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Gems in the Gospel of John



Part 61 – John 14:18

Not orphans



Jesus promises his disciples he will not leave then as orphans. He will come back again. The obvious question is ‘when’. It is not easy to see when he was referring to. Perhaps he was deliberately making this general statement so that we could fill in the details.

If so – here goes. The 4 letters RSVP are well known in the English speaking world although they come not from English but from French. They stand for “Repondais S’il Vous Plait” (I can’t get the accents on my keyboard) which means ‘Respond if you please’ or just ‘Please reply’. They often appear at the bottom of a formal invitation to events like a party or a wedding. It has been suggested that we can use these very familiar letters to remind us of the ways in which Jesus will return. R=Resurrection, S=Spirit, V=Visits and P=Parousia. Let’s take them one at a time.

R=Resurrection. Jesus was actually speaking to his disciples and this was, of course, before his death and resurrection so it was a very meaningful promise for them. We have to look back to it but it is a no less meaningful moment for us. Everything that we are and have in Jesus stems from that great event. Without it we would be, as Paul said, “most to be pitied”, by which I think he meant that we would have been expending a great deal of energy on something that was not true.

S=Spirit. In a very real sense Jesus came back at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem. After all Christ and the Spirit were both parts of the One True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A huge dynamism descended on all those involved that day. They were no longer orphans. They now knew they were adopted members of a great family, which is now world-wide, the greatest and biggest in the world of which we are part. We can think of ourselves as walking in step with the Spirit, or walking in step with Jesus. Make your choice, or consider yourself involved with both, perhaps one in one hand and the other in the other. I leave you to work out which is which side!

V=Visits. Again and again Jesus visits us in the events of our lives. He is with us in our great joys and our deepest sorrows. He is with us in the smaller things of life. How aware of that in the day-by-day events of your life will depend on your personality and, perhaps, in how busy you are. In the days when I drove a tractor for a living I was very aware of his continuous presence with me because my mind was scarcely engaged with what I was doing. When I became a teacher with a room full of 14-year olds I was much less conscious of his presence even although I needed it more. But that didn’t matter – I might have lost touch with him from my end of the relationship but I knew, when I could afford to stop and think about it, that he was still strongly in touch with me so the relationship was as strong, or stronger, than ever. Exactly the same goes for you.

P=Parousia. Parousia is the Greek word meaning ‘arrival and presence’ which is commonly translated in the New Testament as ‘coming’, usually referring to the Second Coming of Jesus. So, for instance, the word behind 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 – 17 which talks about ‘the coming of the Lord’ is ‘parousia’ and the next verse goes on to talk about ‘the Lord will come down from heaven’ so there can be no possible doubt that this word is being used about the return of our Lord Jesus to this earth of ours. We call this the Second Coming.

How exactly it will all work out we shall never know until it happens. Some bold people, whose boldness outstrips their wisdom, will tell you exactly what is going to happen. They have our Lord’s schedule all worked out for him! But they do not all agree, and surely the Spirit does not disagree with himself so they do not have the Spirit teaching them. The only sure things about the Second Coming are that it will catch us all by surprise and confound all our prophecies – just as his first coming did – and exceed all our expectations for exciting wonder and worship.

This was our glorious Lord’s promise to his original disciples and therefore to us: RSVP. That originally meant ‘please reply’. Sure, Lord, we reply with praise and wonder. Living in the certainty of your Resurrection; rejoicing that we too have received your Spirit; full of thanksgiving for those times when we have been aware that you are Visiting us in a special way; looking forward with eager expectation to your Parousia, your Return. Even so ‘come, Lord Jesus.’


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