Hey, look! You’ve rounded the corner…you’ve stuck to your commitments and you’re in the zone now! Praying that you are reaping the benefits of spending time in God’s word!
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.” Jesus is very clear about why he is sharing with his disciples what is to come. He knows the going is about to get tough. But you know the saying…when the going gets tough, the “tough” remember what Jesus told them and rely on the Advocate to strengthen their hope, faith, and joy. Wait…no, that’s not how it goes. That’s ok. I think I improved it. He is speaking directly to his disciples, but I think he is also speaking to us as well. The troubles we face might be different from the types of troubles the disciples faced, but Jesus is saying the same to you now…”Don’t abandon your faith!” Even when you’re confused. Even when God feels far away. Even when the going gets tough.
Can you think of a time in your life (maybe it’s now) when you felt lost, confused, ready to give up? How did you respond? Did you return time and time again to Jesus’ words and promises?
“The time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me.” An interesting theme throughout John is how easily the “religious” can be misguided, oblivious, or actively working against the will of God. We can look through history to see the ways the “religious” have done much harm in God’s name. However, God’s word was not meant to be a weapon…it’s meant to be a mirror. We can become so strong in our “convictions”, so obsessed with being right that we forget to actually ask God what HIS will is. We think we are doing “a holy service for God” but in actuality we are standing in his path moving forward. Spend sometime looking at this mirror. We don’t want to be the type of “religious” people who get out of step with where God is moving because we are leaning on our own understanding. As Jesus says, the antidote to this is to truly KNOW God through Jesus himself. Spend some time in His presence. Ask him to show you where you may have been misguided, despite your strong convictions. Allow him to change your heart and your mind.
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come.” This was always such a radical, counter-intuitive statement for me. In my humanness, it is so hard to fathom it being BETTER to not be able to see, hear, touch Jesus with our own human senses. We often think…if only I could see Jesus with my own eyes…then I would believe. Given the choice of being able to have Jesus, in the flesh, standing before me or having the Advocate dwelling INSIDE me….I’m not sure I’d always choose the latter. Oh how misguided I can be. It’s hard to wrap our heads around, but the reality is the Advocate has far less limitations and can reach farther and deeper than Jesus in his humanness. We often (myself included) short-change the Holy Spirit. Spend some time in quietness, acknowledging the Holy Spirit, dwelling WITHIN you. This is an amazing and beautiful thing. We have something the disciples who walked with Jesus everyday didn’t have (at this point.) Something they desperately wanted. And we often take it for granted. Spend some time in a posture of gratitude for this gift we have received. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak with you, guide you, strengthen you, and convict you.
“And when he (the Advocate) comes, he will convict the world of its sin.” Speaking of short-changing the Holy Spirit…we sometimes forget that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of it’s sin. Yes, we have a role to play, but WE are not the ones who can change anyone’s hearts. Sometimes we try to take this on ourselves and see it as our responsibility and burden to convict the world. It is not. What is our role? Our job is to love the world, to point people towards the person of Jesus, so that they may be filled with the life-giving and convicting Holy Spirit themselves. When we look at the brokenness and the wickedness of this world…the world’s (i.e. individual soul’s) biggest problem isn’t moral depravity or greed or pride or corruption…those are merely symptoms. Their biggest problem is that they don’t truly know Jesus and haven’t been filled with the Holy Spirit. So let’s make some introductions. Let’s stop trying to do the job of the Holy Spirit…we aren’t that good at it anyway. Think of someone in your life who could use some conviction of their sin. Do they KNOW Jesus? Have you seen it as your job to convict them? Have you prayed for them? Spend some time praying for them now. Pray that they would KNOW Jesus in such a way that it would transform their lives from the inside out. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be free to do the job only he can do.
