Is the God of the Bible a single-person God like Allah? Was God alone before creating man? Are the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit modes or manifestations of God? Or is the God of the Bible unique among the religions of the world? Do the titles Father and Son and Holy Spirit point to real persons in the one true God?
This short article aims to show that the conversations and transactions between the Father and the Son point to the reality of the mutual existence of the persons in the Godhead. Most of this article is drawn from the writings of “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the Apostle John. More specifically, most of the focus is on Christ’s “high priestly prayer,” the night before going to the cross, which Jesus addressed to his Father in heaven:
ESVJohn 17:1–3 — When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Here the Son makes requests of his Father. He points to their interrelationship, the distinction of persons within the Godhead, and speaks of the mission that his Father has given him to provide eternal life.
As Jesus approaches the cross, he acknowledges to his Father that it is now the hour for him to glorify his Son (v. 1).
The Son will in turn glorify the Father (v. 1).
The Father gave the Son all authority over all flesh (v. 2).
The Father gives people to the Son (v. 2).
The Son gives eternal life to those the Father has given him (v. 2).
These transactions point to real distinctions between the persons. While the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, and the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. The following is adapted from an ancient digram of the Holy Trinity:
Three Persons, but Only One God
At same time, Jesus underlines that there is only one God, “the only true God” (v. 3). While many other passages make it abundantly clear that Jesus is God (for example, John 1:1, 18; 5:18; 10:30, 33; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1), my purpose here is to show that the Scriptures point to the real interrelational existence “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
These distinctions between the persons are further laid out in the verses which follow:
ESVJohn 17:4–5 —I [the Son] glorified you [the Father] on earth, having accomplished the work that you [the Father] gave me [the Son] to do.And now, Father, glorify me [the Son] in your [the Father’s] own presence with the glory that I [the Son] had with you [the Father] before the world existed.
Four times in those two verses, Jesus distinguishes himself from his Father. The Son glorified the Father on earth. The Father gave the Son work to do. The Son accomplished the work which the Father gave him. The Son asks the Father to glorify him in the Father’s presence even as the Son glorified the Father on earth.
Then Jesus makes the astounding statement that he was with the Father before the world existed:
ESVJohn 17:5 — And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
The Son’s existence is not linked to the world or his mission in the world. He existed before the world existed. He was with the Father before the creation of the world. He shared the Father’s glory. Before “the beginning,” the Father and the Son were in eternal fellowship.
Furthermore, eternal life is inextrincably bound up in a relationship with the Father and with the Son:
ESVJohn 17:3 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Jesus here defines eternal life. It is knowing the only true God AND Jesus Christ whom God has sent. It is a knowledge of BOTH the Father AND the Son. The Apostle John emphasizes this truth in his First Epistle when he writes:
ESV1 John 1:3 — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
“Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
As Christians, our fellowship is not only with the Father, nor is it only with the Son: It is “with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Later in his letter, John points to the grave danger of denying the Son’s real existence:
ESV1 John 2:22–24 — Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
“No one who denies the Son has the Father” (v. 23). To deny the existence of the Son and to deny that Jesus is the Christ, that is the work of the antichrist. The spirit of antichrists—for John says that there are many (1 John 2:18)— is to deny the real existence of “the Father and the Son” (v. 22). Those who deny the Son do not have the Father, but “whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (v. 23). The word “also” like the word “and” in verse 22 shows us that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father.
John goes on to explain that this is the message that his readers heard from the beginning. If this truth abides in them—and in us—then they and we “will abide in the Son and in the Father” (v. 24). This again shows that our fellowship is with both the Father and with his Son as John said in 1 John 1:3.
The Apostle John insists on this truth in no uncertain terms in his Second Letter:
ESV2 John 9–11 — 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. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Apparently some felt that they were more progressive and advanced (v. 9). They went “on ahead” and did not hold to this teaching about Christ being sent into the world by his Father so that through the Son we might have eternal life. They felt that the doctrine or teaching about the Son was not necessary; having God was enough. The Apostle John warns that these progressive teachers who do not hold on to the Son “do not have God.” But “whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” Both… and… Not just the Father, but also the Son.
This teaching is wholly consistent with the teaching of the New Testament that while both the Father and the Son are God, the conversations and transactions between them are not a matter of biblical or literary fiction. They point to the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son.
On virtually every page of the New Testament, we see the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit —the one true God— working together in perfect harmony to bring about the fulfillment of “the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).
ESV John 17:3 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
ESV Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
I want to speak to you today about the Triumphal Entry in the Shadow of the Cross.
We come to Palm Sunday with a sense of rejoicing. This morning, around the world, Christians are remembering Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Some churches will re-enact the procession. Many churches will use palm branches to symbolize Christ’s coming. It is appropriate that we should remember this event, for this is the beginning of Holy Week, leading up to the cross and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the time of his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had been ministering in Israel for about three years. From the beginning of his ministry, he had been controversial. On the one hand, there seemed to be every reason to accept his ministry. He traveled throughout the towns and villages of Israel. He taught and preached about the kingdom of God. He healed the sick. He cleansed lepers. He opened the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind. He caused the lame to walk. More than once he multiplied a small lunch to feed thousands of hungry people. He cast out demons simply by his word. He even raised the dead back to life again. He taught in parables in such a way that the common people heard him gladly. “He does all things well!” they said.
But on the other hand, he was constantly in conflict with the religious authorities. They believed that it was their job to protect the traditions of the elders and to make sure that everyone followed their rules. These were rules that they had added to the Word of God. Jesus seemed to go out of his way to undermine their traditions. They said you were not allowed to do good works on the Sabbath, so Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. They said that some foods were not fit for Jewish consumption, but Jesus declared that all foods were clean. They were concerned about outward appearances. Jesus said that they had filthy hearts. He denounced them for their hypocrisy and abuse of the people.
But many of the common people thought that Jesus was wonderful. In fact, they said that he was the Messiah that God had promised. They called him the Son of David and the King of Israel. When they heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, they gathered in great numbers to welcome him.
