Friday, October 31, 2014

John 12:12-19

The roar of the crowd echoed into the city. Jesus was on His way into town, but this time, He was not sneaking. He was not moving in stealth, rather, crowds of believers flocked to line the way into Jerusalem. There were approximately 2 million people that would come into Jerusalem on any given Passover Week, so the city was bustling with people from all parts of Judea and Galilee. Many of these knew Jesus and had seen His miracles, leaving no question as to His identity. The most recent miracle, raising Lazarus from the dead, finally authenticated His claim to be God. He was indeed the Messiah.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass…As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. – Zechariah 9:9, 11

The roars of the crowd carried with them the prophetic ring of the psalmist and of Zechariah. Jesus had arrived on a young donkey as foretold in Zechariah. Zechariah spoke that the Messiah would come, but He also mentioned that there was “blood of thy covenant” that the Messiah would take part in. No doubt, the last part of the prophecy was lost on those that day. They noticed that Jesus had shown up fulfilling the prophecy and that He was the Messiah, but they did not fully understand how He was their Messiah. They expected deliverance from their Roman oppressors, but He had come to offer deliverance from “the pit wherein is no water.”
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. God is the Lord, which hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee. - Psalm 118:25-28

As the crowd shouted, they sang the refrains from Psalms 118. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” But they didn’t finish the rest of the song, “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” This was a song of great praise, but it was also a song about a sacrifice that needed to be made. Jesus had come to completely fulfill the prophecy. Even though the cries of the crowd stopped at the beginning of the prophecy, Jesus had come to make a covenant with His own blood, and to offer Himself as a bound sacrifice to bring the glory to God that was prophesied.
The trap that the religious leaders so delicately set had snapped under the weight of Jesus’ timing. They were waiting for Him to sneak into the city for Passover, and He had ridden into town like a King with waving palm branches and shouts in the streets. The Sanhedrin thought that they had a plan for Jesus this week, but perhaps, He had His own plans that He was seeking to unfold during this Passover Week. They were now just five short days away from Passover, the day to commemorate those who bound the sacrifice and made a blood covenant to receive deliverance at the hand of a glorious God.
The boldness of Jesus, and the reception of the crowd left the priests feeling abandoned. Finally one exclaimed, “We have accomplished nothing, the world is gone after Him!” It seemed to be that Jesus was now running Passover week, not them. It would take a miracle for them to turn the tide now.

Food For Thought: Identify three things that were fulfilled by Jesus coming to Jerusalem on this Passover week from the prophecies of Psalm 118, and Zechariah 9.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

John 12:1-11

Jesus is God. There is nothing that He doesn’t know. As the sinister leaders in Jerusalem plotted and planned, He was not a victim that would fall in their trap. Rather, in confidence He travelled into Bethany, right outside of Jerusalem, knowing that word would travel quickly to the religious leaders. He was on a mission to obey God. It was the will of God that Jesus give Himself as a sacrifice for sins. This required that He die, and it would be the hatred of the Jewish leaders that would lead them to kill Him.
Jesus journeyed into Bethany with His disciples and sat down for supper with Lazarus and several others from the area. As Jesus was dining, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, came to see Jesus. In Matthew and Mark, we find that as she came, she carried a box made of alabaster stone that she broke open and poured on Jesus. In the Gospel of John we find that she poured it on His feet, but the other accounts explain further, that she poured it on His head and shoulders too. In a display of submission and humility, she then used her hair to wipe His feet. This was one of the most loving things that she could have done.
The conversation at the table stopped as everyone looked to Mary who in a heart full of love for Jesus poured out the most valuable thing she owned. The “spikenard” that she used was worth nearly one year’s wages, and she emptied it out on Jesus her true treasure. There was nothing that she counted as valuable as Him, and in this surprising act of self-sacrifice she demonstrated for everyone there, and to the countless millions who have read this text since that she loved Jesus with everything in her.
It certainly would have been surprising to those sitting at the table, and understandably some might have questioned what exactly was going on. But there was one, the thief as John calls him, Judas Iscariot, who began calculating how much they could have sold the ointment for and began mumbling about what a waste Mary had just made by pouring it on Jesus. Jesus would not let Mary go on being derided by a cruel man like Judas, so He rebuked Judas, “Let her alone.”
Mary had done the right thing; Judas had done the wrong thing. There was one disciple, a woman, who loved Jesus uncontrollably; there was another who had his eyes fixated on money, and would eventually sell-out Jesus for the right price.
As John continues the story, he takes a moment to remind the reader what was happening in Jerusalem. Word had spread that Jesus was with Lazarus in Bethany. Now people in Jerusalem had heard that Lazarus had been raised from the dead. People were travelling in droves out of Jerusalem over to the neighboring town of Bethany to see for themselves that Lazarus really had been resurrected. The frenzied priests sinfully turned their anger toward Lazarus, and began talking about how they could kill Lazarus so that people would stop believing in Jesus. It was one thing to think that Jesus was a blasphemer. It was another thing to want to kill a man to stop people from hearing the truth. Blinded by their sinful hatred, the religious leaders were getting worse and worse. Now they wanted to kill Jesus and Lazarus.

Food For Thought: Why did the religious leaders seek to kill Lazarus?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

John 11:46-57

Following the resurrection of Lazarus, a large number of the friends of Martha and Mary “believed on him.” But here we see the divisive nature of truth. While some accepted Him as their Lord, others refused to worship Jesus as the Messiah. Even though they had just witnessed a man who was dead being raised back to life, a handful of the siblings’ friends hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the chief priests and the Pharisees that Jesus was back at it.
Jesus had turned the water into wine in Cana, demonstrating to His disciples and to the servants that He was indeed Christ. He had then healed the nobleman’s son in Capernaum. Next in Jerusalem, He had healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. Along the Sea of Galilee, He had taken a little boy’s lunch-able and miraculously multiplied it to feed 5,000-plus people. Following this astonishing miracle, Jesus had then walked across the Sea of Galilee to meet His disciples on the water in the middle of a storm. More recently in Jerusalem, He had healed the man born blind. That had never been done before. That was new. But it was not as novel as what just happened in Bethany. There at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days. The grieving and consolation was well underway and people from everywhere had arrived in time to see Jesus come and raise Lazarus from the dead.
In response the religious leaders formed a council that would be able to come up with a solution to their Jesus problem. The council meeting began with one member proclaiming what all of them had now realized, “He is doing too many miracles. Before long everyone will believe on Him.” He certainly was doing a large number of miracles, and there was quickly becoming a large faction of Jerusalem and the surrounding country side that was beginning to believe that He was in fact the Messiah.
“One man should die for the people.” This was the great plan. All along, they wanted to kill Jesus, so when Caiaphas muttered these words, very few people took note. Many of the men in the room had already been present on one of the four previous occasions there in Jerusalem where they were ready to stone Jesus. Killing Jesus was the plan, but John makes a special side note here in the text for the reader. Since Caiaphas was the high priest, God could still speak prophetically through Him, even if He was a corrupt man. Now, God had used Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Jewish religious system, to be the first person besides Jesus to articulate the reality of the gospel. Many had been saying that Jesus would save them, but Caiaphas was the first one besides Jesus to say that it would be through the death of Jesus that all of the people would be saved.
With the trouble stirring in Jerusalem, Jesus took His disciples and headed away from the unrest. Even thought Jesus was gone from Jerusalem, as the next major feast approached, a few of the Jewish leaders began to get uneasy. It was when the large crowds were gathered in Jerusalem that Jesus showed up to attend the feasts too. With the Passover feast looming on the horizon, perhaps Jesus and His followers would be returning. For the first time, the religious leaders were proactive. They established a new law across the town – if anyone knew where Jesus was, or anyone saw Him in Jerusalem, they must come immediately to the chief priests and tell them. In Jerusalem, the net was finally set. If Jesus tried to sneak back in, the Jewish leaders would catch him and finally kill him.

