Truth, Torture, and Trepidation

February 7, 2020 at 11:26 am | Posted in John | 8 Comments
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Pontius Pilate had been give the appointment as governor of Judea by the Emperor Tiberius. It was not a glamorous or easy post. Pilate was known as a vindictive (sometimes petty) and petulant politician and military commander. To say that he had a troubled relationship with the Jewish people and their religious leaders before they brought Jesus to him would be an understatement.

One of his first decisions after becoming Governor was to place Roman standards with Caesar’s image on them into the the Jewish Temple. The Jewish people, already resentful of Roman occupation and taxation in their holy city, staged a sit-down protest for five days outside of Pilate’s house. In repsonse, he threatened to kill them, but they wouldn’t back down, and he was forced to relent and have the standards removed, but, as you can imagine, he remained acrimonious and held a grudge.

On later occasions he would try to get emblems proclaiming Caesar’s divinity into Herod’s palace, and even the Temple again, including the most sacrosanct inner section known as the Holy of Holies. Herod’s sons responded by peitioning Tiberius, who rebuked and reprimanded Pilate, making him take the emblems out.

Pilate also took money from the Temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct, which caused a mob scene or a riot, in which he didn’t let his soliders use their swords, although some Jewish protesters were clubbed to death and others were run over by chariots.

On still another occasion, in Galilee, he had some Jewish worshipers killed in the middle of their religious sacrifices.

This background helps to explain some of the bickering, bargaining, and badgering that went on between Pilate and the Jewish leaders concerning what was to be done with Jesus after His arrest.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38

Pilate found no fault in Jesus. No one ever really did. However, even as he tried to be politically expedient he found himself becoming fearful.

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

John 18:29

Pilate hinted that this was what he wanted the Jewish leaders to do.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

John 18:40

Barabbas, named “the son of the father” (bar = the son; abba = the father) was a terrorist and a real insurgent zealot who sought to overthrow Rome’s rule in his homeland.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

John 19:1

This would be the first of two beatings Jesus received at the hands of the Romans (in addition to the blows and abuse suffered during the accusations made against Him by the Jewish High Priest and council, and their questioning of Him). There were three types of beatings used as punishment by the Romans, and the word translated as “scourged” in John 19:1 was the first type – fustigatio in Latin, from which we get the little-used English word “fustigation” and which was the least-severe of the three types. It was used for lesser offenses, but it was still plenty bad. The second-worst beating was called flagellatio (“flagellation” in English), and may have been the only type not administered to Jesus. The third type was verberatio (incorporated into the Engish word “reverberation”), so called because the blows administered to the victim were so harsh and loud that they could be heard from a distance. This was the beating that was given to convicted criminals after the sentence of crucifixion had been handed down. It involved a whip with multiple strands which had been enhanced with shards of sharp bone, metal, and possibly glass tied to them. It flayed off the skin and exposed the internal organs. Many recipients did not survive it and thus never made it to their crosses. The verberatio was intended to dehumanize the victim and to deter other would-be criminals, while at the same time taking away any sympathy the crowd of spectators might have felt seeing someone less deformed and grotesque being crucified.

And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

John 19:2

This crown was probably made from the thorns of the date palm tree – thorns that grew up to 12 inches in length.

And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

John 19:3

This mockery and additional abuse was not part of the official legal sentencing, but was cruelly allowed by Pilate or the Roman officer in charge as sort of a bonus, letting these sadistic soldiers have some of what they considered to be fun.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

John 19:4

Pilate thought the Jews would have sympathy toward Jesus now, and would be satisfied that He had suffered enough. The scene was staged to be dramatic as Jesus was presented as thorougly beaten and non-threatening.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

John 19:5

This was the Son of Man, in Whom no fault was found, as attested by the “world’s” representative, Pilate/Rome, on at least three separate occasions.

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

John 19:6-8 (emphasis added)

I stated earlier that, as Pilate tried to dismiss Jesus with a claim that “truth” was relative or unknowable, he had begun to be fearful. As a Roman pagan who at least professed a belief in hundreds of deities, the possibility that he might be torturing a real God (or even THE real God) was starting to make him more and more nervous.

A Less Lurid Account of the Crucifixion

January 21, 2020 at 5:09 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

John 19:16-17

Golgotha was also known as “Calvary,” which is from the Latin word for “skull.” It is possible that the place was named that because its shape bore a resemblance to a human skull.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:18

The Biblical narrative of the events which commenced after Jesus’s arrest, and some of the historical records and information concerning the Roman penal system give us insight into some of the terrible beatings, humiliation, mockery, and abuse that Jesus suffered as a prelude to His Crucifixion. These things are difficult to talk about, especially knowing that He endured such suffering for you and me, unworthy as we were to receive the blessings of that kind of love and sacrifice. John 19:18 says, “Where they crucified him…” without going into detail about exactly what it meant to be crucified under the Roman penal system. If you’ve attended church long enough, especially around Easter or Good Friday, you’ve probaby heard a Bible teacher or preacher go to great lengths to describe just how horrible death by crucifixion was. Specific information about the nerve centers where the spikes were driven, the pain of asphyxiation, the agony of dehydration and muscle cramping, etc., is used to paint a very vivid picture which is largely absent from the Biblical account. This raises a question: “Why didn’t the Gospel writers go into more detail about the mechanics and nuances of Jesus’s Crucifixion?” I believe there may be several reasons, but the two that seem apparent to me are:

1. The Gospel writers knew that their original readers would have been very familiar with crucifixion since they were under Roman rule and subjugation, so there was no need to go into more detail.

2. While the physical torture of Jesus certainly plays a significant role in our redemption, and must never be minimized, it was not His physical suffering alone (or even primarily) that paid for our sins. Remember, the full weight of God’s wrath against the sins of every person who has been, or will be, saved was poured out upon Jesus in the eternal realm (Isaiah 53:10-12), and this was a type of punishment which no finite human could comprehend, and which no human eyes were allowed to see (Luke 23:44-46). It was a transaction between the Heavenly Father and His Divine Son (Romans 3:25; I John 2:2, 4:10), and it goes beyond the ability of mere mortals to put into words that could truly do it justice.

John mentions the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus, but does not tell us that one of them trusted Christ before he died and was saved.

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

John 19:19-20

The title, “King of the Jews,” was intended as mockery, but it was a true statement about Jesus, and was written in three languages, proclaiming it religiously, culturally, and legally.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

John 19:21 (emphasis added)

Suddenly the chief priests who had vehemently opposed Jesus as the true “I AM” were now more than willing to have those words appended to His name.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

John 19:22

Pilate exacted a bit of petty revenge for what he felt they had forced him into doing.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

John 19:23

The soldiers divided four of Jesus’s separate articles of clothing among themselves: His head covering, His belt/girdle, His outer garment, and His sandals. His seamless undergarment remained, and would have been ruined if torn, so they gambled for it.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:24-25

Four women remained near the Cross as Jesus was crucified: His mother, Mary; His mother’s sister (unnamed here, but traditionally known as Salome); another Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was James’s and John’s mother; and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

John 19:26

Jesus again used the term “woman” as a public name of respect from an adult son.

Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

John 19:27

Joseph, Mary’s husband, was now deceased, and Jesus’s earthly brothers were not yet believers, so He appointed John to take care of Mary.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

John 19:28-29

Having earlier refused the soporific wine, Jesus now drank the sour wine.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

John 19:30 (emphasis added)

The Greek term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) means that Jesus’s work of redemption for His people on the Cross was acommplished. The sin debt had been paid in full. He then laid down His own life.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

John 19:31

A Worker, a Worshiper, a Wrongdoer, and a Witness

January 10, 2020 at 10:48 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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At the end of John Chapter 11 the Sanhedrin had issued an APB for Jesus. They wanted to put Him to death, but if they could get it done before the Passover, they believed that a great crisis could be averted and they could return to the status quo: hireling business as usual. Six days before the Passover, Jesus was celebrating the resurrection of His friend Lazarus with the rest of Lazarus’s family, his sisters, Mary and Martha.

There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,

John 12:2-4

Here are three key people at this supper: Martha, who was characteristically busy; Mary, who – also characteristically – was in a position of shameless worship; and Judas, who is mentioned – again characteristically – with an editorial comment about his treachery. These are Judas’s first recorded words in Scripture:

Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?

