I look forward to the day when I meet Jesus face to face. Sure, Im curious to see what He looks like. Are the scars still there? What does His voice sound like? Does He look like the pictures the artists draw, or will I be surprised? But more than that I can hardly wait to meet Him as a person. No, I wont be meeting a stranger. Ill be meeting a dear friend, someone whos been with me all my life. But still, I want to look at Him, hug Him, and tell Him how grateful I am for everything Hes done. And then I want to step back and watch and listen and just observe Him. And I want to meet His disciples, the people who knew Him during the years He walked among us as a man. I want to hear their stories about the miracles He performed, but even more than that, the question I really want to ask them is, What was He like? Tell me about the person you walked beside for three and a half years. I want to ask His mother, What was He like as a boy growing up in Nazareth? Thankfully, those who wrote the gospels recorded many of their memories about Him. But in the few verses were reading today, one of His closest disciples actually answers my heartfelt question. He describes the character of Jesus. He tells us about the man he remembers. Lets listen carefully because John is giving us a glimpse of the Person well meet in heaven.
Seeing His glory (Jn 1:14-17) DBS (Sun-Wed)
If you were to ask John, or any of the disciples, to describe the man they remembered, the first two things they would say about Him is that He was full of grace and truth. Lets look more closely at those two qualities.
Grace (Mk 4:35-5:20)
In the New Testament the word grace (charis) is used to describe Gods mercy toward sinners and His willingness to do acts of kindness for people who do not deserve them. And those who knew Jesus said He was full of grace (v16). There are so many examples in the gospels of Him caring for the kind of people others would have passed by that its hard to choose just one, but it would be difficult to find a greater example than His ministry to the demonically tortured man who lived among the tombs on the east side of the lake (Mk 4:35-5:20).
Many of us know this story very well but tend to focus our attention on the demonized man. Actually, we tend to focus on the pigs. We picture 2,000 of them crashing down the hillside into the lake and drowning. But this time, lets watch Jesus. The whole event was quite an ordeal for Him. His assignment was to go across the lake and set one man free. As soon as He started, demonic opposition rose up immediately and tried to drown Him. He was so physically exhausted at the time that He slept through the storm until His disciples woke Him and accused Him of being selfish and loveless, of not caring if they died. He stood and rebuked the spiritual source that had sent the wind and then turned and had to face the immaturity that was still present in His own disciples. The faithless way they handled this crisis showed how far they still had to go. Then when they reached the other side, He stepped out of the boat and a pathetically demonized man who had been running through the nearby graveyard, screaming and gashing himself with stones, and who was still dragging behind him broken chains that people had used to try to bind him, saw Jesus and came running out of the hills and fell at His feet. The monstrous presence within him bellowed out of his mouth begging for mercy, but Jesus didnt recoil in fear or disgust. Instead, He compassionately inquired as to the identity of the demons and then permitted the entire infestation to fly into a nearby herd of pigs, which then stampeded into the lake. His reward for this great deed was to have the entire community beg Him to leave. First, He instructed the man to go home and tell others what had happened to him, and then without saying an angry word about that crowds loveless indifference to the fact that one of their own was being given back to them whole and in his right mind, He left quietly.
John watched all of this happen. He was there, somewhere beside Jesus, and such an encounter left a deep impression on him. Yes, he surely marveled at the power he saw at work. One command and 2,000 demons fled. No one forgets a moment like that. But what moved him even more deeply was the unearthly kindness in this Jesus of Nazareth. Who else would go to such lengths, and endure such rejection, for one man who was so far gone he had almost lost his humanity? And he was a Gentile, not even a Jew. He was the lowest, most unwanted individual in the entire region. Yet they had endured a life-threatening storm and had been begged to leave for their efforts.
Years later, when he looked back on that event, and many like it, what John remembered most was the amazing love Jesus felt for broken, sinful people. The word he would use later on to try to describe that quality in Jesus was grace.
Truth (Jn 13:21-30)
The word truth (aletheia) literally means not forgotten. When a person tells the truth it means they have not forgotten what they saw, heard or promised. They faithfully declare the message or fact which had been entrusted to them, without changing it in any way. And they faithfully do what they said they would do. Something that is true contains no lies or errors. Someone who is true is authentic, genuine and reliable. And along with grace, the quality John remembered most about Jesus was truth.
Again, how do you pick from all the many times Jesus modeled integrity. He was a man who said what He meant and meant what He said. He was never manipulative or deceptive. He was honest to such a degree it often got Him in trouble. He wouldnt turn aside from doing what was right even when He knew He was walking into a trap. He completely believed what He taught, and He lived what He believed.
I think there was no moment in Jesus life which could have shown this to John more clearly than the night in which Jesus was betrayed. During the Passover meal in the upper room, Jesus announced that one of them was going to report His location to the religious authorities, so they could arrest Him. Peter had motioned to John, who was sitting next to Jesus, to ask who it was, and Jesus knew it was Judas. Yet He made no effort to stop him as he left the room. Knowing that Judas was on his way to meet with the chief priests, Jesus went right on, using every minute that was left to Him to teach them and pray for them. Then when He knew His arrest could come at any moment, He didnt flee but led them to the olive grove, where they often camped and went apart to pray. John, and the two others who were there, could see the mental and spiritual stress He was under. At times it appeared He would collapse, but He didnt. Instead, He stood waiting as the torches and footsteps moved toward them through the olive grove. He had said this was going to happen, but none of them believed Him. He let them arrest Him. He didnt run and He didnt fight because He believed the Father was asking Him to do this.
John didnt abandon Him like the others. He followed his Rabbi as closely as he was allowed through the course of that horrible night. He even stood near the cross as He died. And years later, when he remembered the man he watched die so bravely, so wonderfully, the word he would use to describe Him was truth. No human has ever been put to a greater test, yet Jesus remained the same consistent person clear up to the moment when He released His spirit and died. He was authentic, genuine and reliable. He was full of grace (mercy, undeserved kindness) and truth (there was no deception or confusion in Him). To His last breath He was kind and completely honest.
Thats how His disciples remembered Jesus. He was kind and honest. And someday when we see Him face to face thats what well notice as well. But until that day comes, you and I have an assignment to fulfill while were still here on earth. Were to become like Jesus so that, in the future, when people remember us, theyll say the same thing. Theyll say, You know what I remember most when I think about __________? I remember how kind he/she was. He/She didnt care what Id done. He/She looked past my brokenness. He/She was interested in me as a person and seemed to love everyone he/she met. And __________ could be trusted. He/She didnt lie or manipulate you. You were safe with him/her. You knew where you stood. And he/she so deeply believed in Jesus it made you want to believe too. He/She wasnt perfect. He/She had his/her struggles, but he/she sure lived what he/she believed.
Truth and grace
Its so easy to get lost in all the religious terms we use, but John simplifies it for us. Of all the many qualities we would like to have in our lives, the two that would make people think of Jesus the most are simple and practical. Above all else we should seek to be kind and honest. In other words, full of grace and truth.
1) Do you know someone who reminds you of Jesus? What is it about that person that makes you think, Thats what Jesus would do?
2) Who is the most honest person you know? Has their honesty ever gotten them into trouble? Can you give an example of that honesty in action?
3) Name a time when God challenged you to be kind to someone who was not naturally easy for you to love. Did you do it? How did it work out?