John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 14

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Now we come to John Chapter 14.  Still in the quiet, intimate presence of Jesus in the upper room with His disciples, friends, sharing one last meal before His death.  How blessed are we to share these last moments with the Christ and the disciples.  The words spoken in this room are full of importance and hope.  In Chapter 13 Jesus had ended with some troubling news, “one of you will betray me” and “where I am going you cannot go”.  Yet Chapter 14 begins with some encouraging words: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 ESV).  Jesus knows that the coming events are going to be world-changing and not at all encouraging, at first.  He wants to encourage the apostles.  The word here in the Greek is tarasso. The word means “to be agitated, shaken, to allow one’s calm/peace to be taken away”. This is in contrast to verse 27: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  What the world gives to us can be taken away from us.  The peace Jesus gives, cannot be taken away.

The end of verse one gives them the “how” of the “let not your hearts be troubled”: “Believe“.  We can allow other things in the world to crowd in and cloud our peace, but nothing can steal it from us if we believe.  Believe in God and believe in Christ.  So much water will be under the bridge before the disciples meet with Christ again and Jesus wants to encourage them to remain faithful in spite of current appearances.

And what is encouraging to the apostles here has and will encourage so many others throughout the years. When times are troubling, we don’t have to let our hearts be troubled either.  Our solution is the same as it was for the apostles, “believe“. Our faith in God and Jesus can be our strongest weapon when battling the woes of life and our strongest hope in the storm.  God is faithful and will not forsake us. And the peace of Jesus is ours.

Jesus then tells the apostles that He is going to prepare a special place that the apostles may come to dwell with Him.  Jesus dwelled with us for a short time, a few decades, but in the place Jesus prepares, we will dwell with Him for eternity.  Interesting thought, Jesus prepares a place for us and then he prepares us for the place.  How blessed are we to be allowed to walk with our Savior through life toward the place He prepares specially for us?

Verse 6 gives us the statement that kind of wraps up the “how do we get there” question:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:4 ESV).

Let’s break this down.  Jesus is the way to the Father.  There simply is no other way.  No works, no faith, no great holiness or righteousness.  Nothing or no one allows us access to the Father except Jesus.

Jesus is the truth.  Any other gospel preached is a lie.  Any other hope of eternal life is false.  Jesus is the only way and the only truth.

Jesus is the life.  Only God can give life.  In the garden, God breathed life.  Jesus died for life.  Eternal life.  Only the eternal God can offer eternal life.

Then, follows the “what do we need to do” question. The answer to this question is so important that Jesus repeats it at least 4 times, and we have already discussed that if something is repeated in the bible, we better pay attention.  Especially, if it is God Himself repeating it.

  • Verse 12 says “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do”
  • Verse 15 says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
  • Verse 21 says “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
  • Verse 23 says “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”

Notice a theme here?  Belief, faith, in Jesus isn’t just in word.  Lip service will not get us to the place Jesus left to prepare.  Jesus wants us to do what He says.  As a parent and you give a command to your child, you expect it to be followed through.  If you are a boss in an office and you give an employee a task, you expect it to be done.  Jesus is no different.  He expects His disciples, His followers, to follow.

But what is maybe unique to commands Jesus gives as opposed to those you may give to a child or employee, Jesus doesn’t ask anything of us that He did not do Himself.  Christ was the ultimate example.  Everything He commands of us we can look in His life and see the fulfillment and execution of those commands.  He doesn’t ask us to endure anything that He Himself was not willing to endure.  Isn’t that comforting?  Isn’t it much easier to walk a path if we know that someone has already tread that path and know he made it safely to the other side?  And, as a final example, Jesus says “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31 ESV).  How does the world know His love, our love?  By obedience. Not words. Deeds.

And not only do we have the peace of Jesus to guide us, Jesus promises a Helper.  The Advocate. The Counseler.  There are many names He goes by. But whatever His name, His job is clear.  The Holy Spirit is sent to help us.  And oh do we need help!!  This is huge!  Only because Christ came and left do we have God dwelling among us again, not only among us but in us!  The Holy Spirit, God, comes to dwell within us.  We know of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament through the prophets, but never has He come to dwell in the hearts of all His people.  People like you and me.  We may never do great feats like Moses or Elijah, but we will never be insignificant because we have God Himself living inside us and God never does anything slight.

