Christology

Mark 12v01-12, Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Scaled Image

Introduction

1456053183_thumb.pngWhat are you going to do with Jesus? That may be a question that you have ignored for far too long. The question of what you will do with Jesus may seem irrelevant to you. The importance and relevance of a man who lived nearly 2,000 years ago may escape you. You may not think that it matters to you, or has any bearing on your life. But the question of what you do with Jesus and how you relate to him cannot be ignored indefinitely. Sooner or later, too late perhaps, you will face that question.

In Mark 12, Jesus responds to the religious authorities who have already made up their minds about him. They have not considered the evidence; they have simply considered their own positions and comfort and have concluded that Jesus is too dangerous to have around. They have come to the conclusion that Jesus cannot be ignored.

1.      First, Let’s Trace Some of the Background

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus faced opposition from the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. From the first chapter of Mark, people began comparing Jesus with the Jewish religious leaders. People were “astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). The scribes did not appreciate the comparison.

So the scribes question Jesus’ authority to forgive sins:

Mark 2:7 (ESV) “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

  • The scribes question his association with tax collectors and sinners (2:16).
  • The Pharisees question his apparent lack of spirituality since his disciples did not fast (2:18).
  • When his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees question his understanding of the Sabbath (2:24).
  • When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees join forces with the Herodians, their political enemies, to try to destroy Jesus (3:2-6).
  • When he casts out demons, the scribes say that he is possessed by Satan and that he gets his power from Satan (3:22).
  • They even oppose Jesus because his disciples did not wash their hands before eating! (7:2-5).

What would they do about Jesus?

Up to this point the opposition had been limited. The opposition was mostly in Galilee, not Judea, far from Jerusalem. But some of the scribes had been sent from Jerusalem to oppose Jesus.

Now, Jesus has come to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. This is not the first time that he has been to Jerusalem, nor is it the first time that he has faced opposition in Jerusalem, as we learn from the other Gospels. But never has the opposition been so intense. Never has the opposition been so united against him.

Until now, Jesus has been opposed by the scribes and the Pharisees. But now that Jesus is in Jerusalem, we read for the first time in the Gospel According to Mark that “the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” are joined together in their opposition against Jesus. Hostility to Jesus has risen to a new level of intensity. It is no longer just the scribes and Pharisees who are opposing him; Jesus is now facing real political power. The chief priests and the scribes and the elders are plotting together how they will eliminate the competition. This will be the last week of Jesus.

On Sunday, Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem to the shouts of acclamation: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk. 11:9-10 ESV).

On Monday, Jesus entered the outer court of the temple, the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the place where Gentiles were supposed to be able to pray, but instead it had become a marketplace full of oxen and sheep and pigeons and money-changers. Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. By his action, he condemned the temple practices because the religious authorities had turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves (11:17).

On Tuesday, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders demanded to know what right Jesus had to do these things. They asked Jesus where he got his authority. They were not honestly interested to know where Jesus got his authority; they simply wanted to silence him, and they would silence him by any means possible.

Jesus responded by asking them where John the Baptist got his authority. The religious authorities discussed what answer they should give. Rather than giving a straightforward answer, they calculated that a decision for John would imply support for Jesus, but a decision against John would alienate the people. So they answered, “We do not know.”

These men were not interested in entering into an honest dialogue with Jesus. They had their positions to think of. John’s Gospel reveals their real concern:

John 11:48 (ESV) If we let him go on like this [they said], everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

The truth is that they did not want to know. They were unwilling to know. They were unwilling to commit themselves.

Perhaps you are trying to keep an open mind about Jesus. You want to keep your options open. You are opting to suspend judgment. You want to wait and see. Let’s face the truth: you are opting for “skepticism, unbelief, and cowardice.”[1] Like these men, you are more concerned about your position and power and prestige. You are more concerned about what your family will say. You are looking at what it might cost you to follow Jesus.

What will you do about Jesus?

The religious authorities had followed Jesus’ ministry from the beginning. On numerous occasions, the Sanhedrin had sent scribes to gather information. They had asked many questions. They had made accusations, all in their attempts to undermine this man who was gathering great crowds wherever he went. Now that Jesus was in Jerusalem, he was in their territory. This was their temple. This was the place where they wielded their greatest authority. They had opposed him from the beginning. They had opposed him from a distance. But now it was time to get rid of Jesus once and for all.

What would they do about Jesus?

These men, the chief priests and scribes and elders, represented the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was “a buffer organization” between the Roman Empire and the Jewish nation. It was composed of 71 members and “held near complete freedom in religious matters and restricted freedom in political matters.”[2] These men held the fate of Jesus in their hands. Or so they thought.

What would they do about Jesus?

Mark 11:18 (ESV) And the chief priests and the scribes … were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

2.      The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12)

We now arrive at Mark 12. We might have thought that Jesus would be intimidated when confronted with the political power of the Sanhedrin. We might expect him to avoid the controversy. We might expect him to defend himself. But Jesus does not adopt a strategy of evasion and escape. He goes on the offensive. Jesus further reveals his own self-understanding as the Son of God through the Parable of the Wicked Tenants:

Mark 12:1-12 (ESV) And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

 

2.1.     Interpretation

Jesus uses an illustration from absentee land ownership. The absentee landlord would lease (or hire) his land to “tenant farmers.” At harvest, he would send a hired hand to collect his produce. But instead of sending the landlord his due, the farmers paid their rent in blows: they beat the landlord’s servant. The landlord then sent others who received the same treatment or worse. Finally, he decides to send his son. Surely they will respect his son! But no! The farmers see things differently. If they kill the son, there will be no heir and the property will be theirs. They kill the son and thrown him in the ditch and seize the property. Will their plan work? No. The landlord comes and destroys the wicked tenants and then leases the land to others who are more deserving.

Mark tells us that that the chief priests and the scribes and the elders “perceived that [Jesus] had told the parable against them.” That means that this parable is not a judgment upon the Jewish people as a whole. Rather, it is a condemnation of the Jewish leaders, the shepherds of Israel, particularly the Sanhedrin.

This is the first time since chapter 4 that Jesus has told a major parable. It is “a story of Israel’s relationship to the Son of God.”[3] The Jewish authorities understood this parable because it was drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures. Isaiah, the prophet, identifies Israel as the Lord’s vineyard:

Isaiah 5:1-4 (ESV) Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:7 (ESV) For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

God complains of Israel in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 2:21 (ESV) … I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?

Jeremiah 8:13 (ESV) When I would gather them, declares the LORD, there are no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree; even the leaves are withered, and what I gave them has passed away from them.”

Jeremiah 12:10 (ESV) Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.

The landlord is God himself. He planted the nation of Israel:

Psalm 80:8 (ESV) You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.

He wanted the fruit of righteousness, but…

2 Chronicles 24:18-19 (NLT) They decided to abandon the Temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. 19 Yet the LORD sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen.

2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (NLT) The LORD, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. 16 But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the LORD’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

Nehemiah 9:26 (ESV) “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.

So God planted the nation of Israel as a choice vine, and sent prophets to bring about the fruit of righteousness. But they mistreated the prophets and even killed some of them.

Mark 12:6 (ESV) He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

The landlord “had still one other, a beloved son.” This is the third time we find the phrase “beloved son” in the Gospel According to Mark. At the baptism of Jesus in Mark chapter 1,

Mark 1:11 (ESV) And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Then on the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John,

Mark 9:7 (ESV) And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The landlord would send his beloved son. The tenants recognize the son: “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!” (Cf. Genesis 37:20a.) Their recognition of the son “only intensifies the gravity of the crime.”[4]

The tenants are shrewd and wise in their own eyes.

Isaiah 5:21 (ESV) Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

The Jewish authorities will do away with the Son. They will look out for themselves. They will protect their own positions of power and prestige. They will brook no competition to their position as leaders of Israel. All competitors must be eliminated.

The tenants took the son and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard to be devoured by the birds. This was Tuesday. On Friday, Jesus would be crucified outside the city walls. They would be rid of Jesus once and for all. Or so they thought.

The Jewish authorities think that they will have won the day once they kill the Son. But they seem to have forgotten that they will still have to deal with the owner, God. How self-defeating it is to try to “outmaneuver the owner of the vineyard.”[5]

2.2.     Warning

How unlikely it seems that a landlord would send servant after servant, and then finally his son, all in the hope that the wicked tenants would respect his son. And yet, that is exactly what God did. Through the centuries, with great patience and compassion, time and again, God sent his prophets to warn the people and to call them back to himself. Now he speaks to the Jewish authorities and to us through his Son:

Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV) Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Jesus tells this parable of the wicked tenants to warn these Jewish leaders that their shameful failure to fulfill their duties will bring God’s judgment upon them. They cannot escape by killing the Son, for God himself will bring judgment upon them.

God’s warnings are evidence of his patience and love for us. How careless we would be to ignore his warning and turn away from his voice.

What will you do with Jesus?

2.3.     Jesus’ Consciousness of His Sonship

Mark 12:6 (NIVO) “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

“Last of all” points to the finality of Christ. Yes, in these last days, God “has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). We are not looking for more prophets. Christ has spoken the final word.

Last of all, he sent his beloved son. Jesus knows who he is and where he came from and what he came to do. He knows exactly what is going to happen to him. He has already told the disciples on three separate occasions what would happen to him in Jerusalem.

Mark 8:31 (ESV) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

 

2.4.     Rejection: The Rejected Stone Becomes the Cornerstone

So how does the parable end? Jesus caps it off with a quotation from Psalm 118:22-23

Mark 12:10-11 (ESV) Have you not read this Scripture: “’The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

“Have you not read?” Jesus asks. “Do you not know your Bibles? Do you not know that your plan will be overturned? You are the religious leaders of Israel and you do not know this?”

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

On the previous Sunday, as Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the crowd had chanted from Psalm 118:25,

Psalm 118:25-26 (ESV) Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Now on Tuesday, Jesus quotes from the same Psalm (118:22-23). The Son of Man would be rejected, but the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

In Hebrew, the word son is ben. The word stone is eben.

The rulers of Israel would make a decision about Jesus, but God would overturn that decision. The Son of Man would “be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” He would be crucified on that Friday, but raised from the dead on Sunday. For forty days, Jesus would show himself to be alive by many infallible proofs. Ten days later, on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would be outpoured and Apostle Peter would preach that God had overturned the decision of sinful men:

Acts 2:23-24 (ESV) this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Again he would preach in the next chapter,

Acts 3:15 (ESV) and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

These men who rejected Jesus and put him to death, demanded to know by what authority Peter and John had healed a lame man. Peter boldly proclaimed,

Acts 4:11-12 (ESV) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The temple would soon be no more. But the cornerstone for the spiritual temple was laid. Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected. But he is now the cornerstone. He is the foundation upon which the church is built. Everything must line up with Christ. According to Ephesians 2, the Church is

Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Writing to Christians, the Apostle Peter described Christ as the cornerstone and Christians as living stones being built up as a spiritual house:

1 Peter 2:4-8 (NLT) You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. 5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” 8 And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

So what will you do with Jesus? God is patient, not wanting any to perish, so he warns us, calling us to himself. So it is time to make a decision. You cannot live in the land of indecision. Refusing to decide is a decision against Christ. Is he a rock of offense to you? Is he a stumbling stone? Or is he your cornerstone, the foundation of your life. Reject him no longer. God has made him the cornerstone, and it is marvelous in our eyes.


[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 6422). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 6374-6376). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Location 6439). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 151.

[5] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 151.

Image: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/hm-parable-tenants/


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

Advertisements

Mark 08:38-09:13, “A Risk Worth Taking”

Transfiguration-Hagopian copy-2.jpgIntroduction

Is the Christian life really worth the risk?

1456053183_thumb.pngJim Elliot had dedicated his life to Jesus Christ when he was six years old. In October of 1949, at the age of 22, Jim Elliot wrote the words in his dairy by which he would always be remembered:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (October 28, 1949)

Jim became a missionary to Ecuador in South America and married Elizabeth on his 26th birthday (October 8, 1953). Less than three years later, in January 1956, Jim and four missionary companions were killed by the Auca Indians, when Jim was just 28 years old. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Elliot, and a child not yet one year old.

Was Jim Elliot a fool? Did he lose everything? Or did he gain what cannot be lost? Jim Elliot staked his life, and his death, on these words of Jesus:

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Is the Christian life really worth the risk?

Follow Me!

Jesus had called the disciples to follow him. They followed him through his ministry. They saw him heal the sick, open the eyes of the blind, cause the lame to walk, make the deaf to hear, and enable the mute to speak. Jesus’ disciples followed him as he taught, and forgave sins, and cast out demons, and calmed the storms, and fed the multitudes. It was an amazing experience to follow Jesus.

Everyone was talking about Jesus and trying to figure out exactly who he was and how he fit into God’s great plan. Was he Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets? Was he John the Baptist raised from the dead? Jesus had not said. He simply called himself the Son of Man.

But the disciples needed to know who he was. Jesus needed for them to know who he was. And yet, whatever they thought of him, they certainly had no idea of his mission. They had walked with Jesus for many months. He shared his ministry and authority with them. The disciples knew Jesus, but did they really know who he was?

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked.

“You are the Christ,” Peter answered.

Exact. Jesus was the Christ. The Christ-Messiah. That means that he was the anointed one, the chosen one, the one whom God had promised to send. And he had come.

The only problem was that the people including the disciples, thought that the Christ-Messiah would be a freedom-fighter to set Israel free from the domination of the Roman Empire.

The Christ had indeed come to set men free, but the freedom that he offered was not political in nature. It was freedom from the slavery of sin. But to set men free, the Christ would have to pay the penalty for sin and break the power of sin by going to the cross. The Christ-Messiah would be crucified. That was a scandal for the Jews. That was not the kind of Messiah that they had expected or wanted.

As soon as the disciples declared that Jesus was the Christ,

Mark 8:31 ESV And he began to teach them [the disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

The death of the Christ was not on the disciples’ radar screen. But they and everyone who would follow Christ, had to know that the way of Christ was the way of the cross:

Mark 8:34-35 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, [Jesus] said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

The message was incomprehensible. The disciples could not understand. What kind of talk was that? Was Jesus talking in parables? What kind of mystery was this? Jesus will tell them two more times (Mark 9:31; 10:34) that he is going to be killed and after three days rise again,

Mark 9:32 ESV But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

This is not what they expected. This is not what they had signed up for. But then again, they had not chosen him; he had chosen them (John 15:16). “Follow me!” he had said. And so they did.

But now things were becoming clear. Or rather, they were more confused. Before, the disciples thought that they understood, but they had not. Now that they were beginning to understand, it seemed all too confusing. Jesus had talked about a kingdom, the kingdom of God. That sounded great. But now he was talking about suffering, and rejection, and dying, and rising. What did that have to do with the kingdom of God? Denying yourself? Taking up your cross? Losing your life in order to save it? Really? What was that all about?!

Was Jesus really worth the risk?

1. The Three Disciples

Mark 9:2 ESV And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves….

We sometimes have the idea that God loves us all the same, that there are no favorites with God. That seems to be a nice idea, but it flies in the face of the facts. There were the multitudes that followed Jesus. Within the multitudes, there were 72 disciples that Jesus sent out (Luke 10:1,17). Of the 72, there were 12 that followed him more closely and whom he appointed “so that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14). And of those 12 disciples, there were three who were the closest to him. These three disciples, Peter and James and John, were the inner circle. They saw things and experienced things that the other disciples did not experience.

  • Jesus had only allowed Peter and James and John to be with him when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37).
  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus took Peter and James and John to be with him while he prayed, telling the other disciples to wait and “Sit here while I pray” (Mark 14:32).
  • And here in Mark 9, just one week after telling the disciples that he would suffer and be rejected and die and on the third day rise again, Jesus takes Peter and James and John, the inner circle, to the top of a high mountain, leaving the other disciples below.

These disciples were the core within the core. They were the inner group. Jesus would show them things that he would not show the others. Peter and James and John would be the ones who would help to keep the other disciples together.

1.1. The Transfiguration

Jesus led Peter and James and John

“up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2).

Notice that the text says that Jesus was transfigured “before them.” Now before we consider the meaning of the transfiguration, we should note that it did not take place for Jesus. The transfiguration was for Peter and James and John. Jesus was transfigured “before them,” Mark tells us

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what his mission was. He knew why the Father had sent him. He knew before ever creating the universe, that he was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NIV).

In coming into the world, he said to his Father, “A body you have prepared for me” so that we might be “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5, 10).

John 6:38 ESV For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus knew what he was all about. He knew what he was doing. He knew where he had come from. He knew what he had to do. And he knew where he was going.

