Lent Reflections @ CEC: Questions of Jesus
“The command to love and serve—not merely tolerate—each other requires more commitment and sacrifice than we care to give, and so we do the polite minimum from afar. The seasons of Lent and Easter bring thoughts of surrender and sacrifice.” — Nana Dolce
Scripture context: John 14: 6-10
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father... The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
Question: Have I been with you for so long, and you still do not know me? (John 14:9)
It is easy to picture the dramatic context of this passage of scripture in light of its many Hollywood screen adaptations. Shortly before his arrest, Jesus and his disciples are celebrating the Passover. Moments earlier, Judas Iscariot had left the gathering to betray Jesus into the hands of those who want him killed. Jesus himself has just told his followers that he will be among them only a little while longer and announced to Peter that before the rooster crows, Peter will deny him three times. The music swells to a crescendo as Jesus makes what is perhaps his greatest declaration – that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that all those present have seen Almighty God in the flesh, for he and the Father are one.
And then, in the movie version of my imagination, the music fizzles as Philip reveals in one line of dialogue that he has totally missed the point.
Lesson #1: Sometimes, when Jesus speaks, we are “hard of listening.”
People who are hard of hearing sometimes have difficulty comprehending what is being said because there is a physiological problem with their internal auditory mechanism. But someone who is “hard of listening” hears the words all right; he or she just isn’t paying attention well enough to internalize the message they carry.
Philip’s comment, “Show us the Father,” demonstrates that he obviously did not register the meaning of Jesus’s statement “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” Sometimes, we are likewise prone to missing the point when we study the words of Jesus. Our earthly minds are so preoccupied with other things (or conditioned to accept what seems logical or plausible or easy to grasp based on our own previous experience or finite knowledge) that we can tend to dismiss difficult or disturbing (or convicting) passages of scripture with a “Yes, but…” response. We need to receive the words of Jesus in a way that internalizes their meaning; we need to listen as well as hear.
Lesson #2: It is possible to have been a believer for quite some time without knowing who Jesus really is.
Now that’s a scary thought.
Philip lived in Jesus’s time and was a member of his inner circle, someone who spent practically every day with him. If he had trouble grasping the concept of Jesus’s divinity, what hope is there for us who must rely solely on faith?
I am sure that many of us have identified at one time or another with the very human foibles and failings of the various disciples. But even though none of us has seen Jesus in the flesh, we do have something that they did not have in their time: the New Testament, a written record of Jesus’s life and ministry that we can go to again and again to work on our understanding of who he is. His own words, the record of his deeds, and the testimony of those who knew him (or of others like the Apostle Paul whose lives he changed in profound ways), offer us a more expansive view of the character and majesty of Our Lord and of his place in human history. That is why reading the Bible is so important; its pages teach us who Jesus really is.
Lesson #3: Jesus knows that sometimes we need help with our unbelief.
Jesus was aware that some of what he told his disciples about who he was would be difficult to understand or accept. After all, the nation of Israel had already experienced a long succession of prophets who had appeared throughout history to bring God’s words and interpret God’s will to his people. While they might have longed for a triumphant Messiah who would give them a great victory over their oppressors, the concept of a suffering Savior who came to die on a cross to save them from their sins must have sounded highly improbable, despite what the prophet Isaiah had predicted about the one he called “A Man of Sorrows, despised and rejected of men and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
One cannot believe in a Savior if one does not recognize the need for salvation. Even if we don’t have trouble admitting our own shortcomings, circumstances such as personal hardships or tragic world events can make it difficult to have faith in a loving and compassionate God, let alone to believe that Jesus, who lived more than two thousand years ago, rose from the dead and is still at work in the world today. In this passage of scripture, Jesus points to his miracles as further evidence of his divinity. In addition, his words to Thomas as recorded in John 20:29 provide further encouragement to those of us who live in the present day and must rely on faith alone: “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
In order to know God, it is important to understand who Jesus is and what he came to do. Taking our cue from his life and ministry, our mission then becomes Love God, Love People, Serve Both. This Easter, let us renew our pledge to carry on God’s work in the world by following the blessed example he provided. May our lives demonstrate that we do, indeed, know Jesus so that others may come to know him, as well.
We ask that You would reveal Yourself to us through Your word to help us to know You better - to worship You in spirit and truth, to believe You and what You say, and to live in the light of who You are.