Jesus

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

Giovanni Lanfranco - Miracle of the Bread and ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.1. Their desire to make him king.

John 6:14 tells us,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.2. Their concept of what a king would do

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

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

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

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

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

A King unlike any other king.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the crowd throws a question in his face:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ response is full of energy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Origin

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

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

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

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

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

4.1. No Life Without Death

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

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

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

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

4.2. Hard hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.4. What about the Twelve?

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

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

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

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

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

This question reveals the emptiness of any other teaching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<

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

Advertisements

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

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

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

Scripture: John 5:1-18

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of chapters 1-4

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

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

Scene 1: Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

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

Setting

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

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

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

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

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

A Helpless Situation

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

ILLUSTRATION

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

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

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

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

After 38 years! This was a great miracle.

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

Scene 2: The Authorities Confront the Man

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

Sabbath Controversy

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

Really?

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

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

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

An Unwilling Witness

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

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

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

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

The Mystery Man

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 3: Jesus Finds the Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scene 4: The Authorities Confront Jesus

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

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

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

But the man did not know who it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John tells us immediately what his means:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is what it means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “These things were written,” John says, “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you might have life in his name” (20:31).

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 04:19-24, “The Seeking God”

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

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

Scripture: John 4:19-24

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

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

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

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

But God is always looking.

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

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

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

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

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

So we come to John 4.

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

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

John 3:7 ESV You must be born again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back up to verse 23:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The woman responds (v. 11-12):

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

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

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

She responds (v.15),

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

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

SONG: Rebecca St. James – River of Life

Jesus (v. 16):

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

Woman (v. 17):

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

Jesus (v. 17-18):

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

Woman:

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

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

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

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

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

Where?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

King David prayed,

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

Jesus declared,

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

And again,

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

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

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

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

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

What is the right time to worship God?

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

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

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

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

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

“The hour is coming and is now here…”

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

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

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

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

Then what does true worship depend on?

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

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

SPIRIT AND TRUTH WORSHIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But worship must also be truthful.

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

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

3.2.1.     Worship is based on our knowledge of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True worship comes from knowing God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

Come To The River                 4:07     Ronnie Freeman

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 02:23-03:15, “You Must Be Born Again”

Question: What could be worse than having someone tell you that you would not be able to enter the kingdom of God?

Answer: The only thing worse than having someone tell you that you would not be able to enter into the kingdom of God is for that to come true. The only thing worse than being told that you could not enter God’s kingdom is to at the end of your life to hear those dreadful words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Most of us think that we are going to go to heaven when we die. We consider ourselves to be good people. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 may come as a shock to us if we would consider them:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it (Matthew 7:13-14 NLT).

In today’s reading in John 3, we find a man named Nicodemus. He is very religious and very respected for his devotion to God. He thinks everything in his life is in order and that surely if anyone is able to enter the kingdom of God, he would be able to enter. But Jesus tells him that he is missing the one thing that God requires.

CHRIS TOMLIN: AWAKENING – 4:45

Subject: THE NEW BIRTH

Scripture: John 2:23-3:15

English: Jesus, on the left, instructing Nicod...

English: Jesus, on the left, instructing Nicodemus, on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 2:23-15 ESV).

George Whitefield was an English Anglican preacher who was born in 1714, 300 years ago this year. He was an astonishing instrument raised up by God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had a marvelous voice that was sometimes heard at a distance of two miles, about 3 kilometers. Crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 people would gather to hear him preach in the open air. For more than 30 years, until his death at the age of 55, he preached every day of the week and three times on Sundays. The passage that he preached perhaps more than any other passage was John 3:7,

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

One day a man asked him, “Mr. Whitefield, why do you preach so often on the passage that says that you must be born again?” Whitefield responded, “Because you must be born again!”

But it was not Whitefield who said that we must be born again. It was Jesus Christ who came down from heaven who declared, “You must be born again.” His conversation with Nicodemus shows us that nothing can replace the new birth. Nicodemus comes to Jesus and professes a certain knowledge about Jesus:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:1-2 ESV).

Like many at Jerusalem Nicodemus had seen the signs that Jesus had performed. He has come to a certain conclusion about Jesus. He must be from God, otherwise he would be unable to work the miracles that he worked. Jesus does not congratulate Nicodemus for his position as ruler of the Jews, or his interest or his understanding or his conclusion about who Jesus is. Rather, Jesus confronts him directly. In effect, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he is missing the one thing that God requires for entry into the kingdom of heaven: You must be born again. Three times in this passage, Jesus tells us that the new birth is absolutely necessary for entry into the kingdom of God:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV). Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

But Nicodemus is surprised. He is absolutely astounded. He can hardly believe his ears. Notice his response in verse 4:

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4 NLT).

Jesus gives him further explanation, but in verse 9, Nicodemus is still amazed:

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked (John 3:9 NLT).

YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN!

I want to look at three questions:

  1. Why must we be born again?
  2. What does it mean to be born again?
  3. How is one to be born again?

So the first question is:

1. Why must we be born again? We must be born again…

Because nothing else will gain us entry into the kingdom of God.

A.  Belief in God is not enough. Notice that Nicodemus believed in God. Two times, Nicodemus mentions God in addressing Jesus.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV). Nicodemus did not believe in some false god. He believed in the God of the Bible. He believed in the God who created heaven and earth. He believed in the one true God. As a Jew, he would pronounce the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Jesus would later tell the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 that salvation is of the Jews. Nicodemus was following the religion that God had revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. He believed in the one true God. But that was not enough. Jesus told him bluntly, “You must be born again.”

Many people believe in God. You most probably believe in God. And many people believe in the God of the Bible. But belief in God is not enough. Belief even in the God of the Bible is not enough. You must be born again.

B.  Knowing that Jesus was sent from God is not enough (v. 2).

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV). In chapter 2:23, John says that “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

And yet, he immediately tells us that signs are not an adequate basis for faith: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:24-25 ESV). Others would consider faith in signs to be adequate, but Jesus does not look on the outside appearance. He sees men as they really are. He knows all people, John says. Jesus “himself knew what was in man” (v. 25). As God manifested in the flesh, Jesus looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Nicodemus’ knowledge was based on signs: “we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” He was logical. He had seen the signs. He had come to the conclusion that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. He knew that God was with him. Jesus was performing miracles that no ordinary man could do. And yet, this was not enough.

Many people believe that Jesus was sent from God, that he performed miracles because God was with him, but that is not enough. You must be born again.

C.  Respect toward Jesus is not enough (v. 3).

Notice that Nicodemus addresses Jesus as “Rabbi.” This is a title for a respected teacher. Jesus is much more than a rabbi, but Nicodemus addresses him respectfully. Addressing Jesus with respect and reverence is not enough to gain entry into the kingdom of God. You must be born again.

Many people speak respectfully of Jesus. They may revere him as a great teacher or a prophet or a man sent from God. They may even know that he is the Son of God, but even that is not enough to gain entry into the God’s kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

D. Being religious is not enough (v. 1).

Nicodemus was a religious man. John tells us that he was a Pharisee. We may not like Pharisees today, but the Pharisees were respected by ordinary Jews for their devotion to God. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus

  • Believed that the Scriptures were given by God.
  • He read and studied the Scriptures.
  • He fasted two times each week (cf. Luke 18:12).
  • He gave a tenth of everything that he earned (cf. Luke 18:12).
  • He was careful to follow the commandments and laws of God.
  • Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. He was so committed, that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, that group which decided what they were going to do with Jesus (cf. 7:50). You are also a member of that group: each of us has to decide what we will do with Christ Jesus.

Nicodemus had so much going for him:

  • Belief in God
  • Knowing that God was with Jesus
  • Respect toward Jesus
  • Being committed and religious

But that was not enough. Nicodemus uses the word “unless”:

“…no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV).

Jesus responds by using the word “unless”:

“…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

Jesus is not saying that being born again is good, or desirable, or advisable. He does not say that being born again is for some Christians but not others. What Jesus says does not apply only to Nicodemus. He tells us in the most serious of terms that only those who have been born again can enter into the kingdom of God. All others will be excluded.

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

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

And once again, in verse 7,

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

He says that you and I cannot get into the kingdom of God without being born again.

Notice that Jesus says, “Truly, truly.” This is his formula for introducing a solemn and most important declaration: “I tell you the solemn truth.” This is a most serious word from the Lord.

That being the case, you and I need to know what it means to be born again. The second question is this:

2. What does the new birth mean? What does it mean to be born again?

What is this? How are we to understand being born again? Nicodemus clearly had a hard time with this idea:

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4 NLT).

What are we to understand of being born again? Jesus not only tells us that we must be born again, he tells us what it means to be born again.

Verse 5 has troubled some Christians.In verse 5, Jesus says,

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

What does it mean to be born of water and the Spirit? Different interpretations have been offered.

  1. Some people think that Jesus is talking about two different kinds of birth: natural physical birth on the one hand, and spiritual birth on the other hand, so that being born of water is natural physical birth, and being born of the Spirit is spiritual birth. According to this interpretation, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that two things are necessary to enter into the kingdom of God. He must first be born physically, and he must also be born spiritually.

But that interpretation does not make a lot of sense. Jesus does not need to tell a man who is standing before him physically that he needs to be born physically. Jesus is certainly not saying, “Unless one is born physically, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

2.  Some people think that Jesus is talking about water baptism and baptism into the Holy Spirit which the Bible also speaks of. According to this interpretation, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, put your trust in him, and followed him in water baptism, but have not yet been baptized into the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus would never have imagined that Jesus was talking about speaking in tongues. Does Jesus really mean that speaking in tongues is essential to salvation? Are we to believe that the person who has come to Christ, trusted in Christ for his salvation, experienced the joy of having his sins forgiven, loves God with all his heart, studies God’s Word, has had his life changed by the power of the gospel – are we to believe that that person will be excluded from the kingdom of God because he has not spoken in tongues?

No. Jesus is not talking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit in this passage. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a biblical experience available for all believers, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here.

We need to consider three things in trying to understand verse 5.

  1. In speaking of being born of water and the Spirit, Jesus is explaining the nature of the new birth. He is explaining what it means to be born again.
  2. The birth that Jesus is talking about in verse 5 is one birth, not two.
  3. Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what he meant by being born again.

So first, Jesus is explaining what he has already said. He is explaining the nature of the new birth. Verses 3, 5, and 7 mean the very same thing:

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

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

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

So as Jesus speaks of being born of water and the Spirit, he is simply responding to Nicodemus’ question and explaining to him the nature of the new birth. We will see that more clearly in the third point.

But secondly, the preposition “of” is not repeated before “the Spirit.” Jesus does not say that we must be born of water and of the Spirit as if he were speaking of two separate experiences. He says that we must be born of water-and-the-Spirit: (ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος ex hudatos kai pneumatos). The word “of” (ex) is used one time to show that the new birth is one single experience that has two characteristics. We will look at that in a moment.

Thirdly, Jesus says that Nicodemus should understand the nature of the new birth. Notice verse 10:

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? (John 3:10 NLT).

Jesus is saying that Nicodemus should have understood the nature of the new birth. Why should Nicodemus have understood? Because he was a respected Jewish teacher. He was a teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament clearly spoke of the new birth and it spoke of this experience of being born again in terms of water and the Spirit.

The key Old Testament background passage for understanding the new birth is found in Ezekiel 36:25-27,

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

The water speaks of being cleansed of our sins, and the Spirit speaks of the new life that is within us. To be born again is to be born of water and the Spirit. To be born again is to be cleansed of our sins and uncleannesses and idols, and it is to be made alive by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who lives in us from the moment we are born again.

Born again means that we are clean and alive to God.

And the third question is:

3. How are we to be born again?

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6 ESV).

A.  The new birth is not the result of a gradual process of bettering ourselves (v. 6).

We cannot make ourselves be born again by a long process of improving ourselves. While we are to grow and cultivate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we cannot make ourselves be born again. We cannot give birth to ourselves. There is no way that we can improve the flesh until it becomes spirit. The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life (John 3:6 NLT).

B.  The new birth is the work of the Spirit of God (v. 8).

Jesus has emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. In verse 5

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5 NLT).

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life (John 3:6 NLT).

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NLT).

Birth is not something that you do; it is something that happens to you. You were born. You did not decide to be born. You do not give birth to yourself. Your mother gave birth to you.

