Month: January 2014

John 02:13-25, “Christ Cleanses the Temple”

Jesus-Cleansing-the-Temple-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch

Scripture: John 2:13-25

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:13-25 ESV).

The temple was supposed to be a place of worship, a place to meet God, a place where people could say,

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Psalm 95:6-7 ESV).

SONG: FERNANDO ORTEGA – COME, LET US WORSHIP (Psalm 95:6-7) – 12 sec lead – 3:40

Context

John’s purpose in writing this Gospel is that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing, have life in his name (20:31).

So as we consider this event in the life of Jesus in which he cleanses the temple at Jerusalem, we want to especially consider how it demonstrates that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

John’s Gospel is like a piece of cloth where one strand or one thread of the cloth touches many other strands to make the whole piece. Already in the first chapter, Christ’s deity and humanity are tightly sewn together. Jesus is the Word who in the beginning already was, the Word that was with God and the Word that was God. And yet, the Word became flesh—the Son of God became the Son of Man who is like a ladder that links earth to heaven.

John the Baptist had pointed his own disciples to Jesus as the true light. John’s disciples Andrew and John (the son of Zebedee) followed Jesus and rejoiced in finding the Messiah (which means Christ). Philip told Nathanael that Jesus was the one that Moses and the prophets had written about. And Nathanael was amazed to realize that Jesus was the Son of God, the King of Israel.

Now in the second chapter, Jesus’ disciples were with him at the wedding in Cana when he changed the water into wine. They saw his glory and believed in him.

They were also with him in this episode when he cleansed the temple in Jerusalem.

John the Baptist had testified that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Now John the Evangelist, the author of this Gospel, neatly frames Jesus’ act of cleansing the temple by placing it between two references to the Passover, the feast when the lamb was slain on the Day of Atonement:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem (John 2:13 ESV).

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing (John 2:23 ESV).

We need to understand that this story is not just about cleansing the temple. It is not about unfair and abusive business transactions taking place. It is not just some isolated story about Jesus getting angry at what he found in the temple precincts. The whole point of this story is to reveal Jesus’ identity and his mission.

Cleansing the Temple

In chapter 2:13, John tells us that the cleansing of the temple took place just before the feast of Passover. There were three main Jewish feasts that all Jewish males in Israel were obligated to attend in Jerusalem: Passover, Tabernacles, and Pentecost. Three times a year, Jerusalem would be crowded with men from all over Israel. Even Jews living outside of Israel often travelled to Jerusalem for one or more of these special feasts.

The Feast of Passover was also a time when sacrifices had to be offered. It would have been difficult to travel from distant places with an animal of sacrifice such as a lamb or an ox. So, many people would wait and buy an animal in Jerusalem instead of bringing an animal from their home. An entire industry specializing in animal sacrifices grew up around the temple. At first, the animal merchants had set up their stalls in the Kidron Valley on the slope of the Mount of Olives a short distance from the temple, but now they had set up their shops in the temple, in the Court of the Gentiles.[1]

There were three courts in the temple in Jerusalem. There was the inner court for only male Jewish worshipers. The next separated area was for Jewish women only. Finally, there was the outer court for all non-Jewish people, the Court of the Gentiles. It was in this outer court for the Gentiles that the animal merchants were now carrying on their business.

There were also moneychangers in this part of the temple. During these high feasts, Jews came from all over the Roman Empire. They had to pay a temple tax, but that tax could only by paid with coins of the purest silver coming from Tyre. The moneychangers converted money to the approved currency and charged a percentage for their service.

This was big business. The animal merchants were there “because everyone offered a sacrifice for sins.”[2]

This was convenient worship. You could go to Jerusalem, change your money, buy an approved animal that was “without spot or blemish,” and take it to the priest. No worries!

All this was done for the convenience of the worshipers. You didn’t have to come to worship prepared. You could take care of the necessities at the last minute, and maybe, if you were sharp enough in haggling, you could get a good deal.[3]

This is what Jesus found in the temple in Jerusalem:

In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money (John 2:14 NLT).

This is what was going on in God’s house! Can you imagine the noise? People haggling over prices. Cattle lowing. Sheep bleating. How could anyone worship God with all that going on? Furthermore, there was no place left for the Gentiles at all.

The outer court was the only place where Gentiles could go to worship God, and Jesus called his Father’s house “a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:17 NRSV). The place of prayer had become a confusing, squabbling, stinking, shrieking mass of people, animals, and business deals. No one could pray.[4]

Worship Distractions

Worship should be an experience of entering into the presence of God, of conversing with God. But there was too much noise and distraction to hear anything from God.

We need to be careful about our worship today. We can be guilty of creating our own distractions. Please allow me to say a few things as a trained musician. Sometimes the music is simply too loud. If the sound system and the keyboard and the drums and the guitars and the singers are so loud that the people in the congregation cannot even hear their own voices, they will not be able to truly enter into worship. Worship is not for a few people up front. This is not a performance. Worship leaders are not the focus of our attention. Worship leaders should lead the congregation into the presence of God. But they must be careful not to drown out the congregation by having the sound system so loud that people cannot hear themselves. The people who run the sound equipment have a very important responsibility to set the sound system so that it does not distract or overpower the worshippers.

Another distraction is music when someone is speaking to the congregation. When the pastor is speaking to the church, everyone including the musicians should give him their full attention, even if he is only making announcements. There is a time for everything. There is a time to make music, and there is a time to refrain from making music. When someone is addressing the congregation, he should not have to compete with a keyboard or a guitar.

Musicians need to be very careful not to draw attention to themselves. In worship, there is an audience of One, and that One is the Lord God. In our singing and in our preaching and in everything we do, everyone’s attention should be on Him.