Re-read verses 20-24. Take note of all the promises Jesus is making. Despite our weeping and our grief, we will have abundant joy. Jesus uses this phrase more than once. ABUNDANT JOY. This, coming right after he just finished saying that people are going to try and kill them. Other translations say our joy will be full or complete. The Message says “Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!” Complete, finished, full, overflowing. Jesus says, “no one can rob you of that joy.” Picture these things for a minute. Have you experienced this type of joy before? When you picture yourself with overflowing joy, what do you picture? I think we can agree that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a temporary emotion based on circumstances. However, joy is something deeper. Joy is something that bubbles up from within. Joy is something that our circumstances can’t take away from us. How’s your joy? If you’ve experienced this kind of joy before, rest assured it’s still there. It can’t be taken away. If you need to, spend some time uncovering your abundant joy. It’s probably commingling with your grief. As Jesus says, they are not mutually exclusive. Allow your joy to bubble up again.
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Just let this phrase sink deep into your soul. TAKE HEART. Jesus has overcome the world. Not you. Jesus. I’m sure you have experienced many trials and sorrows but the one in whom your heart dwells has overcome the world. So spend some time resting in this truth. Take heart.
Jesus prays. Whenever we get a glimpse into Jesus’ prayer life, it is always fascinating and we should pay attention. Jesus is connected to the Father in a way that our brains can’t fully comprehend and yet he still takes the time to pray. Their hearts are one, and yet Jesus still prays.
“Father the hour has come.” Wow. What a weight Jesus was carrying. The knowledge of what lies ahead for him. He knows without a shadow of a doubt that it will all be worth it, but I can also sense the heaviness. When we come to Jesus with a grateful heart for all he has done for us…we think about the cross and the physical pain he went through on our behalf. We don’t often think of these moments. The burden he carried even before he went to the cross.
“I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” I am not Jesus. (clearly) However, it is my highest goal to have my heart become more and more like his. Take away all the accomplishments, the talents, the milestones from my life thus far. THIS is the goal. I long to bring God glory here on earth by completing the work he gave me to do. Let’s tattoo that on our foreheads backwards so that when we look in the mirror, this is what we’ll see. This is our goal. Commit to it. Singularly focused on one thing. Completing the work he has given us to do. While we are on earth. So that, God will receive the glory. What work has God given you to do? How has he uniquely called you? Do you do this work? If so, do you think God is glorified by your work?
Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” Wow. What a theologically dense verse. Jesus was God. Jesus was human. Both. At the same time. He was there before the world began sharing in all the glory. And now, here is his, a human existing within the constraints of time. (insert mind-blowing emoji). All for our sakes. What a love this is.
“I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world anymore than I do.” We talked about this last week…this world is not our home so it’s only natural that we feel uneasiness at the brokenness that surrounds us. We were made for eternity. However, when Jesus is praying he specifically states that he’s not asking the Father to take us out of this world in all of it’s pain and hurt and evil. Why? Wouldn’t that make it so much nicer? Believe in Jesus, ask him to dwell in your heart and then, POOF, we’re transported to our true home. Why isn’t that how it goes? Because we are God’s plan for the redemption in this world. Gulp. We may not belong here, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we will transform this place to look more and more like the place we do belong. Maybe it’s time to switch up how we’ve been praying about our situations. Instead of asking God to remove us from our circumstances, let’s pray that he would protect us while we remain in them. Let’s pray that he would use us to help redeem those circumstances for his glory.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” THAT’S YOU! Jesus is praying FOR YOU! So what is his prayer for you? Must be something important. “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one.” UNITY. That’s what Jesus specifically prayed for you and for me. Does it make you a bit sad when you read this? Over the past year EVERYTHING has sought to divide us. We have allowed so many things take precedence over this one prayer Jesus had for us. For every issue that has come into the world we’ve been made to take a side and stick to it no matter what. We’ve been given talking points to prove our opinions. We’ve been made to dehumanize and criticize those who disagree with us. All the while Jesus is pleading with us to be one. Jesus’ heart cannot be separated from the Father’s heart. They are one. In the same way we are connected to each other. At this point in human history, this seems an impossible task. I admit, I’ve lost hope over the last year that we would be able to live up to Jesus’ prayer for us. I can’t see the way through with my human understanding. HOWEVER. I know I am confident that nothing, not even the division of the world, is too powerful to overtake the fervent prayers of Jesus. When Jesus prayed these words he knew the challenges that would come before us…he knew this would be an impossible task for us. I believe it’s for this reason that Jesus follows up this prayer with these words: “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” Back in chapter 13 Jesus said that the world will identify us by our love and here he says that the world will know that Jesus is who he said he is by our UNITY. Why? Because it is impossible. Unity among us will take a supernatural force that invades our churches, our hearts, and our communities. When something that supernatural takes place, the world takes notice.
