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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 5

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The House of Mercy

In John 5, we find Jesus near the temple at a pool called “Bethesda”.  Legend has it that every day an angel would come to “stir the waters” and whoever was first into the water when this occurred would be healed of whatever ailed him or her.  There were many there who where sick and invalid.  Among those who were sick is a man who “had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:5 ESV).  It is this man, Jesus approaches.

Ever wonder how Jesus decides who would be healed and who wouldn’t?  Don’t you know that He had the compassion enough to want to heal the whole world right then and there?  But He had to restrain Himself, He had to wait.  Imagine how difficult that must have been for Him, to be surrounded by hurt and pain, to literally be dwelling in a dying body, to have the power to heal all, and to wait… to wait for God’s perfect timing, for God’s perfect plan.  I don’t know that I would have been able to restrain myself…

However Jesus chose, He approaches this one man with a question:

Do you want to be healed?”

Now, what kind of question is that? After thirty-eight years, who wouldn’t want to be healed?  And yet…

To be healed by Jesus required belief in Him.  It required associating yourself with the man who was creating waves all over the country.  And once you were healed, there would be no real denying what He had done for you, you would be in His debt.

To be healed by Jesus would be saying goodbye to the life you were currently living, goodbye to all that was familiar, perhaps even comfortable, to say hello to the unknown.  As painful as your predicament might currently be, would you be ready to leave what you know?  To possibly new pains later on?  Would you also be willing to attempt to follow the command given by your Healer, “Sin no more“?

I don’t know if any of these things crossed the mind of the invalid man on this morning by the pool of Bethesda, but these are things we ponder when we are asked by the same Jesus, “Do you want to be healed?”  We may not by physically ill or lame, but we all bear the same sin sickness in our souls.  And the only one we can turn to is Christ.  He offers.  We have to say yes.

Jesus compassionately heals the man by the pool, creating an occasion for rejoicing, however, it seems the only ones rejoicing are the man and Jesus.  “Others” (read “religious rulers”) have a problem…

“Now that day was the Sabbath.” (John 5:9 ESV)

Jewish law required rest on the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week, in line with the day of rest God established for Himself after He created the world.  The day was meant to be dedicated to praise and worship of God.  The rest was meant to enrich the people of God.  There were laws given to them as to what types of work were allowed and disallowed on that day.  However, over the years, those laws had been twisted and embellished on so much that the day had ceased to be enriching and restful for the Jews, but a burdensome ritual.

First of all, when the religious rulers saw the formally invalid man walking in the temple with his mat, instead of rejoicing with him over his healing, they begin to berate him over the fact that he is carrying his mat on Sabbath.  This man had a reason to praise God in the streets and he is being reprimanded for carrying a mat…

When these hostile Jews find out that it was Jesus who had told this man to pick up his bed, they turn to Him and start fussing at Him.  He just healed a man! A power that comes from God, Himself.  And they are worried about their traditions.

Jesus doesn’t make any apologies.  Instead He makes them even more angry with the words, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17 ESV).  Not only did Jesus do “work” on the Sabbath, but His statement implied that He was an equal to God.

So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’” (John 5:19 ESV).  What a beautiful example for us!  We, too, are to look to the Father, see where He is working and join Him in His own work.  Nothing of ourselves, but only the Father’s plans in mind.

Jesus explains that He does have work to do, work given to Him by God.  He gives life to those who believe in Him and He judges those who do not.

Testimony

There’s that word again.  John once again enforces the testimony about Jesus.  Jesus points out here that His testimony comes not from Himself, but from three other sources.

