Thaddaeus – a disciple with a question
Most of us have had experiences with five year olds – five is the year of questions. Generally these questions tend to fall into one of three categories.
• There are the easy questions … “What makes peanut butter?” “When can I go to school?”
• There are the technical questions … “How do those pictures get on the TV?” “Why is the grass green?”
• Then there are “those” questions … “Where do babies come from?” “Why don’t I have hair under my arm?”
Questions! Questions! Questions! And how many times have we gotten to the point where we have said, “Stop asking so many questions!” … “Why Dad?”
Why do people ask so many questions? Because that is how we learn. And the disciples of Jesus were exactly in the same situation. They would ask questions of Jesus all the time. In John 13-16 John tells us about one discussion that took place between Jesus and the disciples. In that one discussion they ask at least 5 questions.
• “Lord, who is it?”
• “Lord, where are You going?”
• “Lord … how can we know the way?”
• “Lord, why do You intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
• “Lord what do You mean by, ‘a little while’?”
This discussion takes place in the upper room. Tomorrow Jesus will be hanging on a cross. Tonight He teaches them and even though they have been with Jesus for more than 3 years they have so many questions.
But here is the interesting thing. Jesus never says, “Stop asking questions”. To be fair there are times when Jesus gets a little tired of the questions.
• “Are you so slow? You should really understand by now”.
• “I’m not really teaching anything that difficult. Concentrate harder”.
• “You have been with Me for such a long time, yet the penny hasn’t dropped!”
They are some of the comments which Jesus made about the questions of the disciples. However, not once will you find Jesus saying, “Stop asking questions”. When Jesus is around questions are allowable. That’s because discipleship is all about learning and growing.
Jesus’ willingness to be like this says a lot about the sort of Saviour He is. Jesus has every right to tell us what to do. That is what the Scriptures tell us:-
He has all things under His feet.
He is the head of the church.
In Him all things live and move and have their being.
As part of the God-head Jesus dictate the outcome. “I have said it. I have decided. Don’t question Me. Just obey”.
Jesus had every right to take that approach. But He doesn’t. Instead Jesus takes the way of patience, encouragement, nurture. He is willing to help us even when the questions are not the right ones. Jesus is the King who still allows His people to ask, to probe and to make comments. In fact He even allows us to have doubts and offer alternative approaches. That is Jesus. And that is the approach Jesus takes with His disciples.
Let me introduce you to one specific disciple who was allowed to do this. We don’t know a lot about this disciple except that he has two names.
These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot,
Judas son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
The only other thing we know about this disciple is that he asked a question.
Read John 14:15-24
I don’t know about you but when you first read this section your first thought is, “What is Jesus talking about?” No wonder Thaddaeus also known as Judas son of James asks a question.
Jesus has gathered His disciples in the upper room to teach them about His impending departure.
The words Jesus spoke are more solemn and determined than any they had heard from Him before.
What did all this mean? Where would all this lead? There was so much uncertainty, so many questions. I just don’t understand.
How many times have you found yourself in that situation? Lord I just don’t understand.
Let me tell you about Tanya. She was 15 years old and she was murdered only 200 meters from her home. She had just hopped off the bus. The family had only come into the church three months before hand. It was a terrible time. Now, you would think that this would draw the church together – instead the church just fell apart. In the end I was isolated from my leadership team and I ended up leaving the denomination. It just didn’t make sense. In many ways I still don’t.
That is just one story from one life. We all have stories … multiple stories … don’t we. Lord I just don’t understand what you are doing.
So what is Jesus doing in those times? I can’t fully answer that question because the Scriptures don’t fully answer that question. But I can tell you what He is not doing.
When we find ourselves in a situation where we don’t understand what Jesus is doing we can be sure that He is not abandoning us.
That is the point Jesus is trying to make here.
Jesus is teaching the disciples about the work of the Holy Spirit.
Another One was coming … the Counsellor … the paraclete.
He will take those who feel like orphans and give them a family.
He will be the Counsellor who will be with you forever.
He will be shown to those who accept Jesus and love Jesus.
