Gospel of John

John 08:12-30, “Jesus, the Light of the World”

Light of the World

Light of the World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John’s gospel is all about Jesus. On every page John is telling us who Jesus is. He tells us who Jesus is through the testimony of others such as John the Baptist. John shows who Jesus is through the signs or miracles that Jesus does that point to his identity. John tells us what we are to understand through his comments on the events, on what people understood or misunderstood. And he shows who Jesus is through the very words of Jesus, his discourses and the claims that Christ makes about himself.

John tells us his purpose in writing near the end of his Gospel:

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

John writes all these things to show us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He writes so that we will believe in Christ. “Believe in Christ.” What does that mean? Believing in Christ means that Jesus Christ himself is the focus and the object of our faith and worship. It is through this faith in Christ, the Son of God, that we may have life in his name.

We come then to John 8:12 where Jesus makes a tremendous claim about himself. He makes one of his great “I AM” declarations: “I AM the light of the world.”

1.  I Am the Light of the World (8:12-20)

John 8:12 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

1.1.        The Claims of Jesus

This is not the first claim that Jesus makes, nor will it be the last.

  • John 6:35 I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
  • John 10:11 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
  • John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
  • John 11:25 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 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), 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus is doing the one thing that you and I should not do: he is making astounding claims about himself. As we have mentioned before on this broadcast, Jesus does not simply say that he will show us the way; he says, “I AM the way” (John 14:6). He does not say, “I will show you the Father.” He says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

These are breathtaking claims. They knock us back. They push us against the wall. We cannot simply say that Jesus was a wonderful teacher. If I were to announce to you today, “I am the light of the world,” you would have every right to dismiss me as a lunatic. But Jesus is continually making statements like that, and he makes several such statements in this passage in John 8. He makes these statements in chapters 6, 7, and 8 which all go together. Is he a lunatic? Or is he who he claims to be?

1.2.         The Feast of Tabernacles

Let us understand that chapter 8:12f. is a continuation of chapter 7, and that chapters 6, 7 and 8 give us pictures from Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. You will remember that God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God struck the land of Egypt with 10 plagues and Moses led the children of Israel out of Israel, across the Red Sea, and they were on their way to the Promised Land.

1.2.1.     The Bread of Life

But the Israelites refused to believe that God would give them victory in the Promised Land, so they were left to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until a new generation arose and took their place. Yet God graciously provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. He gave them water and manna – bread from heaven – and even meat to eat for 40 years.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of that time of God’s provision in the wilderness. In chapter 6, Jesus has already given us one picture from the wilderness years. He multiplied the loaves and fed the multitude. Then Jesus told them that he was the true manna, the bread of life that had come down from heaven. He told them that he himself was the source of life.

1.2.2.     The Living Water

Now Jesus is in Jerusalem at this Feast of Tabernacles in chapters 7 and 8. Here he gives us two more pictures from the wilderness period: one has to do with water, the other has to do with light. During the Feast of Tabernacles, it is the dry season in Israel: September or October. The hills are barren and parched.

Just like on some of our smaller islands, water can become a crucial issue, water was not taken for granted in Israel. The Israelites remembered during this Feast of Tabernacles their 40 years in the wilderness. They remembered having no water. They remembered Moses striking the rock and the water miraculously gushing from it. This is the second picture from the wilderness period: the water is gushing from the rock. Paul says that Christ was the spiritual Rock that followed them in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:4).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, special sacrifices are being made each day of seven days of the feast. Special ceremonies are conducted: The priest draws water from the Pool of Siloam into a golden pitcher as a choir sings Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The priest leads a procession of people back to the temple where the priest climbs the altar steps and pours the water onto the altar as the crowd continues to sing. On the last day of the feast, the seventh day of the feast, this ceremony is conducted seven times.

It is on this last day that Jesus stands and calls out with a loud voice, “If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.” John explains that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Come to me. I am the source of spiritual life.” These are amazing claims:

“I am the bread of life come down from heaven.”

“I am the source of living water.”

1.2.3.     The Light of the World

And now in John 8:12, still at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus makes another startling statement: “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This brings us to the third picture from the wilderness period. The entire Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of God provision in the wilderness. In the wilderness, God had led the Israelites with a pillar of fire by night. We read in Exodus 13 that as the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt,

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people (Exodus 13:21-22 ESV).

God parted the waters of the Red Sea and led the Israelites to the other side, but…

The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, 25 clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:23-25 ESV).

This pillar of fire was commemorated during the Feast. Sixteen golden bowls were filled with oil and cloth wicks. The rabbis said that when the bowls were lit at night, all Jerusalem was lit up. There were no streetlights in Jerusalem. No electric lights. Like any of our villages far removed from power lines, it would be quite dark at night. But the light from these sixteen lamps reflecting on

“Jerusalem’s yellow limestone walls must have been spectacular. Choirs of Levites would sing during the lighting while “men of piety and good works” danced in the streets, carrying torches and singing hymns. On this final day of Tabernacles, Jesus is teaching in the treasury (8:20) located within the Court of the Women [where the sixteen bowls have been lit]… Imagine the scene! In the very court where the lighting ceremony takes place, Jesus stands beneath sixteen lit bowls of oil and says that he is not only the true light of Jerusalem, but of the whole world![1]

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus says. Jesus does not say, “I have had a vision. I have received a revelation. I have seen the light and I will share it with you.” Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Who is the light of the world? In Psalm 27, David says,

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … (Psalm 27:1 ESV).

Jesus says in effect, “The light that the Israelites saw in the wilderness, that was me. I am the LORD who is your light and your salvation.”

Time and again, Jesus is showing that He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. The whole Bible points to Him. He does not say, “I have found the light.” He says, “I am the light.” Not just the light of Jerusalem or even the light for the Jews. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.”

1.2.4.     Rejecting His Claim

This is not a message that the world wants to hear today. Today we want to say that we have our own light. We want to say that there are many ways to God. We want to say that we all worship the same God in our own way. The world has become quite intolerant of anyone who claims to know the truth. But this is hardly surprising for the Pharisees reacted strongly to Jesus when he claimed to be the light of the world:

The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid” (John 8:13 NIVO).

This is exactly what John told us would happen in the opening verses of this Gospel:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:4-11 ESV).

Some people reject the claims of Christ out of hand. They simply deny him without giving any due consideration to his birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for us, or his physical resurrection from the dead. They refuse to see the absolute uniqueness of Christ, that there has never been nor shall there ever be anyone like him to walk on this earth.

Others diminish his claims. They do not want to accept what the inspired writers of the New Testament have written about Christ. They do not want to accept, for example, the words of John in 1:18 that Jesus is “the only God, who is at the Father’s side…” They will make him smaller. “A mighty god,” but not God Almighty. John says in 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made,” but others will say that he too was made. There are many ways to deny Christ. Whether you reject Jesus Christ outright or simply see him as a great teacher or prophet or as some half-god, that is darkness.

Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World. The Pharisees challenged Jesus that in a court of law, the testimony of only one person would not be accepted. They had apparently forgotten what Jesus had said back in chapter 5. Jesus had claimed to be equal with God. John tells us that explicitly in 5:18: “by calling God his own Father,” John says, “he made himself equal with God.” In chapter 5, Jesus calls to the witness stand John the Baptist, his own works which the Father gave him to do, the Father who sent him, the Scriptures, and Moses, saying that they all bear witness to him.

Again the Pharisees are refuting his claim. But Jesus responds,

“Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going (John 8:14 NIVO).

Jesus here adds another dimension to the discussion. “His words are true, and his judgment is true” not simply because they are convincing, but because of his origin. The Jewish authorities are wrong about him. They do not know him. They do not know that he was born in Bethlehem as the prophet Micah had announced 700 years before. They fail to remember that Isaiah had prophesied that the people of Galilee would see a great light:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone (Isaiah 9:1-2 ESV).

Jesus says, “My testimony about myself is true because I know things about myself that you do not know. I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or here I am going.”

They are judging Jesus but they know neither his origin nor his destiny. They are judging, Jesus says, according to the flesh. They are using human standards to judge him, but they have no spiritual insight. They have failed to perceive through the Scriptures, through the miraculous signs that Jesus performed, or through the testimony of John the Baptist to the light that Jesus is indeed the light of the world. They are walking in darkness. They have failed to see the light. They refused to consider his claims to be the bread of life, the source of spiritual life, and the light of the world.

Unlike the Pharisees who judge from a purely natural standpoint – a purely earthly perspective, Jesus judges no one from an earthly perspective:

Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me (John 8:16 ESV).

His judgment is true. Though his Father has sent him, he is not alone. His Father is with him. His perspective is the Father’s perspective. His judgment is the Father’s judgment.

So while they have rejected his testimony out of hand, Jesus reminds them that the testimony of two people is true. Jesus counts as one; the Father counts as the second person:

In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me” (John 8:17-18 ESV).

Now this is a remarkable declaration. Though Jesus claims equality with God in John 5:18, he does not say that the Father is the Son or that the Son is the Father. “I am one who bears witness about myself, and the Father is another who bears witness about me.” He states here that the Father sent him: “the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

“Where is your Father?” the Pharisees ask (John 8:19). They do not understand what Jesus is talking about. Jesus’ response is powerful:

“You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19 ESV).

They don’t know. They don’t know Jesus. They don’t know where he came from. They don’t know where he is going. And they don’t know his Father.

“If you knew me,” Jesus says, “you would know my Father also.”

Who could make such a statement? Who is his Father? His father is God. “If you knew me, you would know God.” “To know me is to know God.” That’s what Jesus said. Those are powerful words. Spoken by anyone but God himself, those words would constitute blasphemy.

Once again, the Jewish authorities want to seize him, “but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.”

2.   I Am Going Away! (8:21-30)

Jesus has already told the Jewish authorities that he knows where he came from and where he is going; they know neither where he came from nor where he is going. Now he tells them, “I am going away.” He is going away, but he does not tell them where. He only tells them that where he is going, they cannot come, and that they will die in their sin (8:21).

Where is Jesus going that they cannot come? Where could Jesus possibly go that they could not go? What does he mean?

 The people asked, “Is he planning to commit suicide? What does he mean, ‘You cannot come where I am going’?” (John 8:22 NLT).

As a matter of fact, Jesus is referring to his death. He will die, and it will be a voluntary death. But it will not be suicide.

 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:18 NLT).

He will die and he will rise and he will return to his Father. They will continue to look for the Messiah, but because they have rejected him — Jesus Christ the Messiah — they will die in their sin. What sin is that? The great sin of refusing to believe.

Again he tells them,

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

“You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am.”

“Unless we believe that you are—what?”

The original language, the Greek, just leaves it hanging. Some translations add the word “he” (ESV) or “the one I claim to be” (NIVO), but Jesus is using the divine name that God used when he revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14.

But the crowd misses the point altogether. It is God’s divine name (“I am”) that they cannot understand since they are “from below,” since they judge “according to the flesh.” Jesus is not simply a prophet with divine things to communicate, but he bears divinity in himself. He is not a man with religious insight (from below, from the world), but God’s Son (from above, from heaven). This prompts his audience to ask its most important question. Not: “What do you mean?” But: “Who are you?” (8:25). It is Jesus’ divine identity, his mysterious divine incarnation that makes everything about him important.[2]

“Who are you?” they ask. That is the whole point. Who is Jesus? Who is the Christ? Again, John is writing these things so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. — The Son of God. Like Father, like Son. The Son has the same nature as the Father. He is the “I AM.” He is the God who revealed himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM.”

“Who are you?” they ask. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.” What Jesus says here in chapter 8 is consistent with what he has said about himself from the beginning.

What we believe about Jesus Christ has eternal consequences. “Unless you believe that I AM,” Jesus says, “you will die in your sins.”

John writes this Gospel so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, we may life in his name (20:31). Through every page of the Gospel, John is showing us that Jesus is God in a human body. Jesus is God in the flesh. “If you knew me, you would know the Father,” Jesus said (8:19).

So what happens if we don’t believe? What happens if we do not believe what Jesus said about himself? We will find ourselves in the same position as the unbelieving Jewish authorities. “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” Why? Because of our sins. The wages of sin is death.

 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18 ESV).

You see, we have all sinned, but Christ came to take away our sins. Jesus came that we might have life. If we refuse to come to him on his terms, we will die in our sins.

 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

Jesus is the Light of the World. The light shines in the darkness. The light reveals the dark places of our hearts. Do we come to the Light, or do we refuse to come that we may have life?

 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19-21 ESV).

In verse 28, Jesus said to them,

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…”

The Son of Man? Who is the Son of Man?

 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal– it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 NLT).

The Son of Man would be lifted up on the cross. God himself would bear our sins on the cross.

As he was saying these things, many believed in him (John 8:30 ESV).

We read in Mark’s Gospel that a lame man was carried into Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Everyone gasped, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Then Jesus said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins,” and he turned to the lame man and said, “Rise up and walk.” And the lame man was healed and walked.

If a friend of yours sinned against you, and I told your friend, “I forgive you,” you would ask me what right I had to forgive sins committed against you. And you would be right. Who can forgive sins against God but God alone? Jesus can forgive sins because he is God.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He bore your sin on the cross. Have you put your trust in Him?

[1]Burge, Gary M. (2009-08-22). John (The NIV Application Commentary) (pp. 213-214). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[2]Burge, Gary M. (2009-08-22). John (The NIV Application Commentary) (p. 216). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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p class=”p1″>See also “Gospel of John”:

John 08:02-11, “Guilt – What to Do with It”

Christ and the Woman taken in adultery

Christ and the Woman taken in adultery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John 8:2-12

 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”] (John 8:2-11 ESV).

Today we are going to consider the story of a woman who was made to feel her guilt in a very public way. A woman, who according to her accusers, was caught in the very act of adultery.

What are you most ashamed of? How do you handle guilt? What are we to do with guilt?

What is guilt?

Some say that guilt is a social construct to make people conform to public expectations and values. It functions with shame as society shames people for stepping out of line, for failing to conform to the norm and expected behavior.

We are told the society breeds guilt. That we inhale guilt in the air we breathe.

Ever since psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, much of secular society has tried to bury guilt. We repress guilt. We suppress it. We deny it. Dr. Albert Mohler says,

the modern secular worldview demands that guilt be understood as the lingering residue of the Christian conscience, an experience merely forced upon us by a society that imposes oppressive moral judgments. It is to be overcome and denied, never heard.[1]

Is that what guilt is? An experience, a feeling or sentiment that is imposed upon us from the outside? A feeling of failure of some kind that is forced upon us by society or those around us? Is guilt simply the shame that one feels because he or she has failed to live up to the expectations of others? Is it simply the expectations of others, of culture, of custom, or of society at large – those things that are outside of us – that produce a sense of guilt and shame?

Or is there something in us that recognizes that some things are right and some things are wrong? Is there rather something in us that recognizes that sometimes we do what is right and sometimes we do what is wrong? Is there something in us, some moral compass, some sense of morality that indicates how we should live in this world?

Much of the world argues today that there is no right or wrong, that everything is relative. What is right for me might be wrong for you, and what is right for you might be wrong for me.

In the final analysis, according to this way of thinking, I could never say that what you do is wrong and you could never say that what I do is wrong. No judge could ever pronounce the verdict “Guilty as charged” because there is no moral law, no right or wrong. Everything is culturally and even individually conditioned.

But that idea does not hold water. We may argue and justify our own behavior. We may, for example, rationalize and justify our adultery with another man’s wife in arguing that it is a private matter between two consenting adults and that it concerns no one else. But when the shoe is on the other foot, when another man commits adultery with our wife, we know that it is wrong. I may be able to rationalize stealing 10.000vt from you and pretend that nothing wrong has been done, but when you steal 10.000vt from me, I recognize that stealing is wrong.

In our heart of hearts, we know that there is right and there is wrong. It is built in us. It is part of the image of God in us. So when we do what we know we should not do, we feel guilt. When we fail to do what we know we should do, we feel guilt.

…the Christian worldview affirms that guilt is inescapably moral, and that our experience of guilt comes from the fact that we are made in God’s image as irreducibly moral creatures. We cannot not know of our guilt, which exists as God’s gift to drive us to the knowledge that we are sinners in need of a Savior.[2]

We need a Savior. The power of the cross. Christ became sin for us. He took the blame. He bore the wrath. We stand forgiven at the cross.

