The Seven "I AM" Statements of Jesus

Statement 7

I am the true Vine

Part 1

Monday, July 26, 2021

This week we will be wrapping up a seven-week journey in which we have examined the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus found in John’s Gospel. As we’ve done that, we have been able to get to know Jesus better through His own words. Each of these seven sayings reveals some aspect of the divinity of Jesus and also has practical implications for each of us as we live our daily lives.

As I looked back over the previous six messages this week, I noticed some interesting patterns. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus made those claims in front of large crowds. When He proclaimed that He was the Bread of Life, it was to a large crowd that He had fed the day before. When He claimed to be, the Light of the World, He spoke to a large gathering in the Temple. But the last two claims, including the one we’ll be looking at this morning, they were made to a group of eleven men who would soon be tasked with carrying on His ministry.

There is also a sense in which the claims that Jesus makes build upon each other and become more intense. He seems to be continually building upon the prior sayings with each claim. So in a sense, the seventh “I AM” statement that we’ll be looking into this morning encompasses everything we’ve already learned, but takes it to an even deeper level for those who are closest to Jesus. That is really exciting for us, because it means that if we really desire to take our relationship with Jesus to a deeper level, there is much that we can take from this passage and apply to our personal walk with Him.

With that in mind, let’s read John 15:1-11 together: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the Gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 

5 Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

9 I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” NLT.  

This is certainly a rich passage. Jesus is speaking these words to His closest followers. He speaks for the purpose of preparing them to carry on His ministry after the impending chaos and confusion related to His arrest and crucifixion.  

We’ll begin this study by making some observations about critical elements in the passage, then we’ll use those observations to help us make some practical applications for our own lives.
 

SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE TEXT

As the “True Vine,” Jesus is the genuine and only way to God. In the Old Testament, God frequently refers to Israel as a Vine or a Vineyard. That association led to the Vine being used as a symbol for Israel on Maccabean coins as well as on the gate of Herod’s Temple (much in the same way that the eagle is used as a symbol for the United States today).

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 7
I AM the True Vine

Part 2

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Almost every time, however, that Israel is pictured as a vine in the Old Testament, it is in a negative manner. In most cases, it is because Israel had again failed in its task of being God’s representative on earth, failing (again) to live in a manner that would have led others to place their faith in the One True God.

The word “true” that Jesus uses when He declares Himself to be the “True Vine” is a word that means “real” or “genuine.” Even though Israel had failed to carry out the task assigned to them by God, Jesus had not failed. He is the One who was providing the only way to God (just as we have seen repeatedly in the previous six, “I AM” statements).
 

Two types of Branches

Jesus identifies two types of branches in verse 2 and then goes on to further describe each kind of branch in the rest of His teaching.  

There were the branches that represented those who were already clean because of their faith in Jesus (like the 11 disciples to whom He is speaking directly in this moment – 11 disciples? Remember that at this point in the discourse, Judas Iscariot had already gone out to rendezvous with the temple guards who were waiting to arrest Jesus). Then there were the branches that represented those who were, like Judas, those who had an association with Jesus, but somewhere along the line, their faith in Him failed – it was choked out and they were therefore not clean.

 

With those words in mind, it is now actually quite easy to identify the two types of branches: “… every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit” = those who have only a superficial connection to Jesus or who have left their faith. They may attend church and may even read their Bible and pray - but they never really trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Or, like Judas, somewhere along the line they bought into the lies of the enemy, or their interests in the world caused them to take their eyes off Jesus. While they are still superficially connected to Jesus, He is not, or is no longer, the Source of their lives.

We see the fate of these branches in verse 2, where we learn that these branches are “cut off” by the Gardener (clearly identified by Jesus as God the Father). Then in verse 6, we hear the final fate of these branches described: “Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” The Apostle Paul touches on this concept in his letter to the Church in Rome in Romans 11:17-21. (I encourage you to spend some time looking at that scripture passage later.)

So, if the branches that do not bear fruit represent those who have only a casual association with Jesus and those who have walked away from an active living faith, then it becomes pretty easy to identify the remaining branches, “… the branches that do bear fruit” = Jesus’ genuine followers.

 

Jesus goes on to describe the kind of life that characterizes His genuine followers: They abide in Jesus and He abides in them. Depending on the translation, Jesus uses the word, “remain,” ten times in this passage - it’s probably a good idea for us to understand what that word means. The Greek word that Jesus uses here can have a pretty broad range of meanings. Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, the same word is also translated “stay” or “endure.” All of these words imply a continuous relationship of some kind.