1. John the Immerser testified about Him, burning with the light of Christ within him.  Many people believed John, but had a hard time believing in Jesus.  Even though they had John’s testimony, Jesus says there is another source that speaks even louder than John…

2. The works Jesus performs that God has given to Him and could only be accomplished through God are a very strong witness.  As if those were not enough…

3. God, Himself testifies for Christ in His Word, the Scriptures written about Christ.  The Pharisees often used the Scriptures as sources of power.  The promises God had given the Israelites they felt gave them superiority,  yet they missed the most important promise, Christ, Himself.  How would it feel if you had spent your entire life studying the Scriptures feeling sure of your own salvation only to be told that you missed the point of the whole thing?  The realization would have been devastating.  After all, what are God’s promises without Love, what is salvation without Christ?

Before we wag fingers and “tut tut” at the Pharisees, how often do we quote Scripture at people because we think it somehow makes us superior to them and yet completely forget to live the love found in those Scriptures?  To live as Christ commands?  To believe in His message and actually use it as a salve for our own souls’ wounds instead of a weapon to wound others?  Do we, too, miss the message of Christ?  Oh, how would we shudder to hear the words of Christ spoken of us “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you” (John 5:42 ESV).  We must be careful to look for life in Christ, instead of our own self-importance,  it is only found in Him.

 

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 4

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The Woman at Well

If anything, the gospel narrative is a story of unyielding compassion.  You cannot read John and miss how much Jesus cared for all people, not just those who were “socially-acceptable”.  When we open in chapter 4 of John, we find Jesus in Samaria.  Here He finds a woman and although all she gives Him is a drink of water, He gives her so much more.

At the risk of “beating a dead horse”, you cannot read this story without pointing out the strained relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans.  The Samaritans and the Jews come from similar lineage, however, the Samaritans (in the eyes of the Jews) had been “tainted” by other nations.  Not only had the bloodlines of the Samaritans had been determined “unclean”, but because the Samaritans were not allowed to offer sacrifices at the Temple, they were also considered spiritually unclean.  This feud began long before Jesus arrived on the scene, but the two nations had only grown further apart.

To make matters worse, this woman was obviously living in sin.  She had had “five husbands” and the one she had was “not her husband” (John 4:18).  At the time the only one who could initiate a divorce was the husband, so this woman, either through a fault of her own or other cause, had been rejected and cast aside at least 5 times.  And the man she was with now would not even marry her (perhaps because he was already married).  She was a woman no one wanted, rejected, wounded (ever felt like that?).  Jesus was not even supposed to speak to this woman.  To receive at drink from her jar would make Himself unclean in the eyes of the Jews.

And yet…

Here we find our Savior, asking little from her, but offering His whole self to her and everything she wanted.  Jesus’s interaction with this woman is so different than what she was accustomed to and what even we are accustomed to today.  Although He was aware of all her “faults”, all the things that would cause Him to steer clear, He held none of it against her.  He did not bring them up to condemn her.  He used them to make her aware of her need.  Her need for Him.

Jesus does the same for us today.  He doesn’t not point out our sin merely to condemn us.  He does it to convict and make us aware of our need for a Savior.  If we had no sin, we would need no savior.  And if our Savior only condemned, we would have no hope.

Living Water

Once again, John brings up the theme of “old vs. new”.  This particular well that Jesus and the woman are chatting beside is “Jacob’s Well”, a place steeped in traditional significance.  It was through Jacob (also known as Israel) that blessings came from God to the 12 tribes of Israel.  This well symbolized a part of those blessings that made for the provision of the Israelites (of which both the Jews and the Samaritans were descended).

Jesus offers the woman “living water”.  This provision is better than the old.  It doesn’t just provide for the temporal physical needs, this water is everlasting and provides for the eternal life.

The woman is so moved by His words and actions that she returns to the town to share the news with the very people who she lives in rejection amongst.  The news was THAT important.  Do we treat the gospel with this much importance, that we would even share it with our enemies?  Once again, because of the testimony of one, many come to Christ.

There is an important lesson also to be learned in the reaction of the town to the woman’s testimony and the words of Jesus.  They came to Jesus themselves to find the truth out for themselves.  They didn’t allow themselves to be swayed only by the words of this woman.  We need to do that today, not just accept what others are saying about God, but go to Him and find out for ourselves.  Like the Bereans when “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV)  If we only rely on others’ interpretation of Scripture, we may miss a lot of what God is trying to reveal to us, or worse, we may even be led astray.

