April 23, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 16:25-28.
“I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
In much of the gospels Jesus speaks in parables and sayings that are difficult to understand at first reading for me. Barclay notes that “figures” means, “[A] saying that is hard to understand, a saying whose meaning is veiled to the casual listener, a saying which demands thought before its meaning can become clear.” This is the technique of a good teacher, making the student think for him- or herself. That’s what has happened for me in reading the gospels and trying to make sense of them for me, in how I am to live my life, and what the nature of my relationship is with Jesus and with God.
So, it was with the disciples in listening to Jesus day in and day out for more than two years. They were good students and had come to the belief that Jesus had come from God. Now Jesus could speak to them directly. He had come into the world from God and now he was leaving the world and returning to God. That’s unmistakably clear.
The God of the Hebrew Bible is often portrayed as an angry God, vengeful, stern, punishing. That has been my view and at odds with my understanding of God in the gospels. Jesus has corrected my perception. He tells me that God loves me because I love Jesus and believe he is the Son of God. I like the way that Moloney in The Gospel of John puts it, “Jesus tells his disciples that because they have loved him and believed he came from God they will be swept into the love of the Father.” Swept into the love of the Father. What a lovely image! And because of understanding that they were being swept into the love of God they no longer would have need of Jesus as an intercessor for them. Moloney describes this as oneness with God.
I still find it hard to fully accept that I am one with God just by loving Jesus and believing that he is the Son of God. That seems too easy! I should have to try harder to refrain from sin. I must love others in the same way I love God and myself. I so often fail in both those. I am not perfect, yet I have strived all my life to be perfect. I have so missed the point! God loves me just as I am with all my flaws and failings. He has always wanted me to be swept into His love and I have resisted all these years because I wasn’t good enough. All I had to do was accept and love myself as I am, love myself as God loves me. Who knew it was that simple! He knows that when I am able to do that that my love of Him and myself will naturally and abundantly flow out in love for others. That’s how He uses me as His instrument to bring about His kingdom on earth. All these years I have heard Jesus’ word in figures of speech when all the time he was really speaking to my clearly and directly. I had to become a good student first, though. I had to figure it out for myself. Not that I have it all figured out, but I now see more clearly that ever before. As Barclay writes, “The lover of Christ is the beloved of God.”