But the disciples did not understand it. They were in great confusion about the matter. Jesus was not turning out to be the kind of Messiah that they were expecting or had hoped for. Even John the Baptist had asked,

Matthew 11:3 ESV … ”Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Now the disciples were wondering if they should look for another.

The transfiguration was not for Jesus; it was for the disciples. The transfiguration was for Peter and James and John. Again, Mark tells us that Jesus was transfigured “before them.” It was for the benefit of the inner three. It was for the benefit of Peter and James and John. The transfiguration was to strengthen their faith. The message of the transfiguration for the disciples was that though Jesus and his disciples would take the way of the cross, following Jesus was a risk worth taking. Whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake and for the gospel, will save it.

1.2. Jesus Was Transfigured

Mark 9:2-3 ESV …And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.

Luke tells us that

Luke 9:29 ESV And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.

Matthew tells us

Matthew 17:2 ESV And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

John, who was one of the three with Jesus on that mountain — John sees something of Christ that he will see again when the resurrected and glorified Christ appears to him in the Book of Revelation:

Rev 1:16 ESV and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and James and John saw something of the glory of Christ that was his before the foundation of the world. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed,

John 17:5 ESV And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Luke tells us

Luke 9:32 ESV Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory

These three disciples are seeing the glory of Christ, both his past glory before coming into the world, and his future glory.

The Apostle Paul says of him,

Philippians 2:6-8 NLT Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

But now, temporarily on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and James and John are allowed to see the glory of Christ. They are given a vision of his majesty.

It was before these three disciples, Peter and James and John, that Jesus was transfigured, so that they might see the glory that was his before the foundation of the world, so that they would realize that following Christ on the way of the cross was a risk worth taking.

First we see the three disciples. Then we see the two prophets:

2. The Two Prophets

Mark 9:4 ESV And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

Now this is most remarkable! For what reason do Moses and Elijah need to appear on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus? Once again, just like the transfiguration of Jesus was for the sake of the disciples, the appearance of Moses and Elijah was for the disciples.

Moses was the famed Law-giver. Moses had climbed up Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God. He had received the Law and had given it to the nation of Israel. But Moses had never entered the promised land before. Because of his sin of failing to obey God and honor God before the people, God had not allowed him to enter with the people that he had led for forty years through the wilderness. Moses had climbed Mount Nebo and looked over into the land, but there he died on the mountain, and God buried him. Centuries passed, and now by the grace of God, Moses stands in the land of promise with the very Son of God who had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Elijah was the bold prophet who had called the people back to the Law. Moses had died, but Elijah did not die. Elijah was carried into the presence of God by a whirlwind. Now Elijah who had not died is back on earth talking with the one who would die for the sins of the world.

2.1. Passing Prophets

It is important that the appearance of Moses and Elijah was temporary. They appear with Jesus on the mountain, but soon disappear. They were not permanent figures. Their work pointing to the coming One, Jesus himself. Their presence on the mountain with Jesus shows the continuity between the Law, the Prophets, and Jesus. Their presence show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

After his resurrection, Jesus would appear to two of his disciples…

Luke 24:27 ESV And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus would tell his disciples,

Luke 24:44 ESV … ”These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Peter would preach at the house of Cornelius,

Acts 10:43 ESV To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Here on the Mount of Transfiguration appear Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the prophets. But their appearance is temporary. Just as the Apostle Paul would say in Galatians, now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the Law (Galatians 3:23-25), Moses and Elijah will disappear. Their purpose was fulfilled with Christ. Christ has come.

Romans 10:4 ESV For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Campbell Morgan comments,

Moses’ presence signified that in Jesus the shadows of the law were all fulfilled and now withdrawn. In Jerusalem men were still fighting, not merely for the law of Moses, but for the traditions of the elders, and priests and leaders were still arguing about the tithe of mint and cummin, while here upon the mount was the great law-giver himself, by his presence acknowledging that this glorified One, Who should presently be crucified in the name of the law, did in Himself gather up all that was hinted at, suggested, included in the economy of the past.[1]

Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain to show that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. But then, a cloud of glory overshadowed them and Moses and Elijah were removed. Their work was completed in Jesus Christ. “There was no further need for Moses, nor yet for Elijah.”[2]

2.2. A Message from Heaven

In this appearance of Moses and Elijah, we see not only the temporary provisional nature of the Law and the Prophets pointing to Christ, we also see something of the nature of our future heavenly existence.

  1. We do not become angels.

Let’s also note that Moses and Elijah did not have wings. Only Luke spells this out so clearly:

Luke 9:30 ESV And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah,

Moses and Elijah are still men. We will ever remain human beings. God did not create us to become angels or gods. There is no evolution from one form to another. God created us to be men and women and thus we will ever be.

  1. Moses and Elijah are in a conscious state. They are not unconscious. They are not asleep. They are not dead, though Moses had died. As the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8,

2 Corinthians 5:8 NAU to be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord.

Jesus told the Sadducees that…

Matthew 22:32 ESV …the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

The presence of these men suggested not merely existence after life, but conscious existence, and not conscious existence only, but the continuity of the same existence with enlarged powers.[3]

Peter, James, and John knew Moses and Elijah. Our existence and identity and personality on the other side of this life is not absorbed into a state of nothingness or nirvana. We will know believers that we have known and believers that we have never met before. And we will be known. Our personality and identity will continue in the world to come.

We have seen the three disciples, and the two prophets. Now we turn to the one and only Son.

3. The One and Only Son

Mark 9:5 ESV And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Peter frequently put his mouth in gear before engaging his brain. His method was to act now, think later. One week earlier, he had rebuked Jesus for saying that he would suffer and be rejected and be killed and after three days, rise again.

Matthew 16:22 ESV And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Now, as the three disciples see the glory of Christ, Peter suggests that they make three tabernacles: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

Immediately, Mark tells us,

Mark 9:6 ESV For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Peter had misspoken. In his attempt to honor Christ and Moses and Elijah, he had dishonored Christ. By suggesting that they make three tents or tabernacles for them, Peter had put his Master on the same level these men of the past.

Today, people are still attempting to put up tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Buddha, one for Confucius, one for Muhammad, one for the Bahá’u’lláh. Some religious leaders are calling for unity. Unity is an important value for the Christian. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one. The Apostle Paul tells us to make every effort to maintain the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:3). God’s purpose is “to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

But that is where some religious leaders have it so wrong. These leaders want the various religions to deny their distinctives. They call on Christians to deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. They say that if we can deny what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, what Jesus said about himself as the only way to the Father, and what God has said about his one and only Son as the one that we must listen to and obey, then and only then, can we have unity. They tell us that only if we deny the teachings of Christ, can we be united. That is blasphemous.

Christ is the only one who is great enough to save and unite people from every nation, as Revelation 7:9-10 tells us he will, people

from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Peter was absolutely wrong. No one compares with Jesus. God the Father would rebuke Peter.

3.1. The Father Speaks

Mark 9:7 ESV And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

3.1.1. The Identification of the Son

First, God says, “This is my beloved Son.” Moses and Elijah were servants, but Jesus was the Son of God.

Hebrews 3:5-6 ESV Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

God says of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son.”

3.1.2. The Statement of Divine Satisfaction

In Matthew’s account, we read that God said,

Matthew 17:5 ESV … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased…”

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he is baptized by John the Baptist and his private life draws to a close, God declares from heaven,

Mark 1:11 ESV … ”You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Now as he approaches the end of his public ministry, again, the Father expresses his divine approval of his Son, but this time God adds, “Listen to him.”

3.1.3. The Father’s Command

Mark 9:7 ESV And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

Build no tabernacles to Moses or Elijah. Their work is finished.

The message of the Book of Hebrews is the supremacy of the Son.

Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

No other voice is needed. Let all others be silent. No one supersedes the Son of God. No one replaces the Son. Not Muhammad, not Joseph Smith, or Ellen G. White, or the Bahá’u’lláh.

No further prophets will be sent by God to add to his message or modify it or abrogate it or take away from his message. False prophets will come. But what further need have we of prophets when God has spoken by his Son and has told us to listen to him: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

3.1.4. Jesus Only

Mark 9:8 ESV And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Peter, James, and John look, but Moses is gone. Elijah is gone. The Law and the Prophets had pointed to Christ, but their work is finished. Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. He alone remains. “They no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”

“Jesus only” churches will use this verse while forgetting the previous verse. The voice from heaven did not say, “I am my beloved Son; listen to me.” The Father clearly drew a distinction between himself and the Son: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

The Father makes a distinction between himself and the Son who because he is the Son is of the same nature as the Father. He is not a god, but is “very God of very God.”

Nonetheless, the message of the Transfiguration is “Jesus only.” Peter understood that. He boldly told the religious authorities of Jerusalem:

Acts 4:12 ESV And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

John understood the message of the Transfiguration:

1 John 5:11-12 ESV And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Jesus leaves no room for another other way to God:

John 14:6 ESV Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

The testimony of the Word of God is this:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all…

3.2. The Testimony of the Three

Is following Jesus worth the risk? Peter and James and John certainly believed that it was. Seeing the Lord transfigured before the eyes with the glory that was his before the foundation of the world, convinced them that if they lost their lives for Christ sake, they would save them.

James would seal his testimony with his blood. He would be beheaded by Herod.

John would live a long life, but he would testify,

John 1:14 ESV 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 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Peter speaks of this experience in his second epistle:

2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Do not ask for a vision. Do not ask for special revelations. Jesus only takes who he wants to take. In the next verse, Peter tells us,

2 Peter 1:19 ESV And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

The glory of Christ convinced them that “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

The Transfiguration tells us that following Jesus is a risk worth taking.


 

[1] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 238-239.

[2] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 241.

[3] G. Campbell Morgan, Crises of the Christ, p. 243.


See also “Gospel of Mark”:

 

 

Mark 08v27-38, “Who do you say that I am?”

Detail of  Mosaic in Hagia Sophia

2001 — Detail of Mosaic in Hagia Sophia — Image by © Hanan Isachar/CORBIS

1456053183_thumb.pngThe most important question that you can ever answer is the one that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

What you believe about a person determines your relationship to that person. What you believe about Jesus determines your relationship with him. It determines your relationship with God, and it determines your eternal destiny.

This passage begins with a question: Who do you say that I am?

1. Some Already Know Who Jesus Is.

1.1. The Reader of Mark’s Gospel Knows Who Jesus Is.

This passage is a crucial turning point in Mark’s Gospel. The question of Jesus’ identity was raised from the first chapter of this gospel. The reader of Mark’s Gospel already knows what he is to understand about Jesus because Mark has told us in the very first verse, what we are to understand about Jesus. This is…

Mark 1:1 ESV The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark begins by telling us that Jesus is the Christ, and that he is the Son of God. Those are two different things. Jesus is at one and the same time both the Christ and the Son of God.

The next verses introduce John the Baptist who was the forerunner of Christ. John’s ministry as the forerunner of Christ was announced by Isaiah the prophet, more than 700 years before Christ’s birth:

Mark 1:2-3 ESV As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

This is how we read it in Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:3 ESV A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

When Isaiah writes, “…prepare the way of the LORD,” he uses the very name of God: Yahweh. Translated into English, it is written capital L O R D. Isaiah says that the messenger who is John the Baptist, would prepare the way for the coming of Yahweh. Then he says the same thing another way: “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” So when Mark quotes Isaiah, he is telling his readers that they are to understand that John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus who is Yahweh, God in the flesh.

Then just a few verses later in Mark 1, Jesus is baptized,

Mark 1:11 ESV And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

So the readers of Mark’s Gospel already know who Jesus is.

1.2. The Demons Know Who He Is.

Mark 1:23-24 ESV …there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are— the Holy One of God.”

When Jesus rebuked the demon and cast him out simply by commanding him, the people

Mark 1:27 ESV …were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Again in,

Mark 1:34 ESV And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark 3:11 ESV And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

Again in chapter 5, the man with a legion of demons cried out

Mark 5:7 ESV …with a loud voice…, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?…”

1.3. The People Do Not Yet Know Who Jesus Is.

The demons know who Jesus is, but the people do not seem to have understood the scream of the demons; they do they know who Jesus is.

Mark keeps bringing us back to this question through this Gospel. Who is this Jesus?

1.3.1. The Scribes Do Not Know Who Jesus Is.

When Jesus tells the lame man that his sins are forgiven, the scribes complained,

Mark 2:7 ESV “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Yes, who but God can forgive sins? And since Jesus claims the right to forgive sins, Mark is showing the reader who Jesus is, but the people have not yet understood that.

Mark 6:14 ESV King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.”

1.3.2. King Herod Does Not Know Who Jesus Is.

In chapter 6, King Herod Antipas is trying to figure who Jesus is and where he gets his power to heal.

It is one thing for the scribes and the Pharisees and King Herod and others to be confused about the identity of Jesus, but what about his disciples?

Up to this point, Jesus has not said that he is the Christ, the Messiah, the one that the prophets had promised. He has claimed to be the Son of Man who has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10. And he has claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath with the right to interpret its meaning (2:28), but after the very first verse where Mark tells us that Jesus is the Christ until we get to the end of chapter 8, the word Christ has not been used again.

1.3.3. What about the disciples?

We have seen that up to this point, the disciples did not get it. They are with the Lord. They have heard his teaching but do not understand it.

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

At the end of chapter 4, the disciples are in danger of perishing in a storm tossed sea, but Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea, saying, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:41 ESV And [the disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Who is this, indeed?

They failed to understand his teaching and the failed to comprehend his miracles. They were astounded to see him walking on the sea,

Mark 6:52 ESV for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Over and over again, they just do not get it. They have have failed to understand his teaching. They have seen his miracles but have not been able to discern the meaning of the signs they have witnessed.[1] Jesus asks them,

Mark 8:18 NLT ‘You have eyes– can’t you see? You have ears– can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?

Yet, Jesus does not give up on them. Even as he opened the ears of the deaf mute, he will open the ears of his disciples. Just as he opened the eyes of the blind man who at first saw men as trees walking, before receiving a second healing touch, so the disciples will yet see, though at first not so clearly, as we will see!

2. Some Think They Know Who Jesus Is.

2.1. Public Opinion: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Mark 8:27 ESV And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi…

This is pagan territory. Caesarea Philippi was

famous for its sanctuary to [the god] Pan… Half man and half goat, [the god] Pan was revered as the guardian of flocks and nature…[2] It is here in the outer regions of paganism and even hostility to Judaism that Jesus is first proclaimed Messiah!

Mark 8:27-28 ESV…And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

Jesus, the Master Teacher, is beginning to open the eyes of the disciples. Up to this point, they have failed to look beyond the signs. He wants them to think about what the signs signify, what they mean. But before asking who they think he is, Jesus asks them who others say that he is. He is provoking them to think about his identity.

Just like today, people had different opinions about Jesus. Some, like King Herod, thought that he was John the Baptist returned to life. Others thought that Jesus was Elijah or one of the prophets. The idea was not that Jesus was simply a prophet, but that he was one of the prophets of the Old Covenant.

Moses had foretold that God would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). The Jews were waiting for that prophet. When they compared Jesus to John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the famous prophets of the Old Covenant, they believed that Jesus was a prophet of great rank.

And yet, these comparisons showed that the people had also completely failed to understand who Jesus was. Jesus was not a recycled prophet. He was not another prophet of the Old Order, the Old Covenant. Just like today, people will say that Jesus was “the greatest teacher or moral example who ever lived.” That “may seem like an honor and compliment,” but it is a case of mistaken identity. It robs Jesus of his absolute uniqueness as the Christ, the Son of God. Mark is showing us that Jesus can only be defined in terms of “himself and his relationship with the Father.”[3] He cannot be compared to anyone else. He is the incomparable Christ.

2.2. Jesus’ Disciples: Jesus is the Christ

Jesus is not really interested in opinion polls. His primary concern is not what others say about him. His primary concern is about his disciples, those to whom he will entrust his mission. The others—the outsiders—have their various opinions about Jesus. But the disciples—the insiders—to them “has been given the secret of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11). It is essential that these men who will carry on the work, it is essential that they know who he is.

Mark 8:29 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” …

That is the ultimate question. It is the question that Jesus asks his disciples. It is the question that he asks you and me: “But who do you say that I am?”

Mark 8:29 BSN …”?Be yufala, yufala i stap tokbaot mi, se mi hu?”

Your answer is crucial. Who do you say that Jesus is?

This is a question that you must get right. Your answer will not change who he is. He does not change and adapt himself to your opinion of him. But your answer to that question will determine your relationship to him which will determine your eternal destiny. Your relationship to Jesus impacts not only your life now in the present; your understanding of who Jesus is and your relationship to him determines your eternity. This is a question that matters. This is one that you must get right or all is lost.

