirit of God, his replacement, actively involved in their lives, directing their course through life, supporting them in all the many problems that the human condition brings, challenging and empowering them.

So there was glory ahead, even if it looked a rather strange glory at first sight. Indeed, it was because the followers he left behind recognized that glory that they started to worship him and it was because they found themselves irresistibly worshipping him that they began to realise that he was no less than God walking this earth as well as being a man.

That was his matchless glory. This is his matchless glory for us. We only need a small bit of that glory to come into our lives, to illuminate us, to be deeply blessed.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your prayer, for your constancy, your endurance of all the physical pain and spiritual pain that lay so closely ahead of you as you prayed. Thank you that your glory was for us.


Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!



Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage



Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 69 - John 16:13

The Spirit of Truth



I think we should pause for a moment to think of what all this must have looked like to the disciples. It is no surprise that they said to each other, “We don’t understand what he is saying.” About three years earlier they had agreed to join the new group forming around the person of Jesus. They thought he was a prophet and, very probably, the leader who would set up a rebellion against the hated Roman occupation, which might just succeed. It had been a considerable surprise to find that things were working out very differently from those early expectations. They had been flexible enough minded to cope with the change of orientation, probably because they had been carefully selected by Jesus as those who would be flexible in their thinking. They had learned over the three years they had been with him that when Jesus said something would happen – it happened. Now he was saying that he was going away. He had even said he would be killed by the Roman authorities. In view of what was happening in Jerusalem, the seething unrest, it seemed likely that would happen very soon. What then? Would their small group continue? And, if so, who would lead it? Peter had been the obvious spokesperson of the group but would he be capable of leading them forward as a spiritual force? It seemed doubtful. John was stronger spiritually but he was surely too young. James and John were labelled the sons of Boanerges, that is sons of thunder, and they were certainly two forceful characters but were they at all likely to be able to lead an effective group along the lines that Jesus had set up – lines that were so different from their previous experience and, indeed, all that had gone before.

Into this difficult and worrying situation Jesus seemed to be suggesting there would come nothing more obvious than a spiritual force which he labelled the Advocate, the Counsellor, the Comforter or, in the original Greek, the Paraclete (meaning a bit of all three). Really. Would that be sufficient? How would in work out in practice? Impossible to imagine.

Of course, it did work out because the person being talked about was the Holy Spirit himself. Part of the Triune God, though to say that is to jump ahead several years and even centuries. But their considerable immediate problem was to work out what would he actually do?

That we find Jesus told them in 16: 13 – 15, “when he, the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” All of which reinforced what he had already said in 14: 26, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” So we ought to add ‘teacher’ to the list of words translating ‘paraclete’.

Teaching is not an easy occupation. Some teachers will concentrate not on their students but on their material. At their worst they read out their notes expecting their students to copy them down word for word. That is poor teaching particularly in this age of many copying machines. The good alternative is to teach students how to think, so that what they learn will be of use to them even when they do not meet the exact situations the teacher envisaged, and that is not so easy for the teacher. But it is the sort of teaching the Holy Spirit expects us to transmit to others. It is called ‘discipling’! We tend to think of the Holy Spirit as the one who brings specific gifts to individuals: one to this guy, a different one to that girl and so on. But what Jesus is emphasising here, and John is making sure we see, is that the Spirit will be a teacher and a guide for the whole group. That meant the eleven apostles on this occasion, possibly a few more who were also present, and then the ongoing church down through the ages to the present day. Yes, to your church and to mine, imperfect though they may be. This guidance will come as we study the words of Jesus as enshrined in these four Gospels. So much of what we most probably hear and are taught in church actually does not come directly from Jesus but at second hand through the epistles and other scriptures. What Jesus is saying here is a potent reminder of the central importance of his ministry, his life, his death, his stories, his statements.

