John 15:26

“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.

John 14:10-11

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”-John 14:10-11

This must have been a startling statement for the disciples to hear. Remember, for observant Jews, God was transcendent. He had revealed himself to some: Moses, Daniel, and Isaiah, for example, but even with those chosen few, there was no talk of mutual indwelling. Jesus’s statement was truly astounding. Not only did he say that God was in him, but that he was in God.

What did Jesus’s statement mean for the disciples? What does it mean for you and me? Jesus was implying that because of this mutual indwelling, he spoke with the authority of the Father. His teachings were not merely a man’s words, even if he was the wisest man ever. His claim was that he spoke the very words of God.  

Jesus also talked about being in the Father. Although the Bible never used the word Trinity, it is implied in many places. Jesus told the disciples, and us, that the Father, Son, and Spirit are present within one another. There is an old Greek word—perichoresis—that describes this Trinitarian relationship. It literally means “to dance around” (peri=around; choreo=dance). The image of dancing helps us to grasp the flow of the Father, Son, and Spirit into and around one another in true oneness.

We can trust the words of Jesus because they flow from the Trinity. We can trust the works of the Son because they are the works of God himself.

Jesus, my limited mind cannot grasp the full magnificence and wonder of your words and works. You dwell and dance with the Father and the Spirit, distinct, but completely one. Expand my mind to know your Trinitarian intimacy. Amen. 

John 14:7

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”-John 14:7

After telling the disciples that he was the only way to God, Jesus took it a step further, or perhaps several steps. In Hebrew culture, God was completely transcendent. The Jews knew many things about God having been well-trained in the scriptures. Many of them would memorize the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible—so that they knew the story. They knew that God had revealed himself to certain people, but that no one could behold the fullness of his glory and live. Like all Jews, Jesus’s followers were trying to uphold and follow the law so that they would see more of God. In verse 6, Jesus told them that he was the only way they would be able to see the Father, not by following the law, but by following him.

In verse 7, Jesus told them that not only was he was the way to the Father, but that he was one with the Father. “If you know me, you know my Father.” In less than a day, the high priests would kill him for saying that he was one with God. The word Jesus used for “know” was not implying that he knew facts about God, but that he knew him with relational intimacy. The same word was used elsewhere to indicate intercourse. Jesus told Thomas and the others, “If you know what intimate friendship with me is like, then you know what relationship is like with my Father. Like me, he is intimate, loving, and kind.”

Jesus’s statement about oneness with the Father likely fractured many of their stereotypes about God. Perhaps they also shatter yours. For some of us, we remember God’s transcendent holiness, but we forget his immanent and intimate love for us. He is holy and he is love. If you want to know what God looks like, get to know Jesus.

Jesus, in my finite understanding, it is hard for me to remember that you are transcendent and immanent at the same time. Thank you for helping me to see that the love you have shown me is the same love the Father offers. Amen.

Request for Readers

Last week, I finished the manuscript for my third book. Over a long weekend, I took a couple of passes through the book and I read the first 80 pages aloud to Heather (she seemed to like it though, admittedly, I am her husband). I would like to ask for a few volunteers to read through the manuscript and offer comments about the content of the book before I pass it along for copy editing. Let me offer some basics about the book and then let you know what I am hoping.

SYNOPSIS: Notes from the Upper Room: Lessons in Loving Like Jesus (working title) is a non-fiction book about Jesus’s last supper with his disciples in the upper room before going to the cross, recorded in chapters 13-17 of John’s gospel. This book began when I “mind-mapped” these five chapters, wanting to identify core themes in Jesus’s teaching. The book, which is just shy of 57,000 words, has two sections. The first section, which is roughly 75 pages, is composed of 7 chapters discussing some of the themes I see. Following the introduction, the chapters are titled: Trinitarian Relating, Belonging, Sacredness of the Ordinary, Servanthood, Obedience, Peace in Suffering, and Jesus’s Prayer.

The second section, about 120 pages, is a series of devotional thoughts, verse by verse, through the upper room discourse. In light of the two different sections, you will notice overlap, but I hope they are unique enough to be of benefit.

In light of that brief synopsis, I am hoping that a handful of people will be sufficiently intrigued to do a read through with an eye toward the content. It is certainly not academic, so I hope it is accessible. If you are familiar with the general flow of John 13-17, if the chapters sound interesting, or if you have a general interest in books about the Christian life and Trinitarian relating, all the better. I will probably limit the number of early readers because “too many cooks spoil the stew,” but if you are at all interested, please reach out. I will send out a Word document, so you can track changes and offer comments. If it is something that seems interesting, but you don’t have the time to spend with it, I would ask that you wait until the book comes out.

Regardless of whether you read it now or never, would you please pray for this book and for my nerves as I move forward?

True Love’s Welcome

Write 31 Days, day 6
Today’s Prompt: Belong

Today, I wrote a brief reflection on the Trinity, inspired by the 15th century icon The Trinity by Andrei Rublev.

On a clear day, I saw them from a long way off. At first, I could barely make them out. From such a distance, I could not say whether there were three or one as they seemed to blend into one another. As I drew closer, they came into focus, the three seated around a small table. At first glance, I struggled to tell them apart; thankfully they each wore different robes.

Watching them kindled a longing I had never felt before. Intimacy flowed between them. There was no sense of posturing, no one-ups-man-ship. They genuinely delighted in being with one another. So often, with meetings of more than two, cliques begin to form. Two will buddy up tighter than the third. Not so here. They each reveled not only in the others, but even in the connection between the other two. I was seeing love embodied.

As I continued to gaze upon them from my safe distance, tears wet my cheeks. Never before had I witnessed something so beautiful. In that moment I beheld perfection. Oh, to be loved like that! To experience such divine intimacy. It touched upon every desire I had ever felt. Yet I remained outside, hidden.

I intended to sneak away quietly. To interrupt them would be to intrude upon perfection, and I was unwilling to disturb what they had with one another. As I raised up to leave, they looked my way. I expected irritation, but saw delight. I expected disappointment, but they exuded joy.

As one, they beckoned, “Come join us.”

“I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to intrude,” but every part of me resisted my own words.

“We’ve been waiting for you. There is already a place at the table,” they said invitingly.

“But as I have watched you, I have witnessed perfection. I fear that if I join in, I will diminish perfection.”

“Friend, nothing you have ever done, thought, or said can diminish us. Rather, our love will envelop you. You belong. You have always belonged. You were created for no other purpose than to be in fellowship with us.”

And, hoping against hope, I took my seat and felt true love’s welcome.