Jesus

Mark 07v24-30 “Jesus among the Gentiles”

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1456053183_thumb.pngWhat are we to think about stories about Jesus among the Gentiles? People have always been fascinated with Jesus. People have tried to explain him. Some cultures have claimed him. Some have told stories about him growing up in Great Britain or India, trekking across Tibet, Persia, Assyria, Greece, and Egypt. According to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded in the early 20th century, Jesus went to India and Kashmir after his crucifixion.[1] Some even believe that Jesus visited native Americans after his resurrection. What are we to think of these stories?

Simply this: these stories are pure fiction — nothing but fantasy. They have no historical or archaeological foundation at all. No world class historian takes these stories seriously.

Then we have to ask, What makes the New Testament accounts of Jesus any different from these other stories about Jesus going to India or America? The answer in one word is “eyewitnesses.” The Gospels were not written 18 or 19 centuries later — not 1,800 or 1,900 years after the life of Christ by people who had visions or imagined that Jesus did the things that they claim he did.

No, the Gospels were not written hundreds or thousands of years after the life of Christ; they were written by eyewitnesses like Matthew and John, disciples of Jesus Christ who lived and walked and talked with him for three years. The Gospels were written by people like Mark and Luke who knew the eyewitnesses and who as careful historians documented the facts of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Paula F. Fredriksen who “earned a Ph.D in the history of religion from Princeton University and diploma in theology from Oxford University”[2] “states that no serious scholarly work places Jesus outside the backdrop of 1st century Palestinian Judaism.”[3] In other words, serious historians know that all the earthly ministry of Jesus took place in the Middle East, not in India, or Great Britain, or America.

That is one of the reason why our passage in Mark 7 today is so interesting. Besides the healing of the man of the tombs in Mark 5, this is the only passage in the ministry of Jesus when he leaves Jewish territory and goes into Gentile territory. Here in Mark 7, we read about Jesus among the Gentiles.

Mark 7:24 ESV And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.

1.    Jesus Among the Gentiles

1.1. The Place

Jesus has gone into the region of Tyre and Sidon. This is far north of Israel. This is the region of modern day Lebanon. This was Gentile territory! This is not the first time that he has gone into Gentile territory, for we saw in Mark 5 that he went to the region of the Gerasenes, east of the Sea of Galilee, where he was greeted by a naked man with an unclean spirit.

But once again, Jesus has left Jewish territory and is among the Gentiles.

Tyre was a seat of ungodly paganism. Centuries before, Jezebel had come from Tyre and had corrupted the “Northern Kingdom with her pagan prophets and practices (1 Kgs 16:31-32).” More recently, Tyre had fought against the Jews, siding with the Syrian oppressors. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, claimed that the inhabitants of Tyre were “notoriously our bitterest enemies” (Ag. Ap. 1.13).[4]

1.2. The Motive

So why in the world would Jesus go to the region of Tyre and Sidon? Why would he leave his home territory to go into Gentile territory?

1.2.1.        Opposition

The first reason is opposition. We have seen over and over again how the Jewish religious authorities are increasingly hostile to Jesus. They are opposed to

  • his authoritative teaching,
  • his claim to forgive sins (2:7),
  • his healing on the Sabbath (3:2),
  • his refusal to submit to their traditions (7:5) to name just a few items on their list!

The first 23 verses of this chapter 7 show the most intense conflict with the scribes and Pharisees up to this point.

The point of contention had been the tradition of the elders. The Jews maintained that there could be no salvation apart from the Law. They had put the emphasis on external appearances, on external cleanliness, on clean and “unclean” foods. But Jesus declared that all foods were clean (Mark 7:19), that we are not defiled by the food that we eat but by what is in our hearts. Jesus shows by going among the Gentiles not only that there are no unclean foods, but that there are no unclean people. We were all created in the image of God. We were all created to know him and love him. He also shows that the Law is not our Savior; Jesus Christ himself is our only Lord and Savior.

1.2.2.        Rest and relaxation

Secondly, Jesus needed to rest. Already in chapter 6, Jesus had tried to get away with his disciples to “rest a while” (6:31). But they had been unsuccessful. The people followed Jesus into the wilderness where he taught them and feed the five thousand.

In Tyre, Jesus “entered a house and did not want anyone to know” (Mark 7:24). Jesus and his disciples have been going 24/7, so to speak, and it was time for a rest, so they go to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and enter a house, not wanting anyone to know that they were there. But the plan did not work. “He could not be hidden.”

1.2.3.        Teaching of his disciples

Another reason why Jesus was trying to get away, was so that he could have some private teaching time with his disciples. Up to the point, the disciples have failed to understand who he is and what he came to do.

  • They had not understood the parable about the sower (4:13).

Mark 4:13 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

  • The disciples had been astounded when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee because they had failed to understand the significance of the feeding of the five thousand (6:52).
  • The disciples had not understood that food entering the body does not make us unclean, but that it is the evil that comes from the heart that makes us unclean (7:17-23).

Jesus probably wanted time with his disciples to teach them things that they were slow to learn.

1.3. No Place to Hide

Jesus had “entered a house and did not want anyone to know,” but there was no place to hide. Mark tells us, “yet he could not be hidden” (7:24). Back in chapter 3:8, people from Tyre and Sidon had already come as far as the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus. They had no doubt taken back reports of his teaching and his miracles. It was not only in Judea and Galilee that people were talking about Jesus. The news of his wonderful works had preceded him to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now Jesus has come and though he is in a house, he cannot be hidden.

1.3.1.        Enter the Woman

Mark 7:25-26 ESV But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

This woman hears that Jesus has come and boldly makes her way to him. This woman is not a Jew; she is a Canaanite (Matthew 15:22). She exemplifies what Paul said of the Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:12 NIVO remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

Yet she comes. She is a woman who knows better. She knows all about Jewish customs. As Tim Keller explains,

She knows that she has none of the religious, moral, and cultural credentials necessary to approach a Jewish rabbi—she is a Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter has an unclean spirit. She knows that in every way, according to the standards of the day, she is unclean and therefore disqualified to approach any devout Jew, let alone a rabbi. But she doesn’t care. She enters the house without an invitation, falls down and begins begging Jesus to exorcise a demon from her daughter.[5]

Matthew tells us in his Gospel,

Matthew 15:22-23 NIVO A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” 23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

She knows that Jesus is Lord, that he is the Son of David, and she begs for mercy. Jesus does not answer her, so she keeps begging so much so that the disciples want Jesus to send her away.

But she will not be sent away. Nothing can stop her. This woman will not take no for an answer. She knows what she needs and she intends to get it.

Again Tim Keller says,

You know why she has this burst of boldness, don’t you? There are cowards, there are regular people, there are heroes, and then there are parents. Parents are not really on the spectrum from cowardice to courage, because if your child is in jeopardy, you simply do what it takes to save her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re normally timid or brazen—your personality is irrelevant. You don’t think twice; you do what it takes. So it’s not all that surprising that this desperate mother is willing to push past all the barriers.[6]

She will not be denied.

1.3.2.        A Glimmer of Hope

Mark 7:27 ESV And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Jesus’ response is startling to us. It is “one of the most shocking and controversial statements He ever made.”[7]

The Jews referred to the Gentiles as dogs. It was not a term of endearment. In another place, Jesus tells us not to give that which is holy to dogs (Matthew 7:6). The Apostle Paul turned the term back on the Judaizers, those who insisted that Christians must follow the Law to be saved: “Look out for the dogs,” he said, “look out for the evil doers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh” (Philippians 3:2).

But Jesus is not using the ordinary term for dogs (κύνας, kunas). He is using κυναρίοις (kunariois) which means “little dogs.” It refers to small dogs that were permitted in the house. It is the word that was used for puppies.

Jesus is giving a parable here:

Mark 7:27 NIV “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Jesus is speaking to a mother, and mothers know that the children must be fed first. Notice the word “first.” In the word “first” is a glimmer of hope. First, let the children eat all they want.

The children of Abraham, the Jews, were the first ones to receive the gospel.

Romans 1:16 ESV For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Why should the Jews be the first to receive the gospel? The Apostle Paul explains,

Romans 9:4-5 ESV They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

The Word would become flesh. God would take upon himself humanity. The Eternal Word would be born of the virgin and that means that he would be born as a babe.

Galatians 4:4 ESV But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

Christ was not only the son of Adam (Luke 3:38), he was also the son of Abraham and the son of David to whom the promises had been made (Matthew 1:1).

Throughout the Book of Acts, as the Apostle Paul spreads the Good News of what God has done in Jesus Christ, Paul always goes to the Jews first to let them know that the promises have been fulfilled in Jesus who is the Messiah.

Jesus concentrated his ministry on Israel, for all sorts of reasons. He was sent to show Israel that he was the fulfillment of all Scripture’s promises, the fulfillment of all the prophets, priests, and kings, the fulfillment of the temple. But after he was resurrected, he immediately said to the disciples, “Go to all the nations.” His words, then, are not the insult they appear to be. What he’s saying to the Syrophoenician woman is, “Please understand, there’s an order here. I’m going to Israel first, then the Gentiles (the other nations) later.”[8]

While Jesus does mighty works of exorcism (5:1-20; 7:24-30), healing (7:31-37) and feeding the hungry (8:1-10), …he does not teach and evangelize.”[9]

The priority of the Jews in Jesus’ mission does not mean that the Gentiles will be excluded. Jesus responded that the bread must first be given to the children of Abraham. The word “first” gave the woman hope that there would be enough bread to go around.

1.3.3.        An Audacious Argument

Mark 7:28 ESV But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

This woman understands Israel’s priority. “I’m okay with that,” she says. “I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that.”[10]

She is not offended. She does not accuse Jesus of unfairness. She does not say that Jesus owed her anything. She does not demand equal rights with the Jews. She does not claim to deserve anything. In the most respectful way, she wrestles with Jesus while refusing to take no for an answer.

Mark 7:28 ESV But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

She’s not saying, “Lord, give me what I deserve on the basis of my goodness.” She’s saying, “Give me what I don’t deserve on the basis of your goodness— and I need it now.”[11]

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish, there were 12 basketfuls left over. There was more than enough. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” This woman is arguing her case that with Jesus, there is more than enough.

Is not this what Jesus was suggesting she do by telling her that the children must be fed first? We read that Jacob wrestled with God, but first we read that God wrestled with Jacob. God wrestles with us. He wants us to be moved with compassion as he is moved with compassion, but far too often we are passive. We do not really want what we are asking for. We pray for the lost to be saved, but there is no strong desire, no passion, no power. We pray prayers that cost us nothing.

This Syrophoenician woman was put to the test. She continued to intercede for her daughter.

1.3.4.        Faith Comes by Understanding

Mark 7:29 CSB Then He told her, “Because of this reply, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”

This woman understood the parable. She is the first person in this gospel to really understand.

“For such a reply, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

James Edwards has a beautiful comment on this verse:

This believing woman submits her cause entirely to Jesus, and she is not disappointed. “’ For such a reply, you may go,’” says Jesus, “’ the demon has left your daughter.’” What an irony! Jesus seeks desperately to teach his chosen disciples — yet they are dull and uncomprehending; Jesus is reluctant even to speak to a walk-on pagan woman — and after one sentence she understands his mission and receives his unambiguous commendation (loftier yet in Matt 15:28: “ ‘Woman, you have great faith!’”). How is this possible? The answer is that the woman is the first person in Mark to hear and understand a parable of Jesus. The brief parable of the children and dogs at the table has disclosed to her the mystery of the kingdom of God. She is not distant and aloof, attempting to maintain her position and control. She does what Jesus commands of those who would receive the kingdom and experience the word of God: she enters the parable and allows herself to be claimed by it. That she answers Jesus from “within” the parable, that is, in the terms by which Jesus addressed her, indicates that she is the first person in the Gospel to hear the word of Jesus to her.[12]

Did you know that Jesus wants to walk into your town? He wants to walk into your home. He wants to walk into your life.

2.    Theological Insights

This story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman is packed with biblical truth.

2.1. The Authority of the Son of God

This story reveals the amazing authority and power of the Son of God.

Mark 7:29-30 ESV And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Jesus was not present when the healing took place. He did not lay his hands on the child to heal her. He spoke no words to cast out the demon. He simply willed the child’s healing and it took place. The Son of God possesses such complete power and authority over demons that he does not need to be present or to even speak a word. From a distance, he wills, and it happens.[13]

2.2. One Plan of Salvation for All

Why did Jesus go to the Gentiles? We considered several reasons why Jesus went into the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory. But there is another reason that I did not mention. Jesus put an end to the distinction between clean and unclean (Mark 7:1-23). He then went to the Gentiles to show that the Church, as the Body of Christ in the world, the Church would also take the gospel to all nations. At the end of Mark’s Gospel, we read the final command of Christ:

Mark 16:15-16 ESV And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

God does not have different plans of salvation for different peoples. There is only one God and only one plan of salvation for all men. There is only one Son of God and he is the one and only Savior. The Samaritans also recognized that Jesus is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). The Syrophoenician woman recognized the priority of Israel in the plan of God and the sufficiency of God’s salvation for all.

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

1 John 4:14 ESV And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

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

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

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

2.3. How about you? Has Christ walked into your life?

By all standards of Jewish culture and reason, this woman was unclean. A Phoenician, a Gentile, a pagan, a woman, and her daughter has an unclean spirit. But Jesus came to town. Christ walked into her life. Has Christ walked into your life?

I know a man in this town who says that he is too unclean to come to Jesus. He claims that he is too much of a pagan. There is a lot of pride and arrogance in such a statement. You degrade the work of Christ by saying that he is not powerful enough to clean an unclean sinner like you. You think that you are the greatest pagan of all time? Jesus Christ came into the world to save pagans like you and me.

Old man John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound,” said this, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Jesus came into the world to save great sinners like you and me.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_years_of_Jesus

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Fredriksen

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_years_of_Jesus

[4] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[5] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 84). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 84-85). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[7] Akin, Daniel L.. Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group: 2014.

[8] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 85-86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[9] Edwards Jr., James R.. The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Eerdmans Publishing Company: 2009.

[10] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (p. 86). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[11] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 86-87). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[12] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 4208-4216). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[13] Stein, Robert H.. Mark (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Baker Publishing Group: 2008.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:

Christmas and the Uniqueness of Christ

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

Introduction

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

How Christianity Is Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Is Not about the Birth of an Outstanding Person

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

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

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

The First Coming

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

It Was a Coming: Jesus Came from Heaven

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

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

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

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

Jesus says of himself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus prayed to His Father the night before his crucifixion,

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

God Prepared a Body for the Son

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Title Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virgin Birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immanuel

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

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

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

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

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

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

No other founder of a world religion…

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

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

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

The angel had said to Joseph,

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

The apostles declared,

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

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

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

John 11:45-53, “Made-Up Minds, Hardened Hearts”

Have you ever met someone with the attitude, “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with facts!” Today I’d like to talk to you about Made-Up Minds and Hardened Hearts. Stay tuned!

Made-Up Minds

“My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with facts!”

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Ever hear anyone say that? Perhaps you’ve never heard someone say it in quite those terms, but most of us have dealt with unreasonable people. And in our most honest moments, we might even admit to having made up our minds before considering all the facts.

That’s what we find in John 11.

No Neutral Ground

In John 11, Jesus did what no ordinary man could do. A friend named Lazarus had died. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. They wanted Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus was far away and it would have taken him about four days to get there. But instead of rushing to his sick friend, Jesus delayed his departure.

God works on a different timezone. Actually, He is the Creator of time and works outside of time. He is never in a hurry, and sometimes it seems to us that He is late. So in John 11, by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was cold stone dead. In fact, it was the fourth day since he had died.

But the story does not end there. Jesus goes to the tomb. He asks that the huge stone blocking the entrance to the tomb be removed. Martha, always the practical sister, protests that there would be an odor after four days. But Jesus responds, “Did not I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

It is often said that seeing is believing, but that is not true. This story demonstrates that those who see do not always believe. Only those who believe really see: “Did not I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

The death of Lazarus was all about belief. When Jesus announced to his disciples that Lazarus was dead, he told them,

John 11:15 ESV …for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe…”

When Martha professed faith that Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection on the last day,”

John 11:25-27 NLT Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

Now as they stand at the open tomb, Jesus prays to His Father so that the people may believe:

John 11:41-42 NLT So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”

Jesus called the dead man by name. With a loud voice he cried out, “Lazarus, come out!” Did you know that someday Jesus will call you from the grave? Jesus had already said in John 5,

John 5:28-29 ESV 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.

Do not imagine for a moment that it’s all over when they toss the last clump of dirt on your casket. The hymn by Will L. Thompson (1847-1909) speaks of that day:

There’s a great day coming, a great day coming;
There’s a great day coming by and by,
When the saints and the sinners shall be parted right and left,
Are you ready for that day to come?

Refrain

There’s a bright day coming, a bright day coming;
There’s a bright day coming by and by.
But its brightness shall only come to them that love the Lord.
Are you ready for that day to come?

Refrain

There’s a sad day coming, a sad day coming;
There’s a sad day coming by and by,
When the sinner shall hear his doom: “Depart, I know you not!”
Are you ready for that day to come?

Refrain

Are you ready? Are you ready?
Are you ready for the judgment day?
Are you ready? Are you ready?
For the judgment day?

Jesus stood by the tomb of Lazarus and called him forth.

John 11:44 NLT And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

 Division

Well, what do you do with that? Jesus does just what he says he will do.

John 11:45 NLT Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

It would seem that everyone should believe in the face of such evidence, but that was not the case. The next verse tells us,

John 11:46 NLT But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

These informers were hardened in their unbelief. They run to the Pharisees not merely to inform them of what has happened, and certainly not to persuade them to believe in Jesus. No, these informers have sided with the Pharisees against Jesus. They want to get in good with these people of power and influence.

Throughout the Gospels, the Pharisees continually oppose Jesus. He challenges their superficial understanding of the Scriptures. He exposes their hypocrisy. Rather than humble themselves and repent, they resist Jesus and try to bury the truth. Those people who reported the miracle to the Pharisees had already made up their minds about Jesus. They had made-up minds and hardened hearts. So the raising of Lazarus only deepened the division over Jesus.

It is much the same today. “There are some things in life about which it is possible to be neutral and others about which this is not possible.”[1] For example, it probably does not matter to you what color your neighbor paints his house. But if the teenage boy next-door is throwing stones at your three year old son, you cannot be neutral. You cannot be neutral when women and children are abused or when babies are aborted. You cannot be neutral about moral issues.

People are not neutral about Jesus. They are either for him or against him, or they are very selective about what they believe about him. I was talking with a man this week who professed a certain veneration for Jesus, but he did not believe what Jesus said about himself. He did not believe that Jesus told the truth when he said that he was the only way to God. This man did not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, or that Jesus was coming back as the Scriptures declare. It makes no sense to say that Jesus was a great teacher if you reject his teaching. This is actually a hidden hostility toward Jesus.

Throughout the Gospel of John, we have seen people divided over Jesus and his claims. In John 7, when Jesus claimed to be the source of living water, “the crowd was divided about him” (John 7:37-43, NLT).

When he healed a blind man on the Sabbath, some said that he was not from God because he did the work on the Sabbath, but others asked how a sinner would do such signs (John 9:16).

When Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd, “the people were again divided in their opinions about him” (John 10:19, NLT).

Now in John 11, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many of the people believed in Jesus. Who were these people? They were friends of Martha and Mary. They had gone to console them in their loss. They had accompanied Mary to the tomb and there they “found themselves face to face with a stupendous work of God.”[2]

John 11:45 NLT Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

John’s whole purpose in writing this Gospel is to bring people to faith in Christ:

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.

“…the reaction of these people is the kind of reaction [John] is looking for from his readers generally.”[3]

Unbelief

But belief was not the only response to the raising of Lazarus. Some Jews “went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11:46).

John 11:47 ESV So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.

A miracle like the raising of Lazarus should have compelled belief, but that was not the case. Some Jews told the Pharisees. The Pharisees and the religious authorities had a meeting. The facts are not in question: “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.”

“Many signs,” they said. In Jerusalem alone Jesus performed numerous signs. Already in John 2, people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus because of the signs which he did. In John 5, Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years. In John 9, he healed a man who had been blind from birth. Now in Bethany, just three kilometers from Jerusalem, Jesus has raised a man from the dead.

The enemies of Jesus admit that he has performed many signs, but they fail to believe what the signs signify.

These signs were written, John said, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God… (20:31).

