God

Christmas and the Uniqueness of Christ

https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7166/6564238977_d1e9a7e166_b.jpgToday I want to talk to you about the greatest miracle that ever took place, and the one that makes Christianity unique and greater than any other religion. We will consider Christmas and the uniqueness of Christ.

Introduction

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This is the time of year when we celebrate Christmas. And what is Christmas? Christmas is the joyful occasion when we remember the birth of Christ, the coming of Christ into the world.

How Christianity Is Different

Christmas is the time when we celebrate and give thanks for the greatest miracle that ever took place. The Bible records many many marvelous miracles that we could consider; many that we have considered. The Bible tells us about…

  • The origin of the universe, how “the universe was created by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). God created everything from nothing by speaking it into existence. That was certainly a miracle.
  • It was a miracle that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea as on dry ground.
  • There were the miracles of provision in the wilderness.
  • Many miracles were performed through the ministries of Elijah and Elisha.
  • There were many miracles of healing performed by Jesus so that the lame walked, the deaf heard, the blind saw, lepers were cleansed, and the dead were raised.
  • We could consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a truly great miracle that guarantees the future resurrection of believers.
  • We could also consider the virgin birth, and we will consider it, but even the virgin birth is not the greatest miracle that ever took place.

If none of these miracles are the greatest miracle, then what is the greatest miracle? The greatest miracle that ever took place is what we read in the Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verse 14. It is the miracle of the Incarnation:

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

The greatest miracle that ever took place is the one that we celebrate each year at Christmas: God became man. The New Living Translation reads like this:

John 1:14 NLT So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John begins that first chapter of his Gospel by telling us that the Word which became human was none other than God himself:

John 1:1-3 ESV In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In his introduction to his Gospel, the Apostle John tells us that

  1. “In the beginning, the Word already existed” (John 1:1 NLT).
  2. The Word was with That is, that he was in an active eternal relationship with God.
  3. The Word was The Bislama Bible says it like this: “Tok ya, hem i stap wetem God, mo hem tu i God” (Joh 1:1 BSN)
  4. The Word became “Tok ya I kam man.” God took upon himself humanity. Without ceasing to be what he was, he became what he had not been. Without ceasing to be God, he became a man. He had not been a man, but he became a man. He took upon himself humanity.

A few verses later, John tells us the same thing in different words:

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

  1. No one has ever seen God. Some men claim to have seen God, but the Bible clearly says that no man has ever seen God the Father.
  2. The one who was with God in the beginning, that is, the one “who is at the Father’s side,” he has made God known.
  3. And how does John describe this one who is at the Father’s side, the one who was with him and has made him known? The Apostle John calls him “the only God.” Listen to the verse again:

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

John 1:18 BSN I no gat man we i luk God samtaem. Jisas nomo hem i stret pikinini blong God, mo hem i God. Oltaem hem i stap klosap long Papa blong hem, mo hem nomo i soemaot Papa blong hem long yumi.

This is how the Apostle Paul describes it in Philippians 2:

Philippians 2:6-8 ESV [Christ Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

This then is the greatest miracle, the miracle of Christmas, and the miracle that makes Christianity different from every other religion. Not simply the virgin birth, but the fact that the baby born in Bethlehem was none other than God himself. God in the flesh. God became man and made his home among us. He is the God-man. Fully God and fully man. The founder of Christianity was not merely a man, but God in the flesh. Jesus Christ was fully man, to be sure, but he was also God in the flesh. This is the miracle of Christmas! Without ceasing to be God, God became a man. The babe in the manger was God in the flesh.

Christmas Is Not about the Birth of an Outstanding Person

As we commemorate the birth of Christ, we do not simply celebrate the birth of a child, nor the birth of an outstanding person such as

  • Confucius (551-479 B.C.)
  • Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
  • Plato (424-348 B.C.)
  • Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
  • Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.)
  • Muhammad (A.D. 570-632)
  • Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
  • Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

No, we are not simply celebrating the birth of some famous person. Nor are we simply celebrating the birth of a man named Jesus. We are celebrating the birth of the Christ. That is why it is called Christ-mas. Any way you want to cut it, Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the Christ into the world. You cannot talk about Christmas without talking about Christ.

The First Coming

We remember and celebrate the first coming of the Christ into the world. The first coming? Yes. Because this same Jesus, Jesus the Christ, will come again. And as we consider world events and the way the prophecies of the Bible are unfolding before our very eyes, we would do well to do what Christ told us to do: to look toward heaven, understanding that the time of Christ’s second coming is drawing nearer every day.

It Was a Coming: Jesus Came from Heaven

Jesus Christ claimed to be sent from God. He told Nicodemus,

John 3:13 NIVO No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.

John the Baptist describes Jesus the Christ in John 3:31,

John 3:31 NIVO “The one who comes from above is above all… The one who comes from heaven is above all.

Jesus says of himself…

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

John 6:51 NIVO I am the living bread that came down from heaven

The people were complaining about his teaching. Aware that they…

John 6:61-62 NIVO …were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!

Jesus is not like us. You and I have never been to heaven. We did not come from heaven. We did not exist before we were conceived in the wombs of our earthly mothers. At that moment of conception, we began to exist. At that moment, our human lives began.

— Young lady, that baby in your womb is a human being, created in the image of God. It is not your life; it is the life of a pre-born child. It is sacred. You must cherish it and love it and care for it. —

At the moment of conception, our lives begin. But we had no existence whatsoever before that moment of human conception.

Not so with the Son of God. Before the beginning, the Word was with God. God the Son, the second person of the Godhead, has always existed. Hebrews 7:3 says that he is “without beginning of days.”

Jesus prayed to His Father the night before his crucifixion,

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

God Prepared a Body for the Son

The Son of God was with the Father, but neither the Father nor the Son had a body.

  • Jesus tells us in John 4:24 that “God is Spirit.”
  • He also tells us very plainly in Luke 24:39 that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.” That is why the Bible tells us that God is invisible and that no one has seen him at any time. God does not have a body. He is not material; He is Spirit.

It was through the virgin birth that God prepared a body for His Son. This is called the Incarnation, God coming in human flesh. So we read in…

Hebrews 10:5 NLT That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer.

For what reason would Christ need to come into the world? For what reason would he need a body to offer?

Hebrews 10:10 NLT For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

Hebrews 10:12 NLT But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time…

Hebrews 10:14 NLT For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

The Word became flesh. Jesus Christ came into the world to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Christmas points to the cross. Christmas is all about the first coming of the Christ.