If I call you by the wrong name, you will be quick to correct because no one likes to be called by someone else’s name. If I mistake the head of state for someone else and address him with the wrong title, that will show that I do not really know him. How much more is that true of the One of the Highest possible rank? If we do not know who Jesus is, we will not be able to worship him in spirit and truth.

Mark 8:29 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

 

This is the first time since the very first verse of this Gospel that the word Christ has been used. People had wondered and guessed at who Jesus was, but no one had gotten it right. At no time in this Gospel does Jesus state that he is the Christ or accept that title, until now.

This had been a long time coming. The disciples had not understood his teaching or his miracles. They had been blind to the fact that Jesus was the Christ. But now, ever so slowly, their eyes are being opened. Their vision is not yet clear as the following verses will show, but this is a beginning and it is the promise that they will yet see clearly.

Mark 8:29-30 ESV And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

2.3. The Order of Silence

We may wonder why Jesus so strongly charged the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. The answer lies in the misunderstanding of what the Christ would do.

The Jews had gone through difficult times. For nearly 600 years they have been under the Babylonians, then under the Persians, then under the Greeks, and finally under the Romans. There was a period when they threw off the bonds of oppression under the Greeks, notably the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, but that period of self-rule had not gone well either.

The Jews were waiting for the promised Messiah, the Christ. The one who would be the Son of David the king. The one who would set up his throne and restore the kingdom to Israel. The Jews were looking for a Christ who would overthrow the Romans, but they had failed to see that the Messiah, the Christ, would first be the Suffering Servant, the one who would take our sins upon himself, bearing the iniquities of many, as Isaiah had prophesied. Jesus did come to bring liberation and peace, but not with military power and rule.

Jesus will don the servant’s towel rather than the warrior’s sword; he will practice sacrifice above vengeance. He will not inflict suffering, but suffer himself as a “ransom for many” (10:45). As God’s servant, Jesus must remain hidden if he is to complete God’s appointment (Isa 49:1-6).[4]

In declaring Jesus as the Christ, Peter has supplied the proper title, but he has the wrong understanding.[5]

Jesus orders the disciples to tell no one that he is the Christ because the Jewish people had misunderstood their own Scriptures and failed to see that the Christ would fulfill the Old Covenant of the Law and enact the New Covenant in his own blood.

This now, Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly.

Mark 8:31-32 ESV And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly…

This is the first of three times when Jesus will tell the disciples of his death and resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). From this point on, Jesus tells his disciples “plainly” that this is his mission. He is going to suffer many things, and be rejected, and be killed, and after three days, rise again.

This is absolutely shocking! This is not what the Jews believed that the Messiah would do. This is not what the disciples thought they were getting into!

The meaning of his life and mission is not about victory and success, but about rejection, suffering, and death. When Jesus finally speaks to the issue of his identity and mission it is summed up in [this phrase:] “The Son of Man must suffer many things.”[6]

The word must means that his sufferings are necessary to fulfill the will of God. James Edwards remarks in his excellent commentary:

The prediction of Jesus’ passion conceals a great irony, for the suffering and death of the Son of Man will not come, as we would expect, at the hands of godless and wicked people. The suffering of the Son of Man comes rather at the hands of “the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law.” It is not humanity at its worst that will crucify the Son of God but humanity at its absolute best. The death of Jesus will not be the result of a momentary lapse or aberration of human nature, but rather the result of careful deliberations from respected religious leaders who will justify their actions by the highest standards of law and morality, even believing them to render service to God (John 16: 2). Jesus will not be lynched by an enraged mob or beaten to death in a criminal act. He will be arrested with official warrants, and tried and executed by the world’s envy of jurisprudence — the Jewish Sanhedrin and the principia iuris Romanorum [the principles of Roman law].[7]

3. “You are the Christ” — Right Title, Wrong Idea

3.1. Peter Rebukes Jesus

Mark 8:32 ESV And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us,

Matthew 16:22 ESV And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

This is not Peter’s understanding of what the Messiah would come to do! He is expecting a triumphant Messiah, one who will conquer, one who will sit upon the throne of his father David, one who will restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). So Peter pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him: Do not say such a thing! That’s never going to happen! How can you say that? You are the Christ!

This word for “rebuke” is the same word that is used when Jesus rebuked demons (1:25; 3:12). Peter rebukes Jesus strongly, believing that this talk of suffering and rejection and death must be silenced.

Peter had used the correct title, recognizing that Jesus is the Christ, but he has misunderstood it. He is beginning to see, but does not yet see clearly.

3.2. Jesus Rebukes Peter

Peter has expressed not only his own misunderstanding, but the misunderstanding of all the disciples.

Mark 8:33 ESV But turning and seeing his disciples, [Jesus] rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus turns and sees his disciples. They had the same thoughts as Peter. They must hear him as he rebukes Peter.

Just as Satan had tried to turn Jesus away from the cross by offering him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would bow down and worship him, Peter has attempted to turn Jesus aside from suffering. In Peter’s mind, Jesus must not choose the path of suffering, but the path of glory. In ways that he cannot understand, Peter has opposed “a deep mystery of God, for suffering is the only way to destroy the stronghold of Satan…”[8]

Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil (Mark 1:24; 3:27; 1 John 3:8). This was the purpose of the Incarnation.

Peter is thinking in human terms. He is thinking as men think and not as God thinks. To think as men think is to “no longer be [a] disciple of Jesus but a disciple of Satan.” Jesus turns the rebuke on Peter and says exactly what he had said to Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness: “Get behind me, Satan!”

It is not Jesus’ concept of the Messiah that is satanic. Rather, Peter’s attempt to turn Jesus aside from the cross was satanic. Jesus rebukes him strongly. This rebuke is stronger than the series of questions Jesus had asked in 8:14-21,

  • Don’t you know or understand even yet?
  • Are your hearts too hard to take it in?
  • You have eyes– can’t you see?
  • You have ears– can’t you hear?
  • Don’t you remember anything at all?
  • Don’t you understand yet?

3.3. Non-Understanding and Misunderstanding

Failing to understand is not as bad as misunderstanding. Peter has the right word, but the wrong idea. He has the right title, but he has not understood it. This stronger rebuke “suggests that a near-truth is more dangerous than an obvious error, since a partial truth is more believable.”[9]

Liberal Theology and the Cults

This is the grave error and danger of both liberal theology and the cults. Both liberal theology and the cults use biblical terms, but they twist them to mean something else. They redefine the biblical terms. They give them a meaning that is different from what the authors meant. Liberal theologians will talk about faith and the divinity of Christ, but they mean something quite different from what the Bible means.

The cults that we have here in Vanuatu will use biblical terms. They will say that Jesus is the Son of God, but they do not mean that Jesus is of the same nature as God. Or they will say that they believe in God the Father, but they may actually believe in many gods while saying that they only worship one of them. Or they will say that Jesus was only a man who was anointed by the Spirit. They will use terms like faith, and salvation, and Savior, but they have their own special definitions and special teachings and perhaps even their own special translation of the Bible that says things that no other translation says. These cults are most dangerous because they appear to be Christian but they preach a different Jesus. There is one thing that all cults and false religions and liberal theology have in common: they diminish Jesus. They make him smaller than he really is.

Is there any hope for them? Yes there is. Just as there was hope for the disciples. If they will put away their other books and carefully read the Word of God to discern the intention of the authors of the Bible, they too can have their eyes opened and come to the knowledge of the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

Peter had said that Jesus was the Christ, but he meant something very different from what Jesus meant. Now Jesus lays out the terms of discipleship.

4. The Way of the Discipleship

Mark 8:34 ESV And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“A wrong view of Messiahship leads to a wrong view of discipleship.”[10] Jesus will take the way of the cross and so must his disciples. But this word is not just for the Twelve. Jesus called the crowd to him with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Jesus said that if we are to come after him,

  1. we must deny ourselves. This does not mean the denial of things, but the denial of ourselves. We surrender the right to determine our own goals, aspirations, and desires.[11]
  2. We must take up our cross. The cross is an instrument of death. It means putting to death the old way, the old habits, the old customs.

Romans 8:13 ESV For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Mark 8:35 ESV For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

  1. We must follow Christ. It means that Jesus becomes the Lord of our lives.

Luke 6:46 ESV “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Jesus asks you, “Who do you say that I am?” He calls you to understand that he is the Christ, the one that was promised from the first book to the last book of the Old Testament. He calls to you understand that he is the Son of God, the one who by his very nature is God in the flesh. He calls you to understand that he became a man so that he might take your sins upon himself and pay the price for your sins. He calls you to deny yourself, to take up your cross, and to follow him in living a life of obedience to his commands. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Garland, David E.. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan Publishing House: 2015, p. 414.

[2] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4610-4613). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[3] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4646-4649). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4716-4717). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4714-4715). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[6] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4737-4739). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[7] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4747-4754). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[8] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4774-4775). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[10] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[11] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Isaiah 53, “Why Did Christ Suffer?”

Grunewald's crucifixion3.png

 

1456053183_thumb.pngWe are coming up on Good Friday this week when the Church gives special attention to the sufferings of Christ. Actually we remember his death every time we partake of Holy Communion. The Scriptures tell us that as we break the bread and drink the cup, we remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood — we remember Christ’s death until he comes again. Furthermore, our message is Christ and him crucified. We preach Christ crucified, risen, and coming again.

Today we want to think of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We find an astonishing description of his suffering in Isaiah 52 and 53. I say “astonishing” because this description of Christ’s sufferings was given by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of our Lord.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind– 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-12 ESV).

Interpretation

The Jewish religion, Judaism, has always been at odds with Christianity over the interpretation of Isaiah 53 and many other passages that point to Jesus Christ. But we read in Luke 24, that after his resurrection, Christ himself went through the Scriptures with his apostles and showed them how the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to him.

Several passages in the New Testament confirm that Isaiah was speaking of the suffering of Christ. For example, in Acts 8, we read that Philip met up an Ethiopian eunuch, the Minister of Finances for Ethiopia; he was reading Isaiah 53.

Acts 8:32-35 ESV Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

So the Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53, but did not know who Isaiah was talking about. Philip told him that Isaiah was talking about Jesus.

John tells us that the unbelief of the Jews was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:1,

John 12:37-38 ESV Though he [Jesus] had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Peter also quotes Isaiah 53, telling us that Christ left us an example that we should follow in his steps.

But why did he suffer?

We were created in the image of God. We are creatures who seek to understand. We naturally look for meaning. And so we ask ourselves, “Why?” Why did Christ suffer?

When we speak of the sufferings of Christ, we stand before mystery; we stand on holy ground:

1 Timothy 3:16 ESV Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

“He was manifested in the flesh.” This is the incarnation. The Word became flesh, the Son of God became the Son of Man. God took upon himself humanity. Isaiah describes Christ on earth growing up before the Father as a young plant, tender, vulnerable. He is threatened as an infant by a hostile King Herod. As an adult, he is subject to all the weaknesses of humanity: he is weary, he sleeps, he thirsts, he bleeds, he dies.

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (53:2). Jesus was not what the Jews were hoping for in the Messiah. They wanted someone who would overthrow the Romans, someone who would guarantee them prominence, prestige, and power. They wanted to make him king; they wanted him to wear a crown; he came to bear a cross. So as Isaiah prophesied,

Isaiah 53:3a ESV He was despised and rejected by men;

Matthew 27:39-44 ESV And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Isaiah describes him as

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV).

Isaiah writes of Christ’s appearance on the cross.

Isaiah 52:14 ESV As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

As we consider suffering, we often attempt to establish cause. Why is this person suffering? Why is another sick? Is it a failure to look after their health?

Job had been the richest man of the East, but lost everything including his health. His three friends — miserable comforters — were certain that there was sin in his life that had brought on the judgment of God. But they were wrong.

In John 9, Jesus comes up on a man who was born blind. The disciples seek to establish blame. “Who sinned?” they ask, “this man or his parents that he would be born blind?”

Looking at Christ on the cross, what are we to think? Isaiah says,

“…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4c-d ESV).

Stricken, smitten, afflicted — by God! We are tempted to ask, “What did he do to deserve this treatment? What did he do to deserve such a horrible death?”

Why did He suffer? Isaiah gives us the answer.

1. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE OF OUR SINS (4-6)!

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).

Why did he suffer? For what sins did the Crucified One suffer? He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. It was not for himself or his sins that he suffered. Our griefs, our sorrows — what we merited, what we deserved, he took upon himself.

  • He was pierced for our
  • He was crushed for our
  • The chastisement upon him brought us peace with God.
  • His wounds bring about our healing.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).

We are wandering sheep. We have followed our ways rather than God’s ways. We do our own thing. We do it our way. We follow our own inclinations.

1 Peter 2:24 ESV He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Application: See him there, on the cross? Do you realize that Christ suffered because of your sins? My sins and yours, nailed him to the cross. Christ suffered because of our sins.

Why did He suffer? He suffered because of our sins. But secondly,

2. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE HE ACCEPTED TO SUFFER (7-9).

Isaiah 53:7 ESV He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

He was a voluntary victim. He is the great high priest who presented himself.

Matthew 26:53 ESV Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

At any moment he could have put a stop to it all. As they spit in his face, and struck him, and ripped the beard from his face, and lacerated his back with a whip, and drove the crown of thorns into this brow, and nailed him to the cross — at any moment he could have called it off. But he was a voluntary victim. He gave himself for us.

Philippians 2:5-7 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Romans 5:6-8 ESV For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Heb 9:11-14 ESV “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Christ gave himself for us.

Galatians 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Joh 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Tit 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

He accepted to suffer and give himself for us, and he did it because he loved us.

Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Joh 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Rom 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

Application: Christ accepted to suffer in your place, in your stead, because he loved you.

3. CHRIST SUFFERED BECAUSE IT WAS THE WILL OF THE LORD TO CRUSH HIM WITH SUFFERING (10).

We may be tempted to think that the cross was a tragic accident. That something went terribly wrong. John tells us that Christ came to his own people, but even his own people did not receive him. But this was no accident. This was the plan of God.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV).

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached,

Acts 2:23 ESV this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Two chapters later, the believers prayed,

Acts 4:27-28 ESV for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

We are all implicated in the death of Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. But it was the Father’s plan and a demonstration of His love as well as the love of the Son.

1 John 4:9-10 ESV In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

John 3:16 ESV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Propitiation is the satisfaction of justice. God could not simply overlook our sins and still be righteous. If it is proved in a court of law that a man is guilty of murder, we expect the judge to pass sentence on the murderer rather than let him off. And if the judge simply excuses the crime, we would say that the judge is corrupt.

God cannot simply let us off the hook. He is righteous and just. The penalty must be paid, but our sins and iniquities are too great. We cannot pay for our own deliverance. God Himself paid the penalty. The Word became flesh. The Son of God became the Son of Man that he might stand in our place, and pay the penalty for our sins. The death of Christ on the cross was no accident. It was the plan of God. The Father gave His Son. The Son gave himself.

Application: Christ suffered because that was the only way that God could save us.

4. CHRIST SUFFERED TO JUSTIFY MANY (11-12).

“Many… many… many”

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:11-12 ESV).

Christ died not for a few, but for all. John tells us that Christ is the propitiation not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2). Christ died for your sins. Christ died that you might be justified.

Psalm 2:8 ESV Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Revelation 5:9-10 ESV And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Application: Are you one of the many who have been justified?

II.   Christ suffered

  1. Because of our sins
  2. Because he accepted to suffer: it was voluntary.
  3. Because it was the will of the lord to crush him with suffering
  4. To justify many.

Redemption’s Song

© J. Gary Ellison, April 4, 2012

See Him there upon the cross
As He dies in shame?
We are the ones who nailed Him there,
We are the ones to blame.

It was for crimes He had not done,
Our sins that caused His pain.
He knew no sin, the Righteous One,
For sinners He was slain.

O Lamb of God on sacred tree
Twas there You died for me
To take away my sin and shame
That righteous I might be.

That Holy One did bear our sin
No other one could do.
He is the Lamb, the spotless One,
Who died for me and you.

Holy, innocent, undefiled,
On Him our sins were laid,
To cleanse us from our awful deeds
The penalty He paid.

O Righteous One, I hear you now,
“It’s finished! It is done!”—
The work on Calvary’s bloody cross—
The victory’s been won!

They laid Him in a borrowed grave
He would not use it long.
God raised Him up that He might save,
This is Redemption’s song.

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).

You can receive Christ right where you are by confessing you sin to him and asking him to be your Lord and Savior.

 

Mark 01v01-11, “The Gospel of Mark”

1456053183_thumb.pngAround the world today, Christians will gather together to do what they have done for 2,000 years. They will open their Bibles to see and hear the Word of God. But the big question that many ask, is this: “Is the Bible reliable? Is it really the Word of God?” I want to begin by considering that question and by focusing on the Gospel according to Mark. Stay tuned!

Some have claimed that the Gospels are forgeries, imaginary stories that were the product mostly of legends that had developed about the life of Jesus well into the second century, many decades after the events in the life of Christ. We are told that the earliest witnesses to the New Testament documents got it wrong. Two thousand years have passed and somehow some think that we are in a much better position to determine what actually happened and who wrote the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. We are told that the Gospels which bear the names of Matthew and of John, for example, were not actually written by Matthew and John. They may not even have been written in the first century.

We are told that as time passed, people began to put their faith in this legendary Jesus, one that was the product of vivid imaginations. A Jesus that could walk on water, opened blinded eyes, feed multitudes with a meager lunch, raise the dead, and even die himself and come back to life again. Stories that gullible people of days gone by could swallow, but impossible to believe for intelligent people of the 21st century.

In order to get people to believe such myths, the authors of such works would attribute their works to such people as Thomas, Mary, Philip, and Nicodemus. In fact, we do have documents by those names

  • The Gospel of Thomas (2nd century)
  • The Gospel of Mary (2nd century)
  • The Gospel of Philip (3rd century)
  • The Gospel of Nicodemus (5th century)
  • There is even a Gospel of Judas

We are told that these books have just as much right to be in the New Testament as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But in fact, the so-called Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Philip, Nicodemus, and Judas have very little to do with the life and ministry of Jesus and were mostly unknown in theological discussions and writings. They never played an important role in the life or teaching of the church.

Some people dismiss the Gospels that we find in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as inventions of the church. They want us to believe that these books were not actually written by their namesakes. They want to believe that the early church invented these Gospels and then attached the names of important people to them. That is certainly the case in the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Philip, and Nicodemus. On that point, everyone is in agreement.

But if the early church were making up these stories, why would they ever attribute a Gospel to someone like Mark? Mark? Who was Mark? Mark was not one of the twelve apostles. He was not one of the seven chosen deacons of Acts 6. No, Mark was not the illustrious name that you would want to attribute a Gospel to. Besides the fact that such a theory makes no sens, it goes against history and the testimony of over 5,700 Greek manuscripts, some from as early as the first century.

No, the reason that this so-called second Gospel is attributed to Mark is simply because it was written by Mark.

 

1. So Who Was Mark?

Mark was also called John Mark, and he was a cousin of Barnabas. Barnabas and Paul were sent by the church at Antioch to take an offering to the brothers in Judea (Acts 11:29),

When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them (Act 12:25 NLT).

Later when Barnabas and Saul are sent by the church at Antioch on their first missionary journey, they take Mark with them, but the story does not end well. Luke describes that first missionary journey in 75 verses, but by the time he gets to the tenth verse of his narration, John Mark has abandoned Paul and Barnabas, returning to Jerusalem. John Mark turns out to be a missionary dropout. On his first missionary journey with the Apostle Paul, Mark went crying home to Mama. Paul was so disappointed with Mark, that he refused to let him go with him on his next missionary journey, so Barnabas took his cousin and they went to Cyprus.

The “Gospel according to Mark the Dropout” doesn’t sound like it will hit the bestseller list.

But of course, the story does not end there. Paul and Mark are eventually reconciled and Paul acknowledges that Mark “will be helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11. See also Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 24.)

1.1. Mark’s Source

But where did Mark get his information? How did he write this gospel?

Some people have a very mysterious idea about Scripture. They think that everything that we read in the Bible came be revelation. The Bible states that all Scripture is given by inspiration, not by revelation. God inspired and directed the writers of the Bible to write what they wrote, but when it comes to history, it was not simply revealed to them; they already knew what had happened. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses to what Jesus did. Luke tells us that he carefully researched everything that he wrote and consulted eyewitnesses, as he says in his introduction,

Luke 1:4 NET so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.

Matthew and John were eyewitnesses. Luke carefully researched and consulted eyewitnesses. So how did Mark know what to write?

Mark may have been a witness to Jesus. Perhaps he had seen Jesus with his own eyes. We know that he lived in Jerusalem. And some New Testament scholars think that he may be that young man who escaped being taken prisoner by the guards the night that Jesus was arrested. Mark alone records these lines that seem to have nothing else to do with the story:

Mark 14:51-52 ESV And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

That may be Mark’s signature. But one thing is certain. He has seen Jesus through the eyes of Peter. Yes, there is huge evidence in the New Testament itself and in the testimony of the early church that Mark travelled with Peter as his interpreter.

The first and last references to John Mark in the New Testament are quite interesting because in both references, Mark is associated with the Apostle Peter. In Acts 12, Peter had been imprisoned. King Herod intended to execute Peter but an angel opened the prison doors and Peter found his way to the house of Mary, the mother of — John Mark where the believers were praying for Peter’s release.

Acts 12:12 ESV When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

That means that John Mark was well known to the believers and to the Apostle Peter.

The final New Testament reference to Mark is in Peter’s letter from Rome:

1 Peter 5:13 NLT Your sister church here in Babylon [Rome] sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.

Peter calls Mark his son. Mark would be his spiritual son. This fits in perfectly with what early and reliable witnesses tell us about Mark. He served as Peter’s interpreter, and the Apostle Peter himself was the chief source of Mark’s Gospel.

It is also interesting to note that Simone Peter is the first and last disciple to be mentioned in the Gospel according to Mark. Simon Peter is the first disciple to be mentioned in the first chapter when Jesus says to him, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Peter is also the last disciple mentioned in this Gospel when the angels tell the women,

Mark 16:7 ESV But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

Mark’s Gospel is not about Peter; it’s about Jesus Christ, but it is through the eyes of Peter, that John Mark has seen him clearly.

1.2. Title: The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

So we come to the title: The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mark begins at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. Unlike John, Mark does not start in eternity past. John starts like this:

John 1:1-3 (ESV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not give us the genealogy of Christ, tracing his earthy parentage back through King David to Abraham or back to Adam like Matthew and Luke. Mark contains no birth narratives, no angelic appearances to Mary and Joseph, no trip to Bethlehem, no flight to Egypt, no return to Israel, no visits to the temple as a young boy.

No, Mark begins at the beginning of the earthly ministry of Christ. This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

1.2.1. Major Theme

Here we come to the major theme of each of the Gospels: the man called Jesus. Mark entitles his Gospel, “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The question is, Who is Jesus Christ? The question of “Who?” comes up again and again in this gospel.

For example, in chapter 4 of Mark, Jesus and the disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is sleeping in the bottom of the boat when the disciples find themselves in a terrible storm in the middle of the Sea. Water begins to fill the boat and the disciples fear for their very lives. They wake up Jesus.

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mar 4:38 ESV)

Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves, and suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:41 NLT The disciples were absolutely terrified. [They are apparently more terrified by Jesus than they had been of the storm.] “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

That is the question: Who is this man?

On another occasion, four men bring a paralytic to Jesus. There is such a crowd in the house that they cannot get close to Jesus, but they have an idea. They go up to the rooftop — roofs were very accessible. They remove part of the roof and lower the man down, right in front of Jesus!

Mark 2:5-7 ESV And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

To show that this is not empty talk and that he did indeed have the authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the paralytic.

Mark 2:12 NLT And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

The scribes had asked, “Who can forbid sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

Later, at an important turning point in this Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples,

Mark 8:27 NLT …”Who do people say I am?”

After hearing their answer, he asks them a second question,

Mark 8:29 NLT …”But who do you say I am?” …

That is also a question that you will have to answer. What do you think of Jesus Christ? Who is he? Who is this man?

The demons know who he is. As Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum,

Mark 1:23-25 NLT Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are– the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered.

A few verses later we read,

Mark 1:34 NLT So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

Over and over again, Mark wants us to see who Jesus is, but already in the title he tells us exactly what he wants us to know:

Mark 1:1 ESV The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark tells us that this is all about Jesus. Immediately he tells us two things about Jesus:

  1. Jesus is the Christ. The word Christ is a title. It comes from the Greek word χριστὸς (christos) and is a translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah which mean anointed. Three classes of people were anointed: priests, prophets, and kings. The anointing meant that they were especially qualified serve by the help — the anointing — of the Holy Spirit. Through the centuries, God had promised to send His Anointed One. Now the time had come. Jesus is that Christ. So Mark gives the title of his book: “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
  2. But Jesus is more than anointed with the Holy Spirit. The full title of Mark’s book is, “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus is not only the Anointed One, the one that God had promised through the ages. This Anointed One, born of the virgin Mary, is also the Son of God. Mark tells us in the title what he will show in this Gospel. Jesus demonstrates time and again that he is the Son of God. This speaks of his divine nature. He is not another god. He is, as the New Testament says elsewhere, God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Here you have, then in the title of this Gospel, the message that Mark wants to communicate: This is the Good News that the promised Christ has come, and he is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

1.2.2. John the Baptist, Forerunner of Christ

In the next verses, we read about John the Baptist. It may be surprising that John is suddenly introduced since this gospel is all about Jesus Christ. What does John have to do with it?

John the Baptist has a unique role in the Gospel story. His role is so important that even his coming was prophesied in the Old Testament and is highlighted in each of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. John the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was sent before Christ to announce his coming. He points not to himself, but to Jesus Christ. Jesus does not suddenly appear on the scene announcing a new message. He is announced ahead of time.

The Old Testament had announced in many ways and with great precision the coming of the Christ so that when he came, we would have proof that he was the one who was promised because he would have the proper credentials. Hundreds of years before his birth, the details of his parentage, his birth, his mission, his life, his death, and his resurrection were announced by the prophets.

But it was also announced that he would have a forerunner, someone who would go before him and prepare the way. Isaiah and Malachi declare that a forerunner would prepare the way for the Messiah. The way we read it in Malachi, God Himself will come but His messenger will come first to prepare the way.

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

Isaiah tells us that the one who comes to prepare the way, John the Baptist, prepares the way of the LORD who is Yahweh.

Isaiah 40:3 ESV A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Mark thus begins his Gospel, rooting it in its Old Testament foundation:

Mark 1:2-3 ESV As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

Jesus is not simply some new prophet that has suddenly appeared; he has a forerunner. The ministry of both Jesus and his forerunner had been prophesied hundreds of years before their coming.

There is nothing like this in any other religion. No other so-called prophet had a forerunner. Mohamed did not. The Bahá’u’lláh did not. Joseph Smith did not. These men claimed to be prophets of God, undoing what had been done, reversing it, overturning it, modifying it, changing it with their own teaching. But none of them were announced and none of them had a forerunner.

By great contrast, Jesus did not come to reverse, overturn, modify or annul what had been revealed; he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. And he alone had a forerunner announcing that he, Jesus, was the one.

New Testament scholar Jakob van Bruggen wrote,

“There are three great religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three recognize the great value of Moses. But Judaism criticizes Christianity for threatening monotheism by confessing Jesus as God’s Son, and Islam makes the same criticism. While the Jews rally around Moses, Islam moves on to the great prophet Mohammed. The two religions [Judaism and Islam] differ over prophets. But between the two of them and Christianity stands the acknowledgment of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, as “more than a prophet,” as true God. Immanuel. [“God with us.”]

“By what right does Jesus elevate himself above Moses and Mohammed? Dare a human being make himself equal to God? Does Jesus not lack a prophet such as Yahweh has in Moses and Allah in Mohammed?

“The answer to this question is John the Baptist. Jesus is great (Luke 1:32) and John is his prophet (Luke 1:76)!”[1]

In fact, John the Baptist was the greatest prophet to be born of woman. Greater than Moses and greater than Mohammed. And John the Baptist is the prophet of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus quotes the same passage that Mark quotes and then says,

Luke 7:28 ESV I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John…”

And who did John announce? He announced Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

2. The Ministry of John the Baptist

2.1. The Ministry of John was a ministry of preparation.

John was called to prepare the Jewish people for the coming of their Messiah. One would have thought that as the people of God, they would have been ready. They were the descendants of Abraham. They had received the Law from Moses. They were the people of the covenant.

But the great shock is that we do not have a personal relationship with God through our heritage. We are not made right with God through what our parents did or through our church or through our nation.

John appears in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance. You will remember that the nation of Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness. They had crossed over the Jordan river on dry ground.

Now John is treating the nation of Israel as a pagan nation and telling them that they need to repent of their sins. Put not your trust in Abraham. Put not your trust in Moses. Put not your trust in the Law. They need to leave the wilderness, as it were, and cross over the Jordan river. They are to cross over not on dry ground, but by being baptized, by drowning their past sinful life. John’s ministry is a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). John is preparing the way for the Christ, the Messiah. The road they walk has to be straight. They must change their way of thinking. They must change their way of living.

Mark 1:3 ESV …’Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

2.2. The Message of John the Baptist

The ministry of John the Baptist was one of preparation. The message of John the Baptist was a message of proclamation. John proclaimed the coming of Jesus Christ. As we have seen, Jesus said of John,

Luke 7:28 NLT I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John…”

But the focus of John’s ministry was Jesus Christ. This greatest of all men pointed to one who was infinitely greater. His message was the superiority of Jesus Christ. John shows Christ’s superiority in three ways:

 

2.2.1. Christ Is Superior in Rank

This is what John said of Jesus:

Mark 1:7 NLT John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am– so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals.

Here the greatest man who ever lived, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, said that Jesus Christ is so greater that John is not even worthy to be the slave of Christ. Untying the straps of Jesus’ sandals would be too great of an honor of the greatest of all men. That is how incomparably greater Jesus Christ is to the greatest man who ever lived.

2.2.2. Christ Is Superior in Ministry

John makes a strong contrast between his ministry and Christ’s ministry:

Mark 1:8 NLT I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

There is a great difference between water and the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to even compare them. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He has all the attributes of a person.

Now, when we talk about the three persons of the Trinity, we are not talking about three people or three human beings. “God is not a man” (Numbers 23:19). But the Holy Spirit has all the qualities of personhood including thought, will, and emotion. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit has all these characteristics and is distinct from both the Father and from the Son.

John says that his ministry is one of preparation. Jesus’ ministry is the fulfillment. John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Jesus himself makes the same comparison after his resurrection and shortly before he ascended into heaven:

Acts 1:4-5 NLT …he commanded them [his disciples], “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. 5 John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is for empowering. It is the baptism in the Holy Spirit that gives us the power of God himself to live for him and to serve him. Three verses later, Jesus told the disciples that this baptism in the Holy Spirit would give them the power they needed to be his witnesses.

Acts 1:8 NLT But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth.

2.2.3. Christ Is Superior in Relationship to God

So first, John tells us that Christ is infinitely superior in rank. John, the greatest man to be born of woman, is not even worthy to untie the straps of Jesus’ sandals.

Second, John tells us that Christ is superior in ministry. While John baptizes people only in water, Jesus baptizes people into the Spirit of God Himself.

Finally, Christ is superior to John in relationship to God.

Mark 1:9-11 ESV In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We might wonder why Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus identified with us. He took upon himself our sins. We read in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians,

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.

Another version says it like this,

2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Jesus identified with us in his baptism. He took our sins upon himself. He showed us the way of confession and repentance.

But then, an amazing thing happened. When Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Holy Spirit come down on him like a dove. Jesus, as the Word made flesh, as the God-man, was anointed by the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts

Acts 10:38 ESV how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

There was the baptism as Christ fulfilled all righteousness.

Then there was the anointing as the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, showing that he was the Anointed One, for that is what the word Christ means.

Then there was the voice.

Mark 1:11 ESV And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

John the Baptist was a prophet, but he was not the Son of God. It is in the voice of God, declaring that Jesus was the Son of God, that we find confirmation that Mark had justly titled his book, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

As the Son, Jesus is of the same nature as God. As the Son, He is infinitely superior in relation to God. “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Father loves the Son and the Son does always that which is pleasing in the Father’s sight.

The Son came that we might be forgiven, that we might have eternal life now and for eternity. The Son came to show us the way: we must follow Him. We must confess our sins and turn from them. The Son came to do more than show the way; He is the way. It is through faith in Him alone and His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead that you and I can be restored to a right relationship with God.

Mark says that this book is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is the Good News. It is the Best News. You can be forgiven and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[1] Jakob van Bruggen, Jesus the Son of God, p. 71-72.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

John 10:30-42, “Jesus, the Most Controversial Person in History”

P52_recto

Download recording

I would like to talk to you about the most controversial person in the history of the world. Who is he? Who does he say he is? I think you know who that is. What did he say about himself? What did people say about him then? And what do people say about him today? More importantly, what do you say about him?

Let’s begin with our text:

John 10:30-42 ESV I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

1. The Most Controversial Person in History

Jesus is clearly the most controversial person in history. Both history and mankind are divided over Jesus Christ. Typically, we date historical events based on whether they occurred BC “before Christ” or A.D. “anno domini” (“in the year of our Lord”) or “after Christ”.

But Christ divides not only history. He also divides men. And he said that he would do so.

Matthew 10:34-37 NLT “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

This is exactly what frequently happens when someone becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ. His own family members oppose him. Right now in Iraq and Syria, Christians are being crucified and beheaded by Muslims who consider them to be infidels. Jesus demanded absolute allegiance and loyalty to himself. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. You cannot say that he was simply a good man or a good teacher. That will never do. He did not leave us with that option. He claims to be God. You either worship and serve him, or you deny him.

Here in John 10, he makes three inflammatory statements… statements that provoke the Jews to take up stones to stone him to death because what Jesus said was blasphemy. Unless, of course… unless he was telling the truth.

What does he say?

  • John 10:30 ESV “…I and the Father are one.”
  • John 10:36 ESV ‘I am the Son of God’
  • John 10:38 ESV “…the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

When Jesus asked why they were going to stone him, the Jews responded,

John 10:33 ESV “…because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

This controversy over the identity was not limited to the Gospels and the earthly life of Christ. Sometimes we think that the gospel of Jesus Christ was first preached in a vacuum, in a world where there were no competing religions or beliefs. Sometime we have the idea that people were simply waiting for Christians to come with the gospel. But that was not the case.

The gospel was preached in the context of much opposition. There were many different religious beliefs. People believe in many gods and lords. There were so-called mystery religions. There were Roman and Greek divinities, some of them mentioned in the pages of the New Testament such as Artemis, Zeus, and Hermes. The city of Athens was filled with idols, even an altar to “the unknown god” (Acts 17:16, 23). Acts 19 tells us that the new believers in Christ Jesus had practiced magic arts before coming to Christ, and that they brought their books to be burned in the sight of everyone. Those books were worth about 600 million vatu ($6,000,000 USD).

Not only were there many different religions in the world. Some people tried to change the message of the gospel to make it conform to their ideas of what was better. Time and again we read warnings in the New Testament about people who would deny the truth about Christ.

  • The Apostle Paul warns us about people who would say “twisted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30).
  • The Apostle Peter warns us about false teachers who “cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1, NLT). He further warns us about those who are ignorant and unstable and who twist the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
  • The Apostle John warns us about many deceivers in the world who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (2 John 7). He tells us that “everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God” (2 John 9).
  • Jesus himself warns us many times in the Gospels about false teachers and false prophets.

Our problem is that we do not take these warnings seriously. We somehow think that all the false teachers live in other parts of the world, that here in Vanuatu we are immune to them. The truth is, they are all around us. They preach another Jesus, a Jesus who is not the same Jesus that we find in the pages of the Bible. They preach a different gospel, a gospel different from the gospel that we find in the Bible. They may be on television. They may be walking the streets of our villages. The Scriptures warn us to be careful, to be vigilant, and to study the Word of God so that we are not deceived.

Thankfully, there are true churches here where the Word of God is preached and taught and lived by. These are churches that have only one authoritative book: the Bible, the Word of God. There are many good translations that are used by many different churches and denominations. Some faithful versions are

  • King James Version
  • New King James Version
  • English Standard Version
  • New International Version

In French there are also faithful versions:

  • La Colombe,
  • La Nouvelle édition de Genève
  • La version de Darby

The Bislama Bible is also a good paraphrase of the Bible.

But there are other false churches that promote and hand out false Bibles that are not faithful to the biblical text. Some churches add other books to the Bible and claim that they are just as inspired as the Bible or more inspired than the Bible.

If you belong to one of these false churches, I would encourage you to get a true Bible and study it for yourself. Prayerfully consider what Jesus says about himself.

So you see, to this day, people are divided over Jesus Christ. The question is crucially important. As the Apostle John says,

2 John 1:9 ESV Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Jesus is still today the most controversial person in the history of the world. Who is this Jesus?

1.1. Jesus’ Oneness with the Father

We see the controversy in John 10 when Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” What does this mean? Is Jesus simply saying that he is united with God in a mission? Does this mean that Jesus and the Father are the same person? What does this “oneness” mean?

The French language has two genders: masculine and feminine. For example, a tree is masculine: un arbre. But a door is feminine: une porte. But in the Greek, there are three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. When Jesus said that he and the Father are one, he could have use the masculine form (heis), but that would have meant that he and the Father were one person. He did not use that form; he used the neuter form of the word “one” (hen) to show that the Father and the Son are two persons.

If the Father and the Son were one person, there would be no distinction between them. John could not say as he did in 1:1b and 1:2, “the Word was with God.” John could not refer to Jesus praying to his Father, or being sent by the Father, or obeying the Father, or returning to the Father. He could not say as he does in his First Epistle, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). He could not say as he does in 2 John 9, “Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

When Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” he is not saying that there is no difference between the Father and the Son.

This saying, “I and the Father are one,” does not stand by itself. Jesus makes this declaration in a book that openly declares that the Word was God (1:1), and that the Word is the only true God who is at the Father’s right hand (1:18). That is very strong language pointing to the deity of Jesus Christ. It is in this book that the climactic confession is “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). Jesus himself takes the sacred name of God on his own lips and states that he himself exists before Abraham.

The context is all-important for understanding what Jesus meant. The Jews had asked him to tell them plainly if he was the Christ. Jesus responds that he has both told them and shown them through the works that he does in his Father’s name, but they do not believe because they are not his sheep. His sheep hear his voice. He knows his sheep. They follow him. And he gives them eternal life.

Jesus is not merely some great prophet; he gives eternal life to his sheep. No one but God can give eternal life. But Jesus explains further by comparing what he does with what the Father does:

  • “…No one will snatch them out of my hand…” (v. 28).
  • …No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (v. 29).

In 5:19, we saw that whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. In the previous verse (5:18), we are told why the Son does whatever he sees the Father doing: Jesus is equal with God.

Now, Jesus protects his sheep just like the Father protects his sheep: “No one will snatch them out of my hand. No one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

1.2. Worthy to be Stoned

The immediate context tells us that the Jews knew exactly what Jesus meant:

John 10:31 ESV The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.

“Again.” This was not the first time. The Jewish authorities had wanted to kill him in chapter 5. Jesus had called God his own Father: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17). In other words, “I have the right and the power to do whatever God my Father does.” Then John explains, “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” (5:18).

Once again, they want to stone him for making himself equal with God, this time by saying, “I and the Father are one.”

To claim to be equal with God is blasphemous. Unless, of course, it is God who is saying that He is God!

John 10:32 ESV Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

Jesus is asking them to consider his life and his works. He had already challenged them, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (8:46). Now he challenges them, “I have shown you many good works that could only come from the Father. I changed the water into wine (2:9). I healed the nobleman’s son (4:51). I healed the man who had been lame for 38 years (5:5). I fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish (6:10-12). I healed the man who have been born blind (9:7). For which of these works that only God could do are you going to stone me?”

1.3. First Degree Irony

John 10:33 ESV The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

Notice those words “you, being a man, make yourself God.” This is delicious irony. The Jews do not fully understand what they are saying. On one level it is absolutely true. They understand that Jesus is talking like God: “I and the Father are one.”

In John 8:53, they had asked, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Now they answer their own question: “You, being a man, make yourself God!”

Yes, in declaring that he was one with the Father, Jesus was once again claiming equality with God. But the reader of John’s Gospel knows that the full truth is the very opposite of what the Jews were saying: Jesus was not merely a man who was making himself God; Jesus was God who made himself man! That is precisely what we read in the first verses of this Gospel:

John 1:1 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 ESV 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.

More than 40 times in this Gospel, Jesus says that the Father sent him into the world. He is not merely a man who makes himself God; Jesus is God who made himself man that we might be believe on him and have eternal life.

2. You are gods!

Now we come to some verses that are greatly twisted by cultists and other false teachers:

John 10:34-36 ESV Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came– and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

There is a so-called church here in Vanuatu that says that we can become gods. It teaches that God became God by evolution. He was first just an ordinary man like you and me, but by obeying certain teachings, he evolved and became a god. They have a saying from one of their false prophets: “As we are, God once was. As God is, we can become.” According to the teaching of this church, you can become a god, have your own planet, and have your own worshippers. So this false church does not believe in only one true God. It believes in many gods. It is not monotheistic; it is polytheistic. It teaches that there are many gods and that you can become a god, too. That seems incredible, but it is not too surprising that some people are attracted to the idea. After all, that was the first lie of Satan, “God knows that when you eat of the fruit of this forbidden tree, you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

So here is a passage that is twisted to teach that there are many gods.

Jesus is quoting from Psalm 82:6,

Psalm 82:6 ESV I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

The very next verse says,

Psalm 82:7 ESV nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

The psalm is addressed to humans, to human judges who have judged unjustly:

Psalm 82:1-8 ESV A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

These men are unjust judges, ruling over others as if they have absolute right, as if they are gods. God himself mocks these so-called gods and reminds them, “Nevertheless, you will die like men, and fall like any prince” (v. 7).

God had said to Moses,

Exodus 7:1 ESV And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.

Yet, Moses was still a man, not a god. One pastor said,

Don’t fail to notice Jesus’ purpose for choosing that verse. It would have been a very familiar one to the Scribes and Pharisees. They would have understood that that verse was a condemnation of wicked rulers, and Jesus is simply echoing the irony of the original Psalm.

Walter Martin wrote an excellent comment on this, he said, “Jesus mocks the people as if to say, ‘You all think you’re gods yourselves. What’s one more god among you?'” Oh, the irony. You’re going to stone me for claiming to be God, you’re all claiming the same thing, what’s one more god? The sarcasm. (MacArthur)

2.1. The “Little Gods” Doctrine

Unfortunately, much of this “little gods” teaching has hit the church. Earl Paulk writes, “Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods.” I have heard that very teaching from a visiting false prophet who spoke in one of our churches. I also heard Kenneth Copeland say, “You don’t have a god in you. You are one!” Kenneth Hagin is gravely mistaken in asserting that the Christian “is as much an incarnation [of God] as is Jesus of Nazareth.” And Kenneth Copeland is in grave error when he insists, “Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God.”

This false teaching is now available to us on our televisions. Do not be deceived. The Scriptures are clear:

ESV Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

ESV Deuteronomy 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

ESV Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

ESV Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

ESV Isaiah 43:11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.

ESV Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

ESV Isaiah 44:7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

ESV Isaiah 44:8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

ESV Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,

ESV Isaiah 45:6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 45:21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

ESV Isaiah 45:22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

ESV Isaiah 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

There is no god like the “one true God” (John 17:3). And yet, Jesus claims to be one with the Father. He explains in verse 36:

John 10:36 ESV do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

Jesus is saying, if God can mock human judges and call them gods, then how can you say that I am blaspheming when I say that I am the Son of God since the Father consecrated me and sent me into world?

2.2. Jesus the Creator

Let’s consider one more passage from Isaiah and see how it relates to what the New Testament says about Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 44:24 ESV Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

In this verse, the LORD — Yahweh — says that he created the entire universe all by himself, “I am the LORD. I made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. I spread out the earth by myself.” Twice in that verse he says that he did it alone, by himself.

Yet, when we come to the New Testament, we read that God created everything through Christ:

ESV John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

ESV Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

God says this to His Son in Hebrews 1:10,

ESV Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;

ESV Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him.

So in Isaiah, God says that he created the universe alone, all by himself. But in the New Testament, he says that he did it through Christ. What does that mean? That means that Jesus Christ is God. Yahweh is the name of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. The Works that Jesus Does, Prove that He is God

Jesus does the works of God, like creating the universe, giving eternal life, raising the dead. He challenges the Pharisees:

John 10:37-38 ESV If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus once again claimed equality with God: “believe the works that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” But they would not believe, though many others would. Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

This chapter concludes with Jesus removed from Jerusalem across the Jordan where John the Baptist had been baptizing. ***Many came to him. Many believed John’s testimony. Many believed in Christ there.

Your Decision

What will you do with Christ? The Pharisees said that Jesus blasphemed by making himself God. What do you believe? Do you believe they were mistaken? Do you believe that they had misunderstood Jesus? Do you then agree with the Pharisees that Jesus is not God?

“These things were written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in his name” (20:31).

John 10:41-42 ESV And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

Put your trust in Christ. He is God in the flesh. He is your only hope.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 10:22-30, “Missing the Obvious: Jesus is the Christ”

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-centur...

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai. NB – slightly cut down – for full size see here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a story about the detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Mr. Watson. Watson is highly intelligent, but he always misses the obvious.

So Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. “Watson” he says, “look up in the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions of stars, Holmes,” says Watson.
“And what do you conclude from that, Watson?”

Watson thinks for a moment. “Well,” he says, “astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?

“Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!”

Sometimes we miss the obvious! What does that have to do with the gospel

1. MISSING THE OBVIOUS: JESUS IS THE CHRIST

In John 10, the people had somehow missed the obvious. In John 10:24-25, we read,

John 10:24-25 NLT The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”‘ Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.

How is it that people can miss the obvious? On every page of this Gospel, John is telling us who Jesus is. In the Prologue, the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus is God in the flesh:

John 1:13 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word

was God.’ He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:14 ESV 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 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

In the first chapter alone, Jesus is introduced as

  • God (1:1, 18)
  • Lamb of God (1:29)
  • Son of God (1:34)
  • Messiah (1:41)
  • King of Israel (1:49)
  • Son of Man (1:51)

In chapter 2, he performed his first sign pointing to his deity by changing the water into wine.

In chapter 3, we read that he is the unique Son of God that the Father sent into the world that the world through him could be saved from the wrath of God (3:16-17, 36).

In chapter 4, he is the living water, and the Savior of the world (4:42).

In chapter 5, Jesus heals a man who has been lame for 38 years. Jesus claims the prerogatives of God, the right to do the works of God on the Sabbath, the right to be honored as God. In fact, John tells us that when Jesus called God “my Father”, he was making himself equal with God (5:18). Jesus does this 21 times in John’s gospel (5:17; 6:32, 40; 8:19, 38, 49, 54; 10:18, 29, 37; 14:7, 20-21, 23; 15:1, 8, 15, 23-24; 20:17) besides 77 more times when he refers to “the Father.”

In chapter 6, Jesus multiplies five loaves of bread and two fish and fed 5,000 men plus women and children. He then claims to be the true source of life, the bread of life.

In chapter 7, Jesus promises to give the Spirit of God to those who were thirsty (7:37-39).

In chapter 8, he invokes the name of God and claims to have existed before Abraham (8:58).

In chapter 9, Jesus claims to be the light of the world and opened the eyes of a man born blind. He says that the Pharisees were blind because they refused to follow the example of the blind man who worshipped him.

Now in chapter 10, Jesus claims that he is the door to salvation; no one enters except by him (10:9). He also says that he is the Good Shepherd. He has the authority not only to die, but also to take up his life again. My father died earlier this year. He had no control over the time of his death, and he certainly was not able to take up his life again. Jesus did what no mortal man could do.

On every page, John is showing us who Jesus is. He will tell us in 20:30-31 that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that were not written in this book, but these were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life through his name.

It is rather obvious, isn’t it, that Jesus is the Christ? So we are surprised that the Jews would say to Jesus,

John 10:24-25 ESV “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.

  1.1.  The Meaning of Christ

The word “Christ” is the same as the word “Messiah.” “Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah” which is in Hebrew. Both words mean “Anointed.” There were three classes of people who were anointed with a special oil: prophets, priests, and kings. This anointing would symbolize the blessing of the Holy Spirit on these three classes of leaders.

But God had also promised a very special Anointed One who would embrace all three categories. He would be The Anointed One par excellence. The Spirit of God would be upon him as the Prophet who would speak for God (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15). He would also anointed as The Great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrew 7:24­28). He would also be anointed as the King of Israel (in. 1:49; 6:15; 12:13, 15; 18:33, 37, 39; 19:3, 12, 14-15, 19, 21) and will return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16).

The Jews ask Jesus to tell them plainly if he is that very special Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.

Now it is interesting that in John’s Gospel, Jesus does not go around telling people that he is the Christ. He makes more claims to being God than to telling the Jews that he is the Christ. This is the big question that the Jews are continually asking: Is he or is he not the Christ?

John tells us that Jesus is the Christ both in his introduction (1:17) and in his statement of purpose (20:30-31). The disciples of Jesus believe that he is the Christ. Andrew told Peter that they had found the Christ (1:41).

John 11:27 ESV She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that he was the Christ (4:25-26), and in his prayer to his Father in 17:3, Jesus refers to himself as “Jesus Christ.” But in John’s Gospel, Jesus never tells the Jews that he is the Christ.

John 10:24 ESV So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

  1.2.  Adjusting Their Theology

It should have been obvious to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, but why didn’t Jesus simply answer their question? Why didn’t he just say, “Of course I am!”?

As a matter of fact, he did affirm to his disciples that he was the Christ. On one occasion, Jesus asked who people thought he was. A lot of different ideas were thrown around, but the more important question had to do with the disciples. They were to carry on his work. Who did they think he was?

“You are the Christ,” Peter said, “the Son of the living God.”

Jesus tells Peter that he was spot on: “You are blessed, Simon Bar-Jonah, because this did not come from human reasoning. My Father in heaven revealed this to you” (Matthew 16:16-17).

So why didn’t Jesus simply tell the Jews that he was the Christ? Because the Jews were confused about what the Christ was going to do. Even Peter was confused. As soon as Jesus began to tell Peter and the disciples that as the Christ he would suffer and die, Peter said that that would never happen. Just like Muslims today deny that Jesus died. Peter said that it would never happen because he was confused about what Jesus the Christ had come to do.

The Jews were confused because Jesus was not lining up with their expectations. The problem was not Jesus; the problem was they thought that the Christ was going to overthrow the Roman government. That is not why Jesus came.

1.3.     Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication

John gives us a clue in verse 22. The New Living Translation tells us,

John 10:22 NLT It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication, is never mentioned in the Old Testament. Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was written about 400 years before Christ. At that time, the Jews were under the rule of the mighty Persian Empire. But then a young Greek named Alexander decided to conquer the world. Alexander the Great extended the Greek Empire all the way to the Indus valley by about 330 B.C. When he died, his empire was divided among four generals and the land of Israel eventually came under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria.

Antiochus set out to make Greek or Hellenistic culture the unifying bond of his empire. He imposed heathen religion on the Jews. He forbade them to circumcise their children, to observe the Sabbath, and many other Jewish practices. He set up a heathen altar in the Jewish temple that had been rebuilt. A lot of Jews went along with Antiochus. They wanted to be cool. Others followed Antiochus out of fear. It was a terrible time in the history of Israel.

But there were some courageous Jews who would not bend their knee to Antiochus. This led to the Maccabean revolt. Jewish warriors liberated Jerusalem and the heathen altar was removed. The temple was rededicated and the Jews celebrated the event every year at the Festival of the Dedication.

Here Jesus was speaking to the Jews during the Festival of Dedication. The Jews were now under the Romans. They wanted to be delivered. They expected the Christ to be like the Maccabees. They expected the Christ to overthrow the Romans. Jesus did mighty things that no ordinary man could do. But it did not appear that overthrowing the Romans was on his agenda.

John 10:24 ESV So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

1.4.  What Kind of a Messiah Is This?

Jesus had spoken in verse 16 about followers from outside the fold of Judaism. He had also said that some of his Jewish hearers might die in their sins (8:21, 24).

Does this mean that being the Christ means putting no different between Jew and Gentile when we stand before God? That some Gentiles must be brought into the fold? That some Jews will die in their sins, and therefore be excluded? What sort of Messiah is this? Most Jews of the day did not think that the Messiah would treat the Gentiles with favor and judge the Jews in this way. They usually saw the Messiah as a Jewish deliverer of some sort.[1]

People turn away from Christ today because he isn’t what they are looking for, or because they were expecting something else. They have their own agenda and Jesus doesn’t seem to be following their agenda. They want to be rich. They want easy success. That’s the kind of Christ they want: one that will promise them wealth and success. And there are a lot of preachers who preach that kind of a message. But Jesus never said, “If anyone will come after me, I will make him healthy and wealthy.” He said,

Luke 9:23 ESV “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

  1.5.  Show and Tell

Sometimes schoolteachers have a “show and tell” day. Children come and show something from home — for example, a toy, a game, a pet — and the tell the class about it.

Jesus tells the Jews that he has both told them and shown them:

John 10:25 NLT Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name.

All the teaching that Jesus had done about himself, who he is, and his mission—they should have understood. They had recognized when Jesus called God his own Father, that he was making himself equal with God (5:18). When he said, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (8:58), they picked up stones to stone him. “They had heard enough and understood enough to have an answer to their question if they really and sincerely wanted one.”[2]

He had told them.

He had also shown them:

“The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (10:25).

He had done works that no mere man could have done.

2. THEN WHY DID THEY NOT BELIEVE?

  2.1.  They Were Not Listening

They did not believe because they were not listening:

John 10:25-27 NLT Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 ***But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

The shepherd speaks. The sheep listen. But the Jews were still asking questions because they were not listening:

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

It is too easy to pretend that we are listening when we are simply trying to think of a reason not to believe. You can hear and not listen.

Jesus emphasizes the word “you”: “But you don’t believe me…” (v. 26). They had not believed though many had. The Gospel of John records many examples of people who had come to faith in Christ. For example:

  • His disciples believed on him (2:11).
  • The Samaritans believed on him (4:42).
  • The official at Capernaum believed when Jesus told him that his son would live (4:50).
  • The blind man saw Jesus and believed and worshipped him (9:38).

2.2.    They Were Not His Sheep

John 10:26 ESV but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

The sheep who belong to a particular shepherd hear his voice and respond to it, but those who belong to another shepherd do not. These Jews were showing quite plainly by their attitude and their questions that they do not belong to the flock of which Jesus was the Good Shepherd, the Messiah. Of course they could not recognize him as their Messiah when they followed all sorts of other shepherds.[3]

Jesus gives the characteristics of his sheep:

  • My sheep hear my voice.
  • They follow me.

This is the habitual trait of true sheep. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. They follow the Good Shepherd. This is not a one-time decision. This is not repeating the so-called sinner’s prayer. This is daily following the voice of the Good Shepherd, walking in his paths, following where he leads.

Leon Morris comments on the sheep hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd:

…those who are Christ’s hear his voice in all the circumstances of life.., those who are not his do not. For them life is simply a succession of haphazard happenings with no meaning and no pattern. For Christ’s sheep there is always the thought of the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for them and who constantly leads them into the places where they should go. His voice gives meaning to all of life.[4]

Not only do sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. They follow.

When that shepherd calls his sheep there are results. The sheep know his call and follow the shepherd when they hear it. This has it equivalent with people who hear Jesus’ call. If they really are his sheep, they will certainly respond and will follow him as the disciples had done.[5]

 3. THE WORK OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

While the sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him, the Good Shepherd shows himself to be the Good Shepherd:

  1. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep (v. 27). Jesus is going to talk about the security the sheep. So rather than putting the emphasis on the sheep knowing their shepherd, Jesus stresses the fact that He knows His sheep.
  2. The Good Shepherd gives his sheep eternal life:

John 10:28 ESV I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Jesus is not only talking about a life that never ends; he is talking about a quality of life as he said in verse 10:

John 10:10 ESV I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Yet, this abundant life is a life that has no end: “they will never perish.”

The German scholar A. Oepke says that this verb means “definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of the extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death in the depiction of which such terms as wrath, anger, affliction and distress are used.” We should be clear that perishing is a terrible fate and to be delivered from it is a priceless gift.[6]

On this verse, Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (the Little Kittel) says, “In view is not just physical destruction but a hopeless destiny of eternal death.”[7]

  1. The Good Shepherd has a firm hold: “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV).

The word snatch refers to a violent action. But Jesus says that no matter how strong the force is against us, no outside force can remove us from the hand of the Good Shepherd. We are safe in the hands of Jesus.

Yet, we need to take all this passage together. The verbs indicate continuous action. The sheep continue to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. The sheep continue to follow the Good Shepherd. John has already told us that Jesus did not trust himself to everyone who believed in his name (John 2:23-25). The Good Shepherd is looking for faithful sheep.

 4.  THE UNITY OF THE FATHER AND THE SON

Jesus has made two parallel statements:

John 10:28 ESV …no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 10:29 ESV …no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Who is holding us, the Father or the Son? Both. No one will snatch us out of the Good Shepherd’s hand. And no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand. The second statement puts the emphasis on the power of the Almighty Father. No one is strong enough to snatch us out of his hand. We are safe in the hands of the Lord.

Now Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” It is not surprising that the Good Shepherd would say that he is one with the Father. After all, in Psalm 23, David said, “The LORD is my shepherd.” Now Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd. He is the LORD.

Yet, the oneness refers to a deep basic unity, but he is not saying that he and the Father are identical. After all, the Father sent him into the world, and Jesus says that he will return to the Father. There are innumerable transactions between the Father and the Son which indicate that they are not the same person. C. K. Barrett says, “…the oneness of the Father and Son is a oneness of love and obedience even while it is a oneness of essence.”[8]

Again, Jesus is claiming to be one with the Father. He will tell Thomas, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (John 14:7). He will tell Philip in 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Conclusion

Everything points to the same conclusion. It should have been apparent to Watson as he stared at the starry sky, that someone had stolen their tent. It should be obvious from the words and the works of Jesus, that he is God manifested in the flesh.

Have you put your trust in the Good Shepherd? Are you following Jesus? Do you hear his voice? Are you obeying him? Only he can save you from eternal destruction. Only Christ can give you eternal life.

[1] Leon Morris, Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John, p. 387.

[2] Ibid., p. 388.

[3] Ibid., p. 388.

[4] Ibid., p. 388-389.

[5] Ibid., p. 389.

[6] Ibid., p. 389.

[7] Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (“Little Kittel”), “ἀπόλλυμι

[8] Morris, Ibid., p. 391.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 10:07-21, “The Good Shepherd, Part 2”

English: Jesus, the Good Shepherd window at St...

English: Jesus, the Good Shepherd window at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Attributed to the Quaker City Glass Company of Philadelphia, 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

INTRODUCTION: Who is your hero?

It seems that everyone is looking for hero. Verhaps it is the need for a role model, to follow someone’s example as a leader. Perhaps it is something deeper. Perhaps it is our need to see glory, our need to worship.

And yet, heroes let us down. Sooner or later, we discover kinks in their armor, flaws in their character. We find out that they are less than perfect, not as selfless as they first appeared.

Actually, we use the word “hero” today rather loosely. We have sports heroes and

superheroes, but few of them have ever saved anyone, and fewer still would put their lives at risk for someone else. And very few indeed would voluntarily lay down their lives for another.

And yet, in the Gospel of John, chapter 10, we find Jesus telling us that that is exactly what he would do. He would voluntarily lay down his life: “I am the good shepherd.” he says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Is Jesus a hero? No. He is far more than a hero. He is the God who can lay down his life and who can take it up again. No one but God alone could become flesh in order to die and raise himself up from the dead.

Jesus does not lay down his life because we are worthy of his death or because we are so valuable. He does not lay down his life because we deserved it or somehow earned this infinite expression of love. We were not strong or good or godly or righteous. We were weak, ungodly, and sinful. Yet Christ died for us. This is how the Apostle Paul says it in Romans 5:6­8,

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. “No one takes it from me, “he says, “but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

LET’S LOOK AT THE CONTEXT

In John 9 and 10, Jesus has healed a man who was blind from birth. In the history of the world, nothing like this had ever taken place. Jesus saw the blind man and said that he would open the man’s blind eyes to show that he, Jesus, was the light of the world. He made mud with his spit, put it in the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man went. He washed. He came back seeing.

This caused quite a stir. Everyone wanted to know how this had happened. The man told people that Jesus had healed him, so they took him to the religious authorities to find out what all this meant.

Now the religious authorities were quite jealous of all the attention that Jesus was getting and they had already decided that if anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ, they would cast him out of the synagogue.

Never mind that, the healed man knew that he had been blind and that Jesus ha given him his sight. The religious authorities could not intimidate him into saying anything against Jesus, so they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, found him, and opened his spiritual eyes so that the man came to faith in Jesus and worshipped him (John 9:34-38).

False Shepherds and the Good Shepherd

Jesus has something to say to the Jewish authorities. They were the ones who were truly blind. They were blind because they would not see. These religious authorities were the leaders of Israel. They were false shepherds doing everything they could to protect their own position and reputation. They were abusive to the sheep and did everything they could to intimidate the people—the sheep—and turn them away from Jesus Christ.

Jesus takes them on, head-on. He denounces these false shepherds as thieves and robbers. They have no right to rule and repress the people. They are out only for themselves. Their care neither for the truth nor for the sheep. They use scare tactics to keep people from following Christ. They have cast out the blind man, but Jesus puts another twist on it: They think they cast the man out; Jesus called him out. Jesus says in effect:

“All who enter the sheepfold of Israel without proper messianic credentials are thieves and robbers. But I am the true shepherd. I have entered the sheepfold of Israel by the door. I have the qualifications. I fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah. I have the messianic credentials. You think you have cast the man out. No, I have called him out. The sheep hear my voice. I call them by name and I lead them out. The sheep follow me because they know my voice. They do not follow false shepherds. They flee from strangers. True sheep do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

1.      JESUS IS THE DOOR TO LIFE

Now that seems pretty clear, and perhaps my paraphrase made it even more clear than Jesus intended it to be because John tells us that the Pharisees did not understand what Jesus was saying to them. So Jesus changes the illustration.

John 10:7 ESV So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

What does he mean? What does it mean to be the door of the sheep? Well, the purpose of a door is to let people in. You enter a room by going through the doorway. Jesus says that he is the way in. In to what? He tells us in verse 9:

John 10:9 ESV I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

“If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” Jesus is clearly the door to salvation. Again, we read in verse 10,

John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So Jesus is the door to life.

Notice that Jesus does not say that he is a door. He says that he is the door. His words are emphatic: “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”

It is He and no other who enables men to enter salvation. There is a certain exclusiveness about “the door”. If there is one door then men must enter by it or stay outside. They cannot demand another door.1

Some people think that all religions are superficially different but fundamentally the same. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, who grew up in India, says that that’s not true. All religions are superficially the same but fundamentally different.

Truth by its nature is exclusive. As Andy Bannister says,

If it is true, as Christianity claims, that Jesus was crucified, died, and rose from the dead, then it is not true, as Islam claims, that Jesus never died in the first place and that somebody else was killed in his place. Both claims cannot be true. Truth is exclusive.2

Jesus claims to be the only door to salvation. He will declare in John 14:6,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

Some people think that it is arrogant to believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Rather, it is arrogant to think that we can dictate to God the conditions of our entry into eternal life. Who are we to say that there must be other ways to God than putting our total and exclusive trust in the one who died for us and rose from the dead?

“I am the door,” Jesus says. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”

Jesus says that he alone is the door to eternal life. He alone is the means by which we can be saved.

Saved from what? Saved from the consequences of our sin. Saved from perishing. Saved from condemnation. Saved from the wrath of God. This is exactly what we read in John 3:16 and following, that verse that so many of us know by heart:

John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The next verses show that Jesus came to save us from condemnation:

John 3:1718 ESV 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.’ 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.

The final verse of that same chapter 3 tells us,

John 3:36 ESV 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.

Jesus is the door to salvation. He is the door to eternal life.

   1.1.  Contrast with Thieves and Robbers

Jesus contrasts himself with those who claim to be the Messiah but are not. They are thieves arerobbers. Why does he characterize them as thieves? They are thieves because they did not enter through the door; they did not come to the positions of leadership by legitimate means. They are thieves because they take that which does not belong to them. Jesus here makes reference to

Messianic pretenders who promise the people freedom but who lead them into war, suffering and slavery. The freedom Jesus wins for his people… will be achieved not by sword and shield, but by a cross. If large crowds are taken up with the pretenders, the real sheep do not listen to them.3

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus comes “that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

There is only one means of receiving eternal life…, only one source of knowledge of God, only one fount of spiritual nourishment, only one basis of spiritual security—Jesus alone. The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviours—its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots—and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ‘only… to kill’) and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only… to destroy’). “Jesus is right. It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.”4

But there is another means they use to kill, steal, and destroy: the very words they use. The message of the false shepherds and false messiahs only leads to destruction. There are people who walk the streets of Port Vila and the paths to your village who are false teachers. They teach from books other than the Bible, the Word of God. They follow the teachings of prophets rather than the teaching of Christ and the apostles that he designated in the New Testament. Their promises are empty. They are waterless clouds and fruitless trees. These false shepherds lead people astray, but they have no effect on the true sheep for verse 8 tells us that “the sheep did not listen to them.”

   1.2.  Life Abundantly and the Prosperity Gospel

The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Now here is a verse that has been much abused. The abundant life! What is it?

The prosperity gospel preachers tell us what our itching ears want to hear. They tell us that Jesus came that we might become financially rich. Jesus does not want you to be poor, they tell us. He wants you to be wealthy. If you have faith, you can have anything you want. Jesus came to satisfy your greed! Just have faith. Give me your money, and God will replace it with more.

There is a gross injustice in this kind of preaching. First of all, it is not the gospel. The Bible never said that the gospel is the power of God to make us rich. In Romans 1, Paul tells us that the gospel concerns God’s Son and that “it is the power of God unto salvation.” Jesus did not come to make us rich. He came to make us righteous. He came to reconcile us to God.

Can we measure the abundant life that Jesus came to give us in terms of money? Jesus warns us about the desire for money:

Luke 12:15 NLT Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

The Scriptures are full of warnings about the deceitfulness of riches:

Mark 4:18-19 ESV And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Luke 18:24-25 ESV Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Luke 1:53 NLT He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.

Luke 6:24 NLT “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now.

1 Timothy 6 shows quite clearly that the abundant life is not about money. There Paul warns Timothy about those who think that being a Christian is a way to get rich:

1 Timothy 6:5-11 NLT These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. 6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.’ After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.’ So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.’ But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.’ For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

To reduce the gospel of our crucified and risen Lord to the false teaching that he came to make wealthy is as pernicious as any of the false cults that we find around Vanuatu today. It is a twisted, perverted gospel. lt is a different gospel that is not the gospel at all. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, but that has nothing to do with money. The abundant life is a treasure that cannot be measured in vatu, dollars, or yen.

Romans 14:17 NLT For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

It does not take a work of the Spirit of God to make people want more money. We are naturally greedy. Jesus does not appeal to our greed. He does not say, “If anyone will come after me, I will make him rich.” He says, “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to enable us to deny ourselves and embrace the cross.

Jesus himself leads the way in laying down his life for his sheep.

2. JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP

   2.1.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd

Jesus now changes the image. He is the door—the only door—by which we can enter into the abundant life, the eternal life, that God wants for us.

Now in verse 11, he makes another great “I AM” declaration.
John records seven great “I am” statements made by Jesus:

  1. John 6:35 ESV – “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
  2. John 8:12 ESV – “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  3. John 10:7 ESV – “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
  4. John 10:11 ESV – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
  5. John 11:25 ESV – “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”
  6. John 14:6 ESV – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  7. John 15:1 ESV – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”

So we come to the fourth great “I AM” declaration by Christ: “I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD” (John 10:11 ESV).

Jesus has contrasted himself with the false shepherds of Israel, the religious authorities who use scare tactics and intimidation to try to control people and maintain their power. They will do anything to hold on to their position of power and influence: they kill, steal, and destroy.

   2.2.  Hired Hands

Now he contrasts himself with the hired hand, those who lead not out of love or concern for the sheep. They lead simply for the money. Unlike the false shepherds who will do anything to protect their position, the hired hand will abandon his post at any sign of danger.

John 10:12-13 NLT A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.” The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

The hired hand has no investment in the sheep. They don’t belong to him. He is not a shepherd. He does not have a shepherd’s heart. So when the wolf comes, he flees and the flock is scattered. The hired hand does not have the courage to stand up to the wolf. Instead of fighting off the wolf and protecting the sheep, he lets the wolf attack the sheep and scatter them.

Jesus also speaks of wolves in Matthew 7.

Matthew 7:15 NLT “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

Here is the problem with wolves: they look like sheep. They are disguised as harmless sheep but they are vicious. How is it that they look like sheep? Well, they look like Christians. They are false prophets. They pretend to speak for God, but they say things that God never said.

They have strange new doctrines, new teachings, new revelations, new insights that no one else has ever seen. No one else has ever seen them because they are not in the Bible. These wolves are kind, and suave. They smile, and say lots of nice things to people. They look very spiritual. They look like Christians. The use Christian words and vocabulary and say lots of things about God and about Jesus. But what they say is false. They confuse the people and lead them astray.

The Apostle Paul saw the same problem in Ephesus. In addressing the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20, he said in

Acts 20:29-30 NLT I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock.’ Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.

So Paul tells the shepherds of Ephesus,

Acts 20:28 NIVO Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has

made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

True shepherds keep watch over themselves and over all the flock. When they see a false teacher drawing away believers with some false teaching, they drive them out. They protect the sheep. But the hired hand will not take the risk. He will not stand up to the wolves. He will not stop the false teachers. He does not have the courage to lead. He is not the shepherd. He will not risk himself for the sheep. He does not care for the sheep.

2.3. The Shepherd’s Relationship with the Sheep

The hired hand does not care for the sheep, but the true shepherd has a very different relationship with the sheep:

John 10:14 NIVO “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-­There is a mutual knowledge.

John 10:3 ESV The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

What a marvelous intimacy between the good shepherd and the sheep. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls us by name. We hear his voice. He leads us out. He knows us, and we know him. Can you grasp it? He knows my name. 

2.4. The Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep

The thief kills, steals, and destroys. The wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. The hired hand flees in the face of danger. But the good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Four times Jesus tells us that as the Good Shepherd, he will lay down his life for the sheep.

Dying for one’s sheep must have been a rare event in Palestine. The shepherd David killed both lions and bears in defending his sheep. It was never the intention of shepherds to die for their sheep. Whenever a shepherd died for his sheep, it was by accident.

The shepherd planned to live for his sheep, not die for them. “A” good shepherd does not characteristically die for the sheep. “The” Good Shepherd does.’

This is …

not some sentimental demonstration to prove his love… The sheep are in mortal danger. In their defense, the shepherd loses his life and in his death the sheep are saved. That is what makes Jesus the Good Shepherd. He carries a cross, not plastic explosives.’

…the death of the Palestinian shepherd meant disaster for his sheep. The death of the Good Shepherd means life for His sheep.’

The Good Shepherd must die so that the sheep may live. The Good Shepherd had to die that we might have life and have it abundantly.

3. JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO TAKES UP HIS LIFE AGAIN

John 10:16-18 ESV And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Who is this Jesus? Who is this Good Shepherd that can voluntarily lay down his life and voluntarily take it up again? “No one takes my life from me,” he said. “But I lay it down of my own accord.”

“I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” Who is this who has the power to die and raise himself up again? Who but God could lay down his life and take it up again? Who but God could save us from the wrath of God? Who but God could give us eternal life?

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. Have you heard his voice? Have you heard him calling your name? He calls you to himself. He alone is the Good Shepherd. He alone can save you from your sin. He alone can give you life in abundance.

1 Leon Morris, John, p. 508.

2 http://www.rzim.orgia-slice-of-infinity/arent-all-religions-equally-valid/

3 Carson, John, p. 385.

4 Carson, John, p. 385.

5 Leon Morris, John, p. 510.

6 Carson, John.

7 Morris, John, p. 510.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 10:01-06, “The Good Shepherd, Part 1”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, John 10. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introduction

Who are your listening to? I don’t mean right this moment. I’m asking who you are following. Who is the final authority in your life? Whose voice are you obeying? Have you heard the voice of Jesus? Do you know his voice? Do you follow him?

1.      THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND THE BAD!

Today we will continue our journey through the Gospel of John. We come to John 10, a well known passage where Jesus makes two “I am” declarations: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” And the other “I am” declaration is, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

1.1.     Chapter and Verse!

When we come to John chapter 10, we might miss the connection with chapter 9 about the healing of the blind man. Chapter 10 is a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees that we find at the end of chapter 9.

It might help for us to realize that John never wrote a verse. He never wrote a chapter. He wrote a book. And he wrote three letters — First, Second, and Third John — and he wrote the Book of Revelation. But he never wrote a chapter or a verse. What do I mean by that? I mean that the writers of the Scriptures never wrote verse numbers or chapter numbers. They simply wrote books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Much later, the 66 books of the Bible were divided into chapters and verses. It was about 1000 A.D. that the books of the Bible were divided into chapters.

The verse numbers were inserted in 1551 by a French printer named Robert Étienne. Thanks to the chapter and verse divisions, we can all find the same passage with ease. I can say that Jesus claimed to be the good shepherd in John 10:11, and you can verify that this is so. Chapter and verse numbers are very convenient.

However, these divisions have led many to treat the Bible like a book full of individual sayings. People pull verses out context and treat them like lucky verses. And that is one of the reasons why some people don’t understand the Bible. That is not the way to read the Bible. That is not the way to read any book. That is not the way to read the newspaper. We don’t open a book and turn to any page at random and read a sentence from it and imagine that we can understand the sentence when we have not bothered to read the greater context, the paragraph, the chapter, or the book. When we receive a letter from someone, we read the whole letter, not just part of it.

Let me make a statement that might surprise some. We must read the Bible the same way that we read any other book: we must read everything in context. The difference between the Bible and other books is that the Bible is the Word of God. It is to be read with reverence and humility and a readiness to obey it, for what the Bible says, God says.

1.2.     Continuation from Chapter 9

What we might not see right away is that chapter 10 is a continuation of chapter 9. Jesus healed a man who was born blind. Such a thing had never happened before in the history of the world. No person born blind had ever been healed of their blindness. The people wanted to know what it meant. So they took the man to the Pharisees. These were the religious authorities. They should be to explain the significance of such an event. But as the former blind man begins to see more and more clearly just who Jesus is, the religious authorities become more and more blind, refusing to see, refusing to understand, refusing to accept that Jesus is the Son of God. They insult the man and excommunicate him, kicking him out of the synagogue.

We’ll pick up the dialogue in John 9:39,

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains (John 9:39-41 ESV).

Jesus continues in the very next verse. There is no break. There is no change in circumstance or the crowd. Jesus continues to speak to the very same people:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them (John 10:1-6 ESV).

2.        False Shepherds

In John 9, Jesus is confronting the false shepherds of Israel. Sheep and shepherds were part of the life of Judea. Way back in the history of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had flocks of sheep and goats. Jacob’s 12 sons were shepherds. In Egypt, the Israelites had their flocks of sheep and goats. King David had been the ideal shepherd, killing lions and bears to protect his sheep. We read in the Psalms “The Lord is my shepherd,” (Psalm 23) and “We are the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100).

So the people of Israel were likened to sheep, and the leaders were called shepherds. But the shepherds of Israel had been abusive to the people. Ezekiel 34 rebukes the false shepherds of Israel:

Then this message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? 3 You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. 4 You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5 So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6 They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. 7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. 9 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey. 11 “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep (Ezekiel 34:1-11 NLT).

The entire chapter of Ezekiel 34 is a rebuke of the false shepherds of Israel. In John 9 and 10, Jesus is rebuking the false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees and Jewish authorities who had assumed their roles. They did not know God, and they did not care about the sheep. They were only concerned about their position and power. They despised the people, abused them, and called them accursed. They were righteous only in their own eyes, and trampled the people under foot.

Jesus had healed the beggar who was born blind, but they wouldn’t believe it. They interrogated him, and when they weren’t satisfied with his testimony, they interrogated his parents. The parents were too afraid to talk because the Pharisees had already decided that they would put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Christ. They brought the beggar back in for more interrogation. But when he marshaled evidence that Jesus was sent from God, the Pharisees cursed him and put him out of the synagogue.

In Ezekiel’s prophecy, God says that he will rescue his flock:

So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. 23 And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Ezekiel 34:22-24 NLT).

God would set over them his servant David. When Ezekiel wrote these words, David had been dead for 400 years, but God had promised that David’s many times great grandson would reign forever and ever. This prophecy of Ezekiel points to Jesus, the Son of David.

Jesus, the good shepherd, found that man and showed that the religious authorities were the ones who were really blind. “None are so blind as those who will not see.”

False shepherds: We find them in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and we find them today. Whenever you find them, wherever you find them, they are all the same. They don’t care about the flock, the people. They only use the flock. They abuse the flock. They fleece the flock. All they care about is themselves. They are hungry for power, prestige, glory, and money.

3.        THE ILLUSTRATION

These religious authorities had abused the formerly blind man. They had excluded him from the synagogue. Jesus said that they were the ones who were blind and guilty. Now he illustrates their blindness in the first five verses of chapter 10. But verse six says that they could not understand what he was saying to them. They couldn’t see it. Of course not, they were blind.

John calls this a figure of speech or an illustration. It’s like an allegory. Jesus gave this illustration for two reasons: (1) so that some would not understand, and (2) so that some would understand. The Pharisees are blind. They are blind leaders of the blind. They are the ones who do not understand. The TNIV shows that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, and that they do not understand:

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber (John 10:1 TNIV).

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them (John 10:6 TNIV).

So it is the Pharisees who do not understand.

Jesus contrasts “the shepherd of the sheep” with the one who is “a thief and a robber.” What makes the difference? Verification is based on the method of entry into the sheepfold. The difference is whether you enter by the door or climb in another way.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep (John 10:1-2 ESV).

So we have a sheepfold, a door, a thief and a robber, and a shepherd. We need to put this illustration back into its original setting before we try to interpret what Jesus means.

Shepherding in Palestine was hard work. It meant a lot of walking to find green pastures. Abraham and Lot went their separate ways because there was not enough green pasture for their flocks. In Genesis 37, Jacob sends Joseph to find his brothers who had been gone for many days traveling many miles to find green pastures for their flocks. So shepherds would not return home with their flocks each night. But they had to protect their sheep from wolves and other night predators. But every village had a common sheepfold or a sheep pen where shepherds could keep their sheep. A gatekeeper was hired to care for the sheepfold during the night. The gatekeeper would shut the door or the gate and be on guard against animals or thieves and robbers who might come to steal or slaughter the sheep. The gatekeeper would not let others into the sheepfold; only the shepherd.

3.1.     The Sheepfold

So first we have the sheepfold. What does this represent? Some people think that the sheepfold represents the church. But that doesn’t really work because verse three says that the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. So it does not make sense that Jesus would say that he is leading his sheep out of the church.

Another idea is that the sheepfold represents heaven, but again, Jesus is not going to lead us out of heaven. Furthermore, it is quite impossible for thieves and robbers to climb in by another way!

So what is is? Quite simply, the sheepfold is Judaism. The sheep are Jews, and the sheepfold is Judaism. Jesus is talking to Jews. He is talking to the Jewish authorities who have put the blind beggar out of the synagogue. Jesus is saying in effect, “You haven’t put him out of the synagogue. I have called him out.”

3.2.     The Door

The door is the legitimate claim to the messiahship. There were many pretenders, many who claimed to be the Messiah, but they did not have the qualifications. Their credentials were not in order. They were false Messiahs. They could not enter by the door; they tried to climb in another way. Jesus says in effect,

“You are thieves and robbers. You have no legitimate claim to the messiahship. God is the gatekeeper, and I have entered by the door. I have all the proper credentials. All the prophets pointed to me. I alone was born of a virgin as Isaiah prophesied 700 ago. I was born in Bethlehem as Micah prophesied 700 years ago. I am of the tribe of Judah. I am the Son of David. I am the shepherd of the sheep.”

But the old wineskins of Judaism cannot contain the new wine of the kingdom of God. I am calling my sheep by name. They know my voice, and they follow me. I lead them out. They will not put their trust in Judaism; they will put their trust in me. I will go before them, and lead them, and they will follow me. This man heard my voice and has followed me.”

3.3.     The Shepherd

The shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them each by name. Isn’t that marvelous that the good shepherd knows his sheep and calls them by name? The good shepherd does not see us as a flock or a herd, but as individuals. He knows us and calls us by name. Such individual care.

3.4.     The Sheep

The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. The Pharisees refused to recognize the voice of the good shepherd. The blind man recognized his voice. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked him. “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” The man recognized the voice of the one who had told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. He knew the voice of the good shepherd.

3.5.     Other Sheep

“Well,” you say, “I have never been in the sheepfold of Judaism. I am not Jewish. How am I to follow the good shepherd?” Not to worry, Jesus is not only the Savior of the Jews; he is the Savior of the whole world as the Samaritans declared in John 4:42. That is why he said in John 10:16,

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16 ESV).

I am one of the other sheep. I am a Gentile. Jesus said that he had sheep that were not of the sheepfold of Judaism. He has Gentile sheep. He said, “I must bring them also.” He must. It is a divine necessity. It is the will and plan of God. One flock, made up on both Jews and Gentiles.

This is the message of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We Gentiles were separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel. We did not even know the covenant promises God had made to them. We lived in this world without God and without hope. We were far from God, but now we have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Christ himself is our peace. He has united Jews and Gentiles into one people. Through his death on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this, Paul says in Ephesians 2:15, “by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations” (NLT). He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. This is how the New Living Translation puts it in Ephesians 2:16ff:

Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. 19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

…Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:16-22; 3:6 NLT).

Yes, there will be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16 NLT).

4.      STRANGERS

The sheep of the good shepherd will not follow the voice of the stranger:

They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice” (John 10:5 NLT).

Many sheep today are following strangers, but they are not the sheep of the good shepherd. The sheep of the good shepherd follow the good shepherd. They are led by Christ. They will not follow strangers. They will not follow modern day prophets. They will not follow false shepherds who lead people away from Christ. The sheep of the good shepherd run from strangers. They run from other voices. There are many voices that we hear today, voices claiming authority. Voices claiming to speak for God. Many sheep are led astray by these false shepherd, false christs, false teachers, and false prophets.

How do you recognize strangers, false shepherds, false teachers, and false prophets? They have common characteristics. We can use the mathematical terms “addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division” to see how they work.

4.1.     Addition

First, false shepherds add other sources of authority to the 66 books of the Bible. The Pharisees added many traditions to the Word of God and Jesus condemned them for it. False shepherds add other so-called inspired books to the Scripture. They may quote from the Bible, but they always add something to “fix” the Bible. They put their teachings on the same level with the Word of God. They say that the Bible cannot be understood without their books to explain it. Some false shepherds have even admitted that people would not be able to hold to their teachings if they only read the Bible.

Others say that their revelations recover many truths of the Bible. They say that their writings to be the authoritative key to understanding the Bible, that it cannot be understood alone. Curtis Crenshaw said correctly, “If anything is contrary to Scripture, it is wrong. If anything is the same as Scripture, it is not needed. If anything goes beyond Scripture, it has no authority.” The sheep of the good shepherd run from the voice of strangers. They will not follow those who add to the Bible.

4.2.     Subtraction

False teachers subtract from the deity of the persons of the Trinity. They may say that God was once just like us before evolving and becoming God. Or that we can become gods, or that there are actually many gods. Or they may say that Jesus was the first of all creation, that he was an archangel, denying that he is God. If Christ is not God, he cannot save us from God. Some deny the full deity of the Holy Spirit but the sheep of the good shepherd will run from these false shepherds because they know that their voice is not the voice of the good shepherd.

4.3.     Multiplication

False shepherds multiply works that are necessary for salvation. They say that what Jesus did on the cross is not enough to save us. They say that we must earn our salvation by paying for our sins now, by following certain formulas, or by our own diligent efforts. But the sheep that belong to the good shepherd, know that the good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep and that when he did so, he declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

4.4.     Division

False shepherds divide the Body of Christ by claiming to be the only true church. Since they add new revelation, subtract from the deity of one or more members of the Godhead, and multiply works that are necessary for salvation, they say that you must follow them since they are the only group that understands these things! They teach that salvation is found in their organization, not in Christ. But salvation is not accomplished by the church; it is accomplished by Christ. The church is simply the people of God, those who have been saved by Christ and function as his Body in the world. There are many different churches and denominations that faithfully proclaim the Bible and nothing but the Bible as the Word of God.

5.      THE VOICE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Have you heard the voice of the good shepherd? The blind man heard his voice, worshipped Jesus, and followed him. He came out of Judaism. No religion can save you. No church can save you. Only the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. If you are following a false shepherd, the good shepherd is calling you to come out if you will but hear his voice. Have your heard the voice of the good shepherd calling you out?

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 08:48-59, “Who Does Jesus Make Himself Out To Be?”

JESUS

JESUS (Photo credit: Daniel Y. Go)

What do you think of Christ? Even when Jesus walked on this earth, just like today, there were many different opinions about him. The crowds had various opinions. The Jewish authorities took a different position concerning Christ. The disciples held their cherished beliefs and hopes about Jesus. In addition these divergent viewpoints, there was the Jesus’ own understanding of who he was, where he came from, who sent him, and the vital mission that he came to accomplish.

The Jewish authorities ask Jesus the vital question that is found in our text today: “Who do you make yourself out to be? Just who do you think you are?”

Stay tuned!

MUSIC: JOYFUL, JOYFUL SIGN-ON

Thank you for joining us for the Joyful News Broadcast, a ministry of Joy Bible Institute in Port Vila.

1.WHO IS JESUS?

In John 8:47-59, we find the conclusion of a dialogue between Jesus and the Jewish authorities concerning his claims. It was during the great feast of Tabernacles, one of the three most important feast of the Jews. There was a tremendous amount of discussion and speculation about Jesus. Some believed that he was the Christ, but the Jewish authorities wanted to kill him.

The Jewish authorities were looking for him, trying to find a way to arrest him, while the crowds were wondering if Jesus would show up at the feast.

And suddenly, there he was, teaching in the temple. The claims that he made were staggering:

  • He promised to give the Holy Spirit to those who would come to him (7:37-39).
  • He claimed to be the Light of the world (8:12).
  • He said that whoever knew him, also knew God the Father (8:19).
  • He told those who believed in him, that if they continued to obey his word, they would really be his disciples, and they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free (8:31-32).

These are amazing claims. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to his followers. He does not simply promise to lead people to the light; he is the Light of the world. He does not simply tell people about God; he says that to know him is to know God. And he promises freedom from sin to those who remain faithful to his teachings.

Who can make such staggering claims about himself? What kind of a man is he? This kind of talk provoked the Jewish authorities to ask the question:

John 8:53 NLT Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

Who did Jesus think he was?

MUSIC: BOB BENNETT – CARPENTER GONE BAD – 3:30 – 14 second lead-in

1.1.Public Opinion

On one occasion, Jesus asked his disciples about public opinion. It was not that Jesus did not know, or that he was concerned about opinion polls. He was leading up to a more important question. So he asked his disciples,

Matthew 16:13-14 NLT …”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

That may sound impressive: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. People compared Jesus to one or another of the great prophets in the history of Israel. That sounds impressive to us. Men who were greatly used of God in the past. But is that all that Jesus was? Simply a great prophet?

Today, some people still think of Jesus as simply a great teacher or a great prophet. Islam considers Jesus to be a prophet, but the first Christians would understand that Jesus was so much more than than just a great prophet.

Jesus is talking with his disciples. These men would have the responsibility of carrying on his work after his departure into heaven. Public opinion was one thing, but it was much more important that his disciples get it right. It was essential that these men who were to carry the gospel—the good news about Jesus Christ—to the ends of the earth… it was imperative that they know who he was. You cannot share the good news of Jesus Christ if you do not know who Jesus Christ is.

So Jesus turned the question to his disciples. “Others say that I am John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Matthew 16:15-16 NLT Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus is not merely a prophet, not even a great prophet, Peter says. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One that the prophets had prophesied would come. And more than that, he is the Son of the living God. Like Father, like Son. As Son of the living God, he had the same nature as the living God: eternal, all powerful, all knowing, all wise. The Apostle Paul says it like this in Philippians 2:6,

Philippians 2:6-7 NLT Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being…

Was Peter right in what he said about Jesus? When he said that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, did he get the answer right? Did Jesus accept what Peter said about him? This is what Jesus said in response,

Matthew 16:17 NLT Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.

Peter’s understanding did not come from logic or observation, Jesus said. Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of the living God, was the result of a revelation from Jesus’ own Father in heaven.

1.2.Diverse Opinions

Just as there were many inadequate opinions about Jesus when he walked the land of Israel, there are many defective opinions about Jesus Christ today. While many recognize that Jesus was more than an ordinary man, and many recognize that he existed before his virgin birth in Nazareth, their opinions about Jesus are nonetheless faulty.

Some say that Jesus was an angel. Some say an archangel. Some say that Jesus was the archangel Michael in the Old Testament. While that may sound good to us, it dishonors Jesus Christ who claimed to be equal with God in John 5:17. John tells us that “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Angels are not equal with God. Archangels are not equal with God. They are creatures. God is not a creature; he is the Creator. Creatures are not eternal; they have a beginning point in time. The Son of God had no beginning. He is eternal. As John tells us in the very first verse of this Gospel,

John 1:1 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Others say that Jesus Christ was a god. They say that he is not Almighty God; he is just “a god.” He is “a god”—“a mighty god”—that God Almighty created, but he is not the Almighty God. So according to their teaching, there is the Almighty God and a mighty god. But that makes two gods. That teaching is not the monotheism of the Bible. That is polytheism, the belief in more than one god. That is not the teaching of the Bible. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach that there is only one God:

Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

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

Yet still others say that both Jesus and Satan were spirit children of God and that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Well, this is scandalous and is not at all the teaching of the Bible, the Word of God. You may find that false teaching in other books that people have added to the Bible, but you will never find that in God’s Word.

If you have never heard such teachings of men before, consider yourself blessed. But I mention these things because we live in the last days when there are many false teachers in the world and even here in Vanuatu.

2.IS JESUS DEMON-POSSESSED?

2.1.Round One

What kind of man would make the claims that Jesus made? In addition to the claims that we have already mentioned today,

  • Jesus said that he had the right to be honored as God is honored.
  • He said that he does the works of God.
  • He said that God had committed all judgment of men to him.
  • Jesus said that just like the Father, he gives life to whom he will.
  • He said that he was the Bread of Life, the very source of life.
  • In 8:45-47, Jesus implies that his words are the very words of God:

John 8:45-47 ESV But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

What kind of man would make such claims? As we have stated before, in the words of C. S. Lewis, Jesus must be a liar, a lunatic, or he is Lord.

The Jewish authorities said that Jesus had a demon:

John 8:48 ESV The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

The New Living Translation puts it this way,

John 8:48 NLT The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

They called him a Samaritan. The Jews despised the Samaritans. They considered them to be half-breeds and people who had compromised the truth. Jesus does not respond to this slur, this insult. If anything, Jesus identifies with the downcast, those who are despised. He does not even respond to this part of the insult.

But the charge of being demon-possessed is far more serious. They are attributing the works of God to Satan.

John 8:49 ESV Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.

Jesus has made many absolute claims. He comes from the Father and bears witness to the truth. He does not seek his own glory. He seeks to honor his Father. But in dishonoring Jesus, they dishonor his Father who seeks to glorify his Son:

John 8:50 ESV Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.

The Son glorifies the Father, and the Father glorifies the Son.

2.2.Round Two

In verse 51, we start another round. Jesus has just stated that the Jewish authorities do not believe him because they are not of God but of their father the devil. In response to his absolute claims, they insult him as a Samaritan and accuse him of having a devil.

Jesus does not back down. He makes another outstanding claim:

John 8:51 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

This is another one of his solemn declarations opened with the words, “Truly, truly” or in the Greek, “Amen, amen.” Jesus draws attention to the absolute truth of what he is declaring: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

How can this be? How are we to take this seriously?

The Jewish authorities respond violently:

John 8:52 ESV The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’

It is absolutely true because those who keep Jesus’ words have already passed from death to life:

John 5:24 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

On January 31, 2014, my father, at the age of 83, entered into the presence of God. At 18 years of age, he was gloriously saved and passed from death to life. In January, he simply passed through the veil into the presence of God. His communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was not interrupted by death. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 that even death itself cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:23-24 NET I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, 24 but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.

Mat 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

We read in Hebrews 12:23 that when we come together to worship, we come “to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”

The dead in Christ are not literally asleep. They are alive in the presence of God. Whoever keeps his word, Jesus said, “will never see death.”

Jesus has once again made an amazing declaration that the Jewish authorities are unable to accept: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never die.”

John 8:52-53 NLT The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

3.“WHO DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF OUT TO BE?” 

There it is! That’s the question! Who does Jesus make himself out to be? Who does he pretend to be?

3.1.Greater than Abraham

The Jews ask Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Abraham?”

This question keeps coming up.

  • The Samaritan woman had asked Jesus a similar question: “Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well?” Jesus told her in effect that as a matter of fact he was greater he was greater than Jacob. Everyone who drank from Jacob’s well got thirsty again and eventually died, but whoever drinks from the water that Jesus gives never thirsts again. Instead the living water that Jesus gives becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).
  • The Jews unfavorably compared Jesus to Moses who they said had given their fathers manna in the wilderness. Jesus implied that he was greater than Moses for all who ate the manna died, but whoever eats the Bread of Life that is Christ himself, will never die (John 6).
  • Once again, Jesus is compared with one of the luminaries of this history of Israel: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”
  • Jesus offers something that neither Jacob, nor Moses, nor even Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, could offer. Jesus offers eternal life: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
  • Yet Jesus is not glorifying himself:

John 8:54-55 ESV Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him…

This is a terrible indictment. They claimed God, but they did not know him: “You say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him.”

We claim God, but do we know him? Jesus is not talking about simply believing in him. He is talking about knowing him: “You have not known him,” he says.

I know who Prime Minister Tony Abbott is, but I do not know him. I know who President Barack Obama is, and I know things about him, but I do not know him.

These Jewish people knew a lot about God and what he had done in the history of the nation, but they did not know God.

Again, “This is eternal life,” Jesus prayed, “that they may know you, the one true God, and your Son Jesus Christ whom you have sent into the world” (John 17:3).

You know some things about God. You claim that God is your God. But are you really any better off than these Jewish leaders who did not know God?

John 8:55 ESV But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.

Those who know God keep his word.

3.2.Seen by Abraham

John 8:56 ESV Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

Jesus never backs down. He makes one astonishing statement after another. Now he claims that Abraham was overjoyed as he looked forward to Christ’s coming. And he saw it and was glad!

How is that?

Abraham was a prophet (Genesis 20:7). And God had made promises to him concerning Christ (Galatians 3:16). By faith, Abraham saw the fulfillment of the promises (Hebrews 11:13).

No rabbi would object to Jesus’ claim that Abraham would see the messianic era. But Jesus does not say this. Instead, he says: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad”(italics added). The messianic era is now fulfilled in Christ.

The attitude of Abraham was totally different from that of the Jewish authorities. Abraham rejoiced at seeing Christ the Messiah. “Jesus identifies the ultimate fulfillment of all Abraham’s hopes and joys with his own person and work.” Jesus claims that Abraham had seen his day, that is, “the Day of the Lord.”

3.3.How Old Is Jesus?

John 8:57 ESV So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

Rather than accepting what Jesus said and meant, the Jews dismiss his claim. Abraham lived and died 2000 years before Christ. So how could Abraham have seen the coming of Jesus? They could have easily understood that Jesus was referring to himself as the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, but they reject his claim out of hand.

4.JESUS, THE GREAT “I AM”

So Jesus has one more stunning claim to make. Again he solemnly announces, “I tell you the truth…”

John 8:58 ESV … ”Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

“Before Abraham was, I am.” What did Jesus mean?

The Jews knew exactly what he meant. They responded with violence. They picked up stones to throw at him:

John 8:59 ESV So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Why did they do that? They recognized that Jesus was claiming to be God. “Who do you make yourself out to be?” they had asked (John 8:53). They got their answer and they did not like it.

Had Jesus “wanted to claim only that he existed before Abraham, it would have been simpler to say, ‘Before Abraham was, I was.’”

But Jesus does not say that. He clearly says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

“I am” what? Just, “I AM.” “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

This is not the first time Jesus uses this phrase, “I AM” without a predicate.

John 8:24 ESV 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 8:28 ESV So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

In both cases, the pronoun “he” is supplied by the translators. It is not in the Greek text. Finally in this stunning response, Jesus simply says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

New Testament scholars believe that Jesus is clearly identifying himself with Yahweh, the name of God.

When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush to send him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, Moses asked God, “Whom shall I say sent me?”

God responded, “Tell them that I AM sent you.” “I AM that I AM.” “I am the one who is.” “I am the one whose existence depends on no one else.” “I AM.”

Time and again in Isaiah, God refers to himself as “I am…” While the English translations add the pronoun “he,” the Greek translation of the Old Testament says exactly what Jesus was saying, “Ego eimi.” “I AM.”

Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

Isa 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

Isa 43:13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Isa 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Isa 46:4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Isa 48:12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.

John 8:57-58 NLT The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!”

This is what John is telling us on every page of this Gospel: Jesus is God in the flesh. The opening words of this Gospel tell us that Jesus is God:

John 1:1 NLT In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Again in verse 18 of chapter 1,

John 1:18 ESV No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

CONCLUSION

What is your response to this claim that Jesus was God? Do you, like the Jews, want to pick up stones? Do you react violently to the teaching of Christ about himself, the teaching that he was God in a human body? The Word who was God—that Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Many reject his claims. They water them down. They diminish his claims. They dishonor Christ and they dishonor God.

John 8:24 …unless you believe that I am, (Jesus said,) you will die in your sins.”

The only other appropriate response is to worship him. In the next chapter of John, John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind.

John 9:38 ESV He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

In John 20:28, Thomas will call Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

Where are you friend? This is no new teaching that I have shared with you today. This is the teaching of the New Testament and has been the teaching of all true churches: Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Pentecostal, and others. Jesus Christ is God.

John 20:30-31 ESV 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.

See also “Gospel of John”: