I’ve got three books with me this morning that I want to share with you. They talk about fantasy and wonder and incredible things. The first book I have here is written by Charles Dodson, aka Lewis Carroll. He was an eccentric Oxford don and he wrote stories for one of his neighbors, Alice, and he takes Alice in to Wonderland. She chases a white rabbit down a hole and gets in to all kinds of exciting adventures and then she climbs up on a mantel piece with high imagination and wondering if she could go through the looking glass and when she touched the looking glass, it wasn’t hard at all. It was real soft, almost like gauze and so she walked right through the looking glass and found herself in the looking glass world, where everything was sort of in reverse. And oh my goodness what she ran into there, the “Jabberwocky”. I hope you have memorized that as I have or “the walrus and the carpenter”, but then that’s a very little interesting book of fantasy.
I’ve got another book here also by an Oxford don, his name is C.S. Lewis. He was probably one of the greatest literary figures of our day and he wrote a book called, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. How many of you have read it? Hey, look at that. Here Lucy and her sister and a couple of her brothers again have an interesting, fantastic voyage. They pass through a wardrobe in a spare room in an old country house and as they walk through the wardrobe, they keep right on going and they enter the land of Narnia, which has been bewitched by a nasty white witch who has decreed that Narnia will liver forever in winter without Christmas. But then through a whole series of marvelous adventures, they run in to a noble lion who of course as we learn bespeaks our Lord Jesus Christ himself. I reread that somewhat recently on purpose and I am sort of embarrassed, but I am not, that as I read how that noble mighty lion was willing to sacrifice his very life for nasty, nasty Edmund it may be love Jesus Christ’s, God’s dear son so much that it reduced me to tears.
I’ve got another book that is over here and you can guess what it is. Dr. Bart Houseman has already read from it. This was not written by an Oxford don, but by the finger of God. I am going to read a portion of what is called the upper room discourse of our Lord and by the time I get through today and next Sunday and then I don’t know what Sunday’s beyond that, I hope and trust and think that I may be doing some others, I want to share with you some fantastic, glorious, marvelous things in this section which is the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th chapters of the Gospel of John. Five chapters which I have named The Ante Chamber. You know of course that an antechamber is a room that opens up in to more important rooms. It’s an important room, but it opens up in to a more important room. And of course, ante as you all know means before. Like when they say, “ante up” in a poker game, you have got to put some money ahead of time. Or this is called an Ante Pendia, in front of the pulpit. This anteroom always has a door. You go through one door into the big room. Well it is sort of like the doctor’s office. And though you don’t particularly want to go to the doctor, yet you do, don’t you? And the anteroom is like the waiting room before you go in to see the doctor. You go through a door and since we are talking about fantasy and expressions of speech, Jesus said one time, “I am the door.” Now a door of course is a passage, as far as a noun is concerned, but as far as a verb is concerned, a passage is for you and me. Let me take you by the hand, come on, let me take you by the hand and let’s go in to the ante room, in to the ante chamber. Let us come to the word of God and to the Gospel of John, Chapter 13 and the first 12 verses. I am going to ask you please to turn to this passage and keep it open before you, because I am going to refer to it again and I want you to look at it with me. Hear now the word of God.
“Now before the feast of the Passover when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper when the devil had already put in to the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son to betray him; Jesus knowing that the father had given all things in to his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going to God; rose from supper and laid aside his garments and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water in to a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with a towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing, you do not know now, but afterwards you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed does not need to wash except for his feet, for he is clean all over and you are all clean, but not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him. That was why he said, “You are all not clean.” When he had washed their feet and taken his garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?”
Huh, no way. They hadn’t the slightest clue of what he had done or what he was saying. In fact, as we look at the 13th Chapter of John and next week too, and then I do not know, it is out of my purview. If we look in to more of these sections of Chapter 13 through 17, we discover that the disciples did not have any idea what he was saying, all the way through that section.
