|Church of the Nativity, Jerusalem|
Day 30 - Jesus Instructed His Followers to Abide in Him
A dying man's last words are said to be important.
I was in India, riding in the back seat of a car on a 5-hour ride from Hyderabad to Kurnool along one of India's major highways. I could not sleep, even though I was jet-lag tired. India, by their own admission, leads the world in road deaths. I thought I was gong to die a hundred times or more on that trip. My driver was a crazed man in a land of psycho-drivers. He would routinely pass cars while going up a hill, or going around a curve. Occasionally he played "chicken" with an ongoing car, and sometimes with an oncoming truck. The game was to see who would "chicken out" first and swerve aside. This is beyond ridiculous, I thought, as my Indian friend and host slept soundly next to me through it all.
One time we passed a car going round a curve and came face to face with a truck. My driver swerved at the last moment. When I saw the truck coming at us I said the following profound, almost-last-words-of-a-dead-man: "Oh no!" Had I died whoever would do my funeral would have to say: "John the theologian's last words were, "Oh no!""
Jesus's Final Words, aka his "Final Discourse," were profound and continue to guide my life to this moment. We hear them in John chapters 14-16. The disciples are wondering what they will do when Jesus is gone. Jesus instructs them, and us.
He does not say "form some committees and think of strategies to keep this thing going." He tells them: "Abide in me." Jesus says: Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:19-20)
Call this "reciprocal abiding." God comes to make his home in the heart of every Jesus-follower. Every Jesus-follower is to tend this inner fire by connecting to Jesus like a branch connects to a Vine.
As we abide in Christ we...
- do the kind of things Jesus has been doing (John 14:12)
- do greater things than Jesus has been doing (John 14:12)
- are taught and led by God himself (John 14:26)
- are immersed in Trinitarian peace (John 14:27)
- live lives that will bear much fruit (John 15:5)
- live lives of true, God-love (John 15:9)
- are flooded with the kind of joy Jesus experiences (John 15:11)
- receive the Father's wisdom (John 15:15)
- bear fruit that will last (John 15:16)
The result is that He lives, in and through you.
A few years ago some film students at the University of Michigan were making a movie about Southeast Michigan. They interviewed me as part of their project. I remember two of their questions.
They asked: "What is the #1 problem you see in Southeast Michigan?"
I answered: "Me."
They asked again: "What is the #1 thing you need to do, as a pastor, for your people?"
I answered: "The #1 thing I need to do for my people is to stay attached to Jesus, to continually abide in Christ." Because what my people need is Jesus, not me. Jesus is all they need. Jesus is all any church needs.
Therefore shall we sing, today, these words:
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell:
O, come to us
Abide with us
Our Lord, Emmanuel