In the same way, the new birth is not something you do. It is not something that you do by getting baptized in water or by deciding to become a member of a church. The new birth is something that happens to you. That is what the Apostle Peter says in his first letter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).

you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (1 Peter 1:23 ESV).

The new birth is not our work. It is not something that we do. It is God’s work. It is something that he does. Now let’s go back to John 1.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:9-13 ESV).

John tells us that the new birth is

  • “not of blood.” That means that it is not a matter of ethnic descent or race. You do not have to be Jewish to be born again. And being Jewish will not make you born again.
  • “nor of the will of the flesh” – The new birth is not a matter of heritage. You cannot inherit the new birth from your parents.
  • “nor of the will of man” – The new birth is not the result of human effort.

Being born again is not a matter of being a white man or a black man. It is not a matter of being part of the right tribe or race or language or nation. You cannot get the new birth from your parents. And there is nothing that you can do to birth yourself spiritually.

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

How can you be born again?

God takes the initiative. Jesus came to his own. He comes to you. He comes to you through the life-giving word that is preached. If you will receive him, he will give you the right to become children of God, born of God as God himself cleanses your sin, washes you clean, and puts His life-giving Spirit in you that you may live in obedience to him.

Sixty-five years ago, my father was 18 years old. By his own confession, he had what he called a “foul mouth” that he could not control. He had grown up in a Christian home, but had never been born again. A friend invited hi to a series of meetings where the gospel was preached. My father became desperate for God to intervene in his life. God met hi. He was born again, cleansed form his sin, given a new heart and a new Spirit. The foul mouth was gone forever. For 65 years, my father was faithful to God. On January 31, 2014, he entered into the kingdom of God because he had been born again, born of water and of the Spirit.

Won’t you receive Christ? You must be born again. There is no other way. You needed a way to God.

KRISTYN GETTY – HEAR THE CALL OF THE KINGDOM – 2:36 (8second lead)

John 01:35-51, “Finding the Messiah”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

In John 1, everyone is looking for something.

Most people go through life, never finding what they are looking for. Most people never know what it was that they were looking for. They are born, grow up, live and die, without ever knowing what it is that they were missing.

Some people give up on the idea of ever finding that missing something. They talk about the journey. It’s all about the journey, they say, not the destination. They are going, but they don’t know where they are going, and they are okay with that, so they say. They have given up on knowing the meaning of life. It’s just a puzzle. It doesn’t have meaning. We are just here. We are accidents of nature. Going through the motions. Trying to find momentary satisfaction in the endless monotony of life.

Today, the theory of evolution and the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and others have left many adrift on an endless sea of meaninglessness, hopelessness, and despair.

Philosopher “Bertrand Russell was an outspoken atheist. He even wrote a book called Why I Am Not A Christian. When Russell was 81 years old, he was interviewed on a British Broadcasting Corporation radio talk show. The interviewer asked him what he had to hang onto when death was obviously so close. Russell responded, “I have nothing to hang onto but grim, unyielding despair.” What an honest yet hopeless response. You see, when you live only for this life, … when you think that this is all there is, you can’t help but live in despair.”[1]

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,

‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

What are you looking for?

For some people it is the endless pursuit of success. Doing better than your neighbor. Climbing to the top of the ladder. Looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The one with the most toys at the end of life… wins

For others it is the temporary pleasure of the bottle, the high, the party, only to be followed by the emptiness of the morning after.

What are you looking for?

At the end of the day, we are all looking for the same thing. We are looking for a sense of completeness, peace, joy, contentment. As Augustine put it, “Our hearts are not content…”

What are you looking for?

Some people don’t really know what they are looking for. It is the lack of contentment that pushes them to seek, to look for something to relieve the emptiness, to fill the vacuum of their hearts and lives.

ANDREW PETERSON: ALL I’LL EVER NEED (3:02)

Most people don’t know what they are looking for. Have you ever gone into a room to find something and not been able to remember why you are there? Not yet, huh? Wait for it. It will come. But for most people, that is the story of their life. They have no idea what they are looking for. They are lost in the dark and have no idea where to find the light.

JOHN THE BAPTIST KNEW WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR.

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was not the case with John the Baptist. He knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God. God had sent John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Lord. And God had told John that he would recognize the Messiah when the Holy Spirit came down and stayed on him.

That’s exactly what happened when John baptized Jesus.

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God.

JOHN’S DISCIPLES KNEW WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR.

John’s disciples were looking for the Lamb of God:

The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus (John 1:35-37 NLT).

John came to point people to the light. So when John saw the light, he pointed others to the light.

He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:7-8 ESV).

The Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

“Look! There he is! The Lamb of God!”

When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. But why? They had been faithful to John. Why do they now follow Jesus?

They followed Jesus because they knew what they were looking for. John had said in verse 29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Like you and me, John’s disciples had a sin problem.

We were made for God. We were made to know him, and to glorify him by enjoying him forever. But our sins, the Bible tells us, have separated us from God. God is holy. There is no sin in Him. Our sins have built a wall between us and God. Our lives are empty. Our hearts are agitated, troubled, empty, looking for that missing something. Looking, rather, for that missing Someone.

Yes, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are not at rest until they find their rest in you.”

ILLUSTRATION

Some children are born with a hole in their heart. It is called atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect. It is actually a hole in the chambers so that the blood is not pumped correctly. Sometimes it heals by itself and sometimes it has to be corrected by surgery.

But there is another kind of hole in the heart that everyone of us is born with. It is an emptiness that will not heal itself and cannot be corrected by surgery. It is a hole that is so big that only God himself can fill it. And until He fills it, our hearts are not at rest.

So these two disciples of John began following Jesus. They were taking the first steps of becoming disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple means to be a follower, one who follows Jesus. One who follows the teachings of Jesus. One who obeys the commands of Jesus. These two disciples of John the Baptist, who were Andrew and probably John the beloved who was the author of this Gospel, these two disciples began following Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”

There it is, that question again: What are you looking for?

This is the first time in this gospel that Jesus speaks. The first time that he speaks in his ministry, he asks a question. It is the most profound question that all of us must answer: “What are you looking for?”

A simple answer was not possible.

And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:38 ESV).

This is not a quick fix. This is not a matter of repeating some magical prayer or even of being baptized in water. Christ came to reconcile us to God, to put us into a right relationship with the Father. He came to restore the fellowship that was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. God wants a relationship with you, but as Isaiah says in 59:1-2,

Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore (Isaiah 59:1-2 NLT).

