Sapphire Sky

March 28, 2015

Don’t waste your life!

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 3:52 pm

Guilt…

Punishment…

Forgiveness…

Restoration

 

This short drama is inserted in the middle of Jesus’ discourses during the Feast of Tabernacles. Many scholars debate where this story belongs, or if it should even be in the Bible at all [1].

 

This story is also beloved by many people in our culture, many who may not know much more about Jesus. It is popular to compare people today with either the guilty woman or the accusing Pharisees. Most of these comparisons are made in ways to make the storyteller look good. But very few people who tell this story realize who this story is really about.

 

It is about Jesus.

 

Jesus came down from the Mount of Olives where he had spent the night on the open ground. He came to the temple and began teaching the people about the the Kingdom of God. As was often the case, his teaching was interrupted by a real-life application.

 

A commotion in the crowd stops his teaching. Out of that commotion comes a gang of Pharisees and their scribes, dragging a woman with them. They set the woman in front of Jesus and announce that she has been caught in adultery. They remind Jesus that the law of Moses commands that she be stoned to death, but what does he say?

 

The Pharisees laid a trap for Jesus. God is just, and if Jesus declares God’s Justice, then she must be stoned. This would break the Roman law and destroy Jesus’ reputation for compassion.

But God is also merciful. If Jesus declares God’s mercy, then she would go free. But for Jesus to do so would break the law of Moses and destroy Jesus claims to be the Messiah.

 

How do you reconcile God’s justice and his mercy?

 

Jesus reconciled this for woman in the same way that he reconciles his justice and mercy for you and I. She sinned. She broke God’s law. She was guilty. The punishment was death.

 

Someone would die.

 

The accusers would not find the justice they were seeking. It took Jesus to only remind them of their own sin for them to walk away, one by one. They did not press the charges, but they also did not ask for forgiveness. The simply walked away. The entire crowd left.

 

Many people like to end the story with the accusers leaving, but they miss the woman’s restoration. Jesus never skipped over her sins. Instead, he left her with a command, “Go and sin no more”.

 

“You are restored, now stop wasting your life.”

 

It will be less than six months away that Jesus will pay for this woman’s sin. He will also pay for your sin and for my sin. He will pay for the sins of the whole world.

 

Stop wasting your life!

Previous post: If Anyone is Thirsty

 


John 7:53 – 8:11

They went each to his own house, ​but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”


 

They went each to his own house, ​but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

 

Everyone went home after the great dissention at the end of John 7. It appears that Jesus would normally spend the night on the Mount of Olives (see Luke 22:39).

 

It was also customary for Jesus to teach in the temple. Given both his popularity and his teaching (see John 7:46, “No one ever spoke like this man!”), it is no surprise that he would quickly draw a crowd.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

 

The Pharisees set a skillful trap for Jesus. The crime of adultery was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:22) and this woman was caught in the act. All the woman could do now was await her death sentence.

 

Most commentators point out that this was a setup. The law required that both the man and the woman be killed for adultery, but where was the man? Either the guilty man had escaped the Pharisees or he was part of their conspiracy.

 

The Pharisees had Jesus in a trap. If Jesus had said to free the woman, then he would have violated the law of Moses and refuted his own claims to be the Messiah. If Jesus had said to stone her, then he would have violated the Roman law, which prohibited such acts, and he would have refuted his own reputation for compassion and forgiveness.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

 

Jesus’ response to this trap was to write with his finger on the ground. There is a lot of conjecture about what Jesus was writing. Was it the Ten Commandments? Was it a list of the sins of each of the accusers? Did he even write anything at all?

 

It is pure conjecture to even guess at what Jesus was writing. The word for “wrote” here is not the normal word for writing, but it is the word used for writing a record [2]. This may indicate that Jesus was writing a record of the sins of each accuser.

 

But it was not Jesus’ writing but his words that stopped the accusers. “When they heard it, they went away one by one.” Note that these words apparently dispersed the entire crowd! Not only did the accusers leave, but all of Jesus’ listeners seem to have left as well.

 

“He did not say, ‘Do not carry out the law of Moses.’ He did not say, ‘I have come to repeal the law of Moses,’ but He put it up to them to carry out that law, if they dared.” – H.A. Ironside [3]

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

 

Don’t miss that — only the woman is left with Jesus! She, who was facing a horrible death in shame and disgrace, does not even try to escape. All of her accusers are now gone.

 

Jesus did not condone her sin, nor did he ignore it and set it aside. Her sin was serious and and required death. Jesus would pay it.

 

Jesus pays for her past, but then he challenges her future. “Go and sin no more”. To put it in another way, he was saying, “Leave your life of sin!”, or “Stop wasting your life!”

 


 

[1] This is one of the few passages of scripture that is heavily debated among Bible scholars (see also Mark 16:9-20 for another example). The section here (John 7:53-8:11) is not found in many of the the earliest manuscripts and even the manuscripts that did have this section were not consistent on where it should be placed. There are no early commentaries on this passage (before the 12th century).

 

The arguments against this passage being in the original scripture say that the above reasons show that it must have been added later on. The arguments for this passage being in the original scripture say that many of the early manuscripts which omitted this passage still had a blank spot at the beginning of John 8. Those who argue for this passage often say that it had been omitted for liturgical reasons or for moral objections.

 

Whether or not you believe that this passage was in the original scripture, it is important to remember that there are no new commands or doctrines in this passage which are not also taught elsewhere in scripture. It is best to not make this passage the basis for building any points of doctrine since these points would be better supported by other parts of scripture.

 

[2] Stephen Davey, Judging the Judges, John 8:1-11

 

[3] H.A. Ironside, Address 26, CHRIST AND THE ADULTERESS, John 8:1-11

March 22, 2015

If Anyone is Thirsty

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 5:32 pm

It has been six months since John’s last record of Jesus on the shores of Galilee (John 6). During that time, Jesus has been quietly teaching his 12 closest disciples.

 

Many events have occurred during these six months [6], but there were three significant events that happened in rapid succession. First, Peter confessed, on behalf of the rest of the 12 disciples, that they finally understood who Jesus truly is. He is the Christ (the Messiah) and he is God  (Matt 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21).

 

Secondly, Jesus delivered news to them that left them devastated. Jesus’ popularity had been growing, with the disciples had looking forward to the approaching kingdom of the Messiah. Instead, Jesus dismissed the crowds and had taken his disciples away to be alone. But then he delivered the most tragic news: He will be rejected. He will be arrested. He will be killed. He will rise again (Matt 16:21-26, Mark 8:31-37, Luke 9:22-25).

 

This was the first time Jesus told them that the was going to die. The disciples were deeply grieved by this news, and it may have been why Jesus brought his three closest disciples (Peter, James, and John) away to a high mountain. It was on that mountain that they see Jesus shining in brilliant glory and talking with Moses and Elijah (Matt 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).

 

Jesus had taken the last six months to be apart with his disciples. He had taught them what would happen to him, and what they would need to expect in order to be his disciples. Now, the time has come to enter back into the controversy. Jesus would take them back to confront the crowds and to offer one more opportunity to believe in him.

 

Jesus headed South to Jerusalem. It had been at least a year since Jesus was back in Jerusalem (John 5), and now the leaders want to kill him. Their hatred had been festering for the past year, turning to murderous rage. The two opposite religious groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, united in their mutual hatred for Jesus.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles is at hand, one of the three great celebrations on the Jewish calendar (Passover and Pentecost are the other two). It is a time of tremendous joy and feasting as the Jews celebrate their harvest and spend a week in temporary shelters made of Palm branches.

 

Jesus was the main topic of conversation during this week-long feast, but few believed in him. Even his own brothers did not believe. The people privately debated who he really is, but all public discussion is forbidden. The Jewish leaders did not want any more debate about Jesus. They only wanted to kill him.

 

Jesus came down in the middle of this week-long feast, showing up in the temple and astonishing the people with his teaching. They were surprised that he taught with authority, yet he has not been trained in any of the rabbi schools. Jesus replied that his teaching is not his own, but it is from God.

 

In the eyes of the Jewish leaders, Jesus was a lawbreaker. He had healed a man on the Sabbath during his last visit to Jerusalem the previous year. But they were inconsistent with their own laws. Jesus uses circumcision as an example that there are some things which are higher than the Sabbath.

 

Every day during this week-long celebration, the priest would leave the temple, fill a golden pitcher with water, and ceremoniously carry back the pitcher and pour the water on the altar. On the final day, the people would bring their palm branches and proceed with the priest as he gathers the water and brings it back to the temple.

 

It is during this time, on final day of the celebration, that Jesus breaks the silence of the crowd by shouting out, “If anyone is thirsty, 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.’”

 

Jesus has made one more appeal to this unbelieving crowd. The only way to eternal life is do believe in him. The opportunity to come to him will not last much longer. The results were mixed:

  • Some wanted him dead
  • Some think he has a demon
  • Some think he is just a good man
  • Some are in awe of him
  • Some believe in him

 

This is a long chapter with several messages that you can personally apply. However, there is one outstanding message that I see across this entire chapter. Jesus was met with opposition through the entire week, yet he continues to offer the invitation. Believe. Believe. Believe in him.

 

But his invitation also has a warning. The time is short to accept his invitation and to believe in him. Soon, it will be too late. “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”

 

For those who do not believe in Jesus, I beg you to consider him before it is too late. A time will come where he will no longer keep prompting you.

 

For those who are enjoying a life of sin, I beg you to let go of the sin before it is too late. You will understand God’s teaching when you are ready to do what he says. But the time is short and soon, it will be too late.

 

Previous post: The Bread of Life

 


John 7


After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 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.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

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.

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”


After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the “Feast of Booths”) was one of the three celebrations on the Jewish calendar where all Jewish men were required to come to Jerusalem (the three mandatory celebrations were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles).

 

The Feast of Tabernacles was prescribed in the Jewish Law in Leviticus (Leviticus 23:33-43). The people would fashion crude shelters out of palm branches and live in them for a week, to commemorate their wandering in the desert, when they were without a home.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles feast also celebrated the harvest of the orchard fruits and was a time of great joy and celebration.

 

This also lets us know when these events are happening. The Feast of Tabernacles is in October-November, so about six months have elapsed since the Passover events in John 6 (John 6:4). This marks the midpoint of Jesus’ final year.

 

While it had been six months since Jesus fed the 5,000 people in Galilee and shared that he was the Bread of Life, it was probably a year since he was last in Judea (John 5) [1], Jesus had left Jerusalem after inciting the hatred of the Jewish leaders because he healed a man on the Sabbath. This chapther (John 7) shows that in the year since then, their hatred had turned into murderous rage!

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.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

Jesus’ own half-brothers did not believe him. These were other children of Joseph and Mary, who grew up with him, yet they still would not believe him. Notice that Jesus was always waiting on God’s perfect timing. He will not go down to the feast yet because it is the right time.

 

Why did Jesus’s brothers want him to go down to Jerusalem? They did not believe on him, but they may have wanted him to try to be the political Messiah. So they were saying, “If you are who you say you are, then you need to go down to Jerusalem”.  [4]

 

A better translation of Jesus’ response would be, “I am not yet going up to the feast,…”.

But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

 

Most of the Jews from Galilee would cross the Jordan River and travel down its eastern side, rather than go through Samaria. The note that Jesus came down privately indicates that he came through Samaria, where he would have been undetected. His travel through Galilee and Samaria on the way to the Feast of Booths is recorded in Luke 9:51-62 and Matthew 8:19-22.

The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

The crowds in Jerusalem would have been huge, as this city swelled past its capacity in accommodating all of the visitors for this feast. We see here that Jesus was the main topic of conversation (he was “trending”). Some thought he was a good man, while others thought he was leading people astray. Note that none of these conclusions showed any belief in him.

 

Note also how much the Jewish leaders hated Jesus at this point. People were afraid to be seen speaking about him in front of them.

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”

 

It was common for rabbis to gather crowds in the temple courts as they began teaching. But the teachers with the most authority were the ones who could point out that they were discipled by the great teachers of this day (not unlike showing your academic credentials today). The people were surprised at Jesus, since he had great learning, but no academic credentials. He had not been to any of the prominent rabbi schools.

 

Jesus’ response was that the teaching was not his, but from God.

 

The NASB translation says Jesus’ response more clearly: “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself”. God will reveal himself to those who are willing to obey him. Also, put negatively, the people who do not follow God’s word are not blocked by misunderstanding. They are stopped because they refuse to obey.

 

“The word ‘willing,’ is from the Greek text, ‘thelo (θέλω)’, and is a very strong word. It means to ‘seize with the mind or to be resolved’. So, ultimately, this was a challenge to the Jewish leaders. They believed they ‘knew the Word of God and the will of God’. Jesus was telling them that they were illiterate.” – Stephen Davey [2]

 

False teachers and false messiahs are looking for their own glory, but the test of a true teacher is if they are seeing God the Father’s glory alone.

