John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 8

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Light

As chapter 8 opens, we find Jesus once again locking horns with the Pharisees.  If this current debate sounds familiar, it is the same one we discussed in chapter 5 (vss. 31-47).  The Pharisees want witnesses to testify that Jesus says He is.  In this chapter, Jesus says:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The Pharisees rejected the light that Jesus is trying to give them, not only about His identity but also about their salvation and so, they remain in darkness.  Even though Jesus makes the point that not one of them could find fault in Him and He was guilty of no sin (“Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” [John 8:46 ESV]), they still did not believe His testimony about Himself, as if He was guilty of lying.  Once again, these people thought they knew all there was to know about Him just as they assumed they knew all they needed to know about God.  Jesus lets them know otherwise.

“Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also'” (John 8:19 ESV).

To know the Son is to know the Father.  To know the Father is to know the Son.  You cannot know one without the other.  And in verse 24 we find a crucial point of the whole gospel message:

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24 ESV).

Unless we choose to see the light, to believe in it, we will die in our sins.  We will die in darkness.

Truth vs. Lie

After Jesus says these things, many begin to believe in Him, but to believe is only the beginning:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31 ESV).

To know Jesus, to know the Light, is to know the truth.  The Jews respond, “But ‘we are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone’“(John 8:32 ESV).  How many times had Israel, these children of Abraham, been conquered by another nation?  And for what reason?

Jesus responds, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin“.

Ah, yes.  For that reason.

Everyone who practices sin is a slave to it.

These Jews were blind to their slavery.  Blind to what held them captive.  How about us? Are we ever held captive by sin?  Maybe when we don’t even see it?  Sometimes, we aren’t even aware of our bondage until we try to break free.

But there is hope.

“…the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36 ESV).

When Jesus frees us from sin, there is no going back.  We are free.  Completely and totally. We are not slaves anymore.  We are not children of a man like Abraham with an earthly inheritance.  We are heirs with Christ, children of God, with an eternal inheritance.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”(Rom. 8:14-15 ESV).

Amen.  We are free.

The Father of Lies

For the Jews, their whole identity was wrapped up in their claim in the inheritance of Abraham.  It was their right, their promise.  It was who they were.  And it was also what kept tripping them up over and over…

“They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did…'” (John 8:39 ESV).

The works Abraham did.  What works were those?

“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’  Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:2-5 ESV).

The works of Abraham? He believed.  In order to claim Abraham as their father (the one they follow), the Jews would have to believe.  Because they do not believe truth, they can only claim another “father”.

“You are of your father the devil, and… there is no truth in him…. for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV).

There is no other option.  You are either of God or the devil.

“They said to him, ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.’

Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here’” (John 8:41 ESV).

Because these Jews did not love the things that come from God, namely Jesus, they cannot claim to be of God and thus they can only be of the devil.

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47 ESV).

I Am…

Just as many conversations Jesus has with the Pharisees and the Jews this one escalates to a climax.  Those who are listening are beginning to get offended and often when that is the case people stop listening or wanting to listen.  Some even turn to insults.

“Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon!?” (John 8:48 ESV).

But Jesus doesn’t stop.  His interest doesn’t lie in bandaging bruised feelings or cushioning hurt egos.  His only interest is in the truth.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51 ESV).

Oh, what a wonderful promise! And yet often what is most encouraging to us post-resurrection proved the worst stumbling blocks to the poor Jews.  They cannot believe anyone can live forever.  Once again they are thinking in earthly terms.  Earthly inheritance.  Earthly life.

Everything comes to a head when Jesus says one of the most profound things in the book of John.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58 ESV).

I Am.

The words echo across all time and reverberate in the creation of the world.

Do you have goosebumps? I do!

There are several “I am’s…” in the gospel of John, but none of them have as much significance as this one.  And you can be sure, there would have been NO confusion among the Jews as to the meaning here.  They knew exactly what Christ meant.

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’  God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”‘” (Exodus 3:13-14 ESV).

Jesus was claiming deity itself.   He was claiming to be God!  Nothing is as important to us as this one fact.  Christ is God.  Fully and completely.  Only God would have the power to save us from the slavery of sin.  Only God could offer eternal life.

Only God.

And the response to this amazing revelation?

“So they picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59 ESV).

