Plain Speak

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.  In that day you will ask in my name.  I am not saying that you I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”  John 16:25-28.

There’s a problem with figurative language that continues to be troublesome long after it is used within the context of the culture in which it relates.  A problem we struggle with even today for it can be twisted to mean many things when in all probability the discussion focused on just a few subjects rather than the variety we think of now.

Some wise people use metaphor and other methods to communicate truth.  Others use it just to sound impressive.

Jesus’ words about the Holy Spirit have inspired reams of books of theology, devotionals and a host of other writers for and against His position in history.  The conclusions range from the fantastic to the sneering dismissive and everything in between.  In one simple paragraph He goes from “figurative” language, He says, to plain speaking and the reaction from the disciples is fascinating.  Read…

The Jesus disciples said,  “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech.  Now we can see that you know all things and  that you do not need anyone to ask you any questions.  This makes us believe that you came from God.”

Excuse me?!?  They somehow concluded from this last paragraph that He came from God?

If we are fair, we must recognize our own lack of understanding of the text without the explanation that comes from the author.  I know I wouldn’t grasp most of what was said unless John expanded on it and made it clear.  Also, I think sometimes we make the text out to be so mysterious or philosophical in nature that we decide it’s too hard to understand and become confused where there is pretty plain language used.  I am not arrogant enough to believe that if I were in the disciples’ shoes I would have had any inkling as to what Jesus wanted me to understand either.  The paradigm from which these men grew didn’t lend itself to a Holy Spirit or anything else Jesus wanted them to get.

We serve a complex God, One who’s very nature speaks of nuance and subtlety, yet at the same time there are plenty of examples where He works simply and without fanfare or a hidden purpose.  What I get out of Jesus’ words here is that the figurative language delayed their understanding of the subject until after His resurrection.  He didn’t want them to get everything too quickly for the purpose of allowing time to interpret the meaning.

When the Holy Spirit descended like flaming tongues, they understood a part of what His discussion on this night meant.  But that incident wasn’t the whole truth about the Holy Spirit.  The miraculous manifestation at Pentecost wasn’t significant by itself or about itself, rather the Holy Spirit kicked off the game with a party and a really big bang to get the team moving in the right direction.  Today we have whole denominations just dedicated to this one day and hoping for a repeat—or at least some kind of party to get us started.

The truth is, as far as I can glean, the Holy Spirit’s job wasn’t about bells and whistles on the bicycle but getting us up on it so we would ride it.  Our main objective is to become the people Jesus wants us to be, loving, kind, gentle, not vengeful or rebellious but serving others from a pure heart.  Those who focus on the manifestations over a changed life miss the point of John 15 & 16 and lose out on the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We think speaking in tongues or healing is proof to the world that our God is better than theirs when in reality it is the changed attitude and life that God wants us to give to the world as a testimony.

I’m not against miracles, for I think they have their place in our methodology, but I have come to the conclusion from experience and Scripture we get distracted too easily from the main point of the gospel.  The angels sang of it at Christ’s birth and Jesus spoke of it in our text above:  God is with men again.  He loves us and wants a solid relationship with us again.  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we now have access to the Father.  Without Jesus we cannot see the Father nor find what He wants for us.  Everything about this speaks to a new life because of Christ.  If we are in Him, we will find love and communion with the Father directly not going through a priest, academic or guru.

Truth?  The disciples didn’t get the meaning even when Jesus spoke plainly.  What they did get, however, was that He had it all in hand and planned to take care of them.  His plan?  To connect them with God again.  I can hear in His words almost an exhale or sigh of relief.

“You believe at a last!”  Jesus answered.  “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home.  You will leave me all alone.  Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”


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