Sapphire Sky

March 28, 2015

Don’t waste your life!

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

Guilt…

Punishment…

Forgiveness…

Restoration

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

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

It is about Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone would die.

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

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

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

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

Stop wasting your life!

 

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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.

 

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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]

 

Previous post: How do you respond to crisis?

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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.

Both Jesus and his disciples were in a time of crisis, but in the end the answer was the same.  They needed to lean on God during their time of peril. Jesus spent time with God first, and then went out to his struggling followers. The disciples tried to fight the wind on their own and completely missed the presence of the Lord with them.

 

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