Sapphire Sky

June 26, 2015

Welcome to the New

Filed under: Uncategorized — Travis Biller @ 10:11 pm

I remember exactly where I was on September 11th 2001. I was leaving my biblical Hebrew class in seminary when another student approached the prof and told him what had taken place. As news of the events unfolded I remember this sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. When I heard the news that the Supreme Court ruled to make gay-marriage legal, I had that same feeling. On September 11th the twin towers fell. Today, two great towers of American culture have fallen.

Where America once had great respect for moral truth, today that tower is lying in a heap of rubble. And where America once had respect for the things of God, and even had a semblance of the “Fear of the Lord” that tower also is lying in a heap of rubble. Admittedly, one has to go back at least an entire generation to find those towers standing strong. But, for the majority of American history those two towers had a profound effect on the fiber of the American Republic. America is America only with those towers standing strong.

The founders of our republic understood the necessity of religion for a functional democracy. They believed that America would only be as strong as the people had a healthy love for the virtues and principles of religious truth. Sure, they were not all evangelical Christians, as we understood the term today. But, even those who were Deists believed in a God that created laws which govern civilization. In fact, it was those very laws that framed the bases for our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. They expected each person in the republic to self-govern themselves according to those “self-evident” truths of nature and nature’s God.

America has a history that is unparalleled in the history of the world. No other nation has enjoyed the peace and prosperity that America has experienced. One of the reasons 9/11 was so shocking was that it was the first time America suffered loss on her own soil. With the Supreme Court’s ruling today, America has suffered another loss – but this one is a self-inflicted wound.

The two great towers of moral truth and fear of God have fallen. Upon those twin towers America’s peace and prosperity were built. But, the tragedy is not just that those towers have fallen. The greater tragedy are the new towers that replace the old.

The reality is that those towers were in decay and disrepair for at least a generation. Where they were once the proud monuments of the American conscious, over the past generation, as they became neglected, they began to be seen as an unseemly eyesore in the new moral landscape that our generation was building.

Over the last three decades as the new morality was being built, people began to grumble about the old buildings that were ruining the new skyline. At first there was an uneasy toleration for the old towers. Some wanted to keep them as a monument to the past. Many were more than happy to turn them into museum.  But, they learned that those twin towers were functional; and as long as they stood they kept people from embracing the new towers. Since those towers refused to become a relic of the past, they were targeted for demolition. Today that demolition is complete.

With the dust settling from the towers collapse, the new landscape is clear to see. In the place of the old, the new twin towers dominate the landscape. The two towers that now define the American landscape are the towers of Defiance against God, and Depravity in the name of God. The word America will remain, but her heart has been given to another. In time the moral and spiritual fabric of the new America will look nothing like the Republic of old.

The first tower, Defiance, receives her name from the statue that decorates the rooftop. The statue is of a woman who represents justice. However, instead of the old statue where the woman wears a blindfold and has a pair of scales, the new one has a woman, holding the hand of another woman, and with her free hand she is shaking her fist at God. And instead of a blindfold, she has a pair of binoculars hung around her neck, so when needed, she is able to clearly see all around her who dare to stand against her. She is called “justice” because she will, at once, bring all non-conformists to the bar of gay-wrath where their sentence will be swift and without mercy.

The second tower, Depravity, derives its name from the many plaques that decorate the great halls of this tower. Whereas the old towers had many verses from the Bible reminding its visitors of those great truths that guided the nation to greatness, this new tower has many aphorisms and platitudes intimidating the citizenry to rejoice over iniquity and sin.

What was once seen as wrong is now celebrated as good; and what was once embraced as good is now vilified as evil. Further, where, in the past, divine love was celebrate as truth which reveals reality, the new “divine” love demands that all be given acceptance and affirmation as it seeks to create a new reality. The old love revealed sin so those entrapped by its devices may repent and turn back to God. The new love demands that all declarations of sin become sin itself. To declare a protected act sinful is to engage in the worst sin possible. And where the God of the old age allowed differences of opinion and was willing to allow dissenters their own place, the gods of new age will in no way tolerate opposing points of view, and instead will work diligently to uproot all opposition. Justice is ready to serve.

Today begins a new age for this country. We have crossed a line that will forever define the new from the old.

June 14, 2015

The King has Come!

Filed under: theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 12:59 am

GoldenGate

The East Gate of Jerusalem today

 

The first man and the first woman had a perfect life. They were free from any problems and would never die. They had a perfect relationship with God, and would personally walk with him in the garden.

 

Yet they destroyed all of that in their rebellion against God (Genesis 3). Now they faced hard labor, sickness, and death. Their relationship with God was permanently damaged, and they would be forever separated from God.

 

Their disobedience — their rebellion against God — was their sin. This sin would infect the entire human race through Adam’s descendants, leaving every person separated from God. Humans were no longer capable of having any relationship with God.

 

But God made a promise to this man and this woman. They would have a descendant who would save the human race from their sin. He would restore their relationship with God.

 

Over time, God gave more information about the one would save mankind. He was given a title, “The Anointed One”, or in Hebrew, “Messiah”, or in Greek, “Christ”. He would be the sacrifice for sin for the entire world. He would lead his people to freedom and victory. He would rule in peace.  See a more complete list here.

 

God also gave a specific time for the Messiah. The Messiah would come to Jerusalem on March 29, 33 A.D. [2].

 

God had given this message about the Messiah to the Jewish people. But as time went on, they were no longer concerned about being saved from their sin. They had devised an elaborate set of rules and laws which gave them confidence that they were were able to personally earn God’s favor. They no longer needed a Messiah to save them from sin.

 

However, the Jewish nation was often oppressed by other nations. Although they no longer needed (as they believed) a Messiah to save them from sin, they longed for the Messiah to come and free them from their oppressors. They looked forward to the conquering King who would set up a kingdom that would never end.

 

Then the Messiah came. He came to his own people and his own did not receive him (John 1:11-12). He did not follow the religious laws like he was supposed to, and the religious leaders were jealous of his fame.

 

Jesus Christ was wildly popular when he was on the earth. He taught like no one else did and he worked spectacular miracles, baffling his enemies and validating his claims to be the Messiah. As his final public act, he caused an explosion in the Jewish religious world by raising Lazarus from the dead (see here).

 

The hatred of the Jewish leaders was complete. They wanted to cover up the miracle of Lazarus so they determined to kill Jesus. They gave orders everywhere that anyone should report Jesus if they knew where he was (John 11:45-57). Jesus Christ was now a wanted criminal.

 

Yet as the Passover drew near, it was time for Jesus Christ to enter Jerusalem. It was also time for the city to welcome the Messiah as their king, in fulfillment of the prophecies about him (Daniel 9:24-27). Instead of coming in secret, Jesus came at the head of a massive crowd, cheering him as king.

 

Why did the crowd welcome Jesus as their King on that day? The miracle of Lazarus had already drawn the interest and the excitement of the people. Jesus had traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem with a large crowd of Passover pilgrims, so they all knew that he was coming. He had spent the Passover (Saturday) in the nearby town of Bethany, so the next opportunity for him to come would be Sunday morning.

 

Jesus left Bethany with a large crowd of followers on Sunday morning. As He approached the mountain separating him from Jerusalem (the Mount of Olives), he sent two disciples ahead to bring a donkey colt with its mother. The donkey showed his claim as king and fulfilled the prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) that the Messiah would enter on a donkey, the symbol of royalty.

 

The crowd that accompanied Jesus was met by a larger crowd coming out of Jerusalem. Together, they chanted the Psalm of the Messiah (Psalm 118:24-26), “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord!”

 

The religious leaders objected to this praise and personally asked Jesus to tell them to stop. But this was the day of Messiah’s coming. If the people did not shout out, the rocks would proclaim him as King!

 

Through all of this excitement, Luke tells the shocking response by Jesus as he approaches the city. Jesus starts sobbing as the city comes into view. Neither his disciples nor his enemies were able to see through the crowd’s excitement, yet only Jesus saw that these excited people would not receive him. He is given a vision of what will happen to Jerusalem and it brings him to tears. He see the Roman legions surrounding the city, cutting off the supplies and eventually killing the inhabitants. This all happened because they rejected the Messiah.

 

The people were excited to receive a Messiah of their own design. They wanted a leader to save them from Roman oppression, but they did not want to be saved from their sin. Yet that was His purpose, and that was why He had come. He would be the sacrifice to bring the people back to God.

 

In less than a week, the same people who were welcoming him as king would be shouting for his death.

 

Remember!

 

  • How much do we value a relationship with God? Are we willing to value the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in order to bring us back to him?

 

  • As the Messiah, Jesus Christ’s main objective is to free us from sin and bring us back to God. It is as true now as it was in the first century — don’t look for a substitute!

 

  • The disciples did not understand what was going on until afterward. Don’t miss the important things in life because we are caught up in the moment.

 

Previous post: Dare to Waste


John 12:12-19
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

 


Matthew 21:1-11
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

 


Mark 11:1-11
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”


And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

 


Luke 19:29-44
When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

 

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 


 

John 12:12-13: The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

This is only the second event which is recorded in all four gospel accounts.

 

The chief priests wanted to arrest Jesus after he had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:53, 57). Yet Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Sunday morning at the head of a massive crowd and they could do nothing.

 

Despite the price on his head, Jesus’ popularity was at an all-time high. All of Judea was abuzz with the news about Lazarus (John 12:9-11). The pilgrims from Galilee had entered Jerusalem with the news that Jesus himself had traveled with them, teaching and working miracles. Messianic hope was always very high among the Jews during Passover season, but this news about Jesus excited the entire city. At last, their King was coming!

 

The people took palm branches and came out of the city to welcome him as king [5]. On the way, they chanted Psalm 118, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25-26). The chant of “Hosanna”, meaning literally “save now”, had become the phrase to welcome the king, “Come and save us!”.

 

The population of Jerusalem would swell to about two million people during the Passover [4].

 

Jesus entered Jerusalem on March 29, 33 A.D. [2].

 

“By calling forth that man from the grave, who had been four days dead, Jesus demonstrated Himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. The people who had never considered His claims before began to wonder if He were the promised Messiah who was to come when He rode into Jerusalem on this occasion.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

 

Matthew 21:1-3: Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.”

Mark 11:1-3: Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”

Luke 19:29-31: When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’”

 

Only Matthew’s and John’s accounts show that the colt was a young donkey. Only Matthew shows that the mother was also taken by the disciples. Only Mark’s account shows that the disciples promised to return the donkey and the colt immediately afterward.

 

Jesus had left Bethany that morning, and needed to cross through the tiny village of Bethphage on the way to Jerusalem. The donkey and her colt were most likely located in Bethphage as the “village in front of you”.

 

The name Bethphage means, “House of Figs”.

