Journal: thoughts on John 16


Last night I had the pleasure and honor to be present at the baptism of one of my star students. A joyful occasion indeed, bringing good memories of my own baptism (see above) at Harmony Church

Prior to the baptism the pastor spoke about what baptism meant and words such as giving your life to God, living for His purpose, according to His plan, guided by the Holy Spirit.

It is in these times amazing in itself to see young people make such commitments. Beautiful. I know I have been there and still am there, so I was also reminded as to how that sometimes poses serious challenges and it reminded me of the story found in John 16.

Jesus tells his disciples that he’ll be going back to his Father and all of them are said at his words, not because they did not allow him the joy of being reunited but because their own interests stood in the way… or so they thought.

Jesus however saw the bigger plan and understood not only that he would be going away but also that it was necessary even, so that “the Comforter, the Holy Spirit could come. Jesus understood that we would actually be better off with His departure.

It is so easy, despite the fact that you made a commitment to live your life His plan, for His purpose, to be blinded for the bigger picture, the picture that you may not be seeing (yet).  I guess the story teaches us that quick relief is not always the best option in the larger scheme of things and that we may sometimes not be fully aware of what the true value or blessing is that comes with certain less pleasurable events situations in our lives. But He knows! Perhaps it helps to ask before being grief stricken straight away.   Nowhere in the Bible does it say that a life in Christ is a guarantee for a challenge and trouble free existence. There may be a meaning of things that needs to be clarified before we put our own, worldly agenda first. All I can add is that I fail regularly, get better at it every day and that He has not let, me down so far.

John 1: 1-18 on pulling it all together


1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

What shall I say? Perhaps it is best to be quiet an sit back in awe about this beautiful caption of the Old and the New Testament in a few sentences. For those that ever doubted whether or not the Old Testament was still valid or useful: here’s your answer from the Apostle John.

It is a clear indication of how the Old and New Testament are all part of the one story of the world and that we need both the Old and the New Testament to get a good grasp of the bigger picture of man and its place in creation.

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Nicodemus meets Jesus: Some Thoughts of a Chaotic Mind


Without a doubt this is one of the stories (probably together with doubting Thomas) that really appealed to me.

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[a]

4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[e]

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[g]

Footnotes:

  1. John 3:3 Or born from above; also in verse 7
  2. John 3:6 Or but spirit
  3. John 3:7 The Greek is plural.
  4. John 3:13 Some manuscripts Man, who is in heaven
  5. John 3:15 Or believes may have eternal life in him
  6. John 3:16 Or his only begotten Son
  7. John 3:18 Or God’s only begotten Son

Some further thoughts

Now I know that this story has been used probably a thousand times in many different sermons and commentaries. The emphasis seems to be on the rebirth part (v 5-7) and to illustrate the love of God (v 16) as well as your belief so as gain eternal life and if you do not believe in him you stand condemned (v18).


Inadequate Faith?

For me the appealing part of this story is about something else: daring to question your own beliefs. Here’s a guy, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, “at night” meeting Jesus; the enemy, the leader of the opposite camp. And not only that, he actually acknowledges that Jesu is a teacher “who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs that he is (“you”) are doing if God is not with him.”

No it may be a small word but Nicodemus does not say “I know you are a great teacher” but “we” know. I can’t help but being curious about whom the “we” is he is speaking about. Was he speaking on behalf of a number of Pharisees that have already confessed their faith in Jesus?

From Acts 15:5 we learn that there were believers who belonged to the party of Pharisees.  Or was he maybe referring to a larger group? And what did John try to tell us here in these first verses? Personally, this story reminds me of my own post about the story of Doubting Thomas. From what I have been gathering so far especially it seems from reading John, is that the statement of Nicodemus is actually a statement of faith in the wrong way. Throughout John we read about miracles but it seems that that is not what it is all about as such. Faith based on the miracles is immature, inadequate. In the story of doubting Thomas Jesus advises that (John 20:29):

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus =God

The miracles it seems according to the Gospel of John are a way to point to Jesus, however the story of Nicodemus and others in John appear to be pointing towards a belief, a faith that goes beyond that which is evidence based: faith based on the miracles. It seems significant that John does not speak of miracles, but of “signs.” Whilst Nicodemus recognizes Jesus as a teacher and a whom is with God, that is not how John portrays Jesus, Jesus is much more:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

He is the Word who was in the beginning with God and was God and who became flesh and lived among us. That is ‘slightly’ more than just a great teacher, a Rabbi. God was also with Moses and with Jeremiah and other prophets, but from John we learn that Jesus an God are one (John 10:38 “the father is in me and I am in the father”, also John 14: 10).