The Title Christ

Since Christmas is about the first coming of the Christ, what do we mean when we speak of the “Christ”? First of all, the word “Christ” is not a name; “Christ” is a title. “Christ” is not Jesus’s last name. It is a title like “Prime Minister” or “President” or “Ambassador.” The title “Christ” refers to Jesus the Christ. It is one of his many titles such as

  • The Son of God
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Great High Priest
  • The King of kings, and
  • The Lord of lords

But just what does Christ mean? Many Christians do not know what the title Christ means. When you ask them what the word “Christ” means, they will give you various answers, like “Son of God” or “Lord” or “Savior.” While Jesus is the Son of God and our only Lord and Savior, and each of these titles refer to Jesus Christ, the word “Christ” does not mean Son of God or Lord or Savior. Jesus is the one and only Son of God; he is the only Lord and Savior, but he is also the Christ.

So what does Christ mean? It means “the anointed one.” The Hebrew language gives us the word “Messiah,” and the Greek language gives us the word “Christ,” but they both mean the same thing. Messiah and Christ both mean “the anointed one.” In the Old Testament, there were three classes of people who were anointed: prophets, priests, and kings. They were anointed as specially prepared anointing oil was poured on their heads to symbolize the empowering of the Holy Spirit to fulfill their ministry.

But throughout the Old Testament, we find promises of the coming Christ, the one who would be anointed of the Holy Spirit, not only as a prophet, or as a priest, or as a king, but as THE Prophet, Priest, and King. He is THE Promised One. He is the one that all Israel was waiting for. He is the one that the world was waiting for. We read about the coming of Christ, the Anointed One, in Matthew 2:

Matthew 2:1-6 ESV Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'”

Let’s notice a few things that this passage of holy Scripture teaches us:

  1. Christ was born king. The wise men came asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” Jesus would not become king at a certain age or some time in the future. He was “born king.” That means that by his very nature, Jesus is King. The wise men came from the east to find and worship The One “who has been born king of the Jews.”
  2. The birth of Christ was first announced by a star. The wise men said, “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” A new book was just published a book in September entitled The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem. The book has been very favorably received by serious Bible scholars. The birth of Christ was first announced by a star which may actually have been a special comet that God prepared to lead the wise men to the Christ.
  3. The birthplace of the Christ was prophesied 700 years before his birth. Herod the king assembled “all the chief priests and scribes of the people” and “he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” They told him that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah as Micah the prophet had foretold.

Centuries before the birth of Christ, it was already known that he was coming. It had already been prophesied that he would be a ruler. In fact, 700 years before his birth, Isaiah had prophesied,

Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

No other founder of a religion had his birth announced centuries beforehand. The prophets never foretold the birth of Gautama Buddha, or Confucius, or Muhammed. Their births were never announced by a special star. Wise men from the east never came to worship them at their birth. None of them were born kings. None of them were ever give the titles Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, or Christ. None can compare with the incomparable Christ.

But that’s not all. None of them were born of a virgin.

Virgin Birth

Again, 700 years before the birth of the Christ, the prophet Isaiah had declared,

Isaiah 7:14 ESV Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Virgins do not conceive. In the entire history of humanity, from Eve to the present, no virgin has ever conceived. Except one.

Luke 1:26-35 ESV …the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy– the Son of God.

Mary was a virgin. She remained a virgin according to Matthew 1:25 “until she had given birth to a son.”

Matthew 1:22-23 ESV All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Immanuel

The Lord had spoken by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Christ that this virgin-born child would be called Immanuel. As Matthew writes his Gospel, he points to the birth of Christ and says, “This is it! All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said by the prophet. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”

And then, just in case we did not know it, Matthew tells us just what that means: “they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” The Apostle Matthew, one of the disciples chosen by Jesus Christ and commissioned to be an apostle, one authorized to tell us what it all means… This Matthew tells us that Jesus would be called Immanuel because Jesus is God with us.

  • Jesus the Christ was not an angel.
  • He was not an archangel.
  • He was not a superman.
  • He was not a created being of any kind.
  • He was God. He was and he is and will forever be God.

No other major world religion claims this of its founder. Christianity distinguishes itself from every other major religion by the very claim that its founder was none other than God himself. No other founder of a world religion claimed to be God.

  • Gautama Buddha never claimed to be God.
  • Muhammed never claimed to be God.
  • Nor did their closest followers claim that these founders were God.

But Jesus the Christ claimed to be God and his followers claimed that he was God manifested in the flesh.

No other founder of a world religion…

  • Claimed to be God
  • No other founder’s birth was prophesied centuries beforehand.
  • No one else was ever born of a virgin.
  • No one else had a star announcing their birth and showing their birthplace.
  • No one else had the visit of wise men from the East who came to worship.
  • No one else had angels announcing the birth.
  • No one else had an angelic choir singing “Glory to God in the highest…”
  • No one else was worshipped by the angels (Hebrew 1:6).
  • No one else was God.

So why would your trust your eternal destiny to anyone else? Why would you follow anyone but Christ?

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

The angel had said to Joseph,

Matthew 1:21 ESV She [Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The apostles declared,

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

1 Timothy 2:5 ESV For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Turn to him and be saved. I trust that you will have a Christ-filled Christmas as we celebrate the greatest miracle that ever happened: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”

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The Bible and Mythology

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What are we to think of the Bible? What are we to think of Christianity? Is it truth or fiction? Is it myth or reality? Did someone dream all this up, or is the Bible the record of things that actually happened in the course of human history? What are we to think of the Bible? Who is telling the truth? Who are you going to believe?

1.  Myths

The world is full of myths, and Vanuatu has its own rich collection of myths. Myths are stories that people make up to explain various aspects of life and to express worldview, how we see and interpret the world. There are myths about the world and the creation of the sea. There are myths to explain where man and woman came from. Some myths are about the islands and how they came to be populated. There are myths that try to explain good and evil. Other myths have to do with how man and woman are to relate to one another and to each other’s families. There are myths about children and the consequences of disobedience. There are myths about the afterlife, what happens to a person and where he goes when he dies.

So myths are stories which attempt to explain life and its meaning. They often share wisdom as to how we should live and relate to others and to the world around us. Myths are meant for teaching so that the wisdom can be transmitted from one generation to another.

All cultures have their myths or their folklore. We could talk about the gods of Greek mythology, or Roman mythology, or Hindu or Chinese mythology. Various cultures interpret life with myths and symbols. All peoples everywhere have their stories that have been told and passed down as they search for meaning and try to explain the meaning of life.