 

Jesus knew exactly where the donkey and her colt would be tied, and he knew that the owners would easily part with their animals when the disciples said, “The Lord has need of it.”. Some commentators see this as a miracle of omniscience (knowing about the donkey and her colt) and persuasion (the owner easily gives up the animals). However, this scene does not require a miracle as there are two much simpler explanations:

  • One possibility is that Jesus had prearranged this with the owner. Jesus had visited this area very frequently and had stayed in Bethany for the past two nights. There was ample time for Jesus to make arrangements with the owner to use his animals.
  • The other possibility is that Jesus knew about the animals from his frequent visits to the area. The owner did not know Jesus but he was carried away with the excitement of the day. He would have been glad to lend his animals to the coming Messiah!

 

Mark 11:4-6: And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.

Luke 19:32-34: So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”

 

The disciples did as Jesus instructed and untied the colt (and its mother). When the owners asked them what they were doing, they replied “The Lord has need of it”, and the owners let them go.

 

Matthew 21:6-7: The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.

Mark 11:7: And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.

Luke 19:35: And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

John 12:14a: And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it,

 

Bethphage was on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where the disciples met Jesus with the colt and the excitedly gathering crowd. The disciples spread their cloaks on the colt and he thus roade the remaining distance into Jerusalem.

 

“The lower creatures act in subjection to the will of the Lord. Man alone of all God’s creatures – man, who is made a little lower than the angels, with his remarkable powers and his wonderful intellect – sets himself in opposition to the will of God.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

 

Matthew 21:8: Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Mark 11:8: And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.

Luke 19:36: And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.

 

The crowd spread their cloaks on the road and laid down the palm branches in order for Jesus to ride on them. It was a custom to spread the coats in the presence of a king (See 2 Kings 9:13, when the soldiers spread their coats for Jehu).

 

Matthew 21:9: And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Mark 11:9-10: And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Luke 19:37-38: As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

 

The two crowds met on the road to Jerusalem: the crowd that had followed Jesus from Bethany and the crowd of people from Jerusalem. Together, they continued to shout from Psalm 118:24-25, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord!”

 

Matthew and Mark tell of the excitement of the crowds as they welcome him into Jerusalem. Luke tells of extended praise from all of his disciples (not just the twelve). The disciples had joined with the crowds in welcoming the king, but they also also add, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

 

Jesus had previously avoided the title of Messiah, but now he encouraged it during the final week.

 

Matthew 21:4-5: This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
John 12:14b-15: just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

 

The manner of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem fulfilled the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 (see also Isaiah 62:11).

 

The king would come humbly — he would have no military presence.

 

The king would come in peace. The donkey was not a lowly animal but the royal symbol of peace in that culture. The king would only ride a horse in times of war.

 

“… this prophecy was intended to introduce, in contrast to earthly warfare and kingly triumph, another Kingdom, of which the just King would be the Prince of Peace, Who was meek and lowly in His Advent, Who would speak peace to the heathen, and Whose sway would yet extend to earth’s utmost bounds.” – Alfred Edersheim [8]

 

John 12:16-18: His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.

 

The disciples did not understand the significance of this event until much later. It was not until Jesus returned to glory that they understood the prophecies which he had fulfilled.

 

John’s account shows that the crowds who assembled came from three sources [9]:

  • John 12:12 shows the distant pilgrims who had come for the Passover. Most of them were probably from Galilee.
  • John 12:17 shows the crowd that had been in Bethany when Lazarus was raised from the dead.
  • John 12:18 shows large crowd from Jerusalem had come out out of the city to see the one who had raised Lazarus.

 

“Lazarus remains … the chief miracle that undeniably reveals Christ’s authentic claim to be God.” – Stephen Davey [10]

 

Luke 19:39-40: And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

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

 

The Pharisees, in their frustration, come to Jesus to ask him to quiet the crowd. But this was the day that The Lord had made for the Messiah’s return (Psalm 118:24). If the people would not proclaim him, even the inanimate objects would be called on to testify for him.

 

“As on so many other occasions, the chief priests and scribes, though familiar with the letter of the Word, proved themselves altogether out of touch with this momentous occasion.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

 

Luke 19:41-44: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

On the surface, it looked like the Jewish nation was ready to receive Jesus as their Messiah. Even the Pharisees believed that they have lost. All is wonderful.

 

But only Jesus was able to see through the unstable crowd. The people had been longing for the Messiah to come and save them from Rome. The Passover season was the time to celebrate when God had used Moses to save them from an evil tyrant. Now, they saw a new evil tyrant in Rome as they longed for the Messiah to come and free them.

 

But the people had forgotten the primary purpose of the Messiah. Before he would set up his promised kingdom, he must first save them from sin, and reunite them with God (Genesis 3:15). See the link here for more details.

 

The people were looking for a military leader, not one who would save them from sin. Therefore, they missed the Messiah. They missed the “time of their visitation”. These same people who were praising him on Sunday would be shouting for his death on Friday.

 

As Jesus ascended the Mount of Olives, the entire City of Jerusalem came into view. Luke says, “as he saw the city, he wept over it”. Not with the quiet tears but with the loud and deep sobbing (klaiō, κλαίω) of grief.

 

“He foresaw the Roman armies under Titus surrounding the city and cutting off all sources of provision for its trapped populace. Graphically He portrayed what became actual history forty years afterward. It was all fulfilled literally when the Roman legions besieged the city, and at last entered it and destroyed its great buildings as Jesus had predicted.” – H.A. Ironside [6]

 

As the crowd of worshipers chanted his praise en route to the beautiful city, He alone could see their rejection. They had rejected their Messiah. Now the city and the people that he loved so dearly would be totally destroyed.

 

Matthew 21:10-11: And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Mark 11:11a: And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.

 

As the procession entered Jerusalem, the people of the city were asking who this was. The answer was repeated, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee”.

 

They did well to tell of His name and his home town. They also knew that he was from God (“the prophet”), but they stopped short of calling him their king.

 

Mark 11:11b: And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

 

The procession from Bethany must have taken the entire day. By the time Jesus reached the temple, he looked around at the temple and returned to Bethany.

 


[1] Doug Bookman, Passion Week, Audio Series, Lectures 2-4, http://www.bookmanministries.com/

 

[2] Daniel 9:24-27 provides one of the most specific prophecies about the coming Messiah. Daniel predicts that there will be 69 weeks from “the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem” to “the coming of the anointed one” (Daniel 9:25). The “week” is a set of 7 years.

The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given on March 4, 444 B.C. (Nisan 1 of the 20th year of King Artaxerxes) according to Nehemiah 2:1-8. Therefore, 69 weeks (or 173,880 days [3]) later would be March 29, 33 A.D.

Source, Doug Bookman, based on Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, by Harold Hoehner [1].

 

[3] The exact number of days per year varies based on different calendar systems. Biblical prophecy uses 360-day years and is verified by the references below. The following references all describe the same three and a half year period:

Therefore, a month would be 30 days and a year would be 360 days.

 

[4] According to Josephus, There were over 200,000 lambs at Passover in the year 60 A.D. That means it is about 2 million people. [1]

 

[5] The Palm branches had become a symbol of welcoming a conquering king. 200 years earlier, the people had welcomed Judas Maccabeus into Jerusalem with palm branches, hailing him as the Messiah. [7]

 

[6] H.A. Ironside, Address 38, THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY, John 12:12-28; Address 66, Welcoming the King, Luke 19:28-48; Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 21

 

[7] John MacArthur, Triumph and Tears, John 12:12–17

 

[8] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book V, CHAPTER I. THE FIRST DAY IN PASSION-WEEK – PALM-SUNDAY – THE ROYAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM

 

[9] Robert L. Thomas & Stanley N Gundry, A Harmony of the Gospels, Section 187, pages 176-179

 

[10] Stephen Davey, Here Comes the King, John 12:12-21

 

June 6, 2015

Dare to Waste!

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 1:44 pm

waves-close-up-view-circle-drop-of-water

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11), causing many to believe in him. But this also provoked the anger and jealousy of the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were all united in their plans to kill him (John 11:53).

Jesus had retreated to the town of Ephraim (John 11:54) and stayed there until it was time to come for the Passover. Within a couple weeks of the Passover, He had traveled north from Ephraim through the middle of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11), and joined the bands of Galilean pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem [2].

As the crowds neared Jerusalem on Friday, Jesus had split from the group and spent the Sabbath in the nearby town of Bethany. It was there in Bethany that Simon, a healed leper, had hosted a feast for Jesus and his disciples on Saturday night.

During the dinner, Mary shocked the entire crowd. She approached Jesus as he reclined at the table with the dinner guests. She then broke a priceless bottle of perfume and proceeded to pour it on his head. She moved to his feet with the perfume and unbound her hair, using her hair to wipe up the excess from his feet.

The fragrance of this strong perfume permeated the entire house.

Mary’s actions shocked the crowd as she proceeded to anoint his head and wash his feet. But the disciples were deeply scandalized when someone started to add up the cost of the perfume that was wasted on Jesus. Judas lead the disciples in scolding her, saying that this cost over a year’s wage. Why not use that to help the poor?

Jesus’ response to Judas was sharp and abrupt, “Leave her alone!” Her worship of him was more important than even helping the poor.

Mary alone understood that Jesus was coming to die and she was preparing him for his burial. Her story will now forever be joined with the story of the Gospel itself. “She has done a beautiful thing.”

This scene would burn in Judas’ memory. He was still stinging from Jesus’ rebuke three days later when he goes to the chief priests and offers to betray the Lord Jesus Christ.

The other 11 disciples should have known better. They had been following Jesus for the last three and a half years, yet they were so caught up in themselves that they missed what Jesus was trying to teach them.

Mary was the only one who understood what was going on.

This short account opens the final week of Jesus’ ministry on earth. This final week will mark the highest and lowest points of Jesus’ entire days on earth. He will teach his disciples and confront his enemies but there is one primary purpose throughout this week.

He has come to die.

Remember!

  • From the example of Judas, we need to beware lest we become hardened through unbelief. As it says in Hebrews 3:12-13, we need to encourage each other daily!
  • From the example of the 11 disciples, don’t be so caught up in ourselves that we miss what Jesus is saying to us!
  • Finally, from the example of Mary, would we all be so caught up with love for the Lord Jesus Christ that we are ready to lavish our most valuable possessions on him!

Previous post: Greater than Death


John 11:55 – 12:11
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.


Matthew 26:6-13
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”


Mark 14:3-9
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”


John: Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Jesus retreated to the town of Ephraim (John 11:54) and stayed there until it was time to come for the Passover.

We learn from Matthew, Mark, and Luke that Jesus had traveled North from Ephraim through the middle of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11) and joined the bands of pilgrims from Galilee as they traveled to Jerusalem [2]. The people in Galilee would assemble in the Jezreel Valley and form groups to travel along the Jordan Rift. This route would take them across the Jordan River, south through Perea, back across the Jordan to Jericho, and finally to Jerusalem. The trip would have taken one to two weeks. [1]

Now that the Passover was at hand, Jesus had become the major topic of conversation. All of the leaders were looking for him, but would he come to the Passover in Jerusalem? If so, how would he get into the city as a wanted fugitive?

It was a common practice for pilgrims to arrive early in Jerusalem in order to have time to purify themselves before the Passover.

