“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:12–13
In my final year of college, during the 92-93 school year, I took my first year of New Testament Greek. We spent most of the first third of that school year learning the basic vocabulary and grammatical rules so that we could begin applying them in what would be our major task for the year, we would be translating all five chapters of the New Testament book of first John from Greek into English.
Day by day over the a period of several months we all brought the verses we’d translated the evening before to class to discuss them. By the end of the school year, after all the study and discussion, we all thought we’d become experts on John’s first epistle to the Christian Church.
Five years later, in my first pastoral district, I led my churches through a verse by verse study of the same book from the pulpit, further expanding my knowledge as I expounded on those five chapters.
Over the two decades of ministry that have followed there have been at least three prayer meeting series where once again the verses of this brief but powerful epistle were studied once again.
Then, a little more than two years ago I led my churches once again to its message in yet another district, and this time I got a surprise. I noticed something simple in the first few verses, an invitation to a relationship with God and the Church, that I’d never noticed before and a realization came that hadn’t come in all the years of studying those verses prior to this and that realization has altered my appreciation for and my understanding of the entire book.
It’s not that I’ve had to change what I previously understood. It’s rather like a light has been turned on that allows me to understand something that I couldn’t even see before. Beautiful views have been opened up, adding insight that was invisible to me previous to this.
What made the difference this time? Why now after all these years and all those journeys through those verses?
I believe that the reason was the same for me as it was for the disciples all those years ago. Jesus had been teaching and teaching but they just couldn’t bear it all. They didn’t know how to take it all in. The messages were wonderful, beautiful, powerful but they were too big, too subtle, too challenging for them to absorb and comprehend them.
We’ll be learning about Jesus, his kingdom, and his ways all the days of our lives, and even then it won’t be enough to exhaust all he has to teach us. But that’s ok. Our Heavenly Father is patient. The Holy Spirit’s been given to teach us and remind us of what we’ve been taught, and when at last we’re gathered home to God’s throne we’ll have eternity to complete the course.
Jesus, like the disciples we’re slow to learn. Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher and for giving us such a wonderful Helper.