I am continuously amazed at how a group of people can see, hear, or experience the exact same thing but walk away with vastly differing conclusions about what they saw, or heard, or experienced.
I think this happens because we each see the world through a differing perspective; different life experiences, different understandings, and different cultural norms. We each look at the world with different lenses. And the perspective or lens that filters the world becomes your reality.
But the problem is that sometimes our perspective, or lens in which we view the world, blinds us from the truth. In other words, our struggle is that we see but we don't see.
What’s interesting is that sometimes we do this with Jesus. We hear the words of Jesus, the stories of Jesus, and the message of Jesus and interpret them through our perspective so that Jesus is presented in the way we think he should be.
But when we forget what Jesus is like, or we try to change him, or our recognition of him is so messed up, we run the risk of not knowing who Jesus really is anymore. And as we’ll see this morning, even the disciples struggled with not being able to see Jesus for who he really is.
Lucky for us, the gospel of John includes seven selfies of Jesus. Although Jesus didn’t have a smart phone or social media apps that offer those really-cool filters, He gives us seven “I AM” statements in which he reveals himself to us.
The I AM statements of Jesus are his true-identity. This is Jesus unfiltered.
The last three I AM statements take place during the last 48 hours of Jesus’ life. So, there’s a sense of urgency as Jesus heads toward the cross. He needs the disciples to understand who he is because they will be tasked to continue the message of Jesus after he’s gone.
To set this up, we have to remember that the disciples are all in on Jesus. They’ve left businesses, homes, families, and secession plans to follow him. In their heads, they’re thinking, “This is the guy that is going to overthrow Roman domination. He’s the one who has come to establish the kingdom of God, promised to us in the Old Testament. We’re banking our lives on this one.”
But suddenly after three years of following Jesus, he starts saying stuff like, “I’m just going to be here a little bit longer, and then I’m going to leave you guys” and the disciples are freaking out. They’re wrestling with doubt and wondering if they made a mistake.
In our text this morning, Jesus is addressing these very real struggles. READ John 14:1-14.
It’s Thursday, the day before Jesus is going to die and he’s together with his friends to share one last meal with them, the Passover meal.
Now remember, the disciples are stoked because they’re pretty sure that Jesus has come into Jerusalem as the Messiah, God’s king to over throw the Roman government and to restore God’s Kingdom. This was the moment that all of their risk taking would pay off.
So in their minds, this is like the last meal before the battle, before it all goes down . . . which is why earlier in the evening they had an argument as to who was going to be the greatest in this kingdom.
But the meal isn’t going as planned. Already . . .
- Jesus has told them that if you want to be the greatest then you serve. If you want to be first, go to the last. If you want to be the highest, you got to be lowest.
- And then Jesus began to wash their nasty, stinky, crusty feet; a job for a servant, not a king.
- And Judas Iscariot has left the meal in order to betray Jesus for a few measly bucks.
This night is absolutely rocking their world because it’s not going the way it’s supposed to go.
But this is one of the struggles we see with Jesus over, and over again . . . everybody’s got a plan for Jesus; what he should do, where he should be, how he should act . . . And when he doesn’t do those things, it rocks our world. And so, we question him or wonder if there’s a God at all . . . don’t we?
And so, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me.”
And he tells them that he is going to go into heaven and what he’s going to do there is build a big house, with lots of rooms and then he’s going to come back and get them and then they can move in.
He’s painting this beautiful picture of God’s kingdom and he’s telling them, don’t worry. I’ve got this handled. God has a plan.
But the disciples didn’t get it. All they could think of was the past three years with Jesus; preaching and teaching, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and bringing the dead back to life. And the thousands of people that are following them around everywhere . . . like they are rock stars.
And now they are prepared to put this traveling show into high gear, to reveal to people what they’re really capable of doing . . .
But at the height of their anticipation, Jesus says that he’s leaving them. And that just doesn’t make sense. They’re ready for the kingdom to come now, and how can that happen if Jesus isn’t with them?
And so, Thomas says, “Lord that sounds great. We’ll get to move into God’s house, and get our own room, which is really awesome because between you and me, I’m kind of tired of sharing space with these guys . . . but we don’t really know where you are going so how do we know how to get there?”
That’s really a great question.
Jesus comes back with one of the clearest declarations in scripture, that he is God; Echoing Exodus 3:14, where God speaks to Moses through the burning bush.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Jesus answered, “I AM” . . . “I am the way, the truth and the life” If you want to get to this place, this nice house where you will live forever with God as your father, here’s how it happens. You come through me because “I AM”
But they still don’t get it, so Phillip says . . . “Enough with the analogies; no more talking or calling yourself such odd names like ‘I Am’. I don’t want promises of rooms in heaven somewhere. We’re ready for some real action, right now . . .
And if you’re not going to be with us . . . and it certainly looks like you’ve made up your mind up about that . . . then you need to show us something we can see with our eyes, something we can reach out and touch with our hands. Introduce us to God in a way that’s never been done before, so we can be clearly and finally envision what he has called us to do. “
Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me Phillip, even after I have been with you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the father. How can you say show us the father?”