Matthew: Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,

Mark: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table,

John: Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

The band of pilgrims neared Jerusalem on Friday, six days before the Passover. As the people hurried to get into Jerusalem before the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples split from the group and spent the Sabbath in Bethany.

Rabbinical law dictated that you could not travel outside the “Sabbath Zone” during the Sabbath (“a Sabbath day’s journey”). Bethany was outside the Sabbath zone of Jerusalem, therefore no one would be able to travel between Jerusalem and Bethany until Sunday morning. [1]

Simon (“the leper”) was another resident of Bethany who must have been indebted to Jesus. We know nothing else about Simon other than his title and that he hosted a feast for Jesus. He was likely a former leper who had also been healed by Jesus. [3]

The feast for Jesus was on Saturday night. Simon was the host, Martha helped to serve, and Lazarus was at the table with Jesus.

Note that Matthew and Mark both tell of this event as a flashback during the Tuesday narrative. Both of those accounts recount this event to show how Judas had become so hardened that he was willing to betray the Lord Jesus to the chief priests.

“The words of St. John seem to indicate that the meal was a public one, as if the people of Bethany had combined to do Him this honour, and so share the privilege of attending the feast.” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

Matthew: a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.

Mark: And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

John: Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

The spikenard ointment was a very rare and costly perfume which was imported from India. The value of this bottle was estimated at over a year’s wage, or over $30,000! It was common for wealthy women to carry a small bottle of a very expensive perfume like this. They may put a small drop on themselves, or simply open the lid if they wanted to freshen the room.

But the primary use of spikenard was to prepare the deceased. The strong scent would help to keep away the smell of decay until the body was buried.

Instead of only using a few drops, Mary poured the entire bottle on Jesus! Matthew and Mark tell that she first poured it on his head, and then John tells how she continued to his feet. She let down her hair and uses it to wipe up the residue from his feet.

The fragrance filled the room and permeated through the entire house. The dinner guests must have been speechless! This was Mary’s act of worship.

This had happened once before. At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, a woman had poured perfume on his feet and wiped them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Now, this act of worship is repeated at the close of his ministry. [6]

It is interesting to note that neither Matthew nor Mark identify the woman who comes to anoint Jesus with the expensive ointment. Only John identifies her as Mary.

“And so she poured the precious ointment over His Head, over His Feet – then, stooping over them, wiped them with her hair, as if, not only in evidence of service and love, but in fellowship of His Death.” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

“It was the expression of her heart’s adoration, for that is what worship is. We worship as we give back to Him of that which He has given to us.” – H.A. Ironside [5]

Matthew: And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”

Mark: There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

John: But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Both Matthew and Mark show that the disciples were indignant, and Mark says that they scolded her. The words for “scolded her” is not strong enough in our language. This is the same word used in John 11:33, when Jesus was “deeply moved” at the sight of Mary weeping Lazarus’ tomb. Now this same Mary has scandalized the dinner party and Jesus’ own disciples are deeply moved against her!

John gives insight that the criticism started with Judas. Although Judas pretended to make this an issue about the poor, he was really looking out for the opportunity to steal some of the money.

Matthew: But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.

Mark: But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

John: Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Jesus came quickly and sharply to Mary’s defense, “Leave her alone!”

Judas had rebuked Mary, and now Jesus rebuked Judas. Matthew and Mark’s accounts put this scene on Tuesday night, when Judas offered his service to betray the Lord Jesus to the chief priests. Many commentators look to this point, when Jesus rebuked Judas in Bethany, as the time when Judas made up his mind to betray him.

There will always be occasions to help the poor, but the opportunity to show love to Jesus on earth was limited.

“We think we need to do great things to impress God. For Mary it was very simple. ‘She has done a beautiful thing.’” [7]

Matthew: In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Mark: She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

John: “so that she may keep it for the day of my burial”

Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples what would happen to him in Jerusalem. He would be arrested, would be killed, and would rise again on the third day (see Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, Luke 18:31-34). Yet as much as He told them that he would die, they did not understand.

Mary seems to be the only person who understood that he is going to die. She may not be able to prepare his body once the tragedy strikes, so she offers him her devotion at this time.

“He [Judas] knew the nearness of Christ’s Betrayal, and hated the more; she knew of the nearness of His precious Death, and loved the more.” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

John: When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Lazarus had been raised from the dead, and Jesus’ fame and popularity were exploding! Many came to see Jesus, but many also wanted a glimpse of this man who had been dead and is now alive.

The chief priests try to contain this excitement about Jesus by issuing a warrant for Lazarus’ death. They decided to kill Lazarus as well in order that their current position would not be disturbed.


[1] Doug Bookman, Passion Week, Audio Series, http://www.bookmanministries.com/

[2] We can identify that Jesus traveled down the Jordan Rift based on the references along the way. Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34, and Luke 18:31-34 tell how Jesus, on the way to Jerusalem, taught his disciples that he would be arrested, killed, and rise again at Jerusalem. Matthew 20:29, Mark 10:46, and Luke 18:35 tell about the experiences as Jesus passed through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem.

[3] Some traditions have held that Simon was related to Martha (either as a husband or father). However, there is no credible basis for making this assumption.

[4] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, CHAPTER XXIV. IN JERICHO AND AT BETHANY – JERICHO – A GUEST WITH ZACCHAEUS – THE HEALING OF BLIND BARTIMAEUS – THE PLOT AT JERUSALEM – AT BETHANY, AND IN THE HOUSE OF SIMON THE LEPER

[5] H.A. Ironside, Address 37, THE HEART’S APPRECIATION OF CHRIST, John 12:1-11

[6] The similarities between the two accounts (a woman anointing Jesus’ feet, the name of the host, the disapproval of the other guests) have caused some commentators to believe that this is the same scene. However, there are enough differences that they must be treated as separate accounts:

  • The Simon in Luke was a Pharisee. The Simon in Matthew and Mark is a former leper.
  • The scandal in Luke is that Jesus, a rabbi, allowed such a sinful woman to touch him. The scandal in Matthew, Mark, and John was over how much money was wasted.
  • Simon, the host, criticizes Jesus in the first account. Judas and the disciples criticize Mary in the second.
  • Jesus answers with the woman’s gratitude in the first account. He tells of his burial in the second.
  • The setting of the first account is in Galilee; the setting of the second is in Bethany (in Judea).

[7] Stephen Davey, Scent from a Broken Vase, John 12:1-11

May 26, 2015

Greater than Death

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 10:46 pm

Jerusalem Tomb of the Garden

It is a subject that no one wants to talk about, yet it is the one thing that is inevitable for all of us. It is the one constant that unifies every human on earth.

 

We all will die.

 

Every culture has its customs and rituals for dealing with death. All of these rituals are ways to show respect for the departed and to comfort the loved ones.

 

In the ancient Jewish culture, the funeral would last for seven days, with the peak on the fourth day, or “high day” [1] . Friends and neighbors would come to gather around the grieving family and comfort them with loud wailing. The most dedicated friends would help prepare the body for burial by wrapping the body in linen strips and covering it with spices and perfumes. There was no embalming so the body was buried immediately.

 

The tomb was usually a cave which was built to hold several bodies. After the flesh had fully decomposed, a family member would come in and remove the bones. The entrance to the tomb was covered with a stone in order to keep out thieves and predators, and to protect people from the smell of the decaying body.

 

At some time during his ministry in Judea (October-December), Jesus had visited Mary and Martha in the small village of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42). He had become very close to the sisters and their brother, Lazarus. After the Feast of Dedication in December, Jesus had crossed the Jordan into Perea, but the sisters were still able to stay in touch with him.

 

It was now later in the Spring, probably early March, when Mary and Martha send word to Jesus. Lazarus was gravely ill, and they hurriedly dispatch a messenger with the news, “your friend is sick”.

 

Jesus received the news and announced that this would not end in death. Rather, this event was for the glory of God. Now that he received the news about a close friend who needed him, Jesus waits in Perea for two more days.

 

Lazarus had already died by the time the messenger reached Jesus. The point is re-emphasized — He loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, yet he waits for two more days. There is something greater than restoring Lazarus; there is something greater than comforting the sisters. It is God’s glory.

 

The religious leaders in Jerusalem had already announced that they wanted to kill Jesus, and Bethany was only two miles from Jerusalem. When Jesus announced his return to Judea, his disciples were concerned for his safety (and their own). Yet Jesus was clear on his intentions: Lazarus was dead and he was going to go raise him.

 

Jesus arrived in Bethany on the fourth day, the “High Day” of mourning. Lazarus had been buried for four days and a large crowd from Jerusalem had come to console Mary and Martha. Martha met Jesus outside the town and tells him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yet even still, Martha trusts in Jesus. She is prepared that whatever He asks of God, God will give to Him.

 

“Your brother will rise again”, Jesus tells her. Martha knew about the resurrection of believers, but she still did not understand. Jesus tells her, “I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever who believes in me, though he is dying, yet he will live.”

 

Jesus is not just able to restore life. He IS life. Jesus uses the name of God (“I AM”) and declares that he is God and that he is life.

 

Do you believe this, Martha? Her hope was not on how she felt, it was that she believed in the giver of life.

 

The next meeting, with Mary, brings Jesus to tears. He will soon bear the weight of the entire world on the cross, yet for now he must bear the grief and heartache of this small town as they stand at the tomb of Lazarus.

 

Martha objected to Jesus’ command to roll away the stone covering of Lazarus tomb. It had been four days, and the stench would be unbearable. Yet she obeys when Jesus mildly rebukes her and reminds her of the glory of God.

 

With the stone rolled away, Jesus thanks the Father. The Father has heard his prayer, as he always does, and there will be no doubt that this is from God. Jesus then shouted in his top voice, “LAZARUS, COME OUT!”

 

I cannot even picture the astonished crowd as Lazarus staggers out of the tomb, still in his linen wrappings. Jesus commands the people to unbind him.

“It is a peculiar thing, you cannot get any instruction in the Bible as to how to conduct a funeral, for Jesus broke up every funeral He ever attended by raising the dead.” – D.L. Moody

 

It is not surprising that many believed in Jesus that day. Nothing had ever happened like this [8].

 

But back in Jerusalem, the religious leaders hastily convened a meeting of the Great Sanhedrin. In their minds, this miracle had sparked a national crisis. If more people believe in him, they might get in trouble with Rome.

 

Therefore, they concluded that they need to contain this belief in Jesus at all costs. They need to kill him.

 

It is only a few short weeks before the final Passover, where Jesus will come to Jerusalem and die for the world. Now, everyone is talking about Jesus and his fame is going across the entire country. This miracle has also steeled the resolve of the Jewish leaders. They now are actively looking to kill him.

 

Jesus heads north to the small town of Ephraim, where he will await the time for one final trip to Jerusalem.

Remember!

 

  • Jesus breaks everyone’s preconceived notions on how he should behave. He delays when they expect him to hurry, he cries with those grieving, and then he raises the dead! Never underestimate the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

  • If you have not believed in Him, do not let any more time go by. He is the resurrection. He is the life. If you believe in him, you will live again!

