Being, not doing – abiding in Jesus (a reflection)

Easter 6, 2011

John 14:15-21

Marian Free

In the name of God whose Spirit works in and through us. Amen.

In John’s gospel there is no record of the Last Supper in the sense of Jesus’ breaking bread and drinking wine with his disciples. Instead Jesus’ final meal is used as an opportunity for the author to introduce Jesus’ final discourse in which Jesus not only prepares the disciples for his departure but also provides instruction for the early church. Jesus warns his disciples that he is going to be leaving them, assures them that in time they will follow to a place which he has prepared, he comforts them by telling them that they will not be alone and assures them that because he lives, they will live also.

As part of preparing the disciples for his departure, Jesus promises that he will send the Holy Spirit to encourage, support and teach them.  He is assuring them that not only will they not be left alone, but that in the future, the Spirit will continue the work that Jesus began with them. A lifetime would not have been sufficient for Jesus to teach the disciples all that they need to know. Indeed their human limitations mean that they could never, on their own, achieve the likeness to Jesus that would ensure his continuing presence in the world.

The Spirit will continue Jesus’ teaching, and unlike Jesus, he will be with them forever.

Jesus not only comforts his disciples, but he turns his “going away” into a positive. It is only if he goes away that the Spirit of truth can come. As the Spirit will lead them into the future, it is essential that Jesus go away so that the Spirit can come and teach them all things.

Long before the church had come up with the doctrine of the Trinity, John’s gospel expresses the unity of the Father with the Son and the Spirit with the Son. Jesus says if anyone has seen the Son they have seen the Father. Now he is saying that the Spirit will come in his stead. Father, Son and Spirit, each revealing the other and all three acting together in unity.

What is amazing is that Jesus says that we can share in that union. Jesus says that we will know the Spirit because the Spirit abides with us and will be in us. That is to say that the Spirit which is one with the Father and the Son, is a part of us, and therefore we can share in the unity that they demonstrate. Jesus takes this image still further in chapter 15 where he elaborates the image of the vine. By remaining connected to the vine, we allow Jesus/the Spirit to work through us, and in this way bear fruit (do those things that Jesus would do). In chapter 15 we find the same language of abiding. Jesus says to the disciples: “abide in me, as I abide in you”.

This has profound implications for the way in which we live our faith. A life of faith is one that is lived in Jesus and one that allows Jesus to live in us.  So often, we confuse faith with doing things – being good, doing good works, keeping the commandments. These chapters of John’s gospel make it clear that the primary task of faith is to allow Jesus/the Spirit to abide in us, to give our lives over completely to the presence of God within us so that the fruits of that relationship may be seen in our lives. If we align our lives with Jesus as he has aligned his with the Father, then he will work through us, just as the Father worked through him.

It’s all so easy. All we have to do is let go and let God. All we have to do is to place ourselves completely at God’s disposal, allow Jesus to reside in us and everything else will follow. However, you, like me know that what is ostensibly easy is, in fact, very hard. We do not like to be out of control. We like to think that we have something to contribute. We want to be able to measure our faith against others. We want to be able to demonstrate our goodness or our obedience. All of these things work to exclude God. Every time we try to something by ourselves – however worthy that activity might be, we are locking God out of our lives. Every time we do a good work instead of allowing God to work through us, we are implying that we can do it better than God. Every time we rely on the commandments, we are demonstrating a failure to trust in the Spirit within us.

Our behaviour very often stands in stark contrast with the faith we profess. We proclaim that we trust in God, then we demonstrate by our actions that we don’t trust God at all.

Perhaps it’s time we took hold of Jesus’ promise to the early disciples, time we tried to understand what it means to have Jesus himself abide in us, time we asked ourselves what our lives would look like if we allowed the Spirit to direct us.

Jesus has promised to do everything for us. Isn’t it time that we stopped resisting and started resting in Jesus’ presence in and with us?


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One Response to “Being, not doing – abiding in Jesus (a reflection)”

  1. Margaret Dyball Says:

    yes.

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