 

Finally, Jesus directly pointed out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. They cannot carry out the law themselves, yet they are trying to kill Jesus because he had broken their Sabbath laws.

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

The accusation, “you have a demon”, can be best understood here as “you are crazy!”. Note that the response here is from the crowd, not the Jewish leaders (who are indeed trying to kill him and accused him of being demon possessed). Note also that some of the local people of Jerusalem later say that Jesus was the one they were trying to kill (John 7:25). Jesus did not directly respond to this comment but continued his defense of the Sabbath.

 

Both the Jewish law and tradition taught that you needed to break the Sabbath when confronted with a higher law. Jesus uses circumcision as an example: According to the law, a boy must be circumcised on the 8th day, even if that was the Sabbath (Leviticus 12:1-3). Therefore, if circumcision was a higher law than the Sabbath, would it not be right to care for a person’s entire body on the Sabbath?

 

There is no indication here which specific act of healing on the Sabbath is the issue here. It was likely the act of healing the man at Bethesda on the Sabbath the previous year (John 5:1-17).

Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

 

The Jewish tradition at this time believed that the Messiah would suddenly appear out of nowhere. This is not consistent with scripture, which states that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Jesus responded that they know him but he was sent by God, whom they do not know.

 

“It was a settled popular belief, and, in a sense, not quite unfounded, that the appearance of the Messiah would be sudden and unexpected. He might be there, and not be known; or He might come, and be again hidden for a time.” -Alfred Edersheim [3]

So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

Note again that Jesus was relying on God’s perfect timing. No one can take him until the time is right.

 

Now the crowd is doing more than simply talking about him (as before). Many of the people are believing on him.

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”

 

John usually referred to Jesus’ enemies as “The Jews”. They were the Jewish leadership who were opposed to Jesus and who eventually had him killed. Note that here, John specifically listed the Pharisees and the chief priests (Sadducees). These opposite religious groups, formerly enemies, were united in their hatred for Jesus. This was the second time in this passage that they tried to arrest him.

 

Jesus will be on earth only a little while longer, and then he will be gone. The invitation to the people is only for a little while longer. For those who miss the opportunity to believe in Jesus, they will never be able to come.

The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

The Jews completely misunderstood Jesus. Jesus is talking about his return to the presence of God the Father, and they thought he must be traveling abroad to the foreign Jewish communities.

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.

The Feast of Tabernacles lasted for seven days. The great culmination of the feast was on the seventh day. Water was precious to the Jewish people. Their desert existence depended on a water supply and drought meant starvation.

 

“Every day, during this festival, the priest would take a golden pitcher and parade through the streets of Jerusalem until he reached the pool of Siloam. He would fill the pitcher with water and then, walk back through the Water Gate, while the people following would chant Isaiah, chapter 12, verse 3, . . . ‘you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation’.

The water would then be carried to the temple altar and poured on the altar. This was a symbol of the water gushing from the rock in the wilderness that gave life to the Israelites. On the last day of the feast, which is the context of verse 37, the people would gather their palm branches, from which they had constructed their little booths. They would then parade through the streets, as the priest went to get water. When they returned, they all marched around the altar seven times and poured the water. Along with the praise, from Isaiah, they would chant the prayer, “O bring now then salvation.’” -Stephen Davey [2]

 

It is in this context that Jesus yells out, above the crowds, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!” Jesus has used water as a metaphor for spiritual life with the Samaritan woman (See here). But this passage gives more information: here we know that Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, who has not yet come.

 

“Only the Holy Spirit can make the river flow. He is the source of all blessing.” – John MacArthur [4]

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

As always, Jesus brings division. Some believed in him. Others looked for a convenient excuse to not believe. They needed only to look at the temple record to find out that Jesus was indeed from the line of David and born in Bethlehem.

 

This is the third time in this scene that people wanted to arrest Jesus but were unable.

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”

 

The final two responses to Jesus are the arresting officers and the Pharisees themselves. The arresting officers were too much in awe of Jesus to arrest him.

 

The Pharisees held to their pride and to their disdain for the common people. They despised the people who were not as educated as themselves, and could not possibly believe that one of their own would ever follow Jesus.

Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

 

Ironically, there was a Pharisee, and a teacher of the law who believed on Jesus. Nicodemus speaks up for Jesus and requests that they hear him before judging him.

 

“Nicodemus throws down the challenge and says, ‘Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?’ Do they answer him? Oh, not at all. They answer, it is true, but their answer is an evasion. They said, ‘Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet’ (v. 52). And again they showed their ignorance…They had not been reading their Bibles very carefully. They forgot that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, a town in Galilee (see 2 Kings 14:25). Then, too, it is generally believed that Nahum was a Galilean.” – H.A. Ironside [5]

 


 

[1 The “unknown” feast mentioned in John 5 was likely the Feast of Tabernacles the previous year, which would have made it exactly one year since Jesus’ last appearance in Jerusalem. If the feast in John 5 was another celebration, it would have been anywhere from a year to a year and a half since Jesus was last in Jerusalem. For further discussion on the unknown feast, see the previous post here.

 

[2] Stephen Davey, Water Unlimited, John 7

 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah, Book IV, “The Descent”, Chapter 6

 

[4] John MacArthur, Keeping the Divine Timetable (John 7:1-13),  The Glorious Gospel Invitation (John 7:37-52)

 

[5] H.A. Ironside, Address 25, “NEVER MAN SPAKE LIKE THIS MAN”, John 7:40-53

 

[6] Six months have elapsed since Jesus closed his public ministry. Six more months will elapse before he is arrested, crucified, and will rise again. John is silent on the six months between John 6 and John 7, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the following events that have taken place during this time:

  • Escalating conflicts with the Pharisees
  • Jesus makes several trips away from Galilee with only his disciples
  • Jesus asks his disciples who they say that he is. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the Living God (Matt 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21).
  • Jesus reveals a new shocking truth to his disciples: he will be rejected, killed, and will rise again on the third day! (Matt 16:21-26, Mark 8:31-37, Luke 9:22-25)
  • Jesus takes Peter, James, and John on a high mountain where he was transfigured. Jesus appeared in his glory with Moses and Elijah (Transfiguration, Matt 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).

March 15, 2015

The Bread of Life

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 1:16 am

A farmer went out to sow seeds in his field. Some seeds fell on the path and were eaten by birds. Some seeds fell on rocky ground, where the young plants were withered in the shallow soil. Some seeds fell among weedy soil and were choked out by the weeds. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop.

 

Jesus had told this parable to the crowds and then later explained its meaning to his disciples. The different soils were an analogy of how people respond to God’s word. Some refuse the word and with many people it is not possible for the word to grow in their hearts. But there are a few that will be the good soil — those who will take the word and grow. (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15)

 

John 6 shows an example of the different soils in real life. It starts with the pinnacle of excitement as Jesus had fed a massive crowd (probably about 20,000 people) and they all wanted him to be king. But they start to fall away when Jesus gave them a challenge. Sadly, it is only a few that remain to be the good soil.

 

This passage can be best summarized by Jesus’ statement about himself:  “I am the Bread of Life.”

 

Jesus had fed the crowd the day before and now the people want more. They had tried to make him king and were rejected. Now they have come back to try again.

 

Jesus responded simply: they came back for the food, but what they need is eternal life. They need to be born from God.

 

The rabbis had taught the people that God sets his seal on the one who is truth. Jesus told them that God had sent him and had set his seal of truth on him. They did not need to work but to believe.

 

The Jews asked Jesus to validate his claims with a sign. According to their traditions, they believed that the true Messiah would provide manna for them, greater than even what was given by Moses. Jesus corrected them that the manna came from God, not from Moses. But manna was only temporary. They need the true bread from heaven which will give eternal life.

 

Jesus is the true bread. All you need to do is to come to him and believe in him for eternal life. He alone can give eternal life.

 

This would be simple to understand and believe. But Jesus takes the analogy further. He is the bread of life, and you need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What does that mean?

 

The Jewish tradition held that the law and the commandments were the bread and wine for a believing Jew. They had achieved true wisdom when they depended totally on their law. Jesus was saying to this devout Jewish audience to stop looking to the law and their traditions for life, and to instead look to him. They will receive eternal life when they totally depend on him.

 

They understood it but they did not accept it. It was offensive to them. Given the choice between their traditions and Jesus, many of the disciples left Jesus for their traditions.

 

“Here, then, we are at the parting of the two ways; and, just because it was the hour of decision, did Christ so clearly set forth the highest truths concerning Himself, in opposition to the views which the multitude entertained about the Messiah. The result was yet another and a sorer defection. ‘Upon this many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.’” [1]

 


John 6:22-71

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 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.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

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. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

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.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

 


 

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

This sets the scene for the rest of the chapter. It is now the next day after Jesus had fed the massive crowd. At least a portion of the crowd had remained in the area and came back the next day. The news of his miracle had quickly spread and other people had come from the western shore of the lake.

 

They came looking for Jesus, and yet Jesus was not there! They personally saw the disciples sail away without him, so they reasoned that Jesus must have returned to Capernaum by land.

 

Jesus had arrived at the Plain of Gennesaret (Matt 14:34, Mark 6:53), on the Western shore of the lake. He then went north to Capernaum for the Sabbath, with the crowds gathering around him as he traveled. Jesus delivered a series of addresses along the way, with the final address in the synagogue at Capernaum. [2]

First Address:

 

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 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.”

 

Jesus never answered their question. Instead, he addressed the core issue. Why did he reject them when they wanted to make him king the previous day? What is wrong with them looking for him now? They are preoccupied with their own physical needs. But just like Nicodemus (John 3) and the Samaritan woman (John 4), they need Spiritual life. They need to be born from God.

 

Jesus instructed them to not set their priority on physical food, but to work for what gives eternal life.

 

The rabbis taught that the seal of God was truth. Jesus promised that he would feed them food for eternal life. They must come to him because God had impressed on him his own seal of truth. (Many commentators believe that God had set his seal on Jesus Christ at his baptism.)

 

“What brought them, was not that they had discerned either the higher meaning of that miracle, or the Son of God, but those carnal Judaistic expectancies which had led them to proclaim Him King. What they waited for, was a Kingdom of God – not in righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost, but in meat and drink – a kingdom with miraculous wilderness-banquets to Israel, and coarse miraculous triumphs over the Gentiles.” [1]

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

 

What work must they do for eternal life? The answer is that the work is from God, we are to believe. As Jesus told Nicodemus, whoever believes in him has eternal life (John 3:14-16).

 

“And Christ directed them, as before, only more clearly, to Himself. To work the Works of God they must not do, but believe in Him Whom God had sent.” [1]

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

 

Jesus had asserted that he was the one authenticated by God with the seal of truth. He would give them food to eternal life if they only believed. But what sign would he give them to prove that he spoke the truth?

 

The rabbis taught that the Messiah would produce manna when he came. Myths about manna abounded [3], and the Jews believed that Moses himself had provided the manna while the Israelites were in the desert. If this man was truly the Messiah, then they expected him to outdo Moses. While Jesus had fed the crowd the previous day, Moses had fed them for 40 years.

 

Jesus responded to them that the manna came from the Father, not Moses. Furthermore, they needed to look for the true bread from heaven, not the temporary manna. The true bread is a person who has come down from heaven.

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

 

Jesus makes this declaration about himself: “I am the bread of life” [4]. He is the living bread that came down from heaven. He gives eternal life. Believe in him and he will meet all of your needs.

 

There is a very close parallel here with the Samaritan woman when Jesus offered her living water (John 4:13-15). However, the Samaritan woman believed when challenged with a higher truth. The woman was an immoral outcast, yet she believed Jesus with no signs, and only by telling her of her past. The Jews in Capernaum, by contrast, were followers of Jesus and devoutly religious. They had seen tremendous miracles, and yet they refused to believe.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

The statements here appear to be parenthetical.  Many commentators believe that Jesus was not speaking directly to the Jews at this point, but he was speaking aside to his disciples. Regardless of the actual audience, the point of these statements is the same:

  • All that the Father gives him will come to him.
  • Those who come to him will never be cast out.
  • Jesus is doing the will of the Father, that none of those who come to him will be lost.
  • Jesus will raise up the believers who come to him on the last day.

 

On a theological note, this section affirms the sovereignty of God, divine election, and the free will of mankind. [4]

Second Address:

 

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

 

The Jews reacted to Jesus’ statements by grumbling. Jesus was speaking in Capernaum, not far from his home town of Nazareth. These people knew his family and had seen him grow up. How then could he have come from heaven? (Note that the term, “the Jews” in John’s gospel account usually refers to the Jewish leaders. It was most likely the synagogue leaders who were grumbling.)

 

Jesus did not directly address their grumbling. Instead, he elaborated further on the sovereignty of God and his role in drawing believers. Only those who have been drawn by God can come to him. Those who have heard and have been taught by the Father come to believe in Jesus.

