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Sunday, September 27, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | John 12:44–50
Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.” (NRSV)
These words from Jesus serve as a pivot point in the Gospel of John, concluding Jesus’ public ministry before turning to his final discourse with a more intimate group of disciples in chapters 13–17. They also tie together many of the clear connections that Jesus has been making between him and God throughout John’s Gospel. In this passage (and others throughout John’s Gospel) Jesus makes clear that his words, his teaching, and his ministry are not of his own creation: they are God’s message to all people. Gone is the “Messianic Secret” from Mark’s Gospel, in which Jesus repeatedly tells the disciples not to reveal that he is the Messiah. In John, Jesus states that to see him is to see God!
Holding fast to Jesus’ words, teaching, and ministry—and believing that they are from God—gets at the very heart of how the word disciple would have been understood. Μαθητής—mathetes—is the Greek word for “disciple,” a word more closely connected with “apprentice” rather than “student.” The distinction may seem minor, but it’s not: students study things, while apprentices are engaged with hands-on work and imitation. To be disciples, then, isn’t to study Jesus’ words and teachings for the sake of higher knowledge. It’s to be imitators of those words and teachings, recognizing that those come directly from God.
These words from John’s Gospel are a reminder, then, of our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ: called not only to hear Jesus’ words but to live by and through them.
Holy and wonderful God, may your words be written so deep upon my heart that they transform the way that I live and move and have my being. Help me to be your disciple—not as a student but as an apprentice training to follow your way more closely. Amen.
Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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