From Dark Death to Living Light

October 10, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus, having learned of a contingent of gentiles who wanted an audience with Him as He made His way to Jerusalem with His followers and those waving palm branches, began to explain that His death would be the necessary fulfillment of all that He came to do.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

John 12:24

A kernel of wheat – a seed – must be buried away, in the dark, alone, in order to fulfill its purpose, and in its “death” it brings forth not only new life, but “much fruit.” This is a key New Testament theme, present in the Old Testament, but now revealed in a greater light. In order to bring forth fruit to the glory of God, followers of Jesus must die to self, both at the moment of salvation, and in ongoing service throughout our lives.

He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

John 12:25

It’s not that we hate life itself; it’s that we hate the life that our flesh considers “ours.” We receive a new kind of life – eternal life, “God life” – that is directed unto the service and glorification of God, and the service of others, not self-service. This way, people will recognize God’s greatness and goodness in deeds that He inspires and empowers us to do. This hearkens all the way back to John 3.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:19-21, emphasis added

It also foreshadows Ephesians 2’s great statement spelling out the distinction between working BECAUSE OF salvation, rather than working FOR salvation.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

John 12:27

This sounds similar to the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.”

Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

John 12:28 (emphasis added)

“Father, glorify Thy name.” This should be our prayer in even our most extreme trials.

God had already gloried His own name through Christ, primarily through His miracles, and, secondarily, through Christ’s perfect obedience and consistent attribution of His own actions and words as being the same as God’s actions and words. “I will glorify it again” points directly to the Cross.

The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

John 12:29-30

The people did not have ears to hear God’s voice. It sounded like thunder, reminiscent of God’s revelation at Mt. Sinai:

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

Exodus 20:18-19

This was also a fulfillment of several prophecies throughout Isaiah about God increasing the inability of people who would reject His servant to hear or understand His Words and His teachings, which prompted the Holy Spirit to cause John to close out Chapter 12 with a theological treatise on the cause of the people’s unbelieving response to three-plus years of Jesus’s hands-on in-person ministry, miracles, and manifestation among them:

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

John 12:37, emphasis added

Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.

John 12:44, emphasis added

I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

John 12:46, emphasis added

The Smell of Death and the Sound of Life

October 8, 2019 at 9:06 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus informed His Disciples that his friend Lazarus had died. Despite the danger that a trip to Bethany would pose for Jesus, Who had been targeted for arrest and execution by the religious leaders, He nevertheless intended to go.

Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

John 11:14-16

The nickname commonly given to Thomas – “Doubting Thomas” – needs to be tempered with the understanding that he at least showed a courageous resolve in speaking up and calling for active faith as he proposed to follow Jesus into an encounter that could very well result in death.

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

John 11:17

There was a Jewish superstition in those days which held that a deceased person’s soul could linger in the vicinty of the body for a period of up to four days, at which time decompsition made it impractical for the soul to consider re-entering the body, and death became “more final.”

Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

John 11:18

“Fifteen furlongs” indicates a distance of around two miles.

And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

John 11:19

It is possible that the large number of comforters were due to the influence and wealth of Martha’s and Mary’s family, but this also highligted the danger to Jesus in making His visit.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

John 11:20

Martha and Mary both acted in accord with their distinctive personalities: Martha rushing out to meet Jesus, and Mary inactively waiting.

Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

John 11:21-22

We must not conflate Martha’s busyness, however, with a complete lack of faith on her part.

Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

John 11:23-24

Martha misunderstood Jesus’s meaning concerning the timing of this interim resurrection that was about to happen, but her statement was nevertheless also true.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

John 11:25 (emphasis added)

This is the fifth of the seven commonly recognized “I AM” statement in the Gospel of John. He is the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, and the Light of Life. Food, water, and light are all necessary for life, but we need to also remember that Jesus IS the Life. Lately I’ve been seeing people post pictures of themseleves, their friends, their family members, even their pets, with the curious caption, “Living my/his/their best life.” If Jesus is truly eternal, abundant Life personified, then, by necessity, you can’t be living your best life apart from Him. Jesus is the Way of life and He gives life (II Timothy 1:10; I John 1:2): eternal, immortal LIFE.

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

John 11:26-27 (emphasis added)

Martha’s statement is a great confession and profession, and all true Christians should affirm this truth.

And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

John 11:28

Martha called Mary secretly because of the danger in identifying with Jesus. Today we should take advantage of the freedom we have to meet openly with other believers and tell them the same thing.

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

John 11:38-39

My daughter likes a silly joke where she sniffs the air curiously, and says, “Something around here smells like updog.” Gamely playing along, I ask, “What’s ‘updog?'” in response to which she beams brightly, slaps me on the back, and says, “Not much, dawg, what’s up with you?!” Maybe it’s one of those “you had to be there” moments, but I enjoy it. The miracle of Lazarus’s (who after four days in the grave smelled way worse than any updog, or downdog, for that matter!) resurrection went beyond any human or material agency. It was completely supernatural. No physician played a part, no medication was administered, no sleight of hand or optical illusions were employed. However, here is one of the many truths which we may take from this true historical account of Jesus’s miraculous power: God needs no man to accomplish His will, but He does deign to work through human agency.

And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

John 11:43

It has been surmised that, perhaps, Jesus specifically used Lazarus’s name to prevent the emptying out of Abraham’s Bosom, or even sheol.

And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

John 11:44

Lazarus moved without walking. This is a picture of salvation in which spiritually dead sinners are brought to life without any meritorious cooperation on their own behalf.

Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

John 11:45-47

This “council” was the Sanhedrin.

If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

John 11:48-51

Caiphas gave a true (albeit unrecognized by him) prophecy.

And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples. And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.

John 11:52-77

The Pharisees, most likely invigorated by Satan deviously working and influencing behind the scenes, did not want Jesus to make it to the Passover alive.

The Door and the Good Shepherd

September 23, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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John 10 focuses on the imagery of shepherding – literal shepherding, involving shepherds, sheep, and sheepfolds.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

John 10:1

Back then sheep were brought into an enclosed area at the end of each day. They could be inspected for injuries or illness or parasites. They could be counted. This area kept them safe at night, from wolves and from thieves.

But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

John 10:2-3

The porter would only allow true shepherds into the sheepfold, but, even once inside, the shepherd would call his own sheep out from the other shepherds’ sheep, and his own sheep would recognize his voice. They would not follow another shepherd.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

John 10:4-5

This was a parable that Jesus taught, keeping in mind that He had just healed a man who was subsequently kicked out of the Temple by his former religious “shepherds.”

This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

John 10:6-9

This is the third of seven widely recognized “I AM” statement in John. Previously He had said, “I AM the Bread of Life” and “I AM the Light of the World.” Now He told them “I AM the Door.” He is the way by which His true sheep leave whatever worldly shepherd or system has been pretending to care for them and come to Him as their true Shepherd. He then leads them into a new “sheepfold,” His Church, and continues to lead them “in and out,” as He leads them into church to be nourished and equipped to serve, and to be cared for when they are sick or hurt, then leads them back out to serve Him in the world. They learn to recognize His voice and follow Him wherever He leads. He is the only “door” by which His sheep can get into Heaven.

The fourth “I AM” statement follows right after the third:

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:11

Jesus is the ultimate paragon for what it means to truly be a shepherd. Unlike an earthly shepherd, He not only cared for, protected, nourished, cleaned, and faced danger for, His sheep, but He lay down His life for His sheep. He is a Shepherd that can not be truly emulated, but, just as the Old Testament prophecies foretold the necessity of the water-spirit birth, and the meeting of God and man in a greater Tabernacle/Temple, and the need for bread that did not merely sustain, but gave eternal life, and the need for living water that did not merely quench thirst, but became a well springing up into eternal life, so the evil shepherds of God’s people are contrasted with a “good” and great Shepherd who is WORTHY to be emulated by all who would care for God’s people spiritually.

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

Ezekiel 34:1-16

Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles

September 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Jesus’s statements in John Chapter 6 about eating His flesh and drinking His blood (vv. 51-57) are taken by some people to be literal rather than metaphorical. This leads them to the conclusion that what we call the “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion,” or what our Catholic friends call the “Eucharist” or “Mass,” should be considered a “sacrament” (something that infuses supernatural grace into the participants) or “sacerdotal” (something that requires a special blessing by a priest in order to be effective), and that the eating of bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine is an ex opere operato (literally, “by the working of the works”) experience, meaning that the ceremony itself carries its own spiritual power within it. The correct view of Jesus’s “I AM the Bread of Life” discourse is that He was using a metaphor rather than instituting a literal rite necessary for true salvation by a mixture of works and grace.

And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:65-66

Out of the 12 capital D Disciples, all 12 were chosen to literally “follow” Jesus, but only 11 would turn out to be truly given by God to the Son.

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

John 6:67-71

John Chapter 7 describes Jesus’s attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand.

John 7:2

The Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular of the three yearly Jewish “pilgrimage” feasts. The other two were the feast of Passover (which celebrated the liberation from Egypt and the barley harvest) and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (which conincided with the wheat harvest). The Feast of Tabernacles was at the time of the grape and olive harvest, in the fall of the year. People would travel to Jerusalem or Judea and build little tabernacles out of twigs and sticks. (Obviously they were not afraid of the big bad wolfthe big bad wolf – just kidding.) The feast would last for seven days, on the last of which a big ceremony would take place featuring the lighting of a lampstand and the pouring out of water. You can imagine the significance in John’s Gospel of Jesus’s parallels as the light of the world and the living water, but Jesus’s earthly brothers didn’t care about this. They challenged Him to go there and take advantage of the opportunity to show His power and gain followers – not believing at that time in His Deity, but seeing Him as an opportunist with His own (apart from God the Father’s) agenda.

His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.

John 7:3

Jesus’s response to them was very similar to what He told Mary at the wedding in Cana when she suggested that He solve the wine shortage problem with His power.

Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

John 7:6

Jesus may have been chiding them to a degree in suggesting that they cared not for God’s timing, and, as ordinary and inconsequential unbelievers, they could do what they wanted when they wanted. Jesus never denied His Deity – although He often kept it on the downlow – but when challenged directly in a non-dangerous setting He would draw a clear delineation between acting at the request of men as opposed to acting only in strict accord with God the Father’s will… even when what He intended to do did happen to coincide with what was being requested.

When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

John 7:9-10

What follows in most of the rest of John Chapter 7 is a pattern of Jesus teaching in the Temple during the feast, the opposition or anger or confusion that His teaching caused, and the narrative of the Jewish religious leaders trying to figure how to put a stop to it.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

John 7:19

They acted as though the held Moses and the Law “he” gave (God actually gave it through Moses) in high regard, yet they neither understood it, nor applied it consistently, nor believed its true purpose: pointing to the Savior Who now stood in their midst. The Law said “thou shalt not kill” and they were actively trying to kill the personal embodiment of the Law itself. They were mad that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and told Him to carry his mat, yet when a baby was scheduled to be circumcised (which was a law prior to Moses) fell on the Sabbath they did something more labor intensive than carrying a mat. Plus, the whole point of circumcision was to make the person a part of the Covenant family – to make him (ironically) wholly pure.

The people were starting to wonder, if Jesus was such a blasphemer, why didn’t the authorities go ahead and arrest him and put Him to death?

Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

John 7:25-26

Not only were they not arresting Him, but they didn’t even appear to be trying to shout Him down or shut Him up: “Is it possible they are not so sure He’s a blasphemer, and that He really might be Who He says He is?”

Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

John 7:27

But the counterargument was: “Nah, the Messiah is supposed to show up out of nowhere, or at least remain hidden until He announces His arrival in Jerusalem, but we know Jesus! He’s just the ordinary son of a carpenter and His pregnant-before-marriage wife… Pfft, from Nazareth, of all places, too!”

Ulimately the Pharisees did attempt to arrest Him.

The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.

John 7:32

In response, Jesus messed with their heads, by telling them that He would go on the lam to a place where they could never find Him.

Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.

John 7:33-34

This is classic Gospel-of-John irony. “Where would He be going that we can’t follow?” the Pharisees asked. Later He would tell His Disciples something similar, but then He would be talking about going to Heaven to prepare for their own reception. Here, though it escapes their comprehension, the Jewish leaders are being told that they can’t come where He is going because they are unbelievers and have no part with the God Who they were so proud of knowing in comparison to the gentiles/heathen.

Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

John 7:35

Jesus will receive only those who “believe on Him” and Who He really is.

Ordinance, Not Sacrament

September 5, 2019 at 11:17 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:52-54

This language about eating flesh and drinking blood is not sacramental language. It is metaphorical language, alhtough Roman Catholic theologians say that, as early as Ignatius of Antioch, Christians believed that Jesus was in fact instituting the so-called sacrament of the Eucharist. They believe that the observation of the Lord’s Supper is sacramental or sacerdotal – that it infuses grace ex opere operato – but it’s not. Jesus is not – nor does He ever become – intermingled with, or substituted for, literal bread or wine or grape juice, any more than He – as the Living Water – becomes literal water, or – as the Door – becomes a literal Door, or – as the True Vine – becomes a literal grapevine. The theme of the Gospel of John is “that ye might believe” – not believe that you must participate in the so-called Eucharist, but that you might BELIEVE that Jesus is the Son of God and that in Him alone – by His grace alone – through faith alone – you might have eternal life.

The Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the only ordinances – not sacraments – of the Church, and they are important ordinances, but, being “works” they do not infuse or impart supernatural grace, and they can not save souls. Christians reading John 6 during the time when it was first written, even if they were already practicing the observation without a full understanding of why they were doing it, would see what the Lord’s Supper represents, not that it is commanded as a so-called means of grace.

Hard Sayings

August 19, 2019 at 11:35 am | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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Jesus miraculously produced enough bread and fish to feed 5000 men, plus women and children (a crowd that could have easily ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 people). His disciples had gathered up the leftovers, and Jesus Himself had evaded the throng of overzealous patriots who wanted to crown Him king whether He was ready for it or not (John 6:15). How did Jesus “thin the herd,” so to speak, separating mere spectators and political fanatics from His true followers, and ultimately from His inner circle of twelve (John 6:67)? He did it by saying some “hard sayings.” Do you love Jesus enough to hear some of the tougher truths about Who He is and what it means to really believe on Him and follow Him?

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

Jesus identified Himself with a form of the Old Testament name for God: The I AM (Ego Eimi), sometimes written as YHWH (Yahweh), a name which references His aseity – His self-existence, His BEING (rather than becoming), His pre-existent eternality, His immutability, His infinitude, His glory, His holiness, His perfection. This was not a claim by Jesus to be a mere representative of God, a missionary of God, a prophet of God, a child of God in a figurative sense, an angel or an archangel, but a claim to be truly God.

This would not only be a “hard saying” (John 6:60), but a “too-hard” saying for most – not necessarily hard to understand, but hard to accept.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

John 6:41-42

They “knew” the origin of Jesus of Nazareth. They thought they knew His backstory – His “nativity,” but not His real Nativity. This was not a prince or a nobleman or the son of a wealthy influential merchant or businessman or politician – not even the son of a priest or a scribe. This was the poor son of a simple carpenter from the most disreputable hick town in Galilee… here with a message from Heaven!? Maybe here with some power from Heaven? Maybe here with some special Heavenly insight into spiritual truth? Maybe. But “came down from Heaven?” No – unacceptable.

Jesus did not try to soft-peddle this truth; He emphasized it: John 6:33, 38, 41-42, 50-51, 58. That statement, “I AM”, is a hard saying. The statement, “I came down from Heaven,” is a hard saying. Here is another:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37

All those whom the Father gives to the Son SHALL come to Him. Will all men come to the Son? No. Will there be some given to the Son who do not come to the Son? No. “I will in no wise cast out” is an example of a literary device called “litotes.” Here are a couple of other examples of litotes in the Bible:

But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

Acts 21:39

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

I Corinthians 15:10

You may have heard these modern examples of litotes: “She’s not hard to look at” (said about a beautiful woman); “Einstein was no dummy” (because he was considered a genius). A litotes is a negative statement that is made to emphasize the opposite. Jesus will not cast out ANY of those whom the Father gives to Him, but can some of them (not being “cast out”) still somehow be lost? Not according to Jesus:

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:39-40 (emphasis added)

“Hard sayings” can cause dejection, abandonment, or anger. Here, as was the case with the original “bread” (manna), they caused murmuring.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

John 6:41

By this point the conversation/discourse had probably moved into the synagogue.

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.

John 6:43

Jesus responded to murmuring at hard truth with reinforced truth:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:44 (emphasis added)

NO MAN CAN.” Unless the Father DRAWS him. This drawing means to compel. It is not mere wooing, enticement, or even invitation or argumentation.

Witnesses to the Light

August 1, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Posted in John | 4 Comments
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At the Feast of Tabernacles the Lord Jesus preached and taught among the people, while dealing at the same time with the Pharisees’ attempts to have a death warrant executed against Him. It’s not hard to imagine the drama and suspense that surrounded Him during those seven or eight days. Everything He said must have carried tremendous impact (John 7:46). The feast culminated with a big ceremony in which a pitcher of water was poured out and a big lampstand was lit. Jesus used these poignant signs to describe Himself as the Living Water (John 7:37-38) and the Light of the World.

How bright or how dark has your life been lately? Are you seeing clearly as you walk with the Savior, or are you stumbling about, alternately depressed, disoriented, discombobulated, dumbfounded, and discouraged, as if your spouse rearranged the furniture in your house without telling you just before the electricity went out?