Now it is very important for us to understand the nature of this section, which I have called the antechamber or which is generally known as the upper room discourse of our Lord. Dr. Bart Houseman just read from a part of the Tenahk, which is the Jewish Scriptures. The law, the prophets and the writings. He read from the prophets, from Jeremiah. After that you have come to what we call the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All of that, not just the law of Psalms and prophets, but Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all in the old covenant. I just can’t wait to be able to clarify that for you, time after time after time. Everything that Jesus said and did, written in the gospels was prior to three things; a cross, the empty tomb and Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. None of that had any of the disciples experienced up to that point. And the upper room discourse is right after all of the gospels and just hours, just hours before the cross and just three days before the resurrection and just 50 more days until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came. And without those three, the cross, the resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, there would be no understanding of the Tenahk, or the gospels or for that matter, that which followed, the writings of Peter and Paul and James and John. If I don’t get anywhere else with you dear folks these two Sundays, if I have gotten some of you interested and curious and to actually read for yourself John 13, John 14, 15, 16 and 17, I will have accomplished far more than I could ever hope. It will radically change your life, if you will read this with the understanding that it is that of very strategic time. We are in a very strategic time, to say the least. We are not interested any longer in the fact that we have been here for some 53 years, here on York Road. Tradition, no no. But transition. Transition, that has been carried on so nobly for the last two years by Ellen and George. We are now in a massive time of transition, of right from transition from tradition. There will be a new pastoral program that we don’t know about. And just like the disciples in that ante room, they didn’t know what was over there, but we are also going through a paradigm right now in transition, both in worship experiences and in service and ministry. That’s where we are.
So now as we look at this text very briefly, first the bad news. The bad news is the disciples. Oh my goodness gracious me. John and his brother James, got together with momma and they got a bright idea and they approached Jesus one time and said, “Now Jesus, after you throw all the bad Romans out and you have established your kingdom right here on earth in Jerusalem, how about it if I sit on one side and my brother sit on the other side of you in power and prestige. Wouldn’t that be neat?” And the other disciples heard this and they ground their teeth with anger and frustration because, well, probably for two reasons. One, that James and John had beat them to it, because they had just had a knock down, drag out fight. The gospel tells us, they had this fight among themselves on who was going to be the most important in this new kingship of Jesus. And now they come stomping up the stairs to an upper room, to the antechamber full of anger, bitterness, resentment, but now they are giving each other the silent treatment. Nobody says beans to anybody else. Seething with anger they trudge in to the upper room and flop down around the table, noticing as they went, oh goodness there is no slave here, there is no servant here to wash our feet. And you folks all know very well in those days you were either barefooted or you had open sandals. There are no paved roads, so your feet (because you didn’t ride either) your feet were either muddy or dusty, one or the other, but they were sure dirty. And so the common courtesy was for a menial slave to wash the feet of the guest, but there was no servant there. So there they are. That’s the bad news. That is enough of that. Jesus strips off his outer garment, silently girds himself, takes the water pot and a basin and a towel and proceeds to wash their feet and there isn’t any sound in that whole upper room, except an occasional splash of water. And Jesus comes to Peter, the old guy who always has his foot in his mouth, he comes to Peter and, “Your not going to wash my feet.” Jesus says, “If I don’t, you don’t have any part in me.” “No way are you going to wash my feet.” Jesus says, “You have no idea of what I am doing right now. Ah, but afterward, afterward you will.”
Now lets look at Jesus here for a few minutes. I am reading first of all from the Gospel of Luke, before we get to the upper room. And in the Gospel of Luke, the beloved physician tells us this. (Jesus said this before they came in to the upper room). “I came to cast fire upon the earth and would that was already kindled. I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I constrained until it is accomplished.” He knew that he had come for this very purpose of casting fire upon the earth, of sending the gift of the Holy Spirit, which John the Baptizer said, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” And Jesus came to fulfill this high and holy redemptive purpose of God Almighty and he is with this bunch of nasty hearted guys, who hadn’t an idea, who didn’t know beans when the bag was open, what he was up to. Pardon me for saying this Jesus, but I say, “Poor Jesus”. He knew who he was, but they didn’t. And he knew what he was up to, but they didn’t. They didn’t catch on at all. Read the Gospels and you will see how true that is. And who is this Jesus? Well, you folks know, but Dallas Willard (I have been reading a fair amount of his work of late) makes some fresh observations about Jesus that I think you will enjoy. “Can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? His early apprentices and kingdom living, accepted him as the ultimate scientist, craftsman and artist. The biblical and continuing vision of Jesus was of one who made all of created reality and kept it working literally, holding it together and today we think people are smart who made light bulbs and computer chips and rockets and stuff already provided. He made the stuff.” Small wonder then that the first Christians thought he held within himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, at the literally mundane level, Jesus knew how to transform the molecular structure of water to make it wine. That knowledge also allowed him to take a few pieces of bread and a little fish and feed thousands of people. He could create matter from the energy he knew how to access from the heavens, which were right where he was. This majestic Jesus comes and washes the feet of his disciples to teach them what he had come to do.