Jesus the Man

So Jesus came upon this scene in the temple: merchants selling animals for sacrifice, moneychangers sitting at their tables.

Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables (John 2:15 NLT).

Jesus was no wimp! He was no namby-pamby. He was as courageous as a lion! He is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Can you imagine him driving out the merchants and moneychangers, the sheep and cattle charging out of the temple area, the coins rolling all over the floor, and people scattering in every direction?

Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:16 NLT).

Jesus does not charge them with corruption. He does not charge them with unethical business practices. He says that they should not be in the temple area at all.[5] This is a place of worship.

Jesus the Messiah

This is not the first time that Jesus has been to the temple. Luke tells us that Jesus had gone to the temple when he was a 12-year-old boy. But now he goes not as a boy, but as the anointed Messiah of God. And the first thing that he does is to cleanse the temple. He will cleanse it a second time in the last week of his life.

These are the first words that we hear him speaking in the temple:

“Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:16 NLT).

The temple is his Father’s house. “My Father’s house,” he says. The next time that he calls God his own Father is in 5:17,

But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17 NLT).

In the very next verse, John explains what it means when Jesus calls God his own father:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

When Jesus ordered the merchants to stop turning “my Father’s house into a marketplace,” he was claiming equality with God and the right to purify the temple.

In seeing this,

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17 ESV).

Just as the disciples had seen his glory and believed in him when Jesus turned the water into wine, they now see Jesus fulfilling Old Testament references to the Messiah. Passion for God’s house and God’s glory consumed Jesus.

Demand for a Sign

Recognizing that Jesus was the Messiah was not the response of all the Jews. John has already told us:

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:11-12 ESV).

The Jewish leaders did not receive him. They demand a sign:

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” (John 2:18 ESV).

Note that they do not try to defend the sale of animals and the currency exchange in the temple itself. This has become a convenient way to make money for the temple, and perhaps for themselves. But they do recognize that Jesus has made a Messianic claim. He has claimed the right to purify the temple and they understand that this is what the Messiah would do. Four hundred years before, Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, had said that the Lord would “suddenly come to his temple” to purify it.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi… (Malachi 3:1-3 ESV).

Suddenly Jesus has come to the temple. Suddenly he is chasing out the moneychangers and animal merchants. He is purifying his Father’s house. This is exactly what the Messiah would do. But there were two different reactions to this cleansing of the temple:

  1. Jesus disciples remembered that zeal for God’s house would consume the Messiah. They recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.
  2. The religious authorities saw the cleansing and demanded a sign.

They did not dispute the rightness of his action. They disputed his right to take the action

… “What miraculous proof do you show us to justify your actions?” (John 2:18 MIT).

God does not give signs on demand. He cannot be tamed. He is not our lapdog, called on to do tricks whenever we want. Again religious leaders will demand a sign but his response will be:

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matthew 12:39 ESV).

That is the same sign that he gives them here in John 2.

Destroy This Temple

“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (John 2:19-20 NLT).

At the end of his ministry, Jesus is falsely accused of saying that he would destroy the temple. Yet, he never said, “I will destroy this temple.” The religious authorities asked for a sign. He gave them one. “Destroy this temple,” he said, “and in three days I will raise it up.” He invites them to destroy the temple.

But what temple was he talking about? Later he would prophecy that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. Not one stone would be left standing on another. That did happen in AD 70 when the Romans invaded Jerusalem.

But that is not what Jesus is talking about here. John explains,

But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body (John 2:21 NLT).

Perhaps he even made a gesture to refer to his own body, but the religious authorities would not have anyone upset their way of doing things. The loved their position and power.

“What miraculous sign will you perform to show us that you have the right to purify the temple? Prove to us that you are the Messiah.”

As Messiah, Jesus had come as the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. He had come to be the Passover Lamb. He had come to die on the cross for your sins and mine. He would prove that he was Messiah by dying and rising again!

“Destroy this temple—destroy this body—and in three days I will raise it up.”

But he was speaking about the temple of his body (John 2:21 ESV).

As Michael W. Smith says in this song, “Nobody knew his secret ambition was to give his life away.”

SONG: MICHAEL W. SMITH – SECRET AMBITION – 8 second lead in – 3:41

Even the disciples failed to understand at that time what Jesus meant. It was only after the resurrection that they understood what Jesus was talking about. John explains in v. 22

When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken (John 2:22 ESV).

  • They remembered.
  • They believed the Scripture.
  • They believed the word that Jesus had spoken.

The disciples saw more than signs. They saw the glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

When Jesus changed the water into wine, his disciples saw his glory and believed in him (2:11).

Notice the contrast that John makes between the disciples and others in v. 23:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25 ESV).

The religious authorities demanded signs.

Others believed because of the signs, but Jesus did not trust them because their belief was based not on his word but on signs. True faith comes not through signs, but through the Word.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17 ESV).

The spoken word remains. It does not pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away. Faith based on the word remains. Faith based on the Word does not change because the truth does not change.

But faith that is based on signs is in need of continual support.

Like the Jewish leaders, people today constantly ask for signs. They say, “Show me a miracle and I will believe.” Others say: “I read about Jesus’ miracles in the Bible, but I wasn’t there; I didn’t see those things with my own eyes. I’m not going to believe in Christ until I see Him with my own eyes, hear Him with my own ears, or see a miracle done in His name today.”

…The resurrection of Christ is the supreme sign. God will only do it once. God will not send Christ to die and be raised every week. By raising Christ from the grave, God established His church. Christ is the temple, and all men are commanded to come to Him in order to worship and serve the one true God.[6]

The disciples believed the Scripture.

