Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31; Romans 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15
Knowing it all
Wouldn’t it be great if we knew everything there is to know about God? About life in this world?
The gospel reading from John is part of Jesus’ final evening with the disciples. This is his last chance to share with them his vision for the future, his last chance to tell them about the Holy Spirit who will come to guide them.
Jesus feels the urgency of this time together. There is so much to tell them, but they won’t understand it until after his death. As we have read portions of this evening during the last several weeks, we hear the disciples are full of questions. Jesus answers them, clarifying that he, Jesus, is one with the Father. And once more, he promises to send the Spirit, this time called the Spirit of Truth.
But, Jesus also knows he can’t say everything he wants to say. Some things must wait even longer. Some things must wait until after his death and resurrection. Some things must wait until the Holy Spirit comes.
Even then, because of the nature of Spirit, we don’t always know what God wants. We make assumptions and guesses. We draw lots and consult our horoscope. We pray and hope for a clear answer. But clear answers don’t always come. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if we saw a “man from Macedonia” telling us what to do or where to go, as the Apostle Paul had. It would be nice if God sent everyone a Mr Know-it-all to always keep us on track.
But we don’t have such clear guidance, because we are created by God to have free will. We can make our own choices, and we are just as likely to choose the way against God as for God, the way for ourselves. So the way forward is not often crystal clear.
We’ve been choosing our own way since the beginning, since Adam and Eve made the choice to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The serpent tempts them, saying, you will know as much as God; you will know the difference between good and evil. And they want to know everything, so they eat.
Job’s friends tell him what to do: give up and confess his sins. But he knows he is sinless and has nothing to confess. It turns out his sin is in not remembering he is mortal, and God is God. He does not know as much as he thinks he does.
Despite the prophets’ warnings, Israel’s kings make an alliance with Egypt against Babylon, and she destroys the kingdom. They don’t know nearly as much as they think they do.
With Jesus as their leader, Peter, James, and John think they know it all, or at least more than the other disciples. They have an argument about which of them is the greatest.
Peter knows he will never deny knowing Jesus, but that’s just what he does, hoping to save Jesus and himself. He learns a little more about himself.
The common belief of Jesus’ time was that the messiah would be a new king like David. But they didn’t know that they didn’t know. Another common belief of the early Christians is that Jesus will return soon and bring in a new world order. 2000 years later, we are still waiting. Remember Y2K? Remember 2012 on the Mayan calendar? What else don’t we know?
We encounter people all the time who are sure they know God. They know what God wants them to do. They know how God wants them to behave. Especially these days they know whom God hates.
We like to think we know it all. But we don’t. We know we are perfect, or perfectly awful. We know God loves us, or we know God couldn’t possibly love us. Truth be told, we don’t know what we don’t know about God.
And God wants it that way. God wants us to remember that we are mortal, not divine. We are human, mortal, and God cares so much about us, warts and all, that God became like us, human, mortal, to prove God’s love for us.
We are made perfect enough for God, justified, not by knowing enough about God, not by our perfect behavior, but by God’s love for us in Jesus. This is God’s grace. And that’s all we really need to know about God: that God loves us enough to die for us.
And this is enough. It’s news we can share with those who know God doesn’t love them. It’s news we can share with those who don’t know there is a God. It’s news we can share with those who don’t know our God is a God of love and grace.
This week, consider how many times you are sure you know something. Especially notice how many times you are sure you know something about God. If it’s anything other than the truth of God’s sacrificial love for us, remember you are mortal, and the only thing we know for sure about God is that God created the world and all that is in it because God loves us enough to die for us.
Please pray with me: God of love, we give you thanks for all that you give us. Help us to remember that we are mortal, mere humans, and that we don’t know everything about you except that you love us. Amen