That is the very thing that they refuse to believe. The religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus in John 5:18 when he made himself equal with God and claimed the prerogatives of God. The picked up stones to stone him in John 5:58 because he claimed the pre-existence of God. Again they wanted to stone him in John 10:30-33 “because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The religious authorities did not contest the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles. But he had to be stopped. Why did he have to be stopped? Jesus had to be stopped because…

Jesus Was a Dangerous Man

A man like Jesus was simply too dangerous to let loose on the public. Israel was not a sovereign nation. Israel was a nation under Rome. Every member of the Sanhedrin—the Supreme Court of Israel—every member knew that the Roman Empire held the real authority. The High Priest was appointed by Rome, and Rome could change the appointment or even completely revoke any local authority whenever it wanted to.

As long as things went smoothly in the country, as long as there was peace in the streets, the chief priests could maintain the position of prestige, power, and wealth. But a man like Jesus was a serious threat to their position. Too many people were following him. Rome could become very uneasy about a new people movement in Israel.

John 11:47-48 ESV So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

They chide themselves for not having solved the problem sooner. “What are we doing?” they asked. “We are getting nowhere fast!”

How often does concern for one’s position or place keep one from believing in Christ? In many places in the world, schools and universities are supposed to be places of academic freedom, as long as you accept the party line. As long as you believe that there is no absolute truth. As long as you believe in evolution. As long as you believe in abortion on demand. And the list goes on. If you do not accept these articles of faith, you risk losing your position.

The chief priests and Pharisees did not contest the reality of the miraculous signs but refused to believe what the signs said about Jesus. “Unbelief can mean a complete failure to reckon with the facts.”[4] These men saw that Jesus put their position in danger and they wanted none of it.

The Unconscious Prophecy

At this point, John points out that Caiaphas was the high priest that fateful year. Caiaphas was as concerned as any of them for his position. As high priest, he was the most powerful man of the Sanhedrin. Powerful and arrogant.

John 11:49-50 NLT Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

Caiaphas felt his superiority: “You don’t know anything!” He points to their incompetence. They are unable to find a solution to this man who continues to work many miracles. They focus on the people and the consequences: “Everyone will believe in him,” they say, “and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Caiaphas focuses not on the results but on the cause. He could not be bothered with questions of justice or morality. For him, the end justified the means. All you have to do is kill the man who works the miracles. Kill the miracle worker and you kill the movement: “it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” (John 11:50 NAU). Not “it is right,” but “it is expedient.”

It did not matter whether or not Jesus was guilty of a crime; the solution to the problem posed by his growing popularity was [not simply to silence him or imprison him, but] to have him killed. If he was put out of the way, there would be no problem; the nation would be saved.[5]

But Caiaphas spoke better than he knew.

The irony is, Caiaphas was talking about the nation of Israel being saved from the wrath of Rome, while the prophecy—as John turns it—is that he’s will die for people all over the world so they could be saved from God’s wrath![6]

He was not a religious man; he was an unprincipled politician. Nonetheless, as high priest, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation. Though an ungodly man, the words in his mouth had been put there by God.

God often uses wicked men for His own purposes. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter will declare that the people of Israel delivered up Jesus “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

Leon Morris says this of Caiaphas:

God used him to enunciate a truth that was greater and more significant than Caiaphas ever dreamed. Jesus would die for the nation, but he would do more than that. He would die for all God’s children and gather them “into one” (v. 52). Scattered abroad through the world they might be, but the atoning death of Jesus would form a bond of unity. To this day those who have been saved through Christ’s death are one with each other in a way that surpasses all merely human unities.[7]

Here the words of Caiaphas are prophetic: Jesus would die for the nation, but not for the nation only, John tells us, “but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

This is exactly what Christ came to do. The Good Shepherd came to lay down his life for the sheep. In the previous chapter, Jesus has said,

John 10:14-16 ESV I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

The Good Shepherd would die for the nation and for all the future children of God scattered abroad. Jesus would die not only for the Jews, but for you and me.

Hardened hearts.

John 11:53 NLT So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.

Made-up minds. Hardened hearts.

What will you do with Jesus? You cannot ignore him. He does not allow that. Jesus pushes the envelope, so to speak. He allows no room for neutrality. He is unconventional; he breaks with tradition. He works on the Sabbath and when called to account for his actions, he simply replies that he is only doing what God has always done on the Sabbath. He quotes no authorities; he is the final authority. He will not be silenced; his words ring out through the centuries. You can kill him and bury him, but he won’t stay put; he rises from the dead.

The facts were never called into question. No one doubted that Jesus had healed the lame man, or opened the eyes of the man born blind, or raised Lazarus from the dead. And when Jesus himself rose from the dead, the authorities never questioned the testimony of the disciples or the hundreds of other witnesses to his resurrection. Facts are facts. But facts do not force faith. Faith is turning to Christ and trusting him for your eternal welfare. It is trusting him for your salvation: not the good things that you do. Not keeping the Sabbath. Faith recognizes that our righteousness stinks. Christ is our only hope. He died in our place to save us from the wrath of God.

So what will you do with Jesus?

Romans 10:9-13 NLT If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

Turn to him and be saved.

[1] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 418.

[2] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 420.

[3] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 420.

[4] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 422.

[5] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 424.

[6] Philip W. Comfort, Opening the Gospel of John, p. 192.

[7] Leon Morris, Reflections, p. 424.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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”:

Sabbath Day Controversies

Sabbath Day Controversies copy

We have seen in the Gospel of John that Jesus and the Pharisees were continually in conflict over the question of the Sabbath.

1. Sabbath Day Controversies

1.1.     Jesus Heals the Lame at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5)

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In John 5, for example, Jesus found a man at the pool of Bethesda who had been paralyzed for 38 years. “Get up, take up your mat, and walk,” Jesus told the man. And that’s what the man did. He got up, took up his mat, and walked for the first time in 38 years.

Now that should have been tremendous news. That should have made people rejoice and glorify God. But there was just one problem. It was the Sabbath. The Pharisees were upset! They were upset first because they saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath:

They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” (Joh 5:10 NLT)

But Jesus had told him to do it! And the healed man told the Pharisees that he was only doing what he had been told:

John 5:11 NLT … “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'”

Ah, so it’s not only that this man was carrying his mat, but that Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath.

Here’s the issue: the Pharisees had one interpretation of the Sabbath and Jesus had another. The Pharisees thought that the man was sinning by carrying his mat on the Sabbath. But Jesus had told him to do just that. The Pharisees thought that Jesus was guilty of sin for healing a man—doing a work— on the Sabbath. You have the Pharisees on one side of the issue and Jesus on the other.

Jesus himself talks about this conflict in John 7:

John 7:21-24 ESV Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Notice what Jesus says. The Pharisees were angry with him because on the Sabbath he had healed a man. Then he tells them, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Jesus is telling them that their emphasis on the Sabbath is an emphasis on appearances. They have missed the point. They have misunderstood the Sabbath. They are judging Jesus for having healed the man on the Sabbath, but their judgment is false. They are in error.

1.2.     Jesus Heals the Man Blind from Birth (John 9)

Next we come to John 9 where Jesus heals the man who was blind from birth. Once again, Jesus is doing his work on the Sabbath.

John 9:16 NLT Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.”…

A few verses later (v. 24) the Pharisees declare that Jesus is a sinner, but the man born blind has come to see that Jesus has come from God and is doing the will of God (v. 31-33) even though he has done this work on the Sabbath.

1.3.     Jesus’ Disciples Pick Grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12)

We find this same conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities in the other Gospels. In Matthew 12,

Matthew 12:1-2 NLT … Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. 2 But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”

Do you notice that it is the judgmental Pharisees who are in conflict with Jesus and his disciples over the Sabbath? They are on one side of the question and Jesus and his disciples are on the other side of it. The disciples were breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. “You can’t do that!” the Pharisee protested. “It’s the Sabbath!”

Jesus told him to cool it.

Matthew 12:3-7 NLT … “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. 5 And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? 6 I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! 7 But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

Jesus says that their legalistic approach is wrong. God calls us to show mercy: “You would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’”

These legalists, the Pharisees, had not understood the Scriptures. They were insisting on the letter of the Law. They were insisting on outward conformity. They were insisting on appearances. But they had failed to understand the intention of the Scriptures. Mark tells us,

Mark 2:27 NLT Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.

Then Jesus declared that he was the Lord of the Sabbath:

Matthew 12:8 NLT For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

Jesus as Lord has the right to tell us the meaning of the Sabbath.

1.4.     Jesus Heals the Man with a Deformed Hand (Matthew 12:10-14)

In the next verses of Matthew 12, Jesus goes to the synagogue where he notices a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man on the sabbath.

Matthew 12:10 NLT … The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)

Do you see their attitude? These Sabbatarian legalists were looking for something in order to accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:11-14 NLT And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. 12 And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! 14 Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.

These legalists—these Pharisees—fail to understand the meaning of the Sabbath. They are concerned only about appearances. They show no mercy to the person who needs help on the Sabbath. And because Jesus does not conform to their interpretation of the Sabbath, they plot to kill him!

1.5.     Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-18)

We read in Luke 13:10-16 (NLT),

One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11 he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” 13 Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! 14 But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.” 15 But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? 16 This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

1.6.     Jesus Heals a Man of Dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)

On another occasion, a Sabbath day, Jesus was having dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees. Everyone was watching Jesus closely because there was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen by a disease called dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” but they refused to answer him. So Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him on his way.

Luke 14:5-6 NLT Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” 6 Again they could not answer.

“Jesus consciously chose the Sabbath day to perform some of His most extraordinary miracles”[1] for three reasons:

  1. To show that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:28 ESV So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

  1. To expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Mark 7:6-7 ESV And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

  1. To show the real reason for the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 ESV And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

So we see that Jesus was constantly in conflict with the Pharisees over the question of the Sabbath. They insisted on a strict observance of the Sabbath according to their interpretation. Jesus insisted that their interpretation was wrong.

 

 2. Different Interpretations Cannot All Be Right

Jesus was in conflict with the religious authorities not only about the Sabbath, but also about the Law. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus shows that the Pharisees had repeatedly misunderstood the meaning of the Old Testament Law. The Pharisees focussed on appearances. They stressed outward conformity to the Law but had missed the intention of the Law. The Pharisees were careful to tithe on everything they received. They fasted twice a week. They were diligent to observe the Sabbath and had added 39 Sabbath rules to the Law to make sure that no one broke it, but they had miserably failed to understand the purpose of the Law. The Pharisees believed that they were righteous, but Jesus said that their righteousness was not enough:

Matthew 5:20 ESV For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Then Jesus gives six examples of how they had misinterpreted the Scriptures.