Food For Thought: Even after seeing Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, why would people not believe on Him, but instead run back to Jerusalem to tell the High Priests? (Give at least two reasons)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John 11:17-44

As Jesus and His disciples journeyed to Bethany, word of His arrival reached Martha. She had certainly heard of the tumult that had occurred in Jerusalem over the past few weeks. According to verse 37, word about Jesus healing the blind man had already preceded Jesus to Bethany; no doubt, the other details about the attempted stoning by the Pharisees had also reached the three sibling-friends of Jesus.
Now, as Jesus approached the town, Martha met Him along the way. “Jesus, if you had just been here four days ago, you could have healed Lazarus.” Martha was a believer, a Christian. But even believers at times miss the greater realities of Jesus. In this case, she perceived that the glory of God could only be found in the healing of Lazarus. She didn’t realize that perhaps God intended for Lazarus to die, and had brought about the death of Lazarus that He might receive greater glory.
John tells us that after professing to Jesus that she trusted Him and believed that He was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, Martha sent a messenger to retrieve Mary out of the house where she had been grieving. Because of the close proximity to Jerusalem, many people from Jerusalem had gathered to comfort Martha and Mary. Hurrying out of the house, Mary gathered an entire entourage of followers that assumed she was going to weep at the grave side.
But as Mary hurried down the trail, she headed away from the tomb, and out of town. I imagine that the crowd bustled a few hundred feet behind Mary trying to keep up, but grew more and more curious as she left town. From a distance they saw her stop on the trail and fall to the feet of a man on the trail. The Jerusalem folk certainly began to recognize Him as they drew closer; it was Jesus, the one who had caused the uproar in Jerusalem after healing the blind and the lame.
Mary repeated the truth that Martha had thought, and that the crowd was certainly thinking, “Jesus if you had been here four days ago, you could have healed Lazarus.” The crowd murmured amongst themselves, “He opened the eyes of the blind, if He had been here, He could have healed Lazarus.” After speaking briefly with Mary, Jesus walked down the path to the grave. Arriving at the tomb, Jesus instructed the men to remove the stone. Martha interjected, “Jesus, he has been dead for four days.”
At this point, Jesus stopped her and said, “You will see the glory of God.” This was the same message He had told to the disciples in verse 4 before telling them that they needed to wait a few more days before heading to Bethany. Jesus had let Lazarus die instead of rushing to heal him. Why? So that there would be no disputing Who He really was. With the stone rolled away, and with authority unlike any who had ever walked on the earth, Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come forth.”
In an instant there was stirring in the tomb, as Lazarus came walking out of the tomb. Lame bodies healed, that was impressive. Blinded eyes, no one had ever done that. Power over death, this truly was the Son of God. The truth was undeniable for all those who were there. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Now, Jesus showed up and raised Him from the dead. There was no refuting the evidence. God had come in the flesh, Jesus truly is the Christ.

Food For Thought: Read John 11:4-6. Why did Jesus wait to go to Bethany? According to verse 45, what was the result?

Monday, October 27, 2014

John 11:1-16

Leaving Jerusalem was the best thing for Jesus and His disciples. The crowds there were like a powder keg, ready to explode at any moment. From the time that Jesus entered Jerusalem and healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were looking for ways to kill Jesus (John 5:16). Now, the last two times that Jesus visited in Jerusalem, to heal the blind man and to teach that He was indeed the Messiah, the religious leaders had stirred the crowd to a dangerous rage. Swiftly, Jesus and His disciples headed out of Jerusalem. They travelled the 25 plus mile journey to the other side of the Jordan River.
After retreating to the Jordan River, Jesus eventually received word that some of His closest friends were going through a hard time. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were three siblings that had become terrific friends of Jesus during His ministry in Jerusalem and the outlying area. They lived in the town of Bethany, which sat just outside of Jerusalem.
Martha and Mary had sent messengers to Jesus to tell Him that Lazarus their brother, and a dear friend of Jesus, was sick and about to die. John tells us in John 11, that Jesus intentionally waited where he was for a couple more days before heading to visit Martha and Mary. Finally, He told his disciples, “Let us go into Judaea again.” Judaea was the name of the region that Bethany and Jerusalem were in, the place where a few days earlier, the angry crowds had tried to kill Jesus and his disciples. This was a detail that wasn’t lost on the disciples. Immediately at this proposition, the disciples responded, “Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee, and goest thou thither again?”
Jesus explained that he had greater things to do than to remain immobilized by the fear of angry crowds. Jesus responded to His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go, so I can wake him out of his sleep.” He was using the word “sleep” to mean that although Lazarus was dead, he was not permanently dead. Instead, Jesus was going to “wake him up,” in other words, He was going to resurrect Lazarus. The disciples missed the whole point of what Jesus was saying, and instead responded, “If he is just sleeping, then why do we need to go see him?” Finally, Jesus put it bluntly, “Lazarus is dead.”
The reality of the danger that they were putting themselves in came from the mouth of Thomas, the realist, when after hearing this response of Jesus, he said, “Then let us go, that we may die with him.” Travelling to Bethany would most certainly endanger their lives. Lacing the sarcasm, with which the words of Thomas bit, was the grave reality that Jerusalem was becoming a seriously hostile place. Any trip to Jerusalem would no doubt open the door to further attacks by the religious leaders. But Jesus had said that he must go because God would be glorified, and the Son of God would be glorified. The glory of God was more important than self-preservation. God being glorified was worth risking life and limb over. God was worth it. So, with certain trouble ahead, they departed for Bethany.