 

  • Don’t be hardened by avoiding the truth. The Jewish leaders never doubted the miracle, but they loved their sin more than they loved what they knew was the truth!

 

  • Lean on the truth when you are hurting. Jesus reminded Martha of what she believed.

 

Previous post: My Sheep Hear my Voice


 

John 11:1-54

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go o Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”


Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

 


 

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.

 

The scene opens with a severe illness. This is the first time that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus have been mentioned in John’s Gospel account. Jesus had visited this family in Bethany the previous year and had apparently become close friends with them (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:3-5).

 

Matthew and Mark record the scene where Mary anointed Jesus with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9). John will also record this same scene later, in John 12:1-8. Note that the reference here shows that John expects the readers to be already familiar with this scene from the other Gospel accounts.

So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

 

Lazarus was a close friend to Jesus (phileō, φιλέω). Jesus also loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus with a divine love (agapaō, ἀγαπάω). Jesus had been staying in Perea, across the Jordan (John 10:40) when Martha sent the word about Lazarus’ illness.

 

Jesus’ reaction to the news does not follow what we would expect. He loves the family and Lazarus is a close friend. Yet he does not come to help them but stays away for two more days.

 

Jesus was probably about one days’ journey from Bethany. Therefore, Lazarus would have already been dead by the time that the messenger reached Jesus.

 

Why did Jesus delay? The answer is in His response to the news. There is something greater at stake than healing Lazarus, and greater than comforting Mary and Martha. God’s glory was most important.

 

Jesus put Mary and Martha through two additional days of torture in order to show the Glory of God. It is that important!

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

 

The Jewish leadership was actively looking for Jesus and wanted to kill him (see John 10:31-39). Jesus had found safety in the region of Perea but he would need to return to Judea in order to visit the town of Bethany. Naturally, the disciples were concerned for his (and their own) safety.

 

Jesus used the illustration of day and night to show that his time was fixed by God. You cannot shorten the daylight, and no man can shorten Jesus’ appointed time on earth.

After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

The common Jewish belief was that sleep was one of the indicators that sick person was recovering [3]. Therefore, in their minds, there was no need for Jesus to risk danger by going back to Bethany since Lazarus must be recovering.

 

Jesus had used “sleep” as the figurative description for death. But when his disciples misunderstood, he made it clear. Lazarus is dead.

 

Jesus also made his purpose very clear. He will raise Lazarus from the dead and His absence will cause the disciples to believe. Note that the “believe” is in the future tense. They still doubt.

 

Thomas’ response shows both their dedication and their doubt. They are committed to Jesus, and are willing follow him into (as they believe) certain death. But his response does not show any trust in Jesus — either in his ability to be safe before the appointed time or in his ability to raise the dead.

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

 

After four days, even the most superstitious Jews would be convinced that Lazarus  was dead [4]. This was also the “high day” of mourning, where the largest crowds would be the home of Mary and Martha in order to console them over the loss of their brother [1].

 

Mary and Martha must have been a prominent and wealthy family in Bethany in order to attract a large crowd of supporting friends from Jerusalem. The narrative also suggests that Lazarus had a private tomb, which would only be available to the wealthy. They also had enough political prestige that they could be friends of Jesus without fearing the wrath of the Jewish leadership (John 9:22).

 

The large crowd of friends would have also helped to prepare the body for burial. Therefore, there could be no doubt that Lazarus was dead.

So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha met Jesus outside of Bethany. You can hear the pain her voice, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. But she does not stop there. Here is a woman who has been suffering through grief and anguish for the last four days, yet even now she fully trusted Jesus, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you”.

 

Martha had excellent theology. She knew all about the resurrection and fully believed (correctly) that her brother would rise again on the last day. She knew that there would be a resurrection, but her understanding was not complete.

 

Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life”. He is not only capable of bringing life, he IS life! He is the author of life (Acts 3:15) and death cannot exist in his presence.

 

Jesus was also moving Martha from an abstract belief in a future resurrection to a very personal and real trust in Jesus himself.

 

This is the fifth time in John’s Gospel account that Jesus used the name of God to describe himself (see here). Jesus is God, and he is the resurrection, and he is life.

 

“Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”. Lazarus’ body was dead and had been buried for four days. All our bodies are dying. Yet there is something much more severe. The Bible tells of a second death where we will be permanently, eternally separated from God (Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:8). Though our bodies are dying, we can free from the second death when we believe in Jesus Christ.

 

“If you have been born twice, you will only die once. If you had been born only once, you will die twice.” – Stephen Davey [4]

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

Both Mary and Martha trusted fully in Jesus. Mary was in the house, attended by the guests, yet she dropped everything to quickly come to Jesus as soon as she knew that he was nearby.

 

Like Martha, Mary says that “if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. This is not a statement of criticism but complete (but limited) trust.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

 

The presence of Mary weeping, and of her companions weeping, caused one of the most emotional reactions that we ever see in the life of Jesus Christ:

  • He was deeply moved in his spirit. Literally, this word depicts a horse that is shuddering under a heavy load.
  • He was greatly troubled.
  • He wept. Literally, he burst into tears.

 

Many commentators point out that the word for “deeply moved” also can be translated as “angry”. It would be akin to when we witness a horrible tragedy in the news. Our minds are a mixture of horror, anger, pity, and grief.

 

Why did Jesus weep? As God come into the flesh, Jesus could suffer our pain and our hurt to an infinite degree. [4]

 

As Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”.

 

“It is not just the pain that he feels for the loss of his friend, and for the sympathy for the loved ones, this is a cosmic agony for the sins of the world. He understands what sin has done to the world and what unbelief is doing to the people.” – John MacArthur [6]

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 5:25

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

 

Jesus, still deeply moved, came to the tomb and commanded them to roll away the the stone. Martha objected — he had been dead for four days and there would be a horrible stench! Jesus reminded her that she would see the glory of God if she believed.

 

After rolling away the stone, Jesus prays to the Father. He does not bring any request, but says a prayer of thanks before raising the dead. There could be no doubt that the source of this miracle was from God the Father.

 

Jesus then shouted at the top of his voice, “LAZARUS, COME OUT!”

 

On command, Lazarus came out of the tomb, still wrapped up in the linen strips. The dead man is now alive!

 

This is the final miracle (before the resurrection) recorded in John’s gospel account. [2]

 

Augustine was the first to mention that if Jesus had not mentioned Lazarus by name, he may have raised up ALL the dead.

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

 

Many believed in Jesus after witnessing this miracle. Yet there were still some who went and reported these events to the Pharisees.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

 

This was one of the most spectacular displays of Jesus’ power [8]. He had left a thoroughly undeniable demonstration that he was the Messiah, and many believed on him.

 

After one of the greatest acts by the Lord Jesus comes one of the most chilling reactions. The Priests and the Pharisees hastily assemble the Sanhedrin. They do not deny the miracles, but fear a possible uprising if more people believe in Him. Their greatest concern is that they would lose their position of power.

 

Caiaphas, the High Priest, devised a plan. They must kill Jesus in order to save their position. God uses the words of the wicked High Priest to predict that Jesus would die for the people. Jesus will not just for die the Jews, but will gather his children from all nations (John 10:16; John 4:42).

 

They would rather have their spot of leadership and comfort than to acknowledge the truth.

 

After this, the conspiracy is set. The Jewish leaders are now focused on how to kill Jesus.

 

“…if men’s consciences are not awakened, if men are determined to resist the truth, miracles will not win them to Christ.” – H.A. Ironside [7]

 

“Man’s problem is not that he does not know the truth. Man’s problem is that he loves his sin more than he loves the truth.” – Doug Bookman [1]

Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

 

Jesus left the Jerusalem area and headed to the small town of Ephraim, on the border of Samaria. It is there that Jesus waits with his disciples until the Passover time draws near.

 


 

[1] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 11. http://www.bookmanministries.com/

 

[2] John records seven miracles in Jesus’ public ministry:

  1. Turning water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  2. Healing an official’s son (John 4:46-54)
  3. Healing the lame man at at the pool (John 5:1-15)
  4. Multiplying the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-14)
  5. Walking on water (John 6:16-21)
  6. Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-7)
  7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44)

(Source: John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 11)

 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, CHAPTER XXI, THE DEATH AND THE RAISING OF LAZARUS – THE QUESTION OF MIRACLES AND OF THIS MIRACLE OF MIRACLES – VIEWS OF NEGATIVE CRITICISM ON THIS HISTORY – JEWISH BURYING-RITES AND SEPULCHRES.

 

[4] Stephen Davey, Living Proof, John 11

 

[5] The Jewish beliefs about death required a person to identify a body within the first three days. After three days the body was too badly decomposed to identify. The other common belief was that the spirit hovered around the body for three days before it finally left. [4]

 

[6] John MacArthur, I Am the Resurrection and the Life, Part 1, John 11:17-36

 

[7] H.A. Ironside, Address 36, ONE MAN TO DIE FOR THE NATION, John 11:47-57

 

[8] Matthew, Mark, and Luke record two other occurrences where Jesus raised a person from the dead: The widow’s son (Luke 7:11-16) and Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56). Both of these cases involved strangers who had recently died. Lazarus was a close friend who had been dead for four days.

May 17, 2015

My Sheep Hear My Voice

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 1:36 am

sunset-7416_1280

Almost three months have passed since Jesus was last in Jerusalem. Since then, Jesus had sent out seventy to preach the gospel, visited the sisters Mary and Martha, and taught many people throughout Judea (Luke 10:1-13:21).

 

It was now winter (John 10:22) as Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication.

The Feast of Dedication, known today as “Hanukkah” takes place in December. It commemorates the time when, in 165 B.C., the faithful Jews were able to rededicate the temple after it had been polluted by the Syrian oppressors.

 

It is during this time that Jesus is accosted by the Jews. They literally closed in on Jesus demanding that he tell them once and for all: Is he the Messiah?

 

Jesus had already told them several times, sometimes indirectly (e.g. Luke 4:16-21) and sometimes directly (e.g. John 8:58-59). The Jews had already tried to kill him on many occasions after speaking these words.

 

The problem was not that they needed more information. They already knew the answer but had decided not to believe.

 

They did not believe because they were not his sheep. Jesus returned to the pastoral analogy to tell about his true sheep. He has a close, intimate relationship with his own sheep. They hear his voice and they follow him. He knows them.

 

But at this time, when confronted by people who refused to believe him, Jesus gave some of the most reassuring words to his own sheep:

 

He gives them eternal life. They will never perish.

 

They are in his hands, and in the hands of The Father. Nothing will ever take them away from him.

 

Jesus repeated his oneness with the Father. The people wanted to kill him for daring to speak it, because it was the utmost blasphemy to say that he was God.

 

Unless he actually was God!

 

Jesus appealed to the Old Testament scriptures that they all revered. Psalm 82 refers to wicked men as “gods” when they represent God on earth. How much more is it appropriate to say this to one who was actually sent by God!

