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.

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 | 2 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 | 3 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 Uncategorized | 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.

The Competition

June 7, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In a previous post I looked at the importance of the word “for” which begins the well-known verse, John 3:16. There is another “for” which continues building on these ideas in the next verse.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3:17

In what sense will Jesus – Who we know has been given all authority in Heaven and in earth, including the authority (Matthew 28:18: “all power”) to judge and condemn (Acts 17:31) – not condemn? Answer: In the sense that those who do not believe on Him are condemned already.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

After cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, and after His encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside.

After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 3:22

This makes it sound like Jesus was personally baptizing people, but:

(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

John 4:2

It seems likely that Jesus authorized His Disciples to baptize new converts, but did not actually do the baptizing with His own hands. The Apostle Paul often left the actual baptizing to others as well (I Corinthians 1:14).

Jesus, in His earthly ministry, fulfilled, but also exceeded, the Old Testament types which pointed to Him.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

John 3:25

Jesus had exceeded the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple water pots when He changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. He had exceeded the Old Testament locations of worship as the meeting place between man and God as demonstrated when He cleansed the Temple. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of the necessity of the water-spirit birth as He preached to Nicodemus. Now a specific group of Jews, possibly led by one man, questioned John’s practice of baptizing for ritual cleansing those who were already Jewish by birth, custom, and faith, and, as a part of their challenge, they saw an opportunity to try to drive a wedge of division between John the Baptist and Jesus.

And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

John 3:26

The phrase “all men come to Him” is a provocative exaggeration. Obviously not “ALL” men were going to Jesus, nor had “ALLmen gone to Him instead of John, but the numbers were changing. Jesus’s ministry was growing and John’s was shrinking.

How competitive are you? Just as one spouse is often introverted and the other extroverted; just as one is often neat and the other messy; just as one is often extravagant and the other a tightwad: often the Lord will put together one competitive spouse and one who could care less about “winning.” Do you love to win? Do you hate to lose? Are you happy for others when they succeed where you have failed? Does it bother you that people might think poorly of you in comparison to someone else? Somebody thought that John the Baptist might experience a couple of these reactions when confronted with the rising influence of Jesus’s ministry over his, so they decided to confront him about it.

Competition is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Sporting contests just aren’t much fun unless both sides are trying to win – to beat the other side. However, as shown in I Corinthians, competition in Christian ministry can be a dangerous and damaging thing. Soulwinning is not a contest. Who has the “best” Sunday School class probably should not be a competition. But human nature, which since the Fall has a strong bent toward pride, likes to be first, to get attention, to get credit, to feel superior – so you can’t look at this group of Jewish instigators and think, “Did they REALLY suppose John the Baptist would be jealous of Jesus??” Even reading it today, we catch ourselves thinking that we couldn’t totally blame him if he was – but remember:

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

Luke 7:28

Jesus didn’t say this about John as a form of flattery. Here was John’s response to the suggestion that Jesus was better than Him:

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John 3:27

This may seem to you, in the cold analytical light of merely academic Bible study, to be something of a “duh” statement. In a universe ruled over by a sovereign omnipotent God, OF COURSE we only get what He gives… and we don’t get anything He DOESN’T give us, but does this (true) maxim hold a central place in our minds “all day, every day?” Possibly not. Otherwise we would never get jealous, and we would always only rejoice when something good happens to HIM or HER, and something “bad” happens to ME. Jeremiah 9:23 and I Corinthians 4:7 remind us to ask: “Why do I glory in wisdom or might if they are only gifts?” Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights (James 1:17).

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.

John 3:28

Although John was known as the Baptizer, he could call anyone who had listened to his preaching as a witness to answer the question: “What has been the main thrust of my ministry? What I am all about?” If honest, they would have had to answer that John’s main message was: “The Messiah is coming, and He’s now here, and I’m not Him.”

This would be a great motivation in our evangelism. Any time we go to visit someone who does not know Jesus we can tell them, “I’m the one who came to see you, but I didn’t come to tell you about myself, and I want you to meet someone else that I hope you will soon know, love, worship, and obey. You will like Him a lot better than me, and that’s exactly what I want!”

He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John 3:29

Can you imagine the best man at a wedding trying to steal the bride, or being angry once the couple says their “I do”s? John’s job was almost done, and he had done it in a great way. He had been successful. His mission was fulfilled, so he was full of joy. That’s why we mustn’t read the next verse as melancholy resignation:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30

John was not bummed out. He was stating a fact, and he was celebrating the accomplishment of a great momentous occasion.

Eaten Up with It

May 16, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Posted in John | 1 Comment
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Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 2:4

This reference to “mine hour” is what is known is an instance of foreshadowing: the mentioning of a theme that will be developed later. It’s sort of an appetizer (or what my wife might call an amuse-bouche): something to whet the reader’s appetite for more information to follow.

After the miracle at the wedding in Cana Jesus traveled to Capernaum.

After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.

John 2:12

The addition of His mother and His “brethren” (presumably His biological half-brothers rather than His spiritual brothers, because they are distinguished from “disciples”) indicates that Jesus’s family stopped briefly on the way to Jerusalem.

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

John 2:13

They had gone “down” to Capernaum, and now they were going “up” to Jerusalem. It is possible that Jesus and His disciples (His spiritual family) helped His earthly family move or relocate to Capernaum. Mary and Joseph (likely deceased at this point) had other children after Jesus, proving that Mary did not, contrary to Roman Catholic dogma, remain a perpetual virgin.

And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

John 2:14

The money changers were ostensibly there in the Temple for the convenience of those who came to the Temple to offer animals for sacrifices but did not want to make a long pilgrimage with cumbersome livestock. The selling of oxen, sheep, and doves for this purpose had previously been done on a mountainside area adjacent to the Temple, but now it was being done in the Court of the Gentiles, thereby ruining the reverence and solemnity of what was supposed to be a serious place devoted to spiritual matters, prayer, and witnessing to the gentiles. It had, in effect, been turned into a stockyard filled with lowing, bleating, haggling, the wrangling of smelly animals, and commercial transactions.

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

John 2:15

It is easy and somewhat natural to imagine Jesus in a holy rage as we read this passage, and we can’t deny that He was angry. What is portrayed was actually a scene in which He purposefully threw the area into a state of chaos and probably confusion.

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

John 2:16

The emphasis is not on Jesus’s disapproval of commerce, but on the misuse, and lack of reverence for, His Father’s house.

And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

John 2:17

The disciples remembered Psalm 69:9: “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” In Psalm 69 David was in despair due to being encompassed and persecuted on all sides by his enemies. Those who should have been sympathetic to his zeal for pure worship in the house dedicated to God had viciously turned on him. There is something very subtle going on in John 2:17 as the Holy Spirit had John note that the disciples “remembered” Psalm 69:9. At the time they were focused on Jesus’s zeal for the pure worship of His Father, but the other part of the verse – the “eaten me up” (consumed me) – would be later remembered in reference to Jesus’s arrest and death. He would be “consumed/eaten up” by His enemies partly because He challenged their rule in the Temple as being sinful and not truly spiritual and pure. That helps us to understand the “sign” He chose to give them when they challenged His authority to decide how the Temple affairs should be conducted. He Himself WAS the true Temple which would be destroyed but then raised up to replace the old, typological Temple in which God and man could never truly meet together in holy atonement and fellowship.

Rising above the Rules

April 19, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Posted in John | 3 Comments
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Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

John 5:2-3

What made these handicapped folks think that this pool could help them? They thought an angel would come along every now and then and cause a noticeable disturbance in the water, and that the first one – but ONLY the first one – to enter the water would be healed or “made whole.”

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

John 5:5

Was this man desperate? Or perhaps only resigned? He had been “infirm” – lacking firmness – for 38 years. Some commentators see in this detail a symbolic reference to the inability of the Israelites to heal themselves of the unbelief that kept them wandering in the wilderness for 38-40 years.

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

John 5:6

Jesus saw him “lie.” He was lying down, but he was also perhaps being less than completely honest when he said:

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

John 5:7

That wasn’t really an answer to what Jesus asked him: “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

John 5:8

Jesus did not engage in a lengthy dialogue. He just gave a simple direct command.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

John 5:9

He was healed and STRENGTHENED – “made whole” – instantaneously or immediately.

The Pharisees had developed 39 rules concerning the Sabbath. These were not part of Scripture, but were given authority by them AS THOUGH they were part of Scripture. This is one of the meanings of legalism – adding man-made rules or traditions to God’s Word and trying to endow them with binding authority. One of the 39 rules forbade carrying anything.

The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

John 5:10

This gives us telling insight about the Jewish religious leaders and their psychological mindset, their pride, and the object of their praise. They worshiped the Sabbath itself to the exclusion of the Lord of the Sabbath.

Watering Down the Truth about Jesus

April 17, 2019 at 11:54 am | Posted in John | 5 Comments
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In Cana Jesus had performed His first miraculous sign (water into wine at a wedding) at the request of a mother (His own). Now at His return to Cana, He performed another miracle – this time at the request of a father.

So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

John 4:46-47

This man did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but he was desperate, so he pleaded with someone he thought of as a well-known faith-healer.

Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

John 4:50

Jesus was often compassionate in answering the prayers of even those without saving faith. This is similar to – but not the same event as – another healing recorded in Matthew 8.

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Matthew 8:5-13

That time the father was clearly identified as a gentile as opposed to the father in John 4 who was likely Jewish. A belief in Jesus as a miracle worker is not saving faith, but belief in Jesus as the Son of God is.

Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

John 4:50-53

The key link is that the father – not having seen his son healed – “believed the Word” of Jesus.

After it was established that John the Baptist baptized with physical water, but that Jesus would perform a greater baptism (John 1), and after Jesus turned water into wine (John 2), and after He talked to a religious leader about being born of water and the spirit (John 3), and after He talked to a Samaritan woman about drawing and drinking water from a well (John 4), where do you think He went in John 5? To a pool of water, of course!

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

John 5:2-3 (emphasis added)

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