Posts Tagged 'John'



Jesus: The Light of the World

Two lights in the darkness

Two lights in the darkness

JESUS:  LIGHT OF THE WORLD

As dark as our post-modern society has become, we Christians have no concept how dark the world was when Jesus was born.  Rome was at the height of its power and upon his death, Caesar Augustus was declared to be a god.  For the Jews, their association with the Roman Empire gave them peace and security at the cost of their freedom due to burdensome taxation.  Their religion became an extension of the Roman government, with high priests being appointed by that government.  Worship services became excuses for even more taxation.

Yes, things were worse than bleak when Jesus came into the world.  No wonder He was called “the light of the world!”  But how was Jesus “the light?”

1.  The light revealed, John 1:4—9; 12

In the stunning prologue to his Gospel, John introduces its main themes:  word, life, light, John the Baptist, children of God, the Incarnation, the Law, and grace.  The concept of “light” is the subject of verses 4—9.

(a)  Shining in the darkness, verses 4, 5

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word, Jesus Christ, is the source of life.  The way the word “life” is used here, it refers to the fullest life possible; the highest life that may be attained by any human being.  All human beings have life in the sense that they are living beings.  John is not referring to this life, although it is true that all living beings come into existence by a creative act of the Word.  The context demands that the life in the Word, the life the Word gives human beings, is the blessed life of God; it’s a gift to believers from the Word.

This life, John says, is the “light of all mankind.”  What does that phrase mean?  The Word, Jesus, is God’s personal revelation to all people.  It is personal in the sense that the light proceeds from God and is directed to man.   The purpose of the light was (is) spiritual in nature.  The sun also produces light, and man is able to see and work in the light.  We all know how beneficial physical light is.  In the spiritual realm, Jesus’ life and light is just as beneficial and they go hand-in-glove:

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  (Psalm 36:9 NIV)

The purpose of the light is to enlighten man; to teach man the truth of God.  The truth of God is not just intellectual in nature; it is life-giving.  The truth of God affects man’s whole being, spiritual and physical.  Everything about life is made better when one possesses the life that proceeds from Christ, revealed to us by the light.

(b)  Shining in darkness, verses 6—9

The light points man to the life.  John the Baptist, wrote John the apostle, was like a “minor light,” pointing man to the true light, Jesus Christ.  In that sense, all believers are “minor lights,” because we are to point unbelievers to the light as John the Baptist did.

Verse 9 captures the universal nature of the true light:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

God did not send His Son into the world for some, but for all!   Naturally, not all would receive that light, but some did.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…  (John 1:12 NIV)

Man, wandering around in the darkness searching for meaning to his life is able to, thanks to the light, find that meaning in the life that is in Christ, which He freely gives to those who ask.

(c)  A new temple, a new light  8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

When we note the context for this verse, it becomes even more powerful than it sounds on its own.  There was a sharp argument among the Jewish leaders that began in back in 7:25.  It was a heated “discussion” about Jesus, who was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  At the start of this Feast, a large candelabra was lit in the busy Temple courtyard.  The Mishnah suggests that the light from those massive burning candles was so bright, it lit up the city.  The burning candles represented God, as the illuminating guide that directed the children of Israel in the desert.  Even as God was their guide then, so Jesus is the I AM of the present – illuminating, guiding and chasing away the spiritual darkness that engulfs, not just the Jews, but of “whoever follows” Him.

2.  Come to the light, John 3:19—21; 12:46—50

(a)  A choice that must be made, 3:19—21

Jesus had been speaking of judgment:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  (John 3:17  NIV)

He did not come into the world to judge it, but then we read in the very next verse:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  (John 3:18  NIV)

What was Jesus getting at here?  The answer is verse 19.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19 NIV)

“Judgment” depends, not on Jesus, but on the decision of people.  If all people loved Jesus and followed Him, there would be no judgment.  But because some men will stubbornly refuse to believe, judgment becomes necessary for them.  It’s man’s decision to make, though.  Man decides if he wants to be judged or not.  If he wants to be judged, then he will refuse to follow the Light.  But if man wants to avoid judgment, all he has to do if follow the light.  This is simplicity itself!

(b)  The finality of unbelief, 12:46—50

There is no cure for unbelief when a person makes up his mind to turn away from the light.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  (John 12:46  NIV)

To not follow the light that is Jesus is to remain in the darkness (of sin).  To reject Him is to choose the darkness of sin.  Jesus’ purpose of coming into the world—the Incarnation—was not to judge the world but to save the world from the judgment that is to come.  Our Lord wants desperately to save men, not destroy them!  But the offer of salvation demands a decision for or against the One making the offer.  To reject the offer is to reject Jesus Christ and that guarantees judgment.