ESV Jn. 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
Palm branches were a sign of victory. Two hundred years before, Israel was under the domination of the Syrians. Antiochus Epiphanes IV had sacrificed a pig in the temple at Jerusalem and set up an idol on the altar. The Jewish brothers known as the Maccabees overthrew Syrian domination and cleansed the temple from idolatry. The Jews waved palm branches as a sign of praise and victory. But during the ministry of Jesus, Israel was still not a free nation. It was under the authority of the Roman Empire. A Roman governor by the name of Pilate had his headquarters in Jerusalem. Roman soldiers patrolled the streets of Jerusalem to maintain order and put down any revolt among the people.
Now Jesus is coming into Jerusalem. Waving their palm branches, the people cried out to him, “Hosanna! Save now!” And “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” “Save now!” they said. They wanted him to overthrow the Romans. They wanted him to set up his kingdom on earth. They wanted him to restore the kingdom to Israel.
You see, they had their plans. They had their agenda. They had their ideas about what the Messiah was supposed to do. Even the 12 that Jesus had chosen as apostles did not understand what he was doing. They completely failed to understand his mission. He told them on several occasions, but they just didn’t get it.
James and John wanted high positions in government. “Hey, Jesus, we want to sit on your right hand and on your left when you set up your kingdom!”
Judas was in it for the money. He thought that Jesus would make him rich. But he began to see that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that he wanted, so he decided to make a deal with the religious authorities and get what money he could.
I wonder how many people today come to Jesus for all the wrong reasons? How many people start to follow him only to turn away because Jesus is not the kind of Messiah that they want?
Jesus is very clear about all this.
If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all.
If you want to be first, you must be last.
If you want to save you life, you must lose it for him.
If you want to follow him, you must deny yourself and take your cross.
Even the way that Jesus entered into Jerusalem indicated something about his kingship. He did not come riding on a war horse. He did not come to conquer foreign governments. He came riding on a young donkey, the symbol of an ambassador of peace. Jesus came the first time not as a conquering king but as the Prince of Peace.
ESV Jn. 12:14-16 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.
The story of the Triumphal Entry overshadowed by the cross is surrounded by indications that Jesus had come to give his life.
In chapter 10, Jesus said that he would lay down his life:
ESV Jn. 10:11-18 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 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.”
A few verses later, he said, “I and the Father are one” (10:30).
ESV Jn. 10:31-33 ¶ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.
Jesus was living in the shadow of the cross.
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.”
That was not the first time the Jews had attempted to kill him, nor would it be the last. A few verses later,
ESV Jn. 10:39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
In the next chapter, John 11, Jesus announces to his disciples that he will return to Judea because received word about Lazarus.
ESV Jn. 11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”
ESV Jn. 11:16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus was living in the shadow of the cross.
When Jesus and the disciples arrive in Judea, Lazarus has been dead for four days, but Jesus calls the dead man back to life, showing that he is the resurrection and the life.
Many more believe in Jesus because they saw what he had done, but some reported it to the Pharisees.
ESV Jn. 11:47-53 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
Jesus was living in the shadow of the cross.
The Passover was near. The great feast when each family would sacrifice a lamb in memory of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. John the Baptist had already point to Jesus as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Six days before the Passover, a special dinner was given in honor of Jesus. Martha served. He brother, Lazarus, the one that Jesus had raised from the dead, was eating at the table next to Jesus!
ESV Jn. 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
Martha’s sister, Mary, anointed Jesus’ feet with a very expensive perfume. When Judas complained about the extravagance, Jesus told Judas to leave her alone, that she had anointed him for his burial.
Jesus was living in the shadow of the cross.
ESV Jn. 12:10-11 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
In the next verses we read that the crowd had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem so they met him with palm branches and cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
ESV Jn. 12:17-19 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
In verse 20 we learn that among the crowd were some Greeks who had come to the feast to worship. They came to Philip and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
ESV Jn. 12:22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus. He brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. He brought the boy with the five loaves and two fish to Jesus. Now he brings the Greeks to Jesus.
Jesus answers them and points to the cross:
ESV Jn. 12:23-24 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had already said that he would lay down his life for the sheep and that he had other sheep that were not of the Jewish fold:
ESV Jn. 10:15-16 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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.
Now some of these other sheep, like you and me, were coming to the Good Shepherd.
ESV Jn. 12:27-33 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Jesus was living in the shadow of the cross.
Just as Jesus lived his life in the shadow of the cross, so must we live our lives in the shadow of the cross:
ESV Jn. 12:25-26 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Before the resurrection of Christ, the cross was a shadow that the disciples could not see, but this side of the resurrection, the cross is the bright light that lights our path and shows us the way.
ESV Jn. 12:34-36 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.
As believers today, we walk in the light of the cross.
The disciples and followers of Jesus celebrated his Triumphal Entry with palm branches and joyous shouts of “Hosanna! Save now! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” They did not know that the Triumphal Entry was overshadowed by the cross.
Today believers around the world celebrate the Triumphal Entry because of the cross and the resurrection of Christ. Jews and Gentiles alike have been born again because Jesus, the divine grain of wheat, fell into the ground and died that He might bear much fruit.
Today, Jews and Gentiles alike belong to the same flock because the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep.
Today believers around the world celebrate the Triumphal Entry with palm branches that will fade away. But we are looking forward to our eternal future that will never fade when we will be gathered together around the throne of God and of the Lamb, as we read in the Book of Revelation:
ESV Rev. 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
That is the Triumphal Entry that we are looking and longing for, even as we live our lives in the light of the cross.
I’ve heard it said that God is never late. He is never early, but He is never late: He is always right on time.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have the impression that God is late. And I’m not the only one to feel that way. Today we will consider a story about God showing up late.
Punctuality — being on time — might just be a western value. My grandfather used to say, “If you leave on time with plenty of time, you’ll get there on time.”
On time? What does that mean? Sometimes we joke in the islands about being on island time or being on Vanuatu time. We show up on our time.
Christians often say that God is always right on time, but frankly, I sometimes have the distinct impression that God is late. Perhaps my watch needs to be adjusted. Or perhaps God is on another timezone. Whatever the case, sometimes God does not show up when we think He should.
That’s the story we read in John 11. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends with Jesus. They lived in Bethany, about three kilometers from Jerusalem. In the previous chapter, chapter 10, the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem had just tried to stone Jesus because he had claimed to be God. So Jesus went far north, about a four days journey because it was not yet his time.