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son

Jesus returns once more to Cana, the very site of His first recorded miracle at the wedding.  Here He meets a Roman official.  Once again, another “enemy”, perhaps even more hated than the Samaritans.  This particular one may have been one that was helpful to the Jews, aiding them in their synagogues, yet Romans were still Romans.  But Jesus’s compassion is for all.

Whoever this official was, he begged for Jesus to heal his son.  Jesus does not go with the man, but sends him away with the words “Go; your son will live” (John 4:50 ESV)  As a tribute to his faith, the official takes Jesus at His word.  When he returns home, he finds his son healed.  Because this man had enough faith to go to Jesus in the first place, His son was healed and all those in his household also believe.  Yet encouraging stories chosen by John in which the faith of one affects many.  And Jesus is enough for all.

 

 

 

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 3

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Born Again

As we have learned in the story of the past two chapters, Jesus is rapidly gaining fame.  As Chapter 3 opens, we meet another character.  This man’s name was Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee (the sect of the Jews known for being strict adherents to the old Law, also known for being adversaries of Jesus) and a “ruler” of the Jews, this indicates that he was part of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.  The Sanhedrin was a group of men chosen to be the supreme religious leaders.  He comes to Jesus at night, possibly to avoid ridicule from fellow religious rulers while he sought answers from Jesus.  Unlike many of his fellow Pharisees, Nicodemus treats Jesus with respect calling Him “Rabbi”.  In addition to this, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus’s signs come God and because of this believes that Jesus must have been sent by God (he uses the words “we believe” meaning that there are others with this same view).  Nicodemus comes to Jesus to learn what he can from this God-sent teacher.

Jesus begins his teaching with “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  What can this mean?  Nicodemus first believes that Jesus is speaking literally and after all “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)  Jesus isn’t talking about a physical birth, but a spiritual one.  Flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit.  They are two different things.

Jesus speaks about being born of water.  Baptism is a symbol of this very thing.  One “dies” to the water when he is immersed and is “reborn” when he comes up again.  He is a new creation in Christ, a new spiritual babe.  Jesus also mentions being born of the Spirit which points to the Spirit’s role in this new birth.  Rebirth is impossible without the direct influence of the Holy Spirit.

Nicodemus, a supreme religious ruler, does not yet understand.  This man is expected to help lead Israel, and yet he misses what Jesus is saying like so many other “leaders”.  Before we are too harsh on him, however, remember, a lot of what we take for granted as common knowledge as Christians today was hidden from the Jews until after Christ’s resurrection.  Christ was indeed sent to teach, to teach the true meanings of the Law, meanings that had been missed for a long time.  Nicodemus wasn’t the only one in the dark.  Thankfully for him, he knew where to seek the Light that was sent to enlighten mankind, the only one to ever descend from heaven to explain heavenly things.

Lifted Up in the Wilderness

Jesus also takes this time with Nicodemus to also give the first hint to His coming death.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).  If you are unfamiliar with that Old Testament story, it can be found in Numbers 21:4-9.  Essentially, the Israelites were continuing to wander in the desert because of their disobedience and began to grumble and complain once again.  God became so angry with them that He sent deadly serpents among the camp who bit and killed many Israelites.  Those who had not died cried out to God to save them.  God commanded Moses to craft a snake out of bronze and to raise it up on a staff for all to see.  Those who were sick and dying from the snake bites could look upon the bronze snake and be healed.  However, they had to believe and to look.  Jesus says that, just like that bronze snake, He too would be lifted up above the people.  All who believe and look to Him will not only be healed from all their souls diseases, but will also be given eternal life with God.