 

Heartbreaking.  And yet, is it any different today?

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 7

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Feasting in Tents

When chapter 7 of John opens, we find that it is time for another Jewish festival: the Feast of Booths.  This particular feast was a fun time for the Jews.  They lived in tents remembering the time when the Israelites lived in the wilderness and dwelt in tents.  The Feast of Booths is a time for celebration and thanksgiving for God’s provision.  Little did they know that they had something even better to celebrate and be grateful for living among them.

As everyone gets ready for the Feast, we see that Jesus’s household is also getting ready to go to the Feast in Jerusalem.  And then Jesus’s brothers make a statement in verse 3  and 4 that breaks my heart because of what it reveals about His own kin.

“So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world'” (John 7:3-4 ESV).

The next verse is the heart-breaker:

 “For not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5 ESV).

Not even His own brothers.  His family.  Those He had grown up with.  Not even them.

To see that not even His own brothers believed Him implies that He really did have an unremarkable childhood.  Nothing about Him pre-ministry (aside from His birth) even hinted that He was anything special, nevermind the Savior of mankind.

“For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2 ESV).

Jesus’s brothers, like many others, wanted Him to “prove” who He was with great signs.  The problem with “proving it” is that it negates faith.  It’s easy to believe in something when you have the proof in front of you.  In many of the stories of healing and such in John you can see that when Jesus chooses to do a sign, the faith has to come first, not the other way around.

Matthew Henry, a bible commentator, had this to say about Jesus’s family:

“It was an honor to be the kindred of Christ, by no saving honor; they that hear His word and keep it are the kindred He values.”

You would think that of all people, His own family should have believed in Him (especially considering all the events surrounding His birth…did they forget?).  Just being related to Christ did not mean much in the Kingdom of God.  It was faith that mattered and obedience driven by that faith.

I think what is interesting about Christ’s brothers is that where their fault lay is not in what they thought they knew about Christ, but in what they didn’t know about Him.  Growing up with Him, they thought they knew all there was to know about Jesus, but they allowed their familiarity with Him to trip them up, namely to mask His divinity with His humanity.  Do we often do that with God’s Word?  Have we too become too familiar with God or His Word that we think we know all there is to know?  What vast wealth of knowledge do we miss with this attitude?  Are we also missing our Savior altogether?

Do we often do that with God’s Word?  Have we too become too familiar with God or His Word that we think we know all there is to know?  What vast wealth of knowledge do we miss with this attitude?  Are we also missing our Savior altogether?  Something to think about.  We should never allow our familiarity with God blind us to what He reveals to us day by day.

Jesus does eventually go up to Judea for the Festival (however, He goes in secret, the opposite of what His brothers urged Him to do).  Even though Jesus refused to make a spectacle of Himself, He could not cease to be noticeably extraordinary, in spite of His ordinary childhood.

“The Jews therefore marveled…” (John 7:15 ESV)

Christ doesn’t seek to glorify Himself, but in His act of glorifying His Father, the Father glorifies Him.

Can This be the Christ?

Just like Jesus’s brother’s these Jews at the festival allow what they think they “know” get in the way of really knowing the Messiah.

But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from” (John 7:27 ESV).

On the last day of the Feast, Jesus makes a promise:

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”.’  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given,because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39 ESV)

Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with “living water” that continues to quench our thirst.  Thank God for that precious gift!

How does this contrast with Matthew 15:18-19?

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

Obviously, we want a heart filled with the Holy Spirit!

After all this at the feast, the people are once again divided.  Some believed in Him.  Some want to arrest Him.  And the Pharisees make an interesting statement:

“Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee” (John 7:52 ESV)

Not only are they allowing what the “know” trip them up, but interestingly enough, this statement is not exactly true.  Both Jonah (2 Kings 14:25) and Nahum (Nahum 1:1) and possibly Elijah (one of Israel’s most celebrated prophets) were all from Galilee.  It’s possible they meant no “current” prophet comes from Galilee or maybe they were not expecting one from come from Galilee or maybe they simply allowed their current prejudices towards Galilee to cloud their memories.  Either way, they were very proud in their “knowledge” forgetting that there is always more to learn.  The day we stop learning at the feet of the Messiah is the day we lose ourselves.