Our problem is our estrangement, our separation from God. God made us for himself, and there is a hole in our hearts and lives until God comes and fills our lives with himself.

But the sin problem has to be dealt with and only the Lamb of God could take away the sin of the world. Christ alone came to bear your sins on the cross. Christ alone can take away your sin.

That’s why Andrew and John were following the Lamb of God.

“Teacher, where are you staying?” You are the Lamb of God. We want to be with you.

Christ gives the gracious invitation: “Come and you will see.” Jesus invites you to come.

“Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day (John 1:39 NLT).

Coming to Christ is not a matter of doing something that will put us into right relationship with God and then going back and living our lives without him. Christ invites us into a permanent, ongoing, continuous, growing relationship. Being a Christian is not a Sunday morning affair. It is an invitation to continual fellowship with Christ for a lifetime. It’s an invitation to continuous fellowship for now and for eternity:

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV).

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

They had found the Lamb of God.

Andrew and John had spent the day with Jesus. We don’t know what he said to them, but Jesus had had a profound effect on them. The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah!” he told him.

CHRIS TOMLIN: JESUS MESSIAH (4:50) – 22 second lead

The Messiah was the one who had been promised for 4,000 years. John tells us in 1:41 that Messiah means Christ. Now we must not confuse all the titles of Jesus Christ and say that they all mean the same thing. We must not say that Christ means Son of God and Son of God means Son of Man and Son of Man means King of kings, and so forth. He is given many titles in Scripture and they mean different things. In this first chapter of John alone, Jesus is identified as

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

We must not imagine that all these titles mean the same thing. They all refer to Jesus, but they mean different things. They tell us different things about him, who he is, what he came to do.

But the titles Messiah and Christ do mean the same thing. They both mean “anointed.” The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word “mashiach” while the word Christ comes from the Greek word “christos.” So Messiah and Christ are the Hebrew and Greek words meaning “anointed.”

Anointing oil was a symbol of the blessing of the Lord or of the Holy Spirit’s empowering. When prophets, priests, and kings were consecrated to their office, they were anointed with oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s enabling, the ability that He gives. But Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be consecrated as Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, he speaks the Word of God. As Priest, he offers his own body as a sacrifice for our sins and sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. As King, he will rule the nations and everyone will recognize that he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

That is what Andrew meant with he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew and John had found the One who had been anointed by God the Father as Prophet, Priest, and King! That’s why they had followed John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the lamp that led them to the light. They were looking for the Messiah.

What are you looking for? You may not know it, but you are looking for the Messiah too.

Then Andrew brought Simon [his brother] to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John– but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) (John 1:42 NLT).

The Word of Transformation

Every time we see Andrew, he is bringing someone to Jesus. First he brings his brother Simon Peter. Later he will bring to Jesus a small boy who has five loaves and two fishes. Finally, he will bring a group of Greek worshippers to Christ.

When Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, Simon had never been called Peter. But Jesus tells him that his nature will be changed. He will become stable, like a rock. It would not be instantaneous. It would not happen in a moment. But he would be transformed by Christ.

Christ takes you where you are. He knows what you are and what you’ve done, and he knows what his plans are for you. He knows how to change you from what you are to what you were meant to be.

Jesus Finds Philip

This is an interesting turn in the story. Andrew had announced to his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. John had probably announced to his brother James that they had found the Messiah.

Andrew and Peter were from the same town as Philip. They were probably all disciples of John the Baptist. But they had not thought of Philip. It was no brother who went looking for Philip. No close friend thought to bring him to Christ. “According to the record, nobody went after Philip.”[2] Nobody? There was One:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me” (John 1:43 NLT).

Now it is the Messiah who is doing the finding. Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me” (1:43).

We might wonder why Jesus went and found Philip. Philip had been looking for the Messiah.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45 ESV).

Philip knew what he was looking for. He had read the promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah. He too had been looking for and hoping for the Messiah. Jesus is looking for those who are looking for him. And when Jesus came, Philip recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.

Those who seek for God are found by God. Philip had been looking for the Messiah, and the Messiah found him.

What are you looking for?

It is important to note that this was not some new religion. This was not some new theology or philosophy. This was not some new interpretation. Philip told Nathanael, “This is the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about.” Jesus himself said,

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose (Matthew 5:17 NLT).

The Apostle Paul began his letter to the Romans by insisting that the gospel was not new:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, (Romans 1:1-2 ESV).

This gospel is not a new teaching or a new religion. If it is new, it is to be condemned. But it is not new. It is what God promised long ago by his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Jesus was not some prophet who showed up without credentials or without any proof that he was from God. He had been promised hundreds and thousands of years before. Over 300 prophecies pointed to him.

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied (John 1:45-46 NLT).

Nathanael was prejudiced against Nazareth. Nazareth did not have the best reputation. When Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he made up his mind: Jesus could not be the Messiah.

What do you think? Do you think this whole thing is just a sham, a deception, a lie? Are you prejudiced against Christ because of what people have told you? Perhaps by what you have experienced by people who claimed to be disciples of Christ?

Well, I can only tell you what Philip told Nathanael: “Come and see for yourself.” Investigate the claims of Christ for yourself. Make up your own mind instead of depending on someone else’s opinion. Come and see.

Philip had found Nathanael and was bringing him to Jesus.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47 ESV).

This surprised Nathanael: “How do you know me?”

Jesus does know Nathanael, but Nathanael does not know how. Nathanael had been under a fig tree when Philip found him. Perhaps he was meditating on the story of Jacob and the ladder. It was Philip who had found Nathanael. Jesus was not even there. But Jesus had seen Nathanael before Philip had even found him. Jesus knew that Nathanael was a man of integrity because he knew all about him. Jesus knew what Nathanael was doing even when he was not physically present. Jesus knew what Nathanael had been meditating on under the fig tree.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48 ESV).

Jesus knows you. He knows what is in your heart. He knows what kind of a person you are. He sees you even though you cannot see him.

Nathanael’s doubts were removed. There is only one way that Jesus could have known Nathanael’s heart:

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God– the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 NLT).

Nathanael recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, but he spoke better than he knew. Jesus is the eternal Son of God and the only way to God:

Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth” (John 1:50-51 NLT).

