Table Talk 2: I am coming to live with you - John 14v8-31 - 13th Sept 2015 - Dave Walker

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As we listen to God’s word this morning there are two things we need to know if we’re to understand it right. Both of these things actually come out of the passage we’re reading today.

1. People in trouble need someone with them. This week I met a lady who is dying. And what was particularly piercing about what she said as she described her situation was how alone she feels. When people face big trouble; when people face death they might want to know all sorts of information – explanations for what is happening and so on. But far, far more important than that, when it comes to actually facing the trouble, is that people need to know that someone is with them. That’s what this lady I mentioned craved. Not just information; she wanted relationship. She wanted someone with her.

Here in John’s gospel Jesus’ disciples are in trouble. Jesus is going to his death; they are in danger of death themselves and they feel very alone. People in trouble need someone with them.

2. God’s whole purpose in everything is to make himself known. That’s what God wants to do in everything – to make himself known. He wants to be known; understood; enjoyed. Now another way of saying that is to say “God’s purpose in everything is to be glorified.” Because here’s an important thing: in the Bible when you hear talk of God being glorified it means God making himself known. The two are the same thing. That makes sense: you can’t genuinely know anything of God without being knocked sideways by how magnificent, how great, how glorious he is. God making himself known; God being glorified – they’re the same thing. When God shows how great he is, he’s not just flexing his muscles like a bodybuilder – “oo look at him.” No he’s communicating himself to his people so that we can know and appreciate and enjoy him. He’s making himself known.

Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus explaining that God’s purpose in this most central event in God’s plan – Jesus’ death – is to make himself known. To be glorified. Look at the top of the page, 13:31 to see how Jesus headlined this whole discussion again: “Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. And if God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself.” The death and resurrection of Jesus is all about God the Father lifting up his Son so that the world might see him and God the Son lifting up his Father so that the world might see him. So that he might be known. Or look at how Jesus finished the reading we had today, verse 31, “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what the Father has commanded me.” That’s what I’m doing, says Jesus, in the cross: I’m showing the world that I love my Father. The God we meet in the Bible is a Father who loves his Son, and a Son who loves his Father who invites us to share that relationship. Who makes himself known.

So: people in trouble need to know that someone is with them. God’s great purpose is to make himself known. Those two match up, don’t they? People in trouble: “I’m alone! I need someone with me!” God: “Here I am.” Here at the cross of Jesus, as so often in the Bible we find that our greatest needs and God’s greatest purposes match up perfectly.

So with that in mind, let’s get reading, shall we? Let’s see how Jesus meets the needs of his troubled people by communicating God to them.

1. Knowing God is hearing and believing Jesus’ words (v8-14).

It begins with a question from Philip, doesn’t it? Verse 8: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Do you remember last how we saw these disciples responding to their trouble? Peter was all macho and self confident; Thomas was anxious and despairing and Philip just wants more, he wants to be sure - “just show us the Father.” He says. I just want to see God, and then it’ll be easy. He’s not alone in this, is he? People often respond the same. “God, if you’d just show up in spectacular way so that it was proved beyond all reasonable doubt that you’re really there, that’d be ok. More fireworks, God, then I’ll trust you.” He wants to see heaven peeled back and God poking his head through, doesn’t he? But he’s missed the point. He’s missed the big thing that God has been doing, making himself known.

Jesus responds the same again. Just like he did with Peter and Thomas he says “Philip, look at me.” Trust me. Verse 9: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say,`Show us the Father'?

Philip wants some reassuring fireworks, but actually God has been doing something vastly better. He’s been showing himself far more thoroughly. God could show a display of his raw power, but raw power displays are not relationship-forming. Think of the fire and thunder at mount Sinai – a clear display of God’s power but when they saw it the people fled. They said “we can’t listen to God’s voice, it’s too scary, Moses you do it.” People cannot cope with the raw power of God. A tiny glimpse of God’s power is utterly overwhelming. So God has done this amazing thing and shown himself in Jesus. Jesus who is one of us. Jesus who can communicate with us as one of us. That’s how God has shown himself. So that he can be known. Jesus and his Father are so connected, so linked that when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the other. Wherever Jesus is, there is his father. As he says “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me” (v10&11). As close as you could ever imagine. Philip wants a bit more, a bit more information, a bit more reassurance, but he has more than he could possibly need right there with him. He’s seen Jesus. He has God with him. There is no more of God to be had.