John 11:1-14 NLT A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” 8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” 9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
God is late and Lazarus is dead. What further proof do we need that from our perspective, from our way of calculating time, God is often late.
Some people think that everything is going to be alright. That everything will work out perfectly for the Christian. But that is not the case.
Nor is it the case that God will never allow us to suffer or sorrow or go through any difficult circumstances. That is the message that some preach today, that if you come to Jesus
you will have no more problems,
you will always get on well with everyone,
you will never be short on money,
you will never get sick.
Here we have the story of Lazarus. Lazarus is sick. And dying. Mary and Martha have had Jesus in their home. They have listened to his teaching (Mark 10). They have heard about his miracles or even seen him work miracles. They know that Jesus can heal their brother.
They also know that they can call on Jesus. He is their friend. They know that Jesus loves them. They know that he loves Lazarus.
But Jesus has travelled far north to get away from the hostility of the religious authorities in Jerusalem. Mary and Martha know where Jesus has gone. Anyway, it would not be hard to find Jesus. He always drew crowds of people even when he was trying to be alone. If Mary and Martha can get the message to Jesus, all will be well.
So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3).
It is a four-day journey from Bethany to Jesus. Mary and Martha send the message. The first day passes. The second day. Lazarus has not improved. The third day comes and goes. Lazarus is getting sicker. By the end of the fourth day, Mary and Martha are getting quite concerned. Jesus receives the message but decides to stay:
John 11:6 ESV So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
“Oh, I wish that he would come!”
The fifth day comes and goes. Lazarus is dying. Mary and Martha are ringing their hands. “Hold on, Lazarus! Jesus is coming! Jesus will heal you! You are going to be alright!”
The sixth day comes and as the sun sets, the life of Lazarus comes to an end. And Jesus was not there.
Jesus was not there when Lazarus was sick.
Jesus was not there when Lazarus needed to be healed.
Jesus was not there when Lazarus died.
Jesus was not there to bury Lazarus.
He was not there to comfort Mary and Martha.
Mary and Martha prepare the body of their brother to be buried. Again and again, Mary and Martha tell each other that their brother would not have died had Jesus been there:
John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
John 11:32 ESV Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The sisters had talked. Time and again they had shared their disappointment: “If only Jesus had come, our brother would not have died!” He did come, but he came too late.
Sometimes God is late. He does not follow our calendar. He is not watching our clock. Our time is not His time. There are disappointments in life. Disappointments because God is late.
Surely Mary and Martha thought that Jesus was late: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Have you ever felt the disappointment of unanswered prayers? Have you ever been kept waiting, watching, hoping, only to have your hopes dashed because God did not show up?
Sometimes God is late. But this story gives us several truths to hold on to when God is late.
1. When God is late, it is not because of a lack of love.
Twice in three verses, John tells us that Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha:
John 11:3 ESV So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
John 11:5 ESV Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
There are times of waiting and there are times of disappointment. There are times when it seems that God is late or that He does not show up at all, but if you are a child of God, you should know this:
God loves you. This is one of the great convictions of the Christian life. Time and again we are told that God loves us. In John 3:16, we read that well known verse:
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 Apostle Paul expresses the great love of Christ for us in Galatians 2:20 when he says,
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.
Paul exults in “the great love with which he loved us” in Ephesians 2:4. And he prays that we may be able to comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18-19 ESV).
Again, the Apostle John says,
1 John 4:10 NLT This is real love– not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Romans 5:8 ESV but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is the ultimate proof of God’s love toward us: Christ died for us. If you doubt God’s love, look at the cross. Never has there been a greater demonstration of love than the cross. Never has there been a greater demonstration of the love of God for sinners than the cross. We will go through times when it seems that God is late, that He is absent… It may seem that He did not show up. Look at the cross! Whatever else we may not understand, let us look at the cross! There is proof of God’s love for us. When God is late, it is not because of a lack of love.
2. When God is late, it is never by accident (v. 6).
John 11:6 ESV So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Lazarus was sick. Lazarus was dying. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that the one that he loved was sick. Four days later, Jesus got the message. But there is no panic. He does not jump and run. He does not take a fast camel to Bethany.
No. He waits. He stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
This may seem callused to us. Why does God wait when we suffer? What does He not respond immediately to our cry? Why must we wait?
Waiting on the Lord is the characteristic of the faithful.
ESV Psalm 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
ESV Psalm 38:15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
ESV Psalm 39:7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
God is never in a hurry. He stands in eternity, knowing the end from the beginning, knowing everything that will happen before the beginning of time itself. He is never taken by surprise.
MUSIC: LINCOLN BREUSTER – EVERLASTING GOD
3. When God is late, He still plans to show up (v. 7).
John 11:7 ESV Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
It had been six days since Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Jesus had received the word after four days but had stayed where he was for two more days. Now after six days, Jesus says, “Let’s go.”
The disciples are confused. Why would Jesus want to go back to Judea? The Jewish authorities wanted to kill him. But Jesus had already said that as the Good Shepherd he would lay down his life for his sheep. Now he risks his life for one of his sheep, a sheep named Lazarus.
John 11:11 ESV After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”
“Oh, that’s good!” the disciples thought. “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”
But Jesus was speaking of his death, but they had misunderstood. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”
It’s late. It’s too late. What is the point? The point is this: Jesus was going to do the unthinkable. He was going to awaken the dead.
When God is late, he still plans to show up. Daniel had been fasting and praying for 21 days without a response. But when an angel finally came with the answer, he said
Daniel 10:12 ESV … “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.
Judah would be in exile in Babylon for 70 years, but God still had a plan:
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
The prophet Habakkuk did not understand why God did not seem to answer his prayer. But then the word came to him:
Habakkuk 2:3 ESV For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end– it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
There was a time for its fulfillment and that time had not arrived. It would surely come, but Habakkuk would have to wait for it.
When Jesus asked Philip how they would feed the five thousand, he already knew what he was going to do.
John 6:6 ESV He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
Mary and Martha had to wait. Lazarus had to die. But Jesus knew what he was going to do.
When God is late, He still plans to show up for He knows what he is going to do.
