Jesus Christ

Matthew 02:01-23, “Responses to the Newborn King”

Bible illustration c.1900

Bible illustration c.1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(This is a slightly modified version of a previous post with a new recording added.)

A Merry Christmas to you! Today we want to talk about that very first Christmas, the coming of Christ into the world and the ways that people responded to him. How do you feel about Christmas, about the coming of Christ into the world?

  • Joyful, happy, thankful?
  • Indifferent? It doesn’t matter! What’s the big deal?
  • Angry? Hostile?

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We see all these responses to the birth of Christ.

What is your response to the birth of Christ?

How do you feel about the coming of Christ into the world?

Through the years we have received many birth announcements from proud parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event that people pray for, wait for and plan for. Parents and family and friends are excited as the day approaches. Everyone wonders if it will be a boy or a girl. Today with ultrasound, it is sometimes possible to know before the birth whether the child will be a boy or a girl, but the birth of a child is a joyous occasion. Sometimes a special bedroom is painted and prepared. Gifts are given. A husband worries about getting his pregnant wife to the hospital on time. It is a happy time and the proud father and mother want everyone to know about the birth of their child.

Of course, that is not always the response. We live in a Genesis 3 world, a fallen world where people are broken and often live shattered lives. We live in a world where multiplied millions of babies are not welcomed. Married couples generally rejoice when they learn that soon in their home they will hear the pitter-patter of little feet and the chitter-chatter of little teeth. But that is often not the case when a woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock. An unexpected child becomes not a cause of rejoicing, but the subject of shame or simply an inconvenience to one’s plans for education and career. A relationship that was thought to start in love ends with cold hearts that stop the beating heart of an innocent pre-born child. In the culture of death that is found around the world today, millions of babies are aborted and discarded. We live in a confused world that rejoices at the birth of some babies and insists on the right to kill others. It’s called pro-choice, but it means the right to choose to kill the innocent, those who have the inalienable right to live. We will see in our story today that at the first Christmas, babies were slaughtered in the attempt to find and kill baby Jesus.

But first…

The Birth of Prince George Alexander Louis

Just over two years ago on December 3, 2012, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, announced that his wife, Catherine, was going to have a baby. The world was watching and waiting. This birth was greatly anticipated. Finally, on 22 July 2013, Prince George Alexander Louis was born.

“Gun salutes signalled the birth in Bermuda, in London, in New Zealand, and in Canada; the bells of Westminster Abbey and many other churches were rung; and iconic landmarks in the Commonwealth realms were illuminated in various colours, mostly blue to signify the birth of a boy…” Lullabies were composed. Songs were recorded. “Commemorative coins were issued by the Royal Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, and Royal Australian Mint; the first time a royal birth had been marked that way.” All to celebrate the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis.

The Birth of the Prince of Peace

Another Prince was born 2000 years ago: the Prince of Peace. This birth had been announced 4000 years before his birth. Down through the ages, precisions were made:

  • Descendant of Abraham
  • Tribe of Judah
  • Descendant of King David
  • Born in Bethlehem
  • Born of a virgin, for this Prince would be the Son of God.

And then he was born. John says it like this:

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 (John 1:1-3 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 1:14 ESV).

In spite of the prophecies and announcements, the world was not watching:

  • No guns signaled his birth.
  • No decorations were put up in Jerusalem
  • No commemorative coins were issued.

The birth of the Prince of Peace passed mostly unnoticed. Except for

  • Some shepherds who had been keeping watch over their flock that night.
  • A multitude of heavenly angels, an angelic choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest.”
  • All the angels of heaven worshiped this child:

Hebrews 1:6 ESV And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

  • And old man Simeon in the temple recognized that this was the Christ child, the Promised One.
  • And the old woman Anna who had spent years in prayer recognized him as…
  • And there was that star in the East bringing wise men from Babylon or beyond

Yes, finally the word got out. It became known that a most special birth had taken place. How would people react?

Matthew 2:1-23 NLT Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.'” 

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” 9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. 

13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” 

16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah– weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” 

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This story in Matthew 2 shows us that there are different responses to the coming king.

So how do you respond to the Coming King?

1.Some people, like Herod, are hostile to King Jesus.

How would you like to be your own king? No one to tell you what to do but yourself? That’s the way most people try to live.

1.1.Herod was troubled (2:3).

Matthew 2:1-3 NLT Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” 3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.

Why was Herod disturbed? Herod was disturbed because he was King of the Jews. Notice the accent that Matthew puts on this in verses 1, 3, and 9.

Matthew 2:1 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,

Matthew 2:3 ESV When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;

Matthew 2:9 CSB After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was– the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.