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 6

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Welcome back.  Once again we are blessed with another year. What better way to begin that year than by studying God’s Word?  In Chapter 6 we see some pretty astonishing things from Jesus in both word and deed.

Five Loaves and Two Fish – Lunch for a Crowd?

When Chapter 6 opens, there are crowds of people following Jesus.  Each one has his or her own agenda.  Some were coming to be healed.  Some came to watch Jesus heal.  Some came to learn more about this intriguing healer.  Whatever their motive for coming, there were over five thousand people striving to be with near this man.

Jesus decides the people need food to eat so instead of sending them away so that they might find food to eat, He turns to His disciples and asks them where they should buy food for them all.  Philip answers Him in the way I think most of us would.  “Feed all these people!? It would take thousands of dollars to feed all these people!”  None of the apostles were really what we would call rich, and even if they were, they probably would still not have enough money to buy food for so many people.

So why does Jesus ask this seemingly impossible task?  I believe sometimes Jesus asks the seemingly impossible of us so that He can perform the incredible.  Often we have a need to be reminded of our need for our God and Savior.  When all is going well, we can allow our need for Jesus to slip our mind.  It is only when we are faced with the seemingly impossible that we see our need for God.  Note that I said “seemingly”. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 ESV).

When Jesus takes the five loaves of bread and two fish and performs the incredible, He fulfills more than the physical need of hunger.  It would have been possible for Him to simply feed these people and send them on their way, but He also provides for them spiritual food, guidance.  “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Eze. 34:23 ESV).

Water Walking

After the crowds go away finally, Jesus sends His disciples in a boat ahead of Him so He can spend some much needed time in rest (a wonderful example for the need for renewal for the rest of us).  Jesus decides to go to the disciples while they were still on the water, but He doesn’t use conventional means to get to them (just like He did not use conventional means to feed the crowds).  He walks on the water.

The apostles are terrified.  Who but a ghost could walk on water?  And yet, Jesus calls out, “It is I; do not be afraid”.  Love drives out fear.  Christ’s love for us and our love for Him should be so consuming that there is no room for fear, only faith.

Living Bread

Once again, the crowds find Jesus and once again, they are seeking to be filled.  This time, it seems, there are more people there to see Jesus work and to get free food than there are seeking to learn from Him because He says “you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26 ESV).  These people had missed the purpose of the signs, to prove the character and identity of Christ, Himself, and to establish His purpose for coming, the salvation and redemption of mankind.  Any benefits, physical or otherwise, were only secondary to that specific purpose.  ”

We again see John’s juxtapositioning of the physical vs the spiritual, the good vs. the better, through Jesus.  The crowds were looking for physical fulfillment, Jesus is offering them much more.  To seek to fill one’s stomach is not wrong, we need food to survive, but it should not be the primary goal of life.

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst‘” (John 6:35 ESV).  Hmm, so if we follow Christ we will never be hungry?  Isn’t that why the crowd was following Him so that He could give them food?  Yet Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27 ESV).  Jesus wasn’t sent here to merely take care of our physical needs (but do not assume that He will not take care of those too, after all, many of His signs were physical benefits for His people).  Jesus was sent to provide for our spiritual welfare, the part of us that will endure forever.

We can read this passage with the benefit and insight of hindsight and later revelation.  But you have to admit, even with these aids, the statement, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” is a pretty radical one (John 6:35 ESV).  Can you imagine what you might have thought without your gift of hindsight if Jesus asked you to eat His flesh?  Honestly, I’d be a little creeped out and very confused.  Thankfully, through our hindsight and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we realize that what Jesus is really saying here is that we cannot have eternal life without Him.  He is the only way.  It is only through a hunger for more Jesus that we will be truly satisfied.

True Disciples

After all this discourse and hard sayings, many people turn away from Jesus.  The majority who turned away wasn’t because they disliked Jesus or His teachings, they simply didn’t understand.  Have you ever been turned off of Bible study or God because you couldn’t understand?  Maybe you couldn’t understand why God would allow certain events to happen.  Or maybe you couldn’t understand why God would ask certain things of you when they seem so hard and so against your “nature”.  And yet, where can you go for understanding?  Who has the answers?

The apostles had the right answer:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’,” (John 6: 66-69).  

Where can we go for answers if not to the Holy One of God?  Only His has the words of eternal life.