John 12:5

This puts a figure on the description of “very costly” in Verse 3. One hundred “pence” (denarii in the Greek) was a year’s wages for a typical hired worker! It’s hard to miss the idea that Judas was very interested in money. His first recorded words are mentioned above. His last recorded words were:

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

So, at the supper in John 12, we see a worker (Martha), a worshiper (Mary), a wrongdoer (Judas), and a witness (Lazarus):

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.

John 12:9

We sometimes admonish people who beg off when it comes to vocal evangelism, chiding them that the witnessing method known as “lifestyle evangelism” is not enough, but here it does appear as if Lazarus was more of a “lifestyle” witness… as opposed to a “deathstyle” witness which he had been the day before! As Christians, we are called to witness verbally (primarily) and nonverbally (secondarily), but Lazarus can be excused for not being more vocal since Jesus Himself was there in person!

Ruling out Judas, the wrongdoer, and looking at the other three highlighted characters, which one are you? Are you a worker: somebody who stays busy doing practical and needful tasks for the sake of Christ and His people? Are you a worshiper: someone who expresses your love for Jesus openly, and longs to have a sense of being in His presence? Are you a witness: somebody whose words and actions show that Jesus brought you out of spiritual death into spiritual life? Hopefully, we would be a combination of all three.

The purpose of this supper was to celebrate Lazarus’s resurrection, but:

But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

John 12:10-13

This was very unusual, and was the first time Jesus had allowed a public ceremony or proclamation about His mission, purpose, and true identity. He did it in order to fulfill prophecy. “Hosanna” meant “save now.”

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

Psalm 118:22-26

Jesus allowed everyone – His followers, the patriotic and excited bystanders, the Jewish religious leaders, and even the Romans – to believe that He was on the verge of being crowned King and challenging Roman authority in Jerusalem, because this would bring about His sacrifice as the Passover Lamb at the perfect time.

And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.

John 12:14-15 (“As it is written” refers to Zechariah 9:9.)

Humility, Holiness, Happiness, and Hypocrisy

December 31, 2019 at 1:58 pm | Posted in John | 2 Comments
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The events which took place at the so-called “Last Supper” are very different from what is portrayed in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the same name. Running through the conversation and the thoughts of Jesus and His Disciples was a theme of balancing interests: humility, holiness, happiness, and hypocrisy.

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

John 13:1

There is a big debate about whether the phrase “before the feast of the Passover” means before the food was actually served, or whether this scene takes place at a separate meal. The sign that Jesus’s hour had come was the requested meeting with the gentiles as Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. “The world” appears only twice in John Chapter 13, both times in Verse 1, but in Chapters 13-17 it appears 40 times, and is used to describe what Jesus calls His people out of, and to describe where Jesus calls His people to remain and minister. Christians should be IN the world but not OF the world. Jesus loved His Disciples “unto the end” in both senses: to the uttermost degree, and to the end of His earthly life which was right at hand.

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;

John 13:2

The betrayal of Christ was a conspiracy involving both Satan’s will and Judas’s will. Judas was not a helpless puppet. He intended to do something evil, but the Holy Spirit does not want the readers of John’s Gosple to get the idea that Jesus was fooled by Judas’s act the way everyone else apparently was.

Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;

John 13:3

There is dramatic tension here. The emphasis of functional control has shifted from the Father to the Son, so we would expect Jesus to deal with Judas in wrath and preemptive extermination at this point. Instead, in a mind-blowing display of humility and love, He did this:

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

John 13:4

This alone is shocking. No “free” person/dinner guest would dress down like this, much less a respected and honored rabbi, and MUCH, MUCH less the Messiah.

After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

John 13:5

The silence from 11 of the Disciples is instructive of how worldview-shattering this act was. There are no recorded instances in Jewish or Greek literature of a master washing the feet of a servant. Even Jewish slaves didn’t typically perform this humiliating task. The practice of foot-washing in a rural environment with unpaved roads and domesticated animals walking around everywhere was considered one of the lowliest, if not THE lowliest, of all menial tasks. 11 of the 12 Disciples were shocked into silence, but one of them eventually found his voice and (characteristically for him) spoke up.

Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?

John 13:6

There were no punctuation marks for grammatical emphasis in the original language, but the Greek construction itself places emphasis on “thou” and “my,” as though Peter couldn’t believe anything about this – from the role reversal to the outrageous degradation to which Jesus was voluntarily exposing Himself.

Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

John 13:7

This does not really indicate that they couldn’t understand the meaning of a selfless sacrificial act of humble (even this extremely humble) service, but that they couldn’t yet grasp what this act of sacrificial abasement and service was pointing toward: the Cross. Jesus’s actions were reminiscent of some of the Old Testament prophets and their “action sermons.”

Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

John 13:8

This is where some sacramentalists get themselves in trouble, thinking that foot-washing is a sacrament or even an ordinance. Jesus was speaking figuratively about what this action sermon represented. It was not a petty threat to “let Me serve you, Peter – or else!” He was talking about having “a part” with God – an inheritance of eternal life with the Father – symbolized here by an act of cleansing that would be done with His removal of sin on the Cross, appropriated by grace through faith.

Peter understood enough to know that ANYTHING that would take away His “part” with God in Jesus, was something of which He wanted no part.

Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

John 13:9-10

This is a great picture of the once-for-all cleansing of salvation and the continual “foot-washing” cleansing of confession and repentance (I John 1:9).

For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

John 13:11

This refers to Judas, and reminds us once again of the amazing grace and humility of the Lord, who would stoop to wash the feet of His own betrayer, knowing full well what was in his heart.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

John 13:12-14

This is the second part of the object lesson. Nothing becomes Christian service quite like genuine humility.

For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

John 13:15-17

We can see the pattern and the order here: Humility must come first – the willingness to sacrificially serve – but holiness must also follow. There is an understanding that Jesus first served us, but not according to our selfish plans or wishes. He served us to make us holy. Make sure your service for others is directed toward making them holy, and that it does not compromise your own holiness. Then, from humility to holiness, comes happiness.

I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

John 13:18-19

Hyporcrisy is not part of the humility/holiness/happiness pattern, but it must be guarded against, first in our on hearts, then in the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ who we love.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

December 3, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus continued teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

John 7:37

This may have been the eighth day of the feast, but most likely it was the seventh day when the lampstand was lit and the water offering was poured out.

He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John 7:38-39

He continued using water to illustrate the eternal life that He grants, and now He associated the Living Water that only needs to be drunk once and then becomes an everlasting well in the drinker with the Holy Spirit Who would indwell believers after Jesus’s Ascension.

The response to this teaching was great speculation, conjecture, controversy, and confusion about Who exactly this Jesus was. Was He the Prophet from Deuteronomy 18:15, or was He the Messiah, the heir of David?

So there was a division among the people because of him.

John 7:43

This was very common throughout Jesus’s earthly ministry, not only in John’s Gospel, but in the synoptic Gospels, too. Jesus came to divide between the true and the false, the real and the fake, light and darkness, the devil’s kingdom and His Father’s Kingdom. Here, it provoked a decision to arrest Jesus.

Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?

John 7:45

These Levitical police officers were not Roman centurions. They were unaccustomed to using force in public, especially when the alleged perpertator could actually be the Messiah, or at least a bona fide prophet from God.

The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

John 7:46

Of course, Jesus was no “mere man.”

Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.

John 7:47-49

The common people were looked down upon by the Pharisees for their lack of religious training or knowledge.

Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

John 7:50-51

Nicodemus was at least in favor of searching the Scriptures to gauge the truth of what Jesus was teaching. As Christians today, we have access to a fuller revelation of God in our Scriptures than Nicodemus did in his, and we must be even more scrupulous in applying them.

Blindly Riding the Hobby Horse

November 27, 2019 at 10:48 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, John | 1 Comment
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They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.

John 9:13

The reason that the man’s acquaintances brought him to the Pharisees after they saw that he had been healed of lifelong blindness was probably because such an astounding miracle required, they thought, some type of religious explanation. Of course, the Pharisees had a special hobby horse they liked to ride called “How many ways can people violate the Sabbath?”

And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.

John 9:14-15

They were interested in the method of healing used because the Pharisees were experts at finding Sabbath-violations. If Jesus mixed water with dirt to make clay (mud) they could accuse him of “kneading” on the Sabbath, and people weren’t allowed to knead dough for bread on the Sabbath. It was a stretch, but they were already biased against Jesus and looking for a way to say that, even though He had miraculous healing powers, He couldn’t really be sent from God because He was a sinful Sabbath-breaker.

Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

John 9:16

No Christian has complete and total victory over sin in every single area of his or her life – at least not all the time. What’s more, many of us would admit to struggling with certain sins on a daily basis, and having some particular types of sins which have given us trouble for years. However, I’m guessing that there are at least a few categories of sin where God has given you significant victories, and possibly some where you never faced great temptation to begin with, and that you really can’t understand how some people can sin so egregiously in those areas. Perhaps people who are compulsive liars really get on your nerves (the 9th Commandment). Maybe it’s children who rebel openly against their parents (the 5th Commandment). What about people who steal other people’s property (the 8th Commandment)? Are they the ones who really get your goat (figuratively if not literally!)?

For the Pharisees who opposed Jesus during His earthly ministry, their “pet peeve” seems to have been people who were lax in their observance of the Sabbath day (4th Commandment). They were so keen to prevent the Sabbath commandment from being violated that they fashioned a bunch of additional cautionary rules around it to keep people from even coming close to breaking it. Maybe they originally had good intentions, but the problem was that, over time, they considered these man-made safeguards to be co-equal with the Law of God itself. In other words, they began to worship the Sabbath itself rather than the Lord of the Sabbath.

Let us not fall into this same trap. If you are exceedingly honest, you probably have a bias against liars. If you have worked hard to provide for your family, you probably have a strong dislike for thieves. And if you respect and honor your own parents, you might have little patience for rebellious, sarcastic, and disrespectful children. However, we must remember not to worship honesty, hard work, or filial respect. Instead, we worship the God of truth, provision, and authority, and, if He has communicated those attributes to us, we recognize them as gifts to bring Him glory, not as proud accomplishments with which to demean others.

The Pharisees found themselves in a quandary, though, because, if they claimed that sinners could not do miracles, then the fact of the miracle must mean that Jesus WAS NOT a sinner.

They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

John 9:17

The blind man had not yet come to saving faith in Jesus as the Son of God, but He clearly knew that Jesus was the “real deal” and had at least as much spiritual power as a true prophet from God.

But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.

John 9:18

The Jewish religious leaders suspected that maybe the man had been able to see at some point in his life, so the healing was not really miraculous. Only his parents could testify that he had truly been BORN blind.

And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.

John 9:19-21

This does not tells us the age of the man who had been healed, but it does tell us he was at least 13, because that was considered to be “of age” back then. A 13 year old boy/man could testify legally in court. His parents didn’t want to get in trouble with the Pharisees, but they did confirm that he was born blind before passing the buck by saying, “He can speak for himself about how it happened and what He thinks of Jesus.”

These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

John 9:22

This lets us know that the Pharisees were not only actively plotting the death of Jesus, but had instituted serious persecution against those who would worship and follow Him. Truly following Jesus has always been costly.

Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

John 9:23-25

The Pharisees then turned on the healed man again, trying to get him to denounce Jesus, but you can see he was starting to suspect their ulterior motives.

Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?

John 9:26-27

This was a very sarcastic response because obviously the Pharisees did not want to be Jesus’s disciples, but it was like saying, “Why are you so interested in Him? Is it because deep down you know He might be the Messiah?” This made them very angry.

Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.

John 9:28-30

It sounds like the healed man was really having fun with them now. They were claiming to be the representatives of Moses, but they didn’t even recognize that Moses testified about a greater Prophet who would be sent from God.

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

John 9:31-34

This sums up the Pharisees’ biggest problem: the prideful denial that they were born in sins. All of us were born in sin, and Jesus will forgive us, but the condition is that we have to recognize that we are sinners and always have been, and therefore we NEED to be forgiven and saved. The Pharisees could not or would not do this, so they could not “see” who Jesus really was.

Here’s Mud in Your Eye

November 13, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, John | 2 Comments
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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.

John 8:28

Historically, there have been great blessings attached to being Jewish, tempered by great persecution. (Haman and Hitler are two obvious examples.) The Abrahamic Covenant or blessing has been their great claim to God’s favor. Christian children today are taught to sing, “Father Abraham has many sons,” and challenged with the question, “Are you one of them?” The Jewish religious leaders who confronted Jesus would have enthusiastically answered, “Yes, we are!” but were they really?

