The Caring Heart of God
I have often spoken to you about the disciple called John. He is referred to as the beloved disciple and in his gospel we find so many examples of what the love of God meant to him and to those who encountered God in Jesus in the flesh. John’s gospel is often called the relational gospel. It is in this gospel – more than any other – that we feel the emotion of Jesus in both his moments of great compassion and his moments of great anger. It is also through this gospel that we are reminded often of why God came into the world in the form of Jesus. The most often quoted reference to this is in John 3:16-17:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved. (The Complete Jewish Bible, tr. by David H. Stern)
It is God’s great love for this world and its peoples that moves him over and over again to come to the people of Israel and – through Jesus and the Holy Spirit – all peoples of the world. It is God’s love for us that caused him to come in Jesus – to give of himself in a way that he hoped would touch the hearts of all people. He chose to come as a child, as a son, as a first-born son and offer himself to show us that his great desire was ever for a relationship of love and life between him and us.
The words of John’s Gospel echo a great angst in God. There appears to be a deep regret over the course of events that led to our separation from God in the Garden of Eden and our present state in which this life ends in death and darkness. God reveals through Jesus that he only wants to receive us home and give to us that light and life that first moved over the face of the creation and that caused us to come into being.
The Gospel of John reveals to us the Jesus of history who is angry at times, frustrated at times, moved to tears and to the point of despair – all over the struggles, trials and hurts that he personally witnessed in his physical time on earth. And as much as he is God, he is ever willing to be for us a shepherd, a tree in which we can grow, a way for us to follow in this life, a truth that we can trust, and a life that can bring us peace in the midst of any hardship. He wants nothing more than to feed us with a bread that will not only fill our stomachs but also fill any deep longing within our being; he wants nothing more than to give us water that will not only quench our thirst for today but will quench any unsettled thoughts in our minds and hearts and cause all thirst to disappear.
As John reminds us in the opening words of his Gospel:
To as many as did receive him, to those who put their trust in his person and power, he gave the right to become children of God, not because of bloodline, physical impulse or human intention, but because of God. (John 1:12-13, The Complete Jewish Bible, tr. by David H. Stern)
It is clear that – as far as John is concerned – God was always seeking for reconciliation between himself and humanity. His hope was that through choosing one nation and building a relationship with them that the other nations of the world might come to recognize the One who had set the world in motion and whose desire was for the people to live in peace and to know no pain or suffering. It was his hope that Israel could be that light to the world.
And even though the light of God has now widened to include more than just the nation of Israel, we are still struggling with how to be the light that God so dearly wants us to be. We still struggle with letting the light of God shine through us. But that has never stopped God from trying and it never will stop him. But his desire is not to impose that light or love or life on anyone. His desire is to draw us into a relationship with him.
Those first disciples who gathered around Jesus came to him not out of fear, rather they were drawn to him by his words, by his demeanour, by his eyes, his touch. Truly it was that very personal sense that he was approachable. They felt in him a true love and compassion for others. As time went by, they were drawn more and more to him and truly understood that he cared deeply for them and for so many others.
Today’s passage of Scripture from John’s Gospel is part of the long prayer offered by Jesus before his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. It is a summation of the ministry of Jesus and it is filled with reflections upon the time that Jesus had spent with the disciples. He reflects on the teaching that he has imparted to them and his great concern for them as they will have to move into the future without his physical presence. Certainly, Jesus knows that a comforter, a guide will be given to them for the very Spirit of God will be with them.
Jesus speaks of these people with great love and concern; but he also is conscious of those who will come after these first disciples. He says:
I pray not only for these, but also for those who will trust in me because of their word, that they may all be one. (John 17:20) (The Complete Jewish Bible, tr. by David H. Stern, p. 1353)
Jesus is praying for the family. He is praying for those who have and who will become children of God through their trust in the words of God and the One who has come in the name of God not to judge and condemn them but to love and lead them. He is praying for those who are and will become brothers and sisters to him. His concern is for their well-being even when his impending crucifixion should be uppermost in his mind.
This prayer is a reminder to us who trust God and trust in his words that we are to pray for this new family as Jesus prayed. We are to remember that each of us who is here in this place has been adopted by God as children; we are to be brothers and sisters to one another. As such we are to ever seek to love one another as best we can. We are to pray for one another and ever seek to show compassion and mercy rather than judgment. We are to ever seek to live at peace with one another by striving to understand each other’s journey through this life and so be able to be supportive to one another as we make our way through this world.
Our willingness to open ourselves to new people and new ideas, to welcome new talents and live with one another in love will go far to realising that great hope of Jesus in his prayer. And as we do so, we will be reminded that being part of the family of God is not just about you or me, your wants or my wants or your needs or my needs, but that it is about all those things and more. For it is about our relationship one to another and the relationship we all have to our God.
As God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son that we might trust him, let us so love one another showing that we indeed trust him and trust one another!