Physically Jesus is going … the world will see Him no more. But spiritually Jesus is staying … those who trust in Jesus will be given His Spirit.
Basically what Jesus is teaching the disciples here is that He is … and always will be … the only answer to our spiritual needs. He is the answer because we have a great need. Humanity is slow to admit it, but we all need a Saviour.
Every person born into the world is a son or daughter of Adam with the judgment of sin stamped on our soul.
Jesus focussed the issue more specifically when He said that “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean”. (Matthew 15:19-20).
We are sinful to the core. Jesus has seen that this is the case and He has come to do something about it. Jesus comes to “seek and to save what was lost”. (Luke 19:10).
There is a story about Leonard de Vinci as he painted the picture of the Last Supper. A crowd watched over his shoulder. He was working on the food on the table, and he saw the crowd looking at his every movement. With one angry brush stroke he deliberately ruined the food. Pointing to the face of Christ he said, “Don’t look down there, look up here!” It’s only by looking to Christ … the Christ who went from the Last Supper to the cross … it’s only be looking to Him that we have life. Only He is the One who has done what it takes to be the lasting sacrifice for sin.
Thaddaeus didn’t quite get it and his question shows his ignorance. Instead of having a go at Thaddaeus Jesus keeps explaining what He means. Ultimately Jesus is talking about our willingness to be obedient because we know the Father has a special place for us.
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
“Love me. Obey My teaching. And We will make our home with you”.
“If you don’t love Me. If you don’t obey My teaching. We will not make Our home with you”.
Being a Christian does not guarantee that we will understand everything God is doing. Being a Christian means having hope always even when we don’t understand what Jesus is doing.
That means it is OK to have the questions.
There will be the questions of misunderstanding and mistrust that begin with words like, "Lord, why did you…?” or "Lord, why don’t you…?".
• Why did you let that happen to me?
• Why did you put me in the hospital?
• Why did you let trouble hit my home?
• Why did you let my job fizzle out?
• Why don’t you give me success and wealth like that unbelieving neighbour of mine?
• Why don’t you bless me with a mate for life?
• Why don’t you prevent birth defects and rape and crime?
I really don’t understand, and I am not sure if I trust, what you are doing.
Those are questions we have. We will also have questions which come because we are confused. They will begin with words like, “Lord You promised, but …”.
• You promised to be a relational God, but I don’t always feel part of Your family.
• You promised never to leave me, but I’m walking alone.
• You promised to answer prayer, but it’s not happening as I ask.
• You promised healing and strength, but my body is fading.
• You promised to spread Your Word with authority, but no one listens.
I’m don’t doubt You Lord but I am confused.
When those times come know that Jesus never says, “Stop asking questions”. Instead Jesus wants you to know that He has not abandoned you.
We will have troubles. The water in life’s boat can sometimes rise faster than we can bail it out – and we cry out to Jesus “Don’t You care?” Jesus cares, and when it’s time, from the back of the boat will come His command to the storm, “Peace, be still”.
We will face temptations. The times will comes when we said “yes” instead of “no” – and we cry out to Jesus “Didn’t You promise to give us the ability to resist”. Jesus did promise, as we lie in a crumpled heap of guilt, shame and failure He comes and says, “You are still My child“.
We look back on our lives only to see a string of sins, things we’ve done that we wish we could forget, but things which our consciences won’t let go – and we cry to Jesus, “Where is the hope I need?” Jesus comes, hands pierced and says, "My blood purifies you from all sin".
We look forward – the one thing we are sure to face is death. We don’t like it. We don’t want it. We fear what will happen – and we cry to Jesus, “Where is my eternal security”. Jesus comes … coming as One who has seen the inside of a tomb, and He says, "Because I live, you also will live".
These are the issues that produce the questions. These are the issues that stir the doubts. But as the issues come and the questions arise we do have a Saviour who keeps giving an answer – the answer He gave to Thaddaeus.
As we go through life we don’t go alone … Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, will come ... and make our home with You.
That may not be the exact answer we are looking for. But it is the only answer we need.