Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

John 21:15-17

In John 21:15-17 Jesus has a very intimate interaction with Peter.  Jesus had met with Peter individually on the day of His resurrection, but a public restoration was also needed.  You’ll recall that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the eve of the crucifixion.  So Jesus is now rebuilding the important relationship they had together before that series of events. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus waited until the entire group had finished eating before He takes Peter on a journey to discover their relationship again.

Jesus began by asking a simple question: do you love me more than these?  It seems like a strange questions He asks Peter to compare his love for Jesus with that of the other disciples.  Remember that Peter had earlier claimed a very deep and all consuming love for Jesus.  Peter answers as you would expect. “He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” But Jesus response was maybe not what was expected.  For Peter to follow through with his love for Jesus, he must give himself to the service of God’s people.  It isn’t enough to say he loves Jesus.  Love needs to be lived out.

Jesus goes on to probe again. “He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” The first time Jesus asks about Peter’s love He tells him to ‘feed my lambs’.  This time Jesus instructs Peter to ‘tend my sheep’ which is a deepening responsibility in the service of the people around him.  But wait, there’s more. “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

This time Peter doesn’t really like the question.  After all he’s answered it twice already.  What really grieved Peter was the three-time repetition of the exact same question focused on his love and commitment to the Savior, because it was a plain reminder of his previous three-time denial on the evening Jesus was being arrested before His crucifixion.  It’s painful stuff.  Jesus allowed Peter a three-fold public affirmation of love to replace a three-fold denial, and gave him a three-fold challenge to serve those in his patch by feeding and tending to those around him.  That’s how we show our love for Jesus.  We serve people just as He did.  We show love as we love others.  That’s how Jesus knows any of us love Him!

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John 20:24-31

In John 20:24-31 Jesus has just revealed Himself as the risen Savior and released the Holy Spirit on them.  And He gave them the authority to impact the people they touched.  But one of the Twelve was not there when Jesus came, and Thomas is really struggling with Jesus as the resurrected king.  “But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.” He hears from the rest of the bunch that they had seen Jesus, and he just isn’t buying their story.  He has to see some evidence himself before he will believe.

Thomas, whom we often call doubting Tom, wants physical evidence. “But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.” Thomas is merely an unbeliever who will not accept the testimony of others. He throws down the gauntlet and wants proof.  So the doubting continues.  But then Jesus makes another appearance.  “Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” The proof begins when Jesus enters the room through locked doors.  No opening the door, just walk right through it.

Jesus takes on Thomas’ doubt head on.  He challenges Thomas to stick his finger into the wounds from the crucifixion.  “Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” Jesus wants to make sure Thomas’ doubt is addressed so he can truly believe. Jesus repeats Thomas’ demands back to him word for word. This must have been very impressive to Thomas, and very convincing. Jesus also plainly commands him to cease his unbelief and to start believing.  And it works.  Thomas believes. “Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

Jesus makes a point that faith shouldn’t always require us to see things. “Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” There is a special promise blessing given to those who believe. The faith of Thomas is the climax of the book: Jesus has triumphed over sickness, sin, evil men, death and sorrow; now He conquers unbelief. But wait, there is more. “Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.” John captured the story of Jesus so that we can have life, and have it abundantly.

John 20:1-9

In John 20:1-9 Jesus has been crucified and laid in a tomb.  It is early, and Mary goes to the tomb to check on the body. “Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance.” Other gospels tell she was not the only woman to come to the tomb that morning. At least three other women accompanied her. But Mary was the one who ran back and told the disciples about the empty tomb. “She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”

There is confusion as the body is gone.  Mary wasn’t wishing for a resurrection, and then hopefully imagined it. She had no thought of resurrection yet, and believed the body has been stolen. “Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in.” Peter and John, who calls himself ‘the other disciple’ take off running to the tomb.  John is faster and gets there first.  He peers in from the outside and sees the grave clothes laying there, but no body.

Peter finally gets there a bit behind John, and true to his nature, he heads right into the tomb.  “Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself.” He tinds that the cloths were still orderly and neat. I was as if the body “evaporated” out of the grave clothes. The neat, orderly arrangement of the grave clothes showed that this was no grave robbery and that something absolutely unique had happened in that now-empty tomb. Jesus didn’t rise and fight with the cloths He had been wrapped in.  God merely brought Him to life and left the clothes behind to show it happened.

John then decides to enter the tomb too.  “Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed.” Upon seeing the grave clothes and how they lay on the “bed” of the tomb, John believed that Mary’s report was true, and that something awesome and incredibly unique had happened. But so far, all we have is an empty tomb. Jesus is not where He had been placed a few days earlier. The apostles never emphasized an empty tomb, but a risen Lord. They knew Jesus had risen because they saw and touched the resurrected Christ.

John 17:1-8

In John 17:1-8 Jesus has finally reached the point He’s ready to reveal it all to the world.  He’s been under the radar and while bits and pieces of God’s plan and the reality of who He was had been shared, His public ministry is now in full swing.  “When Jesus had finished saying all these things he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Reveal the glory of your Son so that he can give the glory back to you.”  Jesus has always had authority over all things, but now He is proclaiming and making it clear.  Jesus is not a normal leader.  He is God’s Son.  “For you have given him authority over every man and woman in all the earth.”

His authority is not only over things of the earth, but over all things including eternity. “He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.” Jesus is the only way to have eternal life.  No other options exist.  There is no Plan B, only Jesus. “And this is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth!” God put that plan in motion when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, and now Jesus is completing that plan as He prepares to go to the Cross with the sins of mankind on His shoulders where He will take those things and defeat death and make a way for us to be forgiven of our sin and given eternal life through God’s grace delivered by His Son.

Jesus has done all that God asked and required. “I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to.” And that obedience, even to death on the Cross, is the foundation of the grace God offers freely to you and me.  Our opportunity for eternal life has nothing to do with who we are or what we do.  It is entirely based on what Jesus did as He stepped off the throne at God’s right hand and came to earth to defeat death and provide us the offer of eternal life. “And now, Father, reveal my glory as I stand in your presence, the glory we shared before the world began.

Jesus has invested deeply in the disciples.“I have told these men all about you. They were in the world, but then you gave them to me. Actually, they were always yours, and you gave them to me; and they have obeyed you.” He was their caretaker, just as the Holy Spirit is our caretaker today. He has been preparing them for the change that is coming very soon, when He would go to the Cross and they would be left behind. “Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the commands you gave me; and they accepted them and know of a certainty that I came down to earth from you, and they believe you sent me.”  He has been preparing them, and soon the baton will be passed.

John 15:12-19

In John 15:12-19 Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for His departure.  His main focus was that they learn to truly love one another. “I demand that you love each other as much as I love you”. They are commanded to love in a particular way, according to the way Jesus loved which is a pretty tall order since Jesus loved them, and us, enough to go to the Cross.  Jesus went on to give them the measuring stick, which He Himself lived by and died by. “And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends; and you are my friends if you obey me.”

Jesus defined the measure for love, but also the measure for friendship.  A person loves another when they will give their life.  Friendship is demonstrated by a willingness to serve and obey.  He contrasts friends with slaves.  “I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn’t confide in his slaves; now you are my friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told me.” The difference between a servant and a friend is not between diligent obedience and disobedience. The difference is between understanding and not understanding. Because friends have a close relationship, they understand while servants do not.

Then Jesus makes a powerful statement about their relationship. “You didn’t choose me! I chose you! I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always, so that no matter what you ask for from the Father, using my name, he will give it to you.” It is love based on Divine election; love that takes the initiative. Jesus introduced this thought right at the point where the disciples might feel proud that they are the friends of Jesus, bearing great fruit for God. But any fruit that is produced happens because of God and we are merely instruments in His hands.  Because of our relationship, we have the right to ask Him through prayer for His action, and if we are walking with Him in obedience, He shows love to us through hearing and answering those prayers.

But walking with Jesus isn’t without some challenge.  Those around us may not like what they see. “I demand that you love each other, for you get enough hate from the world! But then, it hated me before it hated you.” We need each other and must lift each other up in the face of the world’s hate. As Christians, we can face the worst, recognize that Jesus has been there first, and then press on ahead. “The world would love you if you belonged to it; but you don’t—for I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you”. There is no just cause for the world to hate Jesus and His followers the way they do. Instead the world hates because its sin is exposed, and because they know not the Father or the Son.  We need to respond as the martyred missionary William Borden did: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

John 14:22-31

In John 14:22-31 Jesus continues to talk with His disciples about His coming death.  They still don’t get it, as evidenced by Judas’ question. Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but his other disciple with that name) said to him, “Sir, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us disciples and not to the world at large?” His disciples were still expecting Jesus to rise up and become a powerful ruler.  But that wasn’t God’s plan.  “Jesus replied, “Because I will only reveal myself to those who love me and obey me. The Father will love them too, and we will come to them and live with them. Anyone who doesn’t obey me doesn’t love me.” It was about the relationship, which is still the foundation of our walk with Jesus today.  If we love Jesus, we obey Him.  It’s about the relationship!

Jesus is quick to point out that this wasn’t His plan.  It was God’s and He was merely executing it.  “And remember, I am not making up this answer to your question! It is the answer given by the Father who sent me.”  But Jesus wasn’t leaving the disciples alone and empty handed.  He is communicating exactly what would happen and what they should expect.  “I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of me*—and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you.”  He’s sending the Holy Spirit to live in them and through them.

But there was more.  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Jesus leaves two gifts: the Holy Spirit and His peace. Jesus has no fortune to give His followers, but He gives them gifts that can’t be bought – the presence of the Holy Spirit and the presence of peace. And then He lays the big truth on them – He’s coming back.  “Remember what I told you—I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really love me, you will be very happy for me, for now I can go to the Father, who is greater than I am.”

He didn’t want them to be sad over the events to come.  After all, they were appointed to Him by God.  But He did want to communicate clearly so His disciples would not be caught off guard.  “I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do, you will believe in me.” He is preparing them for something they have never experienced – seeing the Man they have followed for three years submit to evil and go to the Cross. He wants to tell them some last things before that happens. “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, for the evil prince of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will freely do what the Father requires of me so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.” Jesus goes to the cross willingly and of His own choice.  Satan did not win over Him.  Jesus submitted to achieve the plan of grace God had for you and me!

John 14:14-21

In John 14:14-21 Jesus has just given the Eleven and us, the most amazing promise we could ever receive.  He tells us that we can ask for and receive anything from Him.  This isn’t a ‘genie in a bottle’ kind of moment. “Yes, ask anything, using my name, and I will do it!” Rather, it signifies both an endorsement (like a check) and a limitation (requests must be in accordance with God’s character). We are coming to God in Jesus’ name, not in our own. The goal of prayer in Jesus’ name is to glorify the Father and make Him known.  It isn’t about us getting what we want, but rather aligning with what God is up to.

Jesus gives a simple test for loving Him.  “If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth”. It’s not complicated – it is all about obedience. This is a fair measure of our love for Jesus. It is easy to think of loving Jesus in merely sentimental or emotional terms. It is wonderful when our love for Jesus has sentiment and passion, but it must always be connected to keeping His commandments, or it isn’t really love at all. And on the heels of that revelation He promises another amazing thing – the promise of sending the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is being sent to act as our helper – to empower and help the believer fully live the Christian life.  But the Holy Spirit will only come for Christ Followers. “The world at large cannot receive him, for it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, for he lives with you now and someday shall be in you.” And that Spirit lives in us and through us and helps us walk in obedience if we’ll only listen.  Jesus promises that He’s not leaving for good – only for a while.  “No, I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm—I will come to you.” He’s promised to come back.

Jesus had to leave for a bit to fulfill God’s plan for eternity. “In just a little while I will be gone from the world, but I will still be present with you. For I will live again—and you will too. When I come back to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you”. Jesus departure was all about God’s plan to save mankind from sin.  It’s about a relationship with the Savior, and the process of making Him Lord.  That is where obedience comes in.  Jesus as Savior is about our faith in His grace and forgiveness of sin.  Jesus as Lord is about our ongoing relationship of obedience where He and the Holy Spirit are in the driver’s seat of our life.  That’s how we love Him and ultimately receive God’s love in return. “The one who obeys me is the one who loves me; and because he loves me, my Father will love him; and I will too, and I will reveal myself to him.”

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