 

You are first drawn by the Father when you come to Christ. God the Father draws people and teaches them. The reference in the prophets is to Isaiah 54:13. This teaching brings them to faith and repentance to God as they believe in Christ. Jesus Christ himself says later that he will “draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”

The people expected the Messiah to provide them with manna, but manna will not give eternal life. Jesus reiterated, “I am the bread of life”. He alone can give eternal life.

 

Jesus also foreshadowed his own death when he said that he would give his flesh for the life of the world. (Note that Jesus had not yet begun to tell his disciples about his death.)

 

“The Manna had not been bread of life, for those who ate it had died, their carcasses had fallen in the wilderness. Not so in regard to this, the true Bread from heaven. To share in that Food was to have everlasting life, a life which the sin and death of unbelief and judgment would not cut short, as it had that of them who had eaten the Manna and died in the wilderness.” [1]

Final Address:

 

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

This is one of the most difficult passages to understand. Why would Jesus command the people to eat his flesh and drink his blood? In our contemporary culture, any reference to cannibalism is profoundly revolting.

 

Jesus had used metaphorical terms throughout this entire discourse (i.e. “bread from heaven”). Therefore, the comments here would be an extension of the same metaphor. As difficult as this statement may be to understand in our culture, the people in Jesus’ day had no trouble understanding what he was saying. So what does Jesus mean when he commands the people to eat his flesh and drink his blood?

 

Although it may be more foreshadowing, this cannot represent the Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus had not yet taught his disciples that he was going to be killed and it would have not been understood by the crowds.

 

This cannot represent communion. Communion is a memory of Jesus’ death, which has not yet happened when he was speaking this. Although communion is ordained by Christ, it does not impart life to the lost. Also, the language here indicates a one-time event. “Except you eat (one-time) the flesh of the Son of Man and drink (one-time) his blood, you have no life in you.” Communion is a repeated occurrence.

 

The rabbis taught that “…if Wisdom said, ‘Eat of my bread and drink of my wine,’ it indicated that the manna and the miraculous water supply were the sequence of Israel’s receiving the Law and the Commandments – for the real bread from heaven was the Law.” [1]

 

The Jewish tradition held that the law and the commandments were the bread and wine for a believing Jew.  They had achieved true wisdom when they depended totally on their law. Jesus is saying to this devout Jewish audience to not look to the law or their traditions for life, but to him. They will receive eternal life when they depend totally on him.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

“This is a hard saying”. The language here indicates that it was not hard to understand, but hard to accept. It was offensive to them.

 

Note that “The Jews” were grumbling before. Now many of the disciples are grumbling. These are people who were committed to following Jesus but were now ready to leave him.  If they could not accept what Jesus was saying to them about being the Messiah, how would they ever grasp the harder (and less Jewish) parts of his death, resurrection, and ascension?

 

It is the Spirit who gives life. As Jesus expressed to Nicodemus (John 3), we need to be born from above in order to gain eternal life.

 

We also see the paradox of God’s sovereignty. Jesus knew that many in the crowd (and one of his close disciples) did not believe. They had chosen not to believe and God had not given them the gift of faith in him.

 

“It is only as we receive His words in faith that we can lay hold of eternal truth. The flesh, unless moved upon by divine grace, will not understand.” [5]

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.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

 

The discourse concluded with many disciples walking away. Even the Twelve contained an unbeliever (Judas). Jesus had made the distinction: if they were to follow him they must depend on him totally.

 

But while many left, there were still those who needed him.  As Peter said, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God”.

Previous post: How do you respond to crisis?


[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah, Book III, “The Ascent”, Chapter 32

 

[2] John 6:26-65 are written as one long discourse. It appears to contain a series of separate addresses, but we have no indication whether these addresses were delivered at separate times or all at once. Regardless, the point of the addresses is still the same. All we do know is that he concluded in the synagogue at Capernaum (John 6:59). [1]

 

[3] The synagogue in Capernaum had an engraving of a pot of manna on the lintel. Some of the popular myths associated with manna were:

  • The Messiah would produce manna when he came.
  • Jeremiah had hidden the pot of manna from the temple and it would remain hidden until it was found by the Messiah.
  • Moses created the manna based on his own merit and it ceased at his death.
  • “That manna, which was Angels’ food, distilled (as they imagined) from the upper light, ‘the dew from above’ – miraculous food, of all manner of taste, and suited to every age, according to the wish or condition of him who see ate it, but bitterness to Gentile palates – they expected the Messiah to bring again from heaven.” [1]

 

[4] Jesus made these “I am” statements about himself in John’s gospel account:

(From Stephen Davey, Anything Less Won’t Last, John 6:22-71)

 

[5] H.A. Ironside, Commentary to the Gospel of John, Address 21, “The Living Bread”, John 6:57-71

March 1, 2015

How do you respond to crisis?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 4:33 am

How do you respond in times of crisis?

In the next scene in John’s gospel account, we see both Jesus and his disciples at a time of crisis. It is often at these times, when we are at our limits, that we find out what we have and what we truly need.

For Jesus, this was a critical turning point in his ministry.  He has spent the last two and a half years presenting himself to the nation of Israel, showing that he is their king.  Jesus had spent the entire day teaching and healing a huge crowd of over 20,000 people, and now they want to make him a king by force. The people like what he has to say and are interested in his miracles, but they refuse to submit to him as Lord. Jesus will spend his remaining year preparing both his disciples and himself for his upcoming sacrifice. 

The disciples must have been filled with shock and dismay. They had returned from their own teaching tours of Galilee and personally witnessed Jesus feeding this massive crowd. Everyone loved Jesus and the disciples were sure that he was now going to rule as their king. But instead, Jesus abruptly sends them away and dismisses the crowd. Now they are on their own, alone on the lake, rowing toward the other shore.

Jesus spends the night alone in prayer with the Father. He draws his heart close to the Father as he deals with his disappointment over the crowd that would not believe. He is close to the Father as he considers his upcoming rejection, death, and coming back to life.

As Jesus is praying on the mountain, he looks over the wide expanse of the lake below him. There, out on the lake, are his disciples in the boat, struggling against the wind. The wind picks up as the night goes on, and his disciples row harder. Jesus sees them struggle as he continues to pray.

After 9 hours, Jesus ends his time of prayer and walks out to his disciples on the water. It is now past 3:00am and they have been rowing all night. The disciples see him walking to them on the water and panic. It must have been a very unnatural sight to see Jesus walking over the waves to them. Through their disappointment and exhaustion of that day, they could only believe that this was a ghost.

Jesus calls out to them and joins them in the boat. Immediately, the waves are calm and they are at their destination. The astounded disciples are now ready to worship him as God. For as long as they had been with Jesus, and as much as they had seen, they still had not believed in him as God.

They did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Even in the presence of his great miracle, his own disciples were reluctant to believe in him as God. It is not enough to believe good things about Jesus, they needed to accept him as God.

(more…)

February 16, 2015

The Great Deceiver, Chapter 3: The Battle for Coherency

Filed under: culture — Travis Biller @ 2:58 pm

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Hebrews 11:3).

During the course of life most people develop some basic discerning tools in their intellectual arsenal that help them make sense of life. When people display these tools we normally say they have “common sense.” There are some things in life that just make sense when seen in a certain way. For instance, if you are walking in the woods and find a paper-clip lying on the ground, common sense will lead you to draw the conclusion that someone dropped it there by accident. No one would draw the conclusion that the paper clip just developed on its own in the woods. That scenario just does not make any sense. Common sense develops as a result of taking the time to observe the world around you. Simple observation leads one to understand that things like paper clips do not grow in the woods.

Having begun college a little latter than my peers, I spent time in the world developing my common sense before being introduced to idea’s that attempted to turn common sense upside down. I discovered that the longer I spent in the lecture hall the more I was encouraged to believe in idea’s as silly as believing that paper clips grow in nature. The longer I spent in school the more I began to see why our culture is in a crisis. As students we were constantly being bombarded with concepts that are absurd. Let me give you a couple jewels from just one book that was hailed as great thinking from the college I attended:

… social and political analysis which shows how such belief-systems have functioned to oppress and dehumanize will be very threatening, say, to philosophers intent on justifying the truth-claims that a good God can permit evil and suffering. But if, on the other hand, the aim of philosophy of religion is to enable becoming divine, becoming our sacred sexuate selves in relation to the earth and to one another, then mathematics and rigorous applications of theories of scientific epistemology are less likely to be helpful than are psychoanalytic theory, imaginative possibilities of human becoming drawn from literature and the arts, and careful and social political analysis.

’…naturally we ended up in Christianity by inventing a God such that it is he who comes’. But God isn’t the only one who comes. ‘It is the same for Saint Theresa – you only have to go and look at Bernini’s statue in Rome to understand immediately that she’s coming, there is no doubt about it. For that matter, the ‘mystical ejaculations’ are not restricted to the classics of the Christian tradition….

Slavery, conquest, and colonialization all appealed to God, the Great White Father.

That’s one book – and only a very small sampling from that very large book that I had to pay for. Let me say that again, I was required to buy this book. Your average college student must read many such books. Image reading this stuff for hundreds of pages! Spend several years reading this stuff and your mind begins to shrivel and morph from something that could make sense of the world into something that can’t think its way out of a paper bag. Unfortunately many people today can’t. Reading nonsense like this is akin to filling your mind with a toxic poison that inhibits true critical thinking. We send our young people off to be “educated” and this is what they are introduced to.

The absurdities are not limited to one or two areas, they can be found in every subject matter. And we wonder why many people today can’t make sense of the world. They have been introduced to ideas that have no correlation to reality. And those ideas have shaped the way they understand the world.

Some of the more salient ideas that (more…)

February 13, 2015

How do you handle interruptions?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 1:35 am

What do you do when your plans are destroyed? How do you react when your day is thrown into chaos?

How do we handle it when God sends an opportunity in the form of a major interruption?

I have been studying the life of Jesus Christ, trying to understand more about his life and his ministry. The recent study in John 5 demonstrates that Jesus was fully God.  He was fully equal to God the Father in his works, in giving life, and in authority. There are no secrets between the Father and the Son.

But Jesus was also fully human. He did not exercise his divine power unless he was directed by the Spirit. Jesus had to grow and learn. He got tired. He felt pain, hunger, and loneliness like the rest of us.

Jesus would also make plans which would get interrupted. One of the best examples of this interruption comes in the beginning of John 6.

Jesus has had an extensive ministry in Galilee for about a year and a half.  He has led his disciples, taught the people, and healed many.  His popularity has grown rapidly, to the point that he often cannot even enter towns because of the crowds that follow him.

But along with his popularity, the opposition to Jesus has also grown dramatically.  The Pharisees in the synagogues were not pleased when Jesus challenged their rules about the Sabbath.  As shown in John 5, their anger further turns to murderous rage when Jesus tells them that he is God. Their unbelief has become so entrenched that they interpret Jesus’ miracles as a work of Satan (Matthew 12:22-32, Mark 3:22-30).

And so Jesus’ ministry in Galilee comes to a close.  Jesus has gone across Galilee proclaiming that he is the Messiah.  He even sent out his disciples to make sure that every town and village has heard.  His popularity continues to grow, but so does the opposition and unbelief.  And now the word reaches Jesus that John the Baptist has been murdered by King Herod, who is now looking for him.  Added to his opposition is now political intrigue.

One of the final events of Jesus’ northern ministry happens on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, yet what is most striking is how much of this event is unplanned.  Jesus takes his disciples away to a desolate place, away from the opposition and intrigue, so that they can get some time of rest and teaching.

But as is often the case, plans are interrupted by providence. A huge crowd of over 20,000 people followed them on foot and were waiting for them as they dock the boat [6].  Jesus saw the crowd and responded with compassion. These people were lost and needed a shepherd, and so he taught them and healed the sick.

 Jesus spends the entire day among the people until the evening (about 3:00 pm), when he is interrupted by the disciples.  It is getting close to dinner time and no one had brought provisions.  Jesus instructs the disciples to not stop the teaching, and adds, “you give them something to eat”.  Going further, he asks Philip where they could buy enough bread for these people. Philip responds with their hopeless situation.  Even if they could come up with 8 months salary, they still would not even have a single bite for everyone!

Andrew located one boy who had brought five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they for such a crowd? Jesus had the disciples sit everyone down while he took the loaves, gave thanks, and broke them.  He then began to distribute the broken pieces until everyone had as much as they wanted.  The disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling up 12 bushel baskets!

There was no mistaking this miracle.  A crowd of over 20,000 people had witnessed and took part in the miracle.  The crowd’s reaction also confirms the miracle, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14). (more…)

January 18, 2015

Jesus says that he is God

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 5:12 pm

Who is Jesus 

I started out this study of John’s Gospel account with this same question: “Who is Jesus?“.

