Tag Archives: disciples

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John 21 – “Coming to the End of Self”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , ,

Sometimes Jesus lets us get to the end of ourselves – to the point where we have to admit we have caught nothing, produced and amounted to nothing.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 21:1-14

In one of His post resurrection appearances, Jesus came to the disciples after they had done their best and came up empty. They were good fishermen, it’s just that the fish weren’t biting… until Jesus came. He redirects their efforts and their nets could barely hold the catch!

Sometimes Jesus lets us get to the end of ourselves – to the point where we have to admit we have caught nothing, produced and amounted to nothing. He isn’t so interested in adding to our efforts – we could then take credit. He prefers to work through empty and yielded vessels that bring trust to the table and full glory to him. He performs great miracles through these vessels with nothing but childlike trust and sincere faith – attractive qualities to him.

“Lord, we’ve already done that, but because you say to do it, we will…” (Luke 5:5)

This is the posture of humility demonstrated by abandoning one’s perceptions, experiences, tactics, even fatigue, to embrace Jesus’ leadership and execute his sometimes counter-intuitive commands. This is the essence of following him:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Don’t be wise in your own eyes fear the Lord and turn from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Litmus test: when we’re not willing to trust him and do what he says… then we may not yet be to the end of ourselves! This means that the old man is alive and well, large and in charge, tipping the hat to Christ but not trusting the heart to him.

Unfortunately for such a person the lessons to bring them to the inevitable reality of their personal inadequacy and His divine sufficiency can be quite painful and debilitating. The sad result can be a life lived in opposition to his purpose while still being aware of his presence  – assenting to his identity but resisting (maybe resenting)  his authority.

In Reflection: I have a ways to go to come to the end of myself. I’m still at the wheel, living under the delusion that I am in control of anything beyond my will. I can almost hear Christ calling to me from the shore (um…shouldn’t He be in the boat?)

Jesus:     “Jonathan, have you caught anything?”

Jon:     Just some minnow, maybe some plankton, I can’t tell. But no, Lord, not a blessed thing except a boatload of frustration and failure!”

Jesus:     “Throw your net on the other side of the boat and you’ll find some.”

Jon:     “Lord, I fished all sides of this boat. Are you saying that I’m not competent?”

Jesus:    “I’m sorry. You’re a fisherman right? And again, exactly how much have you caught?!”

Now, what I do with his last command will affect how I respond to the next one. And if I don’t trust him with what’s happening, odds are good I won’t trust him with what’s coming.

For Peter and me, it’s not about where I’m fishing but how I’m fishing and whose direction I am following. Jesus knows where and when the fish are biting. Following his direction guarantees a maximum catch.

The greater yield for Christ happens when I yield to Christ.

The issue is not the bait on the hook but the hand on the rod. And the results – proportionate to trust – reveal the truth.

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John 20 – “Believing is Seeing”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , ,

Imagine what it must have been like for Thomas to have lived among the others who had seen Jesus. For seven days, as close as he had been with Jesus and the 12, this insider became an outsider.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 20:19-31

In His post resurrection appearances, Jesus deals with the disciples’ doubts, fears, and failures by applying His presence, peace, forgiveness and reinstatement to His call. This part of the story highlights the apostle Thomas who did not have the advantage of having the rendezvous with Jesus the other 10 disciples did.

A good friend of mine in my small group raised a great point: imagine what it must have been like for Thomas to have lived among the others who had seen Jesus. For seven days, as close as he had been with Jesus and the 12, this insider became an outsider. He didn’t have the personal encounter that the others had. Considering what that would have done to me, I am not sure that we should ever have attached to this faithful disciple the moniker “doubting”. Though Jesus does confronts this in Thomas,  I believe there is more here than meets our myopic glare.

After Jesus shows up and speaks specifically to Thomas’ demands, Thomas finally proclaims what in his heart He knew to be true but maybe too afraid to admit, that Jesus was indeed, resurrected Lord and God!
Suppose the reason John was inspired to write this was not to spotlight Thomas’ doubts (vs. 20:25), or to resolve the tension with Thomas’ triumphant affirmation of Jesus as God (vs. 20:28), but to feature Jesus’ pronouncement of the significant blessing to all who would believe in him without the benefits or privilege of actually seeing him as did the 11 disciples. Suppose Jesus, looking into the future as only He can, sensitive to those who might feel they were on the outside, or never measure up because they didn’t encounter Christ as the apostles did, established, once and for all, the foundation of his blessing and acceptance for those who would entrust their lives to Him without sight.

There would never be any reason for anyone trumping others because of their visually laying eyes on Jesus, a move that would seem to propel one to superstar status, and imply an inferiority for those who “can only believe” but would never have had actually seen. Seems like we place greater emphasis and prestige to those who have the ‘visions’, and sightings of divine phenomenon. Jesus makes it clear here that those who trust fully and simply embracing and accepting his promise based on his character and teaching are indeed blessed and thoroughly accepted by Christ with ‘superstar’ status!