God’s Love

Jesus also gives us a glimpse of the vastness of the Father’s love for His children.  He allowed His only Son to taste death so that we could have forever life.  The Father’s love is not condemning but forgiving (Rom. 8:1).  Christ didn’t come to pronounce our doom, but to offer us an alternative, to offer us life.  We condemn ourselves by our sinful actions, by rejecting the Light that came to rescue us from our darkness.

John the Immerser

Jesus’s disciples were baptizing people with the guidance of Christ.  When John’s disciples heard of this, they were jealous for their own rabbi.  John says something interesting “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).  John recognizes that all good things come from God and that if God chooses to bless Jesus’s ministry there is nothing he can or should do to hinder it.  John realizes that now that Jesus is here, he must yield to His ministry.  I wonder if John expected to be “done” so early.  All his life he had been preparing for the job that he had been born for and now, at the age of 31 or so, his life calling is coming to an end.  Talk about a reason for a mid-life crisis! And yet, John gracefully yields to Christ because he recognizes the greatness in Christ.  John is one of the few people at this point who truly understands (through the revelation of the Spirit in him) that Jesus is in fact the Son of God and what that truly means.  How wonderful it must have been for him to know that he helped to open the way for God’s one true Son.

John: A Walk With the Messiah: Chapter 2

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The Wedding Feast – New Beginnings

Weddings are joyful celebrations of new beginnings.  A ceremony to be shared with one’s closest and dearest friends and family.  At the beginning of John chapter 2, this is where we find our Messiah, at a wedding.  Jesus’s family had been invited to a wedding and, probably as a curtesy to Jesus, so were His disciples who would have been staying with Jesus.

Jewish weddings were often feasts that lasted for days at a time.  The groom’s family was expected to provide food and drink for the duration of the feast.  For whatever reason, they ran out of wine, whether out of oversight or a lack of money, we are not told.  However, this incident would have been embarrassing to the groom and his family should the rest of the guests had to have been sent home early.

Jesus’s mother, Mary, tells Jesus about it with the expectation that He would be able to do something about the problem.  She believed that He could do something about it.  In the event of any miracle, faith must come first.  Jesus seems reluctant to reveal Himself because “His time had not yet come” to reveal His glory (John 2:4 ESV).  The story could have ended there, Jesus could have walked away.  After all, Christ’s power is not a set of magic tricks to be pulled out for the entertainment of party guests.  And yet, He doesn’t walk away, He stays, proving that He has compassion even over the “mundane” struggles we go through.  No problem is too “small” to be brought before God.

Now Jesus asks the servants to fill several stone water jars that were used “for the Jewish rites of purification” and He turns the water into wine (John 2:6 ESV).  I want to consider here that maybe the use of the purification jars was not coincidental.  These jars were used to remove “uncleanness”.  Jesus turns this water that was used to cleanse into wine, wine which later at another feast (Luke 22:20 ESV) is chosen to symbolize Christ’s blood–which cleanses us from our own uncleanness.

Then the servants serve the wine which was formally water to the master of the ceremonies, and it is declared the better wine.  If we continue our line of thinking, the old wine or the water, representative of the old covenant, was inadequate for cleansing.  The new wine, Christ’s wine, is the best that was saved for last.

This was the first of the signs that Christ chose to do to reveal His glory as God’s chosen anointed.  Maybe this particular sign was a glimpse of things to come, just as many of His later signs become.  The old giving way to the new and better.  Whatever His intentions, He not only helped a friend, but also increased His disciples faith in Him.

Cleansing the Temple

And here we find another example of cleansing the olds ways to make way for the new pure ways.  Jesus violently drives out of the temple those making a profit of God.  Worship of God was never intended for anyone’s glory but His own.  Imagine Jesus’s indignation at people twisting pure and holy things into a means of making money.  It puts to mind many “evangelists” who’s sole purpose for preaching God’s word is to make money.  It doesn’t matter if the outcome is “good”, no amount of “good” is ever enough to justify an insult to God.