I and the Father are one (John 10:30)

A Story of Humility

For me however this story is all about daring to challenge one’s own beliefs. Daring to admit that you may have been wrong on what you believed to be right all the time. Don’t get me wrong, in essence, Jesus’ teachings were the crisis for the Pharisees, as Jesus outlines as far as I understand it that all the the religion and rituals in the world, all the works you may have been doing and perhaps are still doing can not make up or compensate for the the relation. It is in this understanding that I can imagine how indeed the law becomes a promise.

But I am wandering off again. Just imagine how courageous it was of Nicodemus to do just that, challenging everything he stood for and ultimately admitting to have been wrong. This is what appeals to me, and that is perhaps because it is so recognizable for me personally. How many of you out there are ready and wiling to admit that you may have been wrong at times. I know that many will have trouble doing so for just marginal little things let alone as in the case of Nicodemus where it concerns everything you are supposed to stand for, everything you believed, no know to be true, everything he lived for. And while Nicodemus may not be a prominent figure in the New Testament, I think he only appears in John, from his subsequent actions it could be inferred that he did indeed admit he was wrong. In that sense, the story of Nicodemus is also a story of humility.

Religion, Relation and the Worldview Test

In my testimony,  spoke about the difference between religion and relation and it seems that this subject (at least with me) keeps on popping up. Perhaps it is because I have taken so much time to build my ultimate case against religion. I started the testimony with this CS Lewis quote:

“THE MOMENT A MAN SERIOUSLY ACCEPTS A DEITY, HIS INTEREST IN RELIGION IS AT AN END. HE’S GOT SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT.” (CS LEWIS)

I guess the thrust of my testimony and subsequent experiences have been that indeed it is in the relationship that you’ll find that the becomes a promise. Lewis may have meant something different but for me this speaks like it does. In daily practice this meant for me that it is not about doing things right, but about accepting what God has already done for you, following him with all your heart an soul and lives and guess what? Many of the things  once called “religious”, the “law” indeed becomes a promise because the Holy Spirit will guide you there: love, kindness, self control (although that may be the hardest part for this night owl),  or let me say where the Holy Spirit leads me. Who am I to talk for anyone else? What I have learned is that in the end it is not in the doing good that a relationship is allowed (old covenants) but in the relationship.It simply isn’t about you (me) but about what God has in mind for you, and how better to find than by being in constant communication.

Rick Warren in his TED talk about his bestseller “A Purpose Driven Life” says that the ultimate test of your worldview is how you act on and I would add just before you die, and not in the good times.

You could ask yourself: why should I be admitted in heaven? And many will tell you:

I always lived a good life

I always tied to follow the law or ten commandments

I always did what the church said  should do.

In a way, I think most of us can relate to these answers to some extent. But in the same way this is actually the answer you might expect from a Pharisee. And in the end is this really what it is about?I bring back the final verses of the Nicodemus story:

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Later in John we read:

47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)

and in John 14: 6 we read:

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In another way this is beautifully filmed in the movie “The Gospel” I will share this youtube clip with you if only because it is probably one of my favorite worship songs. The important part of the clip is this conversation between a pastor and his intended successor about the involvement of the pastors ‘lost’ son and secular artist in the upcoming service with the music. Here’s the quote that for me relates back to Nicodemus as a Pharisee, and to the worldview question of Rick Warren. The pastor says:

I am of the mindset that we should spend a little less time looking good and a little more time actually being good.”

Do stick around after the quote for the great performance and try to not be touched by it.

Finally

As said in my testimony, I am still trying to get to grips wit the magnitude of all this and at the same time simplicity seems to be the answer here. There was a lot of doing good without necessarily being good. And where this relates to church practices. Please do not start judging straight away as this is not how meant this: there is no perfect church, there is however a perfect God.

And the Wordle of this post to close off.

I’ be keen to see your comments and ready to learn.  What is your worldview?

What is your answer to the question why you should be in heaven?

What have I missed!?!

In the words of Jay Deragon:

WHAT SAY YOU?

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