Do you believe he’s capable? Are you willing to submit your pride, your opinions, and your resentment in order to see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer for you? For US? It’s going to take a miracle. Luckily, Jesus is in the miracle business and he has not closed up shop.
Jesus was right. We need the Advocate. Take a few minutes. LISTEN TO THIS SONG. Make it your prayer. If we want the world to see the power of Jesus through our unity, we need a fresh infusion of the Holy Spirit. When He is all we want, all the other stuff takes a backseat and the Holy Spirit can start his unifying work.
Here we go. It’s starting. All the things that Jesus has says are going to happen are starting to come into view. It’s not going to be pretty. As you read (or re-read) though the events that take place, remember the words of Jesus. Allow yourself to grieve. To feel the weight of what’s happening. However, don’t forget to take heart. Jesus willingly experienced all these things so we wouldn’t have to bear the weight of our sin and shame. The brunt of the weight falls on Jesus’ shoulders, by his own choice. So as we read through all that took place, don’t grieve like the world, remember what Jesus said. Even this won’t rob us of the ABUNDANT JOY he promised.
So Jesus enters a garden. The irony is not lost on us. The first battle with the serpent came in a garden. This second garden battle will end differently for the serpent. Even though he might think he’s winning for a moment while he’s biting Eve’s offspring’s heel, the head-crushing part is just over the horizon.
“Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrive at the olive grove.” Anyone else picturing the scene from Beauty and the Beast? What prompts an entire group of people full of soldiers and guards to wield torches and weapons in order to capture one man? The same motivation behind the mob in Beauty and the Beast. One word. FEAR. If they had the truth on their side, they wouldn’t need all the fanfare. They may say that they’re motivated by righteousness to preserve the holiness of God’s people from “blasphemy” but their actions reveal their true motivation. They came in the night with firepower because they were afraid. Afraid of losing their power. Afraid they would find themselves on the outside looking in.
Fear is a powerful motivator. Where in your life have you allowed your fear to become the driving force behind your actions? What are some fears that you still harbor? Maybe it’s time to start the hard work of letting them go. They might eventually push you to do something that you don’t really want to do. A life motivated by fear is a life full of regret. You see, these Pharisees and leading priests, despite all their best efforts wielding their power, they eventually did find themselves on the outside looking in. Despite it all. They couldn’t hold back the kingdom of God. Their fears were realized anyway. It’s best to be on the side of the ever-growing, always-expanding kingdom of the living God. Even if it means working through our fears and letting go of our expectations.
As Jesus sees them approaching and knows what’s to come. He GOES OUT to meet them. And in such Jesus-y fashion he asks them a question that cuts through to their heart, even if they don’t realize it at the time. “Who are you seeking?” They answer, “Jesus of Nazareth.” The way Jesus responds is powerful. He says, “I AM he.” Stating that he is who they are looking for…but also emphasizing that he is GOD. I AM. YHWH. At the mention of his name, they all fall to the ground. Obviously this is an amazing display of Jesus’ power. But think about it. He could have just spoken and blew them out of the garden. He displays his power in a way that also displays his humility and grace, while still forcing these accusers to come face to face with who Jesus truly is. Almighty.
Jesus says, “Since I am the one you want, let these others go.” This will be one of many self-sacrificing moments in the coming days. Jesus is already accepting the title of willing sacrifice. There will be MUCH more of this in the future. So although with this statement they bound Jesus’ hands and escorted him away, they never were in actual control of the situation. They didn’t need to overpower Jesus. He went willingly. He had his eyes on the prize…and eternity spent with those he loves. You.