Chapter 14 ends on a dark note just as Chapter 13 does: “the ruler of this world is coming” (John 14:30 ESV).  Jesus knows that the “end” is coming, but we know that the end is just the beginning.  Even so, Jesus gives His apostles hope, something to looks forward to in the future when it seems hope has come to an end.  Jesus acknowledges Satan as the “ruler of this world”.  Never underestimate the power of Satan here on this earth.  But equally so, do not underestimate the overwhelming power of our Savior.  Jesus says “He has no claim on me” (John 14:30 ESV).  Satan never took anything from God that God didn’t allow Him to have, including His Son.  None of the events that we are leading up to would have happened if God had not allowed it to happen.  When it seems that evil has the upper hand in your life, always remember, your Savior is stronger.  Your Savior is alive and well in spite of what Satan tried to do to Him and it is He that fights for you, alongside you.  You are not alone.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

Amen. Amen.

 

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John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 13

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Here we are again.  It’s been almost a year since my last post.  I cannot say the pause was entirely intentional, but maybe it was needed.  Now I feel a revival is needed. So here I am.  Instead of trying a new study, I wanted to pick up where I left off and finish what I started in John. All other posts in this particular series can be found in the study index.

A Servant’s Heart

We are continuing in John chapter 13.  Chapter 12 set the stage for us, we are in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Feast.  In the last chapter, Jesus was being hailed as a king, and yet look where we find him at the beginning of Chapter 13.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 3:3-5 ESV).

This scene is a very intimate glimpse into our Savior’s heart.  We’re going to pause within this moment. Take in the scene, picture ourselves in this room with the Christ at our feet. What would you feel, what would you say?  I have a feeling that I would be quite tongue-tied and embarrassed. This is the Lord! What is He doing?

Jesus knew he was about be crucified.  He knew that the things he did before his death would be important to his followers after his death.  They would be the things they would remember afterward.  Jesus had just been hailed as a king, but instead of teaching the apostles how to take advantage of power and prestige, he teaches them how to humble themselves and serve.  To be proper leaders, to be true disciples of the Master, they must learn to serve.

This wasn’t the first time that Jesus tried to teach the apostles the importance of an attitude of humble servitude.  Earlier Jesus made the statement:

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45 ESV).

This attitude seems so counterintuitive in our society.  How could anyone get anywhere by simply being humble and serving people?  If you have power, you should take advantage of it, right?  I wonder if the apostles were thinking the same thing.

Peter was definitely thinking something different than what Christ intended.  Peter was appalled.

“Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet’.” (John 13:8 ESV).

Well! Peter often seems to speak before he fully thinks things through.  He means to show Jesus honor by refusing to allow his Master to do a servant’s work, but to refuse to obey is an insult to Jesus’s authority.  Jesus explains to him that to refuse to be washed is to refuse Christ, Himself.  Of course, Peter then swings way around the other way and requests to be washed all over.  At least he does everything wholeheartedly, he’s either all in or all out.  But he doesn’t quite understand.  Jesus realizes this:

“Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand’.” (John 13:7 ESV).

Can you relate?  How often when we are in the midst of the storm do we want to cry out to God, “What are you doing, Lord”?  I wonder how many times God echoes the very words of Christ, “You do not understand now, but afterward you will”.

Even though serving others may not come as naturally to some as it does others, even if we don’t understand, this instruction comes with a promise (as do many of God’s commands).

 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17 ESV).

When you are preparing to serve another you might be tempted to think that they are receiving all the benefits.  That simply isn’t true.  The one serving is often just as blessed by the token as the one being served.  It is so soul-satisfying to serve another and you never know when that deed may be returned to you when you most need it.  A servant is blessed indeed.

A Betrayer’s Heart

Immediately after this lesson, “Jesus was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21 ESV).  He knows that there is one among them that must betray Him.  What would you do in Jesus’s place?  Would you allow Judas to remain in your midst if you knew what he was?  Jesus knew the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. He knew He had to die.  But it must have been pretty hard to look Judas in the eye when He knelt to wash His feet.  What does it say about the all-encompassing love Jesus had for His followers that He never treated Judas any differently than the rest? He still washed his feet.  He still served.  Would we do the same?  Imagine kneeling to serve one in who’s eyes you could just see the deceit.

But Jesus points Judas out with a piece of bread, breaking bread with His betrayer.  Then something terrifying happens:

“Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him” (John 13:28 ESV).

Satan entered Judas.  That gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.  Imagine being so far removed from God that we allow Satan, himself, into our hearts to actually dwell there.  We are meant to be GOD’S dwelling place, not Satan’s.  Judas, either knowingly or unknowingly, had not given himself fully to God and in doing so gave himself over to Satan.  Whatever good might have been in Judas before, it has now been taken over.

And Jesus doesn’t even try to stop Judas, He simply tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  It is so heartwrenching to lose one of your own loved ones to Satan.  Imagine the grief Jesus had to feel in this moment when He knew that He know longer had influence over His friend.  In this moment, Judas was lost, no turning back, he had become Satan’s instrument to bring an end to Christ. There are just no words for the emotions encompassed in this scene…

And I am completely amazed that this moment was only shared between Christ and Judas, the rest of the apostles were still completely clueless.  Even though Jesus specifically said “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread” and then hands the bread to Judas, the apostles somehow miss that Judas is walking out to turn Jesus in.

“Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor” (John 13:29 ESV).

In moments like these, we in our blessed hindsight want to shout “HOW COULD YOU MISS THAT!?” And yet we are told that some things were hidden from the apostles understanding until God’s specific timing (i.e. Luke 18:34).  If they completely understood, they may have tried to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His purpose and where would we be today if they had succeeded?

“And it was night”… (John 13:30 ESV).  Fitting words to end a scene that seems to end in darkness.

A “New” Commandment

After Judas leaves, Jesus chooses this moment to give them a “new” commandment.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

Is this really a “new” commandment?  Not really, but Jesus redefined the meaning of love.  The Mosaic law taught the Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself”, but it was Jesus who defined what that neighbor looked like and even encouraged His disciples to love their enemies.  Love is what defines a disciple of Christ.  Love is what defines the church.  And it is so radically different than anything that will ever be found in the world.  This love is selfless, serving, patient, humble, kind, generous, never seeking its own.

Ever give any thought to why Jesus might have brought this particular point up at this time?  The disciples might have been oblivious to the fact that Judas was about to betray his Lord, but Jesus wasn’t.  Maybe He knew that bitter feelings and feelings of revenge were about to run rampant through the hearts of the apostles because of the events that were about to happen.  Not only would the apostles be asked to forgive Judas for his actions, but also all the other things that others were about to do to their Lord.  It would be really easy to harbor hate and revenge during these events.  Jesus was reminding them to remember who they are and what their focus is.  There are many

There are many things that happen in our lives that can challenge our passion and focus as followers of Christ, but Jesus says that there is only one thing that separates us from the world regardless of our circumstances and that is our unconditional love.

When the Cock Crows

Chapter 13 ends with Jesus predicting Peter’s denial.  Know what I think is often more heartbreaking than deliberate rebellion against God?  It’s actually setting out to do what’s right and then failing.  I HATE failing God.  Poor Peter.  He’s so intent on following Christ, even to death.  Yet Christ says even he will deny knowing Him.  None of us are perfect.  But thankfully for us, God’s grace is.  And thanks to the events coming up in the following chapters, that grace covers all of us.

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 12

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The Anointing of the King

When chapter 11 ended, we were saying goodbye to a freshly risen Lazarus.  At the opening of chapter 12, we are in Bethany yet again six days before Passover.  Jesus is at a dinner once again with His friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Lazarus is reclining at the table with Jesus, Martha is serving (of course), and where is Mary? At the feet of Jesus! While Jesus and the others eat, Mary brings a very expensive bottle of perfume and pours it over Jesus and wipes the excess off with her hair.  Talk about devotion!  This wasn’t an act that she could hide either, aside from being visible to everyone at the table, the sweet smell of her actions filled the whole house.