 

Furthermore, Jesus’ words already said who he was (see John 5 and John 8). But if they had any reason to doubt his words, his actions showed he was God (see John 5, John 6, and John 9).

 

The chapter ends with a group of people who do believe. Jesus returned across the Jordan River (to Perea), where people remembered John the Baptist, and that he had announced Jesus as the Messiah. John 10 concludes with saying that many believed in him there.

 

Even after he was dead, John’s ministry continued to flourish.

Remember!

 

  • There are many people who refuse to believe. They don’t need a better argument, they need to come to God.

 

  • We are promised a close relationship with Jesus Christ and we are promised eternal life. There is NOTHING that will take us away from him! See also Romans 8:35-39.

 

  • We may never know all of the results when we teach God’s word. John the Baptist never knew how his words would be used long after his death.

Previous Post: The Good Shepherd

 


 

John 10:22-42

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”


The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.


He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

 


 

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.

 

The Feast of Dedication was one of the few Jewish feasts that was not based on the Old Testament Law. In 168 B.C., the Syrian ruler, who also governed the Jews, was Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). In an attempt to force the Jews to conform to Greek culture, Antiochus invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. Antiochus commanded the people to worship the Greek gods under penalty of death.

 

This sparked a revolt by the faithful Jews. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the Jews fought back and drove out the Syrians. The temple was restored and rededicated on 25th of Kislev, 165 B.C.

 

The people set up the Feast of Dedication to commemorate this event. This celebration was also known as the Feast of Lights, or “Hanukkah”, and was celebrated during the current month of December.

 

The Porch of Solomon was a large portico built on the original retaining wall from Solomon’s temple.

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

 

“It is winter, and Christ is walking in the covered Porch, in front of the ‘Beautiful Gate,’which formed the principal entrance into the ‘Court of the Women.’As he walks up and down, the people are literally barring His Way.” – Alfred Edersheim [1]

 

The people “gathered around him”, literally, they “closed in on him”. They asked Jesus to tell them plainly if he was the Messiah. He had already told them several times and they even tried to kill him.

 

Their problem was not a lack of information. The problem was not a lack of evidence. The problem was that they refused to believe.

 

Note also that there was both a human and a divine component to their unbelief. The human part was their refusal to believe Jesus, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. The divine part was that they were not among his sheep (see John 6:37–44).

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

 

The words of Jesus here show a deep level of intimacy between the shepherd and the sheep. His sheep hear his voice, he knows them, and they follow him.

 

As part of this relationship between the Lord Jesus and his sheep, he gives them both security and eternal life. Both statements are repeated with increasing emphasis. He gives them eternal life, and they will NEVER perish! Nothing can cause them to perish, and nothing can take them out of his hand!

 

With added emphasis, the Father has the utmost authority. He has given the sheep to the Him, and no one can take them from the Father. See also John 6:37-39.

 

“I and the Father are One”, indicates a oneness of purpose, as evidenced by the neutral gender.

 

“No stronger passage in the OT or NT exists for the absolute, eternal security of every true Christian.” – John MacArthur [2]

 


The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

 

“I and the father are one”. At this comment, the Jews picked up stones to throw at him. This was the fourth attempt by the Jews to kill him (John 5:18; John 7:32,45-56; John 8:59; John 10:31).

 

If there was any doubt about what Jesus meant, it was removed by the next comments. Jesus actually stopped the raging mob to ask them what they were doing. In the eyes of the Jews, He had committed the worst possible blasphemy, by saying that he was God.

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

 

Psalms 82:6-7
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”

 

Psalm 82 is a judgement on corrupt judges. They were representatives of God on earth, so they were called “gods” in this Psalm. Jesus used this by analogy to show that there were valid times in scripture to call people as “gods”. If evil judges were described as gods, how much more valid is it to describe the one who was ordained by God the Father himself.

 

“The Law” was the term used most commonly for the first five books of the Old Testament. However, this is an example where the term “The Law” can also have a broader definition, including the Psalms and the Prophets.

 

This is also a place where Jesus validated the Old Testament — every word — as scripture, that cannot be broken or set aside.

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

 

They may not believe his words, but they cannot deny his works. Nicodemus recognized that these works were from God (John 3:2)

Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

 

Jesus’ words had silenced the crowd. They no longer attempted to stone him as a blasphemer, but they still wanted to arrest him. Jesus escaped from their hands once again.

 


He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

 

John’s ministry is completed long after he is dead. The people who remember John now believe in Jesus.


 

[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, CHAPTER XIV, AT THE FEAST OF THE DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE.

 

[2] John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 10

May 9, 2015

The Good Shepherd

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 12:49 am

flock-of-sheep-49666_1280

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

 

The Lord is my shepherd.

 

How often do we forget that God will guide us, care for us, and protect us?

 

Jesus Christ takes up the same analogy in his last public sermon. In John 10, he makes two specific statements about himself, showing that he is God, and showing his care for us as sheep.

 

“I am the door”. Those who enter by Him will be saved and will find safety and satisfaction.

 

“I am the good shepherd”. He will care for us, to the point that he will lay down his life for us.

 

The previous chapter (John 9), shows Jesus demonstrating that he is the Messiah by healing a blind man. This stirred up a controversy because he healed the man on the Sabbath. He had healed the blind man, but how could the Messiah break the Sabbath traditions? Jesus used the man’s blindness as an analogy for spiritual blindness. The blind man now believed Jesus and could see. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were blinded by their unbelief.

 

The scene does not change between John 9 and John 10. Now, in John 10, Jesus points out these same Pharisees who refused to believe. They are not real shepherds of the people, but are instead thieves and robbers, who do not care for the flock.

 

Jesus then delivers his final public sermon. He recounts three aspects of the life of a shepherd.

 

Gathering the sheep

 

First, the shepherd gathers his own sheep from the sheep pen (sheepfold, John 10:1-6). The sheep pen contains several flocks and is guarded by the gatekeeper. The shepherd calls out his own sheep from the multitude, calling them by name. The sheep hear his voice and he leads them out.

 

The contrast is with the thieves and robbers. They cannot enter through the door and the sheep do not know them.

 

Just like the shepherd, Jesus will call his disciples out from Israel. He knows each of his own by name and they will know his voice. They will not follow the false leaders.

Sheltering the sheep in the pasture

 

Secondly, the shepherd brings the sheep to pasture and guards the doorway to the field shelter (John 10:7-10). The small enclosure at the pastures allows the sheep both protection and shelter from the elements. As the door, the shepherd both admits his own sheep and keeps out predators.

 

Jesus uses the ancient name of God when he states, “I AM the door of the sheep”. This is the third statement in John’s gospel account where Jesus uses the Old Testament name of God to show who he is (see the complete list here).

Risking his life to protect the sheep

 

Finally, the shepherd personally puts his own life on the line against dangers in order to protect the sheep (John 10:11-15). It was common in that day for a lion, a bear, or a wolf to attack the flock and attempt to kill any shepherd who may defend the sheep (see 1 Samuel 17:34-35). A hired hand would quickly leave this place of danger, but the shepherd was committed to the sheep, defending them against all possible dangers.

 

Jesus again uses the ancient name of God when he states (for the fourth time in John’s gospel account), “I AM the good shepherd”. The word for “good” is not just morally right, but also shows excellence and beauty. He is the greatest shepherd.

 

He also has other sheep outside of this fold (John 10:16). He will gather them together into one flock. Both the Jews and the Gentiles will be united together in the Messiah’s kingdom.

 

Jesus also promises, as the Good Shepherd, to lay down his life and to take it up again (John 10:17-18). He says four times in this passage that he will lay down his life, and two times that he will take it up again.

 

In less than 6 months, Jesus will be arrested and killed as a common criminal. Three days later, he will rise again. Don’t miss the point — this is not coming as a surprise! Jesus Christ will die and rise again by his own will.

Remember!

 

  • Jesus is the Door! He is the way to shelter and protection when you need him. You can go in and out from his shelter and find satisfaction.

 

  • Jesus is your Good Shepherd! He is the true leader who watches over you and who gave his life for you.

 

  • Nothing comes as a surprise for Jesus! Even his own death was by his own will.

Previous post: Are you blind?

 


John 10:1-21

 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.


So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”


There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

 


 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.

 

John 9 ends with the man who was healed by Jesus being put out of the synagogue, and excommunicated from all Jewish religious life. Jesus used the man’s physical blindness as a metaphor for spiritual blindness, pointing out that only those who believe can truly see.

 

John 10 begins at the same scene. The Pharisees who refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, who cast out the man that had been healed, are not true shepherds of the people. They are thieves and robbers (see also Ezekiel 34).

 

This is Jesus’ last public sermon and he uses an analogy which is common through scripture, that of a shepherd with his sheep. He presents three aspects of a shepherd to show his relationship to his disciples.

 

The first aspect of a shepherd presents a sheepfold or a sheep pen. This is a large enclosure where the sheep were sheltered for the night. It had a single door, which was guarded by the porter, or gatekeeper. Inside would be several flocks of sheep. The gatekeeper would allow only the shepherd to go through the door.

 

What are the sheepfold and the door in this analogy? Most commentators agree that the sheepfold is the nation of Israel (compare with 10:16) and the door is true leadership through God’s word.

 

“They were, surely, not shepherds, who had cast out the healed blind man, or who so judged of the Christ, and would cast out all His disciples. They had entered into God’s Sheepfold, but not by the door by which the owner, God, had brought His flock into the fold.” – Alfred Edersheim [1]

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 

The shepherd calls his own sheep out from the other flocks. He knows each of them by name.

 

Note the close relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. Other sheep do not listen to him, but his own sheep hear his voice and he leads them out.

 

Likewise, the Messiah will call his own and lead his people out from within their nation into his own kingdom.

 

The people knew their Old Testament scriptures very well, and were fully able to understand the care of a shepherd for his sheep. However, they did not understand what Jesus was saying when he applied the analogy of a shepherd to himself or to the false leaders.

 


So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

 

Jesus continued with the second aspect of a shepherd with his sheep. The shepherd will lead his flock out to pasture, but he will also provide an enclosed area for sheep that need shelter or protection. The shepherd will personally stay in the doorway of the shelter, ensuring that no danger can enter the enclosure.

 

“I AM the door of the sheep”. This is the third “I AM” statement, where Jesus uses the Old Testament name of God to show who he is (see the complete list here). Those who enter by Christ will be saved and will find satisfaction (find pasture).

 

Note that Jesus not only offers safety but also satisfaction in him. The sheep will find pasture, and they will have abundant life. See also Psalm 23:1. [2]

 

Those who try to lead the people apart from Jesus Christ are the thieves and robbers who do not enter through the door. Their only objective is what they can get, regardless of how it destroys the flock (see also Philippians 3:18-19).

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

 

The final aspect of a shepherd shows how he will risk his own life for the sheep. Unlike others, the shepherd personally cares for the sheep and protects them, regardless of the danger.