Rome had appointed Herod king in 37 B.C. But the wise men had spoken of a supernatural star that had announced the birth of a king. Notice that they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They were not talking about someone who would be appointed king at some point in history. They were talking about one who was born king, one who by His very nature is King. The Bible calls Him King of kings and Lord of lords. He is not nominated or appointed. He is not elected and he cannot be voted out of office. His kingship does not depend on your vote. He does not become king by some parliamentary procedure, and he cannot be removed from office by a motion of no-confidence. Jesus was born King. It is his nature to rule. Look at the prophecy of Micah again in v. 5-6,

” 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.'”” (Matt. 2:5-6 ESV).

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Mic 5:2 ESV)

Jesus is the King who stepped down from his throne in heaven to become the babe in Bethlehem. No wonder Herod the king was troubled.

  • He was troubled because wise men had come. 
  • He was troubled because they had spoken of one who was born king of Israel.
  • He was troubled because a phenomenon in the heavens had announced the birth of this king.
  • He was troubled because the word of the wise men had been confirmed by the Scriptures.
  • He was troubled because this newborn king was going to be a ruler who would shepherd God’s people Israel.

Herod was troubled. Herod was King of the Jews and would accept no challengers. Herod was not even Jewish. He was not a rightful heir to the throne, but by political savvy, he had convinced Caesar to name him King of the Jews. Now he hears about the one who was the son of King David, the legitimate heir to the throne, the one whom all the Scriptures had pointed to. Herod was a man who, because of jealousy, had killed his favorite wife. He had killed two of his own sons. Herod would accept no rivals. He would attempt to kill the newborn King.

History has had its fill of men like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein. This past few years we have seen rulers in North Africa and the Middle East and North Korea kill thousands of innocent people to maintain their position as ruler.

King Herod would not hesitate to do away with a child who was born King of the Jews. So when Herod was troubled, everyone was troubled. Someone has aptly said that Herod was more interested in saving his throne than in saving his soul!

1.2.Herod made an inquiry from the chief priests and scribes to find out where Christ was to be born (2:4).

To kill the newborn King, Herod must find out where Christ was to be born. He determined from the chief priests and scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

1.3.Herod made further inquiry from the wise men to find out when Christ was born (2:7).

Herod pretended to be sympathetic to the wise men. They had come to worship the newborn king. They assumed that everyone would be rejoicing. They assumed that everyone knew about his birth. But the people did not know. Perhaps they had not seen the star. Perhaps they did not know what it meant. The wise men came to Jerusalem asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” It was clear to them that the birth had already taken place. They were asking people in Jerusalem where the newborn king was to be found. There were no Christmas lights. There was no celebration. The word reached Herod. Herod was troubled, but pretended to be glad about the news.

He had been informed by the scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. 700 years before, Micah had prophesied that the ruler would come from Bethlehem. Herod knew now where to look, but he had to be careful. The wise men had seen a star. They would now know where to find the child. He took the wise men aside to speak to them privately. This was not the time for his advisors to figure out what he was up to.

Herod would tell the wise men where to look, but first he wanted some information from them. When had the star appeared? Why did he need to know this? He did not say.

“Bethlehem,” he told them. “You will find the child in Bethlehem. Go and search out the child diligently. Find out exactly where in Bethlehem he is. Then come tell me so that I can go worship him as well.”

Perhaps the wise men thought it strange that the king would know that the child was to be born in Bethlehem but had not known that the child had already been born. How strange that he would ask foreign diplomats to find the child for him rather than going himself to worship the child.

He told the wise men that he too wanted to worship the child. How happy the wise men must have been. There was no display of jealousy. The king wanted to worship the Christ child.

But no! Not at all. He had asked when the star had appeared because he wanted to know how old the child must be. He wanted to be able to identify him, not to worship him, but to kill him.

The wise men never needed to know. The wise men would never be the wiser. They would go to Bethlehem. They would find the child. They would worship him. They would return to Jerusalem to tell King Herod where to find him. Then Herod would go and kill him. So much for the newborn king. Herod would not tolerate any rivals to his throne.

But King Herod is not sovereign. There is a God, the one and only true God, who is sovereign and who rules over the affairs of men on earth. This all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise God, warned the wise men in a dream not to return to Herod. The plans of the King of Heaven and Earth would not be thwarted by some measly earthly king. The wise men were warned not to return to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another route. At the same time, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to get up and to take the child and to flee to Egypt. There was no time to lose. In the middle of the night, Joseph woke up and took the child and his mother and fled to Egypt.

Herod waited for the return of the wise men. They did not come. When Herod saw that the wise men had not returned when they should have, he was furious! He knew when the star had appeared to the wise men, so he sent and killed all the male children less than two years of age in Bethlehem and in all the region. Herod would stop at nothing to kill any concurrent to the throne.

