"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."
John 16:12-15 NIV
In this passage, Jesus wants the disciples to look at His crucifixion differently than their saddened emotions have let them. Jesus wants them to understand that His physical departure is a gift that pushes them to be carriers and conduits for the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been encouraging them all along with teachings and examples.
Jesus wanted to trust His disciples with more. He wanted to trust them with divine revelation, knowledge, and vision. He wanted to tell them more about the connection that his death would have to the salvation of the world. However, the disciples couldn’t handle the weight of it at that time. The disciples’ emotional turmoil would have prevented them from truly receiving anything that Jesus would have given them.
The issue was that the disciples had a weak spiritual immune system. Jesus’ prescription for this was to give them a gift: to walk and work with the disciples at their own pace. This gift precedes the Holy Spirit. Jesus couldn’t have given the disciples the Holy Spirit at this point.
When Jesus says “I have… more than you can bear,” He chose to walk at their pace, and allowed the gift of the Holy Spirit to administer that knowledge at the correct pace. Then, the disciples could come to a place where they could handle more.
As Christians, we want to hear whatever God has to say to us. Whatever He wants to do through us, we want to do. Jesus’ statement, “I have… more than you can bear” is not an indictment, but it is a call towards more. Jesus has provided us the tools to acquire that knowledge and revelation: the Holy Spirit.
Jesus understands that our emotions are real. No matter where we are in terms of our emotional growth, the pain that we feel is real. So, we have to accept that sometimes where we are is not the right time for us to accept new revelation. That doesn’t, however, mean that there is nothing more to come. God has more for us, but in order to get us to the correct place, we have to walk with Jesus.
Each one of us is at a different spiritual place. Each one of us emotes life differently. This mandates that in certain seasons we can’t handle much more of anything good or bad. God understands that. Our spirituality doesn’t mandate that we all run life at the same pace. We can’t all carry the same weight at the same time.
We cannot beat ourselves up for following life at our own pace. We cannot let other peoples’ expectations become our expectations of ourselves. If we try to outpace ourselves and God’s pace for our lives, we may find ourselves choking at an altitude that we were not supposed to occupy. Instead, we need to trust in God and the Holy Spirit that He is guiding us and pacing our lives to grow.
Moses said to the LORD, "Pardon your servant, LORD. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
The LORD said to him, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
Exodus 4:10-12 NIV
Moses offers God a protest, trying to avoid going back to Egypt to lead a massive liberation movement, just like he had tried to moments before. Scholars debate what Moses means here in the Hebrew, but what Moses is certainly doing is suggesting that the assignment is too much for his current ability.
Moses feels this deeply, making it clear that in this very conversation he had been unable to speak fluently or eloquently. Moses is concerned that if God wanted him to accept this assignment, the proof would have been to change his limitation to an ability.
But God’s answer is interesting because it implies that God shaped Moses with these limitations and purposed that he would live with them. When God says, “Who gave human beings their mouths?... Is it not I, the Lord?” He makes it clear that not only has He given every person their gifts but also their purposed inabilities.
God has purposed our limitations for us. No matter our location, opportunities, or efforts, some things in our lives will always be limitations. God’s purpose for our lives includes these selected inabilities. The easy answer to this is that it is God’s sovereign choice, but that answer only sounds fine until what God wants us to do makes our limitations glaringly obvious.
The more difficult answer is to admit that God thought that it was best for us, as His disciples, to steward inability to be faithful to Him. But why, especially when it would be easier to perform our callings without our inabilities?
God’s answer to Moses is, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” The answer is to let God’s presence make the difference and to let God teach us how to live, in spite of our weaknesses. We don’t always need to be gifted in an area to be effective in an area.
God chose to teach Moses how to be strong even in the areas of his weakness. He was able to make Moses strong without taking away his weaknesses. God chose to show Moses that He could do more with Moses’ weaknesses than Moses could ever do with his strengths. The same is true for us, because we don’t need to be gifted to be successful.
When we choose to follow in God’s direction, He will help us to accomplish what we have been commissioned to do, in spite of our weaknesses. He will help us speak and teach us what to say.
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Luke 24:44-53 NIV
We know that the disciples kept missing God’s spiritual intentions because of their imprisonment to the belief that Jesus was going to lead a revolution. But here, Jesus, on the day of His ascension, made His intentions clear.
Jesus systematically and methodically walked the disciples through what the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets had to say, and this is all demonstrated in His loving sacrifice and His resurrected triumph.
The most intriguing part of this text is not Jesus’ desire for us to clearly understand who He is and who we are. This is to be expected. But what is most intriguing is when Jesus opens the understanding of the disciples so that they might comprehend the scriptures. This highlights how much Jesus wanted the disciples to know Him. He opened their minds at a deeper level so that they could come to understand Him not just in their minds but also in their souls.
This is the very thing that we need to pray for. We may already be saturating our lives in prayer and immersing ourselves in the scriptures and worship. However, what may be missing in our lives is a posture that helps us to understand everything that God is doing. We don’t want to house God’s revelation in ourselves but be unable to comprehend it.
One way to posture ourselves to comprehend the power that God has given us is to contemplate our journey. We can look at our journey and think how hard our lives have been, but when we look and see how the Lord is orchestrating our journey to perform a divine work in each one of our lives, we can see how the dry seasons have been a part of God’s revelation in our lives.
When we have access to God’s power but lack comprehension, we miss opportunities and blessings and mismanage relationships. No matter what we pray for, it is necessary that we ask God for understanding. Our understanding may be the key to our ability to offer faithful stewardship of that which we are asking God for.
Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?" Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has appeared to you." Then the LORD said, "Put your hand inside your cloak." So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous-it had become as white as snow. "Now put it back into your cloak," he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. Then the LORD said, "If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground."
Exodus 4:1-9 NIV
The most important part of the text is the grace that God extends to Moses. God is patient in spite of all of Moses’ objections. He responds to Moses and assures him of both Moses’ innate capability and God’s divine ability to complete what He is announcing.
It is amazing that God is willing to wait on us to catch our faith up to His promises. Not only will He wait on us, but He does so without letting His promises expire or His love wane. Even when Moses is being held back by “what-ifs,” God perseveres with Moses.
Each one of us knows what it feels like to be inspired by what God says He wants to do in and through our lives but then be held back by hypotheticals. Shaking off the “what-ifs” is one of the hardest things to do. For Moses, he not only wondered if the Israelites would believe him, but He also wondered what he would do if it worked? How would he be able to lead them out of Egypt?
For us, comfortable is better than adventurous. Manageable is better than miraculous. We have been hindered and hampered by so many “what-ifs” that we don’t even consider it abnormal anymore.
But God didn’t want Moses held back by “what-ifs,” and He doesn’t want us to be held back either. God wants us to walk in faith, trusting in Him and being courageous to do what God wants us to do. Oftentimes, this means that we have to walk in the dark.
Sometimes God’s plan for our lives requires that we walk in the dark by faith. We won’t know how or if everything will work out, but we will have to trust Him and obey. When God knows that the chains of hypotheticals have wrapped themselves around us, He will give us confirmation to keep us going.
We have to learn to thank God not only in easy, comfortable times, but also as we walk in the confusion and the darkness. When we get confirmations along the way, we need to take the time to turn our attention back to God and give Him thanks that He is bringing His plans for us to completion.
Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father's name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
John 10:22-30 NIV
Jesus often used the porches that separated the areas in the temple. They provided a cool gathering spot in the summertime and a warm spot in the cold winter. Jesus also liked to teach there because it had a steady flow of people going to it.
While there, Jesus was approached by Jews who had heard all the talk that was centering on Jesus being more than just another inspiring teacher of the law. Many people were believing the rumor that Jesus was the messiah, the Son of the Living God.
All timidity and shame that these people had melted away into curiosity. So, they surrounded Jesus at Solomon’s Colonnade and said to Him, “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” This implies that they believe that Jesus is intentionally leaving them in suspense. They want Him to plainly satisfy their anxious uncertainties.
Jesus responds that His words and works proclaim who He is. Everything that He has done and everything that people have said about Him ought to confirm who He is.
When we listen to His words and witness His testimony, it is clear who He is. For both us and those who met Jesus at Solomon’s Colonnade, that is precisely the problem. The issue is a matter of relationship. Jesus highlights that by saying that there is no uncertainty for those that follow Him, and that “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Those who follow Christ do not need to settle their anxiety, because we have the relationship to know Christ. The witness that He has given us is enough to reveal the certainty of His identity. But this is a critical challenge for every generation. There is a tension between wanting to affirm Jesus and accept Him by faith. Jesus is implying that many times people have affirmed Him because of the signs and wonders, not because of the relationship. Jesus taught that true faith is reaching the point where you don’t need a sign or a wonder to testify that He is Lord.
It is important for us to come to a point in our faith that we don’t need Jesus’ signs and wonders to sustain us. If He doesn’t multiply bread and fish or pay our bills, we must still be able to testify that He is Lord. Even when we aren’t healed, don’t get a raise, or don’t get a promotion, He must still be Lord. His Lordship is not based on signs and wonders, but it is based on our faith-affirmation that in Him we have the manifestation of the Eternal God and that He is the only Son of the Living God.