Food For Thought: Why was travelling to Bethany dangerous for Jesus and His disciples? Why was Jesus willing to hazard His life and His disciples’ lives by travelling there?

Friday, October 24, 2014

John 10:19-42

Humanly speaking, Jesus was a very polarizing individual. It seemed that no matter where He went, there were those in the crowd who absolutely hated Him, and there were those in the crowd who were absolutely astounded by Him. There was no middle ground. The language used by those in the crowd and the actions that they constantly took indicate that this effect was even at times a bit harrowing for Jesus and His followers. Several times, Jesus was equated to or even directly called “the devil.” In the same crowds, Jesus was also worshipped and believed in. In short, there was no lack of drama every time Jesus stepped into a highly populated metropolitan area.
John 10 takes place in Jerusalem, in an exterior part of the temple called Solomon’s porch. The crowd had predictably (as was typical) divided over the true identity of Jesus. There were those who thought that He was teaching dangerous doctrine, and there were others who were beginning to realize that He truly was the Messiah. The recent healing of the blind man had been the most startling of the miracles of Jesus since no one in the history of the world had ever healed a man born with blindness. The miraculous acts all indicated that Jesus was truly who He claimed to be – the Son of God.
Finally, the most direct statement that could be made came from the boldest member of the audience, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” The people were beginning to get frustrated with all of the parables and imagery, and they wanted Jesus to speak on their terms and not on His own terms.
In the next paragraph, Jesus taught a very distinct truth. Using the imagery that had previously frustrated the crowd, Jesus laid out very plainly the truths that we would do well to understand from this text. Back in John 6:44, Jesus had explained that no one puts their faith in Jesus, unless God draws them to Him. Now in John 10, Jesus explained this truth with a little bit more depth.
There are two types of people- those who God has chosen (God’s sheep), and those who have not been chosen. So how do you know if you are one of God’s sheep? Jesus teaches that those who belong to God are revealed as the sheep of God when they respond in faith to the call of God. Now, there is a very important point that you must understand here. These people that come in faith to God don’t become sheep when they put their faith in Jesus, rather, they already are sheep and the evidence of that is that they are able to put their faith in true Shepherd. Belief doesn’t make them sheep. They already are sheep. Belief just reveals that they are sheep. Finally, in verse 29, He reiterates the point he made in John 6:44 that all those who come to Him, come because God sent them to Him.
In the next verse, Jesus made one of the most direct statements of His ministry: “I and my Father are one.” In effect, He was claiming divinity. He was saying that as the Son of God, He was God. Many might argue that Jesus did not claim that He was God, but that concept is foreign to the those who heard Him that day, because their reaction and words indicate in verse 33 that they knew exactly what Jesus was saying. He had come as the Good Shepherd. His sheep would come to Him. And there was no question to the fact that He indeed was God in the flesh.

Food For Thought: If someone were to say that Jesus never claimed to be God, what about the response of the angry mob could you use to explain that even the people of His day knew that He made claims of Deity?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

John 10:1-18

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The people of God were always known as the flock, and God himself was known as the Shepherd. Just as we find it in the familiar Psalm 23, this imagery was very common. It was God who led His people like a flock of sheep. At times, stubbornly, they would stray away from Him, but like a loving Shepherd, He would consistently guide them back to himself.
This imagery was ingrained in the Jewish people. The first family on earth had included a shepherd, Abel. Moses, the one who had received the law of God, was a shepherd for forty years in Midian. David, the greatest king of Judah, was a shepherd for most of his youth. Shepherding found a very special place in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people.
When Jesus chose the image of Shepherd, He was not speaking to a group of people that were unfamiliar with the idea. Each town would have several shepherds that would have their own flocks of sheep. Often, even in the middle of each town was a walled-in area called a “fold” where the shepherds would corral the sheep at night for safety. Perhaps as Jesus taught that day, He stood close to a flock of sheep or a pointed at a fold where the sheep were being corralled for the evening. No matter the setting, the point he made was incredibly clear.
“I am the Shepherd.” He was the one who had come to tend to the sheep. There had been those who were hirelings who had disregarded the health and life of the ones they were supposed to care for. Now, Jesus had come to graciously guide and direct. To love and lead where those before him had failed. What was this a reference to? What was He talking about?
John 10 follows on the heels of the story of the blind man who had been healed and then mistreated by the religious system of the day. Instead of shepherding and loving the flock of God, the Sanhedrin had abused and mistreated them. Now, Jesus had come. Those that had been chosen to be His sheep would know Him, and would follow after Him. Notice the words that are used, “My sheep hear my voice, and they know me.” This exact thing had just been acted out in the streets of Jerusalem where one without sight could only recognize the true Shepherd by His voice. Jesus had come to do what the religious leaders never did - love and care for His flock. Instead of viewing the flock as something to serve Himself, Jesus saw His role as Shepherd to love and sacrificially lead the flock. He truly was the Good Shepherd where all others had failed.

Food for Thought: Read John 10:16. When Jesus is speaking of the fold, He is speaking of the Jewish religion. What do you think He is speaking of when He says that there are other sheep that are His that are “not of this fold”?

The Gospel Project: September

Mitchell Ashworth
Grade: 12

Gospel Project

Part 1: What is the Gospel?

          The Gospel is the good news of Christ’s incarnation, life, death and resurrection. The Gospel is good news because through it we are able to spend eternity in the presence of God (Rom 1:6). The reason we are able to partake in this infinite joy is Christ. In eternity past, God knew that man would rebel and need a Savior. Christ, the son and equal of God, gave himself to receive the punishment mankind deserved. In order to be mankind’s replacement, Jesus had to live a sinless life, a feat not possible by a mere mortal man; however, Jesus was just as much God as he was a man (Rom 3:10). Christ’s sinless life led him to the substitutionary death of the cross. Jesus was crucified in a deluge of God’s wrath and punishment (Rom 5:9). While Jesus was being punished for the sins of the world, God the Father turned his back on Jesus breaking an eternal bond. After Jesus had died and been buried, he was raised again by God. When God raised Christ from the dead, he validated Christ’s sacrifice (Rom 1:4) opening salvation to all who would trust solely in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Rom 5:1). So, what is the Gospel? It is the good news that Christ’s perfect life, substitutionary death, and validated resurrection allows us to partake in worshiping God forever.

Part 2: What must someone believe to be saved?

In short, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31),” but because Paul’s statement does not meet the required word limit, allow me to elaborate. Sadly, our modern English language has a hard time transmitting specific ideas in simple speech. The Greek words that Paul spoke in that dungeon and were later translated into the English word, believe, mean: having a complete, resting faith. In this statement, the belief is in Jesus Christ, but we must believe not only that Christ was a historical person, and not only that Jesus, equal in power and personage with the creator God of the universe, came to earth in perfection through a virgin birth to save the fallen race of man through his perfect life, vicarious death, and vindicating resurrection, but also that the only way to an eternal relationship with God is through complete dependency on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Belief on this must be exclusive; it must be your only defense or answer to the question, “Why are you going to heaven.” So, what must someone believe to be saved? Someone must believe that their only hope of getting into heaven is Christ’s work of salvation.

