Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 01/12/03
"Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68, RSV).
In a TV commercial which always makes me smile, we see a toddler sitting in his highchair next to the table where a dad is trying to eat and read his newspaper. The kid is having what my Grandma would call, "a hissy fit," kicking, screaming, crying and beating the highchair tray with a wooden spoon. The exasperated father looks at him and asks through clenched teeth, "W-H-E-R-E is your mother?" It is a question based on extreme need for the one who can make it all better. A similar question appears in the seventh chapter of John's gospel, where we read about the increasing opposition and hostility to Jesus' teaching and His authority to do miracles. The setting is the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the third great feast in the Jewish calendar. This "Feast of booths," celebrated the end of the harvest and remembered God's tender care of His people as He led them out of Egypt. Moses' instructions about this feast are found in Leviticus 23:40-43.
About Jesus' activities before the feast, John relates, "Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life" (John 7:1). It is obvious that Jesus was NOT a mealy mouthed wimp, nor was He meek and mild as some depict Him. In His ministry, it has always seemed to me that He was an "in your face, tell it like it is," kind of guy, especially with the religious leaders. He was kind to the wicked and ungrateful, but tough as nails on those who claimed to speak for God. Had He kept His mouth shut, He may have lived to a ripe old age, but that was not His mission. John tells us that Jesus' brothers urged Him to go to the feast, because they said, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world" (Vs. 3-4). But sadly, we learn that "...even his own brothers did not believe in him" (Vs. 5). This echoes what we read last week: "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of His mind'" (Mark 3:21, NIV). There are worse things than having your family think you are weird and heretical, but few things hurt as much as that.
In response to his brothers' urgings, Jesus replied: "You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come" (John 7:8, NIV). All speakers, film makers, preachers and other disseminators of information know that "Timing is everything." Jesus' timing was always perfect. So, He sent his brothers on to Jerusalem, probably in a group of men traveling there for the feast, but He Himself went in secret. Whether this means He chose a different route, or perhaps disguised Himself in some way, we are not told.
The Jews at the feast, were watching for him, asking "Where is that man?" (Vs. 11). Men and women still ask, "Where is that man?" And as with the question Evangelists ask, "What will you do with Jesus?" the answers are mixed. Some thought He was the promised Messiah; others weren't sure, but it was always exciting when He healed folks; especially as they waited to see what the Pharisees would do about Him. John reports, "Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man." Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews" (Vs. 12-13). Human nature hasn't changed much. Even today, many are addicted to the thrill of spectacular religious events. They seek those who offer the excitement of healings, prophecies, and visions, in an attempt to satisfy their religious cravings. These poor souls have never met Him personally, but like the ones in Jesus' day, they follow from afar, seeking what He DOES, rather than who He IS. To these Jesus said, ""Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoer'" (Matt. 7:21-23, RSV). Before you run away, screaming in terror, remember that He was speaking to those still under law, as He had not yet been crucified. They knew what He did, but not who He was. For those in this category today, Lenny is quick to point out, that it is because God has not revealed Himself to them, YET!
Likewise, God had not opened the eyes of the Pharisees to see who Jesus was. Remember that Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me" (John 6:44-45). Jesus is referring to a statement made by the great Prophet Isaiah: "All your sons shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons" (Isaiah 54:13, RSV). Paul wrote, "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words" (I Cor. 2:13, RSV).
I am dialoguing via e-mail right now with a sincere, dedicated Christian woman who is very troubled about her relationship with Christ, because she has been led by what well meaning Christian friends have told her is right. She has turned herself inside out to do what they say, but the peace that passes understanding has eluded her, because she can never do it perfectly. All I can say to her is how we have come to lead our lives: listen to God, follow the Spirit's leading, because then you are sons of God, not servants, for "All who follow the leading of God's Spirit are God's own sons" (Rom. 8:14, Phil.). "Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God" (I John 3:1). The only one who can call us Sons is God Himself. Ultimately, He will draw ALL MEN unto Himself (John 12:32), but in the interim, He works through a remnant, the elect, to whom, like the twelve men He called, He reveals Himself.
The sovereign calling of God (election), is the only way to understand what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. Two dictionary definitions of "disciple" are: "a. any professed follower of Christ in His lifetime, esp. one of the 12 apostles, and b. a pupil or an adherent of another; follower." Christ has many disciples, then as well as now, but how can you tell who they are? Are you one of them? I recently heard a well known Christian speaker say that if you don't read the book of Matthew at least once a week, you cannot call yourself a disciple. He went on at great length to tell us that a Hebrew boy in Jesus' day had memorized the Torah by the time he was twelve years old, and if he had aptitude for his studies, he remained in school, and would have memorized the entire Old Testament by the time he was fifteen. If he still showed aptitude and promise, he would find a rabbi who would be his mentor. He would follow him everywhere, even into the bathroom (or whatever equivalent they had in those days, perhaps a clump of shrubbery?), and he would learn as much as he could from this gifted man of God. His point was that unless we know everything Jesus did and said, we cannot call ourselves disciples.