Not everyone was impressed with Mary’s actions.  We don’t really know much about any of the apostles aside from maybe Peter, but every time we run into Judas, we are left with a bad taste in our mouths.  I often wonder if he really was as bad as we tend to portray him or if there really were some good intentions in there somewhere.  After all, he was following Jesus.  However, here he is not only described as the one who was about to betray Jesus, but also as a thief! Judas complains about Mary’s act, denouncing it as wasteful: “the money could have gone to the poor”.  John unmasks Judas’s true intentions as not caring at all for the poor but rather for his own purse.  This isn’t the only time that we will see that greed seems to get the better of friend Judas.

We want to condemn wicked Judas here, but what about us?  Do we sometimes sneer at other’s offerings to Christ not because the offerings are unworthy or unacceptable but simply because we are greedy or jealous?  Maybe someone does something better than you, but instead of being happy and praising God for their talent, we ridicule because we secretly wish that we could do something similar?  Or maybe someone else is getting the recognition that you think you deserve?  Something to think about…

Jesus rebukes Judas and tells him to leave Mary alone, that she is preparing him for burial.  Yet another hint at things to come, which is also misunderstood at the current time only to be remembered later on.

Just after this, we read a little aside that because the raising of Lazarus was so convincing of Jesus’s cause, the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus also and thus try to end his damaging testimony toward who Jesus really was.

Hosanna to the King of Kings

The very next day, John says, Jesus went on to Jerusalem from Bethany and the crowds heard that He was coming.  They got ready to welcome Him as before, but this time, it wasn’t any ordinary welcome.

“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'” (John 12:13 ESV).

I don’t think there is a coincidence that John juxtaposes Christ’s “anointing” and His entry into Jerusalem with the people hailing Him as King.  Christ is God’s anointed, the chosen One of Israel, the eternal King.

John says the reason these crowds were there and acting such was because of the testimony of those who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus.  Like the chief priests feared, this testimony was very damaging to them and their desire to defraud and humiliate Jesus.

“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him'” (John 12:19 ESV).

An interesting thing to note here is that even before the true establishment of the new covenant, Greeks (read “Gentiles”) were seeking Jesus.  When His disciples question Him about this, He makes another reference to His coming ordeal and then says “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV).  I want to say that when Jesus says “anyone” here, He is including the Greeks that are seeking Him out.  Even before His death, Jesus makes an effort to imply that He came to save all humanity, not just a select minority anymore.

Lifted Up

Jesus attempts once again to give people a glimpse of upcoming events.  This time, He even gets a thundering confirmation from Heaven.

“‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”‘ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said,’An angel has spoken to him’.” (John 12:27-29 ESV).

It’s encouraging to note Jesus’s determined resolution here.  He knows what is going to happen soon, but He is determined to face whatever lies ahead for the glory of His Father.  May we have the same resolution!  It is also interesting to note that “save me from this hour” is fairly close to what Jesus prays in the garden just before His betrayal.  Just because we are resigned to something doesn’t necessarily mean that we look forward to it.

Even after all this, there were still some who did not believe Christ.

“Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

‘He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them’” (John 12:39-40 ESV).

However, many did believe, and yet even these did not publically claim him because they were afraid of what people might say.  Oh, how like people today!

“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.  For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me’” (John 12:44-50 ESV).

There is only one way to eternal life, that’s through Christ, Himself.

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 11

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Greater Love Has No Man

The gospel writer John does such a beautiful job painting a picture of the human side of Jesus, the one with whom we can relate, while still maintaining the deity of Christ.  In chapter 11 John gives us a very personal glimpse into Jesus’s life.  On an interesting side note, John is the only one who records this story.

When chapter 11 opens, Jesus receives a message from some close friends of His concerning a man named Lazarus (we know they are close because they are mentioned more than once, Jesus visits them often, and Lazarus is referred to as “he whom you love”).  Lazarus is sick.  We know this isn’t just a simple cold since Mary and Martha found it necessary to seek Jesus out wherever He was in order to tell him of it.

Even though this is a serious illness, Jesus remains where He is for two more days.  We might not understand why Jesus made this decision, but if there is anything we have learned about Him so far it is that Jesus works with purpose.  He is keenly aware of God’s timing and regardless of personal preference, works within that timing and purpose.  This illness of Lazarus, like the blind man’s infirmity in chapter 9, is going to be used for the glory of God.

Now, Jesus had been avoiding Jerusalem and the area surrounding it because of the enmity between Him and the religious rulers in Jerusalem.  However, when He discovers Lazarus is ill, He risks His life to go to be with His friends.  Later on, He makes this statement:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).

Jesus constantly puts His life on the line for others.  His love and compassion are so great that there is never a thought for Himself, only for others and the mission of His Father.  What an amazing example for us!

This illness of Lazarus costs him his life when Jesus finally decides to go to Bethany.  Interesting enough, when the disciples are certain that death awaits them all in Jerusalem their attitude is summed up in “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 ESV).  And yet, in the Garden when Christ is arrested and death is coming, they desert Him.

By the time Jesus makes it to Bethany, Lazarus has been buried for four days.  At this point, people have lost all hope.  The consensus held by most is “If You had been here…” things would have been different, but now…

The thing is, it’s never “too late” for God.  Nothing is too far gone, too lost for God to redeem, for Him to restore.  After all, isn’t that the underlying message of the love story of the Bible?  We were a people too far gone, hopeless on our own, yet God breathed new life into all of us through Christ.  And how glorious is that life!

I Am…

Martha, the sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus as He arrives in Bethany.  Jesus explains to Martha that all hope is not lost and that Lazarus will live again.  Her reaction is similar to what our’s might be if we were told something like that:

“Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day'” (John 11:24 ESV).

But Jesus has something to teach here:

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?'” (John 11:15 ESV).

Martha says she believes, but I think she had a similar dilemma we have sometimes, we want to believe, but don’t really know what it is that we are believing.

When Jesus heads to Lazarus’s tomb, there are many people around Him all mourning the death of Lazarus.  Even though Jesus knows what is going to happen, He is overcome with emotion and He weeps.  “Jesus wept” may be the shortest verse in the whole Bible, yet it is so full of meaning, it could fill volumes.  Jesus was not just a detached observer with eyes only for His agenda.  He was (and still is!) a part of the lives around Him and He cared for them just as deeply or more so than the rest of us.  How encouraging to see this side of Jesus, the Savior who not only knows of our hurts but also hurts with us.

All of this culminates in Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb.  Death has no hold over those who are in Christ.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Without Him there is only death.

The Plot Thickens

Raising Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead for four days was an extremely powerful sign in establishing Jesus’s identity and Who sent Him, which you can probably guess was pretty worrying for religious rulers among the Jews.  This act was one of the final straws that “broke the camel’s back”.  They now fully intend to get rid of this Jesus once and for all.  Because of this, Jesus has to return to out of the way places for a while until the right time for Him to fulfill His mission.  Remember, it’s all about timing…

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 10

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The Lord is my Shepherd

When chapter 10 opens, Jesus is still conferring with the Pharisees over the blind man he had just healed.  At the end of chapter 9, Jesus tells these Pharisees that they are all blind, in chapter 10, He begins to explain what they are blind to.

Jesus loved to speak in metaphor and parable, and this time is no different.  Jesus begins to reference God’s people as sheep.  Nowadays, calling someone a sheep has a negative connotation, but here Jesus is not being negative at all.  God’s people are meant to follow Jesus like a sheep follows a shepherd.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1 ESV).

Anyone who is not the Shepherd (Christ) who sneaks into the fold is only there to harm the sheep and lead them away from the Shepherd.  Anyone who does indeed follow such a person does so at their own peril.