2.1.     Murder

Matthew 5:21-22 NLT “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Because the Pharisees had not murdered anyone—though they were plotting to kill Jesus!—they thought they were righteous. Jesus said that we must not have murder in our hearts: we must not be angry with someone, insult them, or curse them. We must not murder with our words or our looks.

2.2.     Adultery

Matthew 5:27-28 NLT “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

It is not enough to avoid the act; you must avoid the desire. Thank God for the anti-pornography laws in this country, but with the Internet, pornography is a click away. You must flee from it. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

2.3.     Divorce

Matthew 5:31 NLT “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’

How considerate! Give her a certificate of divorce so she’ll be free to remarry. No, Jesus says. You are causing her to commit adultery by remarrying, and whoever marries her commits adultery. Jesus takes us back to the beginning when God created male and female and says, “What God has put together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

2.4.     Vows

Matthew 5:33 NLT “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’

Jesus tells us that we should not make vows; we should simply always tell the truth. We must be people of our word.

2.5.     Justice

Matthew 5:38 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

Jesus tells them that they have missed the point. This is not about vengeance or getting even. This Old Testament word is not addressed to individuals but to the system of justice. Punishment should be meted out according to the crime. But as for us as individuals, we are not to seek revenge.

2.6.     How to Treat Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-44 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

The Law never said to hate your enemy, but that is how the Pharisees had misinterpreted it.

2.7.     The Pharisees had the Law, but they had misinterpreted it.

  • No murder, but it’s okay to hate, insult, and curse someone.
  • No adultery, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
  • Tired of your wife? Give her a piece of paper so you can marry the woman you want.
  • If you made a vow, you’ll have to honor it. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you said.
  • Someone hurt you? Hurt them back.
  • Got an enemy? It’s okay to hate. Just love those who love you.

That’s how the Pharisees had interpreted the Law. They had missed it completely.

2.8.     Selective Obedience

  1. T. Kendall points out, “It is interesting to note that the greatest enemies of Jesus were strict Sabbatarians. [Jesus’ greatest enemies were people who insisted on keeping the Sabbath.] The probable reasons for this were because one could keep the Sabbath and feel good about oneself; it did not require any change of heart, and it was also a way of making one feel righteous.”[2]

The Pharisees picked and chose the commandments that they would obey. Sabbath keeping made them feel good about themselves, but they were merely self-righteous.

Jesus confronts them about their selective obedience in Matthew 15:

Matthew 15:1-9 NLT Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.'”

 

3. Where Did the Sabbath Come From?

3.1.     The Institution of the Sabbath

So let’s look at this question of the Sabbath. Where did the Sabbath come from?

Some people teach that there has always been a Sabbath. But that is not what the Bible reveals. The first time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 16:23, some 2,500 years after the creation of the heavens and the earth. God created everything that exists in six days and rested the seventh day, but He did not give the Sabbath to man until He brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We read in…

Genesis 2:15 ESV The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

God gave Adam work to do, but there is no mention of resting on the seventh day. When Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the Garden of Eden,

Genesis 3:23 ESV … the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

Again, there is no mention of a Sabbath.

Cain is called “a worker of the ground” (Genesis 4:2). There is no mention of a Sabbath for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, he worked (Genesis 39:11). The whole nation of Israel became slaves in Egypt:

Exodus 1:13-14 NLT So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.

God raised up Moses and Aaron.

Exodus 5:1 NLT …[They] went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.”

Instead, Pharaoh increased the work that the Israelites had to do. They would no longer be supplied with straw but would have to first find it for themselves and then make the same number of bricks. There was no Sabbath. There was no rest.

The word “Sabbath” is not mentioned in Scripture until after God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt. The first time the word “Sabbath” is mentioned in the Bible is when the Israelites are in the wilderness. All they had known for 400 years of slavery in Egypt was work, day after day after day, with no rest, no Sabbath. God had not yet given the Sabbath.

Now the Israelites have been delivered from Egypt by the power of God. They have crossed the Red Sea as on dry ground. They find themselves in the wilderness with nothing to eat. But when they wake up in the morning, the ground is covered with something to eat. “Manna?” they say. Manna means, “What is it?” It was bread from heaven. And with the manna, God gives them the Sabbath. They will gather the manna every day for six days, but the seventh day will be a Sabbath:

Exodus 16:29 ESV See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”

This is the beginning of the Sabbath for man. The foundation for the Sabbath is found in God’s work in creation: God “worked” for six days and on the seventh day He rested. But the very first mention of the word “Sabbath” is in Exodus 16 when God gives the Sabbath to the Israelites: “See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath…”

3.2.     The Meaning of the Sabbath

What is the meaning of the Sabbath? The first thing that is evident is that the Sabbath has something to do with work. Time and again the Israelites are told that they are to do no work on the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:9-11 ESV Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

No work. We repeatedly find this emphasis on not doing any work on the Sabbath.

But why no work? Why does God establish one day in seven for the Israelites as a day when no work is to be done? What is the meaning of this day when no work is to be done? Exodus 31:13 tells us that the Sabbath is a sign.

Exodus 31:13 NIVO “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

The Sabbath is a sign. A sign signifies something. God is teaching the Israelites something through the sign of the Sabbath: “This will be a sign… so you may know that I am the LORD who makes you holy.” No work: the LORD makes us holy.

The Sabbath was a weekly sign that salvation is not our work; it is God’s work. It was God that saved the Israelites from Egypt. Standing before the Red Sea,

Exodus 14:13 ESV …Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.

God is our Savior. He does the work. The Sabbath was a weekly sign that salvation is not our work; it is God’s work. He is the one who sanctifies us. We cannot save ourselves.

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.

3.3.     The Perversion of the Sabbath

But what happens if you make the Sabbath a work? What happens if we begin to believe that what God really wants from us is Sabbath day observance? What happens if we begin to think that God’s primary intention is that we be Sabbath keepers?

This is what happens: the message of the Sabbath is perverted. The message of the Sabbath was “no work.” Salvation is not our work; it is God’s work. But we have changed the message. We have made the Sabbath a work to be done when the message of the Sabbath is really “no work.” We have put our trust in our keeping of the Sabbath. We have begun to think that keeping the Sabbath will save us.

If someone tells you that you must keep the Sabbath to be saved, he is preaching a different gospel than the gospel that was preached in the New Testament. If someone tells you that you must worship on Saturday and not Sunday, that person is living under the curse of the Law and not under the freedom of the gospel.

Galatians 3:10-11 NLT But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” 11 So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

 

4. The Sabbath in the New Testament

We have already seen that Jesus and the Pharisees were continuously in conflict over the interpretation of the Sabbath. It is worth noting that in the New Testament, Christians are never told to keep the Sabbath.

Matthew 19:16 NLT Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus told him to keep the commandments.

Matthew 19:18-19 NLT “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Jesus did not tell him to keep the Sabbath.

Paul quotes from the Ten Commandments, but does not mention the Sabbath:

Romans 13:9-10 ESV For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

James also quotes from the Ten Commandments:

James 2:8-11 ESV If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

But again, there is no mention of the Sabbath. “What is never once mentioned or even implied: the fourth commandment. Is it not strange that it is not even quoted? Must there not be a reason for this?”[3]

4.1.     The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the beginning of a new creation. It was not on the last day of the week that Christ was raised from the dead, but the first day. All four Gospels point to the fact that Christ was raised the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). He appeared that first Resurrection Day to the disciples who had gathered together in the upper room. He appeared to them again, this time with Thomas, on the next Resurrection Day, eight days later (John 20:26).

The first 12 chapters of Acts concern the growth of the church in Israel, but the Sabbath is not even mentioned. The Sabbath is mentioned in Paul’s missionary journeys because Paul went first to the Jews, and the Jews worshipped on the Sabbath. But the Christians had already begun to worship on the first day of the week.

4.2.     The First Day of the Week

In Acts 20, Paul is in a hurry to get to Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost (20:16). But when he arrives in Troas, he stayed for seven days (20:6). What was he waiting for? He waiting for the first day of the week:

Acts 20:7 ESV On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

Notice that it was the first day of the week that the church was gathered together to break bread, in other words, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Paul delayed his departure for Jerusalem so that he could meet with the church that gathered together on the first day of the week, not on the Sabbath.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 16, we see that the believers met together to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week.

1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Paul is not simply telling the believers to be systematic in their saving up an offering for the saints at Jerusalem, otherwise he could tell them to put something aside each week without telling them what day of the week to put something aside. Paul is telling them to put aside a porting of the money they have earned “on the first day of every week” because that was the day that the church met.

4.3.     The Lord’s Day

In Revelation 1:10, the Apostle John says,

Revelation 1:10 ESV I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…

The first day of the week became known as “the Lord’s Day.” It was the Lord’s Day because it was the day that the Lord was raised from the dead. Worshiping the Lord on the Lord’s Day became the practice of the early church as the writings of the early church fathers clearly demonstrate.

 

Concluding Remarks

We have run out of time today, but let me conclude in saying first, that the message of the Sabbath is “no work.” Why no work? Because our works will never save us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NIVO For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

The Sabbath is a sign:

Exodus 31:13 NIVO “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

If we turn the Sabbath into a work that we must do, we pervert the Sabbath.

Second, the resurrection of Christ began the new creation. The resurrection of Christ changes everything. The early church began celebrating the resurrection of Christ the first day of the week, “the Lord’s Day.”

[1] R. T. Kendall, Grace, p. 115.

[2] R. T. Kendall, Grace, p. 114.

[3] R. T. Kendall, Grace, p. 118.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism“:

John 10:01-06, “The Good Shepherd, Part 1”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, John 10. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Introduction

Who are your listening to? I don’t mean right this moment. I’m asking who you are following. Who is the final authority in your life? Whose voice are you obeying? Have you heard the voice of Jesus? Do you know his voice? Do you follow him?

1.      THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND THE BAD!

Today we will continue our journey through the Gospel of John. We come to John 10, a well known passage where Jesus makes two “I am” declarations: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” And the other “I am” declaration is, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

1.1.     Chapter and Verse!

When we come to John chapter 10, we might miss the connection with chapter 9 about the healing of the blind man. Chapter 10 is a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees that we find at the end of chapter 9.

