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 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.

Blind Leading the Blind

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“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

‘”This people honors Me with their lips,

    but their heart is far from Me;

in vain do they worship Me,

    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”'” (Matt. 15:7-9 ESV)

Once again the Pharisees try to challenge Jesus and once again Jesus has to correct them.  He points out that this quote from Isaiah applies to them.  The Pharisees were considered some of the most righteous among the Jews for their steadfast dedication to the Law.  However, there were many amendments to the Law that they had made from men’s interpretation of the Law that they preached as Law itself.  To make matters worse, many of these interpretations were flawed and tried to void the original Law.  Not only did the Pharisees follow this misinterpretations themselves, but they taught others to do so likewise.

Unfortunately, this practice still happens today.  We allow what we believe or feel or think to cloud our interpretations of God’s Word and then justify it with sayings like “Well, surely God didn’t mean…” or “This was written so long ago, surely it doesn’t apply…”.  Or we make up rules and regulations for the Church that were never meant to be binding on the body of Christ.  We can be like the Pharisees, “blind leading the blind”.

If only there were someone or Someone who could interpret the Scriptures for us… But wait, we have the Holy Spirit.  God sent us an Interpreter, the Holy Spirit (which also means that we have less of an excuse as the Pharisees).  As long as we rely on the Spirit to teach us what God’s Word really says, we will not be lead astray.  We will still make mistakes because our sinful nature will always insist on its will over the will of the Spirit, but we can always rely on Him to steer us back on track if we constantly seek Him.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!” (1 Chron. 16:11 ESV)