MUSIC: KRISTYN GETTY – The Power of the Cross

Guilt in the Garden

Guilt and shame were experienced by Adam and Eve, the first couple. God had created them and placed them in the Garden of Eden to tend it and to enjoy every kind of fruit that he had placed there. With one exception. They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was a tree like any other. It was only of that one tree that they were not to eat. God was simply giving them the choice to love Him and keep His commandments or to disobey and to separate themselves from God.

It was a fruit tree and nothing more. God had already told them to be fruitful and to multiply. He had told them to procreate and have children. That was part of the blessing that God had given in creating us male and female. God gave them everything that they needed. And He had given them each other.

They had everything that they needed but there was one thing that they did not have, something that God could not give them, but something that God could only give them the opportunity to develop: godly character. That character would come from choosing to do what was good and right. God would not have robots serving Him. He wanted creatures, created in His image, who loved Him of their own free will and chose to obey Him.

Adam and Eve had known good, but not evil. Disobedient to God, they chose to know evil. With evil came shame and guilt. They knew that they had betrayed the love of their Creator. They knew that they had disobeyed Him. They knew that they had willfully and foolishly chosen their own way instead of God’s way. They tried to cover their shame. They tried to hide themselves, but they could not escape the voice of One coming into the garden:

“Adam, where are you?”

 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:10-12 ESV).

Guilt. Shame. Blame. “It was not my fault. It was the woman that you gave me.”

Freudian psychology teaches us pretty much the same. It’s not your fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Blame your wife. Blame your parents. That’s the best way to deal with guilt and shame: blame others.

Except that it is not true. Healing and wholeness cannot come until we accept responsibility for our actions.

Guilt. How should we deal with it?

The Woman Caught in Adultery

This story in John 8 is the story of a woman who in the words of one translation “has been caught in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4 NAU).

Shame and guilt are written all over this story.

 Early in the morning [Jesus] came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:2-5 ESV).

Can you imagine the setting? Here Jesus is in the temple. There is a crowd of people listening to him as he teaches. Suddenly, there in the temple is a commotion as a group of men, scribes and Pharisees, come barging in, dragging a woman in front of the crowd. Everything stops as she is placed there before Jesus and the onlookers.

Just moments before, she had been in the arms of a man who was not her husband. The doors flung open. She was seized and dragged through the streets of Jerusalem. Suddenly, she was thrust in front of a young man.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women to death. What then to you say?”

God’s verdict was clear:

 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel (Deuteronomy 22:22 ESV).

“Both of them shall die.” Both of them. But where was the man? Why had they not brought the man? Had he paid them off? Had it all been a trap? Had he simply been too fast for them? They scribes and Pharisees say nothing about the man.

The Trap

This was hypocrisy, pure and simple. The scribes and Pharisees were not concerned with justice; they were exploiting this woman. They were using her to try to trap Jesus:

“In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (v. 5).

“They were tying to trap him into saying something they could use against him…” (v. 6).

They hated Jesus. They were jealous of the influence that he had over the crowds. They were angry that he did not conform to the type of Messiah that they wanted. In John 5 the Jewish authorities wanted to stone because he had made himself equal with God. In chapter 7 we read that they were already plotting to kill him. Here in John 8 they are setting a trap for him: “Moses said that this kind of woman should be stoned. So what do you say?”

What could Jesus say? Well, he could tell them not to stone her, but then he would be found in contradiction with the Law of Moses and would be disqualified as the Messiah. Jesus himself had said in Matthew 5:17,

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17 ESV).

Jesus had come to fulfill the Law. In fact, the Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament pointed to Christ as the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Had Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees not to stone the adulteress woman, he would be abolishing the Law that he came to fulfill.

His other option would be to agree with them that the woman should be stoned. But the Jews were under Roman domination. The Jews did not have the legal right to put anyone to death. If Jesus agreed with the scribes and Pharisees, they would stone the woman and blame Jesus before the Romans: “The rabbi told us to stone her.” And they take care of their “Jesus problem.”

But the real problem was how justice and mercy could come together. Jesus came not to condemn, but to save:

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 (John 3:17 ESV).

Jesus’ Answer

It was a trap, and Jesus knew it. John has already told us that Jesus “knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25 ESV). These self-righteous Pharisees were exploiting this woman in order to trap Jesus. What would he answer? At first, he said nothing.

“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (v. 6b).

This poor woman! Who knows what she looked like? She had been dragged out and placed in the midst of these men whose eyes were full of condemnation and hatred toward her and toward Jesus.

But Jesus is full of compassion for the woman.

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…(Matthew 12:20 NLT).

Jesus’ harshest words are not for sinners but for the self-righteous, for those religious people who think they are better than everyone else. Jesus is called the “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19). At another point, the Pharisees asked his disciples,

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:11-13 ESV).

A man here in Port Vila once told me that he was too wicked to be saved. ***Jesus came to save the most wicked among us. That is the Good News of the gospel. Our God Is Mighty to Save.

MUSIC: LAURA STORY – MIGHT TO SAVE 

Jesus bends down and begins writing with his finger on the ground. He takes the attention off the woman. In mercy, he bends down and draws the attention of the men away from this woman that they want stoned. He begins writing on the ground.

What does he write?

Does he write the names of the men and sins they have committed?

Well, we don’t know what he wrote, but it is interesting that this is a question about the Law. In the Old Testament, the Law was written on tablets of stone with “the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Now Jesus bends down and writes in the dust with his finger. The woman’s accusers were claiming Moses’ authority. Jesus was claiming a greater authority than that of Moses. He was writing with the finger of God. Jesus himself would do what the Law could not do.

The scribes and Pharisees kept demanding an answer. Jesus stood up straight. He looked them in the eyes and with a clear voice said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7 NLT).

“Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust” (John 8:8 NLT).

These men who enjoyed humiliating a woman and attempted to trap Jesus were now being accused by their own hearts.

“Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

They once directed Jesus to answer their questions and now he is the one giving orders.[3]

 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him (John 8:9 ESV).

One by one, they drop their stones. One by one, they walk away. The older ones first, perhaps because they had lived long enough to be more aware of their own failures. Perhaps their conscience had been pricked. Perhaps they were simply embarrassed that they had fallen into their own trap.

Alone with Jesus

Jesus writes in the dust again as the accusers slither off, one by one. The woman is now alone with Jesus: “Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him” (John 8:9 ESV).

Again Jesus stands up, this time looking at the woman:

“Woman, where are they?”

They had come to accuse. They had come to entrap. But now they were gone. Those accusing men who had dragged her through the streets and put her on public display in the temple, demanding that Jesus pass sentence on her… they were gone.

“Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 ESV),

“No one, Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, sin no more” (John 8:11 ESV).

Guilt

Did you hear what Jesus said? “Go and from now on, sin no more.” The woman was guilty as charged. She had sinned. She was covered with guilt and shame. But Jesus does not condemn her, neither does he allow her to continue a life of sin: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, sin no more.”

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus had said. There was only one there without sin: Jesus himself. The Scriptures are clear about this. Three times in John’s Gospel, Pilate declares, “I find no guilt in him” (Jn. 18:38; 19:4, 6).

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

1 John 3:5 ESV You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1 Peter 2:22 ESV He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

Hebrews 4:15 ESV For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus could have, but he did not.

God through Moses had commanded her death. Now God the Son simply says, “Neither do I condemn you.” If God violates his own commandment and lets the guilty go unpunished, then God is unjust. How could God possibly let her off?[4]

This sin of adultery would be punished to the full extent of the law, but the adulteress would not bear the punishment. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) would take her place. Jesus, the spotless Lamb, the sinless Son, the one who had no sin of his own, would take upon himself the sins of the whole world. He would bear our sins in his own body on the cross. He would bear this woman’s guilt and shame and punishment.

What had he written on the ground? Perhaps he had written the prophecy that Isaiah had written about him

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

No Condemnation

Neither do I condemn you, Jesus says. “No condemnation.”

MUSIC: HOSANNA MUSIC: NO CONDEMNATION 

Paul says it this way in Romans 8:

 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 ESV).

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4 ESV).

No condemnation. That does not mean that Jesus condones the sin, that he accepts it. He clearly tells the woman, “Go and sin no more.”

The Good News that we preach is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The Good News that we preach is that the One who had no guilt came to bear our guilt.

 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIVO).

What Do You Do with Your Guilt?

The world says that you need not feel guilty. Deny it. Repress it.

The Christian worldview is that guilt is a gift from God to lead us to the Savior. Guilt is a recognition that there is right and there is wrong. There is good and there is evil. My conscience tells me that I have sinned against the knowledge that I have had. I have done things that I knew not to do. I have taken from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I have been found out. I have been discovered. “When the Holy Spirit is come,” Jesus said, “he will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8-10).

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, what are we to do? When our conscience condemns us, how do we get rid of our guilt?

We come to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We give our guilt to Jesus.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins– and not only our sins but the sins of all the world (1 John 1:8-2 NLT).

Jesus is the one who bears our sin and shame. He is the one who bears our guilt.

“There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Notice that Jesus did not first tell the woman, “Go and sin no more, and I will not condemn you.” He did not tell her that she would be forgiven if she did not sin anymore. He said first, “Neither do I condemn you.” Then he said, “Go, and from now on, sin no more.”

Does the burden of guilt weigh you down? You were not meant to carry your guilt. Come to Jesus. Cast all you care on him, for he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Lay your burden down “At the Foot of the Cross.”

MUSIC: KATHRYN SCOTT – AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS 

We were not made to carry guilt. Bring your guilt, your shame, and your sin to Jesus.

[1]http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/05/08/i-feel-super-great-about-having-an-abortion-the-culture-of-death-goes-viral/

[2]http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/05/08/i-feel-super-great-about-having-an-abortion-the-culture-of-death-goes-viral/

[3]Steve Zeisler, http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/334/110807%20WEB%20Format.pdf?1320796528

[4]Jon Bloom, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/neither-do-i-condemn-you

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 07:01-39, “History’s Most Controversial Person”

Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer)

Cristo Redentor (Christ Redeemer) (Photo credit: bossa07)

1.CONTROVERSY

1.1.Who was the most controversial person in history? 

Many names may come to mind. Some might suggest such men as Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union, Uganda’s Idi Amin, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, or Slobodan Milosevic of ex-Yugoslavia. The list could go on. While these names are well-known, history has pronounced its verdict on them. Few people today would consider them models of leadership. Few would want to be under the dictatorship of these men. Few people are divided over whether these men were good or evil. Most people agree about the kind of men that they were. So there is little or no controversy about the legacy that they have left. History and the court of human opinion have rendered a unanimous verdict about the character of these men. They are not really controversial.

Men of controversy are men who divide human opinion by what they do or what they say. They are men who stir up strong sentiments and debate. Men of controversy divide all others into two groups: those who are for them, and those who are against them; those who agree with them, and those who disagree with them. History has many such men, men who polarized nations and peoples and even the whole world. Men who left little or no middle ground. We might consider such men as Charles Darwin whose theory of evolution continues to divide people today. Does chance really explain the origin of all things from nothing, the origin of life, the extreme intelligence that is evident in the DNA structure of even the simplest of life forms? Does chance account for the order that is present at all levels of the universe. Some say, “Yes. It all just happened by itself.” Others believe that life, order, intelligence, and values all point to a divine Creator.

Martin Luther was certainly a controversial figure. He nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and unintentionally brought about the Protestant Reformation when he simply wanted to purify the Roman Catholic Church. He is the point of divide between Roman Catholics and all branches of Protestantism. But he was only controversial because another before him was controversial.

We could consider others such as Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, or Mohammed. But who was the most controversial person in history?

1.2.The Testimony of Historians

When we turn to the historians, we find that there is one figure, one person, who rivets the attention. One person who calls for a response from all people everywhere.

British Historian H. G. Wells: “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Yale University professor and historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet.”

Wells said that Jesus is “the most dominant figure of all history.” Latourette said that he is “the most influential life ever lived on this planet.” Dominant and influential, and yet, by far the most controversial. To this day, Jesus Christ is controversial. He stands as the dividing line of history. We date our calendars by his birth. Jesus divides humanity into two groups: believers and unbelievers. Those who are for him and those who are against him. Jesus leaves no middle ground:

Matthew 12:30 ESV Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

There is no other name that divides people more than the name of Jesus Christ. People may want to think of themselves as spiritual or interested in spiritual things. They may politely talk about God and about spiritual matters. But people often get uncomfortable when the name of Jesus is mentioned. In fact, in certain public contexts, prayer is welcomed as long as the name of Jesus is not mentioned. In my country, pastors are invited to pray at the opening of congressional meetings or the inaugurations of presidents, but they are told not to mention Jesus. Mentioning the name of Jesus is seen to be intolerant, so prayers in the name of Jesus are not tolerated.

Jesus himself was often embroiled in controversy. Ah yes, he was so controversial that his life ended on the cross. He invited controversy by his very teaching. Controversy becomes apparent in John 5 when Jesus heals the lame man on the Sabbath. What’s wrong with that? Well, the Jewish authorities considered it to be work, and Jesus knew it. Work was one thing that you were not to do on the Sabbath according to the Law. That was bad enough. But then Jesus claimed that he had the right to do miraculous works on the Sabbath because he was equal with God. That is what John explains to us in John 5:18, “He called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Someone has said that Buddha never claimed to be God. Moses never claimed to be Yahweh (Jehovah). Mohammed never claimed to be Allah. Yet Jesus Christ claimed to be the true and living God. Buddha simply said, “I am a teacher in search of the truth.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Confucius said, “I never claimed to be holy.” Jesus said, “Who convicts me of sin?” Mohammed said, “Unless God throws his cloak of mercy over me, I have no hope.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe in me, you will die in your sins.”

In chapter 6, he claims to be the source of life: “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven.”

John 6:53 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

John 6:57 ESV “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”

John 7 opens with the words that the Jewish authorities were seeking to kill him. But soon it was time for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It was one of the three great Jewish festivals that took place every year. This Feast of Tabernacles was the most popular and important festival of the year. It was a commemoration of the 40 years in the wilderness when God had provided for them. It was a time of celebration and feasting. Would Jesus go up for the festival? Everyone was wondering.

2.DIVISION

2.1.Division in the Family

But there was division everywhere. Even among Jesus’ brothers.

John 7:3-4 ESV So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 

Did they believe in him? Were they really wanting more people to see the signs that Jesus was doing? Did they really want Jesus to win more disciples? No. Unfortunately, they were not sincere. John, as he does so often in this Gospel, tells us what we are understand:

John 7:5 ESV For not even his brothers believed in him.

There was division in his own family. “Even his brothers did not believe in him,” John tells us. Just as Jesus had said in Luke 12:51-53:

Luke 12:51-53 ESV Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52  For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus, the most controversial figure of all time, was even controversial in his own family. His mother, Mary, of course, believed in him. She knew that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She knew what the angel had said to her. In John 2, she had told the servants to do what ever Jesus told them. They had filled the six huge water pots with water, and Jesus had changed the water into wine, the first of his signs pointing to who he is and manifesting his glory. Mary believed in her son, Jesus, but his brothers did not believe.

His brothers, “who had lived in the same house with him for nearly 30 years, did not know who he was”. Jesus’ humanity was so real and genuine — yes, the Word became flesh — his humanity was so real and his deity was so hidden before he began his earthly ministry, that his brothers “lived and ate and slept in the same rooms as the eternal Son of God and did not know it.”

You may be the only person in your family to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. Perhaps you are alone in your love, devotion, and obedience to Christ. It may be that your own family opposes you and wants you to turn back from following Jesus. Know this: Even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him at first. But that would change. We read in 1 Corinthians 15 that after his resurrection, the Lord appeared to James. In Acts 1, the brothers of Jesus were in the upper room with the other disciples, waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The brothers of Jesus had become disciples. You may be alone in your faith and devotion to Jesus Christ, but stay faithful. Remain true to the Lord. Give the Lord time to work in your life and in the lives of your loved ones. As they see Christ in your life, they too may be drawn to the Savior.

2.2.Danger in Jerusalem 

Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus. There he had cleansed the temple. He had healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. He had made himself equal with God by claiming that God was his own Father. And the Jewish authorities were looking for him. Jesus was gaining too many disciples and the Jewish authorities wanted to put a stop to Jesus. They wanted to get rid of him. They wanted to kill him. Several times in John 7 and 8, we read that the Jewish religious authorities are out to kill Jesus.