When Jesus is questioned first by the high priest, he is asked about what he has been teaching his disciples. Jesus answers plainly. It hasn’t been a secret. They know what he’s been teaching. They could ask anyone. Jesus answers this way to point out that the correct way to go about this “trial” is to bring forth witnesses in order to prove that a crime has been committed. The Jewish leadership had set up a justice system to avoid this very scenario. Falsely accusing an innocent person. By answering in this way, he forces them to come to terms with their own hypocrisy. He is pointing out their motivation is the furthest thing from “justice”. This is probably what gets Jesus slapped. No one likes to be confronted with their own impure motivations.
So things move forward…in the wee hours of the morning. Still in darkness. Jesus is taken before the Roman governor, Pilate. This is the state. The state is not Jewish. The Jewish people accusing Jesus wouldn’t even walk through the doors because it would have defiled them. Let’s not miss the ironic hypocrisy on display here. They are willing to put an innocent man to death, working in the cover of darkness, cutting every corner in order to preserve their power and control. Yet they won’t walk into a Roman building during Passover. Talk about being focused on the wrong things! Have you ever been so focused on following the rules or going through the motions that you’ve completely missed the big picture? I’m sure we all have.
So since they won’t enter, Pilate comes out to them. He seems very reluctant to get involved in Jewish laws. The Jewish leaders won’t even give him a straight answer when Pilate asks what their charges are against Jesus. However, there’s one hiccup that keeps these Jewish leaders persistent. Only the Romans are allowed to execute a person…and that’s what they want. Death.
So Pilate asks him some questions. He asks if Jesus is a king. You see, in all actuality, Jesus was a peasant from Galilee…he didn’t look much like a king. Pilate is confused as to why the Jewish leaders are so threatened by this unimpressive man standing before him. Jesus senses his confusion and answers by stating that his kingdom isn’t one of this world and that he is simply here to testify to the truth. Pilate, clearly wanting to pass on responsibility asks, “What is truth?” and declares that he can’t find Jesus guilty of any crime. He gives them a chance to right their wrong and release him as was customary on Passover. However the people would rather have an actual terrorist released back into society than a miracle working teacher. Therefore, Barabbas is the first person who knows what it feels like to have Jesus die in his place. Barabbas was actually guilty of terrible crimes…and Jesus literally took his place.
Think about how Barabbas might have felt. Grateful for his freedom? Conflicted of what it took to gain his freedom? How do you identify with Barabbas? Jesus has also taken your place. As you were on your march towards destruction. Jesus stepped in and set you free.
Let’s talk about Peter for a minute. What a turn of events for Peter in this one chapter. He starts off this chapter full of valor and courage, so passionate about “protecting” Jesus that he cuts off a man’s ear with a sword! He ends the chapter coming face to face with the crowing rooster, the inevitable sign of his fear and weakness. When Peter was standing with Jesus in the garden with a sword in his hand he felt all the confidence and bravery. However, when he’s standing alone by a fire, confronted by a lowly servant girl, he crumbles and denies he even knows Jesus. Why do you think Peter denies Jesus? Do you think it’s lack of Fatih? He no longer believes Jesus is Messiah? Or was it lack of courage? Was Peter driven by self-preservation rather than his principles? I think it’s probably the latter. Peter isn’t so different from the Jewish leaders who came to the garden with blazing torches and neither are we. When it comes down to it, we’d like to think we are motivated by our morals and principles…but really fear and self-preservation is what wins out more than we’d like to admit.
Peter defended Jesus with the sword but denied him with his words when it counted. What do you think shows more about our character? What we do with a sword or with our words and our heart? I think we know the answer to that one. Jesus said it himself. Jesus doesn’t need “defending” because he willingly walked into his execution. Jesus wants our heart not our defense.
When you are confronted by the wickedness of this world are you more concerned with defending Jesus? With taking a stand? Or are you more concerned with your own heart and letting go of your fears so that you can walk into the promises God has before you? Maybe it’s time to drop your sword and listen for the crowing rooster. Maybe it’s time to get honest with yourself and see all the ways you’ve denied Jesus with your words and actions. However, a bit of foreshadowing here…like Peter, we won’t stay there in the shame of our denial. While Peter was deeply remorseful when the rooster reminded him of his failure. He still stepped into the beautiful future God had for him. He picked himself up and became a force for the kingdom. The same can be true for you!