It has also been mentioned that the place where the money changers were set up was the court of the Gentiles, the place were Gentiles could seek God.  If this place was crowded with merchants, there was no place for the Gentiles to approach God.

When Jesus commits this act, He is called to do another sign, right after the one He performed in Cana.  However, this time, it isn’t a request to help someone, it is a demand, a selfish one at that, meant to challenge Jesus’s authority.  There is no faith here, they want to believe after the miracle, not before.

Jesus gives them a “cryptic” sign (no pun intended).  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 ESV).  We have the gift of hindsight and understand that Jesus was referring to Himself and His resurrection.  The audience here, however, believed He spoke literally, and because they had no faith, this “sign” only served to annoy and confuse.  The ones who did have faith were able to understand after the promised events happened.  Sometimes that is how it works today to, we have to have faith first in order to understand events that happen later.

John ends this chapter by explaining that Jesus understood what was in the hearts of men.  He knew when those who sought signs just to challenge Him or to disprove Him as well as when those who were seeking signs because they truly wanted to believe or needed His help.

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Introduction and Chapter 1

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You may or may not have noticed a silence as of late, but if you want an explanation, let’s just say I was “regrouping”.  Today, I’m going somewhere new…ish.  I’ve always wanted to do a step by step study of John, so now I’m going to.  We’re going to take a walk through John.  We’re going to savor scenes and enjoy the intimacy with Jesus that John offers.  Join me?

An Introduction

Before we dive into the text, let’s get to know our author and our book in general.  The book of John was written, as the title suggests, by John.  John was an apostle, one of the 12 (John 21:24).  He was the son of Zebedee (Matt. 4:21).  He refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).  This is the same John who wrote 1, 2, & 3 John, and the book of Revelation.

This book is considered to have been written somewhere between AD 70 and AD 100.  The theme of the book is easy enough to pick up upon: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  God describes Himself as the great “I Am”, and John records eight different times where Jesus says “I am…”  John’s purpose for writing this gospel is actually spelled out by the author in John 20:31.  His purpose is twofold.  He says “these things are written so that you“: 1) “may believe” and 2) “may have life“.  What does he want us to believe?  That Jesus is Messiah (John 1:41) and that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:14, 18).  The setting of this book is Palestine, during the rule of the Roman Empire.  Although the Jews were in their land, once again, they had been conquered and were no longer the owners of the land.  It is into this captivity that the true King was born.  Now we shall dive into our text and we shall begin… in the beginning.

In the Beginning… (John 1:1-18)

We aren’t going to just begin at the beginning of John, John opens up at the beginning of time.  Way back in Genesis when the Spirit of God hovered over the silent, dark waters, poised before the start of life.  John begins:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2 ESV)

John goes on to say that all things created were made through the Word.  Who is this Word that John speaks of?  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” (John 1:14 ESV)  The Word is the Son of God, the Word is Jesus.  John is telling us that God created the world through Jesus.  Everything.  Lovingly handcrafted through His Son. “All things were made through Him…” (John 1:3 ESV)

In Genesis 1, God speaks life, His word creates. And as if that wonder were not enough, John tells us that Jesus was the life God spoken into creation.  “In Him was life…” (John 1:4 ESV).  And yet, even though creation was created through Jesus and He is in all we see, when He became flesh, “the world did not know Him” (John 1:10 ESV).  We did not know Him…  Imagine not recognizing the Creator… the very image we hold within each of us.  We did not know Him.

When first God spoke in Genesis, His word became Light, “which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9 ESV).  Jesus is the Light, a Light that “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 ESV).  The New American Standard uses the word “enlighten”.  To be enlightened means to gain greater knowledge or to be filled with light.  Isn’t that what Christ does for us? Fills us with the light and knowledge of God?

