PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

This is the last ‘I am’ statement that Jesus makes in John, and this time the metaphor turns agricultural:

 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”

John 15:1

In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was often referred to as a vine. In fact coins from one of the periods of their history have a picture of a vine on it, and the magnificent temple that Herod built for them had a massive gold vine on the front of it.

The story went something like this: Israel was a vine growing in a desert, in Egypt, suffering. God then uprooted them, cleared a space in a fertile land, and then transplanted them. He watered them, watched them grow and gave them life.

As beautiful as that picture is, this metaphor had a negative slant to it: Israel became a wild and sour vine, which was a reference to their Idol worship. It often came with a warning of judgment, that they would lose their covenant blessings if they continued in their disobedience.

When Jesus then comes and says ‘I am true vine’ he is therefore making a beautiful Gospel statement: I will be your obedience and righteousness, so that the covenant blessings can be made available to you! Everything we could not do, Jesus does for us, so that ‘in him’ we have access to all that God intended for us.

Jesus goes on to warn us however, that the means of growth, or accessing these covenant blessings, will not be easy!

 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

John 15:2

Pruning is an act of love. It shows the care of the gardener, the desire for growth, for protection.

But it’s still a cut! It hurts!

I wonder if this coronavirus season is a season of pruning? A difficult time, but a time where God is loving us and helping us grow?

What do we focus on in this difficult pruning season then? Jesus goes on to tell us, and it’s just one thing: continue to ‘abide’ in him:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5

Let’s not miss the opportunity that this difficult pruning season brings: a chance to focus on abiding in Christ, so that the pruning process will have its full effect, so that we can experience the fulness of being in the New Covenant with Jesus. 

PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Greetings to you and welcome to another installment of our devotionals looking at the “7 I AM” statements recorded in the Gospel according to John. Today we will reflect on the statement that I think is both profound and provocative. Please turn to John 14 and we will read vv1-6 Jesus said:

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:1-6

What makes me think that the statement is profound and at the same time provocative, is because here, Jesus clearly and unequivocally proclaim his nature, his identity, and the human predicament. And then sets out his ultimate mission.  Effectually, in this few words, he is saying, “I and I alone can accomplish this task God the Father has assigned me! Bringing humanity to glory.

In this passage we meet the troubled and perturbed, anxiety-filled disciples. They were in this state because Judas was going to betray him, Peter was going to deny him and more seriously, Jesus was going to leave them – you could say, he was going to be isolated from them.

There is a sense in which many of us, today, share the same feelings like the disciples then. And Jesus stands in our midst and says: Let not your hearts be troubled, or agitated, anxious, edgy, bordered. Do not be disturbed, or apprehensive, fearful, distressed, nervous or worried sick. Have faith in Jesus, believe in God.

We may not know what is going to happen beyond COVID-19 pandemic. From the look of things, life is going to be hard for many of us. Jobs are threatened, our health system is challenged, and the economy is under duress. The nation is in distress! It is under this kind of circumstances we are called to look to Jesus and see him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

When life here on earth deals us a bad hand, Jesus is the Way – he does not merely show us the way; he himself is the way to God – through him we have access to all that his Father offers. He leads the way, he guides us as we follow him and has dedicated for us a new and a living way.

The human predicament I alluded to earlier is that we are lost, that is the starting point of our reality. As a matter of fact we, are on a way to destruction. In Proverbs 14:12, the writer says:

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

Proverbs 14:12

But our faith in him shatters the barriers of sin and death, and blasts open the road to eternal life of the kingdom of God. He is that path that leads to life. Jesus is the only way for any person to have a relationship with God. Not only did Jesus said He is the way. Jesus also said He is the truth.

No one expresses it better than the Psalmist when he says: Teach me your way, O Lord that I may live according to your truth (86:11 NLT). Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of the truth. He is the truth in person; and the reality and truth of God are incarnated in him. All that we need to know and believe about God is found in him.

We live in a generation where truth is relative. Your truth is your truth – believe and believe in whatever suits you. In other words, there are no absolutes in this system of thinking.  Because Jesus is the Truth, we can know God and experience him intimately and personally.

Jesus is the Truth because he is the dependable source of the redemptive revelation – he is the word that became flesh, with view to reveal God to humanity.

Lastly, Jesus is the Life – he’s the source and giver for all who trust in him. Remember, the Devil has come to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus came so that we have life and have it in abundance.

I leave you with this quote said so beautifully by Thomas à Kempis,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which thou  should pursue; the truth which thou should believe; the life which thou should hope for.” will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Thomas á Kempis

God bless you and if we can help, please be in touch with us and use the contact details on the screen.

PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Good Shepherd

Today we come across an ‘I am’ metaphor by Jesus that describes the whole christian life:

 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

John 10:14-16

The Christian journey from beginning to finish is described here (and through the extended metaphor from v1-18).

The Start: Jesus repeats the phrase ‘lay down my life for the sheep’ five times! This is the beginning of the Christian journey: receiving by faith the sacrificial death of Jesus that was on our behalf.

The End: The end is described in a little more cryptic terms when Jesus speaks of sheep who are ‘not (yet) of the fold’. This has echoes of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14

Therefore, once the sheep that are not yet of his fold hear the proclamation of the gospel, then Jesus will return!

The Middle: Jesus describes the start and the end of the journey, but what of the middle? What do we do now? This is the substance of the metaphor.

Put simply, the Christian journey between start and finish involves following Jesus! This means learning to recognise his voice, listening to what he says, and following him by obeying his voice.

Four times in this passage Jesus repeats the concept of his sheep knowing him, knowing his voice, and following him. It’s a rich metaphor describing the basis of our discipleship journey.

This particular metaphor is based on middle-eastern traditional shepherding, where sheep would have an enclosure where they would sleep at night, perhaps with a watchman if they were rich, where sometimes the shepherds themselves would be the gates (see the devotion on ‘I am the Door’).

In some villages it made more sense to have one big enclosure for all the flocks of sheep belonging to the different owners, and hire a watchman to watch over all of them. This made economical sense, but the obvious question then arises: how do you tellwhich sheep belong to which shepherd?

The answer is quite simple: in the morning each shepherd would have a turn to stand outside the fold and call out to his sheep. The sheep belonging to that shepherd would recognise the voice of their shepherd, listen to him, then follow his voice and come out to him.

This is exactly what Jesus is describing for us! We, his sheep, learn to recognise the voice of our master. We then listen out for his voice, and then follow when he speaks. That’s the basis of the Christian journey: learning to recognise, listen to, and follow the voice of Jesus.