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How God reveals Himself to us. John 14.22-29

John 14.22-29

How will God reveal himself to us?

A link to the audio of the talk

One of the disciples has just asked Jesus the question.

Will he do wonderful mighty acts of power and make everything in life go well or easy for his followers? Will he make them the victorious and successful of the world?

No. If anything Jesus says the opposite: that his followers will be the poor, hated, despised and rejected of this world

But God will reveal himself to his people, to those who love him, and who desire to keep his word, in a deeply personal way.

1. God will live with us.

“My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ (v23)

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus has said to his followers that he is going to the Father to prepare a home for them.

Now he says that he will come to them and make his home with them.

Imagine that there is a knock on your door.
Some guests are coming not just to stay with you, but to live with you.

That might sound a bit scary. Will there be enough room? Will you get on with them? Will they fit into your way of doing things, or will you have to fit into their way of doing things?

But these guests are different.

First of all, the flat belongs to them. In fact the whole block of flats belongs to them. They were the one’s who gave the flat to you.
Secondly they really love you and you love them.
Thirdly they want the very very best for you

And as they move in, you realise that things are changing.
Some of the changes are difficult – but they are for the better.
And you begin to realise that although it remains your flat, although you could ask them to leave at any time, they are not really living with you – but you are being invited to live with them.

When God comes to us, to live with us, things will change.
Yes, he comes to live with us, but it turns out that we are being invited to live with him.

We are invited to share in the relationship between Father and Son. We are included in that relationship, we become part of that love.
We are invited to know the love of the Father for the Son and for us – and to know and share in the love and trust of the Son for the Father.

And so just as Jesus calls God Father, so we begin to find that we can call God our Father
We find that Jesus the Son is not just our Lord, but is also our brother and our friend.
And as the Father calls Jesus his dearly beloved son, so he calls us his dearly beloved son or daughter. 

Jenny was a member of the previous church where I was a vicar. She was in hospital, in a side room where she was dying. Jenny was very no nonsense, and was completely with it right to the end. But as I visited her in those last few days she told me two things. The first was that the lines from the hymn ‘Away in a Manger’ had become a significant prayer:

“Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask You to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray”

The second thing she told me was that Jesus had appeared to her. She had become aware of His presence in the room with her. She knew it was him. There was no doubt. She could only look at his feet. But he came close to her and lifted up her head so that she looked in his face.

Of course, there are not many people who have had an experience like that of Jenny

My father had a difficult final few days before he died. He had a faith but he said to me where is God in this, why am I going through this?

There are moments when we do experience the love of the Father and the Son, but for most of the time we have to trust that they are still living with us, but mainly as invisible guests. We only occasionally catch glimpses of them. Sometimes we hear them. Sometimes we do not see or hear them, but we know that someone is around because the kettle is warm, or the dishes have been washed up.

The Psalmist writes, remembering how the people of Israel had had to flee from the Egyptian army through the sea: ‘Your way was through the sea; your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen’. (Ps 77.19),

So even though there are moments when we experience God, most of the time we have to simply trust that God is with us, living with us.

And our hope? Our hope is in the reading from Revelation.

That speaks of the time when we will see God clearly. It speaks of the new Jerusalem, when heaven comes down to earth, when God comes to dwell, to live with his people.

“But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 21:3)

2. God will teach us

‘The Advocate, the Holy Spirit .. will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you’ (v26)

Clearly here Jesus is speaking to the first disciples.
He talks about how he is going away from them. He is speaking of his death on the cross
And he tells them that the Holy Spirit will remind them of everything that he said.
And what they remembered, guided by the Holy Spirit, we find here, in Scripture.

But Jesus is also speaking to all of us who believe through their words.

The Holy Spirit will teach us everything. He does that not by revealing to us new truths, but by taking the truths of scripture, the words of Jesus, and applying them to our particular situation, in our particular context, with our particular concerns.

And one of the ways that the Holy Spirit teaches us is by helping us to remember. To remember what we need at the particular time that we need to remember. The Holy Spirit works with our memories.

It is the Holy Spirit who will remind us of those truths of scripture that are most important for us, or that are most necessary for us at a particular time.

There is the story told of the man who was losing his memory, so he went to a memory clinic. He met with a friend, and told him, ‘I went to this wonderful memory clinic and they gave me some helpful ways of remembering things’. ‘That’s useful’, said his friend, ‘I could do with that. What is the name of the clinic’. The man thought and thought and couldn’t remember. But then his face lit up. ‘Ah, this is something they taught me. What is the name of that flower that can be red or white or yellow and has thorns on it’. His friend said. ‘A rose’. ‘That’s it’, said the man. The friend says, ‘So it was called the Rose clinic’. ‘No’, said the man. And then he called through to the kitchen where his wife was, ‘Rose dear what was the name of the clinic I went to?’

Christians do not need a Rose to help us. We can, even when our physical memory fades, call out, ‘Holy Spirit – remind me, teach me, what I need to know’.

The Spirit reminds us through the collective memory of the people of God, of the Church, when we meet together, through our words and songs. Each Sunday we read different passages from the Bible, we read Jesus words commanding us to love and telling us of the forgiveness of sins, of his death and resurrection, of our hope for a new life.
And each Sunday we are reminded of what he said at the last supper.

The Spirit teaches us, reminds us, through each other – through studying the bible together, through friends sharing verses

And the Spirit teaches us through our own individual memories.

One of the passages that has come alive for me in the current situation has been the song of Zechariah (Luke 1). It is the praise that Zechariah declares as he holds the baby John the Baptist in his arms. We say the words every day in morning prayer, but I have learned it by heart. 
And through those verses, God has spoken to me that a mighty Saviour has come, that God has spoken, that he is faithful, that he will set us free to worship him, and that there is the hope of a new dawn.

The point is that when Jesus says that the Spirit will remind the disciples of all that he has said, he is speaking to people who have already come to him and heard him, and who have received his word.

And if the Holy Spirit is to help us remember the words of Jesus, and through our memory help us to apply them, then of course we need first to have heard and received what Jesus has taught.

3. God will give us his peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14.27)

There is a great deal spoken about peace

But here we are not talking about the peace that the world gives, even though we could do with a good dose of that.

The peace of Jesus is a peace which does not come from meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, types of yoga: although don’t get me wrong, they can be helpful. Just 10 minutes of meditation a day can make a significant difference to your mental and physical health.

The peace that Jesus is offers is not the peace which comes from simply going inwards, closing its eyes to suffering, or forgetting all your problems – it is not the peace of the Buddha with closed eyes.

Nor are we talking about political peace. Usually that is conceived of as an absence of fighting, and often comes as a peace which is imposed by the strong on the weak.
Augustus established the Pax Romana, the peace of the Roman empire, by crushing all potential competitors.

Nor are we talking about the peace of the cemetery.
In the UK people will often say when someone has died, ‘May they rest in peace’. I guess they are saying that we hope that they will finally find rest, sleep, especially if death has been traumatic.
But ‘May they rest in peace’ is not the last word. Instead many Christians will respond, ‘And rise in glory’.

The peace that Jesus gives is a peace which is both objective and subjective
It is objective. This is the peace that Jesus won for us when he died on the cross.

It is about peace between us and God. It is about mercy and forgiveness and a new relationship with God.

And when we are right with God we can begin to get right with each other, begin to be at peace with others. We do not need to prove ourselves, we do not need to stand in judgement over others, we do not need to fight them to get stuff. Instead we can recognise our own sin, we can say sorry and forgive others who sin against us.

This is the peace of a hockey or football team, where all the players are at ease with themselves and with each other. They know their giftings and their place, and they are playing as one body, trying to bring out the best in each other, with a single aim.

But this is also a subjective peace, a peace that we can experience in our own hearts, in our own guts.
A peace which comes from knowing that you are in the right with God – others – creation.

People sometimes describe it as the peace of a bird sleeping in a nest in the middle of the storm
But I am not so sure. This peace is more active. It is the peace of the sailor pulling on the rigging in the middle of the storm, straining with all their strength, aware of the danger but completely confident in their ability and knowledge, in the crew and the boat.

This is the peace that can lead us. Maybe you have known the leading of God’s peace. It often comes when we need to do something difficult. But our head, our heart and our guts tell us that this is the right thing to do.

And ultimately, of course, this is the peace that comes because we have responded to his love with love, we have opened ourselves to his word, we have allowed him to teach us, and because God is with us.


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