1.1.              The Search for Meaning

Why is there this universal attempt on the part of all peoples everywhere to explain the meaning of life? Why do we search for meaning?

The Christian worldview not only explains the meaning of life and existence. It also tells us why we search for meaning and significance. The Bible tells us that we were created in the image of God with the capacity to know Him. God has placed in our hearts a longing for meaning and significance. Look around at the animal kingdom. Animals do not search the heavens to try to understand life and its meaning. They do not contemplate the universe or try to gain understanding. But the book of Ecclesiastes says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV). Saint Augustine lived in the fourth century after Christ. In his famous book Confessions, he prayed to God, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” There is a huge vacuum in the heart of everyone, an emptiness that must be filled.

People everywhere search for meaning. So all cultures have their myths, their stories, their attempts to explain ultimate meaning.

1.2.               Christianity and Mythology

So how is Christianity any different from the mythologies of the world? The Bible is full of stories, so how is it different from the stories of any other culture?

Precisely in this: Christianity is not based on myths but on reality. The Bible is not based on someone’s philosophy about the meaning of life. It is not based on someone’s enlightenment or revelation. Christianity did not come out of someone’s dream or visions. In fact, the Bible specifically warns us about people who through their visions would lead us away from Christ:

 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it (Colossians 2:18-19 NLT).

The Bible is not based on someone’s ideas or dreams or visions or revelations about God. It is based on events that actually happened in human history. Christianity is based on the firm conviction that everything in the Bible including

  • the creation of the universe
  • the worldwide Flood
  • the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land by the Israelites
  • the miracles of Elijah and Elisha
  • the virgin birth of Jesus Christ
  • his miracles such as walking on water
  • his resurrection
  • and his ascension

The Bible is recorded history. All of these stories are literally and completely true. They really happened in the course of human history. They took place in time and space.

This is what the Apostle Peter, an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus Christ said,

2 Peter 1:16 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Peter insists that Christianity is not based on myths, stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, but on actual events that were verified by human eyewitnesses. The Bible is not the story of gods and goddesses and their activities in the heavens. It is the story of what God has done in human history here on earth.

2.  The Bible and Mythology

2.1.               The Bible Is the Story of God

At the risk of being repetitive, the Bible is God’s story. It is the story of God creating the entire vast universe and the earth in six days by his infinite wisdom, intelligence, and power. God created the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul. God took a rib from Adam’s side and fashioned Eve, the mother of all people everywhere.

God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and when they sinned, God drove them out of the garden, but promised that he would send a Savior who would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-5). God dealt with Cain when Cain killed his brother Abel. Sixteen hundred years after the creation, when the earth became so full of violence that God could tolerate it no longer, he sent the Flood and destroyed sinful humanity with the exception of Noah and his family who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. When Noah’s descendants refused to populate the earth but decided to make a name for themselves by building a city to the heavens, God confused their languages at Babel so that even today we have 115 languages here in Vanuatu alone.

God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and renewed the promise that his many times great-grandson, who would be Jesus Christ, would be the source of blessing for all peoples everywhere. God sent the descendants of Jacob into Egypt and later delivered them from slavery by the hand of Moses in the Exodus. God opened the Red Sea so that six million Israelites crossed over on dry land. God drowned the Egyptian army in their attempt to recapture the Israelites. God made a covenant with the Israelites when he gave them the Law. God gave them manna in the wilderness and water from the Rock. God led them into the promised land of Canaan and made the walls of Jericho fall at the sound of the trumpets and the shout of the people. God raised up judges to deliver his people from their enemies. God sent prophets and set up kings. God renewed his promises of the coming Messiah and promised a new covenant. God judged his people for their sin and sent them into exile in Babylon. God raised up Cyrus, the Persian emperor, who allowed the exiles to return to Jerusalem.

Galatians 4:4-5 ESV But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

We read in Acts 2:23-24 that when

this Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, [and the Jews] crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

The Bible is not the story of gods or of God doing imaginary things in the heavens. It is the story of God doing great things on earth. Human history is God’s story. History is his-story.

  • The Exodus
  • The Conquest of Canaan
  • The Exile
  • The Return
  • The Incarnation of Christ
  • The Death of Christ
  • The Resurrection of Christ

2.2.               The Historicity of the Bible

Over and over again, the Bible insists on the historical reality of these events. So once again, Peter says,

2 Peter 1:16 ESV For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

The New Living Translation puts it this way in…

2 Peter 1:16-18 NLT For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

The Apostle John, another disciple of Jesus, the one who leaned on Jesus the night before the crucifixion, wrote this:

1 John 1:1-4 NLT We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

On that fateful night before the crucifixion, Jesus said this to his apostles,

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

Luke tells us in his Gospel, in the opening verses of Luke,

Luke 1:1-4 NLT Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

Luke tells us again, in his second volume, the Book of Acts,

Acts 1:3 NLT During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive…

When the religious authorities were disturbed that the apostles were preaching about the resurrection, they threatened them and warned “them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again” (Acts 4:17).

Acts 4:19-20 NLT But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

These men who had lived with Jesus Christ for three years, these men who had walked the roads of Israel with the Master, who had seen him

  • Make the deaf to hear
  • Make the dumb to speak
  • Make the blind to see
  • Make the lame to walk
  • Raise the dead to life again
  • Calm the storm and cast out demons with a word

They all insist on the absolute reality of these events.

The Apostle Paul insisted that the Christian faith is verifiable and falsifiable. He insisted that you could prove it true or false based on one single event: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives a list of people who had witnessed the resurrection of Christ: Peter, James, and the other apostles. But his most interesting reference is to other followers:

1 Corinthians 15:6 NLT After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

Paul is writing less than 25 years after the resurrection of Christ. Some scholars think that this was the appearance in Galilee that had been announced ahead of time on three different occasions by angels and by Jesus himself (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 14:28). Now, less than 25 years after the resurrection, Paul tells us that more than 500 people saw the resurrected Christ at one time and he adds this very interesting remark: “most of whom are still alive.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, most of the witnesses to the resurrection were still alive. Paul is telling the Corinthians that the facts of the resurrection could still be verified by living witnesses. Paul says in effect, “If you have any doubts about this, check with the living witnesses. Hundreds of them are still alive and they will tell you that Jesus was really raised from the dead.”

Now this is utterly important in Christianity. Our faith stands or falls on the literal reality of this event. Paul goes on to say this to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 15:14-19 NLT And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God– for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave… 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

This is no myth, Paul says. This is not a “kastom” story. This is absolutely and utterly true.