Part 3: How do you know that you are saved?

I know that I am saved because of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. After justification, the Holy Spirit comes inside believers and grows them in holiness while the saved person works to obey God. In my life, I have seen growth in my spiritual walk and a deepening of spiritual knowledge. Specifically, my theology in general has widened, but particularly my understanding of salvation has grown, which, hopefully, is evident from this paper. Along with a fuller doctrine of salvation came an assurance concerning what I was placing my faith in and what type of faith is saving faith. Another marker pointing towards my salvation is the constant war I fight against the flesh. As an unregenerate person I would not be concerned with trying to obey the commands of a King I was rebelling against. So, to recapitulate, I find assurance of salvation in the fact that I am actively trying to mortify the wicked deeds in my life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John 9:35—41

Broken-hearted, rejected by his family, and betrayed by the religion he had idolized for decades, the once-blind man stumbled down the roads of Jerusalem sobbing with shame and confusion. The events of the day would have left anyone feeling emotionally exhausted. The day started with excitement as someone stopped to talk to him that morning. The excitement turned to hope when this gentle voice offered healing from a life of darkness. After washing in the pool of Siloam, the formerly blind man was filled with elation as he danced back to the temple drinking in the realities of God’s beautiful creation. He celebrated with all and shared the joy of the miracle that God had chosen for him.
But the celebration was cut short. Word had spread of this miracle, and he soon received a summons to stand before the Sanhedrin. The excitement melted and soon turned to frustration when stern, old faces scowled in disbelief as he recounted the details of his story. With nearly satanic skepticism they picked at every word he spoke. In gruff grunts they muttered inquisitive phrases like, “So, you say he used clay?” or “Where was he from?” or “How do we know you were really blind and this isn’t just a ruse?” Confidently, the young man had answered every probing question. But it didn’t matter what this young man said, every phrase seemed to meet more skepticism than the last. Exasperated by their disbelief, he finally exclaimed, “If this man were not of God, he could do nothing!”
That had been the final straw. In a cursing rage, they bit back with “You were born in sin, and you are going to lecture us?” They, like the disciples, assumed that people were born blind because of sin and not for the glory of God. In that instant, this man’s entire world came crashing down. All of his hopes and dreams of worshipping God were dashed. He had finally earned the right to enter the temple and in less than a day, a group of angry, self-righteous mobsters had robbed him of that right.
Shell-shocked and devastated, he staggered out of town, ignoring the beauty that had gripped him hours earlier. As evening set in, the long shadows began swallowing the white, sun-bleached stone and the darkness of sorrow poured down over him. In one day, he had gained everything and lost everything. He had gone from a darkness of the eyes to a darkness of the soul. His mind swirled. Why had Jesus left him? What good was healing his blinded eyes if this was going to be the outcome?
It was in this broken, emotionally-drained, post-traumatic hangover that he heard a gentle voice, “Do you believe on the Son of God?” The man turned and looked at the unfamiliar face of Jesus, “Certainly, I want to believe on him, but who is he?” When Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with clay, he had sent him away before allowing the man to see Him. The man knew that the one who had healed him was named Jesus, but beyond that, he had no idea what Jesus looked like. The words of Jesus poured out like a cool, refreshing fountain of cleansing water over the man’s broken and thirsty soul, “You have seen Him, and you are talking to Him right now.”
Although the reality of the day had been lost on bitter, old men, Jesus had never lost sight of the monumental thing that had occurred in this young man’s life. For this man it was a day to be celebrated, but it seemed that the religious leaders were not interested in celebration. As Jesus spoke, he laced his words with the one reality that was so dear to this man, “You have seen Him.” Jesus was truly the one who cared and loved. He could empathize with the outcast and rejected, and He could share in the joy of a changed life. And on this day, this life would change forever. He had begun the day with physical darkness that was changed to physical light. Now the spiritual darkness was banished as the man responded, “I believe.” He would not remain in darkness forever, rather, by the power of Jesus he had been set free.

Food For Thought: Compare what Jesus says in John 9:41 with what the disciples say in John 9:2, and the Pharisees say in John 9:34.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

John 9:14-34

The eyes that once were like a dark veil had now been changed and the veil was lifted. No longer would he stumble in darkness, his eyes had been opened. There was no fear of the angry mob trampling him, he could see. I can imagine his surprise as his eyes beheld for the first times the things his ears had labored so hard to describe. I can picture his amazement that people didn’t marvel at the things around them with all the color and detail that had been painted by the Creator. Did people really just walk past trees with all of their intricate branches and the thousands of leaves that danced with every puff of breeze that blew through its branches? Would nobody stop to admire the wispy, white clouds soaring overhead at distances unimaginable? There was a mesmerizing current of water flowing through the valley and out of the springs, and people just trampled around it like it was an inconvenience. He must have wondered at everyone’s disinterest for the beautiful world the Creator had placed around them.
I imagine he hurried to the temple, where for years he had heard traveler after traveler speak of its carved and etched beauty as they had entered that foreboding gate. There would be no one to bar him from worshipping God in the temple today, his eyes worked perfectly.
The excitement of his new sight was soon caught up in a cultural storm unlike he had ever been a part of. For years, he had been ignored and despised. Now, with working eyes, there had never been so much attention given to one person. The Pharisees were the most intrigued having ordered his friends and neighbors to bring him to them so they could inspect what all the others claimed.
“Come close, young man, and tell us how you received your sight.” The Pharisees certainly in this moment had forgotten their self-acclaimed master, Moses, and what he taught about blindness and sight in Exodus 4:11. The seeing man innocently responded, “He made clay and put it on my eyes. I washed it, and now I can see.”
Jesus had told His disciples that this man was born blind so that the glory of God could be demonstrated in Jesus through this man. In this moment, there was no greater testament to the deity of Jesus than the fact that Jesus had healed a blind man. With incredulity, the man echoed this reality and finally said to the Pharisees, “What is so unbelievable for you? So you don’t know where he is from, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I used to be blind, but now I can see.”
It was as plain as the gorgeous creation around them, but in their self-righteous, God-forgetting, others-condemning sinfulness they were blind to the thing that was so clearly seen. What was the hang up for them? The problem was the same problem that we saw in 
John 5. Jesus had healed this man on the Sabbath. In the minds of the Pharisees, compounding the problem, Jesus had “made clay” on the Sabbath, a task expressly forbidden in their extra-biblical laws. According to their hypocritical religiosity, Jesus couldn’t have done this miracle and been right with God. Their absurd reaction confirmed that no amount of evidence could convince them that Jesus had come from God. They would never believe. Only one was healed of blindness on this day. Sadly, the others would be slaves of darkness forever.

Food For Thought: Read John 5:1-18. What problems did the Pharisees find with each healing (be more specific than “Jesus healed on the Sabbath)?

Monday, October 20, 2014

John 9:1-13

Cloudy, blue-gray corneas surrounded by yellow sclerae darted left and right as the yelling and turmoil on the temple grounds echoed through the temple entrance. For his whole life, this young man had sat at the entrance of the temple, barred from entry because of his hazy eyes. “No blind people in the temple,” he had been warned. So day after day, week after week, year after year, he sat at the entrance of the temple begging mercy of those he could not see, the extra religious, many of whom shuffled quietly by to avoid any mental accountability to this blind beggar.
Any successful street urchin would sit as close to the entrance as possible so that he could plead with those entering for alms without inconveniencing them to walk out of their way. On any other day, his entrepreneurial location close to the center of the path would have been a positive mark of good planning, but today the turmoil in the temple was beginning to unsettle this helpless stumbler. His useless eyes glanced without purpose as the enraged mob gasped and roared at the claim of Jesus, “Before Abraham was, I am.” The shouts and cries of “Blasphemer! Liar! Son of Satan!” were followed by, “Kill Him! Stone Him!”
It was moments like these that everyone would gather around to watch. But when you were a blind beggar, strictly forbidden from entering the temple, there was no watching to be had, instead, you had more desperate concerns. If the enraged mob furiously dragged someone out of the temple, in the blindness of their rage they might not even notice a beggar seated on the ground. With several tons of blind hatred they could easily, accidentally trample a poor, helpless beggar. Hurrying to his feet, the blind man began moving away from the temple.
“And Jesus passed by.” The disciples were with Jesus as they exited the temple ground quickly. Coming across this blind man frantically stumbling and hurrying in darkness must have been quite the sight for the disciples to see. Their question revealed their lack of compassion, “So, Jesus, who sinned and made that guy blind, him or his parents?”
 Exodus 4:11, “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” Who made this man blind? God did. Before healing the man, Jesus explained to His disciples that God had made this man blind from birth for one purpose - that in this moment, God’s power would be revealed in Jesus through his healing.
The swirling clouds melted away from sightless eyes; the shroud of darkness lifted; and the piercing white sunlight reflected off of the bleached soil and stone of Jerusalem. For the first time, nerve impulses shuttered the unused pupils to filter the bright midday sun. Squinting and turning his head this way and that, the helpless beggar was no longer bound in darkness. Jesus truly had healed him. While it is God who causes blindness, we also see that it is only God who gives sight. As Jesus opened this man's eyes, he was revealing one undeniable truth - He was exactly Who He claimed to be.
Hurrying back to his place, the man began engaging everyone he could. He knew their voices, but now he could see their faces. I imagine that there were friends and gentle spirits that he rushed to see for the first time. Like family members only dreamt about, he now was seeing them all. The crowd’s response was understandable. Never before in the history of the world had a blind man been healed. But today, this young man was rejoicing and affirming that even though he had been blind, now he could see.

Food For Thought: Contrast the causes for the man’s physical blindness, and the Pharisees’ spiritual blindness. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

John 8:52-59

Have you ever been called by the wrong name? Perhaps a parent was trying to catch your attention, and accidentally called the name of your sibling. At 2 years old, Cecelia makes this pretty common mistake, but has started to make it a bit more comical by attempting to recover mid-name. She will look at me and say “Mo-addy.” Creating a new name for me that is neither “mommy” nor “daddy.” Maybe, you have one of those names that has an alternate pronunciation, and people always call you the opposite pronunciation. My personal favorite was when someone thought that I was a completely different person and they come up and engaged me in conversation using that other person’s name. (apparently, there is another 6’3” red-head with a goatee out there. Tom, bless you, my doppelganger)
When we arrive at our text today, there has been a bit of name-calling going on between Jesus and the religious leaders. However, this name-calling is of a greater magnitude than you being accidentally called the name of your sibling. Jesus explained that the reason the Pharisees were not fully obeying God by submitting to the truth of Jesus was because they were children of the devil. This was a very stout claim, and Jesus knew how it would be received.
The Jewish leaders responded with the only thing that they could, “We think that you have a demon.” Jesus responded to them that He certainly was not devil-possessed, seeing that He sought to glorify God and obey Him. Certainly, no one possessed by a demon would seek to please and glorify God. The Jews still did not agree, and when Jesus said that those who believed in Him would never see death, they repeated their name-calling, “Now we know that you have a devil!” This was a serious thing of which they were partaking. They were not just accusing a mere man of being the devil. They were accusing God, the Son, of being Satan. This was truly blasphemy.
But because of their own sin, they did not see that Jesus was truly God. Since they did not fully receive it, Jesus responded with a phrase of great significance in their Jewish context, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Perhaps to our English grammar structure, the “was” and the “am” seem inconsistent. But in the sense that Jesus was using the name of God from Exodus 3, where God told Moses to tell Pharoah that “I am”(God) had sent him. Jesus had given the clearest expression that He truly was God. For those who would say that Jesus never claimed to be God, they do not see what He says in this verse, and what happens in the next verse that proves the understanding.
The Jewish leaders did not look at the undeniable details. Rather, they, the blasphemers, who had called the Son of God the devil, accused Jesus of blasphemy. This was quite the turn of events. IT had begun with Jesus explaining that in their sin, they were like the devil. They resented that and blasphemed Him by calling Him the devil. After blaspheming Him, they then accused Him of blasphemy.
People who have been proven wrong, unless they humble themselves, will become irrational and inconsistent like this. Many will even turn to blaspheme God as a sign that they don’t want to obey what He says. The truth still remains for all those who would live this way, if you die apart from a saving faith in the work of Jesus Christ, you will receive eternal punishment. No denial of the truth will exempt you from the punishment. These blaspheming Pharisees would find themselves guilty on their Judgment Day, just any others who reject will find themselves on Judgment Day.

