Jesus modelled a life of sacrifice and discipleship for the sake of others, Christians aspire for titles and positions
Following on from my last post (read it here) I wanted to continue to reflect on how different the way of Jesus is from our normal experience of ‘christianity’.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But it’s death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:24)
The promise of fruitfulness comes with the pain of death and sacrifice.
In these verses from John chapter 12 Jesus is explaining the foundational principle of his life and ministry. He had come to lay His life down for His friends and to teach them to do the same. Teaching people the practical skills needed to make disciples is pretty easy – what’s hard is helping people cultivate the patience, love and heart attitudes needed!
I often catch myself in situations where I might be talking about making disciples but in reality I am preserving and maintaining my own reputation and glory. Let me explain what I mean. Jesus said that you see others grow when you are prepared to die. Often we talk about these great disciple making ideas but fail to do the one thing that is really needed. Real ministry is about your kernel of wheat dying in order to produce many more kernels. Sadly many of us have become to believe that being successful in God’s Kingdom is about who has the biggest kernel. But it isn’t. Success in God’s Kingdom is helping others to become great.
In Jesus’ Kingdom – being fruitful looks like helping others to grow and flourish, often at the expense of yourself. It’s about rejoicing when other’s get the accolades and making space for others to grow and overtake you. Great in theory – hard in practice!
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church; the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work…”(Ephesians 4:11-13)
Who’s meant to be doing the work of God?
Is it the gifted and educated ‘leaders’ or is it all of God’s people? Being a leader isn’t about building a name and reputation for yourself – but rather about leaving a trail of equipped people who are busy doing God’s work in whatever sphere they are in.
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)
In John chapter 16 Jesus says another upside down statement about how to lead people in His Kingdom. He says that His imminent departure is the best thing for His disciples. Not just a good thing or a helpful thing – but the BEST thing.
The disciples were ordinary and untrained. Jesus had only been with them for 3 years and now He was saying that the best thing for them was for Him to go away and leave them. As good Christians our Pastoral alarm bells would be ringing loudly at this stage. Surely the best thing would be for Jesus to stay for much longer until the disciples felt really comfortable to continue the mission to the ends of the earth. After all – God doesn’t give us more than we can handle right?
Jesus knew that His departure would give room for the Holy Spirit to do His work in the lives of His disciples. Yes the disciples probably felt overwhelmed, under equipped and not ready to step into this next season without Jesus physical presence to lead them and instruct them. But Jesus knew that they needed to depend on the Spirit and not Him. It’s much the same in our lives and in the lives of those we may be discipling. Are people becoming more dependant on tools, techniques, personalities and leaders or are we becoming more dependant on the Holy Spirit? Are people learning to find solutions to their problems by going to the Spirit and the scriptures or do they constantly come to the gifted leader or guru?
It’s hard to point people to the Holy Spirit and the scriptures though because it means we become disposable! Instead of people talking about how great we are – people will talk about how great God is. Again – easy to talk about but hard to do in practice when our ego’s and pride crave for significance and affirmation.
If I can be even more frank – we may be praying for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide those in our care – but if we do not sometimes remove ourselves from situations then the Spirit will have no room to do the things you are asking Him to do. Am I saying to cut yourself off from everyone and not give any input into people’s lives? Of course not – but I am suggesting that we need to shift the Pastoral culture in the body of Christ so that we understand that people need the Holy Spirit far more than they need us.
If you don’t believe me then consider the church planting strategy throughout the New Testament which started with Jesus and was continued by the Disciples and spread by the Apostle Paul.
A key ingredient to the work they all did was that they left people and entrusted them into the care of the Holy Spirit. (Read the book of Acts for yourself to find out more about this!)
As we bring this post to a close I wanted to encourage you to read the following scripture from John chapter 13,
“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” (John 13:1-18)
What stood out to you from these verses?
To me I find it amazing what Jesus did in this moment of ultimate fulfillment. People today talk about inner peace, being at one with God and the world or finding harmony. Well Jesus had certainly found that point in his earthly life. It says that , “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.”
Wow – in this moment Jesus has a revelation that He has been given authority over everything. He knows where He has come from and where He is going. He has entered into some kind of reality that transcends the temporary circumstances around Him. What does He do next though?
I often think about what I would do if I reached such a point.
If I get even a whiff that God has given me some authority then it tends to go to my head. I tend to get bossy, start telling people what to do and generally begin to lord it over the people around me.
Jesus is so different though. In this moment where He steps into complete authority He doesn’t deliver a sermon, make a pompous speech or promote Himself. He strips off, wraps a towel around his waist and takes the position of a servant. He then washes His disciples feet.
Lord help us to be like you!