Of course we all know that the difficulties lie in knowing what exactly we should do to obey him - you think that, I think this. Being human we have the very human problem of working out how to hear the leading of the Spirit. Some churches do it through a strong central decision structure; others through a decentralised arrangement of church meetings and executive committees called elderships or diaconates. It is clear from the epistles that both sorts of approach to the problem were used from the very early days of the church and are recorded in scripture, so there is no clear right and wrong here. We have to fit our approach to our particular society and culture. Being human we will often have a tendency to want to retain structures which worked years previously but are not so good in our present day. We live in an age when all societies and cultures are changing continuously and often with a rapidity greater than ever before so that is not a good idea.

Let us all, you and I, be careful that we contribute positively to the fellowship we are in, good at hearing the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, good at not hindering his work, good teachers of the Word of Truth, good at helping the church of the ages to progress towards that great day when He, Jesus, returns to say ‘well done good and faithful servant’.

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!



Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage



Gems in the Gospel of John


Part 68 - John 5:26-27

Eyewitnesses



Jesus selected his closest disciples from those who had ‘been with him from the beginning’. They, with the all important help of the Holy Spirit, will be those who are to tell the world what has happened and would shortly lead the infant church on its first steps.

There is a fundamental and important difference here between what we, in the Western world anyway, would do and what they did. We think it is important that our witnesses to an important event should be dispassionate, uninvolved observers able to provide an unbiased assessment of what is going on. That was not what they looked for in their recorders of events. They, Jewish and Roman alike, wanted their reporters to be those who had been deeply involved in the events recorded. That was probably because they considered the meaning of the events more important than the actual events themselves and wanted a guide to that meaning such as we would resist. Thus, the prime historian of the Roman-Jewish war of AD 68-71, basically the only one we have access to, was a man called Josephus who was first a commander of Jewish forces involved in the war and then an assistant to the Roman general. He was not unbiased but he had seen what was going on first hand.

It is easy to see the point of the way they thought in those days and we must accept its value and not criticise it.

We can see these ideas worked out in the four Gospel-writers. Not one of these four names himself within his writing. They took to heart the modesty and humility that Jesus asked of his followers. We only know who they were from reports from the early church. We cannot be absolutely certain of the accuracy of these but there is no good reason to doubt them. Matthew, also known as Levi, was with Jesus from very near the beginning of his ministry (Mark 2: 13,14). We are told that Mark wrote at the direction of Peter, so his Gospel is Peter’s testimony to the events of the ministry of Jesus that he had observed from close to all the way through. Luke, very aware that he was not an eyewitness himself, emphasises in the first few verses of his Gospel (1: 1 - 4) that he had been very careful to refer to eyewitnesses of the events and had checked what they told him very thoroughly. John was clearly an eyewitness although exactly who he was, which John, is a matter of much argument and disagreement. He was the ‘beloved disciple’ of John 13:23 etc. but we don’t know who that was either. John was a very common name in those days. He is usually taken to be John, son of Zebedee, but he was a Galilean fisherman while the writer of the fourth Gospel seems more likely to have been a sophisticated man from Jerusalem. But he certainly was an eyewitness of at least much of the life of Jesus.

The result is that we have four accounts of the life of Jesus, which the very early leaders of the Christian church wisely refused to have combined into one, leaving them as true eyewitness accounts of what happened. No event of ancient history is anything like as well documented as the life of Jesus. We can rely on its truth and accuracy even where it seems to defy all natural possibilities, as in the resurrection. To believe in Jesus and all the events of his life is not one step down from knowledge, as many would say. We believe because we know.

We cannot testify because we are not eyewitnesses in a literal visible sense. We can testify because of our experiences of the Spirit and his work in our lives. Go! Testify!

Click or Tap here to listen to or save this as an audio mp3 file

~

You can now purchase our Partakers books including Roger's latest - The Puzzle of Living - A fresh look at the story of Job!

Please do click or tap here to visit our Amazon site!



Click or tap on the appropriate link below to subscribe, share or download our iPhone App!
Subscribe in podnovaI heart FeedBurneritunes_logo.giffacebook.giftwitter.gifAdd to Google Reader or Homepage
Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Load more

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App