16/5/04 a.m. John 14:23-29
A little girl came to her mother, distressed after attending Sunday School. 'We sang such a funny song today', said the girl. 'What was it', enquired her mum. 'Well, it went, "I will make you vicious old men"'! ( should be fishers of men! )
This raises the question what difference should our faith make ? We can answer this from today's passage using 3 P's.
Proof; Presence; and Peace.
Jesus starts off our reading today by saying that obedience of his teaching is evidence of love for him. So it is about The Proof of Faith.
This conversation occurred on the night before Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus had: washed the disciples feet; predicted his betrayal by Judas Iscariot; told the disciples he would be leaving them; predicted Peter's denial; and promised the Holy Spirit. In verse 21 he has already said that he who obeys his commands is the one who loves him. 21 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."
Judas then asked this question in verse 22. "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
Judas cannot understand why, if Jesus is the Messiah, he will not reveal himself as a earthly, conquering military leader. Jesus is saying that he will not be revealed in this way, but in his teaching. And just as he will be revealed in his teaching, so will his true disciples be shown as those who obey his teaching.
Note that God doesn't love us because we obey him. But our obedience shows that we realise that God loves us, and shows that we love him.
A Vicar was building a wooden trellis to support a climbing rose. As he hammered the nails in he saw that a little boy was watching him. The youngster didn't say a word, so the Vicar kept on working, thinking the lad would just leave. But he didn't. Finally the Vicar asked, "Well, son, are you trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?" "No," he replied, "I'm just waiting to hear what a Vicar says when he hits his thumb with a hammer."
If we and people in the church claim to be Christians we should show it by living lives that follow the life and teaching of Jesus. This is crucial in our world today. It is crucial to our witness, as this story shows. It is also crucial because God requires his people to be holy, the word means 'set apart for him'. If we compromise and follow way of the world rather than the way of the word then we can prejudice our salvation and that of others. This is why I, and many other Christians are at best uneasy at the appointment of Jeffrey John as Dean of St. Alban's Cathedral.
The late Frank Sinatra's most famous song was probably my way. But as Christians we should not live life my way. But Thy way.
The Presence of God.
Jesus had just told the disciples, in verse 4 that he was going to leave them. Now he says ,23 "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Those who love and obey him will have Jesus and God the Father come and live with them. An intimate, close relationship.
I don't know if any of you saw the celebrations in Norwich on Monday evening. An estimated 50,000 people came out to see the team who have won the First Division Championship. One of the things mentioned by Delia Smith and others was the importance of teamwork. With their limited financial resources Norwich will need excellent teamwork if they have any chance of surviving in the Premiership.
Teamwork that approaches being at one typifies any good sports team. This sense of unity is sought in almost every human activity. Yet we live in a lonely world where people are crying out for a unity with someone. People look for satisfaction in the wrong places. From a job, a relationship without commitment, material things or wealth, and the list goes on.
We are created to have a right relationship with God. A unity with him. Something that we can only experience through what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Not through our own merits.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards!" He was acknowledging that once two people become married and live with each other they discover what one another are really like.
When God comes and makes his home with us we find out more about him and we find out more about ourselves as well. In a homegroup we led in Stoke someone said that they never really knew themselves until they became a Christian. We are blind until we come to Jesus. He opens our eyes to see ourselves as we really are, and to see the world as it really is.
How do we know God living in our lives ? 26 But the Counselor, 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.
Jesus was leaving the disciples. Even so there would have been times in the preceding three years when he was not physically and immediately present with them. But the Holy Spirit lives within all believers, all of the time. He is another marker of what it means to be a true Christian.
The Holy Spirit does many things in the lives of believers. Here Jesus links up with his teaching that he has mentioned in verse 23. Verse 26 says that the Holy Spirit will 'teach you all things and will remind you of everything that I have said to you.'
Several years ago there was an advert on television where famous people stated the name of teachers who have made an impact on their lives. The Holy Spirit will work like a teacher by revealing the meaning of Jesus' words. Teachers can help by explaining the meaning of something, but when you are in the exam room they cannot help you. The clock ticks to the appointed time, you are told to turn over your papers and begin. You are on your own, there is no teacher to help you now !
But the Holy Spirit is inside Christians. Reminding them of Jesus' teaching.
So we can know God's presence in our lives all of the time. He will help us to live for God. He will teach us and remind us of Jesus' commands.
The Peace of God.
In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan battled
for an entire year to find a passage around South America. There at
the very tip of the continent, in its icy waters he encountered some
of the worst weather anywhere on earth. Raging seas, towering ice floes,
and a mutinous crew plagued his efforts. When he finally made his way
through those straits now called the Magellan Straits, he entered into
a great body of water that lay beyond, and as he and his men lifted
their faces to heaven and gave thanks to God, he named the new ocean
"The Peaceful One -- the Pacific Ocean."
In his words this morning, Jesus desires to lead us in the same way to a place of peace. It is his hope to direct our feet and steer our lives from the paths that would lead to hell to his place of peace.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
In Jesus' time you would say 'Shalom' to someone as a greeting. It means peace. I wish you well. Have a nice day.
Whilst it may be a pleasant, polite, even sincere gesture it wouldn't make a great deal of difference to your day. It would not transform a peaceless day into a peaceful day by itself. It is ineffective. With no power.
Jesus peace is not the peace as some would understand it, or perhaps want it. It is not a tranquil, trouble-free existence. After all, the next day Jesus would be crucified, and within weeks the disciples would be persecuted for their devotion to Jesus.
The world would see peace as an absence of hostilities. But the peace that Christ brings is much deeper than that.
It is peace with God, but also a peace within God. A peace with God because Jesus has removed the cause of the hostility between man and God when he took the punishment for our sins on the cross. A peace for us within God because we are united with God. We can have confidence in God and his care for us.
In my previous Parish I was walking from the church talking with one of the families from the local Primary School. As we were walking Ruth, who was in Joshua's class at the time, slipped her hand into mine. I was touched that she wanted to do this. I suppose that she did this because she liked and trusted me, and that she felt safer near the busy road.
We can have peace with God. Like a young child holding an adult's hand we can feel safe, confident, loved and accepted.
There are two practical effects that knowing this peace can bring. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid, says Jesus, verse 27.
Jesus was speaking to disciples who would see him crucified the next day, and who would hide themselves away from the authorities immediately afterwards.
But God turned things around. He raised Jesus from the dead. He gave the power of the Holy Spirit to them so they would boldly proclaim what God has done for humankind in Jesus. And they would stand in front of the religious leaders and accuse them of killing Jesus. Not only that they refused to stop speaking about Jesus, even though they were whipped 39 times and told not to!
There are times when things are difficult and we will be concerned. But it can be at those times that our faith is most real, and that we realise that everything else is temporary. Jesus is saying that we shouldn't let these things overwhelm us, and that we can trust in the rule and the purposes of God.
A Nazi officer was interrogating a young German Christian. He did everything that he could to make the Christian give up his faith. In the end he had to resort to threats.
"Don't you know," he snarled, "that I have the power to kill you!"
"Yes," replied the lad, " but I have the power to die !"