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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Lifting Christ's Possessions ~


 


Just before His crucifixion, Jesus explained to His disciples, “Yet many things I have to tell you, but not you are able to carry now” (John 16:12). This simplistic word-for-word rendition sounds like a foreign national trying his best to express himself in a language whose precise word-meanings and grammar are not familiar. Those fluent in English get the gist of what he is saying and understand enough to respond in some way. It must be remembered, though, we are only getting the gist or approximation of what is being said. We then tell ourselves, “I understand he is saying, ‘Yet, there are many things I have to tell you, but they are more than you can take right now.’”

The apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit (as obvious by his letters and his book of Revelation), heard Jesus say what he chose to express in the Greek, “echo” for “I have.” “Echo” doesn’t mean “I have” in the sense of “I have to tell you something important.” It means “I hold in my possession and ability.” John used the word, “lego” which doesn’t quite mean “tell” but rather to “lay forth, in front of you, for your possession.” John recorded Christ as saying that what He holds in possession to lay forth in front of His followers for their possession they couldn’t yet “bastazo” or lift and sustain its lifting. He didn’t mean, “You can’t bear what I have yet to tell you,” as in “bearing challenging news.”

John recorded Christ declaring something like, “There is yet to come, many things I hold in my possession and ability to lay forth to you for your possession, but you are not able, on your own, to lift, keep lifted and take possession of them right now.”

John 3:16 is a familiar and frequently quoted verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). That love was expressed in the Greek as “agape”, the love that has no boundaries and no conditions. But what does God love in that manner? John used the word “kosmos”, the orderly arrangement and creation of all, including all inhabitants. He was not speaking of the “earth,” as in Genesis 1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word used was “’erets” or “a land.” John described God’s love as extending through the entire cosmos and all life. Indeed, Paul wrote even “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by the will of the one who subject it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:19-22, NIV).

Psalm 145:9 declares, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (NIV). The “Lord” (when written in small capital letters in English) is “Yahweh”, (Romanized, “Yhovah”, pronounced “yeh-ho-va”), or the Self-Existent and Eternal. He is “towb” or “good in the widest possible sense” to “kol” or the whole, excluding none. He has mercy or compassion, “racham”, as in cherishing the baby in a womb, on all His works or making, “ma’aseh”, all His actions, transactions and products (as in creative poetry.) John 3:16 echoes this splendor of ardor.

And who is the “whoever”? It is “pas”, meaning all, any, every, the whole! “Believes” is a misleading translation of “pisteuo” or “exercising faith and entrusting one’s being.” Since pisteuo is usually translated as “believes,” the conjunction “in” or “on” had to be used instead of the recorded word “eis” meaning "into". The magnificence of John 3:16 isn’t  “Believe in Christ then you’ll be saved” as though it was a contract and a sequential thing. Rather, John is writing, quoting Jesus, “All, everyone, anyone, exercising faith and the entrusting of one’s being into Christ will not ‘perish’ or apollumi [fully destroyed].” “Believing in” something or someone indicates an ongoing separation, as “I am here, believing in that or him over there.” “Exercising faith and trust into” something or someone necessitates an abandonment of oneself for a “leaping” (hence “leap of faith”) into the other.

That requires grace, and is grace. So the apostle Peter wrote, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10, NIV). This is a peculiar reminder, subject to vigorous debate in evangelical circles. It helps to note that “calling” was translated from “klesis” meaning “the invitation,” and “election” (“choice” in some translations) from “ekloge” meaning “divine selection.” To be invited is certainly a divine selection. The end of the Revelation, the end of the entire biblical cannon, announces this invitation and selection: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ and let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17, NIV). And Peter urges us to do this eagerly! “You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11, NIV).

This “making sure” circles back to the verses following the famous passage of John 3:16. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19, NIV). Most translations express “This is the judgment” but the NIV has it right. The word John used was “krisis” meaning decision or a verdict of justice. (The English word, “crises”, derives from krisis as a crises calls for a decision.)

Some criticize the Scriptures for being sexist while others protest gender-neutral translations... “If it says ‘men’ God meant it.” John, however, wrote “anthropos” loved darkness (from which the English “anthropology” comes.) The Greek reader understood this as “human beings” or “humankind”. Let’s hold the translators responsible for being sexist, not God.

Male or female, most of us exclude ourselves from the category of those “who love darkness because their deeds are evil.” But John actually wrote “skotos” which means shadiness and obscurity, not darkness. (In 2 Peter 2:4, Peter used the word “zophos” for the “darkness” of “Tartarus,” the deepest abyss of Hades. Zophos means “gloom as shrouding like a cloud.”)

What is translated as “evil” came from “poneros” which indicates a composite of hurt, dereliction, malice, disease, calamity. How many of us can claim no guilt in ever practicing skotos, of never hiding in the shadows and obscurities of our philosophies and opinions, of even some of our religious practices, all of which would burn into ash in the exposure to Christ’s light? How many of our “ergon” or deeds, efforts, actions, work, are motivated by poneros or moral dereliction or malice under the clothing of righteousness, national pride, loyalty to emotionally generated causes that define other humans as evil and meriting annihilation, of even the uncharitable exclusions and condemnations of others in the name of Christ?

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21, NIV). That is the way to “make your invitation and divine selection certain.” Living by the truth (“I am the Truth”) and coming into the light of He who is the Truth is an ongoing process and growth. This last quoted verse is the end of the recorded summary of Jesus’ instruction to a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had approached Him under the cover of darkness. The first recorded statement from Jesus to this man living in the “shadows and obscurities” was “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3, NIV). That’s where we must begin, as a newly born baby, ever growing from there.

The English language has the expression, “At the crack of dawn.” I’m glad it really isn’t quite like that. Going from darkness into sudden bright light is a shock to the senses and takes some recovery time. I love how it’s done in creation. There’s a gentle, gradual shift from the obscurities of dark shadiness to the clarity of pure light. It’s gentle and gradual enough to allow a meditative observation of the process. Watching the morning light slowly wash away the shadows of the night allows us to pray contemplatively through the process, and enter “eis” – into – that process. “And we have the word of the prophets made very certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19, NIV).
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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