In only five chapters so far, Jesus’ actions have demonstrated who he is:

  • He has superior knowledge. He knows Philip, Peter. And Nathanael in John 1. He knows the Samaritan woman in John 4.
  • He has power over natural elements in John 2.
  • He has authority over the temple worship in John 2.
  • He knows more than the greatest teachers in John 3.
  • He is greater than John the Baptist in John 3.
  • He breaks down prejudice and social stigma in John 4.
  • His power is not confined by distance in John 4.
  • He is above superstitions and religious rituals in John 5.

 Jesus has come with a specific message: There is a spiritual world beyond what we see here (John 3:1-15, John 4:7-15). Jesus is the Messiah and we need to believe in him (John 1:12, John 2:11, John 2:23-25, John 3:14-18, John 3:36, John 4:41-42, John 4:48, John 4:53).

But why should you believe in Jesus? Jesus takes the time in this chapter (John 5) to give one of the clearest and most direct reasons for why you should believe in him. He also warns you that if you don’t believe in him, you are separated from God and are headed for judgment.

Jesus has just healed a man and told him to “work” on the Sabbath. This draws an immediate response from the Jewish leaders, who are angered at him for breaking their Sabbath traditions. And what is Jesus’ response?

 He agrees with them. 

But Jesus then tells them that he can do what he wants on the Sabbath because he is God!

Jesus shows them in specific ways that he is equal to God. He then shows them the evidence of why they should believe him. He finally concludes by condemning them for refusing to believe, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Jesus claims that God is his father. The Jews fully understood that this means that he is equal to God. Being the son does not mean that he is any less than God the Father. It means that they are “of the same essence”, or that they are equal. See below for more detailed examples showing that the son is equal to the father.

 It is important to note that this is a new concept to the Jews. They knew that God was one (Deut 6:4). Although God is referenced in the Old Testament in the plural (e.g. Genesis 1:26), the Old Testament Jews had no understanding of the Trinity. Even the disciples had trouble understanding this (Matt 16:16-17). Therefore, Jesus starts or by going into great detail how the Father and the Son are equal. The Father and the Son are distinct persons, yet they are equals and are completely unified:

  • The Son is equal to the Father in his works.
  • There are no secrets between the Father and the Son.
  • The Son is equal to the Father in giving life.
  • The Son is equal to the Father in authority and judgment. 

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Jesus interjects his talk on judgment with a final appeal to believe. Those who believe will be rescued from the coming judgment.

A time is coming when all people will be raised from the dead. Those who believe will be raised again to life. Those who do not believe will be raised again to judgement.

Jesus then gives evidence that what he is saying is true:

  • John the Baptist spoke of him. They followed John the Baptist but refuse to believe when he spoke of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus’ miracles authenticated who he was. They all witnessed his miracles yet refused to believe his message.
  • God the Father has himself spoken about Jesus through the Old Testament scriptures. They study the scriptures but they don’t know God because they missed his message about the Messiah.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

(more…)

January 11, 2015

Can you have too much faith?

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 5:10 pm

“You just need to have faith!”

This is a common sentiment that we use when people are doubting, are in trouble, or are facing problems in their lives.  It is a “nice” and well-meaning thought.

But as I am studying through the life of Jesus Christ, I am struck by the fact that Jesus encounters people with too much faith!

What is the problem?  They have a lot of faith, but in the wrong object!

As we study the scene in John 5, we see that Jesus encounters two groups of people.  Both of these groups have too much faith in the wrong object.  Both of these groups are lost.

The first group of lost are the lowly, the outcast, and the hopeless.  You cannot consider these people without evoking pity.  They are the invalids with no hope of recovery.  The text says they consist of blind, lame, and paralyzed (John 5:3). 

They have placed their faith in a bubbling pool.

Their only hope is that when the pool bubbles, the first one in the water gets healed.  We have no record that this has ever worked.

The second group are the leaders and the teachers.  They are the pillars of society, like Nicodemus in John 2. They know the Old Testament scriptures and several more of their own laws.

They have placed their faith in their rituals.

Their hope is that God will think well of them for diligently observing their rituals.  They have hundreds of a laws for what they can and cannot do on a Sabbath.  They are so caught up in their rituals that they completely miss God as he walks by.  Instead, they want to kill him.

This is a turning point in Jesus’ ministry.  From now on, he will have an organized opposition wherever he goes.  This opposition will continue to grow until Jesus is crucified on a Roman cross, only two years from this point.

Jesus goes to the invalids at the pool and heals one man.  He then goes to the temple, among the leaders, and offers life to both the man and all of the people.

Having faith is good, but only if it is faith in the correct object.  Jesus’ words to the man who had been healed were to “stop sinning”.

“The warning was they his tragic life of 38 years was no comparison to the doom of hell. Jesus is interested in not merely healing a person’s body. Far more important is the healing of his soul from sin.” [4] (more…)

January 4, 2015

What will it take to believe?

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 3:41 pm

What will it take to believe?

It is easy to follow a celebrity or a famous person who seems to have it all together.  It is easy to listen to a speaker when they present a great argument.  But when do we truly believe? 

As it often happens in our lives, we find out the most at a time of crisis.

As I have been studying through Jesus’ life, he has just completed one of the most successful mission trips of his ministry.  Jesus has gone to a hated village of foreigners and spoken to an outcast of the town.  After two days, both the outcast woman and most of the town are believers in him.

Jesus now heads north to Galilee and is welcomed gladly.  He is the great celebrity who has come home! His popularity from Judea has only increased as he returns to Galilee.

But despite the crowds and the large welcome, Jesus knows that his popularity is based on excitement and not true belief in him. This is the same shallow belief that he encountered in Judea (John 2:23-25).

Jesus returns to the town of Cana.  Many would certainly have remembered his miracle at the wedding the previous year, where he turned the water to wine.  And there, in the evening, a royal official comes up the road from Capernaum, and starts begging.

This man, the royal official, has a young son who is dying.  None of the man’s wealth or power can help him now, and so he comes to this rabbi to beg for his son’s life.

Jesus, the one who loves the world and is the example of compassion, responds with a rebuke: “Unless you [all] see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

Why does Jesus make such an insensitive remark? There are three important points to remember here:

  • First, Jesus does help the father. The father has very little faith, but his weak faith is in Jesus. Jesus meets the man in his weak state and pulls him up to something higher.
  • Second, Jesus is about to show everyone that he is not limited by distance. This is completely unknown to the Jews (and the disciples), but Jesus does not need to be physically present to heal the boy.
  • Finally, and most importantly, Jesus is showing that the spirit world is most important. This is the same lesson to Nicodemus and to the Samaritan woman. He can easily heal the physical sufferings of the boy, but the greater concern is their unbelief. 

The father pleads respectfully (“sir”), and Jesus tells him to go and that his son will live. The man heads back (either that night or the next morning). His servants meet him on the way reporting that the son is recovering.  They compare times to find out that the son recovered at the exact time that Jesus said he would get better.

The religious, devout people around him still refuse to believe in Jesus.  Yet this father has come face to face with the Savior of the World.  He believed in his works enough to seek him out and ask for help.  He believed in his words enough to trust him when Jesus told him to “Go; your son will live”.  But the man returned home believing in Jesus himself.  He believed in his person [2].

It is not enough to just believe his works.  It is not enough to just believe his words.  You need to believe in his person as the Son of God and Saviour of the world (John 20:30-31; John 4:41-42).

1 Corinthians 1:22-24
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.


John 4:43-54

After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.


(more…)

December 31, 2014

Countless Blessings

Filed under: adoption, encouragement, marriage and family — Tags: , — Anthony Biller @ 1:01 am

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:1-3

It’s official! The six children we set out out to adopt earlier this year are our children … … at least in Latvia.  God provided the way and has been with us every step.  He has more than answered our prayers, blessing us abundantly.

USA

I’ve intended for months to write a “thank you” post regarding God’s overwhelming love the past several months, particularly as expressed through his people.  Life has been a bit hectic, however, the past five months, but in a very good way.

After many months of paperwork, interviews, and more paperwork, we have one more trip (our third) back to Latvia to process U.S. immigration for the children to be admitted as citizens.  We spent most the month of August in Latvia for our “first” hearing (which actually entails two formal court hearings, two informal meetings with the adoption judge and an interview at the U.S. embassy).  Like the children’s visit last Christmas, Inga, the then-orphanage director, was with us every step of the way.  She attended every hearing and spent nearly every day with us.  Inga prepared a (large) rental home for us and reserved a large van with a full time professional driver (required for passenger vehicles in excess of 9). She also brought us several home made and excruciatingly delicious Latvian tortes.  She taught us how to make eastern-European styled pork roasts. Inga planned an itinerary and showed us the sights of Latvia from well known Cesis castle to Rundale Palace to off-the-beaten-path places like Barefoot Walk , the delicious bread of Liepkalni bakery (the best rye bread I’ve ever had), Viking boat tour of the Dauguva, a fantastical doll museum in Preili and the nearby ruins of Kokneses castle and several other interesting places. IMG_2173Perhaps my sweetest surprise was the afternoon we spent with master beekeeper Jana Bisu, eating honey directly from a few of his hundreds of hives.

We returned to the loving embrace of dozens of our friends and families at the airport.  As I mentioned on these pages before, it was a celebration of life and a lifetime memory.  It has been the only time I’ve walked into an airport terminal to the sound of vuvuzelas blaring and people cheering — and for us! We were embarrassed and encouraged and loved.  Our Latvian children were primarily bewildered.  All were exhausted after 24 hours of travel.  It was a welcome home kiss from God.

A week after we returned, several members of our church coordinated a clothing and stuff donation drive.  There was so much donated that donations not only filled one room – they filled several.  There was the ‘girl sweater’, the ‘boy pants room’ etc.  The kids’ favorites were the toy room and the sports room.  Within minutes they were riding scooters and bikes up and down the church hallway.  We were encouraged to select as many items as we wanted.  Unwanted items were sold at a local thrift store for which we received a gift card.  Following our ‘shopping’ spree they treated us to a reception/celebration.  Many friends and family participated and we felt so loved and encouraged.

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Another great example of support we received came through our daughter’s American Heritage Girls troup. The coordinator approached us saying they wanted to bless us with their annual service project.  Together we came up with the idea of doing a ‘yard make-over’ to prepare our home to put up for sale.  The outside had been at the bottom of the priority list with basic survival as a large family at the top of the list for several months so the yard was definitely in need of some TLC.  By 9am that day mini vans lined our street and whole families marched about our lawn armed with rakes and shovels.  Dead leaves were removed; flowers were planted; and 20 cubic yards of mulch was spread.  The transformation was incredible and trumped only by the support we felt.

The love we’ve received has been incredible, very welcomed and appreciated. Through the past year, so many friends and people we do not know have prayed for us and/or given us encouragement, time, money, food, clothes, toys, furniture, bicycles, bedsheets, computers, games, puzzles, medicine, dental care, yard cleaning, house cleaning, packing/moving/unpacking help, and I’m sure there are at least another dozen areas of help we received.  It has been an overwhelming wave of love.  There are too many names to name.  To each and every one – THANK YOU!

thank you

A few folks commented that we are “saints” for adopting six children at once.  Heh. They are correct in the theologically accurate, New Testament sense that we are “saints” because we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ as our lord and savior.  In the colloquial sense, however, I can assure you that I don’t feel “saintly.”  What we experience is just what every other parent experiences, it’s just we’re getting a more concentrated dose of it lately.  Parenting and marriage exercise the fruits of faith.  Or to put it less diplomatically, few things expose our fallen, self-centered nature more readily than parenting and marriage.  At least that’s the case for me.  Being an adoptive father of a large set has shown me more areas than I care to admit where I really need to be more like Christ and less like me.  “Areas” … that’s too generous.  More like territories.  Like Newfoundland size territories.

But while being stretched over the past year exposed my weaknesses, God yet again showed me that He is far bigger than my shortcomings.  He provided beyond my weaknesses and beyond our expectations.  He is a mighty and awesome God who provides for his children.  We might not feel saintly, but we feel incredibly blessed.  We serve a holy and almighty God. He provided the way and loved all twelve of us abundantly, particularly through His people – the church.  We thank God for each of you who faithfully loved and supported us this past year.

God is great!

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December 7, 2014

The Outcast

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 7:14 pm

We have just seen the conversation between Son of God and one of the great teachers of his day (John 3:1-21).  Nicodemus was a highly respected teacher and one of the Jewish rulers in the Sanhedrin.  Nicodemus thought he knew a lot about God, and yet Jesus showed him that he needed to be born from above before he could even see God’s kingdom (see here).

The next scene is a complete contrast to Nicodemus. Jesus initiates a conversation with an outcast Samaritan woman, one who would be despised by any “respectable” Jew.  Nicodemus had initiated a secret meeting with Jesus for fear of reprisal from his own countrymen.  Jesus initiates this next meeting with an immoral “foreigner” woman with no fear of reprisal.