This speaker was compelling, charismatic, and informative, but when he got on this tangent, I wanted to tear out my hair and run screaming from the room full of people who had gathered to hear pearls of wisdom fall from his lips. His passion is admirable, especially since he is a high school teacher in a Christian school, and the purpose of his speech to this group was to raise money, prayer partners, and support for Christian education. That's OK as far as it goes, but dear friends, in learning what Jesus said, are we to ignore what He meant when He said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws Him." I see no secret meaning here, no riddle, no hidden agenda. When God removes the scales from our eyes, we begin to see that all we are, all we do, all we have, all our devotion to Christ, a-l-l of it is because the Father is drawing us to Him. Disciples are called, not made. Under the Jewish system, a man could not become a disciple of a rabbi unless he had natural ability and determination. God is not boxed in by those guidelines. Peter was a fisherman, not a gifted student of the Torah, but Jesus called him nonetheless and transformed him into a fisher of men. There were hundreds, if not thousands of followers of Christ when He walked the earth, but He chose only twelve through whom He would turn the world upside down as they delivered His Good News of the kingdom to all the people on earth.
You can read Matthew once a day for the rest of your life, and you might learn some rules of behavior, some moral principals, some respect for Jesus, but you will never become a son of the Most High by reading a book, inspired though it absolutely is. Sons are born, not made, and in our case, we are BORN AGAIN from above so that we may see the kingdom and enter the kingdom. I love the bible, and in fact, it is the only book I read, as the Holy Spirit leads me to do so, but reading the bible never saved anyone, healed anyone, or seated anyone in heavenly places with Christ. The bible itself points us to the Holy Spirit who accomplishes all these miracles in us. Before His eminent departure, Jesus told His disciples, "But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.... I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you" (John 16: 7,12-15, NIV). This verse thrills me because Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit, the Counselor will take everything that belongs to the Father, and make it known to us. He, in whom the fulness of God dwells bodily, now lives in us and we live IN HIM! Glory! (Col. 1:19).
Ah, the Counselor. A sweeter word was never spoken. I have had lots of counselors with "skin on," but the greatest blessing I ever received was when the Holy Spirit began to deliver me from the ties that bind, the neurosis that cripples and the enmity which separated me from God and man. The reason the Holy Spirit must come to all of us in due season is that there are still things that we cannot bear to hear from men. Our neurotic inner voices, the baggage from childhood conspire to lay us low. The tempter's voice urges us to believe that we must do something to fix ourselves and if we cannot, it proves that we are not fit for the kingdom. We have a dear friend in California with a wickedly cynical sense of humor, who once quipped, "The devil doesn't have to do anything to ruin our lives. He's sitting in his parlor in an easy chair, reading the LA Times, smoking his pipe. Christians are doing his work for him." If you could read the e-mail we get from exhausted Christians struggling to get free from the endless treadmill of works, acts of contrition, and other holdovers from law, you would know that our California friend isn't far off. I wrote a journal in the early days of this ministry called, "Why works don't work." You might want to read it, but the short answer is that all works: good deeds as well as wicked acts are from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once Satan got Adam and Eve to partake of that fruit, his work was as good as done. Man has been trying and failing, trying and failing ever since, until God in His mercy, in the fullness of time, sent His Son to show us, up close and personal, on a cellular level the love He has for us.
Several people have commented on the verse I quoted recently from the RSV translation: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14). This illustrates that God sent His Son to earth because He loves us. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:16-17). Jesus came to us bringing God's love, in a package we could recognize. He came looking like all the rest of us, except He had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Once He had risen and was seated on the right hand of majesty, He sent His Spirit to enlighten and gladden the hearts of His disciples. Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the Sons of God. Where is that man? He lives in the hearts of His Sons, flowing out from them to a hurting and thirsty world.
"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
"By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." Others said, "He is the Christ." Still others asked, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" Thus the people were divided because of Jesus" (John 7:37-43).
Men and women are still divided because of Jesus except in places where streams of living water flow. There, "that man," the Christ, is revealed and every eye sees Him and every ear hears His words. To these ones, "...the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34, RSV). When we have been drawn into the Father's bosom, His love flows out from us to a hurting world. In the fullness of time, Christ was born of a virgin and walked among men. In the fullness of our Father's plan, the creation which waits with eager longing for the revealing of the Sons of God, will be brought into perfection. God IS manifested today in His sons, nevertheless, ".... we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:19-23). On that glorious day, when God's perfect work in us is revealed, Jeremiah's prophecy will come to pass: "And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more"" (Jeremiah 31:34, RSV). Lord, haste the day. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho MO 65860 (Snail Mail)
"Why Works Don't Work"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 1/10/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 10/21/08.