The following excerpt is from Finding I AM, a 6-session Bible study from best-selling author Lysa TerKeurst that explores the seven I AM statements of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. Find more information at lifeway.com/findingiam.
The Last Passover (John 12–13)
The next I AM statement is found in John 14. To get there, though, we need to keep up with the story and examine John 12–13.
If you are feeling ambitious today, go ahead and read chapters 12 and 13 to get the full story. If you don’t have time, no worries—I’ve summarized it in the bullet points below.
- Six days before Passover, Jesus goes to Bethany for a dinner party in His honor.
- At that dinner party, Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) anoints Jesus’ feet with costly perfume.
- Judas feels like this is wasteful. Jesus rebukes Judas.
- Jesus rides into Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, on a donkey, with palm branches at His feet.
- Jesus predicts His own death.
- Jesus reminds the crowd that He is the Light of the world.
- Jesus’ last supper with the disciples.
- Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, including the feet of Judas. He commands His disciples to do the same type of service for others.
- Jesus tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him, and it turns out to be Judas. Judas leaves into the night.
- Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows.
The clock seems to speed up here. The critical hour is upon us. Can you feel the tension?
Read John 12:9-19. Why did the crowds flock to Jesus this time?
I feel like I am part of that crowd sometimes too. I come to see Jesus but I also want to experience the blessings of His hands. I come for both reasons. And I’m convicted. I come for Jesus plus something else. What are some of your Jesus-plus items?
I wonder why we don’t feel like Jesus is enough. Even from the garden we see this. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. They had all of their physical needs met. They had the relationship and love of God at their literal fingertips, and yet, their hearts were drawn to more. The crafty serpent interjects a thought that captivates Eve. The thought of “being like God” (Gen. 3:5). Ultimately, our desire to be like God stems from unbelief. We don’t believe God is who He says He is. We don’t believe He is sufficient, and because of our lack of trust, we wander and look to other things or our ability to provide what we don’t think God will.
You are not alone if this is you. But by recognizing our lack of trust and bringing it to the light we can be reminded that in Jesus we truly have all we need and all we could ever want or desire.
Write a prayer of confession to God and ask Him to help you long most of all for Jesus.
Let’s read Old Testament prophecy about the king riding in on a donkey.
Read Zechariah 9:9-10.
The Book of Zechariah was written after the Jewish people returned from their exile in Babylon. It was written in two parts. The first part (chapters 1-8) was written around October/November 520 B.C. (Zech. 1:1). The second part (chapters 9-14) don’t give us an exact date, but the writing would have been around 475 B.C. Jesus was born between 4 and 6 B.C. and then this prophecy wasn’t fulfilled until this moment when Jesus was 33 years old.
For me all this math stuff is hard, but try to calculate how many years it was between this prophecy in Zechariah and when Jesus fulfilled it. The answer is 507-509 years. FIVE HUNDRED YEARS of an unfulfilled promise.
According to John 12:16, when did they realize what all this meant?
Zechariah never saw the fruit of the prophecy. And the disciples didn’t see the meaning of what Jesus did here until much later. This information helps me when I start to struggle with the timing of circumstances in my own life. I often want to see the good God promises right now, but sometimes God’s good answer is “not yet.” There is a timing to everything. You may be living under a promise of God, but not yet see the fruit of that promise. You may be praying for something that has not happened yet and maybe even see no hope of it ever coming to pass. Though we may not understand, we must trust God’s timing is perfect.
God, even in those situations, is still very much at work. Even in the silence. Even in the unknown. Even when you can’t see anything on the horizon.
In what specific situation do you sense God might be at work even if you can’t yet see the results?
When my grown daughters were teenagers I wanted them to want Jesus most of all in their hearts. But there was a season where I wondered if this would ever come to pass. A season where I cried myself to sleep most nights. A season full of worry and pain. And it certainly didn’t help when I got an anonymous letter.
I opened the letter and my heart sank. It was from another mom who wanted to make sure I had a list of all the ways one of my daughters was falling short. There in black and white she listed my daughter’s mistakes, shortcomings, and frailties. And then just to make sure I took her nameless letter seriously, she informed me she’d be sending a copy to my pastor.
My initial reaction was figure out who sent this so I could call her. Talk this through face-to-face. My aching heart wanted to assure her I was not only aware of some struggles my daughter was having but also working diligently to help her course correct. But as I reread the letter, I discerned it wasn’t sent from a place of love for my family or a heart that wanted to help. From the language she used and the fact that there wasn’t a way to contact her, it was obvious she didn’t send it because she wanted the best for my daughter.
I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.
It’s so hard to have someone attack you in an area that’s already rubbed raw with hardship. Her letter was like a bullet straight to my heart. However, it was also a wake-up call to get more intentional in praying for my daughter. I thought about her struggles a lot. I talked about her struggles. I worried about her struggles.
But thinking about, talking about, and worrying about something is not the same as praying about it. I determined to turn this letter that felt like a bullet into a blessing by using it as a catalyst to ramp up my prayer life.
Through my tears I cried out to the Lord, “I will not sacrifice Your grace for my child on the altar of people’s opinions. Of course I want my daughter to walk the straight and narrow path of great choices. But I trust You Lord to write her testimony. My main goal for her is not behavior modification but total heart transformation. I want her to want You, Lord, and Your best for her life. And God help me trust Your timing. I want things to be fixed with her right now. But, even more, I want You to fix things the best way. I realize that may take time. Give me the courage to not just pray about my daughter but to pray her all the way through this.”
Praying her through the ups and downs wasn’t easy. There were days I wondered if God was even hearing my prayers.
It’s tough to pray someone all the way through a messy, hard, complicated situation and not see answers. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there now.
Is there a similar situation you’re going through right now? Can I speak hope into your heart with three ways to press through unanswered prayers?
1. Know with confidence God hears your prayers.
First John 5:14 reminds us: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Write out how this encourages you.
2. Trust that prayer makes a difference, even when you don’t see the difference.
It may take a while for you to see God answer your prayers. But don’t miss an “in the meantime answer” you can receive right away. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us of the immediate answer to every prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When you pray, you can trust you are doing your part and God will certainly do His part. What will guard your heart and mind in the process? Write out how this encourages you.
3. Tell fear it has no place in this conversation.
These prayers are your gateway to feel an assurance you don’t see yet. But fear will beg you to focus on the problem more than God’s promises. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Write out how this verse encourages you.
It’s been several years since I got that hard letter that prompted more frequent prayers for my daughter. Only a few months into her freshman year at college, I went to go visit her and could hardly believe my eyes. She was a completely different girl.
At one point during our time together, I asked her, “What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?” She said, “Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to do devotions was unrealistic, prayer meetings were boring, and listening to praise music excessive. But as I kept doing these things, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of truth, I had so much more joy.”
She then paused and said words I’ve longed to hear and prayed to hear for so long, “Mom, I’ve just completely fallen in love with Jesus.”
I can hardly type those words without crying.
Here’s my plea to you in this situation: Trust Him. When you are tempted to give up or stop trusting—don’t. He is still at work even if we can’t see it at this moment in time.
Last thing for today—read John 12:37-41.
These verses are both convicting and troubling to me. But can I offer a piece of encouragement? There are some passages of God’s Word meant to convict and trouble us. This is a function of Scripture. These people who had been following Jesus and saw Him perform miracle after miracle still didn’t believe Him. They could not accept His words even though they had seen His miraculous hand.
So, with that in mind, here is my final plea for the day. Don’t forget what Jesus has done in your life thus far. Take a moment to remember some of the works of His hands and thank Him for it. Write down what He has done in your life and how you’ve seen Him work. I promise, tracing the hand of God in your life like this is good for your soul.