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A Place of Growth

Even when we don’t understand what Jesus is doing, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have us in a place of growth.

God placed John 18:1-9 on my heart for the last few months of 2022. Those months happen to be, culturally, a season of reflection and new beginnings. It can be an exciting time. It is also, literally, the darkest time of the year. As we are now in summer, during the lightest time, and halfway through the year, I find myself reflecting on this again (particularly since the first half of 2023 was more haywire for me than my usual).

John 18:1-9 is a passage I kept going back to to study and to reflect on its various meanings. There are revelations that come from days, weeks, months, and years of study and meditation, of focused effort to glean what God is trying to tell you. Many times these revelations are more heart-understood than comprehended by the brain. Often they come in pieces: a tiny piece one day, another piece the following week, until eventually you have enough pieces of the puzzle that you can see how they fit together and form a larger picture. That's what happened for me with this passage.

God revealed to me a deeper understanding that He meets us where we’re at.

He calls us to trust and hope in Him even when our lives are turned upside down.

And sometimes He’s the One who does the flipping.

You can read the whole passage here: John 18.

Of course there is the on-the-surface, black-and-white meaning. But now read it again as if you are one of the disciples. Words in bold are the words that God made stand out to me, and then I have provided some of my thoughts.

18 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

- After prayer, the disciples went with Jesus. They crossed a valley. They entered a garden. Together. All is going well here. The disciples are staying with Jesus. Like we’re supposed to. They are in a garden: a fertile place with sustenance, a place of growth.

2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.

- The garden is a familiar place where the disciples and Jesus often hung out together. Unfortunately, the betrayer also knows this safe place.

3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

- So now someone familiar to them brings in both secular and religious opposition. They carry light—and weapons. Friend or Foe? Good situation or bad? It can be hard to tell sometimes.

4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

- Jesus intercepted the opposing people. He got between them and the disciples. And he used a weapon on them. He replies, “I am,” which is a meaning for “Yahweh.” The Name is so powerful it knocked the soldiers to the ground.

7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

- Who did the scary people want? Jesus. And they were frightened in the process. But they kept at it. And Jesus relinguished himself to guard and protect his disciples, who weren’t the intended target. Yet they lost their leader in a safe and familiar place to unexpected circumstances. A place of growth became a place where Jesus left them.

Hindsight is 20/20. In the moment, events like these can be devastating. But it’s not the end. (In case you haven’t read the book—spoiler alert—Jesus is raised from the dead and reunites with his disciples.)

It can be tough to distinguish between hardships we’re facing because of our own sin and poor choices versus ones brought on because we followed Jesus there. But take heart: he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He intercedes for us. He takes the worse punishment so we may live. And He doesn’t do things without a plan. He’s a fabulous strategist.

As we reflect on our lives, look for gardens. Pray. Stay with Jesus in new beginnings.

The biggest take away for me from this revelation was that just because something turned into a disaster doesn’t mean that I didn’t correctly follow Jesus there.

I tend to think that if something turns into a disaster, then I screwed up and I wasn’t following Jesus even though I thought I was. Yet here is a clear example of Jesus leading his disciples to a safe place—a garden even—and then disaster strikes. It’s a new perspective to take toward living life abundantly (John 10:10).

This revelation can be found on the My City Church blog here, along with other insights.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™


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