3.  The light gives sight, John 9:1—7, 35—41

Chapter 9 opens with the healing of a man born blind.  While we believe this miracle really did take place, it also serves to illustrate in a practical way the spiritual state of all men:  they are born spiritually blind.  The giving of sight to this blind man is quite literally what the light of Jesus does for the spiritually blind.

(a)  A physical healing, verses 1—7

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  (verse 2)

The disciples asked this question of Jesus regarding the blind man.  It revealed the Jewish belief of the day that the sins of the parents were visited upon their children.  It also reflects a bizarre notion held by some of Jesus’ time that a person could actually sin the womb or even in some previous existence!   The disciples were positive this man’s blindness was caused by someone’s sin.

Jesus took their ignorance as an opportunity, not to berate them for holding such ridiculous ideas, but to teach them the truth.  This blind man was not blind because any particular person sinned, causing this blindness as a sort of divine punishment.

Now, sometimes sinful conduct does result in the one sinning reaping awful consequences:

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”  (John 5:14)

But this most certainly isn’t always the case.  Sin always produces unintended consequences in ways we may never fully realize in this life.  It’s not Jesus’ purpose to go into an in-depth treatment of that subject.  What He needed His disciples to know is the foolishness of trying link one’s present state to some sin way back in the past.  What they should have been doing is trying to discover what God’s will was; how God could use this man’s predicament for God’s glory.  In the broader scope, Christians need to understand there is a special, divine purpose in allowing suffering to come upon a person.

…“but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  (verse 3 NIV)

In our vernacular, Jesus might have said this, “On the contrary, this man was born blind so that…”  The structure of the Greek makes it clear:  this man’s blindness was for the express purpose of a future event—so that all may see “the works of God” displayed in the blind man.  And the works of God certainly included the physical healing, but went way, way beyond merely giving sight to the blind!  The works of God are a manifestation of His grace and mercy to one in need.  According to Jesus, while the blind man would be the recipient of a great miracle, onlookers would receive something too:  God’s light would shine out from him making the works of God obvious for the spiritually blind to see.

(b)  A spiritual healing, verses 35—41

When the blind man received his sight, his whole life changed.  He literally moved from a life of darkness to a life full of light.  When he was confronted by the religious elite, we read one of the most humorous exchanges in the New Testament:

Then they hurled insults at [the formerly blind man] and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”  The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  (verses 28—33)

We know that this man knew Jesus came from God—he deduced it.  But he had never actually seen Jesus!  Jesus had told the man while he was blind to go away and wash his eyes and he would be able to see.  Having never seen Jesus, the once-blind man figured out on his own that whoever this man was, he must have come from God.

But then the greatest miracle happened when He met Jesus a second time with his eyes wide open:

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”  Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”  Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  (verses 35—38  NIV)

He had been physically healed, but now he had been spiritual healed!  He was shown the light and that light led him to the Life that is Jesus, which our Lord in turn gave to Him.

This man’s “new life” wasn’t in word only, it was also in deed:  he confessed Christ, then he worshiped Him!

 

Jesus: The Son of God

The-Son-of-God-became-man-to-enable-men-to-become-sons-of-God

John:  Part Two

America is study of oddities.  For example, in 2004, 84% of Americans identified themselves as “Christians.”  What’s odd is that just 82% of that number believed Jesus to be the Son of God and only 79% believed in the Virgin Birth!  How odd indeed.  There is a definite disconnect between one’s claim to be a Christian and one’s belief in the most basic of Bible doctrines:  the divinity of Christ.

Part of the problem is a lack of teaching.  Far too many church-goers in America attend churches with little or no solid teaching.  Churches light on teaching may make good clubs or places for good fellowship, but they produce dismal Christians.  Another problem is that a lot of self-identified American Christians are self-taught; they attend no formal church.  There is a belief that anybody can grasp Bible doctrines; that theological education and training aren’t necessary.   Who needs a church or a pastor?  Of course, since these folk are self-taught, they obviously didn’t get to the verses teaching the necessity of regular church attendance or the fact the God gave the church pastors/teachers…

At any rate, what a Christian thinks of Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance.  Is He divine?  Is He human?  Or is He both?

1.  A great confession, John 1:45-51

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all wait until the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry to bring out the truth of His divine nature.  John, however, places this truth at the very beginning in the form of a confession from one of the disciples.

(a)     Nathanael, the doubter, verses 45-48

At this juncture in John’s Gospel, Jesus decided it was time to move on, so He crossed over the Jordan and headed to Galilee.  During the journey, He found Philip, who would become the His latest apostle.  To Philip, Jesus simply said, “Follow me,” and he did just that.

Philip was one the Twelve that was consciously looking for the Messiah to come.  And he seemed to know Jesus was He.  Excitedly, the new apostle found Nathaniel, who was from Cana, to share the good news.  Looking at the order of the words spoken by Philip to Nathaniel, it becomes obvious that Nathaniel was going to be a hard sell.  Philip begins with a declaration that he has found the Messiah, and ends with the word “Nazareth,” which is the first word Nathaniel hears!

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? Nathanael asked.Come and see, said Philip.  (John 1:46 NIV84)

 The two ideas – Messiah and Nazareth –  were to Nathaniel contradictory ideas.  “Nathaniel” means “gift from God” is and comparable to the Greek name “Theodore.”  Nathaniel was probably the “Bartholomew” of the Synoptics.  He was obviously well-versed in the Old Testament and believed that “nothing good ever came out of Nazareth.”  Fortunately for him, Philip was very insistent and didn’t give up.

(b)  Nathanael’s revelation, verses 49-51

Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.  (John 1:49 NIV84)

 Philip’s invitation to Nathanael, “Come and see,” is really an invitation from Jesus Himself.  The exchange between Nathanael and Jesus is at first glance quite humorous:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false. How do you know me? Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  (John 1:47-48 NIV84)

Just what did that whole exchange mean?  Apparently, Nathanael had been sitting under a fig tree doing something.  But what?  Was he taking a nap?  The clue comes from what Jesus said in verse 51:

He then added, I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  (John 1:51 NIV84)

That is clearly a reference to Jacob’s experience  at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-17).  Maybe Nathanael had been sitting beneath the shade of the tree reading that very story; about Jacob, an Israelite who was truly filled with deceit.  To Jacob God granted great visions.  To Nathanael, who was not deceitful, would be granted even more:  a Divine revelation of who Jesus Christ really was:

Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.  (John 1:49 NIV84)

Where did Nathanael get that idea?  It must have come from the mind of God Himself.  This points to an important lesson.  Many people have no problem acknowledging the existence of God.  A lot of people without hesitation would answer the question, “Do you believe in God” in the affirmative.  But the real issue is not belief in God; even the Devil believes in God!  No, the question of the ages is:  “Who do you think Jesus is?”  The human mind rebels at the thought of God and Man existing in One Perfect Person.  It takes a work of grace for the human mind to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ.

2.   God sent His Son, John 3:16-18; 27-36

 John 3 is a most remarkable chapter for two reasons.  First, it is a prime example of why, sometimes, chapter breaks are not put in the proper place.  The last verse of chapter 2 is really a set-up for the conversations of chapter 3:

He did not need mans testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.(  John 2:25 NIV84)

There should be no break between that thought and the introduction of Nicodemus, a  man who he had never met Jesus, yet Jesus knew all about him.

The second reason John 3 is so remarkable is because of verse 16, a declaration that God sent Jesus, His Son.

(a)     A word for Nicodemus, verses 16-18

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”   (John 3:16 NIV84)

This is probably the most famous verse in the whole Bible, but it is really just part of a lengthy conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus.  It is also the very first mention of God’s love in John’s Gospel.  It’s a dominant theme, so it’s surprising it took three chapters to get to it!  The word to this noble Pharisee was that God was reaching out to the whole world; that God’s love is universal.  God’s love isn’t just for some, but for all people, everywhere.  This is the WHY God did what He did in sending His Son:  He loved.  The Greek word used for “love” here is egapesen, a love that does things for others with no thought for self.  It’s describes a love that would risk all for another; a love that counts no price too great if somebody else could benefit.  It really describes an absolute love.

That was the first word to Nicodemus:  the nature of God’s love.  The second word to this Pharisee is the requirement to believe.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son.  (John 3:18 NIV84)

We see the absolute necessity of making a conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ.  Belief in God only gets a person so far.  Belief in Jesus Christ, with all that that entails, is what makes the difference in one’s life and one’s eternal destination.  Judgment and condemnation await all those who do not believe, but for those who do believe, those things irrelevant.

As succinctly noted by Joseph Mayfield, there is an “open door to life,” and it has three characteristics, all of which were explained to Nicodemus:  (1)  It is God’s great gift from above; (2) It comes only to the one who has faith; and (3) The alternative to life is God’s judgment.

(b)  The herald of God’s sending, verses 27-36

After the encounter with Nicodemus and after celebrating Passover, Jesus, along with some of His disciples, left Jerusalem and ventured into the countryside of Judea.  This period of ministry is unique to John – it’s not in the Synoptics – and it portrays the relationship that existed between Jesus and the man who heralded His coming, John the Baptist.  The thing about John the Baptist was that he knew who he was.

