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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”:

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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 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”: