Thursday morning, unable to sleep, I flipped between the overnight news on CBS and ABC. Coronavirus was the major story with some very sobering statistics offered.
Perhaps 40% unemployment for those making under $40K. Bright, the former top U.S. vaccine official, stated that the U.S. may face the “darkest winter in modern history” if there is not a coordinated response to this virus. President Trump’s dismissal of Dr. Fauci reluctance to reopen schools, “not an acceptable answer” seemed to bode ill for his tenure. Then there’s the specter of this recent “systemic inflammatory syndrome” that strikes children.
With all of this, and various sized asteroids buzzing by Earth my thoughts went to Revelation and the return of Christ. I do not think that this pandemic marks the breaking of the fourth seal in Revelation 6:7. But, what I do know is that His return is closer today than it was yesterday, and tomorrow it will be closer still. I also know that God’s Word offers hope and certainty even when our hearts, spirits, and lives are uncertain and doubtful because Christ is already with us.
This hope is found in today’s passage in John. The night Jesus is about to be arrested, he takes pains to make certain his disciples, and we, know we are not left alone.
More than a Helper
Jesus promises “another paraclete” whom He identifies as the “Spirit of truth” who “dwells with you and will be in you” v 17. Many versions use the word ‘Helper’ for paraclete but that is a word that smacks of being subordinate or inferior on one’s ability. I see Tonto or Robin, a ‘side-kick’, who ‘lends a hand’ when you need it.
I know too many of you and others who are quick to say, “I don’t need any help” and I don’t want us thinking of the Holy Spirit in this way. Another word used is Counselor. This is okay if we think of it in terms of attorney and not a camp or marriage counselor (Carson 499) who gives advice we can take or ignore, and comforter sounds like a quilt or a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
“We have no single word in our language that can express the rich, powerful meaning of “Paraclete,” the English translation of the unique title John uses for this Holy Companion. Para in the Greek means “alongside,” and the root of kletos is ‘to call’ (Fredrikson and Ogilvie 223).”
Just as Christ is sent into our world so the Holy Spirit, this paraclete, comes to those who believe in Christ. The world at large has no inkling of who the Holy Spirit is or what His role. “The Paraclete is not given to the world which neither sees nor knows Him. As it has been blind and deaf to Jesus, so the world does not know the Paraclete has come (Fredrikson and Ogilvie 224)."
Coming of Jesus
Of all the various discussions about verses 17-18, it seems apparent to me that Jesus is telling His disciples about the coming Easter Sunday. The world, those who cannot believe doesn’t see Jesus’ resurrection. Paul calls Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men” 1Co 1:24-25.
If the resurrection is false Paul says “your faith is in vain, futile, you are still in your sins”; we “misrepresent God”; “the dead are not raised” and “we are of all people most to be pitied” 2Co 15:14-19. But Paul all but shouts verse 20 when he writes “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
When Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples after Easter, they “see him with eyes of faith” (Beasley-Murray 258). Their lives are transformed, expanded, completely opened to God’s reality of eternity. They will, “on that day”, “the relation of Jesus to the Father… will become luminously clear” and “they will then understand that a new union with their risen Lord has become possible, (Beasley-Murray 258)."
Keeping Jesus’ Commandments
All of this teaching is contained within verbal bookends. The bookends are “keep my commands” in verse 15 and “commandments and keeps them” in verse 21. We use the Greek term inclusio to describe such passages. Once you start to look for them, you’ll find they stand out like a haiku or Shakespearean Sonnet
What does it mean to “keep” Jesus’ “commandments” and how does it demonstrate “love”? Keep and obey may seem synonymous but to keep involves observing and paying attention to what we keep. There is a sense in which one protects or guards the object they keep. As if they “keep it in custody, keep back, reserve, maintain, keep firm (Newman).”
If…then is called a conditional statement such as if you mow the lawn then I will let you play, a conditional statement drilled into my skull growing up. But don’t think that we initiate this promise. We don’t demonstrate obedience and watch God and Christ respond to our actions (Carson 503). 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us”, I’ll come back to that passage in a moment. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” John writes in 1 John 5:2.
Dr. Bruce Metzger describes the ‘keeping’ as future rather than imperative, meaning that “Jesus neither assumes that his followers love him, nor assumes that they do not… but projects a condition and stipulates its entailment: they will obey (Metzger 245).” Did your parents ever ask you a question like, “You were going to clean your room today? Right.” It isn’t a question but an action you just have not yet completed. It wasn’t debatable, it was a fact.
What commands are we to ‘safeguard’ and ‘attend to’? Dr. Carson wrote,
"What the one who loves Jesus will observe is not simply an array of discrete ethical injunctions, but the entire revelation from the Father, revelation holistically conceived (Carson 498)."
Yet the most direct context is the new ‘commandment’ which Jesus gives us in John 13:34-35, 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” Back in 1 John 4:19ff we read,
“19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
If you expect the Body of Christ, God’s People, the Church to have any impact on the spiritually blinded world around us it will come only as we love one another.
In Today’s Christian Woman a mom told of her daughter, Beverly, who needed to change a dirty shirt in which she was playing. After calling two times with no response, her mother gave her the full three-name call: “'Beverly Elizabeth Provost, did you hear me?' Beverly answered, 'Yes, Mama. My ears did, but my legs didn't' (Provost)."
How you love one another is different for everyone because each of us has a way in which we receive love best. In The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gay Chapman speaks of five ways in which we express and receive love they are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving gifts
- Physical Touch
- Acts of Service
The book is worth reading but I mention it so that we realize we need to be aware of the ways in which our sisters and brothers receive our love when offered. Kenton has a future involved with loving others because Christ has loved us. Let’s keep true to that calling as we pray.
Beasley-Murray, George R. John. Vol. 36. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1999. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.
Chapman, Gary D. The 5 Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield Pub., 2015. Print.
Fredrikson, Roger L., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1985. Print. The Preacher’s Commentary Series.
Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. UBS, 1971. Print. 245
Newman, Barclay M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. 1993: Print.
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