4. When God is late, He want to increase our faith.
4.1. Some people have a conditional faith.
Mary and Martha seem to have had a faith that Jesus could have done something had he been there:
John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
John 11:32 ESV Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Some of the friends of Lazarus had a conditional faith:
John 11:37 ESV But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Couldn’t things have been different? It’s too bad that Jesus wasn’t here! He could have done something! He could have kept this man from dying!
Some people believe that God is limited by the conditions. God can only do what he wants to do if all the conditions are perfect. But Jesus is purposefully showing that he is the master of every situation. There is nothing that is too hard for God. That does not mean that he is going to do everything we want him to do. I have been to funerals where people tried to raise the dead. They wanted God to do what they wanted Him to do. God can raise the dead and one day he will raise the dead again, but he does not raise the dead because we command him to. God is still God. He is sovereign and he gives life to whom he will, not to whom we will.
But our faith must not be conditioned by the conditions. Our faith must be conditioned upon the all powerful God.
4.2. Some people have a future faith.
Martha believed that Jesus could have done something had he been there:
John 11:21 ESV Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
When Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, she responded,
John 11:24 ESV … “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Her faith was good for the past: “If you had been here…”
Her faith was good for the future: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
4.3. We need a present faith.
But her faith was inadequate for the present. She had past conditional faith, and future faith, but she did not have faith for the present.
Now in verse 22, it appears that she has faith for the present:
John 11:22 ESV But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
But when Jesus told them to remove the stone from the tomb, we read in verse 39,
John 11:39 ESV … Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
Martha did not have faith for the present. Jesus was too late. Lazarus was dead. There was nothing to do but wait for the resurrection on the last day.
When God is late, he wants to increase our faith. When Jesus received the word about Lazarus, he purposefully waited two more days. He wanted Lazarus to have been dead for four days before he got there. He wanted it to be well established that Lazarus was dead because he wanted to increase their faith. He told his disciples,
John 11:14-15 ESV Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus wants to increase our faith not only in what might have been or in what will be in some distant future. He wants us to have faith in him in the here and how.
John 11:25-26 ESV Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus does not say that he would have been the resurrection and the life or that he will be the resurrection and the life. He declares that he IS the resurrection and the life.
Mary and Martha and Lazarus had gone through a terrible trial. It was neither by accident nor by unconcern that Jesus allowed them to pass through this suffering. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. The death of Lazarus was greatly troubling to Jesus:
John 11:33 ESV When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
John 11:35 ESV Jesus wept.
Jesus had allowed them to go through this trial to increase their faith:
John 11:41-42 ESV So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
John 11:45 ESV Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,
5. When God is late, He is going to display his glory (11:4, 40).
John 11:4 NLT But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”
The glory of God is manifested when God does what God alone can do.
Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus:
John 11:39-45 NLT “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” 40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” 45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.
When God is late, he is going to display his glory. We suffer in this present time, but glory is coming:
Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
MUSIC: HILLSONG, GLORY
Do you know this Jesus?
Do you know who he is? Have you put your faith in him? Do you trust in him? It is easy to believe when everything is going well, when life is grand, when there is food on the table and singing in the home. But when we pass through difficult waters, our faith is put to the test. When we pass through the fire, we have an opportunity to trust. Our trust is not put to the test with we understand. Our faith and trust can only grow when we go through tough times.
Do you know this Jesus who is the resurrection and the life? Do you know this one who will call forth the living and the dead at his return? Are you ready to meet him? Have you trusted in him for your salvation? Do you know this Jesus who is life, abundant life, eternal life? Do you have the life of God in your soul?
The Bible says that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. What does that mean? That means that you recognize that Jesus Christ is the Lord. He is the Lord of your life. It is no longer your life, but his life: you belong to him. You obey him and live so that people would come to know him and love him.
Call out to him. Tell him that you need him. You need his forgiveness. You need his life giving power in your life. You want the deadness of sin to be removed. You want his life, his resurrection power that makes us dead to power of sin, but alive unto God.
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 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 ESVA 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 bymyself,
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.
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.
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 1:1–3 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.
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)
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
 Leon Morris, Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John, p. 387.
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 3:17–18 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 are–robbers. 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:
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.”
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.”
John 10:7 ESV – “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
John 10:11 ESV – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
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,”
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
Have you had your eyes checked lately? How is your vision? I know a blind lady with perfect vision. And I know people with perfectly good vision who are totally blind. Today we will see a man who was born blind but who obtained perfect vision. And we will see men with perfect vision who could not see because they would not see.
Of the five main senses that God has given man—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—many of us would consider sight the most important. A lot of deaf people live fairly normal lives. They can drive vehicles, go where they want to go, read books, even watch television. But the sightless person faces many more challenges. Many are very creative and seem to overcome obstacles and shine in areas where many of us do not shine.
In John 9, we find the story of a man born blind who by the end of the story, had perfect vision. But those who claimed to have perfect vision, turned out to be totally blind. This is the story of two responses to Jesus: a blind man who sees Jesus for he is, and seeing men who would not see. And then there’s the question that keeps coming up in this story: Who sinned?
1.1.The Question: Who Sinned?
The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who had been blind from birth.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth (John 9:1 ESV).
Jesus looks at the man, and the disciples, apparently taking their cue from this look, ask Jesus about the cause of the man’s blindness.
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 ESV).
The man was born blind. There had to be a cause. The disciples take for granted that someone has sinned. Their only question is, “Who sinned?”
Did this man sin? He is the one who is blind. He must have done something terrible to be born blind. But how could that be? Some of the Pharisees had the idea that it was possible to sin while still in the womb, before one was even born. Did this man somehow sin while he was still in his mother’s womb, something so bad that God would make him suffer with blindness from birth? That really didn’t sound right.
Perhaps it was his parents:
“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2 NLT)
The disciples assume that sin was the cause of this tragedy. In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, Job was the richest man of the east. He lost everything that he had: his wealth, his health, and even his family. All except for his wife who told him to curse God and die. Some friends came to comfort him, but they were so shocked at his appearance, that they could not speak for seven days. When they finally opened their mouths, all they could do is accuse Job of sinning. They said that God would never allow this to happen to a righteous man. But they were wrong. The first verse of Job tells us that Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). In the closing chapters, God himself rebukes Job’s miserable comforters for falsely accusing him.
Still the question persists. We are all too ready to point the finger, to assign blame. 1 Corinthians 11:30 tells us that sometimes sickness and even death is the result of sin. But not always. And not in this case.
“Rabbi,” the disciples ask, “who sinned?” The disciples are right to expect Jesus to know. In John 2:24-25, John tells us that Jesus knew all people; he himself knew what as in man. Jesus knew who was going to betray him (John 6:64). He knew all that was going to happen to him (John 18:4). And Peter will say to him, “Lord, you know everything” (John 21:17). The question was not the best, but the disciples were right to ask Jesus. Jesus knew why this man was born blind. Who else could explain that? Who else could explain why bad things happen? Who else could tell why a man was born blind? These are questions that only God himself could answer. On every page, John is showing us that Jesus is God the Son, God in the flesh, the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14).
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3-5 ESV).
“You are wrong on both counts,” Jesus said. One translation puts it this way:
Jesus replied, “Neither one—not he, not his parents. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for God’s acts to be exhibited in him (John 9:3 MIT).
How do you see problems? Are you looking for the cause? Or are you looking for the solution? Jesus looks at this problem—a man’s blindness—and sees it as an opportunity to do something for God. The disciples are saying, “Who did this? Who is to blame? Who is at fault here?” Jesus says, “This is an opportunity to do something that will reveal the glory of God.” This is not some academic exercise. This is real life. There are people all around who need your help. We don’t need to be pointing the finger, assessing blame, trying to figure our who is at fault. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed on the other side when they saw a man who had been left half dead on the roadside. The Samaritan went to the man, bound up his wounds, and showed mercy on him. Jesus tells us to do likewise.
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4 ESV).
God has give us work to do. “We must work the works,” Jesus said, and now is the time to do it.
The Healing (vs. 6-7).In this chapter of 41 verses, only two describe the actual healing.The description is repeated in verses 11 and 15 before the friends of the blind man, and before the Pharisees, but nothing new is added.Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and smeared the man’s eyes with the mud.He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.We are not told how the man got their, but he came back seeing.
The man was blind at birth. He had known nothing but darkness for his entire existence. Nothing but thick, impenetrable, blackness all around. Never had he even seen a flicker of light. But before the story ends, he would see more than a flicker of light. This man would see the Light of the World:
As long as I am in the world, (Jesus says,) I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV).
It was in chapter 8:12, in the debate with the Jewish authorities that Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World. Now that Light will shine in the dark corners of this blind man’s soul, making everything clear and brighter than the noonday sun.
In two verses, John describes the healing:
Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:6-7 ESV).
Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and smeared the man’s eyes with the mud. He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Spit. Mud. And a pool named Siloam which means Sent.
The waters for this pool were probably sent from a spring. In John 4, Jesus said that he was the source of living water. Now in chapter 9:4, he says that he must work the works of him who sent him. Jesus is the one and only Son of God sent from the Father. You need to go to the one who was sent from God.
How did the blind man find the pool? We are not told. Perhaps with a walking stick. Perhaps he asked someone to take him there. However he got there, he obeyed. He went. He washed. And he came back seeing.
2.CONVERSATION 1: THE MAN AND HIS NEIGHBORS (9:8-12)
2.1.The Blind Man Sees!
Yes, he came back seeing. He came back to his place. He came back to his neighborhood where people had seen him sit and beg all his life. They knew the blind man, but this could not be him!
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man” (John 9:8-9 ESV).
This man’s appearance was greatly changed. He is no longer blind. His eyes are open. They are bright and shining. They are alive! “Is this the man?” “No, it can’t be!” “But it must be!” “Yes, I am the man! I am the man!” They could hardly believe their eyes that this was the same man.
So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10 ESV).
2.2.The First Step Toward Perfect Vision: “The Man Called Jesus”
Here we come to the man’s first step toward perfect vision. “How were you eyes opened?” they asked him.
His response: “The man called Jesus…” He does not know much about Jesus. He has heard of him. He has possibly heard of his teaching or of his miracles, but all he can say is,
“The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know” (John 9:11-12 ESV).
The first steps of faith in Jesus begin simply.
Here we have a remarkable event. Everyone knows that this man was born blind. They know that he used to sit and beg for his living. Suddenly, all that has changed. The man can see! How did this happen? Spit, mud, a pool called Siloam, and—oh yes—a man called Jesus. What does this mean? How could this happen? There must be an explanation! Let’s ask the religious authorities! They will know what this means! Let’s take this man to the Pharisees.
3.CONVERSATION 2: INTERROGATION BY THE PHARISEES (9:13-17)
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind (John 9:13 ESV).
3.1.Not On the Sabbath!
It is only now that we learn that this healing took place on the Sabbath:
Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes (John 9:14 ESV).
There it is again: Jesus made mud. Five times in this chapter we read that Jesus made mud and anointed the blind man’s eyes with it. Now we learn that it was the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and anointed the man’s eyes.
This brought Jesus into conflict with the Pharisees on several accounts:
Since the man’s life was not in danger, they thought that Jesus should have waited until another day to heal (cf. Luke 13:14).
The Jewish authorities had a list of 39 activities that they had forbidden people to do on the Sabbath. One of the 39 activities forbidden in the Mishnah was kneading like when you knead bread dough. Jesus had kneaded the clay with his spittle to make mud.
Anointing the eyes on the Sabbath was also forbidden in the Talmud. But Jesus was not too concerned about the traditions of the elders.He was bound only by the Word of God not by man-made traditions that were added to the Word of God.
Why did Jesus use mud and spit? This was no accident. Jesus purposefully made mud on the Sabbath. He used mud to unleash a controversy on the Sabbath. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and he showed that the point of the Sabbath is rest and restoration of our bodies. The very first time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 16, when God gives the Israelites the manna in the wilderness. It is not mentioned before. It is in the wilderness that God gave his people the Sabbath, telling them that they were not to gather manna on the Sabbath. The point of the Sabbath is that God’s manna—God’s provision of the Bread of Life, Christ Jesus our Lord—eternal life is not of works; it is the gift of God.