You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.  (John 3:28-30 NIV84)

John the Baptist was resolutely convinced of Jesus’s divine nature because of where Jesus came from.  In fact, the Baptist understood a very profound thing:

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.   (John 3:34 (NIV84)

The ministry – the very words and teachings – of Jesus did not originate in Him, but rather God poured out His wisdom and power into Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, John knew that his role role in the ministry of salvation is limited, but he had the wisdom (from God) to see that Jesus’ role was limitless because to Him alone has been given power over all things.

3.  The Son gives life, John 5:19-30

 (a)  Jesus defends His actions, verses 9-23

The big problem with Jesus in the eyes of the religious elite was not that He went around healing people, but that He did it on the Sabbath.  He seemed to do this deliberately, because each time He faced such an angry accusation, He used it as a “teachable moment,” usually to discuss His unique relationship with God.

Jesus gave them this answer: I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.   (John 5:19 NIV84)

In a sense, the accusing Jews were partly right and partly wrong:

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  (John 5:18 NIV84)

Jesus was, in fact, making Himself equal with God!  But they were wrong in suggesting He was breaking the Sabbath.  The very fact that Jesus is the Son of God made violating the Sabbath an impossibility!

Jesus gives life because God gives life!

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.   (John 5:21 NIV84)

Jesus raised the dead, but that power came from God by way of the Holy Spirit.  The religious elite couldn’t debate the fact that Jesus raised the dead, but the fact that He did it on the wrong day really bent them out of shape!

The second part of this verse is the subject of Jesus’ preaching:  the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  What that really means is explained in the verses that follow.

(b)  Jesus preaches the Gospel, verses  24-30

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”   (John 5:24 NIV84)

This simple statement explains what Jesus meant when He said that He gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.  Jesus was referring to spiritual life, not raising the dead.  And He was not saying that He was pleased to give life to some but not to others.  Whoever hears the Gospel and believes, to him Jesus is pleased to give life!  This was something Paul readily grasped:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.   (Romans 1:16 (NIV84)

The Gospel is life-giving.  When a sinner hears it, it begins a work in his heart, whether he knows it or not.  That work can be resisted.  A depraved nature can stifle the work of the Word; it can be ignored.  But it doesn’t have to be!  The Word – the Gospel – is the power of God for salvation!  Depraved man has the capacity to believe in what he is hearing; he cannot save Himself, but he can incline his ear toward the Gospel.  The hearing and the believing go together. They are always correlatives of the Word, that is, the Word is intended for the very purpose of being heard and believed.

He that hears and believes receives eternal, and this life literally flows from God, it is grounded in God, it joins the redeemed soul to God, and it leads to God (10:28). The very second a sinner receives this life he is made alive, literally born again. And the really exciting thing is this:  the physical death we will all one day experience only leads us into a fuller measure of this life.

 

Jesus: God Incarnate

john

The Gospel of John, Part One

 The “Incarnation” is a powerful Christian doctrine.  The doctrine teaches that God enfleshed Himself in Jesus Christ  and is the doctrine behind Christmas.  “Incarnation” comes from the Latin “in-carnis,” meaning “in flesh.”

The Gospel of John emphasizes the Incarnation unlike the other three.  The Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – are histories of the life and times of Jesus Christ.  John’s Gospel is different in content and emphasis.  John’s Gospel isn’t so much a history of Jesus as it is a study of Jesus as both the Son of Man and the Son of God.  The Incarnation is the central theme of this great Gospel.

1.  The Word comes to us in the flesh, John 1:1-5; 10-14

 (a)  Glimpses of Genesis, 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  (John 1:1-4 NIV84)

This Gospel has been called “the paragon among the Gospels, the one, tender, real crown-Gospel of them all,” so said Martin Luther.  The introductory paragraph might well be the most overtly theological paragraph in all the Bible.  It’s a magnificent beginning because it portrays the life of Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, in eternity, long before the creation of the material universe.  With echoes of the book of Genesis, John’s readers would have been reminded of the Creative work of God.  When God did His work of creation, Christ was there with Him.  That would have been a powerful thought for the readers of this Gospel.

The opening paragraph not only reveals the eternity of Christ, it reveals something about its author, John.  The writing style is so lyrical it shows a depth skill and ability not usually equated with fishermen.  When the heavens were created, “the Word” was there.  What did John mean by referring to Jesus as “the Word?”  A lot of discussion has taken place around this question.  Was Christ “an expression” from the mind of God?  That’s what Greek philosophers might say.  But Christ as “the Word” means a lot more than that.   The Second Person of the Trinity is a Person, not merely an “idea” or “expression” proceeding from the mind of God.  Consider these verses:

And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.  (Genesis 1:3 NIV84)

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…”  (Genesis 1:26 NIV84)

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God…  (Hebrews 11:3 KJV)

 For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.  (Psalms 33:4 KJV)

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

 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.  (Psalms 33:9 KJV)

 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  (Psalms 107:20 KJV)

 These were not mere words or sounds that God made, like we make when we speak.  In these words and commands, we see the Son of God at the Father’s side, revealed in omnipotence and creative power, active since eternity past.