 Jesus’ message to Nicodemus was that the spiritual world is much greater than anything we can see or hear.  Jesus further explains the spiritual world to this sinful, Samaritan woman using water.

 The Samaritan woman would not have understood the Old Testament metaphor of water’s cleansing and new life [2].  But more importantly, Jesus is bringing her to the point of understanding eternal life.  The well water is temporary, but Jesus is offering something permanent.

Jesus then brings her to the next step, which is to show her that he knows about the details of her life. He knows all about her five failed marriages and that she is not married to her current man. Note that Jesus neither excuses nor corrects her current lifestyle. What is most important is that she needs eternal life.

 The woman’s response seems strange to our minds.  She almost seems to change the subject, asking about the place of worship.  But her core Samaritan beliefs had been shaken.  The Samaritans did not believe in any other prophet after Moses except for the Messiah [3].  Therefore, she has just acknowledged that this man must be be the Messiah.  And he is a Jew.  Therefore, what else about her Samaritan beliefs were wrong?

 The Samaritans believed that the the true source of worship was on Mount Gerizim (see here).  If the rest of her Samaritan beliefs were wrong, where was the correct place to worship?  More specifically, how can you come to God?

 How do you worship God?  Jesus says it twice here: You worship God in spirit and truth.

 You worship God in spirit.  This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit but in the human spirit, the part of us that communes with God.  As we draw close to God, our worship of God comes from the inside-out.  [4] (more…)

November 30, 2014

What about people who are not like you?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 2:51 pm

The news is filled lately with reports of racial and political tension across the country.  Sadly, this tension has spilled out into violence, destroying people in its wake.

 

I had an opportunity to visit the Middle East earlier this year, during the time of the recent fighting in Gaza.  It does not take much to find conflict between different groups: Israeli vs. Palestinian, Muslim vs. Christian, Sunni vs. Shiite Muslim, etc.

 

Well-meaning preachers like to tell “what Jesus would do” in these situations.  But most often, their descriptions of Jesus look like themselves, and their view of Jesus is limited to advancing their own agendas.  Their descriptions of Jesus look a lot less like the Eternal Son of God, and a lot more like a noble person out to clean up the world.

 

But Jesus did (indirectly) show an example of dealing with people across racial, political, ethnic, and religious divisions.  I had a chance to study another bitter battle between two different groups this past week.

 

In 722 B.C., the Assyrian army conquered the kingdom of Israel and destroyed the capital city of Samaria (see 2 Kings 17:1-6). The Assyrians removed most of the Jewish inhabitants of the Samaria region and replaced them with foreigners.  These foreigners intermarried with the remaining Jews and also mingled their own religious practices with the native Jewish beliefs.

 

It was almost 200 years later, in 538 B.C., when Jews were allowed to return from exile and they began to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The native people (known as Samaritans) offered to help rebuild the temple but were refused because of their mixed blood and mixed beliefs (see Ezra and Nehemiah).  Instead, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim.

 

“On all public occasions the Samaritans took the part hostile to the Jews, while they seized every opportunity of injuring and insulting them.” [1]  During the Hasmonean revolts of the 2nd century B.C., the Samaritans supported the Syrian “oppressors” (The Samaritan temple was destroyed by Hasmoneans).

 

The Samaritans considered themselves descendants of Jacob but believed only the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy).  They did not respect the worship in Jerusalem but held to their own worship on Mt. Gerizim. [2]

 

By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were bitterly hated by the Jews and were considered unclean by the devout Jews.  Many Jews would travel several miles out of their way to avoid going through Samaria and to avoid any contact with the Samaritans. The term “Samaritan” was also synonymous with “heretic” or “foreigner” (see Luke 17:16-18, John 8:48).

 

This is the history of the bitterness between the Samaritans and the Jews.  However, Jesus is most known in this section for ignoring the protocols and the problems between the two groups.  Jesus meets an immoral, outcast Samaritan woman and he has these simple messages for her:

 

Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 4:42).  Jesus is not for our world, not for the Jewish world, but the entire world.  Jesus came for the righteous, upstanding Nicodemus (John 3) just as much as he came for the immoral, outcast Samaritan woman (John 4).

 

We will study the contents of these messages in a later post.

John 4:1-9
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

 


 

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.

 

Jesus leaves the scene of controversy in Judea and heads north to Galilee.  Samaria is located directly between Judea and Galilee, so Jesus either needs to travel several miles out of the way (like the devout Jews) or go through Samaria.  Practically, speaking, the shortest route required him to go through Samaria.  But even more than that, we see in this chapter that Jesus needed to be in Samaria for a meeting that God had set up for him.

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

 

Jesus arrives at the Samaritan town of Sychar at about 6:00 p.m. [3], having walked all day.  Sychar (near the ancient city of Shechem) is rich with history, dating back to the time of Jacob.  Jacob had purchased this land from the local inhabitants (see Genesis 33:19) and built a well which was still in use to that day.

 

The well was about a half-mile south of Sychar, where Jesus sat to rest, being weary from his journey. Jesus was fully God, yet in his humanity he can become weary and thirsty.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

 

“Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”. The fact they the disciples have just gone into the Samaritan town to buy food shows that this is a generalization. Jews would trade with Samaritans but avoid social interaction.  A narrower interpretation is also possible, that literally the Jews don’t “drink from the same cup” as Samaritans. The most orthodox Jews also believed that a Jew would be ceremonially unclean if he drank from a Samaritan woman’s vessel.

 

We learn more about the woman later in the chapter. She has been married five times and is now living unmarried with her current boyfriend (John 4:18). Even among Samaritans, this woman would have had a bad reputation.This was not the closest well to town and the woman may have skipped the closer wells in order to avoid the other women of the town.

 

Jesus has violated several rules of protocol by simply by talking to this woman. In that culture, a man would not talk to a woman in public; a Jew would not talk to a Samaritan; most of all, a rabbi would never be near a woman with an immoral reputation.

Previous Post: The Competition

 


[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapters vii-viii.

[2] John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 4

[3] John’s gospel account uses Roman time reckoning, starting at midnight and noon.  Therefore, the sixth hour would be 6:00 pm.  Note that the other gospel accounts use Jewish time reckoning which starts at 6:00 am.  Therefore, some commentators have interpreted the “sixth hour” here as noon.  However, the Roman time reckoning better fits the narrative in John based on the following:

  • John 1:39 indicates that Andrew and Peter meet Jesus at the tenth hour and spend the day with him. Jewish reckoning would put their meeting at 4:00 pm, when most of the day would have been spent.  Roman reckoning would put their meeting at 10:00 am.
  • The disciples went to buy food in John 4. Food was not bought and sold at noontime so the narrative of John 4 better fits an evening time.
  • John 19:14 indicates that Jesus was led out from Pilate at “about the sixth hour”.  Yet Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44 tell about the darkness when Jesus was on the cross, starting at the sixth hour.  Therefore, John’s gospel account must be using a different time reckoning than the other gospel accounts.  However, this sequence of events fits well if Jesus was led from Pilate at 6:00 am, and the darkness began at noon.

November 16, 2014

The Competition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 2:52 pm

Thanks to John’s gospel account, we have been able to see the Son of God in both words  and action.  He has quietly called his first disciples, and then confirmed their belief in him at a wedding celebration.  He has shown his authority and his opposition to the religious elite as he throws out the corruption at Passover.  We are even able to witness his counsel to one of the elite rulers.

 

But now comes the first competition between ministries.  Jesus has left Jerusalem and his followers have only increased.  John the Baptist, the great teacher who initiated Jesus’ ministry with his baptism, can only watch on the sidelines as Jesus’ ministry threatens to eclipse his own.

 

But John was not idle.  As Jesus was teaching and baptizing, John was sending people to him.  John’s message about the Messiah was now that he was here.  Yet you still see the disappointment in John’s followers.  Their leader was now losing followers to this new teacher.  When they confront John with this news, John does one of the greatest things in his career.

 

He quits.

 

This is the last recorded words of the greatest prophet who has ever lived, as he surrenders to Jesus’ growing influence.  John has no personal hold on his ministry.  Instead, he admits that it was only given him from God.

 

We would do well to put ourselves into John’s words here: “He must increase, but I must decrease”.

John 3:22-36
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

 

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing.

 

The “after this” refers to Jesus’ recent conversation with Nicodemus. We don’t know exactly how much time had elapsed but this was during a transition of about 6 months [1]. After the Passover showdown with the Sadducees, Jesus now retreats to the countryside where he begins to gather followers (John 4:2 indicates that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing, not Jesus himself).

John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

 

We don’t know the specific location of Aenon but the most likely possibilities are north in Samaria. Jesus is baptizing in Judea and John heads north. John is the greatest prophet who has ever lived(Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28), yet he readily defers to Jesus.

 

The note that John was not yet in prison gives specific timing of these events.  The Apostle John is letting us know that this is happening before Jesus travels to Galilee (Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14).

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

 

The centerpiece of John’s ministry has been his baptism. The various Jewish religious sects had their rules about ritual cleansing, but John may have been the first to employ baptism as a means to identify with his ministry [2]. The implied dispute with the Jew must have pointed out that Jesus was now baptizing and had a greater following than John.

 

The words of John’s disciples show outrage and jealousy. They don’t even mention Jesus by name, but instead only refer to him as, “he who was with you across the Jordan”. They also claim that all are going to him. To these faithful disciples, the fate of their great teacher is at stake!

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’

 

John’s answer to his disciples shows his true greatness. John has been preaching and gathering a huge following. But it is not about him!

 

Anything we have has been given to us by God. All of John’s ministry, popularly, and following has been given to him (see 1 Cor 4:7 and 1 Cor 15:10). There is no need to be defensive when God reduces it or takes it away.

 

But there is more to John’s reply. John reminds his disciples that they were forgetting his own teaching that he was only the forerunner of the true Messiah. John’s goal has always been to point people to Jesus.

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

 

John the Baptist concludes with the analogy of a wedding.  Jesus is the bridegroom while John is just the “friend of the bridegroom”.  The “friend of the briedgroom” is analogous in our culture to the best man, the master of ceremonies at the wedding, and finally as one who would watch over the bride until the bridegroom arrived [3]. The focus in the wedding was never on the friend of the bridegroom, and his job was complete once the bride and groom were together.  John’s function was to bring Israel to Jesus, as one would bring the bride to her bridegroom.  John’s role is now complete.

 


He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

 

This continues the thought from earlier in this chapter (3:13): Jesus alone is qualified to speak of Heaven because he is from Heaven.  Jesus surpasses any religious teacher because he is from Heaven.  A human teacher is limited by earthly boundaries.

He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

 

Jesus is a reliable witness of Heaven, yet he has been rejected by mankind.  The one who has received Jesus Christ gives his certification (affirmation) that God is truthful.  Note that the opposite is also true — those who reject Jesus are calling God a liar (1 John 5:10).

 

But here is also a new concept.  God now gives the Holy Spirit without limit.  The Spirit in the Old Testament was only for limited times.

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

 

This is the fourth time in this chapter that you are urged to believe on the Jesus Christ.  You are not only encouraged but finally commanded to believe.  Those who refuse to obey this command to believe will not see life, but only the wrath of God.

 

“Unbelief is tragic ignorance but it is also willful disobedience to clear light.” [4]

Previous Post: The Educated Man

 


 

[1] When Jesus was in Samaria, he says that there are “yet four months to harvest” (John 4:35). If Jesus is indicating a specific time of year, then he must have been in Samaria in September-October. Therefore, it would have been about 6 months after the Passover in John 2.

 

[2] It is arguable that John was the first to use baptism.  Some Jewish sects were known to practice proselyte baptism as early as the second century but we don’t know if this was done at John’s time.

 

[3] The “friend of the bridegroom” is notably absent in wedding scene at Cana (John 2:1-11).  The “friend of the bridegroom” was a Judean tradition and was not practiced in Galilee (in the North).  (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter vi.)

 

[4] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John 3, p. 280.

October 26, 2014

The Educated Man

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Steve Knaus @ 2:32 pm

It is the Passover season in Jerusalem, 30 A.D. The province of Judea is led by a council of 70 elders, called The Sanhedrin.  This Council is sharply divided over the teacher who has come into town.  This man has claimed to be their promised Messiah, and then acted on these claims by throwing out the priests’ businesses from the temple courts.  The local priests and Sadducees are enraged, while the devout Pharisees in the council applaud this man for cleansing their temple from these corrupt practices.

 

All of Jerusalem watches in amazement over the next few days as this man teaches and performs miracles.  His popularity grows daily as thousands come to hear him.  The council argues about what to do with him, yet they are unable to reach any conclusion.

 

But there are a few from the council who are different.  These few see more than an enemy, or a spectacular show.  This man must have come from from God.

