Posts Tagged John 14: 12

Literal Truth

Psalm 44: 3

Our forefathers didn’t win these battles by their own strength or their own skill or strategy. But it was through the shining forth of your radiant presence and the display of your mighty power. You loved to give them victory, for you took great delight in them.

The writer of this psalm seems confident in his statement that their forefathers’ victories were not the result of their own strength, skill or battle strategy. The triumph was not the result of their own wisdom, experience or knowledge. Instead, the psalmist would have us believe that victory came through God’s presence and might. Can we believe this? And, if their victory really was the result of Father’s presence can we enjoy the same kind of outcomes?

This is a little hard to believe, isn’t it? I mean, at a philosophical level, no. It is easy to accept philosophically. We can rationalize that it is God’s strength within us which leads to victory. It is the gift of wisdom which He gave us that results in triumph. The psalmist seems to differentiate from this analytical conclusion though. Is it possible that when he wrote this psalm he was being literal? The psalms are songs. Might he have written these lines in celebration of a literal truth?

I believe the answers to these questions can challenge us at a very deep, almost primal level. If we believe the psalmist meant for us to take these words at face value rather than as a poetic nuance of real events, then it presents for us a dilemma of faith and trust. If it really was the presence of God which carried the day, then we need to understand and appreciate this kind of faith walk. Most of us don’t have enemies shooting at us, or armies bearing down on us but we have challenges pertinent and relevant to our day and time. However, let us not forget that while most of us are safe, we do have sisters and brothers who actually are in danger for their lives and some of them, like the ancient Israelites, specifically in danger because of their faith. Selah – pause here and consider and maybe even offer a prayer of safety for them.

One might conjecture that we are better equipped to walk in the power of God’s grace, mercy and power on this side of the cross than our faith forefathers. We have the testimony of Christ and his example of a life lived in the manifested wisdom of God. We also are on this side of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is the power of God. We are better positioned to live in his power than the generations which went before. Jesus ushered in a new way of living with God. Have we, though, actually learned what this means and found how this life is lived? Are we still stumbling in Old Testament theology unversed in the revelation of Christ?

I fear this is the case. It seems to me that we live a hermetically sealed life where our reach is stunted. Nothing seeps into our box and we do not extend ourselves in exuberant faith, risk or trust. We live safe lives but not passionate lives. We live within limited boundaries so that we do not have to extend ourselves. We are not forced to trust God because we take life in this limited capacity. We don’t listen to the voice of God within us because he may ask us to do something that is risky. We don’t believe the Bible and don’t take it at face value because we may have to face some uncomfortable truths. Best if we rationalize away these uncomfortable passages, relegating them into the province of fantasy.

We should be living above the miracles of the Old Testament. We should be experiencing works beyond what Christ did. That’s what he said anyway (John 14: 12). We should be a people unlike the world has ever seen. The mighty hand of God ought to be evident in our lives and infecting all we come in contact with. I want this life. I want to know what the life Jesus anticipated for us looks like. I want to be a Christ disciple and actually walk as he did and live according to his faith in me. The life Jesus died to give us must be grander than the life most of us Christians live today. What is necessary for us to live our destiny? Our God is so much bigger than our lives. His plan for us is full of His faith.

Our Father, be our mighty warrior; be our strength and wisdom today as we turn to you. Teach us to walk in faith and trust. Lead us in your ways and create us to be a people who bring you glory.

No Worms Please

John 5: 19

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself.”

Jesus said he was nothing without God so consider me, as David said, a worm (Psalm 22: 6). Who are we if Jesus could do nothing without the Father’s assistance? Before Jesus’ ministry began, Father sent him to be baptized by John the Baptist. When John baptized Jesus in water, God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. The text from Matthew says that the Spirit of God descended from heaven and rested upon Jesus (Matthew 3: 16). Everything Jesus did from then on was done in the power of the Spirit of God. So again, I ask, who are we that we can do anything apart from God’s Spirit?

Jesus would have known the scripture from yesterday, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts,” (Zechariah 4: 6). He knew that his ministry was dependent on working with the Holy Spirit. In fact, did you know that even the Father relies on the Spirit’s power? Look at the account of creation from Genesis. The Spirit was hovering over the void. Then when God spoke, the Spirit made it so. He is the power part of God. So, if God operates by the Spirit and Jesus operates by the Spirit, it would seem imperative that we learn how to work with him too.

