Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Red Letters

I recently purchased a tiny Bible for carrying around easily.  To my delight it was a red letter edition.  Red letter editions are brilliant and I’ll tell you why. It’s because they make the words of Jesus stand out, in red. I guess that’s pretty obvious really, since that is the main purpose of the red letter edition!
During a recent sermon, when I was unable to understand what the preacher was saying as he was speaking a language I am only just starting to learn, I was reading through John.  The red letters jumped out at me.  Jesus’ first quoted words in John are “What do you want?” John 1:38.  Good start eh?  The second words were “Come, and you will see.” John 1:39.  This is simple, yet I think it’s profound. 

The book of John is all about love.  John even calls himself ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ John 13:23.  I think John was onto something and that’s why this first quote of Jesus is very revealing. He was the one whom Jesus loved.  It took him until chapter 13 to call himself that, as John recounted the Last Supper, straight after Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet.  But it’s only After chapter 19 that he increasingly uses this term.  So why did it dawn on him that he was beloved by Jesus then?  He had been following this man for years, why at this time?  What happened in chapter 19 to convince him of Jesus’ love for him?  Should I tell you, or shall I see if you are curious enough to look it up for yourself?

“What do you want?”  I wonder if John, inspired by the Spirit of God was revealing to us our deep need, through his own personal experience. It was at Calvary that it dawned on John, he was ‘the one Jesus loved’.  Don’t we all want to be loved? Isn’t that why we try so intensely to make ourselves appealing to others?  Isn’t that why we tone down our opinions, add to our interests, bend our beliefs, dramatize our story so we fit in?

Henri Nouwen said, “Only when we claim the love of the crucified Christ with heartfelt conviction, the love that transcends all judgements, can we overcome all fear of judgement.  When we have become completely free from the need to judge others, we will also become completely free from the fear of being judged.”

It took John seeing the Son of God, washing feet, then hanging on a cross for him to claim the love of the crucified Christ.  What will it take for you?  In the words of Brennan Manning “Define yourself radically as one totally loved by God.  Right now. As is. Not to be left like this, certainly, but just as certainly never to be loved, valued, cherished any more or less than you are in this very moment because God’s love does not depend on you.”  John didn’t do anything to realise Jesus’ love, Jesus did. 

This leads to the next red letter quote “Come, and you will see.”  What will it take for us to come? What will it take for us to see?  I’m not sure I have an answer, I’m merely posing the question.  They say in Alcoholics Anonymous that the biggest hurdle is admitting you have a problem.  I think the biggest hurdle in our faith is admitting we don’t appreciate and claim the love of Christ for ourselves.  We do know about it, or know of it, but I’m not convinced we really claim it. 

I think we all need to hear the words of Henri Nouwen, “All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved,’ and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being – ‘You are Beloved’.”  You may need to re-read that.

The penny dropped for John. What will it take for us?  If only we could talk of ourselves as ‘(insert name), the One Jesus Loved’. 

Do you want to know, understand and feel the deep love of Jesus? Do you want the love that satisfies the longing within us to gain the approval of others, a love that voids acceptance by the world’s standards?

Jesus invites you to ‘come and you will see.’  Come into the presence of the Saviour, take time to rest in his presence.  Imagine, if that helps, Jesus sitting next to you. Zephaniah 3:17 says “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  To me this speaks of an intimate moment of being drawn into the lap of God, and having him comfort you with a lullaby, as you rest in his great arms.  Put yourself in a posture of receiving God’s love; curl up in his lap, clear a seat beside you, do whatever draws you into a place of savouring his love, knowing you are His beloved.

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