Now I had asked you to keep you Bibles open to John, Chapter 13. Now I want you to look at this passage that utterly astounded me when I read it afresh. We read, “Before the feast of the Passover when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father”. How, pray tell, did John know that Jesus knew that his hour had come? And then we go down here a little bit further, “and Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things in to his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God”. How, pray tell, did John know that? Well he didn’t. Ah, but afterwards, afterwards he did and we have sort of a pre-authentication of what Jesus said was going to happen when we read the rest of the upper room discourse, where Jesus says, “I am going to send the Holy Spirit and when he comes he is going to make you remember everything that I have said.” And not only that, “the Holy Spirit will take the things of mine, the very depth of who I am, and reveal them to you”. And so that is what happened and John was able to say, that Jesus thought these things because after the Holy Spirit had come.
We read in 1st Corinthians, Chapter 2, Verse 12 these words. “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God and we impart this in words taught not by human wisdom, but taught by the spirit interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the spirit. The unspiritual or the natural man does not receive the gifts of the spirit of God, for they are foolish to him and he is not able to understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself judged by no one. For who is known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct him but we have the mind of Christ.” But we have the mind of Christ.
So Jesus was excited and I am excited about what he is going to tell us will be true for you and me, that we too can be disciples, that we too can love other people. Jesus loved the church. We are told in Ephesians, Chapter 5. He loved the church. He loved Central and gave himself up for her, that he might present the church to himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that you should be holy and without blemish. And then he said, “I want you to be my disciples and do what I did for other people.”
Just in closing, I would like to suggest to you that here we are with a new paradigm, a new way of doing things, which starts from the bottom up, and that’s you and me where we are. There in the pews and God has called each one of us, he has called you and called me to be his witnesses, to lead others, to carry them through the door and in to the ante chamber and in to the glorious teachings of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. And it can be as exciting to you, and I have lots of such experiences, and I want to share just one.
Many years ago, during World War II, Jake Deshazer was a rear gunner in one of the Dolittle planes that raided Tokyo and his plane was shot down. Jake Deshazer was taken prisoner. He hated God and he hated Jesus, he hated himself and most of all he hated the Japanese. He was imprisoned for years in a horrible Japanese prison. But while he was there he got a book. He got a hold of a Bible and the Bible got a hold of him and completely changed that man’s life and he decided that when he got out of prison, he would go back to the states and get trained and then minister to the Japanese whom he now loved. I met Jake in Seattle and he asked me to be his mentor and I had the privilege of discipling Jake Deshazer, and then indeed, he did go back to Japan and when he went back he had also published a little pamphlet that told of his conversion to Jesus Christ. Admiral Fushida who led the raid on Pearl Harbor picked up one of Jake Deshazer’s testimonies and he met Jesus, this same marvelous Jesus, this smart man God Jesus, this loving Jesus and one evening I sat at a banquet with Jake Deshazer on one side of me and Admiral Fushida on the other side, glorying in the power of Jesus and the privilege of discipleship.
Father, we thank you that after the cross and after the resurrection and after the Advent of the Holy Spirit that we can be and are called to be your glorious disciples and servants. Lord, hear us now as we respond in song.
Join with me as we take the insert and celebrate with me the great privilege and the excitement that awaits us here at Central Pres through the summer and in to the fall, “Begin, My Tongue, Some Heavenly Theme and Speak some Boundless Thing”. Stand as we sing.