Jacob had seen a stairway between heaven and earth. That stairway is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the link between heaven and earth. He is the one and only mediator between God and man. John the Baptist declared that Jesus is

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV).

Jesus is the Son of Man whose Kingdom will not pass away.

What are you looking for?

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

The person who has found the Messiah has a different motto:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ
Will last.

John the Baptist came that Christ the Messiah might be revealed.

Christ came to take away your sin and mine.

When Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael found Christ, they found what they were looking for.

And Christ is looking for you. He knew Nathanael, and he knows you. He knows your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your name. He is calling you to come and follow him.

03 TOMMY WALKER – HE KNOWS MY NAME (3:20) 

John 01:06-08, 19-34, “The Witness”

How do you know what you know? In a court of law, the verdict is based not on hearsay or opinions but on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses. So how do you know what you know? How do you know that what you believe about God is right? Is it simply hearsay, what others have told you? Is it just your opinion? Or is your faith in God based on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses?

Today we are going to look at the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Christ.

Grünewald's Crucifixion

Grünewald’s Crucifixion

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

We have all heard about this man called John the Baptist. He was that strange man who lived in the wilderness and was “clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mar 1:6 ESV).

John the Baptist was a rather strange man, wouldn’t you say?

And one of the amazing things about the gospel is the important role that John had in preparing people for the coming of Christ. We may not have thought about it much, but each of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist, this man who came before Christ to prepare the way for him.

Seven hundred years before John’s birth, Isaiah the prophet had spoken of John the Baptist as one who would be a “voice crying in the wilderness:

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NLT).

The last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, had also spoken of the coming of John the Baptist:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1 ESV).

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV).

That is exactly what the angel Gabriel said about John the Baptist when Gabriel announced John’s birth to Zechariah.

“for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:15-17 ESV).

Yes, even John’s birth was special because his parents were elderly. Elizabeth had been barren. But God intervened and Zechariah and Elizabeth were able to have a son, John the Baptist. He was a forerunner to Christ. He was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of Christ.

THE IMPORTANCE

The significance of John the Baptist’s ministry is not always seen, but it is clear from the gospels that John’s role in preparing the people for the Messiah was of great importance. As we have said, all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah. They speak of…

  • His miraculous birth of parents who had not been able to have children
  • His strange clothing
  • His bold preaching
  • His ministry of water baptism
  • His disciples
  • His baptism of Jesus Christ
  • His courage to confront King Herod
  • His imprisonment
  • His question about Jesus’ mission
  • His execution by decapitation
  • His burial

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. No other religion puts such an emphasis on the forerunner of its founder. In fact, it would be difficult for us to name a forerunner for any other religion.

Who was Muhammad’s forerunner? Who announced his coming?

  • Who was Buddha’s forerunner?
  • Or Joseph Smith’s forerunner?

Look around at the religions and cults that were based on the teachings of a man or a woman and try to find that founder’s forerunner. Who announced that that man or woman would come?

Why is this important?

Because Jesus did not just show up and say, “I am come from God. I’ve had a dream. I’ve had a vision. I receive revelations from God. Follow me.”

No, for 4,000 years the people of God had been waiting for Jesus Christ. The prophets had spoken of him for centuries. They had told about his identity, his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his coming kingdom. The prophets had even told about his forerunner, John the Baptist. And John the Baptist came and when he came, he pointed to Christ.

Furthermore, John did not come after Jesus and say, “Yes, I agree. He’s the one.” No. When John began his ministry of baptism, he did not know who the Messiah was going to be. He only knew that God had told him to prepare the way for the Messiah, and that God had given him a special sign so that he would recognize the Messiah when he came. We will see that sign in a few moments.

With everything else that we have mentioned about John (his birth, his life, his ministry, and his death), the most important thing about John is his witness. John pointed the people to Jesus Christ. As we read,

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PURPOSE

This Gospel tells us clearly:

  • Origin: John the Baptist was sent from God.
  • He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.
  • Ultimate purpose: that all might believe through him.

Notice that John was not the focus of his own ministry. He did not come speaking about himself. A witness does not talk about himself. He talks about something else. He talks about someone else. He talks about what he has seen. He explains, “This is what I saw. This is what I heard. This is what happened. This is what I know.”

John did not come boasting about himself, or his birth, or his ministry, or his anointing. John’s purpose was to lift up Jesus Christ. His purpose was to point people to the light. John 1:19-22 (NLT) tells us,

This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”

Notice that John the Baptist is not talking about himself. That was not his purpose. His purpose is to point people to the light, to point them to Christ. He doesn’t tell them who he is, but who he is not!

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Are you Elijah?”

“No.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

“No.”

Elijah

John the Baptist did not see himself as Elijah, though the angel Gabriel had said of John, “he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

And Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah prophesied by Malachi, though the people failed to recognize him (Matthew 17:12).

The Prophet

What about the prophet? The Pharisees asked John, “Are you the Prophet that we have been waiting for?”

What prophet is this? What prophet are they talking about? This is another prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. The Pharisees are talking about a prophecy that Moses had made in Deuteronomy 18:15 about another prophet who would come. Moses had told the Israelites,

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

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

But when we come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, we find these words:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, (Deuteronomy 34:10 ESV).

There had been many prophets in the history of Israel—Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many others—but none had a “face-to-face” relationship with God. They were still looking for him, waiting for him.

“Are you the Prophet?” they asked John the Baptist. No, I’m not the one.

The one who was face to face with God was Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” That is a face to face relationship with the Father. Jesus was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of. That is another one of over 300 prophecies that Christ fulfilled.

You remember the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fishes and feeding the multitude of over 5,000 men plus woman and children:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14 ESV).

Again in John 7,

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:37-40 ESV).

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” they asked John.

“No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (John 1:22 ESV).

John the Baptist is finally forced to say something about himself, but he will only say that he is to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming:

23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'”

This tells us more about the one who would come than it does about John. John is simply preparing the way for the LORD. The one that John points to is the LORD.

JOHN’S BAPTISM

Clearly the Pharisees are not satisfied with John’s answer.

 24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John was calling the nation of Israel to repent of their sin. But this was God’s nation! This was the people of God! They were a people of faith! They saw themselves as the children of God.