 

“I AM the good shepherd”. Closely following the previous statement, this is the fourth “I AM” statement. In this case, Jesus is the shepherd, “the good one”. The word for “good” here goes beyond moral goodness, and describes beauty and excellence. [3]

 

Unlike a hired hand, the shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep. This is both a general reference (i.e. put his life on the line), but also a specific prophecy. Jesus is predicting his own death. The word for “life” here (psyche, ψυχή), is more than just your physical life, but describes the entire soul.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

 

Jesus repeats his statement, “I AM the good shepherd”. Not only does the good shepherd lay down his life for the sheep, but he knows his own sheep.

 

Jesus says that he will know us and we can know him, just as the Father knows him. This is more than just knowledge of facts, but the word “know” (gnosco, γινώσκω) describes intimate personal knowledge. [2]

 

The “other sheep” mentioned here are the believing gentiles. Jesus promises to call out both Jews and Gentiles, and personally lead them together!

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

 

Note that Jesus predicts his death four times ( 10:11, 10:15, 10:17-18). He says four times that he will lay his life down, and these last two times, he also says that he will take it up again. He will die, and he will rise again.

 

It will not come as a surprise to Jesus. His death comes by his own choice.

 

“So it was love for us, for our needy souls, that took Him there and led Him to die as a sacrifice for sin.” – H.A. Ironside [4]

 

There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

 

This is the third time that Jesus causes a division (7:40-44, 9:16). The Pharisees fell back to their common mantra, that Jesus must have a demon. But the healed blind man (see John 9) is still fresh in their minds. How could this be the work of a demon?

 

“And so, once again, the Light of His Words and His Person fell upon His Works, and, as ever, revealed their character, and made them clear.” – Alfred Edersheim [1]

 


 

[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, CHAPTER X. THE ‘GOOD SHEPHERD’ AND HIS ‘ONE FLOCK’ – LAST DISCOURSE AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES

 

[2] Stephen Davey, Up Close and Personal, John 10

 

[3] John MacArthur, I Am the Good Shepherd, John 10:11-21

 

[4] H.A. Ironside, Address 33, THE SECURITY OF CHRIST’S SHEEP, John 10:17-30

May 3, 2015

Are you blind?

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 2:42 pm

light-bulb

How has Jesus changed you?

 

How has he challenged you?

 

The next chapter in John’s gospel account tells the story of a man who was changed after an encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus met him as a blind beggar and healed him by spitting on the ground, rubbing the mud into his eyes, and telling him to go and wash. The man washed and for the first time in his life, he can see!

 

There is only one problem.

 

Jesus did it on a Sabbath!

 

On a physical level, Jesus challenged the blind man. Go across the city to the Pool of Siloam and wash the mud out of your eyes. The man obeyed and he was given sight.

 

On a spiritual level, Jesus challenged the religious Jews. They believed in the Messiah, and were looking forward to his coming. They believed that they would know the a Messiah because he would make the blind to see. But they also believed in their thousands of religious laws. Now the Messiah has come, but they don’t like him.

 

In John 8, Jesus challenged their religious preconceptions. They believed that God would save them, simply because they were Abraham’s descendents. But Jesus taught that their family relations do not matter. They needed to believe in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life.

 

In John 9, Jesus challenged their religious traditions. Their traditions held a litany of Sabbath laws, yet Jesus broke them in order to heal a blind man. This forced the issue: you can either believe that Jesus is the Messiah or you can believe that he is a criminal.

 

Some of the people believed in Jesus the Messiah. Most of them would rather believe that he was a criminal.

 

This chapter is unique in that, during most of the narrative of this chapter, Jesus is absent. Jesus did not directly confront the Jewish leaders in this chapter, but instead, he sent an eyewitness. This eyewitness was a blind man, an outcast from society. Everyone — even Jesus’ disciples — believed that the man’s blindness was a punishment for someone’s sin. When under pressure, his parents did not even stand up for him.

 

The leaders brought the man in for questioning. In their minds, Jesus could not have healed the man because he did not respect their traditions. They tried three times to pressure the man into recanting, and then “cast him out” after the man confronted them.

 

How did the man leave them speechless? He simply told his own story, “Though I was blind, now I can see”. Jesus had given the man sight, yet the leaders were blind to the truth.

 

As the scene ends, Jesus met the man and showed him who he is. The man was physically blind, but now he could see, both physically and spiritually. The Pharisees, by contrast, had chosen their own beliefs over the clear facts. They thought they could see, but they were left totally blind.

 

Remember!

  • How has Jesus changed your life?  When you are challenged by others, your own experience is more effective than any persuasive argument.

 

  • When is the last time that the words of Jesus challenged you? If you have not been challenged by Jesus, then you may be on the way toward blindness.

 

So surrender the hunger to say you must know

Have the courage to say I believe

For the power of paradox opens your eyes

And blinds those who say they can see

-Michael Card

Previous Post: The Truth Will Set You Free

 


John 9

​As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.


As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

 

It was probably the next day after the previous conflict with the Jews (John 8), near the outskirts of the Temple, where Jesus encountered a blind man. The man had been blind from birth, thus prompting a theological question from Jesus’ disciples.

 

The disciples were simply echoing the beliefs of their day. According to the rabbis, congenital defects were the direct result of sin. Either the parents sinned before the child was born, or the child sinned in the womb [3].

 

Jesus stopped their speculation. You cannot directly attribute a person’s problems to a sin in their life (read Job), and sometimes God allows problems to happen so that he can illustrate a greater purpose.

 

The reference to day and night indicate that Jesus’ time on earth was short. He would be leaving earth soon and returning back to Heaven (in less than 6 months). But Jesus also extends the responsibility to the disciples by using the “we” (“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day”). The time to do God’s work did not end when Jesus returned to Heaven, but we need to take the opportunities to help people while we still have time.

 

The final reference is directly back to Jesus himself. He is the light of the world. This is a direct connection to the previous chapter (John 8:12) where he publicly announced that he was the light of the world. See the study here for more details.

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Jesus healed the blind man through a very unusual process. Many commentators speculate about why Jesus used these specific steps, but these points are clear:

 

  • Jesus deliberately broke several of the Sabbath traditions with this process, thereby provoking a conflict between the Jewish oral traditions (the Sabbath laws) and the works of the Messiah. See below for more details.
  • The Pool of Siloam draws a direct connection to the recent Feast of Tabernacles, since this was the pool used by priests to draw water for the temple ceremonies (see here).
  • The man could not identify Jesus after he was healed. There may have been spiritual implications with this act (i.e. growing in belief), but main reason may simply have been practical. Jesus was a wanted fugitive, and he did not reveal himself to the man until later.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

Now that the man could see, his whole expression must have changed. His own neighbors doubted if it really was him! All the man knew about Jesus was his name and that he commanded him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

One of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Six days are available to work, but the seventh is a holy day to The Lord (Exodus 20:8-11). The Jewish tradition, however, had developed a large assortment of restrictions governing what could, and could not be done on the Sabbath. The Jews had elevated their traditions above the Laws of God by building and maintaining this large list of additional laws.

 

Jesus directly challenged the Sabbath traditions by healing the man on the Sabbath. He had broken at least two of their Sabbath laws by healing the man [4]:

  • He spit on the ground to make mud. This was considered illegal work on the sabbath (making mud).
  • He applied the mud to the man’s eyes and healed him. It was against the Sabbath laws to practice medicine on the Sabbath unless the case was life-threatening. Treating eyes for blindness was not allowed.

 

The Jewish traditions also stated that there was one, unmistakable, way to identify the Messiah when he comes. Only the Messiah could open the eyes of the blind! Never in the history of the Jewish people had anyone ever healed a blind man. Actually, healings in the Old Testament were so rare, that they were practically nonexistent [2].

 

Therefore, Jesus drew a conflict in the Jewish traditions by healing the blind man on the Sabbath. One tradition held that he must be the Messiah because he healed the blind man, while the other tradition held that he must be a sinner for breaking their Sabbath laws.

 

This caused a major conflict among the Pharisees, who were the overseers of the rabbinic traditions. Some Pharisees believed that Jesus must be the Messiah because of the signs that he performed. But the majority believed that Jesus was a sinner and refused to acknowledge his signs.

 

One historical note: The Pharisees would not meet on the Sabbath. Therefore, this discussion had likely occurred on the next day.

 

They could not accept Jesus Christ because he did not keep the Sabbath in the way that they wanted.

 

However, the issue for the (formerly) blind man was clear. Jesus opened his eyes. He must be a prophet.

 

“He was acting in utter disregard of the many hundreds of laws that they had made themselves. Jesus was quite indifferent to them, and when men and women were in distress He would help them, no matter what offense it gave to these legalists.” – H.A. Ironside [5]

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The Pharisees were both respected and feared by the people because they had the power to “put out of the synagogue” anyone who dared to oppose them. The synagogue was the center of social life, of business, of learning, and the effective means for the people to come to God. Therefore, to put someone out of the synagogue would be to cut him off from the rest of society, and to cut them off from God.

 

Depending of the severity of the crime, there were three ways to put someone out of the synagogue: a person could be put out for a short time ( a week or more) so that they could repent or they could also be put out for longer time (possibly months) while they got their life back on track. But the most severe punishment was permanent banishment. The permanent banishment would effectively consider the person to be dead [4].

 

Note the depth of the hatred that the Pharisees had for Jesus by this time. They decreed permanent banishment for the anyone who would dare to confess Jesus as the Messiah!

 

The Pharisees, now doubting that the man was even blind (was he faking it?), interrogated his parents. The parents acknowledged that the man was blind, but they dodged any answers about how he may have been healed.

 

There has been a lot of conjecture about why the parents did not stand up for their son. These are the same parents who required their blind son to beg on the streets, so they either could not provide for him, or they would not provide for him. One possibility is that the parents, ashamed of the stigma brought by their son’s blindness, had left him to fend for himself and would not be willing to stand with him against the leadership of the Jews. The other possibility is that the parents were in such abject poverty that they could not provide for him, and banishment to these poor people would have been an effective death sentence. Either way, the parents lost the opportunity to share in their son’s new-found faith and they disappear from history.

 

Note also, as shown below, that the blind man knew the scriptures. Given the stigma of his blindness, he would not have been taught in the synagogue, so he was either taught by his parents or by another teacher who cared for him.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

 

The Pharisees used the the spiritual-sounding words of, “Give glory to God”, as they tried to force the man to deny Jesus. Literally, they were saying, “Tell the truth!” They would not believe that Jesus had really healed the man, so they were trying to pressure the man to deny it. Notice that their belief against Jesus was so strong that it clouded their rational thought. In their eyes, he must be a sinner!

 

The man’s response was very direct and simple. He didn’t argue theology with these men, but went back to his own experience: “though I was blind, now I see”.

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

For the third, time, the Pharisees interrogate the man about what happened. Finally, out of frustration (and possibly sarcasm), the man asks them why they keep repeating the question. “Do you also want to be his disciples?”

 

Their reaction was immediate. How dare he think that they wanted to follow this man! They are followers of Moses, who gave them the law of the Sabbath. They knew and trusted Moses, but they did not know Jesus’ origin.