Jesus made mud on the Sabbath to bring about the controversy that we find in John 9.
So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them (John 9:15-16 ESV).
The religious authorities are divided. Some of them say that Jesus is a sinner, that he is not from God. But others wonder how he could open the eyes of a man born blind if he were a sinner. So these Pharisees, these religious authorities, these doctors of the law are now reduced to ask a poor blind beggar his opinion: “What do you have to say about him?It was your eyes he opened” (John 9:17 ESV).
3.2.The Second Step of Faith
He said, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17 ESV).
We see that the blind man has progressed in his understanding.When asked by his acquaintances how his eyes were opened, he could only say that it was done by “a man named Jesus” (v. 11).Now he calls him a prophet.Perhaps we find this insufficient, but this directly contradicts what some of the Jewish authorities were saying. They were saying that he was not from God. In declaring that Jesus was a prophet, the blind man was saying that Jesus was from God.
4.CONVERSATION 3 (9:18-23) – MAN AND HIS PARENTS
This miracle was so extraordinary, that the Pharisees were not yet convinced that it had happened. The formerly blind man has taken a second step in his faith while the Jewish authorities have taken another step in unbelief. Perhaps this was just a farce. So they interrogate the man’s parents:
¶ The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him” (John 9:18-23 ESV).
But the parents would only confirm that this was their son and that he had been blind.To say any more risked excommunication from the synagogue and from Israel.
John Piper says, “The point is not mainly to be too hard on them, but to throw into stark relief how unfearing this beggar is.”
5.CONVERSATION 4 (9:24-34) – FULL BLOWN COURAGE AND BLASPHEMY
5.1.Name of the Game: Intimidation
Not satisfied with the responses of the parents, the Pharisees called for the blind man again. “Give glory to God,” they charge him. In Joshua 7:19 this formula is used to encourage Achan to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
“We know this man is a sinner,” they said.The Pharisees no longer seem to be divided. There is a united front. At any rate, those who wondered how a sinner could give sight to the blind kept silent.Maybe they too were fearful of the consequences.
“We know that this man is a sinner,” declared the religious experts. “Join us in our blasphemy or we’ll excommunicate you out of Judaism.” This is huge. If you get disciplined by your church, you can either accept it or go find another church. But this is being marked and cut off from Israel.
Nonetheless, this line of intimidation will not work.Try as they will, they cannot get him to move “from a position he knows to be right.He does not know anything about Jesus and thus does not know whether or not he is a sinner.But he has one important certainty: I was blind from birth. I never saw the sun rise or set. I never saw the beautiful flowers that I could smell. I heard birds sing but could never admire them in flight. I heard my mother’s lovely voice, but was never able to look into her face. “I know one thing: I was blind, but now I see” (v. 25).
Nobody is going to shake a man out of a certainty like that. A man with an experience, it is said, is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And, as it was Jesus who gave him his sight, nobody is going to make him takes sides against Jesus.”
5.2.Tell Us Again!
So they ask him again how Jesus opened his eyes.Perhaps through a second round of interrogation, they could uncover some contradictions and show that this was nothing more than a sham.With a twinkle in his eye he responded, “I told you once and you didn’t pay attention,” he said.
“…Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (John 9:27 ESV).
This word “also” indicates that the blind man has begun to think of himself as a disciple of this Jesus.
Step 1: The man called Jesus.
Step 2: He is a prophet from God.
Step 3: I’m a disciple.
Unable to resist his logic, the Pharisees, as refined and sophisticated as they were, began to hurl insults at the man.
And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (John 9:28-29 ESV).
Here the religious authorities inadvertently admitted their ignorance: “We don’t even know where he comes from.”
They left themselves wide open.”Now that is remarkable.You don’t know…”The man had been blind all his life, but behind those blind eyes was a logical mind. The blind man marshals his argument:
“Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes (John 9:30 ESV)
You say he is a sinner, but “we know that God does not listen to sinners” (John 9:31 ESV).
if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him (John 9:31 ESV).
Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:32 ESV).
If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (John 9:33 ESV).
Unable to resist his argument, the Pharisees insulted him and resorted to violence: “You were born steeped in sin, and now you are lecturing us?”Then they threw him out.This probably means that they excommunicated him, since it is emphasized in both verses 34 and 35.In any case, it was not a good sign.It meant trouble for the man.
6.CONVERSATION 5 (V. 35-38) – JESUS AND THE BEGGAR
This is amazing: Jesus sought him out. He was cast out; Jesus sought him out. To whom will he turn; he doesn’t need to turn. It is no accident that the next chapter is about the good shepherd who gathered his sheep.
Jesus came looking for the man.He heard that the blind man had been excommunicated, so he sought him out.As Chrysostom put it: “The Jews cast him out of the Temple; the Lord of the Temple found him.”
Now the blind man had never seen Jesus’ face, but he recognized his voice.”Never in all his life would he forget the voice that had told him to go and wash in Siloam!”
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35 ESV).
Jesus was obviously looking for people to “believe in the Son of Man.”And if Jesus wanted him to believe in the Son of Man, the formerly blind man was willing to believe in him.But who was he?This man was so fundamentally honest that he would neither cower to the Pharisees, nor would he profess faith in someone he did not know.”Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”Jesus said, “You have now seen him, for it is he who is speaking with you.”
The words of Jesus brought a new enlightenment.At that moment the man opened his eyes and saw something he had never seen before.He had begun by called Jesus “a man named Jesus.”Then he called him a prophet.Then he marshaled an argument proving that Jesus was from God.Finally he recognized that Jesus was the Son of Man, and bowed down and worshipped him.
This man worshipped Jesus. The word is προσκυνέω (proskuneo) and this is the tenth time that we find it in John’s Gospel. The first nine times are in John 4:20-24 where Jesus says that God is seeking true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth.
In speaking of Jesus, the Word made flesh, John says in 1:18,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18 ESV).
This man worships Jesus.
7.THE CONDEMNATION OF THOSE WHO SEE (vs. 39-41)
In verse 39 Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”It is strange to hear Jesus speak of coming for judgment.In 3:17 we read, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
“It is not the purpose of the shining of the sun to cast shadows.But where the sun shines upon opaque objects, shadows are inevitable.It is not the purpose of the coming of the Son of God to bring condemnation.But when his offered salvation is rejected, condemnation is inevitable.”
The Pharisees, despite their advantages, regressed in their understanding.They started with the firm conviction that Jesus was not from God (v. 16).Then they questioned the reality of the miracle he had done (v. 18).They declared their certainty that Jesus was a sinner (v. 24), and made other statements revealing their spiritual ignorance (v. 29).Finally, they were shown to be both blind and sinful (v. 41).
In answer to the question, “Who sinned?” several possibilities were suggested.The man himself.The mans parents.Jesus was accused of sin.But the guilty ones in this story are those who insist that they see.”If you were blind,” Jesus said, “you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
There is a kind of blindness that is rooted in willful rebellion against God, a moral spiritual blindness, that does not remove guilt. There is a blindness that does not want to see the light, or confess that our works are works of darkness. This does not diminish our guilt; it is our guilt. It does not remove accountability.
The first glimmer of light in the soul is to say, “I’m blind.”
If we will acknowledge our blindness, Jesus will show us the light.But if we insist that we see, there is nothing that he can show us.
8.WE WERE ALL BORN BLIND!
This blind man is us. We were all born blind. It takes a work of God to open our eyes to see the truth.
According to a later Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud Abodah Zarah 28b) there was an opinion that it was not permitted to anoint an eye on the Sabbath.The Jerusalem Talmud Shabbath 14d and 17f says that one may not put fasting spittle on the eyes on the Sabbath.See Brown, The Gospel According to John, 373.
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?”
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
We recognize that fathers are important. There are but two men on all of human history who had no father: the first Adam and the last Adam. The first man, Adam, who was formed by God from the dust of the ground, and Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the last Adam in 1 Corinthians, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Every other man in the history of humanity had an earthly father.
Whose child are you? The Bible puts great stress on genealogy. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis trace the generations from Adam to Noah, from the Creation to the Flood. After the Flood, the genealogical record is picked up again from the three sons of Noah down through the Tower of Babel to the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12.
From there the line is traced from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Jacob’s 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. From the Exodus from Egypt, to the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, to the exile in Babylon, to the return from exile, close genealogical records were kept. The records were kept because God had promised a Messiah through the line of Judah and the line of David, a King who would forever sit upon the throne of his father David.
Coming to the New Testament, Matthew and Luke pick up the genealogical line from Adam and from Abraham and show that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne, the One who had been promised by God.
Today, inheritance is often determined by genealogical records. The father passes his inheritance to his sons. Land is inherited from the father.
It is not only rights to reign or land or inheritance that is passed from father to son. Character and mannerisms and other traits are often passed from father to son. As the son of my father, I will sometimes do something or feel something, and say to myself, “Wow! That was just like Dad!”
I imagine that most of know who our father is. Many of us grew up in a home where the father was present and exercised a great deal of influence on the family and on the children. The presence of a father helps us to find our identity, to know who we are. We have a saying in English, “Like father, like son.” Or in French, “Tel père, tel fils.” We say that a child is a “chip off the old block.” When you chop wood, the chips of wood that fly are of the same nature as the block that you are chopping.
The earlier form of this phrase is ‘chip of the same block’. The block in question may have been stone or wood. It dates back to at least 1621, when it appears in that form in Bishop (of Lincoln) Robert Sanderson’s Sermons:
“Am not I a child of the same Adam … a chip of the same block, with him?”
The phrase “a chip of the old block” means that the son behaves in the same way as his father or resembles his father.”
The influence of fathers on sons is great. So when I ask, “Whose child are you?” I am asking about the influence on your life. I am asking about your identity, who you identify as having the most important influence on your character.
In John 8, three fathers are mentioned, and none of them without importance. In fact, of the three fathers that are mentioned, only one of them was a human father. Besides our human father, every one of us is the child of another father. Every one of us has another father whose character we reflect. So when we try to answer the question, “Whose child are you?” we need to look beyond mere human genealogy. Whose child are you?
Our text today is John 8:31-47. Jesus is debating with the Jewish authorities. He has claimed to be the Light of the World (8:12). He has told the Jews, “Unless you believe that I am (he) you will die in your sins” (8:24). Beginning in verse 31, we hear him speaking in the strongest of terms, confronting the Jewish authorities for their sin. This Jesus is not some weakling. He is not intimidated by these men who are determined to kill him. He does not back down one bit. He confronts them, and yet he does so in love, but make no mistake: this is not a friendly dialogue. This is a debate that is full of manly energy. Here is the text:
John 8:31-47 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.”
They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father– even God.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 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.”
Children of Abraham
This passage speaks of three fathers. First there is Abraham. He is the man whom the Jews considered to be their father. The Jews took great pride in their descent from Abraham, and they are greatly offended that Jesus would imply that they were slaves.
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).
But they were greatly offended.
They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘you will become free’?” (8:33).
Many privileges came with being the children of Abraham. This is how Paul expresses it in…
Romans 9:4-8 NLT They (the Jews) are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. 5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
There were great privileges as well as responsibilities for the children of Abraham. They had received the Word of God, the promises and the blessing of the covenant that God had made with them.
Romans 3:2 NLT Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.
They also had the responsibility to share God’s Word with the nations. While the nation as a whole was not faithful to the task of evangelizing the nations, the prophets continually addressed their works not only to Israel but also to the surrounding nations, kingdoms, and empires.
As great as the privileges were, Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 9,
6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.
Being the children of Abraham was not simply a matter of biology. Descent from Abraham was no guarantee that one was right with God or that one was a child of God or that he would have a share in the kingdom of God.
Romans 2:28-29 NLT For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Being a child of God means having a new heart. God had promised in Ezekiel
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Eze 36:25-27 ESV).
The proof of the gospel is a new heart.
In verse 37, Jesus recognizes that the Jews are the offspring of Abraham, but in verse 39 he says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works Abraham did.” Jesus may be making a distinction between offspring and children. In fact, in the original Greek text, the word is σπέρμα (Joh 8:33, 37 BNT). They had claimed to be the sperm or the seed of Abraham (8:33), and Jesus says, “I know that you are the seed of Abraham (8:37), but if you were the true children of Abraham you would act like your father (8:39).
They are doing what Abraham would never do: “you are seeking to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (8:37). Again in verses 39 and 40,
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.”
“Like father, like son”? Well, they were not acting like the man whom they claimed as their father.
Human Ancestry is Nothing
The Jews put their confidence in their ancestry. They were the offspring of Abraham, and they believed that that was all that mattered.
Are we any different today? We look at our ancestry and think we are okay with God. This is a Christian nation, so we are okay with God. It doesn’t matter how we live or what we do or what we think, long God yumi stanup. Just like the Jews who trusted in their descent from Abraham many people put their trust in their Christian heritage.
Heritage is a great thing and can be a great blessing. We think of people who laid down their lives to bring us the gospel. God moved in these islands and many people came to know the Lord. Some of us have descended from a significant line of Christians. But that has no value if we have not been saved from our sins.
I can trace back several generations of preachers in my family: my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather. But that has no value unless I am born again, unless I become a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Nicodemus was a very religious man, a chef of the Pharisees. He would pray and fast and tithe on everything, but Jesus told him that even he had to be born again. There must be a new birth, a birth into the family of God. Whose child are you?
Violence toward Christ
Jesus pushes this issue with the Jews. They claim to be the offspring of Abraham.
John 8:37-41 NLT Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.“ 39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”
Here Jesus is claiming once again that God is his own Father. It is good for us to remember what John told us in John 5:18, that every time Jesus says “my father,” he claiming that “God is his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Jesus is saying, “I am like my Father, and you are like your father. You claim to be the children of Abraham, but you are not acting like Abraham. You are trying to kill me. You are following the advice of your real father. I am telling you the truth that I heard from my Father, but you not acting like Abraham. You are acting like your real father.”
Who is their real father?
They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”
Is that true? Is God really their Father?
Fatherhood of God
Some speak of the fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. It is true that we are all brothers and sisters in the sense that we all descended from one man, Adam.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… (Act 17:24-26 ESV)
God has made us all. He is the Creator of us all. But Jesus clearly makes a distinction that the Jews are not ready to receive. The Jews claim that Abraham is their father. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham. Instead, they are acting like their true father.
“We are not illegitimate children,” they reply.
The Jews may have been implying that Jesus was illegitimate. In verse 19, they ask, “Where is your father?” Now in verse 41, they say, “We were not born of sexual immorality.” They may have been implying something about Mary. We know from the biblical record that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph did not know her physically until she brought forth her firstborn son. But the Jews did not know all this. There had been questions about Mary and Joseph.
But they still don’t get it. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham; they are acting like their real father. Who is that?
“We have one Father—even God,” they say.
But no, Jesus categorically denies that: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came no of m own accord, but he sent me.”
“If God were your Father,” Jesus says, “you would love me.” Do they love him? No. They want to kill him.
Who wants to kill Jesus? Most people are not openly hostile to Jesus. He is said to be one of the world’s greatest teachers. Some will say that he was a prophet. And if you say these things to most people, there will be little or no objection.
So why did the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus? They wanted to kill him because he claimed to be much more than a great teacher or a great prophet. He claimed to be equal with God:
This was why the Jews were seeking al the more to kill him… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (5:18).
Again in chapter 7:2, “He would not go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him.”
Jesus asks in 7:19, “Why do you seek to kill me?” In 7:25, “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?” The Jewish authorities tried to arrest him in 7:30 and 44, but they could not because his hour had not yet come and because no one could take his life from him.
MUSIC: MICHAEL W. SMITH: SECRET AMBITION – 3:41
The Jewish authorities were violent toward Christ. Is it not the same today? When we begin to lay out the claims of Christ, some people get upset. People don’t like what Jesus said about himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said, “no man comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Jesus said that he was the only way to God. People don’t like that. They want to keep their options open. They want to believe that there are many ways to God and that God is obligated to accept them however they come, whether through Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or some other way. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is the only true God who is at the Father’s side as John tells us in John 1:18. They don’t want to believe that seeing Jesus is seeing God as Jesus told Philip in 14:9. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is “Lord and God” as Thomas declared in John 20:28.
But Jesus told the Jewish authorities, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”
“I came from God.” No mere mortal could make such a statement. Jesus is pointing to his divine origin. Unlike us, he came from God.
“Why do you not understand what I say?” he asks. Then he answers his own question: “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (8:43).
Again, we see the importance of the word of Christ. In verse 31, Jesus has said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:37 ESV I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.
John 8:43 ESV Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
Finally, Jesus tells them what they do not understand. They have claimed to be the children of Abraham, but twice Jesus told them that rather than acting like the children of Abraham, they were acting like their father.
They claimed that God was their father. Jesus said that if God were their Father, they would love the Father’s Son.
So they are neither the children of Abraham nor the children of God. Then whose children are they?
Jesus finally drops the bomb in verse 44: “You are of your father the devil.”
We must understand that Jesus is not insulting them. He is simply telling them that they are acting like their father. “Like father, like son.” “Tel père, tel fils.”
John 8:44 ESV You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Satan was a murderer from the beginning. It was Satan who inspired Cain to kill his brother Abel. Now the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus. They are resisting the truth about Christ, the truth that He is God in the flesh. They are resisting because the truth has no place in them. They are resisting because they cannot bear to hear his word. They are resisting because they are acting like their father, the devil.
This is true, not only of the Jewish authorities; it is true of us. The Bible says of us in…
Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
We were following the course of this world. We were going with the flow. We were living like everyone else. We were living like the world, just doing what culture and society expected of us.
But we were not only following the course of the world; we were following the prince of the power of the air: Satan. He is the spirit that is now working in those who are disobedient to the gospel. We were living according to the passions of our flesh, doing whatever our body and mind desired. We were by nature children of wrath.
That is exactly what Jesus is saying when he says, “You are of your father the devil.” “Like father, like son.”
Whose child are you?
Who is your father? Physical descent has no importance when it comes to spiritual things. My father’s faith will not get me into heaven. God has no grandsons. I do not become a child of God by virtue of the faith of my parents.
There is only one way into God’s family: receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior.
John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” by the Spirit of God.
So what is the solution?
We come back to the word of verses 31-32,
John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”