 

Perhaps the best way understand the way Jesus uses the word here would be to use the phrase, “to make a permanent home.” That would mean that a genuine Christ follower is one who makes his or her permanent home in Jesus, and in whom Jesus makes His permanent home. Jesus Himself provides us with the model for that kind of relationship. Since He has loved us, just liked His Father loves Him, we are to remain in His love in the same way that He remains in the love of His Father. Jesus wants the same type of relationship with us that He has with His Father. (We’ll address how we can foster that kind of relationship in some very practical ways in just a moment.)

Certainly the eleven apostles to whom Jesus spoke these words were this kind of branch. Even though they would scatter at Jesus’ arrest and go into hiding after His crucifixion, in the long term, they would indeed prove to remain in Him and He in them.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 7
I Am The True Vine

Part 3

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The same is true for the genuine Christ-followers today. While it is certainly possible to stray from Jesus from time to time over the long term, there will be evidence that the genuine Christ-follower makes his or her home in Jesus and that He makes His home in them.
 

As a result of making their home in Jesus, they produce much fruit

Ultimately, it is just not possible to be a genuine Christ-follower and fail to produce fruit. In fact, Jesus made it clear that the way we prove to be His disciples is by bearing fruit – by bearing “much fruit.” And it is so important for us to accept that responsibility and allow the Holy Spirit to help us do it. We must also understand that the Father is periodically going to do some “pruning” in our lives for the purpose of increasing our yield.

What exactly is the fruit that Jesus speaks of here? There are certainly many different opinions about that. Some would claim that it refers to new converts, those who become Christ-followers as a result of the Holy Spirit and the witness of the branches. Others would connect it with the Fruit of the Spirit. While I think that both of those ideas are part of what it means to bear fruit, the context of this passage leads me to define bearing fruit in a somewhat broader way.

Bearing “much fruit” = displaying Jesus in and through our lives
When we remain in Jesus and He remains in us, the result is that Jesus is being allowed to grow in our lives. As a result of that, fruit is produced both in our character as we exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit and in others coming into a relationship with Jesus.

One of the best examples of bearing much fruit is found in Acts 4 when Peter and John are brought before the Jewish leaders because they had healed a lame beggar in the Name of Jesus. After Peter spoke, we see how the people reacted to them: Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” ESV.

In effect, the people recognized that Peter and John had remained in Jesus and they were now displaying Him in the way they conducted their lives – in this case, carrying on His ministry of healing. Earlier in that chapter, we see the results of them displaying Jesus in their lives: Acts 4:4 “But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children” NLT. By both their character and their behavior Peter and John evidenced that they were indeed Jesus’ disciples, by bearing much fruit.

As we’ve done each week in this series, let’s close our time by being very practical. If I want to be a genuine Christ-follower - one who remains in Jesus, and has Jesus remaining in me, so that I can bear much fruit by manifesting Jesus in my life - how should I live? Fortunately, Jesus provides us with some very practical guidelines on how to do that here in this passage.
 

HOW TO MANIFEST JESUS IN MY LIFE

Allow His Word to prune my life – Jesus says that His Father will prune the branches that remain in Him so that they will be even more fruitful. Or, to put it another way, God will intervene in our lives to make us more effective in displaying Jesus, in our lives. In order to make a vine more productive, the gardener prunes the suckers off the branches that are not producing fruit so that they (the suckers) don’t drain the life from the rest of the branch and limit the amount of fruit that is produced.

God does exactly the same thing to us in a spiritual sense. There are all kinds of things in our lives – often even good things – that can become spiritual “suckers” and keep us from being as fruitful as God desires. So God comes along and prunes those things out of our lives. Sometimes He does that by bringing trials and difficulties into our lives - but the trials themselves don’t do the pruning. They merely help expose those suckers. The only way that those suckers get removed is by exposing them to the Word of God.

 

This is why Jesus says that the apostles are clean because of His Words.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 7
I Am The True Vine

Part 4

Thursday, July 29, 2021

It is not surprising that God’s Word is pictured as a cutting sword: “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and of spirit, joints and of marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 NIV.  

Now there is a second prong to this pruning process that is the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the third prong is called, “Responsibility.” James 1:22-25 tells us, “But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” NTL.