If you want to know the Father, look at me, says Jesus. Well actually that’s not quite what he says. What he really says is not “look at me” but “listen to me and believe me.” Do you see that? Verse 10 “Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;” It’s listen and believe. Believe what I say. Believe my words.

Now that’s good news for us isn’t it? After all we haven’t seen Jesus. If the way to know the Father was only by looking at Jesus we’d be in trouble. But no, Jesus says it’s his words. That’s what he says here, isn’t it? “The words I say to you are not just my own, rather it is the Father living in me who is doing his work.” His disciples will know him by hearing and believing what he says. His words. Jesus’ words are not just like other words. Jesus words actually do something. Do you see the way that Jesus says his words are actually his Father doing his work. Do you see that? That’s like when God created the world isn’t it, when he spoke and it happened. That’s the sort of words that Jesus speaks. Creating words. Life giving words. When you hear and believe Jesus’ words, things change. Big things change.

This is so important Jesus says it more than once here. Look on to verse 23: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” Do you see? When Jesus speaks it is God speaking. But keep reading; look at the next verse, because this is really where it gets important for us now. “All this I have spoken while still with you.  26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” This is where the link reaches us. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings the words of Jesus to us. You see it was the first disciples who saw Jesus, wasn’t it. They saw him, they saw his miracles and they heard his words. That must have been great for them. But what the Holy Spirit has done is remind those first disciples of what Jesus said, so that these same life giving words from God can reach us. Do you ever wonder how that confused bunch of disciples remembered this long teaching of Jesus and how they came to understand it so well? Jesus says clearly: that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminded them of what Jesus said, so that they could pass it on to others, to us, so that we can hear him and believe. So that we can know God.

Now that is hugely important, and forgive me for taking quite some time here to make this clear. Because if we get this it will stop us from barking up all sorts of wrong trees. If we really get this it will energise and excite us when we think about the Bible and prayer. Because do you want to know what the Holy Spirit says? He says this (hold up Bible). He says the Bible. This is not just a record of what God did once, this is the Holy Spirit showing us Jesus now, so that we might know God. We weren’t there back then. But we didn’t need to be. Because God’s Holy Spirit has brought his word to us.

When we think of God speaking to us, and specifically the Holy Spirit speaking to us, it’s easy to do a Philip, isn’t it? Lord, I’d like a direct word, a voice in the night, a spectacular dream, a miraculous something. I’d like some fireworks please. That would be enough; that’s what would convince me. When all the time God has been doing this extraordinary thing of making himself known by his Son coming to earth and then sending his spirit so that we can know Jesus through the Bible. “Lord, show us the Father.” “Don’t you know me, Philip? Don’t you know me, members of Christ Church? You will know me through my words, given to you by the Holy Spirit in the Bible. That’s how I’m showing the Father to you.” There was a wonderful Australian preacher called John Chapman who used to say about this “If God is calling on the telephone, don’t stick your head in the microwave.” In the Bible we have the authentic words of God the Father, given to us through his Son, brought to us by his Holy Spirit. Don’t go searching for dreams or visions; don’t go and sit in the dark and wait for a voice. If God gives a dream or whatever, great – let’s listen to what his Holy Spirit says in the bible to see if it’s true and what it means. But don’t be dissatisfied if you’ve not had the fireworks. We have all we could possibly need from God already. Get excited about the Bible. Expect to hear from God’s Holy Spirit when you open it.

2. The Holy Spirit brings us into Jesus’ relationships

Jesus here opens up the heart of God as Trinity to his disciples and we find that God himself is full of wonderful relationships. Often when people think of God as Trinity they think of a philosophical or mathematical problem – how do you get 3 in 1 – the sort of thing that requires endless conceptual headscratching. But Jesus doesn’t describe a problem to solve; he introduces us to a wonderful network of other person centred relationship. This Father who loves his Son and wants to glorify him – make a big deal of him. And the Son who loves and wants to glorify his Father. Each totally centred on the other. And the Holy Spirit, says Jesus, is going to come to bring us in on that.

Look at verse 16: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor to be with you for ever – the spirit of truth.” The word he uses for counsellor means one who comes alongside. Not a counsellor who listens to your problems. More like a legal counsellor. If you’ve ever been in court you know you have a legal counsel who comes alongside you and speaks for you; a few of us were in court this week and we had a legal counsel, a barrister doing exactly that. And boy, were we glad he was there. Notice Jesus says ‘another Counsellor’ – the Holy Spirit is like Jesus. In fact he’s so much like Jesus that when they have the Spirit with them they have Jesus with them – do you see the end of v17? “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” These disciples who know Jesus are going to recognise the Holy Spirit, because it’ll be like having Jesus with them. If you’ve got the Holy Spirit with you, you have Jesus with you. In fact you have all of God with you: verse 23 “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

When we hear and believe Jesus words, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit come and move in with us. The Holy Spirit actually gives us Jesus’ relationship with his Father. That’s a striking thing here. The Holy Spirit gives us Jesus’ relationship with his Father. The way we relate to God becomes the way Jesus relates to his Father. That’s the Spirit’s work. Let me just quickly show you how that’s true.

So we who have the Holy Spirit will do what Jesus does. Verse 12: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Even greater things. That doesn’t mean we’ll do more spectacular miracles than Jesus; no it means that if we have the Holy Spirit then we can do what Jesus’ miracles could only point towards. Jesus’ miracles pointed forward to a time when people could be given eternal life. Think of Lazarus. Jesus brought Lazarus back to life for a while to point forward to a time when he would give eternal life to people who believed in him. Now Jesus has died and risen and sent his Spirit, well as we go around passing on this Spirit-given message of Jesus, God is doing something even better than Lazarus. He saves people for ever.

We who have the Spirit do what Jesus does. We ask like Jesus asks. Verse 13: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” Just like, verse 16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever--  17 the Spirit of truth.” This is relational asking, isn’t it? This is Jesus the beloved Son asking his generous Father because he wants to glorify, to make a big deal of his Father. That’s the relationship we have: we who believe in Jesus can ask with his authority, with his special privileges. That’s what it means to ask in Jesus’ name. It’s a relationship. It’s not just magic words: “inJesusnameAmen.” When we pray it’s like we go to God our Father and we find that he says “Oh hi Son. Hi Jesus. How can I help you.” It’s relational asking isn’t it? There’s a difference between asking someone you love for, say, a birthday present, and going to a cash machine to get some cash out. In one of those the relationship comes first. In the other the cash comes first. When we ask like Jesus asks, we are wanting God to be glorified in his answer. And when God answers by giving us more of himself, his Holy Spirit, we will be thrilled with that.

It’s the relationships of the Holy Trinity being opened up to us. We will do what Jesus does and ask like Jesus asks because the Holy Spirit gives us his relationship with his Father. Verse 20: “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." The Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus like Jesus is united to his Father. The Holy Spirit causes us to love and obey Jesus like Jesus loves and obeys his Father. The Holy Spirit secures us in God’s love, just like Jesus is secure in his Father’s love.

How do you know where the Holy Spirit is at work? After all, we can’t see him, we can only see what he does. Where you have people listening to and believing the Bible; there you have the Holy Spirit. Where you have people trusting Jesus, loving him and obeying him; there you have the Holy Spirit. Where you have people sharing his life giving words with others, there you have the Holy Spirit. Where you have people calling on God as their Father, there you have the Holy Spirit.

This stuff we’re doing day on day, week on week. Just going on being Christian. It’s pretty special you know. The world around us doesn’t have this. This is the greatest miracle in all creation: ordinary, tiny creatures like you and me being brought in to the family life of the God who made the world. We’re not alone, are we? Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. God is with us.