Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meandering thoughts on what I've been reading in John

I have been reading John 13-17. It is stunning. It's Jesus' last words to his disciples. The weight of the words, the depth of what he was trying to communicate to them has had me reading and rereading.

In some ways it's so blunt, and Jesus says pointedly that they will not understand him now, but He is telling them so that later the Holy Spirit will come and help them remember and understand it. He repeatedly attempts to prepare them for the crucifixion and then his departure. "Now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe."

What has caught my attention is that it seems like Jesus is saying, "Okay, look, this is my last time to tell you everything you need to remember from me, so let me try to lay this out for you - I am God, God is sending the Spirit, who is also Us, and we are inviting you to come and dwell with Us." I have never seen the Trinity so clearly laid out anywhere in scripture, it's as though Jesus is attempting to lay it out in simple language in a way they can come back and remember. It's beautiful. Given that the Jews had no understanding of the Trinitarian God, we are seeing the revelation of God to his people...

"If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?"

"I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."

"[The Spirit] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

"Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

That also stuns me - I have been marveling over it. What Isaac has learned more than anything else in Seminary is a greater understanding and love and awe for the Trinity. I've drawn that from him, and in light of the Trinity, it's absolutely stunning to see the words above: "and you in me, and I in you." We are, in some mysterious way, invited into communion with THE TRINITY. It's... it's incomprehensible.

The implications of it all in the passage are huge. The "abide in me" is inviting us to dwell with the Trinity as they dwell with each other. Wow. It also puts new light on the passage "ask whatever you wish". It's in light of the Trinity - and you can see that the Father asks what He wishes, and Jesus gives it - the Spirit asks, and the Father gives. Because they dwell in constantly sacrificial love, they give all. So - when we dwell with our God, of course He gives what we ask. And then, the "new commandment" to love others as God has loved us - that is an immense command in light of the Trinity and the sacrificial death of Christ. It is a reorientation of their entire lives to love and service instead of victory.

And then the High Priestly Prayer when Jesus prays specifically for the disciples, and then "for those who will believe in me through [the disciples'] words." That's us. This is Jesus praying specifically for us. It blows me away...

"That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

Jesus basically says that twice, in two different ways. The command to love and oneness. As TheMarriedCouple asked recently in a conversation we were having - is it a tragedy that we have so many church splits? Are we ruining this call to "oneness", or is it possible that we can be one and glorify God despite our differences?

And then - this echoes the book I'm reading now "The Mission of God". All of this is "so that the world may believe"... and... "so that the world may know". It echoes the Old Testament, when God repeatedly says of Israel AND of other nations, "then you will know that I am God." He is a God who wants to be known AS GOD by mankind... all mankind.

This one makes me tear up: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

O Great God, who has loved us, who makes Himself known to us, who is in us, who within 11 verses is arrested and on his way to a death in order make it possible for us to know God!

This is what I have been reminded of again and again these past months. I still wrestle with theology. I still am examining my own church and Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. To a certain extent, though, my mind is eased because I am still centered on the same thing I have always been centered on - my childhood choice of a life's verse in Philippians - "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord... I want to know him."

I am easily distracted, but oh the joy and peace of knowing Christ as the goal of my life!

Last month I went and listened to the President of my organization speak in chapel at my husband's Seminary. It was quite amazing to see the students around me with tears in their eyes as John pounded home the central theme of his life - the great saving love of Christ for us, and how we are transformed when we know Him.

This guy is surrounded by people that talk theology, politics, etc. He's at a seminary that deals with the fine points of apologetics and exegesis. Yet his simple point was (and always is in every talk), that it all follows BEHIND knowing Christ, and only by knowing His love does anything else matter at all. Only in knowing the love of Christ are we able to do the many things we feel called to, and when we cease to sit in awe at His love, we will lose the very source of our energy and calling.

Behold him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of glory and of grace!

One in himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by his blood
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God
With Christ, my Savior and my God


CM said...

Beautiful. I think the discovery of the truth is an ongoing journey throughout life. I think we have the obligation to pray and study and learn what Jesus meant by unity in those verses, so that we can grow closer to it. However, in heaven, it won't be about who went to what church. It will be about sharing together in the life of the Trinity. Great post!

Jaimie said...

"I am easily distracted, but oh the joy and peace of knowing Christ as the goal of my life!"

That says it all for me. This post rocked.

Jaimie said...

And also so beautiful is the thought that the Jews did not know of the Triune God. Think about all the incredible stuff we don't know yet. Simple, simple stuff, so deep and yet fitting, and God hasn't shown it yet.

Amy said...

Ok, so ever since you commented on my blog, and started commenting on Rachel's blog, I have been meaning to contact you. Based on your recent posts, I feel like we could have some things to talk about, so if you are interested, email me - chaseafterwind AT gmail DOT com.

This post is just fantastic. I have shivers! I am going to have to do some more contemplating of the things you point out.

Jesus' prayer for unity always both fills me with hope me and makes me sad. Both before and after leaving the Catholic Church, I have always been scandalized by the apparent splintering of Christendom into so many denominations. But a comment my husband made recently has made me try to look at things in a new way. He asked if I thought it was possible for Jesus' prayer for unity to be in vain. Or in other words, whether or not we could possibly thwart that prayer of his? I don't know the answer to that question, it gets all tied up with free will and God's Sovereignty and all that. But thinking about it makes me wonder if perhaps there really is more unity than we tend to acknowledge.

P.S. I have been listening to Revelation Song on a daily basis for over a month - I just love it so much.