Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:21-22
I have read this passage many times, but this time it made me sad. Jesus was in the middle of explaining to the disciples the whole reason why he came, the whole reason he was going to die on the cross for them – and he gets this totally oblivious question.
In chapter 14 of John, Jesus is telling his disciples that when he leaves them (via his death on the cross and resurrection) the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will come. He is revealing to them the whole reason he came – to be, once and for all, the sacrifice for sin so that we could be in the Presence of God once again – that His Spirit could come and be with us and in us. The “Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive” (John 14:17).
But they are still not getting it, and this disciple voices a question that echoes something that Jesus’ brothers had said, “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” (John 7:4). In other words, “Don’t you want to be famous?”
I had just read this verse about King David when I read the above verse:
And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. 2 Samuel 8:13
This is one of the stories that the disciples would have grown up hearing. David’s famous exploits. And wasn’t the Messiah the Son of David? Wasn’t he supposed to come and strike down their enemies? Wasn’t he supposed to be famous?
But being famous was never Jesus’ goal. His goal was to fulfill the scriptures written about Messiah, one of which is, “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets (Isaiah 42:2), or as NetBible translates it, “he will not publicize himself in the streets.” Many times, “[h]e warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 12:16-17). He would choose instead to reveal himself, or show who he really was, only to his followers.
Jesus warned them about the love that the Pharisees had for honor and fame, and how that desire corrupted all of their good works (Matthew 23). Being famous had become their goal, replacing the desire to please God. Jesus commanded his disciples not to be like them.
When I was growing up becoming famous was always pressed upon me as the most desirable goal. Being admired by others equaled being of value. So, I pursued a stage career, where standing ovations are the ultimate expression of approval and love. One night, in the middle of performing, looking out at a large, admiring (I hoped!) audience, it all seemed suddenly empty. I thought, “What am I doing here?” And when the run was done, I turned and walked away. It was only a few months later that Jesus revealed himself to me as Lord and Savior and ultimate Lover of my soul.
If Jesus had only come to do famous exploits, to be victorious over the Romans and set Israel free as a nation, it would have just been another entry in the history books. Like David conquering the Philistines, it would have just been a good story. It would not have meant anything much to me.
But his whole life Jesus had an audience of One – “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) – and that audience gave him a standing ovation. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). That’s what I want, to have an audience of One, to make pleasing God my life’s goal, and to hear him say someday, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
“Look,” [Stephen] said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56
Image, Ovation, by Joi Ito https://flic.kr/p/R3nQd