Discerning The Hour

December, 2009

John 12:20-27

The setting is Jerusalem. Jesus has come with His disciples to celebrate Passover with them for the last time. Certain Greeks, possibly Greek gentiles (proselytes), have also travelled to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Jews, and they wish to have an audience with Jesus. They approach Philip who approaches Andrew and together the two disciples have come to Jesus on behalf of the Greeks. The potential for Jesus’ ministry to spread beyond Israel is, at that moment, enormous. His gospel and teachings could be about to be taken by these Greeks far beyond the boundaries of the small geographical area Jesus and His disciples have so far been able to cover. As they approached Jesus, Philip and Andrew must have at least had in mind the possibilities such a meeting between Jesus and the Greeks could bring about.

But Jesus’ response is unexpected to say the least. There will be no meeting with the Greeks. Jesus has something else on His mind that eliminates all previous assumptions about Him. Totally in touch with His Father, fully led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus has discerned a dramatic change in the spiritual hour.

“The hour has come”, He tells them, “that the Son of Man should be glorified.” On two previous occasions, according to John’s gospel, authorities could not lay hands on Jesus because “his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30, John 8:20), but in John 13:1 we suddenly read “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come…..”. He goes on to state “If anyone serves me let Him follow Me, and where I am, there My servant will be also” (John:12:26). Yesterday He had received people. Yesterday He had spoken privately with people. Yesterday He had patiently shared Who He was and why He had come. Today, however, He will not be doing such things. Today the hour has changed and the option to stand on the sidelines considering Jesus and His words has suddenly been removed. Today, in this new hour, the only option is to follow.

We see the same spiritual principle at work when we look into the lives of some of Jesus best known disciples. Mark 1:16-20 details the calling of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. We are told that when Jesus called them, Simon and Andrew ‘immediately left their nets and followed Him”. James and John also “immediately…. left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after Him.” Similarly, Levi, (also known as Matthew) “left all, rose up and followed Him” immediately Jesus passed by and called him (Mark 2:14). Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John had no doubt been trained as fishermen from when they were very young boys. The fishing business was not only their family’s lifestyle but also their livelihood. Levi was a wealthy tax collector with his own office and the support of both Herod and the Romans. Yet the Bible tells us each of them immediately “left all” to follow Jesus.

Yesterday they were a fisherman or a tax collector with a steady income, good reputation, a well established future and family support. But today they have ‘left all’ to follow an itinerant Jewish rabbi of disputable birth, questionable reputation and unknown future. It’s one thing to ‘leave all’ and follow when ordinary life is difficult and every day brings new uncertainties and serious challenges. It’s quite another thing to ‘leave all’ and follow when life is going smoothly and the future looks bright and certain. We don’t know how many people Jesus called to follow Him as He walked along the shores and through the towns of Galilee. We have assumed He only called those who are recorded, yet elsewhere He clearly stated “many are called, few are chosen.” One thing we can know for sure, these ones who left all to follow Him sensed a new hour was upon them.

There is , prophetically speaking, a deep sense within many in the Bride of Christ that the hour has changed. “What now Lord?” is a phrase I am hearing spoken more and more frequently in various forms. A growing spiritual restlessness is birthing within us a sense of anticipation for something we are not yet sure of. We are sensing change. A radical new hour is rising on us that will bring excitement and fulfilment, but also unexpected and unknown challenges. Like riding the rapids of a wild river never sure what’s going to be around the next bend, we have committed to the ride and there’s no turning back.

Is this changing in the spiritual hour merely a sign we are drawing close to the end of another year and entering a new decade? Can it be due to the immense historical and environmental upheavals we can see happening all around us in politics, weather and religion? Possibly in part, but I believe these tremendous external changes are simply the manifestations on earth of a new hour already decreed in Heaven.

Interestingly, timepieces have taken on a new significance for me lately. I have a watch I purchased only two months ago but it keeps telling me the wrong time. A brand new battery has been inserted to no avail. Habitually I continue to put this watch on my wrist every morning, but half way through the day I will invariably look down at it and discover it’s giving me the wrong hour. If I want to know the real time I need to go look at our electric clock that will give me the precise hour and minute. I have another little clock that was a gift from my sister several years ago and I have always treasured it. Some time ago it stopped altogether and, again assuming the battery had run out, I inserted a new one. The clock still didn’t go. Two days ago my husband asked me what was wrong with my clock and I told him it no longer works even though it has a new battery. Deciding to investigate, he found I had simply inserted the battery the wrong way round. He fixed it and it now gives the right time. These stories may seem irrelevant and even humorous, but to me they prophetically illustrate how very easy it is for us to rely on things that have always worked for us in the past, when in reality God is moving in a totally new and different direction.

Are we aware of the hour we are entering? Are we discerning that great changes are at hand and are we prepared to make the life-changing decisions this new hour will demand of us? When the King says “no more business as usual”, who of us will see and hear? When the Spirit suddenly changes direction midstream, who will be wise enough to discern? And how many will be courageous enough to follow?

We read in Matthew 19:27 of a day when Simon Peter cried out to Jesus “See, we have left all and followed You! Therefore what shall we have?” History tells us Simon Peter was crucified in Rome. History also tells us the Apostle John was the only one of the twelve who did not suffer martyrdom but died a natural death. Each of them equally followed Jesus to the end. The outcome of our individual journeys cannot always be known to us. What is paramount is not the individual pathway we follow, but the following. But if we are not already following close enough to discern the shifting of the hour, how then will we follow further?

The hour is indeed changing…..rapidly. This is not a comfortable time. Nor is it a time to stand on the sidelines considering our options. If we have not yet decided to ‘leave all and follow’, whatever the cost, then perhaps we have made our decision. We are either of those who stand and watch or those who follow. There is no more middle ground.

Discerning the hour is no longer something to leave to the prophets; it is a vital responsibility of every disciple who has determined to follow Jesus sincerely and wholeheartedly. It is quite possible, likely even, that where we are going will not look like what we want or imagine it to look like. Any assumptions we are still carrying about our King, His Kingdom, or each other will most certainly be stripped from us along the way. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, but methods, ministries and priorities change according to Heaven’s agenda and timetable. And surely that, for us, is the only agenda and timetable we dare trust as we continue this ever narrowing journey?

“Where I am there My servant will be also.”

Cheryl McGrath
Great South Land Ministries

This article may be freely copied or forwarded in full without omission or alteration. Copyright Great South Land Ministries, Australia