“And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”-John 16:3
Christians are called to know God, through his son and by his Spirit, so that we might accurately represent him by how we love. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day dogmatically trusted in their theology. Because they were students of the Scriptures, they attempted to dictate truth to others, yet as Jesus said elsewhere, they shut the door in people’s faces (see Mt. 23:13). They operated from positions of superiority, glory seeking, and division. Jesus told his disciples that these leaders would kick people out of the church, and even kill his followers. Their willingness to exclude and attack others grew out of their false under-standing of God.
It remains true that legions of people who don’t know the real Jesus, inside and outside of the church, attack Christianity. In their pride and certainty, they marginalize the broken and sinful, barring them from the love and grace that they so desperately need.
Jesus, broken, sinful people are masters of division. I confess that I look for ways in which I believe I am better than others. Forgive me for comparing and judging. Allow me to be a reflection of the welcome of the gospel. Amen.
“They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”-John 16:2
Often, the greatest resistance to the good news comes from church people. In John 16:2, Jesus warned his disciples about the religious leaders, not the pagans. It was the Jews who would cry out for his death. Why? Because the gospel is counter-cultural. Its message confronts religious and non-religious people alike. People cannot accept the message that tells them they can do nothing for their own salvation. But the Bible is clear that salvation is entirely because of his grace.
When we proclaim Jesus’s true message—that because God is gracious, all are welcome into his kingdom—we will be unpopular with some people. That is what Jesus says. When we invite pornographers, criminals, liberal (or conservative) politicians, and alcoholics, we are also inviting criticism from those who want to keep living under a system of good people and bad people.
Jesus, I want to courageously proclaim your true message, which is a message of welcome. Embolden me, for I am afraid. Let your Spirit enliven me with your message of grace. Amen.
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”-John 16:1
Have you ever felt like you were hanging on by a thread, thinking “I don’t know if I’m going to make it?” As you have walked the road with Jesus, have you wondered how you could keep going or doubted whether he even cared?
Jesus was clear that life’s road would not be easy. He wasn’t inviting the disciples to live for themselves by pursuing material comforts. Instead he called them to live in the way of the cross, which is the way of service, sacrifice, and self-denial.
When you are hated for following Jesus, remember that he too was hated. When life is so painful that you can barely breathe, know that as Jesus hung on the cross, every breath he took was excruciating. Loving through pain is uncomfortable, but as you live in that reality, let it stir your thirst for the one who will one day restore all things to wholeness.
Jesus, one day when all is revealed in glory, all earthly pain shall cease. You call me into marvelous light, yet for now, I am left stumbling in the darkness. Help me to always see your beacon of hope. Amen.
leaving crimson marks
upon white expanse
tracing cursive lines
by the teacher
scribbles becoming legible.
“I’ve got the hang of this”
I tell myself
as I maneuver to and fro
upon a wide tableau
quicker we go
heart and machine
I watch him
make a sweeping arc
poetry in motion
I follow suit
trying to execute
the loop with grace.
But I colored outside the lines
uncertain what happened
tell the tale.
I study the lines
my ego bruised
to a deep crimson
I got ahead of myself.
“Mistakes are great teachers”
as I hold my ribs
take a breath
and begin again.
“And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”-John 15:27
Jesus told his disciples that they would bear witness to him, reporting what they had seen and heard. They were given the gift of witnessing his life and ministry, and then of telling the story about who he was and what he came to do. Through the disciples, we are also invited to bear witness to Jesus.
But we need to connect this verse with the surrounding context. In verse 26, Jesus said that the Spirit bears witness about him and pointed us to the dance within Trinity between Father, Son, and Spirit. We are invited into the community of love. God exists in a perfect, loving relationship, and he desires us to join him.
Jesus, you have called your followers to bear witness to you. You have given me the message of life, yet so often I seem to forget the life you have given me. Enliven me again with the message of your grace. Amen.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”-John 15:26
What precisely is the role of the Spirit? For one, he is a helper. With the Spirit’s help, we are not left blindly interpreting Scriptures or relying only upon fallible teachers. Under the new covenant, we have a guide who leads us into truth.
Jesus also said that the Spirit bears witness about him. In other words, a second role that the Spirit plays is to bring Jesus to mind, to point us to him. By the Spirit, we do not have to stumble about on our own.
John 15:26 is also a Trinitarian verse. Notice all three members’ presence: Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus sends the Spirit from the Father, who will in turn tell about him. This is Trinitarian flow. This is perichoresis.
Jesus, thank you for showing me the Trinity and for sending your Spirit to testify about you. Teach me to dance with you in your perichoretic flow. Amen.
“But the word that is written in their law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”-John 15:25
Jesus’s life fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, which included the hatred he endured. Scripture anticipated that he would be hated, but notice precisely what Jesus said: “The word that is written in their law.” As the second member of the Trinity, he would have written the law, so it was his law too. I think the reason Jesus said “their law” was because he wanted the disciples to see that even the scriptures that the scribes and Pharisees knew so well anticipated them hating him. Jesus was not a maverick thumbing his nose at the Mosaic Law. Rather, he was its fulfilment.
It is good to pay attention to Jesus’s words, but also to pay attention to the law and the prophets. Through his life and teaching, Jesus revealed what kingdom life looks like. We benefit from reading, with humility and curiosity, what the wisdom of the Old Testament saints had to say, filtered through the lens of Jesus.
Jesus, you are the fulfillment of the law. Even the hatred you endured was anticipated. Help me to connect the dots between your holy word, written down so long ago, and life in the present, so that I might know your divine vision for kingdom life. Amen.
“Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have hated both me and my Father.”-John 15:23:24
Jesus was helping his disciples to see that the Pharisees, whose hatred for him had reached the boiling point, also hated the Father. They continually challenged Jesus and put him to the test. Because Jesus contradicted their understanding of God, they viewed him as a heretic, blasphemer, and the son of the devil. When Jesus mingled with and even touched those who were “unclean,” they had all the proof they needed. In their eyes, that branded him a belligerent law breaker and they hated him for it. Jesus’s works were one and the same with the Father’s heart, yet many refused to see.
How often do we fail to see the heart of Jesus? How often are our perspectives, choices, or imaginings formed by the world we live in, or by how we think the Father is rather than how he has revealed himself? To know God, we need to know Jesus.
Jesus, I confess that my understanding of you and of the world is colored by my biases and assumptions. Straighten out my twisted thinking and align me again with your Spirit. Amen.
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been found guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”-John 15:22
All of us have made honest mistakes. We have done things that seemed right at the time, believing we were doing the best we could. Only later, did we learn that what we were doing was actually harmful rather than helpful.
When Jesus came, the Pharisees didn’t know they were off base. They believed they were doing exactly what God had called them to do. They were trying to live righteously and make others do the same in the way they had come to understand the scriptures. Yet Jesus brought the message of true love and true faith, telling them about self-sacrifice, non-judgment, welcome, and acceptance of others. But the Pharisees could not hear him, branding him a blasphemer and heretic. Like the Pharisees, when we choose to live contrary to his message of love, we are guilty of sin. He has called us to a different way of life and asks us to follow him.
Jesus, I have heard your word and seen your example of how to live, yet every day, I fall short of your standard. Forgive me, for I too have no excuse. By your Spirit, help me to live in the way of love every day. Amen.