Knowing God’s Love Is The Beginning of All Rebirth

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❖ Audio (Message)

Knowing God’s Love Is The Beginning of All Rebirth

(John 7:32-36)
Mari Ikeda

We have been away from the Gospel of John series for a while, but today we are returning to the series again to read John 7:32-36, but since this passage only raises a question for us, I will read other passages as well today. Let’s read them. John 7:32-36.

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

The questions is, what does Jesus mean when he says, “You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The Jews are misguided, but Jesus answers nothing in the following verses. There is a famous saying in the Bible, “Seek, and you will find,” which seems to contradict these words of Jesus. There is also a passage where Jesus did indeed tell his disciples to follow Him. What are we to make of this contradiction? To give you what I think is the answer first, this means that none of us can follow Jesus until we know the magnitude of God’s love for us. We will read two passages from the same Gospel of John that give us a hint. First, 8:21 and following.

A. What does it mean, “Where I am, you cannot come?”
1. If we don’t accept God as God (8:21-24,28)

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” 22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” 23 But he continued, “…if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” …28 “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

It is a bit difficult, but I think this means that when we know that Jesus, the “Son of Man,” died on the cross and was resurrected, we know that Jesus is “He,” that is, God Himself. In other words, through the cross of Jesus, we know that Jesus is God Himself, and we know who God is. And without that, we would “die in our sins”. We all tend to impose our own selfish expectations on God. Whether we have conscious faith or not, we try to use God for our convenience, saying things like, “If it is truly God, he should do this,” or “I will believe in God only if he fulfills this.” That is our “sin,” the sin of making ourselves God and not recognizing the real God as God. We need to stop imposing our selfish expectations and wishes on God and listen to what God is speaking to us. What God is speaking to us is best expressed by the cross and resurrection of Jesus. We need to put aside our selfish expectations and prejudices, and think for ourselves, not what others say, about the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, and whether they are true or not. And when we know that Jesus really is God Himself and that He suffered and died for us, we will know the true meaning of following Him.

The second hint is a passage starting from 13:33.

2. If we don’t know God’s sacrificial love (13:33,36-38)

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. …36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Jesus said Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” When Peter asked Him, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you,” Jesus clearly denied him, saying, “You would abandon me and run away, instead of laying down your life for me.” What is important is that Peter, who had abandoned Jesus and ran away just as Jesus said, truly gave his life for Jesus after experiencing Jesus’ death and resurrection. It means that Peter’s life was changed before and after experiencing Jesus’ death and resurrection. What did Jesus’ death and resurrection teach Peter? It is the magnitude of God’s love. Jesus knew from the beginning that Peter would abandon him and run away, and he had forgiven him. And Jesus was more than willing to give his life for such a Peter. Peter understood this all when he met the resurrected Jesus. God did not hesitate to be insulted, to suffer, or to lose his life in order to forgive us and live with us. It was for this purpose from the beginning that He came into the world as a person, Jesus. Neither Peter nor any of us can understand God or dedicate our lives to Him until we know this sacrificial love of God. Conversely, by knowing this sacrificial love of God, we can redirect our lives many times and come back to the direction we were meant to go. What God Himself wanted to communicate to us through His sacrifice is that He loves us so much that He wants us to receive His love and be glad and secure. To live our lives in that joy and peace of mind is to give our lives to Jesus and to follow him. Let’s think about this a little more.

B. To be with Jesus where He is is to be one with God’s love
1. In the peace of mind that our smallness is forgiven

When we think about following Jesus, I think the first thing we must remember is that He invites us to do so knowing that we do not have the power to do so. It was 20 years ago when I decided to believe in Jesus and got baptized, but there was a time when I was not sure if I would get baptized. Although I was sure that I wanted to believe in Jesus, I was unsure if I could really continue to believe in Him all my life. When I told Mari-san about this, she told me that if I no longer wanted to believe, I could stop at any time, which made me relieved and I made up my mind to get baptized. Since then, for the past 20 years, I have had times when I lost sight of Jesus and times when it was hard for me to come to church, but I could never leave Jesus. This is because the fact that Jesus gave His life even for such a person like me did not shake in me. I was weak, but Jesus’ love held me. To begin with, we don’t have the strength to continue believing in Jesus for the rest of our lives, nor do we have the strength to dedicate our lives to Him. Nevertheless, Jesus teaches us that He loves us and allows us to start over again and again to live a life of loving Jesus and those whom He loves. When we are dismayed to realize our weaknesses, our smallness, our mistakes, it is a chance to rediscover the magnitude of God’s love for us, who knows all of that and loves us unchangingly. Even when we doubt God’s love, it is an opportunity for us to know that God is even closer with us than before. The security of being forgiven our smallness and the joy of being loved just as we are awaken in us the desire to be with Jesus. Then we realize that Jesus has indeed been with us where we are from the beginning. And from there, the journey of following Jesus begins again.

2. We joyfully nurture small seed of love

I hope that my explanation so far has given you an idea of what God’s love is like. God’s love transcends our weaknesses and strengths, our righteousness and wrongs, and is on a grand scale that provides the foundation of all our existence, yet it is manifested in the most intimate and insignificant of everyday events. How much of a difference does it make in the world for one person who did not know if God loved him or her to realize that he or she is truly loved by God? No one or only a few people may notice the change that has taken place inside that person. I will always remember the words of one lady I met in my work at the shelter. Those words were, “I can go to the dentist too, can’t I? She had suffered from abuse and domestic violence for a long time, and even when she finally left her abuser, her physical condition made it difficult for her to make ends meet, so she came to our shelter receiving public assistance. At first she had little expression on her face and looked exhausted, but little by little she began to smile. Then one day when I met her in the hallway, I called out to her and she cried and smiled and said, “I can go to the dentist too, can’t I? Until then, she had thought that she was not worthy of even going to the dentist, and that spending money on medical care on welfare was something she was not worthy of. But little by little, she came to believe that she was worth it. I told her, “Please go.” And in her smile, I thought I saw Jesus’ smile. I think it was the moment when God’s words, “You are my beloved child,” were realized in her. She did not know Jesus, but it was surely a small realization of God’s love for someone who thought she was unworthy of life to reclaim it for herself. God brought me to witness that moment and showed me what it means for the seed of God’s Kingdom to sprout. Jesus prayed this prayer just before he was arrested. John 17.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” …26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus himself is praying for us to be with him where he is. That we might witness and rejoice and praise God for the magnitude, breadth, and depth of His love, which has not changed since the beginning of the world. God’s love is in Jesus, Jesus is in us, and we are one in God’s love.

(Prayer) Lord Jesus, let our hearts once again receive the magnitude of your love that you suffered and gave your life on the cross to teach us. Teach me that whatever the situation I am in now, that love of yours remains unchanged and is poured out to me. And help me to listen carefully to what You say to me, not to my own expectations and wishes. We are weak. You know us well. Please pour out Your Spirit to protect and guide our thoughts, ideas and feelings. Lord Jesus, we pray in your name. Amen.


We have not come to know God unless we know that He so loves and cares for us that He would give His life for us. And He did so in order to forgive our sins so that we would not be crushed by our own mistakes and smallness, but would be able to redirect our lives again and again in the joy and security of being forgiven and loved. The path of following Jesus is a process of revival and renewal of ourselves, restoration and rebuilding of our relationships with those around us, and nurturing the seeds of God’s Kingdom that are small but surely born in the process.

For Discussion
  1. Does it mean that some people can go to heaven and some can’t?
  2. Is following Jesus painful or enjoyable?