The Word Became Flesh

The Word, through which all the known world was created, became the created and dwelt among His creation.  He was the only Son of the Father born into flesh.  Through Him came grace and truth.  Through Moses came the Law, but through the birth of Christ came the birth of grace, grace upon grace.  No longer are we condemned for our failure to keep the perfect, holy Law.  Through Him, the only Son, we are given the right to become children of God, born not of blood…but of God (John 1:13 ESV).  Children of God… with an inheritance in His Kingdom… no other gift would ever be so significant.

“No one has ever seen God” (and came back to tell us about Him) (John 1:18 ESV). But Jesus, being God, has seen God and was the only One Who was qualified to tell us about Him, to make God known in a way no man has ever done or will ever do.

John the Immerser

In this first chapter, we are introduced to another character, another man named John.  He is not the author of the book, he is called “the witness”.  A witness is someone who gives his testimony about a person or event.  That was John’s purpose, he was born to give testimony to the coming of Christ.  John (the author) makes it clear that John (the Immerser) was not the “light”, he was not the Messiah.  And John (the Immerser), himself, tries to make it clear that he is only a voice of testimony.  Someone greater was coming.

“…when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’  And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’  So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said’.” (John 1:19-23 ESV)

A side note here, when John (the author) mentions “the Jews” he doesn’t mean ALL the Jews. Usually, he is referring to the group of Jews who were hostile to Jesus and His mission.  Verse 24 says “they had been sent by the Pharisees”.  The Pharisees were are sect of Jewish people who were known for their strict adherence to the Law and their position of power revolved around this.  The phrase “holier than thou” definitely comes to mind when you think of this group.  However, just as all Jews were not against Jesus, it is also important to note that not all Pharisees were either.  But just as today, it is the ones with the loudest voice and the strongest opinions that seem to get all the attention.

We find John (the immerser) baptizing in Bethany near the Jordan river.  He isn’t in the middle of Jerusalem crying from the temple gates or in the center of town, but he is out in the wilderness.  And like Jesus, people come to him.

Baptism was not really a new practice and was connected to the Jewish practice of ceremonial washing.  John was baptizing for the repentance of sin, but it is important to note here that John was not baptizing for salvation because Jesus had not died to make that salvation valid.  Jesus, John says, doesn’t baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33 ESV).  John is the one who baptizes Jesus and the Holy Spirit makes Himself known when He descends on Jesus in the form of a dove after Jesus emerges from the water.  Jesus’ baptism is almost like the passing of the baton.  John’s ministry is coming to an end and Jesus’ ministry is just beginning.  John saw all this and like the witness he is, he proclaims his testimony to all who will listen.  “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34 ESV)

“Come”

When we leave John the Immerser, we also see two of his disciples leaving him (the lesser) to follow Jesus (the greater).  When Jesus noticed that John’s disciples were following Him and they ask Him where He is staying, He answers them with one word, “Come”.  Just a simple word, and yet so full of meaning.  He offers that same beckoning call to us today and as we will see with the disciples, once you answer that call, your life will never be the same.

Christ’s first followers were Andrew and one other.  From the start, perhaps because of John’s testimony, these two believe that Jesus is Messiah because not long after they find out where Jesus is staying than Andrew runs to tell his brother, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41 ESV).  Andrew brought his brother to Christ and through his testimony, Simon followed and gets his knew name from Jesus: Cephas, which means Peter.  It is interesting to see how one testimony leads to another which leads to another, and all roads lead to Christ.

Jesus calls others to “Come”: Philip, and Philip shares his testimony with Nathanael (who might be the “Bartholomew” of the other gospel accounts).  A note about Jewish Rabbinic tradition here, usually the Rabbi waited until his disciples sought him out and then let them know if they were worthy enough to be followers and be taught by him.  Jesus sought His own disciples and as to their worthiness to follow, they do not measure up to man’s idea of worthiness.  They were not great men seeking to an ordinary following.  They were ordinary men called to an extraordinary following.

Greater Things than These

Chapter One closes with the calling of Nathanael:

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’  Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him,’Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’  Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these’.” (John 1:47-50 ESV)

And greater things were indeed to come…