 

One of these few was a leader of the Council, named Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, one of the most devout keepers of the law. His Greek name shows that he was from a wealthy family and his title as a “ruler of the Jews” shows that he had wealth, power, and influence.  He is referred later as the “The teacher of Israel”, showing that he was famous as a teacher of the law [1].  In summary, Nicodemus was wealthy, educated, prominent, and very devout.  Yet Nicodemus was missing something very important.

 

Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus at night, probably to keep his meeting secret.  The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is recorded in John 3:1-21.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

 

Nicodemus has seen Jesus’ signs and miracles and knows that he is from God.  But as we see in Jesus’ immediate response, that is not enough!

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Nicodemus has accomplished a lot in life.  Nicodemus is a good man, but he is totally lost.

 

There is something much greater than your physical world.  The kingdom of God exists beyond what we can see, hear, or touch.  But unless you have a new life, you cannot even see this kingdom of God.  The term, “born again”, can be better translated as “born from above”.  You need to be given this new life from above.

 

“There was only one gate by which a man could pass into that kingdom of God – for that which was of the flesh could ever be only fleshly.” – Edersheim [2]

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

 

Nicodemus does not understand.  Here is a man who has done everything possible in this physical world.  But it is not about the physical world — Jesus is showing Nicodemus that he needs something more.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”

 

How can you be born from above?  You need more than a physical birth (“born of water”), but you also need a spiritual birth (“born of the Spirit”).  Your physical being (flesh) will never give you life in the Spirit.  (See the bottom of this post for a detailed discussion about “born of water”).

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

 

Nicodemus is sitting with Jesus in an upper room of the house.  The Springtime winds would be blowing through the the narrow streets of Jerusalem, and Jesus uses this example to explain the Holy Spirit.  Both “wind” and “Spirit” are translated from the same Greek word: pneuma. The work of the Spirit is invisible and mysterious just like the blowing of the wind.  You don’t see it and you don’t know where it comes from, but you know when it is there.

 


Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

 

Nicodemus still does not understand and Jesus replies with a rebuke.  Nicodemus is the premier teacher in Israel and he is having difficulty grasping the life in the Spirit.  The Old Testament scriptures teach that the Spirit of God will renew you (see Ezekiel 36:24-27).  Just like many of the other Jews of his day, Nicodemus did not understand this new life.

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

 

This is why Nicodemus does not understand.  It is not a matter of intellect but unbelief.  Nicodemus does not understand because he does not believe.  Nicodemus is not ready to hear about heavenly things until he first believes what Jesus tells him about what is on earth.

 

The final sentence shows that only Jesus is eligible to talk about heaven.  No one is able to talk about heaven except for he who came from there.

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.

Jesus uses Nicodemus’ role model as a further example.  As a Pharisee and a teacher of the law, Nicodemus deeply revered Moses and the law that he gave to Israel.  But the Israelites did not obey and God sent poisonous snakes to kill them (see Numbers 21:5-9).  When the people cried out to God, God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and raise it up on a pole.  Anyone who looked at the bronze snake would live.

 

Jesus uses the bronze serpent as an illustration of himself.  The bronze serpent represented God’s judgement. All a dying person needed to do was to look and be saved. Likewise, Jesus will be lifted up.  All a dying person needs to do is to believe in him and they will be saved.  Jesus will be lifted up when he is on a cross to to take God’s judgement for the entire world.

 

We are all dying in this physical world (Hebrews 9:27-28).  Jesus has come to offer us a way to be saved from this world, and to be born a new life in the Spirit.

 

What does it mean to believe?  Believing in Jesus is much more than intellectual assent.  It is more than knowing the facts.  Believing in Jesus means that you realize that you are totally helpless and you trust him completely.

 

“If the uplifted serpent, as symbol, brought life to the believing look which was fixed upon the giving, pardoning love of God, then, in the truest sense, shall the uplifted Son of Man give true life to everyone that believes, looking up in him to the giving and forgiving love of God, which his Son came to bring, to declare, and to manifest.” – Edersheim [2]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

Why would God give us eternal life?  Because of his love for the world.

What did it cost God to give us eternal life?  It cost him the life of his only Son.

What do we need to do to gain eternal life?  We need to believe.

Nothing else.  Just believe.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

The world is already dying.  Jesus came into this dying world so that we might have life.  God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23,32) but he desires that everyone be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

 

We don’t need to do anything to be judged because we are judged already.  We already are in this sinful, dying world and we need to be rescued in order to be saved from it.  Those who don’t look to Christ are like the dying Israelites who refused to look at the bronze serpent.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

 

Here is our final choice.  The contrast is between darkness and light.  When we think of evil people we think of murderers, thieves, etc.  But every one of us has done wicked things (compare Romans 3:23) and we are all in darkness.  We now have the choice: we can hold on to our sin or we can come to the light.

Previous post: The Corrupted Worship


 

Water and the Spirit

 

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)

 

There are several interpretations of the statement, “born of water”. Many seek a deep theological point from the comment about water.   However, the text is contrasting the physical (flesh) with the spiritual.  Jesus has just told Nicodemus that he must be born again and Nicodemus does not understand. The simplest explanation is that the “born of water and the Spirit” indicates that both a physical and a spiritual birth are needed.

Many commentators have seen a greater image of redemption, or repentance in the word “water”.  However, this word is never used again in this passage.  This entire passage is about being born again and it is highly unlike John (the author) to bring up an essential point and not to elaborate on it.  John’s style is the opposite: he will repeat and re-emphasize the important points (compare 3:15 with 3:16).  In addition, Jesus has not started discussing how to be born again at this point in the conversation.  He is still explaining what it means to Nicodemus and the “how” comes later on in the passage.

 

However, it is important to note that there is no theological error in proposing different interpretations for “water”, provided that all conclusions are consistent with the rest of Scripture (for example, it would be wrong to say that the “water” implies action on your part to be born again since it is inconsistent with other parts of Scripture — see below).  I list the most common interpretations below:

 

Invalid interpretations:

  • The water refers to baptism as an essential act of salvation. This contradicts the free gift from God in Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:4-5.  Most importantly, this is also the opposite of what Jesus says later (3:15, 16).

 

Other interpretations:

  • Water indicates natural birth.  This is the view that is proposed here.
  • The water is the cleansing of the word of God (Ezekiel 36:24-27, Ephesians 5:26).  The problem with this view is that it is trying to extract a point from a single word.  It is as if Jesus interrupts his points to Nicodemus to introduce a new topic.  The application of Ezekiel 36:24-27 would be better applied to later in the passage (3:10) when Jesus rebukes Nicodemus for not understanding these things.
  • The water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37–39).  This is confusing though, to say “water AND the Spirit”.
  • The water is a reference to the repentance ministry of John the Baptist.  This is again an attempt to interrupt the current discussion with a new topic.  A lot has happened since John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordan and there is no indication that Nicodemus was thinking of John’s baptism.

 


 

[1] Stepen Davey, “Reborn…The Declaration”, http://media.colonial.org/files/PDFs/CBC/Face%20to%20Face%20Encountering%20the%20Messiah%20Part%20II.pdf

[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter vi.

October 19, 2014

The Corrupted Worship

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Knaus @ 3:13 am

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


Malachi 3:1-2

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

I am often reminded of a familiar picture of Jesus: he is wearing a spotless robe with a purple sash, looking sweetly and serenely into the distance.  These next events in John’s account show Jesus to be anything but sweet and serene. One of Jesus’ first public acts is to go into the temple and directly confront the corruption within the current religious system [2].  Jesus also fulfills the prophecy of Malachi 3:1, where the Messiah is promised to “suddenly come to his temple”.

 

Passover was the greatest of the Jewish celebrations.  Jews from all over the world would congregate in Jerusalem in order to make a sacrifice in the temple at this time.

 

The temple was led by a ruthless group of priests at this time.  Led by Annas, the former high priest (and father-in-law to the current high priest), they had devised a system to make a massive profit off of the Passover pilgrims.  Most notably, their profit came in two ways:

  • All sacrifices must be certified as clean by the priests.  The priests would sit in the outer court of the temple and check each animal that was brought in for a sacrifice.  At this time, the priests would require the pilgrims to buy or trade their animals from only the local certified merchants.  The certified merchants would charge a huge markup, thus forcing the pilgrims to pay much more for what they already had.
  • All Jewish men were required by law to pay a temple tax.  This tax must be paid in the local currency and with exact change.  The traveling pilgrims would have a large variety of different currencies (both local and foreign) so the money changers would be available to convert to local currency and make change.  The abuse of this tax came in with the hume fees that the temple changers would charge in order to both convert currencies and to make change.

 

It is important to know that many of the local Jews hated the temple priests and they way they had corrupted their system of worship.  When Jesus cleansed the temple of these abuses, he gained instant popularity with the local Jews who also despised the corrupt priests in the temple.  While he had made enemies with the priestly leadership, his fame among the people would have protected him from any revenge from the priests for his actions. [1]

 

In this brief scene, Jesus makes the statement twice that he is the Messiah.  First, he does the actions of the Messiah as predicted by Malachi.  He comes suddenly and purifies his temple.  This statement would not have been lost on his religious listeners, who knew the Old Testament prophets very well.  This was already a sign for the Jews yet they demanded more.

 

His second statement would only be understood by his disciples, and only much later.  Jesus promises that if they destroy this temple, he would raise it up on the third day.  The will try to destroy him, yet Jesus will triumph [1].  Even here at the start of his ministry, we see Jesus giving a message of hope that will only be received much later.

 

John 2:23-25

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 

The same original word Is used here for both “believe” and “entrust”. A better translation of this second sentence would read, “But Jesus on his part was not committing himself to them…”  Many people believed in Jesus when the saw his signs in Jerusalem. But Jesus knew that their beliefs were shallow and short-lived. Therefore he did not commit to them.

Jesus is reserving the core of his message to only those who believe.  This happened earlier in Cana (John 2:11), but it happens even more in this scene.  Jesus provides an invitation for all men, but he is looking for more than those with a passing fancy, or for those who are merely excited about what they have seen.  Jesus is looking for those who truly believe him and will completely trust him.

Previous Post: The Wedding Miracle


[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter v.

[2] Some commentators have tried to combine the events in John 2 with the scene of Jesus cleansing the temple in the other gospel accounts (Matt 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–18, Luke 19:45–46).  However, the cleansing in John’s account occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry while the cleansing in the other gospel accounts occur at the end of his ministry.  The events described in the two narratives are different, as are Jesus’ words and the reactions of the priests.  Therefore, these two narratives are best understood as two separate events: Jesus cleanses the temple (John 2) as an opening statement when he starts his ministry and he then cleanses the temple again (Matt 21, Mark 11, Luke 19) as one of his final acts at the close of his ministry.

October 12, 2014

The Wedding Miracle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Knaus @ 5:13 pm

We use the term miracle today to describe something amazing or extraordinary.  Yet the miracles mentioned in The Bible were much more than what we talk about today.  God used a human messenger to deliver his message, but he would then give that messenger some power so that he could prove that the message was true.

Acts 2:22 ” “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—”

The New Testament uses three words for miracles [1]:

  • Miracles – (δύναμις) dunamis – powers or mighty works; never used in the Gospel of John
  • Wonders – (τέρας) teras – a wonder; used only once in John
  • Signs – (σημεῖον) sēmeion – sign; used several times through John, starting in chapter 2

As we follow John’s narrative to Jesus’ first miracle, let us first point out why:

John 2:11 ” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

Jesus performed this miracle so that people could see his glory, i.e. could see who he really was.  Even more specifically, this was so that his new disciples would believe in him.

One of the bright spots for the poor farmers in Galilee was the occasional wedding celebration.  The contracts were already made, the promises already committed, and now it was time for the groom to go and fetch the bride.  He would lead her to the home that he had prepared for them with the entire town following in the procession.  They marriage contract was completed and all invited guests would join in a large feast.  Depending on the wealth of the families, the marriage feast could last for several days.

But the wedding held much deeper meaning to the Jews than just the celebration.  Both the Old Testament scriptures and Rabbinic tradition taught that marriage symbolized God’s relationship with his people.  The more devout Jews would prepare for the wedding with fasting.  Some even believed that the wedding ceremony would forgive sins [3]  All faithful Jews would enter the ceremony with a ceremonial washing.

The narrative of the wedding in John 2 is very concise.  The entire scene of the wedding is more of a summary with few specific details.  Much has been written to try and “fill in the blanks” but this is what we know from the Gospel of John:

John 2:1-2
​ On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.

The setting is in town of Cana.  Mary is at the wedding in a position of responsibility (v.3).  Jesus is invited and travels up from Judea with his disciples.  (Note that Jesus’ disciple Nathanael is from Cana.) Cana is not far from Jesus’ home town of Nazareth.

John 2:3
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

The crisis comes when the wine runs out. This was more than a social failure but a great humiliation to the new couple. This was a culture where hospitality is very important and they have just failed.