Acts 17:30-31 NLT “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

2.3.               Real People, Real Places, Real Events

As we read through the Bible, we read of real people and real places. Archaeological evidence has identified many of the people mentioned in the Bible. We could list the names of 50 rulers mentioned in the Old Testament: Egyptian Pharaohs, kings if the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, and the emperors of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. In the same way, archaeological research has found extra-biblical evidence (evidence outside the Bible) for the existence of the Caesars of Rome, the Herods of Israel, governors, and many other people mentioned in the New Testament. The Bible itself is archaeological evidence that has been preserved and passed down through the centuries. The Bible is history.

Besides the historical figures that populate the Bible, there are the places: Ur, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tyre, Sidon, Moab, and literally hundreds of important places in the Bible. We know where they are. We can point to them on the map. Archaeologists have excavated these places and found evidence that the biblical record pointed to.

A number of years ago I had the privilege of going to the Middle East. I visited many of the places mentioned in the Bible. I stood by the Sea of Galilee and read the Beatitudes. I swam in the Jordan River. I visited places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Jacob’s well in Samaria. Outside of Israel we went to Egypt, Baalbek, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Rome. I stood on Mars Hill in Athens where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians. We visited five of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation, located in modern day Turkey. These are real places.

The Bible is not the product of someone’s vivid imagination. It did not come out of someone’s dream or vision. The Bible is about real people in real places. But it is more than that.

2.4.               Meta-Narrative

The Bible is not simply a collection of stories. The Bible is one great story with a beginning and an end. When we approach the Bible, we might wonder if it is possible to make any sense out of it. It was written by more than 30 different authors over a period of some 1,600 years, people living at different times in different contexts and cultures from Rome to the Euphrates River. How could there be anything coherent in such a collection of 66 books?

This is one thing that makes the Bible unique. It was not written by one man like the Quran or the Book of Mormon, but the different authors, from Moses to Matthew, from Jeremiah to John, were all inspired by the same Holy Spirit who was writing according to His plan.

If we compare the Bible with the scriptures of other religions, we see that the Quran, for example is a strange collection of disjointed pieces. It is impossible to find any order, progress or arrangement. The 114 Suras or chapters of the Quran are arranged according to length. The longer Suras are first and the shorter ones last. It is the same with the Zoroastrian and Buddhist Scriptures. There is no beginning, middle or end. They are collections of different materials that are loosely placed together.

The Bible is completely different.

From Genesis to Revelation we feel that this book is in a real sense a unity. It is not a collection of fragments, but has, as we say, an organic character. It has one connected story to tell from beginning to end; as we see something growing before our eyes; there is plan, purpose, progress; the end folds back on the beginning, and, when the whole is finished, we feel that here again… God has finished all his works, and behold, they are very good.[1]

The Bible has four great movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation.

1.   Creation

God created everything from nothing. In six days God created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. He created man to know God and to enjoy him forever.

2.   Fall

But man fell and with the Fall came the terrible consequences of sin and death. We live today with the consequences of our action in Adam. When Adam sinned, we all sinned. The image of God in us has not been destroyed, but just as Adam and Eve hid from God after their rebellion, we hide and want to go our own way.

3.    Redemption

God is the searching God. He came into the Garden in search of Adam. Jesus tells us that God is still searching for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. It is a terrible thing when mythology creeps into our worship of the one true God. It is terrible when someone introduces dreams and visions rather than holding to what God has revealed about himself in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and truth. We must fact the truth about ourselves and the truth about God. He is holy, righteous, loving, compassionate, all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere.

The story of Redemption begins when God himself comes seeking for man in the Garden. He promises a Savior. He calls Abraham and promises that the Savior would be his many times great grandson. He raised up the nation of Israel. He gave the Law which would be fulfilled by the Savior. He sent the prophets who told the people to get ready for the Savior. He sent the Savior who died and rose again to save us from our sins. That is the story of redemption.

4.   New Creation

The Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is coming back to make a new heavens and a new earth. What was lost in Eden, will be restored in the new earth.

This is not mythology. It is not someone’s wild dream. It is the message of nearly 40 different writers that God moved to write over a period of 1,600 years the precious Bible that has been entrusted to the Church of the Living God.

Conclusion

You can trust the Bible because you can trust the God of the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. But there comes a warning with the biblical text: because it is the Word of God, you must not take from it; you must not add to it. The Bible concludes with this warning:

Revelation 22:18-19 ESV I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

 


[1]Daniel P. Fuller quoting James Orr in The Unity of the Bible, p. 22.

The Old and the New: Two Testaments, Two Covenants

1. The Old and the New: Two Testaments, Two Covenants

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When we open the Bible, one of the first things that we notice is that the Bible is divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Within the Old and New Testaments, there are covenants, special agreements ratified by sacrifice and sign. There are covenants between individuals such as Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 21:27). More importantly, there are covenants between God and man.

For example, God made a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth by Flood. He put the rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant.

Genesis 9:14-15 ESV When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

God made a covenant with Abraham that the childless old man would yet become the father of a multitude of nations, that kings would come from him and that God would give them the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18; 17:1-21).

Besides these covenants, God made a covenant with the nation of Israel:

Exodus 34:27-28 ESV And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Though Israel would break the covenant, God would not forget His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though He would judge Israel and drive them into other nations, God says in Leviticus 26,

Leviticus 26:42 ESV then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

Leviticus 26:45 ESV But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”

When God makes a covenant with man, it is a gracious act on his part. It is not a negotiated contract whereby we haggle and try to get God to do something that we want. God is God and he does whatever he pleases (Ecclesiastes 8:3; Psalm 115:3). When God makes a covenant, he takes the initiative and promises blessing if we will fulfill the terms of the covenant.

The covenant that God made with Israel would eventually be called the Old Covenant. In speaking of the Jews, Paul says,

2 Corinthians 3:14 NLT …to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.

So the covenant of the Law that God made with Israel is called the Old Covenant. And if the covenant of the Law is the Old Covenant, there must be a New Covenant. There is a New Covenant and that New Covenant was announced under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, more than 600 years before the coming of Christ. We read in Jeremiah,

Jeremiah 31:31-34 NLT “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

So we see the great difference between the Old and New Covenants. God says, “This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors.” The Old Covenant was the Law. It was external. It was written on tablets of stone. In all, there were 613 rules that they had to follow. Six hundred thirteen! Most people could not tell you what the 10 commandments were, much less the 613 rules of the Old Covenant.