They believed the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus came to the temple as Lord of the temple. He came to cleanse it and at the same time replace. Destroy this temple, he said, and I will raise it. As the Lamb of God he would take away the sins of the world. As the Lamb of God he would die for your sins and mine. Here in this second chapter of John, Jesus announces already his mission as Messiah: he would die and rise again.

SONG: MICHAEL W. SMITH — THE WONDERFUL CROSS

You must put your trust in Jesus. Let Jesus cleanse your temple, your heart, your mind. He alone is the only hope for your salvation. He calls on you to receive him as your Lord and Savior. Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached and believers are instructed in how to be disciples of Jesus Christ. And follow Jesus every day.


[1] Carson, John, p. 178.

[2] Comfort and Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 36.

[3] Comfort and Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 37.

[4] Comfort and Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 37-38.

[5] Carson, John, p. 179.

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John 02:01-11, “Believing”

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana

English: Icon of the wedding at Cana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:1-11 ESV).

BELIEVE

What do you believe? Does it matter what you believe? If, for example, you believe that all religions lead to God, will that make it true? Is truth a matter of opinion, or does it remain the same whether or not we believe it? If we are sincere, can we be wrong?

A few years ago I took a flight from Port Vila to Brisbane. When I arrived at Brisbane, I was to take a train to another terminal to catch another flight to Sydney. I found the station where I was to board the train and confirmed it with the woman at the counter who told me that the train would arrive in two minutes. Sure enough, in two minutes a train arrived and I got on to go to the other terminal where I would catch the plane for Sydney. After some time, I began to see signs for the Golden Beach near Brisbane. Another train passenger told me that I was on the wrong train going the wrong direction. I had believed that I was simply transferring to another airport terminal. I was sincere. But I was sincerely wrong.

Pastor Rick Warren says, “You can be sincere, but you can be sincerely wrong. The fact is, it takes more than sincerity to make it in life. It takes truth.”

Many people put a lot of emphasis on belief. Many books are written about believing. Motivational speakers talk about the power of belief. We are told

  • to believe in ourselves,
  • to believe in our potential,
  • to believe in belief.

We are told that believing is more important than what you believe. We are told that we have the power to create our own reality by believing. Even Christians get caught up in the false teaching that we should believe in our ability to create reality by our thoughts and words and belief and faith.

Is that what the Bible is talking about when it talks about faith and believing? Is our faith and hope in ourselves or is our hope in Jesus?

SONG: MY HOPE IS JESUS, ADRIAN LEWIS, HILLSONG – 4:12 (14 second lead)

JOHN, THE GOSPEL OF BELIEF

Today we want to continue looking at the Gospel According to John. This Gospel has been called “The Gospel of Belief.” John’s Gospel is the Gospel of belief because he emphasizes believing more than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. Those three gospels combined only mention believing 35 times, 65 times if we add the noun “faith.” But John uses the verb “to believe” 98 times. In fact, he writes this entire Gospel so that we would believe.

But John’s purpose is not simply to encourage us to believe. He wants us to believe something specific. His summary statement of purpose is found in 20:30-31,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

It has been said that this gospel is

  1. A selective gospel: Jesus did many other signs which are not written in this book.
  2. An attested gospel: Jesus did these signs in the presence of the disciples.
  3. A purposeful gospel: It has a purpose: These signs are written so that you may believe.
  4. An interpretive gospel: The signs signify that Jesus is the Christ.
  5. A definitive gospel: Jesus is the Son of God.
  6. An effective gospel: by believing you may have life in his name.

So John’s purpose is not simply to encourage faith or belief, he wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Is that important? Is it important that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the one and only Son of God? John says that this is the way that we may have life, and the life that he is talking about is eternal life which is nothing less than knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ, both now and for eternity.

This is what Jesus said in his prayer to his Father in John 17:3,

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3 ESV).

Eternal life begins now. As John says in his first letter, 1 John 1:3,

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

The Truth

Belief is not enough. Sincerity is not enough. We must believe the truth:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Is it important that we believe the truth? Absolutely!

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24 ESV).

Knowing the truth, believing the truth, and living according to the truth is absolutely essential.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV).

Yes, John wants us to believe something specific.

  • That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27 ESV).
  • That the Father sent him (John 11:42 ESV).
  • That Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in him (John 14:11 ESV).
  • That Jesus is God (John 13:19 ESV).

Belief alone is not enough. Belief in belief is empty. Faith in faith is meaningless. Our faith must have an object. We must believe some thing. We must believe the truth.

Today truth has been relativized. People believe that there are many different truths. You have your truth and I have my truth. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me. What is true for me is not necessarily true for you. Whatever works for me is true for me, and whatever works for you is true for you.

But that does not work! It does not work in math, or accounting, or science, or physics, or any other field of study. 2 plus 2 is 4, even if we believe that it is something else. If you go to the bank believing that 2 plus 2 is 10, and that you believe that you have 10,000 vatu in your account, you may be sincere, but the bank will tell you that you are sincerely wrong. Airplanes are carefully constructed with strict adherence to the laws of aerodynamics so that the plane will actually fly and carry its passengers safely from one place to another.

So why should we think we can have our own private truth about God who, the Bible says, cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18)? Why should we think that it matters little or not at all what we believe about Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

  • Belief in false gods is not enough.
  • Believing the wrong things about God and about His Son leads to false worship.
  • Sincerity is not enough.