The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

 

The man may have been a blind outcast, but he was not afraid to confront the Jewish leaders. Never before did anyone open the eyes of a blind man, and yet these religious leaders know nothing about him! How could Jesus do this if he were not from God?

 

The Pharisees have no response to the man. All they can do is to attack his blindness — the man was born blind, therefore he must be a sinner, and therefore he was not fit to teach them! Since they had no answer, they criticized his past and put him out of the synagogue.

 

“The Pharisees had nothing to answer, and … could only, in their fury, cast him out with bitter reproaches. Would he teach them – he, whose very disease showed him to have been a child conceived and born in sin, and who, ever since his birth, had been among ignorant, Law-neglecting ‘sinners’?” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

 

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The “Son of Man” is the common title of the Messiah (Daniel 7:13). Jesus found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Messiah?”

 

The man received the punishment from the Jewish leaders that his parents feared, yet there is no remorse with him.  Psalm 27:10 says, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but The Lord will take me up”. The man was ready to believe in Jesus and this final encounter with Jesus left the man with nothing left but worship. [3]

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

 

Jesus uses the man’s physical blindness as lesson on spiritual blindness. Jesus has come to pronounce the judgement on those who do not believe (see John 3:17-18). He will open the eyes of the blind, by showing them the way to God. But for those who think they do not need forgiveness, they are blinded by their unbelief.

 

We see in this passage that there were Pharisees who wanted to follow Jesus. They were not against him, though they were not ready to believe in him. But since they thought they knew the way to God (thought they could see), they were really blind and unable to follow him.

 


 

[1] John MacArthur, Blind for the Glory of God, John 9:1-12

 

[2] There were only three recorded healings in the Old Testament [1]:

There were also only three recorded events where a person was raised from the dead in the Old Testament:

 

[3] Stephen Davey, To See or Not to See, John 8:12-20, John 9:1-41

 

[4] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, CHAPTER IX. THE HEALING OF THE MAN BORN BLIND


[5] H.A. Ironside, Address 31, FROM BLINDNESS AND PENURY TO ETERNAL BLESSING, John 9:1-41

April 22, 2015

The Truth Will Set You Free

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 11:04 pm

barbed-wire-fence

“The truth will set you free.”

 

This popular phase has adorned institutes of higher learning and is commonly quoted by intellectuals, and others who value a good education. “When you are exposed to truth, you will be able to throw off the shackles that have enslaved you”; “Only when you learn will you reach your full potential.”

 

Others use this phrase as encouragement to cleanse yourselves from the trappings of any lies. They see being truthful as freeing yourself from the entanglements caused by your deception, “tell the truth and free yourself”.

 

But is Jesus really talking about education and self-fulfillment? Look closer at all that Jesus said:

 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

Many believed in Jesus after his last statements. There were also several believers in the crowd from the recent Feast of Tabernacles (see John 7:31). Jesus then turned to the believers. It is not enough to simply agree with the truth about Jesus. To be a true disciple of Jesus, you need to abide in his word.

 

What does it mean to abide in his word? The word for “abide” is meno (μένω), which means to take up residence; to continue; remain; not depart. It means to stay connected to His word. Jesus uses the same word, “abide”, in John 15 when he compared his disciples as branches to a vine. We abide in Him when we stay connected to him. We need to make his word our source, our guide, our refuge, and our comfort.

 

What is the truth? Jesus made it clear that the freedom is from sin, yet the people already believed that they were free. Part of the truth is to shatter their false security so that they may know that they need to be rescued from sin. But Jesus, himself, is the truth (John 14:6). All who believe in him will be rescued from sin (John 3:14-18).

 

What happens to the true disciples who abide in His word? They will know the truth that makes them free. The true disciples will know the truth about freedom from sin and receive eternal life with God.

 

“By nature far from Him, they were bondsmen. Only if they abode in His Word would they know the truth, and the truth would make them free. The result of this knowledge would be moral, and hence that knowledge consisted not in merely believing on Him, but in making His Word and teaching their dwelling – abiding in it.” – Alfred Edersheim [3]

 

In the previous study on John 8, we had covered that Jesus commanded the listeners to “Follow Me” four times in this chapter. Each time he repeated the command, he made the command more specific and had increasingly hostile responses. In each of these four commands, Jesus also gave a promise for those who follow him:

  • “Follow Me” (John 8:12-20)
  • “Believe that I AM” (John 8:21-30)
  • “Abide in my word” (John 8:31-47)
  • “Keep my word” (John 8:48-59)

 

The final two commands, discussed here, are both related to Jesus’ Word. What makes the difference between a true disciple and an unbeliever? Their response to His Word.


“Abide in my word”

 

It is those who abide in His Word that are his true disciples. The promise, discussed above, is that the true disciples would know Jesus and be made free from sin.

 

But the opposition to Jesus has increased severely. The Jews did not believe that they need anything else other than to be a descendant of Abraham. They would rather kill Jesus than face the truth. They dismissed Jesus as an illegitimate child, who is not worthy of teaching them.

 

The response by Jesus was the strongest yet. There are only two families: the family of God and the family of The Devil. If they do not love the one sent by God, then they are children of The Devil! How are they identified as children of The Devil? Because they do not love Jesus and they cannot bear to hear his word.

 

 

“Keep my word”

 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

 

Jesus also gives the promise that those who keep his word will never see death. Their bodies may die but they will never be separated from God (See Revelation 21:1-8).

 

“Now outwardly, of course, believers die as others die. And yet the wonderful thing is that the words of Jesus are absolutely true: the believer does not see death. What does he see? He sees the entrance into the Father’s house. Death, we are told, is our servant. How does death serve us? By ushering us into the presence of God.” – H.A. Ironside [4]

 

The opposition by the Jews goes beyond the personal attacks. They now accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. The response by Jesus was the promise here, but he also relied on the glory from God the Father.

 

The Jews were shocked that Jesus may claim to be a greater man than Abraham, yet that was not what Jesus was saying. He was not a greater man than Abraham. He was the God of Abraham!

 

 

Remember!

 

Things to remember from this study:

 

  • Jesus is the truth. If you want to be free, know Jesus! To be free from your sin, get closer to Jesus Christ.

 

  • There are only two families: the family of God and the family of the Devil.

 

  • Get close to Jesus by abiding in His Word!

 

 

Previous post: Light of the World

 


 

John 8:31-59

 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

 

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

 

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

 


 

“If you abide in my word, … you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

It is not enough to simply agree with the truth about Jesus. To be a true disciple of Jesus, you need to abide in his word.

 

What does it mean to abide in his word? The word for “abide” is meno (μένω), which means to take up residence; to continue; remain; not depart. It means to stay connected to His word. Jesus uses the same word, “abide”, in John 15 when he compared his disciples as branches to a vine. We abide in Him when we stay connected to him. We need to make his word our source, our guide, our refuge, and our comfort.

 

It also means to continue in His word. The true disciple will persevere in His word, even through difficult times.

 

What happens to the true disciples who abide in His word? They will know the truth that makes them free. Jesus makes it clear later in this passage that the freedom is from sin. Therefore, the true disciples will know the truth about freedom from sin and eternal life with God.

 

 

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

 

The Old Testament scriptures taught that the Messiah would save the people from sin (see the link here). This freedom from sin is exactly what Jesus was offering, but the Jews did not believe they needed to be saved.

 

The Jews knew well that their nation was subject to Rome. They were hardly free men, yet they relied on their inward sense of freedom. Abraham was their great ancestor and the Jews were secure in their belief that they were free from sin simply because they were his descendants.

 

Jesus would go back to their connection with Abraham throughout the rest of this chapter (Abraham is mentioned 11 times in this chapter). He repeatedly shatters their false security.

 

They were slaves to sin. As slaves, they had no rights and were not part of God’s family. The only way they could have freedom is to be set free by the Son of God.

 

“He told them that it was not enough that they were literally descended from Abraham, but that they must know that deliverance from the power of sin that Abraham knew if they were to be recognized as the children of God.” – H.A. Ironside [4]

 

The people — these believers — wanted to kill him. Jesus had so offended their religious beliefs that they were now becoming resolved that he was better off dead! His word had no place in them.

 

Jesus’ point was very direct. They claimed to be in God’s family because they were descendants of Abraham. But they could not possibly be in God’s family if they wanted to kill God’s son.

 

 

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”

 

Jesus responded that the spiritual descendants of Abraham do what Abraham did, that is, they believe and obey God. [5]

 

“But they entertained purposes of murder, and that, because the Word of Christ had not free course, made not way in them. His Word was what He had seen with (before) the Father, not heard – for His presence was there Eternal. Their deeds were what they had heard from their father” – Alfred  Edersheim [3]

 

 


 

You are of your father the devil”

 

They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

 

The Jews responded with, “We were not born from sexual immorality”. Jesus had just told them that they could not possibly be Abraham’s descendants since they wanted to kill him. Their response was that their lineage was pure. They could trace their bloodlines, both personally and as a nation.

 

But there was also a deeply personal attack in their response. Once again, they were accusing Jesus of being an illegitimate child who could not possibly be the Son of God.

 

Jesus ignored their personal attack and pressed the point that if God were their father, then they would love the one sent from God. They do not understand him because they refuse to hear his word.

 

 

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

 

Here is the main point. There are only two families: the family of God and the family of the devil. Every member of the human race belongs to either of these two families.

 

The difference between the two families is shown by how they handle the word of Jesus Christ. Jesus brings up his word three times in this scene:

  • “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”
  • “You seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you”
  • “you cannot bear to hear my word”
  • “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death”

 

The believing Jews wanted to listen to Jesus, but they would rather kill him than be his disciples, following his word. They claimed to be children of God, but they could not be in God’s family when they had no love for the one sent from God.

 

They were part of the devil’s family. The devil is a murderer and is opposed to the truth.

 

What was their greatest sin? Jesus mentioned it twice here. They refuse to believe. Jesus was never convicted of anything wrong, yet they would not believe him.

 

 

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

They are not simply refusing one man’s testimony. By refusing to believe Jesus’ word, they are refusing the words of God the Father.

 


 

“If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

 

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.

 

The hostility has been escalating throughout this scene. While the Jews had started out with simple insinuations about Jesus’ birth (i.e. “Who is your father?”), they now throw the strongest possible insults at him.

 

“You are a Samaritan and have a demon!” This was their strongest insult that they could bring against Jesus. The word, “Samaritan”, was the common term for a heretic (see here) and was used against unbelieving Jews. But this accusation was also, once again, another personal attack against Jesus’ birth. By calling Jesus a Samaritan, they were calling him a half-breed child of a worthless foreigner.

 

They also charged him with having a demon. This was the tactic that the Pharisees had used to explain Jesus’ miracles, attributing his work to the power of Satan (see Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:20-30).

 

Note that Jesus again did not not respond to the personal attacks. His power is not from demons but from God the Father. They dishonor God the Father by accusing Jesus. Jesus will not try to defend himself but will let God the Father judge.