God says that the New Covenant would not be like the Old Covenant. It would not be external. It would not be outside of man. It would not be written stone tablets. Rather, God would write His instructions on our hearts:

Jeremiah 31:33 ESV For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

So God’s instructions would not be on the outside of man; they would be on the inside. God would write his instructions on the heart.

The prophet Ezekiel describes the newness that comes with the New Covenant:

Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV 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.

This new heart and new Spirit is the new birth that Jesus talked about in John 3. Jesus describes it as being born of water and the Spirit. The water represents the cleansing from sin and uncleanness that Ezekiel describes: “I will sprinkle clean water on you… I will cleanse you.”

Ezekiel also tells us that this New Covenant would include a new heart and a new spirit. In fact, God would put His Spirit in us: “I will put my Spirit within you…” This is what it means to be born of the Spirit. This is the new birth, being born of water and the Spirit, being cleansed of sin and made alive unto God. This is the new birth that is necessary to enter the kingdom of God.

That was the promise of a New Covenant that God gave through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel as the Israelites were about to be carried off into the Babylonian Captivity because they had broken the Old Covenant that God had made with them. As they had broken the Old Covenant, God promised the New Covenant.

Fast forward more than 600 years to the night before the crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples are gathered together in the upper room to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Then he takes the cup, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

“This cup is the New Covenant in my blood,” he said.

Every time we come to the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, we celebrate the New Covenant.

The writer of Hebrews gives a remarkable commentary on the Old Covenant comparing it with the New Covenant of Jeremiah’s prophecy. In Hebrews 8:6f, we read that Jesus,

Hebrews 8:6-13 NLT …mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. 7 If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. 8 But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 9 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the LORD. 10 But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. 12 And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

So the author of Hebrews quotes the lengthy prophecy of Jeremiah about the New Covenant. Then he makes this commentary:

13 When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.

This is a most remarkable commentary. The New Covenant that was enacted by the shed blood of Christ is far superior to the Old Covenant of the Law. Had the Old Covenant been faultless, “there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it” (8:7). The Law was inadequate. The Law cannot change the heart. The Law needed to be replaced.

Hebrews 8:13 ESV In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The Old Covenant of the Law is obsolete. It’s out of date.

Sometimes you go to the grocery store and you see that they have radically dropped the price on something that you have been wanting to buy. Says it’s a box of cereal that normally sells for 2000vt, and you see that it is on sale for 500vt. Well, you grab it up, all excited about the great deal that you just got: a 2000vt box of cereal for 500vt! You can hardly wait for breakfast the next morning. You get out your cereal bowl and pour in the cereal, but what do you find? The cereal is full of bugs! It’s stale! It is inedible! How did that happen?

You search all over the box until you find the expiration date. You look at the calendar. Oh, no! The cereal is past the expiration date. It expired a week ago, a month ago or more! It’s no good!

That’s what the writer to the Hebrews is saying. The Old Covenant of the Law has passed its date of expiration. It is out of date. It is no longer valid. It has been replaced with the New Covenant.

So why are you still clinging to the Law? Why have you bought into the Old Covenant of the Law? Why are you trying to live by the Law? It has passed its expiration date. It was valid for a time but it has been superseded by the New Covenant. Why are you trying to live by the external Law? “Do this, do that.”

That is like trying to use an old mechanical typewriter instead of a computer. Why are you doing that? Why are you using an old worn out mechanical typewriter when there is a brand new powerful computer sitting on your desk? Why are you trying to live by the letter of the Law instead of by the power of the Spirit of God? God has given us the power of the Spirit so that we can live in a way the pleases and glorifies Him.

The Law is finished. It’s over. Get over it.

2. Shadow and Reality

Hebrews tells us that the Law was only a shadow, not the real thing:

Hebrews 10:1 ESV For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.

The Law was only a shadow. Let me illustrate. You and I are walking down the road together one afternoon. We are hungry and would like something to eat. The sun is shining brightly and suddenly on the road in front of us, we notice a shadow. We recognize from its shape that it is the shadow of a papaya tree full of papayas. Let me ask you, “Will that shadow satisfy our hunger? Will we get any nourishment or strength from the shadow?” No, we will not. But the shadow is there because there is a real papaya tree with real papayas that can satisfy our hunger and meet our need.

Hebrews tells us that the Law was only a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities. You have tried to satisfy yourself with the shadow. You have embraced the Law thinking that it is the real deal. It is not. It is only a shadow. It pointed to the reality. It pointed to Christ.

Paul also writes of the Law as a shadow in Colossians 2. He tells us that God forgave all our sins and canceled the legal charges against us by nailing them to the cross (v. 14).

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.

So there are no food laws to follow: “Do not let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink.” The Christian is free to eat whatever he likes. You are free to eat meat. You are free to eat pork or any other meat that you may like. Jesus himself declared that all foods are clean:

Mark 7:14-19 NLT Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” 17 Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. 18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

The English Standard Version renders Mark’s explanation, “Thus he declared all foods clean.” So all foods are clean. Bon appétit!

Again in Colossians 2, Paul goes on to say that these people are not holding on to Christ, but the danger for you is that if you follow their teaching, they will disqualify you or cause you to lose the prize:

Colossians 2:18 ESV Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism [abstaining from certain things, doing without] and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

The Scriptures warn us about people who have visions and try to take authority over our lives and rob us of our freedom in Christ. “Let no one disqualify you… going on in detail about visions…” They tell you to abstain from foods and how you must worship. These rules about what you can eat and when you must worship have nothing to do with the Christian faith. In the next verses, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are free from these rules:

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.

The Apostle Paul tells us,

  1. Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.
  2. Do not let anyone rob you of your salvation by insisting on self-denial and submission to angels. Hold on to Christ.
  3. Stop living as if you belonged to the world. Man-made rules have an appearance of wisdom, they will do nothing to help you live a life of holiness.

3. Room for Difference of Opinion

All that is very clear. There are matters of consequence, and where the Word of God speaks clearly, we must speak clearly. We must not compromise on issues where God has spoken or we will be found to oppose God. Such matters include the biblical teachings about the inspiration of the Scriptures, the nature of God, the Trinity, the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, his eternal existence before coming into the world, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for the whole world, his literal physical resurrection from the dead, his ascension to the right hand of the Father, his intercession for us. To that we could add the fall of man, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the believer producing a life of holiness without which no man shall see God, the primacy of the Church and its mission, the return of Christ, the final judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth. These truths are non-negotiables. You can see that these are weighty matters and on them the Scriptures speak with absolute clarity.

