The following #Flourish post first appeared in the Christian Community Magazine published by Papa’s Pantry. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out the rest of this encouraging publication and the ministry of Papa’s Pantry.
The men are somber and bewildered. The previous week had been full of turmoil and conflict as Jesus purposefully confronted the Pharisees with his teachings and words condemning them of hypocrisy. The disciples eagerly anticipated celebrating the Passover meal with Jesus, as they had done the previous years, but an uneasy heaviness bore down on them. Jesus talked about someone betraying him and the bread and wine being his body and blood. Then he did the unspeakable act of washing their feet, saying something about learning how to be a servant. They are almost thankful when the meal is over. Then Judas abruptly leaves. At best the men are perplexed. At worst, they are fearful.
This is the setting we find Jesus pouring his final words into the 11 men who were his disciples. He knows his time is short and there is compelling urgency as he speaks. Part of Jesus’ final discourse is a section of scripture often entitled “The Vine and Branches” found in the gospel of John, chapter 15. If you attend church you have most likely heard messages on this passage referencing God as the gardener, Jesus as the Vine and we are the branches. That’s all true and will be the foundation of our Flourish journey. But there is one, very important, sentence we often overlook.
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (Jn 15:3)”
What did Jesus mean by this?
To understand, we have to go all the way back to Genesis where God created Adam and Eve in his image. Other scriptures describe us as fearfully and wonderfully made and God’s masterpiece. I like to think of us as God’s image-bearers. They lived in perfect harmony with God and each other in the Garden of Eden. Then the unthinkable happened. The enemy of God enticed Adam and Eve to sever their perfect relationship. It’s as if Satan came and spray painted graffiti over God’s masterpiece. Mankind, perfectly created in the image of God, became defaced.
When the Bible talks about sin and being born into sin, this is what it means. We are born into this world as a defaced image of God. We are spiritually “unclean.” Our relationship with God is severed. Outside of the saving grace of Jesus, we exist as a defaced, unclean, image-bearer.
“Unclean” was the spiritual condition of the disciples when they met Jesus. Christians understand restoration and cleansing from sin happens when we first believe n the resurrected Jesus Christ as our Savior. But in this scene, Jesus is the one speaking. This is before the cross. The disciples don’t have a resurrected Jesus to believe in for salvation. Yet, Jesus says to them, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” How is this possible and why is this important?
Jesus is not talking to the masses who may, or may not, believe in him. He is pouring into these 11 men who have been with him, lived with him, traveled with him, and learned from him. These are men who have – however imperfectly – believed the words that Jesus has spoken to them over the past three years. Words about forgiveness of sin, eternal life, heaven, God as the Father, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Words that they often did not understand in the moment but chose to believe anyway.
Men who have staked their lives with Jesus’ and have declared their faith that he is the Messiah even before his crucifixion and resurrection.
The Greek word katharos, translated “clean or purified” in most translations of this verse, means pure, free from sin and guilt, unstained with the guilt of anything.”
Jesus declares the disciples clean and pure before God. They are restored as God’s image-bearers. They no longer bear the graffiti of God’s enemy.
God’s desire is for all of his creation to be confident that they have been restored into his perfect image. He wants you to declare with certainty that you are 100% confident of your salvation. 100% sure that you are God’s restored masterpiece, his work of art, his image-bearer.
Jesus spoke the words about being already clean because he knew what the disciples did not. He knew that they were called forth to be his witnesses in the world, sharing the good news that salvation has come to all of God’s creation. All of Jesus’ words about vines, branches, abiding, and bearing fruit tell the disciples how to become the people they need to be in order to do what God has purposed for them to do.
But before all of that – before they can go forward in the name of Jesus, they must be confident that they are cleansed, made pure, and are restored into relationship with God.
This is where we must begin as well. We want to flourish don’t we? We want to influence our families and our communities. We want lives of purpose that bear bountiful fruit.
The Christian season of Lent begins on February 14th. As we approach Easter, do you find yourself where the disciples were? Unsure? Fearful? Wondering what your purpose is? Start here. Believe the Word that Jesus is Savior. Hear his voice echo the same assurance he gave the disciples. You are completely clean and free from all stain. The graffiti is gone.
Go. Be a world-changer confident in your restored relationship with God.
Personal Study – Flourish Journey
How confident are you in your salvation and restored relationship with the Lord? Let’s get the truth that we are cleansed, restored, and God’s masterpiece ingrained in our hearts. Look up these verses and record what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
What do you most need to meditate on this week so that this truth soaks in?