Gen. 11:1-9; Ps. 143; Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31.
Word, Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word…” (vv. 22, 23a).
Following the Holy Supper, Jesus was peppered with questions by the Apostles; Judas (not Iscariot) did not understand, “Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (Jn. 14:19). Jesus didn’t give a fact explanation; apostolic enlightenment would come later from the HS, “teaching all things” (v. 26). Rather Jesus employed the language of faith, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word …”
Pentecost concludes the church’s Resurrection season. For forty days after rising from the grave Jesus revealed himself and taught his disciples; but not to the world. Today in fidelity to Jesus’ word we are blessed of the same sight (Jn. 20:29).
Words are powerful, employed for good or evil, effecting God’s will or a contrary agenda. Such was the case with the population of Noah’s descendants. Noah was to establish a new generation of men in place of the Antediluvians whose hearts were perpetually evil (Gen. 6:5).
Noah’s progeny was to bear God’s Name, “be fruitful … multiply, and fill the earth” (9:1) as witness to God’s love for his creation. Eventually Noah’s children gathered, migrated down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Shinar Valley.
God’s killing flood remained in man’s collective memory, and crippled by guilt inherited from Adam, men beheld God with fear and suspicion. These descendants conspired, refusing to bear God’s Name to all the earth. No doubt God’s word to “fill the earth” was construed as a “divide and conquer” stratagem.
Man’s conscience, bathed in the acid of his sin nature, defined their relation to God, a “Him vs. us” mentality; the only question being, would man’s “name” survive against God, now regarded as a terrorist killer of species (cf. 22:2).
Defiantly men built a city and tower, testaments to their name, epitomizing their distrust of God. Men refused to believe God’s promise that he would never again destroy the earth by flood (8:21, 22). This time around, through the technology of construction, mankind intended to stand against heaven; remaining “high and dry” on raised “ziggurats”.
Of this rebellion, the LORD observed the power of words, “Behold, they are one people and they have one set of words … And nothing they purpose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech” (11:1, 6, 7).
By speech we recognize origins; Adam and the woman, created in the image of God (1:27). Ever since Satan twisted God’s word toward Eve, true knowledge of God’s heart and mind became incomprehensible. At Babel God disbursed man’s rebellion for a name opposed to God.
With the in-gathering of Pentecost; Peter’s spoke God’s word (Acts 2:1-42) for comprehension by the Spirit’s “teaching all things” through the church, ending epochs of confusion between heaven and earth.
Some wrongly understand man’s Fall in terms of curse. A famous painting depicts Adam and Eve being driven by an angel from the Garden as whipped dogs; the image is unscriptural, it was Satan and the earth that bore God’s curse, not man.
Had God not removed mankind from the Tree of Life, they in sin they would have eaten to an eternal damnation. Other than the discipline in experiencing the consequences of sin, all from God toward man is grace and promise.
Now returning to Judas’ question. Some “Christians” similarly ask, “Do Lutheran’s really believe Jesus present in word and Eucharist?” And how do we respond; is it not as Jesus directed, according to faith, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word…”?
Nonetheless to the world Jesus’ word is mere babble. At the conclusion of the Supper Jesus commanded: “love one another; even as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34). The command and Supper are realized in its invitation: “take eat this is my body … Drink of it all of you … the blood of my covenant …” (Mt. 26:26-28a).
Against this promise men continue a fortress mentality toward God’s word. We accuse God for an accursed world’s distresses; with conflicted hearts we bowdlerize his promises. Most atrociously we spiritualize Jesus’ Eucharistic words making his words mere symbolics; both instances deprecate the power of God’s word. Men reject “with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26).
Some years ago, a man observed, by my garb, me to be a Christian pastor. He asked, “Why God was slow in answering his prayers?” The man’s car bumper-sticker messaged today’s “ziggurat faith”, spelling-out with various religious symbols, “coexist”.
I inquired, “to which of these gods, he prayed?” He wasn’t sure; I suggested he had answered his own question. The man was conflicted by a confusion of language; God’s word against that of men.
Returning to Judas’ question; how could Jesus’ disciples discern his presence, when the world would not see him? Question and answer depend on the language of faith and love, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word …” This is the point of Pentecost; the HS teaches all Scripture formerly hidden.
Before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the cross, Jesus ascended a mountain. There, portending his Resurrection, Jesus was transfigured, revealing to Peter, James, and John his glory in his flesh soon to be crucified. Today by our participation in that flesh and blood the church ascends to heaven’s Table in foretaste being transfigured by God’s glory, Jesus’ with us.
The HS provides us ears to hear and faith-eyes to see Christ in our midst according to his word. You are in-gathered for beholding things the world, for unbelief, cannot possibly see; but on the Last Day will be manifest to all.
On Pentecost Peter prophesied of the HS’s multilingual call, “[G]ive ear to my words … your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions” (Acts 2:14, 17). Amen.