I have to be honest with you. This past week has been a bit rough. Between active shooter training at school, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the craziness in Israel, ebola in West Africa and now riots in St. Louis, I find myself asking, “This is my father’s world?” And, moreover, why does God even want it? Why does God continually seek after a people who repeatedly deny, reject or destroy all that he has given them? And where do we, the “Jesus People”, find hope in the midst of so much despair?
As I turned to the book of John this morning, I found myself reflecting on these questions, and a few others. The book of John differs greatly from the other three Gospels. It was written much later than Matthew, Mark and Luke for a people who did not necessarily witness the amazing miracles of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The themes of light and darkness echo throughout the Gospel of John. The world is full of darkness, and Jesus is the light that illuminates and guides those who follow him.
Jesus, the Light of the World, spends 6 chapters of the Gospel of John instructing his disciples at the Passover feast. (The synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke cover this teaching in less than 1). The overarching message Jesus comes back to throughout these 6 chapters is twofold:
1. Belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world
2. The command to actively show the love of God to a world that does not want to accept it
The world in which Jesus came and the world in which we live are not really that different. The people of Jesus’ time lived in the midst of horrific violence and oppression. There was racial segregation and prejudice. There was disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Governments were corrupt, both on the local and national levels. Systematic oppression of the poor took place. The Jews were longing for a savior. They were ready for God to come down and say, “ENOUGH! I’m cleaning this mess up!!” They wanted a revolution. They wanted God to show up. And show up, he did. But not in the way they were expecting.
Jesus came. And he didn’t lead a national revolution for independence from Rome. He didn’t call people to arms and engage in some sort of holy war. He didn’t protest outside the governor’s palace. He didn’t even write long letters to the editor. Instead, he walked throughout the community. He gave to the poor. He healed the sick. He encouraged the oppressed. He reached out across racial, social, economic and gender barriers to actively show the love of God to those who needed it the most. And he taught. Oh, how he taught!
Jesus walked into the Temples throughout Judea telling people of God’s great love for them. Jesus sat in country fields, on mountaintops, and in boats proclaiming God’s love over and over again. Yes, he confronted the religious leaders of the time, but his confrontation of their hypocrisy was a direct response to their constant baiting of him. He knew their hearts and exposed them to the people.
And I think, as Jesus People, we are called to follow in those footsteps.
In chapter 17 of John, Jesus prays for his disciples, both those who are currently following him and the believers yet to come. Look at the prayers Jesus offers for his disciples and the future believers:
Prayer for the Disciples:
“I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours. Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them. I’m no longer in the world, but they are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one just as we are one. When I was with them, I watched over them in your name, the name you gave to me, and I kept them safe… I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth.” John 17:9-19
Prayer for Future Believers:
“I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.” John 17:20-23
Did you notice that Jesus specifically asked God not to take the disciples from the world, but to watch over them as they went into the world? His directive was (and is) very clear. Carry the love of God INTO the world! And do so in a way that reflects God’s love. Do so in unity with fellow believers. Our lives should be an extension of Jesus’ ministry. We should be out in our communities, showing God’s love to others using all of the resources God gave to us. In that way, the world will know God’s love.
I want to close today with a line from one of my favorite hymns. If you get a chance, listen to this version by Stephen Rew and the band Decided. It’s beautiful and fills me with hope. In the final verse of the hymn, the author writes:
“This IS my father’s world. The battle is not done. Jesus who died will be satisfied when Earth and Heaven are one.”
May God grant each of us the courage to go out into his world and show his love to all those we meet.
Blessings and Peace,