It has been said that Herod is the picture of those who ask questions about Christ without any intention of acting rightly on the knowledge they receive. There are many who ask questions about Christ. Perhaps it’s out of curiosity. Perhaps it is in an effort to discount Christ’s claims upon their lives. But many are not sincere inquirers. They have no intention of submitting their lives to the Kingship of Jesus Christ.

But King Herod asked questions not simply out of curiosity but out of hostility. Herod is the picture of those who are hostile to Christ and to God.

There are God-haters today. People who try to kill God from the thinking of others. Christopher Hitchens was a well-known atheist. He did not believe in God and did not want anyone else to believe in him either. In 2007, he wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It was just one of many books and articles that he wrote to put an end to God. He hated the very idea of God.

On Thursday, December 15, 2011, Christopher Hitchens died of esophageal cancer – too many cigarettes and too much alcohol. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that, the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). But God himself takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Ezekiel 33:11 ESV …As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?

There are many God-haters in the world today. They know about God. They know that he exists. But they don’t want him interfering with their lives. They will be king of their own lives. No other king will sit on the throne of their heart. They are their own god. They worship themselves. They show their hostility to God by breaking his commandments and living as they want to.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way;” (Isa. 53:6 ESV).

We have all been hostile to God at some point in our lives. The good news is the rest of that verse: “and the Lord has laid on him, the iniquity of us all.” This child was born to die. He came to bear our sins, to take our place in judgment and to show the righteousness and the love of God the Father.

How about you? Do you live your life every day in submission to the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Or are you the ruler of your own life, the captain of your own ship? Who sits on the throne of your heart?

Some people, like Herod, are hostile to King Jesus.

2.Some People, Like the Chief Priests and Scribes, Neglect to Honor the King (2:1-6).

The distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was only five miles (eight kilometers). But the chief priests and scribes, who should have been excited about the news of the newborn and long awaited King, did not bother to go see him.

Some people are not openly hostile, but they fail to honor Christ with their lives. There are three kinds of people like the chief priests and scribes who may fail to honor Christ as King:

  • Intimidated
  • Indifferent
  • Ignorant

2.1. Intimidated. Oli fraet!

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (Matthew 2:3 ESV)

King Herod is troubled, so everyone is troubled.

After the birth of Jesus, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 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.” King Herod knew whom to consult: he assembled the chief priests and the scribes of the people. These were the people who studied the Scriptures and knew the Law and the Prophets. The wise men were looking for the newborn King, so Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where the Christ was to be born. They were able to respond without hesitation:

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 

Not only were they able to tell King Herod where Christ would be born, they were able to tell him why:

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.'” (Mat 2:5-6 ESV)

There was no hesitation. There was no lack of clarity. They did not tell Herod that there were different opinions and interpretations. They didn’t tell him that no one really knew for sure where the Christ would be born. These people knew the Scriptures.

There is no other book like the Bible. It is God’s Word. God has declared things before they happen so that when they happen we will know that He is God and there is none other beside him and no one like him. He declares wonders that we cannot imagine and they come to pass.

He had declared that the Promised One would be born of a virgin, and that he would be born in Bethlehem.

The scribes and the chief priests know about the coming king. They know the Scriptures, but they choose to ignore what they knew. For one reason or another, they turn away from the truth and vainly hope that there will be no consequences.

These people are sometimes intimidated by others.

Verse 3 tells us that when Herod the king heard that the wise men from the east had seen a star announcing the birth of the King of the Jews, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. The king was troubled, so they were troubled. The scribes were those who copied and studied and taught the Old Testament Scriptures. The coming of the Messiah was the hope of the Jewish nation. Finally, the promises of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament were being fulfilled. Their hearts should have been filled with joy, but they were troubled because the king was troubled. They were intimidated by the king. The king’s concerns became their concerns. They were troubled because of their fear of the king.

There are people today who do not honor King Jesus because they are afraid of what others will say. They are afraid of what their family will say. Or religious leaders. Or the chief of their village. The Apostle John tells us that

“many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (Jn. 12:42-43 ESV).

Who do you honor? Some people are intimidated.

2.2.Others are indifferent: they don’t act on what they know.

They know that Christ came, that he lived, died and rose again, but it does not matter to them. They live as if he never came.

Christ had come. Here was the hope of the Jewish people. God had given the promises. The long awaited Messiah had been sent. A special star announced his birth. Foreign dignitaries had come a great distance to welcome the newborn King. But the people who know the Scriptures were troubled and didn’t bother to go walk eight kilometers to Bethlehem to see what God had done! Shepherds and wise men came to see him. Angelic hosts sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!” But the chief priests and scribes did not care to go see him.

There are people who know what the Scriptures teach. They know what they ought to do. They know they need to repent. They know they should obey the Scriptures. They know who Jesus is. But they don’t want to change. They don’t want to trouble themselves to submit to the one who was born King.

These people are not ready to submit to another King.

Churches are filled with people who are religious. Many of them know their Bibles. They can answer questions about the Bible. They can quote Scriptures. They’ve heard the promises of God all their lives. They keep thinking that someday they will get right with God. Someday they will let Jesus be King of their lives.

Perhaps you are faithful to church every Sunday, but you have not submitted to King Jesus. You are trusting in your good works, in what you know, in your church attendance, but you have not submitted the control of your life to King Jesus. You keep thinking that everything will be alright, that someday you’ll get right with God. The Bible says, “Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation.”

Some people are religious. They know the Bible. They know that Jesus is the King. But they do not honor him as King. They refuse to submit to his Kingship.

Some people, like the scribes, fail to honor the King. They are indifferent.

2.3.Others are ignorant: they just don’t know.

They don’t come to the King because they haven’t heard that the King has come. They don’t know.

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” 14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? … (Romans 10:13-15 NLT).

Some people are hostile to Christ. Some people simply neglect Christ and their own salvation.

3.Some People Like the Wise Men Worship the King.

This story starts with the arrival of wise men from the East. They have seen evidence of the birth of the king.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1 ESV).

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20 ESV).

Who have these wise men come to worship? They have come to worship…

  • The one who was born of the virgin: 

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18 ESV).

  • The one who was conceived of the Holy Spirit:

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:19-20 ESV).

  • The one who would save his people from their sins:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matt. 1:21 ESV).

  • The one who is born King. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 NLT).

  • The one who is God with us:

“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)” (Matt. 1:22-23 ESV).

They have come to worship God.

They know that nothing else matters so much as the birth of this King whose star they have seen. This King is the purpose of their lives. They travel many weeks from the East, perhaps from what we call Iraq or Iran today. The Jews had been exiled in Babylon. Many of them were still there.

Perhaps these wise men had learned about the prophecies of the coming of Christ through the Jews who lived in Babylon.

How much of this did they know? How much had been told them by Jews in Babylon? They knew that this child was a king. They knew that he moved the heavens for they had seen his star. They knew that he was worthy of worship.

Worship is not a style. Worship is not singing about worship. Worship involves the entire person in adoration of the most glorious being that exists. Worship is total agreement with God. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Worshiping God in spirit is worshiping him from the heart. It is not just singing a worship song; it is singing from the heart. It is spiritual.

Joy:

“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matt. 2:9-10 ESV).

“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. ” (Matt. 2:11 ESV).

Worshiping God in truth: according to the truth about him.

“Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11 ESV).

Gold: Sign of royalty. The enfant was the newborn King.

Frankincense: Incense was used for the worship of God

Myrrh: For burial

Jesus was born to die. He was born to take your sins and mine upon himself. God alone could take away our sins.

What is your response to this one who was born king?

  • Neglect? Fail to honor him as God?
  • Hostility?
  • Worship?

REPENT: Let us repent of our sins. It may be natural for us to lie, to steal, or to commit adultery, but it is sin. The Fall has corrupted our natures and made us sinful.

BELIEVE: We need to believe that Jesus is the Savior. He is God with us. He is theKing.

FIND A BIBLE-BELIEVING CHURCH. Read you Bible. Pray. Seek the Lord. Come worship the King.

Sign-Off

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.

Joy Bible Institute is accepting applications for the coming school year which begins March 2. If you believe that God has called you to full-time Christian ministry and are a member in good standing with a Bible-believing church, we would be happy to consider your application. JBI may be the school to help you prepare to fulfill the ministry that God has called you to do. You can download an application or fill one out online at joybible.wordpress.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

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

Giovanni Lanfranco - Miracle of the Bread and ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.1. Their desire to make him king.

John 6:14 tells us,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.2. Their concept of what a king would do

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

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

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

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

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

A King unlike any other king.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the crowd throws a question in his face:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ response is full of energy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Origin

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

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

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

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

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

4.1. No Life Without Death

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

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

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

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

4.2. Hard hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.4. What about the Twelve?

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

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

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

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

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

This question reveals the emptiness of any other teaching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What right do you have?

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

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

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

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

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

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

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

 The Need for Witnesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

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

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

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

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

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness Number Five: Moses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

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

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

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

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

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

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

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

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

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

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

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

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also “Gospel of John”:

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John’s Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John’s Explanations and Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Right Do you Have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaan

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

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

Lazarus

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

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

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

This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 25:

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus, what right do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus, what right do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also “Gospel of John”: