Embracing Grace: Whom Do You Seek?

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 59

Scripture:  Psalm 27; John 18; John 20:15-18; John 8:58-59; John 10:27-32; Exodus 3:14; John 10:2-3.

Photo Public Domain.

My family and I sat with The Crown Cast and Crew last night and were treated, with 5,000 others, to the last dress rehearsal of The Thorn 2011 prior to its Colorado Springs performances. This year is the first year The Thorn was taken on the road to Charleston and Austin before coming back to the Springs. Their last week of performances will be in Denver next week. The narrator this year for the Springs performances reverted back to the original character, the apostle John.

I like John, not just because he was the disciple Jesus loved, but because his contribution to the New Testament is intensely personal. Each of the four gospels is written from the unique perspective of the individuals who penned them, but I have always been drawn to John. When he wrote what happened in the garden after the last supper, John begins by saying:

He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.1 

Then John states that Jesus, fully aware of all that was going to happen next to Him, approached them and said “Whom do you seek?”

Um, who do you think? Jesus the Nazarene.

Jesus did not mince words. He did not ask “whom do you seek” because he wanted to know whom these men wanted. Jesus asked because He wanted them to know whom they were seeking. His words carried multiple levels of meaning. He was not just asking if he could direct them to the person they sought. Remember, it was late at night and they were the only ones in the garden when the crowd with Judas arrived. Jesus was asking them whom did they seek personally, not collectively. It is as though He extended one last invitation to the very ones who never before sought Him.

“Whom do you seek?”

Jesus asks them the ultimate question. What is it you want most in life? What do you want? Are you looking for fame or fortune, or a piece of land to call your own? Do you  know there is so much more to this life than what you can see with your eyes? Whom do you seek?

I wonder why John is the only one to describe what happened when Jesus answered the ultimate question. Was it that John, being the youngest, carried a heart more tender to the ways of the spirit than did the other disciples and because of this saw more than just what he wrote?

He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.2

This scene describes a perfectly restrained God.

Interestingly, the word for he is not present in the Greek but was placed in English translations3, so what Jesus actually said here was “I Am.”4 Sound familiar? The first time He said “I Am,” the religious tried to stone him.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.5

Yet here, they have come to arrest him and are armed, but when Jesus says “I Am,” they draw back and fall to the ground.

Why?

When Jesus said “I Am,” an exquisitely minute glimpse of the terrible awesomeness of God’s power was revealed. They did not see a transfigured Christ, like Peter, James, and John did on the mountain where they fell to their faces in fear. John does not describe the men in those terms, either, but the implication is there nonetheless: they drew back.

These men were there to arrest Jesus, and they had a Roman cohort as escort. Roman soldiers were not fearful men – they were trained soldiers, yet John wrote they (all) drew back and fell to the ground. It wasn’t an earthquake, so it must have been God’s revealed glory which caused them to draw back. That is what happens when the fallen nature faces pure holiness. We draw back. Scripture tells us no man can see God and live. Moses saw only God’s backside and glowed for days, like he had been airbrushed with radioluminescent paint.

The young apostle John was not the only one to record the power of God revealed during the last days of Jesus on earth. Matthew records that a second great earthquake occurred when an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled the stone away from the tomb (the first earthquake was when Jesus gave up His Spirit.)

And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 6

Now let me ask you, what do dead men do?

They lie down.

I figured that one out, too. This had to have been an amazing thing to see.

Going back to the book of John, who did not record the angel who rolled away the stone or the earthquake, but who does record something else of importance. He writes of Mary Magdalene, the first to see Jesus after He rose…

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 7

On the surface, this seems like a dumb question. The woman is visiting. a. grave. Who is she supposed be seeking? But, then again, this is not what Jesus is really asking here, is it? Mary didn’t get it at first, either. She was blinded by grief.

She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, If You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 8

What, now she is superwoman? 9 Something tells me she wasn’t thinking very logically at the moment.

But Mary only needed to hear the Master say, “Mary!”

But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and  leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice10

Jesus posed the same question to Judas and his rabble as He did to Mary, but each responded differently. Judas and the crowd drew back, but Mary needed only to hear Jesus call her by name.

The question, then, becomes not so much ”whom do you seek?” but will you draw back when Jesus speaks to you, as did Judas and the crowd? Or, will you know His voice when He calls your name and follow Him?

Read: Psalm 27; John 18; John 20:15-18; John 8:58-59; John 10:27-32; Exodus 3:14; John 10:2-3. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, Your sheep hear Your voice and follow You. You promised to speak to us. Open our ears and help us obey your call to follow You. For Jesus’ sake, amen.

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1 John 18:1b-3. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
2 John 18:5b-6. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
3 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for eimi (Strong’s 1510)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 14 Apr 2011. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1510&t=NASB
4 I am no language expert, but the first time Jesus says “I Am, it is immediately followed by the statement “And Judas…” Judas, or Ioudas in the Greek, means “he shall be praised.” Could this be as simple an oversight as the running together of two word’s meanings? See: Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for Ioudas (Strong’s 2455)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 14 Apr 2011. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2455&t=NASB
5 John 8:58-59. (See also John 10:27-32.) Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
6 Matthew 28:2-4. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
7John 20:15. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
8 ibid.
9 Scripture does not come out and say it directly but seems to imply that Mary Magdalene was a woman of faith, a leader among women, for she is continually mentioned first when grouped with other women, which was a sign of importance. Peter was given similar treatment, indicating his place of preeminence.
10 John 10:2-3. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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