But, if I am not careful, sometimes I cannot see the forest for the trees. I never really understood that saying, but then as I was reading through the book of John, it clicked for me. John’s account of most people is just that. They are face-to-face with Jesus, hearing first-hand what He is saying to them, yet they miss the forest by focusing on the few trees before them.
In John 11:23-25 as Martha pours out her honest and broken heart to Jesus as she says, “if you had been here, my brother would still be alive,” and Jesus says to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replies to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” and Jesus responds, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (ESV)
Jesus was giving her a promise today and a greater promise of what is to come, but she cannot see past her circumstances to understand. She is too focused on her current pain, lack, and need.
In chapter 12, we see Mary literally pouring out her worship and praise unto Jesus’s feet in the form of her most valuable possession - the alabaster jar. And yet, Judas is focusing on what he perceives as waste. She was in the middle of visibly committing her life to Jesus, giving Him everything she had, and Judas was counting the cost. He couldn’t see that every need could be met through this man sitting right before him. The selfishness and self-sufficiency were blinding.
Later in this same chapter, Jesus addresses the unbelief and fear of the people. “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees, they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12:42-43 (ESV)
They heard everything and even believed in who Jesus was but could not get past their station in life to surrender. They could not see that as King David wrote in Psalm 84:10, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (ESV). The haze of human praise muddled the beauty of Christ.
In Chapter 13, we find Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. They are shocked at this act; that their Lord and Master would wash their feet - so they try to stop him. Washing feet was their work, yet none had volunteered for the job. Jesus demonstrates to them that he came not as King and Conqueror but as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.
This foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross, yet they only feared their own inadequacy and lack of servanthood. They are left facing their own shame and self-righteousness. If you have ever found someone doing something you know you were supposed to be doing, I am sure you know the feeling.
In Chapter 14, Jesus reveals to those around him that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life through the Father” in response to Thomas’s bold question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” John 14:5 (ESV) and Philip asks in verse eight, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (ESV)
Jesus’s answer shows us how much they were missing it. “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” John 14:9-11(ESV)
They had been with Jesus since the beginning of His ministry, and they were still missing it! This reminds us that we can appear to be in the closest relationship with Christ and never truly know the meaning of the words we read and speak. This is a heartbreaking reality for many Christians today. To have a knowledge-based information-ship with Jesus, but miss out on who He said He is to us personally.
In these chapters and several more in the Gospel of John, we can find bits and pieces of ourselves reflected in the pages - a lost and broken people who are in desperate need of a Savior but are missing out on the beauty and wonder that is Christ Jesus because we are too focused on the few trees that are standing in our way.
I encourage you today. Ask the Lord for a grander view of who He is in your life. Identify what has captivated your focus - shame, guilt, self-sufficiency, greed, lust, pain, success, titles, the praises of men, fear - whatever it is, and ask the Lord to show you the vastness of His greatness that dwarfs those things. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and focus on who He says He is - the Great I AM.