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

John 8:36-45

One of the things I often hear is that, “We are all God’s children,” or some similar sentiment. This is true only in the limited sense that all people are created by God and bear His image. Jesus, who often gets a bad rap these days as sort of a touchy-feely, mealy-mouthed, self-help guru, was, in reality, not averse to sharing some blunt truth when called for, and that’s what He did in John 8:44, telling the people who opposed His ministry that they were children of the devil!

Your conduct determines your spiritual paternity. Your freedom (from sin) determines your spiritual paternity. Whose Word you believe and obey determines your spiritual paternity.

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

John 8:58-69

There is no doubt Jesus claimed to be God, and His enemies knew it.

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

John 9:1-2

What is the relationship of sin to physical illness or lifelong infirmities?

1. They are not always related specifically in each individual case. A person’s illness or infirmity may not be caused by his specific sin.

2. Sometimes, though, they are directly related.
a. They may be related as a “natural” cause and effect. For example, fornication may result in syphilis or some other sexually transmitted disease, or chronic drunkenness may result in cirrhosis of the liver.
b. In other cases, someone’s illness or infirmity may be allowed or inflicted upon him supernaturally by God as a an act of chastening or punishment. As finite human beings, not privy to the secret will of God, we can not know when this is the case, so we do not diagnose a person’s illness or infirmity as God’s punishment or chastisement, even though we remain aware that it is a possibility.

3. In a larger sense, all illnesses and injuries and infirmities are “caused” by sin as a result of the Fall and Curse which God pronounced upon mankind after Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

John 9:6-7

Jesus made a mud pack from the dust of the earth (possibly reminiscent of the way God had used dirt to make Adam). Sometimes the mind makes strange connections. Years ago a singer named April March wrote an English translation of an old French song called “Laisse Tomber les Filles,” which means “Leave the Girls Alone.” It’s a song about a womanizer finally getting his comeuppance at the hands of the ladies he had used or mistreated. The English version has a line that goes, “You’re gonna see the reason why, When they’re spittin’ in your eye.” There is also a common expression heard in old movies from the 30s and 40s, in which characters about to throw back a shot of alcohol often propose an odd toast: “Here’s mud in your eye!” For some reason these weird references are what popped into my head when I was studying John 9:6.

Jesus, who had the power to heal with a mere word or touch, chose on at least three occasions in the Bible (including Mark 7:33 and 8:23) to heal people using His own saliva. In John 9:6 he combined it with dirt to make a mud mask. Why do you think that He did this, and what can we learn from it? We can ask the Holy Spirit to “illuminate” (open our eyes to) the Word and help us.

Here are some possible reasons why He may have used spit:

1. To demonstrate His reversal of “curses.” Spitting on someone has always been seen as an extreme insult or way of cursing someone. Jesus is the One Whose blessing “reverses the curses.”
2. To show the Jewish religious leaders that His true purity did not care about their ceremonial taboos against bodily excretions.

After applying the mud to the man’s eyes, Jesus “sent” – as Jesus has been explaining that He was “sent” from the Father – him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, which is connected with the Old Testament prophecy of Christ as “Shiloh.”

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Genesis 49:10

Prophetic Foot Washing

October 30, 2019 at 9:08 am | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

John 13:1-4

As Jesus disrobed and took on the appearance and attitude of the basest of servants – the lowliest of the low – He demonstrated humility to a shocking degree.

After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

John 13:5-7

The foot-washing demonstration by Jesus was done for many reasons, but chiefly it was a preview and illustrated sermon about what He would soon do to an even greater degree in His Curcifixion.

Secondarily, it was an example of how His disciples were to love and serve one another, but Jesus was not instituting a ritual or ordinance to be observed as a ceremony in the Church.

If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

John 13:14-16

Jesus used a quote from Psalm 41:9 to let the Disciples know that Judas’s betrayal would not catch Him off-guard or in any way be a surprise to Him.

I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

John 13:18-19

As you study the prophetic demonstration whereby Jesus washed His Disciples’ feet, I hope you will see not only an encouragement to love and serve your fellow church members with humility, but that you will also have a greater appreciation for the amazing extent to which the Savior humbled Himself in His service on the Cross.

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 | 3 Comments
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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.

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