Belonging To God: The Church
Lesson 2

Lesson Two

The Paradox

Text: John 17:12-16

The text for today’s lesson does not include ekklesia or the English translation church.  The text is actually a part of a prayer prayed by Jesus the last day (perhaps the last night) of his earthly ministry prior to his arrest.  His statement is specifically prayed for those men who would serve as the resurrected Jesus’ apostles.  This request on behalf of these men is based on the same concept of church.  He prayed they would be in the world but not of the world—very much the concept of church (people who are called “out of the world” to live “in Jesus Christ” by embracing God’s values as they exist to do God’s will).


In this request that Jesus made to God the Father on behalf of the men who would serve as his apostles, there are two paradoxes you are asked to consider.  Paradox #1 focused on Jesus’ joy (my joy) declared in verse13.  Jesus said he was coming to God, and he had informed these men of God’s values and purposes—for the purpose of giving them his joy.


The concept of joy when combined with all that would happen in the next 24 hours was strange!


Jesus is within a few hours of his arrest, his physical torture, and his death.  History declared that all these men but one was killed because they served Jesus Christ.  The one who was not killed endured exile.  In no way did Jesus or his apostles live desirable physical lives.  How could Jesus know what was before him physically (John 17:1, 4, 5) and understand the physical destiny of these men (John 17:14) and speak of joy?


Please note this joy had nothing to do with physical experience.  The joy involved an experience that was beyond the physical. A good physical reality and the accompanying physical experiences were not a key to having Jesus’ joy. A good physical reality still today is not the key to Jesus’ joy!


Paradox #2 is the “in but not of” concept in John 17:15, 16.  Jesus had no desire to take these men out of a world that would misunderstand and kill them.  Jesus loved them with unquestionable love, and he would not resent them even when they ran from him shortly.  Yet, he wanted them to represent God in this rebellious world in spite of the consequences.


In a powerful statement, Jesus declared to his disciples in Matthew 5:13-16 that they were to be God’s light and salt in a world that rebelled against God’s influence.  To grasp the power of this statement, we must visit that world.  Let’s begin with salt.  Salt was one of the few preservatives available to their world.  There was no refrigeration or canning.  Freezers did not exist, and there were no Mason jars, can lids, or pressure cookers.  Furthermore, their lack of quality control in food stuffs would be appalling by many of today’s standards.  Meager food supplies often meant people had to eat what was available.  Salt was one of the few things they had that could improve the taste of poor quality food.


Consider light and darkness.  Begin by realizing all the things that could not be done without light.  First, understand there were no petroleum distillates available—no lamp oil, no kerosene, no man-made (by modern technology) means of providing lighting.  If you were rich you might afford torch sticks, but very few were rich.  The lamps of most people were small and operated with wicks in olive oil.  They provided such a dim light they had to occupy an elevated place in a room to keep people from stumbling.  Second, understand most people went to bed shortly after dark.  Night travel was dangerous!  There were no batteries, no flashlights, no streetlights, no store lights, and no parking lot lights—in short there was no common means of seeing at night!  The sun went down, and people went to bed.  The sun came up, and people begin working.  Why?  The sun provided light—they could see!  Without sunlight, they could not see how to do things!


In the first century, a discussion of salt and light was a discussion of essentials.  Today, we take both salt and light for granted.  To them, both were critically essential.  To achieve God’s purposes in this world, Jesus’ disciples are essential.  Without those who are Jesus’ disciples, there is no light in a black world of darkness, no salt for bad-tasting food. Without Jesus’ disciples, the world’s decaying food tastes terrible in a hopelessness that dreads death.


A critical truth: JESUS’ DISCIPLES MUST LOOK LIKE JESUS’ DISCIPLES, AND NOT THE UNPRESERVED WORLD OF DARKNESS.  If we look and act like the dark, unpreserved, rotting world, we cannot be God’s light and salt!


Years ago I was teaching Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.  An active member of the congregation expressed major dissatisfaction with the parable and its lesson.  Why? The prodigal son “had all the fun while the older brother had none—he just stayed at home and did his duty.” The parable’s point was missed!  The prodigal son did not have “fun”—he experienced life’s misery, not life’s joy.  When Christians conclude “fun” is found in darkness, they do not understand discipleship with its hope.


The hopelessness of “fun in a dark, unpreserved world” profoundly affected my life.  I have spent too many hours seeking to consol people whose life is in tatters or helping people find hope in the midst of their disgust with themselves and people.  In the world’s fun, there is no hope—only consequences that terrify life.  The world’s pleasure and escape are temporary and often deceiving.  Aging results in fearful questions that produce terrible answers.  The world’s “fun” produces consequences that leave a bitter taste that lingers. For God to extend forgiveness is one thing.  It is quite another to forgive yourself.



For Thought and Discussion


1. Does today’s text include ekklesia?  Then why use it as a text?


2. What is the first paradox Jesus used in John 17:12-16?  Why was it a paradox?


3. You are asked to note what in regard to this joy?


4. What is Jesus’ second paradox in this text?


5. In Matthew 5:13-16, discuss salt as a preservative and a flavoring for food.


6. What two things are you asked to note about light.


7. Discuss the importance of sunlight in the first century world.


8. Salt and light were what in the first century world?


9. State the critical truth given in this lesson.


10. What is absent is what the world calls “fun”?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 2

Copyright © 2009
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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