It might help for us to realize that John never wrote a verse. He never wrote a chapter. He wrote a book. And he wrote three letters — First, Second, and Third John — and he wrote the Book of Revelation. But he never wrote a chapter or a verse. What do I mean by that? I mean that the writers of the Scriptures never wrote verse numbers or chapter numbers. They simply wrote books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Much later, the 66 books of the Bible were divided into chapters and verses. It was about 1000 A.D. that the books of the Bible were divided into chapters.

The verse numbers were inserted in 1551 by a French printer named Robert Étienne. Thanks to the chapter and verse divisions, we can all find the same passage with ease. I can say that Jesus claimed to be the good shepherd in John 10:11, and you can verify that this is so. Chapter and verse numbers are very convenient.

However, these divisions have led many to treat the Bible like a book full of individual sayings. People pull verses out context and treat them like lucky verses. And that is one of the reasons why some people don’t understand the Bible. That is not the way to read the Bible. That is not the way to read any book. That is not the way to read the newspaper. We don’t open a book and turn to any page at random and read a sentence from it and imagine that we can understand the sentence when we have not bothered to read the greater context, the paragraph, the chapter, or the book. When we receive a letter from someone, we read the whole letter, not just part of it.

Let me make a statement that might surprise some. We must read the Bible the same way that we read any other book: we must read everything in context. The difference between the Bible and other books is that the Bible is the Word of God. It is to be read with reverence and humility and a readiness to obey it, for what the Bible says, God says.

1.2.     Continuation from Chapter 9

What we might not see right away is that chapter 10 is a continuation of chapter 9. Jesus healed a man who was born blind. Such a thing had never happened before in the history of the world. No person born blind had ever been healed of their blindness. The people wanted to know what it meant. So they took the man to the Pharisees. These were the religious authorities. They should be to explain the significance of such an event. But as the former blind man begins to see more and more clearly just who Jesus is, the religious authorities become more and more blind, refusing to see, refusing to understand, refusing to accept that Jesus is the Son of God. They insult the man and excommunicate him, kicking him out of the synagogue.

We’ll pick up the dialogue in John 9:39,

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains (John 9:39-41 ESV).

Jesus continues in the very next verse. There is no break. There is no change in circumstance or the crowd. Jesus continues to speak to the very same people:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them (John 10:1-6 ESV).

2.        False Shepherds

In John 9, Jesus is confronting the false shepherds of Israel. Sheep and shepherds were part of the life of Judea. Way back in the history of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had flocks of sheep and goats. Jacob’s 12 sons were shepherds. In Egypt, the Israelites had their flocks of sheep and goats. King David had been the ideal shepherd, killing lions and bears to protect his sheep. We read in the Psalms “The Lord is my shepherd,” (Psalm 23) and “We are the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100).

So the people of Israel were likened to sheep, and the leaders were called shepherds. But the shepherds of Israel had been abusive to the people. Ezekiel 34 rebukes the false shepherds of Israel:

Then this message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? 3 You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. 4 You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5 So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6 They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. 7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. 9 Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey. 11 “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep (Ezekiel 34:1-11 NLT).

The entire chapter of Ezekiel 34 is a rebuke of the false shepherds of Israel. In John 9 and 10, Jesus is rebuking the false shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees and Jewish authorities who had assumed their roles. They did not know God, and they did not care about the sheep. They were only concerned about their position and power. They despised the people, abused them, and called them accursed. They were righteous only in their own eyes, and trampled the people under foot.

Jesus had healed the beggar who was born blind, but they wouldn’t believe it. They interrogated him, and when they weren’t satisfied with his testimony, they interrogated his parents. The parents were too afraid to talk because the Pharisees had already decided that they would put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Christ. They brought the beggar back in for more interrogation. But when he marshaled evidence that Jesus was sent from God, the Pharisees cursed him and put him out of the synagogue.

In Ezekiel’s prophecy, God says that he will rescue his flock:

So I will rescue my flock, and they will no longer be abused. I will judge between one animal of the flock and another. 23 And I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David. He will feed them and be a shepherd to them. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among my people. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Ezekiel 34:22-24 NLT).

God would set over them his servant David. When Ezekiel wrote these words, David had been dead for 400 years, but God had promised that David’s many times great grandson would reign forever and ever. This prophecy of Ezekiel points to Jesus, the Son of David.

Jesus, the good shepherd, found that man and showed that the religious authorities were the ones who were really blind. “None are so blind as those who will not see.”

False shepherds: We find them in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and we find them today. Whenever you find them, wherever you find them, they are all the same. They don’t care about the flock, the people. They only use the flock. They abuse the flock. They fleece the flock. All they care about is themselves. They are hungry for power, prestige, glory, and money.

3.        THE ILLUSTRATION

These religious authorities had abused the formerly blind man. They had excluded him from the synagogue. Jesus said that they were the ones who were blind and guilty. Now he illustrates their blindness in the first five verses of chapter 10. But verse six says that they could not understand what he was saying to them. They couldn’t see it. Of course not, they were blind.

John calls this a figure of speech or an illustration. It’s like an allegory. Jesus gave this illustration for two reasons: (1) so that some would not understand, and (2) so that some would understand. The Pharisees are blind. They are blind leaders of the blind. They are the ones who do not understand. The TNIV shows that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, and that they do not understand:

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber (John 10:1 TNIV).

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them (John 10:6 TNIV).

So it is the Pharisees who do not understand.

Jesus contrasts “the shepherd of the sheep” with the one who is “a thief and a robber.” What makes the difference? Verification is based on the method of entry into the sheepfold. The difference is whether you enter by the door or climb in another way.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep (John 10:1-2 ESV).

So we have a sheepfold, a door, a thief and a robber, and a shepherd. We need to put this illustration back into its original setting before we try to interpret what Jesus means.

Shepherding in Palestine was hard work. It meant a lot of walking to find green pastures. Abraham and Lot went their separate ways because there was not enough green pasture for their flocks. In Genesis 37, Jacob sends Joseph to find his brothers who had been gone for many days traveling many miles to find green pastures for their flocks. So shepherds would not return home with their flocks each night. But they had to protect their sheep from wolves and other night predators. But every village had a common sheepfold or a sheep pen where shepherds could keep their sheep. A gatekeeper was hired to care for the sheepfold during the night. The gatekeeper would shut the door or the gate and be on guard against animals or thieves and robbers who might come to steal or slaughter the sheep. The gatekeeper would not let others into the sheepfold; only the shepherd.

3.1.     The Sheepfold

So first we have the sheepfold. What does this represent? Some people think that the sheepfold represents the church. But that doesn’t really work because verse three says that the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. So it does not make sense that Jesus would say that he is leading his sheep out of the church.

Another idea is that the sheepfold represents heaven, but again, Jesus is not going to lead us out of heaven. Furthermore, it is quite impossible for thieves and robbers to climb in by another way!

So what is is? Quite simply, the sheepfold is Judaism. The sheep are Jews, and the sheepfold is Judaism. Jesus is talking to Jews. He is talking to the Jewish authorities who have put the blind beggar out of the synagogue. Jesus is saying in effect, “You haven’t put him out of the synagogue. I have called him out.”

3.2.     The Door

The door is the legitimate claim to the messiahship. There were many pretenders, many who claimed to be the Messiah, but they did not have the qualifications. Their credentials were not in order. They were false Messiahs. They could not enter by the door; they tried to climb in another way. Jesus says in effect,

“You are thieves and robbers. You have no legitimate claim to the messiahship. God is the gatekeeper, and I have entered by the door. I have all the proper credentials. All the prophets pointed to me. I alone was born of a virgin as Isaiah prophesied 700 ago. I was born in Bethlehem as Micah prophesied 700 years ago. I am of the tribe of Judah. I am the Son of David. I am the shepherd of the sheep.”

But the old wineskins of Judaism cannot contain the new wine of the kingdom of God. I am calling my sheep by name. They know my voice, and they follow me. I lead them out. They will not put their trust in Judaism; they will put their trust in me. I will go before them, and lead them, and they will follow me. This man heard my voice and has followed me.”

3.3.     The Shepherd

The shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them each by name. Isn’t that marvelous that the good shepherd knows his sheep and calls them by name? The good shepherd does not see us as a flock or a herd, but as individuals. He knows us and calls us by name. Such individual care.

3.4.     The Sheep

The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd. The Pharisees refused to recognize the voice of the good shepherd. The blind man recognized his voice. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked him. “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” The man recognized the voice of the one who had told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. He knew the voice of the good shepherd.

3.5.     Other Sheep

“Well,” you say, “I have never been in the sheepfold of Judaism. I am not Jewish. How am I to follow the good shepherd?” Not to worry, Jesus is not only the Savior of the Jews; he is the Savior of the whole world as the Samaritans declared in John 4:42. That is why he said in John 10:16,

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16 ESV).

I am one of the other sheep. I am a Gentile. Jesus said that he had sheep that were not of the sheepfold of Judaism. He has Gentile sheep. He said, “I must bring them also.” He must. It is a divine necessity. It is the will and plan of God. One flock, made up on both Jews and Gentiles.

This is the message of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We Gentiles were separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel. We did not even know the covenant promises God had made to them. We lived in this world without God and without hope. We were far from God, but now we have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Christ himself is our peace. He has united Jews and Gentiles into one people. Through his death on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this, Paul says in Ephesians 2:15, “by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations” (NLT). He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. This is how the New Living Translation puts it in Ephesians 2:16ff:

Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. 19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

…Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:16-22; 3:6 NLT).

Yes, there will be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16 NLT).

4.      STRANGERS

The sheep of the good shepherd will not follow the voice of the stranger:

They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice” (John 10:5 NLT).

Many sheep today are following strangers, but they are not the sheep of the good shepherd. The sheep of the good shepherd follow the good shepherd. They are led by Christ. They will not follow strangers. They will not follow modern day prophets. They will not follow false shepherds who lead people away from Christ. The sheep of the good shepherd run from strangers. They run from other voices. There are many voices that we hear today, voices claiming authority. Voices claiming to speak for God. Many sheep are led astray by these false shepherd, false christs, false teachers, and false prophets.

How do you recognize strangers, false shepherds, false teachers, and false prophets? They have common characteristics. We can use the mathematical terms “addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division” to see how they work.

4.1.     Addition

First, false shepherds add other sources of authority to the 66 books of the Bible. The Pharisees added many traditions to the Word of God and Jesus condemned them for it. False shepherds add other so-called inspired books to the Scripture. They may quote from the Bible, but they always add something to “fix” the Bible. They put their teachings on the same level with the Word of God. They say that the Bible cannot be understood without their books to explain it. Some false shepherds have even admitted that people would not be able to hold to their teachings if they only read the Bible.

Others say that their revelations recover many truths of the Bible. They say that their writings to be the authoritative key to understanding the Bible, that it cannot be understood alone. Curtis Crenshaw said correctly, “If anything is contrary to Scripture, it is wrong. If anything is the same as Scripture, it is not needed. If anything goes beyond Scripture, it has no authority.” The sheep of the good shepherd run from the voice of strangers. They will not follow those who add to the Bible.

4.2.     Subtraction

False teachers subtract from the deity of the persons of the Trinity. They may say that God was once just like us before evolving and becoming God. Or that we can become gods, or that there are actually many gods. Or they may say that Jesus was the first of all creation, that he was an archangel, denying that he is God. If Christ is not God, he cannot save us from God. Some deny the full deity of the Holy Spirit but the sheep of the good shepherd will run from these false shepherds because they know that their voice is not the voice of the good shepherd.

4.3.     Multiplication

False shepherds multiply works that are necessary for salvation. They say that what Jesus did on the cross is not enough to save us. They say that we must earn our salvation by paying for our sins now, by following certain formulas, or by our own diligent efforts. But the sheep that belong to the good shepherd, know that the good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep and that when he did so, he declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

4.4.     Division

False shepherds divide the Body of Christ by claiming to be the only true church. Since they add new revelation, subtract from the deity of one or more members of the Godhead, and multiply works that are necessary for salvation, they say that you must follow them since they are the only group that understands these things! They teach that salvation is found in their organization, not in Christ. But salvation is not accomplished by the church; it is accomplished by Christ. The church is simply the people of God, those who have been saved by Christ and function as his Body in the world. There are many different churches and denominations that faithfully proclaim the Bible and nothing but the Bible as the Word of God.

5.      THE VOICE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Have you heard the voice of the good shepherd? The blind man heard his voice, worshipped Jesus, and followed him. He came out of Judaism. No religion can save you. No church can save you. Only the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep. If you are following a false shepherd, the good shepherd is calling you to come out if you will but hear his voice. Have your heard the voice of the good shepherd calling you out?

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 09:01-41, “Blind Man Seeing, Seeing Men Blind”

Christ Healing the Blind Man

Christ Healing the Blind Man (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

 

Introduction

Have you had your eyes checked lately? How is your vision? I know a blind lady with perfect vision. And I know people with perfectly good vision who are totally blind. Today we will see a man who was born blind but who obtained perfect vision. And we will see men with perfect vision who could not see because they would not see.

Of the five main senses that God has given man—sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing—many of us would consider sight the most important. A lot of deaf people live fairly normal lives. They can drive vehicles, go where they want to go, read books, even watch television. But the sightless person faces many more challenges. Many are very creative and seem to overcome obstacles and shine in areas where many of us do not shine.

In John 9, we find the story of a man born blind who by the end of the story, had perfect vision. But those who claimed to have perfect vision, turned out to be totally blind. This is the story of two responses to Jesus: a blind man who sees Jesus for he is, and seeing men who would not see. And then there’s the question that keeps coming up in this story: Who sinned?

1.THE SETTING

1.1.The Question: Who Sinned?

The story begins when Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who had been blind from birth.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth (John 9:1 ESV).

Jesus looks at the man, and the disciples, apparently taking their cue from this look, ask Jesus about the cause of the man’s blindness.

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 ESV).

The man was born blind. There had to be a cause. The disciples take for granted that someone has sinned. Their only question is, “Who sinned?”

Did this man sin? He is the one who is blind. He must have done something terrible to be born blind. But how could that be? Some of the Pharisees had the idea that it was possible to sin while still in the womb, before one was even born. Did this man somehow sin while he was still in his mother’s womb, something so bad that God would make him suffer with blindness from birth? That really didn’t sound right.

Perhaps it was his parents:

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:2 NLT)

The disciples assume that sin was the cause of this tragedy. In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, Job was the richest man of the east. He lost everything that he had: his wealth, his health, and even his family. All except for his wife who told him to curse God and die. Some friends came to comfort him, but they were so shocked at his appearance, that they could not speak for seven days. When they finally opened their mouths, all they could do is accuse Job of sinning. They said that God would never allow this to happen to a righteous man. But they were wrong. The first verse of Job tells us that Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). In the closing chapters, God himself rebukes Job’s miserable comforters for falsely accusing him.

Still the question persists. We are all too ready to point the finger, to assign blame. 1 Corinthians 11:30 tells us that sometimes sickness and even death is the result of sin. But not always. And not in this case.

“Rabbi,” the disciples ask, “who sinned?” The disciples are right to expect Jesus to know. In John 2:24-25, John tells us that Jesus knew all people; he himself knew what as in man. Jesus knew who was going to betray him (John 6:64). He knew all that was going to happen to him (John 18:4). And Peter will say to him, “Lord, you know everything” (John 21:17). The question was not the best, but the disciples were right to ask Jesus. Jesus knew why this man was born blind. Who else could explain that? Who else could explain why bad things happen? Who else could tell why a man was born blind? These are questions that only God himself could answer. On every page, John is showing us that Jesus is God the Son, God in the flesh, the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14).

1.2.The Answer

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:3-5 ESV).

“You are wrong on both counts,” Jesus said. One translation puts it this way:

Jesus replied, “Neither one—not he, not his parents. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for God’s acts to be exhibited in him (John 9:3 MIT).

How do you see problems? Are you looking for the cause? Or are you looking for the solution? Jesus looks at this problem—a man’s blindness—and sees it as an opportunity to do something for God. The disciples are saying, “Who did this? Who is to blame? Who is at fault here?” Jesus says, “This is an opportunity to do something that will reveal the glory of God.” This is not some academic exercise. This is real life. There are people all around who need your help. We don’t need to be pointing the finger, assessing blame, trying to figure our who is at fault. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed on the other side when they saw a man who had been left half dead on the roadside. The Samaritan went to the man, bound up his wounds, and showed mercy on him. Jesus tells us to do likewise.

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work (John 9:4 ESV).

God has give us work to do. “We must work the works,” Jesus said, and now is the time to do it.

1.3.The Solution

The Healing (vs. 6-7).In this chapter of 41 verses, only two describe the actual healing.The description is repeated in verses 11 and 15 before the friends of the blind man, and before the Pharisees, but nothing new is added.Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and smeared the man’s eyes with the mud.He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.We are not told how the man got their, but he came back seeing.

The man was blind at birth. He had known nothing but darkness for his entire existence. Nothing but thick, impenetrable, blackness all around. Never had he even seen a flicker of light. But before the story ends, he would see more than a flicker of light. This man would see the Light of the World:

As long as I am in the world, (Jesus says,) I am the light of the world” (John 9:5 ESV).

It was in chapter 8:12, in the debate with the Jewish authorities that Jesus declared that he was the Light of the World. Now that Light will shine in the dark corners of this blind man’s soul, making everything clear and brighter than the noonday sun.

In two verses, John describes the healing:

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:6-7 ESV).

Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and smeared the man’s eyes with the mud. He then told the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Spit. Mud. And a pool named Siloam which means Sent.

The waters for this pool were probably sent from a spring. In John 4, Jesus said that he was the source of living water. Now in chapter 9:4, he says that he must work the works of him who sent him. Jesus is the one and only Son of God sent from the Father. You need to go to the one who was sent from God.

How did the blind man find the pool? We are not told. Perhaps with a walking stick. Perhaps he asked someone to take him there. However he got there, he obeyed. He went. He washed. And he came back seeing.

2.CONVERSATION 1: THE MAN AND HIS NEIGHBORS (9:8-12)

2.1.The Blind Man Sees!

Yes, he came back seeing. He came back to his place. He came back to his neighborhood where people had seen him sit and beg all his life. They knew the blind man, but this could not be him!

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man” (John 9:8-9 ESV).

This man’s appearance was greatly changed. He is no longer blind. His eyes are open. They are bright and shining. They are alive! “Is this the man?” “No, it can’t be!” “But it must be!” “Yes, I am the man! I am the man!” They could hardly believe their eyes that this was the same man.

So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” (John 9:10 ESV).

2.2.The First Step Toward Perfect Vision: “The Man Called Jesus”

Here we come to the man’s first step toward perfect vision. “How were you eyes opened?” they asked him.

His response: “The man called Jesus…” He does not know much about Jesus. He has heard of him. He has possibly heard of his teaching or of his miracles, but all he can say is,

“The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know” (John 9:11-12 ESV).

The first steps of faith in Jesus begin simply.

Here we have a remarkable event. Everyone knows that this man was born blind. They know that he used to sit and beg for his living. Suddenly, all that has changed. The man can see! How did this happen? Spit, mud, a pool called Siloam, and—oh yes—a man called Jesus. What does this mean? How could this happen? There must be an explanation! Let’s ask the religious authorities! They will know what this means! Let’s take this man to the Pharisees.

3.CONVERSATION 2: INTERROGATION BY THE PHARISEES (9:13-17)

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind (John 9:13 ESV).

3.1.Not On the Sabbath!

It is only now that we learn that this healing took place on the Sabbath:

Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes (John 9:14 ESV).

There it is again: Jesus made mud. Five times in this chapter we read that Jesus made mud and anointed the blind man’s eyes with it. Now we learn that it was the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and anointed the man’s eyes.

This brought Jesus into conflict with the Pharisees on several accounts:

  1. Since the man’s life was not in danger, they thought that Jesus should have waited until another day to heal (cf. Luke 13:14).
  2. The Jewish authorities had a list of 39 activities that they had forbidden people to do on the Sabbath. One of the 39 activities forbidden in the Mishnah was kneading like when you knead bread dough.[1] Jesus had kneaded the clay with his spittle to make mud.
  3. Anointing the eyes on the Sabbath was also forbidden in the Talmud.[2] But Jesus was not too concerned about the traditions of the elders.He was bound only by the Word of God not by man-made traditions that were added to the Word of God.

Why did Jesus use mud and spit? This was no accident. Jesus purposefully made mud on the Sabbath. He used mud to unleash a controversy on the Sabbath. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and he showed that the point of the Sabbath is rest and restoration of our bodies. The very first time the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 16, when God gives the Israelites the manna in the wilderness. It is not mentioned before. It is in the wilderness that God gave his people the Sabbath, telling them that they were not to gather manna on the Sabbath. The point of the Sabbath is that God’s manna—God’s provision of the Bread of Life, Christ Jesus our Lord—eternal life is not of works; it is the gift of God.