Food For Thought: What evidence does Jesus give that He is not possessed by a devil?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

John 8:31-51

Salvation is found in Christ alone, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone. But in John 8:31, Jesus links true discipleship to our works with this statement -“if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples.” So which is it? Are we saved through faith or works? Some might dismiss this confusion by saying, “You become a ‘Christian’ when you put your faith in Jesus, but you become a ‘disciple’ when you obey what He says.” This would be a good point, except Jesus never makes this dichotomy. Jesus rather makes quite the opposite point, “If you are a Christian, you are a disciple. There is no such thing as a ‘non-disciple’ Christian.” So what is Jesus teaching with this message?
James 2:17 says, “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” The point that Jesus was making in saying, “if you continue in my word,” was that all those who came in faith believing in Him, would have the evidence of that faith in their lifestyle. Having changed from being slaves to sin, to being citizens of heaven, believers will live differently. Those who make belief something separate from a transformed life are not agreeing with Scripture, but have unfortunately bought into a heresy called “easy-believism.” This false teaching denies the clear teaching of Christ and says that saving faith has nothing to do with works. R.C. Sproul says it best, “We are justified by faith alone but not by faith that is alone.”
If we truly have been converted (this word means “changed”) then our lifestyle will indicate it. If our lifestyle is not the lifestyle of a Christian, then the evidence seems to indicate clearly that we have never been converted (changed).
Jesus continued to teach in John 8 about those who truly have placed their faith in Him and are living lives that evidence conversion - “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Clearly, the reality is that those who come in a faith that is not alone will receive eternal life. Many who consider themselves “Christian” do not have any evidence that they are truly converted. Instead of continually working in them through their whole lives, in their estimation the saving grace that they claim to have received finished its work on the day that they prayed a prayer.
So why would someone reject the teaching of Scripture so blatantly? Why would anyone disregard what is spoken from the mouth of Jesus? Perhaps someone who argues that saving faith isn’t evidenced by a life of obedience to Christ, is arguing that point because they are thinking of a specific occurrence in their past. They remember a person who claimed to be a Christian but is now living a life of rejection to God. Because of their love for that person, they would not want to admit that person could be headed towards eternal destruction. Even if it is true, that reality is far too uncomfortable or disconcerting.
Speaking of those who depart from the faith after professing to be Christians, the Apostle John gives this answer in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” In John 8:44, Jesus said that those who “were not of us,” were actually “of their father the devil” and if they continue in disobedience to God they will receive the same punishment that he is going to receive – eternal condemnation.

Food For Thought: What does the phrase “justified by faith alone but not by faith that is alone” mean?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Today, we take a break from our series in John, to look at a life, the gospel, and the grace of God.
At times, God in His Providence stirs the kettle of our lives and brings to the top the latent moments and memories of the past for our sanctification. This morning as I picked up my Iphone I was confronted with a news story that stirred my memory like this and flooded my soul with the torrential power of a convicting God.
His name was Billy.
When I was 9, Billy was the only kid, apart from my three older brothers, who could strike fear in my heart. His backyard shared a fence with my church, and since I lived in the neighborhood adjacent to the church, his house was in my neighborhood. As Providence had established, the route that I took every day to school on my bicycle passed along the street in front of Billy’s house. Billy rode the bus to a different school, so he was always gone before I came through in the morning, but in the afternoon he would be destroying something in his backyard as I rode down his street.
My 9 year old self never realized that Billy probably had one of the most horrible home situations that a kid could possibly have. Then again, most 9 year olds don’t know what a bad home situation is, much less that one could exist. My earliest memory of Billy was the day that he came sprinting from his backyard into the street as I pedaled past. He was threatening to take my bike, and he was using words that a kid that grew up in a Christian home had never heard. I got away that day, but from that point forward, I would carefully survey his entire house and property from the other end of the street before speeding as fast as I could past his house. I always assumed that the police cars in his driveway or in front of his house were because of how bad of an 11 year old he was. Yet again, most 9 year olds don’t know what a bad home situation is.
Over the next twenty years, it seemed like the interactions with Billy mellowed. At random I would see him and a few friends gathered around his front porch smoking. At other times, I would see them walking as a herd down the middle of the street to their next destination. It was more recently that Dave, my police officer brother, confirmed that Billy had been slowly accruing a reputation as an adult with the local division of the Louisville Metro Police Department.
I guess I wasn’t surprised this morning as I picked up my phone and looked at the news article that Dave forwarded to me. The article read “A man being held at Louisville Metro Corrections has died…” next to that line was a picture of Billy. Immediately, the feeling of “I know that guy in the news” was overshadowed by the gut-wrenching feeling of “I know that guy in hell.”
As we have looked into the gospel of John, the reality has become quite clear from the mouth of Jesus, that those who come in faith to the saving work of Jesus will have eternal life. Those who do not put their faith in the saving work of Jesus, according to Jesus in John 3, are “condemned already.”
Because I was scared, because he was too cool, because he was too intimidating, because I was too busy, I never got to know Billy. I never once shared the gospel with Billy. I had not created any type of platform with him to even be able to share the gospel. He lived behind my church, and died and went to hell.
The gospel is for everyone. There is no one that should be exempted. There is no one that should be left out. We talk about taking the gospel to the far reaches of the globe, as we should. But do we take it to the trouble maker who chased us down the street? Do we exempt people from hearing the good news because of our disposition toward them? Even Paul shared the gospel with Roman jail-keepers.
There, but for the grace of God go I. It is easy to make Billy a case study in “those poor souls who die” and have the only attachment to me be the fact that he chased me down when I was in grade school. The reality of the entire situation is this, apart from the grace of God, Billy and I are exactly the same. It was God’s grace that birthed me into a kind, loving family. It was God’s grace that landed me on the church side of the fence. It was God’s grace that drew me into saving faith and changed me from one who was condemned to one who would receive forgiveness. But for the grace of God, I am Billy.
Perhaps, you have a Billy that lives around the corner from you. Perhaps he is just the trouble maker of the neighborhood. Perhaps he even did something wrong and you know it. He is broken. He is sick. And he needs Jesus. Billy needed Jesus. Maybe, Providence has placed you on his street or in his neighborhood so that you can engage Him with the hope and life of the good news that you have received.

Food For Thought: Do you have a Billy near you? What is his or her name?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

John 8:21-30

“The just shall live by faith.”At face value, most read this verse and walk away unfazed. For Martin Luther, the truth packed into this sentence was life-changing. There had been nothing in his life that had been this revolutionary, this mind-blowing, this incredible. These six words (five in the Latin) were earth-shattering, so much so, that Martin Luther would eventually abandon his lifestyle, his associates, his country, and ultimately his entire religion all for this one statement.
What was the big deal? Why does this one sentence get so much press? Admittedly, when I read the verse it doesn’t really have a lot of zing to it, so, why all the hubbub? It all comes down to how a person reads the verse. If you read the verse like – “Those who have been justified (Christians) will live a life that is characterized by faith (a constant dependence upon God),” then you will be reading it like most first read this verse. But if you read like this – “Those who will receive eternal life (those who “shall live”) will be justified by faith,” you will be seeing it in the revolutionary way that Luther did. As Martin Luther read the verse it had less to do with how a Christian lives, and more to do with how a Christian is converted.
It is in Christ alone, by God’s grace alone, through faith alone that we are justified. The just are only justified when they place their faith in Jesus. But this idea did not start with Martin Luther. Luther was simply reading what Paul had written centuries earlier under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And Paul was not the originator of this truth, he was quoting the prophet Habakkuk that lived centuries before him and had prophesied this as the very words of God.
Paul’s doctrine, and Habakkuk’s prophecy were both just reiterations of God’s truth. When Jesus came, He was the very embodiment of this Truth. It should come as no surprise then, that Jesus called those around Him in faith to Himself. If the only hope for mankind was Jesus, and the only way to receive justification and by it eternal life was faith in Jesus, then certainly Jesus would call all those around Him to believe in Him.
As Jesus addressed those in the temple, we find Him doing just that. But the gospel does not only carry with it the positive message of eternal life. As Jesus taught, He explained that inherent to the reality that those who come in faith to Him receive eternal life, those who reject Him and remain unforgiven in their sin will receive eternal damnation. This is the message of the ages. I am certain that John rejoiced to write verse 30, “As He spake these words, many believed on Him.”
The date has changed. The country has changed. The audience has changed. But the truth remains the same. Those who would have eternal life must come in faith to Jesus. Those who do not will perish in their sin. Truly, the just shall live by faith.

Food For Thought: Write the verse “The just shall live by faith” in your own words.

Monday, October 13, 2014

John 8:12-21

Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” - Isaiah 42:5-6

Just as Isaiah had prophesied, Jesus had come as a friend of sinners. He was the one who had come to open blinded eyes, to heal the sick, to set free those who were bound. However, while Christ miraculously healed many physical ailments, it was the desperate spiritual counterparts to these physical problems that motivated Christ to do His saving work.
For example, Jesus had come to open blinded eyes, like those of the man in John 9; but when we arrive in 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul writes about those who are spiritually “blinded.” Jesus did not just come to relieve physical suffering; He had come to relieve spiritual suffering. He had come in fulfillment of prophecy to vanquish both physical and spiritual darkness.
Jesus certainly did not shy from the opportunity to show compassion, it was clear that the message and mission of Jesus was to unwind the multifaceted curse of sin, both physical and spiritual. He had come to defeat sin-caused brokenness.
With the Feast of the Tabernacles now completed, Jesus stood in the temple and continued to teach those gathered around. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” This was the purpose for which He had come. He was not merely a teacher in Galilee, or in Israel, He was the Light of the world. He had come to vanquish spiritual darkness and spiritual sickness for both Jew and Gentile.
Sadly, even though He had come, not all would receive Him. Jesus had already told Nicodemus in John 3:19, “The light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light.” There were those infatuated with their sinfulness that never turn and have their eyes opened. Rather, in spiritual darkness they stumble through life wandering from empty, disappointing decision to decision. Even though the light has appeared, it is not light for all men, because there are those who reject it.
Finally, Jesus warned those in the temple that day, that if they rejected Him, there would be death awaiting them. In their un-forgiven, self-righteous, sinful state condemnation was certain. Apart from Jesus, there is no hope. Apart from the Light of the World there is no eternal life. There is no other enlightened path that leads to God. Jesus alone is the way.

Food For Thought: Malachi 4:2 is prophetic passage that tells about the second coming of Jesus. What imagery is used that is similar to what Jesus used in John 8:12?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Verses for October

For the month of October we will be memorizing:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Matthew 28:18-20
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

John 7:53-8:11

In John 8, we find a story that demonstrates the compassion and kindness of Jesus. In stark contrast to the self-righteous, ruthless ways of the religious elites, Jesus gently and tenderly showed love for the outcasts and rejects in society. Never did He condone sinfulness as acceptable, but regularly He made a point to be a friend to sinners so that He could call them out of their hopeless slavery.
The Feast of Tabernacles was ended, but before Jesus left the temple a group of scribes and Pharisees dragged a helpless woman who had been caught in adultery into the temple and threw her on the ground in front of Him.
“Moses, said that we should kill her, Jesus. What do you think we should do?”
In the minds of the Sanhedrin Jesus opposed and subverted what Moses taught. They had not been able to prove it yet, but they knew with attempt after attempt eventually they and all of His followers would see it.
Now, they manufactured a circumstance whereby they could hopefully discredit Jesus in one of two ways. First, if the woman was punished, Jesus would no longer seem to be the friend of sinners, but instead the executioner of sinners. His sinful followers would quickly dissipate and He would lose the influence He had gained with the masses. Second, if the woman wasn’t punished, it would appear that Jesus did not want to obey the Law of Moses, and ultimately He disregarded the Law of God.
Jesus was not fazed by this dilemma. There was no quandary too great for His perfect wisdom. As quickly as they had come and challenged Him to kill her, Jesus turned the tide on them.
“You guys should stone her. Whoever hasn’t sinned let him start the process.”
With one statement, Jesus turned the quandary back on the Pharisees. If they said they were sinless, they would be claiming they were perfect like God. But if they admitted they were sinners, then they had no right to come and execute another sinner. The point was very clear; they were being self-righteous and as sinful men they had no right to carry out the justice of a Holy God.
In the story, Jesus looked to the woman and acknowledged that all of her accusers had walked away. In love, he spoke to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” He would not punish her for the sin that she had committed. She deserved death, but He wouldn’t execute that sentence on her.
As we think back through the story, we must realize one thing, if Jesus let the woman’s sin go unpunished, He would be violating the Law of Moses as the Pharisees had presumed. But Jesus did not let the woman’s sin go unpunished. 1 Peter 2:24 tells us that eventually Jesus “bore our sins (and hers) in His own body,” when He died on the cross. The punishment the woman deserved – death, Jesus, the forgiving friend of sinners, bore in His own body for her. He did not dismiss the sin, He paid for it himself. He would not allow the holiness of God to be defiled; He would fight for it with His own life. Later, Jesus would tell His disciples, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down His life for His friends.” This is glorious news, because as a friend of sinners, Jesus laid down His life for us.