Let me illustrate the need for God’s Word in cutting the spiritual “suckers” out of our lives. I had been experiencing knee pain since late October 2019; I finally went to my doctor who suspected I might have some arthritis and maybe some torn cartilage in my knee. He did some in-office tests, took some x-rays, and sent me for an MRI. Then I met with the doctor to go over all those results to see what was happening in my knee. He showed me some frayed bone ends, some arthritis, and he showed me some scattered pieces of cartilage that weren’t connected to anything. The MRI also showed a cyst that had disconnected from tissue and was “floating” inside the joint.

 

I finally knew where the pain was coming from – but just knowing wasn’t enough. I also had to take some responsibility as well. I could continue living with the pain (that several doctors assured me would only get worse), or I could have knee replacement surgery. I certainly had faith that God could heal, could replace my knee joint - I prayed for that and had a number of others anoint me with oil and pray for me, praying in faith that God would do a work. I also knew that God has given doctors some incredible giftings and abilities to do what they do, and He often uses them as His instruments of healing. So I could continue to wait and believe for healing (which I continued doing), or I could wait and make an appointment for surgery, which I did.

Our trials in life are like my initial diagnosis of knee issues or a diagnosis of cancer. They merely open us up to expose those spiritual suckers in our lives. But unless we expose what we find to God’s Word we’ll never know we need to get rid of them, or how to get rid of them. As painful as it might be at times, we must continually view our lives through the lens of God’s Word so that God can expose and prune sin from our lives.

That’s why Jesus speaks of the importance of having His Word remain in us. There is no possible way for the Words of Jesus to make their permanent home in your life if you just dabble in the Bible once a month or even once a week for a short time on Sunday morning. I suspect that there are some of us that would have to admit that there are things in our lives that are much more likely to be remaining in us than God’s Word; because we’re spending a lot more of our time and energy on them than we do on our walk with God. 

Keep His commandments

Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer than this: “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commandments and remain in His love.” Jesus was fruitful in His ministry because He was obedient to His Father. If Jesus needed to be obedient in order to be fruitful, just think how much more important that is for us!

 

We’ve seen this same principle in some form in connection with every one of the seven “I AM” sayings of Jesus.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 7
I Am The True Vine

Part 5

Friday, July 30, 2021

If we want to appropriate all that Jesus is as the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Gate, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth and The Life, and the True Vine, then we must keep His commandments.

Love my fellow Christ-followers – Jesus continued His discourse with these words in verses 12-13: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” NLT.

 

I believe John had these exact words of Jesus in mind when he wrote 1 John 2:9-11 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him” NIV.  It is just not possible to be a genuine Christ-follower, to be connected to the Vine, and not love another Christ-follower. Jesus makes it clear how far that love is to go: it is to be a selfless love that is even willing to lay down your life for the sake of another.

 

This is why it is so appalling that such petty little things get in the way of our love for our fellow Christ-followers. If Jesus could ask His Father to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross, how dare we not forgive whatever one of our brothers or sisters in Christ may have done to offend us in some way?!

Pray according to the purposes of Jesus – As Jesus continues, He speaks these words in verse 16 “You did not choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my Name” NLT.

 

This is another one of those passages that people often divorce from the surrounding context, using it out of context to develop some really bad theology. Jesus is obviously not saying here that we can just pray for whatever we want and then just tack on the words, “in Jesus’ Name,” at the end of our prayer and then God is somehow obligated to give us what we ask for. Using Jesus’ Name requires that we remain in Him and He in us. It means that what we pray for is that which is consistent with His character and His desires. It means that we pray for that which is consistent with His Word. It means that we pray for Him to prune our own lives with His Word. It means that we pray for Him to help us obey His commandments. It means that we pray for Him to help us love other Christ followers, regardless of how they may have treated or offended us.

As we close this study, and series, let’s take this opportunity to respond to the Word of God, being challenged even now to really search our hearts. First, if you’re one of those who has only a superficial connection to Jesus, or your once-active faith in Him has become a non-faith, let me encourage you to move beyond that today. Get connected (or re-connected) to theVine, Jesus, by fully trusting in Him, alone as the means to a relationship with God. 

Secondly, if you’re a branch who is genuinely connected to Jesus already, I encourage you to make an honest evaluation of how well are you really remaining in Jesus, allowing Him to remain in you. Are you exposing your life to God’s Word and allowing Him to prune those spiritual suckers? Are you keeping the commandments of Jesus? Are you loving your brothers and sisters in Christ with a selfless, sacrificial love? Or do you need to go and reconcile with a fellow believer? Are you really praying according to the plans and purposes of Jesus, or, are your prayers focused on your own plans and purposes?

Jesus said, “I AM The True vine.” How well are you connected to Him today? END

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 6
I Am the Way, and the Truth and the Life

Part 1

Monday, July 19, 2021

We all know that the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years after they escaped from Egypt. Some claim that it is because, even in Bible times, men wouldn’t stop to ask for directions. Fortunately for us, in the account we’ll look at this morning, Jesus’ disciples weren’t afraid to ask Him for directions. As a result of their questions we find that Jesus reveals Himself to them in this sixth of seven “I AM” sayings found in John’s Gospel.

As we continue our journey through the Book of John, we come to a crucial, pivotal point in chapter 13. After Jesus washes His disciples’ feet and as they celebrate the Passover meal together, Judas leaves to betray Jesus. From that point forward, right through the end of His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus is 100% focused on preparing His followers to be able to carry on after His impending death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven.

It is absolutely amazing to me to know that Jesus knows that He is about to suffer the most humiliating and painful death imaginable yet He is already beginning to experience the heavy burden of all the sins of mankind being laid upon Him. Instead of being preoccupied with His own worries, He spends His final moments here on earth (before His death) encouraging and equipping His followers.

 

So it is no wonder that John begins this entire section of his Gospel with these words, “Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end” John 13:1 NLT. 

Keeping this in mind, let’s begin reading John 13:36 through 14:11.

 

36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with Me now, but you will follow Me later.” 37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” Jesus answered, “Die for Me? I tell you the truth, Peter — before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me. 

 

14:1 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. 2 There is more than enough room in My Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. 7 If you had really known Me, you would know who My Father is. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him!” 

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 

9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father! So why are you asking Me to show Him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak are not My own, but My Father who lives in Me does His work through Me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen Me do” NLT.

This week, we’ll begin by determining what Jesus does for His followers as the Way and the Truth and the Life. Then, as we’ve done each week, we’ll focus in on how that should impact the way we live our daily lives.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 6
I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life

Part 2

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

What Jesus does as the Way, the Truth and the Life:  
 

As THE WAY, Jesus enables you and me to come to God and have relationship with Him. Both Peter and Thomas indicated that they did not know where Jesus was going. That is certainly not because Jesus hadn’t revealed that to them. Not only had He just told them that He was going to prepare a place for them, Jesus had previously - and frequently - spoken of the fact that He had come from the presence of His Heavenly Father and that He was going to return to His Father.

 

For instance, look at John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will” NLT. And then in John 7:33-34 we read, “But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the One who sent me. 34 You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going’” NLT.

It’s not too hard to imagine why the disciples either refused to believe what Jesus told them, or that they at least hoped that what He was telling them wasn’t really true. After all, they had spent the last three years in the physical presence of Jesus, and they didn’t want to lose out on that face to face contact that they had with Him every day.

But with His claim to be The Way, Jesus is gently reminding His followers that they really do know where He is going and that the only way they can get there is by believing in Him because He is the Gate. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul confirms that this was God’s plan from the very beginning. Let's look at Ephesians 3:11-12: “This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence."  It was always God’s plan that we, humans, would have access to Him through faith in His Son, Jesus.

 

Jesus also makes it completely clear here in John 14 that He is the only way we can have access to God: “No one comes to the Father except through ME [Jesus].” And we all understand, that is not a very popular message in our culture today, a culture which is characterized by a wide variety of choices in every area of our lives as well as by the focus on our own autonomy and rights. (Since we’ve dealt with this principle frequently throughout this series, particularly when Jesus said, “I AM The Gate,” we won’t spend much more time here.)

 

Before we move on, let me encourage you to make an honest evaluation of your own life and determine if you really are approaching God through your faith in Jesus or if you’re attempting to do that in some other way. It is not, and cannot be, Jesus and ______. It must be only JESUS. If you are doing or relying on Jesus and someone or something else – your heritage, or going to church, or being a good person, or even reading your Bible and praying – it’s not going to get you to heaven. Now, be assured of this: there is nothing wrong with any of those things. In fact, we all ought to be doing them or having them included regularly, in our lives. But if you’re doing them because you feel like they somehow earn favor with God and provide a way to Him, then you are not completely following the One Way – Jesus – who alone, allows you to go to God. 

As THE TRUTH, Jesus enables you and me to fully know God. In the movie, “The Polar Express,” the conductor speaks these relevant words: “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.” Those words, if you ask me, seem to be a pretty good summary of what Jesus is saying here as He proclaims Himself to be The Truth.