Jesus made mud on the Sabbath to bring about the controversy that we find in John 9.

So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them (John 9:15-16 ESV).

The religious authorities are divided. Some of them say that Jesus is a sinner, that he is not from God. But others wonder how he could open the eyes of a man born blind if he were a sinner. So these Pharisees, these religious authorities, these doctors of the law are now reduced to ask a poor blind beggar his opinion: “What do you have to say about him?It was your eyes he opened” (John 9:17 ESV).

3.2.The Second Step of Faith

He said, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17 ESV).

We see that the blind man has progressed in his understanding.When asked by his acquaintances how his eyes were opened, he could only say that it was done by “a man named Jesus” (v. 11).Now he calls him a prophet.Perhaps we find this insufficient, but this directly contradicts what some of the Jewish authorities were saying. They were saying that he was not from God. In declaring that Jesus was a prophet, the blind man was saying that Jesus was from God.

4.CONVERSATION 3 (9:18-23) – MAN AND HIS PARENTS

This miracle was so extraordinary, that the Pharisees were not yet convinced that it had happened. The formerly blind man has taken a second step in his faith while the Jewish authorities have taken another step in unbelief. Perhaps this was just a farce. So they interrogate the man’s parents:

¶ The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him” (John 9:18-23 ESV).

But the parents would only confirm that this was their son and that he had been blind.To say any more risked excommunication from the synagogue and from Israel.

John Piper says, “The point is not mainly to be too hard on them, but to throw into stark relief how unfearing this beggar is.”

5.CONVERSATION 4 (9:24-34) – FULL BLOWN COURAGE AND BLASPHEMY

5.1.Name of the Game: Intimidation

Not satisfied with the responses of the parents, the Pharisees called for the blind man again. “Give glory to God,” they charge him. In Joshua 7:19 this formula is used to encourage Achan to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“We know this man is a sinner,” they said.The Pharisees no longer seem to be divided. There is a united front. At any rate, those who wondered how a sinner could give sight to the blind kept silent.Maybe they too were fearful of the consequences.

“We know that this man is a sinner,” declared the religious experts. “Join us in our blasphemy or we’ll excommunicate you out of Judaism.”[3] This is huge. If you get disciplined by your church, you can either accept it or go find another church. But this is being marked and cut off from Israel.

Nonetheless, this line of intimidation will not work.Try as they will, they cannot get him to move “from a position he knows to be right.He does not know anything about Jesus and thus does not know whether or not he is a sinner.But he has one important certainty: I was blind from birth. I never saw the sun rise or set. I never saw the beautiful flowers that I could smell. I heard birds sing but could never admire them in flight. I heard my mother’s lovely voice, but was never able to look into her face. “I know one thing: I was blind, but now I see” (v. 25).

Nobody is going to shake a man out of a certainty like that. A man with an experience, it is said, is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. And, as it was Jesus who gave him his sight, nobody is going to make him takes sides against Jesus.”[4]

5.2.Tell Us Again!

So they ask him again how Jesus opened his eyes.Perhaps through a second round of interrogation, they could uncover some contradictions and show that this was nothing more than a sham.With a twinkle in his eye he responded, “I told you once and you didn’t pay attention,” he said.

“…Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (John 9:27 ESV).

This word “also” indicates that the blind man has begun to think of himself as a disciple of this Jesus.

Step 1: The man called Jesus.

Step 2: He is a prophet from God.

Step 3: I’m a disciple.

Unable to resist his logic, the Pharisees, as refined and sophisticated as they were, began to hurl insults at the man.

And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (John 9:28-29 ESV).

Here the religious authorities inadvertently admitted their ignorance: “We don’t even know where he comes from.”

They left themselves wide open.”Now that is remarkable.You don’t know…”The man had been blind all his life, but behind those blind eyes was a logical mind. The blind man marshals his argument:

  1. “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes (John 9:30 ESV)
  2. You say he is a sinner, but “we know that God does not listen to sinners” (John 9:31 ESV).
  3. if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him (John 9:31 ESV).
  4. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:32 ESV).
  5. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (John 9:33 ESV).[5]

Unable to resist his argument, the Pharisees insulted him and resorted to violence: “You were born steeped in sin, and now you are lecturing us?”Then they threw him out.This probably means that they excommunicated him, since it is emphasized in both verses 34 and 35.In any case, it was not a good sign.It meant trouble for the man.

6.CONVERSATION 5 (V. 35-38) – JESUS AND THE BEGGAR

This is amazing: Jesus sought him out. He was cast out; Jesus sought him out. To whom will he turn; he doesn’t need to turn. It is no accident that the next chapter is about the good shepherd who gathered his sheep.[6]

Jesus came looking for the man.He heard that the blind man had been excommunicated, so he sought him out.As Chrysostom put it: “The Jews cast him out of the Temple; the Lord of the Temple found him.”[7]

Now the blind man had never seen Jesus’ face, but he recognized his voice.”Never in all his life would he forget the voice that had told him to go and wash in Siloam!”[8]

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35 ESV).

Jesus was obviously looking for people to “believe in the Son of Man.”And if Jesus wanted him to believe in the Son of Man, the formerly blind man was willing to believe in him.But who was he?This man was so fundamentally honest that he would neither cower to the Pharisees, nor would he profess faith in someone he did not know.”Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”Jesus said, “You have now seen him, for it is he who is speaking with you.”

The words of Jesus brought a new enlightenment.At that moment the man opened his eyes and saw something he had never seen before.He had begun by called Jesus “a man named Jesus.”Then he called him a prophet.Then he marshaled an argument proving that Jesus was from God.Finally he recognized that Jesus was the Son of Man, and bowed down and worshipped him.

This man worshipped Jesus. The word is προσκυνέω (proskuneo) and this is the tenth time that we find it in John’s Gospel. The first nine times are in John 4:20-24 where Jesus says that God is seeking true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth.

In speaking of Jesus, the Word made flesh, John says in 1:18,

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

This man worships Jesus.

7.THE CONDEMNATION OF THOSE WHO SEE (vs. 39-41)

In verse 39 Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”It is strange to hear Jesus speak of coming for judgment.In 3:17 we read, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”

“It is not the purpose of the shining of the sun to cast shadows.But where the sun shines upon opaque objects, shadows are inevitable.It is not the purpose of the coming of the Son of God to bring condemnation.But when his offered salvation is rejected, condemnation is inevitable.”[9]

The Pharisees, despite their advantages, regressed in their understanding.They started with the firm conviction that Jesus was not from God (v. 16).Then they questioned the reality of the miracle he had done (v. 18).They declared their certainty that Jesus was a sinner (v. 24), and made other statements revealing their spiritual ignorance (v. 29).Finally, they were shown to be both blind and sinful (v. 41).[10]

In answer to the question, “Who sinned?” several possibilities were suggested.The man himself.The mans parents.Jesus was accused of sin.But the guilty ones in this story are those who insist that they see.”If you were blind,” Jesus said, “you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

There is a kind of blindness that is rooted in willful rebellion against God, a moral spiritual blindness, that does not remove guilt. There is a blindness that does not want to see the light, or confess that our works are works of darkness. This does not diminish our guilt; it is our guilt. It does not remove accountability.

The first glimmer of light in the soul is to say, “I’m blind.”[11]

If we will acknowledge our blindness, Jesus will show us the light.But if we insist that we see, there is nothing that he can show us.

8.WE WERE ALL BORN BLIND!

This blind man is us. We were all born blind. It takes a work of God to open our eyes to see the truth.

Four questions:[12]

  1. Do you worship Jesus?
  2. Do you find your worship of Jesus deepening or weakening in the face of threat and danger. It took a miracle for this man’s faith to get stronger and stronger as the opposition intensified.
  3. Does your worship falter or flourish when your family is unbelieving?
  4. Do you confess Jesus openly and defend him with your personal testimony? 95% of Christians are saved through seeing the truth of the gospel.

Three statements:

  1. God has wise good, Christ-exalting purposes that happens to you.
  2. Jesus is the path to the full, final, joyful experience of that good purpose.
  3. Jesus sought out this nobody, this beggar, and He is seeking you right now. That is why you tuned in today and heard this story. He wants to make you a worshipper of Jesus.

Ask Jesus to open the eyes of your heart.

See also “Gospel of John”:


[1]Shabbath 7:2

[2]According to a later Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud Abodah Zarah 28b) there was an opinion that it was not permitted to anoint an eye on the Sabbath.The Jerusalem Talmud Shabbath 14d and 17f says that one may not put fasting spittle on the eyes on the Sabbath.See Brown, The Gospel According to John, 373.

[3]John Piper

[4]Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 359.

[5]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 360.

[6]John Piper

[7]Barclay, The Gospel of John, 49.

[8]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 364.

[9]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 366.

[10]Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, 357.

[11]John Piper

[12]These questions and statements are suggested by John Piper.

 

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 08:31-47, “Children of God, or Sons of Satan?”

 

Genealogy window, Canterbury Cathedral

Genealogy window, Canterbury Cathedral (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

Whose child are you?

We recognize that fathers are important. There are but two men on all of human history who had no father: the first Adam and the last Adam. The first man, Adam, who was formed by God from the dust of the ground, and Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the last Adam in 1 Corinthians, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Every other man in the history of humanity had an earthly father.

Whose child are you? The Bible puts great stress on genealogy. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis trace the generations from Adam to Noah, from the Creation to the Flood. After the Flood, the genealogical record is picked up again from the three sons of Noah down through the Tower of Babel to the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12.

From there the line is traced from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Jacob’s 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. From the Exodus from Egypt, to the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, to the exile in Babylon, to the return from exile, close genealogical records were kept. The records were kept because God had promised a Messiah through the line of Judah and the line of David, a King who would forever sit upon the throne of his father David.

Coming to the New Testament, Matthew and Luke pick up the genealogical line from Adam and from Abraham and show that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne, the One who had been promised by God.

Today, inheritance is often determined by genealogical records. The father passes his inheritance to his sons. Land is inherited from the father.

Character Traits

It is not only rights to reign or land or inheritance that is passed from father to son. Character and mannerisms and other traits are often passed from father to son. As the son of my father, I will sometimes do something or feel something, and say to myself, “Wow! That was just like Dad!”