Phillips struggle is one of familiarity. He’s been around Jesus, seeing him heal, and teach and perform miracles, demonstrate his power and authority but he has become so accustomed to Jesus, that he no longer sees the magnificence, and the deity of Jesus.
Phillip is saying I just need to see God . . . I am really struggling here and I just need God to show up.
And Jesus says, Phillip I’ve been with you this whole time. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father. My words, my works, my miracles . . . those are evidence of God’s power living in me.
Jesus is saying in very clear terms . . . I AM GOD . . . Phillip, don’t miss this important truth!
And then he goes on to say, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing” . . . what has Jesus been doing? He’s been teaching, loving, feeding, serving and doing all of that in order to bring Glory to God.
And he says, “Not only will those who believe in me do the same work but they will do even greater things”.
Now, I have to be honest, this scares the heck out of me . . . here’s Jesus who is God, lived a perfect life, resurrected from the dead, reconciled the world to God . . . he’s got a pretty impressive resume . . . and it almost sounds as if Jesus is saying, I’m Junior Varsity but you’re varsity . . . so you’d better step it up.
And if Jesus is expecting us to do better than him; then let’s get honest . . . this isn’t going to work out well for us.
But that’s not what he saying. He’s telling them that he could only be in one place at one time; teaching one group of people, feeding one group of people, loving and serving one group of people.
And there are 11 of you sitting around the table . . . and God is getting ready to do something through you that is going to change this world . . . not that you’ll do things that are better than Jesus but you’ll have more hands. You’ll have more feet. You’ll be able to teach more people, love more people, and share the goodness of God to more people.
“You’ll be doing things that I’ve been doing but you will do them with greater multitude.”
And if you think about it, this is an incredible honor. To be invited to continue the work that he began and to follow his footsteps.
And then he says, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything, in my name, and I will do it.”
Now, it sounds like God is the cosmic piñata and if we say, “In Jesus name,” that’s the magic stick that whacks the piñata and then all the goodies fall out of heaven.
- I want a wife . . . “in Jesus name” and whamo in walks Ms. Thang
- I want a car . . . “in Jesus name” and all of a sudden someone drives up with a new BMW and says, “Hey, I’m not sure why but I just felt like I needed to give this to you”
- I want to be tall and play in the NBA . . . “In Jesus name” and next thing you know your banging your head on the door frames as you walk through them.
All you have to do is just whack the piñata “in Jesus name” and it all falls out of the sky.
That’s not what he’s saying. He’s telling them that if we’re going to do the same things that he’s been doing, and we’re going to do them with greater multitude and in such a way that will bring glory to God, then the key is that we pray “in Jesus name”.
Not so that God will do what we want, when we want and how we want it done but that through those prayers, God will change us and put us in the movement of his will.
You see, the primary function of prayer is to change the hearts of God’s people.
And when you pray in Jesus’ name . . . you begin to see the world differently. You begin to see a world through the lens of God; the God of compassion and love and grace and hope.
The God who sent his son to be the I AM the truth and the life to bridge the gap between us and God.
And as you look out, you see a world that’s broken and hurting . . . you will begin to think, I need to do something about this. And that’s scary because it seems like an overwhelming task. God, how am I going to make any kind of difference?
That’s what the disciples want to know.
Then Judas, not Judas Iscariot, that guy is already gone asks . . .
“How are you going to change the world by having dinner and giving great instruction to 11 guys? This is a big task. It seems like we would need at least 13 or 14 guys to change the world. How is this going to work?”
Jesus says, “Piece of cake . . . I’m gonna give you the Holy Spirit”.
The Holy Spirit will come with power and will give you everything you need. All you need to do is love me, live your life, take some risks, get out there, infect the world with God’s love one person at a time and guess what? The Holy Spirit will do everything else.”
Look around the room . . . How did this conversation around the table with 11 guys get to us?
The Holy Spirit gave love to someone, who gave love to someone, who gave love to someone, who gave love to someone . . . We sit here in a home in South Tampa worshipping the God of creation because the Holy Spirit took 11 guys at a dinner table and used them to change the world; to make a difference, one life at a time. And all of that started when the disciples began to understand and embrace that Jesus is the I AM the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father except through him.
When Jesus finished his meal with the disciples that night, he left them with a simple blessing . . . peace.
Peace to cover their struggles. Peace to soothe their anxiety. Peace to ease their fear. Peace to give them courage. Peace to take a risk.
In the days that followed . . . those disciples’ lives would be ripped apart; they needed a peace that was tangible, something they could walk past and touch, or wrap around themselves in dark moments of doubt and pain. And we do, too.
Peace, Jesus said. My peace I leave with you. Not the kind of peace the world talks about…but real, tangible, abiding peace in knowing that Jesus is the I AM. Hang onto it; hang on tight. Don’t let your hearts be troubled, and don’t be afraid.
“I’m going away, you can’t follow me, don’t be upset because I will come back and take you with me.”
But, in the meantime . . . peace.