Of course, this isn’t natural for us but truly, we aren’t supposed to live in the natural anyway. We are part of the super-natural family of God. The natural realm was what we had before Jesus. Now, we are above natural having been adopted into God’s family.

Does this sound a bit far-fetched? I think so, but that is an indication of how far we have slipped. It certainly was not far-fetched or unusual for Peter, John, or Paul. This wouldn’t have even sounded implausible to Doubting Thomas. Remember, he was one of the people who fed the five thousand. They would think our existence is strange. Few miracles, healings or manifestations of the Spirit. And do you know that these people continued to walk in the miracles after Jesus exited? Why? It wasn’t Jesus performing the miracles. It was his Father’s power through the person of the Holy Spirit.

Because of the Holy Spirit, you can lay hands on the sick and they will recover (James 5: 14 – 15). There is no reason you cannot change water to wine, walk on the water and feed the hungry. In fact, Jesus said that you should be doing greater works than he. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father,” (John 14: 12). That scripture has bothered me for some time because I am not doing greater either. I think the first step is for us to wrap our minds around the fact that we are supposed to be supernatural people living in the supernatural world even as we traverse this physical earth. That is what Jesus did and we Christians are all the time talking about walking in his footsteps. Well, this is what it means. We are to partner with the Holy Spirit as he did and believe for the manifestation of God’s miracles everywhere we go. We are too complacent though. It is comfortable to settle for the natural. We don’t want to be weird and frankly, it takes some faith to live in the supernatural. It takes faith to be like Jesus, no doubt. Still, that is what distinguishes us from those who are not under his lordship. We aren’t called to be natural. In a way I guess I am asking you to be unnatural. We are called to be peculiar, unique. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2: 9).

Be anointed by the Holy Spirit as was Jesus and walk out into the world as he did. Sure, it’s a challenge but we have the highest and most holy calling. Let’s honor it.

Fill ‘er Up!

Ephesians 5: 18

Be filled with the Spirit.

If you thought yesterday’s scriptures and the miraculous acts of ordinary people was something, just wait until the New Testament revelation of the Holy Spirit unfolds for you. We saw from the Old Testament scriptures how the Spirit would settle “upon” individuals. When the Spirit came upon people, they were emboldened and empowered. People who were moments before afraid became great leaders, prophets and miracle workers under the power that came upon them with the Holy Spirit.

The story of the New Testament is quite different though. In the New Testament, a different word appears in the context of the Holy Spirit working with and through people. Whereas the Old Testament regales us with stories of the Holy Spirit being “on” people, the New Testament transitions us to the Holy Spirit “infilling” us. He is now in us rather than upon us. There are only three Old Testament scriptures about someone being filled with the Spirit while there are twelve New Testament scriptures about being filled. Likewise, there are very few New Testament scriptures about the Spirit being upon a person. One notable exception is Jesus.

In Matthew 3: 16 is the account of Jesus’ baptism. When he came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended and alit upon him. Shortly thereafter, Jesus was led, by the Spirit, into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. Luke’s description of this event says Jesus was “filled” with the Spirit (Luke 4: 1). So, which is it? Did the Spirit alight upon him, as in the Old Testament or did he fill Jesus? I believe the answer is that Jesus, again, is the exception to the rule. Jesus was an Old Testament Jew, but he ushered in the New Testament. In this sense, he was the bridge between how the Holy Spirit interacted with people in the Old Testament and how we are supposed to interact with him now.

At Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him. That language is clear and consistent. A short time later Jesus is described as being filled with the Spirit. In the intervening time Jesus bridged the gap between the Old and the New. He was the conduit through which the Old and New Testaments were reconciled. In him, the Father found the unity of paradigms which orchestrated the fulfillment of His promise to Israel, namely, the pouring out of the Spirit.

We have the greatest of all situations in Christ. He told his disciples that it was to their advantage that he depart because in his leaving he would send us another helper who would be with us and in us forever, the Holy Spirit (John 16: 7, John 14: 16). In this new dispensation the Spirit does not rest upon us for a time and then leave. He is with us and in us all of the time. He is as close as your next breath. In fact, you and he can be so intertwined that he is part of your DNA and that is where we want to go.

The Holy Spirit is who made Jesus the miracle worker he was. It was the Holy Spirit which made Jesus so attractive that he could simply say, “Follow me” and people would leave their occupations and follow him. The Holy Spirit was the power of articulation that gave Jesus perfect teachings and wisdom in his speech. How do I know? “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner (John 5: 19). Now, the one who empowered Jesus to do all that he did, is available to us. We can be as intimately intertwined with the Holy Spirit as Jesus was which means that we can be led as Jesus was led and we can do everything he did (John 14: 12).

(See Also: Exodus 31: 3, Exodus 35: 31, Micah 4: 8, Matthew 4: 1, Luke 1: 15, Luke 1: 41, Acts 2: 4, Acts 4: 8, Acts 4: 31, Acts 6: 3, Acts 6: 5, Acts 7: 55, Acts 11: 24)

Incapable

John 5: 19

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself.”

Is there any better news in the whole of the New Testament. Jesus, by his own admission, could do nothing of himself. Consider all the miracles of Jesus while on the earth. There were some pretty big ones chronicled in those pages. Yet, Jesus tells us he was incapable of any of it in himself. Isn’t that great?

You see, when Jesus came to earth, he emptied himself of his deity and became human. He was born a little baby just like you. He needed nursing and caring for like all children. I don’t imagine people receiving their healing just because they held the infant. Nope, there is something much bigger to Jesus, his miracles and his victory. He had a father. If you read the rest of this verse you will find that Jesus credits his power and success to attending to his Father’s example, “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Whatever Jesus saw God do, he emulated and Eureka (!) he had great success when he did as the father.

Jesus was born under the Old Covenant. He lived and learned as an Old Testament Jew. He read the books and listened to the Rabbi’s. He saw his Father’s ways in those old books and Rabbinical teachings. Then when he was baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit of God came and rested upon him. Then he had the witness of the scriptures and the leading of the Spirit. Those two blessings led him in the way he was to go. He walked by the leading of the Spirit daily and the power of the Holy Spirit healed and delivered whosoever would believe.

That is why I consider this verse such good news. If Jesus could do nothing apart from his Father, then there is hope for you and me. Jesus had to rely on the same gifts which we must depend upon. We have been given the Holy Spirit without measure. We have all that he is within and with us at all times. Everything Jesus had, we have. The power that operated in his life such that miracles were common, rests upon us; lives within us. The obvious conclusion, then, is that everything Jesus did, we can do too. Jesus said it himself, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14: 12).

Jesus did not create miraculous results of himself. He understood how to follow the Father’s example and the Spirit’s leading. The Spirit is the power but Jesus learned to cooperate with the Spirit so that the Father’s will would be made manifest in the earth. Jesus was a human who learned how to partner with divinity for the benefit of humanity. There is nothing he did which you cannot do. I find that tremendous good news. I only have to be me. You only have to be you. You don’t have to be Jesus. Isn’t that a relief? We have to same capacity to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and allow him to manifest himself to the world. He can heal our families and save the damned. He is the light in a dark and decaying place. We are vessels of his greatest. Surely we can manage to be jars, jugs, bottles or bowls. We do not have to perform the miracles ourselves, just partner with the miracle maker. Maybe we can do that and if we can, then we can change the world.

Loaves and Fishes

Matthew 14: 15

And when it was evening, the disciples came to Him, saying, “The place is desolate, and the time is already past; so send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” And ordering the multitudes to recline on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

There are any number of observations to be made from this text but you will have recognized it from when Jesus fed the five thousand. The first point to pull out of this passage is the recognition of who Jesus expected to feed the multitude. He told the disciples, “You feed them.” Then recognizing that their faith and understanding limited them he took on the task of feeding the five thousand, which, by the way, scholars tell us was more like twenty-thousand because the five only represented the number of men as it did not include women and children. Anyway, the point is that Jesus fully expected the disciples to feed the multitude. This goes right along with what Yahweh spoke to Moses. “You lift up your hand and do what is needful,” is the message the Father and Jesus communicate to us. You are seeing this, right? The workers of miracles are you and me.

However, we do see a difference between this story and Friday’s recounting of Moses and the Red Sea. When directed by God, Moses stepped up and performed. The disciples did not respond with the same trust and courage, so Jesus had to do it for them. Notice, though, Jesus’ actions. He did not hold the bread up to heaven and pray, “Oh heavenly Father, multiply this bread so that we may feed this great multitude.” In fact, he did not pray at all. Isn’t that just a bit mind blowing? He blessed the food and he multiplied it.

Now, if you ask Jesus right now if he multiplied the food and fed the twenty-thousand in his own strength and power he will answer with a resounding, “No.” He performed the miracle but he did it in the Father’s strength and power.

This is not an isolated instance. It was Jesus who changed the water to wine. He didn’t stop to pray. He didn’t ask God to produce wine from water. He just told the servants to fill the wash pots and then dip some out and take it to the head steward. Read through the gospels and you will see that He didn’t pray for healing; he healed. He rebuked the waves (Matthew 8: 26) and seemed perturbed that the disciples didn’t handle the problem themselves. To the leaper he said, “I am willing,” and he healed him (Matthew 8: 3). Again, He didn’t pray asking God to heal the leper.

Jesus didn’t stand around waiting for God to do something. He did it himself and we are supposed to do the works he did and even greater works according to him (John 14: 12). If we will meditate on Jesus’ life in this context, I believe we can experience a great breakthrough. The healing power of God is in your hands. The miracle working power of God is in your hands. What will you do with it?

Greater Works

John 14: 12

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this verse. I love the idea that we can do the same things Jesus did. All the miracles, all the victory he walked in continually is available to us. Not only can we live the life of Christ but also we discover that we should. I hate that I am falling so short. Sometimes when I read this chapter of John, I want to skip over this verse.

We all know that Jesus is our example; that we are supposed to walk in the earth as he did. When it comes to his miracles, though, we usually, in humble tones, say, “Oh, but that is Jesus.” We make him the exception when it comes to the power of God in operation even though we readily admit that our lives are supposed to mirror his and that he himself has said that we should do even greater works than he.

Jesus did not live on earth as God. “Instead, he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans,” (Philippians 2: 7). Jesus’ humanity is very significant. He could not have taken humanity’s sin to the cross without being human himself. Of course, the other side of the coin is that the miracles which occurred all around him were not a result of his deity. Then he says that we should do the same and even better. That seems to be a tall order but he also told us that his leaving allowed him to send the Holy Spirit. So, Jesus exited the earth taking our sin with him and arriving in his father’s house, he sent the Spirit to us who is the power of God. Now we have the Holy Spirit with his attendant spiritual gifts so we have all we need to live a victorious life. We have miracle working power living right within us. We have all we need in order to do the works of Jesus and even greater.

To the Sky

Mark 10: 27

Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

Do you believe this statement? I know Jesus spoke this but do we really believe it? It is hard to believe, is it not? But then, Jesus takes us out of our comfort zone every time he speaks. Of course, he did remarkable things so maybe his performance has something to do with his belief system. Perhaps, he believed that all things are possible with God so he changed water to wine, walked on water, translated from one place to another and healed everyone who went to him. Does any of this answer the questions for us though, I mean, afterall, he is Jesus.

The problem with that justification is Matthew 17: 20 which reads, “And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’” Nothing is impossible to us, according to Jesus but then, what does he know? Maybe he only spoke metaphorically. In other words, he didn’t really mean this. Of course Mark 9: 23 stands in the way of that logic as well, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Now we are back to that belief thing again. And in Luke 1: 37 Jesus is recorded saying, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Not to God, but with God.

I am forced to some conclusions. First, I don’t think Jesus wasted his breath saying things that are not true because: 1) he is the truth and 2) he knew his time was short. Yes, he spoke in parables but that is not the same as speaking metaphorically. I think accusing him of poetic rather than illustrative speech is just a way for me to justify my failures and lack of belief. If, however, I wish to rise from the ashes like a phoenix and stand on the high ground my Father promised me, then I think I must come to grips with this language in its truest and most literal form.

Second, in none of these verses is my doing of the impossible a solo act. It is our belief in and faith in God along with doing everything “with” God which empowers the supernatural so that all things become possible. Jesus didn’t do anything in his own might either (John 14: 10). He believed in and relied in the might of the Father.

Third, I must conclude and accept that Jesus consistently spoke about us doing these acts. Not only that, but Jesus gave us this very problematic verse in John 14: 12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” Though we cannot do them in our own might, we must also recognize that he talks about us doing the impossible just as he did, well, even greater really. My point is that none of these verses describes a scenario wherein we pray and God manifests and does whatever needs doing. It seems, in fact, it is quite the other way around. God empowers us to part the sea, heal the sick, and do all the other “impossible” things which each day presents to us.

As for me, I choose to believe that Jesus meant exactly what he said. Am I performing impossible tasks everyday? No, but I am reaching a great deal higher than I would if I did not believe Jesus, the Holy Spirit and my Father are capable of carrying me to mountain tops. Come with me. Let’s explore the boundaries. How far can we go if we believe?