I recall the story of Jesus healing of the centurion’s servant in Luke 7:1-10. It is one of the few passages where Jesus is described at be astonished by someone’ faith. This centurion didn’t have to have Jesus physically go to where the servant was. Empowered by the Spirit with eyes of faith, this gentile centurion recognized and respected Jesus’ authority in ways that no other Jew Israel did. He accepted Jesus for who He was and what He said He could do. That indeed, is marvel-ous! That kind of faith is also impressive and attractive to Christ. That kind of faith is evidence of an actual encounter that transcends the 5 senses and renders proof unnecessary.

That is where Thomas’ problem lay, and, quite frankly, mine. From time to time we demand God prove Himself and His Word on our terms rather than entrusting ourselves to His words on His terms. We want Him to adjust Himself to us rather than us adjust ourselves to Him. Again, the issue is not Thomas. It is Jesus making sure that it is clear that the kind of faith He prefers from us is the kind of trust that simply accepts Christ as He is without waiting for the kind of proof to accommodate our fears and doubts. For these kind of faith-full followers, Jesus isn’t coming to them. He already arrived.

John 20:30-31 does not celebrate or affirm faith with no facts but faith with no visual sight.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

The facts are recorded to facilitate faith. I believe that our brother, Thomas, was an illustration, not the main point. May we brandish the kind of faith that proves Jesus has already arrived and that before we see anything more, our hearts will have already delivered us into the greater depths of knowing Him through greater depths of trusting Him.

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John 14a – “Trusting Heart or Troubled Heart”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The disciples are not really even aware of what they are troubled about other than they have just been told by Jesus that this night is going to be a difficult one and that their devotion to Christ will fail…miserably.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 14:1-14

What brings us comfort and encouragement in the midst of troubling times? Something of a picture of what is to come, the better preferred future that encourages perseverance of the present trials. In this passage the disciples are not really even aware of what they are troubled about other than they have just been told by Jesus that this night is going to be a difficult one and that their devotion to Christ will fail…miserably. Yet the gracious Lord offers them comfort in powerful ways, offering pictures of the future to come that could ignite their trust in Him.

The Ultimate Future: An eternal reunion. Jesus describes the setup of eternity for He and His disciple. In my opinion, the focus of this passage in traditional Christianity over the decades has been on the individual acquisition of eternal real estate, the “mansion just over the hilltop”, my place, my property. This is an unfortunate projection of Western ideologies into the eternal. The dominant feature of this passage is not property but Person, not where we will live but Who we will live with. Look at the dominant action verbs of Christ: I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back. I will take you to be with me! Why? So that where He is, we will be with Him also and always. The encouragement: no matter what is about to happen, it is a small interruption in contrast to the true and everlasting reality of our co-dwelling with Christ in His Father’s Kingdom, not in this one.

The Road to that Future: The Supreme and Exclusive Christ. Jesus will not merely show us the way, or tell us the truth, or give us the life. He is all these things. Our entrance into the new kingdom is Christ, not a secret password, nor some esoteric disclosure, nor monumental personal achievements. What is more, Jesus teaches that He is not only the way to the eternal future but the way to the reality of God. He is not merely the “representative” of God but the “representation” of God and an exact representation at that (Heb. 1:3). It’s obvious the disciples didn’t see this, partially due to the immediate distractions of pressing circumstances. Unfortunately, I find myself in their seat much of the time, hearing the same words,

“Jonathan, how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?”

In this eternal future we will experience Christ as God and God as Christ. The perfect union and harmony of Father and Son. In the immediate future, Jesus clarifies, that trusting One is to trust the other. There is no distinction between the character of the Son from the character of the Father. This can be a great source of encouragement.

The Immediate Future: Demonstrate the Presence and Power of Christ. For the disciples the day would come when Jesus’ presence would be recognized through them and the miracles they would do in His name. Jesus’ desire is for the Father to be glorified. This is the ultimate purpose of prayer and the end to which we must pray if we are to be in harmony with Christ. But the divine expectation is that our lives would harness and release greater miracles through the indwelling Christ than by the incarnate Christ on earth. In this sense, Jesus is truly not gone, but with us in a way that He could not be in His physical form. We have one who is passionate about us and passionate about His Father. He is the best Mediator to stand in for us before the God who is also passionate about us. His prayers for us will never get answered in the negative for He will never pray for us apart from what the Father wants for us. What an encouragement to pursue Christ and persevere for Christ as He labors for and through His own!

The bottom line is that our hope and trust is to be lifted from our efforts in encountering with our circumstances and placed firmly and finally in the Christ who is in perfect with the Father, who has promised us eternity with Him and the means of living in stunning victory here as we live with faith in Christ alone.