Monday morning, while sitting in my favorite booth in Whataburger, I read from John 14, when Jesus was drawing very near to his death and was sharing his last words with his disciples. Jesus said, “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.” (14:21 NIV) Jesus unequivocally linked obedience to love.
The next verse says, “Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
My first thought upon reading this was that this Judas (not Iscariot) needs a better last name than not Iscariot. Surely, he had a second name. Maybe John couldn’t remember it. Judas was a popular and common name during that time in history, but no one wants the same name as the betrayer of Jesus. I doubt any believers were ever named Judas, again.
Some Bible scholars believe this disciple was also called Thaddeus. Good. He must’ve kept the Thaddeus name after this so he wouldn’t have to remind people that he was the other Judas and not Iscariot.
My second thought was that regardless of his name, I appreciated Thaddeus’ question. He asked, “Why are you showing all this to us and not to everyone?” It’s a legit question, and a familiar question to many people in leadership.
The question follows two familiar paths. The first, who am I that I’m privy to this special insight? How did I end up here, with these others? I don’t remember doing anything special or noteworthy, all I did was say yes when asked. Is that all it takes to end up an insider?
I’ve been in too many situations where I had to talk myself back from the ledge because I felt I was – knew I was – inadequate for the task ahead of me, and wondering how, of all people, I ended up here. If I don’t appear to have those concerns when you see me, well, all I can say is most of what you see is learned response – I’ve learned to hide it. I’m sure Thaddeus felt the same way. I suppose all of the disciples felt the same way. How did I end up here learning the gospel of truth and life from the Son of God? Why me?
The second familiar path I hear in the disciple’s question is this – Now that you, Jesus, have shown yourself to us and not to the whole world, does that come with expectations and responsibilities? Because not only do I wonder how I ended up here in this room with this group, but I’m also afraid I won’t be able to do whatever you have in mind.
Personally, I can only think of one or two occasions in my life when I was handed a life-sized challenge and I thought I was up to the task. As in, they asked exactly the right guy.
However, I can think of dozens of occasions when I knew the opposite – not only did I have no understanding of what was in to, and if I did understand it, I would be even more unsure of myself.
Here’s the thing. I don’t want to live a life that always makes sense to me, where I know what I’m supposed to do and how to do it each and every time. That’s why I keep saying yes to hikes and bike rides I doubt I can complete, to classes I’m not comfortable to teach, to trombone solos I don’t know how to play, to novels I don’t know how to write.
I expect Thaddeus was the same. Otherwise, he would have stayed home when Jesus asked him to follow. But he didn’t stay home. He said Yes!
That’s all Jesus asks of us – to say Yes!
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“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”