Christ lists attributes that we can follow to know our Shepherd:

  1. The sheep hear His voice.  Not only do they hear, but they heed His voice: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22 ESV).
  2. He knows the sheep by name.  They are precious to them, each of them, that He calls each by name.
  3. The sheep follow Him: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24 ESV).
  4. He willingly lays down His life for the sheep: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16 ESV).

Jesus eludes here to “other sheep”.  Even here He refers to the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.  Our Shepherd isn’t picky about what type of sheep follow Him, He only asks that we do.  One flock, one Shepherd.

Just Tell Us Plainly

A little later, Jesus has another conversation with the Jews.  Although the Jews would have been used to metaphor and parables since they were a popular form of teaching at that time, they often get tired of Jesus’s way of speaking.  Here they demand:

“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24 ESV).

Many times the Jews would get fed up with Jesus’s way of teaching, but when Jesus did actually give a straight answer, they rarely liked it.  How like humans! We only want to hear what we want to hear, not always what we need to hear.

When Jesus gives them their answer this time: “I and the Father are one“, the Jews pick up stones to stone Him (John 10:30 ESV). Is it any wonder why Jesus would choose to speak in metaphors in the first place?  I know I would be reluctant to speak plain truth if I knew it would get me killed.  But even though Jesus knows that what He will say will not be accepted by these people, He gives them what they ask for anyway.  God’s truths are always there for us, it is up to us whether or not we choose to accept them.

Once again, Jesus riles up the people and once again He escapes them.  Why?  His time has not yet come.  With God, timing is everything.  I’d love to know how He did escape though…

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 9

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Who Sinned?

Interesting question.  Haven’t all sinned?  Yet, that is not what the disciples had in mind when they asked this question of Jesus after encountering a man who had been blind from birth in John 9:2.  The disciples were of the common Jewish belief that suffering was a direct result of sin against God.  They weren’t entirely off-base on this assumption since the reason we have suffering at all is because of sin in the world.  There are also many verses in the Old Testament that pronounce people with diseases or maladies such as blindness as “unclean” and unworthy to approach God and such maladies were often punishments from God for sin.

However, there are examples in Scripture of suffering that was not a direct result of any sin on the part of the sufferer.  Remember Job?  He lost everything he owned including his health, not because he was sinning, but because he was doing something right!

Or how about Jesus Himself?  He suffered much being blameless of sin Himself.  What is the point of such suffering?

Verse 3 of chapter 9 gives us a hint:

“Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’.” – John 9:3 ESV

Sometimes, God allows hardship and suffering so that He can reveal His greater glory and mercy in our lives.  Without the suffering of the blind man, he would have never felt the mercy of God in his life or been an example as he was able to do when Christ healed him.  Without the suffering of Christ, none of us would have been saved.

Who is Really Blind Here?

Once again, the Pharisees have an objection to the healing that Christ brings to this man, their excuse again being that Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  Really, what better day to receive the blessings of God than on the day devoted to Him?

Because the Pharisees object, they begin to give the “third degree” to the poor formerly-blind man.  They weren’t interested in learning more about Jesus because they liked him, they were looking for “dirt” to use against Him.

This can happen to us sometimes when we are sharing our faith.  People ask us questions not because they want to learn, but because they want to trap us or make us stumble.  These kinds of questions or people can discourage us but in spite of such opposition, we are urged to:

“always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” – 1 Peter 3:15 ESV

I love the final testimony that the man finally gives the Pharisees:

“The man answered, ‘Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing’.” John 9:30-33 ESV

True healing doesn’t come from Satan.  True and pure healing only comes from God.

The Pharisees insisted that they knew what they were talking about.  Anyone who opposed them must be wrong (according to them).  Jesus responds with what becomes not only a warning for these Pharisees, but for us also centuries later.

“Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, “We see,” your guilt remains’.” – John 9:41 ESV

We have to be careful to not let what we think we know get the way of what Christ is trying to teach us.  He is a light in the darkness, but we have to seek Him, be humble enough to admit we have something to learn, and trust in His light if it is to do us any good.

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?