But there are also matters of opinion, areas where there may be different points of view or conviction. For example, in the area of food. We do not have the problem so much today, but in the early church there were both Gentile and Jewish Christians. The Gentile Christians were free to eat foods that some Jewish Christians, because of their upbringing, could not eat without feeling guilty. Can you imagine a church dinner where the Jewish believers would bring their kosher Jewish foods and the Gentiles would bring their non-kosher foods including pork and non-kosher foods of various kinds? The Gentiles could enjoy it all: chicken, salmon, tuna, beef, lamb, venison, and gefilte fish. Sounds good! Sometimes it is good to be a Gentile! But the Jewish believers would have a hard time swallowing bat, catfish, eel, shark, lobster, oyster, scallops, shrimp, snails, horse meat, or pork! Although Jesus declared all foods clean, some Jewish Christians having been brought up in kosher homes might have a troubled conscience if they were to eat non-kosher food.

The Bible addresses this issue in Romans 14:

Romans 14:1-4 ESV As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

You know what? Food matters do not matter. So if someone is weak in faith and feels that they cannot eat pork, let him be. Don’t look down on him. And the person who does not eat pork is not to think that he is any better than the one who does.

I’ve been to some stores where they had canned food with labels that told the customer that the ingredients looked like meat, smelled like meat, and tasted like meat, but that you could eat it because it was not really meat! If you are a Christian, you are free to eat it whether or not it is meat!

Food matters do not matter.

What about differences of opinion about the day of worship? This sounds so much more important. Surely we’ve got to get the day right! Not so. We have already seen in Colossians 2:16 that we are not to let others condemn us for not celebrating the Sabbath. The Bible says the same thing here in Romans 14:

Romans 14:5-12 NLT In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose– to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. 10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'” 12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.

What does all this mean? It simply means that worshiping God in spirit and truth has nothing to do with the day that you meet for corporate worship. The person who meets with other believers to worship on Sunday must not look down on those who meet on Saturday. And those who meet to worship on Saturday must not condemn those who meet on Sundays.

Why does it not matter? It does not matter because we are not under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is obsolete. We are under the New Covenant.

4. Living with a Corpse

Death is a terrible enemy. And the Bible tells us that it is the last enemy that will be destroyed, being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). But imagine a widow who did not want to admit that her husband had died. Going to the graveside she talks endlessly to the grave, wondering why her husband does not respond. She prepares wonderful meals for him and pleads with him to come home for something to eat. In the evening she says, “Honey won’t you come to bed with me? It’s so cold out here.” As ridiculous as that sounds, many people try to live with a corpse.

We live under the New Covenant, and according to the New Covenant we are dead to the Law. Hear the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:1-4.

Romans 7:1-4 ESV Or do you not know, brothers– for I am speaking to those who know the law– that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

God made a covenant with Israel. It was the Old Covenant of the Law. By the Law, we died to the Law. This is how Paul says it in Galatians 2:19,

Galatians 2:19-21 ESV For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

We died to the Law. We have been released from it. We are no longer under it.

Romans 7:6 NLT But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg explains,

Rom 7:7–13 clarifies that it was not the Law that was evil or deficient in any way. It was God’s perfect covenant for its era. But to try to continue to follow the Law after its fulfillment has come is like a woman who tries to remain married to her deceased husband after she is widowed. Christians are freed from the law as the covenant to which they are obligated (7:1– 6). Thus, when Paul declares in Rom 10:4 that Christ is the telos (end) of the law “so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes,” he means that Christ is both its goal and termination, as nicely captured in the TNIV’s translation “culmination.”

The coming of Christ changed everything.

Romans 10:4 NIV Christ is the [end] culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Are you trusting in the Law? Or are you trusting in Christ? Sabbath keeping will not save you. Abstaining from meat will not save you. Christ alone can save you. Hanging on the cross, he declared, “It is finished!” and the work was done.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. MISSING THE OBVIOUS: JESUS IS THE CHRIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the first chapter alone, Jesus is introduced as

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.1.  The Meaning of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.2.  Adjusting Their Theology

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.3.     Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.4.  What Kind of a Messiah Is This?

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

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

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

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

  1.5.  Show and Tell

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

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

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

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

He had told them.

He had also shown them:

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

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

2. THEN WHY DID THEY NOT BELIEVE?

  2.1.  They Were Not Listening

They did not believe because they were not listening:

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.2.    They Were Not His Sheep

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

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

Jesus gives the characteristics of his sheep:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 3. THE WORK OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 4.  THE UNITY OF THE FATHER AND THE SON

Jesus has made two parallel statements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

[2] Ibid., p. 388.

[3] Ibid., p. 388.

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

[5] Ibid., p. 389.

[6] Ibid., p. 389.

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

[8] Morris, Ibid., p. 391.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION: Who is your hero?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LET’S LOOK AT THE CONTEXT

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

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

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

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

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

False Shepherds and the Good Shepherd

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

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

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

1.      JESUS IS THE DOOR TO LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Jesus is the door to life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 3:1718 ESV For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The final verse of that same chapter 3 tells us,

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

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

   1.1.  Contrast with Thieves and Robbers

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

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

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

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

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

   1.2.  Life Abundantly and the Prosperity Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   2.1.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

   2.2.  Hired Hands

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

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

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

Jesus also speaks of wolves in Matthew 7.

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

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

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

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

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

So Paul tells the shepherds of Ephesus,

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

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

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

2.3. The Shepherd’s Relationship with the Sheep

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

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

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

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

2.4. The Shepherd Lays Down His Life for the Sheep

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

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

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

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

This is …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Leon Morris, John, p. 508.

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

3 Carson, John, p. 385.

4 Carson, John, p. 385.

5 Leon Morris, John, p. 510.

6 Carson, John.

7 Morris, John, p. 510.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 08:48-59, “Who Does Jesus Make Himself Out To Be?”

JESUS

JESUS (Photo credit: Daniel Y. Go)

What do you think of Christ? Even when Jesus walked on this earth, just like today, there were many different opinions about him. The crowds had various opinions. The Jewish authorities took a different position concerning Christ. The disciples held their cherished beliefs and hopes about Jesus. In addition these divergent viewpoints, there was the Jesus’ own understanding of who he was, where he came from, who sent him, and the vital mission that he came to accomplish.

The Jewish authorities ask Jesus the vital question that is found in our text today: “Who do you make yourself out to be? Just who do you think you are?”

Stay tuned!

MUSIC: JOYFUL, JOYFUL SIGN-ON

Thank you for joining us for the Joyful News Broadcast, a ministry of Joy Bible Institute in Port Vila.

1.WHO IS JESUS?

In John 8:47-59, we find the conclusion of a dialogue between Jesus and the Jewish authorities concerning his claims. It was during the great feast of Tabernacles, one of the three most important feast of the Jews. There was a tremendous amount of discussion and speculation about Jesus. Some believed that he was the Christ, but the Jewish authorities wanted to kill him.

The Jewish authorities were looking for him, trying to find a way to arrest him, while the crowds were wondering if Jesus would show up at the feast.

And suddenly, there he was, teaching in the temple. The claims that he made were staggering:

  • He promised to give the Holy Spirit to those who would come to him (7:37-39).
  • He claimed to be the Light of the world (8:12).
  • He said that whoever knew him, also knew God the Father (8:19).
  • He told those who believed in him, that if they continued to obey his word, they would really be his disciples, and they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free (8:31-32).

These are amazing claims. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to his followers. He does not simply promise to lead people to the light; he is the Light of the world. He does not simply tell people about God; he says that to know him is to know God. And he promises freedom from sin to those who remain faithful to his teachings.

Who can make such staggering claims about himself? What kind of a man is he? This kind of talk provoked the Jewish authorities to ask the question:

John 8:53 NLT Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

Who did Jesus think he was?

MUSIC: BOB BENNETT – CARPENTER GONE BAD – 3:30 – 14 second lead-in

1.1.Public Opinion

On one occasion, Jesus asked his disciples about public opinion. It was not that Jesus did not know, or that he was concerned about opinion polls. He was leading up to a more important question. So he asked his disciples,

Matthew 16:13-14 NLT …”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

That may sound impressive: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. People compared Jesus to one or another of the great prophets in the history of Israel. That sounds impressive to us. Men who were greatly used of God in the past. But is that all that Jesus was? Simply a great prophet?

Today, some people still think of Jesus as simply a great teacher or a great prophet. Islam considers Jesus to be a prophet, but the first Christians would understand that Jesus was so much more than than just a great prophet.

Jesus is talking with his disciples. These men would have the responsibility of carrying on his work after his departure into heaven. Public opinion was one thing, but it was much more important that his disciples get it right. It was essential that these men who were to carry the gospel—the good news about Jesus Christ—to the ends of the earth… it was imperative that they know who he was. You cannot share the good news of Jesus Christ if you do not know who Jesus Christ is.

So Jesus turned the question to his disciples. “Others say that I am John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Matthew 16:15-16 NLT Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus is not merely a prophet, not even a great prophet, Peter says. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One that the prophets had prophesied would come. And more than that, he is the Son of the living God. Like Father, like Son. As Son of the living God, he had the same nature as the living God: eternal, all powerful, all knowing, all wise. The Apostle Paul says it like this in Philippians 2:6,

Philippians 2:6-7 NLT Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being…

Was Peter right in what he said about Jesus? When he said that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, did he get the answer right? Did Jesus accept what Peter said about him? This is what Jesus said in response,

Matthew 16:17 NLT Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.

Peter’s understanding did not come from logic or observation, Jesus said. Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of the living God, was the result of a revelation from Jesus’ own Father in heaven.

1.2.Diverse Opinions

Just as there were many inadequate opinions about Jesus when he walked the land of Israel, there are many defective opinions about Jesus Christ today. While many recognize that Jesus was more than an ordinary man, and many recognize that he existed before his virgin birth in Nazareth, their opinions about Jesus are nonetheless faulty.

Some say that Jesus was an angel. Some say an archangel. Some say that Jesus was the archangel Michael in the Old Testament. While that may sound good to us, it dishonors Jesus Christ who claimed to be equal with God in John 5:17. John tells us that “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Angels are not equal with God. Archangels are not equal with God. They are creatures. God is not a creature; he is the Creator. Creatures are not eternal; they have a beginning point in time. The Son of God had no beginning. He is eternal. As John tells us in the very first verse of this Gospel,

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

Others say that Jesus Christ was a god. They say that he is not Almighty God; he is just “a god.” He is “a god”—“a mighty god”—that God Almighty created, but he is not the Almighty God. So according to their teaching, there is the Almighty God and a mighty god. But that makes two gods. That teaching is not the monotheism of the Bible. That is polytheism, the belief in more than one god. That is not the teaching of the Bible. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach that there is only one God:

Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

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

Yet still others say that both Jesus and Satan were spirit children of God and that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Well, this is scandalous and is not at all the teaching of the Bible, the Word of God. You may find that false teaching in other books that people have added to the Bible, but you will never find that in God’s Word.

If you have never heard such teachings of men before, consider yourself blessed. But I mention these things because we live in the last days when there are many false teachers in the world and even here in Vanuatu.

2.IS JESUS DEMON-POSSESSED?

2.1.Round One

What kind of man would make the claims that Jesus made? In addition to the claims that we have already mentioned today,

  • Jesus said that he had the right to be honored as God is honored.
  • He said that he does the works of God.
  • He said that God had committed all judgment of men to him.
  • Jesus said that just like the Father, he gives life to whom he will.
  • He said that he was the Bread of Life, the very source of life.
  • In 8:45-47, Jesus implies that his words are the very words of God:

John 8:45-47 ESV But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

What kind of man would make such claims? As we have stated before, in the words of C. S. Lewis, Jesus must be a liar, a lunatic, or he is Lord.

The Jewish authorities said that Jesus had a demon:

John 8:48 ESV The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

The New Living Translation puts it this way,

John 8:48 NLT The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

They called him a Samaritan. The Jews despised the Samaritans. They considered them to be half-breeds and people who had compromised the truth. Jesus does not respond to this slur, this insult. If anything, Jesus identifies with the downcast, those who are despised. He does not even respond to this part of the insult.

But the charge of being demon-possessed is far more serious. They are attributing the works of God to Satan.

John 8:49 ESV Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.

Jesus has made many absolute claims. He comes from the Father and bears witness to the truth. He does not seek his own glory. He seeks to honor his Father. But in dishonoring Jesus, they dishonor his Father who seeks to glorify his Son:

John 8:50 ESV Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.

The Son glorifies the Father, and the Father glorifies the Son.

2.2.Round Two

In verse 51, we start another round. Jesus has just stated that the Jewish authorities do not believe him because they are not of God but of their father the devil. In response to his absolute claims, they insult him as a Samaritan and accuse him of having a devil.

Jesus does not back down. He makes another outstanding claim:

John 8:51 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

This is another one of his solemn declarations opened with the words, “Truly, truly” or in the Greek, “Amen, amen.” Jesus draws attention to the absolute truth of what he is declaring: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

How can this be? How are we to take this seriously?

The Jewish authorities respond violently:

John 8:52 ESV The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’

It is absolutely true because those who keep Jesus’ words have already passed from death to life:

John 5:24 ESV Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

On January 31, 2014, my father, at the age of 83, entered into the presence of God. At 18 years of age, he was gloriously saved and passed from death to life. In January, he simply passed through the veil into the presence of God. His communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was not interrupted by death. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 that even death itself cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:23-24 NET I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, 24 but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.

Mat 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

We read in Hebrews 12:23 that when we come together to worship, we come “to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.”

The dead in Christ are not literally asleep. They are alive in the presence of God. Whoever keeps his word, Jesus said, “will never see death.”

Jesus has once again made an amazing declaration that the Jewish authorities are unable to accept: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never die.”

John 8:52-53 NLT The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

3.“WHO DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF OUT TO BE?” 

There it is! That’s the question! Who does Jesus make himself out to be? Who does he pretend to be?

3.1.Greater than Abraham

The Jews ask Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Abraham?”

This question keeps coming up.

  • The Samaritan woman had asked Jesus a similar question: “Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well?” Jesus told her in effect that as a matter of fact he was greater he was greater than Jacob. Everyone who drank from Jacob’s well got thirsty again and eventually died, but whoever drinks from the water that Jesus gives never thirsts again. Instead the living water that Jesus gives becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).
  • The Jews unfavorably compared Jesus to Moses who they said had given their fathers manna in the wilderness. Jesus implied that he was greater than Moses for all who ate the manna died, but whoever eats the Bread of Life that is Christ himself, will never die (John 6).
  • Once again, Jesus is compared with one of the luminaries of this history of Israel: “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”
  • Jesus offers something that neither Jacob, nor Moses, nor even Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, could offer. Jesus offers eternal life: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
  • Yet Jesus is not glorifying himself:

John 8:54-55 ESV Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him…

This is a terrible indictment. They claimed God, but they did not know him: “You say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him.”

We claim God, but do we know him? Jesus is not talking about simply believing in him. He is talking about knowing him: “You have not known him,” he says.

I know who Prime Minister Tony Abbott is, but I do not know him. I know who President Barack Obama is, and I know things about him, but I do not know him.

These Jewish people knew a lot about God and what he had done in the history of the nation, but they did not know God.

Again, “This is eternal life,” Jesus prayed, “that they may know you, the one true God, and your Son Jesus Christ whom you have sent into the world” (John 17:3).

You know some things about God. You claim that God is your God. But are you really any better off than these Jewish leaders who did not know God?

John 8:55 ESV But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.

Those who know God keep his word.

3.2.Seen by Abraham

John 8:56 ESV Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

Jesus never backs down. He makes one astonishing statement after another. Now he claims that Abraham was overjoyed as he looked forward to Christ’s coming. And he saw it and was glad!

How is that?

Abraham was a prophet (Genesis 20:7). And God had made promises to him concerning Christ (Galatians 3:16). By faith, Abraham saw the fulfillment of the promises (Hebrews 11:13).

No rabbi would object to Jesus’ claim that Abraham would see the messianic era. But Jesus does not say this. Instead, he says: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad”(italics added). The messianic era is now fulfilled in Christ.

The attitude of Abraham was totally different from that of the Jewish authorities. Abraham rejoiced at seeing Christ the Messiah. “Jesus identifies the ultimate fulfillment of all Abraham’s hopes and joys with his own person and work.” Jesus claims that Abraham had seen his day, that is, “the Day of the Lord.”

3.3.How Old Is Jesus?

John 8:57 ESV So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

Rather than accepting what Jesus said and meant, the Jews dismiss his claim. Abraham lived and died 2000 years before Christ. So how could Abraham have seen the coming of Jesus? They could have easily understood that Jesus was referring to himself as the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, but they reject his claim out of hand.

4.JESUS, THE GREAT “I AM”

So Jesus has one more stunning claim to make. Again he solemnly announces, “I tell you the truth…”

John 8:58 ESV … ”Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

“Before Abraham was, I am.” What did Jesus mean?

The Jews knew exactly what he meant. They responded with violence. They picked up stones to throw at him:

John 8:59 ESV So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Why did they do that? They recognized that Jesus was claiming to be God. “Who do you make yourself out to be?” they had asked (John 8:53). They got their answer and they did not like it.

Had Jesus “wanted to claim only that he existed before Abraham, it would have been simpler to say, ‘Before Abraham was, I was.’”

But Jesus does not say that. He clearly says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

“I am” what? Just, “I AM.” “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

This is not the first time Jesus uses this phrase, “I AM” without a predicate.

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

John 8:28 ESV So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

In both cases, the pronoun “he” is supplied by the translators. It is not in the Greek text. Finally in this stunning response, Jesus simply says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”

New Testament scholars believe that Jesus is clearly identifying himself with Yahweh, the name of God.

When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush to send him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, Moses asked God, “Whom shall I say sent me?”

God responded, “Tell them that I AM sent you.” “I AM that I AM.” “I am the one who is.” “I am the one whose existence depends on no one else.” “I AM.”

Time and again in Isaiah, God refers to himself as “I am…” While the English translations add the pronoun “he,” the Greek translation of the Old Testament says exactly what Jesus was saying, “Ego eimi.” “I AM.”

Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

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

Isa 43:13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Isa 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Isa 46:4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Isa 48:12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.

John 8:57-58 NLT The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!”

This is what John is telling us on every page of this Gospel: Jesus is God in the flesh. The opening words of this Gospel tell us that Jesus is God:

John 1:1 NLT In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Again in verse 18 of chapter 1,

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

CONCLUSION

What is your response to this claim that Jesus was God? Do you, like the Jews, want to pick up stones? Do you react violently to the teaching of Christ about himself, the teaching that he was God in a human body? The Word who was God—that Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Many reject his claims. They water them down. They diminish his claims. They dishonor Christ and they dishonor God.

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

The only other appropriate response is to worship him. In the next chapter of John, John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind.

John 9:38 ESV He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

In John 20:28, Thomas will call Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

Where are you friend? This is no new teaching that I have shared with you today. This is the teaching of the New Testament and has been the teaching of all true churches: Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Pentecostal, and others. Jesus Christ is God.

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

See also “Gospel of John”:

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 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”: