Saturday, 1 May 2010

Where I am going you cannot come (Joh 13:33 RSV)

A very short reflection this week... I have been working on a proposal for the last two days and really have to start to prepare for the exams which start today in two weeks time (so please keep them in your prayers!). The Gospel this week is taken from John 13:31-35.

The line that specifically struck me is "Where I am going you cannot come" (Joh 13:33 RSV). Jesus is telling His disciples that "yet a little while I am with you" (Joh 13:33 RSV), indicating that the His passion is coming near. But He does not just prophesies what is going to happen, but also gives an indication what we should do...

Also, but this might be a result of my bad Greek grammar, "You will seek me" (Joh 13:33 RSV) in Greek is "ζητήσετέ με" (Joh 13:33 BGT), which can be an indicative but also be an imperative. In the case of an imperative it says "seek me!".
Taking these two things together there seem to be two aspects to the first part of the reading. The first is that we cannot work our way into heaven. "Where I am going you cannot come" (Joh 13:33 RSV). We cannot just follow Jesus by our own efforts. Thinking we can work our way into Heaven would be a wrong interpretation of the whole Gospel message (although don't interpret this that good works don't have place). As is clear in the later part of the passage, the Gospel message is a message of love, to strife to love as Jesus (i.e. God) loves: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (Joh 13:34 RSV).

God is love, and as such knowing God results in us loving our neighbour also. It would not make sense to think we can love as God loves without God giving us the means of this divine love. But when we get in a closer union with God we get closer to fulfil this commandment and therefore Jesus says "by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Joh 13:35 RSV). So we don't work our way into Heaven by physical labours, but more so by union with Jesus, by touching on the pure love of God which transform us into Jesus' image and likeness and subsequent to try and love as God loves. This transformation will result in loving your neighbour as a result.

Therefore, as the second point, taking John 13:33 in the imperative, Jesus commands us to seek Him. Maybe not a command in the normal sense of the word, but as a very strong urge as the way to be with Him. The old testament tells us so often that we should seek after God and that we will find Him; for example in Deuteronomy: "You will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deu 4:29 RSV).

In a way we seek our way into Heaven. God is eagerly waiting for us to engage with us, to respond to our seeking hearts and to pour out His graces upon us. The more we seek, the more we desire, the closer we get to Him. The closer we get to Him, the more our human natures are actualised to conformed to Jesus' perfect human nature. Subsequent we become more and more the persons we are really meant to be.
Simply said, the closer we get to God the more our being is filled with love and the more loving we are...


Em the luddite said...

Great post, Brother Luuk! I appreciate the nod to Greek grammar, and I am intrigued at the possibility of the imperative. You have taken this verse in quite a profound direction.

Barb Schoeneberger said...

Very interesting. I like the Scriptures being explained - very helpful to my prayer life.


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