Food For Thought: Did Jesus let the woman’s sin go unpunished? Explain your answer.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

John 7:40-52

After hearing the teaching of Jesus, according to John, many of the people professed, “This is the Christ.” However, after hearing this, there were those who immediately rejected the claims of the people. Instead of agreeing with those who admitted the deity of Jesus, they responded with a weak allegation. If they hadn’t been so blatantly wrong, those who heard them say it could have simply cried “Inconsequential!” since their claim really didn’t unravel any of the other evidence of Jesus so far.
What was this erroneous claim? “Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” Later, the Pharisees said, “Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” Their claim was that no prophets came out of Galilee, therefore, Jesus is not only not the Messiah, but if He was claiming to be a prophet He wasn’t even a legitimate prophet, because He was from Galilee and no prophets were ever from Galilee…
2 Kings 14:25 tells about a prophet, Jonah, “the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher.” This is the same Jonah that we read of in the Book of Jonah. His little hometown of Gath-hepher was located just north of Nazareth in Galilee. What does this mean, and why does this matter? This means that Jonah the prophet was from Galilee. The very claims of those who challenged others to “search and look” in the Scriptures apparently hadn’t fully done searched and looked in the Scriptures themselves.
Furthermore, they leveled the claim that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because the Messiah was going to be from the lineage of David, not from the other tribes that lived in the region of Galilee. They even made the argument that Jesus would have had to have been born in Bethlehem to truly have any chance of being the Messiah. Yet again, their ignorance made them sound like utter fools. Both Jesus’ mother, and His adopted father, Joseph, were direct descendants from David. Because of Ceasar Augustus’s tax, His parents had travelled to Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born. Everything lined up perfectly.
The evidence was there to prove everything that Jesus claimed. The lack of belief on the part of the religious leaders was not due to a lack of evidence, it was due to a lack of willingness. They refused to admit what was very clearly the truth. They did not want to follow Him. They did not want to admit that their Messiah could have a Galilean accent. He was not regal enough for their liking. His followers were fishermen and tax collectors. He was always around the lame and the sick. This was not the type of Messiah they wanted. They wanted a Messiah who would come and congratulate them for the good work they were doing in His absence. They wanted to be princes in the new Kingdom that He would establish. Their religion was a political charade, and Jesus didn’t seem to fit in, so they dismissed Him.
John has made it clear up to this point, Jesus is truly Christ. Many were even starting to see it. But there were still those in darkness. John had told us in John 1:5, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” He was standing right in front of the religious leaders, undeniably the Messiah, but they refused to admit it. May we not be guilty of the same thing. Having seen clearly that Jesus is truly Christ, may we turn in obedience and faith to Him, accepting everything He taught as life-giving truth.

Food For Thought: What two false claims did the religious leaders erroneously make regarding Jesus?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

John 7:37-39

Jesus had spent nearly a week in Jerusalem throughout the Feast of Tabernacles teaching the masses there, and engaging the religious leaders with the truth that He was God. The evidence of His miracles combined with the unfaltering words of His message made it clear that Jesus was the Messiah. All that was left for the crowd was to believe. Would they trust Him as the promised Savior?
To some, the call of faith seems daunting. “Trust in Jesus? But I don’t know if He truly was who He claimed to be.” This type of unbelief is not founded in a lack of facts, but in confusion and an unwillingness to be objective in the face of truth. Jesus had made it incredibly clear who He was. He had demonstrated power over nature, over food and wine, over disease, over injury, and the stack of witnesses was piling up.
When Jesus called people to come in faith to Him, He was not asking them to blindly turn to Him and hope that He might follow through on His claims. Jesus was not expecting people to turn off their minds and come in robotic foolishness to accept Him. Rather, He had taught and demonstrated clearly who He truly was, and all of the proof demonstrated that He was truly the Messiah. Now, even the crowd was beginning to affirm the completely logical conclusion that Jesus was Christ.
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus again made a call to those around Him to put their faith in Him. Using the same analogy that He had spoken to the Samaritan woman, Jesus told the audience in Jerusalem that He was the source of living water or eternal life. Those who put their faith in Him would not only receive eternal life, but they would also become a source of living water for others.
At this point in the story, John pauses to take a theological sidestep. He made the point to us, the readers, that when we put our faith in Jesus the Holy Spirit now comes to indwell us, but those who were there with Jesus would not have that happen yet. The reason that He gave was that Jesus was there with them, so the Holy Spirit had not come yet and did not dwell inside of believers yet. But for us, the truth remains, when we put our trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of us. We receive eternal life, but then the Holy Spirit works in us and through us to cause us to become a river of living water to those around us.

Food For Thought: Does Jesus ask His followers to accept His claims in a blind, mindless faith? According to today’s text, what are the two results of coming in faith to Christ?

Monday, October 6, 2014

John 7:30-36

#JesustheMessiah? #JesusChrist? #somanymiracles #nobodylikehim
In Jerusalem, people were starting to think that Jesus could possibly be the Messiah. He had done so many miracles that now the people were wondering if He truly was divine like He claimed. In modern day terms, this would be expressed in hashtags, and would be described as “the #1 trending topic” on social media.
With the Feast of Tabernacles underway, Jerusalem was bursting at the seams with people. Because of the overpopulation, the news of Jesus’ presence and power was spreading like wildfire. Now, the mumble in the crowd and on every street was that perhaps Jesus was the Messiah. No one was willing to admit it, but everybody had started to hear it. John even records that the crowd around Jesus was saying, “When Christ comes, will he do more miracles than this man?” The indication in their statement was that they had never seen anyone do any miracles, much less had they even heard of a man who had done as many miracles as Jesus. Perhaps Jesus was Christ (the Messiah); the evidence was beginning to seem undeniable.
John tells us that when the Pharisees saw what was trending in Jerusalem they were very concerned. Immediately, they dispatched soldiers to apprehend Jesus. His popularity was becoming dangerous to their enterprise. From the time He had overturned the tables in the temples, to the Sabbath day on which He had healed the lame man, everyone they encountered seemed to be speaking of Jesus in terms that began to confirm the claims that He was making.
Sadly, although all the evidence pointed towards the fact that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the religious leaders were too distracted to realize it. They were not ready to receive the truth. This was no surprise - Jesus had already explained why the religious leaders did not receive the truth when He had spoken to Nicodemus. “The wind blows where it wants to, so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit opens the eyes and heart of those that He wants to, and He had not opened the eyes of the religious leaders to understand the truth yet.
Furthermore, their self-righteousness had blinded them from seeing the plain facts in front of them. Instead of accepting Jesus as Lord, they sought to imprison Him. They refused to admit that He was sent from God. No matter how plainly He said it to them, they still did not understand that He had come from God. John had begun the gospel story foreshadowing this with John 1:11, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” This was what that looked like. Even though the masses were starting to think that Jesus could be the Messiah, the religious leaders did everything in their power to undermine Him.
At times, we can act like the religious leaders. We may not use the same words that they did, or even come out and say, “Jesus isn’t the Christ;” but practically speaking, our lives might indicate that we don’t have much regard for what Jesus taught. Instead of obeying His teaching of obedience to the commands of God and of love one for another, we do those things that are displeasing to God and harmful to others. Perhaps today we can see the error of the Pharisees and check our own lives for a similar error. Jesus truly was God in the flesh. He is the Messiah, and He came to save all those who would humble themselves and trust in Him. His position demands our obedience, may the Holy Spirit help us to realize today what the Pharisees seemingly refused to see. Jesus is Christ!

Food For Thought: What was trending in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles while Jesus was there? What did the religious leaders try to do to stop this?