Philip’s response to Jesus is probably pretty indicative of how many of us feel at times: just show us the Father and that will be enough for us. Moses had said essentially the same thing thousands of years earlier when He asked God to show him His glory. Philip (and the others) thought that if they could just see the Father, then they could believe all that Jesus had told them about the Father and then they could have peace of mind. 

 

But Jesus turns this whole thing upside down. In effect, Jesus says that it is not seeing that leads to believing, but rather, it is believing that leads to seeing. If His followers want to see what God is really like, then they merely need to believe in Him, because He reveals Himself to those who believe in Him.

Not surprisingly, we find this concept that God reveals Himself to us through our believing in His Son, Jesus, near the very beginning of John’s Gospel. Let’s read John 1:17-18: “For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is Himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” NLT. 

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 6
I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life

Part 3

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

In the words of Scripture, God constantly reveals Himself to us. In the Bible we read that God is holy, righteous, just, loving, and merciful - among His many other attributes. But in spite of that revelation, because we can’t see God physically, we still have a tendency to make God into our own image, rather than attempting to conform ourselves into the image of God. And listen, when that happens, there are as many different ideas about who God is as there are people.

Jesus, as God in the flesh, is the antidote to that kind of thinking. We are not free to make God whoever we want Him to be because, as the Truth, Jesus reveals God as He really is - not as we want Him to be. When we read the accounts of Jesus’ words, spoken audibly to His various audiences, when we see how He ministered to people, when we see the miracles He performed, we have a flesh and blood portrayal of what God is like and we get to know God much better than we ever could just by reading about Him in His Word.

The main reason we’re spending these seven weeks getting to know Jesus better though His own words is that, as we fix our eyes on Jesus, we get to know Him better. As we do that, we get to know God the Father as well. As THE WAY, Jesus enables us to go to God. As THE TRUTH, Jesus enables us to fully know God. And as THE LIFE, Jesus enables you and me to grow with God.

We see repeatedly in the Gospel accounts that the disciples really didn’t want Jesus to go to the cross and die. Even after Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, he turned right around and tried to tell Jesus that He shouldn’t have to suffer and die. “From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.
    22 But Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!’”  Matthew 16:21-22
NLT

We can’t really blame Peter and the other disciples. They’ve had the experience of living with God in the flesh – a God they can see, touch, and hear audibly, a God who is physically with them. And they don’t want that to change. Who among us would? But the irony that what they can’t see from their viewpoint is that unless Jesus leaves their physical presence (dying on the cross, being raised from the dead and ascending to the right hand of the Father), they will never be able to fully experience the abundant life that Jesus wants to give to them.  

In this passage, Jesus is calling on His followers to relate to God in a new and better way. We hear this in the words of Jesus, as He continues speaking in John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” NLT. That verse is so rich, there is so much there, we can’t possibly cover all that Jesus is communicating there. But Jesus does make it clear, that by going to the Father He will be enabling His followers to do even greater works than He has done in His earthly ministry.

 

While Jesus was here on this earth, He was limited by His humanity, He could only be in one place at one time. But following His resurrection and ascension, He would equip all of His followers with His Holy Spirit, empowering all of His followers to minister in and through His Name, enabled by the Holy Spirit.

At the time of saying this, His followers still failed to understand what He was trying to communicate to them. After His resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit began reminding the disciples of everything Jesus taught. As a result, they had the ability to experience the work of Jesus in their lives in a way that far exceeded all they had experienced while Jesus was physically present with them. 

As the Life, Jesus provides a better way to live with God – a life of faith, one in which believing truly does lead to seeing. Even those who spoke with Jesus that day didn’t fully experience the life that Jesus offered, until after His death and resurrection. It was only after the Holy Spirit was poured out that they could really and fully see all that Jesus had done for them.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 6
I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life

Part 4

Thursday, July 22, 2021

As THE WAY, Jesus enables us to go to God. As THE TRUTH, Jesus enables us to fully know God. As THE LIFE, Jesus enables us to grow with God.  

As we begin to wrap up this week’s devotional, it would be good to answer the same question we have asked each week throughout this series: What does all this mean for my day to day life?
 

IMPLICATIONS FOR MY LIFE

The first piece is that the only way to comfort a troubled heart is to trust Jesus. In John 14:1, Jesus literally says to His followers, “Stop letting your hearts be troubled.” Jesus knew full well how troubled their hearts were as He is speaking to them - after all, they’ve heard Jesus say that one of His own disciples is going to betray Him. 

Jesus doesn’t just tell them to quit being troubled; He also tells them how they can do that: they just need to believe in Him. In fact, Jesus uses the word believe five times in our passage, and four of those times are commands. The idea of belief is central to the Gospel of John. John uses the verb, “to believe,” 98 times in his Gospel – far more than it is used in the other three Gospels combined. That particular verb, believe, has a broad variety of meanings - and we certainly see those various nuances throughout John’s Gospel. Here in John 14, the meaning of believe, is the idea of trust. The disciples are undoubtedly confused about what is happening, and even Jesus’ words are not enough to clear up all that confusion. But in the midst of that uncertainty, Jesus urges His followers to just trust Him.

(I think we can conclude from the text that Jesus intentionally kept His followers in the dark about all the details of what was about to happen – at least for the moment.  It’s not hard to imagine what Peter might have done if he knew Judas was going to the Jewish authorities to betray Jesus so they could crucify Him. I have little doubt Peter would have used his sword on Judas, rather than on the servant of the high priest, in order to try and prevent what was about to happen.)

Even when Jesus was crucified, His followers still didn’t understand what was happening, so they fled and went into hiding. Even after Jesus appeared to His followers after the resurrection, their understanding was still not complete. Jesus knew that the only way they were going to survive the confusion and chaos of the next several days and weeks was to trust in Him.

The truth is that nothing has really changed today. More often than not, we do not understand everything that is going on around us. Things seem to be out of control, and we, too, experience confusion and chaos in our lives. But in the midst of those times, Jesus urges us to trust in Him. That is the only way we can stop letting our hearts be troubled.

In Matthew 6:31 and following, Jesus tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to seek first the Kingdom of God. When Jesus says, “Do not be anxious,” He is essentially saying the same thing as when He says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” The key to not being anxious is the same as the key to comforting our troubled hearts: seek Jesus first and trust in Him to provide us with everything that we need to live in the midst of whatever circumstances we are in.

Ultimately, we usually have very little control over our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them. When we respond by trusting Jesus, He will comfort our troubled hearts, regardless of - and in spite of - our circumstances.

 

Continued tomorrow

The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus

Statement 6
I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life

Part 5

Friday, July 23, 2021

The second thing is that Jesus is more concerned with our eternal joy than with instant relief. Another way to say it is: Jesus is far more concerned with my character than He is with my comfort.

There can be absolutely no doubt that Jesus had the ability to rescue His disciples from the chaos and confusion they were about to experience. One way He could have provided them with instant relief would have been to delay or completely avoid His crucifixion. He could have taken His followers and headed back across the Jordan River to an area where He had been ministering just before He raised Lazarus back to life - and those seeking to kill Him probably wouldn’t have been bothered to pursue Him (at least for a while).

While that would have provided a temporary respite, Jesus knew that the only way to provide eternal joy for His followers was to die on the cross for their sins (for our sins) and then return to His Father to prepare an eternal home for them. Jesus knew that His followers still hadn’t figured out that it was far better for them to experience some temporary tribulation here on earth and receive the eternal blessings that would come as a result than to experience instant, but temporary, relief.

Many years later, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, confirmed this principle. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” NLT.

The promise Jesus made to His followers the day before He went to the cross is the same promise He makes to you and me today. Whatever temporary suffering or hardship we may be experiencing right now is being used by God to prepare us for an eternity in His presence. Even though we can’t see it, and many times cannot feel it, He is in control! Jesus is always at work behind the scenes, preparing a place for us where we will get to experience His physical presence, not just for a few years, but for all eternity.

I am firmly convinced that if we could really grasp this truth, it would completely revolutionize our prayer lives. For most of us, much, if not most, of our time in prayer is spent asking God to change our circumstances – God, heal me from this sickness, God, provide a job for me, God, help me with my finances, God, get me out of this relationship. While there is nothing inherently wrong with those requests, we need to remember that, because Jesus is much more concerned about our eternal joy than He is with providing instant relief, He often allows us to remain in our circumstances in order to accomplish His purposes for our life and prepare us for an eternity with Him. Therefore, we need to spend a lot more time praying for God to give us wisdom, to help us understand how He is trying to prepare us for eternity, through the circumstances we are walking in and through.

Maybe you’ve been wandering around spiritually, not willing to ask for directions.  Friend, let me assure you, Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. And no one can get to the Father except through Jesus. If you will just trust in Him, He will enable you to go to God, to truly know God, and then, to grow with God.   END