Mary comes to Jesus with the problem.  We are not told what she expects of Jesus: Is she asking her oldest son to take care of the problem [4]?  She clearly knows that Jesus is the Messiah, so does she now expect that he will perform a miracle?  Either way, we are not told what Mary is thinking.  Jesus’ immediate response makes Mary’s thoughts irrelevant.

John 2:4-5
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Jesus’ reply respectfully puts her in her place.  He replies with two brief statements:

Woman, what does this have to do with with me?

Jesus’ response is respectful, but he does not refer to her as his mother.  Instead, Jesus is telling her that he is no longer submitting to her as her son.  They have a new relationship now that he has begun his ministry.  The comment, “what does this have to do with me”, could be translated as “You misunderstand our relationship”. [5]

My Hour has not yet come.

Jesus further emphasizes that he now is taking direction from the Holy Spirit.  He will only act on the Spirit’s timing and not take orders from his mother. [6]

John 2:6-8
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.

As mentioned above, it was expected for the Jews to purify themselves (ceremonially wash their hands) before entering the wedding ceremony.  This would have been a very devout family to gather this much water (120-180 gallons) for the guests’ purification.

John 2:9-10
When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

John makes a point to note here that the master of the feast was oblivious to what was going on.  All he knew was that now, at the end of the feast, they come out with the best wine.

This is Jesus’ first public act in his ministry and he starts at a celebration.  But as I reflect on this passage, it shows that Jesus is still working through personal connections with people.  In the previous chapter, we see Jesus call Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael through personal encounters.  Now, we see Jesus using a family celebration to show who he is, and to draw his disciples to him.

John 2:11
” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

 

Previous post: Introduction to Jesus


[1] Stephen Davey, “A Wedding Sketch”, http://media.colonial.org/files/PDFs/CBC/Wonder-Working%20Power%20Part%20IV.pdf

[2] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John 2, p. 278.

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter iv.

[4] Joseph is never mentioned during Jesus’ adult life and the common consensus is that Joseph must have died before this point.  As the oldest son, the family responsibility now rested on Jesus.

[5] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, lecture 5. http://www.bookmanministries.com/

[6] At a deeper level, there are two possible understandings of the statement, “My hour has not yet come“.  The most common understanding is that Jesus is waiting on the Holy Spirit’s direction before he will attempt to do anything on his own.  In this way, he had not yet been directed by the Spirit to turn water to wine (yet this direction came shortly thereafter). The other possibility was that Jesus is looking ahead to the time when he would publicly present himself as their savior by sacrificing himself.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus mentions five times during his ministry that his time has not yet come (2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20).  Near the time of his death, Jesus mentions three times that his time has come (12:23; 13:1; 17:1). [2]

September 28, 2014

Introduction to Jesus

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Knaus @ 10:53 pm
2014-07-26 16.25.26

The Jordan River, near the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism

John’s Gospel narrative opens with the scene of a man preaching in the desert.  He has gained so many followers that he now has the attention of the religious establishment.  Who is this man? This man, John, is leading and baptizing new disciples every day, yet he has no connection to any of the leading religious parties.

I often wonder what it would have been like to be with John at this time. He captivated multitudes yet he had a simple message: “Repent, for the Messiah is coming!” [1]  But John’s excitement has only intensified.  It has been close to 6 weeks earlier [2] when Jesus had come to John, requesting to be baptized.  Here was the coming king that John had been preaching about, and he was requesting that John baptize him.  Jesus had abruptly left after his baptism, leaving John to only reflect on the encounter.

For more information on the promised Messiah, see the link here.

The narrative of John 1 (v. 19-51) gives a very specific succession of days as we see the focus move from John now to Jesus:

Thursday: John is confronted about who he is 

(v. 19-28) At some time during the day on Thursday [4], a delegation reaches John as he is teaching by the Jordan.  This is a group of priests and levites who have been sent from the top religious governing body (the Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem.  Their line of questions is straightforward: “Who are you?”

“Are you the Messiah?”

John’s response is redundant.  He confesses, does not deny, but confesses that he is NOT the messiah (the Christ).

“Are you Elijah?”

Malachi 4:5 promises that Elijah will return before the Messiah.  In Luke (1:17) the angel tells that John will be in the spirit and power of Elijah.  But John is not the answer of Elijah to these people. [5]  His answer is in less detail, “I am not!”

“Are you the Prophet?”

Near his death, Moses promised to the Israelites that God would raise up a prophet like him, who would tell them God’s word (Deut 18:15-18).  The Jews evidently saw in this promise another prophet of Moses’ stature who would come (separate from Elijah or the Messiah).  (Both Peter and Stephen apply this promise to Jesus as the Messiah, Acts 3:22, 7:37). John’s answer is very abrupt, “No!”.

“Who are you”

The delegation needs to give an answer back their senders.  John quotes Isaiah 40:3, saying that he is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is the herald who is to come before the king’s visit to get things ready.

“Why do you baptize, then?”

John replies with, “I baptize you with water but a greater one is among you.”  John has seen the Messiah by this time and is waiting for him to reveal himself.

John seems to become increasingly reactive to all of the questions about him.  It is like he is fighting the temptation himself.

Friday: John sees Jesus

 (v 29-34) John sees Jesus on the next day after the delegation (Friday), and publicly announces him as “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.  The depiction of a lamb would be well known to the Jews who were listening to John.  The sacrificed lamb for sin was an essential part of the Jewish beliefs.  However, John also mentions that Jesus is not only for the Jews but for the whole world.  In case the readers were still unsure what John was talking about, he concludes his message on Friday saying, “this is the Son of God”.

John emphasizes his points about Jesus on that day: Jesus outranks him, John did not know Jesus beforehand, but his entire purpose was to reveal the Messiah to Israel.

Jesus has just been on a 40-day fast and would be on the brink of death by the time it ended.  He is still probably very weak and sickly when he comes up while John is announcing him.  He is already defying the Jewish expectations of the Messiah.  They are looking for a magnificent, conquering king, but instead stumbles in a man who has been ignored by the religious authorities and is only announced by this lone preacher in the middle of the wilderness. [6]

Saturday: “We have found the Messiah!”

(v. 35-42) John is spending time on a Sabbath morning with two of his disciples. They would have been especially close to John if they had come to join him on a Sabbath day. [3][4]  We know that one of the disciples was Andrew and the other disciple is traditionally believed to be John (the author of this book).  John points out Jesus to them and indicates again that he is the Lamb of God.

The conversation is almost awkward between the two disciples and Jesus.  Jesus says to them, “What are you looking for?”  They respond with, “Teacher, where are you staying?”, indicating that they want to spend time with him [7].  Jesus invites them to come and they stay with him that day.

Any doubts that Andrew and John may have had that day are erased after spending time with Jesus.  Andrew gets his brother Simon and tells him, We have found the Messiah”.

Jesus looks at Simon, as if studying him him [7], and then changes his name.  Simon will become one of the Jesus’ closest and most well-known of his disciples, yet he is now better known by the new name that Jesus gave him, “Peter” (or Rock).

Sunday: Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael

Jesus is traveling North to Galilee on the next day.  He first finds Philip and simply directs him to “Follow Me”.  Don’t just follow me once, but continually follow me. We learn later about Philip and find that he is one who wants to carefully measure the facts.  Jesus asks Philip to follow him and to stay with him even when he doesn’t understand. [7]

Philip brings Nathanael, who is hesitant.  Jesus is from Nazareth, but can any good come out of Nazareth?  Nazareth was a wicked city with a reputation for trouble.  Jews of his day did not believe that any prophet would come from Galilee (John 7:52), and there was no prophecy pertaining to Nazareth.

Jesus commends Nathanael for his frankness, but Jesus goes further.  Jesus tells Nathanael that he knows that he has been meditating on God, and about the way to God.  Sitting under the fig tree was a colloquial term for spiritual mediation. The reference to angels ascending and descending would be connected to the common thoughts of his day, that Jacob’s ladder was the way to God (See Genesis 28). [7]  Jesus tells Nathanael that he knows what he was doing, what he was thinking, and that Jesus is the way to God!

Jesus commonly referred to himself as the “Son of Man”.  The “Son of Man” was a recognized Messianic title from the Old Testament (See Dan 7:13-14) [8]  Note that Nathanael is called Bartholomew in the other gospel accounts.

Jesus may have been given divine insight into his other disciples as he called them, knowing the right words to say to bring them.  However, Nathanael’s response alone shows that Jesus is given divine insight into this latest encounter.

Previous post: The Word


[1] See Matthew 3, Mark 1, and Luke 3 for the detailed account of John’s early ministry.  It appears that Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah by any others besides John at the time of his baptism.

[2] The 6 weeks time frame (42 days) is a rough estimate of the 40 days that Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, plus whatever time would be needed for Jesus to physically recover and make his way back to John.  The events of John 1-2 must have occurred after Jesus was baptized and tempted in the desert, since:  (a) John 1-2 give a very specific timeline of days (John 1:29, 1:35, 1:43, 2:1) as Jesus starts his ministry, leaving no room for a 40-day gap to be tempted in the wilderness;  (b) In John 1:32-34, John the Baptist is recounting a past event where he had first met Jesus at the time of his baptism; and (c) John 1:26 shows a distinct change in John’s message from “He is coming” (see Matthew, Mark, Luke), to “He is among you”.

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter 3.

[4] According to Edersheim (see [3]), the marriage in Cana of John 2 would have been on Wednesday.  Jewish custom fixed the marriage of a maiden on Wednesday and a Widow on Thursday.  A widow’s marriage would not have generated the large festivities that are described in John 2.  We use the timeline of John 1-2 to count back the days of the week.

[5] Later on, Jesus tells his disciples that John was the Elijah who came before the messiah (Matthew 11:14, Mark 9:13).  Either John didn’t understand that he was the fulfillment of Elijah, or more likely, John didn’t fulfill the Elijah prophecy because he was rejected (see Matt 11:14).  Elijah could only usher in the kingdom of God when people’s hearts are repentant and ready to receive him.  Therefore, John could never be Elijah for the group of unrepentant Jews that came to him in the desert.  [3]

[6] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, lecture 4. http://www.bookmanministries.com/

[7] Stephen Davey, “The Test”, 10/10/1993, http://media.colonial.org/files/PDFs/CBC/Face%20to%20Face%20Encountering%20the%20Messiah%20Part%20I.pdf

[8] John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 1

September 26, 2014

The Messiah of the Old Testament

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 12:36 am

Since the time of Adam, God has promised that one will come who will defeat Satan and restore his people.  As the books of the Old Testament unfold, we see that God gives more and more detail about this promised one.

This promised one was known to the Jews as the “Anointed One” (Daniel 9:25).  To the Hebrew-speaking Jews of the Old Testament times, they would refer to The Anointed One by the Hebrew translation: “Messiah”.  To the Greek and Aramaic speaking Jews of the New Testament times (and in between), they would refer to The Anointed One by the Greek translation: “Christ”.

The information below shows what was revealed about the Messiah through all 39 of the Old Testament Books.  Note that this list is far from exhaustive but I wanted to highlight the most significant themes regarding from Messiah in each book.  Most Jews of the First Century were very educated in their Law and Prophets (these books), and were anxiously awaiting the promised Messiah.

See also an excellent  post here showing how all 66 books of the Bible point to Jesus Christ:  http://sapphiresky.org/2013/11/09/its-all-about-jesus-christ/

Genesis

  • The messiah is an offspring of the woman (Eve).  He will be bruised by Satan and will crush his head (3:15).
  • All the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham’s descendant (12:3, 18:18).
  • Melchizedek is (briefly) introduced as the great high priest (Psalm 110:4).
  • The royal line of the Messiah will be through Judah (49:10).

Exodus

  • The Passover is instituted as a time to celebrate God’s deliverance of the nation and to sacrifice a lamb.  Jesus is identified as the eternal Passover Lamb in the New Testament (John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor 5:7).  Jesus died on the day of Passover.
  • The office of the High Priest is instituted.  This also foreshadows the ministry of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (see Hebrews 4:14-16, 9:11-15).

Leviticus

  • The ritual of sacrifices is instituted to cover personal and national sins.  However, the sacrifice is only a foreshadowing of the permanent sacrifice made by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-15).

Numbers

  • Moses raises a bronze serpent so that all who are dying can look on it and be healed (21:6-9).  Jesus compares himself to this scene, saying that he will be lifted up for all to look on (John 3:14-15).
  • From the words of Balaam, “A star shall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel” (24:17).

Deuteronomy

  • Moses promoses that God will raise up a “prophet like me” (18:15-19).  In the New Testament, Peter applies this to Jesus (Acts 3:22).

Joshua

  • Joshua himself is a portrayal of the Messiah as he leads the people to both reform and victory.  Note that Joshua’s name is the same Hebrew word as Jesus.
  • Rahab, a gentile prostitute, is part of the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:5).

