I want to continue on in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. At the end of chapter 2, Paul says that as fellow citizens of the Kingdom, we are all joined together in Christ to become a holy temple in the Lord (2:19-22). Jews and Gentiles, all people, are reconciled together as one people in Christ. This one new humanity does not ignore the differences between the diverse people groups but celebrates those differences in Christ. We all come to the Table through the same Spirit. We all enter the Kingdom through the same Christ. We all are built together by the same master builder. So, what does it mean to be a holy temple in the Lord?
Truth is a fascinating construct. In a discussion about Jesus’ kingdom being of a different substance than this world, Jesus says, “I came…to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate’s response of, “What is truth?” can be taken so many ways. From where he stands: on one side he has a mob outside demanding action, on another he has Rome demanding order, and in front of him is a demanding presence. When you’re Pilate in this situation, you might feel powerless while being pulled between the differing truth claims.
In John 15, Jesus says, “I AM the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…I AM the vine; you are the branches.” He then invites us to remain in him. To abide in him. To rest in his love. When you know how deeply you are loved, you can do anything. When you know how deeply you are loved, you can endure anything. When you know how deeply you are loved, you have the amazing ability to extend that love to others. When you know how deeply you are loved, you become comfortable in your own skin and transform into the person you are called to be. When you know how deeply you are loved, bask in that love, find peace and joy in that love, you begin to bear fruit.
Jesus’ final night begins with washing his disciples’ feet (ch 13), a symbolic action of Jesus’ life purpose: to reveal God’s nature as a being of self-giving love and to become a servant and die for the sins of the world. This points to his command for his disciples to go and do likewise, “love one another as I have loved you” (13:34). His symbolic action is followed by his last words as he tries to prepare them for his coming death. These final words end with the prayer in ch 17.
We’re continuing to look at what Jesus says about himself in the “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel. The image I chose for this post is an icon that comes from around the third century. The early Christians, when depicting Jesus, pictured him as the "Good Shepherd" first and foremost. What image do you picture when you think of Jesus? Most Christians probably picture the cross because of what Jesus does for us in our sins. How would picturing Jesus first as the Good Shepherd change how you think about Jesus and your relationship with him?
Think back to when you were a kid and you were scared of the dark. What was one of the craziest monsters you saw in your room? When you yelled for your parents and they rushed in and turned the light on, what did it end up being? Darkness has a profound way of messing with us. We see things that aren’t there. The nothingness takes control and is given power over us. As soon as the lights come on, the darkness is exposed for what it is: powerless.
John begins his Gospel with a loud declaration that Jesus is God, was with God in the beginning, and if we want to see and know God, you have to take a good long hard look at Jesus. Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus makes seven statements about himself. He begins each statement with “I AM,” echoing God’s name in Exodus 3. This week, we will be in John 6 where Jesus says, “I AM the bread of life. Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry” (v35).
We’re going to take a break in our Sermon series of “5 Ways of Loving God” to talk about Jesus. From now till the first week of September, we will be in the Gospel of John focusing on the “I AM” statements of Jesus. I want to bookend this series with two sermons about truth. In the Prolog of John’s Gospel (1:14), “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…full of grace and truth.” Jesus’ time in front of Pilate ends with a discussion on who Jesus is and where he is from. Pilate, in 18:38, responds to Jesus’ claims on truth with, “What is truth?” At the bottom of this post, I’ve provided the schedule for what we will be talking about each week. I encourage you to spend time with these texts, listening to what God might be telling you.