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:12 (emphasis added)

This is the second of the recognized I AM statements in John. It hearkens back to John 1, which teaches us that Jesus is the life-giving and truth-revealing light of men. People prefer darkness, though, because their deeds are evil. They are willing to put up with blindness and deceit if it allows them enjoy the delusion that their sin is hidden – or at least not so bad as to offend an all-seeing God.

The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

John 8:13

The Pharisees tried a different tack, using the Old Testament law requirement of two or three witnesses to testify in agreement in order to establish the truth claims of a legal dispute. Jesus would answer them based on their assertion, but pause for a moment to consider how offensive it is to accuse the Truth Himself of being a liar.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.

John 8:14

Jesus could call the greatest witness of all: the One Who commissioned Him to come here from Heaven and speak the Truth.

And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

John 8:16-19

No doubt they did not perceive the capital F that Jesus meant when He said “Father.” They counted Joseph of Nazareth as totally unworthy of supporting such a claim to Deity, and they would have had a point, except Jesus had His real Father in mind.

Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

John 8:21

I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

John 8:24

Jesus did not sugarcoat the consequences of rejecting His claims and the grace He offered, but this confirms that they were not on the same page:

They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

John 8:27

Jesus had the ultimate authority to back up His claims.

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him.

John 8:28-30

Tattletaling on God

July 26, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Posted in John | 4 Comments
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Imagine coming home from work one day and excitedly telling your spouse, “Honey, guess what! I got a huge raise and a promotion today!” only to have your spouse respond with, “Well, that’s just great, too bad you couldn’t find time to load the dishwasher every now and then while you were busy earning that raise.” What might this response tell us? Well, it might tell us that one spouse wasn’t exactly carrying his/her weight regarding the household chores, but I think it would actually tell us more about the other spouse’s attitude toward life in general. As we look at the aftermath of Jesus’s gracious healing of the man near the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, we can see how the response of the Jewish leaders revealed more about them than about the man who was healed.

He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

John 5:11

At this point they seemed to be only interested in the healed man as a potential Sabbath-violator, and he was pretty much willing to narc Jesus out at that point.

Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

John 5:12-13

He was willing to be a stool pigeon, but he wasn’t able to drop a dime on Jesus because he hadn’t even bothered to find out his name.

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

John 5:15

As soon as he found out who had healed him he couldn’t wait to rat Him out.

And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

John 5:16

In case you were wondering just how seriously the Jewish leaders took Sabbath violations, they were not not talking about giving Him a stern warning and a talking-to, nor giving Him a fine or a slap on the wrist. They were just going to kill Him.

But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

John 5:17

The word translated as “answered” is the word used for a legal defense, and His answer shocked them because He referred to God in a personal way as “My” Father, and He referenced the Sabbath “exception” for God Himself, who even the devoutest Jewish religious teachers had to admit must keep “working” on the Sabbath or else the universe would dissolve. People foolishly claim that Jesus never explicitly claimed to be God, but the reaction of the accusers clearly refutes that here.

Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

John 5:18

Once again, though, Jesus had a legal defense or “answer” to this:

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, (what does verily, verily mean) I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 5:19

Jesus claimed to be God by:

1. Claiming the honor due to God.

That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

John 5:23

2. Claiming to do the works that God can do.

For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

John 5:21

3. Claiming that right to judge that God has.

For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

John 5:22

Jewish scholars claimed that there were three locks that only God could unlock, or three keys that only God held: The keys to open the womb, the clouds (rain), and the grave.

From Feeding to Fearing to Following to Failing

July 11, 2019 at 10:19 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

John 6:13

The miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude with fish and bread was just that: a miracle. It was not the result of some ethical guilt-trip whereby Jesus shamed the crowd with the little boy’s example into graciously sharing their own lunches so that everybody got a little bit to eat, nor was it some type of David Copperfield-style illusion where the Disciples formed a hidden bucket brigade from a nearby cave to Jesus, hands behind His back, while He made the illusion of multiplying loaves and fish. No, this was a true SUPERNATURAL miracle, and was understood as such by all who were present.

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

John 6:14

The reference to “that prophet” was from the Torah – the one who would replace Moses. They believed the teaching of some rabbis who said that this prophet would be known by his ability to duplicate the miracle of the manna (bread) from Heaven.

When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

John 6:15

The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias, was in a concave place, surrounded by higher ground and “mountains.” The Disciples, leaving Jesus, entered a ship and started across the sea, which, because of the geography, was notorious for sudden and violent storms. Few things were more terrifying to a First Century Jewish person than a raging sea, which to them represented chaos and turmoil and loss of control and judgment. And, sure enough, their fears began to be realized:

And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

John 6:18-19

This was a distance a little less than three and a half miles, and they weren’t making good progress because they were rowing against storm. Often overlooked in Bible studies about Jesus and His Disciples is the terror that came upon even the people who knew Jesus best when He let His Deity show. It is tough to convey the real sense of fear you or I would feel upon seeing a human being actually step out onto a lake and walk on top of the water. Jesus encouraged them not to be scared, and they probably changed from fear to welcoming him aboard.

It’s hard to miss the symbolism here:

Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

John 6:21

When we recognize our sin against God, we might be afraid – certainly afraid to face Him – but then He makes it so that we “willingly” receive Him, and “immediately” we are home (in the sense of our status of becoming part of His family, though not actually in Heaven yet). This is the “already/not yet” nature of salvation – the Ebenezer/Jehovah Jireh – “The Lord has brought us this far, so He will always provide.”

The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

John 6:22-24

The people were exerting a great deal of effort to seek Jesus, but they were seeking Him at the lower level of “rabbi,” rather than the true level of “Lord.”

And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

John 6:25-26

Those who are truly seeking a destination are not satisfied with a sign that points to the destination.

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

John 6:27-28

Just as Jesus had told the Samaritan woman at the well about living water/eternal life, now He mentioned meat which would provide everlasting life. God had “sealed” Jesus – had placed upon Him an indelible and ineradicable anointing and ordination as the only One who could dispense eternal life. The people listening to Jesus wanted to know, “What shall we DO?” There has always been resistance to the idea that salvation is all of God and is found in what Christ has DONE, not what human beings can or should “do.”

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

John 6:29-32

They had faith in Moses, but they missed the “sign”ificance of Moses, and settled for life-sustaining bread, rather than eternal-life-giving Bread.

The Command, Calling, and Consequences of Following the Christ

June 17, 2019 at 10:06 am | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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Jesus is often referred to as “Jesus Christ,” but Christ is not Jesus’s last name. If Jesus of Nazareth even had such a thing as a “last name” during His earthly ministry it would have probably been something like “Jesus Ben Joseph” or “Jesus Bar Joseph,” “ben” or “bar” meaning “son of.” Most of the people Jesus encountered would have thought Him to be merely the son of Joseph, rather than the Son of God. “Christ” is more of a title than a name. Jesus was the Christos, which was the Greek term for the Hebrew “Messiah.” He was “anointed” with the grace of God. The title “Christ” tells us that He is divine, but that He was also the prophesied human Savior, from the seed of Eve and Adam, descendant of Abraham and Jacob (renamed Israel), prefigured by Moses, of the line of David, who would qualify for David’s earthly throne while at the same time being David’s Heavenly Lord.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

John 1:42

This is how Peter got the name by which he would become known.

The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

John 1:43

Why was such a pedestrian, seemingly-lackluster recruiting pitch so effective? A request or even a command to “follow me” has never been in short supply in the world among those who would seek to use others for profit, fame, power, even companionship, benevolence, or team-building. The typical response to an unadorned “follow me” would be: “Why?” “For what?” “Where?” “What’s in it for me?” or even “No.” The secret to Jesus’s success with this method though, I believe, is not in the “follow.’ The key is in the “Me.” A God-revealed understanding of Who Jesus is makes the “follow” almost superfluous and unnecessary as a command. When the eternal Son of God, the Savior of mankind, the Creator of the universe, the deliverer of your nation, reveals Himself to you, and you truly grasp the import of Who He is and what this revelation means, how could you NOT follow Him? How could they not become literal “disciples” – people who walked around behind a “Master” or Rabbi, an itinerant teacher, listening and learning, and trying to imitate Him? He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: a path, a person, and a purpose.

Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

John 1:44-46

Nazareth was a disreputable place, ordained as the birthplace and hometown of Jesus, perhaps in order to prepare Him in His childhood for a life of mockery, rejection, and humility.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

John 1:47

It’s possible that Jesus was making an ironic statement when He referred to Nathanael as being without guile and therefore a true Israelite, since the Jewish people have historically been stereotyped as being especially shrewd in their business dealings, but He was also referencing those who would believe the truth about Jesus as being the true descendants/heirs of Jacob, and therefore Abraham. The true Israelites are manifested by faith in the Messiah rather than by their birth and ethnicity.

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