Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gleanings from John 14:15-21

This was my week to teach our adult Life Group (a.k.a. Sunday school). We were at week twelve in our fourteen week all-church/denomination-wide "Ashes to Fire" study, combining the Lent and Easter seasons and ending on Pentecost, June 12. Marion and I have been trading off. I teach the weeks he is on call for his veterinarian practice and he teaches the other.

The scripture lesson was John 14:15-21
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
I told the class this was "dense scripture", by which I meant chock full of things to study. Jesus has just told the apostles He is leaving them (13:33, 14:7), they can't follow (13:33) but that they knew the way to the place He was going (14:4). He has told them to love each other (13:34-35) as a new command, and that this will be how people will know they are Jesus' disciples. He has told them he is the way, the truth, and the life, and the only way to the Father. Now he says:
  • If you love me you will obey what I command
  • He [Jesus] will ask the Father to send the Spirit
  • The Spirit [Counselor, Advocate] will be with them forever
  • The world cannot accept the Spirit
  • The Spirit already lives with the apostles
  • Jesus will come to them, in such a way that the world does not see
  • They will live because Jesus lives
  • "On that day" the apostles will come to a new realization
  • Whoever obeys Jesus' commands loves Him
  • That person will be loved by God and by Jesus and Jesus will reveal Himself to that person.
Wow—how packed can scripture be? Stuffed with meaning. I could have chose to take the lesson in any of several directions, but chose to study the Holy Spirit and His work. This is something most evangelical Christians study early in their walk and need to review from time to time, so this was, in my mind, somewhat of a refresher lesson. I tied it to John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7-15. Class discussion went well. We kept on leaving the work of the Holy Spirit to try and grasp again the Trinity. All three Persons of the Godhead are present in these verses.

We came to see the meaning of Jesus' words in John 16:12—"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." No kidding. We felt that we understood how the apostles felt. They were in the early stages of separation anxiety. We have the hindsight of 1,980 years (give or take a decade) of theological development, with witness and scholarship. That may or may not be a help to us.

I want to explore these words some more. They are familiar from years of reading the gospel of Jesus according to the apostle John, but I still have much more to digest from this. Children's pastor Jessica Springer, in her sermon on Sunday, took this same scripture in a very different direction. Using the idea behind the Klondike bar commercials, she asked "What would you do for Jesus?" An excellent sermon it was, showing how dense this scripture is.

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