 

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

 

Even in the middle of their accusations and personal attacks, Jesus gave an invitation. “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” We have a physical life and a physical death. Likewise, we have a spiritual life. But Jesus gives the invitation to escape the spiritual death by keeping his word (See also Revelation 21:1-8).

 

 

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

 

Jesus spoke about escaping death and the Jews thought he was demon possessed. There was no way, in their minds, that Jesus could be greater than death. After all, even Abraham and the prophets died. Their reaction was, “Who do you think you are?”

 

The response from Jesus was simple but very direct:

  • “I am not glorifying myself because God the father is glorifying me”
  • “You claim God as your own but you do not know him”
  • “I know God the Father. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you”
  • “I keep His word”
  • “You claim kinship to Abraham but he rejoiced to see my day”

 

When did Abraham see Jesus? We don’t know the exact reference that Jesus was referring to, but it was likely when God gave Abraham the promise that “In you shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:15-18).

 

 

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

 

For the final time in the scene, Jesus silence says the crowd by naming the name of God, “I AM”. He is the God who spoke to Moses. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He existed before Abraham lived.

 

They understood him. Jesus had just committed the ultimate blasphemy by claiming to be God. Their anger was beyond words and they picked up stones to kill him.

 


 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, Book IV, “The Descent”, CHAPTER 8

 

[4] H.A. Ironside, Address 29, IS THERE A PERSONAL DEVIL?, John 8:33-44;

Address 30, THE PREEXISTENT CHRIST, John 8:45-59

 

[5] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John 8, pages 303-307.

April 19, 2015

Light of the World

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 12:03 am

fire-in-the-sky

I try to picture the scene as if I were there in person. The Feast of Tabernacles, one of the biggest celebrations on the Jewish calendar, has been going on for the past week. Jewish people from all over the world have come to Jerusalem to live in temporary shelters and celebrate this occasion.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles was a time for the Jewish people to remember their ancestors when they wandered in the wilderness (see more details here). The ceremony of water commemorated God’s miraculous provision of water throughout the years of desert wanderings. This feast also looked forward to the Kingdom of the Messiah, when God would again personally lead his people and provide for their needs.

 

But the Feast of Tabernacles also celebrated the light of the Messiah. God had personally led their ancestors through the desert in a cloud by day and a fire by night. Four giant candelabra in the temple courts (more like giant torches) were lit during the feast, illuminating the entire city of Jerusalem.

 

But now the feast had ended and people were preparing to leave. The four giant candelabra — no longer burning —  stood as silent reminders of the great celebration. As the people look on, Jesus walks by these great candelabra and speaks to the crowd,

“I am the light of the world.”

 

But he does not stop there:

“Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

To roughly translate this, He was saying, “These giant torches that you see are now finished. But I am the real light and I will never go out. Follow me and I will give you light and I will give you life.”

 

Jesus also uses the Hebrew name of God, “I AM”. He actually refers to himself as “I AM” several times in this passage:

  • “I AM the light of the world”
  • “Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”
  • “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM”

 

This chapter is very direct, very specific, and very confrontational. Jesus gives the command to “Follow Me” four times in this chapter (John 8). Each time he repeats the command, he makes it more specific and he receives increasingly hostile responses. In each of these four commands, Jesus also gives a motivation for following him:

  • “Follow Me” (John 8:12-20)
  • “Believe that I AM” (John 8:21-30)
  • “Abide in my word” (John 8:31-47)
  • “Keep my word” (John 8:48-59)

 

We go through the first two commands in this study and will cover the second two commands in the next study.

“Follow Me”

 

In the statement above, Jesus said that he is the light of the world. Jesus is the God that the Jews claim to worship, and he offers the light of life to all who follow him. The Pharisees interjected with, “Who are you to speak like that?” Jesus responded that he was sent by God the Father, and they do not know the Father if they do not know him.

Believe that I AM”

 

Again, Jesus referred to himself as the Hebrew name of God, “I AM”. This time he was very direct to the people: “Unless you believe that I AM” you will die in your sins. You can either believe Jesus or reject him. But if you refuse to believe Jesus you will face an eternity separated from God. The people reply with, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus responded that he speaks the truth that was given to him from the Father who sent him. When they see the Son of Man lifted up (on the cross), then they will know that “I AM”.

Remember!

 

Things to remember from this study:

  • If you are waiting to believe in Jesus, you are running out of time! He is the light of the world who will give you life. But if you refuse to believe, you will die separated from God.
  • If you do believe in Jesus, follow him! Let Him be your counselor, your guide, and your illumination.

 

  • Jesus always appealed to the Father in these times of conflict. You have a higher authority and you are not alone!

Previous Post: Don’t Waste Your Life!

 


John 8:12-30

 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.


 

“I am the light of the world.”

 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

The Feast of Tabernacles was a week-long celebration where the people would come to Jerusalem and live in temporary shelters for a week. As discussed in the previous study on John 7, one of the main themes of the Feast of Tabernacles is water. The Jewish people would commemorate their ancestors’ wandering in the desert by living in temporary shelters and by gathering water every day.

 

Another theme of this feast was light. The priests would light four giant candelabras in the Court of Women and leave them burning for the entire week. The light reminded the Jewish people of how God was with them in their wilderness wanderings. He was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night (Numbers 9:15-23). The Court of Women was used since every Jewish man, woman, and child would be allowed to celebrate. [1]

 

The Temple courts would have been filled to capacity on the day after the feast. The giant candelabras, now unlit, would still be towering over the people when Jesus stepped in and made the second statement about himself:

“I am the light of the world.”

 

Jesus started this scene by using the analogy of light to describe himself. This is the second time in John’s gospel account that Jesus describes himself by analogy, starting with the name of God, “I AM” (See more details here).

 

Jesus is “I AM”. This is more than just a self-description, but is the very name of God that was given to Moses (see Exodus 3:13-14). Jesus referred to himself as “I AM” 7 times in this chapter: John 8:12, John 8:18, John 8:23-24, John 8:28, John 8:58. Most English translations translate these statements as “I am he”, but the “he” is added in the translation. For example, Jesus said in John 8:24, “unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins”.

 

Jesus is the Light of the World. Jesus was standing in the Court of Women, also known as the Temple Treasury (see John 8:20) [2], in the same place where the giant candelabras had been burning for the past week. There are several references to light in Scripture, but Jesus’ statement had two very clear messages to the Jewish people:

  • The prophets described the Messiah as light. In Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6, the Messiah is a Light for the Nations. Jesus was clearly telling them that he is the Messiah.
  • The lights during the Feast of Tabernacles reminded the people that God had led their ancestors through the desert in a pillar of fire. Jesus used this analogy to tell them that he would be the their light to lead them to the Kingdom of God.

 

“He presented Himself to them as the Messiah, and hence as the Light of the World. It resulted, that only in following Him would a man ‘not walk in the darkness,’ but have the light – and that, be it marked, not the light of knowledge, but of life. On the other hand, it also followed, that all, who were not within this light, were in darkness and in death.” – Alfred Edersheim [3]

So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

 

John 5:31 says, “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true”. But now, Jesus said, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going” (John 8:14). Why the difference?

 

In John 5, Jesus was telling the crowd that they would not have been obligated to believe him if he was the only witness to his claim of being God. However, Jesus produced several more witnesses to his deity, showing them that they are without excuse (See the study of John 5 for more information).

 

But now, in John 8, the Pharisees have demanded that Jesus throw out his own testimony about himself. The Old Testament law required two witness to establish a fact in capital offenses (Deut 17:6; 19:15), but the rabbis had taken this principle further. According to the tradition of the rabbis, self-testimony should never be allowed. Jesus pointed out the following problems with this belief:

  • You need to believe what a person says about himself (i.e. self-testimony) when no one else knows about that person (“you don’t know about me”)
  • This is not a criminal court (“you judge…I judge no one”)
  • When Jesus does judge, his judgement is true because it comes from the Father
  • The Father is a second witness about Jesus

 

The Father was a witness to Jesus both verbally at Jesus’ baptism and through the works that Jesus did.

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

 

“Where is your Father?”

 

The Pharisees may have simply been asking for the second witness that Jesus claimed. But there is much more scorn and contempt in theses words. They all knew about Mary’s unwed pregnancy before Jesus was born. In their anger, they resorted to personal attacks. In their eyes, Jesus was an illegitimate child who had no business talking with them.

 

They will repeat this same personal attack two more times in this passage.

 

“If you had known me, you should have known my Father also” (John 8:19). “If you want to know God, get acquainted with Jesus.” [4]

These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

The Temple Treasury was also known as the Court of Women. This was a common gathering place for both men and women, and many teachers would come to this court.

 

Jesus could not be arrested before the right time.

 



“Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”

 

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

 

Jesus did not “act nice” or soften his words. Unless you believe in Jesus Christ, the I AM, you will die in your sins. You will be eternally separated from God. He says the warning three times in this brief passage: “you will die in your sins”.

 

“You will seek me… Where I am going, you cannot come”. The time was shorter than they knew. In less than six months, Jesus will die, rise again, and ascend to Heaven. It would be too late for those who missed the opportunity to believe in Him.

 

“He was speaking of going back into heaven. It is just another way of saying, if you die in your sins you will never enter heaven.” – H.A. Ironside [4]

 

Sadly, many of the Jews totally missed Jesus’ warning. They were so caught up in their own self-righteousness that the only possible separation that they could think of was if Jesus committed suicide and went directly to Hell (as they believed). Jesus turned their statements around: they are of the world and from below; Jesus was from above. Jesus then repeated the warning two more times: they would die in their sins if they did not believe.

 

Note that the plurality changes across the three warnings. The first warming is that they would “die in your sin”. The singular sin is that of rejecting Christ. But the next warnings designate a plural, “die in your sins”. If they reject Christ, they would continue in the realm of sin. [5]

 

This is the second time in this chapter they Jesus referred to himself as “I AM”. As mentioned above, the “he” at the end of this section has been added for translation. Jesus’ actual words were, “unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”.

So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”

 

“Who are you?” Literally, You, who are you?”, or, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus had more to tell them, which would add to their judgement. He was speaking truth because he received it from the Father.

They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

 

Again, Jesus refers to himself by the name of God. “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM”.

 

When he would be lifted up identifies the cross. The cross would reveal that Jesus is God’s Word to man, and that what he taught was just what the Father taught him. Jesus had continual union with the Father (John 5:19-24) and is never alone. [5]

As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

 

Many did come to faith, but their faith would need to be tested and refined.

 


 

[1] Stephen Davey, To See or Not to See, John 8:12-20, John 9:1-41

 

[2] The term “Temple Treasury” was a designation for the Court of Women, because it was there that the offerings were gathered.

 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, Book IV, “The Descent”, CHAPTER 8

 

[4] H.A. Ironside, Address 27,THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, John 8:12-20;

Address 28, IS THERE A SECOND CHANCE FOR SALVATION AFTER DEATH?, John 8:21-32

 

[5] John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John 8, pages 303-307.

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 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.

IMG_1778IMG_1825IMG_1818

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!

IMG_2721

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.

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[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.
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