Jesus himself explains to his unbelieving brothers why Jewish authorities were out to get him:

John 7:7 NLT The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.

So Jesus “wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death” (John 7:1 NLT).

John 7:10 NLT ¶ But after his brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.

Jesus was present in Jerusalem, though out of sight. With so much hatred toward Jesus, he would not show himself openly until the right time had come. He would do things on his own timetable. He would determine his own schedule.

There was not only danger in Jerusalem, there was also…

2.3.Division in Jerusalem

As Jesus had stirred up a lot of controversy, some people were for him while others were against him.

John 7:11-13 NLT The Jewish leaders tried to find him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen him. 12  There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13  But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Good man or con man — what is he? People were whispering. They were divided. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. He does not leave you that option.

Once again, we can quote C. S. Lewis, former professor of literature at Oxford University:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The air was thick with tension. Intimidation was the name of the game. The Jewish authorities were trying to scare people. They were jealous. They did not like the fact that Jesus was gaining influence with the people. They were losing influence themselves and they felt it.

Many were in favor of Jesus. They believed that he was a good man, but they were afraid to “speak favorably about him in public.” “Jesus talk” could get you into trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Today, in certain areas, in certain towns, in certain families, talking about Jesus can get in trouble. There are many countries in the world today where talking about Jesus can get you killed. Every year thousands of Christians are persecuted, tortured, and killed for their testimony in countries like North Korea, Nigeria, and islamic countries such as Iran. But even in some democratic countries, authorities are trying to intimidate Christians to abandon their beliefs and values and to accept anti-Christian agendas. Persecution is not new. Paul tells Timothy,

2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13  while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

There is and there will be division over Jesus. Some believe in him while others believe that he leads people astray. Opposition to Christ is becoming increasingly hostile in many parts of the world. People are saying and writing things today about Jesus and about Christians that are shocking. But we must not be intimidated. We must not be afraid to speak the truth in love.

3.CONTROVERSY OVER JESUS’ TEACHING (7:14-24)

3.1.Teaching in the Temple

Speaking the truth is exactly what Jesus did. “You must go to the feast,” his brothers had said. “Go work some miracles so that your disciples can see what you are doing.” “If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world.”

Suddenly he comes to the temple. He is not working miracles, signs, and wonders. He is teaching.

The unbelieving brothers want him to go up publicly, but Jesus went up privately. They wanted him to work miracles, but when Jesus finally went public, he went public with teaching, not miracles. And his teaching is not to bring glory to himself, but to bring glory to God.

3.2.Teaching that Astonishes

John 7:15 NLT The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked.

Jesus had not been trained as the scribes and Pharisees, yet his ability to teach was astonishing. We read elsewhere that unlike the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus taught as one having authority.

We remember that at the age of 12, the boy Jesus astonished the elders by asking questions in the temple, his Father’s house. Now as a man, he continues to astonish people with his teaching. “How did he get such learning?” they ask.

It would be easy for us to say that he was God and knew all things. And yet, we must take seriously the divine and human natures of Christ. In his human nature, he did not know all things. “The human Jesus had to grow in his knowledge and understanding of the things of God.” In his human nature, he tells us that he did not know the day of his return (Mark 13:32).

At the same time, we see many instances when Jesus demonstrates supernatural knowledge. He knew Nathanael before he ever met him (John 1:47-49). He knew the Samaritan woman’s sordid past (4:17-18). He knew all men and did not need anyone to testify to him about man what was in him (2:24-25). Where did he get such learning? “It came from the communication of the divine nature to the human nature.”

John 7:16 NIVO Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.

This debate between Jesus and the Jewish authorities was about credentials. The Jewish leaders asked, “Where did You get Your degree?” Jesus replied: “I brought it with Me from heaven. I don’t teach anything on My own, but My doctrine comes from the Father. If you want the truth, if you want knowledge, if you care about theology, you should believe every word that I tell you because the only words I give you are from Him. If you want to do the will of God, you should hear My voice and listen to Me.”

John 7:17 ESV If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

What does he mean? Jesus means that seeing the truth is a matter of the disposition of the heart.

  • When our minds are made up,
  • when we know what we want to do,
  • when we have our own agenda,
  • we have made our plan,
  • when we ready to do our own thing,

— it is impossible to hear from God. No, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…” (Matthew 16:24).

Here, Jesus says that if our heart’s desire is to do God’s will and not our own will, we will know whether Jesus’ teaching comes from God or is merely his own.

John 7:18 ESV The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.

What is our motivation? To be known? To make a name for ourselves? To impress people with our knowledge and our degrees? The one who speaks of his own authority, who tells you about his accomplishments, and his degrees, and his experience — that man is seeking his own glory. “We preach not ourselves,” Paul said, “but Jesus Christ our Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5). “He must increase, and I must decrease,” said John the Baptist (John 3:30).

Jesus was seeking only to glorify the Father. He faithfully taught what he had heard from the Father. His teaching was true because Jesus himself was true, and “there is nothing false about him” (John 7:18 NIVO).

3.3.Misuse of the Word of God

Secret agendas distort our understanding of God’s Word. How often we refuse to see what is so clearly written! How often do we twist Scripture simply to approve what we want to do, or to prove a point? How often do we use an argument — not because it is true, but because it supports what we want to do or what we want to see happen?

Two things will prevent us from knowing the truth:

  1. Seeking our own glory instead of God’s, and
  2. having our own agenda’s instead of desiring above all things to do God’s will.

Part of the controversy between Jesus and the Jewish authorities had to do with their interpretation and additions to the Law. They said that no work could be done on the Sabbath. But Jesus had healed a lame man on the Sabbath and told him to take up his mat and walk.

“That’s against the Law!” they cried. “Let’s put this man to death!” The same Law that said that they were to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, also said that, “You shall not kill.” Yet, the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

The Law also had required that an infant boy be circumcised the eighth day, even when that day was the Sabbath. So why should they be angry that Jesus made a man completely well on the Sabbath? They may have been teachers of the Law, but they had failed to understand the spirit of the Law.

John 7:24 NIVO Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

4.CONTROVERSY OVER JESUS’ ORIGIN (7:25-52)

There was controversy not only over Jesus’ teaching, but also over his origin. Where did he come from? Of course, the real question was whether Jesus was the Christ, the one that had been promised through the ages, and the issue of his origin was an important factor in determining whether he was the Christ.

John 7:25-27 NIVO ¶ At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26  Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? 27  But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”

There was confusion among the crowd:

John 7:26-27 NLT But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? 27  But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”

Really? No one would know? Well, in fact, they did not know. They thought that Jesus was from Galilee, but they did not know that he was born in Bethlehem. Even this shows the controversy over Jesus’ origin. While some thought that no one would know where the Messiah came from, others knew that the Scriptures told precisely where he would come from. A few verses later, when Jesus gives his great invitation,

John 7:40-43 NLT ¶ …some of them declared, “Surely this man is the Prophet we’ve been expecting.” 41  Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee? 42  For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” 43  So the crowd was divided about him.

The Messiah would come from Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born.

In verse 50, the Pharisees are ready to judge him, but Nicodemus, “the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. “Are you from Galilee, too?” they replied. “Search the Scriptures and see for yourself — no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

The people thought that they knew everything about Jesus. They thought that they knew where he was from.

“Oh, sure, you know me. And you think you know where I come from. But I am not here on my own. There is One who sent me, and he is true, but you don’t know Him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you” (7:28-29, my paraphrase).

They knew what he meant. He was referring to having been sent by God. So the Jewish authorities wanted to arrest him, “but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come” (John 7:30, NLT).

Controversy: The authorities wanted to arrest him, but the next verse tells us,

John 7:31 NLT Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”

Once again, the chief priests and Pharisees try to stop Jesus. They sent officers to arrest him (7:32), but the officers came back empty-handed (7:45). “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke like this man!” (7:46).

5.CONTROVERSY OVER HIS INVITATION

It was the last day of the feast, the great day. It was the day of the greatest celebration. It was the day when water from the Pool of Siloam was poured out on the altar as a memorial of the water that flowed from the rock in the wilderness at Horeb.

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

5.1.Come to Me and Drink

These are not the claims of simply a religious leader. In fact, Jesus never claimed to be a religious leader. Jesus is unlike any of the world’s great religious leaders. Ravi Zacharias grew up in a Hindu culture. He has studied world religions and has observed a fundamental distinction between Jesus Christ and the founders of other major religions:

“In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. It is not Zoroaster to whom you turn; it is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammad who transforms you; it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you. By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message.”5

The truth of Zacharias’ point is underscored by the number of times in the Gospels that Jesus’ teaching message was simply “Come to me” or “Follow me” or “Obey me.” Also, Jesus made it clear that his primary mission was to forgive sins, something only God could do.

Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” –J.Sidlow Baxter

He did not come to tell the thirsty where they could go to quench their thirst. He said, “Come to me.” “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Illustration

On Friday I was in the check-out at the grocery store. I looked ahead and saw a pastor friend checking out. Sandwiched between us was a man with several bottles of alcohol. It was an opportunity not to be missed. I greeted my pastor-friend and put my arm on the other man’s shoulder and said to my friend, “Wanum tinktink blong yu? Man ia, hem i nidim whiskey o hem i nidim Jisas?” Of course my pastor-friend responded that the man needed Jesus. We told the man that he had been waylaid by a couple of pastors, and my friend gave the man a good hug.

The man was thirsty for something, but nothing but Jesus will satisfy his thirst. “If anyone thirst,” Jesus said, “let him come to me and drink.”

John 7:38 NAU “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

John explains,

When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him (Joh 7:39 NLT).

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 06:01-71, “No Appetite for the Bread of Life”

Giovanni Lanfranco - Miracle of the Bread and ...

Giovanni Lanfranco – Miracle of the Bread and Fish – WGA12454 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you feel when you have unexpected guests who hang around all day until you feed them? And then they come back for more the next day. And then they complain about what you served them to eat. And finally, they decide that they’ll never come back again? Well, something like that happened in John 6 when Jesus borrowed a boy’s lunch and used it to feed 5,000 men.

Why do some people turn back from following Jesus?
We’ve all seen it happen. Some people get “turned on” to Jesus. They they get “turned off.” And finally, they “turn away.” The same thing happened when Jesus was on earth, and right after he had performed one of his greatest miraculous signs, the feeding of 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish. We read these words in John 6:66-71,
> After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him (John 6:66-71 ESV).

We never expect this chapter to end this way. This chapter tells the story of one of the best known miracles of Jesus: the feeding of the 5,000. In fact, this is the only miracle told in all four of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

John tells us in chapter 6 verse 2, that “huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick” (Joh 6:2 NLT). In the next verses, he takes five loaves and two fish. He blesses them. He multiplies them. And he feeds 5,000 men plus women and children. The people ate until they were full and there were still 12 baskets of food left over. Jesus started with five loaves and two fish. More than five thousand ate to their heart’s content. And there was enough food left over to fill 12 baskets.

When the people saw what had happened, they said, “Surely he is the Prophet we have been expecting” (John 6:14).

The next day, the people came looking for Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But by the end of the day, many of these disciples turned their back on Jesus. They returned to their old way of living. They would no longer follow the Teacher. They would not listen to his teaching any more. They didn’t want to see any more of his miracles. Even among his 12 chosen disciples, decisions were being made for and against Jesus.

What had gone wrong? Everything had started so well. Why had so many people changed their mind about Jesus?

You and I both know people who have begun to follow Christ, but at some point, for some reason, they turned away from him. They stopped following him. They stopped reading his Word. They stopped living as followers of Christ. They stopped trusting in him.

Why do some people turn back from following Jesus?
This story reveals several reasons why people stop following Jesus.

1. First, some people stop following Christ because they cannot control him.

1.1. Their desire to make him king.

John 6:14 tells us,

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself (John 6:2-15 ESV).

The people had seen the sign. That had done more than see the sign, they had all eaten their fill of bread and fish. Fifteen centuries before Christ, Moses had led the Israelites through the wilderness. Every day they had eaten a miraculous provision. In fact, Moses had promised that another prophet like him would come. We read in Deuteronomy 18:15,

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him (Deuteronomy 18:15 NLT).

Seeing the miracle, the people exclaimed, “This is him! This is the prophet that Moses talked about!”

Indeed he was. Jesus was the prophet that Moses had predicted. Three verses later, in Deuteronomy 18:18-19, God says to Moses,

I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. 19 I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NLT).

Both the Apostle Peter and Stephen confirmed that Jesus is indeed the prophet that Moses had predicted (Acts 3:22-23; 7:37).

The people ate the bread, remembered the manna and Moses’ prophecy, and rightly concluded that Jesus was the Prophet to come. He was the Prophet and more than a Prophet, for Jesus was the very Word of God. He was God in the flesh.

1.2. Their concept of what a king would do

Jesus saw that they were ready to come by force and make him king. “What a great idea!” they thought. “We’ll make him king! With Jesus our as king, we’ll overthrow the Romans. Jesus will multiply our provisions. He’ll multiply the food. He’ll multiply our weapons. He’ll heal our wounded. There’s no way we could lose!”
What a marvelous idea. Even the 12 disciples were in favor, but as far as Jesus was concerned, they had completely misunderstood his intentions and his mission. Jesus saw what they were up to and he would have no part of it. He had to avoid the complications that would come from a coalition between his own disciples and the crowd that wanted to make him king. Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus immediately “made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds” (Mat 14:22 ESV) while Jesus went up on the mountain to pray.

1.3. The hope of the disciples
Jesus is on the mountain praying. The disciples are in the boat. They are crossing the Sea of Galilee when they find themselves in the middle of a storm. “It was now dark… 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.”

As the disciples rowed, they found themselves in the middle of a storm, but literally and figuratively. They were no doubt confused as to why Jesus would not accept to become their king. Perhaps they wondered whether he had kingly power and authority. Mark tells us that they had not understood the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves for their hearts were too hard to take it in (Mark 6:52).

19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw” something — Someone — walking toward them on the water in the midst of the storm (Joh 6:17-19 ESV). They were more terrified by what they saw than by the storm, and cried out, “It’s a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26).

The disciples were scared out of their wits and could not row fast enough to get away from the fast approaching Figure.

A King unlike any other king.

Then, in the midst of the storm, they heard that reassuring voice they knew so well, “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”

Jesus had understood their disappointment. He had understood their confusion as to why he would not accept to be another earthly king. So as they were rowing their boat in the midst of a terrible storm, Jesus gave them a living demonstration of his royalty and his sovereignty over the realm of nature. He was saying in effect, “I will not become king for your love of bread. But make no mistake about it. I am The King of every realm. I am the King of nature. Contrary and violent winds cannot hinder me. The troubled sea cannot cover me. I am the King!”

Jesus had refused to accept their definition of kingship. He had refused to be the kind of king that they wanted. Jesus is not the kind of king that you can control. Some people refuse to follow him because they want a king that does whatever they want him to do. In reality, they don’t want a king at all. They want to be the king of their own lives.

But John shows us a second reason why people turn away from Jesus.

2. People stop following Christ because his mission is not compatible with what they are looking for.

2.1. They were looking for temporary satisfaction (6:22-29)

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. 23 Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him (John 6:22-24 NLT).

So the crowd has gotten into boats to cross the Sea of Galilee in search of Jesus. When they find him, they are trying to figure out how he got there. The night before, the disciples had taken the last boat. The disciples had left Jesus on the mountain. No more boats came until that morning, and yet Jesus was already with the disciples. The crowd does not know that Jesus walked on the water. They want to know how he got to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without them knowing it.

“Rabbi, when did you get here?” they ask. Instead of telling them when he came, Jesus tells them why they came.They came because they were hungry. The loved the fast-food idea. The fish sandwiches that Jesus had so quickly prepared were delicious. They wanted more to eat.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill (John 6:26 NIVO).

That was the depth of their understanding. They had totally missed the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. They had failed to understand that Jesus himself is the source of life. So Jesus will correct their understanding through his teaching.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval” (John 6:27 NIVO).

They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29 NLT).

They preferred manna over the Bread of Life (6:30-33)

But the crowd throws a question in his face:

They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? (John 6:30 NLT).

“Show us a sign,” they say. Seeing is believing, as we often hear today. But it is not true. Seeing is seeing. Believing is being sure without seeing. “Show us a sign… What can you do?”

We are astonished at their question. They are demanding another sign. What do they want? Just the day before, Jesus had multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed thousands. These very people had seen him do it and had eaten their fill. How could they ask for another sign?

The next verse shows us that they are comparing Jesus with Moses.

Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” (John 6:31 NIVO).

They don’t think that Jesus compares that well with Moses.

Jesus gave them barley loaves; Moses gave their forefathers manna.
Jesus only fed 5,000 men plus women and children; Moses fed the entire nation.
Jesus only gave them one meal; Moses fed the nation for 40 years.
Jesus does not accept the comparison. He rejects their claims. It was not Moses that gave them manna.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33 NIVO).

Jesus tells them that the bread of God is not manna, but the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

2.2. Jesus Is the True Bread of Life: I AM… (6:34-40)

The crowd responds with sarcasm: “Sir, gives us that bread!” Just like the Samaritan woman who had said to Jesus, “Oh, give me that water so I don’t have to bother coming here every day” (John 4:15).

Jesus’ response is full of energy:

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35 NLT).

John had mentioned Moses in the opening verses of this Gospel. The crowd had spoken of Moses and had compared Jesus with him. Jesus now makes reference to the call of Moses. Moses was 80 years old when he stood before the burning bush. Standing on holy ground, he asked the name of the God who was sending him to Pharaoh. “I AM!” God said. “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). “Yahweh” — “I am.” “I am the one who is.” “I am the one whose existence depends on no one else.” “I AM.”

Centuries passed. The manna in the wilderness had met a physical need, but the deepest need of their life had not been met.

“I AM the Bread of Life,” Jesus said. With this declaration, Jesus identified himself with the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14.

In John 8:58, Jesus claims to have existed eternally when he says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The Jews understood his claim to be God for they picked up stones to stone him.

In John 9:5, Jesus declared, “I AM the light of the world” just before opening the eyes of a man born blind.

King David had said, “The LORD is my shepherd” (Psalm 23), but Jesus announced in effect, “That’s me. I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

Standing before the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

For those who want to know the way to God, Jesus proclaimed, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

Jesus is the source of life. He is the Bread of Life.

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me…40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:35, 38, 40 NLT).

Jesus’ Mission Is Not Compatible with What the Crowd Is Looking for.

There is still a conflict between Jesus and the crowd. Why? Because what they are looking for and what Jesus came to give are not compatible. What is the crowd looking for? The crowd is looking for life. Well, what did Jesus come to give? He came to give life.

If the crowd is looking for life and Jesus came to give life, where is the problem? The problem is in the interpretation of life. For the crowd and for so many people today, life simply means been fed and satisfied physically. Jesus came to give us more than that. He came to give us eternal life. He came to give us himself.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you…” (John 6:27 NIVO).

3. People stop following Christ because they have misunderstood who he is.

His Origin

Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” (John 6:41-42 NLT).

It is a case of mistaken identity. They think that they know all about him. Jesus does not try to correct their lack of understanding about his person. Instead he simply explains that they cannot come to him unless the Father draws them.

For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. 45 …Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God, have seen him.) 47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life (John 6:44-47 NLT).

Many fail to come to Christ because they think he was simply a great teacher, one among many. Jesus Christ is so much more. As John tells us in 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (ESV).

4. Finally, people stop following Christ because they don’t want to accept his sacrifice.

4.1. No Life Without Death

Jesus adds a new element in the discussion. There can be no life without his death.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” 52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. 53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you (John 6:51-53 NLT).

Someone asked a friend of mine who was a missionary in Africa, “Can a Christian practice cannibalism?” The question may be rather shocking since cannibalism involves the killing of another person who was also created in the image of God. But from another perspective, we might ask whether a person can be a Christian without practicing cannibalism. If that question shocks you, it also shocked the Jews. But the language of eating and drinking was often used to speak of the accepting and taking in of someone’s teaching. The Jews found it difficult to accept Jesus’ teaching, but Jesus said that there was no life a part from his teaching: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life in you” (6:53).

Yet, Jesus was saying something even more profound. He was making reference to the separation of his blood from his body. He was not making reference to Holy Communion which is a symbol of his death; he was making reference to the death itself, not the symbol. His death on the cross. It is only through the appropriation of his death that we have eternal life.

4.2. Hard hearts

Many of the crowd was offended by his teaching. They said that it was a “hard saying” (6:60). Augustine says that it was not the teaching that was hard, but the hearts.

Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” 61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 65 Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” 66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him (John 6:60-66 NLT).

They left, never again to follow Jesus. No more would they hear his teaching. No longer would they see his miraculous signs. They had had enough.

4.3. What went wrong? Why did they abandon Jesus?

Simply put, Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that they were looking for. They wanted a materialistic Messiah. But Jesus had said that his very words were spirit and life.

We cannot say that anything went wrong. Very often in the Gospels, Jesus sifts people. He separates people who are committed to him from those people who have their own agenda to follow. For example in Luke 14:26-27, Jesus says to a large crowd,

”If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison– your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters– yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-27 NLT).

Jesus preferred a small group of committed disciples who were established in the faith and who denied themselves for his sake. When the rich young ruler was saddened by Jesus’ requirements, Jesus did not go chasing after him to change the terms. Jesus was saddened because he loved the young man, but the man loved his riches more than he loved Jesus.

When the crowd deserted Jesus, he made no attempt to hold them or to explain what they might not have understood. No. Jesus could not build his church out of people who had their own agendas. People who were only out for what they could get now. If we try to fill our buildings by changing the demands of the Gospel, we might find there is not enough room in the building, but what we will have will not be the Church of Jesus Christ.

Jesus used terms to attract true believers and to repel those who wanted a materialistic Messiah.

4.4. What about the Twelve?

Far from being discouraged by the results, Jesus turns to his 12 disciples and applies the question to them:

So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67 ESV).

Jesus is not pouting. This question was full of manly energy. He expects them to say, “No.” But at the same time, he wants the Twelve to know that the doors is always open for them to leave. It does not want to push them out the door, but he gives them permission to leave. The rest of the conversation reveals what he was thinking.

Peter returns the serve, so to speak. Without consulting the others, he presumes to speak for them:

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? (John 6:68 ESV).

This question reveals the emptiness of any other teaching.

“You have the words of eternal life, (John 6:68 ESV).

With this declaration, Peter shows that he has seen the immeasurable richness of Jesus’ teaching. He echoes the words of Christ in verse 63,

…The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (John 6:63 ESV).

And yet, this is not merely an imitation of what Jesus has said. Peter has experience Christ personally:

and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:69 ESV).

Peter had spoken for all the disciples. Was he right? Jesus does not rebuke Peter, but he does life the veil of hypocrisy from one of his disciples. Jesus shows to Judas and to the others that he knows the score. He knows who’s who. He knows who is true and who is false.

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him (John 6:70-71 ESV).

Jesus had chosen Judas out of love. And for that love, Judas would betray his Master. Judas is the archetype of those who had turned their backs on Jesus. He held the moneybag for the disciples. He was looking for a financial profit. He had hoped for a materialistic Messiah. And when he understood that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah that he was looking for, he decided that he would cash in his chips. The time that he had invested would not be a total loss. He would sell his Master for 30 pieces of silver. The disciples who had withdrawn and who would no longer follow Jesus were more honorable and more honest than Judas.

It is not surprising that several of a multitude of disciples would decide to quit following Jesus. But we are surprised that one of the Twelve disciples would betray his Lord. Judas was there when Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish. He was in the boat when Jesus came walking across the water. He had been given authority to heal the sick and to cast out devils. Yet, he walked away from it all.

Unfortunately his apostasy is not rare. How many people do you know who started their walk with Jesus, but who walk their own way now?

Perhaps you have been wrestling with what you are going to do with Jesus. Let’s get it straight: You can’t control him; he is the King. He is the King whose throne would be a cross and whose crown would be made of thorns. He is the King who came to die that you might have life. Where will you go? He alone has the words of eternal life. Have you not yet figured out who he is? This is what was revealed to Peter:

“We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (Joh 6:68-69 ESV).

Who will you turn to? Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.

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p class=”p1″>See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In John 5, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. Anyone could claim to be equal with God. But where’s the proof? We need evidence for such a claim. Jesus serves as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to the stand. You must make a verdict. Stay tuned…

A few years ago someone came into our home and stole some important items. Thankfully, we were insured and were able to make a claim to our insurance company. Now insurance companies are not in the business to give away money. They are in the insurance business to make money, so when you make a claim and ask them to give you money to compensate for your loss, they require that you present proof of your claim. They want proof of the value of the items that were stolen in the form of receipts. And they want proof that the items were really stolen in the form of a police report. So when you make a claim against an insurance company, they in effect ask you, “What’s your proof?”

Some time ago, Josh McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and later he wrote a followup book: More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The book is packed with evidence that proves that the Bible is reliable.

In John 5, Jesus makes an astounding claim. It was not an insurance claim, but a claim about himself. He claimed that God was his own Father. Jesus understood the implications of his claim for his next remarks show that he knew exactly what he was saying. The Jews understood the implications of his claim that God was his own Father for that was the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus. And John, the author of this Gospel, understood what Jesus meant, because John is the one that tells us the importance of what Jesus was saying.

As you may remember, it all began with Jesus healing a lame man. The Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath. In effect, they were asking him, “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?”

Jesus simply responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). In other words, ‘”Whatever God does, I do.”

It is now that John gives us one of his many explanations in this Gospel. Literary specialists have counted over one hundred such parenthetical comments or “asides” as they call them. In each of them, John is leading “his readers to his desired conclusion.”[1] John tells us here in the next verse, John 5:18, exactly what we are to conclude:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to understand what the Jewish authorities understood and what Jesus understood and what John himself understood: Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Jesus “justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as John 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.”[2]

This is what John tells us from the first verse of this Gospel,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Again in the 18th verse of chapter one, John tells us,

“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).

In several other places in this Gospel, John makes the same point: Jesus is God. “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John tells us that Jesus was making himself equal with God.

What right do you have?

Later we considered the verses that follow John’s explanation. Jesus tells us that though he is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is always submission to His Father’s will. Nonetheless, he has all the rights and privileges of God.

  • He does the works of God: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19).
  • He raises the dead and gives them life: Just “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
  • Like the Father, Jesus has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).
  • Jesus will execute judgment: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22).

The Son is to be honored just like the Father: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (5:23). So the Son receives equal honor with the Father.

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

What is your evidence? Talk is cheap. Anyone can make claims. Anyone can claim to be God. Just visit the psychiatric ward of a major hospital and you will probably find people who believe that they are God.

When we were living in French Polynesia, I had the opportunity to talk with a short little man with long hair who rode a blue bicycle. He claimed to be Jesus Christ. My Tahitian friends told me that the man had eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms. I did share the gospel with the man that day in hopes that the Holy Spirit would be able to penetrate the man’s deranged mind with the truth about Jesus Christ.

Through the centuries, many people have made strange claims. Many have had dreams and visions and revelations and as a result, some have started new religions or cults or religious groups. What makes Jesus any different from them? What proves that Jesus wasn’t simply another lunatic? Jesus had proof. Jesus had witnesses. In fact, Jesus operates in the passage as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to support his claims.

 The Need for Witnesses

In a court of law, a witness is commonly sworn in. In my country, the witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness swears an oath before God that his testimony will be true.

In the Old Testament, when capital crimes were committed — those crimes calling for the death penalty — before the death penalty could be given, there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime and their testimony had to agree completely. The idea of giving a true and accurate testimony was so important in the nation of Israel that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a witness were to bear false witness against another, he would receive the sentence and punishment he had intended for the other (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). If a man were to bear false witness against another to get him executed, he might be found out and be executed instead.

In John 5:30-31, Jesus makes the following statement:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true (John 5:30-31 ESV).

Jesus says that his judgment is just, but then he says, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT). What does he mean by that? Jesus makes a lot of statements about himself. He is not saying that every time he says something about himself that it is not true. He is referring to the need for additional witnesses.

…The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT).

You may have had to go to a notary public to have your signature verified on an official document. Some documents require two signatures: there is a line your signature and another line for the signature of someone who witnesses you sign the document. Now suppose you were to sign on both lines. That would not work. You could not legally bear witness to your own action. You need someone else to confirm that you are the one who signed on the first line.

That is what Jesus mean when he said, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT).

But Jesus is not without supporting witnesses.[3] The Defense calls…

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true (John 5:32).

Jesus first makes reference to God and will come back to God as his witness, but his hearers need another witness first, so Jesus calls John the Baptist as the first main witness:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:32-35 ESV).

The importance of John the Baptist can hardly be overestimated. Other founders of cults and religions have had followers, but none have had a forerunner announcing their arrival before they came. John the Baptist did not come after Jesus to confirm him as the Messiah. John the Baptist came before Jesus. John’s ministry was outstanding. Multitudes were going to him to be baptized. People began wondering if he was the promised Messiah or the prophet that Moses had promised. “I am not,” the Baptist told them. “Then why are you baptizing?” they asked. “I am preparing the way for the one who comes after me,” he responded.

Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27 NLT).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34 NLT).

Christ was born after John the Baptist and would come after him, but

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (John 1:15 NLT).

John the Baptist points to the pre-existence of Christ. Though Jesus was born at least six months after John the Baptist, John says, “He existed long before me.” Christ did not begin to exist when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. According to the first verse of this Gospel, he is the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1:1).

“Jesus, what proof do you have to back up your claims?” Jesus calls John the Baptist as his first witness. John testifies that Jesus is eternal. He is the Christ. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist was an excellent, competent, and reliable witness.

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36 ESV).

The Jewish authorities frequently asked for signs, miracles to prove that Jesus had the authority to do the things he was doing. For example, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jewish authorities understood that he was making a claim. He was claiming the right as Messiah to cleanse the temple. So they asked for a sign to show that he was indeed the Messiah. Instead, he challenged them to destroy the temple and he would raise it up in three days.

The author, the apostle John, tells us that Jesus was actually speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus was predicting his own death and resurrection. The Jewish authorities would destroy him, but Jesus had the authority to raise himself up again. On the third day, he would rise from the dead.

But there were plenty of signs for those who had eyes to see. The signs were miracles pointing beyond themselves. The signs signified something about Jesus. They pointed to his identity, who he was, and what he came to do. Jesus simply calls them his works. He says that his works prove that the Father had sent him.

In John 2, Jesus changed about 600 liters of water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed on him.

After cleansing the temple, we read in John 2:23 that Jesus did other signs and “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

In John 4, Jesus simply spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed at a distance of some 30 kilometers.

And in John 5, Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. It was that healing — that work on the Sabbath — that had stirred up the controversy with the Jewish authorities. It was their complaint against that work that had led him to explain, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

“Think about it!” “…the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

How is it that Jesus is able change the water into wine, heal a dying boy with a word, and give a man legs who has been lame for 38 years? The “works that Jesus was doing showed that God was authenticating His identity.”[4]

Again in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25 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” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

Jesus calls a third witness on his behalf, and that is the Father Himself. The works that Jesus did were an indirect witness of the Father to Jesus’ identity. But now Jesus says that there is a direct and personal witness that the Father gives. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the voice that many heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Or perhaps he is referring to the Father’s audible testimony when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

In any case, Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were totally ignorant of the Father; they did not know Him.

  1. First, “his voice you have never heard,” Jesus said (John 5:37). Moses had heard God’s voice (Exodus 33:11). And Jesus speaks the words of God (John 3:34; 17:8), but the Jewish authorities did not hear God’s voice in Jesus.
  2. Second, “his form you have never seen” (John 5:37). Jacob had seen his form. “I have seen God face to face,” Jacob said. Jesus was himself the manifestation of God (John 1:18; 14:9), but the Jewish authorities failed to see God in Jesus.
  3. Third, Jesus told them, “you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38). Joshua meditated on the Word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist stored up God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11; 1:2). Jesus was himself the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God, but the Jewish authorities did not delight in God’s word. They failed to recognize the Word when he was standing before them.

Jesus calls a fourth witness, a witness that the Jewish authorities should have known:

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

This is a most stunning indictment. The Jewish authorities searched the Scriptures but failed to understand that the Scripture themselves bear witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking, of course, of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament.