The Word “was with God” in the past.  Verse two describes the closest possible relationship that existed between the Word and God:  the Word was “face to face with God.”  Finally John makes the statement that settles any argument about just who Jesus is:  He not only was with God, but is  God.

(b)  Jesus versus the world, 1:10-14

In this group of verses, John, using a simple yet majestic writing style, tells his readers the fact, the purpose, and the result of the Incarnation.

The Fact:  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.   (John 1:10 NIV84)

The Purpose:  He came to that which was his own…  (John 1:11a NIV84)

The Result(s):  ...his own did not receive him.  (John 1:11b NIV84); Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…  (John 1:12  NIV84)

Verse 14 could be the most profound statement in all human history:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14 NIV84)

The Word, who has existed from all eternity at God’s side; the Creator of all there is, became a human being.  He left eternity and inserted Himself into our time and history.  The phrase “made his dwelling among us” means “to pitch one’s tent” where man pitches his.  What a descriptive phrase!

Though many rejected Him, many did not.  The tragedy of verse 11 should be highlighted.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.   (John 1:11 NIV84)

It was not the “natural world” that rejected Jesus.  At worst, the world simply did not recognize Him.  Tragically, Jesus was rejected – willfully rejected –  by His very own people.

2.  God the Father Revealed, John 1:18; 12:44, 45; 14:5-11

 (a)  Jesus:  God visible, 1:18

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Fathers side, has made him known.  (John 1:18 NIV84)

It was a firm, Jewish conviction that no one had ever seen God, which is why John wrote what he did.  Moses “saw” God, but never really got to know God personally.  Job hit on something profound when he observed:

Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?  (Job 11:7, 8 KJV)

God is a spirit, and spirits cannot be seen.  God may have “appeared” so some fortunate souls in the Old Testament, but whatever it was they saw with their eyes, it could not have been God’s literal form.  That’s what makes the Incarnation such a rich and powerful doctrine.  For the first time ever in human history, man could “see” God “face to face.”  In other words, only through the Incarnation and subsequent faith in Jesus Christ is it possible for a human being to fellowship with the Almighty.

(b)  Jesus is the “sent one,” 12:44, 45

Then Jesus cried out, When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.”   (John 12:44, 45 NIV84)

When John wrote that “Jesus cried out,” he was making it clear that what Jesus said was meant to be heard by the crowd, not just His disciples.  This was like a summary statement; Jesus made it clear as He could to His own who He was and what He wanted from them.  Knowing Christ means knowing the Father.  To look constantly and intently at Jesus – to observe how He lived and to listen to what He said –  is to literally know God the Father.

Knowing Jesus is knowing God, the One who sent Him.  The Jews claimed to know God, but the very fact that they rejected Jesus, the One He sent, proved that they really did not know God at all.  Had they known God as well as they claimed, they would have easily recognized Jesus for who and for what He was.

(c)  Jesus is the way to God the Father, 14:5-11

After three long years of working together, Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving soon.  This prompted Thomas to ask a question.

Thomas said to him, Lord, we dont know where you are going, so how can we know the way?  (John 14:5 NIV84)

Thomas spoke for all the disciples, but it was a question born of discouragement; he was not trying to be argumentative.  He was being pessimistic.  Thomas had some faith, but not quite enough to see what Jesus was saying.

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6 NIV84)

This is one of the seven great “I am’s” of his Gospel.  Jesus doesn’t say He is just “one way” among others.  He doesn’t say that He is “a way.”  Jesus makes it crystal clear that He is the ONLY way to God the Father.  There is NO OTHER way to get to God except through Jesus Christ. He was sent by, came from, and will return to, the Father.

3.  Unity of the Father and the Son, John 17:1-26

Understanding the Trinity has always been a challenge, and it was a real challenge for the early church.  Judaism routinely affirmed that God is one.  Christianity, with its first Jewish members, had to broach the idea of “the three-in-one” carefully and deftly.  Gentile Christians in the early church came from religions with many Gods, so teaching about the Trinity had to be very clear so as not to confuse them!  At the Council of Nicea in 325, the doctrine of the Trinity was ratified, upholding what the Bible taught:  there is a relationship between the Father and the Son within the Trinity; they are “of the same substance” yet different.

(a)  Jesus prays for His disciples, 17:1-19

 Chapter 17 contains the “real Lord’s Prayer.”  In His high priestly prayer, Jesus prays for Himself (verses 1-5); for His disciples  (verses 6-19); and other believers (the church, verses 20-26).

As Jesus prays specifically for His disciples, He is their only advocate.  But when He prays for them, it becomes clear that two great forces come together  on their behalf:  “I,” the One praying, and the “Father,” the One to whom Jesus is praying.  With that kind of support, no disciple should ever fear failure!  Jesus prays for their protection, but the main thrust of the request is verse 17-

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  (John 17:17  NIV84)

In His prayer, Jesus told the Father that He wasn’t praying for His disciples to be taken out of the world, but that they would be protected while living in the world.  But in verse 17, He prays for their sanctification.  That word simply means “so be separated” from.  So while the disciples were to remain in the world, they were to be separate from the world.  This separation would be accomplished through the power of the Word.  No man can sanctify himself.  It can only be accomplished through the power of God in the truth of the Word.

(b)  Jesus prays for the church, 17:20-26

 Closing out His lengthy prayer, Jesus prays for unity among all believers.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  (John 17:20-21 NIV84)

The unity Jesus is praying for is not some kind Ecumenicism; it is not just an outward unity.  The unity that should exist among believers must be like the unity of the Trinity.  Unity must be of a spiritual nature.  Of course, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence, but believers need to be of one mind, effort and purpose when it comes to things concerning the Church and the work of the Kingdom.

But the Trinity is not just model of the kind of unity Jesus wants, it is the foundation of that unity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make the impossible possible:  unity among believers.

This unity is vitally important because as the world sees Christians living in unity, they would be pointed to Heavenward, to the Messiah.  When Christians are united in faith and when they put forth that unity of faith to the world, they will be a powerful force for God.  But the opposite is also true.  When the Church of Jesus Christ is torn apart by dissension and controversy, the lost will simply shake their heads in disbelief, not knowing what to  make of them.

So, of all the worthy things a church may be involved in, the most important may be to foster a sense of unity around the Word, which will result in a church at peace.  But note, unity must be around the truth of the Word, not around any doctrine or practice of man.

 

JOHN, FINAL

Our Lord, leaving His tomb for the last time.

JOHN 20, 21

What sets the biographies of Jesus Christ apart from all other biographies are the accounts of His miraculous Resurrection. Everybody dies, but not everybody rises from the dead! And so John 20 begins the story after the story of the life and times of Jesus Christ.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. (20:1)

How fitting it is for John to begin his account of the Resurrection with the experience of Mary Magdalene. She had been forgiven of so much and her love for Jesus was genuine and boundless. What she saw would change the course of history: the stone had been removed; the initial evidence of the Resurrection.  Perhaps out of fear, she went no further, but instead went to get Peter and John and told them an amazing thing:

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (verse 2)

That she had reached the wrong conclusion about what she saw led to Barclay to describe Mary as “the great example of bewildered love.” She couldn’t believe her eyes and jumped to the obvious (and wrong) conclusion.

Upon reaching the tomb, John arrived first, followed tentatively by Peter, who entered the tomb while John stayed outside for a moment. What Peter saw, and what John would later see, caused John “to believe” that Jesus had truly risen from the dead (verses 8, 9).

Inside the empty tomb, 20:6, 7

He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.

Peter had no fear when he reached the tomb, so went straight in. He saw Jesus’ grave clothes (the strips of linen soaked in herbs and spices) lying there but the thing that caught his eye (and John’s) was the head cloth. It was separate from the rest and “still lying in its place.” What does that mean? It means that it was still holding the shape and contour of Jesus’ head! Clearly, no grave robber would have left the grave clothes lying in the exact, orderly position Peter was observing. The tomb must have looked for all intents and purposes as though Jesus has simply removed all of His grave clothes and neatly left them lying there.

John does not give any indication that Peter immediately figured out what he was bearing witness to; namely, that Jesus had risen from the grave. We get the impression that he reached that conclusion a little later than did John. John saw exactly the same things Peter saw, but believed the evidence of his eyes immediately. He had no vision of the risen Christ; the mere sight of the empty tomb and the abandoned grave clothes was enough to convince John that Jesus was no longer dead; that He had indeed risen. The parenthetical observation of verse 9 should be noted:

(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Evidently, these disciples had not understood the many Old Testament Scriptures that foretold of this very event. Even with the Lord’s help and teaching, their minds failed to grasp those elemental truths.

Personal appearances

    What followed the discovery of the empty tomb is a series of personal appearances of Jesus Christ to certain individuals. John is very careful to note that his intention in writing his account of the Resurrection was not to provide an exhaustive account; he just wanted to “hit the high points” of the story in order to help his readers believe. In fact, that was his purpose in writing the entire Gospel:

    Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (verses 30, 31)

    • Mary Magdalene.