John calls them to repent. He tells them that being a descendent of Abraham, the father of faith, is not enough. They are unclean. They must be cleansed of their sins. Their lives must be changed. They must repent. No more corruption. No more immorality. No more lying.

John Points to Jesus

But once again, John points to Jesus. He is a witness to the presence of Christ:

26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”

John tells them that there was another one. Someone who was present in the crowd. Someone whom they had not recognized. Someone who was infinitely greater than John himself: “Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (v. 27).

JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God made it clear in the Garden of Eden that without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness of sins. A price had to be paid. God Himself clothed Adam and Even with the skins of the first animal that was sacrificed. But year after year after year, lambs were slain, showing that the blood of animals has not taken care of the sin problem.

  • Animals are not equal to us.
  • They are not voluntary victims.
  • They cannot take our place. Our sins are offences against God. No one but God can remove those offences.

Then why the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament? They were a shadow pointing to the reality that is in Christ. Finally, the sin problem would be dealt with. Christ would be our sacrifice. Christ himself would bear our sins. Paul tells us,

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV).

Peter tells us,

… you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT).

John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God who will take care of the sin problem. Again in the book of Revelation, we read of Christ our Lamb who was slain:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13 ESV).

Worthy is the Lamb!

Jesus the Eternal One

When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’

How is this? John says that Jesus was coming after him. This means two things:

  1. First, Jesus was born after John the Baptist. Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear a son named Jesus.
  2. It also means that John was the forerunner. John’s ministry would come first. Jesus would follow him. Jesus would come after him.

But now John makes the amazing remark that Jesus is “far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.” John says that the reason that Jesus is “far greater” than he is, is that Jesus existed long before John.

If Jesus came after John, how did he exist before John?

John the Baptist is pointing here to the fact that Jesus’ existence did not begin with his birth or his conception. As verse 1 says, In the beginning, the Word was already, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This is what the prophet Micah had said when he prophesied that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2 NAU).

Christ was greater than John the Baptist because he came from eternity.

Recognizing the Messiah (or the Christ)

When John the Baptist began his ministry, he did not know who the Messiah was.

31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John the Baptist was sent from God. He was sent to reveal the Messiah to Israel. But how would John know who the Messiah was? John knew Jesus for they were related; they were family. But he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. He only knew that Jesus was a righteous man. So when Jesus came to John to be baptized by him,

… John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him (Matthew 3:14-15 NLT).

That’s when it happened!

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

Here the Father is speaking to His Son, and the Holy Spirit is descending from the Father and resting on the Son. We see interactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but three persons in one true God.

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John the Baptist was a man sent from God to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the LORD Jesus. God had told him that he would recognize the Messiah by this: the Holy Spirit would come down on the Messiah and stay. And God told John, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

John baptized with water. It was preparation for the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That’s what the prophets had promised:

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT).

That’s what we need! A new heart! And God’s Spirit within!

Education is wonderful, but education will not give you a new heart. Our problem is that we are sinners by nature. When Adam fell, we fell with him. And we have all chosen to go our own way.

But Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What sin are you carrying? What sin dominates your life and gets you down and is destroying you? Jesus Christ came to take away your sin. He came to break the power of sin in you. He came to give you a new heart and a new spirit. He came to put His Spirit in you so that you would follow his ways and obey his commandments. You need more than water baptism. You need Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

John was a witness to Jesus. No other founder of a religion had a forerunner like John. Every Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—every Gospel puts John in a place of prominence, but John himself says, “It’s not me. Jesus Christ is the One. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Luke 01:26-38, “The Virgin Birth of Christ”

LUKE 1:26-38

In the sixth month 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

  1. bear a son, and
  2. you shall call his name Jesus. 32
  3. He will be great and
  4. will be called the Son of the Most High.
  5. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
  6. 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and
  7. 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. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38 ESV).

PRAYER

We have in this first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, the marvelous story of Christ’s coming into the world. This is the most amazing story.

THIS BIRTH WAS PREDICTED.

We all know that when a woman becomes pregnant, the birth of a child can be expected nine months later. Today, with ultrasound, doctors can often predict whether the child will be a girl or a boy. We use the expression in English: “She’s expecting.” Or, “they are expecting a baby.”

But the birth of Christ was predicted some 4000 years before. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned and were put out of the Garden, God in His mercy promised that the many times great grandson of Eve would crush Satan’s power:

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NLT).

God announces in the Garden of Eden that one would come and reverse sin’s curse, that one would be born of a woman.

This is what the Apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 4:4,

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman(Gal 4:4 NLT).

But we have all been born of a woman. How would we know when the promised one had come?

Down through the ages, time and time again, precisions were made so that no one could mistake when the promised one arrived.

  •       God promised Abraham that it would be through his offspring that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. If God was going to become a man, he had to do it through a human family, and he had to choose a man, a family, a people, a nation. God chose a people, not to exclude others, but to be a channel, to bless all the nations of the earth.
  •       Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, prophesied that the promised one, the one we call the Messiah or the Christ, would be of the tribe of Judah, one of his 12 sons.
  •       God promised King David 1000 years before the Christ’s birth that the Messiah would be a many times great grandson of David.
  •       Micah 5:2 predicted 700 year before Christ’s birth that he would be born in the little village of Bethlehem.
  •       Isaiah 7:14 predicted 700 years before Christ birth that he would be born of a virgin:

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).

Many more prophecies tell us of that first coming of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, his return, and the kingdom that he will set up on earth when he returns.

No one else fulfilled the prophecies concerning his coming.

ILLUSTRATION

When a country sends an ambassador to a foreign country, that ambassador does not arrive unannounced. The host country has received all the documentation and is very well aware of the qualifications and the identity of the ambassador. And when that ambassador arrives, he has proper ID. He has proof of who he is. Otherwise, anyone could arrive at the airport and claim to represent another nation. I could claim to be an ambassador from the USA, but I would be “giaman””,” a fraud, because I have received no authority to represent the USA.

A country would not negotiate with a man who claimed to be an ambassador unless that man had the proper ID and documentation, the proper credentials to prove that he was who he said he was, that he represented the country that he claimed to represent, and that he had the authority that he claimed to have.

Why would you trust your eternal salvation to anyone but Jesus Christ?

Jesus warns us about false prophets, and false christs, thieves and robbers, those who claim to come in his name. Many have come. Many announce other messages, other teachings, other gods, but they were not sent. Jesus alone has the credentials. Before him, all the prophets pointed to him. After his earthly ministry, all true servants of God point back to Christ. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:5,

“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT).

All true servants of God point to Christ.

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. When they asked John the Baptist questions as to who he was, whether he was the one to come, John denied it: “I am not the one to come. I am not the Christ.” John was a prophet of Christ. He pointed to Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

What other religious leader had prophets pointing to him? What other religious leader ever had a forerunner announcing his coming? Who announced the coming of Muhammad, or Joseph Smith? No one. The true prophets all pointed to Christ. He is the promised one. Why would you follow anyone else? These are questions that you need to think about if you are following anyone but Jesus Christ.

THE UNIQUENESS OF THE VIRGIN BIRTH

The story of the birth of Christ points to the “one of a kind” character of Jesus Christ. In all of human history, never had a baby been born to a virgin. Never would it happen again.

No other mother could make the claim to being a virgin. No other boy or girl has ever been born without the intervention of a human father.

No other man, woman, boy or girl has even been born of a virgin. No leader, no president, no prime minister, nor religious leader. Buddha was not born of a virgin. Bahaullah was not born of a virgin. Sun Myung Moon was not born of a virgin. No one else has ever been born of a virgin.

Of course, this is not the only unique characteristic of the life of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures speak not only of his virgin birth

  1. Virgin birth
  2. Sinless life
  3. Miracles
  4. Substitutionary death on the cross
  5. His bodily resurrection from the dead
  6. His ascension to the right hand of God the Father

No one can compare with the incomparable Christ. And yet, this miracle, the virgin birth, as one writer said,

is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.

And so, as we approach Christmas this year, we celebrate not only the birth of a baby, but the coming of God to earth.

virgin birth: The biblical teaching that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother

Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.

Why a virgin birth?

The doctrinal importance of the virgin birth is seen in at least three areas.

1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord. Just as God had promised that the “seed” of the woman (Gen. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by his own power, not through mere human effort. The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and that was evident at the very beginning of Jesus’ life when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5).

2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. This was the means God used to send his Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4) into the world as a man. If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person. It probably would have been possible for God to create Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and send him to descend from heaven to earth without the benefit of any human parent. But then it would have been very hard for us to see how Jesus could be fully human as we are, nor would he be a part of the human race that physically descended from Adam. On the other hand, it probably would have been possible for God to have Jesus come into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, and with his full divine nature miraculously united to his human nature at some point early in his life. But then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus was fully God, since his origin was like ours in every way.

When we think of these two other possibilities, it helps us to understand how God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.1

3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. As we noted in chapter 24, all human beings have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father, Adam (this is sometimes called “inherited sin” or “original sin”). But the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam. And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ.

This idea seems to be indicated in the statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where he says to 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.” (Luke 1:35)

Because the Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the child was to be called “holy2

Why Mary?

In some circles, Mary has been exalted to the position of a mediator between God and man. It is stated that she was born without sin, that she never died, but ascended into heaven where she ever waits to intercede on our behalf.

The Scriptures paint another picture of Mary. Very little is said of this one who was “highly favored.” Later in the Gospels, each time that Mary is mentioned, Jesus puts distance between himself and his mother. One day the crowd told Jesus that his mother and brothers wanted to see him.

“Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” 48 “Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49 “Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.” 50 “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (Matthew 12:47-50 NLT).

On another occasion, as Jesus was talking

“…a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother– the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” 28 “Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:27-28 NLT).

Jesus is saying that the greater blessing is hearing the Word of God and doing it. You can be as blessed as Mary who heard the Word of God and did it.

Notice how Jesus puts distance between himself and Mary in John 2.

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus said to his mother, “What have I to do with you?” or “What is there between you and me?” Mary would have to learn that she could not come to Jesus as his mother, but as his disciple.

After Jesus gave her to the care of John, there is only one more mention of her in the New Testament. In Acts 1, Mary is found in the upper room with 120 disciples who are praying and seeking God. She is never mentioned again. She is not found in the epistles of Paul, nor in the epistle of James, the brother of Jesus and son of Mary, nor in the epistles of John who took care of her. This obedient Jewish girl became a disciple of Christ, not a mediator between God and man for we read in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Mary was born like all other children; she needed the Savior to whom she miraculously gave birth. She became his disciple, she lived for him, she died and was buried, and she will be raised with all those who are dead in Christ on that resurrection day.

While some have constructed many myths about her which have no biblical support, others have frequently reacted adversely in refusing to see in Mary the model of one who, in the words of Jesus, did the will of God, who heard the word of God and obeyed it. This episode in the life of Mary is a wonderful example for us of voluntary submission to the will of God.

The Place

Some six or more months before… The angel Gabriel: Jerusalem and Nazareth, some 70 miles away. Not the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the lowly village of Nazareth.

The reputation of Nazareth. Not a large city, perhaps 15,000 which was a fair size in those days. Major highway between Tyre, Sidon and Jerusalem, between Egypt and Damascus. Merchants, Roman soldiers, Greek travelers. City of ill-repute. Nathanael who lived close by asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

In the midst of this city was a young Jewish girl, a virgin. Mary was a descendent of King David through Nathan (physical descent). Joseph was a descent of David through Solomon (legal descent). But 1000 years had passed since the glory of the Davidic reign, and this teenage girl who was engaged to be married not to a king, but to a carpenter.

The Presence of the Angel

There is no doubt that Mary was a godly teenager. She was a girl who sought God, who wanted to please him, to do his will. The record is clear: she had kept herself pure. God had seen her. He knew her heart. So he sent his angel Gabriel to give her the message. There are special blessings for those who love God and keep his commandments. Angelic visits are few and far between, but divine visitation is not confined to temple courts or palaces of earthly kings. Any humble heart may be honored by a messenger from heaven. And while most of us will never see an angel, if we seek his face, and seek to do his will, God will visit us and bless us.

Gabriel greets Mary as one who is “highly favored.” She is not one who gives divine grace, she receives it. God had decided that she would give birth to the Messiah. Mary is also greeted as one who enjoyed God’s special presence: “The Lord is with you.”

The Promise to Mary

Gabriel had come to announce a special promise to Mary. 700 years before, Isaiah had prophesied in “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7:14).

      Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

         31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The Puzzle

These wonderful words puzzled Mary. She wanted direction. “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” She did not doubt the word of Gabriel as Zacharias had done. She did not ask, “Can this be?”

God wants to do some great work in our lives. He wants to delivers us from harmful habits. He wants to make us soul winners. He wants to make this church a great witness to this city. We read in his Word what he wants do in our lives. Do we respond like Zacharias or like Mary? Ephesians 3:20 says that he “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Mary had asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man.”

         35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

She would give birth to the Messiah. But he would be not only the Messiah; he would be the Son of God.

In Genesis 1:2 the Holy Spirit overshadowed the waters of the earth and brought for creation. The Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary and begin the new creation.

Let us be clear about this. God did not have physical relations with Mary as some think. Such a doctrine is blasphemous. God worked a miracle in the teenage girl so that without sexual intervention she gave birth to Jesus. Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus.

You see, God does not have a body. Jesus tells us in John 4 that God is spirit. That is His nature. He does not say that God has a spirit, but that God is spirit.

The Bible does speak of the arm of the Lord, that it is powerful to save. It speaks of the eyes of the Lord going to and fro throughout the earth. The Scriptures use terms like these to help us understand that God is all powerful and that He is all knowing. The Bible also speaks of the feathers, the wings, and the pinions of God,

“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4 NLT).

but I have never heard anyone suggest that God is a type of bird. These figures are simply to shows us that God is our protection.

That is why the Bible says that God is invisible.

Colossians 1:15 ESV He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

1 Timothy 1:17 ESV To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 11:27 ESV By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Why is God invisible? He is invisible because He does not have a body. Now you can hear my voice, but you cannot see me. Nonetheless, you know that I am not invisible. You know that if you were to walk into this radio studio, you would see me sitting at a chair and speaking into a microphone because I have a body. I am not invisible. God is invisible because he does not have a body.

And that is one of the reasons why God became man. Notice this conversation between the Father and the Son, a conversation that took place in the members of the one true God before the Father sent His Son into the world:

“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. 6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. 7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God– as is written about me in the Scriptures.’“ 8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 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 10:5-10 NLT).

And so, the Word became flesh. He lived among us, John says. The disciples looked upon the

“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 1:14 NLT).

He was fully God and continued to be fully God, but he took on himself full humanity. Fully God and fully man: God made visible! He told Philip: “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.”

Yet, fully man. He would fast for 40 days and experience hunger (Matthew 4). In John 4, he was weary at the well in Samaria. On the cross, he was thirsty. And then he did the most human thing of all: he died.

Yet, that’s why he had to be born. He was born to die, to die for you and for me. The Father prepared a body for the Son, that He might offer it as a sacrifice in our place, a sacrifice for our sins. He was born to die.

Nor is it correct to say that Mary is the mother of God. Mary is never called the mother of God in Scripture. She is called the mother of Jesus. Gabriel said that “The holy one to be born would be called the Son of God,” and not because of Mary, but because of the miracle worked by the Holy Spirit.

Mary would receive an encouragement to her faith: her cousin Elizabeth, who was past the age of childbearing, was six months pregnant. God is not limited by the ordinary. He can do, and does, extraordinary things. God is not imprisoned within that which men call the natural; but for his own purposes, he can act in a way men can only describe as supernatural.[1] “With God nothing shall be impossible.” Or better, “For no word from God shall be void of power.”

The Focus Of This Story

Mary is the servant of the Lord. She is the servant that God uses to bring His Son into the world. And yet, we need remind ourselves that Mary is not the focus. She is not the reason for the appearance of Gabriel. The focus of this story is on the child that would be born.

. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and

  1. bear a son, and
  2. you shall call his name Jesus. 32
  3. He will be great and
  4. will be called the Son of the Most High.
  5. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
  6. 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and
  7. 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.

36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The Posture of Mary

Mary’s posture was that of a servant: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word.” Barclay: “I am the Lord’s servant. Whatever he says, I accept.”

We think that it was wonderful for Mary to have been chosen by God, and it was. But what of the reproach? What of her reputation? Mary was 17 or 18 years old and engaged to Joseph. There is no reason to believe that he was an old man. What would he say? We know from Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph was going to divorce her because he knew that he had never been with her. Mary was not believed by the one she loved. What about the accusations? The shame? Even the possibility of being stoned? Perhaps one of the reasons she went to be with Elizabeth for three months was to avoid the shame.

Why did she go to see Elizabeth? Was she trying to get away from suspicious looks from her family members? Then why Elizabeth? Elizabeth was much older, past the age of child bearing, but she was pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary recognized that God was doing something in Elizabeth’s life. God had worked a miracle in Elizabeth’s life and she would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Elizabeth would understand the miraculous. Elizabeth would be more inclined to believe Mary’s story… 2013-12-09.

And yet, when she arrived at Elizabeth’s, the baby that Elizabeth was carrying, leaped in her womb and and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She exclaimed with a loud cry, “…why is this grated to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Jesus in the womb is the LORD God. The focus is on Christ.

Let us note that the unborn child is not a tissue or a substance or something to be expelled or aborted. Young woman, however you became pregnant, the child you are carrying is the image of God. God is weaving that child in your womb. That child belongs to God. God is trusting you to protect that child and to raise it to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, there may be shame. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why she accompanied Joseph on the long and difficult voyage to Bethlehem when she was “great with child.”

(Why Mary?)

Mary and Joseph were chosen to be parents to Jesus. They were chosen because they were godly. They loved God. They knew His Word. God entrusted to them the responsibility of raising the Messiah.

It is not always easy to accept God’s will; but it is always best. Mary was submissive, and she gave the world the Savior. His name would be Jesus for he would save us from our sins.

Mary could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.”[2] Had this been her response, she would never have had the child.

Nor was Mary totally passive. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said. This is active passivity. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, her body, to God. We must not think that we can accomplish the promises of God by our own strength. Nor must we think that we have no part.

We cannot break the power of sin over us by our might, nor can it be broken without our participation. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” Pray with David,

      “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:13-14).

You need more fruit in your life. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

You need to be baptized into the Holy Spirit. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Actively seek the Lord.

You need to be a soul winner. Say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.

Let us wait with expectant hearts. Through the Christ child which he gave for all of us, God will accomplish in us all that he has promised to do.


             [1]See Morgan, Luke, p. 24.