We read in Luke 24:44 that before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalm had to be fulfilled. It was all written about him. Then after his resurrection, talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

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

The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Christ. The Christ would be more than just a man. He would be fully human, but he would be fully God: the God-man. So later in his ministry, Jesus asked the Pharisees how David in Psalm 110 could call the Christ “Lord” if the Christ were simply a descendent of David (Matthew 22:41-46). You don’t call your many times great-grandson “Lord,” unless he is… ah.. the Lord. The Christ would be much more than a human descendent of David. He would be that, but he would also be the Word made flesh, God in the flesh.

Isaiah said that he would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again Isaiah said this virgin-born son would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“Mighty God, Everlasting Father!” Yes, Jesus made himself equal with God, but that is exactly what the Scriptures had said he would be. The Scriptures gave witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Five: Moses

We might consider Moses simply as part of the Old Testament Scriptures, but Jesus mentions him specifically:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47 ESV).

Moses wrote of Jesus in a number of ways, but let me point to one very specific prophecy that Moses gave concerning Christ:

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

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

But at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, they were still looking for that prophet:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV).

The people were still waiting. So when John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him, “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he replied.

When the people saw Jesus feed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish, they said, “This is surely the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).

In John 7, Jesus promises flowing rivers of living water, that is to say the Holy Spirit, to those who come to him. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40 ESV).

Yes, Moses was another witness of Christ. Christ was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of.

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

Jesus calls on four or five witnesses in chapter 5 to verify his claim to being equal with God. But there are two more witnesses in the Gospel of John.

In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will bear witness about him.

“But I will send you the Advocate– the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26 NLT).

Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ (John 16:13-15 NLT).

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

Finally, Jesus mentions the disciples. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus Christ:

And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27 ESV).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his witnesses. Forty days after his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said this,

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

We are Jesus’ witnesses. The message of the early Church was Jesus Christ. The disciples went everywhere preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:42). Peter preached Christ (Acts 10:36). Stephen was a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 22:20). Philip went to Samaria and preached the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The disciples that were scattered because of the persecution went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Yes, the focus of the church has always been on Jesus Christ, who he is – God in the flesh – and what he did for us on the cross.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. He claimed equality with God. He had the rights and privileges of God, and he called seven witnesses to authenticate his claims.

  1. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ that he was the Son of God.
  2. The works — miracles — that Jesus did showed that God authenticated his identity.
  3. The Father himself in a personal and direct manner bore witness to His Son at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and again in John 12 when his voice thundered from heaven.
  4. The Scriptures all pointed to Christ and identified him as the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel: God with us.
  5. Moses bore witness to Christ as the Prophet whose words we must obey.
  6. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
  7. True disciples will always preach Christ. He is the message we preach:

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV).

So you have heard the evidence. What is your verdict? Is Jesus who he says he is? Is he equal with God? He does what God does. The witnesses say that he is equal with God. What do you say? As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. He is the only way to the Father.

[1]Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 135.

[2]New English Translation (NET) note on John 5:18.

[3]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1262). Kindle Edition.

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1292). Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:19-29, “Jesus, What right do you have?”

Introduction

In the first part of John 5, we see Jesus answering the question, “Just who do you think you are?” As the chapter begins, we find a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed—lying around the Pool of Bethesda, hoping that the spring water or artesian well will bring them back to health.

But one man seems to have lost all hope. He has been an invalid for thirty-eight years. And he had no hope, until Jesus passed his way. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him. The man can only complain that he has no one to help him into the water. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” Jesus commands him. And he does it. Just like that!

Strength comes into his legs. He stands, picks up his mat, and begins to walk, carrying his mat. One problem, though. That day was the Sabbath. The Jews had added all kinds of rules to the Law of God. According to these rabbis, you were not allowed to carry things on the Sabbath. Never mind that you were healed and for the first time in 38 years were able to walk. What? You were healed? On the Sabbath? Who did that?

The man did not know. Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd, but later he found that man and warned him not to sin any more, because the consequences of sin are far worse than 38 years of lying on a mat.

Now this man was not the most agreeable creature on the planet. Rather than moving on in his new life, having seen Jesus, he goes back to the Jewish authorities and rats on him. Not that Jesus avoided conflict at all costs. I have the feeling that Jesus chose to heal this particular man and that particular day—the Sabbath—because he had something he wanted to say to the Jewish authorities.

John, the writer of this Gospel, tells us in John 5:16, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.”

Jesus’ response was short but full of impact and meaning: “My Father is always working, and so am I” (Joh 5:17 NLT).

We could have missed the importance of that response had it not been for John. John tells us exactly what Jesus mean by that and how and why it angered the Jewish authorities. John explains, “So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath (NLT), he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (Joh 5:18 ESV).

So in response to the question, “Just who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus responds, “I am God. My Father continues to work, and so do I.”

John’s Purpose

We must always remember that John is writing with purpose. He is out to accomplish something with this Gospel. He has not simply collected stories about Jesus and his miracles in order to write a bestseller. John’s purpose is much more profound, and we do not have to guess at his purpose for he very clearly tells us near the end of his Gospel:

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

In this statement of purpose, we note that John does not even use the word miracle; he uses the word “signs” because the works of Jesus are signs pointing to who he is. If you have not guessed it by now, this book is all about Jesus. That does not mean that this book tells us everything there is to know about Jesus. John tells us at the very end of his book, that if everything that Jesus did were written, the world could not contain all the books. But when I say that this book is all about Jesus, I mean that Jesus is the one subject that John is writing about.

John tells us that Jesus did many other signs that are not written in the book. That means that this is a selective Gospel. John included certain signs and left out others. He did so because of his purpose.

He also tells us that Jesus did the signs in the presence of the disciples. That means that this is not only a selective Gospel, it is also an attested Gospel. Jesus did not simply convince people with flowery speech and persuasive words that he could perform miracles. He did the signs in the presence of his disciples. Changing the water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the lame man, feeding more than five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, healing the blind man, and raising Lazarus from the dead, all these signs were performed in the presence of many eyewitnesses. This is an attested Gospel.

It is also an evangelistic gospel. John writes these things so that you might believe. He writes to convince us of something. He is addressing our minds as well as our hearts. He wants us to think clearly and to understand the meaning of the signs that Jesus performed. And he wants us to believe.

But what is it that he wants us to believe? A lot of people talk about the importance of belief, but do not think that it matters much what you believe, as long as you believe. John is clear about this. He writes these signs so that we may believe something specific: he wants to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

This is vitally important, for John tells us that this is the way to eternal life.

So John is writing about Jesus with an eye on us, his readers. He wants to lead us to a living faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

John’s Explanations and Comments

John frequently explains things to us his readers to make sure that we get the point. Theologians have found well over one hundred such comments in the Gospel of John. He interprets Hebrew or Aramaic terms, telling us that Rabbi means teacher, that Messiah means Christ, or that Cephas means Peter.

When Jesus challenges the Jewish authorities to destroy the temple and in three days he will raise it up, John tells us that Jesus was not speaking about the building in Jerusalem, but about his own body.

When the Samaritan woman asks Jesus how it is that he, a Jew, asks for a drink from her, a woman of Samaria, John explains that the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Now in chapter five, John explains why the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus: he was doing these works on the Sabbath when they thought that no one should work.

But it was Jesus’ response that threw more fuel on the fire. Did the Jewish authorities have a problem with him healing a lame man on the Sabbath? Jesus responds, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Joh 5:17 NIVO).

John had told us in verse 16 that the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath, but now they are ready to kill him! In verse 18, John writes these words, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him…” Why? “…He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This is not simply what the Jewish authorities thought. This is not some misunderstanding. John is once again showing us what we are to understand and believe about Jesus: he is equal with God.

More than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they share more or less the same perspective on Jesus — more than them, John tells us why the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus: they wanted to kill him because he claimed to be equal with God.

The Jews were expecting a Messiah, but they thought that he would be merely human. They failed to understand what John says at the beginning of his Gospel, that the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh, that is to say that God became man.

Now that is quite the opposite of the false notion that men can become gods. That is not taught anywhere in the Bible. God became man, and forever, Jesus Christ the man, will be both God and man. We read 1 Timothy 2:5 that “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This man Christ Jesus is God in the flesh. And the Jewish authorities were not only persecuting him for doing works on the Sabbath, but they were now planning to kill him because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” When John writes that we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God in order to have eternal life, he means that we must believe that Jesus is equal with God. Every time Jesus uses the phrase “My Father,” he is claiming equality with God. Every time he calls himself the Son, he claims to be equal with God.

So in answer to the question, “Jesus, who do you think you are to be healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus answers, “I am equal with God. My Father is always working, and so am I.”

What Right Do you Have?

The next question is, “Jesus, what right do you have?”

In verses 19-29, Jesus tells us his rights. And what he claims here is astonishingly more than just the right to heal someone on the Sabbath.

 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 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. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:19-29 ESV).

The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does (5:19-20).

That’s what Jesus says in 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” As the Son of the Father, Jesus does only what he sees his Father doing, but he does everything his Father does, because his Father shows him everything that he is doing.

Here we come face to face with the mystery of the Trinity. We see both equality between the Father and Son, for John just explained, that in calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Yet, there is distinction in the persons of the Deity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus precedes his explanation with the formula, “Truly, truly.” In the original Greek, it is simply, “Amen, amen.” This underlines the importance of what he says: “the Son can do nothing by himself.” Constantly the Scriptures make a distinction between the persons of the Godhead. Everywhere we look there are interactions and transactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son. The Son returns to the Father. The Son prays to the Father. The Father speaks to the Son. The Son asks the Father to send another Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascends to the Father and receives the gift of the promised Holy Spirit and pours out the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus. We are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). The apostolic blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians is “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

This equality between the three persons of the one true God is called the ontological Trinity. Ontology has to do with being. It has to do with what God is in and of Himself. In and of themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal and they are each fully God. The Father is fully God. The Son is fully God. The Holy Spirit is fully God. Yet, the Bible everywhere insists that there is only one God. There are no other gods. When the Word became flesh, God became man, but no man will ever become a god.

In calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God. That is part of the ontological Trinity.

But there is also the “economic or functional Trinity.” It has to do with function and divine order and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together as one. In saying that, I do not wish to imply that it could be any other way. They are one in essence and one in knowledge, power, and will. While the Son of God is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is completely obedient to the Father. So Jesus explains that “he can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” He never acts independently. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (Philippians 2:6). He became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.

So the Son is equal to the Father, but obedient to the Father. “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19 NLT). How is it that the Son does everything that the Father does? In verse 20, Jesus explains “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (Joh 5:20 NAU).

This is what a Father-Son relationship should look like. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he is doing so that the Son may do it as well.

Jesus, what right do you have? I have the right to do whatever my Father is doing because He loves me and shows me everything that He is doing

The Son has the right to give life to whom he will.

What right do you have, Jesus? Jesus replies, “The Son have the right to give life to whom I will.”

Jesus had healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda and in a sense, had raised him up. But he claims that he will do even greater things. Things like what? Things like raising the dead. “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

In chapter 11, Jesus will do exactly that. Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for four days, but Jesus has come to manifest the glory of God. Standing before the tomb, he cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” The next words in 11:44 are riveting: “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet found with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” Jesus gave life to Lazarus.

Namaan

Who has the right to give life? God. The Jewish authorities understood this. In the Old Testament, Namaan the Syrian was an officer in the Syrian army, but he had leprosy. He also had a house girl from Israel. She told him about Elisha, a prophet of God, who could heal his leprosy. So the king of Syria wrote a letter to the king of Israel, but the letter was not very clear. It read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). The King of Israel thought that the king of Syria was seeking a quarrel with him. So “when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?…” (2 Kings 5:7 ESV).

Note the words, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive…?” The Jewish authorities knew that it was God’s right to give life. Jesus was claiming that divine right.

Lazarus

The Son gives life to whom he will. But the life that he is talking about is much more than physical life. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, the Jewish authorities began plotting how they would kill him! Lazarus died and was raised, but he would die again! Jesus came to give us so much more than physical life; he came to raise us to eternal life.

Eternal life? What is that? It is more than just living and never dying. It is a personal knowledge of the One who is the source of life. Jesus defines it in John 17:3,

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

This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 25:

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (John 5:25 ESV).

He says that the hour is now here. Have you heard his voice calling you to life? Or are you still dead? The Bible says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Has that happened to you yet? Have you heard his voice?

Have you received eternal life from Christ? This is personal knowledge of God and fellowship with Him. It is a love relationship that cannot be interrupted by even death itself. “I am sure,” says the Apostle Paul, “that neither life nor death… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

If you have received the life that Christ came to give, death itself will not be able to interrupt your communion and fellowship with God. You pass from this life into the literal presence of God.

Jesus has the right to give life to whom he will.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son has the right to judge all men (5:22).

This is a remarkable statement: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22). We often thing of God as the Judge, and He is. Abraham calls him “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25). But it turns out that the judge of all the earth is the Son. The Father has given all judgment to the Son.

Verse 27 explains, “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27 ESV).

“Because he is the Son of Man!” What does this mean? It means that he is the Word become flesh. He is the God-man. He became man that he might taste death for us (Hebrew 2:9). He was made like us in every respect, and was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Hebrew 4:15). Having become man, he knows man and is in the perfect position to judge man. Therefore, the Father has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

When will this happen? Soon enough! The hour is coming!

 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29 ESV).

Notice how Jesus contrasts the call to life now with future judgment. In verse 25 he says that “an hour is coming and is now here.” But in verse 28, he simply says that “an hour is coming.” It is not now here; it is still future

Again in verse 25 he says that it is now that the dead will hear his voice and live. He is talking about his right to give spiritual life to whom he will. But in verse 28, he uses a different phrase to speak of the dead: “all who are in the tombs.” He is speaking of those who are literally, physically dead. An hour is coming, he says, when they will hear his voice and come out. This is the literal future resurrection of all the dead. “All who are in their tombs,” he says, “will hear his voice and come out.” But they will not all receive the same judgment. There are two types of resurrection: the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment. “All who are in the tombs will ear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

Have you heard his voice? If you hear his voice now, your resurrection will be a resurrection of life, but if you do not hear his voice now, you will hear it later, and your resurrection will be one of judgment.

The Son has the right to judge all men because he is the Son of Man.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son is to be honored as the Father is honored (5:23).

The Father “has given all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son…” We honor judges. If you are in a court of law in the United States of America, you will address the judge as “Your Honor.” If you live in a Commonwealth nation or a nation formerly belonging to the Commonwealth, you may address the judge as “Your Worship.”

You honor the judge because you know that he can decide your fate. The Father has given all judgment to the Son not only because he is the Son of Man, but also so that all will honor his Son just as they honor the Father.

Jesus says that we must honor the Son just as we honor the Father. That means that the Son is to receive the same honor as the Father. Since the Son is equal with God, we must worship the Son just as we worship the Father.

  • When the Father brought his firstborn into the world, he said, “Let all God’s angels worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).
  • The wise men fell down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:11).
  • When Jesus came walking on the water, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).
  • The blind man who was healed in John 9 said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him (John 9:38).
  • Seeing the resurrected Christ, his disciples worshiped him (Matthew 28:17).

“[R]eligions such as Judaism and Islam that consider Jesus merely a great prophet do not represent the truth about God, because they fail to worship and honor Jesus” (ESVSB on John 5:23).

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”

Some are confused about the identity of Christ. They believe that he claimed identity with God as one person. He did not. He made a distinction between himself and his Father. In this passage, Jesus said that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. We see elsewhere that he distinguished his knowledge from the Father’s knowledge when he said “concerning” the day and hour of his return, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV).

Christ distinguished his will from the Father’s will when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

He even distinguished his presence from his Father’s presence when he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus is equal with God, but he is not the same person.

Others put all the emphasis on the Father. They say that Jehovah God is the Almighty God, but that we must not honor the Son as we do the Father. They say that we must not worship the Son as we do the Father. But Jesus says that unless we honor the Son as we do the Father, we have dishonored the Father who sent the Son. Jesus is not inferior to God. He is equal with God.

Have you heard his voice, calling you from death to life? Are you ready to meet the judge, the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you worship and honor Jesus? Do you, as Thomas later did, worship Jesus as your Lord and your God?

Since Jesus is equal with God, he has all the rights of God.

  1. The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does.
  2. The Son has the right the give life to whom he will.
  3. The Son has the right to judge all men.
  4. The Son has the right to be honored as the Father is honored.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:01-18, “Jesus: Who Does He Think He Is?”

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture: John 5:1-18

What do you think of Christ? That is the most important question that you and I could ever answer. What we think of Christ, and what we do with him determines the meaning of life now and in eternity.

On one occasion, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am? (Mark 8:27).

Another time, he asked the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42).

In John 5, we find the story of a lame man with some lame responses, and some religious leaders who get upset because the lame man is no longer lame, but carrying his mat on the Sabbath. But the real story is about Jesus, what he said, and who he claimed to be. It’s about who he thinks he is. In fact, it is in this story that we find out why the religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

Background

Every writer writes with intention or purpose, but not every writer is as clear as John is about his purpose. John shows from the opening of his Gospel to the closing of it that he is writing with intention. He has a clear goal in mind. He is wanting to accomplish something important. He is writing to convince you and me, his readers, of something that will change our life and our eternity.

John writes about seven miracles — signs, he calls them — things that Jesus did. John calls them “signs” because they signify something about who Jesus is. He includes some signs and leaves out others. In fact, he tells us that Jesus did so many miracles — signs — that it would be impossible to write them all down. So he chose certain signs to show us who Jesus is.

This is how he says it near the end of his Gospel:

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

So John tells us what Jesus did, so that we would believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, John tells us from the opening words of his Gospel what we are to think about Jesus. He writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A few verses later, he writes in 1:14, “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.” And if that is not clear enough, in verse 18, John calls Jesus “the only God.” Here are his words: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John includes the story about the healing of the lame man in chapter 5, to show us who Jesus is.

Summary of chapters 1-4

We saw in chapter one that Jesus was called the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel, and the Son of Man.

In chapter 2, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus changed the water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed in him.  In chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. In chapter 4, the Samaritan woman at first thinks that Jesus is simply a rather strange Jewish man, but then sees that he is a prophet, then understands that he is the Christ, and finally discovers with the other Samaritans that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Now in chapter 5, John makes it clear exactly who Jesus is, and why the Jewish religious authorities want to kill him.

Scene 1: Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 ¶ Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids– blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4  5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 ¶ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath (John 5:1-9 ESV).

Setting

This story takes place in Jerusalem. Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem because of a major Jewish feast. He goes to the pool of Bethesda (“house of mercy”) where there was a multitude of sick people: blind, lame, or paralyzed.

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” 7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me” (John 5:5-7 NLT).

John tells us that there was a multitude of sick people gathered at this pool. Apparently there was some kind of spring or artesian well and occasionally the waters would be stirred up. The people thought that there was some curative power in the water when it was stirred just as today, some people think that natural hot springs can improve one’s health.

Jesus sees that this man has been ill for a very long time. Thirty-eight years, to be exact. He has been lame so long, that he probably cannot imagine life any other way. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Not everyone wants to be healed. Being healed would be a major change in this man’s life. John does not say so, but it is likely that this man was a beggar. If he is healed, he might have to begin to work to earn a living. He might be comfortable just complaining about his existence. When Jesus asks him if he would like to get well, he does not say that he would. He only complains that he is unable to get to the pool. He has no one to help him, and others always get there ahead of him. Perhaps he hopes that Jesus will help him get into the water.

A Helpless Situation

Let’s face it. Thirty-eight years is a long time to be paralyzed. I can’t imagine what that would do to a ma, or how helpless it would make him feel. But the truth is, he was helpless. There is nothing that he could do to heal himself.

ILLUSTRATION

Christopher Reeve was the famous actor who played Superman in the popular film series. In 1995, Reeve was thrown from his horse “and sustained a cervical spinal injury that paralyzed him from the neck down.” But he “believed that the nervous system could be regenerated.”[1] He had all the money that he needed and the best of medical care, but tragically, he died nine years later in 2004 at the age of 52.

Christopher Reeve, perhaps better known to some as Superman, was absolutely helpless. The man in John 5 had been paralyzed for 38 and was also absolutely helpless to change his situation.

That unnamed man is you and me. We don’t like to hear this, because like Christopher Reeve, we believe that we have the power to regenerate ourselves. But the Bible says that you are I are worse than paralyzed; we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are totally incapable of regenerating ourselves. We need someone else to come and help us. The best that was can say is, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool. I have no one to help me get out of this miserable state of affairs. I am unable to change.”

Sometimes it is easier to complain about our lot than to change. But Jesus tells this man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! His muscles became strong. He stood up. He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

After 38 years! This was a great miracle.

Thirty-eight years is a long time. And maybe it takes a long time for us to realize just how helpless we are. But after 38 years, Jesus came into this man’s life and everything was changed. He had had no hope, but that is because he did not have Jesus. How long have you been paralyzed by sin and destructive lifestyles? Do you want to be healed? Well, I have good news for you! Jesus is the Master of hopeless situations. Thirty-eight years or a lifetime is nothing to him. He is the Master of time.

Scene 2: The Authorities Confront the Man

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place (Joh 5:10-13 ESV).

Sabbath Controversy

It is only now that John tells us that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. This means trouble, at least for the man who was healed. The Jewish leaders see this man carrying his mat and tell him, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

Really?

Actually, the law does not say anything at all about carrying your mat on the Sabbath. The Law of Moses forbade anyone from working on the Sabbath. But was this work? What is work? The rabbis had decided that they needed to define work. So they had constructed an elaborate system of thirty-nine things that you could not do on the Sabbath. They called it a “fence around the Law.” The fence was to keep people from getting to the Law. And, of course, if they couldn’t get to the Law because of the fence that they had put up around the Law, the wouldn’t be able to break the Law.

So, a man could not anoint his eyes, for example. That was considered work. We’ll see that again in John 9. You couldn’t knead dough to make bread because that was work. “A mother could pick up a child on the Sabbath but if the child was holding a stone, she had violated the Sabbath law. A woman was prohibited from looking in a mirror on the Sabbath—she might see a gray hair and pull it out, violating the Sabbath.”[2] A man carrying a sleeping mat on the Sabbath violated their Sabbath law. And healing a man on the Sabbath was a violation of their Sabbath law.

These violations were not found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. These were regulations that the rabbis had added to the Law. And they reacted very negatively when they saw this man — a man who had been lying paralyzed for thirty-eight years — walking and carrying his bed. Instead of responding to the miracle of his healing with joy and praise to God, they said, “Why are you carrying your bed?”[3] “The Jews were so caught up in the rules they had added to the Law of God that they were more concerned with this man’s disobedience to their rabbinic tradition than with rejoicing and glorifying God for the man’s astonishing deliverance from suffering.”[4]

An Unwilling Witness

The healed lame man was a rather pathetic person. He should have been excited to be able to walk and run and jump after 38 years. Remember the Samaritan woman? She could hardly wait to run into town and tell everyone that she had just met the Messiah. But this man, although he is now healed, is still blaming everyone else for his problems.

But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” (John 5:11 ESV).

R. C. Sproul says that this man is an unwilling witness:

In essence, the man was saying: “It wasn’t my idea. Somebody came along and told me to pick up my bed and walk for the first time in thirty-eight years, so what was I supposed to do? I only did what He told me to do. If you have a problem with that, go talk to Him.”[5]

The Mystery Man

At this point in the story, Jesus seems to be the “mystery man.” We must not forget that John is writing this story for us, his readers. He is writing with intention. And while he is telling us what happened, he has chosen this event so that we would believe something crucial about Jesus.

So in these verses 11, 12, and 13, John raises the question as to the identity of Jesus. The question is, “Who is this man?” The Jewish authorities have told the man that it is not lawful for him to carry his mat.

But he answered them, “The man who healed me,

that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. (John 5:11-13 ESV).

This is what John is driving at. He wants us to begin thinking about who Jesus is, and we will soon find the answer to that question in the mouth of Jesus himself.

Scene 3: Jesus Finds the Man

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (Joh 5:14 ESV).

The lame man does not know who Jesus is. He doesn’t know his name. Apparently he had not yet heard much about him, and everyone is wondering at this point who it would be that had healed the lame man on the Sabbath and had told him to take up his mat and walk.

Although the lame man does not know Jesus, Jesus knows him and finds him in the temple. Perhaps this man had gone to the temple to offering thanksgiving to God. If that is so, it is one of the few redeeming factors in this man’s life.

How often are we blessed and fail to recognize the source of our blessing?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17 ESV).

The sunshine and rain, the air we breath and the food we eat, all are gifts from God.

Jesus found this man, just like he found Philip in chapter one. He found the Samaritan woman in chapter four. He will find the blind man in chapter nine. But here he finds the lame man who can’t even tell people who healed him.

“See, you are well!” Jesus says. Jesus reminds him that he had had no hope of getting into the pool, but it was not the pool that healed him, but the powerful word of Jesus: “Get up, take up your mat, and walk!”

Now Jesus has a word of warning for him: “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

There are two things that we cannot say regarding sin and sickness. First, we cannot say that all sickness is the result of the sick person’s sin. The Book of Job is about a man that the Bible described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). Furthermore, it says that he did not sin with his mouth. Yet, he lost everything and was afflicted with sore from head to toe. His comforters falsely accused him of sin.

In John 9, we will find a man who was born blind, and when his disciples asked who sinned to cause this great tragedy, Jesus told them that neither he nor his parents had sinned. But God would use the tragedy to manifest his glory.

But that does not mean that sickness is never the result of sin. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, Paul tells the church at Corinth that many of them have been sick and some have even died because of the way the treated other members of the Body of Christ.

In speaking with this man in John 5, Jesus clearly indicates that sin can bring upon us something far worse than being paralyzed for 38 years. “Sin no more,” Jesus says, “that nothing worse may happen to you.” The New Living Translation puts it like this:

“Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 NLT).

What could be worse than being paralyzed for 38 years? Eternal damnation in hell.

Scene 4: The Authorities Confront Jesus

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (Joh 5:15-18 ESV)

Now the question of who Jesus is comes into clear focus. The man had blamed Jesus for his violation of the rabbinic tradition: “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”

“Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’”

But the man did not know who it was.

Now he knows for Jesus has found him. You would think that out of gratitude to Jesus, he would say nothing to the Jewish authorities. But no, this little man finds the authorities and tells them that it was Jesus who had healed him and told him to take up his bed and walk.

We now have an important explanation from John the writer. We must always remember that John has us readers in mind. He wants to make sure that we are following him in his presentation of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. So he explains what is going on. In verse 16, John tells us,

And this was why the Jews were persecution Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

“Because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.” Not only was the healed lame man in trouble with the Jewish authorities for carrying his mat on the Sabbath, Jesus is now being persecuted for healing the man on the Sabbath.

What right does Jesus have to heal people on the Sabbath? That was the question. Jesus’ answer is short but packed with meaning:

“My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17).

Jesus did not say that he did not work on the Sabbath. In fact, he will call his miracles “works” in verse 20. He said that his Father was working and so was he.

Even the rabbis agreed that God held the universe together on the Sabbath. Jesus says that he is only doing what his Father is doing. He is claiming the right to do what God is doing. This is an astounding claim, but it is even more astounding when we consider his language.

Jesus does not simply say that God is working, so he is working. He does not simply state that since God works the Sabbath, Jesus also has the right to work on the Sabbath. He refers to God as his own Father.

This is the first of 21 times that Jesus refers to God, not as “our Father” but as “my Father.”

John tells us immediately what his means:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

“He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

This is John’s commentary on what is happening. He is telling us what Jesus mean and what the Jewish authorities understood. Jesus was making himself equal with God.

All along through this Gospel, John guides us as to what we are to understand about Jesus. For example, in chapter 2, when Jesus challenged the Jewish authorities to destroy “this temple,” and they thought that he was talking about the temple at Jerusalem, John tells us that Jesus was not talking about the literal temple, but about his own body.

Another example is found in chapter 21 when people thought that Jesus had said that John would live until Jesus returned, John tells us plainly that Jesus did not say that.

John will correct misunderstandings, but this is not a misunderstanding. This is John telling us what Jesus meant and why the Jewish authorities were plotting his death: by calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Why did the Jews kill Jesus? John tells us. Jesus claimed to be equal with God. The Jews were waiting for the Messiah, but they had failed to understand that he would be God himself.

Every time Jesus called God “my Father,” he was claiming equality with God. Every time he identified himself as the Son of God, he was claiming equity with the Father. Jesus’ statement strongly argues for His deity — and the unbelieving Jews understood it as such.”[6]

This is the purpose of John’s Gospel. He tells in the first verse who Jesus is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Time and time again in the Gospel, John shows us that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh.

That is what it means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “These things were written,” John says, “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).

Conclusion

So where are you in all this? Are you like the healed lame man who didn’t really know who Jesus was?

Or are you like the Jewish authorities who were hostile to Jesus and who plotted to get rid of him?

Or are you like the true disciples of Jesus who came to understand that the signs that Jesus did and the words that he said, show us that he is equal with God and that he alone can save you from the paralysis of sin.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Reeve

[2]Paul Enns, Living the New Testament, Daily Readings from Matthew to Revelation.

[3]R. C. Sproul, John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary).

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 1111-1113). Kindle Edition.

[5]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 1115-1117). Kindle Edition.

[6]Paul Enns, Living the New Testament, Daily Readings from Matthew to Revelation.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 04:19-24, “The Seeking God”

Guercino - Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at th...

Guercino – Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well – WGA10946 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture: John 4:19-24

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:19-24 ESV).

Our God is a seeking God. He is on a search. He is looking for something. In the beginning, God came down to the Garden of Eden every day. One day He came but couldn’t find what he was looking for. For the first time, God asked a question: “Where are you?”

God is looking for something. Sometimes He finds it. Sometimes He doesn’t.

  • He found Abram in Ur and promised that one of his descendants would be the Savior. He found Jacob at Peniel and wrestled with him there.
  • He found Joseph in prison in Egypt and made him to be Prime Minister.
  • He found Moses in the desert and had him lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.
  • God found Joshua as he was spying out the Promised Land and had him lead the Israelites in conquest.
  • He found Gideon beating out the wheat and used him and 300 men to defeat the Midianites.
  • God found David caring for the sheep and made him a giant killer and the shepherd of Israel.
  • He found Isaiah, gave him a vision of God’s glory, purified his lips, and sent to …
  • He found Jeremiah and consecrated him and appointed him “a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5 ESV).
  • He found Rahab and Ruth. He found Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah. He even found Jonah in the belly of a great fish. Or maybe that’s where Jonah found God.

But God is always looking.

2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

God is always looking, but He does not always find what He is looking for:

Ezekiel 22:30 ESV And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

May it never be said of your church or your family that God came looking for someone to do do a certain job, but couldn’t find anyone. May it never be said of the men of this church that God came looking to find someone who was willing to prepare himself to go and answer as Isaiah did, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!” – but that He found none.

God is looking. He is searching. He is seeking.

So we come to John 4.

John 4:3-4 ESV he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.And he had to pass through Samaria.

“He had to pass through Samaria.” Why did Jesus have to pass through Samaria? Many Jews would not go through Samaria. They would take the longer route around Samaria, but the text says that Jesus had to pass through Samaria, and in the original language the word speaks of divine necessity. It means that something must be done.

John 3:7 ESV You must be born again.

John 3:14 ESV so must the Son of Man be lifted up.

John 9:4 ESV We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day

John 10:16 ESV And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.

Why did Jesus have to pass through Samaria? It was a divine “must” that Jesus pass through Samaria because God was looking for something. Notice verse 27:

John 4:27 ESV Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

The disciples knew that Jesus was seeking something. He wanted something. He was looking for something.

Back up to verse 23:

John 4:23 ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

What is God looking for? He is looking for true worshipers.

So what is true worship? What must we do to be true worshipers of God? What does true worship depend on?

1. True worship does not depend on worshiping in the right place (4:19-21).

John 4:19-21 ESV The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

There had been centuries of conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews over worship. This Samaritan woman brings this out in this passage: “Our (Samaritan) fathers… but you (Jews) say…

The conflict ran deep. It goes back to the division of the kingdom between the north and the south, 931 years before Christ. The kingdom was split between King Rehoboam in the south, and King Jeroboam in the north. The temple was in Jerusalem in the south; there was no temple in the north. Jeroboam was afraid of losing his control of the people, so he set up two golden calves for the people to worship.

The northern kingdom fell deeper and deeper into sin, so after 200 years, God sent the Assyrians who took many of the people of the northern kingdom into exile, and replaced them with people from other nations. These foreigners intermarried with the Israelites that were left. The mixed race became the Samaritans: half Jew, half foreigner. They had no temple, so they built one on Mount Gerizim.

There was only one true God, so for the Jews of the southern kingdom, there could only be one temple—one place to worship Him, so they desecrated the Samaritan temple with human bones. The Samaritans did the same thing to the temple in Jerusalem.

This conflict is very clear in John 4. Jesus asks the woman for a drink. She responds,

John 4:9 ESV “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

John explains: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Jesus answers her, “If you knew what I have to offer, and who I am, you would have asked me for something to drink and I would have given you living water” (from v. 10).

The woman responds (v. 11-12):

  • You have nothing to draw water with.
  • The well is very deep (31 meters today).
  • Where do you get that living water?
  • Are you greater than Jacob who gave us this well? (Who do you think you are?)
  • Jacob drank from it. His sons drank from it. All his livestock drank from it. This is the best well in Samaria. What could you possibly offer me that I don’t already have?

Jesus says to her (v. 13-14),

  • The water in this well is not really all that great: Everyone who drinks from it will be thirsty again. Isn’t that why you are here?
  • Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.
  • The water that I will give him will become inside him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
  • So, yes, I really am greater than Jacob!

She responds (v.15),

  • Yeah, right! So give me this water so I won’t be thirsty or have to come here to draw water anymore!

While there may have been sarcasm in her voice, this woman was thirsty for something that ordinary water could not quench.

SONG: Rebecca St. James – River of Life

Jesus (v. 16):

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her (John 4:16 NLT).

Woman (v. 17):

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied… (John 4:17a NLT).

Jesus (v. 17-18):

“You’re right! You don’t have a husband– 18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” (John 4:17b-18 NLT).

Woman:

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet (John 4:19 NLT).

But the woman does not want to talk about her personal life, so she brings up the centuries-long conflict over the place of worship:

So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” (John 4:20 NLT).

Where are we supposed to worship? Where can we find the presence of God?

  • Samaritans:     Mount Gerizim
  • Jews:                Jerusalem
  • Muslims:          Mecca
  • Buddhists:        Nepal
  • Catholics:        Lourdes

Where?

  • Under a certain tree?
  • On a certain Pacific island?
  • On top of a volcano?
  • In the belly of a great fish?

JESUS TELLS THE WOMAN THAT TRUE WORSHIP DOES NOT DEPEND ON A CERTAIN PLACE.

John 4:21 ESV Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

You don’t have to go to a certain place or mountain or temple or cave or sacred stone. Why? Because God is everywhere.

Psalm 24:1-6 ESV The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

When King Solomon dedicated the temple at Jerusalem, he prayed,

2 Chronicles 6:18 ESV “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!

King David prayed,

Psalm 139:7-10 ESV Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Jesus declared,

Matthew 18:20 ESV For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

And again,

Matthew 28:20 ESV teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

You don’t have to go to Israel to find God. God is looking for you.

So the place is not important because God is everywhere. What about the time? What about timing?

2. True worship does not depend on worshiping at a certain time.

  • Do you have to wait for a full moon?
  • Do you have to wait until the planets Jupiter and Saturn or Venus are lined up?
  • Should you consult the horrorscope or the Chinese calendar to find out when to worship God?
  • What day of the week should we worship God on?
  • Muslims: Friday
  • Jews: Saturday
  • SDAs: Saturday
  • Christians: Sunday

What is the right time to worship God?

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem (John 4:21 NLT).

But the time is coming– indeed it’s here now– when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way (John 4:23 NLT).

The time is now, says Jesus. True worship does not depend on the clock. True worship does not depend on the calendar. True worship is not a matter of the day of the week.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,”(Heb 3:13 ESV)

So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today (Heb 4:7 NLT)

“The hour is coming and is now here…”

Colossians 2:8 NLT Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 NLT So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

Colossians 2:20-23 NLT You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.

True worship does not depend on the place or the time.

Then what does true worship depend on?

3. True worship depends on the nature of God (v. 23-24).

John 4:23-24 ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

SPIRIT AND TRUTH WORSHIP

3.1.God is spirit, so our worship must be spiritual.

John 4:24 ESV God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Worship is a response of the spiritual life in us to the God who has given us living water:

John 4:10 ESV Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

Worship is the spring of water in us giving praise to its source:

John 4:14 ESV but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

True worship flows from the heart back to God, the source of spiritual life.

Matthew 15:8-9 ESV “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;in vain do they worship me…”

Mark 12:30 ESV And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

Worship is not about us. And we must be terribly careful that it not be about us. It is not about how well we preach or how well we sing. The church is not made up of performers and their audience. There is an audience of One, and that One is God. We are not here to draw attention to ourselves or to be recognized. We are here to point men to God.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Colossians 1:28 ESV Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

So worship must be spiritual, flowing from our spirit, from our heart, expressing our love and adoration and thanksgiving to our immeasurably great God.

But worship must also be truthful.

3.2.Worship has to do with the truth about God (v. 22).

John 4:22 ESV You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

3.2.1.     Worship is based on our knowledge of God.

Some evenings as the sun is setting, we begin to notice a certain color. Outside our house it begins to look red or orange or pink. We run outside and look at the brilliant sky painted in pink and orange and blue: “Wow! Look at that sky!”

Coming to church on Sunday morning, we drive along the lagoon and the water is a turquoise blue: “Wow! Look at that water! Isn’t that beautiful!”

But what if we were blind? We could never experience the overwhelming beauty of the sunset. We could never be amazed by the wonderful colors of the ocean waters. If we were deaf, we could never appreciate the beautiful music of an orchestra or a beautiful voice.

You cannot worship what you do not know. You cannot be amazed by the glories of god’s perfections, his holiness, his grace, his wisdom, his mercy, his power, his intelligence and everything else that is revealed in his word if you don’t know him, if we are not interested in learning what he has revealed about himself in his word.

Christianity is not about believing in a God somewhere in heaven. The devils believe in God (James 2:19), but Christ came to make the Father known (John 1:18).

2 Tim. 1:12 ESV I know whom I have believed.

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

You love your wife because you know her. I don’t know how you could come to love your wife if you had never met her, never known her, never heard her voice, never seen her face, and knew nothing about her.

True worship comes from knowing God.

3.2.2.     Jesus says, “We worship what we know for salvation is from the Jews.”

The Samaritans did not know what they worshiped because salvation is from the Jews.

  • He is not the god of the Americans or the god of the Australians.
  • He is not the god of the French or the god of the Fijians.
  • He is not the god of the ni-Vanuatu or the god of the Vietnamese.

He is the God who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. He is the God who walked in the garden with Adam. He is the God who spared Noah and his family. He is the God who called Abraham and promised that through his distant offspring, all the families of the earth would be blessed. He is the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Samaritans had only the first five books of the Bible. They knew something of the beginnings of God’s plan for salvation, but they did not know how God had watched over His people. They did not know the miracles of the conquest of the Promised Land. They did not know how God had blessed and how God had judged. They did not know the men and woman that God had raised up to do His will.

They did not have the Psalms, that marvelous collection of praise and worship to God. Psalm 23 alone is a great treasure. The Psalms help us to understand the heart and spirit of the true worshiper.

The Samaritans did not have the book of Proverbs, that treasure chest of wisdom.

They did not have the books of the prophets, those writings which deal with the heart, showing us the ways of God and what He requires of us.

The Samaritans knew a little bit about God, but they did not know God. They had rejected too much of His revelation.

What about us? Do we know our God? Do who know the one we worship? Do we take the time to read the revelation of Himself that He has given us? When we come to worship God, it is not good enough to have confused ideas about who He is. Worship is too important.

It is easy to go through the motions: to sing our songs, to raise our hands, to pay our tithes, to listen to the sermon, without thinking about what we are doing or without thinking about the God that we are supposed to be worshiping. We must know the God that we are worshiping and our worship must flow from our relationship with Him.

What He has revealed about Himself in the Word: His grace, compassion, love, light, but also that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 11:29).

Psalm 22:23 ESV You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Worshiping God in truth means that we glory in the truth that God has revealed about Himself.

3.3.Worship also has to do with facing the truth about ourselves (v. 22).

This Samaritan woman did not want to face the truth about herself.

Jesus told her to get her husband. “I don’t have a husband.”

“Right. You’ve had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband. So it is true what you say. You don’t have a husband.”

Woman: “I see you are a prophet. But I’m not really interested in talking about my personal life. Let’s change the subject. Let’s talk about worship.”

Jesus: “If you want to talk about worship, you’re not really changing the subject because worship must be according to the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. Until you take care of the sin in your own life, you cannot worship God. It’s not a question of place or of time because God is spirit. He is looking for true worshipers. People who are true.”

Pro 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

Isa 1:15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Pro 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Ps. 66:18 NIV If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;

1 Timothy 2:8 ESV I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

CONCLUSION

This woman was thirsty. Her life was a wreck. She had gone through five husbands. Still thirsty, she tries again. But after meeting the One who gives living water, she leaves her bucket behind and tells the men of Samaria, “Come and see this man who told me everything I’ve done. Is he not the Messiah?”

She was the reason that Jesus had to pass through Samaria. God was looking for her. And God is looking for you. He is looking for true worshipers, those who will face the truth about themselves, and recognize like the Samaritans that Christ Jesus is truly the Savior of the world.

  1. This woman did not at first know who Jesus was: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for something to drink?”
  2. Then we hear her saying, “I perceive that you are a prophet.”
  3. Next she tells the men of her town, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Is not this the Christ?”
  4. Finally they declare that Jesus is the Savior of the world. He came to save not only Jews, but Samaritans, and Americans, and ni-Vans. He came to save you.

Are you not thirsty? Looking in all the wrong places? Never satisfied with what you’ve found? Got your life all messed up? Jesus is the Savior of the world. He has come looking for you, to save you, and to satisfy your thirsty soul. He is looking for true worshipers who will worship God in spirit and truth.

Come To The River                 4:07     Ronnie Freeman

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 03:01-15 “The Purpose of the New Birth”

Last week we considered Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and the necessity of the new birth. Three times in the passage Jesus tells us that we must be born again. Why must we be born again? Jesus tells us that without the new birth, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. No one will ever enter God’s kingdom without having been born again. All those who have not been born again will be excluded and as Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:30, they will be cast into “the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”(Mat 25:30 ESV).

So Jesus clearly tells us that we must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. But we must ask a more fundamental question: Why must we be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God? Why does God require the new birth? Why must you and I be born again to enter God’s kingdom? What is fundamentally wrong with us as we are that would prevent us from entering into the very presence of God? Why can’t God just let us in without the new birth?

Today we want to consider the purpose of the new birth.

Jesus and Nicodemus, Crijn Hendricksz, 1616–1645.

Jesus and Nicodemus, Crijn Hendricksz, 1616–1645. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you travel from one country to another, you have to carry certain travel documents. You need an airplane ticket to be able to board the plane. But you also need a passport that identifies who you are and your country of origin. Frequently you need a visa to be able to enter the other country. When you are checking in for your flight, an airline agent verifies that your documents are in order. If they are in order, you are permitted to travel. If your documents are not in order, you are not granted permission to board the airplane.

Now I want to say that flying from one country to another is quite different from the new birth. You may carry your travel documents with you without any fundamental change in your character. You may even carry your passport, visa, and airline ticket in your shirt pocket, close to your heart, but those documents do not indicate that there has been any change of heart. The airplane ticket is utterly incapable of changing your character.

We want to see that the new birth is not simply some airplane ticket, or passport, or visa that we carry in our pockets that will allow us to enter into the kingdom of God. The new birth brings with it a fundamental change in our identity – who we are – and a fundamental change in our character.

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

The new birth is absolutely necessary because without it, we are not fit for the kingdom of God. Our character is fundamentally different from God himself. Without the new birth, there can be no real transformation of our character. The new birth begins a process that changes our identity, our nature, and our character.

So let us read again this most important conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.

Scripture: John 3:1-15

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”

10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 2:23-15 ESV).

Why do we need to be born again?

SONG: Save Me from Myself, Michael W. Smith

John 3 contains some of the best-known passages in the Bible. It is here in John 3:16 that we read of God’s great love for the world:

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

And yet, we rip this verse out of context without understanding the danger that we are in and the warnings that are given in this chapter and throughout the Bible.

Jesus tells us three times that we cannot enter His Father’s kingdom without being born again:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

Jesus tells Nicodemus, in effect, that he is on the road to destruction. The only way to avoid that is the new birth.

John 3:16 speaks not only of the Father’s love, but also of the necessity of believing on his only Son so that we should not perish. The next two verses show us the terrible consequences of not receiving Christ:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:17-18 ESV).

How is it that we are on the road to destruction? Why do we need a Savior? The next verses tell us why:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:19-20 ESV).

We like to think of ourselves as basically good. We are good people.

1. Just How Good Are We?

A ruler came to Jesus and asked him,

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Luke 18:18-19 ESV).

Jesus was not saying that he was not good; he was asking the ruler if he recognized that Jesus was God. But the point I want to make is that Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” We think of ourselves as good. Ask anyone how they are, and as likely as not, their response will be, “I’m good!” Not “I’m fine.” Or “I’m doing well.” But “I’m good.” I will grant you that they are probably not trying to make a statement about their character, but when you ask someone if he thinks he is a good person, he will most likely say that he is. What about you? Are you a good person? If you died right now, do you think that you would go to heaven?

Most of us think that we are good enough to go to heaven! But what does God’s Word say?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV).

Consider the Ten Commandments. Do you know them? How many of them can you say? Let’s just consider a few of them to evaluate just how good we are. Evangelist Ray Comfort often asks these questions of people.

Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain? Have you used his name without talking about him or talking to him? The exclamation, “Oh my God!” reduces the most holy name of God to the common and trivial. “Mon Dieu !” does the same thing in French. Ever said it? You broke the third commandment. That’s blasphemy. What does that make you? It makes you a blasphemer.

Have you ever lied? You broke the ninth commandment. What does that make you? It makes you a liar.

Ever stolen anything? Music or software off the Internet? You broke the eight commandment. What does that make you? It makes you a thief.

Ever looked on a woman to lust after her? Jesus says that you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. You broke the seventh commandment. What does that make you? It makes you an adulterer.

Ever hated anyone? Jesus said that if you hate anyone, you have already committed murder in your heart. You broke the sixth commandment. What does that make you? It makes you a murderer.

Are we really good enough to go to heaven?

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:18 ESV).

Do you think that God is going to let blasphemers and liars and thieves and adulterers and murderers into heaven?

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 ESV).

This is why we must be born again:

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

As Pastor John Piper says,

Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He was speaking to all of us when he said that. Nicodemus was not a special case. You and I must be born again, or we will not see the kingdom of God. That means we will not be saved; we will not be part of God’s family, and we will not go to heaven. Instead, we will go to hell if we are not born again. That’s what Jesus says later in this chapter about the person who does not believe on Christ: “The wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This is no joking matter. Jesus uses hard words for hard realities. That is what love does. The opposite is called pandering.

The Christian is not someone who thinks himself better than others. He has come to know just how sinful he is. Paul said it like this,

I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:18 ESV).

Created in the image of God, we are capable of doing good things, but because of Adam’s sin, we have a fallen nature so that even the good that we do is tainted by our sinful nature.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags… (Isaiah 64:6 NLT).

2. Our Condition Apart from the New Birth

“Do we really need to be changed? Can’t we just be forgiven and justified? Wouldn’t that get us to heaven?”[1]

2.1.Apart from the new birth, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Ephesians.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked,

We need the new birth because without it, we are the walking dead, walking around dead in our trespasses and sins. We are spiritual zombies, “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:8). Paul tells us that we were under the control of three forces.

2.1.1.     We were following the course of this world.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world… (Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV).

We were following the course of this world. We were going the same way that everyone else was going. We were going with the flow. We were walking the same path as everyone else. This is the way the world wants us to go. It is our culture and our customs telling us that it is okay to take drugs, and get drunk, and sleep around, and cheat on our wives, and serve ourselves. It’s okay to abort our babies, to divorce and remarry, or to marry someone of the same sex. It’s the new wave. It’s the way the world is going.

Our rivers flow to the ocean. It is easy to go with the flow. It is easy to float downstream with everyone else. Dead fish flow downstream, but fish that are alive swim against the current. If you are following the course of this world, you are still dead in your trespasses and sins. You must be born again if you ever hope to enter heaven.

2.1.2.     We were following the prince of the power of the air.

…following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– (Ephesians 2:2 ESV).

This is why Jesus says to the Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires… (John 8:44 ESV). We were dead in our trespasses and sins, just doing the will of the devil.

2.1.3.     We were following the passions of our flesh.

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 (Ephesians 2:3 ESV).

We offered little or no resistance to society around us or to the devil because of the passions of our flesh and the desires of the body and the mind. We were dead. Once again in verse 5, Paul says that “we were dead in our trespasses.”

2.2.       Apart from the new birth, we are by nature children of wrath.

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 (Ephesians 2:3 ESV).

By nature we are the children of wrath. It is not that we were good and then did some bad things that made us bad.

For I was born a sinner– yes, from the moment my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5 NLT).

I am selfish and self-centered and demanding by nature. I am sinful and I justify my sin. I take my sin and say that this is natural for me. I resist change and repentance and sorrow over my sin and accuse God of making me this way.

As long as I cling to my sin, it is only right that I should be an object of the wrath of God. Again, John 3 speaks not only of the God who loved us so much that he gave his only Son that we might not perish, it also speaks of his wrath toward those who do not obey him.

2.3.Apart from the new birth, we love darkness and hate the light.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (John 3:19-20 ESV).

We are not by nature lovers of light. We resist the light because the light exposes our evil deeds. We resist the Word of God because is reveals our sinfulness. We resist the Holy Spirit because he convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8-10). All around us in the world today, we see that people and nations are fleeing from the light and are embracing darkness.

We need the new birth to change our inclinations.

2.4.Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone.

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 (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV).

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart (Ephesians 4:18 ESV).

Paul says that we are strangers from the life of God because of ignorance. But is it not an innocent ignorant. It is an ignorance “do to their hardness of heart.” Romans 1 says that we suppress or hold down the truth by our wickedness. We don’t want to know the truth, so we traded it for a lie.

One of the biggest lies around the world today is the lie of evolution. We are all the result of a cosmic accident. There was nothing that magically became this vast universe of incredible order and complexity and balance and beauty, but it just happened all by itself. So your life has not meaning. You are just an accident. There is no God. So live however you want to.

People like believing that lie! If this is all an accident and there is no God, then there is no Judge. There is no one to answer to. I can do whatever I want. I can feed my sinful nature until the monster is so big that it destroys me.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Willful ignorance covered up by a hard heart. That’s why we need the new birth.

2.5.       Apart from the new birth, we are unable to submit to God or please God.

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8 ESV).

The New Living Translation says it like this:

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

That’s why we must be born again. Our old sinful nature is hostile to God! Do you imagine that people who are hostile to God and his laws will ever be allowed into the kingdom of heaven? Paul continues, drawing a powerful contrast between those who are not born again and those who are:

9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) (Romans 8:7-9 NLT).

2.6.Apart from the new birth, we are unable to accept the gospel.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV).

This does not mean that the unbeliever cannot understand the things of God, but rather that “they are folly to him.” He thinks the things of God are foolishness.

Paul cries in Romans 7:24,

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

Paul answers his own question:

25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord… (Romans 7:24-25 NLT).

As Laura Story sings in this song, Our God is mighty to save! Forever author of salvation, Jesus rose and conquered the grave (3:50).

3. The new birth is the beginning of new life. It is the infusion of God’s life into us.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4 ESV).

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:14-16 ESV).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

As we saw in Romans 7:24, Paul cries out,

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

He immediately answers,

25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord… (Romans 7:25 NLT).

Paul picks up this theme in the next chapter, one of the glorious chapters in the Bible, Romans 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:1-11 ESV).

SONG: Matt Maher – I Am Alive Again

This is the promise of the new birth. Life now, and life eternal.

[1]John Piper, Finally Alive, 48.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 02:23-03:15, “You Must Be Born Again”

Question: What could be worse than having someone tell you that you would not be able to enter the kingdom of God?

Answer: The only thing worse than having someone tell you that you would not be able to enter into the kingdom of God is for that to come true. The only thing worse than being told that you could not enter God’s kingdom is to at the end of your life to hear those dreadful words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Most of us think that we are going to go to heaven when we die. We consider ourselves to be good people. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 may come as a shock to us if we would consider them:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it (Matthew 7:13-14 NLT).

In today’s reading in John 3, we find a man named Nicodemus. He is very religious and very respected for his devotion to God. He thinks everything in his life is in order and that surely if anyone is able to enter the kingdom of God, he would be able to enter. But Jesus tells him that he is missing the one thing that God requires.

CHRIS TOMLIN: AWAKENING – 4:45

Subject: THE NEW BIRTH

Scripture: John 2:23-3:15

English: Jesus, on the left, instructing Nicod...

English: Jesus, on the left, instructing Nicodemus, on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 2:23-15 ESV).

George Whitefield was an English Anglican preacher who was born in 1714, 300 years ago this year. He was an astonishing instrument raised up by God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had a marvelous voice that was sometimes heard at a distance of two miles, about 3 kilometers. Crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 people would gather to hear him preach in the open air. For more than 30 years, until his death at the age of 55, he preached every day of the week and three times on Sundays. The passage that he preached perhaps more than any other passage was John 3:7,

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7 ESV).

One day a man asked him, “Mr. Whitefield, why do you preach so often on the passage that says that you must be born again?” Whitefield responded, “Because you must be born again!”

But it was not Whitefield who said that we must be born again. It was Jesus Christ who came down from heaven who declared, “You must be born again.” His conversation with Nicodemus shows us that nothing can replace the new birth. Nicodemus comes to Jesus and professes a certain knowledge about Jesus:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:1-2 ESV).

Like many at Jerusalem Nicodemus had seen the signs that Jesus had performed. He has come to a certain conclusion about Jesus. He must be from God, otherwise he would be unable to work the miracles that he worked. Jesus does not congratulate Nicodemus for his position as ruler of the Jews, or his interest or his understanding or his conclusion about who Jesus is. Rather, Jesus confronts him directly. In effect, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he is missing the one thing that God requires for entry into the kingdom of heaven: You must be born again. Three times in this passage, Jesus tells us that the new birth is absolutely necessary for entry into the kingdom of God:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV). Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

But Nicodemus is surprised. He is absolutely astounded. He can hardly believe his ears. Notice his response in verse 4:

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4 NLT).

Jesus gives him further explanation, but in verse 9, Nicodemus is still amazed:

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked (John 3:9 NLT).

YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN!

I want to look at three questions:

  1. Why must we be born again?
  2. What does it mean to be born again?
  3. How is one to be born again?

So the first question is:

1. Why must we be born again? We must be born again…

Because nothing else will gain us entry into the kingdom of God.

A.  Belief in God is not enough. Notice that Nicodemus believed in God. Two times, Nicodemus mentions God in addressing Jesus.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV). Nicodemus did not believe in some false god. He believed in the God of the Bible. He believed in the God who created heaven and earth. He believed in the one true God. As a Jew, he would pronounce the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Jesus would later tell the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 that salvation is of the Jews. Nicodemus was following the religion that God had revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. He believed in the one true God. But that was not enough. Jesus told him bluntly, “You must be born again.”

Many people believe in God. You most probably believe in God. And many people believe in the God of the Bible. But belief in God is not enough. Belief even in the God of the Bible is not enough. You must be born again.

B.  Knowing that Jesus was sent from God is not enough (v. 2).

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV). In chapter 2:23, John says that “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

And yet, he immediately tells us that signs are not an adequate basis for faith: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:24-25 ESV). Others would consider faith in signs to be adequate, but Jesus does not look on the outside appearance. He sees men as they really are. He knows all people, John says. Jesus “himself knew what was in man” (v. 25). As God manifested in the flesh, Jesus looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Nicodemus’ knowledge was based on signs: “we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” He was logical. He had seen the signs. He had come to the conclusion that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. He knew that God was with him. Jesus was performing miracles that no ordinary man could do. And yet, this was not enough.

Many people believe that Jesus was sent from God, that he performed miracles because God was with him, but that is not enough. You must be born again.

C.  Respect toward Jesus is not enough (v. 3).

Notice that Nicodemus addresses Jesus as “Rabbi.” This is a title for a respected teacher. Jesus is much more than a rabbi, but Nicodemus addresses him respectfully. Addressing Jesus with respect and reverence is not enough to gain entry into the kingdom of God. You must be born again.

Many people speak respectfully of Jesus. They may revere him as a great teacher or a prophet or a man sent from God. They may even know that he is the Son of God, but even that is not enough to gain entry into the God’s kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

D. Being religious is not enough (v. 1).

Nicodemus was a religious man. John tells us that he was a Pharisee. We may not like Pharisees today, but the Pharisees were respected by ordinary Jews for their devotion to God. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus

  • Believed that the Scriptures were given by God.
  • He read and studied the Scriptures.
  • He fasted two times each week (cf. Luke 18:12).
  • He gave a tenth of everything that he earned (cf. Luke 18:12).
  • He was careful to follow the commandments and laws of God.
  • Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. He was so committed, that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, that group which decided what they were going to do with Jesus (cf. 7:50). You are also a member of that group: each of us has to decide what we will do with Christ Jesus.

Nicodemus had so much going for him:

  • Belief in God
  • Knowing that God was with Jesus
  • Respect toward Jesus
  • Being committed and religious

But that was not enough. Nicodemus uses the word “unless”:

“…no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV).

Jesus responds by using the word “unless”:

“…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

Jesus is not saying that being born again is good, or desirable, or advisable. He does not say that being born again is for some Christians but not others. What Jesus says does not apply only to Nicodemus. He tells us in the most serious of terms that only those who have been born again can enter into the kingdom of God. All others will be excluded.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

And once again, in verse 7,

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7 ESV).

He says that you and I cannot get into the kingdom of God without being born again.

Notice that Jesus says, “Truly, truly.” This is his formula for introducing a solemn and most important declaration: “I tell you the solemn truth.” This is a most serious word from the Lord.

That being the case, you and I need to know what it means to be born again. The second question is this:

2. What does the new birth mean? What does it mean to be born again?

What is this? How are we to understand being born again? Nicodemus clearly had a hard time with this idea:

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4 NLT).

What are we to understand of being born again? Jesus not only tells us that we must be born again, he tells us what it means to be born again.

Verse 5 has troubled some Christians.In verse 5, Jesus says,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

What does it mean to be born of water and the Spirit? Different interpretations have been offered.

  1. Some people think that Jesus is talking about two different kinds of birth: natural physical birth on the one hand, and spiritual birth on the other hand, so that being born of water is natural physical birth, and being born of the Spirit is spiritual birth. According to this interpretation, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that two things are necessary to enter into the kingdom of God. He must first be born physically, and he must also be born spiritually.

But that interpretation does not make a lot of sense. Jesus does not need to tell a man who is standing before him physically that he needs to be born physically. Jesus is certainly not saying, “Unless one is born physically, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

2.  Some people think that Jesus is talking about water baptism and baptism into the Holy Spirit which the Bible also speaks of. According to this interpretation, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, put your trust in him, and followed him in water baptism, but have not yet been baptized into the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus would never have imagined that Jesus was talking about speaking in tongues. Does Jesus really mean that speaking in tongues is essential to salvation? Are we to believe that the person who has come to Christ, trusted in Christ for his salvation, experienced the joy of having his sins forgiven, loves God with all his heart, studies God’s Word, has had his life changed by the power of the gospel – are we to believe that that person will be excluded from the kingdom of God because he has not spoken in tongues?

No. Jesus is not talking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit in this passage. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a biblical experience available for all believers, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here.

We need to consider three things in trying to understand verse 5.

  1. In speaking of being born of water and the Spirit, Jesus is explaining the nature of the new birth. He is explaining what it means to be born again.
  2. The birth that Jesus is talking about in verse 5 is one birth, not two.
  3. Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what he meant by being born again.

So first, Jesus is explaining what he has already said. He is explaining the nature of the new birth. Verses 3, 5, and 7 mean the very same thing:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

So as Jesus speaks of being born of water and the Spirit, he is simply responding to Nicodemus’ question and explaining to him the nature of the new birth. We will see that more clearly in the third point.

But secondly, the preposition “of” is not repeated before “the Spirit.” Jesus does not say that we must be born of water and of the Spirit as if he were speaking of two separate experiences. He says that we must be born of water-and-the-Spirit: (ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος ex hudatos kai pneumatos). The word “of” (ex) is used one time to show that the new birth is one single experience that has two characteristics. We will look at that in a moment.

Thirdly, Jesus says that Nicodemus should understand the nature of the new birth. Notice verse 10:

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? (John 3:10 NLT).

Jesus is saying that Nicodemus should have understood the nature of the new birth. Why should Nicodemus have understood? Because he was a respected Jewish teacher. He was a teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament clearly spoke of the new birth and it spoke of this experience of being born again in terms of water and the Spirit.

The key Old Testament background passage for understanding the new birth is found in Ezekiel 36:25-27,

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 (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV).

The water speaks of being cleansed of our sins, and the Spirit speaks of the new life that is within us. To be born again is to be born of water and the Spirit. To be born again is to be cleansed of our sins and uncleannesses and idols, and it is to be made alive by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who lives in us from the moment we are born again.

Born again means that we are clean and alive to God.

And the third question is:

3. How are we to be born again?

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6 ESV).

A.  The new birth is not the result of a gradual process of bettering ourselves (v. 6).

We cannot make ourselves be born again by a long process of improving ourselves. While we are to grow and cultivate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we cannot make ourselves be born again. We cannot give birth to ourselves. There is no way that we can improve the flesh until it becomes spirit. The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life (John 3:6 NLT).

B.  The new birth is the work of the Spirit of God (v. 8).

Jesus has emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. In verse 5

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5 NLT).

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life (John 3:6 NLT).

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NLT).

Birth is not something that you do; it is something that happens to you. You were born. You did not decide to be born. You do not give birth to yourself. Your mother gave birth to you.

In the same way, the new birth is not something you do. It is not something that you do by getting baptized in water or by deciding to become a member of a church. The new birth is something that happens to you. That is what the Apostle Peter says in his first letter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).

you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (1 Peter 1:23 ESV).

The new birth is not our work. It is not something that we do. It is God’s work. It is something that he does. Now let’s go back to John 1.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:9-13 ESV).

John tells us that the new birth is

  • “not of blood.” That means that it is not a matter of ethnic descent or race. You do not have to be Jewish to be born again. And being Jewish will not make you born again.
  • “nor of the will of the flesh” – The new birth is not a matter of heritage. You cannot inherit the new birth from your parents.
  • “nor of the will of man” – The new birth is not the result of human effort.

Being born again is not a matter of being a white man or a black man. It is not a matter of being part of the right tribe or race or language or nation. You cannot get the new birth from your parents. And there is nothing that you can do to birth yourself spiritually.

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

How can you be born again?

God takes the initiative. Jesus came to his own. He comes to you. He comes to you through the life-giving word that is preached. If you will receive him, he will give you the right to become children of God, born of God as God himself cleanses your sin, washes you clean, and puts His life-giving Spirit in you that you may live in obedience to him.

Sixty-five years ago, my father was 18 years old. By his own confession, he had what he called a “foul mouth” that he could not control. He had grown up in a Christian home, but had never been born again. A friend invited hi to a series of meetings where the gospel was preached. My father became desperate for God to intervene in his life. God met hi. He was born again, cleansed form his sin, given a new heart and a new Spirit. The foul mouth was gone forever. For 65 years, my father was faithful to God. On January 31, 2014, he entered into the kingdom of God because he had been born again, born of water and of the Spirit.

Won’t you receive Christ? You must be born again. There is no other way. You needed a way to God.

KRISTYN GETTY – HEAR THE CALL OF THE KINGDOM – 2:36 (8second lead)