    After Peter and John left the empty tomb to return home, Mary Magdalene remained behind. We have no indication that she entered the tomb and saw what the disciples had seen, but what she did saw must have made her jaw drop!

    [She] saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (verse 11)

    When they spoke to her, inexplicably she exhibited neither fear nor awe; she remained concerned about the disappearance of her Lord. She believed His body had been stolen; the incongruity of that conclusion escaped her. The empty grave clothes apparently meant nothing to Mary, if she noticed them at all. A singular lesson can be learned here. God comes to people in different ways, always respecting their temperaments. All John needed to see was some bandages on the ground for him to believe. Mary Magdalene needed a little more.

    Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (verse 16)

    After the angels, Jesus appeared to her, yet she did not recognize Him. There are likely three good reasons why. First, she was looking for a dead Christ, not a living one. Second, Mary did not seek Him, the living Lord, out, He came to her. Third, even though she wanted to find Jesus with all her heart, when she found Him, she did not recognize Him. Jesus comes in unsuspected ways! Much has been written about what Jesus said to her:

    “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (verse 17)

    It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want to be touched; He would later encourage Thomas to do just that so that he would believe. Jesus was simply telling Mary not to hold Him, for He had not yet ascended to the Father. The key in understanding why Jesus said what He said were His instructions to Mary to go to the disciples and give them the news of His Resurrection. What a great lesson for modern believers latch onto: our faith is meant to be spread, not held onto; Jesus is meant to be shared, not kept to oneself.

    • The Ten.

    What John records as the second appearance of Jesus is really the third because he does not include the appearances to Simon and to the travelers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13—35). Jesus came to the Ten in order to calm their collective fears. They had much to fear; narrowly escaping arrest in the Garden along with Jesus, they could well be considered political agitators and religious troublemakers. Doubtless, the religious leaders would have been on the lookout for any gathering of Jesus’ followers.

    Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (verse 19)

    John does not indicate how Jesus entered the room; the doors were locked tight. His words of greeting are significant: “Peace be with you.” He had already given them peace as a parting gift back in 14:27, so why did they need it now? The peace Jesus gives is abiding peace that rests within the believer by faith; it is independent of outside influences. Sometimes, however, that faith is shaken by outside circumstances, and when that happens, Jesus in His grace comes and gives even more peace. He not only wished the peace, but vindicated their faith by proving His claims—

    [H]e showed them his hands and side. (verse 20)

    This dispelled any doubt that contributed to their fear. But John records something else He gave them in addition to peace: a mission and the Holy Spirit. This bestowal of the Holy Spirit is not the same as that described in Acts 2:4. This is an initial filling similar to the way Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb, and just as Jesus needed to be baptized in the Spirit before He began His ministry, so the disciples would need a further empowering of the Spirit in order to fulfill their commission. This commission included a special kind of authority—

    If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (verse 23)

    What is the nature of this authority? Were the disciples really given the authority to forgive a sinners’ sin? The Greek construction of the sentence gives us a clue as to what Jesus was getting at—“Those whose sins you forgive have already been forgiven; those whose sins you do not forgive have not been forgiven.” A.T. Robertson’s thoughts are illuminating:

    What [Jesus] commits to the disciples and to us is the power and privilege of giving assurance of forgiveness of sins by God by correctly announcing the terms of that forgiveness.

    In other words, we do not decide who will be forgiven nor does God grant forgiveness based on our wishes. Believers announce forgiveness; we do not create it. This is the Gospel! This is the essence of what salvation is all about, and this is the glorious message the disciples were being commissioned to bring to the world.

    • To Thomas and the Ten.

    We don’t know why Thomas was absent from the gather of the Ten. He should have been with the others. Because he was absent, he missed out on the peace and the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And he surely needed both desperately—

    “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (verse 25)

    Because he had withdrawn himself from other believers, Thomas was full of doubt, restlessness, and nervousness. He was a devoted disciple, but he had lost his hope in Christ, and such people are “to be pitied more than all others” (1 Corinthians 15:19). But our Lord had compassion and he singled the doubter out for special treatment and Thomas’ confession is the classic statement of triumph over disbelief—

    “My Lord and my God!” (verse 28)

    Jesus’ commendation of Thomas for making that confession (verse 29) is extended to all who make a similar confession who, unlike Thomas, never have the opportunity to see the risen Lord in person. Only John records this incident, and surely the Gospel would be incomplete without it. A week later, we see Thomas right where he belonged: with the company of believes.

    This whole incident with Thomas demonstrates that there are levels of faith in the Christian life. For some believers, their faith depends on visible evidences. These believers, as genuine as can be, are unable to realize the full blessedness that comes with believing in who Jesus is rather than what He does for them. Such believers live in a very small world, full of limitations and fear. But to those whose faith is based solely in the Person of Jesus, horizons are limitless and opportunities for blessings are boundless.

    The disciples go fishing, 21:1—14

      Chapter 21 is really an epilogue to the Gospel of John. There are three incidents in this chapter and each incident demonstrates the power of Jesus portrays Jesus as the Lord over different areas of our lives.

      First, we see the disciples fishing, and we see how Jesus is the Lord of our wills and He directs our service. John gives no details as to the length of time between the appearance of Jesus to Thomas and the other disciples and His appearance to those who had gone fishing. At first, they didn’t recognize Jesus, but when they did, we see Peter doing, well, what Peter always did—

      “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (verse 7)

      He still wasn’t walking on it, but not even water could stand in Peter’s way! He was excited!  But the real lesson of this story is that the risen Lord directs the lives of His own. Jesus gives us His instructions and we are to obey. When we obey, success is ours. Jesus points us in the right direction, but it is up to walk that way.

      A minor lesson, which is the one preachers usually stress, is that when Jesus provides, He provided in abundance. The net not only filled up, but it it was chock-full of fish. This is a common theme in John’s writings. The water pots at the wedding feast were FULL of wine. The baskets of food were FULL after Jesus provided enough food for over 5,000 people. But there is another lesson that many Bible readers miss—

      When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you caught.” (verses 9, 10)

      It was a wonderful scene that greeted the disciples when the reached the shore. Jesus had breakfast waiting for them! He not only provided the miraculous catch, but also breakfast. It was a sharp contrast for the disciples to contemplate: their inability to provide for themselves contrasted with the ease at which Jesus provided for their every need. What strikes us, though, is the command of Jesus to “bring some of the fish” they had just caught. He didn’t want all of them, just some of them. He asked the disciples to give up a few of the small fry. What a wonderful lesson for believes today, who are literally choking on their blessings, finding it hard to return a mere portion of them to God in the form of an offering.

      Jesus and Peter, 21:15—19

        After breakfast, Jesus turned to Peter in order to publicly reinstate him. The circumstances surrounding this scene must have struck Peter. Consider—

        • Peter denied Christ around a charcoal fire (18:18) and it here, around another charcoal fire, that Peter is reinstated.
        • Peter denied Jesus three times (18:17, 25, 27) and Jesus called Peter to “own” Him three times (21:15—17).
        • Jesus’ warning that Peter would betray Him was introduced with the solemn, “Very truly I tell you…” and here Peter’s future is introduced in a similar way.

        Peter’s reinstatement must have been a relief to him, but what followed indicated the end of reckless, irresponsibility. The future of this impulsive disciple was deadly serious—

        Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. (verse 18)

        Hoskyns comments:

        The boisterous and irresponsibility of youth is now at an end. He can no longer act as he had just acted when he girded himself, and left the fish half caught, and swam alone to the shore.

        Here see Jesus as the Lord of our hearts. He knows us as we really are and He asks us probing questions that penetrate deep down inside and force us to see ourselves as He does. Our hearts must be wholly Christ’s. Serving Him is serious business, as Peter would find out.

        Jesus and John, 21:20—23

          Peter’s question to Jesus about John may have been asked out of curiosity or maybe uneasiness. Peter had been given an important commission and a solemn indication of his future, so what about his good friend? What does the future hold for John? Would John share the same responsibilities and the same danger?

          “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (verse 22)

          Jesus’ reply shows that He must be the Lord of our minds. What His will was for John should have been no concern of Peter’s. If it was God’s will that John outlive Peter, then so be it. That knowledge should have made no difference to Peter’s service. To come to martyrdom as a follower of Jesus may have been Peter’s destiny, but it was not John’s, and martyrdom itself is not what brings glory to God, it is dedicated service; how one dies is not what gives glory to God! It’s how one lives.

          John’s conclusion

          John’s two-verse conclusion seem to indicate that John was writing to a second generation of believers who were far-removed from the incidents recorded.

          This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (verse 24)

          “This” must refer to John, not Peter or Jesus or anybody else. By the time of the composition of this Gospel, in all likelihood Peter was dead. Given this, the passage means that John is still bearing witness to the things he has written down. John was testifying to the Truth in print and in word, even at his advanced age. A true witness for Christ never retires.

          Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (verse 25)

          This concluding verse is a fitting end to a record of a Man who changed the world. John is not exaggerating when he says that Jesus did so many things all the books in all the world could not contain a written record of them. The Living Word can never be fully expressed in written words.

          (c)  2010, WitzEnd

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