What He Said Week 9

TO THE COMMITTED

 

Study Nine: WHERE YOU’RE GOING AND HOW TO GET THERE

 

TAKING IT IN:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

GETTING AT IT:

When were Jesus’ disciples “all in?”  Was it when they left their jobs to follow him, not sure exactly what that would mean?  How about when in John 6 many walked away disillusioned and Jesus said to the twelve: “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Then there was that time, as they were about to travel into harm’s way in Judea, that Thomas said: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  Still, on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, there was confusion, uncertainty, cracks in their commitment.  Their faith was confirmed after Jesus’ resurrection, of course, but maybe “all in” best describes the disciples on Pentecost with the Holy Spirit’s coming.

The fact is that discipleship is a growing thing, with spiritual pratfalls and leaps forward, as the Spirit through the Word increases our understanding and matures our faith.  God isn’t finished with us yet.  The important issue isn’t when the twelve were all in, whatever that means.  What is important is that Jesus was all in on his disciples, and for you and me.  As the ultimate expression of Jesus’ commitment approaches, his death for sinners, he speaks to the committed words of comfort and encouragement, truth and love. 

What commitment means probably has as many definitions as there are Christians, with each of us facing our own doubts and challenges as well as times of spiritual awe and lucidity.  Help us, Lord, to follow you.

 

DIGGING INTO IT:

In 1 Corinthians 15:19, the apostle Paul wrote: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  Jesus’ disciples had been promised persecution, not prosperity.  Like their Master, they would face hardships and trials in the pursuit of his mission.  Yes, there are countless blessings in this life that accompany faith in Jesus: peace with God and the loving fellowship of other Christians.  But the real “win” for a follower of Jesus is in the next life, when being with him is forever. In the Upper Room before his capture in the garden, Jesus lifted the sights of his disciples, past the anxiety and uncertainty of the next three days to the everlasting life he would earn for them at the cross.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Of course the disciples’ hearts were “troubled.”  Jesus had informed them that his death was imminent.  He’d spoken of betrayal and denial in their midst.  Their anxiety was ramped up when he told them he’d be with them only a little while longer and that they couldn’t come where he was going. Because they couldn’t understand what was coming, he urged them to believe, to trust the God who governs the universe and his Son whom they had come to know so well. That is the fall-back position of the committed.  When we don’t understand what is and fear what’s coming, we trust the God who loved us so much that he watched his Son suffer so we wouldn’t and the Savior who took on our guilt so we could share his glory.  The cross would cement their commitment, and ours.

Rooms, homes, dwelling places, mansions – the translations are varied, but the point is clear.  There is a place for us with our God in eternity, plenty of room for the many who believe.  Like the perfect host, Jesus would ascend to make everything perfect for our arrival.  In his timing, he will take us to be with him.  On the last day, he will raise buried bodies and reunite them with the souls who are with him.  He will come back.  Jesus didn’t provide details about what and where heaven is.  The important message is that followers will be with him.  To be with Jesus is everything.  So that they would be sure, he made a statement that was almost a question: “You know the way to the place where I am going, right?

 

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Leave it to Thomas to say what the others were, no doubt, thinking.  His blunt honesty when he missed Jesus’ Easter appearance to the other disciples further captures his personality.  The resurrection and ascension would clear all this up, but in the moment it was confusion expressed. Jesus patiently answers Thomas’ question, and ours, with the most explicit and exclusive statement defining Christianity.  Jesus is the way to eternal life with God.  Not one of many different religious paths, but the only way to know and be with God.  Jesus is the truth, truth about God and about us and about life and about eternity.  Not a truth, as though different people can have different and contradictory truths; Jesus is and teaches absolute truth.  Jesus is the life, the creating source of all life and the one who renews life for people dead in their sin and ignorance.  All this is true because Jesus is one with God the Father.  He is God in human flesh; so when you see Jesus, you see God. . . not physical characteristics, but who and what God is.  At the beginning of John’s Gospel we’re told: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

 

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

The cynical challenge of every atheist and the deep longing of every Christian is to see God.  Philip gets it, and yet he missed the point.  He added one plus one plus one and got three; but the Trinity isn’t math.  One God in three persons; and Philip was looking at the second person of the Trinity.  (Jesus adds the Holy Spirit just a few verses later in John 14.)  The three persons of the Trinity speak the same truth.  They work together to accomplish one and the same will and plan. 

What the Greek word for “in” conveys is immense.  That Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in his Son means intimate oneness, inseparable unity.  The Trinity is not irrational, it is supra-rational, above and beyond the mere rational.  You’d expect no less from your God.  So significant is this that in John 17 Jesus repeats this oneness theme.  “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (verse 11) “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” (verse 22)   The oneness of the persons of the Trinity is the pattern for the oneness of Christians; and oneness with God is the goal of every Christian’s faith.

Admittedly, this is deep stuff.  We won’t plumb the depths of truth about our God and his will until we are with him, one with him.  But this isn’t some “leap” of faith.  Jesus points Philip to the fact that he knows Jesus.  He has been with Jesus and experienced the evidence of his deity.  Philip has heard the words of Jesus, words that are self-authenticating truth resonating with his soul.  Philip has witnessed the miracles which testify to divine power and authority.  Now, through Holy Scripture, we also have known and heard and seen.

 

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Discipleship is imitating Jesus, doing what he did.  His mission has become ours, his words our words.  But how believers “will do even greater things” is difficult to comprehend.  Jesus connects this “greater things” with his ascension, and that’s the key.  The ascended Jesus governs our world for his church, and he sends the Holy Spirit to work in and through believers.  Jesus accomplished everything necessary for salvation, but he left to his church the completion of his mission – the conversion of countless people through the Gospel.  The great miracle is the rapid spread of the Gospel and the millions saved by that Gospel.

“In the name of Jesus” can become a mere prayer formula.  It is so much more.  It reminds us and our God that Jesus has made us God’s children and promised to hear and answer us.  It means that we have bought into the will and purpose of the Savior as we claim his name, Christian.  It means that our intent is what Jesus intended for our prayers – “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  Jesus wasn’t making prayer akin to rubbing a bottle with a genie in it.  He’s not promising to give us whatever material blessings we’d like (see James 4:3) or even the health and well-being of those we love (see 1 John 5:14).  As ambassadors for Jesus, pursuing his purpose and trusting his will, we ask for what glorifies our God; and he grants it.  This is praying “in the name of Jesus.”

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:

The popular Christian song “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me begins with the lyrics:  I can only imagine what it will be like When I walk by your side.  I can only imagine what my eyes will see When your face is before me.  I can only imagine.  Then the refrain: Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel?  Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of you be still?  Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?  Will I sing Hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?  I can only imagine.

 

So, imagine.  The Bible uses imagery for eternal life of a wedding banquet, a mansion, a countless worship by white-robed believers, and more.  There will be no tears, no hunger or thirst, no heat-stroke.  Above all, there will be Jesus.  Think about what you won’t have to deal with in eternal life.  Think about the promises and blessings of being in the presence of Jesus.  And as you imagine, experience peace, rejoice and be thankful to God.

 

SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT:

 

What would your perception of God be without Jesus?  Recognize how your answer may describe other religions.

How does knowing Jesus clarify your understanding of God and make him relatable?

 

To know Jesus better, talk about what he reveals about himself with the seven “I am. . .” statements in the Gospel of John: John 6:35; John 8:12 (and 9:5); John 10:7; John 10:11; John 11:25; John 14:6; and John 15:1.

 

 

SOMETHING TO PRAY ABOUT:

 

As you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” be specific about people and places where the Gospel is needed and God may be glorified.

 

 

SOMETHING TO DO ABOUT IT:

 

If a disciple is someone who does what Jesus does, what can you do to imitate your Lord.  Pick one example of Jesus’ caring, meeting people’s needs, confronting error or teaching truth; and find a situation where you can do something similar.

 

 

SOMETHING FOR FURTHER STUDY:

 

St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians is filled with the revelation of what has been called the “mystery” of Jesus.  Get to know Jesus better by studying Colossians 1:15-20, Colossians 1:27, Colossians 2:2-3, Colossians 2:9-10, and Colossians 3:1-4.


One Response to “What He Said Week 9”

  1. William Treloar says:

    Thanks to Pastor Kelm for providing these studies…especially now!

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