Our Narrative Lectionary hopped right over some really important passages (John 14-17), but I guess time is limited—and Easter is rushing up to meet us. In any case, these Gospel readings continue to reveal the unique and crucial character of John’s witness.
V.12ff – John provides the setting, including his now-familiar asides (more asides than a Shakespeare villain!) Jesus has been arrested, and two disciples—Peter and Bro. Anonymous—follow along to see what is happening. I begin to notice that John includes small details that the other Gospels do not—a color, a feeling. Here, “it was cold, and [they] stood around a fire they had made to keep warm...Peter also was...warming himself” (v.18). We don’t get too many glimpses of the weather (except an occasional freak storm on the waters).
While many pastors—with good reason—are going to focus on Peter’s denials, something else calls to me from this passage.
19Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
This really hit me: “Surely they know what I said.”
Too often, so many who claim the name of Christ—who call themselves Christians—really don’t know what Jesus said. In fact, there is too often a confusion of popular culture, old sayings and what is found in the Bible.
I recall once driving through the small town in north Georgia where we were living and serving at that the time, and one of the churches on the main highway had on its marquee the following: “God helps those who help themselves.” Why would a church put a saying of Ben Franklin on their church sign? I’m guessing someone there didn’t know the difference between Scripture and Poor Richard’s Almanac. Besides, isn’t a huge part of the message of the Gospel that God helps the helpless?
On another occasion, as the congregation I was serving was considering renovations and how to pay for it, one of my lay leaders earnestly advised me, “Brother Jon, you know what the good books says, ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be.’” I’m not sure if he actually thought that came from the “Good Book” or if his ‘good book’ was The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Again, the biblical message differs— “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Jesus...in Matt.5:42).
So, do we and our people know what Jesus said? Do we all have an idea of which words of Scripture are really Jesus’ words? How would our congregation stand up to the interrogation?
Of course, this brings things all the way around to Peter’s denial. His denial was upfront—“I am not [one of his disciples.]” Our denials of Christ are less obvious. We show up for worship. We serve on the committees. We may even help lead worship or prayer time. But, are we not denying Christ when we fail to learn what he said? Are we not denying the Scriptures their due power in our lives as Christians when we don’t even know what the Scriptures say? How can God’s “refreshing, wisdom-giving, joy-birthing, eye-opening, sweet, rewarding, useful, instructive, rebuking, correcting, justice-working book we call the Bible” impact, shape and form our lives, thinking and worldview if we deny it access? (see Ps.19:7-9 and II Tim.3:16-17)
Surely they know what I said. Do they? Do we? What would we say? What would we and our people say if they were called forward to testify that evening as to what Jesus said?
Listen...the cock is crowing....
(Go HERE to read my intro to this series.)