Judges

  • There are no direct references to the Messiah in Judges.  However, each of the Judges shows the role of the Messiah in that they rescue, lead, and reform the people.

Ruth

  • The kinsman-redeemer in Ruth portrays Christ in that he is related to the bride and is willing to pay the price of redemption.
  • Ruth is another gentile woman in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Samuel

  • The kingdom of David is presented in First and Second Samuel.  David’s kingdom is promised to be ultimately fulfilled by the Messiah in his kingdom.  (7:16 – “your throne will be established forever”).

Kings

  • Elijah is presented in 1 Kings, and we are told later that Elijah will precede the Messiah (see Malachi).
  • Through both good and bad kings, God is faithful to his covenant with David to preserve his royal line.

Chronicles

  • The tribe of Judah is given prominence since this tribe holds both the Kingship and the Messiah.
  • God remains faithful to the line of David despite wickedness and treachery.

Ezra

  • God shows his promise to restore the people and to preserve the line of David.
  • The decree of Cyrus starts the 70 weeks to the Messiah as prophesied by Daniel (see Daniel).

Nehemiah

  • Like in Ezra, God shows that he will restore the people.
  • The rebuilt temple restores the priesthood and the sacrifices as they prefigure the Messiah.

Esther

  • God will keep his promises and preserve his people — even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

Job

  • “I know that my redeemer lives” (19:25-27).
  • Job tells of his need for a mediator (9:33).

Psalms

  • Many of the psalms either directly or indirectly tell of the Messiah.  Some examples:
    • Psalm 2 – God declares him as his Son
    • Psalm 16 – He will rise from the dead
    • Psalm 22 – This gives great detail of the crucifixion experience.  He will be scorned and mocked, his hands and feet pierced, and others will gamble for his clothes.
    • Psalm 34 – Not a bone will be broken
    • Psalm 35 – He will be accused by false witnesses and hated without a cause
    • Psalm 41 – He will be betrayed by a close friend
    • Psalm 45 – His throne will endure forever
    • Psalm 69 – Zeal for God’s house will consume him; he will be given sour wine to drink
    • Psalm 72 – Kings of the earth will pay tribute to him
    • Psalm 110 – His enemies will become his footstool; he will be a priest like Melchizedek
    • Psalm 118 – He is the chief cornerstone; “Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!”
    • Psalm 132 – He is the descendant of David

Proverbs

  • Wisdom is personified in chapter 8.  Jesus became the fullness of wisdom (Col 2:3, 1 Cor 1:30).

Ecclesiastes

  • Ecclesiastes shows the emptiness of life without God, who has created eternity in their hearts (3:11).

Song of Solomon

  • The church is depicted in the New Testament as the bride of Christ.

Isaiah

  • Isaiah has more about the Messiah than any other book in the Old Testament.  The central section of the suffering of the messiah is Chapters 52-53.  Some of the specific prophecies about the messiah:
    • 7:14 – He will be born of a virgin
    • 9:1-2 – Light for those who have walked in darkness; his major work will be in Galilee
    • 9:6 – Wonderful, counselor, the almighty God, the everlasting father
    • 11:1-5 – He will be a descendant of Jesse
    • 28:16 – He is the precious cornerstone
    • 35:5-6 – He will make the blind see the deaf hear, and the lame walk
    • 40:3-5 – a voice crying, “In the wilderness prepare the way of The Lord”.  John the Baptist considered himself to be this voice as he prepared the way for the Messiah’s coming (John 1).
    • 42:1-4 – God’s chosen servant will have his Spirit on him.  He will bring justice to the earth.
    • 42:6-7 – He is a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind and to save the prisoners.
    • 50:6 – He will be beaten, mocked, and spit on
    • 52:14 – His appearance was marred beyond recognition
    • 53:1-12 – He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; … and by his wounds we are healed.  He will be rejected and killed.  He will be silent before his accusers.  He will be condemned with criminals and buried with the rich.
    • 59:16 – He will intercede for the people.
    • 61:1-2 – He will bring good news to poor and liberty for the captives.  Jesus personally read this passage in his home town of Nazareth, applying it to himself (Luke 4:16-21).
  • Prophecies about the Messiah that are not yet fulfilled:
    • 11:2-10  -he will rule with righteousness, equity, and force
    • 32:1-8 – He is the king who will reign in righteousness
    • 49:7 – Kings and princes will pay homage
    • 52:13-15 – He will silence kings
    • 60:1-3 – Darkness will cover the earth but brightness will shine from the Messiah
    • 61:2-4 – He will restore and repair the nation
  • Jesus directly quotes from Isaiah 61 when he describes himself to his home town.
  • John the Baptist uses Isaiah 40 to describe himself as the “voice of one crying in the wilderness”.

Jeremiah

  • God promises to raise up from David a Righteous Branch (23:5-6) who will reign as king and act wisely and save the people.  He will be called “The Lord our righteousness”.
  • God promises a new covenant with his people (31:31-34).

Lamentations

  • Jeremiah weeps over Jerusalem, just like Jesus will weep over Jerusalem many centuries later (Matt 23:37-38).

Ezeklel

  • The messiah is the tender twig that grows into a great tree (17:22-24).
  • God will give judgement to him (21:26-27).
  • The Messiah will be the shepherd over his flock (34:11-31).
  • The Messiah rules as the prince over his restored people (chapters 44-47).

Daniel

  • He is the great stone cut out of the mountainside which will crush the other kingdoms (2:34-35, 44).
  • He is presented as the “son of man” and is given a kingdom that will never end (7:13-14).
  • Daniel 9 tells of 70 weeks to the coming of the Messiah.  Specifically, 9:25-26 gives a specific pinpoint of time between when the decree to restore Jerusalem to he coming of the Messiah.
    • Daniel 9 specifically identifies “the anointed one” (i.e. Messiah).

Hosea

  • 11:1 says, “out of Egypt if called my son”.  This is referenced in Matthew (2:15) as referring to Jesus.
  • Hosea’s relationship with his sinful wife (Gomer) illustrates the Messiah’s work of redemption.

Joel

  • Joel 3 tells of the Messiah sitting in judgement over the nations in the valley of Jehoshaphat.

Amos

  • He promises to restore the “booth of David” (9:11).

Obadiah

  • The book culminates with the restored kingdom, which will belong to The Lord.

Jonah

  • Jesus compared himself directly to Jonah.  As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so he would be three days and three nights in the earth.  (Matt 12:38-42).

Micah

  • Micah 5:2 clearly states that the Messiah (ruler in Israel; timeless one) will come from Bethlehem.
  • Micah 4 gives great detail of the Messiah’s reign over the whole earth.

Nahum

  • We see the Messiah judging the nations.

Habakkuk

  • Salvation comes from the Lord (3:13, 3:18).

Zephaniah

  • The Messiah will preside over the restored kingdom (chapter 3).

Haggai

  • The new temple will be part of God’s plan for peace (2:9).

Zechariah

  • He is The Branch (3:8, 6:12-13).
  • He will be the king and priest (6:13-14).
  • He is coming humbly and mounted on a donkey (9:9).
  • He is rejected and sold for 30 pieces of silver (11:4-13).
  • He will be pierced (12:10).
  • He is the shepherd who will be struck and abandoned (13:7).

Malachi

  • The messenger will prepare the way for the Messiah (3:1, Isaiah 40:3)
  • He will purify the nation (3:2-3)
  • Elijah the prophet will come before the day of The Lord (4:5-6)

Primary Source, The New Open Bible, Study Edition, (c) 1990, Thomas Nelson, Inc.

September 14, 2014

The Word

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 1:29 am

John will use several different descriptions of Jesus through the course of his gospel as he introduces us to different aspects of his character.  But he uses a very simple term, “The Word” (Greek: logos), to introduce us to him.  The significance of Logos is lost in our English world, but means far more than just “word”.  “Logos” conveys the entire message, both the said and unsaid.

 

To the Greeks in John’s day, the gods were distant.  The philosopher Plato said, “Maybe one day, a logos (a message or a word) will come from God who will reveal the mysteries and make things plain.” (*)

 

The Jews in John’s day had a clear understanding of God’s word.  The Old Testament contains many references to God’s power and presence expressed through his word.  For example:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. (Psalms 33:6)

 

But John makes this more personal.  Not only does the Word (logos) signify the power and the presence of God, but it is also a person.  This man that John has come to know is more than a mere human!  To the Greeks, he is the one who will reveal the mysteries.  To the Jews, he is the power and the presence of God.  But he is more than a mere force — he became human and lived among us!

 

​ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:1-5,9)

 

John starts out his gospel with an extended introduction to The Word (logos).  In many ways, this introduction is a summary of the entire gospel:

  • The Word is fully God (he was with God and he was God)
  • The Word has God’s attributes, including eternity (in the beginning), power (creation)
  • The Word is the source of all life
  • The Word is the source of all goodness.  He stands against evil and is greater than Evil (referenced by light vs. darkness) [1]
  • The Word is the true light.  The real thing!

 

But there are more personal notes about The Word:

 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
(John 1:6-8)

John the Baptist (not the author) is sent ahead as a witness of the Word.  John only lived to reflect the light back on Him. [2]

 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:9-13)

Sadly, The Word came to his own country, but his own people rejected him.  But therein is also the good news: he gives the right to be children of God to those who do receive him!

This is the core of our confusion about Jesus Christ.  The point here is very clear and very simple: Jesus — the very one who made the world — came into the world.  Yet the world did not know him.  His own people did not receive him.

But the good news is also here: he has given the right to be God’s children to those who did receive him!

This is a critical point: what does it mean to receive him? Jesus came with a message of who he is.  He also came with a call. When we receive him, we yield our allegiance to him.  It means that we believe who he is and have placed our faith in him. [3] This challenge is the same for us in the 21st century as it was for those who lived with Jesus in the 1st century.

 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(John 1:14,16-17)

John (the author) has personally seen the glory of the Son of God.  But his fullness and his grace is not only limited to the eyewitnesses: we can all receive his grace.  Not just once, but over and over again (“grace upon grace”).

In case you have any doubts about who The Word is, John concludes his prologue with a very specific ending: “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.

Jesus Christ is the Word (logos) from God.  But he is more than a message.  He is more than power.  He is God himself!

 

 

[1]  John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.  This allusion of light vs. darkness contains much more truth than can be elaborated on here.  The light vs. darkness is often referenced in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament (see also Isaiah 9:2).  Both light and darkness are personified here.  The light actively invades the kingdom of darkness.  The kingdom of darkness attemts to destroy the light but fails.  Here is a brief overview of the ministry of Jesus Christ as the light: he comes to earth and enters the domain of Satan.  Satan seeks to destroy him and finally to kill him on earth, but Satan ultimately fails.

 

[2] The term “witness” cannot be overstated here.  The original word, martyria (also our root word for “martyr”) is used three times in 1:6-8 alone to describe John the Baptist.  John’s purpose was to be witness of Jesus Christ.  John shows his personal zeal later in the chapter (1:19-28), emphasizing that he is not to be compared with the coming messiah.

 

[3] This is paraphrased from John MacArthur, “To receive him who is the Word of God means to acknowledge his claims, place one’s faith in him, and thereby yield allegiance to him.” (MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 1:12)

 

Previous post: Who is Jesus?

September 8, 2014

Who is Jesus?

Filed under: praise, theology, Uncategorized — Steve Knaus @ 2:06 am

Who is Jesus?

There may be no one in history with more written about than this man.  Authors have been busy for almost 2,000 years writing pages and volumes that reflect their thoughts of Jesus Christ.

 

Like the people who lived 2000 years ago, everybody today seems to have an opinion.   He is often called a great teacher, a miracle worker, a martyr. Some say that he was God.

 

The more I hear from people, the more I see that most people are trying to reinterpret the life of Jesus Christ into a person that they would like to see based on their own wants and needs. Lonely people want a friend. Hurting people want a miracle worker. Liberals like the one who opposed the religious and political establishment. Conservatives like the one who promised to uphold the law. Everybody likes the message of love, although few agree on what it means. The list goes on.

 

But we have missed the point.  We are looking at Jesus as if he was a cosmic force that exists for our own personal needs. He was a real man. He lived. He died. He came to life again.

 

Even in Jesus’ own day, people were filled with expectations of who he should be and what he should do for them. One thing is for certain: people who came to Jesus with preconceived notions all went away greatly disappointed.

 

So who is this man?  The first four books of the New Testament, known as The Gospels, tell us about the life of Christ Jesus and provide excerpts of his work.  The Fourth Gospel, written by John, provides some of the most personal glimpses of Jesus’ life on earth.

 

John was one of Jesus’ disciples and one of his closest friends. He does not attempt a biography but writes with the point:

 John 20:30-31

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

John’s point is twofold: (a) believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and (b) have life when you believe.

 

I have been challenged to write down what I encounter as I study through John’s book over the next several weeks.  I will try to use this blog as a means to share the most significant discoveries.

 

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