I imagine that most of know who our father is. Many of us grew up in a home where the father was present and exercised a great deal of influence on the family and on the children. The presence of a father helps us to find our identity, to know who we are. We have a saying in English, “Like father, like son.” Or in French, “Tel père, tel fils.” We say that a child is a “chip off the old block.” When you chop wood, the chips of wood that fly are of the same nature as the block that you are chopping.

The earlier form of this phrase is ‘chip of the same block’. The block in question may have been stone or wood. It dates back to at least 1621, when it appears in that form in Bishop (of Lincoln) Robert Sanderson’s Sermons:

“Am not I a child of the same Adam … a chip of the same block, with him?”

The phrase “a chip of the old block” means that the son behaves in the same way as his father or resembles his father.”

The influence of fathers on sons is great. So when I ask, “Whose child are you?” I am asking about the influence on your life. I am asking about your identity, who you identify as having the most important influence on your character.

In John 8, three fathers are mentioned, and none of them without importance. In fact, of the three fathers that are mentioned, only one of them was a human father. Besides our human father, every one of us is the child of another father. Every one of us has another father whose character we reflect. So when we try to answer the question, “Whose child are you?” we need to look beyond mere human genealogy. Whose child are you?

John 8:31-47

Our text today is John 8:31-47. Jesus is debating with the Jewish authorities. He has claimed to be the Light of the World (8:12). He has told the Jews, “Unless you believe that I am (he) you will die in your sins” (8:24). Beginning in verse 31, we hear him speaking in the strongest of terms, confronting the Jewish authorities for their sin. This Jesus is not some weakling. He is not intimidated by these men who are determined to kill him. He does not back down one bit. He confronts them, and yet he does so in love, but make no mistake: this is not a friendly dialogue. This is a debate that is full of manly energy. Here is the text:

John 8:31-47 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 

39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.”

They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father– even God.” 

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Children of Abraham

This passage speaks of three fathers. First there is Abraham. He is the man whom the Jews considered to be their father. The Jews took great pride in their descent from Abraham, and they are greatly offended that Jesus would imply that they were slaves.

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

But they were greatly offended.

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘you will become free’?” (8:33).

Many privileges came with being the children of Abraham. This is how Paul expresses it in…

Romans 9:4-8 NLT They (the Jews) are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. 5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 

There were great privileges as well as responsibilities for the children of Abraham. They had received the Word of God, the promises and the blessing of the covenant that God had made with them.

Romans 3:2 NLT Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

They also had the responsibility to share God’s Word with the nations. While the nation as a whole was not faithful to the task of evangelizing the nations, the prophets continually addressed their works not only to Israel but also to the surrounding nations, kingdoms, and empires.

As great as the privileges were, Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 9,

6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.

Being the children of Abraham was not simply a matter of biology. Descent from Abraham was no guarantee that one was right with God or that one was a child of God or that he would have a share in the kingdom of God.

Romans 2:28-29 NLT For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

Being a child of God means having a new heart. God had promised in Ezekiel

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Eze 36:25-27 ESV).

The proof of the gospel is a new heart.

In verse 37, Jesus recognizes that the Jews are the offspring of Abraham, but in verse 39 he says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works Abraham did.” Jesus may be making a distinction between offspring and children. In fact, in the original Greek text, the word is σπρμα (Joh 8:33, 37 BNT). They had claimed to be the sperm or the seed of Abraham (8:33), and Jesus says, “I know that you are the seed of Abraham (8:37), but if you were the true children of Abraham you would act like your father (8:39).

They are doing what Abraham would never do: “you are seeking to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (8:37). Again in verses 39 and 40,

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.”

“Like father, like son”? Well, they were not acting like the man whom they claimed as their father.

Human Ancestry is Nothing

The Jews put their confidence in their ancestry. They were the offspring of Abraham, and they believed that that was all that mattered.

Are we any different today? We look at our ancestry and think we are okay with God. This is a Christian nation, so we are okay with God. It doesn’t matter how we live or what we do or what we think, long God yumi stanup. Just like the Jews who trusted in their descent from Abraham many people put their trust in their Christian heritage.

Heritage is a great thing and can be a great blessing. We think of people who laid down their lives to bring us the gospel. God moved in these islands and many people came to know the Lord. Some of us have descended from a significant line of Christians. But that has no value if we have not been saved from our sins.

I can trace back several generations of preachers in my family: my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather. But that has no value unless I am born again, unless I become a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Nicodemus was a very religious man, a chef of the Pharisees. He would pray and fast and tithe on everything, but Jesus told him that even he had to be born again. There must be a new birth, a birth into the family of God. Whose child are you?

Violence toward Christ

Jesus pushes this issue with the Jews. They claim to be the offspring of Abraham.

John 8:37-41 NLT Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father. 39 Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”

Here Jesus is claiming once again that God is his own Father. It is good for us to remember what John told us in John 5:18, that every time Jesus says “my father,” he claiming that “God is his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Jesus is saying, “I am like my Father, and you are like your father. You claim to be the children of Abraham, but you are not acting like Abraham. You are trying to kill me. You are following the advice of your real father. I am telling you the truth that I heard from my Father, but you not acting like Abraham. You are acting like your real father.”

Who is their real father?

 They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

Is that true? Is God really their Father?

Fatherhood of God

Some speak of the fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. It is true that we are all brothers and sisters in the sense that we all descended from one man, Adam.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… (Act 17:24-26 ESV)

God has made us all. He is the Creator of us all. But Jesus clearly makes a distinction that the Jews are not ready to receive. The Jews claim that Abraham is their father. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham. Instead, they are acting like their true father.

“We are not illegitimate children,” they reply.

The Jews may have been implying that Jesus was illegitimate. In verse 19, they ask, “Where is your father?” Now in verse 41, they say, “We were not born of sexual immorality.” They may have been implying something about Mary. We know from the biblical record that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph did not know her physically until she brought forth her firstborn son. But the Jews did not know all this. There had been questions about Mary and Joseph.

But they still don’t get it. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham; they are acting like their real father. Who is that?

“We have one Father—even God,” they say.

But no, Jesus categorically denies that: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came no of m own accord, but he sent me.”

“If God were your Father,” Jesus says, “you would love me.” Do they love him? No. They want to kill him.

Who wants to kill Jesus? Most people are not openly hostile to Jesus. He is said to be one of the world’s greatest teachers. Some will say that he was a prophet. And if you say these things to most people, there will be little or no objection.

So why did the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus? They wanted to kill him because he claimed to be much more than a great teacher or a great prophet. He claimed to be equal with God:

This was why the Jews were seeking al the more to kill him… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (5:18).

Again in chapter 7:2, “He would not go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him.”

Jesus asks in 7:19, “Why do you seek to kill me?” In 7:25, “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?” The Jewish authorities tried to arrest him in 7:30 and 44, but they could not because his hour had not yet come and because no one could take his life from him.

MUSIC: MICHAEL W. SMITH: SECRET AMBITION – 3:41

The Jewish authorities were violent toward Christ. Is it not the same today? When we begin to lay out the claims of Christ, some people get upset. People don’t like what Jesus said about himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said, “no man comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Jesus said that he was the only way to God. People don’t like that. They want to keep their options open. They want to believe that there are many ways to God and that God is obligated to accept them however they come, whether through Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or some other way. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is the only true God who is at the Father’s side as John tells us in John 1:18. They don’t want to believe that seeing Jesus is seeing God as Jesus told Philip in 14:9. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is “Lord and God” as Thomas declared in John 20:28.

But Jesus told the Jewish authorities, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”

“I came from God.” No mere mortal could make such a statement. Jesus is pointing to his divine origin. Unlike us, he came from God.

“Why do you not understand what I say?” he asks. Then he answers his own question: “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (8:43).

Again, we see the importance of the word of Christ. In verse 31, Jesus has said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:37 ESV I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

John 8:43 ESV Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

Finally, Jesus tells them what they do not understand. They have claimed to be the children of Abraham, but twice Jesus told them that rather than acting like the children of Abraham, they were acting like their father.

They claimed that God was their father. Jesus said that if God were their Father, they would love the Father’s Son.

So they are neither the children of Abraham nor the children of God. Then whose children are they?

Jesus finally drops the bomb in verse 44: “You are of your father the devil.”

We must understand that Jesus is not insulting them. He is simply telling them that they are acting like their father. “Like father, like son.” “Tel père, tel fils.”

John 8:44 ESV You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Satan was a murderer from the beginning. It was Satan who inspired Cain to kill his brother Abel. Now the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus. They are resisting the truth about Christ, the truth that He is God in the flesh. They are resisting because the truth has no place in them. They are resisting because they cannot bear to hear his word. They are resisting because they are acting like their father, the devil.

This is true, not only of the Jewish authorities; it is true of us. The Bible says of us in…

Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We were following the course of this world. We were going with the flow. We were living like everyone else. We were living like the world, just doing what culture and society expected of us.

But we were not only following the course of the world; we were following the prince of the power of the air: Satan. He is the spirit that is now working in those who are disobedient to the gospel. We were living according to the passions of our flesh, doing whatever our body and mind desired. We were by nature children of wrath.

That is exactly what Jesus is saying when he says, “You are of your father the devil.” “Like father, like son.”

Whose child are you?

Who is your father? Physical descent has no importance when it comes to spiritual things. My father’s faith will not get me into heaven. God has no grandsons. I do not become a child of God by virtue of the faith of my parents.

There is only one way into God’s family: receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior.

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

As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” by the Spirit of God.

So what is the solution?

We come back to the word of verses 31-32,

John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

See also “Gospel of John”:

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

Christ and the Woman taken in adultery

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

John 8:2-12

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

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

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

What is guilt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC: KRISTYN GETTY – The Power of the Cross

Guilt in the Garden

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

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

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

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

“Adam, where are you?”

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

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

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

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

Guilt. How should we deal with it?

The Woman Caught in Adultery

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

Shame and guilt are written all over this story.

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

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

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

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

God’s verdict was clear:

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

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

The Trap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17 ESV).

Jesus’ Answer

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

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

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

But Jesus is full of compassion for the woman.

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

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

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

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

MUSIC: LAURA STORY – MIGHT TO SAVE 

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

What does he write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alone with Jesus

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

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

“Woman, where are they?”

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

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

“No one, Lord.”

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

Guilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Condemnation

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

MUSIC: HOSANNA MUSIC: NO CONDEMNATION 

Paul says it this way in Romans 8:

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

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

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

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

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

What Do You Do with Your Guilt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC: KATHRYN SCOTT – AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS 

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

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

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

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

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

See also “Gospel of John”: