Lessons from the risen Lord Jesus – Part 2

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ ” John 21:5

We are learning some valuable lessons from the risen Lord Jesus Christ in John 21:1-14. Yesterday we learned that failure and discouragement are often connected to the risen Lord Jesus’ purpose for our lives (John 21:1-3). While waiting for Jesus to meet them in Galilee, Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing as they waited. John tells us that they fished all night and “caught nothing” (John 21:3b). God uses our failures and discouragement to accomplish His purpose in our lives. Jesus used the disciples’ failure to catch fish during their all-night expedition to prepare them for what He was going to do next.

We then read, But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” (John 21:4). The dawn had now come when Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. John notes that, like Mary Magdalene (John 20:14), the disciples did not realize it was Jesus at first perhaps because they were preoccupied with their failure to catch any fish or they could not see Him clearly because of the distance between them or the morning mist hanging over the water.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ “ (John 21:5). Jesus addresses the disciples as “children” (paidia) which refers to those who are treasured in the way a parent treasures a child. This is an affectionate fatherly term toward spiritual children (cf. I John 2:13, 18; 3:7). Like a loving father, Jesus was very fond of His disciples and He wants to bless them. So He asks them, “Have you any food?” The form of Jesus’ question in the Greek text assumes a negative answer; Christ expected, based on the fact that He knew, that they had not caught any fish. Why does Jesus ask them a question to which He already knew the answer? Most likely He did this to elicit a confession of failure from them so they would see their own inadequacy and their need for Jesus’ help. 2

Since the disciples did not realize this was Jesus yet, they may have thought His question was from someone who wanted to buy some fish. Jesus’ question serves to heighten the disciples’ frustration and sense of need before the miracle occurs.” 3  We can sense the disciples’ discouragement and mild embarrassment in their “No” answer. Unsuccessful fishermen never like to be asked this kind of question.

We learn from this exchange that SUCCESS IN OUR RISEN LORD’S EYES IS NOT IN TRYING HARDER (John 21:4-5).  The disciples had been casting their nets again and again all night long. They are thinking the way a lot of us think: “I am going to keep trying the same thing until it works. I am deeply committed to this. I know if I try hard enough and I try long enough eventually I am going to be successful.” Isn’t that the American way? Isn’t that how most of us feel in America? We may get some limited, tiny success that way. 

But there is a big problem with this approach. What if we are trying hard at the wrong thing? What if we are using all our energy and all our efforts to do the wrong thing? No matter how successful we are, there is no lasting joy in it. The secret is not trying harder. We could be working for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive. I think a lot of times we think there are only two options of something we really want in life. We think it is either option number one, “Try Harder,” or option number two, “Give Up.”

Some of us have been trying so hard at some things in life that it is wearing us out. We may be trying hard to get a job or to get married. We may be trying hard to get people to like us. We may be trying hard to make a difference in our spouse’s life or in our children’s lives. Perhaps some of us are trying to overcome a bad habit or a past hurt without success. We may be trying hard to grow in our spiritual lives. We are trying to pray more and read the Bible more and go to church more often. But the harder we try the worse it gets.

Then we suddenly realize Jesus is patiently standing on the shore asking us, “How is that working for you, My child?” We hang our heads down and reluctantly say to our risen Lord, “Not so well.” Jesus permits us to try hard for a season. He lets us come to the end of ourselves so we are more prepared to listen to His advice.

God has given us a special gift that makes us open to change. It is called pain. The Lord will let our pain increase until it exceeds our resistance to change. We call this “hitting bottom.” When we hit bottom we are ready to listen to what our risen Lord has to say to us. Next time, Lord willing, we will discover a better option for success that has nothing to do with “trying harder” or “giving up.” 

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, many of us have been up all night casting our nets again and again and again without anything to show for it. We think that the key to success is trying harder. We have been working hard to overcome our habits, hurts, and hang ups. We are doing everything we can to get people to like us. We are striving to grow spiritually by praying more, reading the Bible more, or going to a place of worship more often. And it seems that the harder we try, the worse things get. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for asking us how this “trying harder” option is working. You already know the answer, but we need to discover it for ourselves. We need to come clean with You and admit that our way does not work. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for caring enough to ask us this question. Thank You for showing us our need for You. We are ready to receive Your advice now, Lord. We are listening. In Your gracious name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 749.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 389.

3. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 567.

4. Constable, pg. 389.

How can we do greater works than Christ? Part 1

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9

Mirrors have been around for a while, but they haven’t always been made of glass. The first mirrors, from around 600 B.C., were very simple. They were polished surfaces from natural materials that could reflect an image. After a while, people started making mirrors from copper, bronze, gold and silver. These metals are heavy, so the mirrors were very small. They couldn’t really be used to see a reflection so they were mostly for show.

Glass mirrors like we have today were first made in the Middle Ages. They didn’t have the modern technology used today, so the mirrors were difficult to make and expensive. In the Renaissance period after the Middle Ages, the technique of making mirrors developed. Mirrors could show a clearer image. Artists even used mirrors to paint self-portraits. They were still very expensive so only the rich could afford them. The process for making modern mirrors was developed in 1835.” 1  Mirrors are used by us all in bathrooms, bedrooms, cars, etc.

In our study of the gospel of John, we are going to see that Jesus Christ mirrors God the Father and His desire is for His followers to do the same. Jesus had announced to His disciples that He was going to His Father’s House in heaven to prepare a wonderful place for them (John 14:1-3a). He also promised to return for them to take them to His Father’s house where they could be with Him forever (John 14:3b). Thomas did not understand Jesus’ reference to His Father’s house (John 14:5). Since Jesus had said they could not come there (John 13:33-35), Thomas wanted to know how they could know the way to His house. Jesus explained that He was the way there (John 14:6).

From John 14:7-14, we will discover how to do greater works than Christ. The first way is to GROW CLOSER TO HIS PERSON (John 14:7-11). Jesus said to Thomas, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7). The disciples may have felt strange going to the Father’s house because they had not met the Father yet. Perhaps they thought, “How can we go somewhere we have never been? We cannot go to a stranger’s house without being invited first. Lord, we have never been introduced to Your Father. Shouldn’t we get to know Him first before moving into His house?”

Jesus states, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” (14:7a). The word “known” (ginoskō) means to “know by personal experience.” Christ is saying, “If you had known Me more intimately, you would have known My Father” because I am a perfect reflection of Him. To know Jesus is to know His Father because as God, He is the perfect reflection of the Father. Christ then promises, “And from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” The disciples’ knowledge of Jesus and His significance were incomplete. But after Jesus’ death, resurrection (John 20:28), and ascension followed by the coming of the Holy Spirit, their knowledge of Christ would become more mature. 3

“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ ” (John 14:8). While Philip was intimately associated with Jesus, he felt he did not know the Father so he asked Christ to reveal the Father to them. Philip wants to see the Father for himself. Maybe he wants a visible display of the Father’s glory like Moses, who got to catch a glimpse of God’s glory (cf. Exodus 33:12–34:9). Philip, however, is a realist. “Show us the Father, Lord, and that will be enough for us. We cannot know Him unless you introduce us to Him.”

But Philip doesn’t understand that fully revealing God the Father was exactly what Jesus had come to do. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). When Moses saw God in the Old Testament, those encounters with God did not reveal the fullness of His glory or His unveiled divine essence. If people saw God’s unveiled glory or divine essence, they would not live (cf. Exodus 33:20).

The word “declared” (eksēgéomai) is where we get our English words, “exegete” and “exegesis” from. In seminary, we learned to “exegete” or explain God’s Word, the Bible. We were taught to “read out” of the Bible God’s intended meaning through a grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation instead of “reading into” the Bible our own biases and assumptions. God became a Man without ceasing to be God in the Person of Jesus Christ in order to “declare” or explain what God is like. When you see Jesus Christ you see God because Jesus is God!

Jesus rebukes Philip’s ignorance. “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’ ” (John 14:9). Whereas Moses only saw a hint of the glory of the invisible God, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the God-Man.

Philip did know Jesus in one sense. He was a saved man and possessed eternal life by believing in Christ (cf. John 1:43-50; 2:11; 13:10-11). He knew Jesus as his Savior, but he did not know Him in a deeper way. He did not know how perfectly Jesus reflected the Father. To see Jesus is to see God the Father because Jesus is God! Christ could make this incredible claim because of His oneness with the Father. Christ is saying, “After all these years together, Philip, how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ ” Jesus’ union with the Father was so natural that he was surprised that Philip had not noticed.

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” (John 14:10a). Jesus’ question expects a negative answer. Christ explains that He has revealed the Father to them in two ways. First, His words had revealed the Father. “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority.” (John 14:10b). Jesus’ teaching did not originate from Himself, but from His Father. Jesus depended on His Father for the words He was to speak. Christ’s teaching originated in heaven, not on earth. His words change the hearts of men and women, boys and girls. No man-made teaching can do what God’s Word can do.

Secondly, Christ’s works had revealed His Father. “But the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” (John 14:10c-11). From a human point of view, Jesus does the works, but in actuality they are called the Father’s “works.” Jesus says, “Believe Me that…” not “Believe in Me…” This a reference to the mutual indwelling of the Father and Son which makes Jesus trustworthy. Miracles permit the observer to see Christ’s Person. They persuade people to believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). So both the words and works of Jesus are a perfect reflection of the Father.

Jesus emphasized the unity of the Father and Son when He said, “I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” As He told the Jews previously, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30). He is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Old Testament teaches that God is Father (Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Malachi 2:10), Son (Psalm 2:6-7, 12; 45:6-7; Proverbs 30:1-4; Isaiah 9:6), and Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 139:7-12; Isaiah 11:2-3; 61:1; 63:10; Zechariah 4:6). The New Testament also teaches that God is one in three Persons (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14): God is Father (John 6:27; 20:17; Romans 15:6; I Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Colossians 3:17), Son (John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13; I John 5:20), and Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).

The fact that God exists eternally in three Persons emphasizes the relational aspect of the God of the Bible. All three Persons of the Godhead have loved each other forever. They have always functioned harmoniously with one another. And God wants the same for His people. He wants us to love one another as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have always loved each other. He wants us to be unified in our purpose as the Persons of the Godhead have always been unified.

In any relationship, the more we spend time with someone, the more their thoughts and words become familiar to us. As we share various experiences together, their actions will reflect their character to us. What is true in our human relationships is also true in our relationship with Jesus. We will not do greater works than Christ if we are not growing closer to Him. How can I reflect Jesus’ words and works if I do not know what He said or did? But if I am growing closer to Christ, His words and works can be manifested with my lips and life so that non-Christians can come to know Him personally.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the glory of heaven to come to this dark and sinful earth to reveal what God is like to all of humanity. So many broken people have misconceptions about God because of their experiences with other broken people. But You, Lord God, came to earth to explain what God is like so we could learn to trust You and grow closer to You as the perfect reflection of God the Father. The more I spend time with You, the more Your words and works become a part of my lifestyle. Please use me to reflect You in all I think, say, and do so others can be drawn to You and discover Your outrageous love for them. In Your amazing name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://discoverykids.com/articles/what-is-the-history-of-mirrors/]. Mirrors are used by us all in bathrooms, bedrooms, cars, etc.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 256.

3. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 444.