Believing In Jesus Christ

And John has written so that we might know the truth and believe the truth. John wants us to believe the truth about Jesus Christ. And yet, he wants us to believe more than that. He wants us to believe in Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not simply a question of believing certain truths or facts about Jesus Christ, though that is important. John is calling for personal faith in Jesus Christ, a personal knowledge of Christ, entering into a personal relationship, communion, and fellowship with Christ.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13 ESV).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:14-18 ESV).

Seven Signs

John is calling for active faith, active belief in and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God whom God has designated as the only means of salvation. So John gives seven signs performed by Jesus Christ that point to who he is.

Now some people are always looking for signs. They see a sign and want to see another one, never understanding that a sign is meant to sign-ify something. A sign has sign-ificance—meaning—because it points beyond itself. When you see a sign on the road indicating the distance to your destination, you don’t stop and camp out at the sign. As you are going up toward Panginisu, you will see a sign for Port Vila that says 109km. If your destination is Port Vila, you don’t stop when you arrive at the sign. You keep going because the sign has told you vital information that you needed to know.

John has recorded seven signs that tell us vital information about Jesus. They tell us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

  1. Jesus changes the water into wine (John 2:1-11).
  2. He healed the official’s son who was at the point of death (John 4:47-54).
  3. He healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5).
  4. He multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed the multitude of 5,000 plus women and children (John 6:1-15).
  5. Jesus walked on water (John 6:16-21).
  6. Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind (John 9).
  7. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11).

John also records seven great “I am” statements made by Jesus:

  1. I am the bread of life that came down from heaven (6:35, 48, 51). He is the source of life.
  2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5).
  3. I am the door of the sheepfold (10:7, 9).
  4. I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14). He lays his life down for his sheep.
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25). He would rise from the dead.
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6). He is the only way to the Father.
  7. I am the true vine (15:1).

John’s purpose is to lead us to believe in Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means that we understand who he is, that we put our trust in him, and that we follow him as his disciples.

  1. We understand who he is. John’s opening verse tells us who Christ is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John tells us in 5:18 that every time that Jesus called God his own Father, he was making himself “equal with God.” Jesus tells Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Thomas, seeing the resurrected Christ, calls him, “My Lord and my God.”
  2. We must trust him for our salvation: He is the only way to the Father.
  3. We show our love to him by obeying him:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15 ESV).

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:23-24 ESV).

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love (John 15:10 ESV).

THE FIRST SIGN

In John chapter 2, we come to the first miracle that Jesus performed. John uses the word sign instead of miracle because he wants us to see that the miracles of Jesus were signs of who he was and is. This passage concludes with these words:

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 ESV).

The Setting: A Wedding

In chapter 1, we heard the testimony of John the Baptist, that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Andrew and John, two of the Baptist’s disciples, heard his testimony and followed Jesus. Andrew then announced to his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah. Jesus found Philip, and Philip found Nathanael. So at the end of chapter 1, Jesus already has a group of disciples. Now we read in chapter 2 that

…there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration (John 2:1-2 NLT).

Jesus’ presence at the wedding was his seal of approval on marriage. Sometimes I am asked if the marriage between unbelievers is really a marriage or if new converts should get married again. Let’s be clear about this. Marriage is God’s gift not only to Christians, but to humanity. You don’t have to be a Christian believer for your marriage to be valid. Marriage is a gift from God. Human marriage is a reflection of the true marriage that will take place when Christ returns for the Church which is his bride. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 5:31-32,

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV).

So Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding celebration in Cana.

The Situation: A Shortage of Wine and a Mother’s Concern

The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother [who as also there] told him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come” (John 2:3-4 NLT).

Literally Jesus said, “Woman, what to me and to you?” which means “Woman, what has this concern of yours to do with me?”

What we see here is a mother’s concern, but not just any mother. This is the mother of Jesus. It was to Mary, the mother of Jesus, that the angel Gabriel had appeared telling her that as a virgin she would bear a child who would be very great, who would be the Holy One of God, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. His name would be Jesus, which means Savior, and he would reign as King over Israel forever.

As a virgin, Mary gave birth to that child. She and Joseph, being warned in a dream, had fled King Herod’s wrath by night. They had returned from Egypt and seen Jesus grow in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man. They had seen him at the age of 12, amazing the elders in the temple. Mary had deeply contemplated all these things in her heart. She had watched. She had waited. Perhaps she had heard the testimony of John the Baptist. She saw that Jesus was gathering disciples. Now at the wedding, the wine supply had run out. This seemed to be the time:

“They have no more wine,” she told him.

Mary knew that the prophets Elijah and Elisha had worked miracles to supply oil in time of need. Surely this was the time for Jesus to supply the need, to manifest himself so that everyone would know who he was. Perhaps also she wanted to be vindicated against those who had accused her of immorality, who had said that she could not be a virgin when she was pregnant with Jesus.

“Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus does not address Mary as “Mother,” but as “Woman.” This is a term of respect that Jesus used on occasion when addressing women. But Jesus is here putting distance between himself and his mother. It is not her responsibility to determine when or where or how he is to manifest himself. That is not her position. She must learn that she can no longer approach him as his mother. She must come to him, not as his mother, but as his disciple.

His hour had not yet come. The hour that Jesus was talking about was his hour to return to his Father (John 13:1).

Mary no longer presumes to tell Jesus what to do. She simply speaks to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Six Stone Jars and a Sign

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons (John 2:6 NLT).

That’s about 100 liters. These stone water jars were probably used to wash certain utensils and the hands of the guests (cf. 3:25). The “water represents the old order of Jewish law and custom, which Jesus was to replace with something better.”[1]

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17 ESV).

Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”

When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions (John 2:7-8 NLT).

Jesus did not touch the water jars or the water. He simply gave instructions which the servants followed:

  • Fill the jars with water.
  • Now dip some out.
  • Take it to the master of ceremonies.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” (John 2:9-10 NLT).

Notice how discreet Jesus is in this miracle. He does not draw attention to himself. There is no big announcement as to what he has done. The master of ceremonies did not even know where the wine had come from. Jesus had not given in to the temptation to make a big display and to show himself.

In Luke 4:9-11, Satan had tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would carry him so that he would not even hurt his foot on a stone. “Do something dramatic! Show yourself!”

In John 7:4, the unbelieving brothers of Jesus tell him, “If you can do such wonderful things show yourself to the world!”

Here in John 2, the mother of Jesus had suggested that he do something spectacular, that it was time for people to know who he really was.

But Jesus responded to the need in a way that would not draw attention to himself. He performed the sign without even touching the jars or the water. He drew no attention to himself so that only the servants and Jesus’ disciples knew that the wine had been water. They were the only ones who knew that Jesus had turned the water into wine.

It takes great power and great intelligence to turn water into wine. With all our advanced technology today, we still have no idea how to turn water into wine. Yet, all around us is evidence of God’s great power and intelligence. God is continuously turning water into grapes and oranges and bananas and papayas and tomatoes and avocados and mangoes. All around us are plants—factories, if you will—which turn water into every kind of fruit and vegetable. It takes great intelligence to know how to do that. And yet this time, Jesus did it without even using a grape vine.

Jesus did this as the first of his miraculous signs, in Cana of Galilee. In this way he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him (John 2:11 NET).

He manifested his glory. That’s what we read in the Prologue, the introduction of this Gospel:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

The glory that Jesus manifested was the glory of the only Son of the Father. And his disciples believed in him. They believed that he was the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

… these [miraculous signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31 ESV).

SONG: CHRIS TOMLIN – KING OF GLORY

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at www.joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

John 01:35-51, “Finding the Messiah”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

In John 1, everyone is looking for something.

Most people go through life, never finding what they are looking for. Most people never know what it was that they were looking for. They are born, grow up, live and die, without ever knowing what it is that they were missing.

Some people give up on the idea of ever finding that missing something. They talk about the journey. It’s all about the journey, they say, not the destination. They are going, but they don’t know where they are going, and they are okay with that, so they say. They have given up on knowing the meaning of life. It’s just a puzzle. It doesn’t have meaning. We are just here. We are accidents of nature. Going through the motions. Trying to find momentary satisfaction in the endless monotony of life.

Today, the theory of evolution and the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and others have left many adrift on an endless sea of meaninglessness, hopelessness, and despair.

Philosopher “Bertrand Russell was an outspoken atheist. He even wrote a book called Why I Am Not A Christian. When Russell was 81 years old, he was interviewed on a British Broadcasting Corporation radio talk show. The interviewer asked him what he had to hang onto when death was obviously so close. Russell responded, “I have nothing to hang onto but grim, unyielding despair.” What an honest yet hopeless response. You see, when you live only for this life, … when you think that this is all there is, you can’t help but live in despair.”[1]

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,

‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

What are you looking for?

For some people it is the endless pursuit of success. Doing better than your neighbor. Climbing to the top of the ladder. Looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The one with the most toys at the end of life… wins

For others it is the temporary pleasure of the bottle, the high, the party, only to be followed by the emptiness of the morning after.

What are you looking for?

At the end of the day, we are all looking for the same thing. We are looking for a sense of completeness, peace, joy, contentment. As Augustine put it, “Our hearts are not content…”

What are you looking for?

Some people don’t really know what they are looking for. It is the lack of contentment that pushes them to seek, to look for something to relieve the emptiness, to fill the vacuum of their hearts and lives.

ANDREW PETERSON: ALL I’LL EVER NEED (3:02)

Most people don’t know what they are looking for. Have you ever gone into a room to find something and not been able to remember why you are there? Not yet, huh? Wait for it. It will come. But for most people, that is the story of their life. They have no idea what they are looking for. They are lost in the dark and have no idea where to find the light.

JOHN THE BAPTIST KNEW WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR.

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was not the case with John the Baptist. He knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God. God had sent John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Lord. And God had told John that he would recognize the Messiah when the Holy Spirit came down and stayed on him.

That’s exactly what happened when John baptized Jesus.

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God.

JOHN’S DISCIPLES KNEW WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR.

John’s disciples were looking for the Lamb of God:

The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus (John 1:35-37 NLT).

John came to point people to the light. So when John saw the light, he pointed others to the light.

He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:7-8 ESV).

The Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

“Look! There he is! The Lamb of God!”

When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. But why? They had been faithful to John. Why do they now follow Jesus?

They followed Jesus because they knew what they were looking for. John had said in verse 29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Like you and me, John’s disciples had a sin problem.

We were made for God. We were made to know him, and to glorify him by enjoying him forever. But our sins, the Bible tells us, have separated us from God. God is holy. There is no sin in Him. Our sins have built a wall between us and God. Our lives are empty. Our hearts are agitated, troubled, empty, looking for that missing something. Looking, rather, for that missing Someone.

Yes, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are not at rest until they find their rest in you.”

ILLUSTRATION

Some children are born with a hole in their heart. It is called atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect. It is actually a hole in the chambers so that the blood is not pumped correctly. Sometimes it heals by itself and sometimes it has to be corrected by surgery.

But there is another kind of hole in the heart that everyone of us is born with. It is an emptiness that will not heal itself and cannot be corrected by surgery. It is a hole that is so big that only God himself can fill it. And until He fills it, our hearts are not at rest.

So these two disciples of John began following Jesus. They were taking the first steps of becoming disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple means to be a follower, one who follows Jesus. One who follows the teachings of Jesus. One who obeys the commands of Jesus. These two disciples of John the Baptist, who were Andrew and probably John the beloved who was the author of this Gospel, these two disciples began following Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”

There it is, that question again: What are you looking for?

This is the first time in this gospel that Jesus speaks. The first time that he speaks in his ministry, he asks a question. It is the most profound question that all of us must answer: “What are you looking for?”

A simple answer was not possible.

And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:38 ESV).

This is not a quick fix. This is not a matter of repeating some magical prayer or even of being baptized in water. Christ came to reconcile us to God, to put us into a right relationship with the Father. He came to restore the fellowship that was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. God wants a relationship with you, but as Isaiah says in 59:1-2,

Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore (Isaiah 59:1-2 NLT).

Our problem is our estrangement, our separation from God. God made us for himself, and there is a hole in our hearts and lives until God comes and fills our lives with himself.

But the sin problem has to be dealt with and only the Lamb of God could take away the sin of the world. Christ alone came to bear your sins on the cross. Christ alone can take away your sin.

That’s why Andrew and John were following the Lamb of God.

“Teacher, where are you staying?” You are the Lamb of God. We want to be with you.

Christ gives the gracious invitation: “Come and you will see.” Jesus invites you to come.

“Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day (John 1:39 NLT).

Coming to Christ is not a matter of doing something that will put us into right relationship with God and then going back and living our lives without him. Christ invites us into a permanent, ongoing, continuous, growing relationship. Being a Christian is not a Sunday morning affair. It is an invitation to continual fellowship with Christ for a lifetime. It’s an invitation to continuous fellowship for now and for eternity:

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV).

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

They had found the Lamb of God.

Andrew and John had spent the day with Jesus. We don’t know what he said to them, but Jesus had had a profound effect on them. The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah!” he told him.

CHRIS TOMLIN: JESUS MESSIAH (4:50) – 22 second lead

The Messiah was the one who had been promised for 4,000 years. John tells us in 1:41 that Messiah means Christ. Now we must not confuse all the titles of Jesus Christ and say that they all mean the same thing. We must not say that Christ means Son of God and Son of God means Son of Man and Son of Man means King of kings, and so forth. He is given many titles in Scripture and they mean different things. In this first chapter of John alone, Jesus is identified as

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

We must not imagine that all these titles mean the same thing. They all refer to Jesus, but they mean different things. They tell us different things about him, who he is, what he came to do.

But the titles Messiah and Christ do mean the same thing. They both mean “anointed.” The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word “mashiach” while the word Christ comes from the Greek word “christos.” So Messiah and Christ are the Hebrew and Greek words meaning “anointed.”

Anointing oil was a symbol of the blessing of the Lord or of the Holy Spirit’s empowering. When prophets, priests, and kings were consecrated to their office, they were anointed with oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s enabling, the ability that He gives. But Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be consecrated as Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, he speaks the Word of God. As Priest, he offers his own body as a sacrifice for our sins and sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. As King, he will rule the nations and everyone will recognize that he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

That is what Andrew meant with he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew and John had found the One who had been anointed by God the Father as Prophet, Priest, and King! That’s why they had followed John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the lamp that led them to the light. They were looking for the Messiah.

What are you looking for? You may not know it, but you are looking for the Messiah too.

Then Andrew brought Simon [his brother] to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John– but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) (John 1:42 NLT).

The Word of Transformation

Every time we see Andrew, he is bringing someone to Jesus. First he brings his brother Simon Peter. Later he will bring to Jesus a small boy who has five loaves and two fishes. Finally, he will bring a group of Greek worshippers to Christ.

When Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, Simon had never been called Peter. But Jesus tells him that his nature will be changed. He will become stable, like a rock. It would not be instantaneous. It would not happen in a moment. But he would be transformed by Christ.

Christ takes you where you are. He knows what you are and what you’ve done, and he knows what his plans are for you. He knows how to change you from what you are to what you were meant to be.

Jesus Finds Philip

This is an interesting turn in the story. Andrew had announced to his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. John had probably announced to his brother James that they had found the Messiah.

Andrew and Peter were from the same town as Philip. They were probably all disciples of John the Baptist. But they had not thought of Philip. It was no brother who went looking for Philip. No close friend thought to bring him to Christ. “According to the record, nobody went after Philip.”[2] Nobody? There was One:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me” (John 1:43 NLT).

Now it is the Messiah who is doing the finding. Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me” (1:43).

We might wonder why Jesus went and found Philip. Philip had been looking for the Messiah.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45 ESV).

Philip knew what he was looking for. He had read the promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah. He too had been looking for and hoping for the Messiah. Jesus is looking for those who are looking for him. And when Jesus came, Philip recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.

Those who seek for God are found by God. Philip had been looking for the Messiah, and the Messiah found him.

What are you looking for?

It is important to note that this was not some new religion. This was not some new theology or philosophy. This was not some new interpretation. Philip told Nathanael, “This is the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about.” Jesus himself said,

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose (Matthew 5:17 NLT).

The Apostle Paul began his letter to the Romans by insisting that the gospel was not new:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, (Romans 1:1-2 ESV).

This gospel is not a new teaching or a new religion. If it is new, it is to be condemned. But it is not new. It is what God promised long ago by his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Jesus was not some prophet who showed up without credentials or without any proof that he was from God. He had been promised hundreds and thousands of years before. Over 300 prophecies pointed to him.

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied (John 1:45-46 NLT).

Nathanael was prejudiced against Nazareth. Nazareth did not have the best reputation. When Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he made up his mind: Jesus could not be the Messiah.

What do you think? Do you think this whole thing is just a sham, a deception, a lie? Are you prejudiced against Christ because of what people have told you? Perhaps by what you have experienced by people who claimed to be disciples of Christ?

Well, I can only tell you what Philip told Nathanael: “Come and see for yourself.” Investigate the claims of Christ for yourself. Make up your own mind instead of depending on someone else’s opinion. Come and see.

Philip had found Nathanael and was bringing him to Jesus.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47 ESV).

This surprised Nathanael: “How do you know me?”

Jesus does know Nathanael, but Nathanael does not know how. Nathanael had been under a fig tree when Philip found him. Perhaps he was meditating on the story of Jacob and the ladder. It was Philip who had found Nathanael. Jesus was not even there. But Jesus had seen Nathanael before Philip had even found him. Jesus knew that Nathanael was a man of integrity because he knew all about him. Jesus knew what Nathanael was doing even when he was not physically present. Jesus knew what Nathanael had been meditating on under the fig tree.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48 ESV).

Jesus knows you. He knows what is in your heart. He knows what kind of a person you are. He sees you even though you cannot see him.

Nathanael’s doubts were removed. There is only one way that Jesus could have known Nathanael’s heart:

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God– the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 NLT).

Nathanael recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, but he spoke better than he knew. Jesus is the eternal Son of God and the only way to God:

Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth” (John 1:50-51 NLT).

Jacob had seen a stairway between heaven and earth. That stairway is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the link between heaven and earth. He is the one and only mediator between God and man. John the Baptist declared that Jesus is

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV).

Jesus is the Son of Man whose Kingdom will not pass away.

What are you looking for?

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

The person who has found the Messiah has a different motto:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ
Will last.

John the Baptist came that Christ the Messiah might be revealed.

Christ came to take away your sin and mine.

When Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael found Christ, they found what they were looking for.

And Christ is looking for you. He knew Nathanael, and he knows you. He knows your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your name. He is calling you to come and follow him.

03 TOMMY WALKER – HE KNOWS MY NAME (3:20) 

John 01:06-08, 19-34, “The Witness”

How do you know what you know? In a court of law, the verdict is based not on hearsay or opinions but on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses. So how do you know what you know? How do you know that what you believe about God is right? Is it simply hearsay, what others have told you? Is it just your opinion? Or is your faith in God based on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses?

Today we are going to look at the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Christ.

Grünewald's Crucifixion

Grünewald’s Crucifixion

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

We have all heard about this man called John the Baptist. He was that strange man who lived in the wilderness and was “clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mar 1:6 ESV).

John the Baptist was a rather strange man, wouldn’t you say?

And one of the amazing things about the gospel is the important role that John had in preparing people for the coming of Christ. We may not have thought about it much, but each of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist, this man who came before Christ to prepare the way for him.

Seven hundred years before John’s birth, Isaiah the prophet had spoken of John the Baptist as one who would be a “voice crying in the wilderness:

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NLT).

The last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, had also spoken of the coming of John the Baptist:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1 ESV).

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV).

That is exactly what the angel Gabriel said about John the Baptist when Gabriel announced John’s birth to Zechariah.

“for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:15-17 ESV).

Yes, even John’s birth was special because his parents were elderly. Elizabeth had been barren. But God intervened and Zechariah and Elizabeth were able to have a son, John the Baptist. He was a forerunner to Christ. He was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of Christ.

THE IMPORTANCE

The significance of John the Baptist’s ministry is not always seen, but it is clear from the gospels that John’s role in preparing the people for the Messiah was of great importance. As we have said, all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah. They speak of…

  • His miraculous birth of parents who had not been able to have children
  • His strange clothing
  • His bold preaching
  • His ministry of water baptism
  • His disciples
  • His baptism of Jesus Christ
  • His courage to confront King Herod
  • His imprisonment
  • His question about Jesus’ mission
  • His execution by decapitation
  • His burial

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. No other religion puts such an emphasis on the forerunner of its founder. In fact, it would be difficult for us to name a forerunner for any other religion.

Who was Muhammad’s forerunner? Who announced his coming?

  • Who was Buddha’s forerunner?
  • Or Joseph Smith’s forerunner?

Look around at the religions and cults that were based on the teachings of a man or a woman and try to find that founder’s forerunner. Who announced that that man or woman would come?

Why is this important?

Because Jesus did not just show up and say, “I am come from God. I’ve had a dream. I’ve had a vision. I receive revelations from God. Follow me.”

No, for 4,000 years the people of God had been waiting for Jesus Christ. The prophets had spoken of him for centuries. They had told about his identity, his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his coming kingdom. The prophets had even told about his forerunner, John the Baptist. And John the Baptist came and when he came, he pointed to Christ.

Furthermore, John did not come after Jesus and say, “Yes, I agree. He’s the one.” No. When John began his ministry of baptism, he did not know who the Messiah was going to be. He only knew that God had told him to prepare the way for the Messiah, and that God had given him a special sign so that he would recognize the Messiah when he came. We will see that sign in a few moments.

With everything else that we have mentioned about John (his birth, his life, his ministry, and his death), the most important thing about John is his witness. John pointed the people to Jesus Christ. As we read,

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PURPOSE

This Gospel tells us clearly:

  • Origin: John the Baptist was sent from God.
  • He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.
  • Ultimate purpose: that all might believe through him.

Notice that John was not the focus of his own ministry. He did not come speaking about himself. A witness does not talk about himself. He talks about something else. He talks about someone else. He talks about what he has seen. He explains, “This is what I saw. This is what I heard. This is what happened. This is what I know.”

John did not come boasting about himself, or his birth, or his ministry, or his anointing. John’s purpose was to lift up Jesus Christ. His purpose was to point people to the light. John 1:19-22 (NLT) tells us,

This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”

Notice that John the Baptist is not talking about himself. That was not his purpose. His purpose is to point people to the light, to point them to Christ. He doesn’t tell them who he is, but who he is not!

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Are you Elijah?”

“No.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

“No.”

Elijah

John the Baptist did not see himself as Elijah, though the angel Gabriel had said of John, “he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

And Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah prophesied by Malachi, though the people failed to recognize him (Matthew 17:12).

The Prophet

What about the prophet? The Pharisees asked John, “Are you the Prophet that we have been waiting for?”

What prophet is this? What prophet are they talking about? This is another prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. The Pharisees are talking about a prophecy that Moses had made in Deuteronomy 18:15 about another prophet who would come. Moses had told the Israelites,

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen–(Deuteronomy 18:15- ESV).

[The LORD said,] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But when we come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, we find these words:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, (Deuteronomy 34:10 ESV).

There had been many prophets in the history of Israel—Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many others—but none had a “face-to-face” relationship with God. They were still looking for him, waiting for him.

“Are you the Prophet?” they asked John the Baptist. No, I’m not the one.

The one who was face to face with God was Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” That is a face to face relationship with the Father. Jesus was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of. That is another one of over 300 prophecies that Christ fulfilled.

You remember the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fishes and feeding the multitude of over 5,000 men plus woman and children:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14 ESV).

Again in John 7,

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:37-40 ESV).

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” they asked John.

“No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22 ESV).

John the Baptist is finally forced to say something about himself, but he will only say that he is to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming:

23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'”

This tells us more about the one who would come than it does about John. John is simply preparing the way for the LORD. The one that John points to is the LORD.

JOHN’S BAPTISM

Clearly the Pharisees are not satisfied with John’s answer.

 24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John was calling the nation of Israel to repent of their sin. But this was God’s nation! This was the people of God! They were a people of faith! They saw themselves as the children of God.

John calls them to repent. He tells them that being a descendent of Abraham, the father of faith, is not enough. They are unclean. They must be cleansed of their sins. Their lives must be changed. They must repent. No more corruption. No more immorality. No more lying.

John Points to Jesus

But once again, John points to Jesus. He is a witness to the presence of Christ:

26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”

John tells them that there was another one. Someone who was present in the crowd. Someone whom they had not recognized. Someone who was infinitely greater than John himself: “Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (v. 27).

JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God made it clear in the Garden of Eden that without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness of sins. A price had to be paid. God Himself clothed Adam and Even with the skins of the first animal that was sacrificed. But year after year after year, lambs were slain, showing that the blood of animals has not taken care of the sin problem.

  • Animals are not equal to us.
  • They are not voluntary victims.
  • They cannot take our place. Our sins are offences against God. No one but God can remove those offences.

Then why the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament? They were a shadow pointing to the reality that is in Christ. Finally, the sin problem would be dealt with. Christ would be our sacrifice. Christ himself would bear our sins. Paul tells us,

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV).

Peter tells us,

… you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT).

John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God who will take care of the sin problem. Again in the book of Revelation, we read of Christ our Lamb who was slain:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13 ESV).

Worthy is the Lamb!

Jesus the Eternal One

When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’

How is this? John says that Jesus was coming after him. This means two things:

  1. First, Jesus was born after John the Baptist. Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear a son named Jesus.
  2. It also means that John was the forerunner. John’s ministry would come first. Jesus would follow him. Jesus would come after him.

But now John makes the amazing remark that Jesus is “far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.” John says that the reason that Jesus is “far greater” than he is, is that Jesus existed long before John.

If Jesus came after John, how did he exist before John?

John the Baptist is pointing here to the fact that Jesus’ existence did not begin with his birth or his conception. As verse 1 says, In the beginning, the Word was already, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This is what the prophet Micah had said when he prophesied that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2 NAU).

Christ was greater than John the Baptist because he came from eternity.

Recognizing the Messiah (or the Christ)

When John the Baptist began his ministry, he did not know who the Messiah was.

31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John the Baptist was sent from God. He was sent to reveal the Messiah to Israel. But how would John know who the Messiah was? John knew Jesus for they were related; they were family. But he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. He only knew that Jesus was a righteous man. So when Jesus came to John to be baptized by him,

… John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him (Matthew 3:14-15 NLT).

That’s when it happened!

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

Here the Father is speaking to His Son, and the Holy Spirit is descending from the Father and resting on the Son. We see interactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but three persons in one true God.

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John the Baptist was a man sent from God to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the LORD Jesus. God had told him that he would recognize the Messiah by this: the Holy Spirit would come down on the Messiah and stay. And God told John, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

John baptized with water. It was preparation for the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That’s what the prophets had promised:

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT).

That’s what we need! A new heart! And God’s Spirit within!

Education is wonderful, but education will not give you a new heart. Our problem is that we are sinners by nature. When Adam fell, we fell with him. And we have all chosen to go our own way.

But Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What sin are you carrying? What sin dominates your life and gets you down and is destroying you? Jesus Christ came to take away your sin. He came to break the power of sin in you. He came to give you a new heart and a new spirit. He came to put His Spirit in you so that you would follow his ways and obey his commandments. You need more than water baptism. You need Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

John was a witness to Jesus. No other founder of a religion had a forerunner like John. Every Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—every Gospel puts John in a place of prominence, but John himself says, “It’s not me. Jesus Christ is the One. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”