Already, the memory of the soft, sweet wind was fading. John began to notice his shoulders and neck were throbbing, hunched into an unhappy knot, as he struggled to understand what Jesus was saying. He glanced over to Peter, and saw his friend continuing to stare down, now at his hands held tightly together, as they hung between his knees, sitting slouched over. Thomas and Phillip had asked questions all of them had wanted to know, but now none of them dared say anything.
John clutched his prayer shawl tightly, and moved his lips in prayer. Blessed are You, Almighty God, Creator of all that is, of the seen and of the unseen. I cannot see what our rabbi is showing us. Open my eyes. Anxiety had been growing within him, and he could sense in the others the same foreboding. This much they knew, Jesus was speaking of departing, a leave-taking that sounded as though he were near death.
He said he would return, but if so, why send another?
Why speak of another being with them forever?
Was Jesus not returning before forever?
Why could they not come with him?
And what was he—were they all—supposed to make of Jesus being the visible aspect of the Father in Heaven? How could this not be blasphemy? Or heresy?
John nodded his head as he thought to himself, yes, the signs seemed to point to Jesus as something far more than the Messiah they had been expecting. The prophet like Moses, the one Moses had told them to watch for—and all Israel had watched for this prophet for thousands of years—was not the conquering king they had envisioned Messiah to be.
No, if this prophet was like Moses, then he would lead them all into a new land as a new people.
Jesus was going into a new land.
So then, why could they not come with him?
What did it mean that he was coming back?
Feeling dizzy, John leaned heavily on his hand. The room seem to rock and swirl, as he tried to make sense of this teaching. His breathing became ragged and forced, and his chest ached and ached. Unconsciously, he pushed hard against his heart with his other hand, to try and press against its tightening.
Others noticed Jesus’ eyes now rest on the Beloved Disciple, and he stopped speaking for a moment.
I will not forsake you, I am coming to you. Yet a little [while], and the world no longer is seeing me, but you all are seeing me, because I live then you all will live.Jesus to those gathered, John 14:18-19
They would not lose Jesus when the Spirit came to them. Jesus was telling them, “When the Holy Spirit comes to you, I will come with the Spirit.”
But there was more
In that day you all will know that I am in my Father and you all in me even as I in you.Jesus to those gathered, John 14:20
How do you describe a being Who is like an Eternal Community of three fully connected persons, more fully connected than you and I could ever imagine, because though they are three, they are also one? Yet, by design, you and I are to connect with God and with other people, to be in community, as Jesus had explained, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
God’s deepest joy is in connection with God-Three-In-One, and God created us to enjoy the pleasure God enjoys by connecting with God and also by connecting with each other as one body with one head, Jesus. That is the fullest, deepest joy you and I can know—what our hearts were made for.
It is one of the great tragedies of life that this longing is so often ground out of us by those who either cannot, or will not, connect at that level. Heaped upon with that kind of contempt, we become ashamed of the very thing that would bring us the greatest joy and life fulfillment. We mistakenly believe there is something wrong with us, and we do whatever we can, whatever is within our power, to subdue and suppress this longing to love and be loved.
With warm affection, Jesus lifted up that longing and honored it as sacred. He taught his disciples how to move forward toward fulfillment, rather than to move away in shame, fear, and self-protection.
The one who has my commandments and gives heed to them, that one is one who loves (agape) me, and one who loves me will be loved by my Father, even as I will love that one and I will manifest myself to that one.Jesus to those gathered, John 14:21
Western, evangelical Christianity is pretty heavy on thinking—what we think, what we know, what is the right doctrine, what is false teaching. And, admittedly, orthodoxy is important. But!
It should give us pause that Jesus did not say God experiences our love through orthodoxy.
It seems, the way to go deeper with God is through -living out- the teaching Jesus gave us, not in simply knowing it and agreeing with it. Even so, this is not a list of rules that, if we keep them, God will be convinced of our love.
This is not about conditional love at all.
This is about authentic love.
And this is not about perfect performance. Just think about what it means to be in a relationship. You and I want what is real, a real person with real feelings and yes, real flaws, too. Sometimes it is our turn to comfort, or be patient, or care for. And sometimes it is their turn to be patient with us, to take care of us.
That is real.
What is not real is to be treated like an obligation, or a burden, or an item to be checked off on a list.
Authentic love means opening our lives to our beloved. Love is, above all things, humble, transparent, and vulnerable. The more you and I love God, the more we are willing to risk trusting God, to risk trusting the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching and really living it.
Now, it is true that without orthodoxy—believing the right and true things—we will not be able to live out what is right and true. Orthodoxy is important. But it is not of only importance. Authentic love is revealed in how you and I live, what we say and do (orthopraxy), and in what motivates our hearts (orthopathy).
But, But, But . . .
Sir, how will it happen that you are intending to manifest yourself to us, but not to the world?Judas (not the Iscariot) to Jesus, John 14:22
It makes me smile to listen to Judas’ question (not Judas the Iscariot, as John was careful to point out, but rather the other Judas). Jesus had just finished giving them really powerful teaching, profound teaching, Mind. Blowing. Teaching!
But Judas was stuck on this one piece. How can Jesus somehow make himself evident to some, but not to the outside world? It was already impossible to go virtually anywhere without droves of people finding out and following them.
Jesus was a celebrity! Jesus had notoriety!
How in the world was he going to pull this off?
Sometimes, when something is just too big to feel, or to grasp, you and I start focusing on the incidentals. They are a lot less frightening. They are a lot less threatening.
I picture Jesus smiling with loving patience, with tender empathy. He knew this was going to be hard for them. All three of their years with him had been, in a way, preparing them for this very hour. And there was so much more for them to hear.
Jesus must have quieted for a few moments, maybe closed his eyes, maybe patted Judas’ hand. After all, Judas had to have screwed up his courage to ask, after Peter, and Phillip, and Thomas had all received rebuke from their rabbi. Or, maybe Judas blurted out his question, not even realizing he was going speak until his mouth started moving. Either way, I see Jesus’ gentle kindness in his answer.
[Agape Feast, with a woman at the head of the table | SnappyGoat.com]