I do find myself watching wildlife documentaries sometimes and quite often they show animals hunting. Animals seem to be born with lots of the skills to hunt but some of them need to be learnt. I’ve seen films of young predators learning how to hunt. It’s something their survival depends on. They often show a young animal attacking a herd of prey animals and they get distracted by the number of animals running in different directions and end up without success. If they are to survive, they have to learn quickly to focus on a single animal and not get distracted. It can be a bit like that when studying a Bible passage, I find I have to ask; what is the main thing the Lord is saying?
In a passage such as we have today it is very difficult; there are so many important themes it would be wrong to ignore any of them. I’ve had to limit it to a few short points.
God’s glory. Perhaps this is the theme for the whole passage if not the whole Bible. God and the Lord Jesus are glorified by Christ’s death. It is a strange thing, the cross is about humiliation and shame and yet it is the something that will glorify God. It is because it is God’s means of reconciling sinners to himself, something only he could do, it is otherwise impossible. It shows God’s love, his power and his ultimate victory. All through what looked like a humiliating defeat.
God’s love. It’s what drives the plan of salvation; ‘For God so loved the world that he gave […]’ (3:16). ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.’ (Ephesians 2:4-5). If we have received God’s love, we are called to love one another. It isn’t a suggestion, it’s a commandment. One that will be repeated later that evening and one that had such an effect on John that he repeated twice in his first epistle. It is what marks disciples out as different from everyone else. The love of God in the lives of believers speaks to world.
God’s faithfulness. This prediction and Peter’s subsequent denials are found in all of the Gospels. Christ had already been praying for Peter, had a work planned for him to do and would restore him. It’s a story of Peter’s failure and Christ’s faithfulness. We could probably say that of Peter’s whole life but if we substituted Peter’s name for mine it would be the story of my life too. Perhaps you can say the same. Notice Jesus follows the prediction with; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” This isn’t a promise for perfect people, it’s for Peter, for the others who would run away, for Thomas who would refuse to believe he had risen and for me and for you.
God’s purpose. The cross will not be the end because the end is glory. Jesus knew he would ‘leave this world and go to the Father’ (13:1). Now we learn that the plan is for those he loves would be with him. I’ve heard preachers making cheap points about the difference between the King James Version where it says: ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions’ as opposed to the NIV where it says rooms. This is where the preacher will say; ‘you go to a room if you want to but Jesus is preparing a mansion for me!’ All of this is missing the point:
“I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
We are going to be with Jesus and to be honest; it’s the only thing that counts. God is glorified that sinners can be made right with him through the death of Jesus. It shows the depths of his great love that changes us to be more like him. It’s love that doesn’t disappear when we fail because he is faithful. His faithful love will bring us safely into the presence of the one who loved us and died in our place.
‘All these once were sinners, defiled in his sight,
Now arrayed in pure garments in praise they unite:
Unto him who hath loved us and washed us from sin,
Unto him be the glory for ever. Amen.’
(With Harps and with Viols – Philip Bliss)